#TBT – Malk

That time things escalated too quickly on YouTube. 2009.

On the history of letters:

‘Addressing the symbolic and material functions of letters, this essay shows how a selection of their epistles served as gifts, thus conferring prestige on recipients in a society where social networking was largely defined by a cultural consensus. The sociological notion of cultural capital adopted here refers to the material and symbolic use of epistles as evidence of a person’s training in Greek παιδεία: its style of writing, discourse among powerful associates, and models of governance gleaned from its history and literature. Mastering these lessons qualified individuals as scholars, civic mediators, and patrons in a heritage of leadership stretching back to the pre-Roman era. This preparation did not always yield tangible benefits, but having this resource—especially in conjunction with holding political and economic authority—garnered one respect in a community defined by its accumulated cultural knowledge. A proficiency in παιδεία—as manifested in epistolary exchange—was evidence that one knew the rules of social interaction among elites. Individuals steeped in classical Greek studies held a profit of distinction that brought them immediate legitimacy when they interacted with persons of similar background. Thus, exhibiting this cultural capital facilitated the discourse between bishops and their correspondents.

In the eastern Roman Empire, where social standing often was based on one’s command of ancient Greek literature, individuals educated in the curriculum of παιδεία had been raised on classical Hellenic mores. Although the heritage of hellenismos (“being Greek”) had already come to be equated with “paganism” by the mid-300s, in their discourse with elite eastern Romans the Cappadocians continued to celebrate those aspects of παιδεία that represented “speaking” and “being civilized” in the Greek way. They did remain guarded, however, in proposing this education for Christian laity, who might not have sufficient discernment to dismiss its polytheistic theology and accounts of immoral behavior. One of the more salient ideals within this classical Greek heritage—rooted in the φιλία relationship—involved conferring prestige on an individual with the expectation that the recipient would reciprocate the act of honor. Presenting cultural capital in the form of epistles was not a financial transaction, but rather a reminder of mutual values that could potentially inform one’s policies. Gift exchange, in the form of sending and receiving letters, represented an exercise imbued with emotional and personal connection. To send a letter meant that one was presenting part of oneself. The nature of such a precious gift prompted the recipient to acknowledge its affective meaning and to act in the best interest of the giver. As masters of eloquent words (λόγοι), the Cappadocians asserted their erudition in a social setting based on honor and expectation… The model of ancient Greek gift-giving provided them a means by which publicly to assert the heritage of a pre-Christian Hellenism as a social and political force; it called attention to Christian participation in this practice; and it enabled them to mediate for individuals and communities under their social patronage.

Using exempla from the Iliad and the Odyssey established the writer’s command of the fundamental texts of the Greek literary heritage. And referring to motifs from venerated Attic writers underscored the writer’s affinity with an elite leadership that governed through the power of its words. Παιδεία required learning across a number of disciplines, including art, geography, mythology, and physiognomy, a comprehensive knowledge that distinguished its experts as refined and steeped in Hellenism. This education invited its recipients to display their erudition in multiple forms, ranging from textual references to visual representations on clothing and in material objects. Composing and sending epistles was only one way of signaling membership in this circle. But the epistolary medium was especially relevant because it applied Hellenic allusions and showed their relevance to current social and political circumstances. And it conveyed these sentiments in the form of a gift. The acceptability of the epistle, however, depended on high standards of writing. Not every letter was worthy of sending to a beneficiary.

To acquire gift status, an epistle had to have merit warranting that the recipient would value it and share it. Letters of great distinction were “small objets d’art, carefully articulated, circulated among a select group, collected, copied, and treasured.” Letters of premium quality “had to rise above the ordinary routine of life. There had to be a touch of elegance . . . brief and to the point, but also so fi nely crafted that the recipient would want to show it, rather read it, to his friends.” Individual honor derived from the publicized contents of the epistle, which made the recipient’s acquisition of the letter known to a greater populace, along with its message.

Letters from prominent scholars—set apart by their Hellenic education—would have been made known to the community. An individual’s collection of these written works, particularly if one wanted to appear as an eloquent Greek, enhanced one’s reputation.

