Joe Jones

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  1. Russian authorities burn "undesirable" books

    Russia’s culture ministry has promised to launch an inquiry after authorities in one region burned at least 50 books and confiscated dozens more from university libraries because they contain sentiments “alien to Russian ideology”. Educational authorities in the Komi republic, a region in Russia’s Arctic northwest, said they destroyed 53 books found in the library of the Vorkutka Mining and Economics College because they were published with money from the Soros Foundation, a philanthropic foundation that was effectively banned in Russia last year. “We removed their entries from the catalogue, took the books downstairs and burnt them in bins in the college courtyard,” Elena Vasileva, a college librarian, told a local news site. In a letter published on Wednesday, Komi regional education officials said the books had been pulled from libraries under instructions from Andrei Travnikov, a deputy of Vladimir Putin’s official envoy to Russia’s northwestern federal district. Besides the 53 books burned at the Mining and Economics College, the regional education ministry said 14 books found in the Vorkutka Polytechnic would be shredded, and that the Ukhtinsky State Technical University had been advised to take similar "measures for removal" of 413 Soros-published volumes found in its library. The admission follows the leak of a letter, purportedly from Mr Travnikov to Tamara Nikolaeva, the deputy head of the Komi regional government, last month. In the letter, scanned copies of which appeared on the internet in December, Mr Travnikov said books published by the Soros Foundation “give young people a distorted perception of national history and popularise sentiments alien to Russian ideology“. Vladimir Medinsky, the Russian minister of culture, called the book burning “unacceptable” and strongly denied his ministry would have sanctioned such a decision. “I have asked for materials, an investigation, to establish what happened,” Mr Medinsky said. “Book burning looks so bad and raises such historical associations that, in my view, it is completely unacceptable,” he added. Russia's General Prosecutor's Office essentially banned two branches of Soros' charity network in November, placing the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and the Open Society Institute (OSI) on a "stop list" of foreign non-governmental organizations whose activities were deemed "undesirable" by the Russian state. George Soros, a Hungarian-born American billionaire, is viewed with deep suspicion in Russia because of his funding of civil society groups that can be critical of the government. What do you make of Russia's book-burning move? Let the Poetry & Art! community know by signing in or signing up and joining the conversation.
  2. Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has published photos of himself with Lego hanging off his moustache and beard to celebrate the toy maker’s decision to back down on rules that blocked a bulk order of bricks he had placed several months ago. Lego said on Tuesday it had dropped restrictions on large orders after facing a storm of criticism for declining his request for pieces for a large public work in Australia in October. Ai, known for his criticism of China’s rights record, had accused the Danish toymaker of censorship and set up collection points for people to send him bricks. Lego said at the time it had a long-running policy of not fulfilling bulk orders or donating bricks if they knew they would be used as part of a “political agenda”, but it said in a statement on Tuesday it would stop asking people why they wanted its products. It did not refer directly to Ai’s order, but acknowledged that the rules “could result in misunderstandings or be perceived as inconsistent”. Customers wanting to build public displays out of Lego bricks would now only have to make it clear that the company did not endorse the project. AI has used the multi-coloured building blocks before to build portraits of other dissidents, including Nelson Mandela. Chinese authorities confiscated Ai’s passport in 2011 and detained him for 81 days, only returning the document in July last year. Discuss this story by logging in or signing up to the Poetry & Art! forum and joining the conversation.
  3. The Polish city of Wroclaw and the Spanish Basque city of San Sebastian have begun their year-long stints as joint European Capitals of Culture for 2016, as last year's title holders, Mons and Plzen, handed over the batons. Their event programmes are scheduled to last all year and are set to cover anything and everything from food to technology, but great efforts are being made to include the visual arts in their offerings. San Sebastian’s most prominent visual arts exhibition is the ambitious Peace Treaties: 1516-2016 (17 June-2 October), which will include around 300 works of art, as well as publications, seminars and conferences on the past 500 years of war and peace, as represented in the arts. Works by artists including Francisco Goya, Peter Paul Rubens, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Francisco de Zurbarán, Jusepe de Ribera, Pablo Picasso and Le Corbusier, as well as contemporary artists such as Hans Haacke, are on loan from institutions including the Louvre in Paris, and the Prado and Reina Sofía museums in Madrid. Wroclaw, meanwhile, has a cultural programme divided into eight parts: architecture, film, literature, music, opera, performance, visual arts and theatre, each with its own curator. The Polish critic and curator Michal Bieniek is heading up the visual arts programme, which includes the exhibition Wroclaw’s Europe (20 September-31 December), focusing on the art historical legacy of Wroclaw and Silesia. The exhibition begins with Bartholomeus Strobel the Younger (1591-around 1647), one of the greatest Silesian painters, who was born in the town. In a nod to its twin capital of culture, there will also be a presentation of work by the 20th-century Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida (15 January-13 March). The cultural programme will officially begin on 17 January in Wroclaw in the presence of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; and on 23 January in San Sebastian. Navracsics said: “Being a European Capital of Culture helps cities create a sense of community and brings long-lasting benefits to their citizens and their economies. "I wish Wroclaw and San Sebastian every success as they showcase their cultural programmes in the coming year.”
  4. Bulgaria

    So I travelled to Bulgaria in the summer with some friends, to a location called Slanchev Bryag (also known as Sunny Beach). Here is the cultural bit of the holiday (half a day out of 7), spent just across the sea in the town of Nesebar.
  5. Venice

    I'll add this one here from a previous visit to Venice (yes, I've been twice...)
  6. Invasion

    I have to get out of here. I keep hearing footsteps. Crunch, crunch, crunch, pressing down into the snow. They’re coming for me. Dead. All my loved ones are dead. They turned. They were no longer my father, my mother, my brother. I had no choice. I noticed their behaviour changing. They kept telling me I was insane. They shouted at me. “You’re obsessed! They don’t exist! It’s all in your head!” But I knew. I knew they were victims to the plague. Slow release at first. They weren’t aware of it. But their minds were oblivious to what was about to unfold. “Take your meds,” they would say. Can you believe it? Trying to claim that I was going mad? No way. I’m the only sane man here. I know what’s happening. Dread filled me. It began with the brain. Panic set in. Tightness clenched my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I stumbled, fell head first into something. Blackness. Then it happened. She was on top of me. Eyes vacant. She wanted to consume me. She had turned and I was about to be turned too. I screamed. Piercing. Terror burst out in sound form. I punched her in the side of the head. Leapt up. She was dazed. I knew I didn’t have time. I picked up the paperweight from my desk. Smashed it between her eyes. That’s where the virus lies. Bam. Bam. Bam. I hammered down with all my might. She was split open, blood pouring from her head. I screamed again. What if it infected me? God bless America, eh? The Second Amendment. "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Well, the State was not free at that precise moment. They were coming. I’ve read all the books. They are slate erasers. They will not only destroy the State, they will destroy civilisation. They will destroy humanity. She was screaming. He was coming up the stairs. They can run now. I’ve seen those films. I’ve read that book. They are merciless killing machines. I ran into their bedroom. At least, the bedroom that belonged to them before they turned. The TEC-9 under the pillow. At least they cannot use firearms. As far as I know. I turned to what used to be my father. I destroyed the monster that he became. A bullet, right into his forehead. I got him. Brain matter exploded in every direction. More contamination. He fell backwards into the mirror. Glass shattered, flew everywhere. Like we need more bad luck. I looked down at my former mother. She was still moving. She could grab hold of my leg and sink her rotten, diseased teeth into it, and then I would be one of them too. I had to be merciless. Only by destroying the brain could I be safe. I pumped four bullets into her head. I had to be sure. Then the footsteps. The shouting. Could it have been coherent speech? My brain was so hyped up, I could barely understand. This was fight or flight. I was not going to become one of them. I rushed down the stairs. I looked over. Oh no, not you too. My little brother. This is so unfair. Damn this plague to hell. Tears flooded out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But then he screamed something. He’s not human… HE’S NOT HUMAN! I slumped to the floor, TEC-9 smoking. I cried so violently I was physically sick. Howls, screams, sobs intertwined. He had died long before I shot him. The footsteps then stopped. But then so did my heart. Knocking on the door. Could they knock? But then it became banging. More were coming. Clearly alerted to the noise. The virus sharpens their senses so much it’s unreal. This was my last stand. I was not going to go down without a fight. I stood there waiting. Breath heavy. Come on, you braindead scum. I’m ready for you. The door eventually caved in. I screamed a blood-curdling scream of war. I pointed the gun towards the figure. Click. No bullets left. In that moment I knew I was finished. BANG. Hold on… how did I fire my gun if I was out of bullets? Did it jam for a second? Did I even attempt to fire again? I looked down. And that’s when I saw it. Blood pouring from my chest. They know how to fire guns now? This cannot be… nowhere did it say they could do that. We’re doomed. I felt an indescribable pain, and then I felt queasy, woozy. I dropped to my knees and onto the floor. I really do not know what just happened. But I do know that I’m dying. I’m just glad to have been spared the damnation of becoming one of them. I’ll die a clean, uninfected death. A human. A policeman. Oh, I could not have asked for a better way to go. Maybe he thought I was one of them too? At least it’s a human face. Thank you, God.
  7. Venice

