Sunday, July 31, 2011

The 12 Habits of Highly Connective People

Anil Dash at Gel 2011 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

We can all use this and the original post of 12 is at the link.

(1.) believe you can make a difference

in case you were wondering if this is only touchy-feely, look at how Dana White built a UFC empire out of his desire to connect with fans.

(2.) think knowledge as a service

it's an overused expression, it really does apply. We live in a remix culture, where individuals, industries, and media will thrive by allowing the exchange of ideas. That's where new connections are made.

From Conversation Agent

Friday, July 29, 2011

Infographic: What happens at the dry cleaners

Click image to enlarge

Detailed article over at the Wall Street Journal.

India Block Printing

Skilled artisans create an array of striking designs, all printed using intricately carved teak blocks and richly colored pigment dyes.

Via MetaFilter

"Librarian" by My Morning Jacket

A bit stereotypical, but a nice song for a Friday anyway.

Librarian by My Morning Jacket

Walk across the courtyard towards the library
I can hear the insects buzz and the leaves 'neath my feet
Ramble up the stairwell into the hall of books
Since we got the inter web these hardly get used

Duck into the men's room combing through my hair
When God gave us mirrors He had no idea
Looking for a lesson in the periodicals
There I spy you listening to the AM radio

Karen of the Carpenters singing in the rain
Another lovely victim of the mirror's evil way
It's not like you're not trying with a pencil in your hair
To defy the beauty the good Lord put in there

Simple little bookworm buried underneath is the sexiest librarian
Take off those glasses and let down your hair for me

So I watch you through the bookcase imaging a scene
You and I at dinner spending time then to sleep
And what then would I say to you lying there in bed?
These words with a kiss I would plant in your head

What is it inside our heads that makes us do the opposite
Makes us do the opposite of what's right for us?
'Cause everything'd be great and everything'd be good
If everybody gave like everybody could

Sweetest little bookworm hidden underneath is the sexiest librarian
Take off those glasses and let down your hair for me
Take off those glasses and let down your hair for me

Simple little beauty heaven in your breath
Simplest of pleasures the world at it's best

Visualizing the Expansion of the Universe: The Most Accurate Measurement Yet


Brain Pickings previously looked at different ways to grasp the scale of the universe, but how can we measure its growth? Australian Ph.D. student Florian Beutler has created the most accurate measurement yet of how fast the universe is expanding. Working at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), he used the Hubble constant and data from the 6dF Galaxy Survey, the most ambitious survey to date of over 120,000 galaxies across the southern sky, collected between 2001 and 2005. The result is a remarkable map of the expansion of universe, animated here to unfold before your very eyes.

For more on the universe, its history, its future and its mystery, don’t forget the excellent and timeless Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything.

(Via Brain Pickings.)

The Civil War 150 Legacy Project : Document Digitization and Access

The Civil War 150 Legacy Project : Document Digitization and Access is a joint project between the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. The Legacy Project is an endeavor to collect, digitize and make publicly accessible historically significant, never before seen, original Civil War materials located in Virginia and held by private citizens. Donors have the opportunity to bring materials to scanning events held in their communities; have those materials scanned and evaluated; and return home with their items that same day. These images will be added to a free searchable collection maintained on the Library of Virginia web site accessible via the Internet. Renee Savits (Eastern Region) and Laura Drake Davis (Western Region) coordinate the Project. This video describes the Legacy Project and shows scenes from a scanning event.”

(Via The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian's Weblog.)

The wonderful world of watercolour maestro Alexander Votsmush

A few months ago we blogged about the watercolors of Grzegorz Wróbel on display over at Living Design. Today they have posted another collection worth a look - and it is quite extensive. Pop pver and peruse The wonderful world of watercolour maestro Alexander Votsmush.

NYT list of 50 words you probably don't know

If you aren't sure what panegyric, immiscible, or Manichaean mean, it turns out nobody else does either. These words are among the 50 most obscure words used by the New York Times this year.

Compiled from NYT online articles run between January 1st and July 14th, the list ranks the words that readers looked up most often per mention via the Times' dictionary function. Panegyric (n. a eulogistic oration or writing) topped the list with 582 look-ups for the single time it was used.

Click image to enlarge

The article at the NYT blog is here.

Found at Gizmodo

Nobis House. Susanne Nobis loves books.

