A History of Foreigners, by Rumboldt Schnorckelhausen. We all know that the history of our country began in 1776 and continues uninterrupted to the present day, with a slight hiccup in the 1860s that we’d rather not talk about. But did you know that there are human beings living outside the borders of the United States? In this fascinating study, Prof. Schnorckelhausen takes us to foreign lands with such unlikely names as “Switzerland,” “Bangladesh,” and “Puerto Rico” and shows us what their inhabitants have been doing all this time. 16mo, 96 pp.
Tragic Backstory Academy. A new student at the Academy is shunned, mocked, bullied, and hounded to the brink of suicide for being the only student without a tragic backstory. Check local listings.
You can read the whole report here (PDF).
Dr. Boli does not like information presented in video form. What he especially dislikes is running across a Web page that is so certain he wants his information in video form that it immediately starts playing a video at him without his permission. And the very worst offenders are the pages that do have information that is meant to be read, but overwhelm it with dancing animations and videos that make it impossible to keep our eyes on the text. For example, the current front page of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh site, which fills the screen with a confused cacophony of moving images to inform us that we can get a printed program guide if we like. Can anyone think of a better way to inform readers of the availability of printed schedules of library programs than with a video showing library patrons dancing around with the printed guide and not reading it?
That was the site that finally sent Dr. Boli off on a quest for some way to kill the moving images. If you use Firefox, there is a simple setting to disable autoplay. If you use Chrome or Edge, there is no such setting. There used to be years ago, but it was taken away, on the grounds (we suppose) that users were abusing it by disabling autoplay, which is a rotten thing to do. Advertisers pay good money to Google to place animated ads all over the Web, and Google does not fund the Chromium project just to flush that money down the sewer. What was that famously aspirational Google slogan again? “Let’s be evil”? Something like that.
Fortunately, there are browser extensions that will accomplish the same thing. But there is not yet a browser extension that does exactly what Dr. Boli would like. The one he uses right now stops videos from automatically playing without his permission, which is good as far as it goes. What Dr. Boli would really like, however, is an extension that would allow him to click on any video or animation that started by itself, and with that click simultaneously kill the movement on the page and deliver a harmless but painful electric shock to the Web designer who thought the autoplaying video was a good idea. Dr. Boli is prepared to reward a programmer who can create such an extension with his patronage. Note that, if the “harmless” part of the specifications proves impossible to implement, Dr. Boli is still likely to be generous.
Each year, together we set goals to appreciably advance the company in its 8 key business areas: Firm Structure, Finance, Operations, People, Culture, Marketing, Production, and Design.
Q. What comes dead last on the list of key business areas for this firm?
Q. What is this firm trying to sell?
Then a key turns in the lock. Slowly the massive door creaks open, and in the blinding light is the silhouette of the consul of the city.
“All right, men,” he says. “There’s a basilisk in an old cellar, and it needs to come out. In exchange for a full pardon, who wants to put on the mirror suit and go down after it?”
One of the men volunteers.
The basilisk or cockatrice (the two terms had become synonymous by the 1600s) was a known fact of natural history, and now you can be well informed on all matters to do with basilisks, because Dr. Boli has taken the trouble to transcribe a learned treatise on the subject by George Caspard Kirchmayer, one of those wonderful old naturalists who studied all of nature without setting foot in the grubby outdoors. “To deny the existence of the basilisk is to carp at the evidence of men’s eyes and their experiences in many different places,” says Kirchmayer. However, he is not such a fool as to believe in those old wives’ tales about its killing men with a glance. No silly mirror suits for him. They wouldn’t do him a bit of good: the basilisk could kill him with its breath.
This translation of Kirchmeyer’s learned treatise is by Edmund Goldsmid, a Scottish bibliophile who published a number of translations of old Latin treatises in very limited editions. Unfortunately he died young; otherwise he might have left us English versions of much more of that “lost continent of literature,” as James Hankins called the neo-Latin world. Mr. Goldsmid’s notes are worth reading in themselves: they introduce us to many of the other characters in the scholarship of the 1500s and 1600s. It is remarkable how many of them died of stubbornness. “Having convinced himself that one could not catch the plague at 60 years of age, he took no precautions, and died of that disease in 1596.” “Cardanus…starved himself to death in 1576, to accomplish his own prophecy that he would not live beyond the age of seventy-five.”
You can read Kirchmayer on Basilisks at the Argosy of Pure Delight, where we present it in mobile-friendly and Web-friendly form. You can also see the original page images of Edmund Gosmid’s translation in the Internet Archive; you may notice that, in his transcription, Dr. Boli has silently corrected a number of printing errors in Goldsmid’s edition—and doubtless introduced some new ones, because that always happens.