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Michael Ruscoe has 201 articles published.

Michael Ruscoe is a writer, teacher, and musician living in Southern Connecticut. He is the author of the novel, "From the Stray Cat Files: You’ll Do Anything," the anthology, "Baseball: A Treasury of Art and Literature," and numerous educational texts. An instructor at Southern Connecticut State University, Ruscoe is also lead singer and songwriter for the indie band Save the Androids! In his spare time he earns karma for his next life by ardently following the New York Mets. The proud father of two children, Ruscoe also cares for and supports a pair of goldfish, who, in all honesty, are not very good conversationalists.

‘Charlie Mike’: The Story of Veterans Who Continue to Serve Through Team Rubicon

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The woman at the Red Cross said Port-au-Prince, Haiti was too dangerous for untrained volunteers after the earthquake when Marine veteran Jake Wood called to volunteer in January 2010. “It’s complete chaos there,” she said. “I’m a marine,” he replied. “We do chaos.” Wood hung up the phone and started calling fellow veterans. One who responded was fellow Marine vet William McNulty. They had only spoken on the phone and when they met 24 hours later in the airport in the Dominican Republic, they cobbled together a team consisting of the vets, a firefighter, an ER physician, an obstetrician and a medic. They had little more than their go-bags, some money and a passion to serve. They created medical triage…

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Review: ‘Lady Bird and Lyndon’ Reveals the Demure Powerhouse Behind a President

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In the annals of Washington D.C. power couples, Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife Lady Bird rarely make the top of the list. He’s often seen as the bombastic, abrasive cowboy, showing off his appendectomy scar to reporters and riding roughshod over his presidency by sheer force of will, while Lady Bird is usually considered to be the nice woman who made sure our highways had wildflowers growing beside them. That assessment, however, is a gross misrepresentation, according to author Betty Boyd Caroli. In her absorbing new book Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage that Made a President (Simon & Schuster; October 27, 2015), Caroli delves deep into the complex and compelling relationship between Lady Bird…

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Popular ‘Welcome to Night Vale’ Podcast Now Available in Print

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So how’s this for peculiar? There’s a small town in the Southwestern United States where strange things happen. There’s a dog park, but neither people nor dogs are allowed in it. You can go to the Arby’s, but you have to ignore the mysterious lights that are floating above it. The Sheriff’s Secret Police patrol the skies in their friendly blue helicopters—but you want to steer clear of the black choppers. The town described above is the fictional burg of Night Vale, and it’s the setting of the mega-popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Described as Lake Wobegon as if it were written by Stephen King, the twice-monthly podcast is a news report narrated by fictional character Cecil Palmer, who…

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Review: Stacy Schiff’s ‘The Witches’ Filled with Surprises and Lessons

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In 1692, at the edge of colonial settlement in the New World—a place that a visitor once called a “remote, rocky, barren, bushy, wild-woody wilderness”—panic had set in. It began during an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when, without warning, a minister’s niece inexplicably began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, after 19 men and women—and two dogs—had been executed for witchcraft. The most educated men and prominent politicians were involved in the terror that swept over the young colony. “A daughter accused her mother, who in turn accused her mother, who accused a neighbor and a minister,” writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff. “A wife and daughter denounced their husband and father. Husbands implicated wives;…

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Inktober: Peter Kuper’s “Ruins” is an Epic Adventure in Storytelling

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During October artists and illustrators hone their craft by committing to posting one inked work a day with the hashtag #Inktober. Illustrator Peter Kuper is no stranger to drawing every day. Kuper’s latest illustrated work runs 256 pages, a gripping story that explores the shadows and lights of Mexico past and present. His regular monthly gig fills one magazine page, an ongoing battle between two cartoon characters trying to destroy one another. In each case, though, writer and illustrator Peter Kuper is stretching the boundaries of illustration, in terms of its visual impact as well as its ability to tell a story, no matter how long or short it may be. “There’s a certain cinematic nature to illustration and comics,”…

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Memoir: How Diana Nyad Swam from Cuba to Florida and into a World Record at 64

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As you’ve probably heard, the United States and Cuba have been working on normalizing relations after generations of a diplomatic stand-off that has been at best, frosty, and at worst, nearly deadly. But in 2013—two years before the announcement that the U.S. would again open an embassy in Havana—a remarkable feat of athletic prowess and personal determination connected the two countries. That was when Diana Nyad became the first person in history to make the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida. Nyad made the 54-hour swim through shark- and jellyfish-infested waters without the protection of a cage. Perhaps most impressively, though, she did it at age 64. And when she emerged exhausted from the Atlantic Ocean at the…

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Review: Pulitzer Prize Winner Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Laws of Medicine

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We’ve been trained—from childhood—to trust our doctors; some patients trust their doctors absolutely. For many, it can be unnerving to hear a doctor discuss what he or she doesn’t know—and admitting that what we do know about medicine is a tiny speck in the vast universe of what has yet to be discovered. It’s strangely refreshing, then, to hear a doctor address this fundamental truth about medicine so directly and reassure us that the human element of navigating the unknown might be the most valuable resource we have in medicine, the so-called “youngest science.” “I had never expected medicine to be such a lawless, uncertain world,” writes Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee in his book The Laws of Medicine: Field Notes from…

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Terry Gilliam: And Now for Something Completely Different

