Recommended reading / viewing / listening

The fall of MySpace … Women in special operations … ‘Spy girls’ find each other in retirement … The aircraft carrier may be irrelevant … A boring Gorbachev.

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Twilight of the $UPERfluous Carrier
By Henry J. Hendrix and J. Noel Williams | Proceedings | May 2011
“[T]he march of technology is bringing the supercarrier era to an end, just as the new long-range strike capabilities of carrier aviation brought on the demise of the battleship era in the 1940s.”

2. The Long, Lame Afterlife of Mikhail Gorbachev
By Anne Applebaum | Foreign Policy | July/August 2011
“A cautionary tale about what happens when you fail to see the revolution coming.”

3. The FP Twitterati 100
Foreign Policy | June 20
“Here are 100 Twitter users from around the world who will make you smarter, infuriate you, and delight you — 140 characters at a time.”

4. Heavy sentences
By Joseph Epstein | The New Criterion | June 2011
“Learning to write sound, interesting, sometimes elegant prose is the work of a lifetime. The only way I know to do it is to read a vast deal of the best writing available, prose and poetry, with keen attention, and find a way to make use of this reading in one’s own writing. The first step is to become a slow reader.”

5. Decades after duty in the OSS and CIA, ‘spy girls’ find each other in retirement
By Ian Shapira | The Washington Post | June 26
“Doris Bohrer and Elizabeth ‘Betty’ McIntosh met two years ago in a Prince William County retirement community. As their friendship developed, they realized they had both served as intelligence operatives during World War II.”

6. Female Special Operators Now in Combat
By Christian Lowe | Military.com | June 29
“Army Special Operations Command has deployed its first teams of female soldiers assigned to commando units in Afghanistan, and military officials are assessing their initial performance in theater as ‘off the charts.’ ”

7. Beauty and the Beasts: The Sight of a Pretty Woman Can Make Men Crave War
By Rebecca Coffey | Scientific American | June 25
“Show a man a picture of an attractive woman, and he might play riskier blackjack. With a real-life pretty woman watching, he might cross traffic against a red light. Such exhibitions of agility and bravado are the behavioral equivalent in humans of physical attributes such as antlers and horns in animals. ‘Mate with me,’ they signal to women. ‘I can brave danger to defend you and the children.’ ”

8. An A-Z of incredible uses for everyday things
The Guardian | May 7, 2007
“Did you know you can kill weeds with vodka? Remove stains on clothes with aspirin? Make jewellery gleam with tomato ketchup? Here are 40 surprising tips to save you time and money.”

9. Libya mission brings John McCain and John Kerry together again
By Paul Kane | The Washington Post | June 28
“Concerned about what they consider an isolationist and fearful drift in both of their parties, Kerry (D-Mass.) and McCain (R-Ariz.) are advocating an even more forceful role for America in the world.”

10. The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace
By Feliz Gillette | Bloomberg Businessweek | June 22
“It once promised to redefine music, politics, dating, and pop culture. Rupert Murdoch fell in love with it. Then everything fell apart.”

‘I woke with a feeling of agony’

This special series explores the Morgan Library & Museum’s fascinating exhibit, “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives.” Part 2 focuses on Frances Eliza Grenfell, whose parents forbid her to spend her life with the man she loved. So she secretly wrote him letters, spilling her broken heart and feverish longings, page after page after page.

This special Stillness of Heart series explores the Morgan Library & Museum’s fascinating exhibit, “The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives.”

Part 2 focuses on Frances Eliza Grenfell, whose parents forbid her to spend her life with the man she loved. So she secretly wrote him letters, spilling her broken heart and feverish longings, page after page after page.

“I dreamt a long letter came from you, & I opened it, Oh! how well I can see it now, & as I was eagerly beginning the first page, I woke with a feeling of agony, for to have read it in a dream w[oul]d have been a blessing. I slept again; & again a long long letter was brought to me in your hand – I opened it, I found it was my own writing inside – the Journal I had kept for you.”

Examine images of her beautiful diary and listen to the museum’s audio guide here.

Entries in this series:
Part 1: Introduction to the exhibit and Charlotte Brontë
Part 2: Frances Eliza Grenfell
Part 3: Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne
Part 4: Paul Horgan
Part 5: John Newton
Part 6: Mary Ann and Septimus Palairet
Part 7: Walter Scott
Part 8: Bartholomew Sharpe
Part 9: Tennessee Williams
Part 10: John Ruskin

A little closer. Just a little closer.

I write simply because I love to write, and in my words — and probably only in those words — are found my purest passions, desires, fears, loves and ambitions. They’re preserved forever, like a tall tree growing from my grave, infused with my nutrients, gently comforting those who sit under its dark, cool shade. There’s something so comforting about that.

As a composer and voracious reader of short stories, I was amused, intrigued and inspired by a few items that drifted through my news feeds.

The One Story blog recently posted their list of “‘classic’ stories; stories we’d read again and again and still learn from every time.”

It was a neat dodge of Flavorwire‘s request for them to list what they thought were the 10 best short stories ever. Zzzzzzzzzz. Flavorwire loves lists. In May, the website listed their favorite stories of 2011 thus far, and another list named the “10 Novels That Will Disturb Even the Coldest of Hearts.” That was a list I could stand behind.

One Story made a good dual list of “classic stories” — a top-10 list plus a longer list of generally great pieces. Unfortunately, I didn’t see one of my favorites — Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” Also, I’ll admit, there are few stories I’ve never even heard of. Time to get to work. Writer Jim Breslin will certainly be of great assistance. He’s using his blog to review every story on One Story’s long list.

I discovered One Story only a few months ago, and I fell in love at first sight. Instead of publishing a standard journal with several short fiction pieces, the editors select and focus on the no-frills publication of a single story. As they wrote recently, “our goal was to celebrate the form of the short story and support the authors who write them. Now, with over 10,000 subscribers, One Story is more than just a literary magazine — it’s a community of writers and readers that feels like a close-knit family.”

Indeed. I’m very happy to be a part of that family. It’s a good deal. Just $21 for 18 issues a year. I never thought I’d be providing free advertising on this blog, but I’ll make an exception for them. Check them out.

Naturally, reading the completed work of others eventually requires me to ask the reflection in the bathroom mirror: “Where’s my work? Where’s the long promised first, second and third novel? What’s holding me back? Are short stories enough, or I am strong-willed enough, confident enough, and intelligent enough to write the long-ago-conceived yet not-yet-born novel? I have plenty of ideas, but will anyone care about them? Will anyone want to read it?”

In April, GrubDaily posted these concerns from a writer: “I’ve always been a short story writer, but I recently made the plunge and started writing a novel. At first, I thought: ‘Oh, this isn’t going to be that hard. It’s like writing 15 short stories that are all about the same people.’ But of course as I’ve been working on the book, I’m finding it to be much harder than I thought it would be. Do you have any tips for the short-story-writer-turned-novelist?”

Novelist Jenna Blum provided a reassuring response: “As long as your 15 stories are about the same people, the same world, the same subject, you could just group them together and call it a day. But you want to write a more traditionally structured novel from your stories. The good news is, you already know how to do this. If you can write a short story, you can write a novel — because both of them have beginning, middle and end. … The short story contains its own arc. The novel imposes its arc on a series of chapters — or stories.”

Her first big tip: Have a theme. “What are you trying to SAY with what you’re writing?” Check. All of my novel ideas have an overarching message. Her second big tip: Make an outline.

Another piece of advice that I’ve heard countless times and which I shared with others countless times: Write every day. Don’t go to bed without having written something that day. One of my role models, narrative historian David McCullough, said that he was fascinated and inspired by a man who had written 100 books. He asked the man how he had managed to write so many books in his life. The man responded simply, “Four pages a day.” McCullough asked, “Every day?” The man nodded, “Every day.”

