Archive for the ‘My life’ Category

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.


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.


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.


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.


Another linguistics dream, sort of

December 23, 2014

Every so often I have an intense long-lasting dream that’s about linguistic analysis. The dream starts with something I recall (in the dream) as having read on the net but not yet responded to, and it absorbs my attention for a long time, working out the details. Until I fully wake up, it doesn’t occur to me that none of it makes any sense at all.

Last night the trigger was some (imagined) web report on a piece of software to detect British automobile plates that have taboo vocabulary on them — why does it never occur to me that these premisses are totally nutso? — and automatically change them to something innocuous.

As is usually the case, I’d gotten to my computer on awakening before realizing that all of it was will-of-the-wisps. It always is.


November 29, 2014

Much of the discussion of the rioting in Ferguson MO after the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, by white police officer Darren Wilson — especially by white commenters — has focused on property damage during what started as protests over police actions. Relatively even-handed report from Wikipedia:

The shooting sparked protests and unrest in Ferguson, in part due to the belief among many that Brown was surrendering, as well as longstanding racial tensions between the majority-black Ferguson community and the majority-white city government and police. Protests, both peaceful and violent, along with vandalism and looting, continued for more than a week, resulting in night curfews. The response of area police agencies in dealing with the protests received significant criticism from the media and politicians.

The white response has tended to paint the protestors as dangerous and out of control, drawing on negative stereotypes of blacks. Black commenters point instead to long-standing grievances, amounting to rage, over police actions. (This rage doesn’t of course excuse property damage, but it does explain the depth of the black response.)

Now a tour of rioting of various sorts, following some personal observations about police forces.


A ride on the Reading Railroad

November 13, 2014

(Not much about language, but mostly about my life, train travel, and train stations.)

From Ann Burlingham, this card in the game of Monopoly, which she posted on Facebook in connection with a story about the Koch Brothers’ campaign against high-speed rail in the U.S.:


I grew up in a suburb of Reading PA, from which the Reading Railroad got its name, and I traveled often on the railroad in my childhood and young adult years. It was the route to Philadelphia, and, beyond that, to Princeton and on to New York City.


Bell’s palsy

November 6, 2014

Caught recently in a NYT Magazine story on medical diagnosis (a regular series in the magazine) in which one of the potential diagnoses was Bell’s palsy (the patient turned out to be suffering from Lyme disease). Ah, I have personal history with Bell’s (as it’s sometimes referred to, in truncated form).


October occasions

October 12, 2014

Thursday, the 9th, was Hangul Day, which reminded me of my wonderful linguistics colleague Jim McCawley, who was a notable exponent of the holiday (but died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1999, so there’s some sadness in the day). And then yesterday, the 11th, was National Coming Out Day (NCOD), a joyous occasion in many ways, but also the day my husband-equivalent Jacques Transue and I chose to celebrate as our anniversary; alas, Jacques died in 2003, so NCOD is also a sad occasion. Then yesterday, the mail brought an ad for University Health Care Advantage, a Medicare HMO plan providing “comprehensive care at Stanford Health Care” for Santa Clara County residents — mail for Ann Zwicky at my home address in Palo Alto. Alas, Ann never lived in California, and certainly not at this address, and she died 29 years ago, so this mail was a grotesque reminder of Ann.

Tomorrow is Columbus Day in my country (also Thanksgiving Day in Canada, so mail doesn’t work in either country) — not a sad occasion, but now a rather bizarre holiday, celebrated (or not) in different ways in different places.


Wichita is falling

September 28, 2014

In The Economist of 8/16/14, a piece on guitarist Pat Metheny on the occasion of his 60th birthday, “Guitar hero: A giant of the jazz world just keeps on innovating”, which gives me an excuse to mention his 1981 album As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, because of its linguistically playful title and because of its role in my own life.

On the title, from Wikipedia:

As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls is a collaborative album by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, released in 1981. The title makes reference to Wichita, Kansas and Wichita Falls, Texas.

(Both phrases in the title have inverted word order, with the verb falls preceding the subjects — Wichita and Wichita Falls, respectively — rather than following them.)



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