Experience is the Mother of Wisdom and Other Idioms About Mothers

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesOne of the most recurring themes in literature is motherhood. It represents birthing, the creation of new life, the profound love of and care for another, or the development of feminine spirituality. Motherhood is also an enduring symbol, especially in religion and mythology: mothers are depicted as beautiful, powerful goddesses of creation that are often associated with the ocean, moon, nature, and safety of children. In Christianity, some of the most important figures are mothers: Eve (the Original Mother), Sarah (mother of Isaac), Rebekah (mother of Jacob and Esau), Jochebed (mother of Aaron, Moses, and Miriam), and Mary (the Madonna). In Eastern mythology, the mother is a creation goddess: in one tradition, the oceans were created by her uterine waters. As a fertility goddess, she rules over nature and controls the harvests. Generally speaking, however, a mother’s love represents the apotheosis of love (although, don’t write that in a Mother’s Day card, because it sounds like a COVID-related illness; incidentally the word apotheosis is form the Greek word apotheoun which means “to make a god of”); that is to say, it represents love as the ideal form: unconditional, pure, self-less, wise, comforting, unwavering — and at times it can be fierce and protective.

The concept of motherhood is not only intertwined with literature and mythology, it is also part of the English lexicon. We find that the word “mother” in many idioms that evoke the symbols and meanings we have discussed. For example, when we talk wisdom, learning from our mistakes, we say “Experience is the mother of wisdom” not “Experience is the father of wisdom.”

To honor of the mothers around the globe and through the generations who have exemplified the ideals of love for their children, for their families, for their communities — especially through the troubling trials and tribulations unleashed by the deadly coronavirus, Atkins Bookshelfs presents the idioms about mothers that remind us of the eternal significance of their contributions:

at one’s/his/her mother’s knee

Diligence is the mother of good luck

everyone and his/their mother

expectant mother

Experience is the mother of wisdom

A face that only mother could love

He that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin

Like mother, like daughter

mama’s boy

maternal instinct

mother country

mother hen

mother house

mother’s little helpers

mother lode

mother’s milk

mother of pearl

Mother Nature

The mother or all [something]

mother tongue

A mother has eyes in the back of her head

Necessity is the mother of invention

old enough to be one’s mother

swear on your mother’s grave

sweet Mary, mother of God

Tied to his/her/your mother’s apron strings

Tiger mother

You kiss your mother with that mouth?

Your mother!

What other idioms about mothers should we include?

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For further reading: Oxford Dictionary of Idioms
https://www1.cbn.com/family/six-amazing-moms-in-the-bible
https://science.jrank.org/pages/10304/Motherhood-Maternity-History-Religion-Myth.html
https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/mother

 


What Type of Book Lover Are You?

alex atkins bookshelf booksDo you carry a book or ereader wherever you go? Ever find yourself chugging coffee at work in an effort to stay awake after a late night with a book that captured your interest? Are there piles of books around your house? Are you lured to every bookstore you see like a siren’s call? If any of these sound familiar, then you are probably a bibliophile — or depending on your preference, a book addict, book lover, bookworm, bibliomaniac, or bibliolater. Those last two sound kind of creepy, and come to think of it, some book collectors can be. But we digress… So if you’re a book lover, what type of book lover are you?

According to Jo Hoare, author of So You Think You’re a Bookworm?, there are 20 types of book lovers. Here are some of the key types of bookworms that she identifies:

Binger: reads an entire series (eg, Harry Potter)

Clubber: read books promoted by book clubs (eg, Oprah’s Book Club)

Adulterer: cannot commit to reading one book at a time

Book thief: borrows books but never returns them

Cryer: reads books about profound sadness, hardships, cruelty, etc. that induce crying

Scholar: not only reads but really studies the book

Non-finisher: cannot commit to finishing a book

Faker: hasn’t read the book but tells others that he or she has read the book

What other types of book lovers should we add to this list?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: The Trial

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

Today we will reimagine the opening paragraph of Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial. The novel begins by introducing us to K., the ambitious Chief of a bank who wakes one day to find himself arrested. But why and by whom? It is never clear. Ultimately K. is helpless against the Law and the elusive and powerful Court that is holding his trial. K. is living a nightmare — he experiences a wide range of emotions: confusion, frustration, hope, and despair — something we can relate to in the age of coronavirus:

Someone must have been telling lies — fake news! — about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong since he had been sheltering in place for months; he hadn’t gone to the bank in all that time; but, one morning, he was arrested. WTF! Every day at eight in the morning he was brought his breakfast by Dr. Fauci’s cook — Dr. Fauci was his landlord — but today she didn’t come. That had never happened before — she was as reliable as an Uber Eats driver (before the pandemic, of course). K. waited a little while, looked from his pillow at the old woman who lived opposite. She was wearing an N95 face mask and disposable gloves — typical attire for the “new normal” — while she watched him with an inquisitiveness quite unusual for her, and finally, both hungry and disconcerted, he rang the bell. There was immediately a knock at the door and a man entered. He had never seen the man in this house before. Anyone who came into K’s room would have been tested for COVID-19. The man was slim but firmly built, his clothes were black and close-fitting, with many folds and pockets, buckles, buttons and a belt, along with the obligatory PPE — all of which gave the impression of being very practical but without making it very clear what they were actually for. “Who are you? Am I being punked?” asked K., sitting half upright in his bed, confused to be found in this rather um… Kafkaesque situation. The man, however, ignored the question just like Trump avoids questions at his self-aggrandizing coronavirus press  carnival shows. His eyes were obscured by the plastic face shield and his expression was inscrutable under the face mask; he merely replied, “You rang?” “Did you mean that sarcastically?” K. asked. “Anna isn’t here; and I know she wasn’t furloughed. She told me she had applied to that financial fiasco known as the PPP program administered by the incompetent bureaucrats at the SBA. So she should have brought me my breakfast,” said K. He tried to work out who the man actually was, first in silence, just through observation and by thinking about it, but the man didn’t stay still to be looked at for very long. Is that Mike Pence? he thought; the resemblance was uncanny — the neatly combed white hair, the deep-sunk beady eyes, the monotone robotic voice, and the uptight stick-up-his-ass posture. Instead the man went over to the door, opened it slightly, and said to his obsequious assistant from the feckless coronavirus task force who was clearly standing immediately behind it, “He wants Anna to bring him his breakfast.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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What Was the First Book Ever Ordered on Amazon?

alex atkins bookshelf booksIt’s hard to imagine how people survived in the BA (Before Amazon) Era. I suppose anyone who grew up in the late 1990s just assumed that Amazon had always existed. It’s like the Big Bang of retail: one moment there was the Void — then BANG! there it is was — a portal to the world’s largest store. You just log in, search, scroll, click, and a few days later, there’s your stuff on the doorstep. But no, Amazon had a humble beginning in the early 1990s. Taking a page from some of the most famous startups in Silicon Valley, Amazon was founded in the garage of the parents of Jeff Bezos’ home in Bellevue, Washington. Amazon began selling only books in early July 1995. Its first year, Amazon sales totaled $511,000. Naturally, that invites the question: what was the first book ever ordered on Amazon?

Before we get to the book, let’s meet the person who ordered it: John Wainwright. Wainwright is a computer scientist who was one of the key developers of object-based computer languages ScriptX and MaxScript. Back in early 1995, he was an employee of Kaledia Labs (1991-1996), a joint venture between once arch-rivals Apple and IBM, located in Mountain View, California. One of his friends, Shel Kaphan, was an early employee at a startup named Amazon, sent him an invitation to their beta site to purchase a book. He wrote: “Create an account and order some books.” The book that Wainwright ordered on April 3, 1995 (although Amazon dates the sale to July 1995 when it officially opened) was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter and the Fluid Analogies Research Group published by BasicBooks in 1995. The price he paid for the 518-page hardcover book: $27.95. In an interview, Wainwright said that he still has the original packing slip (with the original Amazon logo inspired by the Amazon River and the note “Thanks for shopping at Amazon.com!”) and the book is still in his order history. Unfortunately, Amazon did not have the book in the inventory they had access to; Wainwright explains “… the story goes that Jeff Bezos didn’t want to delay the fulfillment and he went charging around [local brick-and-mortar] bookstores himself to find a copy to send it off in time. Whether that’s true or not, it’s a small testament to his energy and drive that he got it.”

So why did Wainwright order this particular book, especially since Hofstadter’s more popular work is Godel, Escher, Back. Wainwright explains in an interview with MarketWatch: “[Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies] was a work on artificial intelligence and human cognition modeling. It seemed like a reasonable way of catching up with what was going on around the 1990s. It’s a collection of articles and essays documenting research that Hofstadter and his students were doing at the time, modeling human form.” The Amazon review states: “Readers of earlier works by Douglas Hofstadter will find this book a natural extension of his style and his ideas about creativity and analogy; in addition, psychologists, philosophers, and artificial-intelligence researchers will find in this elaborate web of ingenious ideas a deep and challenging new view of mind. A lucid, highly readable exploration of the computer models of discovery, creation, and analogical thought developed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gödel, Escher, Bach and the Fluid Analogies Research Group. The book features anagram and number puzzles, analogy puzzles involving letter strings or tabletop objects, and fanciful alphabetic styles.”

For his contribution to Amazon’s amazing success story, Amazon named one of the buildings on its corporate campus the Wainwright building (535 Terry Avenue North). Pretty cool, huh? Incidentally, if you want to buy the Hofstadter book, it is still available. As of this writing, a used hardcover copy costs $4.56 and a new paperback costs $21.99.

Bonus question: what was the second book that Wainwright bought on Amazon? The First Thousand Words in Russian by Heather Amery  (current price for a used hardcover copy $2.33). Wainwright explains: “We were just in the throes of adopting a daughter from Russia and we thought we should learn some Russian. We adopted [a girl] in April 1995.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: http://www.quora.com/What-was-the-first-book-ever-ordered-by-a-customer-on-Amazon
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/here-is-the-first-book-ever-ordered-on-amazon/264344/
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/what-was-the-first-book-ever-ordered-on-amazoncom-24406844/
http://www.triviagenius.com/answer-what-was-the-first-book-sold-on-amazon/
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/meet-amazons-first-ever-customer-2015-04-22


Plato’s Warning: Ignorance Will be the Source of Great and Monstrous Crimes

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“A man may truly say that ignorance is a third case of crimes. Ignorance, however, may be conveniently divided… into two sorts: There is simple ignorance, which is the source of lighter offenses, and double ignorance, which is accompanied by a conceit of wisdom; and he who is under the influence of the latter fancies that he knows all about matters of which he knows nothing. This second kind of ignorance, when possessed of power and strength, will be… the source of great and monstrous crimes…”

A number of websites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Aristotle (384-322 BC), a famous Greek philosopher, who was a student of Plato. However this quotation was written by Plato; it is found in The Dialogues of Plato, Volume 4, (1895) translated by B. Jewett, professor of Greek, University of Oxford. Plato (428-348 BC). Plato was a student of the classical Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC). Plato and Socrates are considered the founders of Western philosophy — their ideas and concepts have shaped Western civilization for centuries. We know of Socrates’ teachings through Plato’s writings (The Dialogues) that employ the Socratic method: the deep exploration of topics through endless questioning. Between 390 and 380 BC, Plato who was about 40 years old at the time, established the Academy, considered the world’s first university. The school was located in a garden of olive trees that was dedicated to Academus, a hero in Greek mythology. Academus spared Athens from destruction by telling Castor and Pollux (known as the Dioscuri) that their sister Helen was being held captive at Aphidnae by the Athenian king Theseus. Plato’s Academy is immortalized by Raphael in his stunning masterpiece The School of Athens, one of four frescos that adorn the Stanza dell Senator in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Raphael painted the fresco, commissioned by Pope Julius II for his library, between 1509 and 1511. At the center of the fresco are the images of Plato and Aristotle walking while having a deep conversation. On the left is Plato holding a copy of Timaeus with his left hand and pointing to the heavens with his right hand. To his right is Aristotle holding a copy of Nicomachean Ethics with his left hand and gesturing toward the earth with his right hand. You can take a virtual tour of the Vatican in the last link below.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: The Dialogues of Plato by Plato
The Cave and the Light by Arthur Herman
mymodernmet.com/school-of-athens-raphael/
https://www.ancient.eu/plato/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/60264-5-reasons-why-plato-and-aristotle-still-matter-today.html
http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/stanze-di-raffaello/tour-virtuale.html


Are You a Hypochondriac?

alex atkins bookshelf triviaIt’s tough enough muddling through the sustained sheltering in place necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic — but imagine what hypochondriacs are going through. So what is hypochondria? Hypochondria is the chronic and abnormal concern for one’s health. For a hypochondriac some physical symptoms are imagined, while others are real but are exaggerated. Fun fact: about 5% of the human population are severe hypochondriacs. You probably know one. Famous hypochondriacs include: Charlotte Bronte, Charles Darwin, and Marcel Proust.

The word hypochondria was introduced in the 4th century BC by the famous Greek physician Hippocrates of Kos, known as the “Father of Medicine” (he is attributed with the Hippocratic Oath, although it is very likely that it was written after his death). The word is derived from the Greek word hypo (meaning “under”) and chords (meaning cartilage); so literally it means “under the rib cage.” Initially the term referred to digestive disorders of the liver, gallbladder, and spleen. Two centuries later, the Roman physician Galen of Pergamon linked digestive illness to melancholy. The term “hypochondriacal melancholy” was popularized by Robert Burton in his seminal work The Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621. However it was Marcel Proust, in his magnum opus In Search of Lost Time (published in seven parts between 1913 to 1927), who assigned hypochondria with the meaning that we recognize today. The term was finally formalized in 1980, in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd Edition (DSM-III). In the DSM-III hypochondria is listed under somatoform disorders.

The writers of Knock Knock, an independent maker of clever books and gifts, published the tongue-in-cheek but very insightful book The Complete Manual of Things that Might Kill You: A Guide to Self-Diagnosis for Hypochondriacs in 2007. In a fascinating introduction to the “noble hypochondriac” they break down the identifying behaviors of a hypochondriac:
Constant fear of illness
Preoccupation with the body
Interest in self-diagnosis
Either seek out medical treatment or avoid it
Distrust or disbelief in diagnosis
Continuously shopping for new doctors
Need for reassurance

Right now during the coronavirus everyone is exhibiting some of these previously mentioned concerns. But I know what you are asking: “Am I a hypochondriac?” Let’s find out. Let us turn to one of the simplest and earliest test, developed by Dr. Issy Pilowsky, known as the Whiteley Index. Answer the 14 questions below. Score according to the following:

1 = Not at all
2 = A little bit
3 = Moderately
4 = Quite a bit
5 = A great deal.

Total the numbers. A score of 14-28 indicates a healthy person without health anxiety. A score of 32-55 indicate high probability of a health-anxiety disorder and you should consult a healthcare professional. Caveat: as with all simple tests, the scores should be interpreted cautiously.

The Whiteley Index

1: Do you worry a lot about your health?
2: Do you think there is something seriously wrong with your body?
3: Is it hard for you to forget about yourself and think about all sorts of other things?
4: If you feel ill and someone tells you that you are looking better, do you become annoyed?
5: Do you find that you are often aware of various things happening in your body?
6: Are you bothered by many aches and pains?
7: Are you afraid of illness?
8: Do you worry about your health more than most people?
9: Do you get the feeling that people are not taking your illnesses seriously enough?
10: Is it hard for you to believe the doctor when he/she tells you there is nothing for you to worry about?
11: Do you often worry about the possibility that you have a serious illness?
12: If a disease is brought to your attention (through the radio, TV, newspaper, website, or someone you know), do you worry about getting it yourself?
13: Do you find that you are bothered by many different symptoms?
14: Do you often have the symptoms of a very serious disease?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: DSM by the APA
https://www.salon.com/2010/02/01/hypochondriacs/
The Complete Manual of Things that Might Kill You by Knock Knock
https://za.toluna.com/opinions/4180774/The-Whiteley-Hypochondria-Test


Judging Celebrities by the Books on Their Bookshelves

alex atkins bookshelf booksEver been invited to tour a house and at the first sight of a bookcase you are drawn to it like a moth to a flame? Then, chances are you a bibliophile and you are fascinated by the books that others place on a bookshelf because you know that it reveals something about that person — it is a snapshot of their inner mind, a map of their intellectual journey of discovery. Indeed, a bibliophile truly believes that you can judge a person by the books he or she reads and displays; moreover you can judge a bookshelf by its covers.

Thanks to sheltering in place orders across the country, books on the bookshelves are getting a lot of attention. Numerous newspapers and websites have been running stories about celebrities and the bookshelves they use as backdrops during their interviews. In fact, taking a photo or a video in front of a bookcase is now known as a “selfie.” For example, The Washington Post recently ran a story in their home and garden section titled “Social isolation (and video chat) is bringing renewed attention to the art of the bookshelf.” The New York Times contributed “The Credibility Bookcase Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory. Not to be outdone, Vogue offered this article: “If You Can’t Stop Staring at TV Anchors’ Home Backgrounds, Your’re Not Alone.” Vox weighed in with “Quarantine is giving us the opportunity to judge celebrity bookshelves.” And finally, for a lighter approach, The Telegraph ran a story titled “Letter from Lockdown: Want to Be Taken Seriously? Sort our your bookshelf.” That’s right — during the coronavirus quarantined it’s cool to be a book nerd. You can just hear all the book lovers saying in unison: “Well it’s about time — and welcome to the club!”

As a book lover, one of the most fascinating aspect of all the interviews being conducted on television during the COVID-19 pandemic, is that you get a glimpse of the bookshelves that are selected as the backdrop for celebrities — anchors, correspondents, writers, actors, music artists, politicians, experts, etc. One can assume that the interviewee believes that the books help boost their credibility by conveying their level of erudition or commitment to reading and learning. From an art director’s point of view, it makes a nice backdrop because of the orderly bands of colors and rectangular shapes that are often punctuated with mementos, small photos, and small art pieces. Unfortunately due to the fixed- focus of the lens in a laptop or smartphone, sometimes it is difficult to read the titles of the books. However, eagle-eye bibliophiles can instantly recognize a book by its spine. It can become a fun game to identify some of the titles while the celebrity is on screen.

Here are some of the books that have been identified from the bookshelves of celebrities and experts who have been interviewed on television or online:

Cate Blanchett (Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
Moscow 1937 by Karl Schologel
The Oxford English Dictionary
Postcapitalism by Paul Mason
Several unidentified Modern Library classics

Prince Charles (Clarence House Instagram)
Kings in Grass Castles by Mary Durack
Shattered by Dick Francis
Stubbs by Basil Taylor

Andy Cohen (Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon)
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Live From New York by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

Stephen Colbert (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)
All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt by John Taliaferro
Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann
Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World by Evan Thomas
No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen
Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked by Chris Matthews

Jane Goodall (PBS NewsHour)
The End of Food by Thomas Pawlick
The Hidden Target by Helen MacInnes

Tom Hanks (Saturday Night Live)
The Oxford English Dictionary
The Encyclopedia Britannica

Seth Meyers (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George Higgins and Dennis Lehane
The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall

Kate Middleton (Public Health England Initiative interview)
Penguin Clothbound Classics (designed by Corlie Bickford-Smith):
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The Odyssey by Homer
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Trevor Noah (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah)
Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie Glaude, Jr.
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Amy Poehler (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
Blitzed by Norman Ohler
Peeves by Mike Can Waes
Time Zero by Carolyn Cohagan

Paul Rudd (Saturday Night Live)
Code of Conduct by Brad Thor
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Slave Day by Rob Thomas

Have you seen any interesting books on the bookshelves of a celebrity during an interview? Please send Bookshelf the name of the person, what show they appeared on, and the book titles you could identify.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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For further reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/01/arts/quarantine-bookcase-coronavirus.html
http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/apr/07/our-new-lockdown-game-judging-famous-people-by-their-bookshelves
nationalpost.com/entertainment/late-night-hosts-used-to-come-into-our-living-rooms-during-covid-19-were-entering-theirs
http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/the-bookshelf-rediscovered/2020/05/04/d7a07fd8-8996-11ea-ac8a-fe9b8088e101_story.html
http://www.vox.com/culture/2020/4/11/21216298/quarantine-coronavirus-celebrity-bookshelves
http://www.vogue.com/article/news-anchors-broadcasting-from-home-bookshelves-flowers-coronavirus


Test Your Creativity with This Clever Thinking Puzzle

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAfter weeks of sheltering in place you may have exhausted all the ways of killing time — binge eating, binge watching Netflix shows, binge watching silly pet videos on Youtube, scrolling through mind-numbing social media posts, and so on. You can practically count the cells in your brain dying by the hour. Would you like to kick-start your brain and test your creative thinking? Let me introduce you a really fun brain-building word game you can play and share with your friends. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the obscure and overlooked ditloid. A ditloid is a curious and clever puzzle — something that would have greatly amused Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter. Specifically, a ditloid is a word game in which a phrase, term, title, quotation, proverb, or fact must be deduced from numbers and abbreviations in the clue. Here are some examples (answers in parenthesis):
60 = S. in a M. (60 seconds in a minute)
99 = B. of B. on the W. (99 bottles of beer on the wall)
7 = A. of M. (7 Ages of Man).
You get the idea. 
The word game was named after the following puzzle: 1=D. it L. o I. D. (1 Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich), by the Daily Express, a London newspaper. This word game is also referred to as a “linguistic equation” or “numerical phrase.” 

The most famous ditloids — indeed, the ditloids that launched a thousand ditloids — were created by puzzle master extraordinaire Will Shortz, former editor of Games magazine and current crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, puzzle master on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, and author of more than 100 books on puzzles. (Incidentally, he is an avid puzzle book collector, owning more than  20,000 puzzle books and magazines). Shortz introduced the word game, which he initially called an “Equation Analysis Test” , in the May-June 1981 issue of Game magazine. Since this was the time before the birth of the Internet, the puzzle was circulated the old fashioned way; Shortz elaborates: “Some anonymous person had retyped the puzzle from Games (word for word, except for my byline), photocopied it, and passed it along. This page was then rephotocopied ad infinitum, like a chain letter, and circulated around the country. Games readers who hadn’t seen the original even started sending it back to Games as something the magazine ought to consider publishing!” Interestingly, this “photocopied” list still gets forwarded, albeit as an image file in chain emails.

Shortz’s inspiration for the word puzzle came from Morgan Worthy’s AHA! A Puzzle Approach to Creative Thinking, published in 1975. Worthy introduced the Formula Analysis Test that had a slightly different construction: M. + M. + N.H. + V. + C. + R.I. = N.E. (Maine + Massachusetts + New Hampshire + Vermont + Connecticut + Rhode Island = New England) and 1 B. in the H. = 2 in the B. (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush). Worthy, in turn, was inspired by obscene graffiti in a college bathroom; Worthy explains in his book, “I first became interested in aha! thinking ten years ago while a graduate student at the University of Florida. Part of the graffiti in the men’s room of the psychology building was a cryptic formula someone had written in large letters on the wall. I was intrigued by this little puzzle and, of course, had occasion to be reminded of it from time to time. Finally, one day, the answer (yes, obscene) suddenly came to me. It happened that I was studying creativity at the time and I realized that my response to solving the graffiti puzzle was very like the ‘aha! effect’ about which I had been reading… I constructed a test of times similar in principle to the one I found on the rest room wall.” In order to develop his Formula Analysis Test, Worthy followed this criteria: the puzzles do not require special information or a large vocabulary, the puzzles cannot be solved by step-by-step process, and each puzzle is relatively easy in that it is short and contains few items. Based on research by Worth, scores on solving these type of tests are not correlated significantly with I.Q. scores, but rather validated tests that measure creative thinking.

Without further ado, here are the original 24 word puzzles, the Equation Analysis Test, created by Shortz. Give it a shot, and see how many you can solve. The answers are presented below. And no cheating (i.e., using Google to solve the equations). Remember, solving the puzzles is not about being smart — it is about being creative. So clear your mind, put some music on, chill, and let the letters and numbers speak to you… and be sure to share this with your friends, to see how they do.

1 = W. on a U.
3 = B.M. (S.H.T.R.!)
4 = Q. in a G.
5 = D. in a Z.C.
7 = W. of the A.W.
8 = S. on a S.S.
9 = P. in the S.S.
11 = P. on a F.T.
12 = S. of the Z.
13 = S. on the A.F.
18 = H. on a G.C.
24 = H. in a D.
26 = L. of the A.
29 = D. in F. in a L.Y.
32 = D.F. at which W.F.
40 = D. and N. of the G.F.
54 = C. in a D. (with the J.)
57 = H.V.
64 = S. on a C.
88 = P.K.
90 = D. in a R.A.
200 = D. for P.G. in M.
1,000 = W. that a P. is W.
1,001 = A.N.

Let me know if you enjoyed these word puzzles and if you would like to see more of them.

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Read related posts: Words for Superior Persons
Rare Anatomy Words

Words Oddities: Fun with Vowels
What Rhymes with Orange

Words that Sound Naughty But Are Not
An Alphabet of Rare Words

For further reading: Aha! A Puzzle Approach to Creative Thinking by Morgan Worthy
Will Shortz’s Best Brain Busters by Will Shortz

http://thebiggamehunter.com/main-menu-bar/mechanical-puzzles/mechanical-puzzle-collectors/shortz-will/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditloid
https://www.braingle.com/news/hallfame.php?path=language/english/meaning/equations.p&sol=1

http://www.greenleecds.com/rgbest/NumAKey.pdf
https://www.puzzlemuseum.com/singma/singma5/LANGUAGE/NUMPHRAS.DOC

Answers here.


Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: Lord of the Flies

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

Today we will reimagine the opening paragraph of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. The novel begins by introducing us to Ralph who will clash with Jack over leadership of a young group of survivors of a plane crash that are stranded on a deserted island. Golding has created two characters that represent different approaches to living in society: while Ralph represents democracy and peace, Jack represents dictatorship and violence. Lord of the Flies is a powerful allegory about mankind’s dueling impulses: good vs evil, reason vs. impulse, law vs. anarchy, civilization vs. savagery, altruism vs. selfishness. In a short period of time, these young boys descend into the darkness of man’s heart, exposing the best and worst of humanity — something we can relate to in the age of coronavirus:

The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way toward the lagoon. After weeks of sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, he welcomed the fresh air in his lungs and the warm sun beating down on his fair skin.Though he had taken off his school sweater and trailed it now from one hand, his grey shirt stuck to him, his hair was plastered to his forehead, and his face mask pressed uncomfortably hard on his nose and mouth, leaving a deep impression on his skin. All round him the long rock outcrop smashed into the jungle was a bath of heat. He thought to himself: didn’t that idiot Trump say that the heat was going to miraculously destroy all the coronavirus by April? What a moron! But thinking of this imbecile just made him angry — the boy had lost so many friends to coronavirus; for now he had to concentrate on his survival and the path directly ahead. He was clambering heavily among the creepers and broken trunks when a bird, a vision of red and yellow, flashed upwards with a witch-like cry; and this cry was echoed by another.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Cities
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Reading is Love in Action

alex atkins bookshelf books“In a world that can get too much, a world where we are running out of min space, fictional worlds are essential. They can be an escape from reality, yes, but not an escape from truth… A truth that can keep you sane, or at least keep you you… So often, reading is seen as important because of its social value. It is tied to education and the economy and so on. But that misses the whole point of reading. Reading isn’t important because it helps you get a job. It’s important because it gives you too to exist beyond the reality you’re given. It is how humans merge. How minds connect. Dreams. Empathy. Understanding. Escape. Reading is love in action.”

From the essay Fiction is Freedom from the book Notes on a Nervous Planet by English novelist and journalist Matt Haig. He has published 20 books, including the best-selling nonfiction book, Reasons to Stay Alive (2015). The inspiration for the book came about when Haig pondered how we live in a modern world that is so fast-paced, consumer-driven, and stressful, where our physical health and mental health are intertwined. A review of all the sensational headlines in the news prompted the question: how can we live in a mad world without going mad ourselves?

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What is a Barbarism?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWhat is a barbarism? If you answered “anything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth” you are pretty close. If you look up “barbarism” in the dictionary you will find the following definitions: “absence of culture or civilization” and “extreme cruelty or brutality.” However, in this case, we are interested in the definition of barbarism in linguistics. In this context, barbarism is defined as (1) an incorrect word; (2) a mispronunciation of a word; or (3) a badly formed word (eg, a word formed from elements of different languages). The Greeks used the term barbarism to describe foreign words that were incorporated into Greek speech or writing; they viewed these terms as a corruption of their language. (The Greeks would be apoplectic if their native language were English, which is a linguistic magpie, borrowing words from just about every language around the globe.)

A perfect example of a barbarism is when Kiarra, from the show everyone loves to hate, The Batchelor (Season 24), described what was in her goody bag: “…and inside of it [the bag] was like a cute pajama linger ree set.” What she meant to say, of course, was lingerie, which is pronounced “LAAN zher ay.” Makes you wonder how she would pronounce faux pas? Perhaps, the most famous barbarism was the tweet heard around the world on May 31, 2017. President Trump famously tweeted: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” The word “covfefe” was a mistyping of “coverage.” Unable to be accept responsibility for any mistake, Trump later claimed that the wording of that tweet was intentional. However, the word quickly entered the English lexicon: a covfefe is defined as a social media mistake. Adrienne LaFrance, a journalist for The Atlantic, wrote: “Covfefe remains the tweet that best illustrates Trump’s most preternatural gift: he knows how to captivate people, how to command and divert the attention of the masses.” Yeah, and look how that worked out with the coronavirus pandemic…

Here are some other examples of barbarisms [correct word in brackets]:

He putted the book on the shelf. [put]

Hand I the phone. [me]

The husband and wife had four childrens. [children]

Watching people die of COVID-10 is heart-wrenching. [heart-rending]

Breathalyzer [the combination of two different languages: English and Greek]

Very similar to a barbarism is a catachresis, which is defined as a word that is used in an incorrect way. Catachresis appear frequently as mixed metaphors (also known as malaphors) and wrong words in an idiom. For example, “The characters were like pawns on a checkerboard” [chessboard] or “That last comment was the straw that broke the elephant’s back” [camel].

Another similar term is solecism. While a barbarism is a mistake in morphology (how words are formed and their relationship to one another), a solecism is an error in syntax (the set of rules that define sentence structure). In other words, a solecism is a grammatical mistake. A double negative is a common solecism: “There aren’t no cups nowhere” [anywhere] or “I ain’t got no money” [don’t… any].

A related term is malapropism. A malapropism is the use of the wrong word for comedic effect; the mistake can be unintentional or intentional. The word is based on a fictional character, Mrs. Malaprop, from the play The Rivals (1775) by Richard Sheridan. Here is an example of a malapropism: “I have punctuation because I am never late!” [punctuality]. 

Another related term is spoonerism, named after William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), the Warden of New College, Oxford, who often switched the corresponding vowels or consonants between two words in a phrase. For example, “The Lord is a shoving leopard” rather than “The Lord is a loving shepherd” or “Three cheers for our queer old dean!” rather than “Three cheers for our dear old queen!”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please LIKE and FOLLOW (via email or WordPress Reader) or share with a friend. The coronavirus quarantine is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What Rhymes with Orange?
The Most Mispronounced Words
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What is a Pangram?
What is a Malaphor?
What is a Semordnilap?

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For further reading:
http://www.newsbreak.com/news/0NtwFUR2/the-bachelor-season-24-hannah-ann-and-kiarra-mispronounce-fiasco-and-lingerie-fans-go-on-roasting-spree
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covfefe


When Was William Shakespeare Born?

alex atkins bookshelf literatureFor Shakespeare scholars, Shakespeare’s actual birthdate is still a bit of a mystery. To paraphrase King Lear’s famous lament, “When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools — especially when they forget to record the date of your actual birth.” Coincidentally, his birth is tied to a deadly pandemic, very similar to what we are experiencing now with coronavirus.

