Things I Read That I Love #250: Their Weirdness Gives Them Psychic Powers and Untouchable Brilliance

HELLO and welcome to the 250th installment of Things I Read That I Love, wherein I share with you some of the longer-form journalism/essays I’ve read recently so that you can read them too and we can all know more about people who don’t regret voting for Trump! This “column” is less feminist/queer focused than the rest of the site because when something is feminist/queer focused, I put it on the rest of the site. Here is where the other things are.

The title of this feature is inspired by the title of Emily Gould’s tumblr, Things I Ate That I Love.

Let Me Tell You About A Cool App

Today, friends, I have fantastic news for you. Earlier this week I was made aware of an app called Audm, available for the iPhone experience, via which publishers of excellent longform content have provided audio recordings of said content being read out loud by actual human beings! I’ve wanted this to exist for so long that I can hardly believe it actually does, and I hope the $6.99/month I’ll be paying for this service will be entirely worth it. This means I can listen to longform while driving and doing laundry and cooking, which is great ’cause I love a good multi-tasking hack.

However, there are some drawbacks: for example, it consumes so much battery power that you basically have to have your phone plugged in to use it. Only a limited number of publishers are signed on to the platform, with only a limited number of stories recorded. I hope it keeps growing and starts working better! If a story is starred on this list, that’s ’cause it’s on Audm.

* Where the Small-Town American Dream Lives On, by Larissa MacFarquhar for The New Yorker, November 2017

In Orange City, Iowa, people own homes, have jobs, go to church, make good money, and tend to stick around even after college. Why has Orange City thrived while so many other small towns like it have not?

The Improbable Origins of PowerPoint, by David E Brooks for IEEE Spectrum, October 2017

The history of computer software! A thing I didn’t know I was interested in until Halt & Catch Fire came into my life.

Scents from a Mall: The Sticky, Untold Story of Cinnabon, by Allecia Vermillion for Seattle Met, October 2017

I mean

Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway., by Michael Kruse for Politico, November 2017

To take a page from the Trump playbook and be perfectly frank, it seems like the issue here is that people are stupid and racist, and they enjoy a leader who speaks their language.

The Secret Life of the Mall Kiosk Worker, by Ngozi Ekeledo for Racked, November 2017


Out Came the Girls, by Alex Mar for the Virginia Quarterly Review, November 2017

This is very much in line with so many of my interests and the interests of this website at large. The history of Girls in the woods! Adolescent girls! Slender man! Murder! Witchcraft! Excellent literary writing! Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme!!!! Female sexuality! Intense female friendships! (aka the girls from “Heavenly Creatures.”) (Juliet Hulme, as discussed in the piece, grew up and changed her name and became a hugely successful mystery writer, Anne Perry, I used to work for her literary agent and met her a few times but apparently you’re not allowed to ask her about all that.) A lot of this reminds me of Rachel’s piece about Salem..

To be an adolescent girl is, for many, to view yourself as desperately set apart, powerfully misunderstood. A special alien, terrible and extraordinary. The flood of new hormones, shot from the glands into the bloodstream; the first charged touches, with a boy or a girl; the first years of bleeding in secret; the startling feeling that your body is suddenly hard to contain and, by extension, so are you. It’s an age defined by a raw desire for experience; by the chaotic beginning of a girl’s sexual self; by obsessive friendships, fast emotions, the birth and rebirth of hard grudges, an inner life that stands outside of logic. You have an undiluted desire for private knowledge, for a genius shared with a select few. You bend reality regularly.

*The Mystery of Why People Go Missing in Alaska, by Alex Tizon for The Atlantic, April 2016

An eerie story about losing someone in the wilds and the trouble of finding out if they’re alive or dead and either way where can you find them or what’s left of them.

*Death at a Penn State Fraternity, by Caitlin Flannagan for The Atlantic, October 2017

I don’t know why I did this to myself because as I’ve maybe mentioned here before, I’ve already read way too much about this case which involves like a significant number of rotten evil frat brothers letting a man die like psychopaths! But this story goes a little bigger and is really well done.

Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies, by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker, November 2017

Of course. Of course this is what he was doing, of course this is how he operated.

