"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
Perhaps slightly obscurred by its charmingly primitive web design, my new favorite website is a fantastic reference resource for delving into American speeches that have changed history as well as discovering new amazing ones. [more inside]
"'If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.' So goes the old saying. Yet conditions in some American facilities are so obscene that they amount to a form of extrajudicial punishment." Mother Jones is profiling "America's 10 Worst Prisons." Facilities were chosen for the list based on "...three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with reform advocates." [more inside]
Amy Chua's anecdotal "tiger mom" manifesto meets some peer-reviewed data-driven research. Oh snap! [more inside]
In his retirement speech, Donald Kagan, eminent historian of Ancient Greece, sounds the alarm about the decline of American democracy and Western Civilization. The Academy is fragmented, overrun by political correctness, and lacks focus. American society is plagued with similar problems, and Americans are no longer self-sufficient enough. Is his lament simply an echo of declinism?
Crazy Horse’s actual quote translates into English follows: “To day is a good day to die for all the things of my life are present." [more inside]
What Does D-Day, MLK JR and Tennessee Williams have in common? NO, not that D-Day. The other D-Day. [more inside]
Leaving the Witness. "In one of the most restrictive, totalitarian countries in the world, for the first time in my life, I had the freedom to think." [more inside]
My fellow Mefites, I implore you. Don't even think about clicking the more inside if you have anything pressing to do. [previously] [more inside]
folkinfo.org is a database of English-language folk songs. Each song is listed with its respective lyrics, sheet music, Roud Index number, midi file, and historical information. The database also provides song information in abc notation. Placed into an abc converter, one can generate sheet music in a variety of forms and scales.
The First Rough Draft of History: A Behind-the-Scenes History of Newsweek Magazine
Beth Howard travelled 1,100 miles to Newtown, CT in her 24-foot-long camper, loaded with 240 apple pies, and she dished out pie to kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School, and grieving parents [more inside]
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Via io9: "The first nine Superman cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios from 1941 to 1942 are a wonder of animated retrofuturism, giving us a peek into a world that not only had a flying superstrong protector, but also filled viewers' heads with dreams of autonomous robots, comet-controlling telescopes, and machines that could shake the Earth. These films are in the public domain and have been available on the Internet Archive," but now Warner Bros. is releasing them (remastered) on YouTube. The first short, "Superman" (also known as "The Mad Scientist,") was nominated for an Academy Award. Also see: The Super Guide to the Fleischer Superman Cartoons. Find links to all nine episodes and more inside. [more inside]
Harold Lash is an abstract painter whose works are wild and startlingly vivid. There are repeated themes of flowers and cities and ships and are often obsessively patriotic. I particularly enjoy his painting of Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, where he lives and works, and the colors of Girls Night Out strikes me as well. [WARNING: HUGE IMAGES]
Auctioneers as hypnotists? (Hurry up, you could lose the bid...)
In 2006, aspiring inventor Marc Griffin appeared on the show American Inventor with a table game he had invented called Bulletball. Convinced he had created the next Olympic sport, he had spent 26 years of his life on the idea. He'd quit his job, sold all his possessions including his wife's wedding ring, and was sleeping in his car. The judges hated the idea – and his gut-wrenching experience on the show went viral. [more inside]
"When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain."
In the Shadow of Wounded Knee. Along the southwestern border of South Dakota is one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States—the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota people. After 150 years of broken promises, they are still nurturing their tribal customs, language and beliefs. Via [more inside]
What ho, dearest cousins in the Western Colonies. You appear to be increasingly using the vernacular of the mother country. Splendid! [more inside]
Sara White, Canadian blogger who recently moved to Rome, shares some thoughts about old world food cultures versus the American approach to cooking. One of the most interesting things to me about her post is the discussion about how having no limitations (many Americans can just waltz into a large supermarket and get almost anything from almost anywhere) can negatively impact culinary creativity.
In May 1876, Baron Joseph Henry Louis Charles De Palm died, leaving his worldy goods to Theosophical Society president H.S. Olcott with the request that his body be disposed of “in a fashion that would illustrate the Eastern notions of death and immortality." And so, after what the press called a "Pagan Funeral" in New York and with the help of Pennsylvania doctor Francis LeMoyne, his became the first modern cremation in the United States. The New York Times of 1876 covered both funeral and cremation. (That is, if you can stand to read grainy pdf scans of old newsprint.) In Winter 2009, a theosophist telling of events was published in the American society's quarterly, Quest magazine. Olcott himself devoted several chapters to De Palm's story in his Old Diary Leaves.
In February, PBS and AOL launched Makers, a video archive containing personal stories and anecdotes told in the first person by women, many of whom have sparked groundbreaking changes in American culture. [more inside]
In 2005, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks produced a 6 episode miniseries that spanned the period of expansion of the United States into the American West, from 1825 to 1890. Through fictional and historical characters, the series used two primary symbols--the wagon wheel and the Lakota medicine wheel -- to join the story of two families: one Native American, one White settlers, as they witnessed many of the 19th century's pivotal historical milestones. The award-winning Into The West can now be seen in its entirety on YouTube. [more inside]
American Airlines has been forced to cancel 300 flights this week as pilots, upset over a discouraging deal with their union (including pay and benefits cuts), have begun calling in sick in high numbers.
Use the enemy's own films to expose their enslaving ends. Let our boys hear the Nazis and the Japs shout their own claims of master-race crud—and our fighting men will know why they are in uniform.
Why We Fight is a series of seven documentary films commissioned by the United States government during World War II whose purpose was to show American soldiers the reason for U.S. involvement in the war. Later on they were also shown to the general U.S. public to persuade them to support American involvement in the war. Each of them is in the common domain having been produced by the US government, available online, and linked below the fold: [more inside]
Don't judge Honey Boo Boo, because the tv show doesn't care what it's saying about American culture.
Perez Hamilton reports on American history from the 1400's through the 1700's, in the style of gossip blog Perez Hilton. Contents may be offensive. Archive view.
"America may well be in a fateful decline. But given that the country has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, is our current crisis proportionate to the doomsday hysteria—or have we lost perspective?" Frank Rich, columnist for New York Magazine, explores the recurring phenomenon of declinist panic and our national tendency to burnish the past in "Mayberry R.I.P."
A map of American state stereotypes, generated by Google autocomplete.
Dan and Ben filmed a scene. It was shown to the next team. They had 1 hour and 1 take to re-create it from memory. The video that team made was shown to the next team, and so on and so on.
The line between a good story and a true story gets a closer examination at This American Life [more inside]
Jimmyjane (NSFW) makes luxury, design-oriented vibrators and other sex toys and accessories. ("Design inspired by Apple, not Hustler.") They'd like to change the way Americans think about them: instead of as 'dirty little secrets,' they're hoping for mainstream acceptance and to usher in an "Age of Great American Sex." (Via) [more inside]
"It’s been nearly 6 years since the series finale of The West Wing, and more than 12 since the one-hour drama, which [Aaron] Sorkin created and largely wrote, first walked and talked its way through NBC’s Wednesday-night lineup; and yet you might think the series never ended, given the currency it still seems to enjoy in Washington, the frequency with which it comes up in D.C. conversations and is quoted or referenced on political blogs. In part this is because the smart, nerdy—they might prefer “precocious”—kids who grew up in the early part of the last decade worshipping the cool, technocratic charm of Sorkin’s characters have today matured into the young policy prodigies and press operatives who advise, brief, and excuse the behavior of the most powerful people in the country."
"One of the deep, dark secrets of America's past has finally come to light. Starting in the early 1900s, hundreds of thousands of American children were warehoused in institutions by state governments." An early part of the American experiment with Eugenics, the Walter E. Fernald State School inspired scores of similar institutions across the country, and more recently, one of the definitive histories of the era. [more inside]
Woody Allen: A Documentary (Part One, Part Two), a film by Robert Weide and part of the American Masters series on PBS, is now online. [more inside]
The Corpus of American Historical English is a searchable index of word usage in American printed material from 1810 to 2009. Powerful complex searches allow you to trace the appearance and evolution of words and phrases and even specific grammatical constructions, see trends in frequency, and plenty more. Start with the 5-Minute Tour.
"The next time you hear a bird chirping outside your window, you might think twice about what’s going on inside his little birdbrain."
Are birds’ tweets grammatical? [Scientific American] But are the rules of grammar unique to human language? Perhaps not, according to a recent study, which showed that songbirds may also communicate using a sophisticated grammar—a feature absent in even our closest relatives, the nonhuman primates. Kentaro Abe and Dai Watanabe of Kyoto University performed a series of experiments to determine whether Bengalese finches expect the notes of their tunes to follow a certain order.
Meet Jessica Beinecke. Her Chinese fluency and her bubbly personality make her a minor celebrity among young Chinese speakers. Her videos covers topics such as: Yucky Gunk ,which went viral. Fist Pumping. Badonkadonk. Yo, Homie. Mexican food. And her Thing. Brought to you by the Voice of America.
'Few Americans today can name more than one or two current boxers, but boxing once stood at the center of American life. It has become a ghost sport, long discredited but still hovering in the nation’s consciousness, refusing to go away and be silent entirely. But there was a time when things were very different. Boxing's history winds a thread through the broader history of the nation.'
Public Image Limited, Live on American Bandstand in 1980, that is all.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey defends his appointment of Sohail Mohammed to the state bench. Sohail Mohammed is New Jersey's first Indian-born Superior Court Judge. "After Christie nominated Mohammed in January for the judgeship, the former federal prosecutor found himself accused of cozying up to Islamic radicals. Mohammed’s confirmation hearing before the state Senate included two hours of grilling, including inquires about Sharia, jihad and Hamas." [more inside]