Bernie Sanders’ New Book Takes Corporate Media To Task

During a rousing speech delivered to supporters in New York City Tuesday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had a few words for the media establishment.

“Over 90 percent of media coverage [during the 2016 presidential race] was not about the issues that impact your lives,” he said, citing “a variety of studies.”

Instead, he continued, the stories “were about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. They were about political gossip. They were about polls. They were about fundraising. They were about stupid things that people said 20 years ago. What we must demand of a media is that they start covering the issues that impact our lives. Not just the candidates’ lives.”

Sanders was in town to promote his new book, Our Revolution, named for the political action group that grew out of the senator’s progressive platform.Speaking to a crowd of seated audience members in Manhattan’s Cooper Union, he took what he called “corporate media” to task for its failure to cover the 2016 presidential campaign season in “a serious way.” During the speech, Sanders echoed sentiments outlined in the last chapter of his book, a section titled “Corporate Media and the Threat to Our Democracy.” 

“If media does not accept its responsibility to talk about the reality facing the American people […] that is a real threat to the future of American democracy,” he told his supporters Tuesday night.

Mr. Trump does not have a mandate to carry out his extremist ideas and we should not forget that for a second. Senator Bernie Sanders

In his book, published on Nov. 15 by Thomas Dunne Books, he cites an early experience with “the nature of the media’s political coverage,” recounting the time Vermont news outlets focused their attention on a candidate for state representative who skied around the state to meet voters, downplaying the actual issues affecting voters. “If corporate media won’t change,” Sanders writes in the final pages of his book, “start new media.”

The issues that impact our lives, Sanders reiterated throughout his hourlong talk, include access to healthcare and higher education, the disappearance of the middle class, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and climate change. He urged his followers to pay attention to these concerns, going so far as to point out three subjects on which American citizens should refuse to compromise: bigotry, democracy and climate change. 

Sanders was introduced on Tuesday night by the actor and activist Harry Belafonte, who described the election of Donald Trump as “weird.” Belafonte was in turn introduced by Strand Bookstore owner Nancy Bass Wyden, who praised Sanders’ “action-oriented ideas for progressives who want to reclaim power in America.” Strand hosted the event at Cooper Union.

The Huffington Post streamed the entire speech live on Facebook Tuesday night. You can watch the event, and read more excerpts from Sanders’ talk, below.


On Donald Trump:

“In terms of the popular vote, Mr. Trump lost that to Secretary Clinton by almost three million votes. […] Mr. Trump does not have a mandate to carry out his extremist ideas and we should not forget that for a second.”

On the progressive agenda:

“On virtually every major issue impacting the American people, it turns out that a significant majority of the American people support the progressive agenda. I want all of you to know […] that you’re not heroes and heroines fighting some great uphill struggle out on the vanguard. What your views are, by and large, represent where the American people are on issue after issue.”

On voter suppression:

“What you have in Republican states all over this country is you have Republican governors who are too cowardly to participate in free and fair and open elections. They are working overtime to deny poor people, old people, young people, people of color the right to vote. Massive levels of voter suppression.”

On Trump’s cabinet nominations:

“Mr. Trump nominated for Secretary of State the head of ExxonMobil. He appointed or nominated as head of the Environmental Protection Agency someone who does not even believe in the reality of climate change. And on this issue, as on many other issues, what we have got to do as a nation is […] we have got to bring millions and millions of people together to tell Mr. Trump that we’re not going back to bigotry, that we’re going to protect American democracy, and that we are going to transform our energy system, whether ExxonMobil likes it or not.”

On why Hillary Clinton and Democratic congressmen lost:

“There are a lot of reasons why, but I’ll tell you what I think a key reason is is that the Democrats failed to understand that, while it is true, absolutely, that we are better off today economically than we were eight years ago when Bush left office, no debate about that, there’s another truth. And that truth is that there are millions and millions of people, often in rural areas, in inner cities, who are hurting today very, very badly. They are in real pain. This is a pain that you don’t see on television. […] The word poverty comes out of the mouths of very few elected officials.”

On the future of the Democratic Party:

“I think we need a fundamental transformation of the Democratic Party. I am not here tonight to, you know, knock people […] but I think it is very clear that the current approach the current way the Democratic Party has done business simply has failed and we need a very new direction.”

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Jennifer Lawrence writes emotional essay on Trumps victory: Let this enrage you


Jennifer Lawrence may not be happy, but shes hopeful.

The actress responded to President-elect Donald Trumps victory, in an essay posted Thursday morning that she wrote for Broadly, Vices womens interest channel. In it, Lawrence asks Americans to think long and hard about the state of the country, and to not place blame on others for Hillary Clintons defeat.

I want to be positive; I want to support our democracy, but what can we take away from this? Its a genuine question that we all need to ask ourselves, writes the Oscar-winning actress. We shouldnt blame anyone, we shouldnt riot in the streets. We should think strongly and clearly about what to do next because we cannot change the past.

As an outspoken opponent of Trump, Lawrence wrote that women must work exponentially harder than their male counterparts in order to be heard and taken seriously.

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Rachel Dolezal describes oppression she faced while identifying as black

Rachel Dolezal’s book is set for release in 2017.

If you found yourself missing Americas favorite transracial role model, youre in luck! Rachel Dolezal is back in the news with her new tell-all memoir, In Full Color. 

While the book wont be in stores until March of 2017, she was nice enough to unveil a little preview on the books Amazon page.

“With In Full Color, Rachael Doleal describes the path that led her from being a child of white evangelical parents to an NAACP chapter president and respected educator and activist who identified as black. Along the way, shell discuss the deep emotional bond she formed with her four adopted black siblings, the sense of belonging she felt while living in black communities in Jackson, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., and the discrimination shes suffered while living as a black woman.

“Her story is nuanced and complex, and in the process of telling it, she forces us to consider race in an entirely new lightnot as a biological imperative, but as a function of the experiences we have, the culture we embrace, and, ultimately, the identity we choose.”

So, basically, for a cool $14.97 you can hear all about how oppressed white Rachel Dolezal felt after choosing to identify as black. We feel for her.

Not everyone is fumbling for their credit cards. Some people on Twitter were actually upset about Dolezals memoir.

Click for more from Heat Street.

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#TrumpBookReport: great literature reimagined as a tweet from the Donald

Twitter users have seized on a tweet describing the Republican nominees vague debate responses as like a book report from a teenager who hasnt read the book

Inspired by Donald Trumps responses during the third presidential debate, Twitter users are humorously attempting to explain great works of literature through the Republicans eyes using #TrumpBookReport.

The idea seemed to have been spawned from a widely shared tweet from Antonio French, a city alderman and mayoral candidate in St Louis, Missouri, criticizing Trump for his vague, surface-level remarks during the debate.

Trumps foreign policy answers sound like a book report from a teenager who hasnt read the book, French wrote on Wednesday night. Oh, the grapes! They had so much wrath!

The debate was the final opportunity for Trump and Hillary Clinton to spar on national television ahead of election day, and plenty of other remarks from the Republican nominee inspired their own widespread online reactions. Many began sharing hair memes after Trump called for removing bad hombres (or perhaps he said ombrs) from the US.

After Trump called Clinton a nasty woman, many on Twitter quickly moved to reclaim the term, making it their username or hoping for T-shirts. More than 100 products have already been marketed on Etsy using variations of the quote, with Nasty Women Vote T-shirts, buttons and coffee mugs. Trumps insult was an unintended boon for singer Janet Jackson and her 1986 song Nasty. A spokesperson for Spotify told Quartz streams of her song spiked 250% after the debate.

The book report joke caught on quickly in replies to Frenchs tweet, with riffs on Moby-Dick, Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice And Men and the Great Gatsby, before becoming its own trending hashtag. The imagined book reports took on some of Trumps rhetoric, from his campaign slogan, self-promotional tendencies to his disparaging comments about women.

Bill Fryer (@BillOnFryer)

I’ve never had a problem finding Waldo, Never. Ask anyone. I always find Waldo. #TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

Richard Winters (@rwinter2)

There was a Lion, okay? King of the Jungle. And the Witch? Lemme tell you, nasty. And the Wardrobe, so luxurious. The best. #trumpbookreport

October 20, 2016

Gloria Bernstein (@GloriaBB2)

“TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD? Believe me-if those mockingbirds had guns they wouldn’t have been killed.”#TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

Jennifer Weiner (@jenniferweiner)

Little Women? Look at their Facebook page. That Jo walked in front of me, and I don’t think so, folks, I don’t think so. #TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

Maureen Johnson (@maureenjohnson)

Fault? These stars are a disaster. A disaster, let me tell you. Believe me, I’m going to make stars great again. #TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

Callie (@calliembush)

Those poor heights. They were wuthering. Wuthering so bad. Bigly wuthering. I’ll make them great again. #TrumpBookReport @AntonioFrench

October 20, 2016

Summer Brennan (@summerbrennan)

Nowhere does it say that anything actually happened between Lolita and Humbert, it was just boy talk. #TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

Lauren Holmes (@lholmes12)

Lady Macbeth. Nasty woman. Blood coming out of her wherever. #TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

Brian Francis (@briandfrancis)

Gatsby? He says he was great. I don’t know. People are saying maybe not so great. I’ll make Gatsby great again. #trumpbookreport

October 20, 2016

Historical Trump (@HistoryDTrump)

It took Low Energy Harry Potter 7 books to defeat Voldermort. Sad! I would have beat him in the first book! #TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

Amber Kirk-Ford (@MileLongBookS)

Voldemort was a good man. A good man. People say I’m like him, that’s good. But Hermione was a nasty, nasty woman. #TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

kyla crowther (@whatkylasaid)

Oedipus. Tremendous leader. The best. I’ve always said that if Jocasta were my mother, perhaps I’d be dating her. #TrumpBookReport

October 20, 2016

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A letter to my daughter regarding Trump

(CNN)I am so sorry that the world I’ve brought you into is one in which not only is Donald Trump possible, but possibly the next President of the United States. I had hoped that by this point in history, we would be better than this. Apparently, we’re not.

