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The discovery of the periodic system of the elements and the associated periodic table is generally attributed to the great Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. Many authors have indulged in the game of debating just how much credit should be attributed to Mendeleev and how much to the other discoverers of this unifying theme of modern chemistry.
In fact the discovery of the periodic table represents one of a multitude of multiple discoveries which most accounts of science try to explain away. Multiple discovery is actually the rule rather than the exception and it is one of the many hints that point to the interconnected, almost organic nature of how science really develops. Many, including myself, have explored this theme by considering examples from the history of atomic physics and chemistry.
But today I am writing about a subaltern who discovered the periodic table well before Mendeleev and whose most significant contribution was published on 20 August 1864, or precisely 150 years ago. John Reina Newlands was an English chemist who never held a university position and yet went further than any of his contemporary professional chemists in discovering the all-important repeating pattern among the elements which he described in a number of articles.
Newlands came from Southwark, a suburb of London. After studying at the Royal College of chemistry he became the chief chemist at Royal Agricultural Society of Great Britain. In 1860 when the leading European chemists were attending the Karlsruhe conference to discuss such concepts as atoms, molecules and atomic weights, Newlands was busy volunteering to fight in the Italian revolutionary war under Garibaldi. This is explained by the fact that his mother was Italian descent, which also explains his having the middle name Reina. In any case he survived the fighting and set about thinking about the elements on his return to London to become a sugar chemist.
In 1863 Newlands published a list of elements which he arranged into 11 groups. The elements within each of his groups had analogous properties and displayed weights that differed by eight units or some factor of eight. But no table yet!
Nevertheless he even predicted the existence of a new element, which he believed should have an atomic weight of 163 and should fall between iridium and rhodium. Unfortunately for Newlands neither this element, or a few more he predicted, ever materialized but it does show that the prediction of elements from a system of elements is not something that only Mendeleev invented.
In the first of three articles of 1864 Newlands published his first periodic table, five years before Mendeleev incidentally. This arrangement benefited from the revised atomic weights that had been announced at the Karlsruhe conference he had missed and showed that many elements had weights differing by 16 units. But it only contained 12 elements ranging between lithium as the lightest and chlorine as the heaviest.
Then another article, on 20 August 1864, with a slightly expanded range of elements in which he dropped the use of atomic weights for the elements and replaced them with an ordinal number for each one. Historians and philosophers have amused themselves over the years by debating whether this represents an anticipation of the modern concept of atomic number, but that’s another story.
More importantly Newlands now suggested that he had a system, a repeating and periodic pattern of elements, or a periodic law. Another innovation was Newlands’ willingness to reverse pairs of elements if their atomic weights demanded this change as in the case of tellurium and iodine. Even though tellurium has a higher atomic weight than iodine it must be placed before iodine so that each element falls into the appropriate column according to chemical similarities.
The following year, Newlands had the opportunity to present his findings in a lecture to the London Chemical Society but the result was public ridicule. One member of the audience mockingly asked Newlands whether he had considered arranging the elements alphabetically since this might have produced an even better chemical grouping of the elements. The society declined to publish Newlands’ article although he was able to publish it in another journal.
In 1869 and 1870 two more prominent chemists who held university positions published more elaborate periodic systems. They were the German Julius Lothar Meyer and the Russian Dmitri Mendeleev. They essentially rediscovered what Newlands found and made some improvements. Mendeleev in particular made a point of denying Newlands’ priority claiming that Newlands had not regarded his discovery as representing a scientific law. These two chemists were awarded the lion’s share of the credit and Newlands was reduced to arguing for his priority for several years afterwards. In the end he did gain some recognition when the Davy award, or the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for chemistry at the time, and which had already been jointly awarded to Lothar Meyer and Mendeleev, was finally accorded to Newlands in 1887, twenty three years after his article of August 1864.
But there is a final word to be said on this subject. In 1862, two years before Newlands, a French geologist, Emile Béguyer de Chancourtois had already published a periodic system that he arranged in a three-dimensional fashion on the surface of a metal cylinder. He called this the “telluric screw,” from tellos — Greek for the Earth since he was a geologist and since he was classifying the elements of the earth.
Dmitri Mendeleev believed he was a great scientist and indeed he was. He was not actually recognized as such until his periodic table achieved worldwide diffusion and began to appear in textbooks of general chemistry and in other major publications. When Mendeleev died in February 1907, the periodic table was established well enough to stand on its own and perpetuate his name for upcoming generations of chemists.
The man died, but the myth was born.
Mendeleev as a legendary figure grew with time, aided by his own well-organized promotion of his discovery. Well-versed in foreign languages and with a sort of overwhelming desire to escape his tsar-dominated homeland, he traveled the length and breadth of Europe, attending many conferences in England, Germany, Italy, and central Europe, his only luggage seemingly his periodic table.
Mendeleev had succeeded in creating a new tool that chemists could use as a springboard to new and fascinating discoveries in the fields of theoretical, mineral, and general chemistry. But every coin has two faces, even the periodic table. On the one hand, it lighted the path to the discovery of still missing elements; on the other, it led some unfortunate individuals to fall into the fatal error of announcing the discovery of false or spurious supposed new elements. Even Mendeleev, who considered himself the Newton of the chemical sciences, fell into this trap, announcing the discovery of imaginary elements that presently we know to have been mere self-deception or illusion.
It probably is not well-known that Mendeleev had predicted the existence of a large number of elements, actually more than ten. Their discoveries were sometimes the result of lucky guesses (like the famous cases of gallium, germanium, and scandium), and at other times they were erroneous. Historiography has kindly passed over the latter, forgetting about the long line of imaginary elements that Mendeleev had proposed, among which were two with atomic weights lower than that of hydrogen, newtonium (atomic weight = 0.17) and coronium (Atomic weight = 0.4). He also proposed the existence of six new elements between hydrogen and lithium, whose existence could not but be false.
Mendeleev represented a sort of tormented genius who believed in the universality of his creature and dreaded the possibility that it could be eclipsed by other discoveries. He did not live long enough to see the seed that he had planted become a mighty tree. He fought equally, with fierce indignation, the priority claims of others as well as the advent of new discoveries that appeared to menace his discovery.
In the end, his table was enduring enough to accommodate atomic number, isotopes, radioisotopes, the noble gases, the rare earth elements, the actinides, and the quantum mechanics that endowed it with a theoretical framework, allowing it to appear fresh and modern even after a scientific journey of 145 years.
Image: Nursery of new stars by NASA, Hui Yang University of Illinois. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Martin Partington discussed a range of careers in his podcasts yesterday. Today, he tackles how new legal issues and developments in the professional environment have in turn changed organizational structures, rules and regulations, and aspects of legal education.
Co-operative Legal Services: An interview with Christina Blacklaws
Co-operative Legal Services was the first large organisation to be authorised by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority as an Alternative Business Structure. In this podcast, Martin talks to Christina Blacklaws, Head of Policy of Co-operative Legal Services.
The role of chartered legal executives: An interview with Diane Burleigh
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives sets standards for and regulates the activities of legal executives, who play an important role in the delivery of legal services. In this podcast Martin talks with Diane Burleigh, the Chief Executive of CILEX, about the challenges facing the legal profession and the opportunities provided for Legal Executives in the rapidly developing legal world.
Educating Judges and the Judicial College: An interview with Lady Justice Hallett
The Judicial College was created by bringing together separate arrangements that had previously existed for training judicial office-holders in the courts (the Judicial Studies Board) and Tribunals Service (through the Tribunals Judicial Training Group). In this podcast Martin talks to its Chairman, Lady Justice Hallett, about the reasons for the change and ways in which the College is developing new ideas about judicial education.
In 1985, Nobel Laureate Gary Becker observed that the gap in employment between mothers and fathers of young children had been shrinking since the 1960s in OECD countries. This led Becker to predict that such sex differences “may only be a legacy of powerful forces from the past and may disappear or be greatly attenuated in the near future.” In the 1990s, however, the shrinking of the mother-father gap stalled before Becker’s prediction could be realized. In today’s economy, how big is this mother-father employment gap, what forces underlie it, and are there any policies which could close it further?
A simple way to characterize the mother-father employment gap is to sum up how much more work is done by mothers compared to fathers of children from ages 0 to 10. In 2010, fathers in the United States worked 3.1 more years on average than mothers over this age 0 to 10 age range. In the United Kingdom, the comparable number is 3.8, while in Canada it is 2.9 and Germany 4.5. The figure below traces the evolution of this mother-father employment gap for all four of these countries.
Becker’s theorizing about the family can help us to understand the development of this mother-father employment gap. Becker’s theoretical models suggest that if there are even slight differences between the productivity of mothers and fathers in the home vs. the workplace, spouses will tend to specialize completely in either in-home or in out-of-home work. These kind of productivity differences could arise because of cultural conditioning, as society pushes certain roles and expectations on women and men. Also, biology could be important as women have a heavier physical burden during pregnancy and after the birth of a child women have an advantage in breastfeeding. It is possible that the initial impact of these unique biological roles for mothers lingers as their children age. Biology is not destiny, but should be acknowledged as a potential barrier that contributes to the origins of the mother-father work gap.
Will today’s differences in mother-father work patterns persist into the future? To some extent that may depend on how cultural attitudes evolve. But there’s also the possibility that family-friendly policy can move things along more quickly. Both parental leave and subsidized childcare are options to consider.
Analysis of some data across the four countries suggest that these kinds of policies can make some difference, but the impact is limited.
Parental leave makes a very big difference when the children are age zero and the parent is actually taking the leave—but because mothers take much more parental leave than fathers, this increases the mother-father employment gap rather than shrinking it. Evidence suggests that after age 0 when most parents return to work, there doesn’t seem to be any lasting impact of having taken a maternity leave on mothers’ employment patterns when their children are ages 1 to 10.
Another policy that might matter is childcare. In the Canadian province of Quebec, a subsidized childcare program was put in place in 1997 that required parents to pay only $5 per day for childcare. This program not only increased mothers’ work at pre-school ages, but also seems to have had a lasting impact when their children reach older ages, as employment of women in Quebec increased at all ages from 0 to 10. When summed up over these ages, Quebec’s subsidized childcare closed the mother-father employment gap by about half a year of work.
Gary Becker’s prediction about the disappearance of mother-father work gaps hasn’t come true – yet. Evidence from Canada, Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom suggests that policy can contribute to a shrinking of the mother-father employment gap. However, the analysis makes clear that policy alone may not be enough to overcome the combination of strong cultural attitudes and any persistence of intrinsic biological differences between mothers and fathers.
Kleptoplasty describes a special type of endosymbiosis where a host organism retain photosynthetic organelles from their algal prey. Kleptoplasty is widespread in ciliates and foraminifera; however, within Metazoa animals (animals having the body composed of cells differentiated into tissues and organs, and usually a digestive cavity lined with specialized cells), sacoglossan sea slugs are the only known species to harbour functional plastids. This characteristic gives these sea slugs their very special feature.
The “stolen” chloroplasts are acquired by the ingestion of macro algal tissue and retention of undigested functional chloroplasts in special cells of their gut. These “stolen” chloroplasts (thereafter named kleptoplasts) continue to photosynthesize for varied periods of time, in some cases up to one year.
In our study, we analyzed the pigment profile of Elysia viridis in order to evaluate appropriate measures of photosynthetic activity.
The pigments siphonaxanthin, trans and cis-neoxanthin, violaxanthin, siphonaxanthin dodecenoate, chlorophyll (Chl) a and Chl b, ε,ε- and β,ε-carotenes, and an unidentified carotenoid were observed in all Elysia viridis. With the exception of the unidentified carotenoid, the same pigment profile was recorded for the macro algae C. tomentosum (its algal prey).
In general, carotenoids found in animals are either directly accumulated from food or partially modified through metabolic reactions. Therefore, the unidentified carotenoid was most likely a product modified by the sea slugs since it was not present in their food source.
