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[Comments] (2) : Jake Berendes says: "i still give your name when people who don't need to know my name ask me for my name." I still reciprocate, but when I do it, it doesn't end up in the college newspaper.

: When we were walking around Cambridge Sumana mentioned a story she'd read in school as a kid, which (as she discovered tonight) turned out to be a kids' adaptation of this story: Turtle Eggs for Agassiz, published in 1910. The madcap adventure of a man trying to get some fresh turtle eggs to Louis Agassiz's house for dissection. Definitely worth reading.

Reviews Of Old Science Fiction Magazines Special: Looking at my bookshelf I see that I've read about half of the old science fiction magazines I got back in May 2008, even though I didn't review all of them. So here is a bonus middle-of-the-project review of a book my mother gave me for my birthday in 2001 but which I never read until today.

It's The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Eighth Series, published in 1959 (not 1957, as I said earlier). It's a best-of anthology from F&SF, edited by founding editor Anthony Boucher, and it's full of big names. And sexism.

Both the big names and the sexism are front-loaded. Here are capsule reviews of all the big stories in the anthology. There are some tiny stories and poems as well, but they're generally only as short as they need to be to convey a horrible pun, so I'm not gonna review them.

In general, the best stories are by the non-big names.

Grant, Grant, Grant: Aha! I found the Grant story mentioned in the previous entry, by searching for "General Grant" on Project Gutenberg. It's from Donald Ogden Stewart's 1921 "A Parody Outline of History", featuring vignettes from American history "as they would be narrated by America's most characteristic contemporary authors."

"How Love Came to General Grant" parodies the self-bowlderizing style of Harold Bell Wright. This HBW website says that "readers quickly recognize which characters are intended to be models for good behavior, and which are symbols of evil," as you can tell from scrupulously accurate passages like this:

"Madam," said he, turning to Mrs. van der Griff, "Am I to understand that there is liquor in those glasses?"

"Why yes, General," said the hostess smiling uneasily. "It is just a little champagne wine."

"Madam," said the general, "It may be 'just champagne wine' to you, but 'just champagne wine' has ruined many a poor fellow and to me all alcoholic beverages are an abomination. I cannot consent, madam, to remain under your roof if they are to be served. I have never taken a drop--I have tried to stamp it out of the army, and I owe it to my soldiers to decline to be a guest at a house where wine and liquor are served."

Wright and half of the other parodied authors are completely forgotten today, but the parodies are still funny, because they parody types of writing that are recognizable and/or immortal. Here's the beginning of the first chapter. Who cares who it's parodying, it's hilarious:

On a memorable evening in the year 1904 I witnessed the opening performance of Maude Adams in "Peter Pan". Nothing in the world can describe the tremendous enthusiasm of that night! I shall never forget the moment when Peter came to the front of the stage and asked the audience if we believed in fairies. I am happy to say that I was actually the first to respond. Leaping at once out of my seat, I shouted "Yes--Yes!" To my intense pleasure the whole house almost instantly followed my example, with the exception of one man. This man was sitting directly in front of me. His lack of enthusiasm was to me incredible. I pounded him on the back and shouted, "Great God, man, are you alive! Wake up! Hurrah for the fairies! Hurrah!" Finally he uttered a rather feeble "Hurrah!" Childe Roland to the dark tower came.

That was my first meeting with that admirable statesman Woodrow Wilson, and I am happy to state that from that night we became firm friends...

The non-forgotten authors include F. Scott Fitzgerald and Eugene O'Neill. I still have no idea how I came to read the Grant vignette from this book in the first place.

[Comments] (1) Links of Fun:

[Comments] (1) : Fans of The Future: A Retrospective will remember that I was really taken by the idea of a model train set in a briefcase. The same organ was tickled by this mini LEGO castle inside a wooden chest.

In other news, the 2009 IF Competition games are released, including "Earl Grey", a crazy game co-written by Adam Parrish and beta-tested by yours truly.

: I woke up this morning wondering: lots of movies have been remade, but how many of those original movies were themselves sequels? That is, you make movie A, you make a sequel, A II, and then you remake A II, regardless of whether you'd remade A.

IMDB says there are four movies meeting this easy-to-state-but-difficult-to-state-precisely criteria: the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, "The Ring Two", "Shankardada Zindabad" (a Telugu film featuring a hallucinated Gandhi), and the forthcoming remake of "An American Werewolf in Paris". I know Rob Zombie made a sequel to his remake of "Halloween", but I don't know whether it can be considered a remake of the original "Halloween II".

[Comments] (2) : I have a nephew! (No pictures of the nephew yet.) Update: pictures!


me: oh, i forgot to tell you that michael bloomberg was at the farmer's market on saturday
Sumana: did you see him?
me: no, but i saw a big blob of campaign staff and new yorkers surrounding a slowly moving point

[Comments] (6) The Trouble With Scribbles: On Monday, Adam Parrish came over and we recorded a conversation about Scribblenauts, the video game that's sweeping the nation with a large cartoon broom. (For the uninitiated, this Penny Arcade should do the trick.) We focused on 1) topics in game design, 2) silliness. I cut the long, long conversation down to 45 minutes and the result is "The Trouble With Scribbles", the latest in the irregular series of crummy.com non-podcasts. Thrill! As we:

Plus: complaining, and pterodactyls with ropes attached to them. Includes spoilers for Scribblenauts and Nethack.

We also talked a little about Adam's entry in the IF competition, but I cut it out because competitors are still embargoed from talking about their games. I'll post it separately later.

Errata: 1. In vanilla Nethack you can't sharpen a weapon on a flint stone. There are also no creatures who can eat rock, so the code I mentioned never gets executed. 2. In Scribblenauts, you can get a generic fish-as-food by typing "fish"--but no human will eat it. 3. "Machinima" is pronounced with a soft "ch" and a long "e". 4. Nobelium's half-life depends on the isotope, but they're all pretty short. 5. There's a Scribblenauts level where the Penny Arcade trick is a winning strategy.

Treasures of the Met, Vol. I: I went with Sumana's co-worker Will to the Met yesterday. There's a rotating exhibit of artists' self-portraits at the Met, and a lot of them are self-indulgent, but two are really excellent. First, William Anastasi's hilarious 1967 fractal "Nine Polaroid Portaits of a Mirror". Second, the one I want to talk more about, D.J. Hall's hyperreal pencil drawing "Piece of Cake". The text on that Flickr page is taken directly from the Met's description of the work:

Hall, the Los Angeles-based artist seated at right, based this lifelike drawing and a related painting on a photograph she took in spring 1986, just before she suffered an emotional and physical breakdown.

The drawing's vivid colors, bright sun, and festive atmosphere belie the artist's troubles. Despite the sitters' cheerful camaraderie, Halls' companion at left was not a family member or friend but a local woman she hired to pose with her for her composition.

I was floored by "Piece of Cake" because the saturated colors and the fashions (but not the place settings) perfectly capture the Los Angeles I grew up in. I felt like I was looking at a photo of my mother's richer friends. And this wasn't a one-time theme: D.J. Hall is still painting Southern California women looking into imaginary cameras.

Here's some commentary; I don't really have anything to add, except that a timeline of Hall's paintings would make a really good history of women's sunglasses.

: My VP classmate Jeff Soesbe just got his near-future story "The Very Difficult Diwali of Sub-Inspector Gurushankar Rajaram" published in DayBreak magazine. "Diwali" was a story we almost bought for Thoughtcrime Experiments, and it's great to see it in print.

Treasures of the Met, Vol. II: I'm sure I've mentioned before that my favorite part of the Met is the Douglas Dillon Galleries for Chinese Painting. In addition to ancient office supplies (which turned out to be part of the permanent exhibit) they have a rotating gallery of painting/calligraphy that's always great. Currently showing is a travelling exhibit of the work of Luo Ping, an eighteenth-century painter with a surrealist sensibility.

Pictures of his stuff are really difficult to find, but here's one of the better ones. Luo Ping collaborated with a poet friend to create a folio of paintings of animals along with Aesop-like moral poems. He left lots of space for the poet to write his poem. And the poet wrote little tiny poems in tiny characters, creating a work with a disorienting amount of whitespace. The linked picture, in case you didn't click, is a picture of some ants, and a little poem about ants with the characters arranged so that they themselves look like a line of ants.

(That's not really a story about Lou Ping's craziness, but it shows the kind of person he hung out with.)

