The Weekender, August 18, 2017

1)  “The White Flight of Derek Black” (Washington Post, 27 minutes, October 2016).  This article, from nearly a year ago now, is about a young man who not only started is life as a white supremacist but — as the pull-quote below notes — was arguably the most likely person to lead the movement as he grew. But today? He’s not — at all.

Thanks to Mike C. for sharing this one.

[Derek Black] was not only a leader of racial politics but also a product of them. His father, Don Black, had created Stormfront, the Internet’s first and largest white nationalist site, with 300,000 users and counting. His mother, Chloe, had once been married to David Duke, one of the country’s most infamous racial zealots, and Duke had become Derek’s godfather. They had raised Derek at the forefront of the movement, and some white nationalists had begun calling him “the heir.”

[A few years pass. You have to read the article to find out what happened.]

Every day since then, Derek had been working to put distance between himself and his past. He was still living across the country after finishing his master’s degree, and he was starting to learn Arabic to be able to study the history of early Islam. He hadn’t spoken to anyone in white nationalism since his defection, aside from occasional calls home to his parents. Instead, he’d spent his time catching up on aspects of pop culture he’d once been taught to discredit: liberal newspaper columns, rap music and Hollywood movies. He’d come to admire President Obama. He decided to trust the U.S. government. He started drinking tap water. He had taken budget trips to Barcelona, Paris, Dublin, Nicaragua and Morocco, immersing himself in as many cultures as he could.

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3) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: The Man Who Liked Himself So Much, He Went to Jail. Or, why you shouldn’t write bad checks and then go on Facebook.

Tuesday: LEGO’s Grayscale Color War — when LEGO changes the color of grey to a more bluish-grey, people freak out.

Wednesday: When Christopher Columbus Made the Moon Disappear — how to use a lunar eclipse to make yourself look like a god.

ThursdayDrinking and Drive-Overs, about the hidden wine cellars in the Brooklyn Bridge. I made a bit of a mistake explaining where on the bridge these wine cellars were; I’ll edit the article over the next few days to fix it. It doesn’t really change the story.

4) “This Heavy Metal Band Is Hell-Bent on Saving an Endangered Language” (Narratively, 7 minutes, August 2017). The subhead explains: “As the Brazilian tribal language Tupi Guarani nears extinction, this hyper-aggressive group is raising awareness about the urgent need to save it – one power chord at a time.”

Also: Narratively, the site this story comes from, has a TON of good stories — they do a great job of looking beyond the news headlines and clickbait, focusing instead on ordinary people and extraordinary stories. You can sign up for their emails here. (And should.) Oh, and you can follow them on Facebook, too.


5) “Solving a Murder Mystery With Ancestry Websites” (The Atlantic, 12 minutes, July 2017). The subhead: “Investigators in Washington have tried for decades to identify a teenage girl who was brutally killed near a lake. They might finally succeed with popular genealogy databases. ”

In January 1979, police in Port Orchard, a town on the other side of the Puget Sound, arrested Roth on a warrant for possession of a controlled substance and called Snohomish County. He confessed to the murder, but he couldn’t answer all of the detectives’ questions. He told them he didn’t know the girl’s name.

Today, investigators are sure that someone does. They can’t imagine a teenager—probably a minor—went missing and no one ever wondered where she is. Maybe her family reported her disappearance somewhere across the country, or woke up one morning and realized she had run away from home. There was no Facebook back then to search, the way users look up old elementary-school friends now. No one could Google her name. Obituaries appeared in local newspapers, not on

Detectives had their own limitations. Over the past four decades, they’ve struggled to give Jane Doe a name, sending letters to police departments around the country to inquire about missing-persons cases, piecing together forensic evidence, and searching federal records. They’ve compared her DNA to possible matches. Each lead has taken them to the wrong girls.

But after so many dead ends, investigators might have found a way to finally close the case. Jane Doe’s DNA has so far failed to identify her, but perhaps it can be used to identify a family member instead. As genetic testing has become more accessible and popular, the Snohomish County sheriff’s office is cautiously optimistic that a parent, a sibling, a cousin—some relative of Jane Doe—has explored websites like to learn more about their family tree. If someone has wondered enough about their heritage to submit a DNA sample to one of these genealogy databases, there could be a genetic crumb trail that leads to Jane Doe’s identity.

6) “The Story of the DuckTales Theme, History’s Catchiest Single Minute of Music” (Vanity Fair, 11 minutes, August 2017). If you know what that title means, the song is already stuck in your head. (Sorry about that.) Disney just rebooted the series; the first episode is available on YouTube, here, and I haven’t watched it yet. (I will.)

Have a great weekend!