Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Monday, March 30, 2009

FeedBurner, broken

If over the past two or three days you've wondered what's become of blogs to which you've subscribed, FeedBurner might be the reason for their absence from your reader. I've had problems for several days with my posts showing up very late or not showing up at all.

If you look at the Feed and Web Statistics section of the FeedBurner Help Group, you'll see that many users are beset with these problems. And you'll soon figure out that the FeedBurner Help Group is a self-help group. There's no support, no "sticky" post with news of what's happening, no nothing. For a Google-owned service, that's appalling.

I just deleted my FeedBurner feed and was pleased to see today's posts immediately show up in my reader. I'm also pleased to see that Orange Crate Art now loads much more quickly without the FeedBurner code that was attached to each post's footer.

Eraser Day

Why should we think of Hymen Lipman on March 30?

[I]t is Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia who has the idea of attaching a piece of rubber inside one end of the pencil. On this day in 1858, Lipman is issued a patent for marrying the pencil to the eraser.

Unfortunately for Lipman, the patent would later be revoked, when the U.S. Supreme Court rules in 1875 that a pencil with an eraser is just a pencil with an eraser and not a new invention.

Hymen L. Lipman makes his mark in pencil history (Smithsonian Magazine)
(via Boing Boing)

"Why the pencil?"

Jeep lovers have the "Jeep wave," given to anyone passing by in a Jeep as an acknowledgment of camaraderie and shared interest. Perhaps pencil aficionados need a nonthreatening equivalent when we see someone who takes pencils as seriously as we do. What might that be?
At (or on) The Dark Side of the Moon, Slywy asks and answers the question "Why the pencil?" Worth reading for anyone who thinks about the tools of writing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

John Hope Franklin's ways of writing

C-SPAN has online a great interview with the distinguished historian John Hope Franklin (1915–2009). I often encourage students to consider the possible advantages of writing essays by hand, so I very much like Franklin's distinction between different ways of writing:

Once I've collected the material . . . , I have two ways of writing. If the problem is complicated, I want to see what I'm doing. I write either by hand or perhaps on the computer, but preferably by hand, to try to work it out, to see what I'm doing, how I'm doing. And I just write in longhand on a sheet of yellow paper, some kind of paper like that. And I write for maybe several hours, just working and reworking.

If the problem is simple and relatively uncomplicated, I will perhaps even begin by writing on the computer, just writing along. But it's a combination of writing by hand and writing on the computer.
Elsewhere in this conversation, Franklin notes that he doesn't do e-mail ("I think it's something of a curse, if I may say so") and describes doing his research "the old-fashioned way." Meaning? Notecards.

This C-SPAN broadcast has some great clips of Franklin looking at his orchids and working at his dining room table, Pilot G-2 in hand. Take a look:

In Depth with John Hope Franklin (C-SPAN)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Homemade music

One of the best things about having "the kids" home on spring break is the chance to make music together. Here is some homemade music, "made in the home, on the premises," and "by one's own efforts" (Merriam-Webster Online). The song is the Raconteurs' "Old Enough," with Rachel's ukulele, Ben's banjo, Elaine's violin, and my harmonica.

And here's one made with a directional microphone and better sound quality (but no video):

"Old Enough" (YouTube)

Rachel and Ben, I'm so proud of you, in so many ways.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dickens in the house

The first nine words do not apply: our house is clean enough, thank you. The rest of the sentence though makes me wonder whether Dickens has time-traveled:

It was dingy enough, and not at all clean; but furnished with an odd kind of shabby luxury, with a large footstool, a sofa, and plenty of cushions, an easy-chair, and plenty of pillows, a piano, books, drawing materials, music, newspapers, and a few sketches and pictures.

Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)
It must've been after we got the piano.

Domestic comedy

"But remember, in a normal case of teletransportation . . ."

The context: a conversation about the work of philosopher Derek Parfit.

[Used with permission. Thanks, Ben!]

Related reading
All "domestic comedy" posts

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stimulus package

Just 3.5 oz: chocolate-covered coffee beans. They help to promote class discussion.


From a commercial: "–––– is a professionally-ran radio station."

[T., this one's for you.]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

O calendrical woe! (Blogger)

Somehow this Blogger error seems worth noting.

