Journal for Researcher1590784
Sociology and the Bobbsey Twins: Merry Daze (Last Week)
What can you learn from old children's books? Quite a lot, really.
This morning over coffee, Elektra and I got to discussing the Bobbsey Twins. I'm willing to bet you've never heard of the Bobbsey Twins, but in the 1950s, Bert, Nan, Freddie and Flossie weren't quite past their sell-by date. They were close, though.
'I don't think I ever finished the first book,' said Elektra. 'It was too boring.'
'I read them,' I said. 'They were as interesting to me as when I read Jack Finney's 'Time and Again' as a adult. The stories are a window into bourgeois life in 1904.'
'Ah,' she said. 'I guess so. But bourgeois life in 1904 was pretty boring.'
I agreed. Byt the sociological implications are interesting.
Here's a link, if you're so inclined. Laura Lee Hope's first Bobbsey Twin book, subtitled 'Merry Days Indoors and Out', is here:
A word about 'Laura Lee Hope'. She's a corporate fiction. The books were penned - well, maybe they used a typewriter - by a whole slew of people, half of them men, in the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Sound like a bunch of gangsters. I bet they were proud of themselves. These are the people who also inflicted upon us Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Tom Swift. These hacks made a fortune, even though libraries often banned their effluvia. As early as 1901, the Newark, New Jersey, Public Library banned Stratemeyer books. The reason? They made students stupid. Okay, they said they induced 'intellectual torpor'.
The first thing I noticed on re-reading was that this stuff was actually more interesting to an adult than to a child. The second was that the kids acted quite naturally - I mean, not the way adults want them to. Freddie in particular is a pistol. He's as pig-headed as any four-year-old could be. He breaks things, and is bossy, and bursts into tears when things don't go his way.
The next thing I noticed was that this book would not fly today - the cook, Dinah, is African American. That dialect has GOT to go. No book containing the word 'gwine' belongs on our bookshelves. It's insulting. Sigh.
You learn a lot about the material culture and social attitudes about life at the turn of the previous century, though:
- At the start of this opus, all four Twins are engaged in building houses out of shoeboxes. Bert makes what his baby sister calls a 'department' house. They model their interior decoration after what they see in relatives' homes.
- Next, they go out to play. Freddie and Flossie play horse and driver. NOT car and driver. Freddie is an obstreperous horse, but Flossie knows just what to do. She manages the reins and gives him water and hay. Different times, different technologies.
- Then comes the first thrilling episode of Major Crisis - the Great Jumprope Incident of 19-Aught-4. It seems Grace's mother has TOLD her not to overdo the rope skipping, but she's, er, 'headstrong'. She tries for 100 JUMPS. When she faints (quiet, exercise fans) a number of things happen.
1. The eight-year-old girls fear she is DEAD.
2. Nan is devastated, because she thinks she's an accessory to murder by virtue of being a rope-thrower.
3. Mr Bobbsey saves the day by carrying the unconscious child into her house.
4. Dr Briskett (!) is called, and advises rest. He also explains that TOO MUCH EXERCISE IS BAD FOR LITTLE GIRLS, so there.
5. The boys stop playing FOOTBALL to commiserate.
What have we learned from this? Apparently, in 1904, female persons were not supposed to do aerobic exercise. It would upset their systems, or something. You know what I found when I googled 'jumping rope health'? The next suggested key word was 'benefits'. I tried 'hazards'. Some clinic pointed out that it was better for you than running, because it was easier on the knees. Take THAT, Dr Briskett.
We have also learned that apparently, nobody worried about the boys playing American football. A sport that is known to cause serious injuries, sometimes with lifelong effects. Oh, well, Bert's tough, he can take it.
Besides, he wants to grow up to be a soldier. (You're going to get your wish, Bert. Good luck against the Hun.) Freddie wants to be a fireman, naturally. When informed of her career choices - mother or stenographer - Nan opts for office work. Flossie insists that she will run a candy-and-ice-cream shoppe, so there. Yay, Flossie.
By the way, Freddie and Flossie are described, approvingly, as 'fat'.
Why am I reading this? Well, I sort of had an idea: to write a story about these kids when they grew up. The Stratemeyer Syndicate's bible specified that the characters could never age (or marry), but Stratemeyer's dead, Aunt Rose, and the Syndicate's gone out of business. [Points for recognising the misquote there.]
The effects of a Lakeport upbringing should be examined in more sociological detail, methinks.
As Dinah says, 'Jess to heah dat now! It's wonderful wot
yo' is gwine to be when yo' is big.'
Elektra and I think Flossie will become a flapper and drive a flivver.
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(19 replies, Latest reply: 3 Days Ago)
In the Pouring Rain, Very Strange (Last Week)
[I've decided to use my journal today for what appears to be its usual purpose. Going by other journals, it's supposed to be a sort of diary. I don't usually feel like a diarist, but hey, I'm willing to learn.]
Dear h2g2 Diary,
It has been pouring down rain all day. We waited until the thunder and lightning stopped, but we still had to go out into the downpour for groceries.
Some stray thoughts on a rainy day:
Stray thought number one: Don't you hate it when you're having a conversation and it's obvious that the other person is using the time when you're speaking to think about what they're going to say next? Don't you double-dog hate it when that's obvious in an online conversation? Go read a few posts and see what I mean.
Stray thought number two: Last night, we were watching 'Mad Men', which we enjoy very much. One very funny scene involved Don Draper, his wife the soap-opera actress, and Don's client, Herb from Jaguar, who is a pig (we know this: to get the Jaguar contract, Joan from the office had to sleep with him). Herb's innocent wife, the naive and chatty Peaches, was along for the ride, as was Megan Draper's arch, drunken French mother.
Peaches was nattering on about the dog having puppies, and how cute they were. Madame Calvet, who is oh-so-superior and pseudo-intellectual, started criticisng the woman in French. What got my nanny was that the discussion boards today found the subtitles of this conversation hilarious, and sided with La Calvet. If they had understood French, they would have found the subtitles even funnier - especially when she gave her daughter that vulgar advice earlier about how to keep her husband interested. Not me: Peaches was the only real person at the table. Me, I would have talked puppies with her till dessert came. Not that it did: Don 'fired' Jaguar and they all stalked out, leaving Peaches looking as if she were thinking, 'Was it something I said?' She doesn't know about her husband. She doesn't know much about Draper, or she wouldn't shake hands with him. Hell, I wouldn't shake hands with his mother-in-law - we know where they've been.
Stray thought number three: The big news today is that the FBI is proud of itself for nailing a domestic terrorist. This is good news, for a change, because they stopped the guy from doing whatever he was planning to do with the Romanian AK-knockoff and the IEDs BEFORE he did it. Good job.
They accomplished this by storming Buford's (that's pronounced 'BYEW-ferd') mobile home - a caravan, to youze - in Montevideo, Minnesota.
This is the point at which I lost it. Montevideo is pronounced 'Mont-eh-VID-e-o'. The lack of romance in domestic terrorism is depressing, really. Not a place name starting with 'Al-' in the account.
Stray thought number four: Over the weekend, we finished watching the miniseries 'Titanic: Blood and Steel', which aired last fall on the Encore channel, but is now on Netflix. We were wowed. Ignore Wiki-p, that's obviously a paid hatchet job.
Most US viewers, unfortunately, didn't get it. All they could think was, 'Chris Noth is wearing the world's ugliest moustache'. Which he is - but it's pure JP Morgan.
What US viewers didn't get was that this series - which portrayed life in Belfast during the building of Titanic - was a close look at Big Jim Larkin, Lord Pirrie, Winston Churchill, Edward Carson (boo), and other change-makers. Thomas Andrews comes out a real hero. NI Researchers might not be too excited: it was mostly filmed in Serbia. I thought Serbia stood in well for Belfast, myself, but that's an uninformed view.
Yes, there was a lot of manufactured lurve-story stuff, and they implied that everyone was going straight from Belfast to New York, instead of the ship's spending months in Southampton. But other than that, it had a good story to tell. My thought was that it is amazing how your perspective on the decisions made is affected by your knowledge that this ship they're sweating blood to build is going straight to Davy Jones.
