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Results 26 - 50 of 59,697
26. Japanese literary journals (in English)

       In The Japan Times Kris Kosaka takes a look at several English-language Japanese literary magazines, in Read up on books about books about Japan. They have limited material accessible online, but are all of some interest.

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27. Victus review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Albert Sánchez Piñol's historical novel of The Fall of Barcelona (in 1714, during the War of the Succession), Victus -- a book that came out in English a couple of weeks ago and has gotten astonishingly limited coverage.
       Interestingly, Catalan-author Sánchez Piñol did not write this, like his earlier work, in Catalan, but rather in Spanish. Interestingly, too, it has proven to be a somewhat controversial book -- given all the Catalan secessionist rumblings, many Spaniards don't seem to be too thrilled about how Sánchez Piñol presents this particular bit of history (and the Spanish ...). The controversy has been stirred up further by things like -- as the Catalan News Agency see it -- Spanish Embassy in The Netherlands censors presentation of novel on 1714 Barcelona's siege.

       A greater cause for scandal than Sánchez Piñol's portrait of the Spanish is US publisher Harper's not giving the translation copyright to translators Daniel Hahn and Thomas Bunstead; instead, it's simply: "Copyright © 2014 by HarperCollins Publishers".
       I can't believe how often I am seeing this outrageous (mis)appropriation of what should be a translator's fundamental contractual and legal (and moral) right; it shouldn't even be up for negotiation or debate.

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28. Cinematic tragedies for the intractable issues of our times

Tragedies certainly aren’t the most popular types of performances these days. When you hear a film is a tragedy, you might think “outdated Ancient Greek genre, no thanks!” Back in those times, Athenians thought it their civic duty to attend tragic performances of dramas like Antigone or Agammemnon. Were they on to something that we have lost in contemporary Western society? That there is something specifically valuable in a tragic performance that a spectator doesn’t get from other types or performances, such as those of our modern genres of comedy, farce, and melodrama?

Since films reach a greater audience in our culture than plays, after updating Aristotle’s Poetics for the twenty-first century, we analyzed what we call “cinematic tragedies”: films that demonstrate the key components of Aristotelian tragedy. We conclude that a tragedy must consist in the representation of an action that is: (1) complete; (2) serious; (3) probable; (4) has universal significance; (5) involves a reversal of fortune (from good to bad); (6) includes recognition (a change in epistemic state from ignorance to knowledge); (7) includes a specific kind of irrevocable suffering (in the form of death, agony or a terrible wound); (8) has a protagonist who is capable of arousing compassion; and (9) is performed by actors. The effects of the tragedy must include: (10) the arousal in the spectator of pity and fear; and (11) a resolution of pity and fear that is internal to the experience of the drama.

Unlike melodrama (which we hold is the most common film genre), tragedy calls on spectators to ponder thorny moral issues and to navigate them with their own moral compass. One such cinematic tragedy — Into The Wild, 2007, directed by Sean Penn — thematizes the preciousness and precariousness of human life alongside environmental problems, raising questions about human beings’ apparent inability to live on earth without despoiling the beauty and integrity of the biosphere. Other cinematic tragedies deal with a variety of problems with which our modern societies must grapple.

One such topic is illegal immigration, a highly politicized issue that is far more complex than national governments seem equipped to handle, especially beyond the powers of the two parties in the American system. Cinematic tragedies that deal with this issue have been produced over several decades involving immigration into various Western countries, especially the United States; these include Black Girl (France, 1966), El norte (US/UK, 1983), and Sin nombre (Mexico, 2009), the last of which we will expand on here.

Paulina Gaitan (left) and Edgar Flores (right) star in writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga's epic dramatic thriller Sin Nombre, a Focus Features release. Photo credit: Cary Joji Fukunaga via Focus Features
Paulina Gaitan (left) and Edgar Flores (right) star in writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s epic dramatic thriller Sin Nombre, a Focus Features release. Photo credit: Cary Joji Fukunaga via Focus Features

In US director Cary Fukunaga’s Sin nombre (which means “Nameless” but which was released in the United States under the Spanish title), Hondurans escaping from their harsh political and economic realities risk their lives in order to make it to the United States, through Mexico, on the tops of rail cars. They travel in this manner since, as we all know, there would be no other legal way for most of these foreign citizens to come to the United States. Over the course of the journey, the immigrants endure terrible suffering or die at the hands of gang members who rob, rape, and even kill some of them.

The film focuses on just a few of the multitudes atop the trains: on a teenage Honduran girl, Sayra, migrating with her father and uncle; and on a few of the gang members. One of them, Casper, has had a change of heart and is no longer loyal to the gang, after its leader killed Casper’s girlfriend after trying to rape her. Casper and other gang members are atop the train robbing the migrants, but he defends Sayra by killing the leader when he tries to rape her. Ultimately, Sayra will arrive in the United States. However, she realizes that the cost has been too great—her father has died falling off of the train; she has lost Casper who is, ironically, shot to death by the pre-pubescent boy whom he himself had trained in the ways of the gang in the opening scenes of the film.

