Cass Knowlton, editor

“A New Cuba” by Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker

“During Obama’s visit, security men cordoned off the streets, mostly keeping ordinary Cubans at a distance. But when they did get close the reception was ecstatic. As Obama strolled through the Plaza Vieja with his family, Cubans shouted his name, hoping to attract his attention. The backlash, though, began swiftly after he and his entourage left town. An acquaintance who works for Cuba’s security services told me that one of his colleagues had called Obama’s appearance at La Cerveceria ‘as subversive as the Bay of Pigs.’ I found the sentiment echoed by other Cubans, most of them Communist Party loyalists, who share the conservative views of former President Fidel Castro, who is now ninety years old and fragile.”

Sally Whyte, journalist

“‘Fetch’ is finally happening 10 years after ‘Mean Girls'” by Carla Correa in FiveThirtyEight

“I was curious about how ‘fetch’ and other ‘Mean Girls’ catchphrases have permeated American culture. After all, the film is ‘the most quotable, gif-able, and mash-up-able movie for the Internet age,’ as my former colleague and ‘Mean Girls’ authority Jessica Goldstein noted on The Washington Post’s Style blog …

“The rise of ‘Mean Girls’ has dovetailed with the rise of the meme. As social media sites allowed their content to easily be shared from one user to another, cultural catchphrases and tropes were able to grow exponentially until they reached meme status. Tumblr, especially, has helped to propel ‘Mean Girls’ memes into our Twitter feeds and onto our Facebook walls (even Hillary Clinton has personally been victimized by Regina George).”

Myriam Robin, media reporter 

“Bad Writer” by Michael Mohammed Ahmad in Sydney Review of Books

“On multiple occasions bad writers who have attended the Western Sydney Writers’ Group for the first time find our feedback extremely confronting and offensive and don’t ever return, assured that we simply do not know what we are talking about. To these people I say, Salaam alaikum! I don’t want to work with anyone who cannot take constructive criticism, who cannot re-write, and who cannot separate the personal pain of writing about their dead grandmother from the professional craft of conveying the story about their dead grandmother in an effective and original way (and I have also found that it is extremely difficult to help these kinds of people anyway). Take for example this Palestinian-Australian girl that once attended our writers’ group named Leila, who had an American accent because she learned English at an international school in Abu Dhabi. Of course it was confronting and upsetting to be told that a story about her four-year-old cousin who died in a crossfire on the Gaza Strip is no good, but in all fairness no one had actually questioned the degree to which she loved her dead cousin, we had simply pointed out that it was lacking in detail and characterisation, preventing us from feeling and understanding the experience of her loss, to write: I woke up to the news that my sweet beautiful gorgeous baby cousin was deceased and the rest of the day was a blur. Leila argued that my heartless feedback proved I had Asperger’s Syndrome. She even recommended that I see a doctor called Jamal Rifi about it, who by coincidence has been my family physician since 1996.”

Sophie Benjamin, engagement editor

“Silicon Valley tech bros want to trick us into thinking capitalism is revolutionary” by Sara Harrison in Quartz

“A half-century after my parents participated in protests and sit-ins in San Francisco, the northern California city is again filled with optimism about a better future. Words like ‘revolution,’ ‘disruption,’ and ‘openness,’ once the stuff of folk songs and idealistic dorm-room discussions, are required buzzwords in the average startup’s mission statement. Yet the San Francisco of today is also strikingly different from the one my parents knew — and not just because I can’t find a single good burger under $10. While the terminology may draw on the language of change, the tech industry’s purpose and goals in 2016 demonstrate its commitment to doing things the same old way.”

Bernard Keane, political editor

“Hang up your running shoes” by Jon Day in London Review of Books

“He was the greatest long-distance runner of the mid-20th century, but when he ran Emil Zatopek looked ridiculous. His face was a mask of pain and his head lolled to the side, as though his neck couldn’t hold it up. The American sportswriter Red Smith said he ‘ran like a man with a noose around his neck, the most frightful horror spectacle since Frankenstein, on the verge of strangulation’. His arms flailed, another journalist wrote, as if he was ‘wrestling with an octopus on a conveyor belt’.”

Dan Wood, subeditor

“Complex Pleasures” by Connor Tomas O’Brien in The Lifted Brow

“Since I began using a vaporiser, I’ve found it difficult to think about anything but cigarettes. I never had this compulsion when I smoked, which was rarely more than a few cigarettes a day, and, eventually, rarely less. Casual smoking, a half-century after the Surgeon General’s report linking tobacco and cancer, seems to be tenable only when unexamined; as soon as you try to wrangle with the complexities of a known bad habit that hasn’t yet tipped into an addiction, all you can hope for is cognitive dissonance.”

Peter Fray

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