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Herschel Grynszpan after his arrest on Nov. 7, 1938. Photograph: o.Ang./Bundesarchiv

An autocrat bent on subverting societal norms. A country on edge, anxious for stability but in thrall to a myth. And an angry young man with a gun.

The tinder, the kindling and the match. The actors were Sturmtruppen and Feuerwehrmann, not Antifa or Proud Boys. The setting was towns like Karlstadt and Kassel, not Charlottesville or Kenosha. Eighty-two years ago, all these players came together to spark a searing and unforgettable performance. November 9th and 10th, 1938: Two nights of fire, destruction, screams and giddy laughter. …


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Photograph by Jason Powers

Greetings from Portland, OR. Until recently, site of the worst urban air quality on the planet.

A week or so ago, before we could no longer go outside, my friend Jacob and I sat in my backyard. Suddenly he pointed up in surprise. “Whoa, look at the Moon!” he said. I chuckled a little: “That’s not the Moon.”

“Oh! What planet is it?”

Jacob grew up in Manhattan, so I suppose he could be forgiven. What he was pointing at, of course, was the Sun: a sullen electric-orange disc pouting down from the sky. Little light emanated from it, though…


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“El Bohemio, Poet of Montmartre (Portrait of Erik Satie)” by Ramon Casas i Carbó

What’s the soundtrack to this groundless moment?

The answer depends on your taste, of course. But it’s probably not classical music, at least the orchestral works written roughly 300 to150 years ago. Many sound ponderous and dinosauric today, artifacts of a time before artists were encouraged to express ambivalence and anxiety. This began to shift around the end of the 19th century, the point at which classical music begins to sound “modern.” And — in no small part — we have Erik Satie to thank for that.

If the art and music of previous eras sought to impose order, rationality…


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Having died only a few days before the close of 2019, it’s an open question whether or not Richard Alpert — better known as Ram Dass — will make it onto major publications’ rankings of “This Year’s Notable Deaths.” But while the spiritual teacher and erstwhile Harvard professor may have written his best-known work — Be Here Now — back in 1971, he deserves a place on such a list today, perhaps now more than ever. …


In these anxious and hyper-partisan times, there’s little that doesn’t feel politicized: The murder of a young University of Iowa student, climate change, even Game of Thrones. Of course, we’re not the first generation to find ourselves in a fraught historical moment, nor were we the first to make pie from the mincemeat of the news cycle. Nearly 90 years ago, as the world appeared to teeter on another precipice, a bizarre and singular crime spree seemed to crystallize the fears of a continent on the brink.

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1931 was an uneasy year all across the globe, but nowhere more so…


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When Ronald Reagan revealed, in 1994, that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease — a finding many already suspected — I felt no compassion towards him whatsoever.

That’s not totally true. Actually, what I did was that I celebrated. It felt like cosmic retribution for his willful ignorance of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the classification of ketchup as a “vegetable” for low-income schoolchildren, and the thousand other casual cruelties that defined his time in office.

Now, I’m not sure how I feel. …


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Natasha Lyonne as Nadia

Is everybody drinking ayahuasca now? In Episode 6 of the Netflix series Russian Doll, Nadia, the character played by the show’s co-creator Natasha Lyonne, does make a passing reference to the dark psychedelic brew that’s sweeping — or not, hold tight on that front — through such cities as Portland, Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Note: If you’re looking for a pop-culture read on the series, let me disabuse you now: I’m not your guy. …


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Yes, this is a generic and stereotypical “My brain on drugs” image.

Moving with unhurried precision, the woman handed me a small wooden pipe and a lighter. Pressing myself more upright on the couch, I spared a nervous glance into the bowl, where a pinch of glassy crystals rested on a bed of dried herbs. I took a breath, slowly exhaled, and raised the pipe to my lips.

As the flame licked down into the bowl, the crystals flared for a moment, then emitted a slight crackle as they released a thick and slightly ominous smoke into the throat of the pipe. The whoosh of sensation into my eardrums was frighteningly swift…

Seth Lorinczi

Based in Portland OR, I write about music, plant medicines and more. I’m at work on a book tracing my roots through the Holocaust; find more at 2-trackmind.com

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