Posts by A.J. Sørensen

honey bee

The Honey Bee in Art & History

Humans learned to work with honey bees in ancient times, and our destinies are intertwined. In the mid-1990s, a zoology professor at Oregon State University made an amazing discovery while visiting a mine in northern Myanmar. As if from a scene in Jurassic Park, he held a piece of amber up to the light and discovered, encased within the fossilized tree resin and semiprecious stone, a humble bee. Later estimated to be 100 million years        …read more

DNA test kit

At-Home DNA Test Kits and Genealogy: Maybe Keep It in the Family

DNA test kits claim to trace family trees and help people change behavior to prevent disease, but at what cost? My great-uncles on my mother’s side are both botanists. In fact, along with a fun little blood disorder and esophageal issues, botany runs in my family. Perhaps that’s why both of my uncles are fascinated by our family’s genealogy. Recently, my uncle Milton sent me a robust study — his true life’s work — that        …read more


Ethereum: The Birth of a Digital Renaissance?

What’s the future of the public experiment known as Ethereum? In the late Middle Ages, Italy was composed of various city-states: small, independent merchant republics dependent on commerce and trade to acquire wealth and power. No centralized political structures represented Italy as a whole, and each city-state boasted their own form of currency. In the banking powerhouse of Florence, it was the florin. In maritime-focused Venice, it was the Ducato. All transactions were carefully recorded        …read more

Worried about Privacy? 5 Reasons to Leave Google for DuckDuckGo

Unlike Google, the DuckDuckGo search engine doesn’t track you. In 2006 Gabriel Weinberg sold a company for millions. A year and a half later, he founded his next project with the money: an alternative search engine named DuckDuckGo. Initially the goal was to make it more efficient and compelling than Google by cutting down on spam and providing instant answers, similar to a Wikipedia or IMDb. The project launched in 2008, bringing Weinberg’s brainchild into        …read more


M.I.A.: The Art of Defying the System

Why does the music industry resist artists like M.I.A.? What kind of artist would you prefer: one programmed to perform or one with a strong point of view? Consider, if you will, how many young hopefuls have entered the entertainment industry with nothing more than a dream and a smidgen of talent. They get picked up by someone — a record label, an executive, some famed producer — and this means everything. Getting picked up        …read more

Tony’s Chocolonely

Tony's Chocolonely: The Heir to Willy Wonka's Dream?

Meet the slave-free chocolatier putting joy back into chocolate. “We want to do things differently, and show that it can be done differently.” This is the driving force behind Tony’s Chocolonely, as well as our dear Willy Wonka, a magician and chocolatier first created by “the world’s number one storyteller,” Roald Dahl. Of course, Mr. Dahl never made a bar of chocolate in his life. As a child he was an eager tester of confections        …read more

internet bill of rights, United States Constitution

Is It Time for an Internet Bill of Rights?

If military officials are technically in my computer, aren’t they in my home without my consent? And more questions that deserve answers. When our founding fathers set out to ratify the U.S. Constitution, many were concerned about the amount of power being granted to the government over the individual. They expressly feared the threat to freedom and prosperity that a strong centralized power could become. And so, to address these concerns and ultimately prevent the        …read more

delete Facebook

#DeleteFacebook to Begin the Purge of Surveillance Capitalism

Deleting your account is a micro-rebellion. Let’s talk big picture. As the story goes, the political data firm Cambridge Analytica was able to conduct “unprecedented data harvesting” through the use of Facebook and a third party’s personality quiz. The survey in question was deployed by a British research company called GSR for academic purposes in line with Facebook’s terms of service, yet the data was later acquired by Cambridge Analytica and stored on their servers.        …read more


Why Blockchain Will Change Everything

Blockchain is the technology of an entirely new internet. Right now we’re in gridlock. The human race wants to move forward with the Internet of Things — to really push the boundaries of what we can do with our digital connectivity and possibly create an entirely new (and hopefully cooperative) world — but a few major problems stand in the way. First, our economic, legal and political systems are practically stuck in the Stone Age,        …read more

creative business

Intuition Is Key to Innovation in Creative Business

Kim Chestney, founder of CREATE! Festival, says a thriving creative business depends on intuition. In 2017 roughly 3.5 million people in the United States were employed in the Creative Industries by over 674,000 businesses, ranging from museums and symphonies to design and advertising firms — and this is an extremely conservative approach to documenting those currently employed in creative fields. In contrast, the political and economic juggernaut Walmart employed only 2.3 million people globally in        …read more

cryptocurrency market

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies for the Tech Challenged

Everyone’s talking about Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency market lately. Get in on the conversation with this brief intro. Cryptocurrencies, crypto-assets, crypto-trading, the cryptocurrency market… It’s practically a whole other language, and questions abound. How does it work? What is it backed by? Is it a government trap in disguise? Does it make it easier for someone to steal my money? Is paper money dying? Every time I’ve gone to a party or gathering recently, these        …read more


Vero: The Good, the Bad and the Hypocritical

Everything you need to know about the newly popular social media platform Vero. In recent weeks, a little-known app founded in 2013 and launched in 2015 surged the ranks of the iOS app store and gained the number-one spot in Google Play. In the process, the servers supporting the product crashed. What product was this? Vero, a new competitor to social media behemoths Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Snapchat, as well as the mac daddy        …read more

fairy tales

Where Are All the Heroines in Fairy Tales? Glad You Asked...

