Guest Blog – Arthur Plotnik

Today’s guest blog comes from Arthur Plotnik, author of Better Than Great. Better Than Great is a unique thesaurus of praise and acclaim, containing humankind’s largest gathering of fresh, potent and larky superlatives for anyone struggling to describe extraordinary things or experiences in ways that will do them justice. The English language has thousands of words to praise but ‘cool’, ‘good’ and ‘great’ have become our default choices. In Better Than Great Arthur Plotkin adds fresh and engaging new words to our vocabulary of praise, sorted into appropriate categories for easy use.

As an antidote to dull and, ultimately, devaluing language, Better Than Great restores distinction, persuasiveness and delight to our praise. The book is an entertainment in itself, drawing on all levels of expression and offering bonus lists, quotes, sidebar features and the author’s spirited advice and observations on each type of acclaim.

Below, Arthur speaks about the writing of the book and one particular orange-faced blond-coiffed person we all love to hate.

 

Since the publication of BETTER THAN GREAT, thousands of readers have cavorted in its entertaining bounty of alternatives to “great,” “awesome,” “unbelievable,” “amazing,” and other terms of praise gone dull and bloodless from overuse.

Absent from those amused and empowered readers is a man who most needs a freshened stock of superlatives, a man seemingly limited to “great,” “very great,” and “very, very great.” Some time back, he was among the many public figures whose feeble vocabulary helped inspire my book, and now, as President of the United States and a compulsive Tweeter, he threatens to lower the bar of expressiveness by example, even we yearn to celebrate, with fresh and heart-juddering praise, those things we value most.

“Fight back!” I say. “Refuse to dishonor what we love and cherish with terms more suited to an “amazing” pizza or “brilliant” pair of shoes. Be exalting, resplendent, coruscating, mind-marmalizing, and magisterial in your praise, drawing from the more than 5,500 terms in the juggernaut for expressive justice that is:  BETTER THAN GREAT.

 

And here’s Arthur’s thoughts on the word ‘great’ from Better Than Great:

Toward the end of the 20th century, the venerable word great reigned as the default term for describing specialty. Used at all levels of speech, the term never seemed to exhaust itself, even within a sentence. Major events called for pile-ups, something like, “This great float honors one of the great gentlemen of the great State of California, and tomorrow two great teams will play what’s expected to be a great game before the greatest fans in this great nation.”

Today, if the word doesn’t quite put listeners to sleep, neither does it wake them to the wonders of anything. Approaching some two billion appearances in a Web search, it certainly has lost whatever specialty it had. If two billion things are special, what’s left to be ordinary? In conventional uses, great generates about one nanowatt of energy. Lately the word amazing has become slightly more energetic than great, but it, too, is accumulating usage numbers that suggest serious loss of clout.

Find out more here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/better-than-great/

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Forthcoming Titles

We’ve got three really exciting titles coming up this Spring.

First up, Out of Your Mind by Alan Watts. In Out of Your Mind Alan Watts presents six of his most engaging teachings for breaking out of the limits of the rational mind, escaping conventional awareness and coming to understand the great game that is unfolding around us:

Discover the ‘controlled accident’ – stop taking life so seriously and begin to enjoy it with complete sincerity.

Learn to transcend the illusion of ‘the myth of myself’, we are not just skin-encapsulated egos separate from the world around us.

Drawing on ancient and modern sources Alan Watts provides an understanding of the individual’s real place in the universe and a healing alternative for living a more spiritual life.

Alan Watts was instrumental in introducing Eastern religious and philosophical thought to Western readers. Yet he was also a former Anglican priest, and described himself as “a spiritual entertainer.” It is Watts’ openness to all religions and spiritual traditions that continues to inspire his readers today.

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Pre-order Out of Your Mind by Alan Watts here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/out-of-your-mind/

 

Next we have The Sentient Machine by Amir Hussain. In The Sentient Machine Amir Husain, one of the world’s leading technologists, looks at our future as humanity stands on the edge of a second Big Bang, the moment when machines can think independently. Will machines solve all human problems or will they lead us down a dystopian path to human irrelevance?

Husain asks what will be the consequences — from job losses, is Wall-E our future, to the existential questions: how are we intelligent, what constitutes progress, how can AI bring us to “the good life”?

Amir Husain explores the dawn of a new form of intellectual diversity, one that could advance the state of the art in many critical fields, including security, resource management, finance, and energy. The Sentient Machine provides a history of artificial intelligence (boiling down complex computer science and AI concepts into clear, plainspoken language) and draws from a wide variety of cultural and historical references to illustrate its possible future.

