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Posts Tagged ‘reading

“My best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read”*…

 

The books were a big deal. Nobody had books on death row. They had never been allowed, and it was like someone had brought in contraband. Only six guys were allowed to join me in book club, but every guy on the row was now allowed to have two books besides the Bible in his cell. Some didn’t care, but others made calls out to family and friends to let them know they could send in a book or two. It had to be a brand-new book and be sent directly from a bookstore to the prison. It was like a whole new world opened up, and guys started talking about what books they liked. Some guys didn’t know how to read, others were real slow, almost childlike, and had never been to school beyond a few grades. Those guys didn’t know why they were on death row, and I wondered about a world that would just as soon execute a guy as treat him in a hospital or admit he wasn’t mentally capable of knowing right from wrong.

The very first book club meeting consisted of Jesse Morrison, Victor Kennedy, Larry Heath, Brian Baldwin, Ed Horsley, Henry, and myself. We were allowed to meet in the law library, but we each had to sit at a different table. We couldn’t get up. In order to talk to everyone at once, you had to kind of swivel around in your seat so no one felt left out. If someone wanted to read something out of the book, we had to toss the book to each other and hope that the guy caught it or it landed in reach of someone because we weren’t allowed to lift our butts up off the seats. The guards seemed nervous when they walked us to the library. We weren’t planning a riot or an escape; we were five black guys and two white guys talking about a James Baldwin book. Perfectly normal. Nothing to see here…

When Anthony Ray Hinton was sentenced to death for two murders he didn’t commit, he used his time to create a book club for death row inmates: “The Death Row Book Club” (excerpted from Hinton’s new book, The Sun Does Shine).

* Abraham Lincoln

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As we celebrate close reading, we might recall that it was on this date in 1943 that Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered the psychedelic properties of LSD.  Hofmann had synthesized the drug five years earlier, but its hoped-for use in treating respiratory problems didn’t pan out, and it was shelved.  On this day, he accidentally absorbed some of the drug through his skin (as he touched its container).  He became dizzy with hallucinations.  Three days later he took the first intentional dose of acid: 0.25 milligrams (250 micrograms), an amount he predicted to be a threshold dose (an actual threshold dose is 20 micrograms).  Less than an hour later, Hofmann experienced sudden and intense changes in perception.  He asked his laboratory assistant to escort him home and, as use of motor vehicles was prohibited because of wartime restrictions, they had to make the journey on a bicycle… which is why April 19 has been celebrated (since 1985) as “Bicycle Day.”

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Written by LW

April 16, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them”*…

 

People think of reading as the introvert’s hobby: A quiet activity for a person who likes quiet, save for the voices in their head. But in the 5,000 or so years humans have been writing, reading as we conceive it, an asocial solo activity with a book, is a relatively new form of leisure.

For centuries, Europeans who could read did so aloud. The ancient Greeks read their texts aloud. So did the monks of Europe’s dark ages. But by the 17th century, reading society in Europe had changed drastically. Text technologies, like moveable type, and the rise of vernacular writing helped usher in the practice we cherish today: taking in words without saying them aloud, letting them build a world in our heads…

Read the full story of how “The beginning of silent reading changed Westerners’ interior life.”

* Lemony Snicket [Daniel Handler], Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

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As we try not to move our lips, we might gratefully recall that it was on this date in 1971 that Michael Hart, now known as the father of e-books, inaugurated Project Gutenberg, issuing the Declaration of Independence.  The service now offers over 54,000 free eBooks– epub books, free kindle books, and plain text, available to download or to read online.  Mostly classics (that are out of copyright), the collection contains much of the world’s great literature, all digitized and diligently proofread with the help of thousands of volunteers.

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Written by LW

December 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

So many books, so little time”*…

 

There are millions of books in the world (and almost definitely hundreds of millions—last they checked, Google had the count at 129,864,880, and that was seven years ago). The rabid and/or competitive readers among you will now be asking yourselves: yes, yes, now how will I read them all?

Well, you won’t…

A logical method for figuring out “How many books will you read before you die?

Then, increase your count with:  “How to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year, According to Harvard Research.”

