Friday, January 16, 2015

Anniversary of Y.I.P. (Youth Party International)


1968 -- US: Youth International Party (Y.I.P.) founded — Country Joe & the Fish, Fugs (includes Tuli Kupferberg, "one of the leading Anarchist theorists of our time" & Ed Sanders, poet, editor, owner of the fabled Peace Eye Book Store), Allen Ginsberg, Arlo Guthrie, Abbie Hoffman, Paul Krassner, Phil Ochs, Jerry Rubin, et al (25 artists, writers & revolutionaries).

       I spoke to Tolstoy: 'Emma Goldman's coming back!'
       He sat there writing on a shard of red & black
       Black & Red. Coming back!
       Red & Black. They're comin' back!... 

                              — Tuli Kupferberg, excerpt,

                               PAINT IT RED (& BLACK) 

Happy Birthday Alan Harrington


1918 -- Alan Harrington lives. He was with Jack Kerouac, Neal 
Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs & others at ground 
zero of what became the Beat Generation. (Harrington aka Hal 
Hingham in the later pages of On the Road.) Author of The 
Immortalist, most of his books are now out of print.  

    Alan traveled through other jungles & "despoblados," the 
    shadowy landscapes of the human mind peopled with
    psychopaths & drug users & sexual criminals. He was 
    convinced decades ago that psychopaths were the coming
    thing & soon would pass for normal. Anyone who has 
    noticed recent elections knows that Alan won that bet.

                        — Charles Bowden 

    "Hal lurked at the window [...] he heard clocks. They 
    were chiming  up & down the street.

             Altogether, it was fifty-six o'clock."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature

“At the still point, there the dance is.” —T. S. Eliot


We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their favorite lines from literature. Here are some of their most beautiful replies.

Suggested by CindyH11 Creative Commons / Flickr: 58621196@N05
2. “In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.”
—Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Suggested by Jasmin B., via Facebook

3. “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
—J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”
Suggested by mollyp49cf70741

4. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart; I am, I am, I am.”
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Suggested by Brooke K., via Facebook
Suggested by tina6287 Creative Commons / Flickr: 29865701@N02
6. “Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.”
—Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed
Suggested by Danielle O., via Facebook

7. “Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Suggested by Kellie C., via Facebook

8. “What are men to rocks and mountains?”
—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Suggested by amandae16
Suggested by klavdijak22 Creative Commons / Flickr: rayseinefotos
10. “‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.’”
—Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Suggested by Shanna B., via Facebook

11. “The curves of your lips rewrite history.”
—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Suggested by Therese K., via Facebook

12. “A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Suggested by amykartzmanr
Suggested by natyjira Creative Commons / Flickr: junevre
14. “As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts and the Two Thoughts he thought were these: a) Anything can happen to anyone. and b) It is best to be prepared.”
—Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Suggested by Alyssa P., via Facebook

15. “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.”
—W. H. Auden, “The More Loving One”
Suggested by Blake M., via Facebook

16. “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
—John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Suggested by Missy W., via Facebook
Suggested by Domo Creative Commons / Flickr: kwarz
18. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Suggested by Emily F., via Facebook

19. “America, I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.”
—Allen Ginsburg, “America”
Suggested by Jimmy C., via Facebook

20. “It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.” 
—W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
Suggested by fireworkshurricanes
Suggested by amk93. Creative Commons / Flickr: chrisjl

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Last Word in Review: Makers by Cory Doctorow

Reviewed by Charlie Jack Joseph Kruger (http://charliejackjosephkruger.com)


When it comes to science fiction, we no longer live in a time when the distant future is scary. What is scary about science fiction now is the crippling realization that we are what HG Wells warned us about. We are a realized future of Hell. So, the strongest recent sci-fi works have all been set more so in 'the day after tomorrow' than '10,000 years later'. The unknown terrors of other worlds and technologies built upon dreams are less shocking and nerve-wracking than the technologies and mysteries that await us behind the latest drones and iPads. We are living in the future.

