(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘literature

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made”*…

 

Hoss Cartwright, a former editor of the International Journal of Agricultural Innovations and Research, had a good excuse for missing the 5th World Congress on Virology last year: He doesn’t exist…

As grant funding and career advancement depend ever more heavily on publishing metrics, scientists are inventing “co-authors” with prestigious-sounding affiliations to give their papers more credibility with the journals to which they submit:  “Why fake data when you can fake a scientist?

* Groucho Marx

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As we prune the pretenders, we might spare a thought for Persian polymath Omar Khayyam; the mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, epigrammatist, and poet died on this date in 1131.  While he’s probably best known to English-speakers as a poet, via Edward FitzGerald’s famous translation of the quatrains that comprise the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Omar was one of the major mathematicians and astronomers of the medieval period.  He is the author of one of the most important works on algebra written before modern times, the Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra (which includes a geometric method for solving cubic equations by intersecting a hyperbola with a circle).  His astronomical observations contributed to the reform of the Persian calendar.  And he made important contributions to mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, climatology, and Islamic theology.

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Written by LW

December 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition”*…

 

The idea that American life is increasingly transient and uprooted is a myth: people are moving less, but worrying more.

In 1971, the great Carole King sang: ‘So far away/ Doesn’t anyone stay in one place anymore?’ Thirty years later, the editors of The New York Times explained that families in the United States are changing because of ‘the ever-growing mobility of Americans’. And in 2010, a psychologist argued that ‘an increased rate of residential mobility played a role in the historical shift’ toward individualism. It’s a common US lament that human bonds are fraying because people are moving around more and more. Americans fear the fracturing of communities that constant moving seems to bring.

Yet when King sang, Americans had been moving around less and less for generations. That decline was even more obvious when the Times editorial appeared in 2001, and it has continued to decline through the 2010s. The increasingly mobile US is a myth that refuses to move on…

More on this widespread misapprehension– and what it means– in “The great settling down.”

* James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

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As we tend the roots we’ve put down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that we lost two greats of imaginative literature:

C.S. Lewis, the novelist The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, and others), poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist (Mere Christianity).

And Aldous Huxley, the writer, novelist, philosopher best remembered for Brave New World.

Neither passing was much remarked at the time, as they happened on the same day as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

 

“One day, men will look back and say that I gave birth to the 20th Century”*…

 

This fall marks the 128th anniversary of a series of murders in London’s Whitechapel district — at least five, for sure — that have long transformed from an investigation to a vague romantic aura that haunts the more macabre corners of pop culture. The case is more frostbitten than cold: due to a combination of muddled evidence and the deteriorating effects of time, the case will never be solved. Yet despite the lack of leads — in fact, because of them — the content business of Jack the Ripper is still booming.

An Amazon search spits back nearly 4,500 items, IMDb returns 119 TV episodes or movies, but even those numbers don’t account for the subtly titled video games, websites, stage plays, operas, paintings, radio dramas, songs, costumes, or various Etsy crafts that seek to capture that “Jack the Ripper aesthetic.” You know it: that sinister silhouette with top hat and cane, sounds of raindrops and horse hooves echoing on candlelit cobblestones, frantic police whistles in the dark followed by cries that they found another. Jack the Ripper is a perpetual content machine from beyond the grave…

More at “The Jack the Ripper Content Economy.”

* “Jack the Ripper” (in the film From Hell)

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As we avoid dark alleys, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the Senate passed what became The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, at nearly $30 Billion the largest crime bill in U.S. history.  While the bill created the federal assault weapons ban, it also criminalized a number of new offenses and brought “three strikes” sentencing (already in place in some states) to federal trials.  The increased case load caused the legal system to rely much more heavily on plea bargains; the increase in incarceration led to prison overcrowding.

President Bill Clinton signing the bill

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“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”*…

 

Color version of Abraham Ortelius’ Typus Orbis Terrarum, a map inserted into the first edition of Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations (1589) — Source

The Principle Navigations, Richard Hakluyt’s great championing of Elizabethan colonial exploration, remains one of the most important collections of English travel writing ever published. It recounts the escapades of famed explorers like Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, at the same time that it preserves many stories of lesser known figures that surely would have been otherwise lost.

Nandini Das tours the book and puts it into historical and cultural context at “Richard Hakluyt and Early English Travel.”

* St. Augustine of Hippo

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As we chart our courses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that anthropologist Margaret Mead arrived on Samoa.  The book that resulted, Coming of Age in Samoa, was– and remains– a best-seller, and launched her career as an expert on the non-literate peoples of Oceania.

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Written by LW

November 9, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I’m not used to getting good reviews”*…

 

More helpful user feedback at “Uber Reviews of Literary Journeys.”

* Pauly Shore

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As we settle in for the ride, we might recall that this is Back to the Future Day: today’s date in 1955 was the day Marty McFly arrived in the Hill Valley of the past in Doc Brown’s DeLorean, from October 26, 1985.

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Written by LW

November 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“If it’s zero degrees outside today and it’s supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?”*…

 

One of the most famous literary riddles in literature is also the most frustrating … because it came without an answer! In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter poses this puzzle to Alice:

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Eight other head-scratchers (with answers to all) at “9 of History’s Best Riddles.”

* Steven Wright

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As we puzzle, we might spare a thought for Terry Southern; he died on this date in 1995.  Best remembered as a novelist and screenwriter–  Dr. StrangeloveThe Loved OneThe Cincinnati KidEasy Rider, Candy, and The Magic Christian, among others; Southern’s work on Easy Rider helped create the independent film movement of the 1970s.  But perhaps as importantly, Tom Wolfe credits Southern with inventing New Journalism with the publication of “Twirling at Ole Miss” in Esquire in 1962.

Southern, photographed by Stanley Kubrick

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Written by LW

October 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A man’s grammar, like Caesar’s wife, should not only be pure, but above suspicion of impurity”*…

 

If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.
― Dorothy Parker

29 more at “31 Jokes Every Grammar Nerd Can’t Help But Love.”

* (an admittedly sexist) Edgar Allan Poe

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As we ruminate on the rules, we might send shocking birthday greetings to a man who broke most of them: the enfant terrible of French letters, Arthur Rimbaud; he was born on this date in 1854. With his buddy, Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud was a leader of the Decadent Movement; fueled by absinthe and hashish, he succeeded in shocking a literary establishment that was nonetheless awed by his visionary verse, which influenced modern literature and arts, inspired a number of important musicians, and prefigured Surrealism.

All known literature is written in the language of common sense—except Rimbaud’s

– Paul Valéry

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Written by LW

October 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

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