I keep walking around thinking "Hmm, was there ever a year worse than 2016?" Then I remember that yes, there was. 1933! And what made that year so terrible? Dictators!
If you purchase anything from the Royal British Legion online, they send you a card with the name of a random ordinary soldier who died in the Battle of the Somme with it. When people tell me those names, I find out stuff about them. [more inside]
The traditional western hororscope, mapped onto the classic movie monsters.
A Twitter bot that crawls Tumblr and Flickr for images, learning what tags and authors are good based on feedback on its tweets. Inspired by Archillect, but with a different aesthetic slant. The bot is the main attraction, but you can read more about how and why it came to be here.
Safe for Democracy is a site and a podcast dedicated to shining a little light on the darker spots in the history of US foreign policy. It's got a blog here, a show page here, and an RSS feed here. You can also follow on iTunes. The first episode is about the coup in Guatemala. [more inside]
This map shows a 5,700-year timelapse of the world's cities being born one-by-one, starting with the first known city, Eridu, in 3700 BC. The data is from one of the coolest academic studies I've come across in a long time, which compiled a comprehensive dataset of the world's cities and their historic populations, from 3700 BC to 2000 AD. [more inside]
Some years ago, I heard that Sweeney Todd was based on a true story and I began setting out to do more research on the matter. I quickly discovered that the source which claimed the story was true was highly questionable, but it led me into my own historical search, finding ultimately that the story of Sweeney Todd began as a French story -- and possibly as an urban legend relating to some early 19th century city planning.
A Facebook project in which I explore my home state through photos, artifacts, postcards, and other memorabilia, all in a probably futile attempt to understand what it means to be Minnesotan.
Someone loaned us a house for the season and we made a small natural history museum. Admission is free, our exhibits are focused on Caribbean flora and fauna (it is located in Grand Case, St. Martin) and we are producing short films to show in our theater space at the museum. [more inside]
Each year since 2012, we've compiled a survey of the past year's historic preservation gains, losses and the bittersweet things that teeter in between. Today we released 22 for 2015, where you'll find all our favorite funiculars, cafeterias, neon signs, giant hot dogs, celebrity pet hospitals, tiki bar fish friends and so much more. If you dig old L.A., stop by and see if your favorite place made the list.
I have accidentally created a rather lively Facebook group about Omaha history. Daily posts about forgotten byways in the city by the Missouri, such as our restaurant that featured a live (and unhappy) porpoise that splashed diners, our movie theater that was basically a giant black light poster, and our various terrible mayors.
One of the most fun projects I worked on this year was a recreation of William Higinbotham's 1958 videogame, Tennis For Two, which has been installed in the New York Historical Society's Silicon City exhibition, up through mid-April, 2016. I worked with Brookhaven National Laboratory to build an accurate recreation of the original game in Unity, and the end result is something that I'm quite proud of. I wrote a bit of a postmortem about it. If any of you will be in New York City during the exhibition, I think you'd enjoy it. For best results, bring a friend to play against!
I've just launched my first foray into doing a large annual update for my t-shirt project Hirsute History, where I illustrate famous thinkers, artists, entertainers, activists, and the occasional fictional character using just their hair (well, I cheat and use their glasses, and occasional other affectation from time to time). For the class of 2015 I just added over 30 new designs in one fell swoop, leaning heavily on the women and men that helped shape the 20th century. I hope you like 'em!
Official release day for my history of same. Christmas is coming, the book could be suitable for the non-fiction readers on your list. Pre-release readers have described it as a fast read, "well-researched, convincingly argued and engagingly written."
Egon was wrong. Print isn't dead and we intend to prove it. London Reconnections, London's premier source of transport geekery, is now available in print. And we think it looks rather good. [more inside]
African Americans & South Asians (i.e. folks from India, Pakistan, etc.) have been standing up for each other for over 100 years, despite barriers of race, information, and distance. These secret histories of global allyship are a reminder of how little of the good stuff schools ever teach us.
When I went to UC Santa Barbara, the message I got as an incoming freshman is that the next-door student neighborhood, Isla Vista, is a risky land of parties and not much else. It took me a while to realize how interesting Isla Vista is, and how fun it is to go explore and understand it. I'd like to help other students get to that point faster, with fewer stereotypes about it and more stories about weird houses and public art and folklore and community gardens and land use history. I'm working on a LocalWiki for the neighborhood, in the style of DavisWiki, writing a lot of articles myself and also helping other people contribute. (LocalWikis have fewer rules than Wikipedia about things like notability and sourcing; you can write about the nice cat at the corner store if you want to.) [more inside]
A history of a once-famous, now-mostly-forgotten character from Civil War-era New York. Mose the Fireboy was a Bowery B'hoy, volunteer fireman, and butcher who appeared in a series of plays starring Frank Chafrau, and ended up being one of the iconic characters of the era, as well as one of the inspirations for Bill the Butcher in "Gangs of New York." [more inside]
This Tumblr consists of the earliest extant versions of various Wikipedia articles. It's easy to overlook what an ambitious project Wikipedia is in its design, and the way in which its articles have been built bit by bit into extraordinarily useful resources from often very modest and unpromising beginnings. It's interesting as well to see how the editorial voice and organizational structure common on current articles have evolved over time. If you have suggestions for interesting articles to examine, let me know.
In preparation for Halloween, I have been rounding up stories of Irish and Irish-American ghosts that are supposed to haunt parts of America, such as the ghosts of the Molly Maguires that are said to still hang from their gibter, the spirits of the Irish Brigade whose battle cry is still heard at Antietam, and the cries of the victims of Delphine LaLaurie which still echo from her haunted New Orleans mansion.
A Tumblr blog about the golden age of soda fountains (roughly 1890-1920). The blog includes vintage recipes, soda fountain history, and more. [more inside]
A website for long form history writing, such as The Longest Forecast, the story of the Meteorologist Eisenhower challenged to find the right day for D-Day. Also for sharing interesting history pieces found elsewhere as well. [more inside]
When English interpretations of the New Testament talk about ‘sexual immorality’ they are really translating the Greek word porneia (πορνεία), it’s used almost every time the topic of sex comes up and often when talking about the worst sins in general. If you can really grok what Paul was talking about as he uses the root for the word over and over again (it appears 32 times in the New Testament) then the rest falls into place. Now porneia has always been translated into Latin as fornication, while being understood by many conservatives to just be a 1:1 stand in for ‘any sexual expression not between husband and wife’. However, Porneia in post-classical Corinthian Greek did not mean generic sexual sin, or even sex outside of marriage, at all exactly and neither did fornication in actual Latin. The truth, like in many things, is a little bit more complicated and a lot more interesting
TRIGGER WARNINGS AHEAD FOR DEPICTIONS OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION IN CLASSICAL GREECE, ALSO AN NSFW VASE. (SFW version)
A few years ago I inherited a Prohibition-era portrait of my ancestors. As I researched who was in it and where it was taken, unknown relatives began to emerge with historical detail and an alternate version of that very portrait. Questions remain. So I'm hoping that more descendants come out of the electronic woodwork.
Some friends and I compiled a 500-page PDF that does the following (from the Introduction): "We present here a history of twentieth-century communism through primary sources, divided into fourteen chapters arranged in chronological order. Each chapter deals with a historical moment or theoretical debate, and contains an amount of reading appropriate for one week’s time. We hope that this reader will provide the foundation for seminars and reading groups." [more inside]
My wife came into an odd book by this title, self-published in 1888 and filled with weird recipes for cocktails mixed in 10-gallon quantities, household hints, rules of thumb, home remedies, etc. It uses units of measure and ingredients that are obscure or obsolete today, has some laughably bad medicine, and is a view into a different world in general. I'm blogging a couple of entries from it every day.
What are the 100 objects that future historians will pick to define our 21st century? A javelin thrown by an enhanced Paralympian, far further than any normal human? Virtual reality interrogation equipment used by police forces? The world's most expensive glass of water, mined from the moons of Mars? Or desire modification drugs that fuel a brand new religion? [more inside]
In honor of Prohibition Repeal Day, The Toast ran a comic by me about how a typo nearly ruined a cocktail for over half a century.
A radio documentary on the AIDS crisis and its impact on the “gay paradise” of Fire Island throughout the 1980s. The 25-minute piece airs this week on KCRW’s “UnFictional” program, in commemoration of World AIDS Day 2013. My Web site has a companion page introducing the guests and featuring additional content not heard in the broadcast version. [more inside]
I've been working on this for some time, due to a general dissatisfaction with the readers available on Roman spectacle and their costs. So I created a reader on Roman spectacles (with a shorter one on Greek spectacles to follow) with short introductory information, and a website to host it. The website is still being added to but I'm at the stage where I would love to have the opinions of people outside academia as to their impressions and what they'd like to see changed. [more inside]
Retain your cultural identity while losing your religion with this proven method developed by real Jews who came to America from Czarist Russia at the turn of the century.
The Coen Brothers' "handsome movie about men in hats" was filmed in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1989. Twenty years later I visited as many of the exterior filming location as I could find and photographed them in their current state. [more inside]
From the governor of Alabama facing down his own state's National Guard to the March on Washington and the "I Have A Dream" speech, the summer of 1963 was the moment that the black civil rights movement in America galvanized the nation. The Code Switch team at NPR — with the help of our awesome social media team and NPR's librarians — is tweeting events from throughout that summer, just as they unfolded then.
