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26. The Palace Chronicles series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

When kids and teachers ask me for a book that's a twist on the Cinderella story, I offer them Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix and the companion novel, Palace of Mirrors. These books are royally good, and I strongly recommend them to fans of Shannon Hale.

In Just Ella, we met 15-year-old Ella after the big ball we're all familiar with - but it turns out the story everyone has heard isn't exactly true. Instead of getting glass slippers from a fairy godmother, Ella won them in a wager with a glassblower. Instead of having a pumpkin transformed into a carriage, Ella got a ride from a kind (and human) coachman. Instead of relying on magic, Ella uses her brain and her bravery to make her dreams into reality.

When the book begins, Ella is already engaged to Prince Charming. But being a princess isn't all it is cracked up to be. Conversations with the prince prove that, although he's nice, he's really not for her. After learning more about the war that's taking place beyond the palace gates, Ella becomes even more disenchanted with her royal life and yearns to do something that will help those suffering. When she tries to break the engagement, evil steps in and Ella is physically removed to a dungeon.

But the villains should have known that even dungeon bars can't stop Ella. She must use the same smarts and determination that got her to that famous ball in the first place to get out and to help her country. Ella is a selfless, intelligent leading lady, and Just Ella is a very neat adaptation.

In Palace of Mirrors, we follow a 14-year-old peasant girl named Cecilia. Raised by Nanny and educated and protected by Sir Stephen, Cecilia likes the evening best of all, for that is when she has lessons - "And for me it's the moment that divides my day as hardworking, ragged peasant girl from my evening as secret princess poring over gilded texts." (Page 22) She goes on to say, "The studying is no easier than the chores, but it's more promising."

But Cecilia isn't the peasant girl she pretends to be. She's a princess. When she was little, her parents were murdered. Cecilia was whisked away and a decoy (Desmia) was put on the throne. Cecilia can't tell any of her friends about it, not even her life-long best friend Harper. Meanwhile, Desmia, the decoy, thinks she's the real princess.

Then Cecilia's village is threatened, and she decides to reclaim the throne. Enter 11 other girls and knights. Each and every one of these girls thinks SHE's the real princess - and so do their knights. Their stories are all the same, and each girl was given a royal object as proof of her royalty.

Like Ella, Cecilia isn't afraid to get dirty, to walk barefoot through sludge, to bloody her fingers when trying to get out of a locked room. She doesn't yearn for the power or the fame or the riches or the ballgowns; she wants to bring peace to the kingdoms and make her slain parents, her ancestors, and her beloved caretakers proud.

Who reigns supreme in the end? You'll have to read the books to find out.

Palace of Mirrors takes place in the same world as Just Ella, with Ella herself making an appearance. Spoilers: Highlight to view - [ Ella is now engaged to Jed, who is the head of the delegation trying to end the war between Suala and Fridesia. Harper's dad died in that war, and though Harper's mom trained him to play the harp, he really wants to be a soldier.) And guess who has been working for the past year as the medical officer in a refuge camp near "the worst battlefield of the Sualan War" and wants to become a doctor after the war is over... ]

The third book in the line, Palace of Lies, will be released in April 2015.

The takeaways:
Follow your own truth.
Find your truth in yourself, not in others.
Do what is right for you.

Word of the day:
Munificent - to be extremely generous or liberal
Ella uses this word to describe Desmia.

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27. Quotes: On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Continuing my transcription of notes I took five years ago, I offer you quotes from the outstanding book On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta:

The faces of the dead or missing, so young and happy that all I can think of is, how can they be dead? Toothy grins, mostly those school photos that you keep hidden. - Page 60

After the narrator finds all of the songs that Hannah mentions in her manuscript, she downloads them, making her own soundtrack:
I wrap myself in the music, curled up in my bed, thinking of Hannah, eyes wide open, forcing myself to keep awake. Unlike Macbeth, who has sleep taken away from him, I can take sleep away from myself.
- Page 135

My mother deserted me at the 7-Eleven, hundred of kilometres away from home.

Hannah, however, did the unforgivable.

She deserted me in our own backyard. - Page 135

"Hold my hand because I might disappear." - Narnie to Jude, Page 188

She looks as me intently. "She used to talk about you. She'd tell me that when I came to the school, I would have you and that she'd be the luckiest person in the world because she'd have both of us. I used to think she was your mum." - Page 242

How can you just forget a person completely until the moment you see his face again? Who else is back there lurking in my head? - Page 331

I'm holding one of only two people left in the world who share my blood: my father's sister, who one night sat in the same spot for four hours just to protect her brother from a sight that would have killed his spirit. - Page 397

So what is On the Jellicoe Road about? It's about a girl named Taylor was abandoned twice: once at a convenience store by her mother when she was 11 years old, and again by Hannah, her guardian and mentor six years later.  It's about the manuscript Hannah left behind, filled with stories about teenagers from two decades ago. It's about the struggle of power between different groups of students at Taylor's boarding school. It's about alliances, and secrets, and personal histories, and hazy memories. It's about the past. It's about the future. It's about Taylor. It's about Hannah.

Read this book. Read it now.

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Booklist: From a Land Down Under
Booklist: Coming-of-Age Novels aka Bildungsromans
Hope: Melina Marchetta

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28. Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman

The novel Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman starts with a prank. Readers quickly learn that these characters aim to do things that will make people stop and think, to consider what's happening - no whoopee cushions or silly hacks, but rather, something that means something, that makes a statement.

The bet is to get someone into Harvard that wouldn't get in otherwise. Not a prank, Max clarifies, but a hack. Forget the kid stuff they've done before - this will be something huge, powerful, meaningful. Schwarz doesn't want to get expelled. Eric doesn't want to do something immoral. They find out that this is a bet Max made with the Bongo Bums. Named after Richard Feynman, a prankster and bongo player, they are two juniors from Boston Latin High School who make bets and do things for bragging rights, and want a rivalry with the other boys, who'd rather be left alone and do their own thing. Max pretends the bet is for $100 but the amount increases throughout the book.

"We're going to take the biggest loser we can find - the least ambitious, least intelligent, least motivated, most delinquent and drugged-up slacker we can get our hands on - and we're going to sucker this school into letting him in." At least, that's what is shared with the readers on page 46. Our players are not so forthcoming with the full details. Readers learn more about the terms and the payout as the book goes on.

It's not about sabotaging the other party's candidate but getting your own candidate IN. They get a tough guy named Clay who beat Eric up as a kid, when Eric tried to stand up for other kids and ended up as the punching bag.

Also along for the ride is Alexandra Talese. Wanting a name that is a little daring and edgy, she has decided to go by Lex in college. She takes the name out on trial run during her first in-depth conversation with Eric, after the SATs.

Lex wants to go to Harvard of her own choosing, not for the sake of "superficial, society-imprinted, consumerist non-entities," not legacy, but because she wants it, because she thinks it's the best school to attend, the result of her extensive college research:

"I had made my pro/con charts, carefully weighed all the options, and chosen a winner. There was a reason Harvard had a reputation for being the best, I'd decided, and the reputation was self-fulfilling, because it meant Harvard got the best -- the best students, the best professors, the best resources -- which I meant I wanted it to get me. I wanted to get lost in the country's biggest library; I wanted to learn Shakespeare from a grand master while staring up at a ceiling carved hundreds of years before. [...] I wanted to be in awe of the school, the teachers, the history, the legacy -- I wanted to be terrified I wouldn't measure up. I wanted to prove that I could." - Page 83

Lex reveals that she uses knowledge to her advantage - not just her book smarts, but the things she knows about certain people. She doesn't sabotage them in a physical or evil way, but she casually (or otherwise) lets people's secrets slip out so that she is picked over them: running for sixth grade president, talking the other girl out of joining the newspaper staff in ninth grade, then holding her position on the yearbook staff - this girl's theme song should be Use What I Got by Lucy Woodward!(1)

So why would an overachiever team up with the bums? Because although she had great grades, community service, leadership positions, and school staff positions, she felt like there was nothing outstanding about her, nothing that set her apart. No national awards or anything unique, outstanding, international, or amazing. She was not one-of-a-kind, she was not a special snowflake, she was merely one of many smart fishes in the sea: "Nothing set me apart. Nothing to make me special." - Page 213

Throughout the story, Eric is the voice of reason. He considers himself a realist, and he normally abides by the honor system, doing the right thing because it's right, so he really struggles with the bet. Eric is Jewish and says that instead of doing good deeds in life in order to earn a wonderful afterlife in an eternal paradise, "Judaism isn't about what happens next. It's about what happens here, in this life. You don't necessarily get rewarded for doing the right thing; you don't get punished for doing the wrong thing. You're supposed to be a good person just because that's the right thing to do. Doing the right thing -- that's the reward." - Page 170

Max Kim is a legacy, with his father and two older sisters all Harvard grads. Max likes to sell 80s items on eBay and thinks things should have a 500% profit. He's in this not just for his father or Harvard, but because of what they've been told: "It's about all the (nonsense) they've been feeding us since preschool: Do your homework, be good, fall in line, do what we say, and maybe, if you're lucky, you'll get the golden ticket. We're supposed to act like the only thing that matters is getting into college -- getting into this college - and so most of the people who do get in are the ones who buy into the (nonsense) so completely that they've never done anything for any other reason. It doesn't matter what they want, what they like, what they care about, who they are -- they don't even know anymore, because they're trying so (darn) hard to be the people Harvard wants them to be. In the end they're not even real people anymore. They're zombies." - Page 47 (Yes, I replaced the swear words for the sake of my younger readers. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.)

Let's not forget Schwarz: geeky fellow, camera peeping got him out of their high school and homeschooled for two years. Now 16 and a Harvard freshman, this 96-pound weakling prefers numbers and photographs to real-life people, as humans are inherently flawed and photographs trap beauty on the page. Schwarz is eloquent. He doesn't necessarily use huge words, but he always uses full sentences and sometimes sounds a little antiquated ("I was not doing anything of any importance") as he actively avoids swearing and contractions (he tends to say "it is" rather that "it's"). He is awed by beautiful college girl named Stephanie who whines to him about her dates and breakups. He would be right at home in an 80s movie - and Max would then sell the movie poster on eBay.

