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The Pipwick Papers

Hollywood, textbooks and taxidermy

[This edition was first published on 3 November, 2015]

I spent a month focusing almost entirely on keeping up with League of Legends for their World Championship, now it's over and I'm doing that thing where you try and remember what life was like before a big project. Mostly emails, it seems. While I regroup I've been reading up on taxidermy, Reddit Star Wars theorising and a $180 maths book:

  • Here's Margot Magpie on the question of whether taxidermy is a "girl thing". I've attended a taxidermy workshop previously, although I wasn't doing the taxidermy, I was just the event photographer. If memory serves that class was a pretty even gender split, but all of the people I've met who lead taxidermy classes have been women.
  • Here is one of the pictures from that event: a rat looking like it is about to get into an argument:

  • The Practical Ethics blog run by the ethics departments at the University of Oxford has a piece called "Why it's OK to block ads" by James Williams. I disagree with some of what he says, particularly that "both sides of this debate seem to simply assume the large-scale capture and exploitation of human attention to be ethical and/or inevitable in the first place."
  • I also disagree with the assertion that websites are essentially an "ad for the ad" i.e. that all the stuff on a site and the site design itself is kind of a pre-ad, meant to lead you to the thing you would recognise as an ad. I get what he's saying, and I'm not denying that sites are designed around getting people to stay and move around the site and that this is largely guided by commercial interest, but it also entirely dismisses the other motivations behind what's on the site.

    I'll limit this to speaking of my own intentions but I write because I still want to communicate with people and to entertain or inform them. I like directing them to the work my colleagues have done which is good. I am well aware of the commercial side of writing because it's what pays my rent and it was key to surviving as a freelancer but operating within that system doesn't mean every call on someone's attention is rooted in getting money. I think some of the phrasing in this article dismisses that and oversimplifies for rhetorical effect. BUT it is also an interesting perspective.

  • Here is a rather entertaining Reddit Star Wars theory about how you can read Jar Jar Binks as the intended villain from the prequels.
  • Now if you lend even the slightest credence to my above points, and acknowledge the possibility that Jar Jar might not be an idiot, you're almost forced to conclude that Jar Jar Binks and Palpatine were co-conspirators. If Jar Jar is putting forth an elaborate act to deceive people, it means he's not a fool... and if he's not a fool, it means his actions in Episode II that facilitate Palpatine's plans are not those of an unwitting tool- they are those of a partner.

  • Scott Jaschik has a piece on Inside Higher Education about university textbooks, cost and access. Academic publishing can be prohibitively expensive. I used to work in an academic library and there's a lot of awfulness when it comes to things like needing to rebuy books each year because they've been revised (sometimes incredibly minimally) and publishers raising the price of journal subscriptions or forcing you to buy then in bundles with a lot of things you don't need...
  • This specific piece is about a $180 maths textbook and how a professor chose to use a $75 alternative and free online materials instead, saying they're as effective and less expensive. The university's argument is about multi-section courses needing to use a common textbook.

    Bourget said faculty members need to remember that “our students aren’t rich, and we have a responsibility to look for inexpensive materials.” He said he has long been frustrated by the way textbooks issue edition after edition, with professors requiring the latest edition, making it more difficult for students to buy used books. “My students aren’t rich,” he said. “We need to stop accepting this racket.”

  • Finally, I'm really loving You Must Remember This, a podcast by Karina Longworth dedicated to the histories of 20th century Hollywood. At the moment she's covering listener requests related to MGM but I started listening when she was covering Charles Manson's Hollywood. Here's her account of Jean Harlow:
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    About the Author

    Philippa Warr

    Former Staff Writer

    Pip wrote for Rock Paper Shotgun between 2014-2017, covering everything from MOBAs, hero brawlers and indie curios. She also had a keen interest in the artistry of video game creation, and was very partial to keeping us informed of the latest developments in British TV show Casualty.