Thursday, June 30, 2011

USPS, Pioneers of Industrial Design

One of twelve new Forever Stamps from the United States Postal Service: “Pioneers of Industrial Design.” Here’s a press release with details. And here’s a PDF with biographies of the designers.

[Elaine, I think we need to replace all our stamps.]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Principal borrows from DFW’s commencement speech

In the news:

The principal of a middle school geared toward writers tried to pass off much of a well-known graduation speech as his work, parents and students told the Daily News.

They say Joseph Anderson, who heads the Clinton School for Writers and Artists in Manhattan, recited — without attribution — portions of an address penned by the late writer David Foster Wallace at Friday’s eighth-grade commencement. . . .

Anderson said it was an “oversight” not to identify Wallace as the author of the “anecdote.”

“I thought I had stated in my commencement speech that I was sharing a story I had read. . . . It was not my intention to mislead my school community,” he said.
Says graduating eighth-grader Marcus Cook, “We’re a school for writers and artists. It”s kind of ironic that he can’t write it. If you do that in college and high school, you can get kicked out.”

The Daily News article doesn’t say which part or parts of DFW’s speech Principal Anderson borrowed.

June 30, 11:12 a.m.: A Daily News editorial says that Anderson borrowed this passage:
Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.
Not clear though whether this passage is all that Anderson borrowed.

Related reading
David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College 2005 commencement address

Google navigation bar (again)

For the second time this year, Google has changed its navigation bar, this time to black. The new bar appears to be part the move to the Facebookish Google+. If you, like me, find the black bar a distraction, there are Greasemonkey scripts to help:

Disable Google Black Bar, by Keith Dsouza. This script removes the black bar from google.com but leaves the bar as is elsewhere.

Google Light Navbar, by akira@Taiwan. I prefer this script, which brings back the white bar on all Google pages — which is to say, the bar that doesn’t look like a bar, because it’s indistinguishable from the white background.

These scripts require Greasemonkey, a Firefox extension. Greasemonkey will work in other browsers too.

Thank you, Keith and akira@Taiwan, for creating these scripts.

11:22 a.m.: One more: Google Bar Classic, by Olmer. Also brings back the white (non-existent) bar. Thanks, Olmer.

2:28 p.m.: Google Bar Classic seems to break Google Reader — no longer possible to send or share items.

July 1, 8:25 p.m.: Google Bar Classic has been updated: problem solved.

A related post
Google navigation bar

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two goose books

In 1994, George Bodmer made a picture book for his daughter. And now she has made one for him. And you can read them both:

Jane the Goose-Girl and George the Goose-Guy

Everyone should be so lucky to have such a father or daughter, or both.

[When you get to page seven, click on “Older Posts” to read the rest. Or just click on June 2011 to see all pages.]

Fred Steiner (1923–2011)

Fred Steiner, who wrote the theme music for Perry Mason (and much else) has died.

The Perry Mason theme sent my brother and me into a frenzy in early childhood. The four-note phrases became a lyric: “The mum - my PRAYERS! The mum - my PRAYERS!” (Repeat until delirious.) The theme’s title, as I just learned, is “Park Avenue Beat,” which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with mummies.

(Via Sounds & Fury via Musical Assumptions.)

Kozol on jargon

Jonathan Kozol on educational jargon:

One of the most annoying consequences of this trend, as you’ve observed, is a peculiar tendency to use a polysyllabic synonym for almost any plain and ordinary word: “implement” for do, “initiate” for start, “utilize” for use, “identify” for name, ”articulate” for state, “replicate” for copy, “evaluate” for judge, “quantify” for count, “strategize” for plan, “facilitate” for help, “restructure” or “reconstitute” for change. The toss-in use of adjectives like “positive” and “meaningful” (instead of, simply, “good” or “real”) in front of nouns like “outcome” or “collaboration” is another common way of trying to pump extra air into a wilted and deflated intellectual ballon.

Letters to a Young Teacher (New York: Crown, 2007)
We should talk about these observations in small grou — I mean, in breakout sessions.

Related posts
How to improve writing (no. 5) (on facilitator)
How to improve writing (no. 11) (on implement)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rod Blagojevich found guilty

In the Dog-Bites-Man Department: an Illinois politician has been found guilty on corruption charges.

If you’re wondering, here’s how to pronounce his last name.

A couple of related posts
Blagojevich and “Ulysses”
Rod Blagojevich, maker of metaphors

[Elaine and I are proud not to have voted for him, twice.]

Moore Metalhed Maptacks

[Click for a larger view.]

Google wants to know: “Did you mean: metal head map tacks.“ No, I did not. I meant metalhed maptacks, about which Google could find nothing.

I bought this box of Moore Metalhed Maptacks in a late-20th-century stationery store, the kind of store where products sit on the shelves for years, lost in thought, not making a peep. I think of these tacks as having missed their true calling: as markers on a wall-size map charting the progress of a police dragnet. “His only chance now is to head south on Ninth. So we’ll cut him off right … here.” [Tack goes into map.]

Moore is a venerable name in tacks and push-pins: Edwin Moore (1874–1916) founded the Moore Push-Pin Company in 1900. Moore Push-Pin continues in business today, with a website offering a brief account of the company’s history and details of current products. I am especially taken with the Thin-Pin, which might be described as a push-pin that comes close to existing in just two dimensions.

I tried several times to pose these Metalhed Maptacks in a plausible way. They finally surprised me by coming to rest in these cuneiform-like formations.


[This post is the eleventh in an occasional series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items. Photographs by Michael Leddy.]

Also from the Museum of Supplies
Dennison’s Gummed Labels No. 27
Eagle Turquoise display case
Eagle Verithin display case
Fineline erasers
Illinois Central Railroad Pencil
A Mad Men sort of man, sort of
Mongol No. 2 3/8
Real Thin Leads
Rite-Rite Long Leads
Stanley carpenter’s rule

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Domestic comedy

“It’s not a hunting camp; it’s a gathering camp.”

Related reading
All “domestic comedy” posts (via Pinboard)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York and equal marriage

The Flag of Equal Marriage needs updating. Hooray for New York and New Yorkers. Hooray for the twenty-nine Democratic and four Republican legislators who voted for the Marriage Equality Act. And hooray for the Democratic governor who signed it.

This detail from a New York Times article is telling:

With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.

“I apologize to those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”
[The flag will be updated when the law goes into effect: July 24, 2011. I’ve corrected the Times quotation: “to those,” not “for those.”]

Peter Falk (1927–2011)


Peter Falk, in A Woman Under the Influence (dir. John Cassavetes, 1974), a great film of marriage and madness. Elaine and I watched it last night. Falk and Gena Rowlands give amazing performances. In my ideal republic, they and Cassavetes would have won Academy Awards for this film.

Peter Falk dies at 83 (Los Angeles Times)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Clouzot, Les Diaboliques

[“Don’t be devils! Don’t ruin the interest your friends could take in this film. Don’t tell them what you have seen. On their behalf, thank you.”]

One more from Henri-Georges Clouzot: the 1955 film Les Diaboliques [The Devils], starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse, with a wonderful turn by Charles Vanel as a retired detective who, like Dickens’s Inspector Bucket, seems to have been a model for television’s Lieutenant Columbo. I won’t tell you anything more about what I have seen, except to say that Les Diaboliques is suspenseful and frightening and a masterpiece. It’s not for the fainthearted. The film is available (with its alternative title Diabolique), beautifully restored, from the Criterion Collection.

That concludes this week’s Clouzot spree. Reader, I hope there’s a film here that you’d like to watch, or watch again.

2:03 p.m.: Sad news: Peter Falk, who played Lieutenant Columbo, died yesterday in Beverly Hills.

Clouzot x 4
Le Corbeau
Le mystère Picasso (Elaine’s post)
Quai des Orfèvres
Le salaire de la peur

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Another college prez plagiarizing

Another college president in the news:

Dr. Danny Lovett, president of Tennessee Temple University and co-pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church, admitted today [June 22] that he plagiarized sections of another pastor’s work, an action sources say led to his recent resignation [as president].
In his book Jesus Is Awesome, Lovett plagiarized the work of one Buddy Murphrey. Says Lovett, “I didn’t know copyright laws at the time, and I should have checked more thoroughly.“ Murphrey says that when he contacted Lovett about the plagiarism, Lovett explained that he was “under the impression that [Murphrey] had passed away or that [the book] was no longer in print when he used it.” That’s some reasoning.

Lovett was born in 1953. Jesus Is Awesome was published in 2003. You’d think that Lovett would have figured out by then a very simple rule (just four words!) regarding other people’s stuff.

More presidential doings
What plagiarism looks like (Jacksonville State University)
Another college president plagiarizing (Malone University)
“Local Norms” and “‘organic’ attribution” (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)

[Lovett’s book is said to be “used as a textbook” at TTU. Perhaps the only thing more unseemly than requiring that students buy your own book is requiring that they buy the school president’s book.]

Blue, Bloop, screwed

Jay Maisel, whose photograph of Miles Davis appears on the cover of the 1959 recording Kind of Blue, threatened to sue Andy Baio, the maker of Kind of Bloop (an 8-bit version of Kind of Blue), whose cover is a pixelated version of Maisel’s photograph. Maisel’s attorneys asked for “statutory damages up to $150,000 for each infringement at the jury’s discretion and reasonable attorneys fees or actual damages and all profits attributed to the unlicensed use of his photograph, and $25,000 for Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violations.” Baio settled out of court for $32,500.

In a post on the matter, Kind of Screwed, Baio makes a compelling case that his use of the cover photograph falls under “fair use.” (Maisel’s conduct, I would suggest, falls under “heartless.”) Baio also wonders what he might use for new cover art. I’d suggest the muted post horn of Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying of Lot 49. The image might suggest here both Miles Davis’s trumpet and the ways in which copyright law can wrongfully inhibit creative efforts.

[Image via Wikipedia.]

CBS Evening News: Attack of the Clones

[Bob Schieffer and Scott Pelley. June 22, 2011.]

When Elaine and I saw the two profiles, we went a little crazy.

A related post
Plus ça change (Schieffer and Pelley, front views)

Clouzot, Le salaire de la peur


Next in our Henri-Georges Clouzot spree: the 1953 film Le salaire de la peur [The wages of fear]. The premise is simple: somewhere in South America, the American-owned Southern Oil Company signs up four unemployed Europeans to drive two truckloads of nitroglycerin to the scene of an oilfield fire. The route is primitive and exceedingly dangerous: the slightest mishap can cause the cargo to explode. Minute for minute, Le salaire de la peur is one of the most nerve-wracking films I’ve seen. The above still is one small bit of evidence: each truck must back onto this partly rotted platform to make a sharp turn.

Le salaire de la peur made me think at many points of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (dir. John Huston, 1948), another film in which desperate men try to find their way out of the misery in which they’re stuck. Clouzot’s film also made me think of Homer’s Odyssey, another story of skillful intelligence applied to unforeseen challenges. Here though it seems that all gods, not just Poseidon, are angry.

Le salaire de la peur is available, beautifully restored, from the Criterion Collection. With Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter Van Eyck, and Folco Lulli as the drivers, and Véra Clouzot as a cantina worker.

More Clouzot
Le Corbeau
Quai des Orfèvres
Le mystère Picasso (Elaine’s post)

[My choice for most nerve-wracking film: probably Inglourious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2009). Yours?]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On an Austerlitz photograph

Rick Poynor on the source of a photograph in W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz: On the Threshold of Sebald’s Room.

[I’m making my way through Austerlitz.]

Pocket notebook sighting


The second film in our Henri-Georges Clouzot spree: Quai des Orfèvres (1947). It’s partly a story of desire and jealousy, and partly a police procedural. In the above scene, Inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet) takes notes as he questions Jenny Lamour (Suzy Delair) and Maurice Martineau (Bernard Blier): “Do you mind? I have a memory like a sieve.”

Quai des Orfèvres is out of print at the Criterion Collection.

More Clouzot
Le Corbeau

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Cat People : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Extras : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The House on 92nd Street : The Lodger : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : The Palm Beach Story : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : The Sopranos : Spellbound : Union Station

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pinboard is down

The bookmarking service Pinboard is down, and is keeping its users posted on the problem via Twitter: “Errors with our ISP seem ongoing despite sweet promises.” Before the site went down completely, I managed to catch this page:

[Muhammad Ali v. Sonny Liston, May 25, 1965.]

A service that respects its users and has a sense of humor about itself is a service I’m happy to support.

2:57 p.m.: Pinboard is back. The status page reports that “the site is running on a backup server with reduced capabilities . . . . All bookmarks are intact.”

8:25 p.m.: The circumstances behind the outage are the subject of a New York Times article.

Clouzot, Le Corbeau


Elaine and I are on a spree, watching films by Henri-Georges Clouzot, a director neither of us knew of a week or so ago. The 1943 film Le Courbeau is the story of a little French town whose residents begin receiving anonymous accusatory letters signed by The Raven. Who can trust whom: that is the question. Above, three residents, Denise Saillens (Ginette Leclerc), Rémy Germain (Pierre Fresnay), and Laura Vorzet (Micheline Francey), eye a fourth with suspicion.

