Skip navigation


warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 33.
Original author: 
Maggie Koerth-Baker

In general, women outlive men. This is not a new idea. But what you might not know is that the effect can't be explained by some simple hand-waving about risk-taking men, or war, or the allure of the Marlboro Man. In fact, the tendency for men to die at a higher frequency than women happens at every age group — even in utero. Fetal males die more often than fetal females. So what makes the men-folk so delicate? NPR's Robert Krulwich investigates.     

Your rating: None
Original author: 
Cory Doctorow

Google's rolled out an "Inactive Account Manager" -- a dead-man's switch for your Google accounts. If you set it, Google will watch your account for protracted inactivity. After a set period, you can tell it to either squawk ("Email Amnesty International and tell them I'm in jail," or "Email my kids and tell them I'm dead and give them instructions for probating my estate") and/or delete all your accounts. This has a lot of use-cases, from preventing your secrets from being tortured out of you (before you go to a protest, you could set your dead-man's switch to a couple hours -- if you end up in jail and out of contact, all your stuff would be deleted before you were even processed by the local law) to easing the transition of your digital "estate."

No one wants to think about their own death, but not thinking about it has a zero percent chance of preventing it. The Inactive Account Manager (great euphemism) can send your data from many Google services to your digital heirs, alert your contacts, delete the accounts, or do all or none of the above. It affects Blogger, Contacts/Circles (in Google+) Drive, Gmail, Google+ profiles, Pages and Streams, Picasa albums, Google Voice, and YouTube.

It also serves as a useful self-destruct button. Don’t want anyone watching your stupid YouTube videos after you’ve long forgotten that you had an account? Don’t want your kids to find your password notebook years after you’re gone and read your dirty chat sessions with their dad? You can have your account auto-destruct after trying to reach you using other e-mail addresses and by text message. You know, in case you just get tired of Gmail and wander off somewhere else.

Google Introduces Dead Man’s Switch For Your Accounts     

Your rating: None

How Much Coke Is Bad for Me?

Hey, you rapidly decaying protoplasmic sacks of calcium and shit, my name is Dr. Mona Moore. Obviously, that is not my real name, but I am a real doctor. Don’t feel bad for me, though, because it means I will always have a job, an apartment ten times bigger than yours, and the right to tell you what to do simply because I will always know better. Enjoy my column!


A dentist friend treated a woman who had done so much cocaine it had rotted a hole between her nose and mouth, as well as perforating her septum. That shits on Daniella Westbrook. This woman had a 1” by .5” wide black rancid pit on the roof of her mouth, through which her rotting nose would drip. Her mouth was her brain’s own colostomy bag.

She was in her 40s and had been using cocaine every day for 18 months, which doesn’t actually seem like long enough to have hollowed her skull. They repaired it using a chunk of her tongue, which they flapped over and sewed to her palette. She also had damage to her lateral nasal walls, which will lead to what is called saddle nose deformity. In other words, her nose will fall in on her face, that is unless she stays off the marching powder.

If this has made you delete your dealer’s number and stick your fingers up your nose to test the integrity of that delicate divider, then don’t worry, you’ll get a few warning shots before you wake up with the better part of your nasal cavity in a bloody lump on the pillow. First your nose will feel itchy, then you’ll start getting great crusty goliaths of scabs up there irresistible to pick, then recurrent nose bleeds—particularly in the morning, maybe some facial pain caused by blocked sinuses and eventually some bits begin to fall out, long before which you should have just stopped taking the shit.

Most people in London seem to take cocaine and so I guess many of you do too, and everyone asks the same question: How much do I have to take before the 30-minute rave in my heart will actually kill me?


Your rating: None

The northern Indian city of Varanasi, perched on the banks of the Ganges river, is perhaps the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, a site that has drawn pilgrims literally for millennia. It’s famed for its burning ghats—the sloped-approaches to the waterfront where for centuries devotees have brought their deceased loved ones for cremation, then floating the ashes into the mighty, holy Ganges. Some Hindus still believe it’s auspicious to pass away on these steps. In Varanasi’s morning fogs and along its shrine-lined streets, visitors can feel an ancient, intangible power, a sense of place that is defined more by ritual and time than geography.

