Friday, December 12, 2014

Prison book ban overturned after serial arsonist with doctorate in English literature successfully challenges government restrictions

  • Barbara Gordon-Jones overturned restrictions on receiving books in jail 
  • The 56-year-old has an indefinite sentence for torching homes and cars  
  • Judge declared rules introduced by Chris Grayling last year as 'unlawful' 
  • Rules had been opposed by figures such as Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy 
Barbara Gordon-Jones, 56, has successfully overturned government restrictions on receiving books from friends and family in prison 
Barbara Gordon-Jones, 56, has successfully overturned government restrictions on receiving books from friends and family in prison 
A convicted arsonist with a doctorate in English literature has successfully challenged government restrictions on receiving books in jail. 
A judge declared the rules introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in November last year as 'unlawful'. 
Mr Justice Collins' decision was a victory for Barbara Gordon-Jones, 56, a convicted arsonist with a borderline personality disorder who has a degree and a doctorate in English literature. 
Gordon-Jones, of Tudeley, near Tunbrige Wells, Kent, who also suffers from depression and epilepsy, is serving an indefinite sentence for torching homes and cars and slashing tyres. 
Her victims were often elderly and vulnerable. She is being held at Send prison near Woking, Surrey.
She was denied legal aid but was able to bring her court challenge because lawyers represented her for free.
Under the current rules prisoners are prevented from receiving parcels unless they have 'exceptional circumstances', such as a medical condition. 
But Gordon-Jones challenged the section of the new Prison Service Instruction (PSI) which she said 'imposes substantial restrictions on the ability of prisoners to receive, or have for their use, books'. 

The judge said the PSI amended the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme (IEP), which was brought in partly as an attempt to crack down on drugs getting into prisons.
He said: 'I am satisfied that insofar as it includes books in IEP schemes, the PSI is unlawful.'
A protest against the ruling, led by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (centre) was held outside Pentonville Prison in north London in March - a court ruling has now successfully challenged the restrictions
A protest against the ruling, led by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (centre) was held outside Pentonville Prison in north London in March - a court ruling has now successfully challenged the restrictions
A judge declared the rules introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in November last year as 'unlawful'
A judge declared the rules introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in November last year as 'unlawful'
The ruling was welcomed by solicitors firm Lound Mulrenan Jefferies, who acted for Gordon-Jones along with barristers Jenni Richards QC, Victoria Butler-Cole and Annabel Lee.
The solicitors said in a statement: 'Reading is a right and not a privilege, to be encouraged and not restricted.
'Indeed, Mr Justice Collins commented that, as far as books are concerned, "to refer to them as a privilege is strange".
'The policy was unnecessary, irrational and counter-productive to rehabilitation. It is now rightly judged unlawful.'
The solicitors said the Justice Secretary and prison governor 'sought to argue that there remained adequate access to books because prisoners borrow them from the prison library or purchase them with their own money, but this was rejected in today's judgment'.
They said: 'Prison libraries are often inadequately stocked and there are restrictions on access.
'Spending caps for prisoners usually mean that there is enough for bare essentials but not for books.'
Referring to the fact that Gordon-Jones was refused legal aid, the solicitors warned: 'Under current proposals to restrict judicial review, it would be more difficult to bring this case and hold the Government to account.'
Mr Justice Collins told the High Court (pictured): 'I see no good reason in the light of the importance of books for prisoners to restrict beyond what is required by volumetric control and reasonable measures relating to frequency of parcels and security considerations'
Mr Justice Collins told the High Court (pictured): 'I see no good reason in the light of the importance of books for prisoners to restrict beyond what is required by volumetric control and reasonable measures relating to frequency of parcels and security considerations'
The rules have been opposed by arts' figures including Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, actress Vanessa Redgrave and author Kathy Lette. 
A protest was held outside Pentonville Prison in north London in March.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: 'The ban on sending books to prisoners was always an absurd policy.
'It had nothing to do with punishing and reforming prisoners but was an example of David Cameron's Government's sloppy policy-making.
'This is a victory for all those who campaigned against the ban and the Government should abandon the ludicrous policy with immediate effect.' 
Denis MacShane, the former Labour MP jailed for six months for expenses fraud, described today's judgment as 'a modest win for common sense'.
He said he had a suitcase full of books confiscated when he was sent to Belmarsh Prison last Christmas.
'Chris Grayling seems to think that being unpleasant to prisoners is good for society. On the contrary it makes rehabilitation much more difficult,' he said.  
Reacting to the decision, a Prison Service spokesman said: 'This is a surprising judgment.
'There never was a specific ban on books and the restrictions on parcels have been in existence across most of the prison estate for many years and for very good reason.
'Prisoners have access to the same public library service as the rest of us, and can buy books through the prison shop.
'We are considering how best to fulfil the ruling of the court. However, we are clear that we will not do anything that would create a new conduit for smuggling drugs and extremist materials in to our prisons.' 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Books born on Tumblr

December 11th in History

from The Daily Bleed, an anarchist day-book of lost saints.

1864 -- Maurice Leblanc lives. French
author/journalist, known as the creator of
Arsène Lupin, French gentleman-thief turned 

     Marius Jacob (1879-1954), the anarchiste bandit
     credited with over 150 burglaries, is the original
     "Arsene Lupin" in the French detective novels of
     Maurice Leblanc, with only slight exaggerations 
     which made him a sensational "fictional" character.

1890 -- Mark Tobey, artist, lives (1890-1976) -- 
celebrator of Pike Street Market (where the anarchist
Left Bank Books is located the past 30+ years)
& other things Seattleian.

1906 -- Birago Ismael Diop lives, Dakar, French West
Africa (now Senegal). Senegalese poet & recorder of 
traditional folktales & legends of the Wolof people.

1911 -- Mexico: Yaquis in Sonora, influenced by the
anarquista Ricardo Flores Magón ("Tierra y Libertad"),
reclaim stolen communal lands. Their war with 

the government lasts, officially, until 1929.

1917 -- Thirteen black soldiers hanged for alleged 

participation in a riot in Houston, Texass.

1950 --  Bertrand Russell recommends that all warmongers 
spend time in a boat in a shark-infested pool. (We suggest they
forget the boat).

1951 -- Illinois State mine inspector approve coal dust
removal techniques at New Orient mine in West
Frankfurt. Ten days later, largely because of coal 
dust accumulations, the mine explodes,
killing 119 workers.

1964 -- Anti-Castro protesters attempt to assassinate
Che Guevara during his speech at the United Nations
in New York City.

1965 --  US: Whose On First Bass? Novelist/prankster/anarchoid
Ken Kesey holds his Third Acid Test, at a Palo Alto nightclub.

1969 --  Leaking nerve gas
             necessitates the evacuation of
             the U.S. Army's Chemical Warfare
             Test Center near Dugway, Utah.            

2009 -- Vatican: Beloved & Respected Comrade Leader Pope Benedict XVI 
claims he shares the "outrage, betrayal & shame" felt by the Irish people over 
the findings of the Murphy Report into sexual abuse by his clergy in Dublin. 
The cockles of catholic hearts & fans of TV reruns of "What's My Line" are 
really really warmed.

2010 -- US diplomatic cables uncovered by WikiLeaks show the Vatican's refusal 
to co-operate with the Murphy Report child sexual abuse inquiry in Ireland, & that 
Pope Benedict XVI approved conversions to Catholicism of Anglicans who opposed 
the ordination of women priests.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Phrase of the Day: Jury Rig versus Jerry-Rig

From Wikipedia:

