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January 5, 2004

Open thread 15
Posted by Teresa at 12:56 PM *

Dark rainy January, and worse weather to come. It’s seasonable as all hell out there.

Comments on Open thread 15:
#1 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 01:08 PM:

I was unable to get to sleep for a while last night because I couldn't stop giggling about the last entry in the "bad New Year's Eve story" competition. While it has no resemblance to the Miller's Tale (aside from the presence of someone upstairs who's afraid of an inundation), it nevertheless put me strongly in mind of it. And if I try to say anything more than that I'll just start giggling again, so I won't.

#2 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 01:23 PM:

Hey, when you steal from Chaucer, you steal from the best.


#3 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 01:45 PM:

Clearly they just need a SNAAAAKE in Salisbury Plain...

Or maybe some sort of mushroom baiting program.

#4 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 01:54 PM:

"Maugre thy heed, thou must for indigence
Or steal, or borrow, thy dispense."

#5 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 02:29 PM:

At least I'm not the only person on the planet who thinks Chaucer is funny. Elsewhere in the world, I posted a historically enlightening blurb of his the other day which sank without comment even though I found it both amusing and educational. *sigh*

Which blurb? The fashion critique from The Parson's Tale, specifically the pairing of short tunics with hose that lacked crotch seams, a sartorial combination that let it all hang out in the fourteenth century.

Well, I thought it was funny. Maybe I'm just easily amused.

#6 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 02:51 PM:

There is in Britain a National Federation of Badger Groups. The mind boggles. Do you think we have such a thing here? Why, oh why, oh why? (And is it a sign of something awful that my brain jumped to badgers with tricorders as members of the United Federation of Badgers?)

#7 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 03:00 PM:

Chaucer is very funny, as is Bocaccio. I mentioned this to somebody and got a blank look back, but hell - the Decameron is full of naughty episodes that are great to read. Juvenal is nicely catty, as well - at least in the very strange translation I have.

#8 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 03:07 PM:

Chaucer and Boccaccio are nearly as good a source for stories to steal as Ovid. Speaking as one who has swiped wholesale from all three (and retail from two).


#9 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 03:11 PM:

Urph—clicked POST too soon. Meant to add that while Ariosto belongs in the same ruling circle as those three, he's harder to steal from: fewer detatchable episodes. That said, someone needs to do to modern genre fantasy what Ariosto (and his masters, Boiardo and Pulci) did to chivalric romance.


#10 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 03:12 PM:
There is in Britain a National Federation of Badger Groups. The mind boggles. Do you think we have such a thing here? Why, oh why, oh why?

The UK has a tradition of "animal groups" (an awful phrase but I can't think of a better one right now). Why shouldn't there be a badger federation?

(And is it a sign of something awful that my brain jumped to badgers with tricorders as members of the United Federation of Badgers?)

Hmmm... that would make the Klingons wolverines, I think. Which gives me a great idea for the halftime show at the next U. Wisconsin/U. Michigan football game.

On another subject, is everyone else as pathetic as I am on the King William's College quiz? I can only find 16 questions that I am fairly sure of (although I suspect I have a different correct answer from what the setters were thinking on 17.8), and 9 more I can make a good guess on.

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 04:04 PM:

Check it out: Jim Woodring's FRANK visits the Burgess Shale!

#12 ::: Stephanie Zvan ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 04:40 PM:

While I'm pretty sure I understand what it means from the context, "Scheduled Ancient Monuments" just got up off the page and danced for me. The possibilities...

It's -2(F) and windy here in Minneapolis. Trying to reach 0 today. It's the kind of weather in which you have to start being careful how you breathe, lest your lungs sieze or your sinuses bleed. Bleah.

#14 ::: qB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 05:17 PM:

People over here can be very very peculiar about animals. Badgers are much beloved by a certain section of society which opposes their being culled by farmers who say the badgers pass TB on to their cattle. I am an agnostic on this subject, but note with interest that in Chaucer's day the term "brok" (still used to describe badgers in some parts of the country, and the traditional name for a badger) was an insult. Viz the Friar's Tale:

The cartere smoot, and cryde as he were wood,
Hayt, brok! hayt, scot! what spare ye for the stones?
The feend, quod he, yow fecche, body and bones,
As ferforthly as evere were ye foled,
So muche wo as I have with yow tholed!

[The carter whipped and cried as madman would,
"Hi, Badger, Scot! What care you for the stones?
The Fiend," he cried, "take body of you and bones,
As utterly as ever you were foaled!
More trouble you've caused me than can be told!]

I love Chaucer, am on the look-out for a good full translation of the Decameron and firmly believe that the Metamorphoses contains every story ever written. Or the germs of them, at least.

#15 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 05:31 PM:

Teresa: My boyfriend owns one of those Mount Fuji with Rabbits prints--we bought it off the artist at Comic-Con, and now it hangs framed in his office.

#16 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 05:32 PM:

Badgers, we don't need no stinking badgers ...

Sorry -- couldn't resist.

#17 ::: Berni ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 05:52 PM:

Okay.... I can't tell if the "website to rival the Landover Baptist Church" is serious or a spoof.

#18 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 06:24 PM:

I actually stole from Bocaccio to mimic Chaucer - an English prof. of mine had us write additional Cantebury tales, and I adapted the Decameron story about the young lass who goes off to seek holiness in the desert and returns with a sex addiction. It turned out to be the top vote-getter in the class for "most believable Chaucer story," so I suppose I was doing something right.

#19 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 06:26 PM:

The first time I visited England, two years ago, I was fascinated by the sheer volume of Badger Roadkill. (Those, and the colorful pheasant remains were the most interesting roadkills I had seen, until driving through Texas and noting the various armadillo carcasses lining the freeway. What can I say - I'm a midwestern girl at heart.)

After seeing all those Badgers on the side of the road, I had begun to despair that any could possibly remain, but apparantly not. Maybe what England needs is a great big Badger Habitrail.

For you Chaucer people, do you know of a good "training wheels" edition of the Canterbury Tales? My middle english is pretty dire, but I'd prefer on that's not too dumbed-down. Ideally, I'd love original text on one side, and "translation" on the other. Any reccomendations?

#20 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 06:29 PM:

Okay.... I can't tell if the "website to rival the Landover Baptist Church" is serious or a spoof.

Berni: You are far from the only one to have wondered that. I blogged about that question myself once, even. It's here. Shorter version: I'm almost entirely positive it's a hoax, albeit a totally brilliant hoax, but it's nearly impossible to find people willing to cast a no-qualms up or down vote on it.

Actually, come to think about it, that post also rambles on about the Mormon Spin High, and I've always wanted to mention that here and see what happens. It was a low-cost, acceptable-in-the-eyes-of-God method for getting yourself looped. It could also be called Fun with Your Inner Ear. Has anybody else out there heard of it, or was the MSH a mid-eighties Bay Area thing?

#21 ::: Tamago ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 08:08 PM:

(And is it a sign of something awful that my brain jumped to badgers with tricorders as members of the United Federation of Badgers?)

Hmmm... that would make the Klingons wolverines, I think. Which gives me a great idea for the halftime show at the next U. Wisconsin/U. Michigan football game.

Does that come under the "writing fan fiction about Captain Kirk as an ocelot" heading on the Geek Hierarchy chart?

#22 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 08:11 PM:

Nerdycellist, you wrote For you Chaucer people, do you know of a good "training wheels" edition of the Canterbury Tales?

I couldn't find a working side-by-side but here is a hypertexted middle english with associated dictionary in a frame at the bottom... works nicely in my browser.

Additionally, if you're not averse to (they traffic in popup ads), you can get modern and middle Chaucer there ... judicious use of "open in a new browser window" and resizing of the respective windows should let you do your very own side-by-side.

Hope that this helps. It really is worth attacking the middle English, if only because it's a great way to learn out-of-date profanity.

There are benefits, sometimes extremely petty ones (the whale penis joke in Moby Dick and the first page of Gulliver's Travels to name a few), to actually reading the unabridged classics. I'm all for petty benefits, and Chaucer isn't the kind of guy who would be offended by being read for 'the dirty parts', either.

For advanced-user fun and profit, try reading Bocaccio's Decameron in conjunction with Chaucer's Canterbury tales. It's not just genibee who steals from Bocaccio...

#23 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 08:15 PM:

We've been shorting the poor fellow a C. It's Boccaccio. Oops. My apologies... I have soundly thrashed my spellchecker.

#24 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 08:29 PM:

Reading Barry Miles's superb biography of Paul McCartney, Many Years From Now, I find that Macca is a lifelong Chaucer fan, having been exposed to the Miller's Tale early in life by a teacher smart enough to alert the kids to the dirty parts.

#25 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 09:16 PM:

Andrew - I was so sure the book Wicca: Satan's Little White Lie was a hoax, I interviewed some of the people responsible for it and wound up as the guest Evil Person on that day's radio show. It was Halloween. That particular Baptist church (in Seattle) happens to believe that unicorns, rainbows and blowing out birthday candles are also the work of the devil.

Re: church kids getting high on the natch: I taught a kid at church summer camp how to pass out after hyperventilating, make pruno and trance channel a 35,000 year old shaman and he wound up being the person married to someone who became very famous and rich (for channeling), some 20-odd years later. I was asked by a biographer of said channeller to assist in the gathering of material for the biography, but I felt I had to decline, since I'd already turned down the 35,000 year old entity once. PS you can get pretty high from fasting for the whole weekend while dancing your ass off at a church social, too. One of the bishops in my college ward told me they count on it, because more kids get engaged at those things than at other times in the year. More engagements, more marriages, more kids born to be good're doing your part to bring more Saints to Zion.

#26 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 09:39 PM:

Thanks Teep!

I kind of wanted a "side-by-side" so I could read a passage in the original language, mull over to see how much I understood, and then check the crib notes to see if I was right. Of course, learning arcane dirty stuff so that I can amuse and confound friends and family is just so much frosting on the cake! After suffering through Billy Budd (or rather, the first two chapters) I wonder if the penis joke in Moby Dick is worth the effort.

#27 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 10:40 PM:

Karen, I realize that it's possible to go so far 'round the bend that one seems to come back 'round the other side.

But...Objective sells the thong!

#28 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 10:57 PM:

We had a tease of spring Friday (60s, wore my birkenstocks to work). Today it's 10 and I had to chisel out my car (and use warm water so I could 1) cut the ice enough for my Jim to scrape it, and 2) open my flipping car doors (they freeze shut if we get an damp mist and it turns cold, and my car had 1/4" ice on it..... sigh.

Matrimonial thong? Worn "under" traditional garments? Yikes!

#29 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 11:07 PM:

I think there's a pretty big clue as to the legitimacy of the "Objective" site in the whois info for the "" domain:

"Registrant Name: NOC NOC"

Anyone for a rousing chorus of "Who's there?"

Additionally, the registrar and administrator info for are completely it's not the same people, certainly.

And, as has been mentioned...there's the thong.

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 12:56 AM:

It probably won't help you much, nerdy, but the only edition of Chaucer I've found that slows me down enough so I actually read and figure out the ME is the Kelmscott Chaucer ("The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer now newly imprinted by the Kelmscott Press, 1896", William Morris's swan song as a designer and printer, published posthumously). will give you a sense of how it looks, but much of the joy of the edition is the feel of the paper and the size of the thing. Check your local university library with a Rare Book Room -- I got my fix at Berkeley over 30 years ago.

Hey, it's a bit cheaper than a nice first edition of THE HOBBIT. Low end Kelmscott Chaucer is $65K these days (top just over $100K); a nice signed HOBBIT first will cost at least the same, with the high end at $138K.

#31 ::: Stu Savory ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 03:38 AM:

Hej Teresa,
instead of writing "Dark rainy January, and worse weather to come. It92s seasonable as all hell out there."

Surely you meant "Twas a dark and stormy night . . ."

Stu :-)

#32 ::: Jeffrey Kramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 05:44 AM:

Andrew, I'd bet all my worldly possessions that it was a hoax, just on the basis of their listing of the crew on their Dinosaur-hunting expedition, including "Nigel Stubbingwicke, a British professional hunter and expert on tracking large animals whom we hired through his advertisement in the back of African Hunter Magazine."

"Nigel Stubbingwicke"!?

#33 ::: Oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 06:52 AM:

"Nigel Stubbingwicke" apparently has a small website at His resume begins with "1961 - Born". These guys are pretty thorough... but, it's a hoax.

#34 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 07:18 AM:

Three years ago in Scotland I had an up close and personal experience with a mother badger and two younglings at a sett. So put me on the angel side of badgerdom. Story needs to be told in person, but it involves magic, of that I am quite certain!


#35 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 07:27 AM:

My first exposure to "The Miller's Tale" was seeing someone do a (screamingly funny) performance of it at a high-school speech tournament. He used the Nevill Coghill translation, which I'm not qualified to have a professional opinion on (not knowing any Middle English at all), but which certainly doesn't gloss over the naughty bits.

#36 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 08:54 AM:

I don't know that the whale joke in Moby is worth plowing through the rest of the book. Melville isn't the world's most approachable author. You have to bring a fair amount of determination along with you to get through the book.

However, we're fortunate enough to live in the information age, where the entire and complete text of Moby is online so that everyone can go read the whale joke without having to read the rest of the book or, in fact, buy a copy. Go internet!

And, er, (shameless self-promotion) here are a set of not-entirely-serious commentaries on most of the book. It contains a nice explanation of the whale joke in case anyone doesn't get it from reading the appropriate chapter.

#37 ::: Rob Tomshany ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 10:27 AM:

When I read the link title "Britain's past threatened by badgers," my first thought was that cartoon badgers had somehow infiltrated the classic treasures of British cinema--a natural assumption, given the nature of the previous badger-related link--and that we could now see images of badgers in the movies of Hitchcock, Powell & Pressberger, Olivier's (and Branagh's) Shakespeare adaptations, and the Ealing comedies and James Bond movies, not to mention "Brief Encounter", "The Third Man", and "A Hard Day's Night". Boy, was I disappointed!

#38 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 10:50 AM:

Speaking of Badgers:

"A surprise success in his native land, and a sensation in South Africa, Badger Land was not the most obvious choice of sire material, nor would a superficial glance at his pedigree indicate how he is working. An in-depth study, however, reveals some interesting insights which can point breeders in the right direction.
Whatever one might think about his pedigree, there is no doubt that Badger Land was a very smart performer..."

Speaking of imitation Chaucer, I won a Junior High School literary contest with "The Astrophysicist's Tale" which was a Chaucerian prediction of the manned Moon race. It ends witrh the Russian and American landers, neck and neck, colliding on descent from lunar orbit... It attacked hubris.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400): should we rank him the all-time #2 author of the English language, preceding and somewhat eclipsed by Shakespeare?

He might have tried his hand at Science Fiction, as, for instance:

1391: Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400) publishes A Treatise on the Astrolabe. It shows how to build an astrolabe and use it to measure a star's
position in the night sky.

An interesting time. Snippets from my online Timeline include:

1380: In the Battle of Chioggia between Genoa and Venice, Rockets are used for the first time in European warfare. CHINA had used military rockets for some 2 Centuries, primarily to scare the horses. Four Centuries later, the USA is born in "the rockets' red glare"; less than 600 years later, rockets carry men to the Moon.

1391: possibly the first Paper Mill in Europe is built in Nuremberg, GERMANY. This paves the way for Gutenberg (ca.1400-1468) in the next Century.

