Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bugs, words, what's the diff?

Correction: A previous version of this article cited entomology experts as having traced the origin of the word “thug.” It was etymology experts who did so.

That's true of just about anything...

Some Music Is Inherently Bad—But People Can Be Convinced Otherwise

Science can be so cool!

A peer reviewer’s suggestion that two female researchers find “one or two male biologists” to co-author and help them strengthen a manuscript they had written and submitted to a journal has unleashed an avalanche of disbelief and disgust on Twitter today—and prompted an apology from the publisher of the journal

And the winners are

… MWA Announces 2015 Edgar Award Winners. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Haiku …

Placement of flowers:
A question more important 
Than "Why am I here?"

Time to meet...

Submissions invited …

… The Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays.

A most interesting tale …

 How Rick Perry befriended the real ‘Lone Survivor’ Navy SEAL - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Paul Davis.)

“There are 1,000-plus just like him,” Perry said. “They just didn’t have a governor to intervene. And that pisses me off.”
I like his turn of phrase.

More to it than you might think …

The Art of the Paragraph | The Smart Set. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Buildings, books, and much, much more …

… The World Without Libraries: A Speculation | Lindsey Drager. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"Only in extinction is the collector comprehended," Walter Benjamin claims in his 1969 essay "Unpacking My Library." And while I do not conceive of libraries as merely collections, our celebration of the "booklessness" that characterizes an increasing number of libraries today suggests we are interested in eliminating all that clutter, all that material and matter we call books.
As Michael Crichton once pointed out, predicting the future by conceiving of it strictly in terms of an extended present is likely to lead to error, precisely because the future  will be filled with surprises.

Today's music …

Inquirer books …

… Duane Swierczynski's 'Black Hood' shows Philly tough love.

… Neil Gaiman wants to read you a story.

… Maria Bello: 'Love is love, whatever you are'.

Mark thy calendar …



While there’s no guarantee you’ll become the next Robert Frost, with the guidance of award-winning, prolific poet Leonard Gontarek, it’s at least a possibility. Encouraging students to explore as many avenues as possible and remove themselves from their work, he’ll help you find—then strengthen—your style and voice.

                                Philadelphia Weekly, Nicole Finkbiner

Reserve a place in the class via:

The workshop will include discussions of contemporary and international
poetry, translation, the students’ poetry, and the realities of publishing poetry.

Narrative, persona, political, homage, and confessional poetry will be
covered with a focus on what makes a poet’s voice original and their own.

Specific direction and assignments will be given, with attention
to the basic elements and forms of poetry.

Through invention students will build more accurate and textured work.

The workshop will be presented in eight 2-hour sessions,
Saturdays, 11 – 1:00 PM: May 2, 9, 16, 30, June 6, 13, 20, 27.
* No Workshop May 23 – Memorial Day Weekend *

Location: 4221 Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia.
The cost is 192 dollars for 8 sessions.
Please contact Leonard Gontarek with interest:,
215.808.9507 – Independent workshops and manuscript editing available.

Poem by Leonard here:

Leave a comment!

Poem by Leonard here:

Leave a comment!

Leonard Gontarek is the author of five books of poems:
St. Genevieve Watching Over Paris, Van Morrison Can’t Find His Feet,
Zen For Beginners, Déjà Vu Diner, and He Looked Beyond My Faults
and Saw My Needs (Hanging Loose Press, 2013).
His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Field, Poet Lore,
Verse, Handsome, Fence, Blackbird, The Awl, Poetry Northwest,
and in the anthologies, The Best American Poetry, The Working Poet,
and Joyful Noise: American Spiritual Poetry. He has received five
Pushcart Prize nominations and twice received poetry fellowships
from the Pennsylvania Council On The Arts.
He was the 2011 Philadelphia Literary Death Match Champion.
He coordinates The Philadelphia Poetry Festival, Peace/Works: Poetry Readings
for Peace, and the Green Line Café Reading and Interview Series.
Since 2006 he has conducted 1000 poetry workshops in venues including,
The Moonstone Arts Center, Musehouse, The Kelly Writers House,
University City Arts League, Free Library of Philadelphia,
Mad Poets Society, Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership,
and a weekly Saturday workshop from his home in West Philadelphia.
In 2014 he created the first Philly Poetry Day. He was recipient of
the Philadelphia Writers Conference Community Service Award in 2014.

Something to think on …

The house of delusions is cheap to build, but draughty to live in, and ready at any instant to fall.
    — A. E. Housman, who copied on this date in 1936

    Wednesday, April 29, 2015

    Twists, turns, and loose ends …

    … When Falls the Coliseum — Lisa reads Can and Abe by James Grippando.

