The Pit in Black and White

While producing full-color comics online can carry large loads of symbolic choices in shades and tints, the relentless black of India ink offers an equally evocative set of possibilities. In Banquet (2016-2018), Anne Szabla takes the latter route to fine success. The story of a toddler lost to the depths of Hell—via a hole in New Boston’s Boylston Street (hardly a difficult setup to imagine as unvarnished truth!)—deserves all the appearance of deepest dark an artist can construct and Szabla is equal to that task.

This webcomic isn’t a one-joke—or one nightmare—scenario, however. It’s a fully realized tale of nearly mythic proportion, featuring gods, warriors, and the kind of humor that allows readers to follow both the toddler’s experiences (he’s too young to recognize them as travails) and the very human attributes of the residents of this Bottomless Pit of Hell. Fans of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book can find a read-alike here. Here’s to the power of India ink in the age of pixels.

Book of the week: All the Wisdom and None of the Junk (Katy Craig and Katie Kramer)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

All the Wisdom and None of the Junk: Secrets of Applying for College Admission and Scholarships

Boettcher Foundation. April 9, 2015. Photo by Ellen Jaskol.

As the Boettcher Foundation’s first leadership coach and content developer, Katy Craig focuses on leadership development for participants in the Boettcher Scholarship and Webb-Waring Biomedical Research programs.



Boettcher Foundation. April 9, 2015. Photo by Ellen Jaskol.

Katie Kramer is president and CEO of the Boettcher Foundation and is responsible for all aspects of the $300+ million Colorado-based philanthropic foundation. Her extensive community involvement has included leadership positions on many national and local boards including serving as past-president of the National Scholarship Providers Association.

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Listen to the Heirs

Emma Gonzalez gave a speech on Friday that provided direction and articulation to passions wrought in a forge of her elders’ moral lassitude. The capacity of teenaged youth to step up and out may swell from the same idealistic bravado as generals have relied upon to exploit adolescent troops from time immemorial. However, where generals outlaw independent thought—and punish outspoken dissent from state-supporting action—teenagers who lead with word and action have no interest in maintaining the power of the state as intrinsic and instead carry a banner of a higher purpose: the future that that state works to deny them, not as individuals, but as collective humanity.

The teenaged leaders of Parkland, Florida, join an honorable—and sometimes brilliantly successful—tradition of international youth whose moral mettle has used the power of crafted speech with elegantly planned action to change the direction of historic oppression and the threat of annihilation the generals’ generation holds over their heirs.

President Trump is scheduled to attend a “listening session” later this week regarding gun control. At this point, it’s difficult to imagine that that audience member has the capacity to listen, to hear, to consider any voice more fully than his own. However, teens have the drive and the capacity to lead through the power of speech, and the will to reach every open ear.

This week in Literature and Arts

February 13, 2000: The last original Peanuts strip is published hours after creator Charles Schulz succumbs to colon cancer at 77. Schulz’s contract with United Features prevented another artist from taking over Peanuts after his passing. Recycled strips continue to run in more than 2000 daily newspapers.

In the recent wildfires that devastated California, Schulz’s house–full of original drawings and memorabilia–was destroyed.

February 14, 1930: Knopf publishes The Maltese Falcon in revised novel form. American pulp fiction becomes literature.

Still the greatest Valentine to hardboiled mystery hounds

Monster kids, give it up for Kevin McCarthy, born February 15, 1914 in Seattle WA. Met him at ChillerCon ages ago and he was a pretty nice guy. So many big and small screen appearances, but, of course, he’ll always be Dr. Miles Bennell in Don Siegel’s 1956 adaptation of Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (terrific book, too).

And remember to eat your vegetables before you become one!

February 17, 1939: “Out of the stirring glory of Kipling’s India they roar…”:RKO releases director George Stevens’s Gunga Din, based (very loosely) on Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Actor Reginald Sheffield appears briefly as Kipling, who, for inexplicable reasons, is afield with the British army. Still among the greatest action films.

February 17, 1975: John Lennon bids the world adieu with the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll, an album of 50s cover songs that lured him into music as a teen. The album’s jacket sports a photo of 20-something greaser Lennon leaning in the doorway of Jagerpassage 1, Wohlwillstrasse 22 in Hamburg, Germany.

