Engineer & Entertain

Ideas I grapple with

Archive for the category “Literature”

Vonnegut Was Right!

Research from the Computational Story Lab at University of Vermont found there are six main plots in story telling.

  • Fall-rise-fall
  • Rise and then a fall
  • Fall and then a rise
  • Steady fall
  • Steady rise
  • Rise-fall-rise

I am glad to see we finally have research to confirm Kurt Vonnegut’s hypothesis decades later.


Shades of Grey

Sasha Grey, a former pornographer, read to children in a California school.  Some parents were outraged.  I imagine the parents found out about her when a dad said, “She’s a porn star. So, I’ve heard . . . from a church group”.

While Grey is very intellectual and a proponent for reading, I do wonder why she was selected because it seems pretty obvious there would be calamity.  My presumption is that all the firefighters who would read to children were busy making a booster calendar

I'd like to read to kids, but I have a kitten to rescue and January to spice up


That said, the logic is faulty behind not wanting Grey to read to children.  She has had sex, sometimes on camera and sometimes with multiple people, which I would argue most of the staff of the school has done as well.  There are worse people to read to her, like the firefighters above; they’re not wearing their personal protective equipment properly.

A Bit of Fry & Loquendi

Pushing past my predilection for puns, a problem persists with persnickety, pedantic prose promotion.  In general, it is helpful to know common errors in English (or any language you are speaking) so as to be clear and avoid looking like an ass.

Some go to an extreme to point out errors and flaunt rules of 18th century English, rather than accept language as a living, changing, hilarious being.  Grammar Nazis generally cheer and enjoy Weird Al correcting the grammar of common signs, but what change or purpose does the correction bring?

It could be the Department of Transportation was unable to pass the third grade, or it is just as unlikely they are displaying their knowledge of flat adverbs.  In either case, their message of driving slow is quickly and safely conveyed.

But I digress, my rhetoric and examples pale to Stephen Fry’s discourse on enjoying language for the sake of enjoying language.  If the previous scripts invoked a feeling of TLDNR, then sit back and enjoy the following video with Fry.

Holmes for the holidays

Sherlock Holmes is a good movie, but a mediocre Holmes adaptation. If you have ever had a desire to earn your own pound and a shilling you may prefer rereading the short stories. If you have no clue what a pound and a shilling is, then go right ahead and watch the movie.

The movie does not draw from any Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, but the story follows a similar formula to other Holmes stories. The move also cherry picks details from the stories to use for the characters. Irene Adler is used as a femme fatale love interest for Holmes rather than a person of intrigue because she had bested him. In the story A Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes has an appreciation and admiration for her that resulted from her cunning, not her feminine wiles. Moreover, Holmes loves himself best and is generally depicted as a calculating machine than a person drawn to sentiment. The movie gives Holmes his ego, but also a requited romantic kindling toward Irene Adler.

There were some details which were well executed. Sherlock’s pugilistic tendencies and bartitsu fighting style is enjoyable to watch. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not gifted when it came toward writing fight sequences. Doyle did excel though in proving Sherlock to be a very intellectual character. Holmes is certainly an action hero, but he is also very cerebral and the scenes which depict his thought and cunning are limited. None the less, Robert Downy Jr. did well to embrace and display Holmes’ quirks.

Dr. Watson was also portrayed well. In the films with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, Watson was a bumbling idiot rather than Holmes’ equal and colleague. Watson is clearly gifted intellectually and physically as one would expect from a physician and veteran of war. Watson’s gambling habits and womanizing traits are also alluded to and carried over from Doyle’s work.

I enjoyed the movie, but there are better Sherlock Holmes adaptations. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett are more faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My favorite Sherlock Holmes representation comes from Dr. Gregory House and Dr. James Wilson. House M.D. only makes passing references to Sherlock Holmes, but what great references they are.

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