Thursday, April 30, 2015

Helvetica for résumés?

From Bloomberg Business: “The Best and Worst Fonts to Use on Your Résumé.” The “one consensus winner,” according to this (limited, very limited) survey of design people: Helvetica.

That puzzles me. Even in the world of design, Helvetica is far from a “consensus winner,” as Gary Hustwit’s 2007 film Helvetica makes clear. The typographer Erik Spiekkermann (who appears in the film) has gone so far as to say that Helvetica sucks. He even has a page about it: Helvetica sucks.

One of the best-looking résumés I’ve seen is that of the Harvard faker Adam Wheeler. He used Hoefler Text to put his fabulated accomplishments on paper. Me, I’d prefer a serif — Iowan Old Style, Palatino, Sorts Mill Goudy, Vollkorn, a good serif, sans lies.

A related post
Helvetica, the movie

Typewriter keys

[Photograph by Ralph Steiner, 1921, printed 1945. From the Library of Congress. Click for a larger view.]

I found these keys while browsing the Library of Congress’s photographs, prints, and drawings. It was only after I decided to post the photograph here that something occurred to me: the fractions that can be properly represented in HTML are relatively few, as was the case in typewriter days. HTML gives us ½, ¼, ⅛. But then there’s 1/16. Making Slow Progress.

Word of the Day: epistling

The Oxford English Dictionary ’s Word of the Day is the noun epistling:

Chiefly literary or humorous. Now rare.

The action or practice of writing letters; (also) epistolary matter, correspondence.
The earliest recorded use is from Thomas Nashe’s Haue with you to Saffron-Walden (1596): “Heere’s a packet of Epistling, as bigge as a Packe of Woollen cloth.” That’s some bigge correspondence.

Related reading
All OCA letters posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


[Pickles, April 29, 2015.]

Or she may have been reading Bryan Garner, who has a story about shan’t.

On Duke Ellington’s birthday

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899. From the (anti-)autobiography Music Is My Mistress (New York: Doubleday, 1973):

“Duke” is not the only nickname I’ve had or enjoyed. Because I was such a good second-baseman, I was nicknamed “Otto” after the great Otto Williams. That was just the first of a long string of sobriquets — “Cutey,” “Stinkpot,” “Duke,” “the Phoney Duke” … Doc Perry called me “Wucker,” and Sonny Greer, who brought me to New York and told me not to look at the high buildings, called me “The Kid.” Juan Tizol’s wife called me “Apple Dumpling.” Johnny Hodges’ wife called me “Dumpy,” and Cootie still calls me “Dump.” It was Louis Bellson who started calling me “Maestro.” Cress Courtney called me “Pops,” and my son, Mercer, calls me “Pop” and “Fathoo.” Sam Woodyard called me “Big Red,” Chuck Connors called me “Piano Red,” and Ben Webster used to tell people to “See the ‘Head Knocker.’” Haywood Jones, of the dance team of Ford, Marshall, and Jones, calls me “Puddin’.” Richard Bowden Jones, my man, my real man, called me “Governor” at the beginning of the Cotton Club days. Herb Jeffries cut it short to “Govey.” And a lot of friends and relations in Washington, D.C., still call me “Elnm’t’n”!
WKCR is playing Ellington all day.

Related reading
All OCA Ellington posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A hashtag of possible interest

It’s #BaltimoreCoverageYouMayNotSee.

Baltimore questions

I’ve written nothing here about events in Baltimore or Nepal. No one needs a post here to be reminded of the first noble truth.

But I want to voice three questions about Baltimore. The observer effect can work in non-scientific contexts too: the act of observation can change what’s observed (as when a principal visits a classroom). Is live television coverage in Baltimore meant to help bring about the violence that we now see on CNN? Is it too cynical to acknowledge that broadcasting such stuff serves broadcasters’ interests? And is it too cynical to suspect that broadcasting such stuff serves to strengthen a larger narrative about color and criminality?

Part of what makes me ask these questions is the constant commentary on CNN yesterday about what “they” were doing: "Now they’re looting”; “Now they’re throwing rocks.” Those statements make me recall the stranger who turned to Elaine as we left a store and whispered conspiratorially, “They’re everywhere” — meaning people of color. (There had been two women of color in line in the store.) Elaine was too stunned to give the stranger a piece of her mind.

As my high-school contemporary-politics teacher Albert Kornblit always reminded us, it’s smart to be wary of anyone who refers to people as “they” and “them” — and that includes CNN.

A joke in the traditional manner

What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist?

No spoilers. The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He must take credit for all but the doctor and Santa Claus.]

Blond and blonde

Merrill Perlman explains the difference, if there is one, between blond and blonde.

The difference seems to figure in Frank O’Hara’s work, as Joe Le Sueur points out: “All of a sudden all the world / is blonde” (“Poem”); “a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond)” (“Personism: A Manifesto”).

A related post
A review of Joe LeSueur’s Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O’Hara

[Roi: LeRoi Jones, later Amiri Baraka.]

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tech scamming

“It was an educational exchange, to say the least”: Lenny Zeltser recorded a conversation with a tech-support scammer. Forewarned is forearmed.

[Via Daring Fireball.]

