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

    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...
  6. Venice

    I'll add this one here from a previous visit to Venice (yes, I've been twice...)
  7. 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.
  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.
  16. Banksy, the legendary graffiti and street artist, recently paid a visit to the “Jungle” Refugee Camp in Calais, where he drew four new pieces of artwork. Of particular note is a piece depicting Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in his signature black polo neck, holding an early Apple computer in one hand while slinging a black sack over his shoulder. The American tech company founder, who died in 2011, was the son of a Syrian migrant. "We're often led to believe migration is a drain on the country's resources but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant," said the artist, whose works include murals created to mark the London 2012 Olympics. "Apple is the world's most profitable company, it pays over $7 billion (£4.6 billion) a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs," he added. Since closing his Dismaland "bemusement park" in September, the artist has sent wood and fixtures from the park's dismantled castle to the Jungle refugee camp, which reportedly houses around 7,000 refugees. The Dismaland website now features an image of the Cinderella castle with a hot air balloon flying over it, above the heading Dismal Aid. Below a statement reads: "Creating housing from surplus materials and leftover workers. "When Dismaland closed its doors it was decided that instead of chucking all the leftover crew in the bin they should be recycled into aid workers. "They've since travelled to the Calais migrant camp and so far have completed 12 dwellings, a community area and a children's play park."
  17. Nottingham has won its bid to be named as an official UNESCO City of Literature, becoming only the second city in the United Kingdom to be awarded the accolade. The title, which could bring millions in tourist, student and grants revenue to Nottingham, was awarded based on the city's literary heritage, its diverse writing community and its commitment to improving literacy across the city. The announcement was made on Friday 11 December to Nottingham's City of Literature bid team, who have been working on their proposal to UNESCO since 2014. Those responsible for the bid had said that it would bring Nottingham’s literacy and creative enterprises, and other cultural and economic stakeholders even closer together. It is also said to feed into programmes that provide a foundation for increased cultural tourism, improve literacy, encourage social cohesion and inclusivity, and support the wide range of creative businesses in and around Nottingham. The partners involved in the bid were Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Nottingham, Bromley House Library, Nottingham Writers’ Studio, Creative Quarter, Nottingham Playhouse and Writing East Midlands. Some of Nottingham's finest wordsmiths include D.H. Lawrence, Lord Byron, and Alan Sillitoe. Alongside Nottingham, the following cities were also named Cities of Literature this month: Baghdad, Barcelona, Ljubljana, Lviv, Montevideo, Tartu, Obidos and Ulyanovsk were named Cities of Literature. The aforementioned cities all join Dublin, Dunedin, Edinburgh, Granada, Heidelberg, Iowa City, Krakow, Melbourne, Norwich, Prague and Reykjavik on the exclusive list. There was disappointment in Seattle, however, as their application to become a City of Literature was rejected.
  18. Scottish writer William McIlvanney, best known for his detective novel "Laidlaw", has died at 79. His agent Jenny Brown said he died at his home in Glasgow on Saturday after a short illness. McIlvanney, described as The Godfather of Tartan Noir, was born in Kilmarnock and was the most-celebrated Scottish novelist of the 1970s. The son of a miner, he became an English teacher before changing careers in 1975 to write full time. He is known for the "Laidlaw" trilogy, a crime series featuring Inspector Jack Laidlaw. Other works included "The Big Man," made into a film starring Liam Neeson, as well as poetry and journalism. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "Shedding a tear at news of Willie McIlvanney's death. His writing meant so much to me when I was growing up. RIP." Rebus author Ian Rankin described his death as "dreadful news". He said: "A truly inspired and inspiring author and an absolute gent." Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh said: "Absolutely gutted to hear this. An inspirational writer and one of the loveliest guys you could hope to meet." McIlvanney is survived by his partner Siobhan, daughter Siobhan and son Liam.
  19. The DH Lawrence Heritage Centre has been given a lifeline after a number of television and film stars lobbied for it not to be closed. Rosamund Pike, Glenda Jackson, Gavin and Stacey star Mathew Horne, Mr Selfridge star Aisling Loftus, William Ivory, Ben Daniels, and TV sitcom star Robert Lindsay have all backed the campaign to keep the centre open. In a joint letter to Broxtowe Borough Council leader Richard Jackson, the group asks that the centre is kept open past its planned closure date of March next year so there is time to find funding to save it. Representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England went on to meet with Mr Jackson to discuss funding to keep the centre open, and will meet again over the next few weeks. Labour MP for Ashfield Gloria De Piero, who was also at the meeting, said: "This is the next step forward really - everyone is basically working to find a solution. "The leader is going to meet with them to do that, which is going to happen really quickly. "We know public money is not available so we're all working to get the lottery cash to map a way forward so that we can keep it open. "I am optimistic everyone has the same goal – get some cash and some expertise." Currently, the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre will close on March 31 at the end of the financial year. The centre has cost the council £1.5 million pounds over the past 12 years and its closure would be part of the council's drive to save £3.5 million over the next three years. It has faced closure in the past – in 2011 the University of Nottingham intervened to help save it when, again, it faced having its doors shut for good. Their current aim will be to secure money to keep the centre open beyond March before looking into further long-term funding opportunities that will keep it open for years. The discussions have taken place less than a week before Nottingham finds out if it becomes a UNESCO City of Literature, an international title that could provide millions in tourism, student revenue and grants. DH Lawrence, who grew up in Eastwood and wrote classics such as Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley's Lover, was included heavily in Nottingham's bid proposal. A decision from UNESCO is due to be announced on Friday, December 11.
  20. Most liked Instagram photos of 2015 revealed

