Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Le Jour se Lève (Daybreak)

Over the weekend I watched Le Jour se Lève, Marcel Carné's poignant proto-noir film about tough-guy Jean Gabin allowing passion to lead him to his doom. The reviews I've read often refer to the movie's "poetic realism" which is, I suppose, as good a characterization as any. It reminds me, oddly enough, of earlier films of René Clair such as Under The Roofs of Paris in which reality looks very much like fantasy. Film noir did not become a term of film criticism until after World War II, when French critics caught up, all at once, with a raft of American movies they had not had the chance to see. They noticed in them a dark, downbeat quality which was different from any of the American moods they were used to seeing. I think Le Jour se Lève makes it clear that they were particularly ready to appreciate that quality in film.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Originally uploaded by Belsner.
'belsner' has posted a very nice set of pictures documenting an installation by Dale Chihuly in Chicago in 2001. You might also want to check out Chihuly's own website.
. Be sure to look for the photos and (fascinating) videos of his work.

Looking Harder at Surfaces and Textures

Originally uploaded by Auntie P.
Try not to look at the title of this photo by "Auntie P" for a minute and, instead, speculate what it is a picture of. You will be compelled to look closely at surfaces, at colors, at reflections, at interiors, at markings, at the spaces between things...

My favorites among Auntie P's photos all have that quality. The are not all puzzles but, one way or another, they make you look harder.


Originally uploaded by biskitsorange.
'biskitsorange' took this picture in a subway station in Seoul, Korea. Living in Manhattan, I am startled to see a subway station that seems so light and...airy. I don't think of subway stations reaching for the sky.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Horror! The Horror!

The Horror! The Horror!
Originally uploaded by baslow.
Ruth reproduces an illustration from the book "Melly's Menorah" which depicts Melly, a small Jewish gopher girl, watching in horror as her father obliviously vacuums up the Hanukkah cards she has been making.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Daylight Hours of Nightlife

Originally uploaded by Agnieszka.
'Agnieszka' has invited us to contemplate, during the day, a sign that is clearly designed to make its impression at night. The result is a wonderful little portrait of unrealized energy.

Ice World Lübeck

Ice World Lübeck
Originally uploaded by Altweibersommer.
I've been exploring It isn't difficult to find some really marvelous pictures. 'Altweibersommer' has been posting a series of photos which she calls "Ice World Lübeck". They are lovely meditations of ice sculptures, frozen light, seasonal and lively.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Currently Reading

This is a novel of World War II. It's a spy novel but not in the tradition of, say, James Bond. Instead, it tells the story of Khristo Stoianev who, in 1934, witnesses his brother being kicked to death by the local fascists in his home town of Vidin, Bulgaria. With the help of a friendly recruiter he makes his way out of Vidin and into the embrace of the NKVD, the Russian intelligence service. He is trained in Moscow and proves to be a natural at espionage. He becomes a Russian spy.

Furst commands a wealth of detail about Europe during the 1930's and early 1940's. His book immerses you in the social milieus he depicts, down to the fine-grained class distinctions, cultural temperaments, and ethnic tensions of these worlds...and the bitterness, cynicism and humor to which they give rise.

Lots and Lots of Pictures

I've loaded close to a 1000 photos to It is the best online service I've found for sharing photos. Many of the pictures will be completely uninteresting to anyone not a member of my family but here and there you will find pictures somewhat more interesting than that.

Baslow's Photos at

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Hand

Originally uploaded by Kh`o.
This picture of a hand, which I found on, seems to me to speak volumes...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Joel, as Hamlet, looks at Yorick's skull

Joel gave his last performance as Hamlet yesterday, December 19, 2004. The house was packed; word had spread that he was doing a remarkable job in the role. We were especially glad that several of his friends from school made the long train ride up to our neighborhood to see him perform. The audience was very enthusiastic. It was a most satisfying conclusion to his run.

After the show, twenty-one members of the two casts gathered in our apartment to party. The energy level was sky-high.

Friday, July 30, 2004


Thursday, July 29, 2004


In an earlier post I reproduced a message I had sent to a Cognitive Linguistics mailing list which related the story of a woman who, while publicly breastfeeding, found herself confronted with a "well-dressed woman in her thirties" who asked "Do you fuck in public, too?".

I'm going to try to "think out loud" about the sociocultural cognitive models underlying this encounter.

I cannot be sure the story is true. I am reasonably sure that when the story was told, however, just about everyone who heard it understood it to depict an intentional verbal assault (or challenge, or rebuke) of a certain sort.

If the remonstrative woman had asked "Do you dream in color?" the remark would, I think, be interpreted as a non sequitur. "Dreaming in color" does not evoke a moral frame. To the extent that telling the story could be said to have a point at all, in that case, it would have to be a point that depended on the context in which it was told. The story, by itself, would not travel very well beyond the situation of its telling.

