Garden City Toastmasters – My Club


via Garden City Toastmasters Club

RAK Movement – Random Acts of Kindness. Do Just one.


  1. Give up your seat on the tube/bus
  2. Be proactive – sign a petition for a good cause
  3. We all need help sometimes; offer someone a helping hand
  4. Start the day right – make breakfast for everyone
  5. Empty your wallet for charity
  6. Who will be making dinner for your family today? Tag, you’re it!
  7. We walk past homeless people every day; can you spare them 5 minutes of your time?
  8. Surprise your siblings with their favourite sweets/chocolate
  9. Good servicing requires a lot of effort; tip them!
  10. Go the day without complaining

My fav newsletter – Brainpickings.org


This is a very special Brain Pickings edition to announce a labor of love eight years in the making. (The regular weekly newsletter will return on Sunday, as usual.) If you find any value and joy here, please consider making a donation – over the past twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going and makes possible such charitable side projects that consume vast swaths of my time, thought, and life. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read by 121 of the Most Inspiring Humans in Our World

avelocityofbeing_cover.jpg?fit=320%2C427

One of the great cruelties and great glories of creative work is the wild discrepancy of timelines between vision and execution. When we dream up a project, we invariably underestimate the amount of time and effort required to make it a reality. Rather than a cognitive bug, perhaps this is the supreme coping mechanism of the creative mind — if we could see clearly the toil ahead at the outset of any creative endeavor, we might be too dispirited to begin, too reluctant to gamble between the heroic and the foolish, too paralyzed to walk the long and tenuous tightrope of hope and fear by which any worthwhile destination is reached.

If eight years ago, someone had told me that A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader (public library) would take eight years, I would have laughed, then cried, then promptly let go of the dream. And yet here it is, all these unfathomable years later, a reality — a collection of original letters to the children of today and tomorrow about why we read and what books do for the human spirit, composed by 121 of the most interesting and inspiring humans in our world: Jane Goodall, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline Woodson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Gilbert, Shonda Rhimes, Alain de Botton, James Gleick, Anne Lamott, Diane Ackerman, Judy Blume, Eve Ensler, David Byrne, Sylvia Earle, Richard Branson, Daniel Handler, Marina Abramović, Regina Spektor, Elizabeth Alexander, Adam Gopnik, Debbie Millman, Dani Shapiro, Tim Ferriss, Ann Patchett, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Italy’s first woman in space, and many more immensely accomplished and largehearted artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and adventurers whose character has been shaped by a life of reading.

avelocityofbeing21_1.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Velocity_LaraHawthorne.jpg?resize=680%2C915

Art by Lara Hawthorne for a letter by Jacqueline Woodson from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Accompanying each letter is an original illustration by a prominent artist in response to the text — including beloved children’s book illustrators like Sophie Blackall, Oliver Jeffers, Isabelle Arsenault, Jon Klassen, Shaun Tan, Olivier Tallec, Christian Robinson, Marianne Dubuc, Lisa Brown, Carson Ellis, Mo Willems, Peter Brown, and Maira Kalman.

Velocity_IsabelleArsenault.jpg?resize=680%2C887

Art by Isabelle Arsenault for a letter by Jacqueline Novogratz from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

avelocityofbeing23.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Velocity_BeatriceAlemagna.jpg?resize=680%2C908

Art by Beatrice Alemagna for a letter by Adam Gopnik from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_VladimirRadunsky.jpg?resize=680%2C915

Art by Vladimir Radunsky for a letter by Ann Patchett from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_MarianneDubuc.jpg?resize=680%2C914

Art by Marianne Dubuc for a letter by Elizabeth Gilbert from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

avelocityofbeing25.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Velocity_Hilts.jpg?resize=680%2C887

Art by the Brothers Hilts for a letter by David Delgado from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

avelocityofbeing30.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Punctuating the book are a handful of full-page spreads by celebrated cartoonists and visual storytellers, including Chris Ware, Roz Chast, and Art Spiegelman.

avelocityofbeing28.jpg?resize=680%2C453

avelocityofbeing31.jpg?resize=680%2C445

Because this projects was born of a deep concern for the future of books and a love of literature as a pillar of democratic society, we are donating 100% of proceeds from the book to the New York public library system in gratitude for their noble work in stewarding literature and democratizing access to the written record of human experience. The gesture is inspired in large part by James Baldwin’s moving recollection of how he used the library to read his way from Harlem to the literary pantheon and Ursula K. Le Guin’s insistence that “a great library is freedom.” (Le Guin is one of four contributors we lost between the outset of the project and its completion. As far as I am aware, at the time of printing, her lovely poem-letter for this book is her last published work.)