Pencil crossword

"Get The Lead Out!" is a pencil-themed crossword by Barrel of a Pencil. It's Sunday-sized, with many clever clues and great pencil-related answers, some quite unexpected. This puzzle is available as a PDF from Pencil Talk.

Thanks, Barrel of a Pencil. Thanks, Pencil Talk.

Good advice from Harvey Pekar

"If you don't correct stuff right when it happens, you can get into serious trouble. Stay on it."

Harvey Pekar, "You Get Old You Can Fall Apart (We're a Winner)," in American Splendor: Another Dollar (New York: DC Comics, 2009), 45.
In this story, illustrated by Ty Templeton, Pekar schedules physical therapy for a mending elbow, has a false tooth reglued, and gets a missing screw for his glasses replaced. "Keep on pushin'," he thinks, as the story closes. "Keep on pushin'."

Other Harvey Pekar posts
A few words from Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar on life and death
Harvey Pekar's The Quitter
Review: Leave Me Alone!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

After William Carlos Williams

This Is Just to Say

                after William Carlos Williams

I am actually
for this first

to publicly
my crimes

for which
I am so
deeply sorry
and ashamed

Bernard Madoff (2009)
Part of what makes William Carlos Williams' 1934 poem "This Is Just to Say" a great poem is its refusal to offer anything as self-serving as a confession of guilt and sorrow for eating forbidden — or "probably" forbidden — fruit. The poem's mock-melodrama — "Forgive me" — is followed by a reminder of how wonderful the plums tasted: "they were delicious / so sweet / and so cold." Not "they looked delicious": there's no justification of transgression in these lines. Williams' poem suggests a playful, knowing relationship between two people, each with a capacity for humor, tolerance, and, yes, forgiveness. To say nothing after eating these plums would be to engage in passive-aggressive theft. To say more, proclaiming guilt and resolving to never, ever do it again, would be to put up a false rhetorical front. Hence, what the poem says is just to say, right, fitting, appropriate to the occasion.

How false, in contrast, Bernard Madoff's words look: actually, opportunity, publicly, deeply. Feeling grateful for an "opportunity" — had anyone denied it? — to speak of what makes one deeply ashamed: that must be a difficult trick to master.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mongol No. 2 3/8

Why "Mongol"?

To associate the pencil with "the Orient," at one time the source of the finest graphite. Eberhard Faber introduced the Mongol in 1900.

Why graphite?

"Lead" = graphite and clay.

There's no lead in pencil lead?

No, there's no lead in pencil lead. Or yes, there's no lead in pencil lead. Whichever answer is correct. I've never figured out how that works.

Why yellow?

See the response to the first question.

Why a star in a diamond?

An icon of excellence, I guess. On August 22, 1960, the New York Times reported that Eberhard Faber was introducing "Diamond Star" lead for the Mongol, lead that purported to be virtually unbreakable in normal use. (Imagine: a world in which pencil lead was newsworthy.) But the Diamond Star was already appearing on Mongols in the 1950s. (I just looked at an old ad to check.) Pencils with the new lead were marked with a dot. I don't know how long Diamond Star lead was in production.

Is woodclinched a word?

Not according to the Oxford English Dictionary. But the verb clinch has to do with making things firm and sure. So the word has something to do with the process of joining lead and wood. The Eagle Pencil Company proclaimed its pencils "Chemi-Sealed," another name for the same sort of process.

[Yawn.] Can we go back to the ad?

It's on a wall in the room that we call "the study." The ad shows a hand holding a pencil, with a penny nearby. The ad says
Your Best Buy's
2,162 words
one cent
Cool. I think I've read those words online before.

Here, perhaps?

Yes, I believe so. So how old is this pencil?

Beats me. My dad gave it to me, knowing how much I like pencils. I would guess that it's likely to be from the 1960s or '70s. But the eraser is still good — perhaps because the pencil was kept away in a drawer. Or maybe it's a special Diamond Star eraser. At any rate, the pencil predates Mongols as I know them from the 1980s and '90s.

And why 2 3/8?

