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three good things from last week

Last week I engaged in *three* cultural experiences, which is three more than I usually do--and *all* of them I want to share about. . . but somehow I suspect that won't happen, or it may be some time in coming. So here's a Cliff Notes version. If you read this, you will probably pass the pop quiz.

Lois Ahrens on the real cost of prisons

Lois Ahrens is a long-time activist against the prison industrial complex, who spoke a little about her experience documenting the cost of prisons. Her talk about bail reform particularly galvanized me; I'm actually going to write up a nonfiction piece on alternatives to bail to try to get these ideas in front of new eyes. Two relevant websites: The Real Cost of Prisons Project and The Pretrial Working Group.

Gerald Vizenor: Native American poet, novelist, and scholar

I heard him speak about researching his most recent novel, Blue Ravens, about young men from the White Earth nation in Minnesota who fought in World War I.

He dropped poems right into the talk, and even his ordinary speech was alive--he talked about troubled words, enthusiastic silences. He said, "It's difficult, always, to make poetry out of horror, but it must be done."

The Magna Carta . . . and some other documents

One of four extant copies of the original 1215 Magna Carta was visiting a [not quite] nearby museum, so we went off to see it. So that there would be some other things to look at, the museum had also gotten first printings of the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of the Rights of Women, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as a draft copy of the Constitution, complete with copyediting insertions and critiques.

The Magna Carta was written in what was described as a tiny but legible script . . . and boy, was it tiny! Except for the first line, which tall, lean capital letters before each word:

As for the other documents, one thing that impressed me was the IMPRESSION of TYPE on PAPER--if we could have reached under the glass and touched them, we could have felt the depressions where that hot lead was pressed into the fibers of the paper. So tactile. Not like now, when words are just photostatically stuck to paper, or laser jetted onto it.

More in dribs and drabs, if I get a chance. And now, back to work. . .


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 27th, 2014 04:56 pm (UTC)
The charters come back to the British Library for the next stage of the tour.
Oct. 27th, 2014 08:18 pm (UTC)
Neat! It's great that they tour around.
Oct. 28th, 2014 08:32 am (UTC)
I'm amazed that they actually let them travel.
Oct. 27th, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
Hoge Olympe de Gouges fan here--I would have loved seeing her Declaration. And all the others, too!
Oct. 27th, 2014 08:18 pm (UTC)
Seeing the editing on the Constitution was really interesting. One comment was that there was no enumeration or guarantee of rights--clearly an issue, and one that they came back to in the Bill of Rights.
Oct. 27th, 2014 09:37 pm (UTC)
I wonder which draft that was?
Oct. 27th, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
The notes say that it was the "Committee of Style Report of the United States Constitution, Printed by Dunlap and Claypoole, Philadelphia, 1787, with ink annotations by George Mason."
Oct. 27th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC)
Was this the MFA or was this a different museum?
Oct. 27th, 2014 08:13 pm (UTC)
It was at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.
Oct. 27th, 2014 08:18 pm (UTC)
Ah. I went on a trip there (and to MassMoCA) back in high school.

The Magna Carta was previously at the MFA and I saw it there.
Oct. 27th, 2014 08:19 pm (UTC)
I was saying to cmcmck that it's great that it travels--nice to share these things around.

I'd like to go to Mass MoCa one day--we passed it on our way over.
Oct. 27th, 2014 08:10 pm (UTC)
How special to see the Magna Carta! Were you able to read it at all? I can't make anything out from the photo.
Oct. 27th, 2014 08:16 pm (UTC)
We could make out a word or two here or there, but it was *really* tiny. And in Latin. And, full of abbrevs. wakanomori made the point that it would have been great if they'd had a wall plaque with a transcription of the text in Latin, plus a facing translation. He later researched and found exactly that. It's tricky, though, because there were many texts over the decades following the first drafting--so you need to get the text for your particular version (which he did--the link is to the text for the 1215 version).
Oct. 28th, 2014 02:42 am (UTC)
Whenever I handle a type-written piece of paper at the archives - and I mean type-written with a real typewriter - I can't help but run my fingers across the page, feeling the lines of the letters and the sharp points of the the periods or commas. I totally get what you mean about having lost some tactility in the new printing processes.
Oct. 28th, 2014 09:15 pm (UTC)
Right?! I love *touching* things.
Oct. 28th, 2014 05:12 am (UTC)
Wow, what a wonderful week you had! That's so cool!
Oct. 28th, 2014 09:15 pm (UTC)
It was really stimulating--I could feel my brain turning on :-)
Oct. 28th, 2014 05:55 am (UTC)
Possibly a bit tangential to your post, but I read this recently and thought how interesting different approaches are:

Oct. 28th, 2014 09:18 pm (UTC)
It just goes to show you how very, very different things can be. Thanks for that--not off topic at all: very much *on* topic.
Oct. 28th, 2014 06:17 am (UTC)
I saw the wonderful, wonderful Magna Carta in Salisbury, and was blown away by its amazingness.
Amongst the provisions were protection for widows - there was a mandated forty-day break before they could be ousted from their house (ie when it had been inherited by the heir) and they had to be paid their dower by then - and they couldn't be forced to marry anyone, which apparently had happened before then, in an attempt to get hold of the widow's property.

(She got her dower even if her husband died in debt - her dower came before paying the debts. Even middle or lower classes, who wouldn't have a formal dowry, were guaranteed a "reasonable share" of the estate.)
Oct. 28th, 2014 09:19 pm (UTC)
Funny you should mention about the widows, because that's one of the things we talked about too! About not being compelled to marry, about right retain the land.
Oct. 31st, 2014 03:56 pm (UTC)
Wow! A real copy of the Magna Carta!!!
Oct. 31st, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
It was very, very cool to see such an ancient and important document.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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