41 Things I’m Bitter About

Ben's Bitter Blog

picSo I heard it was your birthday…

It is again that time of year when I get to celebrate all the people asking me stupid questions like, “What are you going to do today?” and “What kind of cake do you want?” and “What presents did you get?” and “How can I annoy you the most today on the day that you want to be annoyed the least?”.   “How can I make the day that you used to look forward to be the day you dread the most?”.  “What cheesy phrase can I spit out from my arsenal of cheesy phrases that will make you groan the most?” I have several other questions that I just can’t wait to hear, but I’m hoping that you are smart enough to figure out the point by now.  If not, I have a super deep hole you can jump in that will help…

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8 Great Literary, Book Nerd, and Storytelling Podcasts

Andrea Reads America

I am a huge fan of the podcast medium. I listen while I clean, while I walk, while I cook, while I dress after my shower. I do not subscribe to print periodicals that run book reviews, I am not a librarian, and I no longer work in a book store, but I am a reader who is interested in what’s going on in the book world, in reading culture, and who loves a well-told story. With limited time to consume print media, but with ample time to listen, I have become an avid fan of podcasts, and my hungry mind devours the bookish and storytelling podcasts below. These shows provide the literary fix I need as a word nerd. I plan special walks or add extra chores to my list when any of these drop new episodes. I hope you enjoy them, too.

The New Yorker Fiction Podcast icon on iTunesThe New…

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In Which His Reign of Terror Comes to an End

Kristen Hansen Brakeman

Almost two years had passed since I’d begrudgingly welcomed a dragon breath, mangy furred, one-eyed shaky little mutt into our home.

We inherited Chopper from my in-laws who, in a final display of their wicked sense of humor, left us their smelly, obese, geriatric dog instead of a palatial estate.

I didn’t really want him.  After all, I had already welcomed three kids, a cat, and my devoted German shepherd mix, Buddy, into my heart and home.   There was no room for more.

But the little dog needed a place to live, and given his age and poor health, I figured it would only be for a few months anyway, so I agreed.

When he arrived at our home he was so obese he could barely walk.  I immediately put him on a diet and within a few months he was running and jumping.  The vet said that I probably…

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The Moral Cost of Travel

Cody Delistraty

It was in Paradise Lost that John Milton introduced the notion that Adam and Eve ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge (thus explaining why your “knowledgeable” elementary school teachers may have had the infamous symbol sitting on their desks).The writers of Genesis left the forbidden fruit unspecified, but scholars have since claimed it could have been a grape, possibly a fig, even a pomegranate. Whatever it was exactly, the first Biblical book is clear that its consumption is the ultimate sin — and ever since the Western world has equated knowledge with a loss of innocence. Banned from Eden, the original sinners were also the original knowledge seekers, and the idea that understanding means corruption is widespread — oft-seen in dubiously well-known phrases like “Ignorance is bliss.”

Throughout history, innocence has been lost when new knowledge is gained, and the most common way for that to happen is by…

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Look Up: On Family and Memory

Amanda Mininger

My brother came to us in an airplane when he was one and I was two. He left Guatemala and traveled in the night sky across jungles and sea with a woman from the agency who soothed him over the noise of the engines. They landed on U.S. soil and he was delivered—small, malnourished, with big round eyes—into the arms of our expectant family.

It’s fitting that his new life with us began at night under the stars, because my brother is Mayan, descended from that proud, ancient civilization who looked upward to the constellations. They followed the movement of the planets and the path of the sun, plotted courses, predicted events, developed a calendar. Makes me wonder: could they have read in a comet’s tail how far away their sons and daughters would end up, or what their fortunes would be?

Almost at once this new child pulled on…

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Shakespeare at 450: His Top Ten Adaptations on Film

One Room With A View


Shakespeare. It’s the most famous name in the English language, ringing proudly out across the British Isles. From his first works on stage around the 1590s to Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing in 2012, Shakespeare has been at the heart of literary culture for more than four hundred years, and his influence has spread around the world. In celebration of his 450th birthday this week, it’s time to look at his impact not just on the written word but on the world of cinema, as we count down the top ten best Shakespeares on film.


10. The Tempest (2010)
Let’s get something straight: Julie Taymor’s take on The Tempest isn’t a particularly good one. Despite her amazing cast – Ben Whishaw and Alfred Molina among them – Taymor’s film is slow and confused, with an overload of special effects that can’t hide its choppy pace and tone. What it…

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Fifty Years of BASIC


Knowing how to program a computer is good for you, and it’s a shame more people don’t learn to do it.

For years now, that’s been a hugely popular stance. It’s led to educational initiatives as effortless sounding as the Hour of Code (offered by Code.org) and as obviously ambitious as Code Year (spearheaded by Codecademy).

Even President Obama has chimed in. Last December, he issued a YouTube video in which he urged young people to take up programming, declaring that “learning these skills isn’t just important for your future, it’s important for our country’s future.”

I find the “everybody should learn to code” movement laudable. And yet it also leaves me wistful, even melancholy. Once upon a time, knowing how to use a computer was virtually synonymous with knowing how to program one. And the thing that made it possible was a programming language called BASIC.

John KemenyJohn…

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