Friday, April 29, 2011

On Duke Ellington’s birthday

[“There was a castle for a backdrop, a tree stump for a piano stool and a curious hen on the Duke’s piano. Duke Ellington, on a European tour, was giving a benefit concert at the Château de Goutelas near Boën, France to help turn the rundown castle into a cultural center.” Photographer unidentified. Life, March 18, 1966.]

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born 112 years ago today. He tells the story of his Goutelas visit in Music Is My Mistress (1973). (He played a a nine-foot Steinway, not the instrument pictured above.) The visit inspired one of Ellington’s late longer works, The Goutelas Suite (1971), still available on The Ellington Suites (Pablo/Original Jazz Classics).

Related reading
All Ellington posts (Pinboard)
Le Château de Goutelas

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Katie Couric and Exxon Mobil

The American economy grew 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011. In that same quarter, Exxon Mobil profits grew by 69%.

Katie Couric, on the CBS Evening News tonight: “Exxon wants you to know less than 3% of its profits come from gas and diesel fuel sales.” Gee, for a minute there I thought something was out of whack.

At the CPG Co.

On lockdown at the CPG Co. Back tomorrow for Duke Ellington’s birthday.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Birthday notebooks

It seems to be a custom for Indian politicians to receive birthday presents from constituents. Satej Patil, Minister of State in Maharashtra, India, accepts only notebooks, which he then gives to schoolchildren. Since 2007, he has distributed 16.27 lakh notebooks to 3.80 lakh students — 1,627,000 notebooks to 380,000 students.

(found via Notebook Stories)

Update, 1:38 p.m.: I e-mailed Minister Patil to commend him for this effort. He hopes that others will follow his example.

[Lakh: “a hundred thousand,” “via Hindi from Sanskrit lakṣa” (New Oxford American Dictionary).]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Old Typewriter

[Old Typewriter. Photograph by Todd McLellan. Available as a print from 20x200. Click for a larger view.]

You may have seen the headline yesterday or today: “Last typewriter factory left in the world closes its doors.” Make that the last manual-typewriter factory. Brother and Swintec still produce electronic typewriters. Swintecs are still in use in the NYPD.

Related reading
All typewriter posts (via Pinboard)

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Clabber Girl Museum

The Clabber Girl Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, is a delight for anyone interested in American material culture. Clabber Girl: as in baking powder, a product of Hulman & Company, which began as a grocery wholesaler in the mid-nineteenth century. The 1893 Hulman Building houses the museum, whose contents are, well, varied: advertising signage, a hansom cab, a massive generator wheel, old telephones, pneumatic tubes for interoffice memos, a 1912 Burroughs adding machine, a Remington manual typewriter, ledgers, a walk-in safe, WWII ration books, S&H Green Stamps, a Western Union clock (“Official Time,” it says), and recreations of a Victorian parlor and a 1940s kitchen. Now-defunct Hulman brands stand in boxed and canned majesty on shelves and in vitrines: Dauntless Butter Beans, Farmers Pride Chopped Turnip Greens, Presto Cleanser. My favorite thing: a program from a 1937 Clabber Girl Baking Powder Salesmen’s Dinner Dance. The vegetables of course were canned.

Elaine and I made a second discovery this weekend: driving home, we took an exit we’d never taken and ended up on the charming Lost Bearings Road.

[Clabber: “milk that has naturally clotted on souring” (New Oxford American Dictionary). It was mixed with potash to make a leaven. Clabber Girl Double Acting Baking Powder contains cornstarch, sodium bicarbonate, anhydrous sodium aluminum sulfate and monocalcium phosphate.]

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Infinite Jest dream

In a dream: my students and I were sitting and talking about how to write David Foster Wallace’s novel. And someone said, “Why don’t you try some broken ones, and a mercury-chilling motif?”

One dream-source: a phrase from late in the novel that’s been running in my head, “people broken into pieces and trying to join.” Another: the blizzard of the novel’s final sections.

This is the second Infinite Jest dream I’ve had while teaching the novel. In the first, I was walking on North Harvard Street in Allston, on my way to Harvard Square. I used to take that walk often — it was quicker than taking the T and easier than finding a space to park. In my dream, it looked like rain, and I had no umbrella, but I wasn’t concerned, because I knew my wife Elaine could drive from Illinois and pick me up.

