essentialsaltes: (haha)
The family that creates performance art together, breaks apart together. Wait, that sorta rhymes, but doesn't quite work.

The Fangs, mother and father, are somewhat extreme performance artists, and they get their son and daughter involved in the act. Probably the most fun the author had was coming up with performance art ideas that are one giant leap beyond sensible. Unfortunately, some of them are zany enough that it's hard to take seriously. The novel leaps back and forth, primarily between artworks involving their children -- indeed, shamelessly exploiting their children -- and many years later, when the children have grown up and left home, left performance art (happily) behind, and are trying to deal with forging their own lives in the shadow of their parents, who always prioritized art over family. A good mix of funny and serious, and the novel made its way onto a fair number of top ten lists for 2011, and will soon(?) be making its way to theaters near you.

Probably because I've known a few Fangs, my initial mental image of the family was Asian American, though the context of the novel slowly eroded this. Sort of a peculiar feeling.

BookChallenge scorecard:

became a movie (soon)
written by someone under 30 (close, 32)
funny book
with a love triangle (maybe?)
by an author you've never read
essentialsaltes: (haha)
You can see the PTSD building and building



'That rabbit smiled at me.'

essentialsaltes: (cthulhu)
This huge tome weighs in at about 850 pages and 5 pounds. It was a trial for my mind and my wrists. Here at the end, I've forgotten what I thought about the beginning, apart from a remembrance that Alan Moore's introduction is turgid and unilluminating, while Klinger's own foreword is a really good epitome of HPL's life and work.

Perhaps the best part of the annotation is the included illustrations: photos (including many of Donovan's photos of relevant architecture) maps, images from Lovecraft's letters, and the most welcome addition of some of the original artwork that accompanied the stories in the pulps.

The 20-some stories are well-chosen, although (for good or ill) they present the slow evolution of Yog-Sothothery from its nebulous origins to its full flowering, while the Dunsanian, Dreamlands-y stories have been excluded.

The textual annotations are mostly interesting and provide relevant background and/or additional detail. Dictionary definitions are blessedly few. Some of the notes annoyed me somewhat, in that they winkingly accept the stories as true, or 'apologize' for incorrect details. Klinger has also produced an Annotated Sherlock Holmes, and I think this is more an attitude of the Baker Street Irregular set, to attempt to conform reality and the sacred texts. Just as an example, when "Inspector of Police" Legrasse appears, Klinger presents the names of the actual holders of that title circa 1908, and then declares that "It is more probable that the narrator confused the officer's title -- that the latter was likely a mere junior official of the NOPD given the task of the strange raid described following."

That's not as winky as some of the others, but it was the first I found hunting randomly. If someone were actually using these notes for insight, they might lead to confusion as Klinger mixes the real with the fictional.

Other notes seem to be more snarky editorial comments rather than annotations. In reference to the "nauseous musical instruments" of 'The Hound', he writes "The narrator is exaggerating here: The instruments could hardly be at fault, only the sounds that St. John and he made on them." I am neither illuminated nor amused.

Not that I researched everything, but there are a few (and only a very few) errors that leapt out at me. I believe he gets the conversion between the Gregorian and Julian calendars backward, or rather confuses which calendar is Julian and which is Gregorian. And though Klinger may be technically right (the best kind of right) that Palæeogean (C'mon Howie, why not Palæogæan?), though obviously formed from Greek roots to mean pertaining to the old earth, does not appear to have ever been a word used in that sense (apart, I suppose, from Lovecraft) -- Klinger's gloss is "A Byzantine dynasty from the eleventh century to the seventeenth century CE. Lovecraft evidently means simply "old" -- palaeology is the study of antiquities."

From my knowledge of numismatics, I knew that what Klinger is referring to is the Paleologan dynasty. A frightful error! Though not so bad as Joshi's hilarious gloss on lemur! Buffoons!

OK, having laid down the erudite smack, I declare this a very fine, informative, and genuinely useful, book.
essentialsaltes: (NukeHugger)
Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

The dude behind xkcd tackles some strange questions in this delightful book. While all of the questions are fairly absurd, they also range widely from dumb (What is Yoda's Force power output?) to the potentially profound (If everyone on Earth vanished, how long until the last artificial light went out), as do Munroe's answers. Not every absurd question deserves and answer, and a few intercalary appetizers appear from time to time with questions that he didn't see fit to answer, but are usually amusing/horrifying (e.g. "Would it be possible to get your teeth to such a cold temperature that they would shatter upon drinking a hot cup of coffee?")

Although he occasionally plays fast and loose -- often by necessity given the utter absurdity of some of the questions -- most of the answers are based on good solid science. And there are plenty of interesting factoids buried here and there, like the fact that the greatest contributing factor to sea level rise is not melting ice-sheets, but actually the thermal expansion of water, or if you printed out all of Wikipedia, the paper would occupy a volume of about 300 cubic meters.

He comes up with a couple snappy answers to some too-frequently-asked absurd questions. Like noting all the positives that would occur if the Sun suddenly went out. Forget about the improved satellite service, and imagine the advances in international trade and communication since there will no longer be any need for time zones. Or the question about people gathering in one place and jumping at the same time. After the anticlimactic result, Munroe describes the cataclysm that occurs as everyone tries to go home again.

An enjoyable and pretty fast read (plenty of pictures!). If you need to know whether you can build a bridge out of Legos that spans the Atlantic Ocean, or need to know what the map of the Earth would look like if water started magically 'draining' out the bottom of the Challenger Deep, this is the book for you.
essentialsaltes: (Agent)
@jackiekashian mentioned the Evil Knievel stunt cycle



which I had as a kid. And then I remembered the Smash Up Derby cars, which I loved almost as much.



