Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Seuss’
July 15, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in deeply disturbing ontological questions: in the not-too-distant future, we can reasonably expect to upload simulations of ourselves to computers to enjoy eternal digital afterlives. So, uh … as Michael Graziano asks: “Did you cheat death, or merely replace yourself with a creepy copy? I can’t pretend to have a definitive answer … My own perspective borrows from a basic concept in topology. Imagine a branching Y. You’re born at the bottom of the Y and your lifeline progresses up the stalk. The branch point is the moment your brain is scanned and the simulation has begun. Now there are two of you, a digital one (let’s say the left branch) and a biological one (the right branch). They both inherit the memories, personality, and identity of the stalk. They both think they’re you. Psychologically, they’re equally real, equally valid. Once the simulation is fired up, the branches begin to diverge … Is it all one person, or two people, or a real person and a fake one? All of those and none of those. It’s a Y.”
- For those of us still among the biologically alive, there are more pressing matters, like, what happens when you and your paramour build yourselves the perfect new home for your perfect new love, and then you break up? It happens, you know. Even to famous architects, whose work survives the love affairs as a tribute to a broken heart. Leanne Shapton writes, “My friend Niklas Maak, a writer and architecture critic, took me to a house on Sardinia where the actress Monica Vitti once lived. The house, called La Cupola, was designed and built by the Italian architect Dante Bini for Vitti and her then boyfriend, the director Michelangelo Antonioni, in the late ’60s … It was beautiful. It was a wreck. It blistered on the rocky hillside: a perfect dome, gray weathered concrete and granite connected by a bridge to an eroded staircase … Looking around the main room, it was easy to imagine Vitti stepping carefully, cinematically, barefoot down the banister-free staircase that Antonioni built to watch her descend. But by 1972, Vitti and Antonioni were at the end of their affair.”
- While we’re in an existential frame of mind, here’s Robert Moor on how it feels to take a hike only to find that you’re literally walking in circles: “When you read about circular trails, they are nearly always described in a tone of existential despair. A trail, the naturalist Ernest Ingersoll wrote, is a ‘happy promise to the anxious heart that you are going somewhere, and are not aimlessly wandering in a circle.’ A circular trail, then, is a cruel trick, a breach of trust … It has been thought for centuries that human beings have a natural tendency to walk in circles. In 1928, a biologist named Asa Schaeffer claimed to have shown experimentally that blindfolded people walk, run, swim, row, and drive automobiles in spiraling patterns, a phenomenon he attributed to a ‘spiral mechanism’ in the brain. The navigator William Gatty believed that people circled because of simple biological asymmetry: one leg tends to be longer or stronger than the other.”
- Fact: Voltaire didn’t merely play the lottery. He gamed it. “At a dinner party he discussed the matter with a young mathematician and scientist, Charles-Marie de La Condamine. Together they began to wonder: What if one could buy all the tickets in a given draw as soon as they were issued? No one individual could hope to, but a syndicate might. How this all worked is not clear from the remaining records, but work it did … One surviving piece of documentary evidence records that Voltaire ‘acquired all the ticket books on payment of a deposit without filling them in.’ Clearly he had an understanding of sorts with the notaries appointed to sell the tickets, and it seems that he did not have to pay the full price of the tickets, so certain were he and his associates—and perhaps the notaries selling the tickets, presumably cut in on the action—of winning.”
- A new exhibition shows Dr. Seuss’s insomnia-induced art, which “he called his ‘Midnight Paintings’. Although famous for his rhyming picture books, Geisel created topical and surrealist art, much of which was kept private until his death. This 1955 oil painting, depicting a child’s small place in the universe, was printed in Collier’s magazine alongside a poem that read: “From here on earth, from my small place, I ask of You way out in space: Please tell all men in every land / what You and I both understand. Please tell all men that peace is good. That’s all that need be understood / in every world in Your great sky. We understand. Both You and I.”
September 26, 2013 | by Casey N. Cep
During the bedtime-story portion of his twenty-one-hours-and-nineteen-minutes-long speech on the floor of Congress, Senator Ted Cruz, in an episode that has already achieved notoriety, read Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham as his two daughters watched at home in their pajamas.
“I will credit my father,” Senator Cruz said. “He invented green eggs and ham.” Cruz’s father, the senator remembered, would add food coloring to eggs or mix spinach into them to get the green color.
But not even Dr. Seuss would say that he invented green eggs and ham. It was a bet with his publisher that led Theodor Seuss Geisel to write the book. Bennett Cerf wagered $50 that Geisel could not write a book with only fifty words.
And yet by repeating forty-nine monosyllabic words and a single polysyllabic word (anywhere), Geisel assembled a book with 681 words total that would become his most popular book ever, selling tens of millions of copies. Geisel claimed that Cerf never paid him the $50, but Green Eggs and Ham was one of the many Beginner Books that made the author and his publishing house millions of dollars.
Part of Dr. Seuss’s midcentury success came from federal education reform that dedicated money to stocking school libraries and promoting early education. “Children’s lit,” according to critic Louis Menand, “was a Cold War growth industry, right alongside Boeing, Northrop, and Dow Chemical.”
Dr. Seuss, in particular, was very much of his time, and Menand offers a convincing read of The Cat in the Hat as an allegory for the problems of feminism, communism, and juvenile delinquency. Read More »
February 4, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- “In Plath’s case, her writing began, soon after her death, to be relegated to a supporting role in a seductive, but intensely misleading, narrative of victimhood.” How to give the poet her due.
- Are these the fifty key moments in English literature? Discuss.
- The strange mystery of who firebombed London’s oldest anarchist bookshop, Freedom Books.
- “Believe me, when you get a dozen people seated at a fairly formal dinner party, and they’ve all got on perfectly ridiculous chapeaus, the evening takes care of itself.” A display of Dr. Seuss’s hats is going up at the New York Public Library.
- Related: Jon Stewart gets Seussical.
January 17, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
April 26, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
February 1, 2012 | by David Parker
Milton wasn’t working.
The aspiring novelist had already written the perfect dedication (“For my friends”), and he’d long had a list of possible titles, yet he still had no epigraph, the mysterious but meaningful quotation he’d seen at the beginning of every great book. He’d been holding John Milton in reserve for this very situation.
When contemplating the epigraph for his debut novel, the writer had always been confident that if all else failed, he could find inspiration in Shakespeare or Milton. For his part, the Bard hadn’t cooperated.
A line like “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” might work for a paperback legal thriller, but nothing Shakespeare wrote seemed appropriate for the “Borges meets Zola, if Zola had somehow been influenced by Nabokov” collection of loosely related vignettes set in a fictional megalopolis in an indeterminate near-future the writer hoped to get published by next fall. Read More »