Velocity_LiaHalloran.jpg?resize=680%2C865

Art by Lia Halloran for a letter by Marina Abramović from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_OfraAmit.jpg?resize=680%2C939

Art by Ofra Amit for a letter by Mara Faye Lethem from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_ChristophNiemann.jpg?resize=680%2C831

Art by Christoph Niemann for a letter by William Powers from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_FelicitaSala.jpg?resize=680%2C836

Art by Felicita Sala for a letter by David Whyte from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_BrianRhea.jpg?resize=680%2C926

Art by Brian Rhea for a letter by Chris Anderson from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_OliverJeffers.jpg?resize=680%2C941

Art by Oliver Jeffers for a letter by Holland Taylor from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

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Art by Julie Paschkis for a letter by Sarah Lewis from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_MairaKalman.jpg?resize=680%2C860

Art by Maira Kalman for a letter by Paul Holdengräber from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_KenardPak.jpg?resize=680%2C911

Art by Kenard Pak for a letter by Terry Teachout from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_VioletaLopiz.jpg?resize=680%2C1041

Art by Violeta Lópiz for a letter by Lucianne Walkowicz from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_SophieBlackall.jpg?resize=680%2C907

Art by Sophie Blackall for a letter by Neil Gaiman from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

avelocityofbeing27.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Below is my introduction, as it appears in the book, detailing the project’s improbable origin story and optimistic cultural aspiration:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWhen asked in a famous questionnaire devised by the great French writer Marcel Proust about his idea of perfect happiness, David Bowie answered simply: “Reading.”

Growing up in communist Bulgaria, the daughter of an engineer father and a librarian mother who defected to computer software, I don’t recall being much of an early reader — a literary debt I seem to have spent the rest of my life repaying. But some of my happiest memories are of being read to — most deliciously by my grandmother. I remember her reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to me, long before I was able to appreciate the allegorical genius of this story written by a brilliant logician.

My grandmother, an engineer herself, had and still has an enormous library of classical literature, twentieth-century novels, and — my favorite as a child — various encyclopedias and atlases. But it wasn’t until I was older, when she told me about her father, that I came to understand the role of books in her life — not as mere intellectual decoration, but as a vital life force, as “meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower,” in the words of the poet Gwendolyn Brooks.

My great-grandfather had been an astronomer and a mathematician who, in the thick of Bulgaria’s communist dictatorship, taught himself English by hacking into the suppressed frequency of the BBC World Service and reading smuggled copies of The Catcher in the RyeLittle WomenThe Grapes of Wrath, and a whole lot of Dickens and Hemingway. This middle-aged rebel would underline words in red ink, then write their Bulgarian translations or English synonyms in the margins. By the time he was fifty, he had become fluent. When his nine grandchildren were entrusted to his care, he set about passing on his insurgent legacy by teaching them English. When the kids grew hungry during their afternoon walks in the park, he wouldn’t hand out the sandwiches until they were able to ask in proper Queen’s English.

I never met my great-grandfather — he died days before I was born — but I came to love him through my grandmother’s recollections. Around the time when she first began regaling me with them, unbeknownst to me, a young American woman named Claudia — a philosophy graduate student at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York — began visiting libraries and universities across Eastern and Central Europe on various foundation grants as a representative of a Graduate Faculty program designed to support libraries and scholars throughout that region after nearly half a century of intellectual isolation. She visited libraries to talk about the social sciences and humanities, and to learn how local collections worked. She met with librarians — the keepers of the keys — who would show her beautiful illustrated books, illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, and rare journal archives. And she began to seek out picture-books from local bookstores, perhaps even some that my grandmother was reading to me at that very time.

Years later, that young woman would become an independent publisher of beautiful, unusual, conceptual children’s books — the kind I would go on to celebrate in my own adult life, having transplanted myself from Bulgaria to Brooklyn, in no small part thanks to a life of reading.

And so it was that a package arrived in my Brooklyn mailbox one day, containing three exquisite wordless picture books by a French artist — not “children’s” books so much as visual works of philosophy, telling thoughtful and sensitive stories of love, loss, loneliness, and redemption. Enchanted, I looked for the sender and was astonished to find an address in the building next door. Enchanted Lion Books, it said. How perfect, I thought.

The sender’s name was Claudia Zoe Bedrick, the publisher. Apparently, we had been working at adjacent studios on the same Brooklyn block. And so Claudia and I finally met, having orbited each other unwittingly for decades, around the shared sun of story and image.

The dawn of our fast friendship was also a peculiar point in culture. Those were the early days of ebooks and the golden age of social media, when the
very notion of reading — of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual surrender to a cohesive thread of thought composed by another human being, through which your own interior world can undergo a symphonic transformation — was becoming tattered by the fragment fetishism of the web. Even those of us who partook in the medium openheartedly and optimistically were beginning to feel the chill of its looming shadow.

Once again, I found myself torn between two worlds — not ideologies as starkly recognizable as the Bulgarian communism of my childhood and the American capitalism of my adulthood, but distinct paradigms nonetheless. I reconciled them — a subjective, personal reconciliation, to be sure — by spending my days reading books, mostly tomes of timeless splendor written long ago by people dead and often forgotten, then writing about them on the Internet, which I came to use as one giant margin for annotating my readings, my thoughts, and my search for meaning. Although I have always been agnostic about the medium of reading — I refuse to believe that reading Aristotle on a tablet or listening to Susan Sontag in an audiobook is necessarily inferior to reading from a printed book — I was beginning to worry, as was Claudia, about what reading itself, as a relationship to one’s own mind and not a relationship to the matter of silicon or pulped wood, might look like for the generations
to come.

I took solace in a beautiful 1930 essay by Hermann Hesse titled “The Magic of the Book,” in which the Nobel laureate argued that no matter how much our technology may evolve, reading will remain an elemental human hunger. Decades before the Internet as we know it existed, Hesse wrote: “We need not fear a future elimination of the book. On the contrary, the more that certain needs for entertainment and education are satis ed through other inventions, the more the book will win back in dignity and authority.”

