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Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

REAL TALK with CAPTAIN RICHARD PHILLIPS

By Abigail Bessler

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Merchant mariner and author of A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea, which detailed his experience being taken hostage by Somali pirates who hijacked his ship in 2009. His story, recently made into an Academy Awards-nominated film starring Tom Hanks, propelled him into the national spotlight for his bravery and his sacrifice for his crew.

On being a captain: “It does have its advantages. While millions of people every day deal with morning rush hour and afternoon traffic, all I have to do is roll out of the rack, climb a ladder, and I’m at the office.”

On pirate attacks: “I’ve always told my crew it’s always a matter of when, not if.”

On pirates boarding the Maersk Alabama: “I looked over and there was the pirate with an AK-47. He fired twice, then lowered the weapon and walked into the bridge saying, ‘Relax, relax, no al-Qaida, just business, relax, just business.’”

On getting kidnapped: “When we came back to do the exchange for the pirate leader, they didn’t let me go. That was when I learned: never trust a pirate.”

On pirates and prom girls:“I felt no sympathy for the pirates. We had a relationship. I mean you put five girls in a limo to prom and you have a relationship. But they didn’t care about my life and I didn’t care about their lives. We knew whose team everybody was on.”

On attempting to escape: “For a time I thought of grabbing the AK-47, but at the time I didn’t know how to operate one. Since then I do know how to operate one. It’ll be a shorter story next time.”

On meeting Tom Hanks: “The only advice I gave him was, if he’s gonna play me, he’s gonna have to put on a little more weight and get a little better looking. He did neither.”

On the largest inaccuracy in Captain Phillips, the movie: “Vermont doesn’t have a four-lane highway.”

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LAUGHING MATTER

A perverb, or an anti-proverb, is a twist on a common idiom that, when distorted, reveals deep hidden wisdom. Below are perverbs contributed by Leah Chernoff, Nathan Kohrman, and Jacob Osborne. 

• You miss 100 percent of the shots you take and subsequently miss.

• Honesty is in the eye of the beholder.

• Don’t count your chickens before you bury the hatchet.

• Pot calling the kettle hackneyed.

• He who laughs last did not understand the punch line.

• Opportunity doesn’t knock twice, but Jehovah’s Witnesses sometimes do.

• The grass is always greener a few days after you coat it in industrial-strength pesticide.

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MAP OF THE MONTH: Asian Lands and Kings 

By Elizabeth Miles

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The name of this map means “A picture of the eastern regions, of Asian lands and kings”. By the time of the map’s creation in 1570, European traders were already fiercely competing for sea routes to China. Navigation technology still having a ways to go, some voyagers would overshoot it and end up in Cathay. Referring to northern China, Cathay (a name popularized by Marco Polo) was thought to be a country separate from real China.

On the way from Europe, explorers would pass today’s Southeast Asia, a region of jagged edges, peninsulas, and islands, labeled on the map as “Malacca.” Nevertheless, adventurous explorers inland would stumble upon the Regio aurea, meaning “beautiful” or “golden” region. Not a bad payoff for an unpredictable journey.

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BIT LIT by Sarah Maslin

The judge shuffled his papers and peered down at the line of protestors. Their matching t-shirts peeked out from under their blazers. The phone number they’d all written in permanent marker on their wrists — their lawyer’s number, to call from jail — had yet to fade. The clerk said: “Docket #3120, Linda Rivera. One count trespassing, one count civil disobedience.” Linda stepped forward. The lawyer representing the protestors whispered something to the lawyer representing the state.  “Your honor,” said the state’s lawyer, “the Commonwealth moves to dismiss the charges upon Ms. Rivera’s payment of a $100 fine.” The lawyer representing the protestors said, “Your honor, we have no objection to that.” Linda turned to the lawyer and whispered something into his ear. The lawyer said:  “And, your honor, my client wishes to speak.” The judge waved Linda forward. She cleared her throat. “Your honor, I would like to explain why I did what I did. I believe in the dignity of all human beings, citizens and non —” The judge cut her off. “Ms. Rivera, you will have your moment to explain yourself, but that moment is not now. Charges dismissed upon payment of $100 fine. Next case.” Later, Linda borrowed money from a local advocacy group to pay the fine, and, after collecting her belongings and saying goodbye to the other protestors, she went home.

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FROM THE BEINECKE: Femail Art

By Chen-Eddy Wang

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In the 1950s, a new way to share art began in the form of “mail art”. By exchanging art via mail, artists could reach beyond a local audience and circumvent the influence and schedules of museums, curators, and galleries. The Canadian artist Anna Banana has created and pioneered mail art for over 40 years. Inventor of the artistamp (using the structure of stamp as an art form), she’s published newsletters and magazines to conglomerate the work of mail artists and to help them connect with each other. Vile magazine (pictured) was one of her ventures. In the introduction to Vile 6, titled “fe • mail • art,” Banana wrote, “Through [mail art] at least, I was able to get response and interaction that I had felt lacking in my pursuit of recognition from more conventional art outlets.” Each Vile issue displays an international aggregation of mail art corresponding to a particular theme.

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