Walking the Line in the Bekaa Valley


When every single day seems to contain ten distinct — and equally dramatic — news cycles in North America, it’s all too easy to forget that one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time continues to unfold in and around Syria. In Popular Mechanics, Bronwen Dickey follows a small group of slackliners as they criss-cross the Bekaa Valley, in eastern Lebanon, where hundreds of thousands of refugees reside in makeshift camps. Their mission is to give as many refugee children as possible a chance at a literal balancing act, a fleeting moment of controlled fear — and, hopefully, joy — in a daily life that’s full of the chaos of displacement.

If tightrope-walking, with all its sober elegance, is the classical violin, then slacklining is the country fiddle, full of mischief and improvisation. Though some do it competitively, for most enthusiasts there is nothing to summit or…

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001 M-ine

Li Shen


Influenced by the style of graphic minimalism, this image portrays the abstract path of light on a ceiling in a modernist building in Hong Kong. Subtly embedded in plain sight is a stark reminder to think outside the frame even when heavily constrained and boxed in.  – LS


This illustrates the tale of the canaries in a coal mine. Sensing darkness as opposed to carbon monoxide, they remain isolated within the dystopian backdrop of London office blocks. Slowly lowered into the abyss by the converging rotating columns, they are being silently observed by the rectangular viewfinders. –LS

Note. I have hit a reset button on this blog to regularise the randomness of the content. In the future, there will be two curated images per (numbered) post with some text explaining my thoughts behind them. The plan currently is to update more frequently (weekly or fortnightly) depending…

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“Hey, Can I Sleep In Your Room?”: Studying Love with Elizabeth Flock


Jonny Auping | Longreads | March 2018 | 16 minutes (4,156 words)

In her recently published book, The Heart Is a Shifting Sea, Elizabeth Flock aims to tell authentic stories of love in the city of Mumbai. But in a place where the notion of flashy Bollywood romance is ubiquitous, Flock went about her mission as a diligent reporter, spending close to a decade observing the daily lives of married couples in the eighth largest city in the world — interviewing them, living with them — even sleeping on their bedroom floors.

Flock, who spent two years in Mumbai in her early twenties, returned in 2014 to embed with her book’s subjects — three couples she had previously met. “I liked them because they were romantics and rule breakers,” Flock writes. “They dreamed of being married for seven lifetimes, but they didn’t follow convention.”

The deeply reported chronicles of…

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How to Run a Magazine in the Desert


Either you’re the kind of person who wants to start a magazine or the kind who can’t understand why anyone would start a magazine. Well, Ken Layne started the magazine Desert Oracle in Joshua Tree, California, and it’s struck a chord with readers.

At Pacific Standard, Max Genekov profiles the determined desert resident who designs, edits, and ships each issue of his independent magazine himself. Following a winding path through established media, Layne landed in this scorching, brown, 8,000-person town and decided the arid West needed its own literary outlet. Unlike many publications, Desert Oracle is funded entirely from subscriptions. Readership is brisk. The reception has been enthusiastic. Subscriptions are growing, but how does one person successfully run a small publication? Like the desert itself, Layne’s Oracle contains a peculiar magic that speaks to a particular but motley breed of people.

Of the people living in Joshua Tree…

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The Best Food Is Somewhere Else


My favorite food truck in Austin was closed last Sunday.

This particular truck is a neighborhood mainstay. (DM me if you are wildly curious about my taste in trucks. I’ll reply in the form of a koan, like a fortune cookie. May we all selfishly hoard the best things in life for as long as we can keep them secret.) It’s open every day; it’s been there for years. It is usually up and running, rain or shine, weather be damned. But last Sunday it was closed.