Lear // semiotics / Casablanca

If you’ve had the experience of happening upon old notes whose reason for being is beyond recovery, you will understand my interest in what follows. It’s in my hand, all caps, fountain pen on a strip of unruled paper, 4″ × 8½″:


semiotics / Casablanca

imagination / reality

    cockadoodledoo    mkgnao: Ulysses cat
    cocorico = French
    kykeliky = Norwegian “kee ka lee kee”

    vovvov = Norwegian “vahv vahv”
    гав гав= Russian “gahv gahv”

    mouse says “ruff ruff” to cat who
    says “meow” — shows her kids the
    benefit of learning a foreign language

Didion: The White Album
This page is, of course, related to teaching. But why these items appear together is beyond me. I’ve taught Umberto Eco’s essay on Casablanca and Roland Barthes’s Mythologies . I think I once taught Joan Didion’s The White Album too. My daughter Rachel has my copy of that book. Mkgnao is what the Blooms’ cat says in James Joyce’s Ulysses. The mouse that scared away the cat is an old joke; I don’t know where I picked it up.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Introducing Seymour

Seymour: An Introduction (dir. Ethan Hawke, 2014) caught my attention by way of its Salinger-inspired title. This documentary introduces the viewer to Seymour Bernstein (b. 1927), who gave up an anxiety-making life as a performing pianist for a better life as a teacher of pianists. Bernstein emerges as a man of consummate wisdom and monastic simplicity, having renounced aspirations to a big career, as it’s called, for his own version of happiness. And who can argue with that?

Scenes of Bernstein teaching are, well, instructive: he is clear, demanding, and patient, taking the student from one note to the next. It’s teaching with a microscopic attention to the musical text. A scene of Bernstein practicing confirms that he equally demanding and patient with himself. I found in this film, as in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, strong inspiration for the work of writing: getting things right as a matter of ongoing, endless attention, identifying and solving difficulties, one by one.

The least rewarding scenes of the film, alas, are those with Bernstein and Hawke. (It was their chance meeting as dinner guests that led Hawke to make the film.) Bernstein’s tranquility makes Hawke look like a tightly wound mess. Then again, that might be the point.

Here is more about Seymour Bernstein and the film. And here is a page with a trailer and a clip.

Seymour Bernstein on the work of teaching music: “The most important thing is to inspire an emotional response for all aspects of life.”

[I’ve quoted from the trailer. In the film it’s said a little differently: “The most important thing music teachers can do is to encourage an emotional response not just to music but all aspects of life.” Or something like that: I was scribbling in the dark.]

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ain’t nothing like the real thing

Some college administrators met recently to ponder their schools’ fortunes. A news item about the meeting reported a general sense of celebration about talking together in person. Telephone calls? Okay. But nothing like face-to-face conversation.

I agree. But then why do these same administrators push for more and more coursework to be offered online?

There is no substitute for the real thing, which I’ve (irreverently) taken to calling real-presence education.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lois Lilienstein (1936–2015)

Sad news in The New York Times:

Lois Lilienstein, whose sunny personality and tuneful, bell-clear voice were central to the live and televised performances of Sharon, Lois & Bram, the Canadian singing group popular among young children and their families, died on Wednesday at her home in Toronto.
Sharon, Lois & Bram cassettes were a main staple of our children’s childhoods. A happy memory from a summer at the University of Chicago (NEH seminar): Sharon, Lois & Bram cassettes playing on a boom box in our Hyde Park apartment. Jumping monkeys, stolen cookies, and all that.

Higher-ed monopoly

One more bit from a New York Times article about Arizona State’s plan to offer a year’s worth of freshman courses online:

“The monopoly that used to exist in terms of how higher ed is done is over, and this is part of a continuum of things that are welcome new approaches,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, the president of the Lumina Foundation, an Indiana-based nonprofit group concerned with educational attainment. “It has big potential in giving students a jump start on completing their degree. And because of the A.S.U. imprimatur, the likelihood that the credits will be transferable is pretty high.”
Characterizing higher education as a monopoly is a curious move: a little like characterizing the practice of surgery as a monopoly because it is limited to surgeons. Mr. Merisotis presents MOOCs as a monopoly-busting alternative, but the alternative still trades upon the reputations of name brands: Arizona State, and behind that name, Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford.

A related post
Step right up

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Step right up

My son Ben asked if had this seen this article. It really feels like the beginning of the end:

Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest universities, is joining with edX, a nonprofit online venture founded by M.I.T. and Harvard, to offer an online freshman year that will be available worldwide with no admissions process and full university credit. . . .

“Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home,” said Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX. “If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit.”
Yes, step right up.

I am forever loyal to the idea of college — that is, real college, what college can be and still, often, is. But we seem to be moving toward a future in which that possibility becomes, once again, reserved for a privileged few. For everyone else, an Internet connection will suffice. No classmates, no office hours, no libraries. It’s telling that even Mr. Agarwal’s hucksterism acknowledges reality: this scheme offers not a year of college but “a year of college credit.” They’re not the same thing.


May 3: Oh — and there’s no financial aid.

A related post
Higher-ed monopoly

[Title courtesy of Tom Waits.]

M. H. Abrams (1912–2015)

That diagram, from The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (1953), has been the starting point for who knows how many expeditions into the world of criticism.

The New York Times has an obituary: “M. H. Abrams, 102, Dies; Shaped Romantic Criticism and Literary ‘Bible.’”

