34 amazing first lines of famous books.

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ever wonder how to get your book reviewed?

Ever wonder “How to get my book reviewed”?

So you’ve published your book. Its been edited and published, and now you’re trying to figure out how to get to your potential readers. While starting your marketing campaign usually happens well More »

‘People are hungry for real bookstores’: Judy Blume on why US indie booksellers are growing

At 78, the multimillion-selling author has begun a new career, opening her own bookshop and joining a business sector thats flourishing again in the US   She might be a beloved and More »

Rage and Mercy: Part One by Scott Dresden

Story Summary
“This thrilling book delivers a violent tale that is ultimately as surprising as it is gruesome.” Kirkus Review Sayer didn’t expect his life to go any further than wherever his wealthy clients told him to drive to, until he worked for Diana Westcherry. The young, beautiful, epileptic woman stubbornly imposes her kindness on Sayer, exposing a life that could’ve been, if she’d been his mother. Through Diana, Sayer learns that nothing determines a man’s life more than the mother he was born from. And when drug fiends murder her for purse change, Sayer will slaughter all of them to immortalize her, the mother he was denied. But knowing now that the greatest gift a father could give his child is choosing the mother of his child, he abducts Amanda to create the child he was supposed to be. Rage and Mercy is the story of Amanda and Sayer. Amanda is a born again Christian on a mission to shepherd lost souls to God. Sayer is her black kidnapper, determined to give his future child the white, Christian mother he never had. While there is nothing Sayer wouldn’t do for his future child, Amanda must discover if she can endure impossible horrors to prove that no child of God is beyond redemption.

4.5 Stars San Francisco Book Review – https://sanfranciscobookreview.com/product/rage-and-mercy-part-1/

Scott Dresden’s Rage and Mercy: Part One is an intricate fictional work that will engross a reader’s attention start to finish. The murder of Diana, a young, virtuous woman, triggers Sayer, her former driver to embark on the systematic extermination of an unwanted population of drug addicts, referred to as “fiends.” The novel follows Sayer, Diana, Norris, and Adams, the detectives investigating the murders, Margot, a photographer who stumbles across the story, and Amanda, an entwined acquaintance of Diana. Reflective one-liners pop up throughout the narrative, offering thought-provoking concepts, such as “’Catch the devil before you cuff the suspect’” and “’…the most consequential decision a father can ever make for his child is to choose the mother who bears it, and the best fathers do not ask permission or apologize for what they do for their children. I became wealthier than nearly everyone by yielding to no one but my family.’”

Each chapter incorporates another layer to titillate and enthrall readers. Dresden’s work requires a mature audience to appreciate and comprehend the graphic material woven throughout the novel. Dresden boldly engages the themes of rape and murder in a very candid, up-front manner, while avoiding the tendency of some authors to romanticize the acts. Moreover, he considers these themes through the lens of motherhood in a manner not typically utilized. Readers will have to decide for themselves the character, composition, and impact of a “good” mother. Situations like this arise throughout the narrative, encouraging readers to reconsider self-determined truths, like where the boundary between good and evil truly falls. Readers may find themselves sympathizing with, or even rooting for, the vigilante as he tries to avenge the honorable life stolen before its time.

Rage and Mercy: Part One will leave readers on the each of their seats anxiously awaiting the next installment of Dresden’s premier work. Clearly identified as Part One, the novel leaves many questions unanswered at the close of the first installment. How deep into the story will Margot probe? What will happen to Amanda after she escapes captivity? Will Sayer walk away before his vendetta consumes him? We can only hope Scott Dresden does not delay. Rage and Mercy: Part One weaves an elaborate narrative of deceit, desire, hope, and destruction that many readers will instantaneously begin again. Ideal for sunny days at the beach or stormy nights with some popcorn, this book will prove an excellent addition to any adult’s reading list.

Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/2rOUTG3

Nina Simone and me: An artist and activist revisited

(CNN)I was surfing online when I stumbled upon a mural in Baltimore painted by artist Ernest Shaw. It’s a three-headed portrait of civil rights icons: James Baldwin, Malcolm X and, of course, Nina Simone.

Even within the boundaries of my computer screen, the painting on the side of a building at 401 Lafayette Street was powerful.
Curious that the artist had chosen Simone as part of the trifecta, I dialed Shaw, a 41-year-old teacher at the Maryland Academy of Technology & Health Sciences. He’s taught kids at Baltimore city schools for 14 years and is keen to mentor inner-city youth in some artistic way.
    “I understand why you chose Malcolm and Baldwin. But why Nina?” I asked Shaw.
    The answer was immediate.
    “I have the utmost respect for her because she stood up for her beliefs. She sacrificed her career for her activism,” Shaw said.
    And that kind of activism could not be more relevant today, he said, given all that has transpired since the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in the summer of 2014.
    Shaw and I spoke about Simone as artist and activist.
    He told me he’d been raised by parents who were adamant about exposing him to the history and culture of black America. Simone was part of the learning process.
    “Malcolm X touched me in my 20s; Baldwin in my 30s. Now in my 40s, as I am watching my daughter grow into womanhood, it’s Nina Simone,” he told me. Her biography, he said, “could be a case study for what a lot of black women deal with. And she chose to deal it with it head on.”

