Thursday, March 30, 2017

John Shimkus and S.J.Res.34

Here, from The Verge, is a list of the members of Congress, all Republicans, who voted in favor of S.J.Res.34, along with the total contributions they received from the telecommunications industry in their most recent electoral campaigns. I am surprised to see my House representative, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), doing so well. In his most recent (2016) campaign, he received $104,425 in telecommunications contributions. Only twelve senators and three representatives received more money from the telecommunications industry in their most recent campaigns. Shimkus had no opponent in the general election, only a Republican primary challenger. To paraphrase an old song: they’ve got an awful lot of money in east-central Illinois.

No doubt many Democratic members of Congress received contributions from the telecommunications industry as well. This list has only the names of those members of Congress who voted for S.J.Res.34. Two Republican senators did not vote. Fifteen House Republicans voted no; six House Republicans and three House Democrats did not vote.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Which Joe Turner?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Still teaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arthur Blythe (1940–2017)

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

“Time and time again”

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

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

”Headed for the Front”


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

Also from this novel
Food fight

“Even more cynical than
the for-profit colleges”

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

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

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spoiler alert, spoiler alert

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

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

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

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

[The horse’s name: The Pie. The Pie.]

Today’s xkcd

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

Word of the day: heirloom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Truck amok


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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Domestic comedy

“I feel kind of princess-y sitting here.”

“Well, if the glass slipper fits . . .”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Friday, March 24, 2017

“Short Order Menus”

Not from Shirley May’s. It’s from a used-book store find:


[Linotype Keyboard Operation (Brooklyn: Mergenthaler Linotype Company, 1930). Click for a larger view.]

Zippy’s Shirley May’s


[Zippy, March 24, 2017.]

I find it strangely pleasant to look up diners and other establishments that appear in Zippy. For instance. Matching the so-called real world to the strip helps strengthen my confidence in reality. And sometimes the strip depicts a reality I already know.

Shirley May’s may be found at 36065 Santiam Hwy SE, Albany, Oregon. In the unending effort to protect individual privacy, the Googlerithms have blurred this mascot’s face in Street View. But not in every shot. Yow!


[There is a T on his chest, though it’s not visible here. For Texas? For Tennessee?]

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Geoffrey Nunberg on Trump’s “amateurish quotation marks”

Geoffrey Nunberg, writing about “the least literate president to take office” since Zachary Taylor:

Trump’s success as a politician owes a lot to his conspicuous disregard for the language of public life, of course. But when he tweets, he exposes himself as someone who has only a tenuous acquaintance with that language in its written form — not just as a man who doesn’t read books, but as a man who doesn’t read. Sealed in the bubble of his orality, he’s cut off from history, from biography, from sciences hard and soft.

That’s no impediment to running a large company, but it seriously impairs his ability to run a country, particularly if he’s at pains to deny or conceal it.

Cosmetic, cosmos

I wondered last night in a conversation with friends: could cosmetic and cosmos be related? Yes, they could be, and are. The Oxford English Dictionary traces both back to the Greek κόσμος, kosmos, meaning “order, ornament, world or universe,” “so called by Pythagoras or his disciples,“ says the OED, “‘from its perfect order and arrangement.’”

Stranger than strange: the first citations for cosmetic and cosmos come from the same source, John Bulwer’s Anthropometamorphosis (1650): “Which damnable portion of cosmetique Art”; “As the greater World is called Cosmus from the beauty thereof.” The OED identifies Bulwer as a “medical practitioner and writer on deafness and on gesture.” A Wikipedia article notes that Bulwer was “the first person in England to propose educating deaf people.”

The mishaps I can imagine resulting from the similarity between cosmetic and cosmos — say, someone wanting to study cosmetology and wondering where all the telescopes went — probably have little relation to reality.

NYT at Merriam-Webster

The New York Times visits lexicographer Kory Stamper at Merriam-Webster headquarters in Springfield, Massachusetts. With a peek into the Consolidated Vocabulary Files.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WCW for dogs

A mad lib for dogs, by Liana Finck: “This Is Just to Say” (The New Yorker).

In the mailroom

I walk into the English department’s mailroom and find that my mailbox has moved closer to A. I find three examination copies of books for teaching, each in the usual long cardboard wrapper. At the back of the mailbox, shrink-wrapped packages of index cards and a book from interlibrary loan. But the mailbox is too deep for me to reach them. I need a stick or a yardstick.

This is the ninth teaching-related dream I’ve had since retiring, and the third since March 16. The others: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Three dreams in a week: I think they might be prompted by the news of a friend’s retirement.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Word of the day: enrichen

As seen on a great big bag of EZ-Straw Seeding Mulch:

EZ-Straw helps enrichen soil for . . . GREAT RESULTS!
Enrichen caught my eye. The word is missing from the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster’s Second and Third. Google Books returns a number of instances of the word in print, many of which have to do with airplane fuel: “Lean until the engine runs slightly rough — then enrichen until it runs smooth.” The most recent results in Google’s Ngram Viewer show enrich outnumbering enrichen 3,151:1 (2007) and 3,096:1 (2008). I suspect that the use of enrichen is unlikely to embiggen any time soon.

Food fight

Fearing that he will miss out the opportunities that a great war offers, Emil Schulz, “Schlump,” enlists on August 1, 1915, his seventeenth birthday. Here he is, in the war, having not missed out on pork belly and sauerkraut:


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

Schlump, one of the many books that the Nazis burned, is an episodic narrative with a strong deadpan element of comedy, as if Buster Keaton or Robert Walser went off to war.

