Merriam-Webster’s new etymology tool is both educational and terrifying

17 August 2017

From the A.V. Club:

Every day, new words are added to the English language. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad, and sometimes they’re codified as part of our cultural history by the fine folks updating our dictionaries.

. . . .

The dictionarists (est. 2017) at Merriam-Webster have released a new tool that allows users to pinpoint when, exactly, this process starts happening. Time Traveler is an exhaustive listing of the origin of nearly every word you can think of, their dates assigned through the first time a given term made its way into print.

While Merriam-Webster’s press release for the project cites use cases like looking up the words introduced the year you were born, what sticks out most from perusing Time Traveler is how a quick trip through the last few decades of new terms reveals seismic shifts in global culture. 2007, for example, sees “listicle” and “hashtag” alongside “sharing economy.” In 2004, “social media” and “waterboarding” are introduced. 1992 has “website,” “URL,” “HTML,” and a handful of other now-common internet terms next to “Taliban” and “Gulf War syndrome.”

Link to the rest at A.V. Club



I needed a drink

17 August 2017

For new visitors to TPV, every year or two, PG feels the need for Raymond Chandler quotes. He has quite a few, but if you have a favorite, send it to him via the Contact page.

. . . .

I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.

Raymond Chandler


How to Pack Books for a Vacation

17 August 2017

From Book Riot:

I have been honing my packing capabilities for the last five years—since I moved to Chicago for college, and had to travel several times a year between Chicago and New Jersey. My life became a never-ending battle to pack as little and as well as possible. I went from a huge rolling suitcase for a two-week to stay to a small backpack and a purse.

There is only one thing holding me back from my true, light-packer potential. This will shock you: it’s books.

I’m a physical book snob. It’s nothing against ereaders—I think they’re a convenient marvel of modern technology—but I love owning books, and I want to hold them in my hands. It’s partially, too, because I’m terrible at remembering to charge things. Books don’t need to be charged.

. . . .

For all those reasons, I generally travel with 2–3 books for a 5-day trip. That really hurts the potential of packing light.

. . . .

You’re carrying hard copies, and hard copies can be mussed, scratched, stained, and more. Whether you check or you don’t, at some point these books will be out of your hands—in the overhead bins of the airplane, pushed under a train seat, or being thrown into the airplane by the baggage team of the airport (possibly in the snow or rain).

I usually wrap each book in either a shirt, if it’s in a checked or roller bag, or if it’s in a carry on, I’ll wrap it in a cardigan or scarf that I might use anyway on the plane. Make sure to pack it so that it’s flat—if you pack it on the outside, it’s not only vulnerable to the weather, but also to any warping from an overpacked bag or the curved side of a duffel.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

PG is an ebook snob. Thousands of pages weigh nothing and fit in his pocket.

No matter the danger, he’s not wrapping the iPhone in a cardigan before putting it in his pocket.


My Grandmother, Huffy, Legendary Hollywood Story Whisperer

17 August 2017

From The Literary Hub:

As transmitted by my screenwriter aunt, Harriet Frank, Jr., who was our family narrator, the central myth of our family concerned my paternal grandmother and the way she reinvented herself in 1939. After ten long and unhappy years toughing it out during the Depression in Portland, Oregon, Huffy (as she was known in the family; she was Harriet Frank, Sr. to the world) packed her two younger children into the family car, a 1934 Nash, and moved to Hollywood. The way my aunt told (and told, and told) the story to me and my brothers when we were growing up, our grandmother “lucked” into an interview with Louis B. Mayer, who was then head of MGM. Dazzled by Huffy’s intelligence and critical acumen, Mayer hired her on the spot—so my aunt maintained—to become one of his story editors, a job, in those days typically held by women, in which she would help find, digest, and shape the material that would be adapted into movies.

Everything that makes us the Mighty Franks comes from Huffy, my aunt said. It’s all because of her boldness and her courage that we are who we are today, every drop of it is due to her. Let her be your lodestar as she was mine. An example to live by, always!

As a child, I listened to this talk the same way I did to fairytales, where fates would turn as if by magic. But as I grew older, I began to be on the lookout for revealing details that didn’t so much prove or disprove the truth of what happened as bring it into the realm of the human, the real; maybe even the attainable.

My grandmother, it turned out, had grown up with a novel-devouring mother and studied English at Reed and, later, Berkeley—so she wasn’t simply born with some kind of preternatural innate story sense. In Portland, after years of (as she herself described it to my mother long after the fact) sleepwalking through her life, a combination of straitened finances and an unhappy marriage caused her to wake up and begin to cast about for work that suited her skills. She reported on books to women’s clubs. She wrote magazine stories. For a while she had her own radio program.  One layer went down on top of another, so that when she managed to arrange (rather than simply lucking into) an interview with Mayer—through a second cousin who was married to a Hollywood agent—the groundwork had, in fact, been intelligently (if perhaps unconsciously) prepared.

And she wasn’t hired on the spot, either: Mayer gave her a novel to read. It was called Escape, and my grandmother devoured it overnight, then returned to tell the story to Mayer the following day. (Afterward she wrote in her diary, “It turned out to be my escape.”) The fact that she aced the audition and not only got the job but held it for 15 years was impressive, yes—but not in the way my aunt intended.

. . . .

As I grew older, I developed the habit of checking the indexes of every book about old Hollywood that I came across in bookshops and libraries. Eventually I happened upon this passage in a book called The Moguls (1969) by Norman Zierold:

Harriet Frank was herself a sound actress. When she recited a story for Mayer, a table lamp was carefully arranged to highlight her face, especially to show a single tear rolling down her cheek. Almost always the tear, which she had an uncanny ability to produce, made Mayer buy the property.

All of a sudden my grandmother was there before me, in a way I could never have seen her myself. Like my aunt, she was a dramatist; unlike her, she was also a performer, who turned her talents, it seemed, to clever use. The lamp, the tear: what flair—or calculation.

In 1991 Katharine Hepburn published Me, a memoir in which I found another account of Huffy at work: “I was quite anxious to do Mourning Becomes Electra with Garbo and with George Cukor directing,” Hepburn wrote.

We didn’t get anywhere with Mayer. He listened to the whole thing. He heard it told by Mrs. Frank, his storyteller. It was customary for the heads of the companies at that time to have someone tell them the stories which were sent to the studios for possible pictures. I thought this was idiotic until I heard Mrs. Frank do it. I used to laugh at the idea of her telling stories. I was wrong. She was brilliant. I was absolutely riveted and fascinated.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub


Voyage to the Otherworld: A New Eulogy for Ray Bradbury

17 August 2017

From Margaret Atwood via The Paris Review:

At the end of February 2012, I was sitting in a bar in the Chicago Hilton, discussing Ray Bradbury. I was staying at the Hilton, and in a moment of Bradburian weirdness, I had been put into the suite where President Obama saw on TV that he had just won the U.S. presidential election.

On that occasion, the immense, many-roomed suite must have been full—of family, of security folks, of political staffers—but I was in it all alone, and it was not the best place to be while dwelling on things Bradburian. It was too easy to imagine that there was someone in the next room. Worse, that someone might be my evil twin, or myself at a different age, or it might contain a mirror in which I would cast no reflection. It took some self-control not to go in there and look.

In February, however, the Chicago Hilton was not crawling with secret servicemen talking into their sleeves but with four thousand writers, would-be writers, students of writing, and teachers of writing, all of whom were attending the conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs where I was to give the keynote address, and every single one of whom would have known who Ray Bradbury was.

. . . .

I was greatly looking forward to meeting a writer who had been so much a part of my own early reading, especially the delicious, clandestine reading done avidly in lieu of homework, and the compulsive reading done at night with a flashlight when I ought to have been sleeping. Stories read with such enthusiasm at such a young age are not so much read as inhaled. They sink all the way in and all the way down, and they stay with you.

But then Ray Bradbury died. He was ninety-one, but still—as with everyone who has always been in your life and is then not there any more—his death seemed impossible. People don’t die as such in his work, or they don’t die in the ordinary way. Sometimes they melt—the Martian in the story of that name dissolves, like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, one of Bradbury’s influences. Sometimes they are done to death by aliens, as in The Martian Chronicles story “The Third Expedition.” Sometimes they are hunted down by mechanical hounds for the crime of reading books, as in Fahrenheit 451. Sometimes people don’t entirely die: revenants and vampires are not unknown in Bradbury’s work. But Bradbury’s people seldom just expire.

