Things I Read That I Love #56: My Own Private Idaho

HELLO and welcome to the 56th 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 Alcatraz as a tourist destination! 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.

Escape to Alcatraz (December 2012), by S.J Culver for Guernica – This was so awesome to read because, harboring fond memories of visiting Alcatraz as a child, Marni and I toured Alcatraz in the fall of 2010 and I was more or less horrified by how fucking backwards the whole thing was. It was like a shrine to “bad men” and the good guys who locked ’em up, chock-full of false bravado and patriotic nonsense. He gets into that but mostly how Alcatraz totally obscures the truth of the racist and classist prison industry thriving today.

Bad To The Bone: A Medical Horror Story (September 2012), by Mina Kimes for Fortune – “When medical device company Synthes decided to illegally test a bone cement on people, the results were disastrous. A disturbing tale of corporate crime and punishment.”

The Simple Truth About Gun Control (December 2012), by Adam Gopnik for The New Yorker “There are complex, hand-wringing-worthy problems in our social life: deficits and debts and climate change. Gun violence, and the work of eliminating gun massacres in schools and movie houses and the like, is not one of them. Gun control works on gun violence as surely as antibiotics do on bacterial infections.”

The Short, Happy Life of River Phoenix (March 1994), by Tad Friend for Esquire – I remember so vividly when he died. We loved him so much, loved My Own Private Idaho. I’d even read one of those cheap paperback River Phoenix biographies they sold with the Scholastic Book Order and was delighted to learn his siblings also had weird names, like Leaf and Rain. It occurred to me while reading this that younger kids might know of Joaquin but not know about River, which made me feel sad.

For Poor Students, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall, (December 2012) by Jason DeParle for The New York Times – “Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net… The story of their lost footing is also the story of something larger — the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.”

What’s a Monkey to Do In Tampa? (August 2012), by John Mooallem for The New York Times – Well they tried to catch it for a long time, and then all the people were into it.

Jeffery Eugenides’ Advice To Young Writers (December 2012), by Jefferey Eugenides as printed in The New Yorker – “…here you are tonight, in New York City, and—I don’t want to ruin your night or anything—but everything’s about to change. You’re not writing for yourself anymore. Now you’re a published author or a playwright whose one-act has been produced—and suddenly everybody thinks you’re a professional. You did it before, wrote a book, a play, a collection of poetry, so you can do it again, right? And as you begin to worry about how to do that, that’s when your immune system is at its weakest and the pathogens can make their way in.”

Sister Outsider Metalhead (2000), by Keidra Chaney for Bitch Magazine“I’m not sure exactly when or how it happened, but at some point in my childhood I began to think I was a white guy trapped in the body of a black girl. And not just any white guy, either—a guitar player in a heavy-metal band”

Sledgehammer & Whore (July 2010), by Josh Friedman for his own blog – This was one of the posts on the bottom of my Instapaper barrel that I no longer recall how I found in the first place, but regardless I think you should go into it how I did, which its to say — blindly.

How Not To Be The Biggest Asshole in Media: 4 Lessons I Learned From Meeting Jay Mariotti And Reading His Awful Book, by A.J. Daulerio for Deadspin – What can I say, this little piece gave me a chuckle. It turns out almost everything I do is the polar opposite of what this guy does, so I think I’m safe from this particular fate.

My Favorite Teacher (March 2000), by Robert Kurson for Esquire – The author felt that Mr. Lindwall was his only ally and friend at the high school in Northbrook, Illinois, which’s why the author felt awfully awfully weird when Mr. Lindwall was arrested for sexual assault, kidnapping and murder.

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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 3228 articles for us.


  1. I printed the Eugenides article because I am trying to get writing done for grad school (and I’m failing in fantastic fashion, but I’ve finished 10 of 25 pages of my writing sample and located one letter of rec). “Staying within myself” is the theme for the afternoon.

    That Monkey is a badass.

    Sister Outsider Metalhead is pretty much me circa 2000-2002.

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  3. oh the river phoenix piece is amazing. normally i avoid posthumous pieces about young people, because they’re rife with hero narratives and sentimentalism, but that is a truly great profile, and the ending is perfect.

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  5. The Bad to the Bone piece was pretty disturbing… I work in a medical environment, and the article is spot-on when it tells you that physicians don’t spend much time reading literature, they rely completely on the vendor’s sales reps for information, and use products for off-label uses right up until they get sued.

  6. Yeah, going into that article blindly really is the only way. I wasn’t really prepared and I still don’t know how I feel about it….

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