Varanasi’s burning grounds drew critically-acclaimed photographer Fazal Sheikh, whose latest project, Ether, on exhibit at Pace/MacGill gallery in New York City till Oct. 20, is the product of his own nocturnal wanderings in the old town. New York-born Sheikh’s two earlier India-based projects—Moksha (2005), of a community of widows, and Ladli (2007), portraits of young women in orphanages, hospitals, brothels—had a decidedly engaged, political edge. Ether is less so. “Other documentary pieces of mine are much clearer in the pointed nature of what I wanted to say,” says Sheikh, who first came to prominence with his work from refugee camps in Kenya. “This project is a bit more open and broad. It’s an exploration of a mood.”

Sheikh’s vigil would begin at nightfall and end at dawn. “Ether” itself is that mysterious, unfathomable fifth element of the universe—the others being water, air, fire and earth—and is a property Sheikh attempts to articulate in his work. He makes elemental gestures throughout: The embers of a fire glow with an almost cosmic intensity. The stars wink and gleam in a night sky. Four dun-colored city strays curl into the trammeled earth.

Sheikh describes working in Varanasi as “a sort of nurturing experience. The whole place was calming; there was a kind of quiet.” In Ether, there is a dreamy, contemplative quality to the pictures, but it rarely feels overly sentimental. Departing from Sheikh’s earlier portraiture, many of Ether’s images are of bodies—both those of sleepers and the dead—who don’t directly engage the camera. The inability of a photograph to fully penetrate its subject fascinates Sheikh: “There are some things that a person holds for themselves, some things that will remain inaccessible.” But if there are visions of a world beyond our world, its traces are in the ether.

Fazal Sheikh is a photographer based in Zurich, New York City and Kenya. His latest project Ether, is on display on exhibit at Pace/MacGill gallery in New York City till Oct. 20.

Your rating: None

In 2005, I set out to photograph my home state of South Dakota, a sparsely populated frontier state on the Great Plains with more buffalo, pronghorn, coyotes, mule deer, ring-necked pheasants and prairie dogs than people. It’s a landscape dominated by space and silence and solitude, by brutal wind and extreme weather. I was trying to capture a more intimate and personal view of the West. I was trying to capture what all that space feels like to someone who grew up there. A year into the project, however, everything changed. One of my brothers died unexpectedly. For months, one of the few things that eased my unsettled heart was the landscape of South Dakota. It seemed all I could do was drive through the badlands and prairies and photograph. I began to wonder: Does loss have its own geography?

That first year of grieving was a blur of motel rooms, back roads, and dreams of my brother. I still remember, however, one particularly elusive, haunted, dreamlike image. One overcast day on a deserted country road in the Missouri River valley, I was startled by a flock of some thousand blackbirds. I was mesmerized by how the birds flew through the stormy, unsettled Western sky as if they were one huge, dark, undulating, ravenous creature, picking clean the remains of the corn and sunflower fields in the last days of autumn.

For days when I’d least expect it, I’d see the blackbirds descend upon a field. It didn’t seem to matter how quickly I stopped the car and raised the camera to my eye. Inevitably, the dark flock vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

For at least a week, I kept dreaming about those blackbirds. Finally, one afternoon near the small town of Gray Goose, South Dakota, I saw the flock hovering over a field of sunflowers. This time I was somewhat more prepared—I had my camera around my neck, and, thanks to the dirt road’s wide shoulder, I could quickly pull over and rush toward the field, crouching low to keep from scaring off the skittery birds. I remember wondering what I’d say to the farmer if he caught me trespassing on his land.

Then something happened that I wasn’t expecting—the flock lingered in the field. Were there more seeds than usual to feed on? Were the towering sunflowers hiding me from the skittish birds? Slowly I inched closer until I was standing directly behind one of the tallest sunflowers in the field. Beneath its large bowed head, I clicked the shutter again and again until the dark flock vanished once more into the cold, grey, blustery November sky.

They say your first death is like your first love—and you’re never quite the same afterwards. After my brother died, my photographs started to change. They were more muted, often autumnal. I remember saying to the writer, Linda Hasselstrom at her ranch house near Hermosa, South Dakota, where I did much of the writing for the book, “I see summer, fall, and winter, in the photographs, but not spring.”

