There is a fine balance between protecting a population’s health and fostering cosmopolitan culture.
Not much beyond an opium den can conjure the notion of “exotic” quite like a hookah. Lews Carroll stuck one in the caterpillar’s clutch to bring a place called Wonderland to life. George Lucas gives one to Jabba to evoke an especially remote nook in a galaxy far away. To walk down a street and catch a distant hint of sweet coffee and delicate apricot smoke as a door bursts open, punctuated by the frantic clamor of Arabic conversation, is the height of what it means to live in cosmopolitan neigbhourhood. The hookah café has become a casualty of municipal smoking bylaws. Hookah, shisha, nargile, cigars, Chevy Impalas, Royal Canadian Legions—there are exemptions to every urban smoking bylaw in the world. Continue reading
I never believed in the Pay What You Want economy. Then I went to Amman.
When new economy people talk about pay-what-you-want, they fixate on Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Louis C.K.’s “free” $5 comedy special (both of which are unique masterpieces, but that seems to be beside the point.) The Freakonomics team, which is obsessed with the different twists on these seemingly paradoxical PWYW schemes, went so for as to build an experiment into a preview screening of their movie. The minimum you could pay to attend was nothing, the most was $100.
Of the 5,000 who bought tickets, eighteen paid $100.
This baffled Stephen J. Dubner, who loves it when a contractor asks what he wants to pay for a service. “My answer is always the same,” he says. “’What I want to pay is zero. Does that work for you?’”
For a long time, I shared this sensibility. Then I went to Amman. Outside the central bus station, I asked a cab driver how much it cost to get to my hotel. He asked what I wanted to pay. (His actual words were: “what do you want to pay?”) Continue reading
The more I learn about Star Trek, the more I regret growing up a Batman kid.
Gene Roddenberry had intended his new female communications officer to be called “Lieutenant Sulu.” Herb Solow pointed out how similar this was to Zulu and thought it might act against the plan for racial diversity in the show, so the name Sulu remained with George Takei’s character. Uhura comes from the Swahili word uhuru, meaning freedom.
To the dedicated comic-convention-going cosplayer, running the ever-growing gauntlet of costume events—it’s a labour of love. For the lazy nerd, the reluctant May 4ther, the casual Halloweenist, however, it can be a tedious obligation. Behold one of your great underrated life hacks: the lifetime costume.
In Dhaka right now:
Rescuers are searching for survivors after an eight-storey building where clothing for Joe Fresh and other Western companies was manufactured collapsed near Bangladesh’s capital, killing at least
161 200 220 230 350 377 500 800 1,100 people and trapping many more under a jumbled mess of concrete.
The death toll rose throughout the day. Searchers cut holes in the concrete with drills or their bare hands, passing water and flashlights to those pinned inside the building near Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka.
Earlier in the week, local media reported that the building had developed cracks so severe that workers, who take home $38/month, expressed fear about entering its structure. (Five months earlier, a factory fire killed 112 people.) Factory managers told the workers they’d be safe. They were essentially sent into their workplace to die.
I happen to be wearing a cardigan today. I turned it inside out to confirm what I already knew. It’s 100% cotton.
And there’s more than a symbolic possibility that the fingerprints of a woman now pinned beneath the jumbled mess of concrete can be found in its thread. I think I bought it for $12 or $17. I’d like to say that I normally buy used and vintage. That I don’t buy seasonal. That the other Joe Fresh items I own—two golf shirts and a jacket—have lasted me for years. Continue reading