JANUARY 19, 2014

illustration by Maurice Vellekoop

 

Tales' End

The New York Times Book Review

 

"The Days of Anna Madrigal," by Armistead Maupin

Reviewed by Jessica Bruder

 

In the mid-1970s, the managing editor of The San Francisco Chronicle kept a chart in his office with two columns: “heterosexual” and “homosexual.” Whenever a new character appeared in “Tales of the City” — the newspaper’s fiction serial by Armistead Maupin, which begat a stack of popular novels — the name was slotted accordingly.


“He was making sure that the gay characters didn’t overtake the straight characters and thereby undermine civilization,” Maupin recalled in 2012, during an appearance at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.


The chart didn’t last. (When Maupin insisted on filing Faust, the series’s randy Great Dane, under “heterosexual,” his editor scrapped it.) Yet “Tales of the City” endured. Maupin’s novels followed the same bohemian tribe from the sexual revolution of the ’70s through the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and then, after an 18-year hiatus, into a postmillennial San Francisco reshaped by the tech industry. Along the way, Maupin earned the ire of antigay conservatives — in 1994, a “Tales” mini-series was condemned by lawmakers on the floors of the Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina legislatures. He also gained an international cult following.

 

The series’s ninth and final novel, “The Days of Anna Madrigal,” arrives this week. It spotlights one of Maupin’s most beloved characters: the spliff-smoking, wisecracking transgender landlady who presided over 28 Barbary Lane through most of “Tales.” Her tenants became a sort of “logical” — rather than “biological” — family.

 

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SEPTEMBER 2013

Illustration by Ruth Gwily

 

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

Inc. magazine

By JESSICA BRUDER

 

By all counts and measures, Bradley Smith is an unequivocal business success. He's CEO of Rescue One Financial, an Irvine, California-based financial services company that had sales of nearly $32 million last year. Smith's company has grown some 1,400 percent in the last three years, landing it at No. 310 on this year's Inc. 500. So you might never guess that just five years ago, Smith was on the brink of financial ruin--and mental collapse.

Back in 2008, Smith was working long hours counseling nervous clients about getting out of debt. But his calm demeanor masked a secret: He shared their fears. Like them, Smith was sinking deeper and deeper into debt. He had driven himself far into the red starting--of all things--a debt-settlement company. "I was hearing how depressed and strung out my clients were, but in the back of my mind I was thinking to myself, I've got twice as much debt as you do," Smith recalls.


He had cashed in his 401(k) and maxed out a $60,000 line of credit. He had sold the Rolex he bought with his first-ever paycheck during an earlier career as a stockbroker. And he had humbled himself before his father--the man who raised him on maxims such as "money doesn't grow on trees" and "never do business with family"--by asking for $10,000, which he received at 5 percent interest after signing a promissory note.


Smith projected optimism to his co-founders and 10 employees, but his nerves were shot. "My wife and I would share a bottle of $5 wine for dinner and just kind of look at each other," Smith says. "We knew we were close to the edge." Then the pressure got worse: The couple learned they were expecting their first child. "There were sleepless nights, staring at the ceiling," Smith recalls. "I'd wake up at 4 in the morning with my mind racing, thinking about this and that, not being able to shut it off, wondering, When is this thing going to turn?" After eight months of constant anxiety, Smith's company finally began making money.


Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks. And we celebrate the blazingly fast growth of the Inc. 500 companies. But many of those entrepreneurs, like Smith, harbor secret demons: Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair--times when it seemed everything might crumble.

 

"It's like a man riding a lion. People think, 'This guy's brave.' And he's thinking, 'How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?"

 

(continues...)

 

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DECEMBER 16, 2012

Midnight Caller

The New York Times Book Review

 

"Not Exactly a Love Story," by Audrey Couloumbis

Reviewed by Jessica Bruder

 

In the 1970s, most Americans still had rotary phones. CB radios were a new craze. Students learned math using slide rules. Mark Zuckerberg had not yet arrived on the planet, and teen­agers didn’t obsessively fashion aspirational online identities.

