Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Persia’s Alexander the Great / Iraq emerges as Iranian ally / Pakistan, our frenemy / More shelter needed for Austin’s homeless / One man juggles five lovers

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. Alexander the not so Great: History through Persian eyes
By Ali Ansari | BBC News Magazine | July 14
“lexander the Great is portrayed as a legendary conqueror and military leader in Greek-influenced Western history books but his legacy looks very different from a Persian perspective.”

2. The Afghan Air War
By C.J. Chivers and Ben Solomon | The New York Times | July 2012
“[Chivers] flies in an F/A-18 over Afghanistan, examining changes in America’s air power and how Afghan troops will fare without it.”

3. Amber Waves of Green
By Jon Ronson | GQ | July 2012
“Guess what, compatriots? The gap between the richest and the poorest among us is now wider than it has been since we all nose-dived into the Great Depression.”

4. Iraq-Iran Ties Grow Stronger As Iraq Rises From The Ashes
By Dan Froomkin | The Huffington Post | July 14
“Though technically a democracy, Iraq’s floundering government has degenerated into a tottering quasi-dictatorship.”

5. More shelter space for homeless women needed, local advocates say
By Andrea Ball | Austin American-Statesman | July 13
“Currently, those who want a place to stay are routinely turned away from local shelters because of a shortage of beds, said Richard Troxell, founder of the advocacy group House the Homeless.”

6. Our high-maintenance relationship with Pakistan
By David Ignatius | The Washington Post | July 13
“The two countries talk about strategic cooperation one month and feud the next. They claim to be allies against terrorism, even as each side’s intelligence service conducts operations the other regards as hostile.”

7. Terry Moore: Why is ‘x’ the unknown?
TEDx | June 2012
“Why is ‘x’ the symbol for an unknown? In this short and funny talk, Terry Moore gives the surprising answer.”

8. An Interview with Eva Illouz
By Jessa Crispin | Bookslut | July 2012
“Haven’t you for years felt like you were being conned somehow in the realm of relationships?”

9. The Single Guy Juggling Five Girls in One Week
Daily Intel :: New York Magazine | Feb. 28
“Once a week, Daily Intel takes a peek behind doors left slightly ajar. This week, the Single Guy Juggling Five Girls in One Week: 29, male, single, East Village, straight.”

10. Death of Sid Vicious
Witness :: BBC News | Feb. 2
“With his snarl and spikey hair, the Sex Pistols bassist, Sid Vicious, was the embodiment of punk rock.”

******************

TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. QUEIQU’UN M’A DIT (Someone Told Me) Carla Bruni
2. SPINNING Zero 7
3. SILVER LINING David Gray
4. LYING PEACEFULLY Pepe Deluxe
5. MISGUIDED ANGEL Cowboy Junkies
6. ALWAYS ON MY MIND Willie Nelson
7. STANDSTILL Hardkandy
8. THE FORGOTTEN PEOPLE Thievery Corporation
9. NEVER THE SAME Supreme Beings of Leaisure
10. LEAN ON ME Sounds from the Ground

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Remembering Hitchens / Terrible presents / OWS collapsing / Word of 2011 / Iraq by the numbers

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. Christopher Hitchens, Consummate Writer, Brilliant Friend
By Ian McEwan | The New York Times | Dec. 16
“His unworldly fluency never deserted him, his commitment was passionate, and he never deserted his trade. He was the consummate writer, the brilliant friend. In Walter Pater’s famous phrase, he burned ‘with this hard gem-like flame.’ Right to the end.”

2. I Gave My Kids a Terrible Present
Jimmy Kimmel Live | Dec. 12
Kids react when they get crap for presents.

3. Polemicist Who Slashed All, Freely, Dies at 62
By William Grimes | The New York Times | Dec. 16
“He was a master of the extended peroration, peppered with literary allusions, and of the bright, off-the-cuff remark.”

4. Merriam-Webster picks ‘pragmatic’ as Word of Year
By Stephanie Reitz | Associated Press | Dec. 15
“Though it wasn’t traced to a specific news event or quote from a famous person, searches for ‘pragmatic’ jumped in the weeks before Congress voted in August to increase the nation’s debt ceiling, and again as its supercommittee tried to craft deficit-cutting measures this fall.”

5. Occupy Wall Street’s center shows some cracks
By Amy Westfeldt | Associated Press | Dec. 14
“Instead of 24-hour base camps, Occupy Wall Street’s center of gravity has devolved into dozens of smaller groups with different agendas and objectives.”

6. Q&A: Fixing to Defrag a Disk
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Sept. 1
“Q: I keep getting errors when I try to run the Disk Defragmenter program in Windows. What can I do?”

7. Iraq: Key figures since the war began
Associated Press | Dec. 18
“U.S. deaths as of Dec. 15, 2011: 4,487, according to the Pentagon.”

8. The Golden Rule
Flying Bachelorette | June 2011
“Many flight attendants are upset about the way passengers behave onboard these days — but what about how flight attendants behave?”

9. Sarah Kay: How many lives can you live?
TED Talks | May 2011
“Spoken-word poet Sarah Kay was stunned to find she couldn’t be a princess, ballerina and astronaut all in one lifetime.”

10. Edward and Mrs Simpson
Witness :: BBC News | April 1
“When Edward VIII fell in love with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, he had to choose between his throne and her.”

**************

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. Paul Thorn — Turnip Greens and Long Way from Tupelo
2. Dave Herrero — Bark
3. Tommy Crain and the Cross Town All Stars — Why I Sing the Blues
4. The Geoff Everett Band — Young Love Blues
5. John Mayall — Jacksboro Highway
6. The Shawn Fussell Band — Tulia Texas
7. Bo Cox — Gone
8. Stevie Ray Vaughan — The Sky Is Crying
9. Carolyn Wonderland — Trouble In The City
10. Moosters — Executioner
11. George Thorogood — I Didn’t Know
12. Anna Popovic — Wrong Woman
13. Chris Rea — Houston Angel

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Fight over Amazon / Appreciating gravity / Obama’s 2012 issues / The pizza-sized burger / Embracing sex

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. Saving the Amazon, from forest floor up
By Bradley Brooks | Associated Press | Dec. 11
“Just three years ago, the manmade fires here were so fierce smoke would blot out the Amazon sky, turning the days dark. Towering rainforest trees exploded in flames, their canopies cleared to let pasture grow for cattle.”

2. Gravity: You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone
LiveScience | May 2011
“Here on Earth, we take gravity so for granted that it took an apple falling from a tree to trigger Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation. But gravity, which draws objects together in proportion to their mass, is about much more than fallen fruit.”

3. Obama decides high-profile issues ahead of 2012
By Erica Werner | Associated Press | Dec. 10
“On issues from air pollution to contraception, President Barack Obama has broken sharply with liberal activists and come down on the side of business interests and social conservatives as he moves more to the political middle for his re-election campaign.”

4. The First Taste Test: Burger King’s Pizza-Sized Burger
By Patrick St. Michel | Esquire | Dec. 9
“Half of the hulking sandwich gets done up like a regular Whopper; for the other half, customers can select a ‘fresh avocado’ or ‘cheese nacho’ variation.”

5. Why Russia’s Post-Putin Future May Not Be Democratic
By Paul Starobin | The New Republic | Dec. 12
“Vladimir Putin, rather suddenly, is shifting from Good Czar to Bad Czar in the minds of the Russian people.”

6. Q&A: Taking Action on Google+
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Aug. 22
“Q: If I block someone on Google+, can that person still see the things I post?”

7. Flaws and All, Gingrich Says Life Is an Open Book
By Trip Gabriel | The New York Times | Dec. 11
“Gingrich’s skill in facing criticisms head-on — sometimes fiercely rebutting them, sometimes apologizing for past errors in judgment — has only swelled his support.”

8. Saudi Arabia: Woman Convicted Of ‘Sorcery’ Executed
Associated Press | Dec. 12
“Saudi authorities have executed a woman convicted of practicing magic and sorcery.”

9. Stop Making Sex Taboo
By Hugo Martins | The Good Men Project | Dec. 9
“Make it clear. Make it simple. Make it right.”

10. Joe Sabia: The technology of storytelling
TED Talks | May 2011
“iPad storyteller Joe Sabia introduces us to Lothar Meggendorfer, who created a bold technology for storytelling: the pop-up book.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

The Iran problem / Tips from Bismarck / Daddy Longlegs myth / A serene Basra / Humans and monsters

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. Why There’s No Quick Iran Fix
The Diplomat | Dec. 13
“The last three months have witnessed the crisis with Iran turn from a simmer to a boil.”

2. After 207 years, Navy commandos’ wait continues
By Stephan Dinan | The Washington Times | Dec. 1
“Navy commandos whose remains have languished in Libya for more than two centuries will have to wait at least a little longer after the Navy on Thursday blocked senators’ efforts to have their bodies brought back to the U.S.”

3. The Leadership Secrets of Bismarck
By Michael Bernhard | Foreign Affairs | Nov./Dec. 2011
“The larger-than-life figure who presided over Germany’s rise was Otto von Bismarck, foreign minister and minister-president of Prussia during the 1860s, architect of German unification in 1871, and chancellor of a unified German empire from 1871 to 1890.”

4. Are Daddy Longlegs Really the Most Poisonous Spiders In the World?
By Natalie Wolchover | Life’s Little Mysteries | Dec. 8
“It turns out that the notion is false on both counts. But a little clarification is needed.”

5. Once bustling U.S. base in Basra now a ghost town
By Erik Slavin | Stars and Stripes | Dec. 10
“It is also a testament to one of the largest military logistics feats in history: With just four open bases remaining in Iraq, the U.S. is on the verge of completing the withdrawal of thousands of troops and millions of pieces of equipment before the Dec. 31 exit deadline.”

6. Cheryl Hayashi: The magnificence of spider silk
TED Talks | Feb. 2010
“Each species of spider can make up to 7 very different kinds of silk. How do they do it?”

7. Iraq: A war of muddled goals, painful sacrifice
By Robert H. Reid and Rebecca Santana | Associated Press | Dec. 11
“Nearly 4,500 American and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives later, the objective now is simply to get out — and leave behind a country where democracy has at least a chance, where Iran does not dominate and where conditions may not be good but ‘good enough.’ ”

8. Why we invented monsters
By Paul A. Trout | Salon | Dec. 3
“How our primate ancestors shaped our obsession with terrifying creatures”

9. On the cutting room floor: a century of film censorship
By Andrew Pulver | The Guardian | Dec. 9
“The director of Britain’s film censorship body reveals all about the thinking underpinning its controversial decisions”

10. Iraq after the US: Will it survive?
Scott Peterson | The Christian Science Monitor | Dec. 10
“Iraqis harbor anger, deep concerns — and some optimism — as American troops withdraw after nearly nine years of war and occupation.”