    New recognition for singer-activist

    Yet few in America know Simone’s story. In my own circle of friends and colleagues, mention of the singer’s name often gets this reaction: “Nina who?”
    I’m hopeful that will change. Simone, it seems, may finally be getting her due.
    A new documentary by filmmaker Liz Garbus, “What Happened, Miss Simone?” opened in theaters in 2015 and is streaming on Netflix. And though the film has its flaws, it serves as a good introduction to Simone. Sony Music has released “Nina Revisited,” an accompanying all-star tribute album featuring 16 songs. And a Hollywood biopic, albeit troubled, hit theaters in April 2016.
    There is no better time perhaps to enter the stark, stalwart and sensual world of Simone. In the aftermath of nationwide police brutality protests and tragedies like the 2015 slaughter of black lives in a Charleston church, Simone’s music is as relevant as it was when she first turned her music into a vehicle for activism.
    She became known as the voice of the civil rights movement with songs like “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and “Mississippi Goddam,” a visceral response to the 1963 killings of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, and four girls in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.
    For that, Simone paid a price. Garbus’ documentary shows how Simone never gained the kind of celebrity that she deserved. Radio stations refused to play her music; venues were hesitant to book her. They feared she would speak her mind on stage and mince no words in lashing out against injustice and discrimination.
    Had it not been for her outspokenness, her principles, she might have gained the fame of an Aretha Franklin or Diana Ross.
    But as it were, Nina Simone never relished a string of Number 1 hits. But, she changed lives. Like mine. She made me think about race in America in a way I never had before.

    Simone brought me awareness

    I watched the documentary for a fourth time the week it debuted and thought back to a solitary and anguished drive home I made many decades ago from Florida’s death row. The condemned man told me that he found solace in Marvin Gaye’s 1971 anthem “Inner City Blues.”
    But several years before, Simone had recorded a piece that was equally powerful. It was that song that made me, still a teenager, ponder the structure of the lives of people around me in small-town Florida.
    Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash/ Just who do you think I am? /You raise my taxes, freeze my wages /And send my son to Vietnam
    I listened to the song again as Florida prepared for that man’s execution. He had just recounted to me a life of growing up poor and black in the American South.
    You give me second class houses /And second class schools /Do you think that all colored folks /Are just second class fools?
    Live oaks shimmied by unnoticed as I lost myself in Simone’s voice. I was a young reporter wrestling with the execution of a man — whether guilty or not — who I believed had not received a fair trial.
    Mr. Backlash /I’m gonna leave you /With the backlash blues
    Simone wrote “Backlash Blues” with the writer Langston Hughes and it stopped me cold the first time I heard it in the late 1970s. Until then, I had been an immigrant girl from India, influenced heavily by the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.
    Tagore, India’s only Nobel Prize-winning writer, was brilliant in his artistry. His poetry made me think, too. About freedom and speaking out against wrongs.
    My mother sang his songs and schooled me in their meaning. I admired the way Tagore shunned Western clothes and spoke of how the British betrayed their own Western ideals with colonialism.
    Tagore taught me to stand tall in my short Indian frame.
    But it was Simone who awakened me to my brownness in white America.
    When I try to find a job / To earn a little cash
    All you got to offer / Is your mean old white backlash
    I arrived in north Florida with my family in the mid-1970s. It was a world of black and white, and back then the two rarely met in harmony. In college, a classmate who was a music major introduced me to Nina Simone.
    “She wanted to be the first black classical pianist,” my friend told me.
    She just wanted to glide her fingers over the keys and play Bach. Instead, she gained fame as a singer of jazz standards, blues and fiery protest songs.
    He made me a cassette and that was it. I listened in the car. I listened late at night on my bed.
    But the world is big / Big and bright and round / And it’s full of folks like me / Who are black, yellow, beige and brown
    Mr. Backlash/ I’m gonna leave you /With the backlash blues

    An incredible influence

    I became addicted to Simone’s deep, baritone, almost androgynous sound. I became fascinated with her history, her music, the tough choices she made in her life to stand up against Jim Crow. I even fell in love with the way she looked — the African dresses and jewelry she carried off with more grace than any haute couture model. After Nina, I shed my Levis for long Indian skirts and dangling brass earrings.
    Simone’s music defined me as a journalist — some of the very first people I interviewed were Angela Davis and Maya Angelou.
    If Simone was able to touch an Indian teenager like myself, I can only imagine her influence on African-Americans. The enormous sphere of that influence has resurfaced as academics, artists and cultural critics have weighed in after the release of Liz Garbus’ film.
    Syreeta McFadden, managing editor of the online literary magazine Union Station, wrote:
    “Civil Rights-era music is often associated with a particular soundscape, which is popularly understood as gospel mixed with the pop sensibilities of Motown. This understanding erases Simone’s vital contribution, the full depth of her contribution to secular music consciousness, her role in orienting black and white audiences alike to the liberation struggles of the civil-rights movement.”
    And Salamishah Tillet, an assistant professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, who is writing a book on Simone, said in a NPR story:
    “Like so many of my generation, I found (Simone) through hip-hop loops and samples. … Simone’s mix of headiness and haunt, lyrical boldness and political bombast makes her the hero of our hip-hop generation. We look to her as our muse; we listen to her because we want to know what freedom sounds like.”
    I thought about Simone’s reach as I spoke with Shaw in Baltimore. As an artist, he drew inspiration from Simone’s convictions, expressed succinctly in one of several interviews included in the documentary.
    “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times,” Simone said.
    It’s a line that John Legend and Common quoted in their 2015 Oscar acceptance speech when they won for their song from “Selma.”
    “How can you be an artist and not document the times?” Shaw asked.

