Sunday, April 29, 2007

Trumpeter swans in the news

News from Des Moines:

Two trumpeter swans have a new home at Great Ape Trust of Iowa and after they've had a chance to settle in, they'll soon have new names, thanks to their bonobo neighbors. . . .

Naming of the swans will be decided by the family of bonobos living at Great Ape Trust. Once the bonobos have had an opportunity to observe the swans, the apes will select two names -- either of their choosing or from a recommended list. Dr. Karyl Swartz, resident scientist at The Trust, is coordinating the naming project with the bonobos.

"The bonobos are extremely sensitive to their environment and we feel it is important that they are informed of any changes to that environment," said Swartz. "From their home, the bonobos overlook the lake where the swans will live. By informing them of the arrival of the swans, talking to them about what the birds are like, and allowing them an opportunity to participate in the project through naming the birds, we are providing the bonobos with control over their environment."
Any news of trumpeter swans will catch the attention of a Van Dyke Parks fan, as one such swan appears in the lyrics of "Surf's Up":
The music hall -- A costly bow.
The music all is lost for now,
To a muted trumpeter swan.

Columnated ruins domino!
"Surf's Up" may be found on SMiLE (music by Brian Wilson, words by Van Dyke Parks).
DNR Releases Trumpeter Swans at Great Ape Trust, Bonobos to Name Them (Great Ape Trust)

Related post
Riparian

Bart Simpson and cultural studies

Newsweek reports that Bart Simpson bares all in the forthcoming Simpsons Movie. A professor of popular culture offers the following observation:

"That Bart is a cartoon character, and a defiant adolescent one at that, does make the cultural interest in his private parts more complex and intriguing," says Kim Blank, a professor of popular culture at the University of Victoria.
Bart is ten.
Homer's Big-Screen Odyssey (Newsweek)
Bart bares all in film (Saskatoon Star Phoenix)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson

A treasure via YouTube: Ben Webster and Teddy Wilson, "somewhere in Europe," playing "Old Folks" (Willard Robison - Dedette Lee Hill).

The film footage looks better in the first clip. The second clip (apparently from Spanish Public Television) has a brief introduction explaining the circumstances of this performance: before taking the bandstand, Webster was told of the death of his friend and fellow Ellingtonian, alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges. That would place this performance in May 1970.

"Old Folks"
"Old Folks" (with introduction)

Related post
On December 8

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Found



I found the above item today, sticking out between a wall of my house and a waist-high shelving unit just inside the front door. Untattered, it would likely measure 13/16" x 15/16". My guess is that it was left atop the shelving unit (still a great place for leaving almost anything -- change, bills, keys, concert programs, sunglasses, junk mail -- you get the idea) and somehow got swept down into the fraction of an inch between shelf and wall. My other guess is that years of vibrations from footsteps and the front door finally helped bring this small item back into view. I think its reappearance must be recent: my family has lived in this house since 1991, and no one had ever noticed this bit of paper before.

Tearing out old walls, my dad the tileman sometimes found great bits of ephemera. The best: an old Chesterfield package, in perfect shape, minus cellophane, minus cigarettes.

The Chicago Daily News? Wikipedia describes it as an afternoon daily, published from 1876 to 1978.

It just occurred to me that "great bits of ephemera" might be considered redundant. To my mind, any bit of ephemera is great.

Invitation to a dance (On another bit of ephemera)

No job too small (More on Leddy Ceramic Tile)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Riparian

From Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day:

The Word of the Day for April 21 is:

riparian \ruh-PAIR-ee-un\ adjective: relating to or living or located on the bank of a natural watercourse (as a river) or sometimes of a lake or a tidewater

Example sentence: Residents of the riparian community learned to brace themselves for a flood whenever torrential rain was forecast.

Did you know? "Riparian" came to English from the same source that gave us "river" -- the Latin "riparius," a noun deriving from "ripa," meaning "bank" or "shore." First appearing in English in the 19th century, "riparian" refers to things that exist alongside a river (such as riparian wetlands, habitats, trees, etc.). Some river communities have laws called "riparian rights," referring to the rights of those owning land along a river to have access to the waterway. Note the distinction of this word from "littoral," which usually refers to things that occur along the shore of a sea or ocean.
Why is riparian making an appearance here? Because Van Dyke Parks (whose song-title I've borrowed for this blog's title) is the only person I've ever known to use the word (in a commencement address).

