Monday, December 31, 2012
Sunday, December 30, 2012
“What song am I singing in my head?” [Begins to saunter.]
[Astonished.] “How did you guess that?”
“You were sauntering.”
All domestic comedy posts (via Pinboard)
[“Main Street,” music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, from On the Town (dir. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1949). And no, we had not just seen On the Town. It was a matter of father-daughter ESP.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:38 AM
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Bryan Garner collects some news of the year in language and writing. A sample:
A Brooklyn resident contested a parking ticket based on the meaning of the preposition to. According to the New York Times, Mark Vincent parked under a sign that read: “No standing April to October.” He decided that to meant that parking was prohibited until the month of October began. Because it was October 2, he reasoned that he was within the law. Supported by Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, he argued that to means “up to but not including,” while through means “to and including.” Although he did not win his appeal, the new sign reads: “No standing April 1–Sept. 30.”I wish that Garner’s compendium came with links: they’d make for hours of happy (and sometimes dismaying) browsing. If you were reading Orange Crate Art in April, you saw a a post with a link to the Times article on to v. through.
[Bryan Garner, author of Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009), offers a free Usage Tip of the Day. You can sign up at LawProse.org. Orange Crate Art is a Garner-friendly site.]
By Michael Leddy at 10:48 AM
Friday, December 28, 2012
Johnny Misheff, a curator of “Moving the Still,” an exhibition of GIFs at Art Basel Miami Beach, explains the relevance of the GIF:
“You know, this is like such an era of ‘Wow me in the least amount of time that you possibly can ’cause I don’t have time to like invest in your stuff.’ It's like the ‘prove it to me’ generation. If you haven't roped somebody in within two seconds, then you lost, you know?”No, I don’t know. It saddens me to hear a curator speak as if such an attention span should be a measure of artistic programming. I think for contrast of an observation from the philosopher Richard Wollheim:
I evolved a way of looking at paintings which was massively time-consuming and deeply rewarding. For I came to recognize that it often took the first hour or so in front of a painting for stray associations or motivated misperceptions to settle down, and it was only then, with the same amount of time or more spent looking at it, that the picture could be relied upon to disclose itself as it was.Wollheim’s way of looking at art requires a worthy object, one that does not “disclose itself” in seconds and that rewards looking again and again.
I noticed that I became an object of suspicion to passers-by, and so did the picture that I was looking at.
From Painting as an Art: The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts (1987), a series talks given at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1984.
[I quoted Wollheim’s words in a 2010 post. I like GIFs too. But not as the measure of my attention span.]
By Michael Leddy at 2:12 PM
Diana Senechal again:
The Chorus in Antigone says that he who honors the laws of the land and the justice of the gods will be hupsipolis, that is, he will have a great city. One could say this about literature: if students learn to enter it and honor it, they will have the makings of a rich life. They will also have an opening to true difference; by immersing themselves in the sole voice of another, they will start to hear their own voice, assenting, questioning, disputing, singing along, starting a new poem or song. Much of this literature is difficult for readers today; the ideas may seem distant, the words obscure, or the sentences long and complex. It is the teacher’s duty to help the student enter the work, and this takes time and care. It cannot be done when students in a given class are reading many different works at the same time. It requires a certain reverence — not the reverence of calling an author “great” just because everyone else does, but the reverence of treating the work, for a little while, as the most important thing in the room and mind.
Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2012).
By Michael Leddy at 10:14 AM
Tickets for four to see Les Misérables: $34.
Champagne cocktails and one family member’s imitation of Anne Hathaway’s mouth: priceless.
[Les Misérables seems remarkably ill-conceived. Casting a musical with actors of limited vocal ability deprives those actors of any real chance to act. About all they can do is perform. Anne Hathaway seemed to our ears the best voice in the film. On another note: champagne cocktails — sugar, Angostura bitters, champagne — are delicious. Does the champagne cocktail immediately suggest to you, as it does to me, someone from “the movies”?]
By Michael Leddy at 9:42 AM
Sad news in the New York Times: “Fontella Bass, the singer whose 1965 hit “Rescue Me” was an indelible example of the decade’s finest pop-soul, died on Wednesday in St. Louis.”
I know Bass best from her work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and (later) with her once husband Lester Bowie. The Art Ensemble’s “Theme de Yoyo” is a great synthesis of funk, free jazz, and metaphysical conceits.
By Michael Leddy at 9:15 AM
Thursday, December 27, 2012
It was a beautiful morning in mid-December when I mistyped a URL in my browser. I should then have seen something like this:
Instead I found myself looking at the sort of page I hadn’t seen in years, my Internet Service Provider’s own page of results, with nothing but links for various advertisers:
My typo was now serving my ISP’s profit motive. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports, the ISP practice of hijacking has been common with both searches and mistyped URLs. Not even the use of non-ISP Domain Name Service servers, such as Google’s 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168, will always stop hijacking.¹
When I went to my ISP’s preferences page to opt out, I was told that my preferences were locked. When I deleted my ISP from Chrome’s list of search engines, it reappeared, again and again. And when I called my ISP to inquire as to what was going on, I found myself talking to a well-meaning fellow who knew much less about these things than I do — which, granted, is not that much. But I have figured out two simple ways to defeat this ISP practice:
1. In Chrome or Safari (I use both), clear the cache, disable all extensions, and attempt to opt out. For whatever reason, I was unable to opt out with my handful of extensions enabled. (I’m not patient enough to go back and try to find the offending extension by disabling one extension at a time.)
2. In Chrome or Firefox, use the EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere. The downside: depending on the speed of your connection, this extension might make browing noticeably slower.
After looking closely at my ISP’s website, I realize that I cannot expect very much in the way of technical experise. Here, from my ISP’s directions for setting up a homepage, is the complete list of supported browsers:
I think that covers it.
¹ And anyway, another DNS might much be slower than your ISP’s DNS. Why? As they say in real estate: location, location, location. Google’s free app namebench gives a fast and easy way to find the fastest DNS for your location.
By Michael Leddy at 12:08 PM
To fight distraction is to defend something that matters, something that requires devotion of the mind. This is part of the meaning of study: to honor things through thought and longing. Many dismiss such yearning as impractical; we have enough on our hands, they say, with the daily scramble and the demands of the age. But yearning can pull us out of the scramble; it can calm the scramble itself. The teacher who longs to read about Chinese history will set aside time for it in the evenings. The boy who longs to see a falling star will stay up late, looking up at the sky for hours. in Moby-Dick, it is the Rachel, returning from a vain search for the captain’s lost sons, that ultimately rescues Ishmael from the water near the sunken Pequod and makes the story possible. If we abandon such yearning and seeking, if we defer to the petty demon of “getting it now,” then nothing will be left but our vicissitudes, and we will have no will or thought but to follow them.Also from Republic of Noise
Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2012).
“A little out of date”
By Michael Leddy at 8:07 AM
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
In a nearby restaurant, the owner’s son, a young boy with iPad in hands, earbuds in ears, came out from the back to tell his mom the news:
“It’s a blizzard starting! I’m not kidding!”
