Saturday, January 17, 2015

Be Offended. It Doesn't Mean You Get to Kill People, or Be a Punk

If someone pisses you off, then by all means, be offended. It doesn't mean you get to kill people. Just like if I feel like drinking, I don't have to. It's called impulse control. Which in both the Christian and Muslim worlds seems in short supply.

Image and quote via Slate

The protests were carried out as the publication’s distributors said it was increasing the print run for the first issue of Charlie Hebdo since the attack at its offices to seven million copies when it usually has a circulation of around 60,000. "They offended our Prophet Muhammad. That's what we didn't like," a protester in Niger told Reuters in reference to the cover of the publication that includes a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad.

Via NPR: Sympathy for the Devil

NPR's Alan Cheuse reviews a new book about Gore Vidal called Sympathy for the Devil: four decades of friendship with Gore Vidal by Michael Mewshew.

Find the review here

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why Is It Still This Difficult!?

I came out in 1993. And I still get why this is difficult, but I just thought that eventually it would get easier.

Read more at NewNowNext

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Books, or A Long Time Coming

Hello, everyone! I don't know what to tell you. I have a genealogy project I'm working on, but I just haven't really felt like making much of an online presence lately. But I wanted to post some books for you, and maybe soon I'll get back to this. (I know I've said that before.)

Question: does Blogger seem that vital of a place anymore?

A photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages 14–24, identifying as queer (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning), Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus presents portraits without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. With more than 65 portraits photographed over a period of 10 years, the book provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth and gives a voice to an underserved group of people that are seldom heard and often silenced. The collaboration of image and first-person narrative serves to provide an outlet, show support, create dialogue, and help those who struggle.

Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building, or steer your car into oncoming traffic? You are not alone. In this captivating fusion of science, history and personal memoir, writer David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind, and how they drive millions of us towards obsessions and compulsions.

David has suffered from OCD for twenty years, and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop is his unflinchingly honest attempt to understand the condition and his experiences. What might lead an Ethiopian schoolgirl to eat a wall of her house, piece by piece; or a pair of brothers to die beneath an avalanche of household junk that they had compulsively hoarded? At what point does a harmless idea, a snowflake in a clear summer sky, become a blinding blizzard of unwanted thoughts? Drawing on the latest research on the brain, as well as historical accounts of patients and their treatments, this is a book that will challenge the way you think about what is normal, and what is mental illness.

Told with fierce clarity, humour and urgent lyricism, this extraordinary book is both the haunting story of a personal nightmare, and a fascinating doorway into the darkest corners of our minds.

Adam's OCD focused on the contracting of HIV. More at NPR

Against the Country is a gift for fans of Southern Gothic and metafiction alike. Set in the Virginia pines, and overrun with failed parents, racist sex offenders, cast-off priests, and suicidal chickens, this novel challenges literary convention even as it attacks our national myth—that the rural naturally engenders good, while the urban breeds an inevitable sin.

In a voice both perfectly American and utterly new, Metcalf introduces the reader to Goochland County, Virginia—a land of stubborn soil, voracious insects, lackluster farms, and horrifying trees—and details one family’s pitiful struggle to survive there. Eventually it becomes clear that Goochland is not merely the author’s setting; it is a growing, throbbing menace that warps and scars every one of his characters’ lives.

Equal parts fiery criticism and icy farce, Against the Country is the most hilarious sermon one is likely to hear on the subject of our native soil, and the starkest celebration of the language our land produced. The result is a literary tour de force that raises the question: Was there ever a narrator, in all our literature, so precise, so far-reaching, so eloquently misanthropic, as the one encountered here?

Until the recent publication of My Struggle, a 3,600-page work in six volumes, the career of the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard had followed a fairly conventional trajectory: A young man besotted by the beauty of words, nature, music and painting writes a coming-of-age novel that earns him prizes and praise and then tries something more ambitious, which becomes an international best seller and wins more prizes.

