American Roulette

'We are living in a state of moral truce, armed to the teeth with ideas.’

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Toys Are So Boring

Playing in the rubble of a demolished building on a recent hot day here, two young boys staged a fight with toy guns.

When a young Syrian girl walked past them, they pounced on her, knocking her to the floor and pushing their toy rifles against her head. “I’m going to kill you, whore,” one of the boys shouted before launching into sound effects that imitated a machine gun.

The other boy quickly lost interest and walked away. “Toys are so boring,” he said. “I have real guns upstairs.”

—Ceylan Yeginsu, The New York Times, “From Turkey, ISIS Draws Steady Stream of Recruits

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Because There Is Nothing They Will Not Peer Into

In Kandahar Province — where there are at least eight in the city of Kandahar alone and more in the districts — residents say the insurgents call [the surveillance blimps] “frogs” because their big eyes are ever watchful, or “shameless” because there is nothing they will not peer into. (The residents in Helmand have their own name for them: “milk fish” because of their fins and milky color.)

—Graham Bowley, The New York Times, “Spy Balloons Become Part of the Afghanistan Landscape, Stirring Unease

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“We Are In Pursuit Of The Criminal Element”

Among Black Asphalt’s features is a section called BOLO, or “be on the lookout,” where police who join the network can post tips and hunches. In April, Aurora, Colo., police Officer James Waselkow pulled over a white Ford pickup for tinted windows. Waselkow said he thought the driver, a Mexican national, was suspicious in part because he wore a University of Wyoming cap.

“He had no idea where he was going, what hotel he was staying in or who with,” Waselkow wrote. The officer searched the vehicle with the driver’s consent but found no contraband. But he was still suspicious, so he posted the driver’s license plate on Black Asphalt. “Released so someone else can locate the contraband,” he wrote. “Happy hunting!”

—The Washington Post, “Stop and Seize

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Fuck The Police, Part ∞

A 55-year-old Chinese American restaurateur from Georgia was pulled over for minor speeding on Interstate 10 in Alabama and detained for nearly two hours. He was carrying $75,000 raised from relatives to buy a Chinese restaurant in Lake Charles, La. He got back his money 10 months later but only after spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer and losing out on the restaurant deal.

A 40-year-old Hispanic carpenter from New Jersey was stopped on Interstate 95 in Virginia for having tinted windows. Police said he appeared nervous and consented to a search. They took $18,000 that he said was meant to buy a used car. He had to hire a lawyer to get back his money.

Mandrel Stuart, a 35-year-old African American owner of a small barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Va., was stunned when police took $17,550 from him during a stop in 2012 for a minor traffic infraction on Interstate 66 in Fairfax. He rejected a settlement with the government for half of his money and demanded a jury trial. He eventually got his money back but lost his business because he didn’t have the cash to pay his overhead.

—The Washington Post, “Stop and Seize

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Pockmarked Grandma’s Beancurd

"Ma" stands for "mazi" (Chinese: mázi, 麻子) which means pockmarks. "Po" is the first syllable of "popo" (Chinese: 婆婆, pópo) which means an old woman or grandma. Hence, mapo is an old woman whose face is pockmarked. It is thus sometimes translated as "pockmarked grandma’s beancurd".

According to Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook: “Eugene Wu, the Librarian of the Harvard Yenching Library, grew up in Chengdu and claims that as a schoolboy he used to eat Pock-Marked Ma’s Bean Curd or mapo doufu, at a restaurant run by the original Pock-Marked Ma herself. One ordered by weight, specifying how many grams of bean curd and meat, and the serving would be weighed out and cooked as the diner watched. It arrived at the table fresh, fragrant, and so spicy hot, or la, that it actually caused sweat to break out.”

Nowadays, “Mapo Dofu” restaurants open at several locations in Chengdu, with one on Xiyulong St. and another near the Qingyang Gong Temple to serve the best version. In 2005, the restaurant near Qingyang Gong Temple was burned down in a fire.

—Wikipedia, “Mapo doufu