In Conversation: the Curse of Genius, Beauty Revolution, the Man Who Cheated Death

A Sunday series.

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The Internet snippets—great storytelling, just because, or really ridiculous—our editors are talking about this week, gathered here.

From 1843 Magazine – The Curse of Genius

Is intellect a blessing or a curse? 1843 investigates the world of intellectually gifted children, like Tom, who at the age of five declared a desire to end his life: “Life is like a maze, only bigger. I feel like I’m getting lost.” Higher intellect in youth has been tied to higher levels of anxiety and depression, largely due to the severe social isolation gifted children feel amongst their peers. Psychologists describe an imbalance within these children termed asynchronous development–the notion that exceptional abilities in some areas can come at the cost of other maturational areas. Mensa, an international organization founded in Britain, offers a space for gifted children to grow intellectually and emotionally. Yet the complex needs of gifted children still remain largely unaddressed, particularly for minority and lower socio-economic families. Read the article, here.

 

From Refinery29 – A Beauty Revolution in North Korea

In North Korea, where women are regulated by strictly enforced beauty standards (haircuts are chosen from a range of pre-approved styles), an underground beauty movement is stirring up revolutionary ideals. Refinery29 sat down with defected North Korean beauty product smugglers who began smuggling South Korean beauty items through the Chinese border as early teens. They describe a thriving demand for modern beauty products from North Korean millennials and the intricate system of smuggling, marketing, and selling. But it’s more than just lipstick, or a face mask or hair dye: these products bring an individualistic identity to those wearing them, spurring a sense of rebellion against an authoritative regime. Read the story, here.

 

From GQ – The Man Who Cheated Death

Every so often, as a writer, one finds a story that makes you argue with yourself. GQ published one such story earlier this week. Nathaniel Penn writes the life story, or perhaps the death story, of Mark Olmsted. A true story of brotherly love, HIV, loss, grief, desperation, drugs, and fraud. A story so outlandish, you wouldn’t believe it if it weren’t for the interspersed images of documents as proof. The story is moving, sympathetic, heartbreaking, angering, and almost entirely immoral. Penn does not attempt to ease the discomfort of the reader as he reports the hard facts: nearly 80 percent of Americans diagnosed with HIV before 1996 died. After watching his brother Luke die of HIV/AIDS, a diagnosis he shared, Olmstead didn’t expect to be far behind. Stricken with fear for his life, he focused on surviving. To do it, he stole his brother’s identity, committed credit card fraud, sold drugs, and faked his death, repeatedly. He did not expect to live to see the consequences of his actions. But then he did. Where’s the TV movie? Read the full story, here.

 

Illustration by Alice Clair.

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May 26, 2019