The period — the full-stop signal we all learn as children, whose use stretches back at least to the Middle Ages — is gradually being felled in the barrage of instant messaging that has become synonymous with the digital age
So says David Crystal, who has written more than 100 books on language and is a former master of original pronunciation at Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London — a man who understands the power of tradition in language
As the journalist Virginia Heffernan writes in “Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art,” we too often conflate the internet with the worlds of commerce or science rather than with creativity. “For years technology had seemed to be the masculine form of the word culture,” she writes. “If you wanted to sell men on a culture story, you did well to frame it as a tech story — a story about the plumbing or stock price of Netflix rather than a story about the pixels that constitute ‘Bloodline.’ Technology is built stuff that aims to be elegant and engaging. Apps are founded on science in the same sense that a watercolor is founded on science, where the chemistry of pigments and the physics of brush strokes are the science. But the resulting painting, if successful, hints at transcendence or at least luminous silence, something whereof we cannot speak.”
Weird signals raise a particular problem: what happens when you find data coming from the vastness of space which has no apparent explanation—or for which one possible explanation is an unbelievable one? Why is it so hard to count out aliens once they’ve been invoked?
Like so many behaviors passed from one generation to another, I absorbed my dad’s perfectionism unconsciously. It was easy: The late Larry Carman was a lifelong Midwesterner, a civil engineer who believed in family, hard work and the Nebraska Cornhuskers (not necessarily in that order). When dad took on a project — like, building a downstairs bathroom, bedroom and rec room out of nothing — the rest of us would sigh and prepare for a long, dusty campaign in the basement.
But when he was done? Well, let me tell you about the downstairs bedroom he built for me: It included a private alcove, with a built-in desk, where I could compose my Important Teenage Thoughts. Above my desk, he had installed a shelf, perfectly within arm’s reach, where I could press the power button on my Radio Shack receiver and listen to music. He had hung two small wooden speakers from the ceiling, so that they pointed straight toward my desk and bed.
This was how a father said “I love you” in Nebraska in the late 1970s: He built you the perfect bedroom.