Theory Of Nothing

or Just Theory

Still academically yours

I had a nightmare that my head of department was hesitant about accepting my completed dissertation on the grounds that it’s nothing new.

I tried explaining that was precisely the point, hollering frantically down the phone, but it’s nothing, it’s nothing! Which he misunderstood as my saying it’s ok, and to which he therefore amicably agreed, yes, it’s nothing.

I felt the rising panic about getting nothing across and woke up in a frightful state of despondent nihilism.

Post dissertation induced nightmare of nothing, I realised that the head of department who didn’t get it was the previous head who had retired quite a few years ago. Did I mention that it’s a nightmare of nothing?

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Thursday, 23 August 2007 Posted by | PhD | Leave a comment

Who’s fantastic?

This year’s World Fantasy Convention has officially announced the winners of the Life Achievement Award – Diana Wynne Jones! But she won’t be attending the award presentation at this year’s convention held at Saratoga Springs, New York, due to health reasons.

(The other winner is Betty Ballantine and she’ll be attending the award presentation.)


I love Diana Wynne Jones.

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Thursday, 23 August 2007 Posted by | Literature, News | Leave a comment

Dolls with even more of a mission

Aptly named artist, J Stocks Dearborn, creates “one of a kind, handsculpted, newborn art dolls” on her equally aptly named online store, My Tangible Peace.


The artist explains the driving force behind her craft, “I love babies, I always have, they completely amaze me. And when I discovered my passion for sculpting the newborn form I was instantly sucked into the world of dolls.”

Indeed, her newborn dolls are as realistic as you can get. They are anatomically correct, with 10 fingers and 10 toes, wrinkles and creases, and last but not least, light veining. In fact, some even have slight cone-shaped heads and come with clamped umbilical cords. As the artist herself puts it, her newborn dolls are “really just a pint-sized version of the real thing.”

For an estimate of size, Olivia Anne – #157/07, a gender-neutral baby with an ample amount of blonde Mohair, selling for $120 (USD), is 4 inches long.


Besides the regular miniature dolls, My Tangible Peace also carries life-sized newborn dolls, such as Maxwell Thomas – #165/07, who measures 7 inches long and weighs 5lbs, and “will arrive at his new home with [p]acifier, preemie star T-shirt [and] [P]amper, a pink/[b]lue hospital hat and blanket, [and a] Hospital ID tag.”


But what will really make you sit up is that in addition to regular miniature newborn dolls and life-sized newborn dolls, the artist also sculpts “memorial pieces,” meaning commissioned replicas of babies who have passed on. In fact, the artist’s first memorial piece was of her own baby daughter. She says, “It only seemed natural – I was sculpting to help me cope with my own grief over the loss of my daugher.” She then progressed to sculpting memorial pieces for other bereaved parents. “[I]t seemed right to take that energy and put it into Art Dolls that were being requested from other familes who walk my path,” she continues.

Even though the artist estimates that a large part of her work – about 85% of her newborn dolls – are memorial pieces, she does not charge for them. She reasons, “It’s not Art for Art’s sake… it’s art for the heart… [H]ow can you put a price tag on something that is priceless? … I am not out there to make money off of your loss.” Instead, she takes a donation to cover the cost of her supplies in making these memorial pieces.

(Link to My Tangible Peace)

Is memory made tangible still memory? At which point does Buadrillard’s simulacrum become the real thing? Rushdie’s Fury, anyone?

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Wednesday, 22 August 2007 Posted by | Pop Culture | 21 Comments

Dolls with a mission

Russian newspapers have been reporting on some dolls that have started appearing in Russian children toy stores. The reason for the flurry of panic? These aren’t just any dolls, but gender-confused dolls. They look like your typical girl dolls with their masses of long blond hair, arched eyebrows, fluttering eyes and rosebud mouths. But when fully undressed, each of these dolls have a perfectly sculpted plastic penis, complete with testicles.


Some russians have been perturbed enough to demand that these gender-confused dolls be banned from being sold in Russia. They have even come up with a conspiracy theory claiming that these dolls may have been specically manufactured to be sold in Russia so as to confuse Russian children’s perception of fe/male orientation from an early age.


Any surprise then that these gender-confused dolls with a gender-corrupting mission are made in China?


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Wednesday, 22 August 2007 Posted by | News, Pop Culture | 5 Comments

Lego man & genie

A while ago, a gigantic 2.5-metre (8-foot), smiling Lego man was rescued from the sea in the Dutch resort of Zandvoort, Amsterdam.



This is almost my childhood dream come true. Giant Lego man out of the sea… almost as good as a genie in a lamp. I wonder if he does wishes too.

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Wednesday, 22 August 2007 Posted by | News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

What about China, Harry Potter?

If the publishers of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are worried about translation networks where unofficial translations of Harry Potter are posted onto website networks and then onto peer-to-peer networks that derive profit by attracting advertisers, as they claimed, when they considered suing the 16-year-old ardent Harry Potter fan who translated the book into French on his own, what would they feel about the surge of peculiar Chinese imitations?


Here are some of the titles of the various Harry Potter counterfeits that have been circulating in China for the last few years:

Harry Potter and the Leopard-Walk- Up-to-Dragon

Harry Potter and the Chinese Porcelain Doll

Harry Potter and the Waterproof Pearl

Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Relative Prince

Harry Potter and the Big Funnel

Harry Potter and Platform Nine and Three-Quarters

Harry Potter and the Chinese Overseas Students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Harry Potter and the Showdown

(Link with hilarious excerpts from the publishers’ summaries)

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Thursday, 16 August 2007 Posted by | Literature, News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

Belated Pottering

Since Theory Of Nothing has been rather slack in updating lately due to a run in with Microsoft Word’s official stand on footnotes (Codename: Tolerance Level 134), today’s update of belated news shall ironically and aptly be about the need for belatedness, especially in the internet world of instant updates.

