A Word A Day

One of the best sites to subscribe to,if you’re interested in words is Wordsmith.org

They have a service called A.Word.A.Day,which sends out a daily email containing just that.

The service comes from Anu Garg,who founded Wordsmith twenty-one years ago. Remarkably,his first language is not English,but his fascination with words led to him quitting the corporate world to spread his love of etymology.

Anu Garg

He has a quarter of a million subscribers in 170 countries. Each week he chooses words that fit a particular theme,such as English words derived from a foreign language or words with a military connection. Feedback is encouraged,and there’s an enjoyable discussion of the week’s words delivered to your in-box at the weekend.

Each daily word email also has a pithy quote at the bottom of the page,which is a bonus.

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Edward Abbey

I grew up in a market town called Stevenage. It’s in the county of Hertfordshire,about 30miles north of London. The New Towns Act of 1946 designated several towns to become so-called ‘New Towns’,and Stevenage was one of them. These were to take the overflow of population from London,whose housing stock was dilapidated and which had been decimated by German bombing in the Blitz.

When I was born,in 1954,the population of Stevenage was about 7,000. Today it stands at 85,000. The old town is an ancient settlement,situated on a long straight Roman road known as The Great North Road. It has the widest high street in Hertfordshire,with a medieval row of shops called Middle Row.

I attended Alleyne’s Grammar School,one of the oldest in the country as it was founded in 1558. I walked the fields with my dog,feeling myself to be more of a country lad than a town dweller. I was a young naturalist,so seeing wide open spaces turned into housing estates broke my heart. A pasture that we called ‘Skylark Field’,where I once counted a dozen larks in the sky at one time,became a sterile development of 400 little boxy houses.

I knew that people needed somewhere to live,but I also felt,even at that young age,that there were way too many people. A distaste for the incomers saw them labelled as ‘New Towners’,with the older inhabitants clinging to their ‘Old Towner’ status. A modern pedestrianised shopping centre harmed the old-fashioned shops in the high street,with many closing and being taken over by fast-food chains.

Seeing all of this desecration coloured by attitude to modern housing and shopping developments. I left home as soon as I could,rarely returning. I last visited twenty years ago,and got lost – in my own home town !

I’d done some minor disruption of the stakes and lines laid out by a surveyor,for houses to be built on an old orchard which was my childhood refuge,so it was easy to take to the writing of Edward Abbey. His best known novel is ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang’,a title that comes from ‘throwing a spanner in the works’ – that is,deliberately sabotaging machinery being used to destroy wild places.

Edward Abbey

Cover of the first edition

His work spawned the term ‘monkeywrenching’,and his disparate gang of malcontents take on industrialists who are despoiling the landscape. Abbey worked as a park ranger for the United States National Park Service,and was passionate about protecting the environment. A prickly character,he riled many people,and was considered sufficient a threat to warrant the attention of the F.B.I.

The work that he did,along with his writing proved inspirational for those who tired of the wishy-washy,compromised campaigns of early environmental protection groups. He was deliberately outspoken in his views,mainly to keep people aware of the threat posed by those who would rape the land for profit.

Abbey’s early death at only 62 was probably a relief to some. Awkward to the end,he ensured that he was buried in the way that he wanted and where he chose. His friends put him in the ground of the Cabeza Pieta Desert in Arizona,so that he could rejoin the circle of life by becoming fertiliser for cactus.

He remained true to his beliefs,and I think that he would have got on well with some of the other outsider,rebellious writers that I’ve written postings about on this blog. It’s easy to imagine him sitting around a camp fire and sharing some beers with Charles Bukowski,Richard Brautigan,John Kennedy Toole and Tomi Ungerer.

What Sort Of Person Are You ?

There are various ways of assessing personality,but one of the more accurate tests is the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator.

I’ve introduced friends to the test,and they agreed with the results – as did I,knowing them well. This version of it is quick and easy to do. It took me about twelve minutes.

http://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

I’m of the ENFJ group,which doesn’t surprise me given my sensitive and artistic personality ( honest ! )

Some employers use disguised adaptations of the test,when interviewing job candidates,to help find people with the behavioural characteristics they’re after. This is rather more reassuring than firms that use graphology to analyse job applicants’ handwriting. This supposed science has been repeatedly shown to be spurious,but amazingly 30% of human resources officers still use it in the U.K. and U.S.A. It’s even more widely used in France,with a bewildering 80% of employers regularly checking their staff’s handwriting.

If you’d like to know more about Myers-Briggs,have a look at the Wikipedia page for them :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers%E2%80%93Briggs_Type_Indicator

Marina Abramovic

Marina Abramovic is known as ‘the grandmother of performance art’. I knew her name,but only a little of her work,until a friend sent me a video clip – an extract from one of her performances ( link below ).

Read a little about her before watching it,as this will help you to understand the background. The clip will probably make you cry,so get a tissue ! My correspondent has recently been separated from her loved ones,after moving to a new city,so I understand why the film moves her.

It’s worth having a look at Marina Abramovic’s Wikipedia entry first,to understand what a tough upbringing she had. This certainly influenced her pained and masochistic performance art,and whatever you think of her sanity her unflinching honesty is involving.

 
In the video she sits in a most uncomfortable dress,with stays running up the sides. This performance piece ‘The Artist Is Present’ went on for about three months,and in it she confronted people who sat opposite her,opening her eyes to them once they were seated.
She had not seen Ulay,her former lover,the man who did a lot of the performance pieces with her,for 15 years.
 
They are reunited here – she did not know he would be there. Grab the Kleenex ! 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OS0Tg0IjCp4

Songs Lyrics as Poetry

I recently woke up with this song going through my mind. ‘Millworker’ is written by James Taylor,and the lyrics are like poetry – which the best ones are. I love its sad,reflective observations.
 
I vastly prefer the version sung by Emmylou Harris,to James Taylor’s original. The song works better,and it’s seen through a woman’s eyes anyway. Lovely stuff ! 
 
‘Millworker’
Now my grandfather was a sailor, he blew in off the water.
My father was a farmer and I, his only daughter.
Took up with a no good millworking man from Massachusetts
who dies from too much whiskey and leaves me these three faces to feed.

Millwork ain’t easy, millwork ain’t hard, millwork it ain’t nothing but an awful boring job.
I’m waiting for a daydream to take me through the morning
and put me in my coffee break where I can have a sandwich and remember.

Then it’s me and my machine for the rest of the morning,
for the rest of the afternoon and the rest of my life.

Now my mind begins to wander to the days back on the farm.
I can see my father smiling at me, swinging on his arm.
I can hear my granddad’s stories of the storms out on Lake Erie
where vessels and cargoes and fortunes and sailors’ lives were lost.

Yes, but it’s my life has been wasted, and I have been the fool
to let this manufacturer use my body for a tool.
I can ride home in the evening, staring at my hands,
swearing by my sorrow that a young girl ought to stand a better chance.

So may I work the mills just as long as I am able
and never meet the man whose name is on the label.

It be me and my machine for the rest of the morning
and the rest of the afternoon, gone for the rest of my life.

Books in prison

In 2014,the British government tried to ban prisoners receiving books sent to them through the mail. Their declared reason for doing this,was to prevent drugs being smuggled in.

After vigorous protests,the ban was recently overturned in the High Court.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30344867

This makes sense,for one only has to look at the illiteracy and numeracy rates of those imprisoned. Half of male,and three quarters of female prisoners have no qualifications at all,and 67% of them were unemployed at the time of their offending. There has to be a link between their breaking the law and the opportunities that they’re denied though a lack of education.

Poor self-image doesn’t help either,so for those wanting to better themselves and turn their lives around through the education programmes available inside,having access to books is vital. Prison libraries are poorly funded,and wouldn’t necessarily stock the much-needed books that a prisoner needs to transform their thinking.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/joepublic/2010/feb/03/prison-education-training-low-skills

Restricting access to the latest and most pertinent books would have been petty-minded censorship. As Joseph Brodsky,poet laureate of the United States in the 1990s,said : ” There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

booka book can bring light to the darkest places