Thursday, October 31, 2013

“In the end, we can’t [?] lose”

From a New York Times article on the fate of the humanities in higher education:

Some professors flinch when they hear colleagues talking about the need to prepare students for jobs.

“I think that’s conceding too quickly,” said Mark Edmundson, an English professor at the University of Virginia. “We’re not a feeder for law school; our job is to help students learn to question.”

His university had 394 English majors last year, down from 501 when he arrived in 1984, but Professor Edmundson said he does not fret about the future. “In the end, we can’t lose,” he said. “We have William Shakespeare.”
I respect Mark Edmundson’s work, as these three posts should make clear. But two observations:

To speak of the purpose of college without regard for what might follow is to speak from a lofty position indeed. If students are to learn to question, they might begin by questioning the investment of time and money that college requires. What does that investment amount to? What does it mean to graduate with tens of thousands in debt and few prospects?

I’m not nearly as confident as Edmundson that those who have Shakespeare cannot lose. Classics departments, after all, had Homer.


I tried and tried again to get OS X’s Dictation service to recognize Derrida : garita, Jerry Gary, die galley, Garry Donna, Gary Dodd, Jerry die, Gary doc, Gary dog .

And then back to garita.

A related post
Mac Dictation and boogie-woogie

A joke for the day

A seasonal joke from my dad, eighty-five and still turning them out: How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect?

No spoilers. The punchline appears in the comments.

Halloween, 1941

[Photograph by William C. Shrout. 1941. From the Life Photo Archive.]

The Life Photo Archive’s description, “Halloween party,” is hardly accurate. A better one: “Mayhem averted.” Or better still: “Cheese it — the cops!”

A cropped version of this photograph appeared in a Life feature about Halloween in Zionsville, Indiana (November 3, 1941). The caption reads: “Being nabbed by the cops is always thrilling, especially because few arrests ever seem to be made. Moving the town loafers’ bench to someone’s porch is always fun.” This mayhem is pretty obviously staged, no?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rae Armantrout, taking notes

Rae Armantrout is for me a consistently engaging and inventive American poet. She is also a notetaker:

I carry a blank book journal around with me most of the time and jot down things I see and hear, especially if they seem puzzling. . . .

Anyway, I end up with a lot of unconnected journal entries. I know a poem is really on the way when I see how two or more of these separate notes might have some inner likeness, might connect. (I prefer improbable connections.) That’s why so many of my poems are divided with asterisks or numbers.

“My Poetry Isn’t Built on Hope: An Interview with Tom Beckett,” in Collected Prose (San Diego: Singing Horse Press, 2007).
In case anyone out there reads World Literature Today : I have a review of Armantrout’s most recent book, Just Saying, in the November-December 2013 issue. Lines from one of the book’s poems, “Circulating,” reference the notebook habit: “See something, say something. // Jotting in a notebook.” There’s Armantrout’s wit at work, converting a national-security mantra into a poetics.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut, advice for students

From Letters of Note, Kurt Vonnegut writing to high-school students in 2006:

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives.
Other Vonnegut posts
“[B]eautiful and surprising and deep”
E-mail from Stefan Hagemann
Kurt Vonnegut, Manager
Kurt Vonnegut on English studies

Orson Welles, language maven

Orson Welles, on The Dick Cavett Show (July 27, 1970):

“You know, there are too many long words in the world nowadays. And the younger the people are, the longer the words are. Have you noticed that? It’s a very funny thing. They have a wonderful new hip language, which is really our old Harlem language that I used to know when I was running a theater up there, with a few new phrases, and they’re great and very colorful, but everything else is terribly long. Nobody says ‘I see a thing a certain way.’ They say ‘I envisage it.’ Nobody says, under thirty, ‘I would like to think up an idea.’ They say ‘I have conceived something,’ or ‘This is my conception,’ or ‘This is my relationship.’ Everything is four or five syllables long.”
Cavett’s priceless reply: “You know, there's a veracity in what you’re saying.”

Other Cavett Show posts
John Huston on James Agee
Marlon Brando on acting

[“When I was running a theater up there”: in 1936, Orson Welles directed Macbeth for the Federal Theater Project’s Negro Unit.]

Monday, October 28, 2013


[Family Circus, October 28, 2013.]

If we are ordering words by length, fall comes first. But alphabetically, it’s autumn. I know though that Billy is asking a different question. I know too that fall is the most beautiful and most poignant of seasons. The beauty of fall is the beauty of things fading away.

A related post
Family Circus homophone catastrophe

[If you cannot name all four Family Circus children, you need to spend more in the funny papers.]

Breyer on Proust

From an interview, conducted in French, with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, speaking of Marcel Proust:

Proust is a universal author: he can touch anyone, for different reasons; each of us can find some piece of himself in Proust, at different ages. For instance, the narrator of the Recherche is obsessed with the Duchesse de Guermantes. To him, Oriane embodies a slice of the history of France and glows like a stained-glass window, wreathed in the aura of her aristocratic lineage. Now, however different the situations may be, we have all of us — in our childhood, our adolescence, or later in life — admired from afar someone who has dazzled us for this reason or that. And when we read Proust, we get a glimpse of ourselves. In fact, I think that the only human emotion he never explored — because he never experienced it himself — was that of becoming a father.

What is most extraordinary about Proust is his ability to capture the subtlest nuances of human emotions, the slightest variations of the mind and the soul. To me, Proust is the Shakespeare of the inner world.
Read it all: Ionna Kohler and Stephen Breyer, On Reading Proust (New York Review of Books).

Related reading
All Proust posts (Pinboard)
David Souter and Proust

Huston on Agee

As a guest on The Dick Cavett Show (February 14, 1972), John Huston told a story about James Agee having a first heart attack, at a resort in California. It was 1951:

“I went in and saw Jim, and the doctor was still there. And as soon as the doctor left, why, Jim said, ‘Would you give me a cigarette?’ And I said, ‘Of course not.’ It’s the worst thing in the world that could be done after a heart attack. And then — I forget whether it was that same night — I don’t suppose it was, but a couple of days later Jim said, ‘For God’s sake, give me a cigarette.’ I said, ‘Jim, I can’t do that. It’s impossible. And when you get well and you pull out of this, why, you’ve got to, you know, behave a little differently.’ Jim looked at me very straight and smiled [laughs], and I knew that he would never behave any differently.”
James Agee died of a second heart attack in 1955.

Another Cavett Show post
Marlon Brando on acting

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Recently updated

Dots Now with a great big ad, and now gone from our devices.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The worst sentences in Salinger

These sentences, from the introduction and last page, seem to me finally the worst, not for the quality of the writing but for the sloppiness of the thought. From David Shields and Shane Salerno’s Salinger, pages xv and xvii:

This is an investigation into the process by which a broken soldier and wounded soul transformed himself, through his art, into an icon of the twentieth century and then, through his religion, destroyed that art.

Religion provided the comfort he needed as a man but killed his art.

[H]e gave himself over wholly to Vedanta, turning the last half of his life into a dance with ghosts. He had nothing anymore to say to anyone else.
Got that? And now turn to page 575:
Salinger’s chronicles of two extraordinary families, the Glasses and the Caulfields — written from 1941 to 2008, when he conveyed his body of work to the J. D. Salinger Literary Trust — will be the masterworks for which he is forever known.

These works will begin to be published in irregular installments starting between 2015 and 2020.
So religion destroyed Salinger’s art, and yet Salinger was working, as late as 2008, on masterworks that will bring undying fame? That’s the kind of blatant self-contradiction one might see in a hastily assembled freshman-comp essay. The problem involves not a few sentences but the biographers’ basic sense of their subject. Did anyone at Simon & Schuster notice? Did anyone care?

Sara Nelson, Amazon’s “Editorial Director of Books and Kindle,” from the company page for Salinger: “This book says more than most about the world of writing, celebrity and American culture in the twentieth century.” Yes, but make that the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This book — in other words, the fact of the book as published — says more than most books about the cynicism of trade publication in our time. Dolla dolla bill.

Other posts about this biography
The worst sentence in Salinger so far
The worst sentences in Salinger so far
The worst sentences in Salinger so far

[This is my final post about Salinger. Borrow the book from a library if you must.]

Friday, October 25, 2013

Domestic comedy

“I don’t know how I know that story.”

“Probably because I’ve told it before.”

Related reading
All domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[The story: William Parker’s gift of a bass to Henry Grimes.]

The William Parker Quartet

Gelvin Noel Gallery
Krannert Art Museum
Champaign, Illinois
October 24, 2013

Lewis Barnes, trumpet
Rob Brown, alto saxophone
William Parker, bass, wooden flutes
Hamid Drake, drums

The William Parker Quartet is one of the great ensembles in jazz. Its instrumentation recalls Ornette Coleman’s first great quartet (with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell). The members of the Parker quartet have been playing together for thirteen years, with an intimate understanding that Parker likens to a marriage.

Last night’s performance began with an episode for flutes and drums (blessing the space, Parker later explained), followed by “Deep Flower” (dedicated to the pianist Andrew Hill), “Ridley Me Do” (dedicated to the trumpeter Michael Ridley), and “O’Neal’s Porch,” with genial themes (at times reminiscent of Coleman and Thelonious Monk) giving way to free improvisation. Those who insist that music must swing to be jazz never seem to understand that swing does not require a preëstablished structure of measures and chord changes. These musicians swing mightily, in a way that might be called abstract expressionist. And: in a way that draws upon varied elements of jazz history: slapped bass, the unison front-line statements of bop, the shifting tempi and interplay between horns of Charles Mingus’s groups. The quartet’s music is truly “in the tradition,” not recreating the past but drawing on it to make something new.

My favorite moments: Barnes and Brown walking off to play from opposite sides of the gallery; Parker playing his bass from top to bottom, getting two-note chords by plucking above and below the bridge; a thunderous drum passage, after which Drake apologized for his volume, to general laughter and applause; a funny junket into three-quarter time.

Whenever I hear great live music, I cannot sleep well. I barely slept last night.

Great thanks to Jason Finkelman for continuing to bring great music to east-central Illinois.

[In the Tradition is the title of a 1978 album by alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe. I hope I have the title of the second piece right. A correction, from any quarter, is welcome.]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Marlon Brando on acting

From The Dick Cavett Show (June 12, 1973), Marlon Brando on whether acting is a noble profession:

“It’s been a good living. I mean, if you were in the lumber business, and you were on The Dick Cavett Show, and somebody said, “Well, how do you like the lumber business, Ralph?” It’s a business, it’s no more than that, and those that pretend it’s an art I think are misguided. Acting is a craft, and it’s a profession not unlike being an electrician, plumbing, or an economist. It’s a way of getting on and providing food and shelter for yourself and family.”
Elaine and I have been moving through several DVDs of Cavett interviews. They’re loose and at least partly improvised, sometimes awkwardly so (as with Groucho Marx and Erin Fleming), sometimes hilariously so (as with Bette Davis). The remarkable thing: no one, aside from Brando, is promoting anything — and Brando is promoting Native American causes. My favorite show so far: one with Fred Astaire, who sings Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, and Cole Porter, and dances for one amazing minute. Those things of course were worked out in advance.

Did you know that The Dick Cavett Show has a website?

A related post
William Zinsser on work

[After taping the interview, Brando was followed by the photographer Ron Galella. Brando punched him and broke his jaw.]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Unpremeditated lunchtime magic

Eat a carrot. Then bite into a sandwich, peanut butter on whole wheat.

For just a few seconds, you will taste Pad Thai.

Maslow, revised

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as revised by the Internets.]

I thought of it, myself, I swear. But so have the Internets. I know of no origin for the picture, which I found here.

Some rock’s

On brisk treks that take us through a nearby subdivision (three-mile treks, exactly), Elaine and I have noticed some rocks of a kind not found in nature: large slabs proclaiming glory, as if a household were a bank or investment firm. The slabs stand in front yards and read like so:


Est. 20__
The date varies. But that apostrophe? Every slab has one. Ouch. Garner’s Modern American Usage explains:
Although few books on grammar mention the point, proper names often cause problems as plurals. The rule is simple: most take a simple -s, while those ending in -s, -x, or -z, or in a sibilant -ch or -sh, take -es.
The householder’s apostrophe, as I will call it, is a common sight on mailboxes or small woodburned signs. There it looks homemade, quaint. On mighty slabs, it looks farcical.

