Friday, 5 October 2012

10 items of trivia that certainly are not trivial!

The 20 Most Beautiful Book stores in the World
via Stephen’s Lighthouse by Emily Temple
With Amazon slowly taking over the publishing world and book stores closing left and right, things can sometimes seem a little grim for the brick and mortar booksellers of the world. After all, why would anyone leave the comfort of their couch to buy a book when with just a click of a button, they could have it delivered to their door?
Well, here’s why: book stores so beautiful they’re worth getting out of the house (or the country) to visit whether you need a new hard cover or not.
We can’t overestimate the importance of book stores – they're community centres, places to browse and discover, and monuments to literature all at once – so we’ve put together a list of the most beautiful book stores in the world, from Belgium to Japan to Slovakia.
Just so you know now, all you book store fiends: neither the Strand nor Powell’s is on this list. They're both great book stores, of course, but not particularly pretty (at least in our minds), and thus disqualified.
And of those 20 my favourite is:

For those browsers not as impressed by architecture as they are by the beauty of books upon books upon books in narrow hallways – not to mention a place to nap. Shakespeare & Company, Paris, France [photo John R Rogers]
Not only for the sheer beauty of the place, nor for the chair in which to have a nap when I’m tired of trudging round Paris, but for the joy of introducing my grand-daughter to something other than pure art when we take her sixteenth birthday trip to Paris later this year.
You can view the remainder here
The original post from Flavor Wire is here – ADDICTION WARNING

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
We shape thoughts with our hands as well as our words. But don’t give the thumbs up in Iran unless you mean “up yours”... more

Five in the Colonies: Enid Blyton’s Sri Lankan Adventures
via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza

From The Paris Review:
Most mornings this past winter – the Boyagoda household already running late – I discovered my oldest daughter reading at the kitchen table: one boot on, gloves, hat, knapsack, and other boot nowhere to be found. So immersed was she, so indifferent to my pleas and threats, that finally I had to pull the book from her grasping hands just to make her finish dressing for the cold walk to school. This experience has made me more sympathetic to my mother, who once spanked me in a grocery store because I wouldn’t stop reading a book. It was by Enid Blyton, the British children’s writer who wrote some 400 nursery, fantasy, and adventure series titles that have sold more than six hundred million copies worldwide, mostly in Britain and the former colonies, including Sri Lanka – where as a girl my mother herself first encountered Blyton. I recently bought one of Blyton’s books for my own daughter. But before passing it on, I decided to reread it.
Continue reading here
It was not me but my sister who was the Blyton fan when we were girls – I was more interested in Noel Streatfield’s work although I now realise that the same criticisms could be made about white middle-class British (usually English) children doing white middle-class things.

Penn Station: 1910
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Penn Station: 1910
New York circa 1910
“Pennsylvania Station, track level, showing stairway and elevators”
8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company
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Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Accomplished as they are, the natural sciences are regarded as the gold standard of knowledge. But good science depends on the humanities - even philosophy... more

On the fate of bad advisors
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
Josh Fruhlinger on the crap policy-makers of medieval England: “One thing about Edward II’s biography is clear: He had a series of intense attachments to men whose counsel he valued above all others, and these men weren’t the right kind of men to advise a king.” [Awl]
Do not follow my example and read the whole fascinating article when you are supposed to be working!  My excuse is that this is work – but I also know that I am supposed to read just enough of the topic to ensure that it’ likely to be of interest and is well written.

Do Dogs Speak Human?
via Big Think by Megan Erickson
Perhaps the better question is, do humans speak dog? Either way, the debate over whether language is unique to humans, or a faculty also possessed by wild and domestic animals from dogs to apes to dolphins, is an interesting one.
Read More

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Abstruse paper is published in scholarly journal. PR guy runs headlong with one conjecture. Journalists tart it up as “claim”. Result: Intelligent dinosaurs rule alien worlds!... more

Diamonds do not come from coal
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Image: Diamonds, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kimberlyeternal’s photostream
Okay, maybe I’m an idiot, but this is one of those facts I’d missed until recently. Despite the impression you may have gotten from grade school and/or old Superman cartoons, diamonds are probably not lumps of coal that just got compressed real good – at least, not in exactly the way you might imagine.
Diamonds are made out of carbon, but the best evidence suggests that they form far more deeply down in the Earth than coal does. Instead of coal being smushed into diamonds, imagine something more like those “grow crystals out of Borax and water” experiments you did in grade school. Only, in this case, the experiment is performed in the fiery depths of Hell, as very un-coal-like atoms of carbon are compressed and heated deep in the Earth’s mantle until they start to bond together and grow into a crystalline structure.
Once the crystals are formed, they get to the surface of the Earth via volcanic eruptions.
The really interesting thing about all of this is that it’s one of those ideas that’s very hard to verify. Diamonds form at a depth we can’t go observe directly. All we have to work with is indirect evidence. Because of that, nobody knows exactly where the necessary carbon to make diamonds comes from. This is why the “diamonds are coal” story exists. Some scientists think the carbon is stuff that’s existed in the Earth since this planet was formed. Others think it might be coming from terrestrial carbon that got shifted down to the lower levels via plate subduction – although, even then, we’re talking about carbon, but not necessarily coal. It could be a combination of both. Either way, the mental image of smushed coal doesn’t quite work.
Read the American Museum of Natural History’s explanation of where diamonds come from
Read an interview about diamonds with the curator of the U.S. National Gem and Mineral Collection
Thanks to a story written by’s Hobart King for busting the myth and inspiring me to read a little more on this.
Attention deficit warning: Any one of these articles will turn into a time suck if you let it!

The Cottage Bookshop
via An Awfully Big Blog Adventure by Savita Kalhan
This you simply have to read for yourself.

It is a treasure trove, one that I hope everyone gets to stumble across.

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