    ‘The struggle is ongoing’

    Simone died in 2003. I wonder what she would have to say about the “movement” today. She’d like the idea that a tribute album came out on the day the Confederate flag went down in South Carolina. She’d probably like the idea that so many young black people are again taking to the streets to protest injustice. (In 1978, she sang: “Oh, Baltimore. Ain’t it hard just to live.”)
    Filmmaker Garbus told Salon that Simone’s voice is one that is very needed today.
    “We were in our edit room when the events of Ferguson were unfolding,” Garbus said. “It reminds you that the struggle is ongoing and that her music and her words are as necessary and as relevant as they were then. It doesn’t shape the film, but it is certainly a ripe moment for the film to be coming out.”
    To me, Nina Simone remains an embodiment of freedom.
    “I tell you what freedom is to me: no fear,” Simone said in an interview.
    That line is a guiding light.
    As troubled as Simone’s life may have been, she has been a source of strength. It’s why I listen to her songs when I am up and when I am down. When I need a dose of inspiration and when I just need to smile.
    For that, I am ever grateful, Miss Simone.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/11/entertainment/nina-simone-revisited/index.html

    The Salad Oil King–by author M.G. Crisci

    Reviewed by the San Francisco Book Review, getting 5 stars

    From the review:

    The story of Alfonso “Fonso” Gravanese has all the elements needed to be a classic tale of American crime, and it spins out from a master storyteller.

    Based on a true story and plenty of applicable lessons today about greed and corruption.

    You can read more about it here – http://mgcrisci.com/books/salad-oil-king/

    Buy it here – http://amzn.to/2oPX6Sb

    The Hunger Saint by Olivia Kate Cerrone

    Hunger Saint is about Ntoni, a twelve-year-old boy forced to labor in Sicily’s sulfur mines to support his family after his father’s untimely death. These child laborers were called carusu or “mine-boy”, a labourer in a sulfur mine who worked next to a picuneri or pick-man, and carried raw ore from deep in the mine to the surface.

    Seattle Book Review gave it 5 stars and a great review here – http://seattlebookreview.com/product/the-hunger-saint/

    Kirkus also gave it a good review https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/olivia-kate-cerrone/hunger-saint/

    Buy it on Amazon here – http://amzn.to/2pJjHOJ

    Find out more information here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carusu

    Find more great book reviews

    The Device Trial by Tom Breen – New Book

    The Device Trial got a 5 star review from San Francisco Book Review here – http://sanfranciscobookreview.com/product/the-device-trial/

    From the review:
    The Device Trial, by Tom Breen, takes readers into a world of sketchy businessmen and lawyers, teetering on the line between right and wrong from beginning to end. Lawyer Brian Bradford has just won a billion dollar lawsuit against medical company, ZeiiMed headed, at the time, by John Edison. However, his victory in the courtroom came at a high personal cost, and revenge now drives him to make Edison pay personally.

    I haven’t read it yet, but it looks good. Like a Crichton or Grisham thriller.

    You can buy it on Amazon HERE and find more great book reviews

    From Syria to Black Lives Matter: 3 ways WWI still shapes America

    (CNN)He stood 5-foot-4 and weighed 130 pounds. An angular, baby-smooth face made him look even less intimidating. Henry Johnson was at first just another railroad porter who toted luggage and smiled for tips.

    Johnson was a US sergeant standing sentry one night in a French forest when a German raiding party attacked. The swarming Germans shot Johnson in his lip, head and side. Yet Johnson kept shooting back. When his rifle jammed, he grabbed it by the barrel and clubbed more Germans. Then he used the bolo knife to stab and disembowel another enemy soldier. He kept throwing grenades until he fainted from blood loss.
    When his comrades found Johnson the next morning, they discovered he had killed four Germans and wounded about 20 more. They could still see the bloody trails of wounded Germans who had crawled into the woods to escape Johnson’s fury. Johnson had been wounded 21 times but somehow survived the hourlong battle.
      “There wasn’t anything so fine about it,” Johnson would say later when praised for his gallantry. “Just fought for my life. A rabbit would have done that.”
      Johnson’s story is featured in PBS’ “The Great War,” a stirring account of America’s entry into World War I. The three-part “American Experience” film, which begins airing Monday, devotes six hours over three nights to explaining why the nation decided to enter “the war that would end all wars” 100 years ago this month.
      Johnson’s story captures what’s distinctive about the film. He was a black soldier who faced something even more lethal than German bayonets when he returned home. He discovered an America that was also at war with itself. Some of the most ferocious battles during World War I took place not in Europe but on the streets of America — and some are still being fought today.
      What should the President do when a foreign dictator is accused of murdering women and children? Does the US welcome too many immigrants? Are corporations too powerful? Are women treated like second-class citizens? Those might seem like questions ripped from today’s headlines, yet they literally provoked riots and lynch mobs during World War I, the film shows.
      Few people today, however, know how relevant the war remains because it seems so distant, trapped forever in wobbly black-and-white silent film, historians say.
      “The First World War is the most important event that most people don’t know about,” says Dan Carlin, a historian whose “Hardcore History” podcast examines World War I. “It’s a Pandora’s box. We’re still ironing out what it unleashed.”
      Here are three battles from “The Great War” the United States is still waging:

