Execution by elephant was a common method of capital punishment in South and Southeast Asia. It was particularly popular in India. Asian elephants were specially raised and trained to trampel prisoners to death. And if you really pissed off the local ruler, they could be ordered to trampel you slowly.
That’s right, for the people living in the Line Islands and Phoenix Islands, 12/31/1994 was blacked out from the calendar. It sounds really strange until you discover that these two island groups were part of the nation of Kiribati. The main islands of Kiribati are the Gilberts, which we well remember from our discussion of the Battle of Tarawa. All of the islands of Kiribati spans more than a million square miles of Pacific Ocean, with only the Gilberts situated on the west side of the International Date Line.
As you might imagine, having parts of the country on opposite sides of the Date Line made conducting business somewhat difficult, since there were only four common weekdays. So President Teburoro Tito made the decision to move the Date Line such that all of Kiribati lived and worked under the same set of days. So when the Gilberts celebrated New Year’s Day on 1995, the Line Islands and Phoenix Islands were carried along, skipping December 31st.
She will not always tell you how she feels out loud.
And even if she does, trust to the fact that she’s rolled it around in her brain (and possibly her journal) for quite some time before she comes out with it. Her words are her tools, her armor. She’s best with them when she can shift and spin them on the page. In her throat, sometimes they get caught and fall out all at once—or worse—slide back down and vanish until they flow through her fingers into her next story.
She will send you a song, a sonnet or start a philosophical argument with you. It’s her way of flirting with you. It’s like the writer girl combination of a hair toss and licking her lips. Play along.
Brush up on your Shakespeare and, please, have your own opinions. Though she’s tickled when they match her own, she’ll love the parry and thrust of a good debate. And if you want to win her heart for good, know your way around a semi-colon.
I’ll let you in on a secret: she likes her alone time.
As much as she loves you, she won’t mind when you head out adventuring on your own, so long as you return and tell her stories before she falls asleep. She loves having time to get lost in her world of words, and sometimes forgets to stop to eat, or shower or spend time with people. The world on the page is as real and important to her as the “real” world. So if she bursts into tears over her cup of Genmaicha, don’t take it personally.
“Roadside attractions: people feel themselves being pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and buy a hot dog and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.”—American Gods
My favorite game when I was a child was Mummy and Explorer. My father and I would trade off roles: one of us had to lie very still with eyes closed and arms crossed over the chest, and the other had to complain, “I’ve been searching these pyramids for so many years. When will I ever find the tomb of Tutankhamun?” (This was in the late seventies, when Tut was at the Met, and we came in from the suburbs to visit him frequently.) At the climax of the game, the explorer stumbles on the embalmed Pharaoh and—brace yourself—the mummy opens his eyes and comes to life. The explorer has to express shock, and then says, “So, what’s new?” To which the mummy replies, “You.”
I was not big on playing house. I preferred make-believe that revolved around adventure, featuring pirates and knights. I was also domineering, impatient, relentlessly verbal, and, as an only child, often baffled by the mores of other kids. I was not a popular little girl. I played Robinson Crusoe in a small wooden fort that my parents built for me in the back yard. In the fort, I was neither ostracized nor ill at ease—I was self-reliant, brave, ingeniously surviving, if lost.
The other natural habitat for a child who loves words and adventure is the page, and I was content when my parents read me “Moby-Dick,” “Pippi Longstocking,” or “The Hobbit.” I decided early that I would be a writer when I grew up. That, I thought, was the profession that went with the kind of woman I wanted to become: one who is free to do whatever she chooses.
at the beginning, here, i identified with levy deeply. somewhere in the middle these my personal identification drifted, but… it didn’t matter. holy shit did the chills take over from there.
just read it. this piece is so profoundly human and good and brave that it will rattle you no matter what.
