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By: Angela Muse,
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The Christmas Owl
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Welcome to our holiday hop!
We are so excited about our latest book, The Christmas Owl, that we are giving away two prizes to one lucky winner. Our prize is a 5-inch stuffed owl and a signed hardcover version of The Christmas Owl. This story follows a Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word. This colorful holiday tale is perfect for children aged eight and under.
This giveaway ends on December 13th at midnight so ENTER today.
Click to see the other blogs participating in our holiday hop hosted by Youth Literature Reviews and Mother Daughter Book Reviews.
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By: Angela Muse,
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The Christmas Owl
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We are thrilled to announce the release of our latest children’s book, The Christmas Owl. This ebook is available at a special discounted price of $.99 through November 14th on Amazon. We have also released this book on Barnes & Noble. A Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.
By: Anthony McCarten,
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My endless interrogation of myself continues... What keeps you awake at night? Everything that can wait until tomorrow. When were you happiest? When I realized that a congenial monotony is the best anyone can hope for. I'm not sure how old I was or what I was doing — perhaps I was 13 and hiking [...]
After this Sunday, October 13, Hyde Park will never be the same. Jack Cella, the general manager of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore for the past 43 years, will retire after helping the store transform from a locally centered cooperative to the nation’s premier scholarly bookstore, with more 50,000 members and three locations. It would be nearly impossible to exaggerate the depth and breadth of Cella’s contribution to the culture of scholarly publishing and to this remarkable institution, and in turn, his value to the Hyde Park community, and especially to the University of Chicago Press.
From our promotions director Levi Stahl:
Being a regular at a bookstore is one of life’s great pleasures. And what you want above all—your reward for being a regular—is good company: you go to the store to talk with the people there, to find out what they’ve been doing and seeing (and of course reading), to hear what they’ve spotted that they think you might like, to catch up on the flood of new books you’d otherwise miss.
What you want is to talk to Jack Cella. It’s almost impossible to leave a conversation with Jack—quiet, understated, serious, friendly Jack—without a new book if not in hand then at least in mind. His awareness is astonishing: he doesn’t just separate the wheat from the chaff, he goes on to parcel it out perfectly to the people he knows will appreciate it most. Retirement suits readers, and no one would begrudge Jack his, but he’ll be greatly missed. Just as there’s no store quite like the Seminary Co-op, there’s no bookseller quite like Jack.
Similarly, its no understatement to quote UCP author Bruce Lincoln, who said of Cella, “He’s built the best bookstore in the U.S. and maybe beyond. He’s a treasure, and his institution is a treasure. I hope it will thrive without him, though it’s hard to imagine it without him.”
Cella certainly has impacted numerous lives through his endeavor, and Rodney Powell, editor of our film and cinema studies list, is one of them. As manager at 57th St. Books for nearly a decade, Powell wrote a send-off worthy of the man whose “vast storehouse of knowledge have come to symbolize the culture of the Co-op and what members value most about it.” It follows after the jump.
Yes, there they were, in the e-mail of October 1 from the Board of the Seminary Co-op: words that I had not expected to see in my lifetime: “Now that the Co-op is settled into its wonderful new space, Jack will be leaving on October 13.”
Jack leaving? When I had expected him to outlive me and pass away at his desk while checking out the information for a special order? Say it isn’t so!
Well, hardcore fans of the Seminary Co-op will have to accept the fact, and even though we know the Co-op will continue in all its eminence in its “wonderful new space,” we know it won’t be the same without Jack.
And of course it could not be— institutions change as personnel change. But it’s hard not to wax sentimental about Jack. Although he would be the first to downplay his own contribution, we also know—not to take away anything from the many others who have contributed to the Co-op’s success—that Jack has been its principal architect. Certainly that success could only be achieved in a community that loves books and shows its love by supporting such a bookstore. But without Jack’s unwavering commitment to making the Co-op one of the world’s best, it wouldn’t have happened.
