"Sons of a bitches"

Sep. 24th, 2017 10:18 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

In his 9/22/2017 rally speech in Huntsville, Alabama, Donald Trump said

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners
when somebody disrespects our flag
to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now —
out, he's fired.

This posed a question for people who wanted to speak up in support of the football players he was threatening: What's the plural of "son of a bitch"?

I always thought it was "sons of bitches", but a surprising number of people decided on "sons of a bitches" instead. (See "Plurals", 9/22/2013, for some additional context.)



Smugglers’ Stash and News

Sep. 24th, 2017 02:12 pm
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Posted by Ana

Hi everyone and HAPPY SUNDAY! We are busy with Kickstarter shenanigans but The Book Smugglers never stop!

Kickstarter – Last Ten Days

As you know, our first ever Kickstarter campaign is currently on! The campaign started on September 5 and will run through October 5–we are entering our fourth and final week, with 10 left to raise about $5500. The ultimate goal is to raise $16,500 so that we can pay our authors, contributors, and artists more money and fund a new season of short stories.

We’ve got a bunch of awesome rewards up for grabs–including limited edition art prints, autographed books (such as WANT by Cindy Pon; A LINE IN THE DARK by Malinda Lo, and more), digital bundles and anthologies, as well as critiques and experiential rewards!


If you like The Book Smugglers and what we do, we hope you’ll take the time to check out our Kickstarter and help in any way that you can. We truly appreciate and value any help you can give–every little bit helps, especially if it’s spreading the word that we’re fundraising. We hope you’ll support us so we can keep making The Book Smugglers a bigger and better place for SFF and YA fandom!

This Week on The Book Smugglers

On Monday we kick off the week with our review of Provenance by Ann Leckie…


Tuesday, we celebrate their book birthdays with Ann Leckie, Kat Howard, J.Y. Yang and Fran Wilde with a super special giveaway to raise money for Hurricane relief charities


On Wednesday, Thea reviews Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Mask of Shadows

Thursday, Ana interviews Ann Leckie about her new book, her thoughts on SFF and more

Ann Leckie

And on Friday, Ana is over at Kirkus with her review of The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson


It’s another busy week! Until tomorrow we remain…



~Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers

The post Smugglers’ Stash and News appeared first on The Book Smugglers.

Politically adorable

Sep. 24th, 2017 01:09 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

I wondered when this would happen. Jack Shafer, "Week 18: The Further Perils of Paul Manafort", Politico (Swamp Diary) 9/23/2017 [emphasis added]:

Flynn has hired seven attorneys, and his family has established a legal defense fund for him, stipulating that donations from foreign governments or the Trump campaign or business won't be accepted. Isn’t it adorable that Flynn, who worked for a United Nations klatch of clients now insists on a legal defense entirely made in America?

In current public discourse, adorable is mostly what young children and small fluffy animals are, with the range of reference occasionally expanded to include young women, courting couples, or old people being childish. A small sample of today's adorable headlines: "Feel the full range of emotions with this adorable baby Orioles fan";  "ADORABLE: Baby calf and baby human make friends during photo shoot"; "Kelly Clarkson's Adorable Kids Come Visit Her on Set of 'Love So Soft' Music Video"; "Phoenix Zoo welcomes adorable baby giraffe"; "Marcel The Adorable Therapy Dog Brings Joy To People With Dementia"; "Inside Mandy Moore's Adorable Engagement Party With Her Besties"; "You Will Never Guess Prince Philip’s Adorable Pet Name for Queen Elizabeth"; …

But adorable entered socio-political discourse about a month ago, as a sarcastic insult meant to suggest that ordinary people are small, childish, and unworthy of attention other than as a source of amusement.

Louise Linton, the wife of the U.S. treasury secretary, had instagrammed a picture of herself returning by government jet from a quick trip to Fort Knox to look at piles of gold (yes, really), hashtagging elements of her expensive wardrobe — "#roulandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf  #valentionrockstudheels #valentino".

In response, Jenni Miller, described by the NYT as "a mother of three from Portland, Ore", commented "Glad we could pay for your little getaway #deplorable", where deplorable is an echo of Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment.

Linton seems to have been stung, because she responded at considerable length:

She uses forms of adorable twice:

Aw!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! […]
You're adorably out of touch. […]

The meaning in context is clearly sarcastic — Ms. Miller is framed as one of those little people who are so far beneath Linton that she can view their criticism as amusingly cute, like a mischievous puppy chewing on one of her designer sandals.