    Damn those Gays!

    “We will not obey.”

    That’s the blunt warning a group of prominent religious leaders is sending to the Supreme Court of the United States as they consider same-sex marriage...
    “You are essentially saying that boys and girls don’t need moms and dads – that moms and dads are irrelevant,” Staver said. “Gender becomes pointless when government adopts same-sex marriage. It creates a genderless relationship out of a very gender-specific relationship. It says that it doesn’t matter and that two moms or two dads are absolutely equivalent to a mom and a dad.”

    College Encourages Lively Exchange Of Idea (Singular)

    Students, Faculty Invited To Freely Express Single Viewpoint

    Bill Gates recommends 6 books...

    including "the best business book I’ve ever read."

    David McCullough on Writing (video)

    American author, historian and biographer David McCullough talks with Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief John Avlon at The Charleston Library Society on April 15, 2015 about the secret to writing, and writing history, well.
    Beyond the importance of rewriting and self-editing, there's an underlying theme: that the goal is to tell a story.

    Well worth heeding...

    A night at the theater …

     Poem of the Week: ‘The Real Thing’ | TLS. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    Q&A …

    … Three for Tuesday: An Interview with Tim Parks — MobyLives. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    A new magazine …

    The other day, I got in the mail a copy of a new magazine called Creativ. I was rather impressed by it. I only see magazines these days when I'm sitting in a waiting room. They seem like relics of a bygone era. But Creativ didn't strike me that way at all. It seemed like the perfect print accompaniment for this digital age. It's glossy, with more images than text. But the images are genuinely striking, and the texts as long as they need to be, a mere paragraph in the case of that accompanying oil-on-panel painter Jeremy Mann's depiction of a downtown San Francisco night. I don't want to spoil anything, but there's a bit of origami featured (also accompanied by a single paragraph) that is really amazing, and also some of the best animal portraits ever. It isn't all pictures, though. Economist Bjørn Lonborg has an intriguing piece called "Make the World's Poor $500 Billion Richer."
    Creativ goes on sale May 1. I hope it takes the place of those other magazines in those waiting rooms.
    You can read more about it here.

    Something to think on …

    Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.
    — Ludwig Wittgenstein, who died on this date in 1951

    Ahead of its time indeed …

    … Finnegans Wake – the book the web was invented for | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    The public domain meant that the Wake could more easily enter the world beyond print culture. There is an excellent annotated version of the text online which, when I discovered it, led me to think that the book, like other supposedly difficult modernist texts such as Eliot’s The Waste Land and The Cantos of Ezra Pound, is like an early iteration of hypertext.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2015

    CS Lewis had wit too!!

    Over dinner one night at Magdalen College one of the courses was haggis, the national dish of Scotland, which consists mainly of the blood and intestines of sheep. Seated next to Lewis was a visiting Portuguese dignitary who, while eating his haggis, remarked that he felt like a ‘gastronomic Columbus’. ‘Surely you mean a vascular da Gama,’ said Lewis.

    Haiku …

    He first knew himself
    Gardening with his mother.
    What became of him?

    Some interesting questions …

    … Fred's Place: Eric Hoffer: product of dissatisfaction.

    I share Fred's suspicion of revolutionaries

    Playing Possum …

    … Beyond Eastrod: the journey continues: T. S. Eliot's life changes on this date in 1925 . . .

    The hard work of creating …

    … About Last Night | Two blue moons. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    … the longer I worked on Satchmo, the more clearly I saw its flaws, and the more I doubted my ability to fix them. The only thing that kept me going was that once I’d spent a year polishing Satchmo, everyone who read the revised script wanted to produce it. Had I hit a blank wall of disapproval at that point, I probably would have succumbed to my nagging doubts and given up.
    Very good for us all that he stuck it out. Satchmo  is a terrific evening of theater.

    In search of a word …

    … About Last Night | TT: Tossing a pebble. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Paul said something … that stuck in my mind. He told me that he was troubled by the fact that the word “depression” has come to be used more or less interchangeably to describe both persistent sadness and a form of mental illness so virulent as to be life-threatening. “What we need,” he added, “is a different word for clinical depression–a new word. One that has the same emotional impact as, say, leukemia.”

    Maybe not so "immethodical" …

    … Coleridge and the Maker | Books and Culture. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Having explained that the text as a whole takes the reader back and forth, sometimes rather bewilderingly, among select events in Coleridge's life, criticism of particular works of literature, Kantian philosophy, and theology, Roberts wants to demonstrate that these parts are not as miscellaneous and "immethodical" as they might appear and in fact are woven into something like a single argument.

