Archive for Category ‘Read‘

Fossils

Fossilized bones are exceedingly rare and many species left no trace on the Earth for science to discover. From Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything:

The complete fossil legacy of all the Americans alive today will only be about fifty bones.

The Billy Letters

Radar Magazine has a fascinating article comprised of letters written by pop-culture historian Bill Geerhart to America’s most notorious serial killers and their written replies. Geerhart posed as 10-year-old “Billy” Geerhart to ask advice on dropping out of school from such infamous murderers as Charles Manson and the Unabomber. All of the inmates that Geerhart contacted replied to his hand-written letter and several years later he sent a follow-up thanking each of them for their advice.

Each inmate letter offers a glimpse into the personality of people that the media often portrays one-dimensionally as monsters. For example, Richard Ramirez’s reply is hand printed on personalized “Nightstalker” stationary. Charles Manson’s nearly illegible, rambling message is evidence of his isolation and insanity. Erik Menendez portrays himself as a concerned and sympathetic ear.

link to article

Ye Olde Edicts of Britannia

The lone english language bookstore in Old Prague sits on a lightly trafficked side street below the Prague Castle between an art gallery and a river front restaurant. They carry Harper’s Magazine at an unreasonable markup of 190 K? (12 USD). Though buried in a cardboard box on the floor, I found a few old editions with the covers torn off for about two bucks.

The follow excerpt is from one of those wrinkled and dusty copies that made their way home with me. While the column is humorous due to some of Britain’s antiquated regulations, it is alarming evidence why Britain is the world’s preeminent civil surveillance democracy.

From a column entitled “Trouble Helix” Harper’s Magazine March 2008 (abridged)

From a list compiled in 2006 by British police chiefs of more than 5,000 offenses warranting that the DNA of an arrested suspect be retained for life in a nation database.

violating king’s wife
violating king’s eldest daughter
violating wife of king’s eldest daughter
levying war against the sovereign in his or her realm
buggery
buggery with woman
buggery with animal
buggery with man in private
buggery with man other than in private
procuring a woman who is defective
procuring a woman by false pretenses
placing nonhuman embryo in woman
riding horse furiously in street
wantonly disturbing in habitant by knocking on door or ringing doorbell
keeping a disorderly house
rout
affray
voyeurism
sacrilege
using explosives to take fish
handling salmon in suspicious circumstances
cruelty to badgers
disturbing badger when it is occupying badger lair
fraudulently evading bingo duty
abstracting electricity
failure to remove disguise when required by constable
wasting police time

Waiting for the Dog to Sleep

Waiting for the Dog to Sleep is a collection of short stories by Polish author Jerzy Ficowski.

The following excerpt is from “The Passing Settlement”:

I don’t know and have never known its name. But this settlement is easy to recognize by its brevity, its rapid passing, almost at the very moment of greeting it we must bid farewell. The train carries us past too quickly for it to be counted among places graced with topographical names; it is doubtless just one of those minor attractions organized for us, the long-distance travelers, by the State Railway, in the interest of alleviating boredom.

I have seen it repeatedly, I have even measured its distance: it stretches alongside the tracks for sixteen quick clacks of the wheels; by the seventeenth it is already gone, and only versts of empty meadows run smooth in its wake. I’m not even sure if it’s only on the Warsaw-Bialystok line that I’ve seen it or somewhere else as well. I get the feeling that I always pass it, no matter where I’m going, on those parts if the journey where the train has gathered the most speed, halfway between two distant stations.

Ficowski continues:

Due to its inaccessibility, the settlement is the subject of my boldest hypotheses and conjectures, which are all the more true in that they are unverifiable. Ephemeral, summoned into existence in the space of an instant behind a train window, it confirms all of my suppositions, every speculation; it cannot, after all, say anything to contradict them. And so, initially featureless, the settlement is gradually penciled in with the meaning I have nominated for it, and yet it is capable of renouncing this meaning at any moment in the name of my changing whims.

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