*)

*) To a smiley generation this may look like a grin and a black eye. But this is a not a post on faces, but a note on footnotes. A note lacking context, an aside without dialogue.

(Wouldn’t it be wonderful to watch a play of nothing but asides.)

I remember the first time I encountered a footnote, and I remember it, because the fascination I then felt hasn’t gone away. In some children’s book (Dutch, 1930’s, probably, as a child I read a lot of very old stuff), the author explained an unusual word at the bottom of the page. I even think I remember what it was:

*) De motorfiets werd toen, heel zot, “schetenfiets” genoemd.
*) In those days the motorcycle was called, oddly, “farting cycle”.

There may be some involuntary fantasy in this  (I have found no web traces of the word schetenfiets, which however deserves to be remembered — and will be, tagged with this post). Continue reading

Advertisements

Doggy Sentiments

Dog wet and freezing © Lodewijk Muns 2014

I’ve known a man who hated all living things that bore a human imprint — from cultivated landscapes to house plants and pets. An unlivable state of mind, of course, and probably not quite sincere. But understandable: the craving for the wilderness, the feeling that being human is a curse.

We can’t escape from our humanity, and can’t escape from our own imprint upon nature, which in the grand perspective belongs to natural history too. Parks and pastures, cows and horses, cats and dogs can be beautiful, moving or charming, within bounds (excluding lap dogs, daffodils and feral pigeons). Despite the fact that their likableness is largely the product of our own making them to our liking.

Why do we (or most of us) like dogs? — Because they have been bred to live with us and milk our sentiments. It’s not their fault if large-eyed and furry they may look like a Disneyfied version of themselves. We should, I suppose, admire nature’s adaptability to us and try to improve our own adaptability to nature.

Stories about smart dogs following hikers are common enough. I’ll add my own to the lot, for sentimental reasons.
Continue reading

The Road Seen from the Landscape, and the Landscape Seen from the Road

The landscape, seen from the road:
traversed, fleetingly observed in passing through
a twodimensional screen
suspended along the line of forward motion.

The road, seen from the landscape:
an obstacle that breaks a whole into disconnected pieces
a broad and colourless track of solidified speed
overflowing with noise and gas exhaust.

The road, seen from the road:
something to leave behind.

The landscape, seen from the landscape:
something to be in.

Can sanity be expected from the man
who watches the world day by day
from behind the glass of his limousine?

Waking up into a Nightmare

On with life, under the scary prospect of an unscrupulous and dick driven sociopath ruling the USA.

How to stem the rising tide of populism? — is now the concern of all of us who worry about the global repercussions. All of us who don’t include ourselves among those targeted by “populism” — which is, etymologically, “the people”. An uncomfortable singular that separates an ill-defined group from a plural (people) that includes me, you, and everybody else.
Continue reading

Reverend Father Adam, Whence Didst Thou Get Music?

What is the origin of music? — And how does music relate to language? Scientific research into these questions is booming. Psychologists, neurologists, cognitive scientists, biologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists and musicologists are in the origins business. Despite the fact that we’ll never have the kind of evidence that may lead to a scientifically valid answer.

Theories may be fables. They still can be evaluated by how well they connect the things we know, and by their power to inspire new enquiries.

One idea that may seem obvious and common sense is that there are aspects of language — more particularly, of speech — that can be called ‘musical’ and expressive: the ‘rhythm’ and ‘melody’ of speech, or prosody. Rudiments of melody, or intonation, are present in the most basic human and animal vocal expressions — screams, calls, sighs, grunts, and so on. Continue reading