Good Monday, y'all!
Via a paper bird
I was reminded of our queer community’s collective patriotism by fast-moving happenings last night in San Francisco. To summarize: SF Pride held a vote and Bradley Manning — the gay or trans (it’s not entirely clear how Manning identifies) soldier who disseminated the great Wikileaks trove of secret US documents — was elected a Grand Marshal of this year’s shindig, which will happen in late June. There are a bunch of Grand Marshals every year, and each one gets to ride in a car during the long parade, wave at the crowd, and accept adulation. In Manning’s case,the soldier was in no position to do the accepting. Manning is under lock and key at Fort Leavenworth, facing charges including “aiding the enemy,” which under the military code can carry the death penalty. Daniel Ellsberg, the great whistleblowing opponent of the Vietnam War, agreed to join the festivities in Manning’s place.
No need; within hours the board of SF Pride stepped in and rescinded the honor. Lisa Williams, the board president, issued a statement. “I am against honoring Bradley Manning,” she said, “as he was a traitor to the good old United States of America. If we all had felt the way he did back in the Forties, Hitler would have ruled the world.”
Oh...I’m sorry again. It’s early in the AM where I am, and I haven’t had coffee, and I keep screwing up. What Lisa Williams actually said was just about the same, but with slightly different wording. From her statement:
Bradley Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration. His nomination was a mistake and should never have been allowed to happen...[E]ven the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform — and countless others, military and civilian alike — will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country.
I get confused, you see, because Lisa Williams — in addition to being “president and owner of One Source Consulting, a firm which does political consulting, ” and the former “Northern California deputy political director for the ‘No on 8′” gay-marriage campaign — is also the chair of the political action committee of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition. That’s an estimable group that tries to promote black LGBT political participation in the Bay Area. And the quote above, the one about Hitler and the traitor — well, it was actually about Bayard Rustin; so you can see how I mixed them up. Rustin, if you remember, was one of the great figures of 20th-century America: a pacifist, a war resister, an icon of civil disobedience, and the key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. (Also a gay man). Rustin spent three years in Lewisburg Penitentiary as a conscientious objector during the Second World War. The quote (slightly tweaked) came from a citizen of West Chester, PA, back in 2002, who objected to naming a school after Bayard Rustin. After all, the traitor broke US law, encouraged others to do likewise, and opposed the military and domestic policies of the United States.
Interesting, then, that Lisa Williams works for the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition. Because her story shows that you can honor somebody like Rustin– indeed, even serve an organization named after him! — without caring or sharing what he believed in. Since that’s true, there’s really no reason SF Pride shouldn’t honor Bradley Manning.
“A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness” is how an international team of chemists describes the unique odor of old books in a study. Poetic, sure, but what causes it?
Books are made up almost entirely of organic materials: paper, ink, glue, fibers. All these materials react to light, heat, moisture, and even each other over the years, and release a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). While the blend of compounds released by any one book is dependent on the exact things that went into making it, there’s only so much variation in materials.
The researchers tested 72 books and found some 15 compounds that came up again and again. They were reliable markers for degradation. These include acetic acid, benzaldehyde, butanol, furfural, octanal, methoxyphenyloxime, and other chemicals with funny-sounding names. A book’s smell is also influenced by its environment and materials it encounters over the course of its life (which is why some books have hints of cigarette smoke, others smell a little like coffee, and still others, cat dander).
You can’t judge books by their covers, but the researchers think you can learn a lot from their odor. They're developing a method for determining the condition and age of books and other paper documents by using special “sniffing” equipment to analyze the blend of VOCs. They hope that this study of "degradomics" can help libraries, museums, and archives assess and monitor the health of their collections and store and care for them accordingly.
After the events of the past week...well, fuck that...even without bombings and explosions, these are needed.
Via Brain Pickings
Every once in a while, we all get burned out. Sometimes, charred. And while a healthy dose of cynicism and skepticism may help us get by, it’s in those times that we need nothing more than to embrace life’s promise of positivity with open arms. Here are seven wonderful books that help do just that with an arsenal ranging from the light visceral stimulation of optimistic design to the serious neuroscience findings about our proclivity for the positive.
