Saturday, February 13, 2010

A great Canadian work of art

I have said elsewhere that I am a sucker for great ephemeral works of art, for instance (some) Olympic opening ceremonies.

Last night's pagentry was not perfect, but it had perfect moments.

My first reaction, sparked by the beginning act featuring representatives of First Nations, was to think, almost seriously:

"I hear that Jack Vance is blind, but I have a feeling he may have scripted this anyway. He sees things more vividly with his inner eye than most of us with the outer ones."

But really it was better than that; not the creation of a 92-year-old American I admire very much, but of much younger Canadians I don't know with dazzling technical skills and first-class creative ideas. And performers who could dance energetically for an hour straight! And fly!

Even if you saw it on TV, you owe it to yourself to see the Big Picture presentation, to remind you, and see details you might have missed.

Image: One of those perfect moments. I had a hard time choosing.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The New York Times finally notices Jack Vance... that he's 92 and blind. A development right out of Vance's fiction, which is always more like "real life" than you might suspect at first blush. To say the least.

Carlo Rotella is to be congratulated on an excellent article. Thanks to Brad DeLong for pointing this out.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

A simple pleasure

One inobvious pleasure of being a professor is that I am introduced in every year and in every course to a list of student names. I have always loved the variety of names, their history, their idiosyncrasies. And some names are just pleasant.

Some of what I'm talking about is probably pretty obvious. I get to watch the name fads of 20 years ago march across my class lists, climb into prominence, peak, then fade out or perhaps make a comeback. Right now in Ontario the name Kaitlin ( various spellings) is coming on strong, while Jason seems to be less popular in my student cohort than it was a few years ago. I get to note such facts as the astonishing frequency of Francophone surnames among Ontarians people who probably don't think of themselves as Francophones -- at least their French is nonexistent. (And no, few of them are from Northern Ontario, where you might expect this.) Occasionally someone with a fictional or historical name of some fame shows up in my classes.

But the most fun of all is finding beautiful and unusual names in a class list. What I mean is, names that aren't obviously common in any language I know, that to me are just beautiful syllables, about which one can endlessly speculate. Are they in fact names that are common someplace unfamiliar to me, or are they made up by people with a lot of taste?

This year was a good one for the simply beautiful. Unfortunately, I can't share them with you, certainly not in this forum. That would be a terrible abuse of people's privacy. But there is nothing to stop you from looking around your wordy environment for this simple pleasure.

Image: names as inversions by Scott Kim, puzzlemaster.

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