However, to avoid the sentimental, I want to emphasize something other than Jack’s almost legendary modesty—his steely resolve to get things done despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I have some first-hand knowledge of that resolve because I was the manager of 57th St. Books when it opened in 1983 (and for about a dozen years thereafter); I was in on both the planning and working out of the plans for that enterprise, as well as the day-to-day operations that make or break any business.
So Jack was my boss—and in his own quiet way quite a tough cookie. That is, you didn’t want to disappoint him, to not do what he expected. And, of course, since he worked more than anybody else, whining about too much to do wouldn’t go very far, even if sympathy was expressed.
As I reflect on this quality after all these years, it seems to me analogous to the ruthlessness that artists must have about doing their work—you get it done, period. Think about the conclusion of Stephen Sondheim’s great song from Sunday in the Park with George, “Finishing the Hat”:
That however you live,
There’s a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat…
Starting on a hat…
Finishing a hat…
Look I made a hat…
Where there never was a hat.
Thank you, Jack, for making the hat that has served not only Hyde Park, but also a community of readers and scholars around the world, so well for so many years. Your will and work made it possible. Our best thanks for your efforts will be to treasure and maintain this remarkable institution, difficult as that will be after you leave.
Ave atque vale!
Brian Doyle's memoir tells the harrowing story of his young son being diagnosed with a serious heart condition. Through a collection of essays, each touching upon some aspect of his experience, Doyle shows the absolutely horrifying reality of a parent on the brink of losing their child. His vulnerability and stark utter terror are palpable as he [...]
Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn and Child is a curious, strange, often delightful work that cannot really be described as a novel in any traditional sense of the word. More a collection of stories or vignettes connected by the two titular characters, the Irish author's ambitious work is humorous, imaginative, and, at times, surprisingly moving. Focusing on [...]
My continuing (and somewhat remorseless) interview of myself: What is the purpose of stories? And of storytelling? To fool you. Do you believe that people like or want to be fooled from time to time? If we did not have the impulse and ability to believe in the impossible, we would not have religion, democracy, [...]
By: Angela Muse,
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The Christmas Owl
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Well, we’ve attempted our first book trailer for our latest creation, The Christmas Owl. Click the cover to view our trailer.
This story follows a Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.
COMING NOVEMBER 2013 to Amazon.
Actual page from a program distributed by the University of Notre Dame at the Michigan State–Notre Dame game on September 21, 2013, with FEATURED ACADEMIC Julia V. Douthwaite, professor of French and Francophone studies and expert on the French Enlightenment, the Revolution, and French–English relations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—
From Douthwaite’s The Frankenstein of 1790 and Other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France:
Consider a Juicy Couture print advertisement of 2010. A Marie Antoinette look-alike with an enormous pink hairdo stares out at viewers dolefully. She is cradling, with one hand, a huge bottle of perfume that has a bird perched on top, and gesturing suggestively, with her other hand, to her nether parts. This portrait’s subtle repurposing of the Greuze painting Jeune Fille qui pleure son oiseau mort (1765) or the eighteenth-century motif of a girl lamenting her pet bird’s demise or escape (read her lost virginity) makes a provocative commentary on the queen’s rumored promiscuity while inviting consumers to try it on for themselves. Or consider the bizarrely menacing “Napoleonic” ad campaign for Dolce and Gabbana clothing launched in 2006, one of whose advertisements showed two men in dapper period fashions threatening a third in a chair while another lay on the floor bleeding from a head wound. The melancholy for a racier, more dangerous time is tangible. Lest one judge these ads too harshly, it is essential to recall that their delivery systems, that is, high-end fashion magazines, predetermine the cultural values they can be expected to impart. The visual shock provided by sexual provocation and allusions to sadism and torture are attractive commodities among sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds. It is unreasonable to expect messages of moral restraint and civic responsibility to be reproduced in a genre and product designed to market luxury to the young; elitism, power, and exclusivity sell better. Nevertheless, the slavish admiration of privilege that runs through these images gives pause: why should we citizens of modern democracies mourn this version of the past?