Animated by a shared ardor for that “dignity and authority” of the written word, Claudia and I decided to do something about it — which is, of course, always the only acceptable form of complaint — not by fear-mongering or by waving the moralizing should-wand, but by demonstrating as plainly yet passionately as possible that a life of reading is a richer, nobler, larger, more shimmering life. And what better way of doing that than by inviting people cherished for having such lives — celebrated artists, writers, scientists, and cultural heroes of various stripes — to share their stories and sentiments about how reading shaped them? After all, we read what we are as much as we are what we read.

So began an eight-year adventure of reaching out to some of the people we most admired, inviting each to write a short letter to the young readers of today and tomorrow about how reading sculpted their character and their destiny. We then paired each letter with an illustrator, artist, or graphic designer to bring its message to life visually.

We decided that we would donate all the proceeds from the project to our local New York public library system, because libraries are bastions of democracy and oxygen for the life of the mind, which, as my great-grandfather knew, is our single most ferocious frontier of resistance to inequality and injustice.

Looking back on this labor of love, I am filled with gladness and gratitude for the 121 letters we received — the poetic, the playful, the deeply personal — from contributors as varied as scientists like Jane Goodall and Janna Levin, musicians like Yo-Yo Ma and Amanda Palmer, writers like Jacqueline Woodson and Neil Gaiman, artists like Marina Abramović and Chris Ware, to philosophers, composers, poets, astrophysicists, actors, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Italy’s first woman in space, and many more remarkable humans whose splendor of spirit cannot be contained in the shorthand descriptors we often use to condense a person’s character and cultural contribution.

From these micro-memoirs and reflections by lifelong readers who have made extraordinary lives for themselves emerges a kind of encyclopedia of personhood, an atlas of possibility for the land of being mapped through the land of literature.

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Art by the Fan Brothers for a letter by Janna Levin from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

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Because this is a 250-page love letter to literature drawn from the body of culture, present and past, we decided to tuck into it — quite literally: in the endpapers — a special wink at the most impassioned bibliophiles. Here is my short note on it, as it appears in the back matter of the book:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngENDPAPER NOTE

“I’m not sure that anybody thinks about endpaper except publishers, and probably not more than 1800 people in the United States have ever heard the word ‘endpaper,’” E.B. White wrote to his editor, the visionary Ursula Nordstrom, before insisting that the endpapers of his Charlotte’s Webbe beautiful. The loveliest of books are touched by the author’s thoughtfulness and care in every detail.

A Velocity of Being borrows its endpapers from one of the most imaginative details an author ever slipped into a book.

In 1759, Laurence Sterne began composing The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman — a seven-volume novel that would take him a decade to complete and would revolutionize the art of storytelling. Midway through the third volume, he placed a single marbled page — a shock of swirling color, strange and beautiful against the black-and-white of the book. Sterne himself considered it the “motley emblem” of his work, imbued with meaning open to interpretation but never fully penetrable. It was a small revolution — aesthetically, because the craft of marbling, developed in the Middle East, was a curious novelty in mid-18th-century Britain; conceptually, because the fluid dynamics of the dyes make each marbling unique and irreplicable, like each reading of a book, colored by the dynamics we bring to it, the swirl of its meaning co-created by author and reader.

Years ago, when A Velocity of Being was still an untitled baby of a project, my then-partner and I had the fortune of acquiring one of the handful of surviving first editions of Tristram Shandy at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. As I marveled at this centuries-old marbled page, I knew instantly that it would make the perfect endpaper — aesthetically and symbolically, a “motley emblem” of the joy and ever-swirling meaning of literature itself.

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The original marbled page in Tristram Shandy

I invite you to enjoy A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader and gift it to every reader in your life, young and grown, knowing that each copy will contribute to the thriving of the public library system that ensures equal access to books for all, and that the letters and art on these pages will — I hope, I trust — long outlive us all, delighting and inspiring generations to come.

avelocityofbeing20.jpg?resize=680%2C453

New York readers: We’re having a special launch celebration at the New York Public Library on December 15, featuring readings by some of our contributors and art from the book. Tickets are free, but space is far from infinite, so grab yours if you plan to join us. It is bound to be a splendid evening.

5 Questions to Ask Your Family and Friends during the Holidays » Chad R. Allen


5 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS DURING THE HOLIDAYS
How to Start an Engaging Conversation
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Holidays can be tough. It sounds counter-intuitive perhaps, but it’s true.

Sometimes holidays remind us of people or events that used to be here and now for whatever reason are not.

Sometimes holidays bring us into close contact with people who are important to but very different from us, and just the closeness can create tension.

Often the travel involved can be very taxing on our bodies. In short, holidays can remind us of the brokenness in our lives, past and present.

When I talk with my friends about the holidays, some of them seem genuinely hopeful and excited. But many anticipate the holidays with a measure of anxiety. They just want to make it through without any major blowups or other kinds of pain.

How about you? As you look toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, what emotions are primary for you?

I’m reminded of my friend Josh Riebock’s book Heroes and Monsters. It’s a brilliant memoir, and in it a twenty-something Josh recounts the deaths of his father and mother. All that’s left of his immediate family is his relationships with his siblings, and he could see them all drifting apart from each other very easily. He makes a deliberate choice to reach out, to be a brother who is present and concerned and giving.

