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Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday, August 27th, 2023

Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday, August 27th, 2023
Original artwork by Ezequiel Dominguez

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Item 1: The Gambler Who Beat Roulette

Tosa’s crew didn’t hit the right number on every spin, but they did as often as not, in streaks that defied logic: eight in a row, or 10, or 13. Even with a dozen chips on the table at a total cost of £1,200 (about $2,200 at the time), the 35:1 payout meant they could more than double their money. . .

It was almost as if they could see the future. . .

I spent six months investigating the clandestine world of professional roulette players to find out who Tosa is and how he beat the system. The search took me deep into a secret war between those who make a living betting on the wheel and those who try to stop them—and ultimately to an encounter with Tosa himself.

Item 2: How Capicola Became Gabagool

I spoke to a few linguists and experts on Italian-American culture to figure out why a kid from Paterson, New Jersey, who doesn’t speak Italian, would earnestly ask for a taste of “mutzadell.” The answer takes us way back through history and deep into the completely chaotic world of Italian linguistics.

Item 3: Did Nobody Expect the Spanish Inquisition?

Original artwork by Ezequiel Dominguez
Original artwork by Ezequiel Dominguez
the workings of the real-life Spanish Inquisition—while severe and fanatical—were anything but unexpected. In fact, the Inquisition actually gave thirty days' notice, like an aggrieved apartment manager! This was a thirty-day grace period during which heretics could voluntarily confess and avoid serious punishment. And these "Edicts of Grace" were read publicly after Sunday mass, so everybody expected the Spanish Inquisition. However, with time, these edicts were phased out, anonymous denunciations became more common, and more people were detained without warning, in a more Python-esque manner.


I’m traveling this weekend, so I’m using the occasion to share some of my favorite stories from before I started the newsletter. Apologies to those who follow me closely on social media, as you may have seen them before. Fair warning, I may run some of these oldies-but-goodies posts again when I’m particularly busy or traveling. My hope is that even those who do follow my social media feed might have missed at least one or two of these stories the first time around.

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