(Thanks, Van Dyke!)

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Because I have such a father"

''I walked through the streets today with my head held high because I have such a father."

Joe Librescu, older son of Liviu Librescu, aeronautics engineer and lecturer

Lecturer Killed Saving Students at Virginia Tech Buried in Israel (New York Times)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kitty Carlisle Hart

It's really the end of an era. Kitty Carlisle Hart, actress, singer, arts advocate, has died:

Kitty Carlisle Hart, who began her career in the theater in a 1932 musical comedy revue on Broadway, acted in films and opera and was still singing on the stage, into her 10th decade, as recently as last fall, died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 96. The cause was heart failure, her daughter, Catherine Hart, said. Outgoing and energetic, Miss Carlisle became in her middle years a visible advocate of the arts, lobbying the New York State Legislature and the United States Congress for funding. For 20 years, first as a member and later as chairman of the New York Council on the Arts, she crisscrossed the state to support rural string quartets, small theater groups and inner-city dance troupes.

At another moment, she could be found performing on a cruise ship plying the Greek islands, as she was during her 90th year. Just last November, she sang George Gershwin’s "The Man I Love" at the annual gala fund-raiser for Jazz at Lincoln Center. That followed a series of engagements in New York and other cities celebrating her 96th birthday. Miss Carlisle, as she was know professionally, also became a favorite of the first television generation as a regular on the game shows To Tell the Truth and What’s My Line?
I remember Kitty Carlisle from A Night at the Opera, Radio Days, and those game shows. She was one of the people who seemed to be living on television when I was a boy, along with Steve Allen, Peggy Cass, Arlene Francis, Phyllis Newman, and Nipsey Russell, friendly presences every weekday after school.
Kitty Carlisle Hart Dies at 96 (New York Times)
Kitty Carlisle Hart (Official website)
Kitty Carlisle (Wikipedia)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

I remember on September 12, 2001, hearing someone refer to the events of the previous day as a "teachable moment." That phrase has always appalled me. "Moment" presumes to reduce to a manageable span events whose consequences will unfold across lifetimes and generations. And "teachable" presumes that we profs are in a privileged position to clarify, explain, interpret events that might better first be met with words of compassion and grief.

What happened today at Virginia Tech is not a teachable moment.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How to send telegrams

I know -- we can't. But in case they ever come back:



I've scanned this text from Sarah Augusta Taintor and Kate M. Monro's The Secretary's Handbook: A Manual of Correct Usage (Macmillan, 1949), a library book-sale find.

(Thanks, Ben!)

Related posts
This is not a telegram (The Retro-Gram)
Dowdy. World. Mourns. End. Of. Era. Stop. (The end of the telegram)

Times still passionate, study finds

In today's New York Times: passionate passions, from A (advanced aviation) to Z (Zoran Zivkovic, "not to be confused with the former prime minister of Serbia"). I've omitted a reference to passion fruit:

Soon after the brothers gained control of General Atomics in 1986, they unleashed their passion for advanced aviation by turning the company into a leading pioneer in drone warfare. (Charles Duhigg, "The Pilotless Plane That Only Looks Like Child’s Play")

Dressed in black, his intense face framed by a shock of black curls and a dark beard, Mr. Eifman hovers over his two dancers, instructing and explaining with evident passion. (Joy Goodwin, "No Rest for a Russian Renegade")

The Serbian author Zoran Zivkovic (not to be confused with the former prime minister of Serbia) already has many passionate supporters in America, and though it is too soon to crown him the new Borges, Seven Touches of Music: A Mosaic Novel (Aio, $23.95) makes him a leading candidate for the position. (Dave Itzkoff, "Cthulhu Meets Godzilla")

For the last four years, the object of his passion — and the chief topic of his dull lectures — has been the X-Paste, a toothpaste dispenser meant to keep bathrooms free of gunk. (Brendan I. Koerner, "Paste on the Brush, Not on the Sink")

She is particularly passionate about Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, and was president of the International James Joyce Foundation. (Kate Stone Lombardi, "At a Liberal-Arts Enclave, She’d Like a Bigger Tent")

