Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Using a volcano to learn about the center of the earth / Begin a new Federal Writers Project / America’s toxic mythologies / An Islamic map from 1154 / Running Kabul’s airport under the Taliban

This week: Using a volcano to learn about the center of the earth / Begin a new Federal Writers Project / America’s toxic mythologies / An Islamic map from 1154 / Running Kabul’s airport under the Taliban

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. A spacesuit designer on what to wear to the moon
By Alissa Greenberg | NOVA :: PBS | September 2021
“An engineer-artist duo wants to create sleeker spacesuits that meet the challenges of a low-pressure environment while offering more mobility — and looking cool.”

2. It’s Time for A New Federal Writers Project
By David Kipen | Start Making Sense | June 2021
“It’s a great idea: creating a new Federal Writers Project, hiring a thousand out of work writers and journalists to document American lives during the pandemic year.”

3. Nothing sacred: From Jefferson to Jan. 6, America’s toxic mythologies are destroying us
By Donald Earl Collins | Salon | September 2021
“Thomas Jefferson hid the ugly truth of Bacon’s Rebellion — an early example of the myths emerging around Jan. 6”

4. The Islamic World Map of 1154
By Sundeep Mahendra | The Library of Congress | August 2021
“Over the course of nine years, and drawing on earlier works by Ptolemy, Arabic sources, firsthand information from world travelers and his own experience, [Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Idris al-sharif al-Idrisi] in 1154 completed what became one of the most detailed geographical works created during the medieval period.”

5. The Taliban now controls Kabul airport. How will it run it?
Al Jazeera English | August 2021
“The Taliban wants Turkey to operate the airport as it controls security, but the next steps to revive the transport hub are still unclear.”

6. Julie Pace named new Associated Press executive editor
By David Bauder | Associated Press | September 2021
“Pace said it was important to push all of the AP’s journalists — text reporters, video, still photographers, fact checkers and graphics producers — out of individual silos to work together in presenting compelling stories.”

7. The other cradle of humanity: How Arabia shaped human evolution
By Michael Marshall | New Scientist | August 2021
“New evidence reveals that Arabia was not a mere stopover for ancestral humans leaving Africa, but a lush homeland where they flourished and evolved”

8. Surprise undersea volcano could offer unique window into Earth’s interior
By Akila Raghavan | Science | July 2021
“In a new study, the scientists suggest the seamount could represent a completely new type of seafloor volcanism, fueled by a hidden, shallow reservoir of magma.”

9. Parasite: Notes from the Underground
By Inkoo Kang | The Criterion Collection | October 2020
“[It] reveals the Kims, as sympathetic and unfairly treated as they are, as utterly capable of the banality of evil, in part because of their own overidentification with underdogs, and the inherent goodness they assume they can lay claim to. The layers of self-deception build on top of one another until, finally, it all comes crashing down.”

10. The Thirty Years War
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
Also see: The Wealth of Nations | The Eunuch | Social Darwinism | Chivalry

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The modern treehouse / Rethinking their post-9/11 decisions / Alabama’s first black poet laureate / The emotional beauty of Omar Little / Literature’s most memorable trees

This week: The modern treehouse / Rethinking their post-9/11 decisions / Alabama’s first black poet laureate / The emotional beauty of Omar Little / Literature’s most memorable trees

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. Nature meets nostalgia: Treehouses return in style
By Tracee M. Herbaugh | Associated Press | September 2021
“Treehouses have proliferated during the pandemic. There are stylish backyard ones built by professionals, and makeshift ones thrown up just to escape the four walls of home. There are listings on sites like Airbnb for treehouses to camp in. Unlike the rickety treehouses of yore, many of these new ones have been upgraded. Most are still accessed with a ladder, however, requiring you to climb.”

2. They Created Our Post-9/11 World. Here’s What They Think They Got Wrong.
By Bryan Bender and Daniel Lippman | Politico Magazine | September 2021
“Seventeen prominent players reflect on the decades of war they helped wage and the domestic defenses they helped erect.”

