Noted Archives

Breaking: Small Landmass Discovered Adjacent to Connecticut

This just sort of struck me as funny.

Self-Transcendence Begins With Learning How To Spell “Tabasco”

Is there a record for “most 11-foot birch trees eaten outside of a Harry Crews novel”?

Googlin’ Goeglein: The Diff

So, when I saw this (linked from the indispensable Instaputz), I knew what I had to do. That is, I knew what I should probably not waste 25 minutes doing, but was about to do anyway.

A while back, I wrote a Movable Type plugin that automatically keeps track of various versions of blog entries and templates. The coolest feature, loosely adapted from an old Python script by Aaron Swartz, lets you do a “diff” (i.e. “what are the differences?”) between two versions, and converts it to a visual display in HTML. (It uses the Perl module Algorithm::Diff for the actual comparison.)

When I was testing this code, I was always looking for examples of slightly different versions of a piece of text. It turns out that the ideal test case for this application is... plagiarism! So I did this not only because it’s fun to call out plagiarists but to see how the plugin handled it. There are some oddities, as you’ll see (mostly related to punctuation, which the algorithm doesn’t quite know how to handle), but by and large, both the plagiarism and the revisions are pretty clear.

Herewith, some pieces of “Education: Ideas worth defending, honesty of reflective thought” as originally written by Jeffrey Hart and lightly revised by Tim Goeglein:

A notable Professor professor of Philosophy philosophy at Dartmouth, Dartmouth College in the last century, Eugene Rosenstock-Hussey often Rosenstock-Hussey, expressed the matter succinctly, succinctly. His wisdom is not only profound but also worth pondering in this new century. He said, “The goal of education,” he would say, “is education is to form the Citizen. And the Citizen is a person who, if need be, can re-found his civilization.”

He meant that that, I think, in quite large a large sense. He did not mean that you had to master all the specialties you can think of.

He meant that of, but rather to be an educated man or woman, you need needed to be familiar with the large and indispensable components of your — this — our civilization.

This certainly does not mean that you should not study other cultures and civilizations. It does mean that to be a Citizen citizen of this one one, you should be aware of what it is and where it — we — came from.

It can scarcely hardly be challenged that the United States of America is part of the narrative of European history. It owes little or nothing to Confucius or Laotse or to Chief Shaka or to the Aztecs. At the margin it owes a bit to the American Indians, but not a great deal — corn, tobacco, some legendary material. But Europe is overwhelmingly the source. And source, and some parts of Europe more than others: Our language, literature, legal tradition, political arrangements derive, and demonstrably so, demonstrably, from England. This Britain-America connection is central.

There have been many ways of answering the question, “What question: What is Europe?” But a Europe? A handy way to think of the matter is the paradigm of “Athens” and “Jerusalem.” In this paradigm, those terms designate both the two cities we have all heard of, and of but also two kinds of mind.

The The tradition designated “Athens” is associated with philosophy and with critical exercise of mind. mind, with reason. The tradition associated with “Jerusalem” is associated with monotheism. monotheism, with faith.

On the side of “Athens” Athens, you will would want to learn something about Homer, who in many ways laid the basis of Greek philosophy, and you will would need to meet Plato, Aristotle, Socrates — the three greatest Greek philosophers — as well as the Greek dramatists, historians, architects and sculptors.

Over in “Jerusalem” Jerusalem, you will would find the epic account of the career of monotheism as it worked its way out in history. The scriptures scriptures, like Homer, have their epic heroes, and, heroes — Moses most dramatically — and like the Greek tradition in some ways ways, they refine and internalize the epic virtues. “Athens” Athens and “Jerusalem” interact Jerusalem, reason and faith, interact, and much flows from this interaction that results in the interaction. fullest expression of the educated man and woman.

You willThe intellectually exciting thing is that with Athens and Jerusalem as the foundations, you would follow all of this down through the centuries, through Virgil and (the great Roman poet), Augustine, and Dante, in Shakespeare, Dante (who is perhaps the greatest poet of Western culture), Shakespeare (who is probably our greatest playwright), Cervantes, and Montaigne, Moliere, Voltaire, Goethe and on to modernity. “The best that has been thought and said,” as Matthew Arnold called it. The mind of Europe as T.S. Eliot put it, “from Homer to the present.”

In a way, it’s true

This probably won’t last long on the Wikipedia page for Glenn Beck (who recently expressed satisfaction at the burning of the homes of the America-hating people of Southern California), so here’s a screenshot:

Not that I endorse defacing Wikipedia pages, but you have to admit that’s funny. (Originally it was “two words”... “I am”.)

Oh well, as long as Roberto Benigni isn’t involved

From a Slate article about the new trend toward calling political liars liars:

The Fact Checker column, written by longtime Post reporter Michael Dobbs with the assistance of researcher Alice Crites, applies what it calls “the Pinocchio Test” to statements. Following a sliding scale, the column gives between one and four Pinocchios to untrue statements, with four Pinocchios reserved for “Whoppers.”

Right, because the more Pinocchio lied, the more he... um... cloned himself? Shouldn’t the units of the scale be “inches of nose” or something?

Probably another social-networking site with a really small niche audience

I just came across this ad on one of my favorite sites.

I wanted to click on it, but I’m 34.

The ARC of the Covenant

In the course of my obsessive self-Googling online travels since the release of The End as I Know It, I’ve come across a number of the book’s bound galleys, or advance reading copies, for sale.

The term “galley” is an artifact from the bygone days of movable type (not to be confused with Movable Type). I can’t speak confidently about the historical usage of “advance (reading) copy” versus “(bound) galley,” but my impression is that they’re generally synonymous these days.

One copy on eBay in particular caught my eye. It was billed as a “SEALED ARC.” The seller, in fact, seems to specialize in these. His store features dozens of “UNREAD NEW CONDITION SEALED IN PLASTIC” ARCs, each listed with the boastful challenge:

If YOU can find another SEALED proof copy let ME know where!

This sounds good, right? I mean, if you happen to be in the market for an advance copy of a book, wouldn’t it make sense to go with a sealed one over an unsealed one?

There’s only one problem. Publishers don’t seal these copies in plastic before sending them out. The galleys of my book certainly weren’t individually wrapped in anything, and I’ve never heard of pre-publication copies of any book being treated this way. In other words, this guy is just getting his hands on advance copies of books, not necessarily unread or even in mint condition, and shrinkwrapping them himself. YOU can’t find another SEALED proof copy because SEALING proof copies is sort of a WEIRD thing to DO.

I should point out that he doesn’t appear to be misrepresenting the books’ condition, nor is he asking or getting large sums for them. But the remainder of the boilerplate listing for each book, even if not strictly misleading about the item itself, paints an interesting picture of the book-editing process.

For those of you who don’t already know, the rarest form of a published collectible is an uncorrected, unedited, advance proof. These hard to find collectible proofs are only sent to editors or reviewers.

Plus bookstores, parents, in-laws, friends, aunts, uncles, and my landlord. And as for their being sent to editors—at least in my case, the text of TEAIKI had already been fully edited, revised, and copyedited by the time the galleys were produced. I’m sure there are non-fiction books, and maybe a handful of novels by perfectionists, that undergo more substantial changes once in galleys, but they’re hardly “unedited.”

These books are sent to editors, the language is cleaned up, the stories are toned down or eliminated entirely.- many of them are written in (not this one) and then many of the copies are destroyed.

Emphasis mine. I don’t think any editor, proofreader, or author would be too happy about having to make corrections, let alone the sort of freewheeling censorship and wholesale rewrites implied here, in the margins of a bound paperback book. I was sent “page proofs,” identical to what went into the galleys but printed on letter-size paper, so I could make any final revisions. And again, by that time the changes were few and very small, and my editor and copyeditor (only one of each) had long since finished their work.

Finally let me stress that because so very few proof copies are made the price on a rare proof (marked and stamped as such with pre-publishing data etc.) can only go through the roof. (A Harry Botter [sic] proof copy recently sold on Ebay for over $1000- the first edition of the same book is still available in bookstores for around $12).

