Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mid-Week Quick Takes

Doing a post composed of fragments had seemed a good response to our generally fragmentary lifestyle of late -- of course the difficulty is, a fragmentary lifestyle also makes it difficult to recall various writable snippets long enough to get them down.

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While not usually an early adopter, I did indeed fall to temptation and pick up a 3G iPad the other night. It is indeed very useful when learning a new city and house-hunting. During the last week I'd staged a series of practice commutes where I'd leave work at the usual time and head out immediately to one of the neighborhoods we're considering looking for houses in, thus finding out how the rush-our commute is. The first couple of these expeditions were performed pre-iPad, with the result that I'd get there, drive around aimlessly for a bit (perhaps seeing by chance one house that looked familiar from and then drive back. With the iPad, it became easy to look up the most interesting houses, drive around to them, pull up images of the inside, etc. Very useful.

Other uses of the iPad are subject to a bit of learning curve. I was seriously banging my head against the wall over the difficulty to getting insertion points where I wanted them sans mouse or arrow keys, until I found out that the odd little magnifier the pops up if you tap and hold on a piece of text allows you to precision-place your cursor.

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While I'd imagined that I'd have huge amounts of time for reading, writing, etc., single existence during the week (at least when interspersed with looking at neighborhood and making the two hour drive to Cincinnati twice a week) has not actually proved to result in as much free time as I had at first imagined. Though in the first couple days when internet wasn't even connected yet I did venture out once to Blockbuster and rent a DVD. Not wanting to watch anything MrsDarwin and I had been planning to see together, I tried Sin City, which some of my comics-oriented friends had recommended. As a piece of neo-noir and art direction, it was fairly interesting, but for whatever reason it interfered with my suspension of disbelief that all women in Sin City are apparently employed as either prostitutes or strippers, and all men are police, criminals, politicians or clergy. And given that absolutely no one in Sin City appears to put any stock in religion, why does the last category even exist in the first place?

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Suspension of disbelief is an odd thing. Something which bothered me all through reading A Soldier of the Great War, despite the fact it was a fairly minor detail from the first 20 pages, was that the main character (supposedly someone with great familiarity with the outdoors, nature, etc.) tells another character when preparing for a night walk that they should take a rest and then begin their hike when the moon rises because will rise late, but it will be a full moon and provide plenty of light.

Well, of course, when the moon is full it always rises at sunset. You can't have a full moon that rises late at night. Given that the book relies in many places on forms of absurdity or exaggeration, this initial, unintentional mistake put me at a distance from the work which later instances of unreality tended to exacerbate. Rather than evoking deeper points, many of the instances of absurdity or exaggeration later on simply left me feeling like the book was unmoored from a sense of the real.

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Though in many ways the discipline of pricing is similar in all consumer-based businesses (business to business pricing is similar, but works a bit differently) it's been interesting making the change from pricing computers and consumer electronics to pricing fast food. I don't know if it's just that technology has achieved a sort of second-nature status for me, but it seems to me that marketers in the restaurant business make it their business to know a lot more about the details of producing food than marketers at my old company bothered to think about technology.

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I've been taking advantage of all my driving time between Columbus and Cincinnati to work quickly through some audio courses from The Teaching Company which I'd got hold of a while back. For some reason, I'd always been heavily biased against the idea of audio courses -- the idea just seemed so middle-brow. But some years back someone lent us a copy of How To Listen To And Appreciate Great Music, which is one of The Teaching Company's flagship courses, and we were very, very impressed. Since then I've managed to borrow from the library or pick up (on sale or used) a number of their courses and while the quality and biases vary (as with real college courses) I've found most of them quite interesting.


Julie D. said...

Your point about the moon is the sort of detail that always ruins things for Hannah (eldest daughter and nature lover) as well. She is often driven crazy by movies where the moon is in the wrong phase. You'd be surprised by how many movies there are where there is actually some off-handed reference that allows one to be driven crazy thusly.

Anonymous said...

Getting the moon wrong also had me rolling my eyes during "Apocalypto", since there's a solar eclipse in that film, and then a full moon just a couple days later. Sheesh.

Also, darwin wrote, "all women in Sin City are apparently employed as either prostitutes or strippers," which is generally true, but there is also Marv's parole officer, so apparently the cop profession can also extend to women.


Kyle Cupp said...

I hadn't noticed the factual inaccuracy about the moon in SOTGW. I don't think it would have bothered me if I had.

I'd be interested in knowing if Helprin himself was ignorant of this fact or if he was well aware of it but gave the line to Alessandro with a purpose.

Darwin said...


I'm assuming that Halprin actually got it wrong, as Alessandro makes a fairly big deal of it, and then the moon comes up just as predicted. So it's not as if Alessandro gets it wrong in the context of the story. I suppose one could hypothesize that Helprin intentionally set the novel in a world in which the moon works differently, but that seems a bit odd.

It's hard for me to explain why that mistake stuck with me, though astronomical mistakes do really bug me (I guess for family history reasons -- it's why I found X-Files totally unwatchable) other than that the story as a whole involves a lot of absurd or unlikely events -- the Austrian noblewoman who grows so huge she takes up a whole room, the cavalry unit which rides around through the entire war pretending to fight battles but never doing so, the secretary who sends supplies and death warrants out at random to fit his ideas of mathematical perfection, the accountant who fakes accounts in beautiful ledgers to fit his sense of aesthetics, etc. It seemed to me that all of these were designed to evoke a deeper reality through an unreal description, and yet they mostly just rang false to me.


True, though the parole office apprently spends he spare time wandering around topless in front of her parolees (or at least Marv), so she seems at least to be a cop with a stripper sensibility.

Darwin said...

[should be "her spare time"]

Darwin said...

Though I have to admit: While there were elements of ASOTGW that just felt odd or untrue to me, it's a curiously magnetic book and really sticks with you. I think it was around three years ago that I read it, but it seems much more recent.

TS said...

Mrs. D, you haven't aged a day since I last saw you. Neither has Darwin, but then I just saw him last month. :-)