Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Collecting P.S. 202

Martin Raskin collects P.S. 202, East New York, Brooklyn. His collection is the subject of a New York Times article and slideshow.

Herb Ellis (1921–2010)

A fine guitarist has died. I will be listening to the Oscar Peterson Trio in my off hours today.

The New York Times obituary links to a great performance by Peterson, Ellis, and Ray Brown, “A Gal in Calico.”

Legends of Jazz Photography

Legends of Jazz Photography: William Claxton, William Gottlieb, and Herman Leonard, an exhibition at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles. Dig Herman Leonard’s Lester Young still life.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Welcome, 500,000th visitor

StatCounter just recorded the 500,000th visitor to Orange Crate Art. Welcome, 500,000th visitor!

For big boys and girls, half a million visitors are all in a day’s work, or two. Not so here. Half a million visitors are a big deal.

I’m pretty certain that Visitor No. 500,000 is a friend who lives in ______, Illinois. She browses with Firefox in Windows XP. Sara, is that you? Your prizes are on their way.

Visitor No. 499,999 wondered about the truth of this statement: students can greet a professor by saying what’s up.

Uh, no. Sara would tell you that too.

I’m grateful to Visitor No. 499,999 (who may have received some serious edification by reading How to e-mail a professor). And I’m grateful to anyone who reads here. And if, reader, you’re reading the feed, in Google Reader or elsewhere, I’m grateful to you too. Stop by sometime and say hello. (Hello!)

Obama revisions

I spent some time last night looking closely at the White House photograph of a draft page of President Barack Obama’s September 9, 2009 remarks to a joint session of Congress. The subject was health care.

From the first paragraph, original, re: Ted Kennedy:

But those who knew him and worked with him here — people of both parties — know the truth. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer; the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is sick; and his ability to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance . . . .
From the first paragraph, revised:
But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here — people of both parties — know the truth was more complicated than that. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is sick; and he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance . . . .
The first sentence now includes its speaker — “of us” — and is made more intimate — “Teddy.” The thinking becomes more complex: the truth is not a simple or single thing. The sentences that follow make their subject tireless and empathetic: “he never forgot”; “he was able to imagine.” Behold the power of verbs.

From the second paragraph, original:
That large-heartedness — that compassion — is not a partisan feeling.
From the second paragraph, revised:
That large-heartedness — that concern and regard for the plight of others — is not a partisan feeling.
I’m tempted to prefer the concision of “compassion,” but it makes sense that something large should follow “large-heartedness.” And what sounds greater to your ears? Compassion, or concern and regard for the plight of others? The revision also creates an attractive series of anapests (xx/): that conCERN, and reGARD, for the PLIGHT.

If you look at the photograph, you might be surprised by what happens as this paragraph continues: the sentences about Stanley Ann Dunham’s cancer and Sasha Obama’s meningitis are crossed out, as are lengthy handwritten additions to those sentences. Removing those brief accounts makes for a stronger tie between the statement about non-partisan feeling and the sentences that now follow.

Third paragraph, original:
For that too is part of the character of this country — our ability to stand in other people’s shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand and that hard work and responsibility to family and community and country should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play that sometimes only a government can ensure.
Third paragraph, revised:
For that too is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people’s shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play — and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.
In the first sentence, the point that large-heartedness is neither Democratic nor Republican is sharper — large-heartedness is now American. And the sentence now ends with its most important noun, “character.” It’s probably only coincidence that the sentence now recalls the title of D.W. Brogan’s The American Character (1944).

The remainder of this paragraph, pre-revision, already sounds like Obama in its parallelism. But it’s a mighty long sentence to trek through. The revision breaks the sentence into more graspable (and thus more moving) elements. The parallelism becomes rousing, built not merely from “that” but from a series of nouns: “a recognition that,” “a belief that,” “an acknowledgement that.” Notice “in this country”: this is the way we do things. Notice too the urgency added to the final sentence, twice revised: an acknowledgment not that government “can help deliver on that promise” but that “sometimes government has to step in” to do so.

This draft page shows what anyone who writes and works at it comes to figure out, again and again: that everything is subject to revision, and that some things must be cut for the sake of the whole. I can imagine the President realizing at some point that the account of his family’s medical woes would not serve his purpose — that “it,” as they say, was not about him.

The speech as delivered differs of course from this revised draft:

Remarks by the President to a Joint Session of Congress
on Health Care

[Update, March 30, 2010: I missed the added “in this country,” third paragraph, and have revised accordingly.]

Monday, March 29, 2010

What good writing looks like

You can see it in this photograph.

A related post
What Good Writing Can Accomplish (Musical Assumptions)

How to improve writing (no. 27)

The Blogger template’s sidebar phrasing — “View my complete profile” — has long bugged me. Why my? Why complete? Even Geoffrey Pullum might concede that Strunk and White’s “Omit needless words” makes sense here.

Improving this bit of writing involves editing the Blogger template: go to the Dashboard, click Layout, click Edit HTML, and check Expand Widget Templates. Now search for

It appears only once. Replace it — all of it, including “<” and “>” — with whatever words you like, like so:
Click Preview to make sure all’s well, and save.

I found this solution in a helpful post at Sam Regist’s WebBanshee.

[This post is no. 27 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)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Steve Wozniak on the iPad and college

In a February 15 post on the iPad and college students, I wrote:

Consider the price. For a family sending a daughter or son to college, the iPad is an attractive alternative to a low-end Windows laptop (and half the price of a MacBook). . . .

The market that the iPad is to conquer: college students. That’s my hunch. (Now let’s see if I’m right.)
I think I’m going to be right. If not, at least I’m in good company. Here’s Steve Wozniak in the April 5 issue of Newsweek:
The iPad could lower the cost of acquiring computers for students. I think it’s going to be huge in the education market. Think about students going off to college. They want an Apple product, but their parents don’t want to spend that much. Now they have the ideal thing. They can go to college and someone may have a whacked-out $6,000 laptop, but the guy with the iPad will get all the attention.
Read more:

Why Steve Wozniak Wants Two iPads (Newsweek)

Bill Withers and John Hammond

I’ve been following writer and record-producer Chris Albertson’s posts at Stomp Off in C on record-producer John Hammond. (There are now one, two, three, four, five of them.) Scanning recent issues of the New Yorker this morning, I noticed this passage in a Sasha Frere-Jones piece on Bill Withers and the documentary film Still Bill:

Though the movie captures Withers criticizing the CBS A. & R. man who suggested that he cover Elvis Presley‘s “In the Ghetto,” in the eighties, his fiercest riposte to the white “blaxperts” can be found in an interview filmed for the 2005 reissue of “Just As I Am.”

“You gonna tell me the history of the blues? I am the goddam blues. Look at me. Shit. I’m from West Virginia, I’m the first man in my family not to work in the coal mines, my mother scrubbed floors on her knees for a living, and you’re going to tell me about the goddam blues because you read some book written by John Hammond? Kiss my ass.”
“CBS A. & R. man”: I’m guessing that New Yorker scruples about fact-checking require that the name be absent. But the paragraph that follows certainly implies that “In the Ghetto” was John Hammond’s idea.

Read and watch
Bill Withers (official site)
Still Bill (movie site)

Facial hair in comics

Brian Steinberg is tracking Hi Flagston’s “recession beard.”

Related reading
All Hi and Lois posts

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sue Shellenbarger declutters

Sue Shellenbarger tried three different approaches to decluttering:

After getting rid of 800 pounds of recycling and trash, hauling two SUV-loads of donations to Goodwill Industries, and dropping off 17 boxes of books at the public library, I am exhilarated by the newfound open space in my house, which seems bigger and more serene. . . . And I am more thoughtful about how I acquire, use and dispose of stuff.
Read more:

Testing Spring Cleaning Techniques (Wall Street Journal)

Maybe I don’t need an orange toothbrush after all.

