Not's review of The Naked Ape reminded me of this unknown book, which reports on the lost generation of Swedish children who were made the subject ofNot's review of The Naked Ape reminded me of this unknown book, which reports on the lost generation of Swedish children who were made the subject of various experiments in educational psychology between 1965 and 1980. The author reports on his progress through the Swedish school system. In every year, they restart mathematics from scratch using set theory or whatever the fashionable thing happened to be at the time, and never get as far as multiplication. They learn geography by studying politically correct folk legends from the countries in question.
Well, he says at the end of the chapter, I went Interrailing when I was 19 so I found out where Denmark is. But how much is three times three? ...more
[People can talk of nothing else! (Charlie Hebdo is so last week). While discussing these weighty matters with Nandakishore, Traveller and others earl[People can talk of nothing else! (Charlie Hebdo is so last week). While discussing these weighty matters with Nandakishore, Traveller and others earlier today, I believe I came across a complete and effective solution to the urgent problems described by Mr. Desh. Fearful that my penetrating insights may languish forever unnoticed in Nandakishore's thread, I take the liberty of reproducing them here. I began by expressing my deepest sympathy with Mr. Desh's position.]
I feel the author's pain! Why, only the other day, a person well known on this site, whose name starts with an A, went and one-starred all my books. I am virtually sure he hasn't read them - well, not cover to cover anyway. But how to prove it?
Naturally, I have done what I could. The people at Lulu, CSLI Press and Cambridge University Press were very helpful about linking recent sales to credit card numbers, and it seems that someone in Egypt did indeed buy all four books. It can't be a coincidence. But has he read them? Carefully? I have made up questionnaires for each book and asked the publishers to forward them to Mr A. If he does not answer within fifteen working days, he will no longer be allowed to shop on their sites. I asked if they could bring criminal proceedings against him, but apparently that's not possible. I don't quite understand why. I am not satisfied, no, not by any means.
[Nandakishore suggested that a questionnaire might be the answer, and I enthusiastically agreed.]
It's the only solution. I think as few as 50 multiple-choice questions would be enough to weed out the impostors.
But... wait. These people are so devilishly cunning. They'll probably share the answers between themselves, and then be able to pose as having read the book when in fact they've done nothing of the kind. Multiple choice won't work. The only solution is for every reviewer to write a lengthy essay about the book (we need a technical term here, but I can't think of a good one - anyway, never mind). They will post their essay where the author can mark it and decide if they have understood the book or not. People who have not understood it will not be allowed to post, and will be expelled from the site if they repeat the offense.
This seems fair, don't you think?
[Nandakishore thought one could solve the technical problems by generating multiple versions of the questionnaire.]
Hm... that might be enough. But how can the author be sure that the multiple choice examples are tough enough, if they constantly keep changing? The rogue reviewers will keep generating them until they get an easy one, and then, zap! More review chaos.
I tell you, you have to learn to think like them. They are fiendishly ingenious.
[Nandakishore, displaying his characteristic engineering common sense, thought that reviewers might only be allowed three attempts at the questionnaire.]
Three strikes and you're out. I like it.
Maybe the second and third attempts can be done on a pay-per-view basis. I mean, if you're bidding to review someone's book and you've already cast doubt over your credentials by failing the test, it's only fair to ask you to show good faith. $10 would be enough. It could be split evenly between Goodreads and the author.
[I believed for a moment that we were done, but immediately found an obvious bug.]
Oh, but wait! We're so naive. They'll just open a new account and get in that way.
We need to restrict creation of new accounts. You have to give passport and bank account details, plus three witnesses who are already members and can be held legally responsible if the information turns out to be incorrect. I mean, it's fraud and it should be treated as such. Right?
[Clouds, joining the discussion, pointed out another problem: even if the reviewers passed the test, they might still post off-topic reviews out of sheer perversity. But by now I knew we were on the home stretch.]
Okay, here's another try. When you've passed the test and written your review, you also have to post a $1000 bond as a guarantee that the review is serious and accurate. I mean, if you've passed, that shows you're able to do it, and if you haven't then you're just messing around. The author is allowed to complain about reviews that are not up to standard, and if the reviewer disagrees it goes to a mediation panel which is half authors and half reviewers. And again, if the review is found wanting then half the bond goes to Goodreads and half to the author. If no one posts a complaint within thirty days, you get your bond back and the review is permanently greenlighted.
