Stopping by for a moment

I’m alive again after an unpleasant two weeks. I’ve got a lot of cleaning and catching up to do, so I’ll continue to be scarce here.

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A few things that caught my eye or ear recently:

Progress versus progress

I have a little list of words and phrases that tell me everything I need to know about the people who use them. So does J Greely.

Science, Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste.

Are the New York Disco Villains the Bonzo Dog Band reborn? (Via the Professor.)

Mozart and Chagall.

The Magic Flute – Chagall Animation from 59 Productions on Vimeo.

Mozart and Tonari no Seki-kun. (Via Wonderduck.)

There’s a live-action version of Tonari no Seki-kun. You don’t need to know Japanese to follow the story.

Bonus link: Vulcanologist Erik Klemetti counts down his list of the ten most dangerous volcanoes. If you’re thinking of investing in European real estate, forget Naples.

“Universal pronoun” developed

The Society for Silly Yet Practical Notions has introduced what SSYPN president Sophie Moronis termed a “universal pronoun.”

“‘He,’ ‘she’ and ‘it’ are not sufficient any more, what with the proliferation of ‘gender’ identities,” Moronis declared at a press conference this morning. “No matter how careful you are with your language, you’re going to offend someone.

“Artificial pronouns, such as ‘ze’ or ‘sie’ are hard to remember, and it’s not always obvious which is preferred by the particular individual referred to. Using ‘they’ as a singular pronoun irritates those who value good grammar.”

The obvious solution is a new word free of any implications of gender. The SSYPN proposes the neologism “thwop.”

It is both singular and plural, Moronis stated, and it has no gender, not even neuter. The possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe followed by the letter “s,” i.e., “thwop’s.” Otherwise all forms are spelled “thwop” and pronounced as the spelling indicates. “Thwop is here” and “thwop are here” are both acceptable constructions.

As an example of the universal pronoun’s usage, Moronis offered this sentence about genderfluid individuals:

Thwop and thwop’s friends walked to thwop’s place with a gluten-free sugarless cake to celebrate thwop’s birthday.

Moronis conceded that the content may seem vague, but declared that what the statement loses in specificity, it gains in universality.

Moronis added that “thwop” need not refer only to vertebrates on Earth, but can also be used for artificial intelligences, hive minds, tentacled horrors and catgirls.

“With this word, the English language is ready for the future,” Moronis said.

White house announces uniforms for federal employees

The Trump administration today issued a directive that all employees of the federal government must wear a distinctive uniform while at work.

“It would be salutory if all public servants dressed in a manner to remind themselves that they are indeed public servants,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared in a press conference.

Men at all levels are to wear janitorial garb unless they are already assigned a different uniform, and must keep a mop and bucket where they can be seen from their desks at all times. Women are to wear long, dark dresses with a white maid’s apron, and must keep a feather duster near at hand.

Spicer noted that “French maid” outfits are not acceptable. He did not respond when asked if nekomimi were permissable.

Scientists shocked: gender roles not a universal obsession

A researcher announced today that there exist individuals who have no particular interest in matters of sexual identity.

“It’s hard to believe, but it’s true,” said Ganymede Phaen, Adjunct Professor of Uncanny Studies at the University of Kechi, in a televised interview. “We’ve observed them, interviewed them, tested them, gone to movies with them. They’re for real. They look like ordinary people, but they perceive themselves and others as male or female. When you explain the difference between ‘agender’ and ‘pangender,’ they laugh. It’s unnerving.”

Phaen noted that upon questioning, the individuals in the study revealed that they understand the general concepts of gender fluidity and expressed sympathy for victims of gender dysphoria. However, they evinced no particular interest in such matters and would often change the subject.

“I mentioned to one that the new Power Rangers movie has a character who might be gay,” Phaen recalled. “He shrugged, and asked if the story was any good.”

Phaen noted that while such individuals are rare in the college of liberal arts, there is some evidence that they may be more numerous in the engineering school. There’s a further possibility that they are common outside of the university campus, a prospect that Phaen finds deeply troubling.

“There could, in principle, be an entire culture in which non-binary gender identities are unimportant,” Phaen said. “I am currently securing funding for an expedition to explore sites where such a society might exist.” Locations under consideration include Utah and parts of Texas.

