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April 23rd 2018

April 23 is the date traditionally observed as the birthday of William Shakespeare, an occasion celebrated wherever English is spoken with performances, readings, parades and other events. In Oxford today there was a parade and performances by school children. At Vanderbilt University in Tennessee there are jugglers, troubadors, puppet shows and performances of favorite scenes from the plays. Pittsburgh has declared April 22-28 "The Week of Will," with events ranging from plays in parks to... Read Post

January 24th 2018

Ursula Le Guin, the acclaimed author of The Earthsea Trilogy, The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness and more than 40 other works of science fiction and fantasy, died this past Monday. She was the recipient of numerous awards, including being declared a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress. Le Guin was 88.

Yale professor and literary critic Harold Bloom called her a “major stylist” who “raised fantasy into high literature.” It’s almost impossible to imagine science fiction... Read Post

November 21st 2017

Yesterday the current occupant of the White House pardoned two turkeys. The annual ceremony during Thanksgiving week in which the President spares a turkey's life is one of the more bizarre moments in our national life. It's unclear why the act is even called a "pardon," since the definition of the word is "a release from punishment for an infraction of the law," and no one ever says what these turkeys are guilty of other than being  ridiculous-looking.

The first president to spare a... Read Post

November 6th 2017

This past weekend we set our clocks back one hour as we do every year. Ideally when we get up in the morning it will be a little lighter, and, not so ideally, after we work we'll all be stumbling home in the dark.  But why do we do this? Supposedly Benjmain Franklin first proposed daylight saving time (DST) as a way to save candles, but he also suggested waking the public by firing cannons at sunrise, so it's difficult to say how serious he was. The idea in its modern systematized form was... Read Post

June 8th 2016
Last Sunday marked the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim year.  If you're a non-Muslim and don't know anything about Ramadan, this brief article at Vox.com covers the essentials. Muslims believe Ramadan  to be the month God revealed the first verses of the Quran to Mohammed. It's a time of contemplation and celebration. There are an estimated 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, so there's a possibility you know someone or will run into someone who's observing  it. As a... 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.
October 2nd 2015
Earlier this week, NASA announced the discover of water on Mars.  However, the Curiosity rover is banned by treaty from analyzing it. The Mars Orbiter spotted a dry-ice avalanche on the planet. Over at Space.com, staff writer Mike Wall outlines the various ways NASA might get a manned mission to Mars. And over at Wired.com, Angela Watercutter explains why the movie is better than the book.
October 1st 2015
In light of ongoing national conversations surrounding this topic, the City of Somerville invites residents to share their experiences, concerns, and ideas on race and racism in a new round of its Community Conversations Series beginning on Monday, October 5th. Organized by the Office of Health and Human Services, ‘conversations' will be held in each of the City's seven wards. Residents are invited to join these small-group discussions to share their experiences and learn from their neighbors... Read Post
April 1st 2015
The cruelest month (as T.S. Eliot called it) has officially begun, and many people will doubtless play silly pranks on others today. But why? Nobody really knows  the origins of April Fool's Day. But we do know that holidays associated with jokes have been around a long time. In Ancient Rome the December festival of Saturnalia was distinguished by a Carnaval-like atmosphere in which tricks and hoaxes were par for the course. As for modern April Fool's Day, one of the earliest mentions in... Read Post
March 14th 2015
..may well be the most popular collective destination in the world.
December 16th 2014
NPR has a great report on Armed Services Editions, the pocket-sized books that entertained and consoled soldiers during World War II. Here is the link to request a library copy of the new book on ASEs, When Books Went to War. Have you ever wondered what was involved in making books before the rise of industrial-scale printing in the 1840s? You can watch someone make a book with a hand-operated printing press here. Grown-ups who read YA books? You're in good company. While adult book sales... Read Post
July 16th 2014
JFK, Jr and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy on their wedding day

Today was a tragic day in US History when John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and her older sister Lauren died when the airplane JFK, Jr. was piloting when down in the Atlantic near Martha’s Vineyard. A massive search/rescue/recovery mission was undertaken to find the plane and bring home their bodies. This sad story captivated the world over for many days. But, it was not the only thing that happened on this... Read Post
March 4th 2014
The eyes of the world are on the Ukraine at the moment, but what exactly is going on, and how much does it matter? For background: here's the situation as mapped out (literally) by the BBC. The Ukrainian crisis by the numbers. And here's the latest response from the White House. The New York Times has updates.
January 28th 2014

A great artist and a great American left us today.  Pete Seeger, America's most beloved folk singer, and the father of today's vibrant folk music scene, died today in New York City. He was 94. He left his stamp on American music with songs such as "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "Turn, Turn, Turn." "Hammer" will forever be associated with resistance to Joseph McCarthy's witchhunts, and "Flowers" was the anthem of the anti-Vietnam war movement.  For Seeger, there... Read Post

October 1st 2013
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