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In the News 25.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 25.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 25.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 25.09.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

A Short Distance from Southie, but a World Away

South Boston, my first world, extends out on the Boston Harbor like an oversized jetty. Winds that whip off the brisk, slate-colored ocean often make the neighborhood feel 10 degrees colder than the weather report, a great advantage in the summer. The grid of streets mapped onto its slopes — lettered verticals and enumerated laterals — offers relieving certainty in a haphazardly planned city known for its confusing road designations. The three-decker, a multi-family home with three individual apartments stacked on top of one another, reigns supreme here. Before gentrification swept across the peninsula and housing prices skyrocketed, entire extended families could live together in the blissful discord of tight quarters. South Boston was, and still is to some extent, the kind of place where residents nod to the people they pass on the street, because if they don’t know the passerby personally, he’s likely the best friend of one of their uncle’s drinking buddies. It is a small town in an urban metropolis. For all these reasons, and many others, some residents insist it’s the best place in the world.

My parents spent the first years of their marriage in South Boston — commonly called “Southie” by residents — living in a waterfront multi-family on Columbia Road. It was there I learned how to crawl and to push buttons on the television remote, and, when presented with my first birthday cake, to smear chocolate frosting all over my face. But a few months before my sister was born, my nuclear family moved to Milton, a “white flight” suburb south of Boston. But the house stayed in the family, and the rest of my mother’s family — my grandparents, uncles, cousins — stayed in South Boston. So it was in South Boston that I celebrated holidays. It was in South Boston that I spent my childhood summer vacations, sitting in front of the air conditioner in my grandparents’ tiny three-room apartment on East Eighth Street.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

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Readers of the World Unite

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On the afternoon of 31 January 1827, a new vision of literature was born. On that day, Johann Peter Eckermann, faithful secretary to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, went over to his master’s house, as he had done hundreds of times in the past three and a half years. Goethe reported that he had been reading Chinese Courtship (1824), a Chinese novel. ‘Really? That must have been rather strange!’ Eckermann exclaimed. ‘No, much less so than one thinks,’ Goethe replied.

A surprised Eckermann ventured that this Chinese novel must be exceptional. Wrong again. The master’s voice was stern: ‘Nothing could be further from the truth. The Chinese have thousands of them, and had them when our ancestors were still living in the trees.’ Then Goethe reached for the term that stunned his secretary: ‘The era of world literature is at hand, and everyone must contribute to accelerating it.’ World literature – the idea of world literature – was born out of this conversation in Weimar, a provincial German town of 7,000 people.

Like the rest of Europe, Weimar fell under the cultural shadow of Paris. The city exported its metropolitan culture, making Europeans read French novels, recite French poetry and watch French plays. Many German artists and intellectuals responded to Paris’s cultural domination with a nationalist initiative. They collected folk tales and other components of popular and peasant pastime, valorising an entity called German culture. Indeed, they helped to make the essentially German idea of culture – as opposed to the Anglo ‘society’ or the French ‘civilisation’ – the foundation for a future nation state.

Goethe himself had been educated in the French manner. He agreed with German nationalists that cultural dependence on France must end. But he disagreed with their search for native German culture and folk traditions. Goethe searched for an alternative to both metropolitan culture and German nationalism. First, he turned to England, especially William Shakespeare, but soon realised that Anglo cultural dominance was no improvement. He needed something not just different, but bigger and better. The solution was world literature.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

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Love in the Time of Individualism

C.S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman, died of bone cancer on July 13, 1960. The next day, the famous author wrote a letter to Peter Bide, the priest who had married them, to tell him the news.

“I’d like to meet,” Lewis writes, suggesting the two grab lunch sometime soon. “For I am—oh God that I were not—very free now. One doesn’t realize in early life that the price of freedom is loneliness. To be happy is to be tied.”

When it comes to romance, Americans are freer than they’ve ever been. Freer to marry, freer to divorce, freer to have sex when and with whom they like with fewer consequences, freer to cohabitate without getting married, freer to remain single, freer to pursue open relationships or polyamory.

