2000 Index Cards, and Learning Languages

When I acquired 2000 index cards, my friends asked what they were for. Lots of things, but here I am using them for watercolored mnemonics for French phrases. Having conceded that Finnish is unmasterable, not only because of its grammatical complexity but because an English speaker in Helsinki never has a chance to speak it, I reconceived of myself not as a failed Finn, but as a potential European and decided I would master at least one European language. I was closer in French than Spanish so I’ve been working at it. Easy language, and solid literature too! To study languages I recommend two books, The Practice of Practice, which is about learning music, but is applicable to any learned skill, and Fluent Forever, which. It was from the latter book I derived this flash card method.

Another homeschooling parent told me her son learned his excellent, fluent Chinese by watching Chinese soap operas, and I was gratified to discover that you can watch most things on Netflix in French with French subtitles. I switched my movie viewing to French, my reading to French,  my podcasts to French, my dreams to French…

When the internet is over

When the internet is over

“When the Internet is put into storage with the 8-track, things will be different. People will talk about stuff again, or go shopping at a store, or journey to someone’s house to watch a film. Who knows? No one can guess what form it will take, of course, but like Christianity, Wiki-Google’s days are numbered. It is up to us to make sure its time is short.”

– I.F. Svenonius

If you haven’t already, get yourself a copy of Censorship, Now!

 

Perfect Potato and Perfect Carrot

“unless you grow your own or are friends with a farmer with a sense of humor, you never see a potato or a carrot like these beauts. that’s unfortunate. in our modern mediated globelife we decry fakery in all it’s forms. no matter the field — consuming, political or social — we demand a semblance of honesty. and yet we also require the best, from everything and everyone. no matter the nature of things, we believe it’s natural that some things won’t make the cut. at some point fairness, candor, probity, bluntness, and integrity take a back seat to whatever we deem fine, fitting and just. easier on the eyes and all that. there are times though when it’s just plain considerate to pull back the veil to see a bit of what goes on when we aren’t looking.”

James Luckett

Which leads me to elsewhere on his site, where James writes:

Maneuvering daily through an increasingly global culture of capital bent on measuring success by material ownership, relative worth and fame, I am frustrated. Idealisms of this sort are by necessity exclusive. In our constant struggle to move forward, to achieve more, to rise higher, to be the best, to eventually be the only one…

And from that, to being the only one, in this poem by Louise Gluck:

 

 

 

 

 

What happened in the 70s?

Jyri posted an article on Facebook, Where Inequality Took Root: “In the mid-70’s, we traded in our post-World War II social contract for a new one, where ‘greed is good.'”  This amazing graph shows something big happened in the 1970s to prevent workers from sharing the gains of productivity in the workplace, but the question is, what?

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Jyri conjectures that personal computing may have had something to do with the changes.However, I think that was a small part of the changes going on in the United States at the time. The bigger changes were social.

There was a great deal of change during the 70s in terms of womens’ rights, gay rights, civil rights and also, significantly, immigration. For example, after Hart-Celler was passed, the ethnic makeup of the U.S. changed dramatically, viz, this data from Wikipedia:

“Prior to 1965, the demographics of immigration stood as mostly Europeans; 68 percent of legal immigrants in the 1950s came from Europe and Canada. However, in the years 1971–1991, immigrants from Hispanic and Latin American countries made 47.9 percent of immigrants (with Mexico accounting for 23.7 percent) and immigrants from Asia 35.2 percent. Not only did it change the ethnic makeup of immigration, but it also greatly increased the number of immigrants—immigration constituted 11 percent of the total U.S. population growth between 1960 and 1970, growing to 33 percent from 1970–80, and to 39 percent from 1980–90.”

My mother’s family immigrated from the Philippines to the United States when people from non-European countries were subjected to more stringent requirements than Europeans, and very few were allowed in. They believe they were admitted to the U.S., for example, because they had had a great deal of higher education, and graduate degrees from American universities.

The graph above can tell a thousand stories, and it is hard to point to any single factor. Personal computing may have changed the workplace dramatically, but I think it is likely that the social contract changed because the social construct changed. More women, more minorities, more foreign-born citizens were taking their places in American society and there was a growing sense of threat to entrenched power.

Women’s Eyebrow Fashions

Women in the courts of the T’ang Dynasty (618-907) painted their eyebrows green; the standard of beauty was brows as delicately curved as the antennae of moths. Foreheads were powdered yellow with massicot, a lead oxide, for yellow was the color of vitality.

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There are at least 24 hairstyles mentioned in the poetry, some a foot high, held together by lapis lazuli hairpins, clattering with pearls, with silk flowers and birds of gold perched on the top. As the empire was crumbling, the most popular styles had names such as “Deserting the Family” and “Uprooting the Grove”.

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Yang Kuei-fei, the emperor Hsan Tsung’s beautiful courtesan whose machinations set off a civil war, kept a tiny jade fish in her mouth.

–Eliot Weinberger, Oranges and Peanuts for Sale

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Ph.D program vs. Time-Life book

…I attended a political theory Ph.D. program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Something happened there. One day I was reading a Time-Life book about the painter Goya. I forget who the king was at the time, but he was one of the few enlightened kings of Spain. In the capital, there was a lot of crime. Men wore these big capes and hats, which made for a great disguise. The king was mad about all the crime, so he made that outfit illegal, but then there was a riot because me were so attached to the capes and hats. So the king repealed the law. He found a new adviser and said, Look, youve got to stop all this thieving. The new guy said, Don’t worry, Your Majesty, I got it covered. And the next day, he made the cape and hat the uniform of the executioner, who worked out in the open every day. People stopped wearing them just like that. Nobody wanted to be identified with the executioner. And I thought, I’ve learned more in reading this one stupid page in this Time-Life book about Goya than I have in my Ph.D. program. So I quit.

– Walter Mosley, interviewed in The Paris Review.

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