Archive for Almost Yogurt

We have all been here before

Blogdom’s Curmudgeon Emeritus contributes this complaint about one genre, or maybe one and a half genres, of contemporary fiction:

The covers of too many fantasy and science fiction novels feature a shapely babe, often wielding a weapon. It suggests deeds of daring in a realm of high adventure. Then you open the book and discover that it’s basically one long sex scene. Most such books are written by women. I can’t imagine why.

One thing is for sure: no one wants me to write one long sex scene.

The dearth of originality remains a serious problem. Space wars, galactic empires, time travel, and so forth are old hat. So are vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, and quests that involve some magical artifact. Surely there are other adventures, other wonders and terrors with which a writer can thrill his readers. Yet you would hardly know it from the books being hawked to me at Amazon.

It’s an old hat, but a familiar one; your standard purveyor of hackwork perhaps calculates that he can save some work on exposition.

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Just one of the guys

Jack Baruth has busted somewhere around six hundred bones in 46 years, and he’s sort of philosophical about it:

What is the difference between the man who cripples himself riding or racing or fighting or climbing mountains — and the guy who is not crippled because they quit riding skateparks at twenty or thirty or forty or fifty? Only this: the former knows that he’s not a pussy, and the latter will never really know for sure. Of course, we live in an enlightened era now. one in which “men” is a three-letter word. We don’t have “men” now. We have “guys.” Guys smile with their mouth open and guys never engage in acts of toxic masculinity and guys are exactly the kind of smooth rancid butter our society needs to make sure that we precisely duplicate the navel-gazing implosion of the Roman Empire.

Some guy out there will read this and point out that I’m not the manliest man who ever lived. I’m a bookish intellectual who reads philosophy and who cried during the movie August Rush. I’ve never boxed professionally or climbed Everest. It’s okay. I’m not the message. I’m the messenger. Like Homer. We don’t know how much Homer could bench. We only know that he brought us the stories of Ajax and Achilles and that smooth-talking Mr. Steal-Your-Girl known as Paris and his resentful brother, Hector. In so doing, he inspired two thousand years’ worth of heroic exploits. We are all better off because of Homer.

And really, why wouldn’t you cry during August Rush?

You don’t even have to know the backstory to be moved by that scene.

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I know this guy

There are, in fact, those who might argue that I am that guy:

I was up late watching this film, and some of it doesn’t sound like me at all.

And some of it sounds exactly like me.

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Sure, blame the Culture Wars

Miss America as we knew her is gone, and whose fault is that? Roberta X examines the situation:

The swimsuit portion of the old Miss America is gone, just like Bert Parks (1914 – 1992) and the recording of him singing “There She Is…” (1955-2012, 2015). Don’t like it? You’re not obliged to — nor is there anything keeping the grousers from setting up their own old-fashioned, Atlantic-City-style swimsuits-and-heels pageant and calling it the Miss National, in much the manner of sports leagues. But no, the classic libertarian “let the market decide” wisdom is old-hat and it’s much better to accuse some “they” — women or liberals or possibly government fluoridators — of ruining everything.

I’m tired of it. Looky here, it’s a pre-ruined world and the only good stuff you can be even a little sure of are the things you build yourself. They’ve changed the formula of Vienna Fingers cookies, 7UP is getting more and more difficult to find on store shelves and Levis dropped the rise of women’s 512s to well below the natural waistline long before they offshored manufacturing and started getting snippy about politics. Change is the only constant and you can either surf it or let it tumble you around like driftwood. There are better ways to go through life than smooth, gray and abandoned on the beach.

If you ask me, Vienna Fingers haven’t been anything more than an oblong Golden Oreo since Keebler bought out Sunshine Biscuit around the turn of the century. Still, that’s a single transaction, Keebler’s absorption by Kellogg’s notwithstanding. Look what’s happened to 7 Up:

Westinghouse bought 7 Up in 1969 and sold it in 1978 to Philip Morris, who then in 1986 sold it to a group led by the investment firm Hicks & Haas. 7 Up merged with Dr Pepper in 1988; Cadbury Schweppes bought the combined company in 1995. The Dr Pepper Snapple Group was spun off from Cadbury Schweppes in 2008.

