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How A 90-Year-Old Bookstore Got Into The Business Of Totes

Those who are familiar with New York’s Strand Book Store can likely recall its slogan: “18 miles of books.” It’s right there on the store’s ubiquitous red oval logo, seen citywide on tote bags carried by well-read locals and tourists alike.

But today, the 90-year-old Manhattan institution selling new and used books boasts closer to 23 miles of the printed word. (It’s measured, by the way, by book spines, exactly how they sit on the shelf.) 

“I think 18 miles has such a nice ring to it,” senior designer Topher MacDonald said, recalling an old store awning that originally read “8 miles of books.” Eventually, “somebody tacked a 1 on top of it because [the store] had gotten too big,” he added.

However long the Strand’s stock is, the phrase is beautifully evocative. For a book lover catching sight of the slogan on a tote ambling around Central Park, it conjures images of never-ending stacks, more stories and curious plots than can be devoured in a lifetime. 

Indeed, it’s the humble canvas tote, first sold at the Strand in the 1980s, that allows a bibliophile on-the-go to subtly transmit that image — and an image of themselves, too. 

Current store co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden — the granddaughter of store founder Ben Bass — told HuffPost that the first iteration of the Strand tote was designed by a former longtime floor manager named Richard Devereaux. It had simple block letters, spelling out the store’s name, address and phone number on canvas.

That design persisted until the ’90s, when the bookstore’s now-famous red oval logo replaced it. The newer design, attributed to another floor manager’s girlfriend at the time, features the bookstore’s name in Strand Gothic (the store’s own font).

The initial tote was relatively small; it held only two or three books at a time. But it grew,and the designs became more varied,as the Strand began ramping up its merchandise section around 2012.

“My dad [Fred Bass] kind of resisted for many years. You know, ‘What are you doing to this place?! We should just have serious books!’” Bass Wyden said. He came around to the idea, she said, because it pleased customers.

“That was, and is, the most important thing to him,” she said.

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
Topher MacDonald holds up one of his designs, titled “NYC Readers,” at the Strand Book Store in New York City on Nov. 2, 2017.

The Strand has now offered over 100 original tote designs, ranging from political to whimsical. Walking around the store, you can spot canvas homages to Frida Kahlo and Michelle Obama laid out on tables, or get lost in an intricate hand-drawn city scene printed on a bag. There are totes with useful additions like zippers or small phone-sized pockets.

Books and tote bags go together naturally — one is an object to be carried, the other carries it. So it makes sense that Strand customers would gravitate toward the bookstore’s bags. 

The appeal of a tote, however, goes beyond mere utility. On the surface, any Strand tote signals that its owner enjoys books. Perhaps the owner would also like to be seen supporting independent bookstores — an ever-more-political stance as Amazon and its ilk cast a long shadow over small businesses. Perhaps they have a connection to New York City; whether they live there, visit there, or know someone who visits there, they proudly flaunt the affiliation.

Once you start looking, it’s easy to spot a Strand tote or three on an average crowded subway. Their sheer ubiquity means the bags inevitably lose a factor or two of cool. In 2011, Vol. 1 Brooklyn riffed on the associations begotten by various literary totes, suggesting the typical Strand tote owner “probably [doesn’t] actually live in New York. Either that, or you’re a freshman at NYU.”

Still, for lit lovers who are unconcerned with urban cachet, there are plenty of options. Customers can buy a bag to communicate even more specific facts about themselves: I love cats. I am a feminist. Shakespeare is my personal superhero. I will not f**k someone who doesn’t own any books.

“We know that people that love books, love cats,” Bass Wyden said, reiterating a likely facet of many habitual readers’ personalities: They enjoy the indoors. “We always try to keep that in mind, you know: cozy, fireplace, coffee, tea.”

Hand-drawn designs — a trend seen popping up on book covers themselves ― have also proved popular, which Bass Wyden suggested was a result of the “backlash from technology” and living in an increasingly digital world. 

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
MacDonald’s “Lost in the Stacks” design for the Strand.