      No. 1: Fighting the enemy among us

      They speak in funny accents and don’t care about fitting in. So many are pouring across the border that they’re threatening the American way of life. They’re not real Americans.
      That’s what many Americans thought of German-Americans during World War I.
      If you think political battles over immigration are tough today, they were vicious when America entered World War I, “The Great War” shows. A wave of hysteria aimed at German-Americans swept the nation as it struggled to assimilate what was then its largest ethnic group.
      America didn’t just declare war on Germany — it waged war on German-American culture. Newspapers warned of “German troublemakers” and “German traps.” People refused to drink German beer, and children were instructed to rip German songs out of music books. In one Ohio town, officials slaughtered all dogs belonging to German breeds.
      A German-American coal miner accused of being a spy was even attacked by a mob, stripped of his clothes and hanged from a tree, the film reveals. The Washington Post applauded the mob’s actions.
      “Big parts of the American public lost their minds about the nature of the society they live in and the threats they faced from their neighbors who happen to have German names,” Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kennedy says in the film.
      It was a time of demographic panic. When World War I erupted in Europe in 1914, the United States had a population of about 100 million immigrants. Millions of other Americans had parents who were born abroad.
      Those citizens who didn’t fit the definition of a “real American” faced persecution and torture. One of the most wrenching segments in the film looks at the story of three US citizens who became conscientious objectors to the war. They were David, Michael and Joseph Hofer, otherwise known as the “Hofer brothers.”
      The three South Dakota men were members of the Hutterites, a group of Christian pacifists. Hutterite men already drew suspicion because they wore long beards and hair and spoke German.
      When the Hofer brothers were drafted, they refused to fight or wear a uniform. They were imprisoned in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and brutally treated. They were denied food and water, forced to stand in freezing temperatures with scant clothing, and chained in a cell for up to nine hours a day. Two of them died. But none recanted their religious beliefs.
      “It’s really torture,” Michael Kazin, author of “War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918,” tells the film. “It has to be called that.”
      As a final indignity, the body of one of the two brothers who died was dressed in the military uniform he refused to wear when he was alive.
      Brutality wasn’t confined to the trenches of Europe. There was plenty of it in the streets of America.

      No. 2. Crushing popular dissent with patriotism

      When President Donald Trump dispatched Tomahawk missiles to an air base in Syria last week after the country’s ruler was accused of launching lethal chemical attacks, he was operating from a script first penned by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I.
      It was Wilson who said America should enter the war to make the world “safe for democracy.” The notion that America had a moral responsibility to respond militarily to atrocities abroad began during World War I, “The Great War” shows.
      “The modern version of the United States is born in this war,” says Carlin, the “Hardcore” podcast historian.
      “The Great War” also shows how the idealism of war can be used to crush populist movements.
      World War I occurred during a surge of progressive activism in the United States. The labor movement was powerful, and socialists, communists and anarchists were common figures in public life. Women were leading the anti-war effort as well as crusading for the right to vote.
      Yet much of this progressive momentum was halted by a crushing of popular dissent by the federal government, the film shows.
      During the war, Wilson signed the Espionage Act and Sedition Act, which made it illegal to say almost anything against the United States or its war effort. Criticism of the US became dangerous. American internment camps didn’t begin with the Japanese in World War II. The US government created them for political prisoners during World War I, the film shows.
      That suppression even targeted one of the most famous progressive leaders of the time, Eugune Debs. Debs was the Bernie Sanders of his day. A socialist labor organizer and presidential candidate, he was arrested in 1918 for giving an anti-war speech and sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Espionage Act.
      Wilson ultimately paid a price for his clampdown on radical and liberal groups. After the war ended, he tried to create a League of Nations that would mediate international disputes and prevent another world war from erupting. But he couldn’t get the US Senate to agree to join the League, in part because his crackdown on anti-war activity had alienated or weakened any potential progressive allies.
      Wilson would die of a stroke just six years later. He is depicted in the film as a tragic figure — idealistic but deeply racist, a gifted politician who could have seen his League of Nations succeed if he had just bent a little to his political opposition.
      “There comes a time when bitterness overtakes shrewdness, and to the end of his life he was a very bitter man,” Yale historian Jay Winter says of Wilson in the film. “I don’t know anyone who can tell me why it was that Wilson didn’t compromise. And as a result, he loses it all. He loses everything.”

