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Author Topic: Pseudopod 82: The Language of Crows  (Read 13850 times)

Bdoomed

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on: March 21, 2008, 06:36:44 AM
Pseudopod 82: The Language of Crows

By Mary E. Choo

Read by The Word Whore

“Susie… Susan…” Jeremy’s eyes struggle to find me. His voice is coarse, beleaguered. “I must know how everything….”

“Jeremy, love… everything’s fine,” I interject. “Min’s round and about, Fidel has been fed, and Edward is coming today, with the papers you wanted.”

Edward, Jeremy’s solicitor, has been back and forth with his secretary a lot lately, regarding Jeremy’s will. Edward did tell me, last time, that he’s getting concerned, in view of Jeremy’s extreme medication and state of mind. Most of the estate and the house go to me, but… well… after… I’d rather not stay.


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Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

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bolddeceiver

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Reply #1 on: March 24, 2008, 01:06:22 AM
Interesting story, though not terribly gripping.

I'm kinda disappointed at the mention of the hundreth monkey effect, the documentation of which, despite being spouted to this day, was pretty soundly refuted not long after its initial publication.  There's enough truly amazing, far-out stuff actually out there in the natural world that we shouldn't feel the need to repeat wishful thinking and pseudo-religious belief-in-the-face-of-contrary-evidence.



Listener

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Reply #2 on: March 24, 2008, 02:37:02 PM
It didn't grip me either.  I kept wondering how much longer it was going to go on.

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eytanz

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Reply #3 on: March 24, 2008, 04:58:04 PM
I never got engaged in the story at all. About halfway through I just gave up on it, fast forwarded to the last five minutes just to see how it ends, and that was that.

And I agree with bolddeceiver; I normally like Alasdair's commentary, but that's because he doesn't normally invoke well-known hoaxes as fact.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #4 on: March 25, 2008, 03:20:37 AM
Totally dug this story.
1) I'm probably more familiar with Crows than the average person, as such, they crepe me the hell out when used as a villian. (Come on, they're called a MURDER of crows!)
2) I love folk and faerie tails, and this one blended casual urban paranoia with deep magic wonderfully.
3) I was out paddling while I listened to it, and was occasionally overshadowed by crows who watched me from the branches.

One thing that does niggle at me: I didn't like that the crows took the boy hostage. It was too... human.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Alasdair5000

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Reply #5 on: March 25, 2008, 07:50:37 AM
Interesting story, though not terribly gripping.

I'm kinda disappointed at the mention of the hundreth monkey effect, the documentation of which, despite being spouted to this day, was pretty soundly refuted not long after its initial publication.  There's enough truly amazing, far-out stuff actually out there in the natural world that we shouldn't feel the need to repeat wishful thinking and pseudo-religious belief-in-the-face-of-contrary-evidence.

If giant squids are wrong, then I don't WANT to be right.

And my apologies about the hundredth Monkey.  My initial research stopped at 'WOW!  Cool!'.  Next time I'll dig deeper.



Alasdair5000

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Reply #6 on: March 25, 2008, 07:51:47 AM
I never got engaged in the story at all. About halfway through I just gave up on it, fast forwarded to the last five minutes just to see how it ends, and that was that.

And I agree with bolddeceiver; I normally like Alasdair's commentary, but that's because he doesn't normally invoke well-known hoaxes as fact.

See, THIS is what happens when I find myself, as usual, one of the only arts graduates in the pool:)  I LOVE the idea, but occasionally my love for an idea can blind me to its inherent dumbery.  Won't happen again.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #7 on: March 25, 2008, 09:01:12 PM
And I agree with bolddeceiver; I normally like Alasdair's commentary, but that's because he doesn't normally invoke well-known hoaxes as fact.
I'm not sure what the two of you are going on about. Alasdair's comments seemed to have been pretty well couched in skepticism and I doubt very much that anyone took such dubious conclusions as fact. Also, this is a horror fiction podcast, I don't think anything occurring between the them music needs to withstand any kind of scientific scrutiny.
Personally I found the tidbit terribly amusing.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


eytanz

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Reply #8 on: March 25, 2008, 10:33:33 PM
And I agree with bolddeceiver; I normally like Alasdair's commentary, but that's because he doesn't normally invoke well-known hoaxes as fact.
I'm not sure what the two of you are going on about. Alasdair's comments seemed to have been pretty well couched in skepticism and I doubt very much that anyone took such dubious conclusions as fact.

That's not the impression I got (and Alasdair seemed to confirm that in his response above). I should point out that I sounded angrier than I meant; what I was trying to say was "normally, I really enjoy Alasdair's commentary, but this time I didn't find it as entertaining as usual because of its content". It didn't upset me or anything, it just didn't appeal to me much this one time.