Pigments characteristic of other macro algae present in the sampling locations were not detected inthe sea slugs. These results suggest that these Elysia viridis retained chloroplasts exclusively from C. tomentosum.
In general, the carotenoids to Chl a ratios were significantly higher in Elysia viridis than in C. tomentosum. Further analysis using starved individuals suggests carotenoid retention over Chlorophylls during the digestion of kleptoplasts. It is important to note that, despite a loss of 80% of Chl a in Elysia viridis starved for two weeks, measurements of maximum capacity of performing photosynthesis indicated a decrease of only 5% of the photosynthetic capacity of kleptoplasts that remain functional.
This result clearly illustrates that measurement of photosynthetic activity using this approach can be misleading when evaluating the importance of kleptoplasts for the overall nutrition of the animal.
Finally, concentrations of violaxanthin were low in C. tomentosum and Elysia viridis and no detectable levels of antheraxanthin or zeaxanthin were observed in either organism. Therefore, the occurrence of a xanthophyll cycle as a photoregulatory mechanism, crucial for most photosynthetic organisms, seems unlikely to occur in C. tomentosum and Elysia viridis but requires further research.
From a field of 120 applicants, the Fund's Advisory Board -- Esther Allen, Barbara Epler, Sara Khalili, Michael F. Moore, Lauren Wein, and Lorin Stein -- has selected fifteen projects for funding.
(That's a pretty impressive advisory board, by the way.)
Some great-sounding projects, including work by some pretty big names -- Johannes Urzidil, Arseny Tarkovsky, Romain Gary, and Per Aage Brandt -- as well as a Richard Weiner, forthcoming from Two Lines Press (alas, too many of these other projects are still listed as: 'Available for publication' -- so check them out, publishers, some great things still up for grabs !).
Among the intriguing projects: Sholeh Wolpé's translation of Farid ud-Din Attar's The Conference of Birds -- somewhat misleadingly presented as: "This artful and exquisite modern translation brings one of the definitive masterpieces of Persian literature to the English-speaking world".
'Definitive masterpieces' is right -- but of course it's hardly new to English-speaking audiences -- hey, there's a Penguin Classic's edition (Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis' 1984 translation; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk; my own dates to 1991, when I paid the then-list price of $6.95 for it at my local Barnes & Noble-- and even then I was reluctant to pay list, so a pretty significant book if I was willing to shell out that kind of money ...).
Peter Avery's 1998 translation, published as The Speech of the Birds (see the Islamic Texts Society publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk), has long seemed the most definitive version, but after more than fifteen years perhaps the time is ripe for a new version.
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I last mentioned leading Iranian poet Simin Behbahani less than a year ago, on the occasion of her being awarded the Janus Pannonius Poetry Prize.
Now she has passed away -- see, for eample, the IBNA report
Some of her work has been translated into English -- your best bet is still A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems; get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
See also her official site.
In The Herald (Zimbabwe) Beaven Tapureta takes on the Caine Prize -- the leading (no doubt about that, for the time being) African short-story prize -- and literary prizes as a way of fostering (African) literature, asking What is an African story ?
So they're wondering:
Are the Commonwealth Prize for Africa, Caine, Booker, and NOMA prizes doing more harm than good to the telling of a true African story ?
On what basis are the works by African writers being judged at these prizes which in some cases have part of the juries coming from the continent ?
Zimbabwe's multi-award winning writer Shimmer Chinodya, who was shortlisted for the Caine Prize in 2000, its inaugural year, was bitter about the Prize for it has become.
One of the biggest crimes the Prize has committed is the way it has degenerated into gender and geographical issues.
It has masqueraded as the prize 'for African writing', that's nonsense.
We have had the NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa, the Commonwealth Prize for Africa although it has been downplayed by the Caine Prize which has made the short story look an easier genre to write than a novel.
African tradition is not a minimalist tradition.
I think the Prize should grow out of the ten-page stories and do something," he said.
I've long argued that the Caine Prize -- estimable though it is -- shouldn't be considered the 'Man Booker' of African writing because, after all it is 'just' a short story prize.
Nothing wrong with that -- but still, something different from novels (and, as you know, I'm a novel-man, through and through and through ...).
Nevertheless, I must point out that the repeatedly mentioned "Commonwealth Prize for Africa" (meaning, surely, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize-African region) and the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa both ... no longer exist, having given up their respective ghosts in 2011 and 2009.
Other pan-African (sort of ... northern Africa always seem to get rather left out of these, as does non-English-writing ...) prizes have sprung up, but nothing has established itself as near-convincingly pan-African as the Caine Prize.
(As always, I note that the bizarre policy of announcing the winner of the Caine Prize in Oxford is perhaps not the best way to sell yourself as an 'African' prize; it's a big continent and there are lots of nice places you could hold an awards ceremony .....)
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Here is a list of donations, protests, and petitions that you can do to help the people in #Ferguson and to assist #MikeBrown and #EzellFord all others who have been killed by the hands of the police. I will try to update as much as possible.
With Sin City 2 finally opening this weekend, creator and co-director Frank Miller is making the PR rounds, speaking out at length publicly for the first time since the mixed reception of Holy Terror and his incendiary Occupy comments. First up was a very nice front page of the Arts & Leisure piece in the Sinday Times — which is as close to anointment as a cultural figure as it gets. There was a polite Dave Itzkoff profile (ALERT: I am quoted in the piece): Purveyor of a Stylish Brutality in which he talks about the reception of The Spirit for the first time:
“It tossed me back on my heels,” Mr. Miller said of the film’s failure. “And it made me smarter. There are a million things that can go wrong with a movie, and you’ve got to get them all right. I still approach the set with great confidence.”
His loose line often jumps the tracks into raw Expressionism. Many of the drawings look as if they were backlit by chain lightning, and his renderings make snow, rain and cigarette smoke look as sentient as his characters. His panels are all slash and shadow, evoking the bold ink work of old comics masters like Milton Caniff and Alex Toth.
One of the most exquisite sequences in “Big Damn Sin City” comes in the brief story “Silent Night,” as the hulking Marv shambles through a blizzard, the snow whipping in an almost galactic darkness. Marv is a crucifix-wearing bruiser trying to set the world as right as he can, and in these few pages Northern Renaissance woodcut precision meets graphic novel guts.
On his early Hollywood experiences: “I came back from RoboCop2 convinced that writing a screenplay was the equivalent of building a fire hydrant and then having dogs run around and piss on it. I swore I’d never touch movies again. I don’t see how I could function in film if I didn’t have my comics. I think screenplays are essentially stupid. I certainly do not regard working in Hollywood as a step up from comics, by any means.” On why he changed his mind and helped adapt Sin City for the big screen: “Because Robert Rodriguez said he wanted to show me what he would do with Sin City. The irony here is that I designed Sin City so it could not be adapted to film. I wanted to show people what comics would do that movies couldn’t. When Rodriguez showed up, I was so ornery. I ignored his first three phone calls. I wouldn’t even meet him in my home. I met him at a Hell’s Kitchen bar. He showed me some rough work he’d done, and it was impressive. I thanked him and told him the answer was no. He went back to Texas. Then he said maybe we could shoot a scene just to see what it was like. It’s not the sort of offer you turn down. So I went to Texas, where he had built a fully functional set, and at one point Marley Shelton looked at me with her beautiful big eyes and said, ‘Why did my character hire somebody to kill her?’ Marley grasped it all and went out and gave three times the performance she had before. I walked over to Robert, kicked him in the shins and said, ‘I’m in.’” On his current relationship with Robert Rodriguez: “He’s the P.T. Barnum, the overall boss of the crew and t
he most energetic force on the set. I’ve often joked with him that if he were Elvis Presley, I’d be Bob Dylan, because I like to go off alone and work quietly with people. I’m the guy actors go to when they need to ask a question about the characters. On my comic strips I work alone. When I first got involved in filmmaking, which I never thought I’d do, my biggest fear was working with actors. And it ended up being my greatest joy, because I know the backstories of all the characters and I finally have somebody to explain them to.” On the prevalence of sex and violence in his films: “It’s not possible to tell a good story without conflict, and the best forms of conflict are sex and violence. I make no apologies for the kind of work I do. You’ll find plenty of violence and sex in grand opera and epic poetry too.” On how 300 rattled Iranian politicians: “I’m ready for my fatwa now. [laughs] I’m banned from Iran, but believe me, I’ve made much greater sacrifices. What I love is that I actually made the Iranian government change its historical policy toward Persia. It went from despising the empire of Persia to all of a sudden loving it, after 300. Persia had been a globe-spanning empire, then Muhammad came along and changed the mentality and rewrote all the histories. Iran’s days of empire are long gone, and they were just looking for something to get pissed off about.” On his thoughts about movies adapted from comics he wrote: “When people come out with movies about characters I’ve worked on, I always hate them. I have my own ideas about what the characters are like. I mean, I can’t watch a Batman movie. I’ve seen pieces of them, but I generally think, No, that’s not him. And I walk out of the theater before it’s over.” On whether or not the stigma of being a comic-book artist will ever vanish: “I hope not. I hope we never lose it. People like to refer to comic books as graphic novels or sequential storytelling, all kinds of crazy words. Graphic novels sounds like we’re porn. I like the term comic book, because it sounds like something you fold up and put in your back pocket. I like the goofiness of them. One reason I enjoy the Marvel Comics movies is that they’re fun. A lot of superhero movies are pompous. At one point I was watching Superman, and all I could do was an impersonation of him saying, ‘Hi, I can fly and you can’t.’ Whereas Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man are a bunch of mixed-up crazy kids, just like the readers.” On his “maladjusted” childhood: “I was maladjusted only in that I didn’t get along with the rest of the world very well. But I was a happy enough kid. I had an idyllic childhood in the country. My grades were pretty good until high school, when I discovered girls, marijuana and beer.” On his views about masculinity: “I believe there has been a crisis of masculinity in modern times, and the 1940s-style gentleman needs to make a comeback—the sort of man who opens the door for women and compliments them and does things for them. I believe it’s a biological function of men, because we tend to be larger than women, to be protective of them. If I were to try to zero in, comic-book-like, on when masculinity went awry, I’d say it was when Rod Stewart sang, ‘You are my lover, you’re my best friend,’ rather than allowing there to be two people in his life who served two very important functions.”
Oh, Frank Miller.
Miller’s frail appearance at San Diego has elicited many comments and emails. Whether you think the above is wacky or not, clearly his personality is intact.
And, well, who doesn't ?
This, and their efforts to bring libraries to Africa -- five are slated to open next month -- sounds very worthy and pretty impressive.
See also the official site, where there's more information about their various initiatives.
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The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Murakami Haruki's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, now also out in English.
Lots of reviews out already, lots of links.
And one of those books that you could easily find fault with -- all over the place --, but which I nevertheless found a very enjoyable read.
So in posting a review of a new Murakami Haruki book -- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage -- I also went back and cleaned up/updated the links on all the other Murakami-review pages at the site: there are reviews of eleven other Murakami-titles, as well as of two books about him, and an author page.
I've ... dusted the older review-pages over the years, as new reviews have been added, but this is the most thorough overhaul I've done in close to a decade (and, yes, it was long overdue).
It's a dirty, time-consuming, thankless job (yes, yes, I know you appreciate it -- but really, you only notice when the links don't work, and have no idea of the behind-the-scenes maintenance I waste so many hours on), and with this many reviews with this many links (there's lots of Murakami-material out there) it took me several days of heavy drinking and loud cursing -- lots and lots of loud cursing -- to get this done.
I continue to be amazed by the mutability, fragility, and ephemerality of the Internet (and bless the Internet Archive, which I see as ever-more vital).
It's amazing how little seems to be built to last -- or how little that was built is maintained accessibly.
