Provenance unknown; found via Austin Kleon. See also this recent advert/Instagram post by the New York Public Library:
The Littlehampton Libels by Christopher Hilliard is a short but dazzling work of microhistory. It uses the story of some poison pen letters in a small town to illuminate wider questions of social life in Britain between the wars, from ordinary people’s experience of the legal system to the way people washed their sheets, and is a far more exciting book than either the title or the rather dull cover would suggest. For a short period, the mystery of these letters became a national news story that generated four separate trials and, as Hilliard writes, ‘demanded more from the police and the lawyers than most murders’.
This is a book about morality and class, about the uses and abuses of literacy and about the tremendous dislocations in British society after the First World War, which extended far beyond those who had suffered the direct trauma of battle. Hilliard uses these poison pen letters – written in language that was as eccentric as it was obscene – to ‘catch the accents of the past’. The Littlehampton Libels is about a battle between two women who were members of only the second generation in Britain to benefit from compulsory elementary education, women for whom the written word was a new and exhilarating weapon.
Hilliard asks what it was like to live in a society where ‘nice’ women had to pretend that they were ignorant of all profanity. Melissa Mohr claims in her excellent book Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing (2013) that the British started to swear more during and after the First World War, because strong language – like strong drink – is a way to alleviate despair. In 1930, John Brophy and Eric Partridge published a collection of British songs and slang from the war. They claimed that soldiers used the word ‘fucking’ so often that it was merely a warning ‘that a noun is coming’. In a normal situation, swear words are used for emphasis, but Brophy and Partridge found that obscenity was so over-used among the military in the Great War that if a soldier wanted to express emotion he wouldn’t swear. ‘Thus if a sergeant said, “Get your —ing rifles!” it was understood as a matter of routine. But if he said, “Get your rifles!” there was an immediate implication of urgency and danger.’
So I want thrilling plots, yes — but also thrilling language. I want sentences I’ll stop to read twice. This is why standard throwaway airport thrillers don’t migrate well beneath ground. The writing may be “muscular” and “spare,” but if it’s not also “inventive” and “excellent” there’s a good chance the book will wind up abandoned on a platform bench. With a long day behind me and a wearying commute ahead of me, I don’t want to settle for distraction; I want to look forward to reading my book with the palpitating excitement of a second date with someone I’ve already fallen for. I want to miss my stop. Ideally, I’ll miss a few.
I wasn’t always an inveterate note-taker—notably during my school days when it would have helped enormously—but I’m trying to get into the habit. Previously, when reading my Kindle, for too long I was passively highlighting passages of books I read, unlikely to come back to them, or if I did, unlikely to understand why I highlighted it or what that ? meant—disagreement? lack of understanding? a once-pertinent question for the author?
As it happens, Alan Jacobs wrote about this in the excellent The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction:
The more heavily you annotate a text—the more questions you ask and comments you venture—the more often you disrupt the continuity of reading.
Writing out the whole of your question is better than just flinging a question mark onto the page, because doing the former takes more time—it gets you out of the flow of mere passive reception—and because it forces you to articulate the precise nature of your vexation. A mere question mark could indicate confusion, disagreement, a feeling of lacking information—any one of a dozen things. When you write out your question you render the discomfort exactly.
So by reading actively—that is, highlighting and marking up and taking extra notes and asking questions—you disrupt the continuity of reading more often, the more thought goes into it, and the more likely you are to digest and remember what you have read. So I’m doing it more often.
Still, we can’t all remember everything, no matter how actively we read.
Here are 3 tools you can use to export and resurface your Kindle notes and highlights. They all work by accessing your kindle.amazon.com page. In increasing order of power and complexity:
The bookmarklet yields a single page of cleanly styled highlights, which can then be copied to one’s clipboard and pasted into a local text repository (OneNote, Evernote, DevonThink, etc.)
Chrome users will additionally be offered the ability to dowload the highlights in plain text, JSON, or XML formats.
A browser extension that syncs your highlights and sends you a regular email resurfacing them. I use and like this a lot! (They’ve launched a web app version which they are currently pushing.)
A Chrome extension that powers a more feature-rich version of something like Bookcision. Notes and highlights are synced to the ‘app’, where you can perform some additional organisation such as tagging. You can export individual or multiple highlights, adhering to different referencing styles.
