Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Olde Tyme Science Fiction

Harvard Magazine has a section in which readers may ask if anybody can identify a certain quotation, poem, story, etc.  A recent supplicant asked for help identifying a 1950s science fiction story vaguely remembered.  I immediately recognized the plot as an Isaac Asimov story.  Though I could not remember the title, Wikipedia's detailed bibliography of Asimov's short stories allowed me to track it down.  I then e-mailed the information in, hoping to have the glory of being the first responder.  Damn!  I was not fast enough.  The guy who won hadn't even read the story; he'd only heard a description of it.

I started reading science fiction pretty young; I remember reading the Space Cat series and Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars.

In later years I had a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  There are some stories that stick with me but, like the questioner above, I cannot recall the title or author.  In one such story, the Earth passed through some kind of field that stripped animals of the ability to kill other animals.  I think the plot stuck with me because war disappeared without pain or effort.  Along comes this field; violence is banned.  A bullfighter could not bring himself to do his bullfighting job.  A lion starved to death, because he was an obligate carnivore.  I felt sorry for the lion, though the author said it was necessary for the New World to flourish.

Now I realize that such a New World is unworkable.  Rabbits, deer, small fish, and other former prey would eat all the plants in no time.  Soon the whole animal kingdom would starve to death, cursing that allegedly utopian field!  Good thing it was just a story!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Enduring Icons and Bright Ideas.

While reading the Beloit Mindset List for the class of 2016, I stopped at # 27:

Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smart phone screens.

I hadn't really thought about that before.  Suddenly a light went on in my head.

I had been idlely wondering if, since the familiar incandescent light bulb is being  phased out, would the newer fluorescent bulbs come to represent bright ideas.  However, these other ancient icons have persevered; why not the old light bulb?

I have a theory in connection with the bright-idea idea.  I remember little drawings of Thomas Edison with his light bulb hovering above his head in a thinking-cloud frame.  This was the pictograph of Edison inventing the light bulb. I think this image led to the now common use of the pictograph above for having a bright idea.  Maybe people zillions of years in the future will still use this icon and have no idea why it should represent a bright idea.

Think about that, will you.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Not a Kitchen Nightmare

The last time my neighbor and I did a Costco run, one of the samples tables was touting this fake ground beef:

It tasted good, and I wanted to reduce my red meat consumption as painlessly as possible, so I bought some.  Then I cooked an eggplant, put it in a pan with some of the fake beef and a jar of store-bought basil pasta sauce and simmered the whole mess for a spell.  Then I poured it over penne.  It was quite tasty.

This is significant because most of my spontaneous cooking experiments turn out OK at best and sometimes just plain bad.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A Pair of Back-to-School Poems

by Kay Ryan

Crow school
is basic and
short as a rule—
just the rudiments
of quid pro crow
for most students.
Then each lives out
his unenlightened
span, adding his
bit of blight
to the collected
history of pushing out
the sweeter species;
briefly swaggering the
swagger of his
aggravating ancestors
down my street.
And every time
I like him
when we meet.
(The Best of It, Grove: New York, 2010, p. 225)

by Stevie Smith

Let all the little poets be gathered together in classes
And let prizes be given to them by the Prize Asses
And let them be sure to call all the little poets young
And worse follow what's bad begun
But do not expect the Muse to attend this school
Why look already how far off she has flown, she is no fool.

(Collected Poems, New Directions: New York, 1983, p. 269)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

It's Better to Have Gifts than Receipts!

Here are the gifts I bought for myself in New Mexico.

 I remember the title of this post from a Smothers Brothers record, but I haven't followed this up.  

Amber earrings

Reversible hemp coat.

The back of the blue side.

Loose-weave cotton shawl.