Stray thought number five: I wonder if that's how God feels.
Stray thought humber six: Speaking of how God feels, the radio preacher was at it again. This week only, he'll take whatever spare change you've got in return for his 20-hour (!) CD seminar on how to pray and get what you want.
I explained to Elektra, 'He's got a system. All the kinds of prayer are catalogued. I wonder if the angels have got the memo.'
Elektra, 'They're probably rolling their eyes and saying, "Stop bothering The Boss. It makes him cross all day."'
Stray thought number seven: I'm glad to be home and dry. I refuse to worry about it all any more today.
Sufficient unto the day is the absurdity thereof.
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(42 replies, Latest reply: Last Week)
Weeding the Radishes from the Internet: Lesson from Thomas More (3 Weeks Ago)
Radical: from 'radix' = 'root'. Yeah, that's where 'radish' comes from. Going to the root of things, as far back as the 1650s.
The word's been used - radical, not radish, pay attention - since 1802 to mean extreme political change - radical reform.
In the 1970s, Tom Wolfe talked about radical chic. He accused Leonard Bernstein of it, among others. Where did you get those cool camouflage trousers? And the black beret? Radical, man. Goes with your Che poster.
The OED hasn't caught up yet - at least, according to the scholars in Toronto - but this century, we have a new word. A word I'm not fond of, as you may easily guess.
Rad-i-cal-i-za-tion. I'm spelling it American, because it IS American. And it had better not become anybody else's.
What the bejesus do they mean by this? Well, to put it simply, as far as I can tell, it means:
'Let's figure out what makes people think things we don't want them to think. Then we'll figure out how to change that.'
That used to be called advertising. Maybe we should put Don Draper in charge of Homeland Security.
Is thought the proper subject of government study and action? Well, duh. Of course! We don't want people to think bad things, now, do we?
It's not enough to motivate people to decide - say, on their own - to start wearing their seatbelts, because a) it's a good idea, and b) it's the law...how much better if we rearrange their brains so they won't want to do anything else?
First order of business: study the process of radicalization. Break it down into steps. Beware of the early stages.
Note the 'hidden dangers of non-violent extremism':
(Ha! Thought I was going to show you a white Republican, didn't you? Fooled ya.)
In other words, too much of the wrong kind of thinking is a sort of gateway drug to violent action? (Did anybody ever tell H Rap Brown that? Or Marx, for that matter?)
The Toronto specialists have identified the 'Four Stages of Radicalization', Atarting with 'pre-radicalization'.
Mind you, there's nothing wrong with wearing military fatigues - as long as it's fashion. Radical chic is not necessarily radical. ..but if you're getting in too deep, there's therapy available. Good to know.
Is anybody taking this seriously? How about the White House?
'To more effectively organize our efforts, the Administration is establishing a new Interagency Working Group to Counter Online Radicalization to Violence, chaired by the National Security Staff at the White House and involving specialists in countering violent extremism, Internet safety experts, and civil liberties and privacy practitioners from across the United States Government. '
That's shocking. The US Government has 'civil liberties and privacy practitioners'? That's like finding out that Dr Goebbels employed fact-checkers.
I think these folks would have enjoyed comparing notes with Henry VIII, Defender of the Faith. You know, the guy who beheaded Saint Sir Thomas More.
Okay, wait. You may not have heard of Saint Sir Thomas More. You can spell jihad, but do you young folks know about the headline issues that bothered us old-timers back during the Reformation?
The King promoted More to Top Dog, because back then, they shared a world-view: they both despised Martin Luther and all his works and pomps. (Long story, but vulgar, over-educated Germans got right up their noses.)
His Majesty might not be keen on Protestantism, but he really, really needed a divorce to marry his latest squeeze. So he ditched the Church and made up his own. More, inventor of the word 'utopia', had a sort of one-track mind. He forgot to change his opinions when the King did. More wasn't a fool - although his buddy Erasmus used that as his nickname, pun on the Latin 'morus', etc. More kept quiet. It didn't save him, because they KNEW what he was thinking. And he was thinking it too loudly.
Here's Thomas More's defence speech:
Those are More's words. That's not him, of course. That's some actor. He's been played by Paul Scofield, Charlton Heston, and a very serious Physics professor I once had the honour of sharing a stage with. Okay, I also had the honour of beheading him, but it wasn't for real, so that was okay.
Hey wait - is it okay? Have my ideas been radicalized? Better do a self-diagnostic. Do I wear camo? No. Whew.
In short: radicalization is a dangerous evil. It is apparently catching - like what the Nazis called 'the bacillus of democracy'. And it is spread on the internet.
In Robert Bolt's play, 'A Man for All Seasons', Thomas More says an interesting thing:
'What you have hunted me for is not my actions, but the thoughts of my heart. It is a long road you have opened. For first men will disclaim their hearts and presently they will have no hearts. God help the people whose Statesmen walk your road.'
By the way, that was almost 500 years ago.
Personally, I don't think God is going to help the people whose statesmen walk this road. Because the first stage of radicalization is praying too much - that's what the man said.
As usual, the internet is to blame. Too much thinking going on around here.
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(5 replies, Latest reply: 3 Weeks Ago)
Freebie Film Tip: Theoretical Physicists and Other Mass Murderers (3 Weeks Ago)
'Still, you don't expect to be bright and bon vivant,
So far away from home...'
I had this song from Paul Simon in my head today, and I wondered why. If you listen to the words, you might have some ideas of your own about it. For me, I think it was the line about 'I don't know a dream that's not been shattered, or driven to its knees.'
'We come on the ship they called Mayflower,
We come on the ship that sailed the moon,
We come in mankind's most uncertain hour,
And sing an American tune.'
Today's Freebie Film Tip comes to you courtesy of Youtube. In other words, it's not free, but somebody posted it, and they don't seem to care. I don't blame them: this is a wonderful, award-winning documentary from 1980, and it deserves to be better known.
Even if you think 1980 was ancient history. Even if to you, nuclear annihilation is just a quaint bogeyman of history.
A few years ago, prompted by a literary experiment we have mercifully forgotten about, I wrote an essay that you can find here: A48861732. It's really short, and I'd appreciate it if you read it. You don't have to, but I was kind of proud of it. I was trying to capture the moment when the world changed out in the desert. I've linked to the original version in the AWW, because I later changed the last sentence in response to editorial feedback, and I'd like to change it back. That's what I meant to say.
Even if you don't know or care where the nuclear weapons are now - see http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/ - you really ought to be interested in the inventors of the things.
After all, everybody's fascinated by Hannibal Lector. They want to know why he eats people. He's made up.
J Robert Oppenheimer wasn't made up. He made himself up.
The Nazis and the Imperial Japanese Army brought about the deaths of millions. When caught, the architects of those horrors were tried and executed.
The creators of the atomic bomb were lauded, mostly. Later, Oppenheimer was forced out of control of his invention by zealous anti-Communists. He was bitterly hurt, because he wanted to have a say in what happened next. But the genie wouldn't go back into the bottle.
The Los Alamos people - the finest minds in the physics world at the time - only managed to murder a couple of hundred thousand people, although they might have set a speed record (Hiroshima took about 9 seconds). Their handiwork destroyed some real estate and turned some cows' hair white.
Potentially, though, they could still be in line for posthumous prizes for 'worst scientific discovery of all time'. They could be destroyers of a world.
Here's the documentary, called 'The Day After Trinity', showing all the good times they had out in the desert:
I recommend a watch, even if you don't want to ponder atom bombs, because the original footage is interesting. You might also like the interviews with people in New Mexico who looked up one morning and noticed that 'the sun rose in the west that day'. Courtesy of an American professor in a porkpie hat.
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(22 replies, Latest reply: 19 Hours Ago)
How Shakespeare's Bacon Number Prepared Me to Write Guide Entries (3 Weeks Ago)
Elektra sent me something about yesterday's 'Shakespeare' 'anniversary', and I had to laugh.
They're still getting vituperative at each other about the whole identity question, after all these years.