    The top one is quite artistic though, I'll give her that.
  21. Most liked Instagram photos of 2015 revealed

    Instagram's popularity shows no signs of abating, with the photo-based social network cementing its place among the social media elite alongside Facebook and Twitter. Today the site has released its year in review, taking a look at what the 400 million people sharing over 80 million photos each day have liked most of all. The top 10 Instagram posts of 2015 all feature celebrities, with singer Taylor Swift proving her status as the current queen of the pop world with a massive five entries, while reality TV stars Kendall and Kylie Jenner contributed three images to the chart between them. 1) Kendall Jenner (3.2m likes, 143.1k comments) 2) Taylor Swift (2.6m likes, 48k comments) 3) Taylor Swift (2.5m likes, 76.9k comments) 4) Kylie Jenner (2.3m likes, 85.1k comments) 5) Beyonce (2.3m likes, 52.9k comments) 6) Taylor Swift (2.3m likes, 36.1k comments) 7) Selena Gomez (2.3m likes, 53.4k comments) 8) Taylor Swift (2.4m likes, 53.9k comments) 9) Taylor Swift (2.2m likes, 76k comments) Kendall Jenner (2.2m likes, 470.8k comments)
  22. Most liked Instagram photos of 2015 revealed

    Instagram has all sorts of photos, but predictably it's the celebrities of the moment who end up top. Sad indictment of popular culture unfortunately.
  23. Morrissey wins Bad Sex in Fiction prize

    Veteran singer and debut novelist Morrissey has won this year's Bad Sex in Fiction award for his book List of the Lost. The former Smiths vocalist’s first fiction book, after previously releasing an autobiography in 2013, was published by Penguin in September and received some negative reviews. It tells the story of four Boston relay runners who are cursed by an old man in the woods. A scene involving Ezra, one of the athletes, and his girlfriend, Eliza, caught the attention of the judges and was the favourite to win when the shortlist was announced last month. The ceremony was presented by Nancy Dell'Olio on Tuesday 1 December. The scene in question reads: “At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.” The shortlist included The Martini Shot, by the celebrated screenwriter of The Wire, George Pelecanos (“I rubbed myself against her until she was wet as a waterslide”); Joshua Cohen’s Book of Numbers (“her breasts were like young fawns, sheep frolicking in hyssop”); and Before, During, After by Richard Bausch (“When she took him, still a little flaccid, into her mouth, he moaned, ‘Oh, lover’”). Established in 1993 by the Literary Review’s then editor, Auberon Waugh, the aim of the Bad Sex in Fiction awards is to draw attention to “poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction” with the hope of discouraging them. Morrissey, who follows in the footsteps of Melvyn Bragg, Rachel Johnson and Sebastian Faulks in winning the dubious award, was unable to attend due to touring commitments. He was also unavailable for comment.
  24. John Constable's The Lock set for auction

    A landscape by John Constable is expected to sell under the hammer for over £12 million and become one of the most valuable British paintings of all time. Constable painted The Lock between 1824 and 1825 - and the work, which depicts a scene on the River Stour in the artist’s native Suffolk, has now emerged for the first time in 160 years. The painting, which was the fifth in a series of six landscapes known as ‘Constable’s Six-Footers’, was made in response to the huge critical acclaim that greeted his first treatment of the composition. Constable loved the painting so much he held onto it until passing away in 1837 at the age of 60. Following Constable’s death, the picture was offered alongside other major masterpieces in a sale of works from the artist’s studio. It was sold to Charles Birch, a leading collector of the day, for £131 and ten shillings. Birch later fell on hard times and, in 1855, auctioned off the painting when it sold for £860, a record for any Constable that remained unchallenged until the Hay Wain was sold in 1866. The painting was bought by William Orme Foster, part of a family of Worcestershire industrialists, and it remains in this family. Now one of just three major Constables remaining in private hands, The Lock is to be sold by Sotheby's next week at its auction of Old Master & British Paintings in London. Experts have given the painting an estimate of £8 to £12 million. However, with art prices on the up, there is a good chance The Lock could sell for significantly more. Julian Gascoigne, Sotheby's senior British pictures specialist, said: "Constable's absolute mastery as a landscape painter is everywhere in this picture - in the vigour of the almost impressionistic brushwork, in the drama of the clouds and the changing weather, even in the movement of the grass in the fields and the sparkle of water as it cascades through the lock. "It is one of those pictures that captivates, and the more one looks, the more one sees." The painting will be exhibited in Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles, before leading the Old Master & British Paintings Sale on 9 December.
  25. I love the part about "utilize". In the UK we have a magazine called Private Eye which satirises British politics and society. Heavy reading sometimes but there's a section called "Pseuds Corner", a column giving examples of especially convoluted and impenetrable jargon. Reminded me of that so much.

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