    Today's music …

    Listen in …

    … Episode 116 – Thane Rosenbaum: Magic City | Virtual Memories.

    “There’s a marketplace of ideas, and there’s a marketplace of assholes. It turns out they’re different marketplaces.”

    Q & A …

     #MondayBlogs David Belbin and Stanley Middleton | Dawn of the Unread. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Stanley was never a big seller and didn’t aspire to be. He didn’t play the game by moving to London or even getting an agent. He was Nottingham through and through and liked being a schoolteacher. Until Holiday, I don’t think he ever had a print run exceeding a thousand copies. He’s a very fine writer and his work does get steadily better, with early peaks like Harris’s Requiem and late ones like Married Past Redemption (both recently reissued).

    Making the rounds …

    … A novel approach Montco author visiting 100 book clubs to promote her latest work. Elkins Park author Nomi Eve visits 100 book clubs — and counting.

    And the winner is …

    … Philly-born Gregory Pardlo talks about his Pulitzer for poetry.

    Pardlo's break from college would last more than four years. He came back to Rutgers, studied abroad in Denmark, and helped run his family's jazz bar in Merchantville. There he met poets and jazz musicians. He even started a poetry-reading series. The passion those artists had for their craft inspired him to be honest with himself about his ambitions.

    Something to think on …

    However, no two people see the external world in exactly the same way. To every separate person a thing is what he thinks it is — in other words, not a thing, but a think.
    — Penelope Fitzgerald, who died on this date in 2000

    This day...

    Art and truth...

    Saul Bellow...

    ...Biography, autobiography, history:

    "That his own fiction drew so heavily on his famously full and messy life has been both an obstacle and a blessing for Bellow’s biographers. On the one hand, it is hard to wring new insight from situations and events that Bellow described and thought through so deeply, repeatedly, and vividly in his fiction. On the other, it is easier to correlate the life and the art when the novelist in question approaches fiction as 'the higher autobiography."'

    Monday, April 27, 2015

    Hear, hear …

    … On closeted Christian law professors: Thoughts on Dreher's Kingsfield -

    Just a thought …

    What poets do is make music out of language as they hear it. But it must be borne in mind that poets hear the words that comprise language in terms of those words' inherited and evolved significance.

    So very true …

    3 Ways the Liberal Arts Will Enrich Your Life | Intercollegiate Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Too bad most colleges and universities don't teach them properly anymore. "Education," Herbert Spencer said, "has for its object the formation of character." But those who would teach must have the character to do so.

    Elegy …

     Terry Teachout — Love Songs RIP. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Modest proposal …

     Letters: Witverse — LRB 7 January 1988. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Today's music …

    Q & A …

    … Knausgaard on Masculinity, Excrement, and Quitting ‹ Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    When I was studying in my twenties and I tried to write… but I couldn’t write. Then I had a discovery when I was 26 or 27 that something was—I don’t know why it happened—but something was happening in my writing all of a sudden. It was like a breakthrough I had. I was just diving into it and something else came out of it, something I hadn’t seen before. I realized this is writing. You pour yourself in and you see something you haven’t seen before. It’s not yourself; it’s something else and that’s a combination of you, and before you, literature. You can’t think when you are doing that. You can’t calculate it. You can’t make it. It has to happen. But back to your question: if you do that, if you write blindly, if you do that for 3,600 pages, it’s a lot of blind places you know? It’s a lot of patterns. I think I’m interested in identity. I’m interested in personal identity, national identity. But if I try to analyze that, nothing happens.

    Minority report …

     Lionel Shriver: Toni Morrison picked the wrong subject in God Help the Child. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
    To the degree that Morrison is writing about the larger problem of how adults continually rehearse and react to the scars of childhood, how they “cling to a sad little story of hurt and sorrow – some long-ago trouble and pain life dumped on their pure and innocent selves”, the theme is
    Lionel was one of my favorite reviewers — and one of my favorite people — when I was book editor. This is a characteristically thoughtful review.

    Something to think on …

    Society exists for the benefit of its members, not the members for the benefit of society.
    — Herbert Spencer, born on this date in 1820

    Sunday, April 26, 2015

    R.I.P. …

     James Hendry Obituary — Portland, ME | Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

    Jim was my stepdaughter Gwendolyn's father-in-law. He was a cool guy. The world is a poorer place without him. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual,light shine upon him.

    Today's music …

    We just heard this played this afternoon by the Curtis Orchestra at the Kimmel Center. Sounded worth hearing again. Leila Josefowicz did a fabulous job.