It may seem a bit complicated, but I feel that after a while people would see the merits of the system. Don't you agree?
[I admit it: there are still some niggling questions left to resolve. Cecily, for example, has pointed out several. But we must act now and sort out the details later. We cannot afford to wait any longer.] ...more
Did you hear the one about the Fox News commentator who said that all white people who entered Birmingham were ritually killed and eaten? Oh, I see yo
Did you hear the one about the Fox News commentator who said that all white people who entered Birmingham were ritually killed and eaten? Oh, I see you have. Wait, wait... how about the Fox News commentator who said we should give nuclear weapons to half the people in the Middle East so they could kill the other half? Damn, you've heard that too. Guess I'll have to buy this book to see if I can find some new ones. ...more
To the Americans, who rule the world by brute military and economic force, while claiming they're doing it for our own good: fApology of Charlie Hebdo
To the Americans, who rule the world by brute military and economic force, while claiming they're doing it for our own good: fuck off.
To the Russians, who pretend they're not just the same as the Americans, except militarily weaker and less honest: fuck off.
To the Israelis, who take advantage of their American backers to enslave and torture the Palestinians: fuck off.
To the Muslims, who react to the exploitation and torture inflicted on them by doing the same thing to their women: fuck off.
To the Germans, who want us to believe that none of them had anything to do with the Third Reich: fuck off.
To the French, who were all too happy to collaborate with the Nazis when the opportunity presented itself: fuck off.
To the Catholic Church, who says it spreads peace and understanding while actually supporting intolerance and oppression: fuck off.
To the right-wing people who don't read us and say we're a bunch of puerile amateurs: fuck off.
To the left-wing people who read us and think that posting our cartoons on Facebook is a substitute for action: fuck off.
To anybody we've omitted from the above list: fuck off.
We understand that you'd like to kill us. We do our best to be a royal pain in the ass to everyone. We are stupid, vulgar and disrespectful. But when you do kill us, as we know you will, you will regret it. It's not often you find people who are quite as thoroughgoing a pain in the ass as we are.
Now we must part, we to die and you to live. We'll leave you to think about who's got the better deal. ...more
A question that's been bothering me all morning is whether I have a moral right not to order a T-shirt with an offensive cartoon of the Prophet MuḥammA question that's been bothering me all morning is whether I have a moral right not to order a T-shirt with an offensive cartoon of the Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) and start wearing it. Until yesterday, I would not have dreamed of doing such a thing, which would have been gratuitously offensive to all my Muslim friends. But now, I wonder if I'm only refraining from showing solidarity with the dead cartoonists because I'm afraid someone will shoot me.
My intuitions are confused. Not doing something out of politeness and respect for other people's religious feelings is clearly right. But not doing it out of craven cowardice is clearly wrong. Which principle applies here? I hope some experts on ethical philosophy are preparing an answer. _____________________________________
The comment thread has already become very long, so may I just briefly summarize my main response.
The suggestion I make here was inspired by the many public readings of The Satanic Verses held after the fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie. The purpose of those readings was to show solidarity with Rushdie and demonstrate belief in the freedom of speech. Without them, the publisher might well have decided that Rushdie's book was too hot to handle, establishing an extremely dangerous precedent. It was generally held afterwards that the public readings had been a good thing.
In this case, people have also been quick to agree on the importance of solidarity. Everywhere you look, you find the phrase JE SUIS CHARLIE. But it seems to me that this is quite different from the response to the Rushdie case. When you hold up a sign saying JE SUIS CHARLIE, you are not really taking any risk, since you are not repeating the offensive material. I'm just being logical here: the real way to say JE SUIS CHARLIE is to repeat one of the cartoons that got them firebombed and then shot down in cold blood. Like this one.