 

But long before the advent of the digital age, adolescence was about trying on new personalities, about building — as much as being — someone, then presenting that self to the world.


When “Not Exactly a Love Story” opens in 1977, Vinnie Gold, 15, is struggling to revise himself into something better. He has a litany of woes that read like the 10 plagues of young adulthood: Parental divorce. Acne attacks. Dead dog. Gym flunked. A mugging. Mom remarrying. New house. New town. New school. Leather pants that chafe.


“I couldn’t seem to recover from one blow before another followed,” he reflects.

 

(continues...)

 

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NOVEMBER 12, 2012

When No News is Bad News

Is the death of newspapers the end of good citizenship?

The Christian Science Monitor (cover)

 

By JESSICA BRUDER

 

One Saturday in June, the Pinstripe Brass Band played a traditional jazz funeral in the lakeside Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. When "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" gave way to a livelier tune, dozens of mourners danced.


But there was no coffin. Black frosting on a sheet cake spelled "-30-," the mark reporters put at a story's end. This was a requiem for a newspaper. (continues...)

 

Magazine Version

 

 

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NOVEMBER 12, 2012

A News Future in Feisty Upstarts?

The Christian Science Monitor (cover sidebar)

 

By JESSICA BRUDER

 

The future of community journalism is still a rough draft. As newspapers falter, hundreds of ventures are testing models to keep local news alive.


They haven't had an easy time. Among the largest is Patch, a network of more than 850 "hyper-local" news sites. AOL purchased the company in 2009 and reportedly spent $160 million on it last year. But Patch remains unprofitable. In September, its websites began shifting to a format focused less on news, more on user-generated content and social groups.


When it comes to preserving local reporting, some of the most promising experiments are just that: local. Instead of plotting vast empires, an emerging tribe of innovators has pursued a different strategy. Their mantra? Think small.

 

(continues...)

 

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OCTOBER 8, 2012

photo: Andrew Moore for The New York Times

Sending a Message by Tooting Their Horns

Honk! Festival of Street Bands
The New York Times

Thursday Arts

 

By JESSICA BRUDER

 

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — On a rainy Saturday night here more than 100 revelers jigged to “The Smash-a-Bank Polka.” They chanted “Rise up! Get down!” and stomped their feet. Three members of a brass band used a homemade concoction of duct tape and rubber cement to set the ends of their trumpets on fire, then kept playing. Everyone cheered and sang. “Here’s to the bands in the streets!” they belted out, fists pumping in time with the drums. It was hard to tell where the politics ended and the party began at the Honk! festival of activist street bands, which ran for five days, starting on Thursday, in this Boston suburb.

 

Thirty-five ensembles — more than 670 performers in all — converged at this year’s event, a mix of grass-roots politics, homespun fun and punk edge. Most came from the United States and Canada, and more than 200 out-of-towners were billeted in volunteers’ homes. One group, the Pink Puffers, flew in from Rome and planned to stay in the Northeast for two spinoff festivals: Pronk! on Monday in Providence, R.I., and Honk NYC!, a four-night affair with less of a political bent that kicks off on Tuesday in Brooklyn.

 

(continues...)

 

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JUNE 30, 2012

R.S.V.P. P.S. No Gluten, Fat or Soy, Please

The New York Times

Sunday Styles

 

By JESSICA BRUDER

 

No one would touch it.


The offending object? A footlong loaf of bread, stuffed with savory cheese, purchased at a beloved Italian bakery and presented with pride at a recent potluck meal. “This bread is delicious,” I crowed.


The kitchen went quiet. You’d think I had offered up a bouquet of poison ivy. One guest said she was gluten free. Another didn’t consume milk products. The mood lifted only when someone else arrived with a large bowl of quinoa and lentils.


It’s becoming harder for Americans to break bread together. Our appetites are stratified by an ever-widening array of restrictions: gluten free, vegan, sugar free, low fat, low sodium, no carb, no dairy, soyless, meatless, wheatless, macrobiotic, probiotic, antioxidant, sustainable, local and raw.


