Friday, February 29, 2008

Mildred Bailey, the stars, and us

Trombonology at Relative Esoterica has a wonderful post on the singer Mildred Bailey, born 105 years ago this past Wednesday. This post made me think of James Schuyler's poem "Let's All Hear It for Mildred Bailey!" It begins

The men's can at Café Society Uptown
was need I say it? Upstairs
and as I headed for the stairs I
stumbled slightly
not about to fall
and Mildred Bailey
swept by in a nifty outfit:
off-brown velvet
cut in a simple suit-effect
studded with brass nail heads
(her hair dressed with stark simplicity)
"Take it easy, Sonny," she
advised me and passed on to the supper club
(surely no supper was
served at Café you-know-which?)
A star spoke to me
in person! No one
less than Mildred Bailey!
I love the dowdy diction of this passage: the vulgar can next to the swank Café, the nifty outfit, the dressed hair, and of course, Sonny. You can read the poem here. I've taken the lines above from Schuyler's 1993 Collected Poems, where the punctuation differs slightly.

Schuyler's poem made me think of the various close encounters that my dad had when doing construction work in New York City and environs. He once met Doro Merande, who asked "What are you men building?" And he once said hello to Groucho Marx, who moved his eyebrows in response. I need to get a list. Until then, let's all hear it for Mildred Bailey, Doro Merande, Groucho Marx, and those wonderful people out there in the dark — i.e., us.

A related post
A poem for the day (by James Schuyler)

Related reading
Mildred Bailey (Wikipedia)
Mildred Bailey (MySpace, with four songs)

Leap Year card by Roy Doty



[Found at Boing Boing. Click to enlarge. ]

Related reading
Roy Doty

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Un candidato luchando por nuestra nación

Mariachis for Obama. ¡Viva!

¡Viva Obama! (YouTube)
¡Viva Obama! with English subtitles (YouTube)

[Translation: A candidate fighting for our country.]

Levitt bankruptcy

Levitt, the company that built archetypal American suburbs, has filed for bankruptcy:

More than a half-century ago, Levitt helped to pioneer the whole notion of suburbia when it built Levittown, a post-war community of mass-produced housing in New York. Other Levittowns followed — in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.

In recent years though, Levitt and Sons accumulated debt, and with the downturn in housing sales, its luck finally ran out. When the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November, Levitt halted construction on dozens of projects from South Carolina to Florida.
Levitt Bankruptcy Leaves Homeowners in the Cold (NPR)

Related reading
Levittown (Wikipedia)
Levittown: Documents of an Ideal American Suburb (Peter Bacon Hales)
Slideshow: Levittown Through the Years (New York Times)

Jason Dockter, who blogs at insert title here, pointed me to this news. Thanks, Jason!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chicago Style Q&A

Q. How do I spell MIKE in Spanish? I want to put it with a tattoo I'm getting. Thanks.

A. Unfortunately, my Spanish is a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure it's "Mico." Let us know how your boyfriend likes it when it's done.
The Q&A section of The Chicago Manual of Style Online makes for good browsing.

[A more helpful answer followed the one above: "Note from our proofreaders, who won’t let us make a monkey out of anyone: If you’re serious, try Miguel."]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Everything but the kitchen sink

Hillary Clinton's campaign is said today to be throwing the kitchen sink at Barack Obama. The New York Times quotes a Clinton aide's description of "a 'kitchen sink' fusillade." The sink has now made it to headlines: "Struggling Clinton throwing 'kitchen sink' at Obama."

The idiom though involves everything but the kitchen sink, the point being that the kitchen sink cannot be removed and hurled through the air, even when one is intent upon throwing everything at hand.

Related post
The kitchen shink (sic)

Monday, February 25, 2008

World Saxophone Quartet on YouTube

A YouTube treasure, in four parts: the World Saxophone Quartet performing for schoolkids in Lovejoy, Illinois: James Carter (tenor), Greg Osby (alto), Oliver Lake (alto), Hamiet Bluiett (baritone). The first tune is "Hattie Wall" (Bluiett), the WSQ's theme; the third is "For the Love of Money" (The O'Jays): 1, 2, 3, 4.

And one more clip, with the original quartet: Julius Hemphill (alto), David Murray (tenor), Oliver Lake (sopranino and alto), Hamiet Bluiett (baritone). Yes, that's David Sanborn (who studied with Hemphill) introducing the WSQ on network television.

YouTube theme song

"It's a blessing for mankind, that's for sure."
Ninety-two-year-old Irving Fields, he of Bagels and Bongos, has written a YouTube theme song.

"YouTube Dot Com" (YouTube)
The making of "YouTube Dot Com" (YouTube)

(Thanks, Ben!)

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week



[Click to enlarge and read.]

National Eating Disorders Association

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A New York Times correction

The Corrections page of the New York Times is semi-reliably entertaining:

An article last Sunday about Sandra Boynton, the children's book author and greeting card creator, quoted incorrectly the final part of a passage from her book “Barnyard Dance!” It is “Bow to the horse. Bow to the cow. Twirl with the pig if you know how,” not “Bow to the horse if you know how.”
Related posts
A correction
A correction (Yes, another)
Fit to print
"I'll take the soup"
Men and women?
Soy milk, New York Times, and Wikipedia
VINYL GAFFE, LEDDY CHARGES

En mi casa toman Bustelo

I learned about Café Bustelo from UHF television — from commercials on New York's WNJU, channel 47, which served New York and New Jersey's Spanish-speaking population.¹ As a college student, I watched 47 for the hilarity of professional wrestling (in English, with a very young Vince McMahon, and in Spanish, from Mexico) and the strangeness of Walter Mercado. I can still recite the station's mid-1970s slogan: "¡Siga adelante con su nuevo Canal cuarenta y siete, el canal de los grandes y espectáculos!"

I latched onto instant Bustelo back then as my coffee of choice — instant espresso! Back then, one could find Bustelo — "Cuban coffee" — in any bodega or supermarket in in NY-NJ area. Here in downstate Illinois, I buy instant Bustelo at an international grocery. Bustelo is especially good with Vanilla Silk (café con leche de soja, I guess), and it's much cheaper than instant Medaglia D'Oro.

The Bustelo commercials I saw featured a hearty men's chorus, singing "Bustelo, Bustelo, si sabe café," followed by the plaintive voice of one little girl: "En mi casa toman Bustelo; en mi casa toman Bustelo." En mi casa, they (I) still do.

Bustelo Blends (Rowland Coffee)

[Translations: Keep watching (or more literally, follow onward with) your new Channel 47, the channel of the great and spectacular! Coffee with soy milk. Bustelo, Bustelo, if you know coffee. In my house they drink Bustelo; in my house they drink Bustelo.]

¹ What? You don't remember UHF? Oh, okay.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Inclement weather

"Inclement weather": such a dowdy term. Does anyone outside American education use it?

The oddity of inclement just prompted me to look it up. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Not clement.

1. Of climate or weather: Not mild or temperate; extreme; severe. (Usually applied to cold or stormy weather; rarely of severe heat or drought.)

2. Not merciful or kindly; pitiless, harsh, severe, cruel. Obs.
No. 2 is the older (1621) meaning of the word. The first sample sentence for no. 1 (1667) comes from Paradise Lost: "To shun / Th' inclement Seasons, Rain, Ice, Hail and Snow." So it appears that we may credit John Milton for the anthropomorphized weather that results in school closings unto this day. (Thanks, Milton.)

And to Winter, who has been showing us no clemency this month, I say "Mercy, Sir!"

Overheard

No doubt someone whose class was canceled:

"Dammit — I woke up for nothing!"
All "Overheard" posts (via del.icio.us)

Marianne Moore magic

Consider the title and first two lines of Marianne Moore's "The Fish" (1921):

The Fish

wade
through black jade.
The first line of the poem performs two kinds of magic: it reveals what seemed to be a singular noun as a plural, and it gives these fish legs. To wade: "to step in or through a medium (as water) offering more resistance than air" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary). The second line adds another bit of magic, transforming the fishes' medium into one that offers more resistance than water. The water turns to stone via a metaphor whose visual accuracy is surprising: luminous, milky-black water does indeed look like black jade.

Another kind of magic: Moore's idiosyncratic sense of poetic form helps to slow down the movement that the sentence tracks. Compare:
The fish wade through black jade.
And
The FISH

WADE
through BLACK JADE.
The short lines and extreme enjambment enact a deliberate, stubborn progress, four stresses in six syllables.

These strategies of metaphor, sound, and form return again and again in a poem that turns out to be not about the fish but about movement, difficulty, color, light, water, rock, survival, and time.

I never read Marianne Moore as a student: her poems must have seemed slight to an academic community caught up in Yeats' mythic self-absorption and Eliot's mythic impersonality. Now I'm catching up. You can read the poem via the link, Until the Real Thing Comes Along:

The Fish (via Google Book Search)

Related post
Q and A (What's in Moore's handbag?)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Product placement in tween lit

Susan Katz, publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, on product placement in Mackenzie Blue, a new fiction series for 8- to-12-year-old girls:

“If you look at Web sites, general media or television, corporate sponsorship or some sort of advertising is totally embedded in the world that tweens live in. It gives us another opportunity for authenticity.”
Yes, authenticity.

The novels' author, Tina Wells, is "chief executive of Buzz Marketing Group, which advises consumer product companies on how to sell to teenagers and preteenagers." Read more:

In Books for Young, Two Views on Product Placement (New York Times)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Proust was a soldier

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Neuroscientist? Yes. Next president? Yes. Marcel Proust was a soldier too. He enlisted at the age of 18, in 1889, for one year of service, joining an infantry regiment at Orléans.

William Carter calls Proust a "strange but zealous private." Private Proust was permitted to live in a room in a private house because his coughing kept his fellow soldiers awake at night. He was excused from morning parades and jumping ditches on horseback. He went home on Sundays. He never learned to swim. After finishing his service as 63rd (of 64) in his class, Proust applied to reënlist and was turned down.

In the early sketch "Memory's Genre Paintings," Proust writes of his "regimental life" as "a series of small paintings," "filled with happy truth and magic over which time has spread its sweet sadness and its poetry." Évelyne Bloch-Dano reports that Proust "always had excellent memories" of his army days. His service is of course the background for the narrator's visit to Robert de Saint-Loup in The Guermantes Way.

Ghislain de Diesbach, quoted in Bloch-Dano's Madame Proust, likens Proust in the above photograph to "a clown disguised as a municipal security guard and a sultan's page trying out a dance step."

Works consulted

Bloch-Dano, Évelyne. Madame Proust: A Biography. Trans. Alice Kaplan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Carter, William C. Proust: A Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

Proust, Marcel. Complete Short Stories. Trans. Joachim Neugroschel. New York: Cooper Square, 2001.

All Proust posts (via del.icio.us)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

W!SCONS!N

"Number nine, number nine, number nine . . . ."

[Primary night. Yes, we can.]

Iambic pentameter

It isn't very difficult to do. A little practice, that is all it takes:

Answering casual questions in iambic pentameter (xkcd, "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language")

[This post replaces a previous post whose title, made of five iambs (x /), might suggest to a search engine quintuple-X content, as forward slashes don't appear as characters in a url. Thanks to the commenter who got me to think about this point.]

Monday, February 18, 2008

Proust contest

For Proustheads: Mari Mann at Madeleine Moments is celebrating the one-year anniversary of her blog with a contest. There are five Proust-related questions, with a $25 Amazon gift certificate as prize:

One-Year Anniversary Contest (Madeleine Moments)

A semicolon in the news

A semicolon on a New York City subway sign is in the news; read about it here:

Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location (New York Times)

(Reading this article has made me realize that semicolon has no hyphen. I have been misspelling — or better, mispunctuating — this word for years.)

Related posts
France debates le point-virgule
Paul Collins on the semicolon

Dueling chin dimples



[Kirk Douglas (Whit Sterling) and Robert Mitchum (Jeff Markham), in Out of the Past, dir. Jacques Tourneur (1947).]

Reviewing Out of the Past in the New York Times (November 26, 1947), Bosley Crowther was lukewarm: "If only we had some way of knowing what's going on in the last half of the film, we might get more pleasure from it. As it is, the challenge is worth a try." It is, but there's a lot to be said for surrendering to ambience too.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Aristeia

The aristeia (from aristos, best) is a recurring element in Homer's Iliad. It's a warrior's moment of greatest glory in battle, the poem focusing on him alone as he kills victim after victim after victim.

The longest and bloodiest aristeia in the poem is that of Achilles, who seeks to make the Trojans pay for killing his beloved comrade Patroclus. What sets Achilles' aristeia apart from all others in the Iliad is that it is, at heart, a suicide mission: Achilles knows that if he kills the Trojan warrior Hector (who dealt the final blow to Patroclus), his own death will soon follow. He doesn't mind. When his horse Xanthus — magical, immortal, and gifted with prophetic speech — warns Achilles of his fate, he replies, "I don't need you to prophesy my death, / Xanthus. I know in my bones I will die here."

What follows is unrelenting in its horror. Spattered with blood and tissue, fire shooting from his head, Achilles is both animal and god. He has lost his humanity, killing and mutilating as he moves toward his own death. He fights not alongside his fellow Achaeans, but in a private war. The only community he can now acknowledge is a community of the dead, the one that holds Patroclus and which he soon will join.

I think that what we're seeing in a campus rampage is a version of Achilles' aristeia, the work of a person dissociated from his own humanity and from reality. Simone Weil called the Iliad the poem of force, force being that which turns a human being into a thing. In the fragile version of pastoral that is the open American campus, it seems terrifyingly easy for one who would wield that force to be able to do so.

[Iliad translation by Stanley Lombardo, 1997.]

LAUNDRY

John Holt on learning to read:

I remember the first time I discovered that a written word said something. The word was LAUNDRY. I was about four, perhaps a bit younger. Young enough so that nobody had yet started to teach me that words said things. We lived in New York City. In our walks through the streets, to the park or elsewhere, we passed many stores, with their signs. Most of these signs said nothing that would help a child know what they were saying; that is, the grocery signs were Gristede's, First National, A & P, the drugstore signs were Rexall's, Liggett's, and so on. But wherever there was a laundry, the sign over it said LAUNDRY. Ten, twenty, a hundred times, I must have seen that sign, and under it, in the window, the shirts and other clean clothing that told me that this was a place where things were washed. Then, one day, I realized that there was a connection between those letters over the store, and the shirts in the window, and what I knew the store was doing; that those letters over the store told me, and were there to tell me, that this place was a laundry, that they said "laundry."

That is all I can remember about teaching myself to read.

From How Children Learn (1967)
Related post
John Holt on learning and difficulty

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Northern Illinois University

Here in Illinois, it's simply Northern. My heart goes out to Northern.

"Dowdy world" love story

Back when there were phone booths:

Janet and Nathan Polsky, both 84, were prom dates as high school sweethearts in 1941. He soon entered the military, and the two became involved in separate lives. He studied art at New York University. She, who had wanted to be an opera singer, joined the chorus of the original Broadway production of "Oklahoma!”

One afternoon after World War II, she was at the Museum of Modern Art and accidentally left her wallet in a phone booth. He called her the next day. He said: “This is Nat. Did you lose your wallet?” He had also been at MoMA, just happened to be the next person to go into the booth, and found it. Shortly afterward, they married.

Mrs. Polsky mused, “Talk about destiny.”
Mortals Amid the Immortals, Savoring the Romance of Art (New York Times)

All "dowdy world" posts (via del.icio.us)

Happy Valentine's Day

Yes, it's for you.

Photograph by James Kimberlin (valart2008), via Flickr, licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Proust in Love, on sale

Attention, Proustian shoppers: William C. Carter's Proust in Love is on sale at Amazon. Really, really on sale. Hardcover list price: $26. Sale price: $7.62.

All Proust posts (via del.icio.us)

CNN and mixed metaphors

It's a race. It's a gun battle. It's a prizefight. From CNN's front page tonight:

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, moving into front-runner status following a week of eight straight wins, is facing a new rival, exchanging fire with John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee. In what could be a preview of the general election, the two exchanged jabs over Iraq and the economy, sure to be key issues in November.
Related posts
The Elements of Style
Mixed metaphors
Myth and mixed metaphors

How to make a "recent posts" feed

Since switching to new Blogger, I've missed old Blogger's "recent posts" bit in the sidebar. I realized yesterday that one can recreate "recent posts" via a page element with a blog's feed. But Blogger limits a feed to a maximum of five posts.

A better solution: a bit of JavaScript courtesy of Alan Levine that creates a feed with as many posts as you like: Feed2JS. I chose ten. Seems like old times.

(Thanks, Alan! And thanks to Modevia Web Services, home of the server that runs Feed2JS.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

SparkNotes and Homer

The man for wisdom's various arts renown'd,
Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound;
Who, when his arms had wrought the destined fall
Of sacred Troy, and razed her heaven-built wall,
Wandering from clime to clime, observant stray'd,
Their manners noted, and their states survey'd,
On stormy seas unnumber'd toils he bore,
Safe with his friends to gain his natal shore:
Vain toils!
Say what?

Students who think that SparkNotes make life easier have another think coming when it comes to Homer's Odyssey. Here's what Spark offers as a reading text to accompany its plot summaries: Alexander Pope's translation in heroic couplets. Vain toils indeed!

All Homer posts (via del.icio.us)

The car as oikos

Chrysler chairman Robert L. Nardelli, in a New York Times article on the trend to outfit cars with elaborate entertainment technology:

"I think a vehicle today has to be your most favorite room under your roof. It has to bring you gratification; it has to be tranquil. It's incidental that it gets you from Point A to Point B, right?"
Thus the car as oikos. Note that those who are to dwell in this house of the future are deemed incapable of finding gratification in low-tech endeavors: reading, drawing, singing, talking, telling stories, playing "I spy," looking at scenery. All pleasure must be mediated — and, as the Times article details, dangerously distracting to the driver.

More High-Tech Invitations to Take Your Mind Off Road (New York Times)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Like hope, but different

A parody of will.i.am's "Yes, We Can" song, short and to the point:

john.he.is (YouTube)

Bafangool!

Part of what makes Orange Crate Art exciting for me is the chance to share what I learn and to learn, in turn, from readers. Manicule? Who knew? George and Lesle's comments on that post point to further beautiful curiosities in the language of type: dingbat, pilcrow.

Something I just learned: the meaning of bafangool, via a piece in the New Yorker on Beppe Grillo, a comedian fighting political corruption in Italy. Reading about the word vaffanculo, I realized that here was the word I heard kids saying in Brooklynese Italian forty years or so ago: Bafangool! I never knew what it meant, only that it was "bad."

As you may know or suspect, this post has come to focus on an Italian curse. Click at your own risk:

Beppe's Inferno (New Yorker)
Bafangool (WordReference.com)
Vaffanculo (WordReference.com)
Va Fangul! . . . And Have a Nice Day (Time)

And one more, risk-free:

You Say Prosciutto, I Say Pro-SHOOT (New York Times)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

"I ain't talkin' Greek"

I just taught Langston Hughes' "The Cat and the Saxophone (2 A.M.)," a poem that incorporates the first lines of Jack Palmer and Spencer Williams' 1924 song "Everybody Loves My Baby (But My Baby Don't Love Nobody But Me)." And now I'm wondering about these lines from the song (which don't appear in the poem):

She's got a form like Venus, honest,
I ain't talkin' Greek.
I don't know about the lady's form, but it's true that the singer ain't talkin' (or singin') Greek. If he were, he'd be speaking of mighty Ἀφροδίτη (Aphrodite). Venus of course is her Roman equivalent.

But is there a Greco-Roman joke there that the listener is meant to get? That indeed, the singer ain't talkin' Greek, because the name he invokes is Roman? Or is the lyric just a bit careless, the point being that the lady is beautiful, like a goddess? (Greek goddess? Roman goddess? Who cares!)

Wit or a mistake: it'd be nice to have a name for this kind of uncertainty. I began thinking about it when I saw a t-shirt with the name Helvetica printed in a serif font. That was wit, not a mistake. I also thought about it in relation to a t-shirt that alters the standard sequence of Beatle first names. I'm still not sure about that one.

If your computer can play RealPlayer files, you can forget about all these questions by listening to "Everybody Loves My Baby" right now, by Fats Waller and His Rhythm (John Hamilton, trumpet; Gene Sedric, clarinet; Al Casey, guitar; Cedric Wallace, bass; Slick Jones, drums), from November 6, 1940:

Everybody Loves My Baby (Jazz Old Time on line)

Friday, February 8, 2008

A sentence beginning with "My mom"

Re: Chelsea Clinton, from today's New York Daily News:

"She's the only person in the world who can start a sentence about Hillary Clinton with 'my mom,' . . . said Philippe Reines, a Clinton aide who travels with Chelsea Clinton.
Not so: My mom voted for Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton. My dad too.

(Hi Mom and Dad!)

Jesús Malverde

Not from The Onion, news of an unofficial patron saint of drug dealers, Jesús Malverde, the "narco-saint":

Mexican Robin Hood Figure Gains Notoriety (New York Times)
Jesús Malverde (Wikipedia)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Julia Ringma wins juice challenge

The challenge of The Three Juices has ended. Julia Ringma correctly guessed all three Platonic liquids: pineapple, loganberry, and tomato. Well done, Julia!

