Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Auld Lang Syne"

From 1964, the Beach Boys, channeling the Four Freshmen:

"Auld Lang Syne" (YouTube)

Goodbye, year.

Chocolate, wine, tea

Hail flavonoids:

According to Oxford researchers working with colleagues in Norway, chocolate, wine and tea enhance cognitive performance.

The team from Oxford's Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway examined the relation between cognitive performance and the intake of three common foodstuffs that contain flavonoids (chocolate, wine, and tea) in 2,031 older people (aged between 70 and 74).

Participants filled in information about their habitual food intake and underwent a battery of cognitive tests. Those who consumed chocolate, wine, or tea had significantly better mean test scores and lower prevalence of poor cognitive performance than those who did not. The team reported their findings in the Journal of Nutrition.

Chocolate, Wine And Tea Improve Brain Performance (Science Daily, via Lifehacker)
The article goes on to caution of course that it's moderate alcohol consumption that's associated with improved cognitive function — the sort of cognitive function involved in noticing that "chocolate, wine, and tea" are out of alphabetical order or that there's something amusing about the series "Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics and Norway."

A fifth Jane Austen character speaks

Miss Crawford, you play the harp. Do you know whether the Misses Owen are, any of them, musical?

"That is the first question, you know," said Miss Crawford, trying to appear gay and unconcerned, "which every woman who plays herself is sure to ask about another. But it is very foolish to ask questions about any young ladies — about any three sisters just grown up; for one knows, without being told, exactly what they are — all very accomplished and pleasing, and one very pretty. There is a beauty in every family. — It is a regular thing. Two play on the piano-forte, and one on the harp — and all sing — or would sing if they were taught — or sing all the better for not being taught — or something like it."

From Mansfield Park (1814)
Having come to the end of the novel, I realize that the amusing bits of dialogue I've posted are likely to mislead. Though a comedy ("happy ending"), Mansfield Park is a dark novel, encompassing despair, greed, infidelity, isolation, poverty, and (at a great distance) slavery. Troubling too is the novel's emphasis, in its strange final chapter, on contingency: while giving the reader the anticipated ending, the narrator also points out that nothing that has happened had to have happened — the characters' lives might have been worked out in other, equally satisfactory ways.

Related posts
A Jane Austen character speaks
A second Jane Austen character speaks
A third Jane Austen character speaks
A fourth Jane Austen character speaks

A fourth Jane Austen character speaks

The young people wanted to put on a play, Lovers' Vows. Sir Thomas came home and put an end to those plans. But Mr Crawford will never forget:

"It is as a dream, a pleasant dream!" he exclaimed, breaking forth again after a few minutes musing. "I shall always look back on our theatricals with exquisite pleasure. There was such an interest, such an animation, such a spirit diffused! Every body felt it. We were all alive. There was employment, hope, solicitude, bustle, for every hour of the day. Always some little objection, some little doubt, some little anxiety to be got over. I never was happier."

From Mansfield Park (1814)
And thinks Fanny Price, re: Mr Crawford, "'Oh! — what a corrupted mind!'"

Related posts
A Jane Austen character speaks
A second Jane Austen character speaks
A third Jane Austen character speaks

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sold!

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is planning to appoint former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat:

The action comes despite warnings by Democratic Senate leaders that they would not seat anyone appointed by the disgraced governor[,] who faces criminal charges of trying to sell the post, sources familiar with the decision said.

Shortly after Obama's Nov. 4 victory, Burris made known his interest in an appointment to the Senate but was never seriously considered, according to Blagojevich insiders. But in the days following Blagojevich's arrest, and despite questions over the taint of a Senate appointment, Burris stepped up his efforts to win the governor's support.
I've added the comma and emphasis. I'll also add —

[here it is]

— a moment of baffled silence. After the arrest, after the disclosure of the content of Blagojevich's telephone conversations, Burris pursued the Senate appointment with greater fervor! I would like to doubt that he had much competition.