Though medical conditions like celiac disease and severe allergies have long relegated a small percentage of diners to rigid diets, more and more eaters outside this group appear to be experimenting with self-imposed limits, taking a do-it-yourself, pick-and-choose approach to restricting what they consume.

 

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JUNE 8, 2012

OP-ED: Real Punk Belongs to Fighters

The International Herald Tribune

 

By JESSICA BRUDER

 

NEW YORK — Exactly 35 years after the Sex Pistols were arrested for trying to perform their version of “God Save The Queen” while boating down the Thames, punk’s politically subversive snarl has never been louder. But you won’t hear it in the U.S. and the U.K., the countries where punk was born.

 

Instead look to Moscow, where three women have been detained and face up to seven years in prison because their band, Pussy Riot, staged an anti-Putin “punk prayer” in a cathedral. Amnesty International now classifies them as prisoners of conscience.


Consider Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where six months ago officers hauled more than 60 young punks off to reeducation camps, sheared off their Mohawks, removed their piercings and forced them to bathe, change clothes and pray. Or contemplate Iraq, where human rights groups report that dozens of emo kids — followers of punk’s tender-hearted offshoot — have been slain by extremists since February, when the government’s interior ministry released a statement equating emo style with devil worship.


Burmese punk bands have to practice in secrecy to avoid arrest. As a member of the band Rebel Riot recently told the German magazine Der Spiegel, “In Burma, punk is not a game.” At the head of Cuba’s dissident music scene, Porno para Ricardo plays nose-thumbing punk anthems despite years of police harassment, including the lead singer Gorki Aguila’s latest arrest in February.


Here in Brooklyn, members of the Iranian punk rock band The Yellow Dogs recently won asylum after fleeing two years ago from Tehran, where playing rock music is punishable by flogging, fines and jail time.

 

(continues...)

 

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APRIL 6, 2012

Nuns Behaving Badly

The New York Times Book Review

 

"Grave Mercy" by Robin LaFevers

Reviewed by Jessica Bruder

 

Getting bundled off to a nunnery is rarely a prelude to adventure.


But St. Mortain is no ordinary convent. The sisters there train young women to be assassins, “handmaidens to the god of death.” The reverend mother puts it bluntly: “We kill people.”


In “Grave Mercy,” the first book in a planned trilogy by Robin LaFevers, the convent’s newest initiate, Ismae Rienne, 17, has a worldview shaped by abusive men: stone-throwing boys, groping teenagers and a violent father who married her off to a pig farmer for three silver coins. Pledging loyalty to St. Mortain, Ismae reflects: “I weigh the choice that is no choice at all. To be removed from the world of men and trained to kill them, or to be handed to one like a sheep.”

 

(continues...)

 

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MARCH 30, 2012

OP-ED: Burning Man's Cry For Help

The New York Times


By JESSICA BRUDER

 

Lots of people think that going to Burning Man for the art is like reading Playboy for the articles.


But an art experience is exactly what I had in mind 10 years ago, when I was 23 and first visited Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for the festival, which is often mistaken for a no-holds-barred bacchanal.


I was excited but also terrified by the event’s credo: “No spectators, participants only.” I was no artist, just a writer. How could I participate if I didn’t know how?

 

(continues...)

 

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JANUARY 26, 2012

Just did this interview with Forbes on riots in Italy, censorship in South Africa, floating libertarian homesteads....and why I do the voodoo that I (sometimes) do reasonably well.

 

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DECEMBER 25, 2011

A Very Merry Un-Christmas to You

The New York Times

Sunday Styles


By JESSICA BRUDER


In the backyard, revelers gathered around a vat of boiling oil and counted down from 10. All eyes were on the 12-pound turkey, suspended by a rope. At “One!” the bird plunged into the fryer and everyone cheered.