'Makers' is a book that is painfully aware of this. So aware, in fact, that it juggles the reader around with moments of complete normalcy, and even 80s tinged moments of capitalistic excess. Our Tyrell Corp (or Weyland Yutani or Omni Consumer Products, if you will) here in this book is more immediate. It is a company you can see someone you went to high school saying they work for on Facebook. The company exists not to create new technologies or to arrange new world, but simply to glue together our refuse and sell it back to us to pacify ourselves. The company is introduced in a press conference and seen through the eyes of our protagonist, a plucky and pointed journalist interested in what is really going on with the smiling spokesman up at the podium. The spokesman, through capped and polished teeth talks about finding discarded or ignored technologies and combining them, (for example, a laser pointer that uses a speech to text program to display words that are spoken through light onto any surface) creating new commodities, and new products with wholly new uses. The company will simply find inventors, buy their goods, pay them off and then mass produce the items, flooding the world.

This concept reminded me of Malcolm McLaren. As the crass fiend behind creating the iconic image of 'punk rock' and the attempted Svengali of Johnny Rotten and scores of others, he once made the statement that 'all of the notes have been played, nothing is original, we just have to arrange them again.' That sort of mindset felt very ingrained in the portrayal of the company in question in this book. They weren’t making anything NEW, so to speak, they were simply finding new ways to sell you old things. And if that isn’t the basis for a nightmarish vision of the future...

One moment early on in the book involved the reporter standing in a warehouse with two inventors as she was shown how the guts of an old Sesame Street electronic toy could be used to create nervous systems for paralyzed and injured people. And how that same basic technology could be used to create cute distractions. It was here in the book that things started to click and fall into place. It felt like the book was not just commenting on the dangerous future of blister-pack consumerism that is lurking in the dark alleyways of tomorrow, but also pointing out that we have everything we need to save the world already in front of us. But we cover it all in fake fur and laugh at its programed cuteness.

A lot about this book feels reminiscent of 'Atlas Shrugged'. Except, where Ayn Rand preached a world of vicious selfishness and the myopic pursuit of Brazilian hardwood desks with mahogany inlays and doors thick enough to shut out compassion and emotion, Cory Doctorow seems to be making a different statement with this tale of a maverick industrialist, flirting with an intrepid female reporter who demands to know the truth. With 'Makers' the point seems to be something more sustaining and accepting. The world wants blister-packs of single-use disposable happiness and interaction. The world wants it, so it has to be made. At least it can be made by people who care. And at least it can be made from the hollowed shells of yesterdays blister-packed life savers. John Galt (or the synthetic spokesman for this repackaging firm in this book) isn’t a hero here. He isn’t the fedora-adorned savior of the terminally inhuman. He is a vestige of a crassness that we don’t have room for. Our reporter and her two new friends, inventors and dreamers with screw-bitten fingertips are the heroes. Our heroes have grease and oil on their hands.

'Makers' reads like a socially liberal and economically aware answer to the selfish screed that is 'Atlas Shrugged'. I only wish Ayn had been given the chance to read it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Prison book ban overturned after serial arsonist with doctorate in English literature successfully challenges government restrictions

  • Barbara Gordon-Jones overturned restrictions on receiving books in jail 
  • The 56-year-old has an indefinite sentence for torching homes and cars  
  • Judge declared rules introduced by Chris Grayling last year as 'unlawful' 
  • Rules had been opposed by figures such as Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy 
Barbara Gordon-Jones, 56, has successfully overturned government restrictions on receiving books from friends and family in prison 
Barbara Gordon-Jones, 56, has successfully overturned government restrictions on receiving books from friends and family in prison 
A convicted arsonist with a doctorate in English literature has successfully challenged government restrictions on receiving books in jail. 
A judge declared the rules introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in November last year as 'unlawful'. 
Mr Justice Collins' decision was a victory for Barbara Gordon-Jones, 56, a convicted arsonist with a borderline personality disorder who has a degree and a doctorate in English literature. 
Gordon-Jones, of Tudeley, near Tunbrige Wells, Kent, who also suffers from depression and epilepsy, is serving an indefinite sentence for torching homes and cars and slashing tyres. 
Her victims were often elderly and vulnerable. She is being held at Send prison near Woking, Surrey.
She was denied legal aid but was able to bring her court challenge because lawyers represented her for free.
Under the current rules prisoners are prevented from receiving parcels unless they have 'exceptional circumstances', such as a medical condition. 
But Gordon-Jones challenged the section of the new Prison Service Instruction (PSI) which she said 'imposes substantial restrictions on the ability of prisoners to receive, or have for their use, books'. 