    Truth via grace …

     ‘A Wonderful Life’ by Stuart Hampshire | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    It is an important fact that Wittgenstein, no less than Frege and Russell, was a genius in philosophy. But Monk shows by relevant quotation that a much more important fact in understanding Wittgenstein’s philosophy is that he thought of himself as a philosophical genius, and that he would not have continued as a philosopher if he had not thought of himself as authentically inspired. Philosophy, he thought, demands inspiration or it is a counterfeit.

    Act of courage...

    In it together...

    ...Grace and Hope Found Amid the Destruction of Nepal Quake
    Within 40 seconds on Saturday, everything changed. The Durbar Squares in Katmandu and Patan where tourists thronged — ancient plazas graced with temples and fountains opposite the old royal palaces — had been reduced to rubble, with only a few structures left standing. One of my favorite shrines, famous for its white domes and four giant, fearsome brass dragons with talons raised, is now a pile of cracked red bricks and dust.

    Mysteries on a Sunday...

    The 53-square-foot rectangle of linen known as the Shroud of Turin is one of the most sacred religious icons on Earth, venerated by millions of Christians as the actual burial garment of Jesus Christ.It is also among the most fiercely debated subjects in contemporary science, an extraordinary mystery that has defied every effort at solution.

    Master of the quotidian …

     Our Contemporary, Montaigne: He Pioneered the Personal Essay and Made Candor Literary | Humanities. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Someone writing randomly about what he’s thinking for hundreds of pages sounds pretty dull, but Montaigne pulls it off. “How does it happen that Montaigne is not ever, not on any of all those pages, even a bit of a bore?” [Lewis] Thomas asks, and then answers his own question: “He likes himself, to be sure, but is never swept off his feet after the fashion of bores.”

    Inquirer reviews …

    … Toni Morrison's 'God Help the Child': Glorious, incendiary.

    … Marc Kushner dances about architecture.

    … A family history finds gangsters and a Boston crime spree.

    There's another review in the paper, but I can't find it online.

    Something to think on …

    For a truly religious man nothing is tragic.
    — Ludwig Wittgenstein, born on this date in 1889

    The life and struggles of CeCe McDonald...

    Saturday, April 25, 2015

    A Masterpiece in 700 words

    Lincoln's Second Inaugural address and the Biblical Themes

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

    While success may have many fathers and failure is an orphan, in the case of C.D. Rose’s The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure, these orphans at least have a warm roof over their heads. Rose’s quest to “tell the tales of those whose tales will remain untold,” in the form of 52 portraits of failed literary careers seems initially to disprove the “failure is an orphan” expression—until, as in the best of fictional orphanages, some of the residents rapidly begin to look considerably less like foundlings and considerably more like offspring.

    Today's music …

    Wonderful piece.

    Well, maybe …

     Best American Poetry Books of the 2010s – Flavorwire. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    Connoisseur of doubt …

     Loitering | Commonweal Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    D’Ambrosio’s subjects are rarely ecclesiastical, but his essays use faith as both anchor and pivot. “This Is Living” begins with a reflection on selling candy bars as a Catholic student; a later essay about his brother’s suicide ends with the note that parochial kids were taught that “so be it” is the meaning of “amen.” Definitions are invitations for criticism; what makes an essayist Catholic is not dogma but doubt. Dogmatic essays are written toward conclusions. Doubt is borne of observation and contemplation, modes and behaviors endemic to essayists.

    The magic of lines …

    … The Smart Set: Inside the Mind of Poetry - April 14, 2015. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    … Negative capability, as described by Keats, is rather delightfully poetic in itself, a form of imitative fallacy in criticism, a mental onomatopoeia. It seems clear enough by his own definition: “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” But it’s so often badly paraphrased, in conversation and in print; Wikipedia defines it as “the capacity of human beings to transcend and revise their contexts” (to their credit this merits a “citation needed”). A concept so frequently muddled must be inherently mysterious and as such, perhaps, a shibboleth; if you don’t understand negative capability you won’t understand poetry.
    Keats's definition bears a striking resemblance to John Henry Newman's definition of faith: "being capable of bearing doubt."

    In the breach …

    … Zealotry of Guerin: The Two Goats (Gustave Dore), Sonnet #239.

    Very sad news …

    … Richard Corliss Dies at 71, Was TIME Magazine Film Critic for 35 Years.