1397: the most useful wrong map in history. Paolo Toscanelli (1397-?), mapmaker/physician of ITALY, publishes his map which falsely showed Asia as only 3,000 miles (4,830 kilometers) West of Europe. This excited Christopher Columbus to prepare for and undertake the voyage that "discovered" America.

Or is Science Fiction "the most useful wrong map in history?"

Long dream last night, which I did not write down on awakening. I was a male heterosexual supporting actor in a film, wherein a super-intelligent but very cynical Ben Kingsley's character tried to seduce me. It was set on an imaginary 3rd superliner, neither the Queen Mary nor Queen Elizabeth, but of that era, rather than, say Titanic. The starring on-board entertainer was Frank Sinatra, who appreciated the high pay, but resented "auditioning every night for those fat slobs stuffing oysters into their faces." That line reflected his de facto competition with the other onboard artiste, the chef. Chef and Sinatra come to blows over the recipe for New Jersey-style pizza. If I'd wreitten on awakening, I could have laid out at least those parts of naval architecture seen in the chase scene when low-class teenage passengers grabbed a conch-and-abalone salad, with a butter-whiskey sauce, in its silver bowl, from Margaret Dumont.

#39 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 11:39 AM:

I'd argue Metamorphoses has almost all the stories ever written: it stints a couple of the happy ending ones.


#40 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 12:05 PM:

Wooo! Portland and environs are looking like a winter wonderland. Did my first serious snowdrive in something like eight years, and got to feel my new car's anti-lock brakes at work.

#41 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 12:36 PM:

We didn't have extreme weather, but we were all under it anyway. First Sarah (sick repeatedly on Christmas Eve) then me (Boxing Day Eve) and then Cathy (Boxing Day Night). Then we lived after all, and then we had another holiday, and there was much rejoicing.

Sarah and I were out walking before New Year's, and I explained the light-up deer in the yard a couple houses from ours, then told Sarah we had to go back to the street because we hadn't been invited in this yard. She still wanted to be near those deer, and she would drift up to the curb -- which comes up to her knees almost -- and stare in for a few moments. Then she casually tosses her ball forward, into the yard. It only went in half a foot, and I could just reach down and pick it up, but she had a plan! It's going to be interesting.

Anyway, I'm trying to get more pictures up on the web page. I got 26 up the other day, and I'm now converting pictures from the England trip to web size. Really scrunching them down.

#42 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 02:30 PM:

1. C.S. Lewis reported that one of his students was trribly offended when he suggested that the great Chaucer was attempting to be funny in "The Miller's Tale."

2. The Mormon Spin High was not originated by Mormons. It's where the phrase "whirling dervishes" comes from.

#43 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 03:10 PM:

There are a great many jokes in Moby-Dick, including possibly the world's most erudite fart joke:

For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim)...
#44 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 03:11 PM:

Side by side Chaucer at the Medieval Sourcebook:

I thoroughly recommend this site generally, they're going out of their way to put source material online in a useable way.

#45 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 03:21 PM:

I apologize. I misjudged how evident it is that Objective: Christian Ministries is a hoax. And I'll bet that if I'd said "Well, it obviously had to be a hoax because Tri-Clavianism doesn't exist" (which in fact is how I knew), you'd all throw things at me.

The other thing I was going to say was that there's no point in reading Chaucer in translation. What you want is the Riverside Chaucer, which has marginal glosses to tip you off about single words, and footnotes that explain more complex idioms and unfamiliar concepts. The introductory material is all good, but at minimum you have to read the part about how Middle English is pronounced.

Then comes the big secret: Read it out loud. Middle English looks impenetrable when you're just starting out, but if you read it aloud with reasonably correct pronunciation, your ear will quickly learn to sort it out, as though it were English spoken with a strong accent. It helps, too, that the Canterbury Tales are strongly voiced. When you read them aloud, you can hear the characters speaking, which does wonders to help sort out the rhythm and grammar. And speaking of which, you could do worse than to start out with the Wife of Bath's prologue and tale.

(You may at some point have noticed that Chaucerians have a tendency to recite long passages of Chaucer out loud. There's a reason for that.)

Once you've gotten to the point where you can hear the voices, your only remaining difficulties are the occasional unfamiliar words and concepts, and for that you've got the glosses and footnotes. And lo, there you are on the other side of the force field, reading things like

Wo was this knyght, and sorwefully he siketh;
But what! He may nat do al as hym liketh.
And at the laste he chees hym for to wende,
And come agayn right at the yeres ende,
With swich answere as God wolde hym purveye;
And taketh his leve, and wendeth forth his weye.

He seketh every hous and every place
Where as he hopeth for to fynde grace
To lerne what thyng wommen loven moost;
But he ne koude arryven in no coost
Wher as he myghte fynde in this mateere
Two creatures accordynge in-feere.
Somme seyde, wommen loven best richesse,
Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse,
Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde,
And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde.
Somme seyde, that oure hertes been moost esed
Whan that we been yflatered and yplesed.
He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye,
A man shal wynne us best with flaterye;
And with attendance and with bisynesse
Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse.
And somme seyen, how that we loven best
For to be free, and do right as us lest,
And that no man repreve us of oure vice,
But seye that we be wise, and nothyng nyce.

Trust me, it's a piece of cake.

#46 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 03:52 PM:

That passage, at least, is surprisingly non-opaque. I could see where a footnote or two might help, but even so.

Much jolynesse. Thanks for the heads-up.

#47 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 04:00 PM:

Not a piece of cake: The Ayenbite of Inwyt Fun for hardcore middlenglishers, viz.:

And uerst zigge we of fee zenne of glotounye, feet is a vice feet fee dyeuel is moche myde ypayd, and moche onpayfe God. Be zuych zenne hefe fee dyeuel wel grat mif5te in manne. Huer-of we redefe ine fee godspelle feet God yaf yleaue fee dyeulen to guo in-to fee zuyn; and feo hi weren ine ham, hise adreynten ine fee ze, ine tokninge feet fee glotouns ledefe lif of zuyn and fee dyeuel hefe yleaue to guo in ham and hise adrenche ine fee ze of helle and ham to do ete zuo moche feet hi to-cleuefe an zuo moche drinke feet hy ham adrenchefe.

#48 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 04:05 PM:

Ouch! Too many thorns!

#49 ::: qB ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 04:07 PM:

If you want to listen to readings, try The Chaucer MetaPage Audio Files.

I'm so excited I'm having to go away and post about it.

#50 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 04:28 PM:

Thanks Teresa and Jo -

Those are both exactly what I'm looking for. (and I don't know if this is inappropriate for this forum, but Ms. Walton, your "Kings" books are my new favorite alternative Arthur.) I'll bookmark the Fordham page at home, and then get the Riverside when my budget permits. (knowing that I'm going to want a sturdy hardcover for my Permanent Collection, but unsure whether such a purchase can be justified when the only bookcases I have with sufficient space are made of particle board.)

Reading the passage that was posted, I can "get" most of it. I expect were I randomly dropped in 14th/15th century Britain, after a few days of shock and adjustment to the lack of toilet facilities, I could communicate well enough to come across as a Simpleton - perhaps not smart enough to make "Village Idiot" - but well enough to get around. I'd really like some notes so I can fully enjoy the Chaucer Experience.

I am having a mildly frustrating time with Pepys right now, because while the edition I have is unexpurgated, and contains many useful and entertaining annotations, the editors seem to figure that anyone reading Pepys knows enough French to negate the need for translation. Since the foreword in one of the volumes mentioned that Pepys used a sort of bastardized French when he wanted to get some of the racier parts past his wife, I don't know how much a French/English dictionary will help. Besides - it's a 10-volume annotated set (in Modern English, no less) with an additional full volume of further notes - I shouldn't have to buy a third book to completely understand.

It makes me feel a) stupid and b) like calling the editors of the otherwise terrific edition of Pepys at 2am and demanding an explanation.