Householders, if you must proclaim your glory to the passerby, think of the way bands manage their names: The Beatles. Or better: The Smiths. Plural, not possessive.

Other posts, other rocks
Some rocks : Zippy : Zippy : Zippy : Zippy : Zippy : Lassie and Zippy : Conversational rocks

[“Some rocks” is a minor Orange Crate Art preoccupation that has developed from my affection for Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy and Bill Griffith’s Zippy.]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Doyle and French

[Marilyn French, The Women’s Room (1977).]

Not long ago I remembered, out of nowhere, that my professor Jim Doyle once mentioned that he was a minor character in Marilyn French’s novel The Women’s Room. Like French, Jim had a doctorate from Harvard (where the novel’s protagonist Mira Ward goes to grad school); I never knew anything more of the backstory than that. But sure enough, there he is on page 346, the (nameless) possessor of a BA from Providence College. Is he elsewhere in the novel too? I would have to reread it to know. I think though that Jim appears in just this one bit of conversation, which I marked years ago in my paperback copy.

Reader, have you known or met a real-life character — in other words, the model for a fictional character? I can think of three I’ve met: William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg (Old Bull Lee and Carlo Marx in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road), and someone who became a character in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. (That last one is not for publication.) Jim Doyle though is the only real-life character I’ve known.

Other Jim Doyle posts
Department-store Shakespeare
From the Doyle edition
Jim Doyle (1944–2005)
A Jim Doyle story
Teaching, sitting, standing

Monday, October 21, 2013

Yet another Big Lots tea find

The International Foods shelves in our nearby Big Lots are empty. It looks as if seasonal merchandise will be arriving there soon. But in the beverage aisle, yet another tea find: Yorkshire Gold. At $2.50 for twenty bags, it’s not cheap (Amazon’s price is better), but it is excellent. Despite the package’s claim, I wouldn’t call this tea malty: it doesn’t compare to a good Irish Breakfast tea. I would call Yorkshire Gold plainspoken and stouthearted. There is a dowdiness about its flavor that makes me remember my paternal grandparents’ kitchen. Yorkshire Gold: une madeleine.

Other Big Lots tea finds
Barry’s Irish Breakfast and PG Tips : Good Strong Tea and Hedley’s : Thompson’s Irish Breakfast : Typhoo : Typhoo and Wissotzky

Matisse in Indianapolis

Worth the drive: Matisse, Life In Color: Masterworks from The Baltimore Museum of Art, an exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (through January 12, 2014). The exhibition includes more than one hundred works from Baltimore’s Cone Collection, the gift of sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, art collectors extraordinaire, who assembled more than five hundred works by Matisse. The exhibition is organized by subject matter: landscapes, still lifes, interiors, nudes, with a final room for the cut-paper compositions of Jazz. Matisse-inspired works by Indianapolis children form a charming coda. Their artist statements are a delight: “The color” reads one in its entirety.

I like Matisse in any color, any size, any medium — I am uncritically appreciative. But seeing reproductions of the many versions of Large Reclining Nude gives me a new understanding of the effort that went into the art.

My one disappointment about the exhibition: the noise level. It’s frustrating to stand and look while hearing not one but two docents leading groups through the exhibit. Elaine used earplugs (which she carries in case of overamplification). If I had had my iPod with me, I would have listened to the groovy sound of Pink Noise.

Here is Elaine’s perspective on our visit. She adds that the earplugs didn’t work.

Friday, October 18, 2013

More deep-focus Lassie

[From the Lassie episode “The Archers,” November 23, 1958. Right to left: June Lockhart as Ruth Martin, Todd Ferrell as Ralph “Boomer” Bates, and Jon Provost as Timmy. They are hoping for the best, which, according to Mrs. Martin, makes the best come true.]

[From the Lassie episode “The Bundle from Britain,” November 30, 1958. Right to left: Hugh Reilly as Paul Martin, June Lockhart, George Chandler as Uncle Petrie, and Jon Provost.]

The beautiful Gregg Toland-like shot I saw last night was no fluke. There’s more to Lassie than I thought.

Kenneth Peach (1903–1988), the cinematographer for these and many other Lassie episodes, began working in film in 1923.

Deep-focus Lassie

[From the Lassie episode “Our Gal” (November 2, 1958). Cinematography by Kenneth Peach. Right to left: Hugh Reilly as Paul Martin, George Chandler as Uncle Petrie, Jon Provost as Timmy, and, of course, Lassie.]

I wonder if this striking shot was a minor homage to the great deep-focus pioneer Gregg Toland.

[From The Grapes of Wrath (dir. John Ford, 1940). Cinematography by Gregg Toland. Right to left: Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad, Dorris Bowdon as Rose of Sharon.]

Related posts
Everyday details in film
Joad’s Corollary
Jon Provost, yippee
Lassie and some rocks

[Yes, I watch Lassie sometimes. It’s there, on the television. Woof.]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Man’s Human evolution

“The discovery of a skull could change what we know about man’s evolution”: Scott Pelley, right before a commercial break on the CBS Evening News this evening. But when Pelley reported the story, he spoke of human evolution. We are evolving, sometimes with astonishing speed, sometimes not fast enough.

In a 2009 post about singular they, I wrote:

I find in he or she a still appropriate rejoinder to the language of patriarchy that permeated my undergraduate education. My first undergraduate philosophy course: “The Problem of Man.” The professor was a woman. A key text: William Barrett’s Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (1958). And then there was William Faulkner: “Man will not merely endure; he will prevail.” Man oh man. I like humankind.
And I was surprised to hear — and see — the language of man tonight.

[Onscreen, right before the commercial break: dumb language, dumb apostrophe too.]

