Saturday, June 30, 2007

Charles Mingus in Norway

I'm always puzzled when people characterize jazz as "laid-back" or "relaxing." May I present some evidence to the contrary? Here is perhaps the greatest Mingus group, courtesy of YouTube. Watch before it's gone:

So Long Eric (Goodbye Eric Dolphy, Hurry Back) (Mingus)
Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk (Mingus)
Parkeriana (Mingus)
Take the "A" Train (Billy Strayhorn)

Charles Mingus, bass
Johnny Coles, trumpet
Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone, bass clarinet
Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone
Jaki Byard, piano
Dannie Richmond, drums

Recorded at University Aula
Oslo, Norway
April 12, 1964

On June 29, 1964, Eric Dolphy, who had stayed on in Europe after the tour ended (hence the title "So Long Eric"), died in a diabetic coma in Berlin.

Charles Mingus in Norway: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (YouTube)

Proust summarizes Proust

Proust himself would have fared well in Monty Python's All-England Summarize Proust Competition, whose goal is to summarize À la recherche du temps perdu in fifteen seconds. Here's one sentence that does the job pretty well (with, in this translation, at least a second to spare):

A novelist could shape the whole life of his hero by depicting his consecutive loves in more or less the same terms, giving thereby the impression, not of being self-repetitive, but of being creative, there being less power in an artificial innovation than in a reiteration designed to convey a hitherto unrevealed truth.

From In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, translated by James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002), 473

All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Friday, June 29, 2007

The iWorld

Walk through any airport in the United States these days and you will see person after person gliding through the social ether as if on autopilot. Get on a subway and you're surrounded by a bunch of Stepford commuters staring into mid-space as if anaesthetised by technology. Don't ask, don't tell, don't overhear, don't observe. Just tune in and tune out.
Andrew Sullivan's 2005 essay on "the iWorld" is worth looking at on iPhone day:
Andrew Sullivan on the iWorld

iPhone alternative

iPhone: 2.4" x 4.5" x .46"
Moleskine: 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" x 9/16"

iPhone: 4.8 ounces
Moleskine: 10 ounces

iPhone minimum annual cost: $1218.88 + tax ($499 iPhone with lowest-cost AT&T plan, $59.99 a month)
Moleskine minimum annual cost: $15.99 + tax, ink, and lead

The Moleskine Daily Planner does not make phone calls, play mp3s, or browse the Internet. But it contains a secret compartment — well, a manila pocket — to store receipts, coded messages, and what not.

Very British

A World War II poster, returning as a poster for these times.

Reproduction of World War II Poster (Barter Books)

Freshman reading

An incoming college freshman, commenting on a program requiring incoming freshmen to read a book during the summer:

"When I first heard we were supposed to read a book, I think the general consensus of the group, including myself, was somewhat disappointed."

Related posts
American reading habits
Freshmen surveyed

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Proust: "the profound life of 'still life'"

The narrator has been looking at the work of the painter Elstir. If you've been reading Proust, here's something to ponder: M. Swann, we're told several times, sees reality in terms of paintings. As does, in this passage, the narrator. Exactly how does the narrator's seeing differ from Swann's? What relationship between painting and reality holds for each?

Since seeing such things in the watercolors of Elstir, I enjoyed noticing them in reality, glimpses of poetry as they seemed: knives lying askew in halted gestures; the tent of a used napkin, within which the sun has secreted its yellow velvet; the half-emptied glass showing better the noble widening of its lines, the undrunk wine darkening it, but glinting with lights, inside the translucent glaze seemingly made from condensed daylight; volumes displaced, and liquids transmuted, by angles of illumination; the deterioration of plums, green to blue, blue to gold, in the fruit dish already half plundered; the wandering of the old-fashioned chairs, which twice a day take their places again around the cloth draping the table as though it is an altar for the celebration of the sanctity of appetite, with a few drops of lustral water left in oyster shells like little stone fonts; I tried to find beauty where I had never thought it might be found, in the most ordinary things, in the profound life of "still life."

From In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, translated by James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002), 448-49

All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Five tips for reading Proust

Google searches for tips for reading Proust are pointing to Orange Crate Art (which thus far contains nothing of the sort), so I think it's appropriate to oblige. Here are five:

1. Buy In Search of Lost Time, all of it, up front. Making the investment will increase the likelihood that you'll finish. (Imagine the ignominy of bringing the unread volumes to a used-book store!)

2. Read a set number of pages a day. I may be a slow reader: reading 25 pages of Proust takes me between 75 minutes and 2 hours. But Proust's prose requires one to go slowly. The unit of thought is the sentence, and often a sentence will need several rereadings for its shape to become clear. Breaks are good too: taking a day off after finishing a volume allows for a feeling of accomplishment before beginning again.

3. Make notes. Mark whatever seems important, funny, revealing, obscure. If you're reluctant to mark up the books, try Post-it Notes. Jotting down some of the details of relatedness will help keep Proust's aristocrats from blurring into one another. Who, for instance, is the Princesse de Guermantes? The wife of the Duc de Guermantes' cousin. That, in itself, is not very useful to know, but without such info, your reading will be unnecessarily muddled.

4. Look past the social world. In Search of Lost Time is about the growth of a human being. As in, say, a Jane Austen novel, fancy clothes and big houses are not the point. They are merely the props with which the novelist has furnished the world in which the real story takes place.

5. Persevere. One way to do so: calculate the date on which you're likely to finish. Reminding yourself of that date once in a while can add some incentive to keep going through slower stretches (for me, they're in The Guermantes Way). I've never read another novel that's prompted me to wonder about the date on which I'd be finishing. But there's really nothing else like Proust.


August 20, 2022: Not a tip but an encouragement: you need to read only fifty pages or so to hit the novel’s first big reward. That’s a promise.

