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October 2017

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Posted by Jen

Greetings, bakers! This handy guide will demonstrate how easy it is to turn your bakery's plain stock cakes into fabulously frightening Halloween designs.

Ready?

Then let's get started!

First, nothing says "Halloween!" like a sprinkling of candy corn:

So easy, the deli guy can do it!

 

 

Or, October is the perfect month to stretch your product's shelf life. When the icing cracks and the colors fade, just add a spiderweb!
See? Now you meant to do that!

 

 

And why not take this opportunity to "customize" your scones?

"That'll be $1.20 extra for our 'tomb scone specials.'"

 

 

Or, since studies* have shown that customers prefer plastic over pastry nearly 37 to 1, far better to reach for your trusty Flotsam Bugs®!

* We asked our marketing team.

Suddenly, Stanley felt the tide of power turning...

 

 

Flotsam Bugs® are grrreat for turning any design into a Halloween one. Can your bakers only make roses? Nooo problem. Just add a Flotsam Bug®, and poof!

Now that's one scary Halloween flower!

 

Or, how about turning a birthday present into a Halloween birthday present?

Spine-chilling, isn't it?

 

 

But let's say you have character cakes already decorated with an assortment of flotsam. What then?

Why, just pipe a few ghosts on, silly!

 

Hm? What's that? How do you pipe ghosts?

Uh...

Ever see a cactus?

 Perfect!

 

And finally, what about all those doggy cupcakes you're required to pump out by the pound? Well, a little Flotsam will soon have you seeing eye-to-eye with your customers!

[chortle]

 

Or, if you want to go the extra mile, give Patches some patches!

Good dog that's awful.

I mean, uh, look how cute!


And remember, bakers, once Halloween is over it's easy to convert your cakes back, too:

"Aw, Suzy, don't cry! It's just a sweet little kitty cat! See? He's smiling at you!"

 

Thanks to Wreckporters Katrina S., Kristin S., Holly Q., Emily A., Sara F., Megan G., Jess & Connor W., Bettie P., Stacey K., & Kristen, who know that a party hat makes everything better.

 

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Posted by Mark Liberman

Rick Rubenstein has nominated this sentence (from Oliver Roeder, "The Supreme Court Is Allergic To Math", FiveThirtyEight 10/17/2017) for the prestigious Trent Reznor Prize for Tricky Embedding:

Justice Neil Gorsuch balked at the multifaceted empirical approach that the Democratic team bringing the suit is proposing be used to calculate when partisan gerrymandering has gone too far, comparing the metric to a secret recipe.

Rick notes that "This passage from 538 took me several readings".

Courtesy of treebanking expert Beatrice Santorini, here's the constituent-structure tree:

Her comment:

The Penn Treebank style would omit the function tags -SBJ for subject and -OB1 for direct object, deducing the functions from the syntactic context.  Current annotation versions may also explicitly indicate compound nouns, which the structure below doesn’t.  The subjunctive on “be” isn’t explicitly indicated.

Posted by languagehat

There’s all sorts of interesting stuff in Parvathy Raveendran’s report for Scroll.in on a recent translation-centred literary festival in Bangalore, from what is meant by “mother tongue” to invented scripts (“as in the case of Santali in eastern India: the Ol Chiki script was invented in 1925 by Pandit Raghunath Murmu to approximate an alphabet which more adequately represented the sounds of the language than the Roman or Devanagari scripts”); I’ll quote a couple of passages that particularly intrigued me and let you discover the rest at the link. The first:

For sociologist, writer and translator Chandan Gowda, the mother tongue is not perforce linked to biological ancestry; rather, it is the language in which you find “the greatest existential ease and pleasure in encountering meaning”. Gowda spoke of the advantages of having been able to learn his native Kannada at the English medium school he went to, not least because he believes reading history, journalism and critical nonfiction in the vernacular gives one a richer sense of immediate contexts and specific pasts, and the literatures (poetry, in particular) one encounters growing up, form the core of one’s ethical and affective self.

