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From “The Paring Knife at the Crossroads,” by Bernard DeVoto in the April 1939 Harper’s Magazine
For it is quite true that in some goods there is no longer any such thing as quality. I buy a new pocket knife before going to the country every summer, for instance–I have to buy a new one. It has been years since I had one that would keep an edge, and stainless steel, which most of them are made of nowadays, won’t even take an edge. The interesting thing is that stainless steel rusts before the summer is over too, when other steel objects carried in the pocket don’t rust. The same conditions hold for kitchen cutlery. It is practically all made of stainless steel now, which means that it is practically all no good. At approximately twice the price you paid ten years ago you can get a good butcher knife, but you can’t get a good paring knife at any price. True, you can get a paring knife for a nickel and a butcher knife for a quarter, as you couldn’t in grandmother’s time–but grandmother wouldn’t have bought them at any price. They are beautiful of course: the handle is bright green and the blade has been streamlined, air-resistance being a great problem in the kitchen; but they will not cut.
Hardly anyone noticed this summer when former president Jimmy Carter explained why he had decided to leave the Baptist Church. However “painful and difficult,” wrote Carter in an essay that appeared in the Guardian, his break with the denomination to which he had belonged for sixty years had begun to seem like the only possible response to past opinions expressed and codified by the Southern Baptist Convention. “It was an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be ‘subservient’ to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors, or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief—confirmed in the holy scriptures—that we are all equal in the eyes of God.” –“The Original Sin,” Francine Prose, Lapham’s Quarterly
More Francine Prose: “Love For Sale: Appraising the relics of a relationship” in the May 2009 Harper’s (free) and “You Got Eyes: Robert Frank imagines America” in the current issue (subscribers only) (SUBSCRIBE!);
what Americans know about the Supreme Court;
headline: “Going Robe”;
the editor of Reason loves socialist, French health care
U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds. In the summer 2009 incident, the military found “days and days and hours and hours of proof” that the feeds were being intercepted and shared with multiple extremist groups, the person said. “It is part of their kit now.” –“Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones: $26 Software Is Used to Breach Key Weapons in Iraq; Iranian Backing Suspected,” Siobhan Gorman, Yochi J. Dreazen, and August Cole, the Wall Street Journal
First Things on how pedophilia’s not cool anymore;
science: conservatives easier to disgust (via) (related: “What’s grosser than gross”);
Washington Post panics, panics over the debt “crisis”;
rental Xmas trees;
Maria Bamford Christmas Special!
Remember the most convulsive, brain-ripping climax you ever had? The one that left you with “I could die happy now” satiety? Sexbots will electrocute our flesh with climaxes twice as gigantic because they’ll be more desirable, patient, eager, and altruistic than their meat-bag competition, plus they’ll be uploaded with supreme sex-skills from millennia of erotic manuals, archives and academic experiments, and their anatomy will feature sexplosive devices. Sexbots will heighten our ecstasy until we have frothy, shrieking, bug-eyed, amnesia-inducing orgasms. They’ll offer us split-tongued cunnilingus, open-throat fellatio, deliriously gentle kissing, transcendent nipple tweaking, g-spot massage & prostate milking dexterity, plus 2,000 varieties of coital rhythm with scented lubes– this will all be ours when the Sexbots arrive. –“Sexbots Will Give Us Longevity Orgasm,” Hank Hyena, h+ Magazine
The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.
Amount an auditor estimated last year that Oregon could save each year by feeding prisoners less food:
Kentucky is the saddest state.
An Italian economist was questioned on suspicion of terrorism after a fellow passenger on an American Airlines flight witnessed him writing differential equations on a pad of paper.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”