Presumably Linton's adorable was primed, consciously or not, by Miller's deplorable. But I wondered at the time whether the word, as well as the attitudes it so effectively expresses, might be common in Linton's social circles.  Unfortunately for my curiosity, this word choice clearly communicated more about Linton than it did about Miller, and so given the wave of negative reactions, we're unlikely to see more examples from others like her.

Still, this way of expressing disdain is too effective to be abandoned, and so I've been expecting to see it picked up by others in contexts that are safely distant from Linton's "let them eat cake" effusion.

Michael Flynn is a perfect target, from that point of view — he's not poor, ordinary, small, fuzzy, young, female, elderly, or visually cute. But by suggesting that Flynn's defense-fund appeal is "adorable", Shafer manages to suggest that Flynn is now a powerless and even pitiable player trying in kittenish ways to escape the much larger and stronger forces threatening him.


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Posted by Victor Mair

From Zeyao Wu:

I am intrigued by how the pronunciation of my nickname changed when I moved to Guangzhou [VHM: in the far south, formerly Canton] from Dongbei [VHM: the Northeast, formerly Manchuria].

In Dongbei, all my relatives and my friends called me Yáoyao 瑶瑶, with the second tone of the second syllable becoming neutral. [VHM: the base tone of yáo 瑶 ("precious jade") is second tone]

When I moved to Guangzhou, my friends call me Yǎoyáo 瑶瑶. It seems that this sort of pronunciation is not standard. I think Cantonese speak in this way because they pronounce Mandarin with the tones of Cantonese.

Here are some other examples (the first column is Pekingese [note the pattern of base tone on the first syllable and neutral tone on the second syllable] and the second column is Guangzhou-style Mandarin [note the pattern of base tone on the first syllable and full base tone on the second syllable, not neutral tone as in Beijing]).

dōngxi | dōngxī 东西 ("thing")
máfan | máfán 麻烦 ("trouble; bother")
shítou | shítóu 石头 ("stone")
yīfu | yīfú 衣服 ("clothing")

Judging from Zeyao's evidence, Cantonese-style Mandarin doesn't favor neutral tone for the second syllable of words. Conversely, northerners, especially Pekingese, seem to favor a very reduced neutral tone on the second syllable of words. When Zeyao said "déxing 德行" ("virtue; virtuous behavior; moral honesty / integrity / conduct; shameful; disgusting" — yes, in Pekingese colloquial, in its most mordant form as a condemnation, déxing 德行 means the exact opposite of its overt signification ["virtuous conduct", etc.]), there was hardly any vocalic quality left to the second syllable at all. So it came out sounding like "désh". I walked up right next to Zeyao and had her say it about five times in front of the whole class, and each time it came out sounding like "désh", with even nary a trace of nasalization. Already over 35 years ago, when I first heard it spoken by Beijing shopgirls, I was intrigued by this Pekingese colloquialism, both for the fact that they used it to convey an antonymous meaning, but also for the very unusual pronunciation. Dripping with vitriol, they would begin quite low in the register for a second tone, and then gradually glide upward — in a haughty, drawn-out way — on the first syllable to a rather high, attenuated pitch, then clip it off with a dismissive sibilant: deeéééé↗sh↓.

Comments by Neil Kubler:

Much of Southern China, also Taiwan, uses the pronunciations cited for Guangzhou. There are at least two reasons for this, I think: (1) Cantonese and Southern Chinese topolects in general don't have nearly so many neutral tones as Mandarin; (2) since Mandarin was learned as a second (foreign, non-native) language by these folks, and typically through character texts — which were often recited by the (typically herself not native) teacher with exaggerated tones, they picked up "reading pronunciations."

However, while I think the preceding is true, I think it's also true that (sadly, from my non-Chinese linguistic perspective), the number of neutral tones in Beijing speech is decreasing. More and more younger Beijing residents are speaking Putonghua rather than Beijinghua, and the emphasis of character texts ("reading pronunciations") is strong there also.

Your student said:

"my friends (in Guangzhou) call me Yǎoyáo 瑶瑶".

In Taiwan also there is a curious phenomenon where some personal names and also kinship terms — like baba, mama, gege, jiejie, didi, meimei — all change from their normal tone patterns (with the 1st syllable one of various tones and the 2nd syllable a neutral tone) to this pattern:

TONE 3 + TONE 2 (just like what your student described for her name in Guangzhou. So "daddy" becomes ba3ba2, and so forth.

I haven't been able to find a satisfactory explanation for why this happens.

Judging from Zeyao's evidence, Cantonese-style Mandarin doesn't favor neutral tone for the second syllable of words. Conversely, northerners, especially Pekingese, seem to favor a very reduced neutral tone on the second / final syllable of words. As I pointed out in my analysis of déxing 德行 ("virtuous / shameful conduct") above, when Zeyao pronounced this word à la Pekingese, there was hardly any vocalic quality left to the second syllable.

Southern Ohioisms

Sep. 23rd, 2017 10:24 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

During my recent trip to Ohio, I met a man named Don Slater from southeastern Ohio who regaled me with endless examples of how people from his neck of the woods (centered on Noble County, but down into eastern Kentucky and Tennessee) talk.

People from Noble County don't butcher a hog, they "burcher" it.

They don't say "ain't that awful" or "tain't that awful".  They say "hain't that awful".  Don said he thought that pronunciation might have some Irish influence behind it.

One of the most amazing expressions Don taught me was one he said is used around Gatlinburg, Tennessee:  "beyall".  See if you can figure out what it means before you turn to the next page.  HINT:  this expression is often used by waiters and waitresses in restaurants.

Try again.  SECOND HINT:  it is a question — "beyall?"

THIRD HINT:  it is equal to four words in standard English".  NO MORE HINTS.

"Will that be all?"

Here's a set of sentences from Noble County with three homonyms that are completely separate morphemes:

1. How fur is it to Caldwell?

2. What did you do that fur?

3. That bear has thick fur.

A few more words as they are spoken in Noble County:

1. koelidz — a place where you go to receive higher education

2. bulgee — subject you might study at a koelidz

3. daiton — city in southwestern Ohio

4. murrow — large painting on a wall

5. westcomsin — name of a northern state

For southern Ohio "probably" –> "pry", see starting at 0:47 in this YouTube:

Here's another YouTube on "Southern Ohio Slang":

My Mom (and everybody in my family following her) always used to refer to bell peppers as "mangoes"*.  When I joined the Peace Corps and went to South Asia, I got to know what real mangoes are.  The speaker in this video gives a good explanation of why people in southern Ohio call bell peppers "mangoes", starting at 1:56.  Around 5:30 she discusses a "non-verbal 'hey'".  There are dozens of other intriguing expressions that she introduces, including "a lick" = a little bit (8:23), "born in a barn" = be rude, have no manners, forgot to close the door when you came in (my Mom used to say that too; 9:30), "get on" = leave (10:13),  "done did" = did (12:00), "et" = ate (12:43), and many others.  The speaker says "I don't know" about almost everything and giggles a great deal.  Nevertheless, she offers a lot of interesting information about southern Ohio speech.

*[From Portuguese manga, fruit of the mango tree, from Malayalam māṅṅa or a kindred Dravidian source; akin to Tamil , mānti, māti. (American Heritage Dictionary).  Borrowed into Sinitic as mángguǒ 芒果, probably through Malay mangga, with the second syllable, guǒ 果 ("fruit"), being a convenient phono-semantic match.]

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Posted by Emily Perper

Honestly, I thought I was handling the Trump presidency okay. At least I wasn’t crying every day. I realize that not crying every day isn’t much of a litmus test. But when Trump codified his transgender military ban, I could no longer deny that I was struggling in other subtle and sinister ways: “I have to sleep more than nine hours a day or I cannot function physically,” or “My finances are shot because I don’t have the will to work and provide for a future that may or may not come to fruition.”

Of course, this is what fascists want for someone like me. They want me fatigued, struggling mentally, and hopeless. They don’t want me alive. Logically then, I should fight really, really, hard to thrive. I am trying, when I sit here to write for the first time in almost two months. I am trying, whenever I bring myself to get out of bed before noon, when I cook for myself. I am trying to imagine a fascism-free future. I am trying to imagine a future where evangelical Christians don’t take time out of serving the poor to disparage and damn the marginalized and their allies. I document the moments I laugh the loudest. I try to be honest with myself and with the people I care for.

Right now, I am clinging to my queer and trans family and the art they create, like Meg Allen’s photography series, BUTCH, the work of Queer Appalachia, and the Electric Dirt zine. Recently, I was listening to Cameron Esposito’s new podcast, QUEERY, when she opened an episode with a message of support for her trans listeners. I stood still in my kitchen and allowed myself to feel it all: my fear, my gratitude, and my sadness.