*sigh* Nothing like The Classics to make me feel both impoverished and a bit of a thickie.

#51 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 04:36 PM:

Wierd language experiences: I can read Middle English flat out, I read French and Italian fairly accurately and get the gist of German partially. I used to work at a place where we had ad copy in a lot of languages, including Danish for a flowerseed company. When double-proofing (One person would read the original ad copy, the other would look at the type-set page to check) it I always felt 'have I had a stroke just now?" Because seems to be something you should be able to read.....

#52 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 04:53 PM:

And once you get the ear of Chaucer, you can start hearing his dialect humor, such as the northerners in the Reeve's Tale.


#53 ::: Jilly P ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 05:38 PM:

I think that the King William's College quiz is much easier this year - last year I only knew two of the answers. This time many of the sections have themes; greek letters, trees, the apostles, horses and things prefixed with the word black. In the food section I know nine and the only one still puzzling me is the lizard.

#54 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 05:54 PM:

Thanks to those who have at last nailed the is-Objective-or-isn't-it coffin shut. I'm glad to know that I was at least leaning in the right direction. (I'm also embarrassed to see that I could have figured it out for myself if I'd dug in the right places, but I can take it.)

I'd never have connected the Dervishes with the Spin High, though. It's hard to impart anything like numinous dignity to the sight of a bunch of sixteen-year-olds falling all over a darkened suburban parking lot.

#55 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 06:48 PM:

When I studied Chaucer in college, I found my best approximation of Middle English came by reading it with the vowel sounds I'd learned in French class. Basically, like the theory that the Great Vowel Shift began when everyone came home from ol' Geoff's funeral.

This site explains the spoofitude of the Objective site. But I've been exposed to so many weird splinter-group theological ideas that I wouldn't have been surprised if there were a Triclavian movement.

Then again, I was going through some Renaissance art books today and one of those had a painting of the three nails.

#56 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 08:26 PM:

I don't have anything to add about Chaucer, but this Walking directions to Morder site is pretty funny.

#57 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 08:26 PM:

Triclavian would be where we have the well-tempered clavier, the untempered clavier, and the grouchy clavier, and are matching them up with the entities of the Trinity in an awful fit of "fishing for lightning bolts"?

#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 08:27 PM:

Andrew, why be embarrassed? Rejoice that it's such a fine piece of work. The tone never rings false, and the little details are as polished as the large conceits. If the Tri-Clavian clue hadn't been there, I'd still have been suspicious on account of its not having enough dull spots; but it would have been much harder to say for sure.

Another useful indicator is who links to it. That's an easy search: you feed the page's URL to Google, and it gives you a list of the inbound links. Almost all of Objective's inbound links are from weblogs and other recreational sites, rather than church-oriented pages. Their Zounds Youth Rock Ministries and God Bless the USA sidebar-linked pages show the same pattern.

If I were really worried and I couldn't tell any other way, I'd be observing that OCM doesn't have enough back history, and there are no messy bits around the edges of its pocket universe. For example, there aren't any independent news reports about their supposed Halloween reclamation program. Nobody has an online photo collection of snapshots from church picnics or Christmas pageants, or a mention of the church in connection with some recipe. Reality is messy. If something has tidily cropped edges, it's art.

#59 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 09:22 PM:

I have a warning for all of you: if you have not yet read _The Da Vinci Code_, avoid it at all costs! The whole thing is based on faulty philology, not to mention the fact that it's so badly written that I can't think of an entertaining way to insult it. Go read _Preacher_ instead, which although based on the same bad philology is a masterpiece.

#60 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2004, 11:17 PM:

Two thumbs up on _Preacher_ here, heck of a fine comic. (Graphic Novel? Something. Sequential art in panels with word balloons, whatever you want to call it.) It has lots of head explosions that are not particularly tasteful. It's got amazingly fun dialogue. Vampires! Angels! Corrupt earthly organized religion! Strange inbred people! Cannibalism! Sodomy of all kinds! Arseface! There's also a preacher and a dead guy (not a vampire) and the devil and so forth. Fun stuff. With, did I mention, astonishingly graphic head explosions? Oh, and you'll see a serial killer, a meat-processing plant, a few horses, some grand theft auto, a certain amount of sex, a truly frightening grandma, and John Wayne.

_Preacher_ lead to the following memorable conversation with my mother:

My mom (flipping through a volume of _Preacher_): "This is pornography!"

Me (over her shoulder): "No, mom, that's cannibalism."

My mom: ...

#61 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 12:28 AM:

There is in Britain a National Federation of Badger Groups. The mind boggles. Do you think we have such a thing here? Why, oh why, oh why?

If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the light, by the light, by the light of the moon.
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
By the bright shining light of the moon.

#62 ::: Stu Savory ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 02:52 AM:

Re: Particle "The number of the beast"

Is it pure coincidence that the molecular mass of Viagra is 666 too ???

Stu :-)

#63 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 04:28 AM:

Not a piece of cake: The Ayenbite of Inwyt
Fun for hardcore middlenglishers, viz.:
And uerst zigge we of fee zenne of glotounye, feet is a vice feet fee dyeuel is moche myde ypayd, and moche onpayfe God. Be zuych zenne hefe fee dyeuel wel grat mif5te in manne. Huer-of we redefe ine fee godspelle feet God yaf yleaue fee dyeulen to guo in-to fee zuyn; and feo hi weren ine ham, hise adreynten ine fee ze, ine tokninge feet fee glotouns ledefe lif of zuyn and fee dyeuel hefe yleaue to guo in ham and hise adrenche ine fee ze of helle and ham to do ete zuo moche feet hi to-cleuefe an zuo moche drinke feet hy ham adrenchefe.

No hardcore middle-Englisher I, but that's really not so very difficult. Like you were saying, read it out loud and be a little flexible -- some of the u's are really v's, some of the z's would nowadays be s's. What the heck, I'll take a stab at doing a more modern version:

And first we seek of the sin of gluttony, that is a vice in which the devil is much pleased, and much unpleases God. By such sin has the devil great might(?) in man. Whereof we read in the Gospel that God has made the devils to go into the swine (*); and when they were in them, he drowned them in the sea, in token that the gluttons lead a life of swine and the devil has leave to go in them and drown them in the sea of hell and they do eat so much that he clings to them and drink so much that he drowns them.

(*) I must confess that I didn't get "zuyn" == "swine" until this second pass through; after which, knowing the story of the Gadarene swine, I was able to decipher by context several words that were not clear to me before, especially "adreynten" and "adrenche" as forms of "drown".

#64 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 11:05 AM:

I'll read Chaucer in the original when I can find an edition with the spelling modernized, the same way I can find an edition of Shakespeare with the spelling modernized.

Yes, I know the languages of Shakespeare and of Chaucer were very different, but the problem of words becoming obsolete, or utterly changing meaning, is not limited to Chaucer but affects Shakespeare too, just not as often. And I don't think you solve the changing-meaning problem in Chaucer by hiding the word behind an old spelling solves the problem. Annotations solve it.

Changing pronunciations is another matter, of course, but I'll risk it.

In the meantime, I'll stick with my Coghill, he being a scholar with Chaucer's wit and a belief that translating him can be good. (And for reading aloud too: this translation was originally prepared for radio broadcast.)

I was introduced to Chaucer by a side-by-side edition with a -prose- translation. No good. Didn't love Chaucer until I found Coghill.

#65 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 11:39 AM:

Arseface owns.

#66 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:07 PM:

Not related to anything else mentioned here, but I just got this note:

>Joan Aiken died this week. There is an obituary at:

She was one of my favorite short story writers, for quirky intelligent tales (often with a list of very strange things that will happen in them at the beginning -- a technique used to advantage by Cordwainer Smith, as well). Ah well -- 79 years is a good innings by anyone's count.

