Like everyone else’s, my effective vocabulary, English and other, smudges on in a specious present between getting and forgetting. Work means I now have to learn Dutch, having put in two years learning French in Brussels. Not that I mind. Words are for me what shoes were for Imelda Marcos. It’s not enough for them to be out there somewhere – in a dictionary, say – as, I imagine, it didn’t do it for Imelda to know that there were slingbacks and mules, pumps and brothel-creepers, espadrilles and clogs, laid up in a Dolcis warehouse. They have to be owned, tried on, worn in as part of a wider ensemble. And so it goes with Dutch. I dig it that every dozenth word or so looks like a cuss, that U kunt is actually polite Dutch, and balzak the medically correct word for ‘scrotum’. More generally, the language looks to a native English speaker like the output of a surrealists’ synod. ‘U kunt op de krappe trap opgaan om de dikhuidige paardenfokker in de slaapkamer te zien’ is a possible, if improbable, sentence (‘You can go up the narrow staircase to see the thick-skinned horse-breeder in the bedroom’).
Electric is the love, legend. Lots of broken hearted.
Rafer sez: Photography is finally building the commercial footprint that a bunch of us fogies dreamed about, and the investment world is jumping in to figure it out. Per Instagram and Snapchat, photos have been a fabulous distribution loss leader, but profit is on the horizon. Ubiquitous imaging is about to change the world even more than phone cameras did. I spent a lot of the ’90s on mobile imaging when the phones were still too far from reality. No one could yet make money or even gain distribution. Just 15 years later, Neuromancer is about to show up. Molly Millions might just get her specs this decade.
While the most visually dramatic apps are still the vertical ones, like APX pictured above, the every day uses are coming. Last year, a pal of mine tried to ship an iPad app that let you point the camera at a pile of Ikea parts and it would highlight the which hole to address with which screw. Google is getting into the act at an industrial level with a new tablet prototype.
Much as Gibson feared when he wrote Neuromancer, Molly’s eyepieces might well respond to OK Google, Hello Amazon, or FML Facebook. The open source stack for smart mobile and wearable devices has not emerged. History tells us the open stack emerges once the hardware commoditizes, but that’s a nervewracking, decades-long wait. I’m encouraged that open commoditization is happening already in Google, Facebook, and Amazon’s clouds, but I might be rationalizing.
While we’re waiting, advertising, and ecommerce are going to be footing the bill for whole visual communications shebang. Photo ads will matter on Pinterest, Instagram, and far across the mobile internet. The first real discussion of the challenges and opportunities of profitable businesses in this sector will be at Vision Summit in NYC next week. The guy putting it on — Evan Nisselson — of LDV Capital is an incredibly focused seed investor in imaging, and he’s put together a great day.
The skill of hunting with eagles, Svidensky says, lies in harnessing an unpredictable force of nature. “You don’t really control the eagle. You can try and make her hunt an animal - and then it’s a matter of nature. What will the eagle do? Will she make it? How will you get her back afterwards?”
More broken stories. Homework: a multi-person scenario New powers: nouns that involve animals
1: ha chatol chozer. 2: hoo achal et kol ha dag. 3: eyfo ha kelev? 2: ha kelev nafal im le’ehov [the reflexive here apparently: ha kelev hit’ahev]. lo yotze me bait [ha] cafe (because God Hates You and nouns put together are now demonstrative on the second part) 3: ve ha tarnegal? 2: cholem ba yam, im dag [she] anakhnu lo ligidel. 1: en-tikva. anakhnu en-klum. 3: anakhnu chooldot. anakhnu anizot. 2: yeshlanu gezer. 3: metzuyan, be vakasha. efshar litzmo arnevet Jessica.
1: The cat returns. 2: He has eaten all the fish. 3: Where is the dog? 2: The dog fell in love. He doesn’t leave the cafe. 3. And the rooster? 2: He dreams in the sea, with the fish we didn’t raise. 1: There is no hope. We have nothing. 3: We are rats. We are brave. 2: We have a carrot. 3: Excellent, thank you. Would it be possible to find Jessica Rabbit?
Rolled into one, according to tutour on hour 12. Homework: write a dialogue. Male and Female.
New abilities: second form roots, past and present. Conjunctions.
F: hoo tzilem otanu? M: lo, tzilem ki hoo tayar, tzilem sham davar. F: harber tayarim. M: ma at rotza le’echol? F: ata bocher — ma ata rotze? M: ma mevashlim. F: hoo matzlem zman. M: aval, haya shamdvar le’tzilem. F: haya ha kol.
F: Is he photographing us? M: No, he photographs because he is a tourist, photographs everything. F: Many tourists. M: What do you want to eat? F: You choose — what do you want? M: What they cook. F: He’s taking a lot of photographs. M: But, there’s a lot to photograph. F: There is nothing.
I awake and hear bars closing around me, it must be just about last call. When the sun rises, I will have my 11th hour of Hebrew.
I had tried Arabic first, a few years ago, for a land crossing from Nepal to London. It seemed that to differentiate “Pakistan” from “Afghanistan” would come in handy. In fact, it didn’t matter as there is zero correlation between literacy and the likelihood of getting bombed in Quetta; luck had me ahead by 24 hours, the police station that had locked me in safely was bombed just that many hours later.
Another misconception: that Hebrew may be the hack to get 70% to Arabic without some of the more whimsical grammar rules. I Will Be Wrong.
Lastly, I am headed to Israel this year. The occasion is Krav Maga: picked (grudgingly accepted as the runt in the family?) as an instructor some years ago, I felt a need to add Semitic to my portfolio. Dedicating a large chunk of one’s life to an art whose syllabus I cannot read in its native language seemed like a missed opportunity.
After all, what better can we know about the human condition than by the systems that have been tested through time?
New forms of pattern recognition are re-wiring my brain in a few ways.
• The first experience is visual, as though my brain is trying to sightread a language as if it were musical notation. I read an article on hn and come across the word “modern”; the brain suddenly goes through kernel panic as it tries out variations, not allowing me to move forward in the text, as though the false note following in a key. The “n” is looking like a het, the “r” as resh, and most interestingly, the m is separating as a potential het and resh put together. I start seeing kerning changes within the word modern to read something like “heray[d]sahr”. Then the opposite happens: suddenly the word is packed so tightly together that it looks like modem, mod em, and for some reason, unpacking again, mogador. Some call this a migraine.
• The second experience is something I am somewhat familiar with: the sudden, rapid creation of imaginary spaces to store all the new data.
Example: Some weak first form past tense verbs with anything ending with het ratzah banah bachah anah shatah asah chanah
Story: On an island, some rather cute rats wanted (ratzah) to build houses of banana trees (banah), but there were no banana trees to be found so they cried “boohoo” (bachah). I answered by knocking (anah) on the glass entrance of the island door and said shut up and have a drink (shatah), for there is a-shit load to do (asah) beforehand. First, traffic in China (chanah).
Apparently the weak first form past tense verbs come with a tinge of having already lost to inevitable destruction from climate change.
• Some nouns are easier than others to commit to memory. In order of referential memory: ani = no in Korean = me (then, conjugate: ta, t) ma’im = but (Italian) + within (German) = water (since we are mostly made of water) kise = kissaten, a word I fell in love with from Japan which means tea houses (which I dedicated a small guest blog post to), which has no real chairs = chair
• The last is the most insufferable to anyone around me; as in my mind I repeat action, and spit them out loud. “[He] awoke” “I awoke” “I awake” “I awake in bed” “I awake in this bed” “I awake in this bed in an apartment” “I awake in this bed in an apartment next to window” “Water.” “Want water.” “Where am I?” “Where is toilet?” “First, water.” “Here, water.” “[He] drank” “I drink” "This is vodka." etc.
The [he] is the base form from which to conjugate. I find it is more about accuracy than context at this stage, getting the grey stuff to think in the terms of the language, getting it automated. Like learning to be good at your weapon, while slowly figuring out the range of which weapon is needed in context.
• I wrote my first little story in Hebrew, but without script.
“ani rotza gezer, gezer bishvili. haya kar etmol, aval ze be’seder. lo yeshli sweater-im, quada-im. shelagish yesh gezer.”
“I want a carrot, a carrot for me. It was cold yesterday, but that’s ok. No need sweaters, hats. Snowmen have carrot.”
I find out that “lo yeshli” is something children say, and I didn’t hack “shelagish” correctly. It’s actually something like ish-elig— I don’t actually remember now. But of course man and being (ish) comes first, rather than its essence.
Today, I’m to write a dialogue between a man and a woman. It will be in a restaurant, because numbers, foods, and conditionals. Conflict, a little despair, inevitability.
• It is important to note that my tutor has had 10 hours of me, and has made some conclusions of his own. Now, he sees my brain gears stuck and in need of help, and he goes:
“I am lost in your mind.”
Lastly, there’s another thing he says which I particularly like:
“[x rule in grammar] because God Hates You.”
I like it because of how essentially true that rings to a great subset of people. That’s the sentiment that I was brought up with anyway.
“God hates every single last fucking one of you.”
It’s really hard not to like. Fucking Presbyterians.
Learning necessitates falling prey to time, and often, the genetic lottery. On the other hand, it is very hard to trade a mind.
Locked in my brain, like the windows to a room, the systems. This comes from a particular tick: I have had to learn how find my way out of a square room. As described once:
“She’s excellent at navigation, but she doesn’t process the directions. She has Inertial Navigation: known start points to unknown endpoints, but not necessarily between unknown endpoints.”
I suspect language was the problem, and therefore just a different way of processing needed to be formed:
• English Left and Right. The Right as opposed to The Wrong
• Korean (two ways) Wehn jjok and Oren jjok. Oren also means The Right Jua chuk and Yoo chuk
• Chinese Juo and You, possibly morally ambiguous*
• French Gauche and Droite. Droit is Right (also to be gauche is supposedly terrible fashion error)
• German Linke and Recht. Recht is Law
• Italian Sinistra and Destra. Sinistra = Sinister
• Spanish Derecho and Derecha. Derecho rhymes with no
• Hebrew Smola and Yamina. Ya = Yes ; S = Sinister. Also patterned in a way that suggests the “ya”, i.e. posses within “me”
*Bonus: why does “you” in Chinese and “yamina” in Hebrew, seem to be pleasing with its arbitrary “y-” sound? Are some sounds more pleasing/useful? We can’t sing in consonants. How does it correlate with the predominancy of right-handed-ness? Does this mean corporal punishment was right and quite justified until I became a right-handed human? I don’t remember that process.
In any case, directions are hopeless stuff. Sure, when I hear “inside slap kick with a spin on right”, I lift my hands with two fingers out just to make sure I’m doing it with the one that doesn’t look like “L”. When someone asks how to get to a diner, I give markers, because buildings and nature (and postboxes and bus stops) are far easier than left left left sort of left but you can’t really go at it right. Being able to read a map is different from being able to know where something is located. In fact, mapping is a hard problem because it is human, and seems comically lost on all mapping technology (but also a different story for later, mapping Iran).
More food for thought: • In Mandarin, “Day One” is Monday • In Hebrew, that’s Sunday because God Hates You • In Korean, the word “il” means One, Day, but the Chinese character for it is Sun. Because God Really Hates You.
Hence, along with human space, human time simply should be done better. For one, I’m barely making do with tenses in my work emails, several time zones away, at “four in the morning EST”, and I’d like to be rid of presumptions of “awake” and “unawake”.
Develop more skills, build contempt and respect for space-time in relationship to skill development, retaliate by creating more imaginary rats in island rooms. Document. Try to remember who’s whose rat and island and room.
