Friday Four

Friday, April 12, 2013

1. I enjoyed reading the obituary for Margaret Thatcher that appeared in The New York Times, including the following passage:

Though she was the first woman to lead a major political party in the West, she rubbed many feminists the wrong way. "The battle for women's rights has largely been won," she declared. "I hate those strident tones we hear from some women's libbers." She relished being impolitic. "You don't follow the crowd," she said. "You make up your own mind."
I agree with Harry Binswanger, who described the piece as "surprisingly good" and "accurate", and am glad he pointed to this on his mailing list.

2. Futility Closet tells the tale of the exploit that brought freedom and fame to Robert Smalls, an interesting and heroic figure from the Civil War:
The transport ship's pilot, Robert Smalls, had resolved to escape slavery by steaming out to the Union warships blockading his city. When the ship's white officers had gone ashore that night, he directed his eight fellow slaves to fire up the boilers and guided the ship to a nearby wharf, where they collected their families. Then Smalls donned the captain's hat and coat and gave two long and one short blasts on the whistle as they neared Fort Sumter, as he had seen the captain do. The sentry sent him on his way. As he made for the Union fleet three miles away, he put up one of his wife's bedsheets as a flag of truce.
3. Heh!
[T]he next time a presenter trots out a circle to make a point, find the bogus links and put him on the spot. We could all benefit from a little more linear thinking.
Sometimes, a measure of relief comes from simply naming a problem, because identifying one is the first step in solving one. But I think Gardiner Morse does us all one better here. His name for the fad he describes, "Crap Circles", is part of the solution: Any half-thoughtful presenter who has heard it will stop for a moment and ask whether the potential for ridicule is really worth it.

4. Should English have counterparts to all of these? I doubt it, but you might still enjoy this list of twenty-one emotions for which there is no English word, or this more general list of words "missing" from English.

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write (perhaps inviting contributions, so I'll oblige you...), "you might still enjoy this list of twenty-one emotions for which there is no English word, or this more general list of words "missing" from English."

The word I immediately think of fitting both categories, being the old Brazil nut that I am, is Portuguese saudade, which is simply central in Portuguese culture. The closest English equivalent is "the blues," but it's somewhat different. It's not sadness (tristeza), and it's not loneliness (solidão), but it savors of both. You find it in Brazilian music, in Portuguese music, and even in Cape Verdean music, and I have to say that musically I find it delicious.

It helps that, one, Portuguese is my favorite language, and two, it's a language with so many talented singers and composers, of which a few of the very best are linked above. But I should add that while Marisa Monte is my favorite Brazilian songer, the particular song I linked to above is a tad gooey for my tastes. To really get her talent, try this one, in which she sings possibly the greatest song, "Dance of Loneliness," by possibly the greatest of the sambistas, Paulinho da Viola, with him playing the guitar. Translation of the lyrics here. (A nice story about Paulinho is that, according to a Brazilian friend of mine, when he was asked how he wrote his songs, which are very popular indeed in Brazil, he said he spent all summer in a hammock at the beach writing his latest song, and with the money he received from writing it he was always able to spend the next summer writing the next one in a hammock on the beach. Sounds good to me!)

Gus Van Horn said...

Heh! I always invite contributions, so thanks in advance: I look forward to the music once I finish taxes, whenever that is...

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, another great foreign word: Sitzfleisch, German for "seat muscle," meaning the ability to sit at your desk and work on, oh, writing a book, reading a book, practicing chess or the like. The witty part is the idea that it's a skill controlled by muscles (you know which ones) that have to be exercised regularly for success in academic pursuits.

Snedcat said...

Oh, and of course there's Nabokov's choice Russian word, poshlost'. Wiki has an entry for it and quotes Svetlana Boym:

Poshlost' is the Russian version of banality, with a characteristic national flavoring of metaphysics and high morality, and a peculiar conjunction of the sexual and the spiritual. This one word encompasses triviality, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity, and a lack of spirituality. The war against poshlost' was a cultural obsession of the Russian and Soviet intelligentsia from the 1860s to 1960s.

Gus Van Horn said...

If I could coin compounds, I'd nominate "ironbutt" (from Richard Nixon's college nickname) in a similar vein to your first, and Korinthenkacker.