The tremendous losses, and the scenes of suffering, rape, and murder, make unlikely the possibility that the spectator will feel that Sayra’s arrival constitutes a happy ending. In some other aesthetic treatment, Casper’s ultimate death might have been melodramatized as redemptive selflessness for the sake of his new girlfriend. But in Fukunaga’s film, the juxtaposed images imply a continuing cycle of despair and death: Casper’s young killer in Mexico is promoted up the ranks of the gang with a new tattoo, while Sayra’s uncle, back in Honduras after being deported from Mexico, starts the voyage to the United States all over again. Sayra too may face deportation in the future. Following the scene of the reinvigoration of the criminal gang system, as its new young leader gets his first tattoo, the viewer sees Sayra outside a shopping mall in the American southwest. The teenage girl has arrived in the United States and may aspire to participate in advanced consumer capitalism, yet she has lost so much and suffered so undeservingly.

This aesthetic juxtaposition prompts the spectator to attend to the failure of Western political leaders to create a humane system of immigration for the twenty-first century, one which cannot be reached with the entrenched politicized views of the “two sides of the aisle” who miss the human story of immigrants’ plight. This film—like all tragedies—promotes the spectator’s active pondering, that is, it challenges them to respond in some way.

In the tradition of philosophers as various as Aristotle, Seneca, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Martha Nussbaum, and Bernard Williams, we find that tragedies bring to conscious awareness the most significant moral, social, political, and existential problems of the human condition. A film such as Sin nombre, through its tragic performance, points to one of these terrible necessities with which our contemporary Western culture must grapple. While it doesn’t offer an answer, this cinematic tragedy prompts us to recognize and deal with a seemingly intractable problem that needs to move beyond the current impasse of political debate, as we in the industrialized nations continue to shop for and watch movies in the comfort of our malls.

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29. World War I in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Coverage of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has made us freshly familiar with many memorable sayings, from Edward Grey’s ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe’, to Wilfred Owen’s ‘My subject is War, and the pity of war/ The Poetry is in the pity’, and Lena Guilbert Horne’s exhortation to ‘Keep the Home-fires burning’.

But as I prepared the new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, I was aware that numerous other ‘quotable quotes’ also shed light on aspects of the conflict. Here are just five.

One vivid evocations of the conflict striking passage comes not from a War Poet but from an American novelist writing in the 1930s. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night (1934), Dick Diver describes the process of trench warfare:

See that little stream—we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk it—a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs.

This was, of course, on the Western Front, but there were other theatres of war. One such was the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915–16, where many ‘Anzacs’ lost their lives. In 1934, a group of Australians visited Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, and heard an address by Kemal Atatürk—Commander of the Turkish forces during the war, and by then President of Turkey. Speaking of the dead on both sides, he said:

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.

Atatürk’s words were subsequently inscribed on the memorial at Gallipoli, and on memorials in Canberra and Wellington.

World War I is often is often seen as a watershed, after which nothing could be the same again. (The young Robert Graves’s autobiography published in 1929 was entitled Goodbye to All That.) Two quotations from ODQ look ahead from the end of the war to what might be the consequences. For Jan Christiaan Smuts, President of South Africa, the moment was one of promise. He saw the setting up of the League of Nations in the aftermath of the war as a hope for better things:

Mankind is once more on the move. The very foundations have been shaken and loosened, and things are again fluid. The tents have been struck, and the great caravan of humanity is once more on the march.

However a much less optimistic, and regrettably more prescient comment, had been recorded in 1919 by Marshal Foch on the Treaty of Versailles,

This is not a peace treaty, it is an armistice for twenty years.

Not all ‘war poems’ are immediately recognizable as such. In 1916, the poet and army officer Frederick William Harvey was made a prisoner of war (the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography tells us that he went on to experience seven different prison camps). Returning from a period of solitary confinement, he apparently noticed the drawing of a duck on water made by a fellow-prisoner. This inspired what has become a very well-loved poem.

From troubles of the world
I turn to ducks
Beautiful comical things.

How many people, encountering the poem today, consider that the ‘troubles’ might include a world war?

Headline image credit: A message-carrying pigeon being released from a port-hole in the side of a British tank, near Albert, France. Photo by David McLellan, August 1918. Imperial War Museums. IWM Non-Commercial License via Wikimedia Commons.

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30. Arno Camenisch Q & A

       At English PEN's PEN Atlas Tasja Dorkofikis has a Q & A with Swiss author Arno Camenish, whose The Alp -- written in both German and Romansch -- was recently published by Dalkey Archive Press.
       Among his comments:

I live now in Biel/Bienne, which lies on the language boundary between French and German and it is a bilingual city, but you hear over 140 languages spoken here and it is very enriching to have so many sounds and so many cultures around. Linguistic diversity is good for openness and understanding.
       Amen to that.

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31. Albertine opens in NYC

       Albertine, 'A project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy' and a "reading room and bookshop devoted to works in French and in translation", opens for business in New York today.

will offer the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in New York, with over 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries in genres including novels, non-fiction, art, comic, or children's books.
       That sounds damn good ! Given the backing of the French state they're not under as much (or any ?) pressure to actually make any money, so the focus isn't on being a commercial enterprise but rather a cultural one -- and it looks pretty promising in this regard: just check out the events they have planned, too.
       (Housed in some of Manhattan's prime real estate -- unaffordable for any but the highest of high-end retailers if it were commercially available -- they will surely be the envy of quite a few rent-stressed outlets .....)
       I'm looking forward to checking it out soon.

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32. DSC Prize for South Asian Literature jury

       They've apparently announced the jury for the 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature -- though, sigh, not yet at the official site, last I checked; see instead, for example, the dna report.
       Keki N. Daruwalla will chair, with former Granta-editor John Freeman, Maithree Wickramasinghe, Michael Worton, and Razi Ahmed the other judges.
       Apparently, there were "more than 75 entries" for this year's prize; the longlist will be announced 20 October, and the shortlist on 27 November.

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33. Why do you love the VSIs?

The 400th Very Short Introduction, ‘Knowledge‘, was published this week. In order to celebrate this remarkable series, we asked various colleagues at Oxford University Press to explain why they love the VSIs:

*   *   *   *   *

“Why do I love the VSIs? They’re an easy, yet comprehensive way to learn about a topic. From general topics like Philosophy to more specific like Alexander the Great, I finish the book after a few trips on the train and I feel smarter. VSIs also help to quickly fill knowledge gaps that I may have–I never took a chemistry class in college but in just 150 pages, I can have a better understanding of physical chemistry should it ever come up during a trivia challenge. It’s true, VSIs give you the knowledge so you can lead your team to victory at your next pub trivia challenge.”

Brian Hughes, Senior Platform Marketing Manager

*   *   *   *   *

“They’re very effective knowledge pills after taking which I feel so much better equipped for exploring new disciplines. Each ends with a very helpful bibliography section which is a great guide for getting more and more interested in the subject. They’re concise, authoritative and fun to read, and that’s precisely why I love them so much!”

Anna Ready, Online Project Manager

*   *   *   *   *

“I love VSIs because it’s like talking to an expert who is approachable and personable, and doesn’t mind if it takes you a while to understand what they’re saying! They walk you through difficult ideas and concepts in an easily understandable way and you come away feeling like you have a deeper understanding of the topic, often wanting to find out more.”

Hannah Charters, Senior Marketing Executive

VSI cake
‘VSI 400 cake’, by Jack Campbell-Smith. Image used with permission.

*   *   *   *   *

“With the VSI series, you can expect to see a clear explanation of the subject matter presented in a consistent style.”

Martin Buckmaster, Data Engineer

*   *   *   *   *

“A book is a gift. The precious gift of knowledge hard earned by humankind through generations of experience, deep contemplation and a bursts of single minded desire to push the very limits of curiosity. But I’m a postmodern man in a postmodern world; my attention span is wrecked and presented with all the information in the world at my fingertips the best I can manage is to look up pictures of cats. I don’t know what I need to know from what I don’t or even where to start. What I need is a starting point, a rock solid foundation of just what I need to know on the topic of my choice, enough to know if I want to know more, enough to light that old spark of curiosity and easily enough to win an argument down the pub. Not just the gift of knowledge, but the gift of time. That’s why I love VSIs.”


*   *   *   *   *

“I love the VSIs because there is a never ending supply of interesting topics to learn more about. Whenever I found out I would be taking on the Religion & Theology list, I raided my neighbors cubicles for any religion-themed VSIs to read. Whenever I’m out of a book for the train ride home, I go next door to the VSI Marketing Manger’s cubicle, to see what new VSIs she has that I can borrow. They’re the perfect book to fit in your purse and go.”

Alyssa Bender, Marketing Coordinator

*   *   *   *   *

“I told Mrs Dalloway’s this week that purchasing the VSIs from Oxford was just like printing money. They’re smaller than an electronic reading device and fit in my cargo shorts, I mean blazer pocket. I can’t wait for Translation: A Very Short Introduction.”

George Carroll, Commissioning Rep from Great Northwest, USA

*   *   *   *   *

“I love the VSI series because it is so wonderfully wide-ranging. With almost any topic that comes to mind, if I wonder ‘is there a VSI to that?’, the answer is usually yes. It’s a great way to learn a little more about an area you’re already interested in, or as a first foray into one which is entirely new. Long live VSIs!”

Simon Thomas, Oxford Dictionaries Marketing Executive

*   *   *   *   *

“VSIs allow me to sound like I know a lot more about a subject than I actually do, in a very short space of time. An essential cheat for job interviews, pub quizzes, dates etc.”

Rachel Fenwick, Associate Marketing Manager

*   *   *   *   *

“I love the VSIs because they make such broad subjects immediately accessible. If you ever want to understand a subject in its entirety or fill in the gaps in your knowledge, the VSIs should always be your first port of call. From my University studies to my morning commute, the VSIs have, without fail, filled in the gaping holes in my knowledge and allowed me to converse with much smarter people about subjects I would never have previously understood. For that, I’m very grateful!”

Daniel Parker, Social Media Executive

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34. "Make a fatty to-do list and just hit that shit hard."

Advice from Lena Dunham.. In the video, she’s responding to a question about how to stop being jealous of someone else’s good fortune, but I like it, too, as an antidote to feeling anxious and distracted and sleazy with bad habits. (To offer a brief self-portrait!) It seems in line with Kate Christensen’s advice to always “Keep Moving Forward Like a Shark.”

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35. Marvel and Jack Kirby estate settle their disputes

CapBicentennialBattlesBackCover en 640h1 Marvel and Jack Kirby estate settle their disputes

A joint statement has just been released by Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby indicating that a settlement of somekind hs been made:

“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.” 



The Kirby Estate had been suing Marvel for right to the characters Kirby created over the years, from Captain America in the 40s to the Fantastic Four in the 60s. Although every court case went against the Kirby family, recently it seemed that the case might actually go to the Supreme Court, and it may have been the unpredictable nature of the claims that led to this settlement.

While an initial wave of joy over the end of this battle is the natural emotion, one hopes that the Kirby family got something out of this and it wasn’t just keeping up appearances in the light of an ongoing battle that didn’t look like it would end favorably.


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36. Webcomic Alert: The Utopian City That Wasn’t by Eleri Mai Harris

utopia harris Webcomic Alert: The Utopian City That Wasn’t by Eleri Mai Harris

Australian cartoonist/journalist Eleri Mai Harris isn’t just an editor at The Nib, Medium’s marvelous comics section, run by Matt Bors. She’s a trained journalist who turned to comics to tell stories and in today’s Nib she has a good one: the story of the abortive designs for Canberra, the capital of Australia. Like a few other planned capital cities—Celebration and Brasilia comes to mind—the structural, utopian approach to city design rarely works out. The story also includes a dandy forgotten woman—Frank Lloyd Wright’s associate Marion Mahony Griffin. So sit back and learn some Australian and architectural history.

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37. Starlord’s jacket now available in both men’s and women’s sizes

 Starlords jacket now available in both mens and womens sizes

It’s Autumn now, and it’s been a long time since we attempted to ride the coattails of Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014’s breakout stars. But now that the weather is getting colder you may be needing a transitional jacket, for those snappy autumn days (or warming autumn days if you live in the South). Anyway, New American Jackets is selling pleather replicas of Starlord jacket from Guardians of the Galaxy — available in both mens and women’s sizes. It looks to be a nice detailed jacket in a flattering burnt sienna color. Men’s runs $140 and women’s $139 but both are “on sale” now.

 Starlords jacket now available in both mens and womens sizes

Guardians of the Galaxy Jacket 600x800 Starlords jacket now available in both mens and womens sizes



New American Jackets sells various other pop culture themed coats, like a Rick Grimes jacket—inexplicably crisp and clean and not gore clotted, bu you can fix that my sleeping in in every day for a month—a Keanu Reaves Hellblalz er trenchcoat—hopefully to be upgraded with the new TV series—a Smallville duster, a Katniss coat, a Drive jacket with the scorpion and all. So whatever your Halloween or cosplay plans, they can be purposed as a practical if nerdy garment for even non-con days.

Rick Grimes Season 4 Suede Jacket 600x800 Starlords jacket now available in both mens and womens sizes



Via Geek Tyrant

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38. Do health apps really matter?

Apps are all the rage nowadays, including apps to help fight rage. That’s right, the iTunes app store contains several dozen apps designed to manage anger or reduce stress. Smartphones have become such a prevalent component of everyday life, it’s no surprise that a demand has risen for phone programs (also known as apps) that help us manage some of life’s most important elements, including personal health. But do these programs improve our ability to manage our health? Do health apps really matter?

