Shared posts

15 Apr 21:27

'The Joy Women Express Over 100-Calorie Snack Packs Is Not to Be Believed'

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I think Roxane Gay's piece on The Biggest Loser is pretty phenomenal. Gay, wh watched the show for several seasons, pegs her essay to contestant Rachel Fredrickson's alarming weight loss--155 pounds over the course of the season, nearly 60 percent of her body-weight. But the heart of the piece is all Roxane Gay:

My body is wildly undisciplined and I deny myself nearly everything I desire. I deny myself the right to space when I am public, trying to fold in on myself, to make my body invisible even though it is, in fact, grandly visible. I deny myself the right to a shared armrest because how dare I impose? I deny myself entry into certain spaces I have deemed inappropriate for a body like mine—most spaces inhabited by other people. 
 
I deny myself bright colors in my clothing choices, sticking to a uniform of denim and dark shirts even though I have a far more diverse wardrobe. I deny myself certain trappings of femininity as if I do not have the right to such expression when my body does not follow society’s dictates for what a woman’s body should look like. I deny myself gentler kinds of affection—to touch or be kindly touched—as if that is a pleasure a body like mine does not deserve. 
 
Punishment is, in fact, one of the few things I allow myself. I deny myself my attractions. I have them, oh I do, but dare not express them, because how dare I want. How dare I confess my want? How dare I try to act on that want? I deny myself so much and still there is so much desire throbbing beneath my surfaces. 
 
Denial merely puts what we want just beyond reach but we still know it’s there. 

Wow.

It's so hard to get naked on the page. It's one of the hardest things to convey in my essay classes. You must be naked. You must understand that clothes are the illusion, and  your readers are naked too. Humans are at war with themselves. Once you can accept this, your own wars become less shameful. I don't mean exhibitionism. I mean honesty. The clothes are the illusion.

I'll be teaching this in workshop, tomorrow.

As an aside, Roxane Gay writes the greatest zombi stories in the world.








29 Apr 22:01

On Her 88th Birthday, Harper Lee Heralds Mockingbird eBook

by Bibliofuture

Mark your literary calendars. Per an announcement today by HarperCollins, on what is author Harper Lee‘s 88th birthday, To Kill a Mockingbird will be available for the first time as an eBook July 8.

http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/harpercollins-harper-lee-mockingbird-ebook_b211726

30 Apr 15:37

Coldplay announce lyric sheet treasure hunt for Ghost Stories album

by Anonymous Patron

Coldplay have announced an international scavenger hunt for handwritten lyrics from their new album. The words to all nine of Ghost Stories' songs have been concealed in haunted tales at libraries around the world, beginning with a library in Mexico City.

"¡Ándale! ¡Ándale!" Coldplay tweeted yesterday, sending their Mexican fans on a race to the English literature section of the city's Vasconcelos library. There, in a translated copy of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a lucky scavenger found Chris Martin's lyrics for Ghost Stories' lead single, Magic.

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/apr/29/coldplay-announce-lyric-sheet-treasure-hunt

30 Apr 14:04

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

by Jason Kottke

I really liked this bit from Rolling Stone's interview with Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin:

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it's not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren't gone -- they're in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

(via mr)

Tags: books   economics   Game of Thrones   George R.R. Martin   interviews   J.R.R. Tolkien   Lord of the Rings   TV
30 Apr 15:53

Pixel Studio Ghibli

by Jason Kottke

Pixel Totoro

Richard Evans rendered some of the best-known Studio Ghibli characters in pixel art style.

Tags: illustration   movies   Richard Evans   Studio Ghibli
23 Apr 18:35

What Will Become of the Library?

by birdie
Valtron3030

Libraries will evolve! That's what we do. That's what we are doing. And I still refuse to believe that tangible, physical, books are on the way out.

Via Slate.com:

At the turn of the century a library without books was unthinkable. Now it seems almost inevitable. Like so many other time-honored institutions of intellectual and cultural life—publishing, journalism, and the university, to name a few—the library finds itself on a precipice at the dawn of a digital era. What are libraries for, if not storing and circulating books? With their hearts cut out, how can they survive?

The recent years of austerity have not been kind to the public library. 2012 marked the third consecutive year in which more than 40 percent of states decreased funding for libraries. In 2009, Pennsylvania, the keystone of the old Carnegie library system, came within 15 Senate votes of closing the Free Library of Philadelphia. In the United Kingdom, a much more severe austerity program shuttered 200 public libraries in 2012 alone.

