Saturday, June 27, 2009

A High Wind in Jamaica

A great book I read recently was A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. Everyone should read this book. It's got pirates! And tigers! And kids! Here is a passage that I especially loved:

In short, babies have minds which work in terms and categories of their own which cannot be translated into the terms and categories of the human mind.

It is true they look human--but not so human, to be quite fair, as many monkeys.

Subconsciously, too, every one recognizes they are animals--why else do people always laugh when a baby does some action resembling the human, as they would at a praying mantis? If the baby was only a less-developed man, there would be nothing funny in it, surely.

Possibly the case might be made out that children are not human either: but I should not accept it. Agreed that their minds are not just more ignorant and stupider than ours, but differ in kind of thinking (are mad, in fact): but one can, by an effort of will and imagination, think like a child, at least in a partial degree--and even if one's success is infinitesimal it invalidates the case: while one can no more think like a baby, in the smallest respect, than one can think like a bee.

How then can one begin to describe the inside of Laura, where the child-mind lived in the midst of the familiar relics of the baby-mind, like a Fascist in Rome?

When swimming under water, it is a very sobering thing suddenly to look a large octopus in the face. One never forgets it: one's respect, yet one's feeling of the hopelessness of any real intellectual sympathy. One is soon reduced to mere physical admiration, like any silly painter, of the cow-like tenderness of the eye, of the beautiful and infinitesimal mobility of that large and toothless mouth, which accepts as a matter of course that very water against which you, for your life's sake, must be holding your breath. There he reposes in a fold of rock, apparently weightless in the clear green medium but very large, his long arms, suppler than silk, coiled in repose, or stirring in recognition of your presence. Far above, everything is bounded by the surface of the air, like a bright window of glass. Contact with a small baby can conjure at least an echo of that feeling in those who are not obscured by an uprush of maternity to the brain.

Of course it is not really so cut-and-dried as all this; but often the only way of attempting to express the truth is to build it up, like a card-house, of a pack of lies.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sometimes Behaves So Strangely

Download and listen to at least the first four minutes of this mp3 from the RadioLab podcast (or listen to it directly on their page). It is a segment that illustrates the musicality of language in a most remarkable way. The rest of the program is interesting too, especially the Musical DNA segment.

Friday, June 12, 2009

About A Boot

(11:34:39 AM) silvergeek000: sorry about your loss

(11:35:42 AM) PigeonClubATL: Good morning!

(11:35:47 AM) PigeonClubATL: yeah, we are on the hunt for it!

(11:35:53 AM) silvergeek000: good morning

(11:36:01 AM) silvergeek000: have you called the police?

(11:37:04 AM) PigeonClubATL: they have no been notified, i think it was one of those things that just magically vanish.

(11:37:34 AM) PigeonClubATL: maybe it will magically reappear? or maybe the police would just laugh to see the picture of a missing boot.

(11:37:48 AM) silvergeek000: a missing boot is nothing to laugh at

(11:38:29 AM) PigeonClubATL: that is my sentiment as well.

(11:39:05 AM) silvergeek000: what park was it headed for?

(11:39:59 AM) PigeonClubATL: there were many parks. piedmont, chandler, ansley...

(11:40:28 AM) PigeonClubATL: park hopping promises some fast times. and a lost boot.

(11:40:36 AM) silvergeek000: oh... so it was doing a boot tour!

(11:41:29 AM) PigeonClubATL: oh that is one way to think about it! what an exciting adventure!

(11:42:27 AM) silvergeek000: boots just wanna have fun

(11:43:03 AM) PigeonClubATL: haha they should have it. but they should come home, too.

(11:43:19 AM) silvergeek000: at what point did the boot gain full autonomy from your foot?

(11:44:38 AM) PigeonClubATL: well, park demand no shoes because breezes and grass need to be felt. so sometimes when you take one off, its difficult to find one.

(11:45:38 AM) silvergeek000: a very interesting case indeed.

(11:45:54 AM) PigeonClubATL: So where did you stumble upon the lost boot flier?

(11:46:14 AM) silvergeek000: what do you mean? the lost boot was not flying

(11:46:37 AM) PigeonClubATL: the posting! How did you come about this screen name?

