Women defying history

A series of videos featuring some of the most bad-ass women in history is on the horizon, Lily Myers writes at Bust.
Defying History photoThe episodes will feature a Chinese pirate, Japanese novelist, journalist Ida B. Wells, computer programmer Ada Lovelace, and the radical anarchist Emma Goldman,

The spark plug for the crowd-sourced project is Anita Sarkeesian, whose first web series about the sexist roles given women in video games sparked outrage from many male gamers who responded with death and rape threats

Rather than heroes, leaders and innovators, women are often depicted and treated as secondary characters in history, objects of affections, damsels to be rescued, or merely the wives, mothers and assistants to the men who achieved important things,” Sarkeesian says,

The goal of Ordinary Women is to replace these old ideas about women’s limitations with real stories about amazing things ordinary women have achieved.”

Read the whole story at Bust.com HERE

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A bit of history

For the last few days I have been talking about my first Comic-con in Seattle, but before I look at the germ of this extraordinary idea, how it all came about, I want to share one of my favorite moments at ECCC.
Unicorn playing a fiddle photoA unicorn playing a fiddle, Photo by Alma Alexander

The now iconic Comic-con began in March 1970 in San Diego.

Its earliest incarnation was a single-day “mini-con” which had two special guests and about 100 attendees, an event put together to gauge and generate interest in a larger event and find funds for it. It led directly to the creation of the first three-day event then known as the Sand Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con, held in August of the same year. Its guests were Ray Bradbudy, Jack Kirby and A E van Vogt – can I go drool now…?)

That con wasn’t much bigger than the mini-me that started the whole thing, with some 300 attendees as warm bodies on site, but that was… the beginning. That con had all the basics. The dealer’s room. The programming and the panels. Film screenings. It was the bedrock on which every subsequent con was built.

They dropped the “Golden State” and became simply the San Diego Comic-Con (or SDCC) in 1973, and by 1995 it had morphed into Comic-Con International: San Diego (CCI). Today, attendance tops 130,000, and the event isn’t – can no longer be – held in a single location but rather an entire campus of satellite venues necessary to house its vast programming requirements and the public intent on enjoying them.

The interests of this behemoth have expanded from the world of the comic book in all its incarnations into giant media cons complete with serried ranks of glittering stars from the spheres of publishing, books, TV, movies, and everything to do with all of those things.

These days, you can trek from packed panels revealing the next development in a popular TV franchise to a loving retrospective of a yesteryear series, from brand new trailers to movies yet unseen to showings of vintage films to which the fans know the entire script by heart, hopping skipping and jumping from books to movies to TV to Internet and social media and blogs and podcasts and anything and EVERYTHING in between. And while you’re doing all THAT, there’s a “show floor” which is like every dealer’s room from every convention you’ve ever been to in your entire life put together, and then multiplied by ten.

And holding all of this together is the glue of the eager fans, with very high quality cosplay now an accepted part of the experience, where you walk the corridors rubbing shoulders with various incarnations of every popular character of page and screen and people vying to outdo one another in how magnificently these characters could be depicted.

From SDCC, the Comic-Con beast has spawned many descendants, across the world. There are Comic-Cons in Australia (since 2012), Russia, (since 2014), various locations in Europe (Romania, at least five locations in the UK), across the Middle East and Asia (Dubai, India), and the Americas, both South (Brazil, since 2014) and North – several separate ones in Canada… and, by now, dozens in the USA, the length and breadth of the country of greater or lesser longevity and provenance.

Emerald City Comicon, in Seattle, has been an annual fixture since 2003. Originally housed at the Century Link (QWEST) Field (first the West Field Plaza and the Event Center), it moved to its current home at the massive Washington State Convention and Trade Center in 2008 – and in 2013 it grew big enough to swallow the entire center for three days. It overflowed into the adjacent Sheraton Hotel in 2014.

The original ECCC boasted some 2,500 attendees. That grew at a dizzying rate. By 2007, the number stood at 7,000 (that was the first year they featured “media” guest celebrities) Two years later the number of attendees had almost doubled to 13,000 people and included media guests like Jewel Staite and Wil Wheaton.

In 2010 they had Leonard Nimoy and Stan Lee, and 20,000 eager fans. 2011 brought in even more stars (William Shatner, Bruce Boxleitner, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes) and 12,000 more con-goers. 2013 brought in the likes of Patrick Stewart and Billy Dee Williams, and a horde of 64,000+ attendees. A stellar 2014 featured John DeLancie, Michael Dorn, Nichelle Nicholls, Ron Perlman and Dwight Shultz (among others) and an attendance number of 70,000+. They spoke of 80,000 people in 2015, and more stars of stage and screen.

They also mentioned a magic number of 80,000+ this year, in 2016, the year I first walked those streets full of people dressed as Spiderman and Rey from the new Star Wars and Alice in Wonderland and Thor of the Hammer and Doctor Horrible and every possible incarnation of Doctor Who.

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The horror that never ends

In The Guardian, celebrated correspondent Janine di Giovanni has selected

The top 10 books of war reportage

One of his choices (whole list and link below) includes ‘Hiroshima’, John Hersey’s incredibly powerful 1946 report on the aftermath of the first atomic bomb ever used on people.

Hiroshima may be a footnote in ancient history to most of the world, but not to the people of Japan where the memory of the appalling destruction and carnage is still vivid and alive.

I was at a science fiction convention in Yokohama when a a Japanese translator felt compelled to interrupt a discussion by lily-white, mostly American and almost completely oblivious panelists obliquely talking about the war before an increasingly antsy Japanese audience. After his cautioning remarks, the subdued panelists continued with a bit more sensitivity.

And if, after Giovanni’s list, you’re still looking for reading material… there’s this novel called “Letters from the Fire‘, covering a different war, a “smaller” war (if there is such a thing), a war which didn’t end with a mushroom cloud… but which – as EVERY war is – was still full of loss and pain and confusion and devastation.

Unlike most books on the list, it’s a novel not war reportage – but it is based on absolute fact, so much so in fact that when it was first published I caught a young and earnest bookstore clerk filing it in the ‘Non Fiction’ section of the shop. When I pointed out it was fiction, he looked genuinely baffled and asked, “Are you *sure*?”

“Reasonably,” I said, “I wrote it.”

But he might have had half a point, actually. It’s fiction… but this is as real as it gets.

I don’t know what it is about war, about its brutality and its callousness and its vainglory and its bitter, bitter triumphs and tragedies which are one and the same thing because what is a triumph for one side is invariably the other side’s tragedy and it’s a matter of luck as to which side you land on. I don’t know what it is. But even while we continue to fight them – usually for no reason that anyone can really remember after the whole thing is done – some of the most incandescent writing and some of the most incredibly poignant human understanding possible has also been born in the flames of war. Perhaps it’s worth reading about the ones past – and if you read enough maybe you’re going to reach the point of enlightenment where another becomes unthinkable.

I’ll drink to THAT, at least.

From the list:Hiroshima destruction photo The devastated city of Hiroshima. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Hiroshima by John Hersey
And here is where compassion lies. All the brutality and horror of war down to the most base level, told by six survivors.

Read the whole story HERE

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The Suicide Note as Literary Genre

William Turner painting

William Turner painting

Feature image: “Bedford and the River Great Ouse,” J.M.W. Turner, c. 1829

Everything has gone for me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

“So ends Virginia Woolf’s poignant suicide note, addressed to her husband,” Dustin Illingworth writes at Literary Hub. “It is a throbbing document, hauntingly beautiful, in which a decision is made to part with a rote anguish.

“This, then, is the morbid fascination of the literary suicide note: that it is, perforce, the final written work of the author in question. If we believe that writers possess a special relationship with language—one in which the incommunicable is somehow voiced—we might be forgiven our curiosity for what these moments of literary extremity are able to reveal of the inviolate mystery of death.”

Read the whole story HERE

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Adult dolls. Not for children – and NSFW

Cinderella 14 260x150

The Enchanted Doll is the brand of the Russian jeweler artist and designer Marina Bychkova who makes absolutely incredible porcelain and polyurethane dolls for adults.

She creates unimaginable dolls which are valued by connoisseurs all across the planet. Marina’s dolls are not smiling; they are pensive, mysterious, and sad. Each of them has their own soul, their own destiny.

See all the dolls at Design You Trust HERE

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THIS & THAT

Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-Ton Car

Ant Size Robot photoMicrorobots Video by bdmlstanford

Taking inspiration from ants, researchers at Stanford are designing tiny robots that have the ability to pull thousands of times their weight, wander like gecko lizards on vertical surfaces.

