Bees, Biographies and Bookplates

No Complaints #148

Welcome back. Here are some more things.

Things to read

“I was the editor of the school newspaper. Every Friday, I’d take a trolley up to Yonkers with a rotating cast of the other editors. We’d get off at Getty Square, take all our copy over to a Linotype shop, and then we would stay there while the hot type came out, and when the page was complete they’d ink it and put a piece of paper over it with a roller, and that’s how you’d read it.”

I have not read any of Robert Caro’s Lynden B Johnson biographies, but I used to work in an office full of people who were obsessed with them and gobbled them down like I do with detective novels from the 1930s. Maybe when I have finished this book I’m supposed to be writing at the moment I will give them a go, but in the meantime I very much enjoyed this Paris Review interview with their author. Email to Pocket.

“Between tracking down the mayor and touring Ovacık with Ali, I somehow managed to forget to actually taste the honey during my trip. Fortunately, a shop in the Gazi neighborhood of Istanbul, one of the city's Alevi quarters, sells it by the kilo. I bought a jar, took it home, and anxiously cracked open the lid. It was like no honey I’d tasted before, with an enchanting amber hue and unique flavor blending caramel-sweet richness with bright floral traces. I felt invigorated. Perhaps it was the revolution flowing through my veins.”

This special honey from a holy valley in Turkey is produced as part of the area’s communist mayor’s vision for a revolutionary political future. Apparently eating it can make you “more communist”. Sounds yummy. Email to Pocket.

“Brian lifted the fiberglass head and shoulders from the box with great care. In Augusta’s focus-tested face, two huge eyes glittered from behind a sort of black resinous mesh, and at the corners of her white, sculpted Giaconda smile were twin black pinheads, which the manual said were speakers. Inside the box, hugged in packing material, her cranelike arms were folded and wrapped in plastic beside her cylindrical body. It looked like a bin.”

Some fiction from Leigh Alexander about AI, gender and robots. Email to Pocket.

“For the past few years, because of my interest in The Great Span of human history, I’ve been tracking the last remaining people who were alive in the 1800s and the 19th century. As of 2015, only two women born in the 1800s and two others born in 1900 (the last year of the 19th century) were still alive. In the next two years, three of those women passed away, including Jamaican Violet Brown, the last living subject of Queen Victoria, who reigned over the British Empire starting in 1837.”

Blogger Jason Kottke is obsessed with the “great span”, in which a quirk of circumstances means an individual survives with living links to a time we consider to be dead and gone (eg the woman still collecting her father’s Civil War pension). I can see why, it’s quite a seductive concept once you start reading about it. Email to Pocket.

“Over the history of printing, these provenance marks have evolved. In medieval times, some libraries marked the edges of a book’s pages, and illuminated manuscripts might include a portrait of the book’s owner. In the past, a book’s owner might use a formulation such as ‘Lucinda, her book’ to assert ownership, rather than the more modern ‘This book belongs to. . .’ Coats of arms used to be a popular way of marking books. Bookplates appeared with the age of print, stamps later on. There are painstaking and creative provenance marks, such as embroidered bindings, but the most basic assertion of ownership — writing one’s name — has been a constant.”

Using bookplates as a means of investigating the past lives of books. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

The BBC has made two good podcasts recently! Wonders will never cease. They are: GrownUpLand and No Country for Young Women. Go and listen to them immediately.

+Reminder: I do a whole separate weekly newsletter about podcasts. Check it out.


Things to watch

NYC in 1911.

Sita Sings The Blues.

The Happy Prince.


Compulsory medieval thingamabob

I do gardening now, OK?


The guest gif

Soon, Justin. Soon.