Gowda’s formulation of the mother tongue primarily as a source of intellectual pleasure and a multi-pronged way of knowing (inclusive of aesthetic, emotional and moral sense-making) had direct bearing on the discussions that followed, around language and education.

I like that formulation: “the greatest existential ease and pleasure in encountering meaning.” And this, on Tamil:

Dalit scholar and intellectual Stalin Rajangam pointed out there is a similar encoding of the Dalit voice in “classical” Tamil literature. It is a little-known fact that Thiruvalluvar, the philosopher-poet who composed Thirukkural, the monumental Tamil treatise on ethics, was a weaver by profession and a Dalit. So were Avvaiyar, the great woman poet of the Sangam period, and Sekkizhar, the Shaiva saint-poet. Rajangam delved into a fascinating history of subaltern Tamil which goes by the poetic epithet of mozhikkullu mozhi (“language within language”).

It is a history inscribed in the age-old differentiation of spoken and literary Tamil – seri thamizh and senthamizh. The distinction is casteist, rooted in etymologies of purity and pollution: “seri” refers to the slums where Dalit communities live (another early adjective for Dalit speech, kotun, meant “bent, crooked, or twisted”), while the suffix “sen” comes from “cemmai” denoting proportion, elegance and excellence (in other words, a tongue that is straight, clean and beautiful). Rajangam recounted how this binary of the colloquial and the classical was cast in iron by colonial lexicographers in the context of the emergent print culture of Tamil Nadu in the 18th and 19th centuries.

A decisive battle in this regard was the dictionary debate between two missionaries, the Jesuit scholar Joseph Beschi and Lutheran linguist Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg, in the 1700s. With Beschi’s victory, the “High” Tamil he championed became the standard and the Dalit idiom, along with its distinctive lexemes, orthography, rhythms and aesthetic, was excluded from print. The binary persists to this day, Rajangam avers, in forms both obvious and subtle.

I also like the thought of “language within language” very much. Thanks, Trevor!

  • Got a press release from Third Place Books yesterday that deserves a signal boost. Here are the opening paragraphs:

This Saturday (10/21/17), Third Place Books will donate 20 percent of sales at all three of its store locations (Laker Forest Park, Ravenna, and Seward Park) to relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Proceeds will go to Unidos Disaster Relief Fund, sponsored by the Hispanic Federation, an organization that Consumer Reports says “has been reviewed and received high ratings from two of the watchdogs, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance.”

  • Related to bookstores providing relief in natural disasters: bookstores in California are providing shelter to wildfire refugees.

  • Of all the reasons to pull a book from a school, "It makes people uncomfortable" is maybe the worst. The book? To Kill a Mockingbird. The school? It's in Biloxi, Mississippi.

  • This Wall Street Journal story about the decline of e-book sales and the smartening-up of physical book publishers is a feel-good story for people who love physical books. But it's important to remember that everything is not hunky-dory in booksville. Chain retailers are disappearing. Publishers are merging and re-merging and swallowing each other up to the point where we might have a corporate publishing monopoly in the next decade or so. I hate to rain on the parade, but now is not the time for a victory lap. Now is the time to be vigilant.

Wednesday, October 18: Translation Is a Mode

As part of The Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry, Seattle poet and translator Don Mee Choi “will discuss Walter Benjamin’s bread, Korean cornbread, warships, Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence, and Kim Hyesoon’s mirrors in her exploration of translation.” Translation is one of the most difficult-to-explain aspects of literature, and the experience of having a mind like Choi’s describe it for us is a blessing. Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St., 622-6400, http://hotelsorrento.com. Free. 21 and over. 7 p.m.

Thursday, October 19: Lit Crawl Seattle

See our Event of the Week column for more details.

Friday, October 20: The Trade Reading

Journalist Jere Van Dyk was kidnapped in Afghanistan. After his release, his employers and the government weren’t telling him the truth behind what happened, so six years later, he went back to Afghanistan to uncover the real story. Tonight, the Washington native returns to read from his book about the whole harrowing, frustrating experience. PATH Auditorium, 2201 Westlake Ave., 652-4255, http://townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 7 p.m.

