Friday, November 30, 2012

Vermont Country $tore

We just received yet another catalogue from the Vermont Country Store, a company we must have ordered from many moons ago. Having noticed that a recent VCS catalogue offered replica Blackwing pencils for $3.90 each, and having now noticed what appears to be a very high VCS price for a pencil sharpener, I decided to check the sharpener and three more random VCS items against Amazon’s prices:

Boston X-Acto Model KS Pencil Sharpener
VCS $29.95 : Amazon list $18.40 : Amazon $9.39

Caswell-Massey Almond Oil
VCS $24.95 : Amazon $20.00

Gumby and Pokey
VCS $16.95 : Amazon list $12.95 : Amazon $10.95

Swing-A-Way Can Opener
VCS 15.95 : Amazon list $11.99 : Amazon $9.98

Bag Balm Ointment
VCS $10.95 : Amazon $7.99

VCS total: $98.75 + $16.95 shipping = $115.70
Amazon total: $58.31 + $12.66 shipping = $70.97
Amazon comes out 38% cheaper.

There may be some mystical (or semi-mystical) cachet that accompanies items from the Vermont Country Store, but realists are better off ordering elsewhere.

Alfred and Guinevere

“What I like about a ship,” Alfred said, “is they have free movies, free food, free games and free soap.”

“So do hotels,” Guinevere said.

“Hotels don’t either have free movies. And they can’t float."

“They can’t sink, either.”
Alfred and Guinevere Gates, brother and sister, seven and eleven, are the children of a fractured and struggling family. The siblings are given to fantasy, insults, lies, speculation, threats, and witty repartee. James Schuyler’s Alfred and Guinevere (1958) is a charming, inconclusive novel told entirely through dialogue, diary entries, and letters. it’s available once again from New York Review Books.

More James Schuyler posts
Mildred Bailey, the stars, and us
The poem “December”
Willa Cather and James Schuyler

Thursday, November 29, 2012


In Bloomberg Businessweek, an article on the Obama campaign’s e-mail strategy:

“The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people. . . . ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.”
All I can say is that it’s a good thing I wasn’t directing the campaign’s e-mail effort.

Related posts, from the 2008 campaign
Campaign e-mail etiquette
Campaign e-mails (again)
Obama e-mail improvement

Chinese typewriters and predictive text

Worth reading: Chinese typewriter anticipated predictive text, finds Stanford historian (Stanford University). I’m not persuaded that what’s involved here is any more predictive than a typesetter’s practice of keeping common letters closer at hand, but the idea of a typewriter set up to produce with greater ease the “ready-made phrases” (as George Orwell would call them) of political ideology is eerily fascinating.

OED wars

From an article in the Guardian: “An eminent former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors, according to claims in a book published this week.”

Jesse Sheidlower, the OED ’s editor-at-large, responds: “This claim is completely bogus.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Uncle Mark 2013
Gift Guide & Alamanac

The 2013 Uncle Mark Gift Guide & Almanac is available for download as a PDF. This year’s guide might be called a post-Sandy edition: Mark Hurst offers just two product recommendations, along with suggestions for helping those hit by the storm and some observations on our relationships with screens and stuff. Good food for thought.

Orange stem art

[Photograph by Michael Leddy. Click for a larger view.]

My guess is that only Californians and Floridians get to see oranges with stems and leaves. I saw these oranges at Farmers Market, Los Angeles.

Other posts with orange
Crate art, orange : Orange art, no crate : Orange crate art : Orange crate art (Encyclopedia Brown) : Orange flag art : Orange mug art : Orange notebook art : Orange notecard art : Orange peel art : Orange pencil art : Orange soda art : Orange telephone art : Orange timer art : Orange toothbrush art : Orange train art : Orange tree art

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stanley Kubrick notebook

[John Baxter, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1997).]

The Stanley Kubrick exhibit at LACMA makes clear Kubrick’s penchant for writing things down. Here is a notebook from the making of The Killing (1956):

[Photograph by Michael Leddy. Click for a larger view.]