“But with his latest project, My Struggle, whose title deliberately evokes Hitler’s infamous autobiography and political screed, everything has changed. Though My Struggle, a minutely detailed examination of Mr. Knausgaard’s family life, has done extremely well in Europe—in Norway, about half a million copies have been sold, the equivalent of one for every 10 people—it has also put Mr. Knausgaard (pronounced Kuh-NOWS-guard) squarely at the center of a debate about literary ethics and made him a kind of bad boy of European letters.” —Larry Rohter, The New York Times

My Struggle is the provocative, audacious, brilliant six-volume autobiographical novel of Karl Ove Knausgaard that has unquestionably been the main event of contemporary European literature. It has earned favorable comparisons to its obvious literary forebears A la recherche du temps perdu and Mein Kampf—but it has also been celebrated as the rare magnum opus that is intensely, addictively readable.

A study of books through history is a study of human history. In "The History of the Book in 100 Books," the author explores 100 books that have played a critical role in the creation and expansion of books and all that they bring -- literacy, numeracy, expansion of knowledge, religion, political theory, oppression, liberation, and much more. The book is ordered chronologically and divided thematically. Each of the 100 sections focuses on one book that represents a particular development in the evolution of books and in turn, world history and society. Abundant photographs inform and embellish.
The year is 2041. Since the end of WWI, Berlin has been an enormous subterranean city, home to 300 million citizens who have never seen the sun, and presided over by the autocratic Hohenzollern dynasty. Every aspect of life is regimented; from controlled rations that are issued on the basis of work-for-food, to a press that works exclusively under the auspices of the Information Service. Christianity has been abolished and all breeding is carried out on the basis of strict eugenic principles. Lyman De Forrest, an American chemist, discovers a way of neutralizing Berlin's defenses and, assuming the identity of a dead German man, enters the city to discover its hidden truths. The first outsider for decades to enter the forbidden metropolis, he is horrified to find a society where women are kept in isolation for breeding or the pleasuring of high status men. Can De Forrest escape this living tomb? Published shortly after the end of WWI, this tremendous example of early dystopian science fiction is thought to have been the inspiration behind Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

New York Times bestselling author, comedian, and actor Patton Oswalt shares his entertaining memoir about coming of age as a performer and writer in the late '90s while obsessively watching classic films at the legendary New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles.

Between 1995 and 1999, Patton Oswalt lived with an unshakeable addiction. It wasn't drugs, alcohol, or sex. It was film. After moving to L.A., Oswalt became a huge film buff, absorbing classics and new releases at least three nights a week at the New Beverly Cinema. Silver screen celluloid became Patton's life schoolbook, informing his notions of acting, writing, comedy, and relationships. Set in the nascent days of the alternative comedy scene, Oswalt's memoir chronicles his journey from fledgling stand-up comedian to self-assured sitcom actor, with the colorful New Beverly collective supporting him all along the way.

Ideally timed for awards season, when everyone's mind is on Hollywood, Silver Screen Fiend follows up on the terrific reception of Oswalt's New York Times bestselling debut, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. Already a beloved fixture on the comedy stage, on television, and in film - not to mention his 1.1 million Twitter followers - Oswalt announces, with this second book, that he's also here to stay on the page.

Climate change is eroding the familiar pattern of the seasons, so we turn instinctively to the life cycle of herbaceous plants to guide us through the year. Herbaceous is a journey which follows the colour pulse of plants throughout the year, searching for new rhythms in a changing world.
Love is tricky for everyone--and different personality types can face their own unique problems. Now the author of The Introvert’s Way offers a guide to romance that takes you through the frequently outgoing world of dating, courting, and relationships, helping you navigate issues that are particular to introverts, from making conversation at parties to the challenges of dating an extrovert.

The riveting true story of Robert E. Lee, the brilliant soldier bound by marriage to George Washington's family but turned by war against Washington's crowning achievement, the Union.

On the eve of the Civil War, one soldier embodied the legacy of George Washington and the hopes of leaders across a divided land. Both North and South knew Robert E. Lee as the son of Washington's most famous eulogist and the son-in-law of Washington's adopted child. Each side sought his service for high command. Lee could choose only one.

In The Man Who Would Not Be Washington, former White House speechwriter Jonathan Horn reveals how the officer most associated with Washington went to war against the union that Washington had forged. This extensively researched and gracefully written biography follows Lee through married life, military glory, and misfortune. The story that emerges is more complicated, more tragic, and more illuminating than the familiar tale. More complicated because the unresolved question of slavery--the driver of disunion--was among the personal legacies that Lee inherited from Washington. More tragic because the Civil War destroyed the people and places connecting Lee to Washington in agonizing and astonishing ways. More illuminating because the battle for Washington's legacy shaped the nation that America is today. As Washington was the man who would not be king, Lee was the man who would not be Washington. The choice was Lee's. The story is America's.