Love story

Never found that one special person? Don’t fret; perhaps the right person for you is you. For ten low monthly payments, Dominique will prepare you to marry yourself. It’s a bargain; here’s what you get:

• 10 weeks of guidance, practice, and inquiries to support you in marrying yourself
• A weekly email with a Self-Marriage question, practice, and inspirational writing
• Clear, step-by-step guidance from your Self-Engagement in week 1 to your Self-Marriage in week 9 and a final week of integration
• 6 recordings of Self-Marriage Calls (50-60 min) where you will have the chance to deepen in your practice, reflect on your insights and challenges throughout your Self-Marriage journey.
• Additional support of sisterhood through the Self-Marriage Unveiled Facebook group

Hour-long private sessions with one-on-one support are also available for a special price.

The FAQ doesn’t mention pre-nuptial agreements, but I expect one would be a good idea in case things don’t work out. Are there any lawyers who specialize in self-divorce?

Perhaps of relevance: Terry Allen, “I Just Left Myself.” There’s also a tune by Be Bop Deluxe that I’m not going to name, but it’s probably just about driving a car.

Gotta have a Feckle Freezer

Accumulated odds and ends:

Is Obama Catholic? No, and Dennis McDonough is an idiot.

Is the Pope Catholic? That’s a much more interesting question. Edward Feser supplies some useful background, including notes about Popes Honorius, John XXII and Liberius.

Hyperplay will provide hours — well, minutes — of fun for the mathematically inclined and the easily entertained.

Continue reading “Gotta have a Feckle Freezer”

Odds and ends for a chilly December day

The fundamental trolley problem

Dear [Beautiful but Evil Space Princess],
Every time I capture the hero, I get this overwhelming urge to spill the entire plan, including the way out. How can I stop myself from giving it all away?
Sincerely,
Evil Underlord who can’t quite make the big leagues

Dear Under,
Oh, Sweetie. This is a compulsion written into you by the author. You must use aversion therapy. Have one of your underlings dress up as the hero, and when you start spilling things, force yourself to do something really distasteful. I don’t know, pet a puppy or give sweets to children or something, until you break the compulsion.
It’s all right. If you manage to cure yourself, you can blend the puppies into a nice smoothie afterwards and it will make you feel much better.

Yardsale of the Mind:

I’m not a professional political scientist or sociologist. Then again, neither were Washington, Adams, Jefferson and that crowd ….

The election of Trump is, in many senses, stupid. However, it is far, far wiser and more in keeping with the idea that we, the people, are the defenders of the Republic to elect Trump than to elect someone who is beloved of Harvard. On the scale of errors one can make in a Republic, electing an arrogant and impulsive side-show barker is far to be prefered to electing someone whose fundamental goal is making elections irrelevant.

The Z Man strikes once:

… humans have never had to deal with the problems that come from too much food and too much free time to consume it. We really have no idea what will come from it and how it will hurt or help society. There could very well be a huge upside to having lots of fat people. Perhaps when the zombie apocalypse comes, the zombies will eat the fat people and be satisfied, leaving the rest of us to regroup.

And again:

When I’m ruler of these lands, the people responsible for embedded, autoplay video will be torn to pieces and fed to the dogs.

Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor:

I’ll never forget when John Updike reviewed a book on how FDR’s policies lengthened the Great Depression. Updike basically said that because FDR cared, and was trying, that was worth more than shortening the Depression.

Via Dustbury, who also notes that

That word “bipartisan” should set off an alarm: it almost always means that both sides are in cahoots and Up to Something.

A bit of spirited horticultural history, from a comment at an AoSHQ food thread:

