Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Father Road

Follow me on my trip along the Lincoln Highway this summer. It'll culminate in a book.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cartoon College

Stephen King's "The Shining" Sequel - "Doctor Sleep"

The First Comic Book for the Blind

Wired takes note of it, here.

From the piece...

“Most of the tactile material that is available for blind people is very information dense,” Meyer tells Wired. “It’s always about information and not often about art.”

Titled “Life,” the comic tells a familiar story: Two characters meet, fall in love and have a child. That child goes off on its own, the parents grow old and then fade away. Only in “Life,” there are no words, no colors and every character is represented by a simple, tactile circle.

Meyer’s goal was to make a comic that was equally translatable for sighted and blind people.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Want to Be More Creative? Turn Down The Lights

Darkness promotes creativity, according to a new study.

From a piece in Salon...

Don’t have a dimmer switch at your desk? No worries. Other experiments found that merely priming the idea of darkness—such as by taking five minutes to describe an experience of literally being in the dark, and recalling how it felt—was sufficient to boost creativity. Participants who did just that drew more innovative portraits of space aliens than their counterparts who had described being in bright light.

However, the darkness-spurs-innovation equation did not always hold true. In another experiment, the researchers found “the darkness-related increase in creativity disappeared when using a more informal, indirect light instead of direct light.”

18 Disney Movies That Were Never Made

The list, care of Mental Floss.

From said list...

4. Chanticleer

Based on a tale by Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac, Chanticleer was to be a barnyard tale about how a rooster with a strange name thought his crow caused the sun to rise. Fans of Rock-A-Doodle (you’re out there, right?) recognize this as part of the 1991 movie directed by Don Bluth, who not-so-coincidentally was working for Disney at the time one of the Chanticleer revivals was being discussed.

5. Reynard

There is, perhaps unknown to many of us, an old folk tale about a rascally fox named Reynard. Walt Disney considered making a movie about Reynard since at least 1937, but never could quite come to the terms with the fox’s ugly deeds. Unlike other harmless Disney scoundrels, the victims of Reynard’s pranks often perished. It was more than a little off-brand for Disney, but he kept trying to figure out how to make it work for nearly 40 years. At one point, they even considered merging the tales of Chanticleer and Reynard into one movie. Eventually, the sly fox was used as the inspiration for the title character in Robin Hood.

Neil Gaiman's Top 10 Favorite Mythical Characters

The list, care of the Guardian.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Brief History of the Architecture of Superman's The Daily Planet

Smithsonian discusses it, here.

From the story...

In Cleveland, Superman fans claim that the Daily Planet was inspired by the AT&T Huron Road Building (originally the Ohio Bell Building), another Art Deco design, built by Cleveland architects Hubbell & Benes in 1927. Coincidentally, the building is currently topped with a globe, the AT&T logo – perhaps the owners want to reinforce the notion that this is the true Daily Planet Building. After all, harboring the world’s greatest superhero has to be good for property value, right? It’s not certain how this rumor got started, but Shuster has denied that anything in Cleveland influenced his designs for Metropolis.

Obviously, the massive sculptural globe is the one thing missing from the above buildings. And really, it’s the only thing that matters. The globe is the feature that identifies the building as the site of Superman’s day job and, more often than not, the collateral damage resulting from his other day job.

Japanese Movie Posters of David Lynch Films


10 Literary-Themed Restaurants from Around the World


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fore-Edge Paintings

The Thriving Self-Publishing Side of Gun Show Enthusiasts

It's a thing. Salon targets it in a story.

From the piece...

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled onto a thriving chapbook culture while surrounded by hollow-point bullets and guys spitting tobacco into Mountain Dew bottles. The gun show’s book booth was four tables long and jammed with racks of chapbooks.

The first title that caught my attention was "Poor Man's Ray Gun." Its wavy sci-fi cover and slim page count felt like it could be a screed of avant-garde poetry. Instead, it was filled with technically dense instructions and diagrams. It’s an instruction manual for converting a microwave oven into a death laser.

I flipped through more chapbooks. The covers weren’t as Madison Avenue as “Ray Gun,” usually featuring just a primary colored shade of construction paper. Their titles, though, were more threatening than any chapbook on my shelf.

The Science of Laughing and the Brain

Can humor help us better understand the most complex and enigmatic organ in the human body?

From a story in the American Scholar...

Charles Darwin referred to humor as “a tickling of the mind.” We speak of being “tickled pink” at a funny joke, and tickling often leads to laughter, so the analogy is apt. At the physiological level, humor reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and is thought to enhance our immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems. Laughter also provides a workout for the muscles of the diaphragm, abdomen, and face. A joke can raise our spirits, or ease our tension. If we’re able to laugh during a stressful situation, we can put psychological distance between ourselves and the stress. Norman Cousins, editor of The Saturday Review for more than 30 years, chronicled in his 1979 bestselling book, Anatomy of an Illness, how he attempted to cure himself of a mysterious and rapidly progressive inflammatory illness of the spine by engaging in hours-long laughing sessions while watching Marx Brothers films and reruns of the then-popular Candid Camera. Though Cousins’s claims could not be scientifically confirmed, even the most skeptical researchers agree that humor provides an antidote to some emotions widely recognized to be associated with illness—for example, the feelings of rage and fear that can precipitate a heart attack.

Though I wouldn’t take a position on whether laughter has universally salutary benefits, many laughter associations and workshops around the world—common most notably in India and Sweden—do just that.

Monday, June 24, 2013

50 Books from the Last 50 Years Everyone Needs to Read

The list, care of Flavorwrire.

Creative Writing in Prison

The New York Times takes a look between the bars.

From the piece...

Write about a toy or game you played with as a child, revealing something important about your experience.
One speaks of playing with the Lone Ranger and Tonto on his bedspread, enacting dramas of power and race. Another remembers the toy backhoe, a miniature version of the one his father drove on a chain gang down South. One recalls playing checkers with his granny while she schooled him about life. And one seems almost free again as he talks about riding his yellow bicycle into the wind, away from the safety and constraints of home. 

Write about when you ceased to be a child.
One was claimed at age 13 by the streets, as one parent succumbed to mental illness and the other disappeared. Another left boyhood behind at 12, when the only way to fulfill his duty as the eldest child — to bring home the items on his mother’s grocery list — was to switch supermarket price tags. Some were initiated by drinking, drugs or sex; others tie the shift to the right to drive, or vote. For one, the lynching of an uncle signaled the passage from boy to man.

Dating Tips from Ovid

The tips, care of Mental Floss.

From the piece...

1. Don’t expect the One and Only to fall out of the sky and land at your feet.
Even with Cupid pitching on your side, she’s not going to be “wafted down to you from heaven on the wings of the wind,” as the master says. Satisfying love may take some searching, at least in the beginning, and your hard work breaking the two-mile courtship circle will eventually pay off.  

2. Learn to know the places where the fair ones do most haunt.
The best place to find a mate back in the day was apparently Rome, despite mythological heroes Perseus and Theseus finding their queens in India and among the Amazons. Ovid’s favorite local hotspots for singles mingling included the circus, the arena, and even the open-air public market known as the forum.  For a modern hopeful, that could be the local bar, the public library, or a section of Jersey Shore boardwalk—it all depends on your tastes. 

Top 10 Utopias in Literature

The list, care of the Guardian.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Soviet Union-Era Space-Themed Stamps


Is Drinking Coffee Good for Creativity? Or Bad?

It's complicated.

From a piece in the New Yorker...