And DPSG is being merged into Keurig Green Mountain, even as we speak.

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The opposite of retail

A strange, and therefore believable, tale from Jack Baruth:

About a decade ago I decided to go back to school in the evenings and get my doctorate in literature. “As a 35-year-old white man,” the dean told me, “you wouldn’t be eligible for any of our assistantships.”

“Not a problem,” I replied, “I’ll pay cash. How much does the degree cost?”

“Well…” he huffed. “There’s no actual cash price per se because everybody is on assistance, which is only fair given today’s bigoted climate.”

“So I can’t pay to go to school, because nobody pays and you don’t know how much I would have to pay, because there’s no cash price for presumed bigots who are not on assistance because they’re ineligible for assistance.”

“I’m not sure that’s a fair way to phrase it.” Each and every day I have a better idea of what motivated the character of “D-FENS” in Falling Down. He, too, was an average fellow.

Well, except for the fact that he’s trying to walk across Los Angeles, which would drive anyone nuts.

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Quote of the week

The Friar remembers Tom Wolfe, painter of words:

His novels rested on a journalist’s reporting and his journalism had fiction’s flair, perhaps because he did not simply write words the way we do when we’re just communicating information. Wolfe used language — every facet of it on which he could lay his hands. Funky punctuation? All of those literary devices we were supposed to memorize in English class like alliteration or onomatopoeia? Multiple voices in narration and dialogue? All of those and more. If Winston Churchill was supposed to have mobilized the English language and sent it into battle, Wolfe mobilized it and sent it out to help people understand an increasingly weird and troubling world. It may sound like a much lower goal, but all Churchill had to do was defeat the Nazis. Wolfe had to explain why people paid money for a Jackson Pollock painting.

A difficult task indeed.

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Graduation exercises

Yeah, this sounds about right:

[T]hey played Pomp and Circumstance #1 as the processional; I have almost a Pavlovian response to that now (“Start walking, not too fast, not to slow, try to exude dignity and gravitas, but don’t get too far behind the guy with doubtless-longer-legs-than-you who is in front of you, then match your pace to the person who winds up next to you when the two streams combine”).

It seems funny to me that an Elgar celebrating-the-Empire song is now SO wedded to commencement ceremonies in Americans’ minds; I’ve even seen ones where they didn’t have a symphonic band so they played it from a record player (or later, a CD player).

(I also just realized: Isn’t the Elgar also known as “Land of Hope and Glory,” a patriotic British song? Again, doubly weird we Yanks use it at graduations. I suppose it’s the right length and the right speed and it sort of telegraphs a mild seriousness. I’m now thinking — and giggling over — the sheer inappropriateness of something like a disco number being used.)

That is indeed the same Elgar; Arthur C. Benson came up with the words, which were intended for the coronation of Edward VII, postponed due to His Majesty’s illness.

As for “sheer inappropriateness”:

Yeah, no argument there.

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Desperate for attention

No other explanation seems to grasp the sheer stupidity being displayed here: I saw a liberal buying a nice car. Since my taxes give him all of his money, doesn’t that car belong to me, hence I can take it?

First guy in the queue takes a stab at it:

I doubt very much whether you pay any taxes.

Somewhere in that warped brain of yours don’t you think other people, regardless of political leanings, also pay taxes?

You’ve bigger things to worry about. Like how are you going to pay your medical bills when they come to do the brain transplant.

All of which he deserves, but it’s beside the point. This next guy is a lot more serious, but he exhibits a mindset even more reprehensible:

How come in certain societies, people are more disposed to kill the child once they find out is mentally disabled and others are not?

What I mean by mental retardation is not anything like narcissistic or histrionic personality disorder.

Look at these poor families paying around $400 to $600 a month to the caretaker who takes care of the individual.

They throw tantrums, they scream, why do we keep them? They are not even fit to do the most menial jobs. Born into the world, they do nothing for themselves and live off of others.

