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Tales of marginalia

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Here is Elvis’s annotated copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.

Presley loved The Prophet, reading it so often that he memorized it; he gave annotated copies to several friends. This particular copy was given to Ed Parker, founder of American Kenpo Karate, who became Presley’s close friend, sparring partner and occasional bodyguard after Presley introduced himself during a karate demonstration Parker was leading in 1960.

I am one of the many writers who extol the benefits of reading with a pencil, but rarely do we emphasize the unique opportunity of marginalia as a medium of communication, not just with ourselves or the author, but with another reader, should we pass on the book we’ve made marks in.

A thread went viral on Twitter this week when Melissa Turkington shared marginalia in a used Charles Bukowski book “from a woman who clearly was having none of this shit.” (In a fabulous twist, the original marginalia-ist showed up on TikTok.)

Marginalia is somewhere in between reading and writing, and several writers have realized its creative potential to become a whole new work.

Sam Anderson and David Rees wrote notes to each other in a copy of Dan Brown’s Inferno.

J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst actually used handwritten marginalia as a device in their novel, Ship of Theseus.

The book Platitudes in the Making is probably my favorite example of marginalia becoming a new work:

In 1911, author Holbrook Jackson published a small book of aphorisms under the (mildly pretentious) title Platitudes in the Making: Precepts and Advices for Gentlefolk and gave a copy to his friend G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton, it seems, sat down with the book – and a green pencil – and wrote a response to each saying in the book. Presumably he then set the book down, and somehow, someway, it turned up in a San Francisco book shop in 1955, where it was purchased by a certain Dr. Alfred Kessler, an admirer of Chesterton. Every book collector dreams of such a find. Rather than keep the book to himself, however, Dr. Kessler and Ignatius Press have produced a facsimile edition. Remove the dust jacket, and you have a reproduction, in every particular, of that 1911 volume, together with all of Chesterton’s remarks. It’s a remarkable project, and a real treat for readers of Chesterton.

Filed under: marginalia

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emdot
7 days ago
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I heart marginalia.
San Luis Obispo, CA
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Tightly Woven Baskets Intertwine Invasive Plants and Weeds into Adorable Miniatures

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All images © Suzie Grieve, shared with permission

From a single dandelion or bindweed, Suzie Grieve weaves minuscule baskets, pouches, and other wearables that are smaller than the tip of her finger. The braided vessels are the result of a lengthy, holistic process that extends from foraging the wild fibers to twisting the processed cords into durable little containers. Whether striped, checkered, or coiled in rows, each basket is a testament to Grieve’s patience and ability to adapt a traditional craft into an unusually tiny form.

Attuned to the natural rhythms of the region, Grieve harvests materials from the woodlands and fields near her home in the Lake District, U.K., with a focus on the weeds and invasive species that are often regarded as nuisances. “One of the things I enjoy most about working with wild foraged materials is the awareness it gives you of the seasons and cycles of the plants and the land,” she says. “In spring, I gather willow bark and dandelions, in summer nettles and brambles. Autumn is a mad rush of harvesting long leafy things, and in the winter, I spend what little sunlight there is foraging vines such as honeysuckle and ivy.”

 

The plants undergo a painstaking process that involves splitting the stalk, peeling out the soft and spongy pith, drying the remaining fibers, and later rehydrating the strands, a method Grieve developed while working in central France where she was tasked with lining vegetable garden with hazel. “I felt an immediate connection to the craft, the simple meditative rhythm of the weaving, the beautiful tactile way in which it allows you to connect with the land, and the feeling of self-reliance,” she says. Today, her focus is on the most abundant and hearty species, which she twists into long cords to create wide, sloping bowls, handled baskets, or pouches just big enough to fit a pebble.

In addition to creating more goods to sell in her shop, Grieve is currently working on a book detailing her techniques. She also has an extensive archive of tutorials for processing the natural fibers on her site and Instagram, where you can see more of the miniatures, too.  (via Lustik)

 

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emdot
24 days ago
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goals
San Luis Obispo, CA
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Great Art Explained: Michelangelo’s David

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Great Art Explained is one of my favorite newish YouTube channels and I’ve been slowly working my way through their back catalogue. Today’s watch was a 15-minute explanation of one of the signature masterpieces of the Renaissance, Michelangelo’s David. The details related to the carving of the swollen jugular vein and the variable visibility of the veins in the hands is fantastic. (via open culture)

Tags: art   art school   James Payne   Michelangelo   video
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emdot
34 days ago
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Highly recommend
San Luis Obispo, CA
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‘How Donald Rumsfeld Deserves to Be Remembered’

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George Packer, writing for The Atlantic:

Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in American history. Being newly dead shouldn’t spare him this distinction. He was worse than the closest contender, Robert McNamara, and that is not a competition to judge lightly. McNamara’s folly was that of a whole generation of Cold Warriors who believed that Indochina was a vital front in the struggle against communism. His growing realization that the Vietnam War was an unwinnable waste made him more insightful than some of his peers; his decision to keep this realization from the American public made him an unforgivable coward. But Rumsfeld was the chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11. Wherever the United States government contemplated a wrong turn, Rumsfeld was there first with his hard smile — squinting, mocking the cautious, shoving his country deeper into a hole. His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind.

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emdot
34 days ago
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yup.
San Luis Obispo, CA
sirshannon
34 days ago
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1 public comment
MotherHydra
33 days ago
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Worst? The monster was in a league with so many that rightly should share that moniker.
Space City, USA

400+ Words Invented or Coined by Shakespeare

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Radiance. Control. Manager. Monumental. Bedroom. Cheap. Luggage. Successful. Addiction.

Just some of the 400+ words invented by the bard. Check out a visualisation of the most interesting or notable.

I was surprised by some of these. Bedroom? Really?

Data here. Interactive created with VizSweet.

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emdot
36 days ago
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From malignancy to skimble-skamble (which I am bringing back)
San Luis Obispo, CA
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jlvanderzwan
31 days ago
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Obligatory:

https://imgur.com/gallery/uZ5xc

Surprising Shared Word Origins

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Using publicly available datasets of English words, their etymologies, and their semantic distances, software engineer Daniel de Haas generated pairs & triples of words that have a common origin but otherwise are unrelated to each other.

“actor” & “coagulate”
Both of these words derive ultimately from the Latin “ago”, meaning “act”, “do”, “make”, and a bunch of other things.

English “actor” is a short hop away from “ago”, but “coagulate” takes a longer path: “ago” ➔ “cogo” (“collect”) ➔ “coagulum” (“a clot”) ➔ “coagulo” (“to clot”).

“educate” & “subdue”
I never would have picked those two words out of a lineup as having a shared etymological root, but sure enough it sits right there — the “du” in the middle of each word, which ultimately derives from Latin “duco”, meaning “lead”.

“Educate” comes from the Latin “eductus”, meaning to “lead or bring out”, and then the Latin “educare” (“raise, train, mould”). I love the image of education as the process of extruding a refined person out of a base of unrefined material.

“Subdue” comes from the latin “subduco”, meaning “lead under”. Again, a very clear physical description of what the word means — to put beneath you, or bring under control.

Tags: Daniel de Haas   language
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emdot
49 days ago
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so cool, interesting. glad other people put the time into figuring this stuff out and i have the luxury of simply passively reading about it. : )
San Luis Obispo, CA
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