So when was Shakespeare born? The short answer is — no one really knows. Shakespearean scholars and biographers have simply settled on a date, a best guess, on which to honor the world’s most famous and gifted poet and playwright: April 23, 1564. What is known for certain is when he was baptized — April 26, 1564 — and when he died — April 23, 1616 at the age of 52. For all we know, Shakespeare’s birthday jumped around the calendar, much like modern-day Easter, frustrating poor little Will: “When do I get to blow out my birthday candles this year, Mum?”

So why did biographers settle on April 23? Bill Bryson, drawing on the work of many respected Shakespearean biographers explains: “Much ingenuity has been expended on deducing from one or two certainties and some slender probabilities on the date on which he came into the world. By tradition, it is agreed to be 23 April, St. George’s Day. This is the national day of England, and coincidentally also the date on which Shakespeare died 52 years later, giving it a certain irresistible symmetry.”

Similar to the coronavirus pandemic of the present day, Shakespeare was also born during a frightening, deadly pandemic. The bubonic plague (known as the Black Death) was sweeping through Europe. The Black Death was painful and lethal: people who were infected suffered headaches, vomiting, fever, delirium, coughing up blood, and painful enlarged lymph nodes (known as buboes). The mortality rate was 50%; and 65% for infants. Thus, given the high rates of mortality during the 16th century (about 20% of the entire population), it was customary to baptise an infant soon after birth — but exactly how many days later is simply conjecture. As S. Schoenbaum notes in his landmark biography, Shakespeare’s Lives, “It would be frequently be assumed that [Shakespeare] was born on  the 23rd on the unwarranted assumption that baptism customarily took place three days after birth. The Prayer Book of 1559 merely prescribed baptism not later than the next Sunday or other holy day following birth. In 1564, 23 April fell on Sunday; if Shakespeare was born then, he should have been baptized by the 25th, St. Mark’s Day.” Bryson adds: “Some people thought St. Mark’s Day was unlucky and so, it is argued — perhaps just a touch hopefully — that the christening was postponed an additional day, to 26 April.”

Understanding the impact of the bubonic plague when William Shakespeare was born leads to the realization of one of the most remarkable strokes of good fortune in the world of literature — it was a miracle that Shakespeare escaped the lethal clutches of the bubonic plague. Realize that just a few houses over, a neighbor of the Shakespeares lost four children to the plague that year. Bryson summarizes it this way: “In a sense William Shakespeare ‘s greatest achievement in life wasn’t writing Hamlet or the sonnets but just surviving his first year.” Evidently, where there’s a Will, there’s a way…

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please LIKE and FOLLOW (via email or WordPress Reader) or share with a friend. The coronavirus quarantine is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Founding Father that Vandalized Shakespeare’s Chair
What if Shakespeare Wrote the Hits: Don’t Stop Believin
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When Was Shakespeare Born?
The Legacy of Shakespeare
Shakespeare the Pop Song Writer

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folio
Who Are the Greatest Characters in Shakespeare?
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Shakespeare and Uranus
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For further reading: Shakespeare’s Lives by S. Schoenbaum
Shakespeare: The Illustrated and Updated Edition by Bill Bryson
The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro
http://www.biography.com/news/shakespeare-tragedies-macbeth-king-lear-antony-cleopatra-plague
thwww.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/24/shakespeares-great-escape-plague-1606–james-shapiro
http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/application/files/5014/5434/6066/london-plagues-1348-1665.pdf
http://www.historytoday.com/archive/black-death-greatest-catastrophe-ever
/www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/blogs/pestilence-and-playwright/


There’s a Word for That: Filipendulous

alex atkins bookshelf wordsEach day you turn on the TV and hear the same grim news about the coronavirus pandemic: in hospitals across the nation, patients are fighting for their lives — they are hanging by a thread. On Main Street in cities across America, businesses are fighting for their survival — these businesses are hanging by a thread. You see the trend here? Hanging by a thread. Well, there’s a beautiful-sounding word for that: filipendulous (pronounced “fi li PEN duh luhs”) from the Latin filum (meaning “thread”) and pendulum (meaning “hanging”) from pendere (“to hang). The earliest use appear in 1743 in Accounts of the Thirteen Cities of Ememeer by J. Gingell: “Beneath the accumulated weight of gossamer the filipendulous city began to crumble, and so the lesson of the spiders was revealed, for indeed did it become obvious that all had been forever suspended over the chasm of their own destruction.”

Related terms: Sword of Damocles, hanging by a hair, at the end of his/her rope, barely clinging to life, barely holding on, running out of time, running on fumes

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Read related posts: What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

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The Dalai Lama on Finding Hope During the Coronavirus Pandemic

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThe editors of Time magazine recently reached out to fifty thought leaders to share insights about navigating the many challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The result is an inspirational 50-page special report titled “Finding Hope.” It is fitting that one of those individuals was the Dalai Lama (born Tenzin Gyatso), the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the political leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 5, 1989. The Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized the Dalai Lama for his long-term peaceful struggle for liberation of Tibet as well as his tireless work for the global common good: “The Dalai Lama has developed his philosophy of peace from a great reverence for all things living and upon the concept of universal responsibility embracing all mankind as well as nature. In the opinion of the Committee the Dalai Lama has come forward with constructive and forward-looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues, and global environmental problems.”

Here are some highlights from his essay “Thoughts, Not Prayers” that provides some comforting and hopeful thoughts from a Buddhist perspective:

“From the Buddhist perspective, every sentient being is acquainted with suffering and the truths of sickness, old age, and death. But as human beings, we have the capacity to use our minds to conquer anger and panic and greed. In recent years, I have been stressing ’emotional disarmament’: to try to see things realistically and clearly, without the confusion of fear or rage.”

“We Buddhists believe that the entire world in interdependent. That is why I often speak about universal responsibility. The outbreak of this terrible coronavirus has shown that what happens to one person can soon affect every other person. But it also reminds us that a compassionate or constructive act… has the potential to help many.”

“…I have been praying for my brothers and sisters in China and everywhere else… But prayer is not enough. This crisis shows that we must all take responsibility where we can. We must combine the courage doctors and nurses are showing with empirical science to begin to turn this situation around and protect our future from more such threats.”

“Photographs of our world from space clearly show that there are no real boundaries on our blue planet. Therefore, all of us must take care of it and work to prevent climate change and other destructive forces. The pandemic services as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face.”

“This crisis shows us that we are not separate from one another — even when we are living apart. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to exercise compassion and help.”

“As a Buddhist, I believe in the principle of impermanence. Eventually, this virus will pass… At this time of uncertainty, it is important that we do not lose hope and confidence in the constructive efforts so many are making.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please LIKE and FOLLOW (via email or WordPress Reader) or share with a friend. The coronavirus quarantine is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary
Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Cities
Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: The Old Man and the Sea

 

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For further reading: Time, April 27-May 4, 2020
https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1989/press-release/


Reading Enlarges the Range of Our Living and Deepens Our Emotions

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Reading can never be a substitute for living; but reading can enormously enlarge the range of our living by bringing us into contact with people, real and imaginary, we never could meet, by awakening and deepening our emotions, lending new meaning to our own experiences, and by giving us most of the facts and ideas without which we could not work or talk or think.”

From the essay “A Teacher Looks at Reading” by A. B. Herr, a senior instructor and textbook editor at The Reading Institute, New York University.

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Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary

alex atkins bookshelf cultureAs you read this, you are making history. That’s right — you are making history along with millions of other people around the globe who are sheltering in place to ensure that health professionals and essential workers are not endangered or overwhelmed. In short we are staying home to save someone’s life. In the absence of any vaccine or cure, we have to work together to get through this existential nightmare. Each day we must brace ourselves to endure the seemingly endless waves of fear, anxiety, frustration, depression, or uncertainty that wash over us. On good days, those waves are relatively low; but on bad days, the waves get so high that they drown you. And each day we must get up and renew our collective pledge: “Together we will get though this.” But it isn’t very easy. So how do we make sense of all the ceaseless “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?” How do we soldier on?

For a way out of this maw of misery, let us step back in time — specifically to June 12, 1942. We climb up the stairs to find a hidden attic apartment where a young girl, who just turned 13, has just received a special birthday gift: a red and white checkered diary. On that day, she opens it and writes her first entry: “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.” The girl’s name? Annelies Marie Frank, better known as Anne Frank.