      No. 3. Debating whether all lives matter

      She was born to a prosperous Quaker family in New Jersey but spent her life reviled by much of the American public. She was attacked by angry mobs and force-fed in prison after going on a hunger strike. Once, prison officials even tried to declare her insane.
      Nevertheless, Alice Paul persisted.
      One of the revelations of “The Great War” is the prominence of American women in the debate about World War I. It was a time of surging women’s activism that would culminate in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
      Paul is one of the most fascinating characters in “The Great War.” She would have fit right in with the massive Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump was inaugurated. She placed relentless pressure on Wilson by asking how America could fight for democracy abroad while denying women the right to vote at home.
      Black American soldiers fought some of the same battles to proclaim their humanity, the film points out.
      When many entered the war, they were initially kept from the fighting by being assigned to clean latrines pits and unload supplies. Some were paired with French fighting units, who treated them with more respect than their white counterparts. Some of the most moving images from the film show black soldiers smiling and bantering easily with French troops.
      That experience transformed many black soldiers. Some historians even trace the beginnings of the modern-day civil rights movement to those black soldiers who returned from World War I determined to assert their rights. In the film, Adriane Lentz-Smith, a Duke University associate professor of history, describes the metamorphosis in black soldiers who served in France:
      “Folks didn’t think about the etiquette of white supremacy any more than a fish thinks about the wetness of water. But when you step out of a system that people have told you is the only way, and then you look around and there are these people in the world working under a different set of rules, it changes people’s imagination.”
      White America, though, wasn’t ready for this New Negro. When these black soldiers returned home, many were greeted by the “Red Summer,” often described as a wave of deadly race riots that swept through at least 25 American cities in 1919.
      Calling them race riots, though, doesn’t fully capture what happened, says Lentz-Smith, author of “Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I.”
      “You say riots and people think breaking shop windows and stealing stuff,” she says. “They don’t have a sense of what white mob violence really looks like. This is going into a black community on a rampage, trying to destroy black wealth, trying to hurt or kill black people. Folks say they’re more akin to pogroms in the Jewish communities than any kind of riots we’re seeing now.”
      This is the world Sgt. Johnson returned to after his heroic exploits in France. The French army awarded him its highest medal for valor. But the US Army didn’t mention his 21 wounds in his discharge papers or give him disability pay. He returned to his job as a railway porter in Albany, New York, but his injuries made it impossible to continue.
      Johnson’s health faded as he descended into alcoholism and poverty. His wife and children left him, and he died in 1929 at age 32. His descendants believed he was buried in a pauper’s grave.
      But Johnson’s story still had a surprise or two left.
      A son, Herman, would join the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and eventually lead a campaign to commemorate his father. Politicians got involved. A monument was built in Albany to honor Johnson. And the US Army awarded him a posthumous Medal of Honor.
      But the Army’s highest decoration for valor came with a strange twist. During its research, the Army discovered that Herman Johnson wasn’t actually related to the man he thought was his father. The Army attributed Johnson’s mistake to “historical inaccuracy, not fraudulent representation.”
      Then something else happened.
      It turned out Johnson was never buried in a pauper’s grave. Someone remembered the soldier known as “Black Death.” He had been buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for famous American soldiers such as Gen. George C. Marshall, President John F. Kennedy and World War II hero Audie Murphy.
      Henry Johnson started as a railroad porter, then became the “Black Death.” Ultimately the Great War left him with one last title:
      American hero.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/09/us/3-ways-wwi-shapes-america/index.html

      The storm chasers hunting bolts in Australia’s Top End

      Our photographer hits the road with seasoned storm chasers in the Northern Territory to track down some of the regions famous lightning storms

      Im standing on a dirt track somewhere in the wilds of Australias Northern Territory and in every direction I look the indigo sky is being shredded by bolts of electrical energy. Its unlike anything Ive ever seen before. Ive been hunting a lightning show and boy have I found one.

      Suddenly Im very conscious of natures imposing scale and, more importantly right now, my proximity to a bared-wire fence the kind of object thats likely to attract a strike. We should probably get in the car, says Mike ONeill, the veteran Darwin storm chaser who has led me here. Reluctantly, I agree.

      The Top End is one of the worlds most active regions for lightning and sees almost daily storms between November and March every year. A single storm can produce more than a thousand bolts in a matter of hours. Intense tropical heat combined with sea breezes and coastal moisture provides the perfect fuel.

      Storm chaser Mike ONeill, one of many avid storm photographers in Northern Territory. I probably do up to 1,000km on a chase. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

      ONeill is one of a handful of storm chasers photographers and meteorological buffs in the region. Whenever and wherever nature decides to put on a show, one of them will be watching.

      I probably do up to 1,000km on a chase, says ONeill. Sometimes you only have to go around the corner to get a decent photo, but sometimes you have to go towards Katherine or even towards Kununurra [in Western Australia]. It just depends where they are and how much time youve got.

      I chase every day on my days off. Even before work if theres a storm on the coast, or after work sometimes until five in the morning. I cant live without it.

      Signs of a storm

      After waiting a week for a thick monsoon rains to clear the region, conditions have eased and tonights predicted storm is one ONeill seems excited about as we begin our journey.

      From Darwin we drive south towards Adelaide River, stopping from time to time to assess the cloud formations around us. Other local enthusiasts including Willoughby Owen use radar at every step, honing their understanding of the storms progress as they go. ONeill, who has been chasing for 16 years, is feeling more instinctive.

      Radars great but it cant tell you what youve learned from experience, he says. You can tell just visually looking at these clouds theyre a lot healthier out here. Youve got thick towers and where you see it anvil out at the top its actually pushed through the anvil, so its got strong updrafts. Thats the sign of a decent storm. Thatll definitely have lightning in it.

      Willoughby Owen checks his radar. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

      Storms in this region typically form because the sun heats the land during the day and sea breezes push in during the afternoon, creating boundaries between hot and cool air.

      Over here in the Top End weve got easy initiation forced by the Arnhem escarpment, says Owen, whos fortunate that he finishes work about 4pm most days, just as the storms begin bubbling.

      The cloud tops reach 45,000 or 50,000 feet, stronger storms 55,000 or 60,000 feet. When youre near tropical lows, when youre near a Madden-Julian Oscillation, you can get tops of 70,000 feet, which is extreme. The lightning can be more intense from those storms, and incredibly loud and violent.

      Lightning is made when ice particles inside clouds collide at high speed and become charged the bolt is a sudden and dramatic discharge of that energy, and may be many miles long but around a centimetre wide. The average bolt produces a current of 6,000 to 30,000 amps. Compare that to a radiator that draws about 10 amps and you get a sense of their power. The temperature is also extreme, measuring 30,000C, five times hotter than the surface of the sun. The effect of increasing heat and pressure on the surrounding air is what generates the thunder clap.

