Saturday, March 30, 2013

Richard Griffiths (1947–2013)

From the New York Times :

Richard Griffiths, the rotund British actor whose stage career reached a pinnacle with his Tony-winning performance as an idealistic but tormented pedagogue in Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys and who achieved popular fame in the movies as Harry Potter’s mean-spirited Uncle Vernon Dursley, died on Thursday in Coventry, England.
Griffiths played Mr. Hector in both the play and the film. The scene in which Hector talks about Thomas Hardy’s poem “Drummer Hodge” is still the best moment of poetry-in-film I know.

Trap streets

“A secret symbol of an analog past”: Trap streets: The crafty trick mapmakers use to fight plagiarism (The Week).

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Shoemaker

The Shoemaker is a short film by Dustin Cohen about ninety-year-old Frank Catalfumo and F & C Shoe Rebuilding (2810 Harway Avenue, Brooklyn, New York). Notice the several cameos by Bernhard’s cat and the brief exchange about shoe booths. There’s also a photo gallery.

Related reading
Shoe repairmen are the new typewriter repairmen

[The shoe-repair shop of my Brooklyn childhood, at 4602 New Utrecht Avenue, has been replaced by a delicatessen.]

Stepping away from the phone

Barbara L. Fredrickson argues for greater face-to-face communication: “Friends don’t let friends lose their capacity for humanity.”

[A sad and common sight: fifteen or twenty students waiting to enter a college classroom, no one talking, each student looking down at a screen.]

Paul Williams (1948–2013)

The music critic Paul Williams has died. He founded Crawdaddy!, the first magazine of rock music criticism, and wrote frequently about the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. A sample, about “Fun, Fun, Fun”:

Notice that the rebellious, fun-loving, fast-driving hero of the song is female. Notice that in every verse, every line except the last ends in “now,” and it works! (One of the jobs of poetry is to capture not the actual words but the subjective impact of everyday speech.) Notice the understated, very specific, rhythmic sound of the words “fun, fun, fun” in the chorus, and the contrasting open-endedness of “away.” Notice the easy, natural, wildly complex interplay between the voices and combinations of voices. Notice the neat double meaning in the second verse, “A lot of guys try to catch her,” referring both to her elusive sexuality (“you look like an ace now”) and her automotive ability (“you drive like an ace now”). Notice how Dad’s futile attempt at discipline only serves to throw her (potentially) into “my” realm and bigger and better trouble. And I know you can't fail to notice one of the sweetest fade-outs ever, the brilliant ordinariness of the song totally transcended in two brief moments of soaring falsetto. Fun, indeed.

Paul Williams, from Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys: How Deep Is the Ocean?: Essays and Conversations (1997).
Related reading
Paul Williams website
Crawdaddy! archive (Wolfgang’s Vault)
Billboard obituary
Los Angeles Times obituary

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Browser notepad

From Jose Jesus Perez Aguinaga, a one-line browser notepad. Type this text into your browser’s address bar to create a temporary notepad:

The comments appended to Perez Aguinaga’s post offer many variations on this theme. My favorite: this one by Vladimir Carrer. That I might never use the browser notepad does nothing to diminish its way-coolness.

[Me, I like nvALT, Simplenote, TextWrangler, and WriteRoom.]

Paper and pencil and the SAT

USA Today reports that of 396 students surveyed, nine of ten would prefer taking the SAT with paper and pencil. I am dodging the article’s headline, which includes the tired phrasal adjective t–ch-s–vv–.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hands[-]Free Hair Rejuvenator

At Hammacher Schlemmer: The Hands[-]Free Hair Rejuvenator ($699.95). Too late for Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), seen here using a device that bears no resemblance to Hammacher Schlemmer’s product.

[The I Love Lucy episode “Ricky Thinks He’s Going Bald” first aired June 2, 1952. Image found here.]

The bookish expelled

“They dwell on passages. They ask difficult questions. They might even stare out a window for a while and think about what they have read. What’s more, they don’t always follow instructions, and their notebooks aren’t even remotely neat. We can’t afford that kind of student in today’s economy”: College Expels Bookish Students.

A related post
George Steiner on “the end of bookishness”

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Orange newspaper art

[Click for a larger, oranger view.]

Gunther at Lexikaliker alerted me to this unusual poster: an advertisement in the form of a newspaper front-page made of Mandarin oranges. It’s the newspaper that’s being advertised, not the fruit. Background here; image here. I would love to have this image in poster form.

Does anyone out there read Mandarin orange?

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

[Thanks, Gunther.]

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nabokov distinctions

Useful (sort of) and funny distinctions from Vladimir Nabokov, as found in Edward Jay Epstein’s wonderful account of serving as Nabokov’s “auxiliary course assistant”: “the near near,” “the near far,” “the far near,” and “the far far.” For Nabokov, they marked Ithaca’s four movie theaters.

I’ve already incorporated these distinctions (with proper attribution) in my (ahem) pedagogy. The reading for Wednesday: that’s for the near near future. The short essay due April 10: that’s for the near far future. Final examinations still feel like the far far future, though that future is more likely far near.