The Trib cites Burris as acknowledging that he has lost many Democratic primary elections but has "never lost to a Republican." If he is seated, I suspect that that loss will come in 2010.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008)

Sad news from the Associated Press:

Freddie Hubbard, the Grammy-winning jazz musician whose style influenced a generation of trumpet players and who collaborated with such greats as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, died Monday, a month after suffering a heart attack. He was 70.
Here, via YouTube, is a sample of Freddie Hubbard's musicianship, a performance of "Body and Soul," with McCoy Tyner (piano), Avery Sharp (bass), and Louis Hayes (drums). Keep listening: it's "Body and Soul," for real.

T. MONK'S ADVICE (1960)


[Click for a larger view.]

These scans of aphorisms and precepts attributed to Thelonious Monk, now appearing online, are said to be from a notebook belonging to soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. I can find no explanation as to where these scans originated or when the pages themselves were written. (I latched on via a Google Alert.)

Lacy, a longtime interpreter of Monk's music, played with Monk for four months in 1960, and several of these texts appear, with slight alterations, in Lacy's foreword to Thomas Fitterling's Thelonious Monk: His Life and Music, trans. Robert Dobbin (Berkeley: Berkeley Hills Books, 1997). If these scans are the work of someone amusing himself at the expense of Monk fans, we can trust at least that the following aphorisms and precepts, recorded in Lacy's foreword, come from the source:

Thelonious would not tell me what to play, but he would stop me if I got carried away: "Don't play all that bullshit, play the melody! Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head, or play off the rhythm of the melody, never mind the so-called chord changes." Also, "Don't pick up from me, I'm accompanying you!" Also: "Make the drummer sound good!" These tips are among the most valuable things anyone has ever told me.

Some of T.'s other bits of wisdom:

"The inside of the tune [the bridge] is what makes the outside sound good."

"A genius is the one who is most like himself."

"It's always night, otherwise you wouldn't need the light!"

"Whatever you think can't be done, someone will come along and do it."

"Monk = know = 'Always Know' (where you are)."

"When you're swinging, swing some more!"

"You've got to know the importance of discrimination, also the value of what you don't play, the use of space, and letting music go by, only picking out certain parts."

"A note can be as big as a mountain, or small as a pin. It only depends on a musician's imagination."
If I learn anything more about these scans, I'll post it here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jack Cella on decent bookstores

Today's Chicago Tribune has a column by Julia Keller on the Seminary Co-op Bookstores. My favorite bit, from the Sem Co-op's general manager Jack Cella:

"If you're in a decent bookstore, you can look at any shelf and realize how little you know."

Domestic comedy

"You like nice in that getup."

"Getup?"

Related reading
All "domestic comedy" posts

Comics and newspapers

Stephen Pastis, creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine, is worried:

"Newspapers are declining," he says. "For a syndicated cartoonist, that's like finally making it to the major leagues and being told the stadiums are all closing, so there's no place to play."

The Comics Are Feeling the Pain of Print (New York Times)
Patsis sees the future for comics as involving online distribution. The Times also cites Brian Walker, part of the team behind Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois, who thinks that comics are best appreciated on paper.

(Thanks to Jason Scott for pointing me to this article. Thanks, Jason!)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Harvey Pekar, opera collaborator

Harvey Pekar is writing a libretto:

Pekar and former Cleveland Heights jazz saxophonist Dan Plonsey will premiere Leave Me Alone! on Jan. 31 at Oberlin College's Finney Chapel. The performance will be webcast. . . .

Pekar has a simple reason for accepting the job with the Real Time Opera Company, a New Hampshire-based performing-arts organization formed in 2002 to promote new opera.

"The Real Time Opera Company offered me money to write the libretto for an opera, so I figured 'Why not?'" Pekar said. "These days, I hate to turn money down."

Harvey Pekar teams with saxophonist to stage jazz opera (The Plain Dealer)
Read more:

Leave Me Alone! (Real Time Opera)

Related posts
Harvey Pekar on life and death
Harvey Pekar's The Quitter

[Note to the Real Time Opera webmaster: "Streamed Live 1/31/2009 8 PM" will leave many people wondering when to watch. Please, add the time zone. Thanks!]

