Tag Archives | Literature

Kids’ Weight Loss Book Sparks Protests

alg_maggie-goes-on-a-dietIt seems everyday there’s a new statistic about which country is fighting obesity, how school lunches and fast food restaurants are offering “healthy” options, and other stories about reducing the weight problem of current and future generations. But a new book about a fourteen years old girl going on a diet has sparked controversy. Discovery News reports:

An upcoming children’s book with the seemingly noninflammatory title “Maggie Goes on a Diet” is causing a firestorm of protest.

According to the book’s description on Amazon.com, “This inspiring story is about a 14-year-old who goes on a diet and is transformed from being overweight and insecure to a normal sized teen who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self-image.”

You’d think that with one-third of American kids overweight or obese, and children experiencing unprecedented weight-related health problems including diabetes, a book about a girl losing weight and gaining self-esteem would be welcomed.

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9/11 Fiction

911 fictionThe BBC asks if there is a novel that defines the 9/11 decade. I’m tempted to nominate The 9/11 Commission Report – any other suggestions that the Beeb left out?

Many books have been written about 9/11 but is there one that embodies the era that the attacks inaugurated?

When Changez, the Pakistani hero of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, watches the Twin Towers come crumbling down, he smiles.

Little Oskar Schell, the nine-year-old at the centre of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, grapples with his father’s death by creating a flip-book – 15 blurry stills, arranged in reverse order, of a man falling to his death from the World Trade Center. When he flicks through the pages, the flailing figure is restored to the top of the building – safe.

In Open City, writer Teju Cole describes Colonel Tassin – a (real) 19th Century figure – who kept count of the number of birds killed by flying into the Statue of Liberty, as many as 1,400 a night.

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New Theory Blames KGB For Albert Camus Death

Albert Camus, 1957

Albert Camus, 1957

Did the Soviet foreign minister have a hand in the death of famed french writer Albert Camus? Via AFP:

Famous French author Albert Camus, who died in a car accident in 1960, may have been the victim of a Soviet plot, new research suggests.

Italian academic Giovanni Catelli, an eastern European specialist, put forward the theory in the pages of the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera. On Monday it was greeted with scepticism among other experts.

He noted that a passage in a diary written by Czech poet Jan Zabrana, published as a book, was absent from the Italian translation.

According to Catelli the missing paragraph concerns a meeting between Zabrana and and a Russian KGB contact.

“I heard something very strange from a man who knew lots of things and had very informed sources,” Zabrana writes in the unexpurgated version.

“He said the road accident that cost Albert Camus his life in 1960 was organised by Soviet spies.

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Aleister Crowley’s Dirty, Dirty Poems

aleistercrowleyVictorian Gothic on Aleister Crowley’s White Stains:

Readers will likely be familiar with Aleister Crowley, the notorious English occultist, bisexual libertine, recreational drug user, founder of the Thelemic religion, leader of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), and all-around scary wicked person. Those familiar with Crowley strictly through his esoteric writings, however, may be interested to know that one the “Great Beast’s” first forays into publishing consisted of a perverse little volume of erotic poetry entitled White Stains.

It was issued in Amsterdam in 1898 by Leonard Smithers; a leading publisher of English pornography, but also of controversial literature. His clients included Aubrey Beardsley, Arthur Symons, and Oscar Wilde. White Stains was published in a print run of one hundred copies which, according to rumors in the book world, Crowley is said to have white-stained himself. Most of these were destroyed in 1924 by British Customs; the surviving first editions currently sell for around $4,000 – $10,000.

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Ernest Hemingway’s Final Days and the FBI

Ernest HemingwayHemingway biographer A. E. Hotchner’s article in the New York Times details the rapid decline of Ernest Hemingway during his final years. Institutionalization, self-doubt and paranoia came to a head on July 1, 1961 when the author took his own life.

Hemingway’s depression and instability has been well-documented, but what is interesting is that the FBI’s monitoring of his phones, correspondence and activities contributed to his sense of fear and paranoia.

This could be the rare case of someone who’s paranoia about “being watched” is actually due to the fact that he/she is actually being monitored. A. E. Hotchner writes:

EARLY one morning, [on July 1st], while his wife, Mary, slept upstairs, Ernest Hemingway went into the vestibule of his Ketchum, Idaho, house, selected his favorite shotgun from the rack, inserted shells into its chambers and ended his life.

