Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The secrets of the cuttlefish / The nine lives of ‘Cat Person’ / Giving up caffeine / Explaining Jerry Seinfeld’s success / Replacing Reagan with Trump in Texas

This week: The secrets of the cuttlefish / The nine lives of ‘Cat Person’ / Giving up caffeine / Explaining Jerry Seinfeld’s success / Replacing Reagan with Trump in Texas

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. Did a cuttlefish write this?
By Veronique Greenwood | The New Tork Times | July 2021
“Octopuses and squid are full of cephalopod character. But more scientists are making the case that cuttlefish hold the key to unlocking evolutionary secrets about intelligence.”

2. Gender neutral passports are coming, but not everyone will choose an ‘X’
By Kate Sosin | The 19th | July 2021
“Many fear the third gender option could invite harassment, discrimination, and even violence while traveling.”

3. ‘Cat Person’ and Me
By Alexis Nowicki | Slate | July 2021
“Kristen Roupenian’s viral story draws specific details from my own life. I’ve spent the years since it published wondering: How did she know?”
Also see: The ‘Cat Person’ debate shows how fiction writers use real life does matter

4. The invisible addiction: Is it time to give up caffeine?
By Michael Pollan | The Guardian | July 2021
“Caffeine makes us more energetic, efficient and faster. But we have become so dependent that we need it just to get to our baseline”

5. Why Is Jerry Seinfeld One of the Most Successful Stand-Up Comedians of All Time?
By David Steinberg | LitHub | July 2021
“Young comics who think they’re going to be like Seinfeld don’t realize the years he’s put into it. He’s like the virtuoso cellist Pablo Casals—he doesn’t stop practicing, he doesn’t stop trying new things.”

6. Why the guillotine may be less cruel than execution by slow poisoning
By Janine Lanza | The World | October 2019
“From the stake to the rope to the firing squad to the electric chair to the gas chamber and, finally, to the lethal injection, over the centuries the methods of execution in the United States have evolved to make execution quicker, quieter and less painful, both physically and psychologically.”

7. Killing Reagan: How American Conservatives Replaced Their Heroes With Trump
By Christopher Hooks | Texas Monthly | July 2021
“At a conservative gathering in Texas, two Florida Men are the winners, while the movement itself seems adrift.”

8. The Movies Are Back. But What Are Movies Now?
By A.O. Scott | The New York Times | July 2021
“Cinephiles and streaming fans can both claim victory. But as we better understand the new screen culture taking shape, it looks like we may all lose in the long run.”

9. Rolling Thunder Revue: American Multitudes
By Dana Spiotta | The Criterion Collection | January 2021
“Scorsese’s documentary about Dylan’s origins and 1965 turn from acoustic to electric music, the director curates the archival footage to make an argument about how the tensions of the American cultural moment are a crucial part of the story of Bob Dylan.”

10. Venus
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2013-2018
Also see: The Eye | The Microscope | The Invention of Radio | Prophecy

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The history of the ‘Macarena’ / World War II and shark obsession / The true importance of the French and Indian War / The last U.S. commander in Afghanistan / The no-till garden

This week: The history of the ‘Macarena’ / World War II and shark obsession / The true importance of the French and Indian War / The last U.S. commander in Afghanistan / The no-till garden

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. The making of ‘Macarena,’ the Spanish smash hit that got the world dancing
By Sergio Del Amo | El Pais | July 2021
“In 1996, Antonio Romero and Rafael Ruiz shot to the top of the US charts with a remix of their song and stayed there for 14 weeks; 25 years later, they look back on the highs and lows of their runaway success”

2. Before Shark Week and Jaws, World War II spawned America’s shark obsession
By Janet M. Davis | The Conversation | July 2021
“The monumental wartime mobilization of millions of people placed more Americans into contact with sharks than at any prior time in history, spreading seeds of intrigue and fear toward the marine predators.”