I was afraid you'd ask. I don't know. Henry Petroski notes that trademark battles led to pencil gradations of 2 1/2, 2 4/8, 2 5/10, and 2.5. My guess is that with a fairly limited number of ways to sell a product, this unusual designation gave the Mongol some extra bit of distinction.

John Steinbeck for one was impressed by the No. 2 3/8 Mongol. From a letter that he wrote while working on East of Eden:
This is the day when I am stabbing the paper. So today I need a harder pencil at least for a while. I am using some that are numbered 2 3/8.
Elsewhere in a letter Steinbeck notes that the No. 2 3/8 Mongol "holds its point well" and that he plans to get "six more or maybe four more dozens of them for my pencil tray." Four more dozens!


January 2, 2015: Sean at Contrapuntalism dates the diamond star emblem to 1903–1904.

January 5, 2015: A 1946 United States patent application describes the diamond star as being “continuously used and applied” to Eberhard Faber goods “since about 1909.” Thanks again to Sean at Contrapuntalism.

June 8, 2015: Sean at Contrapuntalism spoke with Eberhard Faber IV, who says that the Mongol was named for John Eberhard’s favorite soup: purée Mongole. I’ve left the above explanation as is: I think that an association with "the Orient" is what what the buying public would have seen in the name Mongol .

June 22, 2016: Sean at Contrapuntalism reports that the Eberhard Faber Company applied for a diamond star trademark in 1905.

[The 1900 date for the Mongol comes from Larry R. Pack's Made in the Twentieth Century: A Guide to Contemporary Collectibles (Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2005). Henry Petroski's The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) is my source for the significance of the name Mongol and the color yellow and for a reference to the 1960 Times article, which I read in the Times archive. The dating of the star in the diamond is from my observation. Petroski's book is also the source for the information about trademark battles and for the first Steinbeck quotation, which led me to Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (New York: Viking Press, 1969) and the other quotations. The Pencil is a great book for anyone interested in culture, design, technology, and writing.

This post is the third in an occasional series, "From the Museum of Supplies." The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. Supplies is my word, and has become my family's word, for all manner of stationery items.]

Also from the Museum of Supplies
Rite-Rite Long Leads
Real Thin Leads

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Brooklyn National Anthem

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz.
I wonder where the birdies is.
My mom has recited these words, perhaps without knowing their borough-wide significance. Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the Brooklyn National Anthem.

Spinal Tap and the BBC

The volume sliders for BBC video clips go up to eleven. See and hear for yourself, as Prince Charles busts a move, or several of them:

Prince Charles' Amazon dance (BBC News)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

791 Broadway

William Weaver remembering his friend Frank O'Hara:

"I remember just going down the street with him when they were tearing down some brownstones. I said, in the usual clichéd way, 'Oh what a pity they're tearing down those brownstones.' Frank said, 'Oh no, that's the way New York is. You have to just keep tearing it down and building it up. Whatever they're building they'll tear that down in a few years.'"

[Quoted in Brad Gooch's City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993).]
791 Broadway, Frank O'Hara's last Manhattan address, now appears to be awaiting demolition. Here's the story:

Frank's Last Place (Jeremiah's Vanishing New York)

Call Letter Origins

You may listen to a radio station daily, but do you know what its call letters really mean? If not, try Call Letter Origins. Charming and no doubt occasionally fanciful bits of lore abound therein.

Some of my favorites:

CFLC: "Canada's Finest Little Community" (Brockville, Ontario).

KAND: Wolf Brand Canned Chili (Corsicana, Texas).

WLBB: "We Love Butter Beans" (Carrollton, Georgia). A Judge Tisinger, the station's first owner, liked his beans.

WMBD: "World's Most Beautiful Drive" (Peoria, Illinois). That drive would be Peoria's Grandview Drive.

WPLJ: "White Port and Lemon Juice" (New York, New York). I know that one from the Mothers of Invention recording of "WPLJ."

I'm surprised to learn that New York's WMCA (home of the Good Guys of my musical youth) is named for the Hotel McAplin, the station's first home. And New York's WOR? "World of Radio."

These stations all survive (CFLC as CFJR), most of them programming the syndicated stuff one can hear up and down the dial. (What dial?)