There were also two works that had been the subject of repeated commentary. One of them was a small collection of normal-sized paintings on an enormous scroll with about 170 commentaries tacked onto it. It looked like a Digg thread, and the placard said that Luo Ping took the scroll on his travels as a kind of resume. There was also a series of paintings of ghosts, which had been posted to Digg (as it were) twice: first as "What the government doesn't want you to know about ghosts" and then a hundred years later as "Amusing pictures of ghosts [pics]".

[Comments] (1) : Oh, also: every time I go to the Met I mean to look up the game being played by the little statue dudes. This time I did it: the game is Liubo, and it doesn't seem like a very interesting game, despite some very Pavel Chekov-esque claims that Liubo was exported to India and underwent radical changes to become the ancestor to chess.

(The photo currently on the Wikipedia page is of the board from the Met that I see every time I go.)

[Comments] (1) Doggy Bag: While in England we got a copy of the Waitrose magazine. One of the nice things about England is that the supermarkets have crazy house magazines, and although they don't aspire to Trader Joe's levels of lunacy, neither are they simply flyers telling you what's on sale. Anyway, this particular magazine had a shocking article "In praise of the doggy bag".

It turns out if you ask for a takeout container in England, they don't really know what to do, and improvise as best they can. We found this out firsthand when someone wrapped Sumana's leftover pasta in tinfoil (the article describes "a hastily assembled foil 'envelope') and all the oil leaked out into my bag.

Writer Katy Salter dares to suggest that people should not be ashamed to ask for a doggy bag. (The feedback prompt at the end: "Would you ask a restaurant to box up your food? Email food@...") She closes with this bombshell:

But the biggest secret? You don't have to ask for a doggy bag at all. Take a tip from the States and dress your request up in face-saving euphemisms - you want the food 'boxed' or 'to go'.

While you're at it, take a secondary tip from the States: those aren't euphemisms. They're accurate descriptions of what you want. "Doggy bag" is the face-saving euphemism! It's clearly intended to convey "Of course I wouldn't dream of taking food home from a restaurant, but my precious Alsatian simply adores endive salad." Don't blame the Americans if your euphemisms turn dysphemic!

Bonus tip from article: "Ask for a clean container rather than bring your own." You might want to bring your own anyway, just in case you get a foil envelope.

[Comments] (3) : How To Write Telegrams Properly.

Officials felt that the vital orders of the Government must be definite and clear cut, and they therefore used not only the word "stop," to indicate a period, but also adopted the practice of spelling out "comma," "colon," and "semi-colon." The word "query" often was used to indicate a question mark. Of all these, however, "stop" has come into most widespread use, and vaudeville artists and columnists have employed it with humorous effect, certain that the public would understand the allusion in connection with telegrams...

"Stop" is of course never necessary at the end of a message.

What's the standard science fiction term for densely packed computing matter, the stuff you use to build an upload civilization? I thought it was "computanium" but that only gets a handful of search results, and I know there's a standard term for it.

: I just realized that the Futurismic favicon.ico is a parody of the Guardian favicon.ico.

[Comments] (1) : Enough of this not-writing-for-NYCB business. Let's mine my Cambridge photo gallery for a while.

Are you ready to have your mind blown? Behold: A statue of a fossil!

Back when evolution had yet to decide on the best way to do teeth, there were edestids, sharklike creatures whose lower jaw just kept growing out and out in a spiral for the shark's entire lifetime. This was so ridiculous I thought it must be a hoax, but I also saw an edestid jaw fossil in the AMNH. I still think there's a good chance it's a hilarious Iguanadon-thumb-like misunderstanding. The Smithsonian is also skeptical, and presents a reconstruction where the spiral teeth go down the shark's throat.

When I was a kid I owned an awesome globe of Mars that my mother and I found at a yard sale in LA. When my mother died I mailed it to myself and, as long-time NYCB readers know, it was lost by the doubly-damned US Postal Service. But thanks to the Whipple museum I found the name of the globe manufacturer, so I can get one from eBay, though I'm not going to do that this instant.

I saw a cool vocal theremin. I think how it works is: you make a shape with your hands and it vocalizes the sound you'd make if you made that shape with your mouth. But I'm not sure and technical detail was sadly lacking because it was in an art exhibit. Good job, though, Michael Markert, 2007.

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