To begin with: accusing other people of 'hidden agendas' for believing in a theory is a rather poor way of debunking that theory. On the other hand, it might be a good idea to ask, 'cui bono?'
The Shakespeare identity issue has always piqued my interest, ever since the early 1970s. That was when a fellow student introduced us to it. This student was working his way through university by selling the Encyclopedia Britannica. Which I couldn't afford to buy, I told him.
'That's okay,' he said. 'If you get a few friends together and listen to my pitch, I get paid.'
'I can do that, ' I said. Besides, I got a rare perk: my very own computer search. In 1973, this was a Big Deal. Computer information searches weren't available at your fingertips. They had to be ordered from somebody with a big database. The print-out was cool. So, after we all listened to the pitch, I got my search from the ones on the list: 'The Shakespeare Identity Question'. It amounted to a multi-page bibliography.
Two things came out of this:
1. Elektra was inspired to go to library school for her graduate work. Subject: computers and information.
2. I was inspired to learn about alternate theories of history.
Okay, Elektra's was more useful, I suspect.
What we learned about the Shakespeare question:
1. 'Serious scholars' started spluttering whenever the authorship question was mentioned. Could this be because they had already written a lot of books about the guy from Stratford? Hm.
2. Nobody cared much about the guy who allegedly wrote the plays, until David Garrick turned Stratford into a tourist trap.
3. As early as 1850, people were scratching their heads about the whole business.
4. About then, Mark Twain said that he had come to the conclusion that, while he didn't think Bacon wrote those plays, he was sure Shakespeare didn't. He didn't have an axe to grind, but like me, he thought it was a fun question. See his book, 'Is Shakespeare Dead?' If nothing else, you'll get a laugh out of it.
5. Different Shakespeare hobbyists had different takes on this:
a. People who supported Bacon were interested in ciphers, and made your head hurt. Their opponents once used the 'Bacon code' to 'prove' Bacon wrote the New York telephone directory.
b. Oxfordians like gossip. They can recite the whole soap opera of life in Elizabeth's court, and relate it to the plays. At least you get to read the plays. Derek Jacobi is an Oxfordian, if that's any help.
c. The Marlowe people are into spy novels. It's a fun idea, but I think they've disproven it. Marlowe was defnitely deader than a doornail before most of this stuff hit the stage.
d. The group authorship theory requires that you know a bit more about politics, and is a useful study in propaganda.
A few more factoids:
1. Shakespeare's history plays would make Goebbels blush in places. LOTS of propaganda. If you read them carefully, you can figure out whose side the playwright is on - besides the English side, natch. Makes the Tudors look better than they deserve, for one thing.
2. Just about everybody who objects to the whole authorship issue accuses ANYBODY who questions the 'sweet swan of Avon' version of...wait for it...snobbery. This is allegedly because they can't believe that just anybody could write that well without a decent education - or experience of the thing he was writing about, say foreign languages, law, theology, whatever. Whereas THEY, of course, are NOT snobs, because they know that any Englishman ever born is so naturally gifted as to be able to spout blank verse at the drop of a hat, such is the blessed quality of English country air.
3. The theorists themselves are interesting:
a. Marlowe: A man named Wilbur G Zeigler wrote an alternate history novel about Marlowe as Shakespeare in 1895. The lead Marlowe theorist was Leslie Hotson, who wrote about 1925.
b. Bacon: The first person to propose Francis Bacon was named Delia Bacon. We don't know what her Bacon number was, but she was born in a log cabin in Ohio. Here's her picture:
And yes, we think that's tinfoil under her bonnet. She once beat Edgar Allan Poe in a short-story contest, how's that for fame?
c. Gilbert Slater decided there were 'seven Shakespeares'. Me, I think this is a good argument - anyone who's performed this stuff knows the style is uneven.
d. The father of the Earl of Oxford theory was named J Thomas Looney. You have to be brave to put yourself out there with a name like that. I doff my tinfoil hat to Mr Looney. The 17th Earl of Oxford was a snappy dresser:
Want to learn more? Do NOT start with Wikipedia. Unlike my search pages of old, Wikipedia is neither scholarly nor reliable. It has been 'got to' by the Stratford cabal. Besides, as Stephen Colbert would say, all you'll find there is 'Wikiality' - the version of reality represented by random posters on Wikipedia.
Go hitchhike yourself. Figure out which theory you like.
Or make up one of your own. Who cares? The plays aren't going to go away. We'll still be arguing about them next year.
By which time, Danny Boyle will have staged a rock extravaganza version of 'Love's Labours Lost', starring Cliff Richard and the Rolling Stones - with Madonna as Jacquenetta.
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(12 replies, Latest reply: 5 Days Ago)
Animal Intelligence (4 Weeks Ago)
Human beings have a totally unjustified sense of superiority over other life forms. Smaller creatures put us to shame in their ability to figure things out and cooperate.
Take our backyard squirrels for example. They know Elektra will feed them. They have sussed out that, since the porch repairs, the porch is no longer screened in. They know not to come up when there's a cat out there.
Just now, Elektra was typing on her computer. She looked out the glass panel on the back door and said, 'Opps!'
You see, it was looking like rain this morning, and it's just cleared up. No 'noms' this morning.
One of the squirrels was peeking in the back door inquiringly...
She fed them.
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(2 replies, Latest reply: 4 Weeks Ago)
This Reminds Me of 1934 (4 Weeks Ago)
On the subject of 'terrorism'. Each generation has its stories of violence and unrest. Each set of chattering reporters put their own twist on events, embuing the perpetrators of violence with ideology. Ideology which they may or may not even know how to spell.
'As through this world you travel, you'll meet some funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.'
- Woody Guthrie, 'The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd'
Consider this list of names:
Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd (1904-1934). Shot in a corn field while being chased by the FBI.
John Herbert Dillinger (1903-1934). Shot by FBI agents outside the Biograph Theatre in Chicago. The movie was 'Manhattan Melodrama'.
Lester Joseph Gillis (Baby Face Nelson, 1908-1934). Died in gun battle in Barrington, Illinois, outside Chicago.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (1910-1934) and Clyde Chestnut Barrow (1909-1934). Shot by a posse of Texas and Louisiana lawmen in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.
1934 wasn't a good year for bank robbers.
The idea was, 'We don't negotiate with bank robbers,' I guess.
Was this ideological? Were the bank robbers motivated by issues of class warfare, economic inequity, existential panic? Or were they just disaffected young people with a propensity for violence? At any rate, their expression of whatever-it-was took the form of turning into 1930s bank robbers - because that's when they lived.
They didn't tweet 'I hate you, coppers' because there was no Twitter. But they went to the cinema. And they hoped they'd get good nicknames from the press. Nelson and Floyd loathed their monikers. Bonnie and Clyde posed romantically.
It was Guthrie who made an issue out of it. Back then, in spite of the physical danger, many people secretly sympathised with the bank robbers rather than the bank owners. Maybe modern-day terrorists should keep that in mind. Don't injure so many innocent bystanders.
Anyway, in their search for an explanation, writers and such waffle about agendas. The Guardian - and don't I love 'em? - is already worried about the Chechen agenda. Pah.
Sometimes the gun-toting renegades are merely messed up young people with an ill-defined grudge against the world.
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(9 replies, Latest reply: 4 Weeks Ago)
Vertical Cooking Technology - Will Wonders Never Cease? (4 Weeks Ago)
'The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.' - Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson, thou should'st be living at this hour. We live in an age blessed by astounding devices.
Such as the Rollie Eggmaster.
I cannot describe it. Faced with this wonder, I am as speechless as the prophet Ezekiel upon enountering a UFO. He could only babble incoherently about 'wheels within wheels'. I think you should see this marvel. Click below for the official demonstration. (And yes, it is a commercial. And yes, to see it, you will have to watch another commercial first. This is life in the 21st Century.)
We became aware of the marvellous Rollie Eggmaster last night, because Stephen Colbert, bless his little cotton socks, decided to do a product review. This performance would have been even more appreciated by us had we not been eating at the time. This product demonstration involves a live chicken. I hope you can view this where you are, I've tried to get an embedded video that will show internationally:
A few thoughts spring to mind:
- Bless you, Mr Colbert, for realising that the Boston Marathon was not a subject for jokes. (He did an opening bit in praise of Boston that was both funny and touching.) And that everybody needed a good, safe laugh right about now.