A related post
Five radios

Betsy Blair (1923-2009)

Betsy Blair, an Academy Award-nominated actress also known for her forthright memoir describing her youthful marriage to Gene Kelly and her firsthand experience of the Hollywood blacklist, died on Friday in London. She was 85 and had lived in London for many years. . . .

Winsome and red-haired, Ms. Blair was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for her role as Clara Snyder, Ernest Borgnine’s shy love interest in the 1955 film version of Paddy Chayefsky’s television play “Marty,” directed by Delbert Mann.

Betsy Blair, 85, Actress and Wife of Gene Kelly (New York Times)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Jupiter String Quartet

I heard the Jupiter Quartet last night, playing Haydn, Beethoven, and Shostakovich in the Great Hall of the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois. If you, reader, ever have the opportunity to hear the Jupiter String Quartet: go.

So many of our more "celebrated" classical musicians play in a way that seems to say "Look at me, how passionate I am, how intensely self-absorbed." The members of the Jupiter Quartet play in a way that seems to say "Listen to the music. That's why we're here." The quartet's musicianship and expressive communication — among themselves and with their audience — are extraordinary. And these people are still so young! Catch them if you can: their touring schedule's on their website.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mint garlic tea tasting

Elaine and I tried some mint garlic tea this afternoon. We used Bigelow's Mint Medley Herb Tea ("Blend of cool garden spearmint & peppermint") and three cloves of pressed garlic. We shared: garlic, like money, don't grow on trees.

After careful research, we have arrived at the following conclusions:

1. We do not like Bigelow's Mint Medley Herb Tea. We probably wouldn't like any mint tea.

2. We'd rather eat garlic. We like garlic. We knew that already.

There are many online recipes for garlic tea that call for water, a few halved cloves, lemon, and honey. In these recipes, the garlic merely flavors the water as it boils. One could make a much more potent tea by crushing some garlic in a cup and adding the other ingredients. I like garlic. You know that already.

"Be irish"

Be irish. Be inish. Be offalia. Be hamlet. Be the property plot. Be Yorick and Lankystare. Be cool. Be mackinamucks of yourselves.

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)
Happy St. Patrick's Day.

(The name Leddy is Irish.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vladimir Nabokov's index cards

Index cards were gradually loading a shoe box with their compact weight.

Pnin (1957)


The manuscript, mostly a Fair Copy, from which the present text has been faithfully printed, consists of eighty medium-sized index cards, on each of which Shade reserved the pink upper line for headings (canto number, date) and used the fourteen light-blue lines for writing out with a fine nib in a minute, tidy, remarkably clear hand, the text of this poem, skipping a line to indicate double space, and always using a fresh card to begin a new canto.

Pale Fire (1962) [From Charles Kinbote's foreword to his edition of John Shade's poem.]


After a leisurely lunch, prepared by the German cook who came with the house, I would spend another four-hour span in a lawn chair, among the roses and mockingbirds, using lined index cards and a Blackwing pencil, for copying and recopying, rubbing out and writing anew, the scenes I had imagined in the morning.

Foreword to Lolita: A Screenplay (1973)

The photographs of Nabokov's research materials for Lolita and of the author at work with index cards are by Carl Mydans, taken in September 1958 in Ithaca, New York. I found them in the Life photo archive, here and here.

Related posts
Nabokov’s unfinished (Review of The Original of Laura)
Raymond Carver's index cards
Writing and index cards

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mint garlic tea

On NPR's Weekend Edition this morning, garlic farmer Chester Aaron recalled visiting the country of Georgia:

Every morning, they'd have a cup of mint tea into which they pressed three cloves of garlic. And if they were in their eighties or nineties, they pressed five cloves of garlic. And if they were over a hundred, they pressed six to eight cloves [laughs] of garlic. Every morning, mint garlic tea.
Weekend Edition is looking for garlic recipes.

Related post
Mint garlic tea tasting

Saturday, March 14, 2009

David Allen: "the shudder of the world"

"I'm feeling the shudder of the world as we live in it now": David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, telling an audience at the GTD Summit this week that he has laid off 40% of his consulting firm's staff.

Productivity guru faces changes of downturn (AP)

π Day

Today is π Day. 3.14, &c.

