Remembering “the love that let us share our name”

Mary Lou Willis with her daughter Diana circa December 1944.

Here’s my Christmas surprise for 2014. I was throwing out boxes of obscure stuff when something made me dig through the trash one more time, searching for something I’d missed or lost. It was a photo of my mother and sister, Mary Lou and Diana. It must have been taken around this time in 1944. I know it was a difficult time in Lou’s life. She was a single mother worried about her soldier-husband’s fate somewhere in northern France as the war raged on. I hadn’t seen this image before; it astonishes me. How happy she looks! I offer it here for all her children and grandchildren as a token of “the love that let us share our name.”

Many thanks to Ms. M for taking this smart phone photo of the original print, which made it immediately sharable.

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WWII Armed Forces Editions: “When Books Went to War”

Book cover for "When Books Went to War" by Molly Guptill Manning [Source: NPR] Molly Guptill Manning, Author Of ‘When Books Went To War’ : NPR 121014

“During World War II, American publishers wanted to support the troops,” author Molly Guptill Manning tells NPR’s Renee Montagne. “And so they decided that the best they could do was print miniature paperback books that were small enough that they could fit in a pocket so the men could carry these books with them anywhere.” | Guptill Manning’s new book, When Books Went to War, is a history of these paperbacks, known as Armed Services Editions. They included all sorts of literature — from Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare to mysteries and Westerns — and were the culmination of earlier efforts on the part of American librarians to get used books to servicemen with help from book drives. Well-intentioned though they were, the results of these book drives were mixed, turning up titles like How to Knit and Theology in 1870. So the focus switched to designing and printing books that soldiers actually wanted to read — no easy task since these Armed Services Editions had to be battlefield ready.

  • Best Cookbooks Of 2014 Offer Tastes And Tales From Around The Globe : NPR
    2014 was a year for far-away cuisines to take up residence in U.S. kitchens — cookbook authors cast their nets for flavors from Paris, the Middle East and Southeast Asia; from the ancient spice routes and every point in between. Meanwhile, the food world’s leaders struck out in unconventional directions, and some of the year’s most interesting books stray far from the glossy, aspirational approach we’ve come to expect from the big names. A food editor who claims she’s “not a great cook” goes to chefs for advice, while another starts a farm. One chef raids the pantry for its most common ingredients, while another swoons for mushrooms alone. And apples, glorious in their variety, spill from between the covers of a cookbook with hardly any recipes at all.
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At 86, Donald Hall Says He Doesn’t Have the Testosterone to Write More Poems

Photo of poet Donald Hall [Source: NPR/Linda Kunhardt/Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]
Photo of poet Donald Hall [Source: NPR/Linda Kunhardt/Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt]

I’m captivated by the sound of Donald Hall’s voice in this NPR interview. He sounds just like Lou Bourgeois, who turned 98 last Saturday in Oakville, Ontario. The accent isn’t surprising: Hall grew up in New Hampshire, not far from the Acadia where the Bourgeois family started. The wry, debonair sense of humor – now that sounds like pure Lou.

Interview: Donald Hall

At 86 years old, the poet Donald Hall can no longer write poetry. Not enough testosterone, he says. But the former U.S. Poet Laureate and recipient of the National Medal of Arts still has prose in him: He has just published a collection titled Essays After 80.

The book spans Hall’s entire career, his family life, his addiction to smoking and his thoughts on his own beard.

From his rural New Hampshire farmhouse, Hall tells NPR’s Arun Rath why he’s still at it. “I love to work,” he says, “and work in my life has meant only one thing and that’s a pen on the paper.”

On writing prose now

Prose is not so dependent on sound. The line of poetry, with the breaking of the line — to me sound is the kind of doorway into poetry. And my sense of sound, or my ability to control it, lapsed or grew less. I still use it in prose, but the unit is the paragraph.

I had 60 years of writing poetry, I shouldn’t complain now.

On how his age has changed the way young fans think about him

I began a reading with a new poem, which eventually turned out to be no good, but I had hoped it was. It was thinking about what my grandfather would think now to see me. And when I read the poem, I had just entered on the stage, sort of creeping and bent over and so on, and after that poem there was a pause and then there was a standing ovation! I couldn’t believe it. What a wonderful poem I must have written.

But no. They felt as if they had seen, I think I wrote, a cadaver gifted with speech. They were applauding me at least partly because they knew they’d never see me again.

On aging and thinking about death

I really feel better about aging at the age of 86 than I did at 70. I cannot drive, I can’t walk except by pushing a Rollator, but I feel a great deal of energy and excitement. Obviously death is ahead of me. I don’t look forward to dying one little bit, but I simply don’t worry about it because it’s going to happen to me as it does to anybody. …

At some point in this book I said that I expect my immortality to cease about seven minutes after my funeral. I have seen so many poets who were famous, who won all sorts of prizes, disappear with their deaths.

I write as good as I can, and don’t try to turn that into some hope for a future that I could never know. I’ve had some people tell me that they knew they were great and that they would live in literature forever, and my response is to pat them on the back and say, “Maybe you’ll feel better tomorrow.”



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French Novelist Patrick Modiano Wins 2014 Nobel Prize

Photo of Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel prize in literature. [Source: Guardian/AP]
Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2014 Nobel prize in literature. [Source: Guardian/AP]

  • Patrick Modiano Wins Nobel Prize in Literature – 100914
    Patrick Modiano, the French novelist whose works often explore the traumas of the Nazi occupation of France and hinge on the themes of memory, alienation and the puzzle of identity, won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. | In an announcement in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy cited Mr. Modiano’s ability to evoke “the most ungraspable human destinies” in his work.
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Café Mouffe: Marin Marais “Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris”

Ms. M is touring Versailles today with her daughter. Here’s a soundtrack for her.I think of this composition by Marin Marais [1656-1728] whenever the Sun King comes to mind, though perhaps it is more suitable for walking about in our Ve neighborhood near the Pantheon and Rue Mouffetard, since it is dedicated to Sainte Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris. I believe it also was used in the soundtrack for the 1991 Canadian film Black Robe. This performance is by Jordi Savall.

Marin Marais “Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris” (Jordi Savall)

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Everybody Needs a Little B-Roll (It’s Good for the Soul)

I admit, in a past life I concocted this kind of PR phantasm… especially guys in lab coats with beakers full of DNA. Shitloads of that. Wish I’d had the brilliant idea to tell it like it is here. And a voice like Dallas McClain’s to pull it off!

This Is a Generic Brand Video – YouTube
This Is a Generic Brand Video is a generic brand video of “This Is a Generic Brand Video,” written by Kendra Eash for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. No surprise, it’s made entirely with stock footage. All video clips used are from See and license them here: | The original piece is published on McSweeney’s:… | Narrated by Dallas McClain.

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Café Mouffe: Iris DeMent with Emmylou Harris & John Prine