Ours is not the first era to turn its back on libraries. The Roman Empire boasted an informal system of public libraries, stretching from Spain to the Middle East, which declined and disappeared in the early medieval period. In his book Libraries: An Unquiet History, Matthew Battles calls such disasters “biblioclasms.”

The most commonly invoked image of biblioclasm is the burning of the Library of Alexandria, probably the greatest-ever collection of Hellenic manuscripts, many of which are now lost to history. In most versions of the story, the arson was committed by early Christian zealots or by invading Arabs under the banner of Islam. Indeed, either group might have seen the burning of the pagan Library as an act of devotion and a net gain for civilization. Just as likely, however, the fire is a myth that obscures a long, slow decline, and the flames that brought down the ancient library were fed not by a single man or group, but by the winds of history—changing reading habits, political instability, and the decline of the administrative state.

Will the digital age mark another era of decline for libraries?

24 Apr 03:51

How Mobile Devices Drive Literacy in Developing World

by Bibliofuture

24 Apr 12:21

Too big to trust? Google's growing credibility gap

by Blake

Remember when we all loved Google? Its search engine was both simple to use and an unbiased portal to anything you wanted to know. It was founded by two college students at a time when Silicon Valley was a shining beacon of what was right in the world, during sunny economic and political times.

http://www.infoworld.com/print/239815

24 Apr 17:12

Observations on Marginalia in Library Books

by birdie
Valtron3030

I write in my books.

MADISON, N.J. — THE graduate student thrust the library book toward me as though brandishing a sword. “This has got to stop,” she said. “It isn’t fair. How can I work on my dissertation with this mess?” As she marched out of my office, leaving the disfigured volume behind, her words stung — for the code of civility on which libraries depend had been violated. She was the third Ph.D. student in less than a year to bring me a similarly damaged volume, and each had expected me as the library director to turn sleuth, solve the mystery, and end the vandalism.

Someone had been defacing modern books containing translations of 16th-century texts. With garish strokes, the perpetrator had crossed out lines, then written alternate text in the margins. It did not take a Sherlock Holmes to observe that it was the work of a single hand, a hand wielding a fountain pen spewing green ink. The colorful alterations were not limited to a few pages but crept like a mold, page after page.

Some months later, in a faculty meeting, I noticed that the colleague sitting next to me was taking notes with a fountain pen. And the ink was telltale green.

More from The New York Times.

29 Apr 14:01

“Librarian’s Librarian” to Become State Librarian of Michigan

by birdie

A 24-year veteran at the Library of Michigan will be the next state librarian.

Randy Riley will succeed Nancy Robertson, who is retiring this week after almost a decade in the role.
Riley is recognized as a leading family history librarian in the United States.

Riley has been the Michigan eLibrary coordinator and also coordinated the Notable Books program and Center for the Book. Riley says he’s looking forward to steering the library toward “new levels of innovative services, programs and technologies.”

Before joining the library in 1989, Riley was a substitute teacher at schools in Ionia and Montcalm counties and taught at the Valley School in Schwartz Creek.

Read more from The Detroit News .

28 Apr 21:20

TFIOS, Trailer Two

by Nora Rawlinson
Just in case you’ve forgotten that the movie arrives in theaters on June 6, FOX has released a new extended trailer:
29 Apr 14:17

The Wes Anderson soundtrack collection

by Jason Kottke

Twee out with more than 9 hours of music from Wes Anderson's movies:

Tags: movies   music   Wes Anderson
28 Apr 23:22

The 38-page bread recipe

by Jason Kottke

Tartine Bread

In his cookbook, Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson lays out, over 38 pages, the recipe for what might be the best bread in the world. The first time through, the recipe takes two weeks to make.

To Chad, bread is the foundation of a meal, the center of daily life, and each loaf tells the story of the baker who shaped it. He developed his unique bread over two decades of apprenticeship with the finest artisan bakers in France and the United States, as well as experimentation in his own ovens.

A streamlined version of the recipe is available from the NY Times. (via smithsonian)

Tags: books   Chad Robertson   food   Tartine Bread
03 Apr 18:22

Shaun the Sheep Movie

by Jason Kottke

Holy cow, Aardman is making a Shaun the Sheep Movie! Here's a teaser trailer:

The movie will be out in March 2015 and the plot centers on the sheep going to the big city to retrieve the Farmer. As I wrote last year, Shaun the Sheep is wonderful family entertainment. I wonder how the lack of dialogue will translate to the feature length format? (thx, greg)

Tags: Aardman Animations   movies   Shaun the Sheep   Shaun the Sheep Movie   trailer
03 Apr 20:03

MTV Amp complete playlist

by Jason Kottke

My friend Aaron has compiled an Rdio playlist of every song ever played on MTV's Amp, a show from the mid-90s that featured electronic music. Lots of Underworld, Prodigy, Aphex Twin, and Orbital on here.