Saturday, October 21: Experimental Animals Reading

Thalia Field’s new novel, Experimental Animals: A Reality Fiction, is based on the true story of Claude Bernard, a French vivisectionist who was married to an animal rights activist. Bernard also was the man who invented and popularized the scientific method. Field has committed two decades to the research in this project, translating work from French into English and piecing together the complicated history of a complicated man. Hugo House, 1021 Columbia St., 322-7030, http://hugohouse.org. Free. All ages. 4 p.m.

Sunday, October 22: Reactions Reading

You’ve likely seen Theo Gray’s gorgeous book The Elements, an illustrated guide to every one of the elements on the periodic table. His newest book, Reactions: An Illustrated Exploration of Elements, Molecules, and Change in the Universe, shows what happens when those elements combine:.basically, those reactions are responsible for everything in the universe. Rainier Arts Center, 3515 S. Alaska St., 652-4255. http://townhallseattle.org. $5. All ages. 6 p.m.

Monday, October 23: An Evening with G. Willow Wilson

You might know Mischa Willett from her poetry podcast Poems for the People. Humanities Washington brings Seattle memoirist, novelist, and comics writer G. Willow Wilson to the stage for a conversation about creating the world’s most famous Muslim superhero, what it means to be a political writer, and how to juggle fame across two or three literary disciplines.
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave S. 682-1770 x102 http://humanities.org. $20. All ages. 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 24: Loud Mouth Lit

This special edition of memoirist Paul Mullin’s reading series is curated by Seattle Times reporter Brendan Kiley. Readers include David Schmader, Sydney Brownstone, and Anna Minard. They’ll all be talking on the theme of “political nausea,” which is a commodity that is in no short supply these days.

Saint Andrew’s Bar and Grill, 7406 Aurora Ave N., 523-1193. http://www.standrewsbarandgrill.com/Free. 21+. 8 p.m.

Tomorrow night is Lit Crawl, a bacchanalia of literary events spread over four courses across Capitol Hill, First Hill, and downtown. You can find the full schedule here, but we wanted to provide a few possible itineraries for people who have a hard time making up their minds. Come back tomorrow for the next itnerary. Here's yesterday's itinerary.

Phase 1: Your night begins at the new Ollie Quinn eyewear shop on Capitol Hill with the best possible way to start a poetic journey through Lit Crawl: a reading from Poetry Northwest, the longest-running poetry publication in the region. Readers including Sarah María Medina, JM Miller, and Ellen Welcker will share their work and celebrate the continuation of the tradition of poetry in the Northwest.

Phase 2: Weirdly, there's no poetry-only reading in the second phase of the evening. But that's okay. If you go to Barca, you'll find a celebration of graduates of the Hugo House's Made at Hugo program, which provides resources and networking for young Seattle writers. Former made at Hugo fellows Anca Szilagyi and Ross McMeekin, will be joined by two of Seattle's very best poets: Laura Da' and Quenton Baker.

Phase 3: At Still Liquor, Seattle-based poetry collective Margin Shift will present a lineup of poets including Adriana Nodal-Tarafa, Anne Tardos, Jennifer Firestone, and the fabulous Jamaica Baldwin

Phase 4: Your poetry Lit Crawl will come to an end at Vermillion, where former Civic Poet Claudia Castro Luna will present a reading celebration of her Seattle Poetry Grid. Readers who have contributed to the online poetry map of the city including Lynn Miller, Brian Roth, and Shin Yu Pai will share their geographically oriented poems.

Sometimes you just need to throw a goddamned party, you know? Sometimes you need to show off, and invite everyone over, and throw the fuck down. In the Seattle literary scene, Lit Crawl has become that party, the one-night shindig that lays everything out in one glorious buffet. Spreading across Capitol Hill, First Hill, and downtown, Lit Crawl takes place in bars and bookstores and event spaces in five different “phases” on Thursday, October 19th. Readings begin at 6 pm, 7 pm, 8, pm, and 9 pm, with an afterparty running from 10 pm to midnight at Zoë Events on E Union Street.

