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Current Topic: Arts

The Writer & the Witch
Topic: Arts 8:17 am EDT, Aug 19, 2009

Fans of Mr. Penumbra's Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store may be interested in Robin Sloan's new short story.

The young writer rolled his eyes. This was not the first time he'd been cursed.

From the archive, The Horror, The Horror:

Owner: Take this object, but beware it carries a terrible curse!

Homer: [worried] Ooooh, that's bad.

Owner: But it comes with a free Frogurt!

Homer: [relieved] That's good.

Owner: The Frogurt is also cursed.

Homer: [worried] That's bad.

Owner: But you get your choice of topping!

Homer: [relieved] That's good.

Owner: The toppings contain Potassium Benzoate.

Homer: [stares]

Owner: That's bad.

Paul Graham:

Don't just not be evil. Be good.

The Writer & the Witch

Topic: Arts 7:01 am EDT, Jul  8, 2009

Rudy Rucker's latest book was published in late May.

Surfing across the transfinite dimensions, this giddy sequel to 2007's Postsingular chronicles the fight to keep Earth "gnarly" in the face of aliens who want to steal the quantum chaos that makes the planet interesting.

Have you seen Happy-Go-Lucky?

The film opens with her visiting a bookshop and fingering a copy of Roger Penrose's book, The Road to Reality. "Don't want to go there," she mutters to herself. Meanwhile, outside, her bicycle is being stolen.


I'm going to file "Giddy Anticipation of an Apocalypse" next to actually having an AK-47 on your flag as God's way of telling you that you're bat shit crazy.

On a Martin Gardner book:

It's an absolute orgy of intellectual play.


Vignette II: Ce N'est Pas Ma Maison
Topic: Arts 8:24 am EDT, Jun 11, 2009

J.M. Harper:

This is not my home.

Have you seen Of Time and the City?

Of Time and the City is both a love song and a eulogy to Liverpool. It is also a response to memory, reflection and the experience of losing a sense of place as the skyline changes and time takes its toll.

Have you seen La Jetee?

Vignette II: Ce N'est Pas Ma Maison

On the Creepy/Alluring Art of the Follow Shot
Topic: Arts 8:24 am EDT, Jun 11, 2009

Matt Zoller Seitz:

"Following" is a montage of clips illustrating one of my favorite types of shots: one where the camera physically follows a character through his or her environment. I love this shot because it's neither first-person nor third; it makes you aware of a character's presence within the movie's physical world while also forcing identification with the character. I also love the sensation of momentum that following shots invariably summon. Because the camera is so close to the character(s) being followed, we feel that we're physically attached to those characters, as if by an invisible guide wire, being towed through their world, sometimes keeping pace, other times losing them as they weave through hallways, down staircases or through smoke or fog.

Have you seen The Wrestler?

Have you seen Following?

On the Creepy/Alluring Art of the Follow Shot

Major Mixup
Topic: Arts 8:24 am EDT, Jun 11, 2009

Sasha Frere-Jones:

According to Mad Decent, the record label, Major Lazer is a Jamaican commando who fought in the “secret Zombie War of 1984” and lost both arms in combat.

Then the U.S. military equipped him (*) with experimental lasers that double as prosthetic limbs.

You can stream the album and watch a video.

(*) See also, from the Post's Dana Milbank:

Shelby also coaxed Mullen to praise Alabama's very own littoral combat ships. "Could you tell us here the advantages that the Navy will gain once the service begins to utilize the LCS?" he asked.

"Okay," Mullen obliged. "I need the LCS at sea, deployed today. ... It offers unique characteristics in terms of speed and mobility and ..."

"Also firepower," Shelby added.

"And firepower," Mullen agreed.

Major Mixup

Only Words
Topic: Arts 8:02 am EDT, Jun  9, 2009

Charlotte Brewer on the OED:

We are now, involuntarily and unceasingly, it often seems, assailed by a superabundance of electronic information, which can confuse and repel as much as it enlightens us. By contrast, when we pick up a book, we are making a deliberate choice that is limited to the contents between the cover, and we can see, feel, and smell what we are getting.

Only Words

Topic: Arts 8:02 am EDT, Jun  9, 2009

Wordnik: An ongoing project devoted to discovering all the words and everything about them

Traditional dictionaries make you wait until they've found what they consider to be "enough" information about a word before they will show it to you. Wordnik knows you don't want to wait—if you're interested in a word, we're interested too!

Our goal is to show you as much information as possible, just as fast as we can find it, for every word in English, and to give you a place where you can make your own opinions about words known.


Weekend Competition: Tom Swifties
Topic: Arts 8:02 am EDT, Jun  9, 2009

From the readers at Schott’s Vocab Blog, and Douglas Hofstadter:

“I prefer Nathan’s,” Tim said frankly.

“I wish we had some flowers,” said Tom lackadaisically.

“Get to the back of the boat!” Tom said sternly.

“I’m the world’s most cannibalistic human,” said Tom, full of himself.

Weekend Competition: Tom Swifties

Love and Obstacles
Topic: Arts 8:18 am EDT, Jun  4, 2009

Aleksandar Hemon's new stories have earned Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist:

... beautifully twists the language in this collection of eight powerful and disquieting stories.

Hemon arranges words like gems in a necklace.

Writing with steely control and an antic eye, Hemon has assembled another extraordinary work.

Hemon infuses everything, from a freezer to bees in a hive, with barbed insights into our instinct for aggression, longing for connection, and unquenchable need to tell our stories, whether in poems, letters, drunken orations, or confessions to strangers.

Hemon is a world-class writer of seismic depth, riptide humor, wine-dark language, and unflinching candor.

Love and Obstacles

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work
Topic: Arts 10:19 am EDT, May 25, 2009

Enjoy a spot of tea with Alain de Botton:

I think envy is unavoidable. I think it's an absolutely essential emotion, and so rarely discussed. It's a basic emotion. All of us are unavoidably inadequate, because there's so much that we can't do and that we don't know.

It seems very important as an adult to have a good relationship to your own envy.

About the book, on sale next month in the US:

I wrote The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work to shine a spotlight on the working world. I wanted to write a book that would open our eyes to the beauty and occasional horror of the working world—and I did this by looking at 10 different industries, a deliberately eclectic range from accountancy to engineering, from biscuit manufacture to logistics.

The strangest thing about the world of work is the widespread expectation that our work should make us happy.

We are the heirs of two very ambitious beliefs: that you can be in love and married, and in a job and having a good time. It has become as impossible for us to think that you could be out of work and happy as it had once seemed impossible for Aristotle to think that you could be employed and human. Thus is born The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

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