It was Dec. 25, 2010, and we were at Project Parlor, the bar my sister opened two years ago in Brooklyn. She had prepared a nondenominational feast for anti-holiday castaways and orphans with nowhere else to be. We ended up slouched around a battered piano like ne’er-do-wells in a Wild West honky-tonk, singing hoarse, half-drunken carols.


It wasn’t Christmas, per se, but why should that matter? My sister and I are what we call “cashews” (half Catholic, half Jewish), with few spiritual allegiances apart from family and food.


Folks like us are a tiny minority, according to a Gallup/USA Today poll conducted Dec. 10 to 12, 2010, with a sample of 1,019 adults. It found that 95 percent of Americans (including 80 percent of non-Christians) celebrate Christmas. Here are some tales about how our tribe — the other 5 percent — spends that day. 

 

(continues...)

 

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OCTOBER 16, 2011

Illustration by Jim Kay

 

It Takes a Monster to Learn How to Grieve

Facing His Fears

 

The New York Times Book Review

 

"A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness

Reviewed by Jessica Bruder

 

When I opened the envelope on my doorstep containing this book, I immediately had to sit down. “A Monster Calls” is about coming to terms with grief. And it is based on the last story idea from my first mentor: brassy, big-hearted Siobhan Dowd, then a human rights campaigner, who was kind — or crazy — enough to hire me as an intern in 1997 when I was 18 years old. She died four years ago from breast cancer at the age of 47.

 

Along with my sadness and guilt — I learned of her death only by opening that envelope and, yes, I cried — came memories. There was Dowd’s big desk at the PEN American Center. Her brilliant letters on behalf of authors imprisoned around the world. Her favorite places for dumplings in Chinatown. Her funny stories about busking in the London Tube for pub money, belting out a pop parody she called “House of the Writhing Nun.” Both of us bent double with laughter. She was the kind of person who could turn a kid into a colleague.

 

(continues...)

 

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OCTOBER 15, 2011

Should the Rich Pay More?

 

The Christian Science Monitor (cover)

BY JESSICA BRUDER

 

NEW YORK

 

Brennan McFarlane had never been to a protest before. On Sept. 17, the former Navy seaman from Mahwah, N.J., packed his rucksack with sheets and a blanket, unsure if he'd return home that night. Then he rode the train into Manhattan's financial district.

 

Activists from around the country were converging on Zuccotti Park for the first day of "Occupy Wall Street," a multiweek rally against greed. They brandished signs: "Democracy not plutocracy," "No war but the class war," and "I can't afford a lobbyist." Hundreds chanted, marched, and danced along Broadway. One woman in a birthday cake costume distributed anti-global warming fliers. A skateboarder in sunglasses and a pin-striped suit with a noose in place of a tie clattered along the park's southern edge.


Mr. McFarlane stood in the midst of it all with a neatly hand-lettered sign: "TAX THE RICH." (continues)

 

Magazine Version

 

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AUGUST 28, 2011

photo: Ron Lewis/San Mateo County Times, via Associated Press

 

The Changing Face of the Burning Man Festival

 

The New York Times, Sunday Business

BY JESSICA BRUDER

 

Tens of thousands of volunteers are gathering to build a city in a Nevada desert that is notorious for triple-digit temperatures, high winds and blinding plumes of dust.

 

Their organizer is a for-profit company that has collected millions in revenue over the last decade, largely because of this donated labor. At a distance, it’s easy to wonder: why are these people working so hard — in the blazing heat, no less — for a company they don’t own?


That’s one of the paradoxes of Burning Man, the annual arts festival whose attractions include colossal art installations, all-night dance parties, marathon kite-flying sessions, off-kilter fashion shows, and classes where revelers can learn things that range from Hula Hooping to playing the ukulele to making absinthe.

