May 5th, 2008


Boom De Ah Dah!

Sure, I'll play. :) indigoskynet wrote:

First watch this:
Then watch this:

And then suggested writing your own verses. So here I go!

I love my comics
and writing Fictionlets
I love to poke Greg
and give poor Vincey fits
I love the whole world
it's fun to write about!
Boom de ah dah, boom de ah dah,
boom de ah dah, boom de ah dah...

Next verse...?

-The Gneech
Mad Red

Munchy, Crunchy Food for Thought

Point and counterpoint from Arts & Letters Daily...

Point: Wall Street Journal: The Real-Life Jane Eyres
Sometimes the situations that governesses found themselves in were truly hellish -- read about the governessing experiences of sisters Eliza and Everina Wollstonecraft and weep. More often the misery was subtler, a kind of emotional claustrophobia. It was hard to live in the house of people with whom you might have nothing in common. It was frustrating not to be able to determine your future, from what you might eat at meals to what you could do or say. Charlotte Brontë gives Jane Eyre an eloquent soliloquy expressing this almost inchoate restlessness, this "silent revolt": "Women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer."

Counterpoint: Times Online: The Day Feminist Icon Alice Walker Resigned as My Mother
"Her circle were questioning power relationships and whether a mother had any more knowledge than a child. Some friends of hers were living on communes. I know those kids and they're totally screwed up.

"Some were sexually abused, all kinds of bad stuff happened, but even those who survived intact don't want to create communes for their children. They didn't want to be raised by 10 different parents — again, it was this ideological thing trumping the maternal instinct."

Towards the end of senior school, an ecstatic Rebecca showed Walker her offer letter from Yale. Instead of celebrating her daughter's success in landing a place at one of the world's top universities, Walker asked her coolly why she wanted to go to a bastion of male privilege.

Point: The New Criterion: The Age of Educational Romanticism
Educational romanticism characterizes reformers of both Left and Right, though in different ways. Educational romantics of the Left focus on race, class, and gender. It is children of color, children of poor parents, and girls whose performance is artificially depressed, and their academic achievement will blossom as soon as they are liberated from the racism, classism, and sexism embedded in American education. Those of the Right see public education as an ineffectual monopoly, and think that educational achievement will blossom when school choice liberates children from politically correct curricula and obdurate teachers' unions.

In public discourse, the leading symptom of educational romanticism is silence on the role of intellectual limits even when the topic screams for their discussion. Try to think of the last time you encountered a news story that mentioned low intellectual ability as the reason why some students do not perform at grade level. I doubt if you can. Whether analyzed by the news media, school superintendents, or politicians, the problems facing low-performing students are always that they have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, or have gone to bad schools, or grown up in peer cultures that do not value educational achievement. The problem is never that they just aren't smart enough.

Counterpoint: Wired: Want to Remember Everything You'll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm
However, this technique never caught on. The spacing effect is "one of the most remarkable phenomena to emerge from laboratory research on learning," the psychologist Frank Dempster wrote in 1988, at the beginning of a typically sad encomium published in American Psychologist under the title "The Spacing Effect: A Case Study in the Failure to Apply the Results of Psychological Research." The sorrowful tone is not hard to understand. How would computer scientists feel if people continued to use slide rules for engineering calculations? What if, centuries after the invention of spectacles, people still dealt with nearsightedness by holding things closer to their eyes? Psychologists who studied the spacing effect thought they possessed a solution to a problem that had frustrated humankind since before written language: how to remember what's been learned. But instead, the spacing effect became a reminder of the impotence of laboratory psychology.

-The Gneech

Happy Belated Birthday to sinha_lion!