No, wait. I do.

Orange toothbrush art

“Weird black bristles.” “Smooth orange plastic.” “Accepts all types of toothpaste.”

“Cuspid Cleaner” (Draplin Design Co.)

Johnny Maestro (1939–2010)

Johnny Maestro has died. He was the lead singer with the Crests (“Sixteen Candles”) and the Brooklyn Bridge (“The Worst That Could Happen”).

I heard Johnny Maestro and the Bridge at my high school’s prom in 1974.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

“A sort of jump-seat Mona Lisa”

Buddy Glass is leaving the scene of a canceled wedding. He sits with four other people in the back of a hired car:

Mrs. Silsburn smiled a smile that was at once worldly, wan, and enigmatic — the smile, as I remember, of a sort of jump-seat Mona Lisa.

J.D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters (1963)
A sort of what?

In less safety-conscious times, the jump-seat was a familiar feature in cabs. Some jump-seats dropped down from the back of the front seat. Mrs. Silsburn and Buddy are sitting in jump-seats that face forward. Thus a “jump-seat Mona Lisa”: that’s what.

Related posts
A Salinger catalogue
A Salinger sentence
Another Salinger catalogue
“[D]ark, wordy, academic deaths”
Happiness and joy

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

John Foxell’s house

“No, it is not a church. No, it is not a museum”: it is a house, John Foxell’s house, the subject of an article and slideshow in the New York Times.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Biden’s Virgil

Vice President Joe Biden: “As I said just before the President signed the health care bill, I quoted Virgil, the classic Greek poet, who once said, ‘The greatest wealth is health.’”

Did the classical poet Virgil (or Vergil) “say” — that is, write — anything along these lines? If he did, he did so in Latin. He wasn’t talking Greek, or writing it. This mistake — not the other onethis one is a big, uh, deal.

[Update, March 24, 2010: I can find no evidence that these words belong to Virgil.]

Obama and Biden on newly signed health care law (Chicago Sun-Times)

A tenuously related post
“I ain’t talkin’ Greek”

Van Dyke Parks in Canada

At a Vancouver tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks:

In a concert full of big names, if one was forced to choose a standout performer at the tribute, it would have to be Van Dyke Parks. Playing in Canada for the first time, this veteran producer and keyboard player appeared to be having the time of his life — despite breathlessly confessing “I’m too old for this” — as he continued to appear on stage supporting other artists by laying down weird chords on his accordion or joyously splintering the melody on piano.
The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute rocks Vancouver (No Depression)
The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project, Things About Comin’ My Way (Black Hen Music)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Digital naïfs

Another self-interview?

Looks like it. It’s fun.

For whom, exactly?

All. Fun for all, and all for fun.

Whatever you say.



You’re supposed to start.

Oh. Sorry. So — I heard you saying something about “digital naïfs.” What did you mean by that?

I thought you’d never ask. Simply this: that so-called digital natives are often in the dark, or at least in dimly-lit rooms, when it comes to digital technology. Many so-called digital natives are in truth digital naïfs. The natives’ naïveté is considerable.

Are you registering a complaint about “the kids today” and all that?

Not at all. My claim — not complaint — involves skepticism about the engines of cultural supposition (also known as “the media”). Young adults are presented to us as ultra-savvy users of digital technology, living on their computers, able to run clichéd circles around those older than themselves. My observations suggest to me that reports of young adults’ digital expertise are often greatly exaggerated.


Take word-processing. I find that significant numbers of college-age computer users do not know how to change the margins of a Microsoft Word document from 1.25″ (the Word default) to 1″ (the standard for academic writing). Significant numbers of students do not know how to change a document’s font from Calibri (the Word 2007 default) to Times New Roman (more or less the default for academic writing). Many students have no idea that Control+F (or Command+F) makes it easy to find one’s way through a piece of writing. And typographic details — em dashes, smart quotation marks, special characters — are often a mystery.

A friend tells me of students who have even blamed Windows 7 for their inability to change fonts and margins, which suggests some very odd beliefs about the powers of an operating system. I don’t think such explanations are disingenuous efforts to excuse plain carelessness. I’ve had students ask me how to change margins and fonts, and how I could be so sure that a font was, say, Arial and not Times New Roman.

File-types too seem to be beyond many students’ understanding. Many students don’t know how to save a document in something other than Microsoft’s proprietary .docx format. And why one might want to save in another format: there too, many students seem to be in the dark.

Well, that’s word-processing. Certainly things are different with the Internet.

I’m not so sure. Young adults are often adept in the workings of social media, but in other ways, many digital natives are at home in the dark. An inability to change margins in a Word document suggests a general lack of reliance upon a search engine — change margins word 2007 — as a source of answers to many of life’s small problems, don’t you think? I’ve observed too a general unfamiliarity with such Internet resources as Arts & Letters Daily, Boing Boing, Google Books, Google Maps, and Project Gutenberg, to name a few. That one can manage a university e-mail account with Gmail (or another online service) or keep up on items of interest via Google Alerts: these possibilities seem largely unknown. Most students of my acquaintance have been told that Firefox is a better choice than Internet Explorer, but very few are familiar with Firefox extensions. Thus the Internet for them has always been an ad-cluttered, Flash-filled mess. Digital naïfs are also in the dark about the ease with which the bits of one’s online life may be collected.

You mean embarrassing Facebook photos?

Awkward long-lived moments happen in all sorts of ways. Witness two students who gave an interview to a college newspaper about their leadership in a so-called War on Sobriety (a student group dedicated to drinking away the days of homecoming week). Three years later, that interview is the first or second item one finds with a Google search for either of their names. (Which makes me wonder what these students have gone on to do in their lives.) More recently, a student about to graduate has been quoted in the same newspaper as saying that he has no idea why he went to college or what he’s going to do after graduation. Not great stuff for a prospective employer to find via Google.

Sheesh — kinda dumb.

Well, yes. And there are more immediate dangers that come with indiscretion and over-sharing, as the Please Rob Me project has just made clear.

To my mind though, the saddest thing about digital naïfs online is that they seem not to understand that the Internet offers an endlessly renewable occasion for learning and wonder. How strange to have a world at your fingertips and only keep track of yourself and your friends.

So what do you suggest?

I think it’s helpful for anyone who teaches young adults to model the intelligent use of technology. When I distribute a syllabus in class, with three columns running down the page, I mention that I use columns to make the content more readable and more searchable and to save paper. (A syllabus, to my mind, should fit on the two sides of a single page.) When I send a file to students, I explain why I’ve sent it as a PDF. When I bring in online materials (images of Dickens cigarette cards, for instance), I explain how I found them. And I often mention useful and relevant stuff to be had online, with directions for finding it (“Search for x, y, &c.”).

Those seem like reasonable things to do.

I think so. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going into the Lincoln Tunnel. Can’t talk.

Say what?

Google Maps! Street View!

A related post
On “On the New Literacy”

Sunday, March 21, 2010


“It’s a victory for the American people, and it’s a victory for common sense”: President Barack Obama, a few minutes ago.

With the Civil Rights Act (1964), Voting Rights Act (1965), and Social Security Act, aka Medicare (1965), it seems the most significant legislation of my lifetime.

[HCR: Health Care Reform.]

MOMA’s @

The New York Times reports that @ — or “commercial at,” as my Mac calls it — has entered the Museum of Modern Art’s architecture and design collection.

The Streak

A father and daughter reading through the years: The Streak.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

“The secret life of vegetable peelers”

Kitchen tool as pencil sharpener? Yes. It’s part of the secret life of vegetable peelers.

