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Looking for a lost saint

April 2, 2012 in Culture / History, Shoutout by snark

Zinzin is trying to answer the question, Who was St. George William Joseph Stock? Philosophy scholar, author of numerous books and articles, and whip-smart flagellator, this odd “Saint” has gone missing from the historical record. Click over to Zinzin to read this missing person account, and if you know the whereabouts of Mr. Stock’s life story, add it to the comments of that post.

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Telmetale of Stem or Stone

March 17, 2012 in Culture / History, Literature by snark

Happy St. Patrick’s day. Zinzin has a post featuring a video (audio with pictures) of James Joyce Reading Finnegans Wake, from 1929, with the text to follow along. But first, and before you quaff or even lay eyes on your first Guinness of the day, make sure you have a hearty and nutritious breakfast:

Night now!
Tell me, tell me, tell me, elm! Night night! Telmetale of stem or
stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters
of. Night!

~James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, p.216 lines 2-5

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In praise of all things eleven

November 11, 2011 in Culture / History, Music by snark

Happy Eleven Eleven Eleven day (11/11/11)! This also turns out to be Nigel Tufnel Day, in honor of the Spinal Tap guitarist who famously cranked up his amps as far as they would go, then took it up a notch from there.

These go to eleven!

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Canada Obscura

October 31, 2011 in Culture / History by snark

Since Halloween is here, it’s time to once again face our fears and contemplate our scary neighbor to the north, Canada. In honor of the Halloweenery that has engulfed North America on this festive Day Before the Day of the Dead, we offer a primer on some of the more esoteric Halloween traditions unique to the land up north:

In Canada people welcome trick-or-treators by placing pumpkins called jack-o’-lanterns in their windows.
Also in Canada it is bad luck for a black cat to cross your path, enter your home, or even enter your ship.

In Canada people give trick-or-treaters sweets to make sure they are not played a trick on.

Children make Jack-o’-lanterns for hallowe’en.

Dressing up as witches, ghosts and beasts for trick-or-treating is done also.

I know, I know, it sounds like Jabberwocky to us readers in the USofA, and seems to make no sense whatsoever. You’ll just have to trust my sources that in Canada it’s all perfectly logical.

So, a Happy Halloween to you then, eh?

BONUS MATERIAL: As an extra quasi-holiday featurette, I’ve created the following poem, “Canadian Halloween”, from the 69 words quoted above, put into random order using a random number generator:

CANOLA INHALED ANEW
enter witches
they sweets path a In trick-or-treaters trick
as make is people enter make
by your is called Canada

pumpkins people
cat luck and jack-o’-lanterns black
not home your it done in your for hallowe’en
Jack-o’-lanterns Canada
even their for your to Children in played

In Also or on also
placing sure ship up are Dressing welcome
give to a bad beasts
Canada trick-or-treators
ghosts windows cross for

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Get ready for an explosion of branded Internets

June 20, 2011 in Culture / History, Names/Naming by snark

Whatever you think about the domain name system, it’s been pretty effective in allowing the World Wide Web to expand so rapidly over the past two decades. And for most companies, “.com” has been THE place to park your brand. But that may all change soon.

ICANN, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the non-profit, global coordinator of the Internet’s naming system. ICANN’s global Internet regulators met today in Singapore to “finalize rules for a major expansion of ‘generic top-level domains,’ that will clear the way for new offerings like .law, .coke or .nyc. Sites with those endings are expected to start rolling out late next year.” CNN.com tells the story in Forget .com, here’s .coke:

“Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”

Now, before you get all excited and start dreaming of registering “.wordlab” or “.snark” domain names, note the “gotcha”:

Crawford thinks dot-brand sites will be a hit with major companies. In addition to marketing benefits, they could help on the security front: HSBC, for example, could tell customers that a purported HSBC site isn’t legitimate unless it ends in .hsbc. And a company like Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) could market products at cellphones.verizon and store locations at losangeles.verizon.

But these benefits don’t come cheaply — or easily. ICANN charges at $185,000 per domain application, which Crawford says typically must include about 150 pages of policy documents.