(continues)

 

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AUGUST 21, 2011

photo: Andrew Moore for The New York Times

 

Paper Chase

The New York Times Magazine

 

By JESSICA BRUDER

 

One July afternoon, a truck full of paper cranes arrived at the Brooklyn studio of Vik Muniz, a Brazilian-born artist known for building images from unconventional materials like diamonds, spaghetti and dust. “I was like, ‘Where are you going to put all these?’” he says. The birds had traveled a long way. After the Japanese earthquake in March, the nonprofit Bezos Family Foundation invited children to mail origami cranes to the Seattle headquarters of its Students Rebuild program. Each would trigger a $2 donation, up to $200,000. The group received more than 2 million and doubled the donation. Last week, Muniz made a mosaic of a giant crane from smaller ones, for a fund-raising poster. “It’s alchemic,” he said. “The idea worked because everyone wanted to help.”

 

Nations of Origin: 38, including Turkey, Iran, South Korea, Romania and Haiti, and all 50 U.S. states
Smallest / Largest Cranes: Size of a thumbnail / Size of a pterodactyl
Unexpected Media That Children Folded into Cranes: Math homework, hall passes, vocabulary lessons, love letters, Saran wrap, Kleenex, candy wrappers, aluminum foil, restaurant menus
Size of Vik Muniz’s Crane Mosaic: 36 by 40 feet

 

[link]

 

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JULY 18, 2011

 

The New Gold Rush

With its value surging -- up fivefold in the past decade -- the metal shows its allure as a refuge amid global instability.

 

The Christian Science Monitor (cover)

 

By JESSICA BRUDER

 

ITALIAN BAR CAMP, CALIF. -- Lee Mace knelt on a sun-dappled riverbank in the heart of California's mother lode. For two hours, he'd been taking turns with his wife and their three children, shoveling dirt into a home-built oak box, pouring buckets of water over the top, and rocking it back and forth like a cradle. Gravity carried the heaviest particles through a series of screens to a trap at the bottom, where Mr. Mace removed them to cull by hand in a shallow prospector's pan.

 

He tilted the pan gently. He squinted into the black silt, as if reading tea leaves. "Look," he said. And then they appeared: a constellation of glowing flecks, none larger than the head of a pin.

 

It's hard to believe that crumbs like these have obsessed humankind through the ages, but such is the history of gold. (continues...)

 

Magazine Version

 

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JULY 3, 2011

photo: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times

 

A Show of Faith, Ann Arbor, Mich.

The New York Times Magazine

 

Interview by Jessica Bruder

 

Sister Mary Kate, 18: We pray the rosary at the same time every day at the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist — always after lunch. You’re basically repeating the words that Archangel Gabriel said to Our Lady. These are the most important words in history, so to say them over and over again doesn’t make them in the least bit old.Distraction is normal. You have to have a way to fight it. God, our father, is so merciful to us. As soon as I know that I’m distracted, I say, ‘‘Oh, I’m sorry!’’ and come back to him, because I know he understands that we’re his children and we’re weak. That’s what the beads are for, they help. When I was little, praying the rosary every night with my family helped me get into the habit of fighting distraction. You’re a kid, you wanted to be doing other things, but I always wanted to be the one to lead the prayer. And that set good habits for the future. Praying the rosary also teaches you to be silent. You’re really quiet and in front of what’s really true for a few minutes.

 

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JUNE 26, 2011

photo: 20th Century Fox

 

Most Likely to Succeed, Someday

The New York Times Book Review

 

"The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth" by Alexandra Robbins

Reviewed by Jessica Bruder

 

For the modern adult, nothing signifies self-confidence, street credibility and authenticity like one simple confession: “I was such a nerd in high school.” (Emphasize “such” with a dramatic sigh. Then roll your eyes.) It’s pretty easy now to gaze upon the past with rose-colored — and thick-framed — glasses. It’s popular to have been unpopular. A new world order has unfolded, with nerds ascendant.

 

But someone forgot to post the memo in high school cafeterias and locker rooms across America, where the shift has barely dented teenagers’ rigid social hierarchies. The results are disjunctive: while adolescent geekiness is something to brag about in hindsight, it’s much harder to embrace when you’re living through it, day after day, in the crucible of high school. (continues)

 

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JUNE 11, 2011

photo: Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor

 

The Last Company Town

Empire, Nev. is turning off the lights

 

The Christian Science Monitor

By Jessica Bruder

 

EMPIRE, NEV.


