Monday, December 9, 2013


The sun is shining, the air is frozen, the snowfall is coating the ground. Winter is here.
I have defended, with success.

This post's theme word is apophasis, "allusion to something by denying it will be said." I will not, in the present or in the future, bring every conversation around to the fact that I am a doctor.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Light, visible

Some very cool effects captured by the combination of stage-lighting and ambient dust in the concert venue made the light fall in beams, which are usually metaphorical.
As you can see, they are here actually visible. The interaction of photons and dust particles combined with the auditory environment to enhance the perception of time passing.
This perception is also emphasized by the fact that these photos have languished in the blogging queue for years. My memories are now reinforced by these pictures, and any organic memories of other perspectives or colors are diminished.
I also remember the cool bathrooms at this venue. But not the venue's name. So, you know, there's that.

This post's theme word is fustilarian, "a fat and slovenly person" and its friend, fustilugs, "a fat and slovenly person." The blog of a fustilugs is delayed, irrelevant, and unreadable.

Odd buildings

These funky buildings in northern Toronto are curved in a way that looks vaguely human and alive.
As one drives on the highways approaching them, the roads' gradual curving approach makes the buildings appear to undulate and twist.
It is unsettling.

They appear to have weird organic corners... maybe "elbows" is a better term? And spine-like protrusions. And maybe they are offset from plumb. They look like a cluster of skew mushroom-arms, twisting and writhing upwards.

I wonder what the original design goals were, and whether the architects achieved the necessary balance of sleek modernity, marketable balcony-space and window-views, and appeasement of Lovecraftian Elder Gods with the unspeakably twisted rooftop temples (unphotographable, not documented here).

This post's theme word is stele, "the central core of the stem or root of a vascular plant" and usefully also "a funerary or commemorative stone slab." The skyscraping steles stretched upwards, their hapless residents ignorant of the unsettling past, the warping present, and the horrible future.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Frightened Rabbit

Q. and I went to see Frightened Rabbit on the recommendation of D. and J. It was raining; we walked to the venue, which was in a sketchy neighborhood; we waited in line. Once we entered, the venue was (at first) too cold, then (when crowded) too hot. The concrete-floored pit had no chairs, so we stood through the entire experience. The stage designer opted for the unusual choice of lighting the audience directly with strobe lights throughout the performance, while leaving the onstage performers cloaked in darkness. The other audience members provided targets of observational humor (before the concert began) and sources of aggressively misanthropic behavior (during the performances).

The opening band was decent. The headliners did nothing for me (or Q.). We went home and listened to the Bastion soundtrack as a palate cleanser, and felt much better.

Conclusion: We have, without our own knowledge, become old and crotchety. We do not like being up late, being out late, having to stand for a long time on a hard floor, or breathing other people's secondhand fumes/body spray/aerosolized hair gel. We do like one song to contain different chords, comprehensible lyrics, and stage lighting which illuminates the performers and does not induce seizures.

This post's theme word is cockshy, "the game of throwing missiles at a target; such a throw," or "an object of criticism or ridicule." The cockshy hipster audience provided much ammunition for our cockshy mockery.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's made out of chocolate!

Chocolate: now for your powertools, decorative ducks, and other tchotchkes.
A window displaying fine craftsmanship.

This post's theme word is millinery, "fancy hats," or "the trade, craft, or business of fancy hats-making." Every subdiscipline has its own specialists: the farrier, the milliner, the chocolate-sculptor.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Don't watch "Only God Forgives"

I saw "Only God Forgives." It was a wretched non-movie. The blurb describing it as an "ultra-violent revenge saga" is too generous. It is ultra-violent, to be sure.  But this is one instance where specialized film-buff jargon gets in the way of actually describing the series of images and sounds that you will be forced to watch. The descriptor "controversial" should be interpreted as "terrible, unless you are so film-pretentious that you have wrapped around MAXINT."

There is no plot; it's not even that some things happen, then other things happen. NOTHING happens. Is part of the movie a dream sequence? Possibly. Is the entire thing a cruel, nightmare-inducing practical joke played upon viewing audiences? That is the only explanation that makes sense to me.

