Required Reading: Punks, Plimpton and Payless

This is “Required Reading” column, where the wordsmiths at BTRtoday share stories we enjoyed this week. The stories aren’t necessarily new—in fact, some are decades old—but they’re eye-catching, interesting, moving or otherwise just great. Enjoy.

Adam Bulger

The Real Story of Donald Trump Jr.
This week, I cleaned out a stack of old issues of GQ and Esquire and stumbled on this June, 2018 story about Donald Trump, Jr. I don’t like Jr. any more after reading it but I feel like I understand him. The gist is that Don Jr.’s dad never loved him and still doesn’t but now sees value in him since junior’s interest in hunting and right-wing sloganeering became a political asset. The story has plenty of nice ghoulish details, but the best is probably that Trump senior hates being called Donny and calls his son that all the time.

Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback
My work’s been influenced by Paper Lion’s participatory approach to journalism for years; I’ve competed in hot dog eating contests and auditioned for dance performances for stories. Still, I only read George Plimpton’s Paper Lion this month. I shouldn’t have waited so long. Plimpton’s account of his farcical tryout for the Detroit Lions NFL team is funny, well-observed and insightful. In a brief aside, one of the Lions tells Plimpton the game hinges on humiliation, and I don’t think I ever truly understood football until I came across that idea.

Elena Childers

Punks on Film: The Difficulty of Portraying Punk On Screen
Films make it seem like all punks are ticking time bombs when really it’s a genre of music for people who just need an outlet for their aggression. This video essay on Consequence of Sound dives into why punk is so difficult to capture on screen.

Case Study of 1
This was written by my close friend Alex Press, who’s now an editor at Jacobin. Published on her personal blog, this is an amazing personal account of how messed up our health industry is. It’s her misfortunate adventure of trying to find mental health in NYC and getting royally fucked. It’s not only relatable to anyone who has struggled trying to find help, but it’s also a wise insight into how far we still need to go to help ensure mental health.

Joe Virgillito

Life in Pripyat Before, and the Morning After, The Chernobyl Disaster
Incessantly watching the final episodes and featurettes from Game of Thrones alerted me to HBO’s forthcoming Chernobyl miniseries. I’ve heard about Chernobyl but don’t know much about it. Atlas Obscura’s excerpt from Adam Higginbotham’s new book Midnight in Chernobyl is a thoroughly reported account of Pripyat city leaders grasping with the crisis.

Farewell to Payless
There’s nothing like good old-fashioned nostalgic appreciation, even for the discount shoe store Payless. Sara Tatyana Bernstein’s Outline piece does an excellent job chronicling how Payless helped “invent the voracious consumption machine” of self-serve stores. She also shares stories of what Payless meant to marginalized and poor communities as a friendly, affordable shoe store. “My point here isn’t to argue that Payless has been a progressive wonderland,” she writes. “Rather, the chain is an example of the way consumer capitalism positions itself as the solution to problems it created in the first place.” And that juxtaposition makes for an interesting and complicated remembrance.

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