Yes, I understand some changes, but, for example, The Guardian changing its URL from the sensible "guardian.co.uk" to "theguardian.com" -- and not redirecting all the old URLs -- is just a giant fuck you to anyone who sees/wants to use the Internet for anything beyond today.
(Yes, most of the guardian.co.uk content can be found at theguardian.com -- though damned if I can find some of it, and I put a decent (albeit drunken, cursing) amount of effort into trying -- but I don't enjoy the jumping through hoops necessary to get at it, and I assume most people can't be bothered.)
Of course, The Guardian's URL switch happened like yesterday (to be followed, presumably, by another tomorrow) but in updating the Murakami links I came across some ancient stuff which I thought I'd share.
My favorites include the 'hijacked' URLs -- abandoned, they've now been taken up by, of course, commercial interests.
Among the great examples:
Remember when the The Onion's A.V. Club -- now at www.avclub.com -- was, perfectly sensibly, at "www.theonionavclub.com" ?
Well, that site is now 'The A.V. Club of Ecigarettes'
Remember litblog Rake's Progress, at rakesprogress.typepad.com/ (it used to look like this) ?
"Rakes Progress - 10 years and still no progress / How I am going to get fit this year with a rowing machine" the site now asks .....
As always, I encountered Dalkey Archive Press' most misbegotten of their many, many, many misbegotten sites -- the 'Center for Book Culture' at www.centerforbookculture.org (which once looked like this); unconscionably they didn't even hold onto the URL, so poor unsuspecting fools (like yours truly) still click through ... to now find this 'Center for Book Culture' (and, yes, it always makes me feel like: well, I guess that's what book culture has devolved into in our day and age ...).
(Much as I love Dalkey Archive, I find their URL- and site-changes close to unforgiveable, and the china always goes flying when I come across yet another www.centerforbookculture.org-link.)
Other prominent changes I encountered:
Salon ... oh, Salon, Salon, Salon. Now the easy, obvious www.salon.com, but there was "www.salonmagazine.com", there was "www.salonmag.com"; I was almost disappointed not to encounter the other old standard, "www.salon1999.com" this time around !
A puzzler: why did The New York Observer abandon the perfectly good "www.nyobserver.com" (now unclaimed !) for observer.com ? (The old URL surely would have been worth preserving just as a mirror-site.)
And, okay, I understand why the Evening Standard switched from the bizarre "www.thisislondon.co.uk" to "www.standard.co.uk" (and, hey, the old URL points to the new one ! though, sigh, the old page URLs certainly don't carry over ...)
Of course, the real fun ones are the sites that moved up in the world:
Remember when infinity plus -- now at "www.infinityplus.co.uk" -- was at "www.users.zetnet.co.uk/iplus/" ?
When Scott Esposito was publishing the Quarterly Conversation -- now at: "quarterlyconversation.com" -- at "esposito.typepad.com" (really ! check it out) !) ?
When Critique -- now at: "critique-magazine.com" -- was at "www.etext.org/Zines/Critique" ?
Of course, some of these links go back to when ... Time could be found at: "pathfinder.com/time/magazine" .....
Most disappointing, however, is what's (and how much has) just disappeared -- a Flak Magazine at "www.flakmag.com" that once looked like this now a front for what calls itself an Art and Jewelry Magazine
Yes, it's kind of amusing to see how things have changed -- but also kind of depressing.
Especially since so much of what is lost seems to go unnoticed.
(I have no idea what the long-term legacy of the complete review might be, down the line, but its sheer durability and constancy -- if you linked to a page in April 1999 (and any time after that), that link still works, that page is still there -- seem pretty damn impressive, relatively speaking.)
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The Dayton Literary Peace Prizes "is the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace"; they also award an annual Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award ("formerly the Lifetime Achievement Award") -- and while this year's book-prizes haven't been announced yet, they have now announced that Louise Erdrich will get this year's Holbrooke Award.
(Inexplicably, they haven't announced that yet at their site, last I checked , but they did give AP the scoop; see, for example; Writer Louise Erdrich wins Ohio peace prize.)
The book-finalists usually make for an interesting selection; I hope they'll be announced soon.
I think the Caribbean is probably the single most under-represented area at both the complete review and the Literary Saloon -- with Cuba probably the most-discussed/-reviewed country -- so it's good to find some coverage about, for example: Flourishing Jamaican literature, as reported in the Jamaica Observer.
Okay, the piece is fairly limited -- but at least some enthusiasm, and a lot of names.
The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ian McEwan's new novel, The Children Act.
It did not make this year's Man Booker longlist-cut (though, with McEwan a former winner, it presumably had a free pass to consideration (a high hurdle for many books ...) and was one of the 154 books considered for the longlist).
After some spring-buzz (New Ian McEwan novel The Children Act to take on religion, etc.) there doesn't seem to have been much recent fuss about it; I wonder whether it will generate much noise/excitement.
(As a McEwan it will no doubt sell just fine regardless.)
ICv2 has a new report on the size of a market, this time the hobby game market—games like Magic, Warhammer,various card capture games, D&D and so on which he estimates as being a $700 million industry — not far below the comics industry size of $870 million. : Here’s the pr:
Pop culture experts ICv2 released today the results of their study on the hobby game market and it shows that the North American market totaled $700 million at retail for 2013. Breaking down the estimate for the total industry by category shows that collectible games was the largest at $450 million; miniatures second at $125 million; boardgames were third at $75 million; card and dice games fourth at $35 million; with RPGs coming in last at $15 million. “Hobby games” are defined as those games produced for “gamers”and are most often sold in the hobby channel or game and card specialty stores, but these items are not limited to sales in that market.
ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp commented, “A $700 million market is a significant geek culture market segment. With the growth it’s been experiencing, a billion dollar market is within reach in the next few years, and hopefully this kind of industry analysis will help us get there. I cannot thank enough the industry insiders who helped us compile these estimates. Without their willingness to speak frankly with us about their own estimates of market size and the reasoning behind them, we would have been unable to complete this project.”