There’s a tiny monthly charge, but I’m pleased about this—I’d always rather pay for things I find useful, as there’s then less chance they’ll disappear overnight.
I use Clippings.io to transfer my highlights and notes to my archiving/information storage app of choice and get an every-other-day email from Readwise. Using both services I have an easily searchable database of highlights, the ability to see contextual links between my highlights and other documents (a feature of DEVONthink), and get serendipitous reminders of them in my email inbox.
In fact, simply publishing some these highlights with some extra context, questions, elaboration etc would form the basis of an intriguing blog, if you don’t have one already…
The key to lasting dietary change, according to Wilson, is “a hedonic shift” in attitudes toward food—a reorienting of our palates that would render broccoli at least as delicious as cookies. “When our preferences are in order,” she argues, “nutrition should take care of itself.” Better yet, the trick to learning to love cruciferous greens turns out to be relatively simple: repeated, positive exposure to broccoli and its cousins. To prove how malleable our palates can be, Wilson marshals an array of case studies and experiments that have examined the human ability to shape and reshape food preferences.
Bee Wilson’s last book was terrific. ‘First Bite’ sounds just as intriguing; not just because my son will start to eat proper food in the next few months, and I can’t wait to see how he reacts to the food we eat, but also because we have a huge societal problem on our hands and (re-)learning about food, its origins and impact should be high up any forward-thinking government’s todo list.
When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when everyone knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not.
—The Perfect Critic (1920). Via Alan Jacobs’ How To Think
One should read the classics in winter, because then one’s mind is more concentrated; read history in the summer, because one has more time; read the ancient philosophers in autumn, because they have such charming ideas; and read the collected works of later authors in spring, because then Nature is coming back to life.
This, by Chang Ch’ao in the 17th century and via Austin Kleon, has been on my mind recently. I don’t subscribe to the principle anywhere near as rigidly as this, but I do see patterns in the types of books I read across a given year.
Also, increasingly: non-fiction during the day, fiction once the sun’s gone down.
“Treat me,” I interrupted, “as if I don’t know Greek,” as, in fact, I do not.
“The prefix poly,” Wilson said, laughing, “means ‘many’ or ‘multiple.’ Tropos means ‘turn.’ ‘Many’ or ‘multiple’ could suggest that he’s much turned, as if he is the one who has been put in the situation of having been to Troy, and back, and all around, gods and goddesses and monsters turning him off the straight course that, ideally, he’d like to be on. Or, it could be that he’s this untrustworthy kind of guy who is always going to get out of any situation by turning it to his advantage. It could be that he’s the turner.”
See also two ‘Troy Story’ videos we made that re-tell the Iliad and the Odyssey in a couple of minutes each:
Ordinarily she didn’t tend to dream much. Even if she did, she usually had forgotten most of the dream by the time she woke up. Sometimes faint scraps of her dream would get caught on the wall of her consciousness, but she couldn’t retrace these fragments back to any coherent narrative. All that remained were small, random images. She slept deeply, and the dreams she did have came from a very deep place. Like fish that live at the bottom of the ocean, most of her dreams weren’t able to float to the surface. Even if they did, the difference in water pressure would force a change in their appearance.
—Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
It’s easy in our fast-paced digital age to forget how expansive time can be. An hour can zip by if you’re scrolling through Twitter or drag on for days during an exam. Once I started carrying magazines, my bus rides began to feel longer; the 45 minutes to Station North felt like 45 minutes. Soon, I began carrying books again, a habit that felt as comfortable as muscle memory. My progress was slow at first. I traveled with Swing Time for three months (and wrote a review that you can read here). I carried Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland in my tote during January. I devoured Song of Solomon in a week and God Help the Child after work one night. In the past six months, I’ve finished 15 novels, a record beating last year’s two—excluding every novel I skimmed or never completed for school. My thoughts have since kaleidoscoped; my dreams have evolved; my concentration has slowly but surely fortified over time. My political convictions deepened and expanded like the Texan sky. I use social media less and less each day, all because I stopped looking out the window on the way home.
I need reminding of this sort of thing once in a while. I’ve read quite broadly and deeply this year, but I could with unfollowing a few people on Twitter and subscribing from a handful of RSS feeds.
The project is called Notes on a Case of Melancholia, Or: A Little Death.