#67 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:39 PM:

The Davinci Code has bad art history, as well. Former grad school friends of mine assembled at an Olive Garden over the holidays, and there was some grumbling about it, much to the startlement of the waiter.

I too was saddened to hear of Joan Aiken's death - her books were always on my "hmm, must pick up more" list, as I had only read a few but never got around to picking up more of them.

#68 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 03:43 PM:

Oh, and if anyone was planning to read the Dan Brown book that introduced the protagonist of DA VINCI CODE, which several people in the store said was Better --

terrible science, terrible writing. I put it down after forcing myself through about 80 pages hoping it would get better. Avoid it like a cliche'.

What are these people thinking?

#69 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 04:30 PM:

Folks, Dan Brown is a Technothriller author, not a Fantasist. he wrote this to be a bestseller (it was) and to get produced by Hollywood (which it is the process of doing).

As I describe on that one of my 700+ web pages which lists Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror films of 2002,2003,2004,2005,2006,2007,2008,2009, and 2010:

2005 The Da Vinci Code [Technothriller / Mystery]
Adapted: from the Dan Brown bestselling novel [only the Harry Potter
books outsold this Fantasy in 2003];
Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp., Imagine Entertainment;
Distributor: Columbia Pictures Corp.;
Producers: John Calley, Brian Grazer;
Director: Ron Howard;
Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman [I Robot (2004), A Beautiful Mind (2001),
Lost in Space (1998)]
Plot: Clues in a Leonardo Da Vinci painting connects with a murder in
the Louvre, leading to a religious mystery kept secret for two
millennia... namely that Jesus married Mary Magdelene and gave
rise to the royal bloodline in France;

#70 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 04:33 PM:

I'm also saddened to hear of the demise of another fine author. What I'd had (this may be out of date) on my web page


Joan Aiken, full name Joan Aiken Delano (1924-): daughter of Conrad Aiken,
prolific young-adult author:
* Black Hearts in Battersea [Cape, 1965; Dell/Yearling, 1987]
juvenile alternate worlds fantasy
* Bridle the Wind [Cape, 1983; Puffin] fantasy
* The Cockatrice Boys [Gollancz, 1966; Tor, 1996] juvenile, England in Chaos
as weird monsters invade
* Cold Shoulder Road [Cape, 1995; Red Fox]
juvenile alternate worlds fantasy, sequel to Black Hearts in Battersea
* A Creepy Company
* The Cuckoo Tree
* Dido and Pa
* A Fit of Shivers
* Fog Hound, Wind Cats, Sea Mice
* A Foot in the Grave
* Give Yourself a Fright
* A Goose on Your Grave
* The Haunting of Lamb House
* Is
* Is Underground
* The Kingdom Under the Sea
* The Last Slice of Rainbow and Other Stories
* Midnight is a Place
* The Moon's Revenge
* Night Birds on Nantucket
* The Shadow Guests
* A Small Pinch of Weather
* The Stolen Lake
* Tale of a One-Way Street
* The Teeth of the Gale
* A Touch of Chill
* Up the Chimney Down and Other Stories
* A Whisper in the Night
* The Whispering Mountain
* The Winter Sleepwalker and Other Stories
* The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

#71 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 04:44 PM:

I remember crying over the resolution of Aiken's The Shadow Guests when I was...what, nine? Ten? Up until that point I had no idea that a ghost story could do that to you. I was probably never the same. She wrote wonderful, creepy stories.

Thanks, Joan. You'll be remembered fondly.

#72 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:22 PM:

Amazing — I think I might actually be able to double or triple the average score on the King William’s quiz. Maybe the examiners are slacking this year . . .

#73 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 05:59 PM:

JVP -- seriously inadequate bibliography. Lacks _all_ parts of one of my fave bibliographic sillinesses:

Her first book was _All You Ever Wanted_. Her next, _More Than You Bargained For_. When these were reprinted in an omnibus edition, the title was _All and More_. When they wanted to do a paperback edition that was a bit shorter, the title became _All But A Few_. Seldom do publishers show so much of a sense of humor about language.

#74 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 06:00 PM:

And it misses all the Arabel and Mortimer books, mentioned in the referenced obit.... Very silly, very funny, very scarce.

#75 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 07:11 PM:

Tom, if you're thinking of "Angels and Demons", it got a little better (in my opinion) after he get away from CERN, science, and technology (and his conflation of the latter 2). But then, I know a lot more about science & technology than I do about the histories of art or the Church.

At least in A&D he didn't end quite so many chapters repeating "It was the most astonishing development ever (but I'm not going to tell you what it was, just like I didn't the last 10 times I mentioned it, nor the next 10)". That really bugged me in both "The DaVinci Code" and "Deception Point". Especially when the shocking thing turned out to be roughly what I thought it was, only tamer.

Fortunately, I read quickly.

#76 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 07:26 PM:

Exactly the book, Jeremy, but the stuff with CERN was _so bad_ I can't understand how you got past it without being either stuck on the Orient Express with nothing else in English to read.

#77 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2004, 09:23 PM:

((remove "either" in previous post)

#78 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 07:22 AM:

So, who's been wondering why the Martians didn't shoot down the Spirit probe?

#79 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 03:38 PM:

I think reading the lutefisk particle has just caused damage to my abdominal muscles.

Though I'm still chuckling.

#80 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:07 PM:

Whenever I'm asked (and I'm asked a lot more often than you might think), I assure people that Norskies don't actually *eat* lutefisk; it's a test for when furriners want to marry into our families. "Do you love my daughter?" "Yes, sir." "Enough to eat...LUTEFISK?"

But some do; my own grandmother used to make it herself, stinking up the whole house with lye. When I saw the Ode to Lutefisk, I thought I knew what it would be (and it goes to the tune of "O Tannenbaum"). I was a bit startled that there was more than one.

But some people -- some spousal units, even -- find my pickled herring habit disgusting, so to each his/her own, I suppose.

#81 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 04:49 PM:

Okay, I am scared by the USB vibrator. Or possibly scarred.

Regarding Angels & Demons -- I have to admit I liked it, overall. Inaccuracies and all.

Regarding Shakespeare: I find certain bits of it easier with annotation, but sometimes it's fun to try to figure out why a word is used where it is when it seems contrary to my (modern) understanding of it. On the other hand, I consider etymology a hobby.

Regarding Chaucer: Even aloud, I miss enough words to long for transliteration into modern English. (What the heck, for instance, is 'siketh'? 'Wydwe'? 'He gooth ful ny the sothe'?) But I still try to puzzle it out whenever I encounter it.

Regarding the King William's quiz: Ow. Ow ow ow. My brain. And wow, do I feel dumb, even knowing the average number of answers is so low. Now I want to see the answers, though!

#82 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:37 PM:

Teep: Preacher. Giant fat guy falls out of helicopter and squashes putative messiah. Such joy. Was your mother looking at the sequence where Herr Starr is being held captive?

David: Not half bad. You're right; it's just another accent. The first time I read it I had one of those lightbulb moments about two paragraphs in, when it came to me that Dan Michel's accent is related to the one Graham Chapman used in the "sheep in the trees" sketch.

Simon, you can't get a version of Chaucer that's the same words with their modern spellings, because they're not the same words. They're just close enough that after a while you start being able to tell what they are.

Coghill's solid.

Graydon, was it the test for sufficient drunkenness that got you? That's where I started whooping.

Tina, siketh is sighs, wydwe (a stumper) is widowed, and he gooth ful ny the sothe is he goes very close to the truth.

Gooth is goeth is goes. Sothe is truth. (Sothe is also half of forsooth, the Early Modern English equivalent of fer shure or no shit.) Ny is simply nigh -- see why it's so useful to read the stuff out loud? Ful is more or less full, but back then full was commonly used as an intensifier, a usage that survives in phrases like you know full well. The actual modern equivalent would be very, which come to think of it demonstrates how Simon's respelled edition would go astray.

