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Hump day recommendations, Nov. 8, 2023

Read: “A Wizard of Earthsea,” by Ursula K. Le Guin. I loved this foundational high-fantasy novella as a child but recently rediscovered it full of Taoist and existentialist themes I was too young to appreciate then. The prose is at once swift and epic, and Le Guin masterfully inverts the well-worn tropes of the genre to weave a tale of hubris and redemption. Pick it up from your local library for a brief but intense escape to another world. - Matt

Watch and Listen: “Now and Then.” As the one member of your newsletter team old enough to remember when the Beatles were making records, I have to drop this official video for the new Beatles tune, which was made possible by AI advances that cleaned up the sound from an old cassette tape. This is the real deal. It has all the beautiful minor-key melancholy that defined the band’s later years. You can also learn here how AI saved this recording. - Willis

Watch: “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball” – but as Billy Beane, GM of the cash-strapped Oakland A’s in the early 2000s found out, it was even harder to be scientific about it. The 2011 film "Moneyball" tells the (mostly true) story of how Beane and Yale economics nerd Peter Brand (Podesta in real life) revolutionized the American pastime by focusing on mathematical probabilities rather than human intuitions. Regardless of how you feel about the way that modern statistical analysis has changed the game, "Moneyball" stands up as one of the great sports films of all time. - Alex

Hump Day recommendations for October 17th, 2023

Imagine: If it had all gone differently in 1938. That’s what writer Nathan Goldwag proposes is deep in the background of Belgium’s beloved “Adventures of Tintin” comics, which take place between 1929 and 1976 in a world that’s much like our own … but one that seemingly avoided the horrors of World War II. Goldwag breaks it down in considerable tongue-in-cheek detail, but here are the broad strokes: In 1934’s “The Blue Lotus,” Tintin altered the result of the Mukden Incident so Japan never invades China. Emboldened by the check on Japanese imperialism, France, Britain, and Czechoslovakia refuse to appease Hitler during the Munich Crisis, and a brief war breaks out over Sudetenland that sees the Nazis crushed. From there on, Tintin’s escapades occur in a vaguely outlined Western Europe, which Goldwag proposes represents some form of an Anglo-French-dominated European Union. I buy it! – Matt

Listen:Patti Smith performs Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” Sometimes, when one iconic performer channels another, beautiful things happen. This is one of those times. – Willis

Build: a defender out of clay. In the 16th century, the story goes, a Prague rabbi created the “golem,” a giant humanoid warrior made of clay who defended the Jews from antisemitic riots. In 2022, a stoned art teacher in Brooklyn creates a golem of his own, who accidentally trips on acid, learns English from Larry David, and winds up on a mission to kill white supremacists at a Charlottesville-type rally. “The Golem of Brooklyn,” by Adam Mansbach — the best-selling author of “Go the F*ck to Sleep” — is a hilarious romp through the history and present-day of Jewish life and Jewish hate. – Alex
What's Vladimir Putin reading these days?
What's Vladimir Putin reading these days? | PUPPET REGIME

What's Vladimir Putin reading these days?

Forget Goodreads. The president of Russia and other world leaders give us their summer reading recommendations. #PUPPETREGIME

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Hump day recommendations, April 12, 2023

Watch: “Other People’s Children.”“Life is both short and long.” That’s what an ancient-looking French gynecologist tells 40-something Rachel, who’s confronting the slowing of her biological clock – a cinematic concept often used as a bludgeon. But not in this film. Director Rebecca Zlotowski magnificently explores fertility and love, and the highs and lows of caring for other people’s children. – Gabrielle

Watch: “A Single Man.”In probably the best performance of his career (bold statement, I know!) Colin Firth plays an English professor stricken with grief a year after the death of his boyfriend (Matthew Goode) in 1960’s Los Angeles. Fashion designer Tom Ford directs this richly melancholic and stunningly beautiful modern masterpiece. Benjamin

Watch: Tifo. Whether you're a soccer nut like me or only have a healthy interest in the Beautiful Game, you'll love this YouTube channel, acquired by The Athletic in 2020. It packs in-depth tactical, historical, and geopolitical coverage into short animated videos. A tad Premier League-heavy but still great, and don't miss the multipart historical lead-up to the 2022 World Cup. Carlos

Watch: “The Lost King.” If, like me, you’re into British history and have a wannabe archaeologist for a teenager, you’ll enjoy this movie (in cinemas) about the 2012 discovery of King Richard III’s remains under a Leicester car park. The politics between a well-meaning amateur historian and experienced scientists add tension, and for intrigue … there are apparitions. – Tracy