The Nobis House is located near Lake Starnberg in the Berg state of Germany. It is both a private residence and a workspace, with the sections separated from one another so that work does not spill into home life– and vice versa. The interior is lined with bookshelves which reach high into the tall span of the open space.

Many photos at the link.

Own a Warhol for $11: Warhol’s Obscure 1959 Children’s Book


Andy Warhol may be one of only seven artists in the world to have ever sold a canvas for $100 million, but it turns out you don’t have to be a billionaire to own “a Warhol.” In fact, you can do so for $11.

In the late 1950s, Warhol belonged to Doubleday’s stable of freelance artists, making a living designing book covers and illustrating dry business books. Shortly before halting his love affair with the corporate world in fear of compromising his flirtations with the art world, he illustrated six stories for the excellent Best In Children’s Books. (Cue in our recent review of little-known children’s books by famous “adult” authors.) Among them was the story “Card Games Are Fun,” from Best of Children’s Books #27, published in 1959.

What’s most striking about this artwork isn’t only its complete lack of resemblance to Warhol’s most iconic pop art, but also the fact that it remains largely unacknowledged by art historians and virtually absent from most Warhol biographies. Yet something about its honesty, of style and of circumstance, makes it a rare treat of creative history.

via We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie and Brain Pickings.

2011 Man Booker nominees

The longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction - the ‘Man Booker Dozen' - is announced today, Tuesday 26 July. The 13 books on the list include: one former Man Booker Prize winner; two previously shortlisted writers and one longlisted author; four first time novelists and three Canadian writers. The list also includes three new publishers to the prize - Oneworld, Sandstone Press and Seren Books.

The titles were chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by author and former Director-General of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington.

A total of 138 books, seven of which were called in by the judges, were considered for the ‘Man Booker Dozen' longlist. They are:
  1. Julian Barnes- The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House)
  2. Sebastian Barry- On Canaan's Side (Faber)
  3. Carol Birch- Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)
  4. Patrick deWitt- The Sisters Brothers (Granta)
  5. Esi Edugyan- Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail)
  6. Yvvette Edwards- A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
  7. Alan Hollinghurst- The Stranger's Child (Picador - Pan Macmillan)
  8. Stephen Kelman- Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
  9. Patrick McGuinness- The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books)
  10. A.D. Miller- Snowdrops (Atlantic)
  11. Alison Pick- Far to Go (Headline Review)
  12. Jane Rogers- The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
  13. D.J. Taylor- Derby Day (Chatto & Windus - Random House)
The chair of judges, Dame Stella Rimington, comments:
'We are delighted by the quality and breadth of our longlist, which emerged from an impassioned discussion. The list ranges from the Wild West to multi-ethnic London via post-Cold War Moscow and Bucharest, and includes four first novels.'

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quick reference cards for all Excel 2010 shortcuts

There are a great many keyboard shortcuts you can use to work with Excel more efficiently. For a handy reference to all of them, some which work in other Office programs, Microsoft offers these PDF reference sheets.

There are three reference sheets available for download: Ctrl key combinations, Function key combinations, and Miscellaneous shortcuts.

Found at lifehacker

250 Canon Cameras Combined To Create Flash Powered Display (video)

A creative team has used 250 Canon cameras to create a flashgun wall display for the Japanese band Androp. The 250 Cancon Cameras, each fitted with a flash, were then strapped to a frame wall and connected together. Then programmed to fire at controlled intervals to create an impressive and innovative light show behind the band.

Remember the sound of the dial-up internet

3 Little Pigs rendered into Papua New Guinea pidgin

A recording of the story of the three little pigs in Pidgin Inglis (Tok Pisin). Great to listen to if you only speak English because you can get the gist of it anyway (and you already know the story).

Talking about Pidgin on radio prompted Ralph Newton to send in a copy of Tripela Liklik Pik (Three Little Pigs) he’s had since he spent time in PNG in the 60′s. Click on the related audio link below if you’d like to hear what Pidgin sounds like.

The back cover of the record says: “This unique story of the Three Little Pigs was translated into Pidgin and adapted to a Melanesian setting by The Reverend Paul Freyberg of the Lutheran mission at Madang. Mr Freyberg was the Chief Translator of the Nupela Testamen – the New Testament in Pidgin. The story was broadcast by Superintendent Mike Thomas in the ABC’s Daily Learning Pidgin Series”.

Lesson in New Guinea Pidgin

Listen to it here MP3 link

(Via Boing Boing.)

TED: iToaster

Thomas Thwaites decided to try to build a toaster by himself, from scratch. Here he tells his extraordinary story, which is implicitly a story of the miracle of the division of labor. It took him nine months, international travel, and 300 times the cost of a toaster in the store. And his toaster toasted for five seconds.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


by Nina Katchadourian (website) Via The Unbound Book.

DOS Turns 30


Look familiar? Then you must be old enough to have used DOS, perhaps the best-known command-line-based OS in popular computing history. I’m proud to have done so myself, though a few years later and I would likely have missed out altogether.

The history of the OS is well-documented around the web, and perusing it is a nice reminder of the way things used to be. It came into its own in the early mid eighties (after being bought by Microsoft in 1981), mirroring the rise of the personal PC. Though the many developers that read this blog likely have a more varied personal OS history, DOS is something we can probably all look back on semi-fondly. I have fond memories of booting our 486 into 3.1 and immediately navigating to the \games directory to launch Commander Keen for some 16-color alien-blasting.

The legacy of DOS is still present today. DOS-compatible computing is the reason system drives start at C (A and B were floppies), and why many of our file extensions are the way they are. And I still feel the effects of DOS’s 8-character limita~1 today.

You can see the step-by-step improvement of the OS (by several companies, more like Linux-compatibles today than anything else) at this Wikipedia page, and a more succinct history can be found here.

If you feel like taking the old OS for a spin, try booting up FreeDOS and see if you still have your old directory navigation skills. Or if you just want to escape into the games of yesteryear, pick up DOSBox (and a frontend) and head over to Classic DOS Games or Abandonia.

(Via TechCrunch.)

A secret door

Click image to enlarge

Image by Simon Brown Photography

Using the social network to translate ancient texts

The Egypt Exploration Society and Oxford University's Ancient Lives project has launched today and it is hoping to recruit "armchair archaeologists" to look through and catalogue the images of the papyri; and transcribe the text. Visitors to the Ancient Lives website are shown an image of an extract. You can then click on a character in the image and then what you believe is the corresponding Greek character in a keyboard below. There is an option to increase the font size, see a scale diagram of the whole fragment, and change the color of the image to make it easier to view. A toggle option allows viewers to show and hide characters they have marked; and there is an auto option, which allows the system automatically move to the next character as you work.

Introducing the project, James Brusuelas, a Research Associate of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and member of the Ancient Lives team, says:
"Many of these papyri have remained unstudied since they were discovered more than a century ago. Our goal is to increase the momentum by which scholars have traditionally identified known and unknown literary texts, and the private documents and letters that open up a window into the ancient lives of Graeco-Roman Egypt."
Via Wired

Video: Perspective on the known universe

Best viewed in HD and full-screen mode.

How standards proliferate

Shared courtesy of XKCD

Science vs. Religion: 50 Famous Academics on God

Decoding divinity, or what the great intellectuals of our time have to say about science and spirituality.

The speakers, in order of appearance:

1. Lawrence Krauss, World-Renowned Physicist
2. Robert Coleman Richardson, Nobel Laureate in Physics
3. Richard Feynman, World-Renowned Physicist, Nobel Laureate in Physics
4. Simon Blackburn, Cambridge Professor of Philosophy
5. Colin Blakemore, World-Renowned Oxford Professor of Neuroscience
6. Steven Pinker, World-Renowned Harvard Professor of Psychology
7. Alan Guth, World-Renowned MIT Professor of Physics
8. Noam Chomsky, World-Renowned MIT Professor of Linguistics
9. Nicolaas Bloembergen, Nobel Laureate in Physics
10. Peter Atkins, World-Renowned Oxford Professor of Chemistry
11. Oliver Sacks, World-Renowned Neurologist, Columbia University
12. Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
13. Sir John Gurdon, Pioneering Developmental Biologist, Cambridge
14. Sir Bertrand Russell, World-Renowned Philosopher, Nobel Laureate
15. Stephen Hawking, World-Renowned Cambridge Theoretical Physicist
16. Riccardo Giacconi, Nobel Laureate in Physics
17. Ned Block, NYU Professor of Philosophy
18. Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate in Physics
19. Marcus du Sautoy, Oxford Professor of Mathematics
20. James Watson, Co-discoverer of DNA, Nobel Laureate
21. Colin McGinn, Professor of Philosophy, Miami University
22. Sir Patrick Bateson, Cambridge Professor of Ethology
23. Sir David Attenborough, World-Renowned Broadcaster and Naturalist
24. Martinus Veltman, Nobel Laureate in Physics
25. Pascal Boyer, Professor of Anthropology
26. Partha Dasgupta, Cambridge Professor of Economics
27. AC Grayling, Birkbeck Professor of Philosophy
28. Ivar Giaever, Nobel Laureate in Physics
29. John Searle, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
30. Brian Cox, Particle Physicist (Large Hadron Collider, CERN)
31. Herbert Kroemer, Nobel Laureate in Physics
32. Rebecca Goldstein, Professor of Philosophy
33. Michael Tooley, Professor of Philosophy, Colorado
34. Sir Harold Kroto, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
35. Leonard Susskind, Stanford Professor of Theoretical Physics
36. Quentin Skinner, Professor of History (Cambridge)
37. Theodor W. Hänsch, Nobel Laureate in Physics
38. Mark Balaguer, CSU Professor of Philosophy
39. Richard Ernst, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
40. Alan Macfarlane, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology
41. Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, Princeton Research Scientist
42. Douglas Osheroff, Nobel Laureate in Physics
43. Hubert Dreyfus, Berkeley Professor of Philosophy
44. Lord Colin Renfrew, World-Renowned Archaeologist, Cambridge
45. Carl Sagan, World-Renowned Astronomer
46. Peter Singer, World-Renowned Bioethicist, Princeton
47. Rudolph Marcus, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
48. Robert Foley, Cambridge Professor of Human Evolution
49. Daniel Dennett, Tufts Professor of Philosophy
50. Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in Physics

(Via Brain Pickings.)

Toronto councillor to Margaret Atwood on library closures: “get elected to office or pipe down”

Toronto councillor Doug Ford (brother of Toronto’s thuggish mayor Rob Ford) has attacked beloved Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood, saying he wouldn’t recognize her if she walked down the street, and that she should keep her opinions about planned Toronto library closures to herself. The councillor said that if Atwood wanted to comment on policy, “she should get herself elected to office or pipe down.” Doug Ford previously promised to privatise or shut down “everything that isn’t nailed down” in the city.

Atwood criticized Ford via Twitter, after Ford incorrectly stated that his district had more libraries than Tim Horton’s outlets (TH being a ubiquitous Canadian donut chain). Ford declared that a library he’s slated for closure in his ward is “unnecessary” though the Toronto Star reports that it circulates 96,328 books per year (another 16,550 are used in the branch) and serves 39,775 patrons a year. The 2006 census put his ward’s population at 53,660.

“Well good luck to Margaret Atwood. I don’t even know her. If she walked by me, I wouldn’t have a clue who she is,” said the councillor and advisor to his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, after a committee meeting on proposed cuts.

“She’s not down here, she’s not dealing with the problem. Tell her to go run in the next election and get democratically elected. And we’d be more than happy to sit down and listen to Margaret Atwood.”

Atwood, an activist on literary and human rights causes, waded into municipal politics in a minor way last Thursday.

It’s great to see Atwood standing up for libraries. She had previously compared Canada’s fair dealing laws (which are critical to the library system) to car theft.

Doug Ford blasts Margaret Atwood over libraries, says ‘I don’t even know her’

(via Beth Pratt) and Boing Boing.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Atlantic: Fiction 2011


Brett Anthony Johnston - Don't Write What You Know. Why fiction's narrative and emotional integrity will always transcend the literal truth.

John Barth - Do I Repeat Myself? The problem of the "already said".


Ariel Dorfman - The Last Copy. As soon as his book was published, Antonio realized that the pure vision of him that only she harbored would be shattered— and that he would do anything to keep her from reading it.

Wendell Berry - Sold. "I knew that all the things we'd gathered there so many years would be scattered and gone. All that had held it together would come apart and be gone as if it never was."