And where that mighty stream is meant to take us, I think, is back to that large body of passionate, history-obsessed literature that is (or was) Latin American fiction. (Terrence Rafferty, "My Wife Is Mad")

In Ireland, the passion for steeplechase horse racing is, as Barich puts it, "a streak of lightning in the blood." (Ihsan Taylor, "Paperback Row")

It was impossible not to be affected by his passion. (Anthony Tommasini, "Passing the Baton: Be Bold, New York")

When she was about 70, Mrs. Winter turned her passion for clothing into a passion for making complex needlepoint portraits of women. (Stephen P. Williams, "Downsizing by Moving Downstairs")

Just as Ms. Miller’s renovations largely revolved around her need to accommodate her passion for collecting vintage shoes and clothes, Ben Schechter and his partner, George Barimo, put about $30,000 into their East Side apartment to accommodate their art and antiques. (Vivian S. Toy, "Sinking Your Money Into a Rental")
My passion for sentence collecting will soon wane -- such is the way of passion -- but anyone may play by searching the Times. Here's another examination of a Times tic:
Stuffed with madeleines (This Modern World)
Yes, it involves Proust.
Related posts
Madeleine
Passions of the Times

Friday, April 13, 2007

Passions of the Times

They call the New York Times the "Gray Lady." But the Times is no lady. She is a woman -- a woman of passion. Also of passionate. Both words are conspicuous in Times reportage.

Here are the instances of passion and passionate in today's online Times articles. I've excluded quoted dialogue:

She and the wonderful Mary Louise Wilson (as her bedridden mother), in the performances of their careers, make "Grey Gardens" an experience no passionate theatergoer should miss. (Ben Brantley, Theater Listings)

An indication of the passion and controversy generated by the contract is the high level of participation: about two-thirds of the 29,000 eligible workers cast ballots, or twice as many as voted in 2003. (David W. Chen, "State Workers in New Jersey Vote to Ratify New Contract")

But Mr. Cathie has been a passionate proponent. (Sam Dillon, "College Administrator's Dual Roles Are a Focus of Student Loan Inquiry")

His visual imagination is often arresting, and the dancers perform with passion. (Jennifer Dunning, "No Matter the Message, It's Delivered With Dazzle")

Even in this era of biodiesel fuels and degradable eating utensils, Cloud Cult is especially passionate about green music practices. (Ben Sisario, Pop and Rock Listings)

Still, at least on this night, there often seemed a dearth of chemistry between the performers, too little sense of the desperate passion that binds them. (Steve Smith, "The Violetta, Germont and Alfredo of Yore")

Administrators and the teacher who runs the club say they have struggled with Shawn, and are seeking a balance of how to engage him in his studies without barring him from the one thing about which he is passionate. (Timothy Williams, "Teenage Riddle: Skipping Class, Mastering Chess")

Related post
Times still passionate, study finds

Sonny Rollins on paying the rent

From an interview with Sonny Rollins:

It's very encouraging to know that you have contributed to some ease of getting through life, that's a nice feeling. Music is about giving. People tell me, "Oh, gee, you've helped me go to work, do this, that." I feel better when I hear things like that. It's like I'm paying my rent here on Earth.

A saxophone legend keeps forging ahead (Newark Star-Ledger)
It's online, yes, but my copy is clipped and mailed by my dad. Thanks, Dad!

[Correction: It was online. Now it’s gone.]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How to punctuate more sentences

A few more guidelines for using punctuation:

The semicolon is a good choice when sentences are clearly related, when they seem to go together, when a period would create a too emphatic stop between sentences. Alas, there's no rule to determine whether sentences are related in a way that makes a semicolon a good choice. Making this decision seems to me a matter of acquired intuition.

The presence of a connecting word or phrase (such as nevertheless, therefore, thus, even so, in contrast) is a good sign that you're in semicolon territory. But longish sentences, even if they're clearly related, are likely to be easier for a reader to take in if they're separated by a period.

One caution: it's easy to overuse the semicolon. As an undergraduate, I often used semicolons indiscriminately; I joined sentences together in long, unwieldy chains; my excitement about tying ideas together carried me away; as you can see in this example, the result is not reader-friendly.