Made during the occupation, for the German-controlled Continental-Films, Le Corbeau was criticized by the Vichy regime, the Resistance, and the Roman Catholic Church. After liberation, the film was banned in France, and Clouzot was banned from the French film industry. Both bans were lifted in 1947.

Le Courbeau is out of print at the Criterion Collection.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bob Slate, Stationer

I just learned that Bob Slate, Stationer, a Cambridge, Massachusetts institution, closed this spring, after seventy-eight years in business. In 1984, when Elaine and I decided to marry, Bob Slate was the obvious choice for our wedding invitations. On recent summer visits to Cambridge, my family would indulge me while I went slightly bonkers buying stuff at Bob Slate. Elaine would go slightly bonkers buying stuff too. Bob Slate’s three stores were a stationery dream: notebooks, paper, pens, pencils, and supplies galore.¹

The reasons for the stores’ demise are the obvious ones: aging owners (sons Justin and Mallory Slate), declining sales, and no buyer in sight. Mallory Slate’s observation is telling: “People spend an hour looking at every fountain pen we have, then they go home and buy it on the Internet.” The moral of the story: paying more at a local store is often in the customer’s long-term interest. If you want, say, a bookstore to browse in, buy your books from that store. That might not be enough to keep the store going, but at least you won’t be helping to bring about its demise.

¹ Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father’s Day

[Photograph by Louise Leddy, November 28, 1957.]

That’s my dad, James Leddy, and me, in Union City, New Jersey, in front of my grandparents’ apartment building (i.e., the building where my grandparents rented an apartment and where my dad grew up). The tree is now gone, but Google Maps shows the little brick walls still guarding the steps to the entrance, same as they ever were.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. And Happy Father’s Day to all.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

“ProcrastiNation”

From January 2011, a good episode of To the Best of Our Knowledge: “ProcrastiNation.”

A related post
Advice for procrastinators

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chris Matthews explains it all for you

During an MSNBC Hardball discussion of the Anthony Weiner scandal:

“Sex is generally between two people in private, you know, in some room somewhere.”

No Sleep

Adam Mansbach’s Go the Fuck to Sleep (pictures by Ricardo Cortés) is a joke in the form of a book, a dull and repetitive and vulgar joke, and a dull and repetitive and vulgar book, one that commodifies snark and makes a pretense of transgression. Note the coy cover, dodging the forbidden word, the better to display the book in stores. How edgy.

As a parent who was sometimes up at all hours, and who read and made up many stories to induce sleep (sometimes conking out while so doing), I never felt the impulse to say or think anything even close to what this book’s title says. (Honest.) My interest, 2:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m., was in caring for someone who needed all the care I could offer. That’s what being a parent often calls for: selflessness. It comes with the territory.

The title Go the Fuck to Sleep might prompt the perennial child-question: “Why?” We never hear a child ask that question in the book, but the answer is clear: because mommy and daddy want to do what they want to do (“We’re finally watching our movie”). To which one might say, in the spirit of the book: please grow the fuck up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

“[T]he creature cocoa”

Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, and a moment of hospitality:

How did Bloom prepare a collation for a gentile?

He poured into two teacups two level spoonfuls, four in all, of Epps’s soluble cocoa and proceeded according to the directions for use printed on the label, to each adding after sufficient time for infusion the prescribed ingredients for diffusion in the manner and in the quantity prescribed.

What supererogatory marks of special hospitality did the host show his guest?

Relinquishing his symposiarchal right to the moustache cup of imitation Crown Derby presented to him by his only daughter, Millicent (Milly), he substituted a cup identical with that of his guest and served extraordinarily to his guest and, in reduced measure, to himself the viscous cream ordinarily reserved for the breakfast of his wife Marion (Molly).

Was the guest conscious of and did he acknowledge these marks of hospitality?

His attention was directed to them by his host jocosely, and he accepted them seriously as they drank in jocoserious silence Epps’s massproduct, the creature cocoa.

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
Most of the events of Ulysses take place on June 16, 1904, Bloomsday. The above passage is from the novel’s catechetical “Ithaca” episode, set in the wee small hours of June 17. Massproduct: yes, there’s something sacramental in this scene.

Why “the creature cocoa”? The Oxford English Dictionary explains: “[After 1 Timothy 4:4 (‘every creature of God is good’).] Freq. in good creature. A material comfort; something which promotes well-being, esp. food. Obs.”

