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There is a dark irony to the faintly racist idea that Afghans are unprincipled mercenaries available to the highest bidders, especially given the rampant panic in Washington at the inescapable conclusion that Hamid Karzai stole his own reelection. And still, after failed eight years of alternatively condemning a “culture of corruption” and thinking we just need to bribe the Afghans a little more, you see ostensibly smart columnists suggesting we try to bring back the nineteenth century. –“Bribe This: Despite years of failure, pundits still want to bribe Pashtuns,” Joshua Foust, Columbia Journalism Review
These problems have been recognized among linguists for some time. A famous 1971 essay by “Munç Wang” (a pseudonym of the syntactician Avery Andrews) discussed in tongue-in-cheek but linguistically accurate detail the syntax of sexual terms. Wang explored the syntactic constraints of various words and constructions, examining whether the object of a sexual thrust has to be an orifice, if it can be artificial, if “the orifice must be vaginoid,” and whether the object must be animate. Numerous sentences are offered up for analysis of their grammaticality: “Fred fucked the log through a hole that squirrels had made,” “The Wizard balled the witch’s body,” “Jack buggered Captain Bligh in a surgically created false cunt.” –“Can a Woman ‘Prong’ a Man? Why it’s so hard to put sex in the dictionary,” Jesse Sheidlower, Slate
Yesterday’s September labor market report was lousy by any measure, with 263,000 lost jobs and the jobless rate climbing to 9.8%. But for one group of Americans it was especially awful: the least skilled, especially young workers. Washington will deny the reality, and the media won’t make the connection, but one reason for these job losses is the rising minimum wage. –“The Young and the Jobless: The minimum wage hike has driven the wages of teen employees down to $0.00,” The Wall Street Journal (Opinion)
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature