Posts from September 2006

  • A Pointless Update

    I bet you’re wondering what I’m doing, right? Of course you are! Waiting with bated breath for my every word and phrase… how can I blame you, really? Well, just so you’re aware, no, I haven’t yet become fabulously wealthy, enabling me to abandon my roots and live a life of hedonistic pleasure seeking. Nor have I discovered a cure for some life-threatening ailment, thus securing my name in the annals of history.

    However, I have found myself playing around with Squeak after a rather long hiatus, and I’m reminded again of how freakin’ awesome Smalltalk is as a language, and Squeak as a programming environment.

    Of course, you might ask yourself… huh? Well, perhaps I can alleviate your confusion by explaining a little bit about Squeak and why it’s so, to repeat, freakin’ awesome. Imagine an operating system kind of like Windows. It has your usual complement of windows, dialogs, buttons, and so forth, and comes packaged with a couple interesting little toy applications. However, when you right-click on a window, you can pop up a debug menu with an option that says “browse class”. Selecting this option opens up a window which allows you to actually explore or modify the source code to the Window class itself. And this is true for any and all objects in the system.

    So, can you see why this is neat? In essence, every single aspect of the system is exposed to the user, available should they want to explore or modify it. To top it off, the entire system is written in Smalltalk, which is easily my favorite object-oriented language. Frankly, I wish I could have had access to Squeak back in my formative years… given the way it encourages exploration, it’s really the ultimate child’s programming environment.

  • Review: The Complete Maus

    Review of The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (9780679406419)★★★★★
    Cover for The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times).

    Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

    So, as I mentioned in my entry on the graphic novel Watchmen, I chose Maus (and Maus 2) as the next step in my foray into the graphic novel medium. Maus is, first and foremost, the tale of a holocaust survivor. Written by Art Spiegelman, the core narrative surrounds his father, Vladek, and his life in Poland before, during, and shortly after the holocaust. In an unusual twist, the story is told from a sort of metabiographical perspective, in that the reader is presented with a depiction, not only of Vladek’s tale, but also of the author’s experiences as he goes through the process of interviewing his father and writing the book. The result is that we not only learn of Vladek’s experiences surviving the unthinkable, but also the effect these events have on his present day life and the individuals connected to him.

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