Librarian Honors a Dying Tree by Turning It Into a Little Free Library

And then she said to Annika, "Why don't you feel in that old tree stump? One practically always finds things in old tree stumps." 

- Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren 

Remember that other classic of children's literature, wherein a boy runs from the city to a secluded mountain, taking up residence in an old tree he hollows into a cozy shelter?

Public librarian and artist Sharalee Armitage Howard’s Little Free Library is a bit like that, except there was no running involved.

When the venerable and ailing cottonwood in her Coeur d’Alene front yard began dropping branches on cars parked below, Howard faced the inevitable. But rather than chop the tree even with the ground, she arranged with the removal crew to leave a considerable amount of stump intact.




Then, in a Pippi Longstocking-ish move, she filled it with books for her neighbors and strangers to discover.

The interior has a snug, woodland vibe, worthy of Beatrix Potter or Alison Uttley, with tidy shelves, soft lighting, and a shingled roof to protect the contents from the elements.

Ever since December, when Howard posted photos to social media, the fairytale-like structure has been engendering epic amounts of global goodwill.

What a beautiful way to preserve and honor a tree that stood for well over a century.

One of the few naysayers is Reddit user discerningpervert, who is perhaps not giving voice to the Lorax, so much as Thalia, Muse of Comedy, when he writes:

It's like a house of horrors for trees. Inside the corpse of their former comrade are the processed remnants of their treebrothers and treesisters.

A literal Treehouse of Horror...

Visit Howard’s Little Free Library (charter #8206) the next time you're in Idaho. Or install one of your own.

(Those with trees to throw at the cause may want to begin with the stump hollowing tutorial below.)

via Twisted Sifter

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City in February as host of  Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How a Word Enters the Dictionary: A Quick Primer

Given that you’re reading this on the Internet, we presume you'll be able to define many of the over 800 words that were added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2018:

biohacking

bougie

bingeable

guac

hangry

Latinx

mocktail

zoodles

But what about some of the humdingers lexicographer Kory Stamper, former associate editor for Merriam-Webster and author of Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, unleashes in the above video?

prescriptivism

descriptivism

sprachgefühl

etymological fallicist

(Bonus: bird strike)

And here we thought we were fluent in our native tongue. Face palm, to use another newish entry and an example of descriptivism. (It’s when the dictionary follows the culture’s lead, according novelty its due by officially recognizing words that have entered the parlance, rather than prescribing the way citizens should be speaking.)




To hear Stamper tell it, dictionary writing is a dream gig for readers as well as word lovers.

Part of every day is spent reading, flagging any unfamiliar words that may pop up for further research.

Did teenage slang give rise to it?

Was it born of business trends or tech industry advances?

Stamper is adamant that language is not fixed, but rather a living organism. Words go in and out of fashion, and take on meanings beyond the ones they sported when first included in the dictionary. (Have a look at “extra” to see some evolutionary effects of the English language and back it up with a peek inside the Urban Dictionary.)

Before a word passes dictionary muster, it must meet three criteria: it must have crossed into widespread use, it seems likely to stick around for a while, and it must have some sort of substantive meaning, as opposed to being known solely for its length (“antidisestablishmentarianism”), or some other structural wonder.

“Iouea” contains all five regular vowels and no other letters. The fact that it exists to describe a genus of sea sponges may seem somewhat beside the point to all but marine biologists.

What new words will enter the lexicon in 2019?

Perhaps we should look to the past. We set Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler dial back 100 years to discover the words that debuted in 1919. There’s an abundance of goodies here, some of whose WWI-era context has already expanded to accommodate modern meaning (anti-stress, fanboy, superpimp, unbuffered). Readers, care to take a stab at freshening up some other candidates:

apple-knocker

buckshee

capeskin

cultigen

gametophore

interrogee

micromethod

neuroprotective

outgas

prereturn

putsch

scenarist

Related Content: 

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Dictionary of the Oldest Written Language–It Took 90 Years to Complete, and It’s Now Free Online

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City January 14 as host of Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Public Domain Day Is Finally Here!: Copyrighted Works Have Entered the Public Domain Today for the First Time in 21 Years

Earlier this year we informed readers that thousands of works of art and entertainment would soon enter the public domain—to be followed every year by thousands more. That day is nigh upon us: Public Domain Day, January 1, 2019. At the stroke of midnight, such beloved classics as Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Yes! We Have No Bananas” will become the common property of the people, to be quoted at length or in full anywhere when the copyright expires on work produced in 1923. Then, 1924 will expire in 2020, 1925 in 2021, and so on and so forth.

It means that “hundreds of thousands of books, musical compositions, paintings, poems, photographs and films” will become freely available to distribute, remix, and remake, as Glenn Fleishman writes at Smithsonian. “Any middle school can produce Theodore Pratt’s stage adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and any historian can publish Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis with her own extensive annotations… and any filmmaker can remake Cecil B. DeMille’s original The Ten Commandments.”




Those are just a few ideas. See more extensive lists of hits and obscurities from 1923 at our previous post and come up with your own creative adaptations. The possibilities are vast and possibly world changing, in ways both decidedly good and arguably quite bad. Teachers may photocopy thousands of pages without fear of prosecution; scholars may quote freely, artists may find deep wells of inspiration. And we may also see “Frost’s immortal ode to winter used in an ad for snow tires.”

Such crassness aside, this huge release from copyright heralds a cultural sea change—the first time such a thing has happened in 21 years due to a 20-year extension of the copyright term in 1998, in a bill sponsored by Sonny Bono at the urging of the Walt Disney company. The legislation, aimed at protecting Mickey Mouse, created a “bizarre 20-year hiatus between the release of works from 1922 and 1923.” It is fascinating to consider how a government-mandated marketing decision has affected our understanding of history and culture.

The novelist Willa Cather called 1922 the year “the world broke in two,” the start of a great literary, artistic and cultural upheaval. In 1922, Ulysses by James Joyce and T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” were published, and the Harlem Renaissance blossomed with the arrival of Claude McKay’s poetry in Harlem Shadows. For two decades those works have been in the public domain, enabling artists, critics and others to burnish that notable year to a high gloss in our historical memory. In comparison, 1923 can feel dull.

That year, however, marked the film debut of Marlene Dietrich, the publication of modernist landmarks like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Jean Toomer’s Cane and far too many more influential works to name here. Find several more at Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain,  Lifehacker, Indiewire, and The Atlantic and have a very happy Public Domain Day.

Public domain films and books will be added to ever-growing collections:

900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices

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List of Great Public Domain Films 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Behold the Original Deck of Oblique Strategies Cards, Handwritten by Brian Eno Himself

"Honor thy error as a hidden intention." "Work at a different speed." "Try faking it!" These suggestions will sound familiar to everyone who's ever flipped through the deck of cards known as Oblique Strategies. You can now do that digitally, of course, but Oblique Strategies remains an essentially physical experience, one whose shuffling and drawing reminds the user that they're drawing from the well of chance for a way to break them through a creative impasse or just rethink part of a project. It also began as thoroughly a physical experience, invented by producer-artist-ambient musician Brian Eno and painter Peter Schmidt, who first came up with them in the pre-digital days of 1974.

Back then, writes Dangerous Minds' Martin Schneider, the concept for Eno and Schmidt's "set of 115 cards with elliptical imperatives designed to spark in the user creative connections unobtainable through regular modes of work" emerged as a form of "radical intervention with roots in Eastern philosophy."




Having first come on the market in the 1970s, Oblique Strategies has gone through several different production runs, usually packaged in handsome boxes with the deck's name emblazoned in gold. "The first four editions are out of print and collector’s items (and priced to match). The 5th edition is currently available from Eno’s website for £30 (about $50). In 2013 a limited 6th edition of 500 numbered sets were available but quickly sold out."

But it seems that the very first set of Oblique Strategies, featured in Schneider's post, is unavailable at any price. Written in Eno's own hand, sometimes cursive and sometimes block, on cards with a wooden-looking texture and without the rounded corners that characterize the commercial version, these first Oblique Strategies include "Don't be frightened to display your talents," "If a thing can be said, it can be said simply," and "Do we need holes?" Those who have followed Eno's work will surely appreciate in particular the card that says to "use non-musicians," "non-musician" being one of Eno's preferred titles for himself, especially when working in a musical capacity. The total package of Oblique Strategies may have grown more refined over the years, but this handmade first set does have a certain immediacy, and also, in a sense, the imprimatur of history: after all, they worked for Brian Eno.

via Dangerous Minds

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Classic Radiohead Songs Re-Imagined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fiction Magazine & Other Nostalgic Artifacts

When we first checked in with artist and screenwriter Todd Alcott, he was immortalizing the work of stars who hit their stride in the 70s and 80s, as highly convincing pulp novel and magazine covers inspired by their most famous songs and lyrics. David Bowie’s “Young Americans” yields an East of Eden-like blonde couple reclining in the grass. Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” becomes an erotically violent, or violently erotic, magazine that ain’t fooling around.