Richard Preston's 1992 New Yorker profile of the Chudnovsky brothers, David and Gregory, calculators of π, is online. David Chudnovksy:

"We need many billions of digits. Even a billion digits is a drop in the bucket. Would you like a Coca-Cola?"
in 1992 the Chudnovksy brothers were unsalaried, untenured "senior research scientists" at Columbia University. They are now distinguished professors at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

The Mountains of Pi (New Yorker)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pluto Day

It's Pluto Day in Illinois. Above, an imaginary headline, also in Illinois.

Related post

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Resemblance: The Portraits

Here's a beautiful project with an appropriately Proustian title: Resemblance: The Portraits. David Richardson has made sixty-three 3" x 4 1/2" paintings, acrylic on balsa: one of Marcel Proust as a young man, one of Jeanne Proust, five of scenes from À la recherche du temps perdu, and fifty-six of the novel's characters.

These imagined portraits are wonderfully lit and highly expressive, and again and again, they seem right. Consider the portraits of young Gilberte Swann and the writer Bergotte:

Richardson's work also shows an understated sense of humor. A portrait of the composer Vinteuil bears a strong resemblance to César Franck, whose Violin Sonata in A Major (1886) is one of the real-world analogues of the Vinteuil Sonata. And Richardson's portrait of the the lift boy at the Balbec Grand Hôtel appears to be modeled on Johnny Roventini, the bellhop of "Call for Phillip Morris." I lived in Roventini's Brooklyn neighborhood when very young. No remembrance of things past here: I know only what I've been told. I was very, very young.

David Richardson's work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Thanks, David, for letting me know about your work.

Related reading
All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NYT and higher ed

If you've read last Friday's New York Times article Doctoral Candidates Anticipate Hard Times, follow up with Marc Bousquet's Junk Analysis of Higher Ed by the Times. The Times:

Fulltime faculty jobs have not been easy to come by in recent decades, but this year the new crop of Ph.D. candidates is finding the prospects worse than ever.
As Bousquet points out, it's not "the economy":
Most of the people who won't get tenure track jobs this year, like last year, and every year since 1968 (that’s all four "recent decades," but who's counting?), won't get them because universities have substituted casual student labor for full-time faculty and staff positions.
And then of course there are adjunct positions. As Frank Donoghue notes in The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), tenured and tenure-track professors now compose only 35% of college teaching personnel in the United States, and that percentage is dropping.

[Update: The American Association of University Professors released new figures yesterday. In 2007, tenured and tenure-track professors composed 31.2% of college teaching personnel.]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Domestic comedy

"My childhood has bled into my adulthood. They're no longer separate entities."

Related reading
All "domestic comedy" posts

Monday, March 9, 2009


My state in action:

WHEREAS, Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the planet Pluto, was born on a farm near the Illinois community of Streator; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh served as a researcher at the prestigious Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh first detected the presence of Pluto in 1930; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh is so far the only Illinoisan and only American to ever discover a planet; and

WHEREAS, For more than 75 years, Pluto was considered the ninth planet of the Solar System; and

WHEREAS, A spacecraft called New Horizons was launched in January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015; and

WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons: Charon, Nix and Hydra; and

WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is more than three billion miles from the sun; and

WHEREAS, Pluto was unfairly downgraded to a "dwarf" planet in a vote in which only 4 percent of the International Astronomical Union's 10,000 scientists participated; and

WHEREAS, Many respected astronomers believe Pluto's full planetary status should be restored; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-SIXTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that as Pluto passes overhead through Illinois' night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status, and that March 13, 2009 be declared "Pluto Day" in the State of Illinois in honor of the date its discovery was announced in 1930.
That's SR0046, from the Illinois General Assembly. I've never been prouder of my state — and its solar system. Maybe your state or country can get its own solar system too!

This article corrects a deep error in the bill's argument:

State Sen. Gary Dahl leads Illinois' fight for restoring Pluto's planetary status (Chicago Tribune)

[If this post's title makes no sense to you, see here: Mnemonic.]

Rite-Rite Long Leads

[4 1/16" x 5/16".]

Another item from a now-defunct downstate-Illinois stationery store. Affixed to the back, a label with a price — 10¢ — in fountain-pen ink.

