In support of Banned Books Week (September 21-27, 2014)

 

Supposedly Thursday afternoon, somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard, a woman stares at her monitor with a furrowed brow caused by pain and confusion . . .

Reblogged from the Huffington Post:

Banned Books Week: How One Person With A Pen Taught Me All About Censorship

by Claire Fallon

When I was a college student, I majored in English literature, which meant that I got to read a lot of novels for class — and my course reading could be purchased for a song. Unlike my STEM classmates, most of my class syllabuses were filled with paperback novels and epic poems I could buy used for five bucks apiece at the campus bookstore.

When I bought a copy of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides for a Contemporary Fiction class one semester, I applied my usual procedure: I grabbed a relatively clean-looking copy from the stack, flipped through the pages to check for excessive scribbling, and dropped it in my basket along with the 20-odd other books I was purchasing. A successful prelude to future learning, or so I thought.

When it came time to dig into the novel several weeks later, however, something went awry. As I read through the first few pages, my vision was suddenly assaulted by several dark, black scribbles covering lines of text. I was as viscerally shocked as if the book had, unaided, leapt out of my hands and whacked me over the head. I read on — and it happened again. More words covered by heavily, thoroughly crosshatched ballpoint pen. Having purchased many used student copies of novels before, no intrusive notes in the margin, underlining or aggressive highlighting would have been new to me — but this, this was new. I strained to see what words lay beneath the pen marks, but in vain; the scribbles were so firm and uniform that the pen had also imprinted bumpy, wide furrows into the page.

There was no getting around it: Someone, perhaps even one of my classmates at college, hadn’t wanted the future owners of this volume to read those few snippets of text.

virginsuicides

Unfortunately for that person, the year was not 1807 — it was 2009, and I had a way to find out those obliterated words right at my fingertips: Google. So it was only a few minutes before I found myself facing the revelation that the words my book’s defacer had objected to were: “‘Fuck the Holy Mother’ […] ‘Fuck God'” and “telling God to fuck Himself all over again.” I couldn’t resist a bit of a chuckle — though I understood not everyone was comfortable with such language, even coming from the mouth of a fictional character, this was apparently the only thing the amateur censor had objected to in a book about the sexual objectification and gruesome suicides of five young girls.

virginsuicides2

In fact, only a few paragraphs before the first pen marks, Eugenides gently tweaks such unthinking primness, characterized in the staidly faithful Mr. Buell, who blames a girl’s suicide attempt on the lack of a picture of Jesus in her home: “Otherwise he persevered, and always gently corrected us when we took the Lord’s name in vain.” Mr. Buell’s faith, Eugenides reveals, hasn’t cured his shoulder injury, and his fixation on faith leads to unthinking cruelty in the form of blaming a family for their suffering. His focus on the town boys not taking the Lord’s name in vain seems to be a superficial effort toward their betterment at best. But only a page later, a reader had mimicked his blanket silencing of curse words, as if the complexities of Eugenides’s narrative hadn’t registered at all. The threads of religious propriety and faith continue to weave through the text, making those words part of a greater tapestry that the previous reader had chosen to partly obscure.

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the American Library Association, I’d grown up with fairly free access to reading materials — including, yes, sometimes books that were somewhat too old for me or that weren’t worth reading (which, fortunately, never caused any damage, lasting or otherwise). This incident, as minor and absurd as it was, reminded me of how fortunate I had been to learn in such a free environment, but also that censorship, even for a rule-following, straight-laced type like myself, only stokes the desire to read the controversial material.

The ballpoint expurgation of my Virgin Suicides served less to shield me from its obscenities than to highlight them, perversely. I may have skipped lightly over those words had they not been scribbled out, barely noticing them; instead, I dedicated 10 minutes just to finding and reading them, as well as thinking about what could have compelled someone to blot them out, and as a result I can remember them easily years later. The scribbler took those despised words and made them the most visible elements of the book by deeming them unfit to be read.

Though I don’t believe those words should have been the most memorable in such a searing, stunningly crafted novel, which contained so much meant to provoke thought, I do think it’s right that we pay closer attention to those words and ideas people try to hide from view. Though some words may seem dangerous and worthy of hiding, confronting them is the only way of effectively combating them. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Sometimes, the light merely shows us that our fear was always misplaced.