Any writer who delves as deeply into “horror” writing as Bradbury did has a complex relationship with mortality, and it’s not surprising to learn that as a child Ray Bradbury was worried he would die at any moment, as he tells us in “Take Me Home,” a sidebar in the June 2012 New Yorker science-fiction issue. “When I look back now,” he says—in what, ironically, was going to be his last published piece—“I realize what a trial I must have been to my friends and relatives. It was one frenzy after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after another. I was always yelling and running somewhere, because I was afraid life was going to be over that very afternoon.”

But the flip side of the mortality coin is immortality, and that interested him as well. At the age of twelve—as he told us on his website—he had a definitive encounter with a stage magician called Mr. Electrico. This was in the age of traveling circuses and the like, and Mr. Electrico had a unique act: he sat in an electrified chair, thus in turn electrifying a sword he held, with which he in turn electrified the spectators, making their hair stand on end and sparks come out of their ears. He electrified young Bradbury in this manner, while shouting, “Live forever!” The child had to go to a funeral the next day, a close encounter with death that led him to seek out Mr. Electrico once more to find out how this “living forever” thing was to be done. The old carny showed him around what used to be called the freak show—complete with a tattooed man who was later to morph into the Illustrated Man—and then told him that he, Ray, contained the soul of Mr. Electrico’s best friend, who had died in World War I. You can see how all this would have made an impression. Right after his baptism by electricity at the hands of Mr. Electrico, Bradbury started writing, and he didn’t stop until his own death.

. . . .

I had to break off in order to attend a poetry event. At the party afterward, I told a writer friend that Bradbury had died. “He was the first writer I read all of,” he said. “When I was twelve or thirteen. I read every single book—I sought them out. I read them cover to cover.” I said I thought that a lot of writers—and a lot of readers—had most likely had the same experience. And that they would be writers and readers of the most diverse kinds—poets and prose writers, all ages, all levels of brow, from low to high.

What accounts for Bradbury’s reach—his scope, his influence? And—dreaded question, but one that critics and interviewers are always asking—where would you locate him on the map of literature?

My own view is that in his best work, Bradbury sinks a taproot right down into the deep, dark, gothic core of America. It’s no accident that he was descended from Mary Bradbury, convicted as a witch in 1692, during the notorious Salem witchcraft trails, for, among other things, assuming the form of a blue boar.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review


Surveying the Law of Emojis

17 August 2017

From an article abstract at SSRN:

Everyone loves emojis! It’s easy to see why. Historically, most online communications have emphasized text, and emojis add much-needed emotional content to text-driven communications—and often help people express themselves more precisely.

. . . .

First, questions about what emojis mean will arise in a wide range of legal doctrines, from criminal law to contracts. Our standard interpretative tools generally can handle new communicative technologies, but several aspects of emojis will require careful consideration. Most significantly, senders and receivers will unexpectedly see different versions of an emoji due to technological intermediation, leading them to make reasonable—but different—interpretations of the same communication, with potentially adverse consequences for one or both parties. The article will explore some steps that would reduce the risks of these misunderstandings.

Second, emojis will often qualify for copyright and trademark protection. However, IP protection encourages platforms to differentiate their emoji implementations, which exacerbates the risks of miscommunications and misunderstandings. To mitigate this outcome, IP protections for emojis should be interpreted narrowly.

Link to the rest at SSRN, where you can download the entire paper

Speaking of copyrights covering emojis, following is Paragraph F from Apple’s Pages Software License Agreement:

F. Content and Digital Materials. Title and intellectual property rights in and to any content displayed by or accessed through the Apple Software belong to the respective content owner. Such content may be protected by copyright or other intellectual property laws and treaties, and may be subject to terms of use of the third party providing such content. Except as otherwise provided in this License, (i) this License does not grant you any rights to use such content nor does it guarantee that such content will continue to be available to you, and (ii) you may not use, extract or distribute, commercially or otherwise, on a standalone basis, any photographs, images, graphics, clipart, artwork or similar assets (“Digital Materials”) contained within, or provided as a part of, the Apple Software or Services (including but not limited to any Digital Materials contained within templates, themes or user guides and tutorials), or otherwise use the Digital Materials outside the context of its intended use as part of the Apple Software.

