Archive | October, 2013

Comic Books and Booth Tarkington’s Penrod

31 Oct
Penrod

Penrod

Teachers often discourage children from reading comic books, but in our experience, comic books have been a stimulus for further reading. We remember devouring a ‘Dennis the Menace’ comic book in our youth.  Around the middle of the book where the staples were, there was a page of quiz questions.  The questions were difficult for the age group that comprised the publication’s target audience.  For example, one question was “This author had an unusual middle name: Makepeace.”  The answer was William Makepeace Thackeray.  Another was “He wrote books about a boy named Penrod.” We had to look at the answer to know that it was Booth Tarkington.

We completely forgot these facts until one day in the 4th grade during Library period, where we were expected to check out a book and actually read it.  When the books were due, our teacher would ask if we’d read the book we’d checked out.  There was no penalty for answering in the negative, but it was a point of pride for a student to proudly report having read the book he or she had chosen.  That’s when we discovered the school’s copy of Penrod, complete with a jacket illustrating a scene from the novel. We checked the book out and dove right in.

It didn’t take long to realize that Penrod lived in a different era then we did (the book was first published in 1914.)  We also understood that the novel was a bit of a stretch for us.  The dress and behavior of the characters in the novel seemed utterly foreign to our modern world of television and Silly Putty.  Nevertheless, we persevered until we finished the book.  The next Library period saw us back for more, checking out the sequel, Penrod and Sam.  

Erasing Personal History

29 Oct

Cover from "A Separate Reality"

Erasing Personal History

Way back when, we used to read those Carlos Casteneda books, the ones that talked about Don Juan, a Yaqui Way of Knowledge and all that stuff. Even if Casteneda made it up in whole or in part, the stories still worked on the level of literature. One of the things that Don Juan talked about with Carlos was erasing personal history.

Those books were written before the Internet made it easy for just about anybody to get hold of just about anybody’s information. Now, just because guarding one’s personal information seems like a losing battle doesn’t mean we have to capitulate. Here is a way that seemed to work when we tried it against a site that had personal information about us but claimed to have an “opt out” policy. The site’s opt-out policy was something like “Send us a fax requesting removal of your information and we’ll remove it in X days.” We dutifully sent the fax and waited the X days. They didn’t remove our info. We sent another one, and again they didn’t remove the info. That’s when we got determined. The next day, we sent two faxes. The day after that, we sent four. The day after that eight, then sixteen, and so forth. We got up to one hundred twenty-eight faxes, after which they finally removed our information from their site.

We’re not sure if all those faxes are what caused the site to remove our info, but if we were betting folks, that’s how we’d bet.

Two plays and a Movie

28 Oct

1. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

2. Hughie by Eugene O’Neill

3. The Sons of Katie Elder directed by Henry Hathaway

These three works all have one thing in common.  Have you figured out what they all share? Hint:  It has nothing to do with a chipmunk.

The answer is below.

Chipmunk

Pay no attention to the chipmunk…

 

Answer: All three works have characters mentioned in the title that never appear.

Messing with Texas

27 Oct

Song of Texas

Happy Trails

The cover story of the October 28, 2013 issue of Time Magazine argues that Texas is the future of the country. The article explains that Texas is America’s fastest-growing large state, it’s added jobs, and the same money that would buy a tiny condo in San Francisco will buy a house in Texas.

Nevertheless, we sure hope that the author is wrong. We’ve been to Texas, and we thought it was fine. However, one of the reasons Texas is attractive is because it has less regulation than many other states on things like building codes. Building codes protect home buyers from shoddy or downright dangerous building practices. We always thought that was a good thing. You can argue that less-regulation is more business-friendly. OK, but what’s friendly to business may be hostile to consumers.

There are a number of other points in the article that we won’t go into here. Suffice it to say that we hope the article’s author is wrong that Texas is our future.

Photography and Alchemy

26 Oct

Photography has gone digital. Many photographs we like were taken with digital cameras. Still, we miss photographs made using film. Those days aren’t completely gone, but since every cell phone now has a built-in camera, there’s no question that digital is where it’s at.

alchemy

It was alchemical …

We’re not Luddites – there’s a lot to like about digital photography. However, we remember taking a photography class before digital cameras.
developing tank and reels

tank and reels

Fumbling in total darkness, spooling the undeveloped negative onto the reel, and at last placing the reel into the light-proof metal tank seemed ritualistic to us. We felt like members of a secret cabal of image makers. Then came the the pouring-in and pouring-out of the developer, stop bath, and fixer. After rinsing the negatives and letting them dry, we at last had something to print.