Related reading
All Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

Positively Naked City

One of the strangest and best episodes of Naked City I’ve seen: “Hold for Gloria Christmas” (first aired September 19, 1962), an unusually respectful look at Beat culture, as found in New York’s Greenwich Village. The episode tells the story of Duncan Kleist (Burgess Meredith), an alcoholic poet determined to recover the manuscripts he’s traded to bar owner Stanley Dorkner (Herschel Bernardi). Kleist (who shares a last name with a German poet) seems a cross between Jack Kerouac and Dylan Thomas — disheveled, sweaty, tossing off what seem to be spontaneous bits of eloquence. Dorkner kills Kleist in the opening minutes of the episode; as the detectives investigate, flashbacks give us the events that precede the opening scene.

The opening gives us a quick tour of West Fourth Street locations. Click on any image for a larger view.

[Duncan Kleist, running with an envelope full of manuscripts.]

The Music Inn still stands at 169 West Fourth. It’s now an instrument store. Here’s a short video about the store’s history.

Bill Tendler? A jeweler (1906–1973). Here are some samples of his work. The Village Voice ad to the left appeared on December 7, 1955. I don’t know who occupied no. 169 when.

[Kleist stops to talk to a blind newsvendor.]

At 171 West Fourth, Allan Block Sandals. Here is a brief chronology of Block’s life. As the musicologist Elijah Wald has noted, Block’s shop was “the unofficial headquarters of the old-time string band revival.” Block’s daughter, the musician Rory Block, has written about her family’s life on Fourth Street. And Allan, who left New York for New Hampshire, may be found fiddling on YouTube.

[From David Hajdu’s Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Fariña (2001).]

Bianchi & Margherita, at 186 West Fourth, was an Italian restaurant with music. From a 1959 description:

Along with your Italian pasta you get operatic selections hurled at you from every direction in an almost continuous performance. Everybody sings — waiter, bartender, hatcheck girl, even the chef, who winds up the show by leading the singing ensemble in a rousing performance of the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore.
Can you imagine?

And last, the Koltnow Gallery at 192 West Fourth. Like everything here but the Music Inn, it’s gone. Even the corner mailbox is gone. But if you’re curious enough to go to Google Maps, you can still see those pie-wedge slabs of sidewalk, same as they ever were.

[Street corner with dead poet.]

[From John Minahan, The Music of Time: An Autobiography (2001).]

[Village Voice, May 14, 1958.]

But wait: there’s more. Alan Alda is in this episode, making his third appearance on television. No name: he is Young Poet in the Cafe Espresso.

The closing credits note that the “Cafe Espresso” scenes were filmed in Cafe Manzani. It was in fact Cafe Manzini, on Bleecker Street. From the St. Petersburg (Florida) Evening Independent (January 18, 1962): “If you like plays of the avant garde variety, you will like the Manzini’s offerings. If not, well . . . .” Kleist and Young Poet engage in poetic battle, and Young Poet wins when he begins to recite alongside Kleist, whose seemingly improvised offering turns out to be a 1936 Kenneth Fearing poem.

[Dig the musicians digging the poets.]

And one more surprise:

I would recognize her anywhere. It’s Candace Hilligoss, making her first screen appearance as “Mrs. Harris.” Mr. and Mrs. Harris were unmistakably modeled on Alexander and Margie King (later known as Margie King Barab, a dear friend). Hilligoss would appear as Mary Henry in Carnival of Souls (dir. Herk Harvey), which came out seven days after this episode aired.


Mailing early in the day, in the zone-world or the ZIP-world, is the better way. But you’ll have to watch the episode to understand the full significance of this final image.

Orange Crate Art is a Naked City-friendly zone.

Other Naked City posts
GRamercy 7–9166 : GRamercy again : MUrray Hill 7-3933 : Naked Bronx : Nearly plotzing : “Old Rabbit Ears” : Poetry and Naked City : TW8-4044 : “WE DELIVER”

[For Duncan Kleist and Jack Kerouac, consider, for example, these two photographs, by Fred McDarrah and Allen Ginsberg. And if the post’s title baffles: read and listen.]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Staplers of the Times

“Staplers are still such a fact of everyday life that we’ve lost sight of what a triumph of manufacturing they are. They can bend metal — no batteries or electricity required”: The Attachment That Still Makes Noise (New York Times).

Found via Submitted for Your Perusal, whose Sunday Times posts always point to something I’ve overlooked.

Related posts
Staple! (for students) : Swingline “Tot 50” : “Tot 50” joke contest : Woody Allen’s staplers

Saturday, March 23, 2013

LEGO telephone and typewriter

From BricksBen: a rotary telephone and manual typewriter made of LEGO. Beautiful.

A related post
A Brooklyn grows in Brooklyn (LEGO Brooklyn)

[The LEGO rule: “The first time the LEGO brand name appears it must be accompanied by the Registered symbol ®.” I take “first time” to refer to the first appearance of the LEGO name on my blog, in the 2011 post on a LEGO Brooklyn.]

Friday, March 22, 2013

Willa Cather’s letters

“For scholars it’s a major literary event, a chance at last to flesh out the understanding of a writer often seen as a remote bluestocking in big skirts and old-fashioned hats”: Willa Cather Letters to be Published as an Anthology (New York Times).