A must-read for those passionate about history, The Man Who Would Not Be Washington introduces Jonathan Horn as a masterly voice in the field.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Because heterosexual blood cures diseases like the horn of a unicorn

Via NPR: FDA Proposes End To Lifetime Ban on Gay Blood Donors

Men who haven't had sexual contact with other men in a year will be allowed to donate blood under a policy change the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it will recommend.

In a statement, the agency said it had "carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence" and will "take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact."

A draft guidance recommending the proposed change will be issued in 2015, the agency said. There will also be a period of public comment.

A ban on gay and bisexual blood donors has been in effect since the early 1980s when fears about HIV/AIDS were widespread.

Gay Berlin: birthplace of a modern identity

An unprecedented examination of the ways in which the uninhibited urban sexuality, sexual experimentation, and medical advances of pre-Weimar Berlin created and molded our modern understanding of sexual orientation and gay identity.

Known already in the 1850s for the friendly company of its “warm brothers” (German slang for men who love other men), Berlin, before the turn of the twentieth century, became a place where scholars, activists, and medical professionals could explore and begin to educate both themselves and Europe about new and emerging sexual identities. From Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German activist described by some as the first openly gay man, to the world of Berlin’s vast homosexual subcultures, to a major sex scandal that enraptured the daily newspapers and shook the court of Emperor William II—and on through some of the very first sex reassignment surgeries—Robert Beachy uncovers the long-forgotten events and characters that continue to shape and influence the way we think of sexuality today.

Chapter by chapter Beachy’s scholarship illuminates forgotten firsts, including the life and work of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, first to claim (in 1896) that same-sex desire is an immutable, biologically determined characteristic, and founder of the Institute for Sexual Science. Though raided and closed down by the Nazis in 1933, the institute served as, among other things, “a veritable incubator for the science of tran-sexuality,” scene of one of the world’s first sex reassignment surgeries. Fascinating, surprising, and informative—Gay Berlin is certain to be counted as a foundational cultural examination of human sexuality.

Also Terry Gross interviews the author on NPR

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Under the Radar: Cocteau Twins on Blue Bell Knoll

This past week, I asked myself while listening to what Cocteau Twins I have on my laptop, "Gee, does anyone actually listen to the Cocteau Twins anymore?"

And the serendipitous answer came when I withdrew some issues of Under the Radar. In the November/December 2013 issue, featuring the nothing-but-legs band Haim on the cover, UtR ran an article in band members Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde discuss their sixth album Blue Bell Knoll.

"What you're trying to achieve is more," he says matter-of-factly. "At first you're just trying to make a record, and then you're trying to make a really good record. And then you're trying to go further.... Blue Bell Knoll was a really important record to me. It really sticks as one of my favorites. Perhaps not because of how it came out, although it is quite listenable, but because of the experience of making it."

Here's the full article plus…

From September 2014, the 9 essential Cocteau Twins songs.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Perfume Genius on NPR's 50 Favorite Albums of 2014

Robin Hilton via NPR

Mike Hadreas is a slight, soft-spoken soul from Seattle who's built his career on a bed of beautiful little songs meant to showcase his delicate tenor and intimate poetry more than any soaring production. But on Too Bright, his third full-length as Perfume Genius, Hadreas seems to say he's had enough and won't be taking your guff anymore. It's a fearless, often-angry assault from the singer as he takes on gender stereotypes, bigotry, suicide and homicide, various forms of self-loathing, lying, cheating and his overall disillusionment with the state of the world. There are still plenty of musical moments that tremble with breathtaking beauty on this record ("I Decline," "Don't Let Them In," and the title track in particular). But check out the anguished wailing in "Grid," the massive punch-in-the-face of "Queen" or the dark and sultry grit of "My Body." Too Bright is a bold arrival from an artist who, until now, seemed content to keep it quiet, but, apparently, was just waiting for his moment to strike.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ferguson Library IS Open

Image and quote via NPR

Scott Bonner, the library's director and its only full-time librarian, kept the building open to provide programming for local students and to offer adults a safe place in the midst of the tumult. The decision marked a renewal of the library's work in August, when it opened its space to impromptu classes during local schools' long closures during protests this summer. On Tuesday, Bonner said, it was tough to gauge just how visitors were reacting to the news.

