“I F*cking Hate @RuPaul”

Filmmaker, writer, and trans activist Andrea James on the current state of post-disruption journalism and its unhealthy addiction to Twitter, and LGBT brain drain.

The people who walk away from society

All this week Pacific Standard will be publishing profiles of people who have "opted out" — from hippie homesteaders to anti-government survivalists. Read the rest

How do Muslims pray in space?

Pesco's post earlier today about a cleric who issued a fatwa against one-way trips to Mars got me wondering about how Muslim prayer works off-planet. After all, the timing and orientation of those daily prayers are based on Earth time and Earth geography. Read the rest

A midnight army at the dawn of the web

Leigh Alexander recalls her adventures working with porn spambots in the 1990s, and the strange mixture of nostalgia and disappointment that remains.

Fashionable diseases, past and present

Today, we are gluten sensitive. In the past, we might have had the vapors, or melancholy, or consumption. Throughout history, some diseases, even ones that are very real, have taken on social meaning and social cachet — becoming part of lifestyle identities as much as they are a part of biology. Read the rest

North of Philly, a museum of dead tech

In Doylestown, Pennsylvania, there is a poured-in-place castle made of concrete and filled with archaic technology — a museum of tools that people no longer use because they've all been replaced by industrialization. Read the rest

Creepypasta, the new keystroke in horror

Clipboard-sized, unsettling, endlessly mutating pseudolore with dark and scary themes. Creepypasta is going mainstream. [Aoen Magazine] Read the rest

Forgotten history: When the squirrels came to town

Prior to the mid-19th century, squirrels were thought of as fantastic woodland creatures, rather than the urbane, city-dwelling vermin they are today. In fact, the available evidence suggests that, up until this point, there really weren't a whole lot of squirrels living in cities in the United States — at least, not with the ubiquity that they now do. Read the rest

How To: Pronounce Nelson Mandela's middle name

The BBC's in-house linguists have an interesting piece about pronouncing words in Xhosa — a major language spoken in the region of South Africa where Nelson Mandela grew up. Read the rest

Rise of the Valleyguy

To linguists, the central feature of Valleygirl Dialect is the tendency to make a statement sound like a question. For decades, this has been considered not just part of Valleyspeak, but part of female speech. Read the rest

Can the UN preserve intangible cultural assets?

As food goes globalized, UNESCO has started thinking about preserving cuisine as a cultural artifact, the same way it might preserve an ancient city. Japanese food got the nod last week. Read the rest

Ancient Aliens, modern obsessions

I'm really enjoying Jason Colavito's reviews of The History Channel's hilarious/infuriating hit show Ancient Aliens. What makes them better than the average blog? Colavito is an author who has written extensively about the anthropology of pseudoscience, and the connections between pseudoscience, religion, and science fiction. Read the rest

The last Jew in Afghanistan

Reuters has an absolutely fascinating profile of Zabulon Simintov, the last known Jewish person living in the entire country of Afghanistan. There were several thousand Jewish people in Afghanistan at the turn of the 20th century, but most of them (including Simintov's wife and daughters) eventually moved to Israel. Read the rest

Behind the particles: The Guardian goes inside CERN and the Large Hadron Collider

What's it like to live and work in the world's most famous physics mecca? Suzanne Moore went to Geneva, Switzerland to meet the scientists who study particle physics at CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson — and also home to a multinational population that can reach 10,000 at different times of year. Read the rest

The science of "new baby smell"

TIL: There are studies that suggest new babies really do smell different, and seem to trigger special brain chemical pathways in women. But, simultaneously, the smells we more consciously associate with "new baby" — i.e., the new baby smell used in baby products and baby-fresh scents — varies widely by culture. Read the rest

The story of the rapist's wife

The rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student last December drew worldwide attention to India's struggles with tradition, women's rights, and street harassment. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Krishna Pokharel and Aditi Malhotra add another layer to that onion, following the story of Punita Devi, the wife of one of the convicted rapists. Read the rest

The voices in your head are culturally specific

I'm utterly fascinated by the way culture affects the outcomes of mental illness — whether that's in terms of prevalence of specific disorders, how we interpret and treat those disorders, or even how seemingly innate symptoms express themselves in wildly different ways. Read the rest

More posts