Things I Read That I Love #54: Everything Is Natural Now

HELLO and welcome to the 54th 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 state subsidies and drinking on the internet! 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.

Napster, Udacity and the Academy (November 2012), by Clay Shirky – “That’s because the fight over Massive Open Online Courses is really about the story we tell ourselves about higher education: what it is, who it’s for, how it’s delivered, who delivers it. The most widely told story about college focuses obsessively on elite schools and answers a crazy mix of questions: How will we teach complex thinking and skills? How will we turn adolescents into well-rounded members of the middle class? Who will certify that education is taking place? How will we instill reverence for Virgil? Who will subsidize the professor’s work?”

The Love Between The Two Women Is Not Natural(August 2008), by Ann Patchett for The Atlantic – Clemson University in South Carolina picked Patchett’s novel, Truth & Beauty, about her deep friendship with writer Lucy Greely (Autobiography of a Face) for their freshman summer reading assignment, a bunch of adults totally freaked out because it mentioned sex and drugs.

School of Shock (August 2007), by Jennifer Gonnerman for Mother Jones – There’s been a more recent article about this school on TIRTL, which actually makes this one even more interesting — the place where problem children are sent and then punished with electric shocks and somehow it’s all legal.

The United States of Subsisidies (December 2012), by Louise Story for The New York Times – This is a three-parter about how state tax subsidies are used to lure businesses to their states and they promise jobs and then there are no jobs and we’re all fucked forever and ever amen.

Feet in Smoke (August 1999), by John Jeremiah Sullivan for The Oxford American – In which the author’s brother is electrocuted by a microphone during his band rehearsal and miraculously recovers while also saying weird and fascinating things.

Tragic Kingdom (January 1994), by Jennifer Allen for The New Republic – I went to EuroDisney, it was SO WEIRD, and this article gets into that.

Allow Natural Death (November 2012), by Jenn Frank for Unwinnable – This was a recommended by a reader, thank you! – “I’d worked so hard to improve my mother’s condition; in reality, I had bungled her death instead. I had encouraged what was already, with or without my stabs at intervention, a complete shitshow.”

Kiki Kannibal: The Girl Who Played With Fire (April 2011), by Sabrina Rubin Erdely for Rolling Stone – “It started online and quickly grew into the most intimate of betrayals. The rise, fall and stubborn survival of Kiki Kannibal, a teenage Internet celebrity who discovered that the real world can be a very scary place.”

Habitat For Humanity (December 2012), by Nell Boeschenstein for The Morning News – “If figurines were awarded for completing twentysomething life-experience clichés, I have been angling for the entire set: the search for myself in central European beer halls; the move west to try growing up with the country; graduate school in New York. A log cabin in the woods has the air of the final trinket on the mantle: the Walden moment. Collect them all.”

Boys: Hanging With The Spur Posse (July 1993), by Jennifer Allen for Rolling Stone- I was reading Where  I Was From by Joan Didion and there’s a chapter which talks about the Spur Posse as a symbol of What’s Going Wrong With California and I remembered the Spur Posse and this whole story so clearly from when it came out, remember reading about it in TIME magazine in 1993, remember being really confused about the world of teenagers and sex, and I went looking for the TIME article and found this one instead. Beware: there are rapists in this story who do not consider themselves rapists, consider their crimes “consensual,” and therefore the whole situation is incredibly disturbing to read.

Pregnant Pause (December 2012), by Alyssa Giacobbe for Boston Magazine – This is obsensibly about how it probably actually is okay to drink while pregnant, but it’s mostly about how the entire world feels comfortable telling pregnant women what to do or how to act and judging women harshly for everything relating to their offspring regardless of whether or not the judger has children or knows the woman or anything at all.

Black Metal Troy, Or ‘How to Drink Online’ (April 2011), by Robert Moor for The Brooklyn Rail – “Bruz and his followers called themselves the 40 Oz. Crew. The Crew was a pretty diverse group of people, black and white, men and even a few women, gathered around a common hobby: getting shit-faced with their computers. A couple of the guys, like Bruz, had wives, and they sometimes got their wives to hold the camera while they swilled the swill. Like this one guy, called Odeed. He got his wife to stand around in his garage with him and sip these cute little hand grenade-shaped bottles of Mickey’s5 while he drank the big ones.



Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


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 3211 articles for us.


  1. Hey, Clemson University is actually in South Carolina (not North Carolina). Anyways, I always look forward to this column!

  2. I hate when there’s an interesting article linked here, but I can’t read it because I don’t have a subscription (eg, anything on Am I doing something wrong?

    • really? i’ve never had any problem accessing their stuff. maybe if you sign up for a free account, you can read them?

      • I don’t know, it gives me a paragraph and then blocks the rest of it until I sign up, the option is 10 dollars a month subscription. Maybe there’s another way…

        • Yeah byliner is changing to the byliner plus. I’m not clear on if you’ll have to subscribe for all of their services or just to get their byliner originals, etc. I just have the free trial still since I was already a member. Maybe if you just google the title/author you can access it through something else. That’s what I try to do sometimes.