And then I thought about the little plastic snowflaky-linky things that we'd make 'cars' out of and smash into each other until one of them had been reduced to its component atoms.

These seem to be contemporary Chinese knockoffs, but they get the idea across.



But my GIS ["plastic snowflake link together 1970s lego toy"] also brought me this.
essentialsaltes: (Haha)
A difficult inmate plaintiff.

Plaintiff began filing frivolous motions on a weekly basis and, in that relatively simple civil rights lawsuit, he ended up filing more than seventy-five pleadings, all of which required the considered attention of this Court and Judge Bowen. These motions included "Motion to Behoove an Inquisition" and "Motion for Judex Delegatus" and "Motion for Restoration of Sanity" and "Motion for Deinstitutionalization".
...
The motions ranged from the mundane, such as "Motion for Change of Venue", to the arcane, such as "Motion for Cesset pro Cessus" and "Motion for Judex Delegatus", to the curious, such as "Motion for Nunc pro Tunc" and "Motion for Psychoanalysis", to the outlandish, such as "Motion to Impeach Judge Alaimo" and "Motion to Renounce Citizenship" and "Motion to Exhume Body of Alex Hodgson".
...
In the instant case, Plaintiff has sued all of the judges and one magistrate judge from this District as well as one judge and one magistrate judge from the Middle District of Georgia. Plaintiff also unsuccessfully tried to join Judge Michael Karpf of the Superior Court of Chatham County and United States Senator Sam Nunn. His five motions to amend are overshadowed by the "Motion to Kiss My Ass" which Plaintiff filed [in which he moved "all Americans at large and one corrupt Judge Smith [to] kiss my got [sic] damn ass sorry mother fucker you."]
essentialsaltes: (Devilbones)
North Korean scientists have verified "a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668)," confirming historical reports.

This also must be a shot in the arm for Biblical literalists, who have been confounded by smart alecky comments about unicorns in the Bible. Of course King Tongmyong's unicorn was a little Asian looking, but then again the Bible doesn't say much about the appearance of the unicorn anyway.
essentialsaltes: (Haha)
"If I could get serious for a moment, I'm so outraged at our society's constant insistence on sexualizing woolly mammoths."
essentialsaltes: (Haha)
Improbable Research pointed to Lowering the Bar's Case Law Hall of Fame.

This one is quite a winner:

"Before proceeding further, the Court notes that this case involves two extremely likable lawyers, who have together delivered some of the most amateurish pleadings ever to cross the hallowed causeway into Galveston, an effort which leads the Court to surmise but one plausible explanation. Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact--complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words--to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions. With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor's edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins."

True to word, that is just the beginning of the merriment. Or at least such merriment as can be derived from a legal document.
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Monday 6 August

Got a lift from Glenn from work to the airport. We made quick progress, obtaining boarding passes, clearing security, obtaining food and a few sundries. Of these, the glasses case seems like a winner, while the neck pillows prove (at least in my case) not to live up to their hype. To skip a bit, I found that at best they provided a novel sensation while still being unable to sleep.
more of the flight, and getting settled in )
The reward for staying awake was the night cruise through the city of Budapest, with its monuments, bridges, and buildings all aglow with light.
essentialsaltes: (You're a Kitty)
Italian economist's laws of stupidity skirt the line between amusing and thought-provoking.

The economic take on things is kind of interesting. While a 'bandit' personality causes harm to others in order to benefit himself, "A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses."
Essentially stupid people are dangerous and damaging because reasonable people find it difficult to imagine and understand unreasonable behaviour. An intelligent person may understand the logic of a bandit. The bandit's actions follow a pattern of rationality: nasty rationality, if you like, but still rationality. The bandit wants a plus on his account. Since he is not intelligent enough to devise ways of obtaining the plus as well as providing you with a plus, he will produce his plus by causing a minus to appear on your account. All this is bad, but it is rational and if you are rational you can predict it. You can foresee a bandit's actions, his nasty manoeuvres and ugly aspirations and often can build up your defenses.
With a stupid person all this is absolutely impossible as explained by the Third Basic Law. A stupid creature will harass you for no reason, for no advantage, without any plan or scheme and at the most improbable times and places. You have no rational way of telling if and when and how and why the stupid creature attacks. When confronted with a stupid individual you are completely at his mercy.
essentialsaltes: (jasmine)
Hark! A Vagrant wins again. Do yourself a favor, click on the link down below for 'satirical cartoon'.
essentialsaltes: (Quantum Mechanic)
The 2011 Ig Nobels have been awarded. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about the Igs as they have evolved is that nearly all of the awardees attend the ceremony nowadays. If you studied beetles mating with beer bottles, or used a tank to smash illegally parked cars, you damn well have earned your spot in the limelight.

The Fermilab Tevatron is shutting down. For good. Today.

For twenty years and more it was the smashingest smasher in the world. Its major trophies were the detection of the top quark and the tau neutrino, filling out the leptons required by the Standard Model. The dingus has now been superseded by the LHC, but it served us well.
essentialsaltes: (Haha)
Lack-of-god help me, but every time I hear "African Cats, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson" I picture something much funkier than a nature documentary.
essentialsaltes: (Secular)
When Florida Turnpike tollbooths sported Halloween decorations earlier this year, Christian groups complained.
In response, "Turnpike leaders have now decided to ban holiday decorations of any kind".

When Fort Worth T buses displayed banners reading "Millions of Americans are good without God," Christians complained.
In response, "the T’s board of directors decided Wednesday to include both religious and political ads in the list of banned ads."

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