When one or more commas appear within items in a series, semicolons should separate the items:

The menu offered limited choices: egg and bacon; egg, sausage, and bacon; egg and Spam; egg, bacon, and Spam; and egg, bacon, sausage, and Spam.
*

The dash is a very useful element of punctuation, as it allows for greater condensation in the presentation of ideas. The dash is appropriate in setting off an element that strongly interrupts the movement of a sentence. For instance:
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman — the one oblique and elliptical, the other expansive and declamatory — might be said to have invented modern American poetry.

Three instruments — clarinet, trumpet, and muted trombone — create the unusual tone colors of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo."
The most important thing to remember about punctuation: it's a matter of conventions, shared agreements that help bring clarity to written communication. If you don't agree this sentence unpunctuated difficult to read can serve as a last attempt to persuade.

If you do agree, that last sentence — unpunctuated, difficult to read — can serve to confirm what you already understand.

Related post
How to punctuate a sentence

Metamorphosis

Ever notice . . . ? From a Christopher Hitchens essay in Slate:

A room-service menu, for example, now almost always offers "your choice" of oatmeal versus cornflakes or fruit juice as opposed to vegetable juice. Well, who else's choice could it be? Except perhaps that of the people who decide that this is the range of what the menu will feature. Fox TV famously and fatuously claims, "We report. You decide." Decide on what? On what Fox reports? Online polls promise to register what "you" think about the pressing issues of the moment, whereas what's being presented is an operation whereby someone says, "Let's give them the idea that they are a part of the decision-making process."

The next time you see an ad, the odds are increasingly high that it will put "you" in the driver's seat. "Ask your doctor if Prozac/Lipitor/Cialis is right for you" -- almost as if these medications could be custom made for each individual consumer. A lawyer or real-estate agent will promise you to address "your" concerns. Probably the most famous propaganda effort of the 20th century, a recruiting poster with Lord Kitchener pointing directly outward and stating, "Your Country Needs YOU," was only rushed onto the billboards when it suddenly became plain that the country concerned needed several hundred thousand recruits in a big hurry and couldn't afford to be too choosy about who it was signing up.
Christopher Hitchens seems to be turning into Andy Rooney.


The You Decade (Slate)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Doped

My wife Elaine just had a second great adding-a-URL-to-Google experience:

Related post
Barfs
Beret
Fermi
Oveness
(Thanks, Elaine!)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

How to have a bad restaurant experience

1. When you show up as a party of four, not the five of your reservation, you see a death-ray shoot from host's eye. (It misses.)

2. Before seating you, host asks if you'll "be done by 6:30."

3. Host seats you at a table positioned close to bathrooms, coffee station, and bussed china and glassware. That there is such a table gives you reason to wonder why you've come here.

4. Ask for different table. Host's answer: "I'll have to reset." Yet tables are already set.

5. Walk back to front of restaurant and wait to be reseated. Realize while waiting that host seems to follow no known protocols of hospitality.

6. Stand around while new arrivals enter and wait behind you. "Party of three?" "Uh, four." No: host meant the party of three standing behind you. It's the party of three that's being seated first. You are being punished.

7. Sit and look at menu, one page in length. It specifies plating fees if you bring your own dessert. Huh?

8. Feel waiter's death-ray warm as everyone chooses water for a beverage. Feel said ray further warm as everyone orders a relatively modest dish (vegan or vegetarian).

9. Notice that waiter seems to be writing a sonnet with each diner's order. Yet none of this writing appears on the bill.

10. Wait 45 minutes for food.

11. Food is served. Waiter serves by reaching across the table, rather than serving from behind the diner.

12. Consider the food. Meh. Upside-down pizza is bland, lifeless. A plate of jasmine rice and veggies holds a small mound of rice and a hand-sized serving of vegetables on a massive plate. Wonder whether they teach sarcastic presentation in culinary school.

13. Eat, with at least six interruptions to fill water glasses, all with much reaching across the table, elbows and armpits everywhere.

14. Notice when returning from bathroom that other diners seem to have markedly larger quantities of vegetables on their plates. And those vegetables are side dishes.

15. Get and pay bill. Tip 15%. Dodge host's death-ray near door. Leave, vowing never to come back.

16. GO TO COLD STONE CREAMERY!

Does anyone still say "fly"?

I was wondering. The answer, it seems, is "Yes." See here:

Hot Hot Heat: A graphical dissertation on the number one song in America (Village Voice, via kottke.org)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Digg it

I'm amazed.

