Archives: November 2004
Tue Nov 30, 2004
Re-read and re-re-read
Oh, boy, another excuse to make a list! Here are “modern” novels that I’ve read at least twice since I got my B.A.:
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings
John Bellairs: The Face in the Frost
R.A. Lafferty: Past Master, The Devil Is Dead
Gene Wolfe: Soldier of the Mist, The Fifth Head of Cerberus (if you want to call it a novel), Free Live Free
John Kennedy Toole: A Confederacy of Dunces
C.S. Lewis: Till We Have Faces
Terry Pratchett: The Light Fantastic
Muriel Spark: Memento Mori, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means
Philip K. Dick: The Man in the High Castle, Ubik
Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman
Joanna Russ: And Chaos Died, Picnic on Paradise
Donald Barthelme: Snow White
Ursula LeGuin: The Earthsea Trilogy
Actually, I’m more likely to re-read short stories than novels. The pile of books beside my bed usually includes collections by Wolfe and Lafferty (Nine Hundred Grandmothers is on the top of the stack as I write this). Wodehouse isn’t on the list because I’m still reading all his books for the first time.
Blame The LLama Butchers for linking to Hugh Hewitt.
Soundtrack: Schumann, “Kreisleriana”
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A nice round number
I’m having a quiet little celebration at lunch today. Sometime early this morning this site received hit #50,000, according to the main counter.
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A strathspey, played the second time as a reel.
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Mon Nov 29, 2004
Cyborgs, blood and big eyes
The time I didn’t spend fiddling with my websites this past weekend I wasted by watching anime by auteurs other than Hayao Miyazaki. My conclusion: Miyazaki is still the best. Here are some quick reviews of the DVDs I saw this weekend and a few I watched earlier this year.
Akira: Please don’t ask me to explain what this one was about. I don’t think the film makers themselves ever quite decided what they had in mind. Let’s see: there are motorcycle gangs, a corrupt government ripe for a military coup, a bitter, angry punk with immense psychic powers, aged children with similar powers, speculation on the next stage of evolution, shattered windows, demolished buildings, the ruins of Tokyo, and blood. Lots of blood. If this had been a live-action movie it would have been nauseating, and, well-drawn and smoothly-animated though Akira is, it’s an ordeal to watch. Four stars for ambition and art, minus one for incoherence and minus one for extreme violence. For anime obsessives only.
Cowboy Bebop: the Movie: This one feels like a western, even though it’s set on a highly-urbanized Mars. In it a quartet of bounty hunters look for a madman who plans to wipe out life on Mars. There’s an actual story that mostly makes sense and interesting, often sympathetic characters. The art and animation look good to my non-expert eyes, and the pop/rock soundtrack works better than I would have expected (unfortunately, despite the title, there’s no bebop). Anime aficionados often declare that the TV series is better than the movie; if that’s the case, then it must be one of the best television shows ever broadcast. Four stars. Too violent for youngsters.
Dragon Half: Astoundingly silly. Mink, a half-human, half-dragon girl, has a crush on a singer who is also a dragon hunter. It makes very little sense, but sense is beside the point. Some of the humor is a bit vulgar, and Mink, who doesn’t wear much clothing, wears even less by the end. If mindless fun is what you like, here it is. If you love Beethoven, skip the theme music. Three stars.
Ghost in the Shell: This one reminded me of early, noir-ish William Gibson. The main character is a cyborg, wtih a human brain in a human-looking but inhumanly strong “shell,” and the central story concerns artificial intelligence developing self-consciousness. There’s quite a bit else, including a lot of violence (though not to the Akira extreme). Four stars. Definitely not for kids.
Those Who Hunt Elves: There’s a fine line between silly and stupid, and this series is generally on the wrong side. A trio from Japan — an idiotic martial arts expert, an actress and a little girl skilled with guns — are stuck in a sword-and-sorcery universe, along with a tank. To get back to their own world, they must find pieces of a spell that appear as tattoos on the bodies of certain female elves. Do the three ask nicely and secure the cooperation of the elves? Of course not. I was surprised when an anime-enthusiast friend handed me these DVDs, and having watched them, I’m still surprised. It’s not as prurient as you might expect from the synopsis, and some of it is clever, but I can’t recommend it. Two stars.