The exhibit includes another six-ring pocket notebook (opened to a page of notes on Felix Markham’s 1963 biography Napoleon) and a card catalogue of index cards with Kubrick’s chronology of Napoleon’s life.

Los Angeles palimpsest

[Palimpsest: “a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain” (New Oxford American Dictionary).]

Monday, November 26, 2012

Things to do in Los Angeles

[An incomplete list.]

Arrive from elsewhere. Meet key associates at LAX. Eat dinner at Real Food Daily.

Go to the Griffith Observatory. Think about the knife fight in Rebel Without a Cause. Eat lunch at Fred 62. Go to Skylight Books. Go to Olvera Street. Buy postcards. Listen to the street’s musicians and think about the old people who are also listening. Go to the Museum Of Jurassic Technology and see it get better exhibit by exhibit. Go to Ralphs (no apostrophe). Eat dinner at Larchmont Bungalow.

Walk great distances. Walk around Pan Pacific Park. Go to CVS and get asked to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital “in the name of a grandchild.” Donate, yes, but ouch, not that old yet. Go to Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Pass up the table with the wheelchair icon and watch another customer place a laptop over the icon before getting in line. Address and mail postcards. Go to Farmers Market. Go to The Grove. Feel the surreal, with 70°+ weather and piped-in Christmas music. See the Wall Project. Eat lunch from the Cali Bánh Mì food truck. Go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Marvel at Caravaggio and company. Examine the documents in the Stanley Kubrick exhibit and think about the hard work and pure luck that make a film possible. Be delighted by the painted words of the Ed Ruscha exhibit: street names, Spam, Standard (as in Oil). Be delighted by everything. Eat dinner at Bulan Thai Vegetarian Kitchen. Eat dessert at M Café.

Go to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Experience the prodigiously vertiginous tram. Stand in awe of Giotto. Learn how painters applied gold leaf to surfaces. Eat lunch in the Cafe (no accent). Study the colors in Van Gogh’s Irises. Stand in awe some more. Go to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (aka “Coffee Bean”). Eat dinner at Alexander’s Brite Spot. Watch Go On.

Go to the Hammer Museum. Marvel at Gustave Moreau. Look for a long time at Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Man Holding a Black Hat. Write down the names of attractive fonts from the exhibit Graphic Design: Now in Production. Eat lunch at Native Foods. Browse in Aahs!!, a gift store with party supplies, naughty T-shirts, toy guns, and an impressive array of fake poop. Pick up a key associate at LAX. Eat dinner at Pann’s. Realize when leaving that they let you stay well past closing, and be happy that you left a generous tip.

Walk great distances. Go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Think about Frank Sinatra’s small shoe size. Go to Whole Foods. Buy Thanksgiving-appropriate foodstuffs and drinkstuffs. Eat lunch at Canter’s Deli. Go to the Santa Monica Pier. Remove shoes and socks and place feet in ocean. Remove feet from ocean and replace them in socks and shoes. Have Thanksgiving dinner. Watch Modern Family.

Go to the Apple Store. Go to Bennett’s Ice Cream. Go to Bob’s Coffee & Donuts. Watch Lincoln. Go to Scoops. See Michael Cera eat ice cream. Act as if there’s nothing unusual about that. Go to the Echo Park Time Travel Mart. See the Paramount Pictures gate and go slightly nuts. Enjoy leftovers. Listen to key associates make music.

Smell the La Brea Tar Pits. Eat breakfast at Fiddler’s Bistro. Watch Sunset Boulevard. Enjoy a lunch of leftovers. Seek out the Alto Nido apartments, Joe Gillis’s residence before his move to Norma Desmond’s garage. See the Capitol Records building on the way. Visit Culver City and another Native Foods. Drink good coffee. Make a list.

[The context for this list: Elaine and I spent a week in Los Angeles, seeing our daughter and her boyfriend and our son. I am now at work on a SparkNotes version of this post. Kidding.]

