30 April 2007

seen pasted onto a lamppost somewhere in melbourne

Filed under: quotable quotes — bookweevil @ 7:50 am

the best things in life are not things


melmoth the wanderer

Filed under: currently reading — bookweevil @ 1:18 am

(1820), by Charles Maturin.

Shaggier than the worst of shaggy dog stories. It features a set of ‘frame’ stories nested to a ridiculously deep level (which, reviewers delight in pointing out, Maturin himself has trouble keeping track of), one of which requires you to believe that an escaped prisoner of the Inquisition is relating, word for word, the contents of a manuscript he once translated for a Jewish hermit many years ago, and is now repeating to a newly-inherited Irish landowner over the course of several days’ monologue. (And I think it nests again later on.)

Famous for the character of Melmoth, a Wandering Jew–type figure who roams the world to see if he can find someone willing to give up their hope of salvation in return for taking over his fate of extended life and youth, but damnation once he dies. But for greate swathes of the 700-page book, Melmoth makes barely any appearance: we hear the stories of a number of other characters, which possess some psychological acuity, but are mostly pretty forgettable.

*attention wanders*

… Oh, looky — there’s even a Wikipedia entrylet on it, though stubbish in the extreme. It says his deal with the Devil was for 150 extra years of life, but that must’ve been in a section of novel so dull I either fell asleep or skimmed through it.

Still going to finish it though. I’m intrigued to finish off the Indian isle episode I’m currently at, and hopefully Melmoth will actually play a slightly bigger part in the rest of the book.

General impressions:

  • Modern readers will probably find Maturin’s authorial notes rather intrusive, but it seems this wasn’t a barrier to Melmoth being hugely popular at the time.
  • His feel for structure is terrible. Apparently he originally intended to make the novel a connected series of novellas or short stories. I agree with the editor (Alethea Hayter), that would’ve worked much better.
  • But at least he digresses less than Victor Hugo.

— Added later: It turns out the story of Melmoth’s curse is discussed only in a single paragraph in the last chapter of the book. Oops. Should’ve finished the book before I went looking for potential spoilers. Ah well.

29 April 2007

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation

Filed under: humour, rhetoric — bookweevil @ 5:54 pm

Brilliant. If you too believe that PowerPoint is able to sap the life out of any speech or presentation, take a look at Peter Norvig’s Gettysburg PowerPoint presentation (Norvig is Director of Research at Google Inc., formerly of NASA).

He discusses the making of the presentation as well:

I selected the “Company Meeting (Online)” template, and figured from there I’d be creative in adding bad design wherever possible. I was surprised that the Autocontent Wizard had anticipated my desires so well that I had to make very few changes. Four of the slide titles were taken directly from the template; I only had to delete a few I didn’t need, and add “Not on the Agenda” after “Agenda”. I wasn’t a professional designer, so I thought I’d be in for a late night doing some serious research: in color science to find a truely garish color scheme; in typography to find the worst fonts; and in overall design to find a really bad layout. But fortunately for me, the labor-saving Autocontent Wizard took care of all this for me!

28 April 2007

the female of the species. Did you know …

Filed under: trivia — bookweevil @ 10:10 am

… the title of this song by Space is taken from a poem by Rudyard Kipling?

Maybe you did, but it was news to me. Lots of bits of Kipling’s writing are still referenced in modern culture: his six honest serving men (“I keep six honest serving-men / (They taught me all I knew); / Their names are What and Why and When / And How and Where and Who”) survive in modern journalism and police work, “If–” is still often-quoted, and the white man’s burden is still referred to.


Filed under: idiocy, trivia — bookweevil @ 10:07 am

Do you like Kipling? I don’t know, I’ve never kippled.

… earliest recorded usage is probably in a postcard by Donald McGill.

See,9171,874525,00.html and


Filed under: Uncategorized — bookweevil @ 9:35 am

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