But it’s the uphill battle that authors face that really concerns him. “All authors, their revenue streams are being reduced. Young writers’ chances of starting out in journalism are also slimmer. The Internet’s impact is immense. My students can’t imagine ever paying for a book. I always say to writers who complain about the publishing industry, ‘Just shut up! Say everything’s hunky dory!’ There is a whole industry in America of people who want to write, and those who teach it. Even if the students don’t end up writing, what’s good about them taking the courses is, they become great readers, learning to appreciate the writing. Everyone’s writing, it seems, but no one’s reading,” he says, pointing to the huge number of submissions to literary magazines, versus their minuscule subscriber base.
"Gingers" a new film by Antonio Da Silva has a wonderfully simple premise: one on one interviews with handsome naked men as they recline on a mattress. The fact that the men are red heads, of course, is the point.
You can watch "Gingers" online by making a donation to Da Silva's project.
Well, I know what I'll be masturbating to later today.
Petition against the Keystone XL Pipeline: Game over for the climate?
Earth Day via OUPblog
Also, a book...
In Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson shares the story of how she simplified her life by reducing her waste. Today, Bea, her husband, Scott, and their two young sons produce just one quart of garbage a year, and their overall quality of life has changed for the better: they now have more time together, they’ve cut their annual spending by a remarkable 40 percent, and they are healthier than they’ve ever been.
This book shares essential how-to advice, secrets, and insights based on Bea’s experience. She demystifies the process of going Zero Waste with hundreds of easy tips for sustainable living that even the busiest people can integrate: from making your own mustard, to packing kids’ lunches without plastic, to canceling your junk mail, to enjoying the holidays without the guilt associated with overconsumption. Zero Waste Home is a stylish and relatable step-by-step guide that will give you the practical tools to help you improve your health, save money and time, and achieve a brighter future for your family—and the planet.
Hi, my peeps. I've been having quite the difficulty getting motivated on the blog lately. Hence, me mostly posted the pretty in the morning. Please be patient. :)
A NOVEL OF MYSTERY, VIDEOGAMES, AND THE PEOPLE WHO CREATE THEM, BY THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE.
When Russell joins Black Arts games, brainchild of two visionary designers who were once his closest friends, he reunites with an eccentric crew of nerds hacking the frontiers of both technology and entertainment. In part, he's finally given up chasing the conventional path that has always seemed just out of reach. But mostly, he needs to know what happened to Simon, the strangest and most gifted friend he ever lost, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts' breakout hit.
Then Black Arts' revolutionary next-gen game is threatened by a mysterious software glitch, and Russell finds himself in a race to save his job, Black Arts' legacy, and the people he has grown to care about. The bug is the first clue in a mystery leading back twenty years, through real and virtual worlds, corporate boardrooms and high school computer camp, to a secret that changed a friendship and the history of gaming. The deeper Russell digs, the more dangerous the glitch appears--and soon, Russell comes to realize there's much more is at stake than just one software company's bottom line.
Austin Grossman's debut novel Soon I Will Invincible announced the arrival of a singular, genre-defying talent "sure to please fans of Lethem and Chabon" (Playboy). With YOU, Grossman offers his most daring and most personal novel yet-a thrilling, hilarious, authentic portrait of the world of professional game makers; and the story of how learning to play can save your life.
This first publication of the letters of one of America’s most consistently admired writers is both an exciting and a significant literary event. Willa Cather, wanting to be judged on her work alone, clearly forbade the publication of her letters in her will. But now, more than sixty-five years after her death, with her literary reputation as secure as a reputation can be, the letters have become available for publication.
The 566 letters collected here, nearly 20 percent of the total, range from the funny (and mostly misspelled) reports of life in Red Cloud in the 1880s that Cather wrote as a teenager, through those from her college years at the University of Nebraska, her time as a journalist in Pittsburgh and New York, and during her growing eminence as a novelist. Postcards and letters describe her many travels around the United States and abroad, and they record her last years in the 1940s, when the loss of loved ones and the disasters of World War II brought her near to despair. Written to family and close friends and to such luminaries as Sarah Orne Jewett, Robert Frost, Yehudi Menuhin, Sinclair Lewis, and the president of Czechoslovakia, Thomas Masaryk, they reveal her in her daily life as a woman and writer passionately interested in people, literature, and the arts in general.
The voice heard in these letters is one we already know from her fiction: confident, elegant, detailed, openhearted, concerned with profound ideas, but also at times funny, sentimental, and sarcastic. Unfiltered as only intimate communication can be, they are also full of small fibs, emotional outbursts, inconsistencies, and the joys and sorrows of the moment. The Selected Letters is a deep pleasure to read and to ponder, sure to appeal to those with a special devotion to Cather as well as to those just making her acquaintance.
