Monday, September 28, 2009

Email to Nowhere

"Solar System". Ballpoint pen on yellow pad, late September 2009.

Three small observations from my workday that would have ordinarily made it into random email correspondence with various people, but which I trapped instead for later blogging:

* * * * *

On I-5 this morning I saw a panel truck labeled "A.L.F. Solutions" and my first thought was, "So that's what he's up to nowadays". The thought seemed more apt once I could make out the smaller description of the business written below its name -- "Handypersons Extraordinaire!" -- since that ungainly motto could plausibly draw a prerecorded laugh if delivered with some enthusiasm in the ALF voice. Meanwhile I don't believe I've ever watched more than three consecutive minutes of ALF in my lifetime, so I don't know why I should have any coherent thoughts or opinions about the character at all.

* * * * *

Since listening to a recorded lecture series by Seth Lerer on the history of the English language, I keep paying attention to the accumulation of words in the landscape -- mostly during the early, contemplative, semi-bored part of my morning commute from Kyle's place through Dundee / Newberg / Tualatin north towards Portland. There is some minor joy to be found in unpacking the strongly Anglo-Saxon roots of some shop names ("Newberg Hardware") and identifying the French or Latin source of others ("Lewis Audio Video"). More generally it is remarkable when you look for it how much of the world we've labeled with names of things, words for things.

* * * * *

William Safire has died; other than that I remember his NY Times columns in the run-up to the Iraq war as supremely dishonest in their reasoning and statements of supposed fact, my main impression of his work at the moment comes from Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, which makes the double-fisted political invective that Safire wrote for Spiro Agnew during the Nixon administration seem pretty breathtaking, and not in a good way. And I will note that Safire's Full Disclosure is an agreeable read, both for its loopy vision of the global political landscape of the mid-80s, as imagined in the late '70s -- the Arab-Israeli bloc! the "Chi-japs"! -- and for its insistence on putting implausible etymological observations into the mouths of its characters. It also remains the only novel I have read to date in which a premier of the USSR is killed by a wild boar.


Blogger Jack said...

Weird, Nate. Weird and getting weirder.

9/28/2009 9:05 PM  
Blogger Don said...

I'm just glad you still have a morning standup meeting.

9/28/2009 11:57 PM  

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