The picture was shot in April 1961 by 21 year old Jurgen Vollmer when the band was playing at the Top Ten Club. The ghostly figures on the sidewalk were Paul, George, and Stu Sutcliffe, who was on the verge of leaving the band to pursue his art studies. Alas, Stu would be dead within weeks from a brain hemorrhage.

Before running a roll of monochrome 120 through his tripoded Rolli, Vollmer had Paul, George, and Stu practice walking to find a speed that left their pointed boots sharp and their bodies blurry (although successful, the pic, ironically, was cropped for the cover).

Rock ‘n’ Roll was Lennon’s last album release for five years. Goodbye, John.

February 18, 1885: Publisher Chatto & Windus/Charles L. Webster And Company releases Mart Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the United States after the book debuted in England the previous year.

Happy birthday to Jack Palance, born Volodymyr Palahniuk, February 18, 1919, in Hazelton PA. He briefly boxed professionally before enlisting in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Later, he understudied for Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and eventually took over the Kowalski role.

Palance’s sharp features reportedly served as Jack Kirby’s inspiration when creating the Darkseid character in his Fourth World universe (whodathunkit!).

In his autobiography, Billy Crystal talked about working with Palance on City Slickers. Palance apparently had a huge head and had to hold it a certain way for the camera so it looked normal.

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

This week in Literature and Arts

Monster kids, join me in birthday wishes to the late, great zombie king George Romero, born February 4, 1940 in da Bronx. How many filmmakers can say they invented a genre? Attaboy, George!

February 5, 1957: Bill Haley and the Comets bring American rock ‘n’ roll to the UK and beyond, landing in Southampton to launch their first overseas tour. Paul McCartney, Pete Townsend, Billy J Kramer, and other British school kids, who in a few years would dominate pop music, all credit attending Haley’s shows as a defining moment in their decisions to pursue music careers.

Happy birthday to artist, poet, Beat Generation titan, hop head, and all around crazy bastard William S. Burroughs, born February 5, 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri. Old Bull Lee.

Remembering Jack “King” Kirby, who died of heart failure February 6, 1984. He was 76.

At the 2008 New York Comic Con Stan Lee said that Kirby, “was a born storyteller…he never ran out of ideas, and I stole as many of them as I could.”

Happy birthday to literary superstar and social avenger Charles Dickens, born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England.

Somebody hold him while I fetch a scissors and trim that muskrat on his chin.

Big 86th birthday wishes to John Williams, born February 8, 1932 in Floral Park, Queens. Only Walt Disney has garnered more Oscar nominations. It is impossible to imagine JAWS, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, and, especially, Star Wars without Williams’s scores. His music is practically a character in these films. It’s hard to pick a favorite.

February 8, 1828: Jules Verne is born in the French sea-coast town of Nantes. He studied to be a lawyer like his father, but quit to pursue a career writing plays, poems, and novels. I believe he is among the top five authors translated into other languages.

With Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mysterious Island, Around the World in Eighty Days, Master of the World, From the Earth to the Moon and numerous similar titles in his bibliography, when it comes to old school science fiction-adventure stories, Jules rules! Try him!

February 9 1964: Two days after landing in America and playing a few gigs around the country, The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. I swear I can remember seeing this. Thanks, Ed!

Happy 74th birthday to poet and Pulitzer-winning novelist Alice Walker, born February 9, 1944 in Putnam County, Georgia.

Happy 75th birthday to Jersey boy Joe Pesci, born in Newark February 9, 1943. His acting career began at five in theater productions and by ten he was on TV. Pesci has a remarkable ability to take similar characters and make one funny as hell (My Cousin Vinny) and the other scary as hell (Goodfellas/Casino).

Apparently, it’s true that he introduced childhood friend Frankie Valley to members of what became The Four Seasons, and the Goodfellas “I’m funny how” scene was adlibbed.

Looking forward to seeing Joe back onscreen with De Niro and Pacino in Scorsese’s The Irishman.

Remembering the great Frank Frazetta on what would have been his 90th birthday (born February 9, 1928 in Brooklyn).

Remarkably, after a stroke crippled his right arm, he taught himself to work left-handed—and the stuff was good! Who the hell does that?

