The King of Kowloon

For years Tsang Tsou-choi daubed his eccentric demands around Hong Kong, and the authorities raced to cover them up. But as the city’s protest movements bloomed, his words mysteriously reappeared:

The King of Kowloon’s transformation – from local crank to icon – began in the fervid months leading up to Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. The atmosphere was a mixture of nostalgia and nervous hope, as Hongkongers began to explore their unique identity. Against that backdrop, the King of Kowloon – a subversive, individualistic, rebellious character – began to be seen as a personification of Hong Kong’s particular traits.

During this period, he was often accompanied by a well-known art curator, Lau Kin-wai, a bon vivant with a taste for showmanship. He brought Tsang Tsou-choi brushes and ink, and went out on his calligraphy expeditions with him to photograph his work. Lau, a celebrated figure in the art world, delivered lunch boxes to Tsang’s fetid flat, and even went so far as to strap his sandals on to his unwashed feet.

In April 1997, Lau organised a solo exhibition of work by the King of Kowloon. Since it was impossible to move Tsang’s normal canvas – the city itself – into a gallery, Lau gave Tsang smaller, more saleable objects to paint, such as paper lanterns, glass bottles, a copper and – prophetically – an umbrella. Tsang, delighted with the attention his work was getting, covered these pieces in his distinctive poor man’s characters. At the opening, the King clearly enjoyed the limelight, beaming as he was surrounded by reporters. As journalists called out questions about his art, and whether he expected to regain his family holdings, he shouted, “Fuck off!” and proclaimed himself owner of everything within eyeshot.

Author: Louisa Lim
Source: The Guardian
Published: Jun 23, 2022
Length: 19 minutes (4,800 words)

Who Owns Einstein? The Battle For the World’s Most Famous Face

Simon Parkin manages to make the rather dense topic of publicity rights both fun and accessible in this fascinating look at who owns Einstein’s face.

In the mid-1980s, the university began to assert control over who could use Einstein’s name and likeness, and at what cost. Potential licensors were told to submit proposals, which would then be assessed by unnamed arbitrators behind closed doors. An Einstein-branded diaper? No. An Einstein-branded calculator? Yes. Anyone who did not follow this process, or defied the university’s decision, could be subject to legal action.

Source: The Guardian
Published: May 17, 2022
Length: 25 minutes (6,331 words)

The Lost Jews of Nigeria

Nigeria isn’t just the most populous nation in Africa; over the past few decades, as Samanth Subramanian details in this sprawling travelog, it’s become home to the largest community of Jews in the sub-Saharan part of the continent. But while this burgeoning community may not yet have Israel’s official recognition, its faith isn’t just syncretic — it’s as searching and adaptable as Judaism always has been.

During Rosh Hashanah, when the shofar – the ram’s horn – had to be blown to inaugurate the new year, no one knew what sound to produce. A single, long blast? Several short ones? (Later, an audio tape arrived from overseas to solve that dilemma.) When Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, came around, and when Ben Avraham still owned no siddur, they read from the Book of Lamentations instead, because it felt appropriately bleak. On Hanukah, they lacked a dreidel, the four-sided spinning top that is part of a game played during the festival. “Instead,” Ben Avraham said, “we used the lid from a pen.”

Source: The Guardian
Published: Apr 26, 2022
Length: 26 minutes (6,635 words)

A Day in the Life of (Almost) Every Vending Machine in the World

Tom Lamont’s insightful essay makes you consider both the people standing in front of the vending machine and those behind its inception.

The midget gems could go anywhere, really, and today he decided to give them a try in primetime – halfway along, halfway up. In vending, this part of the job, as delicate as flower arrangement, is known as planogramming.

Author: Tom Lamont
Source: The Guardian
Published: Apr 14, 2022
Length: 26 minutes (6,580 words)

‘In My 30 Years as a GP, the Profession has Been Horribly Eroded’

This is an insightful first-person account of the shifting role of an English doctor. The comparison offered — 30 years apart — tells a powerful story. 

Today, unlike 30 years ago, all patients are strangers and, as my catchment area now extends into different London boroughs, even the places I go are unfamiliar. Gone is the relationship between my community and me. Instead, I am part of a gig economy, as impersonal as the driver delivering a pizza. I ended the shift with a profound sense of loss and sadness.

Source: The Guardian
Published: Feb 22, 2022
Length: 14 minutes (3,703 words)

‘The Casino Beckons’: My Journey Inside the Cryptosphere

Sarah Resnick discovers that not everyone in the world of cryptocurrency is a “white Elon Musk type.” For many people, taking a gamble on coins is the only path they can see to escape.

The point is not that people are leaving their abject and exploitative jobs for crypto, but that many wish they could, if only they had enough money. That’s why they’re here.

 

Source: The Guardian
Published: Mar 22, 2022
Length: 20 minutes (5,100 words)

Super-Prime Mover: Britain’s Most Successful Estate Agent

“The biggest sales are quietly negotiated by a small group of extremely well-connected agents concealed behind company names invented to imply upper-class British discretion.”

Source: The Guardian
Published: Jan 27, 2022
Length: 25 minutes (6,380 words)

How the Speed of Climate Change is Unbalancing the Insect World

“The climate crisis interlocks with so many other maladies – poverty, racism, social unrest, inequality, the crushing of wildlife – that it can be easy to overlook how it has viciously ensnared insects.”

Source: The Guardian
Published: Jan 11, 2022
Length: 12 minutes (3,092 words)

Burying Leni Riefenstahl

One woman’s lifelong crusade against Hitler’s favorite filmmaker.

Source: The Guardian
Published: Dec 9, 2021
Length: 26 minutes (6,500 words)

What Lies Beneath: The Secrets of France’s Top Serial Killer Expert

Stéphane Bourgoin is a bestselling author in France, known for his expertise in serial killers and extensive interviews with more than 70 of them. Then a group of strangers began to investigate his past.

Source: The Guardian
Published: Nov 9, 2021
Length: 30 minutes (7,721 words)