November 28, 2021

Neopronoun

Non-binary gender

Neopronouns are a category of neologistic English third-person personal pronouns beyond she, he, they, one, and it. Neopronouns are preferred by some non-binary individuals who feel that they reflect their gender identity more accurately than any conventional pronoun.

Neopronouns may be words created to serve as pronouns such as ‘ze/hir’ or ‘noun-self’ pronouns where existing words are turned into personal pronouns such as fae/faeself.’ Some neopronouns allude to they/them, such as ‘ey/em’, a form of Spivak pronoun. Continue reading

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November 25, 2021

The Diamond Age

Engines of Creation

The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer’ is a 1995 science fiction novel by American writer Neal Stephenson. It is to some extent a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, focused on a young girl named Nell, set in a future world in which nanotechnology affects all aspects of life. The novel deals with themes of education, social class, ethnicity, and the nature of artificial intelligence.

The book contains descriptions of various exotic technologies, such as the chevaline (a mechanical horse that can fold up and is light enough to be carried one-handed), and forecasts the use of technologies that are in development today, such as smart paper that can show personalized news headlines. Major cities have immune systems made up of aerostatic defensive micromachines, and public matter compilers provide basic food, blankets, and water for free to anyone who requests them. Continue reading

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November 15, 2021

Season Creep

Phenology

In phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena), season creep refers to observed changes in the timing of the seasons, such as earlier indications of spring in temperate areas across the Northern Hemisphere.

In Europe, season creep has been associated with the arrival of spring moving up by approximately one week in a recent 30-year period. Climate studies have put the rate of season creep measured by plant phenology in the range of 2–3 days per decade advancement in spring, and 0.3–1.6 days per decade delay in autumn, over the past 30–80 years. Continue reading

November 1, 2021

Kids These Days

Socrates

Kids these days‘ is the belief that the present generation of young people is inferior or deficient compared to previous generations.

Such beliefs have been reported since 624 BCE. Ancient philosopher Socrates complained, ‘The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.’

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October 28, 2021

Sayre’s Law

Sayre's law

Sayre’s law states, in a formulation quoted by academic economist and historian Charles Philip Issawi: ‘In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.’

By way of corollary, it adds: ‘That is why academic politics are so bitter.’ Sayre’s law is named after Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905–1972), U.S. political scientist and professor at Columbia University. Continue reading

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October 22, 2021

Locksport

Lock picking

Locksport is the sport or recreation of defeating locking systems. Its enthusiasts learn including lock picking, lock bumping, and a variety of other skills traditionally known only to locksmiths and other security professionals.

Lock picking has existed for as long as locks have, and recreational lock picking has as well. King Louis XVI of France (1754–1793) was a keen designer, picker and manipulator of locks. Continue reading

October 19, 2021

Rhinoceros Party

Rhinoceros Party

The Rhinoceros Party is a Canadian federal-level satirical political party founded by Canadian political figure and entertainer François ‘Yo’ Gourd and led by Sébastien Côrriveau.

It was a registered political party in Canada from the 1960s. Operating within the tradition of political satire, the Rhinoceros Party’s basic credo, their so-called primal promise, was ‘a promise to keep none of our promises.’ They then promised outlandishly impossible schemes designed to amuse and entertain the voting public. Continue reading

September 16, 2021

Fixer

The Wolf

fixer is a person who is skillful at solving problems for others. In American usage, to describe a person as a fixer implies that their methods may be of questionable legality. In sports, a fixer is someone who makes (usually illegal) arrangements to fix, i.e., manipulate or pre-arrange the outcome of a sporting contest.

In British usage the term is neutral, meaning ‘the sort of person who solves problems and gets things done.’ In journalism, a fixer is a local person who expedites the work of a correspondent working in a foreign country. Continue reading

September 9, 2021

Two Minutes Hate

Eastasia

In the dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ (1949), by George Orwell, the Two Minutes Hate is the daily, public period during which members of the Outer Party of Oceania must watch a film depicting the enemies of the state, specifically Emmanuel Goldstein and his followers, to openly and loudly express hatred for them.

The political purpose of the Two Minutes Hate is to allow the citizens of Oceania to vent their existential anguish and personal hatreds towards politically expedient enemies: Goldstein and the rival superstate of the moment. In re-directing the members’ subconscious feelings away from the Party’s government of Oceania, and towards non-existent external enemies, the Party minimizes thoughtcrime (politically unorthodox thoughts). Continue reading

August 22, 2021

Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Green Knight is a character from Arthurian literature. He is a formidable judge and tester of knights, and as such the other characters consider him as friendly but terrifying and somewhat mysterious.

In ‘Sir Gawain, the Green Knight,’ a 14th century alliterative poem by an anonymous poet, he is so called because his skin and clothes are green. The meaning of his greenness has puzzled scholars since the discovery of the poem, who identify him variously as the ‘Green Man,’ a vegetation being of medieval art; a recollection of a figure from Celtic mythology; a pagan Christian symbol — the personified Devil. Continue reading

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August 20, 2021

Avant-garde

Society of the Spectacle

The avant-garde (French: ‘advance guard’ or ‘vanguard’) are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society. It is frequently characterized by aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability.

The avant-garde pushes the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism. Many artists have aligned themselves with the avant-garde movement, and still continue to do so, tracing their history from Dada through the Situationists and to postmodern artists such as the Language poets of the 1980s. Continue reading

August 17, 2021

Graveyard of Empires

The Great Game

Graveyard of Empires is a sobriquet associated with Afghanistan. It originates from the alleged historical tendency for foreign powers to fail in their invasions of the country. It is unclear who coined the phrase, and its historical accuracy has been disputed.

Several superpowers have attempted to invade Afghanistan without maintaining a stable, permanent rule. Modern examples included the British Empire during the first and Third Anglo-Afghan Wars (1839-1842, 1919), the Soviet Union in the Soviet–Afghan War (1979-1989) and the United States in the War in Afghanistan (2001-2021). Continue reading