You know some of what Donald Trump has said and done in this campaign. You hear it on the news, kids talk about it at school. “I hate Donald Trump,” you said the other day during breakfast. Please don’t. Don’t hate one sad man with a lot of power and little self-restraint. And don’t hate the people who are enthusiastically supporting him. Donald Trump is running a campaign of hate, and hate cannot be solved by hate but by empathy and understanding.






Our progress as a nation is something you can be proud of. As you grow up, it’s important you understand more and more about the dark parts of America’s history, but also the bright moments where we moved forward. Once upon a time in our nation, black people were the legal property of white people and only white men could vote. We changed all that. Our history has progressed imperfectly, but make no mistake about it, it has progressed — and that simple but glorious fact should always give you hope. Do not let those fighting against this progress convince you that they are the only ones who love their country. Fighting to make our nation more inclusive and more just is one of the highest forms of patriotism I can imagine. If you always fight for fairness and justice, you will make me proud and you will make our country proud. You will be a bright light in our nation’s still-unfolding story.
All of this may be too hard for you to understand right now. After all, you’re only eight years old. But I know you understand the difference between right from wrong. And I know that you know the things Donald Trump has said about Mexicans and veterans and Muslims and women are wrong. More importantly, you know that what he stands for is wrong — a narrow vision of America that promises opportunity for some through the oppression of others. That “logic” shaped the mistakes of our nation’s past. I pray every night it will not shape our future.
You’ve said that if Donald Trump wins, you want to move to India. I’m afraid to tell you that the current prime minister of India isn’t much better than Trump. But more importantly, no matter what happens on Election Day, we will stay and fight for justice. If Trump wins and does the things he has promised, we will not only march in the streets, but we will use our bodies to stop his forces from entering mosques or raiding homes of immigrants. And if Trump does not win, we will still need to fight — against the strains of intolerance and hate that still course consciously and unconsciously through each of our minds and our entire nation. If Trump is defeated, there is much work to be done to ensure that another Trump does not rise.

Join us on Twitter and Facebook

On November 8, I will take you with me to vote. And together we will vote to elect Hillary Clinton the first woman president in the 227-year history of the U.S. presidency. And with that choice we will also vote to uplift the best of America’s values. With every fiber of our beings, we will continue to vote and speak and write and march and do whatever we can to uphold and uplift justice and inclusion and fairness and kindness and equal opportunity for all.
I cannot promise you that these values will always govern every moment of our nation’s future, just as they clearly failed at times in our past. But I can promise you that I will fight for a world and a country that is, at its core, as loving and generous and beautiful as you are. I will fight for the world that you and all children deserve. Electing Hillary Clinton and defeating Donald Trump is just one step. Onward.

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Google swallows 11,000 novels to improve AI’s conversation

As writers learn that tech giant has processed their work without permission, the Authors Guild condemns blatantly commercial use of expressive authorship

When the writer Rebecca Forster first heard how Google was using her work, it felt like she was trapped in a science fiction novel.

Is this any different than someone using one of my books to start a fire? I have no idea, she says. I have no idea what their objective is. Certainly it is not to bring me readers.

After a 25-year writing career, during which she has published 29 novels ranging from contemporary romance to police procedurals, the first instalment of her Josie Bates series, Hostile Witness, has found a new reader: Googles artificial intelligence.

My imagination just didnt go as far as it being used for something like this, Forster says. Perhaps thats my failure.

Forsters thriller is just one of 11,000 novels that researchers including Oriol Vinyals and Andrew M Dai at Google Brain have been using to improve the technology giants conversational style. After feeding these books into a neural network, the system was able to generate fluent, natural-sounding sentences. According to a Google spokesman who didnt want to be named products such as the Google app will be much more useful if they can capture the nuance of language better.

For the moment, the research is just a proof of concept, the spokesman continues via email, but these methods could help Google understand and produce a broader, more nuanced range of text for any given task.

We could have used many different sets of data for this kind of training, and we have used many different ones for different research projects, he adds. But in this case, it was particularly useful to have language that frequently repeated the same ideas, so the model could learn many ways to say the same thing the language, phrasing and grammar in fiction books tends to be much more varied and rich than in most nonfiction books.

The only problem is that they didnt ask. The Google paper [PDF] says that the novels used in this research were taken from the Books Corpus, citing a 2015 paper by Ryan Kiros and others [PDF] which describes how the authors collected a corpus of 11,038 books from the web, describing them as free books written by [as] yet unpublished authors. Its a collection that has been used by other researchers working in artificial intelligence and which is currently available for download in its entirety from the University of Toronto.

Forster says that she always appreciates an interesting use of words, but while Hostile Witness is available to download for free, no one asked her permission to use her novel as raw material to train a computer.

Perhaps Im still thinking in the old way, that a reader will read my book it didnt even occur to me that a machine could read my book. What I found curious was that these were referred to as free books written by as yet unpublished authors because my state is very different, she says.

Like many of the novels in the Book Corpus collection, the edition of Hostile Witness used in the research was published on Smashwords and includes a copyright declaration that reserves all rights, specifies that the ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only, and offers the reader thanks for respecting the hard work of this author. While Forster says shes no lawyer, the spirit of this declaration is clear you hope that your work would be respected by readers.