I tell myself to write badly, as badly as possible, every day. Somehow, more often than not, I end up writing well. I recently told a friend that I had finally stopped caring whether or not I was a good writer. It was like an oil tanker was lifted from my chest. I could breathe and sleep again. What I wanted to be, at this point, is a prolific, thoughtful and interesting writer, even if no one ever read anything I wrote, even if I was never published. I write simply because I love to write, and in my words — and probably only in those words — are found my purest passions, desires, fears, loves and ambitions. They’re preserved forever, like a tall tree growing from my grave, infused with my nutrients, gently comforting those who sit under its dark, cool shade. There’s something so comforting about that.

I spent many years in the newsrooms of daily newspapers, perfectly situated at the nexus of information from all parts of a tumultuous, tortured, beautiful world. My first great mandate was, as an editor, to intelligently translate and present the events of that world to my print and online readers in a balanced, fair report. It was a titanic challenge every hour of every day, and one I deeply loved.

Occasionally, however, I would take a moment to imagine my future self. In that future I saw myself as a fiction writer, as a novelist. The novels I would write, I thought to myself, would be my essays on civilization, history, love and tragedy. My historical analysis. My humble summation. They would be the rich synthesis of everything I had learned in those newsrooms, everything war, disaster, triumph, destiny and relationships had taught me. Being a serious novelist — an author of literature — is one of the only two serious ambitions I’ve ever passionately pursued.

I’m reminded of what Deborah Eisenberg said in an interview with The Millions. The piece on the author, who was quite recently published in the New York Review of Books, concluded with something I’ve said many times myself: “This is a very interesting moment to be alive, and that is the only thing that makes it bearable.”

Bad writing or not, every day, with every page, I get a little closer. Just a little closer. That tree is getting taller.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Ten facts about Jon Huntsman … Hadrian’s villa was more than a villa … Reeling in a 260-pound Mekong giant catfish … A lost Amazon civilization … Sexy corruption in China.

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Our Lefty Military
By Nicholas D. Kristof | The New York Times | June 15
“The United States armed forces knit together whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics from diverse backgrounds, invests in their education and training, provides them with excellent health care and child care. And it does all this with minimal income gap …”

2. Fulfilling My Dream of Becoming a Diplomat
By Shamim Kazemi | DipNote | June 16
“It allowed me, in my own way, to give back to the country that offered asylum and a new, safe home to my family. It also fulfilled the desire to serve a common humanity that my upbringing had afforded me to appreciate.”

3. Solomon P. Ortiz congressional papers provide trail through 30 years of South Texas history
By Rick Spruill | Corpus Christi Caller-Times | June 16
“The photographs, congressional correspondence, research papers, meeting minutes and other governmental documents span Ortiz’s congressional career, said Thomas Kreneck, the associate director for Special Collections & Archives at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.”

4. Art of lost Amazon culture a surprise
Archaeology News Network | June 2011
“It is one of the most enticing archaeological mysteries of the Americas — a long-overlooked ancient culture that existed for 900 years on an island at the mouth of Amazon River and then disappeared.”

5. Giant catfish caught in Thailand sets new record
By Emily Sohn | Discovery News | June 16
Welshman David Kent caught “a 260-pound Mekong giant catfish … in Thailand. The angler had baited his hook with a mere piece of sweet corn. It took him just under an hour to reel it in.”

6. A Wider View of Authorship: Eroticizing the Past
By Kenny McPhee | The Bombshell :: Bookslut | June 2011
“Early in Eavan Boland’s dazzling new book, ‘A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet,’ she tells a story: when she was a young poet and mother living in the suburbs of Dublin, she went into the city one day and happened to walk by an art gallery where she spied in the window a painting she immediately recognized as her mother’s work — her green vase, her beloved lily-of-the-valley, her pair of gloves.”

7. Election 101: Ten facts about Jon Huntsman and his presidential campaign
By Husna Haq | The Christian Science Monitor | June 21
“Dubbed ‘the Republican Democrats fear most,’ the tall, handsome, cerebral former governor of Utah often draws comparisons to Mr. Obama, the very man he’s struggling to distance himself from. Will that, and his centrist views and Mormon faith, keep him on the margins of the Republican field?”

8. True Stories: They Had Sex So I Didn’t Have To
By Molly Jong-Fast | Nerve | June 14
“A writer comes to terms with the sexual adventures of her parents.”