All “overheard” posts (Pinboard)
[A blizzard is what we were promised, but the snowfall here is still pretty calm. It is a snowfall from a Pierre Reverdy poem, so far, so to speak.]
By Michael Leddy at 3:03 PM
There is nothing quite so dangerous as trying to be always up to date, for one simple reason: just moments after one becomes current, one falls behind. To keep from falling behind, one must stay alert to every update. To step back, to spend time on something not immediately relevant, is to risk “missing out,” losing touch with the lickety-split relay of the latest, or so it seems. . . .
The pressure to keep up with the times not only distracts and dizzies us; it upsets and distorts our values. Once we subscribe to the “cutting edge,” we lose the ability to judge it. We grab it, grab some opinions about it, and grab some more. What others are saying about the latest gadget or fashionable concept becomes more important than what we ourselves think. We are told that if we just get it now, or embrace it now, we will be at an advantage. Thus to think in any sort of depth, to judge things on our own, we must risk falling a little out of date, a little out of authority.
Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2012).
By Michael Leddy at 8:42 AM
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
Says the advertisement, “Just five minutes at a Parker Jotter counter can take a surprising amount of guesswork and expense and time out of your Christmas shopping.”
“Parker Jotter counter”: noun phrase of a lost world.
[Life, December 24, 1964. Click for a larger view.]
The Parker T-Ball Jotter is an especially good value if you have a working time-machine. The pen that sold for $1.98 in 1964 sells for $6 or $7 or so today. Today’s prices are good ones too: the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator turns 1964’s $1.98 into 2012’s $14.70.
Parker T-Ball Jotter, 1963
Ten best “dowdy world” gifts
[The typeface in the headline? Goudy Old Style. Notice the diamond-shaped tittle on the lowercase i.]
By Michael Leddy at 7:21 AM
Saturday, December 22, 2012
My wife Elaine has put me up to it: I will be live-blogging Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Starting soon.
7:01: The frame story — Magoo returning to Broadway to play Scrooge — has been removed. More time for commercials! Curse you, NBC.
7:02: “Ringle, Ringle”: Scrooge sings a celebration of wealth. Bob Cratchit: he’s the 99%. Poor Bob’s a-cold.
7:05: Purple pavement? The colors have been brightened, sweetened, enhanced. (I think that the DVD will bear me out.)
7:07: Scrooge’s rooms resemble Matisse’s The Red Studio, only redder.
7:15: The Ghost of Christmas Present is a vision in pink.
7:16: I never knew that it was Gerald McBoing-Boing playing Tiny Tim. I never knew that it was Jack Cassidy speaking and singing Bob Cratchit’s words.
7:19: Nor did I ever understand just what was wrong with Tiny Tim.
7:19: All shots of the theater in which the performance is taking place seem to have been chopped for this airing. I still remember the strange hair whorl on the back of one theatergoer’s head. Anyone who remembers this show will miss these details. (Is the idea to make people want to buy the DVD?)
7:25: Elaine is playing the DVD on her Mac as I watch the television. She points out that small bits of dialogue and song have been cut here and there. Shameful.
7:26: “Alone in the World”: such a sad and beautiful song. Yet it’s missing the image of young Ebenezer tracing his hand on the schoolroom blackboard.
7:32: Yes, the colors have been altered, horribly so. But at least Fezziwig’s warehouse still has non-red walls.
7:36: The delicate landscapes that accompany “Winter Was Warm” have been altered beyond recognition here. A snowy field is now red. There must have been a sale on red.
7:37: Even the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a bright red.
7:38: Nothing though can alter the solid goodness of the songs, even in truncated form. Such an inspired choice to have Jule Styne and Bob Merrill writing music for a cartoon. I’m reminded of Johnny Costa’s contributions to Mister Rogers’ Neighborood: children too deserve real music.
7:43: The frequent commercial interruptions and the cutting of the theater scenes take away the three-act feel of the original.
7:45: The thieves’ song has been shortened.
7:46: “No, not Tiny Tim!”
7:47: The visit to the graveyard spooked me as a kid. I closed my eyes and peeked now and then. It’s less spooky in Technicolor.
7:49: The last ten seconds or so of the “Alone in the World” reprise have been cut. And it’s straight to commercials.
7:50: Elaine reports that the DVD now shows eleven minutes to go. So what more will be cut? Oh, of course: the return to the frame story of Magoo back on Broadway. Will the cast even get to take its final bow?
7:53: “Today? Why, Christmas Day!”
7:56: The winking doorknocker has been cut.
7:57: “The Founder of the Feast indeed.”
7:58: “And therefore I am about to raise your salary!”
7:59: The reprise of “The Lord’s Bright Blessing” has been cut. And of course the cast’s bows.
No razzleberry dressing for you, NBC. No razzleberry dressing ever.
[Thanks, Elaine, for your help.]
By Michael Leddy at 6:43 PM
Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, fifty this year, airs on NBC tonight, 7:00 Central Time. A very big deal. Thanks to Daughter Number Three for spreading the news.
Later that night: I live-blogged the broadcast.
Ghost of Christmas Past: Magoo at 50 (CNN)
By Michael Leddy at 11:03 AM
Friday, December 21, 2012
At Contrapuntalism, Sean begins to tell the story of his journey to Die Bleistiftstadt:
About a month ago, I received an extraordinary invitation: Faber-Castell wanted to know if I would like to come visit their headquarters in Stein for a few days, to have a tour of the castle and production facilities, and to meet with Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell.Holy graphite! Here is part one.
[Die Bleistiftstadt: the pencil city.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:53 AM
I just finished making a calendar for 2013 (in a fraction of the time): three months per page in beautiful Gill Sans Bold, readable from a good distance — from at least ten feet, I’d say. If you’d like a PDF, send me an e-mail. (If you’re seeing this post in a reader, click through: my address is in the sidebar.) And if you’d like to design a calendar of your own, I have one word for you: tables.
[This calendar is mine, not Mayan. But if the world ends today, I may not be able to reply to your e-mail.]
By Michael Leddy at 7:31 AM
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Jerry Seinfeld writes his material on legal pads with blue Bics. From an interview with the New York Times:
“Do you always write on — ?”Related reading
“Always, yeah. Yeah.”
“Have you ever tried to — ?”
All handwriting posts (Pinboard)
Larry David’s notebook
By Michael Leddy at 9:04 AM
Blogger users: it’s possible (at least for now) to disable mobile view: open your Blogger account, click on Template, and have at it. Blogger readers: you can read on a mobile device in the old-fashioned way by changing the extra info that ends a mobile-view URL: change /?m=1 to /?m=0.
To my eyes, the column of text and pitchers that is Orange Crate Art looks great as is on an iPad or iPhone, and I’m keeping it that way as long as Blogger allows.
The tap-per-post format wouldn’t be designed to increase page views and ad revenue, would it? Google wouldn’t offer an inferior reading experience just to make more money, would it?
[If you use an ad-blocking extension in your browser, you might not know: Orange Crate Art has always been an ad-free blog.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:05 AM
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
I am far from disorderly — I know exactly where things are, or at least most things. I don’t know where I came across the above observation, and then there’s this postcard I had lost track of, until I rediscovered it among — guess what? — other postcards and things of that nature.One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.
