Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Afghan and U.S. soldiers / Penis sizes / ‘Downton’ prequel planned / Designer John Hockenberry / Moneymaking brains

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. Afghan troops get a lesson in American cultural ignorance
By Kevin Sieff and Richard Lieby | The Washington Post | Sept. 28
“Eleven years into the war in Afghanistan, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural understanding, officials say. …”

2. No, really: Penises are not shrinking
By Debby Herbenick | Salon | Sept. 27
“Rush Limbaugh is wrong about that. But here’s the long (and short) of what science really does tell us about size.”

3. Report Examines How Budget Cuts Affected Texas Schools
By Morgan Smith | The Texas Tribune | Sept. 27
“There are two immediate take-aways. First, districts absorbed the cuts in diverse ways. Second, many of them were unable to do that without laying off teachers.”

4. Julian Fellowes Plans ‘Downton Abbey’ Prequel
By Stuart Kemp | The Hollywood Reporter | Sept. 28
“The Oscar winning scribe says he wants to look at the early relationship between the characters currently played by Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern in the new show.”

5. The Election Isn’t Over
By Pete Du Pont | The Wall Street Journal | Sept. 27
“Only fools and partisans think Obama has it locked up.”

6. If America had compulsory voting, would Democrats win every election?
Lexington’s Notebook :: The Economist | Sept. 28
“Democrats are pretty convinced that voter suppression is precisely what their Republican foes are up to, via a new law … that requires voters to show an up-to-date identity card with a photograph and expiry date, issued by one of a list of official authorities.”

7. John Hockenberry: We are all designers
TED | March 2012
“Journalist John Hockenberry tells a personal story inspired by a pair of flashy wheels in a wheelchair-parts catalogue — and how they showed him the value of designing a life of intent.”

8. The Right Drink for Every Situation
By Nicole McDermott | Healthland :: Time | Sept. 28
“From pickle juice to whiskey to cherry juice, these drinks can boost endurance, ease colds and even help beat upset stomachs.”

9. How Species Save Our Lives
By Richard Conniff | Specimens :: The New York Times | February 27
“We still scoff at naturalists today. We also tend to forget how much we benefit from their work.”

10. How Brains Make Money
Innovations :: Smithsonian.com | Sept. 28
“Meet the neuroeconomists, pioneers of sorts in an emerging field based on the notion that financial decisions have their roots in neuron connections.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Why women rule / Your handshake / Ross Perot may be back / ‘Downton Abbey’ returns on Jan. 6 / The ordeal of leaving Cuba

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. An 8-Year-Old Girl’s Awesome List of Why Women Rule
By Katie J.M. Baker | Jezebel | July 20
“‘We have veginas. We get jobs. We are creative. We have stuff that makes us preanet. We have milk in our bobes. We are smart. We have power.'”

2. What Does Your Handshake Say About You?
By CareerBuilder :: AOL Jobs | October 2009
“Handshakes are a sign of trust and help build strong relationships.”

3. Why Ross Perot is made for the 2012 race
By Chris Cillizza | The Fix :: The Washington Post | July 21
“Perot’s laser focus on debt and spending issues — not to mention his outsider persona — is a perfect fit for an American electorate sick of the two major parties and increasingly concerned about the country’s red ink.”

4. The new Ottomans
The Cafe :: Al Jazeera | July 21
“Can Turkey strike a balance between the country’s modern, secular aspirations and its deep-rooted Islamic identity?”

5. Money woes, marriage jitters in store for series three of ‘Downton Abbey’
By Amy Wills | The Telegraph | July 22
“When … Matthew Crawley stooped down on bended knee in the snow last season, his tempestuous love affair with Lady Mary seemed to finally have reached a conclusion.”

6. Remember, Remember, the Fifth of May
By William Moss Wilson | Disunion :: The New York Times | May 4
“On May 5, 1862, Ignacio Zaragoza … led the brave defenders of Puebla in repulsing the elite troops of an invading French Army.”

7. Scott Kim takes apart the art of puzzles
TED | December 2009
“Sampling his career’s work, he introduces a few of the most popular types, and shares the fascinations that inspired some of his best.”

8. To Use and Use Not
By Julie Bosman | The New York Times | July 4
“A new edition of ‘A Farewell to Arms,’ which was originally published in 1929, [includes] all the alternate endings, along with early drafts of other passages in the book.”