"I'm seeing a mix of moods," Bonner told Library Journal. "Our volunteers are excited and optimistic, and here to help, and then I have patrons who come in and literally hold my hands and cry — they just needed someone to hold onto and talk to. And everything in between, including people who are doing the regular walk-in, walk-out stuff."

News of the Ferguson Public Library's opening also prompted an outpouring of donations. Partly spurred by social media support from Neil Gaiman, Rachel Maddow and even the show Reading Rainbow, Bonner told CNNMoney that the library's received donations "in the five digits" since the grand jury announcement. And they continue to flood in.

Friday, November 21, 2014

World AIDS Day Suggestions

Image via ybfchic's photobucket

I've agreed to read something for a World AIDS Day event here in Lexington. I'm searching for that thing. Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

AAaaannd...Joni Mitchell once lived in a cave in Crete

Image via The Boston Globe

Maybe Greece really is the cradle of civilization.

Click over for more.

Ursula K. Le Guin at the National Book Awards

More at NPR

Bureau for General Services, Queer Division

Image via Next Magazine

Via the New York Times: At A Gay-Specific Bookstore - Just Books on a Shelf Won't Do

An independent bookstore opened last month with a performance by Gio Black Peter, a downtown artist. Wearing only black boxers, he stood on a translucent plastic tarp and read a poem entitled, “The Morning Star,” flanked by two beer-drinking men.

The crowd, a mix of young bearded men in button-down shirts and their equally hirsute but graying elders, applauded heartily at the end of the reading, their introduction to the Bureau for General Services – Queer Division, a gay bookstore that relocated last month to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village.

The opening act was almost as unusal as the store’s mission: operating a bookstore in an era when print is supposedly dying and when there are only a handful of gay-specific bookstores left in North America.

“That was a nice christening, wasn’t it?” said Greg Newton, who owns the store with his partner, Donnie Jochum. To succeed, they plan to do things differently. “The Bureau needs to be a very lively, active space where people come to hang out, kind of like a salon. We can’t just put books on a shelf and wait for people to buy them.”

Visit the Bureau

Out of the Birdcage: how Mike Nichols made gay culture mainstream

Image via IMDB

The Daily Beast has an article on how Mike Nichols' role in the mainstream acceptance of gay culture.

It would be foolish to celebrate Nichols’s impact on gay society by reducing it to the mere fact that he made two big movies—well, one film and one miniseries—about gay people. As a leader, though perhaps an unknowing one, in a Hollywood revolution with a penchant for empowering the outsiders and a keen eye for taste, fabulousness, and strong women, he imbued the community with so much more.

Mike Nichols Dies at 83

Mike Nichols, director of such movies as The Graduate, The Birdcage, and Angels in America, among others, has died. Here you can see him as part of the improve due Nichols and May with Elaine May.

Here is his New York Times obituary

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Seems Relevant: On Returning Homer's Iliad to the Library. Unread.

After weeks of not being motivated to read Homer's Iliad, I finally returned it and added it back to my "to-read" list on Goodreads. I'm just not ready for it.

Which brings me to this post that's been fairly prominent on the website BookRiot: Reading Is Not a Chore: On Quitting Books

I wish we could talk about our reading preferences without invoking the health or state of literature every time, as if Literature is a Fairy that will drop dead somewhere if someone says they don’t believe in it. I like learning about people’s reading habits, and I wish we could just leave it at that.

What am I on about? This article, in which we learn that you must finish every book you begin. I’m not sure there’s a lot of reason to respond to this kind of talk, because that’s the sort of imperative command that you, Dear Reader, probably know what to do with unconsciously. You either go “I do!” or you go “the hell I will.” Unconsciously, you either plow through books, or you give up and wander off to greener pastures.

It got me thinking about the last time I forced my way through a book, though. It was Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. A classic of literature. Widely taught and widely hailed, it is definitely A Great And Important Book. And I’m sure it’s all of these things, but…god, I hated it.

