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: Thoughts from the Second Gentleman / The history of land borders / Caligula’s gardens / Cleavage and modern culture / Demonic possession

This week: Thoughts from the Second Gentleman / The history of land borders / Caligula’s gardens / Cleavage and modern culture / Demonic possession

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. What Has the Pandemic Done to Our Eyes?
By Eve Peyser | Intelligencer :: New York Magazine | January 2021
“Take a minute every hour to look away and close your eyes. Somehow in the darkness, with your eyeballs moist and safe, everything feels just a little bit better.”

2. I Might Be the First Second Gentleman, But I Don’t Want to Be the Last
By Douglas Emhoff | GQ | January 2021
“Douglas Emhoff reflects on his unique place in history at the side of his wife Kamala Harris.”

3. The Oldest, The Longest, The Weirdest: A Brief History of Land Borders
By Simon Winchester | Harper :: LitHub | January 2021
“The great majority of the world’s land borders were fashioned in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: a fierce acceleration of nation building got under way in 1850, became territorial mayhem between 1875 and 1899 … and reached its climacteric in the first two decades of the 20th century. …”

4. Trump revived Andrew Jackson’s spoils system, which would undo America’s 138-year-old professional civil service
By Barry M. Mitnick | The Conversation | January 2021
“Less than two weeks before Election Day, Donald Trump signed an executive order that threatens to return the U.S. to a spoils system in which a large share of the federal government’s workforce could be fired for little or no reason. … While President Joe Biden appears likely to reverse the order, its effects may not be so easily undone. And he may have his own reasons for keeping it temporarily in place.”

5. Busted! What The Great and Bridgerton reveal about cleavage
By Morwenna Ferrier | The Guardian | January 2021
“Corset sales are up, even in lockdown, as the nation binge-watches glossy costume dramas. But even in the 18th century, the cantilevered look could be fraught”

6. Caligula’s Garden of Delights, Unearthed and Restored
By Franz Lidz | The New York Times | January 2021
“Relics from the favorite hideaway of ancient Rome’s most infamous tyrant have been recovered and put on display by archaeologists.”

7. Which winter sports are safest to play during COVID-19?
Associated Press | December 2020
“The best physical activities for limiting the risk of coronavirus infections are the ones you do alone or with members of your household”

8. ‘Demonic Possession’ in Early Modern Europe
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: History of the Ottoman Empire, Part 1 | History of the Ottoman Empire, Part 2 | European Imperialism in the Middle East, Part 1 | European Imperialism in the Middle East, Part 2

9. How to Scatter Cremated Remains
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | October 2020
“Note the location with GPS coordinates. At sea, human remains, including ashes, must be thrown at least three nautical miles from land.”

10. Coffee
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2013-2020
Also see: The Valladolid Debate | The Amazons | Japan’s Sakoku Period | Ice Ages

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

John Updike fading? / The other marriage myth / The priceless database of Afghan war wounds / Salman Rushdie on censorship / Hillary Clinton’s legacy at State

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. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Q&A: Seeking Better-Sounding Skype Calls
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | May 17
“Are there any ways to improve the audio quality of computer-to-computer Skype calls?”

2. First & Last: Opening/Closing Lines from Our Best Books of the Month
By Neal Thompson | Omnivoracious :: Amazon.com | May 10
“Every book begins with nothing. A blank screen or, if you’re Robert Caro, a blank page.”

3. Have we fallen out of love with John Updike?
By Sarah Crown | Books Blog :: The Guardian | May 15
“Three years after John Updike’s death, his reputation appears to be on the wane. But who else can match his deftness and grace?”

4. The Myth About Marriage
By Garry Wills | NYR Blog :: The New York Review of Books | May 9
“Why do some people who would recognize gay civil unions oppose gay marriage? Certain religious groups want to deny gays the sacredeness of what they take to be a sacrament. But marriage is no sacrament.”

5. Lessons in a Catalog of Afghan War Wounds May Be Lost
By C.J. Chivers | The New York Times | May 17
“[The] database is one part of a vast store of information recorded about the experiences of American combatants. But there are concerns that the potential lessons from such data could be lost, because no one has yet brought the information together and made it fully cohere. ”

6. On Censorship
By Salman Rushdie | Page-Tirner :: The New Yorker | May 15
“Censorship is the thing that stops you doing what you want to do, and what writers want to talk about is what they do, not what stops them doing it.”