    Dick and I were classmates at St. Joe's. He wrote film reviews for the college newspaper when I was its editor. We went to see the Beatles' film Help! together, and a lot of other films besides. We used to stop at a Toddle House on Broad Street late at night and have BLTs. The last time I was in touch with him was when Alan Bates died. Dick and I had seen Nothing But the Best  together and were taken with a line an old lady delivers when a car speeds through a crosswalk (nicknamed a zebra in London). "Cahn't he see the zebra," she exclaimed. So when Bates died, I sent Dick an email with that line as the subject. It was all that was necessary. He joined Time the same year I joined The Inquirer. We both ended up with the jobs we had dreamed of having. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. As the speaker in Browning's "A Toccata of Galuppi's" puts it, "I feel chilly and grown old."

    Something to think on …

    All day long the door of the sub-conscious remains just ajar; we slip through to the other side, and return again, as easily and secretly as a cat.
    — Walter de la Mare, born on this date in 1873

    Friday, April 24, 2015

    Bruce Jenner...

    is on TV tonight -- I'm not watching it -- apparently talking about the fact he (it's still okay to use he) is a transgendered person and is transitioning from male to female.  Which may be great or may be a circus I don't know but I wish him all the best.  What I do know is that Bruce is a lucky one because he has resources that far outweigh almost every other trans person I know.  Some trans statistics:
    - Trans people are unemployed and underemployed, with unemployment at twice the rate of the general population at the time of the survey, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate; and they are nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000/year compared to the general population.
    - 90% have been harassed, mistreated or discriminated against  on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.
    - 16% have been compelled to work in the underground economy for income (such as doing sex work or selling drugs).
    - 22% have been harassed by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color.
    - 53% have been verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation, including hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies.
    - Children who have expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%); harassment was so severe that it led almost one-sixth (15%) to leave a school in K-12 settings or in higher education
    -   57% experienced significant family rejection-       41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population,  with rates rising for those who lost a job due to bias (55%), were harassed/bullied in school (51%), had low household income, or were the victim of physical assault (61%) or sexual assault (64%)
     -       “[T]he combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural racism [is] especially devastating.  Trans People of color in general fare worse than white participants across the board, with African American transgender respondents faring far worse than all others.”    Link here
    Society’s reaction doesn’t just harm either – it kills: 
    Blake Brockington, a young trans activist celebrated nationwide as the first out trans homecoming king in a North Carolina high school, is being mourned after committing suicide Monday night…He had been rejected by his family after coming out as transgender, leading to his placement in a loving foster home... Receiving public attention for his homecoming win was a defining moment for Brockington and also a difficult one…:"That was single-handedly the hardest part of my trans journey. Reallyhateful things were said on the Internet. It was hard. I saw how narrow-mindedthe world really is."

    Many happy returns …

    Happy Birthday Assay | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

    FYI …

    … Global Warming More Moderate Than Worst-Case Models | Duke Environment.

    Back when the world started...

     [T]he origin of the anus
    I heard an alternate story...So back when the world started, all the body parts were fighting over who should be in charge.  The heart said, "We should be in charge because we pump blood," the brain said "we should be in charge we think," and so on and so on. Meanwhile the asshole didn't say anything but quietly closed up.  After a day, the rest of the body parts started feeling queasy, after three days it started to feel sick and after five days all the rest of the body parts were begging the asshole to take over and just open back up.

    And ever since then assholes have always tried to be in charge.

    So much for free enquiry …

     At UPenn, campus leaders quash effort to address biased professors.

    What are the secrets?

    What do Gywneth Paltrow, Stephen King, and Reese Witherspoon have in common? They are all big fans of the newest thriller dominating bestseller lists, Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train...
    There are thousands upon thousands of books published every year, and when a debut novel like The Girl on the Train breaks through, it’s always interesting to try to figure out why.
    The thriller has dominated The New York Times bestseller list for nearly four months since its release. According to Riverhead, the book’s U.S. publisher, it recently passed 1.5 million copies sold, which might just make it the fastest selling hardcover adult novel ever...
    What was most interesting was the power of Goodreads, the “social cataloging website” owned by Amazon. 

    Who knew?

    … How Christianity invented children.

    Well-to-do parents typically did not interact with their children, leaving them up to the care of slaves. Children were rudely brought up, and very strong beatings were a normal part of education. In Rome, a child's father had the right to kill him for whatever reason until he came of age.

    Finding the words …

    … Filling Blank Pages | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

    Rather complex...

    And another …

     Bring back the serialized novel — The Washington Post.