Some songs weren't available on Rdio, but there's more than 18 hours of music here.

Tags: Aaron Coleman   MTV   music   Rdio   TV
03 Apr 21:54

Unleash the maps!

by Jason Kottke

Viele Map Close

Last week, the New York Public Library released a massive collection of maps online...over 20,000 maps are available for high-resolution download. An incredible resource.

Tags: maps   NYC   NYPL
04 Apr 16:03

Vatican to scan all their manuscripts

by Jason Kottke

Vatican manuscripts

The Vatican is beginning the process of digitizing its extensive library of books and manuscripts, previously only available to a select few scholars and historians. Their plan calls for an initial 3000 manuscripts to be scanned, with the rest of the 82,000 other documents to hopefully follow.

That's 41 million pages spanning nearly 2,000 years of church history that will soon be clickable, zoomable, and presumably, printable. When all is said and done, you'll be able to read the Psalms handwritten across 13th-century vellum on your iPhone -- so long as you speak ancient Greek.

Tags: books   libraries   Vatican City
25 Apr 14:06

How to drink all night without getting drunk

by Jason Kottke

Jim Koch is the co-founder and chairman of The Boston Beer Company, brewer of the Sam Adams beers. Part of his job is to drink professionally and he does so without getting completely sloshed. What's his secret? Eating a packet of dry yeast before tying one on.

You see, what [expert brewer] Owades knew was that active dry yeast has an enzyme in it called alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH). Roughly put, ADH is able to break alcohol molecules down into their constituent parts of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Which is the same thing that happens when your body metabolizes alcohol in its liver. Owades realized if you also have that enzyme in your stomach when the alcohol first hits it, the ADH will begin breaking it down before it gets into your bloodstream and, thus, your brain.

"And it will mitigate - not eliminate - but mitigate the effects of alcohol!" Koch told me.

Could have used this tip last night. Does this mean no hangovers as well?

Update: I got two kinds of feedback about this post:

1) What's the fun in drinking alcohol if you're not getting drunk? (Good point.)

2) Yeast doesn't really work. What does seem to work is Pepcid AC and Zantac. From Shenglong on Hacker News:

Again, I'm not a chemist or a doctor, but from my preliminary internet research and anecdotal testing (though I have quite a few different data points), Famotadine (OTC) [Pepcid], and higher levels of APO-Ranitidine (can be prescription) [Zantac] seems to slow the rate of ethanol -> acetaldehyde, balancing out the drunkness effect more, and giving you more time to process the acetaldehyde -> acetic acid. I typically go from maxing out at 2 drinks / 3 hour period, to about 11 drinks / 3 hour period on Ranitidine, given favorable conditions. I've had lower levels of success with Famotadine.

And it goes without saying, I don't recommend trying any of this at home. At the local bar on the other hand Nope, not there either. (thx, @natebirdman)

Tags: alcohol   food   how to   Jim Koch
26 Apr 00:48

Boyhood

by Jason Kottke

Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise) took 12 years to make his new movie, Boyhood. The star of Boyhood, Ellar Coltrane, was seven years old when filming started, and Linklater returned to the story every year for a few days of shooting to construct a movie about a boy growing from a first-grader to an adult and his changing relationship with his parents.

This looks amazing. What an undertaking.

Tags: Boyhood   movies   Richard Linklater   trailers   video
28 Apr 13:51

World War I in photos

by Jason Kottke

Over at In Focus, Alan Taylor has posted the first part of a 10-part photographic retrospective of World War I.

Priest blesses airplane

Represented in this first installment is early color photography (many more of which can be found here), dazzle camouflage, and a photo I've never seen before of an aerial view of the trenches of the western front. Can't wait to follow along with the rest of it.

Tags: Alan Taylor   photography   war   World War I
25 Apr 21:06

The News: The Slow Regard of Silent Things

by Pat

So here’s the news:

I have a book coming out around November-ish.

Slow Regard - Front

It’s not book three. It’s not a mammoth tome that you can use to threaten people and hold open doors.

It’s a short, sweet story about one of my favorite characters.

It’s a book about Auri.

That’s the news. The short version. If you’d like the long version, I’ll give that below….

