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Letters to the Editor, May 1998

This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for May 1998.

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From: Jeanette Hurban
Date: 04/24/98
Darwin Awards

Dear Sir or Madam,

The Darwin award “winner” couldn’t possibly have won because of the fact that he survived the incident. To be a “winner” you must also be a “loser” of your life. Plus the fact that this whole page is outdated. These are the exact same stories you had last year, although it seems they came in different placements. I would greatly appreciate an explanation as to why this is. Aren’t there any other stupid people out there?!


Jeanette Hurban

In response to your question, the base page is the original page with links to new material as I happen to add it. Previous stories don’t change because the past doesn’t change. Given the number of hits on the page I should probably reorganize it. One of these days….

In the meantime if you want a good look at stupid people tricks check out the other Darwin award pages (search for “darwin awards” on yahoo) or check my weird links page. That has a lot of links to some lovely weird stuff on the net, including the column, News of Weird, which is a weekly column of stupid people tricks around the world.

From: Jani Frank Steinleitner
Date: 05/03/98
Subj: Hmmmm….

Hi Dick,
This is “blast from the past” Jani Frank Steinleitner again. I just stumbled on this great site – jivvy music — then scroll down to where you can click on GenRing. Then you can add your site to a ring of home pages! The Peoples Past Finder I haven’t explored it enough to really see how it works yet, but seems like a good idea – and your page is so neat, it should be seen by as many people as possible.

I checked out the page you mentioned – it’s a neat page. There are a lot of rings out there now – the genealogy ring is just one of them. Some one of these days I will get the genealogy data that June has compiled into web pages and then I probably will link into the gen ring.

Thanks for the compliment on my web pages. People are finding them, often through odd channels. One of the neat things about the web is that there are all of these totally unexpected underground connections.

From: David Loftus
Date: 04/29/98
Subj: dinosaurs and us

Continuing from a previous letter from David.

Not at all. I happened across your post to r.a.b. regarding The Man Who Thought He Was Stupid but didn’t have time to study it or the many responses, because I’m preparing to fly to the other end of the continent tomorrow morning. I hope you put it on your web page, or post me a copy privately, so I can see it at my leisure later on.

Yes, TMWTHWS is on the web. Apparently I’ve been a bit too subtle; it is littered with little tricks and cross references. The essay is actually a fiction (ficcione), a narrative about writing a narrative which is not intended to be written. Thus the reference to the man who never was who is the man who thought he was stupid. It begins with a reference to “writing a fiction”, i.e., not “writing a story” and ends with the hint that I won’t write the story, I will write something else which is, of course, the “essay”.

You do a fair amount of writing, Richard; do you publish any of it in printed form?

Not really. I have published in fanzines in the past. Some of what I do is publishable – some of it is even good – but I haven’t the incentive to fight the battle of the rejection slips.

Re a book on dinosaurs:
Full title is Discovering Dinosaurs in the American Museum of Natural History, by Mark Norell, Eugene Gaffney, and Lowell Dingus. Apparently there are SEVERAL books for children called merely Discovering Dinosaurs!

Re theory birds are archosaurs but not dinosaurs:
I hadn’t heard about this. Archosaurs but not dinosaurs? How do they make a distinction? (If you can sum it up briefly.)

The archosaurs are a larger group which includes the ancestral thecodonts, the dinosaurs, the crocodilians, and some miscellaneous critters. For a long time it was thought that birds and crocodiles shared a common ancestor after the split in the archosaurs between crocodilians and thecodonts. (The argument has to do with wishbones and reversed pubis.) Ostrom was one of the big guns in arguing that birds were directly descended from dinosaurs. The paleontologists are pretty much convinced of the dinosaur-bird descent line. Some ornithologists still hold out for birds having evolved earlier and being cousins of the dinosaurs. Current thinking is that birds descended from dromosaurids (velociraptor, et al). The skeptics claim that birds and dromosaurids lost different fingers and hence are not related.

From: DddNjjj
Date: 05/12/98
Subj: Your rules for driving

I thought that the rules for driving in Boston were hysterical!! Thanks for the laugh.