3. Alabama’s First Black Poet Laureate Takes A Personal Approach To ‘Reparations’
By Jeevika Verma | NPR | September 2021
“The state of Alabama has a new poet laureate: Ashley M. Jones is the first Black poet to claim the title, and at 31, also the youngest.”

4. ‘You’re Food and Drink to Me.’ A Letter From Henry Miller to Anais Nin
By Shaun Usher | LitHub | September 2021
“Such explosive conditions resulted in countless passionate love letters from both parties. This particular missive was written prior to a heated few days at Nin’s home in France.”

5. The fictional complexity of Omar
By Robin Givhan | The Washington Post | September 2021
“Omar exuded the sort of stone-faced masculinity that for so long defined what it means to be a man, along with the threatening aura that has become associated specifically with Black men. Yet Omar also had a gentle touch for his boyfriend about whom he unabashedly expressed his affection. Omar sneered. Omar cried.”

6. Why Does Coffee Sometimes Make Me Tired?
By Wudan Yan | The New York Times | September 2021
“Lethargy, blood sugar and dehydration explain in part the paradoxical effects of coffee on our energy levels.”

7. Extreme Animal Weapons
NOVA :: PBS | November 2017
“Discover how a secret biological code has shaped nature’s battleground.”

8. The 18 Most Memorable Trees in Literature
By Christopher Cox | LitHub | August 2021
“At first we wanted to rank the trees, or pit them head-to-head, March Madness–style, to see which one came out on top. Would Whitman’s hickory defeat Yeats’s chestnut? In the battle of the oaks, who would reign supreme: Calvino or Kunitz? But the trees invoked here, and the works of literature in which they are found, resist such a reductive treatment.”

9. Black politics and history
By Eric Foner | Start Making Sense | August 2021
“Eric Foner talks bout how our understanding of Black politics and history, starting with Reconstruction, has changed — and about the historian-activists who challenged the prevailing racist historians back in the 1930s, starting with W.E.B. DuBois and James S. Allen”

10. This pictogram is one of the oldest known accounts of earthquakes in the Americas
By Carolyn Gramling | Science News | September 2021
“The written chronology in a 16th century codex was created by a pre-Hispanic civilization.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The Chinese naval legend / Defeat in Afghanistan / Barbecue’s plan for war in Haiti / Romance and single motherhood / Icebergs that trigger tsunamis

This week: The Chinese naval legend / Defeat in Afghanistan / Barbecue’s plan for war in Haiti / Romance and single motherhood / Icebergs that trigger tsunamis

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 legendary Chinese seafarer the West overlooks
By Alissa Greenberg | NOVA | August 2021
“In the 1400s, Zheng He sailed thousands of miles around Asia and Africa in ships the size of soccer fields, spreading Chinese innovations like compasses and gunpowder in the process.”

2. The Incoherence of American History
By Osita Nwanevu | The New Republic | August 2021
“We ascribe too much meaning to the early years of the republic.”

3. Why it takes months to subdue some wildfires
By Keith Ridler | Associated Press | August 2021
Why so long? Have wildfires changed? Is wildfire suppression in the past playing a role now?

4. The U.S. reckons with defeat in Afghanistan
By Ishaan Tharoor | The Washington Post | August 2021
Many of the same doyens of the Washington establishment who are now outraged that the Taliban is back in power have been less vocal about the failures and shortcomings of the two decades spent keeping the militants at bay ”

5. Why You Need to Protect Your Sense of Wonder — Especially Now
By David P. Fessell and Karen Reivich | Harvard Business Review | August 2021
“As the pandemic era goes on, more than ever we need ways to refresh our energies, calm our anxieties, and nurse our well-being. The cultivation of experiences of awe can bring these benefits and has been attracting increased attention due to more rigorous research.”

6. His Name Is Barbecue — and He’s Ready to Plunge Haiti Into War
By Jonathan Alpeyrie | The Daily Beast | August 2021
“Already devastated by an earthquake and rampant corruption, the people of Haiti have another problem to worry about: the rise of powerful gang bosses like Barbecue.”

7. Swiping right in the fertility doctor’s office: On pursuing romance and single motherhood at once
By Sophie Sills | Salon | August 2021
“Why do unmarried women have to choose between motherhood and a love life? Can’t we try for both at the same time?”