All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The kitchen shink¹

The July 2 New Yorker has a poetry item in its "Talk of the Town": Rebecca Mead's account of Harold Bloom's response to Barack Obama's undergraduate poetry poems "Pop" and "Underground," published in 1981 in the Occidental College literary magazine Feast. Here is a curious excerpt:

Of the two Obama poems, Bloom said, "Pop" was "not bad — a good enough folk poem with some pathos and humor and affection." He went on, "It is not wholly unlike Langston Hughes, who tended to imitate Carl Sandburg." Bloom was fascinated by Obama's use of an unusual verb, "shink" ("He . . . Stands, shouts, and asks / For a hug, as I shink, my / Arms barely reaching around / His thick, oily neck"), a word that does not appear in any of the dictionaries that Bloom consulted but which is defined in an online slang dictionary as "an evasive sinking maneuver."²

"It undoubtedly was a word that was in common usage, having to do with feeling very strong emotion, in this case a very strong need for comfort," Bloom said.
I think that Bloom and Mead have missed a better and simpler explanation: shink, I would suggest, is very likely a typo for shrink, a word that fits the context, with the poet's arms "barely reaching around" Pop's neck. Twelve lines earlier, the poet laughs as Pop "grows small, / A spot in my brain": now, it's the poet's turn to shrink. (How could Bloom, immersed in Freud, overlook shrink?)

The poems, I'd say, lie somewhere between "not bad" and "pretty good." You can find them, and Bloom's encounter with them, by following the links:
Barack Obama: Two Poems (New Yorker)
Obama, Poet (New Yorker)

Related posts (Three excerpts from The Audacity of Hope)
On ideology v. values
On facts
On race
¹ Yes, the title of this post contains a typo.

² The online slang dictionary is Urban Dictionary, which hosts a variety of fanciful and vulgar definitions for shink and other words. The contributor who proferred the definition of shink cited in the New Yorker added a second definition: "aggressive facial expression of dwarf child stars."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Joseph Cornell on collecting

Joseph Cornell liked to collect things:

At the 1939 World's Fair, he saw some fanciful Dutch clay pipes, the stems of which were claws, a hand holding a cup or a twig with an acorn bowl. Cornell bought a gross of them. "I collect anything of human interest. There are no elite kinds of things in my work." Though he stores up for future needs he dislikes being called a squirrel. "Something may catch your interest but you'll pass it up," he explains. "But when you want it, it won't be there. Sometimes you go back and even the shop is gone."

From a portrait of Joseph Cornell by David Bourdon, "Enigmatic Bachelor of Utopia Parkway," published in Life, December 15, 1967
There's currently a spectacular exhibition of Cornell's work in Salem, Massachusetts:
Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination (Peabody Essex Museum)

Dana Gioia's message to graduates

Dana Gioia is a poet and critic, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and graduate of Stanford, where he recently gave the commencement address:

What is the defining difference between passive and active citizens? Curiously, it isn't income, geography, or even education. It depends on whether or not they read for pleasure and participate in the arts. These cultural activities seem to awaken a heightened sense of individual awareness and social responsibility.

Why do these issues matter to you? This is the culture you are about to enter. For the last few years you have had the privilege of being at one of the world's greatest universities—not only studying, but being a part of a community that takes arts and ideas seriously. Even if you spent most of your free time watching Grey's Anatomy, playing Guitar Hero, or Facebooking your friends, those important endeavors were balanced by courses and conversations about literature, politics, technology, and ideas.

Distinguished graduates, your support system is about to end. And you now face the choice of whether you want to be a passive consumer or an active citizen. Do you want to watch the world on a screen or live in it so meaningfully that you change it?
Read it all:
Dana Gioia's commencement address (Stanford News, via Arts and Letters Daily)

Related posts
American reading habits
Freshmen surveyed
George Steiner on reading
Words, mere words
Zadie Smith on reading

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pocket notebook sighting

From Robert Bresson's 1951 film Diary of a Country Priest (Journal d'un curé de campagne). Here the unnamed protagonist, the priest of Ambricourt (played by Claude Laydu), holds a pocket notebook. He is often shown writing with a dip pen in a larger journal.

The film is available, beautifully restored, from the Criterion Collection:

Diary of a Country Priest

Related posts
Moleskine datebook review
Moleskine sighting (In Ricky Gervais' Extras)
My other blog is a Moleskine

Minimalist word processors

There's a nice post at Web Worker Daily listing ten free alternatives to Microsoft Word. The comments point to a few more.

Having switched over to Macintosh and OS X, I've been delighted by TextEdit (which comes with a Mac), Bean (a free download), and Pages (part of iWork, not free). I've listed these applications in order of increasingly complexity: Pages is the choice if, for instance, you need to create columns. I'm also very happy with Smultron, a free text-editor with tabs. And I'm even happier to be working on a computer without Microsoft Word.

10 Free Minimalist Word Processors for Greater Productivity (Web Worker Daily)

Related posts
My version of Amish computing
Word 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Proust: "I only ever saw her wearing a hat"

Here's a short story from Proust, illustrating the narrator's contention that "our own contribution to our love — even if judged solely from the point of view of quantity — is greater than that of the person we love." This contention harmonizes with what Proust's narrator elsewhere says of love: that it is a matter of projecting onto another "a state of our own self." Thus love (on these terms) might develop and flourish no matter how limited the acquaintance with its object:

A former drawing teacher of my grandmother's had had a daughter with an obscure mistress. The latter died soon after the death of the child; and this was such a heartbreak to the drawing teacher that he did not long survive her. During the final months of his life, my grandmother and some ladies from Combray, who had never so much as wished to refer in his presence to the woman, with whom he had never officially lived and who had occupied little space in his life, decided to contribute to a fund that would give the little girl a life annuity. It was my grandmother's proposal; but some ladies proved reluctant: Was the child really worth it? Was she actually the daughter of the man who believed he was her father? One can never be sure, with women like her mother. . . . However, it was decided; and the child came to thank them: she was ugly and bore a marked resemblance to the old drawing teacher, thus dispelling all doubts. Her hair being her best feature, one of the ladies said to the father, who had brought the child, "What lovely hair!" My grandmother added, thinking that, the fallen woman being now dead and the drawing teacher almost dead, there could be no harm in alluding to past events of which everyone had feigned ignorance at the time, "It must run in the family. Did her mother have such lovely hair?" To which the father gave a guileless reply: "I don't know — I only ever saw her wearing a hat."

From In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, translated by James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002), 438-39
Like so much of Proust, this passage is both comic and poignant, with a range of motives and responses to consider: the guarded reluctance of proper ladies; the effort, on someone's part, to find something nice to say; and framing those more genteel responses, the narrator's grandmother's unhesitating generosity (she embodies all that is best in Combray) and her pragmatic choice (seeing as the drawing teacher is "almost dead") to speak openly of the past. And finally, the poor teacher's response. "I only ever saw her wearing a hat": meaning what? That she kept it on in — a carriage perhaps?
All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Baby naming

Being a parent can be as complicated as you choose to make it:

Lisa and Jon Stone of Lynnwood, Wash., turned to a name consultant because they didn't want their son to be "one of five Ashtons in the class," says Mrs. Stone, 36, a graphic designer. For Mr. Stone, 37, a production director for a nonprofit arts organization, the challenge was to find a "cool" name that would help his son stand out. "An unusual name gets people's attention when you're searching for a job or you're one in a field of many," he says.

At first they considered a family name, Greene, but thought Greene Stone sounded like "some New Age holistic product." Mr. Stone liked Finn Stone and Flynn Stone, but thought both sounded too much like the name of a cartoon family from the Stone Age. After reading through eight baby-name books, the Stones contacted Laura Wattenberg, author of "The Baby Name Wizard," for advice. She suggested they avoid names that ended in "s," given their last name, or names that seemed to create phrases. Her recommendations: Evander as a top choice, with Levi and Vaughn close behind.

When the Stones unveiled the name Evander Jet to family and friends three months ago, Mrs. Stone says they were surprised. "Everybody was like, 'Oh, you named him after the boxer,' when actually it's a really old name."

The Baby-Name Business (Wall Street Journal)
Evander is in Virgil's Aeneid.

Why didn't they go for Roland? (Sorry.)

Friday, June 22, 2007


Overheard by my friend Stefan Hagemann:

"On the bright side, we can go see the squirrel museum anytime we want."
The museum, Stefan reports, is in Madison, Wisconsin, housed in a funeral home.

Caution: The link (also from Stefan) takes you to a page with thumbnail photographs of the exhibits, with dead, stuffed squirrels playing basketball, riding motorcycles, and things of that nature:
Squirrel Museum
(Thanks, Stefan!)
All "Overheard" posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lombardo's Homer wins

Stanley Lombardo's unabridged recording of his translation of the Iliad has received the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association for best adult nonfiction audiobook.

Nonfiction? Well, the Greeks did think of the Iliad as (to borrow Ezra Pound's definition of the epic) "a poem containing history."

Benjamin Franklin Awards, 2007
Stanley Lombardo recordings (Parmenides Audio)
Stanley Lombardo interview (Jacket)
"Wonderland of voices," review of Lombardo's Iliad and Odyssey recordings (Jacket)


"It's not a beauty contest; it's a scholarship program."

All "overheard" posts (Pinboard)

A new Van Dyke Parks interview

From an interview series, Conversations about Creativity:

Cecil Vortex: Is there anything you've found that helps get you into a more creative mode?

Van Dyke Parks: Yes -- smoking is good. Smoking is very helpful. But it's deadly, so today is my second day without smoking. I stopped smoking on Sunday, having smoked for years.

I think that smoking is a very good thing to do -- it's got the association with the Indians; it's a peaceable thing. But like much else that the Indians gave us, we abused the privilege. And so, in my case I must simply stop. I'm too old to smoke. But I do believe that nicotine provides a great creative thrust….
Read the rest:
An Interview with Van Dyke Parks (Cecil Vortex)

Related posts
Van Dyke Parks speaks
Van Dyke Parks interviewed
Arts and science

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy birthday, Brian Wilson

Odd coincidence: someone from Hawthorne, California (on completely unrelated business) visited Orange Crate Art today, which reminded me that it's Brian Wilson's birthday. Brian Wilson is 65 today. Above, four stills of BW performing "Surf's Up," from the 1966 television special Inside Pop, hosted by Leonard Bernstein.

You can find the partial performance from this television show on YouTube, as excerpted from a more recent documentary. The voice at the end belongs to Van Dyke Parks, who wrote the words to Brian Wilson's music.

"Surf's Up" (Brian Wilson)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Then you'll know I'm gone"

Kitty Carlisle Hart to her piano accompanist:

"When I die and there's a memorial service, I want you to go to the piano and play 'The Man I Love' in my key. If I don't come out on that stage, then you'll know I'm gone.”
From an article on the memorial service for Miss Carlisle:
Hart Was Doyenne of the Arts and Showbiz (New York Times)

Related post
Kitty Carlisle Hart


In the library, courtesy of my son Ben:

"Isn't there a song about summertime?"
Yes, there is. Or are. Enjoy, via YouTube:
"All Summer Long" (Brian Wilson)
"In the Good Old Summertime" (Chet Atkins)
"In the Summertime" (Mungo Jerry)
"Summer in the City" (The Lovin' Spoonful)
"Summertime" (Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald)
"Summertime" (Bill Evans Trio)
"Summertime" (Ella Fitzgerald)
"Summertime" (Renée Fleming)
"Summertime" (Jascha Heifetz)
"Summertime" (Billie Holiday)
"Summertime" (Leontyne Price)
"Summertime" (Doc Watson)
"Summertime Blues" (Blue Cheer)
"Summertime Blues" (Eddie Cochran)
"Summertime Blues" (The Who)
I know that Eddie Cochran should precede Blue Cheer, but Alphabetical Order is a mighty thing.
All "overheard" posts (Pinboard)

Fauxstess cupcakes

[Photograph by Rachel Leddy]

A vegan recreation of childhood. Yes, "creme"-filled, and delicious (and much better than the original). The recipe may be found in Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan with a Vengeance. Isa and Terry Hope Romero are the authors of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

(Thanks, Elaine and Rachel!)

