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December 24, 2007

Open thread 98
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:46 PM *

One does not keep a dinosaur in the attic for comfort.

Words to live by, don’t you agree?

(Consider this a break from Christmas. And yes, I know there is a race to post the sixth comment.)

Comments on Open thread 98:
#1 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:02 PM:

you keep it in the dungeon with the S&M setup

#2 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:21 PM:

I keep it on an island off Costa Rica.

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:23 PM:

Whose comfort?

#4 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:24 PM:

Google ads on this thread as of now:

Emily Post Book
Chinese Etiquette
Making Wedding Program
Cheap Hawaii Wedding
Pearl Wedding Jewelry.

What connection any of these may have with keeping (or not) dinosaurs in the attic for comfort is left as an exercise for the reader.

#5 ::: Iain ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:25 PM:

I'd prefer to live behind words like that, I think, so they could serve as a shield between me and people who follow too many rules.

That's unless there's a rule about which side to approach people on, of course. In that case I'd live by the words and keep them to that side.

#6 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:26 PM:

98-point-six!

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:30 PM:

Bing! We have a winner.

What has Bob won? Well, let's just say I'd like to know how large his attic is.

#8 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:31 PM:

Actually, I have found signs of dinosaurs nesting in our attic (on the one time we opened up the hatch and went up there) -- there's a hole under the eaves where they sneak in. Most annoying -- they poop indiscriminately, and I'm going to have to get the hole patched lest they start nesting there.

#9 ::: fishbane ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:37 PM:

I dunno. Depending the dino's surface area coverage relative to the roof, it might make good insulation. Of course, one needn't feed normal insulation.

#10 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:47 PM:

Ten is fine with me.

Why should I want a break from Christmas... I'm with Scrooge and wish we kept the season's sentiments in our hearts the whole year round.

So, Happy Holidays to one and all.

#11 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:53 PM:

If he wants a dinosaur, Alex Comfort can keep it in his own damn attic.

#12 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 07:59 PM:

Christmas, I have no problem with; December, now, sneaky and disaster prone month that it is, is another matter.

So the 24th of December, 2007, just to lull me into a false sense of security, I'm sure, it was bright and breezy and also Monday, so I got flaundered sheets and nightgowns nicely aired - not dry, but within 20 drier minutes of dry - out on the line. I am practicing optimism and trying to believe this doesn't mean we will be smacked in the face with an ice storm tomorrow. I'll let you know how that turns out.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 08:05 PM:

One does not keep a dinosaur in the attic for comfort.

Why?
I dino.
Saury.

#14 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 08:31 PM:

Jurattic Park?

#15 ::: fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 08:39 PM:

You shouldn't keep dinosaurs in the attic because attics are drafty and your dinosaur might get cold

#16 ::: Shawn M Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 08:53 PM:

One does not keep a dinosaur in the attic for comfort.

No, one keeps them there because the basement is already full of ghouls.

Doesn't one?

#17 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 09:02 PM:

"Mommy, why does Uncle Frank keep velociraptors in the attic?"

"For the children who ask too many annoying questions, Timmy."

#18 ::: fishbane ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 09:03 PM:

No, one keeps them there because the basement is already full of ghouls.

Doesn't one?

I suppose it depends on your household layout. I only have one ghoul, and it seems quite content in the crawl space next to the kid's room. Plus, it helps the kids develop an active imagination.

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 09:08 PM:

The principal reason for keeping a dinosaur in the attic, of course, is that they really don't do well in company. It's especially annoying when they keep insisting that all our problems would be solved if we went back on the gold standard, brought back the cat o' nine tails, and restored the Assyrian empire.

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 09:14 PM:

eventually you just run out of cays
the mainland comes upon you like a shock
even the angry ones fall on their knees

one cannot tell another what he sees
for feelings are so easy still to mock
eventually you just run out of cays

to get there you must go against the breeze
though other forces may your purpose block
even the angry ones fall on their knees

we have so many names for these blue seas
and we still cannot count them dock to dock
eventually you just run out of cays

we drank the bottle right down to the lees
but although others still would not take stock
even the angry ones fall on their knees

so soon a chance to rest and take your ease
once past the threats of shallows reef and rock
eventually you just run out of cays
even the angry ones fall on their knees

#21 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 09:24 PM:

Fragano @19: I thought about restoring the Assyrian Empire as a craft project, but gave up when I priced all the gold leaf and camel hair brushes I'd need.

I hear the MIT first years have to restore the Hapsburgs as their biology lab practical.

#22 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 09:26 PM:

Until I manage to build a library, the (habitable, but prone to temperature extremes) attic does indeed perform the function of attics through the ages, namely storing ancient objects against future needs.

I'm hoping nothing (beyond the unusual wind) came in with the colossal thump and blown open windows last night - doubtless I'll find out eventually.

Back to trying to figure out where the @#*(&$*( this blasted part of the wiring connects to, and whether it's really on the breaker I think it's on...

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 09:34 PM:

Bill Humphries #21: Plus all the brick you'd need.

I presume that Harvard is working on restoring the Bourbons.

#24 ::: fishbane ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 09:42 PM:

I hear the MIT first years have to restore the Hapsburgs as their biology lab practical.

I'm usually a wild-eyed techno optimist, but can we all agree that this is not tech that should trickle down to the Scadians, etc.?

#25 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 10:00 PM:

Who is the little man who enters my attic, the fillet buttered in his own oils? ...

I am Jormungand, the Last Dinosaur, destroyer, devourer, ravager of kingdoms and epochs, all greed and covetness,[sic] brooding loneliness. Once I was Dragon, but in this scientific age that is no longer stylish. The flames I kept for high drama.

-- The High House, by James Stoddard.

#26 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Grr -- I knew the quote, and am shamed on the field of quote-identification because I was delayed by... by... a terrible frost that killed all the trees on which ameroid combompeters grow.

So there.

(Or maybe I was downloading videos.)

_The High House_ had so many lovely things in it. Did Stoddard ever write anything after that and the sequel?

#27 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 10:22 PM:

One keeps the dinosaur in the attic to fend off the bats whilst protecting the content of Great-Uncle Smedley's WWI footlocker from those of ill intent.

Although truth be told, I think this would be a cse of the cure being worse than the disease...

Fragano @ 20: ***applause!!***

General comment--I have read more poetry in Making Light's comments in the few months I've been semi-lurking, than in several years prior to that happy linking-over-from Scalzi's-place. You people rock!

#28 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 10:28 PM:

No, one keeps dinosaurs in the attic until you can give them to the Republicans to run for office.

#29 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 10:33 PM:

This seems as good an opportunity as any to wish all people (and dionosaurs) of good will "Happy Holidays!".

For some unfathomable reason I seem to think this is most apropriate for the period from All Hallow's Eve (Samhain) through Valentine's Day, but actually it applies to all the holidays people celebrate, throughout the year.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 10:40 PM:

Shawn @ 16... My house doesn't have a basement, which is why I keep graboids down there.

#31 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 10:43 PM:

(hee hee, somebody besides me knows the ameroid combompeters line!)

"Ballad of Eskimo Nell" vs. Blatant Beast, anyone?

#32 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 10:50 PM:

Andrew @#26: Wikipedia grants him a couple more short stories, but that seems to be it. Too bad....

Also, I wish they'd republish The False House, last I heard it was out-of-print, and I haven't found a copy yet in my local used-book stores.

And now, I will go to bed!

#33 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 11:42 PM:

Stoddard had a short story in the October issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-6938972/The-star-to-every-wandering.html).

I haven't read any of his short works, but I really enjoyed both of his novels.

#34 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 11:43 PM:

I'd settle for a nice, not-too-fat dragonet to get up in my not-very-big attic and EAT the fsking squirrels. Gonna have to get upthere with the live trap and relocate the tree rats.

#35 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:09 AM:

Serge, nothing I can say does justice to those puns.

#36 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:19 AM:

Charlie #8
Actually, I have found signs of dinosaurs nesting in our attic (on the one time we opened up the hatch and went up there) -- there's a hole under the eaves where they sneak in...

I'm glad that the ones that show up in my yard, limit their visitations to the grounds, the trees, the bushes, perching on the deck rails, nesting in the deck supports, perching on the flue of the fireplace, nesting in the trees, and roosting on wires (gets messy when they sit the electric or telephone wires to the house that are over the car, but...)

#24 fishbane

You're way too late there, the parts of the SCA located in eastern Massachusetts, got started by college students and graduates of MIT, Harvard, Brandeis, etc. There was even one fellow who was a civil engineering student at MIT whose SCAdian person was "Duncan the Peasant." "I'm a peasant. I'm not a knight/aspiring knight. I don't fight. I don't do anything I don't want to do, and you can't make me! I'm a peasant!

#37 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:36 AM:

For authoritative recommendations, see How to Keep Dinosaurs, by Robert Mash.

#38 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:43 AM:

David Harmon @ 32:

Try here. No idea how long these will remain, those...

#39 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:44 AM:

me @ 38: Should be "though", not "those"...egad...

#40 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:48 AM:

No, one keeps a dinosaur in the attic for sodomy.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 01:03 AM:

Teresa @ 35... nothing I can say does justice to those puns

If not justice, shall pun-ishment be meted out?

#42 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @ 34 ...
I'd settle for a nice, not-too-fat dragonet to get up in my not-very-big attic and EAT the fsking squirrels. Gonna have to get upthere with the live trap and relocate the tree rats.

Despite the assurances of the roofer that replacing the roof would work wonders to reduce the recurring presence of Procyon lotor peering through the skylight, and scampering about on the roof with degenerately noisy paws, the blasted beasts don't appear to have received the memo, and have continued on their merry way[0].

[0] I have a lingering suspicion that I've misplaced the punctuation in a way that suggests odd things about either my roof or roofer, but can't quite decide how I'd fix it, anyways.

#43 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 02:01 AM:

One does it because one's hovercraft is full of eels.

#44 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 03:26 AM:

Nor does one keep dinosaurs in Attica for their comfort.

#45 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 04:35 AM:

I have little birds in my attic, or at least in the roof. I see them very often dragging bits and pieces up there (spiderwebs, other feathers, lengths of yarn I leave out for them; today, a sprig of wormwood) and when we lie in bed, we can hear their babies squawking to be fed.

#46 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 05:54 AM:

I'd have thought it was obvious. He's shy and we've had to give his normal room to Aunt Sophie who is here for Christmas with her Pekinese, Scratch.

He understands.

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:06 AM:

David Harmon nails the source of the quote at 25. I like Jormungand; he's nicely acerbic. Oracles should try to eat one when consulted.

The False House is less satisfying than The High House, but I'm fond of them both.

#48 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:44 AM:

In our previous house we had an owl and her owlets nesting in the eaves. The "who-ooo"s were actually kind of restful, and they were much better mousers than the dog (he preferred voles).

#49 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:47 AM:

Serge, nothing I can say does justice to those puns.

Perhaps a mob of peasants with pitchforks and torches?

#50 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 07:10 AM:

You think our way of living inhumane,
because we keep a dino under roof?
Not so, I say, let me supply the proof.
I'll point out that the reptile's quite urbane;
and doesn't like to sleep out in the rain,
nor hunt and kill a meal upon the hoof.
That's good, for here the prey would make a "Woof",
and neighbors would react with deep disdain.
Besides the cold-blood much prefers the heat
that insulation can provide up there
to cold and rain that's frequent in this clime.
Our attic guest is really rather sweet,
with style of conversation that's quite rare.
worth keeping close although beyond its time.

#51 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 07:47 AM:

David Harmon @ 32, et. al.,

Powells has 1 copy of "The High House" in stock.

#52 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 07:50 AM:

I just saw the sidelight on the death of Oscar Peterson. Damn! Why can't the great ones be immortal?

#53 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 08:16 AM:

From Girl Genius today, Santa Klaus.

#54 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 08:38 AM:

xeger @ 42

Is it permitted to ask how P. lotor gets on the roof? (I've only seen it on the ground, myself.)

#55 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 08:42 AM:

Sasha once wanted to keep a dragon in the fire escape. When I pointed out that we wouldn't be able to get out in case of fire, he explained that by far the likeliest source of fire would be the dragon, and then we could go out the front.

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 08:53 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 49... I'm waiting for the intercontinental hollistic mistletoes's rain of destruction.

#57 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 09:57 AM:

#34 Paula Helm Murray

Live traps for mice and squirrels in Massachusetts are bad ideas unless you're feeding them to your pet snake or some such--if you trap mice or squirrels and haul them somewhere else and release them and you get caught doing it, you're caught breaking a state law, and at a minimum get fined. There's no shortage of gray squirrel, mice, rats, etc., and moving them from your house, to infest somewhere else, is the objection.

Other states probably have similar laws. You catch it, you kill it.

#58 ::: bill wringe ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:07 AM:

Aren't chickens dinosaurs? Or close enough? Not sure they should be kept in th'attic though.

#59 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:21 AM:

Wouldn't a dragon in the attic interfere with the yarn stash?

#60 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Mr. Smeglivious D'Aunot was a Dragon of some foreign nation. He lived in the dining room and was quite proud of it, and our family was quite proud to have him living there. He was much loved and had only one fault, and that one was not at all of his making. He had no fire. How wonderful it would have been on Christmas Mornings to have him snort a spurt of flame on a plateful of scones and butter, but he was incapable of this simple, basic act of Dragonity.

Still, we loved him, and would have been happy to have him living in the Dining room in perpetuity, lack of internal combustion or not, were it not for a fateful visit one September evening by the Rector as we were all sitting down to Dinner. Nobody liked the Rector after first meeting him, he was a man that looked especially kind and delightful and was in reality a malicious old coot with no love of any human being. There was a rumour in the neighborhood that he was actually descended from trolls, due to his strange and alarming readings of Biblical texts, but that is another matter to be discussed at another time.


#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 11:20 AM:

"Dino!"
"What?"
"Drag Juras over here!"

#62 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 11:35 AM:

We keep ours on top of the fridge so people don't overeat.

#63 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 11:38 AM:

P J Evans @ 54 ...
Is it permitted to ask how P. lotor gets on the roof? (I've only seen it on the ground, myself.)

P. lotor is a great climber of things, among them trees, houses and walls - in this case, I expect access to the roof via trees and neighbours houses. It's pretty common for us to find the younger ones chasing each other up the (small) trees in the front yard, as well.

#64 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Lila@31: I expect a lot of people here know "ameroid combopeters"; it's not as quoted as "Yngvi is a louse", but comes from the same respectable source (just republished by NESFA complete and with additional material) -- and many people here respect sources.

Paula@36: and a few years later, the peasants had their own guild, with the duty of presenting the baron with a rock each year. Now they're becoming more popular; a much-decorated lady is gradually handing back her orders in order to take up a Gypsy persona.

#65 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:22 PM:

Paula Helm Murray @34, Paula Lieberman @57: My landlord 'live traps' the squirrels which occasionally get into the attic, and releases them into a nearby park. Don't know what the laws are with regards to this here in NY, but if you aren't allowed to release the catch, why allow the sale of live traps in the first place? You're only allowed so you can feed a snake?

Perhaps these regulations apply to professional exterminators. In that case, I could see releasing live catches in public places equivalent to illicit dumping of toxic waste.

With regards to Massachusetts: wasn't there a thread on ML about someone releasing a squirrel off of a bridge in Boston, to see a hawk swoop down and catch it in the air? My Google-fu is not up to the task this morning...

#66 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:23 PM:
Some gifts from Kris Kringle are better kept wrapped.

A man in a Santa hat was arrested Sunday night for investigation of drunken driving after he was spotted outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood wearing a wig, a red lace camisole and a purple G-string, police said.

"We are pretty sure this is not the Santa Claus," Deputy Chief Ken Garner said.

Ah, Hollywood at holiday time. Nobody invites me to the good parties anymore.
#67 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 12:59 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #50: *Applause*

Syd #27 Thanks.

Serge #61: Alp!! Alp!!

#68 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 01:01 PM:

CHip #64: True, and some of us play at checks (while worrying about Czechs turning into werewolves)...

#69 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Claude @ #66, I sincerely hope the soundtrack for that arrest was Eartha Kitt singing "Santa Baby."

#70 ::: Scott D-S ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 01:32 PM:

Czechs turning into werewolves? I worry more about them taking up hang-gliding, which would involve the police and the bank...

After all, Czech kiting is against the law, isn't it?

(punning, ducking, and running)

#71 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Scott D-S #70: Welcome to the pun club! Now, you just need to get a syllogismobile.

#72 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 02:20 PM:

About raccoons climbing things: anyone whose lived in close proximity to a tall tree has probably been awakened more than once by a mysterious booming thump- this is most probably a raccoon in a hurry to get some where, dropping out of the tree onto your roof.

About live-traps: fur trappers are coming to prefer them, as they do not damage the pelt. Unfortunately, traps set fot raccoons are more often productive of squirrels, or at least they are at my sister's house.


#73 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 03:21 PM:

Jurassic parking meter men read gauges on the quay
For conèd powers meteor bits falling in the spray
The same wassail that's better warm when cold is still okay
And the dinos block drafts and muffle the noise, muffle the noise,
So our singing aloud no neighbor annoys.

#74 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 03:24 PM:

Rob #65

http://www.cityofmelrose.org/living_with_wildlife_in_suburbia.htm
Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 131, Section 37, gives property owners the right to use lawful means to destroy wildlife in the act of causing damage or threatening personal safety. Landowners may only deal with wildlife actually causing damage or posing immediate threats. No one may randomly destroy wildlife as a preventive measure. It is illegal for a property owner to live-trap a problem animal and move it for release to public or private property.

Here is the Official State Information...

http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/living/moving_wildlife.htm

Moving Wild Animals is Against the Law!

Capturing a wild animal and releasing it in another area is prohibited by Massachusetts law. Rabies in raccoons is spreading throughout the eastern United States. Moving animals from one area to another may spread this or other diseases to new areas.

To protect people and wildlife, DO NOT RELOCATE PROBLEM WILDLIFE! Wild animals sometimes damage homes, gardens and lawns. Often people want to catch the problem animals and release them someplace else. Massachusetts law prohibits moving any live wild animal from one area to another. This law has been in effect for many years, protecting both people and wildlife.

Here are some Reasons Wild Animals should not be Relocated:
Capturing a wild animal and releasing it somewhere else may spread disease(s) into populations of animals (including pets) that did not have the disease(s) previously. Diseases such as Rabies and Canine Distemper have been spread by people who captured an animal in one area and released it somewhere else.
Wild animals already live where you release your problem animal. Wherever you plan to release a problem animal, there are already resident animals with established territories competing among themselves for food and denning sites. When a new animal is introduced, competition for these limited resources is intensified, causing increased stress and conflict within the resident population, as well as hardship or death for the relocated animal.
Relocated animals often return to where you caught them. Squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife can return from translocations of 5, 10, or even 15 miles. Such animals are more likely to be killed by automobiles or succumb to other accidents as they cross unfamiliar areas while attempting to return to their original territories.
Relocation only transfers your problem to someone else. In an unfamiliar territory, an animal accustomed to living near people is likely to seek out human habitations and damage someone else's property.
Moving an animal does not solve the problem. Within a short period of time, other individuals of the same or another species will move in, unless food (garbage, pet food, grain) is removed, and access to gardens, chimneys and attics is blocked.
Information on methods or techniques to control damage caused by wildlife is available in the Wildlife Information area of our website or by contacting the MassWildlife District office which serves your community

#75 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 03:43 PM:

My mom lives in Des Moines, Iowa. Although they have plenty of raccoons and squirrels around, she's told me about all the damage that chipmunks do. Locally, they're referred to as "squiddies", which sparks all sorts of very strange associations.

#76 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 03:59 PM:

I wouldn't keep a dinosaur in the attic for Comfort, but possibly for a nice brandy.

#77 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 04:55 PM:

Scott 70: Well, if they're running from the cops in a large American city, they can stop in to hide in any of the Czech-cacheing places.

#78 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 05:00 PM:

@70 - Well, we've got one Czech that gets too rowdy in the local tavern, but we've been informed that it's illegal to forcibly eject him.

...a number N is the class of all classes containing N elements...

#79 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Paula Lieberman #74: Wow, it sounds like the wild animals have more rights than the property owners in that jurisdiction. Not moving wild animals off your property endangers your own pets. It's fine if the animal is in one of the limited groups that PAC personnel are allowed to deal with, but what if PeTA kidnaps a tiger from a zoo and releases it into a suburb, to roam free? If it's not directly attacking a person, it sounds like it would have diplomatic immunity. What recourse would a property owner have? A SWAT team? Or are there safety net laws to cover situations in which Problem Animal Control Agents are not allowed to intervene?

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:24 PM:

(The scene, an elevator inside a Los Angeles glass tower. The only passengers are a young man and a middle-aged executive type.)

"Sir?"
"Yes, young man?"
"Would you happen to be Paul Dirac, of Dirac2Video Productions?"
"I am. but I am about to go to an important meeting. If you have a movie proposal, can you do it quickly?"
"Certainly. I think that sci-fi horror has run into a rut."
"That is certainly true. Sharks. Spiders. Scarabs. Snakes. Dinosaurs. There are only so many movies that enough of the public will be interested in for me to make a profit."
"Well I have this script I'm working on that your company might be interested in, as it does projects that are both innovative and commercial."
"I'm listening."
"The script's title says it all."
"Go ahead."
"It's... Are you ready?... Voleciraptors."
"(...)"

#81 ::: Maybear ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:25 PM:

As I recall, the Great Slow Kings frequented basements, not attics. Of course, that was due to "geologic upheavals" rather than intent.

#82 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:41 PM:

Earl #79

Paula Lieberman #74: Wow, it sounds like the wild animals have more rights than the property owners in that jurisdiction. Not moving wild animals off your property endangers your own pets. It's fine if the animal is in one of the limited groups that PAC personnel are allowed to deal with, but what if PeTA kidnaps a tiger from a zoo and releases it into a suburb, to roam free?

From my post, the quote from the law on the subject"...gives property owners the right to use lawful means to destroy wildlife in the act of causing damage or threatening personal safety"

A hungry tiger is a definte threat to personal safe.

As for pets. there is something called a "leash law" for dogs. Free-roaming dogs can be much more menaces to pets and children than tigers are in the USA--any tiger running around loose didn't get there on its own, for one thing they are not native wildlife. For another thing, tigers don't form feral packs that go after livestock, pets, and children--which dog packs -will- do.

Regarding livestock, the intelligent farmer in the northeast with animals that can't take predators on, will have one or more guard dogs, or a guard llama, for protecting the livestock. In a coyote versus llama or Grand Pyrenese dog confrontation, the coyote -loses-. I've seen several farms where a llama's bonded to the smaller livestock (locality-owned farm in Peabody, Gore Place in Waltham--at Gore Place kids happily gambol and play king of the hill on the llama's back) or where one or more dogs are present as guard animals.
There are a number of signs up at the local supermarket seeking disappeared cats--things that can happen to them aren't only coyotes, even though cats and dogs sold for use in research projects are not supposed to be pets, a former boyfriend who worked at Mass General told me that some of the animals used in research there, had to have been pets because some of them behaved like pets, not like animals raised as non-petss... the companies selling the animals are not apparently all acting within the law regarding raising animals to be research subjects and not e.g. collection/capturing/otherwise obtaining pets.

#83 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 07:12 PM:

And now the ads on the sidebar are for "Raccoon Removal" and such!

Raccoon Removal
Removing Raccoons from your attic Removing Raccoons from your chimney
pacofhudson.com

Precision Wildlife
Bat, birds, wildlife, & more! Owner operated wildlife co.
www.precisionwildlife.com

Raccoon Control Center
Practical advice, traps, fences, repellents for home & garden.
www.raccoon-x.com

Animal Traps & Lures
Live Animal Traps, Leg & Body Traps Trapping Baits, Lures & Supplies
www.flemingoutdoors.com

Mice & Rat Control
Rid Your Home Of Mice & Rats. Contact Us And We'll Exterminate!
www.RegionalPestControl.com

Calling batwrangler....

However, that really are much better choices than promotions for national political candidates whose positions many of the regulars in here find detestable and contemptible and repulsive! Plus, the services are ones that at least some of the people in here, are interested in contracting for... (Then there were l'affaires Messieurs Skunk with the NESFA Clubhouse some years back, alas....)

#84 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 07:41 PM:

[TTTO of the song that went with the cartoon about "Good King Leonardo" ]

Dinosaur removal,
Oman's our next stop, *
Got a critter problem,
Weasels we make pop!

Those squirrels in the feeder,
We will drive away,
Let the birds go dining,
Without the tree rats play!

Then up to the attic we'll go
With nets and traps galore,
We'll clean them out and in the rout,
They'll be there nevermore!

Vermin we make vanish
And they'll not be back,
Got a critter problem,
We'll make those vermin pack
Mice to rats to chipmunks,
They'll all go away,
No more thumpings nightly,
And no more dung by day,

We provide a service,
To appreciate
Drive the bats from belfries,
No vermin is your fate!
From spring and through the summer
The winter past the fall,
No more thumps or cheepings
No noises down the hall,
We get them out and and you will shout,
They're gone each one and all!

* I think it's Oman that's paying to have a Jurassic Park built...

#85 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 08:10 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 67

Thank you.

#87 ::: Lindra ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 09:54 PM:

I do not keep my sister in the attic because she has declared our house a free zone for velociraptors. She enforces the rule with her powers of Tickling Little Sisters.

#88 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:02 PM:

#86 Thanks Clifton.

Meanwhile, I wonder what the most peculiar stuff can get gotten from Google for side bar ads here...

Troll contemp'ry Google ads, oh, tra-la-la-la, la la la la!

Hark the pea-brained AI brain,
Advertisements so inane!
Penis length and John McCain,
All those things, across the grain!
Ads for books and ads for edits,
From the scammers with bad credits,
Vanity presses infest,
Poisoning the manifest,
Vanity presses in fest,
Some things are not for the best!

#89 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:03 PM:

There's a copy of How to Attract the Wombat ready to hand, but few dinosaurs are covered therein.

#90 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:04 PM:

I might end up getting False House at Amazon if I can't find it locally, but if I only get that, I'd end up paying almost as much for shipping as for the book. Not to mention I want to support my local bookstores, and there are lots of them around here!

Earl @ #79: No, it's just that you can't just go slaughtering everything in the vicinity because some of those "varmints" might get into your garbage or suchlike.

As described, if something's actually posing a problem, you can kill it, but (for reasons well-described at #74) rounding it up and dumping it elsewhere is Not Cool. Whether you can capture it permanently will depend on what animals you're allowed to keep in your house. (I don't remember what Massachusetts' rules were.) I would assume that if a tiger showed up loose, the local police would (possibly shoot it outright) or (more likely) call the nearest zoo for assistance.

#91 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:10 PM:

Before I even bought the trap I first called animal contol, they suggested I call Mo. Dept. of Conservation because they will do nothing for pests on private property,

The nice lady at MoDC said, "Well, if they're damaging your property you can catch them and do what you want with them, squirrels aren't any kind of protected."

I told her I intended to trap them. She got my address info particulars and said, "As long as we know it's okay, I'll put it on file. And BE SURE to take them more than 10 miles away or they will be back within a week..."

I relocate to Minor Park. For one thing it's a bit farther than 15 miles away, for another I can get them well away from roads, etc. Swope is nice but It's TOO CLOSE.

I would hire someone to deal with raccoons, i have a healthy respect for them. Squirrels, feh.

#92 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:26 PM:

Pie report: Yum! (also, advice to those making it, it will serve Lots. Six to eight people if there's nothing else with it; with side dishes and possible other stuff, figure twice that many.

But, oh yeah, yum!
(And a mandoline is great for slicing celery root. Next time I think we may do it julienned.)

#93 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:38 PM:

Serge #80

Somehow I don't think that fits, "This is beautiful, therefore it must be true." [See Dirac do the half-spinning away....]

#94 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:52 PM:

David #90 and Paula H M #91:

A couple years ago there was a Complete Idiot Cop in Arlington who had had TWO timber rattlers as "pets" (illegal ones) in his house, and at least one of them got loose.... First he claimed that they hadn't been there deliberately, and then the truth got out.

Different states, though, have different wildlife laws. I think that squirrels are actually legal game animals here. Canada geese are problems--there are spring and fall goose seasons, but the real issue is that the law has not caught up with their presence being non-migratory birds, rather than migratory ones. The last farmer in town does not like Canada geese (very few adults do around here...), and has a hunter who comes out during goose season who shoots Canada geese out in the fields.

One of the sites I checked mentions that it's not legal to keep (native wildlife) wild animals in the state (people with special permits for e.g. animal rehabbing are exceptions).

Ironically, most "domestic ducks" are actually mallards which have been domesticated and bred to have white feathers--and mallards are native wildlife.... I was quite astonished to find that out, that the domestic duck is a native American species, thinking of e.g. Beijing Duck and so.

(For that matter, the idiot bird-brained domestic turkey, is also native wildlife that got domesticated, and domestic and wild turkeys are interfertile... the state laws don't seem all that reasonsable thinking about such things).

#95 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 11:54 PM:

Paula @88, you think Google's AI is screwy, just mention R*n P*ul in a blog post and you'll be awash in triumphalist consuite libertarians.

#96 ::: Lindra ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 12:06 AM:

Bill Humphries @ 95:

I suppose we'll soon see if that principle can be reliably applied to comments within blog posts as well. (Does it depend on the comment in question being indexed by Google Ads?)

#97 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 12:11 AM:

The LOLdiagnosis link is borked. You need to remove the "v" from in front of the http.

#98 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 12:34 AM:

Bill Humphries #95: Speaking of He Who Can Only Be Told Of In Political Filks, there's a Team Fortress 2 game video floating around where a player has lodged himself in a blocking area of the game's map geometry who said he'd only let people through if they swore an oath to vote for HWCOBTOIPF; of course, being merely a griefer, he reneged on his promise and started getting people to answer trivia questions with the promise of escape as the reward.

#99 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 12:34 AM:

Bill 95

We can get R*n P**l removal ads along raccoon removal, animal removal, Boston Rodent Control, a and humane trap ads listed on the side bar?!

Hmm, how about "extremist politician removal" [although the method used to get rid of the Ceacescus isn't likely to be openly advertised in the USA.... ]

[Note: The US Constitution includes protection of parody... but given how much of the rest of the document's in abrogation at the current time....]

#100 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 12:37 AM:

Don't feed captured rodents to your snakes. The odds of the snake getting a parasite are too great.

For raccoons, and oppossums, we have geese to warn of when they are coming after the chickens; at which point a flashlight and suitable means of introducing a swift moving piece of lead to them is the cure.

An air rifle is used on the squirels who go after the fruit.

#101 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 02:44 AM:

Terry Karney @ 100 ...
For raccoons, and oppossums, we have geese to warn of when they are coming after the chickens; at which point a flashlight and suitable means of introducing a swift moving piece of lead to them is the cure.

Being in the city, there's too many neighbours for lead - but there's a fine water pistol near the back door, which works surprisingly well as a short term deterrent.

#102 ::: Christian Severin ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 03:35 AM:

Chasing squirrels through
th'insulation foam,
dodging the poo-poo
where the pigeons roam,
watching kitties flee
from my softest pad,
all this is not half the glee
as back when I still had
(my)

Jungle hills, jungle hills,
jungle all around,
oh what fun it was to run
the Tricers to the ground, hey!

#103 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 03:44 AM:

Earl, #98: Novice gamer. He clearly doesn't understand the difference between what your character says and what you say.

#104 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 05:55 AM:

Lee #103: I don't know of any griefers who actually roleplay except as a cover story to rationalize their bad behavior. "It's just a game" irritates the heck out of me, too; online gamers who uses that as an excuse for bad behavior are destined to hold a cherished place on my /ignore lists.

#105 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:30 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 94

Most domestic ducks are mallard-descended (Anas platyrynchos domesticus). However, Muscovy ducks are diferent, being descended from wild Muscovy ducks Cairina moschata.

#106 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:31 AM:

Vicki @ 89... Wasn't there, a long time ago, a videogame called Mortal Wombat?

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:34 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 93... Would you buy a car from a Feinman, no matter how fine, without taking it for a few spins around Schrödinger's Box?

#108 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:39 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 74

That info. from Massachusetts re. moving of animals is very sound advice. I could tell you lots about how movements of raccoons spread raccoon rabies variant so that it's now found all over the East Coast states instead of just down in the south-east. Also how people were found trapping raccoons on their properties and releasing them on the far side of a vaccine belt which was aiming to stop the disease spreading...

#109 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 08:30 AM:

#58 ::: bill wringe

Aren't chickens dinosaurs? Or close enough?

If so, I shudder to think about what could be done with selective breeding.

#110 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 08:45 AM:

#104 ::: Earl Cooley III

Lee #103: I don't know of any griefers who actually roleplay except as a cover story to rationalize their bad behavior. "It's just a game" irritates the heck out of me, too; online gamers who uses that as an excuse for bad behavior are destined to hold a cherished place on my /ignore lists.

More generally, there are people, ranging from trolls to terrorists [1], who think of civilization as something to parasitize. I wonder if folks would find it easier to ignore trolls if the trolls were called "attention leeches". Trolls don't just want to be insulting, they want to break up real conversation.

The problem with trolls isn't that they want attention-- if we didn't want attention we wouldn't be here-- it's that they don't repay attention with anything valuable.

And I treasure Jet Li's Fearless because the big martial arts fight in the restaurant is consequential (the restaurant owner is the lead martial artist's best friend and the fight was totally unnecessary) instead of just being a chance to see things get smashed.

#111 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 09:24 AM:

Alas, a Siberian tiger did get out last night at the San Francisco zoo, and killed someone. (I'm wondering if the one she killed managed to let her out, since he was a young man at the reckless age. If my guess is wrong, apologies to his family.) A sad story all around.

#112 ::: Jackie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 10:41 AM:

I just wanted to thank all the denizens of Making Light who gave me suggestions for SF/F books for my hubby. Thanks to you, his spot under the tree wasn't bare!

#113 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 11:12 AM:

In about 20 minutes, BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a programme about puns.

#114 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 11:53 AM:

Does this sound like the earliest extant version of a go-bag? (From the Natufian culture, discovered in present-day Jordan at Wadi Hammeh.)

Thanks to Unca Jim & all the others on Making Light for all they've done through this year.

#115 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 11:58 AM:

OK now...

Chasing the latest comment to Jim's Internet Time Wasters II led me to Psychotherapy for Plush Toys. That site has had me bawling several times. (It probably doesn't help that today is the anniversary of my father's death.) On the other hand, I've managed to cure two of them so far....

#116 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 12:27 PM:

Re. Faren Miller's link in 111, I now have my 2008 New Years resolution: In 2008 I will forego reading comment threads in online news coverage of all sorts.

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 01:32 PM:

Is it my imagination or did Bill O'Really say little about our side's War on Christmas this year? If he has declared victory, how come there was no Christmas-related programming on TV last night? The closest to the Season that I caught was a 1957 TV broadcast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderellah, with a 22-year-old Julie Andrews as you-know-who.

#118 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 02:26 PM:

Serge #117: Christmas Day my sister-in-law wanted to watch Christmas cartoons because they were some of her earliest introductions to the English language (even before she started learning it in school) and have fond associations, but there was nothing to be found, anywhere.

Speaking of her, this amused me: her name is Ji-Yeon Park, but that's an awful transliteration--the first name is confusing (chee-yun would be closer, but not perfect) and the last name is entirely misleading. She's considering changing the last name to Bach, because the way Americans pronounce it is pretty close to how you're supposed to say Park, and also because she's a big fan of J.S. (as all sensible humans are). The upshot of all this is that the day before yesterday my brother realized that he could start calling her Ji-Yeon Sebastian Bach.

Hilarity ensues, especially if you can muddle through that labyrinthine setup. Oh, how I love those complicated multi-lingual spelling/pronunciation name puns!

#119 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 02:56 PM:


Consider the grass,
Not a thing, but a mass
Made of little green pieces
Of nephews and nieces
Too little to read the sign
"Keep off the grass."

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 03:27 PM:

ethan @ 118... how I love those complicated multi-lingual spelling/pronunciation name puns!

Take it Bach, and PDQ, if you please.

#121 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 03:41 PM:

"One does not keep a dinosaur in the attic for comfort."

Whose comfort are we talking about? Yours or the dinosaur's?

#122 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 04:26 PM:

Erik @121:
Whose comfort are we talking about? Yours or the dinosaur's?

Dinosaurs, like small children, share their discomfort freely. Its lack of comfort would be mine by the time it had put its feet through my ceilings and its tail through my roof.

#123 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 05:30 PM:

"There was no possibility of catching a hadrosaur that day..."

Jane, a young Velociraptor mongoliensis, small and plain in appearance, shy, but intelligent, is employed as a governess and guard animal by Mr Rochester. She loves him, and the two become engaged, but she is horrified to discover - on her wedding day itself - that the first Mrs Rochester, a Protoceratops andrewsi, is not in fact dead, but is still living, insane, in the attic, being fed on cycad leaves smuggled there by the elderly housekeeper, a dromaeosaurid called Grace Poole.
Rochester begs Jane to come with him to France, where they will live as husband and wife despite not being legally married, but Jane refuses, and races home to disembowel the first Mrs Rochester with one kick of her powerful hind leg.

#124 ::: Roz Kaveney ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 06:01 PM:

It's interesting that almost everyone assumes that the dinosaurs are a> inconveniently large and b> alive. I keep my dinosaurs, which are plush toys of moderate size, in a cloth bin in the bedroom when not actually cuddling them - doesn't everybody?

#125 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 06:08 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz at #110 writes:

> I wonder if folks would find it easier to ignore trolls if the trolls were called "attention leeches". Trolls don't just want to be insulting, they want to break up real conversation.

The term which seems most accurate and sounds best to me is "energy creature" - as in "don't feed the energy creature". Its only flaw is that it might be a bit too geeky to fall into general use. I think it captures the situation perfectly though.

For some years I used not to believe that there really were people who wanted *any* sort of attention - including abuse and contempt. Reality wore me down in the end though.

#126 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 06:45 PM:

David Harmon @ 115: I managed to cure one...but the second is completely catatonic after "treatment," another might as well be, one wouldn't hang around long enough for the initial exam, and the last simply won't "load" into the examining room in the first place...

Depressing, even if they are only animated plush toys.

#127 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:14 PM:

I read the sequal to "The high house" almost in one sitting a couple of years ago. I rather enjoyed it, but found it incredibly reactionary, which began to grate after a while.

#128 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:32 PM:

David @ 115: I managed to work successfully with the hippo, the terrapin, and the snake, but never could get the delusional sheep or the croc-in-the-box to load. Lilo took me two attempts--the first failed miserably (or did it?).

Nice way to spend some time on a lousy, dreary afternoon!

#129 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Note to self: It is not while being cautious and aware that one becomes the path to ground, but in that brief moment of brainless inattention.

Fortunately, not an issue[0], but definitely a reminder to pay complete attention, and -think- before doing.

[0] Well, okay - for very long, at any rate.

#130 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:52 PM:

various, on removing animals: aside from the biological consequences described in Paula's quote, it occurs to me that taking a live-trapped animal could be looked on like dumping your garbage in somebody else's town. IIRC, removal of (e.g.) problem bears from Yellowstone involves moving them a \long/ way -- which would run even more risk of the consequences Paula quotes.

#131 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 09:44 PM:

#126, #128: I've now cured all of them, so I'll give some hints. Most of them I'll rot13, but a couple or three deserve to be in clear:

(0) Note that the doctor's notes give hints too, and those change over the course of treatment! So do the dreams and many of the other "cutscenes".

(1) There's an electroshock set under the head of the bed, which you'll occasionally need for the most resistant patients. Often the minimum-length shock isn't enough, but you still need a light hand on that button. On the other hand, "killing" the patient (and I think this is the only way to do that) amounts to a reset -- you just start over on that patient. (Hey, they are stuffed animals!)

(2) Sometimes waiting is a necessary part of the treatment -- watch what the critters do if you let them alone for a minute or two. Also, sometimes you need to let a patient go back to the lounge, while you work on somebody else for a while.

3) V qvq arrq gb hfr gur ryrpgebfubpx n pbhcyr bs gvzrf (vg'f uvqqra haqre gur urnq bs gur orq), abgnoyl gb trg gur ghegyr bhg bs uvf furyy naq gb trg gur furrc vagb n erfcbafvir (gerngnoyr) pbaqvgvba. (Sbe gur ynggre, V unq gb yrg uvz bhg gb gur ybhatr gb erpbire.)

4) Gur pebp arrqf n gnyx-gurencl frffvba (juvpu nyfb yrgf uvz qvgpu gur obk) orsber ur'yy chg hc jvgu n culfvpny rknz. Zhfvp vf irel vzcbegnag gb uvz -- yrg uvz cynl gjb be guerr ebhaqf orgjrra gur zber pbasebagngvbany gerngzragf, naq lbh'yy arrq gb ercynpr uvf syhgr nsgre qernz gurencl.

I have to say, the effort and creativity that went into that game are amazing! That said, there were a fair number of points where the "obvious" response was mysteriously disabled just when I wanted to use it -- I had to figure out what else to do first before I could get back to "strategy".

#132 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 10:04 PM:

Xeger @#129: It is not while being cautious and aware that one becomes the path to ground, but in that brief moment of brainless inattention.

Now those are words to live by!

#133 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 10:14 PM:

David @ 131: I couldn't agree more about both the quasi-professional thought and the graphic work that went into this little diversion. Having worked in the counseling profession, I fully expected Herr Doktor's notes to change, just as progress notes always do. But at the same time, I was impressed that they did, and that they offer as much help as they do. Any psychologist or counselor worth his copy of the DSM knows of the value of the observations from the entire therapeutic team, so it didn't seem odd to consult the notes anytime I felt the need.

V qvqa'g unir gb qb RPG (fubpx) jvgu gur furrc, ohg qeht gurencl jnf _irel_ rssrpgvir ng bar cbvag. Naq V tbg fhpu n xvpx bhg bs gur Qe'f abgrf znxvat fb zhpu ersrerapr gb ure cnegvphyne arrqf nf n furrc.

Ba gur bgure unaq, V qvq unir gb tvir Yvyb n OVT qbfr bs RPG, nyzbfg gb gur cbvag bs selvat uvz. Gur Ovt Ahefr onaqntrq uvf urnq, naq ur pyhzcrq bhg bs gur gurencl nern gb gur "Cngvrag Ybhatr" (va Nzrevpn, vg'f pnyyrq gur Qnlebbz), fng gurer juvyr ur er-pbzobohyngrq uvzfrys, naq gura jnf ernql sbe zber jbex.

Ur, naq ng bar cbvag, gur greencva, unq gb tb guebhtu ercrgvgvir plpyrf bs gur fnzr gerngzrag, ohg pbagvahrq gb fubj vzcebirzrag guebhtu rnpu, nf fubja va gurve qernz gurencl erfcbafrf.

Gur greencva vf na rkpryyrag rknzcyr bs n onfvp cevapvcyr va gurencl--gur inyhr bs gvzr. Cnegvphyneyl jura n cngvrag svanyyl npprcgf n terng ybff gung ur/fur unf orra nibvqvat, gur erfhyg vf gur abezny tevrivat ernpgvba, naq gur bayl zrqvpvar sbe gung vf gvzr.

Lilo is still my favorite; it was surprising to see him in a cameo role during the sheep's therapy.

#134 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 10:15 PM:

ajay @ 123... How about Jane Eyrecheopteryx?

#135 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 10:18 PM:

Xeger @ 129: Those are concerning words, my friend! NO frickin' 'coon is worth your participation in a "frying game." Although your description of their desperate paws on you new roof makes me wonder if you have 'coons, or Night-gaunts.

#136 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 11:19 PM:

Roz Kaveney @ #124: I arrange the plush dinosaurs at the toy store so they are eating and rampaging the other creatures.

The dinosaur is in the attic because she's happy there. I don't think my comfort is on her mind at all. The cats do like to go and visit and chat. I think they all snack on voles together.

#137 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 11:46 PM:

Since we're talking about dinosaurs in the house here, I'll throw in a YASID. Or an author ID. There's three (I think) stories in Asimov's or F&SF about miniaturized limited-intelligence dinos who end up in sort of a group home. Who wrote these?

#138 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 11:56 PM:

Since this is an open thread, I'll ask something that I've intended to bring up for awhile, particularly among the other assorted gastronomes and cooks who frequent this site. It has nothing to do with dinosaurs in the attic, but a good bit to do with the ones in the cupboards.

About 18 months ago, I inherited the set of very good porcelain cookware that my sister and I gave my mother for Christmas 1973. It's completely intact--all 14 pieces. My mother was one of those eat-off-the-floor cleanliness people, and believed in having nice stuff and taking care of it, so it was very well cared for. However, over the years, it's become terribly stained inside. And there lies the problem.

My mother used to live in Ponca City, Oklahoma, also known as Conoco City (the company was founded there, and Conoco-Phillips is still by far the largest employer). Those few of you who live/have lived in the Oil Patch know how sorry the water quality is. I found that simply soaking the cooking surface of each pot, sauce pan, and skillet in vinegar-water allowed me to scour considerable amounts of gyp build-up off those surfaces, along with the stains it had kept. But still, except for one small skillet that apparently didn't see much use, the off-color tinges and burned spots on the other stuff remains.

Anyone of you have experience on really cleaning badly-and-historically-stained porcelain?

#139 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 11:57 PM:

This is interesting: The US Senate held an 11 second long session to prevent Presidential recess appointments, and they're going to keep the process going during the holiday break.

#140 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:15 AM:

LMB MacAlister @ 135 ...
Xeger @ 129: Those are concerning words, my friend! NO frickin' 'coon is worth your participation in a "frying game."

Er - to clarify, I've been trying to remedy some of my tool storage problems by adding plywood to the basement wall.

Since the previous denizen had the brilliant idea of putting the light switch some 6' away in the wrong direction from the places anybody would look for a light switch in the dark (and smack in the middle of where I wanted to put the plywood), I elected to relocate the switch... and to make a long story short, it seems that the previous denizen wired the house in a way that suggests s/he was -also- closely related to the Boston road crews.

There was definitely fur involved - but yak fur to be felted, dyed, and used on the walls of the bikeshed ...

Although your description of their desperate paws on you new roof makes me wonder if you have 'coons, or Night-gaunts.

Given some of the noises I've heard, night-gaunts wouldn't be a surprise...

#141 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 07:01 AM:

I read The High House once. By the end of the book I felt as though I'd just listened to the author yell "You kids get off my lawn!" for three hours straight.

#142 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 07:48 AM:

ethan @#118: That's hilarious.

#143 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:03 AM:

Marilee @ 137... That sounds like one of the stories I read in this year's Asimov. Or maybe it was in the Kramer & Hartwell Best of 2006 anthology. Alas, both are 1100 miles away right now.

#144 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Drove down to Long Island yesterday to visit friends and go on a Diner Run. I'm partial to "Greek Diners" for their expansive menus, big servings, and bizarre decor.

The 'East Bay" diner near Massapequa was . . . oye.

It had a nautical theme. lamps with shells embedded in them. Other lamps that looked like jellyfish, with tentacles. The corridor leading into the restooms was covered with wavy blue stuff; it looked like it might be the entrance to a Little Mermaid theme park ride.

And . . . in one wall were four "port holes." Behind these were large flatscreen monitors, displaying an aquarium display . . . like one of those old screen savers, but high resolution.

Wow.

#145 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Drove down to Long Island yesterday to visit friends and go on a Diner Run. I'm partial to "Greek Diners" for their expansive menus, big servings, and bizarre decor.

The 'East Bay" diner near Massapequa was . . . oye.

It had a nautical theme. lamps with shells embedded in them. Other lamps that looked like jellyfish, with tentacles. The corridor leading into the restooms was covered with wavy blue stuff; it looked like it might be the entrance to a Little Mermaid theme park ride.

And . . . in one wall were four "port holes." Behind these were large flatscreen monitors, displaying an aquarium display . . . like one of those old screen savers, but high resolution.

Wow.

#147 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Bruce @ 146: Maybe gloomier, but not in the least more surprising.

#148 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 10:45 AM:

And then there were six...

Marcus(11/??/1990 - 12/26/2007) - our beautiful Balinese, left us yesterday afternoon with the kind assistance of his vet.


#149 ::: Northland ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Marilee @ 137: I remember those stories too, and with a vague recollection of a Slavic last name managed to find the author: Richard Chwedyk wrote "The Measure of All Things", "Bronte's Egg", and "In Tibor's Cardboard Castle".

#150 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 10:59 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #146: I am waiting to see how this will be spun as evidence that the War on Terror is making us all safer.

#151 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:06 AM:

I predict that there will be a backlash uprising in Pakistan, which will either be violently suppressed by Musharraf with US help, or lead to a civil war which the US will enter on Musharraf's side.

Either way, the US will once again be seen to be the enemy of the people in the Middle East, and most likely the least moderate elements in Pakistan will take power.

If that happens, I predict that nuclear weapons will be used in war (most likely against India) for the first time since 1945.

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:07 AM:

Lori 148: I'm sorry for your loss.

#153 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Lori @ 148

I was at least as sorry to hear your news as the news about Bhutto. "After the first death, there is no other".

#154 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:15 AM:

Lori, I'm sorry. That hurts more than the more dramtic news (proximity = pain).

My deepest sympathy.

#155 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:18 AM:

Xopher @ 151

I see you've been auditing my nightmares. I've been keeping a clock like the Union of Concerned Scientists kept on their Bulletin during the Cold War, and I've been estimating 7 to 10 years until nukes are used in anger on the subcontinent or in the Middle East. The clock just ticked; I figure we have 3 to 5 years at most.

Eva says I'm doing an Eeyore, just enjoying being gloomy; I feel more like Cassandra, "Listen to me, dammnit!".

#156 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:22 AM:

As someone owned by cats, you have my sympathies, Lori.

#157 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:27 AM:

Lori Coulson #148: That's sad news.

#158 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:30 AM:

It seems that I've had an unusual number of friends losing pets (dogs or cats) this past year, and many of them younger than the average age for canine/feline death. I have to wonder how much of that might be due to lower-level contamination of pet foods that was just... quietly ignored once the Big Scandal had broken and the Administration had assured us it was All Taken Care Of.

Re Benazir Bhutto, I remember her election as Prime Minister, and how that was talked about by many people as a sign of great progress for women as well as for the world as a whole. These days, it seems that the Armies of the Night are winning, and we're heading straight back into the Dark Ages.


#159 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:32 AM:

One of the most interesting (time will tell if it is the best) source of news about the aftermath of the Bhutto assasination is The Pakistani Spectator, which is reporting, ahead of other sources, that the parlimentary election has been indefinitely postponed, and that riots are expanding in several cities. There are even reports of shots at the other principal opposition figure, Nawaz Sharif.

#160 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:46 AM:

Thanks, folks -- it's been a bad couple of days. Marcus got sick on Christmas Eve, and by Christmas day all of us realized he would be leaving us... This led to several wakeful nights.

But we had him for 17 years and I was beginning to think he might last into his twenties. He was a face patter, and always hopeful that he could make you believe he hadn't been fed for days! (And yes, his "starving" act did have some success.) His loud Siamese voice made sure you had to listen to his demands.

Last night, Kitsumi, D'Artagnan and DC roamed the house looking for their buddy. They'd been taking turns sitting with Marcus up until we had to take him to the vet. Alibi spent the evening on my Mom's lap trying to console her.

Only the two youngest cats, Tealc and Tao, seemed unaffected, but they only joined the household in September when Mom moved in with us.

I miss him, and will continue to do so, but at least everyone here understands.

Thanks for caring.