But why is this? Is it a practice influenced by the church? Is it an element of ‘human rights’?

Many societies are very supportive of what is ‘useful’ and yet retarded people are not, so why does our society support keeping them alive other than out of pity?

“It’s those damn ‘human-rights’ people. If it wasn’t for them, we could wipe out retardation in no time.”

If the criterion for being allowed to live — or, more precisely, for not being killed by the All-Wise State — is “usefulness,” I submit that this fellow should have been snuffed a week ago, and how the hell did he slip through the net?

This is a slope of maximum slipperiness: eventually everyone will be existing at the whim of “society.” I have little faith in the wisdom of my peers, and none in the wisdom of his.

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The summer school of your dreams

Or at least, the dreams of Number One granddaughter, who’s been accepted for the 2018 session:

Last I looked, she was a violinist, but her mom reports she’s going in for Creative Writing. And she’s got to be better at it than I was at her age.

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Vertical rabbit warrens

Grenfell Tower, twenty-four floors of flats for West London’s proletariat, caught fire in June 2017, killing seventy-one and injuring as many more others. This prompted Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP from North East Somerset, to question whether anybody really wants to live in updated tenements of this sort:

Rees-Mogg, forty-eight, is viewed as one of the Toriest of Tories in the Commons; he’s the sort of chap who would sign up for Twitter and then tweet in Latin. Which, incidentally, he did:

This got the reaction you probably think it did.

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Past lives come at you fast

One day when I was feeling particularly gloomy and unloved — one common name for this phenomenon is “Monday” — I gathered a basketful of genealogical links and started tracing my old high-school girlfriend. A couple of hours later, I’d gotten as far as Richard Plantagenet, 3d Duke of York. You may remember two of his children: Edward IV and Richard III.

I knew I wasn’t good enough for her, I mused, but this is ridiculous. Not that she behaved as though she had been to the manner born; she did, after all, look fondly upon me for some brief period. (“She seems rather taken with you,” said her mother.) Still, I am not worthy.

This young lady, recently wed, reminds me much of that long-ago lady, whom I still have on speed dial:

And who knows? There may be a descendant of exiled royalty working at Jersey Mike’s Subs.

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Obvious troll is obvious

Someone who claims to be one of Her Majesty’s subjects asks: Since when was America multicultural?

The explanation is thoroughly whacked-out:

I went there on holiday (from the UK) recently, as I’m hoping to be emigrating there. My country is full of Pakis, *******, and eastern European filth thanks to our autistic government. I was under the impression that America was all white and homogeneous. Well I flew into Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and Chicago. All those places I felt like I got on the wrong flight and touched down in Kenya, due to all the bloody black people. I took a bus to Indianapolis, I thought I took a wrong turn and ended up in Cape Town. Parts of Boston and NYC I felt like I was in Rome or Jerusalem.

I have no intention of spending the rest of my life in the overcrowded, cultureless and Islamic UK. I thought you guys were racist and monocultural in the US of A.

What happened to the America of blonde blue eyed girls and boys, surfers, cowboys, trailer trash and Anglo Saxon businessmen?

No actual Brit would randomly toss around the phrase “Anglo-Saxon,” or leave the hyphen out of it.

If I ever make it to Nairobi, which I think would be a legitimate bucket-list aspiration, I’ll be sure to note the similarities to my home town.

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Buncha damn heightists

Steve Sailer missed a privilege:

As a person of tallness, I’m struck by how little approbation there is at present toward height prejudice in favor of the tall.

Nobody these days gets additional Intersectional Pokemon Points for being short.

He offers an example from history, as is required in all such cases:

In Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower, she notes that Tory prime minister Lord Salisbury’s cabinet of 1895 averaged 6 feet in height.

Lord Salisbury himself was 6’4″, although he slouched. Queen Victoria’s subjects, however, averaged much less.

Then again, we’re talking 1895 here. Things are different today:

In 1895, to be tall suggested that you enjoyed a privileged upbringing, which is a good thing in a mate, because it suggests you also are in better health and have richer relatives.