“When you’re grieving, there isn’t any spring,” Hasselstrom replied.

Looking again at the work now that My Dakota is finally a book, I realize that I was photographing this particularly dark time in my life in order to try to absorb it, to distill it, and, ultimately, to let it go. Not only did my first grief change me, but making My Dakota changed me as well, both as a human being and as a bookmaker.

Rebecca Norris Webb is a New York-based photographer. More of her work can be seen here. My Dakota (Radius Books) will be launched at the International Center of Photography in New York City on May 24.  There will be an exhibition of the work at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City, South Dakota, from June 1 through October 13.

Your rating: None

It’s not unusual for photojournalists to travel to places that have been scarred by genocide, accident and natural disaster. But photographer Ambroise Tézenas has spent the last few years turning that norm on its head to capture what happens to those sites after the journalists leave, when they become tourist destinations.

In 2008, Tézenas was looking for his next photographic project when he read that a train, swept into the Sri Lankan jungle by a tsunami, was still there four years after the fact. Tézenas happened to have been in Sri Lanka at the time of the storm—on a vacation that became a job—and was fascinated to learn that the train had become a place of pilgrimage.

“Some tourists were coming to have their pictures taken there,” the photographer says. “I thought about what the victims and the survivors would think.”

That question became the seed of a long-term project, Dark Tourism, now on view at Galerie Mélanie Rio in Nantes, France. Tézenas immersed himself in the tourist experience: he always traveled with a tour group, always paid for the experience and only took pictures of things any tourist could see. Sometimes that ethos meant his pictures were restrained—he only had the time allotted by the tourism groups, so he was unable to wait for ideal light—but it also allowed the photographer to comment on more than the scenery.

“It wasn’t just to find new places nobody had seen,” says Tézenas, “but to link these places and to have a portrait of a new tendency of tourism.”

Not that so-called “dark tourism” is new. Professor John Lennon of Glasgow Caledonian University, who coined the term in 1996 and whose work influenced Tézenas’ project, says that the urge to turn the tourist’s gaze on horror—what Lennon calls the “pull factor” of the macabre—dates back to the spectators at the Battle of Waterloo, and further than that, to the first people who watched crucifixions as spectacle.

“It’s a human fascination with our ability to do evil, a human fascination with death,” he explains. “It’s so unimaginably terrible but it exerts this fascination.” Survey data has shown him that the impulse comes from a cross between genuine interest in history, voyeurism and, especially in recent years, commoditization, the kind of pre-packaged deals of which Tézenas availed himself. That ease of access is, according to Lennon, the new factor in the equation.

Tézenas saw that commercialization in action at a Latvian jail where tourists could pay to play prisoner and be terrorized by guards in the middle of the night, on a guided visit to Chernobyl and on a “genocide tour” of Rwanda. Lennon points out that “visiting sites of genocide doesn’t prevent genocide from happening again” and that certain gift shops can make visitors queasy, but tourism can benefit economies that are still recovering from disaster.

And, for Tézenas, it was a subject that was ripe for exploration. “In our time, we are so close to death through news and cinema and video games, but at the same time death is so removed from our contemporary society,” he says, explaining that he hoped to use photography to get to the root of the sociological phenomenon. “I want to raise the point, very humbly, because there are so many questions.”

Dark Tourism will be on view at Galerie Mélanie Rio in Nantes, France, through May 12. Ambroise Tézenas is a French photographer. See more of his work here.

Your rating: None

Sometimes words just aren’t enough. We realize that’s a bold statement for a news magazine to make. After all, words are our currency. Yet we know that there are times when, to fully tell the stories that need to be shared, we need more than words.

This year it was as evident as ever. From the tsunami in Japan, to the war in Afghanistan, to the Arab Spring, our reporters, columnists and correspondents worked tirelessly to bring you the stories that matter. But beyond the words and interviews that filled our pages, our photojournalists sought out the pictures that told a deeper story. Whether they were behind the political scene like Diana Walker as she photographed Hillary Clinton aboard a military plane or risking life and limb like Yuri Kozyrev as he captured the conflict of Libya’s revolution, TIME’s dedicated photographers brought the stories to life.

In March, acclaimed TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey traveled to Japan to capture images in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. A veteran photojournalist, even he found himself at a loss for words when trying to describe the country’s devastation. Yet in his hauntingly bleak images of ravaged towns and wounded families, we glimpsed what language failed to convey — and it was heart breaking.

TIME‘s words offer the important facts, clear-eyed insights and sharp analysis needed to understand the story. Our photojournalism offers the chance to not only see, but also feel the story. —Megan Gibson

Your rating: None

 Interview with Enrique Metinides (2006)
Untitled (Empleado de Telefonos de Mexico electrocutado en el km. 13 de la carretera Mexico-Toluca), 1971

Interview with Enrique Metinides, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest

By Daniel Hernandez

I stood on the sidewalk on thunderous Avenida Revolución in the Escandon district of Mexico City at 1 p.m. on a weekday in October 2006. It was a nondescript apartment building with a large metal gate, through which I could see a long concrete courtyard with a few levels of apartments rising on either side. There was no sign of a doorbell or ringer. I stood there and waited. After a few minutes, a short balding man in plain slacks and a collared sweater approached me from down the sidewalk. He held a few open envelopes of business mail and made no effort to hide the suspicion written all over his face. In this dog-eat-dog city, there is no other way to meet a stranger. “Señor Metinides?” I asked. He said that’s who he was, and I introduced myself as the writer from Los Angeles here to interview him. Enrique Metinides, the great Mexican photojournalist, opened the gate to his building and led me in silence to the rear of the courtyard, up the stairs and to his second-level apartment. It was a clean, bright space with tile floors and cream-colored walls. Framed photographs of family and children and knickknacks were displayed all over the furniture. Colorful couches faced a wide-screen television and several shelves of DVDs. We sat down on his couch and his look of suspicion did not waver. As I figure out what to ask him first, his eyes remained fixed on me, cool and aloof.

 Interview with Enrique Metinides (2006)A High Voltage Cable Snaps Loose and Hits a Man Walking Along Tacaba Street. Despite Being Badly Electrocuted, He Survived, 1958

“They’ve just given me an interview from L.A.,” Metinides huffed, “See, here, in this magazine of … fashion? Of whores…”

We laugh together at this outburst and this surprises us both. Metinides, I immediately realize, is a classic old-school journalist: hard-boiled, foul-mouthed, and blessed with a cynical and fatalistic wit. Which also happens to be one of the defining characteristics of cosmopolitan Mexicans.

Although he hasn’t published a photograph in almost fifteen years, Metinides can safely be called the most prolific news photographer of his generation. Between 1946, when he was barely twelve years old, and 1993, when he was muscled out of his “nota roja” newspaper job, Metinides was a tenacious documenter of death and brutality in the chambers of Mexico City’s hospitals, police stations, and morgues. He shot murders, suicides, auto and aviation accidents, fires, drowning, and crime scenes—sometimes in action. He breathed his work, sleeping at night with a police scanner always near his ear. He rode along to the scene of an accident or homicide on ambulances and fire trucks.

Metinides possessed throughout his career a reporter’s instinctual hunger for gore, taste for the absurd, and a classically Mexican affection for death. As often as he could, he framed shots at news scenes as wide as possible in order to capture the throngs of captivated but emotionally disinterested onlookers. He would find crime victims eager to pose seductively for his camera, even as their wounds were still fresh. When a woman shot herself at her wedding day altar after being stood up, Metinides photographed a close-up of her blood-splattered love letters. He owns a large collection of images of young children with their arms stuck in pipes and sinks, their faces grimacing in shock and horror, with gloomy adults lingering all around them.

The cinematic beauty of gangster flicks influenced him as a child. When his father gave him his first camera, Metinides approached even his earliest photographs—of arrested criminals at police stations, of car accidents outside his front door—stills from films that existed only in his head.

 Interview with Enrique Metinides (2006)

Hernandez: I read that you were given your first camera at age twelve. Is that true?

Metinides: Yes. What happened was my father sold cameras.

H: Where?

M: On Avenida Juárez, here in Mexico, in the Distrito Federal. A few steps away from the Alameda Central, there used to be a hotel that was called Hotel Regis, which was the most famous hotel of that era. My father sold cameras, film, and developed pictures. And he had a New York-style shoe shine place with twelve shoe-shiners, for tourists mostly.

