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Thursday, August 29, 2002

Saturn Ascends
James Grimmelmann has revitalized the Laboratorium. He started blogging again, and since I mostly missed out on it last time, that makes me happy because its a pleasure to read his stuff. For the past year or so, he's been experimenting with various forms of writing and new web tools (that dam twiki-web thing that doesn't seem to work all that well) but has largely neglected the site with updates coming only spuratically. It looks as if he's going to stick to it this time, though (which is more than I could say for myself!) Do yourself a favour and check him out.

The "return of saturn," is a popular theme derived from astrology and is often used in literature (among other art, such as music) as a symbol for a period of change in a person's life. Metaphorically speaking, you could say that James' Saturn is returning. I'm not sure how old he is, but this may even be true in the asrological sense, not that it would really matter. In any case, I was thinking about that idea when I came across James' revision, so that's why I named the post "Saturn Ascends". And you know how much I love cataloging lifes little footnotes...
Posted by Mark on August 29, 2002 at 08:51 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Footnotes from Beyond the Zero, part III
This is yet another in what will likely be a long series of posts cataloging some of the interesting little footnotes I've been making while reading Thomas Pynchon's novel, Gravity's Rainbow. The prose is beautiful and thick with historical references, and so when I come upon a particularly interesting passage or historical tidbit, I note it here. See also: [part I | part II]
  • Rundstedt offensive : Gerd von Rundstedt (1875-1953) was one of Adolf Hitler's most respected military leaders in World War II. In 1944, this German field marshal directed the Ardennes offensive (most famous for the Battle of the Bulge). General Dwight D. Eisenhower called him the ablest of the German generals of World War II.
  • Pierre Janet : A psychologist and neurologist, Janet was influential in bringing about in France and the United States a connection between academic psychology and the clinical treatment of mental illnesses. He stressed psychological factors in hypnosis and contributed to the modern concept of mental and emotional disorders involving anxiety, phobias, and other abnormal behaviour.
  • German Communist Party (KPD) : After WWI, some socialists and communists began to form more radical groups. In December, 1918, a group of radicals established the German Communist Party (KPD). One of the more influential leaders of this revolution, Rosa Luxemburg who was executed in an attempt to cull the rebellion, is referenced in the book quite a bit. Throughout the 1920s the KPD was very much under the influence of Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Germany's KPD became the largest Communist Party outside the Soviet Union and was fairly successful in elections until Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party came to power, at which point the KPD was banned and its leaders imprisoned.
  • A nice quote: "Yet who can presume to say what the War wants, so vast and aloof it is... so absentee.
  • Another quote: "...look at the forms of capitalist expression. Pornographies: pornographies of love, erotic love, Christian love, boy-and-his-dog, pornographies of sunsets, pornographies of killing, and pornographies of deduction -- ahh that sigh when we guess the murderer -- all these novels, these films and songs they lull us with, they're approaches, more comfortable and less so, to that Absolute Comfort."
  • One of Pynchon's interesting talents is his ability to sum up a character with a single sentence: "He has, had, this way of removing all the excitement from things with a few words. Not even well-chosen words: he's that way by instinct." I've known people like that, and I knew everything I needed to know about this character from reading this one sentence.
That does it for this installment of Footnotes from Beyond the Zero. For more riveting info: [part I | part II]

Monday, August 05, 2002

Kryptonian Love Problems
Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex by Larry Niven : A funny and very graphic (you were warned) description of the physiological problems Superman would face if he were to attempt to procreate. Niven is best known for his Science Fiction novels, most notably Ringworld (and its sequels), but he shows a biting sense of humour in this essay... Also, as an interesting side note, the influence of this article can be witnessed in Kevin Smith's Mallrats:
Brodie: It's impossible, Lois could never have Superman's baby. Do you think her fallopian tubes could handle his sperm? I guarantee he blows a load like a shotgun, right through her back. What about her womb, you think it's strong enough to carry his child?

TS: Sure, why not?

Brodie: He's an alien for Christssake. His Kryptonian biological makeup is enhanced by Earth's yellow sun. If Lois gets a tan the kid could kick right through her stomach. Only someone like Wonderwoman has a strong enough uterus to carry his kid. The only way he could bang regular chicks is with a Kryptonite condom, but that would kill him.
When compared to Niven's article, the only new thing is the kryptonite condom bit, but its funny nonetheless... Still, Niven's article is great...[thanks to Jim Miller]
Posted by Mark on August 05, 2002 at 06:12 PM .: link :.

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