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Published: Mon, 29 May 2017 14:39:33 GMT

Last Build Date: Mon, 29 May 2017 14:39:33 GMT


You Aut to Try Minecraft

Mon, 29 May 2017 12:07:40 GMT

It has been multiply reported that open world building and exploration game Minecraft (Product Page | Wikipedia) is disproportionately popular among autistics (CDC | Wikipedia). Said to be the best-selling game of all time behind only Tetris, Minecraft's appeal is obviously broad, but is there something special about it that scratches a highly specific itch for people on the spectrum? Autism support groups and parents (warning: comic sans) and server operators have drunk the pixelated Kool-Aid en masse (international classroom resources: American iBook | Canadian PDF), and there is academic support for the idea that working with virtual worlds can have social and communications benefits for both children and adults on the spectrum. The claim is that interaction and perception skills honed in-game are ported to the outside social world. Yale disabilities researchers explain that "typical individuals appear to anthropomorphize the inanimate world around them...children with ASD appear to do the reverse, namely to use the concepts and reasoning processes that they have for learning about a special try to make sense of social phenomena." Autistics are known for these "special interests" (also called circumscribed interests, or fascinations), distinguished from obsessive behaviours seen in, for example, OCD (DSM | IOCDF), because instead of being a focus of anxiety the behaviours "are beloved activities apparently associated with great positive valance." Typical fascinations include ordering and categorizing within rule-bound systems, which is the essence of Minecraft play: resource blocks with certain properties are combined with other resource blocks to create product blocks with derivative or combined properties, which in turn may be assembled into architectural structures or hooked together into mechanical/signalling devices of aggregatable complexity. Also there are bunnies. But autistic fascinations can be a double-edged sword, on the one hand "help[ing] shape their understanding of an otherwise confusing and perplexing social world" but also offering a depth of focus that may exacerbate isolation and social difficulties. Some even say Minecraft is non-figuratively addictive (Wired | some nut). This submitter cannot pretend to be impartial. As an autist I can tell you the appeal for me lies in the game's particular balance between simplicity and complexity. It is a rarified world, soothing in its abstraction, but sufficiently dynamic to be fertile for curiosity. It is a low-noise space, where "noise" is understood in terms of the Intense World Theory (original paper | dissenting opinion | story with pictures). From the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland: "The proposed neuropathology is hyper-functioning of local neural microcircuits, best characterized by hyper-reactivity and hyper-plasticity. Such hyper-functional microcircuits are speculated to be become autonomous and memory trapped leading to the core cognitive consequences of hyper-perception, hyper-attention, hyper-memory and hyper-emotionality...This may lead to obsessively detailed information processing of fragments of the world and an involuntarily and systematic decoupling of the autist from what becomes a painfully intense world. The autistic is proposed to become trapped in a limited, but highly secure internal world with minimal extremes and surprises." If you're autistic yourself or you're raising an autistic child, you know the danger of disappearing down the black hole of a purely internal world. The attraction of a micro-world that offers many features of an internal world without actual disengagement from reality should be obvious. As a parent, it can be the bridge you need to keep the lines of communication open. For autists it can be hard to manage when to venture forth into the outside world and when to crawl back deep inside your own brain. Minecraft presents a reasonable compromise. [...]

Gone with Noakes

Mon, 29 May 2017 12:06:08 GMT

RIP John Noakes, British children's television presenter - mainly on the long-running BBC show Blue Peter with his dog Shep - back in the days when health and safety concerns were a little more lax. He was also famous for being upstaged by a baby elephant.


Helping to bury a time capsule in 1971
... and opening it again in 2000

Go With Noakes (the show he did after Blue Peter) - Noakesy plays ruby, canoes down the Liffey 1, 2, 3

"I can't say too much": The moment visibly emotional John Noakes broke down on TV over death of Blue Peter dog Shep

The comedy band The Barron Knights once wrote a tribute to Noakesy and Shep - 'Get Down Shep'

50 años de "Cien años de soledad"

Mon, 29 May 2017 09:25:57 GMT

May 30, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of One Hundred Years of Solitude, a work its author, Gabriel García Márquez, described as a "very long and very complex novel in which I have placed my best illusions." García Márquez finished the novel in August 1966; his publisher, Editorial Sudamericana, printed its first run on May 30, 1967. The book went on to sell 50 million copies worldwide, becoming the most translated literary work in Spanish outside of Don Quixote....This digital collection, drawn from the Gabriel García Márquez papers at the Harry Ransom Center, documents the genesis of the novel from draft to literary classic

Gabriel García Márquez working on a draft of One Hundred Years of Solitude
First page of photocopied typescript with García Márquez's signature

How One Hundred Years of Solitude Became a Classic [The Atlantic]
Can One Hundred Years of Solitude be read as more than just fantasy? [Grauniad]

In Spanish:
Los siete capítulos olvidados de 'Cien años de soledad' [El Pais]
'Cien años de soledad', un manual de la historia de Colombia [Semana]
'Cien años de soledad' cumple 50 años [Semana]
"Cien años de soledad" y memoria [El Espectador]

Previously: The Secret History of One Hundred Years of Solitude [Vanity Fair]

Bonus: THE HEART'S ETERNAL VOW by Thomas Pynchon (Review of Love in the Time of Cholera)

It would be presumptuous to speak of moving ''beyond'' ''One Hundred Years of Solitude'' but clearly Garcia Marquez has moved somewhere else, not least into deeper awareness of the ways in which, as Florentino comes to learn, ''nobody teaches life anything.''