Related post
Vegan cupcakes

Monday, June 18, 2007

Barack Obama on race

One more passage from Barack Obama:

To say that we are one people is not to suggest that race no longer matters -- that the fight for equality has been won, or that the problems that minorities face in this country today are largely self-inflicted. We know the statistics: On almost every single socioeconomic indicator, from infant mortality to life expectancy to employment to home ownership, black and Latino Americans in particular continue to lag far behind their white counterparts. In corporate boardrooms across America, minorities are grossly underrepresented; in the United States Senate, there are only three Latinos and two Asian members (both from Hawaii), and as I write today I am the chamber's sole African American. To suggest that our racial attitudes play no part in these disparities is to turn a blind eye to both our history and our experience -- and to relieve ourselves of the responsibility to make things right.

Moreover, while my own upbringing hardly typifies the African American experience -- and although, largely through luck and circumstance, I now occupy a position that insulates me from most of the bumps and bruises that the average black man must endure -- I can recite the usual litany of petty slights that during my forty-five years have been directed my way: security guards tailing me as I shop in department stores, white couples who toss me their car keys as I stand outside a restaurant waiting for the valet, police cars pulling me over for no apparent reason. I know what it's like to have people tell me I can't do something because of my color, and I know the bitter swill of swallowed-back anger. I know as well that Michelle and I must be continually vigilant against some of the debilitating story lines that our daughters may absorb -- from TV and music and friends and the streets -- about who the world thinks they are, and what the world imagines they should be.

To think clearly about race, then, requires us to see the world on a split screen -- to maintain in our sights the kind of America that we want while looking squarely at America as it is, to acknowledge the sins of our past and the challenges of the present without becoming trapped in cynicism or despair.

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (NY: Crown, 2006), 232-33

Related posts
Barack Obama on facts
Ideology v. values

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

[Photo circa 1990]

A related post
Things my children no longer say

Saturday, June 16, 2007


[Ulysses (1922), opening page of the 1961 Modern Library edition]
Today is Bloomsday, the 1904 Thursday on which most of the events of James Joyce's Ulysses take place. (The novel ends in the early morning hours of June 17.)

Ulysses begins:
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

Introibo ad altare Dei.

Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:

—Come up, Kinch. Come up, you fearful jesuit.
The design of the Modern Library Ulysses (1934), with the first letters of the novel's three sections -- S, M, P -- filling whole pages, helped to elicit some wonderful if perhaps tenuous speculations about Joyce's art. S, M, P -- subject, middle, and predicate, the three parts of a syllogism. The letters have also been understood in terms of the novel's principal figures: S for Stephen Dedalus, the focus of Stephen Dedalus' section of the novel; M for Molly Bloom, to whom Leopold Bloom's thoughts always return; P for "Poldy," Molly's Leopold, to whom she said "yes I will Yes."

It may be no more than coincidence that the novel's first and last words reverse one another (s to y, y to s).
Related post

Friday, June 15, 2007

Browser screenshots

Browsershots and IE NetRenderer are two no-cost online services useful to anyone with a webpage. Enter a URL, and you'll get screenshots showing how the page displays in a variety of browsers, in a variety of operating systems.

Looking at Orange Crate Art with these services a couple of days ago let me see that my blog was displaying properly in every browser tested -- except for Internet Explorer (which I never, ever, use). What's more: IE 5.5, 6, and 7 each displayed the page differently. I had to tinker with the padding for a section of the sidebar to get the various IEs to cooperate.

If you have a webpage, I'd recommend trying these services. You may be surprised to see the variety of browsers available. (I like Firefox.) And if there's an unsightly problem, it's nice to know about it (as with spinach between your teeth and things of that nature).

(Which reminds me: Why are the kids today always referring to "things of that nature"? And "and whatnot"?)

IE NetRenderer


From an opinion piece in a newspaper:

Feel free to make whatever quips and puns occur to you.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

William Bronk on reading and time

From an interview with poet William Bronk (1918-1999):

I'm glad I read the things I did when I was younger because I couldn't possibly do it now. I read Proust two or three times. Time is not a uniform quality because as you get older it shrinks. I don't know where the hell it goes to. There used to be long days when you could read long books but they're not there any more.

At Home in the Unknown: An Interview with William Bronk (Artzar)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Proust: involuntary memory, foolish things

Here's a key passage for thinking about Proust's understanding of involuntary memory. Involuntary memory is of course the phenomenon underlying the famous moment of the madeleine -- the unbidden return of the past, triggered by a sensory detail.

On vacation in Balbec, the narrator has just heard a stranger mention "The family of the chief undersecretary at the Postmaster General's." The words overheard remind him of a conversation that Gilberte and M. Swann once had about this family. Habit, the subject with which the narrator begins, fascinates him: it robs what is wondrous (the telephone, for instance) of its wonder; it blinds us to our circumstances; it makes the unendurable endurable. In this passage, the power of forgotten particulars overcomes habit, overcomes time:

Habit weakens all things; but the things that are best at reminding us of a person are those which, because they were insignificant, we have forgotten, and which have therefore lost none of their power. Which is why the greater part of our memory exists outside us, in a dampish breeze, in the musty air of a bedroom or the smell of autumn's first fires, things through which we can retrieve any part of us that the reasoning mind, having no use for it, disdained, the last vestige of the past, the best of it, the part which, after all our tears seem to have dried, can make us weep again. Outside us? Inside us, more like, but stored away from our mind's eye, in that abeyance of memory which may last forever. It is only because we have forgotten that we can now and then return to the person we once were, envisage things as that person did, be hurt again, because we are not ourselves anymore, but someone else, who once loved something that we no longer care about. The broad daylight of habitual memory gradually fades our images of the past, wears them away until nothing is left of them and the past becomes irrecoverable. Or, rather, it would be irrecoverable, were it not that a few words (such as "chief undersecretary at the Postmaster General's") had been carefully put away and forgotten much as a copy of a book is deposited in the Bibliothèque Nationale against the day when it may become unobtainable.

From In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, translated by James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002), 222
Last year while reading Proust I had a vivid moment of involuntary memory when a glass of water put me in my maternal grandparents' kitchen. When I came home last night after a post-dinner shopping expedition, the still-present smell of our chipotle, corn, and black bean stew put me in the hallway of my paternal grandparents' apartment building in Union City, New Jersey. The apartment was five flights up, with the aromas of Cuban cooking all the way.

