Michael Mechanic

Michael Mechanic

Senior Editor

Michael has been a senior editor at MoJo for seven years, after spending nearly as long as an award-winning features editor at the alt-weekly East Bay Express. He edits (and occasionally writes) features, as well as being in charge of the magazine's Mixed Media section. His writing has appeared in a range of alt-weeklies, newspapers, and magazines including Wired, The Industry Standard, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife, two kids, four chickens, striped cat, and way too many musical instruments to master.

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Michael has been a senior editor at MoJo for seven years, after spending nearly as long as an award-winning features editor at the alt-weekly East Bay Express. He edits (and occasionally writes) features, as well as being in charge of the magazine's Mixed Media section. His writing has appeared in a range of alt-weeklies, newspapers, and magazines including Wired, The Industry Standard, and the Los Angeles Times. He set out to be a scientist, and as an undergrad spent a year in an organic chemistry lab at UC-Berkeley, where he was a biochemistry major, trying to synthesize tropical frog poisons. He later earned a masters degree in cellular and developmental biology from Harvard University and a masters in journalism from Cal. In 2009, he was a finalist for a National Magazine Award for public service as one of five writers in MoJo's "Torture Hits Home" package. (His contribution, "Voluntary Confinement," involved a reality TV show that held contestants in isolation.) He also won a 2014 Society for Professional Journalists award for "It Was Something Like Slavery," a photoessay he wrote with photographer Nina Berman. The father of two preteens and caretaker of a surly cat named Phelps, Michael lives in Oakland, California, where, after years of classical piano and raucous punk-rock drumming (and releasing more than a dozen CDs on his former DIY label, Bad Monkey Records), he has retired to old-time fiddling. But you never know.

Time-Lapse Video of Photographer's 24 Hours in Isolation

| Tue Jun. 4, 2013 12:41 PM EDT

The acclaimed photographer Richard Ross, whose Juvenile-in-Justice project (and photo book) chronicles the lives of children in prison, recently decided to put himself in the shoes of his young subjects by spending 24 hours in isolation. With permission from the head of an unnamed youth facility in the Midwest, he set up a camera to take a photo every seven seconds. The result is this time-lapse video:

Here's more from Wired's Jakob Schiller:

Ross chose 24 hours because that’s the typical amount of time a juvenile offender spends in isolation at the facility when they’re first admitted. It’s not punishment for some aggressive or egregious behavior, just a matter of procedure while the bureaucracy "evaluates" them. Sometimes children are put in isolation because they are low-level offenders and should not be housed with the more serious offenders in the general population. Isolation can also be used for disciplinary action, however, and Ross has interviewed many kids who have spent weeks alone.

"It was unbelievably dehumanizing [in the cell], and I'm an adult and I knew that I had 24 hours," he says. "Then you have these kids who are used to sleeping in their beds, some of whom have never been away from home."

For a good longread on the subject, check out "The Lost Boys" by David Chura, who spent a decade teaching English to kids in an adult lockup. He chronicles what happens when they are transferred into the prison's new security housing unit. (It isn't pretty.) Also see our recent special report on solitary confinement, which includes an award-winning feature story by former Iran hostage Shane Bauer and a piece I wrote about early experiments in what extreme isolation does to your mind.

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Quick Reads: "You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack"

| Mon Apr. 15, 2013 6:00 AM EDT
Courtesy Drawn & Quarterly

You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack
By Tom Gauld
Drawn & Quarterly

Readers of the Guardian and the New York Times Magazine may recognize the poignant and often dark humor of Tom Gauld, whose new collection of mostly unpublished cartoons pokes fun at literature and media of all stripes—a Beckett spin on Tintin, a Bronte sisters video game!—not to mention futurism, religion, modern art, and the hubris and frivolity of humankind in general. In one strip, a pretentious worm reproaches his unseen inquisitor for asking, "Are you happy?" So the questioner instead turns to a bird that has just swooped in to devour the worm. Answer: "Yes." Ideal for your coffee table—or that rack by the shitter.

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