Monster kids join me in birthday greetings to Lon Chaney Jr, born Creighton Tull Chaney, February 10, 1906 in Oklahoma City. Before being lured into acting after his famous father’s death, Chaney was successful in the plumbing and appliance businesses (“I bought a toaster from the Wolf Man!”).

I believe he is the only actor to play Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, and Dracula, but to most fans he’ll always be the Wolf Man.

Remembering Peter Benchley, who died from pulmonary fibrosis (scarred lungs), February 11, 2006 at age 65. I used to write him fan letters. He always wrote back. A good guy.

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

An Alternative History Webcomic Antidote to Alternative Fact Poisoning

Journalism, librarianship, and teaching all live and die by the sword of facts that inform and reasoned thought with which to shape new understanding. The power of metaphorical devices each of them may use trades on intentionally and openly skewing reality just enough to allow fresh perspective. Sometimes that twist allows for a deep and serious a-ha. And sometimes it’s simply good for a laugh, a laugh that relaxes rather than stupefying.

Thank you, Tina Pratt, for The Paul Reveres. So far our tale of the British (music) invasion, patriotism/anarchy, and characters recognizable from Newbery Medal fiction (Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain) as well as wandering into a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow epic from his North End silversmith shop, has unfurled across nine years of beautifully colored panels and cheeky sendups of American Revolutionary War tropes.

With our own era drowning in “alternative facts,” here’s an antidote to overdosing on cynicism: perhaps three panels a day until current reality sees a restoration of fact and reason as the roots of information.

Load Up the Links to Forthcoming Audiobook Kudos

This week, the finalists in each category of the Audie Awards (the “Oscars of audiobook publishing”) are announced. Less than a week later, ALA’s Reference & User Services Association’s CODES section releases its annual Listen List during ALA Midwinter, while the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) publishes its Notable Children’s Recordings list, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) releases its Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list, and those two ALA sections together announce the annual Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production. So today would be a good time to get all your links updated to these various best audiobooks (and probably a good time to clear out your online storage of audiobook files of titles you’ve decided you don’t need to keep).

Here’s where to get each of these advisories for the aurally omnivorous:

The 2018 Audies finalist slates, in more than two dozen categories (some genre, some performance style, some performer gender), are revealed via social media all day Tuesday, 6 February, and then find a website home at

The Listen List, formally announced on Sunday, 11 February, will then be posted online at

 Announcement of the Odyssey Award (including any Honor titles in addition the winner) is part of the Youth Media Awards event slated for 8 am Monday, 12 February, in Denver. The event is live streamed and then the announced winner(s) are listed on the Odyssey Award homepage.

ALA press releases will carry the 2018 Notable Children’s Recordings and Amazing Audiobooks lists. Then each of them can be found on a stable web page, Notable Children’s Recordings at and Amazing Audiobooks at – current Each of these lists runs to over a dozen titles.

If ever you needed an idea of what audiobook to try next, this would be your month for abundant advice!

This week in Literature and Arts

January 29, 1845: After wallowing in obscurity for years, Edgar Allan Poe is catapulted to literary stardom with the publication of The Raven in the New York Evening Mirror.

January 30, 1969: Although they knew it was over, the Beatles attempt to “get back” to their roots as a working rock band by performing on the roof of the Apple building at 3 Saville Row, London.

The 42-minute, nine-song set would be their last live performance together.

And then they were gone.

January 30, 1933: The Lone Ranger debuts on Detroit’s WXYZ radio with George Seaton voicing the title character and John Todd playing Tonto. Remarkably, the show ran until 1955. Even if you’re not a fan, 22 years (almost 3000 episodes) is an impressive run.

The legend is that the term “Kemosabe” used by Tonto to address the Ranger was the name of a summer camp owned by producer James Jewell’s father-in-law. Maybe, maybe not. The radio program spawned a series of books, comic books, a movie serial, a TV show, feature films, and mega merchandising.

Hi-Yo Greenbacks!

“If you want to read a book by a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well, read Appointment in Samarra,”.said Ernest Hemingway about John O’Hara, born January 31, 1905 in Pottsville, PA. Many people haven’t read him, but he’s damn good.

Matt Bruccoli swore that O’Hara was one of the greats. Believe him.

Happy birthday to the great John Ford, born John Martin Feeney in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, February 1, 1894.

Ford apparently had the odd habit of chewing the corners of handkerchiefs while he worked. He pocketed a new one every morning before leaving for location and after chomping on it all day while directing by the time he went home again he’d essentially eaten it!

February 2, 1882: John and May Joyce welcome the birth of their first child, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, at 41 Brighton Square in Dublin’s Rathgar suburb. I’ll bet he was a real pip as a kid.

Birthday greetings to James Dickey, born February 2, 1923 in Atlanta. I met him once on a visit to the University of South Carolina not long before his death, but already he was losing his battle with cancer and had difficulty speaking. Still glad to have seen him.

Birthday greetings to Gertrude Stein, novelist, poet, patron of the arts, and den mother of the Lost Generation, born February 3, 1874 in Alleghany, PA.

From everything I’ve read, I imagine her to be a huge pain in the ass, but the one person I’ve ever talked to who met Stein said she was actually quite nice. I still bet she was a pill.

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Listening as an Act of Recognizing Humanity

Wax cylinder recording materials – 1965

Since the invention of the most rudimentary of sound-capturing technology coincided with European descendent explorations of geography annexed through hostile acts of imperialism, the opportunity to hear dying languages remains with us. Taking time to listen to such recordings can serve as a respectful acknowledgment of past violences which stripped the world of certain human and spiritual potentials in service to domination by others.

The Doug Ellis Audio Collection provides nearly instant access online to stories, memories, and historic accounts recorded during the mid-20th century in Cree communities of Ontario. The sound quality is good and contextual remarks both in English-speaking voice and archive notes, along with good searching capability on the site, make this a starting point with almost no technical threshold. John Wynne’s account of “How Ghost River Got its Name” is itself one of interracial violence between First Peoples.

Like animal species, human linguistic diversity is open to both threat of endangerment and endangerment, or loss, itself. To be considered endangered, a language has fallen to such disuse by its native speakers that they no longer incorporate it fully into daily life, passing it between generations. Seeking archival recordings made when such languages were threatened—and thus the subject of non-native, native, or both teachers and record keepers—may provide guidance for the future: how can we maintain an awareness that every language is an expression of humanity that is both shared and privileged.

This week in Literature and Arts

Birthday greetings to a pair of Chicagoans, who, alas, no longer are with us:  Warren Zevon born January 24, 1947, and John Belushi (1949).

Both left the world too soon—Zevon was 56 when he succumbed to cancer, while Belushi was only 33 when he OD’d.

Happy 258th birthday to Robert Burns, born in Alloway, Scotland, January 25 1759. Remarkably, he’s still considered Scotland’s national poet (I believe he was an early figure in the Romantic school, as well).

Burns isn’t so big in the U.S., but in Scotland there are monuments to him everywhere, including this three-story beast in Edinburgh in the shadow of the great castle.

January 27, 1970: John Lennon writes “Instant Karma” in less than an hour in the morning and records it in the evening with the help of George Harrison playing acoustic guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Alan White drumming. It was released February 6.

Play it loud. John said so.

Happy 262nd birthday to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. He farted out his first concerto at two months old. What a guy!

January 27, 2010: J.D. Salinger dies in his Cornish, New Hampshire, home at 91.

Whatever happened to all those manuscripts he left behind, were any published? Anyone know?

R.I.P. Mort Walker, who passed January 27 at 94. He drew Beetle Bailey for 67 years (the longest single run for any cartoonist). Saw him at New York Comic Con many times, nice guy. He also drew Hi and Lois (Lois is Beetle’s sister). His kids are going to continue to produce Beetle Bailey, but it won’t be the same.

Adios, Mort.

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Coming of Age with Literary Webcomic Superpowers

Emma T. Capps has been recognized for her droll and beautifully colored print and webcomics since she was about junior high age. Now that she’s already published in a variety of kids magazines; earned stripes for being the youngest cartoonist Dark Horse Presents (#25, 2013) had collected their on-again-off-again anthology of new work and creators; and seen her webcomic The Chapel Chronicles into print, she’s continuing to concoct lovely work that is both sly and sweet—as well as a literary bonbon eater’s delight.

Welcome to The League of Fonts. The concept of a realm in which typefaces live, from their birth (creation as fonts) until each might fall into eternal disuse, is teased out with such wit that readers will get absorbed in contemplating the properties of identity bound up in those squiggles on the page and screen we typically (!) treat simply as means to an end rather than—as Capps show us—potential ends in themselves. It’s insightful, a fun view of design, but also a potent moral analog.