I take great pride in my craft, and perhaps it was chosen because of that. Which would be great. Or perhaps it was chosen because it was there, because it was free?

Another writer whose work has been used in the Google Brain research is Erin McCarthy, the author of more than 28 novels. The first volume of her Fast Track series, published by Penguin Random Houses Berkley Books imprint, is also available for free online, but McCarthy says that Google didnt get in touch with her or ask for permission to use Jacked Up in their research into AI. Shes fascinated to hear that romance novels are being used to improve the search conglomerates ability to speak.

There is a reason they are the bestselling genre in the US and I believe its because they feel conversational themselves, McCarthy says. Its real life turned up a notch. Realism overlying a fantasy.

The flow of the dialogue is very important, she continues. I am very cognizant of using modern diction and age-appropriate word choices. If my female character is 24 shes not going to speak in a formal manner. Conversations between the hero and heroine have realistic word choices, but there is additionally an element of fantasy there. What they want a hero to say, but what might not actually occur in real life. Thats what readers want and expect from a romance novel.

McCarthy isnt sure how to respond to the idea that her work has been used for an entirely different purpose to the one she intended, a purpose that may result in services to make the tech giant a lot of money.

Its hard to gauge the use of my work and the exact purpose for its use without having seen it in action, she says. My assumption would be they purchased a copy of the book originally. If they havent, then I would imagine the source of the content, as intellectual property, should be properly attributed and compensated for the general health of the creative community.

Far from offering proper attribution or any compensation, the Google paper avoids any suggestion that the novels used in the research were written by real people, describing the books only as a collection of text from 12k ebooks, mostly fiction.

Forster is equally adamant that writers whose work has been used to gain a commercial advantage should reap a portion of the rewards, but isnt holding her breath for any payment.

If theres one thing thats niggling at me its that I would have liked to have known, she says. With all the technology at their fingertips, then it wouldnt have been too hard to let everyone know.

According to Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, this blatantly commercial use of expressive authorship comes as no surprise. Weve seen this movie before.

The Guild has been in dispute with Google since 2005, arguing that the companys project to digitise library books was a plain and brazen violation of copyright law. Google Books won in 2013, with the district court ruling that all society benefits from the project, a decision that the supreme court declined to review earlier this year.

Why shouldnt authors be asked permission, or even informed not to mention compensated before their work is used in this manner? Rasenberger asks. Theres no doubt the company has the means to do so.

Google wouldnt say whether getting hold of 11,000 authors was beyond their capacities, or if they have any plans to reward the writers, or if the people whose expertise was harvested to train their network were ever considered as individuals. While attribution isnt required, the spokesman says via email, the researchers clearly identify where they got the data.

The machine learning community has long published open research with these kinds of datasets, including many academic researchers with this set of free ebooks it doesnt harm the authors and is done for a very different purpose from the authors, so its fair use under US law.

But Rasenberger isnt convinced.

The research in question uses these novels for the exact purpose intended by their authors to be read, she argues. It shouldnt matter whether its a machine or a human doing the copying and reading, especially when behind the machine stands a multi-billion dollar corporation which has time and again bent over backwards devising ways to monetise creative content without compensating the creators of that content.

Rasenberger adds that nobody knows how books will be read or used in the future, which is why the Authors Guild is proposing that digital uses should be allowed under a licensing system. But for the moment, Google is extracting immense value from the creative efforts of thousands of authors and looking the other way.

For Forster, the lack of any proper attribution speaks volumes. If theyre not mentioning the authors, she says, then maybe theyre not thinking of it in terms of it being someones work.

She never imagined her work would wind up as being part of someone elses dataset, as raw ingredients to satisfy a machines hunger for information, but shes been around long enough to know that what you hope for isnt always what you get.

I would have loved to have been part of the discussion of this project, and to have known how it was going to be used, she says. But Id also like to be thought of as intelligent enough to be able to make a decision about the end product.

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‘How I accidentally became a poet through Twitter’ – BBC News

Brian Bilston has been dubbed the “unofficial poet laureate of Twitter”, but he stumbled into writing poetry on social media. Here he explains the power of online verse.

It started with a tweet. I never thought it would come to this.

I’m not even sure it was a poem. More of a play on words, each one carefully selected to fit into the 140-character constraint of a tweet.

It went:

Image copyright Twitter

I sent it out – and then went out. By coincidence, to see a poet – a proper one, the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, no less – who was giving a reading nearby.


I had turned off my phone so it wasn’t until a few hours later, when I’d returned home and turned it back on again, that I saw my Twitter notifications had gone crazy – my tweet had been shared several hundred times, I had 200 new followers. It was the kind of reaction I was utterly unaccustomed to getting.

A few weeks later, I tried again. A poem entitled Frisbee:

Image copyright Twitter

Again, it was well-received. More retweets. More new followers. And so my career as social media poet began.

I had never intended to be a poet. A poet to my mind was someone of intensity, a serious type, the kind of person you wouldn’t want to get trapped in a kitchen with at a party (if poets received invitations to parties at all, that is).

I vaguely remembered the term “iambic pentameter” from my schooldays. I knew roughly how many syllables there were in a haiku, and I had a rudimentary grounding in the poetry of Eliot and Larkin – although my true heroes were Roger McGough and Ogden Nash.

Find out more

This is an edited version of The Social Media Poet, part of Radio 4’s Four Thought series – catch up on BBC iPlayer Radio

I had never intended to waste my days on social media either. Of Twitter, I was, as with so many other things, a late adopter. I had only joined it in order to understand what it was that those people at work, invariably younger than I, would talk about so irritatingly in meetings.

So I joined, and like many other first-time tweeters, those early months were spent in writing bad jokes and puns which echoed in the ethereal emptiness.

But something else had begun to bloom in the background – I had started to talk to strangers on Twitter (some of whom were very strange) and read about the things that interested them or made them laugh or annoyed or sad or angry.

And almost nothing, it seemed, made Twitter angrier than bad grammar. For every badly spelt, poorly constructed tweet, there were a hundred unreconstructed grammar pedants leaping in to point out the mistakes.

So I started writing poems about these heinous crimes, the misapplication of a semi-colon, the rule about i before e, and of course, that most controversial of all the punctuation marks, the Oxford comma – and even gently mocked the grammar enforcers themselves:

Image copyright Twitter

I began to receive feedback on my poems from Twitter users. A typical response was: “I hated poetry at school. I never thought I’d find myself retweeting a poem.”

Or: “I don’t really like poems but I like whatever it is you do”

I am still unsure as to whether these are compliments or not. But it did open my eyes to how poetry is still viewed with suspicion by a large part of the populace, in spite of the undoubted resurgence in popularity it has seen in recent times.

We see signs of that new interest in poetry all around us – the growth of performance poetry and the spoken word movement, poetry slams, workshops for aspiring poets, the soaring membership of societies at the national and regional level, the rise of self-publishing, and a new generation of inspiring younger poets, such as Kate Tempest and George the Poet, taking the form to newer audiences.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kate Tempest

But move outside of that growing community, the impression remains that poetry – in general terms – is difficult, almost deliberately obtuse and obscure, frequently dull, and willfully uses words such as “crepuscular” or “obsidian”.

Small wonder that the business of publishing poetry books is a fraught one – few titles sell in substantial quantities, and most general commercial publishers or literary agents have turned their backs on poetry.

Books are published by specialist presses with short print-runs or self-published. Poetry sections in bookshops appear to shrink by the month. There’s a lot of poetry about but it seems few people want to buy it.

But social media shows us that a broader, more democratic appetite for poetry exists, after all.

In June, as the terrible news came in of the murder of MP Jo Cox, the Poetry Society – a UK organisation with the aim of promoting the study, use and enjoyment of poetry – shared on Twitter The Mower, one of Philip Larkin’s later poems.

The poem concerns the death of a hedgehog, jammed up against the blades of his lawnmower. The poem is mournful and melancholic but also compassionate and powerful.

It travelled around Twitter at lightning speed, bursting out from the bubble of The Poetry Society’s followers to find a much broader audience. It was re-shared over 3,500 times and reached a readership of half a million readers in just a few days.

It’s a piece that does what brilliant poetry does best – it moves us, it gives voice to thoughts and feelings that we ourselves may struggle to articulate, it’s personal and yet universal.

Image caption Philip Larkin

But also, 37 years after it was written, it is relevant. It’s Poetry as Current Affairs. The Poem as Social Commentary. And that can be the power of social media for poetry – a place to share words at the point of need. It is lent an immediacy other outlets for poetry do not have – it is not trapped in the pages of a book on a shelf, nor waiting to be recited at an event taking place two weeks next Thursday. It’s there where we need it – and when we need it.

But the relationship between poetry and that broader social media audience is more than an immediate, articulated response to tragedy. A platform such as Twitter can also serve as an endless source of ideas for poets.

Without Twitter’s hashtag, the symbol for what is trending at any moment in time, I would never have known about Penguin Awareness Day or National Stationery Week. Last year, the stars aligned and three celebrations occurred all on the same day – World Philosophy Day, International Men’s Day and World Toilet Day, giving rise to this short piece – Poem for International Men’s Toilet Philosophy Day – which combines all three:

Image copyright Twitter

Poetry is often seen as being about Universal Concepts and Big Ideas – Truth, Love, Death, Beauty, Betrayal, Regret. These are all Grand Themes upon which we have cause to reflect throughout our lives. But there’s poetry to be found in the stuff of everyday existence, too – that nonsense in our lives that sometimes gets in the way of those Grand Themes – and social media is the ideal arena in which to share it.

Image copyright Twitter

There are other lessons for poets to learn from social media about how to keep their writing interesting and relevant to modern audiences. The ways in which we consume content have begun to change.

Any time spent wallowing in the mire that is social media shows how visual the information is with which we now engage – yes, there are words aplenty, but there are pictures and videos, too.

The barrage of information that is thrown at us means that plain words on a page are becoming less likely to be read. People struggle to find the time, inclination or powers of concentration to wade through pages of dense text. Words find themselves in competition with pictures. And less is often more.

But poets shouldn’t feel threatened by this in a social media setting – rather, it gives us the opportunity to think about form as well as content, and how the presentation of a poem might enhance or complement the words which accompany it.

