The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

Josh Clark

Tokyo's Toilet Cleaning Social Club. The Associated Press offers a brief glimpse at a group established on Facebook in Japan that cleans Tokyo's public restrooms on Sunday mornings.

The Skies. The Limits. The Washington Post provides a pretty feature on the International Space Station, its nature as an allegorical stand-in for NASA's contemporary aimlessness and what the future holds for it, the possibilities of which include its purposeful scuttling in the South Pacific sometime in the 2020s.

Jonathan Franzen: What's wrong with the modern world. In a caché-laden Guardian, Great American Novelist Jonathan Franzen airs his crankiness toward the helpless, vapid, technology-driven consumerism that best sums up the modern West using the writings of an equally cranky Austrian intellectual from the turn of the last century, whose criticisms turned out to be fairly portentous.

Reappearing Act: Inside the Multimillion Dollar World of Illusionist David Copperfield. In Forbes, writer Morgan Brennan covers the downturn in the celebrity of the man who was once the world's best-known magician and what he did with all the money he made.

News of the Weird (September 15, 2013). Curator Chuck Shepherd provides us with his weekly synopses of strange goings on culled from news items around the world, including a change of heart over a change of gender.

What Happened to Psychiatry's Magic Bullets? In the New Yorker, science writer Gary Greenberg continues his prolonged siege against psychiatry by dissecting the unnerving history of SSRIs and other pharmaceuticals prescribed to treat mental illness: Apparently no one has ever understood how they treat mental illness or if they are actually effective, because we don't actually understand what mental illness is.

A Revolution in Mental Health. In another article on the changing mental health field, this one in the Chronicle of Higher Education, writer Paul Voosen provides a portrait of the DSM (and, by extension, current psychiatry) under full-scale dismantling as the National Institute of Mental Health, the government's mental health research investment arm, officially moves toward a more neurological understanding of psychiatry.

Murder in Black and White. In Los Angeles Magazine, writer Steven Mikulan profiles a sensational murder from suburban LA in 1959 and the trial of a playboy doctor and his secretary/mistress who together killed the man's wife.

How Chris McCandless Died. Outdoor non-fiction writer Jon Krakauer follows up on a longstanding mystery detailed in his book Into the Wild - exactly what killed Chris McCandless, the college student who dropped out of society to find himself in the Alaskan Wilderness in the 1990s and was found dead months later?

The Monsanto menace takes over. In Minneapolis' City Pages, food writer Chris Parker covers how the FDA has taken at face value agro giant Monsanto's claims that genetically modified foods are safe and refused to require GMO labeling of foods, even as countries around the world have banned the products from entering their borders.

Are You Pooping Wrong? On Everyday Health, writer Jamie Dalessio questions the efficacy of the position forced on a pooping person by a Western toilet for efficiently expelling waste (squatting's best, apparently).

Uncle Sam: The man and the meme. On the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's blog, curator Natalie Elder discusses the possible real-life origin for the national mascot Uncle Sam.

Wall St. Exploits Ethanol Credits, and Prices Spike. In an in-depth account in the New York Times, reporters Gretchen Morgenson and Robert Gebeloff open a window on investment banks' involvement in speculating on ethanol credits, a cap and trade scheme devised by the EPA to encourage more biofuel usage among petroleum producers. Since the banks' entrè into the entirely unregulated market, prices for the required credits have risen from 7 cents apiece to a high of $1.43.

The 6 Weight Loss Tips Science Actually Knows Work. In a clumsily-titled post on Forbes, Alice G. Walton briefly covers six tacks humans can take to lose weight, all of which have been proven scientifically to work, though none of which include losing weight easily or quickly.

Leifland. In a 2000 article from LA Weekly, Danielle Gardner writes about the unlikely events that unfolded after a VH1 Behind the Music on the career of 70s teen idol Leif Garrett aired and a resurgence in interest in the performer found purchase on the message boards and forums of the nascent internet.

How Evil Should A Video Game Allow You To Be? On The New Yorker's science blog, writer Simon Parkin discusses the new levels of evil violence that recently-released Grand Theft Auto V allows players to carry out and points out how equal levels of less damaging emotional release could also be achieved using the same model.

Crack Addicts Make Surprisingly Rational Decisions, Fascinating Study Reveals. On Alternet, April M. Short writes about a study of crack addicts who are invited to spend a few weeks smoking crack in a hospital. During that time they are offered choices between drugs and money and have shown they can make some surprisingly rational choices.