8. Wandering icebergs could trigger tsunamis
By Robby Berman | Big Think | August 2021
“Icebergs aren’t just a threat to unsinkable ships. Their ability to cause underwater landslides poses a danger to coastal cities.”

9. Hurricanes may not be becoming more frequent, but they’re still more dangerous
By Carolyn Gramling | Science News | July 2021
“There aren’t more of the storms now than there were roughly 150 years ago, a study suggests”

10. Moonstruck: Life in the In-Between
By Emily VanDerWerff | The Criterion Collection | November 2020
“Life is made up of binaries, sure, but it is also made up of all the spaces in between their oppositions.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Birds that can hear tsunamis / This fall’s biggest movies / Science struggles to understand Hurricane Ida / The Sino-Japanese War / The presidential anguish in ‘Fail-Safe’

This week: Birds that can hear tsunamis / This fall’s biggest movies / Science struggles to understand Hurricane Ida / The Sino-Japanese War / The presidential anguish in ‘Fail-Safe’

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. When Lord Kelvin Nearly Killed Darwin’s Theory
By Mano Singham | Scientific American | September 2021
“The eminent 19th-century physicist argued—wrongly, it turned out—that Earth wasn’t old enough to have let natural selection play out”

2. How abortion restrictions like Texas’ push pregnant people into poverty
By Chabeli Carrazana | The 19th | September 2021
“A study of hundreds of pregnant women over a decade found that 72 percent of those who were denied care ended up living in poverty.”

3. Birds Can Hear Tsunamis Way Before They Hit
By Hakai Magazine and Jason Gregg | The Atlantic | September 2021
“Scientists hope the ability can be turned into an early-warning system.”

4. The 9 Biggest Movies To Watch This Fall (And Other Films That Sound Intriguing)
By Bob Mondello | All Things Considered :: NPR | September 2021
“After stockpiling films for more than 16 months, Hollywood is practically bursting with prestige attractions ready to premiere.”

5. Back to School: Abe Lincoln’s Grammar Book
By Mark Dimunation | The Library of Congress | August 2021
“Abraham Lincoln never really had a ‘back to school’ moment, as the future president was raised on a farm and had less than a year of formal schooling. This didn’t mean he didn’t love learning, though. From an early age, he devoted intense effort to self-study through reading.”

6. American diplomats recall 20-hour days, sleeping in Kabul airport while helping those desperate to flee
By Joe Davidson | The Washington Post | September 2021
“Right up until the end, they were surprised that the situation deteriorated so quickly.”

7. After Hurricane Ida, researchers take stock
By Rachel Fritts and Jocelyn Kaiser | Science | September 2021
“Better preparations help avoid repeat of 2005 Katrina disaster”

8. Marie Tharp: Mapping the Ocean Floor
By Mike Klein | The Library of Congress | August 2021
“Marie Tharp was well-suited to the task of interpreting the texture and rhythm of the Earth’s surface, including the ocean floor — a space almost entirely unknown to humans, even after they began sailing the seas. A scientist, she had a background in mathematics, music, petroleum geology and cartography.”

9. Fail Safe: Very Little Left of the World
By Bilge Ebiri | The Criterion Collection | January 2020
“We can certainly understand the president’s anguish, but we don’t really see it — nor, interestingly, do we really feel it.”

10. Horace
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
Also see: The Sino-Japanese War | Photosynthesis | The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam | The Philosophy of Solitude

The brilliant, deadly light: A remembrance of 9/11/01

There is nothing special about what was expressed below. The words and phrases capture the kind of raw emotions of fear, sadness and confusion that I’m sure many others felt. But they were honest, heartfelt and hopeful … and blisfully ignorant of what was to come over the next two decades.

A few weeks ago, I thumbed through some of my older files in a search for something completely unrelated to Sept. 11, 2001. I found this collection of musings I wrote about two weeks after the terrorist attacks.

I was a newspaper editor at the time, and most of the newspaper’s staff worked for two weeks straight after 9/11, without a break, to make sense of the tragedy for our readers and help them prepare for what would follow. It was some of the best work of my journalism career.

