Archive for February, 2013

Popular Pre-Twilight Vampire Fictions

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

Twilight series has always been favorite among the vampire fans. When we talk about the most brilliant Vampire novels, the majority of the reading enthusiasts choose Stephenie Meyers’s Twilight Series. However, there are various other eminent authors who had written vampire novels before twilight books became famous. Today, I’ve compiled a list of the top most frightening and must read vampire novels published before the twilight series that will make you believe in the ostensible existence of the very blood-sucking vampires. Take a look:

 Dracula by Bram Stoker

This heart throbbing novel spawned countless derivatives and brought the vampire fable into community perception. The blood-curdling tale reveals about a young man’s confrontation with the wicked count Dracula in his castle. Gothic touches like eerie castle, ferocious vampires and horror romance in this novel is able to hold readers awestruck with its many spine-chilling scenes.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

A most influential and spine tingling novel that has a great set-up and awesome ending. A very well-written novel by Richard Matheson with in-depth survival details that crafts vampires into the realm of science fiction. Robert Neville is the only human left alive on Earth who struggles to reverse the incurable plague that has mutated everyone into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Considered one of the most horrifying vampire novels ever written, this amazing book is both homage to Bram Stoker’s classic “Dracula” and a tale of our post-Vietnam society. This freaky novel investigates the darkness of the human heart and the inward-looking evils of Salem’s lot, a small town in America.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

If you are looking for a fast paced mystery with a fun twist, this book is for you. Sookie Stackhouse is an attractive protagonist, around which the whole story revolves. She is a cocktail waitress in Louisiana, who has a special power of hearing every thought the other person is having. But, she is in dilemma that why she cannot hear a single word her boyfriend is thinking?

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

This is actually a modest novel as compared to other novels at that time, but it is well-investigated and beautifully written by Anne Rice. It is a worthy reading and superb introduction into the bloodsucker world. This heart-stopping Vampire novel shows the journey of Louis, who makes his mind up to interview a radiant and sinister vampire named Lestat to know more about vampires.

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

Lost Souls is dark and gloomy, and more than a little scary, but innovative novel by Poppy Z. Brite. This fable revolves around Nothing and Ann, who get interacted with three beautiful, hip vagabonds- Molochai, Twig, and Zillah-are on journey of quenching their ancient thirst for blood and searching of supple young flesh- at a club in Missing Mile, North Carolina. These three blood-thirsty vampires lead them on an illicit road trip south to New Orleans.

If you are a vampire aficionado and haven’t read any of the listed novels till yet, you’re missing something really stunning. These novels have tinges of everything like wit, romance, mystery, thrill, all are knitted well together.

5 Essential Books to Explore Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his Impressionist Art Style

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

One of the most celebrated painters of Impressionist era, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on February 25, 1841, in Limoges, France. A leading painter in the development of an artistic movement called Impressionism in 1870s, he painted every day for 60 years –that’s over 5,000 paintings. Today, on his 172nd birth anniversary, let’s know more about this archetypal artist and his impressionist artworks.

Of all the Impressionist artists, only Pierre Auguste Renoir earned distinction as a professional portrait painter. For more than fifty years Renoir explored the genre of portraiture, experimenting and pressing forward in his determination to become, as he explained to Monet in 1884, “a painter of figures”.

Renoir is now universally acclaimed as museums pride themselves on his paintings and crowds flock to his retrospectives. His work shows art at its most light-hearted, sensual and luminous. Renoir never wanted anything ugly in his paintings, nor any dramatic action. “I like pictures which make me want to wander through them when it’s a landscape”, he said, “or pass my hand over breast or back if it’s a woman”. Renoir’s entire oeuvre is dominated by the depiction of women. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that “Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.” To know more about him as a painter and his painting nuances, you may read Peter H Feist’s groundbreaking biographical epic Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1841-1919: A Dream of Harmony.

Likewise, author Barbara Ehrlich White wrote an investigative book on Renoir’s life and remarkable works: Renoir: His Life, Art, and Letters“. For twenty years, White has devoted much of her life to searching out unpublished letters, drawings and documents that reveal Renoir’s life as an artist and as a man. With 400 illustrations including 125 in color, this book further includes seldom reproduced works of Renoir, as well as some intimate photos of family and homes. This book would come out as an useful resource for the painting scholars.