On the other hand, these days, height is mostly heritable. And it’s not clear that being genetically taller is all that much better. For example, it modestly boosts one’s chances of cancer, presumably because you have more cells than can go wrong. I had cancer in my 30s and it really wasn’t a good thing.

For what it’s worth, at a hair over six feet, I was the shortest of three boys, only one of whom is actually still alive, at least in the medical sense of the word.

It is said that the taller candidate wins the American presidency, which isn’t always true. In 1885, the first year Salisbury served as PM, the President of the United States was Grover Cleveland, no taller (5’11”) than the man he defeated in the 1884 election, James G. Blaine. In 1888, Cleveland was beaten by relative dwarf Benjamin Harrison, a mere 5’6″. Cleveland recaptured the White House in 1892. By the time Salisbury left office for the final time in 1902, William McKinley (5’7″) had defeated William Jennings Bryan (5’11”) twice.

Barack Obama went 1-for-2; at 6’1″ he was four inches taller than John McCain, half an inch shorter than Mitt Romney. And George W. Bush towered under, so to speak, both John Kerry and Al Gore. If you give me my choice of political philosophies from any of these guys, though, I go back to Lord Salisbury, a conservative in the conservative sense: “Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible.”

And my deepest (within reason) apologies to the late Verne (“Mini-Me”) Troyer, who passed away the day after Steve Sailer started all this ruckus.

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But is there Danger?

McG finds fault with that Lost in Space reboot:

[T]he idea of a cast of regulars numbering in the dozens is also a consequence of 21st-century sensibilities, in that a plot line without a large (and of course diverse) variety of social entanglements seems too far outside the range of experience for the half-mythical millennial viewers who inhabit Hollywood’s stereotype factory. How can you relate to characters who aren’t constantly sidetracked from grubby issues like survival by trivial interpersonal drama? Who could live like that??? At my age, I’m more inclined to sympathize with the robot.

There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a market for trivial interpersonal drama, albeit not a particularly discerning one.

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It was inevitable, of course

It’s a theological and philosophical dilemma you’ve surely encountered before:

Guys like Luther and especially John Calvin had a problem: God’s omniscience implies predestination — if God knows everything that will happen (which is the definition of “omniscience”), then obviously He knows everything you’re going to do, which means He knows, and has always known, whether you’re going to Heaven or Hell. But if that’s true, then what did Christ die for? Dying for our sins is pointless — the slate is wiped clean for that second, and only that second, because we’re just going to go on sinning, as God Himself knows full well. For Christ’s death to have done what it did, we must have free will … which means God doesn’t know what we’re going to do minute-to-minute, any more than we ourselves, His poor creatures, do.

There’s an answer for this, of course* (read it later), but it only applies to God. For everyone else selling a Determinist philosophy — Marx, the Stoics, even my beloved Hobbes — the problem is insurmountable. If the Revolution must happen, comrade, then what’s the point of all this “activism”? Y’all are, as the man said, like a group of astronomers who know with mathematical certainty an eclipse is coming… but who immediately form a Party and start murdering people, to make sure it comes. The very foundation of your philosophy has a crack, and all the ugly neologisms in the world can’t fill it.

Still, as they gaze into the abyss, what they’re seeing is not the abyss staring back at them, but a receptacle for more ugly neologisms: imagining a demand, they hasten to provide a supply. And they have no concept of Christ dying for their sins; their priority is making sure that you die for yours, and their idea of generosity is making sure that you know what those sins are, by telling you at every available opportunity.

And now to solve the aforementioned predestination issue:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Get yourself some awe

Of course, the definition has shifted since we were young:

“In my day” generally indicates a Get Off My Lawn sort of person, and Dr Tyson is fairly close to my age, so I really wouldn’t hold it against him. Someone younger, though, might take umbrage:

Okay. I feel about NdGT’s linguistic arbitration about like how I feel about Richard Dawkins holding forth on anything BUT Evolutionary Biology: “Who died and made you King?”

I mean, just because the guy is famous and has some clout (possibly unmerited, I don’t know. I may be biased because I am suspicious of people who have an advanced degree — like Dawkins — but get famous mainly for their pronouncements, or their outrageousness (that’s Dawkins again), or for being generally smooth and good looking (Not Dawkins).

But yeah. Why should I consider his opinion on how I should speak any more heavily than that of any other non-specialist in elocution or whatever.

A person may be an expert on topics A through Y and yet not know squat about topic Z. I know my mouth occasionally writes checks no brain I know can cash, but I try to avoid sounding like an expert.

And there are always occasions to ask “Who died and made you King of anything?”

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It helps to be available

This would seem indisputable:

Oh, I reviewed that very book myself. And I still recommend it to anyone who wants to know what it was like back in the days when adults first discovered they had to ask their kids for tech support.

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Catcher-23

Everyone who loved Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was primed to enjoy his second novel, Something Happened. Few did. I remember thinking: “Christ, this weenie whines more than Holden Caulfield with a hangnail.” Maybe we’d waited so long that we were hoping Bob Slocum would turn out to be, if not Yossarian 2.0, certainly Major Major Major, Junior.

Which, as it happened, didn’t happen:

The reason is fairly obvious to anyone who’s suffered through the whole book: nothing happens.

Something Happened, hailed by critics from every corner of the literary world, is a five hundred page veh ist mir from first-person narrator Robert Slocum. Slocum, you see, is not happy. He wants us to know that. And he wants us to know that he blames everyone and everything in his life … except himself.

Some story.

Then again, this was 1974. Scroll the calendar thirty years forward and we’d be dealing with Bob Slocum dot com. Then again, that Bob Slocum has made something of himself:

Bob is a past president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia and has served on numerous committees and boards including The Oconee County Chamber of Commerce and Extra Special People, a successful non-profit in Watkinsville, GA.

Bob resides in Athens, GA and has been married to his wife Lisa for 26 years. They have four children, with the two youngest still in college. Bob says “there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone achieve home ownership,” and he believes that real estate ownership is the most powerful tool for contributing to a strong economy and safe communities.

Here’s to you, Bob. Keep on keeping on.

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Dysadventures in academia

This is apparently a more common experience than I’d wanted to believe:

Every N years, where N is a small prime number, each department in my college does a post-tenure review of faculty members (1/N of tenured folks get reviewed per annum). I just received my own review, in which the evaluators (a small committee composed of some of my full-professor colleagues) wrote a couple of paragraphs on my research, teaching, and service. The conclusion is that I exceeded department expectations. I was surprised by the conclusion, to be honest. I think I am doing OK, but nothing special.

But when I read their summary paragraph, it really sounded awesome. Money, papers, graduated students, high-level service at the university and in the professional community, teaching evaluations far above average even in low-level required courses with large enrollments of grumpy undergrads. So, on paper, I might indeed look awesome. I might look like I exceed expectations.

I don’t feel awesome.

I think something broke last year. Maybe this is just burnout, but burnout (at least to me) has a cyclic nature. Instead, this feels irreversible. I think my job, or some parts of my job, might have actually broken my heart. I fell out of love with my job — my vocation — and, if my romantic past is any indication, once I am out of love, there is no going back.

People often ask why I stay at my day job. It’s simply because there’s no chance of it being any more than a day job; I have little emotional investment in it, and today, a year and a half or so away from theoretical retirement, it’s far too late to develop any.

According to some statistics, suddenly being thrust into a whirlwind of inactivity tends to increase the death rate. Inasmuch as I’ve always figured the death rate right at 100 percent, I’m giving this notion the back of my emotional hand.

(Via Скрипучая беседка.)

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I, or at least they, spy

A question worthy of consideration, perhaps especially now:

I was wondering why I seem to gravitate to espionage thrillers. I think it’s because I am curious about that moment when civilization breaks down. When does having a copper show up your door change from:

  • taking a trip downtown, talking to your lawyer and getting bailed out, to
  • taking a trip downtown, being taken into the basement and shot in the head.

The guys in these thrillers are all walking the line between civilized society and tyrannical rule. Sometimes they are demented, sometimes they are drunk, and sometimes push comes to shove and they wander off the line a bit and somebody gets hurt.