Here’s a link to the Software License Agreement if you would like to read all 254 pages. 🙂


Costco Owes Tiffany More Than $19 Million, Judge Rules

16 August 2017

From The New York Times:

There’s no place like Tiffany, the famous jeweler says on its website — and that includes Costco.

A federal district court judge has ordered Costco to pay Tiffany more than $19 million for selling generic diamond engagement rings that were marketed using Tiffany’s name.

The rings in question had a pronged setting that Costco said is “commonly known as a ‘Tiffany’ setting,” however, some of the display cases simply described the rings as “Tiffany” instead of “Tiffany setting” or “Tiffany style.”

Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled on Monday that Tiffany is entitled to $11.1 million as profits for trademark infringement, plus interest, and $8.25 million in punitive damages, which was awarded by a jury in October.

Judge Swain also said Costco was permanently prohibited from using “Tiffany” as a stand-alone term when selling its products.

. . . .

Tiffany sued after it discovered that salespeople at Costco were responding to customer inquiries by calling certain solitaire diamond rings “Tiffany” rings.

Furthermore, the salespeople “were not perturbed when customers who then realized that the rings were not actually manufactured by Tiffany expressed anger or upset,” Judge Swain wrote.

“Tiffany has never sold nor would it ever sell its fine jewelry through an off-price warehouse retailer like Costco,” the lawsuit said.

. . . .

“This was not a case about counterfeiting in the common understanding of that word — Costco was not selling imitation Tiffany & Co. rings,” Costco said, emphasizing that the rings were not marked with the Tiffany name, and were not sold using Tiffany’s trademark blue boxes.

The judge was not swayed by these arguments, however.

“Costco’s upper management, in their testimony at trial and in their actions in the years prior to the trial, displayed at best a cavalier attitude toward Costco’s use of the Tiffany name,” Judge Swain wrote.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

PG says you and Costco should respect trademarks belonging to other people.


My fellow authors are too busy chasing prizes to write about what matters

16 August 2017

From The Guardian:

There are at least two reasons why almost every anglophone novelist feels compelled to get as near the Booker prize as they can. The first is because it looms over them and follows them around in the way Guy de Maupassant said the Eiffel Tower follows you everywhere when you’re in Paris. “To escape the Eiffel Tower,” Maupassant suggested, “you have to go inside it.” Similarly, the main reason for a novelist wanting to win the Booker prize is to no longer be under any obligation to win it, and to be able to get on with their job: writing, and thinking about writing.

The other reason is that the Booker prize is most literary publishers’ primary marketing tool. There are relatively few Diana Athills (Athill was VS Naipaul’s editor) and Charles Monteiths (Monteith was William Golding’s) today: publishers who identify, and are loyal to, novelists in the long term because of commitment to literary merit. Publishing houses were once homes to writers; the former gave the latter the necessary leeway to create a body of work. Today there’s little intellectual or material investment in writers: literary prizes and shortlists are meant to sell books, and, although there’s a plethora of them, the Man Booker is the only one that has a real commercial impact.

The idea that a “book of the year” can be assessed annually by a bunch of people – judges who have to read almost a book a day – is absurd, as is the idea that this is any way of honouring a writer. A writer will be judged over time, by their oeuvre, and by readers and other writers who have continued to find new meaning in their writing. The Booker prize is disingenuous not only for excluding certain forms of fiction (short stories and novellas are out of the reckoning), but for not actually considering all the novels published that year, as it asks publishers to nominate a certain number of novels only.

. . . .

What is astonishing is the acquiescence with which the value system I’ve just described is met with by most writers. Most will feel that it doesn’t speak to why they’re writers at all, but few will discuss this openly. Acceptance is one of the most dismaying political consequences of capitalism. It informs the literary too, and the way publishers and writers “go along” with things. The Booker now has a stranglehold on how people think of, read, and value books in Britain.

Link to the rest at The Guardian


It’s worth turning up

16 August 2017

It’s worth turning up to an awards gig if you know you’ve won one but, since you never do know, it’s not worth it.

Arthur Smith


What if Tarantino Made Spaghetti and Meatballs?

16 August 2017

Nothing much to do with books, but PG enjoyed this.


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