- 5 November 1997
- The Sammy Game
- The object of The Sammy Game is to make someone use the word "who" in repsonse to an interrogative sentence. When s/he does, the player wins a point in the game by saying "Sammy!" No score is recorded; the game lasts forever.
It's a simple game that wrecks lives and relationships. I've seen people go to extraordinary lengths to sammy someone; I've witnessed otherwise mature people sulk for hours after being sammied. I figure that if I can get everyone who speaks English to play The Sammy Game the word "who" will be almost eliminated from interrogative sentences before I die.
I like that idea. It's the opposite of how we got the word "quiz." As I recall, in the 1860s some rich Englishman paid a horde of street urchins to write the nonexistent word "quiz" on walls all over London. Sure enough, everyone talked about it (I guess there wasn't much graffiti in those days) and eventually the word acquired its current definition.
There's only one thing wrong with that story: it's not true. Or the story may be true, but the word created wasn't quiz, which a dictionary tells me was first published in 1782:
"Although we do not know the origin of the word quiz, just as we may not know the answers to all the questions on a quiz, we can say that its first recorded sense has to do with people, not tests. The term, first recorded in 1782, meant 'an odd or eccentric person.' From the noun in this sense came a verb meaning 'to make sport or fun of' and 'to regard mockingly.' In English dialects and probably in American English the verb quiz acquired senses relating to interrogation and questioning. This presumably occurred because quiz was associated with question, inquisitive, or perhaps the English dialect verb quiset, 'to question' (probably itself short for obsolete inquisite, 'to investigate'). From this new area of meaning came the noun and verb senses all too familiar to students. The second recorded instance of the noun sense occurs in the writings of no less an educator than William James, who in a December 26, 1867, letter proffers the hope that 'perhaps giving "quizzes" in anatomy and physiology ... may help along."
The Sammy Game is available in the PDF format.
- 6 November 1997
- Alaskan Odds
- Ellen was lamenting the curious dearth of eligible courtship candidates. I suggested she should visit Alaska, where men far outnumber women, but Ellen didn't think it was a good idea.
"I've been to Alaska," she said. "The odds are good but the goods are odd."
- 7 November 1997
- A Grant (After the Fact)
- Years ago I had a small business enterprise in San Francisco. (We all make mistakes when we're young.) I just discovered that I should have been paying a business license fee to the city, a bit of bureaucratic administravia I innocently overlooked to my advantage. When I realized I had an after the fact grant, I used the money to buy some new computer tools. This represents yet another example of how San Francisco is good for artists (as if another was needed).
- 8 November 1997
- Electronic Rats
- People are always asking me why I chose the name "stare" for my domain name. Even though I've grown to like the name, it wasn't my first choice. My colleagues and I here at my laboratory sometimes refer to each other as lab rats, so my first choice for my domain name was "electronicrats.com." (Electric-rats or electri-crats, get it?) That name was taken, as was the contraction "erats.com." I finally came up with the solution when my name generation engine suggested "stare," or "erats" spelled backward.
Now you know.
- 9 November 1997
- The Currency of Ideas
- I was walking the woods when I had a couple of ideas. They weren't very good ideas, so I knew I'd forget them unless I wrote them down. I had nothing to write on except some U.S. currency, so that's what I used.
For years I've intended to turn money into art, but I've never come up with a piece that was dissimilar to what others have done. Until now. Perhaps a piece called Value Added Currency Series, consisting of bank notes with a bit of writing on them. The original piece from the walk won't be in it though, I gave it to my friends at Diana's Market in exchange for a couple bottles of wine. A number of artists have turned money into art, but turning art into wine feels like a miracle of biblical proportions.
- 10 November 1997
- Dog Television
- Fred told me he leaves his television on when he's away so his dog won't be bored or lonely.
"Does that really work?" I asked skeptically.
"How should I know; I'm not there, am I?"
Fred is as dumb as his television.
- 11 November 1997
- Pour Excuse
- I read an interview with the painter Igor Roknolov in which he said "I pour a lot into my work."
And it showed: his paintings were crap. I never pour anything into my work, I pour it into me. (I say this not to perpetuate the destructive myth that pouring is an integral part of the creative process; I just wanted to point out that if you are going to pour you may as well pour effectively.)
- 12 November 1997
- Attacked by the Tamil Tigers
- Sabine wrote to tell me she'd been attacked by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka: bomb blasts, flying glass, heavy gunfire, that sort of thing. It's a much better story than my tale of being captured by CCCP conscripts when I inadvertently invaded Siberia in 1983. Although I had a number of scary-looking rifles trained on me (I suppose any firearm pointed at me is, by definition, scary) no one fired a shot, and after a few days in a Soviet military base (great whale meat dinners!) I was home again.