#161 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:48 AM:

Thanks for the link, Claude.

I myself was surprised by my own surprise. When she was placed under house arrest by Musharraf, the back part of my brain began to worry that something like this was particularly imminent. (Of course, it was ALWAYS imminent--she was a woman, popular, and educated in the West.)

#162 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:54 AM:

Lori, my sympathies. Our boy is about that age, and I'm trying very hard to deliberately enjoy him as often as possible.

#163 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:00 PM:

I woke to the Bhutto news. I'll reserve my speculations for the moment, but I see no good coming of it.

But Bush just condemned the people who did it, as "radical extremists" working to undermine democracy in Pakistan.

If Musharraf's fingerprints are found... I wonder what song he'll sing.

#164 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:02 PM:

Claude: The news I heard said the elections will continue, on 08 Jan.

#165 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Lori--you have my sympathy; it's always hard to part with those endearing charms, even when you know you're making the loving choice.

I've found that the confusion and grieving of the remaining pets is one of the hardest things to face, too.

#166 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:39 PM:

Lori, so sad for you; losing an old friend pet is always hard.

#167 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Terry, I have seen reports of a postponement, but no other sources have picked it up. Sharif reportedly is pledging to boycott a January election in solidarity with Bhutto's party, and some sources are saying that Bhutto was shot after the explosion. Just about everyone agrees that there is violence in Rwalpindi and Karachi, but some are saying that the roads into Islamabad have been blocked by authorities. It is a mess, which is no surprise.

I'm not sure when we will really know what is going on there, if ever. Yep, I'm a pessimist this morning.

#168 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 01:11 PM:

Weaned too fast and permitted to grow up among numbers, the mind frightens
itself with false immensities. It creates mathematical time, uniform and uninter-
ruptible; imagines mathematical space and floats off in the darkness between
stars, a lost child. Bewildered by quantity, it has nightmares of multiplied pain--
Armenians, Auschwitz (shhh)--and forgets what every child knows; that nothing
is ever suffered in plural.
There is only one body. Only one death.

Pascal's Vision -- Stephen Mitchell


I'm sorry, Lori. Xopher at 151, Oh, I hope you are wrong. I think you are right about civil war in Pakistan, but I pray that the United States has the sense to stay out of it (how could we be "in" it? I don't see it) and that no nuclear weapons are used.

#169 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 01:14 PM:

Digby and others are reporting that Scarborough on MSNBC wasted no time saying the Bhutto assassination was good for Giuliani.

This guy was once a US Congressman, which shows...something.

#170 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 01:17 PM:

Lori, my sympathies. Losing friends is horrible.

#171 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Lori, I'm so sorry for your family's loss.
Face patters are annoyingly endearing, aren't they?

#172 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Lizzy 168: Helping out our "friend" Musharraf. An ally in the WOT, you know.

And I don't think the nukes would be used in the civil war. I think that after the radical Islamists take power, they'll use them on India and/or Israel.

Thought of that way, if it really is Musharraf v. radical Islamists, Musharraf would be the lesser of two evils. Not so if it's Musharraf v. Bhuttoists.

I share your hope that I'm wrong.

#173 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Tania @171: Indeed they are -- Marcus liked to pat your face with his claws out...we never were able to convince him that we'd be happier to let him do that if it were done sans claws!

The only other family face patter, Nimue, would do it with 'soft paws' no claws.

#174 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Lori @ #173: My face patter starts out soft, and extends claws if you ignore him. Usually it's 4 AM, the food dish isn't as full as he thinks it should be, and he puts on this OMG!! STARVING!1!!1! act.
When you put a little food in his dish, his anxiety goes away, and he's fine. He's not hungry, but standards for food dish levels must be maintained.

Clever little bugger.

#175 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 02:36 PM:

I've never had a pet (unless you count my current boyfriend, which...let's just say there's a case to be made). I have all these ideas about What I Would Do, which I suspect are as valid as my ideas on childrearing (since I am also childless).

These kinds of conversations reaffirm my decision to remain both childless and petless for the foreseeable future.

#176 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Lori: I'm sorry about your kitty, and that you've lost a family member during the holidays. He sounds like he was a lovely cat.

#177 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:00 PM:

You know, Marcus had never gone without food in his life -- yet he'd give you this raucus "rowr" ("Hey, it's past dinner time -- you need to feed me!) anytime you went past the food dish.

Our crew are so good at this game that there have been several occasions where they have conned the late-waking family member into giving them breakfast even though they'd eaten THAT a couple of hours earlier.

Now I know to check with the early riser(s) before acting on the complaints of the feline family members. (Yeah, suuuuuurrre they forgot to feed you...)

#178 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:13 PM:

There's always the complaint about the bottom of the dish being (oh the horror!) visible. Shaking the crunchies back across the bottom will frequently fix that, but there are the times you actually have to put more food in the dish.

(I remember Harry sitting on the table fishing crunchies from the little can we used to fill the dish, reaching in with spread paw and catching them when she closed it up.)

#179 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:13 PM:

Lori:

Tikka, the female calico that has primary custody of me is satisfied if I keep the dry food replenished. Our older male siamese, Robin, is a world class moocher. You would swear that he was dying of hunger, 15 minutes after being fed by someone else.

And yes, it works, more often than not.

#180 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Talk of the Nation had the Pakistani ambassador to the US on a little while ago. In answer to a question he said that the elections would go on January 8, "God willing".

#181 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:29 PM:

We switched to dry food a few years ago now. So it is left out all day long for the cats, and they help themselves. They control their feeding well enough, have no weight problems or suchlike. This of course means they cannot fool us into feeding them multiple times, but then having labradors in the house meant we were immune to it anyway.

So now there are 2 bassets visiting, with their "poor me I'm being mistreated" eyes, and it doesn't get them anywhere at all because we have been hardened by years of labradors.

#182 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:31 PM:

Claude Muncey @ 180

I wonder if he meant "God willing and the people don't rise".

#183 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Wesley @141:

Tastes vary. I couldn't finish the Pullman books because of the polemics.

#184 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:50 PM:

Claude and Bruce: He meant insh'allah, which good Moslems say whenever they discuss the future.

#185 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 04:12 PM:

woo, convergence!

so i asked for & got seamus heaney's translation of beowulf for christmas from my mum-in-law. based on the recommendations from here, & my desire to be a better poetry appreciator, also mostly from here. i am in love, even though i'm barely past the introduction.

...the introduction, which asserts, "nevertheless, the dragon has a wonderful inevitability about him." (he must have been following abi's making light posts.)

also, "we must labour to be beautiful." i'm thinking of stenciling that over my drawing desk.

#186 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 04:20 PM:

miriam beetle @185:

We read the Heaney translation in early 2001. My son, born in April that year, has Beowulf as a middle name as a result.

nevertheless, the dragon has a wonderful inevitability about him.
I have always believed that a dragon that is not inevitable is spurious, and would have flown off before being encountered in the plot. Dragons are - or should be - more real and more necessary than the stories in which they appear.

#187 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 04:23 PM:

Navy Jag Resigns.

"It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy," wrote Gig Harbor, Wash., resident and attorney-at-law Andrew Williams in a letter to The Peninsula Gateway last week. "There was a time when I served with pride ... Sadly, no more."

...

Williams, 43, felt that Hartmann was admitting torture is now an acceptable interrogation technique in the United States -- an admission that did not sit well with him.

"There was this saying in the Marines: 'We don't lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate people who do,' " Williams said. "And that sort of echoed through the Navy."

Williams felt that resigning from the reserves was not enough to demonstrate his dissatisfaction. He wrote to the Gateway hoping to set an example, echoing his same reason for joining the Navy two decades ago: "It was my way of serving the public," he said.

In his letter, Williams likened the use of torture by the United States to techniques used by the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge. He also wrote that he hopes "the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming out."

...

"Thank you General Hartmann for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition. In the middle ages the Inquisition called waterboarding "toca" and used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.

"Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in 1947 giving him 15 years hard labor. Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently, the United States Army court martialed a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict."

Good on 'im. There are those who say that because he was in the reserves, and has a thriving practice it doesn't mean much.

They are idiots.

I'll stand him a round, anytime.

#188 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 04:26 PM:

Blog design: Biggest Time-Waster Evuh!

I could lose entire months of my life fiddling with different combinations of fonts, colors, layouts, etc., especially when I will probably end up going with something fairly staid. But my inner heart, which is fond of intense colors, really wants something black with fuschia and turquoise and things. If only it wasn't so hard to make white text readable on black!

#189 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Lori, you have my sympathy. But as long as you remember, he won't be totally gone. Sounds like you had a good long run. Blessings.

#190 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Lori, my sympathies for your loss--Marcus sounds like he was a sweetheart.

Re: Bhutto's assassination...if things go Terribly Wrong in Pakistan as a result, I am very much afraid that the Current Misadministration will find a way to insert us into the situation, and I can't see any good outcome for such a scenario.

I have thought for many years that the next user of atomic weapons won't be one of the so-called major powers, but rather some petty despot (or despot-wannabe) who doesn't care what happens to the rest of the world as long as he feels he's made his point.

"Peace on earth, and good will toward men" indeed...

#191 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 04:43 PM:

Susan @ #188: I have two words for you:

Gaudy borders.

A plain, simple, easily-read background for your text and illustrations is a blessing to your readers. But who says the whole page has to be text?

#192 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Susan @ 188 ...

Grey or off-white text on black tends to be more legible than pure white on black, without losing the general effect.

#193 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 06:12 PM:

fidelio:
You're a genius! Borders! I just realized exactly what piece of software I have that would be perfect for someone like me with no particular artistic talent...

#194 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 08:35 PM:

Mike (hub) and I were watching the first episode of Tin Man tonight and fell to wondering what other movies we've seen in which an evil sorceress was all done up in a fancy corset.

All we could recall was Narnia but there have to be a dozen others...it's become a fantasy cliche. Anyone?

#195 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 08:38 PM:

The Borg queen?

#196 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 08:50 PM:

Good one, Abi. I was going to say Scarlett O'Hara, but that's only marginally a fantasy.

#197 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:16 PM:

Susan
I like very dark blue on white. (Actually, very dark green or red or grey on white would also work.) There's enough contrast to make it readable, but not so much as to be hard to read. Should also work with a pale-grey background, which is even easier on the eyes.

#198 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:20 PM:

P J Evans @197 ...
I like very dark blue on white. (Actually, very dark green or red or grey on white would also work.) There's enough contrast to make it readable, but not so much as to be hard to read. Should also work with a pale-grey background, which is even easier on the eyes.

FWIW, for me, the pure white background (or the grey/white combination that makinglight uses) renders such websites an instant migraine trigger on a CRT, and tearfully painful on an LCD under non-optimal conditions.

#199 ::: Maybear ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:22 PM:

dcb@105: Hmm, I should start calling certain of the winter veggies "duck squash", then, as they are C. moschata rather than C. Pepo.

Cucurbita versus Cairina sounds so much more like a good monster movie than Duck vs. Squash. "Latin. It's all in the Latin. Kids these days..."

#200 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:25 PM:

abi @#195: ooo, right! of course! She probably started the trend.

Steve C. @#196: Yeah, Scarlett is evil*, but her corset is socially imposed, and historically set. We were thinking of SF/F...settings in which a corset automatically signifies eeevil.

*I think. Hate Scarlett, hate Mellie, hate Ashleigh, hate 'em all.

#201 ::: Maybear ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:31 PM:

Lori @148, 160, etc: So sorry for your loss. They are gone so quickly. :-(

My two will be 14 this summer, and one has gone from portly to lean within the past 3 - 4 months. All the labwork looks fine, the x-ray looks fine, but it's just NOT a good sign at all. I've made some diet adjustments and am keeping my fingers crossed.

#202 ::: Maybear ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:35 PM:

Tania @ 174: Our Snarkie isn't a face patter, but gets very anxious and vocal when the dry food no longer fully covers the bottom of the dish. Maybe it's only one kibble deep, but if she can see the bottom, she's very afraid and nervous. She has experience with hunger.

She was captured with her siblings from a feral momcat who was raising them. I got her within a week of her capture; her eyes had already changed color, so I know she was at least 12 - 14 weeks. It was hard to tell her age because she was so SKINNY.

#203 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:48 PM:

Random openthreadiness:

My two nominations for "best line spoken in a TV series this year" (not from the same series):

1. "And here's one I made out of noodles!"

2. "It's my timey-wimey detector. It beeps when there's stuff."

#204 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:21 PM:

Random stuff - I just got through watching the animated Superman-Doomsday DVD, and I was just thinking how much better it was than the Superman Returns movie. For one thing, with a running time of 74 minutes, they didn't have any padding - story and action all the way.

#205 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:20 AM:

Lori Coulson, #148, I'm so sorry. It's so hard to let them go.

Northland, #149, Thanks!

Susan, #188, people don't read white on black as often as they do text on lighter colors. It hurts.

#206 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:41 AM:

So, that crazy plushie game is fun and all, but one of the neuroses that you "cure" is apparently a case of autism induced by a traumatic event. WTF?

#207 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:47 AM:

Evil Willow -- villain in a corset.

#208 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:53 AM:

Lila@203: I'm much more partial to: "People assume that time is a straight progression of cause to effect, but from a nonlinear, nonsubjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of...wibbly-wobbly...timey-wimey......stuff."

#209 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:09 AM:

BTW, has anyone else watched this year's Doctor Who Christmas special? It was a good story, but I found the whole thing was spoiled by the new theme music, which I hate with passion.

#210 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:59 AM:

David Goldfarb @209: I did, and although I wasn't as passionately annoyed by the 'updated' theme music, I hoped that it might be a 'one-off' for the holiday show. WRT the theme music, I wish they would leave well enough (if not in fact perfect) alone. It was an annoyance to me later in the old Doctor Who series, that each update of the theme music got more hyper and kinetic, and lost the otherworldliness that was appealing in the original theme. At least then, they didn't update the theme until they had a new actor playing the Doctor; this update midstream does not bode well.

#211 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 08:15 AM:

And, happy birthday to the man who Joss Whedon calls "the father of us all", Stanley Martin Leiber, otherwise known as Stan Lee.

#212 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 08:17 AM:

#209-210: I've heard the new music now and actually liked it--but then, the thing that disappoints me most about the new series is the generic orchestral score. I usually only feel like the soundtrack has a character of its own when it uses a pop song. Anything that moves in a different direction will get my sympathy.

To my ears the best Doctor Who music is the avant-gardeish electronic/musique concrète stuff from the 1960s episodes. It's occasionally silly, but always sounds like nothing else on television.

#213 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 08:41 AM:

I think I just realized why I think I "don't get" so much modern art.

From a description of an art installation*:
Centre A is located in Vancouver's Downtown East Side, an area marked by poverty and mental illness, substance abuse and drug traffic, increasing redevelopment and gentrification, tourism and entertainment consumption, and socio-political frictions arising from the economic disparity and divergent interests of the various local users and stakeholders - including poor residents, the transient population, homeowners, business people, real-estate developers, consumers, tourists, cultural groups, and social-service organizations - and those in the underground economies, such as drug dealers and users.

Dear heaven. I think I could make that sentence more complex and opaque, but I'd have to really work for it. And that's just a description of the neighborhood around the gallery where the piece was installed. My eyes glazed over halfway through - I had to go back and force myself to read it slowly.

Artists need writers, apparently.

*Overflow, by Germaine Koh

#214 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 08:48 AM:

On villains in corsets: I think an important distinction is between corsets properly used as underwear and the new and silly cliche (on display at most conventions as well) of corsets as outerwear, which is how movie villains wear them. Scarlett O'Hara doesn't count, unless you're going to count every female character in every movie costumed more-or-less before 1920 or so. And many of them aren't villains. (Raise your hand if you think Elizabeth I is the villain in the recent film.)

#215 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 09:32 AM:

Abi (#186): Dragons are - or should be - more real and more necessary than the stories in which they appear. Great observation!

I've been working on my Year in Review thing for Locus, so have in mind two very different books that probably won't make the official list but do merit more attention: Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley (ignore the generic title), a YA set in a world where endangered species include the usual lot, along with ichthyasauruses, griffins and dragons; and Precious Dragon by Liz Williams, part of the "Inspector Chen" series whose mix of mystery, a futuristic Singapore, and Oriental supernatural elements make this one of my favorite oddball projects.

#216 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Faren @215:
Robin McKinley has another book out? She is on my always-buy list*, but I hadn't been checking.

That's my birthday† wish list started.

-----
* along with Ellen Kushner; others not springing to mind right now
† February, so plenty of time

#217 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Lori - I'm sorry for your loss. It never gets any easier to let a beloved pet go; it leave a hole in your heart that aches forever.

Slightly off-topic, you mentioned your other animals (all cats?) searching the house for Marcus. What I have done (on the advice of wiser/more experienced people) is take all the dogs to the vet with me. All of us go in the exam room, and I sit on the floor and hold the afflicted one while the vet administers the shot.

Usually, when we start, all the other dogs are crawling all over my lap*, trying to be the one closest to me, i.e., between me and the dog to be put to sleep. When the drug take effect, they move away from us**. When the vet takes the body away to be cremated, they come back to me, and we all cry together. Then we go home.

None of them have ever searched for the dead dog at the house after doing this. YMMV, but I find it comforting to have the whole pack there.

I realise you have cats, but I think I have heard of people taking them to the appointment, with the same result.

* I have Dachshunds, so multiple dogs on my lap is the default setting. Larger breeds, or less cuddly ones, may respond differently.

** I've been given explanations for this that involve angels and energy fields, but my thought is that they recognise that the body isn't doing what it should - breathing, sounding like a heartbeat, etc. I do find it interesting that they are generally quite accurate as to the time of death, as per the vet with the stethoscope.

#218 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:03 AM:

R. M. Koske @ 213

Artists need writers, apparently.

Maybe so, but I think artists need the equivalent of editors even more:

"Look, Claes, the pencil isn't enough by itself, it isn't really minimalist if it's 2 stories tall."

or

"Ok, Andy, I think you've worn out the market in soup cans."

When my partner, Eva, was in art school, back in the Lower Cretaceous, she and a friend went to an exhibition where they were moved to stand in front of one painting singing the artist's name to the tune of "Gary, Indiana":

"Robert Indiana, Robert Indiana, Ro---bert Indiana!"

An editor might have pointed out the uses of humor in gaining an audience; lacking one, they were ejected from the exhibition.

#219 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:44 AM:

Instinctively, I agree about the villainesses-wear-corsets issue. (And have you ever noticed that the real b*tches on soap operas often wear their hair very tightly pulled back? No wonder they're mean, they have headaches!) However, the evil SF women I came up with -- mainly on Stargate -- weren't corseted.

I did notice, though, that Susan in Hogfather* was pretty severely corseted, poor thing. Of course that confirms Susan's comments in 214 about character and historical setting.

*Wonder of wonders, they showed Hogfather on German TV a few days ago! Didn't notice it in time for the afternoon broadcast, but mercifully they repeated it at 1 in the morning, and we were able to record it. Despite the geographical proximity, Germany shows very little British programming whatsoever, so this was a nice surprise.

#220 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:58 AM:

Speaking of Hogfather, a huge THANK YOU! to whoever mentioned, a couple of open threads back, that it was available at Borders. I was able to snag a copy for my partner, who was not expecting it at all, so it made a very successful Christmas gift.

#221 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Now here's an idea which is sure to increase interest in the classics, and possibly insipire a new parlor game for us.

Sound and Sense indeed!

#222 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:43 AM:

John 221: But NSFW, for certain values of W.

#223 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:50 AM:

Xopher @ 222: True enough. That probably explains why he isn't asking one of his grad students to do it.

Oh, wait. That's not the sort of NSFW you meant.

#224 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:53 AM:

John @221:

That is a game for many rooms, but not, perhaps, the parlor*. And yet, my mind is already straying toward another possibility...

-----
* depending, of course, on the story selected

#225 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:00 PM:

abi @ 224: I knew I liked you!

This ad did brought back fond memories of September, 1975, which is also NSFW, for some values of W (and wouldn't I like to see what W had to do to get through college!)

#226 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:02 PM:

There's also this one.

abi, tell me now if I gotta stop, 'cause I'm having way too much fun to be deterred if you wait.

#227 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Ambar #207: But there was also very-not-evil Tara in a corset.

R. M. Koske #213: I've found that there is absolutely no relation whatsoever between the quality of an artist's work and the quality of his or her artist's statement. Except, of course, in my brother's case, where both are superb.

#228 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:23 PM:

With respect to the CIA-associated plane full of cocaine that met the ground in Mexico:

Crashing that plane, full of cocaine,
CIA got caught at the wrong speed.
Liars ahead, liars behind,
Extraodinare renditions all brought to mind.

Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Casey jones is ready, watch your speed.
Trouble ahead, trouble behind,
And you know that notion just crossed my mind.

This old CIA directed crimes
Kidnapping people across border lines
Grab them up in one country
Then others out to prisons under dozens of guns

Crashing that plane, full of cocaine,
CIA got caught at the wrong speed.
Liars ahead, liars behind,
Extraodinare renditions all brought to mind.

Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Casey jones is ready, watch your speed.
Trouble ahead, trouble behind,
And you know that notion just crossed my mind.

Liars aheads, documents shred,
Take my advice youd be better off dead.
Media pandering to the scum who're in charge
They ignore not matter how large

Crashing that plane, full of cocaine,
CIA got caught at the wrong speed.
Liars ahead, liars behind,
Extraodinare renditions all brought to mind.

Federal crimes on years of spree,
The media lies and the scum are still free.
Come round the bend, dammit when will it end,
The people scream and Cheney's income just gleams.

#229 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:32 PM:

#227, ethan -
No, of course there's no correlation between the two.

But since most of my exposure to modern art at the moment is on the internet, and consists of small, inadequate photos plus artist's statements...well. In that situation, there's a lot out there that is hard to appreciate, even if it is stunning in person.

#230 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Villian in a tight corset: Scarran War Minister Akna, various Farscape episodes and "Peacekeeper Wars." (Is there a subcategory for Villians in Scary Hats?)

#231 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:07 PM:

R.M. Koske @213,

I think that's a characteristic of art writers in general.

A few years back I was hanging out with a friend: she'd been taking an art class (history of art? watercolors?) at a local community college. She showed me the textbook and asked me how readable I thought it was.

My... word...

Each paragraph stretched over pages, and the sentences were longer than the paragraphs. Mate a Chomsky-generator with image recognition software with a thesaurus with a supercomputer and send the quadruple-helix offspring through a hard-takeoff and maybe, maybe it'd be capable of writing that textbook. To understand it you'd need to bring Pynchon and my 9th-grade diagramming-expert English teacher into the mix.

#232 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:11 PM:

Just read this in Wired that says "scientists might have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness."

What prompted me to post here was: "The research follows the discovery by Siegel that the absence of orexin A appears to cause narcolepsy. That finding pointed to a major role for the peptide's absence in causing sleepiness. It stood to reason that if the deficit of orexin A makes people sleepy, adding it back into the brain would reduce the effects, said Siegel."

#233 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:13 PM:

Ah, Dawno beat me to the link!

#234 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:19 PM:

I remember my general-ed art appreciation class included reading stuff like Mondrian on 'plastic art' and 'pure plastic art'. It's a good thing I wasn't intending to become an art critic (or an art professor) because I thought it was pretty much unreadable (and didn't make a lot of sense, either).
I had the same reaction to the 'theory' part of a book on Helaman Ferguson's sculptures. (The sculptures are neat, the theory - not.)

#235 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:19 PM:

R. M. Koske @ 229:

But since most of my exposure to modern art at the moment is on the internet

I scoffed at much modern and contemporary art till I saw it in person. If you live anywhere near a good museum, go.

I was amazed how many things that looked silly or stupid in reproduction took my breath away standing in front of them.

#236 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:37 PM:

John Arkansawyer, I had a totally abstract and intellectual appreciation of the Modern until I stood in front of Pollock's Grayed Rainbow when I was seventeen. The Art Intsitute of Chicago had hung it in a small room, so that one saw it as one sees the sky at the horizon on a flat plain. The earth moved. The other stuff I saw that day- Picasso's Blue Guitarist, for instance, and Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jette- were much as I expected them to be, but the Pollock is what I go back to time and again, when I want to remember the potential emotional and sensual impact of painting.

#237 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:44 PM:

#235, John A Arkansawyer -

I feel like I've hit a point in my life where I can't grow anymore unless I start getting out there and doing it instead of reading about it.* Art (of all kinds) is on the list, definitely.

*Why this comes as any kind of surprise to me, I don't know.

#238 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:53 PM:

xeger @ #198:
So, out of curiosity, what color combination(s) do you not find migraine-inducing on a monitor?

#239 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:54 PM:

This is what I said after reading Robert La Fosse's autobiography: "It reads as if written by someone who's devoted his entire life to nonverbal expression."

So too with painters and sculptors. Don't expect me to paint, or them to write.

But I don't try to paint and assume that because I'm a decent writer what I paint will be good enough.

#240 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:07 PM:

For those in the Bay Area, SFMOMA has three outstanding shows on right now: boxes by Joseph Cornell; immense, amazing backlit photos by Jeff Wall; and mind-bending installations by Olafur Eliasson. And yes, all are much better in person than on the web.

#241 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:24 PM:

For whatever it might be worth .. between the time I start remembering things and the time I moved out of my parents' house, I think there were exactly two non-modern pieces of art that I saw either at home or at my grandparents' house. When you grow up with it, it looks pretty normal ....

#242 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Xopher #239: But I don't try to paint and assume that because I'm a decent writer what I paint will be good enough.

The difference is that writers aren't expected to provide their cover art, but artists generally are expected to provide their statements. Stupid, but true.

#243 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Resting in less than 10 feet of Caribbean seawater, the wreckage of Quedagh Merchant, the ship abandoned by the scandalous 17th century pirate Captain William Kidd as he raced to New York in an ill-fated attempt to clear his name, has escaped discovery -- until now.

An underwater archaeology team from Indiana University announced today (Dec. 13) the discovery of the remnants. IU marine protection authority Charles Beeker said his team has been licensed to study the wreckage and to convert the site into an underwater preserve, where it will be accessible to the public.

#244 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:49 PM:

My difficulty with modern art isn't necessarily that I don't like it, but more that it seemed in school like they were always telling us there was all kinds of meaning and layers in it that I just don't see. Mondrian's art is supposed to be quite religious in theme, I think. But for me it is just beautiful paintings of well-proportioned squares of color.

If you show me a Reubens, I know enough about human emotions that I can often see the meaning. Add in a little knowledge of symbolism and mythology, and I "get" most representational art. But to understand modern art the way we were told we should in school, it seems like you have to read and comprehend the artist's statements.

When I allow myself to deal with modern art on appearance alone, I get by with it just fine.

#245 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 02:53 PM:

R. M. Koske #244: Again, there are (at least) three different things involved here: the artist's intentions, what the critics see, and what you the individual see. And again, these things are often completely unrelated. And that's fine. Once one realizes that, one can appreciate all kinds of things one couldn't before (or at least that's how it happened for me).

This is true of every field of human expression. If it (looks, sounds, whatever) good, it is good.

#246 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 03:19 PM:

I'd like to report that the leek, apple and sausage pie reheats very nicely.

Why are there leftovers if it's that's good? Because we did the feasts of thousands on Christmas Day. Invited eight, got six, had food for 20. There was leftover prime rib!

#247 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 03:45 PM:

The guy whose house I almost rented is an abstract painter.

Usually, abstract painting does nothing for me. But I've spent a couple of afternoons in his company, talking about aesthetic theory and looking at his work. They are intense sessions, very wearing for both of us, but in the course of them I've learned a lot about his work. I've discovered that I react very strongly to some of it, and that he is very interested in my individual reaction to what he does. It often surprises him, but it's never "wrong".

So, basically, what ethan said in comment 245.

#248 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:16 PM:

Villains in tight corsets: No one has mentioned the cast headlined by Rocky Horror?

#249 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:18 PM:

#245, ethan & #247, abi -

*nods* After my post, I happened on a video where a man is stalked by a giant cement figure.* As I watched, I thought about how opaque it was but how I wasn't worried about whether I'd be able to unpack it, because as with representational art, I feel like I have a vocabulary to draw on.

As I thought about it, I realized - I don't have an abstract vocabulary because I haven't tried.

I told myself that representational vocabulary comes easy because it's familiar, but that's not necessarily true - I had to be taught about color meanings and symbolism and myth. So I need to be looking at abstracts with this in mind - what is vocabulary the artist is using? It could be curves, jagged edges, chance, precision, or whatever. I've been coasting with representational stuff because it is "easy" and abstract can require you to actually think.

For some reason that hadn't occurred to me before.

The idea of the three different views of a piece (artist, critic, and me) is a similarly obvious revelation. I knew it about books. But applying it to visual arts? That's new.

Thanks everyone who commented. It never felt possible for me to do more than parrot back criticism on the abstract stuff. Now I feel like it is something that can be for me, too.

*From boingboing, Terminus - you'll need to select it from that page.

#250 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Carol: Are there villains in RHPS? Arguably Riff-Raff, but he doesn't appear in a corset.

#251 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:26 PM:

#245 ::: ethan

R. M. Koske #244: Again, there are (at least) three different things involved here: the artist's intentions, what the critics see, and what you the individual see. And again, these things are often completely unrelated. And that's fine. Once one realizes that, one can appreciate all kinds of things one couldn't before (or at least that's how it happened for me).

This is true of every field of human expression. If it (looks, sounds, whatever) good, it is good.

Five Steps in the Creative Process:
1) Original concept
2) Game plan for creating it
3) Actual creation sequence*
4) Finished work
5) What the work evokes

* modified by further ideas and the intrusion of reality that can be misbehavior of materials and/or accidents pushed through to new territory.

People tend to think "art" is 1 & 4. 2,3 and 5 are where amazing things happen.

Singing the artist's name to "Gary, Indiana" also happened at the Hastings College Gallery in the early 70's. We weren't thrown out, though.

#252 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:29 PM:

As I see it, art is largely about craft, perception, and emotion; intellect and conceptualization are secondary. So the problem I have with a lot of modern art is that it is about conceptualization first, and craft, perception, and emotion secondarily, if at all.

An example from a show I saw a few years ago*. It consisted of large black and white photographs of various places like fire escapes, roofs, alleys, and so on in Manhattan. The photographs were not very good in terms of composition or other technical characteristics, and none of them had a central subject; there were no human or animal figures or even objects like cars, lampposts, or dustbins. Just walls, floors and windows.

But, says the catalog, each photo is distinguished by having been taken while people were having sex just out of sight, behind doors or around corners. There were several dozen of these photos.

So the salient characteristic of these photos, the thing they were "about" was something that could not be perceived from the photos themselvs, but had to be told to you outside the context of the work. I think this is bass-ackwards: it should be possible to get everything you need to appreciate at least one level of the work from the work itself. Certainly bringing in outside context and information can deepen your appreciation for the work, but it shouldn't be necessary for any appreciation of the work.

This dominance of concept in art is not caused by the lack of ability on the part of the artist to verbalize zir intentions clearly. It's about the verbalization, clear or not, being paramount over the execution of the work. And I call it spinach.

* Sorry, I can't remember the name of the artist.

#253 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Xopher @ #239:
So too with painters and sculptors. Don't expect me to paint, or them to write.

But I don't try to paint and assume that because I'm a decent writer what I paint will be good enough.

(with apologies for tooting my own horn unattractively)

This is something I've noticed makes me stand out from a lot of my dance friends - I not only dance, I want to study it and write about it, and (I hope) I have the verbal ability to do this successfully. Most of them have no desire at all to do this and possibly no ability; judging by some of the handouts I've seen the latter may be the case even for the people who do good research and communicate well orally (good stuff in, printed garbage out; WHY???) I may have to add a fifth element to my dance-teacher-scholar grading rubric.

Hence my desire to blog, and my possibly egomaniacal conviction that I can singlehandedly produce enough verbiage about various aspects of dance to make an interesting blog. I just hope I don't prove to be an example of what Xopher's describing!

#254 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Bruce 252: Sorry, I can't remember the name of the artist.

I bet no one will. That sounds like a pretty crummy piece of art.

But note, the art here was not photography. The art WAS the concept.

I think it's very bad art.* But that's not quite the same as saying it's not art.

*And because the concept, not the photographs, was the art, I can judge the piece as art without seeing the photographs!

#255 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Carol @ 248: But those are the good guys. And girls. And, well, whatever they are, they're good ones.

And two extra-special bonus links, found via Dennis Perrin: One and Two. View them in order.

#256 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Well, so much for respect for the current incumbent of the US Presidency:
This ad gets right in there.

When an insurance company television ad can feel no shame about displaying a double for the Deciderer in such a manner, he's lost Middle America for sure.

They even got the dog's expression right.

#257 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 252 -

But, says the catalog, each photo is distinguished by having been taken while people were having sex just out of sight, behind doors or around corners.

They said that with a straight face?

Perpetrators of such idiocy should lined up an whipped. Just out of sight, of course.

#258 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Susan @253:
Having read - and followed* - one of your dancing instruction sheets, I look forward to the way you will be writing about dancing.

-----
* alone, with my laptop on one arm, in the darkened living room of a borrowed flat, with all the lights of Amsterdam about me

#259 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Xopher @ 254: *And because the concept, not the photographs, was the art, I can judge the piece as art without seeing the photographs!

I have to disagree here. I can imagine this piece giving me a creepy feeling of voyeurism, if the photographs were handled correctly (which might mean something other than ordinary aesthetic value).

In general, judging conceptual art by reading about it is a big mistake. I can guarantee you that it won't work for 4'33" or X For Henry Flynt, for example.

#260 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 252: I think this is bass-ackwards: it should be possible to get everything you need to appreciate at least one level of the work from the work itself.

Who says the statement about things offscreen isn't part of the work?

#261 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 05:42 PM:

I don't give a rat's ass about the "meaning" of modern art. I interact with it solely on the basis of whether it makes esthetic sense to me. Some of it does. Rather a lot of it doesn't. I don't expect anyone else to have exactly the same feelings I do about a particular piece either, because it's all entirely subjective.

#262 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Tim 259: Hmm, I think you may be right about that. 4'33" definitely doesn't work that way...but then it doesn't work if you know in advance how it's supposed to go, either. I need to think about that one.

#263 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Coming to this as an "artist" (whatever that means).

I'm with Xopher: the photography show was probably crap. Nothing is gained (IMO) by being told sex is happening offscreen.

I can walk down my block, on any given night, and there will be sex happening offscreen. A picture of the house gains nothing because of it.

Which means the "Art" is there because someone thought telling the viewer there were people performing just offscreen (since the photographer had to get them there to be sure of having them there; if he wasn't just making it up) would give them a purient thrill.

Which is cheap-assed art, if you ask me.

Could such a concept be well done? Yes. But I think the people need to be manifest in someway (and they don't need to be actually having sex; that's immaterial to the art, because the viewer will fill in the blanks with what the viewer thinks those arrangements of bodyparts/people mean).

When I was studying communications theory we were told there were several parts to the process.

The Sender
The Message
The Signal
The Interference
The Receiver

Everyone of those parts add, or detracts, or changes the message.

The part we were told to rememeber is there is no message which doesn't have interference, and the end result is that what the receiver "hears" is the message. If you need the message to be just so, then you need to introduce feedback to the system, so that changes, from interference, can be corrected.

Artists statements are, usually, an attempt to provide reduced interference; by telling the audience what was being attempted.

My statement is, generally, "I take pictures. I try to show you, what it was I saw in my mind's eye when I tripped the shutter."

Which is true. I'm a painfull representational photographer, but what I am trying to represent is how it looked, to me

#264 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Xopher @ 261: Not having ever been surprised by 4'33", I can't say for sure, but I think I got more out of it knowing the drill. The theatrical shock seems like a distraction more than anything; the experience of listening to "ordinary" sound as music is the important part, for me.

#265 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:55 PM:

Terry @ 262: Nothing is gained (IMO) by being told sex is happening offscreen.

How is it different, in principle, from the Vietnam War Memorial, which also requires being told "offscreen" what the point of the list of names is?

#266 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 06:57 PM:

Tim, 264: Maybe because the Vietnam War and its many needless deaths is waaaaay more important than random people having sex?

#267 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 07:11 PM:

Tim Walters ... because that list of names needs a context.

It's also a case of historical arc... there are lots of lists of names, usually local, of those who went off to war and didn't come home. This one is just larger in scale.

Knowing the reason for the names puts them into context.

People having sex, or eating, or sleeping, just off camera doesn't do that. The door gains no context from it, nor does the warehouse, the empty field, or the changing room.

It's, IMO, schtick. It's an attempt to add meaning where none is.

I like photos. I look at lots of them. Good photos have a "meaning" It may be that they are pretty, or record a moment, or preserve a fading piece of something (decrepit strutures, soon for the wrecking ball). Perhaps they tell a tale. Nothing is without context.

But a discrete thing, offscreen, isn't context. Context is the greater whole, and couple having fun isn't a greater whole.

Perhaps; as a gestalt, the installation works. Maybe there's a message that, "sex happens" and that was worth trying to say.

If so, as described, I think this was a poor attempt.

TexAnne: I'm not sure the merits of the deaths and sex aren't equivalent. I'm just not sure the sex needs to be memorialised.

#268 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 07:22 PM:

TexAnne @ 265: The importance of the subject seems irrelevant to the aesthetic question.

If the Vietnam War Memorial works despite leaving the war offscreen (and I definitely think it does) then we can only conclude that leaving the subject offscreen is not a deal-breaker.

Terry @ 266: People having sex, or eating, or sleeping, just off camera doesn't do that. The door gains no context from it, nor does the warehouse, the empty field, or the changing room.

Not much I can say except that I disagree. I don't see any difference in mechanism between this and the memorial.

#269 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 07:50 PM:

Terry Karney @ 262

I agree with what you said, except that I don't think it has much to do with whether the art is representational or not. I like a lot of representational art, and a lot of abstract art as well; my own photos tend to be a mix of both; my idols are Cartier-Bresson, who was representational, and Weston, who often wasn't.

It's not so much that conceptual art isn't art; though you can probably get some really heated arguments going about particular works. It's that it's largely bad art.

And that's what I see as the difference between the Vietnam Memorial and the photographs I described: even without the context, the Wall is an imposing and affecting work, the context is such as to increase these effects, not create them. And the context of the Wall may or may not be more important than that of people having sex around the corner; I suspect that arguing that isn't going to change any opinions in any case. But the context of the Wall is considerably more universal* and has a longer lasting and deeper effect on the viewer. In other words, better art.

* By which I mean that more people of more different cultures and temperaments will find it interesting and affecting than will find hidden sex affecting.

#270 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Not exactly a \villain/ in a corset -- but wasn't the dress that took "Princess Lily" over to the dark side in Legend cut&wired for display?

#271 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 09:20 PM:

The converse of the evil empress in the corset is the evil overlord in the high-necked tunic or shirt-jacket or imperial robes. You never see an evil overlord in a t-shirt, scruffy shorts, and flip-flops.

Maybe the root of all evil is uncomfortable clothes.

#272 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 09:31 PM:

My favorite book about art theory was Thomas Wolfe's The Painted Word.

In short, describing how art that revolted from a literalism requiring a classical education to appreciate what was being depicted (allusions to Greek and Biblical myths and moments in history) ended up requiring knowledge of the design theory which motivated its creation to appreciate the art.

#273 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 09:37 PM:

Northland, #145, I emailed Chwedyk and he says he has another saur story almost ready to send out and that he has plans for more. I suggested a collection.

Tim Walters, #264, it's the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In order to get there, you have to go by the National Park Service booth as well as private volunteer booths with folks who will help you find names and make rubbings and so forth. Those folks will also be POW & MIA rememberers. There's also a bookstore and concessions. There's two statues that are part of the memorial: The Vietnam Women's Memorial and the Three Servicemen Memorial. I think it would be difficult for a competent adult to get to the Wall and not know what it is.

#274 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 10:30 PM:

Marilee @ 272: it's the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Oops, sorry.

I think it would be difficult for a competent adult to get to the Wall and not know what it is.

Knowing what it is isn't the issue--Bruce knew what the exhibit in question was. I agree that if there's information you need to make a piece of art work, that information should be included. I just don't think it necessarily needs to be depicted.

Here's a thought experiment. Suppose an exhibit consists of several unremarkable portraits of children. So far, so boring. Then you read the program and find out one of the following:

--the children all grew up to be porn stars
--the children all grew up to be Nobel prize winners
--the children were the last to be born in slavery in their respective states

or pick one of your own.

According to Bruce's and Terry's aesthetic, as I understand it, no matter what information we might learn about the children from the program, it doesn't make the exhibit worthwhile, because it's not in the pictures, and the pictures aren't that good by themselves.

I say it's at least worth trying to see if you can get something new out of the pictures with that information in mind.


#275 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:29 PM:

Tim Walters: No, you have mistaken what I think is the issue.

Depending on the portraits, the extra information might change them; that would depend, a lot, on how it was presented, what the artist did with the subjects, and how I feel about those things.

That gets into the issue of reciever, and interference (one's biases are a type of interference).

I, personally, don't think that what a person is doing, off camera, is relevant to the picture. They can be eating, sleeping, killing, harvesting the beets, or having sex. Unless, in someway, that can be shown to be relevant to the image at hand, I don't care.

The context of the names (on The Wall) is relevant to the it. I am hard pressed to imagine an entire show of photographs which have off camera people doing anything which is relevant to the pictures.

From Bruce's description, he didn't find it all that relevant either. For me, what's going on, out of frame, is only relevant if I, the viewer, am in some way drawn to interact with the out of screen elements.

That usually requires something happening, in the frame, which draws my mind out of it. I don't think being told that "people were doing 'x'" counts, because a picture is, absent some careful design, a thing complete. The artist choses what is, or isn't, in the frame (this is the way in which photos can lie; but that's something else altogether). The artist chooses what to leave out. This artist seems to want to have his cake, and eat it too.

The Wall is an arresting object, all by itself. A list of names is different from a photograph of a thing. The listing of names demands a context. One could put a label across the top, or a panel in the middle, which explains it.

That would be a different Wall. It would, in some ways, be the same.

The Tomb of the Unkowns is somewhat the same. The guard shows that it's a place apart. The rituals tell the ignorant that this is a special place.

The Wall's imposition on the landscape does much the same. If one wonders why it's there, one can find out, but it's an affecting thing, in it's own right.

From the description Bruce gave, he didn't find this photos to do that. What affect you said it might have was a frisson of the forbidden. You say that, were the photos properly handled (which you also say you aren't sure how such could be done) you might get a creepy thrill of voyuerism.

I think that can be done; I just think the voyeuristic elements need to be in the frame.

Note, I've not said it isn't art. Like Xopher, I think it's bad art. Not merely because it requires a grammar the viewer may not have learned (as with modern, and abstract arts) but because, absent a wink, and a nudge, from the artist, the viewer can't learn what's going on.

At that point the photos have to stand on their own merit, as photos. The concept is lost, and with it the thrill, or whatever else, they are supposed to evoke.

Bruce (StM): I like lots of non-representational art, I just don't practice it. Pollack, Mondrian and Kandinsky thrill me to pieces. Seeing their stuff floors me. I can just sit and stare at it for hours (oftimes to my companions dismay).

Man Ray is wonderful.

But it's not my way of showing the world.

#276 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:34 PM:

re 271: I hadn't read The Painted Word, though I have read From Bauhaus to Our House, which makes similar arguments. But I'd come to similar conclusions on my own. It's bloody obvious to me that a lot of the meaning in conceptual art is in its opacity. It's important that bourgeois beauty-seekers not "get" it, or else it loses its significance as a class distinction.

#277 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 11:52 PM:

C. Wingate @ 275: I've read neither book, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suspect that you've misread the argument. (I know, the thread for hubris is over here. So sue me.) What I take from Rob Rusick's summary of Wolfe's argument is that it's hard to create great art that can exist and be appreciated without a cultural context. Maybe even that it's not possible to do so at all.

Anyway, my encounter with conceptual art at the Yoko Ono retrospective at SFMOMA showed me that in her case, the art was not generally opaque. A little of it was, if anything, a bit obvious.

#278 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:22 AM:

Terry @262: I'm with Xopher: the photography show was probably crap. Nothing is gained (IMO) by being told sex is happening offscreen. [...] Could such a concept be well done? Yes. But I think the people need to be manifest in someway (and they don't need to be actually having sex; that's immaterial to the art, because the viewer will fill in the blanks with what the viewer thinks those arrangements of bodyparts/people mean).

How about these photographs? They were voyeuristically taken with infrared without the subjects' knowledge, centering on people having sex in a public park-- but the photos are of the voyeurs surreptitiously watching the sex, not of the sexual acts themselves (with the exception of any voyeurs who were thus inspired).

#279 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:36 AM:

C Wingate: I wasn't going to drag in that aspect of the question. There are arguments to be made that making art hard to understand limits its appeal to the masses, and so keeps the value of patronizing artists up.

Julie: those pictures work for me. They might even work if the couple having sex weren't in the frame.

See my comments at #274, where I discuss the in the frame intimations of things outside the frame.

#280 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:36 AM:

Terry @262: I'm with Xopher: the photography show was probably crap. Nothing is gained (IMO) by being told sex is happening offscreen. [...] Could such a concept be well done? Yes. But I think the people need to be manifest in someway (and they don't need to be actually having sex; that's immaterial to the art, because the viewer will fill in the blanks with what the viewer thinks those arrangements of bodyparts/people mean).

How about these photographs? They were voyeuristically taken with infrared without the subjects' knowledge, centering on people having sex in a public park-- but the photos are of the voyeurs surreptitiously watching the sex, not of the sexual acts themselves (with the exception of any voyeurs who were thus inspired).

#281 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:42 AM:

(sorry for the multiple post-- having weird network trouble)

#282 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:51 AM:

Terry @ 274: No, you have mistaken what I think is the issue.

But...

I think that can be done; I just think the voyeuristic elements need to be in the frame.

...is exactly what I thought you thought the issue was.

As a matter of taste, I might agree with you; I tend to be a sensualist, especially in my own work. As a principle it seems unjustified.

#283 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:13 AM:

Over the years, I've come to the view that the balance between open and hidden information is a critical factor in reactions to art. The pictures of the renaissance were part of a world of patronage that was laden with shared knowledge of the symbolism the artists used, but it is still within the picture, and the picture is still filled with information.

Today, it almost seems that the artists struggle to translate information from their mindspace into the picture. Either the common symbolic structure doesn't exist, or it is so arcane as to be useless.

And poutting this info in the gallery programme is, I think, very close to cheating.

Now, Tim, your thought experiment: you are using a documentary approach, and calling it art. This isn't an impossibility, but by hiding the information you're relying on the surprise to make the art, and I don't think that's the right line to take. It's a sort of gloating cleverness, sneering at the audience over their ignorance.

#284 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:17 AM:

re 276: I think I was a bit too subtle in my use of "get it". What I mean is that the wrong kind of reading is to try to appreciate it aesthetically, and that's what the "bourgeois beauty-seekers" do. It doesn't matter whether these people get it in the sense of catching the conceptual message, because their disdain for that stigmatizes them as being outside the circle.

In between posts I was looking at some criticism of Norman Rockwell. And it struck me that the darling of art critic world of the moment, Edward Hopper, is every bit as sentimental as Rockwell, if not more so. The difference is that the sentiments are more acceptable. I could take that further and treat conceptual art as having nothing but sentiment, with the aesthetic stripped entirely away. The opacity of this lies not in the message being hard to decode, but in the insistence that art is necessarily aesthetic. Thus the beauty-seekers do not see it as art at all, and that's how they don't get it.

I'm not quite that bad, but for me it commits an even more unforgivable sin: it's boring. To change fields for a minute, Benjamin Forgey is hot to preserve the central District of Columbia library, because it's Mies van de Rohe's only building in DC. Well, uh, yeah, except that it's an utterly unremarkable three story black box set in an unwelcoming plaza. Even by Bauhaus standards, it's a discouraging building: not so ugly that I want to tear it down on sight (that would be the militantly hostile brutalism of the FBI building), but rather totally unable to inspire in me any interest in its fate. It has been reduced to conceptual art, a mere symbol of the merit of the International Style.

#285 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:22 AM:

Tim Walters: I thought your idea of my problem was that, "Not much I can say except that I disagree. I don't see any difference in mechanism between this and the memorial. and I do see a difference in mechanism.

I also see a difference in the implicit context, a list of names has to be contextulised. It can be internal context (say a date, as in the memorial in Nürnburg for the Franco-Prussian War (which is, come to think of it interesting, and strange as Bavaria wasn't part of the German Empire yet, but my mind wanders) or some bit of statuary (say a Warship, for the cenotaph of a ship lost at sea).

The viewer expects to have that list explained.

With a picture that's not the case. The artist, as I said before, has complete control of what is in, or out, of the frame.

It's not that the picture can't work in such a way as to imply things out of frame, but that when those things are the subject, the compact between artist and audience is broken.

#286 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:26 AM:

Tim Walters @ 281

As a principle it seems unjustified.

I can't speak for Terry, but he might agree with me that it's not a question of principle so much as an empiric rule that doing things this way isn't likely to produce good art. There isn't much about art that can be reduced to principles, in part because it's not really possible to define art to everyone's satisfaction, but 30 millennia of producing art* has left us with some rules of thumb that generally work.

* I'm counting from Lascaux

#287 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:43 AM:

Dave Bell @ 282: Now, Tim, your thought experiment: you are using a documentary approach, and calling it art. This isn't an impossibility, but by hiding the information you're relying on the surprise to make the art, and I don't think that's the right line to take. It's a sort of gloating cleverness, sneering at the audience over their ignorance.

I didn't mean to imply that it was hidden, or a surprise. Put the info on the wall next to the photos if you prefer.

Terry Karney @ 284: a list of names has to be contextulised.

Why is it OK to use a list of names that needs context, but not an image that needs context?

but that when those things are the subject, the compact between artist and audience is broken.

I don't think I signed that compact. :)

#288 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 02:38 AM:

Bruce 252
As I see it, art is largely about craft, perception, and emotion; intellect and conceptualization are secondary. So the problem I have with a lot of modern art is that it is about conceptualization first, and craft, perception, and emotion secondarily, if at all.

I don't agree--consider the image of the Dutch master with the device in front of him that gridded the scene he was painting and projected it onto the table, or DaVinci with measurements, etc.

I was having a conversation with a friend who's a singer-songwriter and some other friends about words versus tunes in creating with words and/or tune.... that is "do you get the words first, or the turn first, or do you get one with or without the other? She and I, and another mutual friend, do all of the above--words without tune, tune without word, and words tune/tune words arriving enmeshed with one another.

That's not quite an "art? science? Both?" discussion, but it's a corollary in ways--there is music I loathed because I dislike the sound of it, and songs I dislike because I don't like the words/find the sound of the words annoying or failing in terms of rhythm/meter/assonance-consonce-rhyme. There's a song "The Soldier and the Queen" that shoves way too many syllables clumsily in for the tune and it's an annoyance/distraction for me.

That goes between art and science--rhythm and meter are measurable--metric even--things. Freeform verse can have its own freeform rhythm and meter, but once applying a formal structure to it (the villainelle [spelling] that some folks in Making Light are quite facile with defeats me because I don;t -remember- what the form -is-, and a form that I can't even -remember- the format for, isn't one I'm likely to plan to implement! ...naming conventions and I have never much appreciated one another, one of the worst problems I had in freshman physics was trying to keep attached the supposed identy of Hertz = cycle per second. Cycle per second was to me a -functional- name, "Hertz" was arbitrarily slapping a not-meaningful nonfunctional -label- on something that had a functional meaning, and the functional definition and the human LABEL just were NOT sticking together for me... the association wasn't there. Now, calling a Science Fiction something or other Award a Hugo did stick for me, because the name "Hugo Gernsback" was someone who was a science fiction editor who was tied closely into the field and community of science fiction, and the awards were given a vernacular label which there were lots of connecting lines for....