If you are interested in having sumptuous feast for your eyes, you may check out the book, Renoir: A Master of Impressionism compiled by Gerhard Gruitrooy. A handsomely illustrated volume, it offers insight into the live and works of Renoir. And, the thing that makes the book unique is that every painting is shown in rich colors in a section taking up half the book. From aw-inspiring landscapes and portraiture to outdoor paintings and depictions of bathers, this volume offers an intimate view of the artist and his work.

Young readers will obtain a light-hearted, yet realistic overview of Renoir’s life through the kid’s special book, Pierre Auguste Renoir (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists), and will get to know how his style changed over the years. This introductory guide includes full color pictures of Renoir and his acclaimed paintings.

There is another handy book on Renoir for children: Smart About Art, Pierre-Auguste Renoir Paintings That Smile that reflects the same joie de vivre expressed in Renoir’s works on every page through colorful, dynamic illustrations and 17 reproductions. With humor and insight, this title takes young minds through the life of an artist who at first was so unpopular that his paintings were attacked with umbrellas. Written as if it were a child’s own class report, this book is sure to draw new young fans to Renoir’s paintings.

Some of the widely acclaimed Impressionist works of Renoir are:


"Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette"

Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette), 1876, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

"The Theater Box"

The Theater Box, 1874 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London

"Girls at the Piano"

Girls at the Piano, 1892, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

"On the Terrace"

On the Terrace, oil on canvas, 1881, Art Institute of Chicago


Chinese Philosophy: A Solid Counterpart of Western Philosophy

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Guest Author: Dr. Haiming Wen

Many people wonder how China’s history of thought can be identified as “philosophical.” Professors and students, both in China and the West, wonder whether it is proper to claim there are philosophical ideas in the Chinese tradition. Given Western definitions of philosophy, are the Chinese classical works really philosophical? My answer is yes. China has her own philosophical system which has evolved through history, independent of other philosophical systems. However, it is not enough to just claim that Chinese philosophy can be described in its own self-sufficient jargon, especially when there are many Chinese terms which are not prima facie compatible with Western philosophical categories. I am taking a risk in writing this introduction to Chinese philosophy by applying western philosophical categories – such as metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology – in order to reconstruct Chinese traditional thought. In answering the question, “what is the Chinese philosophical sensibility,” I try to construct Chinese philosophical systems as solid “philosophical” counterparts of Western philosophy. We can claim that the Chinese are “philosophical” in their own way, and at the same time see that the Chinese provide different answers to familiar western philosophical issues.

Ever since the origin of “Chinese philosophy” as a discipline in modern era, researchers have made great efforts and achieved much. However, there is very little special study or discourse by scholars on the “Chinese philosophical sensibility.” The Chinese philosophical sensibility is built out of the shared assumptions of traditional Chinese philosophers throughout a long historical development. From the perspective of academic research, Chinese philosophical sensibility is the theoretical agreements of Chinese philosophers based on the sense of Chinese philosophy as “philosophy.” Therefore, “Chinese philosophical sensibility” is not only a new direction of thought and a theoretical focus based on the traditional horizon of Chinese philosophical problems, but also the researchers’ basic theoretical starting-point and self-awareness when exploring traditional Chinese philosophical problems.

The relationship between human beings and the world is the central concern of Chinese philosophers. Chinese philosophical sensibility encompasses the use of wisdom in regard to human life, and various arguments regarding the perception of the world. Most Chinese philosophies, such as The Book of Change (Zhouyi周易), Confucianism, and Daosim pursue the meaning of life through revealing the relationship between tian (tian天/heavens) and human beings. This focus leads to philosophical reflection on a human being’s place and role in the world.

We might say that traditional Chinese thinkers try to help people live good lives so they could enjoy their single journey of living existence. In the eyes of traditional Chinese philosophers, people naturally have puzzlement about life and world, but this confusion comes from their misunderstanding of dao (dao道/way-making). Dao is the road we walk in life, which is analogous to a person’s behavior and development. Throughout this life journey, we remain unclear of its direction because we lack understanding of our nature, or xing (xing性/nature). Thus, the basic philosophical inquires of Western philosophers, such as social, political, and cosmic problems concerning life and knowledge, are also those of Chinese philosophers. It is in the process of answering these fundamental philosophical problems that Chinese philosophers develop a unique “Chinese philosophical sensibility.”

