Sound Language

http://openclipart.org/detail/169725/pow-vintage-comic-book-sound-effect-by-studio_hades

Ernst Havlik’s (1981) Lexikon der Onomatopoien is an entire dictionary consisting only of comic strip sound effects. It contains an introductory analysis, 2222 onomatopoeic items, and 111 illustrations. The section on kissing, for instance, contains glork, schmatz, schuic, shluk, smack, smurp and shmersh — quite a poetic collection in itself. More unexpected are woin and töff, both of which are intended to represent the sound of a car horn. A breaking car apparently goes tata in at least one source, and from a ‘scientific laboratory,’ one gets to hear foodle, grink, and sqwunk. Perhaps even more interesting are the sounds floop, flop and flomp, which represent the sound of a bra being taken off. Anyone prejudiced against the genre as such, may see it as a confirmation that the sections on ‘violence’ take up 17 pages, while that devoted to ‘thinking’ consists of a mere five lines.

— Mikael Parkvall, Limits of Language, 2006

Hearing Voices

What is this? For more than 30 years, shortwave radio bands around the world have been haunted by “numbers stations” on which anonymous voices recite strings of numbers and letters. These stations transmit in various languages, following strict schedules, but they never identify themselves or give any hint as to their purpose. It seems likely that they’re run by government agencies, sending messages to spies in the field using a prearranged code. But why does the station known as “The Buzzer” send out buzzing sounds on 4625 kHz continuously, throughout the year? And why on earth does the station recorded above, known as the “Swedish Rhapsody,” transmit the sound of a music box and a little girl’s voice?

Numbers stations are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act because (presumably) secrecy is essential to their missions, and in fact in the United Kingdom it’s illegal even to listen to them. So we’re unlikely to learn the full story anytime soon. But in 1997 the Irdial-Discs record label assembled a 5-CD set of recordings and has made it freely available to those who want to study them.

Tribute

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/698003

A letter from William James to his 8-year-old daughter Peggy, June 19, 1895:

Sweet Peg.

I am very happy here, and fear that you may already have gone up to Chocorua with your Mamma. Yesterday a beautiful humming bird came into the library and spent two hours without resting, trying to find his way out by the skylight in the ceiling. You never saw such untiring strength. Filled with pity for his fatigue, I went into the garden and culled a beautiful rose. The moment I held it up in my hand under the skylight, the angelic bird flew down into it and rested there as in a nest — the beautifullest sight you ever saw.

Your loving

Dad

Fast Food

What do you get when you weld together 848 forks, knives, and spoons? That depends on your point of view:

That’s “Lunch With a Helmet On,” by Japanese artist Shigeo Fukuda. As a followup he obtained the rigging plan of the M.S. Shin-Nippon Maru and assembled a shadow sculpture from 2,084 pairs of metal scissors:

shigeo fukuda - one cannot cut the sea

Unbelievably, he completed this in a single week. More from Fukuda.

Community Spirit

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basel_2012-10-05_Batch_2_%2819%29.JPG

Considerable amusement was excited, a few years ago, by the announcement that a society for mutual autopsy had been formed among the savants of Paris, with a view to advancing knowledge of the structure and physiology of the brain by a correlation of intellectual characteristics with post mortem appearances. The whole thing was generally regarded as a scientific joke of more than ordinary magnitude. But the society appears to have been a genuine fact, and one of its members, M. Asseline, having recently deceased, his brain was carefully examined by his surviving associates, who made a full report of the result to the Anthropological Society of Paris. The following account of the matter is found in Nature, Aug. 14, 1879, p. 377:

‘M. Asseline died in 1878, at the age of 49. He was a republican and a materialist; was possessed of enormous capacity for work, great faculty of mental assimilation, and an extraordinarily retentive memory; and had a gentle, benevolent disposition, keen susceptibilities, refined taste and subtle wit. As a writer he had always displayed great learning, unusual force of style and elegance of diction, and in his intercourse with others he had been unassuming, sensitive and even timid. Yet the autopsy showed such coarseness and thickness of the convolutions that M. Broca pronounced them to be characteristic of an inferior brain. The fossa or depressions, regarded by Gratiolet as a simian character, and as a sign of cerebral inferiority which are often found in women, and in some men of undoubted intellectual inferiority, were very much marked, especially on the left parietooccipital. But the cranial bones were at some points so thin as to be translucent; the cerebral depressions were deeply marked, the frontal suture was not wholly ossified, a decided degree of asymmetry was manifested in the greater prominence of the right frontal, while, moreover, the brain weighed 1,468 grams, i.e., about 60 grains above the average given by M. Broca for M. Asseline’s age. The apparent contradictions between the weight of the brain and the marked character of the parieto-occipital depressions, attracted much attention, and the members of the Société d’Anthropologie have been earnestly invited by M. Hovelacque, in furtherance of science, to join the Société d’Autopsie, to which anthropology is already indebted for many highly important observations. This society is forming a collection of photographs of its members, which are taken in accordance with certain fixed rules.’

Chicago Medical Journal and Examiner, quoted in New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, January 1880

Bow Tie

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jascha_Heifetz_-_Carnegie_Hall_1947_%2805%29_wmplayer_2013-04-16.jpg

On Oct. 27, 1917, violinist Mischa Elman and pianist Leopold Godowsky attended the first U.S. performance of 16-year-old violin prodigy Jascha Heifetz at Carnegie Hall.

At the intermission, Elman wiped his brow and said, “It’s awfully hot in here.” Godowsky said, “Not for pianists!”

Black and White

shinkman chess problem

By William Anthony Shinkman. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

All Greek

Eugene Ulrich offered this paragraph in Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics. What’s unusual about it?

The problem with antisocial sorority girls is men and pals. Such girls may wish for neurotic men to go with them for laughs. But male pals lend ornament, worn for handy visual flair. So the pals it is; they form an authentic proxy when visible, and prudish girls may also dispel their own rigid neuroticism with such chaps.

Click for Answer

Resolution

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Sandburg.jpg

In November 1921 Carl Sandburg’s 10-year-old daughter Margaret fell asleep in class and was diagnosed with nocturnal epilepsy. Her mother rushed her to Battle Creek Sanitarium, where her condition would be treated with fasting. Sandburg wrote to her:

Dear Margaret,

This is only a little letter from your daddy to say he thinks about you hours and hours and he knows that there was never a princess or a fairy worth so much love. We are starting on a long journey and hard fight — you and mother and daddy — and we are going to go on slowly, quietly, hand in hand, the three of us, never giving up. And so we are going to win. Slowly, quietly, never giving up, we are going to win.

Daddy

They did. Margaret’s weight plummeted, but she recovered and went on to edit many of her father’s works. In 1953 Sandburg wrote to a friend, “Margaret has become widely read, a scholar who often surprises me with her erudition, knows the Bible and Shakespeare better than I do.”

In a Word

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WLA_metmuseum_Red_Sunset_on_the_Dnieper_Arkhip_Ivanovich_Kuindzhi.jpg

exulant
adj. living in exile

Homeless, exiled, I climb Sin-Ping tower.
It is late on in the dying year,
The sun is declining in the sky
And the dark river runs gloomy and slow.

A cloud moves across the forests on the mountain;
Wild geese fly off down the river.
Up here I can see for ten thousand miles,
But I do not see the end of my sorrows.

— Li Po, banished from the Chinese capital, circa 757

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