“Tapps”



[With a little help from Elaine Fine. And with apologies to “Taps.”]

Monday, March 20, 2017

“Just old enough to vote”

From Ruthless (dir. Edgar G. Ulmer, 1948). Horace Vendig (Zachary Scott) and Buck Mansfield (Sydney Greenstreet) sit down to negotiate over a drink:

“Excellent whiskey, Mr. Mansfield.”

“Yes, just old enough to vote. [Sips.] The wine of the country, my friend. Bourbon, the name given to kings and whiskey. The kings is gone; the liquor remains.”

Method and madness

Joel Whitebook, director of the Psychoanalytic Studies Program at Columbia University, writing about “Trump’s Method, Our Madness”:

Just as disorientation and bewilderment tell analysts something significant about what they are experiencing in the clinical setting, so too our confusion and anxiety in the face of Trumpism can tell us something important about ours. I am suggesting, in other words, that Trumpism as a social experience can be understood as a psychotic-like phenomenon.

This is not a question of Donald Trump’s personal psychopathology, alarming as that question may be. The point is, rather, that Trumpism as a social-psychological phenomenon has aspects reminiscent of psychosis, in that it entails a systematic — and it seems likely intentional — attack on our relation to reality.

Th’ foist


[Nancy, March 20, 1950.]

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

FPH, NY

In The New York Times, a visit to Manhattan’s Fountain Pen Hospital:

James Hutchinson, a salesman known as Jimmy at the store, described a fountain pen’s effect: “It slows you down. It makes you think about what you’re writing.”
Thanks to Matt Thomas for passing on the link.

Related reading
All OCA pen posts (Pinboard)

NEA, NEH, CPB funding

From a New York Times article about federal funding for the arts, humanities, and public broadcasting:

If these dots represent federal spending, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . then the combined budgets of the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be the size of the period in this sentence.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry (1926–2017)


[Chuck Berry at the Newport Jazz Festival, 1958. From Jazz on a Summer’s Day (dir. Bert Stern, 1960). Click for a larger view.]

The musician and, I’d say, master builder Chuck Berry has died at the age of ninety. The New York Times has an obituary.

Up late again

One more “paper” to grade: a handwritten transcript of Saint-John Perse’s poem Anabase (1924). Did the student transcribe the French original, or T. S. Eliot’s 1930 translation? And what was he or she thinking? And how was I supposed to evaluate this effort? Beats me. I woke up.

This is the eighth teaching-related dream I’ve had since retiring. The others: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

[Perhaps the student was in one of Kenneth Goldsmith’s classes.]

Friday, March 17, 2017

Another text for the day

Fintan O’Toole:

We Irish are not Know Nothings. We know something important: what it’s like to be feared, to be discriminated against, to be stereotyped. We know from our own family histories that anti-immigrant hysteria is founded on lies. And we know that, over time, those lies are exposed.

Up late grading

I was sitting on the sofa, bent forward, grading “term papers.” I had a juice glass filled with bourbon to help in the endeavor. I held the glass in one hand and graded with the other, with the papers on my knees. Ten or twelve papers, all awful. How even to begin commenting? One student had submitted a legal pad, with the cardboard backing still attached. The “paper” in this case was nothing more than meager notes from class, really just isolated words: Myth. A word. Sacred. I didn’t go beyond the first page. It was two or three in the morning, and I was done grading.

This is the seventh teaching-related dream I’ve had since retiring. The others: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

[There’s considerable anecdotal evidence that work dreams in retirement tend to go badly.]

A text for the day

Drink a sip, drankasup, for he’s as sooner buy a guinness than he’d stale store stout.

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939).
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

[The name Leddy is Irish.]

Thursday, March 16, 2017

James Cotton (1935–2017)

The harpist and singer James Cotton has died at the age of eighty-one. The New York Times has an obituary.

Here, courtesy of YouTube, is a 1996 outing with Cotton, Joe Louis Walker (guitar), Dave Maxwell (piano), and Charlie Haden (bass), Deep in the Blues. Really.

Scratchpad for macOS



Scratchpad, by Rinat Khanov.

Li’l Trumpy and Li’l Judge Judy


[Zippy, March 16, 2017.]

Today’s Zippy turns out to be exceedingly well-timed.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[In the news: “Two Federal Judges Rule Against Trump’s Latest Travel Ban” (The New York Times).]

Cultural xenophobia

Jane Jacobs:

Cultural xenophobia is a frequent sequel to a society’s decline from cultural vigor. Someone has aptly called self-imposed isolation a fortress mentality. [Karen] Armstrong describes it as a shift from faith in logos, reason, with its future-oriented spirit, ”always . . . seeking to know more and to extend . . . areas of competence and control of the environment,” to mythos, meaning conservatism that looks backward to fundamentalist beliefs for guidance and a worldview.

Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead (New York: Random House, 2004).
Also from this book
Credentialing v. educating

[The unidentified quotation is from Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism (New York: Random House, 2000.]

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

An Oxford comma in the news

Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma? The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, for one. Its decision in a Maine case concerning overtime pay hinges on the absence of an Oxford comma. Here’s the text of the decision.

Me, in a post about basic punctuation: “If you always put the [Oxford] comma in, you avoid problems with ambiguous or tricky sentences in which the comma’s absence might blur the meaning of your words.” Yep.

Thanks to the New Arthurian for passing on this news item.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

[The impertinent question that begins this post is the property of Vampire Weekend.]