“I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Hey, why jump all over this guy? His fundamental point is that the fact drivers are allowed to kill cyclists is wrong and that this needs to change.” Sorry, I don’t care. When you’re in kindergarten and you make a fucked-up drawing of a person that looks like a Chlamydia bacterium you get praise for your effort. However, at a certain point people begin to expect more of you. That’s why they made you “show your work” in math class. Any asshole can guess or copy the right answer, but the important part is understanding why it’s the right answer. The guy who wrote this op-ed knows the right answer, but he doesn’t understand why, and a grown-up writing in the New York Times does not deserve an “A” for “effort” when that effort is fifty percent bullshit.”—Bike Snob NYC: Shafted Again.
Nancy Wake, who has died in London just before her 99th birthday, was a New Zealander brought up in Australia. She became a nurse, a journalist who interviewed Adolf Hitler, a wealthy French socialite, a British agent and a French resistance leader. She led 7,000 guerrilla fighters in battles against the Nazis in the northern Auvergne, just before the D-Day landings in 1944. On one occasion, she strangled an SS sentry with her bare hands. On another, she cycled 500 miles to replace lost codes. In June 1944, she led her fighters in an attack on the Gestapo headquarters at Montlucon in central France.
Ms Wake was furious the TV series [later made about her life] suggested she had had a love affair with one of her fellow fighters. She was too busy killing Nazis for amorous entanglements, she said.
Nancy recalled later in life that her parachute had snagged in a tree. The French resistance fighter who freed her said he wished all trees bore “such beautiful fruit.” Nancy retorted: “Don’t give me that French shit.”
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, And the green freedom of a cockatoo Upon a rug mingle to dissipate The holy hush of ancient sacrifice. She dreams a little, and she feels the dark Encroachment of that old catastrophe, As a calm darkens among water-lights. The pungent oranges and bright, green wings Seem things in some procession of the dead, Winding across wide water, without sound. The day is like wide water, without sound, Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet Over the seas, to silent Palestine, Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead? What is divinity if it can come Only in silent shadows and in dreams? Shall she not find in comforts of the sun, In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else In any balm or beauty of the earth, Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven? Divinity must live within herself: Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued Elations when the forest blooms; gusty Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; All pleasures and all pains, remembering The bough of summer and the winter branch. These are the measure destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth. No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind. He moved among us, as a muttering king, Magnificent, would move among his hinds, Until our blood, commingling, virginal, With heaven, brought such requital to desire The very hinds discerned it, in a star. Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be The blood of paradise? And shall the earth Seem all of paradise that we shall know? The sky will be much friendlier then than now, A part of labor and a part of pain, And next in glory to enduring love, Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, ‘I am content when wakened birds, Before they fly, test the reality Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings; But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields Return no more, where, then, is paradise?’ There is not any haunt of prophecy, Nor any old chimera of the grave, Neither the golden underground, nor isle Melodious, where spirits gat them home, Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured As April’s green endures; or will endure Like her remembrance of awakened birds, Or her desire for June and evening, tipped By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.
She says, ‘But in contentment I still feel The need of some imperishable bliss.’ Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams And our desires. Although she strews the leaves Of sure obliteration on our paths, The path sick sorrow took, the many paths Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love Whispered a little out of tenderness, She makes the willow shiver in the sun For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet. She causes boys to pile new plums and pears On disregarded plate. The maidens taste And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise? Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs Hang always heavy in that perfect sky, Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth, With rivers like our own that seek for seas They never find, the same receding shores That never touch with inarticulate pang? Why set pear upon those river-banks Or spice the shores with odors of the plum? Alas, that they should wear our colors there, The silken weavings of our afternoons, And pick the strings of our insipid lutes! Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, Within whose burning bosom we devise Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn Their boisterous devotion to the sun, Not as a god, but as a god might be, Naked among them, like a savage source. Their chant shall be a chant of paradise, Out of their blood, returning to the sky; And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice, The windy lake wherein their lord delights, The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills, That choir among themselves long afterward. They shall know well the heavenly fellowship Of men that perish and of summer morn. And whence they came and whither they shall go The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound, A voice that cries, ‘The tomb in Palestine Is not the porch of spirits lingering. It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.’ We live in an old chaos of the sun, Or old dependency of day and night, Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, Of that wide water, inescapable. Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail Whistle about us their spontaneous cries; Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness; And, in the isolation of the sky, At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make Ambiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
So this one time, Matty Tucker and Sarah Brumble went to brunch like good 20-somethings** and naturally the conversation turned to vices of yore. With Halloween breathing down our necks like the horse of the headless horseman’s horse-breath, we started bitching about all the candy we hated as kids …then ate anyway. Considering we are both over-educated service industry professionals, it became necessary to quantify our bitching in a tangible manner.
