Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Birds that can hear tsunamis / This fall’s biggest movies / Science struggles to understand Hurricane Ida / The Sino-Japanese War / The presidential anguish in ‘Fail-Safe’

This week: Birds that can hear tsunamis / This fall’s biggest movies / Science struggles to understand Hurricane Ida / The Sino-Japanese War / The presidential anguish in ‘Fail-Safe’

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. When Lord Kelvin Nearly Killed Darwin’s Theory
By Mano Singham | Scientific American | September 2021
“The eminent 19th-century physicist argued—wrongly, it turned out—that Earth wasn’t old enough to have let natural selection play out”

2. How abortion restrictions like Texas’ push pregnant people into poverty
By Chabeli Carrazana | The 19th | September 2021
“A study of hundreds of pregnant women over a decade found that 72 percent of those who were denied care ended up living in poverty.”

3. Birds Can Hear Tsunamis Way Before They Hit
By Hakai Magazine and Jason Gregg | The Atlantic | September 2021
“Scientists hope the ability can be turned into an early-warning system.”

4. The 9 Biggest Movies To Watch This Fall (And Other Films That Sound Intriguing)
By Bob Mondello | All Things Considered :: NPR | September 2021
“After stockpiling films for more than 16 months, Hollywood is practically bursting with prestige attractions ready to premiere.”

5. Back to School: Abe Lincoln’s Grammar Book
By Mark Dimunation | The Library of Congress | August 2021
“Abraham Lincoln never really had a ‘back to school’ moment, as the future president was raised on a farm and had less than a year of formal schooling. This didn’t mean he didn’t love learning, though. From an early age, he devoted intense effort to self-study through reading.”

6. American diplomats recall 20-hour days, sleeping in Kabul airport while helping those desperate to flee
By Joe Davidson | The Washington Post | September 2021
“Right up until the end, they were surprised that the situation deteriorated so quickly.”

7. After Hurricane Ida, researchers take stock
By Rachel Fritts and Jocelyn Kaiser | Science | September 2021
“Better preparations help avoid repeat of 2005 Katrina disaster”

8. Marie Tharp: Mapping the Ocean Floor
By Mike Klein | The Library of Congress | August 2021
“Marie Tharp was well-suited to the task of interpreting the texture and rhythm of the Earth’s surface, including the ocean floor — a space almost entirely unknown to humans, even after they began sailing the seas. A scientist, she had a background in mathematics, music, petroleum geology and cartography.”

9. Fail Safe: Very Little Left of the World
By Bilge Ebiri | The Criterion Collection | January 2020
“We can certainly understand the president’s anguish, but we don’t really see it — nor, interestingly, do we really feel it.”

10. Horace
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2014-2018
Also see: The Sino-Japanese War | Photosynthesis | The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam | The Philosophy of Solitude

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: The secrets of the cuttlefish / The nine lives of ‘Cat Person’ / Giving up caffeine / Explaining Jerry Seinfeld’s success / Replacing Reagan with Trump in Texas

This week: The secrets of the cuttlefish / The nine lives of ‘Cat Person’ / Giving up caffeine / Explaining Jerry Seinfeld’s success / Replacing Reagan with Trump in Texas

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. Did a cuttlefish write this?
By Veronique Greenwood | The New Tork Times | July 2021
“Octopuses and squid are full of cephalopod character. But more scientists are making the case that cuttlefish hold the key to unlocking evolutionary secrets about intelligence.”

2. Gender neutral passports are coming, but not everyone will choose an ‘X’
By Kate Sosin | The 19th | July 2021
“Many fear the third gender option could invite harassment, discrimination, and even violence while traveling.”

3. ‘Cat Person’ and Me
By Alexis Nowicki | Slate | July 2021
“Kristen Roupenian’s viral story draws specific details from my own life. I’ve spent the years since it published wondering: How did she know?”
Also see: The ‘Cat Person’ debate shows how fiction writers use real life does matter

4. The invisible addiction: Is it time to give up caffeine?
By Michael Pollan | The Guardian | July 2021
“Caffeine makes us more energetic, efficient and faster. But we have become so dependent that we need it just to get to our baseline”

5. Why Is Jerry Seinfeld One of the Most Successful Stand-Up Comedians of All Time?
By David Steinberg | LitHub | July 2021
“Young comics who think they’re going to be like Seinfeld don’t realize the years he’s put into it. He’s like the virtuoso cellist Pablo Casals—he doesn’t stop practicing, he doesn’t stop trying new things.”

6. Why the guillotine may be less cruel than execution by slow poisoning
By Janine Lanza | The World | October 2019
“From the stake to the rope to the firing squad to the electric chair to the gas chamber and, finally, to the lethal injection, over the centuries the methods of execution in the United States have evolved to make execution quicker, quieter and less painful, both physically and psychologically.”

7. Killing Reagan: How American Conservatives Replaced Their Heroes With Trump
By Christopher Hooks | Texas Monthly | July 2021
“At a conservative gathering in Texas, two Florida Men are the winners, while the movement itself seems adrift.”

8. The Movies Are Back. But What Are Movies Now?
By A.O. Scott | The New York Times | July 2021
“Cinephiles and streaming fans can both claim victory. But as we better understand the new screen culture taking shape, it looks like we may all lose in the long run.”

9. Rolling Thunder Revue: American Multitudes
By Dana Spiotta | The Criterion Collection | January 2021
“Scorsese’s documentary about Dylan’s origins and 1965 turn from acoustic to electric music, the director curates the archival footage to make an argument about how the tensions of the American cultural moment are a crucial part of the story of Bob Dylan.”

10. Venus
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2013-2018
Also see: The Eye | The Microscope | The Invention of Radio | Prophecy

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: FEMA and Hurricane Maria / Dear Abby and #MeToo / Learn to be happy at Yale / Understanding Sarah Huckabee Sanders / Summer books, movies, and TV

This week: FEMA and Hurricane Maria / Dear Abby and #MeToo / Learn to be happy at Yale / Understanding Sarah Huckabee Sanders / Summer books, movies, and TV

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. FEMA Was Sorely Unprepared for Puerto Rico Hurricane, Report Says
By Francis Robles | The New York Times | July 2018
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s plans for a crisis in Puerto Rico were based on a focused disaster like a tsunami, not a major hurricane devastating the whole island. The agency vastly underestimated how much food and fresh water it would need, and how hard it would be to get additional supplies to the island.”

2. Plane Bae Teaches Us That Other People’s Lives Are Not a Movie for Us to Watch
By Dan Solomon | Texas Monthly | July 2018
“How a chance encounter on a flight to Dallas turned into an internet sensation, and why it shouldn’t happen again.”

3. Dear Abby, #MeToo
By Jessica Weisberg | The New York Times | April 2018
“[#MeToo] created room for the sort of discussions that once were restricted to, essentially, just one type of public space: advice columns. For decades, the columns were where women with creepy bosses or abusive husbands went to air their grievances.”

4. At Yale, you can take a course on being happy
By Billy Baker | The Boston Globe | April 2018
“The success of the class has been unprecedented. So many students signed up that the meeting space had to be moved to Woolsey Hall, a cavernous, cathedral-like auditorium typically used for things like symphony concerts. The sheer volume of students requires two dozen teaching fellows.”

5. Margaret Atwood on How She Came to Write The Handmaid’s Tale
By Margaret Atwood | The Folio Society :: LitHub | April 2018
“The origin story of an iconic novel”

6. The Puzzle of Sarah Huckabee Sanders
By Jason Schwartz | Politico Magazine | May/June 2018
“How a bright, competent and likable young operative became the face of the most duplicitous press operation in White House history.”

7. Hear Stanley Kubrick Explain the 2001: A Space Odyssey Ending In a Rare, Unearthed Video
By Matt Miller | Esquire | July 2018
“The director famously refused to give his interpretation of the sci-fi masterpiece.”

8. Summer Reading: Movies & TV
By Ben Dickinson | The New York Times Book Review | June 2018
New books about Bruce Lee, David Lynch, The Wire and 2001: A Space Odyssey, along with recommendations on new thrillers, true crime, travel, sports and more.

9. How Syria Came to This
By Andrew Tabler | The Atlantic | April 2018
“A story of ethnic and sectarian conflict, international connivance, and above all civilian suffering”

10. The Woman Who Brought Down Bill Cosby
By Neeti Upadhye | The New York Times | April 2018
“Andrea Constand is the only woman among more than 50 accusers whose complaint against Mr. Cosby has resulted in a conviction. A jury found him guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Adam Driver on acting / 2017’s best books / Lessons from 2017 film disasters / A new vision for UTSA DTC / Putin’s real desire

This week: Adam Driver on acting / 2017’s best books / Lessons from 2017 film disasters / A new vision for UTSA DTC / Putin’s real desire

