Take back your poils

Language goes viral vaster than any video. Only days ago I first heard a term -- maybe it lay doggo a long time before suddenly beginning to multiply -- that now I hear again from Emily Bazelon at Slate: "In all the pearl clutching about college-age men and women getting drunk and getting laid, we’re missing the fact that for lots of young people in the U.S., college isn’t one big party." "Pearl clutching" -- is this new, old, just made up, inherited? It's funny and right, and will be welcome -- until about 40000th iteration. Then it will go where Saturn keeps the years (note formerly viral tagline).


Note from a rather touching NY Times story about a man who defined his pursuit of money as wealth addiction:  "Dozens of different types of 12-step support groups — including Clutterers Anonymous and On-Line Gamers Anonymous — exist to help addicts of various types, yet there is no Wealth Addicts Anonymous. "

We know well those AA meetings in church basements or the like, folding chairs, flourescent lights and a coffee urn.  Wonder what a support group meeting for wealth addicts would be like?

The article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/opinion/sunday/for-the-love-of-money.html?ref=opinion

Jan. 4th, 2014

The beloved column/site News of the Weird has a category of weird events they call "Not Clear on the Concept."  Here's a nice example in writing -- this taken from the NY Times article about Urban Dictionary http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/technology/a-lexicon-of-the-internet-updated-by-its-users.html :

Because Urban Dictionary allows people to add multiple definitions to each entry, questionable entries include follow-ups that offer perspectives on why those words are not acceptable.
For example, the definition for a word describing people with cognitive challenges and difficulties includes the sentence, "People who choose to make fun of the mental retarded tend to be complete morons and cannot comprehend that these people have feelings and emotions just like anyone else."

Our Own Little People

ANy mythographers or ethnographers reading?  I have just learned that American Indian people across the entire continent have stories and legends about a race of little people living around them.  My ignorance of Indian myth and legend is nearly total so it is no surprise I should be surprised.  But what amazed me is how the Indian stories and accounts of these people match with great exactness what might be called the etholology of the European little people -- elves, fairies, leprechauns.  They stand about knee-high, mostly; they live in deep forests or in mountain caves; they can't be seen when looked at directly, but with patience they can be made visible.  If they want not to be seen they can point a finger at you and cause you to be unable to percieve them, or root you to the spot while they escape.  Leaving gifts of food or tobacco for them will bring you their help. Some are truculent, stone-throwers who move great stones around the territory. You must speak of them with respect or they will play tricks on you, and not speak of them at all in the summer when they are often about.  In one story at least, a poor boy who helps them is taken by the little people to their land (he shrinks to their size when he enters their little canoe) and when he returns after a couple of days he finds that many years have passed.

Canit be that these stories are affected by European versions learned later by Indian story-tellers?  I can see where any people might think up the idea of very small humans, but is that enough to generate all the other notions about them?  (We don't see them commonly, so they must have a way of remaining invisible, etc.).  It's enough to tempt me to think that once we did have small companion species, back before the Indians came to the Americas, and that the stories are part of a world story. I mean I'm tempted, you know, not like convinced.

ANyone know these legends and can give me thoughts?  References?

Nov. 30th, 2013

Here's a challenge. I n rooting through several differnet wooden cases of inherited family silver for table-settings at Thanksgiviing, we came upon a number of items whose use we didn't know (and in some cases couldn't imagine). They are shown below. How many do you know? Any?  (PS:  "A" is not damaged or melted. The cross on "D" is a cutout.)

Real Science

An NY Times  article called "The Ways of L:ust" purports to relay analyses of how viewing naked or "sexualized" imgaes of people (women, almost entirely) reduces the apprehension of them as full persons, and possibly therefore lowering our apprehension of actrual persons (as opposed to images.)


Here's one paragraph;

"This idea has some laboratory support. Studies have found that viewing people’s bodies, as opposed to their faces, makes us judge those people as less intelligent, less ambitious, less competent and less likable. One neuroimaging experiment found that, for men, viewing pictures of sexualized women induced lowered activity in brain regions associated with thinking about other people’s minds."

The second sentence is an equivocation -- people and images of people (at least I assume that the "studies" were of people viewing images not bodies). The last sentence is...precious.  WHo could have guessed this result in advance?

Too sweet not to share

...though you've likey read it.  Sarah Palin to Matt Lauer on what the alternative to the ACA should include:

“The plan is to allow those things that have been proposed over many years to reform a health care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there’s more competition, there’s less tort-reform threat, there’s less trajectory of the cost increases. And those plans have been proposed over and over. And what thwarts those plans? It’s the far left.”

I thought the Republicans were largely FOR tort reform.  And I love the notion of less trajectory.


Almost 50 replies to the AI poll -- thanks to all -- I assume a few more will come in --  I answered some but not all, but all are very welcome.  The request arises from the possibility offered at Yale to co-teach a course in both reading and writing SF.  After consultation the co-teacher and I agreed we ought to limit the subject to something manageable and chose AI.  We both had read many of the same books and each of us some the other had not (he more well-read than me, no surprise), and we wanted to survey the field to find some good things beyond the usual suspects (though Androids/Sheep and Neuromancer were on both our preliminary lists.) I of course knew where to go.  Your contributions vastly elnlarge the pool, and I have some reading to do.

Artificially intelligent

A new query for you well-read folk.  What works of fiction short or long, new or old, about artificial intelligence (broadly construed) do you most admire, amused/alarmed you, gave reason to think, convinced?   AI could in this instance include machine-enhanced human imteligence; conscious (ar apparently conscious) non-human-shaped machines, androids, human-shaped robots.  The limit might be that whatever it is  be human-engineered, but even that is tentative.   

Kick 'em right in the...

Coriolanus last night, on Netflix.  I truly love modernized Shakespeare productions; I love to see the lengths they go to to adapt the text to a contemporary environment, what they can put on TV news shows and Skype, how they can use an old word to mean a new thing (like the pistols brand-named Sword in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, allowing the Duke to say "Put up your swords" without silliness.)  Coriolanus is mightily stripped of text, but what remains is really powerfully done.  The war in a seeming Balkan environment is highly realistic (except of course for the commanders personally duking it out with knives) and potent as criticism of heroic manly courage and its consequences -- more than Shakespeare intended, I'd say, who was more conflicted about the values of heroism vs. its destructiveness than we are able to be.  But Fiennes was great, the political scenes were splendidly managed (lots of TV talk-show things) -- though Menenius lost his big speech about the stomach and the body.  The greatest thing though was Vanessa Redgrave as Volumnia:  she was, literally, awesome (yes I mean both words).  She also gets the best scenes and the best lines:  "I would the gods had nothing else to do/But to confirm my curses!"  And whnw Menenius tries to get her to go away and sup with him: "Anger's my meat; I sup upon myself/And so shall starve with feeding."  You've never heard that line till you hear her say it.