Archive for July 8th, 2009
When I was in seventh grade, I got a C in my typing class. I could not apply myself to the dull Mavis Beacon exercises intended to impart perfect QWERTY precision. I hen-pecked my way through the course (badly), always sneaking spare minutes of games like Brick-Out whenever the instructor walked out of view. I found the class utterly miserable, and I did not learn how to type.
I now type proficiently and do not see the task as a chore. For the purpose of this writing, I pulled up a quick typing test and achieved a speed of 95 WPM- pretty decent. In the old Mavis Beacon days, I probably two-finger-typed a speed of 25 or 30 WPM. What magic instructive program brought me up to speed?
I love to collect quotes. Such a high ratio of thought-provocation per word! I’d even bet that there is a the seed for a novel in most well-honed quotes. I collect these from many sources, though more than a few of the following were presented to me by The Quotations Page, which I use as my homepage. Some of these quotes have made the rounds (the oldies-but-goodies), though I’d bet that you’ll find more than a few that you’ve never seen before. Enjoy.
In mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.
Johann von Neumann (1903 – 1957)
Doing a thing well is often a waste of time.
It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.
Tom Stoppard (1937 – ), Jumpers (1972) act 1
The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.
Douglas Adams , Last Chance to See
“It is not acceptable to have a religion where the alternative to faith is punishment — that’s how you train dogs, not develop people.”
When ideas fail, words come in very handy.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)
I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
A physicist is an atom’s way of knowing about atoms.
George Wald (1906 – )
Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.
H. H. Williams
People from my town of St. Louis are going ape-shit thinking that the national spotlight will come to our city along with the All-Star Game. It’s really sounding like mega-insecurity to me. If you’re really proud of your city, then be proud. You shouldn’t need some sports announcer to say a few nice things about one’s tourist attractions between pitches in order to feel validated. And if that sports announcer’s opinion is so important, let’s make sure that he takes a tour of our decaying city schools before the baseball game so that he can give the national sports audience an informed opinion or two on that, between pitches. And, really, what’s more important if you had to choose between having first rate tourist attractions and a first rate school system?
But my ambivalence leads to an important question. What is St. Louis really like? I’ve lived here all my life, and there is much to like about our city (as well as many things that need much improvement). Rather than write my own lengthy description of St. Louis, I’m going to refer you to this well-written balanced account by Alan Soloman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. What should we be thinking about St. Louis as the All-Star Game approaches? Here’s Soloman’s ominous opening, although his article eventually veers to many of the positive aspects of my river city.
The Gateway Arch, symbol of the place, and the museum beneath it represent the nation at its swaggering best, symbols of a Western expansion that would define us in so many ways. That we’re talking about St. Louis – a city that’s seen its share of rough times and that, like the country, isn’t exactly in swagger mode right now – in a way adds particular power and poignancy to this year’s celebration.
For another angle on how St. Louis is doing, check out this article in The Riverfront Times, where the author asks whether the recent efforts to beautify St. Louis amount to “putting lipstick on a pig.”
This article in Time Magazine points out that finding your former high school class mates has never been easier, thanks to Facebook, alumni sites and other social sites.
There’s another angle to the story, however. When you go online, you can figure out who’s successful and who fell through the cracks. With a mere click, you can find out who has started looking old, who’s still hot and who’s still married to whom. You can figure out where you stand in your high school pecking order without attending the high school reunion. In other words, you can figure out many of those things that motivate many people to attend reunions. For that reason, some have pointed at social sites as the reason many classes are skipping their reunions entirely.
The NYT has published an article featuring actors featured in pornography videos. They are complaining that the industry is not making films that allow them to display their acting talents. Too much sex.
Was it ever different? Apparently, yes:
Vivid, one of the most prominent pornography studios, makes 60 films a year. Three years ago, almost all of them were feature-length films with story lines. Today, more than half are a series of sex scenes, loosely connected by some thread — “vignettes” in the industry vernacular — that can be presented separately online. Other major studios are making similar shifts.
Time out for a bit of pop culture. Indulge me, this is only marginally serious.
I just finished watching the new show on SyFy called Warehouse 13. I enjoyed it, it was a good ride, even though they clearly went after the X-Files crowd with this one. It could be worth a few hours to see where they go with it. They took the endless warehouse from Indiana Jones, added some National Treasure grace notes, stirred in a dollop of Muldur and Scully, and introduced a bit of humor. That last is very important, because when you have a premise that is this borderline, taking it too seriously is risking alienating a lot of audience. The main reason the X-Files worked was the mood, the color, the textures that Chris Carter wove into it, and he played the conspiracy theory game like a master. But for me, it got very old very fast.
The problems with the X-Files were manifold and manifest. The biggest one was Scully. She was the dumbest “scientist” I’d ever seen on television or read in fiction. To remain so obdurately unseeing through all that she was put through required zero imagination in the character, zero sense of humor, and probably some sort of serial fixation or related pathology. If they’d played that up it might have worked, but for pity’s sake she was just dense. And therefore unbelievable.
Not to mention, of course, that much of the “science” in X-Files was atrocious. But that’s a charge that can be leveled as many shows on television, many movies, and quite a few novels.
(It would seem to me, though, that when a show is based supposedly on science, even fringe science, an attempt would be made to Get It Right. It wouldn’t take much in most instances, just someone on staff who could say “That won’t work” and then offer a way that it would. I understand some shows have such a person, but he or she is more often ignored than heeded, probably because the recommendations wouldn’t be dramatic. But I often wonder if the real reason they’re ignored is because the assumption is made that putting in valid science would make the audience feel stupid—since clearly it makes the producers of the shows feel stupid!)
The other problem with it was the profundity of the secrets ultimately being kept. It worked well when Muldur was just going through a bunch of old case files no one wanted to tackle because they led to bizarre places. Kept modest like that would have allowed the concept to work on the fringe, where it started out, and could have been very entertaining. But when it became this all-encompassing, “the aliens have been here and we are in league with them” kind of schtick, it became ridiculous.
Because they were trying to keep it consistent with mimetic fiction.