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Pre-order The Sentient Machine here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/the-sentient-machine/

 

Finally we have Adventures of a Ballad Hunter by John Lomax. John A. Lomax set out on horseback in 1908 to record and preserve America’s folk music. Over the next four decades he recorded over 5,000 songs, among them were Rock Island Line (which he first heard at the Arkansas Penitentiary), he heard Casey Jones sung in a saloon in Deming, New Mexico, and discovered The Midnight Special when it was performed by a prisoner in Parchman Convict Farm. Lomax also discovered the Blues legend Lead Belly in the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Adventures of a Ballad Hunter is Lomax’s own memoir of an eventful life containing vibrant, often haunting, stories of the people he met and recorded, as well as the lyrics for dozens of songs. Lomax describes singers and musicians from cowboys such as Silver Jack and Big Bill Swanson to railway workers like Henry Truvillion to prison inmates such as Lead Belly. From Texan cattle camps to Mississippi prison farms he recorded some of the twentieth-century’s most important songs: ‘Home on the Range’ and ‘Goodnight Irene,’ ‘In the Pines’ and the spiritual classic ‘Honey in the Rock’. The stories behind these songs are related here.

John Lomax was the bridge between the oral tradition of passing songs from singer to singer and the modern era where music is preserved by technology. Adventures of a Ballad Hunter is an endlessly interesting account of a fascinating life, from his early years on the road (and always surrounded by music) to the vibrant, troubled, history that lay behind this folk culture.

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Pre-order Adventures of a Ballad Hunter here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/adventures-of-a-ballad-hunter/

Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. We are proud to publish Stride Toward Freedom, Martin Luther King’s account of a pivotal moment in American history.

Martin Luther King, Jr. described Stride Toward Freedom as “the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of non-violence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.”

On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Rallied by the young preacher and activist Martin Luther King, Jr., the black community of Montgomery organised a historic boycott of the bus service, rising up together to protest racial segregation. This was the first large-scale, non-violent resistance of its kind in America and marked the beginning of a national Civil Rights movement based on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s principles.

Stride Toward Freedom is the account of that pivotal turning point in American history, told through Martin Luther King, Jr.’s own experiences and stories, chronicling his community’s refusal to accept the injustices of racial discrimination.

From U.S President Barack Obama’s tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“From the mountain top, he pointed the way for us – a land no longer torn asunder with racial hatred and ethnic strife, a land that measured itself by how it treats the least of these…a land in which all of God’s children might come together in a spirit of brotherhood.”

At the time Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 26 years old and the pastor of a Baptist church in Montgomery. Within a year, he was a national figure and a leader of the Civil Rights movement. One of the greatest orators in American history, remembered for his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated on April 4th 1968.

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Find Stride Toward Freedom: https://bit.ly/2iGmmop

Jena Pincott’s Blog

Today we have a treat for you. Jena Pincott, author of Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? , has written a guest blog about the book. Fun, entertaining and informative, Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? is a different type of pregnancy book. Instead of looking at the how-to it looks at the why, the QI of maternity books. See Jena’s thoughts below.

 

I wrote Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? when I was heavily pregnant. There was a problem:  the due date. My manuscript, Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? was to be delivered only a couple months after the baby’s birth, and my writing was behind schedule.

I often thought of the book as a second baby, literally. I was very calm about it. Uncharacteristically calm, because I am usually scrupulous about timeliness. There’s a biological reason for this Zen attitude, which I describe in the book.  I usually rely on stress as a motivator, and it’s increasingly difficult to get a pregnant woman stressed about anything that doesn’t concern the baby. By third trimester we’re saturated with cortisol —it’s not just a stress hormone; it also helps the fetus’s brain and organs to mature. Cortisol floods our veins, and as a result, its receptors are less sensitive, which in turn can dampen the stress response system. A peaceful haze sets in. The baby will come when it’s ready, I thought. And so would the book.

As I progressed through the months, growing heavier and more ponderous, I wondered about my behavior.  It wasn’t just the tranquility about deadlines. Words would get stuck at the tip of my fingers. I made weird and poetic malapropisms: I “circumvented” when I should’ve circumnavigated, my abdominals became my “abominables.” Was I writing so strangely only because I wrote about how this is to be expected in pregnancy? This is the sort of loop one could get stuck in. It’s hard to be your own guinea pig.

Time passes, of course.  There comes a moment when the deadline-bound writer must focus and produce.

For me, this happened soon after the baby was born. That’s when I wrote the final one-third of the book.  Friends pitied me for having a newborn while still heavily pregnant with a manuscript.  I was exhausted, harried, overwhelmed.  The baby had colic. And despite all of this — or because of it — I wrote.  The book was a license to take refuge in a quiet office between nursing sessions. My writing time was as refreshing as a nap.  Writing gave me an opportunity to reclaim the part of myself that I had lost in the last few months of dreamy, poetic gestation. Not every day was productive, but I could be more than a rocking, burping, feeding machine. I was still thinking.

I delivered the book five months after my daughter was born, thanks to a short extension. Being overdue gave me an opportunity to include essays about the evolutionary psychology of postpartum depression, the virtues of baby talk, mood-manipulating hormones in milk, telltale genetic odors in baby poop, personality clues in cradling, and other fascinating science that pertains to the initial months after birth.

Now both book and baby have been delivered and are out in the world. They’re so slow in the making, but how fast they grow!