Each tote mentions the Strand’s name in some way, usually showcasing that same red oval logo. (The Strand merchandizing team briefly tried a few other designs, replacing the “miles of books” slogan with the phrase “Where books are loved,” but ultimately went back to the original.)

Nearly 50 of the designs are credited to MacDonald, who began working out on the art department floor around five years ago. His handiwork ranges from delicate, multicolor illustrations of New Yorkers going about their day to an image of an extensively detailed library with ceiling-high bookshelves and cats around each turn.

MacDonald says the idea of a “weird, introvert fantasy world” inspired one of his latest designs: a dusty shelf stocked with a compass, a bell jar, a skull, books and other oddities, all presided over by a black cat. “Stay Curious,” it reads.

Ultimately, the designs come out of a collaborative process, with Bass Wyden and other staff members contributing ideas to a department called Studio Strand, which also consists of designers Greg Locke and Alison George and manager Meagan Henry. MacDonald, who hand-draws designs on a tablet, said that the collaboration can lead to little visual “Easter eggs” on the totes. MacDonald included his dog in a tableau of the city’s canine population. On another bag, the Japanese character for “book” takes the place of the “A” in “Strand” — another fun wink for those in the know. 

At first glance, the store’s “Victorian Reader” seems to depict a straightforward scene of old-timey New York, with older building facades, horse-drawn carriages and people in the street with their noses in books.

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
“Victorian Readers,” another tote MacDonald designed, features a number of intricate details you might miss at first glance.

Upon closer inspection, the attention to detail — creepy detail ― emerges. There’s a Headless Horseman statue and a violent barber inspired by Sweeney Todd. A carriage is being driven by a skeleton. Two identical twins ride eerily by on a tandem bicycle.

“I think [Bass Wyden was] just like, ‘Wouldn’t it be creepy if there were some abandoned shoes in the street?’” MacDonald recalled.

“It’s fun to create these opportunities for everyone. Like, what happens if you put a cobweb over here, or what happens if you put, like, a skull at the top of a building?” he continued. “Just making it as immersive as possible.”

Elsewhere in the design, a frustrated writer tosses his papers out the window. In another window, Bass Wyden’s grandfather peers out at the scene below. The design has been in the merchandise rotation for several years.

It really is all of that detail that really makes it, you know, resonate for so long,” MacDonald added.

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
MacDonald and Strand co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden show off tote bags on sale at the Strand Bookstore in New York City.

With an in-house design team, the bookstore can also adapt quickly to emerging trends and new catchphrases. When “Hamilton” was selling out nightly, a “Young, Scrappy and Hungry” bag popped up on shelves. When the coloring book craze seized bookstores around 2014, Strand answered with a tote featuring outlines of New York staples: a pigeon, the MetroCard.

The bookstore also offered “F**k 2016” pins and “Make America Read Again” totes: bold statements in a bold election year that allowed people to wear not just their love of reading, but their frustration, on their sleeves.

“I kept saying, ‘Don’t order too much! He’s not gonna be around!’” Bass Wyden said with a laugh, referring, of course, to now-President Donald Trump. The resistance is alive, well and for sale at the bookstore, where Ruth Bader Ginsburg totes lie on a table near others that read, “Nevertheless, She Persisted.”

A tote with the saying “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature” features what looks like a straightforward floral motif against black canvas, but upon further inspection, there are bees sprinkled throughout ― subtly underscoring the “dangerous creature” note. Other totes are collaborations with beloved artists like Art Spiegelman and Adrian Tomine.

Damon Dahlen/HuffPost
There are hidden bees in MacDonald’s “Well Read Woman” tote.

Other designs have come from happenstance. Bass Wyden said a manager who collected autographs and drawings asked painter David Hockney to draw him a picture when he visited the store in the ’70s. Hockney drew a bag of books, which eventually became a tote. 

“I thought that was funny, to put a tote on a tote,” Bass Wyden said.

For bookstore purists, the growth of the Strand’s in-store merchandise ― increasingly catering to an in-and-out kind of customer rather than one content to spend hours among the stacks ― might seem at odds with the store’s history as a haven for literature and those who love it. It’s understandable that seeing space occupied by bags advertising the store’s lengthy selection of books, instead of the books themselves, could chafe a certain kind of reader.