This is book about Death’s despair regarding his kid- an affectionate “Little Death” who simply doesn’t have what it takes to carry on the family business.
Dr. Edgar O. Wye is a psychoanalyst who takes Death on as a patient. The book’s rhyming narration will be taken from his case notes.
The book will run about 42-50 pages long, and will be completely illustrated. Graphic novel “frames” will be used on occasion, but this will really be more of a picture book – deliberately similar to the short books of Edward Gorey, but with a character-driven plot. Though it has a pretty high body count, it is in essence a family story.
It’s running slightly late. (About 18 months.) This is mostly due to the painstaking subtractive work required to produce each page: they are created by painting a board with black ink then ‘drawn’ by scratching millions of tiny lines with a scalpel.
Nick and his project were the subjects of a short documentary:
Nick’s just found out that his publisher has folded. It’s not too late to support the project to ensure it appears in a (somewhat) timely manner.
I don’t really – not really-really – know anything until I’ve copied it out, by hand, with pen and paper. Note-taking helps me to memorise the most useful, interesting, beautiful or aggravating parts of a book. It also means that whenever I want to retrieve a reference from something I’ve read, I can find it in my notebook. Not marked with a torn-up train ticket and then replaced on a bookshelf but I’ve forgotten which bookshelf, or given to a charity shop in the hopeful belief I’d never need to think about it again; but in my notebook, with a page number, marked on the contents page.
Ditum goes on to describe her method and tools. See also this post about keeping a journal and collecting.
Since joining Wikipedia a decade ago, 32-year-old Justin Anthony Knapp (username “koavf”) has established himself as the the site’s most active contributor of all time. He has made an astonishing 1,485,342 edits (an average of 385 per day), ranging in topic from Taylor Swift to the history of blacksmithing.
What’s life like as Wikipedia’s most prolific editor? And what has compelled this man to dedicate thousands of hours of his time, knowledge, and energy to an online encyclopedia for absolutely no compensation? We gave him a call to find out.
“Ghosts are real, that much I know,” is the first line spoken in Guillermo del Toro’s swooning Gothic thriller Crimson Peak, which opened to solid reviews but a tepid box office last weekend. In today’s global film economy, sub-par earnings in America don’t necessarily doom a film: Del Toro’s last effort, Pacific Rim, made up for its mediocre domestic performance by being a big hit overseas, especially in China. Producers are hoping the same will happen for Crimson Peak, but there’s one big problem. China’s Film Bureau doesn’t allow movies with ghosts in them, and certainly not movies that assert they’re “real.”
Internet comments are broken. A small population of abusive trolls have ruined Internet commenting for everyone. On this, pretty much everyone can agree. What people can’t agree on is what to do about it […] when you make a comment on Civil Comments, the first thing that happens is you’re asked to rate two other comments on the site for quality and civility. Then before you can post, you are asked to rate your own comment under the same criteria. It’s only then that you can post your comment to the site.
Interesting to see how some news orgs’ CMS’s guard against the accidental or unwanted publication of stories.
Hats! And buttons, sort of.
I’d heard good things about this book. I read it yesterday, and thoroughly recommend it. It’s not about frugal cooking per se; more the ability to extract every little bit of value and use from each component. The ends (often literally) of one ingredient or dish are used to kickstart the next bit of cooking and eating, and things are left over from that to be born again.
If you’re a seasoned cook there won’t be much new here in terms of recipes—it’s not that sort of cookbook—but the combination of the philosophy, cuisine (mostly Mediterranean with a focus on Italian) and writing style are everything I wanted. I came away with lots of good ideas on how to eat better food more simply, carefully and cheaply.
One of things in my office that bugs me more than it should is people lazily shouting out questions that, if typed verbatim into Google, would be answered by Google itself. No need to click through. “What’s the time in New York?”. “How many pounds in a stone?”. That sort of thing. (As an aside, my dear friend and colleague Alex is possibly too far in the other direction. He doesn’t like to bother people, so it’s only when 4 hours of searching doesn’t bring about an answer that he shares his query with the team.)
Anyway. These are called rich answers, and here’s a guide to them. A definitive one. Some 31% of search queries now return a rich answer.
We now live in a world where a New York City sixth grader is making money selling strong passwords. Earlier this month, Mira Modi, 11, began a small business at dicewarepasswords.com, where she generates six-word Diceware passphrases by hand.