Ryan Gosling has no lines and does his best not to move his body or face while on-camera. I cannot explain why. It's a movie.

Perhaps the entire operation is a response to the evidence that modern movies are entirely formulaic and predictable. Formulaic movies make it easy for the audience to understand what is happening with only a brief sketch on-screen: a moment of a man's eyes meeting a woman's during a musical cue, and we understand they are destined to overcome odds and love each other. Only God Forgives is the other end of the spectrum: no matter how much we see on-screen, the audience never understands what is happening, has happened, or will happen. The violence was unexpected and sociopathic, except when swapped for just-as-unexpected-and-sociopathic "mercy." The soundtrack provided no context or cues, and seemed completely divorced from the images, even during karaoke scenes.

Robbie Collins deserves a gold star for penning the phrase "spits in the face of coherence" in his review, another highlight of which is the apt summary: "The film’s characters are non-people; the things they say to each other are non-conversations, the events they enact are non-drama. Meanwhile the camera is forever rolling off down corridors, as if someone forgot to apply the handbrake on the rig. "

My viewing companion A. described his experience thusly:
The good part about this movie was that the main police guy [Vithaya Pansringarm] looked like an Asian Geoffrey Rush. And man, Geoffrey Rush is great. I really like him.
Geoffrey Rush was not in this movie. That's right: the best part of this movie is that it might remind you of Geoffrey Rush, famous and excellent actor, who exists and was not in this movie.

This post's theme word is exscind, "to cut out or off." I wish I could exscind the memory of this movie from my mind.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Eldrich food

We ventured forth and proved our mettle. The monster is slain, the protein is obtained, behold: eldrich food! It lies, coiled and marinating, a supplication to the gods of savory delicacies.

This post's theme word is infulminate, "to render thunderous." The slow cooker's magical powers infulminate the simplest food, magnifying its flavors to a roaring avalanche so powerful that all metaphors are mixed (not unlike the marinating sauces!).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Drama on the horizon

As seen out the window, through the rain and darkness: the horizon in silhouette.

This post's theme word is festinate, (v. tr.) "to hurry or hasten" or (adj) "hurried or hasty." The festinating weather blew a storm across the road in just a few minutes.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book sold!

With the conversion of to a book reselling site ("valet service"?), I have defaulted back to selling my secondhand books on Amazon. This is not as great --- the books get exchanged into money, and some of the money is tithed away; I prefer books getting swapped into other books. Plus there is no "media mail" in this foreign country where I live, so shipping inevitably eats up my supposed profit.

That said, I do have a lot of books. Which I am trying to whittle down to my core library of essentials. I'm one surplus book closer to this goal. Huzzah much-neglected Project Simplify!

Suggestions for other ways to find new homes for my books are welcome.

This post's theme word is awumbuk, "the feeling of heaviness and sorrow you feel after your guests have departed." Selling or trading books leaves me no awumbuk aftertaste, although recycling or trashing them would.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Doomsday Book

Connie Willis' Doomsday Book is amazingly good. It features time-travelling Oxford historians of the future, rural English peasants of the past, and the epidemics and personal connections that intertwine their lives across hundreds of years. It is excellent. I had intended to ration out the nearly 600-page novel, but instead ended up reading it in one contiguous binge. It is not a tense page-turner, but such a quality novel, with intriguing characters and plot, and well-written, that I did not want it to end. And indeed, as the book in my right hand dwindled, I became increasingly worried about the yet-unresolved fates of the many characters.

The themes concluded on the melancholy, yet woven throughout was a persistent thread of the hopefulness of all academics and those who seek and disseminate knowledge. I can see echoes in Doomsday Book of To Say Nothing of the Dog, but the shared world and frantic action which were used to comedic result in that book, were used to other ends in this. Computers, paradoxes, math, history, survival skills, the art of consuming a gobstopper, and the curious evolution of the English language, are each given focus in turn. Intelligent characters keep their senses of humor while determinedly solving problems and achieving goals. 

So good. You should read it.