I began to experiment with the visual aspects of poetry, when I wrote a poem in the shape of a Christmas tree. The poem itself was about how I had neglected to water my words, and I illustrated this by having words spread out around the base of the poem, like pine needles scattered over a carpet.

Image copyright Twitter

The presentation of the poem was the punchline but also enabled it to stand out amongst the hundreds of other tweets sitting on users’ timelines.

Other forms and shapes followed. We live in an age of infographics, data, flowcharts. On Twitter, I noticed how everyone, it would seem, enjoys a good Venn diagram. So I wrote a poem using two different personal narratives separated into two halves of a Venn diagram, with words which overlapped in their stories appearing in the intersection to form a third, unifying perspective to the poem.

Image copyright Twitter

And from there followed poems in flowcharts, or made from Scrabble tiles, in Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, in the form of CVs, in the shapes of wine-glasses and light-bulbs. They all became popular.

Yes, their novelty helped the poems stand out – but they also embedded words within places or situations that people recognized from their own lives.

So what have I – as an accidental poet – accidentally learnt?

Poetry on social media is more than a never-ending stream of haiku concerning the changing light of the moon on water, or the beauty of cherry blossom.

It’s far more interesting and relevant than that.

More about Brian Bilston

Media captionBrian Bilston on Donald Trump, sex and the Daily Mail

It’s an opportunity for poetry to present itself in situations where and when people most need it – as a way of finding meaning or comfort to bigger, often unfathomable, world events, perhaps, or simply to provide some light relief from the complexity and perplexity of life.

But it’s also a platform for poets themselves to interact and engage with their audience – and, indeed, find new audiences – through experimentation with content and form, and a deeper engagement with real world concerns.

I shall finish with one more poem, written one day when Twitter became unavailable for a whole afternoon, much to the angst of millions of people around the world. It’s called The day that Twitter went down.

That day I got things done.

I went for a long run.

Played ping-pong,

Wrote a song.

It got to number one.

That day I did a lot.

I tied a Windsor knot.

Helped the poor,

Stopped a war,

Read all of Walter Scott.

O what a day to seize.

I learnt some Cantonese.

Led a coup,

Climbed K2,

Cured a tropical disease.

That day I met deadlines,

Got crowned King of Liechtenstein,

Stroked a toucan,

Found Lord Lucan,

Then Twitter came back online.

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Regularly Reading Books Prolongs Your Life By Up To Two Years

There are many ways to improve the chance of you living to a ripe old age, and some are fairly obvious. Refraining from smoking and drinking, doing moderate-intensity exercise, and eating a relatively healthy diet are some of the more obvious ones, but a new study in the journal Social Science and Medicine also concludes that those who regularly read books add years to their lives too.

In fact, in a long-term study of 3,635 people, they found that those thatindulged in a bit of novel perusing specifically, for more than 3.5 hours per week live on averagetwo years longer than non-readers. This appeared to be linked to cognitive enhancement rather than any other associated factor, including age, sex, education, race, health, wealth, marital status, and depressive tendencies.

During the 12-year-long study, the research team led by Avni Bavishi from the Yale University School of Public Health divided their subjects into three groups: those who didnt read at all, those who read for 3.5 hours per week or less, and those who read for more than 3.5 hours per week.

Even in the second group, these occasional bookworms were 17 percent less likely to die during the follow-up period than those who did not. Before you claim that all those magazine articles you read aregood enough, however, its worth noting that this effect can only be linked to books, and not other forms of reading material.

Book reading contributed to a survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed for reading newspapers or magazines, the authors note in their study, concluding that these findings suggest that the benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.

Reading books tends to involve two cognitive processes that could create a survival advantage, the team added. First, it promotes deep reading, an immersive process that encourages readers to form connections to other parts of the material and the world around them. Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival.

It seems that the complex, interwoven nature of many books cannot be matched, at present, by any other type of text-based information. Nevertheless, this doesnt mean that books are the only way to engage your brain in intricate, engaging ways multiple studies across the years have shown that computer games are also excellent ways to boost intelligence and learning capabilities, both of which will undoubtedly give you an advantage in life.

Still, at this point, it seems that books rule the roost. The novelist Stephen King once said that books are a uniquely portable magic, and it appears that he was right in more ways than one.

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Hey, Girl, The History Of The Word Girl Is Actually Crazy

There’s “gal,” there’s “lady,” and now, there’s “kween” (comma, “yas”).

The ways modern girls evade calling each other “girls” are myriad, but most of them take on the same semi-ironic tone, mocking the days when femininity, monolithic as it was, could be neatly contained within the parameters of a word.

As much as those old-timey words smack of condescension “ladies” seems at home in the mouth of a suited courter, verbally italicized they can also generate feelings of solidarity among women, and so we use them, half-seriously. “Lady” has a disparaging air; it implies that a woman behaves as she “should.” “Gal” isn’t as bad, but it harkens back to a time when women had fewer rights. When we use these words on our own terms, we’re giving them a new life.

But there’s one girl-word that’s still icky in spite of its ubiquity, and that’s “girl” itself.