In 1921, the Rite-Rite Mfg. Co. began mfg. fountain pens, mechanical pencils, and pencil leads, clips, and erasers. The company later became a subsidiary of the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company (as in Dixon Ticonderoga). I have these details from a 1950 case heard in the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, Rite-Rite Mfg. Co. v. Rite-Craft Co. Rite-Rite was unhappy about Rite-Craft's choice of name, claiming that it would lead to confusion among customers. The Court's decision includes this bit of dry impatience:

We cannot understand how any purchaser of a lead pencil or a fountain pen, which had applied to it as a mark the word 'Rite,' could imagine that such term meant anything except that it was a misspelling of the word 'write.' It is clearly descriptive of the character of the goods of both parties.
Thus Rite-Rite and Rite-Craft kept mfg. under their chosen names, supplying supply-hungry writers before fading into the stationery past.

I wonder what sort of calculation went into the spelling of the name Rite-Rite. Having opted for the pun, the company must have decided that twin misspellings would make it simpler for customers to keep the name straight. Greater convenience when calling Directory Assistance!

Related post
Real Thin Leads

[This post is the second in an occasional series, "From the Museum of Supplies." The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. Supplies is my word, and has become my family's word, for all manner of stationery items.]

Saturday, March 7, 2009

From the Doyle edition

"The Doyle edition" is what a friend and I called our paperbacks of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, every page covered in notes from studying the poem in Modern British Poetry with James P. Doyle. The earliest notes on this page from "East Coker," the second of the quartets, must date from 1976, when I was a junior in college. I added to those notes when sitting in on the same Doyle course as a graduate student (to get all that I'd missed the first time). Many of the later notes came in when I was working on 20th-century long poems and, later still, when I was teaching a course on William Butler Yeats and TSE. The notes on this page span at least twelve years of reading.

I prefer my copy of Four Quartets to the Kindle.

Other Jim Doyle posts
Department-store Shakespeare
Doyle and French
Jim Doyle (1944–2005)
A Jim Doyle story
Teaching, sitting, standing

No Kindle for me

From Cool Tools, a paean to the Kindle, by Alexander Rose:

Yes, it is now time to get a Kindle. . . .

I have discovered the real reason why you want one. It is because you think of books that you want to read while you are reading other books. On the Kindle you have the unique ability to buy the book right then and there, while you are thinking about it, and it appears on the device moments later all via a free cellphone link they call Whispernet. This feature is one of the least discussed, and to me most useful parts of owning a Kindle, especially compared to the other readers out there. It is because of this feature that I am now reading more than ever.
I sometimes feel that I must now be living on Twin Earth, where "reading books" means something quite different from "reading books." To my mind, reading a book involves a form of attention that make Rose's "real reason" almost laughable. I don't want to stop to buy another book while I'm reading, no more than I want to stop to buy another movie while watching one. On Rose's model, reading turns into a mode of consumer activity, impulse buying at that, the Kindle ready at every moment to take your order. The library? Posh! Get that book now. I expect the day will come when one can click on a word or phrase in an e-book — cashmere sweater, Swiss Army Knife — and be presented with a range of objects for purchase.

I don't doubt the enthusiasm with which some readers have greeted the Kindle. But there are many ways to think about one's relation to books. Annotating, re-annotating, lending — these are activities that undergo essential redefinition or become impossible via the Kindle. The craving for content-on-demand seems to miss the ways in which one might want to go back to a book — one's own copy of it — over time, as it accumulates annotations, as it begins to show wear, as it turns into a record of one's reading and one's life experience. And how does one inscribe a gift book on the Kindle?

One of my great pleasures in listening to music is listening to the copy of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue that my dad brought home in 1959. (It left the house with me when I went out on my own.) One corner is torn, the result of my "indexing" my dad's records for him with slips of paper and tape when I was a kid (dumb kid!). This 1959 LP is my favorite Kind of Blue. Such attachment is not merely sentimental — or if it is, it might be necessarily so. We human types get attached to stuff. Proust understood that.

[The last two paragraphs of this post began as a comment I made on this Boing Boing post. Yes, I have Kind of Blue on CD. My dad does too.]

