Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar header image 2

Entries from May 2003

The classical music analysis of a colloquium

May 29th, 2003 · 4 Comments

“Colloquium” is one of those words that’s supposed to mean something real but most often doesn’t. (Another word of this type, you’ll notice, is “yes”.)

A “colloquium” is a talk that an expert gives to interest non-experts. On a scientific topic, a true “colloquium” could fall anywhere in between an article in Discover magazine (pretty pictures plus arm-waving) and one from Scientific American (a fairly dense critique).

Most people who give colloquia fail on one of two measures. Type one keeps forgetting what “non-expert” means. Type two doesn’t grasp the meaning of “to interest.”

If you find yourself at a type-two colloquium, I recommend thinking up new ways to rearrange all the furniture in your house. If you find yourself at a type-one colloquium, you can still have quite a good time by approaching it as you would a piece of classical music.

First, expect the speaker to have his most clear, most memorable, most understandable material at the beginning. Classical composers often start movements with a “theme” that gets varied later on, and if you aren’t paying attention most of the rest will be lost on you.

Second, even if you get confused somewhere after the theme, all is not lost. The “composer” in front of you, if she’s any good, has some “cadence material” planned for the end of the piece. There is a reason this topic was chosen, a reason for the sequence being followed, and when the end arrives there will be something “best” that’s been saved Uh oh, having said that, I haven’t raised up your expectation that I saved up some big POW! BIFF! BAM! for the end of this post. I’m more the “bing” type anyway….

Tags: Learn to write good

The death of leisure, episode #666

May 28th, 2003 · Comments Off on The death of leisure, episode #666

Scott Johnson of Feedster aaa

Tags: Good versus Evil

What if?

May 28th, 2003 · Comments Off on What if?

“Get a snapshot of your life as it might have been had you been living in Britain 100 years ago. Just enter your gender and your father’s profession,” says the wonderful but rarely-work-safe Niek. If you don’t like what you see, you can nudge your avatar up or down the sociological staircase and try again.

Tags: Life, the universe, and everything

Off to see the wizard(s)

May 27th, 2003 · 1 Comment

I’m off to Chicago, to sit at the feet of Alex Golub, Frank Paynter, AKMA, and other University of Blogaria faculty members at the Digital Genres Conference. I may even get to meet two of my favorite Boston bloggers out there–Steve Himmer of OnePotMeal and David Weinberger of Joho will both be speaking.

Expect sparse blogging the next few days, and vastly improved blogging when I return!

Tags: Learn to write good

How to look stupid by not reading blogs

May 27th, 2003 · Comments Off on How to look stupid by not reading blogs

The Bush flight suit story and pix had been around blogs for weeks before Richard Goldstein surfaced it in VV. “AllHatNoCattle” was early, with lot of links:

Of course I like my version best: aka

Several people have said that flight suits just plain do this–Google image searches didn’t turn up even one similar photo. Flight suits without those crotch straps make guys look like eunuchs…you check it out, you know how to google. It’s hard to believe the hyperactive image consultants described in the NYT article

didn’t finetune the fit of that flight suit before letting Bush be photographed in it. Like you, I doubt that fine-tuning was as low-tech as “shoving a sock down the commander in chief’s tightie-whities.” That couldn’t be it–preppie Yalies wear boxer shorts.

Tags: Not what it seems...

Memorial Day: Remembering citizen-soldiers

May 26th, 2003 · Comments Off on Memorial Day: Remembering citizen-soldiers

Here are my parents in 1943, just before my dad headed back to sea. He came home with a Purple Heart, after mortar fire killed men standing on either side of him. My dad never, never talked about the war.

I honor people who risk their lives in war–and I grieve for the people who lose their lives in war. But I don’t like the way war’s risk has been changed for our leaders by high-tech weapons and our “volunteer” army of working-class kids whose only hope for a decent job or college tuition was military service.

The day after Pearl Harbor, my father dropped out of law school and joined the Navy. He wanted to defend his country–that goal was worth risking his life for. That’s still my idea of what a “just war” means–a war where you try to kill somebody else in defense of a cause that you would willingly die for. A harder test of justice is whether you would send your children to fight for the cause.

Can you picture Bush sending his twins to risk their lives because Iraq might have weapons of mass destruction? Would you send your kids to battle in Iraq because Saddam Hussein was an evil guy whose minions tortured people? If so, your opportunity may still come–many other nations around the globe meet both criteria.

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

Why didn’t Gandalf make print-outs for everyone?

May 24th, 2003 · Comments Off on Why didn’t Gandalf make print-outs for everyone?

