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Miscellany

A few articles to take your mind off the insanity:

Allison Meier traces “the American cemetery from the colonial age to the Gilded Age.”

On Saint Seraphim, patron saint of Russian nukes.

“As innocent as good people may appear to be,” writes Paul A. Cantor, “if they were not somehow open to the influence of evil, they could not be possessed by it.”

How’s this for an opening?

On a freezing December day in 1386, at an old priory in Paris that today is a museum of science and technology—a temple of human reason—an eager crowd of thousands gathered to watch two knights fight a duel to the death with lance and sword and dagger. A beautiful young noblewoman, dressed all in black and exposed to the crowd’s stares, anxiously awaited the outcome. The trial by combat would decide whether she had told the truth—and thus whether she would live or die.

Or this:

We were called hip-pocketers, because we lived from one deal to the next: Your business could fit in the wallet in your pocket. You bought a used Rolex at a pawnshop for a thousand bucks from the kid who’s just paid five hundred for it, hurried it over to your watch guy to hit it on the wheel and make it look new, replaced the old worn buckle with a South American counterfeit for fifty bucks, and resold it to your friend who owned the jewelry store a few blocks over for twenty-two hundred, twenty-two seventy-five if she wanted a counterfeit leather box. She could retail it the same day for thirty-five hundred. We “worked the float” back then, in the ’80s and ’90s—that meant the few days you had between when you paid for something with a check and the check actually hit your bank account. If you flipped the gold you’d bought with a check the same day, you had a few days of free money. Of course, you tried to make money on every deal, but often you were moving so fast that you had to lose money here and there, waiting for the bigger score that ought to come if you just kept hustling fast enough.

Not to add to the general level of misery, but did you know that “in a nation where nearly 113,000 people are waiting for transplants, scores of organs—mostly kidneys—are discarded after they don’t reach their destination in time”?

There. That ought to keep you busy for a while.



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