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January 31, 2008

Memed again

Aside from a sporadic political opinion or two and an occasional spring travelog, I avoid personal topics on this blog. The goal here is simple: levitate the level of levity (when I'm not too busy with alliteration).

But Randy at Internet Ronin tagged me with one of those meme things. Not exactly this blog's cup o' tea but neither shall I show the white feather.

So what I've got is a case of the Page 123 Book meme. It has this protocol.

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Even though the house is packed with books and my mother-in-law describes me (accurately) as someone who'd take the want ads to bed rather than go to bed with nothing to read, this turned out to be a tougher question than I expected. The closest book to hand on my desk is Milton Berle's Private Joke File, a recent gift from my brother-in-law. If I followed the rules with that book, I'd be telling you the punchline to a fairly lame joke about Cajuns. Hmm... maybe not.

The next one in the stack is Hands-on Morphological Image Processing. I didn't seriously consider this one - but I did look to see that its page 123 contained only figures and didn't have five sentences on it.

The book on the nightstand is The Tao of Pooh, which I picked up when my wife finished it. That sounded a little more promising but, following the protocol, I discovered that the fifth sentence on page 123 was the beginning of a long quoted section from one of Milne's books (the scene of Roo's rescue from his swimming adventure). All right; scratch that one, too.

Which brings me to Louis Menard's The Metaphysical Club - A Story of Ideas in America. I started this one just before Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed the first third or so. Then I ran out of steam a little over half way through, when Menard started describing less and philosophizing more in his own right.

Counting the first five complete sentences, here are the next three from page 123 in that book.

A way of thinking which regards individual differences as inessential departures from a general type is therefore not well suited for dealing with the natural world. A general type is fixed, determinate and uniform; the world Darwin described is characterized by chance, change, and difference -- all the attributes general types are designed to leave out. In emphasizing the particularity of individual organisms, Darwin did not conclude that species did not exist.

And if that ain't enough of a leading quote to make you go find a copy to read, then I don't know what would be. What Menard is talking about at this point is how Darwin's Origin of the Species was being interpreted by the intelligentsia of the 19th century.

Now to the final step: doing unto others as was done unto me. Let's try this lot (in no particular order) and see what they come up with.

Posted by joke du jour at January 31, 2008 08:45 PM

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After I tagged you, I did occur that it might be a bit unfair given the usual subject matter here. As you say, the Milton Berle joke could have been a good fit. OTOH, it was Uncle Miltie and I can well believe it wasn't up to snuff! The book you picked sounds like it "has possibilities," as a realtor-friend of mine said about just about every house she showed us. Any way to buy just the first third?

(Thanks for playing along!)

Posted by: Randy at February 1, 2008 01:51 AM


It's not unfair by any means -- just a little unusual for me. Thanks for the tag, btw.

I expect I'll finish the Menard book soon. Overall, I'd recommend it based on what I've read so far. He's a pretty good writer and his treatment of historical figures was interesting. (Not having studied it myself, I can't say how just his treatment is.)

Where I stopped, he was getting into John Dewey at the start of the 20th century and his politics were starting to intrude a bit by then.

Posted by: JdJ at February 1, 2008 09:45 AM

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