HoomMaps: Logo for wonderful LOTR tribute page

Welcome, Frodo Baggins

Hoom! Maps – Walking Directions
Starting from: Bag End, Hobbiton, The Shire
Arriving at: The Cracks of Doom, Mordor

While wandering happily map-less around the Web, I suddenly found myself enjoying Hoom! Maps.
For map images and more, head over there now–but don’t forget to heed this final warning:

“When using any walking directions or map, it is a good idea to stop at an inn or hostelry and inquire about news from abroad. Find out whether any wars are brewing, and if so, whether agents of the enemy are pursuing you. This is only an aid in planning. Your eventual route and mileage may vary.”

(Thanks to NH blogger RefugeIsland for the link.)

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

Please photo your cat lovelily with much trouble….

May 23rd, 2003 · Comments Off on Please photo your cat lovelily with much trouble….

“Try? There is no try. There is only do or not do.” (Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back)

“No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.” (Miyagi, The Karate Kid)

“Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.” (H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)

Friends don’t let friends blog drunk–but why do authors make some of our favorite characters speak broken English? One simple reason: this trick tells us Yoda is “exotic” compared to good-old-boy down-home Luke Skywalker.

A less obvious reason for non-standard English is to seduce the reader by making him/her work harder to get the message. Richard Adams used this ploy cleverly in his wall-to-wall-sex-scene novel Maia–by refering to breasts (for example) always as “deldas” he enlists you to work with him for his naughty effect.

Super-wise characters often speak broken English for similar reasons–that is, when you have to work hard to figure out what they mean, you don’t notice that what they’re saying is already trite. (Trite? And why not? Is truth supposed to change as often as styles in skirt-length or lipstick? Okay, stop ranting, Betsy.)

I got some real enjoyment out of these Japanese-in-English pages, most likely non-fictional, devoted to dressing up your cat for photographs.

1. You need to dress a cat. And you will say to a cat
together with a family. “It has changed just for a
moment”. [ “it being very dear” or ] You will pass
pleasant one time.

2. If a family and a cat become fortunate, you will
take a commemorative photo! Therefore, please photo
your cat lovelily with much trouble.

3. If it finishes taking a photograph, you will make
it remove clothes from a cat immediately. You will say
then, without forgetting the language of gratitude to
a cat. “– be flooded — a way — good — having done
one’s best — ! — ”

You can dress up your kitty to look like a frog, a sheep, Ann of Green Gables, or a man in a red necktie (the Japanese word for that seems to be “nekutai.”)

Thanks for the link to Karen Marcello, guest blogger at Boing Boing.

Tags: Learn to write good

Because “real” blogs are blogs with pictures of Halley….

May 23rd, 2003 · 1 Comment

BlogDiva: My daughter Mickey, aka Amity of "NatureIsProlific," gave me this wonderful Edward Gorey drawing (unititled) for Mother's Day. I think she is right it somehow speaks to the art of blogging, and I hope she won't mind if I dedicate this image to my friend Halley Suitt.
My dear daughter Mickey, aka Amity of “NatureIsProlific,” gave me this wonderful Edward Gorey drawing.

I think Mickey is right that it somehow speaks to the joy of blogging–and I hope she won’t mind if I dedicate this image to my much-more-glamorous friend Halley.

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

Marble, whipped cream, and Vienna

May 21st, 2003 · Comments Off on Marble, whipped cream, and Vienna

FountainTheresienPlatz: Notice the fish-man's legs--huge curly fish tails. Now, tell me what you think of the very large fish he offers to this reluctant marble maiden....The answer, as they say, is out there--go to Vienna, to the Theresienplatz (in front of the Natural History Museum.) And you will see--you're right, it's just a fish tale. All the man offers the maiden is a fish. Now, are you relieved or disappointed? You don't have to tell me--but you should tell yourself.
David Weinberger is off to Vienna. I will now sublimate jealous feelings about Vienna and urge you to join me in figuring out why marble statues remind us of piled-high blopples of whipped cream.

Marble, like whipped cream, reflects our aspirations better than our reality. (“Look Ma, no pores”?) The baroque marble statues that punctuate Vienna live in a world of statuesque pure-white nudity, far from the multi-colored multiplicity of naked human skin.

Heaps of whipped cream also look beautiful. Creamy billows and ruffles and bulges and ripples and flows. Mmmmm–piles of whipped cream have luxuriant body shapes–don’t you agree?

Heaping whipped cream on stuff makes it taste more delicious–sweet stuff, like ice cream or strawberries–strong stuff like black, black, black Viennese black coffee. (My brother Mark used to put herb butter on steak–mmm–admit we’re talking some super-whipped-cream here!)

Can I make this the test of good-versus-evil? If marble, like whipped cream, increases our appetite for a “main event” more real than the decoration, isn’t that good? Yes! It is good.

Have a good time in Vienna, darn it, David.

Tags: Pilgrimages