Archive for Almost Yogurt

Get down on Frey day

The award finally came:

Years after gaining notoriety for embellishing parts of his memoir A Million Little Pieces, the US author James Frey has a new notch in his bedpost: the 2018 bad sex in fiction award.

Seeing off competition from an all-male shortlist that included Haruki Murakami and the Man Booker prize-nominated Gerard Woodward, Frey won for his novel Katerina, a “fictional retelling” of a love affair the author started while on a hedonistic trip to France in the 1990s. The story follows Jay, a young American would-be writer, as he drinks and bonks his way around Paris, particularly with a Norwegian model named Katerina.

The award’s judges at the Literary Review said they had been swayed by several sex scenes in the novel, which include encounters in a car park and in the back of a taxi, but were especially convinced by an extended scene in a Paris bathroom between Jay and Katerina that features eight references to ejaculate.

You can read it at the link. I don’t think I want that stuff dripping all over the server.

Frey, who shot to fame with his 2004 memoir about his drug addiction, A Million Little Pieces, and later became even more famous when the book was proved to contain embellishments, has been nominated for the bad sex award before, in 2011 for his novel The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.

Heh. “Shot” to fame.

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At least it’s easy to spell

Poor child. Let’s hope she doesn’t suffer a fate like Asswipe Johnson’s.

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The operative word is “suck”

I caught this paragraph in a Marvel Universe fanfic in which Sue Storm, having apparently had a fight with Reed Richards, seeks out and seduces Peter “Spider-Man” Parker:

“You know what I think?” he asked the empty air. “I think our lives suck. Everyone’s life sucks, at least a little, somehow. And when your life sucks in a certain way, you figure out how to deal with that kind of sucking. And someone else whose life sucks in a different way, they have their own way of dealing with their sucking. And so, if their life sucks in some new way that’s something like the way your life sucks, you can tell them how to deal. And they can tell you how to deal when your life sucks like theirs. And maybe if we all just stopped thinking how our lives are sucking and thought about how other people’s lives suck — maybe we could all figure out what we’re supposed to do with this huge, sucky world.”

Not precisely the way Stan Lee would have said it, but it is what he would have said.

Incidentally, the story in question is seriously NSFW, and not just for sucking.

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Why won’t Vanya play with us?

“Oh, shut up, Alyosha.”

(Via Dawn Eden Goldstein.)


You dunderheads are supposed to be eating

This is not M-S-N-B-melonfarming-C, dammit:

Pass the dinner rolls, fail the rhetoric.

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The invisible hand job

It is seemingly de rigueur these days to disparage the economics we learned from Adam Smith, but if you ask me, they’re just jerking us around.

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Under the bored walk

It’s not like the sacred formula has been untouched all these years:

Monopoly for Millenials

Over the last few years, millennials — people born between the years 1982 and 2004 — have been the butt of many jokes; and now it seems they were the inspiration for a new board game. Hasbro has just released a “Monopoly for Millennials” game and people aren’t quite sure how to feel about it.

The game, which is currently sold out on Walmart’s website, retails for $19.82.

It features Rich Uncle Pennybags (a version of the classic Monopoly man) prominently on the cover. He is holding a coffee cup and wearing a medal labeled “participation,” mocking how millennials are sometimes referred to as the “Participation Award” generation.

“Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway,” the game’s tagline reads.

I blame inflation. It wasn’t that long ago that rent on Mediterranean Avenue was a mere two bucks.

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Unlikely reference

I remembered them from when I was younger: extremely minimalist drawings with surprisingly complicated explanations. But what were they, as a group, called? I didn’t find out until I actually looked at one of them:

Ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch

Frank Zappa’s 1982 album Ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch, also the title of this original Droodle by Roger Price, dating to 1953. (Price went on to collaborate with Leonard Stern on a little something called Mad Libs, which even today, some 60 years after their creation, continue to __________.)

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There’s a lane for you

And perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s self-selected:

The conservative is not a spoiled-rotten nobleman from the court of King Louis XVI who wants to keep his inheritance and his lands and his status and his privilege; it’s a frazzled shopkeeper downtown who doesn’t want bums crapping on his sidewalk. When he’s done with trying to see what he can do about that, he has to use his remaining hours attending to his business, which may or may not be profitable. But he’s got something he needs to do, and a sense of purpose to it. He belongs. That’s the issue.

