Jason Isbell: Something More Than Free

•September 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

A lovely song about hard work by Jason Isbell.


Fame Is a Food That Dead Men Eat, by Austin Dobson

•September 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment


Fame Is a Food That Dead Men Eat

by Austin Dobson

Fame is a food that dead men eat,-
I have no stomach for such meat.
In little light and narrow room,
They eat it in the silent tomb,
With no kind voice of comrade near
To bid the banquet be of cheer.

But Friendship is a nobler thing,-
Of Friendship it is good to sing.
For truly, when a man shall end,
He lives in memory of his friend,
Who doth his better part recall,
And of his faults make funeral.

Thanks to Talkative Tongue

More poetry

Which Side Are You On?

•September 4, 2018 • 1 Comment

Happy Labor Day!

Which Side Are You On? written by Florence Reece, 1931, recorded by Pete Seeger, 1967.

I have my mom to thank for understanding the power of a union. Thanks, Mom.

Women in Translation: Hanan al-Shaykh and Selma Lagerlöf

•August 31, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It’s the last day of Women in Translation Month, so I think I’ll cram two authors into one post.

Women of Sand and MyrrhWomen of Sand and Myrrh is about four women of wealthy families living in an unnamed desert state. Hanan al-Shaykh tells the story episodically, from the women’s point of view, and the glimpse inside their sheltered and restricted lives is fascinating. The characters live at times as virtual prisoners in their homes, maneuvering for what power and autonomy they can under the circumstances. They also share intimacy and camaraderie and fun. They fall in love and have dance parties and help and betray each other in large and small ways.

Al-Shaykh’s books have been banned in several Arab countries, but we can read them, thanks to Catherine Cobham, who has translated several of her works.The Wonderful Adventures of Nils



The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, by Swedish national treasure and first female Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf, is indeed wonderful. It’s about a little boy named Nils who misbehaves and is shrunken to elf size, then flies all around Sweden with a flock of geese, learning about Swedish nature and history. We find out how the black rats of Sweden were driven out by the gray rats, and where the geese go in the autumn.

I “read” Nils’s adventures by listening to the Librivox recording of Velma Swanston Howard‘s 1922 translation, read by Lars Rolander. Rolander’s Swedish accent and occasional mispronunciations of English words added another layer of charm to an already charmed story.

Do you have any translated books by women authors to recommend?

More Women in Translation


Billboard No. 1 Singles,1940-2017

•August 30, 2018 • 5 Comments

A clip of the song that was number one on the Billboard Magazine charts for the longest in each of the past 77 years.

It’s an interesting list. There are more songs that are all or partly in Spanish than I would have guessed. There are a lot more black artists on the recent charts than on the earlier ones, which is no surprise.

Also, there are a lot of real duds at the top of the charts. Among the top-selling songs during the time when I regularly listened to pop radio, some of the songs are still among my favorites, but the bad ones aren’t just bad to me, they are songs that I loathe, because I never liked them, and I heard them OVER and OVER.

Noticeable auto-tune came in around the turn of the millennium–a bit earlier than I realized, like it kind of snuck in when I literally wasn’t listening. There’s a clear breaking point, after I stopped listening to bestseller singles, and I honestly don’t remember any of the songs from like a whole decade, although I must have heard them many times. Then the more recent ones are familiar again, although I’ll no doubt forget most of them eventually, too.

Except Uptown Funk. I’ll never forget Uptown Funk.

Found on Miss Cellania

Women in Translation: Sei Shonagon

•August 27, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Pillow BookToday’s book for Women in Translation Month is not a novel, but a private journal kept by a woman serving in the court of the Empress of Japan 1000 years ago. The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon was not written for others to read, but it was discovered and circulated, originally in hand-written copies and later in print, and it made her famous.

This book delights me because Sei Shonagon vividly describes an everyday life completely different from my own, yet so familiar. The book combines scenes of formality and splendor with descriptions of things much more ordinary: crows flying off two by two in the evening, a guest arriving in clothing that matches her carefully arranged flowers, the pampered palace cat wearing a little crown someone made for her.

Sei Shonagon is clever and lovable and sometimes mean and petty. She writes secret love poems and silly gossip, mulls over the day’s conversations, worries about what people think of her, confesses, gripes, and makes lists of her likes and dislikes. She describes in detail the pretty wrapping around a letter she received. She sounds like someone I know.

Rare Things:
A son-in-law who’s praised by his wife’s father. Likewise, a wife who’s loved by her mother-in-law.

A pair of silver tweezers that can actually pull out hairs properly.

A retainer who doesn’t speak ill of his master.

A person who is without a single quirk. Someone who’s superior in both appearance and character, and who’s remained utterly blameless throughout his long dealings with the world.

You never find an instance of two people living together who continue to be overawed by each other’s excellence and always treat each other with scrupulous care and respect, so such a relationship is obviously a great rarity.

Copying out a tale or a volume of poems without smearing any ink on the book you’re copying from. If you’re copying it from some beautiful bound book, you try to take immense care, but somehow you always manage to get ink on it.

Two women, let alone a man and a woman, who vow themselves to each other forever, and actually manage to remain on good terms to the end.

I originally read Ivan Morris‘s translation of the Pillow Book, which was wonderful, and filled with lots of useful explanatory notes, but I also love the excerpts I’ve read from the newer translation by Meredith McKinney quoted above.

More Women in Translation

Animation: The Return

•August 27, 2018 • 1 Comment

I like Natalia Chernyshova‘s hand-drawn animations. Here’s a very short, very charming one, Le Retour (The Return), from 2013.

We Won’t Forget

•August 17, 2018 • Leave a Comment

We Won't Forget Tax Returns

Courtesy of Woke Giant

%d bloggers like this: