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Marlon James’ ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’ Topples Fantasy Tropes



The first installment of Marlon James’ Dark Star trilogy tests the reader’s commitment. “The child is dead. There is nothing left to know.” Of course, that’s not entirely true—620 pages follow. James, a deft stylist with a taste for violence and grand revelation (just look to his Man Booker Prize–winning historical saga, 2014’s A Brief History of Seven Killings), is something like an orchestrator when it comes to inverting any expectations a reader might bring to his work. His symphonies are layered, pulse with heat, and spurn containment from all sides. Early on, one of his characters tells us: “Lie was truth and truth was a shifting, slithering thing.” In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, truth is the most elusive currency of all. Who and what is to be believed?

Our guide is an expert hunter-investigator-mercenary known as Tracker. “My name was my father’s possession, so I left it by his gate,” he explains. The heart and hero of the novel, Tracker has a special gift for “for finding what would rather stay lost”; his nose can trace people by their scent across seemingly impossible terrains and distances. He is also a troubled soul being held captive by an unnamed jailer after failing to find a missing child. That is where Black Leopard, Red Wolf commences; it is narrated with attentive hindsight from his point of view. “What does the bearer do with the thing he can’t bear, throw it off?” Tracker speculates from the dungeon. “Let it crush him underneath?”

Those questions come at the outset of a journey so fat with adventure and emotional complexity it feels mythic in scope. The result is something of a grab bag of inspiration, pulling from J. R. R. Tolkien, Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and George R. R. Martin. Luckily enough, Tracker manages to mostly avoid the crush of evil forces along the way. His travels take him across multiple kingdoms aswarm with flying beasts, cursed children, bush fairies, river witches, shape-shifters, Blood Swamp trolls, and “night demons from an age before this age.”

James doesn’t entirely redraw fantasy’s classic narrative elements here. Instead, he skillfully plays within their parameters, writing with an acrobatic sense of invention to create a story that feels fresh and lived-in. He infuses African history into a folkloric wonderland with the occasional trapdoor—a landscape dense with feeling and inevitable loss. By turns absorbing, messy, and affectingly sharp, Black Leopard, Red Wolf unfolds with a sustained hunger. It is a hero’s tale soaked in blood.

To find the missing child, Tracker joins a ragtag crew. (Their conflicting personalities bring to mind Marvel’s space-age eccentrics from Guardians of the Galaxy.) Tale of the child, though, warrants curiosity: a mysterious orbit of death surrounds him. All who have sought his whereabouts have come to fatal ends. Again, this is James we are dealing with, and even the most spelled-out facts are not entirely what they at first appear. We are to believe the boy is the book’s center—the key to unlocking its dark labyrinth of secrets—but, really, he exists somewhere at the periphery, always out of reach. A puzzling endpoint. James seemingly employs this narrative sleight of hand to test our instincts as readers. What is to be trusted?

James situates the book’s soul in the bond he fuses between Tracker and Leopard, a shape-shifter with “whiskers and wild hair that made him look more lion than panther.” (As the name implies, he can mutate at will into a leopard, which he prefers to human form). When they cross paths after years apart, Tracker entertains Leopard’s request to join the search team. Once brash and stormy, Tracker has matured into a judicious, sensitive protagonist who is prone to bouts of benevolence. That Tracker still harbors romantic feelings for him helps too. “At the very least come because something will intrigue you and it won’t be the coin,” Leopard says to him. “Now speaking of desires …”

As templates go, the ally-adversary-lover relationship Tracker and Leopard forge is one of the book’s strongest distinctions—and may very well be one of literature’s more exciting partnerships in recent memory. It’s rife with sex and sexual tension, with love, vulnerabilty, and wisdom, and you can feel James is at something of a creative summit when he conjures their bond on the page. He writes of Tracker and Leopard’s reunion with a kind of full-body awareness: “I took his hand but he pulled away and grabbed me, pulling in tight. I was ready to say this feels like something from boy lovers in the east until I felt myself go soft in his arms, weak, so weak I barely hugged back. I felt like crying, like a boy.”

Elsewhere, the book reckons with sexuality and gender in thoughtful, studied strokes. Tracker is considered to be shoga, a label for gay men, though queerness, and identity on the whole, is much more fluid, much more beautifully unsettled in James’ universe (our human terms don’t quite satisfy). Shoga men, as he writes, have a woman inside of them “that cannot be cut out”; they are “men with the first desire.” In one telling, Tracker’s uncle describes it as such: “You will be one always on the line between the two. You will always walk two roads at the same time. You will always feel the strength of one and the pain of the other.” It is territory James knows well. In a 2015 essay for The New York Times Magazine, he came out publicly for the first time, writing: “I teach that characters arise out of our need for them. By now, the person I created in New York was the only one I wanted to be.”

It is the naked totality, the intense desire for personal truth, that makes Black Leopard, Red Wolf such a worthy read. It is a book that doesn’t just rise to the moment but captures it.

It is that same naked totality, that intense desire for personal truth, that makes Black Leopard, Red Wolf such a worthy read. It is a book that doesn’t just rise to the moment but captures it. In doing so, James joins a class of black fantasists who have, in recent years, found acclaim in the literary firmament—N. K. Jemisin, Kai Ashante Wilson, and Nnedi Okorafor among them. History is a stubborn gatekeeper, but now that Jemisin has won unprecedented back-to-back-to-back Hugos, it’s harder to argue that her writing is “boring message-fic.” The questions feel more potent than ever: Who gets to tell what stories, and why?

Fortunately, our universe expands and changes, and James’ new fantasy epic fits quite snugly into the genre’s necessary growth. Even so, for all of the book’s technical and narrative brilliance, it falls victim to the gluttony of the genre, which, as one WIRED colleague noted, can feel “uniquely daunting.” But James mostly traverses that sprawl with the complexity of a classical portraitist: He sketches and paints and slathers depth onto a canvas of infinite possibilities, textures, and horrors. It is a history and a world richly and hauntingly imagined. “I made up a language in which to exist,” the poet Elizabeth Alexander once said. Here, Marlon James takes that framing a step further. By offering us a shaky version of the truth, he suggests that our trust in traditional narratives may have been misplaced all along.

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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal




People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in

worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.

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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do




“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach




Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe




Miss Universe Andrea Meza

Miss Universe Andrea Meza





1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru



1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil





1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam



74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021




By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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