78 years later, Anne Frank’s personal writings, published as The Diary of a Young Girl (commonly referred to as The Diary of Anne Frank; it has sold more than 35 million copies), transcend time and place to speak to us today, amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Her diary is both a testament to the endurance of the human spirit as well as a brilliant beacon that pierces the darkness to guide us to hope, encouragement, comfort, and courage. Indeed, one of the most significant contributions of Anne Frank’s diary is the enduring power of voice. Recall William Faulkner’s powerful and eloquent observation about the duty of the writer in his Nobel acceptance speech: “I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking… I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” Amen, brother.

Another significant contribution of Anne Frank’s diary is the therapeutic value of writing a diary. Keeping a diary serves as a lens to reflect on and help understand what is happening all around us. Writing provides the welcomed opportunity to contemporaneously process all of one’s thoughts and feelings. Today, many mental health experts are suggesting that we all take a page from Anne Frank’s diary and start keeping a coronavirus diary or journal. Over the last few weeks, several articles with titles like “Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary” are being published as a way to help people deal with the negative impact of the coronavirus (eg, anxiety, depression, loneliness, severe illness, and death). Many people who are infected report that reading how other patients are coping with the coronavirus has a very positive healing effect.

In an interview with The New York Times, Ruth Franklin, author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, explained, “It’s incredibly useful both for us personally and on a historical level to keep a daily record of what goes on around us during difficult times.” Herbert Braun, a professor of history at the University of Virginia adds, “We have to convince ourselves that we’re writing something that perhaps other people want or need to read… When we write these words, they don’t have to be great. They don’t have to be perfect.” The critical thing is that years from now, future generations will want to know what people went through. One archivist said it best: “Some of the best stories we get are from ordinary people who are experiencing something extraordinary.”

Another article by the Los Angeles Times titled “Coronavirus Diaries are Helping People Cope — They’re Also a Research Gold Mine” highlights how infected individuals who post COVID-19 diaries are helping many others who cannot see a doctor or obtain tests. The diaries help readers self-diagnose or confirm symptoms. The coronavirus diaries also help guide others through the illness so they know what to expect and learn what remedies to explore. Sean Young, an associate professor at UCLA who studies digital behavior noted that people turn to social media doing a health crisis: “When the government is inconsistent in their messaging, then that creates confusion, fear and chaos. People want to share their symptoms because they’re looking for a community. They’re looking to find out how other people have recovered with similar symptoms. It’s a good resource to hear from others if it makes us feel better, if it doesn’t make us feel more anxious.” The information gleaned from diaries is also a big help to researchers who are studying the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, while turning to coronavirus diaries can help reduce anxiety, the flip side is that diaries can also spread misinformation that can be dangerous — or even lethal. So readers need to do some research on what they read.

So how do you get started on writing a coronavirus diary? Simple — start writing about today. You can take the old school approach and write in a specially bound journal or a spiral-bound notebook. Or you can take the digital route and create a Google document, a Word document, or start a daily blog. Begin with questions like: what did I do today? What did you read about or learn in the news that caught your attention? How did that news make you feel? What reflections did that news evoke? What did you learn about a colleague, friend, or relative today? What were your thoughts or feelings about that news? What is the saddest thing that happened today? What made you happy today? What did you read, hear, or watch that inspired you to get through the day?

If you need inspiration, read some of the current coronavirus diaries online, or curl up with The Diary of Anne Frank. Who knows — one day students will be reading from your diary and understanding what it was really like to live through America’s deadliest pandemic and most crippling financial recession. And like Anne Frank’s diary it will inspire them to endure whatever hardships they might be facing.

Are you writing a coronavirus journal? How is it helping you to cope?

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please LIKE and FOLLOW (via email or WordPress Reader) or share with a friend. The coronavirus quarantine is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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How to Grieve for a Departed Friend
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For further reading: Anne Frank: Her Life and Legacy by the editor of Life Magazine
http://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/smarter-living/why-you-should-start-a-coronavirus-diary.html

http://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-10/coronavirus-daily-covid-19-diaries-online-are-helping-people-cope
http://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/

http://www.livescience.com/59449-anne-frank-diary-75th-anniversary.html


Grief is Just Love With No Place to Go

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

During difficult times — especially times of grief — we look for comfort in words . Perhaps those words can be found in poetry, songs, prayers, or simply the reflection of someone who has walked this same path. It is easy to understand why this insightful quotation resonates with so many people and appears in so many books and websites. The sentiment is so universal and it is expressed so beautifully, so poetically. Naturally, it begs the question: who wrote “grief is just love with no place to go?”

One source of the quotation is a collection of insightful and comforting short sermons and quotations by Pastor Stephen Kyeyune titled Imparted Wisdom in Troubled Times: Making Sense of the Senseless Situation, published in 2018. The book is particularly helpful as we collectively mourn the loss and suffering of so many souls during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, Kyeyune mistakenly attributes the quotation to Jimmie Anderson; however, the actual author is Jamie Anderson, writer of the blog titled All My Loose Ends: Nourish Your Roots. According to a blog directory listing (last updated in 2009), Anderson (age 43) describes herself as a soccer mom who lives in Illinois where she and her husband raise their two daughters and three pets. Interestingly, the blog has been inactive since 2014.

The eloquent passage, which has gone viral, appears in the post titled “As the lights wink out…” (March 25, 2014) where Anderson discusses caring for a dog, once owned by her mother, which leads to a profound, poignant reflection about the grief she experienced when her mother passed away. Anderson uses the image of little lights as a metaphor for touchstones (items, people, pets, and places) that evoke the memory of her recently deceased mother. Sadly, over time those lights begin to wink out: “The lights wink out over and over again and [my mother] moves farther and farther away to a place where she’s not easy to touch and to find anymore.” She laments that when her mother’s dog passes away, it is one more light that is extinguished forever. Anderson reaches into the depths of her grief, commensurate with the depths of her love, and writes so purely from the heart: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot give. The more you loved someone, the more you grieve. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes and in that part of your chest that gets empty and hollow feeling. The happiness of love turns to sadness when unspent. Grief is just love with no place to go. It’s taken me seven years to realize that my grief is my way of telling the great vastness that the love I have still resides here with me. I will always grieve for my Mom because I will always love her. It won’t stop. That’s how love goes.”

This quotation is a testament that you don’t have to be a celebrity, an acclaimed author or poet, a respected religious or political leader, or a world renown philosopher, or an influencer or self-help guru to write something that touches thousands or millions of lives — you just have to be a reflective human being who understands that life experience is the best teacher of wisdom (or expressed more succinctly, with age comes wisdom), and the obligation to share it with your fellow human beings.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please LIKE and FOLLOW (via email or WordPress Reader) or share with a friend. The coronavirus quarantine is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: A Funeral Poem for a Friend
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For further reading: http://allmylooseends.com/2014/03/lights-wink/
http://themomblogs.com/blogs/detail.php?link_id=6471


There’s a Word for That: Meraki

alex atkins bookshelf wordsHave you ever been moved profoundly by a musical or theatrical performance and you turn to your companion and say, “Wow — that was so beautiful, she really put her heart and soul into that performance!” There’s actually a word for that: meraki, a modern Greek word, pronounced “mer EE ki” or “mer AH ki.” When one says that a person is doing something (a creative endeavor or even a mundane task) with meraki it means that it is being doing with intense passion, mastery, and pleasure — and in doing so, a person puts his or her soul into the product of that work. Such a person is a meraklides (male form) or merakloudes (feminine form). In colloquial modern Greek, a meraklis or meraklous is someone who is deeply interested and committed to an endeavor that is very difficult or unusual. The word meraki is derived from the modern Turkish word merak that means intense curiosity or passion to learn.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: http://www.quora.com/What-do-the-Turkish-loanwords-merak-and-meraklı-mean-in-your-language


Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: The Catcher in the Rye

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

Today we will reimagine the opening paragraph of J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye. The novel’s narrator,  Holden Caulfield, is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive voices in modern American literature. Just about every adolescent can relate to this memorable coming of age story: leaving behind the innocence of youth, stepping into young adulthood often characterize by superficiality and hypocrisy. Moreover, the period is marked with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty — something we can relate to in the age of coronavirus:

