A man, a photo and the long search to find the person in it

A man, a photo and the long search to find the person in it  

See that guy? The one in the photograph. Worn work boots, yellow construction hat, hooded sweatshirt, purple winter jacket, broad shoulders, serious face, slumped forward, hands clasped, eyes locked on the stranger’s camera pointed at him.

That guy, who is he?

The photo provides a vague clue. Its caption reads: “I was Defensive Player of the Year.”

That could mean anything. High school. College. Professional. From 20 years ago. Ten. Five. Played linebacker. Defensive end. Cornerback.

That’s the genius in Humans of New York, a blog that features portraits of New Yorkers, so many hipsters and bankers, couples and their children and their grandparents, natives and immigrants, homeless and rich, tattooed and bearded and costumed. The portraits come with short descriptions, sometimes one sentence, sometimes four, just enough information to light cauldrons of speculation, to begin an exercise in collective fiction writing done by strangers on the Internet. The captions provide the beginning of the story. What you see in the picture is the rest of it.

This is a quiet story. It’s not flashy or dramatic; it’s simply a tale of trying to find someone, and what the search comes to mean for the man in the picture and the people searching for him. The story also asks the important question of why? Why do we care? Why do we need to know?

What’s your story?


There’s No Such Thing as a Slut

There’s No Such Thing as a Slut

A new longitudinal study examined how college students slut-shame—and found that the practice is as illogical as it is damaging. The researchers interviewed the 53 women on their floor every year for five years—from the time they were freshmen through their first year out of college.

Their findings about the students’ academic success later formed the basis for Paying for the Party, their recent book about how the college experience bolsters inequality. They found that the women’s “trajectories were shaped not only by income … but also by how much debt they carried, how much financial assistance they could expect from their parents, their social networks, and their financial prospects.”

But in the process, they began to notice that the women’s attitudes about sex were also influenced by their families’ incomes. The rampant slut-shaming, Armstrong found, was only a symptom of the women’s entrenched classism. But more importantly, the allegations of sluttiness had little to do with real-life behavior

This is not really a surprise to me; “slutty” doesn’t even really mean anything anymore. In some way it’s comparable to the word “bastard,” which of course initially referred to children with unmarried parents, and now is just a meaner way of calling someone a jerk.

Unfortunately, even though “slutty” has no real definition, it’s still a powerful, horrible word, because women are still judged on their level of promiscuity. This article sheds light on the fact that different types of women are judged differently for the same behavior, depending on their social standing. I hate the fact that women are still so hard on each other; it’s hard enough living in a society rampant in misogynism & sexism without adding the additional burden of bringing one another down.

Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

We are not the lovable nerdy protagonist who’s lovable because he’s the protagonist. We’re not guaranteed to get laid by the hot chick of our dreams as long as we work hard enough at it. There isn’t a team of writers or a studio audience pulling for us to triumph by “getting the girl” in the end. And when our clever ruses and schemes to “get girls” fail, it’s not because the girls are too stupid or too bitchy or too shallow to play by those unwritten rules we’ve absorbed.

It’s because other people’s bodies and other people’s love are not something that can be taken nor even something that can be earned—they can be given freely, by choice, or not.

This essay is the perfect example of why men really need to start talking openly about rape culture, because this take down of the “nice guy” male nerd is so much more powerful coming from someone who is not a woman.

This is an intense, fantastic read, and it’s your must-read article this week.

Hiding a pregnancy from Big Data might get you flagged as a criminal.

Things I read when I procrastinate


A friend of mine sent me an interesting read this morning: a Mashable story on Princeton sociology professor Janet Vertesi’s mission to prevent marketers from discovering her pregnancy. The manner of methods by which she evaded detection are striking reminders of how embedded in our daily lives are the means of personal data collection–and retrieval.

By now, most people have at least a general understanding of what data mining is and how marketers collect and trade in mined personal data in order to create micro-targeted advertisements for consumers. What they may not know is which consumers retail marketers value over others: new parents. Charles Duhigg, a reporter for the New York Times, broke this story in 2012:

“Because birth records are usually public, the moment a couple have a new baby, they are almost instantaneously barraged with offers and incentives and advertisements from all sorts of companies. Which means that the…

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Building a Bigger Action Hero

Building a Bigger Action Hero

What Yune is really complaining about is this sense that studios see actors as bodies now – interchangeable in a global movie business that’s built more on brands than stars. More than ever, studios are building franchises around fresh, inexpensive faces with bodies that can fill a superhero costume.