      Storm chasing is littered with jargon and at times it makes the already complex science seem impenetrable but ONeill and Owen do their best to explain. They tell me many lightning strikes are from cloud to cloud (known as C-to-Cs or crawlers) but some are cloud to ground (C-to-Gs).

      Lightning is indiscriminate, ONeill forewarns. The earth has a natural charge. When a thunderstorm is nearby, objects on the ground a cow, telegraph pole, car, tree, anything get invigorated and send upward streamers. When the stepped-leaders come down from the clouds theyll try to make a connection. Thats when you get the bolt.

      If someone in the vicinity of a storm notices their hair standing on end, thats a foreboding sign. And, according to the 30-30 rule, if the time between the visible lightning bolt and the subsequent clap of thunder is less than 30 seconds, youre within range of a strike.

      Secret spots

      Asked what makes a good storm photo, ONeill, who began taking pictures after reading a coffee table book by the renowned storm chaser Peter Jarver, says he has changed his approach over the years.

      I used to be mad keen on just getting the lightning bolt in the centre of the frame but everyone does that now, he says. A lot of people go to the same spots and theyll all stand next to each other and get the same shots.

      Im more of a composition man now. If I see people standing in a location, Ill go back 20 or 30 metres and get them in the photo. I just want a different aspect rather than a cloud with a bolt coming out. If theres a storm and theres power lines, Ill keep them in there, because its like manmade electricity and natural electricity, so its contrasting subjects. I just want to get away from the norm.

      In any case, ONeill prefers to find fresh, unknown vantage points and spends hours hunting for them: We all have our secret spots, he says.

      Mike ONeill sets up his camera beside a dirt road overlooking a range of ant hills. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

      Having pulled on to the dirt road with the storm brewing around us, ONeill sets up his camera with his cars headlamps illuminating the ant hills in the foreground. He tells me Ill need a shutter speed of 10 seconds (longer as the sky darkens) and a low ISO setting, as well as my tripod and remote trigger.

      But ONeill has an extra bit of kit a special lightning trigger which automatically senses when a bolt is being emitted and takes a photo. He used to think it was cheating but now relishes the images. Meanwhile, Im activating my shutter manually, hoping to get lucky. As the sky darkens and the storm erupts, I realise luck is already on my side.

      Its going off, mate! ONeill says as were enveloped, bolts jumping out of the sky around us. I dont know which way to direct my camera.

      ONeill soon gets back into the car. The metal body of the car makes it safer to be in its like a Faraday cage, he explains. Its good to be standing out there, but right now, nah. I value my life more than a photo.

      Monster doggies

      Willoughby Owen using a 70mm-200mm lens. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

      During my first time storm chasing with Owen, he brings along his friend Jacci Ingham. The two often go out together, unlike ONeill who is steadfastly a solo chaser.

      We dont see much activity but Ingham relays the magic of a potent storm in infectious fashion. MCSs [mesoscale convective systems] are great, particularly if you get around the back of them, she says. They produce massive, squiggly scrawlers that fill the sky like spaghetti. Theyre my favourite.

      Over dinner on the way home I discover Ingham is YouTube famous. Shes had 27 million views, Owen says. I presume hes joking but he takes out his phone and shows me a viral video of Ingham storm chasing in Darwin in 2010 as a lightning bolt comes crashing down just metres away.

      Both Owen and Ingham have been to the US to chase tornadoes. Its almost an annual pilgrimage for Owen, who has been eight times. And he says he only moved from his native New Zealand to Darwin for the meteorology.

      I just love weather, he says. I love seeing its raw and powerful beauty, how it all forms, how it all plays out, the modelling, making a forecast theres a lot of chaos involved in making a forecast. I love how rapidly it can change and when you think you know whats going to happen, it does something slightly different or even the opposite. Youre always, always learning.

      10 December 2009 was a memorable night. There was a massive amount of lightning over Darwin. There were bombs going off everywhere. The wind was savage, it was just going ballistic. You could read a book under it.

      18 February 2015 was another. It was like a storm in Oklahoma, rotating, twisting massively, you could see the whole structure move. It was just a beautiful storm.

      Willoughby Owen and Jacci Ingham spot bolts in the distance. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

      On my final night in the NT, Owen and I find a picturesque storm cloud building at sunset. He has driven us to a secluded spot in Adelaide River a telegraph hill with panoramic views and the distant cell is firing out dog-leg bolts from the base of a vast cloud formation. We eventually turn around and realise more action is developing behind us.

      Fuck me dead! he yells. Big, massive, monster doggies its going off tap! Owen is broadcasting the the scene to his Facebook Live followers and his tearaway enthusiasm belies his otherwise mild nature.

      The view from the telecommunication hill, showing a vast cloud structure and a dog-leg lightning bolt shooting out from the lower right. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

      Having set up my camera alongside his, I make a schoolboy error, allowing the weight of my long lens to topple the tripod and send several thousands dollars worth of camera gear crashing down the hillside. I quickly retrieve and reassemble my gear and Owen directs me to a patch of sky where he reckons the next bolt is coming. Hes spot on. Within seconds a powerful bolt illuminates the black sky. Im not sure my settings and framing are right but finally the image displays on the back of the camera its a little wonky and maybe a touch soft, but its there, Ive got it.

