Elsewhere for September 4, 2016

You should read this for 9/4/2016:

Big History ProjectHistory study resource ready-for-the-classroom resource available to everyone, everywhere. For free

Rachel Maddow video on American History, nativism, and the original no-nothings.

Deep in the Swamps, Archaeologists Are Finding How Fugitive Slaves Kept Their Freedom“Marronage, the process of extricating oneself from slavery, took place all over Latin America and the Caribbean, in the slave islands of the Indian Ocean, in Angola and other parts of Africa. But until recently, the idea that maroons also existed in North America has been rejected by most historians.”

The Pill, the Condom, and the American Dream“The number of sexually active American teenagers using no contraception fell by 35 percent in just seven years. Meanwhile, the teen birth rate has fallen almost 50 percent since 1990. . . . Poor kids are finally narrowing the achievement gap with rich kids. Is contraception the cause? It might seem like a mystery at first, even a paradox: The income gap between rich and poor adults is growing, but the achievement gap between rich and poor kids is shrinking.”

In a hilarious series of comics, illustrator John Atkinson gives us some less-than-classic descriptions of the classic books you probably had to read in high school.In 1926, The New York Times described Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises/as “a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame.” Atkinson’s summary: “Lost generation gets drunk. They’re still lost.”

Posted in Elsewhere

Elsewhere for August 28, 2016

You should read this for 8/28/2016:

Harvey Mudd College took on gender bias and now more than half its computer-science majors are women

How Twitter Got Angry: “Twitter is suffering from a systemic harassment problem. This isn’t news—it’s been written about over and over again, and has become a trope in the cultural mainstream.”

Puffin chicks in Gulf of Maine’s largest colony starve to death at record rate”In a typical year, 60 percent of the puffin nests with eggs produce chicks that fly off in late summer to begin their life at sea. This year the number was only 12 percent – 320 chicks – the worst result since researchers began monitoring the colony in 1995.”

Ophelia Settle Egypt ‘s “Voices of Slavery”:‘They Were Saving Me For A Breeding Woman’

After Two Years, Lost NASA Spacecraft Phones HomeUsing the Deep Space Network, mission control has reestablished contact with the solar observatory STEREO-B

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Elsewhere for August 21 2016

You should read this for 8/21/2016:

Stark New Evidence on How Money Shapes America’s Elections New evidence showing that the more you spend, the more you get — and the more money and wealth shape policy.

How looting in Iraq unearthed the treasures of Gilgamesh Missing text for Gilgamesh recovered when an Assyriologist spots an unusual tablet in a collection of looted artifacts for sale.

Does technological analysis destroy the romance of art history? Increasingly the use of new technologies, like computer assisted digital analysis of texts, or spectroscopic examinations of painting uncovering alternate versions or older works on re-used canvas, is changing the way we look at familiar works of art.

NPR Website To Get Rid Of Comments. The announcement notes that there were “clues that indicate those who comment are not wholly representative of the overall NPR audience: They overwhelmingly comment via the desktop (younger users tend to find NPR.org via mobile), and a Google estimate suggested that the commenters were 83 percent male, while overall NPR.org users were just 52 percent male.” See also Chris Cillizza’s comments in the Washington Post: NPR is killing off comments. That’s great news!

The Duo That Dominates Dressage Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, an “outsider athlete” riding Valegro has revived the ancient equestrian sport of dressage. Here they are riding and scoring an unprecedented 93.857 in the Grand Prix 2016 Olympics freestyle in Rio.

Posted in Elsewhere

Elsewhere for August 14, 2016

Barack Obama accuses Donald trump of founding The Village People

Autism, OCD and Attention Deficit May Share Brain Markers

Print your own high-quality topographic map from National Geographic (via Life Hacker)

Earliest population of America not through Bering Land Bridge In a research study published in Nature “researchers conclude that while people may well have travelled this corridor after about 12,600 years ago, it would have been impassable earlier than that . . . If this is true, then it means that the first Americans, who were present south of the ice sheets long before 12,600 years ago, must have made the journey south by another route. The study’s authors suggest that they probably migrated along the Pacific coast.”

Whale wars: Why Humpbacks save other species from Orca attacks Recent whale-watchers in British Columbia, CA witnessed Humpbacks fending off Orcas interested in a humpback calf.

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Elsewhere for August 7, 2016

You should read this for 8/7/2016:

Dear Hillary: How Very Dare You!“I bought into a narrative about Hillary Clinton that has been produced, packaged, and perpetuated by mostly the GOP with the help of many democrats and independents.”

For the love of stuff: I am my things and my things are me. I don’t want to give them up: they are narrative prompts for the story of my life

Campaign to help archaeologists search for an Iron-Age broch in Scotland

An Artist’s Pet Dog Photobombs the Middle Ages Elizabeth Morrison at The Getty: The same charming dog appears in illumination after illumination by late-medieval artist Simon Bening. Was it possibly his own pet?

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Elsewhere for July 31, 2016

Hillary Clinton Helped Me Realize That Powerful Women Deserve Love

Trump: Clinton should have congratulated me for making history

Nature published a Neolithic DNA study revealing “three genetically distinct farming populations living in the Near East at the dawn of agriculture 12,000 to 8,000 years ago: two newly described groups in Iran and the Levant and a previously reported group in Anatolia, in what is now Turkey.” The data suggests that “agriculture spread in the Near East at least in part because existing groups invented or adopted farming technologies, rather than through population replacement.”

The British Library has just added digital facsimiles of manuscripts related to the Roman de la Rose, Christine de Pizan, and what scholars call La Querelle des Femmes. See
Metaphors, Misogyny and Courtly Love for back ground and links to some stunning medieval manuscripts.

Muslims across France have attended Catholic Mass in a gesture of solidarity after the murder of a priest on Tuesday.

Thousands of tricolored Blackbirds saved by California farmers

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England’s Premier Cowboy Singer!

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A. M. Dellamonica, Child of a Hidden Sea

Cover of A. M. Dellamonica's Child of A Hidden Sea showing a tall ship's sail behind a woman wearing swashbuckling clothes and a man

Sophie Hansa is a twenty-something videographer living in San Francisco, a much-loved adopted child with a younger (briliant) brother. She’s a child of privilege in that her parents can help her with college and travel; she’s a partially-trained biologist, an all-but-thesis grad student. She’s also been seeking her birth mother, whom she finds, but who wants nothing, at all, ever, to do with her. In the course of finding her mother, she inserts herself into the thick of exactly what her adoption was meant to avoid, when she defends her previously unknown aunt from what appears to be a mugging.

Cover of A. M. Dellamonica's Child of A Hidden Sea showing a tall ship's sail behind a woman wearing swashbuckling clothes and a manThat action sends Sophie to an alternate Earth called Stormwrack, one where her mother is a self-exiled member of a powerful ruling family, thereby allowing Dellamonica to simultaneously subvert two fantasy tropes at once; the portal fantasy and the fairy princess. Sophie is also one of those sorts of heroines that we’re more familiar with from urban fantasy; the unlikeable but yet oddly likable heroine. She is unlikeable in her willingness to manage the lives of others; likable in her desire to make the world better, her insatiable curiosity and fascination with science and nature. Sophie is vulnerable in ways that don’t quite ring true; her self-perception as someone that isn’t and won’t be listened to is more a matter of her own petulance than reality. It’s not an unbearable character flaw, but it is a little disconcerting in terms of her own perceptions of herself and those around her.

The alternate Earth aspect of Child of a Hidden Sea includes the familiar (stars and the moon) and the unfamiliar; new species and the art of scribing, wherein magic is embedded into people or objects in ways slightly reminiscent of the was geasa function in medieval Irish tales. The efficacy of a scribing has to do with the creator’s intent, which is one of the aspects that makes it similar (though quite different) from geasa. Sophie is in someways reminiscent of Miriam, the heroine of Charlie Stross’ Hidden Family series, but where Miriam’s approach to problem solving is via economics and political theory, Sophie focuses on science and deduction (and both use social engineering successfully).

There’s some fine world building here, both in terms of the magic system, and the ecological differences and similarities between this Earth, or Erst While, and Stormwrack. The world building includes some well-done cultural and linguistic foundations. It’s refreshing to see queer characters without a lot of hand-waving or cultural blindness.

A. M. Dellamonica’s Child of a Hidden Sea is the first of a projected Stormwrack series. The second book Daughter of No Nation has just been published, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. You might want to take advantage of the current ebook $2.99 sale price for Child of a Hidden Sea, at the usual vendors.There’s an excerpt here. A. M. Dellamonica has a website and tweets as @AlyxDellamonica.