An even better demonstration of that problem is nyce, in the last line. The modern spelling of that word is nice, but that word isn't that word anymore. It used to mean foolish, then picked up a secondary sense of overparticular, which is where a nice distinction gets its overtones.

Sely is worse. It's the ancestor of silly, but back then it meant holy. Gotta watch out for those false friends.

#83 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 06:54 PM:

Oh. Sothe is not pronounced with a long o. (Or the pronunciation of sooth changed, which actually the OED seems to indicate.)

Gracias. That's neat.

#84 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 07:52 PM:

Teresa -

It was indeed the test for sufficient drunkeness; not only was it wonderfully overspecific, it was likewise highly implausible.

My Middle English prof was profoundly emphatic on Middle English requiring translation. It's a very considerable abyss of time, and the words have been tossed on the river of years.

#85 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 09:14 PM:

Oh dear, oh dear. I too lost it when reading the lutefisk 'test'. Jordin wanted to know what was so funny and when I read it to him he too lost it at the test. And Jordin doesn't find most food humor amusing. Oh dear.


#86 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2004, 09:26 PM:

Sely is worse. It's the ancestor of silly, but back then it meant holy. Gotta watch out for those false friends.


T: Would that be related to seelie? Rather like the unseelie court being translated to the unholy court?


Every time I attempted to dig into Chaucer or Middle English, I remembered the forward to John Steinbeck's unfinished King Arthur....apparently he was enchanted with the middle English and studied it intensely, going so far as to attempt writing some early stories in that language. I think I read that back when I was very small and totally besotted with everything Greek, and was going through a huge "I must write in Greek letters, even if I don't actually know Greek" phase. (I discovered that if you write your secret notes in German phonetically using Greek letters, your junior high teachers can't read them out loud in front of the class. On the other hand, the only OTHER person who can read them is your bratty younger-but-equally-philhellenic-sister.)


Teep: I enjoyed Preacher, zipping through all nine or ten graphic novels over the course of a week or so. (I had first picked it up as I was meandering slowly out of a Mormon childhood, so the first time I picked it up, the peripheral storylines and odd detritus shocked me muchly, and I put it down hastily.) My boyfriend has all of the TPBs though, so when he finished them up recently, I followed in his wake, and enjoyed it much more this time round. Oddly enough, the work that it reminded me of was Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Go, go, go, Milton.

#87 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 12:42 AM:

Ful is more or less full, but back then full was commonly used as an intensifier, a usage that survives in phrases like you know full well. The actual modern equivalent would be very, which come to think of it demonstrates how Simon's respelled edition would go astray.

Or "so", according to this article, which links the use of "so" as an intensifier in current speech to the TV series Friends.

The authors also found the show's popularity peaked at the same time the characters said "so" the most, and as the use of the word declined, so did the show's popularity.

Intensifiers provide researchers with an ideal way to examine language trends, because they change and are cycled over time.

In the 13th century, it was "well," which eventually gave way to "full," which then gave way to "right" in the 15th century.

"Some old person off the beaten track in a more rural community might still say: 'Well, that's right good'," Tagliamonte said.

Child of the sixties that I am, my responses to this include, "Right on!"

#88 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 03:26 AM:

I'm trying to come up with a USB vibrator. So far, I've got the phrase "micro-soft" and something about a computer that never goes down.

I'm still working on it.

#89 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:04 AM:


Seelie is, in fact, an alternate spelling of seely, meaning holy or blessed or fortunate, and likewise unseely/unseelie means wicked or unlucky (that which causes misfortune) or mischievous. So... presumably, yes, that's from whence the faerie court names derive.

Note that unseelie can also mean 'unhappy' and seelie can also mean 'happy', which is sort of how I played my old Changeling character...

(Signed, one of the other Ts.)

#90 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:39 AM:

Tom Whitmore:

Thanks for helping me with my "seriously inadequate bibliography". You've suggested Joan Aiken's first book:
_All You Ever Wanted, then
_More Than You Bargained For_
then _All and More_ (omnibus edition)
and _All But A Few_ (paperback mini-omnibus).
Arabel and Mortimer books

Many of my 15,000+ online bibliographies are inadequate. It's like painting the Golden Gate Bridge, or cleaning the windows on a skyscraper. By the time I've made any progress on one of my 700+ pages in my domain, the others are more woefully outdated. I tend to work through the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror pages for a while, then back to the Mystery/Detective pages, then another gallop through my Westerns pages, and (most recently) expanding the Romance pages. I should be up to 20,000 bibliographies by now, but life keeps getting in the way.

I hope that my proposal to work more closely with SFWA will help. A previous SFWA President agreed to have all new SFWA members' and membership upgrades' info sent to me by default, unless they opted out. Then that President was pressured to resign on unrelated causes, and never formally put that agreement before the Board of Directors.

The joint SFWA/RWA events look promising.

So George W. Bush wants to establish a Moon base, and eventually send people to Mars. This is the RIGHT STUFF being done by the wrong guy for the wrong reasons. Yet I feel that I must support it...

#91 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:20 PM:

That should be, "I'm working on coming up with a USB vibrator JOKE." Meta-humor not funny if words left out.

RWA? Riterz With Attitude?

#92 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:33 PM:

RWA=Romance Writers of America.

#93 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 01:56 PM:
Intensifiers provide researchers with an ideal way to examine language trends, because they change and are cycled over time.

In the 13th century, it was "well," which eventually gave way to "full," which then gave way to "right" in the 15th century.

"Some old person off the beaten track in a more rural community might still say: 'Well, that's right good'," Tagliamonte said

In some portion of New England (at least the Boston area, but probably extending outside that) the current intensifier of choice is apparently "wicked." Why, I could not say.

#94 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 02:15 PM:

"Wicked" (whatever its origins) seems to be one that Rhode Islanders in particular are fond of.

Five years ago, the World Building in Silver Spring was the home of WGAY Radio, and had those letters displayed in huge green neon on the side of the building. Driving through with a friend of mine from RI, she asked me if the W stood for "wicked"...

#95 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 05:08 PM:

TNH:Was your mother looking at the sequence where Herr Starr is being held captive?

That'd be the one, yes.

One thing I learned today: There really is a (great, grey-green greasy) Limpopo river. It's in southern Africa.

I do not know how I managed to get through twenty-one years of formal education without learning this somewhere. Did they think I already knew? Did other people have mothers (or fathers, grandparents, other caregivers, babysitters, etc.) who, reading the story, stopped the narrative to note that there really was a Limpopo river in southern Africa even though elephants didn't really get their trunks like that? (My mom did cover the 'elephants didn't really get their trunks like that' part, but she either didn't know or didn't mention the 'there really is a Limpopo river' part.)

Enquiring minds would like to know...

And for anyone who's befuddled by the great, grey-green greasy Limpopo river, see here for details.

#96 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:13 PM:


your tale, of elephants and actual African rivers in memorable literature, reminds me of "The Congo: A Study of the Negro Race", by Vachel Lindsay, in: [Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936), The New Poetry: An Anthology, 1917] --

Then along that riverbank
A thousand miles
Tattooed cannibals danced in files;
Then I heard the boom of the blood-lust song
And a thigh-bone beating on a tin-pan gong.

Boomlay, boomlay, boomlay, BOOM!...
A roaring, epic, rag-time tune
From the mouth of the Congo
To the Mountains of the Moon.
Death is an Elephant,
Torch-eyed and horrible,
Foam-flanked and terrible.
BOOM, steal the pygmies,
BOOM, kill the Arabs,
BOOM, kill the white men,
Listen to the yell of Leopold's ghost
Like the wind in the chimney
Burning in Hell for his hand-maimed host.
Hear how the demons chuckle and yell
Cutting his hands off, down in Hell...."

