Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Links and Notes

* An excellent discussion of Michael Jackson at "Catholic Kung Fu"

* Apparently there's a campaign building to encourage the producers of the next Superman movie to cast Rashida Jones as the next Lois Lane; and I have to say, she could pull it off. Lois Lane has never really been done justice on the screen, whether small or large, although Margot Kidder did manage to convey something of the personality of a girl who could be a top-notch reporter at a major newspaper. What one really needs is an actress who can play smart, level-headed, dynamic, and ambitious. And Jones could probably manage it.

* Massimo Pigliucci reviews Harris's The Moral Landscape. This is pretty much how to criticize Harris.

* The Mississippi River System laid out like a subway map.

* I was reading about recently for examples of magic grinder myths; I remember reading a version of one a very long time ago that was very striking, and some of the details have always stayed with me. I was looking for that version, but I didn't find the exact version -- there are so many variations. But here are a few that I did find:

Gróttasöngr (the prototype of most magic grinder myths of the Why-the-Sea-is-Salt type)
Why the Sea is Salt (a simple prose version of the above)
Why the Sea is Salt (a modernized version for kids to act out)
Why the Sea is Salt by Sarah Cone Bryant (which adds a Rich Brother / Poor Brother theme)

The version I remember reading definitely had bacon as a key plot theme, so the kid's play is likely from the same source, or at least a related one.

* Which incidentally led me to look for a version of what was once one of my favorite fairy tales, The Magic Tinderbox (another version, which tries harder to keep the tone of Anderson's original). I always remember the dog with eyes like millstones -- somehow I find that more striking a description than the one with eyes like the Round Tower. "The Magic Tinderbox" was one of Anderson's first tales. There are other variations on the tale, like The Three Dogs and The Blue Light.

* An equation for assigning a dollar value to planets. The point seems widely misunderstood, and I've seen this misreported even on economics blogs; the equation isn't supposed to (and doesn't) put a price tag on the planet: it's supposed to give an approximate value, using the expected success of the Kepler mission, on the discovery of a planet from wherever you are (in our case Earth) in light of (a) how Earth-like it is in features known to be valuable for life and (b) how soon you've made the discovery relative to the Kepler mission. So for instance, we've already discovered one perfectly Earth-like planet from Earth, and did so a very long time ago: Earth itself. And the equation puts the value of that discovery at a bit over 5 quadrillion dollars. Mars and Venus were discovered a long time ago from Earth, but Venus has more of the features in question than Mars (closer in mass, etc.) and, due to one of the weird quirks in the equation actually gets a bump up just because it's closer to the sun, so the discovery of Mars is valued at $14000 and the discovery of Venus originally very high but now (given our current information about its surface temperature) at less than a cent.

* I recently had someone come to my blog by searching for the question, "How does Virginia Woolf kill the Angel in the House?" The answer, of course, is by working to be honest and open in her writing, or, as she put it, flinging the inkpot at the Angel everytime she showed up. You can read more about it in Virginia Woolf's Professions for Women. I talked about Woolf's use of the phrase here.

* Incidentally, everyone should read Woolf's fine skewering of modern poetry, which has the only correct recommendation for learning how to write poetry:
Write then, now that you are young, nonsense by the ream. Be silly, be sentimental, imitate Shelley, imitate Samuel Smiles; give the rein to every impulse; commit every fault of style, grammar, taste, and syntax; pour out; tumble over; loose anger, love, satire, in whatever words you can catch, coerce or create, in whatever metre, prose, poetry, or gibberish that comes to hand. Thus you will learn to write.

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