Read the whole story HERE

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Quote of the Day

David Bowie Quote poster

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A love story retold

Most Western readers have a peculiar blind spot in the historical tapestry of European history.

The Empire of Byzantium.

There’s the Glory Of Rome, and then there’s the Middle Ages. Byzantium is a missing link, something that existed over there beyond Greece, almost Asian, almost Middle Eastern, something that fascinated but did not find deep roots in the Western European psyche.

But in Eastern Europe we all know about Byzantium. It was much closer to home, looming much larger on the horizon. When I was growing up, stories of Byzantium were simply part of my education, part of my cultural milieu.

One story in particular.

As the saying goes, well behaved women never make history, or as one of my great-aunts was wont to say, the pursuit of purity and virtue never helped a woman rise in her world. A good woman cooked meals, cleaned house and raised children. Those who did not do these things were by definition not good women. And not-good women…got up to all sorts of things that were then whispered about behind closed doors.

In the story of the Byzantium Empire, one of these women stands like a colossus: Theodora of the Hippodrome, daughter of a bear-keeper, arena dancer, a woman they have called a whore, someone who clawed her way from the gutter into the circles of the aristocracy. Beyond that – into the purple, crowned with an imperial diadem, ruling an empire at the height of its powers at the side of the besotted Emperor Justinian.
Justinian And Theodora mosaicThe magnificent mosaic of Justinian and Theodora in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

It is one of the greatest love stories in world history.

By most contemporary accounts, Theodora had more than enough heart and spirit and courage to have achieved all this. But because she did so, and did so while female, the rumors started swirling and history has never stayed neutral or even silent on this.

Procopius, a Byzantine historian, depicted Theodora as a wanton temptress who used her body and her sexuality to get what she wanted out of the powerful men in her world. Procopius had his biases and much of what he wrote was exaggerated or even invented. But he helped paint Theodora as what she ended up being in the pages of history books. Sultry, sexual, full of subtle poisonous malice, selfish, given to indulging her own pet people, ideas, or obsessions.

She may have been some of these things. But she was also something that was looked on askance in her world – a strong-minded woman who knew what she wanted and did what she could, what she was permitted by her gender and her society to do, in order to get it. It is quite probable that she was no saint. But she was equally probably not the wicked witch of the east, the image in which she was cast.

I grew up with Theodora and her story dangling before me like some rich Byzantine jewel. When I was younger I had no real means of judging; I read books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the time that she lived in and that was all I had to go on. She was mad bad and impossible but she was fascinating.

And in the end I suppose it was inevitable that she should take root in my storytelling mind and demand that her story – the story of the woman, not the icon, not the two-dimensional harridan, not the evil power who seduced a weak-minded scholar (which some would have Justinian be in some versions of the tale) into breaking all the rules, marrying her, raising her into the aristocratic circles of her time and making them accept her, and finally crowning her as his empress.

So I wrote a historical fantasy, Empress, which was based on her story – and in doing so I have written another book in MY world, the world in which the Syai of “Secrets of Jin Shei” and “Embers of Heaven” also exist in the same way as Greece and China co-exist in our reality.

The Secrets of Jin-shei coverEmbers of Heaven coverEmpress cover

I am writing books which are the building blocks of a much larger world, a world which exists INSIDE MY OWN STORY MILIEU as a huge and ongoing backdrop and in which my individual stories are set, in their own place and time, like jewels, like tiny detailed works of art set into a huge larger-than-life map of a world big enough to contains them all.

“Empress” is the first new fat historical fantasy I have produced since “Embers of Heaven” was published some years ago. It is the story of a not-quite Byzantium and a woman who is not-quite Theodora. But I drew inspiration from both, and created my own version for my own world. This is the kind of story that I so love writing – the sort of tale that unfolds like a rich tapestry, and the closer you look the more glorious detail comes out, until you’re lost in it and can’t quite tell where it ends and that (by comparison) sad pale thing we call reality begins.

You can find a fuller version of this essay at the Book View Café HERE

You can buy Empress HERE

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Quote of the DayQuote: Saying It Wrong posterJust as I did.

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What color is ‘C’?

She sees music, in color, and then she paints it.

