Archive for the ‘books’ Category

There Goes My Literary Hipster Street Cred

January 26, 2011

It’s been entirely too long since anything new popped up here. Deciding to remedy that situation this morning, but not wanting to attempt any actual work involved in creating a real blog post, I began running old entries through the I Write Like web site, which purports to analyze writing samples and match their word content and style to those of well-known (a.k.a., real) writers, to see what would appear.

The site claims the overwhelming majority of posts I’ve run through it match David Foster Wallace most closely, with a couple of stray entries each mirroring Chuck Palahniuk and Cory Doctorow.

The kicker is that while I’ve heard of all of these guys, I’ve never actually read any of their books. Hell, I’ve never even watched the movie version of Fight Club, despite my wife’s continual attempts through the years to make me see it.

There goes my literary hipster street cred. Maybe my status as some literatus with a B.A. in English is tracing thin ice these days, too.

The problem is that while I read a lot, most of what I read for fun is stuff that’s old enough to easily fall into the realm of public domain. Maybe I should start catching up with the twentieth century now that it’s over.


Confounding Rampant Genderism, Then and Now

July 21, 2010
Cover of "Bob the Builder: Let's Find Shapes"


Right now my 18 month-old daughter is in that stage where she wants to have the same book read to her over and over, and over and over, and over and over . . . The book of choice is Bob the Builder: Let’s Find Shapes, which isn’t the least bit surprising considering her favorite toys have always been things like dump trucks and toy construction equipment.

The book is a little unsettling, though, due to the context in which the only clearly female character in the book appears. I realize that on the Bob the Builder TV show, many of the construction vehicles have female voices, but we don’t normally watch the show, and you can’t tell the machines’ genders from the book. Instead, the only woman, Wendy, appears holding a tray of cookies with the caption, “Wendy has star-shaped cookies for Bob.”

It’s flabbergasting, considering the book was published in 2002. As bad as that is, the book isn’t nearly as cringeworthy as some of the older things we have around the house.

Take, for example, the series of 25 pamphlet-style cookbooks I somehow wound up with from my parents that were published in the early 1960s. They’re littered with such gems of statements as, “Here are 250 recipes gathered . . . to help the hostess increase her repertory and add variety to her family’s everyday menus,” and “Sunday night suppers . . . give Mother an opportunity for training the children in the entertaining of their own guests.” Throughout the series of books, the person for whom the recipes are compiled is always assumed to be a woman, a mother, and a “homemaker.”

Better yet, the recipes in question are always for things like “Chicken á la King with Ham Rolls,” “Paté de Foie Gras,” “Chicken Pie de Luxe,” pies, cakes, cookies, and even candy made from scratch, because the female homemaker and parent in question clearly has nothing better to do than spend all day cooking an absurdly complicated evening dinner. There’s even a category of “After Sports Suppers” to be made when, you guessed it, the men are all sitting around watching sports on TV. My personal favorite is a recipe for something called “Chicken Calcutta,” because adding a pinch of curry powder and a pinch of chili powder to something apparently makes it Indian (it’s part of a “Cosmopolitan” recipe section of “Oriental” food).

I can’t help but wonder what a person who helped compile that crap would think of our household today, where I stay home with the kids while my wife goes to work, and our daughter plays with toy dump trucks and rugby balls when she isn’t busy trying to wrestle her two year-old brother to the ground. To top it off, our son likes to pretend to go to work. When he does this, he says, “Go to work,” and puts on one of my wife’s necklaces, rather than a tie.

I hope that individual could withstand passing out from shock just long enough to hear me to say, “Welcome to the 21st Century, dickhead.” It wouldn’t matter if the cookbook author in question was male or female; you don’t need to have one to be one. This is the 21st Century, after all.

Random Thought of the Day

November 18, 2009

I shudder to think about what Marcel Proust might have done if he’d had access to a camera phone that shoots HD video and unlimited hard drive space.

Ineluctable Modality of the Visible

June 16, 2009

Eat with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls in celebration of this fine day, and spend tonight hanging around some insufferably pretentious kid!

The heading on my old Myspace page (which I’m not sure if I even have any more, since I haven’t checked it in about half a year) says (or said): “All wind and piss like a tanyard cat.” I got that by opening a copy of Ulysses sight unseen to a random page and jamming my finger down upon it. That was the sentence my finger pointed to. It seemed like an appropriate enough statement to sum up anything I would put on the Internet.

If you ever wondered what the original Bloomsday would have been like had it taken place 105 years later, here it is.

. . . yes I said yes I will Yes.

We. Are. So. Wrong.

March 3, 2009

My wife and I were watching Elmo’s World on Sesame Street tonight with the kids. The segment’s topic was “skin.”

When Elmo wanted find out more about skin, a computer-animated talking book appeared. Its face was on the cover, and the book was light brown in color. My wife grimaced and said, “Is that supposed to be made out of skin?”

“It’s the Necronomicon!” I replied. Then we both chuckled.

All this was well within earshot of the kids. They will be very, very strange one day.

Ask A Baby!

November 2, 2008

La la la la, la la la la, Elmo’s World. La la la la, la la la la, ELMO’S WORLD!

And now it’s time for everybody’s favorite Elmo’s World segment, “Ask A Baby!”

Our first question comes from “Worried in Waukeegan.”

Worried: I’m afraid the building next to my house might be harboring a meth lab. It smells like nail polish and cat pee at all hours, and there are always a lot of empty containers of antifreeze, lighter fluid, Sudafed, and glass beakers with weird purple residue in the trash. The windows are blacked out, and strange people are always coming and going. The problem is, it’s also the local police station. With this in mind, where can I possibly go for help?

Baby: Gaaa. Mmph. Buh. Wawawawawawawa—gheeee! Dat!

Our next question comes from “Curious in Centralia.”

Curious: Elmo doesn’t really seem like the responsible type, so I was wondering how many goldfish named Dorothy Elmo has killed and secretly buried in Mr. Noodle’s backyard through the years?

Baby: Blub! MMMMMMMMMMM! Ahhhwa. Da. Da. Fuuuuuuuf. Bahh.

Our final question comes from “Margaret from an undisclosed location.”

Margaret: Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.

Baby: . . . and two, I use E-Trade so . . .  urp . . . urp . . . BLEARCH!  Whoa.

Product Concepts Best Left Undeveloped, Part VI

October 9, 2008

A fully illustrated children’s pop-up book of the Bob Dylan song “Desolation Row.”

Musty Quote of the Day

August 4, 2008

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.

— Mark Twain

Excerpts From The Blog Of Robinson Crusoe

July 26, 2008

Archaeologists have recently uncovered a heretofore undiscovered blog of the “life and strange surprising adventures” of one “Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner.” The blog was found buried beneath a rubbish pile in the Internet consisting of, OS/2, CDNow, WordPerfect for Macintosh, and several billion free hours of America Online. Here are several excerpts from that historically important blog:

Day 36: Why am I getting a WiFi signal on this island?

Day 642: It turns out the mysterious WiFi signal and electrical wiring comes from the cannibals who occasionally visit here to barbecue prisoners and look up porn on the Internet. I’ve adopted an escaped prisoner who tells me his lifelong ambition is to open up a chain of tacky restaurants featuring unremarkably pedestrian cuisine. I have the inexplicable urge to name him Friday.

Day 1574: Some guy with a funny accent calling himself J.M. Coetzee showed up yesterday. He keeps following Friday and me around and saying that he’s taking notes for a post-modern deconstruction of my life story, whatever the heck that’s supposed to mean. I should see if he’s brought some beer with him.

Try To Wrap Your Brain Around This One

June 6, 2008

From the BBC News article “Hints of Time Before The Big Bang,” comes news of fluctuation found in cosmic microwave background radiation that may “contain hints that our Universe ‘bubbled off’ from a previous one.”

The article continues,

Their model suggests that new universes could be created spontaneously from apparently empty space. From inside the parent universe, the event would be surprisingly unspectacular.

Describing the team’s work at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in St Louis, Missouri, co-author Professor Sean Carroll explained that “a universe could form inside this room and we’d never know”.

. . .

In his presentation, the Caltech astronomer explained that by creating a Big Bang from the cold space of a previous universe, the new universe begins its life in . . . an ordered state.

The apparent direction of time – and the fact that it’s hard to put a broken egg back together – is the consequence.

Much work remains to be done on the theory: the researchers’ first priority will be to calculate the odds of a new universe appearing from a previous one.

In the meantime, the team have turned to the results from WMAP.

Detailed measurements made by the satellite have shown that the fluctuations in the microwave background are about 10% stronger on one side of the sky than those on the other.

Sean Carroll conceded that this might just be a coincidence, but pointed out that a natural explanation for this discrepancy would be if it represented a structure inherited from our universe’s parent.

Meanwhile, Professor Carroll urged cosmologists to broaden their horizons: “We’re trained to say there was no time before the Big Bang, when we should say that we don’t know whether there was anything – or if there was, what it was.”

If the Caltech team’s work is correct, we may already have the first information about what came before our own Universe.

In other words, that old stoner theory that our entire universe is some molecule in a purple piece of grass somewhere may just be accurate. To update Dr. L. Ron Bumquist from the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the five states of being in drug culture must now be considered square, hip, groovy, cool, and cosmologist.

What would be really groovy, or, perhaps I should say, cosmologist, was if a new universe bubbled off every time somebody said, “We can’t stop here! This is bat country!”

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