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Hump day recommendations: 80th D-Day anniversary edition

Read: How the AP Covered D-Day. When Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy 80 years ago, journalists stepped into the maelstrom of German defenses right behind them to record this pivotal day in world history. The Associated Press has combed through internal records to memorialize how its reporters typed out the first copy and snapped the now-iconic photographs that informed the free world of its costly, but crucial victory on the path to liberate Europe. – Matt

See: D-Day viewed from the East. On the morning of June 7, 1944, as Western papers blared optimistic headlines about the Normandy invasion, citizens of the Soviet Union awoke to just a single, small mention of it, buried on the front page of a Pravda edition that led with news about the Red Army’s battles in Romania. The Kremlin, of course, had been pushing the Allies to open a Western front for more than two years while millions of Soviet soldiers and civilians lost their lives along the blood-drenched Eastern front. For a closer look at the Soviet coverage of D-Day – including some great cartoons! – check out this account by a scholar of Russian and Soviet media - Alex

Visit: Churchill War Rooms. Heading to London? Be sure to visit the underground government nerve center where Winston Churchill directed Britain’s military during World War II — and where he spent D-Day. The well-preserved bedrooms and meeting rooms take you back in time, while the computerized exhibition tables and tableaus tell you everything you need to know about the war. You’ll also learn how Churchill bounced back from his failed World War I campaign to seize control of the Dardanelles Straits in western Turkey (resigning in disgrace) to leading Britain to victory against Nazi Germany alongside the allies. “To improve is to change. To be perfect is to have changed often,” Churchill said, in what proved to be a lifelong theme. — Tracy

Watch: "We Were the Lucky Ones." There were over three million Jews in Poland before World War II. By the end of it, 90% of them were murdered by the Nazis. This show tells the harrowing story of a Jewish family in Poland that gets separated at the start of the war and their desperate, courageous efforts to be reunited. It serves as a reminder of the tyrannical forces the Allies were fighting to defeat on D-Day. – John

Visit: The National World War II’s D-Day Exhibit. Find yourself in the Big Easy? Check out the D-Day exhibit in the National World War II Museum (formerly the D-Day Museum) in New Orleans. On June 6, 1944, the Allied forces launched the largest amphibious military invasion in history, Operation Overlord. “The D-Day Invasion of Normandy” interactive exhibit provides a comprehensive look at one of the most decisive days of the war. Through oral histories, artifacts, and more, it breaks down the preparation, logistics, and costs of storming the beaches of Normandy. The museum is hosting a commemoration on June 6 and 7 to honor Operation Overlord and its veterans. – Sophia

Hump Day Recommendations, May 15, 2024

Watch:Just For US.” A young Jewish New Yorker hears about a meeting of local white nationalists and decides to go check it out. The HBO airing of Alex Edelman’s hit one-man Broadway show is by turns chilling, poignant, and laugh-out-loud hilarious from start to finish. – Willis

Watch:Amar Singh Chamkila.” This musical is based on the life of Punjabi singer Amar Singh Chamkila, who rose to fame in the 1980s. Along with his wife Amarjot, the duo’s songs had brash and vivid lyrics that were often criticized for highlighting fantasies in a conservative society. Watch for terrific performances by Diljit Dosanjh and Parineeti Chopra (who sing the songs in it as well). Bonus: Dosanjh is currently touring in North America! – Suhani

Read:The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida,” by Shehan Karunatilaka. Set amid the most violent period in Sri Lanka’s civil war, this ambitious, challenging novel follows the ghost of a slain photojournalist who’s given seven days to visit the living world. The sometimes macabre, sometimes surreal, always compelling depictions of the mundanity of state violence — outcasts botching the disposal of the narrator’s body in one of Colombo’s lakes, or loved ones bribing police to even begin an investigation — are beautifully layered with questions on spirituality and sex. – Matt

Watch:“Welcome to Wrexham.” The third season of this docuseries just launched. It keeps getting better and better. The show follows an underdog professional football (soccer) team in Wales that was bought by Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds several years ago. Wrexham has since risen through the ranks of English football, and you can’t help but fall in love with the team and the town that cheers for it. You don’t have to love soccer to like this show as there are poignant episodes about a range of topics: autism, male mental health, gender disparities in sports, and more. Highly recommend! – John

Hump Day Recs, May 8, 20224

Play: Workers and Resources: Soviet Republic. In this clever, lovingly made game from 3Division, you take control of the politburo of some anonymous post-World War II Soviet satellite with no industry or capital and attempt to build it into a Marxist worker’s utopia. Turns out running a planned economy is hard as hell, though, and you’ll have to navigate a complex global economic and political simulation as you try to build out supply chains and distribution systems that keep your economy afloat and the capitalist dogs at bay. It’s not going too well for me right now — the massive oil refinement and export system I spent ~40 million rubles to build is rusting away idle thanks to a global petrol glut. – Matt

Read: “The Politics of Resentment,” by political scientist Katherine J. Cramer. This book is an interesting analysis of the political consciousness fueling the growing divide between urban and rural voters. Using Wisconsin as a case study, Cramer's central argument is that the political resentment of rural Wisconsinites toward the “liberal elite” in Madison and Milwaukee played a major role in recent Republican successes in the state, even as their policies failed to meaningfully address the economic hardships faced by many rural residents. – Riley

Listen: to ESG. Today those three letters are an investment philosophy, but 40 years ago they were the name of an all-girl post-punk band from the South Bronx. You might have heard a snippet of their record “UFO,” one of hip-hop’s most-sampled tracks of all time, but their whole oeuvre stands the test of time as a lo-fi, high-energy call directly to the dance floor. – Alex

Hump day recommendations

Listen: Youssou Ndour will turn 65 this year. After 30 years on the world music scene, and many more lifting spirits in his native Senegal, he’s still raising that mighty voice. – Willis

Listen: “Cowboy Carter,” by Beyoncé. If Spotify charts are to be believed, you’ve probably already heard snippets from Queen Bee’s country debut, but the whole album is worth your time. The creative risk pays off beautifully with innovative original pieces and covers of country classics like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” (featuring harmonica from Stevie Wonder!). My favorite? A reimagining of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.” – Matt, with thanks to GZERO reader Ruth S.