Esotouric turns the notion of guided bus tours on its ear with excursions like Charles Bukowski's Los Angeles and Pasadena Confidential. Now you don't have to get on the bus to get the skinny. Each week on the You Can't Eat The Sunshine podcast, join Kim Cooper and Richard Schave on their Southern California adventures, as they visit with fascinating characters for wide-ranging interviews that reveal the myths, contradictions, inspirations and passions of the place. There’s never been a city quite like Los Angeles. Tune in if you’d like to find out why. [more inside]
300 real and fictional maps of Jerusalem, from 13th to 20th century, displayed on a timeline
I liked Pitchfork's list of the 100 best songs of the 1960s for creating a canon of great 1960s songs instead of keeping the focus solely on albums, but I wanted to create my own revisionist take on such a list with the constraint that I limit myself to songs that were actually released on 45rpm singles. In addition, to make the list more interesting, I decided to focus on records that I thought were the most influential rather than songs that I considered the coolest or the best or the most pleasurable.
I am drawing all of the US presidents as birds, or maybe vice versa? Bird Presidents, in any case. I'm doing about one a day and drawing them in order.
For its ten-year anniversary, online magazine The Millions has kicked off its new series of shorter-form ebook originals with: Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame, and the History of the Worst Thing Ever. [more inside]
My book is based on the stories told by my family and their friends, refugees who escaped from Communist Hungary during the revolution, as well as fragments that I found in books and interviews of others. Many incidents actually happened, many did not, but my goal in writing it is not historical accuracy: I want to share the stories of the Hungarian freedom fighters of '56 in a way that reflects their courage and humanity into our century, because they deserve to be remembered.
Faux sports team t-shirts for important people, events, and movements in history. What can I say, I like to combine a visual style that's usually associated with being "macho" and interests that are stereotypically considered "geeky". If you have any additional suggestions they'd be most welcome! [more inside]
In July of this year, I proposed the idea of Just Solve the Problem Month, a month (I chose November) where an untold mass of people descend on a problem that's probably a peach if only enough people descended on it. To try out this idea, I proposed solving a Problem that has dogged anyone who tried to rescue old electronic or online material: the File Format Problem. (That first link describes the File Format Problem in detail, but it comes down to there being a massive mess of formats out there from decades of computer use and operation, but scant collection of information about many of them.) The idea gained some traction, so here it is the end of October and we've ramped up the very first Just Solve the Problem Month with a Wiki, justsolve.archiveteam.org, where we'll be enumerating information, examples and links to most every file format we can discern. The hope is to have hundreds of people take on this issue and result in a version 1.0 of a directory of file formats, effectively "solving" the problem by providing deep and rich linkage on how to recover any old media in any old format. I've written an entry with a high-level overview of Just Solve The Problem: The File Format Problem, and an entry that's an extremely detailed version of same. I'd love for the lovely folks of MetaFilter who are interested in such a project to register for an account, or spread along the news of this project to the special overthinking classificarian in your life. The official start date is November 1st, but we've started working on the whole shebang now.
The Aberree was a 'zine, or newletter, published from 1954 through 1965 by a former Dianetics practitioner. The Aberree started out as "the non-serious voice of Scientology" and ultimately encompassed all kinds of spiritual and self-help interests, from psychic phenomena and UFOs to improving eyesight. It shows that convention and uniformity weren't the whole story of the 50s, by a long shot. The Compleat Aberree offers text and images from all 110 issues. [more inside]
I created this blog to allow fans of historical fiction to track the imminent publication of my novel 'New Fire'. You can read the first four chapters of the novel and sign up for a chance to win one of ten free, signed copies. Warfare, religion, politics and adventure. [more inside]
"At The Tone" is the first comprehensive audio survey of NIST Radio Stations WWV and WWVH: two legendary shortwave radio broadcasters whose primary purpose is the dissemination of scientifically precise time and frequency. [more inside]
The story of my life, from The Pale of Settlement to Chicago.
A curated monthly review devoted to spirited debate about books and the arts, created by and for a transnational community of writers, artists, and activists. Inaugural contributors include Tobias Kelly, Bruce Robbins, Lawrence Weschler (interviewing Errol Morris), Laura Norén, David Henkin, Adam Morris, and Sharon Marcus. Brought to you by the editors of Public Culture and NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge. [more inside]
We take historical photographs of New York City and add contemporary captions. We think they're funny.
If you are interested in genealogy OR history I have developed a contest to try to add some fun and competition to the mix. First subject: Billy the Kid [WeRelate account required (free)]
A look at the strange history of the Los Angeles neighborhood known as Hollywood, written from inside a building on Cherokee where the Go-Go's formed. [more inside]
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