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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Can An Outsider Ever Truly Become Amish?, by Kelsey Osgood, Atlas Obscura

Earlier that morning, I was introduced to Alex Samuelson, a baby-faced 31-year-old member of the Beachy Amish-Mennonite faith who, along with his wife Rebecca, would be my guide for the day. Alex suggested that he might be better equipped to drive and he was right: he glided along the twisting back roads and gave me an orientation to the area not even the all-knowing Siri could have provided, especially considering the spotty service.

As a Beachy Amish-Mennonite, Alex is permitted to drive–the church is what Alex calls “car-type”–but adheres to prohibitions against television, popular music, and limitations on the Internet. (These prohibitions vary somewhat from congregation to congregation, although certain stringencies–like not owning televisions–are uniform throughout Beachy society.) Like all Mennonite and Amish groups, Beachy doctrine is firmly Anabaptist, which means that they don’t accept infant or childhood baptisms. They also believe in keeping themselves separate from the world, which is one motivation behind their Plain garb (although it’s worth noting that the style of dress also differs between congregations.)

A Too-Perfect Picture, by Teju Cole, New York Times

How do we know when a photographer caters to life and not to some previous prejudice? One clue is when the picture evades compositional cliché. But there is also the question of what the photograph is for, what role it plays within the economic circulation of images.

The Future Of Academic Style: Why Citations Still Matter In The Age Of Google, by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Los Angeles Review of Books

Citations in academic writing, not unlike those in legal writing, are intended to refer the questioning reader back to the sources or precedents for the argument at hand. This is in part driven by a desire to give credit where credit is due: by citing those who have influenced us, we acknowledge their work and its role in our own. But citation serves more purposes than simply naming the giants on whose shoulders we find ourselves standing. Citations, in fact, play much the same role for the humanities that enumerating the details of laboratory procedures used in experiments plays for the sciences. An odd assertion, no doubt, but here’s what I mean: the validity of scientific work hangs on what is often popularly referred to as its reproducibility, the notion that you could obtain the same results by following the same procedures. This reproducibility is perhaps more accurately and evocatively described as falsifiability — the more skeptical, but more important sense that you could follow those procedures, or perhaps some better procedures, and wind up disproving the hypothesis in question. In this same way, research in the humanities exposes the details of its procedures via citation such that it too might be rendered falsifiable. Readers can return to the sources in question and render their own better interpretations of them. Academic writing becomes academic, in other words, precisely when it exposes its process to future correction.

How To Build A Better Sandwich: The Experts Weigh In, by Niki Achitoff-Gray, Serious Eats

For many of us, a sandwich was the first meal we learned to make for ourselves. And we delight in eating them for the rest of our lives, sometimes at an astonishing rate—roughly 50% of Americans consume a sandwich every day. It is, after all, one of the most versatile, simple, and universally beloved foods we know, with countless variations to satisfy every palate, dietary restriction, and time of day.

And yet, for all its ease and accessibility, the sandwich is not infallible. Even the most basic iterations, like the PB&J and grilled cheese, can go awry—and that's not touching on more labor-intensive preparations, like meatball subs or bánh mi. It takes only one disappointing sandwich, homemade or store-bought, to realize just how much can end up wrong. So how do you maximize flavor, manage sogginess, maintain structural integrity, and achieve the most well-balanced and delicious sandwich possible?

Kathryn Harrison’s ‘True Crimes: A Family Album’, by Amanda Fortini, New York Times

“I’d been taught never to talk about money, because, like talking about sex and politics, it was vulgar; like religion, it was private,” Harrison declares in “True Crimes: A Family Album,” her latest collection of essays written for various magazines and anthologies over the course of a decade. In spite of her proper upbringing, Harrison has no qualms about poking around in the back alleys of the mind, places that polite society prefers to avoid. With startling candor and almost clinical attention to detail, she writes about the sort of behaviors, thoughts and experi­ences most of us don’t care to recall, let alone lay bare and examine for an audience. For Harrison, whose interior life is like a rich vein she can tap at will, there seems to be no moment, no feeling, too private, peculiar or uncomfortable to render in words.

Object Lesson, by Sadie Stein, The Paris Review

“Caution—object ahead.” But she said it object, as if someone would soon pop into the middle of the road and interrupt a cross-examination.

In That Photo, Fix The Pit Stains On My Shir, by Luis Chaves