Beyond Words

Have you ever wanted to know what goes on inside the mind of an animal? Carl Safina certainly does. In Beyond Words, the founding president of the Safina Centre in New York showcases his unyielding determination to uncover the consciousness of animals. It makes for a fascinating narrative that spans the African plains, Yellowstone National Park, and the Pacific Northwest, and takes his readers to the complex boundary between humans and other animals. Indeed:

But what is a “human” emotion? When someone says you can’t attribute human sensations to animals, they forget that human sensations are animal sensations. Inherited sensations, using inherited nervous systems.

Safina troubles the rather arbitrary distinction many humans draw between themselves and supposedly “lesser” creatures, suggesting that our consciousness is, in fact, equal to that of an elephant.

Elephants form deep social bonds developed through deep time. Parental care, satisfaction, friendship, compassion, and grief didn’t just suddenly appear with the emergence of modern humans […] Our brain’s provenance is inseparable from other species’ brains in the long cauldron of living time.

While elephants and other animals can’t communicate their emotional sensations to us in a language we can readily understand, neurologists have been able to discern certain core emotions that run parallel to ours. Much of our genetic and hormonal make-up is almost identical to that of other animals: for example, rage is produced in the same parts of the brains of a cat and a human.

Although Safina does not argue that humans and elephants share all the same sensations, he insists that we must not deny the huge emotional capacities of other creatures. In fact, the memory of elephants often seems to far surpass that of humans: they can keep track of large numbers of individuals and recall watering holes unvisited in years tens of miles away – without Google Maps!

Perhaps most “human” of all, elephants exhibit clear signs of the ability to empathise. Safina tells of one elephant pulling a spear from the side of another elephant, and even relays an account of an elephant protectively surrounding a vulnerable woman who had strayed from the path.

The precise why and wherefore of elephants’ feelings of empathy and compassion remain in the realm of mystery. We may not know exactly what elephants are feeling, but they do. Or perhaps they don’t […] Perhaps like us, they simply wonder. If so, there must be others who wonder, too.

To find out more about the inner-lives of these majestic animals, look out for the publication of Beyond Words next month!


Krav Maga

Yesterday, the Mail on Sunday ran a large piece about how British MPs are being offered the chance to learn the technique of Krav Maga (Hebrew for “contact combat”) to protect themselves against threat.

In the wake of the devastatingly tragic death of Jo Cox in June, MPs are turning to Krav Maga to enable their capacity for self-defence. Combining aspects of jui-jitsu, boxing, judo and street fighting, Krav Maga can be used against an armed attacker.

It just so happens that David Kahn’s Krav Maga Defence will be published by Souvenir Press 13th October! David Kahn is one of the world’s top practitioners of Krav Maga and has trained many of the world’s top military and police units, from the Royal Marines to the FBI. In Krav Maga Defence David Kahn introduces the Israeli military’s renowned method of unarmed combat, which is now one of the world’s most popular martial arts (as well as a fitness programme).

Krav Maga Defence includes a step-by-step outline of how to defend yourself against the 12 most common street attacks.

This fully illustrated guide teaches simple defences against the most common street attacks that may be encountered: from protection against ambush attacks, mugging, attacks from behind. David Kahn teaches street combat techniques that provide instinctive and efficient protection in everyday situations.

You can even discover how to defend yourself if you are attacked while texting and vulnerable because your head is down and your hands are occupied. It turns out that a phone can actually be a highly effective weapon!

David Kahn is the Israeli Krav Maga Association’s Chief Instructor in the USA. He has taught many US military and law enforcement agencies, and also produced the award-winning Mastering Krav Maga VD series.

Should you like to read more:

Krav Maga_PB.indd

History in a Pint Glass

Happy Friday everyone! Today, we bring you the latest on how beer has changed history to prepare you all for the weekend!

The history of beer stretches back as far as humans have engaged in agriculture. Along with bread, it has been one of the most ‘basic’ foods throughout the centuries. Indeed, from ancient Mesopotamia to the spread of Christianity, the history of the world certainly has a frothy head.