Related reading
From the Doyle edition
"So cheap, so accessible"

Friday, March 6, 2009

George Wein rides again

George Wein, eighty-three, founder of the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival:

"My legs are shot, but for some reason, my head is doing better than ever."
Wein is returning as producer of both festivals this summer.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The "A Hard Day's Night" chord

Elaine has pointed me to mathematician Jason I. Brown's analysis of the opening chord of The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night":

"Mathematics, Physics, and 'A Hard Day's Night'" (.pdf download, 92KB)

The mysteries of this chord remind me of André Previn's observation re: Duke Ellington:

"Stan Kenton can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture and every studio arranger can nod his head and say, 'Oh, yes, that's done like this.' But Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns make a sound, and I don't know what it is!"

[Quoted in Mimi Clar's "The Style of Duke Ellington" (1959), in The Duke Ellington Reader, ed. Mark Tucker (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).]
Previn must have been thinking of "Mood Indigo."

YouTube bonus links
The Beatles, "A Hard Day's Night"
Duke Ellington, "Mood Indigo"
Peter Sellers, "A Hard Day's Night"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The legendary notebook of . . .

Inspector Bucket has called on the Bagnet family on Mrs Bagnet's birthday. And he has been invited back for next year. Write it down, Inspector, so that you do not forget!

He drinks to Mrs Bagnet with a warmth approaching to rapture, engages himself for that day twelvemonth more than thankfully, makes a memorandum of the day in a large black pocket-book with a girdle to it . . . .

Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)
A large black pocket-book with a girdle to it? Ah, Moleskine! — the legendary notebook of Hemingway, Picasso, Chatwin, and Bucket.

I'm impatient with Moleskine's commercial mythology, but I like Moleskine notebooks a lot, girdles and all.

[Girdle: "something that encircles or confines" (Merriam-Webster OnLine), thus the elastic that keeps the notebook shut.]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hi and Lois watch

Credit where it's due: Hi and Lois has had a three-day streak of fine cartooning. It's difficult to think that the hand behind March 1, 2, and 3 is the hand that drew, say, this February 26 strip — with trick door, lengthening curtains, and shifty muntins.

[Update: It's a four-day streak.]

[Update: The streak is over. Yes, there's an inexplicable slab behind Trixie's thought balloon today. But worse than that: Hi and Lois seems to have turned into Garfield.]

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Aeneid on Facebook

[From Aeneid on Facebook. Click on the magnifying glass after following the link.]

This inspired project is by Erika Grace Carlson and Heather Day.

(via Coudal Partners)


It has 1.5 million+ views, but it might be new to you: POUND, a short film by Evan Bernard (via YouTube).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mary Printz, 1923-2009

Mary Printz, whose work at an answering service inspired the musical Bells Are Ringing (and its "Susanswerphone"), has died:

When clients dialed PLaza 2-2232, the agency's number for many years, they knew they could count on discretion and, when required, innovation. Some messages were routine — at least in the world in which Mrs. Printz's clients moved — involving little more than having the service tell the chauffeur to be at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time.

Others required quick thinking. There was the time, for instance, that Mrs. Printz took a frantic call from Noël Coward, recalled her husband, Bob Printz, in a telephone interview on Friday:

"Mary," Mr. Coward cried, "Marlene has just had a bottle of Scotch and is finished with it, and it's Sunday; I don't have any more. What'll I do?"

Mary Printz, an Ear for the Famous, Dies at 82 (New York Times)
In 1956, Mrs. Printz started her own answering service, Belles Celebrity Secretarial Service. As Belles' owner, she made a cameo appearance in the July 6, 1969 New York Times article "Phone Users Dial FRustration, Too," about problems resulting from "a sharp rise in telephone traffic":
"Telephone service is the worst I've seen it since 1956," Mrs. Printz complained. "There's just no way I can estimate how much business I've lost."
Belles used what the article calls "the troubled PLaza 8 exchange."

Related post
Musical-comedy pencils

"Ambercroombie & Flitch"

That's one of twenty-three ways to be cool, a page's worth of inspiration at The Daily What. Another way: "Irony."

(via notebookism)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I, an aardvark

It was a value-added shopping experience.

[Photograph by Rachel Leddy.]