In a piece I wrote some years ago (now online), I characterized Cather as “a crypto-modernist, a modernist in nineteenth-century clothing.” I think that description still fits.

WTF punctuation question

The above Google search led a seeker of wisdom and truth to this Orange Crate Art post, I thought the search itself was amusing enough to warrant posting.


The guy was loud. His signal traveled well beyond his immediate surroundings, broadcasting a long story of corporate missteps. He of course was blameless: “I was AFK for almost two years.”

AFK? I had to look it up. How about you?

Related reading
All “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

John Ashbery on change

John Keats (“Ode on a Grecian Urn”) and Wallace Stevens (“Sunday Morning”) lurk in broad daylight in these beautiful lines.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


“Leading-edge leveraging of your plain-English skill set will ensure that your actionable items synergize future-proof assets with your global-knowledge repository”: Bryan Garner offers a Bizspeak Blacklist.

A related post
Changing the language of business

FeedBurner, broken

You know that something is seriously wrong when even the usually dormant FeedBurner Status Blog acknowledges the problem: “We have been encountering difficulties with our stats production pipeline for data representing March 18th thru 20th. We are currently working to resolve the issue.”

The frequency of posting on the FeedBurner Status Blog tells you something about Google’s interest in this service: the last post before today’s appeared on September 21, 2012. And Google’s FeedBurner Help Group has long been a self-help group, minus a higher power: there’s no one from Google reading or posting. I think I will be looking for another service in the near future.


March 22: FeedBurner is working again. But you’d never know it from the FeedBurner Status Blog.

No diagram needed

“You know what I love about you? I never have to draw you a diagram.”

From the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Empty Tin,” first aired March 8, 1958. Alan Neil (Warren Stevens) is speaking to Miriam Hocksley (Mary Shipp).

Other Masonic posts
Perry Mason and Gilbert and Sullivan : Perry Mason and John Keats : Perry Mason’s office : Separated at birth? : Streetside gum machines


[Popular Mechanics, August 1931. Click for a larger view.]

Google Books . . . a rabbit hole. Popular Mechanics . . . a rabbit hole . . . within a rabbit hole. I found this advertisement while looking for something . . . else.

[Repeat after me: “You can learn at home . . . in your spare time . . . the Federal way.”]

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Brown”

[Peanuts, March 20, 2013. First published March 23, 1966. Click for a larger view.]

Charles Monroe Schulz channels Thomas Stearns Eliot.


Elaine and I were in our favorite Thai restaurant. In a nearby booth, a young family of four, everyone talking: a good sign. The mother turned to her high-chaired daughter, who held an index finger in the air. Mom extended an index finger too: “One! One! That’s how old you are!” And then she turned to her son, who might have been all of five, and asked, ever so tactfully, “Could you put your pen back in your journal, please?” It was time to pack up and go home.

The son reminded me of Ralphie in A Christmas Story and of the boy in this Vivian Maier photograph. A kid so bookish, or notebookish, at the age of five or so might have some difficult times ahead, but I have little doubt that he and his sister are in good hands. Fare forward, young family.

Related reading
All “overheard” posts (Pinboard)
Early Language and Literacy Development (Zero to Three)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dropbox 2.0

Dropbox for Mac and Windows just hit version 2.0, with a nifty, new drop-down menu.

If you’d like to try Dropbox, this referral link will give each of us an extra 500 MB of free storage.

Studying alone, really alone

A fringe benefit of reading Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (2011): one can assemble from the book’s data and conclusions a to-do list for genuine learning in college. Arum and Roksa find that students who learn the most in college do three things: they take courses with professors who have high expectations and require much reading and writing; they talk to professors during office hours; and they study alone.

I think that Arum and Roksa have it right, but I think it's time to rethink the meaning of alone. When I walk through my college library, I see student after student studying sort-of alone: stopping repeatedly to check messages (most likely texts and tweets and updates) on a phone that is always within reach. There might be especially urgent reasons for any given student to have a phone out and on, but I doubt that emergencies account for the scenes I see again and again.

A student whose work is constantly interrupted by messages from the world beyond the library, who studies (or tries to) while anticipating the arrival of those siren songs, is never really alone, and never really paying attention — partial attention being, I would argue, a form of inattention. A better to-do for greater learning: study disconnected. Alone, yes, but with beeswax in your ears — in other words, with your phone silent and out of sight. A phone is hardly the only obstacle to attention: the mind provides distractions enough of its own. There’s no need to supplement them.

Related posts
A good place to study
A review of Academically Adrift

[Arum and Roksa studied the academic progress of students who began college in Fall 2005. Thus these students did much of their work before the massive growth of Facebook and Twitter. In Odyssey 12, beeswax protects Odysseus’ crew from the song of the Sirens. Odysseus, ever curious, has himself tied to the mast so that he can safely hear the song.]

Monday, March 18, 2013

On learning and games

Pamela Paul on learning and games:

“Imagine if kids poured their time and passion into a video game that taught them math concepts while they barely noticed, because it was so enjoyable,” Bill Gates said last year. Do we want children to “barely notice” when they develop valuable skills? Not to learn that hard work plays a role in that acquisition? It’s important to realize early on that mastery often requires persevering through tedious, repetitive tasks and hard-to-grasp subject matter.

How’s this for a radical alternative? Let children play games that are not educational in their free time. . . . Then, once they’re in the classroom, they can challenge themselves. Deliberate practice of less-than-exhilarating rote work isn’t necessarily fun but they need to get used to it — and learn to derive from it meaningful reward, a pleasure far greater than the record high score.
Read it all: Reading, Writing and Video Games (New York Times).


I just updated my at-work computer and lo: Fliqlo and Word Clock no longer work. But there’s still ClockSaver, a free screensaver for Mac. I can vouch that it works with Snow Leopard; I don’t about Lion and Mountain Lion.

“Do the work”

A member of Professor Charles Kingsfield’s seminar for second- and third-year law students has just given a report using two props — a piece of “eastern erotica” and a Playboy centerfold. Kingsfield’s response: “lively, energetic, entertaining, . . . also overlong, ineptly researched, and quite shallow.” The props, says Kingsfield, are merely “a smoke screen” to conceal shoddy work. He then gives the student this advice: “Do the work, and you won’t need to do the dance.”

Do the work: yes. I’m reminded of the justly celebrated Rule 7.

These bits of dialogue come from a second-season episode of The Paper Chase, “Spreading It Thin,” which aired on June 15, 1983. Yes, the DVD is at Netflix.

Two more Kingsfield posts
How to improve writing (no. 42)
“Minds, not memories”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Facebook CEO likes paper, pens

Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, talking with the New York Times:

“I probably shouldn’t admit this since I work in the tech industry, but I still prefer reading paper books. (In Lean In , I also admit that I carry a notebook and pen around to keep track of my to-do list, which, at Facebook, is like carrying around a stone tablet and chisel.)”
Related reading
All paper posts (Pinboard)

A poem for the day

I like what the poet David Schubert said in a letter to a friend: “I’m going to buy my edition of Yeats tomorrow, for he does belong to the ages although he knows it too well.” But he does belong to the ages, all of them.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. Patrick, or, if you must, Paddy. Not Patty.

The name Leddy is Irish.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, March 16, 2013.]

Somewhere in that “‘Job Jar’” is a slip of paper that reads Draw collar. Or Prooflook.

Related reading
All Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

“Art by cell phone”

At the Picasso exhibition: Oscar’s Day No. 208.

Friday, March 15, 2013

On joining a museum

Elaine and I had never considered a membership in the Art Institute of Chicago. We live at a great distance, and we visit just a few times a year. But as a helpful fellow at the ticket counter pointed out yesterday, just two visits a year would recoup the cost. A membership for one gets us admission for two, along with a magazine, a 10% discount on purchases, safe passage to the Member Lounge (with free coffee and tea), and, yes, a totebag. We have promised not to fight over the totebag.

There are some great things at the AIC now. Among them: an enormous Picasso exhibition, an exhibition of Chicago immigrant and migrant experience in art (with a woodcut by Elaine’s great-uncle Aaron Bohrod), Irving Penn’s chewing-gum-on-pavement photographs, and work inspired by or made in collaboration with poets (Frank O’Hara and Larry Rivers FTW). And the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine art is back.

[Kylix (Wine Cup). Greek, Athens. Attributed to the Workshop of Nikosthenes. 530/520 B.C. Terracotta, decorated in the black-figure technique. Anonymous loan.]

[Pablo Picasso, White Owl on Red Ground. Vallauris, March 25, 1957. Red earthenware clay, decoration in engobes, knife engraved. Private collection.]

An unexpected benefit of membership: running into a old friend and colleague—in the Member Lounge.

Perhaps you too should join a museum.

A related post
Word of the day: apotropaic

[Descriptions verbatim from the AIC information cards.]


“I think you could laser-focus it a little more.”

Related reading
All “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

A very short film about paper

Le papier a un grand avenir [Paper has a great future].

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Teenagers with moose, also plural

[“Des Moines, Iowa High School Teen Agers.” Photograph by George Skadding. November 1947. From the Life Photo Archive.]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hummingbird Nest Cam

My daughter Rachel gave me the link. I tuned in today by chance, around 4:45 p.m. (PDT), and saw Phoebe feeding her babies. So cute. Add as many o’s to so as you like.

Which will it be: instant calm, or unexpected excitement? There’s only one way to find out: Hummingbird Nest Cam. Either way, the hummingbirds are sooooooo cute.

Thank you, Rachel.

Goodbye, Google Reader

I just went to check my RSS feeds and learned that Google Reader will soon be shutting down:

We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We’re sad too.
Now what? Feedly?

7:27 p.m.: Yes, I think it’ll be Feedly.

10:02 p.m.: 12,000+ Orange Crate Art subscribers use Google Reader. What’s next for you?

[Where did I go when I “went” to check my RSS feeds?]

Domestic comedy

Staring down the sink:

Habemus dishes.”

