Sunday, January 31, 2010

OS X hidden gems

“Have you ever noticed that little dark circle that appears within the close button of a document window in OS X when you have unsaved changes? Yeah, me neither.”

(via Minimal Mac)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Van Dyke Parks in Portland

Van Dyke Parks plays Portland, Oregon, February 10, 2010. Says he, “I’ve decided to go out and flog a lifetime of unpromoted song.”

Eve Shea remembers J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger, in a letter to Eve Shea:

I’m cheerless at weddings, but almost entirely, wholly, and I’m convinced it’s not a bad idea at all to spare people I like the sight of me standing around, mostly mute, with a drink I don’t want in my hand.
Shea met Salinger in 1977, when she was thirteen. They were very occasional correspondents for fourteen years. Read more:

Goodbye Uncle Jerry (The Globe and Mail)

Clark Terry’s
Lifetime Achievement Award

Trumpeter and flugelhornist Clark Terry is one of seven musicians receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards today from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The other honorees: Leonard Cohen, Bobby Darin, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Michael Jackson, Loretta Lynn, and André Previn.

I was lucky to do a radio interview with Clark Terry some years ago, when I was putting in two hours a week playing jazz at my university’s FM station. (The station then aired four hours of classical music and five hours of jazz a day, with bluegrass, blues, hip-hop, indie rock, and reggae in the evenings. Now the station plays “hits.”) Clark was on campus to lead a workshop and perform, and had agreed to come over to the station in the afternoon for an interview. He and I talked for an hour on the air. I consider that hour one the most memorable experiences in my life: the opportunity to talk not only with a great musician but with a great Ellingtonian. It was a really good interview. The interviewer, as you might imagine, had done his homework.

The Grammy Awards air tomorrow night on CBS, 8:00 Eastern Time. I hope that the Lifetime Achievement awardees get more than just a perfunctory roll call. We’ll see.

Related reading
Clark Terry’s website
NARAS press release

5 sentences about life on the moon

The Google search 5 sentences about life on the moon brought someone to my post on five sentences from Bleak House. Sorry, wrong orb. But I’ll bite:

Moon: life on the, five sentences about

(The moon. MR. and MRS. JOHNNY BURKE sit at a table. They wear evening clothes. A SERVING MAN stands to one side.)

    Moon life becomes you. It goes with your hair.
    You certainly know the right thing to wear.

    Actually, I’m freezing.

    Would anyone care for more cheese?
[The first three sentences, more or less, are borrowed from the 1942 song “Moonlight Becomes You,” words by Johnny Burke, music by Jimmy Van Heusen.]

Related posts
Five sentences about clothes
Five sentences for smoking
Five sentences on the ship

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lawn, goodbye (Hi and Lois)

There seems to be a new person working the line at Hi-Lo Amalgamated. Interstice problems — the changing door, the changing greenery, the disappearing picture — are the same old same old. What’s new: the Flagstons’ front door now opens onto the sidewalk. Lawn, goodbye, for now.

Related reading
All Hi and Lois posts

Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger (1919–2010)

J.D. Salinger has died.

Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody.

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
The New York Times reports that there will be no service.

A P.S. 131 class picture, 1966–1967

[Click for a larger view.]

The above photograph shows Mrs. Marcia Schorr’s fifth-grade class, P.S. 131, Boro Park, Brooklyn, New York, 1966–1967. Not a cross tie in the crowd.

I remember Mrs. Schorr as very capable, very calm. The envelope that holds my fifth-grade report card holds a note from her to my dad (on a note-card, in an envelope, of course), thanking him for a card he had made for her. Mrs. Schorr was wishing us well on leaving the city for New Jersey: “Brooklyn will be losing a fine family!” What a gracious and generous thing to say.

As a kid, I liked the effect that the horrible lighting had on the boys in the top row: it gave them long hair. Looking at this photograph now, I wonder whether Albert’s shirt pocket (third row, middle) was holding what we called an I.D. wallet. Such wallets were accessories in our work as school-aged secret agents in The Black Cat Club. (Secret agents always carry I.D., right?) And I now remember something I haven’t thought of in years: a lunch hour during which Donald (top row, left) and I stood on safety patrol and I told him what menstruation was. My mom and dad believed in reality-based parenting — no birds, no bees, no storks.

