The unbearable lightness of disco

Just now, I happened to be within earshot of a radio loudly playing an ‘oldies’ station; and, as is liable to happen on such occasions, I heard a familiar old song for about the ten thousandth time. And as is also liable to happen, I had never before paid much attention to the lyrics; partly because they were sung in a screeching nasal falsetto, hard to distinguish, and partly because they are not really meant to draw one’s attention. They are merely mouth noises to carry the tune, and the tune is merely a noise to tell the stridently funky disco band when to change key. And that is merely the signal for people on the dance floor to do bad John Travolta impersonations.

But this time I did pay attention; and with a little help from the Internet (that infallible source of nothing but petrified truth), I deciphered them at last. Now I know what the Banshee Guys were actually singing about. I think that was the name of the vocal group; it was either that or Banana Grinders; but it is hard to recover the information at this late date in history, for they had a stubborn habit of using only the initials B. G. At any rate, here are the words, as reconstructed by the latest techniques in the science of musical archaeology.

(Cut for mild anatomical vulgarity…)

[Read more…]

Philosophers and philosophers

In thirty-odd years’ study of the arcane field of Philosophy, I have not learned very much; which perhaps means that I am doing it right.

Here is one thing I have definitely learned:

In the field of Philosophy, there are two kinds of people: Philosophers and Academic Philosophers. All the actual philosophies are created by the first group, but it is the second group that gets tenure.

Philosophers think very hard about the meaning of life, the nature of knowledge, and things like that, and write about it for the public.

Academic Philosophers, by tradition, are angry old men with beards and elbow patches who write incomprehensible gobbledygook at each other because they just like arguing that much.

In these enlightened times, however, Academic Philosophy has risen above its ignoble past and taken on a whole new look. For nowadays, most of the Academic Philosophers are clean-shaven.

 

Cosmic claustrophobia

Apropos of nothing particular, A Theory:

If you do the whole Star Trek thing, leave Earth behind, explore the galaxy, and boldly go where no man has gone before…

…you will STILL end up face to face with someone you knew in high school, and you couldn’t stand each other then, and it isn’t any better now.

This is my theory, and I would point out that it has never yet been disproved. It is neither logically impossible, nor is there any empirical evidence against it. Which is more than you can say for a lot of crackpot theories.

Spangling the conversational firmament

You can tell you’ve been having a strange conversation when – well, let me just give you the last line:

‘You know, there’s a reason why very few dogs are employed by the better restaurants as dishwashers.’

Cincuenta

Over at According to Hoyt, they’re having Sunday Vignettes. The object is to write 50 words (exactly 50, if possible) on a given prompt. Today’s prompt is ‘alchemy’. My own humble contribution:

I went Midas one worse. Everything I touch is transmuted. Food turns to metal when I try to eat. The love of my life is now a lifeless statue. Everything in my house is hard, shiny, and useless.

But I didn’t even get gold.

Anybody want fifty tons of zinc?

A song for Chesterton

And a little while afterwards, when my sea journey was over, the sight of men working in the English fields reminded me again that there are still songs for the harvest and for many agricultural routines. And I suddenly wondered why if this were so it should be quite unknown for any modern trade to have a ritual poetry. How did people come to chant rude poems while pulling certain ropes or gathering certain fruit, and why did nobody do anything of the kind while producing any of the modern things? Why is a modern newspaper never printed by people singing in chorus? Why do shopmen seldom, if ever, sing?

—G. K. Chesterton, ‘The Little Birds Who Won’t Sing’

Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.

—Elbert Hubbard

Chesterton was a man of many gifts, but presence of mind was not always among them. He was, in fact, so famously absent-minded that he is remembered (among his many other achievements) for sending a telegram to his wife: ‘Am at Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?’ And this absence of presence, if I may put it so, led him occasionally to behave as a damn fool, and sometimes, I am afraid, he exceeded Hubbard’s limit. His little excursus into the musical habits of shopmen and printers stands as a fair example. [Read more…]

The role of publishers in the Internet age

The publisher’s fantasy:

The reality:

Despite all our best efforts to educate them, consumers are not actually as stupid as all that. They know how to ride around. Alas.

Writers, on the other hand, can frequently be bamboozled into paying the toll. You just have to convince them that it will bring them Fame and Prestige. They want to brag to their friends and relations about being found worthy to pass the gate. They imagine that these persons will be impressed; whereas in actuality, the friends and relations will only respond with a hearty horselaugh. But by then, we have the writer in our clutches. Our minions’ contracts are for life and the afterlife; they are signed in the awful covenant of the Copyright Law, which is far more enduring than blood.

     (signed)
     H. Smiggy McStudge

Fruit flies trespassing !!

Today, this blog received a terribly interesting comment:

Hvor træls for ham. Forhåbentlig møder han op til de samme klassekammerater, som han gik i 0. med sidste år imorgen. Flotte frugtposer. Bananfluer adgang forbudt !!

Google Translate helpfully identifies the language as Danish, and the syntax as fractured:

How træls for him. Forhà ¥ hopefully he encounters with the same classmates, as he went 0 with last year ¥ s tomorrow. Beautiful fruit bags. Fruit flies trespassing !!

It is very good of this drive-by commenter (who is, I assume, not one of the 3.6 Loyal Readers) to warn me about the trespasses of fruit flies. Presumably they are doing it in aid of the beautiful fruit bags, or perhaps concealed inside of them. How træls for him. How very træls indeed.

Upon sober second thought, I have decided not to allow the comment to stand in its original place, but to immortalize it here, without the accompanying link.

 


 

In other news, I have been consulting my monstrous regiment of M.D.s, and they have concluded to keep me on vitamin D (which I have been taking lately) and renoberate my other medications, in the interest of preventing me from occasionally lapsing into narcolepsy. This should improve my ability to Get Work Done. I am still on the last stages of foot-slogging, or rather footnote-slogging, through Style is the Rocket; after which I shall probably put together a little collection of short fiction, tentatively entitled The Worm of the Ages and Other Tails.

Why not just throw the book at them?

I love the book. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the compactness of it, the shape, the size. I love the feel of paper. The sound it makes when I turn a page. I love the beauty of print on paper, the patterns, the shapes, the fonts. I am astonished by the versatility and practicality of The Book. It is so simple. It is so fit for its purpose. It may give me mere content, but no e-reader will ever give me that sort of added pleasure.

—Susan Hill

(Hat tip to The Passive Voice)

I respond:

I love the book. I love the weight of it in my hand, the heft of it. I especially love the hardcover book, the stiffness of the boards under the cloth. The satisfying thwack! it makes when I knock a book fetishist on the noggin with it. You can’t hit fools upside the head with an ebook.

Calvin and Hobbes on writing

Hat tip to Malcolm the Cynic.

Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Calvin: 'I used to hate writing assignments, but now I enjoy them. I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog! Want to see my book report?' Hobbes, reading aloud: 'The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in DICK AND JANE: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes.' Calvin: 'Academia, here I come!'

There are two kinds of people involved in this game, whether as writers, readers, or what have you: Those who agree with Calvin, and those who wish to use writing as an actual means of communication. Which is as much as to say that there are parasites, and there are hosts.

Speaking of Malcolm the Cynic, he has an interesting piece up on Superversive SF: ‘Fixing the Abrams Star Trek Movies’. Very much in the vein of what I did with elements of the Star Wars prequels in ‘Creative discomfort and Star Wars’. I like his take on the Abrams Trek reboot very much.