Related reading
All domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Adjunct teaching and health insurance

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has prompted the Internal Revenue Service to think about the hours of work that go into adjunct teaching. The IRS estimate: three hours for every credit-hour. Thus a three-credit class would count as nine hours of work per week. Four courses would put an instructor over the thirty-hour week that qualifies for health insurance:

Although the rules are still in the making, Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national advocacy group for adjuncts, said what the IRS had proposed so far seems promising.

“I think the IRS is on the right track in recognizing that adjunct faculty constitute a unique category of worker in terms of how their work is currently recognized and compensated,” Ms. Maisto wrote in an e-mail. “It is helpful that the IRS is recognizing that there is a lack of uniformity in the way that adjunct work hours are currently calculated and how adjuncts are treated. This seems to be a huge step forward in the government's education about the true nature of contingent academic work.”

But even as the IRS is working to provide colleges with the guidelines they have sought from the agency, a few institutions have made pre-emptive moves by cutting back the number of hours adjuncts are allowed to work—among them, Youngstown State University, Stark State College, and the Community College of Allegheny County, where at least 200 adjuncts face a newly instituted cap on the number of courses they can teach.

IRS Says Colleges Must Be “Reasonable” When Calculating Adjuncts’ Work Hours (Chronicle of Higher Education)
What these schools and others are doing reminds me of the corporate strategy of giving employees thirty-nine hours a week to keep the work “part-time” (without health insurance). I’ll say it again: the exploitation of adjunct labor is the shame and scandal of American higher education.


April 23, 2012: The Chronicle of Higher Education continues to follow the story: Colleges Are Slashing Adjuncts’ Hours to Skirt New Rules on Health-Insurance Eligibility.

A related post
The Adjunct Project

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Naked Bronx

I was happy to see the Bronx appear as a minor character in “Murder Is a Face I Know,” an episode of Naked City that first aired January 4, 1961. (Gotta love those Naked City titles.) I recognized in an instant the fence to the left in the scene below: it encloses the green of Edwards Parade on the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University. A friend and I once sat just on the other side of that fence and split a bottle of white wine before a seminar. I was auditing; she was taking it for credit. To the right, Dealy Hall, home of the English Department and many other departments. We didn’t have far to walk. Joey Ross (Keir Dullea) though is running, and in another direction:

The same location in 2009:

Joey is running to meet his father Nicholas (Theodore Bikel), who works in a clothing store on Webster Avenue. Giovanni Famous Pizza now occupies the right section of Darnleys Sportswear & Slacks (or Slacks and Sportswear). Google Maps’ patented “This is your street on drugs” effect is visible in the split Giovanni sign:

Joey crosses Webster Avenue. If you squint, you can see the Third Avenue El in the background, to be torn down sometime after service ended in 1973:

In 2011, Sears still stands. The massive building to the east of Sears is 1 Fordham Plaza, an office and retail complex whose construction meant the end of the Eldorado Bar.

Joey meets his father, and together they cross Fordham Road:

Yes, Webster Avenue and Fordham Road both have many lanes for a pedestrian to get across, and I don’t think being stuck on the pedestrian island (in the 2011 image) would make me feel much safer. (A pedestrian island in the middle of a racetrack? No thanks.) In 2008, the Fordham-Webster intersection was deemed the most dangerous intersection in New York City. Plans are underway to make it safer. One detail: notice the two projecting signs for Surprise Ladies Wear, the same structures that served Kingsley (Kingsley what?) in the black-and-white world.

Late in the episode, we’re back on the (unnamed) Fordham campus, with a glimpse of the University Church and St. John’s Hall:

In 2009:

I know very little about what’s inside, but I do know that this church must be one of very few in which the word tappen has been spoken from the lectern.

This MTA map shows the Fordham-Webster intersection, with the two streets bounding the campus on the south and west. Staring at the tangle gives a good sense of the density of life at this intersection:

More Bronx tales
Elvis pretzels
Nick DeMaio and the Eldorado

[Naked City’s Horace McMahon (Lieutenant Mike Parker) attended Fordham Law School. In the Bronx, or in Manhattan? I don’t know. All color photographs from Google Maps. Click any Naked City or Google Maps image for a larger view.]

Nearly plotzing

My partner in Naked City-viewing nearly plotzed the other night.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Word of the day: loggerhead

From an Atlantic piece by Wayne Curtis about flaming cocktails:

At Booker and Dax, part of the Momofuku empire in Manhattan, “red-hot poker” drinks are made with electrically charged rods modeled after the colonial-era loggerhead, a tool used to keep tar pliable. The modern version heats up to 1,500 degrees, and when it’s plunged into a drink, it caramelizes the sugars, giving the beverage a slightly butterscotchy flavor and a toasted top note.
I’ve known the word loggerhead only as part of the idiom at loggerheads, which describes two parties or sides stubbornly disagreeing. The idiom makes me think of two logs butting heads, so to speak, and of a logjam, an impasse.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest meaning of the word: “A thick-headed or stupid person; a blockhead” (1595). And shortly thereafter: “A head out of proportion to the body; a large or ‘thick’ head” (1598). So my folk etymology seems (to me anyway) plausible. But here is “sense 3”: “An iron instrument with a long handle and a ball or bulb at the end used, when heated in the fire, for melting pitch and for heating liquids” (1687).

The OED ’s speculation about the idiom has nothing to do with blockheads: “The use is of obscure origin; perhaps the instrument described in sense 3, or something similar, may have been used as a weapon.” And now I’m confused, as the idiom (dated to 1671) predates “sense 3” (1687). But I’m not at loggerheads with the OED. Perhaps the tool was known as a loggerhead for some time before the word entered the written record.

Check Wikipedia for loggerhead and you’ll find a photograph of Wayne Curtis himself, in colonial regalia, standing before a table that holds a pineapple, a pitcher, a propane torch, several bottles, and a loggerhead. Try a Google Image search for a loggerhead though, and it's turtles all the way down, at least since 1657.

A tenuously related post
Little Baby Turtle (pehaps a loggerhead)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nick Bilton on digital etiquette

Nick Bilton doesn’t like it when people e-mail him to say thanks. He thinks you should use Google Maps to find the way to someone’s house rather than ask the person for directions. Bilton and his mother communicate “mostly through Twitter.” And last year, his father learned a “lesson” about leaving voice mails for his son: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette (New York Times).

After reading this column, I see no reason to change the advice I offer in How to e-mail a professor: “When you get a reply, say thanks.” For students e-mailing a professor, this small courtesy is a good choice. And it closes the loop. A professor who prefers not to receive such replies can let students know.

I will go further and suggest that everyone say please and thank you and and hello and see you soon and so on in e-mail. So many inefficiencies? No, they are ways of being human together. They are what we need to make time for.

One of my earliest learning experiences online happened when someone on a fountain-pen mailing list offered a lengthy and helpful answer to a question I asked. I e-mailed him backchannel (remember backchannel?) to say thanks and acknowledged that I didn’t know whether it was standard practice to do so. His reply: “A thank-you is always welcome.” That made and makes sense to me. My correspondent later proved a great source of advice on all things Pelikan.

Related posts
E-mail etiquette
How to e-mail a student

[I’d hate to be Nick Bilton’s parents. Who, by the way, would know the best route to their house.]

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dreyfus online

Of possible interest to readers of Proust: the New York Times reports that the contents of the secret file used to convict Alfred Dreyfus are now online. Ou, en ligne.

Thanks, Stefan, for passing on the news.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Signage repair

The legalization of homosexuality what ? Daughter Number Three makes things right.

Lost in machine translation

From the Google Translate version of a drop-down menu at the Japanese stationery site Bundoki:

I think that translators, the human kind, will be in business for many years to come.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

David Foster Wallace sometimes didn’t know what he was talking about

From a David Foster Wallace Fall 2002 class handout now online, Your Liberal-Arts $ at Work:

For a compound sentence to require a comma plus a conjunction, both its constituent clauses must be independent. An independent clause (a) has both a subject and a main verb, and (b) expresses a complete thought. In a sentence like “He ate all the food, and went back for more,” you don’t need both the comma and the and because the second clause isn’t independent.
One mistake: the sentence “An independent clause (a) has both a subject and a main verb, and (b) expresses a complete thought” should not have a comma: it has only one clause.

A second mistake: “He ate all the food and went back for more” is a single independent clause, not two clauses. Notice that the sentence explaining an independent clause and the sample sentence follow the same pattern: subject-verb-and-verb. Neither sentence needs a comma.

But there’s more. Look carefully at the third sentence:
In a sentence like “He ate all the food, and went back for more,” you don’t need both the comma and the and because the second clause isn’t independent.
That sentence needs a comma before because, for the very reason that Wallace explains later in the handout:
[B]ecause is a funny word, and sometimes you’ll need a comma before its appearance in the second clause in order to keep your sentence from giving the wrong impression.
Look again:
In a sentence like “He ate all the food, and went back for more,” you don’t need both the comma and the and because the second clause isn’t independent.

In a sentence like “He ate all the food, and went back for more,” you don’t need both the comma and the and [,] because the second clause isn’t independent.
The first version misleads by suggesting that you don’t need both the comma and and for some other reason.

There’s a fourth mistake in passing: afterwards and backwards are not prepositions. And I suspect that Wallace’s observations about a sentence being “nonstandard in the abstract” would set linguists howling.

Pedantry is always tiresome, but it’s especially tiresome when the pedant doesn’t know what he is talking about. I’m reminded of the poet Ted Berrigan’s comment about another Dave, a friend:
“Dave knows just enough to get himself in trouble. . . . He says her name is pronounced Gertrude SCHTEIN because that’s the way German is pronounced. He also thinks that Byron’s poem is called DON WHAN, because he speaks Spanish and that’s the way the name is pronounced in Spanish. When I told him it’s JEWUN, he told me I was a moron.”

Ron Padgett, Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan (1993)

[“Your Liberal-Arts $ at Work.” Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Click for a larger view.]

Related reading
All David Foster Wallace posts (Pinboard)
E. B. White on W3 (with DFW on Webster’s Third)
How to punctuate a sentence
How to punctuate more sentences

The model 500

Object of the day: Henry Dreyfuss’s model 500 (Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum).

