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In late January in California, in the East Bay, the fences along the streets that I walk are sporadically punctuated with blooming jasmine. The scent is sweet but not heady: a spring scent, reminding me of forsythia, or of the mock-oranges — Philadelphus lewisii, discovered by (and named for) the voyageur Meriwether Lewis in some ditch of eastern Oregon. It’s pleasant, muted yet pervasive, calm. The fences they adorn, however, are anything but subtle. Some are made of board, rough and unpainted, just barely standing, aided by wire or many, many appended nails. Others are bare chain-link, the galvanized wire mesh epitomizing a no-nonsense, function-before-status period of this bungalow-belt neighborhood in Oakland.

This is not atypical. Flowers in January, brilliant sunlight, a sense that you can walk down the street wearing a t-shirt almost any day of the year and not be cold beyond reason. Nor, for that matter, will you be stared at for having made a social or fashion faux pas. Just as the ramshackle wood fence and the no-nonsense mesh fence still stand unremarked upon, taste in clothes is equally unseen. Cars come and go on the street. Drivers hold up hands against the setting sun or flip down sunshades, and all is the same, though one may drive a new BMW, and one a 1980s Toyota Corolla. Though one may wear Gucci and Prada or Tom Ford and another Hanes and Goodwill. And critically, there will be no correlation. Mr. Hanes may be in a Porsche Carrera, and Mr. Ford might be behind the wheel of a Honda Accord. More… “Jasmine and the Good Life”

Alexander Craghead is a historian of design and place. His writing and photography has appeared in regional and national publications, including BOOM: A Journal of California, Railroad Heritage, Trains, and is the author of The Railway Palaces of Portland, Oregon: The Architectural Legacy of Henry Villard(The History Press, 2016). He currently teaches in the American Studies program at University of California Berkley, where he is also a doctoral candidate.

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Only six miles from the Strip, taking I-15 northeast of downtown Las Vegas on the way to Apex, you are suddenly surrounded by the Mojave. As if a vast space on the map had yet to be filled in, endless dusty plains nestle beside the Black Mountains with little on the horizon but scrub and yucca, pebbly arroyos, a spare barrel cactus, creosote, and the occasional tumbleweed. The divide between metropolis and wilderness is stark.

Riding through this desert, you pass scrapyards and gravel pits, Nellis Minimum-Security Federal Prison, and shipping warehouses of companies such as Sysco and Amazon. There’s a VA medical center, radio towers, and the Meadow Gold Dairy bottling plant with its shimmering neon sign parodying a casino’s. Billboards advertise personal injury lawyers, topless bars, bail bonds, and machine gun ranges.

More… “Stripped”

Will Cordeiro has work in various genres appearing or forthcoming in over 100 publications, including Best New Poets, Blue Earth Review, Copper Nickel, Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Fourteen Hills, Nashville Review, National Poetry Review, New Walk, [PANK], Phoebe, Poetry Northwest, Territory, and Zone 3. He is grateful for a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, a scholarship from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a Truman Capote Writer’s Fellowship, as well as residencies from ART 342, Blue Mountain Center, Ora Lerman Trust, Petrified Forest National Park, and Risley Residential College. He received his MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University. He lives in Flagstaff, where he is the faculty in residence and teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University.

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I was strolling through a department store recently, killing time before meeting a friend, when I became lost in the maze of cosmetic counters. I was not literally lost, of course. I could make my way past the makeup into the shoe department blindfolded. The problem is when I’m not blindfolded. That’s when my head gets turned. Although I know, intellectually, that the makeup sold in this labyrinthine space is the same as what I can buy in the drugstore for a fraction of the price, I am unable to resist the fancy packaging and the placards advertising free gifts and special enzyme action. I am seduced into believing that these products will make me, in the immortal words of Oprah, “as cute as I can be.”

 

So there I was, loitering among the age-defying moisturizers, when a young woman… More…

There is another class of foods we frequently eat without thinking about, but for very different reasons. These are luxury foods. They are wholesome, good, even healthy foods but, because they’re fancy, we almost never consider their creation. We assume they have to be crafted with a certain level of quality, but beyond that, do we think about how caviar is harvested? How champagne is fermented? How salmon is smoked?

Let me give you an example of how little people think about smoked salmon by providing a little quiz. If all smoked salmon is hot smoked or cold smoked, how is lox smoked? Answer: it’s not. Lox isn’t smoked at all — it’s simply cured in a brine that can keep it safe to eat without refrigeration for up to a year. This also means that lox isn’t simply a tasty pairing with cream cheese, you pretty much have to… More…

 

There’s an international battle going on. The prize is height, width, rotation. Its weapons are not guns, nor tanks, nor arrows. The weapons of this battle are wheels. Ferris wheels.

This year, Germany will unveil the Great Berlin Wheel. Upon its completion, the wheel will be 606 feet high — as high as two football fields are long, as high as three Niagara Falls. It will be taller than what’s currently the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, the Singapore Flyer, a soon-to-be-disappointing 541 feet high. This year, China also plans to unveil the Beijing Great Wheel. At an awesome 682 feet high, it will be taller than both the Great Berlin Wheel and the Singapore Flyer (which only debuted as the world’s tallest Ferris wheel last year).

China has, in fact, built wheels in six cities… More…

 

November 19 is one of the only unsung days of the year Hallmark hasn’t yet exploited: World Toilet Day. We spend about three years of our lives sitting on a toilet. Though we in the Western world may not realize it, that white piece of flushable porcelain is one of man’s best friends. We sit on its haunches morning, noon, and night, usually between six and eight times a day. It’s there for us after six-packs of beer, dried prunes, and bad Mexican food; through late nights and parties, bouts of nervousness and morning sickness; in sickness and in health. A good American Standard rarely lets us down and when it does, we just yank its chain and it dutifully begins to work again. These bad boys put up with our shit and rarely complain.

But some 2.6… More…