Novelist Mia Couto discusses his hopes for conservation after the death of Cecil the lion, and his memories of Mozambique’s bloody civil war. [The Guardian] [more inside]
Since the pandas’ arrival, the team at Edinburgh zoo had already tried three times to breed the bears – with considerable fanfare and public attention – and each attempt had ended in disappointment. After a thoroughgoing review of these attempts in late 2014, this year’s season carried with it a sense of added pressure. But the keepers had also come up with one or two new tricks. A few weeks earlier, Maclean had daubed urine from Long Hui, an impressive male panda kept at Schönbrunn zoo, in Vienna, all over Yang Guang and Tian Tian’s enclosures, in order to spice the air with competition and possibility. “She spent a lot of time sniffing and seeing what was going on,” said Maclean. “He came out and was just like, ‘Whoa!’ He was all over the place.”
Living in the Age of Permawar by Mohsin Hamid [The Guardian]
You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose, perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly. Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young, sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between. You feel it is strange that humanity does not come together to face this killer, like a silver-flashing baitball of 7 billion fish aware of being hunted by a titanic and ravenous shark. Instead, humanity scatters. We face our killer alone, or in families, or in towns or cities or tribes or countries. But never all together.
The Village Where Men Are Banned (and accompanying photos). Julie Bindel at the Guardian writes about the Kenyan village of Umoja, where for 25 years, since the village was founded by survivors of sexual assault, only women and their children have lived.
Mark Lawson Unpacks President Obama's Summer Reading Picks [The Guardian]
Barack Obama has reached the stage of his administration when plans are being made for the construction in Chicago of the Presidential library that former American leaders get to set up in their memory. But, before that, he – or his aides – have also had to think about a smaller library: the shelf of books that the American people are told their leader plans to read on his summer vacation.[more inside]
If this is a real picture of the Brontës, then I'm Heathcliff! [The Guardian] A collector is convinced that the £15 photograph he snapped up on eBay is of the Brontë sisters. It’s highly unlikely, but the story is a mark of our enduring fascination with the literary family. Plus, a Brontë Society expert gives her verdict. Could this be the only photograph of the three Brontë sisters? asked Seamus Molloy [Daily Mail], who picked the photograph up for 15 quid on eBay.
"Although it has been said that every person is the hero of their own life story, it is more accurate to say that every person is the underdog of their own life story." Why southern gothic rules the world [SLGuardian], MO Walsh
The man who sleeps in Hitler’s bed Wheatcroft is now 55, and according to the Sunday Times Rich List, worth £120m... The ruling passion of his life, though, is what he calls the Wheatcroft Collection – widely regarded as the world’s largest accumulation of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia.
What Happened, Miss Simone? [YouTube] [Trailer] Helmed by Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus (Bobby Fischer Against the World, Killing in the Name), the fully authorized doc incorporates concert footage, archival material, and interviews taking place over three decades. The movie will be available on Netflix June 26. [more inside]
Scan of mummified body of Swedish bishop reveals baby hidden in coffin. [The Guardian]
For almost 350 years Bishop Peder Winstrup lay quietly in his coffin in the crypt of the magnificent cathedral at Lund in Sweden, concealing a secret: the body of a tiny baby, tucked in under his feet. The little corpse, believed to be of a baby born several months prematurely, was revealed for the first time when scientists scanned the coffin and the mummified body of Peder Winstrup, believed to be one of the best preserved 17th-century bodies in Europe.
Can any mortal control this foul, pulsating orifice? Stewart Lee on Top Gear by way of HP Lovecraft. Stewart Lee previously on Top Gear
Terry Pratchett's daughter declares The Shepherd's Crown will be the last Discworld novel. [The Guardian] [Books]
Terry Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna has brought down the curtain on her father’s Discworld novels, declaring that she will not write any more herself, nor give anyone else permission to do so. The comic novels set in a world balanced on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle are “sacred to dad”, she said. The author, videogame and comics writer told a fan last week that her late father’s forthcoming novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, featuring teenage witch Tiffany Aching, would be the final Discworld book. And asked by a fan if she would be continuing the series herself, she ruled out the possibility. “No. I’ll work on adaptations, spin-offs, maybe tie-ins, but the books are sacred to dad,” she wrote on Twitter. “That’s it. Discworld is his legacy. I shall make my own.” She added: “To reiterate – no I don’t intend on writing more Discworld novels, or giving anyone else permission to do so.”[more inside]
"Let’s have a year of publishing only women." ~ Kamila Shamsie [The Guardian] [Books]
It is clear that there is a gender bias in publishing houses and the world of books. Well, enough. Why not try something radical? Make 2018 the Year of Publishing Women, in which no new titles should be by men.[more inside]
From plitter to drabbletail: a few writers choose the words they love. [The Guardian] [Books]
Dialect terms such as yokeymajig or whiffle-whaffle; all-time favourites like cochineal, clot or eschew; antiquated phrases such as ‘playing the giddy ox’ … leading writers on the words they cherish.[more inside]
"That’s when I realised we were looking for something that only exists in the movies." (slTheGrauniad)
Eve Online: how a virtual world went to the edge of apocalypse and back The video game Eve Online is one of Iceland’s biggest exports and has become the world’s largest living work of science fiction. While rival games have come and gone, it has survived – thanks to a unique experiment in democracy
"D’Eon exploited this remarkable situation to transition to womanhood, getting both the English and French governments to declare that 'Monsieur d’Eon is a woman.' The press closely followed these announcements and, starting in 1777, d’Eon lived her life legally recognized as a woman. In Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, d’Eon is held up as one of the most remarkable women of her century." Transgender celebrities are not new. Just read London newspapers from 1770, The Guardian
"The Whitney museum says, 'Isn't it wonderful – we have 30% women in the new collection!'" says the activist known as Frida Kahlo. "And we're saying, why is that something to be happy about – 30%? Where is the other 20?" The Guerrilla Girls: 30 years of punking art world sexism (Emma Brockes, The Guardian); previously on MetaFilter.
What are the most disturbing novels? [The Guardian] [Books] Guardian Books discusses disturbing reads:
"Bret Easton Ellis has haunted some of our readers for days, and on the books desk we’re still getting over certain depictions of dangerous obsessions and hellish orgies. Which fiction has most unnerved you?"
California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth [New York Times]
A punishing drought is forcing a reconsideration of whether the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been the state’s engine has run against the limits of nature.California Water Use [New York Times] Are you affected? [New York Times] The Drought, explained. [New York Times Video] [more inside]
"There are many ways we can envision women's liberation if we try. Since we total more than half of the world's population, our experiences as women intersect with almost every other struggle against systemic oppression. The lessons learned are personal and political. Tapping into this well can sometimes seem like an infinite journey: where does one start? Well, with comics, of course!" 19 Comic Characters Who Embody Women's Liberation, Ad Astra Comix [more inside]
On stage that day, Iglesias declared that Podemos would take back power from self-serving elites and hand it over to the people. To do that, the new party needs votes. If that means arousing emotions and being accused of populism, so be it. And, as the party’s founders have already shown, if they have to renounce some of their ideas in order to broaden their appeal, or risk upsetting some in their grassroots movement by tightening central control, they are ready to do that, too. The aim, after all, is to win. [more inside]
"In the hands of another actor, she could have just been one more detail in Scott’s design scheme, a clothes horse in a coil of cigarette smoke. But Young makes Rachael breathe. It’s a tricky role: she must seem slickly artificial, while hinting all the time at warm humanity. As Harrison Ford’s jaded ex-cop Deckard falls for her, the whole film hinges on us understanding why. That she pulls it off owes a lot to her raw presence – but presence is the lifeblood of movies."
"In short, it seems that when a white male thinks about the meaning of things, any things, it is philosophy..." (SLTheGuardian)
Sufjan Stevens's new album Carrie and Lowell can be streamed in its entirety at NPR and The Guardian. Four (very) early reviews. Previously
Why I didn't call the police when I saw two black boys with guns next door. [The Guardian]
"My husband’s instinct was to call law enforcement, but that didn't seem like the solution. Especially after Tamir Rice."
"No Land's Song" is a documentary about Iranian singer and composer Sara Najafi's fight to host a concert of solo women singers in Tehran. Nothing like it had been attempted in Iran for 35 years: after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, women were banned from singing solo in public.
“After every meeting at the ministry, I said, ‘OK, it won’t happen.’" But then she’d have a meeting with her Iranian singers – some old enough to have performed before the revolution, others too young to remember a time when women were allowed to sing at all – and decide to fight on.It is being shown at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Excerpt - Vimeo link.
Japanese woman comes to America to search for buried treasure- but it's the fictional buried treasure in the movie "Fargo". She's come to North Dakota's "Siberia" to end her own life and the language barrier and our perceptions of Japanese 'normal' get in the way. [more inside]
2 Deadly Shootings Within Hours in Copenhagen; 5 Wounded [New York Times]
A shooting at a free speech event featuring an artist who had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad and a second shooting hours later outside a synagogue left two dead and five police officers wounded in Copenhagen, stirring fears that another terror spree was underway in a European capital a month after 17 people were killed in Paris attacks.[more inside]
Don't Judge A Book By Its Author by Aminatta Forna [The Guardian]
‘I have never met a writer who wishes to be described as a female writer, gay writer, black writer, Asian writer or African writer’ … Aminatta Forna on her frustration at the book world’s obsession with labels and identity.
It wasn’t easy to buy a car in the Soviet Union. Usually, the first thing to do was to sign up on a decade-long waiting list to register your interest in owning a vehicle. Secondly, you needed to save what was then a huge sum of money; a new Zaphorozhets cost the equivalent of about 30 times the average monthly salary. A few people found a different way, however – assembling cars with their own hands. [more inside]
Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris’s 2005 TV series was a comedy about a ludicrous ‘self-facilitating media node’ in east London. But 10 years on, it looks more like a documentary about the future How the Nathan Barley nightmare came true
UK should consider ban on Mein Kampf, says Scottish Labour MP [The Guardian]
Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Scottish Labour MP Thomas Docherty has written to culture secretary urging a ‘sensitive debate’ on allowing its sale.
Ten o’clock on a grey, wintry morning and Mr David Niven marched up a deserted Champs-Elysées, some of the insolence of his erect Sandhurst carriage slightly curbed by a blinding hangover. 23 January 1965: David Niven on the golden days of Hollywood
Being held up as “beating the odds”, “done good”, or “escaped” does not make me happy. (slTheGrauniad)
“Murakami-san no tokoro” or “Mr. Murakami’s place”: [Japanese] an agony uncle column by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. [more inside]
"There was an interesting video installation that featured part of an old BBC documentary on Bowie. The commentary on the then-burgeoning star was fairly contemptuous, including a haughty sniff about how most of his fans were '14-to-20-year-old girls.' This is something that feminist and womanist cultural critics still observe — how a largely young female fan base is used to discredit the integrity and value of artists. This, despite the fact that, over and over, young women have 'discovered' and launched the careers of dozens of influential men and women. Like David Bowie, who is now considered so culturally important that he has a globally renowned exhibit dedicated to his career, which tens of thousands of people have clamored to get into." [more inside]
"From a seven-year-old who took on a supermarket to the girls who stood up to authority against violence, racism and inequality, these girls make the future look bright." Laura Bates looks back at a year of young feminist action in the Guardian piece, "2014: a year of brave, inspiring, young feminists". More feminism year-in-reviews below the fold. [more inside]
I AM INTO THIS. Who are the Cambridge Satchel Company and why should we care? The company started in 2008, and they sell old-style 1950s/60s era British school satchels. Originally meant for kids (the founder states, "I honestly thought that it would be schoolchildren and parents buying my bags!"), the satchels have become a more modest and budget-friendly alternative to designer bags. As a small startup company, they relied on enthusiastic word-of-mouth from the internet to bolster their profits; Deane states,"I think online was the only way that we could really engage and get traction really quickly" (warning: autoplaying video). This is the perfect storm of internet obsession: you click the link, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. [more inside]
"Eventually I got my phone up and called 999. “Ambulance, fire brigade or police?” they asked. “I’m stuck in a chimney,” I replied, and they repeated the question with more urgency. “I don’t know, I’ve never been here before,” I said, then decided on fire brigade."
Christmas themed gifs by contemporary artists. Jake and Dinos Chapman, Judy Chicago, Jeremy Deller, Tony Oursler, Marc Quinn, Anri Sala (NSFW, strobe imagery)
"The signs on the doors are excessively polite, and use outmoded words such as 'kindly' and 'residing'. 'Kindly do not deliver items for Mr and Mrs [...] to this address as they are no longer residing here.' But it is the doorbell etiquette that is most enraging, and instructions that 'for all collections and deliveries please press the housekeeper's button only' incite a sudden surge of anarchic rage and a desire to ring all the other bells simultaneously – summoning the chef/kitchen, the residence and the caretaker." [SLTheGuardian]
"... I love the version of the Thanksgiving story in the movie Addams Family Values, because I get to see the Indians win." [SLGuardian]
Racing to Checkpoint Charlie – my memories of the Berlin Wall by Haruki Murakami [The Guardian] The Japanese novelist on why the fall of the Berlin wall has such resonance with his novels.
When a bad review of her first novel appeared online, Kathleen Hale was warned not to respond. But she soon found herself wading in (The Guardian)