Two more posts with Scott Pelley and Bob Schieffer
Attack of the Clones
Plus ça change

Vin Scully on statues

KPCC’s Off-Ramp recently had a wonderful segment with Ben Bergman interviewing the sportscaster Vin Scully. Here is Scully responding to the question of what he would like a statue of him to say:

“I would rather just be part of the scenery, rather than be standing out. And there was another famous expression, and I forget who said it, but he said, ‘I would rather be questioned why they don’t have a statue for me than to be questioned as to why they do have a statue,’ and I’ll take that as a pretty good answer.”
I know next to nothing about baseball, but listening to this interview makes me want to listen to Vin Scully call a Dodgers game, something he has been doing since 1950, when the team was still in Brooklyn. There is at least one more chance this year, though in Illinois the Dodgers Radio Network is nearly nonexistent.

How to improve writing (no. 46)

[Mark Trail, October 17, 2013. Click for a larger view.]

Given the tools available to me, I can’t do much to improve Mark Trail’s “cell phone,” which looks more like the battery from my old Sony Vaio. But I can improve writing. The last panel is the problem:

[Mark Trail, original.]

As Dusty Rhodes asks, what are you getting at, Mark? What’s on that phone of yours? The problem is the misplaced modifier “except us.” Garner’s Modern American Usage explains:

When modifying words are separated from the words they modify, readers have a hard time processing the information. Indeed, there likely to attach the modified language first to a nearby word or phrase.
Garner offers a grimly comic example: “Both died in an apartment Dr. Kevorkian was leasing after inhaling carbon monoxide,” a sentence suggesting that Kervorkian inhaled before he leased. Here’s what Mark Trail should have said:

[Mark Trail, revised.]

Between today’s strip and tomorrow’s, Dusty will probably figure things out.

This post marks the second time I’ve improved writing in a Mark Trail strip. Here’s the first. I rely on the free Mac app Seashore when I make such improvements.

Related reading
All How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 46 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Privilege signs

Those signs, often for Coca-Cola, sometimes for Pepsi-Cola, that used to adorn candy stores and small grocery stores, and sometimes still do: they are called privilege signs (The New York Times).

Reading the Times article reminds me that I should mention James and Karla Murray’s book Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York (Gingko Press, 2011). It was a gift from my son. Thank you, Ben. There are samples online.

The Times reports that more than half the storefronts photographed for the book are now gone.

The worst sentences in Salinger so far

I’m now up to page 408 of David Shields and Shane Salerno’s Salinger. For sheer hokum, pages 304 to 314, Shields’s trek through Nine Stories, are impossible to beat. But I can’t type all that. Here instead is a passage from page 376, also by Shields, prompted by a reference in “Franny” to Franny Glass’s “tense, almost fetal position”:

If pregnancy is not the main idea here, what is? That Franny, a mythological female, is suffering a postwar nervous breakdown? The mystic’s confused searching for meaning is fulfilled through the use of young girls’ bodies. The womb is the reincarnated war wound. Franny is prayerful witness to the necessity of her creator’s war survival.
Given these biographers’ reductive interpretations of imaginative writing (as disguised autobiography and symbols), it’s probably to the book’s advantage that it has relatively little to say about Salinger’s work. Salinger is reductive about the life as well. One example: Shields and Salerno write that “From his introduction to Vedanta until his death in 2010, Salinger’s life strictly followed the four stages of life, or asramas, as explained by Salinger’s spiritual teacher Swami Nikhilananda.” A clumsy sentence, sure. The bigger problem: Shields and Salerno date Salinger’s earliest acquaintance with Vedanta to 1946. But they offer a description of the first asrama that covers Salinger’s life pre-1946 : as student, suitor of Oona O’Neill, writer for “the slicks,” and infantryman. In other words, Shields and Salerno have Salinger following Vedanta before he was following Vedanta.

Shields and Salerno seem so intent upon believing in their four-stage scheme of things that they miss obvious humor: Buddy Glass’s description of himself (in “Seymour: An Introduction”) as “a fourth-class Karma Yogin” has, I venture to say, nothing to do with the four asramas. “Fourth-class” is a self-deprecating joke. It should make us think of fourth-class mail.

Related reading
The worst sentence in Salinger so far (to page 137)
The worst sentences in Salinger so far (to page 244)
All J. D. Salinger posts (Pinboard)

A new book from David Plowden

The photographer David Plowden has a new book of his work, Heartland: The Plains and the Prairie. Here is a slideshow. Plowden captures, again and again, the desolate beauty of what I will call the Midwestern Sublime.

A related post
Photographer David Plowden

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A historian’s take on current events

Geoffrey Parker, Professor of History at The Ohio State University, interviewed today on PRI’s The World :

Looking at the outside world, it is just incredulity that the greatest power in the world cannot get its act together. I mean, to link the default on sovereign debt, something which really does tarnish a country, to a particular piece of legislation which was already passed: I don’t think anyone outside the United States can understand that, how we could be holding the economy of the world to ransom, in return for some concessions on a piece of legislation which has already passed. What is there still to discuss? That’s what I think the rest of the world can’t understand. And I think one year, ten years, a hundred years from now, that will still be something which is very hard to understand.

October 17: Here’s a link to the interview, which was not yet online when I made this post.


Another item in Roz Chast’s book: quicksand, the subject of the recent Radiolab episode “Quicksaaaand!” The discussion of quicksand in the movies makes me realize that, yes, people were always falling into quicksand when I was a boy, in movies and in the schoolyard. You don’t see that so much anymore.

This podcast, a mere sixteen minutes, is one of the best Radiolab episodes I’ve heard.

The many hates of Roz Chast

No need for a poll: it’s safe to say that Roz Chast is our fambly’s favorite New Yorker cartoonist. What I Hate: From A to Z (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011) includes alien abduction, balloons, carnivals, doctors, elevators, and many, many more. You’ll want to collect them all.

Here’s an Orange Crate Art post from 2007 with the glasses-wearing bearded guy who appears again and again in Chast’s cartoons. I look less like him than I once did.

Best wishes to Jack Cella

Jack Cella has retired after forty-three years as the general manager of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstore. I know him only as many a Seminary Co-op customer would, as the man in the little alcove near the front of the store. He had the answer to every question.

Jack Cella, in a 2008 Chicago Tribune article on the Co-op: “If you’re in a decent bookstore, you can look at any shelf and realize how little you know. I can’t imagine life without reading.”

