Wombats and nineteenth-century opinion

Wombats were admired for their stumpy strength, their patience, their placid, not to say congenial manners, and also a kind of stoic determination. Occasionally they were thought clumsy, insensible or even stupid, but these isolated observations are out of step with the majority of nineteenth-century opinion.

Angus Trumble

In The Public Domain Review, Trumble recounts how Pre-Raphaelite artists were obsessed with wombats and attempts to suss out how they’d learned about them in the first place. Fitting the possible sources into the timetable of modern philosophy, it occurred to me that Kant might have known nothing at all about wombats.

A ridiculous wombat drawn by Edward Burne-Jones.

Elegy for the Blue Room

It resonated with me when John Holbo wrote recently: “Remember when there were blogs? Ah, those were the good old days.”

It gestured back to a day when the internet was built mostly out of individuals putting together things which they cared about and sharing them on a server somewhere in the world. The internet was the magic maze which let everybody else wander around and marvel at the wonders.

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Cyberpunk ambitopia

When I got my first iPhone, I wrote that its “compressed functionality underscores the extent to which the internet has changed things. If you had told me about it when I was a kid, I would not have been able to wrap my head around it.” It’s a camera, a calendar, an address book, a pocket watch, a GPS. It also takes calls, although I use it for text messaging more than voice.

When I imagined future technology as a kid, I often imagined smart houses. There was recently an on-line ad targeted to me for a front door lock that you can control from your phone. This is like the computerized houses of my elementary-school imagination. I should be excited, but I’m not.

The future has gritty problems that 1980s cyberpunk novels didn’t prepare me for.

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Sponsored links are the new spam

educate Washington

Steven Frank drew the webcomic Spamusement from 2004 to 2007. The schtick was “Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!”

It was a genius idea. Frank encouraged other people to draw their own, based on spam they’d received. Back in the day, I drew about a dozen. Drawing them was a pleasant kind of mental palate cleanser, doodling that was tethered loosely to the verbal part of my brain.1

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Animals which are also transitive verbs

In a recent conversation with Cristyn, we somehow came to be talking about the sentence: Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

This sentence, sometimes with a couple of extra “Buffalo”, is often used as an example of a grammatical sentence which is hard to parse.1 In a less perplexing form, it says: Bison whom bison baffle— they themselves baffle bison.

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