If you are bored out of your mind from self-sheltering and really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were incorrigible workaholics that barely made time for me, and all that pity-party, tell-all testimonial kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would take away my iPhone and internet access if I told anything pretty personal about them beyond their phony LinkedIn profiles. They’re quite prickly about anything like that, especially my father, a recent victim of identity fraud. I mean for Chrissakes he uses “password” as his password. It kills me. Any way, they’re nice and all ­— I’m not saying that — but they’re also thin-skinned as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything, especially since you’re glued to your smartphones watching stupid cat videos or watching the Tiger King’s cat fight with that creepy big cat activist. (BTW what really happened to her husband?) Watch enough of this crap and it will turn your brain to mush. But let me tell you about this batshit crazy stuff that happened to me during the coronavirus pandemic that made me pretty sick and had to come out and recover. All I have to show for my suffering is this “I took hydroxycholoquine and all I got was heart arrhythmia” t-shirt that I’m wearing. It totally sucks! I recently Facetimed A.J. about, and he’s my brother and all. He’s in New York City — of all places! — right at the epicenter of this COVID-19 cluster-fuck. That isn’t too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every weekend to load up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and N95 face masks. He’s preppy but not a prepper — if you know what I mean. A real dope — I swear to God. Anyhoo… he’s going to drive me home when I complete my self-quarantine next month (assuming I can get my hands on one of those coronavirus tests) since flying in an airplane is like stepping into a giant phallic-shape petri dish swirling with coronavirus and the smell of a dozen stinky perfumes that phonies wear when they travel. It makes me wanna puke. A.J. just got a Tesla. One of those over-priced electric cars that crashes into all kinds of crap when it’s on autopilot. Artificial intelligence is really dumb, ya know? It cost him damn near sixty thousand bucks. A.J.’s got a lot of dough, now  — he finally got one of those PPP loans through the SBA. Ha! the SBA — what a bunch of phonies, thinking that they can prevent a deep recession by tossing out all that loot. A.J. didn’t use to seek out government help. He was a proud Republican and believed that the government shouldn’t help out the little guy. That’s socialism he said. Nobody likes losers. Boy, things changed pretty darn fast when he fell on his ass financially, though. He sure sounds like a whiny socialist now: why doesn’t the government help me now? It’s enough to make you puke. Any way, he used to be just a regular writer, when he was home before the coronavirus shit show. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Pandemic is a Deep State Hoax, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was ‘The Smartest Man in the World.’ It was about this megalomaniac, self-aggrandizing buffoon (how do you like my SAT words?) who was the leader of a country. But he was a real phony — he barely read anything, he never listened to anyone. He really believed he was the smartest man in the world. I’m a real  stable genius he said. So when all the medical experts at WHO and elsewhere were ringing the alarm bells — a fucking pandemic is coming! — this bozo said there was nothing to worry about. What a bunch of B.S.! The delay in response meant that hundreds of thousands of poor saps suffered unnecessarily. And then — get this — the entire economy came crashing down. But all he cared about were his goddam poll numbers and being re-elected. Gosh, it really killed me. Now he’s itching to go campaigning and rewriting history by denying how badly he bungled the response to the pandemic. Hashtag DELUSIONAL! If there’s one thing I hate, it’s politics. Don’t even bring it up.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Cities
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Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: Notes from Underground

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

Today we will reimagine the opening paragraph of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel Notes from Underground. This novel was Dostoevsky’s response to the western influence on Russia which he felt was destructive and undermined traditional Russian values rooted in the lower classes. In the first paragraph, Dostoevsky introduces the reader to a well-educated but sick, self-loathing narrator, the Underground Man, who is disillusioned with the absurdity and predictability of modern society. He eschews utopian socialism and utilitarianism, believing instead that man truly desires to exercise free will — even when it runs contrary to society’s or their own best interests. Thus man engages in behavior that is unproductive or destructive, or takes pleasure in illness or misery to assert his free will. His contempt for himself is only exacerbated by his crippling lethargy — something we can relate to in the age of coronavirus:

I am a sick man…. I was diagnosed with the coronavirus last week. I am a resentful man… this pandemic could have been diminished back in January. I am an unattractive man (to give you an idea, just picture senior policy advisor Stephen Miller with long, filthy uncombed hair). I believe my lungs are compromised by COVID-19. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and the medical experts at WHO do not know for certain why the virus kills some patients and spares others. I don’t consult a doctor for it, and never have — I lost my medical plan last year thanks to the callous Republicans who are hellbent on repealing Obamacare — though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). I also believe in conspiracy theories, like the one that claims that Trump is Putin’s spineless, brainless puppet so that Russia can divide America and ultimately take over the world. Or the one that asserts that the coronavirus was China’s bioweapon to infect the world, topple the financial markets, then emerge as an economic powerhouse by making money off the pandemic and purchasing companies that recently lost value. But I digress… no, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand, especially if you are healthy and have a decent private medical plan. Well, I understand it, though. Despite a culture that has digressed to tribal, cult-like discourse and the manipulation of truth into fake news, I still retain the greatest benefits of my college education: independent, critical thinking. Of course, I can’t explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “pay out” the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t consult a doctor it is from spite. My lungs are bad, well — let it get worse!

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Cities
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The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels
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Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: 1984

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

Today we will reimagine the opening paragraph of George Orwell’s eerily prescient dystopian novel 1984. Having witnessed the horrors of autocratic governments of Russia and Spain in the mid 20-century, Orwell wrote 1984 to warn readers about the dangers of autocracy — physical torture and execution of political foes or disloyal citizens, suppression of the press and critical voices, monitoring of citizens, promoting conformity, the propaganda of lies, manipulation of the truth, the use of language to control thought, and technology used for evil. In the first sentence, Orwell immediately introduces something highly unusual: a clock striking thirteen. How is that even possible? And not just one clock — all the clocks are striking thirteen. Welcome to the tightly controlled world of Oceana where things are not what they seem: it is the role of a totalitarian government to control what you believe, how you behave — in short, every every aspect of your life: “the clock has thirteen hours because the Party says it does. Accept it and don’t ever question it.” The protagonist, Winston Smith steps into a world that is vile and dusty — not just physically, but psychologically, politically, and philosophically. When you carefully analyze how mercurial President Trump and his administration works, you can’t help notice so many similarities with the Party portrayed in Orwell’s novel — something we can relate to in the age of coronavirus:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin, covered by a N95 face mask, nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind whipping past FEMA’s medical tent city that had sprung up almost overnight, slipped quickly through the glass doors of the Beresford though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him. 

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a color poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a meter wide: the face of a man of about seventy, with a ridiculous hairstyle: a sandy-reddish helmet of hair, where all the ends are drawn up, meeting in the center, then swept back and glued into place with hair spray. The hair accentuated a squarish head that was distinguished by an odd orangish complexion, except for pinkish circles surrounding each eye, creating the effect of a raccoon’s face. The expression was menacing — narrowed, beady eyes, beneath lowered bushy eyebrows and the mouth was firmly set. Winston made for the stairs using his iPhone as a flashlight. It was no use trying the elevator due to social distancing protocols. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electricity was cut off during daylight hours because the Party deemed that the electric company was not an essential business during the COVID-10 pandemic. Besides, most electricians were sheltering in place. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week — Congressmen’s way of spreading their dysfunctional hatred of one another to the citizens they were supposed to represent. The apartment was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had an untreated varicose ulcer above his right ankle since he couldn’t afford healthcare (the Party repealed the Affordable Care Act because citizens were expendable), went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the elevator shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. TRUMP IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Cities
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Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: Moby-Dick