The craft, perception, and emotion and the intellect and conceptualization are all enmeshed together in tying "Hugo Gernsback, progenitor of modern SF" to "set of awards in science fiction that recognize Gernback's role in effecting modern science fiction."

Right at the moment I'm sitting on the mattress of a bed which has four turned-on-a-lathe-and-carved-and-then-hand-carved-not-turning, then hand-finished, bed posts which are functional bedposts--they're holding up the weight of the mattress. The carving was all done to -drawings-, it wasn't done without elaborate drawings done first--particular not with -four- posts that are relatively elaborately carved, and the direction of the carvings, different on the different posts to mirror-image the adjacent posts.

My point is that art often involves a lot more calculation and -science- that gets recognized casally looking at the results, and that the conceptualization and intellect are involved from the get-go with the creation of arts, often at a very conscious and deliberate level, as in, "okay, how I am going to make that and what are the constraints I have to work with of materials properties, margines of errors/tolerances, radiusing, how thick/thin are the limits of my ability to cut/carve and the material strength issue (make something too thin and it's going to break easily, is one constraint), etc.?"

Carol 251

Five Steps in the Creative Process:
1) Original concept
2) Game plan for creating it
3) Actual creation sequence*
4) Finished work
5) What the work evokes

Some of those steps aren't always conscious ones, though, particularly is someone is "doodling." There are people I've met who seem unable to face a blank piece of paper to put anything on it/design anything without someone else first providing them a detailed specification designating exactly what the result is supposed to do and what size, shape, and weight it is going to be. At the other extreme, I've been a member of design teams working with a set of design goals and trading off size, shape, weight, power, performance, computer power, radiated power, development risk, cost, labor effort, etc. etc. etc. to come up with several candidate concepts and then merging concepts to get to a final design.

What's conscious and what's unconcious in the process depends on the individual people, the formality, what gets created, the degree of existing familiarity and knowledge (there are reasons for the term "the state of the art... I worked with people who had instrumentation so unique, in one case the people called up that National Institute of Standards and Technology to ask about equipment calibration, and NIST unknowlingly tried to refer the people back to themselves, and in another, the only other similar system in existence was in Germany.

Pushing the state of the art means a different set of rules in some ways, than creating something in a well-trod area of endeavor... it reminds me of a set of art a SF/F art collector bought long ago, before the light-sensitivity of some type of color medium was well-known--it turned out that the medium was particularly sensitive to sunlight and faded but the fact that the medium sas that susceptible, hadn't been known when the artist did the artwork... the problem got discovered because the art faded in the sunlight over time. The less that's known, the more risk there is of that sort of thing....

And longevity is another consideration, there is art which truly is ephemeral, such as the arrangement of food artistically on a plate with the intent that the food be eaten....

#289 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:05 AM:

Terry Karney @262 --Artists' statements are, usually, an attempt to provide reduced interference; by telling the audience what was being attempted.

Sometimes artists' statements are interference, if what they say their work "means" is drastically different from how I'm experiencing it. (There's no help for that, I suppose, and it's not a criticism, just an observation.)

#290 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:23 AM:

Rob Rusick@210: I doubt that they would go to the trouble of recording and mixing a new theme just for a one-off; I'll be surprised if this isn't the opening credits music at least through the end of series 4.

I've listened to the new theme a couple more times, and it's grown on me a little; I think my initial strong reaction was in part the OMGWTFBBQ factor. It still seems quite far from an improvement, though.

Wesley@212: I really like Murray Gold's music in general and have bought both CDs. I was surprised that he would do that to the theme.

#291 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:40 AM:

Xopher @ #261: 4'33" ... doesn't work if you know in advance how it's supposed to go

I have never found that to be the case. What is your understanding of "how it's supposed to go"?

#292 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:21 AM:

Abi et al. upthread on the topic of Light, lack of quality thereof...

A quick thought. There is good evidence that blue light has the strongest effect on circadian rhythms*, thus the new emphasis on blue LED light boxes.

The GoLite ($100+) and the ?name? blue-LED light bulb ($60, marketed as a GoLite replacement) are expensive. Driving around tonight, I'm seeing a fairly inexpensive source of ready-to-use large sets of blue LEDs. Xmas lights could be a less-expensive way to test out how blue LEDs work for onesself.

---
* perhaps I commented on this recently? Can't look at the moment.

#293 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:23 AM:

Some of you may recall that I volunteered to help clean up comment spams on Real Live Preacher. I'm pleased to report that over 5 days from Dec. 22 to 27, all of the spams got deleted -- and there were a lot of them, something like 130,000! By contrast, there are about 10,500 real live comments.

If I may brag a little here (I'm checking myself from doing so over there) I killed about 13,000 of them. At that, there's someone else who -- if I'm reading the logs correctly -- did almost twice as much as I.

If I were omnipotent, people who write spambots and people who use them would get a little implant in their head that would detect any speech act by or to them and respond by activating a painfully loud siren.

#294 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:29 AM:

R.M. Koske @ 244: "My difficulty with modern art isn't necessarily that I don't like it, but more that it seemed in school like they were always telling us there was all kinds of meaning and layers in it that I just don't see."

I squint my eyes warily at any art that requires a college degree to interpret "correctly." There's a marked tendency among artists of any discipline to produce art that's largely just responding to earlier works,* rather than trying to communicate with average people. Once the art becomes so self-referential that merely appreciating art becomes a skill in its own right, it's hard to see what the point of the whole endeavor is.

Referentialism is something that every artist engages in to some degree, and isn't entirely bad,** but at the extreme level (which is where modern art has existed, in my estimation, since My Pet Rock) it just creates a bunch of pointless, ineffectual noise for an elite cadre to sip wine at. It starts being about who can be cleverer than whom, not about communicating anything meanigful. You lose the attention of the vast mass of humanity, and they pursue other, more accessible and rewarding forms of art. You're just a courtier in Heian Japan, writing witty poetry full of allusions to other poetry and congragulating yourself on how neat your kimono is.

Not to say that modern art is totally bankrupt--there are some things being done right now that are quite amazing. But I don't feel it's my job as a viewer to get properly educated so that I can appreciate how deep and meaningful some dude's art is. It's his job to communicate with me, not the other way around.

*An inevitable consequence of the fact that the impulse to create art is often itself a reaction to art--a "Wow, I want to do that!" sort of a thing. (Or alternately, "I could do better than that.")

**It can be a useful and necessary shorthand when trying to create complex works.

#295 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:59 AM:

On concept as art:

There is an installation (and here you know this is Concept Art) that one enters through a turnstile. As you push through, it clicks forward, and you enter a room. It is in the basement of the museum, and directly in front of you there is a huge jack pressing horizontally against the wall. But it isn't just pressing against the wall, it is pressing against one of the museum's load-bearing pillars, slowly driving it out of alignment. As you continue to look, you see that the jack is attached to the turnstile: each person who enters the room moves the jack infinitesimally forward.

So here you stand, having just done your bit to destroy the museum. You stare at the mechanism that fills the small room. Is there any aesthetic element at play? None. And yet, the emotional and psychological impact is undeniable. You are forced to question why you have done this: why did you enter, knowing that it would help destroy the museum? Was your titillation worth it? What is your relationship to this? Is it yours? Is it your fault?

I'm not of the opinion that art built conceptually is inherently inferior to art built on aesthetic principles.

#296 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 08:13 AM:

heresiarch @ 293

Once the art becomes so self-referential that merely appreciating art becomes a skill in its own right, it's hard to see what the point of the whole endeavor is.

Professional development, and expansion of one's portfolio and CV. "All the better to get patronage, my dear".

The business of art, as opposed to the making or the viewing of it, is largely about marketing. As in many marketing environments, modern art has entered into an an (perhaps several) arms race in which successive works are described in ever more abstract and dissonant terms, in order to to shock or titillate the viewer so that the work and the artist attract more attention than others.

I'm not saying that there's no place for business or marketing in art, clearly they're necessary parts of the economic system that has evolved to create patronage and therefore economic resources for art's creation. But arms races are infamous for making parts of systems grow far out of proportion to their inherit importance to the system as a whole.

#297 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 08:45 AM:

heresiarch @ 294

I'm not of the opinion that art built conceptually is inherently inferior to art built on aesthetic principles.

I agree, but I think we might have different ideas about the meaning of "inherent" in this context. As I said a little upthread, I don't see this as a question of principle or of the inherent nature of art, but as a rule of thumb that seems to be largely true: conceptual art is less likely, IMO, to be good art. I think there are a lot of reasons for this, and that some of them fall into the category of "depends on means to convey the import of the art which are brittle and subject to failure as primary communication mechanisms".

In my experience, the installation you describe is quite rare in its subtlety and power; most conceptual doesn't lead to the kind of questioning of purpose and basic context that this one does, but rather leaves one (me, at least) with a feeling of having been scammed by getting something less than what was promised.

#298 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 09:14 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 287

I don't think we're really disagreeing here, but I do think I haven't been as clear as I need to be, and you may have misunderstood some of what I was saying.

When I said, "art is largely about craft, perception, and emotion; intellect and conceptualization are secondary", I was referring to art as perceived by the viewer, or as considered as a product by the artist, when the artist is concerned with how the viewer will perceive and react to the art. The tools and techiques the artist uses to create the work are very different: art is in large part about communication of feelings, perceptions, emotions, etc. The means by which an artist plans and implements that communication are often highly intellectual, rational, and measured. I think it can be said with some truth that art is to psychology as engineering is to physics: art is a discipline used to engineer desired mental and emotional states by (usually) indirect means of manipulating perceptions.

That's not to say at all that intellect has no place in the perception and appreciation of a work of art. But it is true as a consequence of the structure of the human nervous system that the time scales of direct perception and intellectual analysis are different, and the impact and immediacy of the two are different. The way we perceive art is a multi-step process: first direct perception; we see, feel, touch, taste, hear, smell the work. Then we react to those perceptions with feelings and emotions*. Reason is then brought to bear to analyze the perceptions, feelings, and emotions, and their relationships to each other. At each stage, the results can feed back to direct the operation of the previous stage, so that the results evolve with time and engagement with the work. For instance, a feeling of incompleteness (in shape, composition, etc.) might cause the viewer to look at another part of the work, where new perceptions will be acquired.

Your reaction to ugly words and meter, for instance, is not one I would consider rational or intellectual. It's partly perceptual (hearing pitch and perceiving known language) and partly at the level of integration of different perceptions (the interaction of tempo, meter, and word sound) into a gestalt that you can react to and analyze. Even if the words were nonsense, so there was no intellectual component at all, you would still react to ugliness in the sound.

* I arbitrarily distinguish between feelings and emotions on the basis of immediacy and duration: feelings are more immediate, last less time unless reinforced, and are less complex and more directly connected to perception.

#299 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:20 AM:

Paula Leiberman (#287): And longevity is another consideration.... The NYT looks at that from another angle in this article on the actual vs. subjective lifespans of famous composers. It's not all about "live fast die young" types -- some minds are still active at 60 or 70, while others have said their whole piece by 35. I'd never considered it quite that way before.

#300 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:03 AM:

Bruce @ 295: Yeah, the engine of the modern art business seems to be driven by the perception that by buying a piece of trendy, critically-acclaimed art, you're buying a certificate of your rarified, elite taste. It's inaccessability is a feature, not a bug.

@ 296: "but as a rule of thumb that seems to be largely true: conceptual art is less likely, IMO, to be good art."

Though I understand your position, I'm not sure I agree. I think your perception is at least partially the product of Sturgeon's Law: conceptual art is much newer, and we are still being deluged in the 90% that's crap, whereas aesthetic art has had centuries to accumulate stunning works and weed out the junk.

(The more I write about the difference between "aesthetic" and "conceptual" art the more I feel that it's a questionable distinction to be drawing at all. Doesn't all art necessarily have both?)

@ 297: "I think it can be said with some truth that art is to psychology as engineering is to physics: art is a discipline used to engineer desired mental and emotional states by (usually) indirect means of manipulating perceptions."

That is an excellent analogy, not the least because it suggests the true test of art is how well it stands up in the real world, not how elegant it seems on the drawing board.

#301 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:16 AM:

heresiarch #293: Many people would complain that much of SF does exactly that. I don't agree, but I also don't necessarily agree that contemporary art does it, either. I think any world you don't participate in much can look like that. It's what most of jazz looks like to me, say, but I know I'm probably wrong.

And even the aspects of contemporary art that are guilty of that insular dialogue aren't necessarily worthless--it's like how a lot of philosophy is a conversation back and forth--if you've been following the conversation, the later parts can be fascinating, while if you haven't, they're meaningless. There is a big strain in contemporary art that's a discussion (influenced by philosophy and science and all sorts of outside disciplines) of the nature of vision, which, even though I have to do a lot of work and research to "get" it in a way that's useful to that discussion, I find to be fascinating because I'm also interested in the nature of vision. They're not anything I'd hang on my wall, and they're not anything someone who hasn't been engaging in that dialogue would be interested in, but they're still worthwhile.

Another way to look at it: all the pastiches (This is just to say...) that we like to do here are largely only meaningful as part of a dialogue with the original piece. This doesn't make them worthless.

And in your #294: Please, please, pretty please don't pooh-pooh installation art. Installations have changed the physical structure of my brain and the course of my life several times.

#302 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:24 AM:

Tim Walters: re lists vs. images.

1: I'd not have used a list, because it's a fundamentally different thing from an image (and one of the things about The Wall is that it has such a potent impact, independant of the list nature of it).

2: I am no longer sure what you are arguing for. Are you trying to find some image I will agree requires outside context? Say the story of Ansel Adams and, "Moonrise over Hernandez"? (it was a snapshot, in the most literal sense. He saw the picture, made a quick guess at the needed exposure, and shot. Then he did the work, set the camera exactly as he wanted it, and the light was gone. All that with an 8x10 view camera).

Knowing the details does add to the picture; but it adds to the picture because the picture is stunning.

Then again I've seen five different prints from that negative, side my side; all done in radically different ways. They were all stunning, and the concantation was as well. It was an education to me (as a young photographer) as to how much interpretation could be done with a single image. How differently the information in the negative could be relayed, and how my decisions would affect what the viewer believed the moment to look like.

But all of that information (save the snapshot aspect; which told me something then [though 22 years on I forget what] tells me something different now) is there, on the wall; for the perceptive viewer to see.

If there were people in the building, I don't care. What they were, or weren't doing isn't material to the image.

I suppose what I need to know is what you think the concealed image adds to the picture, and how the revelation gives context?, which raises the pedestrian, to, Art.

You say you haven't entered into a compact with the artist, that the presentation of an apprehensible image isn't something you demand, at all.

So what do you expect of an artist in a visual medium?

Paula Leiberman: I can't speak for Bruce, but I think the work on your bed is part of craft. Being able to see what needs to be detailed in advance is part of it. To go back to Ansel Adams, it's what he called (in a terrible phrase) pre-visualising. When I set up a studio shot, or go out with the 4x5, or take the bellows and extention tubes out with the 35mm camera, I have to to a lot of design work.

For the first I have to map the lights, figure out the fall-off, eliminate flare, and reflection.

For the second I have to get everything to line up.

For the third I have to figure out how much maginification I intend, compute the stops lost to extention, adjust for reciprocity failure.

All of that before I make a single exposure.

It's part and parcel. The difference between "art" and "non art" is in the execution (and the appreciation of the audience, it's a two way street, IMO, which is why the compact Tim doesn't subscribe to matters to me. If I am not taking the viewer into account, I'm just playing with myself in public).

heresiarch: That sounds like one hell of a piece. The sense of, "Oh my God, what have I done" seems palpable. And then the lingering voyeurism of watching others move the jack, and seeing their reaction.

That was well thought out.

#303 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:00 PM:

heresiarch, I totally misunderstood what you said. Ne'er mind, and sorry. I just woke up, it's the weekend.

#304 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:06 PM:

Julie 277: It's unfortunate that I read your description of the photos before looking at them (particularly the one on the right, where the objects of the voyeurism are not in frame), because while I THINK those photos would work for me, I can' be sure.

The thing about that photograph is that the people in it are clearly reacting to something they can see and we can't. And they're in fear, from their poses (fear of being caught looking, I expect).

A fire escape does not react to a couple having sex just out of frame. A person would. The main action need not be shown, as long as it AFFECTS something in frame. I can show you, if you like, a photograph of the house where the musical Hair was written, which is right here in Hoboken. It might be mildly interesting, but since the house experienced no visible effect from this endeavor, it has no artistic significance, except as a photograph of a house.

On NPR I heard of a show a photographer did of military just back from Iraq. She photographed them with their heads lying sideways on a nondescript surface; only their faces are shown in most of them. The photographs are absolutely devastating, even (as well as I can wear the head of someone who hadn't heard the NPR piece) without considering the context. I think I would know that something was haunting these young men, even if I didn't know what.

They're quite disturbing, and inexpressibly beautiful.

#305 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Frell. That should be can't in that first paragraph.

#306 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:51 PM:

The piece on Steve was decent, the comments at The Group News Blog are great.

I miss him.

#307 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Tim @ 273, I've seen some things close to what you describe. In the Tuol Sleng museum there are exhibits of many 'mug-shot' style photos. I don't know what impression you'd get of them without knowing the background. I suppose even without knowing a language of the displays, the rest of the musuem might explain a lot.

And if you look at this series of family snapshots in a New York Times ' slideshow' while very carefully not reading the captions, you'll probably get a different emotional effect to when you do read the captions.

(There's also a section in the musical quiz show Spicks and Specks called 'Musician or Serial Killer?' where the teams are shown several photos and asked that question. It's not an easy distinction.)

Still, those photographs weren't originally created as part of a conscious work of art.

#308 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Epacris: I think you've hit on the critical distinction I'm trying to make.

The stuff you are talking about in the first two examples are cases where the images gain from context, but their merit isn't dependant on what's not known.

It's that dependance which I think fails the viewer, and moves the work to public wanking.

The last is a completely different beast, and I would have to see it to understand how it works, and if I think it falls in the realm of the question.

#309 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:19 PM:

Terry Karney @ 301: I am no longer sure what you are arguing for.

How about: it's possible in principle for a combination of image and non-image to be effective even when the image alone isn't.

So what do you expect of an artist in a visual medium?

I do my best not to expect anything, and give the work a chance to speak to me on its own terms. Of course, being human, I'm only so good at this, but the memory of all the times I've failed to connect to a work on first viewing, but eventually came back to it with a new understanding, keeps me honest to some degree.

For my own work, my rule is pretty simple: I don't present anything that I know how to make better, or that doesn't work for me even after I've made it as good as I can. In return I demand nothing from my audience except basic civility (don't destroy the photo, don't disrupt the show). I try to practice the computer programming maxim "be strict with what you write, but generous with what you read."

Bruce: as rules of thumb go, "make your images look good" is a pretty good one. But another rule of thumb for art is "break some rules."

#310 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:27 PM:

The stuff you are talking about in the first two examples are cases where the images gain from context, but their merit isn't dependant on what's not known.

With the exception of one or two of the second set, I would say their merit is entirely dependent on what's not shown (except to the extent that any reasonably well-exposed photo of a person has at least some inherent interest).

#311 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Tim 309: You're mixing up 'shown' and 'known'. Not the same.

#312 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:34 PM:

Xopher @ 311: On the contrary, I'm deliberately (re-)making a crucial distinction. See my second sentence at 273.

Everyone agrees (how not? it's a tautology) that a work requires some information to be effective, the info must be there. The question is whether it must be present in the image portion of the work.

#313 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:03 PM:

A work of art from an old friend, Lawrence Weiner, a founder of Conceptualism -- his 1960 - 2007 career retrospective is currently at the Whitney:

1. The artist may construct the work

2. The work my be fabricated

3. The work need not be built

Each being equal and consistent
With the Intent of the artist
The decision as to condition
Rests with the receiver upon
The occasion of receivership

#314 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:21 PM:

ethan, #302: Morning lasts for 4 hours after you (or I) get up. Good morning!

#315 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Tim Walters: How about: it's possible in principle for a combination of image and non-image to be effective even when the image alone isn't.

We have an irreconciable difference then; because I don't believe that to be the case for a visual medium.

I think extra information can add to the merit of a work, but that, absent some merit to begin with, the "hidden" portion is a cheap attempt to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

It relates to the questions of unreliable narration talked about in an earlier thread. The artist is cheating. We, the audience are not being shown something, but we are told that mystery is critical to the piece. In part that means, should the "extra" ever be lost, the "art" goes with it.

That, in my mind, isn't fair to the viewer, and is bad art. It's a cop out. A good artist will find a way to make what needs to be known, known; in the frame.

If, to use the example given, it's important to know people are having sex in the corners, then there has to be something in the corner. It can be very subtle. It might be something one almost needs to have pointed out, but it has to be there.

Otherwise, as with the show Bruce mentioned, it's all a bunch of handwavium and doesn't work for me.

#316 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:17 PM:

Susan @ 238 ...
So, out of curiosity, what color combination(s) do you not find migraine-inducing on a monitor?

Hm. If I had to generalize (thinking out my fingers here), I think it would come down to a question of brightness combined with contrast. White translates as "bright" - black writing on white would be hideous. White writing on black wouldn't be as bad (the large amount of black takes down the brightness), but the high contrast between black and white would be painful.

I tend to use green-on-black[0], or light grey on dark grey[1] as ways to maintain the needed contrast to see text at all, while not producing terribly painful screens -- and looking at the screens around me, it looks like I tend to use 'low brightness' backgrounds, and try not to push the brightness of the colours on top of them. I think I'm lacking the vocabulary here, but basically staying back from #00ff00, #0000ff and #ff0000 far enough to not dazzle the eyes. Crossing to a thread from a while back, basically colours that don't feel hard and spiky :)

[0] Yes, some of you know where that comes from :P
[1] Windows is really Not Helpful(tm) when you're trying to tone down, rather than tone up the contrast.

#317 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Terry Karney @ 314: We have an irreconciable difference then

Fair enough.

#318 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:30 PM:

#250 ::: Xopher

Carol: Are there villains in RHPS? Arguably Riff-Raff, but he doesn't appear in a corset.

My bad. The framework of the Eminent Criminologist with the hefty case files distracted me. Neither O'Brien nor Quinn appear in corsets, and they're definitely the antagonists. Is the RHPS an example of the antithesis of "Corsets worn as outerwear (particularly extreme or connected with cross-dressing)indicate EEEvil"?

I'm not getting my mind around Frankenfurter as Lawful Good, much as I love him and his cohorts.

#319 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:47 PM:

heresiarch @ 294: That installation sounds like exactly the thing I need to be able to point at every time these arguments about conceptual art pop up. Do you have any more details - the artist or title or a link to something I can show people?

Also, to leave the installation, did you have to go back through the turnstile?

#320 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 05:48 PM:

Xeger, I've been looking at pages with black text on a background that (in hex) is FFFFF5 - a very pale yellow, close to newsprint in color. With text in something like a very dark grey/red/brown, rather than black, it might work even better. (It's that there's less contrast than with black/white.)

#321 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:00 PM:

Paul Duncanson @ 318: The installation was Samson (perfect title!) by Chris Burden.

#322 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:06 PM:

Speaking of disconcerting installations, I mentioned Olafur Eliasson's SFMOMA show above; one of his pieces, which you encounter immediately upon entering the museum, is a large, heavy pendulum swinging chaotically through the museum just above head height. It's exquisitely shudder-inducing.

Apparently, in less litigious countries, he lowers it to chest height and lets you dodge it. Seems like that would be a whole different experience.

He's definitely a guy that needs to come to Burning Man.

#323 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 06:20 PM:

Tim @ 320: Thanks!

Youtube has shaky video of it here.

I do think its impact would be greater if there was another turnstile, also connected to the jack, through which you had to pass to leave the exhibit after learning exactly what it is doing.

#324 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:05 PM:

Carol 317: I'm not getting my mind around Frankenfurter as Lawful Good, much as I love him and his cohorts.

Good heavens, who ever said Lawful Good? No frellin' way!

Chaotic Neutral. There are no Hero heroes in that movie.

#325 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 07:22 PM:

Xopher #323: Chaotic Neutral

A few years ago during a team-building exercise at work, we went around the circle telling the group "something that no one there new about ourselves". Mine was the fact that I had seen RHPC 53 times during its original theater release. I never got into the costuming fandom associated with the film, though.

#326 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 08:48 PM:

#314:

Tim Walters: How about: it's possible in principle for a combination of image and non-image to be effective even when the image alone isn't.

We have an irreconciable difference then; because I don't believe that to be the case for a visual medium.

Comics may in this case be the exception that proves the rule.

#327 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Have you seen that Sanrio is selling "Hello Kitty" items for men? Apparently they've made the cat more rugged to appeal to men. I don't think they've gone nearly far enough.

#328 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:24 PM:

I'm behind on reading the Open Threads (less than halfway thru OT97) but I wanted to put something here.

"Anything I do, any life I make, is going to revolve around words and computers and strange, bright people.”

That was a quote from a 2000 article by the late Steve Gilliard, whose life and influence is profiled in tomorrow's NYT by Matt Bai (already available online and linked to by a number of sites).

That particular phrase jumped out at me because as soon as I read it, I thought "Words and computers and strange, bright people. Oh-h-h-h, like the Making Light crowd."

There are blogs and journals out there written by wonderful writers, that, for whatever reason, never get the readership they ought to, and, for whatever reason, never have the readers they do have evolve into an active and interactive community.

But the ones that do.... Oh, my, they can be a joy.

"Strange, bright people." Only three words, but what a perfect description.

So I just wanted to say, as the old year is in its last few days and the future coming at us fast:

Thanks, all you Making Lighters, for being so strange, and so bright.

And thanks, Patrick and Teresa, for being the... enablers?*... for the community that's formed here.

*"Enabler" has gained a largely negative connotation by being associated with dysfunctional behaviors in recent decades, but in its original, basic meaning, "one who enables", I think it may actually be the most appropriate word to use. Neither "facilitators" or "originators" feels quite right.

#329 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:42 PM:

ethan @ 300: "Many people would complain that much of SF does exactly that. I don't agree, but I also don't necessarily agree that contemporary art does it, either. I think any world you don't participate in much can look like that. It's what most of jazz looks like to me, say, but I know I'm probably wrong."

I know you disavowed this comment, but I think that this is an interesting question, so I'm going to respond anyway =)

I do think the increasing sophisication of sf is a problem. I'm not sure what to do about it exactly, because I am one of those deeply-immersed, somewhat jaded consumers who demands new and ever more elaborate sf. At the same time that I devour Charlie Stross, Peter Watts, Vernor Vinge, Gene Wolfe, etc, I would never think to suggest any of them to a sf newbie. If I were to suggest something for a beginner, I'd probably have to go back a couple of decades: Asimov, Heinlein, Bester; those golden oldies, because they were writing sf for people who hadn't been reading sf for their whole lives.

When I read a sf or fantasy story, I bring with me this whole suite of tools. Non-sf readers don't have these tools, and the lack can make the difference between a marvellous reading experience and deciding that sf is stupid. The bar creeps ever higher, and eventually, it will become so high that newcomers will be driven away. I think that one of the keys to Harry Potter's success was that it wasn't written by a fantasy reader. It wasn't written with the ghosts of thousands of other fantasy novels hovering in the background. This, I think, made it uniquely accessible to new readers--you weren't expected to know anything before you opened the book.

That said, I'm not too worried about sf specializing itself into irrelevance. Speculative fiction is pretty adept at reinventing itself, and works like John Scalzi (and JK Rowling, for that matter) show that it's quite possible to have our beginner-friendly sf and eat--er, and have our advanced stuff too.

Tim Walters @ 320: Great. I spend twenty minutes googling [artist bullet "volkswagen bug" public access] in order to find out the artist's name, then google ["Chris Burden" load-bearing] to find the specific piece, and then I see that you knew it off the top of your head. Thanks.

=)

#330 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:45 PM:

P J Evans @ 319 ...
Xeger, I've been looking at pages with black text on a background that (in hex) is FFFFF5 - a very pale yellow, close to newsprint in color. With text in something like a very dark grey/red/brown, rather than black, it might work even better. (It's that there's less contrast than with black/white.)

If you mean something like this, it's only marginally better than pure white... I haven't played around with it much, though - wanted to be sure we were talking about the same thing, first :)

#331 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:47 PM:

re 294: There's another one syllable word for an installation like that. It's called a stunt.

re 311: "Information" here is a treacherous word. Context and explanation are not the same. I don't know that conceptual art needs explanation, but it does, it seems to me, need a social context that says it is art. For example, the various photographic displays discussed above can in general be set in historical or sociological studies, in which they would not in general be perceived as art.

But let's go in the other direction. Consider an object "installed" at the Sackler: it is a long chain of calligraphic shapes hanging some twenty feet down a stairwell. Do you have to be able to read the shapes to appreciate it, or to recognize it as art? How about being told what the joke is?

On the one hand, the fact that it's so displayed says that it is art. On the other hand, it also plays off the likelihood that a viewer can read some of it without help, and can guess the meaning of some of what he cannot read. In another direction, it also plays (perhaps unintentionally) off of familiarity with a particular American toy.

Or to take another DC example: The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly. Nobody knows what it means-- indeed, there is a great deal of text about it from its creator that is either glossolaliac gibberish or is in a code as yet unbroken. About all that anyone can tell you about it is the little that is known about its creator, and the circumstances of its ultimate discovery and transfer to the Smithsonian, where it sits as the pre-eminent piece of folk art in their collection. They cannot even decide entirely how to display it. And after all this it doesn't take being in a museum or gallery to tell you that it is art.

#332 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:36 AM:

heresiarch @ 299

You are probably right; there hasn't been time for the crappy conceptual art to be washed away by the waters of indifference leaving the good work behind for us to admire.

#333 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:38 AM:

A post I was trying to write much earlier got eaten by noxious-results-of-crappy-underlying-protocols-and-lack-of-system-design [the Internet is an escape lab experiment...] It was Toy Story or Toy Story II or something like that, that Macdonald sat laughing at characters and names and references with them to Red-Mike-grazmovies... references and "homage" which were completely lacking lacking in context and in making any intrinsic sense or relevance to the film I was watching..

The film and TV industries seem to be full of that its-mostly-crap-to-my-perspective, of stuff that does NOT stand on its own and without the external context, is if art, totally bad art, and and worse than meaningless--effort expended that depends on something external that was generally crap to start with. "Oh look, that scene is a c/o/p/y d/u/p/l/i/c/a/t/e homage to [scene from something else that was very much lacking in merit...]!"

Narcissistic Bad Art. Blech.

#334 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:42 AM:

White text on a black background particularly on a computer, gives me migraines. I think that research done on user interfaces found that a light blue or light green background for text is best on a computer screen, where there is color capability.

#335 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:07 AM:

I don't want to restart That Argument, but I was mightily amused by CNN.com film critic Tim Charity's comment (scroll down) on why "300" made his Bottom Three for 2007:

Frankly, it was a tossup for the third spot between this gung-ho Greek meatfest and Michael Bay's overblown toy commercial, "Transformers." A lot of people got off on both, I realize, and the computer-generated work was impressive in its way. But no matter how you spin it, war porn is war porn -- and we're better off without it.

#336 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:19 AM:

heresiarch @ 328

This is precisely the problem that any genre has with insuring that there is some way by which new readers can be engaged without having to study and without holding back the regular readers. Harking back to the previous conversation, I think it's one of the big problems with modern art: the "insular dialog" that ethan described in #300 makes it much harder for new viewers to engage with the work. And that's a mistake. I think it occurs because the nature of modern art as a genre is not well-accepted by artists and critics; so they think of themselves as the mainstream instead. Rather like modern literature in that respect.

#337 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:35 AM:

heresiarch @ 328: [artist bullet "volkswagen bug" public access]

I thought he was that guy... I did in fact have to google for him, but his name was close enough to the top of my brain that it was quick.

C. Wingate @ 330: Asking whether something is art is like asking whether something is a tool. If you drive a nail with it, it's a tool, whether it was designed for that purpose, or at all; similarly, if you look at something as art, it's art, at least for you.

#338 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:11 AM:

Bruce Arthurs @327:

Instead of enablers, how about "hosts"?

#339 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:21 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 335: "I think it occurs because the nature of modern art as a genre is not well-accepted by artists and critics; so they think of themselves as the mainstream instead. Rather like modern literature in that respect."

Yes, I think this is exactly right. Any group that thinks it is the end all and be all of Art or Literature is going to have a lot of trouble resisting the urge towards self-referentialism. If you don't understand that what you're doing is, in many ways, profoundly divorced from the normal human experience, you're not going to be terribly sympathetic to normal people's bafflement.

#340 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:11 AM:

re 336: Anything can be used as if it were a tool; but when something that is not made as a tool is so used, what we have is a field expedient. And it seems to me you've picked up the opposite end of the issue here, because the equivalent in-field is when someone recognizes as art something that is not in a context that says it is art.

#341 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:19 AM:

Speaking of corsets... In French, if you want to say that a story's plot thickens, you say "L'intrigue se corse", which really means the plot tightens. Go figure. Literally.

#342 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:48 AM:

"...Sometimes you get eaten by monsters... Or subjugated by intelligent oysters... Or forced to wear steam-powered shoes that never stop dancing..."

Yes, Agatha Heterodyne is back in Part Two of "Revenge of the Weasel Queen".

#343 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:21 PM:

May I just say here how disappointed I am with the Country-Western songwriting community? All this time, and no songs have emerged with a chorus featuring the line "I've got a wide stance." I guess Idaho isn't Western--or Country--enough...

#344 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 12:47 PM:

C. Wingate @ 330:

Consider an object "installed" at the Sackler: it is a long chain of calligraphic shapes hanging some twenty feet down a stairwell.

For some reason, this reminds me of a story a friend told me about attending Antioch Collge in the late seventies.

There was one dorm where all the nihilists, anarchists, and other good folk hung out, and it had giant words painted on the sidewalk in front, words so large the only way to read them was to go to the roof of the dorm and lean over.

What it said was, "JUMP NOW!"

Bruce Cohen @ 335: And yet, much as I like SF that requires I know SF to appreciate it fully, I'd give a lot for one more early Heinlein novel, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, or even an unreasonable one.

#345 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:05 PM:

About having to know SF to appreciate SF... Has anybody done some tests to see if that's true? It probably is, but I don't think any of us is qualified by her/his own experience because we wouldn't be posting here if we didn't know SF. An affirmatve answer would explain why what seems cutting-edge in an SF movie usually is old-hat in the domain of written SF. Eventually, media SF catches up because its public builds its own knowledge, but meanwhile written SF keeps moving on.

(Sometimes, I wonder if not knowing something's history might actually be an advantage. I think of the 3rd X-men movie, where most of us who know the characters inside out thought the movie was a big mess. It might have been better appreciated by someone who, for example, wasn't familiar with the comic-book's death of Jean Grey.)

#346 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Serge, #344: Actually, I thought one of the best things about X3 was the way they condensed the Dark Phoenix arc into something that could be shown, complete, in one movie. They even got the bit at the end right, jurer Wrna ortf gb or xvyyrq orsber gur cbjre gnxrf ure ntnva.

And honestly, Marvel itself has done so much retconning and general mucking around with the X-Men that it's easy to look at the movies as just one more variant in the X-verse. How many times did we see Jean die and come back in the comics? At least 3 by my count...

OTOH, I think I've had some advantage in not having read the Harry Potter books. The only movie where I really felt at sea was GoF; I had to ask friends to explain the context of a few of the details. And it certainly spares me the tooth-grinding "But that's not RIGHT!" reaction that several of them have had.

#347 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:33 PM:

I believe it would be more canonical country to have something like:

well, my stance may be a little wide
sure I like to dance a little wild
in a honky-tonkin wide stance style
but that don't give no one the right
to treat me,
like I'm on the wrong side!

.....lines associating John Wayne's way of walking with the term 'wide stance'.

#348 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 01:53 PM:

Lee @ 345... How many times did we see Jean die and come back in the comics? At least 3 by my count...

True. In fact, the last time that happened in the comic-book, as she died, her last words to Cyclops were to ask for his forgiveness because all she had ever done was to die on him again and again. It could have come off as ludicrous, but it definitely did not. As for the movie... I'm not one of those people who want an adaptation to be faithful to the original material's specifics, but to the essence of it, and that's why first X-men movie worked so well. That being said, my real problem with the 3rd movie is its structure, which felt like two movies stitched together. A story about Jean Grey's death should have built up to that very moment of tragedy. Instead, she shows up, and just stands by the side while Magneto does his thing with the Golden Gate Bridge then, once he's vanquished, the movie seems to remember her and let's get this wrapped up. Bad storytelling.

#349 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:35 PM:

C. Wingate @ 339: And it seems to me you've picked up the opposite end of the issue here, because the equivalent in-field is when someone recognizes as art something that is not in a context that says it is art.

I once brought a beautiful rusty fuel can home from the beach to my wife, who is a sculptor. I assumed she would use it as raw material. Instead she put it on the shelf, saying "it's done."

Saying that she "recognized" it as art implies to me that the fuel can already was art in some essentialist way, which I don't agree with. I would say instead that she decided to treat it as art. By putting it on the shelf she encouraged others to do the same; but it's perfectly possible that someone might come along and ask "why do you have a rusty fuel can on your shelf?" For them, it wouldn't be art, and they would be no more right or wrong than she.

I'm not sure if this is quibble or an actual disagreement, because I'm not completely sure what you're driving at.

#350 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:39 PM:

For a new reader of SF, I might start by offering them something by Scott Westerfield or Greg Egan (depending on age). For more literary/humanist sorts, I'd go for Ursula LeGuin or Octavia Butler.

For the better (faster) readers, I might suggest Vernor Vinge or David Brin. Julie Czerneda is a possibility, though I've only read her "Species Imperative" trilogy so far.

#351 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 04:08 PM:

I really do seem to be caught up in curmudgeonliness this weekend, don't I? And it's not all that attractive on me. So:

First, a question. Mrs. Arkansawyer and I have just been discussing why barbecue restaurants seem to be closed on Sundays in disproportionate numbers. We've got thoughts on the subject, but does anyone else have a clue?

Second, a very funny joke which I'd never heard before.

Okay, maybe that last joke slips back into the curmudgeonliness. Or maybe not.

#352 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:07 PM:

I have noticed that if I'm told something is Art or Life-Changing and it fails to live up to my expectations, I react much more strongly to that lack. The Handmaid's Tale was unpleasant until I managed to turn off the part of me whispering, "This should be changing you! You should be marveling! This is a big deal!" and see it as a book, just a book, and one I should have read when I was twelve instead of twenty-two. It was the same with Stranger in a Strange Land-- the monologues may have been more interesting if I didn't already know what they were talking about*. Cannibalism has not always been an aberration from typical human culture? The archaeological evidence for such? It might have affected me more if I hadn't done a report on it when I was thirteen.
It's not enough to have the founders of the genre; the conversation has moved on since then. I don't read a lot of Asimov-- short stories only. I don't read anything because it's a Classic, and most classics don't draw me in the same way newer work does. If I buy a book because I should read it, no matter who the author, I'm not going to read it-- I didn't pick it up because I wanted to read it, so why would I?

Loosely connected, I spent some time in the Denver Art Museum, starting with the Native American collections, which isn't as consciously arty as the rest**, and going through about half the building. We talked a lot, laughed at unexpected pieces, and had fun with the architecture, pretty blue lights that flickered, accidentally walking into slanted walls, and this game near a few couches. Bubbles were projected on the floor, and a screen displayed art on the wall. If you stepped on a bubble, it popped. If you and your friends popped every bubble, the art on the wall changed.
It was a way to let parents rest while kids got their crazies out by stomping and running around. It was also a huge amount of fun, interesting, and part of the entire art experience.
I interpret art in layers, I guess; there's the piece, which may be anything, information about the piece, delivered by whatever means, the arrangement of the room and building-- it's another layer. I may be confusing two nebulously separate things, though.

Could it be argued that expecting art to affect the viewer in the same way regardless of context and other information is analogous to expecting it to affect the viewer in poor lighting, uncomfortable conditions, and from the wrong distance?


*I'm not really able to judge what the book was doing rather than how it did it; there's always a chance that I would have liked it if I hadn't been so pissed off. Except for the feminism thing.

**Someday, I am going to have a lot of money and I will give some to an art museum to relabel things. It's problematic to have a Contemporary Art floor and put the African contemporary artworks in the African floor. You can't call it archaeology, not if you still call the medieval art art, but you also want to state somehow that African art is not all masks and pottery (and does pottery belong?) and there may be a separate conversation going on outside Europe/America/people who make art museums. And that kind of information is not necessarily going to be best conveyed in today's museum setting.
Maybe I'll just give a lot of money to have this dilemma made explicit, so I'm not the only one thinking about it.

#353 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:30 PM:

Speaking of Art... The SciFi Channel is showing Johnny Mnemonic. Luckily tomorrow morning is the beginning of their traditional Twilight Zone marathon of the New Year. Will the real Martian please stand up?

#354 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Tim @ # 348:
Saying that she "recognized" it as art implies to me that the fuel can already was art in some essentialist way, which I don't agree with. I would say instead that she decided to treat it as art. By putting it on the shelf she encouraged others to do the same; but it's perfectly possible that someone might come along and ask "why do you have a rusty fuel can on your shelf?"

I actually get this reaction all the time to the old though not overly-rusty carburetor I keep on a bookshelf. (In front of a double-high row of books; I don't actually have spare bookshelf space to waste on tchochkes.) I think of it as a memory and a reminder rather than as art, though.

#355 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:56 PM:

#348 & 353
You mean most people don't have petrified wood, aircraft-engine valves, and wood planes (the tool kind) on the same set of shelves? (That was the set hiding the door tomy father's basement shop and office. Also it had a chunk of beeswax and the little tool that unlatched the door when it was closed.)

Xeger @ 329
that's the one. Works better probably with less text - the pages I was looking at had some in one of the blues, and I think I'd use something not-black for the body text if there was more of it.

#356 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Are we confusing beauty and art? A carburator is a thing of beauty, but is it art?

#357 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:28 PM:

Dave Goldfarb #292, (Spambane) Back from hospital with some bad news, tired, not in the best of moods.

I run a few different email addresses across different suppliers to separate work, family, friends, blogs, shopping, and so forth. Most are reasonable-to-good at bumping the spamstuff over to a special folder (one is execrable, and also forces you to go into each message and click 'Train as spam' or 'friend', but after months still doesn't recognise spam, and has other problems, but I can't face changing all that's been set up to use the address). They've all dumped one or two wanted messages into the bulk/spam folder over time, so I skim down the list to check before emptying it. Most of them also let some thru to the inbox, which I mark as spam, and I *try* to forward phishing stuff to the body they're imitating (tho' most don't have a place to do that).

So, since coming back online I've been spending hours shovelling out all the accumulation. It's not just the wasted time, energy, bandwidth, storage space and such, but some of the attitudes they convey really do annoy and disgust me — particularly the ones promoting aphrodesiacs and penile enlargement. It does incline me to wish for some unpleasantness to overtake the perpetrators.

#358 ::: gaukler ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:55 PM:

I've just entered book number 1001 in my catalogue at LibraryThing (making light denizens). Still quite a ways to go, and I've now got nine boxes of discards.

#359 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:03 PM:

David Harmon #349:

Wow. Greg Egan? Really? I have him in my advanced-reader category. I'd be more likely to give a new reader a few year's best collections (the Dozois & the Hartwells) to give them a taster of the genre & to gauge their tastes, then take it from there.

#360 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:14 PM:

Soon Lee @ 358: I'd consider Axiomatic for a starter, but I'm with you that anthologies are often the best choice.

By the way, Mrs. Arkansawyer had a question earlier to which neither of us could come up with a satisfactory answer: Does "anthology" require more than one author? If not, is there a word which does? The closest (not very) I could come was festschrift.

#361 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:17 PM:

John (359): An anthology contains works by multiple authors. A book of short pieces by a single author is a 'collection'.

#362 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:26 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 360: We kind of thought that, but didn't know definitively (and I was too lazy to look it up).

#363 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:56 PM:

Tim #348
Back when I was in college, I went to a King Crimson concert in a Berklee School of Music auditorium, with friends. Before going there I was over in a physics building, and the grad students were wrestling with a mass of no-longer-on-the-reel magtape, which was dead magtape. Magtape has a shiny side and a dull side, and I looked at it and thought of one of my friends, who among other things is an artist, and asked if I could have the tape. I brought it bagged or some such to the concert and gave it to my friend, who did indeed look at the tape as Art Object to play with.

For that matter, there are people who make earrings using pieces of cutup CD-ROMs, and people who make coasters of them, and people who make spindles with with for yarn spinning...

#364 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:01 PM:

John, #350: Re the joke, I'd classify it as "funny, but in extremely poor taste" -- the sort of thing that's a guilty pleasure when you don't like the target, and distasteful-to-frightening when you do.

Re curmudgeonliness, I think that's understandable. You said something more or less in passing that's gotten several people (some of whom you like) upset, and it caught you amidships; that doesn't help anyone's mood. If it makes you feel any better, the main reason I'm still engaging on the other thread is to try to understand where your head is on that topic, even if we can't come to an agreement.

Gaukler, #357: I'm just shy of 1,200, and am estimating another 700-800 to go. And then I'll have to go back and do some updating on all the anthologies -- I want to enter all the contributing authors' names in the book records, and add the story titles to the comments. This will make it much easier to guess where a particular story I want to find might be hiding!

I've got one largish box headed for the local used bookstore, and a smaller one marked for Goodwill, plus about 3 boxes' worth of things that are going to be marked "archived" and put into the closet because I'm not likely to want to read them but don't want to get rid of them for various reasons.

I gave my partner a permanent LT account for Yule, but I suspect I'm going to be the one doing most of the entering for that as well :-)

#365 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:09 PM:

Regarding SF-for-beginners:

I read to my wife at night. She's interested in SF, having watched lots of it on TV and at the cinema, but the nearest she's got to written SF has been some of the more outlandish Viking sagas. Following The Lord of the Rings (which works incredibly well as a spoken text), we've gone through a fair selection of SF together. Enough that I can draw some preliminary conclusions.

The authors that work best for an SF newbie are H.G. Wells and Philip K. Dick. Not names that normally go together, but both write highly imaginative, self-contained stories that don't reference a great body of prior SF literature, and feature credible characters with recognisable human responses. They also both write prose that is excellent without being self-indulgent.

Many SF novels are indeed very difficult to approach without a good grounding in the field. In this respect, my greatest night-reading failure is probably Ken MacLeod's The Stone Canal. I love that book, and I had hoped that it would be relatively accessible due to the contemporary setting of one of the plot lines, but the amount of assumed knowledge it invoked was such as to make it all but incomprehensible. Following this experience, I have dropped Charlie Stross from the to-read list: some of his books are my favourite novels published this millennium, but I doubt any relative newcomer to SF would have the background to really enjoy them.

I wouldn't even consider recommending Asimov to an adult approaching SF for the first time. I recently reread some of the Foundation books, and Christ Jesus the prose is shocking. I doubt if anyone past puberty could appreciate them as anything other than a historical curiosity. As for Heinlein... is it unfair to judge an author on just one book? Because I read Starship Troopers, and it was shit.

So, for the newcomer, Wells and Dick definitely work. The "literature of ideas" isn't enough - you need great ideas, sure, but also great prose, great characters, and great stories. And shouldn't we be demanding this of our best novels anyway?

#366 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:18 PM:

Iain Coleman @ 364:

The authors that work best for an SF newbie are H.G. Wells and Philip K. Dick.

On the other hand, I recently loaned my my brother-in-law, a big alternate history fan, The Man in the High Castle, and he's finding it dreadfully unsatisfying. He wanted more detail on draining the Mediterranean.

As for Heinlein... is it unfair to judge an author on just one book?

In this case, maybe. Try Waldo and Magic, Inc..

#367 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:18 PM:

Serge @ 355: "Are we confusing beauty and art? A carburator is a thing of beauty, but is it art?"

Well, what is art? Most people, it seems to me, define art very viscerally. If it evokes an intense emotional response in them, then it's art. Unfortunately, that means that people's opinions about the artiness of any given object are going to be very idiosyncratic. This approach isn't going to yield a uniform definition.

I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, though. There are plenty of things labeled as Art that leave me cold, but other people seem to enjoy them, and vice versa. I don't see how I can step in there and tell them that they're wrong; it would piss me off if someone did that to me. It would be pretty arrogant, I think, to say that my utterly subjective gut reaction to it is more valid than theirs. So if one person calls it art, I'll call it art too.

Oh, bad art, to be sure. But art nonetheless. =)

#368 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:24 PM:

I will admit to being confused about the "assumed knowledge" thing everyone's talking about. This is probably because I already have most of the assumed knowledge. :-) But could someone provide a few examples of the sort of thing under discussion?

#369 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:25 PM:

heresiarch @ 366... what is art?

That's the thing. It's all about definitions otherwise people wind up debating each other endlessly because they didn't start with an agreed-upon definition. Yes, I am a computer programmer? How did you guess? That being said, yes, a carburator could be Art. And a Part.

#370 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:30 PM:

I expect the SF I read that I am going to get past page 3 and past page 50 and past the middle and past the first two-thirds of the book and actually read all of, to:
o have prose which is not unresolved anapestic foot,
o facilitate figuring out who the characters are (what was the name of the Cherryh book with the characters with special symbols for appellation?)
o have characters I find worthwhile reading about,
o have a viewpoint character who is a character or narrator whose voice and viewpoints do not cause me to stop reading (If it hadn't been the owner of the vehicle who was reading Snowcrash out loud in a car I was in and who would not stop despite me making it completely clear I was completely repulsed by the book, I would have grabbed the book and thrown it out the window to end the torture.... I really really really loathed that narrative voice and being put into that character's head!)
o have settings and situations that don't bore me/cause me annoyance in a fashion that causes me to shut the book (that is, Breslin's The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight--not SF, but an example of what I want to show--is about a bunch of really repulsive characters doing some really stupid and repulsive things, but it's entertaining, because they are so utterly inept it's humorous)--an interesting setting, and/or situations, and/or ideas written in other than completely wretched prose, can redeem a book with cardboard characters and dumb dialogue, for example.
o be written primarily in active voice, not be loaded with passive voice reminiscent of lousy technical writing (turgid technical academic prose is a bug, not a feature, and those who promulgate it I consider generally lousy writers, or being obfuscatory regarding, "who actually DID the work, anyway?!" "It has been shown that..." is really a lousy writing style, and what the use of it indicates is that the author either is a lousy prose writer, or the literacy of the editing is questionable...)
o have plot(s) that make/makes sense and that I can follow and get value out of reading (usually enjoyment, sometimes even infotainment....)
o not bore me slowing down with boring political speculations

(I bogged down completely in the first 50 pages of Cyteen when I tried to read it... much later I skimmed my way through it looking for connections to the rest of the related books set in the same universe within the same general timeline (Cyteen explains some of the background for e.g. 40,000 in Gehenna, and the whyfors of the typoes of atrocities that including the destruction of Sandor Kreja's family, which happened long before the start of Merchanter's Luck. But as a standalone book, I couldn't stand Cyteen! For that matter,Downbelow Station was unreadable for me until after reading Merchanter's Luck. And while it's no part whatsoever of Cherryh's work, while I was enormously impressed by Stand on Zanzibar which I read as a teenager, it burned me out on reading Brunner's work... got through that, and didn't have much in the way of energy or interest left ever after in attempting to read new books by Brunner after having gotten through SoZ. )

o have a pace that holds my interest
o if there are large lumps of indigestible expository lump, they should be ones I can skip over without loss if I decide I've had enough Explository Lump--and they should be fractional parts of the book, not a plurality of it.
o expository lumps should contain interesting scientifically valid or speculation-based-on-known-stuff-projections that doesn't blow my credibility filters to hell and gone
(I read much of the Fletcher Report, which Jeff Hecht, who heard about it but probably didn't have the access to read much of, referred to as "extapolation on log paper--which is an accurate summation, actually. One year I got to go the the DARPA Strategic Space Symposium, and after a week of that, dived into The Dragon Waiting which I had been previously unable to read for the sheer -density- of the book, I had not had the focussed attention I needed to concentrate on it to the depth necessary to get through... but after a week in Future Technology Prognostication Land, I desperately wanted to avoid ANYTHING which was future technology forecast design and development projection, and medieval times and technology were just the thing to dive into to regain my aplomb....) If something starts engaging my critical technology forecasting filters, it had BETTER have an internally consistent basis that can provide an explanation that's better than inventing and handwaving unobtainium etc.