I just checked on the fortunes of How to punctuate a sentence and found that it has 412 diggs. Translation: 412 people have tagged the post as an item that interests them. The number jumped from 361 to 412 while I typed this post. (I think that "Yowza!" is all I can say about that.)

The post has also been tagged by 254 people on the social bookmarking site del.icio.us, and it's in the Digg and del.icio.us lists on popurls ("popular urls to the latest web buzz").

It's strangely thrilling to think of punctuation as being part of the latest web buzz. And so it turns out that what I've been telling my students is true after all: punctuation is cool; it's fresh; it's fly. It's what happening -- at least for the next few days. (Does anyone still say "fly"?)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

How to punctuate a sentence

Nothing that follows is meant to substitute for the nuanced explanations of what's usually called a writing handbook, the sort of book that college students purchase in a first-semester writing course. These five rules though have the virtue of being manageable, which is difficult to say of a 1,000-page book. In each paragraph that follows, the sentences illustrate the punctuation rule involved. Note that I'm avoiding almost all grammatical terminology. Instead, I'm emphasizing a small number of sentence patterns.

Rule one
If your sentence begins with an introductory element, put a comma after it. Even if it's a short element, put a comma after it. In time, you'll be putting this comma in without having to think about it.

Rule two
Any element, big or small, that interrupts the movement of a sentence should be set off with commas. This sentence, like the first, also has an element set off with commas. An extra element at the end of the sentence should also be set off with a comma, as I'm showing here.

Rule three
Items in a series should be separated with commas. What do I mean by "items in a series"? Wine, women, and song. Life, love, and laughter. John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

(There's no consensus about using a comma before the final item — the so-called "Oxford comma" or "serial comma." Keeping that comma seems to me the better choice, simplifying, in one small way, the problems of punctuation. If you always put the comma in, you avoid problems with ambiguous or tricky sentences in which the comma's absence might blur the meaning of your words.)

Rule four
Complete sentences that are joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) need a comma before the coordinating conjunction. That might seem obvious, but this comma frequently gets left out. Putting it in makes a sentence more readable, and any reader appreciates that.

Rule five
Complete sentences that are joined without a coordinating conjunction need a semicolon instead of a comma; the semicolon shows the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next. Semicolons are often followed by a connecting word or phrase; however, a connecting word or phrase is not necessary. Sentences joined with only a comma are called comma splices; they're among the most common errors that come up in college writing.

(Note: In the next-to-last sentence in the previous paragraph, there's a comma after however because it's an introductory element in the second sentence. A semicolon followed by however is a familiar device when writers link ideas. A better way to manage however, however, is to place the word within a sentence: "Semicolons are often followed by a connecting word or phrase; a connecting word or phrase, however, is not necessary." In this revised sentence, rule two explains the commas.)

Fixing comma splices requires familiarity with two recurring sentence patterns. The first involves a complete sentence, a semicolon, and another complete sentence:

[complete sentence]; [complete sentence].
Some examples:
Your argument is persuasive; it addresses every objection I had.

His research paper is plagiarized; he is going to fail the class.

The novel is a relatively recent literary form; it's not nearly as old as epic poetry and lyric poetry.
The second pattern to look for involves a complete sentence, a semicolon, a connecting word or phrase, a comma, and another complete sentence:
[complete sentence]; [word or phrase], [complete sentence].
(Again, the comma after the connecting word or phrase is appropriate as that word or phrase is an introductory element in the second sentence.)

Some examples:
I decided not to take the job; instead, I'm going to graduate school.

The proposal is flawed; thus, we're sending it back for revision.

She did well in the class; in fact, she did much better than she had expected.
How can you tell whether you have two complete sentences or one sentence with an additional element at its end? With an additional element (something less than a sentence in itself), the parts of the sentence can be switched and still make sense:
I'll go to work, even though I'm sick.

Even though I'm sick, I'll go to work.
But with a second complete sentence and a word or phrase such as instead, thus, or in fact, the parts cannot be switched and still make sense.

A complication: when you can switch parts, a comma will sometimes be necessary and sometimes not. The best way to judge is to consider whether the element at the end is necessary to the meaning or something extra. Consider these examples:
Why did you bring an umbrella?

I brought an umbrella because I thought it would rain.

*

What did you bring?