Until artist Melissa S. McCracken was 15, she thought everyone constantly saw colors like she did – in books, math formulas, at concerts. But when she finally asked her brother which color the letter C was, she realized “my mind wasn’t quite as normal as I had thought.”

“Basically, my brain is cross-wired. I experience the ‘wrong’ sensation to certain stimuli. Each letter and number is colored (‘C’ is canary yellow, by the way) and the days of the year circle around my body as if they had a set point in space.”

But the most wonderful ‘brain malfunction’ of all, she says, is seeing the music she hears. “It flows in a mixture of hues, textures, and movements, shifting as if it were a vital and intentional element of each song.”

Here is an example of what a famous song looks like in color.All The Love In The World“All The Love In The World”

“Having synesthesia isn’t distracting or disorienting. It adds a unique vibrance to the world I experience.”

See more of her paintings HERE

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fREADom22 Ways To Celebrate Banned Books Week

At Bustle, Alex Heimbach says that there are tons of great ideas on Twitter and Instagram.

“I’ve collected 22 of them. If you haven’t read these books, you should. There may come a day when you no longer can.”

Read all the suggestions HERE

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Why BannedThis amazing library display features a line-up of literary characters from books that have been banned at one point in time. Created by Rachel Moani of the Lacey Timberland Library in Washington state for Banned Book Week, it highlights a few of the reasons the books have been banned by either a school or community library:

Such as “The Wizard of Oz” for depicting women in strong leadership roles, and “The Diary of Anne Frank” for being too depressing.

Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign sponsored by the American Library Association and others in the book community every September to celebrate the freedom to read and expose the dangers of restricting access to books.

Read a tribute to Judy Blume, an outspoken advocate against censorship, at  A Mighty Girl.

‘Protecting ‘The Books That Will Never Be Written” HERE

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Book Review

‘Rad American Women A-Z’
Rad Women

Attention, parents and teachers: This is an alphabet book with a difference. A is for Angela Davis, Z is for Zora Neale Hurston. In between are scientists, poets, pilots and others, half of whom are women of color, who have long been left out of children’s history books.

Read the whole review HERE

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Marie Curie’s Research Papers Are Still Radioactive 100+ Years Later

When researching a famous historical figure, access to their work and materials usually proves to be one of the biggest obstacles, Open Culture notes. But things are much more difficult for those writing about the life of Marie Curie, the scientist who, along her with husband Pierre, discovered polonium and radium and birthed the idea of particle physics. Her notebooks, her clothing, her furniture, pretty much everything surviving from her Parisian suburban house, is radioactive, and will be for 1,500 years or more.

Read the whole story HERE

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The woman who saved American children
Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey

Pharmaceutical representatives came to Washington in droves to drive Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey back from her stand at the FDA over a drug being pushed by a muscular company and the men who ran it, William Rivers Pitt reports at The Smirking Chimp.

She said the drug was dangerous, and had the data to prove it. She was, in the parlance of the times, “a woman in a man’s job” despite her bedrock-strong credentials as a doctor and researcher, and she stood her ground when those men tried to brush her aside.”

The drug was thalidomide, a substance that came to be one of the most dangerous drugs ever unleashed on the human population and thanks to Dr. Kelsey, American babies didn’t get born without arms and legs.

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS ‘n THAT

Last Library Catalog Card
Last Library CardSince information seekers now use computer catalogs and online search engines to access library collections around the world, OCLC has printed its last card.

Read the whole story HERE

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The Guardian’s Mars in literature – quiz

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Quote of the Day
LudditeIt’s so annoying to be called a Luddite for liking print books ~ Bustle

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Alma Alexander       My books       Email me
 
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‘The world neeeeds books!’

MadisonThere is absolutely no way in hell you appreciate books as much as this third grader does. Nope. No way. Madison loves books. And she tells you exactly why in this video from the grand opening of one of five Little Free Libraries in Cleveland.

See the video HERE

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Women Who Changed History

They were strong, brave, and human, regardless of society’s expectations for them, Mark Pygas writes at Distractify.
Sufferage activistA woman suffrage activist protesting after “The Night of Terror.” [1917]

See all 52 women

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10 brilliant books that gave women excellent roles

From Meryl Streep’s tortured Sophie to Nicole Kidman’s right-on-the-nose portrayal of Virgina Woolf, every actress in this list captured their character so well you only see see their performance now when you read the book.