Eager to share the 7th and last book of the Harry Potter series with the rest of the Francophones, a 16-year-old French boy magically translated all 759 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows within days of its July 21 release and posted it online. The French teen translator was driven by the fact the official French translation would only be released on October 26 by the publishing house, Gallimard Jeunesse, since the official Harry Potter translator, Jean-Francois Menard, only received the official English version when it was released on July 21.

Author J.K. Rowling’s lawyers say networks of other illegal Potter translators span the world, seeking to profit from the boy wizard’s global appeal. However, the French teen translator, a high school student from Aix-en-Provence in southern France, likely had less sinister intentions. “He just wanted to get the book online” and did not appear to be seeking commercial gain, Aix Prosecutor Olivier Rothe said Wednesday. According to Rother, the boy had apparently compiled the entire translation himself.

Indeed, the French teen translator whose name has been withheld because he is a minor, comes across more as an ardent Harry Potter fan who just wanted to share the 7th and final book of the series with the rest of the Francophones before their fun was thwarted by English spoilers declaring the fate of Harry Potter everywhere. Other French teenagers echo his frustration with the long wait for the official translation. Ketty Do, a 17-year-old, flipping through the English version at a bookstore on the Champs-Elysees, delcared, “To wait three months to have a French version, that is too much!” Do called the teen translator “a courageous person” but added, laughing: “Still, I will wait for the official version, since this kid is only 16.” But 12-year-old Robin Gallaud, looking at video games in the bookstore, had no such reservations. “If I find the French version on the Net, I will read it,” he said.

Although the pirated translation site had since been shut down, the French teen translator still spent a night in jail and faced charges of violating intellectual property rights. It was only after worldwide sentiments appeared to be in sympathy with the boy following a maelstrom of negative publicity that the French publishing house, Gallimard Jeunesse – in consultation with JK Rowling – decided to drop charges.

In fact, many French readers already know how “Harry Potter et les reliques de la mort” – as it is titled here – ends. Le Parisien newspaper revealed it in an article it printed upside down.

So far, the remarkable Harry Potter phenomenon set off by the Harry Potter books can boast of having sold more than 325 million copies worldwide, translated into at least 64 languages and spun off into a hit movie series.

(Link, link)

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Thursday, 16 August 2007 Posted by | Literature, News, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

Microsoft Word’s official stand on footnotes (Codename: Tolerance Level 134)

Remember the unending beginnings and usurping footnotes I was gloating over that day? Well well, the footnotes swelled up to nothing less than 134. Then Microsoft Word hung. When I finally got it repaired, the footnotes were all messed up. Since, I was in the baffling habit of saving over each of the documents, I didn’t have an older copy I could go back to. So I painstakingly spent the day fixing up all 134 footnotes. This explains the hiatus on this blog.

In the meantime, Chapter 1 looks like it’s bloating up to 20,000 words. It was planned for 8,000 words in the beginning, then allowed to grow to 15,000. And now, it looks like it has sneaky plans to overtake the entire 80,000 words dissertation. I’ve downsized from 8 texts to 6 texts and I still have a problem fitting the rest of the 5 texts in together with the monstrously conniving Chapter 1. Maybe I’ll be merciless and excise yet another text. But which one? 2 authors, 5 texts – how do I decide which author is weightier and deserves more texts? This has kept my eyes wide open while lying on my bed for some nights now. This also explains the hiatus on this blog.

Having experienced Microsoft Word’s fallibility, I now allocate substantial periods of paranoia to saving my dissertation as a file document on my MacBook, a separate file document on my portable hard disk, yet another separate file document sent to a secondary email account, and last but not least, a copied and pasted version sent to the same secondary email account which has been set up specially for the above stated purposes. This, once again, explains the hiatus on this blog.

I could go on, but it has occurred to me that this would be a good space to practise concluding in the hope that someday in the near future, I will be able to execute the stop button on the unending beginnings and usurping footnotes that is Chapter 1.

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Wednesday, 15 August 2007 Posted by | PhD | Leave a comment

There’s nothing quite like quoting literature…

… especially two bookends-length of it.


Quote/Unquote Bookends by Eric Janssen

Designed by Eric Janssen, the Quote/Unquote bookends are for the truly literate with books that speak to them in image alone. Concrete core with synthetic rubber exterior.

Dimensions: 2.75” W x 4” D x 6” H
Weight: 2 lbs. each
Price: $89.00 for a pair (USD)


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Tuesday, 7 August 2007 Posted by | Literature, Pop Culture | Leave a comment

Addicted to literature?

A series of books designed to mimic cigarette packs have been launched. TankBooks are of the same size as cigarette packs, packaged in flip-top cartons with silver foil wrapping and sealed in cellophane.


The launch titles are well-known classics of English Literature:

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
The Undefeated, Ernest Hemingway
The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
In the Penal Colony, Franz Kafka
The Man who would be King, Rudyard Kipling
The Phantom Rickshaw, Rudyard Kipling
Black Jack, Rudyard Kipling
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy
Father Sergius, Leo Tolstoy

Try one and you’ll be hooked. After all, these are tales that will take your breath away.


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Tuesday, 7 August 2007 Posted by | Literature, Pop Culture | Leave a comment