…Although all epistles reflecting cultivation were to be valued, a certain gradation can be detected in their content, indicating that certain gifts carried more prestige than others. The number of literary references and their familiarity among scholars, for example, could aff ect the merits of an epistle. Inserting several uncommon classical allusions demonstrated the author’s high level of labor in composing the epistle by singling out distinct references. More obscure passages also indicated the addressee’s deeper knowledge of the ancients, as did couched metaphors, because they would have necessitated an ability to recognize them. An epistle containing a few famous phrases from Homer, for example, might present less status than one that included cryptic sayings from more esoteric sources. The latter would indicate an advanced level of παιδεία for author and addressee. It designated a person as part of a limited group endowed with the precious ability to comprehend the text. Receiving this kind of epistle would have trumpeted one’s comprehensive familiarity with the Greek literary heritage.

By emphasizing ancient Greek themes in their correspondence, the Cappadocian Fathers were reinforcing their access to a program of social and political influence in the east, one that they would not surrender to non-Christians. Through these gifts of eloquence, the bishops were coopting Hellenism, sans its pagan deities, for their own agenda.’

Nathan D. Howard “Gifts Bearing Greekness: Epistles as Cultural Capital in Fourth-Century Cappadocia.”

BookTuber Tuesday – Margaret Atwood

Recommend a BookTuber video in the comments and it could make our Tuesday post!

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Terry Pratchett on the novel he wrote with Neil Gaiman:

“In the end, it was this book done by two guys, who shared the money equally and did it for fun and wouldn’t do it again for a big clock.” – Terry Pratchett, on writing Good Omens with Neil Gaiman.


Co-authoring doesn’t seem like it’s all that it’s cracked up to be.

#TBT – The Last Unicorn film

That time there was a faithful book to film adaptation. 1982.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Mark Clamen’s Review ‘The Almighty Johnsons: Family Dysfunction of Heavenly Proportions’

The series has a relaxed pace, quite unlike other shows of its genre. The best of the first season, and its greatest charm, lay in the feeling that it was in no rush to get anywhere in particular. Scenes go on a little bit longer than you’d expect, and the characters (and the series) are often happy sitting exactly where they happen to be. In fact, when I first tuned in, as much as I enjoyed the early episodes, I wasn’t sure what the story was, or intended to be. There didn’t seem to be a season there, far less a multi-year story! (There was also the question of how it was to negotiate the How I Met Your Mother problem, where every new female character to enter a room might be – and really probably isn’t – “the Frigg.”)…

…A new era is coming, and the Johnson brothers seem destined to be at the centre of it. But there is nothing epic about it, Norse or Hollywood. It all happens in small scenes, without grand special effects – at barbeques, in alleys behind bars, and in the stacks of public libraries. The groundedness of our boys (a fridge full of beer, the trials of daily life and loving) is what consistently keeps the narrative from floating off to Asgard. The result is a playful and sometimes even blasé attitude towards to the story’s own mythic centre: a half dozen gods and goddesses piling into an old station wagon to do battle against their enemies, or a goddess whose gift appears to be a preternatural ability to organize parties, or when one of the brothers starts dating someone who is literally Hel, etc. The series is often laugh-out-loud funny precisely when it plays straight, with a character simply laying out the absurdity of a situation in the plainest possible terms and then taking a pull from a pint, or when Axl filters new revelations through the limits of his Star Wars-centric imagination.  For example, here’s how Mike Johnson explained why he kept certain aspects of their family history from his younger brothers for so many years: “I mean, what was I meant to do? Tell a bunch of bloody kids their mother is a fucking tree?”


BookTuber Tuesday – The Handmaid’s Tale

Recommend a BookTuber video in the comments and it could make our Tuesday post!

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

“In the distant past, the god Vulcan created a handful of Automatons…”

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2


No real spoilers, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is basically the Gaia Hypothesis in story form. And it’s pretty good.

“That being said, the sacrifice of a smooth ride for Quill gives us a really interesting movie. This is the most oddly-structured Marvel film since Iron Man 3, with the cast spending a large chunk of time apart while our focus is trained on anything but an impending cosmic threat. That threat does come, make no mistake—but the fact it takes a while to arrive only helps the story. It feels like an escalation rather than a last-second addition, and the film’s constant ramping of stakes, scale, and tension makes for a genuinely tense third act.” [Via]

“…like any good epic tale, it might touch a nerve or two…”

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: After the Ugly Laws by Sunaura Taylor

‘Perhaps we need to ask how we can assert both our humanity and our animality. How do those of us who have been negatively compared to nonhuman animals assert our value as human beings without implying human superiority or denying our own animality?

On some level identifying as animal has always felt right to me. As a small child I went through a short period where I would bark like a dog when people spoke to me. I didn’t do this out of shyness; according to my parents, I did it because I truly wanted to be a dog. My parents were understandably horrified. Not only did they have to deal with the social implications of having a small child in a wheelchair, but now she was barking, too.

I’m sitting in a cafe in downtown Berkeley as I write this. I have retrieved all of the objects I need from my bag and arranged them on the table in front of me. To do so, I had to put my mouth on the edge of my computer pad and bite down, wiggling it loose from my bag. I then pulled it out and laid it on the table, reached for my keyboard and did the same. I repeated this a few more times until I had everything I needed.

When I use my mouth instead of my hands in public, I realize I am transgressing boundaries, not only of able-bodied etiquette, but of the ways in which one is supposed to inhabit a human body. We use the mouth for language and for eating, yet it is deeply private, an orifice containing germs and breath and slobber. The mouth is sexual. The mouth is animal.

Hands, however, are human. Humans are supposed to have opposable thumbs and dexterous fingers. Like walking upright on two legs, human hands have been said to represent our big brains—as hands make and use tools, they opened the door for human culture to emerge. Hands represent our physical agility and separateness from other species.

I feel animal in my embodiment, and this feeling is one of connection, not shame. Recognizing my animality has in fact been a way of claiming the dignity in the way my body and other non-normative and vulnerable bodies move, look, and experience the world around them. It is a claiming of my animalized parts and movements, an assertion that my animality is integral to my humanity. It’s an assertion that animality is integral to humanity.

I do not mean this in a metaphorical way. It is not that we are like animals or that the idea of animals is integral to who we are—although both claims are true. It is that we are animals. A fact so boringly commonplace that we forget it—perpetually.’


Read it for free on Goodreads:

Download it for free on Goodreads.

#TBT – The Show by Lenka

That time Lenka released a song that would later make it into the Easy A trailer. 2008.


BookTuber Tuesday – The Circle

Recommend a BookTuber video in the comments and it could make our Tuesday post!

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

#BLAThoughtOfTheDay – Yes, this explains one reason why I dislike Neil Gaiman’s American Gods

Other reasons include:


Finally got around to watching this. Was worth it.

“There are few more frightening monsters to conjure than racism, after all. It’s a topic the genre has brushed up against—with the black protagonist of Night of the Living Dead, a rare sight in 1968, or in Bernard Rose’s 1992 classic Candyman, in which the titular figure in part represented America’s history of slavery and repression. But racism is still a surprisingly uncommon subject matter, and Peele addresses a more insidious fear—of the fallacy of America being a post-racial society, and of the nightmares one can imagine under that benign surface.” [Via]

“Why I do not believe in a creator,” from Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry.

‘What is your word for God? What do you mean you have no word for God? Everyone believes in a Creator don’t they? Our more liberal minded White friends always want to know more about us, so they naturally come with questions Thirty-five years ago, a Native elder from northern California told us a creation story. Long ago, Coyote was floating through the air and wanted some place to rest. So he created the earth- although it was just an accident. So is coyote God? The Creator?

As we have learned from the world of physics, even scientific observation changes what is being observed (i.e., the “’observer effect”). In this case, the very question that any White person (say, an anthropologist) asks a Native person shapes her answer in decisive ways. Whatever the Native person has to say about the matter must now use the language categories of the colonizer. In this case, the key problematic words are god, creator, and believe. The question itself shapes the reality that the Native person must try to describe. Now she must struggle to use colonial language of god, creator, and belief to interpret her own world back to the well-meaning colonizer, who seems to assume that everyone in the world is similar to himself. The more these euro-christian friends hear about Coyote, however. the clearer they are that crazy Old Man Coyote is not exactly what they mean by the word god — even if he created something.