Watch: “Judgement at Nuremberg.”To mark the passing of the late, great Ben Ferencz, watch this Stanley Kramer classic, the first film of its kind to tackle the horrors of the Nazi genocide and the subsequent trial that would change the world. Perhaps no other film offers a more haunting warning to humanity than with its closing monologue. Spencer Tracy heads a stellar cast featuring Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, and an Oscar-winning turn by Maximilian Schell. – Benjamin

Listen: Maude Latour's new singles "Lunch" and "Heaven" are springtime bops that will have you skipping down the sidewalk. Latour is an upcoming indie pop artist with a voice like Lorde and the lyrics of an angsty philosophy student. Her new songs are trying to capture falling in love in real time, and feel as fresh as spring morning. --Riley

Hump day recommendations, March 29, 2023

Watch: “Other People’s Children.” “Life is both short and long.” That’s what an ancient-looking French gynecologist tells 40-something Rachel, who’s confronting the slowing of her biological clock – a cinematic concept often used as a bludgeon. But not in this film. Director Rebecca Zlotowski magnificently explores fertility and love, and the highs and lows of caring for other people’s children. – Gabrielle

Watch: “In the Bedroom. Writer-director Todd Field is one of the most interesting and elusive filmmakers of his generation. A protege of Stanley Kubrick, Field seems to disappear for years before re-emerging with another masterpiece, as he did last year with Tár after a break of 16 years. Starring Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek, this 2001 film centering on a Maine family is at once intimate, harrowing, and shocking. – Benjamin

Scroll: NPR's "Planet Money."TikTok for economics explained by a connoisseur of whimsy. If you think that TikTok can't be a news medium, this account will change your mind. Prepare to crack up as shell companies are explained through sweaters and the SVB crash is summed up in 60 seconds of dry, deeply nerdy, humor. – Riley

Hump day recommendations, March 8, 2023

Listen: Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole. Enjoyed any Zydeco lately? Check out this beautiful rendition of “Pa Janvier” from four-time Grammy nominees Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole. Got space left over? Enjoy some “Cochon du Lait.” – Willis

Root: for Bohemian baseball. Great beer? Yes. Enchanting architecture? Yup. Superb films? Definitely. Milan Kundera? Fine. But baseball? No one ever associated “America’s pastime” with the Czech Republic … until now. The scrappy Czech team is heading for the first time to the World Baseball Classic (the world cup of baseball, basically) to face powerhouses like Cuba, Japan, Venezuela, and the US. This feature captures the underdog magic of a team whose star pitcher is a full-time firefighter. Malá země, velké sny! (Small country, big dreams!) Alex

Watch: “Saint Omer.” This is a harrowing film about infanticide made by Alice Diop, a French filmmaker of Senegalese origin. But the drama, much of which is set in a Parisian courtroom, is also a commentary on the power of memory, culture, and female connection. To say more would be an injustice to this poignant film. – Gabrielle

Watch: “Hell or High Water.” As we gear up for Oscar Sunday, check out this film, which enjoyed a Best Picture nod back in 2016. Featuring Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, and an amazing performance by Ben Foster, the story follows two brothers as they rob a series of banks to prevent foreclosure on the family farm. Chock-full of Coen bros.-level dialogue and action, the film is a stark reflection on an embittered rural America. – Ben

Watch: "Anatomy of a Scandal." This limited series on Netflix, a legal drama centered on sexual consent and “core truth,” is packed with suspense and offers powerful performances from Sienna Miller and "Downton Abbey" favorite Michelle Dockery. – Tracy

Hump Day Recommendations: A Little History of the World, Maná, The Thin Blue Line

Read: A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich — Imagine you’re a precocious 12-year-old who asks your very wise and learned grandfather to tell you the entire history of the world. If the old man has done his research and knows just how to explain complex ideas to you with great simplicity, you’ll have something like Gombrich’s “A Little History of the World.” And you might enjoy it again in an entirely new way when you’re a few decades older. – Willis

Listen: Maná — They're old, they're shaggy, and they’re awesome AF. I love love love this Mexican pop-rock band because their tunes make me wanna cry (El muelle de San Blas), play air guitar and lose my voice (Clavado en un bar), or hog the karaoke mic (Corazón espinado). Check out their greatest hits here. — Carlos

Watch: The Thin Blue Line – Errol Morris has made many great documentaries, but perhaps his greatest one is the 1988 classic The Thin Blue Line, which looks at the case of Randall Adams, convicted and sentenced to death for killing a cop in Dallas, Texas. Morris became obsessed with the case – and Adams' innocence – when he learned more about “Dr Death,” a key witness for the prosecution. – Gabrielle

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