That concludes class pictures at Orange Crate Art. In the suburbs of New Jersey, all school pictures were of individual students. So the class picture was a set of separate little rectangles on a white background, young suburbanites each with her or his own little bit of property.

[I’m uneasy about identifying fellow fifth-graders by last name without permission, so I haven’t. These photographs have faded and remain so here, as unimproved scans. I’m the kid in the second row, left, looking rather short.]

More from the P.S. 131 collection
1962–1963 1963–1964 1964–1965 1965–1966

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A P.S. 131 class picture, 1965–1966

[Click for a larger view.]

The above photograph shows Miss Carol D’Elia’s fourth-grade class, P.S. 131, Boro Park, Brooklyn, New York, 1965–1966. Miss D’Elia was my favorite elementary school teacher. She was kind and smart and beautiful. She sometimes wore little white boots. (I would’ve sworn she was wearing them in this photograph.) Hullabaloo boots, everyone called them, after the television show. See how many girls in this picture are rocking a pair of boots? I would like to imagine that Miss D’Elia was for the girls in our class an exciting exemplar of intelligence and style. “But Mom, Miss D’Elia wears them!”

Miss D’Elia was the first teacher to let me know that she liked me, that she thought I was a good person. Her arm around Eddie (for that was his name) says much about her feeling for her students. Eddie must’ve felt like a million dollars.

At some point in that school year, Miss D’Elia became Mrs. Corso. Her students and their families were invited to the wedding. I remember shaking Mr. Corso’s hand. Mr. Corso was a lucky man.

[I’m uneasy about identifying fellow fourth-graders by last name without permission, so I haven’t. These photographs have faded and remain so here, as unimproved scans. I’m the kid sitting on the left.]

More from the P.S. 131 collection
1962–1963 1963–1964 1964–1965 1966–1967

A P.S. 131 class picture, 1964–1965

[July 2020: There’s new information about Mrs. Vistreich at the end of the post.]

[Click for a larger view.]

See? Little ladies and gentlemen, every one of us. Still our teacher is not satisfied. She turns to principal I.O. Gimprich. Why me? she asks. Just because, says Dr. Gimprich, climbing a wall, just out of the picture.

The above photograph shows Mrs. Roslyn Vistreich’s third-grade class, P.S. 131, Boro Park, Brooklyn, New York, 1964–1965. Mrs. Vistreich was not my favorite teacher, nor I her favorite pupil. She called me a clock-watcher — at 2:58 or 2:59, if you can believe it, which you should, because it’s true, I think. She called me Mr. Dooley, perhaps a diss of my Irish-American ancestry. She didn’t like my habit of whistling (melodies, not wolf calls). She charged me — on my report card — with being a danger to myself and my classmates: “Must try to walk up & down stairs more carefully to avoid accidents to self and others.” Yet she sent me off during class time to travel from floor to floor delivering notes to other teachers. I read the notes and found out her first name.

I once told a joke about Schaefer beer in Mrs. Vistreich’s class. Surely it confirmed whatever she already thought of me. But still, I “did good.” Under the words “Our Best Work” is my report “Building Materials.” It’s the one in the middle, the work of a tileman’s kid.

Do click for a larger view and enjoy the props on the desks, which I don’t think were standard in class pictures. Look at the MacBook on Barry’s desk. How’d that get there?


July 21, 2020: There was much more to Mrs. Vistreich’s life than met my third-grade eye. Here’s a story that features Fernand Vistreich, the man who became my teacher’s husband in 1964. For the unacknowledged source, see an article in the January 29, 1948 Daily News: “Doc Denies Consulting in Shorts.” The later Herbert Gehr story, with no Vistreich connection, is told in three New York Times articles: “Wife Seeking Data for Divorce Killed,” “Gehr Weeps As Trial Is Told of Shooting,” and “Gehr Is Acquitted in Slaying of Wife.”