[Advertisement from The Popular Science Review (1871).]

Other Bloomsday posts
2007 (The first page)
2008 (“Love’s Old Sweet Song”)
2009 (Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses)
2010 (Leopold Bloom, “water lover”)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Telephone exchange names on screen

[Philip Raven (Alan Ladd), new in town, looks up Willard Gates (Laird Cregar).]

This Gun for Hire (dir. Frank Tuttle, 1942) stars Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar, and Alan Ladd. Unlike, say, The Big Sleep (dir. Howard Hawks, 1946), this film is governed by centripetal not centrifugal force. Cregar (as a Los Angeles chemicals executive and nightclub owner) and Ladd (as a hitman) are stellar. Lake (as singer-magician Ellen Graham) and Preston (as Detective Michael Crane) seem an unlikely couple. But it’s a movie.

[Gates: “Your act is very charming.” Graham: “Thank you.”]

More exchange names on screen
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Baby Face : Born Yesterday : The Dark Corner : Deception : Dream House : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Murder, My Sweet : Nightmare Alley : The Public Enemy : Side Street

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Banned List

From John Rentoul of The Independent, a list of one hundred words and phrases to avoid: The Banned List.

This list should make any writer look at her or his work more critically. I’m guilty of key as an adjective (which I think is fine) and Who knew? (which I’ll acknowledge as tiresome).

Related posts
That said,
Words I can live without

Domestic comedy

While watching the New Deal documentary The River:

“Why is he saying everything twice? Why is he saying everything twice?”
Related reading
All “domestic comedy” posts

Quoted in Fortune


It feels strange to be turning up in the pages (or on a page) of the May 23 issue of Fortune. The quotation is from this post. Thanks to Sean at Blackwing Pages (who’s also quoted) and Stephen at pencil talk for letting me know about the Fortune article.

Related reading
All Blackwing posts

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ethel’s Beauty Salon



Everything about this card (from the ephemera section of a used-book store) is to like: the aromatic exchange name, the vague and sophisticated evenings, the suggestions of art and science (offsetting the dowdy Ethel, at least in my mind), the helpful over, the union print-shop label beneath the calendar. The hairstyle would have been familiar to any early-1940s American: it suggests, no question about it, the actress Veronica Lake, whose celebrated over-the-eye style was even the subject of a Life magazine article (November 24, 1941), “Veronica Lake’s Hair: It Is a Cinematic Property of World Influence”:
Veronica Lake’s hair has been acclaimed by men, copied by girls, cursed by their mothers and viewed with alarm by moralists. It is called the “strip-tease style,” “the sheep-dog style” and the “bad-girl style” (though few except nice girls wear it), but to most moviegoers it is simply “the Veronica Lake style.”

It still is. But the Montrose address today seems to be home to a travel agency, Quizhpi Express.

[A movie recommendation: Veronica Lake shines as The Girl in Sullivan’s Travels (dir. Preston Sturges, 1941).]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In defense of college radio

Vanderbilt University has sold off its radio station, and former DJ Freddie O’Connell objects:

The sale added Vanderbilt to a growing list of colleges and universities, including Rice University in Houston and the University of San Francisco, where college radio licenses are being sold off, backed by the assertion that today’s well-wired students no longer tune in to the medium. But that misses the point: college radio is not only a vital part of the communities it serves, but it is even more essential in the Internet era.

Preserving College Radio (New York Times)
O’Connell’s characterization of WRVU as “one of the only places people could hear traditional bluegrass, world music and electronica, to name just a few genres,” made me remember a once-great radio station of my acquaintance.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Leonard Stern (1922–2011)

From an appropriately clever New York Times obituary:

Leonard B. Stern, an Emmy-winning writer, producer and director for television whose frantic search for an adjective one day led him and a colleague to create Mad Libs, the game that asks players to fill in blanks with designated parts of speech to yield comically ________[adj.] stories, died on Tuesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 88.
Among his other accomplishments, Leonard Stern co-wrote seventeen of the thirty-nine “classic” episodes of The Honeymooners.

On Thursday, Ben had Elaine and me fill in a Mad Lib he had made for his co-workers. He recorded our answers on a napkin during lunch. We didn’t know then that Mr. Stern had died. His Mad Libs lives on.

[“Classic”: the 1955–1956 episodes shown for years on WPIX in New York City.]