#371 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:33 PM:

heresiarch: What is art?

Art is that thing one finds artful. True, tautological, and sort of useless.

I think there are lots of practical defintions.

The folks "doing" art, have a vested interest in keeping the definition in their hands.

I think, at one level, art is a thing people do. Some of it may be bad art. But that "badness" is, usually, a defintion given to it when someone takes the work and presents it as "art" at which point its function changes; from a thing which gives me pleasure to do; for it's own sake, to something I am offering up for public appreciation.

I think the making of art is something people can't help doing. We like pretty things, we like to make things, we make pretty things. We also have very different ideas of what pretty things are.

Are my photographs art? Maybe. It pleases me to make them. It pleases others to look at them. It pleases some to buy them, that they might look at them when they please.

So for some people they are art.

Some of them I craft, with the intent of making them artful.

But in the public sphere, things get more difficult. Are my pictures worth thousands of dollars? I don't think so. There are photographers, with images I don't think fundamentally different from mine, who command such a price.

There are others, whose work is in the same genre, but are fundamentally different, whom I think (by dint of both effort, and result) deserve such a price.

There are also people who wouldn't pay a plug nickel for any photograph.

So long as I can show my work, and sell some of it, I can live with that sort of idiosyncratic definition (and reserve the right to say some of the "art" offered to the public is crap).

#372 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:34 PM:

When someone asks for book suggestions, I am them what sort of stuff/things they like... tastes and aesthetics differ

#373 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Assumed knowledge, with art... so why are there all these paintings of mothers and a baby boy? What's the big deal there?

Art gets more complicated if you consider it separate from craft. I'm not sure the two can be separated so easily; they're two nebulous clouds of meaning, mostly overlapping but without boundaries even if the other isn't there. Art is artifice; a tree isn't art, but a photograph of the tree can be. Art is defined by the viewer; my snowflake mug is not art to me, but in a hundred years, it may be art to someone else. And my paintbrush-weilding ghost will laugh and laugh.

#374 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:02 PM:

Isis and Osiris...

#375 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:28 PM:

Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike in the new Star Trek movie. Yay!

#376 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:34 PM:

Bruce@275:
    ...Machines don't grown on trees, George --
    It's time to get to work!

    Bit by bit, putting it together;
        Sondheim, from Sunday in the Park with George.

wrt referentialism, I'd argue that really good art works both ways -- it gives you some entry point immediately, but every time you revisit it after time in the rest of the world, you see something new. Specifically wrt referentialism of SF, cf Delany's argument about people literally being unable to read SF (inter alia, as in the WFC 1999 panel that TNH moderated); unfortunately, I never thought to ask how much of this he thought was really a mindset and how much was just not knowing the basic elements of a wider universe (rather as the average reader today won't know what it means when a Thorne Smith man stops by a drugstore, let alone a lot of the social context that makes (e.g.) Austen sensible). There is, IME, still SF being written that doesn't depend as much on past SF (or at least on past SF that isn't part of the general experience, disaster movies (e.g.) being as popular as they are); a lot of it doesn't seem very good to me, but I \know/ that my threshold of boredom has risen a lot in the 46 years I've been reading SF.

Lee@367: example: why is it funny/weird/... when one of Stross's chapters begins "It was a bright cold afternoon in April and the clock was striking fourteen."? In the same vein, what about the references to boots and human faces (and their ultimate contradiction) in Good Omens? Their source is a book that most mundanes know about but (IME) fewer and fewer have actually read. Those are very specific examples because specific examples are easy to pull up; can anyone come up with more general ones?

#377 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Mez, #356, I hope the bad gets better.

SF for beginners, I usually give men Barrayar and women Impossible Things with a marker at "Even the Queen."

When you fly with a snowman, you should share your Irn Bru.

#378 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Chip 375: I'll bite. What does it mean when a Thorne Smith man stops by a drugstore?

#379 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:52 PM:

CHip 375:

It's a worldview issue--SF/F writers generally write with the view that the reader will talk the description literally, doing a willing suspension of disbelief and accepting that narration at face value as a "this is what this world is like" sort of thing. There are other ways of reading, including:

1. "This stuff is not real, and I don't read stuff that isn't about the world I know or history--this stuff is fantasy and I'm don't read confabulation."

2. There is reading allegorically, where A is a stand-in for B, C is a stand-in for D, etc. In that sort of circumstance there's no such thing as face value, because there are always look-up tables involves. The irising door is a metaphor or simile for something else. The dragon is a stand-in for something else, and not actually a dragon, it's symbolic and/or emblematic of something else....

Reading the book accepting the dragonness of a dragon and that the dragon is its own construct and not a cipher for something else, falls outside the reading protocols of people whose reading protocols fall into e.g. the two cases above. They can't/won't accept that "sometimes a [something or other] is just a [something or other
and is not a stand-in for something else, or a concept that because it it outside the Real World, is meritless and the work containing it meritless and not anything worth reading/readable.


#380 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:20 AM:

Dislocated thought: what I know about art and about writing is that the worst stuff is that which exists primarily to prove how very clever its maker is.

#381 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:28 AM:

CHip 375:

It's a worldview issue--SF/F writers generally write with the view that the reader will talk the description literally, doing a willing suspension of disbelief and accepting that narration at face value as a "this is what this world is like" sort of thing. There are other ways of reading, including:

1. "This stuff is not real, and I don't read stuff that isn't about the world I know or history--this stuff is fantasy and I'm don't read confabulation."

2. There is reading allegorically, where A is a stand-in for B, C is a stand-in for D, etc. In that sort of circumstance there's no such thing as face value, because there are always look-up tables involves. The irising door is a metaphor or simile for something else. The dragon is a stand-in for something else, and not actually a dragon, it's symbolic and/or emblematic of something else....

Reading the book accepting the dragonness of a dragon and that the dragon is its own construct and not a cipher for something else, falls outside the reading protocols of people whose reading protocols fall into e.g. the two cases above. They can't/won't accept that "sometimes a [something or other] is just a [something or other
and is not a stand-in for something else, or a concept that because it it outside the Real World, is meritless and the work containing it meritless and not anything worth reading/readable.


#382 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:51 AM:

Abi @ #337:
Bruce Arthurs @327:
Instead of enablers, how about "hosts"?

Ummm, no, "hosts" is a little too simple for what I was thinking of.

But I did think of a better word than "enablers", without the negative connotations, and even with a science-fiction connection: Effectuator

(Which, in turn, makes me wonder: If Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe ever collaborated on a novel, how many language geeks would have their brains melt?)

#383 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:08 AM:

Lee @ 367: "I will admit to being confused about the "assumed knowledge" thing everyone's talking about."

On one level that sort of assumed knowledge is along the lines of when you read that a character is graceful and pointy-eared, you can safely assume that they're also long-lived and in harmony with nature, or that the violent alien warrior race lives by a strict code of honor--that sort of thing. Even when (maybe ESPECIALLY when) these tropes are being subverted, they still inform your reading.

On another level, the assumed knowledge cn be the ability to assimilate a huge amount of new information about setting and backstory from contextual clues. Speculative fiction may be unique in the sheer amount of new information that you have to process. The crux of the story is sometimes just figuring out what's going on. Take the "As you know Bob" trope: it existed due to necessity, and that it's now viewed as clunky is because we, the fans, have learned how to decode much subtler expositional tricks, and the writers have learned how to write them. That's all stuff that's pretty unique to sf, and can repell new readers.

#384 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:42 AM:

Diatryma @ 372

I don't think art and craft can be separated at all. Even what we might call completely conceptual art has to be presented to its audience in some way, and the creation of that presentation involves craft.

The definition of art varies widely from culture to culture as well as between individuals. Western European culture has a long tradition of art being produced by specialists who make up a very small percentage of the population, and there is a pervasive belief that most individuals have no, or very little, artistic ability. Balinese culture on the other hand is at the other end of the spectrum: art is considered a part of everyone's life, and there are few people who specialize in it to the exclusion of other aspects of life. In this view, craft and art are almost synonymous, and the notion of a special vocabulary and genre of art that's restricted to an elite is unknown.

#385 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:00 AM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 381

(Which, in turn, makes me wonder: If Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe ever collaborated on a novel, how many language geeks would have their brains melt?)

All of them.

#386 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:16 AM:

Most years when I go to Debbie Notkin's New Years house party, I make Maida Heatter's Palm Beach Brownies but this year I decided to try doing Xopher's Black Hole Brownies of Death.

Something about the way Xopher wrote the recipe suggests to me that he doesn't have an electric mixer. I do, and I suspect it made things much easier -- frex, I added the cocoa powder while doing a continuous low mix, and it went quite easily, with no threat of the powder getting all over the place. It also made it easier to get a nice even distribution on the chips; the batter is extremely stiff, almost solid, so having to mix them in by hand would be quite the workout.

(The Maida Heatter recipe calls for mixing the batter at high speed for ten minutes, and would be quite impossible to do by hand.)

Anyway, they're baked and mostly cooled, and having tasted I have to say that they're very good.

#387 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:54 AM:

Wal, that t'were right purdy. I'm back and finished dinner after watching the 'family fireworks' over Sydney Harbour. They start at 9pm AEST, just as the last colour deepens into a dark sky.

There was talk about there being new '3D' pyrotechnic effects. I think they meant those ones that seemed to be in spiral or lozenge shapes, and some odd-looking ones that might have been the outlines of cubes. Lots of a variety of the classical types too, I like the multi-puffball, where a dozen or so small dandelion-seedhead-shaped puffs arc out gracefully into a near-sphere from a central explosion. The pyrotechnicians use about 14 laptop computers (half are backups in case of failure) to coordinate and set off the 'cues'.

Looking forward to midnight in about an hour, when we get more, plus a special display on the Harbour Bridge — that'll be the one you'll probably see clips from on New Year Celebrations coverage. I'm not well enough for the buffeting of the crowds in the streets and parks, so one of the advantages of the flat near the hospital I picked is that the roof (with clotheslines) is accessible and has a view towards the harbour (from one corner you can even see the bridge).

And thanks, Marilee (#376) for your good wishes. This latest trouble was a shock, and quite rocked me back on my heels. Disruptions from holiday closures and people being away means we still don't quite know what the situation is yet, more tests are scheduled over the next weeks. I just finished watching all of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer on DVD, and that and Hogfather might have helped morale.

Wishing all here whatever they hope for the future turns out, and their fears don't.

#388 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:47 AM:

CHip, #375: why is it funny/weird/... when one of Stross's chapters begins "It was a bright cold afternoon in April and the clock was striking fourteen."?

Because clocks that strike aren't usually running on 24-hour time? Given only that information, that's the first response which comes to mind. And if you think April afternoons can't be cold, you've never lived in Michigan! :-)

what about the references to boots and human faces (and their ultimate contradiction) in Good Omens?

Allusions of that nature are certainly not limited to SF books! One of the earliest creative-writing lessons I got was, "Never assume that your reader is going to have seen, or heard, or read, everything that you have." Which, in practical terms, means that if you're going to throw in that sort of reference, it had damn well better not be critical to the story.

Jane Dentinger's theatrical mysteries are a good example; I'm not a theater buff myself, so I'm sure there are side-references all over the place that go right past me, but the story still hangs together even without them. Or again, when the ghost appears on the parapet in John Moore's Bad Prince Charlie, it's funnier if you recognize the allusion to Hamlet, but you don't NEED to know that to understand what's going on.

Not trying to be contradictory for its own sake; I just don't think those particular examples work very well as responses to my question. Heresiarch got closer to providing the sort of answer I was looking for.

#389 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Since this *is* the Open Thread, I couldn't resist mentioning that I went on a movie-watching binge yesterday to help banish the winter blues, and the very first one I saw on Turner was "The Spanish Main", with Paul Henreid, Maureen O'Hara -- and Fritz Leiber's daddy, Fritz Sr. the actor! (He played the old priest who married the main characters, early enough that she still intended some back-stabbing.)

#390 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Lee @ 387... when the ghost appears on the parapet in John Moore's Bad Prince Charlie, it's funnier if you recognize the allusion to Hamlet, but you don't NEED to know that to understand what's going on

Nor did you need to have seen Hamlet to appreciate Star Trek's The Conscience of the King, but it made it even better if you did.
Nor did you need to know of Omar Kayam to laugh when Bullwinkle talked about a yacht made of rubies.

#391 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:14 PM:

Faren @ 388... I caught part of "The Spanish Main" yesterday. Is that the one with Walter Slezak as the Evil Spaniard?

#392 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:25 PM:

David 385: You're right, I don't have an electric mixer. I wouldn't really have space for one in my tiny apartment. To give you a hint about the level of crowding in my kitchen, when I said I was getting a chocolate-tempering machine (comparable in footprint to and much shorter than an electric mixer) my friend Dave said "Where are you going to put it, on your bed?"

As for mixing in the chips being a workout...a little extra exercise never hurt anyone! :-) Especially someone who's about to eat calorie bombs like the BHBOD. I go to the gym and work out to get the strength to stir that doughy mass.

A couple of things I've learned: the batter tends to stiffen up if you let it sit, at basically any point after you add the cocoa. Keep it moving and everything's easier. A breeze with an electric mixer, I expect: just don't turn it off. For my own purposes I've found that it helps to measure everything, and combine the at-the-end ingredients (not the chips), before beginning to mix anything. Then it's stir dump stir instead of stir measuremeasuremeasure dump stir.

The other thing (maybe too late now) is that cooling them completely and then cutting all of them before removing any from the pan helps keep the edges from crumbling. If I had a guitar I might use that, though I'd have to do something different with the pan.

And thanks! Tell me how they go over at Debbie's.

#393 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:39 PM:

Xopher @ 391... the batter tends to stiffen up if you let it sit, at basically any point after you add the cocoa. Keep it moving and everything's easier.

The stiffer the batter?

#394 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:44 PM:

So not going there, Serge.

#395 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:50 PM:

Abi @ 393... You're right. Batter nut.

#396 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 12:52 PM:

No, no, nuts make it even harder.

Um.

Forget I said that.

#397 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Lee, some of the shared knowledge an SF fan has is about specific technological tropes--nanotechnology, say, is something SF fans have long known about well enough not to need exposition, that non-SF fans are only just starting to learn about. Some of them are turns of phrase--if a story includes a sentence similar to "The door dilated" it will mean something different to us than it would to non-fans*.

And heresiarch's point at #382, that one thing that's different is that we're used to quickly figuring out an entirely unfamiliar world from a few clues in a way that others aren't. My mother likes SF in theory, but has a hard time reading it because she never got used to projecting her mind into a totally new world (so I've started giving her near-contemporary and alternate history books, like recent William Gibson and Jo Walton, which she has a better time with).

*What that specific meaning is depends on the context, of course.

#398 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:15 PM:

ethan @ 396... some of the shared knowledge an SF fan has is about specific technological tropes

For example, if we say 'hyperspace', fans know in one single word what that implies about the limits of the story's settings. We can thank George Lucas for helping disseminate that word beyond the fans although he wasn't the first one to use it in the mainstream - that honor belongs to Forbidden Planet.

#399 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:18 PM:

ethan, #396: That's helpful too, thanks!

we're used to quickly figuring out an entirely unfamiliar world from a few clues in a way that others aren't

Or to holding the confusing bits in abeyance, trusting that sooner or later the author will get around to making them clear; this is especially true WRT vocabulary.

Now that I think about it, I'm much more patient with that in an SF context than I am in most others. Last week I consigned a mystery to the cull pile partly because the author made the mistake of assuming that all her readers will have read the previous book, and making cryptic back-references that weren't explained until chapter 3. With SF, I more or less expect that I may need to read the first part of the book again after I've figured everything out.

#400 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:36 PM:

My (intelligent, well-read) mother-in-law read The Left Hand of Darkness a few years ago, and complained about the made-up calendar. To her, it seemed gratuitous and confusing, and threw her out of the story. I explained that, as a science-fiction reader, an alien planet using the Earth calendar would be self-evidently absurd enough to throw me out of the story. I don't think I convinced her, though.

I forget who said "odd characters in an odd setting is an oddity too much," but I think that's how a lot of non-fans see SF. If you want to write about androgyny, why throw in space travel, and year-round winter, and a made-up language and calendar?

#401 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:11 PM:

Mez @ 386

Happy New Year; I hope the change in the year brings you relief from your health problems.

#402 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:24 PM:

Serge #397: Is that a hint? Seeing as I have no plans for tonight and tomorrow other than to stay in and watch movies (The Haunting and The Great Muppet Caper from Netflix, yay!), Forbidden Planet may be less forbidden for me soon enough.

Lee #398: Ooh, good point, I think that's true for me, too. If I'm reading something that isn't SF and I'm confused 20 pages in, I'm mad. If I'm reading something that is SF and I'm confused 20 pages in, I assume I won't be in another 20 or so.

#403 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Lee @ 398

It's hard to demonstrate without some sort of psychological study, but I suspect that readers of SF tend to have a puzzle-solving temperament. We're perfectly willing to put a couple of clues together into a partial solution and then put it on the stack for awhile in the reasonable hope that it will be useful as part of a larger solution later. Or if not, that it will be a red herring like those used in mystery stories, intended to make it harder to find the correct solution, but sufficiently probable to help expand the solution space and give us more information about the context of the story.

For instance, in one of the most bravura "firehose information dump" scenes I can think of, the first chapter of Charlie Stross' "Glasshouse" sticks us right in middle of an interstellar, post-scarcity culture whose inhabitants are effectively immortal, and can change their bodies to any degree that is supported by the underlying biophysics at whim. Just gleaning the basic parameters of such a civilization is a major effort, and one that won't pay off until well into the novel, and Charlie also gives us a large amount of information about the narrator, some clues as to hir backstory, and some really tantalizing hints as the history of the culture and how it relates to ours at the same time, all while moving into and through a duel between the narrator and a bully he meets in a bar.

That's a dense 3 or 4 pages there, and you have to believe that it's going to be worth getting through. I gulped it down, in part because it's fun to stretch my mind trying to figure out the implications for the story and its background before the writer tells me explictly. That's not even close to a common reaction to that kind of density of prose.

#404 ::: Steff Z ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:05 PM:

OK, did I miss this by not reading all 396 posts?

Plenty of people keep whole colonies of dinosaurs in the attic, for comfort or fun or companionship or maybe winning those competitions about whose dinosaurs can fly back home fastest, and possibly for sending clandestine messages.

Birds are, to the best of our recently-vastly-expanded knowledge on the subject, direct descendants of dinosaurs. This means that birds *are* dinosaurs. We've all seen dinosaurs in the wild. Most of us have eaten dinosaurs. (Yep: tastes like chicken!) And some of us keep them in the attic.

I can't be the first to point this out on this thread, can I?

#405 ::: Steff Z ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Ooops. Make that 402 posts,
and that Charlie Stross pointed it out way up at post #8, only nobody took him seriously. (I believe you, Charlie!)

#406 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:15 PM:

No offense to you, Steff Z, but birds *are* dinosaurs in exactly the same way that humans *are* small ratlike creatures.

I'm so sick of that "birds are dinosaurs" bullshit. The word 'dinosaur' has a common meaning, which that violates. Paleontologists have decided birds are directly descended from dinosaurs, and made the fundamentally stupid pronunciation that that means birds *are* dinosaurs, which even they don't believe.

Think they do? Go to KFC and get a bucket of chicken. Eat it (not for us vegetarians), and save the bones. Call up your paleontologist friend and say "hey, want a whole bunch of dinosaur bones?"

I think everyone should do this until the paleontologists stop saying stupid things.

I'm not a small ratlike creature, in case you were wondering. I'm not even an ancient Indo-European, or a medieval Irishman, or a street kid from Chicago, though I am descended from all of these.

And birds, despite their established descent from dinosaurs, are not what anyone but a paleontologist—ANY halfway sensible person—means when they say "dinosaur."

#407 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:16 PM:

No one took him seriously, Steff, because he wasn't serious.

#408 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Xopher @#405:

I'm not a small ratlike creature, in case you were wondering. I'm not even an ancient Indo-European, or a medieval Irishman, or a street kid from Chicago, though I am descended from all of these.

That must have been one heck of a Beltane party!

#409 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 03:53 PM:

"Dinner for One" is a campy black-and-white sketch (in English!) that's a German New Year's Eve TV tradition. I have no idea why. In any case, Happy New Year, everyone. It's not quite that time here, but it never seems like there's a wrong time to wish people I've come to appreciate so much all the best for 2008.

#410 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:04 PM:

ethan @ 401... Nope. No hint. No feint. Just watch the DVD if/when you feel like it.

"I rarely use it myself, it promotes rust."

#411 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Why in the name of heaven is that thing xopher calls a guitar in #391 named that?

#412 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:40 PM:

It has wire strung across those steel frames, I think. (Doesn't show up in the pictures, though.) I've read of something similar used for pasta.

#413 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Mary Aileen #360:
Someone should tell Gardner Dozois that his 20+ Year's Best SF Collections need renaming.

Happy New Year everyone! It's after 10am January 1, 2008, where I am and the living room window frames a clear blue-skied sunny summer's morning.

#414 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 04:48 PM:

Bruce, #402: I'll buy that; it would also explain why SF readers tend to be interested in wordplay to a much greater extent than the general population.

However, I'll also note that I don't react well to extreme density of prose outside of SF either -- which is one reason why I don't like most modern lit-fic. From my POV, they're putting me thru the same amount of effort but for no payoff.

#415 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 05:09 PM:

For US types with cable: TCM is having a Fred Astaire marathon tonight. Since we always try to watch "Top Hat" or "The Gay Divorcee" on New Year's Eve, this seems absolutely perfect. Tivos on Stun!

#416 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:03 PM:

Happy New Year, all, from the Netherlands.

Fireworks going crazy here.

#417 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:35 PM:

Soon Lee @ 412 -

Happy New Year everyone! It's after 10am January 1, 2008, where I am...

A voice from the future! Happy New Year to you, too, and all the good people at Making Light.

#418 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 06:52 PM:

Xopher@405

But you are a mammal. In exactly the same way that birds are dinosaurs. Humans are a type of mammal. Birds are a type of dinosaur. It's just that all of the non-bird dinosaurs are extinct now, while there are plenty of non-human mammals still around.

#419 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 07:09 PM:

Michael 417: Bah.

#420 ::: butsuri ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Michael I @ #417

I... kind of agree. But just to argue the other way... couldn't you say on similar grounds that mammals and dinosaurs are both types of fish? That doesn't sound so immediately sensible.

#421 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:47 PM:

The Twilight Zone marathon continues on the SciFi Channel. They just showed one of their best episodes, Walking Distance, where a man tired of the rat race gets to go home again to his childhood.

"Martin."
"Yes, Pop."
"You have to leave here. There's no room, there's no place. Do you understand that?"
"I see that now, but I don't understand. Why not?"
"I guess because we only get one chance. Maybe there's only one summer to every customer. That little boy, the one I know - the one who belongs here - this is his summer, just as it was yours once. Don't make him share it."
"Alright."
"Martin, is it so bad where you're from?"
"I thought so, Pop. I've been living on a dead run and I was tired. And one day I knew I had to come back here. I had to get on the merry-go-round and listen to a band concert. I had to stop and breathe, and close my eyes and smell, and listen."
"I guess we all want that. Maybe when you go back, Martin, you'll find that there are merry-go-rounds and band concerts where you are. Maybe you haven't been looking in the right place. You've been looking behind you, Martin. Try looking ahead."

#422 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Lee @ 398: "Or to holding the confusing bits in abeyance, trusting that sooner or later the author will get around to making them clear; this is especially true WRT vocabulary."

Heh. So true.

("You did what!?" I squeaked.

"30,000 Antarean creds for a week's journey! For just two of 'em!" He grinned at me expectantly, like a puppy with half a slipper.

"Just. Two. Glizzglozzes." I repeated in shock.

"Yeah! It'll be easy! He, erm, it...they...the merchant showed me one. They're only about yay big," he said, holding his arms out in front of him. "Sure, they get slime all over, but we can keep them in the bathroom or something. It'll be a cinch!"

Dimly, through the nigh-overwhelming urge to beat his head against the wall, I felt a pang of sympathy for him. I tried to figure out how to explain.

"You do realize, don't you, that glizzglozz is a collective noun?" I asked. In the distance, I heard our loading doors boom open.

"Er. Really? I mean, of course," he said. "They're um, about how big, exactly?" he asked desperately. A strange noise filtered up from below: the sound of thousands of suckers advancing across deck-plating.

"It isn't a terribly exact number," I began, then caught my breath as the stench hit us. Coughing, I continued. "The important distinction the term offers, as opposed to, say, a glickend--a group of immature males--or a zyrome--a migratory pack--is that a glizzglozz is an active breeding colony."

"Oh. Oh." After a pause, he began tentatively, "Um, when you say 'active,' how-"

"Very, very, active." I replied.)

#423 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 09:57 PM:

Exploiting the open thread and taking note that this is a break from Christmas, but not from New Years: Happy 2008, Fluorosphere! (This is early, because I have a movie to watch with my wife, if the kids ever get off their sugar rush and go to bed.)

Happy new-years eve
Dodge the drunks and watch the ball
two thousand and eight!

#424 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:10 PM:

"Dinosaurs in the attic" post gets animal removal ads from Google.

Does this mean that some guy who is used to removing raccoons is suddenly faced with dealing with something bigger?

#425 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:32 PM:

heresiarch, 421: Did you just make that up? Wow, do it again!

#426 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 12:03 AM:

Happy 2008!!

May everyone here obtain all the good they wish.

#427 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 12:43 AM:

Xopher in 405 --

You are unfortunately entirely mistaken on this issue.

It's been pointed out by more than one eminent paleontologist that if you dissect the legs of ground birds -- chicken and turkey do just fine -- you're looking at completely homologous structures to Tyrannosaurus rex, just rather teenier. It's not something they're making up to vex you.

Life is a bush; it's a big, complex, overgrown, twisty bush that's been burned down to the ground a few-eight times, but it's a bush.

Dinosaurs are, in one of the great jokes of all time, split into Ornithischia and Saurischia, the bird-hipped and lizard-hipped dinosaurs. Ornithischia are your duck-billed dinosaurs, your ceratopsians, and armored dinosaurs generally. Saurischia is your sauropods and your theropods.

Birds are a branch of the theropod part of the bush, that managed to squeak through one of the recent burned-to-the-ground episodes. So birds are, in phlyogenic terms, lizard-hipped dinosaurs. (Isn't convergent evolution grand?)

Dinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda, Tetanurae, Coelurosauria, Maniraptora, Aves, and then the whole modern flowering of that part of the tree of life.

It goes 'terror lizard', 'lizard hipped', 'beast-foot', 'stiff-tails', 'beast-foot birds', 'hollow-tailed lizard', 'thief-hand', 'bird', so you're not the only one suffering from cognitive dissonance. It still makes every bit as much sense to call a bird a dinosaur as it does to all you a mammal, because, hey, mammal does not mean "placental" and there are a lot of extinct relatives back there as laid eggs.

It all starts at biota anyway.

#428 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 01:04 AM:

Graydon, you've missed my point. Paleontologists can say whatever they want, but they cannot change the definition of a commonly-used word. CANNOT. They have no such ability. It's not going to work. They lose.

I can sit here and tell you that actually 'diction' means your choice of words, and technically I'd be right. I can smirk and be all pedantic and say ACTUALLY you meant his ENUNCIATION, not his DICTION.

But I'd be being an asshole, and everyone would know it, and more importantly everyone would go right on using the word 'diction' to refer to the care with which one pronounces one's words. Technical terms are used in a special way in their own field, but you can't impose that usage on the general populace.

Paleontologists can sit there and tell us that ACTUALLY dinosaurs never went extinct and that BIRDS are REALLY dinosaurs, and smirk and be all I'm-so-much-smarter-than-you about it, but they're being assholes, and everyone (especially me) is going to go right on using the term 'dinosaur' in its common definition. Dinosaurs are by definition extinct. It's even used in metaphor to mean a relic of an earlier way of doing things.

So it doesn't make as much sense to call a bird a dinosaur as to call me a mammal. It makes as much sense to call a bird a dinosaur as it does to call me a medieval Irishman. Structurally I'm not very different (perhaps on a smaller scale), but it's still wrong, because I was not alive (in this body anyway) in the Middle Ages.

Dinosaurs (not using the paleontological term-of-art, but the colloquial term) are by definition creatures who died so long ago that what remains of them has turned to stone. That's what the word means. Paleontologists can't change that.

And it's doubly stupid because the '-saur' in the word means "lizard," which everyone knows dinosaurs were not. The paleos should invent a new, more accurate term, literally meaning something like "terrible birds." But no, they want to be assholes about it and give everyone a chance to play gotcha and force the rest of us to use all kinds of extra words to say what we mean, like "archaic extinct giant dinosaurs."

Fuck that. And fuck them, and the brontosaurus* they rode in on.


*Yes, I know. Picked it on purpose for just that reason.

#429 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:49 AM:

Xopher @427: actually, they might be able to. Consider the meaning of the word "sort" as it has changed due to computing.

That said, I suspect they can't produce nearly enough pressure for change.

#430 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:05 AM:

As the neighbors set off fireworks--Happy New Year!

Also, Gar Lipow @ 377--it's been a while since I read any Thorne Smith, but in general, when a perfectly ordinary fellow goes to a drugstore, his life is about to take a sharp left into the weird, wonderful, fantastic and surreal. In 1920s or '30s terms, anyway. (If you're not familiar with the name at all, he wrote, among other things, Topper...)

#431 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:53 AM:

Tex-Anne @ 424: *blushes* I did.

Xopher @ 427: I have to say, I'm quite surprised at the intensity of your distaste for the idea that birds are dinosaurs. For me, it's one of those thoughts that gives me a neat bit of sensa-wunda at how much awesomer the universe is than I can even comprehend. Like when someone points up at a star and says, "Actually, that star is a whole nother galaxy, with billions and billions of stars of its own, that's just incomprehensibly far away." My response to that isn't "Fuck you, we've been calling it a star for thousands of years, and you fucking specialists don't get to redefine common words whenever you discover something new!" It's "Neat!"

#432 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 04:00 AM:

I think Xopher's strong opinion is based partly on the smugness of people who say birds are dinosaurs-- I've seldom heard it mentioned in a "Hey, this is cool!" sense. It's kind of like the... god help me, I'm invoking xkcd. It's not exactly the same, but it's in the same category for me.
The star analogy doesn't work; I think it might be safer to compare it to Pluto's planetary status. Or maybe it's just that nobody says 'dinosaur' when they mean 'bird' or vice versa. People tend to refer to birds as dinosaurs when they want to be congratulated on their cleverness.

Anyway, isn't part of the definition of 'dinosaur' that they didn't fly?

#433 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 04:07 AM:

Pterodons? Pterodactyls?

#434 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 04:57 AM:

Xopher@391: One thing I forgot to mention is that I adapted a technique from the Palm Beach Brownies: Instead of putting the batter directly into the pan, I lined the pan with aluminum foil. I took a sheet of foil and molded it around the outside of the pan, then turned the pan over and put the foil sheet inside it, and greased that. (By putting in a little bit of butter, then putting the pan into the preheating oven to melt the butter -- Heatter suggests then spreading the melted butter with a pastry brush, but since I don't have such a brush, I use a paper towel.) This makes getting the brownies out of the pan for cutting much easier.

#435 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 05:04 AM:

Oh, yeah, and another thing: Debbie likes to have people provide ingredient lists for the stuff they bring, for the benefit of those with dietary restrictions. I decided to get fancy with it. I went in to work and used InDesign to make up a little card thing; I grabbed a painting of a black hole from off the Web somewhere (probably a violation of copyright) and made the words "Black Hole Brownies of DEATH" arc into it, with the first four words in blue (I used the eyedropper tool to make it the same blue as the accretion disc in the picture) and the last in gold on top of the black hole's black. Then a credit for you, and the ingredients list underneath.

I haven't had an opportunity to post it anywhere...maybe I will in my LJ, in a day or two.

#436 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:07 AM:

Another method of getting the brownies out of the pan is to use a silpat-style silicone mat underneath the batter. (One then has the sides left to wrestle with, but not the bottom.)

One should not, however, cut brownies *in* the pan with a sharp knife while the mat is still in situ. [Another fine lesson from the school of experience!]

#437 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 07:12 AM:

Xopher --

Are you really arguing that


  • mid-1950s views and opinions are privileged when forming the connotations of words, irrespective of facts

  • words must have a single, narrow meaning?

I can see a case for objecting to calling some member of maniraptora a bird, even if, phylogentically, that's just what it is; bird is, after all, a vernacular term, and someone might find the whole thing confusing. But Birds-Are-Not-Dinosaurs is a factual error, and was a factual error when that whole 'defined as extinct' thing was going on.

Me, I kinda like the tension between 'slow, doomed, awkward, dumb' and 'kept mammals small, nocturnal, and scared for a hundred and twenty million years, and there was a reason for that'.

#438 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 07:40 AM:

One kid's observation: "Now that the dinosaurs are safely dead, we can call them clumsy and stupid".

#439 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:01 AM:

Surgery by the numbers:
Total length of incisions: 36"
Undesirable body tissue removed, in pounds: 5
General bodily resemblance to a badly-carved jack-o-lantern: significant

I posted the following on the New Year's thread, but I had promised a couple of folks in email to post on the Open Thread as well, so here's a duplicate:

As promised for the new year:

Run, neighbours, run, all London is quadrilling it
Order and Sobriety are dos a dos
This is the day for toeing it and heeling it
All are promenading it from high to low
King Almack with his Star and Garter Coteries
Never did anticipate such democratic votaries
Courtiers and Citizens are flirting with Terpsichore
The town's an ampitheatre for capering & kickery

Also, by way of the idea that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I mention in passing that I am full of brabbles and rustling slightly.

#440 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:12 AM:

As I understand it, it makes sense to say that dinosaurs were birds, but not the other way around. Similarly we can fairly say that australopithicenes were human but not that humans are australopithicenes.


#441 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:20 AM:

Also, I'll just observe that mixing connotative meanings, scientific meanings, and analogies in an argument about terminology is often explosive.

I know, I did it too by invoking the herein-undefined term "human." I'm wearing safety goggles.

#442 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:26 AM:

Soon Lee @ #412:

"Anthology" and "collection" are not mutually exclusive; the former is a specific type of the latter. Gardner Dozois' usage is imprecise, but not actually incorrect.

#443 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:17 AM:

Mary Dell@439

Not quite. Birds are a subgroup of dinosaurs. So it is factually correct to say that birds are dinosaurs.

#444 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:38 AM:

re 442: Taxonomically, Aves comes first, so it is what everything gets called if you are a "lumper". But if you are operating through phylogeny, then you get to make similar statements such as "mammals are reptiles".

Somewhere along the line we have to stop abusing the word "is" so much.

#445 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:57 AM:

joann @ 414... It was a strange experience, after a day of watching the Twilight Zone marathon, to switch to "Shall We Dance?", especially with the movie's grand finale, with all the female dancers wearing masks to look like Ginger Rogers.

#446 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 12:14 PM:

Michael I. @#442 & C. Wingage @#443:

Ah, I'm beginning to understand. My last shallow dip into biology was in 1984 (aside from human origins stuff, but that was in anthro classes). I wasn't aware of the differing classification systems. There's a pretty good page here that discusses the difference. I suspect most laypeople are still used to the Linnaean system.

#447 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 12:37 PM:

heresiarch 430: I think it's wonderful that we've discovered that, far from dying out, dinosaurs evolved into what we now know as birds. I think it's fabulous that the similarities in structure are so close. I think 'birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs' is an awesome and sensawunda-inspiring fact.

Mess with my language, though, and my enjoyment goes cold. The Latin language has decendents in the Romance languages, but to say "French IS Latin" is wrong and stupid. French has many characteristics that distinguish it from Latin. (I haven't heard anyone saying that dinosaurs, as the term is commonly used, had feathers.) When you want to show the relationship, you use a broader category, like "Romance Languages," to which the ancient and the modern both belong.

Diatryma 431: People tend to refer to birds as dinosaurs when they want to be congratulated on their cleverness.

There we go. And I want to smack them upside the head.

David 433: Wow, I just smear butter on a nonstick pan with my bare (albeit washed) fingers. But then, I keep soft butter around habitually, and like to lick butter off my fingers when I'm done.

If I were going to pull the entire mass out of the pan at once (frex, if I get a guitar), I'd smash parchment paper into the pan, maybe grease it...in fact, with parchment paper you can smear it with butter and THEN smash it into the pan. It doesn't have to be a perfect fit, because the batter will push it down...and crinkly edges are no bad thing where brownies are concerned!

___ 434: Oh my gods, that's FABULOUS!!!! May I use it too, once you post it? It sounds like a really gorgeous piece of artwork. (I hope you put an artist credit on it; if not, I'll write it on the back after printing it out.) What a wonderful collaboration! :-)

Graydon 436: Of course I am saying neither of those things. (And btw, you misused the word 'connotation' there. ALL connotations are "irrespective of facts;" escargot IS snail, but the terms 'escargot' and 'snail' differ in connotation. You meant the denotation. See how annoying it is to be brought to task for misusing technical terms when you used them in a nontechnical way?)

I am privileging common, nontechnical language over specialized, technical language in a common, nontechnical context. I am saying that the decision to use the category 'dinosaur' to encompass both the archaic and the modern forms of creature, and to try to impose that on everyone's speech, is stupid. I am saying I refuse to cooperate in it, just as I refuse to allow the (mis)spelling 'supercede' to stand in anything I write or edit, MicroSoft very much to the contrary.

But in that case, I'm going to lose. 'Supercede' will be the standard spelling in another century. I'm not sure whether the stupid meaning of 'dinosaur' will prevail or not. I suspect not.

What I'm saying is that 'dinosaur' is a vernacular term. And as such it cannot be changed by its reapplication in a technical context, fact-based though that reapplication may be. The paleontological community should examine their own motives, and the roots of the term, and notice that it's a bad term as a technical one; they aren't lizards, so it's just wrong.

Vernacular terms have no such restriction. A template is no longer a small temple, and a gourmet is no longer a wine-merchant's servant. Change occurs in meaning, but in response to usage, not (I regret to inform you) in response to science, generally. This may annoy you, though probably not as much as 'supercede' annoys me! But we just have to suck it up.

Susan 438: Yuck! I didn't realize what major surgery that was. (You have a right to be macha (heh) about getting back to productivity if you wanna, but...skiing double black diamonds, my jaw, she drops.)

And YAY! I meant to say something earlier. I like the design too.

C. 443: Somewhere along the line we have to stop abusing the word "is" so much.

There we go. The paleontologists are abusing the verb 'to be'. That's my whole gripe in a nutshell. Thanks for that.

Humans ARE little splortches of semiorganic quasi-life in the primordial ocean. My multicellular ass they are.

#448 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Xopher, the bird/dinosaur continuum is further confused by the discoveries that some dinosaurs did have feathers.

#449 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 12:57 PM:

Xopher,

Did you ever see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Remember when Jim Carrey asks the doctor if the memory-erasing procedure causes brain damage, and the doctor says "technically, it is brain damage"?

He wasn't trying to get Carrey to change how he referred to the procedure. He was just making his point vividly.

Unless you can give me a specific quote, I'm not going to believe that any paleontologist is trying to get people to change their everyday use of the words "dinosaur" and "bird".

Are paleontologists supposed to train themselves to say "birds are part of the dinosaurian clade" instead of "birds are dinosaurs" to avoid offending you?

#450 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 01:03 PM:

Tim 448: No, but when I say that no one keeps dinosaurs in the attic, they should refrain from telling me that some people do, they're called pigeons, because that's just rude.

#451 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Xopher @ 449 ...
How about bats in our belfries?[0] P. lotor in the chimneys?[1] Starlings in the ducting?[2]

I suppose if we return to dinosaurs and sodomy, we could also make a passing reference to Flowers in the attic.

[0] Okay - I don't have a belfry, and I don't think I've had bats inside, yet...
[1] A good reason to cap your unused chimney
[2] Fortunately nothing the furnace repair man hadn't seen before - and dried, by then.

#452 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 01:30 PM:

Xopher, I'm with you: in common usage, birds are not dinosaurs. The fact that birds are directly descended from (one family of) dinosaurs is cool, as are recent indications that some dinosaurs may actually have had feathers, but that does not mean that the two words are interchangeable.

Graydon, you're acting like a smug, self-righteous ass. (Notice that I did not say you ARE one; that should give you a clue about the difference that's under discussion.)

#453 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 01:32 PM:

xeger @ 450... Didn't Susan have bats in the attic, way back in August 2006?

#454 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Xopher: As you point out, sort of, paleontologists, evolutionary theorists, &c., can't just change the terms.

While I happen to like eohippus and brontosaurus and bemoan them being shifted, the entire idea of reshaping the vocabulary everytime someone discovers something new, so that it can be "accurate" to a degree which causes confusion (I still have Peking, and Beijing as sort of separate places in my mental map of China).

It's hard enough tracing concepts as the names of things have organically shifted; much less desiring wholesale overturnings.

Me... I look at a hummingbird, and I see a dinosaur. The same way I look at a human and see Homo habilis. All thoroughbreds are horses, not all horses are thoroughbreds.

People are primates. Birds are dinosaurs. It's not always needful to point out these facts, but they are the facts.


Your mileages, obviously, varies.

Happy New Year, to one and all.

#455 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Xopher @ 446

What I'm saying is that 'dinosaur' is a vernacular term. And as such it cannot be changed by its reapplication in a technical context, fact-based though that reapplication may be. The paleontological community should examine their own motives, and the roots of the term, and notice that it's a bad term as a technical one; they aren't lizards, so it's just wrong.

While I agree in principle with that, I've got to say you have zero chance of having your wishes granted. Look at any large clutch of technical vocabularies and you'll find huge numbers of vernacular words re-purposed* for technical meanings that collide in nasty ways with the original. Frex: "string theory", which really should have been called "rubber band theory" since "strings" are under enormous tension held in check by immense elasticity. Or how about "gluonic color" which has nothing whatsoever to do with the wavelength of light? And then there are the more subtly confusing examples in the biological and social sciences, where we might expect some kind of correspondence between technical and vernacular meanings, like "adaptation", which has caused untold stomach upset in debates about evolution. And I'm not talking about mathematics, where the same term has in several cases been taken up by at least 3 completely different subfields to cover 3 completely disparate concepts.

I'm also not talking about the terms from old theories that get left lying around in the new theories, but with different enough meanings to make the old connotations confusing. They're just things we get stuck with, like a bit of lettuce between two front teeth. It's more attention-getting and embarrassing to try to dig the bit out in public than it is to leave it there and trust most humans' lack of observation to keep your dignity.

It's just natural when you're casting around for a new term for a technical concept to look for some existing word that already has some of the connotations you want to allude to already. It's also often horribly confusing to everyone else.

Speaking of neologisms, I like "paleontological", which I assume is the philosophy of old things.

* You may retch at this neologism if you wish, we're stuck with this one too.

#456 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:18 PM:

A couple of people have pointed to the real vocabulary problem here: the verb "is". In fact, this problem exists in all classification systems I know of that use natural language to describe and discuss the relationships of the categories. The relationships involved are ones between sets, members of the sets, and super- and powersets of those sets. "Is" aint the word that covers them.

#457 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:22 PM:

Bruce 454: Well, we'll see what happens. I am as valid a speaker of English as any other.

I didn't mean 'paleontological' as a portmanteau of any sort; I was just forming an adjective from 'paleontology'. The "paleontolotical community" is the community of paleontologists, just as the "psychological community" is the community of psychologists...'psycho logic' is that practiced by the Young-Earth Creationists!

#458 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:25 PM:

I think my first intro to the bird/dinosaur thing was Alton Brown's use of an articulated wooden T. Rex "skeleton" to demonstrate carving a chicken. Or possibly the archeopterix in Johnny Hart's BC, but I'm not sure I recognized the connection at the time.

Either way, I'm all for proper nomenclature, but I will probably go on calling the the critters that nest in my eaves "birds" and the things whose skeletons I see in museums "dinosaurs"...at least until such time as the appropriate scientific communities get a revised nomenclature into mainstream usage. But that's just me, YMMV.

#459 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:25 PM:

Soon Lee @#358: Wow. Greg Egan? Really? I have him in my advanced-reader category.

You may have a point, I like Egan because he's so mind-blowing ("what SF can be"), but something like Permutation City would be a bit much for newbies. On the other hand, Distress or Quarantine are pretty accessible. Your point about anthologies is a good one -- I've largely drifted away from those, but a carefully-chosen collection could be pretty good for newbies.

Some of the Philip Dick novels are also good (Clans of the Alphane Moon, for one), but Valis seriously freaked me out.... I wouldn't hand Brunner to a newbie for much the same reason.

Looking around, I see John Stith -- something like Neverend or Redshift Rendezvous would be pretty good.

I was also specifically avoiding the prior-generation authors. I agree that Asimov and most of Heinlein haven't aged well, but some of Niven's stuff (especially collaborations with Pournelle and/or Barnes) stands up. Likewise, much of Silverberg and Saberhagen is still good. James White and James Blish also offer some (very different!) possibilities. I'm not sure about Sheffield or Forward -- lots of good stuff, but they might be too hard on science-weak readers.

Of course, fantasy would be a mostly different list -- Steven Brust and Tad Williams for starters. (Saberhagen might get on the fantasy list too, though he definitely blurs the distinction!) Diane Duane, Jody Lyn Nye, and Diana Wynne Jones have plenty of classics, some recent. Come to think of it, it might be time to pass on my copy of DWJ's Dogsbody to my nephews. (Oh, yes, and Sharon Shinn has a lovely young-reader trilogy, starting with The Truth-teller's Tale -- fantasy with nary an elf, monster, or swordfight to be found. They would also be good examples for a class in how to write fantasy...)

#460 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:27 PM:

Terry Karney @#453:

People are primates. Birds are dinosaurs.

Both relevant definitions of "dinosaur" on Webster.com indicate an extinct reptile.

Webster also puts the ecclesiastical definition of "primate" before the biological, but of course I assumed that you were using the most common meaning of the term. Because most people, in most conversations, are using the most common meanings of terms.

There's nothing wrong with looking at a bird and seeing a "dinosaur," as paleontology currently defines the term, but that's not what the word means to most people, and using it so without a footnote is confusing.


#461 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:28 PM:

me @ 457: Apteryx rather than archeopterix, according to Wikipedia...for whatever that's worth...

#462 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 02:54 PM:

On a wholly unrelated topic, my mom got me a book called The Feckin' Book of Everything Irish, which is largely a gag-gift kind of book. It tells some slang, but isn't specific about which bits are offensive and which are not (for example, I assume that if you call a woman a "savage bit of arse" to her face you're looking to get yours slapped, but what about a "fine doorful of woman"?), and generally gives the impression that Irish culture is entirely consumed with drinking as much as humanly possible, pretending not to think about sex, and to a lesser extent car insurance.

But what part am I interested in? The recipes, of course! And that's where I have some questions for anyone in Ireland or Britain (since I suspect some of the terms may be the same in both). I'm only slightly uncertain of the answers, but small differences can make drastic changes, I've found, so I want to confirm.

What is "greaseproof paper"? Is that what we call parchment paper, or what we call wax paper (literally paper with paraffin on both sides)?

Is "bread soda" what we call "baking soda" (i.e. sodium bicarbonate powder)?

I assume "plain flour" is all-purpose flour, correct?

The Irish Fruit Brack looks like it might be awfully good.

#463 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Mary Dell: Now we get to a different problem... who gets to define? And what defintions are we talking about?

I'll argue that the usage of "Dinosaur" to mean old fashioned to the point of caricature, or obsolescence doesn't bring an actual beast into most people's minds.

We are very good at parsing out different meanings for things which share names.

I'm not sure how to clarify how I see it.

Dinosaur, as a term of art, includes birds.

Birds, as a name, doesn't include dinosaurs.

If you say to me, that birds are dinosaurs, I'll nod my head and agree, but it doesn't change my perception of them (not the way it did when I found out that was the theory).

If you try to tell me there are still, "Dinosaurs" because birds are here... then we get to gray areas, where one is playing, "gotcha". On that level I agree with Xopher completely.

Did that make things any clearer than mud?

#464 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:14 PM:

#446 ...(I haven't heard anyone saying that dinosaurs, as the term is commonly used, had feathers.)...

Bearing in mind that I'm probably just being smug and want to be congratulated on my cleverness, I'll note that the National Geographic thinks there were dinosaurs* with feathers. If like me you go "What? Gosh! I can't get my head round what that'd look like!" at this news, there's an artist's impression.

* dinosaurs dating from before the K-T extinction event** to be specific
** that is a clunky phrase

#465 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:18 PM:

David, #458: Oh, you've reminded me about James Schmitz! He wrote wonderful, accessible SF and fantasy which is remarkably free of dated social and sexual stereotypes. And Baen Books recently re-issued most of his work in a set of omnibus collections, so it's not hard to find any more.

Another thought that occurs to me: SF is a remarkably flexible genre -- you can find SF versions of mysteries, romances, Westerns, and just about anything else. So for someone who hasn't read much SF but likes a particular other genre, SF crossovers with that genre might be a good way to go.

#466 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 03:20 PM:

Yes, I have now heard that there were dinosaurs with feathers. Mea culpa. I don't think that changes my point very much.

#467 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 04:19 PM:

Xopher @ 449: I can imagine a tone of voice that would make that rude, but barring that it's just nerdy humor.

#468 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Feathers seem to be general for coelurosaurs, which is a wider clade than maniraptora, never mind birds.

One of the serious problems for the folks trying to define 'bird' in a strict way is that it's very difficult to find a character that all extant birds have which something more probably a dinosaur does not have.

So, for instance, there are bits of flight-related shoulder anatomy unique to extant birds, but which ostriches and other ratites lack. So it's not an easy line to draw, in the evolutionary history sense. Several attempts have wound up producing results that make T. rex a bird, which causes a fair amount of 'just wait a damn minute' in response.

There's a very sharp distinction between doing taxonomy with categories and doing taxonomy with path specifications.

The path specifications -- position in the tree of life -- are much, much more accurate and useful for biology. But English is very much into platonic categories for things, rather than statistically described populations.

#469 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 04:54 PM:

a note to All Fluorophilii in Greater Toronto (and perhaps also Kitchener/Waterloo):

We/you should have a Making Light Making Weight GTO gathering. As my comment in the Happy New Year thread details, I'll be in GTO (perhaps again K/W) until the afternoon of the 5th, which could be a good excuse for a MLMW, but then anything should be a good excuse for that. The two SFBA MLMW have been great fun. And it's practice for the big ML party in August Denver.

