Archive for December, 2011

2011 in review

December 31, 2011

(For what it’s worth, the annual report from WordPress. Note: not written by me, just forwarded.)

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 180,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Tamara de Lempicka

December 31, 2011

(About art, not language.)

On NPR’s Morning Edition Saturday today, an interview with Ellis Avery, on her novel The Last Nude, based on the life of art deco painter Tamara de Lempicka, imagining a hidden affair between her and her model Rafaela in 1920s Paris. (The novel is written from Rafaela’s point of view.)

De Lempicka’s La Belle Rafaela, painted in 1927, inspired Avery’s novel. In the novel, the painter (known primarily as a portraitist) meets Rafaela while on a walk in a Paris park, and Rafaela becomes her model and her lover.



December 30, 2011

The New York Times yesterday had its annual report on baby names in the city (“Prediction: You Will Meet Many Jaydens and Isabellas” by N. R. Kleinfeld). On top: Jayden for boys, Isabella for girls. Michael continues to decline (though it remains on top in New York State), as does Ashley.

Meanwhile, I’ve been coping with name puzzles in my research on the Daingerfield family and their kin: many names repeated over and over again across the generations, and many people referred to by different names.


Irreducible complexity

December 29, 2011

Today’s Scenes From a Multiverse:

This is the William Paley argument from irreducible complexity — complexity cannot arise without the intervention of a creator — confronted at some length by Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker, where he uses the example of the mammalian eye to show how complexity can evolve.

Then there’s language. How could such a complex system evolve? The literature on the subject is gigantic, but pretty much everyone argues that the complexity evolved from something simpler, a view opposed to creation stories in many traditions.

In the Biblical tradition, for instance, there’s the Adamic language, spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: the language used by God to address Adam, the language used by Eve to address the Serpent, the language used by Adam in naming the creatures created by God. This was either given by God or invented by Adam, and there’s some tradition for saying it was Hebrew. But there was just one, and it first appeared in all its complexity — though the notion of complexity involved here is not very impressive, because of the tendency to see a language as just a big bag of words (like a big pile of monkeys).

Helen Frankenthaler

December 29, 2011

In the NYT yesterday, an obituary (by Grace Glueck) for the painter Helen Frankenthaler:

Helen Frankenthaler, Abstract Painter Who Shaped a Movement, Dies at 83

Helen Frankenthaler, the lyrically abstract painter whose technique of staining pigment into raw canvas helped shape an influential art movement in the mid-20th century and who became one of the most admired artists of her generation, died on Tuesday at her home in Darien, Conn.


sporting huge ironic wood

December 28, 2011

A recent Multiverse cartoon:

Not just the idiomatic sport wood, not just the idiom with a meta-modifier (huge ironic) added to the head noun wood, but also the figurative use of the idiom to mean not ‘display an erection’ but ‘become extremely excited’, not in a sexual sense.


Major Foxhall Alexander Daingerfield and his children

December 28, 2011

[Background: I’ve been assembling photographs of Ann Daingerfield Zwicky (born Ann Walcutt Daingerfield) as a present for my grand-daughter. Ann died about 20 years before Opal was born, so Opal doesn’t know much about her.

Previous installments: here, with photos of baby Ann with her father, Keene, and baby Elizabeth with her mother, Ann; and here, with a photo of Ann setting off on her junior year abroad in France. I have four more (postings to come) photos scanned in, and I put all 7 of these photos on a disc for transfer to the iPad that Opal uses; that was one of my Christmas presents for her. Unfortunately, my searches through the boxes of photographs came to a halt when my damaged right hand could no longer cope with handling the pictures. So (waiting for the bad hand days to pass) I turned to the internet, and to family history — the history of the Daingerfields, their kin, and their connections.]


Six tunes, at least that many texts

December 26, 2011

More on fitting tunes and texts, this time starting from a pairing that combines Christmas words with a New Year’s tune: on the Boston Camerata’s An American Christmas album, the “Shepherds Rejoice” text (by Isaac Watts) —

Shepherds, rejoice! Lift up your eyes,
And send your fears away.
News from the region of the skies –
A savior’s born today!

paired with the tune normally associated with the Robert Burns poem “Auld Lang Syne”:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and auld lang syne?

But that’s just the beginning.


Poet among the painters

December 25, 2011

A thread on Facebook wandered, as threads are wont to do, and was diverted for a while to the poet Frank O’Hara. I was sure that I’d written about him, and maybe I posted something on the newsgroup soc.motss years ago, but I haven’t been able to dredge that up. In any case, Arne Adolfsen wrote on Facebook about trying to track down a particular poem of O’Hara’s, with a flagrantly gay-sexy theme (O’Hara’s poems tended to concentrate on small events in his daily life, his wide network of friends and lovers, gay life in all its manifestations, and, most important, art; he worked at the Museum of Modern Art and later the Metropolitan Museum of Art). I was able to identify the poem (“Une Journée de Juillet” (1955)), and now have the text.

But first some background on O’Hara, and one of my favorite poems of his, “Having a Coke with You” (1960). Then back to July 1955.


Harry Morgan and abbreviations

December 25, 2011

While notable and admirable people, like Vaclav Havel and Christopher Hitchens, have died recently, and the New York Times Magazine today did its annual issue on “The Lives They Lived”, featuring many less famous people who died during the year, somewhere in the middle range are people like the character actor Harry Morgan, who died early in December. I’m a fan of durable character actors — and (linguist alert!) Morgan’s M*A*S*H character Col. Sherman Potter  was also notable for the way he referred to the Second World War.