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America’s Greenest Cities

The directors of the documentary ‘Tomorrow We Disappear,’ now playing at the Tribeca Film Festival, on India’s legendary Kathputli slum, the last home to magicians, acrobats, and puppeteers.

“But no, I must stop all this, and tell the story as simply as possible: while troops chased arrested dragged magicians from their ghetto…while bulldozers moved forwards into the slum, a door was slammed shut…but not all the magicians were captured; not all of them were carted off…and it said that the day after the bulldozing of the magicians’ ghetto, a new slum was reported in the heart of the city.”

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Joshua Cogan

It was these words in Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize-winning Midnight’s Children that first brought us to New Delhi’s Kathputli Colony, the legendary slum of magicians, acrobats, and puppeteers. Midnight’s Children captured the first time the slum was destroyed, in the ‘70s during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, but like a futile game of whack-a-mole between artists and the government, Kathputli popped up again just a few months later. 

In 2008 it was announced once again that Kathputli would face demolition, but this time something was different: in exchange for the sprawling Kathputli land, the government was now offering the artists colony free housing in 20-story high-rises.

Like Forrest Gump, South Beach Market prepares their fresh seafood in just about every way possible. But most importantly, eating there will change your mind about fried seafood forever.

If you are dubious about fried seafood—and who isn’t?—we recommend a visit to South Beach Market on the Oregon coast where the Yaquina River flows into Yaquina Bay. Here is irrefutable evidence that fresh seafood, fried right, can be among Earth’s most scrumptious foodstuffs. Jumbo wild prawns, which really are jumbo, are nothing short of magnificent, offering two levels of crunch: first, the crackle of the garlic-infused tempura-batter crust that surrounds them, and then the dense snap of the pink meat itself. The same great crust can be tasted enveloping cod, salmon, tuna, oysters, calamari, halibut, little baby popcorn shrimp, and clam strips.

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Michael Stern

As for the chips half of the “fish and chips” dish, the French fries are perfectly decent crinkle-cuts, but we highly recommend paying extra for onion rings. They come as a variegated tangle that includes perfect, evenly battered hoops, frail squiggles of batter that are slightly onion-flavored, and little lengths of limp onion to which only a dab of batter clings. Poking through this crunchy-sweet vegetable mound is edible ecstasy.

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Michael Stern

Guest Star

Pharrell to Curate Art Show

Pharrell to Curate Art Show Frazer Harrison/Getty

Organizes feminist show at Galerie Perrotin.

Dedicated to “strong, free women,” an upcoming exhibition at the Galerie Perrotin’s third Parisian outpost has enlisted a very happy guest curator—singer Pharrell Williams. After successfully organizing last year’s This Is Not a Toy exhibition at the Design Exchange in Canada, Williams—who has also designed furniture, collaborated with artist Takashi Murakami, and is an avid collector of art—will present a group of 32 artists, half of whom are women. Borrowing its name from Williams’s recently released album, Girl, the show's artists will include Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin, Guerrilla Girls, and Marina Abramovic and will run from May 27-June 25.

Read it at Complex

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Food from Your Favorite Books

Food Mystery

The Search for General Tso

A new documentary premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival explores how and why General Tso’s chicken became a cultural touchstone.

It’s a taste both foreign, and familiar. Chicken is diced into square inches, marinated, and deep-fried in a wok, followed by a quick toss in brown sauce. The sauce is a mélange of flavors—tangy, salty, and sweet—lathered on a crisp shell encasing the warm, tender meat.

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General Tso's Chicken (Ian Cheney)

General Tso’s Chicken has become a staple of American dining; a dish that, were it not for pizza, could be crowned the most popular ethnic food item in the country. And it’s a total cash cow. The dish is carried in most of the 50,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, produced very cheaply, and sold for about $10 a pop, resulting in billions of dollars in tasty revenue.