The book also closes like a classic teen movie, providing information on what happened to all of the major players after high school - what colleges they attended, what career paths they followed, et cetera. There's also a disclaimer from the author asking readers not to hack in because it would be wrong, illegal, and dumb, and it's clear that she has both compassion for rising seniors dealing with college applications and total respect for admissions officers.

Wasserman is great at creating characters who are fueled by their goals and intentions, be they good or bad, selfish or selfless. The following speech is particularly awesome:

"Imagine there was something you really wanted. Not something petty, like knee-high leather boots or a new boyfriend, but something major. Something so significant that it would change your life forever. And imagine that you wanted that thing the way a child wants, without perspective, a wholehearted longing that consumed your entire being with the certainty that life would not, could not continue without it. Imagine that, like a child, you had no control over getting your heart's desire. You couldn't do anything other than lie awake at night and wish, furiously, desperately, hopelessly -- because, not actually being a child, you would know that wishing was useless. You would know that there are no magic wishes, no fairy godmothers descending with a wink and a want. Still, useless or not, you would dutifully squeeze your eyes shut every night, curl your hands into fists, listen to your heart thus, and, like a child, let yourself believe that someone was listening when you whispered: I wish. Now imagine that your wish was granted." - Pages 205-206

The book is mostly told in third person with first person woven in at the start, making readers curious about the narrator's identity until it is revealed - and it totally works.

Enjoy the book - but don't get any ideas, okay?

(1) Use What I Got by Lucy Woodward is an amazing song I have been known to listen to/belt out in order to pump myself up before a big event. I had the opportunity to sing it at an audition once - and I booked the gig.

Related posts at Bildungsroman
Interview: Robin Wasserman
Playlist: Seven Deadly Sins by Robin Wasserman

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29. Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman

In the novel Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman, a young woman named Savannah - named after the tornado that was passing through and being announced on the radio when her mother was in labor - struggles to find her strength. Troubled by her severe asthma, she is one point of her three-person family, alongside her younger brother Dog (Dogwood) and her single mother, who can't hold job due to Savannah's frequent hospitalizations and emergencies. Her father left when she was three - and the asthma started the day he left. Meanwhile, her mother won't tell her employers about her daughter's condition due to pride. (See the quotes below the review - I include part of her speech from pages 211-212.)

Savannah has a summer job at the public library, where she works alongside a librarian called Miss Patsy. Her main task is re-shelving books. She also runs storytime sometimes, and some days it's a headache, but some days the kids are attentive.

Then Savannah meets Jackson. She hopes it's something more than summer love, and it seems to be, as Jackson supports her through hospital stays and other worries. But when Jackson has to leave, Savannah must live for herself, to fight her fragile trappings and find strength.

Meanwhile, Savannah's English teacher, Mrs. Avery, put Savannah's name in for the Program for Promising High School Students, a semester-long college experience for tenth graders in Blue Ridge Mountains. Only 50 kids from both Carolinas can go. She filled out apps even though she knew they couldn't afford it. This, more that anything else, struck a chord in me because my family had to let opportunities go because we couldn't afford them. And goodness, how that hurt. If you've been there, you get it.

Now comes the part of the review where I inundate you with quotes from the book. Read them and weep.

It may sound dorky, but I love books - the feel of the paper, the old, musty smell, and especially the way the words roll over you and take you somewhere altogether different. They've been my escape long as I can remember. Whether I need a break from schoolwork or my brother or just life in general, there's always a book that can take me someplace far away. - Page 7

"And one of my feelings comes over me -- one of those itty bitty moments when time seems to freeze -- just for a breath. And I get the feeling that this moment fits, matches somehow, with something from the future. And I know this ain't the last I'm going to see of Jackson Channing." - Page 80

Mama to Savannah: "When you love somebody, you got to set 'em free. If they love you, they'll come back."
"Daddy didn't come back," I whisper.
"No, he didn't," she says real quiet. "And maybe that was for the best."
- Page 125

Denny Caterpillar, DC - You'll get it when you read the book.

I go hide in my room and read through some printouts I made at the library about course choices for that program in the mountains. I know it's only dreaming. But I reckon if you go on and act like something is real, sometimes it just believes you. Next thing you know, there it is staring you in the face. - Page 173

Savannah's mother gives a great speech on pages 211-212 about not wanting handouts from others. The speech includes her not wanting to have to thank "those same folks whose faces, full of pity, I'd been forced to thank for their broken games all those years. [... I] promised myself we wouldn't never take a handout or let nobody drown us in their pity ever again, not so long as there's air in my lungs."

The book has some really nice chapter closures, such as:
Suddenly, I feel so happy, it seems like I got the opposite of asthma, like I got more air in my lungs than I know what to do with. - Page 222

"You hold my dream. I hold yours." - Jackson to Savannah, Page 244 - "You got to know that you can breathe all on your own."</i>

Spoilers - Highlight to read - [ Savannah ultimately realizes she has to find out if she can breathe on her own and be her own cure, not wait for somebody to come and rescue her like her mom waited for her dad for 12 long years.

Here are the final lines of the book.

Then up out of nowhere comes one of my too-true feelings. Even though everything is going all right, the sense I get is that what's on the way is even better. I imagine me and Jackson strolling down the beach together when I get home. Only the me in my mind has changed somehow -- in a way only I can discern. It's in the way I hold myself, in the tilt of my head, in the easy swell of my lungs, 'cause what's different is who I am inside. That new me there has a knowing this me here doesn't quite have a grasp on yet, a knowing that comes from scaling my own mountain, a knowing that comes from breathing -- all on my own. - Page 262
] - Here endeth the spoilers.

If you're a Sarah Dessen fan, you should read Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbsman. Now.

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30. Quotes: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

I read A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly nearly five years ago, when it was a readergirlz book selection. Planning to write a review, I took notes, but the paper filled with quotes rather than commentary. When I happened upon those quotes today, I thought I'd share them here see which of my readers also read and enjoyed the book. Let me know in the comments below!

"It was a strange feeling -- worrisome and exciting all at once. Weanxilicious?" - Page 186
...to which I added, Hello, portmanteau!

"Emily Baxter's poems made my head hurt." - Page 208
Spoiler alert: Emily ends up being her teacher.

Weaver smiled a sad smile. "You know, Matt," he said. "Sometimes I wish there really was such a thing as a happy ending."
"Sometimes there is. Depends on who's writing the story."
"I mean in real life. Not in stories."
- Page 366

Mattie considers Paradise Lost:
It was a dreadful thing that he did, and he is not to be admired for it, but right then I felt I understood why he did it. I even felt a little sorry for him. He probably just wanted some company, for it is very lonely knowing things. - Page 372

I know it is a bad thing to break a promise, but I think now that it is a worse thing to let a promise break you. - Page 374

When Weaver asks her why she's going now, she tells him, "Because Grace Brown can't." - Page 376

She considers turning back, but:
There's no going back once you're already gone. - Page 377

All page numbers refer to the hardcover edition.

One of my notes that was not a quote. I wrote, "Mattie has a dictionary that her mother bought - her mother saved up money to get it. Mattie looks up a word a day." I took note of this because when I was very little, my mother gave me my own small dictionary so I'd be able to look up words whenever I happened upon one I didn't know yet. Due to both its size and its importance, that dictionary was the top-most book on my stack of reference materials for years.

Related posts at Bildungsroman
Roundtable: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

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31. Preview: Ed Emberley Monograph

Designer Todd Oldham, who has compiled impressive monographs on mid-century illustrators and designers like Charley Harper and Alexander Girard, looks to have made something special again with his book on Ed Emberley.

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32. San Diego, here we come

Ever since last year’s American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature meeting in Baltimore, the Religion and Bibles team at Oxford University Press has eagerly awaited San Diego in 2014. As we gear up to travel to the west coast, we asked our staff across divisions and offices: What is on your to-do list while in San Diego?

Tom Perridge, Academic/Trade, UK:
I’m looking forward to returning to San Diego, having previously visited for the 2007 AAR/SBL. Oxford is cold, grey, and autumnal at the moment, so some Californian sunshine will be welcome! It’s always a pleasure to connect with both authors and readers and to cook up ideas for exciting new projects.

Don Kraus, Bibles, US:
As part of my task in publishing Oxford Study Bibles, I am meeting with the editorial boards of various projects in order to keep them moving along. I also hope to see some of the scholars I’ve worked with over the past years, just to catch up and have a chance to hear how they are doing. I look forward to meeting, either again or for the first time, as many scholars as possible who have worked on the second edition of The Jewish Study Bible, our brand-new, fully revised and updated revision of a text that’s already a classic.

Steve Wiggins, Academic/Trade and Bibles, US:
I hope to meet a long-lost cousin (literally!), as well as authors I’ve only met by email. Of course, seeing people I’ve known over the past two decades of attending is always a highlight. It’s all about the people.

Sara McNamara, Journals, US:
Though spending as much time outside exploring San Diego’s parks and beaches is definitely a priority, number one on my to-do list is a breakfast event for journals editors I’ve organized with the AAR and SBL. The breakfast will provide a rare opportunity for religious, biblical, and theological studies journals editors to come together to discuss the unique challenges facing journals and their editors. Emceed by Amir Hussain, the editor of Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the breakfast promises to be both fun and informative.

Gina Chung, Academic/Trade, US:
This year will not only be my first time at AAR, but also my first time in San Diego! I’m really excited to meet our authors in person, and I’m looking forward to getting some sun and 70 degree weather in November as well.

Alyssa Bender, Academic/Trade and Bibles, US:
I can’t wait to meet this year’s new batch of authors at the meeting, and hopefully snap some pictures of them with their books. I’m also excited to explore the city and find some fun restaurants! Hopefully at least one with outdoor seating—have to take advantage of the beautiful San Diego weather!

We hope to see you at Oxford University Press booth 829! We’ll be offering the chance to:

  • Check out which books we’re featuring.
  • Browse and buy our new and bestselling titles on display at a 20% conference discount.
  • Peruse our conference ebook promotion (up to 90% off!)
  • Get free trial access to our suite of online products.
  • Pick up sample copies of our latest religion journals.
  • Enter giveaways for free OUP books.
  • Meet all of us!