“The beds would not get made”

Willa Cather, from a letter to her lifelong friend Irene Miner Weisz, October 22, 1945. Cather’s brother Roscoe had died the month before:

Now I don’t care about writing any more books. Now I know that nothing really matters to us but the people we love.

Of course, if we realized that when we are young, and just sat down and loved each other, the beds would not get made and very little of the world’s work would ever get done.

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, ed. Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout (New York: Knopf, 2013).
Related reading
All OCA Cather posts (Pinboard)

“As real as a cannon ball”

Joseph Joubert:

A thought is a thing as real as a cannon ball.

The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert: A Selection  , trans. Paul Auster (New York: New York Review Books, 2005).
Also from Joseph Joubert
Another world : Being and nothingness : Brevity : Doing something well : “Everything is new” : Form and content : Irrelevancies and solid objects : Justified enthusiasm : Lives and writings : New books, old books : ’Nuff said (1) : ’Nuff said (2) : Politeness : Resignation and courage : Ruins v. reconstructions : Self-love and truth : Thinking and writing : Wine

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Billie Holiday, 1957

In The New York Times, photographs of Billie Holiday by Jerry Dantzic, taken during Holiday’s week-long engagement at the Sugar Hill nightclub in Newark, New Jersey, April 1957. From a forthcoming book of such photographs, Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill (W. W. Norton).

Related reading
All OCA Billie Holiday posts (Pinboard)

Willa Cather, corrected again

In its initial magazine publication, Willa Cather’s story “Two Friends” made reference to a “transit of Venus.” William Lyon Phelps of Yale University wrote to tell Cather that she was in fact describing an occultation of Venus. On July 30, 1932, Cather sent a telegram to her publisher Alfred A. Knopf:

CHANGE TRANSIT TO OCCULTATION STOP I SAW IT WHATEVER IT WAS

WILLA CATHER

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, ed. Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout (New York: Knopf, 2013).
“Two Friends,” with the proper occultation, appears in Cather’s Obscure Destinies (1932).

Related reading
All OCA Cather posts (Pinboard)

Willa Cather, corrected

After three readers wrote to say that they could not find My Ántonia for sale in Chicago, Willa Cather wrote to her publisher Houghton Mifflin. Production editor R. L. Scaife assured Cather that orders for the book were being filled. He suggested that store clerks were to blame. From Cather’s reply, February 21, 1920:

It must be, as you say, that they applied to a green salesman, or to several green salesmen. Could the fact that the buyers called my name rightly, and that clerks in bookstores usually call it “Kay-thur” have anything to do with it. It is all nonsense that an unusual name is an advantage in authorship. One had much better be named Jones. Salesmen in New York and Chicago always correct me when I pronounce my own name. Mr. Sell published a paragraph telling people that the name rhymed with ‘rather,’ but if it convinced others, it did not convince the bookstores.

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, ed. Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout (New York: Knopf, 2013).
In the newspaper article “To Our Notion the Foremost American Woman Novelist,” Henry Blackman Sell noted that the name Cather is “pronounced to rhyme with rather, if you please” (Chicago Daily News, March 12, 1919).

Related reading
All OCA Cather posts (Pinboard)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Families planning for the worst

“Imagine trying to prepare your children for the day you may disappear without warning”: listening to this NPR story made me wonder what country I’m living in.

Roger Angell on Trump tweeting

Roger Angell:

Mr. Trump, for me, has become Tweety, peeping out soprano observations from his high, caged perch. The old Looney Tunes dialogue follows automatically: “Tewwible! Just found out that Pwesident Obama tapped my phones at Twump Tower!”

Twelve more movies

[No spoilers.]

Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2016). Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver and closet poet in Paterson, New Jersey. He wakes, eats breakfast, thinks out poems while walking to work, writes in a notebook before beginning his route, and attends to the conversation of his passengers and the sights on the streets (the city teems with twins). At night Paterson walks his dog Marvin and stops at a bar for a beer. Paterson’s wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) designs cupcakes in black and white and aspires to Nashville stardom. The film moves through a week in their lives, with everyday realities altered by a moment of triumph, a moment of crisis, and a new start.

One problem: Paterson is, at least for me, a cipher. We learn nothing of what led him to read the writers whose books crowd his desk or to write such poems as “Love Poem,” whose playful charm seems at odds with Paterson’s blank demeanor. (Like Paterson’s other poems, it’s by Ron Padgett.) A second problem: relying on reaction shots from a dog for comic effect, no matter how endearing and photogenic the dog, is a losing proposition. But I like the film’s presentation of the dignity of everyday work, and of poetry as an everyday activity, even if the poet’s work has been simplified. (Does Paterson ever have to rethink a line break?) What I liked most was the chance to move about a city (like the Dr. Paterson of Willam Carlos Williams’s epic Paterson), seeing streets and stores and people. An especially nice touch: the hall of fame in the bar, with pictures of Lou Costello, Sam and Dave, Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan, Uncle Floyd, Williams, and other local heroes.

*

Horace Parlan by Horace Parlan (dir. Don McGlynn, 2000). A portrait of the jazz pianist (1931–2017), playing and talking, with attention to his childhood (polio affected his right side), his determination to play the piano despite a disability, his association with Charles Mingus and Blue Note, his life as an expatriate in Denmark, and his marriage. Parlan’s joy in making music is a powerful solace in these times, or in any times.

*

Un peu de festival du Jacques Demy

The Young Girls Turn 25 (dir. Agnès Varda, 1993). A sweetbitter return to Rochefort by the creators and cast of The Young Girls of Rochefort (dir. Jacques Demy, 1967). Demy, Varda’s husband, is gone (d. 1990), as is Françoise Dorléac, who was killed in a car accident in 1967, just months after the film’s release. Gene Kelly is, for whatever reasons, not present. Catherine Deneuve, Dorléac’s sister, is a model of courage and grace as she revisits the scenes of the film. What’s most delightful: seeing some of the film’s Rocherfort children twenty-five years later. Imagine: having had Gene Kelly choose you as a kid to dance with.

Donkey Skin (1970). A Cinderella story with a strong element of incestuous desire, from a fairy tale by Charles Perrault. A widowed king (Jean Marais) is determined to marry his daughter (Catherine Deneuve). She flees and finds a new life as Donkey Skin, a lowly rustic. And then a charming prince (Jacques Perrin) comes her way. While working on Donkey Skin, Demy remarked that with The Young Girls of Rochefort he had gone “too far” in an “unrealistic direction.” Was Donkey Skin a gesture toward greater realism? Was he joking? The Michel Legrand score is a plus, but this film is my least favorite of the five Demy films we’ve seen.

Un chambre en ville (1982). Demy in operatic territory: love and betrayal and death, all against the background of a workers’ strike in Nantes. Two scenes evoke Lola and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but we’re a long way from earlier Demy films. Music by Michel Colombier.

*

Dishonored Lady (dir. Robert Stevenson, 1947). Hedy Lamarr is Madeleine Damien, art editor for Boulevard magazine. After years devoted to what the film calls “excitement” (sexual relationships with various men), she begins, to remake her life with a psychiatrist’s help (Morris Carnovsky). But the past intrudes. My favorite line, the psychiatrist to one of Madeleine’s suitors: “She told me to tell you if you inquired that she was busy growing a new soul, and would you please keep off the grass.” Bonus: an appearance by Natalie Schafer, best known as “Lovey” Howell from Gilligan’s Island. A YouTube find.

*

Genius (dir. Michael Grandage, 2016). The writer Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) and his editor Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth). A period piece in blue and brown and grey. Law’s Wolfe is a manic Southerner; Firth’s Perkins is a buttoned-up urbanite. There’s an element of the Odyssey or, better, Ulysses in the relationship: a son in search of a father, a father in search of a son. (Perkins has five children, all girls.) My favorite exchange: “Am I supposed to grow up like you?” “No, Tom, but you’re supposed to grow up.” The “literary” stuff in the film verges on unintentional comedy: F. Scott drinking, Zelda in a trance, Ernest fishing and getting ready for a trip: “Spain is where the action’s gonna be.”

*

Miles Ahead (dir. Don Cheadle, 2015). In 1979, when I was a grad student teaching freshman comp, I had a student who claimed to have delivered groceries to Miles Davis. It was the time of Davis’s withdrawal from music, and the story my student told — of a cadaverous recluse in a dark Upper West Side apartment — turned out to be accurate. This film draws upon that time in Davis’s life and many others. It’s a portrait of Davis (played by Cheadle) as an aging junkie, wandering through parts of his past — especially those involving Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi), his ex-wife, who fled the marriage fearing for her life, and who now stares at him from album covers everywhere. But exploration of character and relationships is minimal: instead, we’re given an absurd (and fictional) caper for a plot, with a stolen tape, car chases, and Columbia Records execs being held at gunpoint — by none other than Davis and a would-be Rolling Stone writer who wants an interview. The film is at Netflix, so I watched. But listening to Miles Davis records would have been a better way to spend the time.

*

Saboteur (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1942). I always like watching Saboteur, my first Hitchcock film. It borrows from The 39 Steps (1935) and looks ahead to North by Northwest (1959): a good guy, mistaken for a bad guy, on the run, trying to stop the real bad guys before it’s too late. All three films are episodic: collections of great unrelated scenes. Here they include a truck ride, a ranch, a cabin, a circus caravan, a fancy party, and a showdown at the Statue of Liberty. There is also time for a love story to develop. Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane have the right stuff as naïfs in danger, so much so that the original casting choices, Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, seem to me unimaginable. Murray Alper has a great turn as the helpful truckdriver and self-proclaimed “nicotine addict.” The most disturbing thing about watching this movie in 2017: Hitchcock’s depiction of fascist sympathizers in every corner of American life.

*

Magnus (dir. Benjamin Ree, 2016). A portrait of the Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen looks like the hunky member of a boy band: it is only slightly surprising that his chess success has led to opportunities in modeling. He is sometimes affable, sometimes cranky, often abstracted, most at ease with his parents and sisters. His mind, as he acknowledges, is always working on chess. The story of Carlsen’s 2013 match against then-champion Viswanathan Anand is gripping — at least for someone who, like me, hasn’t been following chess. The film casts this match as a battle of Carlsen’s intuituive genius against Anand’s computer-assisted preparation. It’s not quite an accurate picture, and a short clip in the closing credits makes clear that there’s plenty of study behind Carlsen’s play: presented with random positions on a chessboard, Carlsen is able to name their games: Fischer–Taimanov, Vancouver 1971, and so on. The subtitles for this film (which is mostly in English) are poor: they leave out whatever Norwegian seems beyond the translator’s ability, and they’re filled with awkward phrasing and misspellings (like Fisher for Fischer). What’s really missing from this documentary though is chess itself: we see nothing of what transpires on the board. When a crucial move gets made, there is no position, no context, to help the viewer understand it.

