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Easy as ABC

Apparently I missed quite a day in the wide world of sports yesterday.  Federer wins in straight sets at Roland Garros, tying Sampras with 14 majors, not that he cares about such things, and Tiger shoots lights-out 65 to win the Memorial, not that he cares about such things either.  It seems like it was a really good day for guys who use Gillette Fusion razors.

Hey, I use Gillette Fusion razors!  And I learned something important about them last fall when I was traveling with Jamie to Omaha.  We’d boarded the plane and were just settling in when the flight attendant announced that one of the planeside-checked bags was vibrating.  A silver-colored bag.  My bag.  Alarmed both by the news that my bag was vibrating and by the possibility that I would be detained by TSA, I assured Jamie I’d be right back as I dashed to the jetway and was met by two members of the ground crew, who, thankfully, seemed more bemused than worried or exasperated.  They asked me if I had an alarm clock or an electric shaver in the bag, and as I tore through it I assured them that I didn’t have any electrical anything—ah, wait, I said as I thought to open the toiletries bag, I do have a fusion razor.  Sure enough, it had switched itself on somehow.  And that was how I learned something important about the Gillette Fusion razor, namely, that you should take out its battery when you travel by air.

Speaking of traveling.  I’ve spent the morning pretending I’m going to buy a ticket to game six of the finals in Pittsburgh, even though (a) tickets are going for one quintillion dollars on the Penguins Ticket Exchange and (b) I have to leave for the AAUP national meeting on Wednesday evening, so that I only have three days to catch up with Jamie’s exploits.  Besides, I’m all travel-exhausted again.  I seem to be aging.  But dang, that Penguins Ticket Exchange is a fascinating thing.  When 500 tickets went on sale this morning at 10, of course I tried to buy a face-price ticket, but they were gone by 10:01, and then I spent an hour watching tickets appear and disappear on the Exchange.  It was almost like a “market” of some kind!  But where do people get the money for this kind of consumer activity?  Second mortgages, perhaps?

So I’m now going to spend a few hours downloading Janet’s footage of the Pennsylvania Special Olympics onto Jamie’s computer, editing the stuff, and putting les faits saillants on Ye Olde YouTube for the benefit of the blog-reading public.  In the meantime, here’s a snippet of the kind of thing I sometimes say on these gigs.  I think I now have nine or ten different talks I’ve been shuffling around this year; half of them are drawn from The Left At War, a couple are stand-alone things written for specific occasions, and a couple are reminders of The Next Damn Thing.  One of them ends more or less like so (though I’ve added the appropriate hyper-links).

_______

You’re probably acquainted with the genre of cultural criticism that consists of worrying about the fate of reading in the age of the Internet.  But while it’s true that ours is largely a visual culture, and that nearly everything in the world is available on YouTube, I think we tend to underestimate the degree to which Internet culture is actually a textual culture.  As the blogger known as Fafnir put it in his 2005 State of the Internet Address:

This year brought us the Blog Revolution, which wasn’t that big but moved so fast it went from Blog Bastille Day to the Blog Reign of Terror to the Blog Buncha Ol Fat Guys Talkin About Blog Bastille Day in like a week! The internet has executed all mainstream television news personalities and replaced them with what the people really want to see: scrolling columns of text linking to other scrolling columns of text!

And whenever my students or my colleagues get too depressed about the fact that everyone on campus loves “new technologies” whereas “books” are something like Bronze Age relics, I like to think of this passage from Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, which suggests that alphabetic writing is one of the most remarkable and impressive technologies humans have devised:

Inventing a writing system from scratch must have been incomparably more difficult than borrowing and adapting one.  The first scribes had to settle on basic principles that we now take for granted.  For example, they had to figure out how to decompose a continuous utterance into speech units, regardless of whether those units were taken as words, syllables, or phonemes.  They had to learn to recognize the same sound or speech unit through all our normal variations in speech volume, pitch, speed, emphasis, phrase grouping, and individual idiosyncrasies of pronunciation.  They had to decide that a writing system should ignore all of that variation.  They then had to devise ways to represent sounds by symbols.

Somehow, the first scribes solved all those problems, without having in front of them any example of the final result to guide their efforts.  That task was evidently so difficult that there have been only a few occasions in history when people invented writing entirely on their own.  The two indisputably independent inventions of writing were achieved by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia somewhat before 3000 B.C and by Mexican Indians before 600 B.C.; Egyptian writing of 3000 B.C. and Chinese writing (by 1300 B.C.) may also have risen independently.

You know, everyone gets all worked up about the wheel, like it was some big thing.  We even tell ourselves we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  Well, compared to writing, the wheel was child’s play.  Literally: the wheel was invented all over the place, time and time again.  It’s as if humans around the globe woke up, fell out of bed, and invented wheels before breakfast—even when they had no productive use for them.  Diamond again: “Ancient Native Mexicans invented wheeled vehicles with axles for use as toys, but not for transport.  That seems incredible to us, until we reflect that ancient Mexicans lacked domestic animals to hitch to their wheeled vehicles, which therefore offered no advantage over human porters” (248).

