I'll probably be alone in considering this the most important article of the day.
Shaved a second off my best Monday time to finish at 3:20, making up for the hour and twenty-six minutes on the Harper's cryptic. I think the best strategy on Monday is to work only the across clues as much as possible. After all, down clues are completely redundant, and double the reading!
Happy birthday, [livejournal.com profile] atpotch!

Since you got me crosswords, I got you Sudoku!
From The New York Observer (second item):
"I’ll probably solve 18 to 20 puzzles in a week, but I do that year-round," [Jon Delfin] said. "I also handicap myself: On Mondays and Tuesdays, I just use the ‘down’ clues. I usually start looking at the ‘across’ clues on Thursday. And for the Sunday puzzle, I usually solve it with my other hand. I don’t call it training; I just call it making the game more interesting."
Reading [livejournal.com profile] thedan's LJ tends to depress me, so I'm very pleased by a certain four seconds today.

And, by the way, 48:47 for the Atlantic Puzzler.

Gene Healy amuses:
Sons of famous dictators tend to be an amoral and profligate bunch: raping women, torturing athletes, and racing fast cars, like Whoday and Whatsay, drinking expensive cognac, kidnapping favorite film directors, and building up an extensive Daffy Duck movie collection like Kim Jong-Il. So what's the story with Bashar Assad, ophthalmologist? What was the thinking there? "Well, if this inheriting-the-Baathist-dictatorship thing doesn't pan out for me, at least I'll have something to fall back on"?
Private. Had a blank square at 9:59. Was not really happy with the process -- didn't figure out the theme until twenty minutes after finishing it.
More or less.
And 45:01 in the Harper's Puzzle.

I'll have to be less brain-dead next week.
I don't turn to The Plain Dealer for deep insight; indeed, this morning I merely skimmed across the shallows of Chuck Yarborough's gossip roundup. But I was forced to stare into my own abyss by the following:
The New York Post asked a handwriting expert to examine the scrawlings of hotel heiress Paris Hilton. The samples were her love letters to an ex-lover, Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. One discovery: no lower loops, which indicates a complete lack of imagination. Surprised? Anyone? Anyone at all?
While I am dumbfounded by the concept of a grand epistolary romance between Paris Hilton and Nick Carter -- certainly it really took place between Paris's social secretary and a representative of whatever agency it is that provides beards to closeted celebrities (the Church of Scientology handles this in-house) -- what really brings me up short is simply that my handwriting doesn't have lower loops either. And while I knew this made it very difficult for me to mind my gs and qs, I never before realized that it was symptomatic of my lack of imagination!

Since I have always envied the imaginative, from now on I will endeavor to finish all my descenders with gargantuan, florid ellipses. One might think that something so personal as handwriting would be difficult to change, but there is precedence: I stopped using uppercase Es in my print handwriting after I read an article in which it was claimed that President Clinton writes with loopy Es so that he can finish the crossword faster, and I started crossing my Zs and 7s after I realized that I'm a precious and pretentious ass. Indeed, I've often thought that there should be a category of self-help literature dedicated to self-improvement through graphology. Certainly if something so malleable so rigidly reflects your character, you ought to be able to easily change your own essential self through just a few strokes of your pen. And, Google reveals, this idea is not only extant but on sale at Wal-Mart.
A graphic representation of the mental tendencies that shape our thinking, our handwriting naturally changes when our lives are dramatically altered. Now Vimala Rodgers demonstrates that the reverse is also true: when we purposefully change our handwriting, we develop new, more positive attitudes toward life.

A simple assessment test helps readers figure out what personality traits need to be worked on. Lessons covering every letter of the alphabet pinpoint how picking up a pen can solve a variety of problems. For example:
-- Modifying the letter "T" can help dieters stick to their diets
-- Trouble with your mother can be soothed with a change in Cs
-- Those suffering from writer's block should work on their Gs
(My own Gs are just fine, thank you very much.)

I suppose that one could not apply the same techniques to all other forms of character-divination -- it is hard to go back and change the day on which you were born, for example -- but I do think that there is a niche waiting to be filled by a self-help book based on the principles of phrenology. "Instead of just beating your head against the wall," it could say, "use it to knock open the doors to fame and fortune!"


Sep. 10th, 2004 09:52 pm
3:54 in the Monday New York Times crossword. An all-time personal best. Of course, I still have to cut a minute and forty-two seconds off of that to contend with Trip Payne and the other big boys of cruciverbalism.
I have a pair of questions, probably most answerable by [livejournal.com profile] atpotch.

First, from Sunday's Everyman: "Metal grille in neat pub (4,3)." B_L_ B_R. I want to say "bald bar," but can't find any evidence that this is an actual phrase. This is the final light! Help me rage, rage against its dying! (Hmmm . . . now I'm onto "bull bar," which makes no obvious sense on two entirely separate levels.)

Second, if we are to have a London meet-up, is it left to me to organize it?
Record keeping.
Sunday: 22:26/15:32 (acrostic); Monday: 4:02; Tuesday: 4:41; Wednesday: 7:47; Thursday: 11:14. I'm quite backed up on these things, being pleasantly diverted.

My birthday has been very successful; my thanks to all those who extended their best wishes, with a special thank you going out to [livejournal.com profile] aliera9916 for the gift. It is greatly appreciated! I was well-gifted this February 14th: [livejournal.com profile] rahael gave me the third season of Homicide (I may force her to watch the Steve Buscemi episode before she goes). My mother presented me with Angel Season Three, the Vh1 (Inside)Out documentary on Warren Zevon, and Rashomon. I thought I'd seen Rashomon before, but I read the description on the back of the DVD and it sounds nothing like what I remember! (Rim shot.) My father got me the new Elmore Leonard novel and, proving that if he reads my friends list, he doesn't delve into the comments, The Da Vinci Code. I'm looking forward to indulging myself with all of these -- I have the feeling that Dan Brown's novel is going to be a guilty pleasure (or at least guilty).

But before I get to those, I have to finish Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I just reached December 7, 1941, on which a ton of stuff happens, the least of it being the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Is that a spoiler?) Chabon seems to have a better grasp of the comics world than I do (check out his treatment for the X-Men movie); there are lots of little in-jokes capable of producing chuckles in people who can recognize that twenty years after the novel takes place, there would be a comics character named "Wolverine," etc. There are probably in-jokes too obscure for the likes of me, too; I'm rather desperately seeking a site with annotations. I'd start in on it myself (I picked up rather quickly that Sammy Clay's extremely goyishe friend would introduce him to rather more forbidden foods from the fact that his name is "Tracy Bacon"), but as the only portrait of the obsessive annotating fan Chabon presents is of a Nazi sympathizer, I'm not sure the job would do me credit! I'm quite enjoying the novel, but I am reminded of [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk's theory of the spatchcocked woman. I never really got the impression that Sammy would be homosexual, but being that the novel contains two young male protagonists with healthy sexual desires, and only one female character of any personality whatsoever, it seems like simple supply and demand. It's like all those hobbits running around with no sexual outlet other than each other and occasionally Boromir.

Speaking of perpetual bachelor hobbits and their "nephews," [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk also recently asked about movies that change public consciousness. I've been wondering of late whether or not the recent rise in support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military can be attributed to the success of the Lord of the Rings movies: it's hard to deny to homosexuals the right to defend their country when they've been shown to do so well carrying rings to Mt. Doom. I wonder if The Return of the King, in which Pippin catches a bouquet, for christ's sake, will have a similar effect on support for gay marriage.

Of course, not every viewing of The Lord of the Rings will produce more progressive politics; [livejournal.com profile] londonkds points to John Rhys-Davies's thoughts on the effects on Britain of the prodigious reproduction of Muslim immigrants. I wonder, though, whether I cannot blame this all on Steven Spielberg. Rhys-Davies did make his name in Raiders of the Lost Ark playing Sallah, the best digger in Egypt, whose fourteen children save Indiana Jones from the massed submachine guns of Belloq's German handlers. How different his prejudices might be had Spielberg bothered to rewrite his script to include lines such as:

We're going to need shovels, pry-bars and ropes.
And condoms, Indy. One should never be without a condom!
Thursday: 9:42; The Atlantic Puzzler: 47:27; Friday: 19:29; Saturday: 15:15. Some real disappointments in there, but I was pleasingly distracted.

[livejournal.com profile] rahael is here! Updates in my journal will be sparse for the next two weeks. Yes, I do have better things to do than sit here typing!
Record-keeping. (Wednesday's.)
More record-keeping.
Just for my own record-keeping.



April 2009

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