This Banned Books Week, here at HuffPost Books, we’re grateful for all the books that have startled us, unnerved us, and even angered us — and we’re glad that the ALA and others are working to ensure that readers in America will continue to be able to engage with groundbreaking, if sometimes upsetting and even offensive, texts that will keep people engaged with the difficult work of learning and growing.

                   

Music by Paolo Nutini, “Don’t Let Me Down” (Beatles’ Cover)


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“Imagine a world in which your choices about where and how to work were not determined in the context of white-hot rage or crippling fear over the inability to simply feed yourself.” ~ Kristin Dombek, from The Help Desk (July 29, 2014)

Kurt Schwitters EN MORN, 1947
“En Morn” (1947, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

I wonder sometimes who we have lost to employment in the finance industry—how many great, world-changing climatologists and astrophysicists and doctors and molecular biologists and teachers and composers and househusbands and architects and urban planners. We’ll never know . . . ” ~ Kristin Dombek

When I read the following, I could not help but think of my son Brett, and all of the things he has said so similar to what Dombek is saying. It’s probably one of the best essays on life that I have read in a very long time, so much so that I really really really wish that I had written it, but I didn’t. The words are cutting and blistering, and infused with equal parts truth and grace, and every point Dombek makes is completely, unmistakably valid.

Kurt Schwitters 1942-43 Difficult
“Difficult” (1942-43, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

It is a rare thing to come upon someone who writes in this way, someone who loves words and appreciates all that they can do to illuminate the mind, and how they can fill up all of the holes in the soul, an individual for whom writing is akin to aspirating and expirating—effortless and filled with precision and thought and care. I think that I’m going to have to make her column mandatory reading for myself.

Do yourself a favor, read the whole thing. It’s too long to repost completely, but I’ve provided a link. Enjoy . . .

Reposted from nplusonemag.com

The Help Desk is a monthly advice column from Kristin Dombek. Advice-seekers may submit questions to askkristin@nplusonemag.com.

Hi Miss Dombek,

I have a question that pretty much sums up the core theme of my adult life. In my youth, as I began to take jobs and find my way, my confusion at the meaninglessness of most employment took the form of amusement; dull, exploitative labor was an odd feature of American life I noticed and playfully railed against, almost imitating the kind of things you’d hear real, working adults say. Now, as I approach my forties, this confusion has become a white-hot festering rage that runs at all times in the background of my day to day.

Miss Dombek, is there something wrong with me that I find regular employment to be the most soul-oppressing thing I can imagine? How can someone undergo the spectrum of emotion and concentration necessary to create something beautiful—a real and full life, even—while holding down work enough to survive? Aren’t we really all being exploited to one extent or another, with largely menial, unimportant posts (except for maybe those on the tippy-top), just to keep this whole thing going? How can I choose not to be a part of this construct and still eat?

Sincerely yours,

Bank-robbin’ in Brooklyn


 

Bank-robbin’ in Brooklyn:

First of all, Marx didn’t call it alienated labor for nothing, dear. It’s not called “nose to the grindstone” because it feels good. It’s not called “keep your head down” because it’s wise to look around. You have been trained from childhood to think that labor, in and of itself, is both a right and one of the most important goals of your life; you have been told that your “career” is the same thing as “who you are in the world.” Yet like most employed people in the United States, you work jobs that you consider to be banal, brutal, or both.1 For this labor you are supposed to be grateful, since work is increasingly hard to get: if you lose your shitty job, you’ve got only a one-in-five chance of finding a new one, and if you’ve been unemployed for six months or longer your chances are one in ten.2 While you look, there is hardly a safety net; Boehner’s shredded it. Follow the logic of this drive to profit on the back of shitty labor (the difficult labor that is either necessary or not, but purchased by employers for less than the value it creates) and bullshit labor (often in industries invented to distract, placate, and endlessly “connect” us and imprison us in debt while we work shitty or bullshit jobs) and you will find the same drive to create wealth for those on the “tippy-top” that has us hell bent on fracking until California burns and New Orleans and New York and Miami drown. This is no longer some unimaginable possible future, it is happening now: the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to split apart.