Friday, June 10, 2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915–2011)

From the New York Times:

Patrick Leigh Fermor, the British writer whose erudite, high-spirited accounts of his adventures in prewar Europe, southern Greece and the Caribbean are widely regarded as classics of travel literature, died on Friday at his home in Worcestershire, England. He was 96.
I read his work for the first time earlier this month.

A related post
Patrick Leigh Fermor’s eye

The Electric Soup Kitchen

[Life, March 11, 1940.]

What, you may ask, is the Heinz Electric Soup Kitchen? It is (or was) a gimmick to sell canned soup. From the text accompanying this little panel:
“Eating out” is like “eating in” when your favorite counter serves your favorite soup — by Heinz! For every bowlful of hale and hearty Heinz Home-style Soup is brimming with irresistible, homemade flavor Heinz chefs capture by careful, small-batch cooking. Soda fountains, luncheonettes and tea rooms from coast to coast are equipped with the Heinz Electric Soup Kitchen that facilitates prompt, speedy service of these delectable dishes. An electric soup cup heats them in two minutes!
The premise of this ad — that “eating out” should taste like “eating in” — bugs me in its appeal to the preference for what’s already familiar. If I were the man in the hat, I’d feel a bit demeaned when a customer ordered Heinz soup and not one of my delicious hamburg or liverwurst sandwiches. Sure, it’s not like I make the meat myself, but it takes a heck of a lot more skill to make a good sandwich plate than to heat up a can o’ soup. But if your idea of “eating out” is the same can you could’ve had at home, I’ll get it for you right now. Heinz soup —it’s grand! Would you like crackers with that?

[The Electric Soup Kitchen would have made a great name for a fleetingly famous rock group. I think of them as having their first (and last) LP, Spoonful (1970), on Buddah or Liberty. Yes, it was spelled Buddah.]

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Plus ça change



A certain CBS Evening News anchorperson looks an awful lot like another CBS Evening News anchorperson. IMHO.

[Scott Pelley and Bob Schieffer.]

Waters, Mathis, McDowall, Axelrod, Rogers, and Evans

John Waters tells a story:

Johnny Mathis admits he does go to private events, and we both recall happily those wonderfully insane dinner party salons that the late Roddy McDowall used to give for the most bizarrely mixed guest list ever. “He included everybody,” Johnny says, laughing, and boy, did he! I remember being lucky enough to be invited there and meeting George Axelrod, and how happy I was to gush to him in person about the brilliance of his screenplay and his direction of the movie Lord Love a Duck. Then I turned around and there was an elderly couple dressed in full fringed cowboy outfits with holsters and guns. “Oh, John,” Roddy asked casually, “do you know Roy Rogers and Dale Evans?” “No,” I stammered, almost speechless. How could I? I live in Baltimore!

Role Models (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2010)
Other Lord Love a Duck posts
Blackwing pencil sighting
“[F]lapping his arms like Roddy McDowall”
Getting my ducks in a row

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Glenn Gould in The Bahamas

[Glenn Gould in Nassau, The Bahamas, conducting an imaginary orchestra. From The Virtues of Hesitation (dir. Gould, 1956).]

If you’re not already a Glenn Gould fan, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (dir. Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont, 2009) might make you one. It’s an excellent documentary, with revealing commentary from those who knew Gould best. One strange delight of Genius Within is a clip from The Virtues of Hesitation, a short 1956 film that Gould made in Nassau, The Bahamas, with writer and photographer Jock Carroll and dancer Anatole Green. Angus Carroll, Jock’s son, has put The Virtues of Hesitation online, along with the story behind the film.

Caution: the film is not exactly safe for work (I guess it depends on your employment), and it might offend contemporary sensibilities. It offers though hilarious glimpses of Glenn Gould cutting loose.

Related reading
All Glenn Gould posts

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pinboard tag cloud



Behold, a tag cloud with the top twenty tags for Orange Crate Art posts. This cloud may also be found in a more subdued form in the sidebar.

Pinboard is, in the words of its makers, “a bookmarking website for introverted people in a hurry.” I’ve been using Pinboard since December 2010 and recommend it with enthusiasm.

About those clothespins

About those clothespins:

According to the Bangor Industrial Journal, one of the most complete and extensive clothes pin factories is located at Vanceboro, Me. From the same source the process of manufacturing the pins, as carried on at the Vanceboro Wooden Ware Company’s factory, is given.

