Feline Friday

 

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Behind The Scenes

The exterior of the Thomas Fisher Library offers little clue to the extraordinary treasures inside. Now we can take a ten-minute, behind-the-scenes tour through the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto, Canada, where we can discover a First Folio, the first handwritten draft of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, rare manuscripts, Leonard Cohen’s notebooks, and items from its extensive Alice in Wonderland collection. NB: If the video below fails to launch, please visit out home page.

 

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Google Maps Proves We Are Living In A Simulation

I don’t know about you, but I seem to use Google Maps almost daily. It’s hard to imagine traveling without it any more. Now Google Maps is adding a novel way to navigate cities in the form of highly detailed digital models that look like 3D films. Here’s how “Immersive View” is described by Google’s VP of Maps on the Google Blog:

Thanks to advances in computer vision and AI that allow us to fuse together billions of Street View and aerial images to create a rich, digital model of the world — we’re introducing a whole new way to explore with Maps. With our new immersive view, you’ll be able to experience what a neighborhood, landmark, restaurant or popular venue is like — and even feel like you’re right there before you ever set foot inside. So whether you’re traveling somewhere new or scoping out hidden local gems, immersive view will help you make the most informed decisions before you go.

The first cities to get the simulation view will be Los Angeles, London, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo. Check it out in the very cool short video below:

NB: If the video clip does not appear in your subscription version of TBTP, please visit the home page here

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Bookstore Tourism: Log Cabin Edition

I have not had the pleasure of book browsing at the Cottage Book Shop, but thanks to TBTP reader Gwen S. I’m happy to share it with you. The bookstore is located in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Glen Arbor, Michigan. Glen Arbor, nestled in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, boasts the world’s largest moving sand dune, 77, 000 acres with 64 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and South and North Manitou Islands. There are pristine lakes, rivers, wetlands, forests, and vintage farmlands. In 2011 it was voted the “Most Beautiful Place in America.”

The charming book shop is situated in a historic log cabin that was originally a family home. Today the Cottage Book Shop is a quaint home for a well curated selection of books. They specialize in fiction, children’s books, and local interest titles.

 

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Just Another Manic Monday of Miscellany

The coolest doorway in Paris is at number 29 Avenue Rapp .

Mondrian’s mysticism: Evolution (1910–1911)

A NEW NATIONAL ANTHEM

Ada Limón

The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always, there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,
the truth is, every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the short-grass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?

Inspired by the  Japanese word tsundoku (積読), which refers to the books we buy that accumulate without being read, “neon signs of tsundoku city” are a series of seven miniature capsule toys that replicate the ubiquitous shop signs of Tokyo. They include a coffee shop, hotel, bar, hospital, and a multi-tenant sign that reads “tsundoku bldg,” each with their own battery so as to illuminate a dark room.

They were designed by Ekoda Works, known for their sometimes-ridiculous but always humorous product design, and distributed by Bushiroad Media, who operates capsule toy vending machines across Japan.

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
– Mary Oliver

Photographer Kien Lam quit his job and over the next 343 days he visited 17 countries, taking 6237 photographs from which he created the wonderful timelapse below. NB: If the video does not launch in your email, please click on the link for TBTP homepage.

 

 

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A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century

The 1827 novel, The Mummy: A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century,  by Jane Webb, was reissued last month as part of the Haunted Library of Horror Classics series. Originally issued as a three-volume pocket-sized novel, the book concerns the Egyptian mummy of Cheops, who is brought back to life in the year 2126. The groundbreaking sci-fi book describes a future filled with wildly advanced  technology.

The author Jane Webb (1807-1858) was a young Englishwoman influenced by Mary Shelly’s seminal 1818 novel  Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The Mummy is now considered a foundational work of science fiction—complete  with futuristic inventions—set in 2126. Webb did not describe a future as a minimally changed version of her contemporary period, but a world with dramatic changes in technology, society, and even fashion. The women wear pants and sport hair ornaments with controlled flames. In Webb’s 2126, doctors are steam-powered automatons, a version of the internet is predicted, and the dead came be revivified.

You can discover this overlooked sci-fi classic by purchasing the recently released new edition or read it for free at Project Gutenberg.

