Reading the Stories Insults My Intelligence

These days, I rarely write a new post on two consecutive days.  However, you may know of some critically important international crises that deserve immediate attention.  We must discuss them now and we must discuss them well.


Because the situation’s so urgent, we must visit the most respected informational source in existence: Playboy.

And guess who’s being featured in Playboy…

Confront your fear of Playboy.  I dare you.  (Image credit: Valstein0)

Confront your fear of Playboy. I dare you. (Image credit: Valstein0)

No, not Miley Cyrus.  Playboy is an intellectual publication and only produces material to engage the most significant of minds.  That said, you surely will not be surprised to discover Dick Cheney’s picture if you click on this link.

Actually, you’ll find three pictures of the former Vice President… and he consented to this.

Your dreams have finally come true.

Side note to readers:  As a man, I feel the natural obligation to explain how I ever-so-innocently happened upon the Playboy website.  I clicked on a headline and I didn’t realize that such a scandalous publication would be involved.  I cast thee to Hell, Playboy, and I hope my female admirers are satisfied with that gesture of solidarity with whatever it is I’m showing solidarity with.

I really did visit Playboy to read a story.

Illiteracy Insults My Intelligence

Many of you have already seen various bloggers discussing their adventures during this year’s National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo.  During this most exhilarating event, people attempt to write a short and semi-readable novel within the span of a single month.

Needless to say, failure abounded.  Failure is tragic yet beautiful.

NaNoWriMo is a magical experience that sparkles like a purple pony on LSD.  (Image credit: onlyAgam3r)

NaNoWriMo is tragic yet beautiful, kind of like a purple pony on LSD. (Image credit: onlyAgam3r)

I did not participate because I consider it my civic duty to enlighten readers in such a way that positive social change might result.  We have no time for fluff, so I am proposing a new event.  This new event could double or even triple the amount of time people spend on reading novels each year.

I call this event NaNoSecond.

As a special bonus, people will remember the name because it’s already in their vocabularies… sort of.  If we spread the word effectively enough, NaNoSecond can supplant the time measurement as people’s first thought when they hear the word spoken aloud.  Computers aren’t important, right?

Could there be any better way to promote reading among people who haven’t touched a book since third grade?

Reading Insults My Intelligence

When you’re traveling, you’ll inevitably encounter writing that you can’t understand.  You will piss people off if you continually ask “What does that mean?”  Especially here, at the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) in Lucerne.  A couple dozen of these images remain after some unruly flames decided to have some fun:

Imagine trying to read this as crowds of people rush past you.  Repeat 30 times.

Imagine trying to read this as crowds of people rush past you. Repeat 30 times.

It doesn’t matter what the words say, so don’t bother reading them.  The orange does its artistic duty and lends a halloweenish aura to the Latin and the skeleton… and even to the skeletons in the bridge’s second picture.

And that’s exactly what a “Chapel” is supposed to involve.  Skeletons and Halloween.


Emily Dickinson’s Espionage Work Insults My Intelligence

Emily Dickinson

(Photo credit: Amherst College Archives)  Amherst probably never thought someone would use this picture for humorous purposes.

Unbeknownst to many people, Emily Dickinson worked in espionage.  Here’s a conversation she overheard between two foreign spies; newly declassified code words appear in quotation marks.

I’m nobody!

Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there’s a pair of us —

don’t tell!  They’d banish —

you know!

How dreary to be somebody!

How public like a


To tell one’s name the “livelong” day

to an admiring “bog!”

Sale of “Big Breasts and Wide Hips” Insults My Intelligence

BBAWHA library was selling off a few “excess” books and I nabbed this gem at a huge discount.  Libraries hold these sales on occasion to clear their overcrowded shelves of books that few people check out.  Some titles understandably fall out of fashion but I can’t believe they let this one go.

Looking at the cover, you’d think this book would have been remarkably popular among library patrons.  Especially the male ones.  Apparently not.  Not enough pictures, I suppose.