9. Sex, Buddhism and ballroom dancing: WikiLeaks reveals Beijing underbelly
By Michael Sheridan | The Australian | June 20
“US diplomats used to collect racy gossip linking Chinese leaders with mistresses and corruption, according to leaked cables reporting their conversations with political insiders and journalists.”

10. Hadrian’s buildings catch the Sun
By Eric Hand | NatureNews | June 16
“Hadrian’s villa 30 kilometres east of Rome was a place where the Roman Emperor could relax in marble baths and forget about the burdens of power. But he could never completely lose track of time, says Marina De Franceschini, an Italian archaeologist who believes that some of the villa’s buildings are aligned so as to produce sunlight effects for the seasons.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Look back at the fall of the Soviet Union … Celebrating Clarence Clemons … The fight over the world’s longest river … Che’s diary published … Iraq’s unseen war.

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. The Secret History of Iraq’s Invisible War
By Noah Shachtman | Danger Room :: Wired | June 14
“In the early years of the Iraq war, the U.S. military developed a technology so secret that soldiers would refuse to acknowledge its existence, and reporters mentioning the gear were promptly escorted out of the country. That equipment -– a radio-frequency jammer –- was upgraded several times, and eventually robbed the Iraq insurgency of its most potent weapon, the remote-controlled bomb. But the dark veil surrounding the jammers remained largely intact, even after the Pentagon bought more than 50,000 units at a cost of over $17 billion.”

2. My First Time, Twice
By Ariel Levy | Guernica | June 2011
“After Josh broke my heart, my great regret was not that I had lost my virginity to him, but that I hadn’t. If I was going to be lovelorn, at least I would have liked the consolation of being able to brag that I’d had sex.”

3. New ‘Che’ Guevara diary of the revolution published in Cuba
GlobalPost | June 14
“‘Diary of a Combatant’ documents the three-year guerrilla campaign that resulted in the overthrow of Batista and Castro taking power.”

4. Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ This Year Predicted To Be Largest In History
By Cain Burdeau | HuffPost Green | June 14
“Each year when the nutrient-rich freshwater from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers pours into the Gulf, it spawns massive algae blooms. In turn, the algae consume the oxygen in the Gulf, creating the low oxygen conditions. Fish, shrimp and many other species must escape the dead zone or face dying.”

5. Struggle Over the Nile: A special report
Al Jazeera | June 2011
“It is the world’s longest river. A 7,000-km lifeline for almost 400 million people. It runs through 11 countries, including South Sudan, from the highlands in the heart of Africa to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a source of sustenance, but also of tension — and even potential conflict.”

6. Cold Specks | Holland
By David D. Robbins Jr. | Their Bated Breath | June 13
“This London by way of Toronto singer-songwriter has a voice that is unmistakable. So unmistakable, that as soon as I heard this new track, “Holland”, I knew right away who the singer was. She has a voice that knocks you in the gut, and you’ll never forget it.”

7. If chivalry is dead, blame it on the selfish feminists
By Lucy Jones | The Telegraph | June 15
“Thankfully, there are still men out there who will take your coat, pull out the chair and pay for dinner”

8. Remembering Clarence Clemons
Rolling Stone | June 18
“The legendary E Street Band saxophonist’s life in photos”

9. The Long Breakup
By Kathy Lally and Will Englund | The Washington Post | June 2011
“Twenty years ago, the Soviet Union came to an end. It was a drawn-out and difficult journey, full of passion, hope, anger, betrayal and re-awakening. Between now and the end of the year, The Post will track the major developments, in real time, of the last six months of the U.S.S.R.”

10. Japan Quake Released Hundreds of Years of Strain
By Brett Israel | Our Amazing Planet | June 15
“The March 11 earthquake is the fourth-largest ever recorded in the world. The quake struck off the coast of the Tohoku region of Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami that may have killed nearly 30,000 people.”

‘Cruel mercy and merciless grace’

I awoke this morning thinking about Michelangelo. I don’t know why. Maybe he was in a dream.

I awoke this morning thinking about Michelangelo. I don’t know why. Maybe he was in a dream.

