The Green Experience

Green is the colour of Kermit the Frog, Mike Wazowski, and two-thirds of Nigeria’s national flag. It’s associated with nature, fertility, tranquillity, money, good luck, health, movement, and ecology. It can also signify illness and envy. Grass is green, the Chicago River is green once a year for St. Patrick’s Day, many political parties are green. Great gardeners have green fingers, inexperienced ones might be greenhorns, and jealous ones might be green-eyed monsters.

Green is my second favourite colour behind red (sorry, blue, you’re in 3rd place now!) thanks to Sporting CP. Green is also a traditional colour in Islam, associated with paradise in the Quran.

A passage from the Quran describes paradise as a place where people “will wear green garments of fine silk.” One hadith, or teaching, says, “When Allah’s Apostle died, he was covered with a Hibra Burd,” which is a green square garment. As a result, you’ll see green used to color the binding of Qurans, the domes of mosques, and, yes, campaign materials.

via Slate

J. Milton Hayes’s “Yellow God” had a green eye (likely an emerald), Andrew Marvell’s “The Garden” said “No white nor red was ever seen / So am’rous as this lovely green.”, and D. H. Lawrence said the dawn was “apple-green”. Aliens are often green, little, and men for some reason.

The green room is where performers wait before they go on stage, there are at least 250 films in Letterboxd with “green” in the title including Green Book, Green Lantern, The Green Hornet, The Green Mile, and 17 films simply called Green.

Green and gold go together perfectly in a room and green Victorian tiles adorn many London Underground corridors (but not Green Park’s for some reason).

Judy Horacek and Mem Fox asked “Where Is The Green Sheep?“, Dr. Seuss wrote about Green Eggs and Ham, and Hemingway talked about the Green Hills of Africa (specifically East Africa). Kermit sang it ain’t easy being green, Tom Jones sang about the green green grass of home and Beyoncé gave us the green light (as did John Legend).

In art, you have Karel Appel’s The Green Cat, Lilian Thomas Burwell’s Greening, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Queen Green, and Jean Gabriel Domergue’s Green Park. There have been 3 green colours chosen as Pantone’s Colour of the Year between 2000 and 2021 (the most recent was emerald in 2014).

There’s a lot of love about green.

Simon Doonan's 'Keith Haring' biography

In case you missed it, Simon Doonan wrote a biography on Keith Haring which came out in February. It’s part of a series of pocket-sized biographies about great artists called Lives of the Artists and examines Haring’s inspiring life and work during the 1980s:

Revolutionary and renegade, Keith Haring was an artist for the people, creating an instantly recognisable repertoire of symbols – barking dogs, space-ships, crawling babies, clambering faceless people – which became synonymous with the volatile culture of 1980s. Like a careening, preening pinball, Keith Haring playfully slammed into all aspects of this decade – hip-hop, new-wave, graffiti, funk, art, style, gay culture – and brought them together.

Grab a copy of the book on Bookshop and let me know what you think in the comments.

Aimé Césaire and his Discourse on Colonialism

Tim Keane wrote about Black Caribbean poet Aimé Césaire who disseminated the brutality of colonialism in his work:

Since Césaire’s death in 2008 at age 94, as democracies devolve into autocracies and wealthy nations sidestep poorer ones on our endangered planet, Discourse on Colonialism remains prescient about the barbarity that informs civilization. In literary terms, its enduring relevance tends to overshadow Césaire’s standing as the most influential Modernist poet in Caribbean literature, an imaginative writer who molded the French language to make a personal poetry characterized by hypnotic physicality, ritualized anguish, and metaphorical exorcisms.

About Aimé Césaire

Césaire was born in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, in 1913. After moving to the capital, Fort-de-France, to attend the only secondary school on the island, he moved to Paris to attend the Lycée Louis-le-Grand on a scholarship. There, he passed the entrance exam for the École Normale Supérieure, co-created a literary review called L’Étudiant noir (The Black Student) and helped to start the Négritude movement.

Reading list

(contains Bookshop affiliate links)

Business Secrets Of The Pharoahs by Mark Crorigan

Like Pharaoh Khufu, I have built a great tomb. But, tonight, I’m not gonna bury you in it with me. Except with the admittedly generous mounds of peanuts that you’ll see I’ve provided. No, tonight I just want to say that this book is a disaster! It’s a travesty! It’s proof of a broken promise.

Buy a copy today (unless you’re a pathetic worthless punk).

Pharaoh related: Tutankhamun’s tomb is an industry

'Brutalist Paris' to explore post-war Brutalist architecture in the French capital

from the curved concrete balconies of ‘les choux de créteil’ to oscar niemeyer’s ‘bourse du travail’, ‘brutalist paris’ documents the movement’s most significant examples in and around the french capital. back in 2017, blue crow media commissioned robin wilson and nigel green of photolanguage to research, write and shoot photography for the brutalist paris map. since the map’s publication, through their research, writing and photography, photolanguage have continued to draw attention to brutalist architecture across the city and its suburbs.

See also: Souvenir d’un Futur and the forgotten brutalist estates of Paris

(via designboom)

Roy Mehta's 'Revival' explores Brent's multiculturalism between 1989–93

Revival book cover

Roy Mehta is a London-based photographer and in his latest publication, Revival: London 1989-1993, he reconnected with his roots in Brent, north-west London. The book is a collection of Roy’s photos taken in a 4-year period from the tail-end of the 80s to the early 90s.

During this time, in 1989, Roy was living in Farnham, but he knew the area of Brent like the back of his hand – he just hadn’t been there for a while. So he packed up his camera and started to wander the roads of his old hometown, taking pictures along the way and observing the streets that he once used to roam as a child. “I gradually got to know the people and began to be accepted into churches, pubs, homes, dancehalls and other places in the community,” Roy tells It’s Nice That. “This was a long time before digital photography and social media, so photography was a different kind of practice; people related to the camera in a different way.”

Quote from It’s Nice That

Revival: London 1989-1993 is available from Hoxton Mini Press and on Amazon. There will also be an exhibition of the work in March 2022 (you can check some of the photos from there too).

A Quick Ting On: a non-fiction series focused on Black British culture

Jacaranda Books is set to release A Quick Ting On, their first non-fiction series dedicated to Black British culture. The series has been curated by Magdalene Abraha and features the likes of Chanté Joseph (!!!), Tobi Kyeremateng (!!!), and Sophia Tassew (!!!)

Here are the eight books and their release dates:

  • A Quick Ting On: Afrobeats by Christian Adofo (7th October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Plantain by Rui Da Silva (22nd October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Black British Power Movement by Chanté Joseph (28th October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: The Black Girl Afro by Zainab Kway-Swanzy (4th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Black British Businesses by Tskenya-Sarah Frazer (12th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Theatre Sh*t by Tobi Kyeremateng (19th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Grime by Franklyn Addo (2022)
  • A Quick Ting On: Bamboo Earrings by Sophia Tassew (2022)

This is exactly what we need and I’m so excited for this series and everyone involved. I’ll update with links as and when they come up.

Loose Ends: a literary supercut of 137 last lines from sci-fi books by Tom Comitta

I’ve featured Tom Comitta on Cultrface before with his airport novella and his tongue-in-cheek rework of Martin Scorsese’s Marvel essay. Back in September last year, he wrote a literary supercut called Loose Ends that pieced together the last lines from 137 sci-fi and fantasy books.

In true Comitta style, he makes sense out of fragments of media that were never intended to be seen in that way. I’d love to see this in a published book with different fonts for each line.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

Miles grinned sleepily, puddled down in his uniform. “Welcome to the beginning,” he said quietly. “We have a long way to go.”

“But I can’t speak Swedish,” I said.

“You’ll learn,” he said. “You’ll learn, you’ll learn.”

He threw on some more brush and watched the dark smoke spiral up under the sun, a warm and now comforting sun. “Let’s sail till we come to the edge.”

“Not until we can deliver our secret to our respective worlds. And acquire an intact ship.”

“Let’s go talk to Folimum and see what he says.” He turned back to his Master. He was ready to go.

“I think that could be arranged,” I said. I turned away from the bridge and Diane offered me her arm. I hesitated a moment, then took her arm.

Miles smiled. “Let the blind man show the way.”

He did.

You can read the full thing on Wired and there’s also an annotated version with the names of each book for each line.

(Featured image: original image via Flickr)

5 brilliant and possibly obscure Black authors

Tina Charisma compiled a list of 5 brilliant Black authors you need to know about but might not for Harper’s Bazaar.

The contributions of Black authors cannot be underestimated, from their creation of spaces, to their critical take on socio-political issues, culture and science. Black writers have helped carve out trails of the Black experience historically, while also changing mindsets and perceptions.

Naturally, the list didn’t feature the usual suspects—James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou—but there was one name I recognised: Octavia Butler. She was best known for her work in science fiction, putting Black characters and the forefront of a genre known for its racism towards humans of colour and aliens (acting as avatars for people of colour).