The hobby game industry remained strong in the Spring season of 2014, according to information compiled by ICv2. In collectible games, WizKids’ Dice Masters was the red hot and hard-to-find item due to high demand. Magic: The Gathering led the pack, but not as strongly as previous seasons. Boardgames continued to grow with support from hard core gamers and an influx of mainstream gamers coming over from other markets. The heat in the miniatures category came from Star Wars X-Wing and Star Trek Attack Wing, with any extra space filled by anticipation of the new edition of Warhammer 40K. The big news in the Card and Dice Game category was high interest and quick sell-out of both Boss Monster and Adventure Time Card Wars. The largest change overall in the RPG category was the failure ofDungeons & Dragons to hit the Top 5 list for Spring, before the release of the new edition. This change is a first in ICv2′s decade long history of sales reporting on the hobby game industry.
Grove Music Online presents this multi-part series by Don Harrán, Artur Rubinstein Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the life of Jewish musician Salamone Rossi on the anniversary of his birth in 1570. Professor Harrán considers three major questions: Salamone Rossi as a Jew among Jews; Rossi as a Jew among Christians; and the conclusions to be drawn from both.
Salamone Rossi as a Jew among Jews
What do we know of Salamone Rossi’s family? His father was named Bonaiuto Azaria de’ Rossi (d. 1578): he composed Me’or einayim (Light of the Eyes). Rossi had a brother, Emanuele (Menaḥem), and a sister, Europe, who, like him, was a musician. She is known to have performed as a singer in the play Il ratto di Europa (“The Rape of Europa”) in 1608. The court chronicler Federico Follino raved over her performance, describing it as that of “a woman understanding music to perfection” and “singing, to the listeners’ great delight and their greater wonder, in a most delicate and sweet-sounding voice.”
Salamone Rossi appears to have used his connections at court to improve his family’s situation, as in 1602 when Rossi wrote to Duke Vincenzo on behalf of his brother Emanuele:
The duke granted the request in order to “to show Salamone Rossi ebreo some sign of gratitude for services that he, with utmost diligence, rendered and continues to render over many years. We have resolved to confer the duties of collecting the fees on the person of Emanuele, Salamone’s brother, in whose faith and diligence we place our confidence.”
Until now, it has been thought that Rossi earned his livelihood from his salary at the Mantuan court, and since the salary was—by comparison with that of other musicians at the court—very small, Rossi tried to supplement it by earning money on the side by investments. From 1622 on he was earning 1,200 lire, a large sum of money for a musician whose annual wages at the court were only 156 lire. Rossi needed the money to cover the cost of his publications and to support his family.
Rossi’s situation within the community can only be conjectured. By “community,” we are talking about some 2,325 Jews living in the city of Mantua out of a total population of 50,000. True, Rossi was its most distinguished “musician” and his service for the court would have brought honor on the Jewish community. But because of his non-Jewish connections, he enjoyed privileges denied his coreligionists. In 1606, for example, he was exempted from wearing a badge. The badge was shameful to Jews who, in their activities, were in close touch with Christians, as were Rossi and other Jews who performed before them as musicians or actors or who engaged in loan banking.
As other “privileged” Jews, Rossi occupied a difficult situation: his Christian employers considered him a Jew, yet the Jews probably considered him an outsider. He could choose from two alternatives: convert to Christianity to improve his situation with the Christians; or solidify his position within the Jewish community, which he probably did whenever he could by representing its interests before the authorities and by providing compositions for Jewish weddings, circumcisions, the inauguration of Torah scrolls, and for Purim festivities. All this is speculative, for we know nothing about these activities. We are better informed about Rossi’s role in the Jewish theater, whose actors were required to prepare each year one or two plays with musical intermedi. Since the Jews were expected to act, sing, and play instruments, their leading musician Salamone Rossi probably contributed to the theater by writing vocal and instrumental works, rehearsing them and, together with others, playing or even singing them.
It was in his Hebrew collection, however, that Rossi demonstrated his connections with his people. His intentions were good: after having published collections of Italian vocal music and instrumental works, Rossi decided, around 1612, to write Hebrew songs. He describes these songs as “new songs [zemirot] that I devised through ‘counterpoint’ [seder].” True, attempts were made to introduce art music into the synagogue in the early seventeenth century. But none of these early works survive. Rossi’s thirty-three “Songs by Solomon” (Ha-shirim asher li-Shelomoh) are the first Hebrew polyphonic “songs” to be printed. Here is an example from the opening of the collection, “Elohim, hashivenu”.
Good intentions are one thing; the status of art music in the synagogue is another. The prayer services made no accommodation for art music. Rossi’s aim, to quote him, was to write works “for thanking God and singing [le-zammer] to His exalted name on all sacred occasions” to be performed in prayer services, particularly on Sabbaths and festivals.
Headline image credit: Opening of Salomone de Rossi’s Madrigaletti, Venice, 1628. Photo of Exhibit at the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
What range of career options are out there for those attending law school? In this series of podcasts, Martin Partington talks to influential figures in the law about topics ranging from restorative justice to legal journalism.
Restorative Justice: An interview with Lizzie Nelson
The Restorative Justice Council is a small charitable organisation that exists to promote the use of restorative justice, not just in the court (criminal justice) context, but in other situations of conflict as well (e.g. schools). In this podcast Martin talks to Lizzie Nelson, Director of the Restorative Justice Council.
Handling complaints against lawyers: An interview with Adam Sampson
In this podcast, Martin talks to Adam Sampson, Chief Legal Ombudsman. They discuss the work of the Legal Ombudsman, how it operates, the kinds of issue it deals with, and some of the limitations the office has to deal with matters raised by dissatisfied clients.
Reporting the law: An interview with Joshua Rozenberg
Joshua Rozenberg is one of a very small number of specialist journalists who cover legal issues in a serious and thoughtful way. He has worked in a wide variety of media, including the BBC, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian. In this interview, he describes how he decided to become a journalist rather than a practising lawyer and comments on the challenges of devising ways to enable legal issues to be raised in mass media.
