"This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others." — Harry Anslinger
, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (an early predecessor of the DEA). — Maggie
David Weinberger has published a short personal memoir of what blogging meant to him in the early years, and how it contrasted with the media of the day. And he documents the moment at which he started to feel like blogging might not be all that he'd hoped, and where it's ended up now. I've been blogging for 14 years now, and reading David's piece prompted me to reflect as well, and I find myself agreeing with his account of things.
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The paperback edition of Delia Sherman's The Freedom Maze is out today. It's a subtle, nuanced, uncomfortable and brave young adult novel about racism and time-travel. I reviewed the hardcover in 2011 (I've reproduced the review below), and since then, the book's gone on to win a slew of awards and recognition: the Norton award, the Prometheus award, the Mythopeoic award, the Tiptree honors list, the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and the Kirkus best of 2011 list.
I can't recommend it highly enough. Here's my original review:
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It's made of 21 half-meter-long strips of bamboo
that were preserved for 2500 years in a tomb. — Maggie
Meet Richard Meinertzhagen, a fascinating and disturbing character from the golden age of Edwardian science. I first learned about him last weekend, reading the Extinction Countdown blog. Meinertzhagen was single-handedly responsible for convincing a couple generations of scientists that the Indian forest owlet was extinct when it actually was not. How?
Turns out, Meinertzhagen had a habit of stealing taxonomic specimens from museums, altering them, and then resubmitting them to different museums as his own discovery, complete with fabricated information about where and when he found the animal. His forest owlet, for example, was an 1884 specimen swiped from the British Museum of Natural History sometime after 1925. He later repackaged the bird as his own specimen, collected in 1914. The problem: Meinertzhagen claimed to have found the forest owlet in an Indian state where the owlets don't live. Later researchers, upon not finding any owlets in that state, concluded the birds must be extinct. This assumption wasn't disproven until 1997. But that's not even the weirdest stuff in Meinertzhagen's biography ...
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What a thrill it is to learn that there is a new Tales of the City novel coming out -- and what a crushing disappointment to discover that it will be the last one.
The Days of Anna Madrigal, the ninth and final volume of Armistead Maupin's series (begun in 1978 as a newspaper serial), will be published on January 21. It tells the story of Anna Madrigal -- the transgendered, dope-growing, meddling, lovable landlady of 28 Barbary Lane -- visiting Burning Man for the first time, at 92 years of age.
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The Antarctic Heritage Trust of New Zealand announced
(PDF) that it had discovered a century-old box of photographic negatives from Captain Scott's last expedition base at Cape Evans, depicting Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 Ross Sea Party. The mouldy cellulose nitrate negs were among 10,000 artifacts recovered from Scott's Cape Evans hut, and were "clumped together." The negs were painstakingly restored and the photos have been published
. They're damaged but remarkable, and no one knows who took them.
Did you know that Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd once invented a refrigerator
? And a life-saving refrigerator, at that. — Maggie
Pot became legal in Colorado today and the AP is on it, with a slice of life piece showing different perspectives on the new marijuana industry's first day on the job. Particularly interesting was a short interview with the proprietor of a "marijuana concierge" service, which (for a hefty fee) will shelter older smokers uncomfortable with their own desire to try weed from both the younger, rowdy "stoner" crowd and public scrutiny. Around $300 buys you a three-hour tour in a tinted-window limousine, help choosing your buds, and breakfast at Whole Foods.
Image: CC licensed. Some rights reserved by cannabisdestiny
(Click to embiggen)
Tor.com has republished a great chart from Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun!, forthcoming in on January 7. The chart details the central thesis of the book: that "the long-standing campaign against fun" is a recurring story in which anxious, killjoy grownups make up stupid explanations for why the stuff their kids like is terrible and should be banned, and the golden era of their own childhoods (and the amusements that reigned then) should be restored.
The chart starts with Trithemius's 1494 rant against printing presses ("The word written on parchment will last a thousand years. The printed word is on paper. How long will it last?") and moves smartly through books, steam engines, newspapers, photos, telegraphs, movies, phones, phonographs, radio, TV, computers, and (of course), the Internet.
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Benjamin Franklin was a leaker of government secrets
, who circulated intercepted letters from the colonial lieutenant governor of Massachusetts Bay to the British government. The letters detailed a scheme to take away colonists' legally guaranteed freedoms "by degrees" and called for more troops to keep order during the process. After the letters were published, Franklin admitted to leaking them, but refused to give up his source. The crown called it "thievery and dishonor" and he was fired from his postmaster general gig (thankfully, there was no Espionage Act on the books at the time). (via Techdirt
Newspaper photographer Reid Blackburn
died in the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. This year, reporters at his paper — the Vancouver, Washington, Columbian
— discovered a never-before-seen roll of photos
he took flying over the volcano about a month before his death. — Maggie
Back in the 80s, Ronald Reagan paid a lot of rhetorical attention to the story of an anonymous "welfare queen" who drove a Cadillac and lived high on the taxpayer's dime. I'd long assumed that Reagan's queen was a fictional construct, but the truth is much, much more fascinating.
At Slate, Josh Levin has a long read on the life and times of "Linda Taylor" (in quotes because that's only one of her many, many aliases), the real woman who served as the basis for Reagan's story. Taylor really did drive a Cadillac and perpetrate a decent amount of welfare fraud. But her story isn't really representative of the typical sort of welfare fraud — let alone the typical welfare recipient, in general. In fact, Taylor was the sort of person that gets armchair diagnosed as a sociopath. She spent most of her life grifting somebody and was possibly involved in the deaths of multiple people.
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Bletchley Park's historical exhibit on cybersecurity will not mention Edward Snowden -- possibly the most significant figure in the world of contemporary cybersecurity -- because its corporate sponsor, McAfee, has prohibited them from doing so. A collection of MPs and other government figures have written to Bletchley Park museum to urge them to reconsider. As the Tory MP Dominic Raab says, "Either it's a history exhibition or it's not."
The omission raises disturbing questions about the integrity of Bletchley Park as an independent historical institution, and of the quality of oversight it receives from its board. If the McAfee sponsorship came with the kind of strings attached that prohibited neutral exploration of relevant, even crucial, factual material, it's a sponsorship that never should have been accepted.
I have a letter from the Friends of Bletchley Park on my desk at the office, and I was planning on renewing my membership when I got back from the holidays. This has made me rethink my support of the institution, and now I'm not so sure. I certainly hope that Bletchley reconsiders this decision and upholds its reputation as an institution committed to integrity and education.
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