[Update: It's 8 EST.]

Friday, December 26, 2008

Trixie? TRIXIE?? (Hi and Lois)

No doors? No mirrors? No seat belts? No problem! A hologram for a driver? C'est okay! But where's Trixie?

Trixie was last seen on Christmas Eve, playing with a box beneath a goth Christmas tree. But come Christmas morning, she was gone. "You don't cut back on Christmas," Lois said, but you do cut back on the number of characters in the strip, I guess. These are tough times, and we all must make sacrifices.

Is there a storyline shaping up here? I mean, one whose name is something other than Cher Carelessness?

Related reading
All Hi and Lois posts

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The New York Times on Christmas

If you look back at the photos of Christmas 50 years ago — not that long a time, really — you can see what a simple place it once was. What you wanted for Christmas was a very short list of possibilities, and what you got was usually the single most possible thing on the list, plus a few of the articles your mother thought you needed. The intent was the same as it is now, more or less, but the means were so much fewer.
From an editorial on Christmas then and now (or then and then again):

When Christmas Comes (New York Times)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Louis Armstrong Christmas

Here's Louis Armstrong reading Clement Clarke Moore's "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" (aka "The Night Before Christmas"), at home in Corona, Queens, New York, February 26, 1971. It's Armstrong's last recording:

"The Night Before Christmas" (YouTube)

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

[Discographical information from The Louis Armstrong Discography.]

A third Jane Austen character speaks

Fanny Price, what think you of this shrubbery?

"This is pretty — very pretty," said Fanny, looking around her as they were thus sitting together one day: "Every time I come into this shrubbery I am more struck with its growth and beauty. Three years ago, this was nothing but a rough hedgerow along the upper side of the field, never thought of as any thing, or capable of becoming any thing; and now it is converted into a walk, and it would be difficult to say whether most valuable as a convenience or an ornament; and perhaps in another three years we may be forgetting — almost forgetting what it was before. How wonderful, how very wonderful the operations of time, and the changes of the human mind!" And following the latter train of thought, she soon afterwards added: "If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient — at others, so bewildered and so weak — and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond controul! — We are to be sure a miracle every way — but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting, do seem peculiarly past finding out."

From Mansfield Park (1814)
Fanny's slight revision — "we may be forgetting — almost forgetting" — carries great poignance. Her past life with her immediate family is something she would never want to forget. Her inferior status among the members of her extended family is something she is never allowed to forget.

Related posts
A Jane Austen character speaks
A second Jane Austen character speaks

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A second Jane Austen character speaks

Do, please, Mr Rushworth, continue:

"If I must say what I think," continued Mr Rushworth, "in my opinion it is very disagreeable to be always rehearsing. It is having too much of a good thing. I am not so fond of acting as I was at first. I think we are a great deal better employed, sitting comfortably here among ourselves, and doing nothing."

From Mansfield Park (1814)
A related post
A Jane Austen character speaks

Woolworths to close

Woolworths is closing its 807 stores in Great Britain. From the New York Times:

The simple act of walking inside the soon-to-be-gone Woolworths on Portobello Road in West London had a madeleine-like effect on a number of shoppers the other day, releasing a string of long-ago memories.

Woolworths, 27-year-old Nick Clinch said, was the treat he looked forward to more than anything on Saturday mornings as a child, clutching the precious 50 pence his parents gave him when they visited him at boarding school. Woolworths was where Tracy McManus's daughter, now a grown-up singer, bought her first hit single, "Into the Groove" by Madonna, having been introduced to it on the television show "Top of the Pops" that very day.

And it was where the young Lena Smith took her pennies and spent them on the luridly colored candy known as Pic 'n' Mix, feeling independent and flush with consumer power.

"All we had was Woolworths," said Ms. Smith, now 50 and carting around a basket stuffed with items, including a dozen polka-dot mugs and a horse-themed 2009 calendar. "It was the first big shopping place for us. It was our shopping experience."

