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
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
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
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
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
You can see footage of today's ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks here. If you want to participate in tonight's vigil, it starts at 6 pm at the Cedar Street entrance to the Community Path. Middle East expert Juan Cole notes that the FBI still hasn't released documents that could demonstrate how "un-Islamic" the 9-11 hijackers are. You can examine three very different perspectives on the attacks here, here and here. And over at the Washington Monthly, they've... Read Post