*     *     *

I didn’t set out to write a book about Auri. I really didn’t.

What happened was this: a while back, I was invited to contribute something to George Martin’s Rogues anthology. I mentioned it a while back on the blog…

Wow. I just went looking for the blog post where I mentioned the Rogues anthology, only to discover that I kinda never wrote it.

Well. Okay. I guess y’all get a little side order of news with your news today:

rouges cover 2

I’m in this book too. It’s coming out in June.

What happened was this: a couple years back, George Martin and Gardner Dozois invited me to be in an anthology called Rogues. I said yes, because back in 2009, when I was working on The Wise Man’s Fear, they’d invited me to participate in a different anthology: Star Crossed Lovers.

But in 2009 I was behind deadline and freaked out about it. So I said “No” and went back to struggling with WMF. It broke my heart a little. Because it’s one of those anthologies you dream about being invited to. It was the anthology equivalent of getting invited to the cool-kid party back in high-school.

Anyway, when they asked me to contribute a story to Rogues back in 2012, I said yes for two reasons.

1. Because how fucking cool is it to be in this anthology? Look at my name up there, right next to Neil Gaiman’s. Seriously. Look at that. My name is almost touching Neil Gaiman’s name….

I know I should be cooler about this. I should pretend that I’m a professional and a grown-up and everything. But I’m really not. I’m still the same person who read Neverwhere back in the late 90′s and went, “What? Seriously? You can do that?”

And now I’m anthology-buddies with him. In fact, Gaiman’s story is “How the Marquis Got his Coat Back.” It’s about the Marquis De Carabas from Neverwhere.

The other reason I said yes was…

2. I’d had a story idea about Auri tickling around my head for a while. What’s more, I thought she would make a nice counterpoint to some of the other  classic rogue-type characters in the anthology. Sort of a trickster rogue, as opposed to a thief, swashbuckler, or a con man.

“Besides,” I thought to myself. “It’s just a short story. Three or four thousand words. Maybe 6 or 7 thousand if I run long. That’s about two week’s writing, tops.”

So I started writing about Auri. But as it unfolded, it went in directions I hadn’t expected. The story was… strange. I hit 3000 words and I was barely started. Writing about the Underthing was more complicated than I’d anticipated.

So the story got longer. I hit 7ooo words without even realizing it. I kept going, unearthing more secrets about Auri and the Underthing.

Eventually I hit about 15,000 words and forced myself to stop. It wasn’t going to work for the anthology, it was too long, and it wasn’t a trickster tale of the sort I initially expected it to be. Honestly didn’t know what the hell kind of story it was, but it wasn’t going to work for the anthology.

I e-mailed George and Gardner and begged for an extension on my deadline. They were very kind and understanding. I tried a few different things that failed miserably, then I realized who *really* belonged in an anthology about Rogues: Bast. Once I figured that out, I wrote “The Lightning Tree” for the anthology, and it worked out really well.

But I was stuck with half a story. Half a strange story. Half a strange, too-long story that wasn’t doing the things a story is supposed to do.

Reluctantly, I walked away from it and went back to working on book three. I love Auri, and the story had an odd sweetness to it. But I had work to do.

But the Auri story kept tickling at me. And let me tell you this, having a half-finished story stuck in your head is ten times worse than having a song stuck in there.

And there’s only one way to get it out. So when I came to a good stopping point in my revisions, I went back to the Auri story. It just wouldn’t leave me alone.

It ended up over 30,000 words long. An odd length for me. Much too long for a short story. Much shorter than my usual novels. (For a frame of reference, 30,000 words is about the same length as Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.)

What’s more, the story had unfurled into something full of secrets and mysteries. Something sweet and strange. Not a normal sort of story at all. I suppose it was silly of me to assume a story about Auri would be usual in any way.

The problem was, I had no idea what to do with it. I liked the story, but I like strange things. And I’m fond of Auri. And most importantly, I’m the author. Asking me if I like my story is like asking a mom if she likes her baby….

I showed it to a few people, and they seemed to like it pretty well. But they were friends, you can only trust them to be so honest with you.

I revised it a couple times, then showed it to a few authors. They liked it, but they agreed, it was an odd story.

Then I took a big risk and showed it to Vi Hart. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog where she put some of my lyrics to music, we are now Best Friends.

So I knew her, and respected her opinion, but since we haven’t known each other very long, I trusted her to tell me the truth.

She read it, and we talked about the story. She pointed out some things she thought were problematic. I agreed. She pointed out some things she liked, and I was flattered.