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

Today we will reimagine the opening paragraph of Herman Melville’s magnum opus Moby-Dick or The Whale, a highly symbolic, profound allegory wrapped around a simple whaling story. In the first paragraph, Melville introduces us to one of the most famous, but most enigmatic, narrators in literature: Ishmael.  Ishmael, a highly intelligent, articulate, but humble, individual is the counter to the larger-than life captain of the Pequod, Ahab who represents the classic tragic hero. Recall Aristotle’s definition of the tragic hero: “a person who must evoke a sense of pity and fear in the audience. He is considered a man of misfortune that comes to him through error of judgment.” In this case, Ahab’s tragic flaw is hubris. Ahab obsessively pursues his nemesis: the mighty white whale known as Moby-Dick. Moby-Dick is a potent multi-faceted symbol in the novel, transcending time and space; the whale represents evil; purity; the inscrutable;  as well as the all-powerful, all-knowing God. Ishmael is our guide through this deeply spiritual, psychological, and philosophical journey highlighting man’s age-old struggle between good and evil, the reconciliation of the known and the unknown, and the comprehension of man’s relationship with God — something we can relate to in the age of coronavirus:

Call me Ishmael, my pronoun is “he,” my Twitter handle is #ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my digital wallet due to the economic collapse following the coronavirus pandemic, and nothing particular to interest me on shore after months of sheltering in place at the Spouter-Inn, I thought I would sail about a little, avoiding the perpetually virus-stricken cruise ships, and see the watery part of the world which is expanding exponentially due to the catastrophic climate crisis. It is a way I have of driving off my foul mood and regulating the ole blood circulation without having to resort to smoking crack. Whenever I find myself unhappy (especially after watching blowhard Trump rant about his ratings on another coronavirus daily briefing); whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before the beleaguered FEMA warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral — burying the latest COVID-19 victims — I meet; and especially whenever my feelings of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and beating someone mercilessly over a roll of toilet paper — then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can to escape this soul-numbing shit show. This is my substitute for repeatedly touching my face after touching highly infected surfaces. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all my Facebook friends in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me based on all their “likes.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Cities
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Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: The Old Man and the Sea

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

Today we will reimagine the opening paragraph of Ernest Hemingway’s timeless allegorical novella The Old Man and the Sea. In the first paragraph, Hemingway introduces the two key archetypal characters with subtle religious allusions: Santiago (Spanish for St. James, the apostle of Jesus), the fisherman who represents old age, the teacher, the spiritual mentor — full of life experience and wisdom. The other character is Manolin (diminutive of Manuel, Spanish for Emmanuel, the Redeemer) who represents youth, the son, the student — who has much to learn. In the opening scene sets the stage for what appears to be a simple story about an old man who teaches a young boy about fishing. Despite the simple storyline, the deeper universal theme of The Old Man and the Sea is that of an old man struggling with old age, loneliness, poverty, hunger, and mortality; ultimately, we witness his his last heroic attempt to retain his dignity and define his legacy, something we can relate to in the age of coronavirus:

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream, away from the coronavirus-stricken cruise ships desperately looking for a harbor that would allow them to dock, and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man, unable to eat for days, was now the worst form of risky for COVID-19 since his immune system was compromised. The boy had gone at their orders, as long as he practiced social distancing, to work on another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man, not wearing gloves or a face mask, come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry highly coveted bags of rice, canned goods, and bleach-based cleaning supplies and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with pieces of hoarded double-ply toilet paper, and furled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat. Of course, the old man could sail once again if he applied for a small business loan through the recently passed $2 trillion Cares Act.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Cities
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Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus: A Tale of Two Cities

alex atkins bookshelf literatureWhat if the opening paragraphs to some of the greatest works of literature were reimagined through the lens of the current coronavirus pandemic exacerbated by a staggering economic collapse? Atkins Bookshelf presents “Literary Classics Reimagined in the Age of Coronavirus” series.

We’ll begin with one of the most well-known opening paragraphs of a novel: Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. What makes the opening paragraph so memorable is Dickens’ masterful use of anaphora, a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of an initial phrase (“It was the age… it was the age; it was the season… it was the season) to emphasize the paradoxical themes of the French Revolution, as well as foreshadow the themes of the novel. Those themes were so relevant then; they are eerily relevant to the world in the age of coronavirus:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was an age of robust health and an age of the insidious coronavirus pandemic, it was the age of dedicated and knowledgeable medical professionals, it was the age of ignorant and irresponsible politicians, it was the age of complacency, it was the age of anxiety, it was the epoch of facts and the epoch of lies, it was the season of intimacy and the season of social distancing, it was a time of urgency and a time of delayed response, it was a time of economic prosperity and a time of economic hardship, it was the period of empathy, it was the period of indifference, it was the spring of hope before an election year, it was the winter of despair of an insufferable corrupt president’s four-year term, it was an age of transparency and an age of obfuscation, we had all the hospitals and ICUs, we did not have enough PPE or respirators, we were all going to work, we were all sheltering at home — in short, the period was so far unlike the previous year that only the idiots on Fox News, endorsing the rants of an narcissistic and irresponsible president, insisted that this pandemic and its impact was just a hoax and that it would disappear miraculously by Easter.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts:
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What is Sealioning?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWhen you initially hear the term sealioning, it evokes the image of a group of dedicate volunteers on a boat, somewhere in the ocean not too far off the coast, attempting to rescue sea lions or waving flags at passing ships raising awareness about the plight of sea lions. However the true meaning of sealioning is as noble: it is a form of online harassment or trolling. This is how sealioning works: the troll (the sealion) targets an individual (the target) and pretends to be ignorant about a specific topic or issue. The sealion repeatedly asks the target questions or to provide specific evidence, while remaining polite and pretending to be sincere. The goal is to provoke the target to lose his or her temper and write an angry response. At this point, the troll responds as the insulted or aggrieved party. And just like real sea lions, trolls often work together as a group. (Incidentally a group of sea lions is called a colony when they are on land; in the water, they are called a raft; during breeding season, they are known as rookery; a group of females in a male’s territory is called a harem.)

“So what’s the real harms in asking a lot of detailed questions?” you ask. In an enlightening essay entitled “The Multiple Harms of Sea Lions” included in Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online (2017) published by the Berkman Kelin Center for Internet & Society, a research center at Harvard University, Amy Johnson elaborates: “[A long series of questions] may seem like a well-intentioned search for answers. It’s not—it’s a simplified example of a rhetorical strategy called sealioning. Sealioning is an intentional, combative performance of cluelessness. Rhetorically, sealioning fuses persistent questioning — often about basic information, information easily found elsewhere, or unrelated or tangential points — with a loudly-insisted-upon commitment to reasonable debate. It disguises itself as a sincere attempt to learn and communicate. Sealioning thus works both to exhaust a target’s patience, attention, and communicative effort, and to portray the target as unreasonable. While the questions of the “sea lion” may seem innocent, they’re intended maliciously and have harmful consequences. [The responses from the target range] from lengthy explanations to pointing to logical fallacies in the questions themselves, from calling out the sealioning to ignoring it. It is these responses that the sea lion seeks to shape — and it is here that multiple harms occur.” The multiple harms can be minor, like short-term annoyance, wasted energy, and the opportunity cost of time spent. But there are larger social harms, like when the target is now skeptical of all future questioners and is likely to engage in online discussions. This results in reduction of constructive discourse as well as reducing the opportunities of individuals to learn from one another. Johnson argues that sealioning attacks informal teaching; she writes: “Informal teaching undergirds mediated communication. Informal teaching is an unacknowledged foundation of technoutopian dreams from telegraphy to the present: by learning through iinteractions with each other, we will achieve universal understanding and eliminate conflict And to some extent, this happens. At any one moment, informal teaching — about everything from platform norms and literacies to life experiences — bridges the hugely diverse skill sets and histories of people online.”

So now you understand the harm of sealioning, but we are left with one question: how in the world did this form of trolling end up being called sealioning? The term is based on a specific comic strip titled “The Terrible Sea Lion” (published September 19, 2014) from the web-based comic book Wondermark by David Malki. In the six panels of that comic strip a couple is discussing marine mammals and the wife mentions that she doesn’t care for sea lions. All of a sudden a sea lion appears and requests “a civil conversation about your statement.” And the seal lion is persistent: he shows up repeatedly: at their dinner, at their bedside in the evening, and at breakfast in the morning. The sea lion says, “I have been unfailingly polite, and you two have been nothing rude.” So there you have it: the worst form of sealioning — from an actual sea lion. What is the world coming to?

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For further reading: cyber.harvard.edu/sites/cyber.harvard.edu/files/2017-08_harmfulspeech.pdf
http://wondermark.com/1k62/


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