    So earlier in the year I casually nipped over to Venice, Italy for a weekend with a friend (budget airlines FTW!), and here are a few photos...
  8. Good morning, Kansas City!

    Wow, the sky in the first picture is gorgeous. Virtually night in the top left and top right corners, daytime in the middle and just bright orange at the bottom, with cloud colours ranging from purple to yellow. All the while, life unfolds as normal on the roads while the elements compose their own artwork up above. Then in the second photo the sky is bright pink! Thanks for taking these, they're stunning.
  9. Christmas in Kansas City

    This is really pretty, the hanging lights add a nice festive touch, as well as the tinsel, trees etc. Christmas is good at turning mundane settings into wintry wonderlands.
  10. Minor Illusions

    Great mix of colours and striking contrasts. To me this looks like a snapshot of a galaxy, with thousands of stars, smatterings of dark matter and other celestial bodies like nebulae.
  11. digital painting attempt

    I'd say it's a good 80% of the way there, the body of the car and the Elf sponsor are spot on, just a couple more bits like the other sponsors and details on the helmet, and it's done. I want to see the finished version!
  12. Cover Pictures for FB Pages

    Pretty much everything you could want incorporated into a graphic is in there. The nation's flag, the personalised Notts badge, players who have turned out for both Notts and their nation, and big bold writing. We need more of these for the PON page, they would get 100s of likes for sure.
  13. Space Clouds

    Stunning. Great mix of colours, very ethereal. Partly aurora borealis, partly a photo from the Hubble Telescope.
  14. A book written by former Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier is due to be published in 2016. He finished his manifesto just two days before he, along with 11 others, was killed in an attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine in January 2015. Charbonnier's book Open Letter: On Blasphemy, Islamophobia and the True Enemies of Free Expression is due to be published in the new year, but many have already received advance copies. American chat show host and comedian Dave Rubin shared pictures of the front and back cover on Twitter, which makes for powerful reading.
  15. Radiohead have offered a Christmas surprise for their fans – a new song, initially intended for the latest James Bond film. The British band, which has not released an album since 2011 amid persistent speculation about new recordings, said it had been asked to write the theme for Spectre, the latest instalment in the 007 movie series. Sam Smith's Writing's On The Wall ended up as the movie's theme song instead, with Thom Yorke declaring: “It didn't work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much.” Radiohead have now made their brooding, orchestral song, titled Spectre, available as a free download on Soundcloud. Many fans expressed their approval on Twitter. Music critic Pete Paphides was among them, writing: "It sounds exquisite on first listen, sensational string arrangement." Before Spectre came out in October, there had been speculation that Radiohead had been chosen for the coveted task of recording the theme tune. In July, one bookmaker suspended betting on the identity of the act that had recorded the theme after one punter tried to bet £15,000 on Radiohead. Bond actor Daniel Craig is known to be a fan of the band, having quizzed Yorke for Interview magazine in 2013.

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