Here, I am not simply objecting to the language of god and creator as language embedded in a european worldview or christian ideology. It is much more crucial to notice that imposing these religious metaphors of a hierarchical divine as an overlay on Indian cultures irredeemably distorts the Native culture and destroys the intricacies and the beauty, that is, the coherence, of the Native worldview. An up-down Linguistic cognitive image functions to structure the social whole around vertical hierarchies of power and authority.

While all Indian people have stories of origin – called “creation stories” in euro-talk-these stories differ significantly from the eurowest’s. Osages remember that the dry-land portion of this world
was made in the long ago by o’po to’ga, the bull elk. So, why can’t we just say that Bull-Elk is the Creator and leave it at that? The first problem with that choice is that human people and, at least, elk already elk already existed. So did the earth. When the sky people/humans came down from the stars, they were brought down to earth by the eagle (another creator figure?0 but found it covered with water. It was Elk who then created the dry ground and all kinds of living things to help the humans to be able to survive…then they discovered another community of humans, the earth people, who were already here. So, Elk shared a role and responsibility in making the world – as did Eagle. But neither one is the sort of monotheistic “creator” like the one brought over the waters with the christian european invasion. Indeed, recall that the world and people already existed — particularly the oak tree in which the sky people first landed. Namely, there are no credible, historical American Indian stories that tell of a creation ex nihilo, a creation from nothing. Nor is there a super-personality who is ultimately in charge. This same structuring of beginnings plays out in all Indian traditions.

…Since our experience of the world is one of interrelationship, we cannot conceive of a human superiority to any of the other living things of the world. They are all “relatives.” And to put ourselves somehow in charge seems to Indian peoples to be a very dangerous move, which puts the balance of the whole in great jeopardy.

Experiencing all non-human persons as relations generates an affect or way of life in which there can be no hierarchy of being, either among a human community or between the different categories of persons in the world: two-leggeds, four-leggeds, flying ones, or what we call the living-moving people, for example, tress, corn, river, and mountains…

Disruptions of balance (from personal or cosmic) occur daily, so they must be mitigated with ceremonial reciprocity. Whatever we human beings acquire or receive, we must give something back.’

-Tink Tinker, “Why I do not believe in a creator,” from Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry.


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Nina Paley on The Gaia Hypothesis

“The Gaia Hypothesis posits the Earth’s biosphere is a single living organism. Living organisms by definition reproduce. How would a planet’s biosphere reproduce?

By sending reproductive cells of some sort to other planets.

Much (possibly most) of the Earth’s biosphere consists of bacteria. In fact most animals, including humans, consist largely of bacteria. Animals are mobile housing units for bacteria.

Humans are a peculiar animal. We’re creating our own extinction event. We seem hellbent on exploiting and destroying “nature,” yet we are part of nature, produced by nature. Why would the biosphere produce homo sapiens?

An extremely popular belief of our time is that humans will colonize other planets. Many humans consider this a more worthy goal than preserving biodiversity on Earth. Humans are willing to trash this planet in order to reach others.

It is vanishingly unlikely humans will survive on other planets. But it is likely we will reach other planets. We will not colonize other planets with humans, but with bacteria.

Humans are Gaia’s way of sending bacteria to other planets, thereby reproducing.

…Over billions of years, these pioneering bacteria will evolve, growing a new biosphere of diverse life forms. A new, living planet – another Gaia – is born.”


See also:

Is The Girl With All The Gifts antinatalist?

Gods in our machines. 

What we talk about when we talk about post-apocalyptic stories.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch on indie books:

In that old book of criticism, Lewis was justifying the fiction that he wrote. He didn’t like the terms “highbrow” and “lowbrow” fiction, choosing instead to label readers “unliterary” or “literary” depending on the kind of attention they pay to the texts in front of them. (If the reader read solely for pleasure, and did not reread books, they were generally unliterary.)