But if a bookstore must diversify its offerings to offset changing publishing trends or to reflect customer tastes, the creations tailored for bibliophiles at the Strand seem like a practical, and charming, way to meet in the middle. In a way, the many canvas bags on offer echo the varied customers drawn to the store in order to peruse its curated tables and outdoor carts — creative, singular, true New York originals.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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How To Handle Confrontations Like A MFing Boss

We’re making memes smarter. So can you. Visit the Photoplasty and Pictofacts Workshop to get started.

It’s a contentious world. Happily, it turns out there are constructive ways to deal with the confrontations that are waiting to jump you at every turn, and none of them involve firearms.

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Congrats, AmyB8484. You win money.

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Avoid confrontations altogether with these little squishy stress-relieving cats! Squish them so hard!

If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Or sign up for our Subscription Service for exclusive content, an ad-free experience, and more.

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/

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‘Why I’m Charles Bronson’s wife-to-be’

Image copyright Mark Scott

Paula Williamson describes her fiancé as “charismatic, witty and cheeky” – a man who likes llamas and is passionate about his art.

For most, her soon-to-be-husband Charles Bronson – now called Charles Salvador – is one of the UK’s most violent prisoners.

“It’s a marvel we make it work,” says Paula, 37, who marries Bronson, 64, in the confines of HMP Wakefield in Yorkshire next Tuesday.

Bronson, a former bare-knuckle boxer who was first jailed for armed robbery in 1974, will not be able to attend his own wedding reception.

So what brought the couple together and what will their nuptials be like?

‘Booming cockney’

Paula, a former soap actress, first wrote to Bronson in 2013 after reading his book on living in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital.

“I wanted to thank him – it had hope, and really helped me mentally,” she says.

They exchanged letters for the next three years, before he asked to meet – by which time he had changed his last name to Salvador and broken off an engagement with another woman, Lorraine.

“I never spoke to him about Lorraine, as that’s his own business,” Paula says.

She describes their first meeting at HMP Wakefield: “I wasn’t nervous until I heard the slamming of gates and went through security.

“Then I heard this booming cockney voice shouting out my name.

“He was in a segregation unit – a prison within a prison – and stood in the corner sparring in mid-air, I thought he seemed like a nervous boy.

“I said to him, ‘Charlie, come here and give me a hug, it’s bloody me’.”

She has visited Bronson once a week since then. She says the “hours fly by” during their meetings, as they talk about the meals she plans to cook him and he makes her a cup of tea.

“A few weeks in I asked Charlie, ‘What are we?’ And he replied, ‘Well you’re my soulmate of course, we are in a relationship – I adore you.'”

Image copyright BBC, Paula Williamson
Image caption Bronson, who was jailed in 1974, will not be able to go to his wedding reception

To outsiders, it may seem an unlikely match.

Luton-born Bronson, a petty criminal since his teens, had his original seven-year sentence increased after a string of violent outbursts, with his time inside dramatised in a 2009 film starring Tom Hardy.

Paula, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent with her four cats, studied acting at university, before landing minor roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

But she insists they are “very similar creatures”, with a shared experience of mental health problems.

“I’ve suffered from awful depression and anxiety following a relationship breakup,” she said.

When Bronson proposed to Paula over the phone on Valentine’s Day, he said they had “both been to dark places”.


Bronson’s jail history

  • 1974 First jailed, age 22, for armed robbery and wounding
  • 1975 Attacked a fellow prisoner with a glass jug
  • 1985 Carried out a three-day rooftop protest
  • 1988 Returned to prison for robbing a jewellery shop
  • 1992 Released, but found guilty shortly afterwards of conspiracy to rob
  • 1994 Holds a prison librarian hostage, demanding a helicopter and tea
  • 1998 Takes three inmates hostage at Belmarsh
  • 1999 Given a life sentence with a three-year tariff for kidnapping
  • 2014 Assaulted prison governor Alan Parkins

Five friends will attend the wedding on 14 November, to be held in a parole hearing room.

Afterwards, Bronson will go back into solitary confinement and the celebrations will continue at a nearby pub.