It’s unapologetically juvenile, like the cringeworthy “panties,” which, according to a survey of 500 women, is among the most-hated words. Its juvenility, when applied to adults, reveals some uncomfortable things about femininity being inextricably linked to youth. But, as Robin Wasserman pointed out in a piece on the word on Literary Hub, “girl” is having a moment. Citing a rash of new books with “girl” in the title – including her own, Girls on FireWasserman writes, “There is, it seems, a girl for nearly every kind of woman. I think it’s worth asking why.”

She surveys Gone Girl, Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band, “Golden Girls” and Lena Dunham’s “Girls” to arrive at the conclusion that until we reshape the stuffy, stifled connotation of “woman,” “girl” is liberating, and “girlhood as a state of mind” is worth embracing.

But how did we get ourselves into this linguistic conundrum, wherein the two most viable pronouns for women are respectively infantilizing and rife with domestic, subservient connotations?

The word started cropping up in English texts in the 13th century, used to refer to a young person, but not necessarily a female child.

Sally McConnell-Ginet, professor emeritus of linguistics at Cornell, shared her insights about the history and function of the word “girl” in an email exchange with The Huffington Post, explaining that its roots aren’t tied to gender, but to youth in general.

The precise origin of “girl” is unknown, but, McConnell-Ginet said, the word started cropping up in English texts in the 13th century, used to refer to a young person, but not necessarily a female child. “Gay girls” referred to young women, while “knave girls” referred to young men, until around the 16th century, when “girl” evolved to mean young women in particular.

“This is pretty interesting,” McConnell-Ginet said. “It is much more common for words designating either sex to become specialized for application to males, as in the case of ‘man,’ which from meaning ‘human’ has come to mean in most uses ‘male human.’”

She suspects that the transition of “girl” from genderless to gendered has to do with the word’s dainty connotation, and the perception of young women as smaller and fairer than young men. “It is probably because of the very common association of childishness, smallness, etc.,” McConnell-Ginet said. “Female children might seem in many contexts the quintessential children.”

Does calling adult women “girls” imply that they should strive to be quintessential children, too? It would seem so, when it was uttered in workplaces by “Mad Men”-era nine-to-fivers, describing their secretaries, regardless of age. “My girl” wasn’t just a diminutive descriptor at work, either. The oldies hit bearing the phrase as a title was a No. 1 single by The Temptations in 1964. “Girl Friday” and “girl next door” are among the offshoots that take “girl” to mean a woman who is dependable, helpful, and, as such, eager to serve.

Using historically juvenile words to refer to people who are no longer children has been used as an oppressive tool in other contexts, marking the habit as a harmful one. McConnell-Ginet notes that black men in America were referred to as “boy” by white slaveholders, and, later, employers. “The ‘houseboy’ in many colonial contexts was typically adult,” she added. “Women of any age doing domestic work were often referred to as ‘girls,’ a usage more likely for women of color.”

Using historically juvenile words to refer to people who are no longer children has been used as an oppressive tool in other contexts, marking the habit as a harmful one.

It’s not surprising, then, that, as with so many inventive language phenomena today, the reclaiming of “girl” began in black communities. McConnell-Ginet called it a “warm and powerful form of address,” and due to that power, the usage spread.

In the ‘90s, there were the riot grrrls and the glossier pop equivalents touting “girl power.” Today, Beyonce chants that girls run the world. The widespread reclamation might’ve been disseminated over radio waves and Spotify downloads, but it made its way to more academic realms, too. Eve Ensler, founder of The Vagina Monologues, preaches the reclaiming of the “girl self,” the versions of our personas that “we, as both women and men, often devalue as weak, foolish and irrational as a result of our gender socialization.” When put that way, “girl” is at once a guttural battle cry and a sound defense of traditionally “feminine” virtues, so often written off as foolish or naive.

Andi Zeisler, founder of Bitch Media and author of We Were Feminists Once, attributes the omnipresence of “girl” to a less innocuous force. In a phone interview with HuffPost, she said, “I do think it’s because it’s easier to conceive of girls as an attractive category than it is to think about women in that same way. The Women’s Guide to Savvy Investing is just not going to move the same kind of units as The Girl’s Guide to Getting Rich! A lot of it really is, from a selling and consumption perspective, [about] making things useful, making them sassy, trading on the imagery of the word ‘girl’ as somehow more fun and less ponderous than ‘woman.’”

Zeisler remembers making the conscious decision to refer to herself as a “woman” rather than a “girl,” a deliberate choice she believes many young women make while they’re in the throes of their politically charged college years. 

“I was certainly referring to my contemporaries as girls well into my freshman year before I started noticing that a lot of the people I respected and looked up to were using the term ‘woman,’” Zeisler said. “It’s sort of alien. I remember it sounding very alien in my own mouth, and I felt like I was tripping over myself when I said it. I felt really self-conscious about it.”

Condescension and commercialization aside, she doesn’t think reclaiming “girl” as a positive descriptor rather than a dismissive moniker is all bad. “I don’t really see a ton of downsides,” Zeisler said. “Other than the fact that you don’t always get to choose what people mean when they’re calling you a ‘girl.’”

But that alone the interpretable nature and fraught history of the word, which can be molded into meanings that range from stunting to healing may be reason enough to avoid it.

