His purview is supposed to be limited to the last week, but John Oliver has spent the first few months of his HBO show’s run reaching a lot further back into America’s psyche. Whatever nominally topical subject he’s taking on, he uses Last Week Tonight to treat it like a springboard, launching off of a piece of congressional testimony or a Supreme Court decision into a kind of miniature State of the Union, a barbed look at how this ridiculous bit of news is a data point on a much broader, and often considerably less funny, chart.

Not quite a year removed from his name-making summer of guest-hosting work on The Daily Show, the crown of seven years spent as the dryly sarcastic Senior British Correspondent, Oliver still isn’t entirely out of that show’s long shadow, nor is his approach really light years away from the exaggerated exasperation that is Jon Stewart’s most exportable good. Still, if Stephen Colbert is (soon enough, was) the satirical Satanic message you get from playing TDS backwards, Oliver so far is its slowed-down SoundCloud track, explicating and dissecting exactly why so much in the news deserves to be treated with bitter irony.

As we consider the wreckage, carnage, and heartbreak of the latest Malaysian Airlines flight to crash—this one, by all appearances, shot down by rebels in eastern Ukraine—it’s important to acknowledge criminal incompetence as a thing that exists in this world. People can do extraordinarily stupid things that have tragic consequences, and those things should ideally be punished, in turn, without assuming that incompetence and sadism are the same thing.

So when a Soviet fighter jet shot down Korean Air 007 in 1983, during the latter, hotter days of the Cold War, it didn’t need to be a deliberate act or murder to want to see someone punished. And when the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air 655 in 1988, it was possible for that to be a tragic accident, too. MH17 now joins the surprisingly substantial list of horrible things that have happened because someone in charge of a deadly weapon pointed it at a civilian airliner.

INTERVIEWER: What advice would you give, then, to aspiring writers, especially those—and there are many, by now—who don’t wear your influence lightly? MCCARTHY: Towelettes. Moist towelettes.” Cormac McCarthy is the greatest troll of all.

To hear Russian media tell it, Flight MH17 veered wildly from its intended flight path, had recently been re-insured, and was full of corpses when it left Amsterdam. These tellings are incorrect.

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal never intended to post baby photos on the Internet, until he had a baby.

“What if I told you that mozzarella sticks never had to end?” So begins Caity Weaver’s opus.

The D-list, so far: I went on some dates for paparazzi to photograph. I folded shirts. I got a few modeling gigs. I found cash inside of a fire hydrant. I changed my outfit but not my makeup. I lined up a lucrative appearance at the Immaculat Vodka party tonight. I enlisted an unscrupulous talent-management type to help troll my nemesis on Twitter, until she started yelling about Obamacare (very realistic). I hung out with Kim Kardashian. It’s like Louise Brooks wrote at the end of Lulu in Hollywood:

Although our sexual education had been conducted by the élite of Paris, London, and New York, our pleasure was restricted by the inbred shackles of sin and guilt. Thus at the same time our reputation for immorality excluded us from the parties of respectable Hollywood, which devoted itself to presenting a picture of moral beauty to the world, our reputation for sudden attacks of puritanism excluded us from the delights of the carefully arranged parties that ended for us after lunch or dinner when we were dismissed with a firm goodbye.

In 1992, MTV premiered a reality TV show, billed as the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and. Start. Getting. Real. The Real World, about to enter its 30th season and often credited with spawning the reality television phenomenon, is successful because of this simple premise: stick a group of young people with different backgrounds in a house, turn on some cameras, invite a bunch of voyeurs to tune in and watch in thirty minute installments. It’s not scripted, just edited.

Shuichi Yoshida’s novel Parade is not The Real World: Tokyo, but it’s not entirely dissimilar. Four twentysomethings and one teenager, all with the loosest connections to one another, share an apartment in Setagaya, Tokyo. They are intimately familiar with each other in ways made possible only by living in the same space: washing each other’s laundry, sharing a bathroom, seeing each other during the most vulnerable moments of the day. But none of them really know each other, not in the ways we consider that one human can truly understand another. They are five private people, each with their own secrets.

