Tuesday, September 30, 2008

William Dalrymple meets with Patrick Leigh Fermor. A collection of correspondence between Leigh Fermor and Debo, Duchess of Devonshire and the youngest of the Mitfords, is just out in England.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm glad someone out there can follow through on a great idea for a hoax, viz. a fifth branch of the Mabinogion. Also includes the splendid vocabulary word teichoscopia,
teichoscopia, a topos of heroic narratives throughout the Indo-European world, in which the heroes of an opposing army are pointed out one by one from the walls or ramparts of a besieged city. Examples occur in the Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge, the Iliad, and the Ramayana

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Today I saw a small child with a t-shirt that read, "Charismatic Megafauna".

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Speaking of art: on the other hand, there's this.

Odious' birthday is coming up!

If you're among our northern New Mexico readers and enjoy landscape art, you really ought to stop by the Gerald Peters gallery in Santa Fe and check out the exhibition of Tony Foster paintings. I'm generally a bit lukewarm on most landscape painting, but Foster's stuff gives me the same "I've got to go there" emotional response I normally seek in photographs. He paints on location, often at very obscure and remote locations indeed, sometimes working for a week on a six-foot piece at 15,000 feet and that sort of thing. I love his use of white space, especially in his Himalayan work. And there are some nuances that you can only see in the original, such as a Himalayan snowstorm painting where he actually scraped streaks across the finished work to achieve the effect of a violent flurry.

He's also done a lot of painting in central Idaho, particularly on the Salmon, which made it pretty much inevitable that I own his book (thanks to Mrs. P's sweetness and generosity).

Definitely worth a stop if you're in town. Runs through November 15.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

To Hell with energy prices: they were pretty predictable and might eventually drive some real innovation. My issue is one which the candidates seem shamefully unwilling to address: the outrageous, skyrocketing price of beer.

Hops independence now! Brew, baby, brew!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I the unlikely event any of our readers wishes to hear my thoughts on the election, well, Chas pretty much nails it. Read his link: the questions posed therein have far more bearing on my own life than anything I've heard a candidate mention.

I really don't hope for much these days in terms of taxation, liberty, shrewd foreign policy, immigration, &c. About the acme of my fondest hopes for the next administration is a Forest Service with a reasonable budget and some BLM personnel with detectable humanity. I do think Palin has a certain amount of appeal, but the crowds chanting "Drill, baby drill!" last night were decidedly a turn-off. Likewise, while I can be sympathetic to her environmental record in the context of a vast, utilitarian, Federally-owned state like Alaska, I fear her sensibilities may be less agreeable in a West with exploding population densities. I'm definitely not anti-drilling per se, but I invite anyone pondering the putative environmentally-friendly next-generation extraction technologies to drive some BLM roads near, say, Vernal, Utah and report back. And please report back from Vernal itself, recently a quiet, medium-small Mormon agricultural town, now covered in billboards advertising meth addiction hotlines and pre-employment drug testing, full of tattooed punks ranting to themselves, property taxes soaring. If we're going to drill, could we please see some long-term benefit to the drilling communities instead of rapid degeneracy and bust?

Rod Dreher, who seriously likes the Alaskan, has some intelligent things to say as well.

But I'm told that it really comes down to a culture war. As the saying goes, it's a damn shame both sides can't lose.

Ugh, that was unpleasant. Cheer up! Here's a heron eating a bunny!

Top Ten Endangered Languages, selected by a linguist. Yes, top ten lists for this sort of thing are silly, but there are some wonderful tidbits in here which it's going to be a damn shame for humanity to lose. For instance:
[Jeru] is generally believed that Andamanese languages might be the last surviving languages whose history goes back to pre-Neolithic times in Southeast Asia and possibly the first settlement of the region by modern humans moving out of Africa.

The closest relative of Nu is !Xóõ (also called Ta'a and spoken by about 4,000 people) which has the most sounds of any language on earth: 74 consonants, 31 vowels, and four tones (voice pitches).

Yuchi nouns have 10 genders, indicated by word endings: six for Yuchi people (depending on kinship relations to the person speaking), one for non-Yuchis and animals, and three for inanimate objects (horizontal, vertical, and round).

Guugu Yimidhirr (like some other Aboriginal languages) is remarkable for having a special way of speaking to certain family members (like a man's father-in-law or brother-in-law) in which everyday words are replaced by completely different special vocabulary.

Oro Win is one of only five languages known to make regular use of a sound that linguists call "a voiceless dental bilabially trilled affricate". In rather plainer language, this means it's produced with the tip of the tongue placed between the lips which are then vibrated (in a similar way to the brrr sound we make in English to signal that the weather is cold).

Of course, who are we to judge? Maybe there are reasons these folks prefer to speak to their children in relatively sane and reasonable Indo-European languages. Perhaps the Oro Win found that blowing raspberries was just not as desirable a means of communication as Portuguese.

Via Languagehat.