On top of that he sold postcards from all over the republic, with pictures of monuments, the avenidas, all of Mexico. And when they remodeled that corner, they had to move five businesses, one of which was my father’s. That’s when he gave me a camera and a bag full of film. And he showed me how to put in the film. I was ten years old, if that. And my passion for photography grew because I used to go by myself to the cinemas, and there were many in the city.

H: Cinemas.

M: And I would go more than anything to the action films. I would see all those movies in the cinemas. Especially James Garney, Al Capone, “Masacre de San Valentín,” all those films I would see. I would love to watch the chases, the shoot-outs—all the gangster movies. I would also see all the “Superman” reels. These movies lasted maybe fifteen minutes each episode. They would always end in the moment that someone was about to die, so that you would have to return the next week to see what happened. And so I would take my camera and photograph the screen. And then I started taking pictures of the city, the centro, monuments, avenidas, streets, cars—the people. That’s how I started my collection of pictures.

H: Where did you live then?

M: We lived on Avenida Hidalgo. And then we moved to Plaza de Vizcaínas—all of centro. On Avenida San Juan de Letrán, which is now called Lázaro Cárdenas, there was a cinema on every block. And in most of the cinemas they played action films. These movies. [He points to his extended collection of old gangster flick DVDs.] Then it occurred to me to take pictures of car accidents. Because back then when there was an accident cars would be left just as they were for up to a week. It wasn’t like today, where a car crashes and right away, it’s gone. They’d leave them. So everyday I would look at the newspapers and look for an accident that had happened. And I would go to the scene of the accident and take pictures and the cars would still be there. And even though I wasn’t even eleven years old, the police wouldn’t say anything to me. There would always be police guarding the cars. That’s when my father opened a restaurant. And so I would have all my little photos at the restaurant, and I would take them to school to show them to the teachers.

 Interview with Enrique Metinides (2006)

H: Yes.

M: On one occasion at the restaurant some officers came to eat from the Seventh Delegation, a police delegation. It was half a block from the restaurant. And when I showed them my photographs to the officers, they invited me to come to the delegation to take pictures. So I would show up at the delegation to photograph the dead, the detained, the totaled cars out front. My collection grew.

H: They invited you themselves?

M: They invited me to the delegation. And so, the first picture I took was this one. [He shows me a picture of a police officer holding up a severed head.] He was murdered. They placed his neck on the train tracks and it cut off his head.


M: And this picture, when I took it, I was about to turn twelve.

H: And you weren’t scared? It didn’t give you nausea?

M: Well of course I was scared! Yes, I was scared. But I was cured.

H: Why were you attracted to taking pictures of dead people?

M: Because of the movies! [I laugh.] Seriously!

H: And what did your father say, your mother?

M: No, well, I hid a lot. “Chamacho!” they would tell me, mostly. But here comes the second part. Lots of cars passed through San Cosme. So I would always have the camera at the restaurant. The funny thing was one day a car crashed right in San Cosme, a couple blocks from the restaurant. So there I go, to take pictures. And a taxi arrives with a photographer from La Prensa. He saw me taking pictures and he asked me if I liked to take pictures. I tell him, “Yes.” He says, “Come see me at La Prensa. I am a photographer from there. I am Antonio Velasquez.” So I go, I talk to him, I show him my pictures, and he asks me to come work there.

 Interview with Enrique Metinides (2006)

I showed up every morning at ten with my camera, which was a camera de cajon that took black-and-white pictures, and I would tag along with him when he worked, going as a photographer from La Prensa to the police incidents of the city. The route we took every day was the jail and Hospital Juarez, where they kept the cadavers and the injured. And then the Red Cross. I would not only see dead people, but thirty or forty dead people in a single day. So I got used to seeing dead people—and more dead people—and I took their pictures. And we would go to where the dead person was, and since the authorities then the reporter do his work, we would go right inside the houses where the crime had occurred, on the street, in the factory, in a ditch, or wherever, and I would take pictures of all those dead people. And the funny thing is we would develop the rolls together, mine and his—and I had better pictures than he did! Because I would get in where he wouldn’t go. So I have pictures on the front page of La Prensa at twelve years old, with my name on the front page, which is a completely unique case.

H: But you would go where the crimes had happened?