The fact, given only the minimal context provided in the story (of"a publicly breastfeeding woman"), that the remark is understood to be negative would seem to call for an explanation.

Consider what the story would seem like if the question posed had been "Do you clip your nails in public, too?" Many listeners, I believe, would understand the remark to be some sort of negative comment but, absent a certain manner of delivery, would not judge the degree of negativity to be as great. This version of the story would be comprehensible but somehow puzzling to me.

Now think about the following variations:

a) "Do you defecate in public, too?"
b) "Do you shit in public, too?"
c) "Do you copulate in public, too?"

Example a  conveys a more negative attitude than the nail-clipping question but doesn't convey the same level of what I would call vehemence. Besides, as I believe the more vehement example b  demonstrates, the negativity is understood to have a somewhat different grounds than the rebuker was invoking. A story culminating in remark c would, I think, be understood in almost the same way that our actual story is understood. "Copulate", however, does not convey the same vividness  as does the word "fuck" and therefore, I think, does not convey the same vehemence.

The effect of statements a  and b  would be to compare breastfeeding to other 'distasteful' aspects of digestion. This is not the point the rebuker is trying to make, in this story. Statement c compares breastfeeding to other 'distasteful' aspects of reproduction but it does not do so with sufficient 'rawness' or 'coarseness'.

This brings us to the description of the woman who delivered this comment; she was described in the story as being "a well-dressed woman in her thirties". The reason for this, I believe, is to establish, through old-fashioned socioeconomic stereotype, that the woman was likely educated and therefore probably had a wide range of choices about how to express herself. The fact that she was in her thirties establishes that she is not from a different generation, not from a "different time" when such an attitude might be more expectable. The effect, therefore, is to make her utterance all the more deliberate and, therefore, strident.

The group of breastfeeding mothers among whom this story was told reportedly felt that the added stridency made the question particularly objectionable. It seems quite possible, however, that ardent opponents of public breastfeeding might interpret the elements of the story the same way but evaluate it differently; the question might seem to be a particularly effective dig.

I believe that that the things we call 'culture' and 'society' are real things, not simply abstractions, and that they are composed of enormous numbers of linked interactions such as the ones represented by this story (both the incident it purports to depict and in the tellings of that incident). I see cognitive linguistics as providing significant tools for the analysis of such interactions. It is for that reason that I thought it important to report the story and to analyze it using exactly the words that were used to tell it.

Every weekday morning Baslow makes his way to the end of his street past a really lovely garden (called "Bruce's Garden") and through a beautiful small park on his way to the 207th Street station of the "A" train.  The park is Isham park.  The man who spearheaded the movement to beautify it is named J. A. Reynolds.  NY1 recently named him their New Yorker of the Week.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


So I got onto the Number 1 train at 42nd Street to head home in early July and it was, surprisingly, not packed. I got a seat right away and, in fact, there was an empty seat next to me. I pulled out my book and began reading. This book takes a lot of concentration so I soon was unaware of what was going on in the subway car. Just before the train reached 72nd Street the guy sitting opposite me slaps a piece of paper, face down, on the seat next to me. I look up in confusion. He's smiling. "Look at it," he urges. So I pick up the paper.

This is what I saw.

So I was telling my story today at work and someone says, "You know, I read a story in the New York Times about a guy like that."So I look it up and this is what I found:

"Faster Than A Speeding Train: Artist Man"
(Only the first few sentences will be readable for free. You'll have to pay if you want to read the whole article.)
Here is the text of an email I sent to a Cognitive Linguistics mailing list:

I am not a cognitive linguist (not even an academic) but merely an interested onlooker. Please forgive me (and inform me) if this post is an intrusion.

My wife, a lactation consultant, recently heard the story of a woman who was breastfeeding in a park. The breastfeeding mother was approached by another woman (described as "well-dressed and in her thirties") who asked her: "Do you fuck in public, too?"

Having just read Lakoff's "Moral Politics" I began to wonder about the models which underlie this story's comprehensibility. They seem to me to have something to do with breasts-as-sources-of-nurture versus breasts-as-objects-of-sexual-attention and, perhaps, with different models of publicly and privately appropriate behavior.

That, however, is about as far as I have gotten in thinking about this; no further than breastfeeding advocates themselves get when discussing such stories.

Can Cognitive Linguistics shed more light? Does anyone know of work which might help me think further about the matter?

Thank you.
Barry Solow

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


I (that is, Baslow) am attempting to resurrect this omniumgatherum. I will refer to myself as I, at least part of the time, this time around.

Wish me luck.