“We have a bit of time together after the wedding, then he goes back to his cell, which is heartbreaking,” Paula says.

But the reception will be a less private affair.

Paula has agreements with tabloid newspapers to write stories about the wedding – having previously invited the Daily Mirror to film the moment Bronson proposed.

“People say I’ve courted the media,” says Paula, who insists she is a “solitary person”.

“I want to show Charlie’s not forgotten about.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Charles Bronson in 1992 – that year, he spent 53 days outside prison before being arrested again

One important person will be avoiding the cameras: the mother of the bride.

“Mum’s not coming to the wedding as she’s a private person,” Paula says, admitting her family have objected to the match.

“Mum was a bit concerned as he has this awful reputation, but she knows I’m a strong-willed character with my head screwed on,” she adds.

She says the backlash from strangers is far worse – claiming she has lost acting jobs over the relationship and is trolled on social media.

“I’ve had a hell of a lot of hatred towards me for being with him,” says Paula, who spends her time answering people’s letters to Bronson and campaigning for him to be released.

“It’s madness at the moment,” she adds. “I’ve said to Charlie, ‘do you want to swap places for a bit’?”


How do prison weddings work?

  • Prison governors can approve a prisoner’s request to marry, if they are unlikely to be released or deported within three months
  • There are dispensations for inmates with less than three months to serve – such as if they are having a baby or if someone is terminally ill
  • The prisoner and their partner are expected to pay any costs associated with the marriage, like transport to the ceremony if it takes place outside prison
  • Governors can object to a marriage – including if they are worried about a convicted sex offender or if they think the couple is colluding to commit an offence

Source: Ministry of Justice


Bronson has a parole hearing on 7 November to determine whether it is safe for him to mix with other prisoners.

The couple can currently only kiss and hold hands between bars during Paula’s visits to Wakefield – one of the most secure prisons in the UK and one that counts paedophiles and serial killers among its inmates.

“He’s locked up for 22 hours a day,” says Paula. “If I thought he’d be in prison the rest of his life, it would be a strange thing to marry.”

Despite the separation, Paula insists they are like “any other couple”.

“We have little fall outs and tiffs,” Paula says. “But after 10 minutes of seeing him I’ll smile and say ‘for goodness’ sake Charlie, stop being such a stupid git!'”

She adds: “I know I’m not 19 any more, but we’ve also discussed having children one day.”

Image copyright Change.org
Image caption Paula is confident Bronson will be released one day, and is campaigning for his rehabilitation

Paula admits living together would be “very different” from their current life of letters, phone calls and weekly visits.

“I’ve said to Charlie, when you get out, you will have a room, and that will be your sanctuary,” she says.

They want to live in a cottage, keep llamas and go on cruise holidays, while Bronson does his art and gives talks to young offenders.

In the book Paula first read in 2013, Bronson said his troubles were behind him – and described himself as a “prolific artist”.

“I’ll carry on campaigning for him until we get that life,” Paula says.

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Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

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You’ll Be Stunned By These 5 Amazing Animal Weight Loss Stories

Being overweight isn’t healthy for anyone, but for animals, carrying just a few extra pounds can have serious effects on their well-being.

While giving our little buddies all those extra treats seems like a nice thing to do in the moment, we don’t often think about the fact that we could be shaving years off their lives. Exercise intolerance, heat intolerance, breathing difficulties, hypertension, diabetes, liver disease, osteoarthritis and a higher chance of developing malignant tumors are just some of the conditions that dogs or cats with excess weight have a higher risk of developing.

This all sounds pretty scary, right? Well, the good news is that with proper diet and exercise, our plump pets can slim down and enjoy much happier and healthier lives. Just check out these five obese dogs and cats who’ve made amazing progress in their weight loss journeys.

1. Strudel the golden retriever weighed 83 pounds at her heaviest. While that weight is normal for some dogs of this breed, Strudel’s frame is smaller than others. After her owner passed away, she was placed into the care of a foster family who was committed to helping her lose the weight. She still has a way to go, but she’s lost nearly 30 pounds so far!

