The Weekender, November 8 2019


On Wednesday, I ran a re-run. I wasn’t planning on it. Here’s why.

A shot in the Ark.” 

Yesterday’s story was about Noah’s Ark, and more specifically, about a group of evangelist investors who made a “replica” Ark as the centerpiece for a theme park. In case you haven’t read it yet, I don’t want to go into details about it — you can read it first. The important part is that the twist is at the end. That makes it a bit different than most Now I Know articles.

My format, generally, is pretty simple: an intro paragraph or two which is a high-level look at something related to the topic, a one-liner or so about what makes it interesting, and then a few paragraphs telling the story. If you look at Monday’s Now I Know, for example, you’ll see that pattern in place. Sometimes, though, the story requires a different pattern, such as when the punchline needs to be held to the end. (Here’s a recent example of that.) 

The problem I ran into with the Ark story was that, at first pass, it ended up in the standard format and it just didn’t work. The story turned into a history of the theme park, as if its mere existence were the story. And that’s not what I was after — not only is that not all that interesting, but one could reasonably have concluded that I was poking fun at that attraction (which I wasn’t, for the record).

So, for the first time in weeks, I shelved the story. Only for a day, sure, but it happened.

The Now I Know Week in Review

MondayThis T-Shirt Will Make You Feel Good About the World — It really will. I think I need to find more “good but weird” news to share. I have another one I’m working on; maybe next week.

Tuesday: Why Filmmakers Use That Black and White Flapped Board — I had no idea this was the case.

Wednesday: The Tool That’s Made To Be Broken — This is one of my all-time favorites because so few people even notice that the tang (yes, the tag) is even loose, and once you point it out, there’s this little “ah ha” moment.

ThursdayThe Ark That Went Full Circle — As discussed above.

And some other things you should check out:

Here are a few long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Porch Pirate of Potrero Hill Can’t Believe It Came to This” (The Atlantic, 35 minutes, November 2019). The subhead: “When a longtime resident started stealing her neighbors’ Amazon packages, she entered a vortex of smart cameras, Nextdoor rants, and cellphone surveillance.” Fifteen years ago, none of this would have happened, because none of this existed. Well, I guess there were still “longtime residents” and “neighbors.”

2) “I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb” (Vice, 24 minutes, October 2019). I’ve never used an Airbnb myself but I’ve had many, many friends who have, and with almost no meaningful problems. (Also: I know a bunch of video producers who rent Airbnbs just to get the right setting for whatever they’re filming, and again, without issue.) 

3) “These Machines Can Put You in Jail. Don’t Trust Them.” (New York Times, 21 minutes, November 2019). The Breathalyzer is the go-to test when it comes to alcohol abuse. But does it work? The New York Times thinks it’s problematic.

Have a great weekend!