- It is obvious that Mr Colbert enjoys animals. Note Colbert petting the chicken. He doesn't limit his admiration to kitty videos.
- This device reminds me of a recipe from an Elizabethan cookbook my mom and I tried once. The recipe was called 'How to frie an egge as rounde as a balle'. It worked, for about the same reason this machine does, but it was cheaper. You still ended up with a fried egg(e) on a stick. My dad laughed at us. Fun for the feebleminded en route to the patent office.
- I will not be ordering this. i get allergic reactions to too many egges these dayes.
I do not know how Colbert got away with this. I assume it's because some fool in that company's PR department sent him a press kit. A press kit in Colbert's hands can be a weapon of mass hilarity.
The show got positively highbrow after that - Caroline Kennedy showed up, and they recited poetry at each other. Even that line about the red wheelbarrow.
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(19 replies, Latest reply: 4 Weeks Ago)
And No, I Will Not Link to This (4 Weeks Ago)
I am not prone to cynicism, but some days I feel less tolerant of the human race than others. Today is one of those days. Let me explain that.
A friend of mine once said, with a sort of gasp (she was that kind of girl), 'You know, you wouldn't hurt a fly. But you are brutally honest.' This statement had more force, since she delivered it in a cute Texas accent reminiscent of Sissy Spacek.
But it's true - and I'm about to be brutally honest. I am disgusted with the level of intelligence being displayed by the denizens of western civilisation.
What brought all this on? A 'viral' video. Meaning, 'Guys, this is SO cool, this is REALLY cool, this is so immediately, mind-bogglingly addictive a piece of information that you CAN'T not watch it. Or pass it on. I'm getting a thrill just sharing it with you, because I feel part of it ALL. I feel so CONNECTED.' Yeah, whatever.
I don't watch the particular piece of animated trash in question - correction, I would have to be forced to do so at gunpoint - so of course I didn't know that this programme had run a HILARIOUS version of the Boston Marathon a few weeks back. In this side-splitting episode, inventively titled 'Turban Cowboy' (who could resist?), the main character 'wins' the Marathon by driving over the runners with his car. Later, he is given a mobile by a terrorist, calls a number and sets off a couple of bombs.
Subtle? Naturally. Witty? Of COURSE. That's exactly what people mean by witty, isn't it? And perfectly innocent, if only Something Bad hadn't happened to make this harmless, clever humour look like, er, bad taste?
The mashups appeared on Youtube. The mashups were removed from Youtube. Copyright was protected - because it isn't about ideas, it's about money, naturally. And the creator of this oh-so-wonderful TV series calls the mashups 'abhorrent'.
Funny. 'Abhorrent' is my usual reaction to that programme.
This is not, however, the bit that would make one cynical.
Or despairing of the intelligence of the human race.
It's this: The web and Youtube have now exploded with claims that the Boston Marathon attacks were a 'false flag' operation staged by the Illuminati. I am not making this up. Google 'Boston Marathon Illuminati'. Include the name of this TV show and you'll find the programme implicated in a 'leak' of the presumed 'coverup'.
Is nothing sacred? Once upon a time, it was possible to enjoy a good conspiracy theory. The Grassy Knoll was always good for an hour of speculation. Angry astronauts punching out tinfoil-hat Moon Hoaxers made you chuckle. Following the clues in a good argument sharpened your reasoning powers far better than doing crosswords.
This just makes you cry.
Oh, go watch that dumb TV show, if you will. I can't think any less of the human race right now.
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(20 replies, Latest reply: 3 Weeks Ago)
A Bit of Background About Domestic Terrorism (5 Weeks Ago)
Just a bit of background for our British friends about what happened in Boston yesterday:
To recap: The Boston Marathon is a footrace run on Patriots' Day, which is a state holiday in Massachusetts. Patriots' Day commemorates the Battle of Lexington, which took place on 19 April 1775, and is considered the more or less official start to the US War of Independence. The race doesn't really have anything to do with Minutemen - it's just a convenient time to hold the event, which attracts more than 20,000 runners from all over the world. The East Africans usually dominate, as they did this year.
About 3 pm local time yesterday, two bombs went off at the finish line. So far, 3 people have died, and more than 170 were hospitalised, some with severe injuries. Limbs have had to be amputated. There was devastation and chaos.
The FBI, Homeland Security, the BATF, and probably just about everybody else in law enforcement is working madly on the investigation. Right now, nobody has a clue who did it. The burning question is: foreign or domestic? Al Qaeda, or those wonderful folks who brought you the Oklahoma City bombing?
Two things led me to the early thought that this was probably domestic terrorism, starting with the date.
1. Around 19 April, you worry about homegrown troublemakers. This is their favourite time to start something:
1775 - Battle of Lexington. The British try to seize an arms cache before it is stolen by rebel terrorists. The rebel terrorists collect every heavily-armed farmer in the neighbourhood - remember Paul Revere's ride? - and they chase the troops back into Boston, which is then placed under siege by the terrorists. The British garrison only get out when they're allowed to leave by boat in the direction of Quebec.
1861 - Baltimore Riot. Pro-Secessionists vs US government troops. Abraham Lincoln declares marshall law in Maryland, Francis Scott Key's grandson ends up interned in Fort McHenry, and somebody writes that awful state song to the tune of 'O Christmas Tree'.
1985 - The FBI besieges the compound of a group called 'The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord' in Arkansas. So help me, I am not making this up.
1993 - The FBI and BATF siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, ends with the deaths of 81 people.
1995 - The Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is bombed. 168 dead.
2. The injuries: As it came out last night that people had been horribly injured by shrapnel, it seemed more and more that this could be a matter of DIY destruction. In Oklahoma City, people found out how deadly fertiliser and a rental truck could be. Since then, farmers have been answering a lot of annoying questions about their manure orders.
It seems that doctors were picking ball bearings out of victims last night. Today, they're suggesting that the bombs might have been made from pressure cookers. More and more, this looks like the work of the rural US survivalist types, the kind with the strange apocalyptic scenarios and a deep-seated hatred of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Domestic terrorism in the US dates back to colonial times. A couple of ancillary ancestors of mine burned down a courthouse in North Carolina in the 18th Century. I don't know what their beef was, but they messed up historical research. The Civil War and its aftermath were complicated by do-it-yourself warriors, from Champ Ferguson's irregular cavalry - very irregular, he was later hanged for being more or less a serial killer under cover of war - to the James Brothers. They haven't been ALL right-wingers: does anybody remember the Weathermen?
No matter who committed the bombing, these people belong, in the words of my late father, 'under the jail'.
But I thought it might clear up a few things for the overseas community to get a gloss on the historical context, and why we're holding off on blaming the international crowd.
The good news - if there is any - is that if Boston was caused by homegrown terrorists, you probably have nothing to worry about in London.
They don't hate the British any more. In fact, they probably couldn't even FIND you.
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(26 replies, Latest reply: 4 Weeks Ago)
Freebie Film Tip: When the alien came to Texas (5 Weeks Ago)
This film is only a 'freebie' by virtue of being posted on Youtube. Nobody seems to have objected: it's been there since last November. It's from 1986, not a good year for film, and it's cheaply made, with laughably low production values. The special effects rival those of 'Them and the Thing', and the rest looks like it was a home movie made by re-enactors at a pioneer historical site.
So why would I suggest you spend 90 minutes watching it?
I want to tell you a bit about how I stumbled across this movie, and why we found it so moving. I suspect by the time I'm finished, you'll want to take a look at it.
The other day, I was trying to find out about early UFO sightings. Yeah, yeah, Nigel wanted something to share at the Brightling support group for alien victims of Earthling hysteria, and besides, there might be a Guide Entry in there somewhere. As it happened, I was reading about the wave of phantom airship sightings that spread across the western US in 1896-97, and got interested in studying up on the Aurora encounter.