A. A. Milne, supposedly
[Click for a larger view.]
The postcard, a product of Pittsburgh’s Minsky Bros. & Co., is a two-fer: heading east through the overly large state of Pennsylvania, it depicts the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Kittatinny and Blue Mountain Tunnels. The card reads:
Kittatinny and Blue Mountain Tunnels are called the "Twin Tunnels" as there is only 800 feet of daylight between them; then the mountains are behind you, and the Turnpike runs straight as a ribbon for long distances through the fertile Cumberland Valley.And the message:
(Written Tues) April 26 
Hi! We're heading fast toward Wash. D.C. The country is really rugged. We travel way up high on hills — valley is way low beneath us. The high altitude makes my ears stop up. Mon. night stayed at Pittsburgh. Today went to Gettysburg. Tonight — Washington. This picture — went through these tunnels (mile long each.) Rosie
[Click for a larger view.]
The tunnels are not quite a mile long, but they are long, and the country is rugged, and must have felt more so in 1949, when people drove with far fewer amenities. We used to take the Turnpike when driving east from Illinois, and I remember the relief I felt when we made it through the last of the tunnels, the ones pictured on this postcard. My ears stopped up too, and I like the lack of self-consciousness with which Rosie acknowledges the effect of high altitude. Is she worried about looking unsophisticated? Not in the least. Am I?
In December 2013, Elaine and I did our best to recreate the scene on this postcard: The Pennsylvania Turnpike, then and now.
From Lena to Rena (a 1907 postcard)
Re: “things of that nature” and “whatnot”
[For anyone who must drive through it, yes, Pennsylvania is overly large, ridiculously so.]
By Michael Leddy at 6:20 AM
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The Mac app Quicksilver has an annoying (annoying to me, anyway) feature of showing the result after copying or moving a file or folder.¹ I found a workaround by Rob McBroom, a Quicksilver developer. It’s easy to make the change he describes: right-clicking on Quicksilver.app and Core Support.qsplugin and choosing “Show Package Contents” will get you to the necessary file.
¹ If you don’t use Quicksilver, this sentence and, well, this post will make no sense. Don’t worry about it.
By Michael Leddy at 8:21 AM
Here, from Senator Dianne Feinstein’s website, is a fairly detailed description of an assault-weapons bill that has been under development for more than a year. Feinstein (D-California) plans to introduce the bill on the first day of the new Congress — January 3, 2013. I am confident about how Illinois’s senators will vote: Dick Durbin (D) and Mark Kirk (R) have received F ratings from the National Rifle Association. I will be calling them anyway to register my support for Feinstein’s bill. My representative in the new Congress, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), has an A from the NRA. But I will be calling him too to express my support for the bill.
By Michael Leddy at 7:56 AM
Monday, December 17, 2012
[Hi and Lois, December 17, 2012.]
Hi Flagston today reprises a role he performed on February 9, 2009, that of the stingy landlord who sends up a miserable nickel’s-worth of heat. Shame on you, sir, for making your
tenants wife and children freeze. In 2009, Hi joked about checking the price of oil before raising the thermostat. Today, facing Lois’s anger and condensed breath, he jokes that “It helps to get all hot and bothered.” Listen up, Hi: if you don’t change your ways, things are going to get a whole lot colder in your house, and they’re going to stay a whole lot colder, especially in a certain room of your house, if you get what I mean, and I hope that you do.
The good news here is that the workers on the Hi-Lo line have figured out how to construct a classic Honeywell thermostat. Compare:
All Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 9:34 AM
After updating Dropbox on my iPad, I began to wonder: how does one update Dropbox in OS X? Dropbox isn’t in the App Store, and there’s no way to check for updates from the app itself. I found an explanation at Practically Efficient and went from 1.4.12 to 1.6.5.
If you’d like to try Dropbox, this referral link will give you and me each an extra 500 MB of free storage.
By Michael Leddy at 8:56 AM
Friday, December 14, 2012
On August 5, 2012, I wrote the following words:
About two weeks ago, in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, shootings, various voices in media and politics said that it was inappropriate to be discussing gun-ownership rights — not the right time, too early. In the aftermath of today’s shootings in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, it seems that once again it will be too early for such a discussion.White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sounded the refrain earlier today:
“There is, I’m sure — will be, rather, a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I don’t think today is that day.”As violent event follows violent event, the logic here defies logic. Carney is of course right to say that today is not the day to discuss a piece of legislation. But his language is the language of procrastination, of endless deferral. It suggests to me J. Alfred Prufrock: “There will be time, there will be time.” And the reference to “the usual Washington policy debates” suggests a lack of conviction that anything much is going to change. But have gun-ownership rights even been a “usual” subject of debate in Washington? Not much, not lately.
President Obama was more to the point:
“As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."And now, the president needs to lead.
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
[My transcriptions, from clips available at CBS News.]
By Michael Leddy at 6:59 PM
[Hi and Lois, December 14, 2012.]
Dot Flagston, look again: there is one door on the side of your family’s station wagon.
It was a car-safety problem that turned me into a close reader of Hi and Lois. The fun never ends. Everything about cars seems to be a challenge for those who assemble the strip.
The two-door station wagon seems hilariously improbable: the spaciousness of a wagon, the awkwardness of . . . a compact? (Especially improbable with baby Trixie on board.) But as I just found out, two-door station wagons did exist, years ago. Perhaps there’s some inside joke inside this strip.
All Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 11:52 AM
“Using the format of diamond signs that provide alerts and warnings about the road ahead, this series of works on canvas shows philosophical alerts, imperatives, and thoughts about the path past and future”: Edward Tufte’s Philosophical Diamond Signs.
By Michael Leddy at 8:54 AM
Thursday, December 13, 2012
[Click for larger views.]
The fourth edition of the University of Chicago Press’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations appeared in 1973. This copy (thirteenth printing) is from 1979. Writers of the era used the tools depicted on the book’s front and back covers to create written documents by making marks on thin sheets of a material called “paper” and fastening the sheets together.
Notice the use of tightly spaced Helvetica. In a comment on a 2011 post about Arthur Plotnik’s The Elements of Editing, Daughter Number Three pointed out that such spacing was once popular. Notice too the Parker T-Ball Jotter and the typeballs. The small object at the bottom left of the front cover is a typewriter key. The one above it: no idea.
The covers are what have made me hold on to this book through the years.
A Manual for Writers of Dissertations
Parker T-Ball Jotter, 1963
By Michael Leddy at 1:01 PM
[Title page. Click for a larger view.]
Who was Kate Turabian? The University of Chicago Press can answer that question. I found this pamphlet yesterday, discarded. It’s a 1949 reprint of a 1937 publication, free to Chicago advanced-degree candidates (“50 cents,” says the inside front cover). This sixty-one-page manual is the predecessor of A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, now in its seventh edition.
I can admire a typewriter as machine art, but reading the details of document preparation in this manual reminds me of how little glamour I find in the idea of using a manual typewriter. Been there, done that. No thanks.