  3. I think it’s great that most of the women interviewed for the Boston Mag article have found a level of drinking that works for them while pregnant, but I can’t help but be opposed. Two of my cousins (adopted) were born with FAS. They’re 24 and 22 now, but they’ve never advanced past a developmental level of about 12. They have severe attachment and anger issues. It’s incredible painful to watch and honestly, stressful. My aunt and uncle are incredible parents who have really helped them blossom to a point where they’re okay living in their own places with caregivers and holding menial jobs, but they will never be able to be independent. One of them has met his bio mom, but stopped talking to her because he’s too angry at her for causing his disorder. His sister won’t even go near her. I love both of them and they’re doing well, all things considered, but it’s heartbreaking.

      • “All recent research” says that the occasional alcoholic drink while pregnant will cause birth defects? Citations, please.

        • I don’t know if you’re trying to do this on purpose or not, but I didn’t actually say that the occasional alcoholic drink while pregnant will cause birth defects. I don’t think the poster I responded to did either.

          At a conference I was at last month, we went over recent research and the main result is “we don’t know at what level of exposure birth defects occur and we don’t know how it differs from person to person.” So we can’t say “some drinking is okay” because it would be irresponsible to to say “some” or “occasionally” without being able to define that. There’s also some suggestion that placental thickness and other placental factors may influence alcohol influence on the fetus, adding another complicating factor.

          The only thing we do know, for certain, is that alcohol exposure causes fasd, and that is what guidelines have to be made on for everyone’s safety. There’s some interesting research happening in zebra fish that could possibly change that in the future, though.

          Its interesting to look at FASD through the lens of that article, but from a public health perspective, its a dangerous sentiment because we can’t say the negative of your original statement “an occasional alcoholic drink while pregnant won’t cause birth defects” because we don’t have research to back that up or to define occasional.

          • “I don’t know if you’re trying to do this on purpose or not, but I didn’t actually say that the occasional alcoholic drink while pregnant will cause birth defects. I don’t think the poster I responded to did either.”

            Then I’m not sure why you’re calling the article “irresponsible.” I read it when it came out in Boston magazine. It says pretty much exactly what you said: we don’t know exactly at what point the birth defects occur and how it varies from person to person, and never disputes the idea that aggressive drinking will likely lead to birth defects (which I won’t dispute – I have relatives who suffer from FAS but their mother was an alcoholic). The main conclusion is, as Riese points out, a bigger one about how maybe people who are NOT medical professionals, like the women at the table in a restaurant shooting eye bullets at a pregnant woman drinking O’Douls, should not be so aggressively judging mothers.

            My issue was also that you were speaking in absolutes. “What we can take away from examining the recent research on this subject is this” is not the same as saying “all recent research supports this.”

  4. Oh man, I love Ann Patchett. It’s so interesting that the protestors decided there was an implied sexual relationship between her and Lucy Grealy. I read that book hoping there would be one, and being mildly disappointed when there wasn’t.
    It really is a very sweet book.

  5. I am very interested in the Pregnant Pause article since I recently read “Killing the Black Body” by Dorothy Roberts, about the historical and contemporary efforts to control the bodies and reproductive choices of African-American women. In the book, Roberts introduces the conflicting studies around how profoundly crack and cocaine use affects developing fetuses, compared to the lack of access to prenatal and postnatal care (nutrition, enough food, etc.) that often accompany addiction and crack abuse for people living in poverty. This article does note that fetal alcohol syndrome exists and is a real thing, but that it is most commonly seen among people who abuse alcohol while pregnant, not those who occasionally imbibe alcohol while pregnant.

    The most interesting point of this article, and what links it back to Roberts’s book, is how certain types of medical technology have increasingly pitted the person carrying the fetus against the fetus. We see this not only in extreme cases such as abortion restrictions, but also in the way that many people feel entitled to judge or attempt to control a person’s behavior when they are pregnant – for the good of the fetus. We hope people will make the “right” decisions (i.e. the ones we agree with), but how does pitting a fetus against desires/needs/rights of the person carrying it contribute to the dehumanization and devaluing of those people?

  6. Allow Natural Death hit close to home, my grandfather died two weeks ago and my dad and his siblings were all grappling with those issues and how far do you take things.

    • I don’t know if that’s what Rose meant, but I’d advise to skip the article and go straight to the comments (for once!) for an intelligent and argumented discussion on the issue (TL;DR/spoiler : owning a gun doesn’t turn upstanding citizens into murderers)

      • No, I thought people should read the article.

        A truly thoughtful examination of the gun control debate, imo, would acknowledge that no one on either side is saying “owning a gun turns upstanding citizens into murders.” If that’s the kind of straw man people are engaging with, I don’t think see what’s “intelligent” about that discussion.

  7. That article about Udacity really really hit home. As someone who attended an expensive religious private school and is now saddled with crippling debt and working for minimum wage, I feel pretty cynical about the system. Definitely food for thought.

Comments are closed.