What if we made a similar choice? Here’s my humble contribution to that effort. I want to offer five questions you can ask your family and friends. My hope is they will help you engage the people closest to you in ways that are healthy and life-giving.

1. What’s your favorite movie and why?
Movies are a cultural commonality. They make for a convenient place to start a conversation that could take us to unexpected places if we listen closely to what the other person says.

5 Questions to Ask Your Family and Friends during the #Holidays via @ChadRAllen
CLICK TO TWEET

2. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
The places we long to visit often reveal things that are important to us.

3. What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments and why?
This is an opportunity to celebrate something that is dear to your loved one. Give them a high five!

4. What’s one of your happiest memories?
This, again, is a reason to celebrate. Relive the memory with them.

5. What are you thankful for?
This one is tried and true for Thanksgiving tables all over the country. It’s a natural question to ask, and again it can be revelatory.

“What’s one of your happiest memories?” and other ?s to ask family during the holidays via @ChadRAllen
CLICK TO TWEET

3 Question-Asking Tips
When you ask these questions, remember these three tips:

Leave your phone in a different room and listen carefully! Really listen to what the other person is saying.
Ask follow-up questions. This often is very natural when we’ve followed tip 1 above.
Don’t judge. The person you’re asking may answer differently than you hoped or expected. That’s okay. They are who they are!
I hope and pray your holidays are filled with joy and meaning.

via 5 Questions to Ask Your Family and Friends during the Holidays » Chad R. Allen

My fav newsletter – Brainpickings.org


This is a very special Brain Pickings edition to announce a labor of love eight years in the making. (The regular weekly newsletter will return on Sunday, as usual.) If you find any value and joy here, please consider making a donation – over the past twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going and makes possible such charitable side projects that consume vast swaths of my time, thought, and life. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read by 121 of the Most Inspiring Humans in Our World

avelocityofbeing_cover.jpg?fit=320%2C427

One of the great cruelties and great glories of creative work is the wild discrepancy of timelines between vision and execution. When we dream up a project, we invariably underestimate the amount of time and effort required to make it a reality. Rather than a cognitive bug, perhaps this is the supreme coping mechanism of the creative mind — if we could see clearly the toil ahead at the outset of any creative endeavor, we might be too dispirited to begin, too reluctant to gamble between the heroic and the foolish, too paralyzed to walk the long and tenuous tightrope of hope and fear by which any worthwhile destination is reached.

If eight years ago, someone had told me that A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader (public library) would take eight years, I would have laughed, then cried, then promptly let go of the dream. And yet here it is, all these unfathomable years later, a reality — a collection of original letters to the children of today and tomorrow about why we read and what books do for the human spirit, composed by 121 of the most interesting and inspiring humans in our world: Jane Goodall, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline Woodson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Gilbert, Shonda Rhimes, Alain de Botton, James Gleick, Anne Lamott, Diane Ackerman, Judy Blume, Eve Ensler, David Byrne, Sylvia Earle, Richard Branson, Daniel Handler, Marina Abramović, Regina Spektor, Elizabeth Alexander, Adam Gopnik, Debbie Millman, Dani Shapiro, Tim Ferriss, Ann Patchett, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Italy’s first woman in space, and many more immensely accomplished and largehearted artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and adventurers whose character has been shaped by a life of reading.

avelocityofbeing21_1.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Velocity_LaraHawthorne.jpg?resize=680%2C915

Art by Lara Hawthorne for a letter by Jacqueline Woodson from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Accompanying each letter is an original illustration by a prominent artist in response to the text — including beloved children’s book illustrators like Sophie Blackall, Oliver Jeffers, Isabelle Arsenault, Jon Klassen, Shaun Tan, Olivier Tallec, Christian Robinson, Marianne Dubuc, Lisa Brown, Carson Ellis, Mo Willems, Peter Brown, and Maira Kalman.

Velocity_IsabelleArsenault.jpg?resize=680%2C887

Art by Isabelle Arsenault for a letter by Jacqueline Novogratz from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

avelocityofbeing23.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Velocity_BeatriceAlemagna.jpg?resize=680%2C908

Art by Beatrice Alemagna for a letter by Adam Gopnik from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_VladimirRadunsky.jpg?resize=680%2C915

Art by Vladimir Radunsky for a letter by Ann Patchett from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_MarianneDubuc.jpg?resize=680%2C914

Art by Marianne Dubuc for a letter by Elizabeth Gilbert from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

avelocityofbeing25.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Velocity_Hilts.jpg?resize=680%2C887

Art by the Brothers Hilts for a letter by David Delgado from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

avelocityofbeing30.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Punctuating the book are a handful of full-page spreads by celebrated cartoonists and visual storytellers, including Chris Ware, Roz Chast, and Art Spiegelman.

avelocityofbeing28.jpg?resize=680%2C453

avelocityofbeing31.jpg?resize=680%2C445

Because this projects was born of a deep concern for the future of books and a love of literature as a pillar of democratic society, we are donating 100% of proceeds from the book to the New York public library system in gratitude for their noble work in stewarding literature and democratizing access to the written record of human experience. The gesture is inspired in large part by James Baldwin’s moving recollection of how he used the library to read his way from Harlem to the literary pantheon and Ursula K. Le Guin’s insistence that “a great library is freedom.” (Le Guin is one of four contributors we lost between the outset of the project and its completion. As far as I am aware, at the time of printing, her lovely poem-letter for this book is her last published work.)

