"Twain with his longtime friend John T. Lewis, of whom the author remarked: 'I have not known an honester man nor a more respect-worthy one.' Lewis is said to have inspired the character of Jim in 'Huckleberry Finn.'"
"Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, is celebrated as America’s greatest humorist — from his irreverent advice to little girls to his snarky stance on creativity to his masterwork on masturbation. But underpinning his winsome wit was piercing insight into the human spirit and all its perplexities. From The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Volume 1 (public library) — which also gave us Twain on how morality and intelligence hinder each other — comes a moving anecdote about how his mother taught him the essence of empathy.
“'Poor thing, when he sings, it shows that he is not remembering, and that comforts me; but when he is still, I am afraid he is thinking, and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older, you would understand me; then that friendless child’s noise would make you glad.'
"She never used large words, but she had a natural gift for making small ones do effective work."
Canadian anthropologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Wade Davis delivers his first lecture at the University of British Columbia.
Davis—writer, photographer, filmmaker, anthropologist and author—has acquired a resumé that reads something like a character from an Ian Fleming novel. Indeed, there’s something a little Bond-like about the Harvard University Ph.D., who has lived with and studied dozens of cultures threatened by extinction, and written almost 20 books on everything from Haitian voodooism to his travels to the headwaters of the Amazon, home to some of the world’s most isolated tribal people.
Davis’s style seems more professional than professorial. His hands danced before him, emphasizing the more compelling points. During a single, short pause, he rolled onto the tips of his toes, as if to catch himself. His speech was so rapid-fire that note-taking was impossible, something he’ll have to adjust to in the coming weeks.
But none of this mattered yesterday. And how could it? Words poured from Davis in a poetic jumble. Polynesia is not a country, but “tens of thousands of islands flung like jewels upon the Southern Sea.” Language is “the flash of the human spirit, the vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the world.”
The student seated next to me literally gasped when Davis explained that Polynesian mariners can name 350 stars in the night sky, that in darkness, they navigate by reading the reverberations of waves across a boat’s hull, “knowing full well that every island group in the Pacific has a unique refractive pattern that can be read with the same perspicacity with which a forensic scientist would read a fingerprint.”
This most untraditional professor, who’d never held a teaching job in his life—in fact, this is the first job he’s ever had—is, in reality, a most traditional professor. Like a village elder who’d acquired more knowledge and experience than anyone else, he was imparting all he knew to the tribe’s youngest, its most ignorant, its most open.
And Davis knew precisely how to engage them. He will teach them to shoot poison darts made from the tips of Piranha jaws. He will share the lessons imparted to him by “psychotic” shamans.
Throughout, Davis kept returning to two, central messages. First, that every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive?
And second, that the societies he was describing are not the least bit primitive.
Author Isabel Allende is 71. Yes, she has a few wrinkles—but she has incredible perspective too. In this candid talk, meant for viewers of all ages, she talks about her fears as she gets older and shares how she plans to keep on living passionately.
"Robin Williams backstage in Virginia in 2009. 'It seems inexplicable that a celebrity's addiction should be immune to personal success, the care of a loving family and all the therapies money could buy.' Photograph: Jay Paul/Getty Images"
Simon Jenkins: "Williams, like many others, struggled with addiction and personal demons. Mental illness is a great leveller – but is still too little understood"
Katie Miranda reflects on some of the appalling ironies of U.S. and Israeli policy towards Gaza. The Obama administration is paying to both destroy and rebuild the war torn strip and that Israel is now promoting its military equipment worldwide using a sales pitch of having been tested during "Operation Protective Edge."
Jesse Wente says that festivals like imagineNATIVE, which opens today today in Toronto, have played a big part in the rapid development of indigenous cinema. And that made narrowing this list to ten a challenging task.
"An artist needs a certain amount of turmoil and confusion."
"It’s paradoxical that while “art holds out the promise of inner wholeness” for those who experience it, the relationship between creativity and mental illness is well-documented among those who make it, as is the anguish of artists who experience it. This, perhaps, renders the cultivation and preservation of mental health all the more urgently important for artists and those operating on a high frequency of creativity.
"Eight-time Grammy recipient Joni Mitchell(b. November 7, 1943), undoubtedly one of the most original and influential musicians of the past century, as well as an enormously talented painter, speaks to the value of therapy and a commitment to mental health in Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words (public library) — that wonderful collection of wide-ranging conversations by musician, documentarian, and broadcast journalist Malka Marom, which also gave us Mitchell on freedom, creativity, and the dark side of success."
Colin Grant has spent a lifetime navigating the emotional landscape between his father’s world and his own. Born in England to Jamaican parents, Grant draws on stories of shared experience within his immigrant community -- and reflects on how he found forgiveness for a father who rejected him.
"We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don't," says slam poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.
"Trivago Guy is Tim Williams, an actor and musician who most recently played an American rock star in the long-running German soap operaGuten Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten.
"When asked why the ads took off, Jon Eichelberger, regional developer for North America for Trivago, said Williams is unique as a pitchman: "He is not the typical spokesperson that people see on TV. In an oversaturated media environment, it is hard to cut through the clutter and get your message across and then have people remember it. It seems having a normal guy as a spokesperson and going against expectation really stands out.""
Slate has partnered with Brooklyn Brewery and RISC to bring its hit war correspondent interview series to our readers. In this third installment, Steve Hindy, founder of Brooklyn Brewery and a former Associated Press foreign correspondent, sits down with three of the people closest to Chris Hondros, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated...