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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:
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Average number of bacteria living in a pound of U.S. mud:
Canadian doctors saved a baby from drowning in his own drool by using Botox on his salivary glands.
A black bear named Pedals, famous for walking upright on his hind legs through Rockaway Township, New Jersey, was reported killed by a hunter, and a hiker in California was attacked after he interrupted two bears mating. It was a “pretty good bear attack,” said the local police chief.
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"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."