This is quite possibly the most diverse Lit Crawl since the San Francisco operation opened up a Seattle franchise back in 2012. It includes readings from sci-fi authors, mystery authors, kid’s books, poetry, cookbooks, and podcasts. There are readings highlighting African-American authors and Asian-American authors. Maori author Nic Low is in town from New Zealand as part of a cultural exchange. The amazing Anastacia Reneé, Seattle’s newest Civic Poet, is featured in a showcase. The Civic Poet who came before Anastacia Reneé, Claudia Castro Luna, will be presenting her final thesis — an online map of Seattle, told in site-specific poems.

I want to spotlight what must be the centerpiece of the night: Eileen Myles’s reading at Elliott Bay Book Company at 7 pm. If Myles isn’t the smartest, funniest, most important poet in America right now, she’s got to be right up near the top of the list.

Myles has written about sex, gender politics, LGBTQ issues, Iceland, and the seeming inability of poetry to communicate anything at all. Her latest book is titled Afterglow (a dog memoir), and it’s Myles’s attempt to write an autobiography for her late, beloved dog Rosie. Unsurprisingly, the book is getting hammered by Amazon reviewers who expected the next Marley & Me and came away confused. One reviewer calls the book “Too much hard work” and whines “I found Myles' style to be the antithesis of poet Mary Oliver.” (Uh, thank God?)

So obviously you know what you’re doing on October 19th. But I have a question for you: what reading are you attending on October 20th? What bookstore are you visiting on October 21st? It’s easy to show up for the big, flashy parties, but we can’t have a community unless you show up for it on days when there’s not a giant festival going on. Fewer and fewer media outlets in Seattle are providing comprehensive and consistent arts coverage—which I define as reviews, news, and interviews—and the arts in Seattle is taking a noticeable hit for it. If the media continues to abdicate their responsibility as chroniclers of the entire scene—and not just the attention-grabbing parties—this city will suffer, venues will close, and artists will move away.

Simply: if you love books, and reading, and the fantastic literary community we have here in Seattle, you have to show up for stuff. Yes, come to Lit Crawl. Obviously, come to Lit Crawl. But be here all the time. If you’re not there for the community, you’ll one day turn around to discover that the community’s not there for you.

Posted by Mark Liberman

In celebration of Geoff Pullum's 700th LLOG post, "World domination and threats to the public", we'll be meeting for a quiet (virtual) drink this evening. But meanwhile I'll quietly suggest that Geoff has been too hasty in joining Randall Munroe at xkcd in assigning to the field of Linguistics a "low likelihood of being a crucial tool for a supervillain, and low probability of anything breaking out of the research environment and threatening the general population".

In fact LLOG posts have described at least two fictional counter-examples  over the years, and I expect that commenters will be able to suggest some others.

There's "La septième fonction du langage" (8/24/2017), describing Laurent Binet's novel of the same name, which imagines that Roman Jakobson extended his six functions of language with a secret seventh function, designated as the “magic or incantatory function,” whose mechanism is described as “the conversion of a third person, absent or inanimate, to whom a conative message is addressed". Instructions for using this seventh function were powerful enough to ensure the election of François Mitterand, and motivated an international police operation to prevent them from falling into more dangerous hands.

And there's also "Digitoneurolinguistic hacking" (2/4/2011) in which I quoted the Wikipedia entry for Neil Stephenson's 2003 novel Snow Crash:

The book explores the controversial concept of neuro-linguistic programming and presents the Sumerian language as the firmware programming language for the brainstem, which is supposedly functioning as the BIOS for the human brain. According to characters in the book, the goddess Asherah is the personification of a linguistic virus, similar to a computer virus. The god Enki created a counter-program which he called a nam-shub that caused all of humanity to speak different languages as a protection against Asherah, supposedly giving rise to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. […]

