Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gestures in Literacy #2: The answer to HRASHES!

It's time to present the solution to "Gestures in Literacy 2: This time it's HRASHES!" But first, let's honor those readers who had the fortitude to "enter the gesture."

Ben Parzybok said...
This is obviously some kind of funereal ritual. Here we see various implements that were important to this person during her life. At top right, her favorite banana, at left a treasured handbag. In the center is a painting she composed of 8 black crows flying over a somber beach.

At bottom, of course, is the bag of 'her ashes'.

My blessings to the departed.

Anonymous said...
The general tank image alludes to the current standoff between Somali pirates and the military powers racing to recapture a Ukrainian vessel full of tanks and other arms.

The symbolism at the tank's top (flag = nation; crescent = religion) mimic Marxian notions of base/ superstructure.

At the pyramid/tank's base is, in effectively grand lettering, the name of an international brand that, like the romantic dream of high-seas piracy, invades the heart of every boy: Thrasher Skateboard Company.

Short answer: Thrasher.

Those are excellent answers, Ben and Anon. Not correct. But excellent.

And now: The gesture was...

Top row, L to R: Zip-lock bag holding crackers, single apple slice.
Second row: Bottle of water, zip-lock bag holding sandwich.
Bottom row: A HRASHES chocolate bar (manufactured in HERSHEY, PA)

The parent of this child would like us to make clear the following: the packed lunch holds more than one apple slice; the water is never decanted in an old perfume bottle; and the child has never been given a giant Hershey's chocolate bar in the lunch. So this gesture in literacy is a suggestion: one apple slice is okay, perfume water would be cool, and why, again, can I not have a huge chocolate bar in my lunch?

Thanks for playing, folks! More gestures soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gestures in Literacy: HRASHES!

Gestures in Literacy is back. This week's contributor has given us a picture puzzle. What is the one word that appears in this picture? It is crucial that you decode the message! The fate of, um...of this game rests on it!

Answer on Tuesday.

(If you are in possession of a Gesture in Literacy you would like to contribute, feel free to email it to wcevents@pdx.edu, and we'll try to work it in.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

PDXWD's new game: Gestures in Literacy

(Some of the people who make up the loose collective that is PDX Writer Daily have, through their own moral laxness and irresponsibility, been charged with the raising of children. Some of these children are working, these days, on acquiring written language. So now, in the first of what may become an ongoing series, we present to you PDXWD's new puzzle game, sweeping the, um...sweeping the neighborhood. Or sweeping a few houses. Kind of.)

Gestures in Literacy

Here's how Gestures in Literacy works: we post an image of something a person--a small person, probably, and very young--has written. You: try to decode what it says. We: post the answer the next day.

Okay? Okay! Today's image is posted. Look at it closely. What does it say? What do you think? Show your friends. Show your co-workers. Work the problem, people. Talk it out. You can do it.

Answer tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From the Library: Eric Ambler's "A Coffin for Dimitrios"

One of us has just finished reading another excellent novel about a writer: Eric Ambler's thriller, A Coffin for Dimitrios. (Ambler is pictured at right, in 1952. Photo by Elliott Erwitt) It begins like this:

A Frenchman named Chamfort, who should have known better, once said that chance was a nickname for Providence.

It is one of those convenient, question-begging aphorisms coined to discredit the unpleasant truth that chance plays an important, if not predominant, part in human affairs. Yet it was not entirely inexcusable. Inevitably, chance does occasionally operate with a sort of fumbling coherence readily mistakable for the workings of a self-conscious Providence.

The story of Dimitrios Makropoulos is an example of this.

The fact that a man like Latimer should so much as learn of the existence of a man like Dimitrios is alone grotesque. That he should actually see the dead body of Dimitrios, that he should spend weeks that he could ill afford probing into the man's shadowy history, and that he should ultimately find himself in the position of owing his life to a criminal's odd taste in interior decoration are breathtaking in their absurdity.

Yet, when these facts are seen side by side with the other facts in the case, it is difficult not to become lost in superstitious awe. Their very absurdity seems to prohibit the use of the words 'chance' and 'coincidence.' For the sceptic there remains only one consolation: if there should be such a thing as a superhuman Law, it is administered with subhuman inefficiency. The choice of Latimer as its instrument could have been made only by an idiot.

This opener set this reader a-wondering from the second clause, and kept us interested, amused, and thinking right on through. Admittedly, we were in the mood for this heady stuff when we happened to begin reading it, and would probably not have remained that way if the philosophizing went on for too long; but it didn't.

Here are a few of many other good things about A Coffin for Dimitrios, which are not discernible from the opening passage:

All of the characters are intelligent, and when they seem not to be, we find we have been misdirected. For example, there's this passage where one of the characters is getting into some purple prose, saying stuff like "International big business may conduct its operations with scraps of paper, but the ink it uses is human blood!" -- and just as the character bangs his fist on the table, and the reader begins to get really sick of the character's histrionics, the narrator comes in and tells us that the protagonist, too, "could never quite get over his distaste for other people's rhetoric." We grin. We feel like we are on the side of the good, intelligent character and the wise narrator, and we are all scoffing discreetly together at this blowhard character.... at which point said character says: "Of course I was exaggerating. But it is agreeable sometimes to talk in primary colors even if you have to think in greys." And we are forced to agree, and we see that we have been silly to condemn him.

A Coffin for Dimitrios features an interesting story against a glamorous backdrop, both characteristics we like in novels. What happens is, a writer of detective novels becomes obsessed with an international criminal whose body he has just seen laid out in a Turkish morgue, and he undertakes to trace the criminal's steps across Europe over the past two decades. In so doing, he traverses Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Croatia, and Switzerland before finally ending up in way over his head in Paris. He meets reporters, spies, drug dealers, madames, blackmailers, murderers, and other exciting and unsavory characters. All of these people are constantly saying interesting things to him, and he to them.

Nobody learns any moral lessons. They could, but they don't.

The main thing we dislike about A Coffin for Dimitrios is that Ambler wrote it when he was 30 years old. This makes us jealous, and diminishes our own sense of personal accomplishment. The next time we read an Ambler novel, which will probably be soon, we resolve to pretend that he was 55 when he wrote it, or possibly 80. And the next novel we write, we will pretend that we are Eric Ambler.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Bitch Magazine on the stands yesterday, already

Will someone please tell us the next time that Bitch Magazine hosts a quarterly release party/ Pop Culture Debate Club? Cloning your pets? The In Other Words bookstore? Bitch Magazine? There are so many cool things about this party... we can't believe no one told us about it. We had to find out about it for ourselves on some blog posting by Unpaid Arts Intern over at the Portland Mercury.

It makes us want to write a letter:

Dear Bjork,
We're sorry you couldn't invite us to your party.
love, PDX Writer Daily

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Compendium of Miniatures is still available

A Compendium of Miniatures, pictured at left (your left, our right), looks like a pretty cool thing. There seem to be other cool things for sale over at Plazm Web hq, but this thing seems especially cool, according to the local blog Seed Cake and Plazm's catalogue:

by Tiffany Lee Brown
(Portland: 2GQ/Tiger Food Press, 2007)

"Miniature narratives and rhythmic metaphors redefine the words that tell life's big stories. Limited edition of 50 signed, numbered books hand-bound in silk. Hand-set in Deepdene and letterpress printed in two colors on recyled (sic) paper using soy-based inks by Clare Carpenter of Tiger Food Press. Case-bound, 48 pages, approximately 4" x 6"."

It costs about $85 for most people (well, it's "hand-bound in silk"; what did you expect?), but we here at PDX Writer Daily consider ourselves book reviewers, and we expect to receive our promotional copies any day now. Except that UPS does not deliver to our current address, the empty upstairs bar Apothoke, where we continue to scuttle around the floor, searching for drops of weird Scandinavian cordials left behind when the bar closed several months ago.