Velocity_LiaHalloran.jpg?resize=680%2C865

Art by Lia Halloran for a letter by Marina Abramović from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_OfraAmit.jpg?resize=680%2C939

Art by Ofra Amit for a letter by Mara Faye Lethem from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_ChristophNiemann.jpg?resize=680%2C831

Art by Christoph Niemann for a letter by William Powers from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_FelicitaSala.jpg?resize=680%2C836

Art by Felicita Sala for a letter by David Whyte from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_BrianRhea.jpg?resize=680%2C926

Art by Brian Rhea for a letter by Chris Anderson from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_OliverJeffers.jpg?resize=680%2C941

Art by Oliver Jeffers for a letter by Holland Taylor from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_JuliePaschkis.jpg?resize=680%2C893

Art by Julie Paschkis for a letter by Sarah Lewis from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_MairaKalman.jpg?resize=680%2C860

Art by Maira Kalman for a letter by Paul Holdengräber from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_KenardPak.jpg?resize=680%2C911

Art by Kenard Pak for a letter by Terry Teachout from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_VioletaLopiz.jpg?resize=680%2C1041

Art by Violeta Lópiz for a letter by Lucianne Walkowicz from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

Velocity_SophieBlackall.jpg?resize=680%2C907

Art by Sophie Blackall for a letter by Neil Gaiman from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

avelocityofbeing27.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Below is my introduction, as it appears in the book, detailing the project’s improbable origin story and optimistic cultural aspiration:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWhen asked in a famous questionnaire devised by the great French writer Marcel Proust about his idea of perfect happiness, David Bowie answered simply: “Reading.”

Growing up in communist Bulgaria, the daughter of an engineer father and a librarian mother who defected to computer software, I don’t recall being much of an early reader — a literary debt I seem to have spent the rest of my life repaying. But some of my happiest memories are of being read to — most deliciously by my grandmother. I remember her reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to me, long before I was able to appreciate the allegorical genius of this story written by a brilliant logician.

My grandmother, an engineer herself, had and still has an enormous library of classical literature, twentieth-century novels, and — my favorite as a child — various encyclopedias and atlases. But it wasn’t until I was older, when she told me about her father, that I came to understand the role of books in her life — not as mere intellectual decoration, but as a vital life force, as “meat and medicine and flame and flight and flower,” in the words of the poet Gwendolyn Brooks.

My great-grandfather had been an astronomer and a mathematician who, in the thick of Bulgaria’s communist dictatorship, taught himself English by hacking into the suppressed frequency of the BBC World Service and reading smuggled copies of The Catcher in the RyeLittle WomenThe Grapes of Wrath, and a whole lot of Dickens and Hemingway. This middle-aged rebel would underline words in red ink, then write their Bulgarian translations or English synonyms in the margins. By the time he was fifty, he had become fluent. When his nine grandchildren were entrusted to his care, he set about passing on his insurgent legacy by teaching them English. When the kids grew hungry during their afternoon walks in the park, he wouldn’t hand out the sandwiches until they were able to ask in proper Queen’s English.

I never met my great-grandfather — he died days before I was born — but I came to love him through my grandmother’s recollections. Around the time when she first began regaling me with them, unbeknownst to me, a young American woman named Claudia — a philosophy graduate student at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York — began visiting libraries and universities across Eastern and Central Europe on various foundation grants as a representative of a Graduate Faculty program designed to support libraries and scholars throughout that region after nearly half a century of intellectual isolation. She visited libraries to talk about the social sciences and humanities, and to learn how local collections worked. She met with librarians — the keepers of the keys — who would show her beautiful illustrated books, illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, and rare journal archives. And she began to seek out picture-books from local bookstores, perhaps even some that my grandmother was reading to me at that very time.

Years later, that young woman would become an independent publisher of beautiful, unusual, conceptual children’s books — the kind I would go on to celebrate in my own adult life, having transplanted myself from Bulgaria to Brooklyn, in no small part thanks to a life of reading.

And so it was that a package arrived in my Brooklyn mailbox one day, containing three exquisite wordless picture books by a French artist — not “children’s” books so much as visual works of philosophy, telling thoughtful and sensitive stories of love, loss, loneliness, and redemption. Enchanted, I looked for the sender and was astonished to find an address in the building next door. Enchanted Lion Books, it said. How perfect, I thought.

The sender’s name was Claudia Zoe Bedrick, the publisher. Apparently, we had been working at adjacent studios on the same Brooklyn block. And so Claudia and I finally met, having orbited each other unwittingly for decades, around the shared sun of story and image.

The dawn of our fast friendship was also a peculiar point in culture. Those were the early days of ebooks and the golden age of social media, when the
very notion of reading — of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual surrender to a cohesive thread of thought composed by another human being, through which your own interior world can undergo a symphonic transformation — was becoming tattered by the fragment fetishism of the web. Even those of us who partook in the medium openheartedly and optimistically were beginning to feel the chill of its looming shadow.

