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The USPS Honors Alex Trebek With a Stamp

a sheet of USPS stamps honoring Alex Trebek

The USPS is honoring longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek with a stamp that cleverly mimics a blue Jeopardy! answer — and the whole sheet of stamps looks like the game board. The text of the answer reads:

This naturalized U.S. citizen hosted the quiz show “Jeopardy!” for 37 seasons

And the question is, of course: “Who is Alex Trebek?” You can buy your Forever 73¢ Trebek stamps from the USPS website.

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We Deserve a Better Work Life
2 comments      Latest:

American English "invisible letters" include the t in pizza, the r in colonel, and the extra b in cummerbund. Maybe this is a Midwestern...
13 comments      Latest:

Mel Brooks is producing a sequel to Spaceballs with Josh Gad starring. Please say they are getting Rick Moranis to come back for this...
5 comments      Latest:

Reggie Jackson's Brutal Honesty About Playing Baseball in Alabama in the 60s
5 comments      Latest:

Walmart is switching to electronic price tags that "allow employees to change prices as often as every ten seconds". No one wants this!!...
9 comments      Latest:

80 Iconic Piano Intros, Played Back-to-Back From Memory
6 comments      Latest:

The Message by Ta-Nehisi Coates
2 comments      Latest:

The Science of Having a Great Conversation. "The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard. Some of the best...
5 comments      Latest:

The USPS Honors Alex Trebek With a Stamp
1 comment      Latest:

The Coming Birth-Control Revolution. "Researchers have taken massive steps toward developing simple, convenient, and effective...
5 comments      Latest:

50 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1974. Gas shortages, Hank Aaron, streakers, Skylab, Vietnam, Nixon's resignation, desegregating...
1 comment      Latest:

A Few Lessons from Roger Federer's Dartmouth Commencement Speech
1 comment      Latest:

Reggie Jackson’s Brutal Honesty About Playing Baseball in Alabama in the 60s

As part of the effort to incorporate the Negro Leagues into MLB history, MLB held a pair of games at Birmingham, Alabama’s Rickwood Field, “the oldest professional ballpark in the United States and former home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues”. During the pregame show Fox Sports invited Reggie Jackson, who played on a minor league team at the ballpark, to offer his perspective on the event. (Content note: Jackson says the n-word twice during his remarks.)

About halfway through this clip (the 4:35 mark), Alex Rodriguez asks him a softball question designed to elicit some fond memories about baseball and some gauzy reflections on the impact of the Negro Leagues:

How emotional is it for you to come back to a [place] that you played with one of the greatest teams around?

Jackson, as he did so many times during his career, knocked it out of the park with the brutal truth about what it was like to play baseball in the South as a Black man in the 60s (transcript):

Coming back here is not easy. The racism when I played here, the difficulty of going through different places where we traveled. Fortunately, I had a manager and I had players on the team that helped me get through it. But I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. People said to me today, I spoke and they said, ‘Do you think you’re a better person, do you think you won when you played here and conquered?’ I said ‘You know, I would never want to do it again.’

“I walked into restaurants and they would point at me and say, ‘The n***** can’t eat here.’ I would go to a hotel and they would say, ‘The n***** can’t stay here.’ We went to [Oakland Athletics owner] Charlie Finley’s country club for a welcome home dinner and they pointed me out with the n-word, ‘He can’t come in here.’ Finley marched the whole team out. Finally, they let me in there. He said ‘We’re going to go the diner and eat hamburgers. We’ll go where we’re wanted.’”

“Fortunately, I had a manager in Johnny McNamara that, if I couldn’t eat in the place, nobody would eat. We’d get food to travel. If I couldn’t stay in a hotel, they’d drive to the next hotel and find a place where I could stay. Joe and Sharon Rudi, I slept on their couch three, four nights a week for a month and a half. Finally, they were threatened that they would burn our apartment complex down unless I got out.

The year I came here, Bull Connor was the sheriff the year before, and they took minor league baseball out of here because in 1963, the Klan murdered four Black girls - children 11, 12, 14 years old - at a church here and never got indicted. The Klan, Life Magazine did a story on them like they were being honored.