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 1912

[“Thanksgiving Cheer Provided for All: Vaudeville Entertainments with Turkey Feasts Lighten the Day for the City’s Charges. The Boy Scouts Parade. Light Fall of Snow in the Morning Gives New York the First ‘White’ Thanksgiving in Years.” New York Times, November 29, 1912.]

Happy Thanksgiving.

Related reading
Doing time at the Ludlow Street Jail (Ephemeral New York)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


“So I looked around and saw what was left of my social network . . .”

Related reading
All “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

An interview with a semicolon

“ I feel angry; I feel hurt; I feel betrayed”: from an interview with a semicolon.

Related posts
How to punctuate a sentence
How to punctuate more sentences
Paul Collins on the semicolon

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Knowing and not knowing

“What I know is rivaled only by what I do not know”: Elaine Fine writes about knowledge and humility. It’s a great post.

Elaine’s post makes me want to revise what I wrote in an earlier post about information and knowledge: competent people not only know stuff; they also know how much they don’t know.

On the Bowery

[Click for a larger view.]

On the Bowery (dir. Lionel Rogosin, 1956) is a grim and gripping film whose players are not professional actors but men and women of the Bowery. Elaine Fine has written about its musical score, the work of Charles Mills. You can watch a trailer and learn more at the film’s website.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Swingline “Tot 50”

[Life, September 17, 1956. Click for a larger view.]

I think that some of the claims for this stapler defy plausibility. Though for all I know, reader, you too make your own sandwich bags, carry extra staples anywhere you go, and consider the “Tot 50” “the ideal gift.” You may even sport a Swingline beanie.

For me the most evocative trace of the past in this ad is neither the book cover nor the book bag but the reference to variety stores. The store I remember is Cheap Charlie’s (Thirteenth Avenue, Brooklyn). I can still see in my mind’s eye the shelf that held the Elmer’s Glue-All and LePage’s Mucilage. No staplers though.

For students: this post explains why you should staple pages (unless, that is, your professor asks for paper clips).

[The quotation marks surrounding Tot 50 appeared on the “stapler itself.” Weird.]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Avoiding and averting

Can one avert a fiscal cliff? No, just as one cannot avert a mountain or a banana peel. Cliffs, like mountains and peels, are just there. One can avoid — “keep away from” — them, by paying attention and steering clear, or by putting on the brakes.

One can avert — “see coming and ward off” — an event, say, a disaster, such as the disaster of going over a cliff, literal or figurative. But the cliff itself? No.

[Definitions from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Written after listening to too much NPR.]

Landscape with some rocks

[Zippy, November 17, 2012.]

Bill Griffith is one of Ernie Bushmiller’s not-so-secret admirers. Today’s visit to “Bushmillerland” includes another landscape with the mystical formation known as “some rocks.”

Other Nancy and Zippy posts
“Bushmiller Country”
Hommage à Ernie Bushmiller
Nancy + Sluggo = Perfection

Friday, November 16, 2012


“Did you know, Mother, that the sun shines practically every day in Los Angeles?”

Related reading
All “overheard” posts

[The television was on in the background, for “warmth.” And it worked.]

College and the trades

A philosopher and mechanic on college and the trades:

Any high school principal who doesn’t claim as his goal “one hundred percent college attendance” is likely to be accused of harboring “low expectations” and run out of town by indignant parents. This indignation is hard to stand against, since it carries all the moral weight of egalitarianism. Yet it is also snobbish, since it evidently regards the trades as something “low.” The best sort of democratic education is neither snobbish nor egalitarian. Rather, it accords a place of honor in our common life to whatever is best.

Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (New York: Penguin, 2009).
Other Matthew Crawford posts
On higher education
On making judgments
On problems

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holding it in

Me, writing in 2010:

I cringe a little when I hear students refer to college work as a matter of — dire phrase — “retaining information.” Pick a field, any field, and think of people who are competent in it: are they “retaining information”? No: they know stuff. They understand the contexts in which “information” may be meaningful and are thus able to draw relevant conclusions and solve problems.
I heard the dire phrase again yesterday, and it occurred to me: “retaining information” sounds like a grim successor to toilet training. Holding it in, whatever it is, as long as the teacher requires — yipes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The HeartRescue Project

Please watch and pass it on: HeartRescue Project.