And while we’re on the subject: the late, great Joe Ades at work.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The oldest (?) man in New York City

“Even though life is disgusting sometimes, I’ll get up again”: so says the oldest (?) man in New York City. His name is Carl Berner, and he is 108.

Rova Saxophone Quartet

Gelvin Noel Gallery
Krannert Art Museum
Champaign, Illinois
March 18, 2010

Bruce Ackley, soprano and tenor
Jon Raskin, baritone and alto
Steve Adams, alto
Larry Ochs, tenor

The Blocks (Adams)
Cobalt Filaments (Adams)
Konitz (Raskin)
Slip Slide Memorandum (Adams)
Contours of the Glass Head (Ackley - Adams - Ochs - Raskin)

It was a rare pleasure to hear the Rova Saxophone Quartet (est. 1977) in east-central Illinois. What most impressed me in the performance: the communication among the musicians and the beauty and range of sound they drew from their instruments. Glances, sideways movements, and hand signals marked shifts from one compositional episode to another, some wholly notated, some most likely recipes for rhythmic or tonal textures, flutters, overtones, wails. The sheer sound of the Rova quartet is an inspiring thing — sometimes massive and proclamatory, sometimes densely foggy, sometimes luminous and airy, always deeply disciplined and deeply expressive.

It’s difficult — and ultimately unnecessary — to slap a label onto the group’s work. Is it “jazz”? Is it “new music”? As Duke Ellington always insisted, there are only two kinds of music. Rova’s is the good kind.

Many thanks to Jason Finkelman, who runs the Sudden Sound concert series at the Krannert and brought Rova to Champaign.

Rova:Arts/Rova Saxophone Quartet

Deep talk v. small talk

From the New York Times:

It may sound counterintuitive, but people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject.
Read and discuss:

Roni Caryn Rabin, Talk Deeply, Be Happy? (New York Times)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

WNEW jingles

“Nice things happen to people who listen to radio eleven-three-oh in the metropolitan area”: just one assertion from almost nine minutes of WNEW jingles. I’m realizing only now how much of this stuff has stuck from my kidhood in “the metropolitan area.”

My favorites: “It’s springtime in New York” and “Nice things.”

A related post
Five radios

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Oh Kosmos! Ah Ireland!

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)
It is a minor but abiding happiness to know that I am not a quarter-Irish but half-Irish. A cousin did the research just a few years ago. Yes, our grandmother’s people came over from England, as my dad had been told. But what that meant was that they sailed to the States from England (Liverpool). They were Irish. Ah Ireland! Represent! Partly!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fred Rogers and Pittsburgh

From an article on Fred Rogers and Pittsburgh, seven years after Rogers’ death and two years after PBS stopped offering Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a daily show (shame on you, PBS):

In November, WQED, the local public television station here, decided to reinstall the Neighborhood of Make-Believe set at its studio where Mr. Rogers filmed his show from 1968 to 2001, with the intention that a couple of hundred people might show up to reminisce. Instead, a line stretched down the sidewalk, and more than 5,000 people over two days took the tour.
Read more:

Sean D. Hamill, Pittsburgh Keeps Alive the Legacy of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (New York Times)

One bright note: PBS has online a handful of excerpts and complete shows. Go to PBS KIDS, and navigate through the Flash until you find a list of shows. The Neighborhood offerings include two complete operas, Spoon Mountain and Windstorm in Bubbleland (here called Neighborhood Opera).

Related posts
Blaming Mister Rogers
“The Essay Writing Song”
Lady Elaine’s can (with a comment from Betty Aberlin!)

A man and a moon

A well-dressed man and a moon, at work for their respective employers, Savvi Formalwear and the Moonrise Hotel, on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri.

[Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happiness and joy

What’s the difference?

The fact is always obvious much too late, but the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid.

J.D. Salinger, “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period,” in Nine Stories (1953)
Related posts
A Salinger catalogue
A Salinger sentence
Another Salinger catalogue
“[D]ark, wordy, academic deaths”

Pockets and purses

A New York Times slideshow: the contents of pockets and purses.