“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. At the same time, had it not been for my white friends, had it not been for a white manager, and Rudi, Fingers and Duncan, and Lee Meyers, I would never have made it. I was too physically violent. I was ready to physically fight some - I would have got killed here because I would have beat someone’s ass and you would have saw me in an oak tree somewhere.”

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Hockley Clarke on his relationship with a blackbird who lived in his garden. “There was perfect trust between us, a source of joy to me, and it must have been a comfort to him. Perhaps birds understand more than we think.”

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The Message by Ta-Nehisi Coates

book cover of The Message by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is coming out with a new book this fall (Oct 1, 2024) called The Message and it sounds really interesting:

Ta-Nehisi Coates originally set out to write a book about writing, in the tradition of Orwell’s classic “Politics and the English Language,” but found himself grappling with deeper questions about how our stories — our reporting and imaginative narratives and mythmaking — expose and distort our realities.

In the first of the book’s three intertwining essays, Coates, on his first trip to Africa, finds himself in two places at once: in Dakar, a modern city in Senegal, and in a mythic kingdom in his mind. Then he takes readers along with him to Columbia, South Carolina, where he reports on his own book’s banning, but also explores the larger backlash to the nation’s recent reckoning with history and the deeply rooted American mythology so visible in that city — a capital of the Confederacy with statues of segregationists looming over its public squares. Finally, in the book’s longest section, Coates travels to Palestine, where he sees with devastating clarity how easily we are misled by nationalist narratives, and the tragedy that lies in the clash between the stories we tell and the reality of life on the ground.

Coates was recently a guest on the Longform podcast and he talked about one of the central themes of the book (“how the stories we tell — and the ones we don’t — shape our realities”):

There’s a certain sector of politics on the right that really correctly understands that cultural issues are very, very powerful, actually. That books and movies and TV shows and monuments and statues and art, all that stuff actually really does matter and has a huge effect on what we consider actual politics, which is to say voting, legislation, etcetera. Because our whole notions of humanity are derived from these things. They’re derived from, you know, stories. They’re derived from the news. They’re derived from, you know, art. They derive from statues. That’s how we decide, you know, who is what.

And the reason, you know it’s powerful is because in previous eras — for instance, when during the era of redemption, it became extremely important to destroy the multiracial democracies that have been raised in the South. They went after the history. They went after the stories. That’s where all those monuments come from. Those monuments are not just raised out of nothing. It’s not a mistake that it wasn’t until the early 1960s the Southern states started putting up the Confederate battle flag. They understood the power of the symbol. They know. They know. And now they find themselves in an era where there is a very real cultural war, by which I mean: the hegemony that they once enjoyed over the culture is actually actively being challenged, and that is a long term threat to the politics that they represent.

So, I mean, a lot of people say, oh, this is a distraction. I actually think it’s quite intelligent. While it’s not the response I would have, I don’t think it’s a deluded response or delusional response, rather.

It sounds fascinating — I definitely preordered.

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Walmart is switching to electronic price tags that “allow employees to change prices as often as every ten seconds”. No one wants this!! No one wants surge pricing on ice cream and price increases on items already in your cart.

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We Deserve a Better Work Life

After four years, Roxane Gay signs off from her Work Friend column.

I am not an idealist or much of an optimist, but being your Work Friend pushed me in that direction. I want, too. I want a world where we can all live our best professional lives. I want everyone to make a living wage and have excellent health care and the means to retire at a reasonable age. I want all of us to want this very simple thing for one another.

And, frankly, a fulfilling and equitable professional life should not be the stuff of utopia. This should be our reality. It is astonishing to see how many people are so deeply unhappy at work, so trapped by circumstances beyond their control, so vulnerable to toxic workplaces and toxic cultural expectations around work. As I read your letters I mostly thought: “It shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t be this hard.”

We shouldn’t have to suffer or work several jobs or tolerate intolerable conditions just to eke out a living, but a great many of us do just that. We feel trapped and helpless and sometimes desperate. We tolerate the intolerable because there is no choice. We ask questions for which we already know the answers because change is terrifying and we can’t really afford to risk the loss of income when rent is due and health insurance is tied to employment and someday we will have to stop working and will still have financial obligations.