Here is a salute from Kristi McGuire, a former manager of 57th Street Books: End of an era: Farewell to Jack Cella.

Monday, October 14, 2013

To: Miley Cyrus From: Sufjan Stevens

From a (hilarious) open letter from Sufjan Stevens to Miley Cyrus:

Dear Miley. I can’t stop listening to #GetItRight (great song, great message, great body), but maybe you need a quick grammar lesson. One particular line causes concern: “I been laying in this bed all night long.” Miley, technically speaking, you’ve been LYING, not LAYING, an irregular verb form that should only be used when there’s an object, i.e. “I been laying my tired booty on this bed all night long.” Whatever. I’m not the best lyricist, but you know what I mean. #Get It Right The Next Time.
And there’s more.

The Honeywell Round

Henry Dreyfuss designed the Honeywell thermostat known as the Round, a Cooper-Hewitt Object of the Day :

Dreyfuss modernized the appearance of Honeywell’s thermostats in the 1930s; among the first was the Chronotherm, which incorporated a “digital” clock into its display. Dreyfuss was frustrated, however, that rectangular thermostats never seemed to hang squarely on the wall. Work began on a round thermostat in 1940.
I have a Honeywell Round (c. 1959) on my desk for occasional use as a paperweight. It’s not the most effective paperweight (porcelain faucet-handles and flat rocks work much better), but gosh, is it beautiful. And while we’re on the subject of repurposing: my desk is really a kitchen table that I use as a desk.

A related post
Five desks

[From the Cooper-Hewitt website: “Due to the federal government shutdown, Cooper-Hewitt’s administrative offices and the National Design Library are closed; but all off-site events, including programs at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Center in Harlem, National Design Week, and Design in the Classroom, will continue as scheduled.”]

Bad hyphens, unhelpful abbreviations

In two recent posts, Daughter Number Three looks at laughably bad hyphens (or hyp- hens) and unhelpful postal abbreviations.

Reading the first post reminds me of manual-typewriter days, when one had to decide whether or how to hyphenate at the end of a line. Secretaries and typists often used a little dictionary for that purpose: no definitions, just spelling and syllabification. Reading the second post makes me think that the old postal abbreviations (Calif., Mass., N. Y.) weren’t bad at all.

As I just discovered, USPS has a handy PDF with the history of postal abbreviations. It surprises me to see that the two-letter versions have been around since 1963.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Man-child’s best friend

[Beetle Bailey, October 13, 2013.]

Today’s Beetle Bailey is so troubling that I put it out of my mind early this morning and remembered it only now. It might be less troubling if the pillow were speaking.

A few other troubling Beetle Bailey posts
Bathrooms : Ketchup : Razors : Toilet bowls

Local weather

From the local newscast: “Nothing but sunshine . . . for the next few minutes. The sun is setting.” Nice save, meteorologist.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Recently updated

Dots Now more fiendishly addictive.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A $64,000 question

In an article on student debt in the Fall 2013 issue of the American Federation of Teachers publication On Campus, a sidebar describes the situation of a University of Illinois-Chicago lecturer in English who is not sure that he can afford to continue teaching. He makes $30,000 a year, owns no car, and cannot buy a house. He is paying off the loans that financed his graduate work at UI-C. His loans total $64,000.

It is sad to say, but I’ll say it: Borrowing $64,000 to finance graduate work in the humanities is folly. Borrowing any amount of money to finance graduate work in the humanities is folly. And anyone who encourages a student to take out loans to finance graduate work in the humanities is dangerously out of touch with the economic realities of academic labor.

In case you’re wondering: the On Campus article, which focuses on rising college costs, decreased need-based aid, and for-profit schools, says none of these things.

[Interesting numbers: the UI-C English website lists thirty-two non-emeritus professors, forty-seven lecturers, and seventy-eight doctoral students.]

Family Circus homophone catastrophe

[The Family Circus, October 11, 2013.]


1. The old-school thermometer.

2. The scene in the window.


1. Billy’s first your .

2. Billy’s second your .

I suppose it’s possible that Billy is spelling cute. (Aww.) He does though get to and too right. I think it’s likely that the yours are a grown-up’s mistakes.

[I know that cute isn’t an abverb. But see here.]

Write Space

[Click for a larger view.]

Write Space: “a customizable full-screen text-editor that lives in your web-browser. It is designed to minimize the distractions that come between you and your writing.”

Write Space is a free extension for Chrome, comparable in its look and feel to the OS X app WriteRoom. Pin a Write Space tab to the tab bar, and there’s always a place for dropping text and URLs while browsing.

Thank you, Haydn Trowell, for this beautiful and useful extension.

A related post
Browser notepad

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Writerly realia

“You can’t very well tell a donor, ‘The library is not interested in T. S. Eliot’s Panama hat or Charles Dickens’s walking stick.’” That was Peter Accardo of Harvard’s Houghton Library, quoted for a slidehow of items that belonged to writers: The things they carried.

The library-science term for such stuff: realia, “three-dimensional objects from real life . . . that do not easily fit into the orderly categories of printed material.” I trust that reproducing a tiny bit of realia here — the point of a pencil that belonged to E. E. Cummings — counts as fair use.

Certain readers, take note: Cummings’s pencil says “Half the pressure, twice the speed.” Five of the fifteen photographs in the slideshow are pencil-centric.

[Pencil point from a photograph by Stephanie Mitchell.]

Gray, Ra, Wilkerson

Larry Gray presents Chicago Connection
Larry Gray, bass and cello
Avreeayl Ra, percussion, wind tube, Native
    American flute
Edward Wilkerson, clarinet, alto clarinet, tenor
    saxophone, didgeridoo

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
University of Illinois, Urbana
October 9, 2013

Elaine and I heard Larry Gray this summer and were happy for the chance to hear him again, this time leading a trio with longtime members of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The trio played a seven-part suite by Gray (untitled except for one movement, “Memory Mirror Waltz”) and an unrelated (also untitled) piece. The suite’s themes ranged from stately to funky, each giving way to collective and individual improvisation. So many textures in this music: Gray’s doublestops, false harmonics, and thrumming; Ra’s dusted cymbals and pitched drums; Wilkerson’s plaintive clarinet tone and husky tenor. (I thought of the clarinet and tenor of the Ellington orchestra’s Jimmy Hamilton.) The most unexpected texture: cello and didgeridoo supporting the cries and murmurs of a wooden flute.