    As the Telegraph noted in its look at “Why great novels don’t get noticed now ,” Samantha Harvey’s “Dear Thief” received universally glowing reviews — and sold only 1,000 copies in six months. Publishing houses have a brief window to push a work into the public’s consciousness. If the pilot doesn’t light, the novel doesn’t move. But with a constant stream of exposure over a period of six or 12 or 18 months, a novel would stand a far better chance of piquing the public’s interest.


    Good idea

    … Memoirs should be more than just selfies in book form - The Washington Post.

    …  much of the current crop of best-selling memoirs … breaks down into a handful of dispiriting categories. Among them are I’m Famous (Tina Fey’s “Bossypants,” Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please,” Rob Lowe’s “Stories I Only Tell My Friends”); I’m Running for President (Marco Rubio’s “American Dreams,” Ted Cruz’s “A Time for Truth,” Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices”); and I Used to Be Dead but for Some Reason I’m Not Anymore (Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven,” Bill Weise’s “23 Minutes in Hell”). Tina Fey is funnier than Bill Weise. Marco Rubio is stronger on immigration policy than Rob Lowe. But to a larger or smaller degree, they’re all books as selfies: “Look at me!” plays in the guise of truth-telling, attempts to move us to see the author as clever or electable or holy. Such books, particularly of the political variety, are routinely slathered in anecdote and platitude, pleasurable and informative only for those who wish stump speeches were longer.

    Points of time …

    First Known When Lost: Moments.

    Something I missed …

    Issa's Untidy Hut: Daryl Nielsen & Susan Constable: Wednesday Haiku, #208.

    Tonight …

    Issa's Untidy Hut: Roberta Beary: Pittsburgh Reading, April 24th.

    Meet John …

    … you'll like him: Anecdotal Evidence: `At Last He Made Himself Heard'.

    Intricate thriller …

    Crimes in the Library: "Forgotten Book Friday" -- The Genesis Secret by Tom Knox (2009).

    Today's music …

    Good heavens …

    … Shakespeare not required reading for most literature grads in US - Telegraph. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Albert Jay Nock once pointed out that Americans have a tendency to think that, if something is good for anyone, it must be good for everyone. So naturally, the notion that everyone should go to college caught on. But the only way you can do that is to adapt college to everyone, which involves a kind of leveling process that makes college less than what it ought to be, and colleges today seem increasingly less than they used to be. Not everyone has scholarly tendencies. In fact, few people do. That doesn't mean they are less intelligent, only that their intelligence works differently. Also, people who were uninterested in scholarship when young often become very interested in it later on. One size never fits all.

    That's why there's this: VIDEO: College Students Don't Recognize Ronald Reagan.
    I wonder if they would recognize Truman or Eisenhower.


    … Diana Krall Fly Me To the Moon. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Haiku by Debbie …

    Red-brick row houses
    Hearken back to older times,
    When Franklin flew his kite.

    Something to think on …

    Life is so unlike theory.
    — Anthony Trollope, born on this date in 1815

    Thursday, April 23, 2015

    Haiku …

    Cold spring afternoon,
    More November than April,
    Flowers getting by.

    Not all it's cracked up to be...

    China Says Please Stop Hiring Funeral Strippers

    In China, friends and family of the deceased may have to do without a special form of funereal entertainment: strippers.
    According to a statement from the Ministry of Culture on Thursday, the government plans to work closely with the police to eliminate such performances, which are held with the goal of drawing more mourners.

    Hats off...

    More on Knausgaard

    Book Four hits the shelves...

    Today's music …

    Character and language …

     King Lear: The Syntax and Scansion of Insanity | (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    I want to take a look at a series of Lear’s speeches, five of them, one from each act of the play. All involve Lear at a moment of extreme rage or sorrow, but his rage and sorrow change dramatically from the first act to the last. The character is the language, and what we see over the course of the play, is the utter destruction of that character.

    Crime and politics …

    … together as always: Crimes in the Library: Sleeping Dogs by Ed Gorman (2008) -- a good old-fashioned mystery featuring the dog-eat-dog political world of Chicago.

    Hmm …

    … Jonathan Franzen's Call for Love: 'You Need to Take Care of Birds Now' | Village Voice.

    In the United States, songbird poaching isn’t common, but the American way of life still poses threats to many species. “The real threats,” Franzen said, “are habitat loss and fragmentation, and that’s happening most dramatically now in the sage land of the West which is getting fragmented for oil and gas and coal extraction.” Franzen is also adamant that you keep your kitties indoors: “Good peer-reviewed studies show that the low end of the estimate of birds killed in America per year by household cats is over 1 billion.”
    What about the wind farms, Jonathan?