You’d think that literature enthusiasts would have flocked to this book.  After all, the author won a Nobel Prize last year.  Apparently not.  Not a “serious” enough title, I suppose.

You’d think that people looking for a nice deep read wouldn’t be scared off by the 500+ page count.  Apparently not.  Only Russians are allowed to write long novels, I suppose.

You’d think that the title would have enraged some feminists or fundamentalist Christians, both of whom might expect something objectionable in the text and raise the book’s public profile by demanding its removal from the shelves.  Apparently not.  The author is Chinese; sexual content and misogyny don’t matter if they originate from outside of America, I suppose.

You’d think that the feminist-friendly contents of the book would have attracted women readers who enjoy tales of strong female characters.  Apparently not.  A man writing about breasts must be sexist, I suppose.

After all of this, you might be wondering what the book’s about.  I’m not going to tell you.  You’ll have to check it out from the library.

Uh… on second thought, I hope your library hasn’t gotten rid of this book too.

On third thought, I hope your librarians had the insight to acquire this book in the first place.

Goodreads Recommendation Requests Sometimes Insult My Intelligence

Books in the Douglasville, Georgia Borders store.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Goodreads.  The website is such a simple and brilliant idea.  You bring people together, let them create a list of books they’ve loved and hated, and give them a page where they can request book recommendations from their fellow website users.  (There are other things on the site, but that’s not of concern to me at the moment.)
You might be wondering what problem I could possibly find with that.  So far, I have found none.  However, the requests people make sometimes reveal a lot more about the person than is intended.  If I might paraphrase a recommendation request I’ve seen:

Can anyone recommend a romance novel in which the male protagonist has to overcome many obstacles before finally getting the girl and living happily ever after with her?  The book should also be suspenseful.

Hmmmmm.  I understand that sometimes you’re in the mood to read a particular type of book.  In spite of that, the requesting person is (vaguely) outlining a desired plot and determining in advance what the ending should be.  I know that some people can’t live without their Disney-esque happy endings, but how can a book be suspenseful if you’ve already chosen that book based on how it turns out?

If the person were looking for Shakespeare or something substantially artistic or otherwise well-crafted, it might be fascinating to see how the chosen plot is carried through; I could understand such a request.   I’d still question how much suspense would result, but I’d understand it.

And then there’s this:

I want to read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.

For requests like this, it’s pretty easy to suggest something.  Of course, I’m thinking of the “Hooked on Phonics” workbook.  Maybe these people couldn’t understand the instructions because their reading skills need help.  Or maybe they’re announcing that they’ve graduated to grown up books.

And another:

I can’t remember the name of the book but I read it in high school.  The main character was a young blond woman and she fell in love with her knight in shining armor, and then they moved far away where they opened a bakery.  Does anyone know the name of this book?

This resembles the first offending request type, but it tends to garner fewer responses.  If the request were targeting a well known book, one would hope that the requester could find the information on their own; instead, these descriptions resemble a million others.  Since these are presumably not well known books, there’s probably a good reason why the requester can’t remember information such as such as the title, author, or uniquely identifying details that hundreds of other books don’t share.  Odds are, the book was crap.  Or maybe the requester was stoned the first time around.

One final request type:

I’d like to read a book from Japan.

Oh, where to begin?  Would this person like a romance novel, war memoir, classic No drama, haiku collection, or maybe something else?  A book’s origin alone will not determine whether you like it.  Not much in Japan is so overwhelmingly Japanese that its Japanese-ness (Japanicity?) overwhelms every other aspect of the book.  Is bibliostereotyping a word?  On the other hand, I suppose I shouldn’t be so hard on someone who realizes that Japan creates more things than cars, electronics, and anime.  This person already belongs to the smartest 5% of the population.

Nevertheless, it’s always encouraging to see people choosing to read instead of watch TV, no matter what book they choose.  I shudder to think what the average TV addict’s Goodreads requests would look like:

Can anyone recommend a good DVD insert?

That request will surely be brought to you by the same people who want to know what issue of Playboy has the best articles.