A monthly soundscape mix of music and other sounds for every year - starting in 1853 and working my way slowly towards the present day. Also a monthly radio show on Cambridge 105fm where I talk about the recordings to give some context. Mixes have so far reached 1918 (plus 2016 and 2017) and the radio show is up to 1907.
A song for each year of the People’s Republic of China. An attempt to distill the many diverse, fascinating currents of music in mainland China over the last 70 years into a primer, an invitation to dig deeper. From revolutionary operas and western classical to rock’n’roll, disco, punk and hip-hop — a musical history of the PRC with an eye for the regional, underground and (nefarious) foreign influences. [more inside]
A longform visual essay (3000 words, 50 photos, and a song) about walking the historic North Head Trail in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. A tromp through local history, freezing rain, macrophotography, fog, a cholera hospital, moonlight hikes, tourists, foxes, and optical phenomena. [more inside]
This blog shares one interesting thing, every day. Recent topics have included Samoan independence, fake professors, and Renaissance fart jokes. Also on Facebook and Twitter.
A comic about food, government cheese, being a latchkey kid, being the child of a latchkey kid, and the power of kraft singles in your life
I started writing a blog about one of my dearest niche interests: terrible things happening in cold places. Whether it's explorers wrecking their ships in the Arctic or mountaineering expeditions mysteriously going wrong, I'm interested in it, and I will write about it for you here. [more inside]
The Library of Congress contains vast troves of digital resources. LOC Serendipity is a website that simulates the experience of exploring a library and skimming eye-catching or interesting titles. From books like, "Dainty dishes for slender incomes," which contains a delicious recipe for beignets, to the oddball early-1800's "Memoirs of the notorious Stephen Burroughs of New Hampshire" to "The forgotten book," published in 2018, this tool enables serendipitous and deeply engaging discovery every day. [more inside]
For The Baffler Issue 44 “Truth Decay”, artist and activist John Leavitt approaches the topics of historical memory, the first red scare, the role of propaganda, and the labor movement as something haunting the American mind.
The Christopher L. Jorgensen Collection: A digitized and cataloged private collection of historical cabinet cards and CDVs. Updated daily. [more inside]
We wrote a book! It came out in January and is available in the Mefi Mall. We've been chugging away at putting all the words online, and they're pretty much all scheduled to be up by the end of the year. Or so. Enjoy! [more inside]
The National Design Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America has a twitter presence and they’re using that presence to make threads about the intersection of art, design, and socialism. Bauhaus! William Morris! The Masses and Liberator Magazine! Banned I.W.W artwork! Oscar Wilde! Sewer socialism! National Design acomitee home page.
An excerpt from The Lavander Ledger, a manuscript in progress by John Leavitt about murder, gossip, and scandal in the gay underworld of 1940s Hollywood.
I wrote a book! It’s a popular science book (no equations), and it’s called What is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics. It’s about the 90-year-long struggle to decipher what quantum physics says about the true nature of the world around us. It’s my first book, and I’m still in shock that it’s done (and I'm really nervous about promoting it here). But apparently people like it: the New York Times called What is Real? “a thorough, illuminating exploration of the most consequential controversy raging in modern science.” [more inside]
In honour of Women's History Month, here's a map to help you explore locations in Melbourne related to women's history. Each location has some information about the site and links to more information (if available). Use the map to plan a walking tour of Melbourne or to explore the city from the comfort of your living room.
Since 2010 I've been doing various forms of memory activism on social media for World AIDS Day on December 1. [more inside]
Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, I've written & designed This Thing of Paper, a knitting book inspired by early printed books. Officially the first knitting book to be included in the Gutenberg Museum's archive of book history. [more inside]
I made whiskey based on frontier and Wild West recipes that called for tobacco, leather, and hot peppers. As well as gunpowder and a rattlesnake head. This is the story of making and drinking what seemed like potentially poisonous thing I have ever ingested.
Seersucker went from a working class uniform material to being the sole providence of Great Gatsby cosplayers, how did this happen? I wrote this for Racked to try and find out.
A podcast and blog looking at the good, the bad, and the WTF of western movies, country songs, and that sort of thing. [more inside]
I'm a third generation stagehand. My father and grandfather were both theatrical carpenters, and my father is also an antique tool collector. Many of the images are literally the drawers out of his roadbox and various tool chests at his home, others are some of my favorite pieces of his. I've been posting them with my recollections of a lifetime with these tools, or with stories from my father or grandfather. [more inside]
Anyone interested in some of the more odd and curious aspects of the American Revolution, its life and times, should enjoy the wealth of material at Journal of the American Revolution. Title link my latest, but there is something there for everyone. While I'm here, my Great Siege of Malta is now available for pre-order in paperback, release date June 6. Very reasonably priced and just as good as the hardcover (which is available now). Perfect for graduation/fathers' day/beach reads. Do the author a solid! I have a child looking at colleges.
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]
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