Recent reads

Recent reads August 28, 2023

The shampoo-maker who hopes to become the post-apocalyptic warlord of the Midwest.

This story is bananas. Charles Haywood sold his generic shampoo-and-conditioner business and uses his newfound millions to fund things like “the Society for American Civic Renewal,” which is a cross between a Moose Lodge and a militia. He also has a heavily armed compound from which he expects to wage war against the federal government and also something called the “Howdy Doody Good Times foundation.”

I miss when Robber Barons just used their obscene wealth to fund things like libraries and museums.

• “True Crime, True Faith: The Serial Killer and the Texas Mom Who Stopped Him” Julie Miller writes for Vanity Fair.

As oblivious shoppers passed in front of the Suburban, Morin fretted about the cops closing in. They would probably both die in a shoot-out today, he informed Palm. Noticing the Christmas presents in the back seat, he reached back and started throwing them around. He wondered aloud why he never got gifts like that as a child. He railed against the “sheltered princess” next to him and noted that animals were treated better than he was growing up. All Palm could manage to say was “I’m sorry.”

She closed her eyes to calm herself, and it came to her that the man shouting at her—who had three knives on him in addition to his gun—was not her enemy. God had put her in that car for a reason, she decided. “I was not afraid of him, not hating him anymore,” she says.

She started praying aloud for Morin.

“Oh my God,” he said, shocked. “I’m in the car with a religious freak.”

• “The mysterious story of Connie Converse, the singer-songwriter who vanished

… After deciding that music maybe wasn’t the avenue that was going to be open for her, she left and for the next decade worked as a social justice champion, working in conflict resolution, working against police brutality. And then she disappeared completely in 1974. She wrote letters to family and friends saying that she was going to start a new life somewhere and not to come looking for her, and she has never been heard from again.

• Jeremy Gordon in The Guardian,The evolution of Steve Albini: ‘If the dumbest person is on your side, you’re on the wrong side’

The musician Steve Albini and I had been chatting for about a half hour, going over the particulars of his daily routine, the financial viability of his business, and various other prosaic and uncontroversial subjects, when it suddenly seemed appropriate to ask about the decades-long stretch of time where he’d sort of seemed like a giant asshole. Several months before, on Twitter, he’d felt moved to explain some of the terrible things he’d said in public over the years. This might not seem so remarkable: many people – the famous, the semi-famous, the completely insignificant – have spent a lot of time apologising on Twitter for their former selves. But when Albini decided to acknowledge his past in direct terms, with no qualification or defensiveness – “A lot of things I said and did from an ignorant position of comfort and privilege are clearly awful and I regret them” went one line in what became a viral thread – it engendered a somewhat astonished reaction along the lines of: “Damn, if Steve Albini is saying this, then nobody else has an excuse.”

• “How a High School Instagram Became a Community’s Nightmare

Mother Jones’ Michael Mechanic interviews Dashka Slater about her book, Accountable:

I can’t emphasize enough how traumatized people in this community are. Some of them have just been, like, I tried to read it, and I started having nightmares or I couldn’t stop crying. The feedback I particularly appreciate comes from the people who say, like, I didn’t know. Because there were roughly two sides, but on each side there were many variations of people and different groups of people. I’ve had a lot of people tell me how eye-opening it was to get the full story.

• “Why Do Neo-Nazis Keep Getting Arrested For Child Sexual Abuse Material?

The answer is more than simply “Because bad people tend to do bad things” — although that’s part of it, because nihilists who deliberately desensitize themselves to cruelty and to breaking taboos for the sake of it tend to develop horrible new tendencies. But the more depressing aspect of Mack Lamoureux’s Vice article is the possibility that such material is “distressingly more commonplace than most realize” and that Neo-Nazis are only more likely to be arrested for it because they’re more likely to have their phones and computers tapped by law enforcement. Ugh.

• “When Did Humans Start Settling Down?

Matti Friedman’s Smithsonian article explores Nahal Ein Gev II, a prehistoric Natufian village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where hundreds of our ancient ancestors lived, died, and buried their dead. This was 12,000 years ago, long before any agricultural revolution. In other words, this was at a time when nomadic hunter-gatherer clans were the norm, not villages with stone houses, art, ceremony, and a sense of place as home.

I often link to stories like this while snarkily observing that such research — despite its setting in the “Holy Land” — will never appear in the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review. Or noting that the houses and artifacts of Nahal Ein Gev II are all, indisputably, date back to some 5,000 years before Al Mohler says the universe was created. But what I enjoyed most about Friedman’s article and the people he profiles is their shared affection for the residents of this ancient village. That affection is contagious and I found myself reading this and repeatedly thinking, “Look at that! Oh, well done you splendid Natufian geniuses.”

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