The Wings of Honneamise: I wish I liked this movie more — it looks beautiful and the story and characters have potential — but I can’t. It’s excruciatingly slow-paced (I ended up fast-forwarding through much of the first 20 minutes, something I almost never do) and painfully earnest. After the first half-hour or so this story of the space program in an imaginary world picks up the pace sufficiently to hold your interest. It remains grimly sincere, though, and ends with a ten-minute exhortation to pray. Two and a half stars. Not for youngsters.
I wrote about Serial Experiements: Lain back in April. It remains the most interesting thematically of the anime I’ve seen and would merit a full five stars were it not quite so diffuse.
None of the above are as good as the best of Miyazaki. If you’ve never seen Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, rent them before you look at the others mentioned here.
In other anime news, Spherical Fred praises Millennium Actress, which is on my to-see list.
Soundtrack: Joe Walsh, “County Fair”
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“Pure mathematics —
... May it never be of use to anyone.”
—Henry John Stephen Smith
"God exists since mathematics is consistent, and the devil exists since its consistency cannot be proved."
— Andre Weil
208 additional mathematical quotes can be found here.
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About a year late
One of the ragemonkeys predicts that a new bishop will finally be named for the Wichita diocese either tomorrow or in January 2008. The latter date is more likely.
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Back again to the The Skye Collection of the Best Reels and Strathspeys Extant, first published in 1887.
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Sat Nov 27, 2004
For nearly two years now I've maintained three separate personal websites: one for pictures, one for music and one for this weblog. Paying for space on three different servers gets a bit expensive, so I spent a large chunk of this holiday weekend moving my old geocities site over to the pMachine server, which hosts this weblog. The move is complete now, except for redirecting the "tancos.net" domain name. Once that's done, all the links to the old site will work again, and I will be able to close down the geocities/yahoo site without inconveniencing anyone. Clicking here will take you to the transplanted site. It's mainly a photo album, with lots of pictures of dancers and people who live in the past, plus a few of musicians and cacti. If such things interest you, go ahead, browse. Please let me know if you find a bad link.
I usually don't announce when I add links to the right-hand column, but there are a couple of new ones worth noting. The first is to Eighth Day Books, one of the best bookstores in the midwest. If you're looking for books of substance, this is the place to go. It's particularly stong in theology, religion and philosophy. It also has a large selection of books for children, plus plenty of Chesterton, Lewis and Tolkien. And there's virtually no junk. (I should note that I shop there in person, and I don't know how complete the online catalogue is.)
The second is to my amazon.com wish list. The items on it are things that sure would be nice to have but which I can't realistically hope to buy, generally multiple-disc sets and hardcover books. If some fabulously wealthy visitor to this site should happen to feel senselessly, wonderfully generous -- well, take a look.
By the way, if you've linked to me and I haven't yet reciprocated, please let me know so I can add your site to the list.
Finally, out of sheer vanity, I've added a picture of myself to the right-hand column. It was sketched several years ago by the late William Blackfox, O.L., a.k.a. Mark Wallace of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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Banned in Hohhot
China is alarmed by a new menace: Mongolian heavy metal:
... the Chinese are having a harder time repulsing modern interlopers like these: long-haired Mongolian men in black, whose office décor features a wolf pelt, a portrait of Genghis Khan and a music store poster of Eminem.
So the Chinese police got nervous when they heard that Hurd was crossing the Gobi Desert, coming down from Mongolia, 600 miles to the north. With their new hit CD, "I Was Born in Mongolia," Hurd, a heavy metal, Mongolian-pride group, was coming for a three-day tour, culminating Nov. 1 with a performance in Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
"The morning we were to get on the train, the translator guy called and said 'Your performances are cancelled,' " Damba Ganbayar, Hurd's keyboardist and producer, said glumly as he lounged in a white plastic chair. "He said, 'I will call with details.' I never got the details."
Here’s an article about Hurd. It includes a rather bland sound clip. I’m not sure that they have the proper heavy metal attitude:
“We worship our parents. If it wasn’t for them, we would not be here,” says band member, Otgonbayar. “If we translated our lyrics, people elsewhere (could) listen to the words, and they would love their parents more.”
