Sunday, October 30, 2005

Frans Masereel
Masereel was a young man during World War I, and as a pacifist he went to Switzerland to take part in anti-war activity. Throughout his life he produced some of the most powerful and inspirational anti-war images and life-affirming graphic illustrations for books and the radical press. It is not surprising that his work was banned by the Nazis. He pioneered stories without words using black and white illustrations to depict the excitement and corruption of city life. Illustrator Sue Coe has put together a page of about Masereel on her Graphic Witness site which includes Die Stadt, and other works.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Documentary film, photography, artwork and music are used explore Native American storytelling on this interactive website from America's PBS. There are also biographical profiles of some contemporary story-tellers and a gallery containing a collage of images and inspirational quotations that combine to make this site compulsive reading.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The BBC report on the campaign by the family of Private Harry Farr, who was shot for desertion during the First World War at the age of 25. Farr's family are seeking a pardon for him, as he was suffering from shell-shock. I admire their courage and hope their campaign succeeds for the execution of hundreds of young men like Harry Farr stand as a testament to the brutality and horror of war, and to the character of of the military machine that condemned them. The army didn't just shoot the shell-shocked and the scared but even conscripted conscientious objectors into the army - sending them to the front-line so that they could then be shot for refusing to fight. The whole story was revealed a few years ago in a ground-breaking book "Shot at Dawn" by Julian Putkowski. You can read more about Private Harry Farr on the BBC's website
and about the some of the other victims of the "War to end all Wars" and the way in which pardons were dished out to officers while the privates were shot, on the Shot at Dawn website:

Monday, October 17, 2005

Death of Ba Jin
The Chinese writer Ba Jin has died. He took up writing "to express my feelings, my love and hatred, and to let out the fire within me.'' His works, which attacked social inequality and the effects of war on the lives of ordinary people, were too revolutionary for the Chinese communists who forced the rewriting of some of his books. Little was heard of him for many years, until he was persecuted again during the "Cultural Revolution" when he was reported to have been forced to kneel on broken glass. There is a short obituary in the Guardian.,1280,-5349362,00.html

Thursday, October 13, 2005

So Much for the Death of the Book
Bowker, publishers of Global Books in Print have just issued a press release to report that English-speaking countries published a staggering 375,000 new book titles worldwide in 2004. Thanks to resourceshelf for drawing this to my notice.

London Anarchist Bookfair
This year the London Anarchist Bookfair will be held at The Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Road, London N7. Full details, including a 16 page brochure in pdf format listing events to be held at the bookfair, can be found on the website. See you there.

In an age when publishing is dominated by a few giant corporations it is refreshing to see that there is still an active self-publishing scene. Online arts magazine has this pithy, but undated article from Jennifer Higgle: Publish and be Dammed that lists some of the innovative works on display at the "self-publishing" fair. One small footnote to add to this article - the claim that Jennifer makes about Library budgets "being slashed" just isn't true - CIPFA figures on library budgets show that they have been increasing. The real situation for public libraries is far more worrrying, because the closure of branch libraries (such as those recently announced by Buckinghamshire) takes place against a background of stable and increased budgets and stems from short sighted and deliberate management policy. Anyway here's the link to Jennifer's article:

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Allen Ginsberg
There's been quite a bit in the press recently about the 50th anniversary of the first reading of Ginsberg's poem Howl. If like me you weren't around at the time, it is difficult to understand the impact made by the insurgent poetry of the Beat poets. There are several good sites online - but one which is well thought out and presented is The Beat Page. Here is their overview of Ginsberg with online texts of some of the poems including Howl:

Poetry 180
I stumbled across this neatly compiled website from the US Library of Congress that features a "poem-a-day" for American High Schools - try this example "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins, which explores the motivation of the poet and the way in which literary analysis is an insufficient method for understanding poetry.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary
Johnson's Dictionary was quite unlike most of the dictionaries we use now. The entries in modern dictionaries are brief, often one line summaries of the meaning of a word, whereas Johnson was anxious to explore the variety of meaning, and frequently provided detailed quotations from literature to demonstrate the subtle differences in use. The new edition of the US literary mag Bookforum (Oct/Nov 2005) has just been published - and it includes a fascinating asessment of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary 250 years after it was first published. Written by Jesse Sheidlower the article forms part of the free content on the Bookforum website.
There is a small online exhibition about the Dictionary on the University of Birmingham website:

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents
Blogging has certainly extended the boundaries of freedom of expression, and is rapidly changing the way that we perceive "News" - but that has meant that bloggers can encounter problems from those with a vested interest in keeping freedom of expression tightly prescribed (and sometimes even proscribed). Reporters Without Borders have therefore produced a useful Handbook for Bloggers which is available as a free pdf download from their website.
This is an extract from their introduction:
"Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.
Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles."
To read or download the Handbook go to:

Computing - the hidden cost
A few points to bear in mind if you are looking for a new pc and thinking about getting rid of the old one - from the current issue of that excellent eco-mag Resurgence.