Next, we took a look at Alcott’s series of pulp covers drawn from the work of Mr. Bob Dylan, bona fide godfather of classic rock, a period that gets a lion’s share of covers in Alcott’s imaginative Etsy rack, alongside other new wave and punk bands like The Clash, The Smiths, and Joy Division. Looking at these devoted tributes to musical giants of yore, rendered in adoring tributes to an even earlier era’s aesthetic, produces the kind of “of course!” reaction that makes Alcott’s work so enjoyable.

After all, pulp magazines and books are perhaps as responsible for the counterculture as LSD, with their proudly sexy poses, overheated teen fantasies, and bondage gear. (Prince gets his own series, a true joy.) But Alcott has moved on to a crop of artists who first appeared in the 90s class of alternative bands—from PJ Harvey, to Fiona Apple, to Nirvana, to Neutral Milk Hotel, to, as you can see here, Radiohead, the most long-lived and innovative stars of the era.

How well does Alcott's approach work with artists who hit the scene when pulp fiction turned into Pulp Fiction, appropriated in a winking, expletive-filled splatter-fest that didn’t, technically, require its audience to know anything about pulp fiction? You'll notice that Alcott has taken a novel approach to the concept in many cases (reimagining PJ Harvey’s “This is Love!” as a 50s grindhouse flick, another genre that has been heavily Tarantino-ized).

He converts Radiohead’s “Kid A” into that most treasured publication for futon-surfing hipsters circa 2000, the IKEA catalog. “Videotape” manifests in literal fashion as one of the oughties’ many objects of consumer electronics nostalgia, the 120-minute VHS. And “Myxomatosis,” from 2003’s Hail to the Thief, appears as a 1970s cat book, an artifact many Radiohead fans at the turn of the millennium might treasure as both an ironic Tumblr goof and a poignant reminder of childhood.

The Radiohead series does not fully abandon the pulp look—“Karma Police,” for example, gets the detective magazine treatment. But it does lean more heavily on later-20th century productions, like the 70s sci-fi cover of “Paranoid Android,” clearly inspired by Michael Crichton’s Westworld. Moon-Shaped Pool’s “Burn the Witch,” on the other hand, looks like a classic 50s Hammer Horror poster, but with a nod to Robin Hardy’s 1973 Wicker Man. (Both Crichton and Hardy have likewise been re-imagined for audiences who may never have seen the originals.)

Perhaps the least interesting of Alcott’s riffs on the Radiohead catalog, “Jigsaw Falling into Place,” goes right for the obvious, though its idyllic, Bob Ross-like scene strikes a dissonant chord in illustrating a song that references closed circuit cameras and sawn-off shotguns. Speaking of obvious, maybe it seemed too on the nose to turn “Creep” into creepy pulp erotica. Still, I wonder how Alcott resisted. View and purchase in handmade print form all of Alcott’s songs-as-book covers, etc. at Etsy.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear How Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” Would Sound If Sung by Johnny Cash, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Frank Sinatra & 38 Other Artists

I consider Freddy Mercury and Michael Jackson as the greatest performers of all time. Their vocal abilities are what I look up to as a vocalist.  - Anthony Vincent

Anthony Vincent, the creator of Ten Second Songs, has a flowing mane, a lean physique, and the cocksure manner of a 20th century rock god.

He also spends hours in his home studio, peering at a computer monitor through reading glasses.

His latest effort, above, Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the style of 42 other artists, could seem like a gimmick at first glance.

Consider, however, all the research, time, and musicianship that went into it.




The YouTube star disappeared from the internet for a month in order to tackle the beast that fans had long been begging him for.

He emerged from this self-imposed sabbatical refreshed, recommending that perhaps “everyone should start producing songs in multiple styles just so they too could take a vacation from social media.”

Good idea, though I doubt many of us can mimic the wide range of vocal styles the largely self taught Vincent does, from  Muse’s lead singer Matt Belamy’s fabled high notes to the late Joe Strummer’s extremely English punk attitude to Janis Joplin at her most unfettered.

He also displays an impressive facility with a variety of arrangements and instruments, though a couple of off-handed comments in the Making Of video, below, may not endear him to drummers, despite his obvious respect for the essential role percussion plays in structuring his projects.

Various elements suggested which artist to pair with each bite-sized section of "Bohemian Rhapsody," including similarity of lyrics, notes, and arrangements. ("Mama mia" was a no brainer…as was “Mama, didn’t mean to make you cry.”)

By definition, the multi-style "Bohemian Rhapsody" required him to look beyond his own personal favorites for artists to highlight, a process he applies to all of his mash ups. As he said in a 2015 interview with Radio Metal:

Obviously I don’t listen to Enya in my free time, I don’t go and put on a Gregorian chant and listen to it to relax. If I’m going to put an artist in there, it’s because I have some kind of respect for them in some way… At first my intention was to promote my business and now my intentions are to show that there are different ways that a song can be heard and that there’s nothing wrong with liking different things. You shouldn’t be afraid of what you don’t understand. Just because someone is growling doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just a way of expressing a song, there is really nothing else to it.