A word of warning: you may find yourself not only choosing your own fonts carefully after reading Capps, but also asking them if they’d like some tea.


Audiobooks for Building the Most Essential Communication Skill

Audiobooks have long been used in English-speaking countries to support new language acquisition for immigrant students. Their use in English language teaching in places outside these countries is beginning to take hold, now that digitally available audiobooks allow for more accessibility in secondary and university learning situations.

This month The Journal of Language Teaching and Research has published a new and compelling study of the benefits of “Using Audiobooks for Developing Listening Comprehension among Saudi EFL Preparatory Year Students” (Manal Mohamed Khodary Mohamed, Suez Canal University). The literature review noted in its opening paragraph speaks directly to the role of listening skills in communication success:

Listening is considered the most important language skill for achieving effective communication and good academic achievement among learners. It is a highly integrative skill because it is generally the first skill which learners develop (Oxford, 1993; Vandergrift, 1999). It has been emphasized as an essential component in the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) process (Vandergrift, 2003). It has a great role in the construction of language abilities of a Foreign Language (FL) learner (Rost, 2002). It has acknowledged a great importance in FL classrooms (Richards & Renandya, 2002; Rahimi, 2012). The role and importance of listening in SLA exceeds acquiring meaning from sounds because it does not only mean recognizing the sounds but it also involves detecting, conveying and comprehending the information and it allows comprehending the world and creating social relationships among humans (White, 2006). In spite of the importance of listening, it did not get concern in language teaching for many years (Richards & Renandya, 2002; Nation & Newton, 2009). It was the least understood and the most overlooked of the four skills (Nation & Newton, 2009; Wilson, 2008). Moreover, listening is the most difficult task for learners when they begin to learn a FL and it is the most challenging skill to be developed (Berne, 2004; Vandergrift, 2007).

In addition, then, to the experimental design, methodology of analyzing its results, and the reported results, this paper offers a concise introduction to the value of aural competency and how it can be developed through audiobook listening.

This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 90th birthday to William Kennedy, born January 16, 1928 in Albany, NY. Don’t know if he has a new book coming. The last one was in 2012, but he takes his time.

Happy 70th birthday to musician and horror/sf director extraordinaire John Carpenter, born January 16, 1948 in Carthage, NY. Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, Escape from NY, his films are loads of fun.

Monster kids, give up for Carl Laemmle, born January 17, 1867 in Laupheim, Germany. Carl opened a string of nickelodeons in New York in the early 1900s, later advancing into making the films himself by founding the Independent Motion Picture Company in New York. Once the business gained momentum, he moved out to California reorganizing it as Universal Studios in 1912.

Carl played an important role in many of the great horror films from the Chaney silents through Frankenstein and the Big D as well as hundreds of other movies of every ilk. A true film pioneer.

Salute, Carl.

Happy birthday to Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky January 17, 1942. Forever the Greatest.

January 18, 1985: The world meets the weird and wonderful Joel and Ethan Coen with the release of their first feature film, Blood Simple. The brothers have done lots of solid films since then (a few truly strange ones, too), but Blood Simple remains arguably their grittiest work. If you haven’t seen it in awhile reacquaint yourself. Good stuff.

January 18, 1952: Following a series of strokes that left him incapacitated and mostly hospitalized for more than a year, Curly Howard dies at 48. He is buried at Home of Peace Memorial Park, the Jewish cemetery outside LA. Shemp is there, too.

January 18, 1936: Rudyard Kipling dies of complications following surgery for a perforated ulcer. He was 70. His ashes are interred in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Happy 208th birthday to the father of the American detective mystery, Edgar Allan Poe, born in Boston, MA, January 19, 1809.

Is it just me, or does this guy have a huge, oddly shaped head? And the right  side of his mustache is longer than the left.

Birthday greetings to Colin Clive, born January 20, 1900 to English parents in France (his father was an army officer). A terrible leg injury dashed his own plans for a military career and sent him toward the stage. Alas, it also drove him to heavy drinking and smoking leading to tuberculosis that killed him at only 37.