Liberals are in the process of building a whole new world, atop the ashes of this one as soon as they’re done destroying it, in which the people who belong somewhere today, don’t belong anywhere then. And the people who don’t belong anywhere now, will have a place to be in this new world.

This is why they accuse dissenters of “not going with the science.” It’s got nothing to do with science, it’s all political. A carrot to be dangled before the nose of the ones who seek to belong.

It’s not that “the marginalized” have some compelling desire to exist on the margins, or that anyone who isn’t “marginalized” has any good reason to want those folks to stay there. (Well, yeah, there’s racism, but we said “good reason.”) At bottom, it’s just an acknowledgment that life is essentially unfair, which you’ve presumably already noticed, and if you haven’t noticed, Marcus Cole has:

You know, I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

The only true community of equals exists on the side of the topsoil facing away from the air.


Paint by numbers, sort of

Portrait of Edmond Belamy by an AI programYou probably don’t know Edmond de Belamy, the subject of this portrait. I certainly never heard of him. But he’s in the news because of this very portrait, and Christie’s, which sold the portrait at auction, listed it as follows:

Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy

generative Adversarial Network print, on canvas, 2018, signed with GAN model loss function in ink by the publisher, from a series of eleven unique images, published by Obvious Art, Paris, with original gilded wood frame S. 27½ x 27½ in (700 x 700 mm.)

In other words, this portrait of Belamy was created by an artificial intelligence:

The artwork was produced using an algorithm and a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th and 20th Centuries.

To generate the image, the algorithm compared its own work to those in the data set until it could not tell them apart.

The portrait is the first piece of AI art to go under the hammer at a major auction house. The sale attracted a significant amount of media attention.

And a fair chunk of change: Christie’s anticipated $7,000-$10,000; but the hammer came down at $432,500.

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Things you must know

In case you were thinking that the concept of a core curriculum is utterly outdated, Ursinus College in Pennsylvania would like you to know about the Common Intellectual Experience:

The Common Intellectual Experience (referred to as CIE) is composed of two semester-long seminar courses which seek to investigate three of the central questions of the traditional liberal arts education: What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world? What will I do? The courses are characterized by students in all CIE classes discussing the course texts at the same time, and studying the works in both the seminar room and through additional avenues of scientific and artistic exploration. The course is taught by faculty in all disciplines and the assigned texts and materials are altered yearly, allowing students and faculty a mutual experience of discovery and critical engagement.

Sounds very contemplative. The Friar remembers being contemplative during his college years, though perhaps not in compliance with anyone’s syllabi:

I also spent time contemplating how to stretch my barley and hops budget without crossing over into the realms of Wisconsin Brews Of Unknown Grains, those 12- and 24-packs in the darkest corners of the liquor store, their boxes covered in the dust of the eldritch past. And I spent time contemplating my fellow students of the fair sex, especially when spring increased temperatures to above freezing and reduced layers of outerwear so that they no longer resembled the Michelin Man.

With the threat of a barley shortage on the horizon, these are more serious questions than you perhaps might think.

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Nobody puts Shetland in a corner

Another instance of pique outweighing practicality:

The Islands Bill, which aims to offer greater protections and powers to Scotland’s island communities, was unanimously passed in May.

It gives island councils extra powers over activities on and around their coastlines and requires ministers to have a long-term plan for improvement.

So far, so good. But then:

Thanks to an amendment from Mr [Tavish] Scott, it also includes a “Shetland mapping requirement”.

The Lib Dem MSP said the common practice of placing Shetland in a box off the Moray Firth or the Aberdeenshire coast was “intensely annoying” to islanders, and created a false impression of the challenges they face on account of their remote location.

What the islanders want, apparently, is for all maps to be drawn this way:

Map of the UK to scale, with Shetland in its actual position

That’s Shetland in red.

The final rule written into the bill requires the islands to be “displayed in a manner that accurately and proportionately represents their geographical location in relation to the rest of Scotland” in any documents published by Scottish public authorities.

One opponent: the Ordnance Survey mapping agency, which said the inset boxes, when used, would avoid “publishing maps which are mostly sea”.

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Even older, and thanks for asking

Actually, this is just a pretext to run this picture:

And live from her very own Southern California back yard:

Maybe I shouldn’t be a cowboy?

