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There is a type of Ethiopian poetry known as “Wax and Gold” because it has two meanings: a superficial “wax” meaning, and a hidden “golden” one. During the 1960s, the anthropologist Donald Levine described how the popularity of “Wax and Gold” poetry provided insights into some of the northern Ethiopian societies from which Prime Minister Meles would later emerge. Even ordinary conversations frequently contain double entendres and ambiguities. Levine theorized that this enabled the expression of satire, humor, and even insults in an otherwise strictly controlled and hierarchical society of all-powerful kings, peasants, and serfs.
However, he worried that this mode of communication would hold Ethiopians back in their dealings with Westerners, who tend to value concreteness and rationality. Double meanings and poetry provide no advantage when drafting legal contracts, filling out job applications, or designing nuclear reactors. It didn’t occur to Levine that “Wax and Gold”–style communication might give Ethiopians like Meles an advantage in dealing with Westerners, especially when the Westerners were aid officials offering vast sums of money to follow a course of development based on liberal democracy and human rights, with which they disagree. –“Cruel Ethiopia,” Helen Epstein, The New York Review of Books
Sofoklis Schortsanitis: Last year, he was simply too fat play; allegedly nearer to 500 pounds than 400, and seemingly trying his best to undermine the team that continues to persist with him perhaps long after they shouldn’t. Sofo appeared in only 95 minutes all season, and fouled once in every four of them. How a man can get as big as he did is hard to fathom, and how a professional athlete (at least ostensibly) can get that big is simply mindblowing. But it happened. Sofo has always had a huge frame, yet with all that fat on him, he was heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEYYOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGE. You could feel your head being drawn closer to the screen, such was his gravitational pull. He was the biggest basketball player I have ever seen. And it was reflected in his frankly pretty hopeless play. –“Where Are They Now, 2010; Part 59,” Sham Sports
Must-haves for April: a “life recorder” to provide video, audio and GPS data of your every moment;
a “Backtacular gluteal cleft patch” to fight plumber butt with style;
a headless, one-armed, Pepto-Bismol-complected “Girlfriend Body Pillow” to comfort you in bed
The updated Europa Editions release of Seven Tenths, a collection of Hamilton-Paterson’s writings about the sea, is the passionate result of a poet’s eye making sense of rigorous research and humanity’s impossibility. Running through the essays divided into thematic chapters is the tale of a free diver who has lost his boat, the cord he had tied around his ankle loosed from the tiny vessel’s prow. Resurfacing, the boat is nowhere to be found, and the swimmer considers being stranded in a “conspiracy of waves.” The umbilical connection between salt water and our lives is literal and figurative. But when the ocean claims a ship or a person or even disproves earlier scientific findings it does so by shutting off that object from what Paterson-Hamilton calls the “continuity of vision.” For him this is a sublime quality.
The author’s obsessing over oceans and seas is fueled by the fact that we know so little about them, especially beneath the surface. Of course, throughout time the curious have ventured. Alexander the Great had a special glass cage made so he could be lowered into the Mediterranean; salvage missions attempted to resurrect sunken valuables; and Scandinavians tried to correlate fish supplies with tidal currents. But, according to Hamilton-Paterson, “until the late eighteenth century the average European’s mental image of the sea was literally superficial, of a navigable surface above an abyss.” –“Chasing the Whale: Bansky, Obsession and the Sea,” Buzz Poole, The Millions
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Average speed of Heinz ketchup, from the mouth of an upended bottle, in miles per year:
The Playboy mansion in California was bought by the heir to the Twinkie fortune, and a New Mexico man set fire to his apartment to protest his neighbors’ loud lovemaking.
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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.'”