Recommended Reading: The Watcher, The Period Watchers, and Unfinished Orson

The sharpest, funniest, and most thoughtful writing of the week.

Modern online media is all about the signal boost, so every Friday here at Flavorwire, we take a moment to spotlight some of the best stuff we’ve read online this week. Today, we’ve got a bit of non-fiction horror that will make your skin crawl, a look at health apps that’s pretty scary too, a deep-dive into the incomplete works of one of our greatest filmmakers, and a devastating critique of the week in Trumpland. 

Bilge Ebiri tracks the rest of the unfinished Orson Welles filmography.

When Netflix financed and released the 40-plus-years-in-the-making The Other Side of the Wind, outlets a-plenty (including this one) described it as Orson Welles’ final feature. But that’s not exactly true; Welles left behind several productions in various stages of completion (or lack thereof), and Ebiri details all of them for Vulture.

The Deep (started 1966)

Here’s another full feature that Welles shot over some years (from 1966–69) but never finished editing. Which is ironic because he had hoped that this one would be a more commercial movie: It’s an adaptation of Charles Williams’s novel Dead Calm — the same story that inspired the 1989 Nicole Kidman–Sam Neill–Billy Zane thriller — starring Welles himself, Jeanne Moreau, Laurence Harvey, Michael Bryant, and Oja Kodar. One of the major impediments to finalizing the film has been that many of the main actors are dead — Harvey died in 1973 — and a lot of their dialogue was never properly recorded. Additionally, the negatives have been lost, and the only surviving versions appear to be rough cuts Welles worked on but never finished over the years. A work print assembled by the Munich Film Museum screened at MoMA in 2015, but in order for this ever to be completed properly, a major undertaking would be needed — perhaps even more ambitious than what Netflix has done with The Other Side of the Wind.

Reeves Wiedeman tells a suburban haunted house story.

We all love movies like The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist, in which families are shocked to discover the dark secrets of their family home. At The Cut, Wiedman has a creepy real-life variation: a family buys their dream home, sets about getting it ready for their family, and then… the anonymous letters begin to arrive:

The letter identified the Broadduses’ Honda minivan, as well as the workers renovating the home. “I see already that you have flooded 657 Boulevard with contractors so that you can destroy the house as it was supposed to be,” the person wrote. “Tsk, tsk, tsk … bad move. You don’t want to make 657 Boulevard unhappy.” Earlier in the week, Derek and Maria had gone to the house and chatted with their new neighbors while their children, who were 5, 8, and 10 years old, ran around the backyard with several kids from the neighborhood. The letter writer seemed to have noticed. “You have children. I have seen them. So far I think there are three that I have counted,” the anonymous correspondent wrote, before asking if there were “more on the way”:

Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested? Better for me. Was your old house too small for the growing family? Or was it greed to bring me your children? Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them too [sic] me.

The envelope had no return address. “Who am I?” the person wrote. “There are hundreds and hundreds of cars that drive by 657 Boulevard each day. Maybe I am in one. Look at all the windows you can see from 657 Boulevard. Maybe I am in one. Look out any of the many windows in 657 Boulevard at all the people who stroll by each day. Maybe I am one.” The letter concluded with a suggestion that this message would not be the last — “Welcome my friends, welcome. Let the party begin” — followed by a signature typed in a cursive font: “The Watcher.”

Kaitlyn Tiffany on the period-tracking app industry.

“A cartoon cloud told me I might be pregnant,” begins Tiffany’s Vox explainer of the problems with the existing smartphone technology created to help women track their cycles — but created mostly by men, and from their limited perspective:

There’s a handful of fancy, venture-funded period-tracking apps. And there are hundreds of free, ad-supported, easy-to-use apps that track menstruation and fertility and simultaneously invite users to track their diet, their workouts, their sex lives, their mood, the state of their skin, the smell of their vaginal discharge. They are mostly glitchy and cheaply made, and the result of opportunists seeing a need and kind of, not really, fulfilling it.

In the health category, this type of app is reportedly the fourth most popular among adults and second most popular among adolescent women. My floating cloud app was one of these junky, generic options, and the choice to download it was not an educated one; it was just whatever the App Store guessed I would want when I typed in “period tracking” more than four years ago.

This app wasn’t designed for me. It wasn’t designed for anyone who wants to track their period or general reproductive health. The same is true of almost every menstruation-tracking app: They’re designed for marketers, for men, for hypothetical unborn children, and perhaps weirdest of all, a kind of voluntary surveillance stance.

David Roth on the big, wet president.

And finally, coming off one of the most spectacularly failure-filled weeks of the Donald Trump presidency — and that’s saying something — Deadspin’s Roth gave us one of the most succinctly accurate and darkly funny summaries of the man (such as he is) and his politics (such as they are) to date:

His politics, to the extent that they’ve ever been legible, have always been off-the-rack big city tabloid bullshit—crudely racist exterminate the brutes/back the blue authoritarianism in the background and ruthless petty rich person squabbling in the front. His actions since becoming president have been those of a dim, cruel child playacting at being a powerful man—giving orders without quite knowing what they mean or how they might be carried out, taunting enemies, beating up the people he can afford to beat up without having to be called to account for it, lying as needed or just for yuks. He hasn’t changed a thing since graduating from punchline to president. It’s been clear for decades that Trump was both an asshole and a dummy; this is now a problem not just for the odd unlucky cocktail waitress and his staff of cheesy apparatchiks but for literally every person on earth.

Presidents exert a kind of ambient influence on the culture, but as Trump is different than previous presidents his influence necessarily feels different. Barack Obama wanted to be a cosmopolitan leader who brought people together and into a deeper empathy through a mastery of reason and rules; the country he governed doesn’t work like that, though, and the tension between that cool vision and this seething reality grew and grew. By the end, his presidency had the feeling of a prestige television show in its fifth season—handsomely produced and reliably well-performed but ultimately not really as sure what it was about as it first appeared to be. Trump has no such pretense or noble aspiration, and has only made the country more like himself; living in his America feels like being trapped in a garish casino that is filling with seawater, because that is what it is.