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How do we know how many people died of Covid-19? “After four years and dozens of studies, we know everything we’re going to know about the death toll of the Covid pandemic.”

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50 Years Ago in Photos: A Look Back at 1974. Gas shortages, Hank Aaron, streakers, Skylab, Vietnam, Nixon’s resignation, desegregating schools, gay pride, the Troubles, and the Rumble in the Jungle.

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The Models for American Gothic

In 1930, Iowa artist Grant Wood painted American Gothic. The models he used for the painting were his sister Nan Wood Graham and his dentist, Byron McKeeby. Here they are next to the painting:

American Gothic Models

Wood made the painting after spotting a small house in Eldon, Iowa:

American Gothic House

80 Iconic Piano Intros, Played Back-to-Back From Memory

In this video, pianist David Bennett plays 80 of the best piano intros from the past 120 years, back-to-back and all from memory. This was lovely to listen to while I was eating my lunch.

Some of the intros I particularly enjoyed were Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer, Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me, Let It Be by The Beatles, Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, Children by Robert Miles, Clocks by Coldplay, A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton, and Breathe Me by Sia. a song I still cannot listen to without tearing up because of the series finale of Six Feet Under.

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A photographer entered a real photo of a flamingo in an AI image contest and was disqualified after winning the People’s Vote Award. “I wanted to show that nature can still beat the machine.”

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A Few Lessons from Roger Federer’s Dartmouth Commencement Speech

Two weeks ago, Roger Federer gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth. After asserting that he’d graduated (and not retired) from professional tennis, Federer shared what he learned from his years on the pro circuit. Some excerpts from the transcript:

“Effortless”… is a myth.

I mean it.

I say that as someone who has heard that word a lot. “Effortless.”

People would say my play was effortless. Most of the time, they meant it as a compliment… But it used to frustrate me when they would say, “He barely broke a sweat!”

Or “Is he even trying?”

The truth is, I had to work very hard… to make it look easy.

I spent years whining… swearing… throwing my racket… before I learned to keep my cool.

The wakeup call came early in my career, when an opponent at the Italian Open publicly questioned my mental discipline. He said, “Roger will be the favorite for the first two hours, and then I’ll be the favorite after that.”

I was puzzled at first. But eventually, I realized what he was trying to say. Everybody can play well the first two hours. You’re fit, you’re fast, you’re clear… and after two hours, your legs get wobbly, your mind starts wandering, and your discipline starts to fade.

It made me understand… I have so much work ahead of me, and I’m ready to go on this journey now. I get it.

On talent:

Yes, talent matters. I’m not going to stand here and tell you it doesn’t.

But talent has a broad definition.

Most of the time, it’s not about having a gift. It’s about having grit.

In tennis, a great forehand with sick racquet head speed can be called a talent.

But in tennis… like in life… discipline is also a talent. And so is patience.

Trusting yourself is a talent. Embracing the process, loving the process, is a talent.

Managing your life, managing yourself… these can be talents, too.

Some people are born with them. Everybody has to work at them.

On “it’s only a point”:

In tennis, perfection is impossible… In the 1,526 singles matches I played in my career, I won almost 80% of those matches… Now, I have a question for all of you… what percentage of the POINTS do you think I won in those matches?

Only 54%.

In other words, even top-ranked tennis players win barely more than half of the points they play.

When you lose every second point, on average, you learn not to dwell on every shot.

You teach yourself to think: OK, I double-faulted. It’s only a point.

OK, I came to the net and I got passed again. It’s only a point.

Even a great shot, an overhead backhand smash that ends up on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays: that, too, is just a point.

Here’s why I am telling you this.

When you’re playing a point, it is the most important thing in the world.

But when it’s behind you, it’s behind you… This mindset is really crucial, because it frees you to fully commit to the next point… and the next one after that… with intensity, clarity and focus.

The truth is, whatever game you play in life… sometimes you’re going to lose. A point, a match, a season, a job… it’s a roller coaster, with many ups and downs.

And it’s natural, when you’re down, to doubt yourself. To feel sorry for yourself.

And by the way, your opponents have self-doubt, too. Don’t ever forget that.