For people who don't read French, it really is quite funny. The title CHARLIE HEBDO at the top is replaced by SHARIA HEBDO. The speech bubble says "A hundred lashes if you don't die laughing". _____________________________________
Wastrel reminds me that Charlie Hebdo didn't just offend Muslims. After a couple of minutes of searching, I found the following splendidly tasteless cover:
It took me a little while to figure it out, but apparently the reference is to a Mgr. Vingt-Trois, who had made some outspoken comments against gay marriage. The headline says "MGR VINGT-TROIS HAS THREE DADDIES" (I am guessing this may allude to the children's book Jennifer Has Two Daddies), and the speech bubbles say "The Father", "The Son" and "The Holy Ghost". [Yann in #307 says this is not quite right: the cover refers to a heated public debate on adoption by homosexual couples, where the Catholics who were campaigning against it used the slogan "Un papa et une maman" ("One daddy and one mommy")]
Or if you're looking for outrageous and inappropriate anti-Israeli humor:
The headline says "ALREADY CHRISTMAS IN PALESTINE". The arrow pointing left says "Costume for Israeli child". The arrow pointing right says "Costume for Palestinian child".
But this even more outrageous cover, which has been widely reprinted, is not genuine CH: it's a parody by Joe le Corbeau, an associate of the notorious racist comedian Dieudonné. I was fooled, as were many newspapers. [Thank you again Yann for catching this!]
Speech bubble: "1 million reduction on the 6, in exchange for Palestine!" _____________________________________
People who want to see more examples of Charlie Hebdo covers should look at Yann's review. These guys were really funny and disrespectful, about everything: the Muslims, yes, but at least as much the Israelis, the US, the Russians, the French, the Germans, the extreme right, the Catholic church, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
I'm very sorry that they had to be killed in this horrible way before I ever got around to looking at their work. It should have been easier to get my attention. _____________________________________
The cover for the latest issue, which is due out tomorrow:
"ALL IS FORGIVEN"
You gotta hand it to them, these guys really have a sense of humor. _____________________________________
Even though the new issue is already out in France, it won't be on sale here until tomorrow. The local papers can talk about nothing else. The print run has been increased twice, from one million to three million and then to five million, and supply is still not meeting demand. People in Paris are queuing up outside the newsagents before they open, and a few minutes later every copy has been sold.
Tribune de Genève reproduces one of the cartoons on its front page. Below, a crowd of robot-like commuters are all intently reading their copies of Charlie Hebdo. Above, the four murdered cartoonists sit on a cloud and remark C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons ("It's hard to be loved by idiots"). This is a reference to one of CH's most famous covers, where the Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH), weeping, is saying the same thing.
You can't get copies here for love or money, though admittedly I haven't yet explored the first alternative. According to the ever-reliable Tribune, the station newsstand was all sold out by 5.30 am.
Well, we live right next door to la Gare de Cornavin - it's literally a two minute walk. I will try getting up very early tomorrow morning. If necessary I will propose to the woman behind the counter.
What an absolutely dreadful book this was. Uninspired plot, slack dialogue, weak characterization, sloppy fact-checking, miserable writing. But it's tWhat an absolutely dreadful book this was. Uninspired plot, slack dialogue, weak characterization, sloppy fact-checking, miserable writing. But it's the latest installment in a successful series. Apparently, the fact that the author used to run MI5 is enough to sell it.
Well, can't I play too? I used to work for NASA - admittedly, in a somewhat less exalted position, but that's also a glamorous organization. I know where the bodies are buried. So, without further ado, here are the opening paragraphs of
The Jupiter Setup: A Manfred Raindrop novel
Susan Higgins read the email again, then glanced at the calendar. She had no idea what to do, and Congress was voting on the NASA budget in less than a month. She was almost out of time. More important, her project, the most advanced unmanned Jupiter mission yet planned, was almost out of time. If she could not put together a convincing demonstration for the subcommittee members who were visiting her on Monday, her idea would be toast. Another piece of junk to throw on the scrap heap.
She clenched her fists in frustration. The software was still not working. Why had she chosen that useless team leader? By now she knew his style backwards: excuses, excuses and more excuses. Worse, as she knew all too well, she was the person who had appointed him. People would remember that. For a moment, she almost succumbed to complete panic. Then the idea hit her.
Susan Higgins breathed out, suddenly seeing a glimmer of hope. Manfred Raindrop. Yes, he was difficult, undisciplined, insubordinate - all of those things. But one hell of a software engineer. And, she couldn't help thinking at times, strikingly attractive under that disheveled exterior. If only he weren't such a pain in the ass. No ability to manage upwards. She'd have to deal with that somehow. She had no choice.
