Dan Turkel

Selected Reading

I try to get a lot of reading done both online and in the “real world.” I keep track of the articles I really like using Pinboard so I can revisit them when I invariably find myself thinking back on them and curious to revisit. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite reads on this page for your own perusal. Enjoy.

Note: Just added over thirty new pieces to this list, presented in reverse chronological order, which span up until the horizontal rule. Every new batch is added to the top, but otherwise the list is otherwise unorganized. I considered categorizing them but ultimately rejected it—if I had only read the articles that fit a certain ill-defined “interest” of mine, I’d have missed out on a lot of fantastic reads here. Take a chance on them.


  • Brazil’s Secret History of Southern Hospitality by Stephen G. Bloom for Narratively - An exodus of disgraced Confederates who moved to Brazil after the war left behind a tiny slice of vintage American South, out of place in space and time.
  • A Very Rare Book by Nicholas Schmidle for The New Yorker - When an unusual copy of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius appears, tracking down its provenance leads to a story of academic rejection and a desire to play the ultimate trick through a near-perfect forgery.
  • Money in the Bank by Dan O’Sullivan for Jacobin - While the publication’s leftist bent makes itself present in almost every paragraph, O’Sullivan’s essay does an incredible job of outlining the history of exploitation central to professional wrestling in the US, where wrestlers are in fact little more than chattel.
  • Under the Knife by Christopher Beam for The New Yorker - Overbooked doctors in China are often unable to provide ample care for their implausible quantity of patients. As a result, a cultural phenomenon has emerged: backlash against doctors. The attitude is shocking when reified in the extreme, when patients kill their doctors.
  • Southern brew by Jessica Wapner for Aeon Magazine - One might imagine the ideal conditions for a virus to thrive to entail a certain range of temperature and humidity, perhaps the presence of certain organisms. This may be true, but there is also the political and sociological environment under which a virus can thrive, and Wapner explains exactly how New Orleans has created the “perfect ecology for mass viral replication.”
  • Paper Boys by Jake Halpern for The New York Times Magazine - In the US, after a certain period of time, banks will sell of debts that they’ve deemed uncollectable for a fraction of the amount of money owed. The buyers are then allowed to make their best attempt to collect on what the bank couldn’t. It should come as no surprise that this system in practice leads to dangerous actors who can prey on debtors but also on each other.
  • You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now? by Luke Malone for Matter - When we think of pedophiles, we think of young people as victims, not the perpetrators. Moreover, pedophilia is conceived of as creating a system of victims and perpetrators, not guilt-ridden people with the bad luck—or genes, or whatever—to find themselves attracted to children. Malone carefully examines and disassembles these assumptions.
  • The New Face of Richard Norris by Jeanne Marie Laskas for GQ - Richard Norris and his family do little to clear up the hazy details of Norris’ accident, but what is certain is that the result was the near-complete destruction of his face. What follows is a sad story of man-as-experiment who seems to love the limelight. But there are more layers behind the smiling face.
  • Why Are Dope-Addicted, Disgraced Doctors Running Our Drug Trials by Peter Aldhous for Matter - Just about anyone who knows a thing or two about drug trials in the United States can probably find more than a few issues with the system. This article discusses one problem: that many of the doctors in charge of drug trials are not properly vetted for previous disciplinary history. As a result, doctors whose conduct was seen unfit for patient treatment are given the responsibility of testing new drugs and therapies.
  • The Brazilian Bus Magnate Who’s Buying Up All the World’s Vinyl Records by Monte Reel for The New York Times Magazine - The article is a profile of Zero Freitas, but also a compassionate look at collection addiction in the extreme, something that we might call hoarding if Freitas didn’t have the space and the money to keep it all. But there is love behind the drive for records.
  • Nukes of Hazard by Louis Menand for The New Yorker - While ultimately a review of Eric Schlosser’s book “Command and Control,” the essay recounts several stories of nuclear panics and near-misses. Ultimately, nuclear weaponry and accidental international incident seem to be inextricably tied, logically equivalent to a great extent.