Stuart Dybek - Vigil. The old Bohemian hadn't come to disturb the family on Holy Night, only to deliver an enormous, misshapen gift.

Austin Bunn - How to Win an Unwinnable War. His parents were separating, but all Sam could think about was preparing for nuclear holocaust.

Jerome Charyn - Little Sister. Marla had felt she'd never really had a sister, that she'd been visited by some strange goblin or ghost. But then she went into Daddy's bank vault after he died.

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2011 Results - the worst in writing.

The winner of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is Sue Fondrie, an associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh who submitted:
"Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories."

My personal favorite by Mike Pedersen:
"As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue."
Lots more fun here

Mail - then and now


McDonald's WiFi - Windows vs. Mac

There is no step 4:

Click image to enlarge

Via Daring Fireball.

Dullest books ever!

More gems here.

Dr. Who. Books! The best weapons in the world.

Tooth and Claw (2006) (2006)

Sir Robert: Nevertheless, that creature won't give up, Doctor, and we still don't possess an actual weapon! 
The Doctor: Oh, your dad got all the brains, didn't he? 
Rose Tyler: Being rude again! 
The Doctor: Good, I meant that one. You want weapons? We're in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world! This room's the greatest arsenal we could have - arm yourselves!

(Via 1001 Books To Read Before You Die.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Milton Glaser – On "The Fear Of Failure"

Great insight from Milton Glaser, that can be applied to all creative forms.

What kids of the world eat at school

I found this fascinating. The above image is a school lunch in Singapore.

Book art at a local furniture store

We were shopping for end tables over the weekend and one of the stores we visited had an extensive collection of "book art":

7 (More) Children’s Books by Famous “Adult” Literature Authors

Aldous Huxley may be best known for his iconic 1932 novel Brave New World, one of the most important meditations on futurism and how technology is changing society ever published, but he was also deeply fascinated by children’s fiction. In 1967, three years after Huxley’s death, Random House released a posthumous volume of the only children’s book he ever wrote, some 23 years earlier. The Crows of Pearblossom tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Crow, whose eggs never hatch because the Rattlesnake living at the base of their tree keeps eating them. After the 297th eaten egg, the hopeful parents set out to kill the snake and enlist the help of their friend, Mr. Owl, who bakes mud into two stone eggs and paints them to resemble the Crows’ eggs. Upon eating them, the Rattlesnake is in so much pain that he beings to thrash about, tying himself in knots around the branches. Mrs. Crow goes merrily on to hatch “four families of 17 children each,” using the snake “as a clothesline on which to hang the little crows’ diapers.”
The original volume was illustrated by the late Barbara Cooney, but a new edition published this spring features artwork by Sophie Blackall, one of my favorite artists, whose utterly lovely illustrations of Craigslist missed connections you might recall.
Writer, poet and art collector Gertrude Stein is one of the most beloved — and quoted — luminaries of the early 20th century. In 1938, author Margaret Wise Brown of the freshly founded Young Scott Books became obsessed with convincing leading adult authors to try their hands at a children’s book. She sent letters to Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Gertrude Stein. Hemingway and Steinbeck expressed no interest, but Stein surprised Brown by saying she already had a near-complete children’s manuscript titled The World Is Round, and would be happy to have Young Scott bring it to life. Which they did, though not without drama. Stein demanded that the pages be pink, the ink blue, and the artwork by illustrator Francis Rose. Young Scott were able to meet the first two demands despite the technical difficulties, but they Scott didn’t want Rose to illustrate the book and asked Stein to instead choose from several Young Scott illustrators. Reluctantly, she settle don Clement Hurd, whose first illustrated book had appeared just that year. The World Is Round was eventually published, featuring a mix of unpunctuated prose and poetry, with a single illustration for each chapter. The original release included a special edition of 350 slipcase copies autographed by Stein and Hurd.

In 1942, despite resistance from her publisher, Stein followed up with a second book, the excellent To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays, the latest edition of which came from Yale University Press earlier this year and is illustrated by the lovely Giselle Potter.
The wonderful We Too Were Children has the backstory.

