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A rare moment of seriousness

The January/February issue of mental_floss featured an unusually sober, and sobering, article -- the second in a series on global conflicts -- that explained the reasons for the Rwandan massacres of 1994. It was written in clear, straightforward terms, and I remember thinking at the time that maybe tragedies of such magnitude demand that kind of description; there's no point in cluttering it with overblown rhetoric because the atrocities speak for themselves. That thought was in the back of my mind again this weekend while I read "My Parents' Bedroom," a short story in the New Yorker told from the perspective of a nine-year-old child with a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother. Writing with a juvenile narrator, it's easy to slip into cloying, singsong faux innocence; this story, however, is almost baldly simple. It is also the most devastating thing I've read in years.

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History
A Very Brief History of Chamber Pots

Some of the oldest chamber pots found by archeologists have been discovered in ancient Greece, but portable toilets have come a long way since then. Whether referred to as "the Jordan" (possibly a reference to the river), "Oliver's Skull" (maybe a nod to Oliver Cromwell's perambulating cranium), or "the Looking Glass" (because doctors would examine urine for diagnosis), they were an essential fact of life in houses and on the road for centuries. In this video from the Wellcome Collection, Visitor Experience Assistant Rob Bidder discusses two 19th century chamber pots in the museum while offering a brief survey of the use of chamber pots in Britain (including why they were particularly useful in wartime).

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A Tour of the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room
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The Rare Book Room at the New York Academy of Medicine documents the evolution of our medical knowledge. Its books and artifacts are as bizarre as they are fascinating. Read more here.

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