[The “Bible” is the The Norton Anthology of English Literature.]

Some like it hot

[Life, April 29, 1940. Click either image for a much, much larger view.]

Liverwurst, it’s your turn to shine.

I like the density of this advertisement, which helps me to understand that it might indeed have been possible to leave the Pennsylvania Station at a quarter to four and arrive in Baltimore just one magazine later. One poem, two faucets (hot and cold), three “everyday Americans” (as we are now known), three smartly dressed sophisticates, five recipes. Plus serving suggestions, plus reminders that liverwurst is also known as Braunschweiger. The Institute of American Meat Packers knew how to pack a page.

The poem is by Emily Dickinson:

What does Liver Sausage have
    That always hits the spot?
One thing is Tasty Flavor
    That all folks like a lot.
Restored from the fascicle text:
What does Liver Sausage — have
That always hits — the spot?
One thing is — Tasty Flavor —
That all folks — like — a lot
Other liverwurst posts
Henry buys liverwurst : Liverwurst: “For health, for strength — for eating fun” : “THIS IS FUN”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to improve writing (no. 57)

[Mark Trail, April 22, 2015, and revised.]

Abbey Powell’s April 20 polysyllabic spree (“Parasitoids are a biocontrol agent”) left Mark’s pal Wallace Wood bewildered and exasperated: “Abbey, can you explain it all to me in plain English, please?” What a know-nothing: no wonder his forest is falling to pieces. What (ahem) bugs me though is Mark’s prolixity in today’s strip. It’s not necessary to say that something would (or could ) potentially save the trees. And “before they get too damaged”? Thus these revisions: from sixteen words to thirteen, from twenty-three syllables to thirteen. Or, finally, to three words, five syllables.

Mark, you’re speaking in speech balloons. Save some helium.

Related reading
All OCA How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

[More drastic: “Wiping out the eggs and larvae could save the trees!” But I wanted to keep the idea that the trees have already been damaged. This post is no. 57 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Gift from the sea through the mail

Monday’s mail brought an unexpected gift: a tin of sardines from reader and fellow writer Martha. To say that this gift made me happy would be understatement: it felt like an affirmation of a secret society devoted to finding delight in the most everyday things. I knew right away what I would be having for lunch on Tuesday.

I had never tried King Oscar Mediterranean Style, and now I had the chance, skin, bones, and all. Accompanying these Brisling sardines: extra virgin olive oil, black olives, soybean oil, red bell pepper, herbs of Provence, salt. I divided the sardines into two camps to try Martha’s serving suggestions (balsamic vinegar, lemon juice) and pulled out two slices of cracked wheat bread for accompaniment. The sardines were delicious, and surprisingly delicate in flavor, quite different from their meatier skinless and boneless kin. These tiny Brislings were — I can’t help saying it — a different kettle of fish. Must get more.

I’ll say it again, here: Thank you, Martha!

Also from the briny deep
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

[The skin and bones: non-problematic. So much squeamishness for naught. Image from King Oscar.]

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Finns and Ducks

One more from Shadows in Paradise (dir. Aki Kaurismäki, 1986). Ilona (Kati Outinen) is thinking about taking a trip: “My aunt’s been to Florida. She says there’s nothing there. All she saw was some Finns and some Donald Ducks.”

Other Karuismäki posts
Ariel : The Man Without a Past : Shadows in Paradise and The Match Factory Girl  : Trashy dialogue

A little trashy dialogue

From Shadows in Paradise (dir. Aki Kaurismäki, 1986), an exchange between garbagemen. One (nameless, played by Esko Nikkari) wants to start his own company. He tries to interest Nikander (played by Matti Pellonpää) in signing on:

Co-worker: I’ve got a great slogan already: “Reliable garbage disposal since 1986.”

Nikander: But that’s now.

Co-worker: That’s why it catches the eye.

Nikander: Pretty smart.

Co-worker: Isn’t it.
Kaurismäki posts are beginning to pile up here: Ariel , The Man Without a Past , Shadows in Paradise and The Match Factory Girl . This one is for Fresca.

Proletariat Trilogy bookends

[Nikander (Matti Pellonpää), Ilona Rajamäki (Kati Outinen), and Melartin (Sakari Kuosmanen), out for a drive in Shadows in Paradise. Click for a larger view.]

Our household’s Aki Kaurismäki spree (if spree is the right word) now includes the other two thirds of the Proletariat Trilogy, the first and last films of the series, Shadows in Paradise (1986) and The Match Factory Girl (1990). Like the middle film Ariel, they take up familiar narrative possibilities in a world of working-class poverty filled with ancient radios, makeshift tables and chairs, cracked and peeling walls, and sofas doubling as beds. Shadows in Paradise is the romantic comedy of the trilogy — tracking the relationship between an inhibited garbageman (Nikander, played by Matti Pellonpää) and an inhibited supermarket cashier (Ilona Rajamäki, played by Kati Outinen). One might think of the film as a painfully awkward variation on Marty (dir. Delbert Mann, 1955): compared to Nikander and Ilona, Marty Piletti and Clara Snyder are players. In The Match Factory Girl, a revenge tragicomedy, Outinen returns as Iris, a cipher of a factory worker who takes calm, indiscriminately murderous action in intolerable circumstances. (Part of the pleasure of watching Kaurismäki is seeing his people reappear from film to film, as in, say, the work of Preston Sturges.)