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Fri Nov 26, 2004
A fascinating article on the redistribution of cultural wealth:
On company time, and a half-mile below the surface, Nottinghamshire collier G. A. W. Tomlinson (b. 1872) read The Canterbury Tales , Lamb's Essays ,The Origin of Species , and Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol . Admittedly, that could be an occupational hazard: once, when he should have been minding a set of rail switches, he was so absorbed in Goldsmith's The Deserted Village that he allowed tubs full of coal to crash into empties. The foreman (quite rightly) clouted him and snatched the volume away. He returned it at the end of the shift and offered a few poetry books of his own—"BUT IF THA BRINGS 'EM DARN T'PIT I'LL KNOCK THI BLOCK OFF." Tomlinson tried to write his own verses and concealed them from his workmates, until one of them picked up a page he had dropped and read it: "No good, lad. Tha wants ter read Shelley's stuff. That's poetry !"
(Via Eve Tushnet.)
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Oliver Stone's new opus is apparently the funniest movie of the year. For a more sober assessment of Alexander the Great, here's Will Cuppy from The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody:
Alexander III of Macedon was born in 356 B.C., on the sixth day of the month of Lous. He is known as Alexander the Great because he killed more people of more different kinds than any other man of his time. (1)
For three years, until he was 16, Alexander was educated by Aristotle.... Aristotle was famous for knowing everything. He taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking. This is true only of certain persons....
With a teacher like that, one's values might well become warped. On the other hand, even Aristotle couldn't help some people. As soon as he had finished reading the Nicomachean Ethics, Alexander began killing right and left. He exterminated the Theban Sacred Band at the Battle of Chaeronea while his father was still alive, and then got some fine practice killing Thracians, Illyrians, and such others as he could find around home.
He was now ready for his real career, so he decided to go to Asia where there were more people and more of a variety. After killing a few relatives who might have claimed the throne, he declared war on Persia and crossed the Hellespont to spread Hellenic civilization. The Greeks were embarrassed about this, but they couldn't stop him. They just had to grin and bear it.
Asia proved to be a regular paradise. In no time at all Alexander had killed Medes, Persians, Pisidians, Cappadocians, Paphlagonians and miscellaneous Mesopotamians. (2)
Alexander spent the next nine years fighting more battles, marching and countermarching, killing people at random, and robbing their widows and orphans. (3) He soon grew tired of impressing Greek culture upon the Persians and attempted to impress Persian culture upon the Greeks. In an argument about this, he killed his friend Clitus. who had twice saved his life in battle. Then he wept for forty-eight hours. Alexander seldom killed his close friends unless he was drunk, and he always had a good cry aftrerwards.
Alexanders's empire fell to pieces at once, and nothing remained of his work except that the people he had killed were still dead. He accomplished nothing very constructive. (4) True, he cut the Gordian Knot instead of untying it according to the rule. This was a silly thing to do, but the Gordian Knot itself was pretty silly. He also introduced eggplant into Europe.
1. Professor F.A. Wright, in his Alexander the Great, goes so far as to call him "the greatest man that the human race has yet produced."
2. "He boldly proclaimed the brotherhood of man." --F.A. Wright.
3. He was often exremely brutal to his captives, whom he sold into slavery, tortured to death, or forced to learn Greek.
4. But see F.A. Wright on Alexander's work "above all as an apostle of world peace."
Addendum: Here's a brief biography of Cuppy.
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| You scored as Catholic. Welcome to the One, Holy, CATHOLIC, and Apostolic Church!|
You, my Friend, are a Catholic.
You have a strong sense of something outside of yourself and feel drawn to answer profound questions to satisfy your desires. You recognize that truth isn't self-centered or about inventing something new, but rather following the road map of your heart to a bigger picture. You are probably baptized.
created with QuizFarm.com
(Via Fructus Ventris.)
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And still another hornpipe, this time not by Harry Carleton. All of the tunes this week are from Ryan’s Mammoth Collection.
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Thu Nov 25, 2004
Wed Nov 24, 2004
Reading and warfare
A couple of notes on NRO’s Christmas gift guide:
I second Rod Dreher’s recommendation of Eighth Day Books. It’s everything he says it is. One of the few advantages of living in Wichita is that I can actually shop at one of the best independent bookstores around in person.
Andrew Stuttaford is not one of my favorites at NRO. I do like one of his suggestions, though, mainly because it will scandalize some of my least favorite people:
For any young sons or nephews: a war toy. As my grandfather used to say: "Peace on earth and mercy mild, a commando set for every child." Giving war toys comes with an added advantage — the people it annoys, pacifists, parsons and 'responsible' physicians, all need, badly, and often, to be annoyed. Start with a classic GI Joe.