(11:47:04 AM) silvergeek000: there was a dim recollection of a poster somewhere... at an intersection

(11:48:03 AM) PigeonClubATL: Where about the city?

(11:48:09 AM) silvergeek000: where did you leave the flier? did you lose the flier as well? losing a lost boot flier is very sad

(11:48:36 AM) silvergeek000: i don't recall, i wish i could help you... i am retracing my steps and cannot remember where i last saw your lost boot flier

(11:48:50 AM) PigeonClubATL: well they were lots of places!

(11:48:59 AM) PigeonClubATL: we are not messing around about this boot, you know!

(11:49:08 AM) silvergeek000: oh no! scattered? if i find it i will definitely return it.

(11:49:20 AM) silvergeek000: the flier that is

(11:49:26 AM) silvergeek000: the boot is another matter, i may keep it to myself

(11:49:29 AM) PigeonClubATL: That is much appreciated!

(11:49:30 AM) PigeonClubATL: oh!

(11:49:31 AM) PigeonClubATL: no!

(11:49:38 AM) PigeonClubATL: you must not do that!

(11:49:48 AM) silvergeek000: why not?

(11:49:51 AM) PigeonClubATL: the boot is what we are after! it needs to be returned!

(11:49:58 AM) silvergeek000: oh, not the flier?

(11:50:15 AM) PigeonClubATL: nono. we are just looking for the boot!

(11:50:16 AM) silvergeek000: i am rather confused

(11:50:25 AM) silvergeek000: you asked me where the flier was!

(11:50:35 AM) PigeonClubATL: what would you do with one boot!?

(11:50:47 AM) PigeonClubATL: and i was wondering where you saw our flier

(11:51:02 AM) silvergeek000: good question. i'm sure i could think of something. afterall, those boots were made for walking

(11:52:05 AM) PigeonClubATL: thats just what they'll do.

(11:53:47 AM) PigeonClubATL: oh that quick quip of confusion (kind of like an alliteration?) was kind of funny to look back on.

(11:53:57 AM) silvergeek000: something seems fishy about this case

(11:54:49 AM) silvergeek000: if you lost the boot, how were you able to take a photo of it and put it on a flier? obviously you took it before you lost it. But how did you know you needed a photo of it before you even lost it? I think you set this whole thing up!

(11:55:37 AM) PigeonClubATL: OR we have the other boot, took that picture and flipped it in Photoshop to represent the missing boot.

(11:56:10 AM) silvergeek000: WHAT!? the other boot has nothign to do with this. Stop changing the subject

(11:57:17 AM) silvergeek000: you're obviously hiding something!

(11:57:22 AM) PigeonClubATL: :0 the boot has everything to do with it! but what is the subject you would like to move to again?

(11:57:31 AM) silvergeek000: the missing boot!

(11:58:43 AM) PigeonClubATL: that's what i said! ohhh your tactics will not work on me sir or madam!

(11:59:35 AM) silvergeek000: no, you were talking about the other boot, the one that's not missing!

(11:59:40 AM) silvergeek000: sir or madam!

(12:00:49 PM) PigeonClubATL: but by recognizing there is one boot here and not two, we now know there is a missing boot (not pictured in the flyer, but still an actual photo)

(12:01:11 PM) PigeonClubATL: its a roundabout way of talking about the missing boot.

(12:01:20 PM) silvergeek000: an actual photo, yes, but of the non-missing boot! isn't that irrelevant to the subject at hand, sir or madam?

(12:02:16 PM) PigeonClubATL: but sir or madam, boots work in matching and the actual photo is a perfect example of what to look out for, though there should be a right boot and not a left one.

(12:02:45 PM) PigeonClubATL: it was the best we could do, we didnt know one boot was going to come up missing!

(12:03:14 PM) silvergeek000: i'm afraid we'll have to start from square one... if i am hearing you correctly, you are saying that the missing boot is identical to the non-missing boot? and so they are almost like... twins?

(12:04:58 PM) PigeonClubATL: they are so alike it is frightening, there is one tale tell that they are partners--one is right and the other left. so they must be be reunited.

(12:05:53 PM) silvergeek000: strange. i've never heard of boot twins! in this case, i don't see why you are so hell-bent on possessing the missing boot.

