Today’s word

Underdue, adjective

An example of its usage from an Alan Coren book review:

MAXIMINUS NAPLES
The first Proconsul of what was, in the second century BC, still Calabrium, Maximinus is chiefly remembered for his habit of throwing political opponents into Vesuvius. His proconsulate was exceptionally stormy, corrupt and inefficient, and in 134 BC, Emperor Tiberius Gracchus demoted him to the proconsulate of Sicily, where he is chiefly remembered for his habit of throwing political opponents into Etna. His significance is minimal, and my own opinion is that this dreary account is long underdue.

The book in question is a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Coren’s review is based on the title on the spine. The review is included in The Sanity Inspector, the book I tossed in the camera bag yesterday to read while waiting for the cosplay contest to begin.

Coren on the Netherlands:

… it is an interesting country, sweeping up from the coastal plain into the central massif, a two-foot high ridge of attractive silt with fabulous views of the sky, and down again into the valleys, inches below. Apart from cheese and tulips, the main product of the country is advocaat, a drink made from lawyers.

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”

In the news today

An explosive announcement concerning Yellowstone National Park

A re-visioning of Mononoke Hime

A history of “conceptual writing”

An audio plugin to blend divine proportion into your music Update: now offline.

Duck warfare

Live tribble cam Update: now offline.

It’s possible that not all of the above news releases are related to today’s date.

Update:

Stanford Review declares half-lives matter. (Via Steven.)

Black pawns matter

Purples and greens

I’m rather preoccupied at the moment, but I’ll be back eventually. In the meantime, here’s a chess problem to amuse you. There is something wrong with this position. Find the problem, correct it, and then find a mate-in-one for white, no matter how you fix it. You can find solutions in the comments here.

What's wrong?

Continue reading “Black pawns matter”

What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?

The calendar says it’s February, but it’s May outside. I took the day off, and in a little while I’m going to go out and enjoy the weather. While I’m out, here’s some miscellaneous nonsense for you. As usual, I forget where I found most of these.

The more Pope Frankie flaps his mouth, the more I miss Bennie and J.P.

Transporter before

Transporter after

Continue reading “What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?”

Miscellaneous nonsense, John Cleese edition

Thought for the day, from Francis W. Porretto:

Silo Syndrome is one of the natural consequences of the sense that things are sliding down the slippery slope to Shitville, and there’s nothing one can do about it. The sense might be illusory, of course, but the consequences of it are nevertheless compelling.
The countermeasure is laughter, however administered or evoked. Jokes. Puns. Harmless pranks. General horseplay. Frivolity. Cat videos. The zany impulse indulged in an unguarded moment. Laughter might not be able to cure cancer, but it can make the chemotherapy a bit easier to endure.

Some vile ethnic humor, attributed to John Cleese:

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.”

The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

Rationality

Years ago I attended a performance of a John Cage piece. The musicians sat on the stage in black turtlenecks while making gurgling noises with conch shells and water to the accompaniment of a recording of pine cones burning. After 20 minutes, one of the performers stood up and blew on his conch for five minutes, at the end of which his face was purple. I’ve also sampled recordings of Cage’s prepared piano music; the sonorities are novel, but the music itself is hard to pay attention to for more than a minute or two. Cage himself was probably aware that his music would not be universally appreciated, which is perhaps why he insisted that auditoriums where his music was performed have easily accessible exits.

Cage’s political philosophy is more interesting than his music, which makes him unique in history of music:

Cage—most famous for his 1952 composition 4’33”, in which musicians sit in perfect silence for four minutes and 33 seconds—was a gut anarchist. Asked about the word ecology, the composer replied that whenever he heard that seductive word he knew he’d soon hear the word planning, and “when I hear that word, I run in the other direction.” He boasted that he never voted.

Continue reading “Miscellaneous nonsense, John Cleese edition”

Odds and ends

Life is annoyingly busy, and I will have less time than usual for maintaining my websites until the middle of December. Expect even less activity here than usual. There might occasionally be posts of miscellaneous nonsense, such as what follows, but probably not much more.

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Magical algorithm 1

Flickr recently introduced a “camera roll” feature that displays thumbnails of your pictures arranged either by the date taken or according to its “magic view,” which sorts them into subject-based categories. The algorithms for the latter need a little refinement.

Magical algorithm 2

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Notes from the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies

Various odds and ends:

Fillyjonk linked to an old but not outdated story by Ray Bradbury, “The Murderer.” I found a couple of other favorites, “The Veldt” and “The Pedestrian.”

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Perhaps not entirely unrelated to the Bradbury stories:

Having time each day merely to amuse oneself, or just to sit and think, greatly improves one’s life. Yet we’re practically taught to avoid such periods – to stay as busy as possible virtually all the time. The emphasis on work, on “multitasking” (which, as a former expert in the architecture of multitasking operating systems for embedded devices, I can assure you is always an illusion) and on achieving ever more per unit time is using us up in ways we don’t always perceive and even less often appreciate. You’d almost suspect that time spent in introspection had been deemed an offense against the social norms.

(Via Dustbury.)

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While Sakurajima is ominously quiet, in the South Indian Ocean Piton de la Fournaise is putting on a modest, colorful show.

Continue reading “Notes from the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies”

Suite in B

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of P.D.Q. Bach by Peter Schickele. (Strictly speaking, the above isn’t P.D.Q.B., though it is from one of the early albums.)

Here’s another approach to Beethoven. (Via the Borderline Boy.)

1965 also saw The Baroque Beatles Book of Joshua Rifkin.

According to the liner notes of a reissue, Schickele was the first choice to write the arrangements, but he had just been signed to a different label, so Rifkin got the job. Incidentally, Rifkin sang in the first performance of P.D.Q. Bach’s “Iphigenia in Brooklyn.” A few years later, he would jumpstart the ragtime revival with his Scott Joplin recordings.

Here’s a more modern approach to the Beatles.

Glorieux’s Beatle recordings, which range stylistically from Bach to Bartok, are out of print, but you can find them on YouTube.