Other Infinite Jest posts
Attention : Description : Loveliness : Mike Huckabee : “Night-noises” : Novelty : Romance : Sadness : : Steve Jobs : Telephony : Television

How to improve writing (no. 35)

My son Ben sent me something in need of improvement, from a New York Times article about sauropods:

Nothing in the dinosaur world was quite like the sauropods. They were huge, some unbelievably gigantic, the biggest animals ever to lumber across the land, consuming everything in sight. Their necks were much longer than a giraffe’s, their tails just about as long and their bodies like an elephant’s, only much more so.
As Ben asks, “What does it mean to have a body like an elephant’s, ‘only much more so’?“

More so can provide a nice comic effect. Imagine Ralph Kramden speaking to Alice: “You’re exactly like your mother, Alice, just like her — only more so!” But in the sauropod sentence, the phrase makes no sense: a sauropod can resemble an elephant to the extent that it does, not more so. My guess is that “much more so” here means “much larger.”

[This post is no. 35 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose. Thanks, Ben!]

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

The corrupted-file trick

Two recent searches that led to Orange Crate Art: how to fake emailing a paper to your professor and turning in paper late corrupt file trick. Sigh.

Attention, students: Don’t try it. Your teachers are likely aware of this trick. Even if they’re not, a file that refuses to open is your problem, not theirs. When getting such a file, few if any teachers will feel anything other than the feeling that they’re being had. When they figure out what you’ve done, you are likely to be in even deeper trouble for having engaged in academic misconduct.

Attention, teachers: When you get a file that won’t open, it’s likely that you’re dealing a student who didn’t take the advice I just offered. Open the file with a text-editor. Do you see a paper or other project amid the encoding? If not, you’re being had.

The lunatic fringe again

As my wife Elaine remembered and confirmed last night, “lunatic fringe” first referred to hair. She remembered what Ma says in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie (1941):

“And I can’t think that a lunatic fringe is the most becoming way to do your hair. It makes any girl’s ears appear larger to comb the hair up back of them and to have that mat of bangs above the forehead.”
Fred Shapiro explains it all:
In the Yale Book of Quotations, I gave the standard sourcing for this political/social expression:
[Of an international exhibition of modern art:] The lunatic fringe was fully in evidence, especially in the rooms devoted to the Cubists and Futurists, or Near-Impressionists.

Theodore Roosevelt, Outlook, March 29, 1913
More recently, I searched for lunatic fringe in historical databases. To my surprise, I found many uses from before 1913 — all in a very different sense from Roosevelt’s. Here are a few:
“The girls!” exclaimed Miss Lizzie, lifting her eyebrows till they met the “lunatic fringe” of hair which straggled uncurled down her forehead.

Oliver Optic’s Magazine, February 1874

“LUNATIC Fringe” is the name given to the fashion of cropping the hair and letting the ends hang down over the forehead.

Wheeling Daily Register, July 24, 1875

The “lunatic fringe” is still the mode in New York hair-dressing.

Chicago Inter Ocean, May 24, 1876
It appears, then, that Teddy Roosevelt was playing on an existing phrase. His usage was a metaphorical extension of an expression previously applied to bangs — evidently, bangs that were considered outré. Fringe is still used in Britain for bangs, but the usage has been abandoned for so long in the United States that lexicographers were completely unaware of the coiffure-related prehistory of lunatic fringe.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the phrase to another 1913 Roosevelt sentence: “There is apt to be a lunatic fringe among the votaries of any forward movement.” Or backward.

A related post
Lunatic fringe

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lunatic fringe

That hair. “Lunatic fringe,” said Elaine, and she said I should post it here. See also these posts. Thanks, Elaine.

Taco Bell lawsuit

From the Los Angeles Times:

A lawsuit aimed at forcing Taco Bell to stop calling the meat it serves beef has been withdrawn. The suit, filed in January in federal court in California, alleged that what Taco Bell calls “seasoned beef” does not meet federal requirements to be labeled beef.
It turns out that Taco Bell’s “seasoned beef” is eighty-eight percent beef. And the “Isolated Oat Product”? It’s for moisture. Of course!

A related post
Close reading Taco Bell

Moleskine app

There’s now a free Moleskine app for the iPad and iPhone, offering the choice of a plain, ruled, or squared page. To my mind, the design involves the same analog-to-digital mistake that Apple’s Notes app makes. Lines or squares are useful when one writes by hand. On a screen, they’re superfluous. As is Notes’s left margin: one can’t write in it. But to each, their own.

My favorite iPad writing app is Simplenote. Even its name is simple: note the absence of a capital in the middle. Nice.

[Yes, singular they.]

