may 18, 2018 at the o’reilly theater
we all have a story to tell and some are worth sharing & preserving / “storycorps” had its beginnings with a “storybooth” at grand central terminal in nyc back in 2003 / it has been broadcasted on npr since 2005 <fridays on morning edition> \ StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world. / stopping in pittsburgh, the storycorps mobile booth is stationed at the senator john heinz history center from oct 13 to nov 11 \ mulling about participating…
the word cloud is used to graphically show the most frequently occurring word in unstructured text data / the bigger the word, the more frequently it occurred compared to other words in the text being analyzed \ these are the two word clouds of the 32 posts about the books i read this year
i used wordle & tagcrowd / there are many layout, color & font options in wordle \ but tagcrowd which does not have many formatting options allows you to omit words / and it also gives you the actual usage count of each word \ the result would make a nice looking poster!
ursula k. le guin accepted the medal for distinguished contribution to american letters at the national book awards / i wonder what jeff bezos thinks of her remarks \ i find the seeming conflict between literature|publishing & capitalism ironic / i think that the new & wonderfully disruptive technologies has unsettled the publishing industry & an equilibrium has not yet been reached / if traditional booksellers & the publishers up their game & digital titans like microsoft <& maybe even google> engage in the currently amazon-dominated book world, the sooner that a business model that makes everyone happy could happen \ why must profit motives & the aims of art be in conflict? / why can’t the reward for writers be both profit & freedom?
“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”
the full speech:
“in the land of invented languages” (2010) by arika okrent is an entertaining & erudite exploration of the linguistic world / the language inventors are an eccentric bunch but you have to admire their passion, energy & creativity \ john wilkins’ philosphical language, esperanto, loglan & blissymbols never became the universal auxiliary language that their inventors hoped for them to be / but out of these came unintended benefits such as the thesaurus <wilkins>, a community & culture <esperanto>, a demonstration that language is not all about logic <loglan> & a method for teaching young disabled non-speaking children to eventually use language <blissymbols> \ then there are the languages of imagined worlds such as klingon & quenya / j.r.r. tolkien wrote the lord of the rings trilogy so that quenya, the elf language would have a home
if there is one creative endeavor that i would not venture into, it would be to invent a language / i would not lobby for a universal auxiliary language either \ what’s wrong with any of the natural languages? / common among them are that there are many rules, many exceptions, idioms, cultural nuances \ as well as ambiguity, fuzziness of meaning, and ever-changing usage <explored in “bad english: a history of linguistic aggravation”> / but guess what? in the end, natural languages enable us to express ourselves not only about the mundane but the transcendent as well
the history of invented languages, the author points out, is a history of failure / but i think the invented languages were failures only in the sense that none achieved their goal of being the universal language that will bring peace & harmony to the world \ on the other hand, their failure illuminated the wonderfulness of natural languages / still, in my opinion, just having 10 other persons able to speak the invented language, or at least study it, makes it a success / it is a quite admirable to be multilingual in the natural languages, much more so the ability to speak an “unnatural” language!
i found out about this book from stan carey’s language blog “sentence first”
if you are the type who gets peeved by what you think is mangling usage of the english language, you will either enjoy or be annoyed with “bad english: a history of linguistic aggravation” (2014) by ammon shea / it is a catalog of what some people consider to be evidence of the decline of the english language \ shea, a dictionary professional, sets straight some of the criticisms about seemingly incorrect syntax or word usage <in some cases, derisively referred to as americanisms> by providing their history / semantic drift, common usage & regression to the original meaning are some of the paths that certain english words have taken \ evidence that the language is alive & well
having one’s own blog enables one to happily take a number of liberties \ choosing the language is first & foremost / i have written in english, tagalog & italian \ in terms of punctuation, i have forgone periods in favor of the virgule / no capital letters either \ it is one of my unconscious rules to purposefully, creatively or emphatically split infinitives as needed \ i have no qualms beginning a sentence with and & but / and no problem with ending a sentence with a preposition \ like i am literally adamant about relaxed writing / which hopefully will not be perceived as an enervated attitude towards this great means of expression
the previous paragraph covers some of the linguistic peeves discussed in the book / i think anyone should have their way with infinitives \ my rule is, if it sounds right, split the infinitive as much as you want <there is an emotive difference between: “to go boldly where no man has gone before” & “to boldly go where no man has gone before”> / i prefer not to use “literally” & it makes me cringe literally when i hear it being misused \ i use “hopefully” a lot verbally & in emails but not in formal writing / it does sound grammatically wrong \ well, it’s been used since the middle of the 17th century / the suggested alternatives are “hopingly” & “hopeably” \ i will stick to “hopefully”
my favorite counter-example in the book, this time for the improperness of “different than” <the argument being that “than” is used for comparative adjectives & “different” is not> \ is a quote from hemingway “things in the night are different than they are in the day” / purists & scolds would have it written these ways: “things in the night are different from what they are in the day” or “things in the night are different from the way that they are in the day” \ if the rule is: “different from” instead of “different than,” this heartfelt thought would suffer the same immense clumsiness: “my feelings about you are different than before”
“verbing a noun” is another linguistic peeve discussed in the book \ in the business world, this is standard writing / i have seen <& written> many powerpoint presentations with “optimize the budget” / “impact the market” \ “leverage the brand” / “incentivize the sales force” \ name a useful noun & business people will wantonly verb it / and it becomes business jargon \ but verbing a noun is quite common in the digital age: who hasn’t googled something or friended someone?
who would have thought that using “fun” as an adjective is frowned upon? \ who are these unfun people? / they must not have known a fun time in their lives / and they probably could not tell which is funner – kennywood or a steelers game \ then there are the absolute or non-gradable adjectives such as unique & perfect that are used in a comparative sense / but i think we perfectly understand what people mean when they say “more unique” or “less perfect” \ english is not the most perfect language but it is indeed very alive <tsk tsk> & well!
very fun & entertaining book! / found out about it from stan carey’s blog “sentence first”