Sidney Lumet

From The Last Word on the New York Times

The Brain: The Inside Story

There is an exhibit on at the American Museum of Natural History in new York that would make the trip worthwhile – if only for that!

But you can also get an incredible introduction to the show right here … The Brain: The Inside Story  or you can go straight to

Your Sensing Brain,    Your Emotional Brain,     Your Thinking Brain,     Your Changing Brain,


The 21st century Brain.

The adjective is brainy. That means smart, real smart.  Apparently, we only use a small part of it. You’re smarter than you think!

How to Shop in Paris

Here’s the inside story … from the New York Times.

Newsletter: 17 April 2011

As some of you know,  I’ve developed a vey specific method to deal with a fundamental language issue: forgetfulness.

The method is simple enough. We start with a word or a concept that’s used in everyday speech. It can be an adjective like “hot,” a verb like “to sit down” or even an adverb like “forward” or a preposition like “on.” It could also be a noun like “ceiling” or “night” or a pronoun like “us” or “here.”

What we then do is explore our memories for the opposites of these words. Sometimes the contrary comes instantaneously while for others, it takes a moment or two and for some, we just can’t find them even though we … “know” them.

Where are these words we can’t find?

Assuming they’re not new, never-encountered words but merely inactive or latent, are they just lost in our memories – covered in dust, or rusty … like an old bicycle in the back of the garage or is there some other psycho-linguistic reason we can’t recall them? Do we know them … but ignore them?

It seems that most of the time, these words we “know” but can’t remember – or seem to have forgotten – have fallen asleep … and like Sleeping Beauty who wakes up with a kiss from her Prince Charming, only need their complementary partners, their “other halves” to wake them up and come back to life!

And when this waking up happens, we’re bringing something up from our unconscious to our consciousness. And what do you know? Recognition happens.

Déjà vu?

Jargon … Mafia Style

Every activity has its own specific language habits, short cuts, terms which often reflect frequently used concepts.

So unless you’re in touch with some specific world, you probably wouldn’t know the lingo. So, for those of you who need to brush up on some heavy slang … here’s a lesson from what’s happening in a New York courtroon: Mafia Talk.

Visiting Savannah

It’s getting almost as warm in Paris this April as it is in Savannah. Want to have a short visit?

Try right here: Visiting Savannah, from the travel section of the New York Times.

“jalouser – jaloux – jalouse – jalousie” … jealousy and envy …

is a French verb and can even be a reflexive one: “se jalouser” …  It could have something to do with rivalry. English has a colourful expression … “green with envy!”

In a smallish community, Anglo Saxons sometimes think in terms of “keeping up with the Joneses” which idiomatically expresses the notion of being envious of someone else’s visible signs of prosperity. Which leads us back to the words desire, and hence, a state of unsatisfied desire, or insatisfaction leading to want … but quite far from … need or necessary.

English has two adjectives, necessarily unsexed: jealous and envious; French has the masculine jaloux (5 400 000 hits in Google) and  feminine : jalouse (2 890 000 hits in Google) – Quite a big difference but maybe there are historical and literary reasons for these statistics.  For the record, jealous shows up about 51 000 000 times while envious appears almost 8 000 000 times – but that again, may be due to the effort required to pronounce three syllables rather than just 2 …  or because English is so predominant nowadays. Unless it has something to do with highly effective advertising and insatiable consumerism.

Newsletter: April 5, 2011

I loved algebra. It was a lot of fun. Figuring out angles and working through theorems. Finding the logic which would take us from one hyothesis to a proven conclusion. And on top of that, we had a very pretty teacher who must have spent a good part of her salary on her wardrobe.

Fascinated I was by Venn diagrams. Those overlapping circles which showed an area in which two or three or more ideas intersected. And as she explained it all so well, we really paid attention!

Words are like that: first, in just one language and even moreso in two or more languages. They have common areas where they can be used synonomously or are in the same semantic field. The words I’m thinking about right now are passionate ones, too:  jealousy, envy, desire. These three overlap but each has its own identity, its own uses, its own connotations – often sharing some of those with other words.

  • Jealousy has to do with a feeling that you’re missing out on a privilege, an advantage, a favor that’s being enjoyed by someone else … and you deeply resent it. A fear of potential loss, perhaps.
  • Envy – a hungry feeling to possess something you don’t have … but something someone else does. Could lead to craving.
  • And then, desire, coming from within, a wanting, feeling, sensation. Primitive. Sensual. Animal. These are the English words.

Now if you open up an English-French bilingual dictionary, you just might see that jealousy is translated as jalousie … that envy is translated as envie … and that desire is translated as désir … Don’t be fooled! That’s just one part, maybe even one VERY SMALL part of the story … Beware of imitations. Misunderstanding comes lightning fast.

Because while the origins of these words might be the same … that started a few thousand years ago … over time our civilisations and our literature has enriched these with more precise meanings, uses and connotations. Today’s words are built on yesterday’s foundations. They may come from the same roots, the same concepts but they’ve evolved into different species.

What is a little curious is that like with fractions in math, these words also have common denominators. And to find out just what those might be, you need only to open the newspaper. Because, from their ancient origins to their current contexts, they’re as alive as ever. Living history, so to speak.

email or e-mail? that is the question.

And here is the answer.

From the Boston Globe.

On being smart.

From the New Yorker, April 4, 2011, by Adam Gopnik

The abstract tells the story – You need to subscribe to read the entire article – but it’s well worth it!