*

Lady Gangster (dir. Florian Roberts, 1942). Faye Emerson plays a role in a bank heist (literally) and goes to prison. The men involved go free. A radio personality steps in to help. Most of the film is women-in-prison, with prison resembling a gossip-filled high school. Emerson is the chic new girl. Dorothy Adams plays the ultra-creepy Deaf Annie, who has it in for the new girl. With a gangster in drag and one Jackie C. Gleason in a small part. Another YouTube find.

*

The Prowler (dir. Joseph Losey, 1951). Webb Garwood (Van Heflin) is a police officer and, I daresay, a psychopath. To say that is to give nothing away: from the first minutes of this film it’s clear that something about him is deeply off. After responding to a call about a prowler (a voyeur, really), Webb begins an affair with the caller, Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes), a married woman who spends her nights listening to her husband’s radio show. Soon enough, Webb too is listening, as he seduces Susan and smokes her husband’s cigarettes. The relationship then moves into very dark territory. A YouTube find. Dalton Trumbo was an uncredited screenwriter. And did you know that “police officer” is a favorite career choice of psychopaths?

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)
Fourteen films : Thirteen more : Twelve more : Another thirteen more : Another dozen : Yet another dozen : Another twelve : And another twelve : Still another twelve : Oh wait, twelve more : Twelve or thirteen more : Nine, ten, eleven — and that makes twelve : Another twelve : And twelve more

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Heavy reading

From Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2012). Frances (Greta Gerwig) is about to fly to Paris for two days. She thinks that she should read Proust: “Sometimes it’s good to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it.” Caroline (Maya Kazan) is skeptical:

“Proust is pretty heavy.”

”Yeah, but it’s worth it, I hear.”

“No, I meant the book, carrying it on the plane.”
Frances packs the Lydia Davis translation of Swann’s Way.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Domestic comedy

“What else is he gonna do with a beard that long? He’s gonna stroke it. It’s like he has a cat on his chest.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Friday, March 10, 2017

John Shimkus in the news

Our representative in Congress, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), is in the news, having questioned whether prenatal care should be part of the cost of men’s health insurance. After all, men don’t have babies. That’s like a totally female thing.

Here, from Consumer Reports, is a helpful explanation of why men should have to pay for prenatal care. An excerpt:

Health insurance, like all insurance, works by pooling risks. The healthy subsidize the sick, who could be somebody else this year and you next year. Those risks include any kind of health care a person might need from birth to death—prenatal care through hospice. No individual is likely to need all of it, but we will all need some of it eventually.

So, as a middle-aged childless man you resent having to pay for maternity care or kids’ dental care. Shouldn’t turnabout be fair play? Shouldn’t pregnant women and kids be able to say, “Fine, but in that case why should we have to pay for your Viagra, or prostate cancer tests, or the heart attack and high blood pressure you are many times more likely to suffer from than we are?” Once you start down that road, it’s hard to know where to stop. If you slice and dice risks, eventually you don't have a risk pool at all, and the whole idea of insurance falls apart. [My emphasis.]
Notice though that Consumer Reports has limited the question to childless men. Shimkus was speaking of all men.

Heidi Stevens of the Chicago Tribune offers offers further reasons why men should have to pay for prenatal care:
Because lots of men have sex with women.

Because a lot of that sex produces babies.

Because men and women have an equal stake in those babies being born healthy.

Because all of us, even when we’re not the parents of those babies, have a stake in those babies being born healthy.

Because healthy babies, ideally, turn into healthy children.
Another Tribune item sums up matters in its headline: “U.S. Rep. John Shimkus’s foot finds warm welcome in mouth.” But Shimkus’s suggestion about prenatal care is not a mere gaffe, an “unfortunate choice of words,” as they say. His words reveal a fundamentally ungenerous regard for those who are not in his own comfortable shoes. It’s the same narrow, selfish thinking that underwrites, say, an older voter’s choice not to approve a bond issue for schools or libraries: “I don’t have children in school.” “I don’t use the library.” “Why should I,” &c.

*

March 11: Shimkus is standing by his remarks.

Three more posts with John Shimkus
Shimkus and the NRA : : Shimkus says that Bruce Rauner can make the trains run on time : Waiting for Godot Shimkus

“E” is for Ellington

 
Two Duke Ellington compositions: “Melancholia” and “Reflections in D.” Ellington, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass. Recorded April 14, 1953. From the album Piano Reflections (Capitol, 1953).

I’m still making my alphabetical way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, and Duke Ellington. I’ve known Piano Reflections as an LP for a long time. And now it’s a CD.

Bonus: Norah Jones has recorded “Melancholia” with her own lyrics: “Don’t Miss You at All.” I would sometimes play this recording when teaching Sappho; it’s a perfect illustration of eros the sweetbitter (glukúpikron). Try it in a classroom: music to drop pins by. This Sinatra performance too.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie

Being wrong about beauty (2)

The Crow has written an account of being wrong about beauty. You should read it.

A related post
Being wrong about beauty

VapoRub, the earliest
camel-case brand name?


[H. S. Richardson, “Difficult Sales Problems Overcome by Truthful Advertising.” Associated Advertising (June 1921). Richardson’s father Lunsford Richardson founded the Vick Chemical Company. H. S. explains in this article that “Vick was an old family name, which my father adopted because he felt that it would be easier to remember than Richardson.”]

I wonder: could VapoRub be the earliest camel-case brand name? Wikipedia’s article about camel case has DryIce as its earliest example, from 1925. But here’s VapoRub in 1921. And here’s a 1920 advertisement with the product identified as both Vaporub and VapoRub. Notice in the advertisement below that camel case applies even when the product name is in all caps. The product’s original name was Vick’s Croup Salve — not quite the same modern ring as “the VapoRub.”


[This advertisement is part of the 1921 article. The caption: “Illustrating the policy of avoiding ‘cure all’ copy.” In other words, the claim that VapoRub is good for neuralgia or headache is presented as truthful advertising. This advertisement also illustrates the problem of subject-verb disagreement.]

Remembrance of Vicks past

From WNYC, “Just Put Some Vicks on It,” about Vicks VapoRub, which turns out to be not just a fragrant reminder of childhood but something like the WD-40 of mentholated ointments.

But not all uses are recommended. My dad revealed late in his life that his mother had him swallow this stuff when he had a cold or cough. I wonder if she ever tried it herself. One should never swallow Vicks VapoRub. Yikes (camphor).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Being wrong about beauty

Elaine Scarry is commenting on the experience of being wrong about beauty. Her example: realizing that palm trees are, after all, beautiful. She writes:

Those who remember making an error about beauty usually . . . recall the exact second when they first realized they had made an error. The revisionary moment comes as a perceptual slap or slam that itself has emphatic sensory properties.

On Beauty and Being Just (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
“The exact second”: that rings true for me. It reminds me of something I posted in 2000 to rec.music.artists.beach-boys (remember newsgroups?), describing how I came to appreciate Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Before 1999, the Beach Boys for me were trivial, nothing more than striped shirts, “Surfer Girl,” “Surfin’ Safari,” and a Sunkist commercial. But:
In January 1999 I happened to rent a videotape of I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times. I’d remembered reading in the New York Times that the film was well done and told the story of Brian Wilson’s life (that rang a vague bell). There was much in the film that I didn’t take in, but I was struck by — mesmerized by — the Van Dyke Parks song “Orange Crate Art.” (His name rang a vague bell too.) I rewound that section of the tape many times and started figuring out the tune on the piano (nice chord changes). Then I went to the library, where I always go to explore music I don’t know much about, and discovered that there was a CD called Orange Crate Art available through interlibrary loan. I figured I should get Pet Sounds too. Why not?

Listening to both was an incredible reeducation in music. I don’t typically listen to music with a lot of “production” — in old jazz and blues recordings, production amounted to moving the musicians toward or away from the microphone (the only microphone!). So it took me a while to get used to production, and to then appreciate it. And the songs on Pet Sounds seemed so short — they seemed to barely get started before fading out. But I can mark the first moments in the album that really hit me — the huge drum sound that stops the intro to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” the slowing down and picking back up at the end, the intro to “You Still Believe in Me,” and the low note on “me.” So I kept listening.
My account jibes with another observation in Scarry’s book: that the experience of beauty “seems to incite, even to require, the act of replication.” ”Beauty,” Scarry says, “brings copies of itself into being.” Which is just what happened when I listened to “Orange Crate Art” again and again and then began playing the song on the piano. The copies need not be perfect.

I would like to read accounts of other people’s errors about beauty, recognitions that something once thought not beautiful is indeed beautiful, or that something once thought beautiful is not. Is Scarry right that there is usually an “exact second” in which one recognizes the error?

*

March 10: The Crow has written an account of being wrong about beauty. It too has an “exact second.”

Also from this book
“When justice has been taken away”

“When justice has been taken away”

In periods when a human community is too young to have yet had time to create justice, as well as in periods when justice has been taken away, beautiful things (which do not rely on us to create them but come on their own and have never been absent from a human community) hold steadily visible the manifest good of equality and balance.

Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
Also from this book
Being wrong about beauty

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day


[Dia Internacional de la Mujer / International Women’s Day. Poster designed by the Women's Graphics Collective. Chicago, Illinois. 28 3/16" × 20 3/8".)]

“This bold poster was printed by the Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 1975.” It’s Cooper Hewitt’s Object of the Day.

[The identifying information on the Cooper Hewitt page says “ca. 1980.” Whatever the year, it’s International Women’s Day. Some history here.]

Cobble Court on the move

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York marks the fiftieth anniversary of Cobble Court’s move to the Village. Short story long: Cobble Court is an old Manhattan farmhouse, transplanted from Lenox Hill to Greenwich Village in 1967. At one point before the transplant, the house served as the studio of Margaret Wise Brown. (Goodnight little house.)

You can find many photographs at Scouting New York, from a time when Cobble Court was in danger of being torn down for condominium development. Today, for now, Cobble Court appears to be safe.

A related post
Maeve Brennan, The Long-Winded Lady (With an excerpt from Brennan’s New Yorker piece about the move)

Word of the day: counterpane

Our household has begun to use, in fun, the word counterpane. It’s an older word for bedspread, familiar to us from reading Willa Cather and Herman Melville. The word’s most famous appearance in literature must be in the title of the unforgettable fourth chapter of Moby-Dick: “The Counterpane.”

I began to wonder: counterpane, windowpane. Is a pane then a panel? Is the idea that a bedspread is made of such pieces, sewn together to make a whole? That sounded plausible. But why counter?

The Oxford English Dictionary has the answers to these questions. Counterpane is “an alteration of counterpoint,” with the second element of that word made into pane, which derives from the French pan and the Latin pannus, meaning “cloth.” The pane in windowpane (“a division of a window”) goes back to the same Latin pannus. How strange to see cloth grow transparent and harden.

That clears up pane. But why counter? The OED explains its history, which begins with the

Old French contrepointe . . . , synonym of countepointe, both forms being apparently corruptions of Old French cuilte-pointe, coulte-pointe, coute-pointe, repr[esenting] Latin culcita puncta . . . lit[erally] “quilt stabbed or stitched through, quilted mattress.” The first element is thus the same word as quilt.
So a counterpane is a quilt.