This post's theme word is calque, "a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word or root-for-root translation." Wikipedia informs us that determining a word is a calque is often more difficult than identifying mere loan words.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Now You See Me

Now You See Me was slick, shiny, sparkly... produced within an inch of its life. It had no plot to speak of, except in tones of aggravation, e.g.:
  • why is the camera continuously spinning?
  • why were there 5 main characters? It would have worked with 2. (It would have been better with 1, who wakes up at the end and dreamed the entire movie! There, I improved it.)
  • why were there so many attempted plot twists? Unnecessary.
  • why does each magic show last 90 seconds? wouldn't a real-life audience riot after such a short show?
  • does Morgan Freeman simply walk onto the set of a movie and declare, "I am in this movie now"?
If you want a film with a clever caper, watch Ocean's Eleven instead. If you want a film where Morgan Freeman is a shadowy authority figure, watch Wanted instead.
If you want a film about magic which will make you think, watch The Prestige instead. (Thinking during Now You See Me may result in sprained neurons, and should be attempted only by professional movie critics receiving hazard pay.) If you want to turn off your brain for a 120-minute experience, go take a nap under a tree.

Honestly, you should nap under a tree anyway. It's beautiful outside.

This post's theme word is charivari, "a confused, noisy spectacle." Avoid the charivari of this movie; I have endured it to forewarn you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Coventry Cathedral memorials

Previous experience from only Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog had incompletely prepared me to visit Coventry Cathedral. (And inaccurately, for there were no time-travelling historians to be found. I looked.)

The destruction wreaked by the bombing and fires was accurate, though.

What remains is a memorial of and to World War II. The Cathedral was a real thing before it was a destroyed monument, and so it itself contained memorials like this one for World War I.

This post's theme word is intromit, "to enter, send, admit." Coventry Cathedral now intromits sunlight and the elements, as well as tourists and the religious.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shakespeare's birthplace

This picturesque half-timbered building, subject to such immaculate preservation and dense precision gardening, is the birthplace of Shakespeare. Its preservation, picturesqueness, and landscaping are all the result of this fact; for now is the heyday of our fanatical devotion to Shakespeare's work, and everything associated with him can earn valuable tourist income.

Well, almost everything. I did not pay to take this photo. I did not buy any of the many beautiful editions of his plays for sale in the adjacent Shakespeare store. They are all available free in searchable electronic version, which is how I prefer to consume my ancient texts. Parchment and clay tablets are so burdensome.

This post's theme word is parnassian, "of or relating to poetry." Shakespeare's parnassian fame is the bane of many schoolchildren.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I found Queen Elizabeth I!

Queen Elizabeth I has been sighted, haunting picturesque Kenilworth Castle picturesquely, pausing hither and thither to strike a regal pose.
I snuck around and furtively snapped photos of her as she made her stately way across the grounds. Perhaps she returned to the site of so many happy memories, the home of her forbidden love... or perhaps she was there as a publicity stunt for English Heritage. She likes them; they cast her in a good light. (Literally: look at that filler light on the ground!)

Who knew royalty could be so much fun? I'm getting the same endorphin rush as catching Carmen Sandiego or locating Waldo.

This post's theme word is distaff, the adjective meaning "of or relating to women," or the noun "a staff for holding flax, wool, etc. for spinning; women considered collectively; a woman's work or domain." Elizabeth demonstrated the monarchy's power in her distaff way.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Science museum

I spent a fantastic afternoon in the science museum. I have a new favorite dongle. It's the Jacquard loom! I must have watched the workings of the loom for 30 or 40 minutes. It's fascinating.
Top half of a Jacquard loom.
Bottom half of a Jacquard loom.
Another level of the museum featured large machinery.
Notice the rails on the floor? I hypothesize that these were used to move the machinery into the museum.
 The rails continue throughout, even passing through this atrium where Foucault's pendulum used to hang! (It's now in a display case, with a replacement pendulum hanging there. I also saw the place in the Panthéon where the pendulum hung, but that's under construction now.)
Just look at those gears!
Honestly, this museum was the most fun and interesting one I saw the entire trip.

This post's theme word is tyro, "one who is beginning to learn something." Although I have several degrees, I often feel that I am merely a tyro.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Futuristic Paris 13

I really like the futuristic look of the new Paris 13. I almost expect to see students on hoverscooters rocketing around.