      Get in! I shout, sharing Owens visceral joy for a split second before swiftly triggering the next shot. He has taught me that the best lightning strikes invariably occur while youre wasting time reviewing old pictures.

      The bolts slowly become fewer and father between, and junk cloud eventually interrupts our view.

      I get a text message from ONeill checking our progress. He told me he wouldnt be out chasing tonight.

      Getting some from work! he says. Wish I was there, but getting some cool keepers. Stay safe!

      Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/mar/27/the-storm-chasers-hunting-bolts-in-australias-top-end

      The Ken wants to fix business journalism in India with a subscription model

      Four formerreporters and entrepreneurs are attempting to fix Indias broken business media landscape and simultaneously prove that theres an audience and business for paying for quality journalism in the country.

      Subscription-based media is thriving in the West. The New York Times has seen its digital subscription base swell following the election of President Trump. In tech, The Information, founded by a former Wall Street Journal editor, has thrived with a mix of trend-based reporting and news scoops, while Stratechery, an analysis-focused newsletter/blog from Taiwan-based writer Ben Thompson, has also shown the model to be lucrative.

      Butthis is India, a country where monetizing a product is difficult even if it is supremelypopular. Applesells more iPhones on launch weekend than it manages in India over a whole year, while addictive services like Netflix far cheaper than an iPhone have struggled to gain mainstream prominence thus far.

      Starting WithBusiness Reporting

      Yet subscription is the vision behind The Ken, a Bangalore-basednew media company that publishes a story per day behind a paywall. Access ispriced at $108 for overseas users, or 2,750 INR ($42) for those in India.

      The site, which also offers $10 per month and $25/900 INR ($13.50) per quarter packages, is the most prominent subscription-based media play India has seen thus far. Its coverage is principally focused on technology and business, thats the domain its founding team has experience in, but there are plans to moveinto new areas further down the line.

      We dont want to be seen as just covering startups, thats a very easy trap to fall into, co-founder and CEO RohinDharmakumar told TechCrunch in a recent interview. Wewant to expand our coverage andbe interesting enough on a daily basis but also slightly unpredictable.

      The Ken which isnamed after an old fashionedEnglish word for knowledge is build around its community. Email is the primary communication medium, and the team of 11 takes it in turns to send daily missives to its user base including those who are registered but not paying that introduce the daily read withhumor and thought. Once a week, the site produces a story that sits outside of its paywall for anyone to read, acting as bait to lure in new subscriptions.

      A sample of the daily email sent to readers

      Beyond straight up pay-to-read, The Kenuses other models to help get its writing into the hands of more readers without the need for advertising. It has worked with corporate sponsors who pay to make some of its content available for free without any promotional material or advertising mobile wallet giant Paytm, for example, sponsored a week-long free pass while it is in the process of introducing corporate subscriptions, too.

      Theres no plan for article-only or daily plans,Dharmakumar explained, because that would dilute the experience and take away from building a longer-term vision and community.

      MakeMedia GreatAgain

      Small disclaimer, Im one of The Kens paying subscribers because, beyond information gathering as part of my job, Im interested in observing the ways technology is disrupting daily life. Emerging markets where tech is advancing almost everyaspect of everyday living are a fascination and India, with its billion-plus population and nationwide diversity, is arguable the country where the impact of tech could be highest. Yet there are few media outlets able to tell this story with clarity, interest and above all accuracy.

      With respect to that latter point,Dharmakumar explained that The Ken started up in response to what he observed to be the Indian populations general disinterest in media.

      It became very apparent that there was a crisis of business journalism in India, he said. People were essentially not reading newspapers, just giving up. And Idont mean just young people, even experienced investors would prefer to catch up onnews via social media.

      Coverage wasdumbed down, biased, and dense people couldnt relate to it and couldnt find value init,Dharmakumar added.

      Inspired by some of the aforementioned subscription-based media plays Dharmakumar specifically mentions The Information and Stratechery the team of four decided it was time someone did something about this in India and they created The Ken. Initially the project started out with postings on social media, before introducing an email-registration-paywall to float the idea of a barrier between reader and subject matter.

      Satisfied with what they saw, The Ken then went live to a paying audience.

      Dharmakumar isnt revealinghow many readers it has right now, but he said the company has exceeded its own expectations at this point. Indeed, it actually became a profitable business within two weeks of the launch of its website before going on to raise $400,000 from a bunch of reputable angel investors this year. Some of those backers include the founders of notable Indian tech startups Paytm,TaxiForSure and Freshdesk. (Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma alsobacked FactorDaily, another ambitious new media startup we wrote about, alongside other India-based news websites.)

      While $400,000 may not seem like a lot of money these days, its a significant amount to build a focused, lean media business, which has also been generating revenue right from day one. As journalists, weve seen too many instances of companies losing their focus and fire in the belly after raising too much money too early on,Dharmakumar wrote in a note to subscribers announcing the financing.

      Business journalism lost the plot on this, many years ago when it started churning out articles that were either incremental, one-sided, dumbed down or dry and boring. We go to great lengths to make our stories anything but, he added.

      Growing Into The Mainstream

      Despite criticizing the status quo,The Kens CEO said the business isnt looking to rip out the existing media system in India, rather it sees a position working within it.

      We are not attempting to replace traditional newspapers, we are a complement to one, he said. Peopleread the news to find out whats happening, we focus onwhat comes next, who is doing what, and where is the motivation?

