Frida Kahlo

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Frida fell for America’s malted milk, dime stores, and movies like “Tarzan” and “Frankenstein,” but found Americans, particularly the wealthy circles she and Diego socialized in, to “completely lack sensibility and good taste.” She renamed America “Gringolandia.”

-Zena Alkayat & Nina Cosford, Frida Kahlo: An Illustrated Biography

Mexico

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How the hell “El Chapo” Guzman chose my restaurant to come into, I’ll never know. It was just like the stunt he’s done in a few other cities–Nuevo Leon and Culiasan. Guzman–”Shorty”–it was him, with all his narco clothing.

-Josh Barkan, “The Chef and El Chapo,” in Mexico: Stories

Capone

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This is the story of a ruthless killer, a scofflaw, a keeper of brothels and bordellos, a tax cheat and perpetrator of frauds, a convicted felon, and a mindless, blubbering invalid. This is also the story of a loving son, husband, and father who described himself as a businessman whose job was to serve the people what they wanted. Al Capone was all of these

-Deirdre Bair, Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend

Arthur and Sherlock & More

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“[Sherlock] Holmes is arguably the most famous fictional character of the past two centuries, rivaled only by Dracula and James Bond, with perhaps, as the decades wear on, Batman and Harry Potter nipping at their heels.” Here’s a review of Michael Sims’s Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes.

“‘Policing in the United States—from the overzealous beat cop all the way to the NSA—is out of control,’ writes [NYU law professor Barry] Friedman, and the fault lies not with the police but with us.” Here’s a review of Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission.

On Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World: “”When we look back on [cultural changes in society] we tend to talk about it in terms of money and markets or the vanity of a ruling elite driving new ideas,’ [Steven] Johnson argues. ‘But money has its own masters and in many cases the dominant one is the human appetite for surprise and novelty and beauty.’”

On the morning after the election disbelief prevailed, especially among the pollsters.” Here’s a review of Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America.

Children of the New World

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Rumor was you could still find enlightenment in Nepal, and for cheap. There were back rooms down the spiderwebbed streets of Kathmandu where they wired you in, kicked on the generator, and sent data flowing through your brain for fifteen thousands rupees a session. It was true, Jeff from the co-op had assured Abe, though passport control could be a bitch when you returned to the States.

-Alexander Weinstein, “Moksha,” in Children of the New World: Stories

The Platinum Age of Television

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Before it was a TV series on Comedy Central, South Park was a bootleg: A five-minute foulmouthed holiday cartoon,  with crude construction-paper animation and dialogue to match, called “The Spirit of Christmas.” Brian Graden, then an executive at Fox, commissioned the University of Colorado film school graduates Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create a cartoon “Christmas card” he could send to friends for the holidays in 1995. “The Spirit of Christmas” featured prototypes of the characters we now know from South Park–Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny–who witness an expletive-filled fight to the finish between Santa Claus and Jesus.

-David Bianculli, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific

A Really Good Day

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This morning I took LSD.

The table I’m sitting at right now is not breathing. My keyboard is not exploding in psychedelic fireworks, lightning bolts shooting from the letters “R” and “P.” I am not giddy and frantic, or zoned out with bliss. I feel no transcendent sense of oneness with the universe or with the divine. On the contrary, I feel normal.

-Ayelet Waldman, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life

The Perpetual Now

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One day a couple of years ago, a woman about my own age approached me on the street in Princeton, New Jersey, where I live. “I’m Aline Johnson,” she said. “I’m not sure whether you remember me. Have you heard what happened to my sister?”

-Michael D. Lemonick, The Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love

All Our Wrong Todays

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So, the thing is, I come from the world we were supposed to have.

That means nothing to you, obviously, because you live here, in the crappy world we do have. But it never should’ve turned out like this. And it’s all my fault–well, me and to a lesser extent my father and, yeah, I guess, a little bit Penelope.

-Elan Mastai, All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel

300 Arguments

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There will come a time when people decide you’ve had enough of your grief, and they’ll try to take it away from you.

-Sarah Manguso, 300 Arguments: Essays