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Posts Tagged ‘Victor Hugo’

Oh, Shit, There Are Robots in the Library, and Other News

October 2, 2014 | by

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Nancy and Vincent: Friends or foes? Only time will tell. Photo: Picasa/Aldebaran

  • Soon to appear at the library in Westport, Connecticut: robots, two of them. “Vincent” and “Nancy” “have blinking eyes and an unnerving way of looking quizzically in the direction of whoever is speaking. They walk, dance, and can talk in nineteen different languages … [they] can recognize faces and detect where sound is coming from.” Ostensibly, the pair will help patrons find books and will serve as the centerpiece of a new robotics workshop. But whether these unfeeling golems are here to help or to serve as ruthless, lethal agents of the state remains to be seen. Anyone with late fees is advised to proceed with extreme caution.
  • Speaking of things you’re powerless to stop, however much you may wish to: Crime and Punishment, the Musical. (“I wouldn’t call it a rock-opera as such,” its director said.)
  • Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs “is not an easy read. It was written late in Victor Hugo’s career when he was living in exile on Guernsey, and his contemporaries dismissed it as an inferior work.” And yet it seems to have plenty going for it in the plot department: it’s “the story of a young man who is kidnapped, mutilated and sold to travelling entertainers, yet who retains his integrity and his dignity through the love of his adoptive ‘family,’ the eccentric philosopher Ursus, his pet wolf Homo, and the beautiful blind girl, Dea.” Sold.
  • Merritt Tierce, who was interviewed here last month, used to work at an upscale Dallas steak house, as does the protagonist in her debut novel. On two occasions, Tierce served Rush Limbaugh, who “left her $2,000 tips on modest-size checks, once with twenty $100 bills. ‘That was like blood money to me,’ says Tierce, who does not share Limbaugh’s social views.” So she gave it all to an abortion-rights group.
  • The trend of the “passport professor”: Why are so many Ph.D.s leaving America? (Why aren’t they? you might say.)

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Life Is One Never-Ending Conference Call, and Other News

January 27, 2014 | by

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From ConferenceCall.biz, a gif-art project by Zach Scott.

 

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This Is Spinal Fusion

October 30, 2013 | by

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The doctor asks you to bend down, then waddle a few steps as he watches you. You might be ten but could be fourteen, at the pediatrician or in the school nurse’s office, probably a girl but maybe a boy. It might be the last item on a long checklist of routine things: height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, check; vision and hearing, check; mumps vaccine, chickenpox history, tetanus shot, check; then, finally, the duck-walk diagnostic test.

Me, I was in the school gym. I’d waited with friends for my turn in the locker room with the doctor who’d volunteered to give physicals for the middle-school athletes. He knew my mother, so we made polite conversation between routine questions. Then, he asked me to bend and take a few steps. I did so, staring at the cracked concrete beneath my bare feet. When I was allowed to straighten, I could see that the doctor’s face had changed completely.

Locked on my torso, his now-serious eyes ticked left-right-left-right, then fixed on the planes and angles of my shoulders and hips. Trusting that I trusted him, the doctor placed one of his hands on my shoulder and his other hand on my hip. After a moment, one of his hands moved to my back and traced the misaligned knobs of my spine. That sensation, a man’s hand running down my spine impersonally, as if I were no more animate than a mannequin or cadaver, would become very familiar to me.

Scoliosis curves your spine into an S, a biological scarlet letter glaringly visible by X-ray but also perceptible to the naked eye. Read More »

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Happy Birthday, Victor Hugo

February 26, 2013 | by

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“An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.” —Victor Hugo

 

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The Characters of Les Misérables are Sad

January 18, 2013 | by

Here is a mood index chart for Les Misérables. Red indicates negative emotions. There is a reason miserable is in the title.


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What We’re Loving: Comfort Reads, Evil Santas

January 4, 2013 | by

On the train down to Washington I read “Stage Mothers,” Elif Batuman’s article about a women’s theater troupe in rural Turkey, and kept pretending to have a cold so the guy sitting next to me wouldn’t think I was crying over the international issue of The New Yorker. Even by Batuman standards, it’s a knockout. If you missed it, go fish it out of the recycling. (Then read her conversation with J. J. Sullivan in the current issue of the Review.) —Lorin Stein

In her introduction to Monica Dickens’s Mariana, recently rereleased by the unimpeachable Persephone Press, Harriet Lane describes it as a “‘hot-water bottle’ novel, one to curl up with on the sofa on a wet Sunday afternoon.” And this story of a young girl growing up in England in the 1930s is certainly comfort-reading at its finest. While dated at points (the moments of casual anti-Semitism are certainly jarring), it’s a fun read, breezy and funny and often touching, with beautifully observed bits of everyday life throughout. Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles, was a prolific and popular author; for anyone with multiple winter Sundays to fill, I’d also recommend her 1939 memoir One Pair Of Hands, which details her stint, much to her family’s chagrin, as a cook-general in some of London’s wealthiest households. —Sadie O. Stein

Before the holiday break, I had some time to explore my Netflix account and found, to my excitement, a hidden gem entitled Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. “This unusual Christmas story is set in the frozen beauty of Finland,” the description reads, “where local reindeer herders race to capture an ancient evil: Santa Claus.” What more could you ask for, to prepare yourself for holiday travel and awkward family soirees, than an R-rated horror film that has more in common with Die Hard than It’s A Wonderful Life? Filled with dry Scandinavian wit and reindeer slaughter, while this isn’t a film for the whole family, it’s one that’ll be playing in the Alvarez household for many Christmases to come. —Justin Alvarez

In a bout of plain old mean-spiritedness, I’ve been relishing the bad reviews of the film Les Misérables. Hugo’s book is among my all-time favorites—there’s just something about those sweeping nineteenth-century social novels—so much so that I wanted to change my name to Jean Valjean after reading it (a confession that brought ridicule from my colleagues here; I stand by my dream). The casting of the film is so absurd, as is the excessive emotion. Oh, the drama! Oddly enough, I inadvertently took David Denby’s advice to those who liked the film to watch Singin’ in the Rain as an example of what good musical theater can be. And he’s right: I loved it. —Nicole Rudick

Holidays are certainly the best time to try out new recipes; most people are pleasantly surprised by an unfamiliar dish amongst the old family standards. My sisters and I have a Twelve Days of Christmas party each December and always aim to have a few things on the buffet that weren’t there the year before. This time around, my older sister’s wassail was the hit of the night, not in the least because it comes with a great history that necessarily involves the host singing one (or more) of the many carols about drink. Seeing as it’s Christmas until Sunday, I’m planning on enjoying another batch of wassail before the season ends. —Clare Fentress

Perhaps few will share my excitement about the following: there is an audiobook of The Golden Bough, and it is free, and you can download it here. —S.O.S.

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