  • Our Town – Iris DeMent (H.Q.) – YouTube
    Iris Dement – vocals & guitar | Emmylou Harris – harmony vocals | Aly Bain – fiddle | Jerry Douglas – dobro | Molly Mason – bass
  • Iris DeMent – Leaning On The Everlasting Arms (“True Grit” 2010 Soundtrack) – YouTube
  • Iris Dement Sings in her Mama’s Opry | No Depression Americana and Roots Music 090109
    Terry Roland : “The 1991 album, Infamous Angel, now a classic, has the distinction of being one of the best break-out albums released in the country-folk genre. With “Let the Mystery Be”, Iris comes off as a philosophical hillbilly mystic who’s listened the songs of A.P. Carter while waiting out some Arkansas dust storm in a hermits tavern. Filled with story songs of hometown, heartbroken love, passionate romances, repentance, redemption, and gospel homages to a hymn-singing, praying, devoted, aging mother, the themes of this album are common to any ambitious country singer-songwriter but on Mystery, these songs are executed naturally and authentically, with the feeling of someone who knows the terrain first hand. And as always, the church-gospel influence is skillfully woven through every tune. This becomes never as clear as it does on the title song “Infamous Angel,” told from the perspective of a repentant home-bound prostitute drawn from the gospel story of the prodigal son. | Her two follow up albums, My Life and The Way I Should, a bold switch to more topical and controversial songs, were solid albums to come in the aftermath of what could have been an overshadowing debut. Then, in 1996, after five years, she disappeared. No new albums, no tours. Only an occasional appearance on tribute albums, like her cover of Merle Haggard’s “Big City” on Tulare Dust or appearances on “Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion.” Just enough to tease her audience. In 2000 her role in the independent film, The Songcatcher, as an Appalachian woman was a part she could wear like a dress with a perfect fit. She blended so well that it took a while to figure out that it was Iris and not a local mountain lady hired to lend authenticity to the film. | During the years following her divorce in 1994, Iris experienced what happens to many songwriters, poets, and other artists who build their art on reflecting the life around them – a period of depression. This led to a long dry spell for her songwriting and a disappearance from the public eye. She married songwriter Greg Brown in 2002 and after what can best be described as a heroic battle against the black dog of depression, she re-emerged. In 2004, she showed up with her friend and mentor, John Prine, on an album of duets, In Spite of Ourselves. The title song gave her the challenge of singing such lines as, “you ain’t been laid in a month of Sundays, I caught you once smelling my undies.” | Most important, 2004 was the year she returned to the studio for an album of southern gospel songs titled Lifeline. It is a natural extension of her spare but rich recording career, especially paying tribute to her roots and her mother, Flora Mae. At first glance, as is the case with many artists, when a new album is needed, it’s common to record either an album of covers or a gospel album. But, Lifeline is not just any gospel album. Carefully selected, not commonly covered gospel songs, Lifeline is clearly, like its title, an homage to the message of hope embedded in her spiritual journey, which is centered in the voice and songs she once heard her mother sing in her childhood. This is not just an album to fill the years between the release of songs of new material. However, most of the music industry didn’t get the title or the underlying story of Iris’ missing years. In this case, Lifeline is not just a reference to an old gospel song, but a virtual outcry from the hardship and emotional years of loss and the reach out for the lifeline of spiritual and artistic renewal. So, this often-passed-over album, generally reviewed as a four-star album, but discounted because of the lack of original material, is a return to her roots and, most important, to the voice of her mother, singing under the blue California skies of her childhood.” (originally appeared in San Diego Troubadour)

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Shape-Shifting From Graphic Novel to Film: “Quai d’Orsay” > “Weapons of Mass Diplomacy” > “The French Minister”

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy (graphic novel) | The French Minister (movie trailer)

From PRI “The World”: “Antonin Baudry was young, smart and ambitious when he was hired in 2002 to write speeches for then-Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. | These were heady days, just months after 9/11, and France was being pressured by the US government to support George W. Bush and his plans to attack Iraq. While it may not exactly sound like a romp, Antonin Baudry turns his government experience into a French farce-meets-The Office in a funny graphic novel called “Quai d’Orsay.” It will be released in English in the United States in April under the title “Weapons of Mass Diplomacy”.”

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A Flaneur in the Cloud – March 3, 2014

  • Oscar Glow, Today’s Tech Help Short Films Find Their Fandom : NPR 022814
    If you, an ordinary non-Academy member, wanted to see an Oscar-nominated short film a few years ago, you couldn’t — not unless you lived in a city with an art-house theater that happened to be showing them. Now, if you want to see an Oscar-nominated short like Mr. Hublot, an animated gem about a steampunk Paris filled with Victorian mechanical gadgetry, all you have to do is download it on iTunes or Amazon. Or you can watch via video on demand. This year’s Oscar-nominated shorts are also playing in more than 400 theaters across the country, where they’ve become an increasingly hot ticket. “Since 2006, we’ve probably had over an 800 percent increase in box office,” says Carter Pilcher, president of ShortsHD, a company dedicated to making shorts more accessible. “Short films used to be kind of out there, and nobody saw them. I would say the technology has caught up with content.” Now we have YouTube, among other things, and it’s created an insatiable appetite for short, easily digestible chunks of content we can watch on our mobile devices. And over the past 15 years, shorts have been redefined by Pixar.
  • Soviet Legacy May Fuel Ukraine’s Resistance To Russian Domination : NPR 022814
    Nikita Khrushchev transferred the Crimean peninsula to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. David Greene talks Nina Khrushcheva, the Soviet leader’s great granddaughter about the history.
  • About | VocaliD
    In the United States alone, there are 2.5 Million Americans with severe speech impairments many of whom rely on computerized voices to express themselves. Yet many of them use the same voices as there are only a few options. That’s tens of millions of people world wide using generic voices. VocaliD (for vocal identity) aims to help children and adults with severe speech impairment find a voice of their own! | Our VocaliD approach extracts acoustic properties from a target talker’s disordered speech (whatever sounds they can still produce) and applies these features to a synthetic voice that was created from a surrogate voice donor who is similar in age, size, gender, etc. The result is a synthetic voice that contains as much of the vocal identity of the target talker as possible yet the speech clarity of the surrogate talker. It’s a simple idea that could make a powerful impact on the lives of those who rely on synthetic voices to express themselves.
  • Speech donors | Spark with Nora Young | CBC Radio 022314
    Until now, people living with severe speech disorders only had a few computerized voices to choose from. With the help of speech donors, Rupal Patel and collaborator Tim Bunnell are creating new, personalized voices that match the individual. | If you are interested in donating your voice or if you know someone who may want to receive a voice, please visit
  • Gil Shaham And When The World ‘Got Much Smaller, Much Faster’ : Deceptive Cadence : NPR 022414
    The 1930s were among the most devastating and strife-filled eras in world history. Yet it was a time of spectacular artistic achievements as well, as violinist explores in a new multi-year recording project. The Israeli-American star soloist talked to All Things Considered host about the newly issued first volume in this series, which features Shaham playing concertos by , , , and the now little-heard German composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann.
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A Flaneur in the Cloud – February 17, 2014