His "Bohemian Rhapsody" tribute is comprised of over 1800 carefully labelled tracks, an inspiring display of digital organization as well as technical prowess.

While some of Vincent’s chosen 42—David Bowie, Dream Theater—did cover "Bohemian Rhapsody" in its entirety, an unfortunate side effect of his impersonations are the way they whet our appetite for full covers we’ll never get to enjoy from the likes of Johnny Cash, Prince, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin….

Ultimately, no one can hold a candle to the original, but there’s no harm in trying.

Readers, do you have a favorite from the line up below? Anyone you wish you could add to the list?

01. Queen

02. Me

03. The Chordettes

04. Johnny Cash

05. David Bowie

06. Ozzy Osbourne

07. Frank Sinatra

08. Sam Cooke

09. Boyz II Men

10. Daft Punk

11. Janis Joplin

12. Scott Joplin (King Of Ragtime)

13. Skrillex

14. Hendrix (Michael Winslow Version)

15. Kenny G

16. Bobby McFerrin

17. Star Wars

18. N.W.A.

19. Kendrick Lamar

20. System Of A Down

21. Elvis Presley

22. BOLLYWOOD

23. Bad Religion

24. Bruno Mars

25. Death Grips

26. Chuck Berry

27. Michael jackson

28. The Clash

29. Ray Charles

30. Aretha Franklin

31. Soggy Bottom Boys

32. Death

33. ABBA

34. Ghost

35. Muse

36. Vitas

37. Medieval Music

38. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

39. Tool

40. Prince

41. Nirvana

42. Dream Theater

via Consequence of Sound

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 12 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

36 Artists Give Advice to Young Creators: Wim Wenders, Jonathan Franzen, Lydia Davis, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Umberto Eco & More

"Whatever you do, nobody else can do that better than you. You have to find what you can do better than anyone else, what you have in yourself that nobody else has in them. Don't do anything that you know, deep in your heart, that somebody else can do better, but do what nobody else can do except for you." That sounds like fine advice, but when receiving advice we should always consider the source. In this case we could hardly do better: the source is Wim Wenders, director of Alice in the CitiesParis, TexasWings of Desire, and many other films besides, an auteur seldom accused of making movies anyone else could make.

Wenders' interview clip and the others here come from "Advice to the Young," a video series created by the Louisiana Museum in Denmark (which has quite an impressive gift shop, incidentally, if you happen to need advice on gift-shopping). Jonathan Franzen, author of novels like The CorrectionsFreedom, and Purity, admits to feeling embarrassment about "giving advice to the young writer," but he still has valuable words for creators in any domain: "The most important advice I have is to have fun, to try to create something that is fun to work on."




And by fun he means fun like you have on a tennis court, where "you're not just messing around, you're not just hitting the ball wherever you want — you are focused on having a game, and once you are in it you are having fun. That's the kind of focused fun I'm talking about, and if you are having that kind of focused fun, there's a good chance that the reader will too."

The range of writers from which Louisiana Museum has sought advice also includes Lydia Davis, whose sensibility may differ from Franzen's but who has garnered an equal (or even greater) degree of respect from her readership. "You learn from models and you analyze them, you study them, you analyze them very closely, one thing at a time," she says, beginning her more expansive advice based on her own method. "You don't just sort of read the paragraph and say, 'Oh, that really flows, you know? That's good.' You say, 'What kind of adjectives? How many? What kind of nouns? How long are the sentences? What's the rhythm?' You know, you pick it apart, and that's very helpful." Her other suggestions include to "be very patient, even patient with chaos" and to keep a notebook ("it takes some of the tension and the worry away, because if you write it down, it may just be a note. It doesn't have to be the beginning of anything").

"Do what you want to do," Davis concludes, "and don't worry if it's a little odd or doesn't fit the market." That bit of guidance seems to have worked for her, and in the great variety of forms it can take seems to have worked for seemingly every other artist. Take Ed Ruscha, for instance, whose canvasses of gas stations, corporate signage, and other icons of American blankness must hardly have seemed geared toward any particular "market" when first he painted them. For the young he has only one piece of advice, received second-hand and briefly delivered: "No one could ever beat this thing that Max Ernst said. They asked him what a young artist should do, and he said, 'cut off an ear.' That's good advice to follow. You can't beat that."

Other artists featured in the video playlist include Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Umberto Eco, Patti Smith & more.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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