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Subtlety is not his strong suit

Not that anyone in Hollywood is likely to care:

Bill Cosby may be in jail. Harvey Weinstein may be in hiding. But Roman Polanski is alive and well, and planning his first movie in the #MeToo era. He even has an Oscar-winning actor attached.

French producers Légende Films confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Polanski will begin filming his next movie, the political thriller J’Accuse, this fall in Paris. Louis Garrel will star as Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the real-life French-Jewish soldier wrongly accused of spying for the Germans in the 1890s. The scandal, which divided the country, concluded dramatically in 1906 when Dreyfus was exonerated after spending five years in the Devil’s Island penal colony for high treason. The Artist’s Academy Award–winning actor Jean Dujardin will star as the counter-espionage officer who vindicated Dreyfus. Mathieu Amalric, Olivier Gourmet, and Polanski’s wife Emmanuelle Seigner will round out the cast. Polanski has been developing the film for the past six years, with a script from British novelist Robert Harris.

All of which seems perfectly reasonable until you remember:

The subject matte — a man being wrongly accused and proving his innocence decades later — will likely make for interesting press conversations conducted around the time of the film’s eventual release. Polanski is currently evading sentencing in the U.S. after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor — then-13-year-old Samantha Geimer — in 1977. In spite of the plea, Polanski has maintained a successful movie career — even winning a best-director Oscar for The Pianist in 2003.

No, Polanski did not make it to L.A. to accept the award. Harrison Ford accepted it on his behalf, and then presented it to him at the Deauville Film Festival later that year.

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Yeezyer said than done

Or perhaps he meant “formerly”:

Sean P. Diddy Brother Love Combs was not available for comment.

(Via the BBC.)

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Best series title ever?

Certainly so long as it’s true:

Norm’s finest moment might have been hosting the ESPYs in 1998; it demonstrates his mastery of getting the audience to whisper “Did he really say that?”


Sic transit

Geoffrey Owens played Elvin Tibideaux (Sondra’s main man) on The Cosby Show for seven seasons. He’s still a working actor, when there’s work. And when there’s not, he bags groceries at Trader Joe’s.

And no, he doesn’t want your sympathy. The average member of the Screen Actors Guild doesn’t earn enough from acting to put food on the table. Ask anyone who’s been there.

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Delayed payback

In 1990, Ian Frazier wrote an opening statement, to be given by counsel for the plaintiff in the trial of Coyote v. Acme.

Given Mr Coyote’s welll-publicized issues with Acme products, this suit was probably inevitable. Perhaps not so inevitable was this:

Warner Bros. is developing Coyote Vs. Acme as a Wile E. Coyote animated movie with Lego Batman director Chris McKay on board to produce.

The sibling team of Jon and Josh Silberman, whose writing and producing credits include Living Biblically, Bordertown, Deadbeat, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, have been hired by the studio to write the Coyote Vs. Acme script.

Wile E. Coyote is part of Warner’s Looney Tunes characters, which include Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, and Marvin the Martian. The dialogue-free Coyote character first appeared in 1949 in Fast and Furry-ous, the first of 49 cartoons in which he was never able to catch the Road Runner, despite using complex devices from the fictitious Acme Corporation. The Acme contraptions invariably fail, leaving the Coyote squashed flat or burnt to a crisp.

Regrettably, there will be no new Carl Stalling score for the picture, Mr Stalling having died in 1972.


Schools cost money

Even some Oklahoma politicians are coming to realize that.

Joe Sherlock tossed out this little statistic this past week:

Tuition at St. Joseph’s Prep, my old high school, is now $23,900 per year, not including fees (books, retreats, sports, transportation, etc.).

Which sounds like a lot, though public schools in Philadelphia, in 2015 anyway, were spending $12,570 per student, and it’s almost certainly gone up since then.

So I dialed back to my own old high school, which, if your family qualifies as parishioners in the Diocese of Charleston, is charging a mere $9,600 a year. (If not, it’s $14,100.) This is about twenty times what it was when I was there, fifty years ago, but the only things that haven’t gone up at that rate are the things the government uses to calculate the inflation rate.

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Milne, his vocabulary augmented

The next generation, so to speak:

Pooh and Piglet doing lines from Star Trek

Well, I like it.

