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New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Admire John McPhee, Bill Bryson, David Remnick, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr and James Martin (and most open and curious minds)


Remember when Rowlf from The Muppets played Beethoven's Pathetique? - Classic FM

Remember when Rowlf from The Muppets played Beethoven's Pathetique? - Classic FM

Rowlf Muppets Beethoven

Looking back on the Great Leap Forward | History Today

Looking back on the Great Leap Forward | History Today

Blood on the tracks: a portrait of Mao adorns a freight train in Yuhsien County, Shansi Province, May 5th, 1958.

Looking for Artistic Success? This Allegorical Map Will Help

Looking for Artistic Success? This Allegorical Map Will Help

Everything we know about the Big Bang could be wrong - Salon.com

Everything we know about the Big Bang could be wrong - Salon.com


The ancestry of Donald Trump stretches back to the Ancient World. Listen, as several of Trump’s forebears recount some of the most famous moments in history.

The Death of Julius Caesar

So this is, maybe, a week after the Ides of March. I’m in Rome. I got a new coliseum there. Great coliseum. I build a lot them. Make a lot of money. Very successful.
So I’m in Rome. And Brutus and his cabal ask me to say a few words about Caesar. Really, begging me to say something about him. And Brutus is an honorable guy. So, I’m like, “Sure. Whatever.”
But then right before my speech, Brutus comes up to me — he’s real nervous, Brutus — and he says, “Whatever you do in your speech, don’t blame me for Caesar’s death.”
I think, “That’s odd.” But, whatever. Brutus is an honorable guy.
So I deliver this speech. Great speech. Tremendous speech. It’s about Caesar. He’s dead. Lot of emotions. Really brings down the house. I get rave reviews for the speech. Rave reviews. Everybody loves it.
But then, weeks later, the media is saying I said these things that I never said. Awful things.
I’ll give you an example: The New Rome Times, which is losing money left and right. Unreadable. Total trash. Hates the empire. But the New Rome Times says that I came to praise Caesar, which is totally false.
What I said was — and this is a direct quote — “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Not to praise him. How they get the exact opposite out of that, I don’t know. But that’s the media for you.

The Last Supper

I love Jesus, I do. But the guy can be long-winded. “Blessed are these people, Blessed are those people.” Basically, everybody’s blessed, but he’s gotta read through the whole Roman census before you find that out.
Like this one night, Jesus and his crew are one table away from me. And I’m hearing him go on and on about something. Won’t stop talking about it.
I can’t take it anymore. So I lean over. I say, “Jesus, you make a nice speech and all. Kind of belabor the point; Peter’s falling asleep over here. So let me cut to the chase: Someone’s gonna betray you tonight, and it’s Judas.”
Jesus gives me this look, like I’m the one who’s betrayed him.
I say, “C’mon, Jesus, it’s the worst kept secret in Jerusalem. Guy owes everybody in town money. Suddenly, he’s flashing 30 pieces of silver." I love Jesus, but he’s probably still trying to figure out who killed Abel.
Problem is, Jesus never had a sense for business. Never did. Here’s a guy who can turn water into wine — and I know wine. Bought a vineyard, doing terrible business, I buy it, now it’s making a profit. Yuge, yuge profit. But here’s a guy who can turn water into wine; still pays for it when he goes out.
I’m like, “Jesus, just order water!” Or at least make Judas pay.
I mean, seriously, who finds a mole in his operation, invites the guy out to dinner?
Jesus, that’s who.

The Third Crusade

So, I tell the Knights Templar, "Richard the Lionheart? Please. Should be called Richard the Lazy Bastard. Seriously. He had one thing to do. One thing. Capture Jerusalem. What’s he do? Makes peace with Saladin.”
I ask Saladin about that, too. Sal’s a friend. I say, “Sal, what the hell happened?” He says, “Your guy’s no good. Can’t negotiate. Awful negotiator.”
Never would have happened if I led the Third Crusade. I know negotiators. If they ever invent the printing press, I plan on writing a book on it.
Hell, I know this one guy — awful guy, terrible human being — but he knows how to negotiate. Genghis Khan. Horrible human being. Great negotiator. I bring him in; Jerusalem is taken in two days. Tops.