DFW blues howler

David Foster Wallace’s writing on language and mathematics comes with many mistakes of fact. But the following statement has gone, to my knowledge, unremarked:

Early Blues history reports Chess Records’ legendary Chess brothers shlepping out into Mississippi cotton fields to recruit promising artists on their lunch breaks.

Mark Costello and David Foster Wallace, Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present (Hopewell, NJ: Ecco, 1990).
Sheer nonsense. Leonard and Phil Chess were Chicago-based. The post-war musicians they recorded are not a matter of “early Blues history,” whatever that may be. And no writer on blues ever described the brothers Chess recruiting musicians in Mississippi.

My best guess to explain this howler: In 1941 and 1942 Alan Lomax recorded Muddy Waters in Mississippi for the Library of Congress. The recordings were released on the Chess label in 1966 as the album Down on Stovall’s Plantation. And years later, a writer with a cursory knowledge of his subject attributed the recordings to the brothers Chess.

[Why assign an error in a co-authored book to Wallace? The sentence I’ve quoted is from one of the “D.” sections of the book.]

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: The Story of Ain’t

David Skinner. The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published. New York: Harper/HarperCollins, 2012. xiv + 349 pages. $26.99.

The Story of Ain’t examines what David Skinner says might be “the single greatest language controversy in American history,” the 1961 publication of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the sequel to the 1934 second-edition Webster’s New International (hereafter, W3 and W2). The controversy surrounding W3 — a controversy muddied by distortions, inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and faulty public relations — developed as American English seemed to some to be sliding toward the slipshod and vulgar. It was the time of indignation about like a cigarette should and about newfangled verbs ending in -ize, a time of polarization between descriptivists studying English as she is spoke and prescriptivists intent on enforcing correct (or allegedly correct) usage.¹ (That antagonism also provides a context for understanding the significance of the 1959 publication of The Elements of Style.) According to critics of W3, its editor Philip Gove abandoned the duty of prescriptivist authority, the authority of “the Dictionary,” as W2 called itself, the single-volume reference with the answers to all questions. The new dictionary’s critics must have thought of W2 as a secular Bible: the inerrant word of the G. & C. Merriam Company, descendants of another Noah, last name Webster. In that dreadful television series My Three Sons (a Biblical title, that), an unabridged dictionary sits open on a small table in the living room. It must be a W2, don’t you think?

The trouble for W3 began with an ill-conceived press release, which gave the impression that the new dictionary sanctioned the use of ain’t. The truth was more complicated. But outrage ensued, and for other reasons too. W3 was a work of pure lexicography, abandoning its predecessor’s “encyclopedic matter” — lists of signficant persons and fictional characters, historical timelines, a pronouncing gazetteer, everything that made the dictionary a household reference work. Perhaps more alarmingly, the dictionary abandoned the usage label colloquial and provided citations with a modern American flavor (think Ethel Merman and Mickey Spillane, not Alexander Pope and Alfred Lord Tennyson). For Jacques Barzun, Wilson Follett, Dwight Macdonald, the editors of Life and the New York Times, and, more recently, David Foster Wallace, W3 became the dictionary of anything-goes, all usage as good usage. Critics of W3 seem to have thought that including a word in a dictionary is a tacit endorsement of that word and not a matter of mapping a language. Imagine a cartographer leaving out houses and neighborhoods because respectable folk would never venture there.