  • Desperate Characters by Jonathan Blitzer for The New Yorker - Bronx city councilman Andy King is on a mission to regulate costumed characters in Times Square. Blitzer’s depiction of Times Square is a chaotic and bewildering scene of “meta-Elmos,” cursing characters, and costume self-decapitation. The story ostensibly covers a legitimate issue of policy, but the content, along with the comic quips from King, make for an immensely entertaining read.
  • A Mother’s Journey Through the Unnerving Universe of ‘Unboxing’ Videos by Mireille Silcoff for The New York Times Magazine - Maybe it’s futile for Silcoff to attempt to understand the video sensation that has her daughter and millions of others online enthralled: videos of people opening (or “unboxing”) things. Part exercise in (child) psychology, part anthropolgical curiosity, the piece is charming as we follow Silcoff’s attempt to right herself in the bizarre world she finds.
  • Diary by Mike Kirby for The London Review of Books - The story shows the consequences of self-consciousness when given the (morally) difficult task of working on nuclear weapons. A close call leads Kirby to reconsider his involvement with the program entirely.
  • Wrong Answer by Rachel Aviv for The New Yorker - The story of Parks Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia seems to epitomize the difficulty of educational reform in a system where schools’ fates hedge reaching test score thresholds. A group of teachers are driven to introduce a large-scale cheating operation to keep the students’ scores up on standardized tests, the only way to stave off bad morale and keep the school open in a broken educational system that’s failing teachers and students alike.
  • What Happened to the Girls in Le Roy by Susan Dominus for The New York Times - Le Roy, New York was swept by a small-scale phenomenon: a series of girls fell ill to attacks of uncontrollable tics with no obvious cause. What unfolds is the story of not just a dozen or so teens under stress, but that of a town under the magnifying glass of media attention.
  • Portrait of a Serial Winner by Wright Thompson for ESPN - Thompson travels to Uruguay and into the past to understand the volatile and divisive personality of Luis Suarez, perhaps the hottest soccer star of recent years. The content on Suarez’ history is insightful, but in many ways the piece is more about the struggle between a public figure (and his supporters) protecting his private life and the journalist (industry) that wants to know more. Suarez fiercely defends the way his text may be read, but perhaps in vain: the piece shows that regardless of what we’re given, the media and the public will always find a way to construct a narrative, even if it’s a narrative that hides its holes under the guise of a “mysterious” or unknowable man.
  • Excerpt from The Red Hourglass by Gordon Grice from Random House - As the title indicates, this piece is taken from Grice’s book on nature’s deadly predators. In particular, the excerpt focuses on Allan Walker Blair’s self-experimentation with black widow bites. A tale of incredible dedication to one’s research, though Blair never had the courage to investigate potential immunity to second bites.
  • The Internet With A Human Face by Maciej Ceglowski for the Beyond Tellerand 2014 Conference - A look at the internet, startups, early-adoption, and “investor storytime.” Ceglowski explains in rather simple terms and broad strokes the development of internet’s high-level culture (namely, the changing face of internet advertising—that’s where the money is, at least in theory). The present is certainly made to look like a sad state, but there are some hopeful suggestions at the end that point to what might be a digital utopia, or at least a slightly less crappy web.
  • The Scorched-Earth Society: A Suicide Bomber’s Guide to Online Privacy (PDF) by Peter Watts for the 2014 Symposium of the International Association of Privacy Professionals - Since Edward Snowden’s revelations of mass domestic dragnet spying by the NSA, the face of online privacy has changed forever. Watts paints a picture of how some service providers are attempting to resist the force of the government’s hand when asked to turn over data: suicide, or scorched-earth policy. Faced with betraying users, services will instead burn down the shop, so to speak, reducing their businesses and the valued data to digital ether.
  • Whitewood under Siege by Jacob Hodes for Cabinet Magazine - You probably never knew there was so much intrigue in the world of shipping pallets. The article not only opens up the world of pallets to the reader, but provides a strong example of how a single, oft-ignored object can be the center of a lot of excitement and well-deserved attention for the right people. Most every “thing” in our world of things has a story to tell, and the modern world sits atop a pallet, so we owe it to ourselves to hear its tale.
