Karie Bookish Dot Net

Mapping the World

A tired day today.

So why not go look at Strange Maps instead?

It’s seriously one of the coolest, most informative websites around. It does what it says on the tin: Maps. Strange ones.

The content ranges from the very informative – a map of how various denominations of Christianity are distributed throughout the US – to the bizarre – a map of Neu-York: how New York would have looked had Nazi Germany conquered it.

Personally I like looking at maps that challenge my preconceptions – who knew that Papau New Guinea is such a polyglot society that it dwarfs the rest of the world? Or that Great Britain could easily fit within Borneo?

If you think this sounds all a bit too heavy, there are maps of the US made out of pumpkins, the US as perceived by Japanese people, cats’ maps of the bed etc. And for you über-geeky technosavvy ones out there, how about a subway map of the Web 2.0?

Slices of Life

Since I last had an MRI scan (mid-90s, if I recall correctly), technology has allowed the patient to listen to the radio during the scan. Unfortunately this meant I was forced to listen to a talk show debating killing stray dogs and then people suffering from claustrophobia. Not ideal listening material for someone who likes dogs and is trapped inside a snug plastic tube for 40 minutes.

Seeing as today is Super Tuesday, the Slate article, Can I Get My 5-Month-Old Daughter Photographed With Every Presidential Candidate? is a very apt link. The photos are great – I particularly like the first Barack Obama photo and the hilariously panicky Rudy Giuliani photo.

Today is also Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Tuesday – here in the UK. I made pancakes earlier today and served them Danish style with butter, a touch of ground cardamom and granulated sugar. Multi-culturalism r us, yo.

Boom-Di-DA-DA-Boom

Let’s be positive! My downstairs neighbour is not a hypersensitive man who complains that I ‘type too loudly’. He is not a schizophrenic albino who loves Celine Dion and talks to his absent father whilst hiding from the people in the walls. He is not a Norwegian couple who argue until 4am, then shag and who will eventually leave me with two desert rats called Legolas and Gimli. Let’s face it, I survived all those people, so why should I be so grumpy about him being a hippie stoner who puts the same prog rock song on repeat until 2.30am.

I must be getting old. Well, I did take up crocheting the other week..

Now, to paraphrase the amazing Flight of the Conchords: it’s Hospital Time.

The Scandal of the Season

I am currently reading Sophie Gee’s “The Scandal of the Season” and it is a bewildering read.

The plot outline: 18th century Britain. Catholics and Protestants live side by side uneasily. The young poet Alexander Pope is heading to London to make his name. He encounters a situation he’ll later immortalise in the wonderful mock epic The Rape of the Lock. So, by all accounts you get literary history in the making, the (in)famous flirt between Lord Petre and Arabella Fermor (as immortalised in the poem), religious troubles and a look at the early 18th century landscape. Ms Gee knows a helluva lot about the period and therein lies the real problem of this book.

I cannot enjoy it as fiction. The characters speak wonderfully witty early 18th century English but they all speak in the same manner. There is no distinct turn of phrase, no subtle nuances to their voices and after a few pages it begins to grate. The characters are not fleshed out, they never leap off the page and the plot drags. Furthermore, because Sophie Gee has her characters repartee so beautifully, the more modern phrases she occasionally employs spring out and annoy. As an expert writing on the literary and political landscape of early 18th century London, Gee convinces, though. I wish she had written a nice, witty treatise on that subject – she has apparently written academic articles on the matter – but it’s not very likely that little book would have made it to my little secondhand bookstore.

I did find Read for Pleasure through googling for Sophie Gee, so not all’s lost.

Knotted Brain Much?

The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art: “the world’s largest collection of anatomically correct fabric brain art. Inspired by research from neuroscience, dissection and neuroeconomics, our current exhibition features three quilts with functional images from PET and fMRI scanning, a knitted brain, and two fabric pieces interpreting single neuron recording.”

Their disclaimer amuses this soon-to-undergo-MRI-scan woman: “While our artists make every effort to insure accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.”

Found via the scary, slightly incomprehensible Knitting For Nerds which also includes links to knitted nonorientable manifolds (no, I don’t know either) and The Periodic Table sweater.

Oh, Copenhagen

Oh, Copenhagen. How I do not really miss thee but then again I do.

Recently I found Copenhagen Street Style – a Danish blog trying to capture all the hip young things gracing the streets of Copenhagen. Copenhagen is peculiar in the sense that you tend to see muted colours everywhere – black, beige, brown and the occasional daring navy – so I actually do applaud CSS’s decision to feature people who dare break away from the safe colours.

It is just a shame that the featured fashion victims dare-devils haven’t got a clue what they are doing. I get the idea of deconstructing fashion – actually, I also get how deconstructing fashion is circa 1998. I also get the idea of anti-fashion in the sense of reclaiming fashion and style from the hegemony of big bad cooperations and leading fashion editors. But anti-fashion is as much about knowing the semiotics of fashion as it is about rejecting tokenism. And, judging by the majority of the photos on CSS, these so-called fashionistas really do not have a clue. They are concerned about looking ‘cool’ (which in its own right is embracing the idea of fashion as the idea of ‘cool’ changes rapidly) and ‘edgy’. Sadly they just end up looking like prats who are groping in the dark, to quote a well-known poet (or, in the case of the people pictured, like sad fans of the Reynolds Girls).

For your amusement (or horror, depending upon your sensibilities), I also would like to draw your attention to:

I almost miss muted colours now.

The Clare McLean Shortlist

AL Kennedy, the recent winner of the Costa Book Award, has been nominated for the brand-new Scottish literary award, the Clare McLean Award. She is joined on the shortlist by Ali Smith and Alasdair Gray for “Girl Meets Boy” and “Old Men In Love” respectively.

(Oh, did I mention that I have a first edition of “Old Men in Love” signed personally by Gray “To Karie says Alasdair”..? I just thought I’d slip that one in.)

I’m a touch excited by this. I should also get around to reading Gray’s latest novel – but I’m slightly anxious that I might defile my lovely copy somehow. Oh.

Me & QWERTY = <3

We went to the hospital today. I am going to have my brain-waves measured next week which is terribly exciting. I hope I do emit brain-waves and that they’ll be interesting enough to result in a diagnosis.

Right, let’s move on to something a bit more interesting:
+ Fun Facts about the QWERTY Keyboard
+ The QWERTY keyboard and how it was adapted in Russia/The Soviet Union
+ Why the QWERTY keyboard got its layout
+ The QWERTY Myth

Dodge Vs Lodge


Ah, the first of many possible author showdowns: David Dodge versus David Lodge. Popular culture author versus acclaimed literary critic and author. Is there really any competition here? Won’t Lodge just throw Dodge to the floor?

Ah, but to quote Øystein at the I <3 Books messageboard: “Well, Dodge has a packmule and a one-eyed goth-trannie; Lodge has a tilde-spewing factory and a cricket bat-shaped woman. Really, Lodge had no chance here, poor fellow.”

Also, I’d like to remind you, dear reader, that David Dodge wrote To Catch a Thief (the book). When did you last see Cary Grant or Grace Kelly in a David Lodge-based film?

NHS Delivers!

I’m seeing a neurologist on Wednesday which is great news. I’ve been waiting almost a month for this appointment. Stupid me for falling ill during the holiday season.