Donald Trump's dad was Woody Guthrie's hated Klansman landlord

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Woodie Guthrie lived in one of Fred Trump's building for two years, starting in 1950, and was so taken with the KKK-affiliated landlord, who bribed federal officials in exchange for government handouts that he used to build his income property. Read the rest

Solving the "Longbow Puzzle": why did France and Scotland keep their inferior crossbows?

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The longbow was vastly, demonstrably superior to the crossbow, but only England adopted it as a common military weapon; the Scots and French stuck with the inferior crossbow for nearly a century -- why? Read the rest

Martin Luther King, socialist: "capitalism has outlived its usefulness"

In the great tradition of political heroes, Martin Luther King's legacy has been sanitized and purged of its most radical and urgent notions, watered down to a kind of meek pacifism that omits his beliefs in radical political change as a necessary condition of attaining real justice. Read the rest

Aaron Swartz's "Against School" - business leaders have been decrying education since 1845

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"Against School" is a previously unpublished Aaron Swartz essay about the centuries of word-perfect complaints about the US public school system, which have led to mass-scale, sneak privatization of the public system. Read the rest

A bowel-loosening long-term geopolitical weather report

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The idea that global politics are a terrifying blend of natural disasters, belligerence, and deadly military potential isn't unique to this decade, but holy fuck, did it ever just get weird. Read the rest

De-bullshitifying the libertopian Legend of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

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The domestic terrorists occupying the Malheur National Widlife Refuge Building near Burns, Oregon justify their actions with a highly selective -- and largely fabricated -- history of the federal lands they've seized. The truth is a lot sleazier. Read the rest

Weird and wonderful medical and scientific museum

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We've posted previously about Steve Erenbgerg (Radio Guy)'s online collection of wonderful and strange antique scientific instruments, medical devices, anatomical models, and, of course, radios. SciFri took a video tour, above, of Erenberg's delightful real world cabinet of curiosities!

"Things of Beauty: Scientific Instruments of Yore" (YouTube)

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Listen to the sounds of 18th century Paris

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Musicologist Mylène Pardoen and a team of 3D artists created this "sonic tableaux" of 18th century Paris based on a 1781 map and numerous historical documents and research on what Paris's Grand Châtelet district, between the Pont au Change and Pont Notre Dame bridges, may have sounded like at the time. From the French National Center for Scientific Research:

“I chose that neighborhood because it concentrates 80% of the background sound environments of Paris in that era, whether through familiar trades—shopkeepers, craftsmen, boatmen, washerwomen on the banks of the Seine, etc.—or the diversity of acoustic possibilities, like the echo heard under a bridge or in a covered passageway,” Pardoen explains. While historical videos with soundtracks are nothing new, this is the first 3D reconstitution based solely on a sonic background: the quality of the sounds (muffled, amplified…) takes into account the heights of the buildings and their construction materials (stone, cob etc.).

This urban soundscape was recreated based on documents from the period, including Le Tableau de Paris, published in 1781 by Louis-Sebastien Mercier, and the work of historians like Arlette Farge, a specialist on the 18th century, Alain Corbin, known for his research on the history of the senses, and Youri Carbonnier, an authority on houses built on bridges. The audio tour includes sounds like the cackling of birds in the poultry market, the hum of flies drawn to the fishmongers’ stalls, the sound of the loom at the woollen mill that used to stand at one end of the Pont au Change, that of the scrapers in the tanneries on Rue de la Pelleterie, of typesetting at the print shop on Rue de Gesvres… all overlaid with the incessant cries of the seagulls that came to feed on the city’s heaps of waste....

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When "open access" means "beware of the leopard"

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This week, media outlets around the world have been trumpeting the French government's decision to make the records of the Vichy regime "open access" and available to researchers. Read the rest

Gorgeous Victorian early typewriter

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Martin Howard from Toronto's Howard Collection writes, "The Salter is one of England’s first typewriters and is a stunning example of a piece of Victorian engineering. It was made by The Geo. Salter & Co. of West Bromwich who were well known at the time as the makers of penny scales, which were a common feature in train stations and other public areas." Read the rest

Ada Lovelace: what would go into an Internet of Women's Things?

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Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, is no longer who she once was, 200 years ago. Time changes all famous people, especially cult personalities. Ada has become a modern icon for the digitizing world of science and literature.

Website lets you view old websites with old browsers

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Oldweb.today lets you view archived snapshots of the web (from the Wayback Machine) in old browsers. It has all of the important ones, from NCSA Mosaic through the Netscapes and Mac IE to the present day. [via JWZ.]

You can of course use it to view present-day sites in old browsers, too. Netscape 3 chokes pretty badly on jQuery!

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Newly discovered WEB Du Bois science fiction story reveals more Afrofuturist history

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NAACP founder WEB Du Bois wasn't just a committed, effective activist for the rights of black people in America: he was also a prolific author of early 20th century science fiction and fantasy stories. Read the rest

Rosa Parks was a radical, lifelong black liberation activist, not a "meek seamstress"

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Jeanne Theoharis, an academic who wrote the biography The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, reminds us that the historical account of Rosa Parks as an apolitical seamstress who was too tired and exasperated to go to the back of the bus is a fiction: Parks was a brave, committed lifelong race and gender activist who risked her life and livelihood for a cause that she championed ferociously from an early age and never abandoned. Read the rest

Mesopotamian boundary stones: the DRM of pre-history

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Sarah Jeong had me standing up and cheering with her comparison of kudurrus -- the ancient Mesopotamian boundary stones used to mark out territorial land-grants -- and the way that laws like the US DMCA protect digital rights management systems. Read the rest

Workaholic Goethe wished he'd been better at carving out time for quiet reflection

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You know that successful person's lament about being out of control of their own time, not being able to balance the demands that others placed on them against their own self-care needs? There is nothing new under the sun: "Had I been able to abstain more from public business, and to live more in solitude, I should have been happier, and should have accomplished much more as a poet." Read the rest

The dystopian First Contact/alien abduction sf story hidden in the Thanksgiving tale

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When you look at the Thanksgiving story from Squanto's point of view, it's a pretty depressing science fiction story about minding your business outside your home one day when you're suddenly abducted by aliens with advanced technology, and when you finally make your way back home, years, you discover that nearly everyone on the continent has been wiped out by an alien supervirus. Read the rest

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