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Find Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/do-chocolate-lovers-have-sweeter-babies/

Autism Awareness Week 2018

For Autism Awareness Week we have two titles which are perfect guides to Autism, Uniquely Human by Dr Barry Prizant and Aspertools by Dr Harold Reitman.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is now among the most commonly diagnosed developmental disabilities, affecting 1% of the population. Uniquely Human is based on 40 years of practical experience with schools, hospitals, families and academic study.

Dr Prizant’s revolutionary approach is to understand autism as a different way of being human. By understanding autistic behaviours as responses based on that individual’s experiences he seeks to enhance the child’s abilities, teach skills and build coping strategies for a better quality of life.

With a wealth of inspiring stories and practical advice Uniquely Human conveys a deep respect for the qualities in people with autism that make them special. Offering a compassionate and insightful perspective, this groundbreaking perspective that could be life-changing and uplifting.

Find Uniquely Human here: https://bit.ly/2f4PaG9

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Aspertools offers advice from three perspectives, with that of a special needs education teacher, Pati Fizzano, as well as inspirational stories from Dr Reitman’s daughter, Rebecca, about her own experience, for understanding and managing life with an Aspie. It includes tips to make daily life less frustrating and more productive, focusing on the importance of positive routines, coping with social awkwardness and creating stability in daily activities.

Including tips on how to cope with social anxiety through preparation, encouragement and lists; how to effect positive changes in behaviour by utilising rules, rewards and consequences; how to decrease the frequency of meltdowns by providing an escape route to ‘a safe place’. This comprehensive and accessible work will open up the opportunity of a fulfilling life for everyone with a different brain – no matter the label.

Find Aspertools here: https://bit.ly/2o3JXlN 

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My First Guitar

We’re very excited to publish My First Guitar by Julia Crowe today. In My First Guitar the world’s greatest guitarists reveal the stories behind the first six-string that fed their lifelong passion.

“Just how does anyone become so passionate about the guitar that they cannot imagine a life without it? Where does it all begin? I wanted to know how guitarists came into owning their first guitar and what made them realise they had found their life’s work.”

Julia Crowe is a musician who has released several albums of solo instrumental works for the guitar and the founder of TheGuitar webzine, she has interviewed a Who’s Who of the world’s greatest guitarists, in all genres and playing styles, among them:

Jimmy Page                 Lee Ranaldo                Tom Morello

Richard Thompson      Roger McGuinn        Ralph Towner           Pat Metheny

Peter Frampton           Albert Lee  Joe Satriani   Carlos Santana

Benjamin Verdery          Scotty Moore          Joshco Stephan           Tracii Guns

“Collecting these tales has been admittedly addictive because each story is as unique, compelling and illuminating as the performer… My intent was simple – to ask the artists to speak for themselves.”

Crossing a vast array of genres, showing the common experience of all guitarists, Julia Crowe offers intimate and deeply human insights into a musician’s beginnings as her interviewees recall their first instrument and share their memories of the   inspiration, challenges, and successes of those early days.

Jimmy Page remembers “a Spanish guitar but it was steel-strung. A round-hole guitar… It was there and it was out of tune.” Jimmie Vaughan’s first was “an old Kraftsman flat top guitar with four strings on it – the E and the B strings were broken” and he gave his younger brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan, a Telecaster. Tom Morello bought a Kay guitar for $50 when he was 13, “the cheapest guitar with the most knobs”: “That Kay guitar is sitting in the closet now at my mom’s, surrounded by some of my platinum records.”

Find My First Guitar here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/my-first-guitar/ 

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The Day a Team Died – 60th Anniversary

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Munich air disaster.

Returning from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade the plane carrying Manchester United’s Busby Babes stopped at Munich airport to refuel. On its third attempt to take-off in atrocious weather conditions the plane veered off the runway, crashed and burst into flames. 21 people died, 8 members of the legendary team among them (including Duncan Edwards), and Sir Matt Busby was rushed to hospital in critical condition. The greatest British football team of their generation was destroyed.

Munich was a defining moment not only for Manchester United but was one of those historic days, such as the death of JFK, when everyone alive at the time can remember where they were when they heard the terrible news.

Frank Taylor was the only journalist on the plane that night to survive and during his hospitalization wrote this book, revising it extensively 25 years later to include all the subsequent knowledge about the crash. The Day A Team Died is the product of his work.

“My greatest treasure now is a copy of The Day A Team Died, by Frank Taylor. I cried floods of tears when I first read it, and every time on re-reading. It should be compulsory reading for modern-day footballers.”

‘Daily Telegraph’

 

“(This) minute-by-minute eye-witness account of that fateful take-off and dreadful aftermath remains the definitive record, written when it was still painfully fresh… his epitaph to those who perished on that freezing afternoon lives on.”

‘Independent on Sunday’

 

“Serves simply to remind us what a fine writer the late Taylor was… Taylor’s sparse, pity-free eyewitness account is a captivating read.”

‘Observer’

Find the 60th anniversary edition of The Day A Team Died here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/the-day-a-team-died-2/

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