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Flotsam and Jetsam

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Today in corrections: "actual feelings"

Posted By on 02.28.12 at 12:49 PM

  • Jesse Wagstaff
Slate’s Hanna Rosin on her initial reaction to the death of Jan Berenstain, of Bears fame:

I have been roundly (and deservedly) chastised in e-mails and elsewhere by Slate readers for my use of “good riddance” in connection with this kind woman’s death. I admit, I was not really thinking of her as a person with actual feelings and a family, just an abstraction who happened to write these books. Apologies. Next time I will be more humane. —Hanna

I wasn't acquainted with the Berenstain Bears but, having read Rosin’s anti-obit, I’m intrigued—especially since she mentions that noted asshole Charles Krauthammer finds them “post-feminist,” and Papa Bear “the Alan Alda of grizzlies.” (He goes on: "a wimp so passive and fumbling he makes Dagwood Bumstead look like Batman.") Rosin thinks they’re the opposite: humorless and retrograde.

Related: yesterday in corrections.

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Adventures in linguistics

Posted By on 02.28.12 at 11:06 AM

  • TEDxNJLibraries
The New York Times reports on a recent study in the Journal of Voice on the speech habits of young women. Researchers found that some feminine vocal habits—like “uptalk,” the practice of ending a sentence on an ascendent note to evoke a question—aren’t, in fact, “markers of immaturity or even stupidity” but markers of a sort of linguistic vanguard. Douglas Quenqua writes, “Girls and women in their teens and 20s deserve credit for pioneering vocal trends and popular slang, [researchers] say, adding that young women use these embellishments in much more sophisticated ways than people tend to realize.” A new trend, Gawker noted a few months ago, is vocal fry, a “guttural fluttering of the vocal cords” that I couldn’t quite imagine until I listened to this mp3. This is interesting stuff, though troubling—one hopes that it didn’t really take a rigorous scientific study to determine that young women “take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships,” as opposed to just being dumb.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

The right move

Posted By on 02.27.12 at 10:56 AM

  • Joshua Eckert
It takes a big newspaper to admit a colossal boner, but the New York Times was up to the task yesterday:

The Chess column last Sunday, about Justin Sarkar, a New York international master, gave an incorrect move in a recent game between Adam Hunt and Mr. Sarkar. Black’s eighth move was h6, not h4.

What a relief this was! The move to h4 had befuddled me all week. If you caught the previous Sunday's story by chess columnist Dylan Loeb McClain—and I know you did—I don't have to tell you that Hunt was employing the Panov-Botvinnik Attack against Sarkar's Caro-Kann Defense. As McClain noted, this "can lead to complicated positions."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Friends of space, how are you all?"

Posted By on 02.14.12 at 04:47 PM

Belatedly catching up with the Sunday Times last night, I came across a gem of an article about terrestrial attempts at communication with aliens. Thirty-five years ago, the Voyager was launched into space carrying a "golden plaque" embedded with sounds from the cry of a baby to Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." The record also carried greetings in 55 languages, among them the following, translated from the Chinese dialect Amoy:

Friends of space, how are you all? Have you eaten yet? Come visit us if you have time

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Looking for Glove

Posted By on 02.13.12 at 01:57 PM

For those who wonder whether Tumblr has any use, the answer is now yes: Dubi Kaufmann recently started one that aims to match up gloves lost in Chicago with their owners. Aptly titled Looking for Glove, it allows people to post photos and descriptions of gloves they've found—or ones they've lost, though there aren't many of those posted. If you see your glove on the site, you can e-mail Kaufmann to coordinate its return. According to the FAQ section, he started the site because "I lost a glove."

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Ear wax? Really?

Posted By on 02.13.12 at 08:00 AM

When I was an undergrad at the University of Iowa in the 80s, the Iowa Writers' Workshop was kind of a big deal. So I was flattered to be—set up with? asked out by? can't remember—a guy in the graduate fiction workshop. We'd arranged to see Bernard Tavernier's 'Round Midnight at the Bijou, the campus movie theater, and so found ourselves walking down the long hill to the student union one summer evening. Making small talk, I asked him what he'd been up to, and he told me he'd been to the doctor that day to get his ears cleaned—he had a problem with excessive wax buildup.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

OK Stupid

Posted By on 02.10.12 at 01:30 PM

In the mid-90s, when I'd moved to a new city after grad school, I placed a personals ad the old-fashioned way: in an alternative paper. After a couple of dud dates, I ended up meeting someone I went on to have a long-term relationship with. He eventually ended up reconciling with his ex-wife, but all this time later we're still friends.

Given this experience, I was open to trying online dating, so a younger colleague of mine got me started on OK Cupid. I can't say it's gone so well, though I have met a couple of guys who to all appearances are genuinely nice.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Saturday is Fluxus Day!

Posted By on 02.08.12 at 02:13 PM

  • Patrick Hoesly
What’s happening this weekend, and it may not be anything at all, is happening at the Chicago Cultural Center, which hosts a day of happenings inspired by Fluxus, the 1960s anti-art movement famous for its bizarre, anarchic “happenings.” George Maciunas coined the term, which is related to the Latin word for “to flow,” in 1961. In a review in the Reader in 1993, Fred Camper noted that Fluxus artists “worked in a wider variety of media than any other ‘movement’ I know of,” and to the extent that people still follow the movement, that’s true—in 2010 the Experimental Sound Studio hosted a Fluxus-inspired musical bike ride. In conjunction with its show "Write Now: Artists and Letterforms," that bastion of avante-gardism the Cultural Center presents Fluxus Day on Fri 2/11 from 11 AM to 5 PM. Some highlights lie beyond the jump.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Walk a lonely superhighway

Posted By on 02.07.12 at 12:30 PM

  • Archibald Ballantine
A suite of essays on Facebook in the New York Times Sunday Review this week includes a contribution by local legal scholar Lori Andrews, who was featured in December in the Reader's People Issue. (My boss, Mara Shalhoup, is treating Andrews’s piece elsewhere.) I was particularly befuddled by Evgeny Morozov’s “The Death of the Cyberflaneur,” which takes the discussion in a direction . . . you wouldn’t expect. Morozov laments the passing of what he calls the “cyberflaneur” (actually the term was coined on a website called, for some reason, Ceramics Today), based on the original, more corporeal flaneur—the boots-on-the-ground flaneur. A 19th-century French ideal whom Baudelaire and Benjamin (stay with me here) viewed as “an emblem of modernity,” the flaneur in Paris “would leisurely stroll through its streets and especially its arcades . . . to cultivate what Honore de Balzac called ‘the gastronomy of the eye.’ . . . His goal was to observe, to bathe in the crowd, taking in its noises, its chaos, its heterogeneity, its cosmopolitanism.”

OK, now think about GeoCities circa 1995.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Posted By on 01.31.12 at 10:04 AM

  • Gideon Burton
I suspect my editor has been spending too much time on Wikipedia. These are her comments on a story I recently turned in for the Reader:

—These edits in a nutshell: This was nominated as a good article but did not meet the good article criteria. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these are addressed, the article can be renominated.

—This section may be too long or excessively detailed. Please make it as concise as possible but no more concise.

—This phrase is unclear. Please disambiguate.

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