What Arnold Saw at Dover Beach

In a short piece titled “God is Dead; So What?”, Richard Ostrofsky, an acquaintance of mine, lays out his overview of the present culture wars from a perhaps characteristically atheist perspective. He cites Matthew Arnold’s poignant 1867 poem ‘Dover Beach’, which I’d not thought about for over 30 years, and happily revisited. But we subtly disagree about the meaning of the cultural impasse this poem intuits, and about exactly what Arnold sensed over 150 years ago, gazing one night out to sea.

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Rumanikos Duet

This 3-minute musical snippet is an improvisation from about eight years ago. Entirely spur-of-the-moment, in the living room, and thus the recording is absolutely low tech. Two musicians, both amateurs. Mon amie is playing a hang, a Swiss innovation, which uses the sides and tips of the fingers to sound resonating metallic ringing tones. I’m playing a digital keyboard which had been set to emulate a zither. What unites these two instruments, an uncommon duo, is the scale they are tuned to. More on that after having a listen…

(Listen to hang/zither duet)

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How Not To Envision Space Aliens

It’s become less than surprising news of late when some intellectual luminary gives a warning about the perils of AI (artificial intelligence), and I count myself among those skeptical of it’s merits. But an unexpected new sci-fi-esque controversy has arisen recently. Figures no less celebrated than astrophysicist Stephen Hawking have sounded the alarm about our collective complacency concerning aliens. As in extra-terrestrials.

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Some Colorful Speech

Close your eyes, figuratively. If I ask you to picture the word green, do you imagine this or perhaps this, or something closer to this? How does your typical green image differ from mine or that of your daughter or a business colleague who lives in Costa Rica? Assuming we could develop a statistical norm for what speakers of American English generally mean by the word (and some studies have tackled this question), it only opens the door to further more interesting psycholinguistic puzzles. For example: has the concept ‘green’ changed subtly since the days of Thomas Jefferson, Shakespeare, or William the Conqueror? Do children conceive ‘green’ differently than senior citizens (perhaps even the same individual at different ages)? How does this compare with a Brazilian person who is thinking of verde? Or a Mongolian pondering ногоон?

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Do Electric Eels Shock Jacques Cousteau?

Maybe you’ve wondered about why speakers of a certain native language, say Portuguese, always seem to have the same specific stumbling blocks when pronouncing certain sounds within a second language, like English. This can be true even decades after they have learned the new language and achieved functional fluency. In fact, it has a lot to do with why we are able to identify charming accents between language pairs. Only a very deliberate study and practice with a language coach can normally overcome these pronunciation tendencies. All this relates to electric eels… how?.

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Ouagadougou Journal 4: Orphanages

In the early part of January of 2016, I had occasion to travel to delightful Burkina Faso in West Africa, located just below the Sahara desert and just above the equator. Long a bastion of peacefulness, stability, and welcoming generosity among it’s neighboring countries, Burkina went through an uncharacteristic stretch of political upheaval in the past 15 months. There was also the matter of the horrific terrorist attack aimed at ex-pats which occurred at a downtown Ouagadougou hotel the evening after we safely departed, which was orchestrated by outsiders. Yet, the predominant mood I encountered was one of strong positivity and sincere friendliness. The Burkinabé believe in the their future, are proud of their national demeanor, and have good reason to be. This is one of a series of reflections occasioned by my visit there.

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Ouagadougou Journal 1: Street Scene

In the early part of January of 2016, I had occasion to travel to delightful Burkina Faso in West Africa, located just below the Sahara desert and just above the equator. Long a bastion of peacefulness, stability, and welcoming generosity among it’s neighboring countries, Burkina went through an uncharacteristic stretch of political upheaval in the past 15 months. There was also the matter of the horrific terrorist attack aimed at ex-pats which occurred at a downtown Ouagadougou hotel the evening after we safely departed, which was orchestrated by outsiders. Yet, the predominant mood I encountered was one of strong positivity and sincere friendliness. The Burkinabé believe in the their future, are proud of their national demeanor, and have good reason to be. This is one of a series of reflections occasioned by my visit there.
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Ouagadougou Journal 3: Traditional Music

In the early part of January of 2016, I had occasion to travel to delightful Burkina Faso in West Africa, located just below the Sahara desert and just above the equator. Long a bastion of peacefulness, stability, and welcoming generosity among it’s neighboring countries, Burkina went through an uncharacteristic stretch of political upheaval in the past 15 months. There was also the matter of the horrific terrorist attack aimed at ex-pats which occurred at a downtown Ouagadougou hotel the evening after we safely departed, which was orchestrated by outsiders. Yet, the predominant mood I encountered was one of strong positivity and sincere friendliness. The Burkinabé believe in the their future, are proud of their national demeanor, and have good reason to be. This is one of a series of reflections occasioned by my visit there.
    Read Me…