Linton Weeks

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.

Weeks is originally from Tennessee, and graduated from Rhodes College in 1976. He was the founding editor of Southern Magazine in 1986. The magazine was bought — and crushed — in 1989 by Time-Warner. In 1990, he was named managing editor of The Washington Post's Sunday magazine. Four years later, he became the first director of the newspaper's website, Washingtonpost.com. From 1995 until 2008, he was a staff writer in the Style section of The Washington Post.

He currently lives in a suburb of Washington with the artist Jan Taylor Weeks. In 2009, they created The Stone and Holt Weeks Foundation to honor their beloved sons.

Street View: New York City's Doors: A Special Research Project of NPR History Dept.

A door is for closing. And for opening.

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Joe King.

Joe King who?

Joking like this used to be considered a sickness by some people.

The knock-knock joke has been a staple of American humor since the early 20th century. With its repetitive set-up and wordplay punchline, the form has been invoked — and understood — by people of all ages and sensibilities.

This year we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution — abolishing slavery. So it's worth pointing out that the emancipation movement in 19th century America was pushed forward by many different forces: enlightened lawmakers, determined liberators of captive slaves and outspoken abolitionists — including an influential number who were black.

In the opening of his new book, Gateway To Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, Eric Foner lays out the inspirational story of Frederick Bailey — a young slave in Maryland who teaches himself to read and write; plans to escape slavery by canoe, but gets caught; boards a train wearing seaman's clothes and carrying false papers; and after several unsettling detours — and despite the fact that slave catchers are everywhere — arrives in the free state of New York.

Immersed in silent film that depicts everyday folks in rural, 1930s North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, I realized that young people back then looked pretty much the same as the adults ... only smaller.

Quietly watching historical film of real people doing real things can stir something powerful in us about our collective past. It's like being in a time machine with a big picture window. The images-in-action trigger real and imagined memories.

The moving pictures eerily remind us of where we came from, what those before us looked like and acted like — and appeared to care about — and about how we are all, in the end, the same and yet very different.

These days we are constantly warned of scams and schemes designed to hoodwink us. The FBI sends out scam alerts from its Internet Crime Center. The Federal Trade Commission cautions against all kinds of fraudulence, from the recent Anthem Hack Attack to IRS impostors.

Two hundred years ago this year, in June of 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated at Waterloo by a coalition of countries — including Austria, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom. Though he wound up in exile on the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena, he contemplated escaping to America.

What if Napoleon had come to the New World?

Considered by many to be the sole purview of lumberjacks, the competitive sport of logrolling — in which participants pad about on a log in water and try to outlast one another — is hoping for new growth.

Questions of gender identity are nothing new. Way before Transparent and Chaz Bono and countless other popular culture stepping stones to where we are now regarding gender identity, there were accounts of "female husbands."

"The line between cheating and gamesmanship is constantly blurred," observes The New York Times in a recent story. The Times, and just about everyone else, is talking about the perhaps-tampering-with-gameballs allegations levied against the New England Patriots — specifically coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Both Belichick and Brady have denied any wrongdoing.

Those who forget the past are liable to trip over it.

Just a few months ago a couple of forestry workers in Lumby, British Columbia — about 250 miles north of the U.S. border — happened upon a 70-year-old Japanese balloon bomb.

1) Change is constant. After a year and a half and more than 250 posts, The Protojournalist storytelling project has reached its finish line. This will be the last Protojournalist post — under my aegis.

With the spread of Christianity among some Native Americans in the early 20th century came certain Christmas rituals — trees and presents and jolly old Santa Claus — that were folded into traditional wintertime celebrations.

When it comes to Christmas trees, which kind of symbol do you prefer — real or artificial? In recent stat-studded news stories, Americans seem to be conflicted, but leaning toward artificiality.

Fooling the eye — with trick-niques like anamorphic sculpture, trompe l'oeil paintings and other optical illusions — is a centuries-old artistic pursuit.

Hoodslam — a popular spectacle that is staged monthly in Oakland, Calif. — is described by the San Francisco Chronicle as "part wrestling show, part carnival act and all comedy."

Oddest thing: Thanksgiving in turn-of-the-20th century America used to look a heckuva lot like Halloween.

People — young and old — got all dressed up and staged costumed crawls through the streets. In Los Angeles, Chicago and other places around the country, newspapers ran stories of folks wearing elaborate masks and cloth veils. Thanksgiving mask balls were held in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Montesano, Wash., and points in between.

The old joke used to be: Who is buried in Grant's tomb?

Now it's not so funny anymore.

When the "bride" and "groom" walk down the aisle in a Tom Thumb Wedding — as they did just a few weeks ago at the Fellowship Baptist Church on Staten Island in New York — they are:

1) Often not much taller than the backs of the church pews.

2) Paying homage to a pair of 19th century celebrities.

3) Acting out an American ritual with roots stretching back more than 150 years.

As America enters the holiday season, chowing down at a crowded table can become a competitive experience. What was once confined to friendly wagers has blossomed into a full-blown industry.

With a peck of new tech in development, Upstart reports recently, "the dating game may never be the same."

For Halloween 2014, the National Retail Federation predicts, some 75 million adults will put on costumes. Reuters is reporting that haunted houses for adults are in demand this year, and some 20 percent of celebrants over the age of 18 plan to visit one.

Are adults adulterating Halloween?

Making costumes from secondhand stuff is a part of the Halloween scene in 2014, according to Goodwill. We call it boocycling.

The Girl Scouts organization wants s'more — members and leaders, that is.

Membership in Girl Scouts of the USA is on the decline. In the past year, according to the group's official blog, there has been a significant drop nationwide — down 400,000 girls and adults — from 3.2 million to 2.8 million.

How about we call it boocycling — putting together an adult's or child's costume using recycled, thrift-store clothing?

What separates Americans the most?

Race ... religion ... gender ...

According to Shanto Iyengar, a political scientist at Stanford University, often the most divisive aspect of contemporary society is: politics.

Divided We Stand

From the ancient Greek thinker Democritus who reportedly said, "We know nothing really; for truth lies deep down," to the recent problem-solving advice from Entrepreneur, "Assume Everything Is Wrong," we have to constantly be reminded to be skeptical. And that the one thing we do know is that we don't always know what we think we know.

As neophyte reporters are often told: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Recently the Corcoran Gallery of Art in downtown Washington — just across the street from the White House — closed its doors.

Americans are discovering — or rediscovering — the allure of outdoor living, according to a 2014 survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Whether the instinct stems from a primordial desire to reconnect with the natural world or to disconnect from in-house clutter and chaos, people who can afford it are transporting traditional indoor areas — kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms, entertainment centers — outside.

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