Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

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Not Now, Martin

August 21, 2016

Detail of xkcd #1722, by Randall Munroe, 18 August 2016.Sometimes this comes up with my sense of humor and the necessity of explaining a joke derived from the stories of Steven Brust. Randall Munroe presents his own version of the question: Just how many novels must I read in order to receive the joke at its intended value?

To wit, I can’t explain the not/now joke properly insofar as it seems difficult to decide just what, between five hundred and, oh, say, two thousand pages is required in order to receive the full punch, and in truth, by the time it gets to twenty-four novels with no guarantee that the final tally won’t get larger, is it really worth it just to know why “not now” is one of the funniest jokes in literature?

Meanwhile, yeah, good luck with the sword.

-bd

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Image note: Detail of xkcd #1722, by Randall Munroe, 18 August 2016.

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Timeless Artless: The Plot Twist

August 18, 2016

It’s not quite a mystery of the Universe, but still:

Huh?• In order to accomplish a task one must forget the fact of being about it.

And that’s the thing: I cannot actually tell you what that means at the stake of paradoxical nullification.

Okay, okay, that last might be at least a shade toward the superstitious.

Zen pollution.

Fresh nothing.

-bd

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Coffee Quotes

July 6, 2016

Okay, this is fun. (Ha!)

Er … uh … (ahem!)

Right. Anyway, I’m going to give you three quotes―

photo by bd“In order to answer this question, it seems that immigrants in Queens and New Jersey, Catherine the Great, Russian oligarchs, Imperial relics and top auction houses had to all get involved.” (Irina Reyn)

“Someone on Goodreads took the time to write out “Meh” as their whole review. I admire that dedication to sharing your indifference with the whole Internet forever.” (Bob Proehl)

“In my heart, I’m a comedian—not a successful comedian, but one who is both sad and deeply committed to the art.” (Hannah Pittard)

―and then you’re going to go read the rest of Teddy Wayne’s July Q&A with five authors: Jennifer Armstrong, Patrick Flanery, Hannah Pittard, Bob Proehl, and Irina Reyn.

Sound good?

Excellent! Thank ye!

―bd

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Wayne, Teddy. “Life of an author on the internet: ‘Someone on Goodreads took the time to write out ‘Meh’ as their whole review'”. Salon. 5 July 2016.

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You Always Knew

June 4, 2016

Thu-Huong Ha, for Quartz:

Detail of frame from Ergo Proxy, episode 11, "Anamnesis (In the White Darkness)".Economists from Italy’s University of Padova compared data on 5,820 European men to see if longer compulsory childhood education could increase kids’ earnings over a lifetime. It does: Averaged across nine countries, boys who attended an extra year of school due to changing age requirements eventually returned an additional 9% of income.

But the researchers were surprised to find that, among kids who benefited from an extra year of school, those who grew up with more than 10 non-school books (that is, books they weren’t forced to read) at home eventually doubled that lifetime earning advantage, to 21%. Factors like whether the boys’ fathers had white-collar jobs, and whether their homes had running water, did not seem to make a difference.

Crucially, there was no significant difference between whether participants reported having 50, 100, or 200 books growing up. The key was whether they grew up with any number of books greater than 10.

The 2015 study from Brunello, Weber, and Weiss, published in The Economic Journal, is presently posted for open access.

Thus we find a scrap of evidence supporting something I think we all have known, instinctively at least, is true.

Keep reading. Keep teaching. Keep learning.

―bd

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Brunello, Giorgio, Guglielmo Weber, and Christph T. Weiss. “Books are Forever: Early Life Conditions, Education and Lifetime Earnings in Europe”. The Economic Journal. 25 April 2016.

Ha, Thu-Huong. “Economists show that boys who grow up around books earn significantly more money as adults”. Quartz. 2 June 2016.

(h/t Science of Us)

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Happiness, Recalled

November 23, 2015

Ray BradburyIt occurred today that an associate recalled a particular thought experiment, which in turn sent me searching for a Ray Bradbury story. The Saturday Evening Post has been so kind as to offer an electronic copy of their 1957 presentation of the maestro’s story, “The Happiness Machine”, from Dandelion Wine.

Read. Enjoy. Be well.

―bd

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The Shadow Over Lovecraft

November 23, 2015

It is true I hold a soft spot for H. P. Lovecraft; his stories are among those that made me want to write. It is an unfortunate history, then, fraught with caveats; this is the problem:

First, Lovecraft―who wrote “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Colour Out of Space” and other influential tales of madness and “sentient blob[s] of self-shaping gelatinous flesh”―is one of weird fiction’s most celebrated authors. He is enshrined in the Library of America.H. P. Lovecraft Stephen King calls him “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” The author of the novel “Psycho,” Robert Bloch, once wrote, “Poe and Lovecraft are our two American geniuses of fantasy, comparable each to the other, but incomparably superior to all the rest who follow.”

Second, as Lovecraft’s letters―and, to a lesser extent, his stories―reveal, the guy harbored a fierce loathing for almost all non-WASPs. Blacks were “greasy chimpanzees,” in Lovecraft’s words. French-Canadians were a “clamorous plague.” New York’s Chinatown was “a bastard mess of stewing mongrel flesh.” And so on.

Phillip Eil’s explanation, for Salon, of the final distribution of Howards for the World Fantasy Award does, indeed, follow the gravity of the tale. It only goes downhill from there.

We can try making what excuses we want; he was a misanthrope, he was crazy, he was an extreme product of something whatnot whonow … er … right. It’s possible to do the five stages; I recommend skipping tracks to acceptance. Then again, neither do I know how many of the generation that comes after me even bothered with Lovecraft, so maybe my own years of reflecting on the question really are as useless as they have always felt.

Still, though. Sigh.

No, no, I’m not fretting for the trophies. It’s just, you know, it’s just one of those, This is why we can’t have nice things! feeling. Lovecraft, Koestler, Cosby. Sometimes it just hurts to face up to what all goes into the art we love, y’know?

But it’s true, he was a miserable, sickly, repulsive sort of genius.

―bd

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Image note: H. P. Lovecraft in undated photo via Wikimedia.

Eil, Phillip. “The ghost that haunts American literature: The genius & the repugnance of H.P. Lovecraft”. Salon. 21 November 2015.

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Familiar Desolation

July 23, 2015

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 22 July 2015.Ever have one of those days?

Okay, here’s another one. Ever have that urge to do the old Bugs Bunny bit with Yosemite Sam, the one about okay I’ll shut up because I’m not the type of guy who keeps on blabbing after someone tells me to shut up … Shut up shuttin’ up!

It was that or the bit about doing the Whatchamacallit advert, and you do the “What’s right?” part, except do it in Scooby Doo’s voice. You know, one of those random things that comes up during the set break at a Phish show. Never mind.

Sometimes writer’s block is best. Just ask Adam.

―bd

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Huber, Adam. “Writer’s Blockhead”. Bug Martini. 22 July 2015.

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