And here’s a fun fact for you all… did you know that the first cargo ever to grace the German railway network was two barrels of beer?

And, of course, the British soldiers were not to be without their beer on the front line. In Down Beer Street, Mika Rissanen & Juha Tahvanainen explain that:

In the summer of 1944, just after the D-Day landings, he [Edward Turner] got a rather unusual order from the RAF and the Western brewery. They wanted him to produce some auxiliary tanks for the Spitfire Mk IX suitable for transporting beer.

In modifying the tanks, he had to pay attention to their pressure proofing and pressure balancing. When the slow cargo planes crowded the lower altitudes on the way to Normandy, pilots would fly above them, often at altitudes above 5,000 metres. As altitude increases, air pressure decreases, and when the outside air pressure is low the carbon dioxide in beer expands, and the beer either foams out of the tank or the pressure inside the tank expands.

By 1944 these tanks were being filled with beer that would soon be flown under the wings of newly serviced planes back to the Normandy airfields. Since there were so many different models and variants of Spitfires in use in the air and intelligence forces, the plans equipped with these new tanks were dubbed Mk XXX.

As summer turned to autumn, when talk changed from the Normandy bridgehead to the Western front, the Allies began supplying beer regularly, so the flights with barrels of beer beneath Spitfire wings became history.

Strictly speaking, the beer runs were not legal. Customs and Excise tried to tell the RAF they were exporting alcoholic drink without filling out the appropriate customs declaration. However, RAF top brass managed to negotiate a solution.

So, while you enjoy your cold beers over this warm summer weekend, be glad your drinks are coming straight from the tap and not from the sky!

Down Beer Street front cover

Beat it!

The Beat Generation exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris celebrates the famed Beat movement, the cultural revolution that swept across the world in the 1950s.

With film screenings, readings, concerts, and discussions, this is an exhibition not to be missed (it ends on the 3rd October, so those lucky enough to hop across the Channel in time must go and check it out!) It even houses the original scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and the heavily edited typescript of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl”.

This exhibition particularly resonates at Souvenir Press in light of our publication of The Beats: A Graphic History.

“What better way to analyse the Beats and their legacy than via this graphic history?'” Bookmunch

During World War Two, a group of friends in New York would begin a cultural revolution. Over the following decades Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs would write their own masterpieces, but taken together, as the Beats, they would also become a focal point for a literary explosion and a generation of revolution.

Their story is explored through the graphic art of a variety of artists. The artwork in The Beats is as vibrant as the writing and lifestyles of the Beat movement itself, and is a tribute to a generation in a form and style as original as its subject.

An informative tour of a generation that opposed conformity and conservatism, and whose creativity and experimentation changed literature and society forever.The unique form of comic art enhances the book’s countercultural history and vividly captures the spirit of the original Beats.

Between the The Beats and the multidisciplinary Pompidou exhibition, it is easier than ever to get immersed in that Beat life.

The Beats cover

In Spirit of Gambiarra!

Did you get a chance to watch the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony? One of the most spectacular moments for us was the light and dance show which narrated Brazil’s ancient and rich history.

The performances were set into motion with homage paid to the spirit of gambiarra, which has been defined by the organisers as ‘the Brazilian talent for making the most out of nothing’.

Yet Brazil does not have to make the most out of ‘nothing’: indeed, with its indigenous and environmental history, Brazil has absolutely everything to draw upon. The acrobatic display narrated Brazil’s ancient forest origins, the formation of indigenous peoples, and the arrival of the Portuguese.

Brazil’s indigenous origins caught the life-long fascination of the Villas Boas brothers, who met the Indians of Alto-Xingu, and spent the rest of their lives researching the lives and culture of the Xingu Indians while defending them against the encroaching and dislocating effects of ‘civilisation’.

The Xingu Indians are perhaps most famous today as the Amazonian Indians that Sting once lived with. However, these Xingu Indians had no previous contact with the outside world, and today the Xingu Indians still live in isolation from the modern world in ecological and social balance, maintaining their traditions and culture.