Thus was born the Sick-or-Treat tournament bracket, brought to you by Brachs™.
We all had that one hanger-on in our friend group who we’d give all the banana runts. They tasted like butthole but he thought he was coming out on top. Little did he know that he was being paid in banana runts to compensate for the merciless fun we had at his expense the rest of the time—at no cost to us! As grown-ups we ditched the friend and either throw them away (because we can do that now) or stomach them with as straight a face as possible, much like we do when taking shots of Wild Turkey.
Black Jelly Beans
These are for you, Dad.
Root Beer Barrels
We’d happily accept a two-litre of actual root beer and drink it in one sitting. Clearly something so good was too much to ask, and the cheapness of your wallet corresponds directly the to the thin flavor of the mini versions.
Peanut Butter Taffy
There seem to be eight million different varieties of the same peanut butter taffy, whether they come wrapped in wax paper, black and orange plastic, or are actually Mary Janes. The uniting factor among them all, however, is the decidedly unpeanutbuttery taste of… nothingness, a tendency to rip out all the fillings I’d received after last Halloween’s sugar orgy, and a huge pain in the ass to get the wrappers off.
Group 2: “The worst of modernity”
Flavored Tootsie Rolls
Like frosting, but chewier. PS: “Blue” is a color, not a flavor.
those wax bottles with juice crap (TWBJC)
Yeah, bite off the end, but don’t swallow it. Squeeze the juice in your mouth, just like that. Taste it? Was it good for you? Nope, me neither.
Good & Plentys
Does licorice have some positive nutritional value that requires its specific benefit to be delivered in pill form? The name is pure irony: while the “good”ness is questionable at best, the halloween-sized serving looks meager, but is assuredly beyond “plenty.”
What’s the white center supposed to be? Seriously. I have no idea what this white shit is supposed to taste like, but I hope no one intended for it to taste like it does. That would be cruel. And the caramel part is not exactly caramel. It’s caramel-flavored goopy stuff. And what’s the point? Next year just hand out caramels.
Group 3: “This shit ain’t even candy”
Not only are apples not sweet enough to make us happy on Halloween, but they also may have razor blades in them. Our moms throw them away without a second thought. Way to waste precious fruit and my Trick-or-Treating time, all in one go.
Everyone knows things in boxes come with dust and worms, and that’s because they’re the last thing anyone wants to eat. While your attempt to keep kids healthy ‘round Halloween time has not gone unnoticed, it will go uneaten.
This one time, the lady who sings the loudest at church gave out her really tasty homemade popcorn balls, but after one bite, my mom was all like, “You can’t eat those! There may be needles in them!” Thanks for letting me know what I will forevermore miss, church lady.
Made of cherry flavored wax, these aren’t even edible! Wax lips stain your face just like real candy, but leave behind a stomach ache worse than dysentery when actually consumed. This is a cruel, cruel trick when I clearly said “treat.”
Group 4: “But they were great during The Depression”
Certainly not corn, and at best questionably candy, these confusingly tri-colored confections taste of what, exactly? The only answer is “candy corn,” its own unique flavor that reminds you of nothing but itself. Luckily, like herpes, they only flare up once a year.