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Secret writing, 1917–1918

[“How to open sealed letter without detection.” Click for a larger view.]

From an April 19 CIA press release:
The Central Intelligence Agency today declassified the United States Government’s six oldest classified documents, dating from 1917 and 1918. These documents, which describe secret writing techniques and are housed at the National Archives, are believed to be the only remaining classified documents from the World War I era. Documents describing secret writing fall under the CIA’s purview to declassify.

“These documents remained classified for nearly a century until recent advancements in technology made it possible to release them,” CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said. “When historical information is no longer sensitive, we take seriously our responsibility to share it with the American people.”
The documents contain recipes for invisible ink and directions for opening sealed letters without detection. No sign of the documents at the CIA website, but they’re available from The Maddow Blog at MSNBC. I could’ve used them in my espionage-filled boyhood.

A related post
Invisible ink cigarette card

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Used typewriter ribbon

[“Used typewriter ribbon being sealed in locked cabinet, during Academy Award voting.” Hollywood, California, 1972. Photograph by Bill Eppridge. From the Life Photo Archive.]

Related reading
Price Waterhouse (Wikipedia)

How to improve writing (no. 34)

Signage: “Reserved for Visiting Guests.”

Better: “Reserved for Guests.” Or “Reserved for Visitors.”

Omit needless words!

[This post is no. 34 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)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Across the wide Missouri Pacific

Last week our son Ben participated in a hyper-present improvisation on “Shenandoah” that joined musicians in Urbana, Illinois and Melbourne, Australia. The project is the work of composer and violinist Benjamin Day Smith, who explains it in this lecture.

Pocket notebook sighting

Union Station (dir. Rudolph Maté, 1950) stars William Holden and Nancy Olson in a story of kidnapping, surveillance, and enhanced interrogation techniques. Holden plays William Calhoun, a railroad detective intent upon protecting the sacred space of Los Angeles’ Union Station. Olson is Joyce Willecombe, a secretary who sees something suspicious on her train and does her civic duty by reporting it. It’s odd how little chemistry there is between these two: in Sunset Boulevard, released in the same year, they’re sexy peers, smoking and writing in the deep of night. Here Holden’s character is crankily middle-aged, and Olson’s is more or less a former Girl Scout. Very strange. Stranger still that the film turns into a love story.

I’m not joking about “enhanced interrogation techniques”: Union Station has a scene of police brutality that fits any reasonable definition of torture. How did it get past the censors? There are also long and quietly suspenseful episodes of surveillance in the train station, with plainclothes men sitting, standing, pretending to read.

Oh, and there’s a good scene with a notebook too.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Cat People : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Extras : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The House on 92nd Street : The Lodger : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : The Palm Beach Story : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : The Sopranos : Spellbound

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Pale King event

Babbitt’s Books in Normal, Illinois, had a reading on Friday night to mark the publication of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. There are few more appropriate settings for such an event: Wallace taught at Illinois State University in Normal from 1993 to 2002, and he was a regular customer at Babbitt’s, which he once called his favorite bookstore. The setting for the reading was fittingly modest: a table with a small lectern, a dozen or so folding chairs, and aisles filled with people sitting and standing. (They included a Peoria Journal Star reporter.) Nine people read, from “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” “Good Old Neon,” Infinite Jest, and The Pale King. The readers included three of Wallace’s ISU friends, one of his ISU students, two of my students, and me. This event offered one of the plainest and best pleasures: listening to words read aloud.

Much kudos and gratitude to Brian Simpson and Sarah Lindenbaum for their hospitality.

[The world of The Pale King is an IRS office in Peoria, Illinois. Kudos is a singular noun. Brian’s last name is not Babbitt.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Pale King, dullness

Former IRS examiner David Wallace on dullness:

To me, at least in retrospect,¹ the really interesting question is why dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the dull. Maybe it’s because dullness is intrinsically painful; maybe that’s where phrases like “deadly dull” or “excruciatingly dull” come from. But there might be more to it. Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way, and which most of us² spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention. Admittedly, the whole thing’s pretty confusing, and hard to talk about abstractly . . . but surely something must lie behind not just Muzak in dull or tedious places anymore but now also actual TV in waiting rooms, supermarkets’ checkouts, airports’ gates, SUVs’ backseats. Walkmen, iPods, BlackBerries, cell phones that attach to your head. This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called “information society” is just about information. Everyone knows³ it’s about something else, way down.