As I tried to piece together the shadows, streaks of memory and sensations that all forgotten dreams leave us, I was reminded of a story from NPR’s Weekend Edition. In April, then-host Liane Hansen spoke to Leonard Barkan, author of “Michelangelo: A Life on Paper,” which, NPR explained, examined the artist’s “old notes, doodles and poems.”

The program’s Facebook page posted photos of two unfinished poems. They’re a little odd but touching. Michelangelo also used the paper for drawings, and those are exquisite.

The last four lines of the second poem continue to haunt me, perhaps because it comes so suddenly to a brutal end:

Cruel mercy and merciless grace
left me alive and cut you off from me,
breaking but not extinguishing our bond;
and not only did they deprive me of your memory …

TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. CHAMPAGNE SUPERNOVA Oasis
2. SPYING GLASS Massive Attack
3. ROXIE Renee Zellweger
4. THE SEA Morcheeba
5. HANDS OF TIME Groove Armada
6. PART OF THE PROCESS Morcheeba
7. PLAYGROUND LOVE Air
8. TRIGGER HIPPIE Morcheeba
9. WHITE FLAG Dido
10. BROTHERS Ry Cooder

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

A bold vision from Joint Chiefs officers … Another look at LBJ … What Voyager 1 has discovered … The new iTunes … 100 facts for Machu Picchu.

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. The Power Broker’s Other Voice
By Jason Sokol | Slate | June 13
“President Lyndon Johnson, domineering and manipulative, lives on in American memory as the classic power broker. … Yet this is not the Johnson who emerges from volumes seven and eight of The Presidential Recordings, a transcription of his phone conversations from June 1 to July 4 of 1964.”

2. The Y Article
By John Norris | Foreign Policy | April 13
“The piece was written by two senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a ‘personal’ capacity, but it is clear that it would not have seen the light of day without a measure of official approval. Its findings are revelatory, and they deserve to be read and appreciated not only by every lawmaker in Congress, but by every American citizen.”

3. Voyager 1 Reaches Surprisingly Calm Boundary of Interstellar Space
By Geoff Brumfiel | Nature and Scientific American | June 15
“The Voyager 1 spacecraft is at the limit of the ‘heliosheath’, where particles streaming from the Sun clash with the gases of the galaxy. Contrary to scientists’ expectation of a sharp, violent edge, the boundary seems to be a tepid place, where the solar wind mingles with extrasolar particles.”

4. Everything You Need to Know About the New iTunes
By Sam Grobart | Gadgetwise — The New York Times | June 13
“Last week, at the opening of its annual developers’ conference, Apple announced iCloud — its new online storage and syncing service for music, photos, files and software. Although not all of its features are available immediately, one part — “iTunes in the Cloud Beta” — is, if you’ve updated to iTunes 10.3.1. Here is a primer about what you need to know, right now, about it.”

5. Looking beyond Obama to ‘The Golden Age’
By Paul Rosenberg | Al Jazeera | June 11
“Obama has so far been a disappointment to many of his supporters, but he has awakened a worldwide need for real change.”

6. So Much More Than Plasma and Poison
By Natalie Angier | The New York Times | June 6
“Among nature’s grand inventory of multicellular creatures, jellyfish seem like the ultimate other, as alien from us as mobile beings can be while still remaining within the kingdom Animalia. Where is the head, the heart, the back, the front, the matched sets of parts and organs? Where is the bilateral symmetry?”

7. 100 facts for 100 years of Machu Picchu: Fact 59
By Catharine Hamm | The Los Angeles Times | June 12
“Hiram Bingham, a Yale professor, came upon the vine-covered ruins on July 24, 1911. Here, then, as we lead up to the century mark, are 100-plus facts about Machu Picchu, its country, its history and its players. We’ve been posting one each of the 100 days leading to the anniversary. Read from the bottom up.”

8. Why you’re wrong about who’s going to be elected president next year
By Tom Casciato | Need to Know | June 10
“It’s 2011, do you know who’s going to win the presidential election next year? The answer is no, you don’t. Even if you predict now that someone will win then, and that person ends up winning, it won’t be because you knew. You don’t know.”