Early apps for patients with diabetes demonstrate how a proposed app idea can sound useful in theory but provide limited tangible health benefits in practice. First generation diabetes apps worked like a digital notebook, in which apps linked with blood glucose monitors to record and catalog measured glucose levels. Although doctors and patients were initially charmed by high tech appeal and app convenience, the charm wore off as app use failed to improve patient glucose monitoring habits or medication compliance.

Fitness apps are another example of rough starts among early health app attempts. Initial running apps served as an electronic pedometer, recording the number of steps and/or the total distance ran. These apps again provided a useful convenience over using a conventional pedometer, but were unlikely to lead to increased exercise levels or appeal to individuals who didn’t already run. Apps for other health related topics such as nutrition, diet, and air pollution ran into similar limitations in improving healthy habits. For a while, it seemed as if the initial excitement among the life sciences community for e-health simply couldn’t be translated to tangible health benefits among target populations.

Image credit: Personal Health Apps for Smartphones.jgp, by Intel Free Press. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Luckily, recent changes in app development ideology have led to noticeable increases in health app impacts. Health app developers are now focused on providing useful tools, rather than collections of information, to app users. The diabetes app ManageBGL.com, for example, predicts when a patient may develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) before the visual/physical signs and adverse effects of hypoglycemia occur. The running app RunKeeper connects to other friend’s running profiles to share information, provide suggested running routes, and encourage runners to speed up or slow down for reaching a target pace. Air pollution apps let users set customized warning levels, and then predict and warn users when they’re heading towards an area with air pollution that exceeds warning levels. Health apps are progressing beyond providing mere convenience towards a state where they can help the user make informed decisions or perform actions that positively affect and/or protect personal health.

So, do health apps really matter? It’s unlikely that the next generation of health apps will have the same popularity as Facebook or widespread utility such as Google maps. The impact, utility, and popularity of health apps, however, are increasing at a noticeable rate. As health app developers continue to better their understanding of health app strengths and limitations and upcoming technologies that can improve health apps such as miniaturized sensors and smartglass become available, the importance of health related apps and proportion of the general public interested in health apps are only going to get larger.

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39. Plagiarism and patriotism

Thou shall not plagiarize. Warnings of this sort are delivered to students each fall, and by spring at least a few have violated this academic commandment. The recent scandal involving Senator John Walsh of Montana, who took his name off the ballot after evidence emerged that he had copied without attribution parts of his master’s thesis, shows how plagiarism can come back to haunt.

But back in the days of 1776, plagiarism did not appear as a sign of ethical weakness or questionable judgment. Indeed, as the example of Mercy Otis Warren suggests, plagiarism was a tactic for spreading Revolutionary sentiments.

An intimate of American propagandists such as Sam Adams, Warren used her rhetorical skill to pillory the corrupt administration of colonial Massachusetts. She excelled at producing newspaper dramas that savaged the governor, Thomas Hutchinson, and his cast of flunkies and bootlickers. Her friend John Adams helped arrange for the anonymous publication of satires so sharp that they might well have given readers paper cuts.

An expanded version soon followed, replete with new scenes in which patriot leaders inspired crowds to resist tyrants. Although the added material uses her characters and echoes her language, they were not written by Warren. As she tells the story, her original drama was “taken up and interlarded with the productions of an unknown hand. The plagiary swelled” her satirical sketch into a pamphlet.

Mercy Otis Warren
Portrait of Mercy Otis Warren, American writer, by John Singleton Copley (1763). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

But Warren didn’t seem to mind the trespass all that much. Her goal was to disseminate the critique of colonial government. There’s evidence that she intentionally left gaps in her plays so that readers could turn author and add new scenes to the Revolutionary drama.

Original art was never the point; instead art suitable for copying formed the basis of her public aesthetic. In place of authenticity, imitation allowed others to join the cause and continue the propagation of Revolutionary messages.

Could it be that plagiarism was patriotic?

Thankfully, this justification is not likely to hold up in today’s classroom. There’s no compelling national interest that requires a student to buy and download a paper on Heart of Darkness.

Warren’s standards are woefully out of date. And yet, she does offer a lesson about political communication that still has relevance. Where today we see plagiarism, she saw a form of dissent had been made available to others.

Headline image credit: La balle a frappé son amante, gravé par L. Halbou. Library of Congress.

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40. Do children make you happier?

A new study shows that women who have difficulty accepting the fact that they can’t have children following unsuccessful fertility treatment, have worse long-term mental health than women who are able to let go of their desire for children. It is the first to look at a large group of women (over 7,000) to try to disentangle the different factors that may affect women’s mental health over a decade after unsuccessful fertility treatment. These factors include whether or not they have children, whether they still want children, their diagnosis, and their medical treatment.