Diamond’s lively appreciation of the intellectual challenges entailed in the invention of writing reminds me of a passage from Pale Fire, a passage I love not only for itself but for the fact that it comes out of nowhere in one of the most playful, involuted works of fiction written in English.  The narrator, of course, is Nabokov’s idiosyncratic or insane Professor Charles Kinbote:

We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing.  We take it for granted so simply that in a sense, by the very act of brutish routine acceptance, we undo the work of the ages, the history of the gradual elaboration of poetical description and construction, from the treeman to Browning, from the caveman to Keats.  What if we awake one day, all of us, and find ourselves utterly unable to read?  I wish you to gasp not only at what you read but at the miracle of its being readable (so I used to tell my students).

In the pursuit of literature we find that our subject is fugitive—like Pale Fire itself (and a few of its characters).  Sometimes mimesis holds the mirror up to nature, and sometimes it holds the mirror up to a hall of mirrors.  But that’s what happens when writing reflects upon the impossibly difficult and delightful invention of writing; and though I wouldn’t want to resemble Professor Kinbote in any other sense, I do want my students to gasp not only at what they read but at the everyday miracle of its being readable.

Posted by on 06/08 at 11:18 AM
  1. That’s a lovely reminder, that writing itself is an invention, a technology. What I usually see on the more enlightened pro-reading & yet also pro-technology side of this discussion is people pointing out that the book is a technology, and a very stable, successful technology at that, one that’s still well able to trounce (douse?) your upstart Kindles. Someone pointed out once that the book is a “random-access” technology—you can open it wherever you want, go back, go forward, read the end first, whatever you like. Apparently that’s tough to do on the Kindle.

    I will say that I don’t quite get why “writing is a technology” is a response to Dana Gioia-type kvetching that “the Internet & its associated devices are destroying reading.” Perhaps there’s something in the earlier part of the paper that explains? I’m utterly on board with the argument that “we tend to underestimate the degree to which Internet culture is actually a textual culture,” though.

    Posted by Amanda French  on  06/08  at  01:05 PM
  2. Perhaps there’s something in the earlier part of the paper that explains?

    Dang, I hope so!  The earlier parts of the paper(s)—which get tweaked according to occasion—have to do with the “ZOMG the humanities are in crisis” genre to which I feel compelled to respond every so often.  Later this week I’ll post my belated-but-considered response to that NYT article, “In Tough Times, The Humanities Must Justify Their Worth,” and I’m thinking up a reply to William Deresiewicz’s latest piece in the Nation, too.  Suffice it to say for now (if you’ll be so kind, O Internet friend) that one subgenre of the “ZOMG” discourse is the Birkerts-Gioia jeremiad about how the Internets are destroying reading in today’s society today.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  01:24 PM
  3. Oh, I’m all too familiar with the Gioia-Birkerts jeremiad subgenre of which you speak. I just don’t quite see how the reminder that writing is a technology constitutes a good opposing argument to it.

    But sufficient unto the day is the discourse thereof, O Internet friend whose keyboard is mightier than a herd of elephants. I’ll look for the forthcoming pieces.

    Salaam.

    Posted by Amanda French  on  06/08  at  01:36 PM
  4. I just don’t quite see how the reminder that writing is a technology constitutes a good opposing argument to it.

    Oh, right.  Sorry about that—it’s not.  Fafnir’s “scrolling text” reminder is a good opposing argument to it.  Because if you bring those Gioia-Birkerts zombie arguments to Fafnir’s place, Giblets will totally hit you with a rock.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  01:40 PM
  5. And here’s some writing advice: remember that all good essays are phrased in combinations of just 26 letters.

    Posted by Amanda French  on  06/08  at  01:42 PM
  6. Whoa, this blog post is way too long to read.  Could you summarize, ideally with a Flash animation?*

    I have a soft spot for syllabaries, but I will grudgingly admit that alphabetic systems have net advantages.  Syllabaries are okay if your word coinage Be linear, but as polysyllabism increases, their use becomes Punictive.

    Ms. French’s point about the technological robustness of the book is well-taken, and an excellent addition to the armamentarium of those of us who are Kindleskeptics.  The book isn’t merely a splendid medium, it’s an evolutionary one.  Notice that the “ebook” reader market has been hung up on reproducing a book-like experience.

    Anyway, Penny Arcade has already addressed this.

    Whoops, no, sorry, that’s their Gillette Fusion one.  The brand-new reader product is here.

    *Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow!

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  01:43 PM
  7. So if I overnight a package of Gillette Fusion razors, with the batteries removed of course, to the Orlando Magic, maybe, just maybe, they’ll win Games 3 and 4 and turn the NBA Finals into something other than the Kobe redempto-coronation-fest that the referees seemed determined to make it?  If nothing else, maybe having a new razor will convince Rashard Lewis to shave off the dead C57/black mouse-like growth he has on his chin.  Plus Stan Van Gundy might remove the least effective porn ‘stache ever.  Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow-Wow, indeed.