There is nothing special about what was expressed below. The words and phrases capture the kind of raw emotions of fear, sadness and confusion that I’m sure many others felt. “There is something there in my human heart,” I unabashedly admitted to myself, “something sad, silent, burning and heavy that will always be with me.” The musings may not make completely sense, and they may not be the most eloquent thoughts I ever put down on paper.

But they were honest, heartfelt and hopeful … and blisfully ignorant of what was to come over the next two decades.

This was written sometime in late September 2001. I was 27 years old.


It’s been over two weeks since the terrorist attacks took place, and yet it feels like a year, with barely any memory of the 27 years of my life that preceded Sept. 11’s images of burning skyscrapers, screaming New Yorkers, scorched Pentagon offices, and exhausted newscasters.

The last several days since have seen my anger misdirected at the ones I love the most, depression, restlessness, sleeplessness, and a plethora of other emotional disruptions. These enduring problems have brought me here, looking for some sort of alleviation or answer through what I know best: The written word.

I’m linked to the rest of the world through my personal anguish over what took place a week ago in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. Yet I think I endured the tragedies in a way a comparatively select few in our nation could appreciate. From a distance. From a place of safety. Immersed in my own pain and anguish. Certainly nothing as intense as the men and women who lost loved ones or saw them injured. But there is something there in my human heart — something sad, silent, burning and heavy that will always be with me.

I’m a copy editor, one of about a dozen intelligent and well-read professionals who help to produce this newspaper every evening of the year. I edit articles written by our reporters and by reporters from various wire services from across the country. I’m also a page designer, which means I place the articles on the pages, along with most of their accompanying pictures. It’s quite easy, and the richness of the river of information that flows past and through me on an hourly basis successfully seduces me back to my desk every afternoon.

But the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, was a watershed moment for me.

I joined the newsroom two years ago the way a wanna-be cop hangs out at cop bars — to feel the pulse of the news cycles, to sense waves of energy as a story builds and reporters jump into action, to listen to the everlasting debates between what’s legitimate news and what’s simply tabloid garbage. It’s so much fun. I never considered myself as intelligent as my colleagues but I eventually felt acceptably proficient at what copy editors do, and I suppose I’ve managed to make a decent contribution to the newspaper.

What I saw take place in this newsroom over a week ago was an astounding example of what reporters and my fellow copy editors are capable of. It was, as D-Day was once described, the Day of Days. Three incredible newspapers — two extras and a special edition — were produced in one day, something accomplished by only a half-dozen other newspapers in the country. We all worked to cover the story of our lives, trying to explain the terrorist attacks to the public as we privately tried to explain it to ourselves. I was never more proud to count myself among these incredible men and women.

Most of us worked on the weekends, so my days off were Tuesday and Wednesday. I awoke that morning feeling happy. It had been a boring and quiet work week, and I was ready for two days of relaxation. I reached over to turn on my nightstand alarm clock radio. As always, it was tuned to NPR’s “Morning Edition.” I heard the host, Bob Edwards, announce that a plane had struck one of the towers at the World Trade Center. He said that smoke billowed from the building.

I remember selfishly thinking, “Well, that’s interesting. Perhaps the wire editor or Page One editor will do something good with this. Thank God I’m off today.”

But my ever-curious semi-journalist ears were pricked up, so I switched on the TV – permanently set on CNN – to see what I imagined would be a little single-prop plane that perhaps nicked the tip of one of its wings on one of the towers, perhaps being pulled out of the Hudson. But was not what I saw.

The moment

The phone rang minutes later. It was the newspaper’s metro editor. He said an extra edition was going to be published, that everyone was being called in, that this situation was major. I said I would be there as soon as I could.

“And there it was,” I thought. The moment I waited for yet never hoped for had finally arrived, a day in which the history books would never – could never — overlook. I could sense that strong, huge, great gears were beginning to turn, carrying me back to the heart and mind of this great entity where I held a seat and played a role. This was an emergency, and we were going to be there to meet it head on, turning this massive ship towards the emergency, to begin as carefully yet as quickly as possible to piece together a first draft of history. It sounds so cliché, but it still seems so true.