Technical setup takes another $100,000 or so, he says, and upkeep can cost an additional $100,000 each year.

So there you have it — only “major companies” who can afford the cost and regulatory overhead will be able to buy into this, and the result will likely be more brand clutter and confusion, with new domains like .coke, .pepsi, .verizon, .hsbc flooding the Internet with millions more corporate websites. No longer would users just go to coke.com to find out — wait, why do users go there? — whatever they need to find out, but potentially there might be thousands of separate .coke sites. Any large company could basically build its own Internet now — imagine a self-contained, Chromewashed .google empire. And forget about just one “iCloud” for Apple — they could create a mega-cloud of .apple websites.

In addition to companies, non-profits, NGO’s, citizen groups, artists and any sort of non-corporate entity that can raise the funds could also create its own self-contained micro-Internet. Imagine legions of fans registering .gaga, .bieber, .kanye or .diddy domains for their fanblogs, with all that registration money going directly to the artists instead of GoDaddy. That is, if there’s anyone left who wants to have their own website, when a Facebook page is probably all they need. We’ll see.

It’s enough to make your head spin. And in the not-too-distant future, people will misplace websites and domains the way they misplace car keys. Honey, where did you park my files? Was it at cloud.apple, icloud.apple, app.apple, cloudapp.apple, cumulus-cloud.apple, docs.google, mydocs.google or vault.amazon?

Of course, there will be apps to help you remember where you put your digital life. Oh-yes-there-will-be.apps.

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Celebrating great names: Chardonnay Hooker

July 31, 2010 in Culture / History, Names/Naming by snark

I was briefly watching the local news last night, which I rarely do, and I caught a glimpse of this interview during a story about Southern California wildfires:

Chardonnay Hooker

Now that’s a great name! Like a Bond Girl. And kudos to Chardonnay for not being shy about having it and putting herself out there. And good luck battling those wildfires!

For the rest of us who aren’t so lucky namewise, here is a Bond Girl name generator to help spice up our personal nomenclature. My Bond Girl names are Tawnie Small and Yoko Dos, both of which I quite like.

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Welcome to Spyburbia, USA

June 29, 2010 in Culture / History, Slang by snark

Telefon“They couldn’t have been spies…Look what she did with the hydrangeas.

Spyburbia, baby — you heard it here first!

How do you fool so many in suburbia for so long? “She said they were from Canada.”

Yes Virginia, there really are spies everywhere, even in your neighborhood. Especially in your neighborhood, most likely. And if they say they’re from a mysterious blank spot on the globe called “Canada”, call the FBI immediately. [In Ordinary Lives, U.S. Sees the Work of Russian Agents]

Anyone remember that ’70s Charles Bronson B-movie classic, Telefon? As Wikipedia reminds us,

During the Cold War of the 1950s, the Soviet Union planted a number of long-term, deep-cover sleeper agents all over the United States, spies so thoroughly brainwashed that even they didn’t know they were agents; they could only be activated by a special code phrase (a line from Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” followed by their real given names). Their mission was to sabotage crucial parts of the civil and military infrastructure as a precursor to a possible US/USSR active conflict or war.

I think ol’ Bob Frost was probably one of those secret agents as well. Just look at this video — something just doesn’t look quite right:

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Happy Bloomsday 2010

June 16, 2010 in Culture / History, Literature by snark

Ulysses manuscript and Molly Bloom tattoo

Joyce's Ulysses in manuscript and "womanuscript"

Happy Bloomsday, everybody. These two images nicely bookend the history of James Joyce’s great Ulysses from original manuscript to a womanuscript of Molly Bloom’s climax. Yes!

[Images via The Guardian and George Szirtes]

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Great Recession stages of grief in songs of “can’t”

April 29, 2010 in Culture / History, Language by snark

The Great Recession of 2008-09 has so scarred us all, it seems fitting to process it culturally through the Stages of Grief. Inspired by this Wordlab Forum punnery that moved me from “quant” to “can’t”, I started thinking of songs whose titles include the word “can’t”, as in Can’t Buy Me Love, in terms of finance and the recent economic meltdown.