See you there!

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33. The Republican view on bipartisanship

Anyone who expects bipartisanship in the wake of last Tuesday’s elections has not been paying attention. The Republican Party does not believe in a two-party system that includes the Democrats, and it never has. Ever since the Civil War, when the Republicans were convinced that their Democratic opposition was in treacherous league with the Confederacy, the Grand Old Party in season and out has doubted the legitimacy of the Democrats to hold power. While the Republicans have accepted the results of national elections as facts they could not change, they have not believed that the Democrats were ever legitimately holding power. Democratic victories, in the minds of Republicans, are the result of fraud and abuse.

Consider some examples: In 1876, Republicans in New York said the Democratic party was “the same in character and spirit as when it sympathized with treason.” Half a century later, speaking of Woodrow Wilson, Henry Cabot Lodge told the 1920 Republican national convention that “Mr. Wilson stands for a theory of administration and government which is not American.” When Senator Joseph R. McCarthy spoke of “twenty years of treason” in the 1950s, he was not joking. He meant the statement as literal fact. So too did an aide to George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he observed, “We are America. These other people are not America.”

So when Rush Limbaugh comments that “Democrats were not elected to govern,” or Leon H. Wolf of Redstate says Democrats “should not be even be invited to be part of the discussion lest their gangrenous, festering and destructive ideas should further infect our caucus,” they are reflecting an attitude toward the Democrats that is at least a century and a half old.

If, as many Republicans believe, there are elements of illegitimacy and evil in the Democratic Party under the leadership of President Obama, then a posture of intense resistance become a necessary GOP tactic. Meeting the threat that the Democrats pose in terms of such issues as same-sex marriage, climate change   and immigration reform requires going beyond politics as usual and employing any means necessary to save the nation.

For contemporary Republicans, scorched earth tactics and all-out opposition seem the appropriate response to the presence of a pretender in the White House who in their minds is pursuing the collapse of the American republic. There no longer exists between Republicans and Democrats a rough consensus about the purpose of the United States.

RNC 2008
The 2008 Republican National Convention. Photo part of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

How has it come to this? A long review of both political parties suggests that the experience of the Civil War introduced a flaw into American democracy that was never resolved or recognized. The Republicans regarded the wartime flirtation of some Democrats with the Confederacy as evidence of treason. So it may have been at that distant time. What rendered that conclusion toxic was the perpetuation of the idea of Democratic illegitimacy and betrayal long after 1865.

After their extended years in the wilderness during the New Deal, Republicans reasserted their presidential dominance, with a few Democratic interruptions from 1952 to 1992. Republicans thus saw in the ascendancy of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and the two Bushes a return to the proper order of politics in which the Republicans were destined to be in charge and Democrats to occupy a position of perennial deference outside of Congress.

Then the unthinkable happened. Not just a Democrat but a black Democrat won the White House. The southern-based Republican Party saw its worst fears coming true. A man with a foreign-sounding name, an equivocal religious background, and a black skin was president and pursuing what were to most Republicans sinister goals. Under his administration, blacks became assertive, gays married, the poor got health care, and the wealthy faced both a lack of due respect and a claim on their income.

The Republican allegiance to traditional democratic practices now seemed to them outmoded in this national crisis. Americans could not really have elected Barack Obama and put his party in control of the destiny of the nation. Such an outcome must be illegitimate. And what is the remedy for illegitimacy, treason, and godlessness? To quote Leon Wolf again: “Working with these people is not what America elected you to do. Republicans, it elected you to stop them.” Pundits who forecast a new era of bipartisanship comparable to what Dwight D. Eisenhower, Everett Dirksen, Sam Rayburn, and Lyndon B. Johnson achieved in the 1950s are living in a nostalgic dream world. Richard Nixon viewed politics as war and contemporary Republicans will proceed to explore the validity of his insight over the next two years. For the American voter, clinging to the naive notion of the parties working together, each taking part of the loaf, the best guide may be Bette Davis in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Featured image: Members of the Republican Party gather at the 1900 National Convention. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The post The Republican view on bipartisanship appeared first on OUPblog.

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34. Normally, This Would be Cause for Concern by Danielle Fishel

Looking for something fun to read this weekend? Pick up Normally, This Would be Cause for Concern: Tales of Calamity and Unrelenting Awkwardness by Danielle Fishel. This delightful memoir is in the same vein of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling: lighthearted, funny, and honest.

Normally, This Would be Cause for Concern is packed with anecdotes. Some are related to the entertainment industry (including my favorite bit, which I'll quote in the footnotes) and if you've followed Danielle's career from Boy Meets World to Girl Meets World, you definitely need this book, but you don't have to be a lifelong/diehard fan of hers to enjoy this memoir. Most of her stories are about finding the humor and joy in life. There's a chapter dealing with life as a klutz. She talks about balancing school with work when she was a kid, then going back to school and enrolling in college in her late twenties. She details job interviews, both in casting offices and retail stores, and the perils of dating and dealing with social media. No matter what she's discussing, Fishel's love for her family (including her parents, her husband, and their dogs) and her appreciation for her friends, teachers, mentors, and fans is clear.

My favorite Fishel anecdote deals with an audition which includes the line, "Can't you see I want to do more than pour cold milk on your head?" Danielle told this story at Worst Audition Ever, a live event which you may watch online via YouTube. I dare you to watch that and not say the line the same way she does...over and over again. It's hilarious.

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35. On World Diabetes Day, a guide to managing diabetes during the holidays

The International Diabetes Foundation has marked 14 November as World Diabetes Day, commemorating the date that Frederick Banting and his team first discovered insulin, and the link between it and diabetic symptoms.

As we approach the festive season, a time of year when indulgence and comfort are positively encouraged, keeping track of, or even thinking about blood glucose levels can become a difficult and annoying task. If good diabetic practice relies on building routines suited to the way your blood sugar levels change throughout the day, then the holidays can prove a big disruption to the task of keeping diabetes firmly in the background. With this in mind, take a look at this list of tips, facts, and advice taken from Diabetes by David Matthews, Niki Meston, Pam Dyson, Jenny Shaw, Laurie King, and Aparna Pal to help you stay in control and happy throughout the festive months:

  • Eat regularly. When big occasions cause your portion sizes to increase alarmingly, it’s tempting to skip or put off other meals. But eating large amounts at irregular intervals can cause blood glucose levels to rise significantly. For many, it’s better to snack throughout the day, including some starchy rather than sugary carbohydrates, promoting slow glucose release into the bloodstream.
  • Alternate drinks. Big dinners, big nights, and family days are likely to mean you consume more alcohol than normal. Alternating alcoholic drinks with diet drinks, soda, or mineral water can minimize their effect on blood glucose levels, so you can stay out, and keep up, without worrying.
  • Help your liver. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, an organ that also helps release glucose into the bloodstream when levels start to drop. After drinking, the liver is busy processing alcohol, so cannot release glucose as effectively. This increases the risk of hypoglycaemia, especially in people who take insulin or sulphonylurea tablets. To combat this risk, try to avoid drinking on an empty stomach, or eat starchy foods when drinking. You may also need to snack before bed if you’re drinking in the evening.
  • Eat more, exercise more. Regular activity can have major benefits on your diabetes, making the insulin you produce or inject work more efficiently. Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise will have positive effects, and are excellent ways of giving you a mental boost (though blood glucose levels should be monitored). Many symptoms of hypos are similar to those of exercise, such as hotness, sweating or an increased heart rate. Check blood glucose levels regularly and make necessary adjustments; fruit contains natural sugar and is a healthy way of quickly raising levels.
  • Go for your New Year’s resolution. Losing five to ten percent of your starting weight can have a positive impact on your diabetes, not to mention your overall health. Although exercise and eating well are of course promoted by all as the best way to lose weight, there is no medical consensus on one ideal way to achieve weight loss. The key lies in finding an effective approach that you can maintain. Remember that insulin can slow down weight loss, and if you are trying to lose weight, but find you’re having hypos, you’ll need to adjust your medication. Discuss this with your healthcare team.
  • Check Labels. Sodium isn’t synonymous with salt, but many food manufacturers often list sodium rather than salt content on food packaging. To convert a sodium figure into salt, you need to multiply the amount of sodium by 2.5. (For example: A large 12 inch cheese and tomato pizza provides 3.6 g of sodium. 3.6 multiplied by 2.5 is 9, so, the pizza contains approximately 9g of salt; one and a half times the recommended maximum of 6g.)
  • Don’t worry! Although a good routine is important, occasional lapses shouldn’t have a drastic effect on blood glucose levels (though this varies from person to person). Pick up a healthy routine in the New Year, when you’ll feel most motivated, and stick to it. The World Health Organization estimates over 200 million people will have type 2 diabetes by the year 2015, but (according to the international diabetes foundation) over 70% of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented by adopting healthier lifestyles. Healthy living is not just a supplement, but part of the treatment of diabetes.

Heading image: Christmas Eve by Carl Larsson. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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36. Immigration and emigration: taking the long-term perspective for our better health

Immigration is an inflammatory matter and probably always has been. Immigrant groups, with few exceptions, have to endure the brickbats of prejudice of the recipient population. Emigration, by contrast, hardly troubles people — but the departure of one’s people is not a trifling matter. I wonder why these differential responses occur. It seems to me that humans are highly territorial and territory signifies resources and power. Immigration usually means sharing of resources, at least in the short-term, while emigration means more for those left behind and brings hope of acquiring even more from overseas in the long term. This might explain why those most needy of settled immigrant status — asylum seekers, the persecuted or denigrated, and the poor — are most resisted while those least in need of immigration status, such as the rich, are often welcomed.

Notwithstanding, consternation about migration it is rapidly leading to diverse, multiethnic and multicultural nations across the world. Many people dislike the changes this brings but it is hard to see what they are to do except change themselves. The forces for migration are strong, for example, globalization of trade and education, increasing inequalities in wealth and employment opportunities, and changing demography whereby rich economies are needing younger migrants to keep them functioning.