Coming soon to California’s 2016 ballots (maybe), thanks to the efforts of a local billionaire: a proposal to divide the country’s wealthiest, most populous state into six separate states, because reasons. You’d think that a plan to divide up one of the world’s better-scoring subnational governments (and, despite its problems, you’d probably prefer to live in California than the Luhansk Oblast right now) into its poorest and richest regions would be a non-starter. And yet, here we are.

Let’s start with the obvious: the proposal to divide up the state of California into six states will never go anywhere ever at all, in large part because the hypothetical maybe-states would mostly return Democrats to the US Senate from now until the heat death of the universe. So the US Congress, which gets a vote on these matters and where Republicans exist in some number, will not allow it.

But even if they did, it would be a very stupid idea—which, on its own, just means that in America money can buy even very stupid ideas. So let’s lay out some of the most obvious reasons why dividing up California along the lines proposed is a very stupid idea.

Joy Biggs watched her sister die in prison for possession of an ounce of marijuana. Now she’s facing her own criminal charges.

Benjamin Boles on the impending death of MuchMusic.

“I’m almost 89, I’m gonna have a drink a day or two. I know how to handle it, so there. I’m proud of the fact that I can handle a couple of drinks.” Bless you, 
Elaine Stritch, with your giant specs, your oversized men’s dress shirts, your black leggings, your sharp tongue. 

Last week, Islamic State militant leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was caught on tape railing against western decadence while seemingly wearing a luxury wristwatch (his supporters quickly countered that the watch was, in fact, a cheaper Saudi Arabian make). That same week, the Wisconsin Republican party attacked the Democratic gubernatorial candidate for calling for an end to out-of-state campaign donations while accepting a million bucks herself, the British Education Secretary was criticized for demanding low-cost schools and then approving a fancy new headquarters, and Ottawa sex workers briefly considered outing a specific group of clients—Conservative MPs currently pushing through a harsh anti-prostitution bill.

Throughout all of this, Rob Ford continued to live and breathe, speaking words and performing actions in perfect opposition to one another, rumbling through an election campaign as if propelled by the electromagnetic force of his perpetual hypocrisy.

I met Nadine Gordimer when I was 17, or not quite, not really; I did not meet her in person, but was introduced to her as a figure, one of 30 individuals collected together for study in America’s Academic Decathlon under the heading “A Diversity of Achievers.” For the purposes of high-school study she was judged notably “achieving” because she had won the Nobel Prize for Literature the year before, and a symbol of “diversity” because she was South African, or perhaps because she was what then seemed still so exceptional and no doubt teachable: an older white woman who had always been on the side of her country’s liberation struggle, who could be presented as a positive force operating in a country that had not yet arrived at its appointment with democracy. What was odd about this encounter in a dull public-school classroom was that we learned about her life and her achievements but never read a word of her writing, or so I remember. It would be more than 15 years before I opened The Late Bourgeois World, and then The Conservationist and Burger’s Daughter and July’s People and other of her works, prompted by my partner, a South African, who was himself reading the texts that would become my own first novel, Absolution, and who suggested you really ought to read Gordimer.

Turns out those vials of smallpox discovered in a National Institute of Health storage room weren’t alone: “The discovery actually included 12 boxes and 327 vials holding an array of dangerous pathogens, including the tropical disease dengue...

Before starting this week’s column, I discussed with my editor what the topic of the introduction would be, and he reminded me not to get us sued for libel. “It’ll come straight out of your salary!” he joked as I wrote his name down in a book I have called Bossy People To Kill Later.

Under the right circumstances, everybody cheats. Like anyone else, the key question for a teacher is: can you convince yourself that cheating is the best possible course? Are you even, perhaps, helping people who desperately need it? And, even better for your conscience, is everyone else doing it?

That’s the story, more or less, behind the increasingly common non-scandal of teachers and boards of education cheating on standardized tests. The New Yorker has an excellent article about one teacher in the Atlanta area in 2006, but a cursory Googling provides examples in Peoria last yearLas Vegas this year, and 33 New Orleans public schools from 2010-12. Oh, and for good measure, 10 schools in Ontario in 2010, so you can pack up your Canadian smugness for a bit.

