Oh, (Little) England…

December 31st, 2013

The Daily Mail in a Nutshell:

DAILY MAIL IN A NUTSHELL: Top rated comment - refuses to read... on Twitpic

[Via Memex 1.1]

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The Bible Tells Me So…

December 31st, 2013

The Bible Tells Me So:

Everything He said...

[Via Slacktivist]

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Run

December 28th, 2013

Run is a little beauty of a story.

It's just a vignette, but that's all it needs to be: there's absolutely no need for it to be expanded into a full length feature. What counts is the economy with which the story unfolds, and the creepiness of the idea.

Watch out for the name of run's writer/editor/director Mat Johns in years to come. With a bit of luck and a decent budget to work with, he might well be bringing us something well worth watching.

[Via The Dissolve]

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LOL My Thesis

December 28th, 2013

Lol My Thesis wraps up years of study as succinctly (and flippantly) as possibly:

Really, really thin semiconductors look different and act differently than really thin semiconductors because quantum mechanics. Also, 10 nanometers sounds really big now.
Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University

You can't understand what hillly cities look like in two dimensions.
Architecture, Universidad Católica de Chile.

Shakespeare wrote existential characters, but they were also postmodern in some movies, so obviously love can't exist with Billy Shakes.
English, Iona College

Vortex currents off a wing have weird effects on other wings AKA apparently helicopters shouldn't work.
Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State

I wonder if the Daily Mail will bother to mention how few of the entries come from UK institutions of higher learning when they pick out some choice extracts in order to demonstrate the absurdity of spending hard-working taxpayers' money on such unproductive postgraduate research, before demanding that Michael Gove go further in order to root out the Marxists who have been running our universities for the last four decades? Because obviously all that money should have been devoted to finding a cure for cancer.

To be fair, there's the odd thesis on the list that even the Mail might just approve of:

Why Is The Security Council Dysfunctional? Because the Russians Are Devious Liars
Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

[Via jwz]

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The Jewish Mark Twain

December 28th, 2013

Speaking as someone who adores the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof but knows not a thing about the source material beyond the fact that the story had been a successful stage play before being filmed, I found William Deresiewicz's introduction to Tevye's creator Sholem Aleichem fascinating:

Dracula, Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe: it takes a special kind of greatness for a literary character to achieve autonomy from his creator. Like those "folk songs" that are actually the products of a single pen ("This Land Is Your Land," say), such figures come to seem as if they'd sprung directly from the popular imagination, effacing their originators altogether. Everyone has heard of Frankenstein; not many know who Mary Shelley is.

Such is the case with Tevye, the jocular giant of Yiddish literature. With his trio of marriageable daughters and his eternal little town of Anatevka, his largeness and simplicity, he seems to come to us directly from the pages of a folktale. You'd almost have to be a Yiddishist to recognize the name of his creator, Sholem Aleichem. Yet once he was a giant, too: the voice of Eastern European Jewry by universal acclamation; the creator, Jeremy Dauber tells us in his new biography, of modern Jewish literature as well as modern Jewish humor; the man to whom the author of Huckleberry Finn replied, upon being introduced to "the Jewish Mark Twain," "please tell him that I am the American Sholem Aleichem." His death in 1916 was the occasion of the largest public funeral New York had ever witnessed. […]

Damn. More reading to catch up on.

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Scratching someone else's itch

December 26th, 2013

I'm always interested to read about the reasoning behind the decisions software developers make:

It took more than a year and three distinct attempts to get Google Docs in Basecamp … and still, the damn thing almost didn't get built. Why was it so hard?

We knew we needed it. Integration with Google Docs was a super-popular feature request, and usage in general is on the rise. Since Basecamp is a repository for everything project-related, it made sense to show the same love to Google Docs we show to any other type of file you can store in a Basecamp project.

Problem was, we don't really use Google Docs ourselves. […]

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Humour, translated

December 26th, 2013

I can well believe that this story from the letters page of the London Review of Books is variant #35 of one of the standard jokes told wherever two or three translators get together, but I still reckon it's worth telling:

Like Chris Sansom's story about translators, mine too is possibly apocryphal (Letters, 19 December 2013). A friend of a friend was the personal staff officer (PSO) to an air marshal. The great man was told, at short notice, to address a Nato meeting. He said he'd use the speech he'd delivered recently at the RAF Staff College. The PSO pointed out that it contained a joke about cricket which only the Brits would understand. He was assured that all would be well. When he got to Brussels, the PSO took a copy of the speech to the instantaneous translators. They agreed that the joke was impossible, but said they knew how to cope. When the air marshal approached the difficult section, the delegates heard in their headphones: 'The air marshal is about to tell a joke. It is about cricket. It cannot be translated. In the interests of Nato solidarity, please laugh when we say – "Laugh."' On the way back to London, the air marshal said: 'Didn't the joke go well. I told you it would.'
Clive Rainbow
Speen, Buckinghamshire

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Joyful and Triumphant (St Zenobius and the Aliens)

December 25th, 2013

Courtesy of Jo Walton, Joyful and Triumphant (St Zenobius and the Aliens):

It's a bit of a cliche, but the first thing I thought when I came to Heaven was that I didn't expect aliens. It's a cliche because it's the first thing we all think — aliens are a surprise. And what a delightful surprise! Welcome, everyone, whatever your planet of origin. Joy to you! Heaven welcomes you. My name is Zenobius, and I am from Earth. Earth is a perfectly ordinary planet. We had a perfectly standard Incarnation. If we're known for anything it's our rather splendid Renaissance, which I'm proud to say has been artistically quite influential, but although that happened in my own city of Florence I can't take any credit for it because it happened centuries after my death and I didn't really participate. […]

[Via Making Light / Particles]

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Seasonal

December 24th, 2013

A Very Bookish Xmas

(Part of me can't stop thinking "But you could fit so many more books on there if you'd just straighten those shelves up a bit!" Which isn't the point, I know, but I can't help myself.)

[Via Bookshelf Porn, via Bookoisseur, via POLISH GIRL ®]

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'Either put on these glasses or start eatin' that trash can.'

December 21st, 2013

Glass.

[Via fuck yeah, science fiction!]

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