[I’m uneasy about identifying fellow third-graders by last name without permission, so I haven’t. These photographs have faded and remain so here, as unimproved scans. I’m the kid with the blue shirt and necktie.]

More from the P.S. 131 collection
1962–1963 1963–1964 1965–1966 1966–1967

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A P.S. 131 class picture, 1963–1964

[Click for a larger view.]

Dig the flag. Dig the hairdos. Dig the cross ties. (They’re coming back; I know they are.) Dig the diamond-shaped tie of the boy in the top row, middle, a tie whose proper name escapes me. Dig the glasses of the girl in the middle row, left. Dig the glasses of the girl in the middle row, left. Yes, I said it again: her glasses are that cool. Extra credit if you recognize any of the kids from Mrs. Frazier’s class.

The above photograph shows Miss M.’s second-grade class, P.S. 131, Boro Park, Brooklyn, New York, 1963–1964. I remember my second-grade classroom as something like a performance space for teacherly fury. Miss M. once tried to quiet us by throwing her shoes into the “cloakroom” as we bundled up to go home. A teacher throwing shoes? The response is likely to be helpless, giggling frenzy, as of course it was. On another occasion, Miss M. tried to quiet us by lifting and dropping one corner of her desk. Dr. I.O. Gimprich, the principal, happened to be walking by in the hallway. The noise brought him into the room. Was everything okay? Yes, it was.

I wonder what became of Miss M., and I wonder what might become of anyone trying to teach thirty-four second-graders.

[I’m uneasy about identifying fellow second-graders by last name without permission, so I haven’t. These photographs have faded and remain so here, as unimproved scans. I’m the kid with the blue shirt and black cross tie.]

More from the P.S. 131 collection
1962–1963 1964–1965 1965–1966 1966–1967

A P.S. 131 class picture, 1962–1963

[Click for a larger view.]

Looking at class photographs from P.S. 99 moved me to make my own small contribution to grade-school nostalgia. Here’s the first of five class pictures that my parents handed over to me some years ago. The above photograph shows Mrs. Frazier’s first-grade class, P.S. 131, Boro Park, Brooklyn, New York, 1962–1963. Mrs. Frazier was my mother’s first-grade teacher at P.S. 131 in the late Depression, a fact of our family life that still amazes me.

I like seeing the details of this classroom, which looks like a lively place (especially with thirty-one kids). I remember reading at a table off to the side of the room with my friend Barry (sitting, wearing a cross tie). We must have been in the Library. I believe that we were ahead of the class, reading-wise, and that Barry was ahead of me. Syd Hoff’s Danny and the Dinosaur was my book of choice. Note the Play House: “We can have tea.” And we still can!

Do click for a larger view. The girl in the saddle shoes rules.

[I’m uneasy about identifying fellow first-graders by last name without permission, so I haven’t. These photographs have faded and remain so here, as unimproved scans. I’m the kid with the red cross tie.]

More from the P.S. 131 collection
1963–1964 1964–1965 1965–1966 1966–1967

Related posts
P.S. 131
P.S. 131, 44th Street, Brooklyn
Some have gone and some remain

Monday, January 25, 2010

P.S. 99 class pictures

Class pictures, 310 of them:

P.S. 99 Class Photographs (A Picture History of Kew Gardens, NY, via Boing Boing)

“We’re all in this together,” says a class picture, “and we’re doing the best that we can.”

Pocket notebook sighting: Spellbound

[Drs. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) and Alex Brulov (Michael Chekhov) penetrate the labyrinth of the guilt complex.]

Dr. Petersen’s pocket notebook holds the details of a dream reported by her amnesic patient John Ballantyne (Gregory Peck). That dream in turn holds the secrets of Ballantyne’s identity and his guilt complex.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) is oddly satisfying. The episodes of dream interpretation and psychiatric diagnosis now play like parody. The film’s presentation of psychiatry as the talking cure clashes absurdly with a casual recommendation of a few days’ drugs for one patient, unexplained surgery (lobotomy?) for another. What saves the movie is Bergman and Peck’s plausible chemistry, as Dr. Petersen, hitherto devoted to her work, finds herself falling in love with a man equally smitten. Their ardor leads though to dialogue like this:

Ballantyne: Professor, I never quite realized in my amnesic state how lovely you are.