Elaine and I found all three films greatly rewarding, but we also thought that things improve from one to the next. And the trilogy’s ending is both satisfying and hopeless: nothing should follow that.

Other Kaurismäki posts
The Man Without a Past

Ben Leddy makes history

Our son Ben, making musical history.

Previously on Orange Crate Art
Ben Leddy rocks the world

Monday, April 20, 2015

Blogger Profile blurry-picture fix

[For Bloggers only.]

The Blogger Profile photograph in my sidebar was suddenly blurry this morning. It turns out that Blogger has begun using 80 × 80 images for Profile photographs. If a photograph is set to appear in a larger size, Blogger stretches the small version: thus a horribly pixelated image. Making that change and giving the user no notification: it’s just one more eff yew from Google to its “users.” (Who’s using whom?)

Prayag Verma has put together a script that solves the problem. I added it to my sidebar as an HTML/JavaScript gadget. Not wanting an extra line to mark the invisible gadget, I then added the text of the Camel-cigarettes-derived joke that sits at the bottom of the sidebar. (Sneaky, eh?) The script seems to work only when it appears before the text of the joke. It’s also possible to add the script as a gadget at the bottom of the Blogger template, but doing so creates a longer moment of blur before the picture snaps into focus. So sidebar it is.

Thank you, Prayag!


April 21: I moved the script higher in the sidebar, into the search gadget below the profile. No blur at all.

A joke in the traditional manner

Here is the punchline: Elementary school.

No spoilers. The setup is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn
A Golden Retriever
How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect?
How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling?
What did the plumber do when embarrassed?
Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money?
Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels?
Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies?
Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He must take credit for all but the doctor and Santa Claus.]

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Plain old Moleskines

The New York Times has an article today about Moleskine SpA’s efforts to partner with purveryors of digital technology. A photograph shows Moleskine co-founder Maria Sebregondi with the slogan “my Analog Cloud” floating on a nearby wall.

What I found most interesting in the article though is this passage:

The number of Moleskine paper products, including variations on the notebooks, has ballooned to about 500. But the top sellers are still the blank black notebooks in the original pocket size and a larger version.
Related reading
All OCA Moleskine posts (Pinboard)
All OCA notebook posts (Pinboard)

A portrait of the artist as a young dog

[Mutts, April 19, 2015. Click for a larger view.]

Patrick McDonnell’s Earl is today a canine version of James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, who, writing on the flyleaf of a geography book, worked out his place in the order of things. From A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916):

Stephen Dedalus
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
County Kildare
The World
The Universe

Earth Day is April 22.

[Dig the purple mountain majesties.]

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hi and Lois watch

Today’s strip needs updating:

[Hi and Lois, April 18, 2015.]

[Hi and Lois modified, April 18, 2015. Click either image for a larger view. The original has been modified with artisanal care.]

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)
Artisan, no

[One order of fries, two sodas. What an Unhappy Meal.]

Friday, April 17, 2015

Artisan, no

I saw the insert in today’s paper: “Seasoned. Seared. Served. New Artisan Grilled Chicken.” From McDonald’s!

The word artisan denotes “a worker in a skilled trade, a craftsperson; (in later use) esp. one utilizing traditional or non-mechanized methods”. The word artisanal first applied to workers and ways of working: “of, relating to, or characteristic of an artisan or skilled craftsperson; involving or utilizing traditional, small-scale, or non-mechanized methods or techniques.” The word later came to describe things: “of a product: handmade (esp. with care and skill) using traditional techniques; having qualities associated with small-scale, pre-industrial production.” From The New York Times (October 9, 1983): “Raymond Séguy’s earthy, artisanal, sourdough baguette, made according to old-fashioned rules and standards, takes seven hours to prepare.”

Nothing about the name McDonald’s suggests non-mechanized, small-scale, or pre-industrial food preparation. The only traditional methods in play here are those of fast food. Did McDonald’s choose artisan thinking that artisanal would be too risky, leaving the company open to accusations of false advertising? Because what does Artisan Grilled Chicken mean anyway? Perhaps the sandwich is designed to satisfy hungry artisans breaking for lunch.

One sure thing: indiscriminate and cynical use has made artisan and artisanal into worsened words.

[Definitions and citation from the Oxford English Dictionary.]

Subdivisions of the imagination

Geese Rock, Heron Breakers, The Dale at Smiling Dale: it’s the Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Income disparity in the news

Dan Price’s decision to raise his employees’ salaries and reduce his own is a noble one. I hope it proves influential.

It would be a wonderful surprise to see, say, a college football coach take a salary cut and ask that adjunct instructors receive decent pay.


August 19, 2022: This story is ending badly: “Social Media Was a C.E.O.’s Bullhorn, and How He Lured Women” (The New York Times ).

A related post
Income disparity in higher education

Henry Threadgill and Dewar’s

[New York, June 20, 1988. Click for a larger view.]

I happened to think of this Dewar’s advertisement yesterday. It’s from a series that began in 1969. I was delighted when I first saw it: Henry Threadgill! In 1988, I knew his music from his Sextet and Sextett and the trio Air. Seeing Threadgill, an AACM musician, in a Dewar’s ad was beyond my imagining. I’m not sure what might be comparable: Ted Berrigan in an advertisement for Pepsi?