It was boring (to me anyhow). The language was pretentious. The characters were dull. The plot went on and on and seemed determined not to arrive at any kind of resolution until I had confessed to all the crimes I had done, or something.

I can’t remember why I kept reading it. It wasn’t even for school or anything, so I had no excuse. Somehow I had got it into my head I was going to finish this stupid thing, and I did. I remember reading the last 50 pages standing upright (to stay awake), reading them at the speeds I normally read the conclusions of books I’m in love with…but this time, it was desperation, trying to get out of this damn book so I could go read something else. Anything else. It was like pulling a massive all-nighter on the last day of a long driving trip, just to get it over with.

It was the most miserable reading experience of my life. And it had some effects. For one, I actively resent both the book and the author now. I couldn’t help it. This was a form of aversion therapy. Perhaps if I had put it down and wandered off, I might have come back to the book a few years later and tried again. Or perhaps I would have gone “maybe it was just this one, let’s try some other Nabokov.” Neither of these things have happened in the intervening two years since I jammed Lolita up my nose. Examining my feelings now, I loathe the idea of that book, or Nabokov. You would think he slashed my tires or something, but no. It’s all because I forced my way through a book I hated.

So if we are considering whether or not it “hurts literature” for us to finish or not finish books, we can mark this down as a “hurting literature” moment. Because if Nabokov is a super important author that we should read…I am not going to read him. Forcing myself to finish the book cost me that.

Here is my advice: when you love something, don’t do variations on that thing which will make you hate it.

I love exercising, and running in particular…but now and then, I get tired of it. So I stop and go do other stuff for weeks or a month or so. Because if I force it long enough, I’ll stop because it’s turned into a miserable slog, not a pleasure. And if I push too hard, I’ll lose it altogether. It’s no different with books. If you spend all your time slogging through, finish books you really aren’t enjoying while books you are gonna love are hovering tantalizingly nearby, soon reading is going to be as exciting as it was when you were in school and getting novels you weren’t interested in (right that second) stuffed into you.

And as for the state of literature…I think your enthusiasm will do much more for it, than your personally slogging through. This past week or so, I’ve read three or four books which I have been absolutely nuts over. Just last night, I finished a book that doesn’t come out til next year, called Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley and I was in love with it. I spent ages gushing about it on Twitter, jabbering about it to everyone around me, pacing around the house while reading because my enthusiasm was running so high. I will be talking about it – and other books I have gone nuts for – between now and their release next year. When they come out, I will force them onto people. I will babble incessantly. I will be a hyperactive pest, because they’re books I love.

Now surely this is better for the state of literature, this unbridled enthusiasm and joyful desire to push these loved books further and further into the world…than instead sitting around complaining as I slog through Lolita, hating what I’m reading or (what usually happens) not reading and doing something else. Putting it off like a chore.

A final thought: I don’t think this means you shouldn’t read hard books, or tricky stuff you aren’t quite ready for. What I think you should do is be willing to say not “this is a crap book” but “maybe me and this book aren’t syncing up quite yet” or something along those lines. Put it back on the shelf and circle back to it. This year, the summer of 2014, I finally read a book I bought in 2001, which I’ve had zero interest in. And I loved it. We matched up now. Do this, I suggest. Wait until you and the book are ready for each other. You’ll be better for it, and the “state of literature” will too. Save your acts of miserable endurance for the dentist or the DMV.

Decorative Pieces from Coffin

Image via The Amphipolis Tomb

Pieces of coffin decoration, made from bone and glass were found inside the burial trench. Metal nails from the wooden coffin were also discovered.

Also pieces of the Tumulus Wall (the wall surrounding the entire tomb) were found in a nearby lake.

How Exactly Does One Say "Holy Shizballs!" in Greek?

A limestone tomb found below the floor in the third chamber of the Amphipolis Tomb. Inside was found a wooden coffin containing a fully intact skeleton.

Image from BBC News <-- click over for more!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gene Roddenberry would be proud.

As you may know, the European Space Agency landed a craft on a comet. And the Philae lander recorded the comet "singing."

Read more at NPR which also has other links to the ESA blog and the Rosetta site.