We all have them. Those internet rabbit holes you just can’t resist going down. Maybe it’s a topic that fascinates you, or one that infuriates you, or maybe it’s just one you know has enough content online that you can kill a bit of time when things are slow at work. Maybe you have a favourite topic that you check back on frequently in hopes of updates, even if the matter has been dormant for years. Maybe you and your friends share your findings back and forth, like my BFF and I do with bizarre advice column questions from sites like Ask a Manager and Dear Prudie.
Some rabbit holes are quite common: topics like unresolved true crime (who killed JonBenet Ramsey, who was Jack the Ripper) or cryptids (mythological—or potentially not mythological—beings like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster) have always piqued our interest and our imagination. The internet has facilitated others: it’s easy to get lost scrolling through satellite images on Google Earth or idly planning a dream vacation or dinner on Instagram. Wikipedia is the biggest conduit, with its infinite hyper links making it easy to move through a series of innocuous topics until suddenly it’s three hours later and you’re deep into a world of conspiracy theories and oddities. “What is the best internet rabbit hole to get lost down?” is a common question on AskReddit, and Slate has an entire series based around the idea.
As someone who is Extremely Online, I probably go down the rabbit hole more often than most. Let me bring you down a few of my favourites:
I haven’t written a journalistic-type article since… I was a journalism major? But I’m pretty proud of this one. In honour of Women’s Equality Day, a US holiday commemorating the (98th anniversary) of the Nineteenth Amendment, I spoke to four women in different countries (USA, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand) about women’s rights in their respective countries, and their hopes for the future. I’m hoping to do more with their words because they had such amazing things to say—maybe a series of some sort on my blog? But for now, I’m delighted to share this piece I wrote for Harsh Reality:
August 26 is Women’s Equality Day in the United States, commemorating the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. In the USA, women’s rights have seen huge strides forwards (as well as some big steps back). But how do women’s rights in the States compare to other countries around the world? Four women — from the United States, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada — weigh in.
After General Leia, Finn’s face, and those cute little floofy owl creatures, the star of The Last Jedi was surely Skellig Michael. Throughout the film, magnificent shots of the Irish island punctuated the intergalactic action.
While this little island is now famous worldwide as the hideout of Luke Skywalker, it has always been an important part of Irish history. The site of an ancient monastery, it is also well known as a conservation area for an array of seabirds such as puffins. Skellig Michael can only be visited from May to October because of the rough ferry route, and unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to explore it yet, but while I was in Ireland this fall Steve took me around the Ring of Kerry and we were able to see the Skelligs (Skellig Michael and its smaller companion) in the distance.
I’m sure I’ll get the chance to explore Skellig Michael and its craggy, epic cliffs at some point in the next few years, but there’s no shortage of impressive historic sites in Ireland, and I have been lucky enough to visit a number of them. Here are a few of my favourites.
Brú na Bóinne / Newgrange
Stonehenge may be the most famous example of a neolithic site in the British and Irish isles, but it’s also one of the most overrated. You have to drive nearly two hours from London to walk around a largely unimpressive circle of rocks—at a distance and on the other side of a cordon, mind. Newgrange, on the other hand, is a chance to get up close and personal with a way cooler instance of neolithic architecture and design. This site is located a mere 45 minutes from Dublin and consists of a circular mound with an underground passageway made of stone that you can actually enter.
The most notable feature of this site is that the upper entrance of the mound aligns with the sun on the winter solstice so that a ray of light shines through into the inner chamber. To be inside the mound on this special day, you have to enter a lottery on your visit, and one of the reasons this site holds such a place in my heart is that I was actually lucky enough to win the lottery while I was living in Ireland. Unfortunately, the weather was too cloudy (in Ireland in December? You don’t say!) for any sun to make its way into the chamber, but it was still an incredible experience to know that we were standing in the same place, doing the same thing, as those who lived five thousand years before us.
As a kid, it took me some time to realise that everyone in America didn’t grow up within minutes of important historical locations. I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, so I would always say I was from “outside Philly” but whenever I need to give more specificity to people familiar with the area but who didn’t know my small town, I described it as “near Washington Crossing… as in Washington crossing the Delaware.” In addition to being just a few minutes’ drive from this historic location, the towns around mine are full of houses and buildings that date back to the colonial era, I used to work at a school that was owned by a doctor during the Revolutionary War (and is allegedly haunted by a Hessian soldier he operated on there), and, of course, the city of Philadelphia is only 40 minutes away.
Yesterday I visited Philadelphia’s new Museum of the American Revolution. A few blocks away from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the museum is the perfect addition to the area. Tracing the events leading up to, during, and through the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, this well-curated exhibit features artifacts from the time period and thorough explanations of significant happenings and people. Highlights include the excellent orientation video, the original tent Washington used as his personal office during the war, and one of the oldest preserved Revolutionary-era flags of the soon-to-be United States. Most of us are already familiar with the basic history due to years of primary education (is it just me, or did we learn about the Revolutionary War pretty much every year?) but the museum does a great job of providing a comprehensive overview while also delving deeper into lesser-known moments, people, and things.
The more I learn about history, the more I learn how much I thought I knew was wrong. I’m lucky in that I’ve had a number of history teachers throughout my education who taught us about more than the America-rah-rah, white-upper-class-Christian-European-male-centric stories, but even so I’ve come to learn that there are so many stories I was never told, and so many stories that were so much more interesting and in-depth than I ever knew. So many of these stories are about women, either women whose accomplishments have been undeservedly forgotten in history, or women who are remembered in a too-superficial way, not celebrating the complexity of their lives and achievements. Here, for International Women’s Day, are five women you probably learned about in history class, but not the way you should have.
I remember reading The Miracle Worker in middle school. The story of how Anne Sullivan helped Helen Keller learn to communicate is one of the most inspiring tales of perseverance and triumph I can think of. But that’s pretty much where things ended; we got a brief summary of Keller’s work as an adult, but as far as our education was concerned, she was forever a little girl learning to spell out words on her teacher’s palm .
But if Helen Keller’s childhood is an incredible story of determination, her adulthood is even moreso. Of course, she was a staunch advocate for people with disabilities (a cause that still often goes unrecognized in feminism today), but she was also a feminist, a pacifist, an anti-racist activist, and a socialist. Her writings on workers’ rights and equality are as powerful as her ability to overcome her physical obstacles, and tend to be overlooked in favour of telling her “miracle” story.
I decided to separate this post out from the city-specific posts because those were about having fun and this one has a more serious tone. Going to Berlin, Munich, and Prague was a fun experience, certainly, but it also was an educational one. Something that is different between Europe and America, or at least certain places in Europe, is that history is inescapable. Walking around Berlin, it seemed like every block had a memorial for some group of people persecuted or killed during the Third Reich, or a piece of the Berlin Wall still standing as a reminder of the Cold War. In Prague, even something as simple as a designer store in a certain area of town was significant (the Jewish quarter, now home to a fancy shopping district, had a Hugo Boss store; the designer apologized just a few years ago for having designed the Nazis’ uniforms).