Look, it’s a truck. It was purposely designed to drive off into the sunset. But this one is supposed to be a food truck only in name. It was present and closed, crucially, as opposed to absent and lost to time. (Although the window was boarded up, and the grain of the wood was ominous.) It could disappear, but it doesn’t. It’s been…

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New York in the 1970s Gave Us Hip Hop, Madonna, and the Chip on Trump’s Shoulder


New York’s chaotic 1970s — when the city was on the brink of bankruptcy and crime rates reached record highs — have been mythologized as the last great period of unfettered, gritty creativity before yuppies, and later hipsters, ruined everything. It’s a complicated narrative, and the election of Donald Trump, a city-hating city-dweller, makes it even more so. Here’s a man who’s unquestionably among the most provincial New Yorkers of all time, yet he’s just as unquestionably an iconic one. And his rise to prominence came about right at that moment when New York was (supposedly) at its worst and at its best. Michael Kruse, writing at Politico, dives into what we might call Trump’s Studio 54 period, the years when desperate politicians allowed Trump to build an impressive real estate portfolio underwritten by huge tax breaks, and when public (specifically, Manhattan elite) derision shaped his politics of resentment…

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What Is New York City Without Its Historic Buildings?


Real estate interests are buying up historic buildings around Union Square and forcing New York City’s psychotherapists to move all over Manhattan, or leave for other boroughs. This is the city’s new tech corridor. At The New York Review of Books, Jeremiah Moss eulogizes the passing of his office building, the 165-year-old St. Denis. The St. Denis once housed hundreds of psychotherapists. Moss is now one of two dozen remaining. The building is threatened with demolition, and the district’s larger shift threatens its very identity.

Moss chronicles his building’s long life, in order to show that when a city loses a building, it loses all the lives and eras that imprinted themselves on that building. As he puts it, “Imagine a future Manhattan without shrinks. What will happen to the psyche of that city?” The same goes for a future Manhattan without the physical embodiment of its history…

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Leslie Jamison: Does Recovery Kill Great Writing?


In this excerpt from her book, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, Leslie Jamison recalls how in the early days of recovery, she examined the work of newly-sober writers like John Berryman and Charles Jackson for clues about how sobriety would affect her as a writer. It wasn’t until she read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest that she found “proof that sober creativity was possible.”

But the truer story of my drinking is really a story about tedium, about claustrophobia and repetition. At a certain point, it started to expose itself as something that wasn’t revelry, that wasn’t about connection but isolation, that wasn’t about dark wisdom or metaphysical angst — that wasn’t about anything, really, besides the urge to get drunk, by myself, with no one watching.

The night of my first meeting, when I was 26 and desperate, I drove across the river to an…

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The Quest for the Collision Zone: An Arctic Expedition


William E. Glassley | Excerpt adapted from A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice | Bellevue Literary Press | February 2018| 18 minutes (4,848 words)

* * *

Erosion always wins.

The vanished mountains we envisioned were simple possibilities, tentative interpretations of passages written subtly in the obtuse patterns and features of Greenland’s rocks.

The patterns match those seen in the Alps and the Himalayas — zones that seemed to be huge thrust faults, folds of immense proportion, metamorphism at extreme conditions. Through the inspired power of analogy, my colleagues Kai Sørensen, John Korstgård, their coworkers, and those who had come before them had surmised that the Greenland landscape was an old ancestor, a forerunner of the young mountain systems that today so dramatically exalt Earth’s skin. But the Greenland ancestors are long gone, erased by the incessant hunger of flowing water…

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Giving Tex-Mex Its Due


Texas’ size and cultural diversity have blessed it with delicious geo-culinary diversity: chili in the west, barbecue in the middle and east, and Tex-Mex in the south. Yet somehow barbecue gets most of the attention.

At Eater, Meghan McCarron lavishes praise on Tex-Mex, the state’s homegrown style of Mexican food. Derided as cheese-covered food for white people, Tex-Mex gets overlooked or mocked for being more Tex than Mex. McCarron argues that the culinary establishment doesn’t treat Tex-Mex, both beloved and maligned, with the respect it deserves. Tex-Mex isn’t all frozen margaritas and fajitas, estúpido. This is a proper rural tradition, she says, and “the most important, least understood regional cuisine in America.”

Adding insult to injury, while corporate chains like Applebees serve bowls of queso and bland fajitas, the demand for low prices — and the white food media’s barbecue bias — threaten the family restaurants that serve…

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