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What We’re Reading

A Whale of a Tale,” Camels & Chocolate
I’ve just added this to my 2013 local bucket list. I’ve never gone whale watching and I didn’t even know I could do it in my backyard! —Lauren Nicholl

Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?” New York Times
This is the best story I’ve read in a while. I had to stop on the sidewalk and finish reading it on my phone before I got to work. It’s about jellyfish. And immortality. And the everyday heroism of scientists. And, of course, karaoke. It contains the phrase “eating out of its own anus.” It’s funny and full of wonder and surprises. Nice work, Nathaniel Rich. —Jeremy Saum

Wrap It Up: Fathom 2012 Gift Guide,” Fathom
I checked off half of my holiday shopping list while browsing Fathom’s inspired holiday gift guide, plus found a few gifts to add to my own wish list. Their team has curated 54 great gift ideas, like custom luggage tags, and a Wine of the World Club membership. —Jen Murphy

Photographs from the Land of Seven Moles,” The New Yorker
Photographer duo TrujilloPaumier shot the photos for Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker piece on Oaxacan food. I haven’t yet read the piece (the New Yorker never arrives until the end of the week!) but the photos have me wistful for the lively markets of Oaxaca. —Davina Baum

Seal Pup Goes for a Swim,” YouTube
Musician Henry Kaiser just returned from his tenth annual trip to Antarctica, where he has logged more than 400 scuba dives under the ice. On previous trips he has assisted with underwater scientific research, prepared staff meals at McMurdo Station, and shot beneath-the-ice video for film director Werner Herzog. On his recent trip, his assignment was still photography, and he took more than 20,000 pictures. But he also found time to make this extraordinary “music video” of a young Weddell seal at play. —Derk Richardson 

Playing Rio,” National Geographic
I finally got around to reading Nat Geo’s October cover story about the cleaning up of Rio’s favelas and what that means for residents. I was especially drawn to the photos by David Alan Harvey that capture the spirit of Cariocas (this nighttime beach shot is one of my favorites). It was an interesting antidote to the essay ”What We Do After Gunfire” in this year’s Best Women’s Travel Writing book which tells the story of the Rio slums through a stylish, soulful woman named Jaque. —Serena Renner

Cloudy with a Chance of Stinging-Nettle Flan and Tomato Coulis,” GQ
How did Portland become such a city of food opportunity?  The rent is still cheap, and the populace is young and hungry for cured meats, but it’s more than that. In the words of restaurant owner Marc Greco, in Portland ”People seem to have an easy time making their dream come true.” Alan Richman eats his way through these dreams, one biscuit at a time. —Ariel Ramchandani

Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood,” The New York Review of Books
I just finished a book—an actual grownup book, without pictures!—of Michael Chabon’s essays, called “Manhood for Amateurs.” Deep, funny thoughts on the post-modernity of Legos, the lies and truth of Christmas, and the one linked to here, on the lost wilderness of childhood. Highly recommended for parents. And people who like comic books and baseball cards. And people who get choked up every time Linus recites the Christmas story in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” —Jeremy Saum

Your Smartphone’s Dirty, Radioactive Secret,” Mother Jones
Have you ever wondered what makes it possible for an iPhone to operate like a tiny palm-size computer? What’s behind the shiny screen? Kiera Butler pays a visit to a refinery in Malaysia to find out the truth about your iPhone’s guts. She finds technology may come at a price. Refining the rare earth elements that are used inside your smartphone gives off vast quantities of radioactive and toxic waste. —Ariel Ramchandani 

Hang Up and Shoot,” New York Times Lens Blog
All the old arguments still apply with current photography. What is considered art and who are the artists in a world where almost anybody can own the tools? —Tara Guertin

Toques from Underground,” the New Yorker
I only wish my friends threw dinner parties like Craig Thornton does with Wolvesmouth, the name for the exclusive, dramatic, precision-minded gatherings he holds at his dining room table in Los Angeles. One of his crew reports “He never makes the same flavors twice … they’re rainbows. You can’t catch them.” Sounds good to me. —Jessica Silber 

Image courtesy of Camels & Chocolate.