    The wingéd chariot …

     Age Makes You Wiser, But Is Time Running Out? On Writing and Aging | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

    Cautionary tale …

    … On the Subject of my suicide ‹ Literary Hub. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Something to think on …

    All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force... We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.
    — Max Planck, born on this date in 1858

    Jan Morris on her books...

    And finally … Is there a question you haven’t had before that you’d like to be asked?Yes, I would like to have been asked if there was any moral purpose emerging from my 40-odd books, and I would answer yes, my gradually growing conviction that simple kindness should be the governing factor of human conduct.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    A new blog …

    … from an old friend: Crimes in the Library.

    R.I.P. …

    … M.H. Abrams, beloved professor, literary scholar, dies at 102 | Cornell Chronicle. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Mixing pronouns …

     Embracing the Painfully Impossible in the Human Heart | BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

    Haiku …

    Mystery of life
    Not sweet, after all. Old man's
    Latest discernment.

    Hot material …

     Paul Davis On Crime: NPR: Revisiting A Suburbia-Gone-Sour In Ross McDonald's Crime Fiction.

    Still free …

    … Freedom From Choice? by Edward Feser, City Journal April 21, 2015.  (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    The recent spate of neuroscientific and psychological literature claiming to show that free will is an illusion provides a case in point. Philosopher Alfred Mele’s new book, Free, is a brief, lucid, and decisive refutation of these arguments. Mele demonstrates that scientific evidence comes nowhere close to undermining free will, and that the reasoning leading some scientists to claim otherwise is amazingly sloppy.

    Good advice …

    … Check out the Library of Congress's new audio archive online | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    The Library of Congress says its archive dates back to 1943, and contains nearly 2,000 recordings, most of which are on magnetic tape reels, and only accessible at the library itself. The digitisation project is just a sample of the collection, with more items to be added monthly over the next few years.

    Today's music …

    A human endeavor …

    …  therefore imperfect: In science, has evidence given way to ideology? - The Washington Post. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

    Bond in brief …

    Paul Davis On Crime: The Gadgetless And Tired Assassin: A Look Back At Ian Fleming's James Bond Short Stories.

    Something to think on …

    Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.
    — Madame de Staël, born on this date in 1766

    Hello? Is anybody in there?

    Astronomers stumble upon eerie section of universe containing absolutely nothing

    Talking about the Pulitzer Prize books

    Mass extinction. A pope and a fascist. A lost North American tribe. A beguiling WWII tale. Scott Porch, Bill Morris, William O’Connor, and Malcolm Jones on the Pulitzer board’s picks.

    JazzFest in Philadelphia!

    Fourth Annual Center City Jazz Festival

    When: Saturday, April 25 from 1pm – 7pm
    Where: Chris' Jazz Cafe, Fergie's Pub, Milkboy Philadelphia, and Time Restaurant
    Tickets: $15 in advance and $20 day of
    More Info:
    Attention Philly jazz-heads: It's back! Following the success of the 2014 events, Center City Jazz Festival returns for another round of extraordinary jazz music set in incredible downtown Philly music venues. The brainchild of master musician Ernest Stuart, this year's festival will feature 16 acts performing across 4 stages — all during the course of one day.
    Popular Philly venues TimeMilkboyChris' Jazz Cafe,and Fergie's will again host a stellar lineup of festival performers, includingncludes Ben Schachter & Re:Trio, Daud El-Bakara Sextet, Dena Underwood, Ernest Stuart, Fresh Cut Orchestra, Greg Snyder, The Huntertones, Matt Davis' Aerial Photograph, Max Swan, Surface to Air, Tomas Fujiwara, and the West Philadelphia Orchestra.
    Stay tuned in for details on the full lineup and mark you calendars — this event is another not-to-be-missed production.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    Real books do things

    For many of us, our book collections are, in at least one major way, tantamount to our children—they are manifestations of our identity, embodiments of our selfhood; they are a dynamic interior heftily externalized, a sensibility, a worldview defined and objectified. For readers, what they read is where they’ve been, and their collections are evidence of the trek. For writers, the personal library is the toolbox which contains the day’s necessary implements of construction—there’s no such thing as a skillful writer who is not also a dedicated reader—as well as a towering reminder of the task at hand: to build something worthy of being bound and occupying a space on those shelves, on all shelves. The personal library also heaves in reproach each time you’re tempted to grab the laptop and gypsy from one half-witted Web page to another. If you aren’t suspicious of a writer who isn’t a bibliophile, you should be.

    "Can music save your mortal soul..."

    ...and can you teach me how to dance real slow?"

