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A short Star Trek thing

Normally I’d just complain about this on Facebook or wherever, but since it’s also a spoiler for the season finale of Star Trek Discovery, I decided to put it here on the blog. Spoilers after the jump!

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Play: Human of the Year

This is a play we wrote for a Play in a Day event. It’s not exactly as performed (the director and actors did a good job of cutting it down and neatening it up a bit), but not bad for a night’s work.

Human of the Year (PDF)

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Thoughts: Promise of Shadows, by Justina Ireland

This book found its way onto my TBR list because a friend found it on Goodreads and the summary sounded like amazing, silly fun to fill the impending Kitty Norville-shaped hole in my life. I want to say it sounded “trashy”, but before I do I want to make it clear that to me, “trashy” means fun, easy to read, dramatic, audaciously pleasure-seeking (which I don’t mean to sound like an act of radical whateverism, just that I envy people who can write without embarrassment about angst and badassery and fun, a concept I find perfectly embodied in the phrase “super-hot Brazilian were-jaguar“). I hold good trashy novels in very high esteem. They take a lot of skill to write well, and I hate that “trashy” contains the word “trash” and that there’s no other good word that means the same.

Anyway, all this is moot because Promise of Shadows wasn’t very good.

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Short Story: The Judgement of Dr Solomon, Neurologist

Does this count as a story? A work of some kind of fiction anyway.

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Thoughts: Hotel du Lac, by Anita Brookner

This is not the first Booker Prizewinner I’ve read, but I haven’t read that many so it still gets a mention. It is the first book I’ve read where the author had to apologise for its winning a prize though! I’ve never read Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and I’m sure it’s great, but come on, guys. Being angry at a book because some people chose it over a different book is not polite. And it’s… really unfortunate that the book that won is about female experiences and the book everyone wanted to win is a war book. It just looks unfortunate. And as a total outsider to this fight that happened before I was born, I just have to lay that out there. It would be dishonest not to.

Anyway, Hotel du Lac was really good.

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The perfect symmetry of Steamed Hams

If you want to see The Simpsons at its best, you could do worse than “Twenty-Two Short Films About Springfield”. This episode peels away from the Simpson family to show short vignettes from the lives of the series’ many side characters.

One of the best skits from that episode (titled Skinner & The Superintendent, but better known as Steamed Hams– if you haven’t seen it, it’s only a couple of minutes long) follows Bart’s headteacher, Seymour Skinner, inviting Superintendent Chalmers over for dinner. Chalmers is Skinner’s superior: he manages the local school district and often arrives to inspect Springfield Elementary at the worst possible times.

In other words, this is a classic sitcom plot – trying to impress the boss with a fancy meal that all goes horribly wrong. The show winks to this by giving the skit a cheesy sitcom style theme song, complete with an opening sequence.

Ski-i-inner, with his crazy explanations
The superintendent’s gonna need his medication
When he hears Skinner’s lame exaggerations
There’ll be trouble in town tonight

This works as a joke, but for viewers who aren’t familiar with Chalmers (a slightly obscure character, since he usuaully only appears once or twice per season) it doubles as a set-up. Something will go wrong, and Skinner will lie to cover it up, and in the process make everything worse.

In spite of being formulaic, Steamed Hams has gone down as a classic bit. It’s now a meme to mash up the scene in different ways – to turn it into guitar music, to remove all Skinner’s lies, to run it through a trippy vocoder, to replace the words with bad translations, to edit it like the movie Memento, and to reverse the order of the lines so the scene runs forward but the dialogue runs backwards.

This last one really intrigued me, because it reveals something incredible about this scene: its symmetry. Steamed Hams is constructed with the same kind of attentiveness to symmetry that you might expect of Greek architecture or Renaissance art. Don’t believe me? Watch.

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Thoughts: Georgy Girl, by Margaret Forster

This was a short and deceptively easy read that’s stuck with me. Tight plot, characters that are unlikeable on paper but compelling in your mind, vividly drawn. This is the only Forster I’ve read, but she seemed to be able to write novels effortlessly (check her bibliography) and yet to be haunted by this single one. I felt a bit bad for putting it on my list when I learned how she’d tried to outrun it. Well, it’s done now.

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Thoughts: Basti, by Intizar Husain, translated by Frances W. Pritchett

Oh man. I’m warning you now that this is going to be a big rant about translation, but I promise I will get some thoughts on the book in there as well.

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Apparent expertise and “the smartest man alive”

A stupid person’s idea of a clever person.

That title has been applied to many people – Newt Gingrich, Stephen Fry, Aldous Huxley. Now there’s a new contender.

In this video went viral yesterday, titled “Fox may have just interviewed the smartest man alive“, an unsuspecting Fox News journalist asks a man on Miami Beach if he’s worried about Hurricane Irma. The man then responds with a long, technical answer that leaves the reporter stunned and debunks all the fearmongering about the hurricane.

TV gold. The replies to the tweet are full of people laughing at the cocky reporter being shown up by “a professor of meteorology”.

Except almost everything he says is nonsense.

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Thoughts: Intelligence, by Stuart Ritchie

Well. I’ve been all very smug about my posh non-fiction reading, and when I read Intelligence something happened that had been going to happen right from the start, sooner or later:

I read something that disagreed with something I’d earlier read.

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