The wood used is mainly white birch and beech. . . . [Blocks of wood] are fed to the turning lathes, of which there are several — each being capable of of turning 80 pins per minute. . . .

The market for clothes pins is not confined to any special locality, but is found nearly all over the world. Ten thousand boxes have been shipped to Melbourne, Australia, within the past four months. Two firms in London carry a stock of ten thousand boxes each, and two firms in Boston carry a like amount. One thousand boxes constitute a load.

“Clothes Pins,” Scientific American, February 3, 1883.
So that’s why the history of poetry began, “quite possibly,” in 1883.

Did Nicholson Baker read this Scientific American article? I wonder. Is Vanceborough his mistake, or Paul Chowder’s? I wonder.

The related post, without which this one makes little sense
Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

Chowder speaks:

The history of poetry began, quite possibly, in the year 1883. Let me write that date for you with my Sharpie, so you can have it for your convenience. 1883. That’s when it all began. Or maybe not. Could be any year. The year doesn’t matter. Forget the year! The important thing is that there’s something called the nineteenth century, which is like a huge forest of old-growth birch and beech. That’s what they used to make clothespins out of, birch and beech. New England was the clothespin-manufacturing capital of the world. There was a factory in Vanceborough, Maine, that made eight hundred clothespins a minute in 1883. Those clothespins went out to England, to France, to Spain, to practically every country in the world. Clothes in every country were stretched out on rope to dry in the sun and held in place by New England clothespins. Elizabeth Barrett Browning probably used New England clothespins. I’m not kidding.
Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist (2009) is a novel in the form of a monologue by Paul Chowder, a poet struggling to write an introduction for an anthology of rhyming poetry. Chowder is genial, klutzy, and lonely. He is a dispenser of writing tips, a proclaimer of truths (like many poets, he knows what he knows, and he knows it’s the truth), and a slightly cracked theorist of meter. His taste in poetry is, well, his own: he loves Sara Teasdale and never “really cottoned” to John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Chowder’s skills in digression and procrastination go hand in hand: witness the sample above.

At one point in his monologue, Chowder mourns the death of good light verse. The Anthologist might be described as a good light novel: it’s a delight to read, funny and entertaining.

Monday, June 6, 2011

From Lena to Rena


[“Hello Rena — Did you cut down that stump yet? Has the grass growed up again? Lena.” Postmarked August 10, 1907. Click for a larger view.]

The Railway Exchange Building, now known as the Santa Fe Building, opened in 1904. I found this postcard in an antiques store. The message — from sister to sister? — sold me.

Brian Wilson, judged by history

From an interview with Brian Wilson:

Q. How do you think you’ll be judged by history?

A. I think as a musical genius, probably.
A related post
Brian Wilson at the movies (from another interview)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Federer v. Nadal

David Foster Wallace on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2006:

Apollo and Dionysus. Scalpel and cleaver. Righty and southpaw. Nos. 1 and 2 in the world. Nadal, the man who’s taken the modern power-baseline game just as far as it goes, versus a man who’s transfigured that modern game, whose precision and variety are as big a deal as his pace and foot-speed, but who may be peculiarly vulnerable to, or psyched out by, that first man. A British sportswriter, exulting with his mates in the press section, says, twice, “It’s going to be a war.”

Federer as Religious Experience (New York Times)
At the French Open, Federer is down two sets to none as I’m typing.

11:31 a.m.: Federer won the third set.

12:06 p.m.: Nadal won the fourth set and the match.

[Disclaimer: I know zilch about tennis.]

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, complete

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Ninety years in the making, the 21-volume, 28,000-word Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is complete. Started in 1921, the dictionary was created over the years by about 85 employees writing on millions of index cards in up to five large offices at the school’s Oriental Institute at University Avenue and 58th Street.
The school of course is the University of Chicago. The work’s official title: The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. The twenty-one volumes are available as free downloads.

A related post
Beginning with A (other lexicographic long hauls)

Friday, June 3, 2011

“Housewife Headache”


[“Making beds, getting meals, acting as family chauffeur — having to do the same dull, tiresome work day after day — is a mild form of torture. These boring yet necessary tasks can bring on nervous tension, fatigue and what is now known as ‘housewife headache.’ For this kind of headache you need strong yet safe relief. So take Anacin®. Anacin is a special fortified formula. It gives you twice as much of the strong pain-reliever doctors recommend most — as the other leading extra strength tablet. Minutes after taking Anacin your headache goes, so do its nervous tension and fatigue. Despite its strength Anacin is safe, taken as directed. It doesn’t leave you depressed or groggy. See if you don’t feel better all over with a brighter outlook after taking 2 Anacin Tablets.” Life, December 20, 1968.]

