Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | February 15, 2014

Saturday Link Encyclopedia

1. Speaking of ambassadors, Shirley Temple (RIP) was in Fort Apache with John Wayne, who was in True Grit with Robert Duvall, who was in Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise, who was in A Few Good Men with Kevin Bacon. Also, Kevin Bacon was in X-Men: First Class with Jennifer Lawrence, who was in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

2. The filmmakers in charge of the next two films in the Hunger Games tetralogy will use “computer graphics and camera tricks” to film Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character, Plutarch Heavensbee, in a yet-to-be-shot scene.

3. Laura Miller: “Why we love bad writing”:

Until recently, hardly anyone considered why some readers might actually prefer clichés to finely crafted literary prose. A rare critic who pondered this mystery was C.S. Lewis, who — in a wonderful little book titled “An Experiment in Criticism” — devoted considerable attention to the appeal of bad writing for what he termed the “unliterary” reader. Such a reader, who is interested solely in the consumption of plot, favors the hackneyed phrase over the original

… because it is immediately recognizable. ‘My blood ran cold’ is a hieroglyph of fear. Any attempt, such as a great writer might make, to render this fear concrete in its full particularity, is doubly a chokepear to the unliterary reader. For it offers him what he doesn’t want, and offers it only on the condition of his giving to the words a kind and degree of attention which he does not intend to give. It is like trying to sell him something he has no use for at a price he does not wish to pay.

With the advent of Amazon reader reviews, such readers have finally found a voice, and a vocabulary with which to express their taste. Speed is the operative metaphor. Novels are praised for being a “fast read” and above all for having writing that “flows.” “Flow” is an especially fascinating term because it’s one that literary critics have never used, and it perfectly captures the way that clichéd prose can be gobbled up in chunks at a breakneck pace. “The Da Vinci Code” is over 400 pages long, but you can race through it in about three hours. Combine the large population of casual readers who limit themselves to such books with the hardcore bibliophiles who like an occasional dip into something easy, and you have enough buyers to create a hit.

(H/T: Will Wilkinson.)

4. Cassily Charles: Are research students a bit like Meerkats?

5. Regarding the recent Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate on evolution and creationism, Ars Technica has the best recap and overview that I’ve read so far. See also this piece at Bleeding Heart Libertarians (“How Ham on Nye Harms Our Public Discourse on Science and Religion”). At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern argues that Nye lost simply by agreeing to the debate, while William Saletan says that creationism is complete nonsense but, as a “compartmentalized fantasy,” harmless. (Count me as skeptical on that last point.) Lindsay Abrams in Salon looks at some of the reactions to the debate. Also, fwiw, “92 percent say Bill Nye won in Christian Today poll.”

And Phil Plait has answers for creationists’ questions.

6. Cool site: the French Revolution Digital Archive. (H/T: Erik Loomis.)

7. Watching seasons in bulk versus watching episodes in isolation.

8. The Day of the Doctor and the Veil of Ignorance. (There be Doctor Who spoilers at the link.)

9. HBO has released a 15-Minute teaser for the upcoming Game of Thrones season. (There are probably spoilers there as well.)

10. Will Wilkinson lets us know about the real historical precedent for the Red Wedding.

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