Archive for April, 2014

Shared culture

April 27, 2014

Frank Bruni in an op-ed piece in the NYT on April 8th, “The Water Cooler Runs Dry”, which began:

If you’re closing in on 50 but want to feel much, much older, teach a college course. I’m doing that now, at 49, and hardly a class goes by when I don’t make an allusion that prompts my students to stare at me as if I just dropped in from the Paleozoic era.

Last week I mentioned the movie “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” Only one of the 16 students had heard of it. I summarized its significance, riffling through the Depression, with which they were familiar, and Jane Fonda’s career, with which they weren’t. “Barbarella” went sailing over their heads. I didn’t dare test my luck with talk of leg warmers and Ted Turner.

I once brought up Vanessa Redgrave. Blank stares. Greta Garbo. Ditto. We were a few minutes into a discussion of an essay that repeatedly invoked Proust’s madeleine when I realized that almost none of the students understood what the madeleine signified or, for that matter, who this Proust fellow was.

And these are young women and men bright and diligent enough to have gained admission to Princeton University, which is where our disconnect is playing out.

The bulk of that disconnect, obviously, is generational. Seemingly all of my students know who Gwyneth Paltrow is. And with another decade or two of reading and living and being subjected to fossils like me, they’ll assemble a richer inventory of knowledge and trivia, not all of it present-day.

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Museum notes

April 27, 2014

The world of museums is full of marvelous oddities: in particular, remarkably specialized museums, of all sizes (there are also grab-bag museums: local museums, exhibiting anything having some connection, however remote, to the locality, and eccentric museums, gathering together all sorts of things that have caught the collector’s eye).

Two specialized museums that have come by me recently: one that’s a fresh mention of an old friend, the Frog Museum in Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland; and a new acquaintance, the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik.

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Communicators

April 27, 2014

Two cartoons today — a Zits and a Bizarro — about communicating:

(#1)

(#2)

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Pirate chickens

April 25, 2014

A Savage Chickens from 2008, reproduced in the Stanford Linguistic newsletter the Sesquipedalian today:

 

yo-heave-ho, bow-wow, pooh-pooh?

Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t until September 19th, but pirate language is always in style.

The poetry of green tea

April 25, 2014

Among the many teas sold by Tazo (from South Seattle WA) are three green teas that my daughter got for me recently, to replenish my supplies. The company is into lush, poetic descriptions of its products — quite entertaining, if you’re in the right mood.

The descriptive material comes in two parts: one part characterizes the taste of a tea, the other is copy poetically evoking a scene or feelings associated with it. Sometimes I think these are cool, but often I think they’re just funny.

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Don Rosa

April 25, 2014

Following on Disney cartoonist Carl Barks comes Don Rosa, like Barks a story-teller; the humor in Rosa’s work is mostly in the way the stories unfold, and is otherwise the humor of character — and it’s largely visual rather than verbal.

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hip

April 25, 2014

Today’s hip Zippy:

 

Full of hippie slang, from days now gone.

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Mole Vole

April 25, 2014

Posted on Facebook by Jeff Shaumeyer:

 

Jeff writes:

Here’s an interior shot at Bowen’s Farm Supply. I took it mostly because I was moved by the poetry of the phrase “Mole Vole Rodent Control”.

The sort of expression that Zippy the Pinhead is inclined to treat as a mantra, repeating it over and over to savor it.

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Carl Barks

April 24, 2014

For my grand-daughter’s 10th birthday, I gave her a couple of presents, including the Carl Barks book of comics for Disney, Donald Duck: Trail of the Unicorn (2014). Pre-ordered, arriving well after the birthday, which was unfortunate, but at least guaranteed that she hadn’t already read it (she reads an enormous amount).

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Go back, reader, go back

April 24, 2014

In the April 18th issue of Psychological Science, an article by Elizabeth R. Schotter, Randy Tran, and Keith Rayner (all of UC San Diego), entitled “Don’t Believe What You Read (Only Once): Comprehension Is Supported by Regressions During Reading”.

(I came across this first on the Association for Psychological Science site (behind a wall), but there’s an account of the research available for non-members here.)

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