This post's featured word is splificate, "to flabbergast." The use of 'splificated' splificated her readers.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Enough gilding for you?

The decorator, after several minutes of stationary examination, paced determinedly to the end of the hall and back.

"You've almost captured my vision," he said. "There are just a few details you seem to have overlooked. Some of the portraits are not large enough. Parts of the wall have --- nonsensically --- been left as giant, empty panes of glass rather than covered with hagiographic landscapes and heavenscapes featuring our main politicians."
"... also, I'm not sure it's gilt enough. This is a palace, you fools --- why can I see the exquisite marble peeking between the gilt frames of these paintings? Cover that with gold. What sort of second-rate palace do you think this is?"

 "Yes, that's better. None of that pesky expensive underlying wall showing --- all gold, all the time. And what's not gold, a grand depiction of Napoleon's glory. Or red velvet. Red velvet is also acceptable. It sets off the gold nicely."


I enjoyed my series of visits to the Louvre.

Yes, the Louvre contains self-referential artwork.
Hubert Robert's Project d'aménagement de la Grande Galerie du Louvre.

This post's theme word is baldachin, "a rich embroidered fabric of silk or gold; a canopy." The decorating scheme of French palaces focuses on baldachin and grandeur.

Phallic architecture

Can you spot the phallic architecture?

Vanishing into the mist, which here symbolizes the feminist movement?

This post's theme word is leptorrhine, "having a long narrow nose." The leptorrhine architect made the obelisk in his own image; he later insisted it was his nose, of course.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Giant chocolate monkey

This chocolate boutique had boxes of chocolates in the window...
... and a giant statue of a thoughtful monkey. Carved in chocolate.

I can't imagine eating such a thing. I remember what a challenge it was at Eastertime to eat a chocolate bunny, and this statue makes those weeks of nibbling a chocolate bunny seem puny.

This post's theme word is cachinnate, "to laugh very loudly or immoderately." The threat of eating so much chocolate earned only cacchinnation from the chocolatier's victims.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Terrible relationship metaphor

There are several bridges in Paris coated with padlocks. Each lock is engraved --- or sharpied in a modern take on the tradition --- with two names or sets of initials. Then padlocked to the bridge railing.
Crowdsourcing a windblock?
 As I understand it, the lock functions as an instantiated metaphor for the constancy and commitment of the two people named thereon. Their love for each other is hereby fastened, made sure, immortalized, etc. Then they throw the key into the Seine. I don't know how the metaphor works for combination locks.

But it's a terrible metaphor. For one, the locks are small. Is your commitment to the relationship small? Easily broken by a pair of bolt-cutters or even just a screwdriver and a few seconds' work? Your relationship is periodically removed, cut free, and cleaned up by public employees sent to keep the bridge clean. It does not lock anything; it serves no function; it is empty, meaningless, a dead weight. (Not to cast your relationship too cruelly.)

In short, this supposedly-enduring emblem of your relationship is doomed to end. Soon. Just like all the other, identical, not-special-or-unique romances that led to the same strained metaphor and what I'm sure were very sweet, but transient, kisses on a bridge in Paris.
Other photographers shared my prospect.

This post's theme word is gris-gris, "a charm, amulet, or fetish." A true gris-gris of a devoted relationship should have more properties in common with its object: permanence, size, import, durability. The monument to my love will be more like a swimming pool filled with concrete --- large, heavy, immovable, and requiring specialized machinery and many man-hours to disassemble. Ah, concrete pool! light of my life!

Design ideas for my summer palace

Design ideas from the Petit Palais: this for the servants' stair in the east wing?

Nothing too fancy, they're only servants.

This post's theme word is panjadrum, "a self-important person." The panjadrum planned his palace with a foundation of pomposity and hubris.

Marie Mancini

 I really liked this portrait.

I wish I could pull off this hairstyle, but I simply can't afford the necessary servants.
The caption.

This post's theme word is refulgent, "shining brilliantly." What a refulgent portrait!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Paris parks au printemps

That thing about Paris in the springtime? Yeah, it's true. The entire city is lovely, and feels tropical compared with the April weather I fled.
Jardin des Plantes

This post's theme word is divagate, "to wander or digress." In Paris' gardens, divagation cannot lead you awry.