    Three on American Pie:
    1) ‘American Pie’ and the History of Mysterious Rock Lyrics
    2) The original 16-page working manuscript of the lyrics has been sold at auction for $1.2 million.
    “I thought it would be interesting as I reach age 70 to release this work product on the song American Pie so that anyone who might be interested will learn that this song was not a parlor game,” McLean said in a Christie’s catalogue ahead of the sale. “It was an indescribable photograph of America that I tried to capture in words and music.”
    3) "The song was written in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania," McLean said.
    He also clarified that the first time the song was performed on stage was ...  at Temple University, where he was billed to perform with Laura Nyro.

    Very busy day …

    Out and about a lot today. Breakfast with Nigel Beale. Doctor's appointment with my wife. Diner with my hair are stepdaughter. Then Freeman Dyson at the Library. Blogging must be slighted.

    Not the first, nor the last...

    Getting it ready...

    Today's music …

    A great work by a great composer. The Philadelphia Orchestra ought to devote a season to all nine of Arnold's symphonies.

    War and peace …

    … Paul Davis On Crime: Crucible Of Command: Usysses S. Grant And Robert E. Lee - The War They Fought, The Peace They Forged.

    Appreciation …

    … The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty | Books and Culture. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    This study is all the more significant for its confessional tone. Like Walt Whitman and T. S. Eliot before him, McGann came to grasp the significance of Poe after a distinguished career in which he had accepted the standard line that had been passed down in intellectual circles since Emerson that Poe was merely a "jingle man." Because of the enormous influence of Poe on literature for over 150 years, however, the standard American disparagement of Poe has been difficult to sustain. In this study, McGann argues for the importance of Poe's work while also confessing for himself and other critics that any perception of Poe's "insufficiency has largely been ours (or mine)."

    News you can use …

    What are words worth now? (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Something to think on …

    Creativity is not merely the innocent spontaneity of our youth and childhood; it must also be married to the passion of the adult human being, which is a passion to live beyond one's death.
    — Rollo May, born on this date in 1909

    An Indian tragedy (contd)...

    Monday, April 20, 2015

    Assault on free speech and thought …

    Calgary Expo in crisis after expelling female artists - Breitbart.

    Passing the time …

    Beyond Eastrod: the journey continues: The Flannery O'Connor Encyclopedia: my "bucket list" project for the rest of my life.

    Top 10 Books...

     Written by Librarians

    The art of the book review …

    … What is Sensed and Felt - Daniel Green's The Reading Experience. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

    Reckoning with literary qualities is something Winters does exceptionally well. Most of the books discussed in the first section of Infinite Fictions ("On Literature") are complex, unconventional works of fiction, and Winters is painstaking in attempting to describe the strategies the author at hand seems to be using, to account for the effect of reading the work as registered in Winters's own experience of it. As he says in the introduction to the book, "As a reviewer, all I can do is try to stay true to the texture of that experience. . .Strange as it sounds, each of these books briefly allowed me to subtract myself from reality. In this respect, when writing reviews, I'm less intent on making prescriptions than on exploring the space left by my subtraction." Thus Winters attends to the specificity of the reading experience itself, something academic criticism generally abjures, while also avoiding the superficial approach of the most "trivial" kind of book reviews, the kind that aim merely to "make prescriptions."

    Literary acclaim …

    … The book that’s rocking Russia: Ellendea Proffer’s Brodsky Among Us is a bestseller | The Book Haven.
    Brodsky Among Us is about as flawless a book as one could expect. I wished it wouldn’t end. I found myself marking passages I wanted to return to, sentences I wanted to remember. It’s short, but it’s not a bad idea to leave the reader wanting more. I suspect she leaves out all the right things. While some Russian readers have noted the book’s understatements and omissions, I know that she was anxious, first and foremost, that the poet’s oeuvre not be overshadowed by the anecdotes.

    "People who give up freedom for security..."

    Why Mass Surveillance Can't, Won't, And Never Has Stopped A Terrorist

    Newly found pages to a 14 million copy bestseller

    Madeleine L’Engle, the author of “A Wrinkle in Time,” resisted labels. Her books weren’t for children, she said. They were for people. Devoted to religious study, she bristled when called a Christian writer. And though some of her books had political themes, she wasn’t known to write overtly about politics. That is, until her granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, came across an unknown three-page passage that was cut before publication.

    Fox Chase reviews …

    … Love Highway by Stephanie Dickinson.

    … The Butterfly’s Choice by Joanna Kurowska.

    …  News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness.

    … Solitude and other poems by Rajender Krishan.

    … The Psychologist and the Foreign Language Teacher By Wilga M. Rivers.