The judge said the PSI amended the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme (IEP), which was brought in partly as an attempt to crack down on drugs getting into prisons.
He said: 'I am satisfied that insofar as it includes books in IEP schemes, the PSI is unlawful.'
A protest against the ruling, led by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (centre) was held outside Pentonville Prison in north London in March - a court ruling has now successfully challenged the restrictions
A protest against the ruling, led by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (centre) was held outside Pentonville Prison in north London in March - a court ruling has now successfully challenged the restrictions
A judge declared the rules introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in November last year as 'unlawful'
A judge declared the rules introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in November last year as 'unlawful'
The ruling was welcomed by solicitors firm Lound Mulrenan Jefferies, who acted for Gordon-Jones along with barristers Jenni Richards QC, Victoria Butler-Cole and Annabel Lee.
The solicitors said in a statement: 'Reading is a right and not a privilege, to be encouraged and not restricted.
'Indeed, Mr Justice Collins commented that, as far as books are concerned, "to refer to them as a privilege is strange".
'The policy was unnecessary, irrational and counter-productive to rehabilitation. It is now rightly judged unlawful.'
The solicitors said the Justice Secretary and prison governor 'sought to argue that there remained adequate access to books because prisoners borrow them from the prison library or purchase them with their own money, but this was rejected in today's judgment'.
They said: 'Prison libraries are often inadequately stocked and there are restrictions on access.
'Spending caps for prisoners usually mean that there is enough for bare essentials but not for books.'
Referring to the fact that Gordon-Jones was refused legal aid, the solicitors warned: 'Under current proposals to restrict judicial review, it would be more difficult to bring this case and hold the Government to account.'
Mr Justice Collins told the High Court (pictured): 'I see no good reason in the light of the importance of books for prisoners to restrict beyond what is required by volumetric control and reasonable measures relating to frequency of parcels and security considerations'
Mr Justice Collins told the High Court (pictured): 'I see no good reason in the light of the importance of books for prisoners to restrict beyond what is required by volumetric control and reasonable measures relating to frequency of parcels and security considerations'
The rules have been opposed by arts' figures including Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, actress Vanessa Redgrave and author Kathy Lette. 
A protest was held outside Pentonville Prison in north London in March.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: 'The ban on sending books to prisoners was always an absurd policy.
'It had nothing to do with punishing and reforming prisoners but was an example of David Cameron's Government's sloppy policy-making.
'This is a victory for all those who campaigned against the ban and the Government should abandon the ludicrous policy with immediate effect.' 
Denis MacShane, the former Labour MP jailed for six months for expenses fraud, described today's judgment as 'a modest win for common sense'.
He said he had a suitcase full of books confiscated when he was sent to Belmarsh Prison last Christmas.
'Chris Grayling seems to think that being unpleasant to prisoners is good for society. On the contrary it makes rehabilitation much more difficult,' he said.  
Reacting to the decision, a Prison Service spokesman said: 'This is a surprising judgment.
'There never was a specific ban on books and the restrictions on parcels have been in existence across most of the prison estate for many years and for very good reason.
'Prisoners have access to the same public library service as the rest of us, and can buy books through the prison shop.
'We are considering how best to fulfil the ruling of the court. However, we are clear that we will not do anything that would create a new conduit for smuggling drugs and extremist materials in to our prisons.'