In this illustrated introduction I explore the characteristics of different philosophers in Chinese history and distinguish the “Chinese philosophical sensibility” motivating their thoughts. Employing Western philosophical categories to describe significant issues in the history of philosophy, I examine Chinese political philosophy in the pre-Qin era, Chinese metaphysics from the Han to Tang Dynasties, Chinese epistemology from the Song to Ming Dynasties, and modern Chinese-Western comparative philosophy. I try to provide a clear, accessible conception of the Chinese philosophical sensibility and its evolution throughout history.

Author’s Bio: Dr. Haiming Wen is a scholar of Chinese and comparative philosophy. He is a professor at the School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China (RUC). Professor Wen received his Ph.D. in comparative philosophy from the University of Hawaii in 2006. His published books include Confucian Pragmatism as the Art of Contextualizing Personal Experience and World (in English), 2009, Lexington, and Chinese Philosophy (in English), 2012, Cambridge University Press; (in Chinese), 2010, China International Press. He has also published more than 50 journal articles in both English and Chinese, including nearly 10 articles in English peer-reviewed journals like Asian Philosophy, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, Contemporary Chinese Thought, Culture and Psychology, Frontier of Philosophy in China, etc.

It’s Time to Greening the Media: The Dark Side of the Technology

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Guest Authors: Richard Maxwell  & Toby Miller

We’re all enamored of the many new technologies that enrich our lives as students, consumers, and workers. The internet brings knowledge and fun to the desk, the sofa, and the office. But a dark side exists, as well. In Greening the Media, we offer a new approach to thinking about these gadgets through a revisionist view of media history. Starting with the earliest days of print and moving through the advent of film, radio, and television and on to the world of modern telephony, we criticize the dominant narrative of progress and pleasure. In place of this happy tale, we suggest a corrective that looks at these media technologies’ impact on workers and the Earth.

The media come to us at terrible human cost, such as the health impact on women, whether they were recycling rags in 19th century New York so we could have paper, or recycling phones in 21st century New Delhi so we could have new circuit boards; whether it is young Congolese enslaved and murdered so coltan can endow our cell phones or pre-teen Chinese suffering lead poisoning so the gold in computers can be reused. The same applies to the natural environment, from the town of Rochester, New York—polluted beyond all measure during Kodak’s decades making film stock there—to the municipal dumps where carcinogens from computers are burnt or buried.

But there are hopeful signs of change as well. Pressure from activists, unions, and image-conscious governments and corporations is helping to improve working conditions in the global supply chain of media technologies. Electronic waste has become an unavoidable policy issue, and major efforts to minimize it and its impact on the planet are embodied in new regulation in Europe and elsewhere. The most advanced policy-making targets are the origin of the toxic waste, and pressure is mounting on manufacturers to exclude by design the poisons and wasteful by-products now embodied in these technologies.

A hopeful as well as realistic book, Greening the Media offers ways to challenge our love affair with these gadgets and the unthinking throw-away culture of consumerism.

 Authors’ Bio: Toby Miller is a British-Australian-US interdisciplinary social scientist. He is the author and editor of over 30 books, has published essays in more than 100 journals and edited collections, and is a frequent guest commentator on television and radio programs.

Based in New York, Richard Maxwell is a political economist of media and Professor and Chair of Media Studies at Queens College, City University of New York. He has published widely on a range of topics: media and the environment; broadcast reform during Spain’s democratic transition; Hollywood’s international dominance; media politics in the post 9-11 era; marketing research and the surveillance society; and the impact of political economic forces in daily life and culture. His most recent book is Greening the Media (Oxford 2012, with Toby Miller).