  • OPPRESSED MAJORITY (Majorité Opprimée English), by Eleonore Pourriat – YouTube
    On what seems to be just another ordinary day, a man is exposed to sexism and sexual violence in a society ruled by women… (10 minutes) | With Pierre Benezit, Marie-Lorna Vaconsin, Marie Favasuli, Céline Menville…First song: Comme un garçon, by StereoTotal
    Last theme: Pocket Harmony feat. Moïra Conrath
  • In this movie, it’s the men who are constantly harassed by dominant women | Public Radio International 021414
    French filmmaker Eléonore Pourriat released her film “Majorité Opprimée” or “Oppressed Majority” five years ago, and it quickly won an award in Ukraine. But otherwise it got little attention.
  • When commercials ‘Keep it real': The rise of realistic advertising | 020714
    Lindsay Foster Thomas: “There I was just watching TV when out of nowhere, he appeared: The guy with one arm selling Swiffer dusters. When I first saw him, I didn’t know that his name was Zack Rukavina. Or that he’d lost his arm to cancer. Or that I was watching him interact with his real family while he spoke about all the ways Swiffer helps him help out around the house. | All I knew was that the commercial I was watching was compelling in a way I hadn’t experienced as a TV viewer before. | Had I seen a person with a disability in a mainstream commercial before? Most likely. Certainly war veterans, paralympians and the elderly have been cast to push products from sneakers to remote alarm systems. | But, what struck me about the Swiffer ad was that his disability wasn’t the highlight of the commercial. It was certainly what got my attention, but by the end of that 30-second spot, I was remembering more about how Zack poked fun at his wife for being a terrible housekeeper and the way his two adorable children seemed to vie for his attention in every scene. The commercial didn’t provoke pity, embarrassment or portray its leading man as any kind of superhero. The Rukavinas are a totally normal family and that’s what Swiffer was successful at conveying. That and if you must dust, don’t skimp on the brand name. | Diversity in commercial advertising still has a long way to go in reflecting the appearances and experiences of America’s various populations. However the Swiffer ad and others seem to be stepping into reality TV territory – more inclusive casting choices, less pretending that we all look, sound and behave alike in our homes and communities.”
  • Interview: Marilyn Nelson, Author Of ‘How I Discovered Poetry’ : NPR 020814
    Marilyn Nelson is one of America’s most celebrated poets. She is a three-time finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the Newbery and Printz and Coretta Scott King awards. Many of her most famous collections are for children. Her latest work, How I Discovered Poetry, is a memoir about her own childhood. It’s a series of 50 poems about growing up, traveling all over America in the 1950s to follow her father’s job in the Air Force. Each of the poems is identified with a place and a date. “[My father] graduated in the last class of cadets from the flight school at Tuskegee. So they are now the Tuskeeee Airmen,” she tells All Things Considered host Arun Rath. “The story I tell, the family story, is of the family of an African-American flying officer.”
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