wotd: live by request

January 18, 2007

today’s word of the day comes to us per request of jennifer. any readers with similar burning desires to have words explicated should feel free to email yesterdayssalad @ gmail.com. some tips for getting your requests picked: 1) have a really interesting word, 2) send a word frequently misused, 3) send an accompanying anecdote involving intoxicated revelry, medical misanthropy, or bananas, 4) send baseball rookie cards, and/orĀ  5) put out. i promise not to disclose which of the adnumbered reasons was the basis of my selections (see how smoothly we mix-in the old words around here).

jen requested yeoman, which is a good suggestion because of its broad currency in everyday speech and the fact that no-one really knows what it means. this is because yeoman has about 8 or 9 definitions. here are the most pertinent:
1) a servant in a household, between a sergeant (n7: The head of a specified department) and a groom (n4: The specific designation of several officers of the English Royal Household, chiefly members of the Lord Chamberlain’s department). as you can see, not having a stable of servants impairs one’s linguistic abilities. this definition also gives way to (b) an assistant generally, a (c) yeoman’s service e.g. good service.
2) a naval officer in charge of particular stores

3) a man holding a small estate, hence someone in good standing

4) a term of disparagement *rare

5) pawns on a chess board *rare

the word comes to us from middle english and is related to “youngman.” the most interesting philological element of the word is that it has a completely positive sense, and has dropped all negative connotations.

urbandictionary also, amazingly, gets the definition right: “A medieval term used to describe a naval officer in the English fleet. An important underling on one’s ship who assists the captain and his first mate. ”

whoever wrote the entry doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of dictionary quotations, however: “Doormen at Buckingham Palace are also called yeoman.” alas, the oed has nothing to worry about. perhaps i should start a new urbandictionary.

just for fun i tried to run a googlism of yeoman, and here’s what i came up with: “down due to maintenance.” let’s see what the OED does with that.

Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers

January 18, 2007

Tuesday night brought me to the MoMa’s opening of Sleepwalkers. A friend told me he had PA’d “some art film” and invited me to the reception. I went expecting a small party, a dinky projector, and a cute friend of a friend. Instead there were 1000 people viewing multiple-story outdoor projections all around the block made up of 53rd and 54th streets and 5th and 6th avenues. And there will continue to be that daily from 5-10pm until February 12.

Every projection features one of five stories (about 10 minutes in length, rotating and looped), following a person through his/her daily NY routine. In two viewing locations – a large open alley and the MoMa garden – you can watch multiple stories unfold together. Here you’ll notice that stories feature roughly simultaneous variations on a theme: characters riding a bicycle/taxi/subway, putting on coats, etc. Periodically the stories become awesomely syncronous, such as when each character sips his/her respective breakfast beverage, puts it down, and walks down a long hallway to the outside world.

Aiken’s artistic theories can be missummarized into “non-linear narratives are good let the people piece together their own story” and he certainly offered bits of cohesion, such as when the cab-riding woman’s cab hit the hurrying suited fellow at the climax of the busker’s bucket pounding, and after an is-he-OK pause the suited fellow stood on the hood of the cab and tap-danced with the beat of the busker’s buckets.

The entire piece has a dreamlike quality that is punctuated by a few concrete symbols: graffiti reading “DISAPPEAR”; a woman walking against painted arrows; and an abundance of magazines/posters featuring a face and titles like ANY DAY NOW and NOTHING EVER STAYS THE SAME.

On the whole, I Liked It A Lot. Some objective criteria for why Sleepwalkers is Good: it successfully inspired me to walk through itself and piece together my own narrative; the images were beautiful; like The Gates, it pushes art towards people who mightn’t otherwise seek it, namely the 5 o’clock rush from the surrounding corporate offices; details of the implementation reflect a comprehensive vision on the part of the artist – one can stand in certain parts of the MoMa garden and see one film reflected onto another.

Great excuse for a party too.