On 19 August 1692, George Burroughs stood on the ladder and calmly made a perfect recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. Some in the large crowd of observers were moved to tears, so much so that it seemed the proceedings might come to a halt. But Reverend Burroughs had uttered his last words. He was soon “turned off” the ladder, hanged to death for the high crime of witchcraft. After the execution, Reverend Cotton Mather, who had been watching the proceedings from horseback, acted quickly to calm the restless multitude. He reminded them among other things “that the Devil has often been transformed into an Angel of Light” — that despite his pious words and demeanor, Burroughs had been the leader of Satan’s war against New England. Thus assured, the executions would continue. Five people would die that day, one of most dramatic and important in the course of the Salem witch trials. For the audience on 19 August realized that if a Puritan minister could hang for witchcraft, then no one was safe. Their tears and protests were the beginning of the public opposition that would eventually bring the trials to an end. Unfortunately, by the time that happened, nineteen people had been executed, one pressed to death, and five perished in the wretched squalor of the Salem and Boston jails.
The fact that a Harvard-educated Puritan minister was considered the ringleader of the largest witch hunt in American history is one of the many striking oddities about the Salem trials. Yet, a close look at Burroughs reveals that his character and his background personified virtually all the fears and suspicions that ignited witchcraft accusations in 1692. There was no single cause, no simple explanation to why the Salem crisis happened. Massachusetts Bay faced a confluence of events that produced the fears and doubts that led to the crisis. Likewise, a wide range of people faced charges for having supposedly committed diverse acts of witchcraft against a broad swath of the populace. Yet, there were many reasons people were suspicious of George Burroughs, indeed he was the perfect witch.
In 1680 when Burroughs was hired to be the minister of Salem Village he quickly became a central figure in the on-going controversy over religion, politics, and money that would span more than thirty years and result in the departure of the community’s first four ministers. One of Burroughs’s parishioners wrote to him, complaining that “Brother is against brother and neighbors against neighbors, all quarreling and smiting one another.” After a little over two years in office, the Salem Village Committee stopped paying Burroughs’s salary, so he wisely left town to return to his old job, as minister of Falmouth (now Portland, Maine).
George Burroughs spent most of his career in Falmouth, a town on the edge of the frontier. He was fortunate to escape the bloody destruction of the settlement by Native Americans in 1676 (during King Philip’s War) and 1690 (during King William’s War). The latter conflict brought a string of disastrous defeats to Massachusetts, and as many historians have noted, the ensuing war panic helped trigger the witch trials. The war was a spiritual defeat for the Puritan colony as they were losing to French Catholics allied with people they considered to be “heathen” Indians. It seemed Satan’s minions would end the Puritans’ New England experiment. Burroughs was one of many refugees from Maine who were either afflicted by or accused of witchcraft. In addition, most of the judges were military officers as well as speculators in Maine lands that the war had made worthless. Some of the afflicted refugees were suffering what today would be considered post-traumatic shock. Used to the manual labor of the frontier, Burroughs was so incredibly strong that several would testify in 1692 to his feats of supernatural strength. The minister’s seemingly miraculous escapes from Falmouth in 1676 and 1690 also brought him under suspicion. Perhaps he had done so with the help of the devil, or the Indians.
Tainted by his frontier ties, the twice-widowed Burroughs’s personal life and perceived religious views amplified fears of the minister. At his trial, several testified to his secretive ways, his seemingly preternatural knowledge, and his strict rule over his wives. He forbid his wives to speak about him to others, and even censored their letters to family. Meanwhile the afflicted said they saw the specters of Burroughs’s late wives, who claimed he murdered them. The charges were groundless. However, his controlling ways and the spectacular testimony against him at least raised the question of domestic abuse. Such perceived abuse of authority — at the family, community or colony-wide level — is a common thread linking many of Salem’s accused.
Some observers believed Burroughs was secretive because they suspected he was a Baptist. This Protestant sect had legal toleration but like the Quakers, was considered dangerous by most Massachusetts Puritans because of their belief in adult baptism and adult-only membership in the church. Burroughs admitted to the Salem judges that he had not recently received Puritan communion and had not baptized his younger children (both signs that he might be a Baptist). His excuse was that he was never ordained and hence could not lead the communion service, nor could he baptize children. However, since Burroughs left his post in Maine, he admitted he had visited Boston and Charlestown and had failed to take advantage of these rights there.
Even if he was not a Baptist, as a Puritan minister he was at risk. Burroughs was just one of five ministers cried out upon in 1692. Fully, 30 percent of the people accused were ministers, their immediate family members, or extended kin. In many ways, the witch trials were a critique of the religious and political policies of the colony. But that is another story.
As we enter the potentially crucial phase of the Scottish independence referendum campaign, it is worth remembering more broadly that political campaigns always matter, but they often matter most at referendums.
Referendums are often classified as low information elections. Research demonstrates that it can be difficult to engage voters on the specific information and arguments involved (Lupia 1994, McDermott 1997) and consequently they can be decided on issues other than the matter at hand. Referendums also vary from traditional political contests, in that they are usually focused on a single issue; the dynamics of political party interaction can diverge from national and local elections; non-political actors may often have a prominent role in the campaign; and voters may or may not have strong, clear views on the issue being decided. Furthermore, there is great variation in the information environment at referendums. As a result the campaign itself can be vital.
We can understand campaigns through the lens of LeDuc’s framework which seeks to capture some of the underlying elements which can lead to stability or volatility in voter behaviour at referendums. The essential proposition of this model is that referendums ask different types of questions of voters, and that the type of question posed conditions the behaviour of voters. Referendums that ask questions related to the core fundamental values and attitudes held by voters should be stable. Voters’ opinions that draw on cleavages, ideology, and central beliefs are unlikely to change in the course of a campaign. Consequently, opinion polls should show very little movement over the campaign. At the other end of the spectrum, volatile referendums are those which ask questions on which voters do not have pre-conceived fixed views or opinions. The referendum may ask questions on new areas of policy, previously un-discussed items, or items of generally low salience such as political architecture or institutions.