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If there’s one thing that Monty Python’s Flying Circus has taught us, it’s that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. And when you’re reading a memoir, you don’t expect it to be festooned with the deliciously bizarre artwork that was the hallmark of the comedy troupe’s legendary run, either. Unless, of course, that memoir is written by the group’s illustrator, animator and highly influential (if not frequently seen) member, Terry Gilliam. That memoir is Gilliamesque: A Pre-Posthumous Memoir (Harper Design; October 20, 2015), and it’s filled not only with the comedy legend’s life story, but with a collection of his distinctive artwork, some of which has never before been seen. The book traces the life and career of the celebrated screenwriter,…

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Hanks for the Memories: Bridge of Spies and the Best of Tom Hanks’ Movies

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Bridge of Spies, which opens Friday, has been getting more buzz than a hive full of yellow jackets, and even the film’s trailers are gripping and intense. On top of that, throw in the fact that it’s directed by Steven Spielberg, and we’ll be in line with our popcorn ready by about, oh, Friday morning. But for us, the real draw of this movie might be its leading man, Tom Hanks. The Spencer Tracy of his era, Hanks places amongst the top Hollywood stars of any era. Eminently likeable, tremendously charismatic and one of the most genuinely gifted performers in show business, Hanks has left a trail of Oscar-winning and Oscar-worthy performances in his wake. And even as he approaches 60…

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Review: Susan Cheever Reveals the Secret History of Drinking in America

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“Here’s to alcohol,” Homer Simpson once famously said, “the cause of—and solution to—all of life’s problems.” This simple quote from one of America’s great animated philosophers might sum up our country’s relationship with booze, from the days of the pilgrims all the way to today’s latest age of (relative) temperance. Or so might say Susan Cheever, author of Drinking in America: Our Secret History (Twelve; October 12, 2015). The book is a unique cultural tour seen through the perspective of one of our favorite pastimes—and one of our darkest problems. “Since the beginning, drinking and taverns have been as much a part of American life as churches and preachers, or elections and politics,” Cheever writes. “The interesting truth, untaught in…

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Review: Elvis Costello’s Life as a Wordsmith Continues in Memoir

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There may be more famous rock performers, there may be bands that pack larger venues and whose albums outsell his, but for my money, the absolute pinnacle of cool in the world of modern music is Elvis Costello. Darkly humorous and slightly dangerous, simultaneously catchy and cerebral, his songs helped form the foundation of the punk movement in the 1970s. Through nearly four decades since then, his music spanned a broad variety of genres, from jazz to classical to soul to pop to country to orchestral. His work has won him multiple awards, landed him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and placed him on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. And the…

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Twain’s End Reveals Samuel Clemens’ Surprising Love Triangle

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Who was the real Mark Twain? In the end, “Mark Twain” himself wasn’t a real person—he was a pseudonym (and a persona) invented by Samuel Clemens and he was perhaps the greatest popular culture superstar of his time. As a novelist, essayist and public speaker, Clemens occupied a spot at the zenith of public attention. Without the 19th- and 20th-century equivalents of TMZ and tabloid newspapers, however, we have very little evidence of what Clemens was like behind the Twain facade. But in the new novel Twain’s End (Gallery Books, 2015), author Lynn Cullen sheds new light on what might have been the complicated relationship between Clemens and his private secretary, Isabel Lyon. In March 1909, Twain happily gave his…

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Eric Carle’s Newest Book: A Lifetime Love of Words and Art

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Anyone who’s grown up in the last 40 years knows that when you ask a brown bear what it sees, the answer will be more than you bargained for—and that caterpillars tend to be very hungry. We learned these wonderful lessons thanks to children’s author and illustrator Eric Carle. His new book, The Nonsense Show (Pilomel; October 13, 2015) is just as playful as the rest of his titles, but also offers readers young and old an introduction to a whimsical art style that is one of Carle’s favorites. “When taken in context with his two most recent titles, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse and Friends, The Nonsense Show forms a trilogy of sorts, opening young readers to…

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The Extraordinary Power of Treating Your Employees Well

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I don’t know when it happened, but at some point, “the bottom line” took over American business. It became the all-important end-all and be-all of existence. It became the god that American companies worshiped above everything else. It wasn’t always like that. At one time, people mattered. Companies invested themselves in their employees, financially and emotionally. It was important for companies to have “lifers,” people who saw the company as “family,” as a place that nurtured and provided for them. Do you remember those times? At some point, though, that changed. Management tactics shifted. At one such company, writes author and CEO Bob Chapman, problems were met with “frequent restructurings and layoffs [that] succeeded only in exacerbating its problems, damaging…

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The Martian: Where Science Fiction Meets Science Fact

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On Friday, Matt Damon’s long-awaited sci-fi suspense film The Martian hits the big screen. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Andy Weir, it tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney, who is stranded on the Red Planet during an expedition, and the furious efforts of his fellow astronauts and NASA to rescue him. The movie promises to be a thrill-inducing jaunt for movie audiences. On Monday, however, NASA announced that it has “the strongest evidence yet” that salty water may be flowing on Mars. That announcement affirms the possibility that life may exist on another planet—and its implications may be a thrill greater than any movie can provide. It also may push the space agency, U.S. policy…

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These WWII Resistance Techniques Act as Modern-Day Sabotage In the Workplace

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At the height of World War II, the American Office of Strategic Services, or OSS—the forbearer of the modern CIA—published a handbook for resistance fighters operating behind enemy lines. The Simple Sabotage Field Manual instructed Allied supporters on how to slow down the Axis machine from within. Slashing tires, stopping up fuel lines, starting fires, shorting out electrical systems and damaging machine parts were all little things that resistance operatives were urged to do. By themselves, these actions didn’t add up to much, but the cumulative effect, it was hoped, would greatly hinder the Axis’s march across Europe. The manual was intended to inflict death by a thousand cuts to the enemy. Also within the manual was a list of…

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