According to a Houston newspaper, in 1897, one of these alien airships crashed into Judge Somebody's windmill and destroyed itself. The pilot - obviously an extraterrestrial - was too badly injured to survive. So the locals gave him a Christian burial. There's supposed to be a marker in the local cemetery.
Aurora's a tiny little place, and nobody thought much about it for years. But when the UFO hunters showed up, there were some who said it was true, others who claimed it was a hoax thought up by the local wit. The town was dying, and he might have wanted to drum up business.
Enter our film: 'The Aurora Encounter'. It's a heartwarming little tale, complete with elderly character actor Jack Elam as the crusty snake-oil salesman, Dottie West as the nervous widow, a bunch of cute kids, a talented dog, and an 'alien' who...but let me not get ahead of myself.
Here's the film link:
Now, Elektra and I sat down and watched this, well aware of its many flaws. Not only are the effects terrible, but the ingenue and her bf are irritating with all that 1980s attempt to reproduce 1890s protofeminism. Yeah, yeah, you run the newspaper, lady, let your bf be sheriff (that's pronounced 'shurf'), and kiss each other already. We'd rather watch the kids and old folks.
Surprisingly, the film sticks pretty close to the 'facts' as reported. And we laughed. It's funny. And we sniffled a bit at the end, it's sentimental. But most of all, we were fascinated by the 'alien'.
'That's a child,' said Elektra.
'That's got to be a small adult,' I insisted. 'Even though he doesn't speak, he's a better actor than the rest.'
So I looked up Mickey Hays. It was when I told Elektra who he was that she really burst into tears.
Mickey Hays was about, I'm not sure, twelve years old or so when he made that film. He had progeria - the mysterious and rare disease that causes rapid aging. Mickey wasn't going to live past 20, and knew it. His wish was to be in a real Hollywood movie.
He got that wish. Old Jack Elam won a friend. And we got to see the sweetest, most unselfpitying smile I have ever seen on a human face.
That, my friends, is the smile of Jesus.
Now, you want to watch this film?
PS If you'd like to see Mickey without the alien makeup, here he is at 14, along with his mother and Mr Elam:
Mickey died on his 20th birthday. Here's his obituary:
It is a cliche that people are 'inspired' by stories of those who overcome adversity. Often, it's a cheap sort of vicarious thrill. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm also not talking about the 'can-do' attitude, or thinking about others worse off than you.
I'm just saying, that young man was obviously simply an amazing person, and watching him tell a story about a visitor from another world is a privilege. Even if the fx wouldn't win any awards.
Not every movie is about 'art' or 'commercial value'. And not everyone's story is about feeding the narrative.
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( 1 reply, Latest reply: 5 Weeks Ago)
Maasai, Arkansas, and the Earth Need Help - Are We Any Use? (5 Weeks Ago)
This morning, I got up with a yawn and a sense of tutility.
'What use am I?' I thought. 'Not much at all.' I sat down with my cup of coffee to talk to a few friends on h2g2, and to check that I was up-to-date on the Post copy and PR comments. (Thanks to h5ringer for noticing my update entry!)
In my email, I passed by a letter from Avaaz.org, because frankly, they sometimes spam. But the subject line stuck in my head - note to writers, subject lines are important - so I started googling. Surely nobody was REALLY going to interfere with Maasai tribal lands? If any group of semi-nomads deserves to have their territory respected, it's them. And don't they have a democratic government over there? What gives?
I knew the Maasai hunted lions as part of a rite of passage. Just for balance, let's start with their own website:
But what's the problem? Somebody has done an excellent job of collecting all the info in a blog, so I'll link to that for you. You shouldn't have to pay for anything, sign up, or watch commercials.
The gist is that the cash-strapped government - as who isn't? - was planning to let more rich people come and shoot endangered species. This is an outrage, of course. This close to Earth Day, maybe people will notice and make threatening noises so it will stop. I hope so. There's an e-petition you can sign. It's linked to on the page.
Then it occurred to me: The Maasai were hoping we'd help get the word out - use FB, Twitter, and other online venues to discuss the issue.
h2g2 is an online venue. I'm passing this on.
So maybe I'm not totally useless to them. Even if I've never seen a lion outside a zoo. I've taken some pretty pictures of them, even had one in a show. But if I took my clumsy, shortsighted self on a lion hunt, the lion would probably eat me. Unless he couldn't be bothered. I probably wouldn't taste good.
The Maasai consider themselves stewards of this ecosystem. What they seem to be saying is that outsiders are trying to exploit it for short-term personal gain, and this is bad for the planet, its many people, and the ecosystem itself. That we should say so, loudly, before any more 'rich princes' come to shoot exotic birds from helicopters.
Do any of us have a right to go over and take a centuries-old homeland from someone else? No.
Do we all have the right to yell when the current stewards of the place threaten to destroy an irreplaceable part of the planetary heritage? Yes.
Oh, and if you're not already mad enough, somebody please fuss about Arkansas. The Exxon company has made a mess over there.
(Stephen Colbert said the clean-up crew were using techniques 'pioneered by drunk guys' - to wit, dropping a lot of paper towels around to soak up the spill.)
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(9 replies, Latest reply: 5 Weeks Ago)
Calling All Border Crossers - Tell Us About It (5 Weeks Ago)
I have an idea: Let's write a group travel story in honour of Earth Day.
See, I'm working on articles for the Post for 22 April. Which happens to be Earth Day. Create happens to be working on a month of challenge to write travel stories. I've been including some travel Stuff in each issue this month:
We started with a poem, 'Notes from a Far Country':A87789451
This week, we've got my story of travel experience, '1983: The Greatest Travel Year': A87790332
Come Sunday, you'll get to play the Travel Board Game. (It's printable, or you can flatten out your laptop.)
Look at the bottom of A87790332. tucuxii was reminded of a wonderfully hairy adventure he had at an airport.
So how about it? Earth gets travelled on. Create needs our help.
I'll write it all up in an article if you'll each contribute ONE story. A SHORT one. Really short - a paragraph or two or three.
Answer this question:
What has been your most bizarre border-crossing experience?
I will guarantee that every one of you has crossed SOME kind of border - state, city, national - in your life. And something weird or funny has happened.
Tell us about it. Then I'll make MVP give you all a badge for helping.
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(48 replies, Latest reply: 5 Weeks Ago)
A Bit About the Mad Men and Vietnam (6 Weeks Ago)
In case you're interested, the US TV series about advertising, called 'Mad Men', is back for its sixth season. It started last night with a two-episode premiere, which we thoroughly enjoyed - although I've got to figure out how to adjust the contrast on that TV screen. The last scene was so dark, we couldn't figure out who Don Draper was in bed with. It turned out to be important to the plot.
Missing things like that is why I always read the excellent recaps the day after. Lots of internet buzz about that show. Some of it the usual whingeing - particularly from ladies who are heavily invested in the relationships of characters in the show. These reviewers should enjoy the fact that Megan, Don's Canadian wife, is now in a soap opera. But this show isn't a soap opera - it's a darn good drama, like a long, slow, epic novel written by a modern-day Tolstoy and presented in dramatic form. Lots of good history, lots of depth and imagery.
In case you're watching on Sky TV, or whatever, and haven't seen it yet, I won't do any spoiler stuff. Watch if you want to know who's sleeping with whom (just brighten the screen), or who died, or who's grown a beard/moustache/sideburns/dyed their hair, etc. Fashion victims abound. It's the beginning of 1968. There are colours you had tried to forget.
What was interesting to me was the opportunity for 'Mad Men' research again.
'Mad Men', of course, are 'Madison Avenue Men'. Advertisers with a flair for analysing the hopes, fears, and dreams of the public. Don Draper is their hero - except when he isn't. (Watch it, I won't tell.)
What were they advertising this week?
Koss headphones, for one thing. This was another company's baby, and it caused a problem. Follow this link to see real 1968 adverts for Koss headphones:
The problem was ears. And thereby hangs a tale.
These days, we all know that war is hell. In 1968, some people were just finding this out, courtesy of TV. But did a comedian go on the Johnny Carson Show and tell a tasteless joke involving grisly souvenirs of war?
