I realize that I am somewhat biased, as someone whose idea of recreation is reading late-18th Century biography. So keep that in mind but try to set my funny sense of fun aside when I tell you that the new musical “Hamilton” is the most electric listening experience I’ve had in years. A bunch of guys in breeches and frock coats singing about arcane two-century-old political disputes? Well, I did like “1776,” but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” is something else entirely. Read my review and hear some samples after the jump.
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While researching historical elections this week for a future blog post, I stumbled across a fascinating piece of data: a table from an 1876 almanac summarizing the literacy rates in each of the 87 French départements at the time. The results varied wildly, from near-universal literacy in Paris and the country’s industrial northeast to majority illiteracy in the interior of La France profonde.
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Today, my colleague Rachel Stassen-Berger and our competitor J. Patrick Coolican had a Twitter fight about how Patrick reacted to one of Minnesota’s senators attending a rock concert.
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In 1870, Napoléon III abdicated as Emperor of the Second French Empire. Parliamentary deputies from around the country met to determine the next form of French government, and there was little reason to expect a republic. But France ended up with one anyway.
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Six years ago, after graduating from college, I wanted to get into journalism, and I didn’t particularly care where. I fired off applications around the country — upstate New York, the Louisiana bayou, Washington D.C., California and everywhere in between.
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In less serious news, we turn to the august pages of Skymall:
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Several years ago I wrote up “rooting rules” for sporting contests that don’t involve your favorite team. Well, the MLB playoffs have begun, and once again, my beloved and benighted Cubs are nowhere near them. (2015 — mark my words.) So who to root for?
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Consider this a friendly warning: poking around on Netflix last night, I noticed that the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” series is disappearing from Netflix streaming on Oct. 1 — six days from now.
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A continuing series. In evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker’s interesting polemic, “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature,” he takes on misconceptions about how the brain works in popular culture:
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A month ago, the Washington Post’s Reid Wilson crunched the numbers and concluded that the most efficient tourism agency in the country was… Indiana’s:
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Political parties win more races when they recruit more and better candidates. Does this recruitment *cause* victories, or do the candidates run because they sense victory?
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When someone believes so strongly in something they think it's self-evidently true, then there's only two possible reasons why other people might not share that self-evident belief — stupidity or malevolence. This false dichotomy elides legitimate differences of opinion.
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So let’s say you want to give the moon an atmosphere. I’ve got you covered.
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Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic terms new media ventures like FireThirtyEight, Vox, the Upshot and others “method journalism,” in that they’re primarily focused on how they report the news, rather than what news they report:
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This week’s episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” included a brief moment in which one character discusses the value of honor in a fight. In so doing, it recalls one of the show’s more iconic moments from an earlier scene — and complicates that scene’s apparent message. Spoilers, as well as gruesome images and a brief discussion of rape, after the jump:
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Some states are dominated by a single city, while others have multiple major urban centers. Here's the math for which states are which.
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Today is the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, which many people love to hate. Studies have shown there are both health and economic costs to Daylight Saving Time, and no one enjoys the beginning of DST, when we lose an hour. (I’m actually kind of partial to the end, when we gain an hour.) And I am told that any discomfort someone like myself feels from clock-changes is nothing compared to parents of small children, who are less able to regulate their own body clock according to artificial factors like a clock change.
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Did TV really used to be better last century? Fact-checking a curmudgeon.
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News that some rural Colorado counties are trying to secede from their increasingly urban and liberal state has revived talk of a historical curiosity — the attempt, during the Great Depression, to create a new state out of parts of northern Wyoming, western South Dakota and southern Montana.
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Economics and board games shed light on why that modern bugaboo, bureaucracy, is actually a double-edged sword.
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I didn’t believe it at first when I met Southerners who told me how they were routinely dismissed as unintelligent by Northerners the minute a drawl came out of their mouths — and mocked and infantilized for the same. I had never had that reaction myself, and never heard anyone talking about it.
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Several weeks ago, while discussing the oncoming winter with my Southern-raised girlfriend, we reached an impasse over what exactly constituted weather cold enough to get alarmed about. Coming from Louisiana, she insisted that anything in even the 40s Fahrenheit was frigid, weather to cause people to stay indoors, bundled up in front of the fireplace. Myself, growing up in bitter Chicago winters, said you can’t start calling weather “cold” until the weather at least falls into the 30s — and that even then, extreme cold doesn’t start until the thermometer falls to the single digits.
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Weddings and battlefields in a 3,200-mile road-trip across the South.
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The most important thing to know about a new board game is what role chance has in the play. To pick extreme examples, children’s classic “Candy Land” is entirely luck — you can’t be good or bad at Candy Land, you just draw randomly shuffled cards and do what they say. Chess, on the other hand, is pure strategy and no luck — both sides are perfectly balanced and there are no random elements.
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A question raised just now at work: if something can be preemptive, why can’t it just be emptive?
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Hating on the Star Wars prequels is a favorite pastime among those of a geekier persuasion. They have their moments, but are also heavily uneven, tediously paced and largely lacking resonance. But what if the prequels were good — REALLY good? That’s the question asked by filmmaker Belated Media, whose name does not appear to be anywhere on his YouTube, Facebook or Tumblr. This nameless video auteur proceeds to answer his own question by sketching out changes to the prequel scripts that actually seem like they’d produce pretty awesome movies.
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When most people talk about “efficiency,” they talk about it in one of two ways. For some people, it’s an unabashed good thing, a goal in and of itself. For other people, it may be a good thing but is often used as an excuse to bring bad things — firing employees, or replacing traditional tasks with soulless machines, or the like.