February 8th 2018
African-American history is endlessly fascinating: it's the troubling, complex counterpoint to the sanitized, triumphalist version of American history so many of us were taught in school and that still appears in popular historical works. The Internet is a trove of riches on the black American experience. Below are links to a small, eclectic sample of what's available online.
At the Library of Congress you can listen to, or read transcripts of, interviews conducted with former... Read Post
January 4th 2017
Many of us will remember 2016 as the year the world lost so many vibrant talents and wonderful minds: the novelist Umberto Eco, the comedic actor Gene Wilder, the singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and completely wonderful actor and human being Alan Rickman, to name only a few. But I was perhaps most moved by the death of the multitalented Carrie Fisher, the actress and author most of us remember as the fearless, defiant Princess Leia in the original Star Wars films. She had other film roles,... Read Post
June 27th 2016
Last week I posted about books, plays and television programs related to Henry VIII (last Friday was the anniversary of his coronation). A reader of this blog pointed out to me that I omitted a certain musical tribute to England's most famous king, so here it is:
I also discovered this video that sums up most of what you would learn from any books about Henry VIII and his wives:
Never say I don't give the public what they want.
June 6th 2016
The Library of America is a nonprofit publisher dedicated to producing durable high-quality editions of the best of American writing. And it's not just fiction: their nonfiction volumes include the World War II reporting of A.J. Liebling, the movie reviews of James Agee, and the four-volume collection of diaries and letters, The Civil War Told by Those Who Lived It. If you want to get exposure to a range of American writing but are daunted by the size and number of LOA books, sign up for "... Read Post
May 12th 2016
...for May 12, 2016. Canadian author and environmentalist Farley Mowat (1921- 2014) was born on this day in Bellville, Ontario. He wrote more than 40 books, the most famous being Never Cry Wolf (1963), supposedly an account of his experiences observing wolves in the wilderness of subarctic Canada. Mowat was often accused of not actually having spent as much time with wolves as he recounts in the book. Mowat's usual response was that his critics were confusing facts with truth. The book was an... Read Post
April 20th 2016
NBC nightly news correspondent Richard Engel has written an intriguing book about living two decades in the Middle East. From witnessing bomb explosions, kidnappings, bribery's, meeting Saddam Hussein and at one point was the only living American reporter in Baghdad during the Iraq War, Engel has shared a great and fascinating experience with us that all American should read.
The book begins with a brief history of the Middle East, how it's come to be, so many cultures, religions and types of... Read Post
April 8th 2016
...for April 8, 2016.
On this day 81 years ago Congress passed the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, the law that created the Works Progress Administration, an unprecedented effort by the federal government to provide employment during an economic crisis. At its peak the WPA employed over 8 million people on public projects ranging from building roads and making parks to creating public works of art and interviewing former slaves about life before Emancipation.
If you would like to... Read Post
April 7th 2016
I'm sure you've all been following the news about the conflict between the FBI and Apple, and how the FBI managed to break into the San Bernadino shooter's iPhone without Apple's help. Interestingly, the tool the FBI used appears to work only on iPhone 5cs or earlier models.
In any case, the company WhatsApp changed the game entirely this week when it finished end-to-end encryption for its messaging app. You can read more about that and why it matters here.
And there's good news for PC users... Read Post
April 1st 2016
One of my favorite websites for online learning (or amusment) is FutureLearn.com. It offers short and free introductions to a variety of subjects. Courses are usually 3 to 5 weeks and average about 3 hours a week of work. You can learn about everything from mobile programming to introductory Italian. Or you could inform yourself about nuclear energy, Japanese philosophy, cardiovascular disease, or Roman archaeology.
Check it out.
March 25th 2016
According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans surveyed consider themselves lifelong learners. Many of them are "professional learners:" they take courses or attend trainings to enhance their job skills and career prospects. However, the vast majority are "personal learners:" they learn skills or subjects that personally interest them.
And while the Internet can be an indispensable tool for learning, a majority of personal learners say a physical space (such as a library or... Read Post
March 3rd 2016
A few weeks ago I posted about resources to help you determine the truth of what you see, hear or read in the media.
Here are 3 more fact-checking resources to consider: Media Matters for America, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, and The Washington Post's Fact Checker.
February 16th 2016
I've posted a fair bit about protecting your online privacy, but most of it's only applicable to PC users. However, Mac users have an array of privacy self-defense tools at their disposal as well. First, go here and follow Lifehacker's instructions on configuring OS X to maximize your privacy (it's not at the top of the screen--you'll have to scroll down a bit to find the instructions. They're under the heading "Audit OS X's System Settings."
For iPhone and iPad users: there's a free app... Read Post
January 29th 2016
On this day in 1845 Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven" was first published. It appeared in the New York Evening Mirror. Over at Share This is a brief post about the poem and its cultural impact.
Below is a dramatic reading of the poem by Christopher Walken. And below that is another reading by Vincent Price. And below that is my favorite.
January 15th 2016
It's an election year. Candidates are saying a lot of things to get people's votes, which means many of them are, to be blunt, lying.
How do you know what to believe? How do you sort fact from fabrication? Surprisingly, the Internet can actually help if you go to the right places.
Factcheck.org is just what it sounds like: a website devoted to finding the truth behind politician's statements, misleading headlines, and viral rumors. Factcheck is published by the Annenberg Public Policy Center... Read Post
November 1st 2015
For the week of Oct. 26 - Nov. 1, 2015.
Oct. 27: Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath are both born on this date in 1914 and 1932, respectively. While both are considered among the greatest 20th century poets who wrote in English, their work is extremely different. Thomas wrote elegaic poetry influenced by the Victorian poets Hardy and Hopkins, with imagery drawn from the Bible, Welsh folklore and the works of Freud. The much-younger Plath shocked readers with the angry tone and brutal imagery she... Read Post