The Doors Shut on an Emporium Offering a Hodgepodge of Essentials (New York Times)
The company website and the Woolworths Virtual Museum are both down, at least for now.

Thanks to my friend Stefan Hagemann for pointing me to this article. Thanks, Stefan!

A related post
"WOOLCO"

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Jane Austen character speaks

Lady Bertram? We are ready for you. Go ahead, please:

"Mr Rushworth," said Lady Bertram, "if I were you, I would have a very pretty shrubbery. One likes to get out into a shrubbery in fine weather."

From Mansfield Park (1814)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Domestic comedy

"Is that what it's called, or did you just make that up?"

"Both."

Related reading
All "domestic comedy" posts

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cliché gone wrong

Driving, listening to the oldies station, now a "holiday music" station, I heard the anonymous voice of a syndicated newsreader: ". . . winter storm cutting a wide swipe across much of the country."

The word the reader was needing is swath. Merriam-Webster OnLine explains:

Middle English, from Old English swæth footstep, trace; akin to Middle High German swade swath
Date: 14th century

1 a: a row of cut grain or grass left by a scythe or mowing machine b: the sweep of a scythe or a machine in mowing or the path cut in one course
2: a long broad strip or belt
3: a stroke of or as if of a scythe
4: a space devastated as if by a scythe
Winter of course might take (not cut) a swipe at us, but that would suggest a brief bit of bad weather, not unrelenting movement. "Wide Swipe" turns out to be the name of a spell in World of Warcraft, which might explain this cliché gone wrong.

In other clichéd news, "embattled" Governor Rod Blagojevich has vowed not to talk about his situation in thirty-second sound bites. Says Blagojevich, "I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong."

Let go my Hugo

A 19th-century novel and a 21st-century legal fight:

Victor Hugo's family loses battle to ban sequels (Telegraph)

Friday, December 19, 2008

How to make friends by Telephone

Teeming with expert advice: "Shouting distorts your voice and is not pleasant."

How to make friends by Telephone (via Good Experience)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Experts say

I enjoy almost any headline that ends with the words "experts say." Rising gas prices hard on commuters, experts say. No perfect gift for everyone, experts say. Experts: they're smart!

My local paper recently ran an article with tips from local experts on saving money: do full loads of laundry, lower the thermostat, turn off lights. Ordinary people could never figure out even a handful of these things on their own, experts say.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Glenn Gould chair project

The "Sole Official Replica" of Glenn Gould's famous chair ("a boon traveling companion," which served for almost thirty years) sells for €990.

But starting with a $35 chair from Costco, an enterprising pianist has created a functional equivalent (not replica) of the Gould chair. Here's how: Building a "boon companion."

Thanks, MPR, for letting me know about your project.

Related posts
Glenn Gould's chair
Glenn Gould's chair again

Mighty minimus

I like the idea of a New York Times article about the minimus:

The pinkie, the humble fifth finger, has long been viewed as a decorative accessory, something to extend daintily from a wine glass. So what would you lose if you didn’t have one?

Get Along Without a Pinkie? It’s Tougher Than You Might Think (New York Times)
Related post
Minimus, minimi

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Proust's letters to Céleste Albaret at auction

A number of Marcel Proust's letters and notes to his housekeeper Céleste Albaret are being auctioned in Paris today, including the last note that Proust wrote to her, a few hours before his death on November 18, 1922.



The note reads:

Céleste Odilon peut partir dans 10 minutes, et rentrer vers 6h1/2, 7 du matin. Approchez de moi la chaise.

[Céleste, Odilon can leave in ten minutes and come back about 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning. Pull the chair closer to me.]
Odilon was Mme. Albaret's husband. On the other side:
J'avais entendu fer au lieu de verre.

[ I heard "iron" instead of "glass."]
I saw a similar note last year during a visit to the Kolb-Proust Archive at the University of Illinois. The thing itself — in Illinois! I'll never forget it.

You can browse all twenty lots at Sotheby's.

(And if anyone sees something wrong in my translation, please let me know.)