One food arena where the US used to be the best in the world and is now near the bottom of the pack is cider (i.e. alcoholic fermented cider.)
Back in the Revolutionary War era cider was the #1 drink in the nation, far surpassing beer or wine or hard liquor. And people had planted the right kind of apple trees all over the country (as it existed then), so there was always a big supply of the raw material.
In fact, Johnny Appleseed didn’t go around planting edible apple trees — he went around planting cider apple trees! A detail that is now lost to most people’s imaginations of history.
“But wait,” you’re saying, “there’s a difference between edible apples and cider apples?”
Yes indeed. There are three fundamental “types” of apples:
“Sweet apples,” which is what we now think of simply as “apples” — the big crunchy sweet kind that you can eat.
“Sour apples,” now mostly known as “crabapples,” which are mostly useless except for making things with their pectin.
“Bitter apples,” now mostly unknown in the US, but still planted widely in France and England. THESE are the apples you are supposed to make true cider out of. As the name implies, they’re slightly too bitter to eat, but their chemical makeup is absolutely perfect for fermenting a delicious kind of apple cider, a process during which the bitterness goes away.
If you’ve ever tasted true cider made from bitter apples (which is what they serve you in Somerset and Normandy), you’ll know that cider made from sweet apples is atrocious by comparison.
And that’s the tragic part of our story.
Because of the arrival of so many German and Bohemian and Polish immigrants in the second half of the 19th century in the US, beer started to surpass cider in popularity nationwide, and then when Prohibition hit, cider production was stopped entirely. And what happened was that ALL — or almost all — the bitter apple trees in the United States were left to die or were torn out and make room for more useful trees.
So that by the time Prohibition ended, there was no longer any way to make true cider in any quantity, and as a result beer took over the casual drinking market almost 100%. Wine only started to make inroads in the ’60s and ’70s. But cider remain completely forgotten by then.
That is until about 8 years ago, when the “small batch cider” renaissance started in the US, with small startups making cider from apples.
Sweet apples, that is — because that’s all that we have in the US anymore! Yuck!
Cider made from sweet apples is just wrong to a true cider aficionado. So no matter how much effort these America cider microbreweries put into their product, it will never match up to French and British ciders.
In fact, until just a couple years ago, most American cidermakers didn’t even know about the existence of bitter apples and didn’t know they were doing it fundamentally wrong.
Finally a few people have wised up, and they’ve started planting bitter apple trees in the US again, but it will still be several years before they are up and producing in sufficient numbers to create enough true cider for the masses.
Until then, we must suffer with an inferior American product! Frowney face!

Burnable or non-burnable?

Indeed

I watched an episode of Ninja Nonsense, which turned out to be oddly topical.

Orange magic

Throw them all out

(Ninja Nonsense is often funny, but it is too off-color to generally recommend. Not even Norio Wakamoto can make Onsokumaru tolerable for long.)

Update: Here’s a list of write-in candidates for president. Those running include

• Raff, Riff, of Notre Dame, Indiana
• Bunny, Soul, of Williams Bay, Wisconsin
• Vader, Darth, of Spokane, Washington
• Mouse, Mickey, of Anaheim, California
• The Elf, Buddy, of North Pole, Alaska
• Hydrox, Cookie, of Newport Coast, California

These and the others on the list are all better choices than any of those offered by the political parties.

Such enthusiasm

Still a lousy option

There were a few “Bernie” yard signs in the area earlier this year, but they are gone now. I had not seen a single sign for any presidential candidate since the conventions until this week, when I spotted the above on my way to work. I still have yet to see anyone advocating for either the Democrat or Republican embarrassments in his front yard.

None of the above

So, as the USA lurches toward kakistocracy, I have a choice between gonorrhea and syphilis Kang and Kodos a crook and a clown in November. Like hell I’m voting for these jerks. (It doesn’t help that the crook’s running mate is a devout member of the American Catholic Patriotic Association.)

The following are the candidates I’m considering for November. Any of them is a better choice than the Evil, Stupid, Libertarian or Green party offerings.

Continue reading “None of the above”

Today’s quote

Eve Tushnet on Muriel Spark’s The Girls of Slender Means (recommended):

Agatha Christie apparently liked Muriel Spark a lot, and one similarity I noticed–which goes along with the novel’s arch, judicious tone–is that both novelists paint human nature in shades of folly and wickedness. Those old-fashioned words (a Christie character in The Pale Horse explicitly points out how nobody calls things “wicked” anymore) have found no adequate modern replacement. Folly, in particular, is a category we have a hard time naming. Christie generally portrays even her characters who do great and lasting harm–the instigator/victim in The Mirror Crack’d, for example–as extremes of a trajectory the best among us follow now and then. Folly can destroy a life; folly is an inevitable tint in every human action. Folly is ridiculous and deadly, and normal.

Further reading: Tushnet on a rather different book, Florence King’s When Sisterhood Was in Flower (recommended).