I’m dedicating this reading list to queer and trans comedians and comedians of color. Their experiences in the world of comedy and the world at large are very different from your average, over-fifty, white-dude comic. They have to contend with the false dichotomy of free speech versus political correctness. They face misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia with superhuman grace and patience.

  • It’s so gratifying to see queer and mainstream media rallying around Take My Wife, a sitcom co-created by comedians and wives Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher. The show aired originally on the streaming service Seeso, which announced in early August it would shut down by the end of the year. The second season of Take My Wife has been filmed already. Now, the show — along with an amazingly diverse, inclusive cast, writer’s room, and production team — needs a new home. I recommend reading “Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher on Take My Wife,’ The Show Where Lesbians Don’t Die,'” written last year by E. Alex Jung for Vulture. And you can find coverage about the determined fan response behind saving Take My Wife at Autostraddle, Entertainment Weekly, Refinery29, HuffPostIndieWire, ThinkProgress, and Vanity Fair. From Cameron Esposito’s Twitter feed:

    From Cameron Esposito’s Twitter feed.

    Here’s an excerpt from Esposito and Butcher’s interview on KPCC about why they made the decision to share the statistics of the Take My Wife team and prioritized hiring from marginalized communities. Calling them a comedy power couple is an understatement. Esposito launched QUEERY  with Feral Audio, and and WME signed her. As for ButcherVariety named her one of ten comics to watch in 2017, and her debut stand-up album dropped earlier this year.

    ESPOSITO: I want to stress that this wasn’t a “men-out,” this was a “women-in.” The other thing that I would say about the specific hiring that we tried to do, we looked for people with experience, with vision and with goals. But who needed that next credit to join their guild, or for people who needed that next credit to move into a different pay bracket, because we really believe in training up women, training up people of color, training up queer folks, so that they can change Hollywood. You give those four women jobs and then they go on to other [jobs], and next year you have an opportunity to hire more. You get those people jobs and then they go and they work in other rooms. We’re certainly not the people who have pioneered this. I look at somebody like Ava DuVernay, I look at somebody like Jill Sololoway —

    BUTCHER: Issa Rae —

    ESPOSITO: Yes, exactly, Issa Rae. This is happening right now in the industry. It’s very exciting not just because of the shows that are going to be made right now but because of the next two to three generations of shows that are going to be made.

  • Rookie Magazine has a wonderful interview series called “Why Can’t I Be You.” You might enjoy this interview with Alexis Wilkinson, the first black woman elected editor-in-chief of the Harvard Lampoon and an award-nominated writer for Veep.
  • Or acquaint yourself with queer comedian Catherine McCormick, who’s dedicated to making safe space for women and LGBTQ newcomers to the stand-up scene.
  • Stand-up comedy broke Lindy West’s heart, as discussed in her memoir/essay collection Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman. Years before Shrill was born, West penned “An Open Letter to White Male Comedians” at Jezebel.
  • I’d be remiss not to include this interview with Patti Harrison at Splitsider, who eviscerated Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender folks from serving in the military on The Tonight Show.
  • Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson are forever linked by best-friendship and their hit podcast, 2 Dope Queens. In June 2016,  Robinson premiered her own WNYC-produced podcastSooo Many White Guys, breaking into the white-dude-interviewing-comedians podcasting genre with a smash. In October of that same year, Penguin Random House published her essay collectionYou Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain. And she has a recurring role on Jill Soloway’s adaptation of I Love Dick. You can read Alanna Bennett’s wonderful profile of Robinson at BuzzFeed:

    “I want to have an empire,” Robinson said. “I like being in front of the camera, performing — but I would like to get to a place where I’m also executive producing and bringing other people along. People of all different walks of life, highlighting their voices. I feel like the only way the energy is going to change is if we bring people along. And you have to help change it. You can’t wait for the gatekeepers to change it because they’re not, really.”

  • At Vulture, Hunter Harris interviewed Williams about starring and executive producing the 2017 Netflix original romantic comedy The Incredible Jessica James, self-care, and the importance of acknowledging the historical schism between white and black women:

    We are all trying to achieve a common cause, but we are in a country where the history is that black women have been the opposite of white women and the opposite of white men in social status. [We have been cast as the opposite of] what is traditionally considered feminine or beautiful. So what we need is the acknowledgement that we are intersectional, and what we need — or, what I need, because I can’t speak for all black feminists — is just the acknowledgement of the difference. Acknowledging that doesn’t take away from someone else’s personal experience.