[Update: Bloomberg has a report on the auction.]

PLaza, PLaza, PLaza

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (dir. Anatole Litvak, 1938) is an unusual vehicle for Edward G. Robinson, playing a doctor curious about the criminal mind. In the course of his research (which involves, of course, becoming a criminal), Clitterhouse discovers that (like Augustine) he enjoys crime for its own sake, reporting that it brings him "something like the effects of champagne — a high, heady reaction, a strange exhilaration." I'll leave the rest of the story to your imagination, potential viewer.



PLaza, the PLatonic telephone exchange name, plays a part in this picture. Here, safecracker Rocks Valentine (Humphrey Bogart) has jotted what turns out to be Clitterhouse's home telephone number. See that paper disc? Rocks has "translated" seven marks made by a bit of pencil lead that he affixed under the phone's dial. How does he know the sequence of numbers? He used a "little jigger to click it over a notch with every turn." Pretty clever, huh? (Huh? Click it over a notch? What?)

When we next see the matchbook, it's a bit worse for wear. (And yes, the handwriting is different, which makes the movie a bit like Hi and Lois.)



Dr. Clitterhouse's office too has a PLaza number. And dig that notepad and the snazzy Modern Medicine!



The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse also offers the chance to see Robinson, Bogart, and Claire Trevor together, long before their powerful performances in Key Largo (dir. John Huston, 1948).

Another post with PLaza in it
A pocket diary and an exchange name

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rod Blagojevich's hairbrush

From the real news, making the work of The Onion more difficult:

Mr. Blagojevich, 52, rarely turns up for work at his official state office in Chicago, former employees say, is unapologetically late to almost everything, and can treat employees with disdain, cursing and erupting in fury for failings as mundane as neglecting to have at hand at all times his preferred black Paul Mitchell hairbrush. He calls the brush “the football,” an allusion to the “nuclear football,” or the bomb codes never to be out of reach of a president.

Two Sides of a Troubled Governor, Sinking Deeper (New York Times)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Henington Press

Three generations of the Harris family have run the Henington Press in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Printer David Harris:

"Mostly every corner that I turn here, I see something reminds me of my father, my grandfather, even my grandmother. Everything's here from them. And it — it hurts. It really does. But I've got to come to the realization that it's got to come to an end. It can't go on forever. . . . This place was our life, the Harris family life."
The business will close this winter. WNYC reports: After 96 Years, a Press Closes in Brooklyn (via Design Observer).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Store brands on the march

In the news:

As the economy plunges into a deep recession, grocery stores are one of the few sectors doing well. That is because cash-short consumers are eating out less and stocking up at the supermarket. And store brand products, which tend to be cheaper than national brands and more profitable for grocers, are doing especially well.

Store Brands Lift Grocers in Troubled Times (New York Times)
The article notes though that some name brands seem inimitable: "Grocers certainly sell store brands that look like Cheerios or like Heinz ketchup, but to many palates, the knockoffs do not taste the same." I'm glad it's not just me.

Related post
Name brands and Brand X

Friday, December 12, 2008

Elliott Carter on Proust

Elliott Carter turned 100 yesterday. From a New York Times article:

He wakes every day at 7 a.m., composes for two and a half hours, goes out for a constitutional with an aide, rests after lunch, composes again or receives visitors in the afternoon, and watches French satellite television in the evening, if he does not have a concert to attend.

He said he has gone back to reading the classics, including Hamlet. After starting a third bout with Proust in the original French, "I got a little sick of it two months ago," he said. "That's why I turned to Shakespeare."

Turning 100 at Carnegie Hall, With New Notes (New York Times)
As Elaine has pointed out, this week's Charlie Rose interview with Carter, Daniel Barenboim, and James Levine is great viewing. I especially liked seeing Barenboim and Levine turn into auxiliary interviewers toward the end — how could they resist asking questions of Carter?

Jimmy Durante, Beat poet?


[Photograph by John Loengard, 1962, from the Life photo archive.]