To which children SHOULD be told that, not only is there a Congo River, but there was a King Leopold of Belgium paying a bounty for cutting the hands off Congo indigenes who stood in the way of his genocidal quest to cross Monarchy with Capitalism in a new way, with a big PR campaign to boot...

#97 ::: Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 06:16 PM:

See for a nice Dr. Seuss take on LOTR.

#98 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 07:50 PM:

The LotR Source Analysis article put me in mind of this Engineer's Deconstruction of Postmodernist Literary Criticism. Fun stuff.

(Which I found on /., of course.

#99 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 08:34 PM:

If you want to waste a minute, you can find out what character you are most like at Character test

#100 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2004, 10:48 PM:

Uh. That doorways to hell thing is pretty -- scary. Does anyone have any background info? Is this an elaborate joke? Or is there someone, or multiple someones, out there who think it's real? People are very strange so there's no telling. But it's weird.


#101 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 01:31 PM:

Another science fiction masterpiece from Woody Allen:

When the universe is expanding it can make you late for work

By Woody Allen

(Filed: 04/01/2004)

I am greatly relieved that the universe is finally explainable. I was beginning to think it was me. As it turns out, physics, like a grating relative, has all the answers. The big bang, black holes, and the primordial soup turn up every Tuesday in the Science section of The New York Times, and as a result my grasp of general relativity and quantum mechanics now equals Einstein's - Einstein Moomjy, that is, the rug seller. ...

[Jonathan, I'm sorry, but I've deleted the rest of the piece. I can't reproduce an entire New Yorker article in my weblog. --tnh]

#102 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 09:51 PM:

Graydon, did your ME professor take into account that this is your vocabulary, not the general public's? I grew up on Poul Anderson and J.R.R. Tolkien, and didn't have nearly as much trouble with the vocabulary as the non-fantasy-reading students.

Lois, I remember hearing (was it in The Story of English?) that place-names like the Street of the Crutched Friars are the only surviving remnants of the Northern ME crucche, which lost out to cross. "No kidding?" I said; "Well, Christ on a crutch!"

I've seen commentary on what a puzzling phrase that is. I don't know whether anyone other than me hears it as Crist onne crucche.

Thanks for the info on what's happening with "so". That usage been creeping into my speech, giving me a certain amount of anxiety because the rest of the "so X that Y" formula wasn't turning up along with it. Knowing that we're repurposing it as an intensifier explains everything.

We have to cycle through intensifiers -- well, full, right, very -- because we wear them out with overuse. I remember being told by a writing teacher that "very" was a useless word, because it's so overused that it doesn't mean anything. I disagreed then, and still do; but there's no denying that it's getting limp and shabby.

Mitch, I figured it was a joke without help.

Teep, I forget where I learned about the Limpopo River; but if I hadn't, my ignorance wouldn't have survived years of living with Patrick. He has a knack for geography.

Mary Kay, I take the Entrances to Hell website as a delicate and singular work of fiction. I hope it is, at any rate. If we were still living up around 190th and Broadway, I'd take a photo of the entrance to our A train station. It's a huge semicircular wooden door, painted green at the time, that's set straight into face of a rock cliff, and has long strands of ivy hanging down along its upper reaches during the summer. There's little grace in that immediate neighborhood, but that subway entrance looked like something out of epic fantasy.

Dave, I tried that test. It said I was Galadriel. I went back and changed two answers I'd wavered on. It said I was Mr. Spock. I changed one of them back. It said I was Gandalf. That's what I call a gross screening device.

#103 ::: clark e myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 10:38 PM:

Cycling through intensifiers to make disinterested the comparative or superlative of uninterested bothers me. I'd like disinterested to be held in reserve should such behavior ever be observed.

I'd also like to know where decimate as currently used falls on the intensity scale with impact damage and devastate?

#104 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 11:04 PM:

Teresa, here92s the full text of that Woody Allen piece, reprinted with permission (or so it says).

And a photo of an entrance to the 190th Street Station. Is that the one? And while I92m at it, the Fort Washington Avenue entrance.

#105 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2004, 11:12 PM:

The quiz said I was Jean-Luc Picard (oddly, probably the only actor there that I've met!). Given its lability, T, maybe it's generating folks semi-randomly?

#106 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 12:04 AM:

Teresa -

Said prof did recognize that my vocabulary was a bit odd, yes, but he was also teaching Gawain, and Gawain is way tougher than Chaucer in terms of vocabulary.

#107 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 04:59 AM:

Teresa started this thread with: "Dark rainy January, and worse weather to come. It’s seasonable as all hell out there."

Honestly, I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable with this, but it hit 80 dgerees Farenheit today in Altadena, California. I know, because I was at a funeral for a beautiful person earlier today (Saturday).

Yes, there was a wind chill of below -10 as the New England Patriots beat the Tennessee Titans. And I know it sounds wimpy that folks in Southern California have complained about a cold wave the past two weeks when the temperature went down to the 40s and even (gasp) 30s at night. But our home insulation often is pitiful, at least for what is (for us) an old house. Mine was built in 1930 and has lots of earthquake cracks. So my latest gas heating bill is $387. But I digress.

It was a spectacularly gorgeous warm day at the Mountain View Cemetery as Jiryar Zorthian was laid to rest.

Teresa may need to cut the following Pasadena Star News story, lacking permissions. But:

PSN 1/9/04 Article Published: Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 11:23:53 PM

Funeral arrangements set for Zorthian
By Gene Maddaus, Staff Writer
[Pasadena Star News]

PASADENA -- Funeral arrangements have been scheduled for artist Jirayr Zorthian, as his family prepares for an influx of well-wishers for one last big party in Zorthian's honor.

The memorial will be held at noon Sunday at the Zorthian Ranch at the top of Fair Oaks Avenue in Altadena.

A smaller group of family and close friends will be on hand Saturday as Zorthian is buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

Zorthian died on Tuesday of congestive heart failure at the age of 92.

Richard Davies, a retired Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher and Zorthian's friend of 58 years, will give the eulogy during what is
expected to be a rather secular service.

The family has already rented a shuttle for the Sunday memorial, so visitors can park at the bottom of the hill and ride up to the ranch.

People also will be allowed to walk up the winding, one-lane road, "something my father would never allow,' said daughter Alice Zorthian.

Zorthian, nicknamed "Jerry,' cultivated a legion of friends in the local arts community, along with scientists, scholars and bohemians.

Davies said he told the family there would have to be a very public memorial.

"Jirayr was an outsized public personality, and (I said) somehow or other they should incorporate that in,' Davies said.

The family is still sorting out the details of how Zorthian's death will affect life at the ranch. It is unclear if the annual Primavera
parties, which celebrated springtime, Zorthian's birthday, his wife Dabney's birthday, and their anniversary, will continue.

Zorthian does not appear to have left any detailed instructions about his funeral.

"He preferred not to think about death,' Davies said. "That aspect of how you arrange things and do things to get your life together so things
will work out for your family he didn't want to talk about that.'"

Feel free to read

Saturday's issue has an editorial column with quotes from his wife Dabney about naked nymphs and female genitalia in a painting of a church that some would find interesting.

Zorthian was more than amazing. He ran what is, de facto, the greatest salon in Southern California for 7 decades. Any bohemian author, musician, painter, scientist, or intellectual, came to visit his ranch, itself one of the more remarkable works of sculpture.

Charlie Parker, Saroyan, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, the Throat Singers of Tuva, the list of partiers at his home goes ever on.

Jirayr Zorthian stood about 5 foot four, but he was a giant of a man. Internationally known for his painting and sculpture, with many pieces selling for six figures (see, he had a wild ability to live every moment with joy.

The "Primavera" parties, with several hundred guests, multiple live bands, great feasting and drinking and (PETA members please do not be offended) whole roast pig (he ran a ranch where many species of animals were very happy), were notable for onstage performances with wreathed and robed Jirayr dressed as "Zor-bacchus" being entertained by an annually growing array of naked nymphs, of many nationalities, all dancing to fiddle and flute and drums, and popping grapes in his mouth.

