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Items with no brain

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No, wait, it's not these things below that have no brain, it's me. I'm near to sleep; have not slept well of late. But I have lots of things to post. So no theme here, but here's a bunch of stuff:

  • Odd but nifty computer-animated movie called "Muppets Overtime." I think it works better if you understand from the start that the muppets aren't actually Kermit and that they don't have anything to do (except thematically) with the Henson muppets. (Thanks, Amy!)
  • From McSweeney's: "E-mail Shorthand That Civil War Soldiers Would Likely Have Used in Letters Home Had the Technology Been Available to Them." Somehow this piece has, for me, a remarkable mixture of silliness and pathos; the Civil War phrasing lends it an unexpected grandeur. Some of them are even useful for modern people, like "iaotl:)" for "I am among the living" and "iawap:)" for "I am well at present." ...The idea reminds me roundaboutly of the term BOMFOG, but we've already established that I have no brain tonight. (Thanks, Aaron!)
  • A bit of doggerel: "I Ate iPod shuffle." (I used the word "kerfuffle" in email at work the other day, and someone wrote to ask if I read some blog or other, which has apparently been trying to revive the word. I don't read said blog, but I hadn't thought of the word as in need of reviving. But anyway, I'm happy to do my bit. Kerfuffle!)
  • Blog entry pointing to a fascinating Flash game called Tork, in which you float around and interact through a symbol language with alien creatures, only you start out not knowing what the symbols mean. Reminds me of Carl Muckenhoupt's text-adventure called Gostak. (The phrase "the halpock louks back" on that page makes sleepy Jed-brain want to say "When you louk into the halpock, the halpock louks back," but I am preventing it from doing so.)
  • Toby Buckell has posted preliminary results for his advances-on-first-sf-novels survey. Interesting reading for anyone who's thinking of becoming an sf writer. He needs more data, so if you've sold an sf novel but haven't filled out the survey, I recommend going and doing so.
  • The State of the Union Parsing Tool lets you see, visually, the frequency of any given word in GWB's State of the Union addresses. For more info, see Parsing the State of the Union. I don't know whether it has a political point of view or not; I just think it looks kinda cool.
  • Douglas Hofstadter's 1995 article "on seeing A's and seeing As." I only skimmed it, but some pretty cool stuff there, about letterforms and similarity and AI and such. See also my 1997 column titled "The Similarity Engine."
  • Don't you need a brass Hypnodisk? Eccentric Genius will make you one (but it'll cost ya).
  • Speaking of brass-age tech, did y'all know that "George Washington University Hospital will offer some of the most technologically advanced patient care equipment in the country, including the most advanced pneumatic tube system for transporting materials throughout the hospital"? According to that page, "Pneumatic tube systems are a vital component in the future of medicine."
  • Good piece by Suzy McKee Charnas on the new Phantom movie and what was good about the stage production. Also contains a link to her Phantom Phragments, which are more or less Phantom fanfic. Phanfic? Anyway.
  • Astonishing wind-powered animals, including a remarkable movie of the Animaris Rhinoceros Transport in motion.
  • Christie's is holding an auction titled "The Origins of Cyberspace" in NYC on Feb. 23. Features items relating to Babbage, Pascal, Bayes, et alia. There's a viewing at Stanford, in Green Library, on February 14 and February 15.
  • "Effective January 2005, all of California's family law rules will apply to state-registered [domestic partners]." My understanding is that this means CA's domestic partnerships have become legally equivalent to marriages in all but name, as far as the state is concerned. (This obviously has no effect at the Federal level.) The article notes: "This dramatic change in law is probably the biggest legal change world-wide to affect same-sex couples, given the very large number of gay and lesbian couples in California who have already registered as domestic partners." This all happened last month, to very little fanfare as far as I can tell; I didn't hear about it 'til a few days ago.

This list of mine goes on and on and on; there's lots more where those came from, to be sure. But time has come for me to say good night. I'll leave you with some bits to do with words:

  • At Mad Ape Den, use but one, two, or one and two of the abc per gab or ode. "If you can not say it in 1, 2, or 3, do not say it at all."
  • Jed did add: And, too, you can try use tri-abc for all you say (not two abc, not one abc; all tri-abc). See "The Big Red Hen"; fun for all!
  • For those who want to use more than three glyphs, try speech in words of just one beat, should you so wish. (I wrote that way in parts of this here page.)