I brought an umbrella, because I thought it would rain.
In the first exchange, the words “because I thought it would rain” are crucial to the meaning. In the second exchange, they’re not.

I think of this kind of comma as analogous to seasoning — sometimes you need it; sometimes you don't. (And at this point, very few people are liking to be thinking about the choice in terms of outright error.)

These are the basics of punctuating sentences with commas and semicolons. I know from working with many students that any writer can get better when it comes to punctuation. The key is the ability to recognize a handful of familiar patterns. Look for the patterns in your sentences, and you too can get better. With some practice, you'll be able to see the parts of your sentences falling into place, and punctuating correctly will become, believe it or not, a habit, one that you'll be happy to have acquired.

Colons, by the way, function as arrows or pointers: see what I mean?

Related post
How to punctuate more sentences

Hello, Lifehack readers

If you've arrived here after reading How to punctuate a sentence, you might like reading one or more of the following posts:

And, but, for, nor, or, so, yet Is it okay to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction? (Of course it is.)

Commas and colons, chickens and caulk The ancient Greek origins of commas, colons, and periods

On handwriting and typing W.H. Auden's observations

Slow down and think Children's thoughts on writing with fountain pens

Writing and index cards Tools of the trade

Raymond Carver's index cards One writer's index cards, taped to the wall by his desk

William Labov

I had the great opportunity last night to hear a talk by the sociolinguist William Labov, "The Growing Divergence of English Dialects in North America." Labov's thesis is that North American English is becoming more not less heterogeneous, that regional dialects are becoming increasingly different from each other. The "action," as he called it, is almost all in the vowels. He offered numerous examples (with audio clips) of chain shifts (vowel sounds trading places: for instance, busses pronounced bosses) and mergers (different vowel sounds pronounced in the same way: for instance, Dawn pronounced Don). Both trends lead to greater possibilities of misunderstanding in speech. One sample exchange:

"I started sneezing in Greek Meter -- that's a class. Dawn's dog must have heard it."

"Don's dog?"
I loved the fleeting thought of someone sneezing in, say, dactylic hexameter. Epic sneezes! Kchaou!

Here's a observation Labov made on language and its relation to matters of communication and truthfulness:
A parrot can say "I will meet you downtown at 8:00" -- but he won't be there.
Labov's words reminded me of the motto of the London Stock Exchange, "Dictum meum pactum," "My word is my bond." I know nothing of the London Stock Exchange, but the philosopher J.L. Austin and the poet Geoffrey Hill both make use of this motto in their work (misquoted, it would seem, as "Our word is our bond").

A few links if you'd like to know more about William Labov:
William Labov's homepage (University of Pennsylvania)

How I got into linguistics, and what I got out of it Essay by William Labov

A Linguist's Journey (PBS) The above essay and other materials

American Accent Undergoing Great Vowel Shift (NPR)

Talking the Tawk (New Yorker) On Labov and Brooklynese

The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology, and Sound Change (Mouton de Gruyter) Demo of the online resource

The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology, and Sound Change (Amazon) The print version ($749)
(Thanks, Elaine and Rachel!)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Multitaskers, take note



Elaine pointed me to this photograph at Dark Roasted Blend. The sign isn't real signage: it appears only on this poster, from Peterborough, England, made for display in businesses and workplaces.

Think! Switch it off when you drive (Peterborough City Council)

Related post
The bottleneck in the brain
(Thanks, Elaine!)

Monday, April 2, 2007

The oldest song

The oldest known song, "The Prayer of an Infertile Woman," received its North American premiere last week:

Inscribed in cuneiform symbols on a clay tablet, this tune is, in fact, 1,200 years older than Jesus.

The singer was Dr. Theo J. H. Krispijn, an accomplished vocalist who has appeared on Dutch television. He also is a professor in Assyriology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and, in that role, brought back -- after 3,200 years of silence -- the plaintive cry of the infertile woman beseeching the moon goddess, Nikkal, for a solution to her problem.
The performance took place at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. A film clip accompanies the article.
New voice for the oldest song ever (Chicago Tribune)

Another Mesopotamian post: Gilgamesh travesty
(Thanks, Stefan!)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Alabama changes the value of pi

Wikipedia has a fine list of April Fools' Day hoaxes:

April Fools' Day