    Posted by fsg  on  06/08  at  02:07 PM
  8. More seriously, Wendy Griswold has a good reply (i.e., one that does not involve rock-throwing) to the Internets-jeremiad subgenre in chapter 2 of Regionalism and the Reading Class.  I mention it in an I-hope-forthcoming essay I coauthored with Hester Blum, Chris Castiglia, and Julia Kasdorf.

    And Amanda’s right, that Book thing is amazingly convenient and adaptable.  You can even use it on airplanes!  Even when they’re below 10,000 feet! I hope the word gets out.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  02:08 PM
  9. Prof Berube you got nerve while u sightseeing in Portland to tell us"time to liveblog” on sports. We still on skedul/even watchinWKEND.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  02:58 PM
  10. And here’s some writing advice: remember that all good essays are phrased in combinations of just 26 letters.

    In addition to the obvious 26, legible essays require punctuation and special characters, especially that most legibly effective of all characters—the blank space. (0x20 ASCII).

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  03:40 PM
  11. In addition to the obvious 26, legible essays require punctuation and special characters, especially that most legibly effective of all characters—the blank space. (0x20 ASCII).

    i thank you dog for most this amazing observation

    (However, your puny, limited ASCII-and-ye-shall-receive approach shall be utterly subsumed into the new Unicode order.)

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  03:49 PM
  12. Dear Senator Stormcrow,

    To the Blog commentr who thought I didn’t input my own post today. Well believe me I did. My Bb is always w me

    Can’t bleve it!!! A reporter came all way to Senate floor to ask if I do my own bloggin. Of course I do. Usin all 26 lettrs

    Posted by Michael  on  06/08  at  03:50 PM
  13. I don’t know, I’m torn… books, especially the meatier books, are good in a pinch when one’s argument fails--something heavy with sharp corners to use as a projectile. 

    On the other hand, that hall of mirrors you speak of (btw--kudos for “speekin’ Amurrican” on that one Michael--wouldn’t want anyone sayin’ something all Frenchified like “mise en abime")is one of the advantages of the blog--one can get lost for hours, avoiding their grading, while jumping from one link to another. 

    I keep trying to click on very specific parts of Anna Karenina and nothing happens:(

    Posted by Derek T.  on  06/08  at  03:55 PM
  14. You know, if people started blogging in a hall of mirrors, I bet it would get really hard to figure out what was real.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/08  at  04:18 PM
  15. I keep trying to click on very specific parts of Anna Karenina and nothing happens

    Sorry, Mr. T., but that’s almost certainly your fault, not hers.  Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow!

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  04:22 PM
  16. that’s it mds: “clickin on” someone is the new new new term for it.

    so let it be written… so let it be done…

    captcha “great” as in “boy this is great”

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  05:28 PM
  17. im in ur alfabet usin ur 26 ltrs

    Public service announcement: Those who travel with vibrators should also pop the batteries out to preclude alarming security breaches. So says my friend Flea, a one-time vendor of sex toys.

    Posted by Orange  on  06/08  at  05:34 PM
  18. (However, your puny, limited ASCII-and-ye-shall-receive approach shall be utterly subsumed into the new Unicode order.)

    Unicode—yet another new trick for this old dog. Also a solid example of the complexities that lurk beneath our familiar comfortable acceptance of written and published language.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  05:47 PM
  19. As for pointless recursion in the Bérubéan funhouse, I recall a bit of that going around back in the day*.

    *Which effect worked better before someone, coughOaktownGirlcough, changed the blog background**.

    **Not that the new background wasn’t good or appropriate, it just kind of “derailed” this particular bit of imagery.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  05:50 PM
  20. I think we should probably have a special day to honor the special persons who invented the alphabet.  I would like for it to be somewhat like Mardi Gras, if that is possible.

    I would also like to nominate the inventor of cheese.  Oh, sure—I hear you saying that cheese was prolly discovered by accident like beer and bread and froot loops.  You’re probably right, but that doesn’t diminish cheese’s tasty appeal.  Plus, the inventor of cheese mostly likely had to milk a wild beast to get milk with which to make cheese.  With.  Which took great bravery and probably also skill and cunning and even maybe panache.

    Alphabet day.  Think about it.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  07:47 PM
  21. My 11-year-old daughter asked me the other day whether or not people who have been deaf since birth talk to themselves when reading, and if so, what the words “sound” like to them. That was a stumper, I will admit. Nevertheless, I’ll bet whatever it “sounds” like is the same whether read from a book or on the internet.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  07:52 PM
  22. just for the record (ha! get it? we’re talking about written records....oh, nevermind.) The Incas also invented a system of “writing” except that it consisted of a series of knots in a length of… well, some sort of textile that doesnt survive too well over a number of centuries. or burning, for that matter, come to think of it. the called it “quipu” or something similar.

    anyway, upshot being, this was a system of language in the same sense that the cuneiform was, i.e. developed from accounting for purposes of trade. except it isnt well preserved or anything.

    so uh, add that to your list, if you would. plzkthx.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  08:32 PM
  23. mds,
    Touche!  while I didn’t mean that as a doble entendre (egads, batman, more frenchified talk), I guess I now have to admit that I did write that comment in a hall of mirrors.  In my defense, Anna’s having some serious Freudian PTSD...something to do with trains.  Either that or she’s just Tolstoying with me (Oh, I’m not proud of that one...)