“One of the reasons there are so few real movie stars is that there are very few who are distinguishable from one another,” says Nicolas Winding Refn, who directed Ryan Gosling in Drive and Only God Forgives. “Everybody can get a six-pack, so it has no value. Everybody starts to look alike. It’s the soul that makes you a movie star. Not your body.”

[via smoncelle]

Fantastic in-depth look into the crazy lengths that Hollywood actors go through to get that movie star body. It’s not just about anorexic women anymore; men have to (over)work for it, too:

Male actors’ bare asses are more likely to be shot in sex scenes; their vacation guts and poolside man boobs are as likely to command a sneering full-page photo in a celebrity weekly’s worst-bodies feature, or go viral as a source of Web ridicule. A sharply defined inguinal crease – the twin ligaments hovering above the hips that point toward a man’s junk – is as coveted as double-D cleavage.

These guys are getting injected with testosterone, human growth hormone, steroids, not to mention all the protein & the crazy dieting. They are practically starving themselves to show off their muscles, and it doesn’t look like this practice is going to end anytime soon. If anything, it’ll probably get worse.

A mean part of me is glad that men are finally starting to be held up to the same unreasonable standards women are, but that’s not fair. Eventually maybe we’ll all wake up and realize this is all a little insane, and then we can re-evaluate our body image issues. Maybe.

As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price

As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price

In Augusta, Ga., a judge sentenced Tom Barrett to 12 months after he stole a can of beer worth less than $2. In Ionia, Mich., 19-year-old Kyle Dewitt caught a fish out of season; then a judge sentenced him to three days in jail. In Grand Rapids, Mich., Stephen Papa, a homeless Iraq War veteran, spent 22 days in jail, not for what he calls his “embarrassing behavior” after he got drunk with friends and climbed into an abandoned building, but because he had only $25 the day he went to court.

The common thread in these cases, and scores more like them, is the jail time wasn’t punishment for the crime, but for the failure to pay the increasing fines and fees associated with the criminal justice system.

A yearlong NPR investigation found that the costs of the criminal justice system in the United States are paid increasingly by the defendants and offenders. It’s a practice that causes the poor to face harsher treatment than others who commit identical crimes and can afford to pay. Some judges and politicians fear the trend has gone too far.

This is humiliating and a waste of tax-payer dollars. The fact that we still send people to prison over petty court fees is absolutely ridiculous. There needs to be a better way.

Teaching Good Sex [Nov 2011]

Teaching Good Sex [Nov 2011]

“First base, second base, third base, home run,” Al Vernacchio ticked off the classic baseball terms for sex acts. His goal was to prompt the students in Sexuality and Society — an elective for seniors at the private Friends’ Central School on Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line — to examine the assumptions buried in the venerable metaphor. “Give me some more,” urged the fast-talking 47-year-old, who teaches 9th- and 12th-grade English as well as human sexuality. Arrayed before Vernacchio was a circle of small desks occupied by 22 teenagers, six male and the rest female — a blur of sweatshirts and Ugg boots and form-fitting leggings.

In its breadth, depth and frank embrace of sexuality as, what Vernacchio calls, a “force for good” — even for teenagers — this sex-ed class may well be the only one of its kind in the United States. “There is abstinence-only sex education, and there’s abstinence-based sex ed,” said Leslie Kantor, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “There’s almost nothing else left in public schools.”

Across the country, the approach ranges from abstinence until marriage is the only acceptable choice, contraceptives don’t work and premarital sex is physically and emotionally harmful, to abstinence is usually best, but if you must have sex, here are some ways to protect yourself from pregnancy and disease. The latter has been called “disaster prevention” education by sex educators who wish they could teach more; a dramatic example of the former comes in a video called “No Second Chances,” which has been used in abstinence-only courses. In it, a student asks a school nurse, “What if I want to have sex before I get married?” To which the nurse replies, “Well, I guess you’ll just have to be prepared to die.”

This is another one from the archives, and it is the perfect mate to the previous article, What If We Admitted to Children That Sex Is Primarily About Pleasure?

Sex education is an ongoing conversation that we need to keep having in the United States until we get it right. And then we have to keep having it, because as our society’s morality compass changes, we will have to adjust our teachings.