osprey_archer: (books)
Today's Caldecott book: Nonny Hogrogian's One Fine Day. Which is about a fox! I like books about foxes.

***

On a completely different note, [livejournal.com profile] lycoris linked me to this glorious video of Jurassic Park, High Heels Edition, which has everyone in the original Jurassic Park trilogy click-click-clicking around in heels. EVERYONE. Just look at those little tiny heels on the baby velociraptors.

Also Ian Malcolm in knee-high red leather heels. ABSOLUTELY THE HEELS HE WOULD WEAR. ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES.
osprey_archer: (books)
This week's Caldecott winner is May I Bring a Friend?, but before we discuss it, a pause for Caldecott related business. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is having an exhibit called Make Way for Ducklings: The Art of Robert McCloskey, an artist who won the Caldecott twice (most notably for, well, Make Way for Ducklings.

If only I had a teleportation device! I'd love to see the exhibition. There's a slideshow of some of the highlights on the website, but it only whetted my appetite.

***

In any case! This week's book is Beatrice Schenk de Regniers' May I Bring a Friend? (illustrated by Beni Montresor), which I felt a bit dubious about - it's one of those books with black line drawings filled in with colors like a coloring book, and I wasn't feeling the color palette chosen. (Pink, orange, yellow, and red, with splashes of olive green.)

However, the story is totally charming. The king and queen invite a young boy to tea, and in response he asks, "May I bring a friend?" Well, the king and queen have excellent manners, so of course they say yes, and the little fellow brings... a giraffe.

One might expect this to put them off further invitations, but in fact they keep inviting him, and he brings a a hippo, an elephant, a troop of monkeys, and a pride of lions in quick succession. Cute and funny.

But I think my very favorite thing are the little vignette illustrations of the king and queen when they're alone together: picking flowers, dancing, fishing, catching butterflies, rolling a ball of yarn together. (The king holds a great bundle of yarn on his outstretched arms as the queen rolls it up.) Now there's a happy couple.
osprey_archer: (books)
This both is and is not a War and Peace post. I’ve gotten to the part of the book where Natasha falls ill following her broken engagement, and I was feeling a bit smug, as modern people are wont to do when confronted with the medical incompetence of the past, while Tolstoy snipes about the fact that doctors are useful purely for their placebo effect: the doctors “were of use to Natasha because they rubbed her ‘bobo’ and assured her that it would soon be over if the coachman went to the chemist’s in the Arbat and got some powders and pills in pretty boxes for a ruble and seventy kopecks, and if, without fail, she took these powders dissolved in boiled water and intervals of two hours, neither more not less.”

But then I came across this terrifying article, Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science, the gist of which is that modern medical research is also pretty awful at figuring out what’s actually wrong with people and how to fix it: “80 percent of non-randomized studies (by far the most common type) turn out to be wrong.”

Eighty percent! Forsooth!

The article goes into some depth about why this is so. Basically, a study that suggest drug X or nutrient Y can cause dramatic health improvements net researchers funding and career advancement, and therefore researchers desperately want those findings. They aren’t usually lying outright; they’re led astray by their own wishful thinking. And drug companies will test and retest a drug until they get a study that shows it having an effect.

The article is based on the meta-analysis of John Ioannidis, who offers the cheerful advice that the layperson should just ignore medical research. Most of it’s wrong, and anyway the body is an immensely complex system and we barely understand it. There is no one best diet or exercise regime, no magic bullet to ensure longevity, so just chillax.

From one point of view this is cheerful advice: no more fretting over dueling studies about whether a glass of red wine with dinner will lengthen your life or hasten your demise! But, like Natasha, I think that most of us like to have faith that someone out there knows how to fix what ails us, and from that point of view none of this is cheerful at all.

***

In other War and Peace news, Napoleon is invading Russia, and Pierre, God bless his strange soul, has become interested in numerology. By dint of adding up the letters in his name (using a different variation of his name each time), Pierre has discovered that his name adds up to 666 - the mark of the beast - just like Napoleon’s! Which means that he must in some mystical way be connected to Napoleon!!!

Oh Pierre. I love Pierre. He really is not the brightest candle in the box, though.
osprey_archer: (window)
One of my friends linked this article on Facebook, and I thought it was fascinating: The War on Stupid People, about the downside of meritocracy - I almost want to put the word meritocracy into scare quotes, given that one of the article's main points is that meritocracies define merit as intelligence and intelligence as academic success, which is a limited and distorting (and sneakily classist) definition.

The whole article is worth reading, but I think the final paragraph sums up the gist of it:

When Michael Young, a British sociologist, coined the term meritocracy in 1958, it was in a dystopian satire. At the time, the world he imagined, in which intelligence fully determined who thrived and who languished, was understood to be predatory, pathological, far-fetched. Today, however, we’ve almost finished installing such a system, and we have embraced the idea of a meritocracy with few reservations, even treating it as virtuous. That can’t be right. Smart people should feel entitled to make the most of their gift. But they should not be permitted to reshape society so as to instate giftedness as a universal yardstick of human worth.

