The Pipwick Papers

Pipwick PapersGraham’s off gallivanting and I had a chance to catch up on my bookmarked reading thanks to several train journeys this weekend. Put those two things together and you’ve got yourself a sneaky Pipwick Papers. You’ll find a grieving sherrif, Roald Dahl-inspired clothes, the psychology of why clowns are creepy and more!

  • First up is this animated short, Borrowed Time, about a sherrif haunted by a tragedy from his past. It’s not a happy story, but it’s incredibly well-made. You might also be interested to note that the writers/directors, Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coats are both Pixar alumni although they’ve known each other for years previously and this was a spare-time project. The composer, Gustavo Santaolalla, you might know from his work scoring The Last Of Us.
  • And this is the accompanying featurette about why it was made:
  • Hazlitt has Hugh Ryan writing about The Three Lives Of Malvina Schwartz. From the subheading (“Butches, Femmes, and Mobsters: Inside the world of America’s first drag superstars”) I think I was expecting something… I don’t know… more concerned with extremes or with a kind of out-of-the-ordinary attitude, but that’s very much not what I got. Instead it’s fragments of an oral history tape recording with an interesting person which is used to talk about wider issue of how and what we choose to record and what can get forgotten, particularly in regard to queer history:
  • Halfway through a question, Nestle stopped our interview, agitated.

    “I hear the wonder in your voice and…” she trailed off, picked at some invisible thing on the arm of her chair. “How can I put this? Buddy’s life wasn’t exotic. It was real. She was a working woman. She had talents and she wanted to use them to pay her rent, help her girlfriends. The real importance [of that tape] was how it showed the every day nature of making a life as a different kind of woman.”

  • Catherine Nichols has a piece over on Jezebel about Bob Dylan’s writing called How I Changed My Mind About Bob Dylan. I’ve been wanting to read a fan’s perspective on his writing since his Nobel prize got announced. I’ll admit, I’ve never really felt the pull of Bob Dylan so I’m unfamiliar with huge amounts of his work. In terms of writing I gravitate far more towards Leonard Cohen. That said, Cohen himself called Dylan’s prize: “like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain.” There’s been a lot written about the choice of recipient already but a phrase stayed with my from Nichols’ piece where she’s talking about the writing in Dylan’s memoir: “the enthusiasms I grew out of were as real as the ones I grew into”. I really like that sentence as a way of being kinder about my younger self’s interests.
  • I really love how this collaboration between Boden USA and the Roald Dahl Literary Estate turned out. It’s probably just as well it’s only for a kids range as Boden prices aren’t really very game journo-friendly, but I thought I’d mention it as one of those really lovely, well-thought-out collaborations, rather than just slapping a logo or an existing illustration on some pyjamas or a tshirt. I will say I’m terrified of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka though, so having him reincarnated as an intensely staring child was an uncomfortable experience.
  • Speaking of things people find creepy, here’s Frank T McAndrew on the unsettling profession of clowning.
  • Rose Eveleth writes for Motherboard about something I’ll admit I hadn’t considered which is how impossible pop-up ads can make websites if you’re blind or partially sighted. I got a pop-up while reading that article on my mobile and I’m not sure if that was a joke or demo of some kind.
  • Jim Allen, the accessibility coordinator at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, said that with these in-window popups it can just become a guessing game. “It becomes like the game of Myst, where you just had to click on things to try and figure it out,” he told me. “And what generally happens, unless the person really really really has to be on that page, they’re done. It’s like, I don’t have time to deal with this.”

  • Katy Waldman’s The Trapdoor of Trigger Words for Slate offers a good summary of the issues and conversations surrounding trigger warnings as well as discussion of what light can be shed on the discussion by trauma therapies.
  • And to finish, here’s a piece I read a while ago: How I Rewired My Brain To Become Fluent In Math by Barbara Oakley. It was an interesting and, I found, inspiring piece about adult learning and which encouraged me to dig out my own maths textbooks to start working through them again. I’m including it here because it made a few things I’m trying to do at the moment seem a lot more possible, well beyond just revisiting maths.
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    15 Comments

    1. blind_boy_grunt says:

      The math article was great (i.e. I agree with it), but this is something not only students should learn but teachers/professors too. I think they are often so used to their language, throwing around concepts they mentioned in some earlier class once and thinking mentioning it means the same thing as knowing it, means the same thing as understanding it. And thus a lot of glazed over eyes. Yes, there is the responsibility of the student to put in the work and math can be a fun, but i only ever saw one lecturer where the lecture itself was helpful.

      • lylebot says:

        Agreed. My sister has a similar story, not finishing college, joining the Navy to do one thing then finding out she was actually pretty good at something else that involved significant math and science, which she had never thought she was good at.

        I thought this was a little funny though: “I chose Russian because it was very different from English, but not so difficult that I could study it for a lifetime only to perhaps gain the fluency of a 4-year-old.” Everything I’ve heard about Russian suggests that you need to study it for four years just to be able to say simple sentences like “The boy on the bridge is wearing a blue shirt.”

      • bill says:

        While I mostly agree with the writer. I think she somewhat oversimplifies the process of learning, understanding and retaining things.

        Over years of learning, teaching, working and forgetting things like languages, programming, web design, etc.. I’ve come to realise that there are a lot of different elements. Plus a lot of different people who learn in different ways.
        For example: keeping students interested, motivated and engaged shouldn’t be underestimated.

        I do agree that practice and repetition/use are probably under-emphasized in modern western education. Just as they were over-emphasized in tradition and Japanese education.

        Learning something once and understanding it doesn’t mean you’ll retain it and be able to use it or remember it later. However lots of repetition in a class and then not using it again also doesn’t mean you’ll be able to retain and use it later.

        There’s definitely something to be learned from language learning, and how we learn sports and music. But not everything applies.
        For example, the Kumon method seems to work quite well for maths, but doesn’t seem to work at all for learning English. The students might have a lot of repetition and even a good understanding of grammar and vocabulary, but without the opportunity to actually use the language in real situations that will all be practically worthless.

        So, maybe what I’m saying is that she’s right about practice and repetition, but the practice and repetition has to be realistic.

        For me, and I guess most people, I can do without thinking the things that I actually use in my daily life, work, etc.. but the things that I learned in school (by whatever method) and no longer use, those drop away.

        Anyway, a few months back I realized I no-longer remembered or understood even basic high-school maths, so I went on Khan Academy and worked through their high-school level maths.
        What had taken me 2-4 years of struggle to understand in school I could learn and understand in 2 days. (so maybe I had retained something, somewhere deep in my neurons).
        But a month later I’d forgotten 90% of it. Because I just have no opportunity to use most of it.

        Someone once said that the best skill to learn was How to Learn. That probably falls into the general-understanding side that the author is against.. but I think that side is just as important as the repetition and practice side.

        “Soft” skills like creative thinking, thinking outside the box, discussion and debate, logical thinking, etc.. are also highly important things that tend to be missed in systems that focus purely on practice and repetition.

    2. ukpanik says:

      Those Boden “children” are terrifying.

    3. Hebrind says:

      Also interesting to note that Steve Purcell of LucasArts fame was part of “Borrowed Time”

    4. Heliocentric says:

      Popups crimes against accessibility are well documented, anything that hijacks the natural order of browsing, Flash interfaces, sidebars, java applets, unsearchable PDF documents. Hell, even pages that block right clicks.

      It’s all designed to target the vulnerable and unequipped, either with flash and bluster; or with inconvenience disguised as security or proprietary; and the disabled are a class of the vulnerable and unequipped.

      • shaydeeadi says:

        One thing about that article is that the screenshot of the devastatingly annoying fake flash updater popups is taken from a dodgy sports streaming website anyway, and I can’t see why a blind person would bother with that when their local radio station or 5live etc would have them covered.

        Which is one of the few ways you will get it that bad. At this point I suppose this is nitpicking, but it bothered me so here we are.

    5. TillEulenspiegel says:

      Oh man I love how 95% of media dipshits writing smug thinkpieces about those damn millennials with their “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” literally do not understand what these terms actually mean. Always nice to have another explanation out there.

    6. Sarfrin says:

      Hurray! I missed the Pipwick Papers.

    7. Turkey says:

      Feature length 3d animated movies for adults would be pretty dope. Hopefully we’ll get a release of The Goon before i die.

    8. Monggerel says:

      I oughtta write something about Triggers one of these days, since I’ve had to deal with PTSD for years. At its worst phase, which lasted maybe 2-3 years, completely inoccuous words like “heart” or “elbow” were enough to make me go pale as a wall. I remember a biology lecture where we watched footage of heart surgery – that was the one time I ever fainted. Nightmares were a constant and even idle thinking was hazardous.

      For all this, I had no psychiatric help whatsoever, nor any personal contacts that I could reach out to for help. In truth, it didn’t even occur to me that my situation was abnormal – I just assumed it was a normal, if excessive reaction on my part, which would lessen and disappear as time passed, and eventually leave behind little more than a few bad memories.
      And indeed, this is exactly how it went.

      Unfortunately, dealing with this stuff in the middle of the most formative episodes of my adolescence might have left me out of the “normal” (there’s that word again, it keeps stalking me like a stray dog) loop so it might have been partially responsible for me being the weirdo loner I am today – not introverted, just lacking the skill (and, let’s be honest, the humility) necessary to connect with others.

      I don’t know how things would’ve turned out if I had help. But the PTSD is gone, either way.

      • Hobbes says:

        Yes but I am presuming from your post that your PTSD stems from something real that happened in your life and significantly traumatic. It’s PTSD in the medically accepted sense, therefore it’s a very different thing from what’s being discussed in relation to the Universities in America.

        What -they- are discussing is what I like to refer to as “Crybullies”, which are a relatively new phenomenon. These are people who have figured out that if you act offended, and play the victim, you can manipulate the levers of the system to work in your favour. If you dislike a situation, all you have to do is pretend injury and suffering, make enough noise to draw enough sympathy from onlookers and discomfort and you too can force your will onto other people!

        Where this began? That’s obvious. People who turned being actual victims of actual hate into something marketable, once the wider world worked out that such professional “pleading injury” could be used for a much wider array of situations, then all you had to do was come up with suitable terms such as “Microaggressions” and “Cultural appropriation” and here we are.

        The worst part, it does people who suffer from actual mental illnesses a disservice, because it makes it all the more difficult for us to get the support we need when there’s a sea of noise being created by dolts who think “Safe spaces” in universities are required, no, no they’re not, if you can’t accept that your opinions and thoughts are going to get challenged in life, then do not go to University, or better yet, go find a remote island so you can stop infecting the rest of the world with your stupidity.

        You are not the target of that article, and as a fellow PTSD sufferer, you should have got the help you needed, you may still require some, but that’s not my place to say. This lot? Shut them in a room with Milo until they learn to tolerate other peoples’ opinions.

        (If anyone wants to take a guess at my “Trigger” ? Willful stupidity. )

        • Monggerel says:

          I don’t think *anyone* should be shut in a room with a military-grade psychopath like Milo Yianipulous. Not even Milo hisself. That’s just cruel.

          I kinda lean towards “agree” regarding your assessment of the “Trigger Warning” business though. Back in my day we called it “Content Warning”, and the new terminology is obviously politically motivated. It’s a shame, really. Being a moderate (what kind? shh…) used to be fun and is quickly becoming more and more hazardous.

    9. bill says:

      I want that boden stuff.. but good lord their stuff can be pricey.

      I think I’ll get my kids the books instead.

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