External Stimuli :
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Instead of judging works of literature based on their artistic merit, we’ve decided to rank them by degree of difficulty. These 10 authors may not be Shakespeare, but they sure had vaulting ambitions.
1. The Story That Will Never Be an e-Book
Some might call Gadsby
a “love” story. But Ernest Vincent Wright wouldn’t have used that word.
Instead, he described his novel as a story of “strong liking” and
“throbbing palpitation.” That’s because in 1939, Wright gave himself one
restriction: He promised to write Gadsby without using the letter E.
Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright
Wright wanted to prove that a great author could work around such a restriction and still tell a gripping story. To prevent any stray Es from entering the text, he tied down his typewriter’s E key, and then put his expansive vocabulary to the test. The result is an astounding feat of verbal gymnastics. While vividly describing a wedding scene, Wright manages to avoid the words “bride,” “ceremony,” and even “wedding” (he calls it “a grand church ritual”). To explain away the verbosity of the language, he uses a narrator whose poor command of English and circumlocution even irritates the story’s other characters.
When the book was announced, one skeptic attacked Wright in a letter, claiming that the feat was impossible. “All right,” replied Wright in the book’s intro, “the impossible has been accomplished.” Sadly, Wright didn’t live long enough to revel in Gadsby’s critical acclaim. He died the year the book was published.
2. The Tale Told in the Blink of an Eye
authors have struggled through illness and injury to write their
masterpieces, but none more so than Jean-Dominique Bauby,
editor-in-chief of French fashion magazine Elle.
In 1995, at the age of 43, Bauby suffered a major stroke and slipped
into a coma. He regained consciousness two days later, but his entire
body—with the exception of his left eyelid—was paralyzed.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Still, Bauby was determined to write. Using only his lucid mind and one eye, he began working on his memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Each night, he’d lie awake editing and re-editing the story in his mind, memorizing every paragraph as he hoped to relay it. By day, his transcriber would recite the alphabet to him over and over. When she reached a letter Bauby desired, he’d wink. Each word took about two minutes to produce, and during the course of a year, Bauby managed to tell his story of life in paralysis. His moving and often funny prose won critical acclaim, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly became a bestseller throughout Europe. Sadly, Bauby died of pneumonia in 1997, soon after the first edition was published in France. He missed not only the English translation, but also the award-winning film adaptation released in 2007.
3. The Poetry of Speed
his death in 2007, Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy wrote at least
1,000 books, 20,000 songs, and 115,000 poems. Some he penned in his
mother tongue, Bengali, and some in his second language, English. His
poems won numerous awards and inspired countless writers and musicians.
And while Sri Chinmoy was clearly a fast writer, he was never as quick
as on November 1, 1975, when he wrote Transcendence-Perfection, a collection of 843 poems—all written in 24 hours.
Transcendence-Perfection by Sri Chinmoy
How was Sri Chinmoy so prolific? He believed the key was meditation. As he once explained, “The outer mind is like the surface of the sea. On the surface, the sea is full of waves and surges … But when we dive deep below, the same sea is all peace, calmness and quiet, and there we find the source of creativity.”
4. History’s Greatest Sonnet
Etymologist David Shulman was a true lover of words. One of the most prolific contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary,
Shulman tracked down the roots of Americanisms for more than 70 years.
But those weren’t Shulman’s only contributions to the world. During
World War II, he served in the army and used his language skills to
crack Japanese codes. His most astonishing feat as a wordsmith, however,
occurred in 1936, when he composed the sonnet “Washington Crossing the
“Washington Crossing the Delaware” by David Shulman
What makes the poem so remarkable is that every one of Shulman’s 14 lines is an anagram of the title. What’s more, the lines are rhyming couplets, and they tell a story, more or less. Here’s an excerpt:
A hard, howling, tossing water scene.As poetry, it isn’t exactly Walt Whitman. But then, Whitman was never this good with anagrams.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
“How cold!” Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!
5. Six Powerful Words
to legend, Ernest Hemingway created the shortest short story ever told.
While having lunch at New York City’s famous Algonquin Round Table,
Hemingway bragged that he could write a captivating tale—complete with
beginning, middle, and end—in only six words. His fellow writers refused
to believe it, each betting $10 that he couldn’t do it. Hemingway
quickly scribbled six words down on a napkin and passed it around. As
each writer read the napkin, they conceded he’d won. Those six words?
“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”
“Baby Shoes” by Ernest Hemingway
While the anecdote may be apocryphal, whoever did write “Baby Shoes” has forced writers forever after to consider the economy of words. Today, the work has inspired countless six-word memoir and story competitions, proving that a story’s brevity is no limit to its power.
6. The Story of Youth
The Young Visiters, by Daisy Ashford
Daisy Ashford’s novella about Victorian society is considered something of a classic. First published in 1919, the work is still in print and has been turned into a movie. But if that doesn’t sound remarkable, consider that Ashford was only 9 years old when she wrote it.
To preserve the authenticity of the story, publishers decided to leave in Ashford’s plentiful grammar mistakes and spelling errors (the title, for example). They also added a foreword by Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie to assure readers that this was no hoax. Barrie reminded people that the novel was indeed written by a little girl, who was “hauled off to bed every evening at six.”
7. The Most Visionary Story Ever Told
literature is prophetic. H.G. Wells’ stories, for instance, predicted
video recordings, portable television, aerial bombings, and a Second
World War starting in 1940 (only one year late). And a 1941 comic book
written by Gil Fox described the bombing of Pearl Harbor in surprising
detail, precisely one month before it happened.
Futility by Morgan Robertson
But perhaps the most meticulously prophetic work of literature is Morgan Robertson’s short and poorly written novel, Futility. In it, Robertson describes the maiden voyage of a British luxury liner called the Titan, which claims to be unsinkable, but sinks anyway after hitting an iceberg. Nearly every detail resembles the story of the Titanic. Of course, nobody thought about that when Futility was released in 1898, a full 14 years before the Titanic set sail.
Futility wasn’t Robertson’s only prescient piece of literature. In 1912, three years before his death, he wrote Beyond the Spectrum. Much like Gil Fox’s tale, Robertson’s story predicted a Japanese sneak attack on an American fleet in Hawaii, and the resulting war between the two countries.
8. Writing by Ear
sucker socks pants, apocryphal awry. If those words don’t make sense
together, try saying them out loud: “Sing a song of sixpence, a
pocketful of rye.” Now imagine a whole book written like this, and
you’ve got Howard L. Chace’s 1940 collection of nursery rhymes and fairy
tales, Anguish Languish. The work contains classics such as
Marry Hatter Ladle Limb and Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, which begins with the
immortal line, “Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter
murder inner ladle cordage.” Although Anguish Languish is
playful, there was also a serious side to it. As a French professor,
Chace used the stories to illustrate that, in spoken English, intonation
is almost as important to the meaning as the words themselves.
Anguish Languish by Howard L. Chace
9. James Joyce’s Deaf Translation Jam
James Joyce wrote his final novel, Finnegans Wake,
during a 17-year period in Paris, finishing the work just two years
before his death in 1941. During that time, Joyce was nearly blind, so
he dictated his stream-of-consciousness prose to his friend, Samuel
Beckett. That led to some unexpected results. For example, during one
session, Joyce heard a knock at the door, which was too quiet for
Beckett to perceive. Joyce yelled to the visitor, “Come in!” so Beckett
added “Come in!” to the manuscript. When Beckett later read the passage
back to Joyce, the author decided that he liked it better that way.
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
After several such sessions, Finnegans Wake became one of the most impenetrable works of English literature. But the experience didn’t just affect Joyce’s novel; it seemed to have a lasting effect on Beckett’s writing, as well. Beckett would go on to become a leading playwright in the Theatre of the Absurd, where his characters often spent their entire time on stage sitting in the middle of nowhere, hoping that someone would hear their voice.
10. The Art of Writing by Committee
American presidents have written books, but only Franklin Roosevelt has
contributed to a mystery novel. At a White House dinner in 1935,
Roosevelt pitched his story idea to author Fulton Oursler. Roosevelt’s
tale started like this: A man named Jim Blake is trapped in a stale
marriage and a boring job. He dreams of running off with $5 million and
starting over with a new identity.
The President’s Mystery Story by Franklin Roosevelt and seven other novelists
Unfortunately, the President hadn’t worked out one major plot point: How does a man with $5 million disappear without being traced?
To solve the problem, Oursler formed a committee of five other top mystery writers: Rupert Hughes, Samuel Hopkins Adams, Rita Weiman, S. S. Van Dine, and John Erskine. Each author wrote a chapter and ended it with Jim Blake in a terrible situation, which the next author was left to resolve. Despite being the work of a Washington committee, the end result was surprisingly successful. The President’s Mystery Story was serialized in a magazine, published as a book, and even turned into a movie in 1936.
Yet, the writers never came up with a solution to Roosevelt’s original problem. That didn’t happen until 1967, when Erle Stanley Gardner wrote a final chapter to a new edition of the book. In it, the secret to Jim Blake’s mysterious disappearance is discovered by Gardner’s most famous character, Perry Mason.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Piled Forest (2006)
The Gate (2004)
Pile of Wishes (2004)
Moment of Decision (2004)
Still Life with Tree (2008)
Le Mur (2006)
Le Mur (2006)
German artist Cornelia Konrads creates mind-bending site-specific installations in public spaces, sculpture parks and private gardens around the world. Her work is frequently punctuated by the illusion of weightlessness, where stacked objects like logs, fences, and doorways appear to be suspended in mid-air, reinforcing their temporary nature as if the installation is beginning to dissolve before your very eyes. One of her more recent sculptures, Schleudersitz is an enormous slingshot made from a common park bench, and you can get a great idea of what it might be like to sit inside it with this interactive 360 degree view.
What you see here only begins to sratch the surface of Konrad’s work. You can see much more on her website. All imagery courtesy the artist.
Monday, November 5, 2012
A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs. When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor.
Before she says a word, Bob says, "I'll give you $800 to drop that towel."
After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob.
After a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.
The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs. When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, "Who was that?" "It was Bob the next door neighbor," she replies.
"Great!" the husband says, "did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?"
Moral of the story:
If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.
A priest offered a Nun a lift. She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg. The priest nearly had an accident. After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.
The nun said, "Father, remember Psalm 129?"
The priest removed his hand. But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again. The nun once again said, "Father, remember Psalm 129?" The priest apologized "Sorry sister but the flesh is weak."
Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.
On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, "Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory."
Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, opportunities for advancement will pass right by you.
A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out. The Genie says, "I'll give each of you just one wish."
"Me first! Me first!" says the admin clerk. "I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world." Puff! She's gone.
"Me next! Me next!" says the sales rep. "I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life." Puff! He's gone.
"OK, you're up," the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, "I want those two back in the office after lunch."
Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say.
An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing. A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, "Can I also sit like you and do nothing?"
The eagle answered: "Sure , why not."
So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.
Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.
A turkey was chatting with a bull. "I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree," sighed the turkey, "but I haven't got the energy."
"Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?" replied the bull. They're packed with nutrients."
The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.
Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree. He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.
Moral of the story:
Bull shit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there.
A little bird was flying south for the Winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and shit on him.
As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.
A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.
Morals of the story:
(1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
(2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.
(3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!
Sunday, November 4, 2012
"This is a world where everybody's gotta do something. Ya know, somebody laid down this rule that everybody's gotta do something, they gotta be something. You know, a dentist, a glider pilot, a narc, a janitor, a preacher, all that . . . Sometimes I just get tired of thinking of all the things that I don't wanna do. All the things that I don't wanna be. Places I don't wanna go, like India, like getting my teeth cleaned. Save the whale, all that, I don't understand that . . ."
"If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed."
"Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid . . ."
"They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe . . . hear it? . . . Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary."
"My life, I mean . . . Most of it doesn't add up to much that I could relate as a way of life that you'd approve of . . . I'd like to be able to tell you why, but I don't really . . . I mean, I move around a lot because things tend to get bad when I stay . . ."
"Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables . . . slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war . . . our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off . . ."
"I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you and talk to you and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em."
"Vice, Virtue. It's best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you're bound to live life fully."
"Anybody here? Hey, Old Man. You home tonight? Can You spare a minute. It's about time we had a little talk. I know I'm a pretty evil fellow . . . killed people in the war and got drunk . . . and chewed up municipal property and the like. I know I got no call to ask for much . . . but even so, You've got to admit You ain't dealt me no cards in a long time. It's beginning to look like You got things fixed so I can't never win out. Inside, outside, all of them . . . rules and regulations and bosses. You made me like I am. Now just where am I supposed to fit in? Old Man, I gotta tell You. I started out pretty strong and fast. But it's beginning to get to me. When does it end? What do You got in mind for me? What do I do now? Right. All right . . ."
"And now they're telling me I'm crazy over here because I don't sit there like a goddamn vegetable. Don't make a bit of sense to me. If that's what's bein' crazy is, then I'm senseless, out of it, gone-down-the-road, wacko. But no more, no less, that's it."