Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

A Lost City Reveals The Grandeur Of Medieval African Civilization
Annalee Mewitz, Archaeology | Songo Mnara | February 23, 2014

Some of the world's greatest cities during the Middle Ages were on the eastern coast of Africa. Their ornate stone domes and soaring walls, made with ocean corals and painted a brilliant white, were wonders to the traders that visited them from Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. They were the superpowers of the Swahili Coast, and they've long been misunderstood by archaeologists. It's only recently that researchers outside Africa are beginning to appreciate their importance...

Do Curlers Make Good Housekeepers? Don't Ask!
Sarah Lyall, The New York Times | Olympic Questions | February 21, 2014

The conversations follow a wearying and familiar pattern. First, Troels Harry identifies himself as a curler, master of a sport many people know (if they know about it at all) as the thing that looks like shuffleboard on ice, with brooms.

Then comes the question. “They say, ‘Oh, are you good at cleaning the house?' ” said Harry, who is on the Danish men’s curling team here.

Ha ha ha! Or not...

Seduce The Whole World: Gordon Lish's Workshop
Carla Blumenkranz, The New Yorker | Lish's Workshop | February 21, 2014

Todd Solondz’s Storytelling famously features an encounter between a writing instructor and a college student. He has just eviscerated both her and her boyfriend’s work, calling the boyfriend’s story “a piece of shit.” When she sees him at a bar, she claims that she agrees with him, she’s “really happy with the class,” and she’s “a great admirer of [his] work.” He says almost nothing. So she asks, “Do you think I have potential as a writer?” “No,” he says.

In the next scene she follows him, with obvious terror, to his apartment. In the bathroom she finds an envelope that contains nude photos of the student he says has talent. He tells her to take off her clothes and, in the one note of complexity that enters the story, is able to dominate her partly by exploiting her fear that she may be latently racist. (She’s white and he’s black.) His other tool of domination is the workshop dynamic. Despite having told her she’s hopeless as a writer, here he’s willing to be prescriptive...

My Life Behind Kiev's Barricades
Vijai Maheshwari, The Daily Beast | Report From Kiev | February 21, 2014

I live on Pushkinskaya Street, one of Kiev’s smartest addresses, known for its neo-classical buildings, elegant cafes, and shabby-chic vibe. With nearby Independence Square caught up in deadly fighting since Tuesday night, the street has gone from being a slice of Paris in Ukraine to an extension of the war zone...

The Powerlessness Of Positive Thinking
Adam Alter, The New Yorker | Fantasies And Progress | February 20, 2014

...According to a great deal of research, positive fantasies may lessen your chances of succeeding. In one experiment, the social psychologists Gabriele Oettingen and Doris Mayer asked eighty-three German students to rate the extent to which they “experienced positive thoughts, images, or fantasies on the subject of transition into work life, graduating from university, looking for and finding a job.” Two years later, they approached the same students and asked about their post-college job experiences. Those who harbored positive fantasies put in fewer job applications, received fewer job offers, and ultimately earned lower salaries...

The Great Rewilding: A Conversation With George Monbiot
Jennifer Sahn, Orion Magazine | The Great Rewilding | February 19, 2014

One day, the British environmental writer George Monbiot was digging in his garden when he had a revelation — that his life had become too tidy and constrained. While exploring what it would take to re-ignite his own sense of wonder, he waded into a sea of ideas about restoration and rewilding that so captured his imagination that it became the focus of his next book. Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding was published in the United Kingdom in 2013, to much acclaim, and is forthcoming in the U.S. in 2014. Orion editor Jennifer Sahn caught up with Monbiot to talk about rewilding—what it means for people, for nature, and for an environmental movement that is in great need of having far wider appeal...

1% Jokes And Plutocrats In Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed A Wall Street Secret Society
Kevin Roose, New York Magazine | 1% Jokes And Plutocrats In Drag | February 18, 2014

...It was a secret fraternity, founded at the beginning of the Great Depression, that functioned as a sort of one-percenter’s Friars Club. Each year, the group’s dinner features comedy skits, musical acts in drag, and off-color jokes, and its group’s privacy mantra is “What happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis.” For eight decades, it worked. No outsider in living memory had witnessed the entire proceedings firsthand...

Gangster Bankers: Too Big To Jail
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone | Gangster Bankers | February 18, 2014

The deal was announced quietly, just before the holidays, almost like the government was hoping people were too busy hanging stockings by the fireplace to notice. Flooring politicians, lawyers and investigators all over the world, the U.S. Justice Department granted a total walk to executives of the British-based bank HSBC for the largest drug-and-terrorism money-laundering case ever. Yes, they issued a fine – $1.9 billion, or about five weeks' profit – but they didn't extract so much as one dollar or one day in jail from any individual, despite a decade of stupefying abuses...

A Picture Of Detroit Ruin, Street By Street
Monica Davey | Motor City Mapping | February 18, 2014

A midnight blue Chevy rolls slowly down a snow-covered street, an emergency strobe light on its roof and a sign on its side that promises this is “official business.” At each house, business, even vacant lot, workers in the car pause to decide whether someone lives there and what shape the place is in before snapping a photo and beaming it to “mission control” miles away...

Like Football? Then You Should Love Curling
Marissa Payne, The Washington Post | Curling And Football | February 16, 2014

NFL star Vernon Davis finally made it to Sochi to fulfill his roll as honorary captain of the U.S. Olympic curling team Saturday when he showed up to watch the women compete with the Swedes...“The thing that intrigues me about curling is that it’s so competitive from a thinking standpoint,” Davis told the Associated Press after the match. “You really have to use your mind, really come up with a good strategy to defeat your opponent. …And curling helps me when it comes to the game of football.”...