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One hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson went before the United States Senate and asked Congress for a declaration of war against the Central Powers. The impetus for this declaration was Wilhelmine Germany’s return to unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic. Wilson, who had a year earlier campaigned on a promise of keeping the United States out of war, now, in April, asked to send American boys to Europe in order to

fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

More… “Mist, Mountains, and Men”

Benjamin Welton is a freelance writer based in Boston. He is the author of Hands Dabbled in Blood.

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June can be the cruelest month in London . . . if you originally come from Spain. At this point in the year, most cities in the Iberian Peninsula showcase a splendid sun: a warning of the blazing summer that is to come.

But this was not the case in the gayish Soho district. It was a rainy and chilly afternoon as I hurried along, weaving my way through the crowded Shaftesbury Avenue. I was late for my coffee with Robbie Rojo, a tanned and good-looking expat from Cadiz who I knew well from the internet. Still, I had almost no knowledge of him. This is usually the case with porn stars. If you have seen them in action, you know very intimate details about them, but you have almost no idea about who they really are. “Will his demeanor be as wild as his performances on screen?”, I wondered as I looked for him in the Starbucks of Wardour Street.

What brought us together on that gray London day were intellectual concerns. For a long time, men have commercialized the female body through the media, especially in porn. A Netflix show, Hot Girls Wanted, has recently brought many of these stories to light. But what about those men who become objects of pleasure for other men? “Who is the person behind the body? How do you live your life when you become an object of desire?”, I asked Robbie on Facebook. He found my highbrow doubts amusing. He was the first of many. Over the past year, I have been in touch with a good number of gay porn stars. Much maligned sometimes, yet also secretly imitated and revered, these men had many things to say about the ups and downs of a profession greatly transformed by the internet in recent years.

More… “Sacred Monsters”

Ernesto Oyarbide is presently reading for a Dphil in History at the University of Oxford. He regularly writes on contemporary issues around cosmopolitan culture, human identities and anything digital.

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EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Netflix’s newest series, Stranger Things, premiered July 15, and it has swiftly become one the most talked about shows of the summer. Each major media outlet has published their own think pieces, quizzes like “Which Stranger Things Character Are You?” have circulated, and Winona Ryder (who stars in the series) has made her comeback as a magazine cover girl.

There aren’t spoilers in this essay. Or shouldn’t be, unless you consider the lack of information an incredible spoiler (and I hate these type of concessions, because plot is secondary to the creation of character, formation of relationship between audience and narrative, and the feelings depicted and attached to the narrative). The only spoiler I’m going to provide happens by episode three, when teenager Barb goes missing, pulled by a monster into a pool and through to the “other side.” Despite being a minor character, I became infatuated with Barb.

More… “We Got to Talk about Barb”

Melinda Lewis has a PhD in American Culture Studies. She knows more celebrity gossip than basic math and watches too much television.

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Francisco Goya was felled by a mysterious illness in 1792. He didn’t die, he just fell. The illness made him dizzy and disoriented. Goya stumbled; he teetered. He was nauseous. Voices sounded in his head. He was frequently in terror. His hearing began to fail. Soon, he was completely deaf. By all accounts, he was temporarily insane at points. Then he recovered, though he would never regain his hearing.

“Goya and the Altamira Family” Through August 3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Before the illness, Goya had been a successful painter for the Spanish court. He was good, but unremarkable. After the illness, Goya became the extraordinary artist whose paintings — like The Third Of May 1808 — are among the most celebrated works in the history of art. In the late 1790s, Goya began working on a series of prints… More…

The day K. came in and said, “I don’t care anymore,” was a revelation. By then, the communal living space/art collective housing 17 artists and hangers-on that was my home had been battling bedbugs for three months. Only four of the 17 rooms (mine not included) were actually infested, but communal living as it is, we all had to share in the initial bedbug cleansing procedures familiar to anyone who has had or read about bedbugs — the thorough packing all personal items in plastic, the taping of holes and cracks in walls and furniture, the wrapping of each bed in a plastic sack not unlike those used to wrap corpses at homicide scenes. We tried not to let hysteria get the best of us as we emptied our rooms of every doodad, every picture, and watched the mountain of 17 people’s-worth of belongings mushroom in the gallery space. We… More…

We fill absences. This is what we do. Nature has her way of filling up absence with stars, atoms, frogs, dirt, human beings. Human beings, though, have their own curious way of filling absence. When we lived in caves, we filled the vacuum of the unknown with fear. In ancient times, gods filled the unknown. In 16th-century Europe, the artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo filled the unknown with monsters.

“Arcimboldo, 1526–1593: Nature and Fantasy” Through January 9. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

In the darkened rooms of the “Arcimboldo, 1526-1593: Nature and Fantasy” exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., hang strange and unwholesome monster faces. The portraits lining the walls are a perversion of everything we consider to be natural and right and harmonious about the human visage. In Arcimboldo’s “composite heads,” men are… More…

I came across the frog rabbit in the basement of the Petit Palais in Paris. A medium-sized plaster sculpture, the frog rabbit is a hairless beast with a pointy reptilian nose, rabbit ears, long talon-like toes, and a stubby rabbit tail with no fur. He is a monster, though it is unclear whether he bodes something evil or merely something strange.

 

Jean Carriès sculpted “The Frog with Rabbit Ears” in 1891, a couple of years before he met an early death at the hands of an obscure lung ailment the likes of which regularly robbed the world of starving young artists in those days. It was, after all, the fashion: a little art and then a terrible death. It is particularly unfortunate that Carriès wasn’t given a few more years. He was hard at work on his unfinished… More…

It may have seemed like an obvious question at first: How does prey recognize a predator? Joel Berger once performed an interesting experiment to discover just that. When, say, monkeys sound the alert for a nearby raptor, is that a cultural response? Perhaps they had seen it before, or were taught the response by their elders. To test this theory, Berger, a scientist with Wildlife Conservation Society, and his colleagues visited various herds of American bison with recordings of the sounds of predators that the bison would probably have had contact with in the past (wolves) and predators they likely would not have (lions). The American bison as it currently exists lives with very few natural predators, and their only real link to lions is the fact that their genetic ancestors once coexisted with, and were frequently the meals of, the now faraway felines. The sound of the wolves did… More…