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In the Picture: Cold Deck in Boyle County, Kentucky

In every print issue, we fix our gaze on an everyday photograph and chase down facts about details in the frame.


(Photo: Gregg Segal)

  • According to historians, the emergence and evolution of the suburbs into more than residential annexes from which you could access the city — into self-contained communities of their own — was made possible almost entirely by gas stations.
  • The influential 20th-century economist John Kenneth Galbraith called gas stations “the most repellent piece of architecture of the last two thousand years.”
  • The numberof gas stations peaked in 1994, with more than 202,800 nationwide. Since then, gas stations have been closing at a steady rate. In 2012, there were 156,065, a 23 percent decrease.
  • To make surrounding establishments appear darker, new and recently refurbished gas stations are installing lights three or four times brighter than a few years ago, according to the International Dark-Sky Association. The competitive escalation of lighting — one station goes bright, so the other goes brighter, then the first goes even brighter — is called ratcheting.

A version of this story first appeared in the

September/October 2016 issue

of Pacific Standard.

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  • The hardcore Civil War re-enactor group that the journalist Tony Horwitz joined for a 1998 book found the term “re-enactor” denigrating and referred to it as “the R word.” “Farb” is an even more serious insult to re-enactors, a shorthand — and a re-spelling of the word barf — used to describe “far-be-it-from- authentic” participants.
  • The anthropologist Matthew Amster found that Civil War re-enactors describe those brief moments when they believe their historical setting immersion is real as “period rush” or “going into the bubble.”
  • Congress imposed an excise tax on playing cards in 1862 to provide easy revenue for the government — similar to state lotteries today — after the Civil War ushered in the second major gambling wave in the United States. (It tapered off in the early 20th century; the third wave began in the Great Depression and continues today.)
  • The number of anti-government militia groups in the U.S. has exploded since 2008, increasing from 42 in 2008 to a peak of 334 in 2011. Between 2014 — when the Bundy ranching family gained attention for refusing to let the government remove its cattle from federal land — and January of this year, the number increased from 202 to 276.
  • A study of male psychopaths in prison found them more likely than non- psychopaths to keep playing cards even when the deck is stacked against them, meaning with each draw they are more likely to lose the game. Researchers were able to reduce this behavior by forcing study participants to wait longer between each hand. Yet a study of white psychopathic women in prison did not find the same self-defeating habit, suggesting women might be less vulnerable.