The American Revolution

I would have people come up to me all the time and say, “Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump, you should lead our troops. You should have lead.” And I should have, because I would have ended the war, Day One.
I would have gone up to King George III, whom I know. I would have said, “Georgie, we’re leaving.”
He’d cry, he’d beg, he’d try to convince us to stay. I’d say, “No, no, no. Here’s the way it works: We leave, you get nothing, that’s the deal” And then I’d turn to the French, and I’d say, “And you … Thanks for the help. Now give us a statue. A woman. But not an ugly one.”
Papers would be signed the next morning.

19th-Century Medical Science

People ask me all the time, because I love women so much. They say, “Mr. Trump, what do we need to do to help women?” Because we have to protect their health, we have to. So I say, “Two words … Wandering. Uteruses.” Because they’re everywhere. Everywhere. Wandering over here, wandering over there. Even mention it and women go into hysterics. If I were in charge, I would bring back the uteruses. I would bring them all back. From China. From Mexico. From Japan. From wherever they wander. “Making Uteruses Great Again,” that would be my motto.

The Titanic

So they have this board of inquiry. They ask me to appear. They beg. Plead. Say I’m the only one who can make sense of this tragedy.
I show up. I don’t know what I can do, but I show up. They ask what I think happened. Everyone is saying, “The ship hit the iceberg, the ship hit the iceberg.” I tell them straight. I say, “No, that’s not what happened." I say, "The iceberg attacked that ship.”
People are stunned. They never heard anyone say this before. They start clapping, start calling my name, they love me. They love how I tell the truth. I’m the only one who tells the truth.
I say, “Look, I know icebergs. Know a lot about them. No one knows more about icebergs than me. No one. Icebergs attacked that ship, because the icebergs are at war with us.”
Makes total sense. But these guys. These guys on this board. Bums. They look at me. They say, “Whaddya mean, ‘attacked’? An iceberg can’t attack a ship.”
I say, “Listen, you idiots." I call them idiots. They’re politicians. I give them money. I call them anything I want. I say, “Listen, you idiots. The icebergs attacked us because they think we’re weak. We’re not weak, but they think we’re weak.”
They look at me. Dumbfounded. I say, "If I were president, I would beat these icebergs.” Because I beat icebergs all the time. All the time. I’m the icebergs’ biggest enemy, and they know this. “I would build a wall. And that wall would keep out the icebergs. And you can believe that, because nobody builds a better wall than me. Nobody.”
By now, people are clapping, hollering, saying I should run for president. I didn’t. Thought about it. Too many interests. Lotta business interests. Make a lot of money. But if I had to run, I can promise you this, I would be the greatest iceberg president of all time. All time.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Guy falls asleep, wake up 500 years later, America is conquered but he still claims to be some kind of a hero. But enough about Obama, let’s talk about this hack, Buck Rogers.

What Does “Slaugherhouse–Five” Look Like as a Building?

What Does “Slaugherhouse–Five” Look Like as a Building?

Backwards to the future: how Britain’s nostalgia industry is thriving | Film | The Guardian

Backwards to the future: how Britain’s nostalgia industry is thriving | Film | The Guardian

Past perfect … Swallows And Amazons paints a rose-tinted picture of an English childhood.

Erie Canal

Heaven's Ditch by Jack Kelly. 
  We often assume that a workforce needs to be highly educated to propel an economy forward. Often, it is the opposite, it is economic opportunity that compels a workforce toward more education. So it was with the Erie Canal, by far the greatest engineering project of its day, and one of the greatest in history to that point. The problem was that there were very few trained engineers:

"The goal [in construction of the Erie Canal] was to find a path west that was as level as possible and as straight as could be managed. Hills and valleys were both to be avoided. Once [Benjamin] Wright determined a likely direction, his surveyor sighted on a distant object, took a compass reading, and walked to­ward the landmark. An axman accompanied him, notching trees along the trail. Two additional woodcutters hacked down brush and trees to clear a four-foot-wide path. Men carrying sixty-six-foot-long chains measured a section almost the length of a football field. They marked each end with two stakes, one extending above the ground, the other flush with the soil.

Profile of the original Erie Canal
"An assistant engineer next set a level on a tripod halfway between these points. Two rodmen rested graduated poles upright on each of the flush stakes. The engineer put the crosshairs of his device on each pole. He noted the difference in elevation, if any, between the stakes. His reading had to be precise to the fraction of an inch. Any errors would accumulate, throwing off the final calculation.

"Meanwhile, Wright would be examining the terrain: streams, property lines, rocks, knolls, drainage. The survey and investigation would eventually be translated into a detailed map of the route. Cost was always on the engineer's mind. Aqueducts to cross streams, locks to navigate elevation changes, embankments to carry the canal over low stretches, all would be expensive. Periodically, Wright directed his men to dig ten-foot-deep holes in order to examine the nature of the soil. He was always on the lookout for sources of water. Would the local streams, lakes, and ponds provide enough water to keep the ditch filled? ...

Benjamin Wright
"The men were learning as they went. Except for West Point, which taught military engineers, no school in America offered courses in engineering. A young farmer named John Jervis was hired by Benjamin Wright as anaxman to clear brush and trees. 'The mys­tery of the level,' he said, 'the taking of sights, its adjustment, and the computations of these observations were all dark to me.' Little by little Jervis learned by doing. In time, he would become a supervi­sor on the canal, then one of the premier civil engineers in American history.

"While the survey teams did their work, [Eric Canal commissioner and future governor DeWitt] Clinton and the commis­sioners were drawing up a plan for building the canal. They arrived at a design: the profile of the ditch would be an inverted trapezoid forty feet across at the top, twenty-eight at the bottom, and four feet deep. Locks would be ninety feet long and twelve feet deep, allowing them to raise or lower a boat eight feet.

"Clinton ranged along the route, examining the work of the sur­veyors as it unfolded. 'The mind is lost in wonder,' he recorded, 'and perplexed and confounded with the immensity of the ideas which press upon it.' "


The reading of a fine book is an uninterrupted dialogue in which the book speaks and our soul replies. 
André Maurois (born July 26, 1885) is remembered for his eloquent biographies of literary giants, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, Victor Hugo, George Sand, Honoré de Balzac, and Marcel Proust. The French writer (real name Émile Salomon Wilhelm Herzog) had a colorful life himself: He served in both world wars and was elected to the prestigious Académie Française.


A Real Business Degree


How a new school named after G.K. Chesterton is changing Catholic education | America Magazine

Why Canada’s economic policy is winning fans | The Economist

The Economist explains: Why Canada’s economic policy is winning fans | The Economist


Color by Victoria Finlay. Over the centuries, breakthroughs in technology have fueled bursts of new art. During that time, artists struggled to obtain certain colors because of expense and limited availability. Often the colors they obtained were of inferior quality and changed or faded quickly after the painting was complete. It is said that the magnificent outdoor paintings of Cezanne and Monet were possible only because an American invented a way to put oil paints in collapsible tin tubes: 

"For 'artists' the dirty jobs of mixing and grinding [their paints] were simply time-consuming obstacles to the main business of creation. There were of course enough scare stories of charlatans adulterating colors to keep some artists mixing their own for several centuries. But slowly and irrevocably artists began to push their porphyry pestles and mortars to the backs of their workshops, while professional colormen (or rather, in some cases, the horses of professional colormen) did the grinding.

"As well as the alienation of artists, putting paint-making into the hands of a few commercial dealers had another radical effect on the art world: technical innovation. When Cennino wrote his Hand­book, artists were going through the all-important transition period between using tempera (egg) and oils (linseed or walnut or poppy were popular) as binders. Later Giorgio Vasari would ascribe this in­vention to Johannes and Hubert Van Eyck. Certainly the Flemish brothers' brilliantly translucent fifteenth-century oil paintings were the new medium's greatest early advertiser, but oils had been used for many years before that. In the late 1300s Cennino was already using oils to paint the top layer on a picture of a velvet gown, for ex­ample, and even in the sixth century a medical writer called Aetius was mentioning how artists used a 'drying oil,' which was probably linseed. ...

Reeves and Sons watercolor set
"One discovery that changed the art world was made by a young man called William Reeves in the late eighteenth century. He was a workman employed by a colorman called Middleton, but he spent some of his spare time doing experiments of his own. Up until then watercolors­ -- which are basically pigments mixed with water-soluble gum -- had been sold in dry lumps that had to be grated. But Reeves found that honey mixed with gum arabic would not only stop the cakes from drying out, but also allow them to be molded into regular shapes. His brother, who was a metalworker, made the molds, and in 1766 Reeves & Son opened near St. Paul's, supplying the army and the East India Company with the first watercolor paintboxes. It would take the collaboration of artist Henry Newton with chemist William Winsor in 1832 before anyone would think to add glycerine -- meaning that watercolors no longer had to be rubbed and could be used straight from the pan. Suddenly it was easy -- in terms of materials at least -- to become an artist, and many en­thusiastic amateurs followed Queen Victoria's lead in ordering the new paintboxes and using them out of doors to sketch landscapes. 

"Oil painting alfresco was naturally the next big change. For cen­turies, artists had stored their paints in pigs' bladders. It was a painstaking process: they, or their apprentices, would carefully cut the thin skin into squares. Then they would spoon a nugget of wet paint onto each square, and tie up the little parcels at the top with string. When they wanted to paint, they would pierce the skin with a tack, squeeze the color onto their palette and then mend the punc­ture. It was messy, especially when the bladders burst, but it was also wasteful, as the paint would dry out quickly. Then in 1841 a fash­ionable American portrait painter called John Goffe Rand devised the first collapsible tube -- which he made of tin and sealed with pli­ers. After he had improved it the following year and patented it, artists in both Europe and America really began to appreciate the wonder of the portable paintbox. Jean Renoir once told his son that without oil paints in tubes: 'There would have been no Cezanne, no Monet, no Sisley or Pissarro: nothing of what the journalists were later to call Impressionism.' 

"Impressionism, after all, was a move­ment that depended on recording nature in nature. Without being able to use colors outside it would have been hard for an artist like Monet to record the impressions that the movements of the light had made on him, and so create his atmospheric effects.

"One of the most popular colormen in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century was Julien Tanguy, affectionately nicknamed 'Pere.' This jovial dealer and art supplier was an ex-convict who had once served time on a prison ship for subversion -- a biographical detail that no doubt endeared him to some of the post­-Impressionists, who were his main customers. Paul Cezanne bought from him, as did Emile Bernard, who described going to Tanguy's shop at 14 rue Clauzel as being like 'visiting a museum.' Another famous (though impecunious) customer, Vincent van Gogh, painted three portraits of Pere Tanguy. The first, from 1886, is very brown -- the subject looking rather like a workman, with just a touch of red on his lips and a spot of green on his apron. Then, in the spring of 1887, van Gogh changed his palette -- ex­perimenting with color oppositions of red against green, orange against blue -- and his work was never the same again. The other two portraits of Tanguy (dated 1887 and 1888) are a raucous cele­bration of the dealer's paint products. They show him standing in front of Japanese prints, kabuki actors competing on the walls with soft-focus cherry-tree landscapes. Suddenly blues are striped with yellows, and on top of Tanguy's hat is Mount Fuji, giving him the conical look of a rice farmer, rather than the quizzical look of a French merchant. Both paintings were part of what van Gogh called his 'gymnastics' of experimenting with how to put intense colors rather than gray harmonies in his paintings."

