Weekend Reading

This week: talkies, Thomas Jefferson, the Sinner’s Prayer, disenfranchisement, codebreaking, stained glass, an American in Beijing, and the extinction of languages.

Peale, Thomas Jefferson
Rembrandt Peale’s 1805 portrait of Thomas Jefferson

• Restoring medieval stained glass to Coventry Cathedral, which was rebuilt from 1956-1962 after being reduced to ruins by German bombs in 1940.

• A brief history of “The Sinner’s Prayer,” and of the language of “receiving Jesus into your heart.”

• A favorable review finds that a new biography of Thomas Jefferson by the late Christopher Hitchens is accessibly written and may provide “a useful corrective to the hagiographical (or anti-) chronicles of Jefferson’s life we’re more accustomed to reading.”

A reminder that the history of voting in the United States is not a story of uninterrupted progress: at various points, groups that once had the vote had it taken away (most famously, African-Americans after Reconstruction; but also, for example, unmarried, property-owning women in late 18th century New Jersey).

• The history of wartime presidents: how those without substantial military experience (e.g., Lincoln, FDR, G.W. Bush) stack up against those who fought themselves (e.g., LBJ, Nixon, G.H.W. Bush).

• Reflections on the end of the silent era in the motion pictures and what sound means for movies.

• How Alan Turing and the other codebreakers at Bletchley Park helped save Britain and shorten World War II by at least 2-4 years.

• A new film tells the story of Sidney Rittenberg, an American who joined the Chinese Communist Party, was imprisoned by it, and then returned to the U.S. in 1980 in time to advise corporations seeking to do business in the opening Chinese market.

• The Endangered Languages Project that nearly half of all languages now spoken — just over 3000 of them — are in danger of going extinct. And nearly half of those threatened tongues are spoken in Asia. Here’s the story of five of them.

• And Dr. Gehrz wants to wish everyone a happy Bastille Day:


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