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Digging a Hole to Heaven

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S. D. Nelson’s children’s book Digging a Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys will teach readers about the hardships of the children who had to work deep in the mines during the 19th century. The illustrations are well done and show a sharp contrast between the dark mines and the sunny lives lived above ground. Throughout the story of 12 year old Conall, his brother and miners, Nelson has inserted sidebars with facts about child labor, and mining in particular.

I enjoyed the book, but wish the characters had more depth and personality. Each one was standard cookie cutter. Yet I still recommend the book as an introduction to this aspect of history, that’s usually forgotten.

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Architecture

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Selfridge’s  – London

Shrine in Kyoto

Heian Temple, Kyoto, Japan

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Buddhist Temple – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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St. Sophia Russian Orthodox Church

Weekly Photo Challenge: Graceful

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1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog (a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag.

3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great posts. Add Media photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other Weekly Photo Challenge photos:

The Moonstone

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Told by a several different narrators, all with different personalities and motives, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone entertains from start to finish. It begins with a family’s black sheep bequeathing a large, expensive jewel, the moonstone of the title, to his niece Rachel. The moonstone originally was a sacred jewel in India and three former Brahmans have come to England to get it back no matter what.

Rachel receives the moonstone on her 18th birthday when many have gathered for her party. She flaunts the stone all night and then puts it in a cabinet in her bedroom. During the night it’s stolen. Who did it? The Indian jugglers, who came by out of the blue? One of the servants–particularly the maid who had been caught stealing by her previous employer? Or a guest who’s in need of money? It could be anyone and Collins keeps the surprises coming chapter after chapter.

I enjoyed the humor and how the story was as much about the personalities of the characters and their relationships as it was about finding the culprit who took the cursed moonstone. I will soon read another Wilkie Collins’ story, that’s for sure.

Sepia Saturday

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This week’s prompt made me think of fountains and real sepia tones. So I went with both.

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According to the Library Company of Philadelphia, the image above is probably taken at the entrance of Fairmont Park and no date is given. My guess is 19th century.

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According to comments on Flickr Commons, this Cornell University Library photo is most likely from Mexico City. The library holds the image in the A.D. White Architectural Photography collection and estimates the date at 1885-1895.

 

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The week’s final fountain photo is from New South Wales. It’s a drinking fountain that was taken before 1885.

Visit Sepia Saturday for more fountain-inspired photos from days gone by.

Poem of the Week

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

by Emily Dickinson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Annotated Bibliography of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition

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1893 World’s Fair, Chicago, history, book collecting

I’m working on a project for a rare books class I took two weeks ago. It’s an annotated bibliography of books on Chicago. I discovered, and promptly bought on Amazon,

Dybwad, G.L., and Bliss, Joy V. Annotated Bibliography: World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893. Albuquerque, NM, 1992.

Organized by type of item, this bibliography includes a brief history of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (WCE), a fold out map of the WCE and its organization chart. This source includes chapters on fiction, poetry and children’s books, exposition publications, federal publications, guides, periodicals, music, salesmen’s samples, recent books and unpublished unique works. The introduction is written by Dybwad and explains why he started this project.

The entries in this source date from before the fair to 1991.

The bibliographers designed the format and organized the source with a view to ease of use. Abbreviations and citations are clearly explained and the indexes cross-reference items so if users don’t know the author’s name or the title of an item, they can still find it relatively easily. Each entry is concise and provides a brief description of each item. When available, the bibliographers list price information, however, following the Introduction, there’s a note on price stating principles in pricing and reasons for variance. (No doubt since 1992 these prices have changed.)

For books, there is minimal collation*  information. This book is a comprehensive source, which would aid researchers and collectors.

*Collation data describes the paper, binding and book as a physical object.

Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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Written by Anne Brontë, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall goes into uncharted territory for novels of the 19th century, I’ve read.  The story follows Helen, a smart, beautiful heroine who sets her cap for Arthur Huntington, a handsome rake. Despite her aunt’s warnings, Helen insists on marrying this manipulative cad.

Most of the book is narrated by Gilbert Markham a prosperous landowner. I thought this was original as most stories of this sort either have an omniscient or female narrator.

When the story opens there’s a great deal of mystery. Mrs. Graham, an aloof woman moves into the countryside with her young son. She keeps a distance from the people in the community, but attracts Gilbert Markham. As he tries to get closer to Helen, she pulls back though it’s clear she’s attracted. To explain herself, she gives Gilbert her diaries so that he can understand why she tries to live so secretively. It also gets her to take the narrative reins.

We learn that Helen’s husband has been abusive and callous from the start of their marriage. Arthur is an alcoholic, gambler and philanderer. Brontë, who’s brother fought several addictions, shows the darker side of 19th century. It was a time when there was a lot of addiction, gambling, and disrespect towards women, who had little freedom or options.

While the heroine was sometimes too Puritanical and rather icy, it’s an understandable response to her husband’s behavior. I appreciated how different the story was from an Austen or Gaskell book.  For more commentary on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, you can listen to the Midday Connection Bookclub podcast.

Poems of the Week

Last weekend I went to a friend’s family’s cabin and was introduced to the “Little Willy” poems, which I’d never heard. Evidently, they were first written in the late 19th century and published in the early 20th. They consist of little Willy doing some ghastly violent act and are followed with a ho hum response.

Into the cistern little Willie
Pushed his little sister Lily.
Father couldn’t find his daughter,
Now we sterilize our water.

Willie in his roguish way
Tipped Grandpa on the fire one day.
Mother said “My dear that’s cruel!
But of course it does save fuel.”

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Little Willie Licked The Mirror

Little Willie from his mirror
Sucked the mercury all off,
Thinking, in his childish error,
It would cure his whooping-cough.

At the funeral, Willie’s mother
Smartly said to Mrs. Brown,
“T was a chilly day for William
When the mercury went down.”

Chorus —
“‘Ah, ah, ah!’ said Willie’s mother.
‘Oh, oh, oh!” said Mrs. Brown.
‘ ‘T was a chilly day for William
When the mercury went down.’”

 

Have you ever heard these? Do you know of any other old nonsense poems?

Red River

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I usually don’t care for Westerns, but Red River (1948) with John Wayne is a new exception. In Red River, Wayne goes against type and plays a character who’s hard to like. Tom Dunson goes out west to seek a fortune from ranching. Early on he splits from his wagon train and leaves behind his lady love. To no avail, she pleads for him to take her with him.

Nope, she’ll be safer with the group and Tom’ll send for her. Unfortunately, Comanches attack the wagon train killing everyone but Matt, a boy who manages to escape with a cow. Tom adopts Matt and apparently sent him to school.

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Fourteen years later, after the Civil War, the 10,000 cattle, Tom’s raised are worthless since Southerners can’t afford beef. He must get his cattle to Missouri in spite of danger from Indians and terrible trail conditions. He lays down the law with the men who agree to go with him. If you start, you must finish. You’ll get $100, big money for going.

As they proceed, times are tough. They must fight Indians, put up with meagre rations and with Tom, who grows more obsessed and stubborn refusing to change his route when it’s clear that his plan is too dangerous. Men rebel and Matt’s caught in the middle against his adoptive father. Wayne plays a complex man and with most actors he’d be completely unlikeable. Clift’s Matt is natural and every move is simple, yet absorbing. According to the Criterion supplements, Clift, who’s films I hadn’t seen, was the first “Method” actor to become a star.

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