Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Google, Finn and Twain


When logging on to Google today, the above image appeared at the Google home page.  Google changes its logo periodically to reflect current events and anniversaries.  Placing the cursor over the image reveals the significance of the logo, in this case Mark Twain’s 176th birthday.

Some trivia:

Mark Twain;s boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri, is now a Mark Twain museum.  Tom Sawyer's legendary boyhood fence borders the property:

First edition book cover, 1885
Unlike Twain’s previous work, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn does not have the “The” at the beginning of the title.  This has led to speculation that whilst Tom Sawyer’s adventures were complete, further books were to come about Huckleberry Finn.  Huck’s book ends with his stating that he intends to head West.

The manuscript of Huckleberry Finn was the  first typewritten manuscript delivered to a printer.

While there is no doubt that Twain was attacking racism in his humanising of the character of the slave Jim, by exposing the fallacies of the racist assumptions used to justify racism at the time, and in Huck’s standing by Jim no matter what the consequence, there have been arguments that Twain fell short of the mark (no pun intended).  It is argued that the depiction of Jim continues the stereotyped image of the time and that the minstrel style comedy is at Jim’s expense. 

In 1955 CBS presented a televised version of the book.  To avoid the controversial racist tactics it simply changed some details:  there was no mention of slavery and Jim was played by a white boy.

The debate continues as to whether the book is racist or anti-racist.  That, plus the continued use of the word “nigger”, have caused libraries to remove the book from its shelves and school boards to remove it from study curricula.
A 2011 edition of the book has replaced the word “nigger” with “slave” so as to keep it available for study and general reading.  The book also drops the word “Injun”. 

Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens bu adopted the name Mark Twain for his writing career.  The name comes from the days of his being a paddle steamer pilot.  When depth soundings were taken by dropping a weight attached to a rope into the water, the person checking the depth, the river boatman, called out various reports according to the depth.  These, with their meanings indicated, included the following:
Mark One:  one fathom, approximately 2 metres, above the lead weight.
Quarter One:  2.5 metres above the weight
Half One: 3 metres above the weight
Mark Twain:  two fathoms, approximately 4 metres, above the weight.
The call "Mark Twain” represented safe water.
Mark Twain, aged 15
Aged 72 in 1907

Twain said in 1909:
"I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.' "
He died of  heart attack on 21 April 1910, the day after Halley’s Comet passed closest to the Earth in its 75-76 year cycle.
"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
-     Ernest Hemingway
Bonus item:
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who developed Google,  originally nicknamed their new search engine "BackRub", because the system checked backlinks to estimate the importance of a site.  Whereas conventional search engines ranked results by counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page, the Page and Brinn’s concept analysed the relationships between websites.  Eventually, they changed the name to Google, originating from a misspelling of the word “googol”, being the number one followed by one hundred zeros. This was picked to signify that the search engine provided large quantities of information for people. 

The word has become so well known that it is now a verb, to google meaning to search for information on the internet.

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