The Reader

 

“The Reader” by Bernard Schlink: When he falls ill on his way home from school, 15-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder. An Oprah Book Club selection.

 

Read the article

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Jodi Picoult says the F-word about Lit World Sexism

After nearly two decades as a highly successful author, Jodi Picoult is out on yet another book tour and not holding back on kickass soundbites about how shitty the lit world tends to be for women writers.

Read the article

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Amazingly awful books that you might find at your local library

Take a stroll through your local library’s aisles, and you’re sure to find a few hidden literary treasures, Happy Pace says.

Think I’m kidding about awful? Try this one, for example:
Ask a manDid you know that the best way for you to harness your inner womanliness is to defer all judgement to the penis-havers in your life? Seems counter-intuitive, but that’s what you’ll learn if you check out Always Ask a Man: The Key to Femininity by Arlene Dahl.

A couple of other gems

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THIS ‘n THAT

China bans puns

Digg reports that China’s media regulators have placed a blanket ban on the use of wordplay in advertisements and broadcasts, which have been deemed “contradictory in spirit to the promotion and continuance of excellent, traditional Chinese culture.”

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Homes made out of Old Trains
Caboose(via Big Sky Fishing and Skiing)
The 1949 caboose of Samuel and Barbara Davidson on Mercer Island, Washington

Other train buildings

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Hieronymus Bosch painted sheet music on a man’s butt and now you can …

Hear it here

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Five Music Lessons for Writers

The great thing about being a writer is that no experience is wasted, Louise Marley once wrote.

“I’ve spent most of my life (thus far) as a classical concert and opera singer and as a teacher of classical singers. When I began writing, I discovered to my great relief that I had already learned a number of valuable lessons–music lessons–that set the stage for my life as a writer…I had learned the discipline of artistic life.

Fourth lesson: Sing with your own voice

Read the article

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Quote of the Day
QUOTE book lives~~~~~
Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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The REAL Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the PraiirieThe TV incarnation of the Ingalls family in The Little House on the Prairie. Photo: Rex Features

Rejected by publishers when it was written in the 30s, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography unveils the experiences that informed her children’s books, Alison Flood writes in The Guardian.

Laura Ingalls WilderPioneer Girl, the story of her childhood, was rejected by editors in 1930. It contains stories omitted from her novels, tales that Wilder herself felt “would not be appropriate” for children, such as her family’s sojourn in the town of Burr Oak, where she once saw a man became so drunk that, when he lit a cigar, the whiskey fumes on his breath ignited and killed him instantly. In another recollection, a shopkeeper drags his wife around by her hair, pours kerosene on the floor of his house, and sets their bedroom on fire.

Read the article

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Village Books’ Dee Robinson to Retire

The co-owner of my favorite bookstore, Village Books in Bellingham WA, is retiring.

Dee Robinson“It’s been a great job for 34 years,” Dee wrote on Facebook. “On to whatever awaits, starting with a pile of books!”

Chuck Robinson, her husband and co-owner, said, Dee “wants to eat bon bons and read all of those books she’s been stacking up.”

The Robinsons founded Village Books in 1980 and built it into one of the country’s great independent bookstores, one that’s been a leader in showing how indies can be creative and thrive.

 

 

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11 Things You Learn Your First Month As A Bookseller

Every new job has a learning curve, Buzzfeed reports, but not every job also expects you to instantly absorb the entire scope of the history of literature along with all the hot new releases and hidden gems — but bookselling does.

Here are 11 things Heather and Mackenzie learned in their first month at PorterSquareBooks.
Bookseller triumphNothing beats the feeling of sheer triumph that comes from locating the correct book based only on the information it has a blue cover and the word everything in the title.

Read the article

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Tiny Humans Lost In The Majesty Of Nature

I cry when i see big trees. I whimper at perfect mountains. I breathe in the rhythm of the waves breaking when i stand with my feet in the surf at the edge fo an ocean.

I love this world of ours. It is beautiful beyond belief. And fragile. So fragile. And we are doing our damndest to wreck it by human hand.