7. What will Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic legacy be?
By Richard Wolf | USA Today | May 17
“As she prepares to leave the national stage after a 20-year run, Clinton is winning bipartisan respect at home and admiration abroad for her role as the nation’s 67th secretary of State.”

8. Coffee linked to lower risk of death
By Amina Khan | The Los Angeles Times | May 16
“Subjects who averaged four or five cups per day fared best, though it’s not clear why.”

9. Luxury Liner’s Removal to Begin Off Italian Coast
By Gaia Pianigiani | The New York Times | May 18
“One of the most expensive and challenging salvage operations ever planned, the removal of the luxury liner Costa Concordia from granite rocks off the Tuscan coast, where it ran aground in January, will begin next week.”

10. Play Caesar: Travel Ancient Rome with Stanford’s Interactive Map
Open Culture | May 18
“Users of the model can select a point of origin and destination for a trip and then choose from a number of options to determine either the cheapest, fastest or shortest route.”

**************

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. Tom Petty — Lovers Touch
2. The Insomniacs — Maybe Sometime Later
3. Preacher Stone — Blood From A Stone
4. Ramblin Dawgs — You Let Me Down
5. Los Lonely Boys — Man To Beat
6. Ray Wylie Hubbard — Snake Farm
7. The Derek Trucks Band — Get What You Deserve
8. MonkeyJunk — Tiger In Your Tank
9. Jimmie Vaughan — Texas Flood
10. Paul Thorn — Long Way From Tupelo
11. Curtis Salgado — Wiggle Outa This
12. Pride & Joy Band — Texas Hoochie Coo
13. Polk Street Blues Band — 100 Pound Hammer
14. Tommy Castro — Ninety-Nine And One Half

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Coffee before workout / Alexander’s greatness / Mex City closes dump / The GOP dogs / Princess Diana’s wedding

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. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. How Coffee Can Galvanize Your Workout
By Gretchen Reynolds | Well :: The New York Times | Dec. 14
“Caffeine has been proven to increase the number of fatty acids circulating in the bloodstream, which enables people to run or pedal longer (since their muscles can absorb and burn that fat for fuel and save the body’s limited stores of carbohydrates until later in the workout).”

2. Nietzsche was right: adversity makes you stronger
The Daily Telegraph | Dec. 18
“It is the quote used by many to bolster resilience in the face of adversity. But the words ‘what does not kill me, makes me stronger,’ by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, could have scientific merit too, according to research.”

3. Alexander: How Great?
By Mary Beard | The New York Review of Books | Oct. 27
“Alexander showed signs of fatal weaknesses: witness the vanity, the obeisance he demanded from his followers, the vicious cruelty (he had a record of murdering erstwhile friends around his dinner table), and the infamous drinking.”

4. Ancient Texts Tell Tales of War, Bar Tabs
By Owen Jarus | LiveScience | Dec. 19
“The texts date from the dawn of written history, about 5,000 years ago, to a time about 2,400 years ago when the Achaemenid Empire (based in Persia) ruled much of the Middle East.”

5. Mexico City closes Bordo Poniente rubbish dump
BBC News | Dec. 19
“Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said the closure would significantly help reduce the capital’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

6. Q&A: Making Emergency Calls on a Cellphone
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Sept. 22
“Q: Is it true a cellphone can always call 911, even if you don’t have a monthly plan?”

7. Dogs and Presidential Candidates: Man’s Best Friend Dominates the Race
By Leslie Bennetts | The Daily Beast | Dec. 17
“Santorum stood up for them, Cain tried to get rid of one, and Romney strapped his to the top of a car. Leslie Bennetts on how man’s best friend came to dominate this year’s race for the White House.”

8. My daughter’s fiance wants to marry a different woman
Troubleshooter :: The Yomiuri Shimbun | Dec. 16
“I want your advice on what to do about this man, whose deception cost my daughter precious time during her 20s.”

9. Flight Attendant Interview
The Flying Pinto | September 2011
“Most airlines hire their own flight attendants to recruit, which is great because who understands what it takes to do this job more than someone who already does it?”

10. Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
Witness :: BBC News | April 22
“1981 and the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.”