IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair. We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.
Dan P Lee writes about the New Mexico desert launchpad that will be used to send ordinary people into space. Along the way, he examines the evolution of commercial space transport, NASA’s role in this new departure in space flight, and how some believe it will only take another five years before humans can take off for tourist trips to space. (New York Magazine) (Approx 32 minutes reading time – 8219 words)
To date, 220 people have put down deposits for XCOR’s $95,000 ride, and Valentine talked me through the experience these customers can anticipate as soon as next year. There will be NASA-style g-force training and a NASA-style pressure suit. More than anything, there will be the view—a view that had eluded mankind until just 50 years ago, and one that only a few hundred people have seen in person: Earth. Space.
Suzanne Goldenberg meets the ‘climate refugees’ of Newtok, Alaska, one of 180+ communities who are experiencing flooding and loss of land as climate change leads to the melting of ice in their home country. What is it like to be living on borrowed time – and where do you go when your home no longer exists? (The Guardian) (Approx 14 minutes reading time – 2824 words)
If Newtok can not move its people to the new site in time, the village will disappear. A community of 350 people, nearly all related to some degree and all intimately connected to the land, will cease to exist, its inhabitants scattered to the villages and towns of western Alaska, Anchorage and beyond.
Maggie Koerth-Baker takes a question many of us have asked – why do rational people buy into conspiracy theories? – and looks for an answer. Is it about control, and has the internet helped conspiracy theories grow? (The New York Times) (Approx 6 minutes reading time – 1317 words)
In that way, Swami says, the Internet and other media have helped perpetuate paranoia. Not only does more exposure to these alternative narratives help engender belief in conspiracies, he says, but the Internet’s tendency toward tribalism helps reinforce misguided beliefs.
Jonah Weiner brings us the men behind Daft Punk, whose latest album has seen music fans salivating and arguing over its contents. The two Parisians, Guy-Manuel de Home-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are usually quite mysterious, but here we get an in-depth insight into how they work . (Rolling Stone) (Approx 27 minutes reading time – 5400 words)
As Daft Punk got deeper into making the new album, they were eager to junk old habits and proceed “from scratch,” Bangalter says. Their longtime technique of sampling funk, disco and soft-rock vinyl suddenly struck them as canned, overfamiliar. The drum machines they’d once used to propel tracks sounded rote – “autopilot,” Bangalter says. They struck upon a new plan of attack that would lead Daft Punk further away from electronic music than they’d ever gone: “We wanted to do what we used to do with machines and samplers,” Bangalter says, “but with people.”
Alexa Ray Corriea takes a trip into the world of cosplay, meeting those whose love for certain fictional characters inspires them to dress as them. She speaks to Ger Tysk about costumes, props, sexism, and nerd culture – and why Tysk, a die-hard cosplayer, decided at one point to quit her hobby. (Polygon) (Approx 17 minutes reading time – 3567 words)
There’s a lot of drama,” Tysk says. “There’s a lot of competition in …” she pauses, sighs, “and I hate to say it, but ‘sexiness,’ or who has the best face for the character, or who is tall and skinny.” Most video game characters are not rendered with realistic body types (or the laws of physics) in mind, but there are still a wide majority of cosplayers that strive for that perfect likeness — even at the cost of their own well-being.
Ed Leibowitz brings us the story of Jesuit priest Father Gregory Boyle, whose Homeboy Industries helps gang members change their lives around. He battles with his own health struggles, but still manages to transform the lives of those who come to him for help, as this profile shows. (Los Angeles Magazine) (Approx 35 minutes reading time – 7085 words)
On the surface it can seem unreal—the extent to which Homeboy headquarters bears out Boyle’s bottomless faith in a population widely considered beyond redemption, let alone deserving of it. Young men from rival gangs sweep floors and clean windows with an enthusiasm seldom applied to menial labor and laugh at one another’s jokes. A former member of the Aryan Brotherhood with a swastika as big as a Third Reich flag’s inked on his chest accepts a compliment from a onetime race enemy.
… AND A CLASSIC READ FROM THE ARCHIVES…
In 2011, Alex French and Howie Kahn looked at the rise and fall of the National Sports Daily, a newspaper that had the audacity to cover sports in a way that no other American publication had… but that lasted just 18 months. (Grantland) (Approx 67 minutes reading time – 13,496 words)
Here was this great adventure and chance to invent something new. It was clear even before it started, and certainly long before it failed, that you were going to get one chance to try this in your life. This was as close to a frontier as we had.