A Likely Story, by Mimi Kramer for Medium, November 2017

This piece posits a very interesting theory:

That, right there — I’d argue — is the impulse behind sexual harassment. It’s about getting away with something. It’s about seeming to be one sort of person, a “pillar of the community” — responsible, dignified, respectable, a family man, a liberal, a progressive, Presidential, whatever — while really being A Very Bad Boy. That’s exciting for some men. Not the being bad part. The getting-away-with-it part. It isn’t just about power over individuals, the women you victimize. It’s about power over society and the court of public opinion, the thrill of risking everything on one roll of the dice, knowing that it isn’t really all that much of a risk — because nobody will believe her.

It also led me to reading this, which I found super interesting but cannot vouch for its more wide-ranging appeal.

The Evolution of Sarah Polley, by Soraya Roberts for Hazlitt, November 2017

I HAVE BEEN OBSESSED WITH SARAH POLLEY SINCE 1988. Because as this story will tell you, she played Ramona in the CHCH television adaptation of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books, which were my absolute favorite of all time because I am Ramona. Also I got a book about the process of making the teevee show and Sarah Polley was on the cover and I read it every night. Her career and her life did not proceed from there in the manner which one might expect and now her show Alias Grace (which Rachel wrote about this week) has premiered on Netflix and that’s the occasion of this write-up.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3203 articles for us.


  1. I feel like I would 100% be into reading long reads aloud and recording them (and not just from ‘top-tier publishers’) and sending them to people for free just because I love reading aloud and normally have nobody who’s interested in hearing it! I feel like there’s a bridge here, somewhere. But alas, I do not have proper recording equipment, and presumably there are some kind of rights over who can distribute recordings of published journalism, and I am not a ‘world-class narrator”.

    I would definitely in turn love that app if I could afford it, though. I like the guardian’s long read podcast so I can take in hefty journalism AND do the washing up (and it’s free)

  2. Audm sounds like a really cool idea, and I’d like to see many more publishers get on board. I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand for services like this, especially given how podcasts keep growing in popularity. I think Audible offers some longform/periodical content too, but I’m not sure how wide-ranging their options are (and they’re $15/mo).

    I do almost all of my reading through audio, even here at AS. This is partially for accessibility reasons, but it’s also nice to multitask as I read. I rely mostly on text-to-speech for Internet articles, especially since there (thus far) aren’t a lot of human-narrated options. Computerized voices take a bit of acclimation, but they’re good enough once you get used to them.

    One excellent option for this is the Instapaper* app. I’ve only used Instapaper on iPhone/iOS, but it has a serviceable text-to-speech option using either the old Siri voice or the newer, high-quality iOS ‘Alex’ voice. You can also make playlists of articles to read, and it’s extremely handy for catching up on all sorts of Internet content.

    For much longer-form articles and somewhat better voice quality, I use the excellent text-to-speech capabilities on my Mac to turn text files into audiobooks and podcasts in iTunes. I then sync these to my phone. This method is much more involved than using Instapaper, but it’s more reliable for extra-extra-long content.

    There are other mobile apps for text-to-speech, but I these two methods are the best balance of quality and ease-of-use for me. I’m curious to hear from other text-to-speech users about what programs and options they use, too.

    *Instapaper is great for organizing articles to read later/offline, but since this service strips text down for easy readability, I’m pretty sure the original site doesn’t get the same traffic stats or ad views. As such, I *highly* encourage financially supporting/subscribing to the content provides you love (A+ memberships FTW! ❤️). If that’s not feasible, it’s nice to just go to the original site and load the article (without ad-blockers, of course).

  3. I, too, don’t know why I did this to myself(“this” being read about the death in the Penn State fraternity). Halfway through my fight-or-flight instinct reared up and by the end of it my heart rate was definitely elevated and I was ready to go burn down every single frat house in the college town where I live. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to swear in comments here but f*ck men.

    Also “Out Came the Girls” is so. good. Excellent writing.

  4. the “Out came the girls” article is exactly what I need in my life omg. (also fascinating and terrifying and awesome, like, the connections she makes, everything).

  5. I read the grand jury protocols about the Penn State frat and that poor kid and thought it couldn’t get worse but hey, that article managed to contextualize it in a way that made it even more disgusting. A great haul of articles this week, looking forward to the next!

    (also I sent the article about Cinnabon to my wife, she now dreams of working there)

  6. Happy 250th installment!

    That Cinnabon piece was such a feel-good read, and while I suspect the missing-in-Alaska piece is… well, not… I have a weird fascination with how people go missing and how/whether they’re found and especially the sickeningly sad concept of the “missing missing” (people whose disappearances aren’t noticed).

    I’m also SO READY to get deeper into that Penn State case than merely listening to Nancy Grace yell about it on her podcast.

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