Mercy, Lima, Aliens, Bake Off, Wangari Maathai

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On Mercy

Lacy M. Johnson | Guernica | 1st October 2015

An extended meditation on facing death, blending together the stories of children on a pediatric cancer ward and inmates on death row (“Capital punishment means those without capital get the punishment”, says one). Sometimes the subject seems beyond the reach of language – "physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it" – and "nothing can make injustice just but mercy." But what exactly is “mercy”? (6,230 words)

How Food Became Religion In Peru’s Capital City

Marco Avilés | Smithsonian | 16th September 2015

A former Limeño on how his hometown became "the culinary capital of Latin America." The city is "not the sort ... you fall in love with at first sight," but "in Lima, food has long been its own landscape, a haven of beauty and comfort." "Sleek, energetic restaurants" now serve traditional dishes from all over Peru – dishes Limeños consider "our monuments, the closest we’ll ever get to an Eiffel Tower or a Statue of Liberty" (2,760 words)

Edward Snowden And Eavesdropping On Aliens

Stephanie Pappas | Scientific American | 24th September 2015

Edward Snowden suggested we might be missing aliens' communication because it's encrypted, blended in with background noise. But a SETI researcher thinks our "current search for alien intelligence doesn't rely on an intelligible message." The search is for the medium; "we're looking for the signal that tells us that somebody has a transmitter." Or something else: heat or light could also be a "telling bit of galactic trash" (149 words)

The Genius Of The Great British Bake Off

Charlotte Higgins | Guardian | 6th October 2015

TV show Bake Off is "rapturous," "agonising," and "hilarious." It's also "minuscule" and "utterly ridiculous... an economy of minor anxieties and insignificant dangers." It's about culture, class, "pure English pastoral," non-ruthlessly "sporting" competition, and Daily Mail politics: the bakers are diverse and telegenic, but "some poor sod [is] out back, washing up." As the British say to cake: “Oh, go on then" (5,560 words)

Wangari Maathai Was Not A Good Woman

Nanjala Nyabola | African Arguments | 6th October 2015

And "good women seldom make history." She was the first Kenyan woman to win a PhD and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, for her work on the environment and democracy. She "revolutionised the act of protest in Kenya" by urging the "mothers of detainees to strip when threatened by security officers." And yet "an entire generation is growing up that, worse than not liking Maathai, simply doesn’t know her" (1,380 words)

Video of the day: Katachi

What to expect: Music video with paper-cut stop-motion. Music by Shugo Tokumaru (3’04”)

Thought for the day

One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea
Walter Bagehot

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