Jury rig

     (also Jerry Rigging) refers to makeshift repairs or temporary contrivances, made with only the tools and materials that happen to be on hand. Originally a nautical term, on sailing ships a jury rig is a replacement mast and yards (which hold the ship's rigging) improvised in case of damage or loss of the original mast.
     The phrase "jury rigged" has been in use since at least 1788.[2] The adjectival use of "jury", in the sense of makeshift or temporary, has been said to date from at least 1616 when it supposedly appeared in John Smith's A Description of New England.[2] However, the word "jury" does not appear in the digital form of this document, as edited by Paul Royster of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. [3] It appeared in Smith's more extensive The General History of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles published in 1624.[4][5]
There are several theories about the origin of this usage of "jury":
  • From the Latin adjutare ("to aid") via Old French ajurie ("help or relief").[6]
  • A corruption of joury mast—i.e. a mast for the day, a temporary mast, being a spare used when the mast has been carried away. (From French jour, "a day".)[7]
  • Contraction in the nautical tradition for injury


Three variations of the jury mast knot
While ships typically carried a number of spare parts (e.g., items such as topmasts), the lower masts, at up to one meter in diameter, were too large to carry spares. So a jury mast could be various things. Ships always carried a variety of spare sails, so rigging the jury mast once erected was mostly a matter of selecting appropriate size. Contemporary drawings and paintings show a wide variety of jury rigs, attesting to the creativity of sailors faced with the need to save their ships. Example jury-rig configurations are:
The jury mast knot is often mentioned as a method to provide the anchor points for securing makeshift stays and shrouds to the new mast. However, there is a lack of hard evidence regarding the knot's actual historical use.[8]

Similar phrases[]

A model showing a method for jury-rigging a rudder
  • The phrase "jerry-built" has a separate origin and implies shoddy workmanship not necessarily of a temporary nature.[9][1][10]
  • Bricolage is building from what happens to be available.
  • To "MacGyver" something is to rig up something in a hurry using materials at hand, from the title character of the U.S. television show of the same name, who specialised in such improvisation stunts.[11]
  • In modern naval parlance "gundecking" (related to gun deck) tends to refer to repairs of a temporary or shoddy nature.[12]
  • In New Zealand, having a "Number 8 wire mentality" means to have the ability to make or repair something using any materials at hand (such as standard farm fencing wire).
Although ships were observed to perform reasonably well under jury rig, the rig was quite a bit weaker than the original, and the ship's first priority was normally to steer for the nearest friendly port and get replacement masts.

This site differentiates nicely:


Although their etymologies are obscure and their meanings overlap, these are two distinct expressions. Something poorly built is “jerry-built.” Something rigged up temporarily in a makeshift manner with materials at hand, often in an ingenious manner, is “jury-rigged.” “Jerry-built” always has a negative connotation, whereas one can be impressed by the cleverness of a jury-rigged solution. Many people cross-pollinate these two expressions and mistakenly say “jerry-rigged” or “jury-built.”

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Fascinating Text Book Doodles Made By Bored Students From 800 Years Ago

By Melissa Goh21 Nov 2014

“Medieval smiley face. Conches, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 7 (main text 13th century, doodle 14th or 15th century).” 

Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel, who works at the Leiden University in The Netherlands, has been sharing fascinating findings from these books on his Tumblr blog

One of these discoveries was that students from 800 years ago were no different from the students of today—both have the tendency to doodle and scribble in their text books when they were bored during classes. 

Scroll down and head over here for more medieval doodles. 

“Doodle by bored school boy.” 

“A 15th-century doodle in the lower margin of a manuscript containing Juvenal’s Satires, a popular classical text used to teach young children about morals.” 

“Doodle from a 13th-century law manuscript (Amiens BM 347).” 

“Students with pointy noses. Leiden, University Library, MS BPL 6 C (13th century).” 

“Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, BPL MS 111 I, 14th-century doodle.” 

“Leiden UB VLQ 92” 

“Medieval scribes tested their pens by writing short sentences and drawing doodles. The pen trials above are from Oxford, Bodleian Library, Lat. misc. c. 66 (15th century).” 

[via So Bad So Good, image via Erik Kwakkel]

Friday, December 05, 2014

Word of the Day: Acyrologia

(plural acyrologias)
  1. (rhetoric) inexact, inappropriate or improper use of a word
  2. malapropism
From Latin, from Ancient Greek ἀκυρολογία (akurologia), α- (a-, “not”) + κυρος (kuros, “authority”), λογια (logia, “speech”)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin Burns Down the National Book Awards

The local literary supernova brought the book world to its feet with an acceptance speech that censured Amazon and sparked an international frenzy.

Ursula K Le Guin accepts the the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from fantasy best-seller Neil Gaiman
Ursula K Le Guin accepts the the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from fantasy best-seller Neil Gaiman
After accepting the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at last night's National Book Awards, Portland writer Ursula K. Le Guin deployed a speech that lanced Amazon, her own publisher, and other “commodity profiteers” who “sell us like deodorant.” It went off like a bomb, bringing the entire room to its feet.
“The speech started out as a smattering of applause, but by the end she got a standing ovation,” said Theo Downes-Le Guin, Le Guin's son who also runs contemporary art gallery Upfor on NW Flanders. We caught up with him this morning by phone as he assisted his mother through New York airport security on their way home (he also escorted her onstage last night). “I was incredibly proud of her. She made me cry.”
But those moved by Le Guin’s speech went far beyond attendees at the black-tie Manhattan event.
Overnight, Le Guin blew up web editions of the Los Angeles TimesGuardianNew YorkerWall Street Journal, and more. National Public Radio ran Le Guin’s anti-capitalist critique as breaking news last night and again for morning commuters. The hashtag #nbawards is almost entirely devoted to frothy Le Guin tweets (including one from fantasy titan Neil Gaiman, who introduced Le Guin prior to awarding her medal).
Theo Downes-Le Guin escorts his mother, Ursula Le Guin, on stage
Theo Townes-Le Guin escorts his mother, Ursula Le Guin, on stage
What prompted the adoration? Statements like those below from the 85-year-old author (read the full transcript here).
On the commodification of art:
Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial. I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers.
On Amazon’s recent attempt to undercut the imprint Hachette:
We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this.
On power:
We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.
On her fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction:
I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. 
Who isn’t happy about Le Guin’s speech? The contingent from Amazon, who—according to NPR’s Petra Mayer—“notably had no comment on Le Guin's speech or the ribbing they endured throughout the night.”
Downes-Le Guin says his mom “challenged the status quo in a room not only full of writers but also book publishers.”
We couldn’t be more proud.
What do you think? View her speech below:

Long Lost Letter Found, Inspiration for Kerouac's "On the Road"



In 1950, Jack Kerouac famously scrapped his first draft of On the Road after reading a 16,000-word stream-of-consciousness letter from Neal Cassady. That letter - called the "Joan Anderson Letter" and long presumed lost - has resurfaced and will be up for auction in December.

Deeply influenced by Cassady's spontaneous prose in the letter, Kerouac tried to emulate his style when he re-visited On the Road. The author would later claim that if the letter hadn't been lost, Cassady would have secured a place as a major literary voice.

"It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better'n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves," Kerouac said to an interviewer with The Paris Review in 1968.

How the letter was lost - and found again - brings in another famous Beat: Allen Ginsberg. Kerouac lent the letter to the poet, who in turn lent it to a friend who lived on a houseboat in northern California. Ginsberg's friend reported the letter as lost, assuming it blew off the boat and into the water.

"It was my property, a letter to me, so Allen shouldn't have been so careless with it, nor the guy on the houseboat," Kerouac continued in the same Paris Review interview.

The letter, however, was not lost on the houseboat. Ginsberg's friend eventually found the letter again and gave it back to the poet. Ginsberg then sent the letter to the Golden Goose Press in San Francisco for their consideration for publication. There, it lingered - unopened - for years until the press closed down. The Golden Goose intended to trash its unopened submissions but a thoughtful owner of a small record label that shared their office asked to take them home instead. Once again, the submissions lingered in limbo for years until the daughter of the record label owner found the letter after he died. She, in turn, is submitting the letter for auction.

The Joan Anderson Letter - so-named for a girlfriend of Neil Cassady's mentioned in the letter - will be offered by Profiles in History on December 17.