The Weekender, November 11, 2016

1) “One Student Tries To Help Others Escape A ‘Corridor Of Shame’ ” (NPR, 11 minutes, May 2016).

Just across the train tracks from U.S. Route 321, in the town of North, S.C., nestled among mobile homes covered with red roses, sits the one-story brick campus of North Middle/High School.

Robert Gordon strides forward in the school’s entryway to shake my hand. He’s slim, dressed neatly in khakis, loafers and a striped polo shirt, with a pleather portfolio under one arm.

“It’s been a stressful morning,” he says, explaining that one middle school boy stabbed another with a pencil.

Pacing the length and breadth of the campus, covering miles in the course of the day, he greets everyone by name.

“This is Brittany, Kayla, Charlslyn, Chanel, Chante, Chelsea, Whitney, Marquel, Zaquias, Kaiver, that’s Kerry … ”

It’s two weeks before graduation, and Gordon seems to be everywhere at once — helping seniors fill out scholarship applications, writing recommendation letters, checking on the arrangements for that night’s band concert, fixing a computer issue for a math teacher, reimbursing a dollar that the vending machine ate, making copies of answer sheets for a practice test.

A typical day for a small-town principal. Only Gordon isn’t the principal. He’s an 18-year-old senior.

2) My other site: AwesomeClaus — curated gift ideas for $20 or less. Stuff like a Mario-themed pipe mug, a desktop punching bag, an emergency clown nose, sriracha popcorn, and pictured below, unicorn meat. Highly recommended, which I can say with confidence because it’s my website. (If you have suggestions for new products, please hit reply to let me know!)


3) “The Craziest Black Market in Russia” (Slate, 13 minutes, May 2016). This one is just weird. Why? Here the sub-head: “It’s not for oil or guns. It’s for plagiarized dissertations. And every self-respecting doctor, lawyer, and politician in the country wants one.” Make sure you read at least until the part where beef turns into chocolate.

4) “The Fall of the Cherry King” (New York Times, 18 minutes, May 2015). A warning: This one is violent, and the excerpt below contains some of that.

On his desk, Arthur Mondella kept jars of the glossy-red fruits, Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, that seemed to make everything else possible: the yacht, the Porsche and the Rolls-Royce, the Rolexes, his daughters’ tuitions, the loans — often forgiven — to the workers he’d given second, third and fourth chances. On the wall, he had mounted a large television to keep watch over the business he had helped build since childhood.

On his ankle, he strapped a gun.

Now, the district attorney’s investigators stood in his marble-floored C.E.O.’s office, just outside the door to his private bathroom, and pleaded for him to come out. “Get my sister” was his response.

Joanne came. “Take care of my kids,” he told her through the closed door. Then he fired one shot, killing himself with a bullet through the temple.

Why, would become the second mystery. The first was the 2,500-square-foot marijuana farm that Mr. Mondella had installed in a secret basement under the factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn, behind an unmarked roll-down gate, behind the cars, behind a pair of closet doors, behind a set of button-controlled shelves, behind a fake wall and down a ladder in a hole in the floor.


5) “Hollywood Archaeology: The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Grantland, 19 minutes, April 2013). Super Mario Bros. is an exceptional video game franchise. But the 1993 movie was, charitably speaking, a massive disaster: the movie grossed $20 million on a $48 million budget. (That’s a big loss.) How does a slam-dunk franchise fail at the box office? Grantland explores that question.

6) “Dominica’s Fake Ski Team Scammed The Olympics And The Press” (Deadspin, 13 minutes, February 2014). This one defies summary — except to say that it keeps twisting and turning in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Have a great weekend!