(In point of fact, I usually give my nephews and nieces books.)
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An insult to the brain
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The true gardener
Chan the Bookish Gardener quotes Henry Mitchell today:
From "Thomas Jefferson, an Optimistic Gardener":
This broadening of scope is the single most definitive quality of the true gardener: if you fail in small things and cannot perfectly manage your small garden, then expand and take on three times as much. That is gardening orthodoxy and Jefferson believed it with all his heart.
I don’t need to point out that this is not merely gardening orthodoxy but a way of life.
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Tue Nov 23, 2004
Another tune for another president by Harry Carleton.
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Mon Nov 22, 2004
Sun Nov 21, 2004
Galadriel’s secret love-child
It’s a year old but still timely: Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s illuminating introduction to Mary Sue literary theory:
Mary Sue literary theory has changed my professional life. Before, when discussing manuscripts with my colleagues, I had to say things “You know, one of those books that keeps telling you how wonderful and talented and perfect the main character is and how much everyone loves her, but aside from that there’s nothing at stake and nothing really happens? No logic, no causality, no narrative development, just that character being wonderful every barfy step of the way?”
Generally they knew what I meant; we see a lot of books like that. But those conversations have gotten much easier now that I can say things like “See if the author will agree to rewrite it from another character’s point of view—that main character is a screaming Mary Sue.” Or: “I sent it back. The agent was all excited about how the author’s ‘expanding into a new genre’, but it’s just a Mary Sue with jousting scenes pasted in.”
(Via Eve Tushnet.)
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Hear ‘em yip, and other matters
First item of business: congratulations to Robert and Steve, who celebrate the first anniversary of the LLama Butchers today.
LLama and llama-ette at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.
Congratulations also to Otto Clemson Hiss, who began Otto-da-Fe a year ago this past Friday.
Second item: if you are a balletomane unfamiliar with 9 Chickweed Lane, add it to your daily stops. As I’ve frequently mentioned, McEldowney’s strip is probably the best comic currentlly drawn and the only one I know of in which a major character is a dancer. There should be even more ballet in the future there. From the comics.com site:
There’s always drama at this address, and now fans will get to see one chapter close and a new chapter begin. Chickweed will accompany Edda as she moves away from home to dance in a metropolitan ballet company.
I look forward to the introduction to the strip of men who dance, and I hope McEldowney has the sense to include more than a single token straight male.
Third item: nominations are being accepted for WizBang’s 2004 Weblog Awards. When I checked last night, St. Blog’s was underrepresented. Please remedy this.
Fourth item: James Bowman is not infallible. I saw The Incredibles this afternoon (my second movie of the year, unless I saw The Return of the King earlier than I remember; yeah, I like movies just slightly more than I like television (the word “television” promises so much. It’s a pity that the reality is so banal).). It was good, both as an example of immense computer power at the service of whimsey and as a story. I generally agree with Bowman on the movies he’s written about that I’ve seen, but on this one he’s just plain wrong. The movie is deficient in satire and pointlessly ironic by his reckoning, but satire and irony are not the point of the movie. I think what Terry Teachout said of dance also applies to movies like The Incredibles:
Remember that dance, like music and painting, is not an essentially intellectual art form. Of course it can exert an intellectual appeal (especially on intellectuals), and the more you know about it, the more you’ll appreciate it, but enjoyment of the immediate experience doesn’t require the participation of the higher brain centers. As the saying goes, dance hits you where you live—and some people, oddly enough, don’t like to be hit there. Perhaps the prospect of surrendering control of their feelings makes them anxious. Me, I eat it up and yell for more. As Arlene Croce once said, “I never saw a good ballet that made me think.” Afterwards, yes: I do plenty of thinking, not infrequently followed by writing. But not in the theater, not in the moment, not when the lights go down and the curtain goes up. That’s when I want to be blown away—and that’s what a good dance does.
In other words, I think that Bowman sometimes thinks too much.
Something has long puzzled me about Bowman: how can someone who likes so few movies stand to see so many?
Soundtrack: Liszt, “Totentanz”
(Correction: I forgot about The Triplets of Belleville. That makes three movies I've seen in a theatre this year, which is a record for the past 20 years.)
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Fri Nov 19, 2004
Let’s not be rough, though
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Thu Nov 18, 2004
I couln’t find a hornpipe for Wichita, but here’s one for a town in Michigan.
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Wed Nov 17, 2004
Those were the days
Here’s one reunion I’d like to hear. Unfortunately, the Albert Hall is not within convenient bicycle distance from Wichita.
(Via a small victory. While you’re at Michele’s place, see how long it takes you identify the mistake in this picture.)
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Color before Kodachrome
Via a friend: color photographs from pre-revolutionary Russia by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii:
Born in St. Petersburg and educated as a chemist, Prokudin-Gorskii devoted his career to the advancement of photography. In the early 1900s, he developed an ingenious technique of taking colour photographs. The same object was captured in black and white on glass plate negatives, using red, green and blue filters. He then presented these images in colour in slide lectures using a light-projection system involving the same three filters.
Around 1907 Prokudin-Gorskii envisioned and formulated a plan to use the emerging technological advancements that had been made in colour photography to systematically document the Russian Empire.
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Weird world web
As I survey the search queries that brought people here, two conclusions are inescapable:
1. There are a lot of weird, creepy people online.
2. There are a lot of people who can't spell. "Mixolydian" isn't that common a word, and I'm not surprised when I see the "y" in the wrong place, but how do you account for, say, "desert d arisona"? Or "contempory christian midi files"? "Venimos spiders"?
I wonder if perhaps Robert or Steve could explain "the llama lyrics i was once a treehouse." I would also be interested in a discussion of "the saltarello and the significance in today's society." I regret that I don't know where to find an "oranguatan cross stitch pattern," nor am I aware of any "f6 tornados in the last 10 years." (I don’t think that any F6 tornadoes have ever been recorded, though I know of two that approached the 320 mph threshold: one that struck Oklahoma City in 1999 and one in the Hesston, Kansas, outbreak in 1990.)
Later: Robert finds the LLama song lyrics. Um, okay.
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I feel pretty II
Here’s Echeveria strictiflora, a succulent from Mexico and west Texas. It’s a black and white picture, but in color it would look about the same; the pot is greener than the leaves.
I took this picture on 35mm Kodak Technical Pan. Tech Pan is a pain to use — it’s very slow and requires special developers and agitation techniques — but the payoff is an extremely sharp, grainless image that can be enormously enlarged. I’ve made 16” by 20” prints from this negative that are crisper and smoother than 8x10s from analogous Tri-X negatives.
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Tue Nov 16, 2004
Introspection over sensation
Outer Life recently observed the first anniversary of its inception. Early on Mr. Outer Life set himself the goal of producing “the worst blog in the history of the world.” I‘m afraid he failed miserably, as his notes on melancholy demonstrate:
When you're melancholic, people ask you "what's wrong?" and try to cheer you up, not realizing that nothing's wrong, that's just the way you are, that you're allergic to cheer for cheer's sake. When you're melancholic, your lack of unbridled enthusiasm will be interpreted as a bad attitude. When you're melancholic, people will assume you're depressed, ignoring the fact that you manage to experience a wide range of emotions, you manage to see the humor in life, and you manage to stay productive, all while being followed about by your own personal black rain cloud. That's quite a trick.
The funniest people I know are among the most melancholic people I know. Something about blending the sunny with the dark produces that skewed take on life we call "humor." Happy people and depressed people are rarely funny people.
At root, a melancholic temperament seems, to me, to be a mature temperament, the logical next step after one's youthful optimism is tempered by the cares, responsibilities and hard-learned lessons of adulthood. One can face one's losses, and one's mortality, with happy denial, with melancholic equanimity or with depressed paralysis. Is it any wonder that, in our youth-obsessed culture, we crave happiness and treat melancholy as a disease to be fixed rather than as a natural and healthy state in an individual's development?
Soundtrack: Robert Starer, “K’li Zemer”
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No chipmunk puppets, please
Here’s an education in modern dramatic practice: The things I will not do when I direct a Shakespeare production:
13. Richard II's minions will not be made to wear pink.
32. I will not employ a conception of Caliban which would require him to wear a ghastly furry costume reminiscent of a hypothetical offspring of Chewbacca and the Wolf from Into the Woods.