Petersen: Oh, now that you got your head back, you mustn’t lose it again.

Ballantyne: Oh, no. It’s too late. I’m beyond cure.
Michael Chekhov, as Dr. Petersen’s mentor, has the film’s best line: “And remember what I say — any husband of Constance is a husband of mine, so to speak.”

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
Journal d’un curé de campagne
The House on 92nd Street
The Palm Beach Story
Pickup on South Street
Red-Headed Woman
The Sopranos

Saturday, January 23, 2010

National Handwriting Day

It’s National Handwriting Day (aka John Hancock’s birthday). Above, a recent sample of handwriting, created with a portable ink-delivery apparatus called a “Model T.” Yes, handwriting recalls the good old days, like the day last week when I wrote a review of Alvin Levin’s Love Is Like Park Avenue (New Directions, 2009) for World Literature Today. Handwriting is not dead yet.

Related posts
Five pens
“Necessary and beloved tools of thought”
On handwriting and typing
Writing by hand
Writing, technology, and teenagers

Friday, January 22, 2010

Firefox 3.6

Firefox 3.6 is now available. It feels very fast, much faster than 3.5. Scientific testing confirms: fast!

The big new feature of 3.6: Personas (Personae?). I’m happy with the GrApple Delicious theme for Mac. No Personae for me.

Geoffrey Chaucer, Ezra Pound, B.P.E.

Reading Joan Acocella’s piece “All England,” on renderings of The Canterbury Tales in “translation” (that is, in modernized English), made me remember this observation, which as an undergrad I wrote in pencil on the inside front cover of my Chaucer:

Anyone who is too lazy to master the comparatively small glossary necessary to understand Chaucer deserves to be shut out from the reading of good books forever.

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (New York: New Directions, 1960), 99.
I remember that I used a large paper clip to hold together the thirty or forty pages preceding the glossary, which was, yes, small. The clip made it easier to flip to the glossary and not be shut out from the reading of good books forever. It was life B.P.E. (Before the Post-it Note Era). The nationwide sale of Post-it Notes began in 1980.

Acocella’s piece appears in the December 21, 2009 issue of The New Yorker (online for subscribers only).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How to improve writing (no. 26)

I always enjoy reading Nancy Franklin’s New Yorker pieces about television. But this sentence, from a smart and funny review of Jersey Shore, needs work:

Promos showing a group of young men and women of Italian heritage making entertainingly ridiculous statements about themselves and whooping it up on the boardwalk at night — dancing, throwing punches, that kind of thing — advertised “Jersey Shore” as set in a “house like you’ve never seen, full of the hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos,” and Italian-American groups, and eventually New Jersey tourism officials, protested and some of them called for MTV to cancel the series.
One problem: the number of participles separating subject and verb: Promos [showing, making, whooping, dancing, throwing] advertised. A second problem: the number of ands as the sentence ends: “and Italian-American groups,” “and eventually New Jersey tourism officials,” “and some of them.” A third problem: the missing comma before the and that begins the sentence’s final clause. One more: “some of them” seems ambigious: some of the officials who eventually protested? Or some of the groups and officials?

Things look much better when the matter of this sentence is divided among several sentences:
MTV advertised “Jersey Shore” as set in a “house like you’ve never seen, full of the hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos.” Promos showed a group of young men and women of Italian heritage making entertainingly ridiculous statements about themselves and whooping it up on the boardwalk at night — dancing, throwing punches, that kind of thing. Italian-American groups and New Jersey tourism officials protested, some of them calling for MTV to cancel the series.
The ambiguity of some remains. I’ve let the word apply to both the groups and the officials. And if you’re wondering: I’ve seen enough of Jersey Shore to have seen enough of Jersey Shore.

[This post is no. 26 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Related reading
All How to improve writing posts (via Pinboard)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seven hours, thirty-eight minutes a day

In the news:

The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Seven hours and thirty-eight minutes a day, survey says. Read more:

If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online (New York Times)
Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds (Kaiser Family Foundation)

White Heat and High Sierra

Arthur “Cody” Jarrett (James Cagney) has a question:

“Supposin’, supposin’ you wanted to push in a place like Fort Knox and, ah, grab yourself a couple of tons of gold. What’s the toughest thing about a job like that?”
“Gettin’ inside the joint,” one crony suggests.
“A silver dollar for the gentleman in the balcony. Right on the button, gettin’ in. Which brings me to a story Ma used to tell me when I was a kid, a story about a horse. Way back, there was a whole army tryin’ to knock over a place called Troy, and gettin’ nowhere fast. Couldn’t even put a dent in the walls. And one morning, one morning the people of Troy wake up, look over the walls, and the attacking army disappeared. Men, boats, the works. Takin’ a powder. But they left one thing after them — a great big wooden horse. And according to Ma —”
And there the scene ends. Ma Jarrett (Margaret Wycherly) is Cody’s ultimate authority, his ultimate consolation, his muse. “And according to Ma”: the fall of Troy is her story.

This bit of dialogue is from White Heat (dir. Raoul Walsh, 1949), the best Cagney film I’ve seen. White Heat makes fascinating the sheer drudgery of crime: planning routes, designating drivers, packing, unpacking, checking the time. It’s a film with something for everyone: a great train robbery, a morgue scene, snappy police work (teletype machines, car phones, radio transmitters, wall maps), spooky facial bandages, a car chase, vast prison interiors, an explosive ending. Best of all are the film’s breathtakingly twisted relationships. Only ten minutes into the film, Jarrett seeks his mother’s lap to be comforted. His relationship with his snoring, spitting wife Verna (Virginia Mayo) is a mess of physical and emotional tyranny: there is room for only one true romance in his life. His moments of sudden violence, toward Verna and others, take us into the realm of pathology.

White Heat pairs well with other Cagney films: The Public Enemy (dir. William A. Wellman, 1931) and Angels with Dirty Faces (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1938) are the obvious choices. To my mind though, the ideal partner for White Heat is not a Cagney film but Walsh’s High Sierra (1941). If White Heat gives us the gangster as psychotic killer, Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of bank-robber Roy Earle gives us the gangster as damaged saint. Earle heals the lame (or at least covers the bill) and inspires devoted followers, one of whom unwittingly betrays him, one of whom weeps for him. The two films together are a fine introduction to the fascinating and repellent figure of the criminal in American screen culture.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Appetizing: adjective, or noun? Discuss.

Sunny intervals

That’s BBC weather.

American weatherpersons often speak of “intervals of sun.” “Sunny intervals” sounds brighter and more cheerful. I’d like sunny intervals, soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010


[Photograph by Paul Schutzerby, May 17, 1957, Washington, D.C. From the Life photo archive.]

On 17 May 1957, nearly 25,000 demonstrators gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for a Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, featuring three hours of spirituals, songs, and speeches that urged the federal government to fulfill the three-year-old Brown v. Board of Education decision. The last speech of the day was reserved for Martin Luther King’s “Give Us the Ballot” oration, which captured public attention and placed him in the national spotlight as a major leader of the civil rights movement.

Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom (King Institute)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blogger spacing problem solved

If you dislike Blogger’s odd spacing before and after block quotations, here’s a fix.

Look in your Blogger template for “.post {”:

.post {
  margin:.5em 0 1.5em;
  border-bottom:1px dotted $bordercolor;
Note the line-height. Now look for “.post blockquote {”:
.post blockquote {
  margin:1.6em 20px;
Change the em number to match the line-height you found above, as I’ve done here. That’s it.

[Usual disclaimers apply: tinker at your own risk.]

In Julia Child’s kitchen

Watching The French Chef on DVD last night, Elaine and I had the same thought: that Julia Child’s kitchen is in our kitchen. Look:

My Kitchen, Julia Child’s Kitchen (Musical Assumptions)

See? The oven is not exactly our old one though (pace Elaine). Look here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Churchill’s speeches fail exam

News from England, late 2009:

Churchill’s speeches, Hemingway’s style and Golding’s prose would not have been appreciated by a new computerised marking system used to assess A level English.