Standing there in the shade of the tree was an elephant. A fully grown African elephant, facing left, staring out to sea! … A female with a left tusk broken off near the base, looking for all the world like the stub of a large cigar. I had never seen this elephant before, but I knew who she was, who she had to be. I recognized her from a color photograph put out by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry under the title “The Last Remaining Knysna Elephant.” This was the Matriarch herself. But what was she doing here?…
She was here because she no longer had anyone to talk to in the forest. She was standing here on the edge of the ocean because it was the next, nearest, and most powerful source of infrasound. The underrumble of the surf would have been well within her range, a soothing balm for an animal used to being surrounded, submerged, by low and comforting frequencies, by the lifesounds of a herd, and now this was the next-best thing!
My heart went out to her. The whole idea of this grandmother of many being alone for the first time in her life was tragic, conjuring up the vision of countless other old and lonely souls. But just as I was about to be consumed by helpless sorrow, something even more extraordinary took place….
The throbbing was back in the air. I could feel it, and I began to understand why. The blue whale was on the surface again, pointed inshore, resting, her blowhole clearly visible. The Matriarch was here for the whale! The largest animal in the ocean and the largest living land animal were no more than a hundred yards apart, and I was convinced that they were communicating! In infrasound, in concert, sharing big brains and long lives, understanding the pain of high investment in a few precious offspring, aware of the importance and the pleasure of complex sociality, these rare and lovely great ladies were commiserating over the back fence of this rocky Cape shore, woman to woman, matriarch to matriarch, almost the last of their kind.
I turned, blinking away the tears, and left them to it. This was no place for a mere man….
"Penelope Fitzgerald thought the world divided into ‘exterminators’ and ‘exterminatees’. Certainly it divides into controllers and controllees. A typical controllee is someone who is love-dependent; Freud was that once, and swore never to be so again. He was always a controller, and sometimes an exterminator. Martin Gayford and Geordie Greig’s accounts of Freud’s behaviour reminded me at times of two unlikely novelists: Kingsley Amis and Georges Simenon. When Amis’s second wife and fellow novelist, Elizabeth Jane Howard, saw him, at eleven o’clock on the morning he was due to lunch at Buckingham Palace, standing in the garden punishing an enormous whisky, she said, ‘Bunny, do you have to have a drink?’ He replied (and it was a reply that would have fitted a vast number of other exchanges): ‘Look, I’m Kingsley Amis, you see, and I can drink whenever I want.’ As for Simenon, he practised two things obsessively: his art and fucking (though his speed at writing contrasts with Freud’s slowness at painting). Simenon once winningly observed: ‘Maybe I am not completely crazy, but I am a psychopath.’ Freud confessed his ‘megalomania’ to Gayford, adding that there was a bit of his mind ‘that believes, just possibly, my things are the best by anyone, ever’. Amis, Simenon and Freud all had controlling, interfering mothers, which may or may not be relevant.
Freud always lived a high-low life: dukes and duchesses and royalty and posh girlfriends on one hand, gangsters and bookies on the other. The middle classes were generally scorned or ignored. He also had high-low manners: unfazed and relaxed in royal circles, a stickler for good manners from his children, but also indelibly rude and aggressive. He did whatever he liked, whenever he liked, and expected others to go along with it. His driving made Mr Toad look like a nervous learner. He would assault people without warning or, often, excuse. As a refugee child he would hit his English schoolfellows because he didn’t understand their language; as an octogenarian he was still getting into fistfights in supermarkets. He once assaulted Francis Bacon’s lover because the lover had beaten up Bacon, which was quite the wrong response: Bacon was furious because he was a masochist and liked being beaten up. Freud would write ‘poison postcards’, vilely offensive letters, and threaten to have people duffed up. When Anthony d’Offay closed a show of his two days early, an envelope of shit arrived through d’Offay’s letterbox.”