“To use the lingo of their era, these novels are square. The protagonists have names like Jane and Barbara; they are not the misfits of which much teen literature is made but instead fundamentally good girls who long to fit in, and usually do … Viewed through the lens of contemporary culture, and especially contemporary teen lit, these girls should be boring and shallow. But Beverly Cleary’s supposedly ordinary girls are complex: resentful of their mothers one moment and sympathetic toward them the next, willing to do anything for one special boy but indignant when they’re taken for granted.” On the unexpectedly complex nature of Beverly Cleary’s boring protagonists with Ruth Graham at Slate.
If you like the music of groups like Portishead, CocoRosie, and the Cocteau Twins, you might be interested in the eerie musical dreamscapes of Emily Wells, a gifted violinist and vocalist whose work combines classical, folk, and hip hop. Here she performs "Symphony 1 In the Barrel of a Gun."
Researchers at Google have analyzed "audiovisual patterns," "title, description and tags," "words associated with amusement" in user comments, "emoticons," and even the number of o's in the average "LOL" in various YouTube videos in order to identify the funniest content on the web. Then they set up an algorithm to rank their findings, and subjected those findings to an audience vote (which you can join over here). Based on their calculations so far, this was the funniest video of all time. What do you think?
We're super jazzed about a new (and free!) app called ToposText that pairs the entirety of ancient Greek and Roman texts with GIS mapping data, allowing travelers to pull up history's classics in the places in which they were written. Developed by a relative of our own Lydia Kiesling, ToposText correlates to a map of nearly 6,000 ancient places and includes 570 ancient texts in English translation, with hyperlinks to the Greek or Latin original. And for a more modern context to the Homeric epic The Odyssey, consider our piece comparing its journey to that of Toni Morrison's own classic Beloved.
Thomas Hardy was one cold dude. Read some of these excerpts from his letters and find your day ruined. Highlights include a critique of a prime minister's funeral and his excitement at the hanging of Elizabeth Martha Brown, accused of killing her husband. Here's a Millions piece on the difficulties of teaching Hardy in 21st-century Florida.