So to make all this cant even campier, let’s process our collective trauma over the Great Recession through the Sages of Grief in songs of “can’t”, leading off with an extra stage that sets-up our cultural addiction to the dream of spectacular profits:

1. Addiction — Show me the money!

You Can’t Resist It
Money Can’t Buy It
I Can’t Wait
I Can’t Decide
Can’t Say No
Can’t Stay Away
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Can’t Slow Down
Just Can’t Get Enough
I Can’t Help Myself
I Can’t Quit You Baby
Can’t Live Without You
I Just Can’t Help Believing
I Just Can’t Wait to Be King

2. Shock and disbelief — Housing prices can’t go down!

I Can’t Be Bothered
Can’t Believe It
Can’t Take It In
Can’t Happen Here
I Can’t Tell You Why
I Can’t Explain

3. Denial — It’s just a blip on the way to greater market value.

It Can’t Rain All the Time
Can’t Stop Me
Can’t Tell Me Nothing
You Can’t Take Me
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
Rudie Can’t Fail
I Can’t Go For That
Can’t Give Up Now
You Can’t Catch Me
You Can’t Bring Me Down
They Can’t Take That Away From Me

4. Anger — Bernie Madoff did what with my pension?!!!

I Can’t Stand the Rain
Can’t Stand You
U Can’t Touch This
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
I Can’t Outrun You
You Can’t Win
Can’t Stand It
I Can’t Stand It No More

5. Bargaining — Mr. Banker, will you renegotiate my mortgage?

Why Can’t You See
I Can’t Do It Alone
Why Can’t I?

6. Depression — We’re fucked, and soon we’ll be living in mud huts again.

Can’t Get You out of My Head
Can’t Keep It In
Can’t Stand Losing You
Can’t Get Over You
Can’t Cry Anymore
Can’t Go Back
Can’t Go On
Can’t Get There From Here
Can’t Let Go
Can’t Shake It
Can’t Find the Words
Can’t Get It Out of My Head
Can’t Sleep At Night
Can’t Finish What You Started
Can’t Get Out of What I’m Into
I Can’t Do This
Can’t Stop This Thing We Started
Can’t Stop This
Can’t Go Back Now
Can’t Stop the World
Can’t Let Go
Can’t Get Away
A Fire I Can’t Put Out

7. Acceptance — I don’t really even need a house, now that I have an iPad!

This Can’t Be Healthy
Can’t Deny It
I Can’t Deny
Can’t Have It All
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
You Can’t Turn the Tide
You Can’t Stop the Rain
We Can’t Help You
Can’t Be A Cowboy Forever

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Library of Congress acquires entire Twitter archive

April 14, 2010 in Culture / History by snark

Yep, it’s true. See if you can wrap your head around this. The great institution of All Things Worth Saving will now be saving for all eternity the archive of All Things Not Meant To Be Saved: How Tweet It Is!: Library Acquires Entire Twitter Archive. Says the LOC:

Have you ever sent out a “tweet” on the popular Twitter social media service?  Congratulations: Your 140 characters or less will now be housed in the Library of Congress.

That’s right.  Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That’s a LOT of tweets, by the way: Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions.

They go on to list some noteworthy tweets that may be worth remembering in ten thousand years and beyond:

Just a few examples of important tweets in the past few years include the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (http://twitter.com/jack/status/20), President Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election (http://twitter.com/barackobama/status/992176676), and a set of two tweets from a photojournalist who was arrested in Egypt and then freed because of a series of events set into motion by his use of Twitter (http://twitter.com/jamesbuck/status/786571964) and (http://twitter.com/jamesbuck/status/787167620).

At the current rate of 50 million tweets per day, that’s 18,250,000,000 tweets per year, or 3,832,500,000,000 tweets every 210 years, the amount of time since the Library of Congress was founded in 1800. Of course, once everybody on the planet is tweeting hundreds of times per day, along with their household pets, appliances, and spambots, there could be 50 billion tweets per day. So attention LOC librarians: time to sharpen those pencils and roll up your sleeves — you’re about to get real busy chasing stray tweets.