18 outubro 2010

Your Library, Yourself

A History of Private Libraries

Daniel Talcott of Bangor, Maine, loved his books so much they killed him.
"It is a pathetic fact," wrote Samuel Boardman in 1900. Mr. Talcott wanted to keep the books in his library warm and dry as winter approached, "and it was in persisting to build a fire in the room on an inclement day that he took the cold that brought on his death."
As soon as there were books, there were private libraries, each as unique to its owner as a fingerprint. But book collectors throughout history share one characteristic: They're highly opinionated about how a library should look and what should be in it.
[Samuel Pepys]

An Ideal Number
In the 1600s, the English diarist Samuel Pepys believed a gentleman should own exactly 3,000 books. In his library, books were numbered from the smallest size to the largest. To make the tops of the books even on the shelves, he built little wooden stilts for the short books, camouflaging the stilts to match the bindings.
[Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz ]
The library of the 17th-century philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz reportedly contained books by only nine writers, all from ancient Greece and Rome. Sir Thomas Phillipps, on the other hand, had 100,000 books in his collection and 60,000 manuscripts. When he moved them in 1864, he needed more than 100 horse-drawn carts and 160 laborers.
The Essentials
The question of which books belong in a small home library was warmly debated in early 20th-century America. The Bible, a dictionary, an atlas and Shakespeare were almost universally prescribed. Dr. Charles Eliot, then president of Harvard University, said in 1909 that he could put together "five feet of books" -- 25 books -- that "will give any man the essentials of a liberal education" in 10 minutes a day. It included Goethe's Faust and Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.
Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was in the "model library" of 500 books assembled by the St. Louis Public Library in 1921. "It provoked adverse comment," reported a librarian in The Library Journal, with "several visitors declaring, 'Books like that nobody reads, and why should they be in a private library?' "
Unsuitable books can corrupt a library -- and its readers. In a 1916 copy of The Journal of Home Economics, young women were told, "Be sure to avoid immoral books -- those which make a direct appeal to our lower nature." If nothing else, don't let them fall into innocent hands: "Lock up your Rabelais and perhaps even your Fielding, where little fingers may not happen upon them," wrote Arthur Penn in The Home Library, published in 1883.

Burning Shakespeare
[Napoleon's library]

When not making war, Napoleon was a big reader. He traveled with a field library of books, which eventually consisted of about 40 volumes about religion, 40 of epics, 60 of poetry, 100 novels, 60 histories and some historical memoirs.
Henry M. Stanley took an estimated 180 pounds of books with him when he explored Africa in the 1870s. "As my men lessened in numbers, stricken by famine, fighting and sickness, one by one the books were reluctantly thrown away," Mr. Stanley wrote. Near the end of his journey, he had only a few left, including the Bible, Shakespeare and the Nautical Almanac for 1877. "Poor Shakespeare was afterward burned by demand of the foolish people of Zinga."
[Henry M. Stanley ]

For an African safari in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt brought, or had sent to him, a "pigskin library" (the books were bound in pigskin to protect them from the elements). It included Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Thomas Carlyle's Frederick the Great. "Often my reading would be done while resting under a tree at noon, perhaps beside the carcass of a beast I had killed," Mr. Roosevelt wrote in African Game Trails.
Mr. Roosevelt, like other presidents, took his library with him when he left the White House. To create a permanent library, the American Booksellers Association in 1930 presented Herbert Hoover with 500 books selected as a model home library. It included 20 detective novels and such forgotten classics as Zona Gale's Miss Lulu Bett.

Whether to Read
For some bibliophiles, the merits of the content are irrelevant: They judge books by their covers. An often-told tale has a collector, a Mr. Locker, taking a rare book with a small imperfection back to a binder. The binder examined the faulty cover and then, looking over his spectacles, said reproachfully, "Why Mr. Locker, you've been reading it."

Shelf Life

LibraryThing is a Web site where more than 400,000 bibliophiles list the books in their personal libraries. Here is what's on their shelves:
[blank graphic]
76,909 Number of William Shakespeare books listed
135,986 Number of Stephen King books
2.5 to 1 Ratio of Agatha Christie to Leo Tolstoy books
6,059 Number of people who list the Bible in their libraries
1,426 Number who list Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great
4.19 Average user rating of James Joyce's Ulysses (out of five)
4.89 Average rating of Bill Watterson's The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

16 outubro 2010

Today would be Oscar Wilde's 156th birthday

"Illusion is the first of all pleasures", Oscar Wilde once said.
So it is fitting then that the Google doodle has changed again, this time to celebrate what would have been the 156th birthday of one of the greatest writers, poets and playwrights who ever lived.The design pays tribute to the Irishman by featuring a portrait from The Picture of Dorian Gray - the first and only novel published by Wilde.
The work was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1890. It was revised and published as a novel a year later.
"An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them," Wilde wrote in the first chapter.
In a review of the 2009 film, starring Colin Firth and Ben Barnes, Darragh McManus said in the Guardian, "For me, Dorian Gray is special – not necessarily Wilde's best work but unique in his canon – because it's so sincere: ineffably, inescapably, absolutely. It's a very good novel anyway: moving, exciting, full of dread, angst, horror, lucidity … and a great love, I think, for mankind and for the artist's own self."
Besides films, there have been plays, readings, exhibitions, walks and other events to mark Dorian Gray.
But Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde, who came into the world in 1854 ("genius is born - not paid", he once said), was most well known for his stage masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest. It opened in 1895 in London.
His other short stories and poems include The Happy Prince and Other Tales. For the stage he wrote Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband.
In addition to his literary fame, Wilde remains a gay icon.
Although he married and had two sons, in 1891 the writer started an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, dubbed 'Bosie'.
In 1895, Wilde sued Bosie's father for libel as the Marquis of Queensberry had accused him of homosexuality.
He was arrested and tried for gross indecency, sentenced to two years hard labour for sodomy.
During his time in prison he penned De Profundis, a monologue and autobiography addressed to Bosie.
He also took up the issue of inhuman prison conditions in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which he wrote on his release in 1897.
Wilde died broke in a hotel in Paris, aged 45, on November 30 1900.
One of many misconceptions about Wilde is that he died of syphilis, but recent research claims a rare ear infection took his life.
Writing about his "hero" in the Guardian last year, writer Michael Holroyd said, "What I came to value was the charming way he arrived at deeply unpopular opinions ... He was an extraordinarily brave writer. "
Wilde's work touched many people. Even the Vatican's official newspaper last year praised a book written about the playwright.
In 2000 Wilde fans marked the 100th anniversary of his death with a service in Westminster Abbey.

14 outubro 2010

Porque é que La Historia con Mapas é indispensável

(entre tantos outros...)

A Expedição de Vasco da Gama

O Metro Humano

O Nascimento da Filosofia
As Línguas da Europa


A Colonização Chinesa em África no Século XXI

La Historia con Mapas

You are what you CAN'T eat


Oh my God, They Draw and Cook!

Two of my favourites, food and illustrations ;)

04 outubro 2010

Vampires have been mormonized, tells us Guillermo del Toro

Question: Why are vampires so popular right now?

Guillermo del Toro:  I think that, you know, the moment of the birth of the vampire myth in English literature is with essentially there is few writings here and there, a poem and this and that. But in fiction most everyone agrees that it was birthed by John W. Polidori with a short story, "The Vampyre."  Now, the fact that Polidori had an ambivalent relationship with his master and friend, Lord Byron and he based the character of the main vampire in that story, Lord Ruthvren on Lord Byron, you know. Immediately gave birth to a vampire that was both a loathsome parasite and a dandy.  A seductive character that is later absorbed by a Stoker in "Dracula" and you know, you can trace it all the way to Anne Rice.

And I think that right now, we have an unbridled sort of melodramatic, romantic, fantasy with the vampire is only one half of the myth.  The bad boy romantic lead myth, which is essentially Gothic fiction.  You know, it can be Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights," or it can be Robert Patterson in "Twilight."
The thing that it tells you right now is that human relationships, intimate relationships have become so completely demythified, they have become so prosaic, you know, whenever you talk about a relationship, you’re talking about it in very prosaic terms.  How much does he or she make?  What job security?  Nest egg planning. It’s all very materialistic.  Double-income household, it all becomes very prosaic and it’s almost impossible to dream romantic things without sounding corny.  
So you know, of the fascination of romantic fiction with a bad boy gets sublimated and dark angels are created, angels of the night that create a spiritual and physical bond with a love interest that is permanent and eternal.  So through that fiction you can abandon yourself to the lull of a romantic fantasy without feeling silly or stupid.  
What I find symptomatic I think for the... I daresay, for the first time in the culture of mankind, the vampire has been sort of defanged by making them celibate and asexual as opposed to polysexual, like Anne Rice did and they have been Mormonized, so to speak, into being a sanitized creature.  And you know, I’m not in favor or against it. I’m fascinated by it, because I do think it is a very strong symbol of where we are.  And I find it intriguing and I try to watch the phenomenon without judging it. But it’s quite peculiar.

Is your vampire trilogy an antidote to that?
Guillermo del Toro:  Yeah, what we were trying to figure out though, we were trying to deal with aspects... the only sensuality in the Strain books, is the sensuality of feeding that pleases the predator, but doesn’t please the prey.

01 outubro 2010

A map of all the dumped munitions from World Wars I and II off the coast of Europe, courtesy of io9

And thanx to Luís Filipe on FaceBook ;)

Mines and munitions dumped in the oceans during twentieth century wars could still kill you today. Atlantic inter-governmental organisation OSPAR helped put together this map of dumped munitions in coastal Atlantic waters. It's not pretty.
According to OSPAR's Quality Status Report:
Vast amounts of munitions were dumped at designated sites or randomly jettisoned into the sea following the First and Second World Wars. These included conventional munitions such as bombs, grenades, torpedoes and mines, as well as incendiary devices and chemical munitions.
The presence of munitions in the sea is a risk to fishermen and coastal users. As recently as 2005, three fishermen were killed in the southern North Sea when a Second World War bomb exploded on their fishing vessel after having been caught in their nets. There are also concerns over the many chemicals used in the munitions, which may be released as the munitions degrade with the possibility of risks for the marine food chain.
Read the whole report on dumped munitions via OSPAR QSR