Our strength as a nation depends in large measure on the willingness of every citizen to grow in knowledge and wisdom and to discover and use given talents in a constructive and meaningful way.
A letter from President Ford celebrating libraries and librarians. Complement with more heart-warming letters on the importance of libraries from Dr. Seuss, Isaac Asimov, Neil Armstrong, and others.
Fantastic, inventive trailer for Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life.
Mad Men’s Jon Hamm visits Sesame Street to explain the art of sculpture, one of the 100 ideas that changed art.
There is a flattening effect: A circulating meme has the same weight of relevancy as a well-crafted essay. Once they are both outside the periphery of our attention span, we have a hard time carrying them with us. I have a hard time coming up with things I’ve read or seen on the Internet that have changed my life, but I can think of at least half a dozen books that have — perhaps because I’ve carried them in my hands.
Writers will no longer be writing for posterity, but will be competing for the nebulous spotlight of digital fame, which in these days comes in the form of viral status and features a cat. Their creativity will conform to fit the medium, which emphasizes speed over patience and quantity over quality. I’m afraid that literature will be like television, if novels are only available in online format: done solely for entertainment and written like it, too — relying heavily on cheap gimmicks to attract readers and ad space to sell art. I’m afraid that the digitization of literature will exasperate a culture that already pushes quick media consumption over lifelong enjoyment.
Christine Truong expounds the death of the story and the rise of literary gimmickry in the digital age. But perhaps the story is no more dead than the book, whose alarmist death toll has been sounded for centuries. “Writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks,” Raymond Carver admonished.
For a reminder that anchors the matter in what really matters, see Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 tips on writing great stories, Malcolm Cowley on the 4 essential stages of composing a story, and Barnaby Conrad’s 6 rules for a great story.
Do you make a point of building up other women, even those you dislike, in discussing them with a man?
This is sound practice. But don’t put it on so think that it sounds like a line.
How attractive are you to the opposite sex? In 1949, Esquire set out to help ladies and bachelors woo each other more effectively with two questionnaires on the do’s and don’ts of courtship.
Ireland’s Central Bank said this morning that a commemorative coin intended to honour James Joyce, which misquotes Ulysses, was “an artistic representation of the author and text and not intended as a literal representation”.
The bank announced the launch of 10,000 copies of the collector coin yesterday. Featuring a portrait of the Ulysses author and lines from chapter three of the novel “depicted as a continuous stream of consciousness”, it reflects, said governor Patrick Honohan, “Joyce’s standing as one of the leading figures in the modernist movement”.
Unfortunately, the text quoted on the coin differs by one crucial “that” from the text written by Joyce.
What do you do if you misquote Joyce on national currency? You call it “an artistic interpretation,” of course.
The paralyzing human fear of being wrong, played out on a major institutional level.
At Stanford University, nine men and eight women with no formal music training listened to obscure classical music (four symphonies by late-baroque composer William Boyce) while lying inside fMRI machines. The researchers used a type of imaging that let them examine all different areas of the brain over the entire time that the participants were listening to the recording.
To ensure that the brain activity they were mapping was in response to the music as a whole, and not just to one of its structural features, the researchers also had the subjects listen to altered versions of the symphonies: in one, all rhythm and timing was removed, and in the other, they were made atonal.
During the nine and a half minutes that the subjects spent listening to the music in its unadulterated form, the researchers noted a “highly distinctive and distributed set of brain regions” that was synchronized between each them. In the music from which some of the elements that make it musical were removed, on the other hand, brain activity was markedly different from subject to subject.
The [Digital Public Library of America] represents the confluence of two currents that have shaped American civilization: utopianism and pragmatism. The utopian tendency marked the Republic at its birth, for the United States was produced by a revolution, and revolutions release utopian energy—that is, the conviction that the way things are is not the way they have to be. When things fall apart, violently and by collective action, they create the possibility of putting them back together in a new manner, according to higher principles.
For all its futuristic technology, the DPLA harkens back to the eighteenth century. What could be more utopian than a project to make the cultural heritage of humanity available to all humans? What could be more pragmatic than the designing of a system to link up millions of megabytes and deliver them to readers in the form of easily accessible texts?
Above all, the DPLA expresses an Enlightenment faith in the power of communication. Jefferson and Franklin—the champion of the Library of Congress and the printer turned philosopher-statesman—shared a profound belief that the health of the Republic depended on the free flow of ideas.
Robert Darnton considers the monumental implications of this month’s launch of the Digital Public Library of America, a new “distributed system of electronic content that will make the holdings of public and research libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies available, effortlessly and free of charge, to readers located at every connecting point of the Web.”
How far the library has come.
This heartwarming infographic annual report from The New York Public Library shows that 18 million people visited the library’s 91 branches in 2012 – more people than ever before – turning to NYPL for such diverse needs as books, computer workshops, kids programs, job-search help, free English classes, and more.
NYPL is supported by patron donations – make yours here.