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Wednesday Wonder Cabinet
March 3, 2010 - 7:11pm

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I was just wondering about interesting new ways Google Maps might be integrated into narratives. Now how about taking an online video journey from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans Siberian Railway, with a corresponding interactive Google map at hand, accompanied by oral readings from Tolstoy or Gogol, in Russian? Or to the sound of rumbling wheels, balalaika and accordion, or Russian radio? (It’s good for international relations to be reminded that DJs sound like tools worldwide.) Try crossing the Volga or skirting the Barguzin mountains, the video landscape passing the train window, and the map set to “satellite” so you see the terrain from high above even as you travel across it. I hate even to suggest this, but the whole thing looks like some kind of ultra-secret CIA training device for agent escape-and-evasion. It’s all awfully cool and is courtesy of Google and Russian Railways (via our friend the excellent Bud Parr).

I’m working on something, so you might see repeated mention here of deep-sea diving in the next year. I’ll try to keep it down. But come on: A deep-sea diver puppet the size of a four-story building being walked through the streets? Even for street theater it’s one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen.

Our friend Neil Verma at Ducks and Drakes takes a look at a dictionary so special it’s a reminder that “the idea of a dictionary is, at its core, a speculative fiction. That’s what makes it sexy.” Dictionaries sexy? Agreed.

During heated discussions my acquaintance Rory will often flop out his PhuD—thud!—to impress interlocutors. Now anyone can look like the smartest chappie in the literary pub, with the recent paperback release of Who Killed Iago?: A Book of Fiendishly Challenging Literary Quizzes, by James Walton (Perigee/Penguin, 2009). Walton, who’s hosted a quiz show called The Write Stuff on BBC Radio 4 for more than decade, includes rounds of questions based on miscellany, extracts, featured authors, and links among literary people or things. Or so he says in the intro; I can’t see the organization easily while browsing. But maybe dipping-into-at-random is what the book’s best for anyway, other than memorizing the answers to show up the Rory in your life.

 

 

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