Since your birthday was Saturday, for your present, here's the past weekend's Forgotten English (© Jeffrey Kacirk):


Unlawful longing, concupiscence, lust.
—Stephen Jones' Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary, 1818

Unlawful or unreasonable longings.
—Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, 1755

An eager desire to possess something; an ardent wishing or longing; an inordinate or unlawful desire of wealth or power.
—Rev. John Boag's Imperial Lexicon, c. 1850

The Lusty Month of May

Although May was once considered a month for courtship and romantic interlude, it was considered bad form and a very unlucky time to marry, which may be why the June wedding became so popular. Sir Thomas Malory wrote of this sexual urge in Le Morte d'Arthur (1485): "The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit; for like as herbs and tress bring forth fruit and flourish in May, likewise every lusty heart that is in any manner a lover, springeth and flourish in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May." Records suggest that January was once the month when the most babies were born in England, prompting speculation that this was due to the increased springtime libido.

Leading naturally to that awful song in Camelot. I'm intrigued by the concept of "unlawful longing," although I have hard time imagining a law against longings, except possibly under the influence of Oliver Cromwell.

-The Gneech
Jeeves Strangle

"Scream for Jeeves: A Parody" by P.H. Cannon

In my recent fit of literaritude, I found out about, hunted down at great expense, acquired, and last night finished reading Scream for Jeeves: A Parody by P.H. Cannon. In a nutshell, this is a retelling of H.P. Lovecraft's tales "Rats In the Walls," "Cool Air," and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" as if they had actually been Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse. A sample passage:

"Matter is as really awful and unknown as spirit," the man explained in a tone that suggested it all should be perfectly plain to a child. "Science itself but dallies on the threshhold, scarcely gaining more than a glimpse of the wonders of the inner place."

"Yes, quite. I see what you mean," I replied, though frankly I didn't.

Within an hour the altar stone was tilting backwards, counterbalanced by Tubby, and there lay revealed — But how shall I describe it? I don't know if you've ridden much through the tunnel-of-horrors featured at the better amusement parks, but the scene before us reminded me strongly of same. Through a nearly square opening in the tiled floor, sprawling on a flight of stone steps, was a ghastly array of human or semi-human bones. Not a pretty sight, you understand, but at least there was a cool breeze with something of freshness in it blowing up the arched passage. I mean to say, it could have been a noxious rush as from a closed vault. We did not pause long, but shiveringly began to cut a swath through the ancestral debris down the steps. It was then that Jeeves noticed something odd.

"You will observe, sir, that the hewn walls of the passage, according to the direction of the strokes, must have been chiselled from beneath."

"From beneath you say, Jeeves?"

"Yes, sir."

"But in that case—"

"For the sake of your sanity, sir, I would advise you not to ruminate on the implications."

It's a fun little pastiche, with all the requisite references to Aunt Agatha, Bertie's childhood prize for scripture knowledge, and of course the stars being God's daisy-chain; Bertie bumbles along only vaguely aware of what's going on around him as various antiquarians expound in Lovecraftian circumlocution, and then of course faints or is knocked senseless just as Jeeves steps forward to deal with whatever cosmic horror they happen to be confronting. I particularly liked the way Cannon made use of Bertie Wooster's missing "weekend engagement to Pauline Stoker".

Unfortunately, it's also very short. Very, very short. It is in point of fact 86 pages long, with 21 of those pages being taken up by a rather pointless rumination comparing and contrasting the lives, work, and general outlook of P.G. Wodehouse, H.P. Lovecraft, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As a fan-made vanity-press publication, sold for $7.95 in 1994, it was a good deal. As a rare, OOP book acquired for $50+ from Dreamhaven books, it was something of a letdown. Just when it's starting to really get rolling, that's all there is.

(The end essay recommending Joe Keenan as the best contemporary heir to Wodehouse didn't help, but I'm willing to concede that's a matter of opinion.)

So all in all, if you happen to find a copy of Scream for Jeeves mouldering on the shelves of a used bookstore and can get it cheap, or can manage to abscond with a friend's copy for the two hours total it will take to read it, I highly recommend it. But be ready for it to go "fut" just as you're really getting interested.

I'm half tempted to write a sequel based on At the Mountains of Madness, tho...

-The Gneech