The Story of Ain’t is a fine complement to Herbert Morton’s The Story of “Webster’s Third” (1994). Morton focuses more closely on Philip Gove’s life and work, the people of G. & C. Merriam, the details of the W3 debate, and the dictionary’s later life. Skinner does more to place W3 in relation to developments shaping American English: genteelism and growing resistance to it; increased access to education, secondary and higher; the celebration of American vernaculars in the work of Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, and other writers; growing contempt among a cutural elite toward “masscult” and “midcult” (Macdonald’s terms); and the principle (from linguistics) that correct usage has no innate superiority but is simply the usage of those in positions of power. Skinner’s manner of telling his story reminds me of Dickens’s Bleak House: characters are introduced one by one in short chapters, and the connections among those characters are sometimes difficult to see. With Bleak House , the element of mystery makes such a strategy engaging: we don’t know where things are headed, so we agree to follow along.² But with The Story of Ain’t we know where things are headed — toward 1961, and it takes a long time to get there, during which the narrative’s many sidetrips and bits of local color can sometimes feel like mere delays. Skinner’s account of Eleanor Roosevelt touring a B-17 is charming and funny, yes. But still. And when we get to 1961, it becomes difficult to figure out whether Skinner stands with W3 or with its critics. It’s not enough to seem amused by it all.

Still: for anyone who cares about American English and dictionaries, The Story of Ain’t will be required and rewarding reading, not least because it points the reader again and again to amusing, odd, revealing details of W3. (One example: the dictionary’s definition of hotel, which reads like a sample of postmodern prose.) The Story of Ain’t is best read with a copy of Philip Gove’s dictionary close by.

[The W3 entry for ain’t.]

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of the book.

¹ Pedro Carolino’s English As She Is Spoke (1883) is a hilariously incoherent Portuguese–English guide to conversation. I have borrowed its title to suggest imperfections of all sorts in language use.

² Hey, it’s Dickens.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Margie King Barab
and Marlene Dietrich

“She was instantly recognizable, of course, even in her incognito nurse’s get–up.” Our friend Margie King Barab is now online, and today she tells the story of how she came to meet Marlene Dietrich. Go read all about it.

Doris Day amid objects

[Click for a larger view.]

Behold Doris Day in a scene from The Glass Bottom Boat (dir. Frank Tashlin, 1966), in the company of two pillars, four lamps, and one slightly bent telescope. And for good measure, there are half a dozen tall candles on the patio table, now out of view. Elaine and I watched this film last night (it was a new arrival at the library) and turned to each other several times in, well, stark incredulity. Stark, I say. People bumping, pressing, vibrating against each other; hoses and seltzer bottles spraying through the air; a messy banana cream cake; a robot vacuum cleaner with a long, predatory hose: the wink-wink moments and double-entendre props must have seemed racy (to someone) in 1966, but now they look clumsy and juvenile. Which is not to say that The Glass Bottom Boat isn’t worth watching: it’s a nice adventure in cultural studies and sort of, sometimes, funny. With Arthur Godfrey, Dom DeLuise, Paul Lynde (in cop drag and drag drag), Dick Martin, Alice Pearce (Lucy Schmeeler in On the Town), and many more. Collect them all.

Related posts
Diane Arbus meets the Platters (from another Tashlin effort)
“Doris Day parking”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11, 1922

[From a letter by Percy S. Bullen, Honorary Secretary of the League of Remembrance. Published as “Two Minutes’ Silence: Plans for the World-Wide Celebration of Armistice Day.” New York Times, November 9, 1922. ]

Two minutes of silence: at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Related posts
November 11, 1918
November 11, 1919
November 11, 1920
November 11, 1921

Friday, November 9, 2012

Recently updated

To the next! A new development in the never-ending battle against spam comments.


[Mark Trail, November 6, 2012. Click for a larger view.]

I lost track of Mark Trail this week, but little has changed from last week: Mark is still being held for ransom. His friend and editor has been told to bring back two million dollars in small bills. I wondered: how will Bill get those bills? By asking other comic strips for donations? Today’s strip brings the answer: the magazine’s insurance policy will cover it. But Bill will have to cash the check to make good on the ransom. Tens and twenties, please. Nothing larger.

