freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's remotely possible that being a total and irredeemable geek is my Seekrit Weapon, curriculum-advice-wise. If nothing else it gives me innocent joy to assist a student with a tangled curriculum and then spend 20 minutes, as I did a month or two back, dissecting Fallout 4 and our respective experiences over multiple play-throughs. (You were quite correct, Fallout-playing-student. Survival mode, while extremely tricky at lower levels and ultimately requiring minor modding to saves to make it non-frustrating enough for sustained play, is a deeply satisfying thing, I'm so happy you persuaded me to try it. I hope you have a tiny, untraumatic curriculum problem soon so I can tell you all about it).

Today's one was a rather beautiful inner arm tattoo which made me go "oooh, is that Tengwar?!" in girlish excitement. The student got this sort of soul's-awakening look - momentary shuttered expression, you could see him gathering himself to explain the context to a tragically unhip middle-aged administrator, followed by dawning realisation as my actual comment penetrated and he identified against all likelihood a fellow geek who didn't just recognise Tolkien, but the actual script. I wish I could have taken the hat-trick by translating, but alas, my Tengwar is beyond rusty. ("The crownless again shall be king", apparently. Somewhat classic.) At least I could respond, when he said in some relief, "Oh, you're a Tolkien fan!" by pointing wordlessly to LĂșthien TinĂșviel dancing on my wall.

It's a tiny subset of geeky students to whom I can appeal, but it does help to feel that moment of actual connection. Some things do cross the generation gap.

I fear that geeky consolations are necessary at the moment, as the university landscape is a bit doom-laden. It's all quiet; once again, too quiet. Lectures are suspended for the term, but students are able to access the library and labs, and the buses are running, so technically they are all finishing the semester's work and preparing for exams, which start next week. But it's entirely likely that the protesters are imitating the action of the rake in the grass and will erupt into life as soon as we incautiously step on their tines by trying to actually congregate students for examination purposes. At which point it'll all go to hell in a handbasket. However, I should note for posterity that "tines" is a lovely word. So specific. Precision in language is a very particular pleasure.

Quick Hobbit update: he's still OKish. He didn't respond at all well to the scheduled reduction of his cortizone dose after a week, his condition took a sharp dive, so we had to up it again. This means that the time left on his personal feline clock is probably measured in weeks rather than months; the cancer must be far enough advanced to resist the low doses already. Increasing the dose is giving him a bit of an appetite, at least, although in true feline and hobbitish fashion he is milking this for all it's worth by turning his nose up at expensive kidney-improving kibble. He only becomes truly enthusiastic about food if I hand-feed him bits of cooked chicken from my plate, at which point he snatches them somewhat impolitely and bolts them. I don't feed my cats people-food under any circumstances, usually, but right now I will feed him the blood of the living if that's what it takes. Let's hope it doesn't get that far. (Also, he infallibly bites me when I pill him, so he's getting a reasonable daily dose of blood anyway).

(My subject line quotes "Beren and Luthien", because that level of poignant loss seems vaguely appropriate on a number of levels).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Today I was in traffic with a van which was emblazoned with the logo denoting it the official instrument of a company called "Uncanny Deliveries". I am both bemused and charmed by this. If they're strictly uncanny deliveries, surely they arrive mysteriously in the middle of your carpet via no natural or earthly means? In which case why do they need a van? Also, no degree of searching online reveals their actual existence in Cape Town, which I suppose is appropriate for any organisation of occult significance worth its salt. There is an Uncanny Food Group, which I reject out of hand on account of how I darkly suspect it's boringly involved with canning.

While on the subject of random signage, I have also to report the continuance of jo&stv in the Department of Absolutely Perfect Gifts. This one not actually including wols, strangely enough. Jo found me a copy of a book called FROZEN CHICKEN TRAIN WRECK (the upper case is important), which has vouchsafed to me the existence of other people who are equally impassioned devotees of billboard poetry. It's a collection of South African tabloid headlines, apparently collected unofficially over the years by the simple expedient of leaping out the car and grabbing the good ones, which I'm now rather wishing I'd done rather than scribbling them down. There is no actual archive of these things, other than randomly on my blog, and now the book. It is a vintage collection of linguistic startlement, and makes me very, very happy. Not least because it's printed by Chopped Liver Press, which is a marvellous name.

(I should note, for posterity, that the informal online popular linguistics community is aware of headlines to the extent of having a term for those newspaper headlines whose characteristic construction of tottering noun piles creates beautifully ambiguous readings. They're known as crash blossoms. Language Log has a fine collection.)

April 2019



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