¹ (which is, after all, memoirs’ specialty)
² (whether or not we’re consciously aware of it)
³ (again, whether consciously or not)

David Foster Wallace, The Pale King (Boston: Little, Brown, 2011).
The Pale King is a novel in the form of “basically a nonfiction memoir” by former IRS examiner David Wallace, “with additional elements of reconstructive journalism, organizational psychology, elementary civics and tax theory, & c.” This passage is from the Author’s Foreword. The footnote numbers are 26, 27, and 28. Ellipsis in the original.

[Cf. Blaise Pascal’s Pensées 139 (trans. W.F. Trotter): “They have a secret instinct which impels them to seek amusement and occupation abroad, and which arises from the sense of their constant unhappiness.”]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

“Share Curiosity. Read Together.”

I couldn’t resist.

[With apologies to H.A. Rey, Margret Ray, and the gummint.]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fine Austrlian wine

A misspelling in the news:

Hundreds of fake bottles of best-selling Australian wine Jacob’s Creek have been seized by trading standards officers in England and Wales. . . .

The bottles appear identical to the real thing, apart from a tell-tale misspelling on the label on the back, where Australia is spelt Austrlia.

Fake Jacob’s Creek wine seized (BBC News)

Most frequently challenged books

The American Library Association has released its Top Ten List of the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2010. Number one: Justin Richardson’s and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three,

an award-winning children’s book about the true story of two male Emperor Penguins hatching and parenting a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo. The book has appeared on the ALA’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books for the past five years and returns to the number one slot after a brief stay at the number two position in 2009. There have been dozens of attempts to remove And Tango Makes Three from school and public library shelves. Those seeking to remove the book have described it as “unsuited for age group,” and cited “religious viewpoint” and “homosexuality” as reasons for challenging the book.
The logic of book-banners would seem to dictate that the Penguin House itself be closed to children, no? If a story about the penguins is “unsuited for age group,” how much more so the penguins themselves.

The Wikipedia article on And Tango Makes Three includes this passage from a court ruling:
[I]f a parent wishes to prevent her child from reading a particular book, that parent can and should accompany the child to the Library, and should not prevent all children in the community from gaining access to constitutionally protected materials. Where First Amendment rights are concerned, those seeking to restrict access to information should be forced to take affirmative steps to shield themselves from unwanted materials; the onus should not be on the general public to overcome barriers to their access to fully protected information.

ML on DFW at Broadcastr

To mark the arrival of The Pale King, Broadcastr has invited readers to record brief appreciations of David Foster Wallace’s work. If you’d like to listen, here’s mine. You’ll need Flash, and you should put the volume up high:

Allston, Brighton, East-Central Illinois (Broadcastr)

[I’m up to page 104 in The Pale King. Making slow progress!]

Billy Bang (1947–2011)

Sad news: the violinist Billy Bang has died. WKCR-FM is playing his music all day.

Thanks, Richard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Brooklyn grows in Brooklyn

Jonathan Lopes has built a Brooklyn of Legos.

Correction: “of LEGO® blocks.” See Comments.

Thanks, Seth!

Stephen Fry on pencils

Actor and comedian Stephen Fry on pencils: “I love pencils. No, I really do. Pencils. We don’t hear enough about them.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Amazon Kindle with Euphemism

Amazon has introduced a cheaper Kindle with Euphemism. Because we never get tired of looking at [euphemism]. I wonder how many people will decide that saving a mere $25 is worth a device-lifetime-supply.

[The Kindle with Special Offers: ads, ads, ads.]

Van Dyke Parks on Bananastan

[Design by Art Spiegelman. Click for a larger view.]
Van Dyke Parks will soon release six 7"-vinyl singles on the Bananastan label. Two singles will drop (as they say) in the first week of May, with four more to follow in the summer. Downloads for the digital crowd from iTunes.

Not every record label has a logo designed by Art Spiegelman. Very cool indeed. Thanks, Van Dyke.

Update, May 4: The release date for the first single is now May 16.

Related posts
A new Van Dyke Parks project
Van Dyke Parks on Bananastan, cont’d.
Van Dyke Parks, two singles (imaginary liner notes)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

John Lennon’s letters

The Los Angeles Times reports that in 2012 Little, Brown will publish a book of John Lennon’s letters, edited by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies. From the publisher’s announcement:

Pen and ink were his medium. John wrote letters and postcards all of his life; to his friends, family, strangers, newspapers, organisations, lawyers and the laundry — most of which were funny, informative, campaigning, wise, mad, poetic, anguished and sometimes heartbreaking. . . . many of the letters are reproduced as they were, in his handwriting or typing, plus the odd cartoon or doodle.
[I haven’t thought of Hunter Davies in years. Anyone else remember this book?]