It was a pleasure to hear this music in a hall with great acoustics. It was also a pleasure to see and hear musicians taking obvious delight in performance: Gray and Wilkerson springing slightly into the air now and then, Ra laughing quietly at the end of one movement. Whitney Balliett famously described jazz as “the sound of surprise.” I love that kind of surprise.

More on the musicians
Larry Gray : Avreeayl Ra : Edward Wilkerson

Orange car art

[Photograph by Elaine Fine. Click for a larger view.]

On the road as the sun set, one driver, one photographer, one shadow. From bottom to top: road, grass, corn, sky.

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 newspaper 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

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Grammarly, WhiteSmoke

A student mentioned today that someone had recommended using Grammarly or WhiteSmoke to help with writing problems. I just looked at these online services. Grammarly costs $29.95 a month, $139.95 a year; WhiteSmoke, $79.95 a year.

There’s no way to try WhiteSmoke without signing up [see below], but I pasted into Grammarly’s demo the text of a review that I just wrote. My score: 71 of 100, “adequate, can benefit from revision.” The service alleged many problems: seven grammar errors, three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, two problems with “style and word choice,” and plagiarism. I would have to sign up to learn just where the alleged problems lie. But I already know where they lie: in the algorithms that found nonexistent problems.

I then tried a long excerpt from William Zinsser’s essay “Writing English as a Second Language.” Grammarly again alleged many problems. The overall score: 52 of 100. "Weak, needs revision," Grammarly said. But then I remembered: Zinsser’s essay has sentences and passages of dull, lifeless writing to illustrate cumbersome phrasing, inappropriate use of the passive voice, and so on. I went back and deleted those passages. The score went up to a 54.

Feeling sneaky, I tried a passage from the Grammarly website. Grammarly is slick: if you try to check text from its site, you’re told that “You cannot improve on perfection.” So I changed every Grammarly in the passage to WhiteSmoke and scored a 61 ("weak, needs revision"). Could the camel-cased WhiteSmoke be a problem? I changed it to Michael and got another 61. Any service that gives its own writing a 61 and William Zinsser a 54 is a service I wouldn’t trust. I’ll add that any service that gives my writing a higher score than Zinsser’s is a service I wouldn’t trust.

Here’s a thoughtful review of Grammarly from someone who signed up (and who no longer runs Grammarly ads). I’m unable to find anything equally thoughtful about WhiteSmoke, but the reviews at CNET are overwhelmingly negative. Some of those reviews, granted, could be the work of a competitor, but I can see no reason to recommend the service.

For the cost of a couple of months of Grammarly or a year of WhiteSmoke, you could buy a serious dictionary, a writing handbook, and Garner’s Modern American Usage, resources that would serve you well for many years. Learning from those resources, you could become a better writer. That’s how it happens, not by trusting to algorithms.


January 9, 2014: An open-source alternative: Language Tool. Language Tool did a much better job than Grammarly with the review that I mention above, flagging thirty-two possible spelling errors (mostly compound words and proper names) and a possible wrong word. More interesting: Language Tool noted two instances of the same word beginning three successive sentences. The word is the, and in one case, the repetition is harmless; in the other, purposeful. But such repetition isn’t always harmless or purposeful, and mechanical scrutiny might reveal a genuine problem that even a careful writer has overlooked. I didn’t notice the first triple-the until Language Tool pointed it out.

Language Tool is available for download and online use. Thanks to developer Daniel Naber for letting me know about it.


November 26, 2014: WhiteSmoke now has a demo. Pasting in text from the company’s website, two or three paragraphs at a time, the only score I could pull was an 80 (of 100), with one to five “critical writing mistakes” per sample.


November 29, 2014: Comments on this post add some background on the computer science that goes into WhiteSmoke.

Pilot Razor Points

Looking at supplies in an Office Max this past weekend, I was surprised to see that the Pilot Razor Point is now an object of nostalgia: “The Yellow Cap Original,” the package says, “Since 1974.” Pilot Razor Points served me well through college and some of grad school. I haven’t used one in years, but I had to buy a four-pack.

The only difference in design that I notice: the yellow top now has a deep well with a hole in its side (lessening the danger of suffocation if the cap is inhaled or swallowed). The pen has the same shiny barrel, the same plastic point, the same thin dark line. Using fountain pens for years makes me realize how light this pen is — too light, really. But I’m enjoying the opportunity to commune with my disposable past.

I have no idea when I bought the single Razor Point in the photograph. This pen, stashed away in a drawer, goes back to the time when Wal-Mart items carried price stickers.

If you like this post, you should read this one: Five pens. It’s the story of my life in five pens: a Parker Jotter, a no-name ballpoint, the Uni-Ball, a Mont Blanc, and a Pelikan. There’s also “a long blur of Bics, Flairs, and Pilot Razor Points.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Elaine and I have tried telling ourselves that Dots is a piece of educational software, teaching us colors and shapes. Repeat after us: “I am not playing a game. I am having an educational experience.” We have also tried telling ourselves that we can quit whenever we want. But we know better. Dots is fiendishly addictive. With tricks, trophies (see the Nerd Dot trophy above), and more and more dots, there is no end in sight.

Dots is available for iOS and Android.


October 12: A Dots update adds an Endless Mode ($1.99).

I have begun to think of Dots as the mobile-device form of “the Entertainment,” the MacGuffin at the heart of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Endless Mode clinches the connection. The only symbol that could be more telling than ∞: , the symbol found on copies of the Entertainment.

I have no plans to purchase endlessness. And I’d be careful about clicking on that smiley face if I were you.


October 27: Dots was once happily ad-free. Today’s update adds an ad for Samsung, whose technology now manages weekly lists of top Dots scores. Yes, a Samsung ad in iOS. That’s part of the ad to the left. No thanks. Our devices are now Dots-free.