9. The Balance of Melville
By David D. Robbins Jr. | The Fade Out | June 14
“His masterpiece, ‘Le Samouraï’ (1967), the story of a lone contract killer named Jef Costello, played by exquisitely by Alain Delon, seems to work in perfectly balanced pairs.”

10. How NASA Prepares for the Final Space Shuttle Launch
By Denise Chow | Space.com | June 14
“With just one more mission remaining before the end of NASA’s storied 30-year space shuttle, the agency has shifted its focus to the final launch of Atlantis on July 8. But exactly how does NASA get a space shuttle ready to fly?”

TUNES

Tonight I’m spending some time with the blues, specifically with the Texas Blues Café. Check out the line-up and then listen here.

1. The Insomniacs — Hoodoo Man
2. Carolyn Wonderland — Ain’t Nobody’s Business
3. Los Super Seven — Heard It On the X
4. Robbie King Band — Classic Case of the Blues
5. Jack County — Lonesome Radio
6. BB Chung King and the Budda Heads — Still the Rain
7. The Fabulous Thunderbirds — Painted On
8. Red Rooster Club — Fool for Your Stockings
9. Red Rooster Club — Lie to Me
10. Paul Rogers — Muddy Water Blues
11. Preachers Stone — Mother to Bed

Under siege

This week the Associated Press ran a list from the National Trust for Historic Preservation naming this year’s endangered sites. Seventh on the list was the Civil War’s Fort Gaines in Alabama.

This week the Associated Press ran a list from the National Trust for Historic Preservation naming this year’s endangered sites.

Seventh on the list: “Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Ala. This fortress that played a pivotal role in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay is threatened as the shoreline erodes as much as 50 feet a year.”

Read the entire list here, and then learn more about Fort Gaines here.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

History’s biggest volcanic explosions … Great gadgets for Father’s Day … Video of an asteroid … Revisiting McNamara’s War … Regrets of dying men and women.

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Regrets of the Dying
By Bronnie Ware | Inspiration and Chai
“For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. … When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five. …”

2. Arab revolutions mask economic status quo
By Mark LeVine | Al Jazeera | June 10
“Despite talk of a ‘new social contract’, financial powers seek to maintain their grip on the poor of the Middle East.”

3. Our Troops Abroad: What Does a Soldier Need to Read?
By Elizabeth D. Samet | The New Republic | June 11
“Few of us have been castaways, but we’ve all spun variations on the exercise of figuring out whatever is essential to the life of our minds.”

4. McNamara’s Non-War
By James Burnham | National Review | Sept. 19, 1967
“In the form of a statement, August 25, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense McNamara offered the most elaborate apologia yet made by the Johnson Administration for, specifically, “our conduct of the air war in Vietnam,” and, by implication, for the Vietnam policy in general. … Before trying to pass judgment on his conclusions, it is advisable to make sure we understand what he is saying.”

5. NASA Spacecraft Captures Video of Asteroid Approach
Jet Propulsion Laboratory | June 13
“Scientists working with NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have created a new video showing the giant asteroid Vesta as the spacecraft approaches this unexplored world in the main asteroid belt.”

6. After 90 Years, a Dictionary of an Ancient World
By John Noble Wilford | The New York Times | June 6
“Ninety years in the making, the 21-volume dictionary of the language of ancient Mesopotamia and its Babylonian and Assyrian dialects, unspoken for 2,000 years but preserved on clay tablets and in stone inscriptions deciphered over the last two centuries, has finally been completed by scholars at the University of Chicago.”

7. Just back: the painted houses of Peru
By Jonathan Carr | The Telegraph | June 10
“Lurid red and orange paint had been daubed everywhere. Villagers throughout Cajamarca region, like everyone else in Peru, were facing a choice between two alleged evils. … To help in the decision-making process, the villagers’ shacks had been marked with giant crosses. But there were no pleas for God to show mercy. This was not that kind of plague. Rather, the names of politicians had been invoked: left-wing Ollanta in red, right-wing Keiko in orange. Soon, the people were to decide which of the two would become president. ”

8. Chekhov on Judgment
By David D. Robbins Jr. | The Fade Out | June 10
“Dover Koshashvili’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s short novella “The Duel”, a period drama about the residents of a seaside town in the Caucuses, correctly finds the tone set by the original. Take it from a Chekhov lover, the best thing about the Russian’s writing is his ability to arrive at a point of discovery without necessarily providing an apotheosis.”