Today I'm continuing an extensive interview with myself that began yesterday. Recently, Mount Tongariro hit the headlines spitting ash and lava. You yourself grew up underneath the crater of Mount Taranaki in New Plymouth. How is life at the foot of an active volcano? Mount Taranaki is a dormant volcano, not currently active, but not [...]
A piece on Terrence Malick’s latest film To the Wonder appeared shortly after its release this April at New York Magazine‘s online site Vulture. Nothing about the title of the piece need grab you at first engagement—though “Radiant Zigzag Becoming: How Terrence Malick and His Team Constructed To the Wonder” is elegiac and ponderous and a bit of a mouthful, not unlike the reputation of Malick’s oeuvre. What ends up fascinating in this article—besides lines we like such as, “the film has struck some as a particularly Malick-y Terrence Malick film”—is the breakdown of that radiant zigzag becoming, which the writer traces to a scholarly introduction penned for an edition of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, a tawdry Stockholm Syndrome-done-good epistolary novel that shocked and awed its eighteenth-century readers. The Intro was written by our own Margaret A. Doody, the John and Barbara Glynn Family Professor of Literature at Notre Dame and a specialist in Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature.
The relevant connection to Doody’s work?
One odd but telling reference point Malick gave his editors was Margaret A. Doody’s introduction to the Penguin Books edition of Samuel Richardson’s revolutionary 1740 novel Pamela. In the intro, Doody discusses the fact that Richardson’s novel, which unfolds as a series of letters, presents an internalized narrative that appears, on the surface, to lack any and all artifice. “He loves the formless, the radiant zigzag becoming,” Doody writes, and the phrase “radiant zigzag becoming” soon became an unofficial motto for the film, representing its constant sense of movement and the fact that the characters’ relationships seem to always be in flux.
For less radiant zigzag becoming and more screwball ancient whodunit, stay tuned for Doody’s Aristotle Detective novels this spring. Until then, more info about the series can be found here.
(H/T Alan Thomas via Margaret Doody via Fred Rush)
For my second blog post (ever), I wish to conduct a simple (but extensive and even possibly endless) interview with myself. Its purpose is to force the reluctant subject into inadvertent admissions or revelations that the reclusive subject has hitherto kept secret. You were born in New Zealand. True or false? Too much importance is [...]
Victor Brombert is the Henry Putnam University Professor Emeritus of Romance and Comparative Literatures at Princeton University. He is also an escapee of German-occupied France and a veteran of the Second World War; a scholar of comparative narrative studies and the history of ideas; the author of more than a dozen books; former president of the Modern Language Association and of the Association of Literary Studies; a Fulbright Fellow, a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellow, a two-time Guggenheim Fellow, a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and is Commandeur des Palmes Académiques.
Death is a theme that has preoccupied Brombert at least as long as his youth: first, as the opening pages of his latest book Musings on Mortality alerts us, following the death of his pet canary, and later in the wake of his experiences during World War II. The liner notes read something like, death can be found all around us, but the literature we produce is on the side of life. In the book, Brombert takes on Coetzee, Bassani, Camus, Kafka, Woolf, Thomas Mann, and Primo Levi, among others, in order to ground the works of these writers in the philosophical complaints of the human condition, most notably their meditations on mortality.
From a recent review in the Times Higher Education:
Brombert begins with his childhood and the death of a beloved canary and quickly proceeds, along a widening autobiographical trajectory, to the death of his sister Nora and the deaths of his parents, to war, to the death camp in Auschwitz, to the visceral fear he experienced as a soldier at Omaha Beach. Beloved things become alien and feared, whether it is the one enlarged pore he notices on his dead father’s face or the “trains I so loved in my childhood, and continue to love in their remembered glory” which enter into “sinister associations” with wartime Europe. He begins, under the influence of André Malraux, to understand that in the face of encroaching death it is “art and the love of art” that allow us “to negate our nothingness.” Towards the end of the book he argues convincingly that “literature commemorates what death has undone.”