Having found a common element in the works of Proust and Cole Porter, I'm prompted by the above passage to make another link between Proust and popular song. Proust would certainly understand the power of these insignificant, foolish things:
A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces,
An airline ticket to romantic places,
And still my heart has wings:
These foolish things remind me of you.

"These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)"
(Music by Jack Strachey and Harry Link, words by Holt Marvell)

All Proust posts (Pinboard)
The stew recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Moleskine sighting

[Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen]

A Moleskine sighting: In Extras (Season 1, Episode 4), Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) takes out a Pocket Reporter.

Yes, the notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, and Millman.

Millman, by the way, is a "background artist," not an extra.

[If you're visiting from Armand Frasco's Moleskinerie, welcome to Orange Crate Art. You might like browsing via one or more of the categories on the sidebar -- stationery, for instance. Enjoy your stay, and as the signs used to say, Please Come Again.]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jack Prelutsky: "Kids are not stupid"

Poet Jack Prelutsky, on the PBS NewsHour tonight:

"Kids are not stupid; they're just short."

Jack Prelutsky feature (PBS NewsHour, 2.2 MB mp3)
Jack Prelutsky (Official website)

I dream of Citizen Kane

Charles Foster Kane is lying in bed, as at the film's start. Susan Alexander Kane is sitting by the bed.

"Bird," Kane says. "Bird!"

"All ya wanniz a bird?" Mrs. Kane asks.

"Bird," Kane says. He coughs, coughs again, and dies.

And that was my dream, inspired I suppose by the screeching cockatoo that appears much later in the film.

Related posts
I dream of Mingus
John Ashbery and Fred Astaire on the Mike Douglas Show
Welles' left hand (On a scene from Citizen Kane)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Richard Rorty (1931-2007)

The philosopher Richard Rorty has died.

Richard Rorty, 1931-2007 (Telos Press)
Richard Rorty on the value of literature (Previous blog post)

Educe in Proust

That word again. The writer Bergotte is speaking:

"It may be a sort of second sight on her part. Though I suspect she frequents museums. That would be an interesting thing to educe, wouldn't it?" ("Educe" was one of those words Bergotte was always using; and it had been taken up by certain young men who, though they had never met him, spoke like him as though under the influence of remote hypnotism.)

From In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, translated by James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002), 134-35

All Proust posts (Pinboard)


[Keri Russell, Adrienne Shelly, Cheryl Hines]

Waitress (2007) is sweet and bitter and charming. It's been labeled "chick flick," but I'd say "people flick."

Director and actor Adrienne Shelly was murdered last year: how sad that this film, which might have been her breakthrough as a director, is now her memorial.

Waitress (Official website)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ellington in Illinois

Elaine Fine has written about the great experience of playing last night in a concert devoted to symphonic arrangements of longer works by Duke Ellington. As someone who's been listening to Ellington's music since teenagerhood, I was thrilled to be an audience member at this concert, never having imagined I'd have a chance to hear any of these pieces in anything other than their recorded versions. To hear the roaring end of A Tone Parallel to Harlem played by an orchestra -- all I can say is that I was there, and I heard it, and I'll never forget it.

Elaine and I were both fortunate to be audience members for a performance earlier in the week that recreated most of Ellington's first (1943) Carnegie Hall concert. The press release for this recreation made no mention that it would include Black, Brown, and Beige, Ellington's longest and most ambitious composition. Here too, all I can say is that I was there, and I heard it, all of it. Hearing shorter Ellington pieces was equally exciting: Jon Faddis reinventing Rex Stewart's "Boy Meets Horn" -- yes, in the middle of the cornfields! I was happy to be there.

Maurice Peress, a friend and working associate of Duke Ellington and an enthusiastic advocate for his music, conducted both concerts. I gather that Peress doesn't do this kind of thing often. If you're ever nearby when he does: go.

Other Ellington posts
The Duke Box (Ellington in the 40s, an 8-CD set)
Ellington for beginners (Where to start)
Proust and the finger-snapping bit (Ellington advice on how to be cool)

Thomas Hardy, "Drummer Hodge"

Google searches -- e.g., history boys poem -- are pointing to an Orange Crate Art post that mentions the great scene in The History Boys in which Mr. Hector talks about Thomas Hardy's poem "Drummer Hodge." I thought it'd be a good idea to post the poem, which appeared in Hardy's Poems of the Past and Present (1901). The context is the Second Boer War. I offer no interpretation of the poem. (That's right; such stuff cannot be found online.) But given the title of the volume in which "Drummer Hodge" appears, I'll point out that the poem considers Hodge's present, past, and future against a backdrop of eternity.

Drummer Hodge


They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
     Uncoffined - just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
     That breaks the veldt around;
And foreign constellations west
     Each night above his mound.


Young Hodge the Drummer never knew --
     Fresh from his Wessex home --
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
     The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
     Strange stars amid the gloam.


Yet portion of that unknown plain
     Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
     Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
     His stars eternally.
[Kopje-crest: a small hill (Afrikaans); veldt: plain (Afrikaans); west: set in the west; Karoo: "high plateau in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa"; Bush: "British colonial word for tract of land covered with brushwood and shrubby vegetation." Notes from the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, ed. Jahan Ramazani, et al. (2003).]
Related post
Movie recommendation: The History Boys

A frequently asked question

From a page of frequently asked questions on the website of the W.H. Auden Society:

Where can I find an interpretation of [name of poem]?

Nothing of this kind seems to be available on the web. This site recommends the books listed on the criticism page, especially those listed as general introductory studies and as comprehensive biographical and critical studies.
I would like to think that somewhere there's a student gullible trusting enough to take this advice. Looking for an explication of a poem? Nothing like that here. Try the library!
Other Auden posts
On handwriting and typing
Six lines from Auden
W.H. Auden centenary

Friday, June 8, 2007

To educe

The word today at A.Word.A.Day is one of my favorites:

educe (i-DOOS, i-DYOOS) verb tr.