But then Ted Berrigan really liked Pepsi. It doesn’t surprise me to learn that Threadgill was not particularly devoted to Scotch. As he told the Los Angeles Times in 1989, “People often come up to me in bars and want to buy me a shot of Dewar’s. Frankly, I’m partial to a cup of coffee or some seltzer or some beer.”

Looking at this advertisement in 2015, I have noticed, maybe for the first time, the pencil in the scene. It’s a Mongol, with the identifying words removed. By their ferrules ye shall know them: that’s the Mongol’s distinctive ferrule on display.

Here is one of my favorite Threadgill recordings, “When Was That?,” the title track from a 1982 About Time LP. It appears that this recording never made it to CD. I’m being very careful with my LP.


Two years after posting this advertisement, I turned it into one for Mongol pencils.

A related post
Jack DeJohnette in Chicago (With Henry Threadgill)

[The musicians: Henry Threadgill, alto; Craig Harris, trombone; Olu Dara, cornet; Fred Hopkins, bass; Brian Smith, piccolo bass; Pheeroan Aklaff, drums; John Betsch, drums.]

Somme notebook

“Wounded by shrapnel at Trones Wood July 30th 1916”: from a six-by-three notebook kept by William Chamberlain, who lost a leg fighting in the Battle of the Somme. Ninety-nine years later, his granddaughter has found the notebook in a drawer.

A related post
Somme diary (A 2007 auction)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Old chair

[Photograph by Michael Leddy, c. 1984.]

I reached for a stack of Campus Mail envelopes and found a long-lost photograph underneath. This chair sat in an office that I shared, in grad school days, with a senior professor. The chair was his, as were the boxes of papers on the left. The chair was the one that students sat in when they came in to talk to me, or to him. I remember most students thinking the chair pretty cool. I thought it was cool too. Nowadays, such a chair would likely be considered inappropriate. The chair would likely become even more tattered from all the aspersions cast at it.

Elaine gave me sweet little Olympus camera as a birthday present in 1984. For a while, we were on a black-and-white kick. If this chair had a color, it was some distant form of yellow.

A Robert Creeley story

I went looking for something else and found this short story:

Last night talking to the poet Claes Andersson, who is also a member of the Finnish parliament and a psychologist, he tells us he had encouraged a young woman, a patient, to look to books for a relieving sense that many feel as threatened as she in the world. The book she randomly finds is Kafka’s The Trial.

Robert Creeley, Autobiography (Madras and New York: Hanuman Books, 1990).
A Wikipedia article describes Andersson as “a Finland-Swedish psychiatrist, author, jazz musician, politician and former member of the Finnish Parliament.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Museo Faggiano

in The New York Times, an amazing story from Lecce, Italy: “Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet.” The result is a museum, Museo Faggiano.

I am relieved that our plumber did not unearth centuries of Italian history when he replaced a pipe in our bathroom last fall. It would have made things too confusing.

[If you take the museum’s 3-D tour, be sure to look through the glass floors wherever possible.]

The last Sinatra song

A YouTube treasure: Jonathan Schwartz plays a recording of the last song from Frank Sinatra’s last performance. It’s Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s “The Best Is Yet to Come.” The occasion was a party on the final night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament, February 25, 1995. Elsewhere, there’s a video clip. And here, while it lasts, is the complete performance.

I’ve been thinking about Sinatra after watching Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary Sinatra: All or Nothing at All. Every so often, the cable company gives us a free weekend of extra channels. For once, I found something to watch.

[The brief bit of “New York, New York” from November 19, 1995, can’t really count as a song. The words ”The best is yet to come” appear on Sinatra’s gravestone.]

Simpsons grammar and usage

Inflammable means flammable? What a country”: Dr. Nick Riveria, in The Simpsons episode “Trilogy of Error” (April 29, 2001). This episode is filled with language comedy, mostly by way of Lisa’s science project, a grammar-correcting robot named Linguo. She has to repair Linguo after Homer gives it beer:

Lisa: Almost done. Just lay still.

Linguo: Lie still.

Lisa: I knew that. Just testing.

Linguo: Sentence fragment.

Lisa: “Sentence fragment” is also a sentence fragment.

Linguo: Must conserve battery power.
Me too. I’ve been grading.

[It’s really a grammar-and-usage-correcting robot.]

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mark Trail and Abbey Powell

[Mark Trail, April 14, 2015.]

OMG, Abbey Powell is a real person at the USDA. And now she’s trapped in the Trail world. Run, Abbey, run!

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)


[Left right: Matti Pellonpää as Mikkonen, Turo Pajala as Taisto Kasurinen, Susanna Haavisto as Irmeli Pihlaja.]

Ariel is a 1988 film from Finland, directed by Aki Kaurismäki. It’s the second film of his Proletariat Trilogy. Like The Man Without a Past (2002), it is dark and funny. Elaine thought of Umberto Eco’s characterization of Casablanca : Ariel, too, is “the movies,” with many deadpan moments of noir homage and parody. And yes, the protagonist Taisto looks as if he stepped out of Pulp Fiction (made six years later).

One of the many delights of this film is its wonderfully eclectic, eccentric soundtrack. What a treat to hear Casey Bill Weldon’s “WPA Blues” accompanying a scene of looking for work.

