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Writing in prison, and writing to prisoners: the inmate who became the literary darling

I suppose you can't really fault Norman Mailer for being seduced by Jack Henry Abbott. After all, he had already courted Gary Gilmore (complete aside--how wild was it when Mailer & his son appeared on Gilmore Girls?!), who had been acquainted with Abbott in prison. And then of course there's Mailer's whole romance/own problem with violence (i.e. the stabbing-his-wife-incident in 1960--she didn't press charges, but she did eventually publish a book about it).

Their correspondence deepened, and Mailer eventually helped Abbott secure parole. Mailer and his new disciple (perhaps a surrogate for Gilmore; the ktwo never met) became fast friends in New York--Mailer made the callss to help Abbott publish his memoir, In the Belly of the Beast, and the two "did" literary New York--and even appeared on "Good Morning America" together. On July 18, 1981--just one day before the New York Times published a sterling review of his book--Abbott fatally stabbed a 22 year-old waiter in an East Village cafe. He fled town, and when he was apprehended and brought to trial in 1982 he found himself with some celebrity supporters: Susan Sarandon (her son is named after Abbott), Jerzy Kosinski, and Christopher Walken (though, in typical Walken-ese, he told the NY Post: "I often go to court to watch people's emotions").

I'm wondering, though: how many of you have corresponded with prison inmates? My father is involved in prison ministry, I've taught at a prison, but I've never maintained a written dialogue with anyone serving time & I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has...

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Sam Adams
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alcohol
Sam Adams's New $200 Beer Might Be Illegal in Your State
Sam Adams
Sam Adams

If you don’t have a high tolerance, Sam Adams’s latest beer could be more of a conversation piece than anything you want to imbibe. That is, if you can even get ahold of the $200 brew at all. The 2017 release of Utopias, the beer maker's biennial barrel-aged specialty, has a staggering 28 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV) content—making it illegal in some places in the U.S.

According to Thrillist, Utopias’s unusually high ABV makes it unwelcome in 12 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, both North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington. While a typical beer is between 4 and 7 percent ABV, your average distilled spirit can be 40 percent ABV (also known as 80 proof) or more. So what's the big deal with a 28 percent ABV drink? It turns out, those states have laws limiting the strength of beer, many of them holdovers from the end of Prohibition. Sorry, Alabama beer obsessives.

Assuming you’re legally able to buy a bottle of Utopias, what can you expect? Sam Adams says it has flavors reminiscent of "dark fruit, subtle sweetness, and a deep rich malty smoothness," but the beer won’t be bubbly, according to Fortune, since at that level, the alcohol devours any CO2. You should think of it more as a fine liquor or cognac than a craft beer. And you should pour it accordingly, Sam Adams recommends, in 1-ounce servings.

The 2017 Utopias run will be limited to 13,000 bottles. The brew goes on sale for $200 in early December.

[h/t Thrillist]

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IStock
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politics
New York City Will Now Allow You to Dance Without a License
IStock
IStock

In New York City, there’s a tricky law on the books that requires any business serving food or drinks to acquire what’s known as a Cabaret License in order to allow customers to dance. The mandate stems from a 1926 policy introduced by then-mayor Jimmy Walker to help curb what some residents believed to be “altogether too much running wild” in the Jazz Age clubs of the era. (It's also possible that the law was meant to prevent interracial coupling.) City officials have regularly enforced the law during the proceeding century, with some clubs even cutting off music—or switching to country—when inspectors arrived unannounced.

Now, it appears the outdated restriction has come to an end. According to The New York Times, Brooklyn councilman Rafael Espinal has introduced a bill expected to pass Tuesday that will forever end any and all comparisons to the 1984 Kevin Bacon film Footloose. The repeal comes on the heels of concerns that the prohibition pushes people into attending "underground" dance clubs that exceed (or ignore) fire department capacity limits.

While Espinal is convinced he has the necessary votes to move forward, several proprietors have attempted to challenge the law over the years. In 2014, bar owner and attorney Andrew Muchmore filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that the restriction was outdated and obtaining the license was a laborious process. To approve an application, the city’s Department of Consumer affairs has to verify a venue has security cameras and owners have to attend regular board conferences. The cost of the license can range from $300 to $1000, depending on the area’s capacity and, for some unfathomable reason, whether it’s an even or odd year.

Espinal's efforts and anticipated success getting rid of the Cabaret Law will cap 91 years of illicit dancing within the city limits. Just don't get too cozy with your partner: thanks to another antiquated regulation, you can still be fined $25 for flirting.

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