Easter was not how you pronounced Ishtar. Ishtar is pronounced–hang on–ish-tar. Dig that crazy voiceless postalveolar fricative. When you shhhhhhh someone you are shaming them with a voiceless postalveolar fricative. Easter is a word that comes from the ancient German, where it was pronounced something like e-oster, and it contains, instead of a voiceless postalveolar fricative a fricative is any sound, a voiceless alveolar sibilant followed immediately by a voiceless retroflex stop. That’s the st sound. Add a voiceless bilabial stop–the p sound–to that voiceless alveolar sibilant and voiceless retroflex stop and you get psssssst, though not like getting drunk pssssst. That would be pssssht, a voiceless bilabial stop-voiceless postalveolar fricative-voiceless retroflex stop, and some someone would voiceless postalverolar fricative back even louder and everything would be all fricked up. Every time I see that ridiculous Ishtar-Easter meme, I wonder how the hell anyone could think an SH was pronounced like ST, unless they were drunk. Somewhere drunk people are writing memes, and the world is believing every voiceless postalveolar fricative of them. Australian indigenes had neither voiceless alveolar sibilant (or any sibilants at all) and no voiceless postalveolar fricative, and could not have said Ishtar or Easter, let alone psssst or shhhhhh. They would not have been reading those memes. But they could say ingoorrooloorrloorroona noorroo.
(Written maybe ten years ago….)
Any dinosaur obsessed school kid knew that in One Million Years B.C. Raquel Welch was chased by an allosaurus and not a tyrannosaurus, though by the time that kid was in high school the genus of the dinosaur mattered less than the topography the dinosaur was chasing. But allosauruses had bigger arms than those silly things dangling from the upper torso of Spielberg’s (and artist/designer Crash McCreery’s) tyrannosaurus, not that you’d notice if you were Jeff Goldblum. But had it truly been a Jurassic Park, it would’ve been an allosaurus ignoring Goldblum’s jokes. The allosaurus was the iconic apex predator of the Jurassic Age, the eater of the brontosaurus, going back easily 150 million years, whereas T Rex was the apex predator of the Cretaceous period, a mere 70 or 80 million years ago. As I watched the movie that occurred to me, but for once I shut up.
Anyway they found a new allosaurus. Groovy.
A Late Jurassic allosaurus (named Gwangi) beautifully rendered by Ray Harryhausen for The Valley of Gwangi (1969) battling an unnamed Cretaceous styracosaurus. Again with the paleontological discongruities. Also, cowboys.
What a great Valentine’s Day that was, our 40th. Dinner at El Cacerio in Silver Lake. Called earlier to double check on our reservation made weeks ago. They didn’t have it. Said they’d called yesterday and I didn’t answer so they gave our place to someone else. I didn’t remember any call except our Uber driver. But that wasn’t our Uber driver, it was the restaurant. The Uber driver had been about to call, saw us and hung up before dialing. How was I to know. Anyway, we got a 9 pm reservation instead, but as we were speaking a cancellation came through Yelp on her iPad for 8:30 and we took that. Yelp texted my iPhone. I had to download the app which I didn’t realize I hadn’t done yet. A few buttons pushed and the app was downloaded, I dragged it into the folder with all the other dining apps and opened it, accepted the reservation verification and closed the app. Yelp texted me again, telling me the reservation was set. Then I opened up the Uber app, then the Lyft app and compared fares, closed Lyft, typed El Caserio into the Uber destination field, the app populated the destination info for me, arranged a car, which arrived and drove us past the lake which glimmered with an analog beauty in the moonlight, dropped us off at the restaurant and took payment for the ride from our bank account via PayPal. The maitre d’ found our reservation on his iPad and we were whizzed off to table for a meal that was delicious and terribly romantic in its lack of high technologies until I paid with an ATM card.
Forty years ago on our first Valentine’s Day we ate at a place called Hal’s off Upper State in Santa Barbara. The only thing that meal had in common with tonight was that we ate our food with a knife and fork. I’d called in a reservation on our rotary phone and my name was written in pencil on a pad of paper next to their rotary phone. Not only did we do none of the other internet driven preliminaries forty years ago, but none of them were actually possible because none of the technologies had been invented or even imagined yet, not even on Star Trek. The hours before dinner were rendered empty. We probably spent all that time screwing.
A thirty plus ton meteorite dug up in Argentina. A larger one had been dug up nearby some time ago. The area is spattered with numerous other craters. Here’s the scary part—apparently both the two ginormous meteorites and the other craters were from the same meteor shower that freaked the locals out of their ever loving minds between 4200 and 4700 years ago, or in the parlance of the press, about the time of the Great Pyramids. (Everything is either older than or the same age as the Pyramids in the news.) Allow yourself a moment to consider the modern possibilities of such a meteor shower. Yes, one could hit Trump. But it could hit the San Fernando Valley too.
