Sunday, September 16, 2007

what hath kuleshov wrought?

I hadn’t known—and probably never would’ve dreamt of—it, but (thanks to the Shamus) I discover there’s a whole YouTube genre of videos of 45 RPM records spinning and music issuing thence (e.g., this Hollies tune He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother). I was immediately reminded of this scene in Eustache’s masterful La Maman et la putain (1973) of Bernadette Lafont lying and listening and weeping to Edith Piaf sing Les amants de Paris on an old stereo system.

Et pourtant, je sais bien
Que les amants de Paris
m’ont volé mes chansons.
A Paris, les amants ont de drôles de façons
J’en ai collé partout
Dans leurs calendriers
Les amants de Paris ont usé mes chansons.
A Paris, les amants s’aiment à leur façon.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

monetize your buzzword

On Tuesday, I went to a brown bag talk (reviewed) at work. I hadn’t heard that Jakob Nielsen was going to be visiting our campus, but, after Richard told me, I looked forward to hearing from the guru of Web page usability. According to the forwarded email, Nielsen would be discussing his Alertbox column of July 9, 2007, provocatively entitled “Write Articles, Not Blog Postings”.

To demonstrate world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings. Instead, invest your time in thorough, value-added content that attracts paying customers.

My initial reaction was what does he consider his Alertbox if not a blog? A regular (bi-weekly) column listed in reverse chronological order. It seemed to hinge on his definition of a blog as something scattered and not very well thought out. I opine; you pontificate; he bloviates. It’s a little like the poor craftsman blaming his tools. There are plenty of good, great, mediocre, and horrible blogs out there, but it’s not a blogs-generic problem. And, not many blogs are linear for that matter. That’s what folksonomic tags and cross-referential links are for.

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Monday, September 10, 2007


I’ve been looking for A Primer of Irish Metrics (1909) by Kuno Meyer [1858–1919] for years. I’ve never seen it for sale on Abebooks at any price. Google Books hasn’t gotten around to digitizing it, though they advertise the one or two reprints from the ’80s. Then today I ran across a nice scan of the whole of its 62 pages at a Celtic language and lore site called The Summerlands.

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rope butt

More than three years ago, Languagehat had an entry on the Suidas On Line project. Suda (‘fortress’) is a huge 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedic lexicon of the Classical world. I browsed around it at the time, but had pretty much forgotten it until today, when on a logophiliac forum (Word Origins), a thread was started regarding rich people getting into heaven and camels threading through the eye of a needle (cf. Matth. XIX.24: et iterum dico vobis facilius est camelum per foramen acus transire quam divitem intrare in regnum caelorum). One of the standard interpretations (from rich hermeneuts, no doubt) is that kamēlon ‘camel’ is an error for kamilon ‘rope’. Others argue lectio difficilior lectio potior (‘the more difficult reading is the more probable one’). Others point out that a similar bit of hyperbole exists in the Talmud (Berachos 55b and Bava Metzia 38b) where it is an elephant going through the eye of a needle. (Interestingly, in the second citation, Rabbi Rava [ca.270–352 CE] asks Are you from Pumbedita, where they make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle?; Pumbedita, a center of Babylonian Talmudic scholarship, is the modern-day Fallujah.) It is interesting to note that camel is associated with the letter ג (gimel or g) in Hebrew and eye of the needle with the letter ק (qoph or q), and that the former is a voiced velar stop and that the latter is a voiceless uvular one. Least you think it’s only of concern to theology students, let me point out that kamelos occurs in Aristophanes’ The Wasps (l.1035) where one reads of prōkton de kamēlou (‘the arse of a camel’), besides the stench of a seal and the unwashed balls of a Lamia.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007


While contemplating the conlanging ruckus over at Omniglot, The Blog, I paused for a moment to reflect on La Verda Stelo’s older sister, Volapük. I have been browsing the non-anglophone versions of Wikipedia, and was delighted to find the Vükiped, which is in the same category as Czech, Slovak, or Esperanto: i.e., over 10K entries. And not just little one liners, e.g., have a look-see at the entry on Mata Hari. Somebody seemingly went to some trouble to translate the English entry. (Though I am pretty sure that Volakrig Balid means World War One.) The entry on Esperanto is pointedly short. I have a poor xerox of a Volapük grammar somewhere in the garage, but who needs that with the Web at one’s fingertips? What always struck me about this language, was how utterly foreign it looks. Esperanto seems like a Welcome to Side Six kind of friendly mishmash of Romance with some odd Germanic or Slavic roots thrown in for good measure. (On further inspection, most articles seem to be the work of one person.)


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

lutakujababot oba binon fulik senkafitas

I don’t know how I got this far in life without having heard of English As She Is Spoke. Suddenly why Little Johnny can’t speak Portuguese and all those hovercrafts full of eels make so much more sense. Vade mecum.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

di tsvey kuni-lemels

Last week, my friends, Jenny and Cliff, invited me over to watch an Israeli documentary The Komediant about the Burstein family of Yiddish entertainers: Pesach [1896–1986], his wife Lillian Lux [1918–2005], and their twin children Mike Burstyn and Susan Burstein-Roth [1945– ]. It was fun, and upon arriving home that evening I’d read through the film’s website and the relevant Wikipedia articles. Seeing that an autobiography had been written in 1980 in Yiddish, I pointed Firefox at Henry Hollander’s online bookstore and ordered a copy of geshpilt a lebn (What a Life!). It arrived yesterday, and I immediately noticed two things: the tipped-in photos of Pesachke and Lilian, and the inscription to the book’s previous owner, Freydele Oysher [1913–2004]. What fun! Now if I could just find a copy of Shnei Kuni Lemel to viddy well I’d be happy.