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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Inside 'Darkness,' The Most Extreme Reality Show Ever, by Patrick Blanchfield, Esquire

The man and woman stumble out into the muggy Missouri air, tearing up, then falling to their knees in the gravel. It's late afternoon, and the setting sun casts ochre rays through the willows and ash; lightning bugs have already appeared, neon flashes in the honeysuckle. But the man and woman have no idea what time it is, and their eyes aren't working that well either. For the past six days, they've been struggling to escape a hellish natural labyrinth carved into the hillside behind them, entirely in the dark.

Not half-light, not dimness, not relative dark: total, pitch darkness. Darkness so dark you can't see your hand in front of your face, or even be sure whether your eyes are open or closed. Lost within an ancient cave, the man and woman started off separate and alone, confronting mind-bending isolation that played tricks on their senses and produced ever-more-disorienting hallucinations. Fumbling and crawling, never sure which next step might break their necks or worse, they navigated through an alien environment marked by vermin, severe cold, tight confines, sudden drops, yawning pits, and sharp rocks. Eventually, they found each other deep below the earth, then painstakingly made their way to the surface. And the entire time, circling silently about them in the darkness, intimately near yet incredibly far away, has been a crew of producers and camera operators documenting their every move.

This isn't a psychology experiment or a military training exercise. It's a new show, Darkness, set to premiere on the Discovery Channel on August 2. Call it insane or call it brilliant, one thing is certain: it meets America's insatiable appetite for extreme reality TV, then takes it to a whole new level.

The Ghostly Radio Station That No One Claims To Run, by Zaria Gorvett, BBC

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

The Life And Times Of Whittaker, The Turkey That Stood In Traffic, by Julie Beck, The Atlantic

As 2016 gave way to 2017, a turkey moved into the left turn lane of a major intersection in my hometown. Some say he arrived in January of this year; others are sure he was around in late 2016. But regardless, once he was there, he was there to stay. When he wasn’t in the street, he rarely strayed far from the nearby corner that he’d decided to make his home.

In suburban Ypsilanti, Michigan, the corner of Whittaker and Textile sits in between a residential area of schools and subdivisions, and a busier commercial area with a grocery store and several restaurants that dot Whittaker Road as it heads toward the highway. The turkey’s constant presence in this busy spot made him a local celebrity, and the unlikely, or perhaps inevitable, epicenter of a community in which humanity’s best and worst instincts played out.

How Erin French Made A Tiny Maine Town A Dining Destination, by Tejal Rao, New York Times

Ms. French talked through her menu, annotating it like a memoirist. The main course today was lamb, not because it was part of her plan, she explained cheerfully, but because the swordfish she had ordered never arrived, and the angry phone calls she made got her nowhere. So Ms. French did what she always did: She vaulted off the disaster toward something else, something she hadn’t planned for.

Dinner at the Lost Kitchen is an occasion, and most restaurants of its caliber work to maintain an illusion of effortless perfection. Ms. French, who is 36, has built a cult following with her own approach — open, intimate and personal.

What Plot Can Do, by Clare Beams, Ploughshares

But image, character, language are static, dead things until plot gets a hold of them and makes them move. The more I write, the more I pay attention when I read, the more I understand that I love characters and words and pictures because of the way plot animates them. I’ve come to see plot as the particular series of movements that will best show the reader all the complexities the author wants him or her to see.

Review: ‘The Dark Dark,’ Beguiling Tales Of Women In Metamorphosis, by John Williams, New York Times

These stories are deeply imbued with feminist themes. Without being oppressively explicit about it (mostly), Hunt gets at the myriad ways women work to keep their self-possession in the face of social and interpersonal expectations.