Quote
Also, this is a horror fiction podcast, I don't think anything occurring between the them music needs to withstand any kind of scientific scrutiny. Personally I found the tidbit terribly amusing.

The intros and outros aren't normally fiction. They're not particularly scientific, but they usually contain information that seems to be taken at face value.

That said, I really don't think Alasdair had anything to apologize for; I don't expect the commentary to be fact-checked. I would probably have found the tidbit amusing if I wasn't aware of its past history as a dangerous hoax that was (and occasionally still is) reported in the mainstream media as truth. As it was, and as I have experienced first hand the kind of damage this type of pseudo-scientific nonsense can do in an educational setting, I have low tolerance for it. That's more a comment about me than about the outtro itself, though.




wakela

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Reply #9 on: March 25, 2008, 11:45:11 PM
I thought the story was kind of pokey.  Ordinarily I love the Word Whore's voice, but I think it may have hurt this piece.  Her voice was kind of distant and dreamy, but it added a droning quality to an already long story where not much happens.  I had a hard time focusing. 

For a moment I thought that Fidel or Min would turn out to be a good guy.  I thought this would have been an interesting twist.

Did anyone else think that Min was spelled Minh?  I don't even know if that's a Vietnamese girl's name, but for some reason I thought it gave the story more depth.   

Quote from: Thaurismunths
One thing that does niggle at me: I didn't like that the crows took the boy hostage. It was too... human.
This is often the problem with animals-are-smarter-that-we-think stories.  The animals end up being people with fur or feathers.



eytanz

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Reply #10 on: March 25, 2008, 11:54:37 PM
Did anyone else think that Min was spelled Minh?  I don't even know if that's a Vietnamese girl's name, but for some reason I thought it gave the story more depth.   

Wasn't it mentioned at some point that Min was short for Minerva?

Quote
For a moment I thought that Fidel or Min would turn out to be a good guy.  I thought this would have been an interesting twist.

Yeah, I was sort of expecting that for a while; or at least, I wanted the narrator to have more complex motivations. As I said above, I skipped a large part of the story, so maybe I missed something, but in the parts I heard the wife was so straightforwardly good (yes, she seemed to be still attracted to her lawyer ex-boyfriend, but not in a self-serving way) that the whole story lost a bit of its bite; I don't know exactly why, but "flawed characters suffers unproportionally for minor sins" is far more effective horror than "saintly character suffers for no reason".



Slosses

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Reply #11 on: March 26, 2008, 10:36:35 AM
The story didn't do that much for me. The beginning was promising, but it quickly veered off into the predictable. Towards the end I was waiting for it to end. Shame.



Thaurismunths

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Reply #12 on: March 27, 2008, 02:24:26 AM
That's not the impression I got (and Alasdair seemed to confirm that in his response above). I should point out that I sounded angrier than I meant; what I was trying to say was "normally, I really enjoy Alasdair's commentary, but this time I didn't find it as entertaining as usual because of its content". It didn't upset me or anything, it just didn't appeal to me much this one time.
I'm sorry, I did take it that you were rather upset with Alasdair for how he ended it. I can see your reasoning behind being defensive about the spread of intriguing hoaxes.
On that note, you said that you've experienced the kind of damage they can cause, first hand. Is that something you're willing to elaborate on?

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


Thaurismunths

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Reply #13 on: March 27, 2008, 02:25:58 AM
The story didn't do that much for me. The beginning was promising, but it quickly veered off into the predictable. Towards the end I was waiting for it to end. Shame.
Welcome Slosses.
What gave it away for you?
I figured Min was in cahoots with the birds, but thought the brother was too and expected Susan to join them in their weird bird-worshiping cult.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


eytanz

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Reply #14 on: March 27, 2008, 09:20:10 AM
On that note, you said that you've experienced the kind of damage they can cause, first hand. Is that something you're willing to elaborate on?

Nothing particularly dramatic; it's just that being in higher education, I tend to see a lot of otherwise intelligent students being turn off from scientific research and methodology, either by clinging fast to beliefs that have long been disproven or by being turned so cynical by widely published, obviously sub-par research that they refuse to accept anything. It's not that I seriously worry about people deciding that Alasdair represents some sort of scientific authority; its' rather that the whole topic of "science and pseudo-science in mainstream media" is a bit of a hotbutton issue for me.



Slosses

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Reply #15 on: March 27, 2008, 01:26:49 PM
The story didn't do that much for me. The beginning was promising, but it quickly veered off into the predictable. Towards the end I was waiting for it to end. Shame.
Welcome Slosses.
What gave it away for you?
I figured Min was in cahoots with the birds, but thought the brother was too and expected Susan to join them in their weird bird-worshiping cult.

Thanks :)

Min's general behaviour, and I made a lucky guess at her name. Minerva always had a connection with birds, even though they were usually owls.

