Monday, April 26, 2010

The psychic who negged me

A psychic accosted me on the street yesterday, and wow was she persistent. The encounter was a textbook case of cold reading, but it took a weird turn toward Neil Strauss territory when she started negging me--complimenting me only to have those compliments reveal my psychic pain (or whatever):

Psychic: Excuse me, Anne?
AB: (I was about to have tea and figured I had met her having tea before.) No, it's Alice.
Psychic: Of course! Many wonderful things have happened to you lately, right?
AB: Yes?
Psychic: But you feel like every time you take a few steps forward, you take steps back. That always happens to you.
AB: (realizes what's going on) I guess so?
Psychic: It'll keep happening to you. You need to come and see me, here's a card. You're so beautiful, but I sense a darkness there. You wear bright colors to mask the depression, don't you?
AB: I just like red? Thanks, I'm on my way somewhere.
Psychic: When are you going to call me?
AB: I'll think about it.
Psychic: Listen, are you lying to me, or are you fucking lying to yourself?
AB: Thank you, I have to go now.
Psychic: Here, you need a more powerful service. Give me back that card and take this one (which advertises help with anxiety, depression, and "lonliness.")

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Anonymous Anonymous on Mon Apr 26, 10:17:00 PM:
I am going through real tough times. I have been looking for someone who is genuine and can help me with my life issues. A social worker told me about this web site www.callmehelpme.com and she said that they guy is the best she has ever seen. Does anyone have any honest information before I contact him.
 
Blogger Meg on Tue Apr 27, 08:09:00 PM:
That's out of control. You should have slapped her.
 
Blogger Tove on Wed Apr 28, 03:50:00 PM:
Soooo, when are you going to see her again, and let us know how you intend to solve your "lonliness?" She sounds like a perfectly lovely woman just trying to help a fellow human being out.
 
Blogger Brette on Mon May 03, 02:59:00 PM:
What I like is how she has two separate business cards. How do the services differ?
 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Random house

When I give tours of the Candide show, which closes this weekend, I love pointing out the hand-colored Rockwell Kent edition, the first book published by Random House in 1928. In an interview that plays in the gallery, NYPL president Paul LeClerc points out that the Random House icon of a cottage is the house where Candide and co. settle to cultivate their garden at the end of the book. It makes me laugh that this note on the show from the LA Times blog is most impressed with the trivia angle about the icon (thanks to Ross).
Is this, as the good Dr. Pangloss would posit, the best of all possible worlds?

No, perhaps not. But for an ardent fan of philosophy and tracker of trivia, for a few hours in Midtown Manhattan, it came awfully close.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Ashy!!! Wheezy, Sneezy, and Freezy; Slippy, Drippy, and Nippy; Showery, Flowery, and Bowery; Wheaty, Heaty, and Sweety

In 1793, the Laki fissure in Iceland disrupted weather all over the globe, leading to crop shortages and flooding--some environmental historians have linked these disruptions to the onset of the French Revolution (thanks to Patrick for the link):
The British naturalist Gilbert White described that summer in his classic Natural History of Selborne as "an amazing and portentous one … the peculiar haze, or smokey fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.

"The sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and shed a rust-coloured ferruginous light on the ground, and floors of rooms; but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting. At the same time the heat was so intense that butchers' meat could hardly be eaten on the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic … the country people began to look with a superstitious awe, at the red, louring aspect of the sun."

So how would such an eight-month weather disruption fit into the French Republican calendar, where the months were renamed for their weather? The Wikipedia page about the calendar is one of my favorites, and it provides some excellent grids for the months and days, plus Basque translations:
# Fall
* Vendémiaire in French (from Latin vindemia, "grape harvest") / Nabaxte in Basque. Starting 22, 23 or 24 September
* Brumaire (from French brume, "fog") / Lanhote. Starting 22, 23 or 24 October
* Frimaire (From French frimas, "frost") / Içotze. Starting 21, 22 or 23 November

# Winter:

* Nivôse (from Latin nivosus, "snowy") / Elhurcor. Starting 21, 22 or 23 December
* Pluviôse (from Latin pluvius, "rainy") / Eoüricor. Starting 20, 21 or 22 January
* Ventôse (from Latin ventosus, "windy") / Aycecor. Starting 19, 20 or 21 February

# Spring:

* Germinal (from Latin germen, "germination") / Sapadun. Starting 20 or 21 March
* Floréal (from Latin flos, "flower") / Lilidun. Starting 20 or 21 April
* Prairial (from French prairie, "pasture") / Belhardun. Starting 20 or 21 May

# Summer:

* Messidor (from Latin messis, "harvest") / Bihilis. Starting 19 or 20 June
* Thermidor (or Fervidor) (from Greek thermon, "summer heat") / Berolis. Starting 19 or 20 July
* Fructidor (from Latin fructus, "fruit") / Frutilis. Starting 18 or 19 August

Thomas Carlyle had a slightly less mocking English translation: Vintagearious, Fogarious, Frostarious, Snowous, Rainous, Windous, Buddal, Floweral, Meadowal, Reapidor, Heatidor, and Fruitidor.

Yesterday on the calendar was apparently Myrtille, blueberry day; today is Greffoir, knife day.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Cyanide in strawberry

An unlikely line of questioning in Christine Kenneally's review of Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks, in which her non-methodical method of distributing ideas, lists, and half-formed thoughts in multiple notebooks:
How on earth did Christie draw her perfectly tensioned structures from this formless mess? Did she manage it because, as the notebooks show, she was initially open to everything and considered the situation from every angle? Evidence of the breadth of Christie's imagination can also be found in the tantalizing trails she left that never went anywhere. Curran tracks motifs and ideas that crop up again and again over many years but that were never realized in her published books. Imagine what Christie would have done with a legless man, infrared photography, identical and nonidentical twins, and a chambermaid? Curran also carefully excavates ingenuous but unused ideas, "Nitro-benzene—point is—it sinks to bottom of glass—woman takes sip from it—then gives it to husband." He unearths diverse fragments, such as the mercifully killed title, "Fiddle de Death," the unpublished play Butter from a Lordly Dish, and the otherwise blank page with the excruciatingly unfinished sentence, "A good idea would be ..."
...
But in this one thing, it seems the Queen of Crime was wrong. Still, if Christie's natural method was to be disorganized, I wish I knew why it troubled her and why she ever thought it could have been different. Why was her prep work so profoundly nonlinear? She distributed thoughts literally all over the place. Is this what it looks like when you wrestle something down that is actually bigger than your own head? Christie's half-dozen active notebooks evoke the modern computer desktop. What would she have made of a Mac, apart from killing someone with it?

This is a comforting, dangerous justification of my own work habits (I know exactly what she'd do with a Mac: she'd rely on the Search function for figuring out what's where in x, y, z false starts that maybe contained something salvageable...).

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