In the 1940s and 1950s, celebrated American author and cartoonist James Thurber, best-known for his contributions to The New Yorker, penned a number of book-length fairy tales, some illustrated by acclaimed French-American artist and political cartoonist Marc Simont. The most famous of them was The 13 Clocks — a fantasy tale Thurber wrote in Bermuda in 1950, telling the story of a mysterious prince who must complete a seemingly impossible challenge to free a maiden, Princess Saralinda, from the grip of the evil Duke of Coffin Castle. The eccentric book is riddled with Thurber’s famous wordplay and written in a unique cadenced style, making it a fascinating object of linguistic appreciation and a structural treat for language-lovers of all ages.
For a cherry on top, the current edition features an introduction by none other than Neil Gaiman.
Thanks, stormagnet

In 1922, nearly two decades before the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes, poet Carl Sandburg wrote a children’s book titled Rootabaga Stories for his three daughters, Margaret, Janet and Helga, nicknamed “Spink”, “Skabootch” and “Swipes,” respectively. Their nicknames occur repeatedly in some of the volume’s whimsical interrelated short stories.
The book arose from Sandburg’s desire to create the then-nonexistent “American fairy tales,” which he saw as integral to American childhood, so he set out to replace the incongruous imagery of European fairy tales with the fictionalized world of the American Midwest, which he called “the Rootabaga country,” substituting farms, trains, and corn fairies for castles, knights and royatly. Equal parts fantastical and thoughtful, the stories captured Sandburg’s romantic, hopeful vision of childhood.

In 1923, Sandburg followed up with a sequel, Rootabaga Pigeons, telling tales of “Big People Now” and “Little People Long Ago.”
Thanks, Rachel
Indian-British novelist Salman Rushdie has had his share of acclaim and controversy, but one thing that has remained constant over his prolific career is his penchant for the written word. In 1990, he turned his talents to children’s literature with the release of Haroun and the Sea of Stories — a phantasmagorical allegory for a handful of timely social and social justice problems, particularly in India, explored through the young protagonist, Haroun, and his father’s storytelling. The book received a Writer’s Guild Award for Best Children’s Book that year.
One of the book’s unexpected treats is breakdown of the meanings and symbolism of the ample cast of characters’ names, an intriguing linguistic and semantic bridge to Indian culture.
Twenty years later, just last winter, Rushdie followed up with his highly anticipated second children’s book, Luka and the Fire of Life: A Novel.
Thanks, SaVen

Ian Fleming is best-known as the creator of one of the best-selling literary works of all time: the James Bond series. A few years after the birth of his son Caspar in 1952, Fleming decided to write a children’s book for him, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang didn’t see light of day until 1964, the year Fleming died. It tells the story of the Potts family and the father figure, Caractacus, who uses money from the invention of a special candy to buy and repair a unique, magical former race car, which the family affectionately names Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Fleming’s inspiration came from a series of aero engines built by racing driver and engineer Count Louis Zborowski in the early 1920s, whose first six-cylinder Maybach aero engine was called Chitty Bang Bang.

The original book was beautifully illustrated in black-and-white by John Burningham and was soon adapted into the 1968 classic film of the same name starring Dick Van Dyke.

Prolific poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist Langston Hughes is considered one of the fathers of jazz poetry, a literary art form that emerged in the 1920s and eventually became the foundation for modern hip-hop. In 1954, the 42-year-old Hughes decided to channel his love of jazz into a sort-of-children’s book that educated young readers about the culture he so loved. The First Book of Jazz was born, taking on the ambitious task of being the first-ever children’s book to review American music, and to this day arguably the best. Hughes covered every notable aspect of jazz, from the evolution of its eras to its most celebrated icons to its geography and sub-genres, and made a special point of highlighting the essential role of African-American musicians in the genre’s coming of age. Hughes even covers the technicalities of jazz — rhythm, percussion, improvisation, syncopation,blue notes, harmony — with remarkable eloquence that, rather than overwhelming the young reader, exudes the genuine joy of playing.

Alongside the book, Hughes released a companion record, The Story of Jazz, featuring Hughes’ lively, vivid narration of jazz history in three tracks, each focusing on a distinct element of the genre. You can here them here.

For more on rare and out-of-print children’s books by famous 20th-century “adult” authors, I really can’t recommend Ariel S. Winter’s beautifully written, rigorously researched We Too Were Children enough.
(Via Brain Pickings.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

TED: Math needs a makeover

Art with glow sticks and a blender

English is a crazy language.

Let’s face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

via sorry and  Libraryland.