This was the essence of what I always thought a newspaper did, and yet even with the entrance into a new century, the impeachment of a president or the closest presidential election in history, it was not enough of a challenge to our capacity to marshal our creative and intellectual forces. History had thrown a huge puzzle up into the air, and it was up to me and to us to piece enough of it together to make sense of it to ourselves before making sense of it to our readers.

But the true significance of the emergency did not dawn on me until I arrived at the Caller-Times. The second plane had struck the second tower, the Pentagon was hit, and one of the towers had collapsed. The second one collapsed soon afterwards. I never saw so many of my co-workers at the same time before, everyone tense and talkative, busily preparing for something, printing out the first pictures from the Associated Press and tapping away at keyboards.

The editors and designers from the Features department — they worked regular 9 to 5 hours — had been moved over from their offices down the hall and into the newsroom to start collecting photos and the initial stories coming off the news wires. They sat at my desk and at my colleagues’ desks. So most everyone who arrived after me was displaced. They moved over to share desks with the sports editors and designers, who occupied the dozen or so cubicles next to ours. It seemed more people were standing than sitting.

As I walked through the melee, the editor of the newspaper’s Sunday edition — the senior editor/designer among us — calmly smiled at me. He looked relieved to see me. His hair was still wet from a shower that must have come as unexpectedly early as mine had. We were among the first of our news editing team to arrive. CNN was blaring from every television in the newsroom. Phones everywhere rang and rang.

The work

The executive editor — the newspaper’s supreme commander — gathered the reporters, editors page designers and photographers for a quick briefing. Everyone looked nervous. Some took notes as she spoke. Others just stared at her or down at the ground. One seemed to have tears welling in her eyes. Another looked like he had been crying for a while. I was numb, not from fright or nervousness. I felt like I was bracing for some kind of impact, but now I think it was simply that I grimly anticipated that there were some long days and nights ahead. I don’t mean workload – I mean enduring a tremendous amount of work combined with the normal grieving process that I knew I would not allow myself to experience until the work was done … a process I’m experiencing now, with these words and thoughts.

The plan was ambitious. The editor wanted two extra editions printed before we began preparing the regular newspaper for Wed., Sept. 12. The first extra would be done by 2 pm, the second only a few hours later, and then the real workday would begin. The newsroom jumped into action, meetings were held, the computers we used to design the pages were turned on, the dummies for pages were distributed to designers, photos were selected, and the budgets (the master list of wire service and local stories, along with their designated pages) were printed.

I had a simple peripheral role — as did many others — of designing a few inside pages. A few people worked on finding the right pictures and keep track of who was using them. The executive editor and the Sunday editor was had been relieved to see me worked together on what would appear on the front pages.

Information on the attacks continued to pour in, some of it reliable, some of it not. Most of the televisions were muted but their sound was no longer a distraction. The roaring hurricanes of fragmentary information, images, speculations, and so much more swirled through my mind. A rudimentary “news crawl” moved along the bottom of CNN’s screen, with some headlines predicting 10,000 fatalities, rumors of a bomb at the State Department, possible attacks in other cities. CNN showed the planes slamming into the towers over and over again. The deathly bright orange of the explosions, the people leaping from the upper floors, the horrifying straightforwardness of two of the world’s tallest buildings collapsing into ash, fire and smoke as a global audience watched … they played it over and over and over again.

There was no real time to mourn or try to really comprehend what was happening to New York City or Washington D.C. There was no real opportunity to sit back and contemplate what this would mean for the weakened economy or the missile defense initiative or even the social consciousness of my generation. Perhaps the only real concern in the back of my mind, aside from trying to finish those pages, was: Is this just the beginning? Are there more attacks coming? Immersed as I was in such a avalanche of information, both reliable and not, I suppose any emotional reaction — fear, sadness, anger — was not really allowed to surface, even as they boiled beneath the surface of a veneer of steady professionalism.

A brilliant, deadly light

As I write this, I think of my colleagues. They’re all tired now, most of them surely much more exhausted than me. Many seemed so burned out by the never-ending coverage, even though some semblance of normality seems to be returning. It’s like we were plunged into a dark tunnel since the attacks took place, piecing together the world around us with penlights.