[“4. Typewriter ribbon.--A black ribbon, medium- or clean-inked rather than heavy-inked, should be used. A sufficient number of ribbons should be used to ensure a relatively even blackness throughout the thesis. it is recommended that the total number required for a job of typing be in hand before the work is begun and that the ribbons be used in rotation. That is, use ribbon one for, say, twenty-five pages, then ribbon two for the next twenty-five pages, and so on until each of the ribbons has been used for the same number of pages, repeating the sequence as many times as necessary to complete the typing job.” And by the way, the Dissertation Secretary has a list of “competent thesis typists.” Click for a larger view.]
Can anyone identify the typeface used on the title page? The usual online resources can’t.
1:30 p.m.: Daughter Number Three identified the typeface in a comment: it’s Bernhard Gothic. Thanks.
All typewriter posts (Pinboard)
[“Sixty-one-pages”? Yes. As the Manual says, “In isolated cases in ordinary text matter every number of less than three digits should be spelled out.”]
By Michael Leddy at 9:59 AM
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
As a once serious chess player, I cannot look away when a catalogue depicts a game in progress. The first thing I check: whether the board is properly positioned, with a white square at h1.¹ Next: whether the position shown is at all plausible. The latest Levenger catalogue has a pretty startling game in progess, also available online. This is your chess set on drugs:
The board is properly positioned, but even a beginner should be able to recognize that this game is a mess.
The position is, I suspect, an impossible one: I cannot see how White’s bishop could have made it to its present square, nor can I see how White’s missing bishop went missing. But there’s more. Here’s an aerial view of the damage:
Yes, the person responsible for setting up this board has confused kings and queens. But straightening out that problem does nothing to make the position more plausible:
Hey, Levenger catalogue: it’s enough to show a board with all thirty-two pieces nicely lined up for play. Or if you must show a game in progress, choose a recognizable position from a standard opening. Chess players will like that. Keep it simple, or you run the risk of creating something ridiculous. Imagine a photograph of a notebook whose pages are filled with fugiad diughiuwr (that is, gibberish). That’s what this chess game looks like.
3:56 p.m.: The position on the corrected board can be achieved, though the moves required are a comedy of errors: 1. e3 d5 2. Bd3 c6 3. b3 Bg4 4. c3 e5 5. f4 Nd7 6. Nf3 f5 7. fxe5 Nxe5 8. Bxf5 Bh5 9. Kf2 Nf6 10. Rg1 Bd6 11. d3 Qb6 12. Ba3 Kf7 13. g3 Rhe8 14. Nxe5 Bxe5 15. Qd2 Bd6 16. Qc2 Bxa3 17. Qd2 Bd6. I used no drugs in working out these moves.
From the Levenger catalogue
Levenger Pocket Briefcase, revised
Tools for serious readers?
¹ That’s algebraic notation. The square is also known as KR1.
[I used the Apronus Online Interactive Chessboard to make the diagrams.]
By Michael Leddy at 2:17 PM
From the New York Times obituary:
Mr. Shankar, a soft-spoken, eloquent man whose performance style embodied a virtuosity that transcended musical languages, was trained in both Eastern and Western musical traditions. Although Western audiences were often mystified by the odd sounds and shapes of the instruments when he began touring in Europe and the United States in the early 1950s, Mr. Shankar and his ensemble gradually built a large following for Indian music.Shankar’s 1967 Monterey Pop Festival performance of “Dhun (Dadra and Fast Teental)” with Alla Rakha and Kamala Chakravarty must be one of the most exciting moments of music on film, preserved in Monterey Pop (dir. D. A. Pennebaker, 1968).
By Michael Leddy at 9:25 AM
From the short film USA: Poetry: Frank O’Hara:
John [Ashbery] and Kenneth [Koch] and I, and a number of other people later, found that the only people who were interested in our poetry were painters, or sculptors. You know, they were enthusiastic about different ideas, and they were more inquisitive. They had no — being non-literary, they had no parti pris about academic standards, attitudes, and so on. So that you could say “I don’t like Yeats,” and they would say “I know how just how you feel. I hate Picasso too.” [Laughs.]In the poem “Fresh Air,” Koch refers to “Yeats of the baleful influence.” T. S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats still ruled when I was an English major in the late 1970s. To not like Yeats, to express reservations about, say, his loftiness, his mythiness, his self-regard, would have meant exile from the hall of poetry, or at least from the hallways of the buildings in which I took classes.
I like what the poet David Schubert wrote in 1938, in a letter to a friend: “I’m going to buy my edition of Yeats tomorrow, for he does belong to the ages although he knows it too well.”
Breakfast with William B. and Edna St. V.
David Schubert, TR5-3718
Six lines from Auden
[Parti pris: “a preconceived view; a bias,” from the French “side taken” (New Oxford American Dictionary). The Schubert letter appears in David Schubert: Works and Days, the 1983 Quarterly Review of Literature volume devoted to his work.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:43 AM
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
For many years I’ve used the free version of StatCounter to count visits to Orange Crate Art. This morning I noticed a minor problem with my stats and posted a message to the StatCounter help forum. Half an hour later there was a reply from Aodhan Cullen acknowledging the problem. Another half hour later, a second reply let me know that the problem was fixed. My (few) other experiences with StatCounter support resemble the one I’ve described here, so I will be upgrading to a paid account as soon as I finish typing these sentences. I’m happy to support a company so responsive to its customers.
By Michael Leddy at 1:52 PM
Monday, December 10, 2012
Mississippi John Hurt, Discovery: The Rebirth of Mississippi John Hurt (Spring Fed Records, 2011)
Cow Hookin’ Blues : Interview: John & Jessie Hurt (by Tom Hoskins) : Nobody’s Business : Casey Jones : Stack O’Lee : Richland Woman Blues : Coffee Blues : Do Lord, Remember Me : Take My Hand : Candy Man : Waiting for You : Conversation : A Song for Mr. Clark : Got the Blues : Let the Mermaids Flirt with Me : Ain’t Nobody But You : Pallet on the Floor : Spike Driver Blues : Preaching on the Old Campground / Glory Glory : Louis Collins / End of session
Recorded March 3, 1963, Avalon, Mississippi
Playing time 68:17
John Smith Hurt (1892–1966), Mississippi John Hurt, was a guitarist and singer from the hamlet of Avalon, Mississippi. Recommended to a recording agent by the fiddler Willie Narmour, Hurt recorded thirteen sides for Okeh Records in 1928, twelve of which were issued. He then returned to life as a farm laborer in Mississippi. Harry Smith included two of Hurt’s 1928 recordings, “Frankie” and “Spike Driver Blues,” in Folkways’s Anthology of American Folk Music (1952), the rich and strange compendium of pre-WWII rural black and white revenants that would shape the folk boom of the 1960s. (Listening to the Anthology, it is impossible to believe that its musicians lived on the same planet as, say, Bing Crosby and Kate Smith, much less in the same country.) Hurt’s two Anthology sides contain, in a curious way, the twin appeals of his music for later audiences: “Spike Driver Blues” is a piece that might make any fairly competent player think I can do that, while “Frankie” is the work of a master guitarist. The one recording puts the music of the past within fairly easy reach; the other puts the would-be performer to a task that, if accomplished, will dazzle. The story goes that Andrés Segovia, listening to “Frankie,” believed it to be the work of two guitarists.