  • The Cabal: Valve’s Design Process For Creating Half-Life by Ken Birdwell for Gamasutra - Fans of Valve games have come to expect nothing less than spectacular quality from the studio’s output, and for the most part, Valve doesn’t disappoint. But these games come from more than just blood, sweat, and tears—an innovative design paradigm helped the studio cut the fat and focus on only what would make the original Half-life as great as possible. Enlightening not just to gamers but to anyone who works in a team environment attempting to balance a desire for a quality final product with the delicate treatment of egos and clashing visions.
  • The reality show: How reality caught up with paranoid delusions by Mike Jay for Aeon Magazine - The delusions of the mentally ill have evolved to reflect an increasingly observed and broadcast world. A thoughtful and non-sensationalized look at the ways in which these disorders have mirrored their environment while remaining true to an identifiable and archetypal kernel of grandiose delusion.
  • The Graphing Calculator Story by Ron Avitzur from Pacific Tech - Now a bit of a true internet legend, the light-hearted essay tells the tale of a dedicated engineer who decided to act as if he had never been fired from his contracted position at Apple: to keep showing up and working on his graphing software.
  • Noise, Dynamic Range and Bit Depth in Digital SLRs by Emil Martinec for the University of Chicago - A detailed look at how digital cameras produce and (attempt to) mitigate noise in the received signal. Fascinating for those interested in digital signal processing and curious to understand the complex processes by which even the cheapest point-and-shoots now attempt to fight off random error to keep your snapshots faithful to reality, or at least to what you put in the viewfinder.
  • Man’s high-tech paradise lost by Meghan Balogh for The Whig - Jens Naumann lost his eyesight relatively early in life as the result of two separate accidents. He was blind until he entered an experimental treatment program run by William H. Dobelle who installed electrodes which fed light information directly to the brain, creating a low-resolution dot-matrix display: vision digitally restored. But the technology began to fail, and then Dobelle died. Naumann’s life is one of vision, then blindness, then vision, then blindness.
  • The Reckoning: The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers by Andrew Solomon for The New Yorker - A harrowing look at the mind of Peter Lanza, father of Adam, who killed 28, including school children, his mother, and himself. An unthinkable nightmare for any parent, Peter has little choice but to make a feeble attempt at picking up the pieces and forming some sort of semi-coherent narrative of the past from the scraps he has left.
  • The Hardest Computer Game of All Time by David Auerbach for Slate - Robot Odyssey came out in 1984 and some would say that we’ve never surpassed it in terms of sheer difficulty. Use logic gates, circuit design, and probably a lot of trial and error to find your way home from “Robotropolis”—if you can.
  • I wrote the Anarchist Cookbook in 1969. Now I see its premise as flawed by William Powell for The Guardian - Maybe you’ve heard of the legendary guide to bomb-making, drug-manufacture, and all things anarchy. These days, the author is more than a little remorseful about what he brought into the world. “The continued publication of the Cookbook serves no purpose other than a commercial one for the publisher. It should quickly and quietly go out of print.” A tale of a text with a will of its own that the author can no longer control.
  • Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand by David Barstow for The New York Times - Barstow explains the way in which “military analysts” for network news television frequently puppet Pentagon talking points in exchange for privileged information access. On top of this, many of these analysts have interests in military contracting companies. Regardless, news media are less than interested in seeking out these conflicts of interest.
  • Rise of the Aerotropolis by Gred Lindsay for Fast Company - The aerotropolis is a term coined by John Kasarda referring to a new vision of urban development which in some countries is already far on its way to becoming the prominent form of city planning. Lindsay explores how the pattern operates abroad and posits potential sites for aerotropolises in the US.