When we drink a caffeinated beverage, the caffeine quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier—an interface of sorts between the brain and the body’s circulatory system, designed to protect the central nervous system from chemicals in the blood that might harm it—and proceeds to block the activity of a substance called adenosine. Normally, a central function of adenosine is to inhibit the release of various chemicals into the brain, lowering energy levels and promoting sleep, among other regulatory bodily functions. When it’s blocked, we’re less likely to fall asleep on our desks or feel our focus drifting. According to a recent review of some hundred studies, caffeine has a number of distinct benefits. Chief among them are that it boosts energy and decreases fatigue; enhances physical, cognitive, and motor performance; and aids short-term memory, problem solving, decision making, and concentration. 

But all of that comes at a cost. Science is only beginning to unravel the full complexity behind different forms of creative accomplishment.

How a Boy Became an Artist

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Enclosed Content Chatting Away in the Colour Invisibility


Are Celebrity Children's Books Bad for Literature?

That was the question posed recently by the Scotsman.

From the piece...

Of course celebrities, like anyone else, can be multi-talented in the most surprising of ways. Everyone laughed at Victoria Beckham’s ambition to become a fashion designer, and now Hollywood actresses fight to wear her dresses. Those of us who will always think of him as the bumbling Prince Regent in Blackadder remain a little perplexed by Hugh Laurie’s recent incarnation as a blues musician, yet his hugely successful debut album and live performances have gained consistently respectable reviews.
But while Beckham (despite the odd nasty rumour) really does design her own dresses – around her own body it was recently revealed – and it’s Laurie’s own gravelly voice singing the blues, Lampard admits openly that he did not actually write most of Frankie’s Magic Football.

“I couldn’t, to be honest, finish a complete book. It’s very difficult for me to write a kids’ book. I basically have the characters that I’ve come up with and the storylines, so once I get through that, I normally write a whole list of the story and where it goes, then at the end I sit down with (editor) Mike and he will help me with how you put it together,” the footballer said in a recent interview. Asked if he wrote any words, Lampard replied: “Yeah, bits of it,” before going on to add: “I would love to get to the stage where I can write the whole book myself.”

Ten Most Unusual Fictional Families

The list, care of the Guardian.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Father Road

Follow me on my trip along the Lincoln Highway this summer. It'll culminate in a book.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's High-Priced Superman Paraphernalia!

ABC News takes note of Superman memorabilia that are popular items ahead of the 'Man of Steel' premiere.


Classic Paintings...on Toast


What Would Orwell Say about Our Surveillance Society?

That was the question recently posed by NPR.

From the piece...

President Obama says he's not Big Brother. The author who created the concept might disagree.

Addressing the controversy over widespread government surveillance of telephone records and Internet traffic Friday, Obama said, "In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amuck, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance."

But for many commentators, revelations this week that the federal government is sweeping up records of communications and transactions between millions of Americans sounds uncomfortably like the vision of the British novelist and journalist George Orwell.

Superman Comic Fetches $175,000 at Auction

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Father Road

Follow me on my trip along the Lincoln Highway this summer. It'll culminate in a book.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

How Books Can Open Your Mind

Sherman Alexie on Living Outside Cultural Borders

And Here's a Picture of Gorillas Reading

Weighty Matters

Obese characters used to be there for comic relief, but as our waistlines expand fiction writers are starting to take them more seriously. Sarah Stodola weighs the state of obesity in the novel.

From a story in the Daily Beast...

Shriver hits on certain themes that have emerged over the past year, as stepping on a scale in America and around the world has become a more fraught experience than ever and fiction has begun to weigh in. In short, obesity is having a literary moment.

It’s been a long time coming. “Obesity among Americans is a major public health problem that is bound to get worse as the nation eats more and exercises less,” the New York Times reported all the way back in 1966. But even as the obesity rate was rising steadily to its current rate of 35 percent, adding an eventual $190 billion to annual health care costs, our sympathies lagged behind the emerging epidemic. In literature as in life, fat people were still there to be made fun of.
Case in point: the prototypical modern overweight protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, the antihero of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces and “a slovenly and ranting fatso,” as Alan Friedman described him in his 1980 review for the Times.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Jimmy Fallon's Summer Do Not Read List

The bookBot at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library

Why Do We Read Movie Novelizations? Or Do We?

