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Immediately upon leaving our position, we came under heavy enemy fire. Almost at once, Private Ames grew red in the face. Private Elder took Ames’s pack. But the pack was heavy, and Elder soon reported that his back was spasming. Also, his calves were burning. Elder joined Ames behind a small boulder, where the two men shared a Diet Coke. –“Heavy Artillery,” George Saunders, The New Yorker
More George Saunders from the Harper’s archive (subs);
Billy Bragg offended by bank bonuses, refuses to pay taxes (protip: those who like Bragg might also like Frank Turner);
environmentally-sensitive spouses risk ecoffending their partners
It was the third day of the Mars Society’s Twelfth International Convention, a gathering of space geeks, engineers, and scientists (mad and otherwise), held from July 30, 2009, to August 2nd on the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. This year’s conference had a particular urgency: an independent panel tasked by President Obama to assess America’s human space flight program had invited Zubrin to testify in Washington the following week. Obama’s task force, led by former Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Norm Augustine, was a collection of industry insiders who weren’t likely to stray far from the status quo; but Zubrin had no plans to dilute his message. As he has since the early nineties, Zubrin would advocate for a radical overhaul of NASA organized around a single Kennedy-esque goal: reach Mars in under a decade. –“Mars or Bust,” Eric Benson and Justin Nobel, Guernica
DZ: I have to ask you your thoughts about Pat Robertson saying the earthquake happened because Haiti made a pact with the devil for independence.
OP: Pat Robertson can suck a big one–you can quote me on that. He is not a man of God and shouldn’t claim to be. And you can quote me on that. Please. –“An Interview with Haitian NBA Vet Olden Polynice,” Dave Zirin, The Nation
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”