But negative energy is wasted energy.

And “life is bigger than the court”:

I worked a lot, learned a lot, and ran a lot of miles in that small space… But the world is a whole lot bigger than that… Even when I was just starting out, I knew that tennis could show me the world… but tennis could never be the world.

I knew that if I was lucky, maybe I could play competitively until my late 30s. Maybe even… 41!

But even when I was in the top five… it was important to me to have a life… a rewarding life, full of travel, culture, friendships, and especially family… I never abandoned my roots, and I never forgot where I came from… but I also never lost my appetite to see this very big world.

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The Coming Birth-Control Revolution. “Researchers have taken massive steps toward developing simple, convenient, and effective contraceptive options for men with virtually zero side effects.” And it could “transform women’s contraception too”.

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Trolley Problem Variations for Dads. “As he begins to think it over, he keeps saying, ‘This is exactly like the Kobayashi Maru!’ He then spends so much time explaining how Captain Kirk cheated to win the scenario that he never pulls the lever.”

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Photographer Sue Kwon Captured the New York Hip Hop Scene in Its Infancy. Biggie Smalls, Jay Z, Eminem, Method Man, De La Soul, Nas, Pusha T, and more.

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How a Bicycle Is Made

From British Council film, a short film from 1945 that shows how a bicycle is designed and manufactured.

(via stellar)

“Historical fanfiction” and the dangerous intellectual dishonesty of originalism. “If you want to know what rights you have, originalism commands you to consult a time capsule.”

Mel Brooks is producing a sequel to Spaceballs with Josh Gad starring. Please say they are getting Rick Moranis to come back for this…

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A Massive Trove of Aerial Photos of Glaciers

Over at Beautiful Public Data, Jon Keegan shares some details about two huge collections of aerial photos of glaciers.

aerial b&w photo of a glacier

aerial color photo of a glacier

As scientists study the effects of global warming, one of the most visible and alarming indicators is the rapid shrinking of glaciers. Government scientists have been documenting the size, shape, and movement of glaciers since the 1950s employing techniques ranging from direct field observations to aerial photography.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has one of the largest collections of aerial glacier photographs. Over 40 years, the USGS’ North American Glacier Aerial Photography (NAGAP) project captured thousands of striking high-resolution photos of glaciers and their surroundings.

From 1960 to 1983, self-taught glaciologist Austin Post used a 63-pound World War II-era Fairchild K-17 aerial reconnaissance camera to shoot over 100,000 glacier photos in the western US and Alaska. One of the bush pilots Post teamed up with was William R. Fairchild, who flew a Beech 18 twin engine airplane equipped with five K-17 cameras-one mounted on the nose, two in the belly of the plane, and one on each side.

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How heat affects our brains: it makes us dumber, irritable, impulsive, and aggressive (i.e. don’t blame me if the site sucks today, it feels like 97° here and I don’t have A/C).

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It’s always worth reading Timothy Snyder on fascism: The Shamans (SCOTUS) and the Chieftain (Trump). “To contemplate ‘presidential immunity,’ as the shamans are now doing, is to cast aside the rule of law and summon up the ghost of revenge culture.”

The Science of Having a Great Conversation. “The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard. Some of the best talkers are, on this account, the worst company.” (Excerpted from David Robson’s The Laws of Connection.)

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Excellent news: according to David Simon, Homicide: Life on the Street will finally be available on streaming soon. I loved this show as a kid and am looking forward to watching it again.

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Are the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” Even Restaurants?

Pete Wells wonders if the immersive experiences, theatrical spectacles, and endurance tests on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list are even restaurants.

Gaggan, in Bangkok, was named not just the ninth-best restaurant in the world but the single best restaurant in Asia. The chef, Gaggan Anand, greets diners at his 14-seat table facing the kitchen with “Welcome to my …” completing the sentence with a term, meaning a chaotic situation, that will not be appearing in The New York Times. [The word is shitshow. Or clusterfuck. Or shitstorm. Any of which should be printed in The New York Times because it’s a fact relevant to a story. This writing around swearing has gotten as ridiculous as these restaurants. -ed]

What follows are about two dozen dishes organized in two acts (with intermission). The menu is written in emojis. Each bite is accompanied by a long story from Mr. Anand that may or may not be true. The furrowed white orb splotched with what appears to be blood, he claims, is the brain of a rat raised in a basement feedlot.