An excerpt from Musings on Mortality: From Tolstoy to Primo Levi:
Does Tolstoy, in his late years, load the dice for the sake of teaching a moral lesson? Does he leave room for any ambivalence, for any genuine irony? Edward Wasiolek reported years ago that his students, fed on Henry James’s belief that reality had myriad forms, used to complain that Tolstoy’s famous novella The Death of Ivan Ilych was arbitrary, preachy, painfully lacking in ambiguity and “levels of meaning.”
The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886) is in fact deceptively simple. Written years after War and Peace and Anna Karenina, this powerful narrative about dying and death is remarkable for its brevity, its succinctness, its ordinariness. The narrator himself comments on this apparent banality at the beginning of the story: “Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary, and therefore most terrible.” The tragic dimension of this work is thus from the outset attributed to a very common life experience. The title itself provides obvious signals: “Ivan Ilych.” It is hard to imagine a more remarkable first name and patronymic. It is like calling the protagonist John Smith or Everyman. And nothing could be more common or widespread than death, the first substantive of the title, a word that in Russian comes bluntly without a definite article, a reminder of a stark and generalized human condition, so generalized indeed as to exclude uniqueness.
All of us, Tolstoy might say, cherish the illusion that we are unique. Ivan Ilych recalls that in school he had learned from a textbook the syllogistic formula “Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal.” But what logically applied to Caius and to all the Caiuses of this world did not apply to him. He was special, after all—or so he had felt until now. He was not Caius; he was Ivan, or Vanya, as his mother used to cal him, and a very special Vanya at that. But, now that his body is failing and the terror of death has become a daily reality, he can no longer avoid staring into the face of a common destiny. In this new awareness of common law, a common doom, he feels more lonely than ever. As he lies on his deathbed, he hears the sounds of merriment in his household, the sounds of singing and laughter. He almost chokes with anger: “but they will die too! Fools! I first, and they later.” For they too will have to recognize the truth of the terrible law.
Tolstoy knew that fear and trembling remain supremely personal, that the discovery of death is made in utter solitude. Yet the sense of dereliction also comes with an awareness of a common destiny and a common humanity. Ivan Ilych is not a tragic figure. He is no King Lear; but in his illness, like Lear driven mad, he discovers that he too is not “ague-proof,” that the hand his courtiers used to kiss smells of mortality.
The crucial question for Tolstoy is how we face this revelation, what it tells us about the way we have lived. Ivan Ilych learns—the lesson may come too late—that emptiness, self-deception, and false values have been at the core of his life, that in the process of living we all deny the truth of our human condition, that we lie to ourselves when we pretend to forget about death, and that this lie is intimately bound up with all the other lies that vitiate our moral being. It is a denunciation of a spiritual world.
To read more about Musings on Mortality go here.
Rene Denfeld's The Enchanted is a book like no other. Set in a crumbling prison, the characters are the prisoners on death row, the grieving warden, the corrupt guard, the lady trying to stay the execution, the fallen priest, the white-haired boy, the horrified mother, and the inside drug lords. Almost no one has a name, [...]
Hi to anyone who is reading. This is my first blog post. Not just for this site, but first ever. As I've been told, the idea here is to reveal what I've been up to — aside from my great pleasure in seeing my current novel, Brilliance, released in the U.S. by the courageous people [...]
Lucy Corin is a writer who will take on anything, and her new collection, comprised of three stories and 100 apocalyptic shorts, hums with an energy truly befitting the end of times. Don't be surprised if you experience conflicting emotions, from hope to dread to bewilderment, all within a single paragraph. Books mentioned in this [...]
César Aira : Literature :: Coen brothers : Cinema You may never quite know what to expect going into it, but you can always be sure of a singular, engaging, imaginative, quirky, inimitable, and worthwhile experience. Aira's Shantytown, while a bit unlike his previous works already available in English translation, feels just like any other [...]
The Plover is not exactly a sequel to Mink River — more of a companion piece — but fans of the latter will be thrilled to find out what happened to one of the most beloved characters. After sailing his little boat off the final pages of Mink River, the story of Declan O'Donnell continues [...]
