The Weekender, February 17, 2017

1) “The Darkest Town In America” (FiveThirtyEight, 20 minutes, February 2017). About 200 people live in the town of Gerlach, Nevada. At night, there’s almost no light — so the skies are very clear. That’s because of poverty, not intentional design. But in some places, the dark-sky movement aims to keep the keep the lights off in order to well, gain some questionable benefits. This is a story of a dark-sky skeptic who visits Gerlach, sees the stars, and… well, you need to read the rest.

It began with the astronomers. The effect of light pollution on their field is obvious enough: Astronomers need darkness to collect and examine the unfathomably distant light of deep-space objects. Going into space to do that work is very expensive, after all.

The astronomers were joined by others in what can collectively be called the dark-sky movement. The ecologically-minded resent the effects light may have on our flora and fauna. Those more focused on humans are concerned about what they worry could be carcinogenic effects. And then there are those whose concerns center on a lost heritage: the notion that if we look up at night and see no stars, we are poorer for it, missing out on some nourishing, mystical, ancestral connection.

Those concerns have led to attempts to beat back the light.

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3) “How Hampton Creek Sold Silicon Valley on a Fake-Mayo Miracle” (Bloomberg Businessweek, 19 minutes, September 2016). “Vegan mayo” may as well be an oxymoron; the word “mayo” implies that the product has eggs. (Legally, even.) But vegan pseudo-mayo would still be a game-changer for many. So, a company named Hampton Creek, which makes that stuff, found themselves plenty of investors willing to help the company succeed. And then, the fake-mayo started selling like crazy — except there was a problem. Guess who was buying?

4) “Queens of the Stoned Age ” (GQ, 24 minutes, February 2017). “These are the models that get New York City high,” says the page’s meta-data.

There are a thousand ways to buy weed in New York City, but the Green Angels devised a novel strategy for standing out: They hired models to be their dealers. In the eight years since the group was founded—by a blonde, blue-eyed Mormon ex-model—they’ve never been busted, and the business has grown into a multimillion-dollar operation.

[ . . . ]

The Green Angels, [according to  its founder], are selling a fantasy of an attractive, well-educated, presentable young woman who wants to get you high—a slightly more risqué Avon lady. Not all of the Angels are working models, but they are all young and attractive. In eight years, they have never been busted by the cops. The explanation is simple: Good-looking girls don’t get searched.


5) “The Philosopher of Feelings” (New Yorker, 35 minutes, July 2016). This is a profile of the heavily decorated philosopher Martha Nussbaum, and I’m not really sure how to give it a pithy summary. Give the first few paragraphs a read and if it hooks you, invest the other 34 minutes.

6) “How Pastrami Really Arrived in New York City” (Serious Eats, 11 minutes, October 2016.) If the title makes you hungry, you should read this. If not, you need to eat more pastrami. (Unless you’re interested in vegan “mayo,” then you get a pass.)

Have a great (long) weekend!