The Weekender, May 5, 2017

1) “My Father Spent 30 Years In Prison. Now He’s Out” (Refinery29, 11 minutes, April 2017). A touching story of a daughter who, after his release from prison, is finally able to begin a relationship in earnest with her father.

My father went to prison when I was only a few months old. He and my mother were married. She was 22 years old, and he was two weeks from 21. His crime and subsequent incarceration devastated her. She discovered she was pregnant with my brother after my father was already gone. She didn’t talk about him much. No one did, except to say how much I looked like him. My Uncle Clarence, my father’s closest brother, would just stare at me. Sometimes I caught him. “You gotta excuse me,” he’d smile. “You look just like my brother, but smaller and with pigtails.” Then he’d hug me, and we’d laugh. I always wished he’d say more about his beloved brother, my absent father, but he rarely did.

I’d seen my dad approximately four times over 30 years, but I only remembered two of them: a visit when I was 12 years old, and one when I was 25. When I thought of visiting my father, I pictured the beige rooms, the beige uniforms, and how everything seemed to be nailed down. I always brought bags of change to use at the vending machines. I knew he had a sweet tooth, and I wanted to buy him something sweet. He always got reprimanded by guards for holding my hands too long.

The only real information I had about my dad came in his letters; he sent me dozens. Photographs included in those letters were precious. In the 30 years he was locked away, I only received four. That was the best he could do.

2) Check this out: I’m really excited to share a special event tonight. My friends at FleetWit are hosting an online trivia quiz tonight at 8:30pm ET where the top finishers will win Amazon gift cards. Click here to register, and use the code “nowiknow” (without quotes) to redeem your free credits!


3) The Now I Know Week in Review:

  • Monday: The Google Maps Invasion: How Google Maps accidentally caused an international incident.
  • Tuesday: On the Move: Why May 1st was moving day for an absurd number of New York renters.
  • Wednesday: Bringing the Invisible to Life: A touching story about a blind author’s dream to publish her book — and how the police had to come to the rescue.
  • Thursday: Close Encounters of the Jedi Kind: Why George Lucas isn’t the only director to make a killing off the Star Wars franchise. (I screwed up the bonus fact here, flipping Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the first sentence; it’s now fixed. Thanks to everyone who pointed out my error.

And a bonus item: Unlikely Allies. Today in 1945, as World War II came to a close, a very weird alliance formed — a U.S./German one.

4) “The Accidental Get Away Driver” (GQ, 21 minutes, May 2017). A week or so ago, I saw an ad for … well, I forget what for, but anyway, one of the gags is that some guys rob a bank and call an Uber as an ad hoc getaway car — but the Uber is late. Or something. Anyway, it’s real-ish:

They wore no coats. They just shivered there, in the crisp night air. And to the cabdriver who slowed to study the three men who’d called for a ride, this seemed strange. It was January, after all, and the temperature in Santa Ana, California, had dipped into the 50s. Yet these men had on only collared shirts. As they piled into Long Ma’s warm car, the driver filed that detail away.“Take us to Walmart,” said the man who settled into the passenger seat—and this was the second signal to Ma that something was off. Ma recognized from the man’s voice that he was the one who’d called for the cab, telling Ma that he and his friends had needed a ride home.

His name was Bac Duong, and he spoke to Ma in Vietnamese—their shared native language—and wore on his thin and weary face a salt-and-pepper goatee. It was 9:30 at night, and now they wanted to go shopping? Ma thought. What happened to going home?


5) “There Is a Fake IDGod, and He Lives in China” (Mel Magazine, 12 minutes, May 2017).

These days, to no one’s the surprise, the fake-ID industry has moved online. Most teenagers order fakes as they might cellphone accessories on Amazon. But vendors aren’t in Seattle, they’re in China — whose packages are seized daily at U.S. airports. As Bill Rivera, chief of the International Mail Branch at Kennedy International Airport told The New York Times in 2015, in the preceding year, 4,585 Chinese-made counterfeit IDs were intercepted, most of them headed to college students. “Quite frankly, some of them look pretty good,” he admitted.

It’s obviously daunting for teens to do business with nameless, faceless vendors in faraway lands, which is why entire online communities have sprung up to vet them. The Fake IDs subreddit, for example, where I met Andy, allows people to share accounts of their experience, links to bar books (which bouncers reference to verify authenticity) and a list of trusted vendors. For example, if a name is bolded, it signifies the vendor is considered “exemplary” and has produced “instate passable” IDs for more than 12 months without delays.

6) “The Star Wars Holiday Special” (YouTube, 1 hour 37 minutes, 1978). There is no reason to click that link, but some of you will anyway. In 1977, Star Wars hit the silver screen — and was awesome. Empire Strikes Back, 1980, also awesome. Return of the Jedi, 1983, pretty good (and with the other two, awesome). That’s the original Star Wars trilogy. But along the way, for some unknown reason, George Lucas created a made-for-TV special which could be the worst TV special ever made. It’s so bad, it’s worse. Skip it and read this 13-minute review (with a lot of expletives and questionable/offensive language, unfortunately). Or watch it — just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Have a great weekend!