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Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

In The 1870s and '80s, Being A Pedestrian Was Anything But
NPR, Robert Krulwich interviewing Matthew Algeo | Pedestrianism | April 3, 2014

We may think of baseball as America's national pastime, but in the 1870s and 1880s there was another sports craze sweeping the nation: competitive walking. "Watching people walk was America's favorite spectator sport," Matthew Algeo says in his new book, Pedestrianism.

"In the decades after the Civil War there was mass urbanization in the United States [with] millions of people moving into the cities," Algeo tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "And there wasn't much for them to do in their free time, so pedestrianism — competitive walking matches — filled a void for people. It became quite popular quite quickly."

Huge crowds packed indoor arenas to watch the best walkers walk. Think of it as a six-day NASCAR race ... on feet...

The F Word
Willa Paskin | The F Word | April 2, 2014

Inside Amy Schumer is the most sneakily feminist show on TV. (Also, it's hilarious.)...

 

Passing On One Of Europe's Greatest Treasures
Haidi Ellison, The International New York Times | Slow-Made Objects | April 2, 2014
A Quest To Understand What Makes Things Funny
Shane Snow, The New Yorker | Humor Theory | April 2, 2014

What would happen if Communism were introduced to Saudi Arabia? Nothing—at first. But soon there’d be a shortage of sand.

This—one of many political jokes circulating inside the Soviet Union during the late Cold War—is Joel Warner’s favorite. Warner is the co-author, with Peter McGraw, of “The Humor Code,” which was released on April Fool’s Day...

A Mudslide, Foretold
Timothy Egan, The New York Times Op Ed | A Mudslide, Foretold | March 31, 2014

Don't tell me, please, that nobody saw one of the deadliest landslides in American history coming. Say a prayer or send a donation for a community buried under a mountain of mud along a great river in Washington State, the Stillaguamish. Praise the emergency workers still trying to find a pulse of life in a disaster that left 25 people dead and 90 missing.

But enough with the denial, the willful ignorance of cause and effect, the shock that one of the prettiest valleys on the planet could turn in a flash from quiet respite in the foothills of the North Cascades to a gravelly graveyard...

 

A Passion To Pitch
Barry Bearak, The New York Times | A Passion To Pitch | March 30, 2014

Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees’ $155 million import, grew up in a nation where joining a baseball team was like entering a religious order. The field was hallowed ground, the equipment sacred gear. Coaches were obeyed with bowed heads.

A baseball-centered life required absolute devotion to the team. Practice made perfect, so the young athletes trained year round with seldom a day off, their after-school drills commonly lasting seven hours. Pitchers sometimes threw 300 times in a single day; hitters took 1,000 swings. And then the team finished its work by picking up stray baseballs and raking the dirt to cleanse it of cleat marks...

Ecstatic Melodic Copulation
Owen Pallett, Slate | Ecstatic Melodic Copulation | March 29, 2014

Explaining the genius of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" -- using music theory.

Katy Perry may have captured the world’s attention with her enormous eyeballs, but as I argued earlier this week, the reason “Teenage Dream” went to No. 1 and remains in radio rotation is that it is a textbook example of the excellence and supremacy of the rules of Western music theory...

Incontrovertible Evidence Proves The First Americans Came From Asia
Doug Peacock, The Daily Beast | The First Americans | March 29, 2014
At last, archeologists have resolved the debate over the first Americans (hint: they walked). Then they screwed up a perfectly good answer to an ancient puzzle.

We finally have a definitive answer to the timeless mystery of where the First Americans came from: They walked across the Bering Straits from Asia (and not from southwest Europe paddling kayaks across the frigid Atlantic sea). The first people to successfully colonize North America are called “Clovis,” and they made their appearance in the lower United States just prior to 13,000 years ago...

In Afghanistan, A U.S. Special Forces Major's Meteoric Rise And Humiliating Fall
David Wood, The World Post | Gant's Rise And Fall | March 26, 2014

A once-promising strategy for stability in Afghanistan ended badly two years ago, along with the career of its author and chief proponent, Army Special Forces Maj. Jim Gant. His gripping story is detailed in a new book, American Spartan, by Ann Scott Tyson, the former Washington Post war correspondent who interviewed him for an admiring story in late 2009. They fell in love. Tyson eventually joined Gant in an Afghan village, where he built a reputation mobilizing local tribes against the Taliban.

A tough, wiry Special Forces soldier, Gant was decorated and recommended for promotion over 22 continuous months of combat in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. But in the end, the iconoclasm and disdain for military protocol that enabled Gant’s success were instrumental in his eventual downfall...

21 Ways Gloria Steinem Taught Us To Be Better Women
Alanna Vagianos, The Huffington Post | Steinem Lessons | March 26, 2014

Without Gloria Steinem's passionate zest for change and equality, women would not be where we are today.

To celebrate the feminist author, activist and all-around awe-inducing goddess on her 80th birthday, we've compiled some of her best quotes and lessons from over the years.

Here are 21 things Gloria has taught us...