36. Keanu Reeves will not be allowed near the production.
57. Gerard Depardieu will be locked up with Keanu, far far away from Shakespeare.
87. I will not have Henry throwing tomatoes at a spinning fan blade whilst yelling at Montjoy.
88. I will not portray Mercutio as a speed addict and Tybalt as his dealer.
91. I will recognize that there is never a need for a monolith a la 2001: A Space Odyssey in Macbeth.
99. I will not put La Pucelle in a Xena-esque metal bikini, no matter how attractive the actor's legs and stomach are.
118. I will not dress Goneril in dry-clean-only mint green silk shantung and then block her sitting on furniture containing substantial traces of "vile jelly" from the previous scene.
132. If you are setting Macbeth in the modern era, there is no excuse for people fighting with broadswords in the subway, no matter how much you loved Highlander.
143. I will not set The Tempest in a Gilligan's Island episode, and have my actors play their roles as characters from the show.
155. I will not have men in kilts leaping down from set pieces.
165. At no time shall Romeo slap Tybalt with a fish. This is especially key during their confrontation in 3.1.
173. I will not let Leonardo DiCaprio near the production.
174. I will not put Puck, nor Feste nor Lear's Fool, nor any other character, in a Maxfield Parrish-esque fool costume COMPLETE WITH BELLS. If I absolutely MUST do that, I will make certain that the bells do NOT jingle. [See “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” by Woolcott Gibbs for an illustration why. —ed]
(Via Eve Tushnet.)
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Here’s further proof that I am way out of touch with modern culture: a list of the top “cult” movies originating, I believe, with Entertainment Weekly. The very few I’ve seen are in bold. Those I might see again are in italics.
1 This Is Spinal Tap
2 The Rocky Horror Picture Show
4 Harold And Maude
5 Pink Flamingos
6 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
7 Repo Man
9 Blade Runner
10 The Shawshank Redemption
11 Five Deadly Venoms
12 Plan 9 From Outer Space
15 Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
16 The Warriors
17 Dazed And Confused
19 Evil Dead II
20 The Mack
21 Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
22 Un Chien Andalou
24 The Toxic Avenger
25 Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory
26 Stranger Than Paradise
27 Dawn Of The Dead
28 The Wiz
30 The Harder They Come
31 Slap Shot
33 Grey Gardens
34 The Big Lebowski
35 Withnail and I
37 A Bucket Of Bood
38 They Live
39 The Best Of Everything
43 The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension
44 Love Streams
45 Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
46 Aguirre, The Wrath of God
47 Walking And Talking Nicole Holofcener
48 The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years
50 Faces of Death, Vol. 1
51 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
52 A Clockwork Orange
53 Mommie Dearest
54 The Princess Bride
57 Valley of the Dolls
58 Fight Club
59 Dead Alive (aka Braindead)
60 Better Off Dead
61 Donnie Darko
(Via Le Sabot Post-Moderne.)
Soundtrack: Brave Old World, “Brave Old Sirbas”
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I have a very noisy project in the works, but it will be a week or two (or three or four) before I’ll want anyone to hear it. In the meantime, you can listen to former organ student John Lanius of TexasBestGrok perform his arrangement of Buxtehude’s Praeludium et Fuga in g moll (BuxWV 149) for synthesizers.
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Another hornpipe from Ryan’s Mammoth Collection.
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Mon Nov 15, 2004
Is Legolas really a blond?
< extreme geekiness >
While browsing the “important posts” at Quenta Nârwenion, I came across a curious bit of Middle-Earth science: Hair color genetics for Tolkien’s elves. It looks like Peter Jackson probably got it wrong:
Unfortunately, there will never be proof, one way or another, to Legolas's hair color because there is too much ambiguity. His father is said to be golden haired in The Hobbit, but this book's assertions to anything were pretty much amended by Tolkien himself in later writings, when he began to seriously world-build for LotR and TS. Legolas's people were of a huge branch of Elven folk who never left Middle-earth for Valinor, called "dark" Elves, but this is a misleading nomenclature. They are only "dark" because they have not seen the light of the Trees of Valinor, not due to coloration. Certain sections of these people, the Teleri, were silver-haired (ie. Thingol and Celeborn), but here again there is much to debate, since the parts that seem to support the silver genome are a distinct section of the Teleri in Beleriand and Doriath, and these are not the people from whom Legolas descended.
Legolas's people have been somewhat isolated over the generations, which could allow for any number of dominants and recessives to take hold. Having established our genome, however, the most likely explanation is that he is dark-haired and gray eyed, like most of his kind. If he were a recessive, the odds would be more in favor of silver than gold.