Here are 5 links* for some the books referenced in the list:

  1. Corregidora (1975)
  2. So Long A Letter (1979)
  3. Kindred (1979)
  4. Death and the King’s Horseman (1973)
  5. The Joys of Motherhood (1979)

* – These are Bookshop affiliate links where a small portion (10%) of the sale goes to me and the rest go to independent bookstores.

Copyrighted works from 1925 enter the public domain today

Cover art for The Great Gatsby

Happy new year to you all. I sincerely hope 2021 is better than 2020 (unless you’re Jeff Bezos).

Today is Public Domain Day again and that means copyrighted works from the US from 1925 are open to all. (For more information on it, we wrote about it in 2019.) The official Public Domain Day 2021 page explains why this year is so good:

In 2021, there is a lot to celebrate. 1925 brought us some incredible culture. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. The New Yorker magazine was founded. The literature reflected both a booming economy, whose fruits were unevenly distributed, and the lingering upheaval and tragedy of World War I. The culture of the time reflected all of those contradictory tendencies. The BBC’s Culture website suggested that 1925 might be “the greatest year for books ever,” and with good reason. It is not simply the vast array of famous titles. The stylistic innovations produced by books such as Gatsby, or The Trial, or Mrs. Dalloway marked a change in both the tone and the substance of our literary culture, a broadening of the range of possibilities available to writers, while characters such as Jay Gatsby, Hemingway’s Nick Adams, and Clarissa Dalloway still resonate today.

Below you will find a list of applicable works from 1925. Always remember to check works from any years prior to 1925 to make absolutely sure you follow any licence requirements (if there are any). And below the list is a Disney cartoon from 1925 not featuring Mickey Mouse.

A list of lists of public domain works from 1925

Walt Disney - 1925 - Alice Solves the Puzzle

Toni Morrison on "Jazz" (1993)

Toni Morrison

When Toni Morrison spoke, you listened. When she wrote, you read. And we still do even after her death on 5th August 2019.

In her famous 1993 interview with Charlie Rose, she discussed her novel Jazz, how she won Pulitzer Prize, and her encounters with racism. But it’s with the latter that most people remember this interview and a particular section I listen to over and over.

White People Have a Very Very Serious Problem - Toni Morrison on Charlie Rose

If you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees, then you have a serious problem, and my feeling is White people have a very, very serious problem and they should start thinking about what they can do about it. Take me out of it.

Between Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, I could listen to their speeches until I die.

Stream her interview below.

Toni Morrison interview on "Jazz" (1993)

Shape Grammars by Jannis Maroscheck is a book of shapes and systems

Cover for Shape Grammars

Imagine studying at the University of Arts in Tokyo, living in a small village, and finding out there’s a state of emergency due to COVID-19. What would you do? For Jannis Maroscheck, he decided to write a book.

Maybe “write” is the wrong word to describe how Shape Grammars was created. The 836-page study analyses automation in design, depicting “around 150,000 shapes” produced by 12 systems.

“What becomes visible is that the computer is quick at drawing. It can design 100,000 shapes in a couple of minutes. It is limited; it can never escape a system’s given logic.”

Jannis Maroscheck talking to It’s Nice That

I like the look of this book. I don’t know if I’d buy it or have any use for it but I enjoy the idea of all the shapes and the uniformity of it all. It’s brutal and concrete, which is similar to what Ayla Angelos to conclude their article:

Primitive, concrete and built to be transformed, the shapes found within this book’s hefty pages are indeed born out of a digital world. So is this perhaps a small glimpse into the future and what is yet to come? Is this the end of originality and conscious thought? Either way, the result of Jannis’ study is here to be used and appreciated for their forms.

Shape Grammars is currently being reprinted but is available via Slanted for €42.00.

24 Anti-Racist Books You Should Read

black woman reading book

There have been a lot of anti-racist book lists shared on the internet. In fact, here are 3 of them:

But for this list from Open Culture, the titles were recommended by readers.

If this is overwhelming but you feel you must start to engage with the history and theory of anti-racism, don’t despair or buy a pile of books you know you can’t read right now. All of the most prominent anti-racist authors have been in high demand for interviews.

Quote from Open Culture

Some of these books you’ll know, some you won’t. Some you may own, some may be on your wishlist already. The best time to be anti-racist is always now. If you can buy a book or have access to read one, I strongly recommend you do and put the learning into action.

Alongside the Open Culture list, I have chosen 5 books of my own.