Portrait of Père Tanguy, winter 1886-87
Portrait of Père Tanguy, The second painting

Portrait of Père Tanguy, final version


The Northern Line Turns 125: Here's How It Was Built | Londonist

The Northern Line Turns 125: Here's How It Was Built | Londonist

​Bob Schieffer: A race of negatives - CBS News

​Bob Schieffer: A race of negatives - CBS News

24 July -- the week

#NPRreads: Four Great Reads Worth Going Out Of Your Way For

A desolate Highway 36 runs past what is now a ghost town on the eastern plains in Cabin Creek, Colorado.
A desolate Highway 36 runs past what is now a ghost town on the eastern plains in Cabin Creek, Colorado.
Helen H. Richardson/Denver Post via Getty Images
#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the#NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From Selena Simmons-Duffin, Associate Producer for All Things Considered:

I love this story – possibly because I have family in Perth, Ontario and know those rural routes well – but it's also just so freaking sweet. Summer camp, benevolent bureaucrats, crowdsourcing, and grandma impersonators — what more could you want? A welcome reprieve from the brutal news cycle these last few weeks.

From Deputy International Editor Didrik Schanche:

Qandeel Baloch "wouldn't shut up," writes Melissa Jeltsen in the Huffington Post, even though she knew she enraged men in conservative, patriarchal Pakistan with her provocative social media posts.
The 26-year-old gained hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where she posted videos and selfies flaunting her sexuality. She could be outspoken and suggestive. Social media proved the perfect platform for a young woman who wanted to "try to become something, to be able to stand on my own two feet, to do something for myself," as she said in one of her final interviews.
And by many measures, she succeeded. Baloch was Pakistan's most popular internet celebrity, says Jeltsen. She was seen by some as a daring feminist rebel.
But to Baloch's brother, she was an embarrassment who brought dishonor to the family. In a news conference after the murder of his sister, he said he had no regrets about killing her.
Honor killings seem a brutal artifact of another time. However they remain all too common. Jeltsen reports nearly 1,100 women died in honor killings in Pakistan last year.
The Huffington Post and The New Yorker both look at the short life of Qandeel Baloch.

From news editor Lauren Hodges:

This article is like a layer cake of identity and representation struggles. The most interesting aspect was the contention that arose when people thought they knew how others would react, what they would want, how they would feel. The writers thought George Takei, the original Mr. Sulu and now a gay icon, would automatically love that they made the updated character gay. He didn't — but not for the reason you might think. And John Cho a.k.a. Current Sulu, shares his concerns about the feminization of Asian men.
Then there's this whole "alternate timeline" angle Cho mentions that had the potential to frame homosexuality as a choice. No pressure, John! But this is the perfect example of why we should never assume anything based on stereotypes. We can only really know the truth when we engage. Also, John Cho might be my new celebrity crush. Sorry, Oscar the Grouch.

From Miles Parks, Associate Producer for Here & Now:

After Bob Boilen pointed me toward the first track on Pinegrove's debut album, I felt a familiar and melancholy drop in my stomach.
I remember the last time it hit so deeply. I was walking to work in the snow listening to Mitski's "Your Best American Girl" for the first time.
It's a sort of painful accessibility: Songs that create a cocktail of scenes so vivid that you simultaneously ache to never hear them again and to hear them just one more time.
Ian Cohen's review of the album for Pitchfork captures how Pinegrove sent me there.
"All together, you might call it alt-country," Cohen writes, "though it's more in the spirit of Saddle Creek circa The Execution of All ThingsAlbum of the Year, and Lifted—there's banjo and twang and formalist structure."
I'm a 20-something who was raised on early-2000s Taking Back Sunday and old Avett Brothers records, so the genre-bending emo folk hit home for me.
But as Cohen writes, it's the lyrical tone that elevates this album.
"I saw Leah on the bus a few months ago," songwriter Evan Stephens Hall sings on the opening track, "I saw some old friends at her funeral."