Fear not: You’ll see Williams and Robinson together again, even if you can’t make it to New York to see them live. They’ll host and produce four hour-long comedy specials for HBO.

Weekly Digest #2

Sep. 23rd, 2017 10:07 am
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Week 2 of posting is now over! Here are the stories that were posted this week:

If you requested an extension or decided to finish your fic after dropping out, our amnesty dates for this year are September 26 and October 12!
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The author’s early draft of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” featured a black protagonist who gets trapped inside a chocolate mold. Was it racial stereotyping, or something more complicated?

Anderson Pens

Sep. 22nd, 2017 09:00 pm
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Posted by Brad Dowdy

Nothing brightens a Pen Addict’s day like a new ink to fill your favorite pen with, and Kobe Inks at Anderson Pens make the perfect choice.

Under the hood, Kobe Ink is made by Sailor, and what that means for you is some of the best performing and vibrant colors on the market. Just look at shades like Nunobiki Emerald and Ouji Cherry for an idea of what they offer. Wonderful.

Paired with Japanese paper brands such as Apica, Graphilo, Maruman, and Midori, you have everything you need for a wonderful writing experience.

My thanks to Anderson Pens for sponsoring The Pen Addict this week.

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Posted by The Book Smugglers

We are over at Kirkus for our regular column! It’s Thea’s turn again today, taking a look at the latest Star Wars novel: Phasma by Delilah Dawson


All Hail Phasma! As far as the Star Wars new canon goes, Phasma is utterly memorable and will make you hungry for more. Go over to Kirkus to check the whole review out.

The post Over at Kirkus: Phasma by Delilah Dawson appeared first on The Book Smugglers.


Sep. 22nd, 2017 07:16 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

In recent weeks, President Trump has delivered a number of fiery speeches and incendiary tweets about what will happen to North Korea if Kim Jong-un launches nuclear missiles over Japan and toward Guam and the United States.

Naturally, the feisty dictator replied with some choice words of his own:

"North Korean leader responds to Trump: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire'", bThe Washington Post (9/21/17).

The Washington Post seems to have changed the title of the article, so I can no longer provide a direct link, but there are plentiful records of it on the internet.  In any event, countless other media outlets quoted the same odd word, "dotard".

Having been an English major in college, way back when, I was unflummoxed by "dotard", but it did send many readers scurrying for their dictionaries, where they would find something like this:

ˈdōdərd/<input ... >
          an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile.

That's not how I pronounce it.  For me, it is \dō′tərd\.

"Dotard" is related to the word for the mental condition referred to as "dotage" ("feebleness of mind associated with aging").

Many useful accounts of the history and meaning of "dotard" popped up on the internet this morning (e.g., here, here, and here).

James Griffiths has an article,"What is a 'Dotard'?" on CNN (9/22/17) in which he rightfully points out:

Kim, of course, did not say the word — he was speaking in Korean. "Dotard" was the official English translation provided by state news agency KCNA for the Korean "늙다리미치광이" ("neulg-dali-michigwang-i"), which literally translates as "old lunatic."

On the other hand, in "'Dotard' rockets from obscurity to light up Trump-Kim exchange, spark partisan war of words", Los Angeles Times (9/22/17), Mark Z. Barabak writes:

The Korean equivalent of dotard is “neukdari,” which is a derogatory term for an old person.

One possible explanation for Kim’s use of the antiquated insult came from Joan H. Lee*, who covered North Korea for the Associated Press. She said on Twitter that she had visited the offices of the government’s propaganda arm, the North Korean state news service, and “found the agency using very old Korean-English dictionaries for their translations.”

*[VHM:  I think that Barabak is referring to Jean H. Lee.]

There's been some confusion about just which Korean expression Kim applied to Trump.  The full epithet he employed was "neulg-dali-michigwang-i 늙다리 미치광이" (neulg-dali –> derogatory term for old/withered man/dotard; michigwang-i –> lunatic").  Google Translate renders that as "an old man lunatic".  Colloquially, one could translate the entire expression as "crazy old fool".

For a detailed discussion of the Korean expression, see this tweetstorm from Noon in Korea.

Prediction:  President Trump, whether directly or indirectly, will be the source of more new ("bigly", "covfefe") and resuscitated ("dotard") words than anyone since Shakespeare, though they are unlikely to last as long.

