The Lure of the Writer’s Cabin

Much has been written about the writer’s cabin. Among the most notable recent books on the topic are “Heidegger’s Hut” by Adam Sharr and “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams,” Michael Pollan’s account of  imagining and then actually constructing his own writing space. A standard Internet search can quickly yield images of the writing rooms (cabins, huts, sheds) of legendary scriveners: Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Roald Dahl, Carl Jung, Henry Thoreau and — a writer of a markedly different sort —Ted Kaczynski, to name a few. And Jill Krementz’s 1999 collection of photographs “The Writer’s Desk” gives us tantalizing glimpses of writers sitting at their desks. But why the interest? Have these places somehow become secular sites of the sacred?

A statue of Henry David Thoreau and a replica of his hut are on display at Walden Pond Reservatio

A statue of Henry David Thoreau and a replica of his hut are on display at Walden Pond Reservatio

Who has not fantasized about the books they would write if only the right conditions could be found! I have carried around just such a dream, sparked by a weekend alone in an austere mountain cabin in the Austrian Alps when I was a boy. Rumination was unstoppable, and poetry just poured out. Continue reading

‘Mellon Collie’ Mystery Girl: The Story Behind An Iconic Album Cover

It recently got a deluxe makeover, but Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadnesswas born grand. The Smashing Pumpkins‘ 1995 opus, reissued this week as a massive collector’s box full of outtakes and new artwork, did everything at double scale — two hours of music on two CDs, whose themes of day and night hinted at greater statements about life and death. It was a commercial and creative peak for Billy Corgan and his bandmates: Built to be a classic, it turned out to be a monument. Continue reading

Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon

Imagine trying to learn biology without ever using the word “organism.” Or studying to become a botanist when the only way of referring to photosynthesis is to spell the word out, letter by painstaking letter.

For deaf students, this game of scientific Password has long been the daily classroom and laboratory experience. Words like “organism” and “photosynthesis” — to say nothing of more obscure and harder-to-spell terms — have no single widely accepted equivalent in sign language. This means that deaf students and their teachers and interpreters must improvise, making it that much harder for the students to excel in science and pursue careers in it. Continue reading

Signing Science

Lydia Callis

Scientific terms like “organism” and “photosynthesis” have no widely accepted equivalent in sign language, so deaf students and professionals have unexpected hurdles when talking about science. Here, Lydia Callis, a professional sign language interpreter, translates a shortened version of an article by Douglas Quenqua, explaining how new signs are being developed that may enhance scientific learning and communication.

Read the article Here


Lies! Murder! Lexicography!

HERE’S a tip: if you see the words “dictionary” and “scandal” in a sensational headline, prepare to be disappointed.

Last week, the British newspaper The Guardian broke a story from the dictionary world that seemed, at first blush, to be quite scandalous indeed. “An eminent former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors,” it began.

But the truth, it turns out, is more prosaic. The former editor, in compiling material for four supplements to the O.E.D., had not seen fit to include everything that was in a previous supplement to the dictionary’s first edition, published in 1933, including thousands of words borrowed from foreign languages. Continue reading

An Afternoon in Bethlehem

It was January of 2007, I turned 25 that December, when I found myself standing in a small room, decorated with a beautiful blue and gold traditional rug adorning the wall, holding my pack. The

Palestinians Burning American and Israeli Flags

flight from Pristina, Kosovo had been short in comparison to recent transoceanic hauls, but it brought a sense of tension and trepidation unknown on other travels. I arrived in Tel Aviv late in the afternoon for a 10 day trip, beginning in Jerusalem. A family friend met me at the airport, explaining that it was a good time for me to be there. A recent streak of violence had just ended, and the Israelis, it appeared, were coming to terms with the new Hamas government. While they were never going to except its legitimacy, or forget the apparent violent threat it posed, it seemed, for the moment, the seas had calmed.

 On the drive to my new, temporary home, an expansive flat located in a large Lutheran compound near the Mt. of Olives, with beautiful views of the surrounding valleys, my host explained the most recent goings on. The election of the Hamas government, which the United States deemed a terrorist organization (and still does), forced all U.S. government personnel from Palestine. My host, an employee of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a component of the U.S. State Department, said all projects in Palestine had been indefinitely suspended, forcing scores of aid workers to leave as a recognized timetable for the resumption of diplomatic relations hadn’t been negotiated, until shortly before my arrival. Continue reading