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Kobos Giant E-Reader May Put the Kindle in Its Place

In the annals of great underdogs, a Canadian subsidiary of a Japanese mega-retailer makes for an unlikely entrant. And yet heres Kobo, again, with a new e-reader that could give Kindle owners some serious second thoughts.

The new Kobo Aura One is literally big, a 7.8-inch behemoth in a world of standard 6-inch displays. But its features are also outsized, whether its robust waterproofing, a clever new nighttime lighting system, or a way to help you read as many top-shelf books as you please without paying a cent. More importantly, theyre all enhancements you wont find on an Amazon Kindle.

Kobo A-Gogo

Its a rocky time for e-readers. Last month, the Association of American Publishers reported that while overall book revenue increased .6 percent in 2015 versus the year before, e-book revenue fell a precipitous 11.3 percent. Of Amazons extensive e-reader lineup, only two crack the companys top 100 sellers in electronics.

So its not surprising then that Kobo has felt some of this decline as well; in fact, the only surprising thing for most people may be that an e-reader called Kobo exists at all. The upstarts parent company, Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, wrote down its 2011 Kobo acquisition by nearly $250 million earlier this year.

The bleak economics of e-reading belies the steadily increasing joys of the devices themselves, especially in the burgeoning premium category. Not many people may be willing to spend hundreds of dollars on an e-reader, but if youre one of them, youre in for a treat. That applies to Amazons $200 Kindle Voyage, its more recent $290 Oasis, which comes with its own leather charging case, and now to the $230 Kobo Aura One, which launches on September 6. It does things neither of those Amazon devices can dream of, and it has to if it wants to shake people from their e-reader lethargy.

When people talk about seeing declines in the space, one of the things thats embedded in that is that people are still reading on devices that they bought in 2011 and 2012, says Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn. Then they slowly upgrade until something comes along thats good enough to make them step upward. Its not like smartphones, where youre getting a giant influx of new customers every 18 months.



If e-reader success is a matter of enticements, the Aura One makes for a pretty solid siren. Previous Kobos have been waterproof, but the latest model can survive submerged two meters for up to an hour, not that youd need to. The Aura One hops on the anti-blue-light trend, phasing out blue spectrum over time so that reading in bed doesnt go on to affect your sleep. (There are studies that say this is helpful, and Apple introduced a similar feature in iOS 9.3, but mileage will vary).

Its also bigger. Tamblyn says the 7.8-inch display helps mimic the feel of a hardcover, rather than a paperback, and that aging e-book enthusiasts prefer having more words on a page even at blown-up font sizes. In my short time with the Aura One, I can confirm that despite its size, its comfortable to hold one-handed, thanks to minimal weight and a pleasantly texturized rubber back. I dont know that I prefer a bigger display yet, or prefer it enough to sacrifice even that little bit of room in my bag. All that surface area can also make the Aura One a little awkward to navigate when youre using the keyboard to search the store, or adjusting far-flung settings.

But youre mostly just reading. And besides, any annoyance quickly disappears when you get to the Aura Ones best feature. The one where you dont have to buy books anymore.

Maximum OverDrive

Apologies if this comes as no surprise, but you dont actually have to purchase e-books. You can rent them from your local library, through a company called OverDrive.

I know, right? Free books! And its not like you were going to display them on your built-ins anyway. The reason more people dont know about this, or maybe more accurately just dont do it, is that the process is a pain. You have to sign up at your library, register at OverDrive on your browser, download a book, transfer it to your device; its a mess, no matter what e-reader you own.

The previous experience of people side-loading to the device was 16 steps to borrow through a library, says Tamblyn. And if any one of those went wrong, it was usually a customer service call to us.

Youll notice that Tamblyn uses the past tense. Thats because Rakuten bought OverDrive in 2015 for over $400 million, which means OverDrive and Kobo are siblings, which is why (thanks, corporate synergy!) the Kobo Aura One has OverDrive built right in.

That gets a little tangled, so let me clarify: You can borrow e-books directly on the Aura One, for free, with just a few taps. I picked up National Book Award finalist Fates and Furies last night with about 30 seconds of work, including the download time. It retails for $13 on Amazon.

There are hiccups to OverDrive borrowing. The titles eventually disappear from your device when the lending period is over (although you can re-up), and the selection can be scant. But giving OverDrive equal weight as a paid bookstore is a remarkable thing. If you borrow 10 books a year, thats easily a hundred dollars youve saved, not to mention avoiding the hassle of side-loading.

For now, the direct OverDrive access is limited to the Aura One, though Tamblyn didnt rule out the possibility that it could come to other models as well. It goes a long way towards making that $230 purchase price more palatable, though. Especially when that still undercuts Amazons best by a solid amount.

We were certainly quite delighted to see someone come out with something up in the $300 range that was still a 6-inch screen, that hadnt done anything with light and sleep, not waterproof, says Tamblyn. That was a great gift to us.

There are things not to like about the Aura One. It has no physical buttons, if you prefer those, and Kobos e-book store selection still falls well short of the Kindle Store. The larger size might throw you off. But theres also so much to like. More importantly, theres so much here that you wont find anywhere else. At the very least, it makes Kobo worthy of a closer read.

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