To understand why the sequence above is funny, you’ll have to watch the film.

[Weldon is identified as “Bill Casey” in the credits. Oops.]

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Word of the Day: lotusland

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is lotusland:

1 : a place inducing contentment especially through offering an idyllic living situation

2 : a state or an ideal marked by contentment often achieved through self-indulgence
M-W explains:
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus and his men discover a magical land of lotus-eaters. Some of the sailors eat the delicious “lotus” and forget about their homeland, pleading to stay forever in this “lotusland.” (It is likely that the lotus in question was inspired by the fruit of a real plant of the buckthorn family, perhaps the jujube, whose sweet juice is used in candy making and which has given its name to a popular fruity candy.) The label lotusland is now applied to any place resembling such an ideal of perfection, but it also carries connotations of indolence and self-indulgence, possibly derived from the way the sailors refused to work once they reached the original lotusland. The dreamy unreality of a lotusland is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.
Well, sort of. Lotusland is not a nice place to visit, precisely because to visit is to stay. As Robert Fitzgerald’s 1961 translation puts it,

The Lotos Eaters offer a dangerous form of xenía [hospitality] — an anti-hospitality, really, that erases the identity of the xeinos [guest]. There’s nothing malevolent about it: the Lotos Eaters have some choice stuff, and they’re happy to share. But to eat the lotus is to lose one’s nostos [homecoming]; the guest consumes the lotus, and the lotus consumes the guest. Think of the language of substance abuse: crackhead , meth head . The substance takes over the user’s consciousness.

I first encountered the lotus as a schoolboy, in Ross Russell’s Bird Lives (1973), a biography of Charlie Parker. One chapter is titled “Yardbird in Lotus Land.” I thought lotus land was slang for California. I didn’t yet know about Homer.

[If you’ve seen what happens to lines of poetry in various browsers on various devices, you will understand why Fitzgerald’s lines appear as an image.]

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Domestic comedy

“I’m just going to make a cup of coffee.”

“I’ll put water on for you.”

“I’ll continue narrating.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Billie Holiday, 29¢

[Billie Holiday stamp by James Leddy. 2¾″ × 2½″.]

I’ve had this artistamp on my office door for many years. It predates the USPS’s Billie Holiday stamp (September 17, 1994) and must postdate the first-ounce stamp’s rise to twenty-nine cents (February 3, 1991). My dad is a fan — of Billie Holiday, not of the post office. He heard her sing at the Apollo Theater, sometime in the 1950s.

More by James Leddy
Abe’s shades : Boo! : Happy holidays : Hardy mums : Questionnaire : Thanks!

[Billie Holiday’s centenary: April 7, 2015.]

Scott Pelley’s Bob Schieffer

Scott Pelley, paying tribute to Bob Schieffer on the CBS Evening News: “Bob Schieffer, my friend, my colleague, my mentor.” He left out doppelgänger. Doppelgänger.

[If you’re reading in a reader: there is an apostrophe in the post title. I added it after posting so as not to complicate the URL, not realizing that it wouldn’t have done so.]

The Man Without a Past

The Man Without a Past (dir. Aki Kaurismäki, 2002) is a Finnish film about a man (M, played by Markku Peltola) who suffers a terrible beating, loses his memory, and remakes his life. It is the first Finnish film I’ve seen. It is quietly, strangely funny.

Is there something deeply Finnish about the film’s dark, awkward humor? My guess is yes . The Man Without a Past reminds me of Robert Bresson (whom Kaurismäki acknowledges as an influence on his work) and, of all things, Napoleon Dynamite (dir. Jared Hess, 2004). The sprawling subdivision of Kaurismäki Heights is now part of our Netflix queue.

Thanks to Fresca, who seems to be an infallible recommender of films.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Michael Oakeshott on education, again

One more passage:

Education, I have contended, is the transaction between the generations in which newcomers to the scene are initiated into the world which they are to inhabit. This is a world of understandings, imaginings, meanings, moral and religious beliefs, relationships, practices — states of mind in which the human condition is to be discerned as recognitions of and responses to the ordeal of consciousness. These states of mind can be entered into only by being themselves understood, and they can be understood only by learning to do so. To be initiated into this world is learning to become human; and to move within it freely is being human, which is a “historic,” not a “natural” condition.

Thus, an educational engagement is at once a discipline and a release; and it is the one by virtue of being the other. It is a difficult engagement of learning by study in a continuous and exacting redirection of attention and refinement of understanding which calls for humility, patience and courage. Its reward is an emancipation from the mere “fact of living,” from the immediate contingencies of place and time of birth, from the tyranny of the moment and from the servitude of a merely current condition; it is the reward of a human identity and of a character capable in some measure of the moral and intellectual adventure which constitutes a specifically human life.

“Education: The Engagement and Its Frustration” (1972), in The Voice of Liberal Learning (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).
I like that characterization of children as “newcomers to the scene.” And I’m inspired by just about everything this essay says about education.

Two more Michael Oakeshott posts
On education: being and becoming human
On higher education

Michael Oakeshott on education: being and becoming human

The marks of a good school are that in it learning may be recognized as, itself, a golden satisfaction which needs no adventitious gilding to recommend it; and that it bestows upon its alumni the gift of a childhood recollected, not as a passage of time hurried through on the way to more profitable engagements, but, with gratitude, as an enjoyed initiation into the mysteries of a human condition: the gift of self-knowledge and of a satisfying intellectual and moral identity.