Brains are big in other restaurants on the list. Rasmus Munk, chef of the eighth-best restaurant in the world, Alchemist, in Copenhagen, pipes a mousse of lamb brains and foie gras into a bleached lamb skull, then garnishes it with ants and roasted mealworms. Another of the 50 or so courses — the restaurant calls them “impressions” — lurks inside the cavity of a realistic, life-size model of a man’s head with the top of the cranium removed.

I love going to restaurants and putting myself in their talented hands1 but just reading about some of these high-wire acts dressed up as restaurants leaves me cold. (thx, yen)

  1. I’m not just talking about tasting menus here… In many places, you can ask your server what their favorites are, if there are dishes that the chef is particularly proud of, or which special is 🔥🔥🔥 tonight, and order those. If you’re a regular, you can just ask the kitchen to surprise you.
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American English “invisible letters” include the t in pizza, the r in colonel, and the extra b in cummerbund. Maybe this is a Midwestern thing, but I recently noticed that I add an l to both: bolth. (My daughter does it too but not my son.)

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NASA’s Voyager 1 probe is fully online again after months of spouting gibberish. “The spacecraft has resumed gathering information about interstellar space.”

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An Apple Watch reimagined in the style of a Newton. Love the app icons for Bluesky, BBEdit, and Marathon.

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57 Sandwiches That Define New York City. Never mind if you don’t live in or near NYC…this list is chock full of sandwich inspiration. My mouth was legit watering as I scrolled.

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I have zero interest in invite-only restaurants, but I love this sentence: “What made Frog Club great is what made it awful is what made it irresistibly fascinating: its exclusivity, its gleeful snobbishness, its ostentatious secrecy.”

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Report: Every Place On Earth Has Wrong Amount Of Water. “In every case, there is either too much or too little water, with zero exceptions.”

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Yes, everyone really is sick a lot more often after COVID. “At least 13 communicable diseases, from the common cold to measles and tuberculosis, are surging past their pre-pandemic levels in many regions, and often by significant margins.”

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Abstract Swirls

black and white painting with thick swirls of paint

black and white painting with thick swirls of paint

black and white painting with thick swirls of paint

Cat Spilman’s swirly abstracts caught my eye the other day on Instagram.

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A Brief History of Time Travel. “Today, of course, time travel is a normal part of everyday life. Teachers take their students to witness the Gettysburg Address firsthand, while teens flock to the sparse settlements of Ancient Mesopotamia to hook up.”

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Adam Conover interviewed Zoë Schlanger for his podcast: Your Houseplants Can Think. “Plants can store information, solve problems, and develop complex social networks.”

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Colorful DIY Lego Millennium Falcon

a Lego Millennium Falcon made out of all sorts of different color bricks

Using the official instructions and bricks from their own collection, a father & son team built a colorful DIY version of Lego’s massive Millennium Falcon (7541 pieces, $830 MSRP, kitty for scale).

I love this — much better than that dingy gray. I know it’s not quite the same, but the colorful Falcon harkens back to when Lego was more about throwing together whatever kaleidoscopic Franken-creations you could from your pile of bricks instead of completing just-so kits. (via @migurski)

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A modern approach to habitat restoration: Leave It To Beavers. “At their very most basic, beavers store water. They build dams; think of them sort of as speed bumps in the stream. The pools and eddies they create are entire new spawning areas for fish.”

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The Worst Dads in All of Literature, including Abraham (the Bible), Pretty Much Any Dad in Shakespeare, and Pap Finn from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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Wallace & Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl

Wallace & Gromit are returning for a feature-length film later this year — and so is Feathers McGraw, the scofflaw penguin that made off with the wrong trousers in, um, The Wrong Trousers. Here’s the premise of Vengeance Most Fowl:

In this next installment, Gromit’s concern that Wallace is becoming too dependent on his inventions proves justified, when Wallace invents a “smart” gnome that seems to develop a mind of its own. When it emerges that a vengeful figure from the past might be masterminding things, it falls to Gromit to battle sinister forces and save his master … or Wallace may never be able to invent again!

