Weekend Reading: Keep Your Hands Off My Fanny Pack

In this weekly roundup, we scour the Web for our favorite long-form articles, collecting them here and on Longreads and Twitter. This installment focuses on spirit animals, prostitution, and freezing to death.

Jan 11, 2013
Outside Magazine
weekend reading outside

   Photo: Iophoto/Shutterstock.com

Hi everyone! Welcome back to Weekend Reading. This week’s broadcast is just loaded with weird. We’ve got spirit animals, brothel busts, and oil wars in the jungle, but first I’d like to take a moment to address a topic that has somehow come up multiple times over the past two weeks: the fanny pack, also known as the buffalo pouch, bum bag, and in some far away lands, the moon bag.

As I’m sure regular readers of the site and magazine are aware, we like to talk gear here at Outside. At a recent gathering, I raised the merits of the fanny pack as a practical, hands-free device suitable for carrying everything from wallets, to phones, to extra paint balls. As a child I never left home without my Gameboy strapped tight to my abdomen. It’s not so different, I argued, from the utility belts often used by such heroes as Batman. Its only downside, I was willing to admit, was that some might deem you “unfashionable” for sporting one. I was shouted down.

It surprises me that a group of people so dedicated to the idea of utility would be so swayed by simple aesthetics. This is symptomatic of a deeper conflict we have as a society, between form and function. For example, what if the Shake Weight, the momentarily popular weight loss device/Internet meme, had actually been the solution to America’s supposed obesity epidemic (it most certainly was not, but bear with me here). What if we were unable to utilize its vast fitness potential, saving thousands of lives and lowering medical costs across the country, because of our inability to move past how silly we looked while using it? Food for thought.

Anyway, without further delay, let’s get to the good stuff. Here is your Weekend Reading!

From the Outside archives, Peter Stark explores the mysterious practice of freezing to death. It’s different for everyone. Outside.

“An hour passes. At one point, a stray thought says you should start being scared, but fear is a concept that floats somewhere beyond your immediate reach, like that numb hand lying naked in the snow. You've slid into the temperature range at which cold renders the enzymes in your brain less efficient. With every one-degree drop in body temperature below 95, your cerebral metabolic rate falls off by three to five percent. When your core temperature reaches 93, amnesia nibbles at your consciousness. You check your watch: 12:58. Maybe someone will come looking for you soon. Moments later, you check again. You can't keep the numbers in your head. You'll remember little of what happens next.”

The story of Alexis Wright, the zumba instructor who opened a brothel in a small Maine town and destroyed dozens of lives. Bethany McLean, Vanity Fair.

“Kennebunk Police Department lieutenant Anthony Bean Burpee says that by September 2011 the Kennebunk police were getting complaints from business owners and people around the town about suspicious activity at Wright’s strip-mall studio and rented office. Employees at Toppings pizzeria, in the strip mall, told the police that they saw 'many different motor vehicles driving behind the back of the building at all hours of the day and night' and 'several males, occasionally dressed in sports jackets and various business dress attire, entering the rear entrance of the Pura Vida,' only to exit 30 minutes to an hour later. Today, Dan Racaniello, who works at Toppings, says that some of the high-school-aged employees would laugh whenever the subject of Alexis Wright came up, because they were all online, and they all knew.”

In Native American lore, the birth of a white buffalo is a rare miracle, one that should usher in a new era. But the birth of Lightning Medicine Cloud brought one community nothing but trouble. Michael Hall, Texas Monthly.

“The National Bison Association, perhaps hyperbolically, has put the odds of a calf’s being an authentic white buffalo at one in 10 million. Over the past two centuries only a handful of births have been reported in the United States. And now one had been delivered to North Texas. The Greenville pilgrims pushed forward to the white fence of the outer pasture, standing eight deep, cameras ready. Arby, carrying a lance and dressed in full regalia, including a hat with buffalo horns, rode into the pasture on a horse, bareback. As the drummers chanted and played a beat that hammered like blood through a heart, Arby rode back and forth across the pasture. He slowed his horse, the drumming got louder, and then he stopped and hurled his spear into the ground. It stuck, and the crowd whooped and clapped. Arby held up his hand and solemnly waved. A murmur swept through the throng as a dozen buffalo were steered into the pasture—and suddenly, there he was, the sacred calf.”

Five friends attempt the Rickshaw Run, a race across India in one of the most dangerous and unstable vehicles on Earth. Mitch Moxley, The Atlantic.

“At dawn, while driving on a misty forest road, we stumble upon a tiger reserve. A guard stops us at the gate. 'Elephant, elephant,' he says, swinging his arm to indicate a trunk flipping a rickshaw. After signing a consent form (and offering a small bribe), we’re on our way through the park. We don’t see tigers, but we do spot deer, peacocks, monkeys, and, yes, a few elephants. Don’t feed wildlife and inflict menace, a roadside sign instructs. Menace quickly finds us, though, several hours down the road, on the edge of Bangalore—a metropolis of 8.5 million souls that we reach at the height of the evening rush hour. What follows is the most intense two hours of my life. We dodge thousands of buses, trucks, cars, humans, and other rickshaws. We get lost in a slum. We drive in the wrong direction down a freeway. When we arrive at a downtown hotel, we swear through dry lips that we will never enter an Indian city at rush hour again.”

Will the ever-increasing demand for oil destroy one of Ecuador’s greatest treasure and wipe out hundreds of undocumented species? Scott Wallace, National Geographic.

"Ecuadorian officials insist that oil extraction can be done responsibly, even in sensitive habitats. They say current practices mark a vast improvement over the highly polluting methods that prevailed in the 1970s and '80s, when U.S. oil giant Texaco allegedly left behind contaminated sites that have embroiled Chevron, Texaco’s parent company, in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit with indigenous communities. But development has far greater consequences for species-rich environs like Yasuní, Swing says, starting with countless millions of insects, many undoubtedly unknown to science, scorched each night in undulating gas flares."

Filed To: Adventure, Media

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