November 2007 Archives

Carrie Brownstein on Rock Band

Via Mighty Ponygirl, Carrie Brownstein, former guitarist of Sleater-Kinney, on Rock Band. She falls a little bit into the specious "why not learn to play a real instrument and form a real rock band?" argument, but it's a very good read overall. Now, why aren't there any Sleater-Kinney tracks in Rock Band yet?

Activities for a Wasted Day


I'm spending today avoiding work on a paper, and as part of that I decided to tally up my books and classify them as fiction or non-fiction. I've heard from various sources that men generally prefer non-fiction and women generally prefer fiction, so I decided to test my bookshelf out and see where I fell.

I started out just marking books as either Fiction or Non-Fiction. Then I encountered some classification problems. What about cookbooks? Manuals for role playing games? City guides? I decided to create a broad "Instructional" category to encompass those books that are probably technically non-fiction, but which I don't think of when I think of non-fictional books. This is easier than, for example, classifying cookbooks I use regularly as Non-Fiction, while classifying cookbooks with elaborate recipes requiring ingredients from five different ethnic grocery stores and from which I have never cooked a recipe as Fiction. So: Cookbooks, RPG manuals, computer programming primers, style guides, and, most significantly, legal texts are all instructional. This might somewhat throw off the results, since the legal texts are arguably non-fiction, but whatever.

The other classifying problem I had was with books that straddle the line between fiction and non-fiction. What to do with Chretien de Troyes's Arthurian Romances, written as fiction but which I read primarily for its historical value? What about books written in the middle ages as histories, but filled with fantastic and implausible happenings, such as Gregory of Tours's History of the Franks and Galbert de Bruges's Murder of Charles the Good? And what of credulous histories like Herbert Asbury's The Barbary Coast, which is ostensibly a history of criminality in San Francisco during the Gold Rush but which consists primarily of breathless retellings of apocryphal anecdotes? How, not to put too fine a point upon it, should I classify the Bullshit Histories? I decided to create a category for Dubious Non-Fiction and leave it at that.

Finally, how do I classify my copy of the Bible? Fiction? Non-Fiction? Dubious Non-Fiction? I decided to mark it down as Instructional and side-step the whole issue.

The final tally came out to 86 Fiction, 32 Non-Fiction, 93 Instructional (give or take; I estimated how many law books are sitting in my locker right now), and 4 Dubious Non-Fiction. This tally includes only those books to which I have easy access here in New York, not those in storage with my parents. The lion's share of those instructional books are law books, which might throw the ultimate Fiction/Non-Fiction balance off kilter, but I feel they shouldn't count since I don't really own them of my own free will. I made an exception for those law books I purchased for non-law school reasons, like G. Edward White's Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Law and the Inner Self and Lawrence M. Friedman's History of American Law. I feel my classification is relatively fair.

So, once again I defy expectations, at least in terms of book tastes. Take that, gender essentialists!

Go Bears

Hey, the marching band for my alma mater, UC Berkeley, performed a pretty awesome half-time show for the game against Washington State a few weeks back. It's video game-themed, and both the instrumentation and the choreography is extremely well done. You can watch it below:

Nerding for Economic Justice

Via Game|Life, I just learned of a charity video game. It's fairly simple; the game's a vocabulary quiz, and for every question you get right ten grains of rice are donated to the UN to feed the poor in underdeveloped nations. It's like a walkathon, but with words. The site itself donates the rice, which it pays for through sponsorships from Time Life, Apple, and other companies. The game can be found here.

. . .Of course, this game isn't really a viable solution to world hunger. It's a nice way to waste otherwise unproductive time, but the amount of time and effort you put in is far out of proportion to the amount of good you get out of it. I just spent about 30 minutes answering the 100 questions required to get to 1000 grains of rice. 1000 grains of rice is equivalent to about 1 cup. There are about 2 1/2 cups of rice per pound. You can get, at retail, a five pound sack of rice for $6. That translates to half an hour of work for 48 cents-worth of rice. Of course, it does add up over a lot of people, and chances are the 48 cents of rice I caused to be donated is more than I would have donated myself in the absence of this game. It does help, and it's important to spread awareness about global poverty issues.

Food History

One of the most simple, yet fun, websites I've ever seen: Food Timeline. A history of when certain foods were first cultivated and consumed and when various recipes were first invented. I'm having the most fun so far starting at the end and seeing what are relatively recent dishes. Pasta Primavera and Tiramisu, for example, are both products of the 1970s. Share and enjoy!

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