Yes, it had been relatively cold when he died, but the heavens opened up with sunshine at his funeral. There were 60 to 80 close friends present, and hundreds expected at tomorrow's wake. He never was explicit about his religion. He admitted going rarely to Armenian Orthodox church. "When I wake up in the morning, and stand in the sunlight, smelling the fields and flowers and horses, and yell to the mountains 'hellloooo, god!' I hear the answer 'hellloooo, god!' and that is church enough for me."

There was an Armenian prayer read. Among the children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren present, one son (Toby) mentioned that Jiryar was one of the last survivors of the Armenian genocide.

His little brother Barry, flown in from Washington, D.C., only 83 years old, spoke movingly. Friends from 70 years ago who went to school with him spoke. Jiryar was adored by all the girls at his school. And, dispite his size, he was a formidable athlete, a champion wrestler who just barely missed competing in the Olympics.

Among the many who spoke, there in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, close to where Richard Feynman and his wife are buried, was I.
I introduced myself. I needed to be succinct; longer stories could wait until the wake.

"I was introduced to Jiryar by Richard Feynman in 1968," I said, in a company where that was not name dropping, as Dick and Jerry were close friends. "Jiryar was our Art Mentor, and Richard was our Science Mentor. And if those two great men were standing here today," I said, "they would tell you that Science and Art are one. Both are by human beings, and are ultimately about human beings and the cosmos we are in."

I threw flowers on his coffin, as it was interred. I threw a full handful of earth into the grave. "Leptons to leptons," I said. "Quarks to quarks."

It is a January that has been darkened. But the sun shone today on people who were ready to live in Jiryar's spirit, and dance and celebrate life.

#108 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 09:41 AM:

Avram: thank you. The Fort Washington entrance looks a bit too much like the Hildebrands' rendition of Orthanc (I'm not fond of their work generally, and that one looked like a second-rate national monument), but my first question on seeing 190th St is how often they have to scrub off "Say Friend and Enter" graffiti. I suppose not often -- Tolkien and taggers don't mix in my mind -- but somebody ought to put a banner there on Tolkien's birthday....

#109 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 05:32 PM:

RE: Argyria - I'd seen that page once before. I'd heard about a congressman or some politician being turned blue due to colloidal silver, and I'd read a couple other anecdotes on it, but never really paid attention to it. Then when I was last in Utah, en route to North Carolina from San Diego, I came down with a really bad allergy attack combined with some horrible respiratory issues, and everybody and their dog came out with their favourite pet remedies. (Note: I'm vastly allergic to cats--and my family, who I was staying with, has cats. On top of that, I was stressed out over the move and had just climbed nearly 4000 feet in average elevation. Of course, my lungs were imploding.) One of my friends urged me to try colloidal silver, as another friend had urged it upon her, and seeing as she spake vociferously and glowingly about it, I was willing to give it a quick try. I then went home, feeling not much better, and looked it up on the interweb. Voila! Le web page of warning.

Apparently colloidal silver proponents feel that it can do just about anything from curing cancer to curing allergies, but from what I read, a lot of the reactions seemed similar to a panacea effect, and many of the folks who swore by it seemed to possess the traits of hypochondriacs who would be soothed by such a panacea. (I am a hypochondriac myself, but a skeptical and fairly self-aware one, fortunately. I know which of my medical conditions are real and which aren't. And every time I read about anthrax or meningitis or SARS in the news, I look up all the symptoms and then tell myself over and over again that I'm just imagining things. *grin*)

So I call up my friend C and tell her what I've found. She looks it up for herself, calls herself six kinds of fool, and thanks me for the warning.

The next day was my final day in Utah, and I had a red-eye to NC. My seatmate for the Vegas stretch of the trip happened to be a rather interesting fellow, who upon learning that I was suffering the remnants of horrible kitty allergies, said, "Have I got the thing for you!" And then he proceeded to describe this wonderful cure to me in suspiciously familiar glowing terms. And sure enough, he wanted me to try colloidal silver. I demurred politely, and when he pressed me further, I told him I had just researched the subject a little and he went on to chastize me for a lack of faith. (Faith in what? I do not know...) I thought about telling him that I had tried it just the day before, particularly since he was convinced that within fifteen minutes, I would feel as healthy as a new baby. (His words, not mine.) On the other hand, the Vegas hop was quite turbulent and I felt that he was quite an entertaining diversion. He went on to tell me that the Roswell aliens had invented the television, and that crystals could be used to cure cancer through frequency vibrations and thought patterns. (Particularly if used in conjunction with the colloidal silver.) At long last, he proceeded to tell me that someday I would be old, dying, and decrepit, and I would be anxious to prolong my life as much as possible and I would regret not having tried the colloidal silver in my youth. In the mean time I obviously wasn't ready for the Way and the Path.

Carl Sagan's ghost kept hanging out in the empty aisle seat opposite and whispering sarcastic remarks. (It probably doesn't help that I had read Demon Haunted World just this year.)

#110 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 11:00 PM:

Your "Chaucer read aloud by pros" link is a bit funky.



#112 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:48 AM:

Clark, I deplore the use of "decimate" to indicate general destruction.

That's the one, Avram, though either the door or my memory of it has changed since I lived there. It may take the Orthanc-hex off the Fort Washington Avenue station if I tell Chip that those pierced stone ventilation screens are full of sparrows' nests.

The vestigial Atlantic Station entrance on Flatbush surely looks like an entrance to hell.

Graydon, I'll concede on Gawain. It's great fun, but it's tough. I'm very fond of the Gawain-poet's spelling of icicle.

On argyria: Evangeline Walton was that same strange shade of blue-gray, and I believe there's a politician in Idaho or Wyoming who managed to do that to himself while trying to rev up his immune system in anticipation of Y3K.

#113 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 10:55 AM:

"and I believe there's a politician in Idaho or Wyoming who managed to do that to himself while trying to rev up his immune system in anticipation of Y3K"

And they say American optimism is dead.

#114 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 11:52 AM:

Re Evangeline Walton: The story I heard (from Evangeline) was that her skin color resulted from a pharmacist's error in compounding a medication when she was a young woman. By a factor of 100. (Hey, it was just a couple of decimal places....)

Hilde and I have actually used colloidal silver, but only topically. The "Silvadene" ointment (i may be misremembering the spelling) does seem to be effective in treating scratches and infections.

#115 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:01 PM:
...and I believe there's a politician in Idaho or Wyoming who managed to do that to himself while trying to rev up his immune system in anticipation of Y2K.
According to this, it was the Libertarian candidate for the Senate from Montana last election.
#116 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:03 PM:

Don't know what I did wrong there, but if'n anyone wants the link it's

The picture is gone, though.

#117 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:58 PM:

I can't decide whether this is inspiring or just sort of tacky, but I'm leaning towards tacky:

Bubba's Rock

#118 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 09:47 PM:


There is no question that John Savage knows more about law and publishing than I do (although that may not be saying much) but he does get one thing backward:

POD is a printing technology, not a business model.

No, POD is not a technology, it is a business model built around a shifting collection of technologies. In fact, many of the imaging systems that were part of the original POD attempts are on the way out, like Indigo printers. While it is not a model for a publishing business, it is most certainly model for a printing business. It simply means that you are a highly integrated and specialized short run printer who generally works directly from electronic documents.

What Savage is quite correct about is why the model has not been as sucessful as some expected. One of it's problems, in my opinion, is that it is a business model built around technolgies, instead of customer needs and desires.

#119 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 08:31 PM:

John Savage may well know a lot about the law and publishing, but he don't know diddly about web design and usability. Hmph.

#120 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 08:36 PM:

Too true, Mitch. It's one of those sites where you hope he publishes all of his content in his RSS feed, as any newsreader is more usable than that.

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