Tolkien's vagueness can be interpreted in other ways, as well. Tolkien was always very quick to point out golden and silver-haired Elves, and anywhere where the coloration was not to the dark-haired standard. If one is to go with this interpretation, then once again, we would have to bet on Legolas's hair being dark.
< /extreme geekiness >
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How about a few hornpipes? Here’s one from Ryan’s Mammoth Collection.
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Fri Nov 12, 2004
A fellow passenger on the trip downhill, or, his hair was perfect
Norman Geras interviews Enoch Soames:
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I am not prejudiced; I hate everyone and everything equally.
What is your favourite proverb? > Every improvement in communication makes the bore more terrible.
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Posting here has been minimal lately, and that is likely to continue. There’s a lot of real life going on just now, plus I have the usual number of projects underway. I probably won’t much time for the internet until after the Nutcracker in December.
In the meantime, you can watch movies of ballet steps here, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Ballet. You might find it interesting to watch some, such as the “tour jeté,” frame by frame, if your viewer allows it. I’ve never had much interest in comic-book heroes; imaginary superhuman feats aren’t so impressive when you’ve seen the real thing.
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The key signature for the first two sections is two flats (B and E) and one sharp (F). This indicates the D “freygish” scale, which is like the phrygian mode, but with the third degree sharped.
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Thu Nov 11, 2004
“The Rabbi’s Disciple.” The midi files that I post can give you an idea of the shape of a tune, but they are inevitably mechanical and no substitute for real music played by real musicians. If you’ve never heard a good Klezmer band, you’ve missed out on some of the wildest music around.
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Wed Nov 10, 2004
I feel pretty
Here’s one way to display chain mail jewelry. I spotted this some years back at the War of the Lilies, an SCA event held every June near Kansas City.
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Tue Nov 09, 2004
Mon Nov 08, 2004
Here’s a curiousity that Edward at In principio erat Verbum found. It’s an English song from the second half of the 17th century. According to Edward, the words are by James VI of Scotland, who later became James I of England.
Tobacco is an Indian weed,
Grows green at morn, cut down at need
It shows our decay,
We are but clay
Think on this when you smoke tobacco.
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Sat Nov 06, 2004
Repeat until better or dead
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Fri Nov 05, 2004
Do you read in public?
Gee, I’m disappointingly normal. I’m merely a 48%-pure literature geek, even though I answered “yes” to all the following:
Do you know what the General Prologue is? (Hint: "Whan that April with his shoures sote / The droght of March hath perced to the rote...")
… and quote it in casual conversation?
… with a proper Middle English accent?
… do your friends join in and quote with you?
Blame Robert the LLama Butcher for finding this one. Robert and Steve, incidentally, have been seriously affected by the events of this week, to the point that they are both channelling James Brown. It’s not pretty.
Soundtrack: Jeff Beck, “A Brush with the Blues”
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Thu Nov 04, 2004
A strathspey from The Skye Collection by Marshall.
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Wed Nov 03, 2004
Tastelessness is timeless, or Alabama pi
James Bowman gives Team America his highest rating.
Meanwhile, Something Awful features altered movie posters (N.B.: note the title of this post). (Via Eve Tushnet.)
Finally, here’s a subject that deserves some sophomoric humor: nude protests.
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Writing about writing about writing
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The Allis Hotel in its day was the tallest building in Kansas. Its day passed, though, and many years later, when its residents were mostly pigeons, it was demolished. The “implosion” took place early on a winter morning. I was there with three cameras. This is the best of the shots I got, maybe two seconds after the explosives were detonated.
The image is a solarized print, in which the paper is exposed to light briefly part-way through development. (Strictly speaking, “solarized” is a misnomer, but it’s a lot easier to say than “sabattierized.”)
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Tue Nov 02, 2004
Mon Nov 01, 2004
A relic of the ISB
A bit of countercultural trivia I came across on the official Incredible String Band site:
Recently the Simpsons creator Matt Groening confirmed in an interview how he based his new series Futurama on the ISB’s song "Robot Blues" from their U album.
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The real fairy footbridge
Via a friend: those of you who follow Pibgorn might find this photo interesting. (The current story begins here.)
Pibgorn is the internet-only comic of Brooke McEldowney. McEldowney is also responsible for 9 Chickweed Lane, which should be in every newspaper but generally isn’t.
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