I think perhaps Michael Young erred in calling his dystopian system a meritocracy. Doesn't the rule of the most meritorious sound like a good thing? Don't we all want to be ruled by people who are smart and good and just?

But meritocracy in practice generally means "the rule of people who got straight As," which may measure smartness but certainly doesn't measure goodness or justice. And surely a good and just society wouldn't hoard all the fulfilling and decently-paying jobs for people who won the intelligence lottery, anyway.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
One of my Facebook friends linked to this poem about old age: Old Age Requires the Greatest Courage.

It's awfully good.
osprey_archer: (books)
Because I just can't resist lists of forgotten women's novels: Eight Classic Female Bildungsromane You Should Know About If You Don't Already.

I daresay that most everyone who is interested in this sort of thing has probably heard of Louisa May Alcott's Moods (this list finally cracked me into going to Amazon and getting a Kindle copy; it's free if you're interested), and I've read about a couple of the others, but I had never heard of, for instance, Constance Fenimore Woolson's Anne, which looks delightful. I downloaded that one too, and considered getting Ruth Hall and The Morgesons as well, but there is such a thing as getting too many books at once, so I've set those aside for now. It's always nice to know that Kindle has a nearly endless supply of nineteenth century novels that I can plunder later.

(I also, while searching The Toast for that article, found this charming excerpt from one of Teddy Roosevelt's letters.)

Origami!

Nov. 11th, 2015 09:00 pm
osprey_archer: (cheers)
I just had to post this link: 16 Amazing Pieces to Celebrate World Origami Day. The fox! The unicorn! The black rider! The dragon!

Pyrography

Mar. 13th, 2015 11:13 pm
osprey_archer: (art)
Well, this is cool: Pyrografie, the art of drawing portraits with sparklers.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
Looking for something adorable to brighten up your evening? How about A Tiny Valentine's Date for Tiny Hamsters?
osprey_archer: (window)
I just had to link this hilarious alternate history article from The Onion: Presidential Castrato Brought into Oval Office to Soothe Obama's Nerves.

I'm not sure why this article appeals to me so much, except that it's so strange and random (like, who even came up with this idea?), and yet the article totally commits. The Washington castrati are a tradition going back to 1798! JFK had risers installed for his castrato! Nixon fired six castrati, loosing strings of profanity as they went!
osprey_archer: (books)
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Emily Arsenault’s The Broken Teaglass, which I read all in one evening because I needed so much to know what happened happened next. It reminded me a bit of Barbara Michaels’ Houses of Stone, because both books are above all mysteries about texts - texts that ultimately lead back to a dead body, but the corpse remains secondary to the text. (It occurs to me that there is something of this quality in The Silkworm, too.)

This has rapidly become my very favorite type of mystery, and I have probably read the only two in existence. WOE.

I also read Oliver James’ Affluenza, because read the first couple of chapters and the conclusion in a bookstore in London. Having now read the bits in the middle as well, I can testify that the first couple of chapters and the conclusion are all anyone really needs. James has his thesis: that the modern obsession with celebrity and wealth, downgrading of the importance of emotional ties, and the concomitant belief in watered-down Social Darwinism, are causing a rise in mental health problems among people in the developed world (particularly in countries with an ideological commitment to the American vision of capitalism).

And that is pretty much all he has. The middle part of the book is mostly portraits of people and cultures that he met in his travels, which all seem to fold neatly back into his thesis - even if they seem to fly in the face of it, he always seemed to be able to rationalize them back within his theoretical apparatus. I began to get the feeling no facts would dent his belief in his thesis, which undermined his credibility.

And, finally, William Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, largely because I liked his article The Ivy League, Mental Illness, and the Meaning of Life - which, by the by, puts forth a similar argument to Affluena, although Deresiewicz focuses on the negative effects of the sense that love is conditional on achievement (and the perfectionism that results from that sense), rather than consumerism.

Most of his portraits of Austen’s characters are spot-on. I do think he’s a little too hard on Fanny Price and Elinor Dashwood, but then I realize my feelings about them are out of sync with everyone else’s, and generally the book is a pleasure to read. But I don’t think I learned anything really new about Austen’s novels - certainly not like I did from John Mullen’s What Matters in Austen?, which I recommend. I don’t always agree with Mullen’s character judgments (I think he’s too hard on Mr. Woodhouse, for instance), but he makes his points so thoughtfully that it makes me think about why I disagree.

What I’m Reading Now

Hilary McKay’s Caddy’s World, which - woe! - is the last of the Casson books currently published. What will I do without my Casson family fix?? Perhaps another one will come out. But in the meantime I am reading this one a chapter a day, to savor it.

What I Plan to Read Next

I’m thinking about reading William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, although it’s possible that he summarized the whole thing in the above-linked article and I needn’t read it in book form. On the other hand, if there were ever a time to really dig into the path to a meaningful life, now is probably it.

I’ve also put holds on William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, on the theory that six years have passed since I’ve read Faulkner so maybe I will appreciate him more now; and Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, which I tried to read earlier this summer and stalled out on. Maybe it will go better this time around.
osprey_archer: (Veronica Mars)
Day 21 - Favorite ship.

Logan/Veronica. This is the only ship I have ever written a manifesto for, because my feelings about the eternal rightness of LoVe are just that strong and will not be swayed by even articles like Femslash Friday: Veronica Mars, which builds an extremely cogent case for Veronica/Mac. I find myself agreeing with all its points - Logan really is kind of a racist jackass, and though it’s particularly pronounced in season one, but it’s not a character trait that ever exactly goes away.

But at the same time: just no. Veronica/Mac might be healthier, but when has Veronica ever valued healthy above, well, any of the other things that are important to her? Veronica and Logan share a darkness that Mac doesn’t have. I could see Logan and Veronica going all Bonnie and Clyde together; I don’t for a minute believe that Mac would agree to go Thelma and Louise with Veronica.

Which might be another point in favor of Veronica/Mac, except Veronica wouldn’t let Mac’s objections stop her anymore than she has ever listened to her father’s, even though she adores and respects him in equal measure. She would just go on her crime spree alone.

Or she would try, anyway. Until Logan showed up and was all, "You look like you could use a partner."

And this is why the movie works so well for me: no matter how bad things are between them, I absolutely believe that they would both drop everything to help each other whenever the chips are down.
osprey_archer: (friends)
A couple of links of adorableness! First, one of my high school friends is running a kickstarter for contemporary dollhouse furniture, which looks simultaneously classy and adorable. (Is that a contradiction?) If you like dollhouse furniture, pop over and take a look! If not, pass it on to your dollhouse-loving friends.

In slightly different adorable news, my friend Micky linked me to this awesome new webcomic: Breaking Cat News, which is about a trio of cats who report on happenings around the house like a news team. Breaking news! The woman has a cupcake. Will she share the cupcake? We’ll keep you posted!
osprey_archer: (window)
Another link, because naturally I found another cool thing within about fifteen minutes of posting my links yesterday. Do You Want to Go to Starbucks? is a surprisingly touching parody of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" I know by the time I watched half the song, I wanted to shout, "You don't have to be alone anymore! I'll go to Starbucks with you!"

Links

May. 9th, 2014 12:16 pm
osprey_archer: (cheers)
I come bearing links! Links of hilarity!

First, WTF Bad Romance Covers, a hilarious tumblr of, well, bad romance covers. I found this last night, and some of the entries made me laugh so hard that I couldn't breathe. Objectified Scotsman Thursday is particularly hilarious. (What is it with romance writers and the Scots?)

Second, Flaws Only a Protagonist Could Have, which is a delicious send-up of the non-flaw flaws that writers often give their protagonists. For instance:

She wasn’t perfect. She had two different colored eyes, which is definitely a flaw and not a magnetic, compelling, unusual form of beauty.

Or this one:

I’ve always been different. I like books and animals better than people. Why, I don’t know. Maybe because books and animals are physically incapable of talking to me or having needs that supersede my own, so I can be in total control of them. Books can’t judge you or hurt you. They also can’t talk or eat or build a life with you, but whatever.

Or this one, which may be my favorite:

“I just want to be normal,” she said, even though she had amazing powers and a super-family and was mega-gorgeous and better than normal in every way and the entire book would be terrible if she were normal and she had no conception of what normal was to begin with.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
Links! Links for everyone!

Musical Instruments Photographed from the Inside. These are magical.

20 MRI scans of fruits and vegetables. These are both mesmerizing and vaguely terrifying. It's surprisingly hard to guess which fruit is which.

These 22 Magical Photographs of Foxes Will Make Your Day Just That Little Bit Brighter. Because foxes! I particularly like the fox licking the window. And the fennec fox. And the one sleeping at the base of the moss-covered tree...

Lace & Petticoats, a 10-minute documentary about Lolita fashion. The whole thing is interesting, and parasol duel at 4:25 is especially awesome.
osprey_archer: (friends)
I have a song to share! A song with a ridiculous yet awesome music video, because that is how I roll. Why is she riding a horse around the countryside wearing a giant dress and an awesome coat? Why is there a girl with dragonfly wings? Why is this song so awesome

Oh hear me when I vow
that I will always be your soldier
I'll be marching by your side
I'm not deserting,
I'll be there for you
Oh please please believe in
This oath of allegiance

Friends, I give you Marit Bergman's "I Will Always Be Your Soldier."



Some more choice quotes:

Where ever you go
I hope that you know
that I'm at your command

Oh I will be strong for you
I will belong to you
Carry you, bleed for you
Run for miles

I want all the story versions of this. The sisters version, the friends version, the lovers version, the one where they actually are liege lady and soldier (and might also be any of the above). All of them.

Hats!

Feb. 11th, 2014 12:37 pm
osprey_archer: (cheers)
And a link, because it made me smile: The hats of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Were I a monarch, I like to think that I too would enliven state occasions with bizarre and delightful hats. Preferably with antlers.

ETA: I have been informed that these are photoshop. D: D: D: Well then, the place for monarch with the most awesomest hats is still wide open! Get on it, monarchs of the world!

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