Efsitz

I thought of this ancient E.B. White story the other day and found it online:

Irtnog

Along about 1920 it became apparent that more things were being written than people had time to read. That is to say, even if a man spent his entire time reading stories, articles, and news, as they appeared in books, magazines, and pamphlets, he fell behind. This was no fault of the reading public; on the contrary, readers made a real effort to keep pace with writers, and utilized every spare moment during their walking hours. They read while shaving in the morning and while waiting for trains and while riding on trains. They came to be a kind of tacit agreement among numbers of the reading public that when one person laid down the baton, someone else must pick it up; and so when a customer entered a barbershop, the barber would lay aside the Boston Evening Globe and the customer would pick up Judge; or when a customer appeared in a shoe-shining parlor, the bootblack would put away the racing form and the customer would open his briefcase and pull out The Sheik. So there was always somebody reading something. Motormen of trolley cars read while they waited on the switch. Errand boys read while walking from the corner of Thirty-ninth and Madison to the corner of Twenty-fifth and Broadway. Subway riders read constantly, even when they were in a crushed, upright position in which nobody could read his own paper but everyone could look over the next man’s shoulder. People passing newsstands would pause for a second to read headlines. Men in the back seats of limousines, northbound on Lafayette Street in the evening, switched on tiny dome lights and read the Wall Street Journal. Women in semi-detached houses joined circulating libraries and read Vachel Lindsay while the baby was taking his nap.

Continue reading “Efsitz”

It’s a silly, silly, silly, silly world

A relevant screencap from Bakuon.
A not-quite-random screencap from Bakuon.

Video Meliora:

Upon Hearing Leaf Blower on a Fine Spring Eve

It’s the Divine Right of Neighbors
To run their motors loud
At the sitting hour, proud
I’m like Sitting Bull, Red Cloud
Aghast what Pale Face has allowed.

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I am so much more enlightened than you.

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Curious statistics:

Consider the winners of the four categories [best novel, novella, novelette and short story] over the last five years:
• 2015: 4/4 women
• 2014: 3/4 women
• 2013: 4/4 women
• 2012: 2/4 women
• 2011: 2/4 women

Fifteen stories written by women have won the main prizes in the Nebula awards in the past five years, and five by men.

I never cared much about the Hugo awards. They have never been anything more than popularity contests, and that they have been demonstrated to be meaningless is mildly amusing and nothing more. The Nebulas, on the other hand, are determined by a vote of the SFWA membership, i.e., actual writers, and reading the annual volume of Nebula winners was one of the ways I found writers worth following many years ago. But I find it difficult to believe that nowadays women write three times as many of the best stories as men. So, the hell with the Nebulas. I think I’ll read Tim Powers instead.

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Every few years I clear my evenings for a week and re-read The Lord of the Rings — I’ll probably do so again sometime this summer. I also enjoy most of his other fantasy-oriented works published during his lifetime. However, I’ve never gotten beyond page 20 in The Silmarillion. It turns out that I’m not alone, and The Silmarillion is the worst book with Tolkien’s name on it. It may be worthwhile to check out his other posthumous books, after all.

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Shirtstorm? What shirtstorm?

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Does the term “vibrancy” actually mean anything? (Note that the word “diversity” has become its own antonym.)

(Via Isegoria.)

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Every man his own rhinoceros: at last, a political party I can join. Unfortunately, it’s Canadian.

(Via Francis W. Porretto.)

Continue reading “It’s a silly, silly, silly, silly world”

Somatic perfection

Francis W. Porretto on Ghost in the Shell:

Ghost In The Shell is the absolute pinnacle of its art form. There’s nothing else in the anime oeuvre to compare with it, especially as regards graceful writing and philosophical depth. Masamune Shirow will be remembered for centuries for the story. The makers of the anime can be justly proud of the finished work. That Hollywood should choose to make a live-action version is merely additional praise of the original.

So what is this SJW concerned about? That central character Motoko Kusanagi, a round-eyed, big-bosomed cyborg, will be played by round-eyed, big-bosomed Scarlett Johansson, one of the foremost female action stars of today. “Whitewashing!” “Racial exclusion!” “Cultural appropriation!” “Insert your preferred SJWism here!”

These…persons deserve nothing but contempt. They’re the true bigots and squanderers of cultural treasures – all cultural treasures. That a brilliant piece of anime, known mainly to devotees of the art form, should be picked up by a major Hollywood studio and cast with a terrific, somatically perfect leading lady is an act of high praise…but no! “The character has a Japanese name!” Therefore, by SJW rules, she must be played by a Japanese actress. Failing that, at least one with an epicanthic fold.

Anyone who grants these cretins the smallest sliver of time or shred of respect is doing a disservice to the entire human race.

I wouldn’t say that the first Ghost in the Shell movie is incomparable in its philosophical depth — there’s Serial Experiments Lain, at least — but it is a superior work, and the remake, if competently done, should lead its more adventurous viewers to seek out the animated version.