The Weird Editing Trick That Messed Me Up on Tuesday


On Tuesday, I started the bonus fact with a different header than usual; instead of simply labeling it a “bonus fact” I said “A totally unrelated bonus fact but I’ll explain why it’s here on Friday.” Today is Friday, so let’s get it to it!

Tuesday’s story was weird to begin with. I started writing it in the summer of 2019 while on a train, commuting to New York City without wifi. That makes it hard to do any research, so I paused only a few sentences in. I had revisited the story a few times over the years, but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that it clicked in my head again. I was listening to the radio and heard this weird story about how police officers from Nassau County, New York were going to Newark, New Jersey in hopes of stopping a crime spree. Here’s a news article about it, but if you want just the basics, it’s simple: car thieves are apparently stealing cars in New York, driving them to Newark, and using the stolen cars in other crimes (e.g. drug deals) to make it harder to figure out who committed the second crime. Police in New York are hoping that citizens in New Jersey have information about the thefts, so the cops went to Newark to offer a reward for any info leading to an arrest and conviction. The New York authorities are working with their New Jersey counterparts in this effort.

That story puzzled me. Why, I asked myself, wasn’t the FBI involved? It’s an interstate car theft ring; certainly, there has to be a federal crime that the thieves are running afoul of. And then I remembered the law from Tuesday’s email, which specifically addresses the type of thefts that New York and New Jersey are dealing with today. Inspired, I started writing, using this Newark car theft ring as my lede. Later, I discovered another fact about cars, Newark, and a questionable practice —  and turned that into my bonus fact. And then, I walked away from the newsletter for the night and, the next day, just an hour or so before sending it to all of you, went to edit the main story. 

In re-reading what I had originally written, I realized that the Newark car theft ring wasn’t well-placed in the story; the only reason I wanted it in there was that it was my initial re-inspiration to write. So, taking the sage advice of writers for generations — “kill your darlings.” I removed the part about Newark and moved down the page. Then I got down to the bonus fact and realized I had created a problem for myself. The bonus fact didn’t fit without having Newark (or leather, I guess) in the main story. Out of time, I decided to just flag it as to-be-explained later. 

That’s the story. Or, in other words, “stuff happens.”

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: Why Winnie the Pooh Makes for a Bad Soldier?: I wonder if the Steve Miller Band song “Wild Mountain Honey” is about this stuff.

Tuesday: How to Sell a Stolen Plane: See above.

Wednesday: When the Day After Friday is Friday: I think having a non-weekend after a Friday is kind of mean, right?

Thursday: The Danger of Posting Selfies: People will ill motives will find a way.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Haves and the Have-Yachts” (The New Yorker, 41 minutes, July 2022). The story is about the ultra-rich and the superyachts they own; the title is fantastic and the story is even better. Here’s a taste:

For the moment, a gigayacht is the most expensive item that our species has figured out how to own. In 2019, the hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin bought a quadruplex on Central Park South for two hundred and forty million dollars, the highest price ever paid for a home in America. In May, an unknown buyer spent about a hundred and ninety-five million on an Andy Warhol silk-screen portrait of Marilyn Monroe. In luxury-yacht terms, those are ordinary numbers. “There are a lot of boats in build well over two hundred and fifty million dollars,” Jamie Edmiston, a broker in Monaco and London, told me. His buyers are getting younger and more inclined to spend long stretches at sea. “High-speed Internet, telephony, modern communications have made working easier,” he said. “Plus, people made a lot more money earlier in life.”

A Silicon Valley C.E.O. told me that one appeal of boats is that they can “absorb the most excess capital.” He explained, “Rationally, it would seem to make sense for people to spend half a billion dollars on their house and then fifty million on the boat that they’re on for two weeks a year, right? But it’s gone the other way. People don’t want to live in a hundred-thousand-square-foot house. Optically, it’s weird. But a half-billion-dollar boat, actually, is quite nice.” Staluppi, of Palm Beach Gardens, is content to spend three or four times as much on his yachts as on his homes. Part of the appeal is flexibility. “If you’re on your boat and you don’t like your neighbor, you tell the captain, ‘Let’s go to a different place,’ ” he said. On land, escaping a bad neighbor requires more work: “You got to try and buy him out or make it uncomfortable or something.” The preference for sea-based investment has altered the proportions of taste. Until recently, the Silicon Valley C.E.O. said, “a fifty-metre boat was considered a good-sized boat. Now that would be a little bit embarrassing.” In the past twenty years, the length of the average luxury yacht has grown by a third, to a hundred and sixty feet.

2) “The 727 that Vanished” (Smithsonian, 14 minutes, September 2010). I considered using this as the bonus fact for Tuesday’s story (and a last-minute replacement) but the full story is long, complicated, and frankly too good to waste on a bonus fact. 

3) “A Legendary Hot-Air Balloon Pilot Died after a Bizarre Crash. It Still Doesn’t Make Sense.” (Outside Magazine, 18 minutes, July 2022). This isn’t a fun story. But it’s well-told.

Have a great weekend!