You’re welcome. It’s supposed to be a joke but there’s a lot of truth in them.

From: Suford Lewis ([email protected])
Date: 05/20/98
Subj: Franklin, MA (Confession of an Anastasia Junkie)

Hmm. Maybe I will take a look at Anastasia, after all. What did you think of the Hunchback of NotreDame? It did not seem posible that it could be done as a musical, and I didn’t have the stomach to have my judgement validated.

It seems to me that Disney has struck out in its last three times at bat. Pocahontas had one memorable song (All the colors of the wind). I’m sure that Hunchback had songs but damned if I can recall even any sense of their being music. There was music in Hercules – that I can recall – but what it might have been is beyond recall.

Disney had a run of four superlative animated films – The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and the Lion King – followed by three losers. The Little Mermaid followed the Disney formula – Handsome Hero, Beautiful Young Heroine, Evil Villain(ness), Comic Sidekick for the Villain, Comic Sidekick for the Good Guys. The next three played games with the formula: In B&B; the villain is handsome and hero is ugly; Aladdin followed formula bu the genie is so dominant the formula gets bent; The Lion King nominally has the standard characters but the plot is not the Boy overcomes obstacles to get the Girl plot (or Girl overcomes obstacles to get the Boy in the Little Mermaid) – instead it is Boy loses heritage, becomes Man, Man regains heritage plot.

I’m not sure what went wrong with Pocahontas – it suffered from terminal PC-ness but I don’t think that was the killer. I opine the problem was that it suffered from square-peg-in-round-hole disease; the Pocahontas myth didn’t fit nicely into the Disney formula. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was even worse that way; the Disney formula and a main character that you feel sorry for are wildly incompatible. I don’t know what they thought they were doing in Hercules but it was a mess.

Anastasia uses the Disney characters but it isn’t really the Disney plot – it starts there but adds non Disney elements, e.g. romantic comedy banter. And the animation is fabulous – the backgrounds and detail are wonderful.

To add to my shame I decided that my 20 year old TV wasn’t up to displaying the video -lots of color bleed, loss of detail, et cetera. So I have gone out and bought a new TV, a 27″ Sony. Sehr Gut. One thing that surprised me is that the big TV captures the big screen effect. I suppose there is nothing immoral about buying a new TV set but the whole idea pains my cheap soul, particularly when I know perfectly well that the reason had to do with a movie. Of course, spending several thousand dollars a year on books is not an extravagance. Books are different; that’s like paying your air tax.

But Franklin, did you not notice? Franklin is the home of Liquor World! with the most complete collection of beers anywhere. I would say you could find anything there, but it has a pathetic selection of sake. Single malt scotch, real double bock German beer (yes, I tried the Sam Adams triple bock, but I like German double bock because it is less bitter and the Sam Adams triple is … to my mind, nasty) They have Bully Hill, not that hard to find anymore, actually, but quite a selection.

Now that I did not realize. I shall have to check it out although in truth I am more a wine person than a beer person and, these days, not very much of either. I have to remind myself to drink anything alcoholic and mostly I forget for months at a time.

As a consequence of having recently a “sweets” wine tasting at Boskone I went out and acquired several bottles of very interesting wine. Very interesting. Suffice it to say that I have several bottles of German and Austrian trockenbeerenausles and eisweins and some other sundries.

It has been 20 years since I last did serious wine purchasing. Things seem to have changed a great deal. There are charging perfectly ridiculous prices for California wines. Sauternes have been discovered and are overpriced. Sweet is in. German wines are out. The upside of that is that you can get really nice German wines for the same prices that they were charging 20 years; the downside is that nobody carries them to speak of. It’s all very sad.

The difficulty is that if you just wander through it you remember all the things you rather like but had forgotten about and even at their bargain prices you find yourself $200 poorer in no time.