The system, which is a proposed way of marking exam papers online, found that Churchill’s rousing call to "fight them on the beaches" was too repetitive, with the text using the word “upon” and “our” too frequently. . . .

Online marking of papers is being tested by exam boards and could be introduced within the next few years. It is already in use in America, where some children have learnt to write in a style which the computer appreciates, known as “schmoozing the computer.”

Churchill’s speeches fail exam (Telegraph)
Schmoozing the teacher, sure, but I’ve not heard of schmoozing the computer. A Google search points again and again to this Telegraph article. I’d like to know what’s involved in computer-schmoozing.

Related posts, on the SAT essay test
The SAT is broken
Words, words, words

Items in a series



From a commercial for the United States, in a dream earlier this morning.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Stand with Haiti

Talking with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC last night, Tracy Kidder recommended Partners in Health to anyone interested in donating money to help Haiti. Kidder is the author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, about PIH co-founder Paul Farmer.

William Zinsser, writing advice

William Zinsser offers writing advice to international students at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism:

Writing English as a Second Language (The American Scholar)

Useful for all students of writing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Huffington Post, misleading headline

Above, the main headline at the Huffington Post right now (where it appears at about twice the size). Reading it, you would click, without even thinking, anticipating the news of a catastrophic aftershock. And you would not find it. What you would find is a report on the earthquake’s aftermath.

The Huffington Post is notorious, in my house anyway, for its cynical efforts to increase page views. Click on a headline to read a story; get a page with that headline, no story; click again. It’s difficult to decide whether the above headline is a matter of an ill-considered metaphor or the work of the Department of Page Views. At any rate, it helps to explain why I’ve begun to get the news from the BBC.

[Ben, you were right.]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sue Shellenbarger on
time-management (again)

Sue Shellenbarger updates readers on her experiment with three time-management strategies: FranklinCovey’s Focus, GTD, and the Pomodoro Technique.

Related reading
No Time to Read This? Read This (Wall Street Journal)


The Rachel Maddow Show has a list of twenty-eight charitable organizations at work in Haiti:

Haiti earthquake: How to help (MSNBC)

Also: you can text HAITI to 90999 and a $10 donation to the Red Cross will be charged to your cellphone bill:

A Disaster in Haiti and How You Can Help (U.S. Department of State Blog)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thelonious Monk plays Duke Ellington

From a seventieth-birthday tribute to Duke Ellington, Berliner Jazztage, November 7, 1969:

“Satin Doll” (Ellington–Billy Strayhorn–Johnny Mercer)
“Sophisticated Lady” (Ellington–Irving Mills–Mitchell Parish)
“Caravan” (Ellington–Irving Mills–Juan Tizol)
“(In My) Solitude” (Ellington–Eddie DeLange–Irving Mills)
“Crepuscule with Nellie” (Monk)
“Blues for Duke”

The final piece, with Joe Turner (piano), Hans Rettenbacher (bass), Stu Martin (drums), was likely created on the spot. “Caravan” is the highlight, I’d say; “Satin Doll,” a charming surprise. “Caravan,” “Solitude,” and “Sophisticated Lady” appear on the 1955 Riverside LP Thelonious Monk Plays the Music of Duke Ellington.

What did we do before YouTube? Without.

Two related posts
Mini-review: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane

Van Dyke Parks and Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr’s album Y Not, out today, has a significant contribution from Van Dyke Parks.

[Update, February, 7, 2010: In a promotional clip, Starr explains that the Starr–Parks song “Walk With Me” began as a “God song.” “I don’t write about God,” said Parks.]

Monday, January 11, 2010

Card-file steals scene in TV debut

[“Now you go out to the Altro Corporation Monday morning and report to a Mr. Hodgeman.”]

