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Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

They're Really Into Dylan, Maybe A Little Too Much
Marjan Osman Garland, The New York Times Book Review | The Dylanologists | May 4, 2014

Bob Dylan said it best, in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview timed to the release of his “Tempest ” album: “Why is it when people talk about me, they have to go crazy?” More than 50 years after he first started attracting fanatical followers, Mr. Dylan was facing down a more brutal and dangerous species of devotee than he had seen before. The fans had social media, and the scholars had computers; en masse, they could track every move he made and every word he wrote, said or sang. “Dylanologist,” once a derisive term for the self-styled expert who sifted through the Dylan family’s garbage cans, was now a word with wide colloquial meaning, if not yet a dictionary definition...

A Heinous Crime, Secret Histories, And A Sinn Fein Leader's Arrest
Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times | Secret Histories | May 3, 2014

For years, the researchers painstakingly recorded and transcribed oral histories from many of the leaders of the factions caught up in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. They pledged absolute secrecy to their subjects until after their deaths.

Carried out under the auspices of Boston College, which was founded in the mid-1800s to serve a growing population of Irish Catholic immigrants, the project aimed to provide a definitive history of a conflict with edges so sharp that people there still fear to speak openly of what they know...

Blood And Mud: A French Soldier's WWI Memoir Vividly Describes Trench Warfare
Marc Wortman, The Daily Beast | Poilu | May 1, 2014

Finally available in English, Poilu, a classic battlefield memoir by a World War I French infantryman, reveals as much as any book can about the ugly realities of war...

Hell Is An Understatement: A Report From The Bloody Crumbling Central Africa Republica
Graeme Wood, The New Republic | Hell On Earth | May 1, 2014

Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), has never been known for the reliability of its public utilities. Most trash is picked through by scavengers, and the remaining mango pits, scraps of plastic, and rusty bottlecaps pile up on dirt roads or get blown into fetid open sewers. But since December, along a desolate stretch of the Avenue de France, the Red Cross has operated an on-demand, white-gloved sanitation service that, within an hour of being called, will show up to collect human bodies, whether chopped up or left intact...

Saks Fifth Ave. Shopper Finds Prison Laborer's Secret Cry For 'HELP' Inside Shopping Bag
Serena Solomon, Huffington Post | A Cry For Help | May 1, 2014

Stephanie Wilson was reaching for a receipt inside a paper shopping bag from Saks Fifth Avenue when she found a letter pleading, "HELP HELP HELP."

The message, written in blue ink on white lined paper, appeared to be a desperate cry from a man who said he made the bag while being unfairly held in a Chinese prison factory more than 7,000 miles away...

The Rise Of The Malibu Movie Colony
Michele Wilens, The Daily Beast | Malibu Tales | April 30, 2014

Welcome to Malibu Colony, a one-mile stretch of beachfront property that has been witness to the shenanigans of the stars for over 80 years. And oh the tales these homes could tell...

Grateful For Bob Weir
Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker | The Other One | April 30, 2014

I went to the Tribeca Film Festival to see “The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir,” because I have always liked Bob Weir, the second guitarist of the Grateful Dead. Usually you would call such a musician a rhythm guitarist, but Weir isn’t anything like a garden-variety rhythm guitarist. To the initial exasperation of his bandmates, who wanted someone to keep time more diligently, he developed one of the most unusual styles in rock and roll, built on lyric asides and cunning contrapuntal remarks that suggest a line of melody travelling through the map of the chord changes...

Why Fear Boko Haram
Eliza Griswold, Slate | Why Fear Boko Haram | April 29, 2014

The Nigerian militant group abducted 234 teenage girls two weeks ago. That's just the beginning...

Warning: This Column Will Offend You
Michael Moynihan, The Daily Beast | Warning: This Column Will Offend You | April 29, 2014

Should students be warned that reading The Great Gatsby might "trigger" a past trauma? The campus censors think so. But they are only protecting your feelings...

A Journalist And A Scientist Break Ground In The G.M.O. Debate
Amanda Little, The New Yorker | G.M.O. Debate | April 28, 2014

There was a trace of mischief in Michael Pollan’s smile as he took the stage of Wheeler Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, last week to introduce a lecture for a course that he co-teaches, with the activist Raj Patel, called Edible Education 101. The auditorium was crammed with seven hundred students, most looking as you might expect young Berkeley food activists to look: wholesome and bright-eyed, visibly eager to help make the global food system “more equitable, healthful and sustainable,” as the course mission states. This group constituted a kind of monoculture, and Pollan was about to introduce an invasive species...