As Stephenson describes it, one goddess/semi-historical figure, Asherah, took it upon herself to create a dangerous biolinguistic virus and infect all peoples with it; this virus was stopped by Enki, who used his skills as a "neurolinguistic hacker" to create an inoculating "nam-shub" that would protect humanity by destroying its ability to use and respond to the Sumerian tongue. This forced the creation of "acquired languages" and gave rise to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Unfortunately, Asherah's meta-virus did not disappear entirely, as the "Cult of Asherah" continued to spread it by means of cult prostitutes and infected women breast feeding orphaned infants …

Since these examples belong more to the realm of fantasy than hard science fiction, I have to admit that Geoff is probably right about our field being "a safe thing to work on" — at least if you have a positive opinion of the  various modern commercial and governmental applications of computational linguistics.

 

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum

Linguistics is in the most desirable quadrant according to today's xkcd: low likelihood of being a crucial tool for a supervillain, and low probability of anything breaking out of the research environment and threatening the general population.

But I'm not at all sure that everything is positioned correctly. Molasses storage should be further to the right (never forget the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919); dentistry should be moved up (remember Marathon Man); robotics in its current state is too highly ranked on both axes; and entomology, right now (October 18, 2017), in addition to being slightly too low, is spelled wrong. Lots to quibble about, I'd say. But not the standing of linguistics as a safe thing to work on.

Randall Munroe did not pick molasses as a random threat, of course; his mouseover alt text reads: "The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster."

And I think the misspelling of entomology must be another case of him toying with us; he knows people confuse etymology with the study of insects: see https://xkcd.com/1012/. I think he's just messing with our heads. As usual.

Thanks to Joan Maling and Meredith Warshaw.

Posted by Jen

Some couples look for a sign that their marriage will last.

 

 This isn't it.



Thanks to Ruth H. for the initial discomfort.

 

Note from john: For those you you who may not know, usually "DOA" stands for "Dead On Arrival."  Less common meanings are "Dead Or Alive", "Date Of Arrest" and the ever-popular, "Darkener Of Apricot."

*****

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Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Confusing Malaise" - originally published 10/16/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Posted by languagehat

Another of those intriguing-if-true reports, this one by Natasha Frost for Atlas Obscura:

A limestone slab, 31 yards long, may have related the story of the end of the Bronze Age. An interdisciplinary team of Swiss and Dutch archaeologists have now deciphered the symbols thought to have adorned the frieze, almost 150 years after it was discovered and summarily destroyed. In 1878, villagers in Beyköy, a tiny hamlet in western Turkey, found the large, mysterious artifact in pieces in the ground, and saw that it was engraved with seemingly illegible pictograms and scribbles. It would be 70 years before that language, now known to be millennia-old Luwian, could be read by scholars.

According to Eberhard Zangger, the president of a nonprofit foundation called Luwian Studies, the symbols tell stories of wars, invasions, and battles waged by a great prince, Muksus. Muksus hailed from the kingdom of Mira, which controlled Troy 3,200 years ago. The inscription describes his military advance all the way through the Levant to the borders of Egypt, and how his armies invaded cities and built fortresses as they went. Such invasions from the east are thought to be among the causes of the collapse of the Late Bronze Age. […]

The work has sparked concerns from scholars not involved in the research, who suggest that the frieze and, in turn, stories it is thought to have contained, could be a forgery, reports Live Science. Until records of the inscription are found outside of Mellaart’s notes, some say, it will be hard to confirm the age and authenticity of its contents. That said, an inscription that length (31 yards!) would be near-impossible to forge, say Zangger and Woudhuizen, especially given that Mellaart could neither read nor write the ancient script. In the meantime, this poorly understood corner of ancient history is finally getting a moment in the sun.

Anybody know anything about this?

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders's debut novel, has won the Man Booker Prize. If you've already read Lincoln in the Bardo, I recommend you check out the audio book, which features an all-star cast including David Sedaris and Nick Offerman as a pair of mismatched spectral friends. I've listened to the book twice now, and I keep finding new things to enjoy. It's like an old-timey radio drama about Abraham Lincoln and sacrifice and what it means to embrace your mortality.