BOYCOTTING CAPTAIN BOYCOTT


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Have you ever wondered the origins of the word “boycott”?

With the rural poor dying from starvation, the Irish Nationalist Land League decided to make an example of Boycott. He was shunned by his neighbors, and many dozens laid siege to his farm in late 1880. They convinced Boycott’s laborers to join them or frightened off those who wouldn’t. Local shops also refused to serve him. He was essentially isolated with his family, three loyal staff, and a handful of guests.

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Matthew Wills — JSTOR Daily

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Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203


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INTERVIEWER

Does science fiction satisfy something that mainstream writing does not?

BRADBURY

Yes, it does, because the mainstream hasn’t been paying attention to all the changes in our culture during the last fifty years. The major ideas of our time—developments in medicine, the importance of space exploration to advance our species—have been neglected. The critics are generally wrong, or they’re fifteen, twenty years late. It’s a great shame. They miss out on a lot. Why the fiction of ideas should be so neglected is beyond me. I can’t explain it, except in terms of intellectual snobbery.

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The Paris Review — Sam Weller

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Boko Haram : Where to begin?


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Boko Haram explained.

When I travelled to Maiduguri last November, a journey I wouldn’t have contemplated two years earlier, I couldn’t get to Gwoza, Boko Haram’s former capital – a five-hour drive south-east from Maiduguri: Boko Haram may have been in retreat, but there had been no ‘final crushing’ and the roads were still unsafe. I couldn’t do the three-hour drive south to Chibok either: some lecturers from a local university had recently been abducted. But I did make a 14-hour roundabout journey to the town, with many military checkpoints along the way. It turned out that the story wasn’t in Chibok any longer. But if I hadn’t made the trip I might never have understood that the kidnapping of the schoolgirls in 2014 is now a slow-burn revenue source, not just for the military, but for numerous NGOs: this once insignificant town is full of white four-by-fours, driven by aid workers.

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Adewale Maja-Pearce — London Review of Books

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The Childless City


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Kids are increasingly becoming rare sight in burgeoning cities.

Ultimately, everything boils down to what purpose a city should serve. History has shown that rapid declines in childbearing—whether in ancient Rome, seventeenth-century Venice, or modern-day Tokyo—correlate with an erosion of cultural and economic vitality. The post-family city appeals only to a certain segment of the population, one that, however affluent, cannot ensure a prosperous future on its own. If cities want to nurture the next generation of urbanites and keep more of their younger adults, they will have to find a way to welcome back families, which have sustained cities for millennia and given the urban experience much of its humanity.

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Ali Modarres & Joel Kotkin — City Journal

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10 Conflicts to Watch in 2018


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The world being so interconnected, any conflict in any part of the world has massive repercussion.

The most ominous threats in 2018 — nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and a spiraling confrontation pitting the United States and its allies against Iran — could both be aggravated by Trump’s actions, inactions, and idiosyncrasies. U.S. demands (in the North Korean case, denuclearization; in Iran’s, unilateral renegotiation of the nuclear deal or Tehran’s regional retreat) are unrealistic without serious diplomatic engagement or reciprocal concessions. In the former, Washington could face the prospect of provoking a nuclear war in order to avoid one, and in the latter, there is the possibility of jeopardizing a nuclear deal that is succeeding for the sake of a confrontation with Iran that almost certainly will not.

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Robert Malley — Foreign Policy

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Europe’s best nature holidays


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Reprieve from summers.

Slovenia’s Lake Bled

The blue-green vividness of Slovenia’s Lake Bled in the country’s north-east is so picturesque that it almost looks fake. One TripAdvisor reviewer even likened it to a ‘cream cake’, possibly owing to the lake’s small island, Bled Island, which boasts a 17th-century church, and is well worth the pletna (boat) ride over to see its Gothic frescos.

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Stephen McGrath — The Spectator

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These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race


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Modern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

And yet 50 years after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., racial identity has reemerged as a fundamental dividing line in our world.