    Captcha: “food” as in peirogies and Stoli

    Posted by Derek T.  on  06/08  at  08:42 PM
  24. mds,
    Touche!

    That’s what Anna Karenina said.

    that’s it mds: “clickin on” someone is the new new new term for it.

    Ahem:

    Those who travel with vibrators should also pop the batteries out to preclude alarming security breaches.

    I think an obvious back-formation* suggests itself.  Thanks, Orange!

    Unicode[...]Also a solid example of the complexities that lurk beneath our familiar comfortable acceptance of written and published language.

    And an illustration of a growing vulnerability in our treatment of the written word.  ASCII and Unicode are ways to translate the written word to and from numerical systems for use by computers.  But what becomes of all that digitally-stored writing when formats become obsolete, lost in the mists of time?  Yes, people keep raising this concern.  But it also doesn’t go away.  Are we leaving behind enough cuneiform, or are we rushing headlong to convert everything to khipu stored in llama hair?

    *CWCWW

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  09:18 PM
  25. This talk of books and mirrors, with the help of some self-reflection and the comments to the post I linked in 19 brought to mind:

    1) This episode of amazing reflecting book covers from the not too distant past.
    and more importantly,
    2) To inquire after the cover of The Left at War* Against Academic Freedom. I certainly hope there will be no letdown from previous efforts, or God forbid, a book cover meltdown.

    *”and writes a popular blog, American Airspace, at michaelberube.com.” Jeez, are those coastal elitists at NYU Press with the program or not?

    There is a very loud amusement park right in front of my present lodgings.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  09:41 PM
  26. that’s it mds: “clickin on” someone is the new new new term for it.

    A few months ago I was on a lefty chat board, and somehow the subject of Twitter came up. I don’t “Twitter”, therefore I didn’t have anything constructive to add. So I went with the time-honored tradition of simply derailing the conversation entirely - I used the word “twitter” as a euphemism for female sexual self-pleasuring. It went something like this: Twitter? Oh yeah, I twittered myself last night in bed.” Childish, I know, but it garnered big laughs, which was the goal. Besides, who couldn’t agree that “twitter” is an excellent euphemism for female masturbation?

    **Not that the new background wasn’t good or appropriate, it just kind of “derailed” this particular bit of imagery.

    And if a certain someone wasn’t such a lazy fart, he would have updated that cool recursion post, n’est-ce pas?

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  10:08 PM
  27. Ce n’est pas un commentaire de blog.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  10:23 PM
  28. On a more serious note, this is an excellent day for the topic of letters, alphabets, and books as it’s the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s 1984. And in the best Orwellian tradition, the wingnuttisphere is going batshit crazy. I refuse to link to it (god forbid anyone here should click on that!), but here’s a sample from the comments section over at Malkin’s place (italics below is where commenter is quoting previous commenter):

    On June 8th, 2009 at 4:08 pm, Ragspierre said:

    George had it right.

    BIG BRO was just a couple of decades late.

    Only because of one man: Ronald Reagan.

    If Carter had been re-elected (or stolen the election), Big Bro would have been right on time by 1984.

    ACORN will do their best to ensure Obama gets “re-elected”.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  10:38 PM
  29. My users were so thrilled when they saw they could send each other information; not just text.

    --overheard comment at an IT convention in the mid-90s

    To Dave’s pupils the world is a mystery; a mystery to which it should be reasonably possible to discover a key. The key would be something of the sort that could be contained in a book of some eight hundred pages. ... They do not conceive that the matter should be either more simple or more complex than that.

    Under the Net--Iris Murdoch

    Me, I’m thinking a 3,000 word blog post should be sufficient. (Maybe with an embedded YouTube.)

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  10:46 PM
  30. O. G.

    If twitter is female masturbation, I’m thinking blogging is the male variety.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  10:55 PM
  31. George had it right.

    BIG BRO was just a couple of decades late.

    Limitless surveillance, ever-mutable enemy necessitating perpetual war, legitimization of physical and psychological torture, treatment of dissent as deviance… Yeah, “couple of decades” is about right.  Not sure why they’re so quick to acknowledge Reagan’s role in laying the groundwork for it, though.

    (Also, “Ragspierre”?  My irony meter doesn’t appear to know whether to break or not.)

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  11:00 PM
  32. If twitter is female masturbation, I’m thinking blogging is the male variety.

    Elliot - heh heh! But just so long as it’s clear we’re talking about the word “twitter”, not the internet activity, because the men have internet “twittering” covered, too. And those teenage boys (of all ages) damn near blog themselves to death, don’t they?

    My irony meter doesn’t appear to know whether to break or not.)

    Forget it, mds. It’s Wingnut Town.