Note the cap, beret, and turtleneck: Jimmy Durante and Peter Lawford are doing a beatnik routine. (They're even wearing fake goatees.)

And now I'm imagining Allen Ginsberg's Howl, Durante-style: "I saw da best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starvin', hysterical, ha-cha-cha-cha!" "Mrs. Calabash! I'm with you in Rockland, or wherever you are."

Use Both Sides



"This campaign has a simple objective: to give paper another chance."

The campaign's website: Use Both Sides.

Related post
Change the Margins

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A pocket diary and an exchange name

Deception (dir. Irving Rapper, 1946) is a semi-wonderful movie whose three stars — Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains — make melodrama into grand art. Davis and Henreid play Christine Radcliffe and Karel Novak, musicians and reunited lovers; Rains is Alexander Hollenius, a jealous composer whose character is reminiscent of Waldo Lydecker in Laura (1944). There are great concert scenes and two astonishing interiors — Radcliffe's ultra-modern apartment and Hollenius' palatial one.

The movie also features a pocket diary and a telephone exchange name, both of which appear in the context of a cab ride.


["If you're really interested, I can tell you his exact words": cellist Bertram Gribble (John Abott) tells Christine Radcliffe what Alexander Hollenius said about Gribble's performance of the composer's new cello concerto.]



There are two other shots in which the "PLaza 1-2000" on Christine's cab is more prominent, but I like this one best, with the PLatonic ideal of a Manhattan exchange name framed by steps.

I like the neon cursive "Woolens" at Buell and Co. too.



More notebook sightings
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
Extras
The House on 92nd Street
Journal d'un curé de campagne
The Palm Beach Story
Pickpocket
Pickup on South Street
Red-Headed Woman
Rififi
The Sopranos

More exchange names
Baby Face
Born Yesterday
The Man Who Cheated Himself
Nightmare Alley

Carbon Copies

My friend Joanna Key alerted me to designer Nadine Jarvis' Carbon Copies, pencils "made from the carbon of human cremains." As Joanna says, "this is one type of pencil you do NOT want to collect."

It's only slightly reassuring that Carbon Copies seems to be an exercise in design, not retail marketing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rod Blagojevich, commuter

If you've seen the brief clip of Rod Blagojevich leaving his Chicago residence this morning, you may be wondering: Isn't Springfield the capital of Illinois? Wouldn't the governor be living in Springfield?

To which the answers are "Yes" and "You'd think so." But Governor Blagojevich doesn't live in the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield. He commutes to Springfield from Chicago. Wikipedia has some of the details.

Chuck E. Cheese's's fight club

In the news:

In Brookfield, Wis., no restaurant has triggered more calls to the police department since last year than Chuck E. Cheese's.

Officers have been called to break up 12 fights, some of them physical, at the child-oriented pizza parlor since January 2007. The biggest melee broke out in April, when an uninvited adult disrupted a child's birthday party. Seven officers arrived and found as many as 40 people knocking over chairs and yelling in front of the restaurant's music stage, where a robotic singing chicken and the chain's namesake mouse perform.

Chuck E. Cheese's bills itself as a place "where a kid can be a kid." But to law-enforcement officials across the country, it has a more particular distinction: the scene of a surprising amount of disorderly conduct and battery among grown-ups.

"The biggest problem is you have a bunch of adults acting like juveniles," says Town of Brookfield Police Capt. Timothy Imler. "There's a biker bar down the street, and we rarely get calls there."

Calling All Cars: Trouble at Chuck E. Cheese's, Again (Wall Street Journal)
I've not had the pleasure of dining (or fighting) at a Chuck E. Cheese's. But I'm wondering: say that you're Chuck, and you want to talk about the problems at some of your restaurants. What is the plural of "Chuck E. Cheese's"?

[This post's title includes my whimsical try at the possessive of "Chuck E. Cheese's."]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gubernatorial ethics test

From a 2004 press release:

Ensconced in the privacy of his office, long after his staff had left for the day, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich settled in front of his computer to test his personal ethics.