Watch: “The Gentlemen.” Ever wondered what Brexit did to cannabis exports? This new Netflix series sheds some light on that underworld, and it’s just as darkly humorous and addictive as any of Guy Ritchie’s work. A British aristocratic heir and spare have their scripts flipped by their deceased father’s will … only for the shocked new duke to find himself hip-deep in his big brother’s misdeeds. Hijinks ensue. – Tracy

Watch:“Love Lies Bleeding.” This movie felt like a fever dream. It’s difficult to describe the plot. It’s a crime thriller and a love story jumbled together, with a whole lot of weirdness sprinkled in. And as the title suggests, there’s a lot of blood. If you enjoy nontraditional narratives and surrealism, I would highly suggest checking this out. – John

Hump day recommendations

Listen: “In a Sentimental Mood.” Duke Ellington. John Coltrane. Here’s four minutes and 15 seconds of beauty to lift your day to the bright blue sky. – Willis

Watch: “Shogunset in Japan, 1600 CE. The nation reels from the death of the Taiko, who unified the warring houses of Japan’s Senkoku Jidai before embarking on disastrous campaigns in Korea. His young son and heir lives in a gilded vipers’ nest in Osaka, where Lord Toranaga alone protects him from the scheming regents. In the southern domains, Portuguese Jesuits hatch their secret plots, beguiling avaricious daimyo with luxuries from the West. And into this powderkeg flies the burning spark of John Blackthorne, a Protestant English pilot shipwrecked on a secret mission, whose mere presence in the Land of the Rising Sun threatens to overturn the political order. You’ll be entranced by the tight storytelling, lush production design, and deeply compelling performances in this transcendent retelling of James Clavell’s 1975 novel, loosely based on the real life of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu – Matt

Read: The problem with “Islamophobia.” In the months since Oct. 7, bias and attacks against both Jews and Muslims in the US have risen substantially. But in rightly decrying the wave of Islamophobia, many people – particularly liberals – are deliberately refusing to call the hate by its real name, argues Egyptian-American analyst and writer Hani Sabra. I won’t spoil it for you, but I can promise you that whether you agree or not, this essay is a thought-provoking perspective on how we talk about things, or don’t. – Alex

Read/Listen: “Unruly: The Ridiculous History of England's Kings and Queens.” Tired of the royal saga involving Kate, Wills, Meghan, and Harry? Well, history is full of far more interesting royal figures. British comedian (and ersatz historian) David Mitchell offers gems like: “[Henry I] was predictable. That’s the key. It’s disappointing in a lover but, in a feudal overlord, it hits the spot.” And if you use Audible, you’ll have the added pleasure of laughing out loud on your commute as Mitchell himself reads the book to you, with a healthy serving of snark. – Tracy

Hump Day Recommendations, Feb. 7, 2024

Watch: Society of the Snow.” Would you survive a plane crash in snowy mountains? That’s the plot of this Netflix thriller based on a true story. In 1972, an inexperienced pilot took a wrong route and crashed a flight carrying 45 passengers with 19 members of the Old Christians Club rugby team deep into the Andes. The gut-wrenching tale may make you cover your eyes at times, but it’s an Oscar-nominated must-see (just don’t eat while watching). – Suhani
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Hump day recommendations, Jan. 17, 2024

Visit: “Anyang” at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art. This is the first major exhibition in the United States about the artistic and archaeological wonders found in China’s oldest imperial capital. The exhibit features some of the earliest samples of writing in human history, the so-called “Oracle Bone” characters etched into the belly bones of ancient tortoises, then cracked with red-hot irons to reveal the will of Shangdi. You’ll be amazed by the intricate bronzewares, covered in multimorphic animal motifs that shift with your perspective. My favorite? One of the earliest known depictions of a dragon, wrapping its serpentine body around a wide bowl. – Matt

Watch: "American Fiction." This poignant, hilarious satire is a deeply layered examination of race in the US and how narratives surrounding it are both shaped and perceived. Jeffrey Wright is fantastic as the lead character, Monk, a smug, grumpy novelist who has his world – and his assumptions about people – turned upside down as the film progresses. Highly recommend checking this out in theaters! – John

Listen/Read: “The Price of Netanyahu’s Ambition,” by David Remnick. I listened to this hour-long portrait of who Netanyahu is to Israelis and to himself in the aftermath of Oct. 7. I thought it painted a great picture of the political and media landscape in Israel right now and in the not-so-distant past. – Riley

Fight: Tyranny. Most conservatives who worry about “tyranny” seem to have in mind the supposedly coercive overreach of the government. But as the prominent arch-conservative Catholic writer Sohrab Ahmari sees it, the vast majority of the coercion that Americans experience in their daily lives actually comes from the private sector. In his book, “Tyranny, Inc.,” he argues that the court-backed power of employers, the massive privatization of public services, and the cult of deregulation have left Americans at the mercy of a new market-powered tyrant. Amazingly for a conservative, he ends up prescribing a revived New Deal to keep the playing field even. If nothing else, a bold attempt to break stereotypes of left and right — see if you find it compelling. – Alex

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

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