2. Bolinha grew up as a stray dog on the streets of Brazil, where passersby constantly fed him junk food and leftover scraps. His weight ballooned so much that he could barely move. Thanks to the pup’s rescuers, though, he’s shed over 30 pounds and has a new lease on life!

3. A tiny dachshund weighing 77 pounds sounds shocking and impossible, but that was Obie’s reality before he came to live with certified vet technician Nora Vanatta. After the pup’s previous owners placed him into Vanatta’s care, she worked hard to help him drop the pounds with a calorie-restricted diet and gradual exercise. Thanks to her dedication, the little guy has lost close to 50 pounds!

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com

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20 Purrrfect Surprise Messages Hidden In Matchboxes That Will Make Every Cat Lover Happy

When Croissant meets Donut (“Cronut”), Ramen meets Burger (“Ramen Burger”) or Pho meets Dumpling (”Phumpling”), you get the best of both worlds. The same goes for our 3XU’s “Matchbox-Card”.

Inspired by the elements of greeting cards, gift boxes, and miniatures, these tiny “cards” are hand-crafted from real matchboxes and hand-colored individually to give each of them that very personalized feel. But the best part has to do with the connection between the cover and the hidden message inside each box, which creates a sweet little surprise for the person who opens them.

Ever since we’ve been making matchbox-cards we realize how great the universal love for cats is and how excited people get when they see a cat card. So we decided to go all-in this time and created this special cat card collection that covers all the occasions we could think of so that for every cat-lover in your life, there is just the right card for them!

Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/

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Meet The Pallas’s Cat, The Most Expressive Feline In The World

Who can resist those little fluffy balls of fur purring at your feet? Okay, so maybe cats aren’t always so cute, especially when they’re biting your fingers or clawing your curtains. But even the haters will love the Pallas’s cat, which has been dubbed the most expressive in the world.

This cat’s facial expressions are so incredible, you’d think it was a cartoon come to life! Unfortunately, you can’t just go to your local shelter and bring one home as a pet. These endangered and wild kitties live in the grasslands and steppes of Central Asia. They even have their own preserve in Asia’s Altai Mountains.

The Pallas’s cat is named for German naturalist, Peter Pallas, who discovered the adorable creature and gave it the scientific name Felis manul. This was later changed to Otocolobus manul, which means “ugly eared”, to reflect the short round ears that, personally, I think are rather cute. What’s more is that the chances are that you may have seen these adorable cats before. They have been the subject of many viral memes. You’ll recognize their long furry coats, short legs, and extremely expressive faces. These cats, despite looking quite large, are actually not much bigger than a house cat, and, on average, they weigh only 12 pounds. Their plush fur makes them appear larger than what they truly are.

That thick fur helps to keep these felines warm in cold climates, but the Pallas’s cat does not like snow. They tend to live in cool, dry areas and keep a sandy-colored coat to blend in with surrounding rocks and earth.

While they may look cute and friendly, these cats are not very social creatures at all. They spend most of their time hiding out in caves and crevices alone and can be quite aggressive. According to Fiona and Mel Sunquist, authors of The Wildcat Book, a litter of Pallas’s cats born at the Cincinnati Zoo showed aggression toward each other from birth.

At first, zookeepers thought the kittens were having trouble breathing, but “when they listened closely, they realized that the noise they were hearing was the kittens growling and hissing at each other – before they had even opened their eyes!” Sadly, the Pallas’s cat is on the decline. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the animals are “near threatened”. Agriculture, mining, and general industry encroaching on their habitat is to blame.

They are also greatly affected by rodent extermination campaigns because small animals such as marmot and pika are the main food source for Pallas’s cats. Even their fur, fat, and organs are sometimes taken and used in traditional medicines. Pallas’s cats only live to be six years old in the wild now, but thanks to zoos and preserves, they can live up to the age of 12 in captivity.

Hopefully these fluffy creatures won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and they will provide us with many more cute and adorable memes to come! If you’d like to see the most expressive cats in action, check out the video below. You can watch two of these kitties roam their enclosure in a zoo. Sure makes me wish I could take one home with me!

Read more: http://www.viralthread.com

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