Just for comparison, they dug up an 66 ton meteorite in Namibia a century ago that smacked into the Kalahari 80,000 years ago. Again, a mind fuck for the locals, whoever they were then. One wonders, if it were seen, how they conceptualized it. How they discussed it. If they painted it on cave walls in ochre, as they seemed to have been doing not far off not long afterward. If they were even there at all.
But I digress.
The Namibian meteorite (since called the Hoba) is a rough square about nine by nine feet and three feet high. Halve that mass for each of the two Argentine. On the other hand, the megameterorite—an asteroid, perhaps a comet—that whomped into the Gulf of Mexico and zapped all the dinosaurs but birds into the cornfield was from seven to fifty miles in diameter. At that high end you could have wrapped the entire San Fernando Valley around it, with a little squeezing here and stretching there, like some weird Arthur C. Clarke novel, just as a thought experiment. Or you could forget you read that sentence. You could put that Hoba meteorite in my living room and still have room for the Christmas tree.
Considering the perfect math of objects orbiting the sun, some of the millions of asteroids in the solar system, some as big or bigger as the dinosaur whomper, are bound to touch, smack or whomp the earth again, many, many times.
I prefer not to think about it.
Blue Planet 2. Problem solving and coordinated group action by clownfish. Who knew? Besides other clownfish, I mean. And what’s with the meter long carnivorous worm? Teeth sharp as pinking shears, hence the name: Bobbitt. As in Lorena. David Attenborough left that part out (no pun intended).The damn things can get up to ten feet, I read, like sandworms in Dune. They can lop a foot long fish clean in half. A Devonian Era nightmare, giant meat eating invertebrates. Acid visions of carnivorous trilobites. Thankfully they went instinct first.
Then the scene with hundreds of reef sharks swimming menacingly above thousands of groupers. Suddenly l’amour drives the groupers mad and they rush upward into the sharks, shedding eggs and milt to the seven seas. The sharks go into a feeding frenzy and the surging waters are all blood and roe and sperm, a veritable fish fuck massacre. Stella!
The clownfish were so neat and orderly and mannered in comparison. They’ll go far. Check back in a hundred million years.
(Originally posted on BricksScience.com in 2018).
I only use plethora to sound pretentious. Otherwise I’d never touch it. Why I don’t know. It is kind of a strange word. It was Greek and then popped into medical Latin about 500 years ago meaning excess fluid. You sprain your ankle and it swells up like a balloon with plethora, or plethorae or plethoram depending on the case. There are four different endings for the plural in case you manage to sprain both ankles. It must have been a relief that it remained in Latin. Or would have, had not some wag turned it into a English metaphor for excess anythings about three hundred years ago and it has not shifted meaning in all the time since. It has probably always bothered some people because it still sounds more like a medical condition than a group noun. I probably use its antonym dearth more, because apparently I don’t think it’s as pretentious as plethora. They’re not the least bit related. Plethora was plucked by an intellectual from the Latin, while dearth came up the hard way, from the West Germanic, like most of English. Dearth in medieval times–derthe–had connotations of a bare cupboard, of famine. It was a scary, ugly word, and with the vagaries of food supply in that era was probably more commonly used than we could ever comprehend in our own obese times. Go back deep into the Dark Ages, in the Old Saxon from which much of our English sprung, and diurtha meant love, glory, even splendor. It was an exultant word. A thrilling word. But that was many centuries ago. Now it means not enough, and will soon be forgotten altogether, as have nearly all words in all languages, eventually. Linguists educatedly guess that 80% of all languages spoken in history have disappeared, perhaps 31,000 tongues. That’s a lot of words. Some get passed on and transmogrified, like dearth. Some get dug up and repurposed, like plethora. Most disappear forever, or darisam, as a Sumerian would have said.
I could hear a pair of great horned owls calling to each other just now, first the female’s somewhat higher pitch, sort of like that of a mourning dove. Then the male’s deeper, louder response. They alternated like that for several minutes. Each call was five or six notes in a monotone, breathy and eerie, and by day would be buried under the cacophony of mockingbirds, but in the weird silence of our neighborhood tonight, like a country town and not just a couple miles from Hollywood and downtown, I could hear them plainly even though the windows are shut. I snuck outside to see if I could glimpse a silhouette, but nothing, just the haunting notes back and forth. Soon only the female called, the male having stolen away in silence. Then she too stopped, and there was almost complete silence but for the steady hum of traffic on the freeway in the distance.