I have developed a low taste for Benedictine. Not B&B;, whose sticky sweetness is cut by the brandy, but single B, Benedictine. It’s really nice 3 to 1 with lime juice. I have a number of low tastes (meaning, like, gin, not my friends). Also some very nice sherry that used to be hard to find has started truning up lots of places – Pedro, or is it Padre?, Lustau – there are a range of sweet to dry choices. John Herz introduced me to it.

Sherry is good. The nice thing about sherry is that one can have it around for a while and have a small glass every now and then. The trouble with wine is a whole bottle is much too much for one person – I don’t like to get that tiddly. Sherry, IMHO, is better than port unless we are talking really fine port.

From: Suford Lewis
Date: 05/21/98
Subj: Franklin, MA (Confession of an Anastasia Junkie)

You have become a connoiseur of Disney (a frightening thought). I agree with you that Pocahontas, Hunchback and Hercules were duds. I was really surprized by Beauty and the Beast because it had a very female sensibility and a preoccupation with issues of literacy (even science, though one could refine too much on Belle’s father’s occupation). It felt like it had been scripted by Barbara Hambly or Joan Vinge – not at all what one expects from Disney. I am really curious to know how that happened.

It’s a little hard for me to judge what a female sensibility is – females surprise me regularly with their notions about female sensibilities. I will note that there is a commonality between Belle and Jasmine – each is conscious of being constrained – of “wanting so much more than they’ve got planned”. In the end, though, they find true love in the arms of a suitable male. As you say, though, the notion that a female might be literate and actually read books is a startling flash of insight for Disney.

It was apparently a fluke, though, as Mermaid and Aladdin are about more conventional females, though someone clearly has had their consciousness raised and there are elements of … je ne sais quoi, wholeness about them.

You are right that the unmemorableness of the music is part of it, but it is more than Mermaid being enlivened by the crab’s charm, I think it’s that it is hard to be inspired to create memorable music if there is only superficial banality to write about, or at least if that is all that “the studio” wants to have expressed.

The Disney formula is pretty banal. I think that one of their problems is that they don’t recognize when the formula doesn’t apply. Look at how they butchered the Black Cauldron. The one that really breaks the mold is _The Lion King_. The real difference is that in TLK the male lead is real; in most Disney films the male lead is a decorative icon. The less said about the ethology of TLK, the better.

From: “David E. Smith”
Date: 05/25/98
Question for ya…

Hello, Got a question for ya…

I was using that little trick on Altavista’s search engine to see who all links to my page. Low and behold I find one to Being a curious person by nature I check it out. My questions for you are these. What is this link page about, and how did you come across my web page to put it on here? I don’t mind that you did it. I actually like the idea of more links to my page, I was just curious.

As to what it is about, it is a listing of home pages for people who have been contributors to Making lists is one of those things that us anal-retentive types do. I keep it up because is one of my net haunts off and on back to the days of It’s just another people directory. As to how you got on the list you posted something in back when I was sweeping up names to put in the list. I have a suspicion that you might have been cross posting from somewhere else but it was a while ago and I’m not going to run a purity check on you. Being on the list is a permanent thing – once there you don’ go off until your home page disappears.

I don’t know if this makes sense as an explanation but it doesn’t have to make sense – this is the internet. Feel free to browse around my web pages. You never know, there might be something interesting there.

From: dianne
Date: 05/26/98
Subj: i was impressed

i, too, am a poet. i have been since i could write, but have been more intense lately. i am very critical when i read other’s works. i am NOT impressed easily, and find few poems enticing, HOWEVER, when i read these poems, i was left speechless. i was amazed at what i read. it was absolutely wonderful! i could relate to many of the poems, and my style of writing is incredibly similar to these poems, which is possilby why i liked them so!

i only wanted to make a comment on how much i enjoyed these poems. who ever you are, or whatever is your inspiration for writing, keep it up. your work is commended.

If I write principally for my own pleasure, and I do, words of praise are nonetheless sweet. Thank you very much for writing. I’m glad that you like them. I expect that I will continue to write – what, I won’t know until I write it – and perhaps you will like those poems also.

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This page was last updated May 26, 1998.
It was reformatted and moved November 4, 2004