Eleven Beautiful Sentences

30 November 2015

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No Heroes

25 November 2015

From Slate:

The shock and awe of Amazon’s new series The Man in the High Castle comes mostly from stuff and settings. It depicts an alternate 1960, in which America lost World War II and is occupied by the Nazis (the Northeast and Midwest) and Japan (the West Coast), with a strip of neutral territory surrounding the Rocky Mountains running down the middle. Struggling to animate some fairly weak characters, it leans heavily on the disorienting impact of its rich, meticulous visual design: swastikas emblazoned on everyday objects like cigarettes; familiar San Francisco street scenes with the signage all in kanji; a happy, wholesome, Cleaver-esque family sitting down to breakfast with a son in a Hitler Youth uniform. In the threadbare neutral zone of the series, you can still glimpse a bit of Americana among the shuttered and peeling storefronts—a Chevrolet sign, for example—all of it so rundown, grimy, and obviously defunct that it’s already half fossil.

This is the world Philip K. Dick created for the series’ source, what’s widely considered his best novel, published in 1962. But the new TV series is so alien to the book in spirit that it would be a shame if it came to supplant our understanding of what is also one of the best mid-20th-century American novels about colonialism and its corrosive effects on the human psyche. The Man in the High Castle is a strange, mournful story in which not very much happens to people who have very little control over their lives and even less inclination to do anything to change that. It ought not to be engrossing, yet it is. The series’ creators have tried to pump up its premise into something that can sustain a 10-episode season (or more) by giving Dick’s dystopia an element that it utterly lacks in the book: an insurgency dedicated to fighting the twin fascist regimes that control the former United States. The people in Dick’s novel never consider resistance. They’re not heroes, and that, paradoxically, is exactly what makes them so arresting.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Paul Levine, Crime Author

24 November 2015

Joe Hill

19 November 2015

PG almost missed Joe Hill’s birthday today.

Joe Hill was a widely-known Swedish-American labor activist, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as the “Wobblies”).

Following are the lyrics of a song written by Joe Hill, There is Power in a Union:

Would you have freedom from Wage slavery,
Then join in the grand Industrial band;
Would you from mis’ry and hunger be free,
Then come, do your share, like a man.

There is pow’r there is pow’r in a band of workingmen,
When they stand hand in hand,
That’s a pow’r, that’s a pow’r
That must rule in every land—
One Industrial Union Grand.

Would you have mansions of gold in the sky,
and live in a shack, way in the back?
Would you have wings up in heaven to fly,
And starve here with rags on your back?

If you’ve had `nuff of the “blood of the lamb”
Then join in the grand industrial band;
If, for a change, you would have eggs and ham,
Then come, do your share, like a man.

If you like sluggers to beat off your head,
Then don’t organize, all unions despise.
If you want nothing before you are dead,
Shake hands with your boss and look Wise.

Come, all ye workers, from every land,
Come, join in the grand industrial band;
Then we our share of this earth shall demand.
Come on! Do your share, like a man.

From Wikipedia:

As an itinerant worker, Hill moved around the west, hopping freight trains, going from job to job. By the end of 1913, he was working as a laborer at the Silver King Mine in Park City, Utah, not far from Salt Lake City.

On January 10, 1914, John G. Morrison and his son Arling were killed in their Salt Lake City grocery store by two armed intruders masked in red bandanas.

. . . .

On the same evening, Joe Hill appeared on the doorstep of a local doctor, with a bullet wound through the left lung. Hill said that he had been shot in an argument over a woman, whom he refused to name. The doctor reported that Hill was armed with a pistol.

. . . .

A red bandana was found in Hill’s room.

. . . .

Hill did not testify at his trial, but his lawyers pointed out that four other people were treated for bullet wounds in Salt Lake City that same night, and that the lack of robbery and Hill’s unfamiliarity with Morrison left him with no motive.

. . . .

An appeal to the Utah Supreme Court was unsuccessful. Orrin N. Hilton, the lawyer representing Hill during the appeal, declared: “The main thing the state had on Hill was that he was an IWW and therefore sure to be guilty. Hill tried to keep the IWW out of [the trial]… but the press fastened it upon him.”

. . . .

Joe Hill was executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915. When Deputy Shettler, who led the firing squad, called out the sequence of commands preparatory to firing (“Ready, aim,”) Hill shouted, “Fire — go on and fire!”

. . . .

His last will reads:

My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kin don’t need to fuss and moan,
“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”

My body? Oh, if I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow,
My dust to where some flowers grow.

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my Last and final Will.
Good Luck to All of you,



19 November 2015

Working on Spec

12 November 2015

For visitors not familiar with the slang expression, “spec”, here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

“Spec work” or speculative work, work done “on speculation” (“on spec”), meaning that the person or company that did the work did so at their own expense, with the hope that the demonstrable results would spur sales, convincing customers to pay for future such work

Thanks to Claire, who says the video is focused on spec work advertising agencies are sometimes asked to perform for prospective clients, but also applies to other creatives, for the tip.


10 November 2015

Hugh Howey and Author Earnings

10 November 2015

Inside one of Amazon’s busiest days

5 November 2015

PG thought the warehouse scenes in these three videos from 1997, 2010 and 2015 were an interesting illustration of Amazon’s growth.



Dylan Thomas – Happy Belated Birthday

28 October 2015

Julia reminded me that October 27 was the birthday of Dylan Thomas.

We may forget that good poetry doesn’t reach its greatest potential when it sits on the page. Thomas reminds us that performing poetry well opens up the poet’s work in wonderful ways.

Thomas was a teenager when he published his first poems.

In addition to his poetry, Thomas worked actively as a professional broadcaster for the BBC. Between 1943 and his death in 1953, Thomas was featured in about 150 programs.  His subject matter ranged from his childhood memories to discussions of other writers. Some of his wartime poems were first heard on the BBC. He wrote radio plays, including Under Milk Wood, and filmscripts.


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