This mining town of 300 people clings like a burr to the back of the Black Rock Desert. For years, it was marked on state Highway 447 by a two-story sign reading, "Welcome to Nowhere."


On June 20, that tongue-in-cheek greeting will become a fact. Empire, Nev., will transform into a ghost town. An eight-foot chain-link fence crowned with barbed wire will seal off the 136-acre plot. Even the local ZIP Code, 89405, will be discontinued.


Many towns have been scarred by the recession, but Empire will be the first to completely disappear. For only a few days more it will remain the last intact example of an American icon: the company town. (continues)

 

Magazine Version

 

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JUNE 5, 2011

image: Simon & Schuster

 

Hotwinds and Hellwurms

Teens After the Apocalypse

 

The New York Times Book Review

 

"Blood Red Road" by Moira Young

Reviewed by Jessica Bruder

 

How many times can the world come to an end? For Saba, the fatalistic 18-year-old heroine of “Blood Red Road,” quite a few. She lives long after Earth’s last major civilization, the Wreckers, went extinct. Her mother died nine years earlier, giving birth to Saba’s sister, Emmi. The lake beside her family’s shack is drying up, replaced by a wasteland of dust storms and heat.

 

It soon gets worse: Saba’s father is shot dead by a band of four horsemen. (If they arrived to ring in the apocalypse, they’re too late; this place has been in ruins for as long as anyone can remember.) They gallop off with the one thing that still matters to Saba: her twin brother, Lugh, her “golden heart.” (continues)

 

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MAY 20, 2011

photo: Jessica Bruder

 

Treading Lightly in the Simanjiro Plains of Tanzania

 

The New York Times, Sunday Travel

by Jessica Bruder

 

We'd been hiking for a half-hour when Mark Thornton raised his hand and drew us to a halt. Tracing a circle in the air with his index finger, he whispered, “They’re all around us.”


About 50 yards off, in every possible direction, were zebras. Dozens of them. The night before, sitting by our campfire, we’d heard distant hoof beats rumbling across the savanna. Now we had found the source. They milled around stubby acacia trees, black tails swishing against striped hindquarters, noses down in the grass.


Our group grew silent. Mr. Thornton waved us together, nine khaki-clad travelers and a local Masai guide in a traditional red-checkered shuka cloak. The closer we stood to one another, he explained, the less threatening we’d appear. We fell into a tight line behind him and paced ahead slowly toward the herd. (continues)

 

 

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APRIL 24, 2011

photo: Yana Paskova for The New York Times

 

All the World’s a Stage, Even the Back of a Truck

Lost Horizon Night Market, Brooklyn's Theater of the Bizarre

 

The New York Times, Sunday Arts & Leisure

by Jessica Bruder

 

One recent Saturday night, two Brooklyn roommates were driving home when they passed something odd: an unmarked box truck parked on a desolate block in Greenpoint, spewing strobe-lit, milky fog.

 

 “We just saw these people in costumes and there’s smoke pouring out of this truck, and Axel said, ‘Stop, drive back,’ ” recalled Jon Ernsberger, 28, a landscape designer. After they pulled over, a pair of alien figures — one sporting a colossal, turnip-shaped wicker headdress, another swaddled in bubble wrap — ushered them into the truck’s fog-filled interior, where they were accosted by astronauts in white Tyvek suits. A recorded voice interrogated them: “Do you take a moment every day to consider your insignificance? What dust of what stars created you?” And the most pressing question of all: “Where are you standing at this moment?” (continues)

 

***

Thanks to Scott Beale of Laughing Squid, who caught me committing an act of journalism at the Lost Horizon Night Market and gave the story a shout-out.

 

photo: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid

 

 

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MARCH 30, 2011

photos: Marcus Yam for The New York Times

 

Click, Clack, Ding! Sigh...

