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Journal: What's wrong with "literary" fiction

Journal by jsac
B.R. Myers has an article in The Atlantic Monthly which he subtitles an attack on the growing pretentiousness of American literary prose . A friend of mine said, and I concur, that this guy is explaining to us stuff we didn't know we were thinking. I can't count the number of mordern "literary" novels I've failed to complete because of sheer tedium -- and I love the 'classics'. I just re-read Gatsby with pleasure. And I've never been able to finish Cormac McCarthy.

There's a long list of genre authors who are writing or have written great stories and great prose: Patricia McKillip, Lois McMaster Bujold, Rex Stout, Iain M. Banks, John Varley, and Samuel R Delany, to name a smattering. Toss Annie Proulx from the train.

User Journal

Journal: In my mail -- week of December 3, 2001

Journal by jsac

Monday

  1. America West frequent flyer miles update
  2. Newsletter from my old parish in St. Paul
  3. International Linear Algebra Society conference invitation and membership application form.

Ho-hum.

Quickies

Journal: Quickies

Journal by jsac
A holding place for a bunch of stuff that doesn't deserve a full entry:
United States

Journal: Assault on public sector makes terrorists' jobs easier

Journal by jsac

Naomi Klein makes a compelling case that neglect of public services in the U.S. makes terrorists' goals easier to achieve.

It has become fashionable to wryly observe that the terrorists use the West's technologies as weapons against itself: planes, e-mail, cellphones. But as fears of bioterrorism mount, it could well turn out that their best weapons are the rips and holes in the United States' public infrastructure.

Is this because there was no time to prepare for the attacks? Hardly. The U.S. has openly recognized the threat of biological attacks since the Persian Gulf war, and Bill Clinton renewed calls to protect the nation from bioterror after the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa. And yet shockingly little has been done.

The reason is simple: Preparing for biological warfare would have required a ceasefire in America's older, less dramatic war -- the one against the public sphere. It didn't happen. Here are some snapshots from the front lines.

News

Journal: Selfish communities hoist by their own petard

Journal by jsac
The Dallas Morning News has an article about neighborhoods who fought light rail now begging for stations.

"Frankly, Dallas is not the same town it was 10 or 15 years ago," said resident Morris Smart of Vickery Place in East Dallas. "It makes a lot of sense now. I'm all for it. And I live about as close as you can get to where the station would be."

Before Mr. Smart moved to Vickery Place, residents there, along with neighbors in next-door Cochran Heights, fought a proposed station for Knox-Henderson more than a decade ago.

Now, they're working together to appeal to city leaders and DART board members to build an underground station there.

But the effort is late in coming. DART has told neighbors that although the space for a future station was excavated when the tunnel was built, there's no money in the budget for one now and probably won't be for years.

"That neighborhood was very opposed to what we were doing, but we over-excavated that area because we knew someday we'd like to have a station there," said Mike Miles, DART's senior manager of community and member city relations. "But now that's a long way off. The money is committed elsewhere. They basically have to get to the end of the line."

I like to see places like this get their comeuppance.

News

Journal: I say Osama, you say Usama

Journal by jsac
Slate magazine has a good article on the problems with transliteration from Arabic to English. Among others, answers the question: How do you spell "Gadhafi" (that name is just as bad as "Chebyshev"...)? Also explains why "Muslim" is preferred over "Moslem".

Arthur Koestler, in an appendix to The Thirteenth Tribe , notes:

T. E. Lawrence was a brilliant orientalist, but he was as ruthless in his spelling as he was in raiding Turkish garrisons. His brother, A. W. Lawrence, explained in his preface to Seven Pillars of Wisdom:

The spelling of Arabic names varies greatly in all editions, and I have made no alterations. It should be explained that only three vowels are recognized in Arabic, and that some of the consonants have no equivalents in English. The general practice of orientalists in recent years has been to adopt one of the various sets of conventional signs for the letters and vowel marks of the Arabic alphabet, transliterating Mohamed as Muhammad, muezzin as mu'edhdhin, and Koran as Qur'an or Kur'an. This method is useful to those who know what it means but this book follows the old fashion of writing the best phonetic approximations according to ordinary English spelling.

Clearly the problem is not a trivial one.

News

Journal: Spongiform encephalopathies are here to stay

Journal by jsac
State officials are raising an alert about the possibility of the spread of mad elk disease outside of Colorado (where it is common in the wild) to the rest of the nation.

State officials here fear that some elk that may be infected with a fatal illness were sold to private ranches in as many as 15 states and could spread the disease to the wild elk and deer throughout the nation.

The fact of the matter is that some sort of encephalopathy is waiting to happen in the U.S. -- meat industry practices assure it. We can only hope that it will be a visible and diagnosable one like Mad Cow disease, rather than a quiet one that isn't obviously a neuropathy. For more information -- enough to turn you vegetarian, if you're sensible -- read Mad Cow U.S.A.: Could the Nightmare Happen Here? by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber.

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