Artists’ lists

A display of artists’ lists, from the Smithsonian — inventories, thoughts, to-dos. Alas, every image that’s large enough to read has a large repeating watermark that interferes with reading. So what’s the point? Bad move, Smithsonian.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

π Day

Seeing the Google logo reminded me: it’s π Day. Recommended reading: “The Mountains of Pi,” Richard Preston's 1992 New Yorker profile of David and Gregory Chudnovsky, calculators of π.

Marcel Proust, running coach

My daughter Rachel reports that the Los Angeles garage where she parked before running a 5K race had a framed quotation from Marcel Proust atop its ticket-dispensing machine. Something about kicking butt and taking charge. Was it this passage, I asked?

[O]ur worst fears, like our greatest hopes, are not outside our powers, and we can come in the end to triumph over the former and to achieve the latter.

Marcel Proust, Finding Time Again, translated by Ian Patterson (London: Penguin, 2003), 344.
It was! This passage appears in the Orange Crate Art sidebar, under the heading “Words to Live By.” What great words to stumble upon on the way to a race.

I’m very proud of my daughter. And my son. I’m not proud of the pun one paragraph back.

Related reading
All Proust posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, March 13, 2010


A reader wondered in a comment how much “ALL HUMAN KNOWLEDGE” cost back in 1915. Here’s the answer, more or less:

[From the Library of Congress’s Catalogue of Copyright Entries (1913). Via Google Books.]

In an essay in The Oxford History of English Lexicography (ed. A. P. Cowie, 2009), Sidney I. Landau says that the selling strategy behind the New Standard Dictionary “might be summarized as, ‘Give them more for less,’ i.e. increase the coverage of vocabulary and package the book so that it can be sold cheaply.”

Ska desktop

Ska, a desktop wallpaper for Mac by Jon-Paul Lunney, available from Simple Desktops. This wallpaper takes me back to 1979 or so.

I stick to Mac’s plain Aqua Blue, but Simple Desktops is a great resource. Thomas A. Watson describes his site as useful to anyone looking for “something that isn’t a beautiful photograph but also isn’t a gradient and drop shadowed mess with a little lens flare and some annoying copyright information in the corner.”

For context: 2 Tone Collection.

The greatest student e-mail ever sent?

I would like to first express my respect for you and every other teacher that has placed their energy into educating me and my peers, as we all know that teachers are often the unappreciated foundation of our future. However, I must express a slight amount of disrespect, as I do not agree with your perception of my paper one bit.
The mild opening of what Chauncey DeVega calls the greatest student e-mail ever sent.

A related post
How to e-mail a professor

Friday, March 12, 2010

The iPad and college, continued

“I’ll come with you. I want to win an iPad”: the Better Business Bureau discovers the “iPad button.”

March 21, 2010: Apple is offering iPad ten-packs to educational institutions.

A related post
The iPad and college students


A sample line from the bottom of a Blogger post:

One (no pun intended) sees this sort of disagreement often online: “There are 1 additional comments on this thread,” &c. It would be so easy for Blogger to fix its problem:

I‘ve written to Blogger Support with this suggestion.

Update: there‘s a solution, as you can see below. Thank you, Philippe Chappuis!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


[Munsey‘s Magazine, January 1915. Via Google Books.]

The top third of the page seems to be selling the secret wisdom of the ancients, not a dictionary. But no, it‘s a dictionary: see the thumb notches?

What also strikes me in the advertisement: the dictionary‘s role in self-education about current events. Note: it‘s 1915.

“War-words” sounds like something from Anglo-Saxon poetry.

Five sentences on the ship

The Google search five sentences on the ship brought someone to my post on five sentences from Bleak House. But I will try to oblige:

The poor cook he caught the fits and threw away all my grits. And then he took and he ate up all of my corn. Let me go home. Why don’t they let me go home? This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.
[With apologies to the Sloop John B.]