1. To draw out; to elicit, as something latent.
2. To deduce.

[From Latin educere (to draw out), from ex- (out of) + ducere (to lead). Ultimately from the Indo-European root deuk- (to lead) that led to other words such as duke, conduct, educate, duct, wanton, and tug.]
When I see the word educe, I think of a passage from Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) that I've included on syllabi for some years now. This passage offers a terrific way to think about the possibilities of discussion in a classroom. Merton is writing about Mark Van Doren, one of his professors at Columbia:
Most of the time he asked questions. His questions were very good, and if you tried to answer them intelligently, you found yourself saying excellent things that you did not know you knew, and that you had not, in fact, known before. He had "educed" them from you by his question. His classes were literally "education" -- they brought things out of you, they made your mind produce its own explicit ideas.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Living inside Time

Reading Proust again, I had planned to post sentences from Swann's Way alone, but it's too difficult to resist going on with at least occasional excerpts from the rest of In Search of Lost Time. Here's one. The narrator's father has acknowledged his son's fixed intention to take up writing (not diplomacy) as a way of life. Might that make the narrator happy?

These words of my father's, though they granted me the freedom to be happy or not in life, made me very unhappy that evening. At each one of his unexpected moments of indulgence toward me, I had always wanted to kiss him on his florid cheeks, just above the beard line; and the only thing that ever restrained me was the fear of annoying him. On this occasion, much as an author, to whom his own conceptions seem to have little value because he cannot think of them as separate from himself, may be alarmed at seeing his publishers putting themselves to the trouble of selecting an appropriate paper for them and setting them in a typeface he may think too fine, I began to doubt whether my desire to write was a thing of sufficient importance for my father to lavish such kindness upon it. But it was especially what he said about my likings probably never changing, and what would make me happy in life, that planted two dreadful suspicions in my mind. The first was that, though I met each new day with the thought that I was now on the threshold of life, which still lay before me all unlived and was about to start the very next day, not only had my life in fact begun, but the years to come would not be very different from the years already elapsed. The second, which was really only a variation on the first, was that I did not live outside Time but was subject to its laws, as completely as the fictional characters whose lives, for that very reason, had made me feel so sad when I read of them at Combray, sitting inside my wickerwork shelter. Theoretically, we are aware that the earth is spinning, but in reality we do not notice it: the ground we walk on seems to be stationary and gives no cause for alarm. The same happens with Time. To make its passing perceptible, novelists have to turn the hands of the clock at dizzying speed, to make the reader live through ten, twenty, thirty years in two minutes. At the top of a page, we have been with a lover full of hope; at the foot of the following one, we see him again, already an octogenarian, hobbling his painful daily way round the courtyard of an old-people's home, barely acknowledging greetings, remembering nothing of his past. When my father said, "He's not a child anymore, he's not going to change his mind," etc., he suddenly showed me myself living inside Time; and he filled me with sadness, as though I was not quite the senile inmate of the poorhouse, but one of those heroes dismissed by the writer in the final chapter with a turn of phrase that is cruel in its indifference: "He has taken to absenting himself less and less from the countryside. He has eventually settled down there for good," etc.

From In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, translated by James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002), 55-56
What a remarkable passage: parental permission to live the life one wants turns into a life- and death-sentence. This passage invites a reader to recall her or his earliest recognitions of what it means to live in time (or Time).
All Proust posts (Pinboard)

The bald guy

My son showed me an ad from Discover: "Dad, isn't that the bald guy?"

Yes, it's the bald guy:

I don't mean to make light of disease and suffering. I do mean to point out the strangeness of seeing a stock image reappear in another context.

Why do I have a box of Bald Guyz Head Wipes? Because it features one of the best typos I've ever seen. Read all about it:

Laughing in the drugstore
(Thanks, Ben!)

The long e

At a talk given this past April, the linguist William Labov noted in passing that girls' names ending in a long e sound have become much more prevalent in the last hundred years.

At my son's college registration today, the three students leading the group of student-workers: Ashley, Ebonee, and Kristy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Barack Obama on facts

There's a wonderful, perhaps apocryphal story that people tell about Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the brilliant, prickly, and iconoclastic late senator from New York. Apparently, Moynihan was in a heated argument with one of his colleagues over an issue, and the other senator, sensing he was on the losing side of the argument, blurted out, "Well, you may disagree with me, Pat, but I'm entitled to my own opinion." To which Moynihan frostily replied, "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

Moynihan's assertion no longer holds. We have no authoritative figure, no Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow whom we all listen to and trust to sort out contradictory claims. Instead, the media is splintered into a thousand fragments, each with its own version of reality, each claiming the loyalty of a splintered nation. Depending on your viewing preferences, global climate change is or is not dangerously accelerating; the budget deficit is going down or going up. . . .

But sometimes there are more accurate or less accurate answers; sometimes there are facts that cannot be spun, just as an argument about whether it's raining can usually be settled by stepping outside. The absence of even rough agreement on the facts puts every opinion on equal footing and therefore eliminates the basis for thoughtful compromise. It rewards not those who are right, but those -- like the White House press office -- who can make their arguments most loudly, most frequently, most obstinately, and with the best backdrop.

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (New York: Crown, 2006), 126-27

Related posts
Barack Obama on race
Ideology v. values

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The iPhone and continuous partial attention

Yes, the iPhone is a thing of beauty. But what strikes me about this Apple commercial (also, yes, a thing of beauty) is its depiction of the iPhone as a tool of continuous partial attention. Watch a movie clip, think calamari, search a map for seafood restaurants, call the closest one. Really just a chic variation on Homer Simpson's "Mmm, donuts."

What about the movie?

What movie?

You can see all three commercials via the link:

iPhone commercials (Apple)

Like the pharaohs

Paul McCartney doesn't read or write music. Neither, he says, did John Lennon:

"Someone once told us that the Egyptian pharaohs couldn't read or write -- they had scribes to put down their thoughts. So John and I used to say, 'We're like the pharaohs!'''