    Side note (My occasional reminder): for reasons that have nothing to do with “Original Gangsta”, any shortening (or weird-ening) of “Oaktown Girl” is probably OK except “OG”. Yes, that includes even the vaguely suggestive O-Girl. Thanks!

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  11:29 PM
  33. noted.

    Posted by  on  06/08  at  11:49 PM
  34. a) I too have experienced the breathtaking realization that mankind somehow went from asynchronous grunts to systematic symbols—transportable, archive-ready—that were further sync’d to standardized mouth noises. Pretty cool. (And they did it only 1,000 years after Moloch [if that’s its real name] devoided the void.)

    Never mind that the breathtaking realization was along the lines of, “You ever really look at your hand?” Good times. I love reading so much, I’m doing it right now. Sadly, it’s merely a Colbertian reading of self-generated text-column filler.

    b) Snap! The name Kinbote appears in the finest X-Files episode there is, “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ “ (a little help on where to put the period here?).

    c) 26? Why, you need 27 to properly render “Bérubéan.” There’s lots more. Just ask Jennifer 8. Lee. Modern keyboardists have a bounty of diacriticals at their digit-tips. People, put those Option-Shift combos to work.

    Posted by Dåvïd J Swîft  on  06/09  at  12:00 AM
  35. Note how they cleverly say Big “Bro” - b/c Obama is African American. Probably wet themselves over their comedic genius, too. Which goes to show that while the ability of reading is marvelous, it’s even more marvelous to make good use of it.

    Captcha: “game” as in “—6 tickets”.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  12:04 AM
  36. Also, as regards reading: Take that, evolutionary psychologists!

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  12:06 AM
  37. Thanks, Elliot. And I didn’t mean to single you out with my “side note”. I’d been OG’d quite a bit over the past few weeks (absolutely none with any offense or insult intended), so I just figured it was time to say something before it went on too long. It’s my problem. I really do need to get past my dislike of “OG” for Oaktown Girl, but I haven’t started that project yet.

    Note how they cleverly say Big “Bro” - b/c Obama is African American.

    christian - Ugh. Thanks for pointing that out and making it even more painful than it already was. There really is no other reasonable interpretation considering how they have BIG BRO in all caps. Gag.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  12:22 AM
  38. Christian@36: here here!

    Oaktown Girl: True story.  There’s a fella in Durham that goes to all the public town hall meetings and signs in as Soandso, O.G. Ph.D.--I always kinda liked that for some reason; maybe fancy initials are “stuff white people like").

    Anyway, how about O-Girl...cept that sounds kinda Freudian too, like someone that’s been twittering too much
    (I really have to stop now.  Sometimes a blog is just a blog, after all. Bon soir!)

    Posted by Derek T.  on  06/09  at  01:13 AM
  39. Forgive the complete off-topicality.

    I’m a not particularly well-read engineer (gasp), who started reading here when PZ linked to the His Dark Materials critique (Je n’est pas une frogue), and then a hockey game (or at least a discussion thereof) broke out and I kept coming back in the hope that I might recognize a mot (c’est vrai) or two every once in a while.

    And then you go and mention Pale Fire and Guns n’ Germs n’ Steel in the same post and I start to think maybe I’m not completely out of my element here. Even though it seems like it much of the time. Anyway, I’ve just finished my second run-through (like by a sword) of Infinte Jest and wondered if there are any old posts here I can go to and feel like part of the in (though long departed) crowd whilst infinite summer progresses. C’est possible?

    (Confidential to OakTG: I’ve always been partial to ‘polishing the Volvo’, but I’m likely to grin when receiving text messages now.)

    (Orange - I’m sure you’ll remember from the Edward Norton movie that we always refer to it as ‘the vibrator’ never ‘your vibrator’.)

    (DJSwift - I never put the Kinbote reference together; now I have to go rent the damn X-Files again.)

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  01:58 AM
  40. Anyway, how about O-Girl...cept that sounds kinda Freudian too

    Derek - I don’t know about “Freudian”, but as I already acknowledged in #32, it is rather suggestive… that is, if you’re the nasty type whose mind goes to that sort of thing, you dirty, dirty, boy!

    like someone that’s been twittering too much

    OK, that’s pretty funny.

    Boyce - “OakTG” is a new one for me, don’t think I’ve seen that one before. We shall celebrate your originality with a merry overture from...Boyce! (Sorry no interesting video, just music. But the sound quality is pretty good).

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  03:33 AM
  41. “In Tough Times, The Humanities Must Justify Their Worth,

    So, to contribute to the underlying secret double-probation agenda that seems to be apparent though lacking in substantive evidence, i illustrate my input using the following.  Professor Huber, from a certain university in Illinois, offered the following textual material, in writing in a “paper” she delivered at a conference this past weekend (while a Prof MB was dillydallying in Portland OR):

    I have selected advertisements for menstrual products from two issues of Glamor, a popular women’s magazine and two issues of Bitch, a feminist women’s magazine.  By examining the texts, I identify some of the discourses that are constructed by the advertisements and will examine, the methods, particularly the linguistic means that are used to construct these discourses.

