Archive for the ‘Memory’ Category

Background foods and food discoveries

June 15, 2018

The spur: this brief moment from the NYT obit for chef, author, tv personality, and social critic Anthony Bourdain, by Kim Severson, Matthew Haag, and Julia Moskin, on-line on the 8th as “Anthony Bourdain, Renegade Chef Who Reported From the World’s Tables, Is Dead at 61”, in print on the 9th as “Anthony Bourdain, Renegade Chef, Dies at 61; Showed the World How to ‘Eat Without Fear'”:

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He first became conscious of food in fourth grade, he wrote in “Kitchen Confidential.” Aboard the Queen Mary on one of the family’s frequent trips to France, he sat in the cabin-class dining room and ate a bowl of vichyssoise, a basic potato-leek soup that held the delightful surprise of being cold. “It was the first food I enjoyed and, more important, remembered enjoying,” he wrote.

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Involuntary memory

May 26, 2018

From Day 2 (May 25th) of the 2018 Association for Psychological Science’s convention in San Francisco:

“For many years, involuntary memories were ignored. I’m here to tell you what we have learned about this intriguing phenomenon,” said APS Board Member Dorthe Berntsen in the 2018 Presidential Symposium. Berntsen’s multi-decade body of research on this unique form of autobiographical memory has shown the wide-ranging influence of the memories that simply pop into our heads without intentional retrieval. She presented an impressive body of experimental findings on the role of involuntary memory across the lifespan in humans as well as in apes.

For some time, I’ve been collecting examples of one particular form of involuntary memory in my life — morning names, the expressions that come to me unbidden when I rise in the morning. There’s a Page on this blog listing my postings on them. So it’s nice to discover that there’s actually a research community working on involuntary memories.

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Family matters

April 6, 2018

(This posting was a couple of sentences from being finished when the Ramona Xfinity Internet Crash occurred, two days ago (service has finally been restored). This in the midst of the (overlapping) Ramona Respiratory Pestilence and the Ramona Gastroenterological Pestilence. It’s been an unfortunate week.)

A posting about my family, and, mostly, about the fragility of memory. But first, an ornament, a layered spiral design from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky’s Instagram site yeserday:

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I prefer to see this as a fancy script Z, for Zwicky.

Then the story starts with a day Luc Vartan Baronian and I spent together back in late December, talking about linguistics and our lives. (Luc is a 2006 Stanford Ph.D.; now Associate Professor at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi; specializing in phonology and morphology, French varieties and creoles of the Americas, and Armenian studies.)

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It was 53 to 55 years ago today

March 26, 2018

A bit of intellectual and social history, plus a lesson in the fragility of memory. Set off by the British scholar Chris Knight on his Science and Revolution website, in two postings there:

from 2/18/18, “Chomsky’s Students Recall their Time at the MITRE Corporation”

from 3/4/18, “The MITRE Corporation’s project to use Chomsky’s linguistics for their weapons systems”

I come into this because I was one of those students of Chomsky’s who worked at the MITRE Corp. (in Bedford MA), in 1963-65 (53 to 55 years ago). Some of us have been trying to reconstruct those days, for Chris’s sake but also for our own.

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Vronsky & Babin in the morning

February 20, 2018

Yesterday morning, up and brushing my teeth, the name Vronsky & Babin came to me unbidden. At first I thought Vronsky must be the Count Vronsky of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, but I was baffled by Babin (some transformation of the writer Isaac Babel?), and in any case the pairing sounded vaguely familiar. I went to the computer and discovered that V&B were indeed familiar, though I don’t think I’d heard about them for decades: a great duo-piano team of the last century.

But why had their names popped into my head? There turned out to be a clear answer, involving intricacies of memory and the unconscious.

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Memory and the power of diner food

December 22, 2017

Yesterday’s Zippy (“The flying bucket on Sepulveda”) took us to Dinah’s Fried Chicken on Sepulveda Blvd. in LA. Today, Zippy continues the narrative with remembrances of diner foods past — rice pudding, creamed spinach, corned beef hash — and their ability to evoke specific moments from times gone by:

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The day when Zippy spilled ketchup on his styrofoam shoes at Dinah’s; the day when Dinah’s ran out of rice pudding and substituted creamed spinach; Marcel Marceau’s recollection of May 14th, 1894 in Fresno CA, a memory triggered by just a whiff of corned beef hash.

All of this is just absurd if you don’t know about Marcel Proust, the madeleines, Remembrance of Things Past, and involuntary memory; in case you’ve forgotten, the title, “Remembrance of Flings Past” is there to nudge your memory. All this Proustian stuff comes from high culture, but like other Great Books, Great Art, and Great Music, it’s worked its way into a pop-culture meme that anyone can use for jokes and that everybody’s supposed to recognize.

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Music the trigger of emotional memory

November 20, 2017

(About memory and my life, not much about language. Some oblique references to (fondly recalled) mansex, but nothing graphic.)

The context is the Enhance Fitness classes at the Palo Alto Family Y, for which the instructors use playlists of (dance) music as background for our exertions. Last Tuesday, we sweated to a series of British Invasion hits (from the 1960s), among them “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”, which produced in me a powerful wave of pleasurable recollection — of  a time in the Queens Club, an after-hours gay dance club below the Queens Hotel in Brighton, Sussex. Oh my, oh my, oh my. Forty years ago, but oh so sweet.

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Pride Time #4: gay porn and gay bioflicks

June 14, 2017

In recent U.S. mail, a flyer for Falcon Studios (now in Berkeley CA), announcing the ambitious, elaborately plotted gay porn flick Earthbound: Heaven to Hell 2, with a large cast, including (in a key role) Brent Corrigan. Corrigan leads to the recent movie King Cobra, a dramatization of his life story; which leads to James Franco, who played a major character in that movie; Franco leads to the movie Milk (a dramatization of the life of Harvey Milk), in which both Franco and Corrigan have roles; then on to the movie Howl, in which Franco plays Allen Ginsberg; along the way, these three gay bioflicks take me to the topic of fictobiography, memory, and fidelity.

(Warning: discussion of men’s bodies and mansex in street language, plus sexy, though not technically X-rated, photos. So not for kids or the sexually modest.)

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Memorial Saturday 4

May 27, 2017

Four recent cartoons in my feed that have to do with language: Mother Goose and Grimm (attachment ambiguity), Zits (greetings), Bizarro (labeling a bat(h)room), xkcd (knowledge about the referents of names).

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The little kid (part 2)

April 10, 2017

Another set of photos of my family, this time a page of 6 shots of me as a little kid (age 4-7). Some notes on memory, clothing, and names for things.

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