Robin Williams (1951-2014)

O Captain! My Captain!

By Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            The arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

Source: Leaves of Grass (David McKay, 1891)

Robin Williams

Robin Williams (1951-2014)

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More than 900 authors unite against Amazon : T-Lounge : Tech Times

More than 900 authors unite against Amazon : T-Lounge : Tech Times.

By Kevin Ohannessian, Tech Times | August 8

Weapons have been drawn in the battle between Amazon and book publisher Hachette, but now a group of writers are betting that the pen is mightier than the sword.

A worship of writers, not unlike a pride of lions or a flock of seagulls, have banded together to take on Amazon. They have written a letter condemning Amazon for using books and their writers as part of a negotiation tactic against a publisher.

Posted at AuthorsUnited.net, the letter states, in part:

“As writers–most of us not published by Hachette–we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company.’

Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage.”

The letter also lists the actions that Amazon has taken against writers, including: refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette authors’ books and eBooks; refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette authors’ books; slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette authors’ books to Amazon customers; suggesting on some Hachette authors’ pages that readers might prefer a book from a non-Hachette author instead.

The letter ends with a call to action, “We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, at jeff@amazon.com, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails at that account. We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.”

Among the 900+ that signed the letter are such notable authors as Michael Chabon (“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”), Suzanne Collins (“The Hunger Games”), Malcolm Gladwell (“The Tipping Point”), John Grisham (“The Firm”), Joe Hill (“Horns”), Stephen King (“Under the Dome”), James Patterson (“Alex Cross”), Phillip Pullman (“The Golden Compass”), Kim Stanley Robinson (“Red Mars”) and Pat Rothfuss (“The Name of the Wind”).

Douglas Preston (“Relic”) is the writer that lead the effort by this group of authors, including plans to run the letter as a full-page ad in The New York Times this coming Sunday.

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No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald – review | Books | The Guardian

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald – review | Books | The Guardian.

Greenwald’s often gripping account of his central involvement in the Snowden revelations also raises big political questions

 

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald writes that “privacy is a core condition of being a free person” in No Place to Hide. Photograph: Jimmy Chalk for the Guardian

 

At the outset of Glenn Greenwald’s communications with the “anonymous leaker” later identified as 29-year-old former NSA employee Edward Snowden, Greenwald – a journalist, blogger and former lawyer – and the film-maker Laura Poitras, with whom he is collaborating, are told to use a PGP (“pretty good privacy“) encryption package. Only then will materials be sent to him since, as Snowden puts it, encryption is “not just for spies and philanderers”. Eventually Greenwald receives word that a Federal Express package has been sent and will arrive in a couple of days. He doesn’t know what it will contain – a computer program or the secret and incriminating US government documents themselves – but nothing comes on the scheduled day of delivery. FedEx says that the package is being held in customs for “reasons unknown”. Ten days later it is finally delivered. “I tore open the envelope and found two USB thumb drives” and instructions for using the programs, Greenwald writes.

 

  1. No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State
  2. by Glenn Greenwald

His account reminded me of the time, nearly a decade ago, when I was researching Britain’s road to war in Iraq, and went through a similar experience. I was waiting for an overnight FedEx envelope to reach me in New York, sent from my London chambers; it contained materials that might relate to deliberations between George Bush and Tony Blair (materials of the kind that seem to be holding up the Chilcot inquiry). A day passed, then another, then two more. Eventually, I was told I could pick up the envelope at a FedEx office, but warned that it had been tampered with, which turned out to something of an understatement: there was no envelope for me to tear open, as the tearing had already occurred and all the contents had been removed. FedEx offered no explanation.

As Greenwald notes, experiences such as this, which signal that you may be being watched, can have a chilling effect, but you just find other ways to carry on. FedEx (and its like) are avoided, and steps are taken to make sure that anything significant or sensitive is communicated by other means. In any event, and no doubt like many others, I proceed on the basis that all my communications – personal and professional – are capable of being monitored by numerous governments, including my own. Whether they are is another matter, as is the question of what happens with material obtained by such surveillance – a point that this book touches on but never really addresses. Greenwald’s argument is that it’s not so much what happens with the material that matters, but the mere fact of its being gathered. Even so, his point is a powerful one.

This is the great importance of the astonishing revelations made by Snowden, as facilitated by Greenwald and Poitras, with help from various news media, including the Guardian. Not only does it confirm what many have suspected – that surveillance is happening – but it also makes clear that it’s happening on an almost unimaginably vast scale. One might have expected a certain targeting of individuals and groups, but we now know that data is hoovered up indisciminately. We have learned that over the last decade the NSA has collected records on every phone call made by every American (it gathers the who, what and when of the calls, known as metadata, but not the content), as well as email data. We have learned that this happens with the cooperation of the private sector, with all that implies for their future as consorts in global surveillance. We have learned, too, that the NSA reviews the contents of the emails and internet communications of people outside the US, and has tapped the phones of foreign leaders (such as German chancellor Angel Merkel), and that it works with foreign intelligence services (including Britain’s GCHQ), so as to be able to get around domestic legal difficulties. Our suspicions have been confirmed that the use of global surveillance is not limited to the “war on terror”, but is marshalled towards the diplomatic and even economic advantage of the US, a point Greenwald teases out using the PowerPoint materials relied on by the agencies themselves. Such actions have been made possible thanks to creative and dodgy interpretations of legislation (not least the Patriot Act implemented just after 9/11). These activities began under President Bush, and they have been taken forward by President Obama. It would be a generous understatement to refer to British “cooperation” in these matters, although Greenwald’s intended audience seems to be mostly in the US, and he goes light on the British until it comes to the treatment of his partner, David Miranda, who was detained in the UK under anti-terror legislation.

When the revelations first came out, in the summer of 2013, Snowden explained that he “had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications”. That meant “anyone’s communications at any time”, he added, justifying the public disclosure on the grounds that this “power to change people’s fates” was “a serious violation of the law”. Snowden’s actions, and the claims he has made, have catalysed an important debate in the US, within Congress (where views have not necessarily followed party lines) and among academics and commentators. Views are polarised among reasonable individuals, such as New Yorker legal writer Jeff Toobin (“no proof of any systematic, deliberate violations of law”), and the New York Review of Books’s David Cole (“secret and legally dubious activities at home and abroad”), and in the US federal courts. In Britain, by contrast, the debate has been more limited, with most newspapers avoiding serious engagement and leaving the Guardian to address the detail, scale and significance of the revelations. Media enterprises that one might have expected to rail at the powers of Big Government have remained conspicuously restrained – behaviour that is likely, over the long term, to increase the power of the surveillance state over that of the individual. With the arrival of secret courts in Britain, drawing on the experience of the US, it feels as if we may be at a tipping point. Such reluctance on the part of our fourth estate has given the UK parliament a relatively free rein, leaving the Intelligence and Security Committee to plod along, a somewhat pitiful contrast to its US counterparts.

The big issue at stake here is privacy, and the relationship between the individual and the state, and it goes far beyond issues of legality (although Snowden’s fear of arrest, and perhaps also Greenwald’s, seems rather real). It is in the nature of government that information will be collected, and that some of it should remain confidential. “Privacy is a core condition of being a free person,” Greenwald rightly proclaims, allowing us a realm “where we can act, think, speak, write, experiment and choose how to be away from the judgmental eyes of others”.

Snowden’s revelations challenge us to reflect on the ideal balance between the power of the state to know and the right of the individual to go about her or his business unencumbered, and this in turn raises fundamental questions about the power of the media, on which Greenwald has strong views, usually (but not always) fairly articulated. He makes the case for Snowden, and it’s a compelling one. One concern with WikiLeaks acting independently was the apparently random nature of its disclosures, without any obvious filtering on the basis of public interest or the possible exposure to risk of certain individuals. What is striking about this story, and the complex interplay between Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras and the Guardian, is that the approach was different, as the justification for the leaks seems to have been at the forefront of all their minds. In his recent book Secrets and Leaks Rahul Sagar identified a set of necessary conditions for leaks. Is there clear evidence of abuse of authority? Will the release threaten public safety? Is the scale of the release limited? Many people, though not all, see these as having been met in the Snowden case.