Email to start Making Plans.

#470 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 05:05 PM:

WRT dinos and birds, I remember an old GEnie thread in Greg Feeley's topic on how one looks at knowledge. I don't remember exactly who brought it up (perhaps it was Greg), but the essence was that people are either "lumpers" or "splitters". Lumpers are usually looking for ways that things, concepts, whatever, are similar, and splitters are usually looking at ways things can be distinguished.

This is not to say that everyone is going to be exclusively a lumper or a splitter, or which one is "better" - it's just a way of looking at things.

#471 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 05:24 PM:

Syd @ 460... Apterix? And Obelix?

#472 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 05:26 PM:

For those who are interested... TCM is apparently showing Things To Come tonight.

#473 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 05:44 PM:

I found the links to brand-name-themed "villages" fascinating. I'm old enough to remember Sinclair gas stations and Woolworth's and 10 cent McDonald's burgers and such, and since one major point of collectibles is nostalgia, I can understand and even kind of identify with a 1950s or 1960s village.

NFL or NASCAR villages do nothing for me, but I wonder if, a generation or so from now when NASCAR is gone (no more oil) and the NFL is mutated into something even stranger than it is today (if it still exists at all), will my children or their children feel the same twinges of nostalgia toward them as I do towards a vintage Woolworth's? (People in my town still remember and mourn the loss of Woolworth's from the town center decades ago.)

#474 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:24 PM:

DaveL @ 472

the NFL is mutated into something even stranger than it is today (if it still exists at all),

When the spectacle of 175 kg linebackers being run into by 125 kg running backs (and the resultant annihilation explosion) becomes boring for a jaded audience, I predict the rise of zero-g football in giant orbiting stadia. If the colleges get into it as well as the professional teams, we should see significant capital put into spaceflight again, and perhaps a flowering of orbital industry as a result.

YMMV

#475 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:55 PM:

(wandering through, slightly dazed, carefully avoiding the flocks of birds and dinosaurs that are suddenly cluttering up the place)

People came to my blogs and commented, or perhaps colonized. I have emitted further dance geekery in response.

Very cool, thank you, please do it again.

(wanders off in a pleased fog)

#476 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:57 PM:

But Steve C at 469, lumpers and splitters are really just the same thing in the end.

#477 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:03 PM:

Serge #470: Not to mention Cacofonix...

#478 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:23 PM:

Re: the Brand Names as our Culture particle: Ron English has done some superficially similar paintings, although I suspect with rather different intent. See for instance his Last Breakfast, this maybe-untitled one or this one of Homer Pollack.

While I'm thinking of it, and since this is an open thread and there are smart grown-up type people here...I'm starting to be at a point in my life where the thought of buying "real art" isn't rediculous, but that's one of those grown-up things I've never done before and don't know the procedure for. Do I just wander into galleries until I find one that happens to have something I like, and tell them I want it? Or, knowing I want Ron English, say, do I have to travel to one of the cities where he's exhibiting?

#479 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:57 PM:

Was there a time travel story where the punchline was that T Rex is covered in canary yellow feathers and goes "Tweet"? Or is my tiredness making that up? And should I write it if I am?

Xopher, I'm not sure which side I come down on this argument (see:5 hours sleep this year), and dinosaurs with feathers do not change your point, but they are cool. Which was my point. Probably. I'm off to bed.

#480 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Dave L #472

Woolworth's in the center of town got replaced by Wal-Marts out on major road where former field or forest mutated into giant parking lot, and added motorhome and trailer parking?

#481 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:05 PM:

Fragano... And the druid Panoramix. And the roman fort of Laudanum.

#482 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:15 PM:

DaveL, #472: Most of the time, nostalgia occurs because of pleasant memories associated with the lost thing. Having tracked the steep downward slide in spectator behavior at NFL games over the last 10-15 years, I can't imagine that anyone who is a child today would remember attending a game with anything resembling pleasure. Apparently hooligans who are Only Here For The Beer generate more profit than families, even when the stadiums are half-empty.

#483 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:18 PM:

Serge #480: I think I'd prefer the Roman fort of Babaorum....

#484 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:22 PM:

Neil 478: They are indeed cool. No arguments here.

Serge 480: In the English version I read, the druid was called Getafix.

#485 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:25 PM:

Xopher #483: He's Panoramix in the Spanish version which I read.

#486 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:26 PM:

Babaorum? Me too, Fragano.

Getafix, Xopher? Oh my goodness. My favorite name is the centurion called Encoreutilfalluquejelesus, a name that makes no sense if you don't read French.

#487 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 10:54 PM:

re 462: Part of the problem here is that (at least from what I've read on this in the past day or so) actually the only really close relationship is between the therapods and the birds, and that other classes (in the non-technical sense-- I'm too lazy to look at which level of the taxonomy I'm working at) of dinosaurs are not closely enough related to be called "the same thing" by reasonable people. So in that sense it makes perhaps more sense to call therapods "birds" and pull them out of the dinosaurs.

The real problem is that there is rep to be gained in stating everything in the most controversialist and iconoclastic form. So what we are getting here is the real revision of what dinosaurs are like getting amplified into "birds are the surviving dinosaurs" because dinosaurs are charismatic and it's a press-garnering way of stating the matter.

#488 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 11:14 PM:

Todd Larson: You probably want to do both. If you have an artist you like, find out where/how they sell the work.

If you have money to spend, go and find things you like. If you can find things you like, by artists you want, in the price range you can afford; all is wonderful.

[shameless plug]
I have photos
[/shameless plug]

#489 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 12:02 AM:

Terry Karney @#462:

It does make things clearer, actually. And as for who gets to define something, I think it's fair for anyone to define a term, and then use it. But if someone's going to use it in a specialized sense without explaining first, it begins to feel like a game of gotcha. If someone said "actually, birds are 'dinosaurs,' according to the new meaning of that word," that might not raise the same hackles.

#490 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 12:57 AM:

#477 Todd

First rule of art collecting--buy what you like. Some of the most famous, most eventually expensive collections of art, the collectors bought work of unknown new artists and paid low prices, because the artists were new and unknown. Over time the artists became much better known, famous even, and the prices of their paintings soared--but the people who bought early because the buyers *liked* the artwork and were much less interested in Name for the sake of Name (as opposed to, "I like the work this person does so I'm going to keep buying artwork done by this person"), were able to amass impressive art collections in retrospective, quite economically... and in some cases because they likes work by a particular artist, that artist came into prominence.... fame is one of those things that's like a snowball rolling downhill getting bigger and bigger and faster and faster, something starts the ball rolling, and then it can really get going.,

What you buy may or may not appreciate... if it appreciates substantially in value, you can choose to cash it in by selling, or get a tax deduction for you or your heirs arranging for a museum to show it on loan and then donate it outright to that museum or some other non-profit, or keep it and gloat about how valuable the artwork you paid so little for is now/enjoy the artwork. If it does't appreciate much in value, you still get the enjoyment of looking at it....

Ultimately, the "value" of a piece of art, is what people are willing to pay for it. Art goes up and down in value and up and down as regards how people regard it--I remember when a book of paintings by Andrew Wyeth had a prepublication price $20 below the publication price, and within months after publication of the single edition, the price of the book had gone soaring to the $1000 markt. Over time, the price of the book dropped--the demand for it dropped and Wyeth's work wasn't getting the attention and acclaim that it formerly received, and so the price of the book in the resale market dropped substantially.

People who bought copies of the book when its price was at the top of the market, who were speculating and hoping the price would go up more, lost. The people who won were the ones who bought the book at the publication or pre-publication price because they liked Wyeth's artwork and wanted the book, and enjoying looking at in and got that enjoyment, and/or sold at the top of the market and made hundreds of dollars above what they'd paid for the book.

#491 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:10 AM:

I suppose I'm unconvinced about how much value ought to be placed on making sure genre is "accessible" outside its default target audience. I think fantasy in particular is actually stronger for being a conversation-in-progress; certainly it improved a great deal for losing the silly framing techniques of, e.g., The Worm Ourobouros. I guess I'm concerned that if a lot of critical weight starts to get placed on whether or not a narrative succeeds as an entry-level work for those unfamiliar with genre conventions, one of the effects will be a lot of works that are less risky, less deconstructive, less interesting in a lot of ways because they may be more interested in making sure the new folks don't get lost than in, well, boldly moving into new and strange and ever more challenging territory.

(Now, obviously, there's no reason there isn't room for all different sorts of things in a very broad and varied field; it's just that I've been seeing a lot of these "gosh it's a shame we're so insular and self-referential" conversations for a while, and these things have a - to my mind - regrettable tendency to turn into Manifestos. And I sort of hate to see what is essentially a decent idea like "wouldn't it be nice if there were more books that new-made fans might find less intimidating" become some sort of silly movement.)

I've wrestled with similar issues myself; I'm in a band that takes a lot of influences from progressive rock and wyrdfolk (one of our half-serious elevator pitches is "King Crimson meets Fairport Convention on an acid bender") and we've had a lot of conversations about how much we're interested in playing to an audience that isn't already friendly to our less mainstream inspirations. The conclusion we've come to is that, if we're going to stay true to what we want to do, we have to not care about making converts, and say "If you like this sort of thing, this may be the sort of thing you'll like." The tradeoff is that we're not going to be the breakout radio sensation of the coffeehouse scene; the payoff is that we get to keep stretching ourselves and doing what we really love instead of trying to second-guess what the audience thinks they want. If that makes what we do a little pretentious and self-indulgent, well, that's a price we're willing to pay. It's not that we think our music is "better" than anything else, or that we're being clever by making it less accessible and thus more "elite," it's just that this is the stuff that turns us on and that's the set of toys we'd like to play with for a while.*

So I think what I'm saying is that I think at least some of the concern about insularity is misplaced. I think people with the inclination to be genre readers and fans are going to find their way in if genre stuff is what they really like, and I don't think there are actually that many people who, given a genuine urge to pick up an sf habit, are really going to give up on the whole field because they found Accelerando impenetrable.

Universality is a delicate thing at best. My mom's an occasional portrait painter, and she's said for a while now that she'll know she's become the artist she wants to be when the first reaction to one of her portraits isn't "Who is that a picture of?" I understand where she's coming from and what she means by that, but it's only a measure of one thing, and I don't know it necessarily would signify what she assumes it does. Similarly, getting the reaction "I liked this book and I don't even read sci-fi" is a measure of success, to be sure, but it's not the only one, and I'm far from convinced it's the best one to set as a goal.

*Further thread synchronicity: One of our more experimental pieces to date is an extended improv called "Dinosaurs Become Birds." (On that subthread, I suppose it reveals something or other about me that my reaction to the idea that, by a certain technicality, birds are a sort of dinosaur provokes in me not an offense at the person making the observation and abusing the language, but a gee-wow moment of sensawunda at the world being weirder than it looks on the surface. But I also think it would make a great deal of difference if they said it in a way that sounded like they were trying to be a big know-it-all.)

#492 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:58 AM:

Serge, #420, I watched that one, too! Still watching now, actually.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow -- this is my favorite rendition. I have this CD, but you have to watch when you buy them -- Eva is dead, too, and a lot of people put out CDs that have songs from other CDs.

#493 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 02:10 AM:

Xopher@ 446: Part of the reason I found your playing-gotcha interpretation of Steff Z's comment so odd was that I thought the context was "playing a word game on Making Light." Making the birds=dinosaurs connection, while a stretch, seems reasonable within that context. (It turned out that the game we were playing was Name That Book, but Steff, it seems, hadn't read that far yet.)

OTOH, I've been smacked (or at least eye-rolled at furiously) a time or two for being pedantic/smart-alecky when I was just trying to share a sensawunda, so maybe my scales are dramatically miscalibrated.

#494 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 02:17 AM:

Todd, #477: One of the best places to find interesting art is at fine-crafts shows. Now, I have to add a caveat: there are a lot of different levels of "crafts fairs", which is why I specify fine crafts. You want to look for shows which require that what is sold there be handmade by the artist, and you don't want what I call "blue-goose" shows, where the defining theme is Country Kitsch. If you have a city-sponsored art festival, that's a great place to start.

In thinking about "real art", don't forget the possibility of 3-D art; too many people confine their definition to pictures and photographs. But there's also woodcarving, and pottery, and smithwork, and art jewelry, and fiber arts, and leatherwork, and probably a lot of other things that I'm not thinking of because it's late and I'm tired. :-) I remember being at a class reunion party which was hosted at a classmate's house, and being extremely impressed with the variety of art objects he'd collected (many of them in styles I recognized from my own years of wandering around the 3 main city art fairs).

Getting back to flat art, another option is to look for artists who sell prints of their originals. This is how I've amassed 3 times as many pictures as I have wall space for a fairly impressive collection of SF and fantasy art. I can't afford many originals, but prints generally go for less than $100 (often as little as $10-$25) and you can get decent deals on framing every fall at Michael's.

But the bottom line, as Terry said, is to buy things you like, not what everyone else says is the Great Hot Trendy Thing. Then you'll always feel that it was worth it.

#495 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:25 AM:

Last report on the Black Hole Brownies: While I didn't myself see anyone actually eating them, I can say that I took most of a pan to the party and they all got eaten.

Xopher@446: Of course you can use the ingredients list. I'll need to tweak it a little bit, as my version says "Wheat Flour" and I assume you'd want one that said "Rice". Would it work to email you a PDF? (If you have access to InDesign, I could send you the InDesign file.)

#496 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:42 AM:

Serge #485: Encoreutilfalluquejelesus, a name that makes no sense if you don't read French

I'll take a whack at it. Let's see, after you remove all of the silent letters, it's pronounced "George", right? heh....

#497 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 07:25 AM:

Xopher @ 461 writes: gives the impression that Irish culture is entirely consumed with drinking as much as humanly possible, pretending not to think about sex, and to a lesser extent car insurance.

This is horribly misleading, since Irish culture is actually dominated by talk of house prices and traffic. Car insurance was more of a national obsession in the 80s, when we were all broke.

What is "greaseproof paper"? Is that what we call parchment paper

Yes.

Is "bread soda" what we call "baking soda" (i.e. sodium bicarbonate powder)?

Yes.

I assume "plain flour" is all-purpose flour, correct?

Yes, an all-purpose white flour.

#498 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:18 AM:

My favorite piece of art is a print I bought years ago at a Berkeley arts and craft show (cheaper because it's a trial proof): a long vertical group of vultures called "Dinner Gathering" by S.A. Mitchell. We put it in a fancy frame, and it currently looks great on the wall across from our front door. Hasn't scared anyone off yet....

#499 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:25 AM:

Earl @ 495... 'Encoreutilfalluquejelesus'is the compaction of the sentence 'Encore eut-il fallu que je le sus', which very roughly translates as 'It'd have helped if I had known'. Sort of.

#500 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:29 AM:

Marilee @ 491... Glad to hear you enjoy it too. I also managed to catch "In Praise of Pip", another favorite, about a man (Jack Klugman) who's been a loser and a failure his whole life except for his son, whom he's just heard is dying somewhere in Asia:

"He's in some place called Vietnam. There isn't even supposed to be a war over there."

#501 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 10:11 AM:

Dan L-K #490: I sockpuppetily agree!

I think one thing that's important, though (that you kind of implied, I think, but didn't say), is that it's a good idea (I want to say it's essential, but I'm not positive) to be aware when you're being inaccessible and insular.

#502 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Apologies if this has been linked previously: Republican Candidates as Buffy Villains.

#503 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:01 PM:

JESR @ 501... Thompson does look like the Judge.

#504 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:10 PM:

ethan, that's a good way of putting one idea I was indeed circling around up there. OTOH, though, there's part of me that feels "insular" and "inaccessible" are words that make judgments where none are necessary, and my real ethos is a lot closer to "quit worrying about all that and just go with the Cool Shit."

And second-guessing what the audience wants, or will "get," is a freakin' minefield, particularly if you're starting with the rather arch assumption that there's such a thing as "mainstream." By some estimations, Firefly ought to have been an ideal sf gateway for non-fen; as it turned out, people tuned in and wondered where the hell all the aliens and technobabble were. The conversation-in-progress has already included the so-called mainstream; it's just that the insider crowd is tuned in, maybe, to more of the channels.

And I guess I have to wonder why it is that making genre more accessible to people who don't (and may not be inclined to) normally consume it is so important or desirable. Is it for the sake of winning over new recruits, or respectability, or dealing with Geek Shame, or what?

#505 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:19 PM:

David 494: You substituted wheat flour (I hope you didn't mean WHOLE wheat flour) for the rice flour? I hope you left out the cornstarch, if so. 1 cup all-purpose flour == 3/4 Cup Rice Flour + 1/4 Cup Cornstarch.

I don't have InDesign (your mention of using it to craft the ingredient list was the first I've heard of it, in fact). A PDF would be fine. Thanks!

Niall 496: Thanks. I thought so, but I'm glad I checked.

#506 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 01:28 PM:

Tomorrow night, the SciFi Channel will be showing Pterodactyl. I don't know if the titular character will be nesting comfortably in the attic.

#507 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 02:31 PM:

Sad news for fans of the Flashman books: George Macdonald Fraser is dead.

I don't have a link to web-based confirmation of this, but I've been asked to play the organ for the funeral next week so it's definitely true.

#508 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Madeline Kelly #506: This is indeed sad news.

#509 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 03:21 PM:

Completely unrelated to anything else, I have been enjoying the credits tune from Portal. It's written by Jonathan Coulton* and made of win.

It does contain spoilers, sort of.

-----
* he of Code Monkey fame

#510 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Juli @ 217: When one of our cats passes on, we bring in the other cats for a viewing a few hours later. Reactions vary, but none of them are unmoved.

#511 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:04 PM:

Various, throughout the thread:

I see a big difference between the Vietnam War Memorial and the photos of empty rooms where people were said to be having sex nearby. The Wall bears traces of the people being commemorated, namely, their names, whereas the photos as described have no hints of the people that are meant to be the point. True, you need an outside explanation to understand the full significance of the list of names, but the work itself tells you that these people were involved together in something worth commemorating. Would you perceive the photo series differently if there were hints of the people, such as bits of clothing they had cast off as they proceeded out of frame?

#512 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:14 PM:

C. Wingate @ 339, Tim Walters @ 348, etc.:

What is art? Not only can you have art used as a tool, but it can work the other way around too -- found art (as in the rusty gas can) or found poetry.

Back when I published a fanzine, someone I didn't know submitted some vague poems about feelings, accompanied by a list of his publication credits. The poems were forgettable. Maybe the credits were too. I hadn't heard of any of the other magazines and most of them were probably as obscure as mine. But they did have pretty titles. It was tempting to reject the poems and just publish the list of credits as a found poem. Alas, that would have been no more appropriate than the poems themselves, as the publication I edited was the Fanzine Directory.

#513 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:23 PM:

When the commerce slows down
And the furor's at an end.
When the fad has run its course
And bubbles no more wend,
When the chairs all gone away
And no one's left to send,
And what you bought you're stuck with
For none will aught more spend,
One hopes that when you bought you chose
Something that you liked,
For now you it's consigned to
For perhaps your whole life!

#514 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:25 PM:

Thom Digby wrote a poem or some such about his upstairs neighbor who had a pet automotive engine block in the middle of the neighbor's living room....

#515 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:29 PM:

Dan, #503: The conversation-in-progress has already included the so-called mainstream

Well, yes and no. A lot of science-fictional concepts have gone mainstream, but as soon as they do, they are very firmly divorced from science fiction by that mainstream. Witness The Road, which has one of the canonical science-fictional settings -- a post-apocalyptic society. And yet I've seen half a dozen arguments, in as many different fora, between people pointing out that this is a science-fiction story and others vehemently INSISTING that it's no such thing, and please cite the pages on which any science fiction occurs!

I know I keep harping on this, but I do so because IMO it's a symptom of a much larger societal problem: the devaluation of intelligence. "Science fiction" is something only "egghead liberals" read, so of course if we (the mainstream, the "normal people") like it, then it can't be science fiction. Even though it is.

And I would say that the main reason to make SF accessible to people who "don't read SF" is that it promotes thinking and imagination, and sometimes empathy (think about the Horta in the ClassicTrek episode "Devil in the Dark") -- all of which are qualities we need to have more widely distributed if we're going to pull our society out of its emulation of the Roman Empire.

#516 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Lee @ 514... "Science fiction" is something only "egghead liberals" read

They obviously have never met Jerry Pournelle.

#517 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:36 PM:

There has to be accessible SF. No one starts out reading SF or fantasy-- genres come later, if at all. If you limit a genre to those who have read widely in it, you bar younger readers from getting into it.

#518 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:44 PM:

Diatryma @ 516... Exactly.

#519 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:47 PM:

Open thread:

I just switched from bizarro crashy Camino to the latest (as of yesterday) version of Firefox for Mac, and in general I'm quite happy with it. The one thing I've noticed that I simply Cannot Abide is that alt text (or whatever it's called, that xkcd uses, and Patrick slathers all over his Sidelights, and that I myself use overly liberally in my own stuff) gets cut off after some certain number of characters, trailing off into a ....

I don't see any way to change this. Help?

#520 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:50 PM:

The video of the buffalo and the lions (and the crocodile) is interesting. Looks like the lions got the short end of that hunt.

#521 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:52 PM:

Diatryma, 516: You'd be surprised how many f/sf picture books there are! Plus there are lots of parents who read their kids the first few (i.e. nobody dies) volumes of Hrry Pttr. And so on. FWIW, my nephew was fascinated by the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol--he was confused but asking many questions. So I believe we've got a future fan on our hands. (Insert gleeful cackles as appropriate.)

#522 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 04:53 PM:

Ethan, my Firefox does the same thing. Right clicking and going to Properties is the only way I know to read it-- you can see everything then, though I sometimes need to select and scroll over to read the longer ones. It is an annoyance.

#523 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 05:03 PM:

ethan @518, Diatryma @521: my understanding is that this is a longstanding flaw in Firefox, fixed only in the most recent developer releases (3.x series; even if there are builds available for OSX, I'm not sure I would recommend running them unless you like helping track down bugs). There is no fix or workaround for older versions.

#524 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 05:04 PM:

Xopher: (# 504) Just be aware that Irish wheat is soft. To get the texture the recipe maker expects, try cutting the harder wheat flours you'll get in NYC about 20 percent with cake flour.

You could also try to get some regional flours from the southern portion of the US.

re SF and the mainstream. The Travolta/Whittaker film, Phenomenon was a piece of SF (a la Brainwave) but people didn't get it, and so they felt cheated. They didn't understand that it was SF, but they wanted it to be like what they thought SF was supposed to be. Spoiler: Gurl jnagrq vg gb or na nyvra ivfvgngvba, abg gur ernyvfngvba bs uhzna cbgragvny.

Allan Beatty: (#510) If there were strings of clothing in the images, that would be a differnt picture. It would certainly invite more thinking on the part of the viewer... "what do those clothes mean? Why are there garments of both sexes (or, why are there two sets of men's/women's clothes)? What does it mean that they lead to "x"?.

That might be a very good exibit. I may have to try to set up some photos like that. Thank you.

#525 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 05:06 PM:

TexAnne @ 520... I found during Xmas that my 6-year-old nephew isn't into superheroes anymore, but he loves the Transformers movie and I volunteered to watch it with him. In a few years, he'll probably be a good target for the corrupting influence of that skiffy stuff.

#526 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 05:11 PM:

A lot of new skiffy readers are currently young people, and are reading a lot of YA fiction. Go into any bookshop and go to the YA section; something like half of what you'll find is genre.

Some of the kids will "outgrow" Scott Westerfield and Tamora Pierce, but a lot of them won't outgrow genre fiction in the process.

#527 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 05:18 PM:

Diatryma, geekosaur...oh, how irritating. Ah well. Thanks anyway. (I never would have thought to go to properties, though, so at least now I know that there is a way, irritating though it may be.)

#528 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 05:32 PM:

WRT "soft wheat" flour, re: #523 --

A Southern flour that fits this description is White Lily, which can be ordered from Smuckers.com. This is what I use when making biscuits, or baking any of my grandmothers recipes.

#529 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:05 PM:

#526 ethan: There's at least one Firefox add-on that changes Firefox to show the whole pop-up text... I have it at home. It might be this one.

#530 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:10 PM:

I'm feeling a bit croggled via a cold. One of those 60-cycle hum in your head things. Or maybe that's just the decongestant.

Anyway: Reading about hard and soft flours after just thinking about a post-holiday-absence shopping trip to the bulk-food store has me picturing a whole aisle lined with bins and barrels full of flours of varying hardness: Indian River Delta Extra Hard. Wyandanch Reserve Velvet. Montana Spongecake. Concord White Granite.

#531 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:14 PM:

Madeline F #528: Whoa! That did the trick quickly and easily. I guess it remains to be seen whether it causes any other problems, but so far, so good. Thanks!

#532 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:23 PM:

Stefan: Take me with you on that shopping trip. I'll figure out where to put them later (and I'll get some diastatic malt too).

#533 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:27 PM:

George Macdonald Fraser is dead?

Oh. Oh, (expression of dismay and loss.)

I had just finished "The Reavers". Not quite as good as his "The Pyrates", but still full of simple joy.

He was in his eighties, so it's a fair cop, I suppose. Except that it's never fair. Never, ever.

Vale, and may we meet again.

#534 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:28 PM:

This is the first I've heard that flours have different hardnesses. I have no idea what that even means.

I hate this feeling. But it won't keep me from taking the advice.

#535 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:32 PM:

Xopher @ 533... flours have different hardnesses (...) I hate this feeling.

You must have come across Baudelaire's Flours of Evil.

#536 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:35 PM:

Xopher @ 593

It's related to the amount of protein/gluten in the flour. Bread flour is usually hard, because you want gluten. Cake flour is soft, because you don't need gluten so much. (Maybe I should say, cakes don't knead gluten?)

All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft flour, and apparently it can vary from region to region.

#537 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:39 PM:

Serge, #515: I understand that you meant it as a joke, but that didn't prevent me from having the annoyed, "Well, DUH!" reaction. Of course they don't know anything about Jerry Pournelle's political views; he's a science-fiction writer, and that's all they think they need to know. That was sort of my POINT.

Stefan, #529: *giggle*

#538 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:41 PM:

Xopher #533: Harder flour contains more gluten. I only learned about this recently myself, reading "It Must Have Been Something I Ate". A fun book and very informative, though it made me realize that there are foodly lengths to which I'm not willing to go.

#539 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:42 PM:

Xopher: Hardness is (at a very gross level) a measure of the protein content.

The harder the flour, the better it traps air (this is why the South makes cakes, and biscuits, and the North makes pies and breads. The softer flours which grow further south, are less good for breads and pastries. The same is true, in reverse, for the harder flours of the North).

Regionally, the US has harder flours in the north, and west, softer in the south, and east.

There are other things which affect how it behaves (is it hard winter, wheat, or soft summer wheat?... is it durum, or triticale, &c.).

Pasta is made from durum semolina, which is the hardest of available flours (at as much as 20 percent), it's not good for much, because it's just too hard to work (though there are some recipes which call for fine flour, not the coarser grind used for pastas; nor yet the really coarse stuff used to decorate the tops of some loaves, or prevent the pizza from sticking to the oven in better pizza joints, but I digress).

Cakes are made from very soft flours (as low as 6 percent, though 8 is more typical). All purpose flours vary, regionally. From a typical ten percent for the flours of the Southern US, to about 14 percent for the Northeast.

Bread flours, typically, are 14-16 percent.

#540 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Lee @ 536... Of course I knew that was your point. My apologies for my joke coming out even more lame than my usual attempts.

#541 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:46 PM:

Well, I have some diamond-hard flour at home. It's pure gluten! I can add that if I want a harder flour than I have, but it seems that's not likely to come up, living where I do.

Thanks all. I just hope I remember in March, which is when I plan to make these things for real (as opposed to testing them for future reference).

#542 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 06:59 PM:

Xopher: Gluten is good. I use King Arthur Bread Flour (11.7, which means I was probably misrembering the level of hardness for bread flours, make it 12-14 percent, and all purpose topping out in the 12 percent range; where you live), and add about a tbls. to a batch of bread (between 6-8 cups of flour, depending).

Diastatic malt is also a good thing to add.

If you really want to get into the topic, I can recommend a number of books, the most useful; across the board, would be "Cookwise" (for a genral purpose kitchen troubleshooter. Actually, I just plain commend it).

For breadstuff specific, "The Bread Bible" or, "The Bread Baker's Apprentice' I suspect you would enjoy the latter more, but both are superb. The first a much more detailed, the latter a more spiritually involved, treatment.

#543 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 07:13 PM:

Xopher: For reference.

King Arthur Flour

The have a high glutenn flour (for pizza, bagels, bretzlen), which is 14 percent. The artisan flour is the same as the generic bread flour.

One thing to be aware of, the harder the flour, the more liquid it absorbs. Most recipes are aiming to split the difference between the various regions, so for "bread flour" add an extra tablespoon to the expectations.

If you add gluten to the mix, also figure a little more liquid (fats will also change the water mix, as will ambient conditions, and all sorts of other things).

#544 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 08:49 PM:

Dave @#532 et alia--agreed.
And among the novels, the stories, and the movies, let's not forget Quartered Safe Out Here.

#545 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Sorry in advance for the length of this comment, wherein I jump feet first into every contentious debate going.

Xopher #427: Dinosaurs are by definition extinct.

No, they're not. Were there to be discovered a stegosaurus alive today, that would be universally agreed to be a dinosaur, despite not being extinct. It would, of course, have been subjected to evolutionary pressures, so we wouldn't find a stegosaurus, but a group of species descended from stegosaurian stock. We'd call those dinosaurs as well. That's exactly what birds are -- dinosaurs, alive today, subject to evolution.

If we define birds as dinosaurs, that gives as a useful way of looking at stuff. It's true because it is useful. It's an informative concept. Defining dinosaurs as `what we mean when we say dinosaur', which is what you do, is uninformative, is highly incoherent, lacks elegance, and is useless. Your taxonomy is no more useful than if, were we to lack all knowledge about marine mammals, discover dolphins and declare they're fish because, look, all the other mammals live on land, and until now, when we've said mammal we've meant things that live on land*.

* Strictly speaking give birth on land, no?

Lee #514
I know I keep harping on this, but I do so because IMO it's a symptom of a much larger societal problem: the devaluation of intelligence. "Science fiction" is something only "egghead liberals" read, so of course if we (the mainstream, the "normal people") like it, then it can't be science fiction. Even though it is.

In the US, the literature of the people, by numbers sold, is romantic fiction. Everyone knows this, including and especially, literary fiction authors. I'm sure you can find lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth about how people don't read literary fiction in the literary fiction community.

What you call mainstream fiction is a genre inhabited almost entirely by people as eggheaded and liberal as the best of the SF genre. For those of them who have a dislike of SF (and that's not actually that many; the number of Nobel Literature Laureates who've written SF/F is surprisingly large, especially when compared to other genres), the reason given for the dislike is almost always because of SF's failure to move beyond the level of a 16 year old who's just discovered the existence of sex, the inability to obtain sex, and the existence of technology as a sex substitute. Essentially, the dislike is of a certain strain of SF -- Gernsbackian SF -- that never really attained an intellectual level, nor was ever renowned for intellectualism. In point of fact, the dislike is of the anti-intellectual quality of SF.

I personally think there's a wee bit of pride in people's talk about self-referntialism in SF; it's like they've got a club that gets all the jokes, and nobody else gets the jokes. Well, I don't think that's true; I think the amount of required knowledge for most SF works isn't that much, and I don't think it is beyond most people to bootstrap their way in, even starting from, say, Accelerando.

To be utterly honest, I don't think Stross' harder novels are hard because of the SF-referentialism; I think they're hard because of difficulty of the themes.

While we're on Stross' referentialism, in Iron Sunrise, there's a lovely description of one of the pseudo-fascist badguys as `living in the early days of a better galaxy'. Most SF fans probably wouldn't get that. I did, and anybody who's read Gray or is Scottish would, but that's not most fans. I think most referentialism falls into that category -- nice, but not needed.

Take MacLeod's Fabians, in Engines of Light. To get them, you have to know a bit about the history of the British Labour Party, and who the Fabians were, and their relationship to all the other groups going at the time, and all the groups going now. If you don't get that though, you still understand who the Fabians in the story are. Or the passing detail about a Trot (or maybe an anarchist) and a Stalinist having an argument over the Barcelona Telephone Exchange -- it's a lovely detail, but it isn't essential.

Most SF referentialism is like that.

As Robert Hughes says, the best part of Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House is the name. It really does go downhill from there.

Wolfe's thesis is incoherent, and a bad regurgitation of conservative European thought of the 1930s. His ideas about the origins of Modernism miss the pretty obvious facts about US architecture, especially Chicago and industrial architecture, that the early Modernists were very well aware of. His ideas about the Modern architects' works in America are laughable; they take no notice of what was actually being done, preferring to believe down town Manhattan was all a great Araberdorf foisted on the true American spirit by an international conspiracy of communists, socialists, vegetarians and other undesirables.

heresiarch #338 normal people's bafflement.

This is really insulting. It really is shameful.

Let's all laugh at the artsy types! Look, they speak French! Look, they're effeminate! They're all weirdoes! Look, they're liberals! Or Leftists! Or even socialists! They live in big cities, on the coast. They don't follow NASCAR, or NFL, or baseball. Look, they're not normal, like us. We're normal. We're real people, the standard by which everyone else is measured. We're the norm, and they're not normal, like the gays and the Jews and fat people and the atheists and nerds and vegans and the disabled and people who like to read and that boy in your fifth grade class who was bad at sports and that unpopular girl at high school with braces and a lisp.

They're not normal. But I am. So that's OK.

#546 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 08:55 PM:

Urg. I really am sorry to all about that lump in the fine flour of conversation.

#547 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:11 PM:

Keir...

Oh, never mind. I'm not interested in continuing this. You really just haven't been paying attention, and I'm bored now.

#548 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 09:42 PM:

Keir @544:

If we define birds as dinosaurs, that gives as a useful way of looking at stuff. It's true because it is useful.
Only in some contexts is it informative; in others, it is merely obfuscatory. I think that's what Xopher is getting at: in ordinary conversation, it's rather more likely to be the latter.

#550 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 10:14 PM:

Lee, 514: The trouble is that people who are allergic to the idea of sf are never going to be convinced. They're never going to be okay with sf-as-sf, no matter how much genre writers un-geek their material - it's always going to just be dumb egghead liberal junk for fat dorks in their moms' basements to them. I'm not interested in reaching those people. They're either going to change their minds, or not, and I'm not interested in jumping through hoops for the sake of people who are hostile to the stuff I love. Yes, it's silly that people will read material that uses sf themes while continuing to hate the idea of genre work, the same way it's silly that lots of people who wouldn't be caught dead at NEARfest throw the horns when "Carry On Wayward Son" comes over the Classic Rock airwaves. I'm not sure it's a kind of silliness I feel it's necessary to put a lot of energy into correcting on a large scale.

I am sympathetic to your concerns about anti-intellectualism and the decline of empathy; they are concerns I share, and I don't have good answers for them. I have reservations, even so, about advocating that people ought to read sf (as much as it can indeed be a corrective for those things) just because it's good for them.

Diatryma, 516: I'm a little confused as to what you mean by "no one starts out reading fantasy or sf"; it doesn't ring true to me. I got read The Hobbit when I was six, and I immediately wanted More Books Like That. I suspect I wasn't that unusual in catching on to the protocols of fantasy almost as soon as I was exposed to it; I think young readers deserve credit for being able to find their way through the kind of stories they fall in love with.

It's also possible I just don't understand what's meant here by "accessible," though. I guess my point is that there are dozens of books in print now, across all age ranges, many published just within the last few years, that are perfectly accessible to anyone with a minimal exposure to genre ideas (which almost everyone has), provided they come to it predisposed to have a love of the material. These conversations tend to start out by evoking some particularly erudite and impenetrable work as if it's typical of the current state of the field, and I don't think that's especially true.

It sucks that Our Beloved Genre(s) still get no respect after all this time, just as it sucks that the same is true of comics despite the perennial bemused "Zap! Pow! Blam!" article. I dunno what the fix is for this, except a steadfast refusal to back down and be embarassed about sf, and maybe talking honestly about what we love about it without seeming like we're trying to spread the gospel. I honestly think attempts to proselytize backfire more than they help; it's much easier to respect someone's tastes that you don't share if they're not trying to tell you that you ought to like it too, and you really would, honest, if you just got exposed to the right thing that wouldn't offend your sensibilities too badly. We don't welcome that from anyone else; why do we think it's any less infuriating when it comes from us?

#551 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 10:50 PM:

Lee @ 514: An even more egregious example of "no SF here, I'm a real author" would be Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Excellent book, but the author's attitude regarding its SF-ness cost her some of my respect that she'd earned from the book....

Terry @ 538 (and predecessors): You have conclusively demonstrated the existence of bread-geekery, and added it atop the huge pile of curious and esoteric expertise found among this amazingly knowledgeable crowd....


Apropos of nothing: I just encountered Guinness' rocket widget for the first time.

I wasn't as alarmed as I might have been, since (upon examination) it was clearly a manufactured object, designed to stay in the bottle without impeding the beer flow. Even so, it was unsettling for a moment. (Also, widget or no, the beer was still a step below what I've gotten in bars. That's life....)

The link is to somebody else who encountered one, and who nicely created an explanatory page with pictures. (Chalk up another point for Google, too.)

#552 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 10:56 PM:

Dan, your point about The Hobbit is what I meant. The Hobbit was accessible fantasy. I zeroed in on dragons pretty young, courtesy of a couple specific books and a class project when I was seven, but I wouldn't have if the only dragons available had been responses to responses to responses to Tooth and Claw and His Majesty's Dragon. They can exist, they should exist, because the conversation is going on, but they should not be the only thing existing. If a genre lacks anything that appeals to non-genre readers, whether labeled in the genre or not, it isn't sustainable. For fantasy, you have fairy tales to establish what's going on. You have Tolkien, Disney, Narnia. All of that is accessible genre, whether it has the unicorn sticker on the spine or not.

I agree that creating only accessible (or worse, condescendingly dumbed down) work is not good. But you can't eliminate these works from the genre without losing a lot of people who are still figuring out the rules. Most people I know are raised on fantasy stories starting with Snow White. There's not such a strong tradition with SF; I'm not sure there can be.

Which I think might be a way of saying that I agree with your penultimate paragraph, that people can get through genre works as long as they've already decided they like them. Still, my mother doesn't read fantasy or SF. She'll read Jim Butcher or Elizabeth Bear, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King-- because they are accessible to someone who has not been bathing in the genre for years. She sometimes has trouble with them because she hasn't been exposed to things like nanotech, but they're not impossible.

Random anecdote: I helped out with a creative writing class last semester. It was an introductory class focused on science fiction and fantasy. Most of the students were young, had never written before, and only one or two of them read for fun. One story involved dragons as non-evil protagonists, and the students thought that was a wonderful idea-- dragons, being good, being characters! The idea hadn't been presented to some of them before.

#553 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 11:16 PM:

The bird/dinosaur debate keeps making me think of the creationists who ask, "But if people evolved from monkeys, then why do monkeys still exist?" as if it's a surefire logical gotcha.

WRT flour, this is why when I mentioned how Xopher's brownie recipe had worked over here (i.e., excellently, even though(?) I put in 16 oz of choco bits instead of 12 oz), I specified that I'd substituted 1 cup of cake flour (minimal gluten) for the rice/cornstarch mixture. Though now that I mention that, there's something that I'd meant to ask before about the "rice flour": I assume that in this context, it's not the same as mochiko, which is ground from sticky rice (sometimes incorrectly called "glutinous rice" despite not having gluten), right? Though actually, I know I've seen recipes for chocolate mochi somewhere....

Here in the SF Bay Area, Trader Joe's tends to carry King Arthur flour around the winter holidays, which suggests to me that they may do so nationwide. I can't remember seeing regular rice flour anywhere, but that's probably because I've never been looking for it, so that its presence just completely failed to register for me.

(And you know you've been on ML a long time when you keep automatically mistyping "flour" as "fluor".)

#554 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 11:42 PM:

There is sweet rice flour, but the run of the mill rice flour is from white rice.

Here (SoCal) TJ's has King Arthur, in several flavors, year round.

#555 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2008, 11:58 PM:

I've seen King Arthur flour in many groceries, year round. Gold Medal "Better for Bread" is also common; many places carry special cake flour as well.

Unfortunately, the only stuff that seems to come in big sacks, and ever go on sale, is plain all-purpose flour.

#556 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:00 AM:

re 550 and Atwood: Egregious and, in the pages of Ansible at least, eternally notorious. OTOH, the kind of genre differentiation obtains in other, uh, genres. Romances, for example, are officially trashy versions of a common sort of novel.

Perhaps my last pass at the dinosaur/birds thing: a much more informative (and not much longer) way to state it is that theropod dinosaurs (like T. rex) and birds share a lot more characteristics than was once thought. The main strength of "birds are dinosaurs" is the shock value; but it only works because people can in fact intuit a difference between the two.

#557 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:23 AM:

Stefan Jones: What are you defining as "big sacks"?

I count a fifty lb. bag as big (and bag it down, and put the smaller bags into the freezer).

King Arthur is available here in 5 lb. bags.

#558 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:29 AM:

Big == bigger than the 5 lb. "standard" sack.

I've purchased 10 lb. sacks of standard; I've seen but never purchased much larger bags. I don't know their weight, though.

#559 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:37 AM:

Diatryma, I think you and I have perhaps been in violent agreement. I know I've been advocating most strongly in this thread for the more challenging end of the canon, but I agree that you can't get to that (individually or as a genre culture) without starting somewhere simpler first.

I do think, though, that sf proper does have a body of cultural work that serves as a gateway similar to what fantasy has, simply because sf ideas have been leaching into film and TV for so long now. The average young person (one who would be inclined to pick up sf reading, anyway) is much likelier to know what "nanotech" means, at least in a broad and general sense, than the average adult. (And partly, too, because we're already living in TEH FUTARR! now; the up-and-coming generation has always lived in a world where miraculous technology is at the fingertips of ordinary people.) I got the Series 2 Doctor Who DVDs for Christmas, and going through the commentary and bonus material has been a startling reminder of how much (in the UK, at least) DH is thought of as a family show. A kid raised with the Doctor would have little trouble making a leap to Iain M. Banks, or Joan Vinge, or Sherri Tepper (to pull three decent space-opera writers more or less at random), and from there to more high-concept stuff. (A short path to hard sf is another matter, I suspect, and someone with more knowledge of it than I would have to speak to that.)

I think I know what you mean when you say it's hard for sf to have a strong tradition, just because it all gets more dated quicker than anything else. Nonetheless, I don't think there's much more challenge in establishing that the future looked different from twenty or thirty years ago than in creating a context for the now weird and often troubling social assumptions made in Narnia or classic Disney; it all looks like strange and foreign territory when you're ten.

None of which, of course, is to say that we shouldn't be creating those gateway works now as well, which I hope I didn't imply I was advocating upthread; only that I think it would be silly to concentrate on that to the exclusion of all else. Which I doubt anyone is really championing here either, just that it can start to seem like it when conversations like this get momentum.

#560 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:17 AM:

"Violent agreement." I like that and am stealing it. Because yeah, that's pretty much what I meant.

(the question is now whether I am stealing it like a magpie or stealing it like an oviraptor.)

#561 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:22 AM:

Keir, #544: You seem for some reason to have concluded that by "the mainstream" I meant "the lit-fic community". Not at all; I was talking about the people whose buying preferences make up the NYT best-seller list. And your argument that the most popular type of genre is romance merely underscores my point. Have you noticed how many of the most popular romances these days have very strong fantasy elements? Vampires are HUGELY popular, with time-travel historicals and non-vampire-specific "magic" close behind. And yes, some of the people who read those are SF fans who are enjoying the crossover factor, but there aren't enough of us to account for the popularity, and the readers who aren't SF fans will bridle indignantly at the very suggestion that what they're reading and enjoying is SF*. (Can you tell I've had this discussion too many times for my liking?)

Getting on to the distaste for SF being confined to what you call "Gernsbackian SF"... well, that was inherent in my point as well. The problem is that, for many people (and by no means confined to the lit-fic community), that's what science fiction MEANS, by definition. They won't look at anything sold as SF because they expect it to be made up from adolescent tropes; and if they like something with science-fictional concepts in it, they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that it could possibly be SF. If you're unhappy with Xopher's definition of "dinosaur", then you should be equally unhappy about this.

You also seem to have completely missed comment #387, where I said that in-jokes and self-referentialism should never be critical to the storyline, but only interesting decorations for the enjoyment of those who get the joke.

Dan, #549: I have reservations, even so, about advocating that people ought to read sf ... just because it's good for them.

Well, now that would be silly. I want people to read SF because they think it's interesting and fun; the good-for-them part should be interwoven with that in such a way that they never notice it directly. The kind of conscious rearrangement of the mental landscape that happened to me after reading HellSpark is never going to be all that common, but gradual worldview change in response to exposure to new ideas happens all the time.

* I'm using "SF" in the bookstore sense here, and should perhaps have gone with "SF/F" instead.

#562 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:33 AM:

Sorry; I assumed that mainstream = literary fiction, because that's the most common usage I've come across.

And, yes, I do think that it's bad that SF elements in non-self-describing-sf-works aren't recognised, for much the same reasons as my dinosaurian opinions.

More to come, when I've time. I know, what a promise...

#563 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:33 AM:

Keir @ 544: "Let's all laugh at the artsy types! Look, they speak French! Look, they're effeminate! They're all weirdoes! Look, they're liberals! Or Leftists! Or even socialists! They live in big cities, on the coast. They don't follow NASCAR, or NFL, or baseball. Look, they're not normal, like us."

Wow, Keir. You summed up my argument so perfectly I just don't know what to say. You're one hundred percent right. I'm a beer-drinking, NASCAR-watching, commie-hating redneck who's violently allergic to anything "weird." That's why I love Making Light! I feel so at home here.

Clearly that's what I was really getting at, up @ 338: those artsy-fartsy types just need to start painting big-eyed children like the kind I have in my house, instead of weird cubes and stuff. I mean, that's weird! Who likes weird stuff!? I sure don't. And it's a good thing we cleared that up! Someone might have accidentally come away with the impression that I actually like modern art. That would be crazy! (And I don't like crazy.)

Dan Layman-Kennedy @ 558: "I know I've been advocating most strongly in this thread for the more challenging end of the canon, but I agree that you can't get to that (individually or as a genre culture) without starting somewhere simpler first."

I was all set to take issue* with your earlier posts, but then I read this. So nevermind; we're clearly on the same page. I was worried you thought I was saying it was an either-or proposition: accessible stuff or complex stuff. It's not: either you have accessible stuff and complex stuff side by side, or you end up with neither. (And I get why you jumped to the defense of the complex stuff: that's the stuff I love the most too =)

*I had this whole analogy to the ongoing cake-flour thing ready! Now it is irrelevant. I is a sad panda.

#564 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:14 AM:

For those who might be interested... Starting January 13, PBS's Masterpiece Theatre will air new adaptations of Jane Austen's Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility.

#565 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:42 AM:

abi @ 508: I didn't know Jonathon Coulton was responsible for that! (Though it makes a lot of sense in retrospect.) I LOVE the Portal end theme. It is pure win. Much like the game itself, now that I think about it.

#566 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:25 AM:

Dan Harmon @ 550: An even more egregious example of "no SF here, I'm a real author" would be Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

I disagree. Even if one accepts the notion (which seems far from self-evident to me) that plot content and plot content alone determines genre, dystopias, especially non-technological ones, are fringe SF at most.

And for what it's worth, I heard her defending SF on NPR once.

#567 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:46 AM:

Xopher@504:

You substituted wheat flour (I hope you didn't mean WHOLE wheat flour) for the rice flour?
Yes, regular white flour.

I hope you left out the cornstarch, if so. 1 cup all-purpose flour == 3/4 Cup Rice Flour + 1/4 Cup Cornstarch.
...Now you tell me. Nope, I used 3/4 cup wheat flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch. Maybe that's why the batter seemed so solid -- I had to scrape it out of the bowl, it didn't flow at all. Still, they came out pretty well. Next time I make them, I'll try 1 cup flour, no cornstarch.

Incidentally, they're very good microwaved for a few seconds to re-melt the chocolate.

#568 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:54 AM:

The whole issue of Gernsbackian SF is defined neatly by looking for "SF" at any major chain bookstore, where "F&SF" is defined exceedingly neatly as "that which is published by F&SF publishers."

#569 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:58 AM:

heresiarch @564:

Portal is indeed full to overflowing with win.

Unfortunately, it also makes me dreadfully Doomsick. I watched the Hub play it over the new year, offering suggestions as I usually do. A few hours of that left me on the verge of vomiting.

Many FPS games do that to me, as well as the Katamari Damacy series (much though I love it) and, oddly, most Sonic the Hedgehog games. Something in the movement algorithms upsets my inner ear.

#570 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:54 AM:

Keir at #544 writes:

> While we're on Stross' referentialism, in Iron Sunrise, there's a lovely description of one of the pseudo-fascist badguys as `living in the early days of a better galaxy'. Most SF fans probably wouldn't get that. I did, and anybody who's read Gray or is Scottish would

I know the phrase from Alasdair Gray - used to have a photocopy of the relevant page pinned up over my desk - but does it have a broader and older Scottish context? Been wondering that for a while...


Steve

#571 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:59 AM:

#568, abi -

Doomsick! That's the perfect word for that.

Portal affects me that way too,* much to my disappointment. That kind of "get from point a to point b past obstacles" puzzle game is a genre I'm quite fond of, and to see it given the beautiful graphics treatment was exciting. Then my husband started finding and showing me the weirdnesses you could get from the portals and I had to stop watching.

*My husband doesn't appreciate help when he's playing, so I've got no incentive to watch closely for more than a few minutes, so I don't know if hours would make me sick or not. I do know that even when I'm in charge of the controller (theoretically less sickening, like driving is less sickening than riding) I can only play for about ten minutes at a time before I get too sick to continue. So no FPS games for me.

#572 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:15 AM:

abi @ 568: Oh noes! That is excessively sad. I played Portal when it first came out, and basically everything about it made me deliriously happy. It had an unreliable narrator! I heart unreliable narrators. Also, I desperately want a shirt with the Level Intro Panel on it, with the cake icon lit up.

"V'z abg rira natel.
V'z orvat fb fvaprer evtug abj.
Rira gubhtu lbh oebxr zl urneg.
Naq xvyyrq zr."

I'm gonna go now, and uh, not play Portal.

Bye.

#573 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:18 AM:

#555: The main strength of "birds are dinosaurs" is the shock value; but it only works because people can in fact intuit a difference between the two.

I tend to think of it as a "fun" shock. It's like knowing that the elephant's closest relative is the hyrax, or the whale's the hippopotamus. If the people you are talking to have never heard it before, they go "Whoa!" and uncroggle their greels. If they've heard it fifty times before, they grin weakly, if you are lucky.

A non-biology example would be that Hedy Lamarr was one of the inventors of the technology that makes cell phones work.

#574 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:26 AM:

RM Koske @570:

Doomsick! That's the perfect word for that.

It predates the internet, and I can't find many references to it online. Google shows me someone's username, and that's it*.

I don't mind that FPS games are a no-go area for me; they don't interest me much anyway. What bugs me is that some of the platform games, where I get a lot of my puzzle-solving fix, are starting to fall into the uncanny valley of the inner ear as well. I can play the new Ratchet & Clank game, but I can't always watch it being played.

