Friday, August 29, 2014

Please Do Not Feed the Rocks


[Photograph by Sluggo Smith.]

As seen on Sherman Avenue in Evanston, Illinois, “some rocks,” in a simulation of their native habitat.

[“Some rocks”? Here’s an explanation.]

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Infinite Jest in LEGO® blocks

On the road to the cute-ification of everything: Brickjest, scenes from Infinite Jest recreated in LEGO® blocks. Like they say, this is wrong on so many levels.

I may be misjudging. But at least I’ll never make the mistake of saying Legos again.

[“Like they say”: a Robert-Creeleyism. I know it should be as.]

From A Time of Gifts

In 1933, at the age of eighteeen, Patrick Leigh Fermor began a journey on foot from the Netherlands to Turkey. In a Munich youth hostel, a pickeliger Bua, a pimply chap, steals his rucksack, which holds a diary, books, money, clothing, and a passport. A letter of introduction still on Leigh Fermor’s person leads to a five-day stay in nearby Gräfelfing with Baron Rhinehard von Liphart-Ratshoff, whose White Russian family fled Estonia. The Baron and family collect a rucksack and some clothing for their guest. And then:

All these kindnesses were crowned with a dazzling consummation. I had said that my books, after the lost diary, were what I missed most. I ought to have known by now that mention of loss had only one result under this roof . . . What books? I had named them; when the time came for farewells, the Baron said: “We can’t do much about the others but here’s Horace for you.” He put a small duodecimo volume in my hand. It was the Odes and Epodes, beautifully printed on thin paper in Amsterdam in the middle of the seventeenth century, bound in hard green leather with gilt lettering. The leather on the spine had faded but the sides were as bright as grass after rain and the little book opened and shut as compactly as a Chinese casket. There were gold edges to the pages and a faded marker of scarlet silk slanted across the long S’s of the text and the charming engraved vignettes: cornucopias, lyres, panpipes, chaplets of olive and bay and myrtle. Small mezzotints showed the Forum and the Capitol and imaginary Sabine landscapes; Tibur, Lucretilis, the Bandusian spring, Socrate, Venusia . . . I made a feint at disclaiming a treasure so far beyond the status of the rough travels ahead. But I had been forestalled, I saw with relief, by an inscription: “To our young friend,” etc., on the page opposite an emblematic ex libris with the name of their machiolated Baltic home. Here and there between the pages a skeleton leaf conjured up those lost woods.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (1977).
A Time of Gifts is the first of three books recounting this journey. The others: Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople: From The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates (1986) and The Broken Road: Travels from Bulgaria to Mount Athos (2013). The best parts of A Time of Gifts thus far: its scenes of hospitality.

A related post
Patrick Leigh Fermor’s eye

[The Baron seems lost to history, but Wikipedia has a likely ancestor. Bua is Leigh Fermor’s rendering of the local pronunciation of Bursch, “a youth,” or as Leigh Fermor translates it, “chap.” Machiolated is just one indication of his intimate knowledge of architecture.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Block that metaphor, or block that other metaphor

The television was running:

“We will tackle and dissect issues of importance . . . .”

Related reading
All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)

Block that simile


[“Like gas in a car, your body needs grains.” Found in a free publication distributed by a local HMO.]

The simile fails in two ways: 1. The human body doesn’t resemble gasoline. 2. Gasoline doesn’t need carbs. A better sentence:

Just as a car needs gasoline to run, your body needs carbohydrates.
Related reading
All OCA simile posts (Pinboard)

[Carbs is another name for grains? I think the HMO just redefined carbs.]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Beloit Mindset List, 2018 edition

It’s back. This year’s list looks to my eyes like a particularly tasteless and clueless array of hastily selected cultural fragments. Tasteless: “Yet another blessing of digital technology: They have never had to hide their dirty magazines under the bed.” Clueless: “‘Salon’ has always been an online magazine.”

Oh, to be eighteen, and to feel personally insulted by this list. And to be able then to ask: “What’s ‘Salon’? And shouldn’t that be in italics anyway?”

The Beloit Mindset List has been annoying me since I became aware of it. As in wrote in 2010 in this post,

What bothers me about the Beloit list involves some unspoken assumptions about reality and young adults. The list reads like a nightmare-version of the proposition that begins Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921): “Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.” “The world is all that is the case” — all that is the case, that is, in the life-experience of a hypothetical eighteen-year-old American student. . . . The Beloit list seems to suggest that if it hasn’t happened during your lifetime, well, it can’t really be real (witness the weirdly Orwellian statement that “Czechoslovakia has never existed”), or, at best, that you cannot be expected to know or care about it. Even the ugly word mindset reinforces that implication: “the established set of attitudes held by someone,” says the Oxford American Dictionary. The OAD illustrates that meaning with a sentence about being stuck.
Related reading
Re: the Beloit Mindset List
The Beloit Mindset List, 2011
The Beloit Mindset List, again
Beloit Mindset List, 2034 edition
The Beloit Mindset List, 2017 edition

Local weather

The little man inside the television:

“. . . right up to a hundred ninety-eight by five p.m.”

I know what he meant: ”a hundred, ninety-eight." But the alternative seemed kinda plausible.

Right now it’s 91 °F and feels like 99 °F.

More local weather
“Nothing but sunshine . . . for the next few minutes.”
The weatherman’s reply to the shepherd

Tobias Frere-Jones’s blog

Tobias Frere-Jones’s eponymous blog is a thing of beauty. It is devoted, at least so far, to the beauty of things: banknotes, pennies, bus transfers, lottery tickets, signage, a gas bill, children’s alphabet letters, and typewriters. Dig Frere-Jones’s description of a bus transfer: “a rough slip of paper rattling and clanging with type.”

[If the name doesn’t ring a bell: Tobias Frere-Jones (Wikipedia).]

Recently updated

Twenty Questions The truth of the mystery postcard revealed.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Recently updated

µBlock for Google Chrome: Another reason to like µBlock.