Related posts
Five sentences about clothes
5 sentences about life on the moon
Five sentences for smoking

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


In the supermarket:

“He’s an eye doctor. If he were a proctologist, it would be different.”

Related reading
All “Overheard” posts
If I were, if I was

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The iPad and dolphins

Perhaps the iPad is just fine if you’re using it on the bus or at the office, but I have to wonder if Steve Jobs’ geniuses ever once stopped to think about what might happen, for example, if an aquatic mammal wanted to use his tablet while frolicking in a gentle ocean cove.

Do The New Tablets Own Up To The Hype? (The Onion)
A related post
The iPad and college students

A Salinger sentence

A soldier’s sweetheart sends letters:

She wrote to him fairly regularly, from a paradise of triple exclamation points and inaccurate observations.

J.D. Salinger, “For Esmé — with Love and Squalor,” in Nine Stories (1953)
Related posts
A Salinger catalogue
Another Salinger catalogue
“[D]ark, wordy, academic deaths”

David Foster Wallace’s dictionary

Abulia, benthos, cete, distichous: words circled in David Foster Wallace’s dictionary, part of the David Foster Wallace Archive at UT-Austin.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Word of the day: lave

From Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day:

The Word of the Day for March 8 is:

lave \LAYV\ verb
1 a : wash, bathe b : to flow along or against
2 : pour
I learned lave years ago while reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire (1962). I still think of the novel whenever I see the word (as this post would seem to demonstrate). The word doesn’t appear in the novel, but it’s handy in what narrator Charles Kinbote calls “so-called word golf,” as it lets one make “hate-love in three”: hate, late, lave, love.

Other Pale Fire golf games: “lass-male in four,” “live-dead in five (with ‘lend’ in the middle).”

Edward Tufte, presidential appointment

Edward Tufte says:

I will be serving on the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. This Panel advises The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, whose job is to track and explain $787 billion in recovery stimulus funds. . . . I’m doing this because I like accountability and transparency, and I believe in public service. And it is the complete opposite of everything else I do. Maybe I’ll learn something.
Read more:

Edward Tufte Presidential Appointment (Ask E.T.)

Harvey Wang’s New York

Harvey Wang. Harvey Wang’s New York. Foreword by Pete Hamill. New York: W.W. Norton, 1990. $9.95 (paper).

Max Morrison, ninety-seven-year-old scrap-metal collector:

“I can’t sit still on a chair reading comics or walk around the streets doing nothing. I certainly do enjoy collecting metal. It’s legitimate, not too heavy.”
Harvey Wang’s New York is a book of photographs of forty-nine New Yorkers in endangered or obscure lines of work. A mannequin maker, a rabbinical tailor, a scrap-metal collector, a seltzer bottler, a television repairman: each appears in a black-and-white portrait (35mm film), with a brief life-story on the facing page. Harvey Wang’s New York feels like a book that one might have found, once upon a time, in a used-book store. Improbably and wonderfully, the book is still in print. You can see samples at Harvey Wang’s website.

Related posts
“Old-world skillz”
“Trailing-edge technology”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

David Foster Wallace on attention

I’ve gotten in the habit of reading to my students this passage from a 2005 commencement speech:

Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.
It’s more difficult to find this speech online now that it’s been packaged as a book (one sentence per page). But here it is, still standing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

More on the iPad and college


Many educators are pointing to Apple Computer’s recently announced iPad as the prototype for an e-reader that will be able to hold all the textbooks a student needs. Its color touch-screen, interactive-video capability and virtual keyboard, they say, give it greater potential for textbook users than monochrome readers like Amazon’s Kindle.

Apple has been quiet about its designs on the textbook business since unveiling its new device, which will go on sale this month.
Correction: next month, April 3.