Britain needs a proper debate about the power of the state to collect information of the kind that Snowden has told us about, including its purpose and limits. The technological revolution of the past two decades has left UK law stranded, with parliament seemingly unable (and perhaps unwilling) to get a proper grip on the legal framework that is needed to restrain our political governors and the intelligence services, not least in their dance with the US. “The greatest threat is that we shall become like those who seek to destroy us”, the legendary US diplomat George Kennan warned in 1947. In response, revelations can be made, Greenwald’s book published, and a Pulitzer prize awarded. Long may it go on.

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Posted in Books, Politics, Reading, Society

Visual Storytelling: Tips from Photographer Laura Cook

Featured Image -- 737

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

There’s a difference between photography and visual storytelling. You can easily take a photograph, but not all photographs tell rich stories.

You’ve heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” many times, right? As a photographer, I believe this is true when we dedicate ourselves to seeking out images that really tell a story.

We often take images that are part of a set or portfolio, but it’s also important to seek out pictures that can stand alone — that invite you in and make you feel like part of one particular story. Our camera is a tool we use to tell that story, to capture not only a moment in time but also something bigger.

Laura Cook is a humanitarian and travel photographer who spends most of her year in Sierra Leone, West Africa. She loves meeting new people, and through her work, strives to highlight human dignity amid life’s struggles.

Laura blogs at The…

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‘Homeland’ Season 4 Teaser Previews Carrie’s New Life

‘Homeland’ Season 4 Teaser Previews Carrie’s New Life.

‘Homeland’ Season 4 Teaser Previews Carrie’s New Life

 

Posted: 07/18/2014 4:32 pm EDT

Carrie’s in for trouble on “Homeland” Season 4. Showtime debuted the series’ new teaser and poster at the TCA summer press tour, and the one-minute video shows bits and pieces of what’s to come. Most noticeably, there’s a baby! And Carrie’s holding it! She also throws back pills and chugs wine like nobody’s business, but that’s old news.

From the looks of the teaser and what we already know about Season 4, much of this year’s “Homeland” was shot in South Africa as Carrie is stationed in Islamabad, Pakistan. Corey Stoll, Michael O’Keefe, Raza Jaffrey and Laila Robins will also join the cast, though it’s unlikely we’ll see any more of the Brody family. Watch the teaser below. “Homeland” Season 4 premieres on Sunday, Oct. 5 on Showtime.

 

homeland

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Book review: “Homeland – Carrie’s Run” – Andrew Kaplan

Originally posted on Josh Gill's Blog:

A prequel to the popular TV series Homeland, Andrew Kaplan’s “Homeland – Carrie’s Run” is an exciting and action packed read, and much like it’s TV counterpart, masterfully weaves in intricate twists and turns while rarely coming up for breath.

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Cristian Mihai on Growing Your Blog and Building a Readership

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

Cristian Mihai

From the feedback we receive, we know that growth and traffic are important to you, and that you’re interested in ways to grow your blog and build your readership. Today, we’re excited to chat with Cristian Mihai, a twenty-two-year old writer based in Romania, who has built a large community around his popular blog at cristianmihai.net.

Cristian writes primarily literary fiction and has published books like The Writer, which experiments with magical realism, and Jazz, a novel about ambition and deception. He launched his site in April 2012, and to date has 54,000 followers and counting. As you poke around on his blog, you’ll find short stories and essays in addition to posts, and get the sense of a prolific writer who is passionate about storytelling and curious about the human condition.

We’re glad to chat with him about his approach to blogging and promoting his…

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Watson Wolf

Watson Wolf

It's all learning and teaching to me!!! I am a German tutor for German, English and French, who loves tutoring person to person!!! In addition I love writing, sports, social media and the Greek island Crete, my second home!!!

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Peak District linguist writes on books in English and German, on literary events and on translation.

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