From "When I'm Sixty-Four," a profile of Paul McCartney by John Colapinto (New Yorker, June 4, 2007)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Fire and Knowledge

Choose one:

1. If you're visiting from Joshua Sowin's website, Fire and Knowledge, welcome to Orange Crate Art. You might like browsing via one or more of the Pinboard categories in the sidebar. Or you might enjoy these posts:

The inverse power of praise (On reading and difficulty)
Richard Rorty on the value of literature
Zadie Smith on reading
George Steiner on reading
Mark Edmundson tells it like it is (Excerpt from Why Read?)
Words, mere words (Another excerpt from Why Read?)
2. If you're a regular or occasional reader of Orange Crate Art, you might want to look at Michael Leddy on Reading, an interview that I just did with Josh for his Reading Interviews series.

And then you might like to browse Fire and Knowledge, which, in Josh's words, "addresses culture, books, technology, ecology, religion, and other topics." The excerpts from his reading that Josh posts are always thought-provoking, and they make Fire and Knowledge something of a digital commonplace book. If Josh can get a city-kid like me to borrow some Wendell Berry from the library, he must be doing something right.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Proust: "memory's pictures"

The narrator brings us into present time at the end of Swann's Way, when he recounts taking a walk "this year" in the Bois de Boulogne, where he used to see Mme. Swann, looking "like a queen." From the novel's final paragraph:

Nature was resuming its rule over the Bois, from which the idea that it was the Elysian Garden of Woman had vanished; above the artificial mill the real sky was gray; the wind wrinkled the Grand Lac with little wavelets, like a real lake; large birds swiftly crossed the Bois, like a real wood, and uttering sharp cries alighted one after another in the tall oaks under their druidical crowns and with a Dodonean majesty seemed to proclaim the inhuman emptiness of the disused forest, and helped me better understand what a contradiction it is to search in reality for memory's pictures, which would never have the charm that comes to them from memory itself and from not being perceived by the senses. The reality I had known no longer existed.

From Swann's Way, translated by Lydia Davis (New York: Viking, 2002), 443-44
[A note glosses Dodonean: "In Dodona, in Epirus, the priests of Zeus' sanctuary gave oracles by interpreting the sound of the wind in the sacred oaks." (463)]
All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Twinkie, Deconstructed, rewritten

My daughter, glancing at Steve Ettlinger's Twinkie, Deconstructed (2007) in the library, pronounced it "Unreadable." She may be right. The subtitle alone is off-putting:

My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats
Publishers rely upon ever-lengthening subtitles to press (yes, press) content into the reader's face. But there's a clumsy dissonance between the terse, elegant title (which assumes at least a pop-culture grasp of deconstruction) and the self-promoting, astonished, grandiose tone of what follows: My Journey; Yes, Mined; What America Eats. (What America will soon be eating, at least in my house, is an Amy's California Burger.)

Skipping the Acknowledgments, I stopped at the first two paragraphs of "A Note to the Reader":
One could be forgiven for thinking that all one might have to do to find out what goes into a Hostess® Twinkies® "Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling" is to simply ask the company that makes them. But it is not that simple.

In fact, Interstate Bakeries Corporation, one of the country's largest wholesale bakeries, which owns Hostess®, Drake's® Cakes (Yodels, Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles, and Ring Dings), Wonder® Bread, Home Pride®, Dolly Madison Bakery®, Butternut®, Merita®, and Cotton's® Holsum, among other familiar brands, was initially receptive to my requests for tours and interviews. However, after about twenty-four hours of contemplation, the company declined via phone, citing its preference to help writers who are merely reminiscing about their sweet childhood memories.
"One could be forgiven": A cliché, and one that makes no sense if the reader has read the book's subtitle.

"One could be forgiven . . . one might have to do": Repeating one is tedious.

"[A]ll one might have to do . . . is to simply ask": Is should be would be.

"[A] Hostess® Twinkies® . . . the company that makes them": Agreement is all askew: a (singular) Twinkies® (plural) Golden Sponge Cake (singular). If "a Hostess® Twinkies® Golden Sponge Cake" is singular, there's also a problem with them.

"[S]imply ask . . . not that simple": The repetition is clumsy. What does it mean to simply ask anyway? Write a letter? Make a phone call? Knock on a door? Use small words?

"In fact": This transition makes no sense in light of the sentence that precedes it. The phrase leads the reader to expect a fact that contradicts the preceding sentence's hypothesis: You might think it would be easy. In fact, it is not.

"Hostess®, Drake's® Cakes (Yodels, Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles, and Ring Dings), Wonder® Bread, Home Pride®, Dolly Madison Bakery®, Butternut®, Merita®, and Cotton's® Holsum": The second paragraph of the book is not the best place to present a reader with this inventory. As is, the list raises unnecessary questions: why don't Yodels, for instance, get the registered trademark sign?

"[A]bout twenty-four hours of contemplation": Was the company contemplating, like a monk? Was anyone? For twenty-four hours?

"[T]he company declined via phone": A company cannot use the phone. Via phone is also odd because we don't know how the author made contact. Was there a friendly visit, followed by a curt phone call?

"[M]erely reminiscing about their sweet childhood memories": Merely reminiscing about sweet treats? Merely? So much for Proust! Another problem: there's redundancy in the idea of reminiscing about memories.

Here's what I think is a plausible revision of these two paragraphs:
One might think that finding out what goes into Hostess® Twinkies® would require no more than asking the company that makes them. But it was not that simple.

Interstate Bakeries Corporation, one of the country's largest wholesale bakeries, was initially receptive to my requests for tours and interviews. But one day after I visited IBC headquarters, a company representative called me to decline, citing the company's preference to help writers who reminisce about childhood foods.
Looking closely at these sentences reminds me that with contemporary non-fiction, it's often smart to try (via the library), not buy.

And now, America (my America) eats.

[This post is no. 13 in a very occasional series, "How to improve writing," dedicated to improving stray bits of published prose.]
All "How to improve writing" posts (Pinboard)
Twinkie, Deconstructed (the website for the book)

Memorial Day, continued

Related post
Memorial Day

100 words

The start of a list: 100 words that "every high school graduate should know." To the extent that such lists serve as models for writers, they're dangerous stuff. ("I would not kowtow to her loquacious acumen" -- that's the kind of sentence that can result.) To the extent that such lists make for better readers, they're helpful.
100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know (Houghton Mifflin)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Proust: names and eros

Proust's narrator dwells upon names, of places and of people. Words, for him, are generally representative, giving "little pictures of things," "like those that are hung on the walls of schools to give children an example of what a workbench is, a bird, an anthill." But names represent individuals. Thus the thrill of hearing Gilberte Swann speak his first name:

And remembering later what I had felt then, I could distinguish within it the impression that I had been held for a moment in her mouth, I myself, naked, without any of the social terms and conditions that also belonged, either to her other friends, or, when she said my family name, to my parents, and of which her lips -- in the effort she made, rather like her father, to articulate the words she wanted to emphasize -- seemed to strip me, undress me, as one removes the skin from a fruit of which only the pulp can be eaten, while her gaze, adopting the same new degree of intimacy as her words, reached me more directly also, while at the same time showing its awareness of this, its pleasure and even its gratitude, by accompanying itself with a smile.

From Swann's Way, translated by Lydia Davis (New York: Viking, 2002), 420
We never learn the narrator’s first name, though there’s a hint much later: Marcel.
Other Mlle. Swann posts
Introducing Mlle. Swann
Love and hate in Proust

All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Gould's Goldberg Variations online

Wow: most of the out-of-print 1981 film of Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations can be found online. The Google Video file contains everything but a few minutes of introductory conversation and the Aria da Capo. Move ahead to 5:48 in the YouTube file, and you can pick up with the restatement of the Aria.

The quality of image and sound is not great. But it'll have to do, Until the Real Thing Comes Along.

Aria and Variations 1-30 (Google Video)
Variations 26-30 and Aria da Capo (YouTube)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Proust on love and jealousy

They are digital, not analog:

For what we believe to be our love, our jealousy, is not one single passion, continuous and indivisible. They are composed of an infinity of successive loves, of different jealousies, which are ephemeral but by their uninterrupted multitude give the impression of continuity, the illusion of unity.

From Swann's Way, translated by Lydia Davis (New York: Viking, 2002), 385-86

All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Sgt. Pepper mono and stereo

While Sgt. Pepper is in the air, it's worth asking: Why haven't the Beatles and their executors given us a mono-stereo CD of the album? The two mixes are markedly different, and many listeners (including me) prefer the mono. A disc with both mixes would be a wonderful and appropriate way to honor the album.

Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys album that inspired Paul McCartney in the Beach Boys-Beatles production duel, has received the mono-stereo treatment. There, to my ears, stereo wins. (Sorry, Mr. Wilson.) Sgt. Pepper -- after forty years! -- is due, I think, the same treatment.

I remember Sgt. Pepper

It was twenty years ago today that it was twenty years ago today that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the U.K. (it was June 2 here in the States). Sgt. Pepper was my third Beatles album -- I already owned Something New and Help! (the latter of which I still have). I was not yet eleven when Sgt. Pepper was released, and I have a handful of specific memories of the album that I'm recording here.

I remember my dad buying the record for me and bringing it home with him from work.

I remember recognizing Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel on the cover, and Edgar Allan Poe (my then-favorite writer), and probably no one else.

I remember thinking that Dr. David Livingstone was Adolf Hitler. (Strange -- John Lennon did ask that Hitler be included in the cover scene.)

I remember that the doll's WMCA Good Guys sweater confirmed my sense that WMCA was a lot better than WABC.

I remember how tall Paul looked on the back cover. Was that really Paul?

I remember "A splendid time is guaranteed for all" in the bottom-right corner of the back cover. I remember that there was no period after all, even though the word ended a complete sentence. I liked that. This sentence later got me into trouble when I was asked (as an earnest grad student) to design an announcement for a faculty cocktail bash. I typed "A splendid time is guaranteed for all" at the bottom, and people thought I was being sarcastic. They knew more about academic life than I did.

I remember cutting out the cutouts that came with the record. (Yes, where are the snows of yesteryear?)

I remember "A Little Help from My Friends," as the song was mistitled on the back cover.

I remember not being sure whether the words "Billy Shears!" were supposed to be the end of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" or the start of "With a Little Help from My Friends."

I remember how interesting Paul's bass-playing sounded on "With a Little Help from My Friends," though I don't think I knew that it was Paul's bass I was hearing.

I remember understanding how sad "She's Leaving Home" was, even though the music picked up when the departing daughter was "meeting a man from the motor trade."

I remember the two moments on Side One that most struck me musically: 1:01-1:03 in "Fixing a Hole" and 1:56-1:58 in "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite."

I remember how grown-up and serious "Within You Without You" felt.

I remember sitting on the edge of my parents' bed reading the lyrics of "Good Morning, Good Morning" and imagining that the song was going to be very decorous, something like a waltz, or something Elizabethan. I have no idea what suggested these possibilities to me -- meter? (Good MORNing, good MORNing.)

I remember associating "Good Morning, Good Morning" with 86th Street, a major Brooklyn shopping street, where I once went in the evening with my parents to get a briefcase for school (yes, kids, at least city kids, carried their books in briefcases then).

I remember listening next to the phonograph speaker at the end of "A Day in the Life" -- the famed "40-second bass note," as it was then called. The surface noise became stronger as the music became fainter.

I remember thinking that "A Day in the Life" must have been the greatest song ever. (It's still my favorite Beatles song, if I have to pick only one, even if I'm not ten.)

I remember the two moments on Side Two that most struck me musically: the clarinet harmonizing with Paul's voice in the last chorus of "When I'm Sixty-Four" and 2:26-2:28 in "A Day in the Life."

I remember standing in a department store (Korvette's?) while my parents looked with dismay at the cover of the follow-up to Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, which I was proposing to buy. "They're all on drugs," my parents always said. That observation was often followed by "You can see it in their eyes." Here though you couldn't, because the Beatles were wearing animal masks. Further proof that my parents were right, right? But I did get the okay to buy Magical Mystery Tour. (Thank you, Mom and Dad.)

My model for this post is Joe Brainard's I Remember, a book with a simple and brilliant premise that by now you understand.

[$2.99 at Sam Goody's, June 1967.]

Thanks to my son Ben for suggesting a much more interesting start than "It was forty years ago today." (The kid's smart.)