January 21, 1946: The Fat Man debuts on ABC radio. Although the detective drama was credited to Dashiell Hammett, producer Mannie Rosenberg performed most of the heavy lifting. Starring J. Scott Smart as the title character, the series ran until 1951, making the jump to the big screen in a William Castle-directed feature film starring Smart the same year.

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Tech Instruction via Webcomic Wisdom

Over at, The Joy of Tech is carrying along nearly into it’s third decade. Nitrozac and Snaggy, as this pair of Canadians sign themselves for their work here, publish fast-to-understand lessons in the form of half a dozen or fewer panels per take-away. These are insights and explanations that speak to experienced geeks and casual users of technology alike:

Published between four and 10 times monthly, The Joy of Tech, as one would expect, has an elegantly searchable archives. While reading individual posts is of course free, site registration for is encouraged, and Nitrozac and Snaggy have also set up a variety of ways to pay for what is very much an effort worthy of monetary support. With laudable transparency, the donations page spells out, too, exactly where the money goes as well as the various Patreon, non-Patreon, and even advertising routes available. As with all aspects of the webcomic, even this part of The Joy of Tech experience gives the reader a great précis to apply to other sites and situations when investigating their monetizing strategies.

This is a webcomic with a community and even the casual visit is likely to send the individual reader off to find someone else with whom to share it. In short, this is a webcomic that not only explains tech but also evokes why tech in truly humane terms.



In Celebration of a Compelling Speaker

On 19 July 1962 Martin Luther King Jr became the first African American to speak at the National Press Club. His post-lunch remarks were delivered days after he’d been convicted of participating in a peaceful protest against  segregation in his home state of Georgia.

The Press Club rediscovered tapes of the speech and made them available online in very recent years. They can be downloaded in MP3 format and a transcript s, of course, included.

This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 140th birthday to three-time Pulitzer winner Carl Sandburg, a dean of American poetry as well as a journalist and biographer, born January 6, 1878 in Galesburg, Illinois.

Birthday greetings to Sherlock Holmes, born January 6, 1854, presumably in England but Conan Doyle didn’t specify. Nice to see the character enjoying a renaissance.

Happy 83rd birthday to Elvis, the Tupelo, Mississippi Flash, born January 8, 1935. He’s 12 or 13 in this pic, about when his mother bought him a guitar as a birthday present. He wanted a rifle or a bike. Moms always know.

Hail to The King, baby!

Happy birthday to Soupy Sales, born Milton Supman in Franklinton, NC, January 8, 1926. Throw a pie in someone’s face today. You know you want to do it—it’ll feel really good!

January 10, 1961: After a lifetime of smoking, Dashiell Hammett dies of lung cancer at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He was 66 and hadn’t published in years.

He’d served in both world wars permitting burial at Arlington. Visited him there a few years ago.

January 12, 1966: Batman debuts on ABC with the episode “Hi Diddle Riddle.” The series lasted three seasons, wrapping March 14, 1968.

If you were a kid back then, this show was such a big deal. Yeah, it’s campy, clichéd, etc., but it also sported many Hollywood veterans elevating the material while enjoying a career boost and a new audience. Everyone looked like they were having fun (Adam West later revealed that he and others were stoned while filming it, which helps).

Remarkably, 52 years later at least two cable stations I receive air this daily, and I’ll bet it’s still broadcast all over the world—even in the shithole countries!

Happy birthday to Jack London, born January 12, 1876 in San Francisco. Along with being of the early 20th century’s literary superstars, he was a solid photographer. He burned out fast, was dead at 40.

January 13, 1941: Following surgery for a perforated ulcer, James Joyce dies at 58 years old. He’s buried at the Fluntern Cemetery outside Zurich, Switzerland.

January 13, 1968: Johnny Cash performs at California’s Folsom Prison. The legend is that among the yardbirds attending the show was Merle Haggard. Don’t know if it’s true. What is true is that Cash was stoned out of his mind. Nonetheless, the fabulous recording edited together from the two shows won Cash the Country Music Association’s Album of the Year award, and 50 years later it’s still good stuff. One of the great, great live recordings.

January 14, 1957: Throat cancer takes Humphrey Bogart at 57. Booze and smokes. What a waste. All the films that weren’t.