  • Dear America, I Saw You Naked by Jason Edward Harrington for Politico Magazine - Harrington’s “Confessions of an ex-TSA agent” reveal a lot more than we might have wanted to hear about the workings of the United States’ controversial airport security agency. More than just informative, the article reveals ways in which bureaucracy and the need for “security theater” have created led creation and prolongment of the ineffectual and much-maligned agency.
  • The Machine is Bleeding to Death by Jon Bois for SB Nation - A hilarious piece by Jon Bois where the video game Madden is used to simulate an absurdly stacked version of the Super Bowl XLVIII. Full of lots of hilarious gifs of the incredibly unfair matchup.
  • Book of Lamentations by Sam Kriss for The New Inquiry - Kriss reviews the psychologist’s diagnostic manual DSM-5 as if it were a dystopian novel. At first a comical premise, it quickly becomes thought-provoking and metacognitive.
  • Serial Killer Has Second Thoughts: The Confessions of Thomas Quick by Chris Heath for GQ - A fascinating story on Sture Bergwall, a convicted murderer who, in a psychiatric facility, still held a few secrets about the crimes he confessed to. I don’t want to say too much except that it’s a worthwhile read for anyone interested in criminal behavior and mental illness.
  • The CIA and a Secret Vacuum Cleaner by Adam Goldman for Associated Press - If the headline doesn’t have you intrigued, I’m not sure what will. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wanted to design a vacuum cleaner in prison. His interrogators had gotten what they needed from him and he was getting a bit bored.
  • Alcoholism in Antarctica by Phil Broughton for Funranium Labs - Broughton details his time spent bartending for workers in Antarctica and the culture (and problems) which arose from it. It’s informative but also emotional and demonstrates the difficulties (not just physical) dealt with by both researchers and “support.”
  • Dear Leader Dreams of Sushi by Adam Johnson for GQ - Johnson interviews Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese chef who served as Kim Jong-il’s personal chef-turned-friend. But Fujimoto’s story is not at all what you’d expect. North Korea is shown to be something of a paradise for very few sitting on the backs of suffering millions, and we get an extremely rare glimpse into that paradise. Even so, it’s hard to understand why Fujimoto wants to go back.
  • Fixing E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600 from neocomputer.org - Maybe the dreaded E.T. game isn’t so bad. This rather technical walkthrough of how to tweak the game’s rom is intriguing because it takes this piece of culture we love to hate and gives it the nourishment and attention that it needed to shine. Additionally, the difficulty of programming a game for such a meager system results in creative hacks and tricks worth a read to anyone with an interest in software.
  • The man who keeps falling in love with his wife by Deborah Wearing for The Telegraph - A tragic article about a man with a rare type of amnesia. It reads like a non-fiction Memento.
  • Charles Krafft and the Conundrum of Nazi Art by Rachel Arons for The New Yorker - Charles Krafft’s artwork suddenly comes under critique anew after it is revealed (or at least finally spread) that he holds white nationalist views.
  • Accuracy takes power: one man’s 3GHz quest to build a perfect SNES emulator by Ben Kuchera for Ars Technica - Why is it so hard to emulate decades-old video game consoles? And why should we bother?
  • Bark Up or Down? Firewood Splits Norwegians by Sarah Lyall for The New York Times - Perhaps to ridiculous to summarize, a Norwegian TV special about wood becomes a massive hit and sparks tons of viewer feedback. Norwegians are passionate about wood, chopping it, stacking it, and burning it. A comical but anthropologically fascinating look at this bit of Norwegian culture.
  • 5.4: Pitchfork, 1995-Present by Richard Beck for n+1 - A look at the history of popular indie music review site Pitchwork. Where did it come for, what does it mean, and where are we now?
  • Chuck Klosterman Repeats The Beatles by Chuck Klosterman for The A.V. Club - Klosterman takes the genius idea of reviewing the Beatles remasters box sets and reviewing them as if The Beatles weren’t famous, and he runs with it. At first seeming just like a joke, Klosterman actually makes insight into the world of the snarky review which can be such a quick kill for an album when consumers have thousands of songs to choose from.