It makes me heartsick because if there is a real God out there… these are the places he loves and lives in. The wilderness. The grandeur. The beauty. There is no human-build cathedral ever made – and I say this having been in some of the loveliest of those – that holds a candle to offering up a prayer in the shadow of a redwood tree.
Mansfield, Victoria, AustraliaMansfield, Victoria, Australia | Image by Alex Wise

Bored Panda has gathered some stunning photographs showing just how small we can seem when eclipsed by the powerful wonder of nature.
IcelandIceland | Image by Max Rive

See the other photos

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25 Brilliant Tiny Homes

At Distractify, Jake Heppner suggests one way we can do what we can try to save some of the majesty of nature by living small.

These micro houses prove that there is a certain beauty in finding a low-impact solution for you and your family. Bigger isn’t always better. Fans of the tiny home movement swear by it: when we simplify our lives and live “smaller” big savings – and improvements to the overall quality of your life – are possible.”
Hobbit HouseHobbit House, Dymitr Malxew
Simon Dale spent $5,000 to turn a plot of land in the woods into a hobbit home. It boasts a number of eco-friendly attributes, which include: scrap wood for flooring, lime plaster (instead of cement) for the walls, bales of straw on dry-stone walling, a compost toilet, solar panels for power, and a supply of water acquired through a nearby spring.

Read the article

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Library without books
Florida Polytechnic UniversityExterior of Florida Polytechnic University’s Innovation, Science and Technology building

A fully digital library is among the futuristic features of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Florida, Letitia Stein writes for Reuters.

“It’s a boldly relevant decision to go forward without books,” said Kathryn Miller, director of libraries. Students can access more than 135,000 ebooks on their choice of reader, tablet or laptop.

Read the article

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Quote of the Day

There is only one type of story in the world — your story.” ~ Ray Bradbury

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Alma Alexander
My books

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Whence fantasy?

I was born on the same continent that gave us the stories, legends, myths, and fairy tales that underlie things like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Wheel of Time, and, hell yeah why not, Game of Thrones (yeah, Khal Drogo. But the Dothraki have a definite patina of Here Be Exotics…)

Those, and more, and any number of EFPs (Extruded Fantasy Product).

The definition of classical fantasy rests on people taking long journeys on tree-lined dirt roads with European seasons hanging in the tree tops and the clouds, and stopping for bathroom breaks in generic Ye Olde Inns with ale on tap and the generic stew bubbling in a cauldron over the fire. It is entirely surprising that Europe never ran out of rabbits, the amount of stews that were on the boil all the time. And we won’t talk about the Magic Potatoes which make their way into European stews while their real life counterparts still existed only in Hy Breasil or whatever they called that land far beyond the western ocean…

The thing accepted as and feted as classic fantasy is rich but it has been very well mined. And so it is not surprising that so many readers are looking for places and things and stories which *they haven’t seen before* — the “silk road” fantasy oeuvre. Anything that isn’t obviously rooted in the cheerfully misrepresented and romanticized European High Middle Ages.

Embers of Heaven

 

I didn’t set out to write that, but my “Secrets of Jin Shei” and “Embers of Heaven” were set THERE, a mythical land inspired by imperial China rather than anywhere closer to home.

Yes, it made things more difficult because there was THAT much more research that needed to be done before I could be comfortable telling a story set in a milieu so distant from my own cultural heritage.

 

 

Worldweavers

 

Similarly, my Worldweavers books take place in the U.S. and are infused with Native American myths. And my new series, The Were Chronicles, invokes modern life in The New World by Weres far distant from their ancient European roots.

But dammit, it’s worth it, when the resulting stories shine with a brighter glow. It is ALL our world, after all, and it is high time some cultural shut-ins learned that there is more out there than just stew in inns crewed by the likes of jolly red-cheeked Butterbur of Bree.

Speaking from the inevitably Euro-based divide that dictates standards of beauty – which is all too prevalent, in both fantasy and Real Life (TM) – It is high time that it was accepted that a woman whose heritage is South East Asian or Central African, rather than red-haired Celtic, can, should, and must be called beautiful too – and may step up to the adventure gate in her own right.

It is high time that we looked at “other” and saw something worthy of curiosity and honor and respect rather than just the differences that frighten and repel and lead to dehumanization and slaughter. It is high time we all learned… how to  be human together. It is time the OTHER stories get told. Make room by the fire, there – those of you who have had plenty of chances to speak – and learn how to listen, instead.