3. The War That Made Our World
By Ross Douthat | The New York Times | July 2021
“The war that evicted the French from North America was not only incredibly fascinating but also one of history’s most important wars. Indeed, from a certain perspective, it was more important than the American War of Independence”

4. The Last Commander
By James Kitfield | Politico Magazine | July 2021
“General Austin ‘Scott’ Miller found a new way to push the Taliban back in Afghanistan. Then, instead of pressing the fight, he became the man in charge of pulling America out.”
Also see: ‘In the End We Felt Betrayed’: Vietnamese Veterans See Echoes in Afghanistan
Also see: What America Didn’t Understand About Its Longest War

5. Looking for Love in a Prison Cell
By Elizabeth Greenwood | LitHub | July 2021
“He gets an allotted number of monthly phone minutes, and once he has spoken to his family and lawyers he spends the remainder on his stalkee. My phone once documented eight missed calls from the prison over the course of one evening.”

6. The historical precedent of U.S. wartime evacuations
By Monica Campbell | The World | July 2021
“The U.S. has a history of evacuating wartime allies — helping the Vietnamese in 1975, and then Kurdish refugees and Kosovo Albanians in the 1990s. Guam, a U.S. territory, is where some refugees have been taken before being processed and resettled in the United States.”

7. Bringing Up Baby: Bones, Balls, and Butterflies
By Sheila O’Malley | The Criterion Collection | July 2021
Bringing Up Baby is the silliest thing to happen to American comedy, too, and has been a reminder for eighty-three years (and counting) of how necessary and sneakily profound silliness can be.”

8. The case for the no-till garden
By Adrian Higgins | The Washington Post | July 2021
“Many gardeners have discovered that, by not disturbing the soil, they can grow vigorous vegetables and other plants with fewer fertilizers and a reduced need for watering and weeding.”

9. How to Tell if Extraterrestrial Visitors Are Friend or Foe
By Avi Loeb | Scientific American | July 2021
“They’ll most likely be robotic and guided by AI — so we’ll need our own AI to figure them out”

10. Papal Infallibility
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2008-2020
Also see: Queen Zenobia | Dante’s Inferno | The Translation Movement | Tacitus and the Decadence of Rome

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The business of writing / The song of the Cuban protests / The editor of the world’s most famous crossword puzzle / How to be back in the airport / A 150-year old fragrance is back

This week: The business of writing / The song of the Cuban protests / The editor of the world’s most famous crossword puzzle / How to be back in the airport / A 150-year old fragrance is back

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. ‘Your evil revolution’: How a reggaeton anthem inspired Cuba protests
By Nancy San Martin and Mimi Whitefield | National Geographic | July 2021
“‘Patria y Vida’ turns a Castro slogan on its head, inspiring thousands to demand reform in the island nation”

2. The Business Side of Being a Writer
By Susan Orlean | Medium | July 2021
“Being a writer means you are running a small business, manufacturing sentences, and you are the owner of the business, and the foreman of the factory, and the guy working on the production line, and the person driving the truck to deliver the sentences to your customers.”

3. Searching for Moby-Dick (and the Elusive Truths of America’s Pastime)
By Rick White | LitHub | July 2021
“Two decades later, sabermetrics are the only metrics that matter,’big ball’ is baseball, baseball is boring, and Whiteyball has gone the way of the ‘Pequod’ and the hand-hurled harpoon. What else should one have expected? It was, like Melville’s masterpiece, and like all other fine works of American art, destined in time to be swallowed up like Jonah, either in obscurity or by the whale of American corporate oligarchy.”

4. ‘I’ve outlasted them all’: The spectacular life of the world’s most powerful crossword editor
By J Oliver Conroy | The Guardian | July 2021
“The New York Times’ Will Shortz has appeared on The Simpsons, written riddles for a Batman villain and sold over 1m copies of a sudoku book. He talks hate mail, controversial clues and why puzzles are like drugs”

5. The completely correct guide to being back in an airport
By Natalie B. Compton | The Washington Post | July 2021
“No one wants to listen to you yell about client synergies, Richard”

6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A Kid’s-Eye View
By Dana Stevens | The Criterion Collection | May 2021
“[L]ike all the kids in director Amy Heckerling’s tender, funny, sometimes painfully well-observed comedy of teenage manners, I spent most of my spare time in one of several sprawling suburban malls, because where else was a high schooler in the early eighties supposed to go?”

7. Galileo and the Pope Fell Out over a Story about a Cicada
By Nuno Castel-Branco | Scientific American | July 2021
“The legendary scientist used the insects’ songs as a metaphor for his theories about the universe. It didn’t go well”

8. Shipwrecked scent: A perfumer re-creates a 150-year-old fragrance
By Amanda McGowan | The World | July 2020
“A ship called the Mary Celestia sank in 1864 off the coast of Bermuda. About 150 years later, divers visiting the shipwreck uncovered a perfectly preserved bottle of perfume. Perfumer Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone worked to re-create the 150-year-old scent.”