Also, there was a lot of emphasis on the crows early on, when you'd expect--given the circumstances--the narrator to be more focused on her husband.

I didn't see the very ending coming, but by that point I'd become detached from the story.



Listener

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Reply #16 on: March 28, 2008, 02:38:35 PM
Eight days after TLoC was posted, Alasdair's outro about the Hundredth Monkey Effect leads to a Digg front-page post:

http://digg.com/business_finance/The_Hundredth_Monkey_Effect_2

If that's not proof people are listening to PP, I don't know what is.

 ;D

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Alasdair5000

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Reply #17 on: March 28, 2008, 05:13:34 PM
Eight days after TLoC was posted, Alasdair's outro about the Hundredth Monkey Effect leads to a Digg front-page post:

http://digg.com/business_finance/The_Hundredth_Monkey_Effect_2

If that's not proof people are listening to PP, I don't know what is.

 ;D

...Did I break the internet?

Seriously, and this is pretty much my last word on the subject.  I wasn't presenting it as fact, what I was doing was presenting it as an idea, something that was intriguing me then, and that the story reminded me of.  Unfortunately, what I didn't communicate properly was that the idea in isolation intrigued me, and that the real world applications of it were a whole different story. 

Bottom line, it's something that entertained me, and put me in mind of Arthur C Clarke's mysterious world, which I watched way too many years ago:)

As an aside by the way, the comments on that article are FASCINATING.  I'd never once considered Malcolm Gladwell's concept of the Tipping Point in the same terms as 100th Monkey for one.




JoeFitz

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Reply #18 on: April 20, 2008, 02:12:07 AM
I thought I would like this story, but the new will just ruined it for me. It became the most horrifying thing about this piece. "Promise me!" Indeed. If the plan was to turn her into a crow, why have the will changed in such a peculiar way? And that lawyer should be disbarred.



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Reply #19 on: October 16, 2009, 06:58:29 PM
I love the Word Whore's voice, and I hope she keeps coming back to narrate more stories.  Good stuff!

To me, the real horror of this story was the new will.  The betrayal of her husband from his very death bed to force her into an inevitable and interminable unhappiness, wow that really hit me hard.  The speculative element with the birds was just meh.

This story would've done better with a different title--it pulled the punch of the spec element.  From the title, and her CONSTANT comments about "it was as if the birds were talking to each other" it was too obvious that the birds WERE talking to each other.

Granted, I didn't foresee the transformation at the end, but to me, getting turned into a bird was a less horrible fate than being saddled with the house and Min.

The story overall was too long, and could've used some trimming, and at the same time, some of the story elements seemed truncated, like the little boy who was only onscreen for a couple paragraphs before he disappears--hard to have a lot of emotion about someone who's been mostly absent anyway.  And the budding romance with the lawyer that went absolutely nowhere--why not either trim that or make it more complete?



Fenrix

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Reply #20 on: January 25, 2010, 10:23:00 PM
I really like the Word Whore's reading, but wish she'd get more compelling stories.  :)

And I find the discussion humorous and ironic in this thread about how a supernatural effect is a hoax. I don't come to PseudoPod for my daily dose of skepticism. Let the artists be and go to the professionals for your truth serum.

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Millenium_King

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Reply #21 on: July 23, 2010, 12:36:35 AM
Great reading, great narration.

Could not follow this one to save my life.  Nothing felt engaging to me.  There was supposed to be an air of menace, but it never materialized for me.  Too many things going on at once (her affair, the sanctuary etc.).  I also cannot help but make comparisons to "The Birds."  Crows and ravens are terribly sinister creatures and I have been very close to one in captivity who was literally evil.  But these birds never felt like birds, they felt like little people - as though they were written by someone who has never really been close to one (I'm not saying this is the case, I'm just saying it feels that way).

The raven I saw...  The staccatto snaps of that raven's head, the way it regarded me with one eye then the other, shifting on it's black claws...  And the thing talked, ravens can talk, like parrots, but unlike parrots they only do it when they feel like it.  And this one made sounds like whispered or muttered conversations.  It was nothing but malice and sleek, oily feathers.

I felt nothing of that malice in the story.  That disappointed me the most.

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Millenium_King

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Reply #22 on: July 23, 2010, 12:40:57 AM
Interesting story, though not terribly gripping.

I'm kinda disappointed at the mention of the hundreth monkey effect, the documentation of which, despite being spouted to this day, was pretty soundly refuted not long after its initial publication.  There's enough truly amazing, far-out stuff actually out there in the natural world that we shouldn't feel the need to repeat wishful thinking and pseudo-religious belief-in-the-face-of-contrary-evidence.

FYI - There is nothing far out about The Bloop.  It is quite clearly Cthulhu.  The longitude and lattitude are scarily close to those given for R'lyeh.

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