We were in a bar in San Fransisco at this point. The Casanova. We’d spent a lovely evening together, and I was drinking a little bit, which is unusual for me. And it might be because of that that I started to lament the fact that the story was kind of a hot mess. Good stories are supposed to contain certain elements, I explained, and my story didn’t have those things.

Vi said she liked it.

I told her I liked it too, but that didn’t change the fact that people expect certain things from a story. If people read this story looking for those things, they wouldn’t get them, they’d be dissatisfied. Disappointed.

And Vi said something I hope she’ll forgive me for paraphrasing here without asking her first. She said, “Fuck those people. Those people get all the other stories in the world. Everyone writes stories for them. This story is for people like me. We deserve stories too.”

That shut me up. Because she’s right. It might not be for everyone. But not every story has to be for everyone. Maybe this was just a story for people like me and Vi. People who are curious about Auri and the life she leads. People who are, perhaps, not entirely normal.

Vi said a few other things that gave me enough confidence to send the story to my agent. He liked it, and said we should show it to Betsy, my editor at DAW. Betsy liked it. Really liked it. The people in her office liked it.

That made me think that maybe it *was* a story for everyone. Or maybe there are more people like me and Vi in the world than either of us expected.

Anyway, the end result is this:

Slow Regard - Front

I’ll have more details about it later. Exact dates. If and when I’m touring. Those things are still up in the air a bit right now.

But today’s the day we’re officially announcing the cover, showing it off to people at C2E2 and letting it out onto the internet. I’ve been holding off on this post so y’all could be some of the very first people to see it.

I think a lot of you are going to like it.

Fondly,

pat

22 Apr 16:45

Kickstarter Builds a School Library

by birdie

ABC Local: Kickstarter has been used to fund everything from new gadgets to space missions -- but in Berkeley, CA a group of kids just successfully used it to fund a library. A can-do attitude is at the core of the REALM Charter School's curriculum. Now in its third year, the school has classrooms full of technology and teachers full of energy, but no library. The eighth grade class is about to change that. "I really want the future students to love it because we worked really, really hard on this," student Agustina McEwen said. Call it a legacy, when they graduate, they're leaving behind a gift. They're calling it "x-space." "It's a space made out of x's and we use these x's to make

everything in here" Agustina said.

From the bookshelves, to the tables and chairs, it all started in their design class taught by a local group called Project H. "It's sort of humbling and awe inspiring to watch a 13-year-old build something that came from their head, that they prototyped on their desk, and now is full scale," Project H founder Emily Pilloton said.

23 Apr 11:21

Dive into the world of home libraries

by Blake

http://bibliofair.com/

Dive into the world of home libraries

Is the book you are looking for too expensive or always unavailable in your local library? Would you like to save both money and nature and rather buy a used one?

BiblioFair helps you find publications available for sale, donation or lending in home libraries located close to you!

06 Apr 14:16

Watch The Unknown Known

by Jason Kottke

Errol Morris's latest documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, just came out in theaters. But it's also available right now to rent/buy on Amazon and iTunes. Here's a trailer if you need convincing.

Tags: Donald Rumsfeld   Errol Morris   movies   The Unknown Known
07 Apr 00:49

Cobain gone for 20 years

by Jason Kottke

Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain at the age of 27. Many have written of the anniversary, but I liked Dennis Cooper's piece published in Spin a few weeks after Cobain's death.

Cobain's work nailed how a ton of people feel. There are few moments in rock as bewilderingly moving as when he mumbled, "I found it hard / It's hard to find / Oh well, whatever / Nevermind." There's that bizarre, agonized, and devastating promise he keeps making throughout "Heart-Shaped Box": "Wish that I could eat your cancer when you turn black." Take a look in his eyes the next time MTV runs the "Heart-Shaped Box" video, and see if you can sort out the pain from the ironic detachment from the horror from the defensiveness.

(via NYT Now app)

Tags: Dennis Cooper   Kurt Cobain   music   Nirvana
07 Apr 16:15

First episode of Silicon Valley

by Jason Kottke

HBO put the entire first episode of Mike Judge's new show Silicon Valley up on YouTube:

Tags: Mike Judge   Silicon Valley   TV   video
15 Apr 18:31

The young eagle hunters of Mongolia

by Jason Kottke

Asher Svidensky's photographs from Mongolia of apprentice eagle hunters are fantastic. (FYI, they hunt with eagles, not for them.) Among Svidensky's subjects is a 13-year-old girl, Ashol Pan:

Mongolia Eagle Hunters

At the end of the photographing session, I sat down with her father and the translator to say my goodbyes, and I asked him this:

"How did it feel watching your daughter dressed in Kazakh uniform, on a mountain top, sending the eagle off and calling it back again?"