This snobbishness permeated the industry. The snobbishness went all the way into business practices and marketing, in contracts and in expectations. Paperbacks were considered disposable. Hardbacks were not. The returns system in the U.S. was predicated on that. Hardbacks required full copy returns, and if the books were damaged, then they would not count against a bookstore’s bill. Paperbacks were mutilated, the covers returned only, so that the book could be thrown away.

Contracts and deals reflected the perceived ephemeral nature of the material, and writers often fell prey to it. They signed deals that would be ludicrous if anyone had thought more than two years head.

The attitude was that nothing good could come from disposable products, even though the paper books often outsold hardcovers by literary (and accepted) writers by ten to one (and sometimes by 100 to one).

Here’s the thing, though: the only way to become a remembered author who survives the test of time is to influence a lot of readers. If a “good” novel has a 5,000 copy print run and sells out, and a “bad” novel has a 50,000 copy print run and sells out, guess which one has the better chance of being remembered? The one with tens of thousands of readers, not the one with only 5,000.

Books with a lot of readers tend not to be the critical darlings of the day. They tend to be the books that get the most word of mouth, books that are passed from hand to hand to hand or written up the most in blogs or discussed by savvy readers everywhere.

How do you become one of those writers?


The thing is…the books that often stick in the memory of the reading public are books that surprise in some way or counter expectations or make the reader lose a few hours of sleep because the reader can’t put the book down.

Those books aren’t manufactured and fussed over and edited to death. They weren’t written to be judged, as literary novels often are. Those books weren’t written to impress. They were written because they had to be, or because the author needed to eat. The author wrote it, someone published it, and then both moved on—even though the readers didn’t.

Indie writers are doing the same thing right now. They’re writing what they love. A few are still writing what they think will sell, although that trend seems to be moving past us now. (Thank God). Most writers are simply trying to put food on the table so they don’t have to go back to the day job.

Traditional publishers, whose sales are continuing to decline and whose revenue is spiraling downward, keep trying to justify their curation services. Want to know if your book is any good? The traditional publishers say. We’ll let you know that—forgetting, of course, that readers decide what’s good and what’s not.

It’s very threatening to someone “in charge” to see that others, unapproved others, are more successful, particularly if they’re publishing or writing or creating in a method that’s hard to control. Indie writers are very hard to control. They can put up their own books. They can write against the prescribed rules. They can fly in the face of popular wisdom.


#BLAThoughtOfTheDay: Neil Gaiman implies that Norse Gods are more popular than Greek and Roman gods?

“I didn’t get any Greek and Roman gods in, because at the time I couldn’t convince myself there was any particular reason to bring Greek and Roman gods in. Now, a few years ago I read about the discovery of some ancient Roman coins in the mud of the Ohio River, and they’re definitely ancient Roman coins. There are differences of belief as to whether they were coins that somebody hid there and they got lost or whether they date back 2,000 years. But I don’t need any kind of proof on this. All I need is to be able to point to something in the way I could point to the Egyptian stuff. Now I have something that I can hold onto and go, “Well, there is a case now for ancient Romans knocking around America which gives me the whole panoply of Roman gods, too.”

Having said that, the other reason I never used them was at the time I felt they were overused, and I like the idea of using ones that were a little bit underused and was proud of myself for having done so.”


-Neil Gaiman


So is Neil Gaiman saying that, though Greco-Roman gods are “overused” they are not as popular as the Norse? The fact there would be no appearance of them in American Gods seems to imply that Americans don’t favor them as much as Norse–that they do not have as many worshipers to make them relevant or prevalent. Which is illogical due to the the fact that 1) we know more about the Greco-Roman myths and 2) the entire West is built upon or around their mythos (philosophy, the Arts, arguably Christianity). So the reason they aren’t seen in his book seems to imply something about their status. The biggest fan base for Norse myth stems from the comic book craze (read: Thor). I still wouldn’t say it overshadows the following of Greco-Roman gods, though.

It seems like a weak argument — something overlooked when he was trying to build a mythos. He may have highlighted some marginal gods, but at the cost of his mythos.