Sabine wasn't so lucky. Unlike some of the others in Colombo, she wasn't hurt physically. From her letter, she seems understandably shaken; I suppose that's normal when a bomb blast sends your hotel door flying through your room and into a window before you've even had any coffee. Sabine's a strong woman; I'm sure she'll be fine as long as she keeps an eye out for situations where she might be surrounded by people with automatic weapons. At least that's a strategy that's served me well for almost a decade and a half.
- 13 November 1997
- Mad Kentucky Scientists
- As I was getting to the bottom of a bottle of whiskey, I noticed it was no ordinary bottle of whiskey. I discovered that what I thought was a one liter bottle was, in fact, a 1.14 liter bottle.
It took me a while to figure out why some marketing team decided to bottle such an odd volume. At first, I thought it was because 1.14 liter equals 1.2 U.S. quarts or three-tenths of a U.S. gallon, so after five/ten bottles an American alcoholic poet could brag "I drank a gallon and a half/three gallons of 101 proof whiskey while writing that poem." That marketing ploy may in fact be the explanation, but I've discovered a sinister possibility.
On two separate occasions I spilled my first large shot glass of whiskey before I'd had so much as a sip of anything alcoholic that day. Now here's the spooky part: I checked with one of my laboratory technicians, and she confirmed my worst fears: my shot glass holds exactly fifty-seven milliliters. Thus, by spilling two glasses I lost my extra .14 liter of whiskey.
I can't believe this and don't want to believe this, but all the evidence points to the obvious conclusion that mad scientists in Kentucky have come up with some sort of horrific additive that makes whiskey spill itself.
- 14 November 1997
- False Lies
It sounds like the Princess Grace Slept Here piece I did last month has angered some influential people in Monaco. There's a piece about me in the current edition of the Monaco Tattler that's one of the more vicious examples of character assassination I've ever seen. Those Gallic types certainly can get nasty when you rub them the wrong way!
Actually, their temper tantrum didn't bother me too much; at least they just published several columns of vitriolic ranting instead of reaching for the limpet mines. And the Tattlerpiece shouldn't do much to harm my reputation; almost half the lies they told about me simply weren't true.
- 15 November 1997
- Waterfall in a Box
- Waterfall in a Box will be a 333 millimeter square cube made out of a black opaque material. Inside the cube I'll install a small waterfall made with some sort of miniature water pump and a closed loop water system. (Since the box will be sealed, evaporation shouldn't be a problem.)
Actually, that sounds like too much work. Since Waterfall in a Box is essentially a conceptual piece, I can probably get by with just the box and a recording of running water. And perhaps a vibrator for good measure.
- 16 November 1997
- Spelling Tricks
- I was sitting with some friends after one of Bethan's lovely dinners when the subject turned to spelling. I said the only way I could remember how to spell the word "separate" was to remember that "there's a rat in it." After I heard that I never used the word "seperate" again. It turns out everyone has their own secrets tricks for remembering spellings.
Necessary is one color, two socks. ("You wouldn't wear socks of different colors, would you?") Bethan's mother told her "be a youtiful." Piece (piece of pie) brought up the old rule of "i before e except after c." When I pointed out the rule was almost useless since it had so many exceptions, I was told that the whole rule is "i before e except after c when it sounds like eee." Why didn't someone tell me that when I was a kid?
Before I felt too cheated, someone shot down the new improved rule by asking "What about Keith? That's the word I can never spell." Everything went downhill after that, and we ended the spelling discussion by agreeing that the word millenneum was impossible to spell.
- 17 November 1997
- Not a Sensible Slaughter
- The radio newsreader is talking about "today's senseless slaughter of innocent tourists in Egypt." I do appreciate good journalism: without such professional reporting, I might have erroneously concluded that this latest guerrilla attack might have been a sensible slaughter of guilty tourists.
- 18 November 1997
- The Frame Show
- No one was very excited about the art work at tonight's opening, but there was one frame that got great reviews. It was a lovely thick metal frame with red glossy enamel paint, a real beauty. The big red frame was the aesthetic highlight of the evening.
I don't think it's a very good idea to have frames that compete with the artwork. I was at an opening years ago when a man asked Ansel Adams if he could ask a technical question. Ansel said yes, of course. (I think the only thing Ansel enjoyed more than sharing the tricks of the trade with his admirers was a heroically large gin and tonic.)
"Mr. Adams," asked the thin fan with thick glasses, "where do you get your frames?"
Ansel stifled a look of exasperation (I suppose he was used to hearing a lot of inane questions), said that was a question for the gallery staff, then started chatting with someone else.
If I was a curator, I'd make a show of just frames. With no art to get in the way of enjoying the show, I think it would work well.
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©1997 David Glenn Rinehart