 

 

 

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how the story ends

“lastly, three apples fell from the sky; one for our story’s heroes, one for the person who told their tale, and one for those who listened and promise to share. And with that, they all achieved their hearts’ desires. Let us now step up and settle into their thrones.” (Gökten üç elma düşmüş; biri onların, biri anlatanın, diğeri de dinleyenlerin başına. Onlar ermiş muradına, biz çıkalım kerevetine.) Turkish

“and they lived well, and we lived better” (και ζήσανε αυτοί καλά και εμείς καλύτερα) Greek

“this is the end, run away with it” (itt a vége, fuss el véle) Magyar

“and I was there [at the wedding] too, and drank mead and wine.” (a ja tam byłem, miód i wino piłem.) Polish

“snip snap snout, the tale is finished” (snipp snapp snute, så er eventyret ute” Norwegian

“my story went to other homes, god bless the mothers and fathers of its listeners” (Çîroka min çû diyaran, rehmet li dê û bavê guhdaran.) Kurdish

” and they lived happily and ate partridges ” (y vivieron felices y comieron perdices) Spanish

” thin is the leaf, broad is the way, say your [story] now that I said mine”  (stretta è la foglia, larga è la via, dite la vostra che ho detto la mia) Italian

“my tale has finished, it has returned to go and come home.” (tamtis noe lat / dok ba muaan yi wa) Ankwe

“and if they haven’t died yet, then they’re still alive today” (und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann leben sie noch heute) German

 

 

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Take A Virtual Vacation

Virtual Vacation is a web directory that pulls together the dozens of walking, driving, hiking and other point-of-view videos scattered across the web where people explore unique places with a camera in hand. Beware, it’s easy to fall down this rabbit hole and an hour can fly by. I particularly enjoyed playing the City Guesser game where you’re thrown into a random urban environment and have to guess which city you’re in. Not to brag, but I crushed it.

 

 

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Never open a book with the weather

I’ve been a fan of the late novelist Elmore Leonard for as long as I can remember. While his humor always showed through, I think it was his efforless prose that grabbed my attention. It’s a fool’s errand to try and tease-out what makes great writing, but Leonard was kind enough to leave us a very specific how-to list.

1. Never open a book with weather.

If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s ”Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: ”I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

3. Never use a verb other than ”said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with ”she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ”said” . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ”full of rape and adverbs.”

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words ”suddenly” or ”all hell broke loose.”

This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ”suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories ”Close Range.”

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s ”Hills Like White Elephants” what do the ”American and the girl with him” look like? ”She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

 

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One ring to rule them all

Who am I to disagree with George R.R. Martin’s assessment that “The Lord of the Rings is the mountain that leans over every other fantasy written since.” A book of that magnitude deserves a stunning new edition for every generation and the Folio Society has release a fitting one for the 21st century.

Lavishly illustrated with artwork by Alan Lee, this fabulous three-volume set is presented in a silver-blocked slipcase (lined with a hidden illustration) with a new art print exclusive to this edition and a pair of maps drawn by Christopher Tolkien, printed together and presented in a cloth-covered case. Each volume is quarter-bound in burgundy calfskin leather blocked in silver, with an illustrated inset label, silver page tops and a burgundy satin ribbon marker. The text – printed in black and burgundy – is the most up to date and academically rigorous available, and is accompanied by a new preface written exclusively for this edition by the artist.

Alan Lee’s work is synonymous with the worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien, having defined the visual setting of Middle-earth for a generation. Peter Jackson’s film adaptations introduced this epic story to an even wider audience, and Lee won the 2004 Academy Award for his Art Direction of these cinematic masterpieces. All of Lee’s illustrations have been reproduced to the artist’s exacting standards, in a scale and quality never seen before, and have been augmented by entirely new images, roundels and borders.

Strictly limited to 1,000 sets, the limitation page has been tipped in by hand and numbered and signed by Alan Lee. Every set comes with a beautiful art print, presented in a translucent folder printed with a burgundy design.

The majestic scale of the landscapes and the atmosphere Lee captures on the page – all in exquisite watercolour and pencil – make him the only choice to illustrate this, the ultimate edition of The Lord of the Rings.

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