There’s a reminder here, for me and for anyone reading: if you like an app, read before you update. The developer’s description makes no mention of the ad, but the comments from users do. And how.

If you’re already in iOS 7, you can turn off automatic updates.

Van Dyke Parks on Bookworm

Michael Silverblatt recently interviewed Van Dyke Parks on KCRW’s Bookworm . A sample:

“I don’t draw any distinction between the stuff that has my name on the banner or something that I might do anonymously to help someone else in their album effort. It’s all the same to me. . . . Someone asked [Henry Busse] once about who would be billed on the marquee. He said, ‘I don’t eat light bulbs.’ And that’s the way I feel about it.”
Trumpeter and bandleader Henry Busse co-wrote “Wang Wang Blues.” On tour in Europe with Paul Whiteman, he came across Robert Katscher’s song “Madonna, du bist schöner als der Sonnenschein,” which became “When Day Is Done” (with English lyrics by Buddy DeSylva). Busse played cornet on the Whiteman hit recording. Elaine and I swing that song like crazy, violin and guitar, though we’d never heard of Henry Busse. To borrow from an old commercial: When Van Dyke Parks talks, people learn stuff.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Howlin’ Wolf on Shindig!

Howlin’ Wolf performs “How Many More Years,” May 26, 1965. The pianist is Billy Preston, a member of the Shindig! house band. Two young English gentlemen, identified only as “Mick” and “Brian,” are speaking with host Jack Good.

My post about John Milward’s book Crossroads mentions this performance, which I’ve watched again and again over the past few days.

Book review: John Milward, Crossroads

John Milward. Crossroads: How the Blues Shaped Rock ’n’ Roll (and Rock Saved the Blues) . Illustrated by Margie Greve. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2013. $29.95 hardcover. $28.99 e-book. ix + 259 pages.

Music history sometimes gets reduced to evolutionary theory: Roy Eldridge as the (not-missing) link between Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. Or instrument-specific chemistry: Coleman Hawkins + Lester Young = Sonny Rollins. Or as Muddy Waters posited, reproduction, with the blues having a baby and naming it rock ’n’ roll. Reality is always more complex, a matter of countless influences, overtones, ancestors. In this book, music critic John Milward does justice to the complexities. As the title metaphor suggests, Crossroads is indeed “a history of connections” — delightful, improbable, and rewarding, as rock musicians drew deep inspiration from blues, and blues musicians gained new (young, white) audiences for their work.

The story begins with white eccentrics of the 1940s and ’50s: record collectors who sought out the most arcane, obscure pre-war 78s. The collector James McKune played a major role in shaping the tastes of later listeners, as did Harry Smith, whose records became the stuff of what must be the most influential bootleg ever released, Folkways’s Anthology of American Folk Music (1952). The more popular blues musicians of the recent past were of little interest to these men: they leaned to Skip James and Charlie Patton, not Lonnie Johnson and Tampa Red. It is astonishing to think, now, of how little time separated these collectors from the musicians of their recordings: one might think of listening to James or Patton in the ’50s as comparable to listening to some ’80s band today. Milward reminds us though just how inaccessible the world of pre-war blues was (or at least seemed to be), with more obscure 78s known from one or two surviving copies, and the musicians little more than names. Even Robert Johnson, now almost a household word, was for many years known only from the material on a single 1961 Columbia LP.

The 1960s brought new developments. When folk music boomed, electric musicians with dwindling audiences put away their amps and became, at least briefly, folk performers (witness Muddy Waters’s 1964 album Folk Singer). “Rediscovered” or newly noticed older acoustic musicians — the Reverend Gary Davis, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James — influenced a generation of young fingerpicking guitarists. Young electric musicians, American and British — Mike Bloomfield, John Mayall, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones — took up the Chicago blues idiom, or, in the case of Canned Heat, that idiom’s Mississippi Delta origins. Guitar heroes — Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page — flourished. And thus veteran electric musicians found new audiences, with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf playing the Fillmores West and East and other hippie ballrooms and recording with their musical descendants. The dynamics of authority and influence must have been at times awkward, what with Waters opening for Clapton or serving as the entertainment at a record-company party for the Stones. But for a working musician, good gigs are good gigs. Consider this exchange between B. B. King and Buddy Guy, crossing paths at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, as recounted by Guy:

“Wasn’t for these English cats, I’d be playing a bar in Three Mule, Mississippi,” said King. “Here I am on my way to Fillmore East in New York City. I think Bill Graham got me booked with the Byrds. Where you off to, Buddy?”

“A traveling hippie festival in Canada. We going by train to four or five different cities. They say it’s gonna be bigger than Woodstock.”

“Hendrix on it?”

“Don’t think so,” I said. “But Janis Joplin is.”
Crossroads abounds in such moments of connection: B. B. King meeting Charlie Parker; Mississippi John Hurt watching a double bill of A Hard Day’s Night and Help! ; Muddy Waters receiving a key to the town of Woodstock, New York; Keith Richards learning open-G tuning from Ry Cooder and passing it on to Ike Turner; Jimi Hendrix turning Robert Petway’s “Catfish Blues” into “Voodoo Chile”; Duane Allman turning a seven-note vocal phrase from Albert King’s “As the Years Go Passing By” into the signature guitar phrase of “Layla”; John Lee Hooker playing with Miles Davis. The commerce of the old and the new was sometimes a little too easy, to be sure: details of sheer ripping-off abound, as in the light-fingered musical borrowings of Led Zeppelin and the shameless exploiting of Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James. “I bought Skip James for $200,” John Fahey is quoted as saying. Music, we must remember, is a business.

John Milward has done his homework: he seems to have read every relevant autobiography, biography, and work of musical history, and his book abounds in choice anecdotes and surprising details, drawn from published sources and his own interviews. He offers memorable phrases and wry observations, characterizing John Lee Hooker’s music as an “urbane Delta trance,” noting that Willie Dixon switched from boxing to music without realizing that they shared “the same business ethics,” pointing out that blues (in the forms of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf) has become the music of Viagra commercials. O tempora o mores.