My husband doesn't appreciate help when he's playing

That's a shame. The Hub and I both enjoy the co-pilot style of gaming. He's got better co-ordination and persistence than I do. And I'm a tester by nature as well as by profession, so I'm often able to come up with edge cases and suggestions when he's stuck.

-----
* that will change very quickly now that we've mentioned it here.

#575 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:35 AM:

**@#%^!$#&%$@ stupid steam client and its involuntary updates**

So, fellow heterodynaholics, did any of you notice that in the "Revenge of the Weasel Queen" storyline, Agatha's trilobite amulet has sprouted a pair of wings? Wings that are, might I say, suspiciously similar to the wings in the Wulfenbach family crest?

I give this tidbit a mighty "Hmmmmmmm."

#576 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:37 AM:

What is science-fiction? Once upon a time, someone who'd come to my place to deliver a recently purchased typewriter noticed the kinds of books on my bookshelves. Most of them were SF, which apparently meant to him that he could talk to me about Atlantis and other matters esoteric.

#577 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:40 AM:

abi @ 568

I have the same problem; for me five minutes of walking down a corridor in Quake convinced me FPS was not for me. Somehow fighting monsters doesn't seem quite the done thing when you're barfing all over your sidekick's boots, like a frat boy's dream date.

Looking back at the experience, *urp*, I think it's the bobbing motion the POV gets into to simulate walking. My balance system is telling me I"m not bobbing around, which means the universe must be. Um ... pardon me ... *rushes out*

#578 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:45 AM:

heresiarch @ 574... I give this tidbit a mighty "Hmmmmmmm."

Indeed. Remember though that this is supposed to be an apocryphal adventure of Agatha. That doesn't keep from wondering what will happen when she enters the lair of the Weasel Queeen disguised as a flesh-eating 8-foot-tall bunny.

#579 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:47 AM:

Diatryma @ 559

I've long used the term "heated agreement". I think I picked it up at Tektronix in the '80s, so it could come out of the Reed College culture.

#580 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:48 AM:

Abi... Regarding what you said not long ago about the Odyssey. Have you seen the early 1990s miniseries, with Armand Assante as Ulysses? It's been a long time since I saw the whole thing from beginning to end, but I especially liked Isabella Rosselini as grey-eyed Athena.

#581 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:03 AM:

heresiarch @ 574

I hadn't noticed that; thank you. I did some quick backchecking, and she isn't wearing an amulet with wings in the main story, as far as I can see. This appears to be something specific to the Agatha of the Weasel Queen story. Just another clue that this is a fictional Agatha*. What was that were you saying about unreliable narrators?

Also, I just noticed in the current page that Agatha, who is holding an Othar doll and sticking a pin in it, just happens to be standing in front of a large machine labelled "Voodoo-matic". *giggle*


* or maybe metafictional?

#582 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:16 AM:

Steve @ 569: According to this undated essay by Alasdair Gray in the Scottish Sunday Herald (May 2007?), altho' he adopted and used the saying extensively, he "found it in a long poem by the Canadian author, Dennis Leigh [sic]* … in the late '70s", and liked it because he finds it "inspiring but not boastful".

Lee @ 387: Was that a genuine question about the "bright cold afternoon in April" quote? 'Cos I haven't noticed an answer — this could be 'cos my noticing isn't working well, however. Check this link for the original, still a powerful story, and a book with much to tell us about the current day.

*Natural slip for a Scot. Actually spelt 'Lee' (synchronicity too!). The poem is "Civil Elegies".

#583 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:43 AM:

Check the amulet the Agatha in the time machine when seen by DuPre is wearing.

#584 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:44 AM:

Bruce Cohen@580

Although the amulet in "Weasel Queen" does look similar to the winged amulet Agatha is wearing in the "Electric Coffin" short story (which is described as a tale of her "later adventures").

Perhaps she has become associated with the Wulfenbach family in some mysterious fashion. :-)

#585 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:50 AM:

#573, abi -

I imagine playing games that way would be quite satisfying, especially for ones that you can't possibly play yourself.

Thinking about it, I might have been able to help with Portal if I'd been watching. He usually plays more traditional FPS games, with moving opponents. Those I definitely can't help with, both from lack of skill and because he uses the game sounds as an aid, and talking would hinder him. But a puzzle game like Portal might be a different story. I'll have to keep it in mind.

#576, Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) -

For me it is something about turning. I think. It's when my husband is "looking around" at a new room that I get most uneasy watching him.

#586 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:58 AM:

heresiarch: My apologies; I didn't mean to be reasonable. :) If you like, you can imagine me continuing my agitating-firebrand schtick in whatever direction would most suit countering with your cake-flour analogy, which I'm sorry got waylaid as I loves me some convergence.

More srsly, either you have accessible stuff and complex stuff side by side, or you end up with neither is the sort of thing that ought to be done up in mile-high runes of fire and set over art colleges and institutes everywhere, maybe right under Art was not invented so that only artists can appreciate it. (Do I contradict myself? Very well then; I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.) As much as I really do believe that people deserve more credit for being able to handle complexity and abstraction than they're often given, I also don't see much value in making creativity a closed circuit.

#587 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:05 AM:

abi @ 573

For a couple of minutes after I read your comment about "Ratchet and Clank" I couldn't remember the Sony game*, and I fixated on the idea of an Agatha Heterodyne FPS. I would play such a thing, taking dramamine if necessary to withstand motion sickness. In fact, I'd probably be addicted to such a game. Someone tell me Folgio's working on one, please.

* I've never played it; just seen commercials on TV.

#588 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:12 AM:

Michael I @ 583

I notice that Gil Wulfenbach is wearing a gold collar stud with the W crest on it that looks to be in the same style as the winged trilobite amulet. Hmm ... a clue about a romantic entanglement, or just a red herring thrown in there by the Heterodyne Players to add a little romance to the story?

#589 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Tim, #565: ...dystopias, especially non-technological ones, are fringe SF at most.

And I vigorously disagree with this. Exploring the ramifications of changes to our enviroment (physical or social) is one of the core values of SF! What's more science-fictional, after all, than asking, "What if $CHANGE were to occur, and where would that be likely to take us?" It doesn't matter whether $CHANGE is the invention of 2-way TV, or World War III, or a plague that renders most women sterile; it's still SF.

Serge, #575: Oh, yeah. And the people who think that because you read SF, you must be a wild-eyed flying saucer fanatic. I've been known to respond to that with a tart, "No, I don't believe in flying saucers. That's because I understand the difference between science fiction and fantasy."

Epacris, #581: No, it was just intended as an alternate possible explanation for the example I'd been given. In context it probably wouldn't work at all -- but I wasn't handed context, and I'm familiar enough with 24-hour time that it's the first thing "fourteen o'clock" associates to.

#590 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:34 AM:

While on the subject of the products of Studio Foglio:
"And most important of all, when Humanity threw a party with refreshments, everybody came"

from The Herodotus Complex Chapter 2, in the current (so to speak) series of "Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire"

#591 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:45 AM:

Epacris #581: Dennis Lee! -- I thought I recognized the name. His Alligator Pie was one of the major high points of reading aloud to my kids.

#592 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:57 AM:

Lee @ 588... Re what you said to Tim... After all, SF is (*) the literature of what-if, where the if can be technological, scientific and/or social.

(*) To put it succinctly, an approach that is fraught with perils, and did I ever mention that, if you drive from California's Bakersfield to I-5, you'll be going thru the town of Wasco, on the outskirts of which is an outfit called "the apparels of Pauline and other recycling"?

#593 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:01 PM:

I've often thought that reading sf/f was an advantage in reading classic literature. The customs of Jane Austen's Regency England are as alien to me as the customs of the atevi.

#594 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:05 PM:

Serge #591: How appropriate that it should be on the outskirts.

#595 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:10 PM:

Sylvia Li... To say the least.

#596 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:12 PM:

fidelio @ 589... "And most important of all, when Humanity threw a party with refreshments, everybody came"

Almost as scary would be...

"What if someone threw a Making Light party with refreshments, and everybody came?"

#597 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:16 PM:

Lee @ 588: Exploring the ramifications of changes to our enviroment (physical or social) is one of the core values of SF!

Humility is a core value of Christianity. Does that mean only Christians are humble?

People were writing about such ramifications millenia before Ralph 124C41+ was a gleam in Hugo Gernsback's eye. Calling [u|dys]topias SF is like calling dinosaurs birds.

#598 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:20 PM:

The refreshments would be dinosaur, extremely complex drinks and other Teresian tricks, and incredible desserts.

#599 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:22 PM:

Diatryma @ 597... Wining and dine-osauring?

#600 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:29 PM:

That would only work if we got a fleet of airships.

A moment for Overlord-like laughter: tonight I decide the fate of the nation! For I am in IOWA! I have political POWER! Muhahaha!
I really hope they have cookies.

#601 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:31 PM:

People were writing about such ramifications millenia before Ralph 124C41+ was a gleam in Hugo Gernsback's eye. Calling [u|dys]topias SF is like calling dinosaurs birds

So does that mean The Tale of Genji isn't a novel, because it was written a thousand years ago? For that matter, does it mean Jules Verne's work isn't SF? He was before Gernsback too...

#602 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:36 PM:

Diatryma @ 599...

Shoeless Joe Jackson: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: No, it's Iowa.

#603 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:55 PM:

Are birds dinosaurs -- yes or no? Both are right!

Specialists and ordinary people are using the same terms with different meanings. This is best resolved by being more careful with the nouns, because there's no way we're going to remove all the ambiguity from the linking verb "is".

So specialists could use the technical-sounding term "Dinosauria" to mean all descendants of the last common ancestor of Whateverosaurus and Someotherosaurus. Everyone else can use the common term "dinosaur" to mean extinct large vicious cold-blooded carnivores and also brontosaurs*.

* I left off the -us because this is a vernacular not a technical term.

#604 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Serge (#595)/Diatryma (#597): and nobody in attendance would be in any danger of getting scurvy.

#605 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:00 PM:

Christopher @ 603... Teresa as a spark? I presume she has a talking hamster instead of a talking cat.

#606 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:22 PM:

Allan B #510,511:

Looks like as good a place as any to slide in my thoughts on the photographs: I think we may be making a mistake in trying to talk about the *photographs* as the work of art. I think we can better look at this in the context of performance pieces, with the photos as simply the documentation, and the *act of taking* the photos as the actual performance/art. Instead of concentrating solely on what the photos tell us, try popping a level and thinking about what is the photographer himself doing/thinking while taking them. Be as pervy as you like. And, of course, think about what may be going through the minds of the hidden actors--besides the obvious, of course.

#607 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:27 PM:

How could the NYT write an obituary on Fraser and manage to omit the "Three/Four Musketeers" script(s) and his post WWII short story collections?

#608 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:34 PM:

#606
And The Steel Bonnets!

#609 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:34 PM:

Carrie S. @ 600: So does that mean The Tale of Genji isn't a novel, because it was written a thousand years ago?

I haven't read it, so my opinion isn't worth much, but from what I know of it, my inclination is to say "this has interesting parallels to the novel" rather than "this is a novel."

Unless the European pioneers of the novel claimed to be the the sole inheritors of the Genji tradition, though, the parallel to Lee's claim isn't very exact.

For that matter, does it mean Jules Verne's work isn't SF? He was before Gernsback too...

As always, it depends on the purpose of the categorization. For most purposes, the scientific romance can be lumped in with SF, since Gernsback's enterprise was launched in direct imitation of it, and there were no "sibling" branches of note. However, a literary historian might very well want to distinguish the two.

#610 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 01:59 PM:

Getting into the edge cases instead of core values problem here. Don't try to define SF. It's a waste of time, causes trouble, and annoys everyone in the discussion.

#611 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:01 PM:

David 566: That would be canonical, yes. But can't I persuade you to try them with rice flour and cornstarch? They're really, really good that way. IMO better in texture than when made with plain flour.

DaveL 572: HEDLEY!!!!

#612 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Xopher @ 610... Hedley Lamarr, evil henchman of governor William J. Lepétomane.

#613 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:12 PM:

Why yes, Serge, that was the reference. Your point?

#614 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:14 PM:

No point, Xopher. Just stating the obvious. My apologies.

#615 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:25 PM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy: Art was not invented so that only artists can appreciate it.

Art was not invented, full stop! For that matter, neither was SF.... In both cases, their progressive confinement to subcultures came out of largely commercial considerations, mostly "who pays for producing it?"

Others have mentioned how what we call SF developed out of what was then called "adventure stories". The rocketships showed up when we ran short of unexplored (earthly) territory for those stories. (And note that John Burroughs (inter alia) didn't need rockets to get his hero to Mars!) The label "science fiction" appeared when somebody needed a label -- to draw readers to the magazines and novels they were publishing, as opposed to the competition's.

Niven and Pournelle's Inferno brings up all the SF tropes, but only to discard them. My copy of Mutant 59: The Plastic-Eaters has "speculative fiction" on the cover, but today it could just as well be published as a "standard" thriller. (And it would still make a perfectly-good general-appeal movie!) Are Danny Dunn and Tom Swift "adventure" or "SF"? What were they when they were published? (Would the answer change depending which of the three Tom Swifts we're talking about?) What about Kornbluth's The Syndic, or Not This August? Dalmas' The General's President?

The only conflict here is about lines on a map, but as always, "the map is not the terrain". Whether you call a given story SF or not often has as much to do with social factors as the content of the tale.

#616 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:39 PM:

Serge @595 & Diatryma @597:

Coming in late: The Making Light party would not be a banquet, in which the food is provided. It would be, as it always is, a potluck. What is served is what we bring.

So who is making the dinosaur? And will it taste unsurprisingly like chicken?

#617 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:46 PM:

And the joys of my life continue...

The kids and the Hub went into town this afternoon to run errands. The two of them got little light-up magnetic toys, just cheap things.

After dinner the three year old came to my seat and told me that her light "wasn't working any more" because one of the batteries was "gone". I told her to bring me what she had, and she did. One out of two lithium watch-type batteries was present in the little screw-in battery compartment.

I wanted to find out where to look for the other, and she said, "it's in my tummy." She then saw the expressions on our faces and burst into tears.

Two parental facepalms, one call to the medical advice line, and one call back from poison control later, and we were able to avoid the expected trip to the emergency room. But if it doesn't come out again in a week, we need to take her in for an X-Ray.

Which means we need to find out if it comes out again.

Sigh.

#618 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:47 PM:

Abi @ 615... So who is making the dinosaur? And will it taste unsurprisingly like chicken?

Depends on one person's definition of what's a dinosaur. (Do I hear agh-ing?) What is the name of that prehistoric flightless bird that was even bigger than an ostrich, but with a beak like a parrot's?

#619 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:48 PM:

I'd just like to say that the particle "Cold Women, Kept Safe," though a true story, is also a wonderful parable for...any number of things, but what struck me was its application to the way most people stifle their own creativity.

#620 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:50 PM:

Abi @ 616... Sorry to hear about that.

#621 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:55 PM:

abi 616: Yuck. Sorry. "Here, eat these four pounds of cherries!"

#622 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 02:57 PM:

Tim, #596: I think you're palming a card here. It doesn't matter whether or not the writing of utopias and dystopias predates the formal establishment of "science fiction" as a genre; they are now an established subsector of science fiction. Is modern epic fantasy any less a part of the SF/F continuum just because it draws on tropes which have been around since humanity first started telling stories?

#623 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:04 PM:

I haven't read it, so my opinion isn't worth much, but from what I know of it, my inclination is to say "this has interesting parallels to the novel" rather than "this is a novel."

Genji is the canonical "first novel ever written", as far as I can tell. And it's not just Japanese sources that refer to it as such.

I think my point was just that being old, or having been created before the point most people think of when you discuss a type, does not disqualify something from belonging to that type.

#624 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:13 PM:

Thanks to the various folks for the art advice. Terry, where might one see some of your photographs?

#625 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:17 PM:

Serge: I think you mean the moa (which is semi-historic, having died out only a short while before europeans showed up on the scene to create "history" :) My favorite sidelight of that story is the eagles which were killed off because they preyed on moa, which are bipedal, and about the size of an adult human).

abi: I'm sure it will all come out in the end.

#626 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:17 PM:

Abi #616: And to think that in my childhood I got into trouble for swallowing a sixpence...

#627 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:22 PM:

Photography and Art.

Oy.

I write "Oy" because....

1. "Art" is a set of continuua [aleph null bottles of beer on the wall... aleph one bottles of beer on the walls....]

2. There may or may not be conscious art in "taking a picture." I have pictures of e.g. the insides of lenscaps, my feet, pavement, the inside of a pocket, etc., capture quite unintentionally. That is NOT intentional "art," that is klutziness!

3. There is framing something carefully, or waiting for that exact moment to press the shutter... and then there is the catch-as-catch-can picture, the instant of having the camera at hand or grabbing for it before the scene one wants to capture disappears... there were the "that looks interesting, I think I'll take a picture," or "let's annoy [someone] [who is not one of those people who goes apeshit at the sight of a lens pointed in their direction] who is doing something to show off and should have the moment captured as owed reprisal...."

4. There are the characteristics of the camera involved and the settings in it. DSLRs give one -control- that point-and-shoot-autofocus only units don't have, to pick and choose what to focus on, the depth of field, etc. One can -choose- to varying degrees the capture conditions of color intensity, brightness, contrast, focus or what to focus on, the magnification if any, etc.

5. There is the post-processing of image processing if using digicam, or playing around with developing the negatives.

6. There is the printing,and the choise of media to print on (or to display on... different monitors have different resolutions, for example. Most JPEG formats are lossy..."What's that?" I asked Carlos Caicedo years ago, as he was showing a jpeg of a 3-d rendering he had done of a vase he "draw" in a 3d program, as there were random black or white (don't recall which) pixels displaying on the image. "That's jpeg shit," he replied. [He worked at Polaroid as his day job at the time]

Oh, and last and not least, there are the intangibles involved on the part of the people seeing the results, and what their values and opinions and emotional resonances or lack thereof are.

(E.g., still life drawing and painting exercises in public school to me are the epitome of "why is someone wasting time and effort and especially MY time and effort and attention, on something so inutterly tedious and lacking in merit and totally lacking in worth and interest as subject. This is SO inutterably worthless as a subject for drawing/painting, what IS the value of it? It's utterly lacking in interest and merit and value!)

#628 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:27 PM:

Lee @ 621: It doesn't matter whether or not the writing of utopias and dystopias predates the formal establishment of "science fiction" as a genre; they are now an established subsector of science fiction.

SF is a good mode for -topias, just as it is for satire, so naturally a lot of SF writers have written both. That doesn't mean that all -topias, or all satires, are SF.

Is modern epic fantasy any less a part of the SF/F continuum just because it draws on tropes which have been around since humanity first started telling stories?

No. Fantasy novels, like SF novels, can incorporate any influences they want. But that doesn't mean, as some like to claim (not you as far as I know, but I've seen it on ML), that any story that contains non-realistic elements--in other words, most of world literature--is part of the fantasy genre.

SF/F boosters have an understandable tendency to be greedy in claiming genre membership, at the extreme claiming that the presence of any trope popular on the SF/F racks makes a book SF/F, regardless of how popular that trope is off those racks. This works about as well in making converts as the time a Christian told me I couldn't really be an atheist because I didn't believe life was meaningless.

#629 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:31 PM:

Terry Karney @ 624... it will all come out in the end

Gives a whole new meaning to 'electric piles', eh?

As for the Big Bird, the one I'm thinking of is not the moa (who, moi?), but something that pre-dated humankind, European or other. It made an apperance in Harryhausen's Mysterious Island.

#630 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Serge at 617, you are not serving me at a Making Light banquet. Not even if Jim is on call to keep me alive and taking part in the conversation.

#631 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:35 PM:

George MacDonald Fraser dead -- very sad news indeed. I was introduced to Flashman in high school by the young man I was dating, and of course we had to get married after that. Fidelio @543 -- I ran across Quartered Safe Out Here a few years ago and found a great deal of it very useful in helping me understand the experience of war. Fraser being eminently quotable, I made good use of it for my book on Tolkien and war.

#632 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Diatryma @ 629... We don't eat ML people, as tasty as they may be. Anyway, my wife found what I was looking for.

"...Phorusrhacids (family Phorusrhacidae) or terror birds were large carnivorous flightless birds that were the dominant predators in South America during the Cenozoic, 62–2 million years ago. They were roughly 1–3 meters (3–10 feet) tall. Their closest modern-day relatives are believed to be the seriemas..."

That one is going to require a BIG oven.

#633 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Carrie S. @ 622: Genji is the canonical "first novel ever written"

SF/F fans aren't the the only greedy lumpers.

But since I haven't read it, maybe we could switch examples? Tristram Shandy is often referred to as "the first postmodern novel," and I have the same objection to that. Postmodernism is a set of tropes, but it's also a historical phenomenon.

#634 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Todd: The largest collection is in my Lj scrapbook, but I also have some on flickr

#635 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:42 PM:

Tim at 627 and others debating genre definitions: I like that the boundaries are blurry. It means there's more chance of finding something interesting next to the books I'm looking for.
Cherie Priest's books Four and Twenty Blackbirds are published by Tor. Most of the time, I expect them in the SFF section (Prairie Lights). I found the first in the horror section (Borders) and the next two in the general fiction (Barnes and Noble). That kind of genre blurriness is good-- someone who picks one book up from the fiction section, likes it, and asks after the rest at a different bookstore may be led to the SFF section, where other books may appeal. It works in both directions.
I care about genre when it affects the book. Who publishes it, where it's shelved, not much more that I can think of right now. For anything more specific, I have to break the genre down further-- "This is a detective novel with some interesting religious bits in." "This is Terry Pratchett." "This is elves in a near-future Earth, with mad scientists and a really, really annoying heroine."

"This is SF," and, "This is fantasy," don't tell me nearly as much about the story as they do about the cover art.

#636 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:46 PM:

The distinguishing feature of "art", for me, is a visceral reaction. It doesn't have to be pretty, often isn't (or isn't, primarily). Good art makes me want to come back and re-experience it. Great art not only pulls but offers various interpretations, both to a wide variety of people, and to the repeat viewer/listener/reader/...participant.

It is rare to have good art, much less great art, that doesn't have a solid underpinning of craftsmanship. This necessarily includes the rusty found stuff.

#637 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:46 PM:

A belated thought about art. My answer to the question "Is it art?" is that art isn't exclusively a property of the object. But it's also not just in my head. The transformation of something that might be art into something that I perceive as art is a transformation of the whole system: the artist's work and intent, the results, and my perception of it. Virtually everything has the potential to be art; the click of completing the circuit is individual but not purely subjective. Art is the thing and me together in sync.

#638 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:47 PM:

On the upside, Battery Powered Electric Girl, as she now wants to be known, didn't know that what goes in one end comes out the other.

So that's two things she's learned today. (The other one being, of course, if it isn't food, don't eat it.)

#639 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 03:53 PM:

"if it isn't food, don't eat it."

Followed by "if it's smaller than your elbow, don't put it in your ear."

#640 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:04 PM:

Is there a possibility of using a magnet to, um, scan the deposits?

(An easily cleaned magnet. Or one in a plastic bag.)

#641 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Serge: Those were what I thought of when you said Moa (which were of similar size). I didn't realise they died out so long ago.

Paula Lieberman: Art is (or to borrow from the Cohen Bros., The Dude Abides). A shaker chair is no less artful for not having been intended than a fortuitus grab shot with a camera. (the Capa photo, discussed here, elsewhen, comes to mind).

Cartier-Bresson did wonders with predicting when he'd get a good grab shot, but most of his photos were just that.

It's funny, I see some of the questions of "when is it SF" in the arguments hiding in your comment (which appears to me to say that art requires intent... at which point I wonder at the handprints on rocks... are they art?); does it become art when it's made, or when someone likes it. Are Leonardo's early sketches art because they are good, or because we've decided he's an artist?

Joann: About the wondering what the photographer was doing, or the actual actions, thoughts, etc., of the people we are told are having fun out of scene... that's what the blurb about what they were doing was supposed to elicit. It doesn't move me. I can wonder such things about any artwork. If the work isn't worth looking at on it's own, I don't think leading me to such wonderings helps it any.

#642 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:15 PM:

I learned two things today two:

1) Walgreen's "Cold Multi-Symptom Daytime Non-Drowsy" actually does reduce the symptoms of colds, at the expense of becoming so numb and disconnected that the sight of, say, a puppy being eaten alive by a cougar out in the parking lot might at best evoke a shrug and a muttered "Eh, shit happens."

2) A bowl of hot noodle soup followed by a bowl of savory home-cooked Brazillian food (some kind of rice, beans, and meat dish) laid out in the break room by a generous co-worker does an astonishingly good job of eliminating the side-effect described in 1).

#643 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Regarding ALL UR *TOPIAS R BELONG TO SKIFFY and other timespace-bending leverages of the verb "to be," including Scott McCloud's retroappropriation of Egyptian, pre-Columbian, and Medieval storytelling art as "comics": well, unsurprisingly, I'm of two minds. They're useful parallels, at least from a squishy magpie lumper* perspective, but they are of most use to the person whose lineage they're tracing. There are good reasons to note where you came from and whose pedigree you can lay claim to, but I think there's also a point at which saying "See? Same thing" is... well, it presumes an awful lot, and would no doubt look a lot different from the other end of the timeline. The creators of those progenitor works might well have had a thing or two to say about these parties they're finding themselves dragged to - not necessarily more right than from the reverse perspective, but possibly worth weighing.

The turkey is not wrong to find dignity in the knowledge that it is a sort of dinosaur, but it shouldn't expect T. rex to share its feelings.

*"Greedy" is going too far, says I, but I would.

#644 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:45 PM:

Serge @ 631

That one is going to require a BIG oven.

And a huge cutting board. I recommend digging a big pit in the ground and baking it, just like at a luau. Or you could think of it as Tandori Big Bird.

#645 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:50 PM:

Apropos of nothing at all, I want to recommend two new books.

Free Lunch by David Johnston. It will make you madder.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

#646 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:52 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 643... On second thought, I'll stick with bringing munchies.

#647 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 04:59 PM:

Science Fiction is, among other things, that which prominent sufferers of Genre Denial Syndrome say it is not.

#648 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:06 PM:

Diatryma @ 634: I like that the boundaries are blurry.

Me too! And most of my favorite books are the edge cases that make bad law.

But categories have their uses. For me the key is to make your definitions means rather than ends. So when I list my genre favorites, I'm very inclusive because, hey, I'm recommending books. But when someone says their book isn't SF, I'm not going to call bullshit unless their claim is really indefensible (viz. Battlestar Galactica and Harry Potter, both of which made me headdesk the way any fan would).

#649 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:10 PM:

Linkmeister @ 638

Followed by "if it's smaller than your elbow, don't put it in your ear."

Or your nose, or your belly button, or ...

Kids are the original collectors, and they have a very wide definition of acceptable places to store the collectibles.

#650 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:16 PM:

A quiet moment of sadness when cooking improbably large foods. No one's bringing mammoth to the feast.

#651 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:17 PM:

Bruce Cohen @648--

Or your nose, or your belly button, or ...
... or your brother's, or the dog's.

Kids are the original collectors, and they have a very wide definition of acceptable places to store the collectibles.
So true!

#652 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:19 PM:

re 640: I think that beauty is. Art must be done.

#653 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:21 PM:

Paula Lieberman @#626: The point of those drawing exercises is practice -- not just physical skills, but technique, and even perception. As Carol points out at #635, "it is rare to have good art, much less great art, that doesn't have a solid underpinning of craftsmanship".

Re: big birds for the potluck: There are folks raising ostriches for meat -- they might not be a "terror bird", but they're pretty big (and intimidating). I've eaten the meat, albeit in small quantities. (It was pretty good, but the restaurant in question (the late, lamented Cooking With Jazz) could probably have made roadkill taste good.)

Diatryma @ #624: Hmm, I should probably check that out. I originally thought you were talking about the Bardic Voices title, which (like the others in the series) blurs its concept more than its genre. Fortunately, since embarrassing myself by mis-correcting Terry, I've gone back to Googling references by reflex....

#654 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 05:22 PM:

#649

Well, it's hard to fit mammoth in a small car, and then there's the problem of finding the one place that actually sells it. (Not to mention: just how big is Big Snorgul's helmet?)

#655 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:05 PM:

Terry #640 -- much "art" in the perception of the perceiver....

#652 David

But, when the exercisie make no sense to the person being expected to perform it, it has no positive value and no positive meaning and tend to not effect positive learning... .that is, the intent of the exercise fails. There was apparently some Magickal Expectation to get Value out of "draw/paint a still life," but nobody bothers to tell me what was the -value- in this exercise.

I was talking with an old friend before noon on January 1, who went freelance a year or more ago earning her income from selling paintings she does and such. She explained that doing still lifes are -supposed- to teach about shading and shadows and such... that however was NOT something that came through to me in the Stupid Inane Draw/Paint What We Tell You You Should Think IMPORTANT To Draw Paint.

But then, exercises for the sake of doing an exercise was never something that particularly appealed to me, either. Goals are one thing, stupid exercises expected to be sufficient in and of themselves as exercise, PTUI! I've always considered still live art to be, again, surpassingly tedious and insipid and boring as art for looking at. What's so appealing about a stupid bowl of usually badly and/or boringly drawn fruit? Worms coming out of apples as irony, that's one thing. Eyes peeking out. But a static bowl with fruit in it draw in a class by a bunch of not-talented-or-rather-indifferently-interested students? UGH!

#656 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:05 PM:

Terry Karney @ 640

Cartier-Bresson did wonders with predicting when he'd get a good grab shot, but most of his photos were just that.

He also carefully selected which grab shots he printed up to show people, and was careful about how he cropped the ones he printed. The result is that it is usually possible to tell that one of his prints is indeed a photograph taken by Cartier-Bresson and not some other photographer. Selection and editing are processes that are important in the creation of art; their lack is often, though not always, a sign that the art will not be good, because the artist has relied too little on choice, and too much on chance.

#657 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:09 PM:

How many typoes do I have in the above?
"still life," not "still live"
"exercise makes no sense," not [muffed typing...]
Etc.

#658 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:32 PM:

Lee -- the bit about SF and referentialism wasn't directly aimed at you. (I really should have written that post better.)

Heresiarch, whenever you distinguish between normal humans and not normal humans, that's not good.

I was trying to demonstrate to you why it is disturbing, by analogy with a bunch of other distinctions between normality and abnormality, all of which we'd all decry strenuously.

The possession of a BFA does not make someone not a normal person.

#659 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 06:56 PM:

re my comments on "art"

C. Wingate (#651): re 640 I think that beauty is. Art must be done.

I agree, the question I was asking is how much of the doing requires intent to make art? Because a lot of the things I see, and dislike, seem to be stuff that someone intended to be art, but which (IMO) suck.

Paula Lieberman (#654) Terry ...much "art" in the perception of the perceiver.... Then what does intent, et al, matter?

Bruce Cohen (StM): re Selection/editing, etc. I agree. It's part and parcel of what I said at #301.

For myself, I think art is all of that. It's found objects, it's shaker chairs, and grab shots, and Leonardo, and the Hudson Valley School.

It's the relation between the maker, the thing and the viewer/user. Intentional art can be great; it can also be crap (and if it has a "Message" it's more likely to be crap than not).

People make things. People are wonderful. Some of them make wonderful things (more of us would make wonderful things, if we could figure out what we were good at, but that's another issue; and Patrick's Sidelight on how to do what you love covers it pretty well). Some of those wonderful things speak to other people.

I think art happens when that speaking, one person to another; by way of beautiful things, is art.

When that speech isn't ephemeral, when it lasts beyond the years, it moves to the category of great art (as with Keats Grecian Urn).

Some of the "mediocre" art is still just swell. Music hall songs, and "doggerel" and woodblocks and dime novels, etc.

Is a framed page from a First Folio "art"? I don't know. I do know I like looking at it.

#660 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:00 PM:

Terry Karney @640 (and My Thoughts On Art by JESR, age 55 and seven months), my most demanding and heinous photography instructor was much influenced by Cartier-Bresson, to the extent of shooting mostly with a rangefinder Leica and always printing through a filed-out negative holder, but he talked about finding the "indecisive moment" and looking for maximum ambiguity, to describe his personal style. So the first five years or so I worked on photography I shot one film (Tri-X) with one lense on my OM-1, and cropped in the camera, and printed everything whole frame, because that was what I had been taught was the real, pure, authentic mode of photography.

Since then I've killed two OM-1 bodies and accumulated a bunch of Olympus lenses I can't use right now and am now stuck with a Kodak EX something or other autofocus digital that has crap glass and an inability to focus on dispersed pattern and which in addition is too small and light for me to hold stable without a tripod, but I am learning from it.

Point, point, I had a point in there somewhere... ah, seeing. The art in photography is learning to see, I think, to grab or make (with Ansel Adams, in his usual mode, far on the "make" end of the scale from Cartier-Bresson) a meaningful image out of the stream of unsorted visual information that comes at one from all sides.

Whether what I make is art or not is one of those discussions I've had too often, over the years. The last class I took I got smacked around (by other students, not by the teacher) because I was interested in looking at shiny objects in raking light, and it was "too pretty to be art." I work at it, sometimes it feels to me as if I've gotten something down, sometimes other people think it's OK. I do it because I must.

(I don't know for sure what F/SF is, yet).

#661 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:19 PM:

JESR @ #659, "is too small and light for me to hold stable without a tripod"

Have you seen the GorillaPod?

I got one for Christmas. I've tried it with two different digital cameras and it fits both.

#662 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:23 PM:

Paula:

Sounds like your art teacher was not doing his job properly! The thing is, if you can't draw the apples properly, nobody will care about the eyes peeking out. Exactly what counts as "properly" does vary with time and culture -- but there's always a basic standard, and it always takes a minimum level of technical skill to meet that standard. Yes, learning that skill is pretty boring, but that's what separates a "real" artist from a dabbler or poseur.

Strange as it may sound, even abstract art depends heavily on the same basic skills as representational art -- indeed, more so, because the viewer can't fall back on recognizing familiar objects. Consider that Mondrian, Picasso, and such, all started with representational art! Only by building on raw skill, could they experiment with extracting and emphasizing specific aspects of "image", and still have the result make sense. Even Jackson Pollock trained under representational artists, before he made his name in abstracts.

And no, I'm not an artist myself, but I've got a couple of decent amateurs in my family, and most of the rest of us (including me) have dabbled a bit.

#663 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:28 PM:

Abi @ 649... No one's bringing mammoth to the feast.

Mammoth? At motht, some people mastodo, and others mastodon't.

#664 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Yes, learning that skill is pretty boring, but that's what separates a "real" artist from a dabbler or poseur.

In my experience, the musicians who get really technically good are the ones who don't find playing exercises to be boring. As my teacher said, "how can it be boring if you can't do it?"*

I try to cultivate that attitude, but haven't succeeded too well yet.

*With, I'm sure, an unspoken codicil that the exercise not be so far out of your skill range that it's effectively impossible.

#665 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:36 PM:

linkmeister @ 638... if it's smaller than your elbow

Is that what they mean by elbow room? And do things go in more easily with some elbow grease?

#666 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:38 PM:

Linkmeister, you are quite possibly my savior. That device does look very much what I need!


#667 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 07:39 PM:

JESR: Yes, learning to see is important. The question is, "what are you looking for?".

#668 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:07 PM:

#624 Moa attacked by Giant Eagle - also there's better lit photo than mine at wikipedia.

I'll note that some of the biggest giant moa skeletons and reconstructions I saw in New Zealand were twice my height, and I'm pretty tall.

#669 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:18 PM:

Terry Karney... Interesting. The moa looks a lot like the emus I've seen around Oregon.

#670 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:25 PM:

JESR @ #665, "Linkmeister, you are quite possibly my savior"

Er, I don't want that responsibility, thank you.

It really does stabilize the camera and wrap around things quite well, although I've had no need to use it yet for the kind of snapshot I normally take.

#671 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:37 PM:

Neil: I think the picture you took is more interesting.

#672 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:39 PM:

Serge @ 668... You meant to refer to Neil's post, not to Terry's. You cursed fool!!!

#673 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:49 PM:

Christopher Davis, #603, and that's part of a picture set from a few months before Mike Ford died. There's a picture there of Avram, too.

#674 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Terry Karney, JESR

I think one of art's primary characteristics is that it provides a way for the artist to show the viewer some new thing, or a new way of perceiving an old thing. That's heavily visual language, and I don't want to give the impression that I'm only talking about visual art. In general, to me, art is about perception, in a very broad sense. Not even necessarily physical perception; the mind's eye, ear, nose, and throat are part of the sensorium too.

#675 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:02 PM:

Joann @ 605: I think you are right. I wasn't thinking postmoderny enough.

#676 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:03 PM:

Am I the only one jumping out of my skin due to the Iowa caucus results? Am I the only one who would like to have a thread in which to take political comments and speculations? If so, I'll hush up, but if not, and I have company, I respectfully ask our esteemed moderators to HELP!

Thanks.

#677 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:14 PM:

msnbc.com and cnn.com are currently featuring the same terrifying picture of Huckabee as they project he'll win the GOP caucus.

#678 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:16 PM:

OK, never mind. In the last two seconds, CNN changed their picture.

#679 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Lizzy L @ 675, I would like to join in such a thread as well.

#681 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Perhaps tomorrow..

#682 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:17 PM:

keir,

The possession of a BFA does not make someone not a normal person.

yeah, it's probably for the best that that discussion pretty much went by while it wasn't convenient for me to post. as a bfa, two data points:

i can appreciate (really appreciate, not pretend-to-appreciate-&-know-how-to-talk-about) a lot more kinds of art than i could before i started at art school. this is awesome.

going to a beloved painting instructor's gallery show, & seeing the contrast between her paintings & her artist's statement, is the one event which turned me off being a real artist for good. (i've told the story around here before.)

#683 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:36 PM:

As for mammoth BBQ (step 1: dig a two hundred foot trench) it doesn't seem too unlikely that we'll eventually be able to resurrect the species by filling in the blanks with elephant DNA, Jurassic Park style. Yum!

#684 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 10:41 PM:

Just got back from caucus (okay, just with a side trip for milk and calling home to complain).
For something that could be as politically inspiring, that was incredibly depressing. Not the results-- I went in undecided (which was part of the problem). My precinct was criminally disorganized. We shouted down the chairperson on the subject of viability. Counts were taken without being terribly, you know, announced-- I thought I had time to mill around, at least time to make a decision, but by the time I heard that I should be somewhere, the count was taken and Clinton wasn't viable in our precinct any more.
I'm also the only person in the state of Iowa who hasn't gotten a single phone call, postcard, or visit.
Between that and the incredible disorganization, I'm just... aigh. If it had been a little better, if it had been a little more organized, if it had been in *one* room rather than spread across two floors of a building with no communication between groups, I think I'd be less... bleh.

This is not to say that I am not happy with the results, but I'd have been happy with anyone. Any of the top three would be fine with me.

#685 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:12 PM:

Diatryma, I've never done the caucus thing -- the state I grew up in switched to primaries before I became voting age, and the states I've moved to are also primary states, so I just have book learning about how they work.

I was under the impression that in Iowa the viability threshold at the precinct level was generally 15%, although in small precincts it could be higher because there aren't enough delegates allocated to the precinct to divide up as finely as that might require. Since yours was spread across two floors of a building, I'm thinking it's not a small precinct? Does that mean that Clinton didn't get 15% of the first-choice votes in your precinct? (Or she officially didn't, but the official count was probably wrong?)

#686 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:13 PM:

There are exercises and there are exercises. Doing the white to black thing that Minor White came up with in lab in photography was not boring stupid stuff, it very clearly showed grayscale et. and tonality and the utility of it.

Still lifes, however, I didn't see the point of the exercise--WHY was this supposed to be worth doing, what was the -value- of it?

Technical proficiency is one thing, stupid excercises that seemed to have no point to them and resulting in utterly BORING repetitive images, why bother?

I've had art instruction since Horrible Public School Trauma, that made sense... the public school stuff, though, was Simon Says Do This crap... and I have never reacted well to Simon Says type instruction. I want to know -why-... which Simon Says is antithetical to.

I always liked -arts and crafts- but the alleged teaching of it in public school that I got, was psychic poison and completely out of congruence with my learning and cognitive styles, particularly given that I;m left eyed and right handed, meaning that my coordination has never been wonderful....

==
Regarding Shaker stuff, that is completely form follows function, and the beauty is in the efficiency and spareness and reduction to the essentials and the aesthetic of elegance...

#687 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:23 PM:

Just turned on the TV and then this here Internet. I'm sure some correspondent here can explain something about the caucuses.

Why are the Democratic results based on, like, 2500 votes, while the Republican results show over 100,000 votes?


#688 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:30 PM:

Todd, my understanding of it is that you count everyone, and decide what the threshold is-- 15% of those who show up. Everyone goes to a separate area, sometimes a room, sometimes a section of gym, and they count to see how many there are. Numbers are pooled and everyone comes back. At this point, viable candidates (and possibly the nonviables-- there was shouting here, too, but the chair held firm) give presentations and everyone redistributes. A nonviable candidate can become viable here, either by taking people from other nonviables or from the viable ones. Then there's a possible third round-- ours didn't go that far.
I suspect ours was not exactly according to the rules. It felt like politics to me, rather than what it could have been.

#689 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:34 PM:

Bill Higgins @: The Democrats don't vote; they caucus. It's a sort of consensus vote over an entire precinct.

I am unclear as to whether the Republicans actually voted, or simultaneously voted and caucused, and if the latter which one is binding.

#690 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:39 PM:

Glub. @686, I meant to say, of course. (Had to switch to laptop, which is not so convenient at the moment.)

#691 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:46 PM:

Tim, #627: SF is a good mode for -topias, just as it is for satire, so naturally a lot of SF writers have written both. That doesn't mean that all -topias, or all satires, are SF.

There's a significant difference between satire (or mystery and romance, other popular genres that cross over into SF a lot) and -topias. You can write a satire, or mystery, or romance without including SF elements, but you can't write a -topia without them because the central element of a -topia is a science-fictional concept. And that was true even before science fiction was a recognized genre. (If it helps clarify my point, I feel the same way about alternate history.)

FWIW, my partner says that according to all his English teachers, the defining characteristic of SF/fantasy is that it is not set in (1) a recognizable historical period or (2) the present-day world. Which I think is a more concise way of stating my argument above.

claiming that the presence of any trope popular on the SF/F racks makes a book SF/F, regardless of how popular that trope is off those racks

With the exception of The Handmaid's Tale and The Road (i.e. the ones we're arguing about), I can't think of any popular contemporary -topia stories that aren't classified as SF. Can you provide other examples within the past 100 years or so? (And for that matter, I've seen The Handmaid's Tale on plenty of SF shelves too.)

Keir, #657: I really should have written that post better.

I agree -- because I had the same reaction Heresiarch did to that response. OTOH, this is still only 2 people telling you that you look like a duck, and so may be merely coincidence.

#692 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:48 PM:

Still life is not a basic/introductory technique in photography (and I wish, on a related subject, that Minor White had been a better writer, because the things he says about zone are better than Adams, but not as easily apprehended, but I digress). It should not be part of an intro/survey class.

What still life is good for is designing composition, and working with lighting. I'm still working on the first part of that. I do think my work at still life has helped in fieldwork composition, esp. wrt to macro work.

Stil life is hard to design, because one has to have some of the vocabulary, and grammar, of photography ready to hand, it doesn't have to be internalized, but one can't be trying to recall depth of field, rules of thirds, and center of interest; all at once; while trying to keep track of fall-off, lighting ratios and all the other things which are part of setting up a still life.

A basic class, in which the students have shown they have the basics down, might benefit from a week on still lifes (assuming the class meets twice, or even three times). But it's not something I'd put in the curriculum.

While shaker stuff is functional, there were still choices made in how they were done. Most people know about chairs (and a fair number know they invented the flat broom), but the recessed catches, and counterweight doors they have in chests of drawers and closets didn't have to be done that way.

The Shakers chose to work those aspects of the aesthetic. I think the same questions (what to leave out, what to leave in) apply to things like photgraphy, were the function isn't a function of the form; but the issues of reduction to essentials still have a part.

#693 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:49 PM:

3rd on Lizzy L's suggestion in 675: if this comment reads as too snarky for the OT, pretend it's in the politics thread.

Bill @686,

Part of the NYTimes article Got a Night Job? then no caucus for you may help explain it.

But I also just want to mention that article because it did not help me feel any better about the Iowa caucus.

We should have a lottery for states to get the first primaries. Let 10 states get them each major election, so that every voter has a few chances per lifetime of influencing the primary.

Yes, as a Californian I am biased. Just because we're over one tenth of the US population and an economically and culturally diverse state that just happens to be equivalent to a top-10 economic power doesn't mean we have to influence the primaries all the time. But some of the time, that'd be nice.

What, California can't represent farming votes? Looks like Iowa has 30 million acres of farmland and 79,000 individual/family farms. California has 28 million acres of farmland and 65,000 individual/family farms. We can represent on that.

#694 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2008, 11:53 PM:

On a related, but tangiental note, I'd like to thank everyone who has made comments about art in this thread (and in some other recent thread which wandered that way).

It's been enlightening to drag my conceptions of art out into the light and describe, defend, and explain them.

#695 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:29 AM:

Lee @690 (and indirectly Keir @657): I got the point that was being made, but thought it was a rather unfortunate way to put it across.

#696 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:54 AM:

Terry #691

The still life trauma was from junior high school, and other traumatic experiences from that alleged art class was "there is going to be a school play. Come up with a concept you draw for the cover of the flyer." There was no actual information provided regarding what the play was about etc., and no real guidance.... aarrggghhhhh!

As for the "draw the still life" there was nothing in the class regarding DOING lighting.... that was outside the scope of such things as I recall. The concept of shading models, etc., were only things I picked up long after as an adult, looking at computer graphics from a technical perspective and modeling and such.

The friend I was talking with on Jan 1, Susan Champeny, who last year designed a Wayfinder mosaic that's in Worcester, said that she teaches kids to "draw a planet" to introduce shading and light/dark stuff, first having them draw circles with something circular, and then getting into dark and light and shading and such. When I mentioned the white to black stuff she said that she'd probably been the person mixing the chemicals used in the photography lab I was taking the class in at MIT....

But the things I was trying to say about "draw a still life" is that the quality/technique issues and the emotional complete lack of -involvement- for me, precluded me having any positive regard. I just did not quite literally see anything of value in that exercise, because it was, again, a set piece of profound visual and emotional tedium to me--it's the sort of thing that if someone were in a music class and a major piece specified in the class to learn were My Sharonna and the person being told to learn and play this piece, found nothing of appeal about that work and was on the contrary repulsed by its tonality and rhythm and repetitiveness and lack of apparent meaning...

That gets back to perception and view, of "Is this at all meaningful or evocative in any way the beholder/viewer/hearer has any positive appreciation for?"

If one is required to do exercises on topic matter that, again, one finds profoundly tedious/uninteresting/boring/unintriguing/uninvolving, then generally one is going to be very unethusiastic and not appreciative of being told "you will do this exercise because we tell you to."

Hmm, a something different perpective by analogy--a friend of mine saw nothing of interest to her in math when in public school. If anyone had told her back then that math was useful for financial transaction tracking, however, she would have been vastly interested, for such areas a compound annual growth rate and compounding of wealth, etc. But nobody framed math to her in that fashion, and therefore she found it profoundly lacking in interest/relevance to her.

The point there, is that art is supposed to effect emotion and elicit response other than, "this is crap/irrelevant/stupid/boring/pretentious/tedious/a waste of time and effort and resources!"

I keep singling out the still life, because for me the typical still life makes a post or stump look like an highly intelligent subject... actually, that's an understatement. I find stumps and posts to often been quite visually striking, and have taken a number of pictures of them because I find them visually intriguing. I've taken pictures of desserts as art objects, and sometimes even of displays of fruit for sale, looking at the color balance etc. But still life, for me is generally totally lacking in "life." They're BORING, from my perspective and aesthetic value, it's "oh, look, this is Stock Stupid Art Class Inanity. Yetch!"

For that matter, I detested pastels in school, too.... the ones they used were nasty, made dusty messes and got icky kinaesthetically repulsive grit on me, the color balance didn nothing positive for me... and yet, I have amassed pastels in the past decade of so and play with them... but it's on my terms, for use with my aesthetics. One of things I learned over time, was that the way that I was supposedly being "taught" in art class in junior high, is not a form of teaching art that worked for me, it made me feel I was completely lacking in artistic talent in the form that the school system thought it should display... it took a long time for -artists- to convince me otherwise, as oposed to "those who can't teach" to be snide about it.

There are a number of aesthetic and intrinsic/extrinsic considerations, and the axes just were not congruent. Basically, the art classes I had in public school, were highly inflexible and rigid in approach, and demanded that the student do things their way... and I did not have the hand-eye coordination and particular perceptual/analytical/kinaesthetic constitution which matched up with the style and values and orientation assumed for "normal" demanded for junior high art. It was a one size Procrustean art class, and I was noncongruent to that particular dimensionality space....

#697 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:10 AM:

Terry at 693: Seconded and ditto.

This cluster of subjects has been on my mind a while now anyway - December 30 was three years since my grandfather died, and I've spent a long time meditating on what it's meant to grow up and live in the shadow (figuratively and literally) of his work. If nothing else, I've been having to reach an understanding of how his ideas about art have shaped mine - the ones I heard him express directly (too few) and the ones I gleaned from his work ethic and long exposure to the results. It's been... fascinating, but draining too, and it's been putting a sharp current through some rather tender places.

Er... gosh, that was personal. Sorry about that. I suppose it only demonstrates how much the subject can wrap around stuff that runs deep, and well under the rational and reasoned dialogue that the discussion itself entails.

#698 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:24 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 468 ...
The weather having conspired, I'm wondering if the flurosphere has conspired to eat my email... or if I've completely failed to notice plans being made...

#699 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:36 AM:

Paula: Ah, drawing still lifes... not being one who draws (and I didn't understand you were talking about drawing/painting), I can't say about the value of them.

As for creating art... that's hard. I think at some basic level, the art has to be for the artist. I have some photos I like, which I'll never print for sale.

Because I think they suck... as "art." To me they say something, but it's the same something the guy who told us people were having sex off camera gets when he looks at the pictures.

To that artist, the things going on out of sight are probably evoked when the pictures are looked at. For that person (and probably anyone else who was involved) those pictures actually mean something.

I think the hardest thing to teach is the idea of doing it for me, with the interest of sharing. I do know that the pictures I've taken which didn't appeal to me; as I took them, were junk. They come out flat. If they don't speak to me, how then, can they speak to someone else.

So, when I'm dead (or perhaps when my kids are going through old files) someone might find them and say, "Wow". At which point I become found art.

Dan Layman-Kennedy: No need to apologise to me for sharing personal thoughts. It's not as if I've not inflicted some of my personal problems on people here. If it helps, glad to be of service.

#700 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:50 AM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy @ 642: "My apologies; I didn't mean to be reasonable. :) If you like, you can imagine me continuing my agitating-firebrand schtick in whatever direction would most suit countering with your cake-flour analogy, which I'm sorry got waylaid as I loves me some convergence."

I'll give it a try, but it's just not the same. *sigh*

What I wanted to point out was the attitude that informed the exchange. When Xopher didn’t understand Terry’s reference to soft flour and asked about it, Terry explained, and recommended several books on the subject. Knowledge about baking isn’t being privileged here. It’s treated just like any other kind of specialized knowledge: it must be taught.