Once again, I found myself torn between two worlds — not ideologies as starkly recognizable as the Bulgarian communism of my childhood and the American capitalism of my adulthood, but distinct paradigms nonetheless. I reconciled them — a subjective, personal reconciliation, to be sure — by spending my days reading books, mostly tomes of timeless splendor written long ago by people dead and often forgotten, then writing about them on the Internet, which I came to use as one giant margin for annotating my readings, my thoughts, and my search for meaning. Although I have always been agnostic about the medium of reading — I refuse to believe that reading Aristotle on a tablet or listening to Susan Sontag in an audiobook is necessarily inferior to reading from a printed book — I was beginning to worry, as was Claudia, about what reading itself, as a relationship to one’s own mind and not a relationship to the matter of silicon or pulped wood, might look like for the generations
to come.

I took solace in a beautiful 1930 essay by Hermann Hesse titled “The Magic of the Book,” in which the Nobel laureate argued that no matter how much our technology may evolve, reading will remain an elemental human hunger. Decades before the Internet as we know it existed, Hesse wrote: “We need not fear a future elimination of the book. On the contrary, the more that certain needs for entertainment and education are satis ed through other inventions, the more the book will win back in dignity and authority.”

Animated by a shared ardor for that “dignity and authority” of the written word, Claudia and I decided to do something about it — which is, of course, always the only acceptable form of complaint — not by fear-mongering or by waving the moralizing should-wand, but by demonstrating as plainly yet passionately as possible that a life of reading is a richer, nobler, larger, more shimmering life. And what better way of doing that than by inviting people cherished for having such lives — celebrated artists, writers, scientists, and cultural heroes of various stripes — to share their stories and sentiments about how reading shaped them? After all, we read what we are as much as we are what we read.

So began an eight-year adventure of reaching out to some of the people we most admired, inviting each to write a short letter to the young readers of today and tomorrow about how reading sculpted their character and their destiny. We then paired each letter with an illustrator, artist, or graphic designer to bring its message to life visually.

We decided that we would donate all the proceeds from the project to our local New York public library system, because libraries are bastions of democracy and oxygen for the life of the mind, which, as my great-grandfather knew, is our single most ferocious frontier of resistance to inequality and injustice.

Looking back on this labor of love, I am filled with gladness and gratitude for the 121 letters we received — the poetic, the playful, the deeply personal — from contributors as varied as scientists like Jane Goodall and Janna Levin, musicians like Yo-Yo Ma and Amanda Palmer, writers like Jacqueline Woodson and Neil Gaiman, artists like Marina Abramović and Chris Ware, to philosophers, composers, poets, astrophysicists, actors, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Italy’s first woman in space, and many more remarkable humans whose splendor of spirit cannot be contained in the shorthand descriptors we often use to condense a person’s character and cultural contribution.

From these micro-memoirs and reflections by lifelong readers who have made extraordinary lives for themselves emerges a kind of encyclopedia of personhood, an atlas of possibility for the land of being mapped through the land of literature.

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Art by the Fan Brothers for a letter by Janna Levin from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.

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Because this is a 250-page love letter to literature drawn from the body of culture, present and past, we decided to tuck into it — quite literally: in the endpapers — a special wink at the most impassioned bibliophiles. Here is my short note on it, as it appears in the back matter of the book:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngENDPAPER NOTE

“I’m not sure that anybody thinks about endpaper except publishers, and probably not more than 1800 people in the United States have ever heard the word ‘endpaper,’” E.B. White wrote to his editor, the visionary Ursula Nordstrom, before insisting that the endpapers of his Charlotte’s Webbe beautiful. The loveliest of books are touched by the author’s thoughtfulness and care in every detail.

A Velocity of Being borrows its endpapers from one of the most imaginative details an author ever slipped into a book.

In 1759, Laurence Sterne began composing The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman — a seven-volume novel that would take him a decade to complete and would revolutionize the art of storytelling. Midway through the third volume, he placed a single marbled page — a shock of swirling color, strange and beautiful against the black-and-white of the book. Sterne himself considered it the “motley emblem” of his work, imbued with meaning open to interpretation but never fully penetrable. It was a small revolution — aesthetically, because the craft of marbling, developed in the Middle East, was a curious novelty in mid-18th-century Britain; conceptually, because the fluid dynamics of the dyes make each marbling unique and irreplicable, like each reading of a book, colored by the dynamics we bring to it, the swirl of its meaning co-created by author and reader.

Years ago, when A Velocity of Being was still an untitled baby of a project, my then-partner and I had the fortune of acquiring one of the handful of surviving first editions of Tristram Shandy at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. As I marveled at this centuries-old marbled page, I knew instantly that it would make the perfect endpaper — aesthetically and symbolically, a “motley emblem” of the joy and ever-swirling meaning of literature itself.

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The original marbled page in Tristram Shandy

I invite you to enjoy A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader and gift it to every reader in your life, young and grown, knowing that each copy will contribute to the thriving of the public library system that ensures equal access to books for all, and that the letters and art on these pages will — I hope, I trust — long outlive us all, delighting and inspiring generations to come.

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New York readers: We’re having a special launch celebration at the New York Public Library on December 15, featuring readings by some of our contributors and art from the book. Tickets are free, but space is far from infinite, so grab yours if you plan to join us. It is bound to be a splendid evening.

World Hello Day !


Did you know…

… that today is World Hello Day? Founded in 1973, this day was begun in response to the conflict between Egypt and Israel in the fall of 1973. Take time today to make the world a friendlier place by greeting 10 people today. Hello! Bonjour! Guten Tag! Pronto!

