The Best Stuff We've Read this Week

Josh Clark

Regrettable. A Slate piece by Tanner Colby, an author who was hired by John Belushi's widow Judy to write a biography on the late star. There was already a comprehensive biography on Belushi called Wired, written by the famed journalist Bob Woodward, but Judy always believed Woodward had grossly mischaracterized her husband. As Colby began to dig in and retrace Woodward's steps, he came to see things the same way: "Woodward's account is not wrong. It's just ... wrong." This piece is particularly interesting in the midst of what feels like a giant turning away from Woodward's legendary status and a greater scrutiny of his reporting after he was found to have also mischaracterized an email from a White House official to him about his position on sequestration.

The Soft Bulletins. Another Slate piece, this one by Mark O'Connell, who has become engrossed by the world of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos, a bizarre genre of videos that feature women (mostly) speaking softly while simulating caring or mundane tasks like feeling the viewer's forehead for a fever. It's odd, but the thing is some people who are into the videos report experiencing intensely pleasurable but nonsexual stimulation from these videos.

An Open Letter to My 1994 High School Class Regarding My Designation of "Most Likely to Succeed." A hilarious and dead-on open letter by Eric Corpus published on McSweeney's wherein the author renounces his senior superlative in the face of years of post-high school failure.

Hilarious Warning Labels. A post by the good people at the Bathroom Readers Institute (the founder of which was a very special guest on the How Barbie® Doll Works episode of the podcast) that chronicles a number of boneheaded real life warning labels. Probably the best: "On a birthday badge for two-year-olds (it says 'I am 2' on one side): 'Not to be used by children under 3 yrs. of age.'"

Adventures in the Ransom Trade. A longform piece by William Prochnau that was originally published in the May 1998 issue of Vanity Fair. The article examines the disturbing trend of kidnappings for ransom that became a widespread and lucrative income stream for rebels, guerrillas and drug cartels in South America in the 90s. Prochnau spends a lot of time chatting with the professionals who make up the K&R industry, a generally not-talked-about sector of the insurance business populated by some very cool customers whose job it is to ensure that kidnapped executives and celebrities (who are wise enough to have taken out a kidnap policy) are returned alive and quickly.

In the Footsteps of a Killer. An article by Michelle McNamara published in Los Angeles Magazine about the author's pastime spent as an amateur online sleuth on the hunt for the most prolific unapprehended serial criminal in American History. Police believe that between 1976 and 1986, a man the author dubbed the Golden State Killer killed at least 10 people and raped 50 and that he's possibly still out there. McNamara's article is fascinating not just as a true crime read, but for its examination of the amateur detective community she's a part of that the Internet has allowed to blossom and solve real crimes.

If you like this kind of stuff, you should check out Longform.org and Longreads.com, two great sites for finding fascinating reading (and where a number of these articles were found by us).