Does anyone remember Connie Chung’s Gary Condit interview, HBO’s “Band of Brothers” series, or Madonna’s Drowned World tour? Does anyone care anymore? It’s our job to keep our little city informed of the world’s events. There was time when it was easy, when we had the luxury to debate the importance given to Andrea Yates or a spy plane lost in Chinese territory.

Naturally, I have as many questions as anyone else: Were the attacks part of a greater plan? Are there more coming? Is Osama bin Laden truly the man behind the terrorism this time? Will Bush’s “war” take years to accomplish objectives that are not yet announced?

Ironically, with the resources and information provided by countless newspapers and news services at my fingertips, I have no better perspective than someone working on depositions at the courthouse, someone selling clothes at the mall, or someone begging for change on the seawall. The stories all ask the same questions, all chase the same sources, all come up with the same hollow predictions from unnamed sources.

When will we have all the answers? Are we on the verge of a third world war? How will this new fight change the United States? How will this new era change my generation as we grow into journalism’s leaders? How will this change me? Will we ever emerge from this dark tunnel? What awaits us in that brilliant, deadly light?


Two decades later, I wrote a shorter version of this remembrance as my contribution to Texas Public Radio’s collection of memories marking Sept. 11, 2021. You may read it here.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Asteroid may strike in 2100s / Pandemic hobbies good for brain / The sexy green M&M / Catastrophism / Black Americans and the war on drugs

This week: Asteroid may strike in 2100s / Pandemic hobbies good for brain / The sexy green M&M / Catastrophism / Black Americans and the war on drugs

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. NASA Probe Finds Higher Chance of Asteroid Bennu Striking Earth
By Meghan Bartels | Scientific American | August 2021
“Using data from the OSIRIS-REx mission, scientists calculated slightly increased (but still low) odds the space rock will collide with our planet in the 2100s”

2. Keep your pandemic hobbies — your brain will thank you
By Ruth Kogen Goodwin | Salon | August 2021
“Any hobbies that help you attain a ‘flow state’ are good for your brain, scientists say”

3. The Cursed History of the Sexy Green M&M
By Hazel Cills | Jezebel | August 2021
“With her go-go boots and perpetual smize, for decades the green M&M has persisted as the definitively “sexy” one”

4. Solved: A 50-year mystery about Jupiter
By Scotty Hendricks | Big Think | August 2021
“Jupiter’s atmosphere is hotter than it should be, and now we know why”

5. A partial skeleton reveals the world’s oldest known shark attack
By Bruce Bower | Science News | July 2021
“A man encountered the animal 3,000 years ago off the coast of Japan”

6. On the Link Between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking
By Jeremy DeSilva | LitHub | April 2021
“From Charles Darwin to Toni Morrison, Jeremy DeSilva Looks at Our Need to Move”

7. 50-year war on drugs imprisoned millions of Black Americans
By Aaron Morrison | Associated Press | July 2021
“Fifty years ago this summer, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. Today, with the U.S. mired in a deadly opioid epidemic that did not abate during the coronavirus pandemic’s worst days, it is questionable whether anyone won the war.”

8. The Old Cliché About Afghanistan That Won’t Die
By Kevin Baker | Politico Magazine | August 2021
“‘Graveyard of Empires’ is an old epitaph that doesn’t reflect historical reality — or the real victims of foreign invasions over the centuries.”

9. The Irishman: The Wages of Loyalty
By Geoffrey O’Brien | The Criterion Collection | November 2020
“The core of The Irishman is a series of intimate exchanges, one-on-one encounters, small transactions, soundings out — a constant redefining and reassertion of permissions and limits.”

10. Hope
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
Also see: Catastrophism | Plato’s Symposium | Pliny the Younger | The Tempest

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Bond is back / Period pants may be the solution / One last summer cocktail / America after the 9/11 attacks / Monica Lewinsky and ‘that woman’

This week: Bond is back / Period pants may be the solution / One last summer cocktail / America after the 9/11 attacks / Monica Lewinsky and ‘that woman’

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. No Time to Die: Does a new trailer mean 007 is finally ready for action?
By Stuart Heritage | The Guardian | September 2021
“A third official trailer for the Bond film in two years promises action, suspense, intrigue … and that’s just over whether the release date will change again.”