Her chickens were coming home to roost. But maybe Raindrop could save her bacon. ...more
**spoiler alert** The technological innovation in the supercomputer which puts it a quantum jump ahead of all the competition is that it uses base 10**spoiler alert** The technological innovation in the supercomputer which puts it a quantum jump ahead of all the competition is that it uses base 10 arithmetic rather than binary. Yeah, right. ...more
But despite my somewhat one-sided reading diet, the winner was still a work of fiction: Karl Ove Knausgård's 3500 page monster Min kamp, a unique book that's already well on the way to becoming a classic five years after it first came out. Trust me, it's worth all the trouble. _____________________________________
Since everyone else is adding statistics, here are mine:
Number of books read: 108 Total number of pages: 26753 Books over 500 pages: 8 Books over 700 pages: 3 Nonfiction books: 51 Books by women: 28 Books not in English: 29 French: 13 Norwegian: 8 Swedish: 4 German: 3 Danish: 1
Don't believe everything you read on the Internet, part 94
On this page, I recently read, to my considerable surprise, that "There is a large brass sta Don't believe everything you read on the Internet, part 94
On this page, I recently read, to my considerable surprise, that "There is a large brass statue of Winnie-the-Pooh in Lima, Peru". If only this had been true, it would have been a wonderful trivia question: of course, if there were any large bear statue there, you'd automatically assume it was Paddington. But in fact, a little more googling leaves me more or less certain that it's a hoax. No one who has tried to find evidence for this statue has turned up anything at all.
Damn! I feel so gullible. But just to be on the safe side, I'll ask a Peruvian friend if she knows anything about it. _____________________________________
My Peruvian informant answered promptly:
Hahahahaha, nope, we have no Pooh bear in Lima. We have some llamas instead of flames of freedom though...is a funny story...but I can totally confirm that Winnie the Pooh is not venerated /worshiped in my country and have no brass statue.
Well, that sounds pretty definite. But I still don't understand why anyone would want to create such a remarkably pointless internet legend......more
Sitting next to a seven year old boy at dinner the other day, the conversation, as it so often does in these circumstances, turned to the interestingSitting next to a seven year old boy at dinner the other day, the conversation, as it so often does in these circumstances, turned to the interesting subject of poo. Jenkin proudly informed me that he had received a copy of Plop Trumps for Christmas. I was treated to a precis of the rules.
"You might like The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunnit," I guessed. We were both delighted when it turned out that Jenkin had in fact already read it.
"You got it for me from the English library," he told his mother.
"Did I?" she said uncertainly. "Honestly, I just can't keep up. I bring back a load of books, and an hour later he says he's finished them all."
It is a pleasure to meet the new generation of book nerds. Relax, everyone: the future is safe. ...more
[Alarums and excursions. Enter IMELDA STAUNTON as THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE, followed by herPeter Jackson's Mother Goose (part 3), conclusion
[Alarums and excursions. Enter IMELDA STAUNTON as THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE, followed by her many CHILDREN. She is distraught and speaks in a British regional accent]
OLD WOMAN: Aw naw! I dawn't knaw whut to dew! Children, arre yew all there? Let me see: Fred, Susan, Jeremy... aw naw!!!!
[The camera whips round, then zooms in on the top of a huge oak, where we can see something white. Enter an evil ORC]
ORC: Rock a bye baby. Har, har, har!
[He begins to shake the tree. Branches fall off. The BABY wakes up and cries hysterically]
OLD WOMAN: Dew summat!
[Enter JACK, a hunky dark-haired dwarf, and JILL, a hot elf-babe]
JACK: Don't worry ma'am! I can save your son! Now, if I can get to the top of the hill fast enough...
[He mounts his GIANT WAR-SQUIRREL and starts leaping up the hill. When they reach the top, they make a death-defying bound into the tree]
ORC: When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. Har, har, har!!!!
[He gives the tree a final shake. In a wild action sequence that lasts about fifteen minutes, JACK, the BABY and the GIANT WAR-SQUIRREL fall from branch to branch, fight the ORC, and are finally dashed to pieces at the bottom]
JILL: [holding the lifeless JACK and weeping bitter tears] He's broken his crown. Why does it hurt so much?
SIR IAN MCKELLEN: Because it's been written for the 16 to 24 Asian demographic. ...more