Michael Rogers ( is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

Let’s Mansplain That (in Webcomics)

With women in the United States continuing to refuse to step away from both mic and spotlight as they talk back to a Western tradition of white male entitlements, the time is suited to tuning into webcomic “Manfeels Park.” The team of Morag & Erin use commentary (from men) found in current news account and even quoted from found dialog that sits there begging for satiric puns. The art harkens to the title’s Jane Austen roots stylistically and also manages to introduce current day settings for the kinds of occasions in which the particularly featured commentary fits.

This is one of dozens of webcomics archived by the Library of Congress. For their parts, Morag & Erin go the distance to provide source notes for each strip’s commentary. Once a fellow fan of puns, satire, and active counter attacking of mansplaining falls for this gem, there’s some back matter worthy of exploring as well in the Links section of their webcomic, including a not-too-long of other webcomic recommendations, some recommended blogs, and a couple of other projects the creators of Manfeels Park are undertaking online.

Build Listening Awareness with Challenges

Omnivorous readers with competitive bones in their bodies (if only to seek a personal best), and librarians and teachers seeking some self-managed professional development, look to reading challenges to stimulate self-accomplishment. Biblioblogs of all sorts publish them to ring in the new year, and the range on offer includes some better suited to relatively neophyte casual readers to those for word warriors. A benefit to many all along this spectrum is the sense of community joining a challenge can bring: who else has taken the challenge? How’s it working out for them? Is there someone among them who can offer support when the reading gets dull? Is there a well-matched super-reader to provide extra motivation for the high-achieving competitor?

A number of these challenges suggest participants take the occasional “challenge” of trying an audiobook. And there are a few audiobook-specific challenges on offer as well. The Caffeinated Reviewer has a well developed one that offers various intensity levels as well as the opportunity to find a listening buddy or buddies. This is a high quality, no-fee skill-building opportunity that can appeal to readers’ advisors, audiobook collection selectors and developers, language arts teachers, and families.

If joining a group doesn’t appeal, this audiobook listening challenge—and many others—can be undertaken independently. All you need is a good supply of audiobooks (library, OpenCulture, anything but piracy, please), listening advice and recommendations, and a will to listen more, and more deeply.

Introducing Sequential Art Online: Webcomics
Randall Munroe’s webcomic XKCD regularly offers unexpected nuggets of information management insight as well as real answers to seemingly unanswerable questions

With the new year, NSR pushes further into published online content, including a weekly visit to the world of webcomics. This expressive medium has been around for more than three decades. It’s a realm of stories, reports, and visual creativity, some the early forms of later publication in paper or e-resource format. Others have, some will, and, meanwhile, a lot do live long and happy lives in web only form on such graphics-friendly blogging platforms as Tumblr, and through software custom-designed specifically for creating and sharing comics content.

Webcomics give both amateur and professional cartoonists a means for sharing out new content, experimental techniques, and fan art or homages to comics artists. The web has also become a right-sized location to build a following via webcomics to gain monetary support through Kickstarter for eventual paper publication. We’re not going to be dropping into these projects much except to note subject matter themes arising that reflect more broadly on content innovations. Continue reading Introducing Sequential Art Online: Webcomics

Book of the Week: The 401(k) Owner’s Manual (Scott Everhart and Brian Hanna)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

The 401(k) Owner’s Manual: A Blueprint for Building and Maintaining an Elite 401(k) Plan For Your Employees

Scott Everhart, President and founding firm member of Everhart Advisors, located in Dublin, Ohio, is a nationally recognized plan advisor and speaks with authority on the topics of fee transparency, revenue sharing, and cost control. Scott has been named as one of the nation’s “300 Most Influential Advisors in Defined Contribution” by, and “20 Rising Stars of Retirement Plan Advisors” by Institutional Investor News. Scott earned his Certified Financial Planner designation in 1998.

Brian Hanna is a Senior Plan Consultant at Everhart Advisors and joined the firm in 1997. Brian has received formal training in fiduciary responsibility and due diligence, along with extensive experience in plan design, investment selection, and cost control. He has been a guest lecturer at workshops presented with the U.S. Department of Labor, Ohio Society of CPAs, Columbus Bar Association, and the Center for Due Diligence. 

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Portal on all aspects of digital content and for all creating, reading, publishing, managing, curating, and distributing the written word and other content in digital format, including publishers, writers, editors, content developers, distributors, educators, librarians and information science professionals. With contributions from book and information science professionals and thought leaders in the United States and around the world.