I never watched the Carson Show, so I didn't know. Elektra said she didn't remember. Slate.com spent a week researching this, even calling the Carson people, who said they had no copies of the tapes from back then. An archivist from the Library of Congress confirmed that on that particular night, Phyllis DIller was guest host, but they, too, had no notes on the content. One doubted it. They contacted Matthew Weiner, the show's creator and writer. He admitted that he made it up, but added that disturbing Vietnam humour DID pop up at that time, and it caused advertisers to be leery. Very leery.
Some of the humour was pretty edgy:
Note the last joke - a headline stating 'Congress passes Civil Rights Bill - for Rhodesia.' In case you didn't know, that's Zimbabwe.
I occurred to me that 'Mad Men' is a great history lesson for those not around back then. This particular episode takes place between Christmas and New Year's Eve 1967. Here's a TV news report from 1969, when the war was still going on.
This one's tame and political - no bodies. Sometimes, though, you got more truth than you wanted:
In the opening episode, Don Draper meets a US soldier on leave from Vietnam. The soldier has a Zippo lighter that is inscribed, 'In life, we often have to do things that just are not our bag.' It's a real thing: one researcher found one on eBay:
So it's good history. Well, it's a terrible history, but it's pretty much what happened. If you were there, - I was in high school, and yes, we had arguments about Vietnam, and whether we'd go, etc - you relive it.
If you weren't, it beats a lot of other ways to learn.
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Freebie Film and Book Tip: Frederik Pohl and the BBC, Too (Apr 6, 2013)
Do you enjoy science fiction? I do, rather a lot. (NOT fantasy.)
Especially classic science fiction, like the works of Frederik Pohl.
In 1954, Pohl wrote a bang-up short story called 'The Tunnel Under the World'. You may be familiar with it. It's been anthologised a lot.
Today, I was re-reading this gem of a story, admiring the work, when I happened across the information that the BBC had filmed 'Tunnel' in 1966, as part of their "Out of the Unknown' series. Somebody at imdb claimed they had wiped the tape, which will teach you not to believe everything you read on imdb.
I found it on Youtube:
At first, I was put off by the re-setting of the story in the UK. And by those RADA accents. ('Heouw dooo 'ooo doo?') But then they started nattering on about Feckle Freezers, and I was hooked.
'Feckle, Feckle, Feckle, Feckle...' is one of the great lines of science fiction. Enjoy, if you haven't seen this.
If you'd like to read the original tale, here's the link:
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(2 replies, Latest reply: 6 Weeks Ago)
All the News That Isn't (Apr 6, 2013)
I suppose that as a Guide Editor, I should be interested in the world around me. I should keep up with the news, I really should. But it's hard. For one thing, I have very little interest in most of it. For another, the 'news' sources around here seem to be so random, I get better information from the Colbert Report. And he's a comic.
I just spent a few minutes being entertained by the story 'Movie sparks flight incident'. It seems a couple on a flight to Baltimore asked quite civilly to have the monitor above their heads turned off, because the in-flight movie was inappropriately violent for their 4- and 8-year-old. They know their kids, and that should be their right. Even though the other passengers backed them up, the flight attendants refused to do this. (THey probably didn't know how.)
Although no voices were raised, this act of rebellion seems to have upset the pilot, who diverted the plane to O'Hare (Chicago) and called the FBI. According to the letter the family wrote the airline:
'The captain, apparently, felt that our complaint constituted grave danger to the aircraft, crew and the other passengers, and that this danger justified inconveniencing his crew, a few of whom "timed out" during the diversion, and a full plane of your customers, causing dozens of them to miss their connections, wasting time, precious jet fuel, and adding to United's carbon footprint. Not to mention unnecessarily involving several of Chicago's finest, two Border Protection officers and several United and ORD managers, and an FBI agent, who all met us at the gate.'
What do I learn from this? That people are being just as silly as I expect of them.
Trying to keep up with all this 'news' is really hard, folks. The 'news portal' - aka Yahoo - insists that I want to know the following Top Ten Stories. I don't even know who most of these people ARE. Or why I should care.
1. Robert Remini dies. I have no idea who this person was. Interesting name.
2. Worst Company in A.... I'm assuming 'America'. Do I want to know? I do not.
3. Mike Tyson wife lawsuit. At least I know who this guy is. I do not care why his wife is involved in a lawsuit.
4. Megan Fox redhead. Who? I am so ignorant, this lady's name does not ring a bell. But even if it did, I fail to see why I should care about her hair colour. If the President's wife dyed her hair red, I might find this decision questionable, but unworthy of discussing. Whatever happened to 'only her hairdresser knows for sure'? Please.
5. Snipes released. At first, I thought it said 'Snopes'. Who's Snipes? Do I care? Is is a strange animal? Is releasing it like re-introducing it to the wild? Or is it another criminal type?
6. 2 dead at day care.. This sounds sad - it might actually be news, too.
7. Fidel Castro North K... I'm assuming the Cuban leader is talking to/about North Korea. He might have something to say. Then again, it might just be the news people stirring the pot.
8. Second horse dies. Okay, this is getting ridiculous. I didn't know the first horse died. It reminds me of an awful short story we used to have to teach German students of English. That story was called, 'The Dog Died First'.
9. Jessica Alba. Again, I am clueless. Is she the daughter of Quintus Sertorius?
10. Biden salary. At last - someone I can identify. At least, I'm assuming they're talking about the VP. Dollars to doughnuts somebody's going to tell us he's overpaid. No surprise, there.
I'm sure you all know who these people are - except for Cactuscafe, who will be able to tell me if one of these people is a performance artist. You're so much better informed than I am. You probably even have opinions.
I dunno. I suppose if it's really important, Colbert will make a joke about it.
After all, thanks to Colbert, I know that the National Institutes of Health are trying to map the human brain. He put on a funny hat and showed me:
I was grateful. It showed how much progress they've made since the early 1960s. That was when I was eight, and had to have an EEG. The nurse told me it was a 'brain-wave test'. They glued electrodes all over my head. I thought they were going to watch my dreams on TV, and hoped I was entertaining.
I would like to have had one of those cool hats instead. Even though Elektra chortled, 'No! Not the Mind Probe!'
See? Yahoo.com should be so interesting.
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(12 replies, Latest reply: Apr 6, 2013)
Freebie Film Tip: Strange Goings-On in Carolina, Clyde Edgerton Style (Apr 4, 2013)
Warning: This is a three-handkerchief movie. But it's great.
I was considering recommending to someone that they read Clyde Edgerton's novel, 'Walking Across Egypt'. It begins with an old lday getting stuck in a chair when the bottom falls out of it.
Clyde Edgerton is a superior brand of novelist from North Carolina. Not everybody who's worth reading is on the syllabus.
I found the film, which we've just watched on Youtube. You WILL need tissues. Even if you're tough.
Why should you watch this film?
- It tackles social issues in an uncompromising but often funny manner.
- It's comprehensible, but gives an inside look at rural Southern US culture. (Note to Florida Sailor: I was suspicious of the landscape, too. It's supposed to be North Carolina. It was filmed near Orlando, Florida. Talk about pine trash in the gutter, then show that red soil, hmpf.)
- It has Mark Hamill in. Star Wars fans, don't get excited. He lives in a caravan and works for Animal Control. Not as glamorous as following the Force.
- For fans of old movies, it has Gwen Verdon in. She used to be a glamorous dancer. Now she's a nosy elderly neighbour.
- It will make you laugh and cry.
If you're worried about the religious content, don't be. Edgerton doesn't leave a hair on church people. His first novel, 'Raney', got him run off his job at a Baptist college. He teaches at university now. In the film, note the definition Edgerton gives one of the characters for 'secular humanism'. The bit about them climbing in windows at night and 'doing secular things' to you just about got me.
In other words, I think you'd enjoy this film.
Now we're going to watch the other film based on one of his novels, 'Killer Diller'. Even though it's in pieces on Youtube, starting here:
I'm expecting more fun, because that is another great book.
If you like blues, you'll probably like this one. In the book, he claims Wesley writes a blues song called 'Jesus Dropped the Charges'. I hope they ding that one.