Doctor Who is indisputably the most successful and beloved series on UK TV, and the most watched series in the history of BBC America. Doctor Who FAQ tells the complete story of its American success, from its first airings on PBS in the 1970s, through to the massive Doctor Who fan conventions that are a staple of the modern-day science fiction circuit. Combining a wealth of information and numerous illustrations, Doctor Who FAQ also includes a comprehensive episode guide. From the Doctor's most impressive alien foes and the companions who have fought alongside him to unimagined planets and unexpected points in history, from some of the greatest minds ever to have walked the Earth, to the most evil beings ever to haunt the universe, it's all covered here, including the Tardis, the none-too-reliable "bigger on the inside than the out" blue box in which the Doctor travels.
One of Publishers Weekly’s Top Ten Spring Science Books
Selected by Apple’s iBookstore as one of the best books of April
Dinosaurs, with their awe-inspiring size, terrifying claws and teeth, and otherworldly abilities, occupy a sacred place in our childhoods. They loom over museum halls, thunder through movies, and are a fundamental part of our collective imagination. In My Beloved Brontosaurus, the dinosaur fanatic Brian Switek enriches the childlike sense of wonder these amazing creatures instill in us. Investigating the latest discoveries in paleontology, he breathes new life into old bones.
Switek reunites us with these mysterious creatures as he visits desolate excavation sites and hallowed museum vaults, exploring everything from the sex life of Apatosaurus and T. rex’s feather-laden body to just why dinosaurs vanished. (And of course, on his journey, he celebrates the book’s titular hero, “Brontosaurus”—who suffered a second extinction when we learned he never existed at all—as a symbol of scientific progress.)
With infectious enthusiasm, Switek questions what we’ve long held to be true about these beasts, weaving in stories from his obsession with dinosaurs, which started when he was just knee-high to a Stegosaurus. Endearing, surprising, and essential to our understanding of our own evolution and our place on Earth, My Beloved Brontosaurus is a book that dinosaur fans and anyone interested in scientific progress will cherish for years to come.
Taking cues from works by Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, and Matisse, pastry chef Caitlin Freeman, of Miette bakery and Blue Bottle Coffee fame, creates a collection of uniquely delicious dessert recipes (with step-by-step assembly guides) that give readers all they need to make their own edible masterpieces.
From a fudge pop based on an Ellsworth Kelly sculpture to a pristinely segmented cake fashioned after Mondrian’s well-known composition, this collection of uniquely delicious recipes for cookies, parfait, gelées, ice pops, ice cream, cakes, and inventive drinks has everything you need to astound friends, family, and guests with your own edible masterpieces.
Taking cues from modern art’s most revered artists, these twenty-seven showstopping desserts exhibit the charm and sophistication of works by Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Henri Matisse, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Avedon, Wayne Thiebaud, and more. Featuring an image of the original artwork alongside a museum curator’s perspective on the original piece and detailed, easy-to-follow directions (with step-by-step assembly guides adapted for home bakers), Modern Art Desserts will inspire a kitchen gallery of stunning treats.
Equilateral is an intellectual comedy set just before the turn of the century in Egypt. A British astronomer, Thayer, high on Darwin and other progressive scientists of the age, has come to believe that beings more highly evolved than us are alive on Mars (he has evidence) and that there will be a perfect moment in which we can signal to them that we are here too. He gets the support and funding for a massive project to build the Equilateral, a triangle with sides hundreds of miles long, in the desert of Egypt in time for that perfect window. But as work progresses, the Egyptian workers, less evolved than the British, are also less than cooperative, and a bout of malaria that seems to activate at the worst moments makes it all much more confusing and complex than Thayer ever imagined. We see Thayer also through the eyes of two women—a triangle of another sort—a romantic one that involves a secretary who looks after Thayer but doesn't suffer fools, and Binta, a houseservant he covets but can't communicate with—and through them we catch sight of the depth of self-delusion and the folly of the enterprise.
Equilateral is written with a subtle, sly humor, but it's also a model of reserve and historical accuracy; it's about many things, including Empire and colonization and exploration; it's about "the other" and who that other might be. We would like to talk to the stars, and yet we can barely talk to each other.
An urgent, erudite, and practical book that redefines literacy to embrace how we think and communicate now
We live in a world that is awash in visual storytelling. The recent technological revolutions in video recording, editing, and distribution are more akin to the development of movable type than any other such revolution in the last five hundred years. And yet we are not popularly cognizant of or conversant with visual storytelling’s grammar, the coded messages of its style, and the practical components of its production. We are largely, in a word, illiterate.
But this is not a gloomy diagnosis of the collapse of civilization; rather, it is a celebration of the progress we’ve made and an exhortation and a plan to seize the potential we’re poised to enjoy. The rules that define effective visual storytelling—much like the rules that define written language—do in fact exist, and Stephen Apkon has long experience in deploying them, teaching them, and witnessing their power in the classroom and beyond. In The Age of the Image, drawing on the history of literacy—from scroll to codex, scribes to printing presses, SMS to social media—on the science of how various forms of storytelling work on the human brain, and on the practical value of literacy in real-world situations, Apkon convincingly argues that now is the time to transform the way we teach, create, and communicate so that we can all step forward together into a rich and stimulating future.
NEW YORK CITY, the near future: Mitchell Zukor, a gifted young mathematician, is hired by a mysterious new financial consulting firm, FutureWorld. The business operates out of a cavernous office in the Empire State Building; Mitchell is employee number two. He is asked to calculate worst-case scenarios in the most intricate detail, and his schemes are sold to corporations to indemnify them against any future disasters. This is the cutting edge of corporate irresponsibility, and business is booming.
As Mitchell immerses himself in the mathematics of catastrophe—ecological collapse, global war, natural disasters—he becomes obsessed by a culture’s fears. Yet he also loses touch with his last connection to reality: Elsa Bruner, a friend with her own apocalyptic secret, who has started a commune in Maine. Then, just as Mitchell’s predictions reach a nightmarish crescendo, an actual worst-case scenario overtakes Manhattan. Mitchell realizes he is uniquely prepared to profit. But at what cost?
At once an all-too-plausible literary thriller, an unexpected love story, and a philosophically searching inquiry into the nature of fear, Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow poses the ultimate questions of imagination and civilization. The future is not quite what it used to be.
An extraordinary literary event, a major new novel by the PEN/Faulkner winner and acclaimed master: a sweeping, seductive, deeply moving story set in the years after World War II.
From his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair—a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe—a time of gatherings in fabled apartments and conversations that continue long into the night. In this world of dinners, deals, and literary careers, Bowman finds that he fits in perfectly. But despite his success, what eludes him is love. His first marriage goes bad, another fails to happen, and finally he meets a woman who enthralls him—before setting him on a course he could never have imagined for himself.
Romantic and haunting, All That Is explores a life unfolding in a world on the brink of change. It is a dazzling, sometimes devastating labyrinth of love and ambition, a fiercely intimate account of the great shocks and grand pleasures of being alive.
Because I'm a slacker, Tuesday Books is once again on Wednesday.
Who’s Yer Daddy? offers readers of gay male literature a keen and engaging journey. In this anthology, thirty-nine gay authors discuss individuals who have influenced them—their inspirational “daddies.” The essayists include fiction writers, poets, and performance artists, both honored masters of contemporary literature and those just beginning to blaze their own trails. They find their artistic ancestry among not only literary icons—Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, André Gide, Frank O’Hara, James Baldwin, Edmund White—but also a roster of figures whose creative territories are startlingly wide and vital, from Botticelli to Bette Midler to Captain Kirk.
Some writers chronicle an entire tribal council of mentors; others describe a transformative encounter with a particular individual, including teachers and friends whose guidance or example cracked open their artistic selves. Perhaps most moving are the handful of writers who answered the question literally, writing intimately of their own fathers and their literary inheritance. This rich volume presents intriguing insights into the contemporary gay literary aesthetic.
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.
Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.
So, yeah, that blurb really does nothing but confuse me, so here is NPR's take on Life After Life.
Kentucky author Gurney Norman's new book; read about it via Old Cove Press.
From bestselling author Meg Wolitzer a dazzling, panoramic novel about what becomes of early talent, and the roles that art, money, and even envy can play in close friendships.
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful — true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.
Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.
The dizzying new novel by Fiona Maazel, a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35"
- One of the Millions's Most Anticipated Books of 2013
- An April IndieNext Pick
Thurlow Dan is the founder of the Helix, a cult that promises to cure loneliness in the twenty-first century. With its communes and speed-dating, mixers and confession sessions, the Helix has become a national phenomenon — and attracted the attention of governments worldwide. But Thurlow, camped out in his Cincinnati headquarters, is lonely — for his ex-wife, Esme, and their daughter, whom he hasn't seen in ten years.