The above scene is from “Betty, Girl Engineer,” an episode from the second season of Father Knows Best, first aired on April 11, 1956. The plucky card-file, a newcomer to the home screen, upstages Mr. Glover (Jack Harris), a clipboard, and several unnamed students who have been taking a course in vocational education. Off-screen, Betty Anderson (Elinor Donahue), also a student in the course, waits to sign up to work with a surveying crew. Its members will include a college man who thinks women have no place in engineering. The episode will go on to treat sexual discrimination and harassment in a less than satisfying way, as Betty’s harasser falls for her; and she, for him.

This card-file later had small roles in Dragnet and Car 54, Where Are You? before going into real estate.

Threatening to upstage the card-file is an enigma. What, what is that cup-like object on the desk?

January 10, 2012: Looking at the enigma again, I think it might be the ink reservoir for a dip pen, minus the pen, something like this one.

Related posts
“Betty’s Graduation”
“A Woman in the House”
Repurposed tea tin (An index-card holder)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bill Madison on 3-D TV

He’s skeptical, and very funny:

Next Stop, Wonkavision? (Billevesées)

3-D makes it easy for me to think about living with no TV.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Murry Wilson letter

Murry Wilson to Brian Wilson, May 8, 1965, from an eight-page single-spaced letter:

Brian you were a wonderful young boy and regardless of what you may think, I gave you very much love and I idolized you as a baby. You can never know how many hundreds of times I picked you up and kissed you and carried you on my shoulders, sang to you and taught you words, songs and so many things because you were a baby. I can remember giving all three of my sons love in many forms and actually, when I was strict from time to time, it was because I felt it was my duty as a father to give you the security a punishment gives. . . .

I cannot believe that such a beautiful young boy, who was kind, loving, received good grades in school and had so many versatile talents, could become so obsessed to prove that he was better than his father.
Murry Wilson’s cruelty to his sons and his competitiveness with Brian are well known. “Brian, I’m a genius too,” he says on the tape of the infamous "Help Me, Rhonda" recording session. This 1965 letter, now in the possession of the Hard Rock Cafe, is a sickening mix of emotional manipulation, self-deception, and self-pity. Read it and imagine having such a father:

The Murry Wilson letter (Letters of Note)

A related post

Friday, January 8, 2010

Roger Ebert, “Nil by mouth”

Roger Ebert can no longer eat, drink, or speak:

The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, “Remember that time?” I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it’s sad. Maybe that’s why I enjoy this blog. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now.
Read it all:

Nil by mouth (Chicago Sun-Times)

The next time I teach Homer’s Odyssey and talk about food and drink and hospitality in the poem, I’ll be asking my students to read Ebert’s piece.

ELbo 875

[From Dream House, dir. Del Lord, 1932.]

James Fawcett (Bing Crosby) seems not to care what anyone thinks about how he looks. He’s a singing plumber (yes, Fawcett) in Waterville in this musical short, available on Hollywood Rhythm: The Best of Big Bands and Swing, Volume Two (Kino Video). Thanks, library.

More telephone exchange names on screen
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse
Baby Face
Born Yesterday
The Man Who Cheated Himself
Nightmare Alley
The Public Enemy

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Outside a natural foods store, a college student to her father: “Would I look like such a hippie if I ride my bike to the store?”

[No, you wouldn’t. The reason you’re asking this question, even in fun, is that like most young adults, you’re very much aware of how you might look — or how you imagine you might look — to other people. If you were to ride your bike to the store, you’d be getting a bit of exercise while saving non-renewable resources and money. If people were to notice you, I doubt they’d think “There goes that hippie.” More likely: “I should really ride my bike more often.” Or “Next time, I’m taking my bike.” Or “She’s got the right idea.” Or “It’s finally warming up; we should start biking.” So ride your bike, and take some pleasure in the possibility that your example might inspire others, if they’re even noticing.]

Related reading
All “Overheard” posts

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sweetzels Spiced Wafers

Sweetzels Spiced Wafers are tough cookies — crunchy, substantial, nothing wafer-like about them. The secrets of their flavor: unsulphured molasses and what the ingredients list calls “spices” — allspice, clnnamon, clove, and ginger. Spiced Wafers are like emotionally complicated ginger snaps — darker, moodier, more intense.