[Thanks to Ben Zimmer, Haewon Cho, and Jichang Lulu]

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Posted by Krista Stevens

As John Ibbitson reports at The Globe and Mail, there’s a new underground railroad to Canada. Through a safe house network, the Canadian government has been spiriting away gay Chechen men who face not only government persecution, but honor killings at the hands of their family. In this conservative Russian republic, the government not only looks away from these heinous crimes, it encourages them.

For three months, the federal government has been secretly spiriting gay Chechen men from Russia to Canada, under a clandestine program unique in the world.

The evacuations, spearheaded by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, fall outside the conventions of international law and could further impair already tense relations between Russia and Canada. But the Liberal government decided to act regardless.

Hamzat, a man in his mid-twenties, is a recent arrival to Canada. (Hamzat is not his real name. The Globe and Mail is protecting his identity because he fears repercussions for friends and family in Chechnya, and because he is concerned that some Chechen-Canadians might wish him ill.) In an interview with The Globe, he was cautious but calm, offering a brief smile from time to time. He described how his ordeals began: One day in March, men wearing green khaki uniforms appeared in his place of work in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. He was handcuffed, placed in the trunk of a car, and taken to a local police headquarters. “I don’t know how to express this. I was in shock,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Hamzat was taken into a room and, still handcuffed, placed on a chair. He was surrounded by men who kicked him with their heavy boots and beat him with the brass nozzles of hoses. In later sessions, he was subjected to electric-shock torture.

The men wanted him to reveal the names of gay men he knew, just as another man under torture had given up his name. “I didn’t give them any information,” he said. “I lied to them.”

Between interrogations, he said, he and other gay men were kept in a cell with drug dealers and users, and confined to a small area because they were considered unclean. The interrogations lasted two or three weeks.

Read the story

Open Book: Of God and War

Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:47 pm
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Sarah Sentilles’s “Draw Your Weapons” ranges widely through issues of photographic representation, theology, empathy, activism and pacifism.

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:23 pm
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Posted by Longreads

This week, we’re sharing stories from John Woodrow Cox, Danielle McNally, Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs, Michelle Dean, and John Knight.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

1. Children Under Fire

John Woodrow Cox | Washington Post | September 15, 2017 | 14 minutes (3,526 words)

In the U.S., nearly two dozen children are shot every day. John Woodrow Cox follows the story of one of these children, four-year-old Carter “Quis” Hill, who was shot in the head during a road rage incident.

2. These Women Are the Last Thing Standing Between You and Nuclear War

Danielle McNally | Marie Claire | September 8, 2017 | 14 minutes (3,500 words)

Danielle McNally profiles the female Air Force missileers protecting the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal. There are now enough women in their ranks that sometimes all of the missileers on duty are female.

3. How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food

Matt Richtel, Andrew Jacobs | The New York Times | September 16, 2017 | 18 minutes (4,553 words)

Companies like Nestlé and PepsiCo are aggressively marketing their processed food products in developing nations like Brazil and India. The result: a global epidemic of obesity-related illnesses, where instead of malnutrition and hunger, more people are now obese than underweight.

4. Snopes and the Search for Facts in a Post-Fact World

Michelle Dean | Wired | September 20, 2017 | 19 minutes (4,873 words)

How the legendary internet fact-finding site snopes.com came to be, and how a messy divorce, and ownership and control squabbles have threatened the site’s existence.

5. Loyalty Nearly Killed My Beehive

John Knight | Nautilus | September 21, 2017 | 12 minutes (3,020 words)

When a queen bee dies on a Brooklyn rooftop, an amateur beekeeper follows (and meddles with) the bumpy succession process.

Changing of the Guard, Bee-Style

Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:00 pm
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Posted by Ben Huberman

The death of a monarch is never simple. There’s a vacuum of power that needs to be filled, an anxiety of influence that requires the successor to establish their power quickly, and a challenging period in which the memory of the deceased is negotiated and shaped (in some cases — hello, French Revolution! — this phase can last centuries). In a lovely essay at Nautilus, John Knight explores the war of succession that followed the death of the original queen in his Brooklyn-rooftop beehive. It’s a conflict not just between a wannabe-queen and her reluctant subjects, but also between human and insect, each following their own complex protocols for survival.