Open Culture’s reading list

My book recommendations

Tom Comitta pens tongue-in-cheek rework of Martin Scorsese's Marvel essay

A shelf of books

Tom Comitta’s Airport Novella was a whimsical jab at trashy airport books. But for his recent essay, I Said Mainstream Novels Aren’t Literature. Let Me Explain., Comitta took on one of the greatest film directors in history.

Martin Scorsese wrote an essay for the New York Times entitled I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain. where he reminded readers that cinema was “an art form” and superhero movies took no risk to create. The piece was polarising, to say the least.

Comitta told me after reading the Marvel essay, he noticed parallels with the fiction world and decided to copy and adapt it with all the film references replaced with literature subtext. But during the copy and paste process, Comitta spotted all the online ad text that came with it. And he left it in.

“This piece is tongue-in-cheek in some ways, but it highlights a problem that I find pervasive in the publishing world: that less-mainstream forms and voices are largely ignored in the face of a risk-averse, highly consolidated and corporatized publishing industry.”

Tom Comitta

This kind of writing resonates with me as a sample-based music producer. It also highlights the current era of cookie-cutter entertainment, full of reboots, remakes, and formulaic art. Scorsese would likely agree with that. But I wouldn’t put comic book movies in that bracket.

Superhero stories are more than fantastical tales of people in skintight costumes saving the world. They come from myths and legends. Captain America was a “consciously political creation” according to co-creator Joe Simon. Some scholars claim that the Superman story contains Judeo-Christian themes. Batman was inspired by pulp fiction and other sleuths like Dick Tracy and Zorro.

Tom Comitta’s stance, of course, lies in the world of publishing and the mainstream engorging with money and space while riskier, more obscure forms of literature get left behind.

Codex Argenteus: the mysterious Gothic Silver Bible

Codex Argenteus from Uppsala University Library

The codex set the standard for future book formats that live in on modern times. Some are peculiar, like Codex Seraphinianus, but Codex Argenteus is the bible of Gothic Germany.

What is Codex Argenteus?

Codex Argenteus is a 6th-century book containing a Gothic translation of the Bible from the 4th century. To be clear, I’m not talking about the modern gothic subculture. The Goths were an East Germanic people who helped bring down the Western Roman Empire.

But back to the book. Codex Argenteus preserved the Gothic language in the best way possible – via a translation of the most famous text in human history. Its creation started in Ravenna, Italy. The city was the capital of the Western Roman Empire at the time and King Theoderic the Great wanted to make it a metropolis. Ravenna became the capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom after the Empire’s demise; a Bible translated into the kingdom’s language seemed fitting.

Who wrote it?

A bishop called Ulfilas (or Wulfila as he was known in Gothic) was originally attributed as the sole translator. But we now know Codex Argenteus was translated by multiple scholars supervised by the bishop. Ulfilas was a Goth and developed the Gothic alphabet, loosely based on an amalgamated Greco-Runic alphabet.

The empire fell in 476 and Theoderic died in 526. The Codex disappeared with him and stayed that way for centuries. It was then found in the 16th century on a library shelf in Werden, Germany. Occult-obsessed Rudolf II began collecting books for his court in Prague and select “Argenteus” as one of them.

The Silver Bible travels to Sweden

A page from Codex Argenteus
A page from Codex Argenteus

It stayed there for about 70 years before Sweden invaded Prague and took the Silver Bible with it. Codex Argenteus then became a part of Queen Christina’s library. But a few years later, Queen Christina converted to Catholicism and left for Rome after abdicating her throne. Her librarian went with her and she paid him in books as she didn’t have any money. The Gothic Bible changed hands once more.

Sweden’s new king, Charles X Gustav got his brother-in-law, Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, to speak to Christina’s librarian (a Dutch scholar called Isaac Vossius), and he bought the Silver Bible for 400 marks (about £12,300 in today’s money).

Codex Argenteus, stolen and returned

But did it stay in the possession of the Swedish royal family for good? Of course not. In 1995, it was stolen by two men in gas masks. Authorities recovered Codex Argenteus a month later but the thieves were never caught. It now resides in an annexe to Carolina Rediviva, Uppsala University’s main library. And a bulletproof glass box protects it this time.

Unfortunately, today only 56% of its original 336 pages remain. They were also dyed purple – talk about regal. It was expensive to do this in the 6th century, exclusively for emperors. Codex Argenteus is a well-travelled book and an enduring bastion of a lost language.

The Silver bible online?

Wulfila didn’t want the Gothic language to stay within the confines of Codex Argenteus. He wanted to spread the text and keep the language alive that way. And now anyone can read the book.

David Landau helped put the 1927 edition of the Codex online and you can read it via alvin-portal.org.

(Main image from Uppsala University Library)