Well, for one thing, the Harry Potter books are (famously) kept under lock and key and relentlessly embargoed to prevent their contents from leaking out before the publication date, so I’m betting there aren’t a lot of galleys floating around in the first place. For another thing, they’re the most popular books in the world. Somehow I don’t see my ARC of, say, Get in the Game by Cal Ripken, Jr. ever fetching a similar price. Despite the value-added shrinkwrap.

Bid now!! Before it’s to late!!

It’s a paperback copy of a novel you can now purchase in hardcover for a few dollars more!! And it has typos!!

Library of Congress Classifications

When I first saw the copyright page at the front of the finished version of The End as I Know It, I was amused by the Library of Congress subject headings the book had been assigned.

1. Puppeteers—Fiction. 2. Year 2000 date conversion (Computer systems)—Fiction.

The second one came as no surprise, but it had never occurred to me that my book might be pigeonholed as a “puppeteer novel.”

As for the other Y2K fiction, I actually own most of the novels listed, as well as a few others. (This was the first I had heard of Format C:, though.) I sought out and ordered them in 2002 when I started working on TEAIKI. As you might imagine, they were quite affordable on the used-and-remaindered market—I believe one or two of them were selling for literally $.01. The designers at Doubleday did a great job using the covers of several Y2K books as a background for my title page and section heading pages. I’ve at least attempted to read all the pre-millennial novels I own, although a couple proved unreadable. It’s an interesting short-lived subgenre that I may write about in more detail at some point.

But back to the puppeteers. It’s not exactly a rich literary tradition I’ve joined; there are two (2) other books listed in the category. One of them is a romance novel called—wait for it—Heart on a String. The other one is The Furies by Fernanda Eberstadt. Before you read about it on Amazon, take a look at its full set of LOC subject headings, which I must say do a slightly better job than TEAIKI’s classifications at communicating the novel’s content:

Married women--Fiction. Inheritance and succession--Fiction. Interfaith marriage--Fiction. Marital conflict--Fiction. Puppeteers--Fiction. Jewish men--Fiction. Divorce--Fiction. Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)--Fiction.

This thing writes itself!

Jim Croce eulogized a man who was “meaner than a junkyard dog.” But there was another Bad, Bad Leroy. LeRoy Neiman.

If someone asked you to write the stupidest possible lead-in to an anecdote about the Rockefellers, do you think you could do better than this?

Long before he became the czar of the breakfast sausage industry, country singer Jimmy Dean eulogized a coal miner in the 1962 chart topper, “Big Bad John.” John was big because, well, he was a big guy. He was bad because he was not to be trifled with and possessed a strength and courage that impressed his co-workers. But there was another John, a real life John, who established a reputation for being both big and bad but decidedly less admirable. This John wasn’t to be trifled with either. In fact, he was every bit as cunning and dangerous as the serpent that once served as the logo for the company he built, Standard Oil.

Big Bad John D. Rockefeller was not a lowly coal miner. He was America’s first billionaire...

That’s from Chapter 7 of Surviving Y2K.

I like to think I could make this stuff up, but fortunately I don’t need to try.

Don’t Get Me Wrong, I’m Mailing It Out Right Away

Has anyone else started getting chain letters recently—physical, printed (well, poorly photocopied) chain letters sent through the mail? I’ve gotten two of basically the same one in the past couple of months. Prior to this, I hadn’t seen a non-virtual chain letter since probably the early 1980s.

In the most recent one I received, from someone in Tehachapi, CA, the photocopying is so many generations removed from the original as to be barely legible. The name of the company from which you’re supposed to order a mailing list, and the price of that list, are in fact illegible:

I presume it’s “Data Line” and it sort of looks like $40.00, but it could also almost be “Dalai Lama” and $110.00. I’m tempted to call the 800 number just to see if a Tibetan answers.

Continue reading “Don’t Get Me Wrong, I’m Mailing It Out Right Away” »

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