Scenarios rolled across his screen, offering up situations that any state worker might face: If a state contractor promises to put a new roof on his house in exchange for new business, can he take it? If a lobbyist wants to pay for a free weekend of golf, should he accept it? If a company seeking a government contract slips him season Cubs tickets, can he keep them?

Again and again, Blagojevich clicked on the "no" button.

Illinois Takes On Its Culture of Scandal (illinois.gov)
The context: Illinois requires all state employees to take a yearly ethics test. Oh, irony!

If the above link fails to work, here's a cached version of the press release.

Related post
How do you pronounce "Blagojevich"?

How do you pronounce "Blagojevich"?

"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement. "They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism."

Feds take Gov. Blagojevich into custody (Chicago Tribune)
If you are not from Illinois, you may need help pronoucing the name. Wikipedia has the answer: /bləˈɡɔɪəvɪtʃ/.

I.e., "bluh GOY uh vitch."

Wikipedia also has an .ogg file that lets hear you someone pronouncing the name with a funny passive-aggressive tone.

In newspaper headlines, our governor's name is often shortened to "Blago." I have no idea how to pronounce that.

Related post
Gubernatorial ethics test

Monday, December 8, 2008

Four (no, six) gift recommendations

All modestly priced, all in time for upcoming holidays. My only connection to these items is as a happy user.

Field Notes 18-Month Calendar. Beautifully printed. Very dowdy. $8.95.

The Jimi wallet. A colorful, sturdy minimalist wallet, made of recycled plastic. A demo explains the design. I've been using a "Safety" Jimi (orange!) for two-and-a-half years. $14.95.

Republic of Tea Assam Breakfast and Earl Greyer. Assam is mighty and malty. Earl Greyer is the best bergamot-flavored tea I've tasted. Elaine and I are big tea-drinkers; these teas are our "good stuff." Fifty teabags for $9.50.

Zebra Mini T3 Ballpoint Pen and TS-3 Mechanical Pencil. Who can resist super-cool miniature writing instruments? What? You know someone who can? Oh. I was asking a rhetorical question. Oh well. $4.75 each.

Multiple-choice (Hi and Lois)

Choose the answer that best explains today's Hi and Lois:

a. The Flagstons have attached a handle to their refrigerator.
b. Spontaneous generation.
c. a. or b.
d. "Leftovers."
e. Who cares? Lois is going goth.

Related reading
All Hi and Lois posts

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Lack of American Roots"

The Atlantic has online a sampling of memos from the Clinton campaign. From Mark Penn to Hillary Clinton, "WEEKLY STRATEGIC REVIEW ON HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN," March 19, 2007, a passage concerning Barack Obama:

Lack of American Roots

All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light.

Save it for 2050.

It also exposes a very strong weakness for him — his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values. He told the people of NH yesterday he has a Kansas accent because his mother was from there. His mother lived in many states as far as we can tell — but this is an example of the nonsense he uses to cover this up.
Elsewhere in this memo (page four), Penn says that the right knows (as Penn of course knew) that Obama is "unelectable except perhaps against Atila [sic] the Hun." Read more:

The Hillary Clinton Memos (The Atlantic)
Mark Penn: The man who blew the presidency (The Independent)

From Lady Killer (1933)


[A cup and saucer have a proud moment on screen.]

In the pre-Code comedy Lady Killer (dir. Roy Del Ruth, 1933), Dan Quigley (James Cagney) rises from theater usher to criminal to movie extra to movie star. Myra Gale (Mae Clarke) is right there with him, sort of. Cagney and Clarke — who shared a grapefruit in The Public Enemy (dir. William A. Wellman, 1931) — are wonderfully dissolute partners. Lady Killer is very funny, rather racy, and now on DVD.

That's Cagney's hand sharing the screen with the china.

Related post
Dowdy cup and saucer

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mellotron demo

"It's a musical computer."

Conductor Eric Robinson (1908-1974) and magician David Nixon (1919-1978) introduce the Melltron:

Mellotron demo (YouTube)

Watch for the slightly crazed look on the face of the "professional pianist" at 2:42: "Mine! All mine!"