And Brazil’s indigenous past continues to flourish in parts of the country. The Villas Boas brothers created Brazil’s Xingu National Park, an area of protected Amazonian rainforest where 15 indigenous tribes live in 5.6 million acres free from the advance of the society that has devastated the rainforest around them. For their work in founding the Park the Villas Boas brothers were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 and 1975. They were awarded the Founders Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1967.

Xinghu: The Indians, Their Myths is drawn from diaries written over twenty-five years by the Villas Boas brothers. It is an encyclopaedia of observation and research into the ways of the Xingu Indians, their history, oral traditions and their myths (never previously revealed to any other outsiders). It is also a compendium of the myths of the Xingu, which make up the bulk of this book, and it explains the relationships, rituals and culture of the Xingu while retaining the vitality of stories that have passed down generations, unchanged since the creation of the tribes.

For anyone who, like us, was moved by Rio’s Opening Ceremony, be sure to find a copy of Xingu to learn about the wonderful and vast history of the host of this year’s Olympics!

“A remarkable account of the Xingu Indians, their relationships, rituals and oral stories, which have been passed down unchanged since the tribes’ beginnings and are still resisting the advances of the 21st century.” The Ecologist

Xingu jacket

The Best-Seller from the Favela

As #Day4 of the @Olympics begins, we look at Carolina Maria de Jesus’ worldwide best-selling diary of her life in a Brazilian favela.

Indeed, the grandeur of the games co-exists with the tough slum-life reality of Brazil: the reality which Carolina Maria de Jesus recounts in her diary. This is a diary of her life in a Brazilian favela, the slums that are cities of crime and poverty, where she lived in a wooden shack roofed with flattened tin cans. She and her three children survived by foraging for waste paper and metal to sell and at night she wrote this diary on scraps of paper that made her internationally famous.

On its first publication in 1960, Beyond All Pity was a sensation and at the time was the bestselling Brazilian book in history, making Carolina Maria de Jesus a spokeswoman for the poor, the dispossessed and the illiterate. It provides unparalleled insight to the lives that exist beyond the Olympic stadium.

Beyond All Pity focussed attention on the plight of slum dwellers in Brazil’s favelas by its shocking description of the hungry and the poor in their daily struggle to survive. Carolina Maria de Jesus became one of the most famous figures in Brazil, and around the world, as millions identified with her strength of character and inspiring refusal to accept the world’s injustices.

Beyond All Pity is the unforgettable expression of an individual speaking against the evils of poverty and Carolina Maria de Jesus is an inspirational example of human endurance and courage under the most extreme suffering.

“Beyond All Pity… remains a key document for understanding life on the origins of a society which continues to be among the most unequal in the world.”
‘Times Literary Supplement’

Beyond All Pity



The Ever-Lasting Devastation of Nagasaki

Susan Southard spent a decade researching the lives of the survivors of the Nagasaki bomb when writing her ground-breaking book, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War. Dropped on August 9th 1945, this 5-tonne plutonium bomb destroyed the coastal city of Nagasaki and turned the surviving civilians into hibakusha (atomic bomb-affected people).

Southard focuses her study of the devastation of the nuclear bomb on the lives of five teenagers, following the suffering and stigmatisation of these individuals to the present day. Intimate and compassionate, Nagasaki tells the neglected story of life after nuclear war

Last week, Bruce Kent responded to Southard’s raw reconstruction of the days, months and years after the bomb was dropped. A political activist and former Catholic priest, Kent now serves as the honorary vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

For Kent, a devoted advocate of CND, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War is:

An impressive book, well worth reading. It ought to lead to action… The first priority is to get people to realise that there are lessons for today in the horrors of 1945… This book may help jolt the world into taking the practical steps needed, and perfectly possible, to achieve a nuclear weapon-free world.

Bruce Kent, Vice-President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, ‘Camden New Journal’ August 4th 2016

Tomorrow brings the 71st anniversary of this global atrocity just 3 weeks after MPs voted to renew the controversial Trident programme. Tomorrow’s anniversary and our own uncertain future both serve to remind us that we would all do well to reflect on the concerns raised by Bruce Kent, and consider whether nuclear arms really ought to have a place in our world.

Nagasaki cover