* Frank Zappa (riffing on an age-old theme)

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As we memento mori, we might send imaginative birthday greetings to Washington Irving; he was born on this date in 1783.  A short story writer, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat, he was America’s first genuine internationally best-selling author.  While best remembered for stories like “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.), he also wrote biographies of George Washington, Oliver Goldsmith, and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects including Christopher Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra; he served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846.

Mathew Brady’s copy of an original daguerreotype by John Plumbe

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Written by LW

April 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books”*…

 

Just in time for summer reading…

Goldman Sachs: financial giant, hotbed of enthusiasm for subprime mortgages, and hapless recipient of your hard-earned money. Who better to tell you what to read?

Well, now they are telling you what to read, in the form of a recently-published recommended book list. We’re talking about people who incurred $550 million in fines for schemes to turn a profit on the civilization-threatening financial crisis they themselves had helped create, and the line between genius and chutzpah is notoriously hard to draw, so, yeah, I’d like to know what’s on these folks’ bedside tables.

First things first, and no big shock: they’re really into capitalism…

More at “Don’t know what to read? Let Goldman Sachs tell you.”  The list is here.

[Image above, sourced here]

* Arthur Schopenhauer

As we pack for the beach, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that Sylvan Goldman introduced the first shopping cart in his Humpty Dumpty grocery store in Oklahoma City.

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Written by LW

June 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I’m so hungry I could eat a sandwich from a gas station”*…

 

Seoul Food D.C. restaurant, located inside an Exxon gas station

 

Gas stations have long been synonymous with cold pizza, dried-out doughnuts and mediocre hot dogs rotating on unappetizing roller grills. But in cities like Miami, Kansas City, and even Saxapahaw, N.C., among others, patrons can fuel up on gourmet grub and top off their tanks in one stop…

Gas stations for a long time have been a low-margin business. Owners typically make their real profits not on fuel sales but on the snacks and other items customers purchase when they come inside the station. These latest gas station eats are just taking that business model up a notch or two…

Fill ‘er up at “The Joys of Good Gas Station Food.”

* “Clark Griwold” (Chevy Chase), National Lampoon’s Vacation

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As we pull in to take out, we might send tasty birthday greetings to the culinary genius behind green eggs and ham, Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”; he was born on this date in 1904.  After a fascinating series of early-career explorations, Geisel settled on a style that created what turned out to be the perfect “gateway drug” to book addiction for generations of young readers.

The more that you read,

The more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go.

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)

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Written by LW

March 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it”*…

 

It’s straight out of the pages of science fiction: a “wearable” book, which uses temperature controls and lighting to mimic the experiences of a story’s protagonist, has been dreamed up by academics at MIT.

The book, explain the researchers, senses the page a reader is on, and changes ambient lighting and vibrations to “match the mood”. A series of straps form a vest which contains a “heartbeat and shiver simulator”, a body compression system, temperature controls and sound.

“Changes in the protagonist’s emotional or physical state trigger discrete feedback in the wearable [vest], whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localised temperature fluctuations,” say the academics…

Read more at The Guardian and at the MIT Sensory Fiction project page, then watch this short demo:

email readers click here for video

* C.S. Lewis

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As we feel the protagonist’s pain, we might spare a thought for Hunter S. Thompson; he died, by his own hand, on this date in 2005.  Father of the “Gonzo” school of reportage, in which reporters so involve themselves in the action they’re covering that they become central figures in the stories, HST was a pillar of the New Journalism movement (though he’d surely be horrified to hear it put that way).

The true voice of Thompson is revealed to be that of American moralist … one who often makes himself ugly to expose the ugliness he sees around him

– Hari Kunzru

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Written by LW

February 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

“From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it…”*

If the diagram above makes sense to you, you may have succumbed to one of the most pernicious perils of our time.  Check the list of symptoms at “25 Signs You’re Addicted To Books.”

And on that subject, enjoy this lionizing of libraries

* Groucho Marx

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As we keep up with the jones, we might spare a thought for Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”; he died on this date in 1991.  After a fascinating series of early-career explorations, Geisel settled on a style that created what turned out to be the perfect “gateway drug” to book addiction for generations of nascent young readers.

The more that you read,

The more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go.

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)

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Written by LW

September 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

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