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There’s no doubt that in Somalia, crime pays—it’s about the only industry that does. There is even a functioning pirate stock exchange in Xarardheere, where locals buy “shares” in seventy-two individual pirate “companies” and get a respectable return if the company is successful. Most of the money, though, is frittered away. Boyah, who personally has made hundreds of thou- sands of dollars if not millions, asked me for cigarettes when I met him. When I asked what happened to all his cash, he explained: “When someone who never had money suddenly gets money, it just goes.” He also said that because of the extended network of relatives and clansmen, “it’s not like three people split a million bucks. It’s more like three hundred.” –“The Pirates are Winning!” Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Review of Books
All is true. In vast, impoverished cities like Bombay, Cairo, Jakarta, Rio, or Lagos, the plot lines of the nineteenth century proliferate. Not ignorant mass suffering, but the ordeal of sentient individuals who are daily exposed to a world of possibilities through a sheet of glass—satellite TV, the Internet—that keeps them out. The extreme conditions of megacity slums contain the extravagant material that animated Dickens. In the gap between what their inhabitants know and feel and what they can have lies all the poignancy of Hardy. –“Dickens in Lagos,” George Packer, Lapham’s Quarterly
Some terms are spectacularly creative and useful. “Ham sandwich!” is a “Holy crap!”-like exclamation that would fit well in the absurd world of Anchorman. We all probably know an “askhole”—the kind of person who asks a lot idiotic questions. A “Harlot Davidson” isn’t a female biker, but a woman in a long-distance relationship who blabs about that relationship at a party and then hooks up with another dude anyway. Then there’s “fubarose”—a mix of F-word-derived slang and chemistry jargon used by chem majors to mean an “impure carbohydrate mixture, an undesired product of sugar synthesis.” Though “fubarose” has a science-specific meaning, I wonder if the inventors of this word have accidentally found the building block of everything in the universe. If we’re all made of fubarose, that would explain a few things. –“Do you speak college slang,” Mark Peters, Good
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
Chances that an American knows the position of his or her senators on health-care reform:
Climate experts proposed creating a fleet of cloud-seeding yachts that will pump water vapor into the atmosphere to thicken global cloud cover, thereby reflecting more sunlight, in order to counteract the effects of global warming.
In San Antonio, a 150-pound pet tortoise knocked over a lamp, igniting a mattress fire that spread to a neighbor’s home.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."