But what if the price of freedom is loneliness? Would you pay it?

Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks a lot about the price of human relationships. His new book, Cheap Sex, is all about how the modern dating scene has been shaped by sexual economics, a theory which sees human mating as a marketplace. His idea, as you might suspect from the title, is that sex is not as costly to access as it once was—in terms of time, effort, and risk. Contraception makes sex less risky; online dating platforms make it more accessible. If that doesn’t work out, there’s always porn, which requires next to no effort to find. These factors, Regnerus argues, “have created a massive slowdown in the development of committed relationships, especially marriage.”

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

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Loyalty Nearly Killed My Beehive

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Some time ago I read a short story by Roald Dahl called “Royal Jelly.” It’s the tale of a father desperately searching for ways to save his malnourished infant daughter who refuses her mother’s milk. This man is an apiarist, and while looking for answers, he picks up the latest article on royal jelly—the microbial mix that honeybees feed to their larva when they want to raise a new queen. “Royal jelly… must be a substance of tremendous nourishing power,” he eventually tells his wife when she discovers that he has been secretly feeding it to their child, “for on this diet alone, the honey-bee larva increases in weight 1500 times in five days!” Soon his daughter is rapidly gaining weight and ravenous for her milk.

I became fascinated with bees after reading this story. I bought guidebooks, joined beekeeping meet-ups, watched documentaries, and, last year, finally sent away for a nuc of 20,000 bees. I asked a friend if she thought this was a good idea, and after a telling pause, she said, “Well, you’ll have to be okay with being that guy.” Undeterred, I installed the bees on the roof of my Brooklyn apartment and began the absurd process of learning how to keep them alive. Incredibly, they flourished, and by October I had perhaps 70,000 bees and had harvested nearly 30 pounds of honey.

Then, this past spring, disaster struck. The queen wasn’t laying fertilized eggs, and if I didn’t act quickly, the hive would be dead by the end of summer. Thus began a months-long struggle that I only later realized was really about loyalty: mine to the hive, and the hive’s to its queen.

Read the rest of this article at: Nautilus

The Untold Story of the Assassins of North Korea

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On the fateful night, Siti pushed past the Beach Club’s bouncers, out onto the street, alone: It hadn’t been a successful evening. But from the queue of taxis, one 40-year-old cabbie, named “John,” whom she already knew, called her over: A man had asked him to find girls he could film smearing lotion on the faces of strangers.

The request was only slightly strange: Drivers acted as go-betweens for tourists and prostitutes all the time. “B,” a close friend of John’s and Siti’s, who also worked the Beach Club, explained that they thought John’s client wanted to make a porno film.

The proposed payment—more than $100—overcame any hesitations Siti might have had. At the spa, her share of each trick amounted to $15, with the rest taken by her bosses. She had started freelancing because she could earn triple that by herself, and she had to help support her impoverished parents and son in Indonesia. As B said, “She was always talking about working for them.” Her dream was to build a house in her native village and live there with her family.

But Siti had never proved to be skillful in business. As B recalled, “She always sold herself too cheap. She was a beautiful lady and could have asked for more. But unlike a lot of other girls, she would never choose her man. She’d just sit in the corner and wait for anyone to approach her. A bad character or a monkey face, it didn’t matter if they had money.”

Less than seven hours later, when John picked up Siti, she was dressed in tight jeans and a favorite red turtleneck sweater, which exposed her hourglass midriff. Smiling, she revealed braces. She looked younger than 24.

At the upscale Pavilion Mall, among shops like Dior and Hermès, John introduced her to “James,” a handsome 30-year-old “Japanese” man. Siti said that her name was “Nidya,” an alias she often used in Malaysia. (Even close friends like B would not learn Siti’s real background until her mug shot appeared on TV.) Because James could not speak Bahasa, the language of Indonesia and Malaysia, he and Siti communicated in choppy English, occasionally resorting to Google Translate. James explained that he was producing a hidden-camera comedy show, which would be shown on YouTube in China and Japan.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @nycbambi; @paris.with.me; @thomaspheasant

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