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In the absence of both urban planning and a functioning real estate market, Phnom Penh after the Khmer Rouge became a kind of uncontrolled laboratory for informal settlement. At the cinema – called Hemak Cheat – rows of shacks line the floor and stage of a former single-screen auditorium. One of its high walls is dramatically corroding from the steady flow of tik s’oeuy – literally, “dirty water”, or raw sewage – cascading down from another settlement on the roof. Hundreds of bats squeal constantly overhead, and the residents share the space with a large pile of their own garbage. Darkness is permanent, and the cobwebbed shacks sag and lean like laundry. The cinema is among the most squalid settings in the city, but its residents are in no hurry to leave: positioned a few short blocks from the city’s posh riverfront area and its Central Market, they live in a land of opportunity for scavengers, cyclo drivers, fruit sellers, waiters, dishwashers and beggars. –John Gravois, “Unsettling the slums,” The National
Many of the most interesting and hideous convenience food product failures of the last 25 years didn’t make it into Prepared Foods’ hallowed Annual. For example: I recently wrote a piece where I mentioned IncrEdibles, a late ’90s convenience food product. Packaged in cardboard tubes and available in flavors such as Macaroni & Cheese and Scrambled Eggs with Cheese & Sausage, IncrEdibles featured a stick at the bottom of the cardboard tube, so after you heated them up in the microwave, you could simply push into your mouth without utensils. Even though I have never actually seen an IncrEdible, every time I think about them, I am attacked by the one-two sensory punch of smelling Velveeta and hearing fake cheese squelch like living, spiral-shaped food slugs twisting around one another. –Meg Favreau, “A Matter of Convenience,” The Smart Set
Fye the dregs who weareth blootooth sets upon theyr heds. Do you speeketh to me or to demones wither sleepe tween your eares?
Flocke of hypsters mightily roarred past my hoarse-carte, stampeedding olde menne offreing free memorees on stix.
Wat ho, goatee’d man? Thy skinnee jenes hath byrn’d my corneyas. –Kari Anne Roy, “Chaucer Tweets the South by Southwest Festival,” McSweeney’s
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
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.”