7QT: New Riffs on Prayer, Booze, and Logic

7QT: New Riffs on Prayer, Booze, and Logic February 20, 2015



Last call to sign up for my book updates email list if you want to be eligible to win an early review of Arriving at Amen, my book on prayer.  I’ll be sending this month’s email (where you can enter my lottery) this afternoon.

— 1 —

While reading an article about why cocktails have wound up being so expensive at tony bars, I ran into what was meant to be one of the sillier examples — an Old Fashioned served inside ice, and I found the cleverness and delight of its inventors so lovely that I can’t be sad that they’re serving it.

— 2 —

Most of my links this week are about reinventions of older ideas, and I’d like to go from that pricey example to this low-rent one: Drunk Girls Do Renaissance Paintings in Bathrooms.

It’s a tumblr documenting exactly what it promises — two girls who go into bathrooms and try to replicate the poses in Renaissance paintings when they’re a little sloshed.  Their Salome with the head of John the Baptist is probably my favorite picture, but my favorite part of their project is the rules they wrote for themselves:

If anybody asks us what the hell we’re doing, we cannot lie. Although I’m not sure what lie we would come up with anyway that would sound any less stupid than “we’re trying to recreate Renaissance paintings while we’re drunk because we don’t want to keep any of the friends we have right now!”


— 3 —

Quite plausibly no less ridiculous: The New Yorker has a feature on a different way to enjoy the Super Bowl as a communal, competitive experience.  The Last Man game is an annual competition to be the last person in America to find out who won the Super Bowl.

“I usually last pretty long because I know so little about football anyway,” Abigail Drozek-Fitzwater, who teaches creative-writing workshops at elementary schools in Texas, said. She had taken the precaution of skipping a weekly round of drinks with friends at a bar filled with televisions, but thought that she would be safe Wednesday morning, when she was running a workshop on haikus with a group of second graders. “The theme was nature, so most of them were about waterfalls,” she said, of the students who presented their work in front the class. Lilly Jones went last, and read a poem (she’s still mastering the syllable requirements) about her brother, Sam:

Sam went to the Super Bowl
The Seahawks lost
He was sad

Drozek-Fitzwater was sad, too.

— 4 —

The New Yorker article mentions that one guy fell out of the running, not by learning the result directly, but by accumulate a lot of small blips of data that began to add up to a coherent picture.  Perhaps he, like me, would appreciate The Toast’s article: “How to Tell if You Are in a Logic Puzzle”

You are at a dinner party with your spouse and four or more heteronormative married couples. It transpires that you all have different types of pets, or different numbers of children, or you all went to different places on vacation last year. Possibly all three. You discuss this coincidence entirely in circumlocutions. It’s exhausting, frankly. Why can’t you just lay it all out?

You are a compulsive liar, and you live among truth-tellers and other compulsive liars. Visitors seem to trust the truth-tellers more, which has always struck you as odd, as talking to a liar generally reveals just as much as, and often more than, talking to a truth-teller. What does it even mean to say that you are a liar? If you lie literally all the time, couldn’t it be said that you and your people are just speaking a different language? You agree that cultural relativism is a thorny subject, but would argue that, given your nation’s lately increased visibility in the dominant social narrative, the incidence of misunderstandings is at an all-time low, which means you’re not really hurting anyone and anyway it’s not your fault you were raised only to lie.

Order of the Stick still has my all-time favorite solution to the Lying Guard, Truthful Guard puzzle.  xkcd has a good take on the three things in a boat one.

— 5 —

Meanwhile, at Tor, I enjoyed reading “Schrödinger’s Gun” by Ray Wood, a mystery short story where the protagonist, like a logic puzzle solver, is carefully sorting through all possible solutions to the homicide case she’s investigating.  She has a “heisen implant” that lets her peer into other possible worlds, which among other things, gives her a hint if people are lying to her:

The more Kitty’s story varied between universes, the more likely it was that she was making it up as she went along; the more similar, the more likely she was telling me the truth—or that the story had been carefully rehearsed. Shadows of those possibilities stretched out on either side of us, rows of doppelgangers interviewing and being interviewed, as though Kitty and I were caught between two mirrors.

I liked how cleverly the power was used.

— 6 —

Without a doubt, though, the most entertaining thing I read on exploring possible worlds this week was the Tablet feature on Jewish fanfiction.  Here are two of my favorite examples from the piece:

I also enjoyed several Passover-centric Avengers stories. In one, Darcy (played by Kat Dennings in the movies) hosts a Seder in which everyone gets drunk on Franzia boxed wine and Thor is inexplicably flung from Asgard and crashes through the ceiling mid-Seder. (Darcy drunkenly yells, “Elijah!”) Another fic pretends to be a Haggadah written by Darcy herself; it’s so clever I may incorporate it into my own Seder this year.

In the show [Supernatural], both Winchesters have essential demon-protective tattoos, but in rivkat’s universe, Sam refuses to get his. Dean puts a mickey in his brother’s beer, tattoos him while he’s asleep, then props him up in bed, placing on his chest “the relevant portion of the Shulchan Arukh holding the involuntary tattooee blameless.”

Also, I feel I must add that I just found out that the last book in Lemony Snicket’s new “All the Wrong Questions” quartet will be titled: Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?

— 7 —

For our final bridging of worlds, an act of translation: a Rabbi showing and explaining his translation of the Sh’ma into ASL

The interpreter at my church makes a similar choice to translate “hear” as in “Lord, hear our prayer” as “Pay attention.”


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