    One could only find such material in books/journals and not as trivial tweets on FB or MS or twitterfication.  I mean, this paragraph alone got my attention, wondering how such an examination and critique would provide substantive constructual analyses of some of the weird, batshit crazy commercials i see in other media.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  04:15 AM
  42. SYNTAX RULES; except when seen in mirrors…

    bst captcha eva: peace

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  04:22 AM
  43. I’ve just finished my second run-through (like by a sword) of Infinte Jest and wondered if there are any old posts here I can go to and feel like part of the in (though long departed) crowd whilst infinite summer progresses.

    You’ve finished that book twice more than I have!  But if it’s good blog-comment crowdery you’re after, this and this are two of my favorite threads.  The latter is famous, or should be, for being the thread in which Gavin and Marita met.  They’re now married. 

    And O-Girl:  We Are All Inner ACORN Party Now.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/09  at  07:07 AM
  44. Oh, wait.  Boyce, if it’s literary things you’re looking for, there’s the famous first sentences of novels thread, which goes to 11.  For “popular” “music,” the thread on people who should have been one-hit wonders is kinda fun.

    Christian @ 35:  Captcha: “game” as in “—6 tickets”.

    Just as you were hitting “submit” on that, I was checking back in on Penguins Ticket Exchange, where I suddenly and bizarrely found two affordable tickets, no second mortgage required.  I am not kidding.  Off to my first Stanley Cup finals game since 1972!  I’d love to go with Janet, but that’s not possible, so I will go ask Jamie.  Right now, as a matter of fact.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/09  at  07:19 AM
  45. Jamie’s in!  Game on.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/09  at  07:46 AM
  46. that is, if you’re the nasty type whose mind goes to that sort of thing, you dirty, dirty, boy!

    Hi!

    Also, is it okay if every time we read “Oaktown Girl,” a snippet of a modified Billy Joel song runs through our heads?

    I’m also thinking about the relative length and time investment in blog posts vs. tweets, and wondering if something is backwards somehow in New Euphemism Land.  (Yes, yes, Atrios’ blog posts tend to be extremely short.  This only reinforces my hypothesis.) I’m trying to be more oblique about this subject matter again, since this is a family blog.

    Also, as regards reading: Take that, evolutionary psychologists!

    Oh, yeah.  No wonder they seem to have never read an evolutionary biology textbook: written language refutes their premises!  If only it kept Pinker from publishing.

    And congratulations to those few, those lucky few, who get to attend a Stanley Cup finals game!  Even if it is to watch the Pens go down to inexplicably ignominious defeat.  Prepare to fire up those Gillette Fusions, Professor.

    (Also, “Ragspierre”?  I already know these people haven’t actually read 1984; was there a Japanese cartoon version of the French Revolution that I missed?  Dantonball Z, or something?)

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  09:04 AM
  47. And congratulations to those few, those lucky few, who get to attend a Stanley Cup finals game!  Even if it is to watch the Pens go down to inexplicably ignominious defeat.  Prepare to fire up those Gillette Fusions, Professor.

    “Lucky” isn’t the half of it.  I was checking the Ticket Exchange only out of morbid curiosity, because all day long I kept seeing tickets in the E and F sections (those would be the upper and even upperer balconies high above the ionosphere) going for $400-$600.  Suddenly two tickets in the lower rows of the D section, about midway up the stadium, became available for less than $300.  Clearly, someone was not familiar with all Internet traditions!  So I completely forgot how travel-weary I am, and told myself, I will talk to Janet about this.  If the tickets are still available after that, then I will know that Moloch wants me to go. Thank you, Moloch!  Thank you, India.

    As for the game itself:  remember how the Hawks played after their game 4 meltdown against Detroit?  I’m thinking this is going to be a lot like that.  And hell, even if the Pens lose, I get to see the Stanley Cup in the house, for the first time ever.

    Captcha:  school, as in then I have to bust my ass back to State College by 8 am tomorrow morning in order to get Jamie to.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/09  at  09:18 AM
  48. I worry that Jamie will be exposed to massive amounts of disappointment pheromones at the hockey game, and doesn’t that have untoward effects on a growing boy’s psyche?

    I don’t at all understand mds’s CWCWW reference. Nor do I catch Boyce’s drift—what Edward Norton movie? That Woody Allen musical comedy? I can also do a great job of missing the references in the more scholarly material here, but it’s not addressed to me by name so I just go on about my business.

    And as to post vs. tweet time differentials, mds, I suspect users of the lady version of the vibrating razors could indeed finish up in 140 characters or less, provided that the razor’s motor is powerful enough.

    Posted by Orange  on  06/09  at  09:19 AM
  49. doesn’t that have untoward effects on a growing boy’s psyche?

    Glad you asked, Orange!  Just wait ‘til today’s post goes up, sometime around 3 pm.  You know, the Growing Boy at the Special Olympics post.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  09:21 AM
  50. Suddenly two tickets in the lower rows of the D section, about midway up the stadium, became available for less than $300.

    I’ve been refreshing looking for similar, but it is mere counterpoint to an ongoing philosophical discussion with my wife on the nature of reality, the moral obligations of mankind and how much a family investing so heavily in America’s higher educational system in the coming year might reasonably expect to spend to see a “mere” hockey game. We shall see.

    In the meantime, a not great, but not bad Stanley Cup Finals/Star Wars blog post.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  10:03 AM
  51. provided that the razor’s motor is powerful enough.

    You people are disgusting.  I love you all* so much.

    I don’t at all understand mds’s CWCWW reference.

    “Clickin’ on” as used in this thread could be retroactively applied to use of, um, your friend Flea’s “travel companions.” Which led me to abuse the terminology of “back-formation” to refer to such an application of terminology.  Which, since we were already several meters below the gutter, led me to think of, you know, formations with backs.

    Hey, is anyone else reminded of the bit in High Anxiety when the one attendee brings his children into the lecture hall?  Perhaps it would have been better had I not remembered that this is a family blog.

    Speaking of which:

    You know, the Growing Boy at the Special Olympics post.

    Squeeeee!

    *Except christian h.  Him I do not forgive for his reliance on Hochschild homology.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  10:05 AM
  52. an ongoing philosophical discussion with my wife on the nature of reality, the moral obligations of mankind and how much a family investing so heavily in America’s higher educational system in the coming year might reasonably expect to spend to see a “mere” hockey game.

    Ah, yes, Ye Olde Nozick v. Rawls debate, from the middle of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1972.  I just had that very same philosophical discussion myself with Janet!  And for some reason $300 is a psychological barrier I find myself unable to transgress.  After that I start thinking about how many people that one ticket could feed.

    Matters are complicated for me by the fact that Jamie is afraid of heights, so there’s no way he’s sitting in the E or F tiers.  It was the lower rows of D or nothing, so I figured it would be nothing.  Anyway, keep hitting “refresh,” JP.  Right now, two tix in the row in front of me and Jamie (we’re in D11, fourth row) are going for $402.50, but I sense some sellers’ panic going on this morning—someone’s offering seats in E29 for $247.25, which is the lowest price I’ve seen for anything in all three finals games.

    Posted by Michael  on  06/09  at  10:26 AM
  53. Wow, sorry O-Girl, I missed that.  Obviously needed sleep.

    Posted by Derek T.  on  06/09  at  10:33 AM
  54. keep hitting “refresh,”

    Yeah, there are two different sets under the magic mental barrier right now in one of the “corner” sections of E. I’ve sat somewhat similar before and some of those seats have a pretty good view, but it varies and I forget specifics. We’ll see.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  10:39 AM
  55. Except christian h.  Him I do not forgive for his reliance on Hochschild homology.

    It’s a common theme with people I know. Then again, you seem to be endorsing evolutionary psychology and probably believe accumulation is human nature, so pffft. Who cares!

    Captcha: “working” as in, I’ve got to be off and --.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  11:12 AM
  56. Also, is it okay if every time we read “Oaktown Girl,” a snippet of a modified Billy Joel song runs through our heads?

    I’ve been greeted on more than on occasion online with “Oaktown Girl, she’s living in her Oaktown world!”. Not a problem. There’s certainly a lot worse songs out there.

    And for some reason $300 is a psychological barrier I find myself unable to transgress.  After that I start thinking about how many people that one ticket could feed.

    Crimony, you libruls and your damn empathy. It’s no coincidence “emp” sounds like “wimp”. Oh yeah, you’re soooo sensitive and caring. I guess you’ll be the next person BIG BRO nominates to the Supreme Court. Oh wait, you’re a white male, so that’s out. Maybe you’ll just have to settle for being President of ACORN.

    captcha: human, as in, are these people even?

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  12:07 PM
  57. Also: Wolverines!!!

    Captcha: “fear”. Quite fitting.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  12:46 PM
  58. I’ve been greeted on more than on occasion online with “Oaktown Girl, she’s living in her Oaktown world!”.

    Oh, yes, that Billy Joel song would work too, wouldn’t it?  [Deliberately cryptic pause]

    And christian h., aren’t you supposed to be working?  I certainly am.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  12:52 PM
  59. OK. Have tickets, section E-20 (end where Pens shoot twice I think, so will get a lot of action. Optimism!). Won the wife over with ye olde “life is hard and then you die without having seen a Stanley Cup Finals game” argument.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  01:11 PM
  60. Oh, hey - congrats to all you hockey ticket achievers! Please don’t get on TV tonight for all the wrong reasons - like getting hit by a puck, or running onto the ice and trying to put a bizarre hat on one of the players, OK?

    Oh, yes, that Billy Joel song would work too, wouldn’t it?  [Deliberately cryptic pause]

    mds - your cryptic pause is disturbing and unsettling.

    Speaking of “Wolverines!”, Kent Jones, in his Lawton Small persona, weighs in on Sonia Sotomayor. Safe for work, as far as I can tell.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  01:46 PM
  61. Woo hoo!  We’re in the Penguins end too, but on the other wing.  Give us a shout!

    Crimony, you libruls and your damn empathy. It’s no coincidence “emp” sounds like “wimp”.