Remembering Nicolaus Copernicus, the Centre of the World of Astronomy

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

Today is the 540th birth anniversary of Nicolaus Copernicus, one of the most transcendent geniuses of the Renaissance era. Born on February 19, 1473, in the province of Royal Prussia, in the Kingdom of Poland, Copernicus pursued his education with remarkable mathematical achievements. He was a great polymaths with skills as a mathematician, astronomer, jurist with a doctorate in law, physician, polyglot, classics scholar, translator, artist, Catholic cleric, governor, diplomat and economist.

He offered the world perhaps the most significant scientific insight of the human civilization till date, the heliocentric model and theory that placed the Sun at the centre of the solar system, rather than the Earth. He further asserted that the other planets including Earth revolve around the sun. Otherwise, throughout his lifetime almost people believed that a perfectly still earth rested in the middle of the cosmos, where all the heavenly bodies including sun revolved around it. Copernicus was also the first to ascertain that the earth rotates on its axis once every twenty-four hours.

Copernicus’ seminal book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) that publicly expressed his views about the heliocentric hypothesis, is considered as a major achievement  in the history of science. Published just before his death in 1543, this book asserted that the universe is comprised of eight spheres amid which the Sun stood still at the centre, and the other planets including the Earth, in their own spheres, revolve around the Sun. Following his personal observations of the heavenly bodies, Nicolaus Copernicus abandoned the then prevailed Ptolemy’s geocentric system placing the earth at the centre, and created a heliocentric model, with the sun at the centre.

Though Copernicus would not live to hear its extraordinary impact, his book, De revolutionibus is recognized today as one of the most influential scientific works of all time. There’s an interesting story regarding  its popularity:

Four and a half centuries after its initial publication, an astrophysicist Owen Gingerich embarked on an epic quest to see in person all extant copies of the first and second editions of De revolutionibus. The source of his inspiration was two contradictory pieces of information — one is Arthur Koestler’s claim, in his book, The Sleepwalkers, that nobody had read Copernicus’s book when it was published; and the second was Gingerich’s own discovery, in Edinburgh, of a first edition richly annotated in the margins by a leading teacher of astronomy in Europe in the 1540s. This made Gingerich to reason himself that if one copy had been so quickly appreciated, perhaps others were as well, and perhaps they could shed new light on a hinge point in the history of astronomy.

After three decades of investigation, and after traveling hundreds of thousands of miles across the globe –from Melbourne to Moscow, Boston to Beijing, Gingerich has come up with an utterly original book, The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus, complied on his experience and the remarkable insights garnered from examining some 600 copies of De revolutionibus. During his research, he found the books owned and annotated by Galileo, Kepler and many other lesser-known astronomers, which illuminate the long, reluctant process of accepting the Sun-centered cosmos and highlight the historic tensions between science and the Catholic Church. He traced the ownership of individual copies through the hands of saints, heretics, scalawags, and bibliomaniacs. He was called as the expert witness in the theft of one copy, witnessed the dramatic auction of another, and proved conclusively that the De revolutionibus was as inspirational as it was revolutionary.

A blend of the biography of a book, a scientific exploration, and a bibliographic detective story, The Book Nobody Read revives the history of cosmology and offers new appreciation of the enduring power of an extraordinary book and its ideas.

If you want to go deeper into the life and world of Nicolaus Copernicus, you can check out the book, Copernicus’ Secret: How the Scientific Revolution Began written by Jack Repcheck. Covering the life and works of the great scientific genius of the Renaissance era, Repcheck tells with every possible details the surprising, little-known story behind the dawn of the scientific age.

Since our solar system and its propounders are included in the subjects to study from early childhood classes, there’s available an attractive picture-book biography of Nicolaus Copernicus for kids — Nicolaus Copernicus: The Earth Is a Planet. Illustrated richly, this book describes many interesting facts about this fascinating 16th-century scientist, covering Copernicus’ passion for astronomy and his rediscovery about the solar system –after studying the works of the ancient Greeks and their idea– that the Earth is not the center of the universe but planets orbiting the Sun at the centre.

The life and achievements of Nicolaus Copernicus has even been powerfully evoked in a novel, Doctor Copernicus by John Banville that offers a vivid portrait of this man of painful reticence, haunted by a malevolent brother and baffled by the conspiracies raging around him and his ideas while he searches for the secret of life. This fictional evocation of the great astronomer is a tour de force, which is equally exciting and beautifully written.

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