It was already known that people who have infertility treatment and remain childless have worse mental health than those who do manage to conceive with treatment. However, most previous research assumed that this was due exclusively to having children or not, and did not consider the role of other factors. Alongside my research colleagues from the Netherlands, where the study took place, we found only that there is a link between an unfulfilled wish for children and worse mental health, and not that the unfulfilled wish is causing the mental health problems. This is due to the nature of the study, in which the women’s mental health was measured at only one point in time rather than continuously since the end of fertility treatment.

We analysed answers to questionnaires completed by 7,148 women who started fertility treatment at any of 12 IVF hospitals in the Netherlands between 1995-2000. The questionnaires were sent out to the women between January 2011 and 2012, meaning that for most women their last fertility treatment would have been between 11-17 years ago. The women were asked about their age, marital status, education and menopausal status, whether the infertility was due to them, their partner, both or of unknown cause, and what treatment they had received, including ovarian stimulation, intrauterine insemination, and in vitro fertilisation / intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (IVF/ICSI). In addition, they completed a mental health questionnaire, which asked them how they felt during the past four weeks. The women were asked whether or not they had children, and, if they did, whether they were their biological children or adopted (or both). They were also asked whether they still wished for children.

The majority of women in the study had come to terms with the failure of their fertility treatment. However, 6% (419) still wanted children at the time of answering the study’s questionnaire and this was connected with worse mental health. We found that women who still wished to have children were up to 2.8 times more likely to develop clinically significant mental health problems than women who did not sustain a child-wish. The strength of this association varied according to whether women had children or not. For women with no children, those with a child-wish were 2.8 times more likely to have worse mental health than women without a child-wish. For women with children, those who sustained a child-wish were 1.5 times more likely to have worse mental health than those without a child-wish. This link between a sustained wish for children and worse mental health was irrespective of the women’s fertility diagnosis and treatment history.

Happy Family photo
Happy family photo by Vera Kratochvil. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Our research found that women had better mental health if the infertility was due to male factors or had an unknown cause. Women who started fertility treatment at an older age had better mental health than women who started younger, and those who were married or cohabiting with their partner reported better mental health than women who were single, divorced, or widowed. Better educated women also had better mental health than the less well educated.

This study improves our understanding of why childless people have poorer adjustment. It shows that it is more strongly associated with their inability to let go of their desire to have children. It is quite striking to see that women who do have children but still wish for more children report poorer mental health than those who have no children but have come to accept it. The findings underline the importance of psychological care of infertility patients and, in particular, more attention should be paid to their long-term adjustment, whatever the outcome of the fertility treatment.

The possibility of treatment failure should not be avoided during treatment and a consultation at the end of treatment should always happen, whether the treatment is successful or unsuccessful, to discuss future implications. This would enable fertility staff to identify patients more likely to have difficulties adjusting to the long term, by assessing the women’s possibilities to come to terms with their unfulfilled child-wish. These patients could be advised to seek additional support from mental health professionals and patient support networks.

It is not known why some women may find it more difficult to let go of their child-wish than others. Psychological theories would claim that how important the goal is for the person would be a relevant factor. The availability of other meaningful life goals is another relevant factor. It is easier to let go of a child-wish if women find other things in life that are fulfilling, like a career.

We live in societies that embrace determination and persistence. However, there is a moment when letting go of unachievable goals (be it parenthood or other important life goals) is a necessary and adaptive process for well-being. We need to consider if societies nowadays actually allow people to let go of their goals and provide them with the necessary mechanisms to realistically assess when is the right moment to let go.

Featured image: Baby feet by Nina-81. Public Domain via Pixabay.

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41. What’s so great about being the VSI commissioning editor?

With the 400th Very Short Introduction on the topic of ‘Knowledge’ publishing this month, I’ve been thinking about how long this series has been around, and how long I have been a commissioning editor for the series, from before the 200th VSI published (number 163 – Human Rights in fact), through number 300 and 400, and how undoubtedly I’ll still be here for the 500th VSI!

Having previously been an editor for law, tax, and accountancy lists, and latterly the OUP Police list, the opportunity to be the VSI editor was one that I simply could not pass up. I already owned, and had read, several VSIs, so I understood broadly what the series was trying to do and who the series was aimed at. I liked the idea of working across a wide range of topics (except science – these VSIs are commissioned by my esteemed colleague Latha Menon) and with a vast array of different authors. I also liked the idea that I would learn lots of new things and be a pub quiz team whizz. Unfortunately in order to be good at pub quizzes you have to be able to retain and recall information and details quickly. I like to think that if someone was able to explore deep inside my brain they would find hundreds of fascinating facts about hundreds of topics that are buried in there somewhere. (What has been exciting is to have on occasion been able to answer a University Challenge question, causing much excitement).