From every continent, anthologist Kathleen Ragan found the mighty girls and women in fairy tales around the world. February 26 is Tell a Fairy Tale Day. We are the stories we tell. For the first people who lived in what’s now known as Australia, tales were maps designed to guide generations across miles of desert to landmarks, water and safety. For them, a certain story sequence could mean the difference between life and death beneath        …read more

3D printed molds

Dinara Kasko Designs Eye-Popping Pastry Art with 3D Printed Molds

A baking hobbyist with a background in architecture, Kasko became a dedicated pastry artist using the technology of 3D printed molds to wow admirers around the world. In 2011 Dinara Kasko graduated from Kharkov Architecture University and began what would become a three-year stint as a designer and visualizer working remotely from home. By day, she was either sitting at her computer creating ethereal models or working as a photographer part-time; by night, she was        …read more

Logan Paul

Logan Paul Apologized, But We All Feed the Machine

Oh, Logan Paul…you poor, goofy young man. Now, now, I know everyone is up in arms over how he started 2018, and I’m certainly not saying his recent video in Japan was tasteful or even artful. But Logan Paul is an artist. And as a society, we need to learn from his experience, especially as more and more bright teens aspire to become famous YouTubers. Of course, disrespecting the dead is offensive; but it is important        …read more

comedian Emma Willmann

‘You’ll Never Make It’ & More Motivation from Comedian Emma Willmann

Comedian Emma Willmann shares the trouble with ‘making it’ and other lessons she’s learned the hard way. It’s no secret that the life of a standup comedian is tough. First, there’s the audience: a bunch of eyeballs staring up at you from cabaret seating, arms crossed, daring you to make them laugh. Then there’s the pressure. You’ve got to write fresh material that will kill, every time — and competition is fierce. Finally, there’s the        …read more

Stanley Hotel

The True Story of the Stanley Hotel, Inspiration for ‘The Shining’

How F.O. Stanley and Stephen King made the Stanley Hotel the stuff of legend. At the turn of the 20th century, Estes Park in Colorado was little more than a rustic outpost for hunters and naturalists who wanted to live in the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains. Much of the land had already been purchased by an Irish aristocrat by the name of Lord Dunraven, who wanted to make the valley a hunting playground for        …read more

Harvey Weinstein

Sex & the Spotlight: Harvey Weinstein Is Nothing New in Hollywood

Hollywood has always been built on power and vulnerability, and abusers like Harvey Weinstein have been a mainstay since the days of Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe. At the time of this writing, Harvey Weinstein has been accused by 40 women of sexual misconduct over the course of his career as a producer and distributor of films. While applauded by the industry for his “cultural impact,” few saw it fit to speak up about the decades        …read more


Demons, Succubi & Ghosts: Avoid These Supernatural Visitors This Halloween

A guide to evil supernatural beings and some (bizarre) tips for guarding yourself from them. Some call it Samhain, others All Hallow’s Eve. You may know it as Halloween, and it’s one of my favorite times of the year (and not just because my birthday is on The Day of the Dead). But whatever you call it, October 31 is believed by some to be a sacred day when the veil between the land of        …read more

Annabelle doll

Annabelle: The ‘True’ Creation Story

When it comes to the Warrens’ universe, the devil is in the details. Based on reviews, Swedish director David F. Sandberg’s film Annabelle: Creation is a well-made, professional-grade, jump-inducing horror film that fans of the ever-expanding Conjuring universe will love. Some critics have even gone so far to say that, while they didn’t see the need for another Annabelle film, they were delightfully surprised by this prequel to the prequel, calling it superior to the        …read more