(12:06:30 PM) PigeonClubATL: because they are a pair! two of a kind! they must be reunited so that they can be together forever! And then my feet can match.

(12:07:56 PM) silvergeek000: sir or madam! I beg to differ. You have said in your own words that the boots are identical. And that you already own one of these so-called boots. In this case, would it not be reasonable to let someone else enjoy the other boot? Or do you think that the rich should get richer and the poor poorer!!!?!

(12:10:48 PM) PigeonClubATL: nownow, it's not about acquiring wealth, but it is about wearing a boot. and the problem with items that come in pairs means if one goes missing, everyone is poorer! if, perhaps, you come across this missing boot, sharing could potentially happen and then two people would be richer.

(12:10:58 PM) PigeonClubATL: now that is spreading wealth!

(12:12:21 PM) silvergeek000: So you only believe in sharing when someone is giving you a boot. Not when you are giving a boot (that you already own 2 of) to someone less fortunate?

(12:13:16 PM) PigeonClubATL: but maybe if we can reunite the pair, we can all wear them and share and be happy! perhaps if you find the boot you should return it to its owner so that we may then share the pair with you!

(12:13:40 PM) silvergeek000: Preposterous! Sir or madam!

(12:14:02 PM) PigeonClubATL: You dont believe in sharing?!

(12:14:05 PM) PigeonClubATL: Sir or madam!

(12:14:07 PM) silvergeek000: I will have to do a full write-up on your strange ways of thinking immediately.

(12:14:21 PM) PigeonClubATL: I will be extremely interested to read such write up!

(12:14:53 PM) silvergeek000: I would also like to know who this "we" is that you keep referring to

(12:15:36 PM) silvergeek000: perhaps i should say Sirs or Madams?

(12:16:00 PM) PigeonClubATL: You are very crafty. And yes, this is a two person endeavor to find the boot. This conversation has been tag-teamed! ha!

(12:16:43 PM) PigeonClubATL: but really, this was a two person job. not because one isnt capable, but because two care equally.

(12:18:09 PM) PigeonClubATL: honestly, because you seem to be so on the ball with this investigation, i wonder if you could catch the subtleties of change in tone.

(12:18:19 PM) silvergeek000: ah... two people... i see why you need two boots now... why didn't you tell me earlier? one for each person.. you DO believe in sharing afterall!

(12:18:46 PM) silvergeek000: oh, but how i wish there were a third boot!

(12:18:55 PM) PigeonClubATL: hahah you're stuck on this one boot per person thing

(12:19:15 PM) PigeonClubATL: ill share my boot.

(12:19:51 PM) silvergeek000: which one of you is the one who looks like a splitting image of audrey hepburn?

(12:21:37 PM) PigeonClubATL: maybe there is a collective hepburn aesthetic.

(12:22:13 PM) silvergeek000: one can be aubrey and one can be katharine... that way you can share a last name

(12:22:57 PM) silvergeek000: a last name and a boot to boot!

(12:23:46 PM) PigeonClubATL: but katherine, while a wonderful actress, was not quite the face comparable to audrey and it would not be as nice on the bottom of an IM.

(12:25:01 PM) PigeonClubATL: haha "a boot to boot"--how often does one get to say something like that?

(12:26:17 PM) silvergeek000: "a boot" -- that's how some people say "about"... so if they said "about a boot" they're saying "a boot a boot"

(12:27:34 PM) PigeonClubATL: I suppose the irish would be very apt to follow this conversation then!

(12:28:58 PM) PigeonClubATL: For now, we must be heading out for a bit! We had a lovely time talking to you.

(12:28:59 PM) silvergeek000: very well, Sirs or Madams! I am off. but fear not, I will follow this case closely. your boot will be found, although I may end up keeping it. have a jolly day.

(12:29:12 PM) silvergeek000: aha i see that your minds are thinking samely as mine

(12:29:30 PM) PigeonClubATL: Sounds like a plan! Indeed. Perhaps you will find the boot!

(12:29:35 PM) PigeonClubATL: and have a nice afternoon!

(12:29:41 PM) silvergeek000: you can boot on it!