Whether you are a migrant (like me) or the host to migrants it is wise to remember that migration is a fundamental human behavior that is instrumental to the success of the human species. Without migration Homo sapiens would be confined to East Africa, and other species (or variants of humans — all now extinct) would be enjoying the bounties of other continents. Surely, migration will continue to bring many benefits to humanity in the future.

Harmony Day by DIAC images. CC BY 2.0 via  Wikimedia Commons
Harmony Day by DIAC images. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

My special research interest is in the comparative health of migrants and their offspring, who together comprise ethnic (or racial, as preferred in some countries) minority groups. There is a remarkable variation in the pattern of diseases (and the factors that cause diseases) among migrant and ethnic groups and very often the minorities are faring better than the recipient populations. Probing these patterns scientifically, especially in the discipline of epidemiology, which describes and interprets the occurrence of disease in large populations, helps in understanding the causes of disease. There are opportunities to apply such learning to improve the health of the whole population; migrants, minorities and settled majority populations alike.

Let me share with you three observations from my research areas that help illustrate this point, one concerns heart disease and diabetes, another colorectal cancer, and the third smoking in pregnancy. Coronary heart disease (CHD) and its major co-disease type 2 diabetes (DM2) have been studied intensively but still some mysteries remain. The white Scottish people are especially notorious for their tendency to CHD. Our studies in Scotland have shown that the recently settled Pakistani origin population has much higher CHD rates than white Scottish people. Amazingly, the recently settled Chinese origin population has much lower rates of CHD than the white Scottish people. These intriguing observations raise both scientific questions and give pointers to public health. If we could all enjoy the CHD rates of the Chinese in Scotland the public’s health would be hugely improved.

Intriguingly, although colorectal cancer, heart disease and diabetes share risk factors (especially high fat, low fibre diet) we found that Pakistani people in Scotland had much lower risks than the white Scottish Group. This makes us re-think what we know about the causes of this cancer. In our scientific paper we put forward the idea that Pakistani people may be protected by their comparatively low consumption of processed meats (fresh meat is commonly eaten).

Might the high risk of CHD in Pakistani populations in Scotland be a result of heavier tobacco use? The evidence shows that while the smoking prevalence in Pakistani men is about the same as in white men, the prevalence in Pakistani women is very low. Smoking in white Scottish woman, even in pregnancy, is about 25% but it is close to nil in pregnant Pakistani women. This raises interesting questions about the cultural and environmental circumstances that maintain high or low use of tobacco in populations. These observations raise public health challenges of a high order — how can we maintain the cultures that lead to low tobacco use in some ethnic groups while altering the cultures that lead to high tobacco use in others?

The intermingling of migrants and settled populations creates new societies that provide innumerable opportunities for learning and advancement. While my examples are from the health arena, the same is true for other fields: education, entrepreneurship, social capital, crime, and child rearing to name a few. This historical perspective on human migration, evolution and advancement can benefit our health, as well as providing a foundation to contextualize the challenges and changes we face.

Heading image: People migrating to Italy on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea by Vito Manzari from Martina Franca (TA), Italy (Immigrati Lampedusa). CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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37. The Hudson Prize and Blood: Stories

 
The first book written for adults that I ever coveted and loved and read to pieces was a short story collection: Stephen King's Night Shift, from which my cousin read me stories when we were both probably much too young, and which was one of the first books I ever bought myself. Ever since then, short story collections have seemed to me the most wonderful of all books.

I started publishing short stories professionally with "Getting a Date for Amelia" back in 2001. I barely remember the kid who wrote it (in the summer of 2000). I'm not a prolific fiction writer; I've been lucky enough to publish most of the stories I've written in the last decade or so, but I average only two stories a year. Fiction is the hardest thing in the world for me to write. Some stories have taken many years to find a final form. The kid who wrote "Getting a Date for Amelia" also managed to write a novel; it was mostly terrible (or, rather, not terrible, which might be interesting. Just nothing at all special. Rather boring, in fact. An extraordinarily useful exercise, though, dragging yourself through a novel-length piece of writing, even if the end result isn't all that great). I like fragments and miniatures too much to ever write a proper novel, I expect.

And—

What? Get on with it? Ah.

Yes, I am dithering here.

Because I am about to write a sentence that still feels unreal, though I've been writing various forms of it into emails to friends for a little while now:

I am the 2014 winner of the Hudson Prize from Black Lawrence Press for an unpublished manuscript titled Blood: Stories that will be published by BLP in January 2016.

The book will mostly contain reprints, and finally bring together all of the stories I've published since 2001 that are 1.) worth bringing together and that 2.) play well with each other. There are also a few unpublished stories, ones that I've never found the right home for but that felt to me like they belonged with the others, both gained and added context from/to the others, and were worth publishing. The editors at Black Lawrence Press agreed. One of the things I love about story collections is the way they can recontextualize stories, and the greatest excitement for me of this collection is that it will finally allow stories that have been scattered across a wide range of publications over many years to speak to each other.

I'm also incredibly excited to have found a publisher that is excited by what some others have considered either a fault or danger of the collection: its breadth of genres and styles. Perhaps out of sheer stubbornness and delusion, I was convinced that I could not be the only person on Earth to think the overall perspective of the work would create a coherence beyond genre or tone, that there was, in fact, a persistence of voice and vision. That's what the BLP editors told me attracted them to the manuscript, and when they said that, I knew I'd found what may be the perfect publisher for my work.

So I am excited. Beyond excited. I don't have words to convey the feeling of achieving something I've work toward for so long, something I often gave up hope of ever achieving. I wanted to write this post not only to let the world know the news, but also to preserve this moment so that, working through the more difficult parts of the experience (oh gawd, people might write reviews!), I can look back and remember what it felt like to be at this moment of triumphant possibility.

And to thank you, whoever you may be, who felt that it was worth some bits of your time and attention to read my words. I hope to continue to reward your interest.

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38. On Not Finishing Books

Did any of you catch the recent article at The Atlantic online Finish That Book!? The article’s author, Juliet Lapidos, argues that we should finish reading every book we start. To that I say no way lady. I spent half my life believing I had to finish every book I began reading and don’t even want to try to calculate how many hours of unhappiness slogging through a book I was not enjoying has caused me. I can, however, tell you that it did not make me a better person in any way in spite of Lapidos’ belief that it does.

Lapidos thinks that too many people give up on books too soon. She has had personal experience in which she has kept reading a book she did not like only to find that by the end of it she liked it very much. I dunno, to me this sounds like the bookish equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome. If you have spent a large chunk of time reading 700 pages of a book you did not like, of course by the time you are done with it you will be looking for a way to justify all that time and effort because you don’t want to admit that yeah, you should have given up on page 35 after all.

Lapidos gives a number of reasons why one should never give up on a book. They are:

  1. Pleasure. Because you never know when it might get good.
  2. Fortitude. Finishing a book you don’t like makes you stronger by building up your ability to “endure intellectual anguish.”
  3. Respect. The author worked really hard to write that book and it is only right to respect their efforts and see it through to the end no matter what.

The only time you should ever stop reading a book is if it is utter trash. But then you should avoid reading trash entirely anyway so really this is a non-issue. Right.

Lapidos takes a reading-as-broccoli approach. Books are not broccoli. Want to kill a love of reading in someone? Tell them to read a book because it is good for them.

I know a book might get good eventually. Or it might not. Sometimes I am not willing to find out. Sometimes there is just enough of something about a book that makes me willing to stick with it in spite of my misgivings. And sometimes I am glad I kept going and sometimes I am not.

I don’t think there is any merit to being able to endure intellectual anguish. What’s the point of making yourself miserable? Is there some special award that comes with cash and chocolate I don’t know about?

As for respect, sure writing a book is hard but that doesn’t mean a person deserves respect. An author needs to earn my respect, I don’t give it automatically just because they spent five lonely years writing a novel. That was their choice, though now and then I wonder if it perhaps may not have been a sign of insanity and a cry for help.

I know there are plenty of readers who slog their way to the end of a book because they feel guilty for giving up on it. I have felt that guilt too and can totally relate. But as I have gotten older and realized I have gained very little benefit from that guilt, I have managed to cut myself some slack and give up on books I am not enjoying. If Lapidos prefers to read until the bitter end that’s no skin off my teeth, she can do what she wants to with her books. She just shouldn’t be telling me what I should do with mine.


Filed under: Books, Reading

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39. Recently Received

John Alcorn: Evolution of Design

We’ve received some wonderful titles this week and i’m excited to share them. Included are entries from Pointed Leaf Press, Moleskine, Kat Ran Press, Buro Destruct, Princeton Architectural Press and Chronicle Books. See all the books and images after the jump.

 

John Alcorn: Evolution of Design

John Alcorn: Evolution of Design

John Alcorn: Evolution by Design

John Alcorn: Evolution of Design

John Alcorn: Evolution by Design
By Moleskine
288 Pages / “9 x 11.5″

A never-before released overview of one of the most versatile designers of the 20th century, replete with revealing essays and several hundred images spanning over 4 decades, from the artist’s formative years to his untimely death at age 56. Containing an extensive account of Alcorn’s vast creative output, from posters, book illustrations, painting, advertising and design – accompanied by personal anecdotes and critical essays – the intricacy of his illustrations, the magic of his psychedelic imagery and the elegance of his execution unfold with every turn of the page.

Available at Amazon and Moleskine

 

Uncomprising Expression - Blue Note book

Uncomprising Expression - Blue Note book

Uncomprising Expression - Blue Note book

Uncomprising Expression - Blue Note book

Uncomprising Expression - Blue Note book

Uncomprising Expression - Blue Note book

Uncomprising Expression - Blue Note book

Blue Note : Uncompromising Expression
By Richard Haves / Published by Chronicle Books
400 Pages / 8.5″ x 11 7/8

Published for Blue Note’s seventy-fifth anniversary, this landmark volume is the first official illustrated story of the label, from 1939 roots to its renaissance today. Featuring classic album artwork, unseen contact sheets, rare ephemera from the Blue Note Archives, commentary from some of the biggest names in jazz today, and feature reviews of seventy-five key albums, this is the definitive book on the legendary label.

Available at Amazon, Chronicle Books and your local book shop.

Hand in Hand: Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman

Hand in Hand: Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman

Hand in Hand: Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman

Hand in Hand: Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman

Hand in Hand: Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman

Hand in Hand: Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman

Hand-in-Hand: Ceramics, Mosaics, Tapestries, and Woodcarvings by the California Mid-Century Designers Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman
By Dan Chavkin and Lisa Thackaberry / Published by Pointed Leaf Press
240 Pages

Hand-In-Hand: Ceramics, Mosaics, Tapestries, Woodcarvings by the California Mid-Century Designers Evelyn & Jerome Ackerman is the first monograph of the artists whose oeuvre was critically influential and is now seen as the epitome of California mid-century modernism. With a preface by Jonathan Adler, the book tracks the couple’s careers in the decorative arts from their beginnings to the creation of Jenev Design Studio and its eventual shift to ERA Industries, as well as their involvement in every prestigious California Design exhibition from 1954 to 1976.

Available at Amazon, Pointed Leaf Press and your local book shop.

 

Myopia - Mark Mothersbaugh

Myopia - Mark Mothersbaugh

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia
Edited by Adam Lerner, Foreword by Wes Anderson / Published by Princeton Architectural Press
240 Pages / 8.5″ x 10.5″

Mark Mothersbaugh is a legendary figure for fans of both street art and music culture. Cofounder of the seminal New Wave band DEVO, he was a prolific visual artist before the band’s inception moving seamlessly between multiple mediums creating bold, cartoonish, strangely disturbed works of pop surrealism that playfully explore the relationship between technology and individuality. In the most comprehensive presentation of his work to date, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia features a lifetime of his creative inventions from the beginning of his artistic career in the 1970s to his most recent work, including early postcards, screen prints, decals, and DEVO ephemera as well as later paintings, photographs (such as the celebrated Beautiful Mutants series), sculpture, and rugs.

Available at Amazon, PA Press and your local book shop

 

Ivan Chermayeff: Why Stamps?

Ivan Chermayeff: Why Stamps?

Why? Stamps by Ivan Chermayeff
Published by Kat Ran Press
12 Pages / 8″x9″

A good graphic designer pays attention to small things, and there are few things smaller than stamps. Ivan Chermayeff has been paying attention. For almost fifty years the acclaimed graphic designer has been making collages—and in those collages stamps and mail have played an important role. Envelopes are heads. Stamps are eyes and lips. However, one could be forgiven for never having noticed this, as the whole in Chermayeff’s collages is greater than the parts.

In Why Stamps? Chermayeff calls attention to the parts with a brief essay on postage stamps and a selection of fourteen collages which use stamps and mail to the best possible effect. Also shown are two of Chermayeff’s smallest cut-paper collages: Stamps for the USPS and Royal Mail.

Available at Kat Ran Press

Buro Destruct Tribler

Buro Destruct Tribler

Buro Destruct Tribler

Buro Destruct Tribler

Buro Destruct Tribler

 Tribler Book
By Buro Destruct / Foreword by Gregor M. Wildermann
96 Pages

The Tribler book characterizes, documents and catalogs twenty mythical creatures, idols and demons of the Tribler clan, based on text and image material. With a generous dose of humour it reflects on the attitude of the Buro Destruct.

The graphic designers from Bern explore their origins and the things that inspired them over the years. According to latest excavations, it seems as if every single Tribler symbolizes a working year of the graphic design collective. This mystery is particularly apparent in the form of artifacts and sources of inspiration on the respective double page after each Tribler characte

Available at Buro Destruct

 

Experience Passport

Experience Passport: 45 Ways to Broaden Your Horizons
By Alex Egner
64 Pages / 4.5″ x 7″

This pocket-sized passport guides users to have more life-enriching experiences with dozens of creative prompts. Take a different path to work or school every day for a week, make two works of art in different media, or subscribe to a new magazine. With space to record observations, the passport becomes a record of these priceless experiences.

Available at Amazon, Chronicle Books and your local book shop.

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.

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40. The Civil War in five senses

Historians are tasked with recreating days past, setting vivid scenes that bring the past to the present. Mark M. Smith, author of The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War, engages all five senses to recall the roar of canon fire at Vicksburg, the stench of rotting corpses in Gettysburg, and many more of the sights and sounds of battle. In doing so, Smith creates a multi-dimensional vision of the Civil War and captures the human experience during wartime. Here, Smith speaks to how our senses work to inform our understanding of history and why the Civil War was a singular sensory event.

Sensory overload in the Civil War

Using sensory history to understand the past

How the Civil War transformed taste

Headline image credit: The Siege of Vicksburg. Litograph by Kurz and Allison, 1888. Public domain via the Library of Congress.

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41. Just Judy or Maybe Not!

Just Judy sounded like a catchy kind of title when I started to write this, but that was before most of the Judy annuals in stock sold. I'm now down to the last three hence the title - Just Judy – or maybe not! 

Judy for girls, 1970;  Lots of stories and picture strips including Fay Farrell nurse, Skinflint School and The Dreams of Alwyn.  Judy for girls, 1962;  Lots of colourful picture strip stories, including Sandra and the Sleeping Beauty (a ballet story), Backstage Betty, Heather in Italy, Joan all-alone, Millicent Churl, Colleen and the last witch, Tricky Trixie and Lillian Dobby. Also full-length stories, including big sister, Anna junior miss, the Queens' champion and Val of the Valley (district nurse story).  Judy for girls, 1966First picture strip story Sandra and the snow ballet, others include Penny the post, The Bolshoi Ballet, Fay Farrell emergency nurse, Polly and her pram and Robin Redbreast of Roxell.

Lucie Attwell's Annual, 1974;  Lots of fairies, Boo-Boos and other pretty things. Illustrations by Mabel Lucie Attwell stories by Penelope Douglas. Teddy Tail Annual, 1954First story the giant butterfly other stories include scarecrows' day, Bobby Bear's Saturday sixpence, and Tottie's swimming pool.  Lots of other Teddy Tail Annuals in stock. Bobby Bear  Annual, 1943First story A day's sport by Aunt Kitsie, other stories include Flowers for the colonel by Gwen Thornber, the wicked uncle by May Sullivan, Mr. Prickety changes his face by Christine E Bradley, M'Zooba of the river by W. H. Morris and a lucky escape by Maud Morin. Lots more Bobby Bear Annuals in stock.  

British Legion Children's Annual,;  Undated c1930s published by Dean, 6 La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill. Deans resided at 6 La Belle Sauvage from 1933 to 1938 so that dates this annual.  First story the smuggler's cave by M. Ransome, other stories include Brown Minor's mistake by M. Gay, the lost boat by Margaret G Rhodes, Red vengeance by M. R. Sherlock, the mysterious highwayman by Arthur Groom, the wolf and the werewolf by Roma Lobel, Dixon's banishment by Eva Gray and every fag has his day by William R Bawden. We have this and one other British Legion Annual in stock at time of writing.  

TV Comic, 1959First story Muffin a tough carrot there is a second Muffin the Mule story called Muffin and the conjurer's rabbit both by Neville Main. Several picture strips, including Bengo by Tim, Bom the little drummer boy by Enid Blyton, and Lenny the lion, also full-length  stories, including Prudence Kitten's nursery school by Molly Blake. A lovely annual just full of memories.  Okay Adventure AnnualUndated c1959. First story - Order to Wellington by John Southcombe illustrated by D. May, other stories include the sea witch by D. L. G. Stainton, the glittering God of N'gai by John Southcombe and the air pirates by D. L. G. Stainton. Other Okay Adventure annuals in stock.  School Friend, 1972Lovely vintage annual, full of stories and picture strips. First picture strip story- the ugly duckling (how Maryon Blake, of St. Winifred's became a Swan thanks to a well-known ballerina), other picture strips stories include the house of dolls, Gail Gulliver, and Bessie Bunter.

Jolly Gnomes Annual, 1951First story the unhappy giant by Samuel Jeans other stories include - fun in the hayfield by Vera Bedford, the old woman and her husband by M. C. Haskins, and Father Christmas and the remarkable snowman by Cledwyn Hughes. There are also picture strips and puzzle pages. Very pretty illustrations by Ern Shaw in full colour and two tone. Sport for Girls, 1951;  Delightful annual, centre section with 16 full-page colour drawings of ladies in sport from 1851 to 1951 drawn by William Bromage also numerous black-and-white  photographs.   Japhet & the ArkubsA British newspaper cartoon strip originally appearing in the Daily News as the Adventures of the Noah Family. This book contains picture strips and stories about the Noah Family who all live at The Ark, Ararat Avenue, London. While their two dogs, a bear, a cat and a goat live in the Little Ark in the back garden. Nice example of a very hard to find title, undated but c1928. 


If you would like further details of the featured annuals please follow the links or visit  March House Books 


I made my first purchase from an Etsy shop last week. The shop in question belongs to my lovely blogging friend Diane. I can’t show you what’s in the parcel because it’s a Christmas present for my sister (shush!) but I can show you the care Diane took with the wrapping and the lovely card that came with it. Diane's Etsy shop is here

I hope your days are filled with sunshine and pretty things...  

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42. Patterns in physics

The aim of physics is to understand the world we live in. Given its myriad of objects and phenomena, understanding means to see connections and relations between what may seem unrelated and very different. Thus, a falling apple and the Moon in its orbit around the Earth. In this way, many things “fall into place” in terms of a few basic ideas, principles (laws of physics) and patterns.

As with many an intellectual activity, recognizing patterns and analogies, and metaphorical thinking are essential also in physics. James Clerk Maxwell, one of the greatest physicists, put it thus: “In a pun, two truths lie hid under one expression. In an analogy, one truth is discovered under two expressions.”

Indeed, physics employs many metaphors, from a pendulum’s swing and a coin’s two-sidedness, examples already familiar in everyday language, to some new to itself. Even the familiar ones acquire additional richness through the many physical systems to which they are applied. In this, physics uses the language of mathematics, itself a study of patterns, but with a rigor and logic not present in everyday languages and a universality that stretches across lands and peoples.