9. My Time as (Probably) the Most Assaulted Cabinet Member in History
By Dan Glickman | Politico Magazine | June 2021
“The worst part? All the food people threw at me.”

10. Samuel Beckett
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2008-2020
Also see: The Fire of London | Heat | Neuroscience | Bolivar

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Repairing the State Department / Avoiding the next deadly asteroid / Mayan solutions for sustainability / Turning celebrity into power / The destruction of Carthage

This week: Repairing the State Department / Avoiding the next deadly asteroid / Mayan solutions for sustainability / Turning celebrity into power / The destruction of Carthage

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. Karls Monzon Organized One of The Biggest Heists in Florida History. Here’s Where He is Today.
By Lauren Kranc | Esquire | July 2021
“In Netflix’s Heist, Monzon reveals exactly how the $7.4 million dollar robbery at Miami International Airport went down.”

2. Can Biden Reverse Trump’s Damage to the State Department?
By Ronan Farrow | The New Yorker | June 2021
“Reeling from the leadership of Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, career officials wonder whether Secretary of State Antony Blinken can revitalize American diplomacy.”

3. Deep Cover: Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul?
By Michael B. Gillespie | The Criterion Collection | July 2021
“With questions of Black identity as its animating core, Deep Cover challenges many of the presumptions of noir and Black film.”

4. Meteor Strike
NOVA | March 2013
“A meteor burst into a fireball over Siberia. Can we spot the next deadly asteroid in time?”

5. Narwhal Tusks Point to Changing Arctic Conditions
By Susa Cosier | Scientific American | July 2021
“Pollutants have increased, and prey has changed, as the water warms, a chemical analysis of tusks shows”

6. Why do we get shots in the arm? It’s all about the muscle
By Libby Richards | The Conversation | May 2021
“Muscles make an excellent vaccine administration site because muscle tissue contains important immune cells.”

7. New ‘mirror’ fabric can cool wearers by nearly 5°C
By Alex Viveros | Science | July 2021
“To make clothing that beats back the Sun, fashion designers typically use light-colored fabric, which reflects visible light. But another method reflects the Sun’s electromagnetic radiation, including ultraviolet (UV) and near-infrared (NIR) radiation.”

8. Scientists turn to the ancient Mayans for lessons on sustainability
By Marco Werman | The World | July 2021
“Lisa Lucero, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and an expert on Mayan civilization, discussed her findings.”

9. Caitlyn Jenner Wants to Turn Celebrity Into Power. But Why?
By Michael Kruse | Politico Magazine | June 2021
“The gubernatorial campaign of the world’s most famous transgender woman has blurred the boundaries between celebrity and politics in ways even Donald Trump never imagined.”

10. Aristotle’s Biology
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2008-2019
Also see: The Great Wall of China | Carthage’s Destruction | History of History | The Physics of Time

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Data view of drought / Enduring Confederate lies / The man who fell from the sky / The Library of Alexandria / Pheromones

This week: Data view of drought / Enduring Confederate lies / The man who fell from the sky / The Library of Alexandria / Pheromones

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. Numbers explain how and why West bakes, burns and dries out
By Seth Borenstein | Associated Press | July 2021
“The American West is baking, burning and drying in intertwined extreme weather. Four sets of numbers explain how bad it is now, while several others explain why it got this bad.”

2. Scientists link Earth’s magnetic reversals to changes in planet’s life and climate
By Bobby Bascomb and Adam Wernick | Living on Earth :: The World | April 2021
“The discovery of a fossilized tree in New Zealand is providing scientists with insight on how magnetic pole reversals could affect life on Earth.”

3. What is the point of menstruation?
By Marnie Chesterson | CrowdScience :: BBC Sounds | June 2021
“So few other animals menstruate, why did humans evolve this rare and costly cycle?”

4. Cross Your Legs, Stretch Your Hymen, Toss Your Ambition: The World According to Early ‘Marriage Classes’
By Danielle Dreilinger | LitHub | May 2021
“The only difference between partners the authors mostly did not address was the one most obvious to us, race, though Bowman warned that biracial children would be miserable because they would have ‘white aspirations’ but be unable to fulfill them due to their ‘colored’ appearance.”