Ian Cheney’s documentary The Search for General Tso, premiering at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, traces the origins of the beloved Chinese food dish, and examines who the hell General Tso is.

If You Dare

For Sale: The Scariest Island Ever

One Venetian island is the stuff of campfire ghost stories—piles of dead bodies burned, hauntings by plague victims, and a home for the insane. And now, for a price, it can be yours.

How much is a little piece of Hell worth? We might just find out on May 7, when bidding opens for the Venetian Isola di Poveglia, arguably the most haunted island in the world. 

Poveglia Island

Guido Alberto Rossi/Zuma

The 17-acre parcel of land, which has been abandoned since 1979 when the last potential buyer reportedly visited just once and left in the middle of the night, has what one might call a dark past.  Folklore largely shapes the island’s history, and it is hard to separate the truth from much of what is undoubtedly just local lagoon legend.   Some of the best stories about the island are colorful indeed, and not exactly the type of thing one puts on a real estate advertisement, which may be why the island has been so hard to sell.  As they say, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

What is true about the island is that it was twice a quarantine posting where plague victims were shuttered up and left to die, first in the 1700s and again in the 1800s. Infected ships were docked and left to rot. The victims’ bodies were burned in piles all over the island, and some Venetians still call an unpleasant odor a “Poveglia draft,” referring to the legend of the stench of burning carcasses wafting across the lagoon. 

WHAT NEXT?

An Edward Hopper Novel?

Two authors inspired by a Hopper painting are writing a serial story and posting new additions online throughout the month of April.

Have you ever found yourself staring at a painting, building in your mind a world of people, events, and emotions captured in that moment?

All this month two authors have been taking that daydreaming tendency to a new new level by serially publishing an online novella inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting “Office at Night.”

The novella, by Kate Bernheimer and Laird Hart, is in conjunction with the exhibition Hopper Drawing: A Painter’s Process organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art and on exhibit at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis through June 20. Bernheimer is a well-known American fairy-tale writer, and Hunt is the editor of the Denver Quarterly.

The novella is being published on the Walker’s website, with new sections appearing each day through the end of the month. The choice of “Office at Night” is smart, because while at first it seems to depict a mundane office scene, it is pregnant with tension. Plus, the writers had at least one clue from the artist, as Hopper told the Walker he was inspired by his rides on the “L” train in New York City at night, and the “glimpses of office interiors that were so fleeting as to leave fresh and vivid impressions on my mind.”

PIECE OF WORK

The World’s Master Art Forger

The Tribeca Film Fest flick ‘Art and Craft’ paints a crazy picture of a man obsessed with re-creating and donating famous works—and fooling many in the process.

As a self-proclaimed “philanthropist,” Father Arthur Scott has donated hundreds of notable artworks to museums all across the country. Institutions like the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have accepted works by Paul Signac, Alfred Jacob Miller and Louis Valtat. Or have they?

Art and Craft

Sam Cullman/Oscilloscope Laboratories

Each museum registrar heard the same story: Father Arthur Scott’s mother has recently passed away and while his sister—still in Paris—settles the estate, he is there to facilitate her wish to bequest the institution with a piece from her collection.

The works came with the proper paperwork, so no one questioned a thing. After all, promises of money and art are these institutions biggest weaknesses. But what seemed like generous donations turned out to be one of the largest, and most unique, deceptions the art world has ever seen—spanning three decades and over 40 museums. Father Scott wasn’t even his real identity—it is Mark Landis—and those Signacs, Millers, and Valtats weren’t real either.

Winter Trek

Iceland Is Beautiful—and So Weird

A land of fire, ice, and elves, Iceland is a beacon of nature’s majesty and culture. It’s also quite possibly the strangest place ever. And that’s precisely why you should go.

I’m sitting under a lighthouse just outside Reykjavík watching the Northern Lights dance over Iceland’s capital city. The green hues are cascading across the sky like glowing curtains. It’s otherworldly.  