Esme, for her part, is a covert agent who has spent her life spying on Thurlow, mostly to protect him from the law. Now, with her superiors demanding results, she recruits four misfits to botch a reconnaissance mission in Cincinnati. But when Thurlow takes them hostage, he ignites a siege of the Helix House that will change all their lives forever.
With fiery, exuberant prose, Fiona Maazel takes us on a wild ride through North Korea's guarded interior and a city of vice beneath Cincinnati, a ride that twists and turns as it delves into an unsettled, off-kilter America. Woke Up Lonely is an original and deeply funny novel that explores our very human impulse to seek and repel intimacy with the people who matter to us most.
“Woke Up Lonely is the novel equivalent of a sonic boom — it builds, it explodes, it leaves your ears, mind, and soul ringing for days. Who else writes sentences like this, who else writes sound art prose that transports a heart-killing story of human frailty, susceptibility, loyalty, and isolation? No one.” — Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers
April is National Poetry Month: have you been letting your heart sing?
Definitive and daring, The Ecopoetry Anthology is the authoritative collection of contemporary American poetry about nature and the environment — in all its glory and challenge. From praise to lament, the work covers the range of human response to an increasingly complex and often disturbing natural world and inquires of our human place in a vastness beyond the human.
To establish the antecedents of today's writing, The Ecopoetry Anthology presents a historical section that includes poetry written from roughly the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Iconic American poets like Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson are followed by more modern poets like Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and even more recent foundational work by poets like Theodore Roethke, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hayden, and Muriel Rukeyser. With subtle discernment, the editors portray our country's rich heritage and dramatic range of writing about the natural world around us.
What are the arguments for and against religion and religious belief--all of them--right across the range of reasons and motives that people have for being religious, and do they stand up to scrutiny? Can there be a clear, full statement of these arguments that once and for all will show what is at stake in this debate?
Equally important: what is the alternative to religion as a view of the world and a foundation for morality? Is there a worldview and a code of life for thoughtful people--those who wish to live with intellectual integrity, based on reason, evidence, and a desire to do and be good--that does not interfere with people's right to their own beliefs and freedom of expression?
In The God Argument, Anthony Grayling offers a definitive examination of these questions, and an in-depth exploration of the humanist outlook that recommends itself as the ethics of the genuinely reflective person.
Temptation [Tyler Perry's new movie] follows Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a woman trapped in a passionless marriage with her childhood sweetheart Brice (Lance Gross). An aspiring marriage counselor, Judith works for millionaire matchmaker Janice (Vanessa Williams, with an absurd French accent). When Janice assigns Judith to work with sexy internet mogul Harley (Robbie Jones), Judith and Harley find themselves drawn to each other. And therein lies the temptation.
As Judith and Harley begin a hot and heavy affair, Brice struggles to win her back, getting support from his coworker Melinda (Brandy Norwood). In a dramatic twist telegraphed early on, we learn that Harley was Melinda's abusive ex-boyfriend — leading Brice to break into Harley's house and rescue Judith, lying bruised and beaten in the bathtub. An almost happy ending, but here's the thing: Harley has HIV, which he gave to Melinda. And now so does Judith.
But Temptation's gospel has dangerous implications: HIV is a punishment, HIV patients deserve their condition, and the only path to salvation is a chaste, churchgoing, heterosexual lifestyle. Perry may believe that he is doing good with films like this. When asked where he gets his inspiration, Perry explains, "I pray about it. I say, 'OK, where am I going next?' The family dynamic is in so much trouble." He goes on to talk about divorce, but on a larger scale, his films seem to exist as his response to America's "crumbling morality."
Brain Pickings has a post on the recent release of the Mark Twain book Advice to Little Girls which he wrote in 1865 at the age of 30.
Me being me, I very easily see this as Advice to Little "Girls," thus bringing gay boys into the mix.
Among Twain's advice is:
If at any time you find it necessary to correct your brother, do not correct him with mud — never, on any account, throw mud at him, because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald him a little, for then you obtain desirable results. You secure his immediate attention to the lessons you are inculcating, and at the same time your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person, and possibly the skin, in spots.
If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply that you won’t. It is better and more becoming to intimate that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment.
Via PBS Newshour
In Colorado, some schools are tapping an unlikely bullying prevention tool: the plays of William Shakespeare. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival adapts the bard's works as a way to start discussions on bullying, violence and the moment of choosing between right and wrong.