9. Leaving Cuba: The difficult task of exiting the island
By Sara Rainsford | BBC News | July 21
“Cubans need permission to leave their island. And if they stay away too long, they can’t come back.”

10. The Landslide Election of 1964
By Walter Cronkite | NPR | November 2004
“The Republican Party fought its last rear-guard battle against FDR’s New Deal of the 1930s, while the Democrats promised a ‘Great Society’ and a new health program to be called Medicare. The national mood was liberal and the outcome was never in doubt.”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN June Carter Cash
2. TOO MANY FISH IN THE SEA The Marvelettes
3. SLIP SLIDIN’ AWAY Paul Simon
4. STARDUST Louis Armstrong
5. BANG BANG Nancy Sinatra
6. ME, MYSELF AND I Billie Holiday
7. JA VIDI Christophe Goze
8. WHEN IT FALLS Zero 7
9. A HUNDRED MILLION SOUNDS Second Sky
10. SING ME A SWING SONG Ella Fitzgerald

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Surprise Google street views / Man stays in motel with corpse / Spanking children / ‘Downton’ creator on the end / Obama’s secret army

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. U.S. Special Ops Forces Killed in African Spy Plane Crash
By Spencer Ackerman | Danger Room :: Wired | Feb. 20
“Four Air Force Special Operators on a spy mission over east Africa died when their U-28 plane crashed as it was returning to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. It’s another reminder of the hidden costs of the U.S.’ expanding shadow wars in Africa.”

2. The street views Google wasn’t expecting you to see — in pictures
The Guardian | Feb. 20
“Artist Jon Rafman’s photo project The Nine Eyes of Google Street View, named after the nine lenses mounted on a Google Street View car, collects the strange and beautiful images they capture by accident from around the world.”

3. Man Stayed In Motel Room With Girlfriend’s Corpse For 2 Days
The Huffington Post | Feb. 20
“A suburban Chicago man faces several felony charges after allegedly staying in a Joliet, Ill. motel room with his dead girlfriend’s corpse for two days — and buying alcohol with her money instead of immediately notifying authorities.”

4. US Interventions in the World since WWII
By Juan Cole | Informed Comment | Feb. 20
An interactive graphic explores the dozens of incidents since the Cold War began.

5. Spanking may worsen a child’s aggression
By Deborah Kotz | The Boston Globe | Feb. 13
“As the mother of two sons, I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to break up one of their physical fights with a smack on their bottoms. I’ve been able to hold myself back, and that’s likely a good thing. …”

6. Julian Fellowes Overcomes His Scruples and Looks Back at Season 2 of ‘Downton Abbey’
By Dave Itzkoff | ArtsBeat :: The New York Times | Feb. 19
“[He] spoke about the many story lines at play in Season 2; the American television series he is influenced by; and when, if ever, ‘Downton Abbey’ might come to a conclusion.”

7. WikiLeaks, a Postscript
By Bill Keller | The New York Times | Feb. 19
“It was a hell of a story and a wild collaboration, but it did not herald, as the documentarians yearn to believe, some new digital age of transparency. In fact, if there is a larger point, it is quite the contrary.”

8. In ‘Downton Abbey,’ a Glimpse of Texas’ Energy Future
By Terrence Henry | The Texas Tribune | Feb. 20
“While dealing with the intricacies and politics of inheritance, servile romance and afternoon tea, the characters of the show also have to adapt to a time of rapid innovation.”

9. Navy SEALs: Obama’s Secret Army
By Daniel Klaidman | The Daily Beast | Feb. 20
“At a time when many Americans think their government is inept, the ‘Special Operators’ get the job done. Just ask the President, who is doubling down on the Navy SEALs.”

10. Making History: Christopher Heaney
By Jen Eckel | Not Even Past | Feb. 7
“In the interview, Christopher tells us about how he stumbled upon Hiram Bingham, the subject of his undergraduate thesis and first book, and how he combined his love of archaeology and history to become a historian of Latin American history.”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. CHASE Jan Hammer
2. ONE MORE NIGHT Phil Collins
3. GOD MOVING OVER THE FACE OF THE WATERS Moby
4. THE TALK Jan Hammer
5. THE BOYS OF SUMMER Don Henley
6. VOICES Russ Ballard
7. DRIVE The Cars
8. YOU BELONG TO THE CITY Glenn Frey
9. EVAN Jan Hammer
10. DON’T DREAM IT’S OVER Crowded House

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Types of Super Bowl fans / Men who love ‘Downton’ / Astronaut applications sky rocket / Latinos ready to retire / Handwriting and IQ

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. A Game Guide for Three Types of Fans: Novice, Casual, Expert
By Matthew Futterman | The Wall Street Journal | Feb. 3
“The connoisseur, the casual and the curious-but-clueless: Find your level”

2. Baby boom takes schools to breaking point
By Simon Murphy and Jeevan Vasagar | The Guardian | Feb. 3
“Two-shift day and use of empty Woolworths stores among ideas to cope with surge in primary age pupils”

3. ‘Downton’ dudes
By Reed Tucker | The New York Post | Feb. 3
“Move over, ESPN! Men are getting gabby over Brit masterpiece ‘Abbey’ ”

4. Who wants to be an astronaut? Everyone!
By Brad Plumer | WonkBlog :: The Washington Post | Feb. 3
“More than 6,300 individuals applied to become a NASA astronaut between Nov. 15, 2011 and Jan. 27, the second highest number of applications ever received by the agency.”

5. Pledge Sues Sorority for Making Her Pee Her Pants
By Anna North | Jezebel | Feb. 3
“Her lawsuit also reveals why for some pledges, it can be so hard to simply leave.”

6. Hispanics Are Least Prepared For Retirement, Report Finds
The Huffington Post | Feb. 3
“As the wealth disparity between white, black and Hispanic households continues to grow, the share of minorities concerned about their financial future is likely to grow beyond what the study reports.”

7. NASA sheds light on tech needed for space travel
By Martin LaMonica | CNET | Feb. 3
“The technologies needed back in the days of the Apollo space missions were well understood. But with NASA’s current missions, it faces a broader and more complicated list of priorities.”

8. Connecting the dots between handwriting and high scores
By Donna Krache | Schools of Thought :: CNN | Feb. 3
“With classroom time at a premium and the common use of the keyboard, some school districts are abandoning handwriting as part of the curriculum.”

9. Under the High Line, a Gay Past
By Erik Piepenburg | Arts Beat :: The New York Times | Feb. 3
“Built on a defunct railway that runs 30 feet above Manhattan between 10th and 11th Avenues, the High Line stands above parts of the city that for generations of gay people, particularly gay men, were equal parts playground (the Roxy nightclub, the Anvil bar) and sanctuary (Florent restaurant, Christopher Street).”

10. Are high-tech classrooms better classrooms?
By David Sirota | Salon | Feb. 3
“Despite the hype over Apple’s new iPad textbooks, there’s little proof that gadgets do much to improve education”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. AND THAT’S SAYING A LOT Natural Calamity
2. BLAME IT ON THE BOSSA NOVA Eydie Gorme
3. TEARDROP Morcheeba
4. THE ROAD TO BENARES Thunderball
5. FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN Robert Plant
6. RIGHT ANGLES Thievery Corporation
7. SULLEN GIRL Fiona Apple
8. SONGBIRD Fleetwood Mac
9. THANK YOU Dido
10. A MILLION MILES AWAY Lenny Kravitz

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Screaming babies / Clinton: The consensus candidate / Gay-friendly wisdom / GOP love for Puerto Ricans / ‘Downton Abbey’ addicts

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. Why screaming babies are so hard to ignore
By Nick Collins | The Telegraph | Jan. 21
“Few situations are more infuriating than taking your seat on an aeroplane or train, closing your eyes, and hearing a baby at the other end of the cabin open its lungs with the gusto of an Italian tenor. ”

2. Bill Clinton: Someone We Can All Agree On
By Charles P. Pierce and Mark Warren | Esquire | February 2012
“Even his staunchest enemies now regard his presidency as the good old days. He has become the rare consensus figure in a country that has lost all sense of consensus. So we talked to him about where it went, and how we might get it back.”

3. How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work
By Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher | The New York Times | Jan. 21
“Though Americans are among the most educated workers in the world, the nation has stopped training enough people in the mid-level skills that factories need, executives say.”

4. How I became a ‘Downton Abbey’ addict
By Lizz Winstead | The Guardian | Jan. 22
“Yes, I know it’s just a glossy drama about the idle rich and their servants, but these idle rich are so classy compared with ours”

5. Houston’s Mayor stresses Economic Benefits of Marriage Equality
By Emily Deprang | The Texas Observer | Jan. 22
“In other words: being gay-friendly brings home the bacon.”

6. Are Puerto Ricans the Key to a Republican Victory?
By Justin Velez-Hagan | Politic365 | Jan. 23.
“Puerto Ricans already account for the second largest group of Hispanics in the U.S. (they make up 10% of all Hispanics), but are growing at an increasingly rapid pace, especially in Florida. More importantly, so is their voting power.”

7. Exploring Stories With Deep Dive
By David Erwin | Beta620 :: The New York Times | January 2012
“Deep Dive … allows users to discover something then focus their attention deeper based on that piece of content.”

8. This much I know: Elmore Leonard
By John O’Connell | The Observer | December 2010
“The author, 85, on Dizzy Gillespie, not being frightened, and being a good guy”

9. As the Worm Turns
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | August 2011
“Do earthworms have any sense of place or direction? When they are dug up in the garden and put back down someplace else, do they just return to work, or do they try to get back to their former location?”

10. The Lindbergh kidnapping
Witness :: BBC News | February 2011
“When the son of aviator Charles Lindbergh disappeared it was assumed he had been kidnapped.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

MLK’s image still evolves / The Greatest turns 70 / A ‘Titanic’ tragedy at sea? / Matching fingerprints / ‘Acting’ gay

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. If You’re Mad for ‘Downton,’ Publishers Have Reading List
By Julie Bosman | The New York Times | Jan. 11
“Publishers are convinced that viewers who obsessively tune in to follow the war-torn travails of an aristocratic family and its meddling but loyal servants are also literary types, likely to devour books on subjects the series touches.”

2. Ali still the Greatest as he celebrates 70th
By Tim Dahlberg | Associated Press | Jan. 15
“The voice that used to bellow that he was ‘The Greatest’ is largely muted now, save for those times in the mornings when he is able to whisper his thoughts.”

3. Cruise tragedy conjures memories of doomed Titanic
By Tamara Lush | Associated Press | Jan. 15
“Are such comparisons to a 100-year-old tragedy fair?”

4. GOP’s Latino problem gets worse
By Thomas Schaller | Salon | Jan. 11
“Romney’s Spanish-language TV ads can’t overcome the party’s poor reputation among Hispanics”

5. Q&A: Turkey’s military and the alleged coup plots
By Bridget Kendall | BBC News | Jan. 6
“The former head of the Turkish armed forces, Gen Ilker Basbug, has become the biggest casualty yet of a huge crackdown on alleged conspirators against the government which has brought hundreds of military and security officers to trial.”

6. Pakistan’s Slow-Motion Coup
By C. Christine Fair | Foreign Policy | Jan. 5
“Islamabad’s generals are out to destroy Pakistani democracy. Obama should try to stop them.”

7. Towering legend, flawed man? King’s image evolving
By Brett Zongker and Samantha Gross | Associated Press | Jan. 15
“On the National Mall in Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. is a towering, heroic figure carved in stone. On the Broadway stage, he’s a living, breathing man who chain smokes, sips liquor and occasionally curses. As Americans honor King’s memory 44 years after he was assassinated, the image of the slain civil rights leader is evolving.”

8. Match Making
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | May 2010
“Is a voice print as distinctive as a fingerprint, or have I just been watching too much ’24’?”

9. When Do Gay Kids Start ‘Acting Gay’?
By Brian Palmer | Explainer :: Slate | September 2011
“Sometimes when they’re toddlers”

10. Weathermen radicals in the USA
Witness :: BBC News | March 2011
“In March 1970, three white middle-class revolutionaries from the Weatherman movement accidentally killed themselves at their New York safehouse.”

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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. Wiser Time — High Time Mind
2. Floyd Lee Band — Mean Blues
3. Eric Guitar Davis — Put Me Down
4. Pat Green — Wrapped
5. Rick Fowler — Back On My Good Foot
6. HoneyBoy Dupree — These Blues Is Killin’ Me
7. Jet — Are You Gonna Be My Girl
8. Electrofied — Put Your Hands In The Air
9. Delbert McClinton — Every Time I Roll The Dice
10. Rico Enriquez — Crossroadblues
11. Voodoo Snakes — Fire
12. Ernie Payne — Nothing Wrong With Texas
13. Los Lonely Boys — Polk Salad Annie
14. Los Lonely Boys — Evil Ways
*Outro song by Chris Duarte — Let’s Have A Party

Videos I Love: Trailer for ‘Downton Abbey: Season Two’

It’s a beautiful and horrifying trailer that sometimes brings a tear to my eye.

I’m occasionally sharing some casual thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

I was late when it came to falling in love with “Downton Abbey,” the British miniseries exploring the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants before and during World War I. But by the second episode I was head over heels.

I don’t think my passion had anything to do with my love for history in general. In this case, I was simply someone drawn into first-rate storytelling. Nothing complicated about that. It didn’t hurt that my romantic streak was more than a little stimulated, as was my writer’s mind, which is always searching for fresh inspiration for my own fiction writing.

So when I came across the trailer for the second season, which has already aired in Britain and premieres in the United States tomorrow night, my heart leapt. It’s a beautiful and horrifying trailer that sometimes brings a tear to my eye, set to a gentle and haunting cover of U2’s “With or Without You,” sung by Scala and Kolacny Brothers.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Stephen Hawking / The real Downton Abbey / The real unemployment rate / Facebooking for organs / Growing nails

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. Stephen Hawking to turn 70, defying disease
By Maria Cheng | Associated Press | Jan. 5
“British scientist Stephen Hawking has decoded some of the most puzzling mysteries of the universe but he has left one mystery unsolved: How he has managed to survive so long with such a crippling disease.”

2. Make it federal
The Economist | December 2011
“If their country is to function, Iraqis need to share power”

3. Turkey’s Museum of Shame
By Jenna Krajeski | Foreign Policy | December 2011
“Diyarbakir Prison is a notorious site of torture and repression. Now, activists want to transform it into a symbol of Turkey’s long war against the Kurds.”

4. The Real Downton Abbey: Juiciest Bits From ‘The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle’
By Tom Sykes | The Daily Beast | Jan. 1
“Séances, Rothschild love children, the Curse of Tutankhamen. Tom Sykes on the shocking real-life history of Highclere Castle, the setting for the smash-hit British TV drama.”

5. Who Are the 6 Million?
By Derek Thompson | The Atlantic | December 2011
“If they counted toward unemployment, the official rate would be 11 percent rather than 8.6 percent. As the economy picks up, and these people re-join the job hunt, the unemployment rate will go up before it goes down.”

6. For some in need, Facebook is route to new kidney
By Donna Gordon Blankinship | Associated Press | Jan. 1
“Between the kid photos and reminiscences about high school, more and more pleas for help from people with failing kidneys are popping up. Facebook and other social media sites are quickly becoming a go-to place to find a generous person with a kidney to spare, according to the people asking for help and some national organizations that facilitate matches.”

7. Pakistan: The New Radicals
Activate :: Al Jazeera | October 2011
“Activist Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi has dedicated his life to challenging the complex religious, economic and social divisions which threaten to strangulate Pakistan.”

8. The Toolbox of Self-Deception, Part I
By Sam Sommers | Psychology Today | September 2009
“To thine own self be true. But only some of the time.”

9. Watching Nails Grow
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | May 2011
“Why do fingernails grow faster than toenails? And why do the growth rates vary as I age?”

10. Justin Bieber’s One Time
By Forrest Wickman | Explainer :: Slate | November 2011
“Are virgins any more or less fertile than other people?”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:

1. ANGEL Massive Attack
2. LOVING’ TOUCHIN’ SQUEEZIN’ Journey
3. I WANT YOUR HANDS ON ME Sinead O’Connor
4. CREAM Prince
5. SENSUAL WOMAN The Herbaliser
6. MORNING HAS BROKEN Cat Stevens
7. IF YOU WERE THE WOMAN AND I WAS THE MAN Cowboy Junkies
8. HOLD ON Sarah McLachlan
9. YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL Joe Cocker
10. READY FOR LOVE India.Arie