Thus, this transaction between the generations cannot be said to have any extrinsic “end” or “purpose”: for the teacher it is part of his engagement of being human; for the learner it is the engagement of becoming human. It does not equip the newcomer to do anything specific; it gives him no particular skill, it promises no material advantage over other men, and it points to no finally perfect human character. Each, in participating in this transaction, takes in keeping some small or large part of an inheritance of human understandings. . . . Education is not learning to do this or that more proficiently; it is acquiring in some measure an understanding of a human condition in which the “fact of life” is continuously illuminated by a “quality of life.” It is learning how to be at once an autonomous and a civilized subscriber to a human life.

“Education: The Engagement and Its Frustration” (1972), in The Voice of Liberal Learning (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).
Forty-three years later, Oakeshott’s words may serve as a strong reply to all efforts to cast education as the acquisition of “skills” for college and the workplace. Is your first-grader “college-ready”?

A related post
Michael Oakeshott on higher education

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Door management

I was telling my students about visiting Mystery Pier Books in Los Angeles. Rare books? We didn’t have the money. Should we go in? Would we be welcome? We went in. Boy, were we glad that we did.

My advice to my students: when you come to a door, open it. Go through it. Unless the door says “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” or something like that. Don’t open that door.

Visiting Mystery Pier Books is a Thing to Do in Los Angeles.

[That’s John Ciardi’s translation of Dante. And yes, my advice echoes Yogi Berra’s “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”]

Recently updated

Another college president plagiarizing? Come on, folks, let’s move along. Nothing to see here, folks.

A little invective in the morning

[From the First Folio (1623), Brandeis University. Click for a larger, more insulting view.]

William Shakespeare, King Lear, act 2, scene 2, Kent speaking to Oswald. Kent has said, “Fellow I know thee.” Oswald, feigning innocence, asks, “What do’st thou know me for?” Dig the phrasal adjectives in Kent’s reply:

A Knaue, a Rascall, an eater of broken meates, a base, proud, shallow, beggerly, three-suited-hundred pound, filthy woosted-stocking knaue, a Lilly-liuered, action-taking, whoreson glasse-gazing super-seruiceable finicall Rogue, one Trunke-inheriting slaue, one that would’st be a Baud in way of good seruice, and art nothing but the composition of a Knaue, Begger, Coward, Pandar, and the Sonne and Heire of a Mungrill Bitch, one whom I will beate into clamours whining, if thou deny’st the least sillable of thy addition.
I think my favorite Shakespearean insult (as of 6:18 this morning) might be one that soon follows. It, too, is from Kent to Osawald: “Thou whoreson Zed, thou unnecessary letter.”

A Google search for shakespearean insult generator will turn up many chances to assemble some invective of your own. Here’s an especially nice generator.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ben Leddy rocks the world

Our son the musical geographer. He previously rocked the fifty states.

Terry Eagleton on “the hot pursuit of the student purse”

Terry Eagleton, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education on “The Slow Death of the University.” Here he addresses institutions’ willingness to see students as customers:

One result of this hot pursuit of the student purse is the growth of courses tailored to whatever is currently in fashion among 20-year-olds. In my own discipline of English, that means vampires rather than Victorians, sexuality rather than Shelley, fanzines rather than Foucault, the contemporary world rather than the medieval one. It is thus that deep-seated political and economic forces come to shape syllabuses. Any English department that focused its energies on Anglo-Saxon literature or the 18th century would be cutting its own throat.
In the same issue of the Chronicle, an article about video trailers for college courses.

[N.B. (as we say in academia): Both articles are behind the paywall.]

Milwaukee bus passes

From CityLab, a chronicle of Milwaukee bus passes. The paper passes will soon give way to an electronic fare system. Flickr has Kindra Murphy’s pass collection, 1930–1979. Says Murphy, “The colors are insane!”

O dowdy world, that had such bus passes in it.

Recently updated

Henry at the shoe repairman Now with shoe booths, real ones.

Billie Holiday centenary

Eleanora Fagan, Billie Holiday, Lady Day, was born on April 7, 1915. WKCR-FM is playing her music all day today and all day tomorrow. All Day, all day. Now: Billie Holiday and Ben Webster.

Other Billie Holiday posts
In the Manhattan telephone directory : On December 8 : Portrait of Billie Holiday and Mister : “[T]hree days after Bastille day, yes”

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sidney synchronicity

The quoted passage attached to Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day today is from Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, the final lines of sonnet 1:

Biting my truant pen, beating myself for
“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “look in thy
    heart, and write.”
I dig Sidney: Astrophel and Stella , An Apology for Poetry , Arcadia. I’m pretty sure that I read both The Old Arcadia and The New Arcadia back in grad school days. One, or both, came in the form of an enormous Penguin, orange-spined.

[The title of Sidney‘s sequence appears on a classroom blackboard in this post. You can subscribe to Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day here. I’ve used a different text from Garner’s for Sidney’s poem. Why getting lines of poetry to look right on an iPhone means having them look awkward elsewhere, I just don’t know.]


