Wayfaring the Labyrinth: Cancer Fighting Music, Silk Maps Save Lives, and a 1,300 Year-Old Family Business

Good Sunday, friends! Detritus scooped while wayfaring the labyrinth* this week:
  • A 1,300 year old family owned business (and a stunning, beautiful 12 min documentary, well worth the wait - be sure to watch to the end).
  • A report from the battlefield in the war on cliches (and here's my salvo).
  • New Rabbit Hole: The New York Public Library's Digital Collection of over 800,000 items. (Say good-bye to a few hours of your life).
  • World Literature Today is one of my digital haunts. One of my goals is to read more literature from other countries. Here's WLT's notable translations of 2014.
  • 'De Botton shares many of the instincts of the Victorian social reformers in trying to lead people away from the soul-destroying obsession with consumer goods in a society which elevates continuous movement over reflection, to a reconnection with the 'strenuous drama of human existence' > The Uses of Art
  • 'I listened to Beethoven during chemo treatments ... I was learning that listening to music was sometimes more effective than communicating through speech. Music is its own emotional language that can make order out of chaos, intimacy out of isolation, and meaning from fragments. Beethoven was the right size and intensity for the mixture of feelings—betrayal, shock, grief, fear, anger, ambivalence, and longing—that late-stage cancer inspired. > How Listening to Music and Fighting with Susan Sontag Helped Me Cope with Chemo
  • 'Faced with some of life’s most painful moments poetry can reassure us that we are not alone – other have suffered too. But a great poem also allows us to make sense of feelings that might otherwise be a searing amorphous mass somewhere deep inside us. Great poetry makes us understand the only half-understood; in that understanding comes relief, and it can feel very physical. This is art acting as a medicine.'
  • I always wondered about Nabokov's butterfly obsession, such a curious passion. Stephen Jay Gould claims it was obsession with detail that fed both his work as a writer and as a Lepidoptera: 'Of all scientific subfields, none raises the importance of intricate detail to such a plateau of importance as Nabokov’s chosen profession of taxonomic description for small and complex organisms. To function as a competent professional in the systematics of Lepidoptera, Nabokov really had no choice but to embrace such attention to detail, and to develop such respect for nature’s endless variety.'
  • How a Silk Map Saved Lives: 'Reading the directions on some of these maps leaves you breathless. They still give off the smell of danger, all the sharper for their matter-of-fact, military tone.'
  • Akira Kurosawa's 100 Favorite Films.
  • Desert Solitaire was the book I enjoyed the most in 2014, minting me an immediate Edward Abbey acolyte (which has its detractors): 'It is easy to dismiss these relationships as mere hero worship, as Oedipal. But what underlies it is something better, I think. A hunger for models. For possibilities. For how to be in the world.' I have been to Ken Sanderson's famous bookstore in Salt Lake (referenced in the article) and it is indeed a shrine to all-things-Abbey, the man who was 'a red hot moment in the life of the country, and I suspect that the half-life of his intransigence will be like that of uranium.'

P.S. My friend, Robert, shared this with me: Neil Young Covers (Bettye Lavette for the win).

*The labyrinth might constitute the web or my library, the impulse to share is irresistible, hence, this top ten(ish), weekly(ish) newsletter.