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14 APRIL, 2011

A Brief History of the Pun

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It’s no secret we’re obsessed with language — from the secret histories of words to how language works in the brain the uses and abuses of words to how history’s greatest literary icons do snark.

So we’re ecstatic for the release of John Pollack’s The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics — an entertaining and illuminating exploration of how wordplay evolved to be much more than a cheap linguistic thrill or the product of bottom-feeder copywriters.

[W]hat, exactly, is the link between punning and civilization? What cultural, emotional or functional needs does it fulfill across so many centuries and continent=s? What makes wordplay in general, and punning specifically, such an enduring part of language? Could it be biological and, if so, what evolutionary purpose might it serve? And why should laughter itself even matter in the survival of the fittest?” ~ John Pollack

Pollack, a former presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton tackles the subject with equal parts cultural irreverence and linguistic rigor. See for yourself: The Morning News has an excerpt of The Pun Also Rises for your sampling pleasure.

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14 APRIL, 2011

Gilbert Tuhabonye on Genocide, Running and Forgiveness

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What the human capacity for evil has to do with the divine gift of joy.

Our friends at TEDxAustin host one of the best-produced, most thoughtfully curated TEDx events in the world. (Their opening sequence alone speaks volumes.) Nowhere does this excellence shine more powerfully than in this deeply moving talk by world-class runner Gilbert Tuhabonye — a candid and raw personal account of finding grace and refuge in the face of great tragedy, recalling how running not only enabled him to survive the horrific Burundi genocide, but also to find true joy and healing. From atrocity to aspiration, Tuhabonye’s talk embodies the most remarkable capacities of a human being — resilience, humility and, above all, forgiveness.

What makes the talk most extraordinary though is that, on the surface, it appears to use the kind of language we’ve come to associate with self-help cliches and contrived motivation-speak — except those were Gilbert’s grippingly real lived experiences, and these are the simple, powerful insights that allowed him to live through them, past them, and with them: The crisp truth in the tired truisms.

Forgiveness has allowed me to move forward. Forgiveness has allowed me to find joy. It was very hard, I had to find running. Running is my therapy, it’s my freedom. It grounds me. It makes me happy. It is the vehicle for all other blessings that have come my way.” ~ Gilbert Tuhabonye

Tuhabonye tells his remarkable story in This Voice in My Heart: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Escape, Faith, and Forgiveness — an eloquent and poignant autobiography that blends the gruesome detail of an eyewitness account with the transformative, uplifting power of forgiveness.

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13 APRIL, 2011

A Rare Look at Antarctica, 1911-1914

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In the summer of 1911, a group of Australian scientists, adventurers and explorers set out to make history by undertaking the first Australian expedition to Antarctica, a three-year journey into the frozen unknown. Under the leadership of Dr. Douglas Mawson, they set sail for Macquarie Island and the virgin parts of Antarctica. Today, we look at what they encountered and recorded on the way not merely as a rare and fascinating glimpse of long-gone world frozen in time, but also as the source of important information that made a major contribution to how contemporary science understands the region and laid the groundwork for claims that in 1936 were formalized as the Australian Antarctic Territory.

These images come from James Francis (Frank) Hurley, the official photographer to the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, and other members of the expedition who compensated for their lack of photographic acumen with sheer enthusiasm and visceral curiosity about the novel landscape that unfolded before their eyes.

Huskies pulling sledge / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint

Harold Hamilton with skeleton of sea-elephant / Format: Silver gelatin photonegative

Blizzard, the pup in Antarctica / Photograph by Frank Hurley /Format: Silver gelatin negative

Ice cased Adelie penguins after a blizzard at Cape Denison / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Glass negative

Hamilton hand-netting for macro-plankton from Aurora / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint

Wreck of the 'Gratitude', Macquarie Island, 1911 / Format: Silver gelatin photoprint

King penguins, Antarctica, 1911-1914 / Photograph by Frank Hurley

Ice mask, C.T. Madigan, between 1911-1914 / Photograph by Frank Hurley / Format: Glass negative

Wild & Watson in sleeping bag tent on sledge journey

Shags defending nest, Macquarie Island / Photograph by Harold Hamilton

Arthur Sawyer with sea elephant pup / Format: Silver gelatin photonegative

Perhaps most fascinating — in a bittersweet kind of way — is the duality of human progress found in the stark contrast between these images and contemporary iterations of them: At once a living hallmark of the remarkable advances in photographic technology and a gripping reminder of how quickly we’re losing this precious ecosystem.

For a closer look at this fascinating and tender world, you won’t go wrong with Sara Wheeler’s classic, Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica.

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