Then the process would begin anew, only this time we had the luxury of a dim red light that wouldn’t fog the photo paper. After placing the negative in the enlarger, making the exposure onto the photo paper, and repeating the developer-stop bath-fixer-rinse cycle, we at last had an image. This seemed nothing short of alchemy to us.

Enlarger

Enlarger

“Oh, come on now,” you might say. “You’re romanticizing something that took a blasted long time and used a lot of water. Those chemicals were nasty – acetic acid, ammonium thiosulfate, and Gawd knows what else going down the drain. Nostalgic over this? We’re better off without it.”

To which we reply “You’re probably right. The immediacy of digital photography in the age of the Internet allows us to receive images from developing stories around the world, stories we simply would not have heard about years ago.”

That’s all true. It’s silly for us to think that photography was akin to alchemy. Except, that’s how we remember it …

Passwords, security, and stuff like that there

24 Oct
encryption

security is important, but …

We work for Engulf and Devour. That isn’t the company’s real name but we’re paranoid and don’t want to be fired.  Anyhoo, E & D requires its employees to have a password for starting up their PCs.  There’s also one for logging into the network.  There’s a separate one for e-mail, and there’s a couple more for other things.  Since they tend to expire at different times of the year, using one secure password is a difficult feat to accomplish.

The thing that we don’t get though, is why we have to change a perfectly good secure password every so often.  If the darn thing is more than 12 characters in length and has a mixture of uppercase, lowercase, numerals, and a few non-alphanumeric characters thrown in for good measure, then that’s one secure password. The system locks you out if you fat-finger the password more than 3 times, so the chances of someone successfully deploying a brute force attack are remote. Assuming we don’t tell anyone what the password is, it’d take years for an unscrupulous person to break into our e-mail accounts.  That’s why we can’t understand why we ever have to change it.

There is something to be said for security, but we feel that laziness is important, too.

Robertson Davies

23 Oct
Robertson Davies

Robertson Davies

The Deptford Trilogy consists of Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders.  If you’re looking for a good read pick up Fifth Business.  We think you’ll scarf that one down and there will be no stopping you until you read the other two.  There’s a lot we could tell you about this trilogy, but we won’t ’cause we don’t want to give anything away.  We don’t work for any book publishers and we aren’t related to the late Mr. Davies, so consider the source.

If you see an ad in this post, pay it no heed.

The League of Lesser Superheroes

20 Oct
superhero

wild-hairdo man

Comic book superhero pictures are all the rage right now, and the heroes therein have some pretty impressive talents (ability to fly, climbing walls like a spider, an ingenious metal suit, extraordinary strength, etc.)  We got to thinking about other talents one could possibly have, talents that aren’t as impressive as those seen in the movies and in the comics, but useful nonetheless.  Here are a few that occurred to us.  You can probably think of new talents that we haven’t even considered.

Always-able-to-find-a-decent-parking-space Woman

Able-to-say-the-right-thing-in-any-situation Man

Never-lose-glasses-or-keys Boy

 

 

 

Songs We Like – T. Rex “The Slider”

20 Oct

This one goes back to 1971. We’ve always been suckers for songs with ambiguous (or out-and-out nonsensical) lyrics, and The Slider by Marc Bolan does not disappoint:

I could never understand
The wind at all
Was like a ball of love
I could never never see
The cosmic sea
Was like a bumblebee
And when I’m sad
I slide

Marc Bolan

Marc Bolan of T. Rex

 

Check it out at : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ayDFbZJ1qQ
and the lyrics at: http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/The-Slider-lyrics-Marc-Bolan-and-T-Rex/6E34BF5DD6235CC948256B6D0012DC68

Movies We Like – Last Year at Marienbad (L’Année dernière à Marienbad)

19 Oct

Last Year at Marienbad

Last Year at Marienbad

We think that this film by Alain Resnais is one of the best movies we’ve ever seen. It’s a textbook example of a subtitled, black and white art house film from the early 1960s. OK, we know – you’re about to say “Boooooring”. If so, we must respectfully disagree. Sure, it’s not a Spielberg action flick, but we think that’s a good thing. Watching the film, one gets the sense that nothing exists outside the upscale European chateau/hotel that provides the setting for the elusive story line. You may find that it’s not your cup of tea, but if you can allow yourself to be immersed in the world of the film, it’s well worth your time.