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Paul Weirmer explores the same thing at SF Signal

Silk Road Fantasy and Breaking the Great Wall of Europe

Wolf on the Steppes

 

Tired of nearly every secondary world fantasy being set in a world that seems to borrow only from Medieval Europe, especially Western Europe? Most especially Northwestern Europe (England, France, perhaps the Low Countries)? … So am I. And I’d like to tell you about fantasy that transcends that barrier.

 

Read the Article

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From Stand-Up to Twitter, a New Generation’s Fresh Take on Storytelling

If we make it through this time of climate crisis and economic upheaval, the new storytellers will deserve some of the credit, Sarah van Gelder writes at Yes! Magazine.

The new storytellers are writers, poets, musicians, documentarians, radio producers, and others who are reporting the story of a new world being built around the frayed edges of the old….a new society is emerging from the bottom up, born of the hopes and hard work of many people who have been excluded from the old society and who yearn for a more just and life-affirming world.

arundhatiArundhati Roy said it beautifully at the World Social Forum in 2003: “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”

 

Read the Article

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Every cliche you know about a woman’s handbag is probably true.

I am just SO not a fashion bunny, not the Duchess of Cambridge who has to have a matching bag and shoes. I have been carrying the same damn bag – season in, season out – for, uh, well, yeah, years.

The other day I decided that I  wanted a change, hauledl out another bag, and started to transfer stuff.

Ho. Ly. Cow.

I found receipts in there dated. 2013. 2012 … 2008, and some so faded that they were blank. At the very bottom of the bag there was a folded piece of paper which was the itinerary for when my aunt came over to visit from Europe… almost four years ago.

There was a charger for a defunct cellphone, and a silver cigarette lighter engraved to my Dad for winning a chess toiurnament which I nicked just after he died as a memento fully intending to put it somewhere safe when i got home. My father has been gone for almost a year now.

I felt a little like Mary Poppins, half convinced that the next thing I was going to pull out was a Tiffany floor lamp.

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Speaking of Mary Poppins…
Mary PoppinsAunt Sass in fiction … Julie Andrews in the 1964 film of Mary Poppins. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

The real-life model for Mary Poppins will be published this autumn

The tale of ‘stern and tender’ Aunt Sass appears in a PL Travers story originally written as a private Christmas gift, Alison Flood writes in The Guardian. The resemblance to Travers’ most famous creation, the nanny whose spoonful of sugar made the medicine go down for the Banks children, is no coincidence.

Travers writes in the previously unpublished story about the moment she heard of her aunt’s death. “I thought to myself, ‘Some day, in spite of her, I shall commit the disrespectful vulgarity of putting Aunt Sass in a book.’ And then it occurred to me that this had already been done, though unconsciously and without intent. We write more than we know we are writing. We do not guess at the roots that made our fruit. I suddenly realised that there is a book through which Aunt Sass, stern and tender, secret and proud, anonymous and loving, stalks with her silent feet,” wrote the author. “You will find her occasionally in the pages of Mary Poppins.”

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Sergeant Milunka Savic stands her ground

In 1912, when Milunka Savic was 24, her brother was called up to serve in the first Balkan War, Therese Oneill writes at Mental Floss.

We’re not sure if Milunka took his place or just went along, but we do know that she assumed a male identity and became a highly decorated soldier in the Serbian army.

Sergeant Milunka SavicShe apparently kept her gender a secret through the First Balkan War and into the Second, when a Bulgarian grenade wounded her so severely that her gender was revealed to the field surgeons.

Sgt. Savic was called before her commanding officer. They didn’t want to punish her, because she had proven a valuable and highly competent soldier. The military deployment that had resulted in her gender being revealed had been her tenth. But neither was it suitable for a young woman to be in combat. She was offered a transfer to the Nursing division.

Savic stood at attention and insisted she only wanted to fight for her country as a combatant. The officer said he’d think it over and give her his answer the next day.

Still standing at attention, Savic responded, “I will wait.”

It is said he only made her stand an hour before agreeing to send her back to the infantry.

She fought for Serbia through World War I, receiving honors from several different governments for her distinguished service. Some believe her to be the most decorated female in the history of warfare. She was decommissioned in 1919 and fell into a life of relative obscurity and hardship. She died in Belgrade in 1973 at the age of 84.

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Alma Alexander
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