Big Hollywood movies arrive in theaters with an entourage of tie-in merchandise at their heels, ready to lure you in with their enticing buy-ability. Aside from action figures, apparel and the endless other products we expect each summer, studios partner with book publishers to produce one of the more intriguing film extension items out there: the novelization.

From a piece in Lit Reactor...

For those of you in the dark, a novelization is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a transformation of a movie into a book, whereby the original narrative is delivered to audiences not through images, sounds and special effects, but through prose—or, the exact opposite of a novel's adaptation to the big screen. If you've never come across one of these literary oddities, that's understandable. While once a fairly popular medium, the novelization has lost some of its sway over the average consumer. Not only this, numerous articles about novelizations...speak to the mediocre writing seemingly inherent to the medium, a byproduct of tight deadlines (most are written in four to six weeks) and, most likely, the author writing for money rather than love. Peter Kobell...says "these illegitimate offspring of movies and novels are often pulp fiction of the rawest sort. The literary equivalent of the action figures in fast food restaurants..." This is one of the nicer quotes about novelizations out there.

So what is it about novelizations that appeals to us? Why would anyone elect to read a book based on a movie, when there are countless original novels out there? Let's take a deeper look into this genre (and yes, it is a genre all its own) and see just how the novelization cemented its place in popular culture.

Collecting Flowers with Emily Dickinson


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Short David Lynch Film about a Parisian Printshop

Vintage Photos of Famous Authors Writing


Penguin's Science Fiction Covers


The Origins of 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men' to Be Published

In 1936 Fortune magazine’s editors assigned a relatively unknown and disgruntled staff writer named James Agee to travel to Alabama for the summer and chronicle the lives of sharecroppers. The article was never published. The book, with photographs by Walker Evans, was, as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Now, the original article will be published as a book as well.

From a piece in the New York Times...

What readers have known for decades is that Agee used his reporting material to create his 1941 book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” a literary description of abject poverty in the South, accompanied by starkly haunting Walker Evans photographs. The original magazine article was never published, as Agee squabbled with his editors over what he felt was the exploitation and trivialization of destitute American families. In the early pages of “Famous Men,” he wrote that it was obscene for a commercial enterprise to “pry intimately into the lives of an undefended and appallingly damaged group of human beings.” What readers are about to discover now is what all the fighting was about. 

On Tuesday Melville House will publish Agee’s original, unprinted 30,000-word article in book form, under the title “Cotton Tenants: Three Families.” The publication gives Agee fans a glimpse of an early draft of what became a seminal work of American literature. 

“With the book, we have a much better map of him writing ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,’ “ said John Summers, who edited “Cotton Tenants” and printed an excerpt from the article in a literary journal he edits, The Baffler.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Heath Ledger's Joker Diary

The Father Road

Follow me on my trip along the Lincoln Highway this summer. It'll culminate in a book.

The Father Road

The Problem with 'The Great Gatsby's' Daisy Buchanan

Why have critics and readers throughout the ages hated Gatsby’s girl so much?

From a post on Women in the World...

Is there any female character in American literature more coquettish and coveted than Daisy Fay Buchanan? She’s the most desirable debutante, the ever-evading maid. She’s warm, feverish, thrilling, intoxicating—a siren, an enchantress, a blossoming flower. She’s Galahad’s chalice; she’s Guinevere and the Grail. She’s the quintessential Southern belle, cool in her white dress with her white mansion and her little white mobile. She’s the enchanted object, the great American dream, all bright eyes and a voice full of money—and of course she’s the light, that green light, drawing men, mothlike, to her flame. She’s the golden girl and the incorruptible angel and all the Platonic ideals that artists and poets throughout the great ages have required their muses to be.