There were many differing explanations at the time: that he had terminal cancer or money problems, that it was an accident, that he’d quarreled with Mary.

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Mandela Releases A New Book Of Quotations As He Turns 93

Mandela_AuthQuotes_cover1Nelson Mandela, icon-hero of the world, turns 93 this month. He is hanging on despite family tragedies that claimed another great-grandchild in June. The child was born premature and died after just four days.

The man known by his clan name, Madiba, still evokes wonder and admiration and almost god-like reverence, with airport stores selling “We Love Mandela” posters and T-shirts. He is the one South African that most of South Africans take pride in, including the older generation that first knew him as an apartheid government designated terrorist.

He was so feared that his picture could not be shown in the media and his words could not be quoted for 27 years.

Ironically, all these years later he has released a book of authorized quotations (‘By himself”) that cull his thoughts from a life time of public and private utterances in letters, private papers, audio recordings and from generations of speechifying.… Read the rest

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The Mad Scientist: A History

Movieland_Wax_Museum_Buena_Park_CA_Vincent_Price_House_of_Wax_1962_60618BBeginning with Faustus of Milevis, covering the historical association between genius and mental illness, mad alchemists of the Renaissance, grave robbing and organ snatching, io9 has a rollicking look at the mad scientist in Western culture:

The mad scientist can be usefully defined as an individual who conducts scientific experiments, invents something scientific, or does original scientific research, all while suffering from both psychological and moral insanity.

Historically the mad scientist has fallen into one of two modes. The first, what literary critics have variously labelled as “Promethean” or “utopian,” roughly follows the model of the figure of Prometheus from Greek mythology: the scientist is not inherently evil, and in fact is usually portrayed as either a self-sacrificing idealist or a deluded comic figure. The scientist’s mad science is morally ambivalent and ultimately degrades the moral sensibilities of the humans it comes in contact with. The Promethean/utopian mad scientist has noble goals but fails through human weakness, both his/her own and others’.

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Happy Bloomsday, America!

Hand drawing of Bloom by Joyce

Hand drawing of Bloom by Joyce

June 16th is the annual celebration of Leopold Bloom’s doomed wanderings through Dublin in 1904, as chronicled in James Joyce’s classic novel “Ulysses”.  And in the 21st century, reality finally catches up with and overtakes fiction.

In 1921 a U.S. court banned Ulysses on the grounds that some of its graphic depictions of nudity and sexuality constituted pornography under the Postal Code. And while that decision was reversed in 1933 by a judge who could only have failed today’s more rigorous selection processes for illiteracy and cretinism, the private sector came to the rescue of public morals when Apple banned an online illustrated version from its iStore last year.

However, that victory had an even shorter half-life. A couple months later, presumably realizing that it would lose it’s investment completely if it maintained the ban, and that nobody would likely access anything remotely smacking of literary merit anyway, Apple decided to give it a go after all.… Read the rest

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No, Reverend, That’s Not What The Bible Says

churchsignJohn Blake reports for CNN on something many of us have long suspected – that people who like to spew quotes from the Bible often mangle or just make them up:

NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.

“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. “This, too, shall pass.”

Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.

Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted.

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Lost At The Con

[disinfo ed.'s note: The following is an excerpt from Lost At The Con, new fiction from Big Shiny Robot's Bryan Young.]

lostattheconA political writer for a second rate, online news magazine, Michael Cobb is assigned by his editor to cover a sci-fi and fantasy convention in a bid to humiliate him.

Since Cobb can’t afford to turn down the job, he heads to Georgia and dives head first into the world of Griffin*Con, renowned the world over as the Mardis Gras of geek conventions. In Atlanta he finds a place that takes geeky debauchery to new heights: science fiction and fantasy, cosplay, booze, sex, comic books, drugs, slash fiction, and more.

This scene takes place on Cobb’s first day at the con:

My heart sank, killing the warmth of the drugs. The urge for locomotion finally returned to my legs and I continued my sojourn to the elevator. That feeling of flying high without a safety net returned as the elevator doors I'd finally reached opened with a sharp DING. And there before me was a Darth Vader...
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