Friday, December 5, 2008

Auden and Ashbery

Jascha Kessler fires; John Ashbery fires back: two letters to the Times Literary Supplement concerning Ashbery, W.H. Auden, and the Yale Younger Poets Series. Scroll down for the letters.

(Kessler's real, not a Nabokov character.)

Good advice from Kenneth Koch



I like these lines from Kenneth Koch — the funny generalities ("something," "it"), the figurative railroads ("Internal tracks"), the sudden lapse into philosophy ("contemplated entities"), the simile joining Tristram Shandy and a church, and the shift (at what is the poem's end) from the sound of a kind, wise elder to a more ominous tone and a reminder of "what was" — and is? —"already there."

A sign in Kenya — One Train May Hide Another — inspired this poem. Flickr has photographs of such signs in French. You can hear Koch read the poem at PennSound.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Citation styles (PDFs)

Really useful for students at the end of a semester: three guides to citation styles, PDFs courtesy of the University of California at Berkeley Library:

APA Style Guide
Chicago-Turabian Style Guide
MLA Style Guide

Missing though are explanations of what do with multiple works by one author.

APA: If the works are from the same year, use a letter: (2008a), (2008b).

Chicago: Use a 3-em dash for the author's name: ———.

MLA: Use three hyphens for the author's name: ---.

These are the best guides in PDF form I've found. If anyone can recommend better ones, please do.

Thumb-notches and a ghost

There's something going on wrong (as we say in the blues) in today's Hi and Lois. Or lots of things: the shifting blackboard, the shrinking eraser, the swelling blackboard sill, the creeping W on Hi's jacket (or is that an upside-down M?), and the metamorphosing teacher. And in the second panel, on the far right: a ghost!

But it's good to see that the dictionary's three thumb-notches are where they ought to be. Perhaps this dictionary is a Teacher's Edition, made for use, not display.

Related reading
All Hi and Lois posts

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Diane Arbus meets the Platters

Watching The Girl Can't Help It (dir. Frank Tashlin, 1956), I thought of an exchange from Ghost World (dir. Terry Zwigoff, 2001). Rebecca Doppelganger and Enid Coleslaw are attending a high-school graduation party:

Rebecca: This is so bad it's almost good.

Enid: This is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again.
Those two descriptions cover most of the ninety-seven minutes of The Girl Can't Help It. But there are several minutes in the film that are plainly good — among them, those of a beautiful lip-synced performance by the Platters. As the group pretends to sings "You'll Never Know," there are two brief crowd shots of Diane Arbus-like strangeness:




[Click for larger views.]

These shots were no doubt meant for laughs. In my house, we screamed, "went back" (can't say rewind anymore), hit Pause, and screamed again. Aiee!

Here's a portfolio of Arbus' photographs (browse at your risk).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another Word of the Year

The editors of Webster's New World College Dictionary have announced their Word of the Year, overshare: "to divulge excessive personal information, as in a blog or broadcast interview, prompting reactions ranging from alarmed discomfort to approval."

My suggestion for the word of the year? Change. What's yours?

Related post
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year

Autosave for Mac

Two new freeware programs add "autosave" to Mac:

EverSave (Mac OS X 10.5.5 or later)
SaveCircle (Mac OS X 10.4 or later)

I can't vouch for EverSave, but SaveCircle works as advertised.

Autosave is one feature of Microsoft Office that I miss in Apple's iWork. It's great to have — at last — a reliable autosave add-on.

[The English localization for SaveCircle seems a bit wobbly. To edit, control-click or right-click on the application, choose Show Package Contents/Contents/Resources/en.lproj folder, and open Localizable.strings in a text-editor.]

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Simpsons and Apple

The Simpsons razz Apple:

"Oh, such beautiful packaging! I never thought a company could be my soulmate."
[Update: the above link no longer works. Search YouTube for apple or mapple and simpsons and you might be able to find another fugitive appearance. Look for the 6:49 version.]