Note to Mark and the cartoon syndicate: There is no “good way” to tell your wife that you’ve been kidnapped.

Related reading
All Mark Trail posts

Sharked up

A friend recounted the story of a carelessly assembled bibliography he recently had the pleasure of reading. One of the works listed was a United States government publication. The entry began:

White, H.
See what happened there? The technical term to describe this sort of quick and undiscriminating effort: sharked up .

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Domestic comedy

“It’s a Braeburn apple — that’s the brand.”

“No, that’s the model.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Related reading
All domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

MEME license-plate meme

Psst: pass it on.

[Crummy photograph, I know: all I had with me was an iPod Nano. I’ve zapped the registration date.]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election thoughts

The results of yesterday’s voting make me more confident and more hopeful than ever about my country’s future. All the dollars and words devoted to depicting Barack Obama as the destroyer of the American economy and western civilization were for naught. I am happy to have voted for him for the third time.

President Obama’s reëlection makes me think that a majority of people in this country are, after all, thoughtful and compassionate. They know that climate change is real and nothing to joke about. They know that health care needs to be affordable for and accessible to all. They know that electrified fences and self-deportation are absurd and dehumanizing proposals and that there should be a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. They know that perpetual war is not the stuff of sound foreign policy. They know that PBS and Planned Parenthood serve the public good and are worthy of the government support they receive. They know that women should be able to make decisions about their own bodies. And they know that the ultra-wealthy are better positioned that anyone else to pay something more in taxes.

I am heartened too by results from other contests, with voters saying no to the likes of Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Joe Walsh, and Allen West (whose outré pronouncements on sundry matters bear no repeating) and yes to Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, and others. And to see voters rejecting a constitutional restriction on marriage and supporting referendums on equal marriage suggests that the right to marry the partner of one’s choice is well on its way to becoming a cultural norm.

I am happy today. But I am also amused — by the frequent characterizations in media commentary of ”older white men” as the bastion of the Republican Party. You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me ?

Related posts
Obama thoughts (2008)
Reality distortion fields

“Dear Sophia”

A letter from Barack Obama to a ten-year-old girl gives a good idea of the character of the man just reëlected.

[I’m sorry, but I’m powerless before the umlaut dieresis.]

Tuesday, November 6, 2012



NBC News just called Ohio for Barack Obama.

As Vigo goes (2012)

Elaine found the above detail while looking at CNN online. Indiana’s Vigo County has gone to Barack Obama, as it did in 2008. Vigo has voted for the winning candidate in every presidential election since 1956. We were knocking on doors there for Obama in 2008, with no idea of the county’s political significance.

A related post
As Vigo goes (2008)


[New Oxford American Dictionary.]

Both phrases apply.

Election Day

“Why is voting day for American federal elections always a Tuesday? The answer is a bit obscure and has to do with buggies”: Why Are Elections on Tuesday? (NPR).

The Weavers, 1951

“A collection of all the video recordings for Snader Telescriptions filmed in 1951”: fifteen minutes and thirty-four seconds of the Weavers (YouTube).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Reality distortion fields

There are reality distortion fields, and there are reality distortion fields. The term “reality distortion field” (RDF) is associated of course with Steve Jobs, who was able to convince Apple employees that they could accomplish difficult or seemingly impossible tasks — deadlines and the limits of technology be damned. Such feats are hardly limited to charismatic executive types. Any teacher who gives students the sense that they are smarter than they believe, that they can do more than they suspect, has a good RDF at work. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign mantra “Yes, we can” captures what’s involved: a belief that success is possible despite long odds. A good RDF reshapes one’s sense of what is possible.

Then there is the other kind of RDF, the kind that distorts matters of fact and history. Such fields were in force all through the 2008 presidential campaign, and they have been in force ever since, turning a candidate and president into a non-citizen, a secret              (you can fill in the blank, in several ways), turning healthcare reform into communism and death panels and theft from Medicare. This year’s presidential campaign has a challenger who has trained an RDF on his own record, obscuring or simply denying positions he has taken not just in recent years but in recent months, in this very campaign.