But what about countertop, or as the OED spells it, counter-top? Where does it fit in? It doesn’t. Its counter derives from the Anglo-Norman counteour, countour, which (omitting many steps) goes back to the Latin computātōrium: computāre, meaning “to compute, count,” and a suffix. A counter is first “anything used in counting or keeping account” and later “a banker’s or money-changer’s table; also, the table in a shop on which the money paid by purchasers is counted out, and across which goods are delivered.”

This post, I hope, has delivered the goods, or at least some of them, in over-the-counter fashion.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

“Some staples”

In the March 13 New Yorker, Alec Wilkinson writes about the musician Jack White, who likes having fewer choices:

The number three is essential to his purposes. He says it entered his awareness one day when he was an apprentice in the upholstery shop. He saw that the owner had used three staples to secure a piece of fabric and he realized that “three was the minimum number of staples an upholsterer could use and call a piece done.” The White Stripes were built around the theme of three — guitar, drums, and voice. As both a stance and a misdirection, they wore only red, white, and black. White wanted the White Stripes to play the blues, but he didn’t want to be seen as a boy-girl band attempting them.
Some staples, some instruments, some colors. As a regular reader should know, “some,” as in Ernie Bushmiller’s “some rocks,” comes up now and then in these pages.

Work with Care


[Nathan Sherman. Work with Care. WPA Federal Art Project. Pennsylvania, 1936 or 1937. Click for a larger view.]

You can explore the world of WPA posters at the Library of Congress website.

WPA stamps


[Click for a larger view.]

From the USPS: “The U.S. Postal Service celebrates posters of the Work Projects Administration, striking and utilitarian artwork created during the Depression by the Poster Division of the WPA Federal Art Project.” The stamps are due out today.

Monday, March 6, 2017

“The world’s choosing up sides”

From Saboteur (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1942). Barry Kane (Robert Cummings), a defense-plant employee, tells the fascist plotter Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger) what’s what:

“Love and hate. The world’s choosing up sides. I know who I’m with. And there are a lot of people on my side, millions of us in every country. And we’re not soft; we’re plenty strong. And we’ll fight standing up on our two feet, and we’ll win. Remember that, Mr. Tobin. We’ll win, no matter what you guys do. We’ll win if it takes from now until the cows come home.”
Related reading
All OCA Hitchcock posts (Pinboard)

UPS My Choice

From United Parcel Service: UPS My Choice is a nifty free service. If you’ve ever come back from a few days away and discovered an unexpected package left at your door, you will appreciate UPS My Choice. It alerts you to upcoming deliveries and allows you to reschedule. Tracks everything too, of course.

[Does everyone else know this stuff already?]

Prelude to a “Choo”


[Nancy, February 4, 1950.]

Hi Flagston’s “Ug!” made me think of Nancy Ritz’s “Ak.” Nancy has just gazed upon a poster for Health Week: “Cover That Sneeze.” Her “Ak” is the prelude to a megaphone-shaped “Choo.”


[Nancy, February 4, 1950.]

Could “Ak” be the etymon of Cathy Andrews Hillman’s “Aack,” “Aaack,” and “Aaaack”? Nah, I didn’t really think so either. If Cathy’s “Aack” has an etymon, it’s almost certainly “Aaugh.”

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)
“Kchaou!” (A sneeze in the Odyssey)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Meet the Rubber Man


Meet the Rubber Man, British Pathé (1947).

This fellow would have been a wonderful subject for a Beatles or Kinks song.

Related reading
All OCA eraser posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

From “The Diamond Mine”


Willa Cather, “The Diamond Mine,” in Youth and the Bright Medusa (1920).

Related reading
All OCA Cather posts (Pinboard)

Friday, March 3, 2017

George Shearing for
the Better Vision Institute


[Life, October 15, 1965. Click for a larger view.]

Coming after advertisements for cigarettes (Salem), auto insurance (MIC), coffee (Yuban), and motels (TraveLodge), this page from the Better Vision Institute must have startled Life’s readers. My transcription:

When I heard there’s a campaign to get people to have their eyes examined regularly, I thought maybe I could drive this idea home by writing about it myself (with Mrs Shearing’s help).

Really it should be a law, not just an idea. Seeing is one thing that shouldn’t be left to chance. I know, I never had the chance.

But I have some idea of what I’ve missed. My career as a pianist has taken me to many countries. Judging from the sounds and smells, it must be an unbelievably exciting world to see. I’m not suggesting you’ll go blind because you don’t have your eyes examined. The chances are small but why take the chance? But where a person like me would be grateful to see at all, a person like you has a choice. You can assume your eyesight is all right. Or you can learn through examination that you might be seeing a lot better. I know what I’d do if I had the choice.
George Shearing (1919–2011) was a British pianist and the composer of “Lullaby of Birdland.” There’s a website devoted to his work.

Sergey and Jeff and NPR

Heard on NPR this morning:

Sessions said he should have disclosed two contacts he had with the Russian ambassador in his confirmation hearing.
Oops. Sergey Kislyak knows better than to walk into a Senate hearing. Very bad for business! Revised:
Sessions said that in his confirmation hearing he should have disclosed two contacts he had with the Russian ambassador.
And speaking of should: Sessions should step down.

Related reading
All OCA NPR posts (Pinboard)

[I wrote out the sentence right after hearing it. The newsreader may have said “during his confirmation hearing.” But whatever the phrase, it was misplaced.]