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. Adam Driver: ‘Compared with the military, acting isn’t that difficult’
By Emma Brockes | The Guardian | December 2017
“The Star Wars actor on leaving the Marines, filming nude scenes with Lena Dunham and getting in touch with his dark side”

2. The year in journalism: The big players, best feuds, and more
By Peter Vernon | Columbia Journalism Review | December 2017
“A guide to what happened in the mediaverse in 2017”

3. Past Debates Echo in Split Between Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates
By John Eligon | The New York Times | December 2017
“Malcolm X was more open to using violence as a form of self-defense than Dr. King, even though their beliefs were more nuanced and overlapping than the popular perception. Whereas Du Bois pushed for an expansion of civil rights, Washington was more compromising, urging black people to look within … in order to minimize the terror they faced.”

4. 100 Notable Books of 2017
The New York Times Book Review | November 2017
The year’s best fiction, poetry, and non-fiction works.
From the Guardian: Best books of 2017
From Lit Hub: The 64 Best Book Covers of 2017 and The Best Reviewed Books of 2017 — History & Politics

5. 2017: the sequel … seven lessons for Hollywood after summer’s disasters
By Mark Sweney | The Guardian | December 2017
“Traditional box-office wisdom has been overturned — but new audiences are starting to emerge”

6. Three Months In, New UTSA President Lays Out Vision For Downtown Campus
By Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio | December 2017
“The idea is to make the downtown a destination, while increasing enrollment on the downtown campus. UTSA’s current enrollment on the downtown campus is about 4,000 out of a total enrollment of about 30,000.”

7. What Putin Really Wants
By Julia Ioffe | The Atlantic | January/February 2018
“Russia’s strongman president has many Americans convinced of his manipulative genius. He’s really just a gambler who won big.”

8. The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook
By Josh Meyer | Politico | December 2017
“An ambitious U.S. task force targeting Hezbollah’s billion-dollar criminal enterprise ran headlong into the White House’s desire for a nuclear deal with Iran.”

9. American Sounds
By Heather Radke | The Paris Review | July 2017
“On the old, weird days of National Public Radio”

10. How to Be a Writer on Social Media
LitHub | July 2017
“[W]e asked the opinions of four authors whose social media prowess we admire: Roxane Gay, Celeste Ng, Adam Grant and Alexander Chee.”

Amerikan Rambler: Podcast 31: Gary Olsen

From Nov. 2016: “Gary and Colin talk about everything from Scorsese to Hitchcock, to D. W. Griffith and Spielberg (and how ‘Jaws’ may have both saved and ruined Hollywood).”

Gary Olsen lives in Virginia, but he grew up in the Boston area, where he studied film at Emerson College. After thirty years in the Justice Department, Gary now spends his retirement days lecturing on movies.

via Podcast 31: Gary Olsen — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Amerikan Rambler: Are Historians Too Hard on Hollywood History?

From March 2012: “Historians criticizing Hollywood is almost as old as Hollywood itself.”

While I understand historians’ desire, indeed duty, to make sure that filmmakers respect the integrity of a historical subject, my question is: should we be surprised when a movie — even a documentary — chooses drama or narrative flow over being true to the historical record? I think not.

via Are Historians Too Hard on Hollywood History? — Amerikan Rambler: Everybody Has a Story

Videos I Love: The ‘Gettysburg’ trailer

‘Gettysburg,’ certainly at times a ridiculously flawed film, mostly succeeds with an elegant force that never fails to stimulate me emotionally and intellectually.

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

I’ve always thought that “Gettysburg” is an amazing film. Few recent films are as ambitious in scope, as beautifully filmed and scored, with as outstanding acting and stunning battle sequences. So few films are able to bring so many of these elements of greatness together, but “Gettysburg,” certainly at times a ridiculously flawed film, mostly succeeds with an elegant force that never fails to stimulate me emotionally and intellectually. I’ve seen that film at least one hundred times, and I could watch it another thousand times and still find something new and inspirational.

As I’ve written before, this film came along at the perfect time in my life. The trailer captures the film’s heavy-handed we-were-all-brothers sentimentality, but don’t let that dissuade you from watching the four-hour behemoth. If nothing else, let it become merely a visual introduction to “The Killer Angels,” the novel that inspired the film. A novel or a film can change someone’s life. I’m not ashamed to say that “Gettysburg” and “Angels” certainly changed mine, all for the better.

Read the novel. Spend a weekend with reading about the battle, or about the commanders, or about Lincoln. You’ll find it absolutely fascinating.