The Digital Generation Rediscovers the Magic of Manual Typewriters

 

The New York Times, Sunday Styles (cover)

by Jessica Bruder

 

Even by Brooklyn standards, it was a curious spectacle: a dozen mechanical contraptions sat on a white tablecloth, emitting occasional clacks and dings. Shoppers peered at the display, excited but hesitant, as if they’d stumbled upon a trove of strange inventions from a Jules Verne fantasy. Some snapped pictures with their iPhones.


 “Can I touch it?” a young woman asked. Permission granted, she poked two buttons at once. The machine jammed. She recoiled as if it had bitten her.
“I’m in love with all of them,” said Louis Smith, 28, a lanky drummer from Williamsburg. Five minutes later, he had bought a dark blue 1968 Smith Corona Galaxie II for $150. “It’s about permanence, not being able to hit delete,” he explained. “You have to have some conviction in your thoughts. And that’s my whole philosophy of typewriters.”


Whether he knew it or not, Mr. Smith had joined a growing movement. Manual typewriters aren’t going gently into the good night of the digital era. The machines have been attracting fresh converts, many too young to be nostalgic for spooled ribbons, ink-smudged fingers and corrective fluid. And unlike the typists of yore, these folks aren’t clacking away in solitude. (continues)

 

For more vintage typewriter goodness, check out the slideshow that accompanied this story, jam-packed with pics from the talented Marcus Yam.

 

 

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MARCH 27, 2011

photo: Sarah Caron/Polaris for The New York Times

 

Burmese Nights

The New York Times Magazine

by Jessica Bruder

 

More than 2,000 young Burmese gathered on the lawn of the Mya Yeik Nyo Hotel in Yangon last month for a Valentine’s Day hip-hop concert. In many places, the scene would have been unremarkable. But Myanmar has been ruled by a military junta for decades; its anti-Western, conservative culture is marked by political and sexual repression. In 2005, the government drew international criticism when it suspended the magazine Han Thit (New Style) for running a Valentine’s Day celebration advertisement. But on this occasion, among the young at least, the mood was uninhibited. Boys kissed girls. Girls kissed girls.

 

They chanted aloud, dressed in jeans and sneakers and miniskirts, fueled by whiskey and beer. “I want to change things, but here, if you say something, you’re either dead or in prison for 200 years,” one participant, the son of a retired colonel, said. “So what do you do besides take advantage of this life?”

 

Median Age in Myanmar: 28.2
Cost in Dollars of Admission to Valentine’s Day Concert: $5.78
Number of Journalists Imprisoned in Myanmar: 13
Hip-Hop Lyric Banned by Junta: "Hey hey, how are you?"

 

 

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MARCH 10, 2011

photo: Greg Matthews for The New York Times

 

In Groupon's $6 Billion Wake, a Fleet of Start-ups

The New York Times, Thursday Business (cover)

by Jessica Bruder

 

Is there no limit to the passion of American shoppers for online daily-deal discounts?


Hundreds of start-up companies — imitators of Groupon, the group-buying Web site that offers daily deals on knitting supplies, skydiving lessons, barbecued ribs, pole-dancing classes and a smorgasbord of other stuff you may (or may not) want — are racing to find out.


Groupon’s competitors have been called groupies, copycats and clones. But who can blame them? In just over two years, Groupon has accumulated 60 million subscribers, more than $1 billion in venture capital and $760 million in annual revenue to become the fastest-growing Web company ever. In December, it declined a $6 billion buyout offer from Google. (continues)

 

 

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MAY 16, 2010

photo: Steve Liss/Polaris via NYTimes.com

 

Inside, Looking Out

The New York Times Sunday Book Review

by Jessica Bruder

New novels by Walter Dean Myers and Paul Volponi ask unsettling questions about the consequences of putting kids in jail. (Full story here.)

 

{More coming...In the meantime, you can download a copy of my digital portfolio -- clips, CV, the works -- by clicking here.}