5. ‘These Blazing Stars … Just Disappeared’: The Missing Generation of Women at the Washington Post
By Paul Volpe | Politico Magazine | May 2021
“The newspaper “made history … by appointing its first female executive editor. But why did the newspaper have to look outside its own ranks for a woman to lead the newroom?”

6. Why Confederate lies live on
By Clint Smith | The Atlantic | June 2021
“For some Americans, history isn’t the story of what actually happened; it’s the story they want to believe.”

7. The Underground Railroad attempts to upend viewers’ notions of what it meant to be enslaved
By William Nash | The Conversation | May 2021
“[M]ore and more academics recognized the limitations of the older, impersonal terminology and started to embrace ‘enslaved’ and its variants.”

8. Disability History in the United States
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: Scientific, Geographic & Historiographic Inventions of Colombia | Populism | Women and the Tamil Epics

9. Out of thin air: the mystery of the man who fell from the sky
By Sirin Kale | The Long Read :: The Guardian | April 2021
“In 2019, the body of a man fell from a passenger plane into a garden in south London. Who was he?”

10. Pheromones
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2009-2019
Also see: The Boxer Rebellion | The Library of Alexandria | Munch and The Scream | The Zulu Nation’s Rise and Fall

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Madonna’s masterpiece / Sex worker hate / Kremlin’s plan for Trump / The intellectual Athens / Vacuum of space

This week: Madonna’s masterpiece / Sex worker hate / Kremlin’s plan for Trump / The intellectual Athens / Vacuum of space

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. The Oral History of Madonna’s Truth or Dare
By Matthew Jacobs | Vulture :: New York Magazine | May 2021
“The groundbreaking pop documentary’s participants look back, 30 years later.”

2. Ancient Rome Will Never Get Old. Take It From Mary Beard.
By David Marchese | Talk :: The New York Times Magazine | May 2021
“The success with which the Cambridge classics professor, best-selling author, television documentary series host and feisty Twitter star has done so has elevated her to something akin to icon status — though, like the subjects she studies, that status is not free of complications, which she welcomes.”

3. ‘Get a Real Job, Whore’: The Dark Reality of Sex Worker Hate
By Siri Dahl | The Daily Beast | April 2021
“Consider the ways sex workers impact their communities and the economy, on scales both large and small. Last year, for the first time in my life, I was able to donate significantly to causes I care about, such as racial justice, trans rights, sex worker rights, LGBTQIA+ youth programs, and my local stray cat rescue (cat lady here, at your service). I know countless other sex workers who did the same.”

4. The Black Panther Party Has Never Been More Popular. But Actual Black Panthers Have Been Forgotten.
By Santi Elijah Holley | Critical Mass :: The New Republic | April 2021
“While the Panthers have become a staple of pop culture, veteran members of the group remain invisible.”

5. The letter ‘Ñ,’ the identity of Spanish the world over
By Alberto Lopez | El Pais | April 2021
“The character has its origins in the Middle Ages, and is the only one to have been created in Spain. Despite this, it was omitted from the Spanish Royal Academy dictionary until 1803”

6. Kremlin papers appear to show Putin’s plot to put Trump in White House
By Luke Harding, Julian Borger and Dan Sabbagh | The Guardian | July 2021
“Putin has repeatedly denied accusations of interfering in western democracy. The documents seem to contradict this claim. They suggest the president, his spy officers and senior ministers were all intimately involved in one of the most important and audacious espionage operations of the 21st century: a plot to help put the ‘mentally unstable’ Trump in the White House.”

7. Return the National Parks to the Tribes
By David Treuer | The Atlantic | May 2021
“The jewels of America’s landscape should belong to America’s original peoples.”

8. The ‘Spanish’ Influenza of 1918-1920
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: Foreign Fighters in the Spanish Civil War | French Child Ambassadors in the East | The Zionist Movement in Czechoslovakia | The Impossible Presidency

9. Hawaiian shirts are returning – but ‘people want to think twice’, says expert
By Priya Elan | The Guardian | April 2021
“Celebrities have been spotted wearing the shirts, but they could be seen as ‘embodiments of the history of American colonization’”

10. Authenticity
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2009-2019
Also see: The Siege of Vienna | The Vacuum of Space | Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World | The School of Athens