    And O-Girl, you raise a good point.  Notice, though, that we have no empathy whatsoever below the arbitrary psychological barrier.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  01:48 PM
  62. Congratulations, Stormcrow!  Be sure to say hi to the soon-to-be-beardless professor down in D11.

    like getting hit by a puck, or running onto the ice and trying to put a bizarre hat on one of the players, OK?

    Wait, those are the wrong reasons?

    mds - your cryptic pause is disturbing and unsettling.

    [Malevolent chuckle]

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  01:54 PM
  63. Wait, those are the wrong reasons?

    Hmm...good point. But you’d have to work pretty hard to top the bizarre hat dude tried to put on Federer. I just don’t know if JP, Michael, and Jamie have enough time with the game just a few hours away. Best to play it safe and try to get hit with a puck for maximal TV face time.

    Crimony, Kent Jones is going to have to seriously amp-up the “crazy” in his Lawton Smalls act to keep up with Jon Voight.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  02:09 PM
  64. actually there aren’t that many worse songs out there.

    e.

    Posted by  on  06/09  at  03:40 PM
  65. The latter is famous, or should be, for being the thread in which Gavin and Marita met.  They’re now married.

    Hey, no fair. I hopped through that whole mess of D-Ho-defending trollery, and there was no running-in-slow-motion-across-the-internets moment. I’ve been duped!

    “voice”, as in the “The voice of Mike Lange will save the Pens tonight. Scratch my back with a hacksaw!”

    Posted by JRoth  on  06/09  at  06:31 PM
  66. Orange - When I heard Michael’s razor incident I flashed on the scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton’s character can’t claim his bag at the airport; the police have to be called for all vibrating luggage. “Nine times out of ten it’s an electric razor, but every once in a while it’s a dildo.”

    Michael - Thanks for the links, I’ll try and catch up this week. Not even considering http://www.infinitesummer.org?

    Posted by  on  06/10  at  12:10 AM
  67. Boyce - what? No thanks for me after I found a special link just for you? Can’t even muster fake appreciation at least for my effort?

    I am soooo unappreciated.

    Posted by  on  06/10  at  02:31 AM
  68. OkieGirl-

    Shoot me; I brought it up and listened and everything. I must say I prefer my classical music directly from the 3 Bs, though. Bartok, Bern and Berio (or Boulez, Barber and Berlioz will do in a pinch).

    Posted by  on  06/11  at  01:10 AM
  69. Boyce - thanks! Glad you at least listened since I did put some time into searching. Alas, nothing with good video, but at least the sound was decent.

    I must say I prefer my classical music directly from the 3 Bs, though. Bartok, Bern and Berio

    Well, who’s fault is it that your name is Boyce? Certainly not mine. : ) Anyway, I didn’t expect you to love the music, but I thought you’d appreciate it simply as one of the lesser known B’s...and because it’s also your name. Surely, you know I would have gladly hooked you up with some Berio or any other B had that been your name.

    (or Boulez, Barber and Berlioz will do in a pinch).

    Oooohhh...not smart. Now that insanely fanatical mob of Alban Berg “enthusiasts” is going to show up at your door with baseball bats aimed at your kneecaps and demanding redress for the slight. No offense, but until this thing passes, I don’t know you. Let me know when it’s over. Good luck.

    Posted by  on  06/11  at  02:41 AM
  70. OaklyGirl-

    The Berg fanatics were in my very bed within a half a nanosecond of my post (it’s possible that they were there before I’d even pressed the “Submit” button).  I reassured them that the “Bern” above was a typo introduced by a brain addled by a 12 hour workday.

    As an act of restitution I composed a row for them:

    1 12 6 8 11 7 3 10 9 5 4 2

    It seemed to mollify them.

    Posted by  on  06/11  at  11:20 PM
  71. Boyce - that was some fine quick thinking, and well done! Glad you’re OK, now get some sleep...perhaps counting Berio Sequenzas instead of sheep?

    Posted by  on  06/11  at  11:49 PM
  72. Geez, I’ve always liked Guns, Germs, and Steel, but this particular excerpt always struck me as absolutely mind-bogglingly stupid:

    Ancient Native Mexicans invented wheeled vehicles with axles for use as toys, but not for transport.  That seems incredible to us, until we reflect that ancient Mexicans lacked domestic animals to hitch to their wheeled vehicles, which therefore offered no advantage over human porters

    WTF? Jared, I’m not sure why this should need to be explained to you, but human porters could be hooked to wheeled carts just as well as domesticated animals, and carry, umm, cartloads more stuff as a result. That seems like a pretty big advantage to me. I don’t have an alternative explanation for why ancient Mexicans didn’t capitalize on the invention of the wheel, but Diamond’s explanation is transparently wrong.

    Not being able to comment on this kind of thing in a printed book… internet FTW!

    Posted by  on  06/13  at  10:29 AM
  73. Outstanding piece of writing particular in easy as ABC! I presume that the first scores had to stay on basic principles that we now take for granted.

    Posted by peterson  on  04/27  at  10:44 AM

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