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.”

— Richelle E. Goodrich

World Hello Day !


Did you know…

… that today is World Hello Day? Founded in 1973, this day was begun in response to the conflict between Egypt and Israel in the fall of 1973. Take time today to make the world a friendlier place by greeting 10 people today. Hello! Bonjour! Guten Tag! Pronto!

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it’s enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.”

— Richelle E. Goodrich

Funding in 2018


Funding in 2018 signals birth of a mature startup ecosystem in India

Shradha Sharma     posted 3 hours ago

Investors are bullish on Indian startups and are betting big on companies that have the ability to grow, according to funding data for 2018. There are clear sector favourites as well, but overall, funding data for the year is signalling that the Indian startup ecosystem is maturing.

Funding in 2018

Startup funding for the year is displaying what has until now been a topic of much speculation: the clear signs of a maturing of the Indian startup ecosystem. Funding data from YS Research shows investors today are more bullish than ever on the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem and are betting big.

This time though, the bets are being placed on startups that have survived the initial test and have a demonstrated ability to grow.

Investment data also shows an increase in the risk appetite of investors, with a significant jump in the pace and number of deals this year. Investors are also moving away from the more common sector plays such as ecommerce to invest in emerging tech-focused ones like automation and artificial intelligence, which were not in focus last year.

According to one investor, there is a marked shift in the kind of ideas emerging from startups this year, which in turn is driving up investor interest. “There are a lot more original ideas this year and less of me-too ideas. Entrepreneurs are coming up with first-principle ideas aimed at solving existing problems in India,” the early-stage investor said.

Big bucks for big names

As of last Sunday, the Indian startup ecosystem had raised close to $11 billion in funding this year. That’s 80 percent of the $13.7 billion raised in 2017. Of this, the big bucks went to the unicorns – well-established names that have a proven ability to scale and grow.

Of the 712 equity funding deals, 32 had an investment size of $100 million or more, of which 66 percent or 21 rounds were raised by companies that are already unicorns.

There were no supergiant funding rounds this year, as OYO’s $1 billion is the biggest compared to the multi-billion-dollar rounds raised by Flipkart last year. Instead, the money has mainly gone to well-established companies such as Paytm Mall ($350 million), Zomato ($410 million), Swiggy ($310 million) and Udaan ($275 million) – all unicorns. The last one, a B2B startup in the rather unglamorous business of wholesale ecommerce, is also the fastest to have achieved unicorn status, just 26 months after it was started.

Counting on experience

An interesting point is that the average age of the top funded companies is 9.6 years. The youngest include Udaan and Cure.fit (2+ years) while the oldest include names like PineLabs (20 years). Others like BookMyShow, Dream11 and Zomato are also 10+ years old.

“Today we want to see startups that can demonstrate a clear path to growth with strong execution DNA amidst tough competition,” another investor said.

Funding
Source: YourStory Research

So, does that mean investors are being cautious? Well, not quite. Plenty of risk capital has gone into the Pre-Series A space – $170 million was raised across 287 deals and $465 million raised in Series A across 81 deals. The amount raised in Series A increased by 1.3x even though the number of deals declined by 10 percent, indicating strong investor confidence and risk appetite.

Series B saw a slight dip by volume and value but at the Series C stage, the amount raised more than tripled while the number of deals nearly doubled. The story was similar with Series D – twice the number of deals and 4x the amount raised in 2017. It’s similar further down the alphabet series. Remember that we still have another month and a half to go, so these numbers could get even better.

Stagewise funding 2018 India startups
Source: YS Research

Plenty to go around

What’s more, sectors that were not on anyone’s radar last year have raised significant funding. Robotics and automation raised close to $230 million (vs $30 million in 2017) but there’s a bigger story being scripted in AI. In 2017, AI-based startups raised a total of $5.88 million (13 deals). This year, that number has skyrocketed to $294 million (23 deals). A big chunk of that was raised by Bengaluru-based ThoughtSpot’s $145 million Series D round.

Accommodation also tripled the funding it received ($1.06 billion), largely driven by the $1 billion that OYO raised earlier in the year. EdTech raised a better volume of funding at $200 million (41 deals) against $142 million (53 deals) in 2017.

If the investor interest in SaaS is anything to go by, Indian companies have finally started paying for these solutions. The sector doubled the funding raised to $387.9 million over 37 deals compared with $171 million (50 deals) last year.

That SaaS companies can scale and succeed without large funding rounds was demonstrated by Mettl’s acquisition by Mercer. The acquisition closed at approximately Rs 300 crore, which is 7x the $4.2 million-$4.8 million (about Rs 33 crore) of funds raised. For early investor Blume Ventures, the aggregated returns (seed and pro rata in the Series A round) was 7x the investment they made.

Fintech led the pack this year, raising close to $2 billion across 120+ deals. Last year, it played second fiddle to ecommerce, largely because of the $3.9 billion in funding raised by Flipkart. This year, ecommerce and marketplace together raised $1.5 billion across 60 deals.

Oddly enough, the interest in Healthcare declined to just $229 million (14 deals) versus $383 million (75 deals) in 2017. Logistics too had a dull year in terms of funding, garnering only $194 million (20 deals) against $273 million across 17 deals.