Jardin des Plantes: giant flower

Brazen hussy of a flower, with your head-sized genital display out in a public park, where children play! Have you no shame?!
I have not been accustomed to such displays.

Paris in springtime is quite lovely. Toronto's springs are more demure --- demurer? --- and delayed besides. Plus fewer people speak French there.

This post's theme word is corolla, "the petals of a flower as a group." That corolla is large enough to be a headdress.

Parisian lobster

A strange sight in landlocked Paris.

This post's theme word is thalassic, "of or pertaining to the sea." Miéville's Kraken taught me many thalassic words.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Keith Haring exhibit

I went to a special exhibit of Keith Haring's work. Based on pins and posters, my cultural exposure led me to expect that the work would be two-dimensional doodles, a bit like cartoonified versions of the illustrations accompanying Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Some of them were. 
 Many crossed the threshold into cute and quirky.
But not all. Haring worked in other mediums, too:
And almost 100% of his illustrations are NSFW. These do not get made into posters or pins, although I think this one makes a strong wallpaper.
... perhaps for a public bathroom. But I guess those aren't usually wallpapered.

This post's theme word is omphalic, "navel-gazing." Though lacking belly-buttons, Haring's illustrated people invoke omphalic thoughts.

The Emperor's Soul

Brandon Sanderson's "The Emperor's Soul" is a neat little story (novella), which hangs together bewitchingly and has a fascinating magic system and excellent worldbuilding (of course). There is an innate appeal in a story where power accretes on those who study and think. Plus, honestly, I like the idea that a convincing author can write a lie which alters the actual past.

The special mechanism of magic in this Sanderson-work is that artisans (of course) can carve a stamp detailing the past history of an item, which, when applied to that item, modifies its actual past history. The tweak is that the effectiveness and durability of the change depends on its subtlety and plausibility. The plot involves an unusually large and powerful stamp, one specific enough to rewrite the eponymous emperor's soul.

If I had invented this little tale, I would have done some backwards contortions to use the idea of authorship modifying history to manipulate the readers themselves. I would certainly have used my favorite authorial hammer, the unreliable narrator. It would probably have leaned more towards an investigation of propaganda than the paean of artistic mastery that it is. Sanderson does much better by maintaining a rather honest storytelling style (with some omissions reserved for later climactic/conclusive revelation). Just like the puissant scholar-magician in his story, Sanderson's most powerful and effective tool is sincerity.

I liked it.

This post's theme word is impresa, "an emblem or device, usually with a motto." The finished, independent work stood on its own merits, with no hidden impresa to brag of its creator.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


The buildup to Versailles is extreme. The grandest palace, built specifically to overawe the world (and nobles!) with the magnificence of monarchy. The descriptions in Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle --- a work which forms much of my knowledge of world history, 1660 to 1750 --- made it seem the pinnacle of palace architecture.

The approaching walk does not disappoint. On the weekend, everyone in the area is walking to the palace, which contributes to the general feeling of grand power.
Approaching Versailles from the front
The entire front courtyard here --- large enough to encompass many castles of my experience --- was where the carriages would line up to discharge the nobility into this lair of Louis' power.
The front parking lot is large. N.B.: most of the castle is not even visible from here.
The in-home chapel rivals many cathedrals. Here we see the first hint of the overarching decorating schemes (pun intentional): firstly, that heaven descends to earth at Versailles, and secondly, that which can be gilt in gold shall be gilt in gold.
Just a little family chapel.

Serious ceiling fresco.
The gold-and-fresco theme continues in every room. An interesting visual trick is played whereby the 3D corner detailing is blended into trompe-l'oeil 2D painting. I fantasy that this was to spare the expense of having to dust the intricate details of so much plasterwork.