Hurt was rediscovered in 1963. “Rediscovery” was a curious phenomenon of the early 1960s (and a crucial part of my musical education). The word describes the efforts of record collectors who found, against long odds, some of the great blues musicians of the 1920s and ’30s, men whose scantly documented lives would seem to have defied any possibility of retrieval. “Rediscovery” was a phenomenon with troubling implications: in some cases, the finders became keepers, tying rediscovered musicians to publishing and recording contracts of dubious merit. The words of Hurt’s “Avalon Blues” — “Avalon’s my hometown, always on my mind” — and an old map led Tom Hoskins to Hurt’s shotgun shack on March 2, 1963. The rest was musical history: several years of modest fame for Hurt followed, along with deep affection from young folk audiences. And hundreds if not thousands of guitarists figured out how to fingerpick by listening to Hurt’s recordings. The elements of his style — solid, unvarying bass, lightly syncopated figures on the upper strings — are everywhere.¹
These recordings give us John Hurt in the circumstances in which he must so often have made music — in a parlor, singing for, and sometimes with, family members (present are Hurt’s wife and ex-wife, his ex-wife’s sister, and two grandchildren). Hurt didn’t own a guitar at the time; playing Hoskins’s Gibson, he is is a bit plodding and insistent, not nearly as nimble as he would be on later recordings. His attempt at “Candy Man” falters: the chops just aren’t there yet. He is in good voice despite a cold: there must have been much singing in this house through the years, guitar or no guitar. To listen to these recordings is to hear Hurt in two worlds at once: the one a world of private jokes and laughter and the occasional rooster, the other a world in which he was hardly at ease but, it seems, game. The recording ends with talk of having to go feed Mr. Perkins’s cows. Less than five months later, Hurt was playing the Newport Folk Festival.
My debt to John Hurt’s music is large and unpayable. To hear these recordings, now available for the first time, is to discover that music all over again.
Mississippi John Hurt
Mississippi John Hurt for Chevy
¹ Listen, for instance, to the Beatles’ “Julia” with Hurt in mind.
By Michael Leddy at 8:40 AM
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Stapler contest that began on Monday ends today, in just a matter of hours, really, as time marches on
The end is near. If you’d like to win a c. 2003 shiny red Swingline “Tot 50” stapler and 1,000 miniature staples, still in the blister pack, enter now. This contest ends today at 6:00 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time. (In the American heartland, that’s noon Central Standard Time.) I’ll announce the winner on Monday.
By Michael Leddy at 8:24 AM
E. B. White on W3 When I began working on this post yesterday, I wanted to make note of E. B. White’s brief comment on Webster’s Third International Dictionary. I thought that cheers for The Elements of Style and boos for W3 were related, and I was happy to see that White thought so too. But I ended up writing a post that tracks a story of selective quotation, borrowing, misquotation, and misattribution, involving Dwight Macdonald, White, and David Foster Wallace. I went back to this post several times yesterday, tweaking and adding to get things right. Now it’s done.
By Michael Leddy at 8:17 AM
Friday, December 7, 2012
The contest that began Monday rages on, or forward. If you’d like to win a genuine Swingline “Tot 50” stapler and 1,000 miniaturized stapling units, enter today.
By Michael Leddy at 11:37 AM
Yesterday I wondered: Did E. B. White have anything to say about Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (W3), the dictionary that some thought marked the decline and fall of American English? White did, in a postscript to his 1957 essay “Will Strunk.” The postscript appears in The Points of My Compass (1962) and as a shorter prefatory note to the essay in Essays of E. B. White (1977). After suggesting that the success of The Elements of Style (1959) resulted from a reaction against “the permissive school of rhetoric,” White writes:
It was during the permissive years that the third edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary was being put together, along new lines of lexicography, and it was Dr. Gove, the head man, who perhaps expressed the whole thing most succinctly when he remarked that a dictionary “should have no traffic with . . . artificial notions of correctness or superiority. It must be descriptive and not prescriptive.” This approach struck many people as chaotic and degenerative, and that’s the way it strikes me. Strunk was a fundamentalist; he believed in right and wrong, and so, in the main, do I. Unless someone is willing to entertain notions of superiority, the English language disintegrates, just as a home disintegrates unless someone in the family sets standards of good taste, good conduct, and simple justice.I realize that despite all my inclinations toward the dowdy, I’m poor company for the likes of White (at least this White), as I am poor company for any kind of fundamentalist. I think that W3 is an idiosyncratic and lively monument — the best kind of monument. That other monument, the Oxford English Dictionary, is a descriptive dictionary too: if things are flying to pieces language-wise, they have been doing so for a very long time.
And now, if you’d like to follow me down a rabbit hole:
The passage that White quotes appears in W3’s editor Philip Gove’s essay “Linguistic Advances and Lexicography” (published in the October 1961 issue of the Merriam-Webster newsletter Word Study). Gove is not writing about the dictionary; the it in this passage refers to lexicography:
White has borrowed the quotation, it seems, from Dwight Macdonald’s “The String Untuned” (New Yorker, March 10, 1962). Here’s Macdonald:
Same mistaken referent, same ellipsis. And very selective quoting, ignoring Gove’s insistence that lexicography “has no reason to scorn sprachgefühl, or to apologize for depending on it.” In the essay “Tense Present” (Harper’s, April 2001), David Foster Wallace appears to borrow from Macdonald and introduce new errors:
In Wallace’s Consider the Lobster (2005), where “Tense Present” becomes the expanded “Authority and American Usage,” the misquotation changes again:
And in both Harper’s and Consider the Lobster, Wallace misidentifies Gove’s essay as the introduction to W3. W3 has no introduction, only a two-page preface, a wholly different document from “Linguistic Advances and Lexicography.” If you’re going to fly by the seat of your pants, I guess you might as well fly first class.
DFW blues howler (another problem with sources)
E. B. White, the fact that (on the same postscript)
Review: David Skinner’s The Story of Ain’t (on Webster’s Third)
[Gove’s essay is reprinted in Dictionaries and That Dictionary: A Casebook on the Aims of Lexicographers and the Targets of Reviewers, ed. James Sledd and Wilma R. Ebbitt (1962). The “/8/” at the end of the passage marks the pagination of the original.]
By Michael Leddy at 11:33 AM
Thursday, December 6, 2012
The contest that began on Monday continues to move forward. (Has it a choice?) If you fancy the thought of winning a bright red Swingline “Tot 50” stapler and 1,000 miniature (yes, miniature) staples, enter here, today. (Have you a choice?)
By Michael Leddy at 7:52 AM
We wondered why we had to wait so long for Wings (dir. William Wellman, 1927), not realizing that the film was recently restored and must have been in a zillion queues. The film (which won the first Academy Award for Best Picture) was worth the wait: Wings holds up very well.
Here is a triple-bill for some theater of the imagination: Wings, Design for Living (dir. Errnst Lubitsch, 1933), and Jules et Jim (dir. François Truffaut, 1962). Triangles, triangles, triangles.
