Sunday, 28 November 2010

the science of snowballing

Continuing with the Arctic exploration theme: a scene from hilarious Belgian animation Panique au village (see the trailer). The three mad scientists, operating a giant mechanical penguin and entertaining themselves with long-distance snowballing. Where do they hire for jobs like that?

Monday, 22 November 2010

from annals of adult psychophysics

Now about the scientific expeditions — in words of a certain Humbert Humbert:
One of my favourite doctors, a charming cynical chap with a little brown beard, had a brother, and this brother was about to lead an expedition into arctic Canada. I was attached to it as a ‘recorder of psychic reactions’.
I had little notion of what object the expedition was pursuing. Judging by the number of meteorologists upon it, we may have been tracking to its lair (somewhere on Prince of Wales’ Island, I understand) the wandering and wobbly north magnetic pole. One group, jointly with the Canadians, established a weather station on Pierre Point in Melville Sound. Another group, equally misguided, collected plankton. A third studied tuberculosis in the tundra. Bert, a film photographer — an insecure fellow with whom at one time I was made to partake in a good deal of menial work (he, too, had some psychic troubles) — maintained that the big men on our team, the real leaders we never saw, were mainly engaged in checking the influence of climatic amelioration on the coats of the arctic fox.
Lolita
I left my betters the task of analysing glacial drifts, drumlins, and gremlins, and kremlins, and for a time tried to jot down what I fondly thought were ‘reactions’ (I noticed, for instance, that dreams under the midnight sun tended to be highly coloured, and this my friend the photographer confirmed). I was also supposed to quiz my various companions on a number of important matters, such as nostalgia, fear of unknown animals, food-fantasies, nocturnal emissions, hobbies, choice of radio programs, changes in outlook and so forth. Everybody got so fed up with this that I soon dropped the project completely, and only toward the end of my twenty months of cold labor (as one of the botanists jocosely put it) concocted a perfectly spurious and very racy report that the reader will find published in the Annals of Adult Psychophysics for 1945 or 1946, as well as in the issue of Arctic Explorations devoted to that particular expedition; which, in conclusion, was not really concerned with Victoria Island copper or anything like that, as I learned later from my genial doctor; for the nature of its real purpose was what is termed ‘hush-hush’, and so let me add merely that, whatever it was, that purpose was admirably achieved.
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

Monday, 1 November 2010

a general disinclination to work of any kind

From Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome:
In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being “a general disinclination to work of any kind.”

Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog (Bloomsbury Classic)
What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.

“Why, you skulking little devil, you,” they would say, “get up and do something for your living, can’t you?” – not knowing, of course, that I was ill.