2. Brazilian viper venom may become tool in fight against COVID, study shows
By Leonardo Benassatto | Reuters | August 2021
“The molecule is a peptide, or chain of amino acids, that can connect to an enzyme of the coronavirus called PLPro, which is vital to reproduction of the virus, without hurting other cells.”

3. The rise of period pants: are they the answer to menstrual landfill — and women’s prayers?
By Sirin Kale | The Guardian | September 2021
“Previously a niche, expensive product, period knickers are now readily available on the UK high street. Women explain why they are turning their backs on single-use pads and tampons”

4. Late-summer sip: A new world of booze-free options
By Katie Workman | Associated Press | August 2021
“Interest in a sober lifestyle has been growing for years, leading to the rise of mocktails and alcohol-free bars. The pandemic led even more people to question boozy drinking habits as they found themselves at home much of the time, feeling anxious, perhaps, or trying not to put on weight.”

5. America After 9/11
Frontline :: PBS | September 2021
“[T]his two-hour special offers an epic re-examination of the decisions that changed the world and transformed America. From the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the January 6 insurrection, [it] exposes the legacy of September 11 — and the ongoing challenge it poses for the president and the country.”
Also see: The Man Who Knew | Truth, War and Consequences | Obama’s War | The Rise of ISIS | Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia

6. Monica Lewinsky Is (Reluctantly) Revisiting ‘That Woman’
By Jessica Bennett | The New York Times | September 2021
“The good news for Lewinsky is that this time she’s shaping the story herself. The bad, perhaps, is that it means reliving the darkest period of her life — and introducing it to at least one generation that wasn’t around to see it. She still isn’t exactly sure how she feels about the whole thing.”

7. The chronic stress survival guide: how to live with the anxiety and grief you can’t escape
By Elle Hunt | The Guardian | September 2021
“Stress can feel like a baseline condition for many of us — especially during a pandemic. But there are ways to help alleviate the very worst of it, whether through support, sleep or radical self-care”

8. Polar bears sometimes bludgeon walruses to death with stones or ice
By Gloria Dickie | Science News | July 2021
“It’s long been said that a piece of ice is the perfect murder weapon”

9. Notorious: The Same Hunger
By Angelica Jade Bastién | The Criterion Collection | January 2019
“[The film] becomes a consideration of what happens when a woman’s sexual history frames the totality of her identity.”

10. Marie Antoinette
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2020
Also see: Phenomenology | Spartacus | Strabo’s Geographica | The Domesday Book

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Obama’s compromises / The changing Mecca / Learning how to be a KGB-style spy / Our risk from asteroid strikes / Puerto Rican statehood

This week: Obama’s compromises / The changing Mecca / Learning how to be a KGB-style spy / Our risk from asteroid strikes / Puerto Rican statehood

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 smooth compromise: How Obama’s iconography obscured his omissions
By Blair McClendon | The Guardian | August 2021
“A look back at the official photographs of Obama’s presidency shows his skill at conjuring a sense of pride and possibility — but today his victories seem narrow indeed”

2. Mecca: How the holy city has changed over the past 100 years
By Mohammed Haddad | AJLabs :: Al Jazeera | July 2021
“Before the coronavirus pandemic, some 2.5 million pilgrims would descend on Mecca for the annual Hajj. However, this year, like 2020, no foreign pilgrims will attend the Hajj after Saudi Arabia restricted the annual pilgrimage to a maximum of 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents between the ages of 18 and 65.”

3. Home Country
By Héctor Tobar | Harper’s | August 2021
“What does it mean to be Latino?”

4. How the Mercury 13 Fought to Get Women in Space
By Jess Romeo | JSTOR Daily | October 2020
“In 1962, the House of Representatives convened a special subcommittee to determine if women should be admitted into NASA’s space program.”

5. What’s making mid-Atlantic songbirds sick?
By Christina Larson | Associated Press | July 2021
“The U.S. Geological Survey, which oversees responses to some natural hazards and risks, has recommended that people temporarily take down bird feeders and clean out bird baths to reduce places that birds could closely congregate and potentially spread disease.”