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(10 replies, Latest reply: 5 Weeks Ago)
100 Best Websites - and We're One! (Apr 4, 2013)
Be proud, be very proud - h2g2 has been named one of the 100 websites worthy of saving for posterity.
The British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin are archiving all the most important UK sites that will 'be essential reading for future generations researching our life and times in 2013'.
Click on the list:
Note that we are there. They say nice things about us, too.
Good work, everybody! You're making content for the ages.
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(7 replies, Latest reply: Apr 4, 2013)
Signs of Spring: Warm Days, Corn in the Supermarket, and Yoghurt Adverts (Apr 2, 2013)
The quotation marks are driving me crazy again.
'Dangerous' Inmates Escape from Texas Jail.
Are they really dangerous? Yep, these dudes are a hazard. But they got the quotation marks. Even though the subheader says 'Entire town on lockdown.' Bah!
Woman Quits 9-t0-5 Job to Become Full-Time Mermaid
Is this woman REALLY a mermaid? In spite of the Discovery Channel, there are no such things as mermaids. Even Nigel doesn't believe in them. Besides, that 'tail' cost $15,000. It's still not a real tail. Hmpf.
I don't want to know what happened on 'Klum's vacation'. Even though I'm bilingual, Klum is a funny name.
The sun is shining in my neighbourhood. It's warm and beautiful out there. There's a dogwood blooming - I can see it from the back door. I drove to the supermarket in a cardigan. I turned on the A/C in the car. Gloat.
The nice weather is infectious. The man in the Petco wasn't busy, and without asking, he went out to the car with us and loaded the 33 pounds of cat litter and other bags of animal requisites. I don' t think it was because we looked particularly decrepit - that's Southern dialect for 'old' - but because the outdoors was so inviting. He told us he was so glad his mom had just moved out of Cleveland - which is covered in snow again. I commiserated by telling him I'd grown up in Pittsburgh. He chuckled and said they always wished the snow on those Steelers fans.
Superbullseye was full of post-Easter shoppers. Prices were lower, for a change, and we had a coupon, so we made out like bandits, as they say in Philadelphia. Bargains and some fresh corn - that's 'maize' to you Europeans. First appearance of the fresh roastin' ears since last fall. I don't know who managed to grow them, though.
Speaking of Europeans, there's a really funny TV ad over here for yoghurt with fruit in. By the Müller people, who make a yoghurt called 'FrütUp'.
Here's the ad:
I'm worried that not very many people in the US - whether they speak a form of English, Spanish, or Korean - are really sure there isn't a language called 'European'. Which probably has umlauts. I'm also not sure why the narrator has a Transylvanian accent, unless the idea is that Count Dracula is the most famous European they know.
But this FrütUp stuff reminds me of the Wimpy's in the Hohe Strasse in Köln. There was this really bossy waitress there who used to drive all the foreign teachers nuts.
One day, I ordered 'Fruchtjoghurt'.
'Haben wir nicht.' I pointed to the menu. We ate there all the time.
'Ach, das ist 'Joghurt mit Früchten'.' She looked stern.
'Na, gut, bringen Sie mir Joghurt. Mit Früchten. Bitte.' I got my yoghurt. With fruits. But not fruit yoghurt. We managed to wait until she left the area before laughing like the foreign hyenas we all were.
Looks like Köln was nice yesterday.
I'll bet they enjoyed the music. I wonder if they can buy FrütUp. Probably don't have it at the Wimpy's.
I'm beginning to lose touch with reality again...which might have something to do with that radio preacher I hear every week when we go shopping. He had a theory about the 'blood of Christ' - I don't think he used the quotation marks, though - that I've never heard before. I muttered, 'Which MMO do you live in, buster?' But I won't bore you with theology. Just yoghurt.
Enjoy your evening. Or, 'enjoy' your 'evening', whichever you prefer.
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(12 replies, Latest reply: Apr 3, 2013)
Free Web Reading: Intellectual History and Gay Gossip (Mar 30, 2013)
Possible fun reading, as the US Supreme Court hears debates on gay marriage. (This should be a no-brainer, but hey, it's the US.)
Elektra and I got to discussing the idea of 'Boston marriage', and the fact that Abraham Lincoln was aware of the possibility. Then I got to reading various people arguing about just how many of our presidents were gay - they're only 100% sure about James Buchanan, I think, though there are lingering questions about Washington, Lincoln, and a few others. I'd say it's a safe bet that Jimmy Carter's not gay, but he supports gay rights, because he's got a brain.
Anyhow. While idly noodling around, I found a collection called 'My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries', which I thought you might find interesting.
You might not want to read the letters - depends on how much you like to read other people's love letters - but just look at the couples listed.
If you're like me, you'll open your eyes at a few of the names. Hans Christian Andersen and The Hereditary Grand-Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach? Who knew?
Yeah, yeah. Walt Whitman and this guy and that guy, old news.
Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne - well, duh. But Anselm of Canterbury and the Archibishop of Rochester? Cool.
By the way, Melville wrote Hawthorne,'I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb. . . .' He shouldn't have. That book has caused more than one innocent student nearly to die of boredom. Okay, it IS a pretty good joke that the US of A, which has banned just about everything from its school libraries at one time or another, hardly ever objected to 'Moby Dick'. Okay, some school board in Texas got around to banning it in 1996 on the grounds that it conflicted with 'community values'. Elektra says maybe they didn't approve of whaling. But that is the most boring book in the universe.
Thomas Gray and Charles-Victor de Bonstetten? Johannes von Mueller and Charles-Victor de Bonstetten? Charles-Victor was a heartbreaker, it seems. (I think they said something about Apollo...he could have made a fortune in the cinema...)
Johann Joachim Winckelmann and Reinhold von Berg? No kidding. This makes sense, really - Winckelmann was this great art historian. He said, 'those who are observant of beauty only in women, and are moved little or not at all by the beauty of men, seldom have an impartial, vital, inborn instinct for beauty in art.' To which Elektra replied, 'In other words, if you're not gay, you don't get it?'
Anyway, since I know that some of my friends who read this journal would enjoy this information as much as I do, here is the link:
My only regret is that they're all in English translation. I'd like to read some of them in the original.
Now, what was that about the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Marcus Cornelius Fronto? I don't remember that in the Russell Crowe movie...
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(24 replies, Latest reply: Apr 2, 2013)
Freebie Film Tip: An Intellectual Cat (with subtitles) (Mar 29, 2013)
DISCLAIMER: I am not in league with this cat food company. I do not endorse their products. My vet has prescribed a different - and much more expensive, naturally - brand of healthy cat food, which our cats enjoy while they stay trim. What I'm about to recommend is that you watch these fancy cat food commercials...
because they're ART.
It helps if you speak French, but there are useful subtitles, just like in the Art Cinema.
And now, without further ado, 'Henri Le Chat Noir':
This cat has dignity. It is intellectual. It ratiocinates elegantly. It quotes Camus and Montaigne - and tells it like it is.
I really recommend No 4, 'L'Haunting'. Profound thoughts, or pensees profondes, on the subject of Halloween. Tres existentialistes, these pensees.
I defy you not to fall in love with this cat. He might make you want to re-read Camus. Or buy nicer cat food.
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(8 replies, Latest reply: Mar 31, 2013)
What's on the Web? Photogenic Soldiers and Princess Bride Awards (Mar 27, 2013)
In the search for knowledge and enlightenment, one finds the funniest things on the web.
Today, trying to chase down a story about world politics, I stumbled across the editors' blogs in 'Foreign Policy'. Wow. These fellas are articulate, well-informed, and possess an admirable sense of humour. I don't know how they do it.
I found my item. Then I was seduced by the following bits in their backlog, thanks to their version of the Infinite Improbability Drive:
Ridiculously photogenic Syrian soldier: There are memes out there not dreamt of on the Cheezburger site.
Taliban accidnetally CCs everybody on its mailing list. Calling this faux pas 'Dilbert-esque' is sort of mind-blowing.
Bin Laden's porn has been found. Unfortunately, there are few details as to content.
Is Norway a badly-behaved, low-quality country? Lutefisk jokes at the expense of China.
