Things we like: May 2014

Our monthly round-up of stories and films that have made us think. As well as discussing our reactions to the stories, we also spent some time discussing the headlines/titles chosen for the pieces.

The pope in the attic: Benedict in the time of Francis (The Atlantic)

You may not be especially interested in Catholicism, but this is one piece that could keep you reading to the end. We felt that there were sections that were hard to understand, given a limited knowledge of theology, and the story meandered in places, but still this piece gives a good sense of the characters of the two popes profiled. Could the header could have been a little shorter and punchier?

The magical act of a desperate person (London Review of Books - reg required)

Continuing the theme of thinking about the differences (or not) between essays and features, we discussed this story about the paradoxes of being a good parent, written by a psychoanalyst. A little dense in places, this essay undoubtedly gives the reader plenty of food for thought. The title is beautiful, but does it give an adequate sense of the piece?

U want me 2 kill him? (Vanity Fair)

While some of us found the story gripping, others felt it was voyeuristic and asked if it had to be told. Others got sucked in but found that it lost pace somewhere in the middle. The headline was effective: conveying that it was a story about death, intrigue and online culture.

The silencing of the Deaf (Matter)

This piece on cochlear implants and the Deaf community has a good narrative arc, and marries a contemporary story with historical aspects. There were lots of interesting facts throughout but we felt that the last quarter of the piece could maybe do with a little tightening. The headline was short and pithy and seemed to work well.

The itch nobody can scratch (Matter)

A fascinating story on a contentious disease called Morgellon's, with a clear, self-explanatory title.

Secrets of the tax-prep business (Mother Jones)

This piece on US tax practices is a good example of telling a story in the middle of the action, rather than waiting for an end (i.e. it's not about the abolition of a loan called the RAL, but more the on-going controversy surrounding its use). We liked that the headline lets you know what's coming, and found the table on page 2 a clear way of helping readers wade through a lot of numbers. Others felt that this story lacked the perspective of the customers being sold the loan in question, and that all the figures and names and acronyms were confusing.

Terry Wiles: Man's Estate (East Anglian Film Archive)
Although we didn't think that there was much of a overarching story to this film, and nothing on the background of the thalidomide scandal, Man's Estate gives a great insight into someone living with severe disabilities and the unique and amazing support his adoptive parents offer. It's also wonderfully 70's, which might explain why some people felt that it was framed a little like a wildlife film. We felt that the title was perhaps appropriate to the time, but was out-dated today.

What stories have caught your eye recently? Do share in the comments.