Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Rum from India? / Earth’s coldest place / Inventor of Liquid Paper / Madonna and Harry Dean Stanton / Other people’s problems

This week: Rum from India? / Earth’s coldest place / Inventor of Liquid Paper / Madonna and Harry Dean Stanton / Other people’s problems

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.

1. Forget the Caribbean: Was Rum Invented in India
By David Wondrich | The Daily Beast | July 2018
“Newly discovered evidence suggests that rum production predates the Caribbean by at least 1,000 years and may have actually started in South East Asia.”

2. Coldest Place on Earth Found — Here’s How
By Alejandra Borunda | National Geographic | June 2018
“It’s a place where Earth is so close to its limit, it’s almost like another planet.”

3. How Ancient Mummies Helped This Soccer Player Get to the World Cup
By Sarah Gibbens | National Geographic | June 2018
“After Paolo Guerrero tested positive for cocaine, scientists used Inca mummies to argue that the result may have been influenced by something else.”

4. How Is the Declaration of Independence Preserved
By Tim Palmieri | Scientific American | July 2018
“The National Archives and Records Administration uses science and technology to keep one of America’s most important historic documents safe.”

5. Do You Like ‘Dogs Playing Poker’ Science Would Like to Know Why
By Tom Mashberg | The New York Times | July 2018
“The mysteries of the aesthetic response, and the creative impulse, have become a burgeoning area of inquiry for scientific researchers across many disciplines.”

6. What lies in the lab: The gruesome murder at Harvard that transfixed New England
By Paul Collins | The Boston Globe Magazine | July 2018
“Wealthy George Parkman vanished into thin air one day. Then a janitor started snooping around a Harvard lab and made a grisly discovery.”

7. Ask Yourself This: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying
By Carl Richards | Sketch Guy :: The New York Times | July 2018
“And how would I treat them differently if I knew”

8. Bette Nesmith Graham, Who Invented Liquid Paper
By Andrew R. Chow | Overlooked :: The New York Times | July 2018
“Graham brought it to market and by the end of her life led an international business out of Dallas that produced 25 million bottles a year at its peak, with factories in Toronto and Brussels. She would sell the company for $47.5 million and donate millions to charity.”

9. ‘He Pretty Much Gave In to Whatever They Asked For’
By Michael Kruse | Politico Magazine | June 2018
“Trump says he’s a master negotiator. Those who’ve actually dealt with him beg to differ.”

10. Madonna talks to Harry Dean Stanton about her newfound stardom
By Harry Dean Stanton | Interview | May 2018
“I laugh at myself, I don’t take myself completely seriously. I think that’s another quality that people have to hold onto, you have to laugh, especially at yourself.”

Homo universalis

One of my guiding principles is that we’re all capable of self-improvement at any age, particularly intellectual self-improvement. Sometimes that faith is the only thing that enables me to sleep through the night and get out of bed in the morning.

KS16

That’s Latin for “universal man” or “man of the world,” if Wikipedia can be relied on for a proper translation.

I glide through a small, comfortable life — trying not to bother anyone, trying to be pleasant and polite, non-judgmental and sympathetic, charming and humble, trying to be intellectually honest and self-aware of my limits and flaws, every day edging closer to fulfilling all my ambitions.

One of my guiding principles is that we’re all capable of self-improvement at any age, particularly intellectual self-improvement. Sometimes that faith is the only thing that enables me to sleep through the night and get out of bed in the morning. I’ve always been blessed with a hunger for knowledge, a curiosity that often flares into full-blown passion for new arenas of experience, a curiosity perhaps sparked by a bittersweet frustration that I don’t know as much about literature, science, mathematics, history and culture as I think I should.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve always embraced wholeheartedly people like Theodore Roosevelt and Michelangelo, those who lived their lives desperately hungry for more of the world to absorb into their hearts and minds, constantly reaching out to make more of it their own.

A friend once called me a polymath. Other friends have called me a Renaissance man. I politely laughed off both compliments. I’m certainly no genius. I’d hardly consider myself intelligent, compared to the accomplishments and capabilities of the other men and women in my life.

As I understand it, polymaths and Renaissance men and women possess an immensity of talent to complement that fiery passion to achieve great things in multiple fields, professions, etc. As my quiet life sadly illustrates — in which I’ve been not much more than a minor writer, historian, editor, painter and arts critic — I have very much of the latter and very little of the former.

Perhaps later life will prove otherwise, as I’m slowly exploring how to become a proper pianist, an amateur boxer, an effective apiarist and gardener, an expert numismatist and philatelist, a stellar professor of American Civil War and Roman and Spanish imperial history, a sympathetic and effective psychologist, an historical novelist, a decent speaker, writer and translator of Turkish, Spanish and Latin, and a less-than-atrocious golfer, photographer, and salsa dancer. My mandate is to be more than a simple-minded, well-meaning hobbyist.

But if none of that works out, perhaps this particular man of the world will be content being someone who’s fun to spend time with, whose passion for history is inspiring, whose writing makes the heart soar, who’s always interesting, always relaxing, always enriching. Always happy.

I’d settle for that last one, above and beyond all the rest.