By Michael Leddy at 7:46 AM
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Dave Brubeck, a pianist and composer whose distinctive mixture of experimentation and accessibility made him one of the most popular jazz musicians of the 1950s and ’60s, died Wednesday morning in Norwalk, Conn. He would have turned 92 on Thursday. . . .It’s difficult to think of anyone who did more to bring jazz to new audiences. Here, courtesy of YouTube, are five versions of my favorite Brubeck composition, “The Duke,” four by Brubeck, and one by Miles Davis and Gil Evans: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
In a long and successful career, Mr. Brubeck helped repopularize jazz at a time when younger listeners had been trained to the sonic dimensions of the three-minute pop single. His quartet’s 1959 recording of “Take Five” was the first jazz single to sell a million copies.
Dave Brubeck, Who Helped Put Jazz Back in Vogue, Dies at 91 (New York Times)
By Michael Leddy at 1:19 PM
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Blogger tells me that I have 390 “followers.” I think that this label is deeply weird, even if it is everywhere in so-called social media. To my mind, the word “follower” suggests an obedient devotee awaiting the instructions of a master. I don’t think though that anyone who reads Orange Crate Art is awaiting my instructions. But just in case you are: send me two million dollars at once, in small bills. Thank you.
There is another kind of follower on the Internets: the major-league blogger who posts — with nothing added and often with no acknowledgement of sources — the same items other major-league bloggers have posted earlier the same day. It’s no fun reading in an echo chamber, or a recycling bin.
A passage from The Elements of Style, near the end of E. B. White’s chapter “An Approach to Style,” offers still-timely advice:
Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one. Start sniffing the air, or glancing at the Trend Machine, and you are as good as dead, although you may make a nice living.Today’s Trend Machine is beyond anything White could have imagined: we even speak of what’s “trending.” To write, though, is not to sniff for what’s popular but to keep one’s nose to the ground — and to follow wherever it leads.
By Michael Leddy at 8:02 AM
Monday, December 3, 2012
[Boys’ Life, September 1967.]
I like the idea of a world in which staplers were pitched — to boys no less — as desirable goods. “No bigger than a pack of gum! But staples like it’s super-charged!” And the boy in me replies, unironically: “Man, that is way cool.”
I think that the time has come to revive the contest that this advertisement announced. So I invite you, reader, to submit your best “gag line.” What did the stapler in the photo say? I will choose one winner. The prize: a red Swingline “Tot 50” and 1,000 miniature staples, c. 2003, still in a blister pack. (Newer Tots use regular staples.) This prize is much better than a measly dollar, yes? Your stapler won’t have quotation marks around its name, and it won’t look exactly like the ones pictured here, and it won’t be from Long Island City – but what can I say? It’s 2012, and I’m doing the best that I can.
The deadline for submitting an entry: Saturday, December 8, 6:00 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time. (That’s noon Central Standard Time.) Leave your entry in the form of a comment. No purchase necessary. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner on Monday, December 10. Play, please.
[Entries are now closed.]
December 10: I have enjoyed reading all these reader-supplied lines. I like the literal-mindedness (plntxt), the puns (Elaine, HairlipDog, Sean), the sense of the stapler as diligent worker (E. and Mark), the one-liners that call out for rim shots (HairlipDog and mwschmeer), the Shakespeare allusion (Sean again), the anatomical detail (Stefan), and the chance to think about what staplers themselves might find funny (Sara). As these entries accumulated, I began to regret creating a contest with only one stapler as a prize.
But one is what I have, and I am sending it to Geo-B. His entry: “You know how to staple, don’t you, Steve? You just put your hand together and click!” For me, the unexpected appearance of Lauren Bacall and the altogether novel suggestion of a do-it-yourself stapler make this entry the winner. Click.
Thanks to everyone who participated.
Staple! (my really old “Tot 50”)
Swingline “Tot 50” (a 1956 advertisement)
Woody Allen’s staplers (including a “Tot 50”)
By Michael Leddy at 6:30 AM
Saturday, December 1, 2012
[Mark Trail, November 21, 2012. Click for a larger view.]
[Mark Trail, modified by me. Click for a larger view.]
It is a truth universally acknowledged (in the universe of Mark Trail, that is) that a single (or married) man in possession of facial hair must be a bad guy. Bad guys are marked, again and again, by cavemanly beards, curling mustaches, and sideburns that never left the 1970s. But look at the difference a makeover makes.
All Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)
[I modified the original strip using the Mac app Seashore.]
By Michael Leddy at 10:19 AM
Friday, November 30, 2012
We just received yet another catalogue from the Vermont Country Store, a company we must have ordered from many moons ago. Having noticed that a recent VCS catalogue offered replica Blackwing pencils for $3.90 each, and having now noticed what appears to be a very high VCS price for a pencil sharpener, I decided to check the sharpener and three more random VCS items against Amazon’s prices:
Boston X-Acto Model KS Pencil SharpenerAmazon comes out 38% cheaper.
VCS $29.95 : Amazon list $18.40 : Amazon $9.39
Caswell-Massey Almond Oil
VCS $24.95 : Amazon $20.00
Gumby and Pokey
VCS $16.95 : Amazon list $12.95 : Amazon $10.95
Swing-A-Way Can Opener
VCS 15.95 : Amazon list $11.99 : Amazon $9.98
Bag Balm Ointment
VCS $10.95 : Amazon $7.99
VCS total: $98.75 + $16.95 shipping = $115.70
Amazon total: $58.31 + $12.66 shipping = $70.97
There may be some mystical (or semi-mystical) cachet that accompanies items from the Vermont Country Store, but realists are better off ordering elsewhere.
By Michael Leddy at 11:53 AM
“What I like about a ship,” Alfred said, “is they have free movies, free food, free games and free soap.”Alfred and Guinevere Gates, brother and sister, seven and eleven, are the children of a fractured and struggling family. The siblings are given to fantasy, insults, lies, speculation, threats, and witty repartee. James Schuyler’s Alfred and Guinevere (1958) is a charming, inconclusive novel told entirely through dialogue, diary entries, and letters. it’s available once again from New York Review Books.
“So do hotels,” Guinevere said.
“Hotels don’t either have free movies. And they can’t float."
“They can’t sink, either.”
More James Schuyler posts
Mildred Bailey, the stars, and us
The poem “December”
Willa Cather and James Schuyler
By Michael Leddy at 8:37 AM
Thursday, November 29, 2012
In Bloomberg Businessweek, an article on the Obama campaign’s e-mail strategy:
“The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people. . . . ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.”All I can say is that it’s a good thing I wasn’t directing the campaign’s e-mail effort.
Related posts, from the 2008 campaign
Campaign e-mail etiquette
Campaign e-mails (again)
Obama e-mail improvement
By Michael Leddy at 1:34 PM
Worth reading: Chinese typewriter anticipated predictive text, finds Stanford historian (Stanford University). I’m not persuaded that what’s involved here is any more predictive than a typesetter’s practice of keeping common letters closer at hand, but the idea of a typewriter set up to produce with greater ease the “ready-made phrases” (as George Orwell would call them) of political ideology is eerily fascinating.