Kurt Schwitters Hitler Gang 1944
“Hitler Gang” (1944, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

Is there something wrong with you? If you are unusual, it is because you are refusing to keep your head down. Why do you keep looking around? There’s so much to distract and comfort you, if you could just keep your head down, that is, in your computer. Keep your head down; Solange Knowles has kicked Jay Z in an elevator. Keep your head down; James Franco has 2 million followers and he has taken off his shirt and seems to be pulling down his underwear. Keep your head down; Ryan Gosling is still wearing his T-shirt but it has a picture of Macaulay Culkin on it wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Ryan Gosling on it, a three-ton great white shark has been eaten either by an even bigger great white shark or possibly by the Leviathan, and Bill Murray has crashed another wedding. Are you not entertained?

Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too?

You don’t seem to be entertained, Bank-robbin’; your white-hot rage festers. It probably doesn’t help that you live in Brooklyn—this place where in the last ten years rent has spiked 77 percent while real median income has dropped,3 where the rich (the top 10 percent of earners who, as is well known, control 80 percent of the wealth) and their children live right on top of some of the worst poverty known to this country, while 20 percent of Brooklynites survive somehow below the poverty level,4 such that the widening income and wealth gap5 becomes achingly visible here. I could advise you to leave Brooklyn. But I don’t want you to leave Brooklyn.

Everything is upside down. Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life. So should you turn to crime, if you haven’t already? Do whatever it takes to avoid participating in this “construct,” risking hunger, imprisonment, or dependence on people with real jobs, who’ve learned to keep their heads down?6 Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too? Should you try to work harder, save more, get your hands on some capital, even though the game seems impossibly rigged, so that if you do work out how to make a profit, it will be incredibly difficult to do so without replicating the system of exploitation that enrages you?

article continued at link . . .

                   

Music by Staind, “Outside”

“It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut, from Slaughterhouse Five

Some more beautiful time-lapse photography for your Sunday afternoon. Stolen from my compatriot Izaak Mak on I Want Ice Water

Sunday afternoon . . .

Here, have some nature . . .

reblogged from Life Buzz

Friday leftovers . . .

                   

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

image

Okay, after spending so much time yesterday culling through bullshit that left me feeling dirty and broken and mostly icky all over, I definitely think that’s time for a bit of comic relief, hence, a leftovers post filled to the brim . . .

An overabundance, a plethora, if you will. Enjoy.

Alternate ending to Tyrion’s speech:

Just. can’t. Nope.

Omigawd . . . Alex Trebek as a rap star . . .

Oh, I love this man . . .

People are strange . . .

More people are strange . . . how do you not notice someone living in your closet?

And finally . . . this is beyond awesome . . .

                   

Music by The Doors, “People are Strange” (what else?)

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.” ~ William Shakespeare, from Hamlet (IV,v), spoken by Ophelia

Happy 450th Birthday to the Bard!


World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day (also known as International Day of the Book or World Book Days) is a yearly event on 23 April, organized by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. It is hoped that World Book and Copyright Day will increase people’s understanding of copyright laws and other measures to protect intellectual copyright.

In the United Kingdom, the day is instead recognised on the first Thursday in March.

World Book Day was celebrated for the first time on 23 April 1995. The date is symbolic for world literature. Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died on 23 April 1616.

23 April has also been taken as Shakespeare’s birthday (he was baptised on 26 April 1564, and his actual date of birth is unknown). This year, 2014, marks William Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday.

The Top 12 Shakespeare Quotes

  1. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. (Julius Caesar)
  2. To be, or not to be: that is the question. (Hamlet)
  3. The course of true love never did run smooth. (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  4. If I lose mine honour, I lose myself. (Antony and Cleopatra)
  5. All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. (As You Like It)
  6. Now is the winter of our discontent. (Richard III)
  7. Brevity is the soul of wit. (Hamlet)
  8. Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em. (Twelfth Night)
  9. Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.  (All’s Well That Ends)
  10. Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow. (Romeo and Juliet)
  11. But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve. (Othello)
  12. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Hamlet)

by Amanda Patterson

                   

One of my favorite scenes, from Henry V (IV,iii) from one of my all-time favorite versions, starring Kenneth Branagh:

Enter the KING

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

                   

Go here for a lovely list of Shakespeare’s quotes

Callanish Stones by clnmac FCC
Callanish Stones by clnmac FCC

                   

by María Auxiliadora Álvarez, trans. Catherine Hammond

Standing Stones