Thanks too to Ben and Stephen for playing.



This Libby's ad appeared in the April 29, 1940 issue of Life.

About loganberry juice (which I'd never heard of, and which would make breakfast really different): Wikipedia helps out.

The Three Juices



Yes, this grapefruit juice is marvelous. It's also economical, "table-ready," and "refreshing any time o' day."

But Mommie has a secret! What is she keeping from us? Reader, are you ready to meet the challenge of The Three Juices?

Here are two hints:

1. Each juice's name begins with a letter found in the name Plato.

2. Orange juice is not one of the three.

Leave a comment with your best guesses. You can guess again and again, and I'll give more hints (in the comments) as needed. You're on the honor system here: no looking online for the rest of this ad. (I don't think it's out there anyway.) The prize: undying fame in the form of a follow-up blog post. I'll also post the rest of the ad when (if?) there's a winner.

Update: We have a winner.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Manicule



Did you know what the hand-with-pointing-finger symbol is called, other than "hand-with-pointing-finger symbol"? Neither did I.

Manicule isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it is a name for this symbol.

Related reading and viewing
Toward a History of the Manicule
Flickr manicule group

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"We are the ones we've been waiting for."

That striking line in Barack Obama's speech tonight comes from a Hopi prayer.

And "repair this world" comes from Judaism: tikkun olam.

A timeline of ancient history



[Illustration by Benjamin Leddy.]

The recent discovery of evidence of sacrifice to a pre-Greek, pre-Zeus deity enhances our understanding of the ancient world. So too this timeline, which my son Ben created some years ago, at the age of ten perhaps.

(Thanks, Ben, for the okay to show this work!)

Related post
Blue crayon

Monday, February 4, 2008

Free fonts from Jos Buivenga

You can find seven free fonts, all well designed, at Jos Buivenga's exljbris Font Foundry. I'm partial to Fontin Sans, my favorite sans serif for the past month.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The "Yes, We Can" song



It's meant for people younger than I am. I recognize only a handful of those involved: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Herbie Hancock, Scarlett Johansson. But it brings tears to my eyes anyway.

If anyone can identify other participants (in a comment), I'd be grateful here in Squaresville.

Related reading
More Barack Obama posts

[Update: Here's a story, with at least some names: New Celeb-Filled Music Video for Obama (ABC News). I think I recognize Moby and Usher, not named in the ABC piece. Am I right?]

[Update, 2.5.07: I'm grateful to everyone who named names in the comments. Wikipedia now has an article that lists the participants, though not in sequence: Yes We Can.]

"Across the Universe," across the universe

NASA is to beam the Beatles song "Across the Universe" into space. But which "Universe"? NASA hasn't said. There are four official releases:

1. From a 1969 World Wildlife Fund charity record, with bird sounds at beginning and end, and two Apple scruffs (female fans) on the refrain. Now available on The Beatles' Past Masters, Volume Two. This version speeds up the tape, sounding in D# rather than D.

2. The Phil-Spectored version from Let It Be (1970). I grew up loving the song in this form (side 1, track 3), angelic chorus and all. This version slows down the tape, sounding in Db rather than D.

3. The Anthology 2 version (1996), a 1968 alternative take, with spare instrumentation. Here we hear the song at speed, in the key of D.

4. A de-Spectored remix of the 1968 master, released on Let It Be... Naked (2003). Also at speed.

My choice would be the Anthology version, which sounds warmest and, well, trippiest to me. No. 4 seems aggressive by comparison. Please, NASA, don't send up Spector.

Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono have both made statements about this project. Says cheeky Paul: "Amazing! Well done, NASA! Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul." And Yoko: "I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe."

Related reading
Voyager music (NASA)

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Last Calligraphers



The Last Calligraphers, a forthcoming film by Premjit Ramachandran, tells the story of the Urdu publication The Musalman, Asia's only handwritten newspaper (est. 1927).

The Last Calligraphers is scheduled for summer 2008 release.

The Last Calligraphers (trailer, via moleskinerie)
A Handwritten Daily Paper (Wired)
Photo tour of The Musulman (Wired)

Reserved for faculty



[Photograph by Rachel Leddy.]

Alas, it's a parking area that's reserved.

(Thanks, Rachel!)