She’s also—at least for many of The Great Gatsby’s readers—a rather unpleasant inamorata, at best infantile and impressionable, and at worst, possibly selfish to the point of pathology. In his afterward to the 1992 edition, publisher Charles Scribner III writes that Fitzgerald blamed Gatsby’s initial commercial failure on the fact that “the book contains no important woman character and women control the fiction market at present.” Seeing as how Daisy is at the heart of the novel and of Jay Gatsby’s very existence, we can only infer that F. Scott meant his book contained no sympathetic woman character. Edwin Clark, writing the first New York Times review of Gatsby in April 1925, seemed to agree: the East Eggers, he said, had a “meanness of spirit, a carelessness and absence of loyalties…dumb in their insensate selfishness, and only to be pitied.”

HP Lovecraft - the Writer Out of Time

He had one of the bleakest worldviews ever committed to paper, was racist – and could be a terrible writer. So why is HP Lovecraft more popular than ever?

From a piece in the Guardian...

 Lovecraft's work is not obviously child-friendly. "I am so beastly tired of mankind and the world," he once wrote, "that nothing can interest me unless it contains a couple of murders on each page, or deals with the horrors unnameable and unaccountable that leer down from the external universes." So why a baby book? "When we first printed Baby's First Mythos a decade ago," says Erica Henderson, "it was meant as more of a novelty for adults. But parents came back to us years later and said they were teaching their children with it. I think people like it when horror is subverted."

Why does she think he is so popular? "Lovecraft made a world where humans are alone, floating on a rock in a terrifying larger universe that we cannot possibly comprehend because our time in it has been so short and we are so insignificant compared to the horrors from the Cthulhu Mythos. So much of modern horror is based on that idea. We wouldn't have Ghostbusters if it weren't for Lovecraft – and that's the best argument I can think of for his work."

Why Sylvia Plath Still Haunts Us

Even half a century after her suicide, both her work and her life remain thrilling and horrifying.

From a piece in the Atlantic...

Out of these elements, endless constructions and conjurations. The ’70s enthroned her as a feminist martyr. She has been posthumously psychoanalyzed, politicized, astrologized. She did, it’s true, pack into her three decades a remarkable number of reboots and re-selvings—transformation, and its lethal opposite, was her theme—but even so … Can’t we leave her alone?

Not just yet, we can’t. This year has already brought us two new biographies, two more runs at the imago. Carl Rollyson’s American Isis declares her “the Marilyn Monroe of modern literature.” This is not as daft as it sounds: When Plath arrived in England in 1955, on a Fulbright scholarship to Cambridge University, she was, at least to English eyes, ablaze with American glamour. She had fashionable hair, man-eater lipstick, and a wobbly sense of momentum about her. She posed in a swimsuit for the university newspaper. She wore red shoes, as in a fairy tale. She wanted, she needed, to be famous. Rolly­son makes much—too much, perhaps—­of a dream Plath had three years later, in which Marilyn appeared to her “as a kind of fairy godmother,” giving her a manicure and promising her “a new, flower­ing life.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Goya - Crazy Like a Genius

Photos of Famous Landmarks Still Under Construction


Who Killed Pablo Neruda?

A judge wants to find out.

From a piece on Moby Lives...

On Saturday, a Chilean judge ordered police to find the man who may have poisoned Pablo Neruda, two months after the poet’s body was exhumed and nearly forty years after his death. This command is the culmination of a two-year campaign to investigate the Nobel laureate’s cause of death, which began when the poet’s former driver alleged that Neruda did not die of prostate cancer, as was officially recorded, but was poisoned by agents working with Chilean dictator Augusten Pinochet.

The decision came after Dr. Sergio Draper, a doctor who testified that he was with Neruda when he died, changed his story and told the court that a doctor named Price was with the poet. The catch? There’s no record of a Doctor Price in the hospital’s records and Draper never saw him again after the day he left him with Neruda.

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