I naively thought that authors would be able to write 35,000 (or so) words easily and quickly, and therefore that they would deliver perfect manuscripts on time which would be easy to edit and a pleasure to read. For the most part I think this is true, but in my seven years as editor, I think I’ve seen and heard it all. ‘The dog ate my homework’ excuses, authors taking eight or nine years to deliver their manuscripts, and one author delivering a 70,000 word manuscript thinking that we could just ‘cut it a little’. There’s never a dull moment. I’ve seen ebooks come into fruition, an online service being launched, and new editions of old and popular VSIs come into being. Marketing has changed too, from the traditional brochure and bookshop displays, to YouTube videos, Facebook pages, and blog posts.

“VSI 400″ image courtesy of VSI editorial team.

I often get asked what I do all day. The myth is that I do a lot of wining and dining, drinking coffee, putting my feet up on the desk reading manuscripts, and jetting to conferences. The reality is that I do a bit of everything and it doesn’t involve enough wining and dining – the tax authors ten years ago were far worse for this! I decide (with input from sales, marketing, the US VSI editor, and the science VSI editor) what topics to commission, I seek out the best authors I possibly can, I negotiate contracts, I talk to agents, I read manuscripts, I look at cover blurbs, and I panic about the size of my overflowing inbox.

People also ask me what my favourite VSI is, which is a very difficult question to answer. The first VSI I ever read was Mary Beard and John Henderson’s Classics (number 1 in the series) and I still think it’s a wonderful book. Of those I’ve commissioned, I love Angels and English Literature. And who is my favourite author? Now that would be telling, but I have passed countless happy hours with many of my authors. And that’s the best thing about being the VSI editor. I get to meet so many different authors and help them turn their vast amount of knowledge (and sometimes their lifetime’s work) into a short book that they can be proud of. My favourite quote from an author is, ‘now my children, grandchildren and friends might finally understand what I do’!

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42. Javier Marías profile

       In The New York Times Stephen Heyman profiles Javier Marías: Spain's Elegant Master Novelist, who apparently: "remains something of a niche author among English-speaking readers" (hey, everything is relative, right, even what qualifies as 'niche' ?)
       Nice to hear Marías say:

In a way I think my way of writing my own things has been somehow influenced by my having been a translator
       (And I take this occasion to commend to you yet again Gareth J. Wood's study, Javier Marías's Debt to Translation.)
       Lots of his work is under review at the complete review (but too much still isn't); Dark Back of Time (in the beautiful original New Directions edition) probably remains my favorite -- but you really have to read All Souls first ..... Read the rest of this post

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43. Swiss Book Prize finalists

       They've announced the six finalists for this year's Schweizer Buchpreis -- limited to German-language books (though Guy Krneta's Unger üs stretches that limitation some; see the Der gesunde Menschenversand publicity page). Finalist Panischer Frühling is also in the final running for the German Book Prize; Koala was longlisted
       Eighty titles were submitted (their names unfortunately not revealed ...), by 53 publishers. The winner will be announced 9 November.

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44. Gorgeous Old Testament Creation of Man-style clouds piled on the horizon tonight. It’s so...

Gorgeous Old Testament Creation of Man-style clouds piled on the horizon tonight. It’s so funny to walk through a parking lot, look up, and think God and Adam might come floating through, trying to touch fingers.

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45. Debating re-translation

       Copying a page from The New York Times Book Review -- their 'Bookends'-feature -- the weblog at Asymptote now offers ... 'The Tiff' (which seems wrong on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin -- except the most obvious, that taking a page out of what passes for the NYTBR's literary coverage and debate is about as wrong as you can go).
       Still the subject-matter for this week's 'tiff' is interesting enough -- How Often Should We Re-translate the Classics ? -- and it pits (is that the proper term in a 'tiff') Antony Shugaar against (alongside ?) EJ Van Lanen.

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46. Crowdwatching: Last Gasp is Kickstarting its fall season

Here we go again: another alternative publisher has turned to crowdfunding to stockpile some scratch for an upcoming list. This time it’s Last Gasp, the venerable SF institution that published some of the great foundational underground comics and now publishes and distributes art book,s comics and lovely ephemera, has a campaign for its fall list.

The Kickstarter has been running a little while but has a ways to go, so it’s a good time to get in on it. Rewards include books by Camille Gargia Rose, Ron English, Henry Sultan, t-shirts, Weirdo magazine bundles and all kinds of good stuff. If you like Undergrounds/Juxtapoz/pop surrealism or just eccentric amazing things, this is for you.

Do you want to live in a world filled with beautiful art books and bizarre printed matter? Of course you do! 
Join us – be a part of Last Gasp’s fall publishing season and help launch the next fleet of twisted art books into laps, coffee tables, and bookshelves worldwide. 

