Thursday, November 29, 2012

Closing tabs

The cold I have is making me feel distinctly glum. Exercise deprivation not helping. Came home after morning work and midday meetings and went back to bed for about three hours in the afternoon; am hoping a long night of sleep tonight may make me feel a bit better in the morning, though I think it will be Saturday before I can exercise. (Chelsea Piers is finally reopening on Saturday post-Sandy, and I am much looking forward to attending Joanna's 10am spin class, which I have sorely missed!)

Minor light reading: Jussi Adler-Olsen, The Absent One (don't think I'll continue with this series, too preposterous); Michael Connelly, The Black Box (suitable reading for illness, but fairly slight).

Closing tabs:

Chinese typewriters anticipated predictive text functions (via Wen Jin).

Further clarification on the OED's supposedly missing loan words.

Human skulls carved from books! (Via Nico.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Double ablutions

Widely linked to already, but - daily routines of famous writers!


This picture made me laugh!

Unfortunately I am coming down with a cold - not surprising after Thanksgiving travels, but still regrettable. Am going to retire to bed very early this evening and hope I don't feel a lot worse when I wake up.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Abattoir, svelte, bamboo

At the Guardian, Alison Flood on Sarah Ogilvie's scandalous revelations about OED deletions (via Liz Denlinger):
Examples of Burchfield's deleted words include balisaur, an Indian badger-like animal; the American English wake-up, a golden-winged woodpecker; boviander, the name in British Guyana for a person of mixed race living on the river banks; and danchi, a Bengali shrub. The OED is now re-evaluating words expunged by Burchfield, who died in 2004, aged 81.

"This is really shocking. If a word gets into the OED, it never leaves. If it becomes obsolete, we put a dagger beside it, but it never leaves," Ogilvie said.

The spinach myth

Popeye's nutritional preferences the consequence of a transcription error. (Via GeekPress.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Closing tabs

The next three weeks are daunting; however, I trust I will get through....

Superb review at the Guardian for Jane Yeh's The Ninjas! (Courtesy of Ed Park.)

Tim Parks on the artist he grew up with.

Finally, courtesy of B., definitely the week's best job description (scroll down)! More related material here and here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Fiendishly busy. The next month is fairly daunting: the Thanksgiving overland odyssey (I'll be offline for the duration), the last three weeks of classes, several dissertation chapter meetings and a dissertation defense, a few eighteenth-century seminars and colloquia, opera tickets for Don Giovanni and Les Troyens, sundry departmental meetings, etc. etc.

I have a mystery rash on my lower legs that has caused me to google words like scabies, impetigo, ringworm, ensuring a computer screen full of ads for STD testing! (Doctor's appointment next Monday evening, internet self-diagnosis having been found wanting.)

Worst of all I am called for jury duty on Dec. 12! I must get it out of the way, I can't postpone it as I will be traveling quite a bit in the opening months of the new year, but I can't say I'm looking forward to it, not least because of constraints it places on various other end-of-semester scheduling obligations.

Seems like I have been too busy even to keep a proper log of light reading. Catch-up titles: Manel Loureiro's Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End (still can't get enough of these zombie novels, and spent the week after Sandy contemplating the possibility that I might even write one myself one of these days); Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight, an enchanting book that only prompts the complaint I WANT THE NEXT INSTALLMENT NOW!; Ben Aaronovitch, Moon Over Soho, which I thought was excellent (the first installment had some rookie continuity errors and points of confusion, though already very strong, but this really picks up momentum and delivers on the promise); and another appealing entry in the postapocalyptic zombie stakes, a good recommendation from my colleague Anahid, Kresley Cole's Poison Princess.

I always slightly grumble when these books are built on a romance chassis - I would rather hear less about the fellow's rippling pectoral muscles and more about the exact contents of the survivalist's larder! Still, very much worthwhile, and I dimly recall that Kresley Cole is the writer my friend "Lilia Ford" was recommending as so much superior to the rest of the paranormal romance cohort....

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Two links

Stressful Monday! Two cute animal links: monkeys ride capybaras (I really want a capybara, the swimming pool at B.'s condo complex would be the perfect habitat for a semi-aquatic mammal!); mother cat nurses baby hedgehogs.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Things you love

A great writing exercise from Laini Taylor, via Sara Ryan (whose lovely YA novel Empress of the World has just been reissued):
Do this exercise where you freewrite about the book you would write. (“Writing about” is so much easier than “writing”.) Don’t just describe the plot. Try to get at the feeling of it too, the mood and atmosphere. Be fanciful. You won’t have to abide by this, it’s just an exercise. Think about this too: imagine you are browsing in a bookstore or library, reading flap copy. You’ve had this happen before, you read flap copy that makes your heartbeat speed up, your mind brightens. This book is what you want, it is full of things you love, that fascinate you. You can’t wait to read it. What are those things? Come up with your own ideas that will speed up your heart and brighten your mind.
Only one novel of mine was written at all under this sort of sign - The Explosionist. My first novel was the book I felt compelled to write rather than the book I felt huge desire to read, and it was a strange and exciting feeling when I realized - after perusing the shelves of the Bank Street Bookstore to see whether anything else had come out that could reproduce the thrill for me of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and Garth Nix's Abhorsen books - that if the book I most wanted to read didn't yet exist, I had to write it!

The new novel has not been written under exactly that sign - it was more a compulsion to tell a story that would capture some of the intellectual charisma of the theory and practice of role-playing games, plus longterm desire to write something that reimagines The Bacchae. Then when I was revising, I kept on saying to myself, "I just need to make this world as much a one that readers want to enter as I feel about the world of Fringe...."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Closing tabs

Kathryn Schulz on Andrew Solomon's new book. (With bonus citation for "hair-splitters and lumpers," which I was talking about the other day in class - Darwin!)

Cousin George Pringle: featured track of the day.

Marina Harss on flood damage to properties of the Martha Graham Company.

Erik Davis on psychedelic drugs.

Rachel Adams on contemplating the results of a child's IQ test.

Ben Anastas on how to rack up debt and ruin your life.

"Direwolf, direwolf"

Game of Thrones as an Eric Carle picture book.

"The tot in question"

Ed Park on Rosemary's Baby.

The depressive third person

At Public Books, my colleague Nick Dames considers St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels (I'm teaching the first one and the opening chapter of the last in my style class this semester):
The Melrose novels, incipiently in Never Mind and baldly by the time of At Last, are also dramatic reassertions of the novel’s standing as the form best capable of describing consciousness without trying to “solve” it. Even more curiously, they insist on the flexibility, diagnostic acuity, and delicate modesty of traditional third-person narration, as if it alone—the odd habit of transforming an I into a he, she, or it—could begin to describe what it is like to be aware of our awareness, to be tied down to the only force we know that promises any freedom. If anything can light up the dark room stealthily enough to tell us what darkness looks like, St. Aubyn suggests with a bit more than diffidence, it might be the oldest and most ordinary of fiction’s resources. The decision to write his own story in the third person is more than legal caution or familial reticence. It is also a strong philosophical claim: only by using that linguistic sleight-of-hand might I get a sense of how I am.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"I was a bit insouciant"

The FT lunches with Conrad Black (site registration required): "I’m not much better than a run-of-the-mill millionaire. Maximising my wealth was never my chief thing ... But now it’s time to replenish the inventory of miniature portraits of George Washington."

Also: Philip Roth retires from novel-writing.

Finger sandwiches

A pair of words my heart thrills to.  Tea at the King Edward Hotel, Toronto.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Closing tabs

Have had a bit of a breather in Cayman for a few days, with some important pieces of work finished and much exercise, but am on another plane tomorrow to another country! Then home on Sunday. I am ready, really, for the semester to be over: five more weeks, but two of them only with Monday teaching rather than Monday-Wednesday...

Closing tabs:

Vanessa Veselka on a truck-stop killer and the life of teenage runaways.

Chickens have to live somewhere too!

Note-taking habits of prior ages.

9 political poems to read now that the election's over.

An alluring excerpt from Nancy Marie Brown's Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths.

Smallest man in the world dances with his cat.

Alos: my favorite local sports journalist Ron Shillingford profiles the Wednesday Night Run Club. (B.'s marathon relay team gets a mention!)

Miscellaneous light reading: Jacqueline Carey's Dark Currents: Agent of Hel (not bad, but not up to the standard of her best - she's working in a genre that Seanan McGuire has more of a natural gift for!); Ben Aaronovitch's Midnight Riot; Scott Jurek's Eat and Run.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Hurricane update

Well, I have been lucky, Morningside Heights is high in elevation and I never lost power, but it has been a discombobulating and curiously stressful week! Obviously I couldn't fly out from LaGuardia yesterday. I'm on a direct flight to Cayman on Sunday instead; I will miss the triathlon, but it seemed the best of the available alternatives, and I'm now just trying not to worry neurotically about whether gas shortages will make it difficult to get a cab to JFK early on Sunday morning. I have two human evacuees and one feline in the living room; the younger human and I have had some good runs in Riverside Park and are enjoying massive amounts of Firefly/Big Bang Theory/Fringe to make the time go by. They have a good shot at getting back into their place Sunday morning, I think: fingers crossed that all these transitions go smoothly.

It now seems about a million years ago, but The Tempest at the Met last weekend was great. (Strange sense, during first two acts, of composer deliberately and rather perversely not writing the ravishing music of which he is capable, and moving towards difficulty or stringency instead, but the third act is emotionally much more forthcoming and draws everything back together. The orchestra sounded fantastic.)

Hurricane reading, appropriately and postapocalyptically: Justin Cronin's The Twelve. I enjoyed it, though it's not altogether to my tastes: a bit metaphysical/theological in its priorities, and the cast of thousands makes it sometimes difficult to differentiate one character from another. I thought this review was truly grossly unfair! Not my style of reviewing, anyway: if I hated it that much, I probably just wouldn't write about it.

Yoga today was beneficial!

Jane Yeh's The Ninjas is fantastically good. Separate post to follow at some less distracted juncture.

Irrelevant but interesting: the popularity of Clarks shoes in Jamaica.

Also, someone needs to send me a review copy of Swimming with Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale: Sports, Health and Exercise in Eighteenth-Century England! (Courtesy of Steve B.)