Another essential component determining the importance of the campaign are undecided voters. When voter political knowledge emanates from a low base, the campaign contributes greatly to increasing political knowledge. This point is particularly clear from Farrell and Schmitt-Beck (2002) where they demonstrated that voter ignorance is widespread and levels of political knowledge among voters are often overestimated. As Ian McAllister argues, partisan de-alignment has created a more volatile electoral environment and the number of voters who make their decisions during campaigns has risen. In particular, there has been a sharp rise in the number of voters who decide quite late in a campaign. In this case, the campaign learning is vital and the campaign may change voters’ initial disposition. Opinions may only form during the campaign when voters acquire information and these opinions may be changeable, leading to volatility.
The experience of referendums in Ireland is worth examining as Ireland is one of a small but growing number of countries which makes frequent use of referendums. It is also worth noting that Ireland has a highly regulated campaign environment. In the Oireachtas Inquiries Referendum 2011, Irish voters were asked to decide on a parliamentary reform proposal (Oireachtas Inquiries – OI) in October 2011. The issue was of limited interest to voters and co-scheduled with a second referendum on reducing the pay of members of the judiciary along with a lively presidential election.
The OI referendum was defeated by a narrow margin and the campaign period witnessed a sharp fall in support for the proposal. Only a small number of polls were taken but the sharp decline is clear from the figure below.
Few voters had any existing opinion on the proposal and the post-referendum research indicated that voters relied significantly on heuristics or shortcuts emanating from the campaign and to a lesser extent on either media campaigns or rational knowledge. The evidence showed that just a few weeks after the referendum, many voters were unable to recall the reasons for their voting decision. An interesting result was that while there was underlying support for the reform with 74% of all voters in support of Oireachtas Inquiries in principle, it failed to pass. There was a very high level of ignorance of the issues where some 44% of voters could not give cogent reasons for why they voted ‘no’, underlining the common practice of ‘if you don’t know, vote no’.
So are there any lessons we can draw for Scottish Independence campaign? Scottish independence would likely be placed on the stable end of the Le Duc spectrum in that some voters could be expected to have an ideological predisposition on this question. Campaigns matter less at these types of referendums. However, they are by no means a foregone conclusion. We would expect that the number of undecided voters will be key and these voters may use shortcuts to make their decision. In other words the positions of the parties, of celebrities of unions and businesses and others will likely matter. In addition, the extent to which voters feel fully informed on the issues will also possibly be a determining factor. It may be instructive to look at another Irish referendum, on the introduction of divorce in the 1980s, during which voters’ opinions moved sharply during the campaign, even though the referendum question drew largely from the deep rooted conservative-liberal cleavage in Irish politics (Darcy and Laver 1990). The Scottish campaign might thus still conceivably see some shifts in opinion.
Headline image: Scottish Parliament Building via iStockphoto.
What is a Cartoonist of Color?
Cartoonists of Color (COC) is a play off of the acronym “POC.” POC stands for “person of color.” A POC is anyone who identifies as non-Caucasian (non-white). In these forthcoming pages, you’ll find comics creators of various ethnicities: African American, Korean Canadian, Indian Singaporian, Turkish American, Iranian British, Japanese American and so many more.
Why a Cartoonists of Color Database?
For visibility. For academia. For inspiration. For community building.
How can I submit my info to this database?
To submit a creator (yourself or anyone), please fill out this form.
Before Marvel became the toast of tinsel town, there were some pretty dreadful Marvel-based movies—and I’m not just talking Howard the Duck. Dolph Lundgren starred as The Punisher in 1989, but the movie got only a very limited theatrical release. A 1990 version of Captain America starring JD Salinger’s son, Matt, was so bad it sat on the shelf fro two years before being released in the dead of night on cable. BU worst of all was a Fantastic Four movie produced by legendary horror filmmaker Roger Corman that never got released at all, although bootlegs have long circulated. (There’s an awful JLA pilot from a little bit later that is also pretty horrid, but not much worse than the Superboy TV show that actually aired for a season.) All this would change just three years later with the release of the first Blade movie, and the avalanche of superhero movies would follow to the point where, they are the bread and butter of the whole filmmaking industry.
But if you want to see how NOT to do it, some folks have put together a whole documentary about the making of the FF film, called DOOMED: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s THE FANTASTIC FOUR And you can see a sneak peek above. According to the PR, this documentary will “shed new light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding this legendary cult classic and “lost” Roger Corman film, THE FANTASTIC FOUR.” I didn’t know that there were that many secrets besides the movie being very rough, but director Marty Langford and executive producer Mark Sikes will reveal all in this film. One of the problems, as revealed in the above snippet, is that they had only $1 million to make the movie. Even in 1994 that didn’t get you very far. (although I do like the non-CGI Thing a bit.) Marvel historian Sean Howe will appear, and I’m sure there will be lots of dirt in the final film.
The movie was partially crowdfunded, and you can follow along with more news on how to see it on Facebook of course.
So far, I’ve only found one — Billy Tucci! Tragically, Tucci did not call out other comics folks, so the charity meme has not yet spread to out part of the world. But let’s give Billy a hand for doing it!
In case you missed it, the ice bucket challenge is meant to draw attention to ALS, aka Lou Gehrig disease. When called out, you must either dump a bucket of ice over yourself or donate $100 to the ALS Foundation. Most celebs who have been doing this do both. You make a mideo of yours;f getting dumbed on, and call out someone to take the challenge next at the end of your video.
It’s a fun way to while away the summer—somehow I don’t think this would be as popular in November. People who have done it so far include Lady Gaga, Robert Downey Jr., Justin Bieber (he didn’t actually use ice), Steven Spielberg, Carrie Underwood, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez, the NY Mets, the NY Jets, and a bunch of nerdlebrities folks like Tom Hiddleston (very popular),
Chris Pratt, Nathan Fillion, James Gunn and Stephen Amell.
I found Dave Bautista’s by far the most impressive however.
When we look back at the summer of 2014, will it be as the time that famous people dumped ice on themselves? In these turmoil filled days, it’s nice to have something giving and fun and silly to talk about.