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Out to the meadow with Tom Waits

Tom Waits talked to Wyatt Mason of The New York Times:

“There’s an expression in classical music,” Tom Waits told me, one Saturday night in January, when he called to talk about where music happens. “It goes, ‘We went out to the meadow.’ You ever heard that one?”
No, said Wyatt Mason. No, says I. Waits’s explanation:
“It’s for those evenings,” he continued, “that can only be described in that way: There were no walls, there were no music stands, there weren’t even any instruments. There was no ceiling, there was no floor, we all went out to the meadow. It describes a feeling.”
Google and Google Books turn up no evidence of “We went out to the meadow” (or anything close) as an expression in classical music. What is more important: I asked Elaine Fine, classical musician and composer-in-residence, and she’s never heard of it.

Like Bob Dylan before him, Waits is something of a master fabulist, and I suspect that “We went out to the meadow” is his invention. But if anyone has evidence of the expression apart from this Times article, I’d love to see it.

*

7:42 p.m.: From the Waits song “Diamonds & Gold”: “Go out to the meadow / The hills are agreen / Sing me a rainbow / Steal me a dream.” The song appears on the 1985 album Rain Dogs. (Hello, old LP.) And here’s Waits commenting on Dylan’s “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” in 1991: “It is like Beowulf and it ‘takes me out to the meadow.’” Note the quotation marks, as if to signal a familiar expression. But I can find no evidence that there is such an expression. I suspect that the classical-music explanation is a put-on, but I’d be happy to be wrong.

Other Tom Waits posts
Waits on parenthood : Frank Sinatra and Waits

[The Times article is about three musicians: Beck, Kendrick Lamar, and Waits. Total cost of the clothes worn by Beck and Lamar in the accompanying photographs: $8,560. Waits wore his own clothes.]

Whither instant?


[Mrs. White, indeed. Life, October 20, 1972. Click for a larger, milder view.]

I found this advertisement while thinking about instant coffee in jars, now nearly vanished from American supermarket shelves. I like the remark from one of the Maxwell House tasters (second small photograph from the left): “It tastes more like coffee.” Well, yes, if you are an instant coffee drinker to begin with (as the participants in this study were), you would expect coffee to taste like instant coffee.

In 2014, Smithsonian looked into instant coffee’s history and prospects: “Is There a Future For Instant Coffee?” There is. The Washington Post covered the same ground(s), with charts: “Almost half of the world actually prefers instant coffee.” The Post’s conclusion: “The only real exception to the instant coffee craze is the U.S.”

Related reading
All OCA coffee posts (Pinboard)

“Improves focus”

From the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episode “I’m So Happy That Josh Is So Happy!” (November 23, 2015). Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) has taken a pill she found on a therapist’s bathroom floor. It’s a pill for ADD that “improves focus”— she knows that because she looked online. And now she sits at her laptop to do some lawyering:

“Let’s get to work. All right, let’s see this presentation. What is Karen doing? She put two spaces after a period? What is this, 1997? Well, those have to go. Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s kicking in right now. Okay — and what are these, Oxford commas? Well, those have to go too. I just gotta, I just gotta edit this whole thing before I even start. Karen!”
I think this monologue speaks for itself on the subject of “focus.” And though Karen’s wrong about spacing, she’s smart about commas: those Oxford (serial) commas should stay in. See also Stephen Colbert and Vampire Weekend.

Thanks, Rachel, for recommending this series. (Our Rachel, not Rachel Bloom.)

A related post
How to punctuate a sentence

[My transcription.]

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Horace Parlan (1931–2017)

The pianist Horace Parlan has died at the age of eighty-six. The New York Times has an obituary.

A few weeks ago I watched the documentary Horace Parlan by Horace Parlan (dir. Don McGlynn, 2000). I remember thinking: what a gentle man. And what a soulful pianist.

Yes, Frieda


[Peanuts, March 4, 1970.]

Yesterday’s Peanuts is today’s Peanuts. Yesterday’s March 4 is today’s March 1. Angst is for always. Which reminds me of Ted Berrigan’s great one-line poem:

Angst

I had angst.
The complete run of Peanuts, starting with October 2, 1950, is online at GoComics.

Related reading
All OCA Pinboard posts (Pinboard)

[“Angst” appears in A Certain Slant of Sunlight (Oakland, CA: O Books, 1988).]

DropCopy for Mac and iOS

DropCopy and DropCopy Mobile allow for easy transfer of files and folders between Macs, iPads, and iPhones on the same network. I found my way to these apps after spending too much time trying to figure out why AirDrop worked with two Macs, with two phones, but not with my Mac and my phone. (And reading many accounts of the same problem.) And then I saw the bad news on the Apple website: “To send items to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, or to receive items from those devices, you need a 2012 or later Mac model with OS X Yosemite or later, excluding the Mac Pro (Mid 2012).”

The good news is that DropCopy is fast and uncomplicated. DropCopy for Mac: free (limited to three simultaneous users). DropCopy Pro for Mac: $4.99. DropCopy Lite for iOS: free. DropCopy for iOS: $4.99. I was happy to pay for the iOS version and support the developer, 10base-t interactive.

Oxo Jar Opener

The Oxo Jar Opener with Base Pad makes jar-opening easy. Put the jar on the Base Pad, slide the Opener onto the lid, and turn.

I bought an OJO last year after developing a case of trigger thumb — which turned into a much worse case when I tried to open an impossible jar. My thumb is back in operation, but I continue to use this tool. Every jar should have one.