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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Writer in 29th year of solitary confinement barred from reading his own book

William “Billy” Blake is serving a 77-to-life sentence, and has been in solitary for 29 years, since he killed a guard in a failed escape attempt. He is one of the contributors to 2016's Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement, a book he's never seen, held or read; he's never seen his widely read essay "A Sentence Worse Than Death," which won Honorable Mention in the Yale Law Journal’s Prison Law Writing Contest, in print.

You can write to Blake at: William Blake #87-A-5771, Great Meadow Correctional Facility, 11739 State Route 22, PO Box 51, Comstock, New York 12821-0051.

More: Boing Boing

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Birding While Black

It’s only 9:06 a.m. and I think I might get hanged today.
* * * *
The job I volunteered for was to record every bird I could see or hear in a three-minute interval. I am supposed to do that fifty times. Look, listen, and list for three minutes. Get in the car. Drive a half mile. Stop. Get out. Look, listen, and list again. It’s a routine thousands of volunteers have followed during springs and summers all across North America since 1966. The data is critical for ornithologists to understand how breeding birds are faring across the continent.
Up until now the going has been fun and easy, more leisurely than almost any “work” anyone could imagine. But here I am, on stop number thirty-two of the Laurel Falls Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route: a large black man in one of the whitest places in the state, sitting on the side of the road with binoculars pointed toward a house with the Confederate flag proudly displayed. Rumbling trucks passing by, a honking horn or two, and curious double takes are infrequent but still distract me from the task at hand. Maybe there’s some special posthumous award given for dying in the line of duty on a BBS route—perhaps a roadside plaque honoring my bird-censusing skills.
My mind plays horrific scenes of an old black-and-white photograph I’ve seen before—gleeful throngs at a lynching party. Pale faces glow grimly in evil light. A little girl smiles broadly. The pendulant, black-skinned guest of dishonor swings anonymously, grotesquely, lifelessly. I can hear Billie Holiday’s voice. More here 
Excerpt from THE HOME PLACE: MEMOIRS OF A COLORED MAN’S LOVE AFFAIR WITH NATURE. Used with permission of Milkweed Editions. Copyright 2016 by J. Drew Lanham.

Books Ride The Rails At NY Public Library

A fleet of 24 cars will be delivering material from the stacks of the New York Public Library (NYPL)along the tracks of itsnew “book train.” Each gray and red car, adorned with NYPL’s lion logo, can travel the 11 levels of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in just five minutes, from the subterranean Milstein Research Stacks to the Rose Main Reading Room.

more here 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

One of the Earliest Science Fiction Books Was Written in the 1600s

In her lifetime, Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, published 20 books. But amid her poetry and essays, she also published one of the earliest examples of science fiction in 1666. She named it The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World.

"Change some of the wording around, and The Blazing World resembles a modern science fiction story. While the Empress enters a “portal” in the book, today’s sci-fi tales might say she enters another dimension. The people of the Blazing World, as her universe was called, came in colors ranging from green to scarlet, and had what we might now call alien technology. Cavendish writes that “though they had no knowledge of the Load-stone, or Needle or pendulous Watches,” Blazing World inhabitants were able to measure the depth of the sea from afar, technology that wouldn’t be invented until nearly 250 years after the book came out."

Read More 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Penguin Arrives At The Hundred Acre Wood

"Winter: In Which Penguin Arrives in the Forest" by Brian Sibley is one of four new adventures commissioned by the Trustees of the Pooh Properties for the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh. Sibley was inspired by an archival photograph of Pooh creator A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin Milne. The photo shows Milne and his son playing with a teddy bear - which they called Winnie-the-Pooh after a Canadian black bear that lived in the London Zoo - and a stuffed toy penguin.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Outline - Rachel Cusk

Faye goes to Athens to teach a summer writing course. On her flight to Athens the neighbouring passenger tells her about himself - his failed marriages and businesses, his boats and his children. When she arrives in Athens the people she meets also provide her with the personal details of their daily lives. These exchanges are one-sided and from them we learn next to nothing about the narrator. It is as if this is an outline consisting of individual stories that will later be fleshed out and strung together as a novel. It's an interesting concept but I found the book hard to read. About a third of the way through I began to get impatient and wanted something - anything - to happen. In the end I don't know whether I liked it or loathed it.

I had a similar reaction after reading Cusk's first novel Saving Agnes. I said "Agnes couldn't engage with others and I found I couldn't engage with her." I feel much the same about Faye.

30 Facts about Jane Austen

John Green presents trivia about the fascinating author of the 18th-19th centuries.

Via Neatorama

Friday, September 16, 2016

Finding the Unsayable in Translation

I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests. 
 So opens Javier Marías’s A Heart So White. Any first sentence in Spanish with multiple time periods and a gun alludes to the first sentence of One Hundred Years of Solitude: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

Continue reading

How to Meditate

Are you on of those who are resistant to meditation?

In his book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story  journalist Dan Harris  explores how to overcome that  resistance and reap the benefits of meditation.

This video by Harris, animated by Katy Davis walks you through the basics.

Meditation 101: A Beginner's Guide from Gobblynne on Vimeo.

More: Brain Pickings

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Picture Book Adaptation by Sabina Radeva

A picture book adaptation of the classical On The Origin Of Species. Great for children and grownups!

More at Kickstarter

Sex and sexuality: The Jane Austen game

Ever, Jane is an online role-playing game set in the dramatic, romantic worlds of Jane Austen. It invites players to attend sophisticated dinner parties and fancy balls, share gossip, keep secrets, fall in love, get married and climb the ribbon-lined social ladder of Regency-era England. It is definitely not a sex game, though sometimes players get wrapped up in this universe of exquisite gowns and forbidden desire, and they simply can't help themselves.

Check out the Kickstarter page.

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John Fante: A Real American Writer

John Fante channeled his emotions of growing up marginalized in America and pursuing his dream to become a writer in Depression-era Los Angeles through his alter ego Arturo Bandini. Considered the precursor to dirty realism and a major influence on writer Charles Bukowski, Fante’s narratives focus on Catholicism, American identity, poverty and the writer’s life. Culture Trip explores how Fante’s life informed his fiction and how Bandini’s will to succeed kept Fante writing until the end.
I'm unfamiliar with Fante's work but will do my best to change that soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Which Shakespeare Play Should I See?

Larger version at Good Tickle Brain


Man Booker shortlist 2016

This year's shortlist for the Man Booker prize shows “courage and a willingness to take risks".
The six shortlisted books tackle some grim subjects – from a Swiftian satire about a black man reintroducing slavery in Los Angeles to a bleak and depressing exploration of masculinity and the state of contemporary Europe. This year’s chair of judges, the historian Amanda Foreman, admitted that they could be seen as “very difficult, challenging and upsetting”. But crucially, she said, each one was “transporting for the reader”. 

More here

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The BFG, Roald Dahl’s Love Letter to His Lost Daughter

Dahl converts the personal (and infinite) loss of his own daughter into a loving gift he seeks to share with all children.

Read about it here