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Sean Flynn | Literary Hub | 13th May 2021
A farmer discovers the pleasures of acquiring a peacock. It "patrols the yard like a sentry in dress uniform, high-stepping through the irises", throwing up a "fabulous spray of feathers" every now and again, seemingly with no thought other than to show that such events are possible — "inevitable, and yet a surprise every time". A peacock is "not a bird that one possesses, so much as experiences" (1,900 words)
Vijai Maheshwari | Narratively | 13th May 2021
Confessions of a hair-based hustler. A writer, laid off from a Ukrainian magazine in a recession, becomes a supplier of Russian hair to New York wigmakers. This hair is "very blond and displayed in glass vitrines, like cold cuts at a deli". The men who deal in it love to stroke it. Briefly, he corners the market, before a revolution takes the hair export business mainstream and leaves him behind (5,167 words)
Brian Potter | Construction Physics | 4th May 2021
Why construction projects are intrinsically inefficient, at least when measured against Adam Smith's platonic pin factory. Throughput is "extremely low", cycle time is "incredibly high", work-in-process is "enormous", and any construction site is "rife with variability". Work rarely if ever follows a "well-defined plan", but consists of constant accommodations, shifts, and improvisations (2,500 words)
Interview with mushroom obsessive Doug Bierend, who says fungi are too often viewed merely as a curiosities and commodities for human consumption, rather than as an ecosystem in their own right. He doesn't quite propose that humans should "live like fungus", but he does think we could learn much of value from the ways that fungi manage to coexist humbly with the rest of nature (32m 00s)
by Christopher Mason | Courtesy of Five Books
The case for space travel beyond our solar system as a categorical imperative. The author, a geneticist at Weill Cornell Medicine who studies the effect of space on the body, goes through exactly what the plan for the next 500 years should be. “Life cannot remain on Earth, because the sun will eventually over-heat the Earth, likely engulf the Earth, shrivel into a White Dwarf, and die. Earth is the only home we have ever known, and if it remains that way, it will also be our grave” (256 pages)
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