By Michael Leddy at 8:22 AM
From an article in the Guardian: “An eminent former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors, according to claims in a book published this week.”
Jesse Sheidlower, the OED ’s editor-at-large, responds: “This claim is completely bogus.”
By Michael Leddy at 8:04 AM
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
The 2013 Uncle Mark Gift Guide & Almanac is available for download as a PDF. This year’s guide might be called a post-Sandy edition: Mark Hurst offers just two product recommendations, along with suggestions for helping those hit by the storm and some observations on our relationships with screens and stuff. Good food for thought.
By Michael Leddy at 3:27 PM
[Photograph by Michael Leddy. Click for a larger view.]
My guess is that only Californians and Floridians get to see oranges with stems and leaves. I saw these oranges at Farmers Market, Los Angeles.
Other posts with orange
Crate art, orange : Orange art, no crate : Orange crate art : Orange crate art (Encyclopedia Brown) : Orange flag art : Orange mug art : Orange notebook art : Orange notecard art : Orange peel art : Orange pencil art : Orange soda art : Orange telephone art : Orange timer art : Orange toothbrush art : Orange train art : Orange tree art
By Michael Leddy at 8:44 AM
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
[John Baxter, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1997).]
The Stanley Kubrick exhibit at LACMA makes clear Kubrick’s penchant for writing things down. Here is a notebook from the making of The Killing (1956):
[Photograph by Michael Leddy. Click for a larger view.]
The exhibit includes another six-ring pocket notebook (opened to a page of notes on Felix Markham’s 1963 biography Napoleon) and a card catalogue of index cards with Kubrick’s chronology of Napoleon’s life.
By Michael Leddy at 8:58 AM
Monday, November 26, 2012
[An incomplete list.]
Arrive from elsewhere. Meet key associates at LAX. Eat dinner at Real Food Daily.
Go to the Griffith Observatory. Think about the knife fight in Rebel Without a Cause. Eat lunch at Fred 62. Go to Skylight Books. Go to Olvera Street. Buy postcards. Listen to the street’s musicians and think about the old people who are also listening. Go to the Museum Of Jurassic Technology and see it get better exhibit by exhibit. Go to Ralphs (no apostrophe). Eat dinner at Larchmont Bungalow.
Walk great distances. Walk around Pan Pacific Park. Go to CVS and get asked to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital “in the name of a grandchild.” Donate, yes, but ouch, not that old yet. Go to Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Pass up the table with the wheelchair icon and watch another customer place a laptop over the icon before getting in line. Address and mail postcards. Go to Farmers Market. Go to The Grove. Feel the surreal, with 70°+ weather and piped-in Christmas music. See the Wall Project. Eat lunch from the Cali Bánh Mì food truck. Go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Marvel at Caravaggio and company. Examine the documents in the Stanley Kubrick exhibit and think about the hard work and pure luck that make a film possible. Be delighted by the painted words of the Ed Ruscha exhibit: street names, Spam, Standard (as in Oil). Be delighted by everything. Eat dinner at Bulan Thai Vegetarian Kitchen. Eat dessert at M Café.
Go to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Experience the prodigiously vertiginous tram. Stand in awe of Giotto. Learn how painters applied gold leaf to surfaces. Eat lunch in the Cafe (no accent). Study the colors in Van Gogh’s Irises. Stand in awe some more. Go to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (aka “Coffee Bean”). Eat dinner at Alexander’s Brite Spot. Watch Go On.
Go to the Hammer Museum. Marvel at Gustave Moreau. Look for a long time at Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Man Holding a Black Hat. Write down the names of attractive fonts from the exhibit Graphic Design: Now in Production. Eat lunch at Native Foods. Browse in Aahs!!, a gift store with party supplies, naughty T-shirts, toy guns, and an impressive array of fake poop. Pick up a key associate at LAX. Eat dinner at Pann’s. Realize when leaving that they let you stay well past closing, and be happy that you left a generous tip.
Walk great distances. Go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Think about Frank Sinatra’s small shoe size. Go to Whole Foods. Buy Thanksgiving-appropriate foodstuffs and drinkstuffs. Eat lunch at Canter’s Deli. Go to the Santa Monica Pier. Remove shoes and socks and place feet in ocean. Remove feet from ocean and replace them in socks and shoes. Have Thanksgiving dinner. Watch Modern Family.
Go to the Apple Store. Go to Bennett’s Ice Cream. Go to Bob’s Coffee & Donuts. Watch Lincoln. Go to Scoops. See Michael Cera eat ice cream. Act as if there’s nothing unusual about that. Go to the Echo Park Time Travel Mart. See the Paramount Pictures gate and go slightly nuts. Enjoy leftovers. Listen to key associates make music.
Smell the La Brea Tar Pits. Eat breakfast at Fiddler’s Bistro. Watch Sunset Boulevard. Enjoy a lunch of leftovers. Seek out the Alto Nido apartments, Joe Gillis’s residence before his move to Norma Desmond’s garage. See the Capitol Records building on the way. Visit Culver City and another Native Foods. Drink good coffee. Make a list.
[The context for this list: Elaine and I spent a week in Los Angeles, seeing our daughter and her boyfriend and our son. I am now at work on a SparkNotes version of this post. Kidding.]
By Michael Leddy at 7:03 AM
Friday, November 23, 2012
Thursday, November 22, 2012
[“Thanksgiving Cheer Provided for All: Vaudeville Entertainments with Turkey Feasts Lighten the Day for the City’s Charges. The Boy Scouts Parade. Light Fall of Snow in the Morning Gives New York the First ‘White’ Thanksgiving in Years.” New York Times, November 29, 1912.]
Doing time at the Ludlow Street Jail (Ephemeral New York)
By Michael Leddy at 8:55 AM
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
“What I know is rivaled only by what I do not know”: Elaine Fine writes about knowledge and humility. It’s a great post.
Elaine’s post makes me want to revise what I wrote in an earlier post about information and knowledge: competent people not only know stuff; they also know how much they don’t know.
By Michael Leddy at 10:32 AM
[Click for a larger view.]
On the Bowery (dir. Lionel Rogosin, 1956) is a grim and gripping film whose players are not professional actors but men and women of the Bowery. Elaine Fine has written about its musical score, the work of Charles Mills. You can watch a trailer and learn more at the film’s website.
By Michael Leddy at 10:27 AM
Monday, November 19, 2012
[Life, September 17, 1956. Click for a larger view.]
I think that some of the claims for this stapler defy plausibility. Though for all I know, reader, you too make your own sandwich bags, carry extra staples anywhere you go, and consider the “Tot 50” “the ideal gift.” You may even sport a Swingline beanie.
For me the most evocative trace of the past in this ad is neither the book cover nor the book bag but the reference to variety stores. The store I remember is Cheap Charlie’s (Thirteen Avenue, Brooklyn). I can still see in my mind’s eye the shelf that held the Elmer’s Glue-All and LePage’s Mucilage. No staplers though.
For students: this post explains why you should staple pages (unless, that is, your professor asks for paper clips).