So overall, a year of inflection for the Indian startup ecosystem, where companies that demonstrated the ability to scale were rewarded by investors and rightly so.

Consider this Martial art as your next Strategy.


Hanhim is a mixed martial art that focuses on clobbering your opponent with a minimum expenditure of your own energy. The primary focus lies on both deflection and punches and it often relies on the flexibility and reflexes of the attacker.

The biggest strength of Hanhim is the speed with which an opponent can be overpowered. By profiting from the shifts in balance of yourself your opponent tends to tire out pretty quickly, helping you stay in control of the fight.

On the other hand the biggest weakness of Hanhim is the illegal moves in this art are easily used and exploited by others. When your opponent doesn’t fight with the same rules it’s near impossible to win.

Startpreneurs stories fav newskwtter


Stories you shouldn’t miss

Bengaluru-based fintech platform Signzy raised Series A funding of $3.6 million led by Stellaris Venture Partners and Kalaari Capital. Angel investors like Rajan Anandan, Google India and South East Asia MD; Amrish Rau, PayU India CEO; Dilip Khandelwal, SAP Labs India MD and Vikram Chachra, Partner, 8i Ventures participated in this round. Signzy Technologies, helps banks solve customer authentication and onboarding problems with different technology-based services. 

Bengaluru-based agritech startup CropIn Technologies raised $8 million in Series B funding, in a round led by Chiratae Ventures (previously known as IDG Ventures). The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Strategic Investment Fund (London and Seattle) also participated in this round of funding. SmartFarm is a customisable mobile app and web interface for farm management across agribusinesses’ own field agents allowing for business-to-business-to-farmer plot-level farm management.

SME lender Aye Finance raised Rs 72 crore in debt funding from Swiss-based impact investor BlueOrchard Finance. The funds will be used to further enhance its credit portfolio, reach out to India’s burgeoning MSMEs at the grassroots level and bring them under the fold of organised lending. Since its inception in 2014, Aye Finance has disbursed over Rs 1,000 crore to over 80,000 micro enterprises in India.

Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori’s health and wellness startup Cure.fit has acquired Bengaluru-based integrated mental wellness platform Seraniti. After acquiring Fitness First, 1000yoga, Kristy Kitchens and a few others, Cure.fit is now focusing on its mental wellness platform – Mind.fit. Seraniti clinics at Bengaluru and Pune have rebranded under the Cure.fit banner as Mind.fit, the startup’s dedicated mental wellness vertical offering online and offline yoga, meditation and therapy services.

Neal Ford likes to keep it simple. He writes code, speaks at conferences and writes books. But, Neal’s job designation reads ‘Director, Software Architecture, ThoughtWorks’. An influential voice in the world of software architecture, he is currently writing his eighth book while becoming fascinated by meta-modernism. In one of his books, he writes, ‘Developers are drawn to complexity like moths to a flame often with the same result.’ In this week’s Techie Tuesday,  here’s Neal Ford’s journey.

Akshaypat Singhania, Chairman and MD of JK International, announced that he has set up an Rs 100-crore fund to invest in lifestyle, healthcare, food & beverage companies and other startups. The scion of the fourth generation of Singhania family, Akshaypat is now looking for Indian startups to invest in. He is targeting startups that have created a brand for themselves and are now struggling to raise funds for re-engineering.

It’s an exciting period for digital transformation in India. The 2018 Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index  report maps the progress of this transformation and how organisations are reacting to digital. In this first of the three video series called #TechByte, we bring to you, Mr. Ashok Alexander, Founder of the Antara Foundation, an organisation doing transformative work for public healthcare using mobile technology. Listen to his perspective on tech and read more about the report

Amazon AI Conclave will be held on December 13-14, 2018 at ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru where you will gain valuable insights into key AI trends and witness cutting-edge AI technologies. Amazon invites companies using AI in B2C and B2B solutions for commercial use, while also leveraging one or more AI-based solutions from Amazon Web Services to apply for the Amazon AI awards. The last date to apply is November 30, 2018. To view award categories and apply, click here.

Catalyst 


He Is The Catalyst Who Makes Life Beautiful —


How fortunate we were indeed to be loved and taken care of by One who knew the slightest wish and thought that sparked in any mind in the world. He is the catalyst that makes all nature beautiful to us. There is no life other than that which He gives us. Not only did he give us life in the manifestation of the love of our parents, but He formed every cell in our bodies. 


There is nothing that He is not. He does not demand anything of us. He never points His finger at us and says, “You’ve been bad,” or “You’ve been sinful.” He calls these mistakes and that’s  what they  are. 


The concept of hell is totally  foreign, because we know that He can do nothing but love us, and love all of mankind. Even if there were such a thing, and we had to go there to see Him and be with Him, it would be Heaven.   


An excerpt from Memories Of A Zetetic, 

By Ann K Hazra

Copyright: AMBPPCT

Frustrated Ego


The chief forms in which the frustrated ego finds its expression are lust, greed and anger and have body and mind as the vehicle of expression.


The best and easiest way of overcoming the ego and attain Divine consciousness is to develop love and render selfless service.


——-AVATAR MEHER BABA


[From- LESSONS FOR SPIRITUAL ASPIRANTS, Complied by:  BIRENDRA KUMAR] 

[Copyright © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust Ahmednagar (M.S.) India]