The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Monday, July 30, 2007

Following the Footsteps

I only discovered today that Edward Sapir, one of the giants of 20th century linguistics and co-founder of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, spent half of his intellectual life in Ottawa. Turns out he was appointed head of the Anthropological department at what is now the Museum of Civilization, about a ten minute walk from my pad. He didn't, however, have any university affiliation while here (Carleton U did not exist yet and U of Ottawa was probably more like a small college in those days). Still, it's neat to know that I've already probably trodden on the same ground he did. Hopefully this will give me some much needed inspiration for, uh, stuff!

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Review On : On Review

Let me get something off my chest outright: film critics make me want hack off their fingers with a spoon.

I'm not speaking of ALL reviewers: those who review obscure films or who review films honestly, and there are some, are fine. What really pisses me off are the majority, a collection of pretentious, whiny, sanctimonos asses who give the impression of hating everything. They will give good reviews to a film only if everyone else is doing so; you know the type of film, the piece of sanctimonious dreck that just seems Oscar worthy. There are many movies that fall into this category, films that are inexplicably admired to this day (Forrest Dump comes to mind). Thus, not only are these critics annoying as hell, they are tautological, i.e., superfluous.

In addition, these sanctimonious assholes often manifest a a faux morality that would make a Victorian blush. Movies such as Van Wilder 2 (infinitely better than the unwatchable first one with, ugh, Tara Reid), the funnier than expected I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry, and even the classic Billy Madison have received nearly unanimous bad reviews. I know what's going on: most people find these films funny, but because they may be deemed "low brow" (God forbid!!), reviewers conceal their shame at having laughed at something vulgar by simply denigrating the film. Screw them!!


I myself saw two films yesterday: Truffau's Fahrenheit 451 and the Simpsons movie (I won't say how I saw them; let us just say I didn't have to pay). I'll devote another post the former, which is worth discussing, but merely point out that the Simpsons movie does NOT live up to the hype. Don't get me wrong: it's not a bad film. In fact, I guarantee you will laugh at times. As hard as it tries though, it is disappointing and or frustrating. If you are expecting "classic" Simpsons (a la seasons 2-6), you will be disappointed. Much of the film is actually serious, but even the humorous bits are somewhat predictable or tired, which, I suppose, is to be expected from a show that has been on the air since I was in primary school.

The film isn't bad, but the critical consensus is that it is great. Some reviewers claimed that it is worth watching sixteen times, as one should with a classic episode. I couldn't disagree more: in fact, less than 24 hours later, there's much about the film I can't remember.

In conclusion, the Simpsons movie is probably worth seeing, if only to see the animated family on the big screen for an hour and a half episode, but don't expect too much.

Oh, I almost forgot: Film critics, suck my balls!

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Friday, July 27, 2007


The gods have spoken: I am indeed a geek, but just barely (greater than or equal to 15% is considered geek, and I'm just slightly over thatt at 15.19&).  

This is the most detailed and, to my knowledge, most accurate 
geek test I've come across.  Give it a shot.

I think was pushed me over the edge was the fact that I have not only, at some point in my life, created a webpage, but I got bonus marks because I did so back before 1996 when most people still didn't have net access.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Keep 'em comin'

This guy gives new meaning to the term big spender

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

...when it snows in the desert...

A couple of fascinating finds I made this morning:

Apparently it does snow in the desert: this is a recent image taken by NASA of the Taklimakan desert in Northern China.  There are other, more impressive photos, but I haven't been able to ascertain whether they are authentic.  Click here to see larger versions.

-Apparently there is something called the Voynich manuscript which has baffled scholars for decades.  So far they can't even agree on the basics.

-There is no shortage of mystery surrounding the JFK assassnation.  Turns out one of the
biggest mysteries is the presence of an unidentified woman who can be seen in certain shots.  
She has come to be known as the "Babushka lady," given her Eastern looking headscarf.  Although one person claiming to be her came forward in the early 1970s, her testimony and evidence contained many inconsistencies, and as such was dismissed.  

Click here to see a page
 with more relevant photographs.    

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Software Update

I've already ranted about Microsoft products, especially the laughable new release of media player,
so I'll spare whipping a dead horse (this time!).  

I've been using WinAmp recently to play music, but even that got on my nerves after a few weeks.  Just yesterday, I found an impressive free program called "Media Monkey."  It plays music without any hassles, and it automatically creates playlists, unlike WinAmp.  Although the TaskManager shows that it uses up more ram than usual (about 33000 K as opposed to, say, 5000), it certainly doesn't act that way.  You can also minimize it so that all you see is the icon in the system tray, so it's less obtrusive than other programs.  Did I mention that it's fast?  
Best of all, it's Canadian Software! (Ventis, which is, I believe, based in Montreal).  