Distortions so blatant, so cynical, suggest that such a candidate and his advisors must see American voters as credulous fools, ready to believe one thing after another after another. I think though that the majority of American voters are smarter than that. Tomorrow we will find out.

Related posts
George Orwell on historical truth
George Orwell on totalitarian history
Stepping in it

Ted Curson (1935–2012)

The trumpeter Ted Curson has died at the age of seventy-seven. I know him best from his work with Charles Mingus. Here is one of Curson’s finest moments, from 1960: “Original Faubus Fables,” with Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone), Mingus (bass and vocal), and Dannie Richmond (drums and vocal).

Art by Geo-B

Oscar’s Day No. 75: Lost Smells. I’m four for four. How many do you remember?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bryan Garner on snoot

“The corresponding abstract noun is ‘snootitude’”: Bryan Garner glosses David Foster Wallace’s snoot .

A related post
Bryan Garner and David Foster Wallace

[Bryan Garner, author of Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009), offers a free Usage Tip of the Day. You can sign up at Orange Crate Art is a Garner-friendly site.]

Friday, November 2, 2012

Harry Truman with pencil

[“Harry S. Truman sitting at desk with pencil in hand.” Photograph by Marie Hansen. United States, 1945. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

At Contrapuntalism, Sean has been posting about the Mongol pencil (my favorite pencil), which prompted me to post, finally, this photograph. I think that’s a Mongol in Truman’s hand. Brand Name Pencils has photographs of two WWII-era Mongols that make me fairly confident about naming Truman’s pencil.

Related reading
All Mongol posts (Pinboard)

[I like photographs of people writing with plain old pencils while their desk sets go unused.]

Espresso machine on board

“They travel in two buses, with an espresso machine on board to supply Cuban coffee as they drive to engagements in Kansas City, Buffalo and Ames, Iowa”: from a report on the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba, now on its first American tour. Elaine and I heard them last month. If they come your way: go.

[Thanks, Elaine.]

Thursday, November 1, 2012

To the next!

The cryptic CAPTCHAs that Google provides for Blogger frustrate a good number of readers who would like to leave comments on posts. CAPTCHAs sometimes frustrate me too when I want to leave a comment on someone else’s Blogger blog. I’ve gone back and forth about CAPTCHAs here at Orange Crate Art, turning them off and getting inundated with junk (despite comment-moderation, which prevents that junk from getting online), then giving up and turning them back on. CAPTCHAs are off now, and I’m deleting dozens of junk comments a day. I can deal.

The only pleasant thing about wading through the junk is noticing the great variety of aberrant efforts to feign cheery gratitude for the content of posts. A recent favorite, from an alleged person who liked How to e-mail a professor and thinks that I “need to write more about this subject”:

To the next! Many thanks!!
I guess this post is “the next.” You’re welcome.


November 11, 2012: Deleting spam comments has become not impossible but deeply dispiriting — dozens and dozens and dozens of comments a day. So I’ve made a compromise: the CAPTCHAs are still off, but I’ve removed the option for anonymous comments. If you would like to comment and lack an account (Google or another) with which to do so, feel free to e-mail me.

I am happy to see that StatCounter registers no visits from spammers, who mask their IP addresses. I would hate to think that spammers were being counted as genuine readers.

Related reading
All “canned precooked meat product” posts (Pinboard)

Note-taking at Harvard

From Harvard University’s museums and libraries, a virtual exhibition about note-taking. My favorites: pages from George Lyman Kittredge’s commonplace book (such handwriting) and two readers’ annotations of a page from Rollo May.

Seeing the name Harvard and the word note-taking reminds me that my professor Jim Doyle once told a story of discovering in Widener Library a volume of Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough with handwritten notes by T. S. Eliot. Ever dutiful, Jim sought out a librarian, who took the book away at once. End of story.

A related post
From the Doyle edition (a page of T. S. Eliot, with notes)

[Found via Notebook Stories.]