      The companys course for the next six month is to continue to do what it is doing while growing its audience and deepening its reporting pool. After that period, it will look to new coverage areas it can branchinto to give its readership a wider selection of stories and information.

      Dharmakumar is also keen to expand The Kens readership beyond its initial focus on business professional and tech industrywatchers.

      Want to take our stories to younger people who feel business news isnt for them, he explained.

      First up, apps for Android and iOS will come, which will help expand from those who currently rely on email to access the site and its stories. Other planned features include a comment section forstories and a Slack channel toenables readers to engage with writers directly, potentially to help steer editorial focus or raise potential areas for storytelling.

      You can find out more about The Ken by visiting its website here.

      Note: the original version of this post was updated to reflect different pricing for subscribers in India and those based overseas.

      Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/12/the-ken/

      Photo of Hillary Clinton reading news Pence used AOL email goes viral

      Photo shows the former presidential candidate reading an article about the vice-president using private email to discuss sensitive matters as Indiana governor

      A photograph of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton looking at a newspaper headline about vice-president Mike Pence using private email has gone viral on social media, with thousands of people commenting on it.

      On Friday, Clinton was on a plane traveling from Boston to New York when a fellow passenger snapped a photo of her glancing down at the USA Today front page headline: Pence used personal email in office.

      Pence and others involved in the Republican presidential campaign last year criticized Clintons use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.

      Donald Trump and his running mate regularly said Clinton broke the law and endangered national security, complaints that led supporters at rallies to chant Lock her up!

      Trump also threatened to send Clinton to jail if he won, a threat he has subsequently dropped.

      Despite reports that other government figures including Obama administration defense secretary Ash Carter and Bush secretary of state Colin Powell had used private email while in office, the state departments internal watchdog said Clinton had broken department rules.

      The FBI reviewed her emails for classified material. Though its director, James Comey, said last July Clinton had been extremely careless, the bureau found no criminal charges were warranted.

      After the election, Clinton reportedly said she blamed two public statements by Comey for her surprise defeat by Trump.

      Comey wrote to Congress 11 days before the election, to say new emails had been discovered on a laptop connected to Clinton aide Huma Abedin that could be relevant to the closed investigation.

      Two days before the 8 November vote, Comey said no new evidence had been uncovered from the newly discovered emails.

      Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/04/photo-hillary-clinton-reading-news-pence-used-aol-email

      Oscars: The winners list

      (CNN)The 89th Academy Awards were held Sunday.

      Here is a complete list of nominees. (Winners are indicated in bold.)
        “Hacksaw Ridge”
        “Hell or High Water”
        “Hidden Figures”
        “La La Land”
        “Manchester by the Sea”
        Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea”
        Andrew Garfield in “Hacksaw Ridge”
        Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”
        Viggo Mortensen in “Captain Fantastic”
        Denzel Washington in “Fences”
        Jeff Bridges in “Hell or High Water”
        Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” (WINNER)
        Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea”
        Dev Patel in “Lion”
        Michael Shannon in “Nocturnal Animals”
        Isabelle Huppert in “Elle”
        Ruth Negga in “Loving”
        Natalie Portman in “Jackie”
        Emma Stone in “La La Land”
        Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins”
        Nicole Kidman in “Lion”
        Viola Davis in “Fences”
        Naomie Harris in “Moonlight”
        Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures”
        Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea”
        “Kubo and the Two Strings”
        “My Life as a Zucchini”
        “The Red Turtle”
        “Zootopia” (WINNER)
        “La La Land” (WINNER)
        “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (WINNER)
        “Florence Foster Jenkins”
        “La La Land”
        “Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve
        “Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson
        “La La Land” – Damien Chazelle
        “Manchester by the Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan
        “Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins
        “Fire at Sea”
        “I Am Not Your Negro”
        “Life, Animated”
        “O.J.: Made in America” (WINNER)
        “4.1 Miles”
        “Joe’s Violin”
        “Watani: My Homeland”
        “The White Helmets” (WINNER)
        “Hacksaw Ridge” (WINNER)
        “Hell or High Water”
        “La La Land”
        “Land of Mine”
        “A Man Called Ove”
        “The Salesman” (WINNER)
        “Toni Erdmann”
        “A Man Called Ove”
        “Star Trek Beyond”
        “Suicide Squad” (WINNER)
        “La La Land” (WINNER)
        “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
        “Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls”
        “City Of Stars” from “La La Land” (WINNER)
        “The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”
        “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”
        “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
        “Hail, Caesar!”
        “La La Land” (WINNER)
        “Blind Vaysha”
        “Borrowed Time”
        “Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
        “Piper” (WINNER)
        “Ennemis Intrieurs”
        “La Femme et le TGV”
        “Silent Nights”
        “Sing” (WINNER)
        “Arrival” (WINNER)
        “Deepwater Horizon”
        “Hacksaw Ridge”
        “La La Land”
        “Hacksaw Ridge” (WINNER)
        “La La Land”
        “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
        “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”
        “Deepwater Horizon”
        “Doctor Strange”
        “The Jungle Book” (WINNER)
        “Kubo and the Two Strings”
        “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
        “Hidden Figures”
        “Moonlight” (WINNER)
        “Hell or High Water”
        “La La Land”
        “The Lobster”
        “Manchester by the Sea” (WINNER)
        “20th Century Women”

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/26/entertainment/oscars-winners-2017/index.html

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