6. Learn how to be a spy from previously unpublished KGB training manuals
The World | July 2019
“Dig into the documents, and you’ll find lots of how-to guides, including information on ‘how to recruit and psychologically manipulate agents on Western soil,’ ‘how to root out enemy disinformation schemes,’ ‘how to infiltrate international scientific gatherings to recruit agents’ and ‘how to outflank suspected agents provocateurs.’ ”

7. The Vexing Question of Puerto Rican Statehood
By Osita Nwanevu | The New Republic | April 2021
“The debate over the territory’s status isn’t just dividing Washington. It’s dividing the island’s residents, too.”

8. Asteroid impact: NASA simulation shows we are sitting ducks
By Robby Berman | Big Think | May 2021
“If we discovered a potentially deadly asteroid destined to hit Earth in six months, was there anything we could do to prevent a horrifying catastrophe? The disturbing answer is ‘no,’ not with currently available technology.”

9. Amores Perros: Force of Impact
By Fernanda Solórzano | The Criterion Collection | December 2020
“The scene from the film that stays with me most is one in which a panting dog enters the ring, ready to fight. … This dog seems poised to tear through the streets of Mexico City — violent, rebellious, and vigorous — capturing the inimitable spirit of the film and its setting.”

10. The Long March
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2013-2018
Also see: Pocahontas | The Berlin Conference | Galen | Exoplanets

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Call death what it is / The arc of Afghanistan / O. Henry’s house / Finding new life in alien oceans / The real Julius Caesar

This week: Call death what it is / The arc of Afghanistan / O. Henry’s house / Finding new life in alien oceans / The real Julius Caesar

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. This Report Could Make or Break the Next 30 Years of U.S. Astronomy
By Lee Billings | Scientific American | August 2021
“A battle for the future of American stargazing is about to begin — and the stakes are sky high”

2. A Better Place
By David Sedaris | The New Yorker | August 2021
“Why the euphemisms? My father did not ‘pass.’ Neither did he ‘depart.’ He died.”

3. Afghanistan’s arc from 9/11 to today: Once hopeful, now sad
By Kathy Gannon | Associated Press | August 2021
“From hundreds of years ago right up to the jumbled chaos of recent days as the United States pulled out of its air base and then the capital, the word ‘foreigner’ has meant many things in the Afghan context, from invaders to would-be colonizers. But in November 2001, in a mostly ruined Afghan capital where rutted roads were filled with bicycles and beat-up yellow taxis, it meant hope.”

4. Twenty Years After 9/11, Are We Any Smarter?
By Jordan Michael Smith | The New Republic | August 2021
“Our foreign policy wise people responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by embracing belligerence. What, if anything, have they learned?”

5. Most Arab countries now focus on domestic concerns, not unity
The Economist | August 2021
“But the presence of foreign powers is still dearly felt”

6. In the House of O. Henry
By David Maraniss | The Washington Post | December 1985
“He wrote about the downtrodden, the depressed, the out-of-luck, and yet usually, somewhere in his characters’ souls, he found that clean, clear whistle of hope, even romance.”

7. New Approach Could Boost the Search for Life in Otherworldly Oceans
By By Natalie Elliot | Scientific American | July 2021
“‘Ecological biosignatures’ hold promise for revealing alien organisms that may dwell within icy moons such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus”

9. ‘Welcome 2 America’: The Oral History of Prince’s Lost Album
By David Browne | Rolling Stone | July 2021
“A previously unreleased 2010 Prince record arrives this month. His collaborators look back on the sessions and offer a glimpse into the icon’s private world”

9. Roma, or the Art of Making Ruins
By Valeria Luiselli | The Criterion Collection | February 2020
“It’s very much a mirror of the city it portrays: an emotional earthquake, a world about to shatter, something about to end—but that doesn’t, because it’s all held together by the equilibrium, tenderness, and strength of a woman who can stand on one leg with her eyes closed.”
Also see: The Layers of Roma

10. Is Shakespeare History? The Plantagenets
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
Also see: Thucydides | The Trinity | Julius Caesar | Truth

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