The book business is changing. In the past, it was “difficult” to publish unusual books. Now it is nearly impossible. To cover the costs of printing we need up-front support from people who love books. 

The money you contribute will go directly into the printing and production costs of these forthcoming publications.

About Last Gasp:

Since 1970, Last Gasp has been an axis of the art and counterculture communities in San Francisco and beyond, publishing both emerging and established artists. 

From our early years publishing underground comix to more recent art books, we’ve tried to publish unusual artists whose artwork moves us on a visceral level. In more than four decades we have published books with artists such as Robert Crumb, Mark Ryden,Camille Rose Garcia,Gary Baseman, Robert Williams, Junko Mizuno,Trina Robbins, S. Clay Wilson, Justin Green, Spain Rodriguez, Keiji Nakazawa, Suehiro Maruo, Elizabeth McGrath, Timothy Leary, Todd Schorr, Ron English, Laurie Lipton, Diane DiPrima, and countless others.

In addition to publishing, Last Gasp is a distributor, selling books from small and independent publishers to a network of booksellers worldwide.

Choose a reward and help us ensure this weirdness lives on!

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47. Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston are touring with ‘Wordless’

tumblr mz84jyzaJm1t6zetdo1 1280 Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston are touring with Wordless

A few years ago, an Australian impresario named Jordan Verzar put together the Graphic Festival at the Sydney Opera House which included a dream list of multi-media comics projects, including the Neil Gaiman/Eddie Campbell/Fourplay String Quartet collaboration The Truth is a Cave in a Black Mountain and the Art Spiegelman/Phillip Johnston Sextet collaboration Wordless. I was lucky enough to see both of these when the came to the US earlier this year, and I’m happy to say that Wordless is touring the country, and may just come to a city near you. If it does, run run to see it!

“Wordless” is, ironically, not wordless at all, but Spiegelman narrating a history of the early, silent woodcut graphic novels of the first half of the 2oth century, works by artists like Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Milt Gross, Otto Nuckel, and Si Lewen. The projected comics are accompanied by improvised jazz styling by the Phillip Johnston Sextet, and the evening is full of information, music and the magic of art and storytelling. You can read more about it on a tumblr Spiegelman has set up, (Spiegelman tumbles, says the headline) and here’s an article from SFGate with more thoughts on the venture. And here are the dates:

Tour Details

Wednesday, October 8
Cleveland OH — Oberlin College

Friday, October 10
UC Berkeley, CA — Zellerbach Auditorium

Sunday, October 12
Seattle, WA — Seattle Theatre Group, Moore Theater

Wednesday, October 15
Los Angeles, CA — UCLA, Royce Hall

Friday, October 17
Santa Barbara, CA — UCSB, Arts & Lectures

Sunday, October 19
Kansas City, MO — Kauffman Center

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Washington, DC — GWU Lisner Auditorium

Sunday, October 26, 2014
Boston, MA — The Institute of Contemporary Art

10639647 703291259739045 937452738754018734 n Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston are touring with Wordless

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48. Webcomics alert: Me and the Universe by Anders Nilsen

This Sunday’s New York Times will contain what I would guess to be a full page printed version of the comicMe and the Universe by Anders Nilsen, so you may want to wait for that version to put into your scrapbook. But if you don’t want to get ink on your fingers, here’s a web version of a diagrammatic image of Nilsen’s place in the universe.

Nilsen’s last book was the “Leporello/foldout” Rage of Poseidon and he’s been mostly doing illos lately. Hopefully some new long form comics are in the works.

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49. Willingham and Weldon among those who will be writing on trains for a long time

railway station painting Willingham and Weldon among those who will be writing on trains for a long time
Fables’ Bill Willingham and frequent comics blogger Glen Weldon were among 24 writers selected for the Amtrak Residency Program, which allows writers to get creative while soothed by the clickety-clack of the railroad track as they traverse this great nation of ours. More than 16,000 writers applied for the residency, which grants the recipients free space on the rails to work on whatever they wish.

Willingham’s future projects include a novel, and Weldon’s book on Batman and Nerd Culture is coming next year.


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50. To do tonight, San Diego: Scott McCloud and Larry Marder on Banned Books Week

boc thumb To do tonight, San Diego: Scott McCloud and Larry Marder on Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week, a n annual event mostly held in libraries which spotlights attempts to remove books. This year’s theme is graphic novels, as discussed in this article from PW by Rich Shivener. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is sponsoring several events this week and has much more information and a list of banned or challenged comics here. The idea for GNs as a focus started when last year it was announced that the top ten challenged books nationwide includes Bone by Jeff Smith.

Tonight’s big event is a discussion by Scott McCloud and Larry Marder, co-sponsored by the CBLDF, Comic-Con International and the San Diego Central Library. Needless to say, if you’re in the area, it’s worth a listen.

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