Rigor is essential because analogies can also mislead, be false or fruitless. In physics, there is an essential tension between the analogies and patterns we draw, which we must, and subjecting them to rigorous tests. The rigor of mathematics is invaluable but, more importantly, we must look to Nature as the final arbiter of truth. Our conclusions need to fit observation and experiment. Physics is ultimately an experimental subject.

Physics is not just mathematics, leave alone as some would have it, that the natural world itself is nothing but mathematics. Indeed, five centuries of physics are replete with instances of the same mathematics describing a variety of different physical phenomena. Electromagnetic and sound waves share much in common but are not the same thing, indeed are fundamentally different in many respects. Nor are quantum wave solutions of the Schroedinger equation the same even if both involve the same Laplacian operator.

maths
Advanced Theoretical Physics by Marvin (PA). CC-BY-NC-2.0 via mscolly Flickr.

Along with seeing connections between seemingly different phenomena, physics sees the same thing from different points of view. Already true in classical physics, quantum physics made it even more so. For Newton, or in the later Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations that physicists use, positions and velocities (or momenta) of the particles involved are given at some initial instant and the aim of physics is to describe the state at a later instant. But, with quantum physics (the uncertainty principle) forbidding simultaneous specification of position and momentum, the very meaning of the state of a physical system had to change. A choice has to be made to describe the state either in terms of positions or momenta.

Physicists use the word “representation” to describe these alternatives that are like languages in everyday parlance. Just as with languages, where one needs some language (with all equivalent) not only to communicate with others but even in one’s own thinking, so also in physics. One can use the “position representation” or the “momentum representation” (or even some other), each capable of giving a complete description of the physical system. The underlying reality itself, and most physicists believe that there is one, lies in none of these representations, indeed residing in a complex space in the mathematical sense of complex versus real numbers. The state of a system in quantum physics is in such a complex “wave function”, which can be thought of either in position or momentum space.

Either way, the wave function is not directly accessible to us. We have no wave function meters. Since, by definition, anything that is observed by our experimental apparatus and readings on real dials, is real, these outcomes access the underlying reality in what we call the “classical limit”. In particular, the step into real quantities involves a squared modulus of the complex wave functions, many of the phases of these complex functions getting averaged (blurred) out. Many so-called mysteries of quantum physics can be laid at this door. It is as if a literary text in its ur-language is inaccessible, available to us only in one or another translation.

orbit
In Orbit by Dave Campbell. CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0 via limowreck666 Flickr.

What we understand by a particle such as an electron, defined as a certain lump of mass, charge, and spin angular momentum and recognized as such by our electron detectors is not how it is for the underlying reality. Our best current understanding in terms of quantum field theory is that there is a complex electron field (as there is for a proton or any other entity), a unit of its excitation realized as an electron in the detector. The field itself exists over all space and time, these being “mere” markers or parameters for describing the field function and not locations where the electron is at an instant as had been understood ever since Newton.

Along with the electron, nearly all the elementary particles that make up our Universe manifest as particles in the classical limit. Only two, electrically neutral, zero mass bosons (a term used for particles with integer values of spin angular momentum in terms of the fundamental quantum called Planck’s constant) that describe electromagnetism and gravitation are realized as classical electric and magnetic or gravitational fields. The very words particle and wave, as with position and momentum, are meaningful only in the classical limit. The underlying reality itself is indifferent to them even though, as with languages, we have to grasp it in terms of one or the other representation and in this classical limit.

The history of physics may be seen as progressively separating what are incidental markers or parameters used for keeping track through various representations from what is essential to the physics itself. Some of this is immediate; others require more sophisticated understanding that may seem at odds with (classical) common sense and experience. As long as that is kept clearly in mind, many mysteries and paradoxes are dispelled, seen as artifacts of our pushing our models and language too far and “identifying” them with the underlying reality, one in principle out of reach. We hope our models and pictures get progressively better, approaching that underlying reality as an asymptote, but they will never become one with it.

Headline Image credit: Milky Way Rising over Hilo by Bill Shupp. CC-BY-2.0 via shupp Flickr

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43. Jawaharlal Nehru, moral intellectual

In his famous essay, French philosopher Julien Benda indicted intellectuals for treason to their destiny, and blamed them for betraying the very moral principles that made their existence possible. Nehru was not one of them. His avowedly cultural and intellectual orientation is sufficiently well-known. His father had refused to perform a purification ceremony on his return from England and had been ostracised by the Brahman orthodoxy. Nehru too didn’t submit to irrational authority, be it religion or dogma, though he went along with certain social customs. He did not approve of his father’s shraddha ceremony, but took part in it for his mother’s sake.

Religion and atheism, remarked his niece Nayantara Sahgal, lived lovingly together in Anand Bhawan and both were aspects of India’s enquiring and assimilative mind. The daily life of the Nehrus was a seamless blend of tradition and modernity. This is best exemplified by Nehru’s mother and wife Kamala. Both were religious, and yet they lived with Motilal’s intellectual modernism and Nehru’s scepticism on matters of religion and faith. But in the end their influences prevailed.

Nehru once said to a distinguished author-journalist that the spirit of India was in the depth of his conscience while the mind of the West was in his head (by virtue of what he studied in Harrow, Cambridge, and all over London). He was, thus, driven or dominated by the urge to see reason in people’s thinking and action. Sometimes he’d convince them to narrow their differences by concentrating on the “economic factor”, but the upsurge of religiosity or the assertion of communitarian identities weakened or nullified his efforts.

Nehru’s distance from the masses is too readily assumed. The fact is that he spent years not in comfortable and argumentative exile, but in India itself where he led the life of an activist with its attendant challenges and hazards. There is a tale, perhaps apocryphal, yet poignant, to the effect that, upon being released from prison after long confinement for speeches he had made, Nehru went directly to a large meeting, stood up and stated quite unaffectedly, “As I was saying…”

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Digital ID: 1702981. New York Public Library.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Digital ID: 1702981. New York Public Library.

Nehru placed jail-going as a “trivial matter” in a world that was being shaken to its foundation. His first confinement was in the Lucknow district jail from 6 December 1921 to 3 March 1922; the second from 11 May 1922 to 31 January 1923. In 1930, it was 180 days; in 1931, 99 days; in 1932, 612 days; and in 1934, 569 days. By March 1938, he had actually spent five-and-a-half years in prison. On 13 March 1945, he had completed over 31 months in Ahmadnagar Fort. From there, he was “repatriated” to Bareilly Central prison after nearly 32 months. He complained of the typical jail atmosphere — the slow, stagnant and rather oppressive air, the high walls closing on him, iron bars and gates, and the noise of the warden at night as he kept watch or counted the prisoners in the different barracks.

All these years, Nehru was moved from one jail to another — to Naini, Lucknow, Bareilly, and Dehradun. Was it worthwhile? In the last paragraph of the Autobiography, he explained: “There is no hesitation about the answer. If I were given the chance to go through my life again, with my present knowledge and experience added, I would no doubt try to make many changes in my personal life.”

To begin with, the young Nehru had no idea what happened behind the grim gates that swallowed any convict. But soon enough he managed to overcome the nervous excitement and bear an existence full of abnormality, a dull suffering, and a dreadful monotony. His inspiration came from Gandhiji. He had for company his father, who was tried as a member of an “illegal” organisation of Congress volunteers.

One of his fellow inmates commented later that it was ironic that, from an early age, people had started looking upon him as a desh bhakt, and he sacrificed his youth and its charms to satisfy public expectations. With arrest and prosecution becoming a frequent occurrence, jails turned into places of pilgrimage. Sometimes he felt as if he richly deserved a spell of jail to make quiet his excitable nature. Sometimes he felt almost cut off from the outside and longed for a quick return. More often than not, he’d wait for a tomorrow to bring deliverance to his people. To Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, he wrote: “Without that steel frame of the mind and body, or spirit if you will, we bend before every wind that blows and disintegrates.”

This said, Nehru bore the petty tyrannies of life. With about 50 persons in the barrack, their beds were just about three or four feet apart. The lack of privacy was difficult to endure. “It was the dull side of family life magnified a hundred-fold with few of its graces and compensations and all this among people of all kinds and tastes,” Nehru aptly remarked. Nights in prison were dreadful, more so with a prisoner snoring, “a gigantic disharmony of ugly noises — grunt, groan, growl, howl, whine, whistle, hiss, etc. etc.”

All day he sat or lay under the neem trees spinning, reading, or writing. At night he’d sit under the starry canopy. Thus when one of his comrades was promoted to Class A, Nehru felt relieved: “Man is a social animal and too much solitude is not good.” But he felt lonely after another friend from Cambridge days moved to Gonda jail. His passion was to spin, so he asked for a new charkha from Sabarmati Ashram. To write in Urdu, he asked his father to send him an Urdu dictionary. He read newspapers and wrote letters, though he preferred not to read about the battles of his comrades when forced to be idle himself.

Given his sense of movements and changes in history, Nehru agreed that one must follow them without losing sight of the main trend, and that some day, as if by the stroke of a magician’s wand, India and the world may be transformed.

Headline image credit: President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy greet Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Mrs. Gandhi on the North Portico of the White House, as the visitors from India arrive at the Executive Mansion to attend a dinner given in their honor. US Embassy New Delhi. CC BY-ND 2.0 via usembassynewdelhi Flickr.