In The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit weaves seemingly disparate topics, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to the birdman cult on Easter Island, with elements of her own life: her mother's advancing Alzheimer's, the collapse of a long-term relationship, a brush with cancer. The result is a book that is as fluid and boundless as a dream, [...]
Excerpt from The Triumph of Human Empire: Verne, Morris, and Stevenson at the End of the World
by Rosalind Williams
The phrase human empire comes from a haunting tale by Sir Francis Bacon titled New Atlantis (Latin 1624, English 1627), in which he imagines a storm-tossed European ship lost in the South Seas, “in the midst of the greatest wilderness of waters in the world.” The vessel providentially washes up on an uncharted island, where the ship’s company discovers descendents of survivors of the lost city of Atlantis, a superior race that has established there a great research foundation, Salomon’s House. Most of the fable recounts the “Preparations and Instruments” they use. First, however, Salomon, the “Father of the House” who oversees its activities, explains its purpose in a single sentence:
The End of our Foundation is the knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible.
There is no article “the” before “human empire.” It is not like the Roman Empire or any other territory-based empire that wields power by extracting tribute from the ruled. Human empire is limited in territory to one fantasy island. Its rule comes from command of knowledge and powers that can make “all things possible” in multiple ways regardless of political boundaries.
When the concepts and practices of history arose in Greece of the fifth century BCE, the historical record was defined as the words and deeds of humans, set in the context of much larger, more enduring, more powerful structures and forces of non-human nature. Those actions and words of human beings were small, frail, and brief compared to the non-human stage on which they were performed—but they were special to humans as a species, and marked the separation between them and the rest of creation.
In Salomon’s House, the historical record was defined as the progressive conquest of non-human nature. Rather than being the greater whole in which humanity is embedded, nature was transformed from humanity’s Mother to a problem child. Humans asserted responsibility for knowing and controlling the rest of nature. In today’s language, the historical mission was redefined as turning the earth into “a smarter planet” to better meet our needs and wants.
The turning point in history described in this book—the realistic claim of human civilization as a whole to world domination—has recently been named “the age of the Anthropocene,” meaning “the age of man” and denoting an unprecedented human ability to alter the planet. However realistic this may be as a description of the current relationship between human and natural history, it does little to help us understand the distinctiveness and finer detail of human history. The same sweeping abstraction is true of the terminology of “first nature” being displaced by “second nature.” Again, this may be true, but it is not helpful in understanding in historical time how this displacement happened and how it was perceived as happening. Neither term begins to convey the power politics and violence inherent in the process of enlarging the bounds of human empire.
The language and concepts of ecology, ecosystems, and the earth sciences, as well as of technologies and technological systems, have grown to be and will continue to be indispensable in understanding the material manifestations of these transformations. This book emerges from a humanist’s—more specifically, a historian’s—concern for apprehending and describing the new conditions of human experience. Here I am paraphrasing philosopher and cultural critic Hannah Arendt, whose analysis of the human condition permeates every page of this study. In her book by that title, she asserts that “the earth is the very quintessence of the human condition.” Our relationship with our planetary home involves meaning and purpose as well as material resources. What is it like to live in the self-created circumstances of human empire? How does it work? How does it feel?
Read more about The Triumph of Human Empire here.
What would you give up for someone you love? For George and Margaret Blackledge, the answer is: everything. Set in North Dakota in 1951, Let Him Go begins with the Blackledges leaving their home, security, and safety behind in order to retrieve their grandson from a situation which Margaret deems untenable. George and Margaret's son, James, has died in [...]
The most recent issue of the Times Literary Supplement reviews Roger Grenier’s A Box of Photographs, a chronicle of Grenier’s exploits in writing (as a journalist; an editor at Éditions Gallimard; and the author of more than thirty novels, short stories, and literary essays) alongside the story of a life spent in conversation with the medium of photography. Included are vignettes about his own experiences and those of the photographers he admired or with whom he crossed paths while paired on assignment for newspapers like Combat (founded by Albert Camus) and France-Soir. All of this comes, of course, with meditations on the photographic image, as Grenier champions the work of those like Lee Miller, who placed themselves in positions perilous to their own safety to capture the atrocities of war, and voices disapproval for those photos circulated by the “proto-paparazzi,” filled with a kind of carrion fatigue, often portraying the moments just before or after famous death.
