My latest for Open Culture is about the Smithsonian’s collection of Charles Darwin’s writings, many of which survived because he gave it to his kids to draw on.
Today is the 90th anniversary of the largest disaster in Santa Barbara history, the 1925 earthquake that destroyed a significant part of downtown and forever altered the look of the town.
The Spanish Revival architecture for which Santa Barbara is known was a recent import, but once the city started to rebuild, red-tiled roofs and white stucco walls became the style.
“I didn’t want to be known as the girl who got shot by the Taliban. I want to be known as the girl who fought the Taliban and who fought for children’s’ right to education.”
At 17, children’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai speaks with the force and authority of someone twice her age. She stood up to the Taliban in her home country of Pakistan when she insisted girls be given a chance to go to school.
A story I wrote for Open Culture on Sebastian C. Adams’ timeline of history.
Before the 78 rpm shellac record, there was Thomas Edison’s wax cylinder, which had one amazing advantage over the format that would supplant it: you could record as well as play.
On March 25, the Library of Congress announced that it has added the Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings collection at the UCSB Library to the National Recording Registry.
A packed crowd of Westmont College faculty, donors and supporters received a powerful lesson in history Friday morning from Doris Kearns Goodwin, author and historian.
Known for her series of presidential biographies, most notably “Team of Rivals,” which Steven Spielberg used as the basis for the film “Lincoln,” she gave a rousing and humorous lecture on four presidents for the 10th annual Westmont President’s Breakfast.
Twenty-five years ago today the Berlin Wall fell, an event that was as sudden and surprising as it would be historically important.
A Santa Barbara mother and her son, Celeste Barber and Eric Friedman, have a chunk of the wall in their possession, a reminder of their days spent living in Communist-controlled East Berlin, and will soon be releasing a memoir of that life-changing time.
A committed jihadist, Abu Jandal got himself a plum job in the ’90s when he became the bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden. After splitting with bin Laden, serving time in prison during 9/11, giving up info to the FBI and returning to his family, he now drives a taxi in Yemen. But back when he was a bodyguard he helped his brother-in-law get a job as Bin Laden’s driver. That man, Salim Hamdan, was not so lucky. Although kept out of the terrorist information loop, Hamdan was captured and held in solitary confinement at Guantanamo Bay.
Laura Poitras’ documentary “The Oath” follows the fate of the two men in an engrossing film that relishes its ambiguities. Poitras followed Jandal for two yeas, shooting his everyday life. For Hamdan, she shows his family and reads from his letters home, written on cartoonish stationery.
King George III didn’t particularly like opening his Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, southwest of London, to the general public back in 1776. Although only open once a week, the king said he could notice the difference the next day.
“They seem so dirty,” he quipped of visitors.
But with a bunch of revolutionaries across the Atlantic making his life miserable, he had other things to think about. It would be hard to imagine what King George would think of this emerald jewel more than 230 years later, with its thousands of commoners — Just think of it! Commoners! — walking the gardens solo, in couples, in families, in school groups, every day, enjoying more than 300 acres of flora, both native and foreign. The king wouldn’t like it. Tough luck. Kew Gardens, as it is known, might not be the biggest botanic gardens in the world, but it is one of the oldest. And for those interested in natural beauty, it is one of England’s must-see destinations.
A disturbing Holocaust feature, “A Film Unfinished” brings up many issues about documentaries, propaganda and the invisible lines between the two. Young Israeli filmmaker Yael Hersonski has unearthed a relic of that era and turned a silent film into one that screams to be heard.
In 1942, the walled-off Jewish area of Warsaw contained 440,000 Polish Jews, all crowded into a three-mile area and awaiting “deportation.” Into this cramped, awful space stepped a film crew with less than good intentions.