Related posts
The iPad and college students
iPad news

Would it have been worth it, after all

From “The Deflationist,” Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of Paul Krugman (New Yorker, March 1, 2010). Krugman’s wife Robin Wells is speaking:

“As a spouse, you have your little list of things that you jokingly won’t forgive your spouse for. Right after he started writing for the Times and attacking George Bush, we got an invitation to have dinner with Paul Newman and his wife, but he wouldn’t go. And now he’s dead.”

“It was inconvenient,” Krugman says. “I just don’t get any joy out of thinking, Oh, here I am with the movers and shakers. It would have required really discombobulating my schedule just to be able to say I’d had dinner with Paul Newman, and it’s not worth it.”
I think Krugman has it wrong. The point of having dinner with Paul Newman and “his wife” — who too has a name, Joanne Woodward — is not to be able to say that you had dinner with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The point of having dinner with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward is to have dinner with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Re: that list: maybe you do.

[Post title with apologies to T.S. Eliot and J. Alfred Prufrock.]

Friday, March 5, 2010

Recently updated

The Michigan Theater (news of an effort to save the building)

“Reasons Why I Am Not Successful”

A list from Lost New York: Reasons Why I Am Not Successful.

(via Daughter Number Three)

Telephone exchange names on screen

[Private eye Brad Galt (Mark Stevens) extracts an eight-digit telephone number from thug “Fred Foss” (William Bendix).]

The Dark Corner (dir. Henry Hathaway, 1946) is ninety-nine minutes well spent. Snappy dialogue, great lighting, liquor in paper cups, Lucille Ball as Brad’s sharp secretary/partner, and Clifton Webb as a Waldo Lydecker-like husband.

One puzzle: A card in “Fred’s” wallet gives his address as 328 E. 23rd Street. The Chelsea district though is on the west side of Manhattan. A slip on the part of the movie-makers? Or is the point that Galt, recently arrived from San Francisco, misses the inconsistency?

As Galt says about another puzzle, later in the film, “All right, so it doesn’t add. What do you want me to do, call the Quiz Kids?”

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Greek islands for sale?

From German politicians, a suggestion that Greece sell some islands.

[Do not mess with Ithaka.]

From the spam folder

“Drive and talk without using your hands.”


In the supermarket, one sweatshirted man to another:

“It pays a lovely dividend, so what the heck?”

Related reading
All “Overheard” posts

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beard-trimming recommendation

See that guy in the sidebar to the right? See his beard, so manly yet so kempt? Behind that beard is a trimmer: the Wahl 9906-717 Groomsman. The 9906-717 works reliably and is surprisingly inexpensive ($14.99 at Amazon). And it has one great advantage over pricier, snazzier trimmers: it runs on AA batteries. In my experience, rechargeable trimmers quickly lose their ability to hold a charge.

I’ve been using a 9906-717 for at least a couple of years, changing the batteries once or twice at the most. My only connection to Wahl is that of a happy customer.

Related posts
Aqua Velva

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Minor kitchen wisdom

Turn off the burner before removing a pan or pot, always. No more wondering, three blocks from home, whether you turned off the burner.

Use scissors to round the ultra-sharp corners of cardboard-box flaps. No more nasty cuts.

Reader, do you have any minor kitchen wisdom to share?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Demythifying John Hammond

Writer and record-producer Chris Albertson has been at work demythifying John Hammond:

[M]any of John Hammond’s accomplishments were genuine and important enough to earn him the place he occupies in jazz history, which is why I found it so puzzling that he was making things up.

Discovering John Hammond: A Closer Look: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five (Stomp Off in C)
Other people too make things up: a 2005 PBS American Masters episode about John Hammond credits him with “discovering,” among others, Bessie Smith, Pete Seeger, and Robert Johnson. Oy. Hammond produced Smith’s final recordings in 1933. He signed Seeger to Columbia Records (first Columbia Seeger LP: 1961). And Robert Johnson was already dead when Hammond tried to find him for the 1938 Carnegie Hall concert “From Spirituals to Swing.”

How to behave in the supermarket

A demonstration.