Contrast that with attitude often taken towards art appreciation. “What do you mean you don’t like it? It’s Great Art!” There’s no awareness that appreciating art is a skill that has to be learned and practiced, just like anything else. This is because the artistic community usually see themselves as being engaged in timeless, universally human endeavors. They don’t understand how much of their “timeless universality” is a product of their particular cultural context. Serious Literature is just as much a genre as speculative fiction*; the only difference is that spec-fic knows it's a genre.

The point of this all being: when you're creating art, it behooves you to recognize that you’re engaging in an activity that relies on a whole lot of acquired specialist knowledge. Expecting people who aren’t conversant in that area to understand what you're doing without an explanation is a little ridiculous. You have to be aware of how far off the beaten path you’ve gotten, and how (or whether) to get people out to where you are.

(Now that I wrote that, I see that it's also a good response to Keir @ 657 as well. When I say "normal" I mean "generic non-specialist," not beer-drinker.)

*I like the term speculative fiction: it encompasses both science fiction and fantasy, and all the weird stuff scattered around and between them. When I write sf, that's what I mean.

#701 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:14 AM:

Terry Karney @ 693: Indeed! This has been quite fun. It's been really nice to have such an interesting, but pleasant discussion.

#702 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:30 AM:

Lee #690: FWIW, my partner says that according to all his English teachers, the defining characteristic of SF/fantasy is that it is not set in (1) a recognizable historical period or (2) the present-day world. Which I think is a more concise way of stating my argument above.

That's as broad a definition as I've ever seen, but I still immediately thought of an exception: William Gibson's last two novels, which take place entirely in the present (or, properly, the very very recent past) and feature no outright speculative elements, and yet as far as I'm concerned are nothing but SF, and damned great SF at that. And no, I can't come up with a reasonable definition of SF that contains them, either.

#703 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 03:49 AM:

Marilee, back at 491:

I was startled when I first heard Eva Cassidy's version that someone could make such a familiar song so completely her own.

Thanks to Teresa for particling the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version; I hadn't seen the funeral footage that was at the end of that.

I have two strong memories of Iz. One was actually seeing him in concert (I know; how lucky was I?), back when he was with the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau. What a voice! He also had a great stage presence, telling stories and laughing. He wasn't as big as he got to be later, but he was still plenty big even then -- I saw him at the airport and they were using a forklift to get him on the plane.

I was also vacationing in Hawaii when he died, in 1997. We were on Maui and were driving up Haleakala with the intention of eating a picnic lunch at the top, but we got fogged in partway up and pulled off the road. We just ate in the car listening to the radio, and that's when we learned that Iz had died. It was a Hawaiian music station, but it didn't play much music that day -- it just became a talk show with people calling in and crying. That night back at the hotel we watched the tv shows about him. A weird way to spend a vacation day, but it seemed right. We had tremendous respect for him, and still talk about some of the things he told the audience back at that concert in the 80s.

#704 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 04:07 AM:

Epacris at #581 writes:

> Steve @ 569: According to this undated essay by Alasdair Gray in the Scottish Sunday Herald (May 2007?), altho' he adopted and used the saying extensively, he "found it in a long poem by the Canadian author, Dennis Leigh [sic]* … in the late '70s", and liked it because he finds it "inspiring but not boastful".

Thanks Epacris - I had no idea it had roots outside Scotland. I think it is a bit boastful, but in a healthy enough way - using arrogance as a shield and a tool to encourage action. I put it next to

"When I want to read a good book, I write one." - Benjamin Disraeli

#705 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 04:40 AM:

On Agatha Heterodyne's sigil: We've seen a sigil acquire wings before -- that of House Sturmvoraus. Compare the sigil in panel 1 here to various ones elsewhere, frex panel 4 here.

I once asked Phil Foglio about that, and he said that the one with wings was newer.

#706 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 06:28 AM:

Serge @668 & 671 - no one knows what a Moa actually looked like, so those probably are emu feathers (after a while it seemed every museum in NZ had a moa; some of the reconstructions used emu feathers, some ostrich and some didn't say). We can be confident on the general bodyshape but the feathers are an educated guess. That's one of the shaggier ones I saw.

Terry @670 - I like my photo too (surprise), but the two together give a better impression of what the exhibit is like in person. (I didn't use my flash*; the wikipedia photo did; in the flesh it's somewhere in between)

* I expect flash was banned as none of my pictures from that museum have flash on them, but the hall was quite dark so it would have disturbed everyone anyway

#707 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 07:37 AM:

Neil Willcox @ 705... Thanks for the explanation as to why the moa looks like the emu.

#708 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 07:40 AM:

Lee @ 690... ethan @ 701... By that definition, The Day The Earth Stood Still wouldn't be SF.

#709 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 07:58 AM:

What makes something SF isn't so much its themes and/or settings. What makes it SF really is its approach to Reality. Isn't that why The Sand Pebbles was considered SF by its author?

#710 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:17 AM:

One advantage of still lives is that they don't move. Which is useful for students who are just learning to translate what they see onto paper, and may need to take their time about it--more than one class session, even--and make multiple drawings.

They might seem a bit boring, but the point isn't to immediately create Art--it's to practice; to hone skills that will come in handy when you want to tackle something more meaningful.

Another thing to remember: to a lot of artists, just the act of drawing is interesting or challenging or useful in and of itself, regardless of subject. (This is how I know I'm not much of an artist myself; days go by when I fail to put anything in my sketchbooks because I'm not awake, or not aware, or not something enough to come up with anything interesting--although I'm probably surrounded by good subjects, if I could only inspire myself to find them.)

#711 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:44 AM:

Lizzy L, #675: your wish has been granted, it seems. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. I'm not exactly jumping out of my skin; I'm not surprised. But I am not happy either.

#712 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:55 AM:

joann's mention of performance art reminded me of an article I read once, a where-are-they-now piece about an American writer who had one famous and best-selling novel in the 1960s (you'd recognise the title, but it's not relevant at the moment). Having decided that fame and fortune was not his scene, he gave all his money to his son and is currently living in near-poverty in Sussex.

His son is a performance artist. According to the article, he had used the money (or part of it) to fund a performance work commenting on the hollowness of the modern high-flying yuppie lifestyle, or some such thing; it basically consisted of him spending all his time in trendy coffee houses, drinking coffee and reading newspapers.

My reaction to this was, and is, that somebody was definitely pulling somebody's leg, but darned if I know who.

#713 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:56 AM:

#634 - Diatryma -

I love that "Terry Pratchett" is a classification in your system. It just makes me happy to think about it.

#714 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 09:04 AM:

The still-life bowl of fruit is the traditional-art equivalent of the CGI of chrome balls on a checked surface.

(And a lot of people putting CGI pictures on the web don't have much idea of what some parts of the technology are for. This picture shows what the ambient channel does (on the right), but nobody seems to use it.)

(Poser uses Phong shading as a default. which uses Ambient to give the effect of indirect light reflected from the surroundings. With raytacing, lightprobes, etc., you get a CPU-intensive increase in realism.)

The things is, as with photography, there's a difference between what you get by a methodical, step by step, approach and the instinctive. Ansel Adams didn't really have to think about the process, beyond the knowledge of how bright the Moon was. On the other hand, using a Weston meter, rather than relying on camera automation, means you have to think about what you're doing.

The hard part is getting to the point that you know enough to think about art, rather than process.

#715 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 09:16 AM:

ethan @ 701: How about: science fiction concerns the relationship between humanity and technology. Does that encompass anything you can think of as sf?

#716 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 09:44 AM:

Paula: I always liked -arts and crafts- but the alleged teaching of it in public school that I got, was psychic poison and completely out of congruence with my learning and cognitive styles

This is unfortunately typical of high-school instruction (I wouldn't call it "teaching") in general. I'm glad to hear that you found better teachers later.

Now, Tim Walters @#663 has a point, but there are always some times where the exercises quit being fun for a while. Even so, that's no excuse for a supposed teacher to treat a perfectly good topic like an obstacle course -cum- elimination round!

#717 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:23 AM:

Serge @ #563: and Billie Piper is playing Fanny Price in Mansfield Park.

abi @ # 568: I have the same problem, and not just with video games. The "Powers of Ten" IMAX literally made me throw up.

Playing vs. watching someone else play may have different effects because when you're playing, the visual "movement" is at least coordinated with what you're doing with your hands, though not with the off-screen environment. (I think this is why I sometimes get carsick as a passenger, but never ever when I'm driving.)

#718 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:25 AM:

heresiarch, as I expected (and I hope this doesn't cause further disappointment), I can find nothing to argue with in your 699, though I think a lot of it just falls under the all-purpose code of "don't act like a dick."

I think that the assumption of universality is a very easy trap for creative people to fall into - that anyone could like or get what you're doing, or ought to. As I was vaguely getting at way upthread, it's something I've definitely had to navigate as a musician, with the understanding that not everyone is going to dig what I do, and that not everyone needs to. At a certain point, I do have to just forget about all that and create the work that's asking to be made, but it enters inevitably into the equation of where the intent and the execution and the audience all interact.

(And, indeed, one of things I'm trying to do is at least maintain an attitude that corrects for some of the more unfortunate behavior in the community of progressive rock fans, which is about as triumphalist and insular and self-referential a group as you could ask for. My love of prog is great and deep, but I stay way the hell away from online prog fandom, because the alternating currents of "why can't everyone appreciate the greatness of our rich and wonderful genre" and "our rarified tastes are just too good for the dumb pop-radio sheep and they will never understand us" make me want to lay about with a two-by-four. Which points to a useful corollary of your statements: Not only is it necessary to learn to appreciate art, it needs to be understood that not everyone should be expected to make the effort. Which is why I frequently get itchy when foodie conversations come up, and why, upon my apotheosis, I'm chucking Jeffrey Steingarten into the same ring of Hell as the hosts of What Not to Wear. "Don't act like a dick.")

And, of course, the learning protocols are different everywhere. One of my bandmates, after sitting in on some sessions with folks who play old-time folk music, was amazed not only at how deceptively complex it is, but at how everyone who plays it seems to know the same canon of material, or at least enough of it to find their way through anything unfamiliar. ("What can we play next? Do you know 'Horny Old Goat?'" "No, how does it go?" "Oh, it's just like 'Bucket o' Trout,' but with an Am instead of an E in the chorus." "Okay, got it. One, two, three...")

#719 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:31 AM:

#713 Dave Bell

The still-life bowl of fruit is the traditional-art equivalent of the CGI of chrome balls on a checked surface.

I don't agree there, for reasons that include that was a baby step in computer graphics for the masses, in much the same way that Flying Logos were a stereotype--people did them because they became possible and it was experimenting with trying to do them. Note that a couple decades later, they've long out of vogue except for limited areas where there is a functional or aesthetic reason for them to be around now (or it's a historical retrospective). It was an experimental phase of learning how to do shading and reflection and shapes and lighting, for the balls on backgrounds.... and they aren't objects of exercises anymore that I'm aware of. Rendering is a lot faster, more complex, there are lots more tools, lots more colorspace, etc., available. Concentration on doing textures--hair, scales, skins, lumps, bumps, "natural" movement, etc., have long since eclipsed "let's try to get reflection and shading and shape on simple shape objects on checkboards."

(And a lot of people putting CGI pictures on the web don't have much idea of what some parts of the technology are for.

What's different between than and people who draw figures with no appreciation for what is beneath the skin enabling movement etc.? That is, people copying comic book style with no appreciation for what actual bodies and physiology and musculature are....

This picture shows what the ambient channel does (on the right), but nobody seems to use it.)

(Poser uses Phong shading as a default. which uses Ambient to give the effect of indirect light reflected from the surroundings. With raytacing, lightprobes, etc., you get a CPU-intensive increase in realism.)

But, MPUs etc. have gotten a lot more powerful, and there are lots of programs out there... though the high end ones are filthy expensive.

The things is, as with photography, there's a difference between what you get by a methodical, step by step, approach and the instinctive.

It can be worse in the CGI world... I get irate about "the controls I WANT to get at, exist in the damn CODE and programming, why won't the developers let me get at the QUANTITATIVE control instead of forcing me to "go that away" ?!!!

Ansel Adams didn't really have to think about the process, beyond the knowledge of how bright the Moon was. On the other hand, using a Weston meter, rather than relying on camera automation, means you have to think about what you're doing.

When I was using my father's old Rolleicord (sadly I didn't grab it when my parents cleared out their house) which had a busted rangefinder, I got really good at estimating distances.... and it being a manual completely camera, I also got decent and eyeball guesstimating light intensities....

The hard part is getting to the point that you know enough to think about art, rather than process.

Often they are the same....

Getting back to that shibboleth of the still life.... there is a depth level that the still life is antithetical to, in my perceptions.

That is, when I look at a Real Scene, I see the -objects- in the scene and the spatial relationships among them, and the texture/tactile kinaesthetics, much more than I "see" visual light and color interplay at surface level. What's the psychological relationship of these objects, what if anything does the juxtaposition say, what about the tactile dimension? The object of the still life exercise from my view is utterly and completely banal... but then I work off how things -relate- to one another... it's part of the many reasons why I absolutely hated, loathed, and despised Macintoshes--the itsy bitsy display area didn't let me see spatial relationships to use as mappings..-where- something is, to me have a very definite perceptual kinaesthetic meaningful dimensionality, and given my peculiar memory (-where- did I put that?! Years ago at a Fourth Street, someone found a Logan (Boston) Airport parking ticket, and folks started asking, "who might this belong to?" and the universal and correct response that everyone asked gave, was "Paula." Mislaying things is a way of life, alas, for me. If I put something down without thnking about it.... I have to go an retrace what I was doing and try to reconstruct the situation of when and where I might have left something.

But anyway, that is actually truly -organic- with me. The still life meme is off in conceptual space, which to me, again, is almost terminally conceptually tedious and uninteresting and lacking in value/merit/attention as it gets... it's not there for interest/texture/concept-of-the-arrangement, it's there to be a boring tedious exercise with a boring resulting image that makes bad prints of a boring scene look interesting and worthwhile.... the subject matter and the concept and arrangement are nonunique and totally tedious, lacking in texture, lacking in emotion, lacking in relevance....

Regarding a bowl of fruit--the primary purpose of fruit in a bowl is as something someone can easily take out of the bowl and -eat-. But, a still live does not have the hand grabbing out a fruit, it's static, and -dead-. Fruit left in a bowl over time with dry out and wither and/or rot. The still life shows the fruit frozen in time, but again, -why-? If's not as if the still life image usually is the epitome of fruit-in-a-bowl-frozen-in-the- instant-before-someone-snatches-the-fruit away. There's no timesense involved, and yet, fruit is ephemeral... so there is for me a disjunction there, because the subject is ephemeral, but the image acts as though the fruit isn't ephemeral.

Then there is the texture issue, of tactile versus visual, and that I suppose is where still lives -really- leave me emotionally cold and annoyed, at the "you want to spend time and effort appreciating something so inutterably lacking in verve and appeal and senses-appeal?

Good fruit has taste, smell, tactile appeal. Still lives leave out everything except -some- of the visual dimensionality of "what is fruit?" and instead of the lush multidimensional appeal of fruit to the senses, there is this lousy rendition visually that is a poverty of expression.

Blllleeeeeeccccchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

#720 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:44 AM:

717 Dan

Cohorts have common memes.
Baby boomers who watched Saturday morning kiddie cartoons know the theme music to kiddie cartoons. Old time musicians from the same era and background in music, know the tropes for the common canon music. Regulars here at Making Light have a common pool of referents that can be extremely opaque to people who are in other cultural dimensions...

#721 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:46 AM:

Lila @ 716... Does she? Thanks for the tip. By the way, I presume (foolishly?) that these new adaptations were aired in Europe some time ago. If so, I wonder what Austen fans think of them.

#722 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:47 AM:

Serge @631: "...Phorusrhacids (family Phorusrhacidae) or terror birds were large carnivorous flightless birds that were the dominant predators in South America during the Cenozoic, 62–2 million years ago.

I was trying to see if I could find an article in Scientific American I remembered reading years ago. I found an index which identified what was probably the article I was thinking of: THE TERROR BIRDS OF SOUTH AMERICA by Larry G. Marshall; February 1994, page 64.

It was reprinted in a collection titled Dinosaurs and Other Monsters, which I found offered for sale here. This preview was provided:

It is a summer day on the pampas of central Argentina some five million years ago. A herd of small, horselike mammals are grazing peacefully in the warm sun. None of the animals is aware of the tall, vigilant creature standing 50 meters away in the high grass. Most of the watcher's trim, feathered body is concealed by the vegetation. Its eyes, set on the sides of a disproportionately large head perched on a long and powerful neck, are fixed on the herd. The head moves from side to side in short, rapid jerks, permitting a fix on the prey without the aid of stereoscopic vision.

Soon the head drops to the level of the grass, and the creature moves forward a few meters, then raises its head again to renew the surveillance. At a distance of 30 meters, the animal is almost ready to attack. In preparation, it lowers its head to a large rock close to its feet, rubbing its deep beak there to sharpen the bladelike edges.

At the time, I was working in an office with one lady who was into birds, and another was into horses. An illustration sequence of the terror bird hunting and eating one of the 'small, horselife mammals' (last frame: bird sitting back with what looked like a satisfied smile, with little hooves sticking out of its mouth) was entertaining.

Related to a conversation on one of the other threads, a 'Paleontological Discoveries' thread on a science forum starts with this comment:

It has been established for some time now, though perhaps not universally accepted, that birds are, in actual fact, not only directly descended from dinosaurs, but ARE dinosaurs.

Thus, the "Terror Birds" of South America can be considered the last of the large dinosaurian carnivores.

The post contains a link to a National Geographic article.

#723 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:52 AM:

Rob Rusick @ 721... last frame: bird sitting back with what looked like a satisfied smile, with little hooves sticking out of its mouth

I can just imagine the ML feast.
"All right, who wants a eohippus drumstick?"

#724 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 11:27 AM:

Paula, the modern CGI software has "learnt" how to do chrome balls.

A camera similarly provides an essentially non-sentient mechanism to convert obects into an image.

The human artist still has to learn the basic craft of drawing something. They have toi build the internal tools to convert what they see into, for instance, pencil marks on paper. Which is what the chrome balls were for, but with computers we can copy the tools for ever after.

#725 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 11:42 AM:

#723 Dave

The chrome balls were people setting up renders... now all that stuff's been converted to "I want a ball with these characteristics" and the CGI artist chooses the placement and specific characteristics. All the art of setting up for doing the rendering's been subsumed into the "front end" rendering engine setup parameters.

Actually -drawing- is a different issue with different kinaesthetics. Various people I know who do art using computers as tools, talking about "painting" (and they specifically are using the word "painting") using their computers, using e.g. the software with the name Painter. Instead of a physical brush with physical paint and and physical canvas or board or paper etc., they're using a computer system.

For that matter, I don't recall seeing CGI artist doing still lifes for exercises.... creating images of people (including, sigh, the usual overabundance of female nudes in computer art magazines.... reminds me of SF art shows... talk about graphical imbalances....), natural outside scenery, fantasy and SF and other not-reality-outside-on-this-planet scenes, dragons, etc. etc., but not still lifes. I think that that speaks volumes....

#726 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 11:45 AM:

Re: #721: At the time, I was working in an office with one lady who was into birds, and another was into horses.

'At the time' referred to an article [..] I remembered reading years ago, not a summer day on the pampas of central Argentina some five million years ago. In case anyone was bothered by the ambiguity. If we're looking to get this feast catered, we can't rule out time travel.

#727 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 11:46 AM:

And now... the Paper Pope!

#728 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 11:52 AM:

Dave Bell @ #713:

The hard part is getting to the point that you know enough to think about art, rather than process.

Strangely, one of the things I enjoy about 3d art is that I have to focus so intensively on process that I don't really think about the artistic side of it...the aesthetic stuff "just happens." But I think that's because I have some difficulty with my creative process--if I don't keep the analytical part of my brain occupied, it gets all up in my grill, criticizing my choices, and I get blocked. Whereas if I feed it a technical challenge, it gets out of my way. Some of my favorite images and objects have come from trying to figure out a function of the software, rather than trying to compose a picture.

I also like to use materials that are inherently limiting in RL art, like lino blocks or quick-dry clay. Working within challenging technical boundaries seems to push me creatively. In writing, I have the same experience--the more hoops I have to jump through for a story or poem, the easier it is to write.

But again, I've got a problem with an internal wall. As the problem gets better, I'm more able to be deliberately creative, instead of tricking myself into it.

#729 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:10 PM:

Paula Lieberman @#724

For that matter, I don't recall seeing CGI artist doing still lifes for exercises

Here's an outstanding still life, and you will see this sort of thing if you hang out on the galleries for the higher-level software products. It's not the norm among 3d hobbyists, though--nowadays most of us start out using Poser, which used to be exclusively for posing and rendering prefab human figures, and is still all about prefab. Then we branch out into adding props and sets...generally a temple and a sword, LOL. Eventually people either make the leap into modelling their own objects, or they start working in painter instead, and learn to paint the props and so forth around their rendered humans. Organic (fruit, etc) modelling is rare because it's much harder than doing mechanical forms or clothing.

But there's a whole other class of CGI artists who are serious professionals, and they tend to use CG tools to tackle the same challenges that people use analog art materials for...that's the stuff I like the best. Although I'm firmly in the hobby category, myself.

#730 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:23 PM:

From my perspective, learning to draw is as much about learning to see things as it is learning the tools and their uses.
I have to admit, my junior-high art teacher was forgiving of what we produced; I believe she understood that we weren't all going to be artists, but we'd at least come out with some understanding of what art involved. (Clay, watercolor, pencil, pen-and-ink, and some odd stuff like copper enameling and copper repousse: we met things there.)
(We had a semester of art and one of music-and-current-events both of those years. At the time, we had no shop or home ec before high school.)

#731 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:28 PM:

#728, Mary Dell -

That's really beautiful.

I'm fascinated by well-executed CG images in part because after I spend a few moments being impressed, I start looking at where it looks wrong, using it as a sort of sensor for the black box that is "how my brain processes images." I feel a bit guilty about it, sometimes, because it *is* mentally finding fault with something I couldn't possibly do, but it fascinates me just the same.

#732 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:39 PM:

Xeger @697,

I've neither sent nor received emails, but I just sent one out now. I've actually yet to make it to downtown, between visits to escarpments and other relative places. I will be doing the traditional 'bookstore like Bakka-arisen to find UK versions and/or books not yet out in the US' trip today or tomorrow, but the time is not yet set.

hmm. Looks like B/P closes at 8 today, and isn't far from Dufferin.

#733 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:45 PM:

If we're looking to get this feast catered, we can't rule out time travel.

Maybe get some help from the Trantor ConCom?

#734 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Mary Dell @ 728... You did that? Wow.

#735 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:53 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 725... If we're looking to get this feast catered, we can't rule out time travel.

Got any tiotimoline left?

#736 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Tracie 726: My hands are making lighter-flicking and match-striking motions. I wonder why?

#737 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:57 PM:

Serge, #707: Good point. Clearly, we need more than one definition to cover all the bases; but I think the one I offered there is still a good place from which to start.

Dan, #717: My partner finds it amazing that I can identify so many different contradance tunes by name. But after hearing them for some 25 years, I bloody well ought to know what they are!

The other thing about dance music -- and old-time is a particularly strong example of this -- is that it tends to use the same subsets of chords and progressions for a lot of different songs. That's perfectly in keeping with the purpose of the music, but it does mean that there's a certain... sameness... about listening to an evening's worth of old-time. I'm reminded of a friend, someone who was used to SCA dancing, when I took him to his first contradance with an old-time band. Midway thru the evening, he asked me, "So are they actually playing different songs, or just the same one over and over again?"

#738 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 12:58 PM:

Serge 733: Not unless Mary uses the name "Bartek Nowakowski" when posting online.

#739 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:01 PM:

Serge #707: Well, that's an embarrassingly obvious objection that didn't occur to me.

heresiarch #714: Well, that doesn't work, because it doesn't include fantasy, or alternate history, or social science fiction. Or, depending on your definition of "about," things like Star Wars.

#740 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:02 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 731 ...

... I've replied to your email, but I'm noting it here, to find out if there's some black hole that eats my email to you...

#741 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Xopher @ 737... Oops. That'll teach me what happens when one doesn't scroll all the way down. It's a good thing that one can't die out of embarassment otherwise I'd have been pushing the daisies the moment after I started blogging around.

#742 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:06 PM:

Serge #734: Remember, it has to be resublimated thiotimoline.

#743 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:08 PM:

ethan @ 737... that's an embarrassingly obvious objection

Nah.

#744 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:12 PM:

#740 ::: Serge @ 740 ...
It's a good thing that one can't die out of embarassment otherwise I'd have been pushing the daisies the moment after I started blogging around.

... which is why you should always practice SAFE BLOGGING!!! [0]

[0] Abstinence -clearly- being your best defense ;)

#745 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:12 PM:

Fragano @ 741... it has to be resublimated thiotimoline.

Curses! My coffeemaker-cum-resublimator is broken!

#746 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:31 PM:

xeger @ 743...

Astringence is my best defense?
("No, Serge. Abstinence")
Oh. Nevermind.

#747 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Mary #728

a) I can't get it to load.
b) The earning-their-livings artists I know who're using computer graphics as tools, don't seem to do still lifes (for that matter, I own at least a dozen pieces of original artwork, including a Donato drawing... the artists whose work I own, are not know for doing still lives. (The Theresa Mathers acrylic on obsidian is of town in a tree....

This one ultimately comes down to aesthetics.... mine are that unadorned ordinary fruit in a bowl is one of the most boring things in the universe to choose as a topic for a visual study painting or drawing as-is, and anybody who insists in the abstract that it is Important to reproduce as artwork fruit-in-a-bowl as stock exercise without doing -some- perturbation of parody, caricature, distortion, etc., isn't going to persuade me to regard it as intrinsically meritorious/worthwhile--nor is anyone going to persuade me that e.g. Spam is a yummy substance. Some people really really really like Spam; to me it is anti-food, however. Spam is yummy for them, for me, it is not, never has been, and never will be yummy, as regards its prospects for -me- as "food."

Art can be in the perceptions of the beholder, food for the minds and senses, as food is food (or not, if it's Spam...) for the body....

#748 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Xeger@739,

hmm. Haven't seen it. Try kathryn underscore sunnyvale at yahoo (instead of the dot). Did you get my email? I'm about to be heading out... if you email Serge, he can give my cell phone #. (Serge- one of the Making Light Making Weight meetup mails has it. Starts with 408)

#749 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:01 PM:

Lee @ 690: but you can't write a -topia without [SF elements] because the central element of a -topia is a science-fictional concept.

But... isn't this just circular reasoning? Your premise is exactly what I'm contesting.

All you need for a -topia is an imaginary society. This needn't involve other worlds, or new tech. It can be on the next island over.

"Books about imaginary societies" makes an interesting grouping, but there are many reasonable definitions of SF that are not isomorphic to it.

FWIW, my partner says that according to all his English teachers, the defining characteristic of SF/fantasy is that it is not set in (1) a recognizable historical period or (2) the present-day world.

Others have pointed out the problems with this definition even on its own terms, but, more importantly from my point of view, it fails to address the fact that SF is not just a set of tropes, but also a historical phenomenon. For many purposes that doesn't matter; for aggressive claims against authors who don't regard their work as SF, it does.

With the exception of The Handmaid's Tale and The Road (i.e. the ones we're arguing about), I can't think of any popular contemporary -topia stories that aren't classified as SF. Can you provide other examples within the past 100 years or so?

Herland immediately jumps to mind. If we're counting post-apocalyptic stuff like The Road, I'd add Riddley Walker and Galapagos. (I'm assuming "classified" means "classified by the publisher." I don't know what the authors think in these cases, or what the critical consensus is.)

But I agree that most of the recent -topian action has been science-fictional. It's the natural mode for it in the modern era.

(And for that matter, I've seen The Handmaid's Tale on plenty of SF shelves too.)

Clearly it's close enough to SF that SF fans are going to take an interest in it. My assertion, in the end, isn't that THT is or isn't SF (I don't think there's a right answer to that question), but rather that Atwood isn't being "egregious" or engaging in "Genre Denial Syndrome" by saying that it isn't.

#750 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Kathryn @ 747... You might want to email that nbr to me again. I blame an evil entity for the overenthusiastic cleanup of my inbox.

#751 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:05 PM:

Serge @ 745 ...
Astringence is my best defense?
("No, Serge. Abstinence")
Oh. Nevermind.

That's right Serge - astringents are things you rub on your face... abstinence is something rubbed in your face for you...

#752 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Tim @ 748

I keep thinking of "He Walked Around the Horses" by Piper. It's SF (or maybe fantasy). It's also set in a definitely-recognizable historical period, if not the present. And it's only partly fiction ....

#753 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:08 PM:

#747 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 747
hmm. Haven't seen it. Try kathryn underscore sunnyvale at yahoo (instead of the dot). Did you get my email? I'm about to be heading out... if you email Serge, he can give my cell phone #. (Serge- one of the Making Light Making Weight meetup mails has it. Starts with 408)

Odd, very odd... I shall clearly have to have Words with yahoo about their latest rendition of spam controls. I've tried a different address, also, being that I'm stuck at work.

#754 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:11 PM:

heresiarch,

This is because the artistic community usually see themselves as being engaged in timeless, universally human endeavors.

just speaking from my own experiences again, getting a bfa in canada 2003-06: ever since postmodernism & postcolonialism, art instruction is super aware that our art is a very privileged, very western, very narrow-canon thing to do or appreciate. & not really proudly, either.

i mean, everybody wanted to make better art, but i can't remember any grand speeches about how our art was going to improve humanity. maybe there was even a sort of twisted reverse-snobbery (indistinguishable at a distance from olden-timey snobbery) about how "high art" was doomed, opaque, useless, unprofitable, & the only thing worth doing.

also, i always boggle at the meme (you didn't say it, i'm just associating now) that "the art community is trying to maintain its hold by pushing the idea that artistic ability is inborn." the impression that i'm an idiot savant or some "other" category of human is one i only get from non-arty-types ("my god! i couldn't draw a straight line!" "if i tried that, it would look like a stick figure!").

in art school, every single teacher agreed that creativity & artistic skill are 100% acquiring knowledge & practice.

#755 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 02:27 PM:

heresiarch #699: Contrast that with attitude often taken towards art appreciation. “What do you mean you don’t like it? It’s Great Art!” There’s no awareness that appreciating art is a skill that has to be learned and practiced, just like anything else.

You'd have loved taking my classes in "Introduction to the Visual Arts", then. I structured them on the notion that students needed to learn a vocabulary and a way of looking, and that the most important question you could ask about an artwork was "How does this piece *work*?" in a very literal engineering sense, all put together as a sort of ASL (Art as a Second Language) thing.

#756 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 03:19 PM:

My assertion, in the end, isn't that THT is or isn't SF (I don't think there's a right answer to that question), but rather that Atwood isn't being "egregious" or engaging in "Genre Denial Syndrome" by saying that it isn't.

She is being egregious, however, when she says that Oryx and Crake isn't SF. It's got genetically-modified pigs, an entire new species of humans, a post-apocalyptic world...that was all I got in the 25% or so of it I read, but it was every bit as much SF as, say The Postman*--more so, even. But SF isn't classy, so she denies it.

*Chosen for slight similarity of theme, not because I think David Brin is any sort of be-all and end-all of SF.

#757 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 03:38 PM:

As an adjunct to the discussion on art, still lives, the universe and everything ;), I'd like to recommend Bert Teunissen's "Domestic Landscapes", a multi-country project in which he photographed interiors of old homes. 'Old' in the sense of aged and worn, along with the inhabitants who have aged with their environment.

An article I read about these works pointed out that Teunissen's careful composition leaves out some of the disadvantages of these interiors. They're badly heated, perhaps full of mold and germs, the electrical systems aren't up to code, and the inhabitants may be pretty poor. However, says the article, "Artists -- in contrast to historians -- have a right to be one-sided in their work."

There's an exhibit of his work being held in a house designed by Mies van der Rohe. Interesting contrast, all things considered.

#758 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Carrie S. @ 755: That certainly sounds egregious.

#759 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 03:41 PM:

Tim, #748: SF is not just a set of tropes, but also a historical phenomenon

I think this is the root of our disagreement. Perhaps I've been unduly influenced by having recently re-read Frederik Pohl's "Mute Inglorious Tam" (to which the author's introduction says that it's about "someone who could have been a science-fiction writer if that option had existed in his time"), but to me the concept of science fiction is independent of the term, while you appear to be of the opinion that before the term itself existed, there simply wasn't any science fiction.

At any rate, we seem to have reached an impasse, and it's clear that neither of us is going to convince the other. I'm willing to let it drop if you are.

#760 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Serge @#733: No, I certainly didn't do the still life, would that I had that kind of talent! I did the swirly staff-thing I linked to up a ways above, and that's pretty representative of my level of ability.

Apologies if I wasn't clear in my linkage!

#761 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 04:02 PM:

heresiarch (#699): Contrast that with attitude often taken towards art appreciation. “What do you mean you don’t like it? It’s Great Art!” There’s no awareness that appreciating art is a skill that has to be learned and practiced, just like anything else.

I the terms I use, when discussing photography, is that photographs have a grammar, and artists have a vocabulary. If one knows the grammar, one can appreciate what's going on, even in pictures one doesn't like.

If one can figure out the vocabulary the artist is using, then the various grammars (and there are several, the range of grammars in nude photography is broad, and some of them just don't work for me, at all) become more evident.

When I docent people through exibits I do my best to never use the phrase, "I like/don't like" because they are hindrances to understanding what's going on in the picture.

Then there's the question of what the photographer was trying to do. That's harder to suss out. Artists statements can help... as also pointed out they can be a great stumbling block. I know that lots of them are (IMO) mushy mumbo-jumbo about how the artist feels about art; and the drive to create.

It's also usually phrased in ways I can't stomach (note the connotative phrasing in my above description). When someone says, however, that they are trying to show a specific sort of thing (e.g. the ability of people to create, and the juxtaposition of art with decay in photos of graffitti, showing that no matter their condition they will create) I can better estimate the attempt, to the execution.

serge: If someone ask for eohippus, someone is bound to point out it's really hyracotherium

#762 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Mary Dell @ 759... You were perfectly clear. The fault was mine.

#763 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 04:26 PM:

joann @ 754

That introductory course sounds terrific. It addresses the fact that there are two primary aspects to art: the act of perceiving and the act of showing. In many artforms perception requires specialized training (for instance, training in seeing the 2-dimensional projection of the world that a drawing models) as well as showing (learning the physical skills required to capture the perception on a piece of paper with a pencil).

It just occurred to me that we are having as much trouble finding a comprehensive definition of art as we would finding a comprehensive definition of life.

"Tell me what the sensors can detect on the planet, Mr. Spock."

"Captain, we are detecting a large number of alien artforms, unlike any we've seen before."

#764 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 04:28 PM:

"I don't like it" is not a congruent axis with "artistic." The example that comes to my mind fastest is Harlan Ellison stories--they can be very finely crafted, artistic, have major effectiveness on me to make me feel emotion, but I don't LIKE metaphorically being eviserated. I can admire the artisanship involved in making me experience the experience, but I don't -enjoy- the process. So, while I can admire that there is artistry there, I don't -like- those stories!

"Like" or "don't like" are value judgments based on personal preferences, experiences, emotional resonances, etc. One can dislike something because it reminds one of an unpleasant situation or person or time in one's background, or because there are kinaesthetic issues (I don't like cloth which is abrasive on me and garments made of materials that are tactilely unpleasant for me to touch, and I detested #2 pencils because they smudged soot on my hands when trying to write with them in school, etc.), or other such things that are idiosyncratic to each individual.

#765 ::: kathryn from sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 04:32 PM:

xeger @752

I now emailed from a non-yahoo account. I also sent my cell # to Serge's email account (where if you email him he could reply w/ it) which was working when we were planning the bay area MLMW: between the two people and two accounts one should get the # to you.

#766 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 04:57 PM:

Paula #763:

I think you're expecting all emotional response to be positive, and that that was of course what the artist was aiming at. Not all artists necessarily aim at any such thing at all times. They may indeed be trying to provoke a strong negative response--which makes the work "successful" for them. If that makes it non-art for a particular viewer, fine, *for them* (although they've missed something), but that doesn't mean that they should/must try to devalue the experience for everybody else.

(Incidentally, I suppose that I should consider myself lucky that my own childhood sensory disorders were more based on smell than touch, so that most of what was affected involved reactions to school cafeteria food--sour milk, eeuw.)

#767 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Kathryn @ 764... xeger @ 752... Ready when you are.

#768 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 05:07 PM:

Paula: re like/dislike. We are complete agreement. Adding that to the conversation short circuits most attempts to talk about the artistic aspects of something.

It's worse when one is leading a tour, because the people following you will defer to your, "expertise," and stop trying to be critical of what they see.

If a tour has gone well the amount of talking I do falls, as a percentage of things said,, as things go on.

John Hertz and I used to do an event at the faire which was much the same thing. He'd collar some customers, while I went and got a salver of chocolates (not less than three, nor more than four; I tried five once, that was too many) and then hied myself to the wine-booth and selected two-three wines (at least one red/white).

Then we'd taste the chocolate, then the wine, and then the chocolate again. Stopping at each step to talk about what we'd tasted.

Over time (we did this 10-15 times a year, for at least three years), we figured out some things which worked (I always had a plain fudge, and; eventually, a peach cider), and some things which never worked (I made the mistake once of getting a minted chocolate... ooh! bad idea. I have no idea what I was thinking. I also didn't find Guinness to go well).

When we were on our game, the customers would begin to really participate. Sometimes you could see them have a "satori" moment as they suddenly figured out how to taste.

I miss that gig.

#769 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 05:25 PM:

The stock market took a miserable dump today. Of the two-dozen or so companies in my portfolio, only two went up today: Coco-Cola and a mobile home manufacturer.

If that's some kind of message about the future, I don't like it.

#770 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 06:10 PM:

Terry @767: I'm surprised about the chocolate not going with the Guinness, as I've found Guinness brownies to be a big treat!

#771 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 06:18 PM:

joanne #765

In Pan's Labyrinth, the new stepfather seems to be an intentionally hateful and despicable character, portrayed as a vile, despicable, brutal monster. Friends have said he's one of the few characters they were actively wanting to have die horribly in the course of a film.

Or, in melodramas, the villains are supposed to be villainous, characters whom one enjoys booing and catcalling, and the actors playing them, play the roles to the hilt, enjoying the audience's ill-will towards their characters, because the more the audience expresses verbal disapproval, the more effectively the acting talent has portrayed a villain who's evoking the intended emotional response from the audience.

In a lot of ways, "bad art" is art which evokes no strong positive or negative reaction, but which rather, leaves on indifferent or wonder, "why was all that effort spent for getting what what value?"

The objective of getting people to react in intended ways of some art forms.... [more later maybe, out of time at the moment].

#772 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 06:22 PM:

Lee @ 758: I'm willing to let it drop if you are.

Sure. I hope I didn't come across as overly adversarial; I wasn't feeling that way.

I do want to say that "before the term itself existed, there simply wasn't any science fiction" isn't what I think, though.

#773 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 06:25 PM:

Miriam @753: in art school, every single teacher agreed that creativity & artistic skill are 100% acquiring knowledge & practice.

100%? Now that sounds dubious to me, unanimous teachers or no! As with every other human endeavor, there is such a thing as talent in art! I'd say talent might grant a head start of up to, say, 20%, in the development of an artist. But without training, "20%" is still waaay down in the Sturgeon Fraction. Accordingly, even the most talented proto-artist still needs a lot of training....

(You know, I've often "partly disagreed" with somebody, but that might be the first time I've had occasion to quantify the part. ;-) )

#774 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 07:01 PM:

david,

As with every other human endeavor, there is such a thing as talent in art!

it's hard to know exactly how you'd test that. i read an article once that said the two constants in the lives of great artists were 1. having artistic talent somewhere in the bloodline & 2. having a mentally unstable mother.

this article was short & fairly fluffy, so they gave some examples but didn't really reveal their research methods. it could be all bunk, but it's stuck with me. my father is a keen amateur draughtsman, & i don't know if this influenced me genetically or if my talent was more down to his encouraging yet very specific criticism. i wouldn't call my mother unstable, but when i asked her, w/r/t the article, she thought she was crazy enough for practical purposes.

i dunno. it's just as easy for me to believe that i got this special encouragement when i was very little, & so "being an artist" became a treasured part of my identity, & so i kept trying to live up to it, by getting better.

#775 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 07:06 PM:

Rikibeth: I too was surprised. With the chocolate notes of the Guinness, and the silky way it feels, I was expecting a more harmonious blend.

But there's a bit in good chocolate, and the soft edges of the beer were stolen, bringing up not the sympathetic notes of the beer and chocolates, but rather stripping those away and leaving the sour/bitter/acrid undernotes in the beer, and the rasping edge of the chocolates.

It wasn't as bad as the mint-chocolate (and everything) but apart from big-zins and most chocolates, it was the worst pairing, across the board, I made; it was certainly the biggest surprise failure.

But peach cider... brilliant. Nothing didn't go with it; so it became a staple, so leaving on a high note was the result for all the people who didn't bail early (at it's shortest the gig would go 20 minutes, and that because the customers John had chosen weren't suited, and getting antsy. At it's longest, I think we had to close it up after about 1 1/4 hours, because we had a parade to march in).

#776 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 07:20 PM:

Yarn People -- I made a hat with attached scarf last year that I had to wear Wednesday and ended up with welts. I'm apparently completely allergic to wool now, and I don't want to try other animal yarns. I have a new coat, so I'm looking for yarn that is black with red flecks/stripes/threads and is machine wash/dry. Any size is okay, I can adjust. Anybody know of this? I've looked a good bit, but maybe I missed it. I did find a black with a mixed color confetti that I'll use if I don't find something just black and red.

#777 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 07:34 PM:

DANG! That's some storm:

Satellite view of pacific coast storm

Um.

I'm not an expert.

But that sucker looks, you know, cyclonic.

#778 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:18 PM:

Tim, #771: I hope I didn't come across as overly adversarial; I wasn't feeling that way.

Not at all -- but it was obvious that we'd reached a point where there was really nothing more useful to be said.

I do want to say that "before the term itself existed, there simply wasn't any science fiction" isn't what I think, though.

That was a rather clumsy phrasing of what I was trying to say. Unfortunately, I can't come up with any alternative expression that (1) would be much better and (2) wouldn't start the whole thing up again. Sometimes the words just aren't there, IYKWIM.

David, #772: I agree with this. There are very few people who can't develop some degree of artistic skill simply by virtue of diligent practice. But without a certain level of talent, there's a limit to how much even the most diligent practice will do for you. It's the difference between playing an instrument for your own enjoyment and playing on the concert stage, between the hobbyist and the professional.

#779 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:33 PM:

Miriam @#773: I try not to read too much out of "fluff articles", but it sounds like they're describing two distinct predisposing factors: An unstable mother might well give a reason to seek artistic expression, but there's also a long-standing association between art and certain mental illnesses. What they're describing as "talent in the family" might well match what I think of as "artistic talent": Natural strengths in a relevant selection of cognitive and/or sensory abilities.

I've mentioned before that most of my family has at least dabbled in art; among ourselves we talk about "Grandpa's eyes" -- my family, from Mom's father down, seem to have particularly sensitive color vision. He was, and Mom is, an amateur painter, while Mom's sister got into photography, and one of my sisters went into advertising by way of graphic design. (Ironically, my father was partially color-blind.)

At the same time, the "dabbling" isn't really limited to those -- Grandma did a bit of sculpture in the last years of her life (even as her vision was failing), and when my other Grandpa died, we found he'd also made a few quiet efforts at painting! So there's something to be said for encouragement by example as well.

Of course, none of us were/are "great" artists -- maybe we're not crazy enough. ;-)

#780 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:38 PM:

Serge #744: That's what happens when you use Acme products.

#781 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:47 PM:

Stefan Jones, I was going to belittle this storm's strength, but the last gust just made the lights flicker, so I'm signing off and battening down, instead.

#782 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 08:55 PM:

Lee @ #777: Not quite what I was saying (you're looking at the other end of the scale) but I'd also agree with your statement.

#783 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 09:48 PM:

Serge - no worries, I took it as a compliment :)

In other news, I can now attest that having an extended argument with one's stomach while road-tripping to another city for an important meeting isn't a great idea.

Fortunately the meeting is tomorrow morning, not tonight, so with luck I'll be recovered by then. Sigh.

#784 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Serge & Neil #706 got me interested enough to do some online digging. There are specimens of Moa feathers around and to my untrained eye, they look similar to emu feathers. Also, apparently there are 10 currently recognised species of Mao some that might have looked more or less like emus.

#785 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 10:46 PM:

Urk, I meant 10 species of the now extinct New Zealand bird, not the now dead ex-leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

#786 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2008, 11:08 PM:

Hey! I claim priority on the TinTin sidelight:

Acquired growth hormone deficiency and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in a subject with repeated head trauma, or Tintin goes to the neurologist

Of course, I brought that here fully two years ago... but, still....

#787 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:42 AM:

Soon Lee @ 783... Thanks for the Link.

Soon Lee @ 784... Darn. I was already envisioning someone being cast away on a tropical island filled with all kinds of dangers, including a giant Mao.

#788 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:46 AM:

Mary Dell @ 782... having an extended argument with one's stomach while road-tripping to another city for an important meeting isn't a great idea.

"I'll navel go thru that again."

#789 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:01 AM:

Serge: Only because you're gutless.

#790 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:09 AM:

Xopher @ 788... I guess I'll have to rectify the situation.

#791 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:18 AM:

Serge: Only after thorough analysis.

#792 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:22 AM:

ethan @ 738: "Well, that doesn't work, because it doesn't include fantasy, or alternate history, or social science fiction."

That was just a definition (description?) of science fiction, not speculative fiction. Sorry, that was really unclear. (I'd argue that it does encompass social science fiction and alternate history: society is also a technology, and alternate histories are about alternate societies.)

miriam beetle @ 753: "ever since postmodernism & postcolonialism, art instruction is super aware that our art is a very privileged, very western, very narrow-canon thing to do or appreciate. & not really proudly, either."

I'm glad to hear that your art instruction was well-informed, though the response to that you describe (a sort of twisted reverse-snobbery about how "high art" was doomed, opaque, useless, unprofitable, & the only thing worth doing) is somewhat dismaying. Understanding that art isn't inherently universal is hopefully the first step towards making it more accessible, not an excuse to curl inward even further.

I don't think that the sensibility I described is universal (heh) in the fine arts community. But it is, I think, the thing that drives a lot of people away, people who'd otherwise be willing to learn.

#793 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:25 AM:

JESR @ 790

Yeah, this is a rough one. When I left work to come home about 6 this evening I had to fight to get the door open against the wind, and the crosswinds on the freeway made me slow down about 10-15 mph slower than usual for a good part of the trip.

I just saw the weather report on TV; they say this storm brought the 3rd lowest barometric pressure reading in history for Portland.

#794 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 01:28 AM:

Xopher @ 790... Only after thorough analysis

... and many probing questions. And suppositions.

#795 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 03:53 AM:

Bruce, #792: Egad. I didn't think you guys got hurricanes! Weather Underground is talking about CAT2-force winds. GoodThoughts going out to everyone in the affected areas.

#796 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:23 AM:

(Now that I wrote that, I see that it's also a good response to Keir @ 657 as well. When I say "normal" I mean "generic non-specialist," not beer-drinker.)

Non-specialisation (in this sense) is no more normal than specialisation, in the same way that English speaking is more no normal than French.

I find `divorced from normal people's experience' quite odd. Don't BFAs* get to have normal human experiences? Or is the act of getting a BFA deeply not normal for a human in a way that becoming an actuary (or a lawyer, or a scientist, or an editor or a deep sea fisherman**) isn't?

Also, if you want to avoid insularity in a group, drawing a line between them and the rest of the world, and labelling one side normal, and the other not, is quite counter-productive.

Lee: I'm fine accepting genre denial. I don't accept it's all because of the fear of egghead liberal cooties. I think it is complicated, but a lot of it is down to precisely the opposite, given that the more popular an art form is, the more likely SF is to have a strong presence.

* Read `BFA' as `contemporary artist with baffling works', and `getting a BFA' as the process leading to that state.

** All of which are very non-average jobs in America, let alone most people's experience.

#797 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:55 AM:

Lee@794: Usually we don't. This is the dawn of the era of Heavy Weather, though.

#798 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:05 AM:

Fine art and aesthetics....

There are some very pragmatic, functional reasons for "smooth and with a fine finish" being aesthetically pleasing on a piece of furniture--a finely sanded and finished piece of furniture, isn't going to leave splinters in one's skin on one's fingers or arms or in one's rump when touching or sitting on said furniture!

#799 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:18 AM:

Keir 795: The life experience of a BFA is deeply abnormal—or you could say "non-ordinary" if 'abnormal' is too loaded a term. Your other examples are also quite abnormal for the human race in general, though I suspect (though I have no data) that there are more lawyers than there are BFAs.

In fact, everyone here is abnormal in that we can write coherent sentences and paragraphs that clearly express a point of view, however wrongheaded it may be. An IQ of 130 is every bit as abnormal as an IQ of 70. The fact that we're more inclined to date the person with the 130 IQ does not change that.

The trouble is that 'abnormal', as a term in common use, means "abnormal AND BAD" or "inferior to normal."

[snarky comment about other terms in common use deleted here]

#800 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:43 AM:

Bruce Cohen, StM, I thought we'd be past the pounding rain part of the storm by this morning, yet here I am awake because of the noise it makes. Nothing picturesque, yet: what didn't get knocked down in the storms of December last year, or the unusual sustained winds in late July, got torn out and laid down by the storm the first weekend in December.

On the abnormality of BFAs: my younger spawn decided against going for a BFA in technical theater because it kept her from taking classes outside her major. She entered college as a putative sophomore because of AP credits, and the class load and portfolio requirements would have made it impossible to take jolly fluff courses like Political Theory and Advanced Calculus. So she'll be a mere BA.

#801 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 12:03 PM:

Apparently there is a yarn CSA that I thought some of the community here might be interested in. I'm not affiliated or anything, just pointing.

#802 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:47 PM:

Abi... How is ElectroGirl doing?

#803 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 04:56 PM:

Serge,

Electrogirl is mercifully no longer battery operated. The less said about the investigative details the better, but the battery did not break open.

She's much distracted by the dress for her doll that her grandmother sent, which matches the dress for her that came over in the autumn.

#804 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 05:18 PM:

Abi @ 803... All's well than ends well then. Glad to her it.

#805 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 05:49 PM:

There have been cold weather hurricanes before, such as the Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913. Not particularly common, though.

#806 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 05:57 PM:

Yes, abi, it's good that it all came out in the end.

* dives behind sofa to avoid thrown objects, giggling *

#807 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:07 PM:

I'm not saying that a BFA* isn't deeply unusual. It just isn't something which leads to a `profound divorce from normal human experience'.

I also think that unusual things can be normal human experiences -- motherhood, after all, is an unusual experience**, but it is also a normal human experience. Ditto a happy marriage; unusual, but (I think) perfectly normal.

But I'm not as sure about that.

* where BFA is for Bachelor of *baffling* Fine Arts.

#808 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:27 PM:

abi, #803, I won't be reading here for a while, I just came to post something and noticed this post. My grandmother did this for me and my cousin -- bought us each the same doll, plus one for her, and sent us clothes for us and the doll (and if there was extra fabric, a little drawstring purse). I've never been a doll player, but I thought it was neat enough that I do this for Kip and Cathy's daughter. I got her a Chinese toddler doll and a matching one for me and she and the doll get coordinating sweaters every Christmas-time. (This is a modern doll where the head is too big, so I have to make cardigans instead of pull-overs.)