"language of people jammed together, like in the military and prisons,"

Mon, 29 May 2017 01:46:06 GMT

Denis Johnson, Who Wrote of the Failed and the Desperate, Dies at 67 [The New York Times] "Denis Johnson, a National Book Award winner whose novels and short stories about the fallen — junkies, down-and-out travelers, drifters and violent men in the United States and abroad — emerged in ecstatic, hallucinatory and sometimes minimalist prose, died on Wednesday at his home in Gualala, Calif. He was 67. The cause was liver cancer, his literary agent Nicole Aragi said." • "What a pair of lungs!" : Denis Johnson's Ecstatic American Voice [The New Yorker] "He liked to play off the edges of genre, spy thrillers, noir, even science fiction—as in his haunting second novel, "Fiskadoro," which unfolds in a time after nuclear devastation in a place like the Florida Keys. But, whether Johnson was retreading the footsteps of Robert Stone and Graham Greene in the wreckage of Latin American or African revolutions, or of America's war in Vietnam, or drifting like an unlaid ghost back and forth across the American home front, his fictions rode from book to book on the shoulders of an ever-growing cast of self-dramatizing miscreants—men of schemes and scams, in the grip of unwholesome appetites, brazen but rarely honorable, self-seeking but not self-aware, largely indifferent to cause and effect, defined chiefly by their derelictions and delusions, their missteps and misjudgments, possessed of a seemingly bottomless attraction to bad and violent situations and a limitless capacity for making them worse—in short, men roughly as entertaining on the page as they would surely be repellent in person." • Remembering Author Denis Johnson [] ""Denis was one of the great writers of his generation," FSG's president and publisher, Jonathan Galassi, said in a statement Friday. "He wrote prose with the imaginative concentration and empathy of the poet he was." "Brutally honest and painfully beautiful" — that's how novelist Nathan Englander described Johnson's work in 1992's Jesus' Son, a brief, unvarnished set of interwoven stories that focus on the desperate lives of drug addicts."He doesn't ever romanticize these dark settings while leaving his narrator open to the fact that, despite it all, we may live in a heartbreakingly romantic world," Englander wrote of Johnson in 2007, adding: "With dialogue that feels like you're getting it verbatim and stripped-down prose, he writes simple, honest stories that have the bigness of great work."" • Remembering Denis Johnson [Vulture] "Johnson's was the art of compression, of lyrical density, and he's one of the few prose writers, as John Jeremiah Sullivan once demonstrated in a review for Harper's, who wrote paragraphs of fiction that could be broken up into lines and stand as poetry. Sullivan was reviewing Tree of Smoke, Johnson's 2007 Vietnam novel that won the National Book Award. It's a messy, uneven book with more than its share of theoretical digressions, but you forgive overstuffed novels when half of what they're stuffed with is brilliance, beginning in Tree of Smoke with the killing of a monkey in a jungle in the Philippines, the sort of overture a writer delivers at the beginning of a novel that will make the reader acquiesce to going wherever the author wants to take us." • A brief survey of the short story part 36: Denis Johnson [The Guardian] "Published in 1992, Jesus' Son is one of the best short story collections of the last 25 years, and its current unavailability in the UK is a joke. Its brief, linked stories take place in 1970s Iowa, Chicago, Seattle, and Phoenix. The narrator, "Fuckhead", is an alcoholic and drug addict. In content, his stories are like those shared at Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings, where participants are encouraged to talk about past tribulations; there is a freewheeling, mixed-up quality to them. They aren't always arranged in chronological order and might not have happened the way Fuckhead thinks[...]

Repairing an oriental rug

Mon, 29 May 2017 00:53:51 GMT

A small dog chewed the corner of conradcourtney's 1950 Saruk rug, so s/he set to fixin' it. (Slimgur) Here's a YouTube channel of a rug repair shop from British Columbia. Wikipedia's Oriental rugs article is great .

Progress is painfully uneven

Sun, 28 May 2017 15:52:05 GMT

Baltimore, 15 years after The Wire

The Observer visits Baltimore 15 years after The Wire ended and finds that the issues raised by the show haven't really gone away.

Photos of locations used in the show as they are today.