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Entering my second retirement
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30th-Jul-2015 08:20 pm - A Transposed Critical Opinion
Marvin_Observing
I enjoy and strongly support con art shows. A place where anyone can exhibit is vital. Even at the worst, I think of the classic lament about the death of vaudeville: "There's no place to be bad any more." [attributed to George Burns]
But there's a phenomenon, or pattern, which is numerous and predictable enough to be, for me at least, its own category. Pieces which are executed with serious technical skill, but say nothing. "It's done very well, but why do it in the first place?"

That was the feeling I had through most of The Goblin Emperor. I couldn't find a single plot element that didn't seem painfully cliched, all the way through to the dashes and pinches of steampunk and feminism.
The craft with which the book is written is excellent. But why write the story yet again with nothing new added at all?
26th-Jul-2015 02:41 pm - a missing word
Marvin_Observing
I need a word that I can't find. There are tremendous lists of specific arcane phobias, but there doesn't seem to be an official name for paralyzing fear of finishing, completing things. What is it?

It isn't (thank you, Google translate)
peratophobia
teleophobia

peragophobia
finiophobia
perficiophobia
compleophobia
ultimophobia
perpetrophobia
perficiophobia
perfungophobia

What is it?
26th-Jul-2015 02:35 pm - remedial Shakespeare
Marvin_Observing
I haven't seen a lot of actual productions of Shakespeare. That's the main reason it took until Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing for me to learn that even more than a peak challenge to an actor (Hamlet, Lear, yadda yadda), Shakespeare is a peak challenge for a director.
Well, I just got out of a showing of Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. Holy mother-humpin' cow! Or your choice of ejaculation.
Yeah, Margaret Rutherford and Jeanne Moreau. Even a proper credit to Raphael Holinshed for Ralph Richardson's narrative voice-overs. But John Gielgud's Henry IV is secondary?!?! Supposedly, this was Welles' favorite of his movies. You could probably do a graduate curriculum in film direction with no other text.
9th-Apr-2015 08:48 pm - Rahm two terms
Chicago (from Adler)
We'll see how prescient, impatient, or foolish this post ends up.
A coupla years ago, looking at post-industrial Chicago, I said to myself, “This would be a good time for Mayor Junior to get out. The city is destitute, he's been selling off the furniture to pay the rent, and there's not much left to steal.”  But I didn't date-stamp the idea.
A few days later he announced he was retiring. There followed a dozen or score of little trial balloons from wannabees, and I said to myself, “It takes substantial resources of several kinds (cash, donors, clout, troops) to run a credible campaign. Anyone who can do that has to already know the score, so they'll have to have an agenda.”  But I didn't date-stamp the idea.
So we have the rat weasel. The real question continues to be What is this a stepping stone toward? Senator? President? Rentier? Well, I still have no idea, but he just was forced into a runoff for re-election, and after spending another $25 or $30 million, only won the runoff by 5 to 4.
So: If he doesn't go for Mark Kirk's Senate seat next year, I will be very unsurprised if he announces in about three and a half years that he's heading off in some other direction. He can probably juggle the books well enough not to need Chapter 11 that long.
31st-Jan-2015 10:48 pm - well, that contextualizes things
Marvin_Observing
From Poesy to Carrot CarnationsWhen arts die, they turn into hobbies.

The short story, like poetry, already may have gone from being a minor art to being a craft. When I worked as an editor at Harper’s magazine in the 1990s, many acquaintances would comment on our essays and features, but I never heard anyone mention one of the short stories we published. The short story writers whom we published were almost exclusively MFAs who made a living by teaching short story and novel writing at liberal arts colleges. I may be mistaken, but I suspect that the same group that writes short stories today makes up the majority of those who read the short stories that are still published out of a sense of cultural responsibility in magazines like The New Yorker and Harper’s.

The literary novel, too, may be on its way to losing its minor art status and becoming a pure hobby of the creative writing professors who produce most of it in their spare time, while teaching writing courses. Some time ago, I was surprised when the editor of a highbrow magazine and of a major book review, respectively, both told me that their favorite contemporary author was Patrick O’Brien, author of “Master and Commander.” You hypocrites, I thought. You don’t even read the literary fiction that you publish or review. You read well-written genre fiction on your own time. Goodbye, Jonathan Franzen, and ahoy, matie!
22nd-Jan-2015 05:33 pm - luck? omen?
Marvin_Observing
A couple of days ago, I was already going to be near one of my favorite thrift stores, so I stopped in. I haven't done much thrifting for a while . . . The rare find I keep my fingers crossed for is pants in the right size. Decent shoes are once or twice a decade, and it's unusual not to find interesting shirts. But I often have only a few pair of pants.
I found a dozen. After winnowing out the maybes and Idunnos. Half a dozen shirts too, of course, but a DOZEN pair of pants. Jeans, Dockers, "nice". I was deeply amazed to spend $60, which is two or three times ever before, but not unhappy about it.
“I won't have to go thrifting for a very long time . . . Hmm. Is that an omen, a sign, maybe I should hang it up for a while?”
Ada  Lovelace
There seems to be gradually growing sentiment toward reining in Google as a monopoly. I appreciate some of the problems, but -- do we need competing indexes of the internet? If there's one, what's the point of the tremendous investment in another?
Meanwhile, Google seems to be steadily nibbling away at brute-force soft AI. "Soft" AI being a machine that "acts" or "seems to be" intelligent, without going into the hairy questions about what is "really" going on inside the box.
Broadly, and somewhat oversimplified, Google has the biggest collection ever of questions people have asked, the answers the machine offered, and which of those answers the person selected. Many of Google's current initiatives can be considered "soft AI" in various domains, based on their uniquely gigantic database of real human machine interactions. And, of course, the further ahead they get, the harder it is to catch up.
So I can sort of see the brute force approach to soft AI resembling a "natural monopoly". What's the point of spending astronomical amounts of money to duplicate or parallel Google's data bases?
And soft AI clearly has a lot in common with "conventional" "utilities". You get your 'device' to give you driving directions ad hoc. All of a sudden, I want it here, now. Right here. Right now. Just turn the spigot or flip the switch.

What might appropriate guidelines or regulation of such a utility be?
17th-Dec-2014 01:45 pm - Is this one thing or two?
Sacred Chao
There has been quite a spike in news reports of rape and sexual predation. It's not that rates have suddenly shot up, but there seems to have been a sudden change in what's reportable.
There has been quite a spike in news reports of killer cops. It's not that rates have suddenly shot up, but there seems to have been a sudden change in what's reportable.

Is this one breakthrough/trend or two?
whole earth moon
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Maira in Kalamazoo calls up and says, I'm giving a paper at a conference in San Antonio, wanna come along? We can visit [important mutual friend] Donna in Virden on the way.
Well, what else am I doing with myself in my second retirement?
So, after a two-day drive (man, is there a lot of Texas!), here we are.
8th-Nov-2014 03:31 pm - Dept. of It's Not Just Me
Barnaby
For quite a while, I've been baffled by the convention that bands have to make up two names; one for the band, and one for the kind of music they make. Like "industrial ambient acid folk death ska". I've had people laugh with recognition when I talk about it, so I know something is there.
But
I just heard a straight-faced reference to "the self-described “Liberian/Nigerian/Scottish psychedelic hip-hop electro boy band,” Young Fathers".
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