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Origin stories are all the rage these days given the ubiquity of superhero films and television series. But for all their smash-em-up spectacle and breakneck pacing, they generally feel overstuffed and disposable. As with the Age of Ultron, there is an age, every summer, of some Marvel or DC hero or other.
Sometimes it can seem as though the more we think we know a historical figure, the less we actually do. Helen Keller? We’ve all seen (or think we’ve seen) some version of The Miracle Worker, right?—even if we haven’t actually read Keller’s autobiography. And Mark Twain? He can seem like an old family friend.[...]
A pioneer of computer science, Alan Turing’s name comes up in nearly every conversation about artificial intelligence.[...]
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News of the new, long-awaited but hardly expected Harper Lee novel, Go Set a Watchman—a sequel to the 1960’s To Kill a Mockingbird—has been met with varying degrees of skepticism, surely warranted given her late sister Alice and others’ characterization of Lee’s physical and mental decline.[...]
Image via New York Public Library
Increasingly Facebook seems a virtual pet cemetery, with images of recently departed cats and dogs buttressed with words of heartbreak and consolation.
In November of 1964, Martin Luther King received a chilling letter, purportedly from a disillusioned member of the African-American community. “King, look into your heart,” writes MLK’s critic. “You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all of us Negroes.”
The letter then turns menacing.
Hank Green, hosting his Crash Course on Psychology, put it best: when we think of the study of the mind, we think of an old, bespectacled bearded man puffing on a pipe. We think, in other words, of Sigmund Freud, whether we know anything about him or not.[...]
On July 23, 1970, William S. Burroughs wrote Truman Capote a letter. “This is not a fan letter in the usual sense — unless you refer to ceiling fans in Panama.” Instead, Burroughs’s missive is a poison pen letter, blistering even by the high standards of New York literary circles.[...]
Yesterday we featured George Orwell’s review of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — not just an isolated newspaper piece, or one of a scattered few, in a life otherwise spent churning out important novels like Animal Farm and 1984, but a particularly perceptive book review among the many in his prolific journalistic career.[...]
Anyone remember Michael Crichton’s Westworld (or the Simpsons parody)? In this dystopian 1973 sci-fi, tourists visit a triumvirate of fantasy theme parks staffed by robotic historical re-enactors: Roman World, Medieval World, and the titular West World, with its “lawless violence on the American Frontier.[...]