RIP, Robert Kellogg

Robert Kellogg, former chair of the UVA English Department, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and first principal of Monroe Hill Residential College (later Brown College) died on January 3, 2004. I didn’t learn about it until today, thanks to the Alumni Magazine.

To me, he will always be the teacher who inspired in me a passion for the English language, its history, vocabulary, and usage.I took a course in the History of the English Language my third year from Professor Kellogg. The course, which covered semiotics, phonetics, basic linguistic theory, Old, Middle, and Modern English, resulted in my first paper on the Internet when I wrote about some of the words and expressions I observed people using in Usenet and IRC. (Portions of the essay, including Professor Kellogg’s introduction to its publication in a UVA undergrad journal and the glossary, by far the most useful portions of the text, are somewhat foolishly reproduced on this site.) I went on to take two semesters of Old English, including reading Beowulf in the original, and to become a passionate student of the language (though my impoverished writing on this blog may not always reflect that).

In 1999, at my five year reunion, I tried to see Professor Kellogg, to tell him how grateful I was to have had him as a professor. I didn’t realize that he had retired already by then, though he might have been teaching in his beloved Iceland. I never got in contact with him again, so I will have to settle for thanking him here.

RIP, Elvin Jones

Reuters: Elvin Jones of the John Coltrane Quartet Dies. While not a surprise (he played his last gig a week or two ago with an oxygen tank on stage), this is still sad news. For years Elvin was one of the most vital forces in jazz, and his powerfully propulsive drum style was a foundation for the John Coltrane Quartet’s sound—and for his own solo career.

I saw Elvin play in a small theater at the University of Virginia on February 19, 1993, at Virginia’s late lamented JazzFest (alas, this is the only web evidence I can find for the shows). I didn’t try to write down my impressions at the time, but I remember thinking that in a festival that was dedicated to Coltrane and swimming in jazz giants, he easily stole the show (and stole the set from Ravi Coltrane, the late saxophone giant’s son, who was playing with Elvin’s band). His physical presence—big, muscular, imposing—was secondary only to his musical presence. Without my notes, the best I can do is point to this description of Elvin’s playing, which squares pretty well with my memory of the set in Old Cabell Hall.

Fare thee well, Elvin.

Is it the year of 78s?

Weird to see so much music on 78s become newly available all at once. It appears that Boing Boing’s staff has been on a tear finding these sites. Witness :