"Every day, Mr. Nasr, 68, a Transportation Ministry employee, pads around his offices in the Ottoman-era building, where light filters through red, yellow and blue stained glass. He imagines the past — the few short years a century ago when the place bustled with travelers headed for Mecca." Lovely color piece from Anne Barnard at the NYT on the lost railway culture of Syria and the greater region.
"He has also received marriage proposals, which he declines. One woman asked whether electricity was working in Syria so she could bring a hair curler. 'Advice to people who want to come is, Don’t bring your hair curlers,' he said." Also at the NYT, Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura talks to Westerners who have traveled to Syria to become jihadis.
"That’s partly because stigma, like all vulnerability in the rural north, doesn’t affect only the girl who has been assaulted." BuzzFeed's Jina Moore reporting from Nigeria, where contingency plans are being drawn up to address the needs of the kidnapped Chibok teenage girls, should they be successfully rescued.
"Violent extremism entices those who long to lash out at a system they believe has cheated them, but lack they courage to think for themselves, beyond the easy answers they are offered by pedlars of hate. Misogynist extremism is no different." Laurie Penny at the New Statesman.
"The experience of feeling simultaneously threatened and unable to speak, of feeling as if I would be persecuting this man who was committing a sexual impropriety were I to pipe up and tell him to knock it off, was unsettlingly familiar. " Sasha Weiss at The New Yorker.
"Women who have experienced this can recognize that placating these men is a rational choice, a form of self-defense to protect against setting off an aggressor. But to male bystanders, it often looks like a warm welcome, and that helps to shift blame in the public eye from the harasser and onto his target, who’s failed to respond with the type of masculine bravado that men more easily recognize. " Amanda Hess at Slate. (Via Jody T.)
" Let’s talk about how many conventions have been forced to use disturbingly careful language to basically say, Don’t assault people. Let’s talk about how much pushback statements like that have gotten from people whining, 'Aw, c’mon, can’t I assault someone just a little?'" N.K. Jemison's speech at Wiscon 38, republished on her blog. (Via Rachel Hartman.)
"Bookstores are a privilege. They’re not accessible to everyone, and when they are accessible, they’re not always worth it. Why would I or anyone else want to spend time in a shop where my presence isn’t welcomed?" Kelly Jensen at Bookriot making an important argument (sez someone who grew up in a bookstore desert). (Via Malindo Lo.)
"Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up." From the Fall, 1990, issue of the Paris Review, an interview with Maya Angelou.
"In the city’s post-Katrina reform frenzy, New Orleans has shut down all but five of its traditional public schools, kicked out tenured teachers, and replaced schools with charters and a predominantly black teaching force with young, overwhelmingly white recruits from the controversial education reform and teaching training program Teach for America." Julianne Hing at Colorlines on a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the school systems of Newark, Chicago, and New Orleans. (Via Carla Murphy.)
"Each morning around 6, Mary Ellen Snodgrass swallows a computer chip. It’s embedded in one of her pills and roughly the size of a grain of sand. " Ariana Eunjung Cha at The Washington Post. (Via Katie Zezima.)
"The problem with these philosophies isn’t that they seek to abolish, or challenge, the state; it’s that, in their current incarnation, they appeal mostly to individuals like Gogulski, who by accident of birth start off on top of the global pile. They aren’t solutions that management consultants would characterize as 'scalable'; rather, they’re limited, solipsistic. That makes ideologies like Gogulski’s more symbolic than globally meaningful." Atossa Araxia Abrahamian on an intentionally stateless person in Bratislava.
"To know a lot of smart, complicated adults is to know a lot of escapists and a lot of social media/booze/TV addicts and a lot of moms who obsess about every dimension of their kids' development and a lot of hothouse flowers with insanely complicated, expensive needs." Heather Havrilesky hits this particular edition of Ask Polly out of the park. At The Awl.
"There was a spelling bee in which anybody who participated was given extra credit. And I figured I could make up for some bad homework grades. I won the spelling bee, and I kept going along." Sarah Kilff at Vox with a delightful interview with five former champions of the National Spelling Bee.
"Ayn Rand's Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone" is worth it for the tags alone. From Mallory Ortberg at The Toast, of course.
"Ninety-five-year-old Beverly Wilson was the only one who had been alive during the trial, though she didn’t remember much about 1925 except her parents arguing—not about theology or science but whether to name her baby brother 'Evolution.'" Finally, at the Oxford American, a wonderful piece by Rachael Maddux about Dayton, Tennessee, where the Scopes trial took place.