IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair. We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.
Justin Fenton brings us the stories of people who died during summer violence in Baltimore, such as a young man murdered outside a store, and introduces us to those trying to bring an end to the killings. Using photographs and video, it is an intimate look at the shattering impact of violence on families and friends. (Baltimore Sun) (Approx 27 minutes reading time – 5546 words)
The last couple of years, you have seen the violence rise,” he said. “East Baltimore, West Baltimore, Cherry Hill. … For all the little kids around here and my son, of course I’m scared.” Had Owens not been working a day-labor job, hauling junk and abandoned mattresses out of an East Baltimore yard, he said, he would’ve been with Jones that fatal summer night. “Probably would be a victim myself. Probably wouldn’t be standing here,” he said.
Arnon Grunberg spends Christmas in Tessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, as people grapple with the impact of the financial crisis. While there, he meets a nude cyclist, a doctor, a musician and members of an anarchist collective to find out how they are coping. (The Believer) (Approx 25 minutes reading time – 5037 words)
Cities like that are often at least as interesting as the capital, and if God is in the details, then the truth is going to be revealed at the periphery. In conversations with people working in various capacities to regenerate Greek social and economic life, I would try to assess the collateral damage from this newest international conflagration. But I also went to Thessaloniki to meet its mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, who had recently rocketed to international stardom.
File: Rescued battery hen. Pic: Ben Birchall/PA Archive
Jesse McKinley and Malia Wollan bring us the story of the rescue of 1,200 farm hens in California. Why were they rescued, and who rescued them? We find this all out, plus the challenges of rehoming such birds. (New York Times) (Approx 6 minutes reading time – 1304 words)
Protecting farm animals like chickens, cows and pigs has become a priority for animal-rights groups across the country; in 2008, California voters passed a proposition that would effectively outlaw the small “battery cages” in which the Elmira passengers once lived. (It takes effect in 2015.) But once rescued, finding new homes for beleaguered birds — de-beaked, atrophied and often suffering from osteoporosis — can be a challenge.
Andrew Crumey looks at the idea of parallel universes, and how it first emerged. Then, he moves onto the idea of a ‘multiverse’ of possible worlds, and what this could mean for us. (Aeon Magazine) (Approx 13 minutes reading time –2457 words)
Detecting the work of a divine hand, Leibniz proposed that the universe is optimised in every detail by God. Thus was born ‘optimism’, the idea (ruthlessly parodied by Voltaire in Candide) that we live in the best of all possible worlds. Applying the theory to the problem of why evil exists, Leibniz gave it graphic form, as a pyramid, infinite and many-roomed, in each of which is a possible world.
Guantanamo Bay Pic: AP Photo/Bill Gorman
Molly Crabapple, writer and artist, visited Guantanamo Bay to meet with the men in captivity there. With grace and sensitivity, she captured their portraits and their stories. (The Daily Beast) (Approx 11 minutes reading time – 2257 words)
“I sometimes feel sorry for these young prison guards at GTMO,” Aamer told Kassem. “They have been trained not to be kind, even where their instincts tell them to be kind. They have been told lies and absurdities about the prisoners to the point that they are shocked that I can speak English and they are still in disbelief that I know bands like AC/DC and that I listened to that band before the guards were even born.”
Amanda Lindhout was kidnapped in 2008, on a dirt road near the Somalian city of Mogadishu. Along with her friend Nigel Brennan and three local men, she was taken by AK-47-toting men and brought to a secret location. One day, she and Nigel tried to escape. What happened next is detailed here. (The New York Times) (Approx 45 minutes reading time – 9013 words)
After our car was searched that day, we were pulled from the ditch and then driven about 45 minutes through the desert, swerving off the paved road and into a brushy wilderness. My heart pounded loudly in my ears. The car — piloted by one of the masked men — dodged thorn trees and ran right over bushes, not following any sort of path. With every passing minute, I knew we were moving farther off the grid.
…AND A CLASSIC READ FROM THE ARCHIVES…
In 1997, Lynda Edwards detailed the avenging angels and horrible demons that occupy the world in the minds of children living in homeless shelters in Miami. The tales are strange ones, dark fairytales that are far from even the most frightening of childhood stories. But the children have allies, too, as Edwards tells us. (Miami New Times) (Approx 40 minutes reading time – 8168 words)
One demon is feared even by Satan. In Miami shelters, children know her by two names: Bloody Mary and La Llorona (the Crying Woman). She weeps blood or black tears from ghoulish empty sockets and feeds on children’s terror. When a child is killed accidentally in gang crossfire or is murdered, she croons with joy. “If you wake at night and see her,” a ten-year-old says softly, “her clothes be blowing back, even in a room where there is no wind. And you know she’s marked you for killing.”