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The Authorized Guide and Companion to Dune

Snippets of poetry from the Imperium; a sample folk tale from the Oral History; brief biographies of over a dozen Duncan Idahos; two differing approaches to Paul Muad'Dib himself and to his son Leto II; Fremen recipes; Fremen history; secrets of the Bene Gesserit; the songs of Gurney Halleck -- these are just some of the treasures found when an earthmover fell into the God Emperor's no-room at Dar-es-Balat. Out of print for more than two decades, disavowed by Frank Herbert's estate, and highly sought-after by fans, the legendary Dune Encyclopedia is now available online as a fully illustrated and searchable PDF [direct link]. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Sep 1, 2010 - 55 comments

27 comments - This was by far the largest reaction I'd ever received.

Bringing It All Back Home. The relatively long-running (since 2006) webcomic Bellen! will come to a close in early September as its author goes on to other things (pdf). In preparation for the end of the series, the creator is taking "a longer eye-opening look into the origin of Bellen!" which dispenses with the strips regular old timey-yellowing paper style "because there are no more veneers in Bellen! it’s the pure unadulterated truth from here on out." An interesting look at the creative process in the digital age.
posted by ND¢ on Aug 13, 2010 - 11 comments

Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography

The Rehabilitation of Ernest Gellner - It is easy to imagine why Ernest Gellner would be one of the universally known figures in Anglophone intellectual life. A polymath whose work ranged across anthropology, history, philosophy, and sociology, his mind wrestled with an encyclopedia's worth of nagging questions about nationalism, modernity, civil society, imperialism, Islam, psychoanalysis, ethics and epistemology ... All of this, to repeat, should explain Gellner's monumental prominence – except for the fact that he has no such prominence. (via mr) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jul 25, 2010 - 7 comments

Superman the Musical

The Will to Music: Nietzsche's Musical Works The recent 2010 Cambridge University Press biography of Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzche: A Philosophical Biography, by Julian Young, comes with a companion website with 17 free musical compositions of the philosopher in mp3 and an extended commentary. [more inside]
posted by mfoight on Jul 20, 2010 - 8 comments

The Internet Accuracy Project

The Internet Accuracy Project. You may have stumbled on it in a casual search about postal holidays, been drawn in by the charming prose and vintage web design, and stayed to browse the eclectic contents, from plant hardiness zones (USA) to unusual town names. There are also extensive and ostensibly fact-checked celebrity biographies, which are beloved by some astrologists. While the lack of specific references in individual entries may raise eyebrows, there's an extensive defense of the Project's sources and methods. [Yes, I read the Internet Accuracy Project Linking Terms & Conditions.]
posted by Mngo on Jul 19, 2010 - 23 comments

The Life of Shelton Doyle Blalock, Everyday American

The Life of Shelton Doyle Blalock, Everyday American. Doyle Blalock was a son, submariner, husband, mailman, father, gardener, rockhound, artisan, grandfather, and friend: a regular guy with a remarkable life. What makes him particularly remarkable, though, is that his grandson, Lance Dean, created such a thorough record of his life to share with the internet, from Doyle's childhood in Golden Grove, Mississippi, his service as a sailor during World War II, his return to Mississippi and marriage to the lovely Lodena Alexander, to his post-retirement vocation as an artisan, creating "sand paintings" and demonstrating his art. (Links are to images out of context. See the first link for descriptions.) [more inside]
posted by ocherdraco on Jul 2, 2010 - 4 comments

Plebeian Lives and the Making of Modern London

London Lives 12 London archives – digitised, marked up and tagged – to "create a comprehensive electronic edition of primary sources on criminal justice and the provision of poor relief and medical care in eighteenth-century London". The Lives page is a good place to start browsing. [related]
posted by unliteral on Jun 8, 2010 - 8 comments

...and a twang of salt

How to Eat Watermelon - life lessons from Petey Greene's Washington, 1982. [more inside]
posted by madamjujujive on Mar 28, 2010 - 20 comments

The story of the girls behind the boys at Disney.

Coloring the Kingdom: the story of the all-female “finishing school” of hand-drawn animation that worked behind the scenes to create the first animated full-length Disney feature, Snow White. (via.)
posted by 1f2frfbf on Feb 5, 2010 - 8 comments

The Unauthorized Biographies

Rapper Shaun Boothe is now midway through his 12 part series of "unauthorized biographies", which showcase short history lessons about some of the major black figures of our time. Thus far, he's covered James Brown, Bob Marley (my favorite), Muhammed Ali, Martin Luther King (and briefly, Barack Obama), Jimi Hendrix, and Sean "Puffy" Combs. He's gotten some play and good press from major underground hip-hop media, due next in the series is a biography of Oprah Winfrey.
posted by rollbiz on Jan 11, 2010 - 13 comments

Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan

There was a rivalry between the parties, of course, but in Potter's account, it was more like the rivalry between Cal and Stanford than that between today's Republicans and Democrats. The parties had somewhat different constituencies and pledged fealty to a different set of men, but each attempted to encompass as much of the political spectrum as possible rather than merely half of it. The story of the 1850s, by these lights, is about how this changed.
With reference to David M. Potter's The Impending Crisis, Adam Cadre surveys the four antebellum presidents. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Oct 22, 2009 - 23 comments

Women Veterans Historical Collection

Jean M. Fasse (Red Cross during WWII, and later the Special Service). Shirley Ann Thacker (WAVE). Just two of the interviews from the extensive collection of material (photographs, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, oral histories and posters) at the Women Veterans Historical Collection.
posted by tellurian on Oct 14, 2009 - 4 comments

Without using the words “man” or “good,” can you please define what it means to be a good man?

War Dances: “I wanted to call my father and tell him that a white man thought my brain was beautiful”. Sherman Alexie doing his thing in The New Yorker, excerpted from his upcoming book (early review; interview 1, 2.)
posted by Non Prosequitur on Oct 5, 2009 - 45 comments

Clerihews

Sir Humphry Davy
Was not fond of gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

This is the first example of the form that came to be known as the clerihew. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Jul 24, 2009 - 66 comments

The influence of Edmund Spenser across two and a half centuries as traced through 25000 different texts

Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830 is a mammoth database of English poetry and other writings that traces the influence of the great 16th-Century poet Edmund Spenser on English poetry across 250 years. There are roughly 25000 different texts on the site, over 6000 poems from famous classics to obscure ephemera, and further thousands of biographies and commentaries. Since it would take years to read all the material I am happy to say that there is a guide to navigating the database, an overview of its contents, a statistical summary and an essay on tradition and innovation. The immense database, which started life as a pile of index cards, was compiled largely by Virginia Tech Professor David Hill Radcliffe over the course of 17 years.
posted by Kattullus on May 27, 2009 - 11 comments

Marguerite Young

Marguerite Young - whom Kurt Vonnegut called "unquestionably a genius" - first achieved success with a study of the utopian commune at New Harmony, Indiana called Angel in the Forest. She then spent 18 years writing Miss Macintosh, My Darling - a 1,198 page novel that William Goyen praised in The New York Times Book Review as "a masterwork". She spent the last 30 years of her life writing an unfinished biography of Eugene V. Debs that was posthumously published, in heavily edited form, as Harp Song for a Radical. [more inside]
posted by Joe Beese on May 22, 2009 - 4 comments

That guy on the $10 bill

An interesting article / biography of Alexander Hamilton has appeared in the current issue of City Journal. Authored by neo-con darling Myron Magnet the article avoids some of the harsher criticisms of Hamilton, but does address his weakness for young women.
posted by Lame_username on Apr 8, 2009 - 12 comments

The history of the experimentalization of life.

The Virtual Laboratory - A collection of essays, biographies, instruments and trade catalogues (e.g. experiment kit) from between 1830 and 1930. I must warn you that some of the films are a bit disturbing. Check out the eerie sounding vowel experiments in the audio section too.
posted by tellurian on Mar 2, 2009 - 9 comments

MacTutor History of Mathematics archive

The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive is an astounding collection of historical material on mathematics, especially biographies. (Previously: 1 2 3 4.)
posted by parudox on Feb 28, 2009 - 5 comments

Homework Helper

World of Science contains budding encyclopedias of astronomy, scientific biography, chemistry, and physics. This resource has been assembled over more than a decade by internet encyclopedist Eric Weisstein with assistance from the internet community. MeFi visited Weisstein's Mathworld a couple years ago.
posted by netbros on Feb 18, 2009 - 6 comments

History, Humanity, Philosophy

Human, All Too Human
posted by cthuljew on Dec 3, 2008 - 26 comments

Everyone gotta story to tell

First libraries started loaning records, then toys, then films and games - now they're loaning out people. The Living Library Project allows members to hear people's stories not on the page, but in person.
posted by mippy on Dec 3, 2008 - 16 comments

Yukio Mishima 14 January 1925 - 25 November 1970

"There's something very shabby about a noble grave... Political power and the power of wealth result in splendid graves. Really impressive graves, you know. Such creatures never had any imagination while they lived, and quite naturally their graves don't leave any room for imagination either. But noble people live only on the imaginations of themselves and others, and so they leave graves like this one which inevitably stir one's imagination. And this I find even more wretched. Such people, you see, are obliged even after they are dead to continue begging people to use their power of imagination." - Yukio Mishima via Kashiwagi in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. On this, the anniversary of Mishima's transformation into a headless god, a collection of video links. [more inside]
posted by eccnineten on Nov 25, 2008 - 11 comments

transitions and seeking refuge

A fascinating story of the first known, Western transsexual, Tibetan Buddhist novice monk: Laurence Michael Dillon (born Laura Maude Dillon, May 1, 1915 - May 15, 1962) was a British physician and the first female-to-male transsexual to undergo phalloplasty. His brother, Sir Robert Dillon, was the eighth Baronet of Lismullen in Ireland. The editor of Debrett's told Time Magazine that Dillon was unquestionably next in line for the baronetcy: The unwanted press attention led Dillon to flee to India, and then to a Tibetan monastery. Girls Will Be Boys, a review of The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution, by Pagan Kennedy. Photograph of Michael Dillon as a monk. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Sep 8, 2008 - 15 comments

Who is Alexander Grothendieck?

Who is Alexander Grothendieck? [PDF] This lecture is concerned not with Grothendieck's mathematics but with his very unusual life on the fringes of human society. In particular, there is, on the one hand, the question of why at the age of forty-two Grothendieck first of all resigned his professorship at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES); then withdrew from mathematics completely; and finally broke off all connections to his colleagues, students, acquaintances, friends, as well as his own family, to live as a hermit in an unknown place. On the other hand, one would like to know what has occupied this restless and creative spirit since his withdrawal from mathematics.
posted by Wolfdog on Aug 17, 2008 - 31 comments

Jack Sheldon...Oh Yes!

Trying To Get Good: The Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon Who is Jack Sheldon? You may remember him as Merv Griffin's comedic trumpet-wielding sidekick, or the indelible voice on School House Rock (etc.), but musicians know him as a jazz giant. Unlike his close friend and collaborator, Chet Baker, Jack Sheldon survived the demons of drugs, alcohol and unspeakable personal tragedy...
A documentary film by Penny Peyser and Doug McIntyre. (multiple YT clips in description; official site contains Flash audio)
posted by LinusMines on Jun 25, 2008 - 6 comments

Marshall Poe: professional historian with some cool projects

New Books In History. Historian Marshall Poe talks with other historians about their newly published books. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Apr 18, 2008 - 5 comments

So what do you really think of him, Paul?

Paul Theroux reviews Patrick French's frank, full, authorized (!) biography of Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul. Sir Vidiadhar is not, in Theroux's estimation, a very nice man. He tortures his wife emotionally, his mistress physically, and he treats people of all races with narcissistic condescension. But can he write? [more inside]
posted by sy on Apr 8, 2008 - 18 comments

Biographicon: crowd-sourcing non-notables

Biographicon : crowd-sourcing non-notables.
posted by stbalbach on Apr 1, 2008 - 7 comments

Mujer Libre

The Scots voice of the Spanish revolution [Embedded DivX video 1hr15m; also downloadable] Ethel MacDonald was a young working class Scots woman who hitch-hiked to Barcelona to do her part in the war. There she became the English-language voice of the anarchist movement as a radio station announcer. Newspapers at home dubbed her the "Scottish Scarlet Pimpernel" for her role in helping comrades escape the crackdown that followed the May Days. Her remarkable story is told in this recent drama-documentary.
posted by Abiezer on Feb 1, 2008 - 12 comments

Sky Writer : Robert Burnham Jr.

Over 30 years ago, Robert Burnham Jr. struggled to get his astronomical (in more ways than one) three volume work published. Burnham's Celestial Handbook: An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System "remains a sort of real-life hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, a compendium with something to say about nearly every cosmic destination worth visiting. . . It is rarely compared to other books because there simply is none other like it." It remains a beloved and relevant book among star-gazers today. Yet few know much about the life of the author, or of his sad and lonely demise: Sky Writer.
posted by spock on Jan 28, 2008 - 20 comments

The One, The Only, Groucho Marx

GROUCHO a funny sad documentary Google video [more inside]
posted by hortense on Jan 3, 2008 - 20 comments

Web2.0 vs. the 4th Dimension

Miomi (beta) is taking all the world’s information—including the personal history of as many people as possible—and putting it all in a big fat timeline. [more inside]
posted by carsonb on Dec 9, 2007 - 18 comments

Internally displaced people tell their life stories in their own words

IDP Voices is a site that lets people who are refugess within their own countries tell their life stories – in their own words. "The narratives in these pages are valuable complements to the official information on conflicts which governments and international organisations offer. These stories deal with the real lives of real people. The narrators share their personal experiences, their sensations, hopes and dreams, and the impact for them of being forced from their homes. The first IDP Voices oral testimonies project took place in Colombia. IDP Voices from further countries will be added as the projects progress." The life stories are in English and Spanish and can either be read or listened to. You can download the whole book of life stories here.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 8, 2007 - 7 comments

Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography

Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography From the writers of Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography. [via]
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth on Sep 8, 2007 - 23 comments

'A child's spirit is like a child, you can never catch it by running after it; you must stand still, and, for love, it will soon itself come back.'

Arthur Miller's Missing Act :: For all the public drama of Arthur Miller's career ... one character was absent: the Down-syndrome child he deleted from his life
posted by anastasiav on Aug 20, 2007 - 50 comments

"How I Became a Programmer"

"How I Became A Programmer" veers between linear biography and brain dump. The piece meanders through its theme, stopping along the way to flirt with word origins, family politics, the senior prom, Japan, airlines and military recruitment. Reading it, I felt trapped inside inside an extremely quirky -- yet recognizable (in a too-close-for-comfort way) -- mind. About half the time I yearned to tell him that he needs an editor; the other half, I was grateful that he didn't have one. Mostly, I'm amazed he HAD a date to the senior prom!
posted by grumblebee on Aug 18, 2007 - 52 comments

onBeing: Videographies That Capture People

onBeing: Videographies That Capture People. The Washington Post is running a fascinating series of videos, each of which is a little snapshot into someone's life, personality, and quirks. Here's one about Sunun Assavarunsrikul, a Thai waitress who feels she gives but just can't seem to get. Here's one about an "unconventional lawyer."
posted by shivohum on Jun 6, 2007 - 8 comments

Jesus Christ!

Jesus of Nazareth - a theological biography by Pope Benedict
posted by kyleg on May 13, 2007 - 63 comments

"Louis was my name, though I could not say it"

The mystery of John Doe No. 24 outlived him. But this 1993 obituary in the New York Times, briefly covering what was known of a deaf, dumb, blind teenager found wandering the streets of Jacksonville in 1945, inspired a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter, which in turn inspired Illinois journalist Dave Bakke to "meticulously reconstruct nearly fifty years of John Doe's life...using police reports, mental health records, oral interviews, newspapers" and write God Knows His Name: The True Story of John Doe No. 24.
posted by weston on Feb 22, 2006 - 16 comments

John Banville's homage to Philip Larkin

He complained to [Kingsley] Amis in 1943...that "all women are stupid beings" and remarked in 1983 that he'd recently accompanied Monica [Jones] to a hospital "staffed ENTIRELY by wogs, cheerful and incompetent." ...His views on politics and class seemed to be pithily captured in a ditty he shared again with Amis. "I want to see them starving,/The so-called working class,/Their wages yearly halving,/Their women stewing grass..." For recreation he apparently found time for pornography, preferably with a hint of sado-masochism".
John Banville on Philip Larkin.
posted by matteo on Feb 6, 2006 - 30 comments

Olaf Stapledon: The Star Maker

Olaf Stapledon was a man ahead of his time. His epic 'novel' Star Maker (1937) considered the emergence of genetic engineering, the outcome of the many worlds interpretation and delved deeper than any book before or since into the consequences of evolution on the cosmos. His fans have included the likes of Arthur C Clarke, Jorge Luis Borges and Virginia Woolf. Even his greatest detractor, C.S.Lewis, wrote an entire Cosmic Trilogy in response to his imaginings. Yet despite Stapledon's magnetic prose and extraordinary influence on speculative fiction his name remains largely forgotten by the world. Yet his words still resonate with insight: "Did not our life issue daily as more or less firm threads of active living, and mesh itself into the growing web, the intricate, ever-proliferating pattern of mankind?"
posted by 0bvious on Nov 27, 2005 - 24 comments

Aleksandr Sokurov's "The Sun"

The Emperor's Bunker. "The Japanese, with sadness and irony, stressed that Hirohito couldn't even speak properly. This was partly to do with the fact that he didn't have to speak - people spoke in his name and he was isolated from real life". "The Sun", the third part in Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov's 'Men of Power' tetralogy after the gloom of Moloch (1999), about Hitler and Eva Braun, and the despairing tones of "Taurus" (2001), focused on the wheelchair-bound Lenin in his death throes, "The Sun" seems almost upbeat. This, after all, is a film about reconciliation. More inside.
posted by matteo on Sep 13, 2005 - 21 comments

Wagner, the repulsive giant

Wagner, the repulsive giant If, on one hand, you ever wanted to know what a swine Richard Wagner was, this is the book to tell you. It does so at length, in reliable detail, calmly, without prurience, perfectly backed with documentation, and in a translation whose only fault is in giving no Translator’s Notes for in-house German references. Joachim Köhler sustains his story with new ideas, revises other interpretations and modestly deconstructs Cosima née Liszt’s creation of “Richard Wagner Enterprises Inc”. (This she developed so far as to keep Parsifal exclusive to Bayreuth, prompting George Bernard Shaw to remark in 1889 that it “would almost reconcile me to the custom of suttee”!).
posted by matteo on Sep 3, 2005 - 11 comments

Jeff Lint

Don't teach braille in my town again, McFadden - Martin Amis was an early fan of Jeff Lint's "The Caterer", a Pearl Comic of the mid-seventies. Steve Aylett talks about his biography of the man here, and Justin Taylor says how much he enjoyed it.
posted by TimothyMason on Jul 3, 2005 - 7 comments

Who is the real Bob Saget?

Who is the real Bob Saget? • "In comedy circles, there’s a famous Saget story about the night his first daughter was born. After a very difficult birth, during which Sherri Saget and her baby almost died, a friend showed up to find Mr. Saget looking utterly destroyed, unshaven, unrecognizable, but holding his newborn. Oh my God, Bob, she’s beautiful, the friend said. For a dollar, you can finger her, Mr. Saget replied." Saget guests in the upcoming Aristocrats documentary discussed here.
posted by dhoyt on May 6, 2005 - 55 comments

To “have the privilege of walking home with Gödel.”

“Gödel put logic on the mathematical map.”
An excellent interview with Rebecca Goldstein, biographer of Kurt Godel
posted by thatwhichfalls on Mar 19, 2005 - 23 comments

Biography of a peridromophile

Peridromophile William James Sidis was so fascinated with with streetcar transfers that he wrote a 300 page book about them.
posted by gregb1007 on Feb 10, 2005 - 12 comments

"Mother Medea in a green smock"

Poems from the precipice. Sylvia Plath's late poems were published posthumously in a collection edited by her husband, Ted Hughes. As a new facsimile edition of the original manuscript is published, their daughter Frieda defends Hughes against criticism that he interfered with Plath's legacy. (more inside)
posted by matteo on Nov 16, 2004 - 25 comments

Cheney Bio

The Unauthorized Biography of Dick Cheney from the CBC.
posted by islander on Oct 6, 2004 - 4 comments

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