I found this advertisement while searching for something else. It’s the first in a brief series of Life ads touting Anacin as the cure for “Housewife Headache,” and one of two that characterize housework as “a mild form of torture” — from which there’s no respite, only a tablet that offers temporary relief from pain. Note the tactful reassurance about Anacin: “It doesn’t leave you depressed or groggy.” In other words, it’s not a tranquilizer. The active ingredients if you’re wondering: aspirin and caffeine.

Lists at the Morgan Library

At the Morgan Library: “Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.” No photographs on the Morgan website, but there’s a nice sampling at the Smithsonian.

A related post
A review of Liza Kirwin’s Lists (the book of the exhibit)

Clarice Taylor (1917–2011)

From the New York Times:

Clarice Taylor, an actress who was best known as the endearing, self-possessed grandmother on The Cosby Show and who also won an Obie Award for her Off Broadway portrayal of the vaudeville comedienne Moms Mabley, died on Monday at her home in Englewood, N.J. She was 93.
I think of her as Granny Ethel in Wayne Wang and Paul Auster’s Smoke (1995).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy v. right

Jonathan Kaplan:

“It’s better to be happy than to be right. (It’s hard for driven people to realize this.)”
It’s certainly not always the case that it’s better to be happy than right. But sometimes it is. Often it is. Oh heck — Jonathan Kaplan is right!

[Jonathan Kaplan founded Pure Digital Technologies, the company that made the Flip camcorder. His latest venture is a line of grilled-cheese-and-soup restaurants.]

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s eye

In the 1950s Patrick Leigh Fermor spent time as a guest in French Benedictine and Trappist monasteries, seeking not God but a cheap and quiet place to write. Here he is shown into his room in the Abbey of St. Wandrille de Fontanelle:

The monk opened a door and said, “Here is your cell.” It was a high seventeenth-century room with a comfortable bed, a prie-dieu, a writing-table, a tapestry chair, a green adjustable reading-lamp, and a rather disturbing crucifix on the whitewashed stone walls. The window looked out over a grassy courtyard, in which a small fountain played, over the grey flank of the monastery buildings and the wall that screened the Abbey from the half-timbered houses of the village. A vista of forest flowed away beyond. In the middle of the writing-table stood a large inkwell, a tray full of pens and a pad into which new blotting paper had just been fitted. I had only time to unpack my clothes and papers and books before a great bell began ringing and the monk, who was the guest-master, returned to lead me to the refectory for the midday meal. As we walked, the buildings changed in period from the architecture of the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries to Gothic; and we halted at length by the piscina in an ogival cloister of the utmost beauty, outside a great carved door where several other visitors had also been assembled. The guest-master shepherded us into the refectory in which the Abbot, a tall, white-haired, patrician figure with a black skull-cap and a gold pectoral cross on a green cord, was waiting to receive us. To each of the guests he spoke a few words; and some, sinking upon one knee, kissed the great emerald on his right hand. To me he addressed a polite formula in English that had obviously been acquired at some remote period from a governess. A novice advanced with a silver ewer and a basin; the Abbot poured a little water over our hands, a towel was offered, and our welcome, according to Benedictine custom, was complete.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time to Keep Silence (1957)
What an eye — for architecture, for the contents of a room, for the bits of detail that suggest the Abbot’s character. I especially like the way the eye takes in the room (saving that crucifix for last), looks through the window, and then zooms in on the details of the writing-desk. A Time to Keep Silence, Leigh Fermor’s account of his monastic travels, is available from New York Review Books (2007). I picked up the book by chance in a bookstore last week. I’ve yet to meet a NYRB book I haven’t liked.

[Is Patrick Leigh Fermor still writing? I hope so. In 2007, at the age of ninety-two, he was learning to type.]

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

M.A. Numminen sings Wittgenstein

In the 1980s, Finnish artist Mauri Antero Numminen set to music excerpts from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. My favorite: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen.” [Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.]

M.A. Numminen sings Wittgenstein (UbuWeb Sound)

[Translation by C.K. Ogden.]

The Steins collect

The Steins collect paintings on walls of painting. Of color. Of walls of. In San Francisco.

The Steins Collect (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)
San Francisco Exhibit Reunites Gertrude Stein’s Remarkable Art Collection (PBS NewHour)