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44. Top four high profile cases in Intellectual Property law

Thomas Jefferson is often quoted as remarking; “he who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” His sentiments, while romantic, do not necessarily express a view that many companies, authors, and artists would agree with when it comes to protecting their intellectual property today. For businesses and individuals alike, it has become of increasing importance to defend expressions of creative ideas with trademarks, patents and copyrighting, especially in the digital age where sharing and reproducing images, music, text and art has become so easy and prevalent. Intellectual property law aims to protect artistic output and the expression of ideas, whilst maintaining an environment where creativity can still blossom. However, even some of the world’s biggest names in business have been caught up in intellectual property cases that have not only made world news, but have come to define how we view our intellectual property rights. Here is a run-down of some of the highest profile cases where companies and individuals have gone to court to protect their intellectual property:

  1. A&M Record Inc v Napster Inc

In 2000, one of the most famous cases in intellectual property law was taken to the U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, when a group of major record labels took on Napster, Inc. The music file-sharing company, set up by then 18-year old Northeastern University student Shawn Fanning and his partner Sean Parker, was a revolutionary piece of sharing software, which allowed users to share any number of music files online. At its peak the software had around 20 million users sharing files peer-to-peer. A&M Records, along with a list of 17 other companies and subsidiaries accused Napster of copyright infringement, for allowing users to search and download MP3 files from other users’ computers. Rock band, Metallica and hip hop star Dr Dre also filed separate cases against the sharing software company. These cases led to a federal judge in San Fransisco ordering Napster to close its free file-sharing capacities. After the judge’s decision, the company eventually declared bankruptcy before re-emerging as a paid online music service, while German Media Corporation Bertelsmann AG ended up paying $130 million in damages to the National Music Publisher Association, after propping Napster up during its financial decline. This case is remembered as a defining case of the 21st century, as it was one of the first to address the impact peer-to-peer file-sharing online could have on copyright.

Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
  1. Baigent & Leigh v Random House Group Ltd

The enigmatic story of Jesus’ fathering of a child with Mary Magdalen, and in doing so creating a bloodline that exists to this day, is not just a fictional tale that exists in Dan Brown’s bestselling book, The Da Vinci Code. It has also been the subject of deep historical research carried out by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh who, along with author Henry Lincoln, wrote the non-fiction work The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. Baigent and Leigh took issue with Brown’s novel, claiming that the storyline was borrowed from their historical research. After a lengthy court case against Random House Group (who also happen to have published the claimants’ book), the two authors lost their copyright infringement case. The judge ruled that while six chapters of The Da Vinci Code took much of their narrative from Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln’s research, Brown was not guilty of copyright infringement, since the ideas and historical facts were not protected by copyright. After a failed appeal in 2001, the two claimants had to pay legal bills of approximately £3 million.

  1. Kellogg Co. v National Biscuit Co.

In a landmark 1938 case, world famous cereal brand Kellogg bested their rivals, the National Biscuit Company, over the manufacturing of a shredded wheat product which the National Biscuit Company claimed presented unfair competition to one of their products. The claimant objected to Kellogg’s use of the term “shredded wheat” to market their cereal, adding that there was too much of a similarity between Kellogg’s “pillow-shaped” cereal and their own shredded wheat product. Kellogg was allowed to continue their manufacturing of shredded wheat under this name and shape by Judge Brandeis, who rejected the National Biscuit Company’s argument under the premise that the shape was “functional”, while the name “Shredded Wheat” is simply descriptive, and therefore un-trademark-able. Judge Brandeis’ decision remains central to the U.S. statutory test for whether a name should remain un-trademarked because it is generic or descriptive.

  1. Louis Vuitton Malletier S.A. v. Haute Diggity Dog

Fashion house Louis Vuitton had a dog day when they decided to sue a Nevada-based pet product company, Haute Diggity Dog in 2007. The handbag maker, known around the world for its signature-branded luggage, filed a case against Haute Diggity Dog for trademark, trade dress and copyright infringement over a line of parody products entitled “Chewy Vuitton”. The defendant also reportedly had lines of products that played on the names of other international fashion brands, including “Chewnel No. 5” and “Sniffany & Co.” In a surprising move by the U.S. Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit, it was ruled that the Haute Diggity Dog products consisted of a successful parody, meaning they had not infringed on Louis Vuitton copyrights or trademarks. The court considered that the products were distinctly differentiated from Louis Vuitton products, and sought to convey a message of entertainment and amusement. It was also considered whether or not the “Chewy Vuitton” products could be confused in any way for Louis Vuitton products; a suggestion that was rejected by the court.

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45. Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember those who have died in the line of duty. It is observed by a two-minute silence on the ’11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month’, in accordance with the armistice signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente on 11 November, 1918. The First World War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919. In the UK, Remembrance Sunday occurs on the Sunday closest to the 11th November, and is marked by ceremonies at local war memorials in most villages, towns, and cities. The red poppy has become a symbol for Remembrance Day due to the poem In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.

You can discover more about the history behind the First World War by exploring the free resources included in the interactive image above.

Feature image credit: Poppy Field, by Martin LaBar. CC-BY-NC-2.0 via Flickr.

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46. Seven common misconceptions about the Hebrew Bible

Everyone talks about the Bible, though few have read it cover to cover. This is not surprising—some sections of the Bible are difficult to understand without a commentary, others are tedious, and still others are boring. That is why annotated Bibles were created—to help orient readers as they read through the Bible or look into what parts of it mean. For those who have not read the Bible cover-to-cover—and even for many who have—here are some common misconceptions about the Hebrew Bible.

1. The Ten Commandments are the most important part of the Bible.

No biblical text calls them the Bible’s most important part. Various prophetic texts such as Ezekiel 18 summarize righteous behavior, but most of these do not refer to the Ten Commandments. In fact, the English term “Ten Commandments” is a misnomer from a Jewish perspective, since in the Jewish enumeration, “I am the LORD your God…” is the first divine utterance in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, and it is not a commandment at all. Thus, Jews prefer to call these the Decalogue, “the ten sayings,” which reflects the Hebrew aseret hadevarim (Exodus 24:38; Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4).

2. We know what the original text of the Bible is.

Like all texts transmitted in antiquity, the Bible in its earliest stages of transmission was fluid. Scribes changed books that became part of the Bible accidentally and on purpose; this is now clear from evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3. The Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament are different names for the same books.

The Jewish Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Old Testament contain the same books, but in a different order—and order matters. The Catholic Old Testament is larger than the Jewish Hebrew Bible and the Protestant Old Testament. It contains the Apocrypha—select Jewish Hellenistic [Greek] Writings such as Sirach, Tobit, and Maccabees—and in two cases, Esther and Daniel, the Catholic book is larger than the Hebrew book, containing material found in the Greek texts of these works, but not in the Hebrew.

Hebrew Bible
Photo by David King. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr.
4. We know the order of the biblical books.

Different religious groups have different orders to the Bible. Christians typically divide the Old Testament into four sections (Law [=Torah], historical books, wisdom and poetic books, prophetic books), while Jews divide the Hebrew Bible into three sections: Torah, Nevi’im [prophets] and Ketuvim [writings]. Both of these ways of ordering biblical texts probably reflect different ancient Jewish orders that ultimately helped to define Jewish versus Christian identity. In addition, Jewish manuscripts show many different orders of the final section, Ketuvim, and the Babylonian Talmud notes an order of Nevi’im that is different than the more commonly used.

5. Everything in a prophetic book is by that prophet.

Many prophetic books contain titles or superscriptions, as in Jeremiah 1:1-3: “The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.” However, we never have the autographs of individual prophets, and often their disciples and others added material to early forms of prophetic books, in the names of the prophet himself!

6. The Bible is history.

The modern concept of history, judged by whether or not it gets the facts right, is by and large a modern conception. In the past, all peoples told stories set in the past for a variety of reasons, e.g. to entertain, to enlighten, but rarely to recreate what actually happened. Archaeologists have uncovered many cases where the biblical account disagrees with the archaeological account, or with what we might know from other ancient Near Eastern texts.

7. All of the Psalms are by King David.

About half of the psalms in Psalms contain the word ledavid, “to/of David,” in their first sentence. But many do not. Some are anonymous, while others are explicitly attributed to other figures such as Asaph (50, 73-81). We are not even sure how ledavid should be translated—does it mean to attribute authorship to David, or might it mean “in the style of David”? Furthermore, none of the psalms reflects tenth century Hebrew, the Hebrew of the period in which David was purported to have lived, and several psalms refer to events long after that period (see e.g. Psalm 126:1). In fact, scholars do not attribute any of Psalms to King David. And at least in Jewish tradition, attributing all of the Psalter to David is not dogma, and several medieval scholars acknowledge the existence of later psalms.

Headline image credit: By Alexander Smolianitski CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

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47. Cleek: The Man of the Forty Faces

I really enjoy terrible mysteries, but only a certain kind of terrible mystery. The episodic, gimmicky, pulpy kind that always feel like they were written between 1896 and 1906, whether or not they actually were.

Cleek: The Man of The Forty Faces is pretty much exactly that. It also makes no sense, and is clumsy in ways that mostly make it more interesting.
Hamilton Cleek (not his real name) is the titular character, and the gimmick. He’s a safecracker when the book starts, but that lasts only long enough to qualify as setup. He has a change of heart re: criminal activity after falling in love at first sight, and for the rest of the book he’s a detective working with Scotland Yard.

The forty faces are all Cleek’s. He can basically twist his face into the semblance of any other face. (My brother: “That’s not how faces work.”) And then Thomas Hanshew, the author, makes him an expert in disguise, so that he can capitalize on this peculiar skill. It’s not a terribly useful skill to him, as a detective–not nearly as useful as it was when he was a safecracker, and mostly the face thing doesn’t add that much to his detective adventures.
The mysteries are short and self-contained, but the overarching story of Cleek, Ailsa Lorne, Cleek’s servant Dollops and (of course) Margot, Queen of the Apaches holds together pretty well. And when I say it holds together pretty well, I mostly mean that you don’t forget about the ongoing narrative. I mean, I guess it would be hard to, with everyone’s emotions running so high all the time. Hanshew does roughly the right things, but he always does them either a) a shade more melodramatic than you wanted, or b) a shade more melodramatic than you expected. Or, I guess, c) all of the above.
Some of the mysteries are pretty clever, and deserve better surrounding material, but I feel bad saying that, because it’s not like I didn’t enjoy the surrounding material. I mean, this is not a good book. But it’s not good in a fun way–in a way where the hero is all emotionally restrained, but it’s hard to tell because the writer really, really isn’t. And I have fun with that kind of thing. There are a lot of Cleek books–some by Hanshew, some by Hanshew and his wife, and some by their daughter–and I’m planning on reading at least a few more.
But first, a complaint. During Cleek’s criminal career, he asks the newspapers to refer to him as “The Man Who Calls Himself Hamilton Cleek.” Which, okay, whatever. They do that. But he keeps using the name Cleek, and Ailsa Lorne knows his name and was aware of him when he was a cracksman. So why is his criminal past such a revelation? A number of things in this book didn’t make sense, but that’s the one that continues to bug me.