As far as I can tell, my queen died sometime in the spring. Queens typically live for about four or five years, so this caught me by surprise. A new queen, however, is a regular event in the life of a hive. Beekeepers frequently replace their queens every year or two to introduce genetic variety and ensure that the hive has a strong monarch who can lay enough eggs to keep the population up. Bees can also raise their own queen, and when I did an inspection early that spring, I was pleased to see that mine had taken the initiative. Before she died, my old queen must have laid a few fertilized eggs that worker bees raised as replacements. They would have selected six or seven fertilized (female) eggs and fed them only royal jelly. When the first queen hatched, she would have immediately killed any unhatched competition and ideally flown a few mating flights, storing enough semen in her abdomen to spend the rest of her life laying eggs.

While a newborn queen may seem ruthless, the success of a beehive hinges on allegiance to its queen. Though she can mate with an average of 12 different drones, there is only one queen, which makes for a hive of closely related bees. As a new queen begins to produce her own pheromones, the hive slowly aligns with her as the old bees die and new workers hatch. In a sense, the hive is genetically wired to be loyal to the monarchy. If the hive was to raise multiple queens, or if the workers were to start laying eggs, the interests of the population would slowly fracture.

In a healthy hive, a queen will lay hundreds, sometimes thousands of eggs each day in spring and summer, which she either fertilizes or doesn’t. The fertilized eggs, the females, can either grow to be workers or queens. The unfertilized eggs become male drones that do nothing but inseminate the queen—quite literally, flying bags of semen. Drone bees, though crucial for reproduction, don’t forage or sting or raise brood—they can’t even feed themselves.

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Posted by Krista Stevens

You may remember Jeff Bridges for his portrayal of über-underachiever Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski in The Big Lebowski, a 1998 cult classic which has spawned infinite imitators and even a religion called, unsurprisingly, “Dudism.” If you know Bridges only as The Dude, you may be surprised to learn of an expansive career before and after his immortalization (in an over-sized knit sweater, of course) in The Big Lebowski. In this profile at GQ, Caity Weaver reminds us that Bridges has been “nominated for an Academy Award at 67, but also at 22, and five times in between.”

Bridges knows he’ll probably be remembered best for padding around grungy ’90s Los Angeles in a cozy sweater that hugged him like the fur of a hibernating bear, but prior to that his career followed a serpentine path—from boy wonder (The Last Picture Show), to brilliant engineer who accidentally becomes a video game (Tron), to alien heartthrob (Starman), to disgraced radio shock jock palling around with schizophrenic Robin Williams (The Fisher King)—yet somehow he always seemed headed in the right direction. Then, at some point post-Lebowski, Bridges evolved into the Marlon Brando of grizzled American West prospector types. His last three Academy Award nominations—for 2009’s Crazy Heart (he won best actor), 2010’s True Grit, and last year’s Hell or High Water—have all saluted his portrayal of rugged backcountry men. This fall, he’ll star in Only the Brave, a wildfire drama inspired by real events, as the retired chief of an Arizona fire department, and you’d better believe he wears a cowboy hat.

Lucky, then, that after half a century of making movies, Jeff Bridges doesn’t seem exhausted. If anything, he seems extremely well rested. Once he’s completed his errands for the day—talking to me, taking a field trip to a nearby artist community, checking out a socially conscious grab-and-go restaurant that he hazily half-invites me to, though he has no idea when he will be there—Bridges can return to his lawn and dance slowly through the labyrinth he himself sheared into the grass. Getting lost seems relaxing for him. Maybe we should all do it.

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The wonders of Google Translate

Sep. 22nd, 2017 01:37 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

I have sung the praises of Google Translate (GT) before (e.g., "Google Translate is even better now" [9/27/16]), but this morning something happened with GT that really tickled my fancy.

One thing I use GT for is to compose texts in Chinese.  I find it to be a very powerful and easy to use input tool.

So I input the following:

shuō dìngle 說定了
xīngqítiān zhōngwǔ jiàn 星期天中午見

After I finished typing that, I glanced over to the box at the right where the automatic English translation appears.  I was just floored when I saw this:

That's a deal
See you at noon on Sunday

The GT translation is both idiomatic and natural.  Miraculously, it somehow even managed to catch the playful tone of what I wrote in Chinese.  Of course, when used irresponsibly by people who know no Chinese to check it or who try to get it to translate something that is literary / classical / topolectal when it is designed for Mandarin, it can produce Chinglish howlers.  But in this case (and in many other cases that I have experienced), GT is every bit as good as a human translator, and sometimes better than most.

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