"Very good"

"And honestly... would you have considered truly training her? Would she become Mongolia's first ever female eagle huntress?"

I expected a straightforward "No" or a joking "Maybe", but after a short pause he replied:

"Up until two years ago my eldest son was the successor of the eagle hunting tradition in our family. Alas, two years ago he was drafted to the army, and he's now an officer, so he probably won't be back with the tradition. It's been a while since I started thinking about training her instead of him, but I wouldn't dare do it unless she asks me to do it, and if she will? Next year you will come to the eagle festival and see her riding with the eagle in my place."

From the father's answer I realized that the idea of women's participation in keeping the tradition is a possible future, but just like many other aspect of Mongolian life, it's an option which women will need to take on by themselves.

(via @rebeccablood)

Tags: Asher Svidensky   Ashol Pan   hunting   Mongolia   photography
16 Apr 13:23

Rumsfeld to IRS: taxes are too damn complicated

by Jason Kottke

Uh oh, Donald Rumsfeld and I agree on something. Each year, with his tax return, Rumsfeld sends a letter to the IRS explaining that neither he or his wife are sure of how accurate their taxes are because the forms and tax code are too complex. Here is this year's letter:

Rumsfeld Tax

If only he had been less certain of his accuracy in an even more complex situation, like, say the whole WMD/Iraq War thing.

Tags: Donald Rumsfeld   IRS   taxes
22 Apr 14:15

London traffic scenes from the 1890s

by Jason Kottke

Film shot of London street scenes, mostly from the 1890s and 1900s.

There's also a brief shot of Paris in 1900 right at the end. See also the extremely rare footage of Queen Victoria visiting Dublin in 1900. The Victorian era seems so long ago (and indeed she began her reign in 1837) but there she is on the modern medium of film. Yet another example of the Great Span.

Tags: London   Queen Victoria   video
07 Apr 00:46

Something Like a Star

by Pat

Tonight, Oot brought me a penny he’d found on the floor.

“Look,” he said. “It’s burned.”

Say something to us we can learn By heart and when alone repeat. Say something! And it says, 'I burn.'

It wasn’t a bad guess, everything said. A good guess, but wrong. It’s corroded.

For half a moment I thought about correcting him on this, but I didn’t.

Looking back, I could come up with some excuse for *why* I didn’t correct him. I could claim that corrosion is sort of like a slow chemical burning. But that would be bullshittery. The truth was, at that moment, it didn’t feel right to correct my boy. So I didn’t. I went with my gut.

“Maybe it got too close to the sun,” Oot said.

This was another good guess. Though it was probably wrong as well.

What pleased me is that my decision to keep my mouth shut paid such an immediate dividend.

If I’d told my boy the truth right away, he would have nodded and said, “Oh of course!” Or “Oh, I see!” And he would have gained a tiny fact. Namely, that a coin that looks like this is corroded. (Something he could have parroted back to me. But that he wouldn’t have understood in any meaningful way.)

But that’s not what happened. Instead, left to himself. His curiosity was engaged. He asked a question of himself, “How could this have gotten burned?”

Then he came up with an answer: It might have gotten to close to the sun.

This isn’t a bad guess. He knows fire would have to be pretty hot to burn metal. A match isn’t going to do it. What’s hotter than that? The sun.

And here’s the thing. He’s wrong. But the process he’s going though is good. What he’s actually doing, asking questions and attempting to figure out the answers, it’s the roots of rationality. The process he’s undertaking is the core of all true philosophy and science.

He looked at the penny again. “Actually,” He says. “It looks like moss.”

It’s called “verdigris,” I thought. It’s like rust, but it happens on copper instead of iron. Also, interesting fact, it’s mildly poisonous.

I thought that, but I kept my mouth shut.

Why? Because I am occasionally wise.

Because this is not the internet.

(Comic loveliness from the brilliant XKCD, of course.)

Because when a child comes to you in the full flush of discovery, brimming with excitement, correcting them is not the proper thing to do.

Because the truth is, facts can be small, sad things.

But learning to ask questions and guess at answers? That is the beginning of true understanding. Those are the bones of the world.

*     *     *

I have news. I’ll be posting about it as soon as I have internet in my house again. Stay tuned.