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Pizza from hell

Doesn’t mean it’s hot, necessarily:

Bad pizza will bum anyone out, but there are worse things than being served a crappy pie, like ordering from a place built on top of a gateway to Hell. That’s the cause of some very dark, demonic, and funny problems facing a small town in the first trailer for the new horror-comedy Slice, which stars Chance the Rapper in his big screen debut.

The latest from A24 is the “story of a ghost, a werewolf, and a pretty shitty pizza place,” and it stars Chance and Zazie Beetz (of Atlanta and Deadpool 2 fame) as “two daring survivors” who “set out to catch the culprits behind the cryptic crime spree” where a bunch of pizza delivery boys are killed. It also stars Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery, as well as Paul Scheer, Rae Gray, Hannibal Buress, and Rebecca Spence.

These days, Papa John’s wishes they could get press this good.

(Via JenLucPiquant.)


Swans of another color

“When in doubt,” said someone presumably wiser than I, “predict that the present trend will continue.” There’s just one problem with that approach:

Something unforeseen always breaks the present trends, whatever they are. The feudal system, for example, was going great until the Black Death hit. Induce a massive labor shortage by wiping out 30-75% of the laborers, and your society reorganizes in all sorts of interesting ways. Gunpowder, double-entry bookkeeping, and the rise of literacy all played their part, but all second fiddle to skyrocketing labor costs brought on by the Plague.

But sometimes the catastrophe is technological. George Orwell saw something like the Internet’s universal surveillance — those mandatory two-way TVs in Nineteen Eighty-Four — but he got the result backwards. Good Classical Liberals, as he was (and most of us were until recently), assume that humans want freedom. Big Brother and the Thought Police were supposed to be horrifying. But they don’t have half the power Zuckerberg et al do, and we can’t wait to put more and more of our lives online. O’Brien had to torture Winston Smith almost to death to get Smith to love Big Brother; we feel like we’ve been put on the rack if our Internet access is briefly interrupted.

This is, I suspect, because we think of Facebook as “free.” It is no such thing; no, you don’t have to write a check to the Zuckmeister, but the price is hidden by design.


The carpet might be red

The film is based on a 2014 novel by Jenny Han. I’d bet almost anything RB has read it.

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We learned this in sedimentary school

No argument here:

Geology rocks but geography is where it's at

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

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Downward dumbening

Not being a writer myself, I can observe this phenomenon only at a distance, but I suspect I’d be a bit upset if my readership were unable to, well, read:

Editors at conventional publishers have adopted a conformant attitude: “Write for an eighth-grader!” the smart ones will tell you. (The less smart ones will tell you to write for a fifth-grader.) And as you can probably imagine, it drives me absolutely nuts.

Dislike of the “vocabulary show-off,” I understand. I don’t care for the species of retromingent onager who festoons his books with a rebarbative congeries of obfuscations and anfractuosities any more than I like “literary” pretentiousness and those who luxuriate in it instead of telling actual stories. But I maintain that there have been changes as regards readers’ (and editors’) attitudes that aren’t for the better.

If you’ve read B. R. Myers’s A Reader’s Manifesto, you might recall him lamenting the disappearance of “good Mandarin writing” in the fashion of Woolf and Joyce. I feel similarly — but in this connection, I lament even more wistfully the decline in educational standards and the acceptance of that decline by just about everyone. The most important aspect of that decline, as usual, goes all but unremarked. It’s the difference between two attitudes: “I don’t know that word, so I’ll improve my vocabulary by looking it up” versus “What right does he have to use a word I don’t know?”

It’s just a matter of time before some nitwit in academia declares that failure to write for fifth-graders is a deliberate slur, intended to show one’s superiority over high-school graduates (or college underclassmen) who read at a fifth-grade level because [insert buzzword].

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This bologna has a first name

And apparently its own planning department as well:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to add a new category for the 2019 awards show: Best Popular Film.

I am sure the Academy hopes that this will get more people to watch the show, since over the last 10 to 15 years they have been handing out statues to movies that not very many people watch at all, with a couple of exceptions now and then. It turns out that not many people are interested in whether or not a movie they’ve never heard of wins an award.

It sounds like something ABC, which carries the show, would dream up.

But there’s this one lingering thought:

If nothing else, this modifies the common complaint that “Hollywood is out of ideas”; it’s just that Hollywood is out of good ideas.

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Time out of whack

Rob O’Hara binges on ABC-TV’s The Goldbergs, and spots a few choice anachronisms:

Despite the fact that each show is introduced as taking place in “1980-something,” in regards to its historical accuracy, the show is awful. For example, in one episode, Adam both goes to the movie theater to watch Police Academy 5 (released in 1988) and gets excited about the release of E.T. for the Atari 2600 (released in 1982). Occasionally toys or movies are referenced before they would have been released, but more commonly, things appear way later than they should. I have read that it would have been too difficult for the show’s writers to keep track of a firm timeline of events and pop-culture references, so they chose to go with a “throw everything in every episode” approach and blur the timeline. And while generally speaking that approach works, seeing kids with brand new Tron shorts and valley girls in episodes that take place in 1989 will seem out of place for anyone who grew up during that time.

Then again, these are relatively minor issues:

To be fair, to focus on the show’s anachronisms is to miss the point. When Barry and his pals put together their own dance crew, all I could think about were the breakdancing videos my friends and I made in my living room using my parents’ video camera. And, while watching the episode titled “The Kara-te Kid,” I was less worried about the accuracy of the timeline, and more focused on my own memories of the karate demonstration I participated in right before The Karate Kid premiered in our local mall’s theater. As we used to say back in the 80s, “been there, done that, got the (wrinkled) t-shirt to prove it.”

Now to me, The Goldbergs has its chronology out of sorts for a wholly different reason: the first The Goldbergs series, which debuted on NBC on 20 November 1929. NBC radio, you may be sure. A television version first appeared on CBS in 1949. Show creator Gertrude Berg went on to win an Emmy and a Tony (for Leonard Spiegelgass’ play A Majority of One in 1960, with Berg as lead actress). Adam F. Goldberg, creator of the 21st-century series, used none of Berg’s material, but he has his own right to the Goldberg name.

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Over and over again

You can’t cross a chasm in two steps, they say, and surely it’s true; but throw enough smaller steps into the routine, and eventually, even though you had to crawl along the bottom for what seemed like a very long time, you end up where you wanted to go:

We have come so far in large part because of our ability to devise solutions to large problems by finding small operations, easily repeated, that when endless repeated solve the problem. Hand woven Turkish carpets come to mind, as does dropping seeds in a furrow, one by one. Building the pyramids was essentially two operations: cutting blocks of stone, and hauling them up a ramp, and doing it over and over again. The modern assembly line consists of a zillion trivial operations performed in sequence. Each operation consists on doing one thing and then handing the part to the next operator. The printing press and broadcast radio and television repeat the same simple messages over and over. Much of computer programming consists of devising ways to do some simple thing over and over again.

Sometimes it’s all just one big DO WHILE loop, or so it seems.

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Saving the children

Jack Baruth on protecting the little ones:

The journey from childhood to adulthood is all about learning the iron bond between action and consequence. Children are naturally innocent of consequences, and the adults around them work to preserve that innocence as long as possible. When two kids get into a fistfight, we don’t send one of them to jail for ninety days. When a child crashes a bicycle, we don’t write him a ticket then force him to pay a higher insurance rate. If your fourteen-year-old sleeps through the start of his summer job a few times, you don’t kick him out of the house and force him to work casual labor jobs while he lives under a bridge abutment with the other homeless fourteen-year-olds.

Still, there’s a cut-off age for this sort of treatment:

The so-called “child refugee crisis” in Europe is a statistical fabrication designed to take advantage of human attitudes towards children. The NGOs sell an image of a drowned toddler then it turns out that ninety-two percent of “child refugees” are represented as being over fourteen, ninety-one percent of them are male, and the vast majority of them are actually in their twenties. It’s smart marketing, even if it’s dishonest at its core. Most people have zero sympathy for twenty-two-year-old men with beards and would prefer that those men fix their own problems in their own home countries.

This is not quite the case with the hordes pouring over our border, but it’s the identical advertising campaign just the same. And it works pretty well, given the gnat-like attention span of the American electorate and the persistence of its propagandists.

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I don’t understand this at all

Then again, it’s not like she did this for me or anything:

Let’s hope hashtag abuse doesn’t become a misdemeanor — or worse.

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