Timely! Vengeance Most Fowl will debut on BBC in the UK in late December and at some later date on Netflix in the US and elsewhere.

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Auriea Harvey’s pioneering site Entropy8 has been restored as part of a retrospective of her work at the Museum of the Moving Image. Harvey’s work was a huge inspiration for me — like, you can do that on the web?!

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From Palestinian-American Mo Husseini, a list of 50 Completely True Things, including “You can advocate for Palestine without being a racist, antisemitic piece of shit” and “You can advocate for Israel without being a racist, anti-Arab piece of shit.”

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The kids who were 1st graders when 20 of their classmates were murdered in Newtown, CT are graduating from high school. “There is a whole chunk of our class missing.” More than 4200 mass shootings in the US since then, several of them at schools.

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Seven Samurai’s 4K Restoration

A 4K restoration of Akira Kurosawa’s epic Seven Samurai is heading to theaters this summer. The film screened at Cannes in May and screenings in the US start in July:

Janus will open the restoration on Friday, July 5 in New York at Film Forum after which a Los Angeles premiere will take place at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre on Sunday, July 7. The film will open wide on Friday, July 12 in Los Angeles at Laemmle Royal.

Here’s the official poster for the restoration:

poster for the 4K restoration of Seven Samurai

On a personal note, I’m pretty disheartened there’s a 99% chance this won’t be playing anywhere near me in Vermont. Run Lola Run was rereleased in theaters last week and I couldn’t find it anywhere within a reasonable drive. And the nearest IMAX is 2h15m away. I’m thankful that I can get all sorts of culture pumped into my house at gigabit speeds, but per contemporary wisdom, “we’ve got Seven Samurai’s 4K restoration at home” is just not the same.

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Boston Should Rename Its Airport for Bill Russell. “He was Boston’s greatest sports champion, and as a brave and steadfast civil-rights leader across half a century, an even greater man.”

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Gone Swimming, With Tara Booth

who else is ready to get beat tf up by the ocean?

“who else is ready to get beat tf up by the ocean?” asks artist Tara Booth on Instagram. (If you click through, it’s a whole mini-story.)

More of Booth’s awesome work can also be found on her website. Is this the day I buy her art on a tote bag? Or a hoodie? Or a pillowcase?

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Paul Theroux: “In the short run, criticism seems to have merit; in the end, criticism is useless—a good book has a long life in spite of anything said about it.” I’m not sure I agree, but I did find this idea somewhat thrilling.

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Is everyone really taking steroids? Rosecrans Baldwin says yes: “Someone in your life is using performance-enhancing drugs. I feel comfortable making that bet because I recently discovered how many people in my life are using performance-enhancing drugs.”

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What Does ‘Havering’ Mean?

“If I haver, well I know I’m gonna be — I’m gonna be the man who’s haverin’ to you.”

It’s only the 9,000th time I’ve heard this perfect song, but for whatever reason today was the day I looked it up. (Apologies to everyone who already knows.) Per Wikipedia:

In Scottish English, haver (from the Scots havers (oats)) means “to maunder; to talk foolishly; to chatter,” as heard in the song “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers

This song rules so much. It came on the other day while my daughter and I were goofing around — sorry, while we were havering (?) — and it was such a joy to watch her get into it.

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Pretty dark but also fascinating: “ancient DNA extracted from 64 of the children is offering new insights into the religious rituals of the ancient Maya and their ties to modern descendants.

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Diary Comics, Jan. 2 & 11

Hello, and welcome to another Thursday Afternoon With Edith! I was off for a while in part because everyone in my family got Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, which was horrible. I’m also going through some crises of purpose and trying to figure out what to do with my life. 🤔 Solution forthcoming. But here are a couple comics from earlier this year; I’m skipping around a bit because the journal itself became pretty disjointed. (Previously.)


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An analysis of the easiest & hardest puzzles from the NY Times’ Spelling Bee. (The highest-possible Spelling Bee score is 2061 with 26 pangrams! WAT?!)

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