topic: communication

English spelling: unity over ease of learning

A while back I read a blog on cluborlov in which Dimitry Orlov railed against how English spelling often bears so little relation to the way its words sound that, as a consequence, it made learning to read and write the language far harder than it should be. At the time I would have liked to wade in with some opinions of my own, however, the comments on that post soon proliferated and, since I […]

allowing ideas time to form

shaping clay

I have come to understand that expressing an idea too early can limit what it can become: clay, once fired, loses its ability to take on any form. I was not a patient child. I recall trying to put together a model of a pirate ship when I was perhaps seven years old. It came as a kit of many plastic pieces. I followed the instructions, but could not bear to wait for the glue […]

digital texts: a return to aspects of an oral tradition?

storyteller...

Ebooks are the latest stage of a process that began with the invention of writing. The ability to write thoughts and stories down allowed their distribution across space and time: a storyteller no longer needed to be present for his message to be communicated. These advantages are obvious, but there is also a profound disadvantage: that a text is a fossil of the author’s message, and that, disconnected from its living source, it can no […]

a New Renaissance II…

I am returning to flesh out my contention that we are living through a new Renaissance, because I feel it helps me make sense of what I see happening around me, and I hope it may be of use to others out there… For most of human history, the number of ‘artists’ working at any given time were necessarily few – thus perhaps the excitement with which we unearth any artefact, however basic – and […]

the view from over here…

Just a quick post to comment on the ‘situation’ in Iran. Friends and family keep telling me that I’m “lucky” to have got out of Iran before this business with the British embassy in Tehran blew up. I cannot help but notice how the coverage on the TV here is very similar to that that I saw before I went to Iran. I cannot help further noticing that the comments people are making to me […]

the kindness of strangers…

I’m in Kermanshah at the moment where it is raining gorbehah and sagah. To be able to inflict this (feeble) joke on you, I wanted to confirm what “cat” was in Persian and, since my bad pronunciation wasn’t doing it, and because my taxi driver’s English was rudimentary, I had to resort to making animal noises and feline impersonation (worse than rudimentary, I’m afraid). After an embarrassingly long period attempting this he suggested, cooly, in […]

on the Trans-Asia Express…

Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia interiors with exquisite Islamic calligraphy...

It was colder in Istanbul than in Scotland when I arrived, blustery and lashing rain. I spent the next day, my only day in the city, incredibly cold, but unable to return for an extra layer – I had not thought to bring warm clothes at all – because my rucksack was locked away in a cupboard in the hotel I had had to check out of. The Blue Mosque was closed for prayers – […]

learning Persian

I am waiting to see if the Iranians are going to give me a visa – and, if it comes through, I should be off to Iran in a couple of weeks. I am a tad nervous about the visa because, against the advice of a friend of mine who has been to Iran, I wrote “author” for my occupation. He had expressly told me not to put “writer” because it could lead to the […]

naked books

the old and the new...

Once upon a time books wore nothing more than a leather jacket. This could be decorated, it’s true, and be inscribed with the title and author’s name; brands burned into an animal’s hide. More recently, books began wearing paper covers sporting bold designs, but also an ever increasing baggage of quotes and comments and general blurb. Though this clothing can serve to make a book into a seductive and glamorous object, it seems to me […]

buying it

Americanisms have been entering Britain for quite some time. It is natural for oldtimers like me to bemoan the language being pulled out from under us. However, I am well aware that it is inevitable that language should change constantly – and I am certainly not interested in being any kind of linguistic (proverbial) Canute. Further, I am also aware that it is an error to see American English as diverging from British English: the […]