Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Trump, the KGB agent? / The Biden-McConnell relationship / Fran Lebowitz Loves Dolly Parton / Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an / Fermat’s Last Theorem

This week: Trump, the KGB agent? / The Biden-McConnell relationship / Fran Lebowitz Loves Dolly Parton / Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an / Fermat’s Last Theorem

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 perfect target’: Russia cultivated Trump as asset for 40 years – ex-KGB spy
By David Smith | The Guardian | January 2021
“Yuri Shvets, posted to Washington by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, compares the former US president to ‘the Cambridge five,’ the British spy ring that passed secrets to Moscow during the second world war and early cold war.”

2. Enemies, a Love Story: Inside the 36-year Biden and McConnell Relationship
By Alex Thompson | Politico Magazine | January 2021
“The two 78-year-old deal-makers have been parties to the collapse of Capitol culture. Now they’ll need to make Washington work again.”

3. The Troubled Task of Defining Southern Literature in 2021
By Ed Tarkington | Algonquin Books :: LitHub | January 2021
“Today, I think, stories set in the South should be recognized not as stories about a particular place and time, but as microcosms of the great crucible in which all Americans now labor in our ongoing struggle over the future of our country’s divided soul.”

4. How Nothingness Became Everything We Wanted
By Kyle Chayka | The New York Times Magazine | January 2021
“Even before the pandemic, American culture was embracing numbness as an antidote for the overload of digital capitalism. But is it a real escape — or another trap?”

5. Everyone, Including Fran Lebowitz, Loves Dolly Parton
By Mitchell Nugent | Thirstory :: Interview | July 1989
“Parton shot down any idea of running for government, saying, ‘If I ever ran in East Tennessee, I’d probably win. I’m just jokin’ but I have been asked to run. But I don’t want to get into that. I don’t get involved in politics. I just have my own views, and I usually don’t tell people my opinions; I keep them to myself.’ ”

6. The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship
By Amanda Mull | The Atlantic | January 2021
“There’s a reason you miss the people you didn’t even know that well.”

7. If I’ve already had the coronavirus, can I get it again?
Associated Press | January 2021
“It’s possible, but such cases seem to be rare.”

8. The Slavic Vampire
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an | Who are the Turks? | The American Revolution in Global Context, Part I | The American Revolution in Global Context, Part 2

9. Is Letterboxd Becoming a Blockbuster?
By Calum Marsh | The New York Times | January 2021
“The social media network has finally left the cinephile niche and entered the mainstream.”

10. Lawrence of Arabia
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2020
Also see: The Anarchy | Paul Dirac | Fermat’s Last Theorem | Hannibal

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: A message from our neighboring star? / The history of Wikipedia / No corset craze / Too much sperm / Causes of the U.S. Civil War

This week: A message from our neighboring star? / The history of Wikipedia / No corset craze / Too much sperm / Causes of the U.S. Civil War

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 post-America world: Biden’s challenges begin at home
The World :: PRI | January 2021
“A majority of Europeans think the United States’ political system is broken beyond repair — and that President Joe Biden will be unable to halt the country’s decline on the world stage as China fills the power void.”

2. Did We Receive a Message from a Planet Orbiting the Nearest Star?
By Avi Loeb | Scientific American | January 2021
“A radio blip, seemingly from Proxima Centauri, where an Earth-size planet world orbits in the habitable zone, is tantalizing—but it’s probably not a signal from aliens”

3. An Oral History of Wikipedia, the Web’s Encyclopedia
By Tom Roston | OneZero :: Medium | January 2021
“It’s hard to imagine the internet without Wikipedia. Just like the air we breathe, the definitive digital encyclopedia is the default resource for everything and everyone — from Google’s search bar to undergrad students embarking on research papers.”

4. Why ‘Bridgerton’ won’t start a craze for corsets
By Luke Leitch | 1843 :: The Economist | January 2021
“Netflix hits are praised for their styling. But the screen no longer dictates how we dress”

5. Disused airport runway takes flight as public park
By Adam Williams | New Atlas | January 2021
“Sasaki has transformed a dilapidated airport runway in Shanghai, China, into a large public park. The project retains elements of the original airport, while integrating sustainable design like recycled materials and a rainwater collection system.”

6. The Sperm Kings Have a Problem: Too Much Demand
By Nellie Bowles | The New York Times Magazine | January 2021
“Many people want a pandemic baby, but some sperm banks are running low. So women are joining unregulated Facebook groups to find willing donors, no middleman required.”

7. Will children be able to get COVID-19 vaccines?
Associated Press | December 2020
“Not until there’s enough data from studies in different age groups, which will stretch well into [2021].”

8. Inside the Indian Independence Movement
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2013-2020
Also see: Mexican Migration to the U.S. | Causes of the U.S. Civil War (Part 1) | Causes of the U.S. Civil War (Part 2) | Reconstruction

9. How to Find a Lost Hamster
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | November 2020
“Check small, dark spaces, like under the fridge, beneath a dresser, between couch cushions, even inside a box of tissues.”

10. Solar Wind
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2013-2020
Also see: Water | Alfred Russel Wallace | Chekhov | Absolute Zero

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Biden’s first hundred days / The second impeachment / A new look at kangaroos / Romulus and Remus / The Spanish Inquisition

This week: Biden’s first hundred days / The second impeachment / A new look at kangaroos / Romulus and Remus / The Spanish Inquisition

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. Donald Trump impeached a second time over mob attack on US Capitol
By Lauren Gambino | The Guardian | January 2021
“The sole article of impeachment charges the defeated president with ‘inciting an insurrection’ that led to what the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said would be immortalized as a ‘day of fire’ on Capitol Hill.”
Also see, from Foreign Affairs: Present at the Destruction
Also see, from The Washington Post: Four years ago, I wondered if the media could handle Trump. Now we know.
Also see, from The Lily: One way women in D.C. are trying to identify pro-Trump rioters? Dating apps.
Also see, from The New York Times: A Preordained Coda to a Presidency
Also see, from NPR Public Editor: From ‘Protest’ To ‘Riot’ To ‘Insurrection’ — How NPR’s Language Evolved

2. The hundred day mistake
By Alasdair Roberts | The Wilson Quarterly | Winter 2021
“Is an FDR-style legislative blitz the best way forward in our present crisis?”

3. World’s oldest painting of animals discovered in an Indonesian cave
By Ibrahim Sawal | New Scientist | January 2021
“The paintings of three pigs, alongside several hand stencils, were discovered in the limestone cave of Leang Tedongnge on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.”

4. Vogue’s Kamala Harris cover shows that diminishing powerful Black women is still in fashion
By Karen Attiah | Opinion :: The Washington Post | January 2021
“In life, as in boxing, it’s often the punches you don’t see coming that knock you out.”

5. Queen Bee Sperm Storage Holds Clues to Colony Collapse
By Karen Kwon | Scientific American | January 2021
“Analyzing fluid from queen bees’ specialized sperm sacs can expose stressors”

6. Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus variant?
Associated Press | December 2020
“Experts believe so, but they’re working to confirm that.”

7. ‘A Social Species’: How Kangaroos Communicate With People
By Yan Zhuang | The New York Times | December 2020
“Researchers say that kangaroos are the first wild animals to exhibit interspecies communication that is more commonly seen in animals that have evolved alongside humans.”

8. The End of Colonialism in South Asia
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: The Spanish Inquisition | The Haitian Revolution | America’s Entry in to World War I | Simón Bolívar

9. How to Build a Covert Fire
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | December 2020
“First, find a suitable place to dig. Look for firm soil, not too rocky or sandy; a trowel, while not strictly necessary, will make the job easier.”

10. Tutankhamun
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2013-2020
Also see: Epicureanism | The War of 1812 | Romulus and Remus | Comets

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Reading faster / Biden’s foreign policy challenges / Remembering a slave’s death in a pandemic / The rise of freebirthing / The fall of Rome and the fall of America

This week: Reading faster / Biden’s foreign policy challenges / Remembering a slave’s death in a pandemic / The rise of freebirthing / The fall of Rome and the fall of America

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’s next for America’s favorite news podcast
By Kerry Flynn | CNN Business | December 2020
“[W]ith an incoming president who ran on restoring normalcy to a chaotic White House, what remains to be decided is whether listeners will still flock to ‘The Daily’ for deep dives and explanations of the news.”

2. How to Read Faster
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | March 2020
“You tend to read faster by reading more.”

3. Biden faces a changed world and no end of foreign policy challenges from China to Iran
By Karen DeYoung | The Washington Post | December 2020
“Biden faces competing priorities, congressional hurdles and wary, if welcoming, allies. In some cases, such as with North Korea and Venezuela, the most daunting obstacle to foreign policy success is the one that has bedeviled several presidents before him. There are no good options.”

4. How to Talk to Yourself
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | April 2020
“Research suggests that people with low self-esteem who try to force positive self-talk can end up feeling worse.”

5. A Brief Appreciation of the Incest Gnocchi Scene in The Godfather: Part III
By Roxana Hadadi | Vulture :: New York Magazine | December 2020
“In the kitchen of Vincent’s club, though, Mary stops being his ‘little cousin’ and asserts herself as the executor of her own desires. She is a young woman discovering her sexuality, and I’m sorry, who wouldn’t fall for a man who makes his own pasta?”
Also see, from Vulture: In Conversation: Francis Ford Coppola

6. Cicely was young, Black and enslaved – her death during an epidemic in 1714 has lessons that resonate in today’s pandemic
By Nicole S. Maskiell | The Conversation | December 2020
“Throughout the United States, as COVID-19 affects frontline workers and communities of color far more than other demographic groups … I believe it’s important to look back at how a few marginalized and oppressed people who served on the front lines of prior epidemics have been treated and remembered. ”

7. ‘Women feel they have no option but to give birth alone’: the rise of freebirthing
By Hannah Summers | The Guardian | December 2020
“As Covid infections rose, hospital felt like an increasingly dangerous place to have a baby. But is laboring without midwives or doctors the answer?”

8. The Social Life of Forests
By Ferris Jabr | The New York Times Magazine | December 2020
“Trees appear to communicate and cooperate through subterranean networks of fungi. What are they sharing with one another?”

9. America Is Eerily Retracing Rome’s Steps to a Fall. Will It Turn Around Before It’s Too Late?
By Tim Elliott | Politico Magazine | November 2020
“Two thousand years ago, the famous Republic had a chance to reject a dangerous populist. It failed, and the rest is history.”

10. The Amazon has seen our future
The New York Times | October 2020
“We’ve been talking about ‘saving the rainforest’ for decades, but trees are still burning, oil is still spilling, and dams are still being built. Today, the people of the Amazon are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s most urgent problems.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Hating the monoliths / Maradona’s darker legacy / How to press flowers / The missing in Mexico / Shakespeare’s heroines

This week: Hating the monoliths / Maradona’s darker legacy / How to press flowers / The missing in Mexico / Shakespeare’s heroines

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. Tributes to Diego Maradona show how easily violence against women is ignored
By Joan Smith | The Guardian | November 2020
“Too often we’re in denial about the fact that heroes — such as Maradona and Sean Connery — might also be abusers”

2. The Can-Do Power
By Samantha Power | Foreign Affairs | January / February 2021
“The Biden administration should … pursue foreign policy initiatives that can quickly highlight the return of American expertise and competence.”

3. Yo-Yo Ma and the Meaning of Life
By David Marchese | Talk :: The New York Times Magazine | November 2020
“It’s all the connections we make in life. Once you’re connected, you feel responsibility. And ‘connected’ means that it’s a circular loop. I know you, but you have to know me, too. There’s an energy circle that goes back and forth.”

4. How to Press Flowers
By Malia Wollan | Tip :: The New York Times Magazine | August 2020
“Each bit of plant material should be spread out carefully and sandwiched between layers of nonglossy blotting paper and sheets of cardboard.”

5. The search for the disappeared points to Mexico’s darkest secrets
By Mary Beth Sheridan | The Washington Post | December 2020
“More than 79,000 people have disappeared in Mexico, most of them since 2006. It’s the worst crisis of the disappeared in Latin America since the Cold War. … And Mexico’s numbers keep rising. Last year saw a record. Mexicans are uncovering two clandestine graves a day, on average.”

6. Witty women
By Rhodri Lewis | Times Literary Supplement | December 2020
“Shakespeare’s languages and the origin of his comic heroines”

7. The Monoliths Are Stupid and I Hate Them
By Sarah Jones | Intelligencer :: New York Magazine | December 2020
“They feel like the last authentic objects in the world. Next to them the monoliths can only be props, a brief and frantic distraction. Escape lies just beyond them, in open land and an unblemished sky.”

8. The history of First Ladies’ hairstyles, untangled
By Matthew Sweet | 1843 :: The Economist | November 2020
“Haircuts in the White House are never just cosmetic. There’s a political message in every strand”

9. 2020 Has Been Miserable. Is Extreme Masculinity to Blame?
By Peter Glick | Politico Magazine | November 2020
“Whether it’s the refusal to wear a mask during a pandemic or the win-at-all-costs approach to elections, 2020 has been a banner year for a particularly toxic masculinity”

10. Can mosquitoes spread the coronavirus?
Viral Questions :: Associated Press | August 2020
“No. While mosquitoes can spread some diseases, most notably malaria, experts say COVID-19 is not among them.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Designers target toddlers / Air power and Mahan / Chelsea Clinton / Biden the perfect VP / Fiery Sean Penn

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. Rich toddlers draw fashion designers’ eyes
By Anne D’Innocenzio | Associated Press | Aug. 12
“Some designer houses like Oscar de la Renta and Marni say they’re careful to keep the clothes appropriate for kids. But there are plenty of miniature versions of the adult looks that raise eyebrows because of their eye-catching prices and sophisticated styles.”

2. Answering kids’ sex questions
By Tracy Clark-Flory | Salon | Aug. 15
“The blog ‘Sex Questions From Seventh Graders’ went viral. Now we answer their adult-stumping queries”

3. Air Power Meets Alfred Thayer Mahan
By James R. Holmes | The Naval Diplomat :: The Diplomat | Aug. 15
“In wartime, wrote Mahan, navies should amass ‘overbearing power’ to sweep enemy fleets from the nautical common. Having done so, the victor could put those waters to whatever use he pleased. Pilots likewise think in terms of ridding the skies of opposing fleets.”

4. Waiting in the Wings
By Jonathan Van Meter | Vogue | Aug. 13
“An Exclusive Interview with Chelsea Clinton”

5. Joe Biden: The ‘practically perfect’ vice president
By Jonathan Bernstein | Salon | Aug. 18
“Ignore the right-wing outrage: Barack Obama couldn’t have found a better vice president than Joe Biden”

6. Panorama: The big picture from Mars
The Los Angeles Times | Aug. 17
“This 360-degree panorama from NASA’s Curiosity rover shows the area within Gale Crater on Mars.”

7. Cesar Harada: A novel idea for cleaning up oil spills
TED | July 2012
“He designed a highly maneuverable, flexible boat capable of cleaning large tracts quickly. But rather than turn a profit, he has opted to open-source the design.”

8. Sean Penn: a firebrand on and off screen
By Peter Beaumont | The Observer :: The Guardian | Feb. 18
“The actor and director has angered some with his comments on the British stance on the Falklands. But he has a long history of speaking out passionately when he perceives injustice”

9. Brothers in Arms
By Terry L. Jones | Disunion :: The New York Times | July 2
“The 10th Louisiana was the only regiment in its brigade that penetrated the federal position atop Malvern Hill, but the Tigers paid dearly for the honor. …”

10. Retreat from Dunkirk
Witness :: BBC News | June 2
“A British soldier tells us of one extraordinary day on the beaches of Dunkirk during World War II.”