  • Strange times at the 2012 Gathering Of The Juggalos by Nathan Rabin for The A.V. Club - Like an anthropologist abroad, Rabin makes his way through the annual convention of fans of the band Insane Clown Posse. Drugs, sex, depravity, and yet also a sense of spirit and something more.
  • When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, The Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide by “Rob” for Demonbaby - A fantastic, albeit, of course, slanted view of piracy as response to music industry incompetency. A long and detailed look at why record labels are giving artists and consumers the short end of the stick, and why it’s hurting those labels because they don’t have a captive market any more.
  • How Indie Finally OFFICIALLY Died: The Broken Indie Machine by Carles for Hipster Runoff - Without shedding his “character” or bored-teen style, Carles shows unprecedented self-awareness regarding the state of “indie” as music as culture. As important as it is hard to read.
  • The Song Machine by John Seabrook for The New Yorker - Who writes the pop songs that you hear on the radio?
  • Operation Delirium by Raffi Khatchadourian for The New Yorker - A massive longform look into James Ketchum’s dream of chemical warfare and the facility where the army tried to figure it out. Drug tests, scientists doping each other, paranoia, bureaucracy, regret and hindsight.
  • How I Fell in Love with a Schizophrenic by Kas Thomas for assertTrue() - Thomas explains the difficulty and pain as well as the joy and love in his relationship with his girlfriend who suffers from schizophrenia. Emotional and intense, a worthy read for anyone with a schizophrenic in their family or circle or just for anyone interested in mental health and the circumvention of mental disability towards “normalcy.” Note: The author has since deleted this post.
  • Seeing and Believing by Joan Acocella for The New Yorker - A review of T.M. Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. An interesting examination of the evangelical Christian in contemporary America put underneath the magnifying lens and scrutinized.
  • Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath? by Jennifer Kahn for The New York Times Magazine - Emotional detachment and “callous-unemotional” children. The problem of fitting children into the rigidity of the DSM and treating, or identifying, the young psychopath.
  • The Ultimate Counterfeiter Isn’t a Crook—He’s an Artist by David Wolman for Wired - Hans-Jürgen Kuhl attempts to make the perfect counterfeit cash. He promises that his heart is in the right place this time.
  • Chateâu Sucker by Benjamin Wallace for New York Magazine - Rudy Kurniawan seemed to be the Next Big Thing in the wine enthusiast world until things stopped adding up. Wallace simultaneously tells Rudy’s story and discusses or at least hints at the questionable legitimacy of wine-tasting.
  • How Digital Detectives Deciphered Stuxnet, the Most Menacing Malware in History by Kim Zetter for Wired - The story of Stuxnet, one of the most complex pieces of malware ever developed, how it likely came to be, how it was analyzed, and where we are now.
  • The Lying Disease by Cienna Madrid for The Stranger - A look at a new disease: Munchausen Syndrome by Internet. The internet makes it easy for victims of disease to get in touch with one another to form support groups and share their experiences, but it also gives audience to sufferers of Munchausen Syndrome seeking attention for invented illness.
  • Utopian for Beginners by Joshua Foer for The New Yorker - A tale of John Quijada, a DMV employee who created his own language, Ithkuil, in his spare time. He quickly finds that his language has grown far outside the realm he had envisioned for it and that pro-communication ideology he based it on could be easily co-opted for lesser goals.
  • Understanding Owls by David Sedaris for The New Yorker - A hilarious essay on Sedaris’ quest to find the perfect gift and his journey into the world of taxidermy.
  • The Jumper Squad by Wendy Ruderman for The New York Times - A fascinating and touching look into the lives of police officers tasked with talking down the suicidal from ledges and bridges.
  • Sadomodernism by Moira Weigel for n+1 - Weigel is interested in analyzing the use of sadism in the films of Michael Haneke (alongside several other European directorial points of comparison). While unsettling the viewer has its own implications which may or may not be a statement of “high art,” Haneke runs the risk of being seen as mindlessly violent for the sake of it, or turning off his viewers even if they know there’s a point to all that cruelty.