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Brandon Presser

I’m with the writer of the Lonely Planet travel guide to Iceland, the man who literally wrote the book on the country and who says he’s spent countless hours trying to explain the aurora borealis. “It’s indescribable,” he says. It would be hard to argue with that, were it not for the group of British students gazing at the lights a few feet away, one of whom has his own summation: “It looks like God farted.” 

It was an odd, unexpected thing to say. And, it was kind of true. If nothing else, though, the whole exchange encapsulates Iceland, a place where every turn brings another mystifying natural wonder impossible to describe—a land of baffling, beautiful contradictions. How do you explain a place that’s both archaic and constantly changing? Where lava meets ice? That’s both lush with greenery and a frozen tundra? That’s electrifying and calming at the same time?  

Beautiful Places

A Case of Home Envy

OMG, I Want This House

OMG, I Want This House

Seen from the street, this two-story home seems to be yet another suburban house. But on the inside, it's a wonderland of lush gardens, quirky design elements, and bright, airy spaces.

Haute Hampton

OMG, I Want this House

South African Paradise

OMG, I Want This House

Life On the Edge

They Did What?!

Jumping for Freedom

Jumping for Freedom

The authorities are charging the men who parachuted from One World Trade Center. But we should be celebrating them.

Iditarod

Jamaica's Amazing Dogsled Team

Unsanctioned

A Most Illegal Adventure

Foodie Paradise

Belly of the Beast

Spain’s Vegetable Whisperer

Spain’s Vegetable Whisperer

Michelin-starred Spanish chef Rodrigo de la Calle is having a whole lot of fun playing with his food…and he’ll leave no plant untried in the process

Pit Stop

A South Carolina Oyster Shack

Eataly

A Disneyland for Foodies

Kozue

Rehabbing Fukushima’s Food Scene

Drink Up

Paris’s Beer Revolution

Mirror Image

Doppelgängers Do Exist

These People Are Strangers

These People Are Strangers

On a whim, François Brunelle began taking photos of complete strangers who look eerily similar. Over 200 images later, he is going strong all over the world.

Globetrotter

Lush Places

The Scotland of India

The Scotland of India

India has become known for the congested traffic and crowds of the cities. To escape the madness, Indians head to Coorg, a land of lush beauty, traditional food, and—sigh—tranquility.

Antigua

Lush Places: Guatemala's Best City

Island Time

No Shirt, No Shoes ...

Day at the Museum

Art to See Right Now

Bill Cunningham’s Tales of Old NYC

Bill Cunningham’s Tales of Old NYC

Bill Cunningham is known for his photographs of New York’s striking and fashionable residents. A 1968 project placed architecture squarely in the center of the frame too.

Hell Raiders

Every Viking ‘Fact’ Is Wrong

AMERICAN GREAT

Jasper Johns is Back to Work

Nexcite

Sexually-Charged Napalm Art

COLOR SPLASH

Capa in Color

Imbibing

Argentina Bar Crawl

The Absinthe-Minded Buenos Aires

The Absinthe-Minded Buenos Aires

A scattered group of absinthe lovers are beginning to come together in the Paris of South America to make and drink the green fairy. There’s only one problem—it’s largely illegal.

Kigurumi

Laurie Simmons's New Show

A Dunham Doll’s Life

A Dunham Doll’s Life

Artist Laurie Simmons explores the freedom that comes with dressing up like someone entirely different—a doll—in a new exhibit based on the Japanese practice of Kigurumi.

Crazy Places

What a World

Sacrificial Limbs of New Orleans

Sacrificial Limbs of New Orleans

The devout have been making pilgrimages to one historic chapel for over a century, bringing strange offerings like organ replicas, glass eyes, and prosthetics as a prayer for recovery.

What a World

India’s Skeleton Lake

What a World

The Island Ruled by Cats

What a World

Africa's Epic Empty Megachurch

What a World

Arrows Across America

Great Escapes