M: Ah, no, [yes], I got to go to the scenes of the strong shoot-outs, the crimes, the action. But I had so much luck that in the moment that I arrived, the best stuff happened. Because I believe there is no good photographer without good luck. Why? Because I would get to a fire and the best picture happened when I got there. It would collapse, someone would jump–it was really something–really, it was very extraordinary what would happen to me, very rare.

H: And you wouldn’t have nightmares?

M: Oh, yes, I would cry at night. I would dream it. I was in this day and night. I would dream of something happening and it would happen.

H: You’re kidding.

M: On top of that, the other photographers were so jealous of me. Because the other photographers were already older, and I was just a kid. They were jealous, and know what they did? One day the put water in my developer. My roll was ruined. The editor got so mad, he fired me.

H: Better for you.

M: Of course. I worked, as a freelancer, for the magazine Alarma. And the entire magazine was filled with my police photographs. And I kept freelancing for La Prensa. Until 1960, when one of the police reporters managed to become editor. If you want to look him up, Manuel Buendia, who was killed on Insurgentes. In fact, I happened to take his picture when he died, at the scene of the incident.

H: And the public knew who you were? The readers?

M: Yes, no, well, the newspaper was well known, in journalism circles. All the newspapers knew me since I was a child. Me, as a child, at twelve years old, I rode in the firetrucks all over the city.

 Interview with Enrique Metinides (2006)

H: They let you?

M: The firefighters carried me on their shoulders! And I’d take these fotazos that no one else would get because I would go right into the biggest flames. That went on for many years. I had many firefighter friends. […] You know what was my password with them?

H: What?

M: I’d give them pictures of the fires they worked.

H: To them?

M: In the Red Cross, I’d give them pictures of them picking up the injured. So we became friends, and they’d help me. The medics even let me take pictures inside the operating rooms, in the emergency rooms. And then I would give them their pictures and they keep them, as keepsakes. And so, they even started looking for me. They would look for me because I took pictures of them when they operated.

H: Very sharp of you.

M: I never sold them pictures, eh? I always gave them their pictures as gifts. So they would look for me. ‘Come because we have a person who’s been shot, a knife nailed in a heart…’ [He shows me photographs in the book "El Teatro de los Hechos," published by the Mexico City municipal government and now out of print.] This is a young woman whose boyfriend wanted to kill her. And look at the report I did on her at the police station. [I laugh as he shows me a series of photographs of a beautiful young lady with long hair, dark eye makeup, and a go-go miniskirt and tall boots, first giving testimony to an investigator and then posing for Metinides' camera on top of a desk.]

 Interview with Enrique Metinides (2006)

H: She got into a pose.

M: Yes! [We laugh.] Isn’t it terrific?

H: Yes, no. She liked the camera.

M: Yes. It’s not like today, the photographer goes, takes two pictures, and leaves. I liked doing a whole report. And another thing that I grew accustomed to doing was taking pictures of the people who were looking at the accident. Because in these movies [He points to his collection of DVDs of old gangster flicks] what really drew my attention was the people looking, looking at a burning building, and how you could see the flames off their faces, but in black-and-white. And so it got in my head that the miron, the crowd that comes near, is important as well.

H: Why?

M: Why? Because they life to the pictures.

H: Yes.

M: So I would photograph the miron. All the photographers that arrive at accidents push the people aside when they are in the way. I did the reverse. Look. [He shows me another photograph, a classic Metinides image of an auto accident with a large crowd of onlookers.] Tell me if the mirones are not important. Doesn’t it give the photo more to look at?

H: Yes. Well, its full of people. Yes.

M: My photos became famous because of this, because the people gave life to the photos. The photographer today arrives and photographs just the bus.

H: And because Mexican people love to go look …

M: Ah, no! They’re practically walking on the injured, on the cadavers, and on top of that the police never says anything. [We laugh.] They’re all top of each other. Look. [Another picture of a bus accident.] Now don’t the picture give it more to look at? But the photographer today just photographs the bus. And I’d always look for a high spot, a building or something, or even posts, or on top of a bus, to photograph the people.

ASX CHANNEL: Enrique Metinides


(© Daniel Hernandez, 2006. All rights reserved. All images © copyright the photographer and/or publisher)


Your rating: None