Fraud In Russia, Murder In Rome

Fraud, Nero, Law, Murder, Beowulf, Restoration, Spinal Tap

Diary: Sergei’s Way

Robert Drury | LRB | 8th November

Fraud at a Russian oil services company. A subsidiary in Kazakhstan has been shipping bogus chemicals. A forensic accountant flies in to investigate. “Sergei’s PA books me into a hotel that has recently opened. She tells me it will be good because it belongs to a Western chain. It is even further out of town and stands next to an enormous strip club. Several guests are wearing T-shirts with a picture of a Kalashnikov and the slogan ‘Remember Bataclan’ printed on them. In my room, along with the Do Not Disturb notice, is a leaflet that forbids me to have sex with children in the hotel. The next day I set off for Kazakhstan” (3,800 words)

An Ancient Roman Murderer

Guy de la Bédoyère | Laspham’s Quarterly | 6th November 2018

Chronicle of Emperor Nero’s periodic attempts to murder his mother, Agrippina, one of which involved sending her on a journey by sea in a boat designed to break apart. “The boat duly set sail across the Bay of Naples. The voyage progressed without incident until, suddenly, the canopy over Agrippina’s area collapsed, thanks to the lead with which it was roofed. This failed to kill Agrippina and her servant Acerronia Polla because the bed they were lying in had such high sides. The farce continued with the boat’s failure to disintegrate, leaving the crew arguing over how best to make the vessel sink” (2,000 words)

How Does Jewish Law Work?

Aaron Alexander | Times Of Israel | 30th October 2018

“Jewish Law is primarily constructed around, a) obligations, b) prohibitions, c) customs, d) legal principles, and e) values, consequences and reality. Each is thickly textured, complicated, sometimes objective, and almost always subjective. Obligations include circumcision, sukkot etc. Prohibitions include no pork, no work on Shabbat, etc. Customs are practices that organically or intentionally become established in communities. Established practice has legal weight within the system, depending on how broadly it is practiced, and perhaps how long it has been established as a societal norm” (2,985 words)

The Stranger In The Shelter

Outside | Earl Swift | 5th November 2018

Account of the first recorded murder on the Appalachian Trail. “Three people met in the Georgia woods. They were two young men and a girl not yet 18. They were a drifter and a pair who barely knew each other. They were, all three, green to the outdoors, new to the dragon-backed highlands near the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. One died in those mountains. A second forfeited any shot at a normal life. Just one of the three has outlived the story. Until now, 44 years after the fact, that survivor has shared it with few. Three people met in the Georgia woods, and this is what happened” (7,900 words)

Our Oldest Books

Josephine Livingstone | New Republic | 7th Novembert 2018

“Four original manuscripts containing poetry in Old English have survived to the present day. They are the Vercelli Book, the Junius Manuscript, the Exeter Book and the Beowulf Manuscript. The Beowulf Manuscript is a half-burned thing whose survival is a miracle. Where did the fire come from? Where did the poetry come from? We do not know the identity of the authors of any Old English poems, any more than we know where the first spark flew. Why are these the manuscripts that have survived, and what wandering spirit has guarded them down the centuries?” (1,450 words)

Video: The Restoration Of Mother Mary. Art restorer Julian Baumgartner removes the crinkles from a 19th century religious portrait (8m 00s)

Audio: Derek Smalls | New Yorker Radio Hour. Harry Shearer brings back Derek Smalls, bass player with Spinal Tap, who introduces his first solo album (23m 45s)

“Nobody reads a great novel to find out how it finishes”
— Jay Rayner

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