(Tor, 2014)

Posted in Review

Sara Kasdan, Love and Knishes

Sara Kasdan’s Love and Knishes is both a cultural guide, and a cookbook. Sara Kasdan’s much guide to traditional Jewish cooking (illustrated by Louis Slobodin) first appeared in 1956. The book was rapidly reprinted as it proved strikingly popular with Jews and non-Jews alike who wanted to know how to make traditional Ashkenazi comfort food from matzah ball soup to kugel and mandelbrot. It’s all here, from knaydelach to kugel, and everything in between, including hamentaschen.
kasdan_love_and_knishesI should point out that this is a very basic primer for Jewish cuisine; its not fancy, and it’s very down to earth for people who want to make tsimmes, not have one. Note that parts of Love and Knishes is written in authentic dialect; ignore those reviewers who are wringing their hands over the use of dialect. Here, it’s done well, and it’s both authentic and charming, and a mark of affectionate nostalgia rather than mockery. There are many who remember that bubula used just that phrase. There are also those who are offended by Kasdan’s cultural impropriety in including a few standard American dishes of the 1950s; they should get a life and get over themselves. This cookbook was written for the generation that was all about adapting to life in America, yet still missing the food they grew up with. And yes, it’s true, there is an entry in the table of contents for Yom Kippur; if you turn to the chapter in question, you’ll see “Shame! You looked.” What’s not to love about an authentic cookbook with a sense of humor?

This is the cookbook I used when I learned to make latkes. It’s also the one I used for hamentaschen.

There are lots of copies of Love and Knishes at the usual used book sites (including the first hardcover edition) it is, alas, no longer in print. If you’re looking for a broader, less Americanized take on Jewish cuisine, I suggest Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. Roden’s book is a thorough international culinary, cultural and historic survey of Jewish history via a very large selection of recipes, many of which she presents with regional variations. For a kosher survey of Jewish cuisine, see Spice and Spirit The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook by Esther Blau, Tzirrel Deitsch, and Cherna Light. For those interested in Jewish desserts specifically, see George Greenstein’s A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets: Recipes from a New York Baking Legend for Strudel, Stollen, Danishes, Puff Pastry, and More.

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Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, Eds. The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Cover of The Art of Lord of the RIngs, ed. by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond, showing Tolkien's jacket design for The Lord of the Rings of

The Art of The Lord of the Rings is a magnificent book. Published to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of The Lord of the Rings, this collection of Tolkien’s art was edited by Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, the top-notch Tolkien scholars previously responsible for The Art of The Hobbit, among other Tolkien-related books.

The Art of The Lord of the Rings includes all the art, the maps, the preliminary sketches and final versions that Tolkien sent his publishers for possible use as interior art and covers, as well as the numerous sketches Tolkien made in various mss. to help him visualize the story and scene. In some cases there are multiple versions of the same image, as Tolkien works through a rough sketch to a version he sent to his publisher, or a finished piece for his own use. In each instance, Scull and Hammond provide both a context for the piece in terms of Tolkien’s composition and in terms of the internal chronologies of LOTR.

Many of the sketches were originally created on scraps of paper from the end of student exam booklets or similar bits of paper; these are already yellowing with age and acid, so having all of these images not only reproduced accurately at full size but having had a digital record made by the two primary libraries involved (Marquette University and Oxford University’s Bodleian) is especially wonderful.

There are some truly wonderful images here, like the “facsimiles” of leaves from the Book of Mazarbul found in Moria, which Gandalf reads from in Book II chapter 5 (“The Bridge of Khazad-dûm”). Plates 55–63 show multiple versions of the leaves as Tolkien used different materials and deliberately tried to capture the look of a worn ms., complete with the typical holes, as well as showing the damage done by fire. I know Tolkien felt a bit awkward about making some of the drawings, and certainly he was stung by some of the critical response to the small images included in the first publication of The Fellowship of The Ring, but I think that the “manuscripts” he created like The Red Book of Westmarch, as well as Tolkien’s own scholarly background, suggest that we should view many of the drawings and maps as if they were in fact parts of an illuminated manuscript.

It’s also wonderful to see full-color full size plates featuring some of the “finished” drawings Tolkien made for himself or for possible inclusion in the books, like the aerial view of Rivendell (plate 34).It’s also fascinating to see the writer’s mind at work, not only in the examples of the recursively edited mss. but in his recursive sketches as he works out the appearance of Orthanc, or Farmer Cotten’s house, or, most especially, the various maps of Middle Earth. In all there are over 180 images, more than half of which have not been previously published.

This is a beautifully produced and meticulously edited book, and so well done that it’s of interest to the casual reader of LOTR as well as the dedicated reader or scholar. I’m going to be giving The Art of The Lord of the Rings as holiday present, and can’t wait to hear what the recipients think.

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

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