9. The 10 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History
Our Amazing Planet | June 10
“June 15, 2011, marks the 20th anniversary of Mt. Pinatubo’s cataclysmic eruption. … On this anniversary, we countdown the largest volcanic eruptions in history as measured by the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), a classification system somewhat akin to the magnitude scale for earthquakes.”

10. 15 Fantastic Gadgets for Father’s Day
By Doug Aamoth and Chris Gayomali | Time | June 13
“Whether dad loves to grill, fish or take on projects around the house, any number of these geeky goodies are sure to be a hit.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Opening a door for a woman … Learning how to be a Marine … Lessons from Cosmo … Peru’s new president … A poem from Rimbaud

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Mass Arrest: Jupiter’s Early Migration Could Explain Mars’s Small Size
By John Matson | Scientific American | June 6
“The wandering orbit of Jupiter at the dawn of the solar system may have had wide-ranging effects”

2. Orgasm Guaranteed
By Katherine Goldstein | Slate | June 6
“What I learned while freelancing at Cosmopolitan.”

3. Through the Ranks: Private First Class
By Colby Brown | Marines Blog | May 23
“On an average day, [Pfc. Clark Kirkley] wakes up between 4 to 6 a.m. He has an hour to eat, shave, shower and prepare his gear before standing post. After being relieved of his post, he has the afternoon to himself, which is usually comprised of a nap and food. After dinner, he has another post duty, after which he sleeps. Kirkley wakes a few hours later to start the process over again.”

4. Why Are There No Female Political Sex Scandals?
Guanabee | June 6
“The obvious answer here is that we live in a society with a double standard against women.”

5. The Adventures of Aladdin
The Brothers Grimm | The EServer Connection
“‘One day, as he was looking for wild figs in a grove some way from the town, Aladdin met a mysterious stranger. This smartly dressed dark-eyed man with a trim black beard and a splendid sapphire in his turban, asked Aladdin an unusual question: ‘Come here, boy,’ he ordered. ‘How would you like to earn a silver penny?’ ”

6. Humala won’t be a Chàvez — for now
By Andres Oppenheimer | Miami Herald | June 11
“There are many similarities between the two men, but also many differences. Let’s start with the resemblances: in addition to their personal histories, both started out sounding conciliatory and promising to serve just one term. … But there are also big differences in the circumstances that surrounded the two men’s climb to the presidency.”

7. After the Flood
By Arthur Rimbaud, translated by John Ashbery | The New York Review of Books | June 2011
“No sooner had the notion of the Flood regained its composure / Than a hare paused amid the gorse and trembling bellflowers and said its prayer to the rainbow through the spider’s web.”

8. The Ins And Outs Of Opening A Door For A Woman
By Brett and Kate McKay | Art Of Manliness | June 8
“Most men grasp basic etiquette but how do you cope with those tricky situations – revolving doors or doors that push in rather than pull out? Should you hold the door open for others after your date has exited?”

9. Probes Suggest Magnetic Bubbles at Solar System Edge
Jet Propulsion Laboratory | June 9
“Observations from NASA’s Voyager spacecraft, humanity’s farthest deep space sentinels, suggest the edge of our solar system may not be smooth, but filled with a turbulent sea of magnetic bubbles.”

10. ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and its 25 contributions to pop culture lore
By Jen Chaney | Celebritology | June 10
“[A] writer for the Atlantic has suggested that we all need to ‘get over’ our Bueller obsession because, really, the beloved John Hughes comedy is just the story of an entitled kid who was nothing like any of us were in high school. … But this John Hughes movie — perhaps the best one the filmmaker ever made — has endured, rightfully, for a number of reasons.”