You can see nineteen photos of the magnolia flower, from birth to death, right here on my Main Site:
Here’s good ol’ Wikipedia: In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist (and sometimes the antagonist) is willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to pursue, protect or control, often with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered so important. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. [...] The MacGuffin technique is common in films, especially thrillers. Usually the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and then declines in importance as the struggles and motivations of characters play out. It may come back into play at the climax of the story, but sometimes the MacGuffin is actually forgotten by the end of the story. [...] The specific term “MacGuffin” appears to have originated in 20th-century filmmaking, and was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s, but the concept pre-dates the term in film as well as in literature. [...] Hitchcock popularized both the term “MacGuffin” and the technique, with his 1935 film «The 39 Steps», an early example of the concept. Hitchcock explained the term “MacGuffin” in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University: “[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the ‘MacGuffin’. It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers”. Interviewed in 1966 by François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock illustrated the term “MacGuffin” with this story:
It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says “What’s that package up there in the baggage rack?”, and the other answers, “Oh, that’s a McGuffin”. The first one asks “What’s a McGuffin?” “Well”, the other man says, “It’s an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands”. The first man says, “But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands”, and the other one answers, “Well, then that’s no McGuffin!” So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all.
Hitchcock related this anecdote in a television interview for Richard Schickel’s documentary «The Men Who Made the Movies» and for Dick Cavett’s interview. According to author Ken Mogg, screenwriter Angus MacPhail, a friend of Hitchcock, may have originally coined the term.
If you’re a clever psychiatrist, you might like to explain this fragment of a dream.
I’m at a barbecue in the late afternoon on a steep, uneven hillside. A man says to me “He became very sick, inhaling the fumes from heated mercury.”
“Jesus,” I said. “Mercury’s poisonous, especially heated. That stuff can kill you.”
Another man intervenes. “Exactly. That’s how they killed all the reindeers in Lapland. Mercury fumes.”
I suspect it has some connection with the vaudeville routine that lies behind Hitchcock’s famous “MacGuffin”, but I’m not sure how, exactly.
Thirty-five today. Again.
Photo courtesy BBC “Nature News” with thanks.
From the May 2009 issue of Chicago magazine.
For 21 years, Allan Calhamer walked a mail route in La Grange Park, the town where he had grown up and graduated from high school, where he had chosen to settle down and raise his two daughters. He was a tall, soft, abstracted man, who examined the world through thick, scholarly glasses, and went home at night to study history. No one noticed those distinguishing details under the blue uniform, the patch that read “Letter Carrier.” Suburban mailman is a job that guarantees anonymity, and that’s exactly what Calhamer found on the sidewalks of his hometown.
Outside La Grange Park, though, Calhamer wasn’t anonymous. As a young man — one of the brightest young men the town ever produced — Calhamer had gone away to Harvard. In the early fifties, while still an undergraduate, he invented the board game «Diplomacy». A thinking man’s version of «Risk», «Diplomacy» invites players to take the role of a great power in pre–World War I Europe, and negotiate, cajole, wheedle, and backstab their way to continental domination. Since it was published in 1959, the game has sold more than 300,000 copies. John F. Kennedy played it in the White House. Henry Kissinger played it to hone the skills that would make him secretary of state. (See illustration.) As simple to learn as chess and as difficult to master as mergers and acquisitions, «Diplomacy» has an obsessive following, from the local club Windy City Weasels to an international tournament circuit and webzines that publish articles such as “Rethinking Russia’s Opening Strategy” and “The Belgian Gambit.”Diplomacy was a pioneering war game — “one of the early signs of organized gaming,” according to Derk Solko of the Web site Board Game Geek. But it never made Calhamer rich — he once bought a Mercury Monarch with the royalties — and it led him astray from the career path most Harvard men follow. [From a bulletin board: "Were the Ford Granada/Mercury Monarchs good cars during their time?" Reply: "From what I heard, they were junk."] After inventing the game, he drifted through an aborted stint at Harvard Law, a few months in the foreign service, a career as a systems analyst. In the late sixties, living on welfare in New York City, he took a job as a guard at the Statue of Liberty.
“It might have been bad in a sense,” Calhamer, 77, says today of Diplomacy. “It might have been a distraction to my conniving my way up.”
Calhamer died recently, in early 2013, at the age of 81.
Old joke: you know, there are 10 kinds of computer programmers: those who think in binary numerals, and those who don’t.
According to CNet’s news site, it’s not just you. Tuning out Facebook for weeks at a time is commonplace, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which found that a majority of the current Facebook users it surveyed have at one time or another tired to the point of avoiding the social-networking site… The Pew study found that 61 percent of the Facebook users who responded have taken extended, weeks-long breaks from the site. Those who have taken Facebook sabbaticals did so for the obvious reasons: 21 percent were too busy, 10 percent lost interest, and 10 percent felt it was a waste of time… Pew’s most disconcerting finding, at least if you’re betting on Facebook’s long-term success, underscores what the social network warned its investors about last week: the cool kids are so over Facebook. According to the survey, 38 percent of Facebook users ages 18 to 29 say that in 2013 they expect to spend less time using the site.
I walk my dog in Mort Bay Park, a leafy park by the Harbour in Balmain and one full of various dogs and their owners. A month or so ago I noticed that one of the trees in the park had been cut down, leaving a stump about a meter high. Not the Council, I thought: they would have cut it level with the ground to prevent accidents at dusk. Some local vandal must have done it. Not so: it seems a creative artist may well have done it. As soon as the wood was more or less dry, it was cut and shaped into the likeness of a dog. Well done!
PS: The Reply is well worth reading: click the link below. JT
Seeing as it’s the twelfth of the twelfth of the twelfth, may you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And don’t be like the Polar Bear in the photo and fall over with a wire up your arse. Okay?
I recently added a strange piece of information to my old post (February 2012) about Authenticity and the Shibboleth here. I began the old post with this bloodthirsty Biblical quote:
And the Gileadites took the passages of (the River) Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over (the river); that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;
Then said they unto him, Say now “Shibboleth”: and he said “Sibboleth”: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of (the River) Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. (– Judges 12:5, 12:6)
Then I added at the foot of that old post this strange item about the defeat of the Bronze Cuckoo (Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo, Chrysococcyx [Chalcites] basalis [pictured]).
As an aside, I hate the maddening screech of the South-east Asian cuckoo, the Common Koel, a migratory species that arrives in Australia from South-east Asia to breed (and howl horribly) in spring. They make the Fever Bird sound polite and discreet. Although rarely seen, the Koel is well known to many Australians for its loud, repetitive calls, particularly in the early morning. (So says the «Australian Museum».) I also resent the fact that the Koel chicks kill off local Australian chicks, so I was pleased to see the Bronze Cuckoo done in so cleverly by a bird with a brain the size of a pea.
Later interpolation: Believe it or not, the Australian Superb Fairy Wren (I called them Blue Wrens when I was a chick) teach their unhatched chicks an individual secret shibboleth phrase while they’re still in the egg by whistling the special phrase every day for a week or so before the chicks hatch. When a Bronze Cuckoo lays her egg in the Fairy Wren’s nest, it hatches a few days later and kicks out the Fairy Wren eggs. But when the cuckoo chick hatches and calls for food, it fails to match the shibboleth call the Fairy Wren mother has patiently taught her own chicks (while they are still in the egg!). The Fairy Wren leaves the nest soon after (in disgust, I imagine) and the Bronze Cuckoo hatchling starves to death. Read more about it in detail from this site, written by “grrlScientist”, here.