Archive for the ‘My life’ Category

Twyla Tharp, truncation, and more

July 9, 2015

It starts with a New Yorker Talk of the Town piece (July 6th & 13th), “The Horde” (by Claudia Roth Pierpont), about a Twyla Tharp performance. That led me to my files, where Tharp’s piece “Push Comes to Shove” came up because of the truncation in its title. And then to other Tharp dances in my experience. And to Tharp’s first name.

Tharp in a recent photo:

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Aspects at 50

June 25, 2015

Geoff Pullum’s column in the Lingua Franca blog (of the Chronicle of High Education) on the 22nd, “Revolutionary Methodological Preliminaries”, went back 50 years to a signal event in linguistics publishing. Geoff begins:

It is rather surprising that more has not been done this year (thus far, anyway) to commemorate a significant semicentenary: the 50th anniversary of what could reasonably be called the most influential linguistics book of the 20th century. [Aspects of the Theory of Syntax] was published by MIT Press in 1965 as “Special Technical Report 11” of the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, and has recently been re-released with a new preface, but it doesn’t seem to have inspired any major conferences or other celebrations. Yet it gets more than 25,000 citations, according to Google Scholar, and it laid the foundation for 50 years of interdisciplinary research on how human minds could possibly create and manage the extraordinary complexity of language.

I was there for the occasion.

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Academic friends

June 6, 2015

(A posting about my life and about the academic world, not specifically focused on language.)

In the June 8th/15th New Yorker, a letter about Adam Gopnik’s May 4th piece on Anthony Trollope (“Trollope Trending”), from Deborah Denenholz Morse, a professor of English at William and Mary:

As the author and the co-editor of two books that Gopnik mentions, I was glad to read a piece reflecting that Trollope stands the test of time. He is as relevant today on gender, race, and politics as he was in his own era. Still, I have never taught a student who has read a Trollope novel before taking my class. Many students are thrilled to discover a writer with whom few Americans are familiar. Over the years, I have come to appreciate his work more and more, thanks to scholars such as Robert Polhemus … and James Kincaid … Academic literature helps students see Trollope as writing not only about Victorian England but also about their own lives — about psychology, the environment, the political nature of all relationships, the comedy of human foibles — and about the need for faith in something, usually the love of one individual for another.

What caught my eye here (beyond the further good words about the admirable Anthony Trollope) was the mention of Polhemus and Kincaid, who are old academic friends of mine.

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That time again

May 22, 2015

Time for Stanford to appoint me as a Consulting Professor of Linguistics for the coming academic year, so I’ve been asked to supply an updated c.v. This is a requirement that comes down from the School of Humanities and Sciences, which actually makes the appointment. But somewhere along the line, my department is involved.

Now, my c.v. is gigantic (I’ve been a university professor since 1965, after all.), but I passed it along. But, thinking that my colleagues might be concerned about what I’ve doing recently, I added a side note:

for some years, my scholarly work has been conveyed almost entirely on-line, through Language Log (since 2002), my own blog (since 2008), and the American Dialect Society mailing list. I’ve posted about 10,000 times in these places (over 5,000 in my blog alone); this work is sometimes technical, but often it’s essentially educational, making linguistic topics available to a wide audience (my blog is viewed 1000 to 1500 times a day). Some of the topics covered on a regular basis:

language play; language in the comics; the language of sex and sexuality; the language of food; grammar, style, and usage; several types of anaphora (Verb Phrase Ellipsis, so-called “dangling modifiers”, anaphoric islands); morphology (especially synthetiic compounds, back-formation, and what I’ve called “libfixes”); and some semantic/pragmatic topics (e.g., negative polarity items and implicature).

I’m hoping this will be acceptable.

Unconventional lives

April 28, 2015

Following up on my posting on Elsa Lanchester, some remarks on her unconventional family and her relationship with Charles Laughton. And then notes on the spectacularly unconventional lives of Lord Berners and Robert Heber-Percy.

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Armenian days

April 27, 2015

Some time ago I came to consciousness in the middle of the night to intriguing music from WQXR (classical music from NYC): a collage of melodies, many hauntingly semi-familiar. Hmm, Charles Ives? Not any Ives I recognized, and quieter and less assertive than you expect from Ives. Unfamiliar and charming.

Symphony No. 50 Mount St Helens by Alan Hovhaness. And that took me to Armenians in the U.S., especially to the west of Boston (near where I lived when I was in grad school); to the Armenian diaspora; and to the genocide, a hundred years ago, that triggered the dispersal of Armenians.

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This week’s remarkable photo

April 8, 2015

From a memoir piece by Sissela Bok in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Scholar, “Meeting the Mystics: My California encounters with Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley”, about a time in her life shortly after she married Derek Bok (in 1955) and settled in the United States. Through her husband, she met a set of mystics, rebels, and countercultural icons. A photo from January 1960 in Southern California:

Left to right: Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Sir Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley, and Linus Pauling

Rebels all, mystics, LSD explorers, and so on. All, of course, men. And all in suits; well, the ’60s had not really gotten underway yet. You can tell that Heard was the true rebel because he’s the only one with a beard.

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Child’s play

February 20, 2015

(On music rather than language.)

On WQXR this week, Exploring Music programs on the theme “Child’s Play”, with Tuesday’s show featuring music by children. An Elgar piece written when he was 12, several very early Mozart works, of course, and the Mendelssohn Octet, written when he was 16.

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Signs of spring

February 5, 2015

While more snow is afflicting the northeastern U.S., out here on the left coast there are signs of spring. In my neighborhood, the spears of tulip shoots have now broken ground: spring flowers on the way! And the songbirds are now vocalizing like crazy.

In ten days or so (mid-February) the first trees will start to leaf out: the California buckeyes.

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Antonio Soler and the Mournful Valley

January 21, 2015

Not long ago, WQXR played some keyboard sonatas by Padre Antonio Soler, a favorite composer of mine since my student days at MIT but one not especially widely known. That tweaked bittersweet memories of those days in Cambridge MA, especially powerful at this time of the year, in what I’ve come to think of the Mournful Valley of Mid-Winter, in between January 17th, the anniversary of Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s death (this year, the 30th anniversary) and January 22nd, my man Jacques Transue’s birthday (this year, the 73rd; Jacques died in 2003) — and with celebrations of love, for Valentines Day, very much in the air.

This wil be about Ann — another posting of many about her and her family — who shared an appreciation of Soler with me.

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