Spiced Wafers are a seasonal item, sold in fall and winter. Once a Philadelphia specialty, they can now be had elsewhere. Elaine and I found them at a Big Lots in “east-central Illinois,” $2.00 for an 18 oz. box. We bought one box on Saturday and several more yesterday. How many are “several”? Let’s just say that we now have close to 2000% of the day’s iron stashed beside our wine rack.

Related reading
Serendipitous searching at Big Lots
Sweetzels (Company website)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Children, “best readers in the world”

Novelist Katherine Paterson has been appointed national ambassador for young people’s literature:

“When people say, ‘Don’t you want to write for adults?’ I think, why would I want to write a book that would be remaindered in six weeks? My books have gone on and on, and my readers, if they love the book, they will read it and reread it. I have the best readers in the world.”

New Envoy’s Old Advice for Children: Read More (New York Times)

Domestic comedy

Some people just don’t like Sideways (dir. Alexander Payne, 2004):

“Wait ’til you’re older. Then you might like it.”

“I am older.”

“Even older. Older still!”
On an international note: Sideways has been remade as a Japanese film (dir. Cellin Gluck, 2009). Sideways, according to the trailer. Saidoweizu, according to IMDB.

How old do you have to be to like Sideways? At least forty, I’d say.

Related reading and viewing
All “domestic comedy” posts
2009 Sideways trailer (YouTube)

Solari e Tufte

I had an e-mail message from Edward Tufte yesterday. He read my post on New Haven’s soon-to-be-gone Solari board, and it prompted him to propose repurposing that board as art. He’s been thinking about such a project for a while. Read more:

New Haven Solari train board: what should be done? (Ask E.T.)

The Internet is amazing. Stay tuned for further developments.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Domestic comedy

“They have the same faux naturel color.”

[“They”: “Vintage Package Edition” Grape-Nuts box, Wheat Thins Flatbread box.]

Related posts
All “domestic comedy” posts
Cereals in the hands of an angry blog
Everything I always wanted to ask about Grape-Nuts

Welcome to Macintosh

Tonight, at 9:30 Eastern Time, CNBC airs the documentary Welcome to Macintosh (dir. Robert Baca and Josh Rizzo, 2008).

Welcome to Macintosh trailer (YouTube)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Solari board

A bright new LED display will soon replace the schedule board at New Haven’s Union Train Station. The board to be replaced clicks clicks clicks as its letters and numbers flip. Did you know that this kind of board has a name, or several? It’s called a flip board, split-flap display, or Solari board, after its Italian maker, Solari di Udine.

NPR reports that New Haven’s LED display will have a simulated click click click.

Related listening, looking, reading
Solari board photographs (Flickr)
Solari board videos (YouTube)
Train Station Board’s Demise Is Sign of the Times (NPR)
Tune Changed on Solari (New Haven Independent)

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 calendars

Not 2009, not 2011. For right now:

Compact Calendar 2010 (David Seah)
Micro-Mini Calendar 2010 (Claude Pavur) (Found via Prairie Bluestem)
Thumb calendar (Adam Sporka)
UNIX calendar command (hawkexpress)

If you teach, PDFCalendar is great for planning a semester on one page. The UNIX command is handy for making a three- or four-month calendar to keep in a pocket notebook.

I’ve made a few Field Notes-inspired wall calendars for 2010 ($14.95 x 3 or 4 began to look a bit unjustifiable). Here’s January:

It’s much easier to make than you might think: just two tables in a word-processing document. I used Apple’s Pages and Gill Sans Bold.

Hi and Lois time

[Hi and Lois, January 1, 2010.]

Cartoon characters have fewer fingers than we do; their months, fewer weeks; their weeks, fewer days.

And their trashcans, fewer lids.

A related post
Economies of time (Hi and Lois)

New Year’s Resolution Generator

Looking for some resolutions? Try Monina Velarde’s New Year’s Resolution Generator.

Also: Happy New Year!

(Found via swissmiss)