Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Which Joe Turner?

This photograph from an excellent New York Times feature caught my eye:

[From “Before and After Chuck Berry,” New York Times, March 23, 2017. Click for a larger view.]

I called the Times today to suggest a correction. Though I can’t be certain, I’m virtually certain that the photograph is of the jazz pianist Joe Turner, not the singer Big Joe Turner. I especially notice the shape of the hairline, eyebrow, and mouth in the photograph of Joe Turner below. What do you think?

[Big Joe Turner and Joe Turner. Click either image for a larger view.]

I differ with the Times in omitting the quotation marks from “Big Joe.” Big Joe Turner was big, not “big.” I sat next to him once in a bar where he was performing. Trust me.

If the Times makes a correction, I suspect that Orange Crate Art readers will be among the first to know.

[That the Times photograph is from Getty Images doesn’t mean that it’s correctly captioned. At least one other photograph from Getty misidentifies Joe Turner as Big Joe Turner.]

Still teaching

I am standing in an enormous classroom, a room that resembles a storefront or pizza parlor, with a plate-glass window looking out to the street. Two students are in the room, and I say to them that I always make a point of saying “Good morning” when I come to class. I say “Good morning” to them, and one replies. I am carrying butter and chocolate, which I take to a nearby room to place in the refrigerator. The refrigerator is a wooden cabinet that the music teacher is using as a lectern as she leads a chorus. The music teacher looks like Jean Stapleton. I can’t put the butter and chocolate away without interfering with her conducting.

I go back to my room, now filled with forty or fifty students. “To build on what we were doing before our lost weekend,” I say — and I go on to explain that we’re going to look at basic punctuation. I explain that words can be put together to form phrases or clauses, and that a clause is a group of words that can stand on its own as a complete sentence. I realize that I’ve already botched my explanation, so I backtrack to explain the difference between independent and dependent clauses.

And now that everyone is here, I say “Good morning” all over again. I look for a blackboard and see only a corkboard with an honors-class presentation and a cracked slate blackboard with a grid of names and grades in ancient handwriting. I realize that I should not erase those names and grades. I notice a table with four hunters. They’re sitting against the far right wall. They grin at me. I ask them, “Are you guys even paying attention? How do you expect to get a foot in the door after you leave here?” No answer, just grins.

And then I go back to thinking about what I can write on. “Does anyone have a whiteboard?” I ask. Someone has one, but it doesn’t erase well. As I’m trying to erase, Jess Mariano from Gilmore Girls brings up a spiral notebook. “I think you dropped your notebook,” he says. He’s trying to be helpful, but it’s not my notebook, and I tell him so. “I think you dropped your notebook,” he says. “Believe me,” I say, “I’d recognize my own notebook.” And then I woke up.

This is the tenth teaching-related dream I’ve had since retiring. None of them have gone well. The others: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

[Possible sources: A Fresh Air interview about for-profit colleges (with a brief reference to Trump U.). The importance of chocolate in Hans Herbert Grimm’s war novel Schlump. A New York Times piece about eating radishes with salt and butter. Seeing Jean Stapleton in the film Something Wild. Seeing militia members in the documentary The Other Side. Gilmore Girls, obviously.]

Arthur Blythe (1940–2017)

The alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe has died at the age of seventy-six. The San Diego Union-Tribune has an obituary.

Arthur Blythe’s sound on alto is immediately recognizable, a calling card printed in a bold cursive, so to speak. Here are five of my favorite Blythe recordings:

Bush Baby : God Has Smiled on Me : In a Sentimental Mood : Lenox Avenue Breakdown : Miss Nancy

[Full disclosure: “God Has Smiled on Me” is one of my favorite recordings by anyone, ever.]

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

“Time and time again”

The picture of troops forever headed for the Front came back to me when I read this passage in Mark Shields’s most recent column:

When some gasbag self-proclaimed patriot on a talk show or at a congressional hearing demands that we send “more troops” (or worse, “more boots”), does he not realize that we are sending — time and time again — the very same troops who were just there a few months ago?

”Headed for the Front”

Hans Herbert Grimm, Schlump. 1928. Trans. Jamie Bullock (New York: New York Review Books, 2016).

Also from this novel
Food fight

“Even more cynical than
the for-profit colleges”

From a Fresh Air interview with Tressie McMillan Cottom about her book Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy (New Press, 2017). Terry Gross has asked Cottom whether Trump University fits the description of a for-profit college:

No, no, no. In many ways, Trump University is even more cynical than the for-profit colleges that I talk about and write about. And this is what I mean by that: Trump University didn’t even pretend to set up an actual school. What Trump University really did was it traded on the public’s faith in the word university and used the word university as part of its brand. But there was no campus, for example; they never pursued any license to actually operate as a school. One of the best ways actually to think about Trump University is that it was a lot like a time-share sales organization than it was an actual school.

But what I think that Trump University does tell us about this administration is sort of how cynical they are about higher education. It tells us something, I think, about their position on public higher education. I think that they have signaled pretty strongly that they are not interested in defending public higher education as important to democracy and the public good. And I think this president’s experience with sort of using the word university, trading so cynically on the public’s faith in the word university, kind of gives us an indication of how he views higher education.
[My transcription and paragraphing.]

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spoiler alert, spoiler alert

Re: National Velvet (dir. Clarence Brown, 1944):

“National Velvet” is not a horse. She is a girl named Velvet Brown, played by Elizabeth Taylor. She rides a horse in the Grand National. Thus “National Velvet.”

Both members of our household had assumed, without seeing the film, that “National Velvet” is a horse. But as I have said, “National Velvet” is not a horse. She is a girl named Velvet Brown, played by Elizabeth Taylor. She rides a horse in the Grand National. Thus “National Velvet.”

We saw only the last few minutes of National Velvet. Still enough to think of Turner Classic Movies as The Learning Channel.

[The horse’s name: The Pie. The Pie.]

Today’s xkcd

Today’s xkcd: “Mispronunciation.” Very meta. Don’t miss the mouseover text — which, as I just discovered, you can see on an iPhone in Safari. Just hold down on the image.

Word of the day: heirloom

Did heirloom first denote a loom so great that it’s passed down from generation to generation? I’d been meaning to look that up for months. Seeing the word heirloom while shopping for seeds finally prompted me to find out. Is there a loom in heirloom? Yes and no.

The Oxford English Dictionary explains it all. Heirloom is made of two nouns. The second is the surprise: loom (c. 900) derives from the Middle English lome, meaning “tool, utensil.” Thus an heirloom is

a chattel that, under a will, settlement, or local custom, follows the devolution of real estate. Hence, any piece of personal property that has been in a family for several generations.
And later, figuratively, “anything inherited from a line of ancestors, or handed down from generation to generation.” The OED dates heirloom to 1424. Loom as a machine for weaving fabric is earlier (1404), but the citations for heirloom make clear that the word has to do with any kind of property, not with machines for weaving.

As for heirloom in relation to plants, that sense of the word is a recent invention:
Chiefly N. Amer. Of or designating a variety of plant or breed of animal which is distinct from the more common varieties associated with commercial agriculture, and has been cultivated or reared using the same traditional methods for a long time, typically on a small scale and often within a particular region or family.
The first citation for this use of heirloom comes from the New York Times, 1949: “One of the old heirloom varieties of lettuce seems to be coming to the fore.”

As for the verb loom, “to appear indistinctly; to come into view in an enlarged and indefinite form”: it’s unrelated. The OED explains:
Skeat suggests that the original meaning may have been “to come slowly (towards),” and compares East Frisian lômen, Swedish dialect loma to move slowly, Middle High German luomen to be weary, < luomi slack.
The OED also notes the word loomy (Scots and northern dialect), meaning “misty, cloudy.”

Long story short: an heirloom isn’t a weaving machine, nor is it something looming in the distance. Nor is it related to Erroll Garner, though the rights to “Misty” would be quite a heirloom.

[As for loom the noun, the word’s “ulterior etymology,” as the OED calls it, is murky: lome may derive from the Old English gelóma, “utensil, implement,” or from the Old English gelóme, “often,” the latter possibility suggesting that lome designated “things in frequent use.” Skeat: Walter William Skeat (1835–1912), distinguished philologist.]

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Truck amok

[Donald Trump at the wheel, March 23, 2017. With apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.]