This, of course, reveals the true question:

So how do you know when the government has really gone over to the dark side? Well, everybody’s standards are different. Lots of people think the government has gone too far already. Some people don’t think it has gone anywhere near far enough.

I may have to think about that for a bit.

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Way cool, Ferg-face

I am totally up for this:

Melissa Joan Hart, who starred in the hit Nickelodeon series Clarissa Explains It All is reportedly starring in and executive producing a reboot of the popular 90s show. Hart will reprise her role as Clarissa Darling, a teenager who broke down the fourth wall to talk to viewers about adolescent issues like boys and family.

The series ran from 1991 to 1994. Although the premise of the reboot is unknown, Hart will reportedly play the matriarch of the family, according to The Hollywood Reporter, who was first to publish news of the reboot.

Mitchell Kriegman, who created the original series, is in talks to return as both a writer and producer.

This would seem to be something of a reversal of Hart’s previous position, circa 2002: “Shirley Temple taught me one thing. And that was once you finish a career, you move on.”

Now if someone at Nick feels like bringing back You Can’t Do That on Television or, even better, Roundhouse, I am so ready.

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That sixteenth minute

There are people out there who would kill, or at least maim, to go viral and make a small fortune in a short time. And then there are those who had virality thrust upon them:

“Told you so,” came Warhol’s voice from behind the drapes.

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And a swell butt, too

Fillyjonk, to her dismay, apparently, didn’t get any pie for Pi Day:

I did allude to it in class, because I was talking about measuring tree diameters using a DBH tape, which is scaled to a factor of pi, so when you wrap the tape around the circumference of the tree, it tells you the diameter. Yup some ecologist/forester years back was either (a) sufficiently lazy or (b) sufficiently compulsive to be bugged by the inaccuracy of other diameter-measuring methods that he* came up with a tape that did it automatically.

An eminently sensible invention, if you ask me. But what’s with the asterisk?

* I assume it was a “he,” the measurement is called “Diameter at breast height” but it assumes said “breast” is 4.5 feet off the ground, which would assume a height of around 6′ tall. Also, I DOUBT a woman would put the word “breast” in a measurement after years of hearing guys snicker about it. Wikipedia offers no help, other than to teach me the term “butt swell” (the wide spot at the base of the tree, which makes my inner 12 year old giggle). I had always called it “base” or “root flare” before this…

With Wikipedia, there’s always the chance that an actual 12-year-old wrote any given article.

That said, I suspect there is widespread embarrassment about DBH. It took all of 20 seconds to find a YouTube video that references DBH without ever explaining what it means:

And this guy gives the height off the ground as, not 4.5 feet, but 1.4 meters, which makes me wonder if he really is from Iowa.

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Which of course opens in April

I know very little about this Coming Attraction. We have this:

Shoojit Sircar is all set to take us on a beautiful journey of love, life and relationships. Presenting the official trailer of October, a unique story about love that goes beyond the normal love stories.

The trailer:

Said trailer was released the 12th — day before yesterday — and has seventeen million views on YouTube. I do know that Varun Dhawan, the male lead, is 30ish and dashing; I know from nothing about female lead Banita Sandhu, who is making her Bollywood debut at 19.

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For future reference

Roger contemplates a couple of misapprehensions about his career, and gently corrects them:

Some people have said to me that being a librarian now must be easier because I have so much information at my fingertips. Others have said that we don’t NEED librarians now because EVERYONE has so much information at their fingertips. Neither of those assertions is true; librarians spend an inordinate amount of time separating the wheat from the chaff.

Which is why he will never be replaced by an algorithm no matter how sophisticated it pretends to be.

(Oh, and happy birthday, Roger.)