Crossroads is in need of small repairs. The jazz festival is Montreux, not Montreaux. The record label is Revenant Records, not Reverent. The Scotch is Johnnie Walker, not Johnny. Canned Heat and John Lee Hooker recorded Hooker ’n Heat in 1970, not 1971. There are typos here and there, and a paragraph that ends with a comma. The narrative sometimes loses its way in a welter of detail: on one page, I counted the names of nineteen musicians or bands, six songs, and four record labels. But as a knowledgeable introduction to musical currents in the 1960s and beyond, Crossroads serves very well. It makes the pleasure of music a greater pleasure.

My favorite moment of connection in the book: Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, and the Stones all in Los Angeles; House for a folk festival, Wolf and the Stones for Shindig! It was 1965, and truly a time of wonders.

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

[“The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll” is a song by Muddy Waters. A second Robert Johnson LP appeared in 1970; the Complete Recordings, in 1990. “An easy commerce of the old and the new”: from T. S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding,” in Four Quartets.]

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Music, old and new

I’ve gone to two concerts in as many days, and here, as they say, is the thing:

The recent music that I heard — not so-called “new music” but music just a handful of years old — had nothing interesting about it. It was banal, relentlessly diatonic, with every effect a special one, a gimmick. It was the older music, by Maurice Ravel and a handful of pre-Baroque composers, that sounded utterly new, with nothing stale or contrived about it. I intend no generalization here: there’s much recent music of all sorts that I love, and orchestral warhorses often leave me cold. My point is that what’s good stays good, and, in some way, new. I’ll quote Emerson: “perpetual modernness is the measure of merit in any work of art.”

Friday, October 4, 2013

From the local news

In a feature about aging, the anchor exclaimed, “Man, there are a lot of people getting older!” And: they’re not just Baby Boomers. Imagine that. Thank you, local news.

Also from the local news, an unnecessary clarification.

Ashbery at criticism

In the latest Poetry Project Newsletter (no. 236), John Ashbery writes about a new book from Robert Elstein, Helen Arms (Green Zone Editions, 2013). Ashbery zooms in on a line from an earlier poem, “Hermes Holding an Orange”: “I’d shake hands, but I left my mittens in the cafeteria”:

The ambiguities are multifarious. Why would forgetting mittens preclude a handshake? Surely, it would be rude to shake someone’s hand with a scratchy mitten on yours. And why were they left in the cafeteria? It sounds like they were left on purpose, but if so, what could that be? Is it part of some anarchist plot or meant, perhaps, to ease things for the next customer? But one mustn’t break butterflies on wheels. The butterflies will do just fine for themselves.
That’s lovely, and it’s a reminder that the line between literary criticism and parody can be a fine one, very fine, the kind drawn with a 0.38 mm Uni-ball Signo gel pen, or an erasable ballpoint.

And if you’re wondering, Ashbery writes as an admirer: “I’ve been waiting six years for a sequel to Robert Elstein’s slim volume, The Hollandaise, whose manic vocabulary knocked me out of my chair the first time I read it.”

Related reading
All John Ashbery posts (Pinboard)
The Poetry Project

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The worst sentences in Salinger so far

From David Shields and Shane Salerno’s Salinger, “the official book of the acclaimed documentary film.” These sentences, from Salerno, appear on page 244:

This narrative — Salinger’s only novel — is told in the first-person voice of Holden Caulfield. That voice is Salinger, direct and unfiltered by the artifice of third-person camouflage. It’s his life, his thoughts, his feelings, his rage, his big beautiful middle finger to the phonies of the world.

Ten years of agony to get it all down on paper.
Oh, the drama. This passage sounds to me like very bad student writing. And its misunderstanding of the ways in which fiction works — no matter what Salinger said about “being” Holden Caulfield — suggests a failure of imagination. Salinger knows more than his character, just as Twain knows more than Huck Finn, Joyce more than Stephen Dedalus. It’s called irony.

Related reading
The worst sentence in Salinger so far
All J. D. Salinger posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

“Her voice is instantly recognizable, even without looking at the screen.”

“Whose voice?”

Related reading
All domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Whose voice? Elizabeth Ashley’s.]

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Words I can live without

I could not have expressed it half so well.

Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey
Through France and Italy (1768)
Two words I can live without, when they fall together: expressed that , where that introduces a subordinate clause. I am surprised to see that Garner’s Modern American Usage makes no mention of expressed that , an awkward construction that turns up again and again in the context of “school.” Try a Google search for the likely phrasing. Or consider these sentences from an imaginary board meeting:
Ms. Krabappel expressed that she has concerns about the textbook. Principal Skinner expressed that he caught Bart Simpson cheating.
In each sentence, said that would do the job. But for speakers and writers of educationese, expressed that has a clear advantage: more letters, more syllables. (Yes, Latinate v. Germanic.) Perhaps expressed also serves to invest whatever was said with a claim to sincerity and truth: she didn’t just say that she was concerned; she expressed that , &c.

One might express approval, bewilderment, concern, doubt, eagerness, fear, glee — in each case, an it, a plain old direct object, follows the verb, with the speaker or writer representing a feeling or point of view in words. The oddness of express that becomes more obvious when one uses it in the present tense:
Ms. Krabappel expresses that she has concerns about the textbook. Principal Skinner expresses that he caught Bart Simpson cheating.
Google search returns far fewer results for the present-tense construction. Hmm.

For say that to replace express that in the world of education would require a larger rethinking of what to value in speaking and writing. If it’s to be plainness and clarity, say that wins.

The evil twin of expressed that : It is felt that , which erases human agency. By whom? By whom?

More words I can live without
Bluesy , craft , &c.
Delve , -flecked , &c.
That said
Three words never to use in a poem

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dear House Republicans

Dear House Republicans:

A pox on you and all your ancestors.



[This curse courtesy of Edward L. Norton. As famously uttered in “The Bensonhurst Bomber,” The Honeymooners, September 8, 1956.]

Trail and Rhodes

[Mark Trail, October 1, 2013.]

Dusty Rhodes! I too am meeting this gentleman for the first time. Who will show up next? Lois Lane? Della Street? Hi Way?

Related reading
All Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

Apropos of yesterday

[As seen in a parking lot. Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

Yes, apropos of yesterday.