The Lacquer Box

My wife and I lived in Tokyo for three years. At the end of our time there, we threw a going away party for ourselves. “No gifts,” we told all our friends. Instead, they could bring something for the potluck meal. Oh, and they had to take something away with them. We were giving away everything we didn’t want to bring back to the States: some pots and pans, a table, a bag of...
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The Islamic State and the Terrible Twos

The Islamic State celebrated its one-year anniversary in customary fashion. Other organizations might sponsor parades and make speeches. ISIS spilled blood. A beheading in France, the murder of 38 tourists at a resort in Tunisia, and a bomb blast at a mosque in Kuwait all reminded the world, if it had somehow forgotten, that ISIS isn’t merely interested in securing sovereignty over a particular...
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Refugee World

To paraphrase William Gibson, the post-apocalypse is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed. Many of our post-apocalyptic stories — Mad Max, The Road, World War Z — feature desperate people on the move in a friendless and resource-poor environment. The world hasn’t ended quite yet, but these modern nomads have nearly lost hope. Something terrible has happened in the past, and...
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Stuff

STUFF                     A mother gives away her most cherished possessions and reveals her most closely guarded secrets. Other real-life characters describe their own stuff: a filled-to-bursting storage unit of train memorabilia, an art collection lost to the wrecking ball, a Moscow meeting with Paul Robeson, and a long-lost file box of...
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Asia: On the Rocks

Island disputes are a big thing in Asia. Japan and China both claim the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japan and South Korea tussle over Dokdo/Takeshima. Japan and Russia still haven’t definitively sorted out who owns the Kuriles/Northern Territories. You’d think that these existing island disputes are a sufficient headache. But no: Countries in the region are making the maritime equivalent of...
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Reunification: The View from the North

Reunification, for Koreans, has a mythic quality, like the Promised Land or the Holy Grail. Most Koreans dream of reunification, of a time in the future when the North and the South will join together to recreate the Korean whole that existed before division and Japanese colonialism. It’s a lovely idea, but no one has a very good idea of how to achieve it. There have been many polls in South...
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