Creating Consciousness: Artists, AI and Playing with Fire

For centuries, artists have warned about the dangers of creating consciousness. From Greek mythology to ‘Frankenstein’ to ‘Westworld,’ here are some of their cautionary tales. There was once a lonely and isolated sculptor by the name of Pygmalion. He knew no women and had no wife. His entire life had been dedicated to his art, and the only beauty he knew was what he created through stone: lifelike figures of beautiful women. One day he formed perfection: a        …read more

world press

Searching for Truth: An Examination of World Press Day

May 3 is World Press Day. What have great thinkers like George Orwell and Hunter S. Thompson said about the role of the press? We hear a great deal about the importance of freedom of the press. Undoubtedly, when May 3 rolls around, bringing with it World Press Freedom Day, or simply World Press Day, there will be plenty of voices screaming from the rooftops about how vital the press is to democracy, and about        …read more

haunted places

Ghosts along the Bayou: 3 Haunted Louisiana Mansions

Would you visit these haunted places after learning these spooky backstories? There’s always been something gothic about Louisiana, with its haunting beauty and alluring ghost stories. Natives are no stranger to tales of the swamps, odd paranormal activity and haunted places. They’re practically tradition! And when I was growing up, there were three homes in particular that captured my imagination, with backstories filled with blood and gore. Over the years, these stories have become a part of        …read more

criminal justice TV series

As Seen On TV: The U.S. Criminal Justice System

Can criminal justice TV series and documentaries go beyond entertainment and help us fix a broken system? Bertolt Brecht is quoted as saying, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” In terms of television, one could argue that first-time filmmakers Moira Demos and Laura Riccard achieved this with their award-winning hit Making a Murderer. As many of you know (nearly 20 million people binged on        …read more

What is Mardi Gras

What Is Mardi Gras? Let’s Talk History, Tradition and Cake

What is Mardi Gras and why has this party lasted over 2000 years? Here are 5 highlights of this amazing celebration. There are many theories as to how Mardi Gras began, but some might argue that it was born in 753 BC in a grotto at the foot of the Palatine, where a she-wolf was said to have suckled Romulus and Remus, the founders of the almighty Rome. And each February 15, with the wolf as        …read more

world predictions

Is It the End of the World as We Know It? 10 Failed Predictions

These 10 historic end-of-the-world predictions missed the mark. A constant stream of bad news can certainly make it feel like the end of the world, but congratulations — this big rock we inhabit has made it to 2017! Throughout the course of human history people have predicted our planet’s actual demise. Some people have even gained fame and fortune for their predictions. Others, when proven wrong, met a harsh end themselves. Let’s look at the most        …read more

failed predictions

Failed Predictions, Psychics and Prophets throughout History

How did the concept of the psychic evolve throughout our cultural history, and how do psychics and prophets continue to draw people in? Reality is defined by the mind observing it, and the mind instinctively rejects ideas that don’t fit within that reality. It’s a survival mechanism — keeping our deep emotional ties to certain belief systems intact, whether those beliefs are supported by facts or not. Undoubtedly this is why, in a 2005 Gallup Survey,        …read more

Facebook Live

Facebook Live: Turn It on for Activism, But It Might Turn on You

Does Facebook Live promote free expression or something else entirely? “Stay with me,” Diamond Reynolds says at the beginning of her Facebook Live Stream, filmed on the evening of Wednesday, July 6, 2016, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, from the passenger seat of the car. Her four-year-old daughter is in the backseat crying, while her boyfriend, Philando Castille, struggles to breathe in the driver’s seat beside her. There’s blood on his arm and soaking into his        …read more


How Do Conflict Photographers and Photojournalists Cope with Trauma?

Uncovering the realities of the lives of photojournalists whose lenses capture conflict and tragedy. (Warning: Graphic Images.) A photographer does more than capture images. With their lens, they are to capture truth, tell a story and share a message with the world. However, the message audiences have received have often been the one chosen by the editors that decide to publish them. In some cases, specific photos may be deemed too graphic or violent to merit        …read more

alternative school

Welcome to the Age of the Alternative School

A new Chicago-area alternative school joins the American education revolution. In his manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams, modern-day philosopher and writer Seth Godin made the argument for a revolution in the American education system. He argued that public schools are not producing the brave, creative and self-reliant individuals — the ones intent on carving their own paths as artists, inventors, scientists and innovators — that we need for a successful culture and workforce in the connected        …read more

Ed and Lorraine Warren and ‘The Conjuring’ of Legends

Exploring the incantations of Ed and Lorraine Warren. When we think of theatre, most of us picture a stage, complete with curtains, bright lights and an eager audience carefully positioned behind a “fourth wall.” We think of actors, writers and directors, all guiding a nightly performance of an indefinite run. But what if those barriers no longer existed? What if your home became the stage? After all, is there anywhere more private or intimate than your home? Your        …read more

Break Dancing South African

South African Artists You Need to Know

Spotlight on South African artists in the documentary ‘The Creators: South Africa Through the Eyes of Its Artists.’ “Please, people of the world,” cried Wara Zintwana, “bring instruments to Africa. We don’t want arms and cheap clothes. We want instruments. Music instruments.” He holds up his guitar with pride. “This is my gun.” His bandmate, a gifted guitarist named Ongx Mona, explains how he angered his churchgoing father by choosing a guitar over the Bible.        …read more