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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:
Amount that President Obama has added to America’s “brand value” according to the Nation Brands Index:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
A Utah woman named Cameo Crispi pleaded guilty to having drunkenly attempted to burn down her ex-boyfriend’s house by igniting bacon on his kitchen stove.
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”