Horoscoped: poetry from statisticians

I don’t check my RSS feed as much as I used to. You could either blame my job, for giving me more to do, or possibly Hulu and Netflix, for giving me more passive entertainment options. Personally, I blame either G.W. Bush or global warming.

Seriously, though, I came across a wonderful post on Information is Beautiful about horoscopes and word analysis (apparently the latest fad among statisticians — and you know those crazy fad-conscious statisticians).

You could just take a look at it yourself and draw your own conclusions from the data. Or, you could keep reading this post for another 60 seconds and learn that it reminded me of something Douglas Adams said in one of his later novels. I can never remember if it was The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul or Mostly Harmless or one of the other ones, so I haven’t been able to look it up. I’ll paraphrase it, though, like so:

You take something as inherently chaotic and unpredictable as human nature. You apply an arbitrary set of rules to it. Et voila, your rules work.

Most of the scientists I’ve met don’t like data that can’t be hammered down to at least two significant digits, which means that they read their horoscopes only furtively. I find all that crystal woo-woo stuff great fun and enjoy learning the arbitrary rules of divination systems with the same glee that I enjoy learning the arbitrary rules of grammar, social mores, and fashion.

What I found particularly stunning — poetic, even — was the meta-horoscope those crazy statisticians over at Information is Beautiful were able to create from their analysis. And I now present to you, the poem the statisticians wrote.*

Ready? Sure?
Whatever the situation or secret moment, enjoy everything a lot.
Feel able to absolutely care. Expect nothing else. Keep making love.
Family and friends matter. The world is life, fun, and energy.
Maybe hard. Or easy. Taking exactly enough is best.
Help and talk to others. Change your mind
and a better mood comes along…

From “Horoscoped: Do horoscopes really all just say the same thing? We scraped & analysed 22,000 to see.” at http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2011/horoscoped/

*I edited it slightly because I can’t stand center-justified poetry and feel really strongly about the serial comma.

Robyn Art: Here at Last the Body, Window Cracked Open at the Helm

In recognition of National Poetry month (April) and belated recognition of Women’s History Month and Small Press Month (March), I’ll be posting notices for the rest of the month about (and, wherever possible, links to) women poets from small presses.

From Wicked Alice Poetry Journal, Winter 2008, Robyn Art:

And here at long last the body, its window cracked open at the helm
[…]
stay here all you broke-down
visions, supernumerary impulse-buys and over glutted infomercials of love, stay here
betwixt and between Restless Leg Syndrome, TMJ, discretionary income and the oft-extolled pleasures of the drug-free life, O boggy and efflorescent self, self of root cellars and forgotten tinctures, of mud and excrement and loam, but still at long last
the body, the non-body nearly arrived, relentless, full-throttle toward the irreparable
becoming […]

See full text here (second item on page)

AHWOSG and McSweeney’s

I finally made the connection between that interesting (note I didn’t say completely genius, just interesting) memoir of Dave Eggers’s from the 1990s called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (AHWOSG for short) and McSweeney’s. Eggers started McSweeney’s. As with his memoir, I’m not 100% sold but it’s definitely worth reading from time to time. I find some of the pessimistic satire of the McSweeney’s articles a bit too heavy fare, but this one was priceless:

From ERNEST HEMINGWAY
BLOGS ABOUT THE TOP
TEAMS IN COLLEGE
BASKETBALL.

Roy Williams is soft. His hands look manicured. They have never pulled tobacco from the dirt. He has never gutted a fish fresh from the sea. Soldiers shoot soft men in the back rather than follow them into battle. Williams should look out. He should watch his back. But junior forward Tyler Hansbrough is a 2-ton bull in baby-blue shorts. When he broke his nose last year, he saw red. He charged. His horns went down and gored opposing players. I would fight with this man. I would die for him.

See, that’s clever because it’s using the voice of a famous writer to describe something current. I answered GRE questions along these lines.

Unfortunately, the further you get into the piece the more the actual author’s voice comes through. Still, McSweeneys: a fun addition to any RSS feed.