He began by explaining that, for a linguist, there’s great difficulty in understanding the origins of language because earliest written proof is only about 5,000 years old. People, however, have been talking and singing and telling each other stories for many, many years before that. I learned that language is an ecological phenomenon – there is a relationship between it and its environment – and languages are living things. They can grow, shrink, adapt, remember and die.
Edward Sapir proved that sign language is a fully qualified language. Apparently, before he came along, linguists had some doubt about this because of the missing phonetic component (lingua). Language insists on being among humans, even if they are unable to speak or hear. And what of that? Does language exist for other species than human beings?
Mr. Bringhurst then put on his ornithologist’s hat and walked the audience through a diverse sampling of bird song and bird calls. For me, the most interesting was that of the raven – raven’s can’t sing, they call. They mate for life and make friends with other ravens. And when they meet in groups, they develop calls that they use in those groups. And here’s the amazing thing – if a raven is looking for his friend, he will use one of the calls that they use together – if the other raven is in earshot – he will come. It would seem that ravens give each other names.
So, what is language for? Applying meaning. What is meaning for? Meaning is for itself. The stories, however, are for us.
After the conferencing was done, I said goodbye to new friends like Sheila and Hugo and set to work recording with my old friend, Neil. Neil and I founded the “drums and keyboard” movement, which was very popular in Maryland basements during the 1980’s.
Neil and I were part of a quartet that played shows and parties during which we often would perform our drum-and-keyboard songs while our bandmates stood by and watched. I can’t remember why we did this, or how we managed to get away with it. Also, we enjoyed zesty French onion soup.
So, we nerded out and made some new music – mostly ironing out a new system of composing and bringing our two styles (and sets of technology) together again.
Neil’s computer doesn’t have stickers on it (at least none he’s found yet).
But, it wasn’t all music – we ventured out to meet stormtroopers:
We also attended the Frida Kahlo exhibit at sfmoma. I couldn’t take pictures at that exhibit, so I’m posting this one instead. I loved it, however. Really amazing to see so many old photographs and even home movies of Frida.
And we faced our monsters:
I had a wonderful time with Neil and lovely Hobbes. San Francisco is a great city, full of bananas, lime diet coke and Doritos – I can’t wait to go back some day.
The rest of our adventures are chronicled on flickr. I took almost 700 pictures!
Our cockatiel Hedwig escaped last week during an avoidable mishap. She slept outside while the girls and I stayed awake and worried for her. The next morning, I hit Craigslist and canvased grocery stores, vets and pet shops with MISSING BIRD fliers.
The last store I visited explained, rather bluntly, that I’m a fool for not keeping her wing feathers trimmed. They also said that when a bird escapes, they are overwhelmed with trying to find the “ceiling” outside. Typically, they won’t go more than 200 to 300 yards from the house, and they will usually stay put in a tree until forced to move (food, predators, etc.)
I picked a street in the next neighborhood and started walking and whistling – Hedwig always whistles back, it’s a kind of game we play. Almost immediately, I heard her respond to Sleigh Ride. I still can’t believe my luck – I keep reliving the thrill of hearing her in the distance. Such amazing relief. It took us both about 20 minutes to figure out which tree she was in, and how to get her down in the wind. She managed it, and is sitting on my shoulder as I type this.
The advice from the cranky store owner was excellent. I called to thank her, and she then told me that people will often keep friendly birds if they meet them. And Hedwig is the friendliest ever.