#809 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Friday is Wear Orange Day to show your support for closing Gitmo. There's rallies in major cities.

#810 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 06:43 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 806... dives behind sofa to avoid thrown objects

If Abi actually hits you, sue for battery.

#811 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:45 PM:

Anyone else watching the debates? Anyone else as viscerally repulsed as I was just now by seeing all the candidates from both parties milling around on stage whispering in each others' ears? Yee-uck.

#812 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 08:47 PM:

”You’ll take the egg. I’ll rescue the princess.”

- from George and the Dragon

#813 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:26 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #806:

I was never a Boy Scout, but I once came across an early edition of Scouting For Boys, Lord Baden-Powell's magnum opus, in which there was a chapter on what the noble lord called 'beastliness' (masturbation)*. If the problem persisted after treatment with long cold walks and long cold showers, the scout was urged to talk to his scoutmaster and 'all will come right in the end' (quoted from memory).

* Which is, apparently, the result of sleeping in warm, soft beds, eating rich food, and taking hot baths.

#814 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:30 PM:

I just stumbled across the history of guerilla knitting, and thought of you folks....

#815 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:39 PM:

David @ #814, if it was gorilla knitting, there'd really be a scoop.

(See news item which says monkeys purportedly pay for sex. Coin of the realm: grooming.)

#816 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:45 PM:

Abi #803: That's very good!

#817 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:49 PM:

#813: Beastliness! Sounds like something that only scouts pursuing their Horsemanship merit badge would need be concerned with.

Makes you wonder what the scoutmaster is authorized to resort to to wipe out the five-fingered scourge. Administration of salt-peter? Primitive aversion therapy involving galvanic stimulation and pictures of exposed ladies' ankles?

#818 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 09:53 PM:

Stefan Jones #817: I suspect just an encouraging conversation laden with good advice.

#819 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:03 PM:

Fragano @ 813... will come right in the end

At which end will it come out?

#820 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:21 PM:

Linkmeister #815: if it was gorilla knitting, there'd really be a scoop.

Q: How do you knit an 800-lb gorilla?

800lbG: Seno Akta Gamat.

#821 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Linkmeister, 815: There's a sensible (and very funny) response to that study's rather silly assertions here.

#822 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:47 PM:

Serge #819: I'm not going to speculate!

#823 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 10:54 PM:

OK, this is a crude enough comment that I'm going to ROT13 it. Don't decode it if you're feeling sensitive. Boivbhfyl gur fpbhgznfgre pbzrf evtug va gur fpbhg'f raq. Cerfhznoyl gur fpbhg pbzrf gbb, ryvzvangvat gur arrq sbe ornfgyvarff.

#824 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:12 PM:

Fragano @ 822...

Speculum (medical), a medical tool used for examining body cavities.
Speculum feathers, the secondary feathers on the inner part of a duck's wing which are often brightly coloured.

#825 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:18 PM:

Xopher @ 823... Is the 800-pound knitting gorilla in the tent too? (Those ML threads always come back to knitting, one way or the other.)

#826 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:22 PM:

Coming next, Len Deighton's Hairy Palmer...

#827 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:26 PM:

On an unrelated topic, does anyone know how to find the saved game files for Myst IV: Revelation? I have Windows XP.

#828 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:34 PM:

Xopher #823: Exactly what I was trying to figure out how to say.

#829 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2008, 11:46 PM:

Ethan, except for one or two, I find all the candidates loathsome in some way or another. 

I'm trying to avoid it all because I can feel my (already bad even with drugs) blood pressure creep up...

#830 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 12:34 AM:

ethan 828: I couldn't think of a good way, so I ROT13'd a bad way.

#831 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 12:49 AM:

Paula, "loathsome" is the word.

Xopher, I'll have to remember that technique. Maybe for the next time I'm talking about the candidates.

#832 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 01:51 AM:

Now the outsourcers know what it feels like to work in customer service.

#833 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:22 AM:

Xopher @ 799: Thank you.

In other news, recently I've been mildly addicted to this geography quiz.

#834 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:28 AM:

Doing some research on Toronto city services, I found this gem of history in a Wikipedia article on the Toronto Police Service:

After an excessive outbreak of street violence involving Toronto Police misconduct, including an episode where constables brawled with Toronto’s firemen in one incident, and stood by doing nothing in another incident while enraged firemen burned down a visiting circus when its clowns jumped a lineup at a local whorehouse, the entire Toronto Police force, along with its Chief, were fired in 1859.
#835 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:20 AM:

heresiarch, do you know about Purpose Games?

#836 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 07:38 AM:

A coincidence waiting to happen: the cover of the Winter 2007 issue of a house publication for the Royal Bank of Scotland Group shows Theresa Sutherland standing on a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam. A brief article inside describes how her family has moved to Amsterdam to be with her while she works on her new assignment for the bank. Her daughter Erin is looking forward to going to school and learning Dutch; mom hopes Erin will help her learn a few more words beyond 'hello' and 'goodbye'.

How long before paths cross?

#837 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 07:49 AM:

Rob @836:

I considered asking RBS* if I could work abroad somehow rather than quitting before the move. My credit was high with The Powers That Be right then (due in part, amusingly enough, to a highly successful risk workshop I ran based on a reinterpretation of a certain fairy tale). I might very well have pulled it off.

It would not have been a good idea, in retrospect, and I'm glad I didn't ask.

As to meeting her, well, it's unlikely. Amsterdam is chock full of expats, and I'm not actually in the city anyway. I work north of the river, and live even further north.

But it's an amusing coincidence.

-----
* You did know that was my employer in Scotland for the last 10 years, didn't you?

#838 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:10 AM:

Abi @ 837... It would not have been a good idea

Definitely not and, for once, I know whereof I speak.

#839 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:28 AM:

#825: Don't forget the dinosaur.

#840 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:28 AM:

I started watching one of my Xmas video gifts last night - the Jason King mystery series of the early 1970s. My wife kept making groaning noises about Peter Wyngarde's hairdo. I can't wait for what she'll say when one episode features a hotpant-clad gogoboot-shod lady.

#841 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:32 AM:

Jon Meltzer @ 839... I imagine a T-rex would have a hard time knitting, with those tiny arms. A wooleciraptor, though... Or were you thinking that, if we can have knitting gorillas, we might as well bring up baking dinosaurs?

#842 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:42 AM:

So, how did the ML gathering go in Toronto? I think it was supposed to be on last night.

#843 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:23 AM:

It looks like ML blinked out of existence for about 30 minutes.

#844 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:35 AM:

Yeah, I noticed that as well.

#845 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:37 AM:

Could this explain what just happened?

Robertson acknowledged Wednesday that his prophecy of a nuclear terror attack in 2007 failed to unfold.

He also cited information from God when he predicted on a year ago that major U.S. cities would be hit by "very serious terrorist attacks" causing "possibly millions" of deaths.

No such catastrophe occurred.

"All I can think is that somehow the people of God prayed and God in his mercy spared us," Robertson said on "The 700 Club," a television show he hosts on the Christian Broadcasting Network, based in Virginia Beach".

#846 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:46 AM:

Xopher #823: Curiously, gung'f nyzbfg rknpgyl jung n yrfovna sevraq bs zvar fnvq jura V svefg zragvbarq qvfpbirevat guvf bqq snpg.

#847 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:54 AM:

Serge #824: Either of those might result in my making a spectacle of myself.

#848 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:56 AM:

Serge #845

I think it's P. C. Hodgell who's said she's the descendant of member of an end of the world cult which several generations along, in effect slunk off to Wisconsin in embarrassment after their prediction/belief proved to be quite incorrect in and invalid.

Apparently they were lacking in Robertson's hubris....

#849 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:11 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 842... I guess it's better for Robertson to have hubris rather than George Orr's power to reshape Reality thru his dreams.

#850 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:12 AM:

Ain't it wonderful that being floridly, baroquely, grotesquely wrong only confirms to the magical thinker his own personal version of reality?

Come to think about it, isn't that a working clinical definition of insanity? A disabling complex of delusions that cannot be dispelled by evidence or reason?

#851 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:33 AM:

"All I can think is that somehow the people of God prayed and God in his mercy spared us," Robertson said....

I can think of a likelier explanation: Robertson's prophecy came not from God but from Satan (who is a liar and the Father of Lies).


#852 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:46 AM:

Dave, #850: May I have the brain back when you're done with it? (You just said everything I was thinking about saying, almost word-for-word.)

#853 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:05 AM:

You know, that Robertson thing begs for a new Mr. Deity vid.


Mr. D: "Sorry, Pat, I was sure I had you in the distribution list for that e-mail. We called off the nukes - someone from engineering went on and on about the costs...you know how it is."

#854 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:59 AM:

Any Fluoroiian in Washington DC today?

I could propose a Making Light Making Weight Waiting for Godot's Plane today (flight canceled last night, 25 hours until the next one). I'll be at the near-Dulles space museum this afternoon, and in DC--perhaps in the Mall--at other times. And in Dulles from 6-8pm.

But the only way to contact me would be if you can get my cellphone # from Serge (Thanks, Serge, who doesn't know he's been re-volunteered for this.)

Kathryn "trying to get back to" Sunnyvale

#855 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 12:09 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 854... Thanks, Serge, who doesn't know he's been re-volunteered for this.

No problem. The thing though is whether this makes me Ernestine, or Uhura.

#856 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 12:14 PM:

Serge @ 856 -

No problem. The thing though is whether this makes me Ernestine, or Uhura.

Depends on the length of your skirt.

#857 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 12:25 PM:

Steve C @ 856... And on the color-coordinated underwear?

#858 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Lee @ 759: You and the rest of the thread have given me the vocabulary to say something I only vaguely felt before: without its context and the artist's statement, I wouldn't have known that "Mute Inglorious Tam" was meant to be SF.

#859 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:34 PM:

It's most likely that a poem just thrown off by a highly gifted poet who has studied the craft for years, her work and others' work, who has written many poems will be superior to a poem carefully worked up, worked upon and worked out by a person who has no gift for poetry no matter how much that person has studied poetry, hers and others'.

Cave paintings, for instance. Though we at this long distance of years do not know why they were created, we know the person(s) who created those painting KNEW the craft that went into making them -- what materials made what paints and what colors, how to light the caves in order to make the pictures, and so on. There is intent, and a deep understanding and comprehension in the manipulation of the means -- including the surface -- to make these paintings. That they have the capacity to make us breathless upon first glimpse, to feel that flutter in the gut -- yup. That's art.

We should never fool ourselves that artists don't know what they are doing and how they are doing it. That's why they experiment so much, to find out what they are doing and and how to do it.

Love, C.

#860 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 02:38 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 831

By his works shall ye know him: I've been convinced for some time that only Loki's sense of humor could have dreamed up the things Pat Robertson says.

#861 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:21 PM:

I know one person here said they were planning to be at GAFilk. Anybody else? I've still got the Fluorosphere buttons...

#862 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Bruce Coehn @ 860... If not Loki, how about David Warner?

#863 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Bruce @#860, Serge@#862:

Indeed, his own mythology offers a "perfectly good" Father of Lies, even if it is a half-assed corruption of a much cooler deity.

#864 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 05:28 PM:

Serge #862: For some reason, I visualise Robertson singing this.

#865 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 05:55 PM:

Serge @ 862

You do remember, don't you, that it was David Warner wearing the gorilla suit, for a 20 point Making Light thread tie-in?

#866 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 06:24 PM:

Fragano @ 864... When I think of Mireille Mathieu, I am reminded of the Monty Python's Flying Circus skit that had Cardinal Richelieu singing one of her songs.

#867 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 06:28 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 865... David Warner in a gorilla suit? I confess to have having seen that movie although I've heard about it. Was there any knitting in it? Warner was in one movie that involved knitting needles of a kind - remember his being skewered with a metal rod in The Omen?

#868 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 06:39 PM:

Serge @ 867 -

I think David Warner was decapitated. I believe Patrick Troughton was shish-ke-bobbed.

Not one of the best regenerations for a Doctor.

#869 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 06:46 PM:

Oh my god, the priest shishkebab in The Omen is The Second Doctor? I never knew. Nutty!

#870 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 07:36 PM:

Serge #866: Hmm. I can't dig that one out of my memory, though I know I must have seen it.

#871 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 07:39 PM:

Jim 851: To be fair, I refer you to the book of Jonah. That (whiny, reluctant semiloser of a) prophet was embarrassed and annoyed when God didn't destroy Ninevah as he had prophesied. But I don't think Robertson can claim that the US has repented of its evil ways, as Ninevah did.

#872 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 07:48 PM:

Fragano @ 870... If I'm not mistaken, it was a very brief segment within an ad for a variety show, so it's not surprising that you don't remember.

#873 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 07:51 PM:

Steve C @ 868... It has been a long time since I saw the movie so you're probably right. No matter what, David Warner got demised and someone else got knitted.

#874 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:10 PM:

Steve C @ 868... Speaking of the Doctor's regeneration, did they ever bring up what would happen if his head were severed and/or fried?

#875 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 08:33 PM:

If abi throws things that hit people, lots of us will be shocked.

#876 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:18 PM:

Terry Karney @ 875... Are you implying that she couldn't hit the broad side of a barn?

#877 ::: :Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:19 PM:

Next up, Flurospherian Nerf balls to toss around...

#878 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:40 PM:

"You, you, nerf herder!"

#879 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:44 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale, #854, sorry, I'm reading this at 9:40pm, so I assume you're on your way home from here.

#880 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Constance@859: After a certain level of mechanical competence, discerning quality of art becomes much more difficult -- and there are many ]artists[ who show signs of phoning it in if not rolling dice for their work. (See Michael Bishop's take on this in Count Geiger Blues.) I won't take Heinlein's attitude (or at least Jubal Harshaw's) that any idiot with astigatism and a blowtorch can commit modern sculpture, but sometimes I wonder -- just watch Paula sputter when I bring up "Transparent Horizons", the work that makes a Globolink look sexy; I suspect some artists today really don't know what they're doing.

#881 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Serge @ 874 -

Speaking of the Doctor's regeneration, did they ever bring up what would happen if his head were severed and/or fried?

I would imagine the plots to be more cerebral.

#882 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:30 PM:

ethan @ 835: No, I didn't... I don't know whether to thank you or curse you =)

#883 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Transparent Horizons?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rwhiddon/1338564487/in/set-72157601844395404/

#884 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:40 PM:

heresiarch #882: MUAHahahahahahahaha.

#885 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 07:34 AM:

Oh, that link above, includes temporarily added ornamentation/editorial commentary, which got removed as intended ephemera, with the only records being images taken during and immediately after the decorating occurred.

#886 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:40 AM:

Einstein creature solves your equations.

#887 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:51 AM:

re 880: It's hard to get Google to cough up a picture, but yeah, TH is shlock. But it's Exalted Master schlock, so it may never ever go away.

#888 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:46 AM:

#880 & #887 re: Transparent Horizons -

Is it this one? Or is that another piece of modern art with the same name?

(For better or worse, I'd never heard of it before.)

#889 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:48 AM:

Duh. Paula had a link, and yes, it is the same. Sorry.

#890 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:20 AM:

#880 -- Well, there's Richard Prince and that whole Appropriationist movement, which I loathe. I don't think it is art, despite the prices and the venues and the collectors.

However, I do believe that Prince et al. do know exactly what they are doing ....

Love, C.

#891 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:16 PM:

fidelio, at my house that is being described as a Rodent of Unusual Hairiness.

#892 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:18 PM:

JESR: Oh, excellent.

#893 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:26 PM:

Jay Laber has the blowtorch and the pile of rusty car parts but I suspect he's got something else going on, too.

By the way, the best photographic composition for this sculpture is to be got by standing in the middle of the street on a blind curve on the way to the University of Montana, Missoula, residences. Being that it was the day most people were moving into the dorms, I took a less than perfect shot.

#894 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:39 PM:

According to today's installment of "Revenge of the Weasel Queen", there are roller derbies in the world inhabited by Agatha Heterodyne.

#895 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:35 PM:

Did ML blink again? Say, why are you all wearing agonizers?

#896 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:41 PM:

It blinked for me. I suspect someone is hacking The Matrix.

#897 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:48 PM:

Steve C... Either that or Bad Lazarus and Good Lazarus came into physical contact.

#898 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Serge: I'm thinking that abi flinging something from Amsterdam and hitting either me, or Bruce; for that excerable jest, as we hide behind our couches, would be incredible.

#899 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Can somebody cheer up Kat?

Help, I screwed up and sent my entire manuscript to WL. I admit to not researching before pressing on. I am not a published writer nor have I ever had the desire to publish my work and maybe that's why I got myself into this trouble. [...] My baby is floating in cyberspace and I'm afraid she can't be rescued....Help!

I don't think I have much useful to say, other than "take heart," but it seems she need not despair.

#900 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Terry @ 898... Well, Abi is supposed to be from California, but she always gets uncomfortable when I mention kryptonite.

#901 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Terrry @898:

Thank you for using the verb fling; it is much more context-specific than throw.

But you guys really underestimate the strength of the Web. If I want something flung at you, I'll use the distributed processing/rich client model and hire someone local to do the flinging.

...excerable jest...
I wi.sh it were the worst they had ever made.

#902 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Terry -- you mean she'd use an ICBM?

#903 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:43 PM:

Serge @ 878: "Who's scruffy-looking?"

#904 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:46 PM:

Rikibeth @ 903 -

At which point, Leia gives her brother some tongue.

#905 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:53 PM:

Rikibeth... Steve C... Ah, that movie's unexplored subtext, not including dad chopping sonny's hand off.

#906 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 03:45 PM:

Unexplored, Serge? Are we reading the same Internet? Actually... probably not. :)

#907 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 03:50 PM:

Rikibeth @ 906... Sorry. I meant, unexplored by the movie itself. The fanfic, I'm sure, has done so.

#909 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 04:36 PM:

Serge @ 874: I think there have been references to the possibility of damage too severe to regenerate from, but I can't tell you where.

#910 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 04:39 PM:

James Moar @ 909... Thanks. After all, there has got to be something that can kill the Time Lords otherwise the Doctor wouldn't be the last one left.

#911 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 04:58 PM:

Andrew Olmsted, who blogged at The Sandbox and to Obsidian Wings as G'Kar, was killed in Iraq January 3. He left a final post to be published in the event of his death.

#912 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:33 PM:

And it's already passed 1,000 comments; so spawning another thread.

#913 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 06:20 PM:

This is true. The second thread is here.

I just noticed my previous comment was #911 in this thread. How grotesque, given its content.

#914 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:46 AM:

Anyone reading that silly new io9 blog? They just posted something about how you can't get published if you don't know the editors. Also, in the comments someone mentioned the Nielsen-Haydens (sic).

#915 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:50 PM:

Ethan: I guess that means all of us are shoo-ins for a book deal.

#916 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:14 PM:

(A battered carrier pigeon flies into the thread and makes an unsteady landing...)

If anyone's at loose ends, I could surely use some sane commenters here.

#917 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:45 PM:

TNH: I commented there. I'm not sure why BB comments don't appear for some time after you put them in (and I'm registered and signed in and everything).

#918 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:53 PM:

I'll try, but I don't know that the thread is salvageable.

What in the world set the whack-jobs off? That he questioned the abuse of authority/power the airline used?

That he asked for some real recompense for having been harmed?

That he didn't just roll over and leave it be when they added insult to injury?

I begin to wonder at people.

#919 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Exploiting the open thread:

I followed the link on the 10 things they don't want you to know about debates. Does anyone know if these also describe the party nomination debates? It seems like those have been sponsored by a lot of different groups....

Also, is the CPD still going to be running the debates this year?

#920 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 03:55 PM:

TNH: I tried to pour (nonflammable) oil one of them; I'll check back later and see if it did any good. Of course he was one of the more sane ones, so it may not make any difference to the others.

Terry, it sounds to me like the idea that this guy is entitled to civil treatment in a public venue by employees of a private company gets up the trolls' noses. I'm not sure if they're just faux Libertarians, or if they somehow got the idea that anyone who believes they're worth being respected also thinks he's better than they are*.

* I think so myself, but only because they've been so good as to provide evidence in the form of their comments. Whether anyone else thinks so is not, IMO, deducible from anything in that thread.

#921 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:14 PM:

ethan, I've been browsing it to see what io9 will do. I actually enjoy Wonkette and Jezebel, so I have hope.

Hey, they have a Charlie Stross interview today, it can't be all bad.

#922 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Oh, absolutely, Tania, I've been reading it obsessively since I first heard of it (on BoingBoing, I think?). I really like it, but I still think it's silly. And they don't know much about publishing, it seems.

#923 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 05:25 PM:

Tania @ 921... Have you recently clicked on your ID's view-all-by? You might find the results astounding.

#924 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 09:20 PM:

Serge @ #923: Holy heck! I've vanished! Anonymity is mine, mine!!

Weird, I've been there before. Maybe ::cue Austrian accent:: I'll be back.

#925 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:04 PM:

I think Tania is a drive-by astroturf sockpuppet, but I'm not going to say so because I promised to be careful.

(Yes, of course I'm kidding.)

#926 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:09 PM:

Xopher.... Maybe Tania has met Clarence the Angel.

#927 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 10:54 PM:

You know, when I visualize an astroturf sockpuppet, I see an odd love child of Lambchop and Oscar The Grouch. And that is NOT what I see in the mirror, even when I'm tired and sick and cranky.

Oh, and Xopher, the gluten free brownies were a big hit at the local bookstore. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

#928 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 11:11 PM:

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of sockpuppets? The Shadow knows! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

#929 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 07:11 AM:

Lanaia "it's not plagiarism because I *paid* for it" Lee is back. Not just back, but has posted to the Top 10 Tips for Plagiarists thread at Dear Author the day after Dear Author follows up on the Smart Bitches posting the evidence that a major romance author has been copying passages verbatim from her research material without acknowledgement. In other words, when the Dear Author commentariat is just a little sensitive on the subject of plagiarism.

Someone is very, very desperate for attention, methinks.

#930 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 07:53 AM:

Tania @ 927... I see an odd love child of Lambchop and Oscar The Grouch. And that is NOT what I see in the mirror.

#931 ::: Schadenjoy ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 01:50 PM:

Don't know if this has been posted or particled:

Star Wars Guide to the Candidates

#932 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 02:04 PM:

Julia @ 929

Oy vey. She really doesn't learn from experience, does she?

#933 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 03:07 PM:

Speaking of plagiarism, has anyone been following the mess that the Smart Bitches over at Smart Bitches who Love Trashy Novels have dug up? The most recent post in the kerfuffle is here, and the header contains links to the previous posts on the subject.

#934 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Sarah S @933:

I think one of the gnomes* spilled coffee on your link. Was it this one?

-----
* about whom we do not speak

#935 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 03:30 PM:

abi@934

This is, of course, why we do not speak of them.

And I was going for this link, but yours is good, too.

#936 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 03:38 PM:

ethan: you're going to NYC this weekend, right? If you like theater at all, you MUST see the Red Bull production of Edward II. Must See Must See. I'm trying to find time to review it on Rixo, but failing that (mostly because I am busy obsessing about mazurka waltz on Kickery), I am spamming out recommendations to all my friends. See This Show. It's selling out but you might get lucky.

If you don't like theater or have no taste for Marlowe, um, never mind.

#937 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Abi @ 934... From Gnome, Alaska?

#938 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 03:44 PM:

Sarah S... Ferrets?

#939 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Susan #936: Whoa! That looks awesome indeed. I don't know about the logistics of tickets/convincing others to go/having the time, but I'm going to try. Thanks for the heads up.

#940 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Sarah @933: yes, I've been following it -- that is the other plagiarism episode I referred to.

*Lots* of links by now, as there have been various update posts. It started with the Smart Bitches on Monday morning, who now have six posts. There is also coverage at Dear Author, with three posts now:

initial coverage on Monday
further commentary on Tuesday
the publisher's response this morning, which can be summarised as "it isn't plagiarism because the copied work was in the public domain".

*Much* discussion in the comment threads, some of it bad-tempered.

#941 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 06:28 PM:

My cousin's wife blogs about her task for 2008:

"In a flush of enthusiasm for new starts, new days, new years, etc. I gave myself a challenge for 2008: this year I will cook a recipe from each of my cookbooks.

I did a quick cookbook inventory yesterday and I currently have at least 160 cookbooks on the shelf (I am sure I will find more hiding in the house). I am not counting pamphlets, clippings or magazines as a cookbook. I am counting books of essays or food writing that contain recipes."

The Cookbook Challenge

#942 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 06:43 PM:

Stefan #941:

Way cool challenge. I tried (and failed to keep up) something unblogged and vaguely similar last year, involving a new Italian recipe each week. Perhaps that was too limited. Hmm. I don't have 160 cookbooks, but I do have a bunch.

Anybody else discover that they have X number of cookbooks that they keep around for only one recipe each?

Also, what is the status of recipes that you've specifically gone googling for, or that you clipped out of the NYT?

#943 ::: Kathy In Sunnydale ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 07:01 PM:

oh World of Fluorosity, I'd like to request some help for a friend* re: a net.stalker situation.

If you have thoughts on stuff below, please email (my friend doesn't want to discuss it in an open forum: note nym and email variant made just for this)

1. If you know Wikipedia policy on:
a. real-name usernames (the use of someone else's name, non-notable person) and/or
b. sockpuppets a/o
c. using fake websites as sources, a/o
d. obsessive changes to an article
please email. I'd like to get your opinion on an article and edits to it. I do not want to ask WP directly, yet, (i.e. ask to freeze article) because it's also related to 2 below**.

2. If you have thoughts on how to track / trace a person with many websites and usernames to net.stalk any mention of a person or their work.

The obsession is primarily but (sadly) not only on their work. If some of all those sites and comments are believed, that's a problem. (not all are obviously kooky.) Trying to ignore it hasn't worked: the person is prolific.

If the multiple ids and sites could be tied together, that could help, because then one could build a "look, this is all just one person's spam and trollage" page. I figure IP tracing could do that.

BrucC (stm) had offered help on this- thanks! If you have ideas, observations of similar cases, etc., please email the name used here (i.e. requesting no discussions on ML, not on this, at least not yet).

This situation is not yet but close to interfering with that friend's sibling's poetry writing ability. Asking for help before that happens seems prudent. help?

-----------
*Actually a friend and their sibling.
** I don't know if all of a. through d. can be proven conclusively... It would be annoying beyond belief if WP wanted to be fair and balanced and equally believing of both sides.

#944 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 01:04 AM:

ethan @ #939:

I still haven't written the review of Edward II (which would be spoilery anyway), but I stuck the review I emailed to my friends of their previous production (The Revenger's Tragedy) on Rixo if you want to get an idea of the sort of stuff Red Bull does. Edward II was positively sedate by comparison with what they did with Revenger's Tragedy.

#945 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 01:31 AM:

Susan, you're making it sound even more appealing. Quit it!

Re: Teresa's lullaby particle, wow. Too bad she never gets to the "You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot" part. That's my favorite bit.

#946 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 10:17 AM:

In the "let's have some non-political outrage for a change of pace" department:

Why Age 10 is Too Young for Your First Brazilian.

The outrage is that this argument even needs to be made. What is WITH the whole sexualization-of-little-girls thing anyhow? (See also: Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank.)

Thank ghod my partner's daughter understands the difference between dressing attractively and clothing that paints a target on you. And we didn't have to fight with her about it -- we got lucky.

#947 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 12:22 PM:

Lee, there probably isn't enough space left in this thread for the conversation this may start, but "clothing that paints a target on you" dances uncomfortably close to "asking for it" for me. To be clear, the sexualization of young girls is unspeakably icky in all kinds of ways, but I think it's also necessary to address it wihout veering off towards slut-shaming.

It's the difference between "Alcohol is an adult decision that you're not ready to weigh properly" and "If you taste the devil's juice you'll end up living in a box on the corner like Pete the Wino."

(I thought the article was spot-on, though.)

#948 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Speaking of net stalking and young girls, the Lori Drew/Megan Meier case has reared its head again:

Grand jury subpoenas Myspace records.

#949 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 01:03 PM:

Lee @#946: And yet, by doing this, they're in fact removing one of the the first signs of their developing sexuality....

My initial thought is that this is a misguided (and doomed) attempt at a market expansion.

#950 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 01:57 PM:

Because the experience of the 'Sphere is vast and shiny:

Munich during Fasching season- anyone done that?

I quite look forward to the donuts, but am also trying to figure out which events we might go to (18th to 27th), being tourists of the 'not good at ballroom dance' and 'cannot bring a giant wardrobe' kind. (Should have done more con contradancing. ::regrets::)

Couldn't go to the formal ballnachts anyways: I don't own a good mask and my partner doesn't own festliche abendkleidung.

But now I know more than before on the subtle gradations of extra formal wear for if the dance-lord is visible. And something about a white worm. (It's the 21st century: where's my perfect translating software.)

However, the costuming of other events (says Fidelio and pics I've seen) can include ridiculously shiny colorful stuff. Hey, that's Burningman, we've got that.

#951 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 02:00 PM:

I don't know if the book is any good (the excerpt seemed typical of the "sef-help and be above the crowd" variety), but the title is horrid.

#952 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 02:16 PM:

Lee @ 946
I've started to wonder whether the media is pushing pedophilia as an expression of misogyny, or misogyny as an excuse for pedophilia. One of the common plot elements in "sophisticated" tv series this season is the vicious nymphet: a highly-sexualized and willing young (~15 or so seems typical) woman who makes advances to an adult male, and then when she is rejected, embarks on a campaign to destroy his reputation and life. This seems to fit either or both purposes above.

David Harmon @ 949
And yet, by doing this, they're in fact removing one of the the first signs of their developing sexuality....

Yes, but the "beauty" industry has already convinced a large number of adult (or at any rate pubescent) women that that particular sexual characteristic is unsightly, and should be removed. By moving the age of concern for that downwards, they effectively move the age of concern about sexuality down as well. I'm not so sure the attempt is doomed; it may meet more resistance than the adult campaign did, but since it appeals to the need to seem adult, it will probably meet with a lot of success.

#953 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 02:16 PM:

Dan, #947: Yeah, I wasn't comfortable with that phrasing either, but I couldn't figure out how to say it better. What I was trying to express was, "clothing which will inevitably lead to the judgment of 'asking for it' -- which predators are well aware of and take full advantage of". That's clunky, but clearer. Yes, I know there's nothing a woman can wear that won't be judged as "asking for it" by somebody -- I haven't forgotten that Wisconsin gang-rape case where the judge ruled that wearing jeans and a sweatshirt was "asking for it". But as long as the "asking for it" defense is out there at all, women have to be aware that there are thugs who rely on it.

And there is just NO excuse whatsoever for things like little-kid-sized shirts saying "Too Sexy" or "I'm Hot" -- both of which I've seen in the children's departments of major retail chains.

#954 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Bruce #952

There is alas NOTHING that is new about that... consider Lolita, and consider at least one of the Fafrd and Grey Mouser stories, in which there are a female characters who has all her body hair removed.

Infantilization as sexuality is not new, of removing body hair to make the person seem pre-pubescent.

Prostitutes of age EIGHT or under were hardly unknown in Victorian and earlier England... open shelves contemporary fiction doesn't much want to deal with it for lots of reasons, which include the ethics and morals of authors and editors, issues about attracting highly unfavorable attention up to and including potential extremely unpleasant lawsuits, the expectation of adverse publicity and lack of sales appeal, the likelihood of the workd being rejected except MAYBE by the likes of Publish America....

I was horrified by the highly sexualized "glamor" pictures of whatever-her-name-was who was the child who was brutally murdered in Colorado who despite not even being that near the age of ten, was it, was a veteran of lots of competitions for dressing up provocatively, and that was a number of years ago.

As regards shaving, wax jobs, etc., I seem to recall that as soon as body hair started showing up, girls got pressured to remove it, and in lots of cases, -permanently-. I forget what the process is of electro-something-or-other to kill hair follicles for facial hair that has been used on girls and women for decades and decades -- electrolysis, make.

There there were the aluminum chlorhydrate sprays for underarm deodorants, sprayed after shaving underarms.... the latter abrading the skin, and the former then causing allergic reactions....

The difference today might be that the onset of puberty is -earlier- generally than it was for my generation. But the "horrible horrible remove all hair on legs and face and underarms and any that goes beyond bikini lines!" was aimed at any females with body hair regardless of age even in the ancient days when I was a child.

#955 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 02:57 PM:

Lee, that makes sense. One of the worst things we have to tell kids is "People are going to try and take advantage of you for reasons that are totally not fair" - and I suspect that one of the reasons victim-blaming is as widespread as it is, and taught as early, is that it's a lot easier to create a false idea of justice than try to explain why there isn't any justice at all. (And those shirts are truly horrible, not least because they end up feeding both sides of the unfairness.)

On a related note, I was impressed as hell by this.

Bruce (STM), 952: Well, it's a vicious cycle on all fronts, innit? You get to tell women that they're better off looking like children, thus tangling up healthy sexual desire with pedophilia until the boundaries blur past distinguishing; then, you get to hate women for not being sufficiently grown-up, at the same time excusing child rape on the grounds that the kid was a little temptress who got what she deserved (and who would destroy an innocent man given half a chance, so it's best to put her in her place anyway). It's all sort of brilliant, in a twisted and despicable way.

#956 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Kathryn @950 -- you're going to be in München, cool! I haven't been to their Fasching celebration, but looking at the calendar, your best bet might be that parade (Faschingsumzug) on the 27th. Unless that's the day you're flying out, of course :( Otherwise the people at your hotel might have some good ideas.

People watching the parades are often dressed in costume, some very elaborate, but many with just a silly hat, clown nose, or fancy makeup. My best advice is to dress for warmth if you're going to the parade, because standing still, outside, for an hour or so just isn't fun in a skimpy costume. At least not in Germany this time of year.

Oh, and it might help to carry a plastic bag. People on the floats usually fling sweets to the crowd (instead of beads as at Mardi Gras).

The events at the Max Emanuel Brewery require you to be dressed in white, and it sounds like they'll be having more modern dancing (disco fox!) instead of ballroom.

If I can help with any other info, please let me know.

#957 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Lee, the conversation at our house has evolved the term "dressing to attract idiots."

#958 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 03:58 PM:

dan,

"People are going to try and take advantage of you for reasons that are totally not fair"

i often think the worst lesson i learned from growing up on marvel comics is not that women are sex objects, but that women can dress in lingerie & not be sexualized by those around them. no one talks down to them, talks to their chests, tries to grope them, or makes winking insinuations (or if they did, in the eighties, it went over my head). ororo could be a tough, smart team leader in a leather onesie with cut-outs.

it made me want to dress up everywhere in lingerie or bondage gear* (cause it's pretty!) & be treated the same as a man. i was cruelly acquainted with reality at age fourteen or so, but aesthetic preferences are a hard thing to shake.

probably why i, an introverted geek who never dated in high school, still got in fights with my mother over clothes on a weekly basis.

* if anyone read half as many chris claremont-penned comics in the eighties as i did, you know he had a real thing for what i later understood was bondage gear. warped me for life.

#959 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 04:11 PM:

re 952 et al: My understanding of the "Brazilian hairless" routine was that it was more about sexual differentiation than looking (too) young. It's a bit nonsensical, of course.

My prepubescent shopping epiphany: trying to buy a dressy Christmas outfit for my 11 year old daughter. They don't exist. I finally did manage to find a dress at Lord & Taylor's that was slightly too small and thus a bit short in the hemline, but having been to Target, Penney's, Nordstrom's, and Macy's, I was grateful just for that. Except for the school uniform stuff at Target, everything was quite casual and almost everything that wasn't pants was on the skimpy side.

And can we talk about "everything comes in pink"? Why does there have to be a pink version of everything in the store? And I don't just mean clothes-- if you go to Target there is hardly a single durable good in the store that doesn't come in pink.

#960 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 04:26 PM:

C. Wingate: My understanding of the "Brazilian hairless" routine was that it was more about sexual differentiation than looking (too) young.

"Was"?

Why does there have to be a pink version of everything in the store?

It's about sexual differentiation.

#961 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Dan #952

Is modern society organizing that stuff to make the culture sexual predator-on-females heaven?

====

The cover of the book appalled me, all that pink (and it actually is a color which I have never liked, and never appreciated imposition of that horrible color on girls as gender definition--ick, ick, ick, ICK!!! --put orangey pinks and orangey other colors on me and I look like something that should have been decently laid to rest in a casket days before....-- and the Big Hair and... covers involve emotional reactions, and my emotional reaction to that one, was being repulsed.

#962 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 04:43 PM:

ethan #960

IBM interface-with-public male people, back before the 1980s, used to wear suits with pink shirts....

That was then, though.
Corporate official images can change over time.
I remember one trade show that the official uniform of the IBM employees working the show, was lavender polo shirts and white pants, in the 1990s.

As for "slutwear" as Everyday Clothing for females, yetch.......

(I have on a pair of polyester or some such elastic waistband pants, blue socks, black leather tie shows (the Velco ones disappeared off the market alas...) blue long sleeve striped buttoned shirt from Kohl's [shirts are an issue, usually they're cut for doubly masectomized mannequins...), and a grey cardigan down-to-the-thigh sweater. Nobody here is of the software-engineer-with-the-highly-aerated-clothing (read, the holes get so large that after a while what started out as full length pants turn into shorts...) persuasion, which is "corporate casual" and then some....)

#963 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 04:53 PM:

Miriam Beetle @#95*: ororo could be a tough, smart team leader in a leather onesie with cut-outs.

And if somebody got fresh with her, she could hit them with a lightning bolt! Likewise for the White Queen, She-Hulk, etc, mutatis mutandis. ([Dave ducks])

Being able to get away with dressing provocatively, without risk of getting victimized, is in itself a display of power....

#964 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 04:59 PM:

ethan @ #960:
Actually, we can blame the pink-for-girls thing on the parents of the baby boomers and corporate marketing. Prior to WWII, there wasn't the same gender color-coding, and what there was of it was inconsistent, with some people insisting on pink for boys and some on pink for girls.

from 1918:

"There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for a boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

#965 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 05:03 PM:

David Harmon @ 963... Me, I far prefer the outfits worn by Sue Richard and Dark Phoenix, and those are very powerful ladies.

#966 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 05:29 PM:

From an e-mail sent to me:


Hi there,
I wanted to remind everyone that the new year is a good time to keep up with your computer maintenance.
Perhaps you didn't realize that, in addition to dusting your screen from the outside, it's necessary to clean it from the inside where you normally can't wipe.

Click on the link below and watch the difference in clarity.

Inner screen cleaner


http://www.roberthein.dk/screenclean.swf

#967 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 05:38 PM:

Susan 964: Yet another reminder of how arbitrary our social symbols are. It's just astonishing.

Steve 966: I love that! I'm gonna send it to my mom.

#968 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 06:15 PM:

miriam, you've caused a lightbulb to go on for me. I'm now wondering if there isn't a significant subset of the Clueless Males who don't understand what the fuss is in some feminist analysis of media concerning clothing/costuming because certain kinds of lingerie-and-bondage-wear-like fashion genuinely don't register as sexualized to them, for some of the same reasons you mention. (Gendered, yes, but not sexualized.) It wouldn't be a stretch for some men who have grown up with superheroes to take it as given that those are just what female costumes look like, without any component of fetishization. They're not seeing them through the eyes of the creators, they're seeing them through the eyes of the other characters, who of course wouldn't ogle or grope or treat with disrespect someone who was dressed that way; they're probably even convinced they'd act the same, and some of them may even be right. (Generalizing and oversimplifying like mad here, of course, but still, I wonder. And I know I've caught myself reacting to the assertion that something was inherently and obviously sexualized or "pornified" with "Is it? Huh," and I bet I'm not alone.)

Paula, I don't think this is much of a "modern" phenomenon at all. A great deal of human culture has been a heaven for sexual predators for a very long time, and what we're witnessing is, I think, a backlash as the privileged try new tactics to hold onto power they've always taken for granted. We've come to understand better than maybe we ever have that it's not a good idea to make a 13-year-old your spouse or concubine, that it isn't very nice to treat your wife like property, and that assuming women are an always-available sexual resource for men might not be the healthiest way to maintain a society. That means that the entrenched system is more desperate than ever to keep the heirarchy in place, and turns to increasingly bizarre measures to do so.

#969 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 06:23 PM:

Serge @#965: Both of those characters evolved over a long period:

Susan Storm/Richards, developed from an insecure team weakling to a mature powerhouse -- and note that part of that development was motherhood (to a metahuman "problem child", yet). Remember how many of her early plots revolved around her getting kidnapped by some villain looking for a queen?

Dark Phoenix was always a transitory figure, on her way to being defeated or destroyed -- more, she was a shadow figure to the famously insecure Jean Grey (originally Marvel Girl, later the perpetually-doomed and unstable Phoenix).

Better examples might be some of the New Mutants, such as Jubilee and Danielle Moonstar. And then of course, there's Kitty Pryde.... That whole generation of heroines showed a much better attitude (and fashion sense)....

#970 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 06:40 PM:

David Harmon @ 969... Agreed. As for Kitty Pryde, I thought of bringing her, but then then my post was out the door. Whedon and the current artist have been doing a good job with her. Not only does she look physically realistic, but she dresses that way too. (I laughed when Armor, an Asian teenager, was stuck having to put on one of Kitty's old outfits and the darn thing was too big for her.)

#971 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 06:47 PM:

Faren, re your plea for shoes in The Solstice Episode: have you tried L.L. Bean? Their latest catalog showed some (admittedly a touch more pastel than not) canvas slipons in D width.

#972 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 06:55 PM:

A tornado briefly touched down in the Hazel Dale neighborhood outside of Vancouver, WA this afternoon. Busted up a house, blew down a billboard, and threw around a lot of debris.

One caller into a local TV station reported hearing a terrible noise and on rushing out of the house discovered that a full-sized trampoline had ended up in her yard.

The latter sounds like a setup for a joke that didn't quite work out.

#973 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 06:56 PM:

miriam, you make a great point. I worked in a comic shop, and damn, you make a great point, as does Dan about cluelessness. Something to think on.

I find what people find 'stimulating' in regards to costume to be interesting. One of my friends finds Little House on the Prarie nightgowns sexy, whereas my husband hardly notices clothes, unless they are absent. However, I'm on a writing deadline, so I should be thinking about other things and put this on the backburner for now. Brain, did you process that? Hey, did you??

#974 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 07:27 PM:

Steve @ #966, that's hilarious.

#975 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 07:38 PM:

Sigh, I'd like to get into the issue of women's costumes at SF conventions (and Pagan gatherings), but I'm heading off for the weekend tomorrow morning, and I don't have time to work up that post. I guess when I come back, I'll have to catch up with the discussion first.

My family rescheduled Chanukah to sometime that wasn't so busy, which would be this weekend. ;-) For our non-quadratic adult gift exchange, I am getting someone a book of essays by Ursula LeGuin. And lots of books for the nieces and nephews, including three volumes of Tom Swift Jr. (the 2nd series) for the oldest.

#976 ::: Kathryn From Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Dan Layman Kennedy @968,

That's part of what I was trying to say in A Visit To The Halloween Store, both in the essay and comment thread. Note the photos comparing 18 "womens" costumes vs. the 17 "mens" or "plus size" costumes. No differences there, nope.

Because of BurningMan(1), I've experienced--I've worn, and I've seen-- messageless clothing.

A business suit or kilt has no more implicit(2) meaning to an observer there than body-paint or angel wings, just as you'd get no meaning from red vs. green earings if you met someone from my hypothetical culture of Earica.

Having worn messageless clothing (everything is a costume, nothing is a costume), messageful clothing in the default (mundane) world(3) feels anything from wasteful::annoying::ick.

Those "sexy" costumes are no more liberating than the cocktail dress and night out were for OfJoshua in the Handmaid's Tale.

The audience defines and controls the message: you can't measure out/ tailor what type of "sexy" it is, or for whom. Those clothes in this world just Other you, or Group you.

endnotes
1. yes, yet another "Kathryn invites all of you to go: you'd love it and it gives you a taste of post-scarcity economics..." post. But this year you can do both. Different weeks! Shiny! (But buy tix next week--easy to sell if you can't go!)

2. she could derive a meaning, but it wouldn't be a shared cultural meaning. hmmm, I need to think more about this.

3. Fandom has elements of messageless clothing, but not nearly as much as it/they/us may think.

#977 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 09:17 PM:

“I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.”

Vale Sir Edmund Hillary, apiarist, writer, 'do-gooder'; a great Australasian (yes, actually a Kiwi, and a New Zealander can probably do him more justice). He had a good life, but we are still sorry to lose him. (NYT; TVNZ Timeline; NZ Herald)

#978 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 09:20 PM:

Check this AAP story for a slightly different slant on the OECD health figures.

I wonder if &/or how they will make anything of them in the primary debates? In the comments on the Klein article I guess you can see some of how it'll go.

#979 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 09:41 PM:

Debbie @956

Thanks! It starts at 10, and our flight from Munich to Frankfurt is at 14:30, so perhaps(1).

Of course, the first question I should ask you is "what should I ask you, that tourists should know?"

For example, Fasching came as a surprise to me. The first few tourist books I read said nothing of it. The book that did mention it--a book of train schedules-- made it sound like only a bacchanal and not a diverse set of balls, parties and festivities. (I don't know if that says more about tour books or tourists.)

Here's a question: what is the likelihood of a train strike two weeks from now? Would it be all trains, everywhere?

(1) If it takes 40 minutes to get to the airport by train, and if German domestic airport security (M to Fra) isn't as long as the US's, then there could be time.

#980 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 10:14 PM:

Mez #977:
Sad indeed. That he was the only living New Zealander featured on our currency (the NZ$5 note) indicated the high regard his fellow countryfolk held for him.

#981 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2008, 11:26 PM:

Steve C. @ 966:

Thanks! I've passed that one along to some deserving friends.

#982 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 01:06 AM:

Stefan Jones, #972, when Typhoon Karen left Guam, we had a helicopter rotor in our front yard.

The WashPost also had an article following up on Megan Meier's suicide.

#983 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 02:09 AM:

Kathryn: There is a restaurant in the Munich airport, which advertises itself as serving Airbräu. If you can eat breakfast there, do so. The bacon, or ham (speck, or shenken) are wonderful, and the bread basket is worth it (esp. if that's a day they have the super crusty loaf).

The coffee is so-so, but the chocolate is tasty, and the bier in question is pretty good; even for breakfast.

#985 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 04:34 AM:

Kathryn @979 --

I'm a little skeptical about the time-frame for your catching the parade, with or without train strikes[1]. Getting from the parade to your hotel to pick up luggage and then getting to the airport...hmm. And I don't know how strict they are these days with security on inland flights.

Fasching is a southern German term for Karneval=Carnival=Mardi Gras. Other terms are Fasnet and Fastnacht, which comes from the fasting season of Lent directly afterwards. Where I live (Rheinland) it's a HUGE deal. They call it the "fifth season" of the year, officially starting on Nov. 11th at 11:11 a.m. You'll actually be missing the most intense time, which starts on the 31st and ends on Ash Wednesday.

Anway, at Fasching time there are a lot of balls and also other events put on by various carnival societies (which are by no means the domain of the rich/elite). A lot of events involve people giving humorous speeches, often in rhyme and politically-oriented (Think Colbert in a clown suit?). The floats at the parade are likely to be political, too.
Here's a link to info about Karneval in Düsseldorf.

And here's one to traveling in Munich.

What should you know as a tourist? Ack, hard question. Oh, I know one thing -- keep a supply of small change handy. A lot of restrooms, frex in department stores, have started requiring a fee. Other than that, feel free to email me!!

[1]There is a conflict at the moment, and there were some strikes before Christmas. I don't know how things will be in a few weeks.

#986 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 08:05 AM:

Dan #968

But wasn't there something said about one of the Asian empire of the Mongols I think it was, something like, "A virgin [female] could walk from one end of the empire to the other on the public roads and not be molested"??

#987 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 08:42 AM:

Paula, I'm sure that's been true of various cultures throughout history, and they're good examples of alternate ways of doing things. But the fact that such a scenario seems startling to us in the so-called developed West should say something about how different it is from the history we've built our own empire on.

Patriarchy is, I think, like genre; it's a mistake to define it too much by its edge cases.

#988 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 10:01 AM:

joann (#971): Thanks for the tip about the canvas shoes; I'll check it out. (But, like some of the other gals above, I don't do pink -- not for shoes, anyway!)

#989 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 10:30 AM:

Paula @986

It's been used of Geghis Khan, and, IIRC also of William the Conqueror, and a few others, probably including Timur i-Leng and Saladin. It's a standard demonstration in eulogies of rulers of "This is how well the laws were enforced, this is how tight a grip he had on the reins of power, that no one dared to break the law", with the implication that the deceased ruler may have been a terrifying SOB who made everyone pay taxes and killed lots of people who got in his way, but by god, the streets were safe. Because if attractive young women loaded down with valuables don't have anything to worry about, neither does anyone else. If this says as much to you about the general vulnerability of attractive young women, especially those loaded down with valuables, as it does anything else--yeah, me too.

#990 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 12:41 PM:

It was probably said of Vlad Tepes. I know that it was said a bacg of gold could be left on the street, and not a coin would be removed.

Likewise the traveller could go from end to end of his kingdom and not be molested in any wise.

#991 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Of Eberhard I, Duke of Württemberg, it was said that he could have laid his head on the lap of any of his subjects without fear. Now that's a good reputation.

#992 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 03:33 PM:

re 960: I don't travel in the right social circles to be able to understand that sort of thing in the present. It also occurs to me, though, that as clothing started pushing exposure boundaries it came up against societal taboos against being too overtly sexual, and that's how all that shaving/waxing got started. And having started, it morphed into a beauty standard. Well, it's just a theory, and we can always fall back on the old "it's gay fashion designers phantasizing about their models being boys" if we run out of decent theories.

The thing that struck me about the Pink Plague is how abrupt it seemed to be. The pink-blue code dates back at least to my childhood, but it wasn't until maybe a year ago that there had to be a pink version of everything. Pepto-Bismol pink, at that. And it sticks out particularly because it is being applied to all these things that (except in the '70s, when of course everything came in olive and Harvest Gold) otherwise come in the most neutral hues possible. So small appliances come in white, and black, and stainless steel, and PINK. Luggage comes in black, and charcoal, and maybe navy, and PINK. Sporting goods come in conventional colors, and PINK. I'm waiting for shotguns and Colt 45s to come with PINK grips-- for all I know, they already do.

#993 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 04:08 PM:

Oh yeah, I forgot that homosexuality and pedophilia were the same thing. You're on to something there.

#994 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 04:13 PM:

Oh, honestly, guys. Just don't.

#995 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 04:19 PM:

Sorry, abi.

#996 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 04:37 PM:

re #993: I was being sarcastic; I guess it wasn't obvious enough that I meant it to be not a decent theory. (Especially since it doesn't explain Elsa Schiaparelli, much less Coco Chanel.)

#997 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 04:39 PM:

It's okay, ethan. I understand how it could be a button issue (and I'm sure C Wingate does as well).

I think we all need to watch the temptation to take emotions across threads. 2008 is going to be tough on community spirit, both online and in meatspace. I'd like Making Light to be an exception.

#998 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 07:16 PM:

ethan: want to be distracted? I finally wrote my not-a-review of Edward II. If you plan to see the play you might want to avoid the copious plot/production spoilers until afterwards, though I'd love to hear your thoughts when/if you do see it.

#999 ::: janetl see spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2011, 02:51 AM:

999 is highly dubious

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