In addition, most of the frescoes are painted with perspective. The point-of-view of we plebian viewers on the ground is taken into account: the soles of feet, bottoms of carriages, etc. are visible as if to continuously remind us how far below the Sun King we stand.
The chandeliers and other fixtures aren't unintimidating, either. More gold! More!
I ran out of time to explore the full gardens (and outlying sub-palaces) behind Versailles proper. Here is one wing --- the queen's, I believe --- taken from a distant enough vantage point that the entire wing could be in-frame.
Our shadows in the evening, rising to meet us.
The visit was fantastic, intimidating, exhausting. Overawing. Even several centuries dead, I am impressed by Louis' power.

This post's theme word is stentorian, "loud and powerful." Versailles makes a stentorian statement about the monarchy; the absence of modern monarchy from France makes a quiet but persistent retort.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Is this art? I guess. It's certainly not functional.

This was on display in the window of an art gallery. Or perhaps an "art" gallery, if you're into scare quotes as indicators of disdain.

A visual metaphor for the diverse, extremely small minority interest groups, which foster their own political statements and accompanying hand gestures? A reference to a theory of zombie origin? A commentary on the historical oppression of left-handed people?

I didn't go inside and ask. Please hypothesize in the comments.

This post's theme word is quomodocunquizing, an adjective meaning, "that makes money in any possible way." It's not bold, it's not making a statement, it's just quomodocunquizing.

Paris from the Centre Pompidou

There is a pleasant matching nature of the architecture in certain arrondissements. The buildings are at most ~6 stories high, so sunlight penetrates to street level. Things are neat and tidy. The sun is sunny, the flowers are blooming, and even from inside the plastic people-gerbil terrarium on the front of the Centre Georges-Pompidou, spring feels sprung.

It is easy to feel the iconic "I love Paris in the springtime," although I do not remember the song having any lines contrasting with hail storms in Toronto. Truth is more beautiful, and dramatic, than even clichéd song.

This post's theme word is proxemics, "the study or interpretation of physical proximity between people in various situations; the way in which people interact spatially, esp. in maintaining a certain amount of space between themselves and others." Parisian proxemics please plentifully.

Notre Dame de Paris

Many parks in Paris are wired for free public wifi. As if we needed any further inducement to linger in their lovely, blossoming luxury. The weather is warm and sunny, the air is fragrant, and spring is most certainly arrivée. Thousands of people are taking this photo every minute; I joined in.

Once, upon a noontime cheery, while I pondered thoughts on theory
(of the privacy of people's bank accounts and data spoor),
as I brooded, barely heedful, suddenly came tourists needful
of my English, local knowledge, and my helpful demeanor.
Merely tourists, interested in my helpful demeanor.
Quoth the tourists,

"Excuse me, do you know if this church is Protestant or Catholic?"

I thought they were joking at first. Into my tentative pause, they explained, "We just came from travelling in Holland, where Protestant churches all have roosters on them." Gesturing to the weathervane on the roof of Notre Dame. They seemed to think this merited intent consideration, so I gave this a few seconds. Then I informed them that I was pretty sure that Notre Dame was Catholic, because (1) France is a historically Catholic country, (2) Protestants don't usually build giant gaudy cathedrals, and most importantly (3) the cathedral's construction began long before Protestantism existed. I made some effort to be friendly about this; however, a sneer of this caliber cannot be fully contained by any system known to man.

Another step of my assimilation into the aloof French stereotype.

This post's theme word is simony, "profiting from holy things, especially the buying and selling of positions and pardons." I should have parlayed my knowledge into simony somehow.

Accessibly tactile art

The museum has these very neat accessibility features so that the art can be experienced in ways other than the visual. In particular, this tactile display reproduced the painting in miniature but in a three-dimensional metal relief.
It was very cool to witness another way of experiencing and absorbing the art, with different features --- the two-dimensional painting rendered in three squished dimensions.
It was also possible to observe which parts of the relief are most frequently touched, by the change in coloration (oxidization?). I like this interplay between the visual and tactile.

This post's theme word is gelasin, "a dimple in the cheek that appears while smiling." The painting's rendering as a relief made her gelasins immediately obvious to the touch, even though the subtle coloring made them a mere visual suggestion.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Melting building

In walking around, I came across this very interesting building. It looks like it is melting. Odd reflections and unexpected angles. I couldn't tell what the building was for --- business? It was surrounded by residential buildings.

This post's theme word is vitrine, "a glass display case."