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Not long ago, I watched half a dozen people get their teeth whitened in the middle of a shopping mall. I was riveted by the spectacle of these men and women in repose on their clinical white lounge chairs. Their faces were in a sort of dental rictus, with oversized trays of peroxide solution crammed in their mouths and little blue paper bibs draped around their necks to catch their drool. Official-looking “technicians” (that is, untrained minimum-wage workers who simply handed the customers their bleaching trays) bustled around in white coats, readjusting the LED lights that were pointed at patrons’ teeth. It was like happening upon a car wreck; I couldn’t look away….It turns out that kiosk-style teeth whitening franchises are a nationwide business. With names like “iBrite Express,” “Bright Smiles Express,” and “WOW Smile XPress,” these peddlers of perfect smiles promise whiter teeth in a mere fifteen minutes – with results that they claim will last for years. –“The Death of Embarrassment,” Christine Rosen, Incharacter
One day, Barbara Ehrenreich was having lunch with Lewis Lapham, then editor of Harper’s. As she tells the story, their talk drifted to poverty and to how women, especially, would fare under welfare reform and support themselves and, often, families on minimum wage. Ehrenreich suggested that someone should do “the old-fashioned kind of journalism—you know, go out there and try it for themselves.” And “Lapham got this crazy-looking half smile on his face and ended life as I knew it, for long stretches at least, with the single word ‘You.’” Plimpton pitched his idea for a series of sports-related escapades to the editor of Sports Illustrated, who gave him the go-ahead to pitch baseballs to All-Stars and later even put up a cash prize for the “winning” batters, but warned, “Seems to me that your big problem isn’t going to be arranging these … er … matches, or writing about what you go through, but getting through everything in one piece … in a word: survival. I would advise getting in shape.” Which turned out to have been good advice—if only Plimpton had paid heed. –“Creative Nonfiction’s Guide to Stunt Writing, Step Three: Convince an Editor/Publisher to Let You Write About (and, Ideally, to Pay For) Your Stunt,” Hattie Fletcher, Creative Nonfiction
You felt isolated. You had moved into an apartment in a new complex on the western outskirts of town because you arrived too late to find a place closer to the university, where you might have found some community. Also, you had two dogs, which limited your options. You’d left your old dog with your first husband when you moved to Fayetteville, and on the day you were to drive to Richmond to pick her up your car broke down. It broke down again the first day of classes, which was also your boyfriend’s birthday. It was hot, your dog was panting in the backseat because you hadn’t dared leave her alone with the puppy in the apartment all day, and the icing on the cake you’d picked up at the grocery was melting all over the upholstery, but you couldn’t take your foot off the brake because you’d coasted into a driveway that ran uphill and your emergency brake was defunct. When a man finally stopped to help you roll the car onto the grass, he turned out to be a sales rep who seemed to think that a visit to his room at the Rodeway Inn would be a nice way for you to say thanks. A Renault, the car spent the next two months in the shop waiting for a new drive axle. When you got it back, you and your boyfriend celebrated with a weekend in the mountains, where the brakes went out; you had to leave it at a garage in Asheville and take the Greyhound back to Greensboro. –“On The Cusp,” Lee Zacharias, StorySouth
Communist exercise regime
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More from TedRoss:
Number of people per sauna in Finland:
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China debarked the rover Jade Rabbit onto the moon’s Bay of Rainbows.
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Notes on South Africa’s failed revolution
“I will never know what goes on in your mind, or what that shield of a smile behind which we try to advance should tell us.”