In later chat, discussing this and that, Fred noted something I found passing strange: "Our Greg, that man of noble wit, once spent the day entire in speech that was blank verse." Greg then replied, with little time elapsed:

The famous poet Mary Oliver

was teaching me to write this style of verse

and, at the time, I had a paper due:

philosophy. In fact, the thing was late,

and my professor only would allow

extensions if his student would inflict

a certain penalty upon himself.

The penalty I chose was thus: blank verse,

delivered in pentameter, of course.

The self imposed restriction of my speech

began on Tuesday night and would endure

until the end of Thursday (12 o'clock).

The funny part was when the task began,

my father didn't know the reason why

my words were so irregularly phrased.

Assuming I was drunk, he was perturbed,

(to say the least), and it would take awhile

for me to demonstrate sobriety.

I am in awe; I'll say no more tonight.

6 Comments

Dactyls are easier. I find that once I start speaking in dactyls, I don’t have a problem with keeping to meter, much. English is set up with rhythms that fall into dactyls quite easily (see Tolkein’s Bombadil); iambs are harder, though. English is nifty. A lot of short words can be shifted quite easily backward or forward, or add a few adverbs or even some adjectives. When you slip in an adverbial phrase such as ‘quite a bit’ ‘not so much’ ... let me see ... ‘happily’ ‘sloppily’ ‘horribly’—no, those aren’t phrases, but still, they can illustrate English’s penchant for dactyls. No, really, the problem’s not how to continue (continue, continue), it’s trying to stop.
Certainly, all the above could be read without sounding like dactyls; in English, the speaker has choice in inflection. I could say “A lot of short words” which would fit into rhythm, or say it “short words” would not so much scan right, and screw up the paragraph, making the whole project humorless, pointless and silly. I don’t think that matters. Tom Bombadil’s speech is imperfect itself, but you still wind up saying it properly, anyway. Writing in meter is therefore collaborative, writers rely on the reader to scan it, and fit it in easily to the right rhythm. When on the internet, adding a wav file is technically doable, but takes the whole business just way too seriously. Writing out dialect always looks stupid, too; spelling it ‘hijjus’ to keep the poor reader from saying it ‘hid-ee-us’ seems like a sign that the normal, um, scansion just isn’t quite working, you know what I mean?
Thanks a lot,
-V.


Tork is fabulous! And 100% apropos to Linguistics 55, Writing Systems, which I'm auditing at Swat this term; so far we've gone through decipherment of Sumerian/Assyrian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and now Mayan ... whatever-they-call-that-fiendishly-complex-writing-system. I emailed Sean a description; maybe it'll show up in the course later this term :-)

I love "escargoot". Heck, I love the whole poem!

And speaking of speaking in dactyls...

Higgledy-Piggledy,
"Higgledy-Piggledy"
Is the sole oddity
Any would spy

If for a day all your
Extemporaneous
Speech in this verse format
You were to try!


Oh, I forgot to say:

You are cruel and evil, Jed! You posted about a hideously addictive Flash game on the day I'm supposed to be cleaning my apartment for a dinner date tonight :-)


A classmate in my college Shakespeare class remarked to me: "You know you've been studying too hard when you overhear a woman near you in the library say, 'you haven't kissed me since we got engaged,' and your first thought is, 'hey! That's a line of iambic pentameter!'"

Dactyls creep into my 'unstructured' writing, and most of my poetry comes off as doggerel.


Nice work all around. I'm not sufficiently coherent this morning to respond in kind, but I did want to say that I adore the line "You haven't kissed me since we got engaged" as iambic pentameter; it practically demands to be turned into a sonnet (or a triolet or a villanelle or something, but I forget the meter requirements for those) in the style of Wendy Cope.

(Last time I looked up Cope online, the web was full of pages that said "This poem removed at the request of Ms. Cope's publishers." Today, though, she's all over the web. I don't know if her publishers have given up, or just haven't gotten around to sending the latest round of cease-and-desist letters. At any rate, if you want to sample her verse, try a page of her poems, another page of her poems, or a third page of her poems, among many others. And then go out and buy her very funny books.)


Regarding pneumatic tube systems: my sister (who's a doctor) says that they are used in pretty much every big hospital. Who knew?


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