[The quotation marks surrounding Tot 50 appeared on the “stapler itself.” Weird.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:13 AM
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Can one avert a fiscal cliff? No, just as one cannot avert a mountain or a banana peel. Cliffs, like mountains and peels, are just there. One can avoid — “keep away from” — them, by paying attention and steering clear, or by putting on the brakes.
One can avert — “see coming and ward off” — an event, say, a disaster, such as the disaster of going over a cliff, literal or figurative. But the cliff itself? No.
[Definitions from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Written after listening to too much NPR.]
By Michael Leddy at 2:28 PM
[Zippy, November 17, 2012.]
Bill Griffith is one of Ernie Bushmiller’s not-so-secret admirers. Today’s visit to “Bushmillerland” includes another landscape with the mystical formation known as “some rocks.”
Other Nancy and Zippy posts
Hommage à Ernie Bushmiller
Nancy + Sluggo = Perfection
By Michael Leddy at 6:44 AM
Friday, November 16, 2012
A philosopher and mechanic on college and the trades:
Any high school principal who doesn’t claim as his goal “one hundred percent college attendance” is likely to be accused of harboring “low expectations” and run out of town by indignant parents. This indignation is hard to stand against, since it carries all the moral weight of egalitarianism. Yet it is also snobbish, since it evidently regards the trades as something “low.” The best sort of democratic education is neither snobbish nor egalitarian. Rather, it accords a place of honor in our common life to whatever is best.Other Matthew Crawford posts
Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (New York: Penguin, 2009).
On higher education
On making judgments
By Michael Leddy at 8:19 AM
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Me, writing in 2010:
I cringe a little when I hear students refer to college work as a matter of — dire phrase — “retaining information.” Pick a field, any field, and think of people who are competent in it: are they “retaining information”? No: they know stuff. They understand the contexts in which “information” may be meaningful and are thus able to draw relevant conclusions and solve problems.I heard the dire phrase again yesterday, and it occurred to me: “retaining information” sounds like a grim successor to toilet training. Holding it in, whatever it is, as long as the teacher requires — yipes.
By Michael Leddy at 7:08 AM
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Early Blues history reports Chess Records’ legendary Chess brothers shlepping out into Mississippi cotton fields to recruit promising artists on their lunch breaks.Sheer nonsense. Leonard and Phil Chess were Chicago-based. The post-war musicians they recorded are not a matter of “early Blues history,” whatever that may be. And no writer on blues ever described the brothers Chess recruiting musicians in Mississippi.
Mark Costello and David Foster Wallace, Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present (Hopewell, NJ: Ecco, 1990).
My best guess to explain this howler: In 1941 and 1942 Alan Lomax recorded Muddy Waters in Mississippi for the Library of Congress. The recordings were released on the Chess label in 1966 as the album Down on Stovall’s Plantation. And years later, a writer with a cursory knowledge of his subject attributed the recordings to the brothers Chess.
[Why assign an error in a co-authored book to Wallace? The sentence I’ve quoted is from one of the “D.” sections of the book.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:26 AM
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
David Skinner. The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published. New York: Harper/HarperCollins, 2012. xiv + 349 pages. $26.99.
The Story of Ain’t examines what David Skinner says might be “the single greatest language controversy in American history,” the 1961 publication of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the sequel to the 1934 second-edition Webster’s New International (hereafter, W3 and W2). The controversy surrounding W3 — a controversy muddied by distortions, inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and faulty public relations — developed as American English seemed to some to be sliding toward the slipshod and vulgar. It was the time of indignation about like a cigarette should and about newfangled verbs ending in -ize, a time of polarization between descriptivists studying English as she is spoke and prescriptivists intent on enforcing correct (or allegedly correct) usage.¹ (That antagonism also provides a context for understanding the significance of the 1959 publication of The Elements of Style.) According to critics of W3, its editor Philip Gove abandoned the duty of prescriptivist authority, the authority of “the Dictionary,” as W2 called itself, the single-volume reference with the answers to all questions. The new dictionary’s critics must have thought of W2 as a secular Bible: the inerrant word of the G. & C. Merriam Company, descendants of another Noah, last name Webster. In that dreadful television series My Three Sons (a Biblical title, that), an unabridged dictionary sits open on a small table in the living room. It must be a W2, don’t you think?
The trouble for W3 began with an ill-conceived press release, which gave the impression that the new dictionary sanctioned the use of ain’t. The truth was more complicated. But outrage ensued, and for other reasons too. W3 was a work of pure lexicography, abandoning its predecessor’s “encyclopedic matter” — lists of signficant persons and fictional characters, historical timelines, a pronouncing gazetteer, everything that made the dictionary a household reference work. Perhaps more alarmingly, the dictionary abandoned the usage label colloquial and provided citations with a modern American flavor (think Ethel Merman and Mickey Spillane, not Alexander Pope and Alfred Lord Tennyson). For Jacques Barzun, Wilson Follett, Dwight Macdonald, the editors of Life and the New York Times, and, more recently, David Foster Wallace, W3 became the dictionary of anything-goes, all usage as good usage. Critics of W3 seem to have thought that including a word in a dictionary is a tacit endorsement of that word and not a matter of mapping a language. Imagine a cartographer leaving out houses and neighborhoods because respectable folk would never venture there.
The Story of Ain’t is a fine complement to Herbert Morton’s The Story of “Webster’s Third” (1994). Morton focuses more closely on Philip Gove’s life and work, the people of G. & C. Merriam, the details of the W3 debate, and the dictionary’s later life. Skinner does more to place W3 in relation to developments shaping American English: genteelism and growing resistance to it; increased access to education, secondary and higher; the celebration of American vernaculars in the work of Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, and other writers; growing contempt among a cutural elite toward “masscult” and “midcult” (Macdonald’s terms); and the principle (from linguistics) that correct usage has no innate superiority but is simply the usage of those in positions of power. Skinner’s manner of telling his story reminds me of Dickens’s Bleak House: characters are introduced one by one in short chapters, and the connections among those characters are sometimes difficult to see. With Bleak House , the element of mystery makes such a strategy engaging: we don’t know where things are headed, so we agree to follow along.² But with The Story of Ain’t we know where things are headed — toward 1961, and it takes a long time to get there, during which the narrative’s many sidetrips and bits of local color can sometimes feel like mere delays. Skinner’s account of Eleanor Roosevelt touring a B-17 is charming and funny, yes. But still. And when we get to 1961, it becomes difficult to figure out whether Skinner stands with W3 or with its critics. It’s not enough to seem amused by it all.
Still: for anyone who cares about American English and dictionaries, The Story of Ain’t will be required and rewarding reading, not least because it points the reader again and again to amusing, odd, revealing details of W3. (One example: the dictionary’s definition of hotel, which reads like a sample of postmodern prose.) The Story of Ain’t is best read with a copy of Philip Gove’s dictionary close by.
[The W3 entry for ain’t.]
Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of the book.
¹ Pedro Carolino’s English as She Is Spoke (1883) is a hilariously incoherent Portuguese–English guide to conversation. I have borrowed its title to suggest imperfections of all sorts in language use.
² Hey, it’s Dickens.
By Michael Leddy at 7:53 AM