A related post
Thrift-store telephone


I am contending with the aftermath of an ear infection — and yes, that makes me feel about ten years old. It’s difficult to hear with my clogged left ear, so if you leave a comment today, please, TYPE LOUD. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


[From the Naked City episode “A Death of Princes,” first aired October 12, 1960.]

The choice to crop makes the image starker and stranger, doesn’t it? Ernesto Caparrós gets the credit for this episode’s cinematography. The telephone exchange CI? That’s CIrcle.

Forty episodes of Naked City are now available in a ten-DVD set ($24.99 from Amazon). Elaine and I have thirty-two episodes to go.

More exchange names on screen
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : Born Yesterday : The Dark Corner : Deception : Dream House : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Nightmare Alley : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Sweet Smell of Success : This Gun for Hire

[It is 9:37 in the Naked City.]

Ho Hum

Above, two pages from Ho Hum: Newsbreaks from The New Yorker (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1931), foreword by E. B. White, illustrations by O. Soglow. A newsbreak is a New Yorker specialty, a snippet of journalism containing “some error of typography or judgment,” as White puts it, used to fill extra space at a column’s end. White selected newsbreaks for many years. Mira Ptacin’s account of a visit to White’s Maine house includes a photograph of a list of newsbreak categories, still tacked to the wall of White’s writing shed.

By the way, the Billboard item must have been placed by a carnival geek. Billboard ran geek ads in its carnival section.

Related reading
All E. B. White posts (Pinboard)

[I still marvel at the generosity of libraries. If this book were mine, I wouldn’t let it out.]

More Wittgenstein

Michael P. Lynch replies to Paul Horwich: Of Flies and Philosophers: Wittgenstein and Philosophy (New York Times).

[Where I think Lynch diverges from Wittgenstein: Lynch speaks of truth as having not one nature or no nature but several natures; Wittgenstein would speak of “truth” as being a word with various uses. I think.]

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Headlines quiz

These headlines are now nice and stale. Can you tell which ones are real?

“5 Tips on Avoiding a Nervous Breakdown”

“Gwyneth Paltrow Is Filled With Hate”

“Gwyneth Paltrow Makes Tacos”

“Growing Number Of Americans Distrust Census”

“Man Dislocates Jaw On Giant Sandwich At Restaurant Chain”

Answers in the comments.

Related reading
A previous headlines quiz

Monday, March 4, 2013

“Was Wittgenstein Right?”

The philosopher Paul Horwich on Ludwig Wittgenstein:

[T]he usual view these days is that his writing is self-indulgently obscure and that behind the catchy slogans there is little of intellectual value. But this dismissal disguises what is pretty clearly the real cause of Wittgenstein’s unpopularity within departments of philosophy: namely, his thoroughgoing rejection of the subject as traditionally and currently practiced; his insistence that it can’t give us the kind of knowledge generally regarded as its raison d’être.

Was Wittgenstein Right? (New York Times)
[It must be a good thing I didn’t go to graduate school in philosophy: Wittgenstein is one of the key figures in the life of my mind.]

National Grammar Day

“There is so much to celebrate about our language. English may be a shifty whore, but she’s our shifty whore. Please, this National Grammar Day, don’t turn her into a bully, too”: A Plea for Sanity this National (US) Grammar Day.

No more homework

[From a found notebook.]

I spent four years in college without doing homework. Which is not to say I slacked: to the contrary. But the word homework played no part in my effort. What I “did” instead: I read, mostly books, and I wrote papers. I never had homework: I had reading, or a lot of reading, or a ton of reading. And papers, short and long. If one of my professors had ever announced that there was homework, I would have cringed. And I can say with some confidence that I never heard a fellow student use the word.

And as a college prof, I never speak of homework. But I hear the word often, spoken by students. Try a Twitter search for college and homework: they’re often found together. One college student tweets, in a lovely mixed metaphor, of being “shackled by piles of homework.” My case against the word has nothing to do with snobbery, nothing to do with an inflated sense of my dignity. Homework is not beneath me. But the word has, to my mind, little or nothing to do with college.

For one thing, homework suggests a world divided between school and family, a distinction not always in play in college, when many students are living away from home. There’s something incongruous about the idea of taking homework back to a dorm or an off-campus apartment. There’s something even more incongruous about the idea of a non-traditional (older) student doing homework. The word also suggests that there will be something to turn in, something for a teacher to “collect,” though the day-to-day work of reading and note-taking in a college class typically yields nothing for a second party to look at. And the word homework carries at least a suggestion of teacherly whims, particularly for children who might already be spending a good part of the school day plugging away at worksheets.¹ Will the teacher be piling it on tonight, or giving everyone a break? In a college class though, where a semester’s work is mapped out in advance, there will always already be something to do between class meetings — or at least there should be.

There are many other ways in which the experience of college can be improved—by requiring, for instance, significant reading and writing in classes. But it might be easier to regard such work as a norm (and not an anomaly) if one were to dispose of the word homework: not “I have forty pages of homework” but “I have forty pages of reading.” Traditional-aged college students are novice adults, men and women in the making. They—and their older fellow students—would do well to think of their coursework, whatever it might require, in terms beyond those of elementary and secondary education.

¹ The Oxford English Dictionary gives this earliest (1662) meaning of the word: “Work done at home, esp. as distinguished from work done in a factory.”

[About the notebook: a friend found it years ago, abandoned. Its pages were blank, except for the note above. I sometimes wonder what became of the writer.]

Cheating in online courses

Every breath you take, every move you make: New Technologies Aim to Foil Online Course Cheating (New York Times).

Related reading
All cheating posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A multiple-choice question

If education must be reduced to standardized tests, we should ask John Ashbery to write the questions:

John Ashbery, from 100 Multiple-Choice Questions (New York and Boston: Adventures in Poetry, 2001).

Related reading
All John Ashbery posts (Pinboard)
“Pineapples don’t have sleeves”

Saturday, March 2, 2013

“Warnings from the Trenches”

A retired high-school teacher tells college professors what to expect in the wake of No Child Left Behind:

We entered teaching because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students who passed through our classrooms. Many of us are leaving sooner than we had planned because the policies already in effect and those now being implemented mean that we are increasingly restricted in how and what we teach.

Now you are seeing the results in the students arriving at your institutions. They may be very bright. But we have not been able to prepare them for the kind of intellectual work that you have every right to expect of them. It is for this that I apologize, even as I know in my heart that there was little more I could have done. Which is one reason I am no longer in the classroom.

Kenneth Bernstein, “Warnings from the Trenches” (Academe)
As Bernstein points out, students of traditional age who entered college in Fall 2012 experienced the full force of No Child Left Behind, from third grade on. I began to notice what I believe to be the effects of NCLB in Fall 2007, in students whose eighth- through twelfth-grade education had been shaped by the new dispensation. What I noticed, aside from weaknesses in reading and writing: an increased lack of engagement with the day-to-day work of a course, as if the only thing that mattered was one’s performance on a test. Think of the mindset of a student who has missed many classes, not kept up with the reading or taken notes, who still thinks it’s possible to hunker down and do reasonably well. My hunch is that a mistaken trust in “skills” — and not in deep familiarity with particular texts — helps to explain this (continuing) problem.


August 12, 2013: Bernstein is going back to the classroom.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Douglas Ewart
and Wadada Leo Smith

Gelvin Noel Gallery
Krannert Art Museum
Champaign, Illinois
February 28, 2013

Douglas Ewart, alto clarinet, sopranino saxophone, didgeridoo, flutes, percussion, electronics
Wadada Leo Smith, trumpet

Elaine and I were fortunate to hear Douglas Ewart when he was last in east-central Illinois, for a week-long residency at the University of Illinois’s Allen Hall/Unit One. Last night’s performance was part of a second Allen Hall residency devoted to teaching and improvising with students.¹

Ewart and Wadada Leo Smith met in 1967 as members of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. They brought to last night’s performance — a single improvised piece, somewhere over an hour long — a long history of musical empathy. The two musicians made a striking contrast: Ewart sitting or standing before of a table full of instruments, some modest electronics in front of him, a cloth covered with little instruments and tops at his feet; Smith with one instrument and two mutes. Their communication was a matter of deep listening, as Smith rarely if ever opened his eyes while playing.

The performance offered a great variety of musical textures: muted trumpet against didgeridoo, open trumpet against alto clarinet, a long wooden flute pinging and popping like a percussion instrument, sopranino saxophone playing multiphonic parallel fourths, sopranino and trumpet chasing one another and bouncing off the walls, and at times nothing more than tiny bells (fitted to a crepuscular stamping stick) and whistling columns of air. Ewart was often the supportive figure, furnishing a rumbling foundation for Smith’s fanfares, growls, half-valve effects, multiphonics, and brilliant, round sound. Most striking to me were three somber interludes — two for sopranino and trumpet, one for flute and trumpet — that sounded like spontaneously composed music for mourners. The performance ended almost as it began, with short muted trumpet statements, this time against alto clarinet. Then, as Ewart’s sonic tops spun and fell, Smith commented on our hapless, hopeless Congress, and Ewart commented on the need for greater government support for the arts — support, he said, that would be paid back “nine-hundredfold.”

Last night’s performance was a rare blast, and at times a rare whisper. Great thanks to Jason Finkelman for continuing to bring the news to east-central Illinois.

¹ Lucky students. Our son Ben was among them last time around.

Related reading
Douglas Ewart
Wadada Leo Smith
Douglas Ewart and Stephen Goldstein (Krannert 2011, my account)
Douglas Ewart and Quasar (Krannert 2015, my account)

Mark Hurst on Google Glass

Mark Hurst: “The Google Glass feature that (almost) no one is talking about is the experience — not of the user, but of everyone other than the user.” As Hurst goes on to say, “The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change.” Hurst’s post is the best thing I’ve read about Google Glass.


On a street in a nearby city, a trio of young voices:

“What the hell?”

“What the hell? What the hell?”

“Senior adviser, my ass!”

Related reading
All “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

[Hearing and preserving a scrap of anonymous conversation: very different from Google Glass.]

Recently updated

The Armory Show The Cubies’ A B C has been reprinted.