As Peter Read writes in the TLS:
Divided into short chapters, like selections from a newspaper column or pages from a photo album, A Box of Photographs tells in words and images the story of a life spent with cameras and typewriters, while also tracing a path through the social and cultural history of twentieth-century France. A voice at the outset instructs the author, “Talk about photography all you like, but spare me the clichés,” and although the pun is untranslatable, because a cliché in French is both a photograph and a hackneyed truism, we get the message that Roger Grenier cares as much about language as he does photography.
This might be more of less obvious to those familiar with Grenier’s life in print, which weaves its way into both the book and this particular review. Near the end of A Box of Photographs, Grenier remembers:
After I left the world of journalism, I started to walk around with a camera, like everyone else. Once you make it your business to be a writer, photos—whether you’ve taken them yourself or not—become much more than memories or documentation. They are trampolines for the imagination, a source of inspiration I could not do without. Writing becomes like those curious infrared photos where, thanks to the body heat that’s been left behind, the film manages to record the image of someone who hasn’t been there for an hour, who is already swallowed up by the past.
Read captures the spirit of the book when he picks up a proposition silently espoused by Grenier: “writers and photographers are often natural soulmates.” As he concludes:
Grenier wrote the preface for that book [Brassaï's tome on À la Recherche du temps perdu] and in A Box of Photographs he in turn explores the relevance of photography to his own literary output. Photographs are for him an essential creative springboard, prompting recall of past events otherwise lost in the vast archives of memory, events that then inspire essays, novels and short stories. He also refers to those opportunities that Willy Ronis called “the perfect moment,” making photography a metaphor for life itself, well lived if you seize the time.
This is Charlie's moving journal detailing both the extreme enhancement of his intellect by an experimental drug and his subsequent loss of intelligence. As I get older, I appreciate it even more for its insights into loss of abilities, because I see an analogy to aging. Books mentioned in this post Flowers for Algernon Daniel [...]
The latest stand-alone novel by Alexander McCall Smith is a slight departure from his usual fare. It lacks the charm and lightness of his other offerings but gives, instead, a truly heartfelt dissertation on love. Melancholy, poignant, and bittersweet, Trains and Lovers has four tales of romance — warts and all. Four strangers take a long train ride, sharing [...]
By: Genevieve Petrillo,
Blog: Cupcake Speaks
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Every day when I am halfway through eating my dinner, I slide the bowl around the kitchen until I’m able to pick it up in my mouth. Then I carry it onto the little rug in the living room. Once I get it settled there (IF it doesn’t flip over and splash food everywhere), I finish eating my food and then try to eat the bowl. So far, I have been unsuccessful with that goal.
The other day, I decided to try a new strategy. It’s called eating-on-the-leather-chair.
Mom was happy and excited when she saw me. She said the things she always says when I impress her with how smart I am – like, “Oh no you didn’t!” and “What did those jackasses in your head tell you to do now?” and “You’re going to get a spankin’.” I love when she says that. It sounds so much like, “You’re going to get some bacon.” Bacon. Yum….
I’m ready for my bacon, Mom.
Mom is trying a new strategy with her writing this week. Each day, she works on a story for a half hour and then she works on a poem for a half hour. Her idea lists from PiBoIdMo and her other lists are getting too, too long. She thinks she can use them up faster if some of them become poems. Also, she wants to enter a poetry contest, so she needs some new poems to submit. She said, “Poems are fun.” and “This one is about you, Cupcake.” and “Some of these ideas are too stupid to live another day.”
We should put those bad ideas in the garbage. Let me check and maybe clear out some of the more delicious… I mean bulky trash to make room….