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Bajaur has attracted would-be conquerors for centuries. Its Nawa Pass predates the Khyber as the most favoured route from Central Asia into the Indian subcontinent. Both Alexander the Great and the Mughal Emperor Babar marched their armies through here. Indeed, local women proved so irresistible to Alexander that, according to folklore, he began an illicit affair with Queen Cleophis from the local Assaceni dynasty. It is impossible to comment on Alexander’s tastes: I see no more than a handful of women on Bajaur’s streets and none in its market. Those who do venture outside are veiled behind the flowing blue burqa that has become synonymous with Taliban rule, even though they are no longer in control. –“Bajaur: A Talk with the Taliban,” Shiraz Maher, Standpoint
It seems McDonald’s has stumbled upon the greatest marketing tactic of all: turning its sandwich into an urban legend. Specialty items at other fast food chains—like the Chipotle Chicken/Asian Chicken at Wendy’s or, arguably, Burger King’s salads—are too easily accessible to generate mystique. Perhaps sensing the wisdom of McDonald’s approach, Taco Bell only puts its Cheesy Gordita Crunch on the menu sporadically. (Spoiler alert: You can special order them!) Like Big Foot, McRib sightings are rare and its taste questionable. –“The Curious Case of the McRibble (And the McRib),” Mary Shyne, The Awl
The early translators of the Nights, in other words, took enormous liberties, editing and embellishing, adding stories from other sources or their own imagination (some of the most famous stories, like Aladdin or Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, were never part of the original collection), vituperating earlier translators and sometimes backing up their own versions with forgeries. Then again, these faithless translators were true to the tradition of the Nights – the most mobile and malleable of texts, open to endless manipulation. –“Night Moves,” Ursula Lindsey, The National
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature