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 Learn how to be a spy from previously unpublished KGB training manuals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: 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