Tagged: 1910s, mystery, series, thomashanshew

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48. Test your knowledge of neuroanatomical terminology

Neuroanatomical Terminology by Larry Swanson supplies the first global, historically documented, hierarchically organized human nervous system parts list. This defined vocabulary accurately and systematically describes every human nervous system structural feature that can be observed with current imaging methods, and provides a framework for describing accurately the nervous system in all animals including invertebrates and vertebrates alike. Just how well do you know your neuroanatomical terminology? Test your knowledge!

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Heading image: An anatomical illustration from Sobotta’s Human Anatomy 1908 by Dr. Johannes Sobotta. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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49. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler on the Hebrew Bible

Winner of the 2004 National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship, The Jewish Study Bible is a landmark, one-volume resource tailored especially for the needs of students of the Hebrew Bible. We sat down with co-editors Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler to talk about the revisions in the Second Edition of The Jewish Study Bible, and the Biblical Studies field as a whole.

What led to the decision to revise the Jewish Study Bible?

It has been ten years since the first edition of the Jewish Study Bible (JSB) was published. During that time our knowledge of the Bible and of ancient Israel has advanced tremendously. At the same time, a new generation of scholars has entered the field, with fresh approaches to the study of the Bible. We wanted to build on our very successful first edition by introducing our readers to new knowledge and new approaches.

How extensive are the revisions?

They are very extensive. Many books of the Bible have entirely new annotations/commentaries, by new authors, and all have been revised to reflect new scholarship. The essays have been revised, some by new authors. In addition, many new essays on a wide variety of topics have been added, ranging from topics such as the calendar to the place of the Bible in American Jewish culture.

What has changed in research in Biblical Studies since the publication of the first edition?

We now have a much broader and sophisticated appreciation of how the Bible came to be the Bible, and how its various parts were re-shaped and interpreted in ancient times. Much current emphasis is on the Persian and Hellenistic periods, when the biblical canon and its earliest interpretation were developing. The history and archaeology of these periods have given us a firmer grasp on how Jewish identity was being formed. This, in turn, helps us to better understand the development of the biblical text and its message for the audiences of those times. We recognize that there were multiple Jewish communities with differing views on certain matters, and we are sensitive to the many voices reflected (or suppressed) within the biblical books. Finally, even when scholars recognize that biblical books are composite and have a complex editorial history, it is valuable to examine the final form that an editor imposed upon them, and what this final form may mean.

Where do you see Biblical Studies heading in the next 10 years?

We are neither prophets not children of prophets (Amos 7:14). It is likely that further archaeological discoveries will help us better understand certain passages and institutions. Perhaps the debate raging about dating biblical literature will be resolved, and we will be able to better understand biblical books in their historical contexts. Finally, it is important to remember that Jewish participation in mainstream biblical scholarship began only half a century ago, and it is likely that in the coming decade Jewish scholars will find new ways of integrating classical Jewish sources with critical approaches.

What is the most important issue in the Biblical Studies field right now?

It is hard to single out just one important issue. Some of the older questions, like the history and growth of the biblical text, continue to engage scholars and they have proposed new models and new answers. A more recent development is the concern with biblical or ancient Jewish theology, a relatively neglected area until now. The general current interest in religion, religious concepts, and the importance of religious beliefs is shared by biblical scholars and has become a fruitful way to approach the study of the Bible.

Headline image credit: Rachel Preparing Bible Homework by David King. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

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50. On idioms in general and on “God’s-Acre” in particular

From time to time I receive letters encouraging me to discuss not only words but also idioms. I would be happy to do so if I were better equipped. The origin of proverbial sayings (unless they go back to so-called familiar quotations) and idioms is usually lost beyond recovery. I may once have mentioned how, while working on the etymology of oats in my analytic dictionary, I desperately tried (and failed) to discover the source of the phrase to sow one’s wild oats. All I found were a few paragraphs on agriculture and the earliest recorded citation. Those who use the OED know that it seldom indicates where idioms come from. Rather long ago, I wrote a post on the phrase to pay through one’s nose, and it caused some profitable discussion, though it still remains debatable whose nose is meant and how one pays through it. My attack on it rains cats and dogs seems to have been more successful. I have a respectable database of proverbs and local phrases from Notes and Queries and other old periodicals. Most of those do not occur in Brewer or later dictionaries. In the future, I may use (educated people now say utilize) my home resources and even squeeze a few drops from this stone.

Before I embark on my today’s subject, I should observe that dictionaries explaining “why we say so” are numerous. The problem with even the best of them is that they avoid references, and without references they cannot be trusted. For example, the origin of hell for leather and to go to hell in a hand basket has been explained reasonably well, but the authors of popular books (and here they differ from scholars who deal with such subjects) prefer statements like it has been suggested that, but do not explain whose proposal they cite and whether the proposer deserves credence. This practice is particularly disappointing when it comes to idioms trodden to death, for example, the whole nine yards. Thanks to digitization, our dates and conclusions are becoming more and more reliable, but the origin of the enigmatic phrase and the numeral nine in it (at one time, it seems to have been six) remains unknown, and the formulas it has been suggested and some people think arouse only irritation. Who cares what “some people” think or suggest unless we know why they do so?

So why is the churchyard (or graveyard) called God’s acre? In 1913 a volume presented on the completion of George Lyman Kittredge’s twenty-fifth year of teaching at Harvard University appeared in New York. One of the contributors to it was Professor J. A. Walz, a fellow philologist. Kittredge’s name is known to many from the book Words and their Ways in English Speech by Greenough and Kittredge (at that time, George B. Geenough was a senior colleague, and his name stood first on the title page; anyway, G precedes K in the English alphabet). Walz did exactly what I so often do: he provided a background for his search, looked through multiple dictionaries, collected the publications on God’s acre in Notes and Queries, “that unique meeting place of British ignorance and scholarship,” as he called it, and summarized what he found. I can only retell his publication written a century ago, though I would have encountered those notes myself, inasmuch as my assistants and I have looked through the entire run of that invaluable journal and licked the plate almost clean. (Walz made such extensive use of Notes and Queries, because no other periodical showed any interest in the idiom he set out to research.)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Eastman Johnson, 1846. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Eastman Johnson, 1846. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The contributors to Notes and Queries, among whom we notice such erudite people as James Main Dixon and Frank Chance, discovered everything, including the earliest mention of the phrase in William Camden’s Remains Concerning Britain (1605, published in 1617). Even Murray’s OED could offer no antedating. They also dug up the relevant quotations from the New Testament. Several biblical texts, most pointedly one of the epistles, explain that the dead are “sown” and sleep awaiting resurrection. Finally, they, of course, asked the question about the originator of the phrase. At that time, in the fifties and the seventies of the nineteenth century, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had numerous admirers on both sides of the Atlantic, and his early short lyric “God’s-Acre” was known everywhere. Today he seems to be forgotten or looked down upon. Only his name has survived, and, in the United States, one occasionally dines at restaurants with Longfellow in their names. In similar fashion, numerous towns in Italy have hotels called “Byron.” Perhaps this is real immortality.

Be that as it may be, but even in Minneapolis, where I live and where there is Hiawatha Avenue, Nokomis Avenue, and a statue of Hiawatha carrying his bride over Minnehaha Falls, I have not met a single student who has read The Song of Hiawatha (to say nothing of Longfellow’s short poems). But in Longfellow’s lifetime, “God’s-Acre” became an anthologized piece. It begins so:

“I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls
The burial ground God’s-Acre! It is just;
It consecrates each grave within its walls,
And breathes a benison o’er the sleeping dust.”

The poem goes on for three more stanzas before it reaches the conclusion:

“With thy rude ploughshares, Death, turn up the sod,
And spread the furrow for the seed we sow;
This is the field and Acre of our God,
This is the place where human harvests grow.”

What is “the ancient Saxon phrase” that Longfellow liked? It did not elude the discussants in Notes and Queries that German has the word Gottesacker “churchyard,” while its English equivalent has not been attested. Let us not forget that the first volume of the OED, with the word acre in it, became available many years later. Some writers missed the point when they said that German Acker and Engl. acre are related, so that there is no problem. Of course, they are, but cognates don’t have to mean the same. Thanks to the citations in the OED and the material supplied by Walz, we now know that, before Longfellow, God’s Acre occurred almost only in descriptions of Germany and with reference to the German idiom. The meaning of almost in the previous sentence will be made clear below. German Acker means “field” (like Latin ager). The “ancient Saxon phrase” did not exist (even in German it appeared only in the sixteenth century), but thanks to Longfellow God’s Acre it is now part of the English vocabulary. How he came to know it is not a secret.

Albert Matthews, an outstanding researcher of American English, provided some facts he did not know when Walz had asked him about God’s Acre, the burial place in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It turned out that this name was already current at the end of the seventeenth century. It is again met with in 1827. We can conclude that the equivalent of the German compound had some currency in Cambridge quite early. There is no way of ascertaining how it reached the East Coast, but reach it did, most probably via German speakers. As Matthews pointed out, Longfellow did not come to Cambridge before 1836. He loved the town (see his lyric “To the River Charles”) and could not help hearing the name of the burial place in it. It struck him as poetic, so he assumed that the name was very old, even ancient, and used it in his lyric. (Longfellow knew several languages, as, among other things, his translations from German, Italian, and Old English show.) Without it, God’s Acre (or God’s-acre) would not have become a familiar phrase in English. However, as far as etymology is concerned, it remains a borrowing from German, and Longfellow knew it. The Century Dictionary, quite aptly, quotes from his Hyperion (II. 9): “A green terrace or platform on which the church stands, and which in ancient times was the churchyard, or, as the Germans more devoutly say, God’s-acre.”

Headline image credit: St Giles Church in Stoke Poges. Photo by UKgeofan at English Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post On idioms in general and on “God’s-Acre” in particular appeared first on OUPblog.

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