By the time you’ve gnashed the hard slab of bubblegum into a chewable wad, it’s lost its flavor. As children, our parents raised us to strive for better than they had. While such a mentality may have backfired in the academic, economic, and political spheres, we now expect—and get!—more from our gum.
I don’t know what these are supposed to taste like, but it ain’t peanuts. What is it? Marshmallow? In a crust that I didn’t put there while sitting around a campfire? This is apparently a circus trick that anyone who looks at is not falling for. When I ask for peanuts, I want peanuts, damnit. Big ones.
When asked what to do with all of this excess chalk, Mr. Necco instructed his wage slaves to fashion them into bite-sized discs, roll them up in wax paper and sell them as candy. While the packaging is sizeable, this is clearly a case where bigger does not mean better.
I am writing with a simple, important request of you all: don’t let me drink whiskey anymore… or at least not for a while. No, this is not me convolutedly side-stepping a larger problem (ie, “whiskey made me do it” or “secretly I’m an alcoholic”).
Over the past few months, it would seem my boozy beverage of choice has started causing me to break out in painful hives. At first I was all “Don’t be so vain, have another!” but the reactions have increased in severity and now last far longer than can be reasonably justified.
Spare me the judgment/way-to-be-a-pussy speeches, too, please; I’m sad about this.
Of course I plan on tapping into modern medical science to give me a clear answer, but until all is revealed… If you see me drinking whiskey, I beg you to do one of the following:
a) slap the glass out of my hand,
b) take it from me and drink it yourself,
c) replace it with wine, cider, good gin and/or quality tequila.
Follow the above to a T until you hear from me otherwise. I’m not kidding… whichever you choose (yeah, it’s kind of a personality test) is fine with me.
Just before he died, Frederic Chopin supposedly wrote a note saying: “The earth is suffocating. Swear to make them cut me open, so I won’t be buried alive.”
Although it seems like the stuff of horror fiction today, people in previous centuries were very concerned about the possibility of ending up in a living tomb. The Victorian novelist and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton asked for his heart to be punctured before he was buried, to make sure he was truly dead. George Washington requested that his body be watched for two days after his apparent demise. The Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen was so frightened of premature burial that he often slept with a sign on him that read: “I am not really dead.”
Veruschka in an early camouflage print, Stone Head, from Veruschka.net
Camouflage was designed to hide things, but how it changed our worldview may be its most revealing surprise. This five-part series examines the history of camo, from its humble origins to its current ubiquity. Catch up with Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.
PART FIVE: Beyond the Battlefield
Artists saw other ideas embedded within camo: the obliteration of self in society, mute protest against totalitarianism, the alienating distance of mass media.
Part of a series, Andy Warhol’s Camouflage Self-Portrait in 1986 shows his face in a Polaroid, silk-screened over with garishly colored U.S. Woodland. Here is camo as the distorting thicket of celebrity. Other artists who used recognizable military patterns include Pop artist Alain Jacquet, Adelle Lutz (in works like His/Hers Combat Lawn Furniture and camo-costumes for David Byrne’s 1986 film True Stories), Marilyn Lysohir, and David Bower.
Other artists skipped recognizable patterns and simply merged themselves into landscapes. Fashion model Vera Lehndorff (aka “Veruschka”) painted herself in the 1970s into African veldts, industrial wastelands and merry-go-rounds, an inversion of fashion’s usually celebratory, egocentric images. Chinese dissident Liu Bolin’s works comment on individuals steamrolled by modern China. In one work, he appears as a visual shimmer in front of a graffitti’d wall, which reads: IF YOU ARE NOT SEATED AT THE TABLE YOU ARE ON THE MENU. Dutch artist Desiree Palmen’s use of camouflage disturbs the air around a harmless-looking urban scene, as if souls took up physical space there.