Apparently, the editors of 'Foreign Policy' give out ironic 'Vizzini Awards'. I could tell they were being ironic, but I wasn't sure about what. It turns out I know the wrong set of memes. (Again.)
The 'award' is given for misusing a common word - for example, someone gave it to the 'Jerusalem Post' one week for its use of the word 'hypocrisy'.
I was really puzzled as to why they were dissing a young people's author. It turns out the Vizzini they are referring to is a colourful character played by Wallace Shawn in the cult film 'The Princess Bride'. I watched that film once, under duress, but don't remember that much of it. But okay, the idea is humorous.
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A Concert for Holy Week - With Clowns In (Mar 26, 2013)
I remember when I started college, which is what we call going to university. Since our campus was in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, we were within walking distance of a number of churches. The Presbyterians were across the street from the dormitories in an old-fashioned building, while the Catholics were right up Fifth Avenue - St Paul, it's kind of pretty:
The Greeks were only a couple of blocks away. They sold Greek food on Fridays, and boy, was it good. If you were up to walking, you could go get fresh bread once a week from the Ukrainians. If you wanted a synagogue, you'd have to walk a little farther, but there were several. They didn't have Holy Week, but they had Passover, usually close to the same time. We even had a Baptist church, if we took the bus, and the folks from the mostly African American Christian Tabernacle would gladly come pick you up with a van.
So, come Holy Week, you were spoiled for choice for musical services.
I never knew you called it Holy Week. We didn't. I never thought about it much until a Laotian child asked me, once, 'Why do they call it Good Friday? It wasn't very good.' Excellent point. But the first year I lived in Oakland, I found out that there were things called 'holy days of obligation', and there was something called Easter Duty, which Elektra and her friends were supposed to do, so I trooped along to the Cathedral of St Paul and inhaled incense. Why not? I also went to hear the Maharishi, but I thought he was rather conceited, and I offended his acolytes by refusing the offer of a blessed banana. Well.
Anyhow, I promised a concert. My point is that just about everybody in Pittsburgh did something, made music about something, or celebrated something around Easter time. And we tended to be inspired by this.
John-Michael Tebelak was inspired by exactly this religious variety in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the spring before I started school there. Tebelak, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, attended the Easter vigil service in 1970 at St Paul Cathedral. He went over the way most of us did back then - wearing just any old thing, you know students. He had on overalls and a T-shirt. After the service, a cop frisked him for drugs. This upset him - and changed the direction of his master's thesis.
That, my children, is how we got the musical 'Godspell'. Tebelak eventually worked with composer Stephen Schwartz, another CMU alum, to turn the musical into what it is today. It's still popular, so we have a lot of versions to choose from. We can take a selection of different performances for the songs.
So, here's the concert:
1. First, a relatively new stage performance of the opening, 'Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord'. (That's quoting Isaiah.) The original had a lot of foofarah about phlosophers in it, because, well, it was 1970, and Nietzsche was having a big year.
2. Save the People:
3. Day by Day, in the Times Square flash-mob version:
4. All Good Gifts, with pretty pictures:
1. Turn Back, O Man. (Only because Elektra loves this one.) Apparently, Rhianna Pfannenstiel is a real name, but does she know German?
2. We Beseech Thee (Be patient with the dumb ad, it's the original movie. Victor Garber and those hippies.)
3. On the Willows, as imagined by high school kids in Texas. You get the feeling they were really into it.
4. Crucifixion. Everybody does this musical - Catholics, Protestants, amateurs, professionals. Which to choose? Let's take this stage version:
5. Just for lagniappe, the cast of the 1972 stage production singing their version of 'Day By Day'. You may find it dated, but hey - that's what John-Michael Tebelak imagined back in 1970, and he's not around to update it.
No matter where you go this Holy Week - and whether you consider it particularly holy or not (please don't tell me if you don't, I don't want to hear it, and I adhere to the notion that all times are holy) - I hope you find good music. And no matter how you're dressed, I hope they don't frisk you.
After all, Ford Prefect always had a copy of this musical with him, along with his .
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(13 replies, Latest reply: Mar 28, 2013)
Who Is Talking About Us, and Why? (Mar 25, 2013)
Have you ever wondered what the World Wide Web thinks of us?
Would you believe, they think we're Cloud Cuckoolanders (okay, well, 2legs, anyway, who is referred to as 'Resident Loon') and that we're a mostly-British Cargo Cult?
At least, TV Tropes seems to think so:
Check it out. I would like to know which of youze guys wrote that.
Nice to know we're talked about.
On the other hand, our entry in the urban dictionary needs updating:
It says 'BBC'.
Check out the one for nighthoover:
At least we're not 'mostly harmless'.
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(49 replies, Latest reply: Mar 26, 2013)
Five Cures for the Rainy-Day Blues (Mar 24, 2013)
Today, it has been raining, cold, and miserable all day in North Carolina.
From what the Prof tells me, it's either rainy or snowy, cold, and miserable in the UK.
This is no way for the weather to be behaving on Palm Sunday. I understand some people in the US are considering suing the official Ground Hog, because he promised an early spring.
I've personally been working a lot today - the FP, the Post, next week's Post, etc - and round about afternoon coffee time, I realised I was tired, depressed, and generally grumpy. Other than Elektra and one cat (the other one's grumpy, too), nobody's said anything nice to me today except for the Post Staff.
The Post Staff are always nice. Mags and I had a good time hunting ducks this morning. (My morning, her afternoon.)
So, just in case everybody else is feeling as out of sorts as I am here's a list.
FIVE THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU'RE FEELING MISERABLE:
1. Read PR. There are some good new entries. I recommend the on on 'Wollemia nobilis, the Wollemi Pine - A87789163', which is about a prehistoric tree that's still around. How cool is that? Of course, we've got 'Star Wars' and sci-fi babies, too. (Thanks, Bluebottle!)
2. Watch old TV shows. I have a recommendation here. We've been watching an old series I liked called 'Reasonable Doubts', from the early 90s. It's available on Youtube, if you're patient with hunting out the segments and don't mind subtitles in Brazilian Portuguese. (I don't, I can learn as I watch.) The first episode starts at:
The plot is about a tough-guy investigator - Mark Harmon, for you ladies - who assists an Assistant District Attorney, played by the wonderful Marlee Matlin. Half the dialogue is in sign language, but you'll have no trouble understanding. They translate. Marlee Matlin is, well, amazing.
3. Read more of 'A Tramp Abroad' by Mark Twain. You can find it here:
Format of your choice. Beware: I have stolen one of his pictures for an upcoming issue of the Post. I recommend that you read about the French duel. Twain will cheer you right up.
4. Recall the dreams you had last night, and speculate. One of mine was pretty interesting.
Dream: I had been rehearsing for months for what I thought was a one-man show. In it, I portrayed a foul-mouthed character who spoke in Lowland Scots. This had required a lot of dialect coaching and the help of Kenneth Branagh, the director, who was most encouraging. The night before the dress rehearsal, I had a problem, though: I was trying to talk my parents out of attending, because what part of the dialogue was likely to be comprehensible was unlikely to be edifying. My mom inisisted that they would attend, however. (It was nice to see them in a dream, though, as I miss them both since they've passed on.)
The second problem was even worse: I found out that I wasn't the only one in the play. I was just the main character, groan, and all the other players were native Scots speakers. I was afraid I would disgrace them, but they assured me that I sounded completely authentic, although I found this hard to believe. So off I went to make-up....
Okay, weird. Mulling this over with Dr Freud. I think it was telling me that even if I don't know what I'm doing, somebody does.
5. Read the Post. Or re-read it. Do a Youtube search for all the songs listed in the Post Quiz this week. Listen to that one that's linked, and imagine being in a nicer place, like the Bright Angel trail.
Ah, that's better. Thank you, Susan. You always make me feel welcome.
I hope you all felt welcome wherever you went today, and that you're in a better mood than I am - but in case you're not, I hope one or two of these suggestions helped.
Oh, well. Tomorrow's another day.
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(15 replies, Latest reply: Mar 30, 2013)