I remember Dr. J encouraging me to download and use Open Office, which is a free imitation of Microsoft Office, but don't be fooled: it is a very impressive program which is far simpler and faster than MS Office.  I've only used the Writer (Word processor), and so far so good.  I also downloaded a similar program called AbiWord.  It look an awful lot like Open Office's word processor, but it seems even simpler.  I haven't really given it a shot yet, but I will let you as and when.  

As far as browers go, I'm back to using Opera.  Firefox is a very good browers, and the ad-block plug in works wonders (it even blocks Google ads!).  However, there are certain things that bug me about Firefox, mainly the fact that it's a system hog (sometimes it will eat up 100,000K of ram, far too much for a browser).  Opera has some very nice looking skins, takes up a fraction of the memory, and is often much faster

Does anyone still use Internet Explorer?  I can't see why they would.  If you are one of these people, I highly recommend giving Opera or Firefox a shot: you will immediately see the difference.  

That's it for this week's edition of Software Update.  Stay tuned for further developments.  

Monday, July 23, 2007

Arnold, The Prince of Denmark

I never knew Arnold Schwarzenegger played Hamlet. Must have missed it :-)

Khaaan! and other matters

I watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for the first time in years the other day on the net; it was one of my favourite movies as a young geek.  
The movie is classic, though I have to say not as sophisticated as I thought.  I did, however, notice some things I didn't notice when I was fifteen:

-In Khan's ship/lair, before we see him, the investigating crew member notices some books on his shelf.  Among them are Moby Dick and Paradise Lost, very appropriate books for a tale of vengeance and pride at ones own expense.  In fact, Khan quotes from Melville's masterpiece a few times during the film.  

-Khan's outburt "This is Seti Alpha Fiiiive!!!" is reminiscent of Leonidas's "This is Spartaaaa" from 300.  

I started watching Apocalypto last night.  So far so good, though riddled with historical inaccuracies, as are all historical films (Gladiator, etc).  More on that when I'm done.

I'm currently working on two articles, which I hope to submit by month's end.  The first is a Shakespeare paper I wrote two years ago, so it only requires some tweaking and editing.  Whatever the faults of the paper, it is an original piece, and sure beats the pants off much of the dreck that is considered Shakespeare criticism nowadays.  

The second is a new piece I'm writing on Roman Jakobson.  It concerns his ideas about sound symbolism, a fascinating topic in linguistics rarely mentioned in the humanities that runs against the Saussurean concept of the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign.  To make matters easier, I'm only picking on Jakobson :-)  

As I'm sure some of you have noticed, I added the Map Cluster feature on the side bar.  I can identify some of the cities and infer the readers (Ottawa, NYC, Toronto/Hamilton), though there are a few I'm not familiar with (there appear to be dots in Texas, Oklahoma, and perhaps Wisconsin).  Any ideas?  

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Missing Link?

As the origins of the Armenians are rather obscure, there have been several theories advanced, some of which have been since discredited (such as the Thraco-Phrygian migration hypothesis). Of course, this had led to some idle speculation: I remember hearing years ago that the Armenians may be one of the lost tribes of Israel. This may sound insane, but then again, there are people in the depths of south east Asia who claim to be such, so why not a nation that is geographically much closer?

The Armenian language is classified as Indo-European. In short, it is somehow related to the languages such as Persian, Latin, Greek, English, etc, with varying degrees of affinity. Despite this link, however, if you look at a tree-diagram of the language family (which you can easily find online), you will see that it is a separate language. For example, German, Swedish, English and Danish are all grouped under the subheading "Germanic," which French, Italian, Latin, and other extinct languages from that area are classified as "Italic" or "Romance." The Armenian language is a bit of a loner on this tree, and I have heard the suggestion that it is related to an ancient, extinct language called Phrygian, which, as far as I know, was a dialect of Greek. Far too little is known of this language to make any solid connection.

Back to Israel: while this is hardly compelling evidence, I noticed that there are at least two words in Armenian that bear a striking similarity to the corresponding words in Hebrew, although the latter is a Semitic, not an Indo-European, language. Allow me to demonstrate using these two examples:

Table Pig
Arm. Seghan Xoz
Heb. Shoxan Xezier

(note the "x" is the rough, unaspirated throat clearing sound and "gh" is the aspirated version, like a proper French "r"). These transliterations are not entirely accurate, but should give you a sense of the pronunciation of the words.

Often words designating animals in Armenian are very similar to those in other European languages. For example, the word cow in English is Arm. kov, German kuh, and Hindi ku. English dog becomes Arm. shoon, French. chien, German hund. For whatever reason, the Armenian for pig does not resemble any of the corresponding words in its related languages, but the closest I've found is Hebrew.

Finally, it is worth noting that the two words under consideration (pig and table) are "primitive" words. In other words, they are extremely old, and it is precisely for this reason that historical linguists who wish to study cognates (related words in different languages) do so by observing old words that are very basic to a language.

For what it's worth, I think the similarities are worth investigating. I would be genuinely surprised if no expert has noticed this similarity before, but I've never heard of it elsewhere.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Brief Rant

Perhaps owing to my exposure to a certain irate author today, I am going to provide a brief rant of my own about something I just witnessed.

How lame do you have to be to have a blog that one can view by invitation only? That must be the stupidest thing I've ever seen (I won't say whose it is; I certainly didn't know such a thing existed until a few minutes ago).

If you're writing something on the internet, it is intended for public consumption, as it is a public medium. If you don't want people you don't know to see what you think or stupid pictures of you with your cats, then no one is putting a gun to your head! Keep a freakin' diary! (which is what most blogs are anyways).

But where's the love?

Wow, I finally did it: I finally found someone who hates more things than I do.

At first I just assumed he was an angry young man with a huge axe to grind against everyone and everything, but, as I read through some posts, I found his commentary insightful and usually accurate, which belies the rhetoric (i.e., vulgarity) of his posts.

Perhaps my favourite rant is about how much Garfield sucks (balls): his crude illustration is dead on, I think. My only complaint is that the author only provides a rant every month or so. So far, there have been only three rants in 2007!

I will be adding the link to his page in my sidebar. Indeed this places him among some illustrious company! :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Racist against all races

Apparently, someone took Homer Simpson's advice, but he's probably not going to get away with it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

...cont'd from yesterday

Here is, as promised, the opening track from Symphony X's latest CD, "Paradish Lost," entitled "Oculus Ex Inferni." I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what you hear; I certainly wouldn't mind if this is the type of stuff Symphony X always did. Enjoy

Monday, July 09, 2007

And Music Shall Untune the Sky, again / Kubrick

I was pleased to discover that one of my few favourite bands, Symphony X, released an album after five long years. Their previous album was entitled "The Odyssey," and their newest offering, "Paradise Lost," so you can see the appeal :-) Besides, they are one of the few original prof-symphonic-metal acts out there who are original. They also have an unparalleled sense of orchestration, besides being consummate musicians. I will post their opening track, "Oculus Ex Inferni" to give you an idea of their sound, even though it is less "rocky" soon enough

I bought the CD from the HMV on Sparks street here in Ottawa, which is a picturesque pedestrian street. While there, I also at long last purchased a CD by Saint-Saens, an underrated classical composer if there ever was one. Despite my exigent poverty, I also purchased two DVDs: Hitcock's Psycho and Kubrick's 2001, the latter being my favourite film of all time.

Speaking of Kubrick, I finally watched his Barry Lyndon, based on Thackeray's little known novel (this is the same Thackeray who wrote "Vanity Fair," which was later strangely and not ironically adopted as the title of a magazine). Although I still don't consider it vintage Kubrick, I later appreciated the cinematography and generally artistic value of the film. The adapted score, especially Handel's Sarabande, was very effective.

(Spoiler warning!) Last but not least, this the film marked the first time I was genuinely choked up during a movie: the funeral scene of Lyndon's young son compelled me to pause it momentarily and walk away. I think it was a combination of the story, the music, and the imagery that got to me. As I said before, I do not get emotional during movies, so Kubrick knew what he was doing!

I'm currently still recovering from a long year but am also desultorily working on a paper about one of Roman Jakobson's ideas. Hopefully I will have that finished by the end of the month. I will open the vault and edit an old Shakespeare paper I wrote over two years ago and submit it for publication. Not sure if the latter is very good, but by golly, it sure beats a lot of the utter dreck that passes for Shakespeare scholarship these days.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I recently found this music video online. The first time I saw it, which was back around 1995-96, I was incapacitated with laughter. I hope you have the same reaction.

The song is by Brutal Truth, and it's called "Ill Neglect." They are (or were) what is known as Grindcore. I'll explain that later.

Brutal Truth - Ill Neglect