What do your retweets say about you?

“Claire was an unusually pure example of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl—a fancifully if thinly conceived flibbertigibbet who has no reason to exist except to cheer up one miserable guy.” So was born a phrase for which Nathan Rabin is now asking our forgiveness.

Our new, trademark pending, Hazlitt questionnaire.

It was said that actor Peter Sellers so excelled at his craft because he had no identity of his own—he simply became whoever he was playing. This tidbit goes through my mind often as, almost out of my control, I find myself shifting back and forth between accents.

My family moved from London to Toronto when I was 12. I was too old to simply absorb a new accent, but young enough to want to. For years, I tried affecting a Canadian accent at school to fit in better, only to return to an English one when I got home. What Degrassi Junior High’s Stephanie Kaye did with makeup, I did with accents.

“I don’t make such judgments about people. After all, I’m a white colonial woman myself, of colonial descent,” Nadine Gordimer once told The Paris Review. “Perhaps I know us too well through myself. But if somebody is partly...

Imperialism has fallen fairly sharply out of fashion in the last century or so. Still, while no one is here to praise Caesar, humanity’s better angels have managed to suck some marrow from the bones its greedy warmongers left in their wake.

Pierre-François Bouchard, for instance, was only stationed in Fort Julien near the Egyptian city of Rasheed because Napoleon had grown bored of threatening continental Europe, and decided that the Nile and its environs might be good for putting the heat on British India. Bouchard had recently graduated from France’s École Polytechnique, where he studied, among other things, Egyptian crafts and techniques; as an army engineer, he was tasked with the slightly more prosaic job of rebuilding some of Fort Julien’s fortifications. On July 15 or 19, 215 years ago, that combination of facts led him to recognize a marked-up, fractured slab of granite among the fort’s rubble, a bilingual decree that we know as the Rosetta Stone, “Rosetta” being the bastardized French name for “Rasheed” (itself a bastardized version of the Coptic “Trashit,” though I’m guessing “Trashit stone” might reduce some of its mythic lustre).

In the depths of the latest US recession, Wall Street had a brain wave: buy up all of those houses that were now conveniently worthless thanks to the financial crisis Wall Street itself had caused and rent them out. Since having a house lie empty is substantially worse for business and neighbourhoods than almost anything else, it wasn’t a crazy idea.

Unfortunately, it seems to be going south in a big way, with returns on rented homes coming in lower than expected, and the possibility of investors who got in on the game late losing money. It’s just a small example of how global financial markets may not mix well with the basic economic task of housing people—as if the meltdown in subprime mortgages weren’t already a decent example of that.

“I draped my pants over my shoulder and put my shoes on my hands and when I tried to grab my shirt I saw the woman who had been clucking her tongue had it in her hand and she and a man from inside of the train helped me get on. I woke up on the platform at Coney Island. I still could not feel my teeth.”

The very best photos of space and space-related phenomena.

How do you kick writer’s block?

Sarajevo was a funny, ambivalent kind of place during the week surrounding the 100th anniversary of the assassination that got the ball rolling on the First World War.

It was, potentially, the biggest tourism draw the city had seen since the 1984 Winter Olympics: an event of global interest, the kick-off to five years’ worth of centenaries commemorating the losses and victories, the deaths and outrages that ended two centuries-old empires and drew the borders we still mostly recognize across the map of Europe.

The biggest thing planned had some real symbolic value: a concert by the Vienna Philharmonic, with a setlist including the Bosnian national anthem, Haydn’s “Emperor Quartet,” written for a Hungarian nobleman, which contains a quote from a previous work he wrote called “Gott erhalte Franz den kaiser,” or “God save Emperor Franz,” as well as Beethoven’s European Anthem as arranged by one of Vienna’s most famous conductors, Herbert von Karajan. Vienna was, of course, the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where Franz Joseph would have take up his throne a few years later, had his car turned a different direction that day, or if Princip had missed.

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