1. The Mystery of Chessboxing — BuzzReads
True to its name, this combines the cerebral, contemplative machinations of a centuries-old board game with the timeless spectacle of two dudes beating each other silly. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary as the only spectator sport to be based on a comic book and presaged by the Wu-Tang Clan, chessboxing is facing its greatest challenge: getting you to take it seriously. Read it at BuzzReads.
Jody Rosen offers a delightful and smart take on pop’s unlikely queen. “Swift herself is a figure of contradictions. She’s a rock critic’s darling who hasn’t the faintest whiff of countercultural cool about her. Raunchiness is the norm in today’s pop, but Swift is prim, rated G. She is a model of can-do 21st-century girl power whose vision of romance is positively medieval—fairy-princess, shining-knight, prancing-unicorn medieval.” Read it at New York.
3. The Problem with Being Palestinian on Thanksgiving — BuzzReads
Wary of a holiday that celebrates one group of people seizing land from another, Zaina Arafat learned to love Thanksgiving only when her friends created an Arabized version of it. Now, as the Middle East falls into further turmoil, even that is threatened.
4. Patient Zero — Esquire
A powerful story by Tom Junod about a cancer patient and the scientists who’d challenge her fatal diagnosis, changing her fate and potentially the course of oncology. “With the standard of care, Stephanie was looking at less than a coin-flip’s chance of living to age forty-one. With Schadt and Cagan, she was looking at the possibility of life.” Read it at Esquire.
5. Hana’s Story — Slate
A sad but important story about an Ethiopian orphan who was adopted by a family — but then suffered from abuse and neglect at the hands of her adopted parents. Three after coming to America, Hana died. What can be done to protect children like Hana from those who had once tried to save them? Read it at Slate.
6. Why Are Prison Riots Declining While Prison Populations Explode? — The Atlantic
Joseph Bernstein asserts that there are many reasons why prison violence is declining even while prison populations are skyrocketing — like a greater reliance on maximum security facilities and more nonviolent offenders. “But there is one other factor, almost never discussed, that has contributed greatly to the decline: the development of elite security squads trained to preempt and put down prison disorder of every kind.” Read it at The Atlantic.
7. The Strange Birth Of Doctor Who — BuzzFeed
Dan Martin writes: “9 million U.K. viewers account for just a fraction of the last-recorded global audience of the program Doctor Who. Looking at those numbers, it seems insane that such a grand cultural phenomenon could have grown out of a strange, high-concept kids show about — broadly speaking — a time-travelling space detective who fights monsters.” Read it at BuzzFeed.
8. How the NFL’s Plan for Its 1st Openly Gay Player Fell Apart — Bleacher Report
“The team had decided yes. The player had decided the same. It was set. It was going to happen. An NFL player was going to publicly say he was gay and then play in the NFL. … Then, what happened next showed how the sport is still in some ways fearful of it.” Read it at Bleacher Report.
9. Inside the World of Competitive Laughing — Pacific Standard
Canadian laughologist Albert Nerenberg is dreaming big. “People think it’s an insane idea,” he says of competitive laughter. “They think it’s impossible. Average people generally find it inconceivable. And people who work in therapeutic laughter sometimes think it’s too wild, but I’m quite serious about turning it into a sport.” Read it at Pacific Standard.