Virgil out of context

Caroline Alexander on the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and a line from Virgil:

The impulse to turn to time-hallowed texts, like the classics or the Bible, is itself time-hallowed. In the face of powerful emotions, our own words may seem hollow and inadequate, while the confirmation that people in the past felt as we now feel holds solace. And the language of poets and great thinkers can be in itself ennobling.

But not in this case. Anyone troubling to take even a cursory glance at the quotation’s context will find the choice offers neither instruction nor solace.

Out of Context (New York Times)

Roger Ebert on Donald Trump

From a post on wealth in America:

[T]he most visible plutocrat in America is Donald Trump, a man who has made a fetish of his power. What kind of sick mind conceives of a television show built on suspense about which “contestant” he will “fire” next? What sort of masochism builds his viewership? Sadly, I suspect it is based on viewers who identify with Trump, and envy his power over his victims. Don’t viewers understand they are the ones being fired in today’s America?

The One-Percenters (Chicago Sun-Times)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Antique Packaging

From Josep Maria Garrofé, Antique Packaging (Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press, 2008).
Antique Packaging is a book of photographs of old cardboard boxes. Francesc Serra found these boxes, which now form a collection at the Spanish packaging firm Tribu-3. Is Serra a founder of the firm? Does he work there? The book does not explain. I like this sentence from an endnote about Sr. Serra: “There is no way he will reveal to us where he has found the boxes and how.”

My son Ben gave me this beautiful book. Thanks, Ben!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Van Dyke Parks, “the epic opportunity”

The question: whether he plans more live performances. The answer, or part of it:

I have lived through McCarthyism, through riots with race at the core. I have seen dark times, but nothing to match the complacency, materialism, triviality, and Stone Age beliefs that dominate our current state of affairs. So I turn to the epic opportunity — the song form. Songs interest me that much.

The 405 Interview (The 405)
In Chicago last year, Parks also spoke of the work of the songwriter as “epic.”

A related post
A new Van Dyke Parks project

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Digital nostalgia

The New York Times reports on the return of the Commodore 64. Says Commodore president and chief executive Barry Altman,

“There are a lot of really young computer users who want to own a retro-looking computer. And of course there are those 30- to 40-year-olds who owned the original Commodore 64 and want the nostalgia of their first machine.”
From the Commodore website:
Commodore OS 1.0, along with emulation functionality and classic game package, will be mailed to purchasers when available. In the meantime, units come with the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS operating system on CD ready to install. Don’t forget that the new Commodore 64 is a fully functional PC compatible, so you can even install and use the latest versions of Windows if you really feel you need to.
That’s a new one: the operating system is in the mail.

A related post
Digital natives and typewriters

A “spect-op”

In the world of Infinite Jest, ninety-four percent of all entertainment is consumed at home:

Hence the new millennium’s passion for standing live witness to things. A whole sub-rosa schedule of public spectation opportunities, “spect-ops,” the priceless chance to be part of a live crowd, watching. Thus the Gapers’ Blocks at traffic accidents, sewer-gas explosions, muggings, purse-snatchings, the occasional Empire W.D.V. with an incomplete vector splatting into North Shore suburbs and planned communities and people leaving their front doors agape in their rush to get out and mill around and spectate at the circle of impacted waste drawing sober and studious crowds, milling in rings around the impact, earnestly comparing mental notes on just what it is they all see.

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (Boston: Little, Brown, 1996).
On Monday, life in an English town came to a halt as crowds gathered to look at an object floating in a river.

Mystery object brings town to standstill (Bridgwater Mercury, via Boing Boing)

[W.D.V.: Waste Displacement Vehicle. E.W.D. vehicles send American garbage flying into Canada. Yes, it’s part of a new world order.]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Words of the day: pith, gist

I started wondering about the word pith yesterday, which I associate with essences and concision. I’m suprised to discover that the word comes to us from plant life:

I think I should have known that. I think I should have also known that a pith helmet is made of the stuff.

Pith made me wonder about gist: does it too have a literal referent in nature? Maybe in geology? Nope:

I remember hearing the word gist often in kidhood. “I’ll give you the gist of it,” my dad would say. (He still does.) Gist and pith go together in my mind because of a sentence in Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading (1934):
A Japanese student in America, on being asked the difference between prose and poetry, said: Poetry consists of gists and piths.
This post too.

[Definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary.]

Monday, April 4, 2011

Elayne Clift on academic entitlement

Adjunct faculty member Elayne Clift ponders academic entitlement after a semester of “appallingly poor papers and presentations”:

As the semester continued, I slipped further into despair. . . . [W]hy couldn't they write in sentences? Why were they devoid of originality, analytical ability, intellectual curiosity? Why were they accosting me with hostile e-mails when I pointed out unsubstantiated generalizations, hyperbolic assumptions, ungrounded polemics, sourcing omissions, and possible plagiarism?

From Students, a Misplaced Sense of Entitlement (Chronicle of Higher Education)
Here’s the kicker: she was teaching a graduate class.

A related post
AE (academic entitlement)

“Probability” (xkcd)

Today’s xkcd: “Probability.”

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Snooki at Rutgers

Rutgers University has paid $32,000 for Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi to speak on campus. Her advice to students: “Study hard, but party harder.”

From the university’s website:

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national public research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to turning knowledge into solutions for local, national, and global communities.

As it was at our founding in 1766, the heart of our mission is preparing students to become productive members of society and good citizens of the world.
Talk that talk, Rutgers.

Jersey Shore reality TV star lands $32,000 fee to speak at Rutgers (NewJerseyNewsRoom)

[$32,000: more than most new college grads will earn this year.]

The Pale King and commerce

A “retired indie bookseller” buys David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King from Amazon:

I read the New York Times article this morning about bookseller fury at Amazon being given the book before brick-and-mortar retailers, and I felt the characteristic frustration any retired indie bookseller would feel. Then mere hours later I surrendered to temptation and bought the book online.
He concludes, “as a reader and a consumer I couldn’t help myself.” I think he needs to reread Infinite Jest.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco an independent bookstore waits to sell the book:
So when word began spreading Wednesday morning that the novel was available on Amazon and the Barnes & Noble website two weeks before its “official” publication date, independent booksellers — yours truly among them — were left to wonder why the book was not yet on our shelves. (As if Amazon, with its predatory pricing scheme, needs the boost it surely got by having an in-demand book available before most retailers.)

So much for fair competition.
I’m waiting on a review copy. But I tried to buy a copy of The Pale King at a Barnes & Noble yesterday: the book wasn’t even there. The same B & N couldn’t sell me a copy of Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura just one day before the official date of publication.

The publication date for The Pale King — whatever that now means — is April 15.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Digital natives and typewriters

The New York Times reports on a “growing trend” among digital natives:

They’re fetishizing old Underwoods, Smith Coronas and Remingtons, recognizing them as well designed, functional and beautiful machines, swapping them and showing them off to friends. At a series of events called “type-ins,” they’ve been gathering in bars and bookstores to flaunt a sort of post-digital style and gravitas, tapping out letters to send via snail mail and competing to see who can bang away the fastest.
Gravitas? Whatever. I think it’s terrific that digital natives are recognizing the beauty of manual-typewriter design. But as someone who remembers Eaton’s Corrasable Bond, the tedium of centering titles, the far greater tedium of retyping whole pages after dropping a line in transcription, and the sheer racket, I feel no nostalgia for the typewriter as an object of use.

Related viewing
In Praise of the Typewriter (Life, via Boing Boing)

[No, you can’t have my Olympia.]

The earliest writing in Europe

“Archaeologists have found a clay tablet bearing the earliest known writing in Europe, a 3,350-year-old specimen, which makes it at least 150 years older than other known tablets from the region”: Ancient tablet bears writing, to scientists’ surprise (Los Angeles Times).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rollins, Salinger, Taylor

Sonny Rollins, a reluctant on-camera interviewee: “I don’t want to do any more interviews. I want to be the J.D. Salinger of jazz.” And: “What am I, Robert Taylor?”

[Photograph of Robert Taylor by Rex Hardy Jr., 1936. From the Life Photo Archive.]

Related viewing
Jazz Video Guy speaks with Sonny Rollins (JazzTimes)

Headlines quiz

Can you tell which ones are real news?

“International Mystery Man Arrested, Has Past Revealed”

“Meat Industry Introduces New Easy-Tear Perforated Beef”

“New Facebook Feature Forces Users To Be Like Everyone Else”

“Octomom Unites With PETA For Spay-Neuter Campaign”

“Pizza Delivery Guy Fights Gun-Wielding Thugs, Still Makes Delivery”
Answers in the comments.