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If I could turn back time

In fact, I should be wondering why I haven’t yet:

[T]he Boomers are entering their second childhoods, assuming, of course, that they ever left their first childhoods. With Boomers, this can be hard to tell. One would think that it would be impossible to generalize specific characteristics across an entire generation; some members of the Greatest Generation were not so great, some members of the Silent Generation were not so silent, and not every Millennial is an ill-informed doofus … well, maybe that’s a bad example; but most Boomers (specifically the Boomer I cohort of 1946 to 1955) are self-absorbed, egocentric dolts that never grew up (I blame drugs for this, especially weed). If you are one of these Boomers and you feel that this description does not describe you, that you are a functioning adult that long ago left the 1960s behind and have moved on into the broad sunlit uplands of adulthood, then I apologize to you for the insulting description and I congratulate you for your acceptance that being a mature human being is not a fate worse than death, but let’s face reality: you’re a freak.

I don’t think I’m all that egocentric. Then again, what do I know? It’s not like I would use “I” five times in three sentences.

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Causality virus

McG has the concept, and I don’t think I want to see the proof thereof:

A project to fully harness the interplay of time and space to enable a ship to traverse the universe in an instant, with neither the passengers nor anyone else perceiving any passage of time — except in terms of how long it might take to get a return signal from the arrived ship. The project starts as a germ of an idea, perhaps by some blogger nobody reads, but elements of the idea are also developed independently by a hundred other minds over the subsequent decades, gradually coalescing as thought experiments, then as practical ones. Over time the project consumes more and more of the attention not only of human scientists, but counterparts on a thousand other worlds.

Eventually these disperse teams combine ideas and resources, and eventually the ship is designed and built. It’s an experimental drone, but sufficient to serve as proof of concept. The ship makes its first jump, a huge success.

No one notices afterward that the unread blogger, originally a middle-aged American writing in 2018, has instead become a young Canadian, writing in 1992.

Already we’re several steps beyond Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” and we’re just getting started. In terms of “nightmare fuel,” this is pretty high-octane.

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F for effort

I don’t remember any of this going on when I was an undergraduate:

Every time I assign a paper in class, the most common phrase out of students’ mouths before the due date is: “so you want me to say that ____.” After graded papers are handed back, the most common phrase is: “But I worked so hard!!!”

They don’t see anything wrong with either of them. They really do come to my office hours, in ever-increasing numbers, to ask me what to write on their midterms. When I point out that they’re effectively asking me to give them the answer — thus defeating the purpose of a “test” — they give me blank looks. They’re not acting. Kids these days are oppressively, monomaniacally literal — they can’t act. They genuinely don’t get it.

Nor do they get it when I point out that not all efforts are successful. “But I worked so hard!!!” is a description of a behavior, not an outcome. If hard work always worked, I’d be in the Major Leagues right now, because nobody ever worked harder than me at hitting a curveball. Alas, I lacked talent. They can’t process that, either. They’re convinced that results are always proportional to effort.

The truth of the matter is arrived at by inverting the syllogism: lack of effort is proportional to lack of results.

On the other hand, those who believe that the lack of results is due to demographic considerations are given to absurd declarations like this.

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Insist on your right to sound stupid

After all, life is unfair:

If ever you need an example of “the soft bigotry of low expectations” [George W. Bush, written by Michael Gerson], there’s a legitimate Exhibit A.

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Boo, and also Hoo

I got this from one of Jack Baruth’s commenters, and I have decided that if I ever get this whiny about a mere car, you should borrow an AR-15 from a classmate and perforate my rib cage:

Said another commenter:

There are weak, confused drama queens about, in this unfortunate time; and a lot of them are, at least chromosonally, males. Here in my little hipster settlement in the Bitterroots, we have more than the average share — California expats.

Okay. Weak and stupid people abound.

THEY DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO BUY MERCEDES-BENZES.

How does this HAPPEN? Like you said … it’s insured. He just bought it. Stand back and watch the fireworks; and think about whether you want to use the insurance money to get another … or maybe, not make the same mistake twice.

But no. There with his woman with him … he’s carrying on like a scared four-year-old. And who comes to help him? An ARMY MAN. Someone who DOES have emotional and mental discipline.

As Roberta X says:

[N]o one wins their last battle; the best any of us can hope for is to enter it unafraid.

I don’t think I’m quite to that point yet.

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