Camo as Fashion
Camo now penetrates all levels of fashion. Musicians wear camouflage to support revolution of various kinds: from black power (Public Enemy) to Sinn Fein and African rights (U2 and Bono). Disruptively patterned graffiti helped camo infiltrate streetwear in the 1980 and 90s, like the camo-obsessed Maharishi line.
American designer Stephen Sprouse reproduced Warhol’s pop-camo in his 1987 collection, a tradition continued by Jean Paul Gaultier, Prabal Gurang and Patrik Ervell. Camo thus crossed over into the female, suggesting wit, beauty and toughness.
Hunters usually don’t share politics with designers, feminists, or rappers—but they do share a love of camo. Jim Crumley invented his own hunter-camo in the 1970s. His Trebark pattern spawned many imitators, including the popular Mossy Oak pattern. (When Noriega was finally captured wearing Trebark, Crumley considered using the Panamanian general in an ad campaign with the slogan: “No wonder it took so long to capture him.”) Hunters now wear their own camo-patterns, distancing them visually from the military.
Camouflage formalwear brings high and low fashion into collision; sites like CamoFormal.com and ATouchofCamo.com sell it briskly. Girls wearing camouflage formalwear signal a range of conflicting messages: I like to shoot; I’m proud of my hunting heritage; I can’t be pigeonholed; screw all this formality; look at me, in my gown designed to hide.
Civilian camo-wearers usually emphasize nonviolence. What else they’re subverting, however, can be harder to trace.
The Future of Camouflage
In the era of advanced radar and infrared, traditional camo is decidedly low-tech. But modern military tests prove and re-prove its effectiveness.
Nothing proves camo’s active status as a verb like its innovation pipeline. Various futureofcamo articles describe “stealth ponchos” concealing body heat, vinyl-adhesive photos to hide landmarks, fabrics embedded with fiber-optics that dynamically match their surroundings. Camo designer Guy Cramer claims to be perfecting technology that bends the light spectrum to make objects entirely disappear.
Camouflage’s final trick may be how thoroughly—indeed, invisibly—it pervades our modern world. Oscar Wilde once observed, “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” Camouflage’s plain face masks a very modern awareness: that the visible world is constructed, contingent, shaped in ways we can barely guess at. Or, as this World War I-era poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox puts it:
The 9-year-old boy who stowed away on a Delta flight from Minneapolis to Las Vegas on Thursday passed through three security checkpoints at the airport without a boarding pass or identification, officials and an airline expert said Sunday.
The boy got through the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) checkpoint, past a Delta gate agent and didn’t get scrutinized by flight attendants before the plane took off, said Terry Trippler, owner of ThePlaneRules.com.
“The kid’s smart,” Trippler said. “I’m going to give them [the TSA agent] a little break.
The boy, who has not been identified, actually went to the airport both Wednesday and Thursday via light-rail, Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Pat Hogan said Sunday.
On Wednesday, he took a bag off the baggage carousel, went through TSA security and had lunch at a restaurant in the area that leads to the concourses. The boy told waitstaff at the restaurant that he had to use the restroom. Since there isn’t a restroom in the restaurant, the boy had to enter one of the concourses. He left the bag and his lunch bill behind and never returned, Hogan said.
The bag belonged to an arriving passenger. When the passenger arrived, airport personnel were waiting for him and returned the bag to him. The passenger went through the bag and reported that nothing was missing.
On Thursday, the boy was seen on surveillance video talking to a Delta agent at the flight gate, Hogan said. When that agent was busy, the boy walked down the jetway and onto the plane.
This little guy wins our first ever Precociously Intrepid Award. Way to go, kid!
[Please note: Atlas Obscura does not encourage such behavior, but we may applaud should you pull it off.]
That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.
The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.
“This is why I love science,” Louise Erdrich, whose novel “The Round House” was used in one of the experiments, wrote in an e-mail. The researchers, she said, “found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction.”