“It is important for men in the middle ages to eat right.”

And for Renaissance men, too.

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

[The television was on for “warmth.” The speaker meant middle age.]

“Us teenagers”

[“Us Teenagers. Beard hopefully started on pensive teenage high school student as others work on lessons at blackboard & desk.” Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Oklahoma City, 1948. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

What was going on in this classroom: Astrophel Stella, Conebury Tails, Liric Poetry, Elizabethan, Elizabethan, Elizabethan? Spelling practice?


7:54 a.m.: Elaine figured out that it must be a grid: MacbethDramaElizabethan. But the grid also yields Conebury TailsLiric PoetryElizabethan. I thought J. Celia (Celio ?) might mean Ben Jonson’s “Song: to Celia,” but whatever it is, it goes with Essay and Old English. Help! Which, by the way, is Old English.

[A Google search for conebery tails yields ”Did you mean: canterbury tales.”]

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jeremiah Moss’s Vanishing New York

“A Cranky Blogger Crusades to Preserve the Ordinary in New York”: The New York Times reports on Jeremiah Moss and Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.

The rising cost of college

Law professor Paul F. Campos, writing in The New York Times about “The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much” : “If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.”

The real reason, Campos explains (and which should be no surprise to anyone who has observed the workings of colleges from the inside): the growth of administration and administrative salaries. Vice presidencies, directorships, and assistants to assistants to assistants. I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

[The real reason? At least a real reason. Campos could also consider amenities: increasingly lavish recreation centers and such. And lack of public funding has hurt higher education.]

Saturday, April 4, 2015

How to improve writing (no. 56)

I missed the lunar eclipse, but I caught this sentence, from USA Today :

As with all lunar eclipses, its safe to look at the moon during the eclipse, unlike during solar eclipses.
It’s safe: it is. But also: unlike during is an awkward construction. The things that are unlike are lunar and solar eclipses, not during the eclipses. Better:
It’s dangerous to look at the moon during a solar eclipse, but lunar eclipses are always safe for viewing.
Lunar eclipses, unlike solar eclipses, are safe for viewing.
On September 28, there will be another lunar eclipse to view, or miss.

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


April 5: The sentence no longer appears in the USA Today article.

[Garner’s Modern American Usage glosses unlike in as common in American and British English. Still, Bryan Garner says, “careful writers will avoid it.” This post is no. 56 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Webster’s endpapers

[Click for a larger, swirlier view.]

Endpapers of Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition (1954). I’ve used the third edition for many years. Reading Mary Norris’s Between You & Me made me decide to buy a W2, a dictionary I’ve used only in libraries.

A related post
The Story of Ain’t (W2 and W3)

Friday, April 3, 2015

CW Pencil Enterprise

“CW Pencil Enterprise of New York City was founded in November 2014 by Caroline Weaver, amateur pencil collector but lifelong pencil lover”: CW Pencils, 100a Forsyth Street, in Lower Manhattan.

One more from Sheridan Baker

From the chapter “Correcting Bad Sentences”:

Now let us contemplate evil — or at least the innocently awful, the bad habits that waste our words, fog our thoughts, and wreck our delivery. Our thoughts are naturally roundabout, our phrases naturally secondhand. Our satisfaction in merely getting something down on paper naturally blinds us to our errors and ineptitudes. Writing is devilish. It hypnotizes us into believing we have said what we meant, when our words actually say something else: ”Every seat in the house was filled to capacity.” Good sentences therefore come from constant practice in correcting the bad.

Sheridan Baker, The Practical Stylist (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973).
A related post
The Practical Stylist

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Practical Stylist

[Sheridan Baker, The Practical Stylist (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973). Click for a larger view.]

I like this cover. The assemblage, as the back cover calls it, is by Murray Tinkelman, an artist who works in a great many styles. (Here he appears to have assembled not pictures of type but type itself.) If you browse Leif Peng’s The Art of Murray Tinkelman, you may realize that you’ve seen this artist’s work many times before.

I like The Practical Stylist too. It is — or in earlier incarnations, was — an elegant book. It is a distinguished example of the “handbook,” the kind of book typically assigned in first-year college English. Sheridan Baker (1918–2000) recognized that brevity in a handbook can be a virtue, that brevity makes such a book engaging and useful. The first edition, in print from 1962 to 1967, weighs in at a modest xvi + 144 pages. The third (1973) edition: x + 182 pages. Longman’s most recent ghost edition (2005): 288 pages, still far smaller than the average handbook, which now often runs close to a thousand pages. A thousand pages! Such a book is like a black hole: it holds everything and gives no light. While it may be browsable, it is not readable. From Baker’s Preface:

I mean the book to be practical also in its brevity. Most handbooks on writing seems too big, too wordy, too involved. They seem to get mired in their own diligence and to stay stuck on the student’s shelf. This book aims to travel light, to cover the ground without inordinate deliberation. I have included only what seems useful and essential.
“This book aims to travel light”: what a lovely way to say it. And what a wonderful example for students: a teacher of writing who uses I. Here and elsewhere in The Practical Stylist, Baker writes with uncondescending intelligence. About words:
“What we need is a mixed diction,” said Aristotle, and his point remains true twenty-three centuries and several languages later. The aim of style, he says, is to be clear but distinguished. For clarity, we need common, current words; but used alone, these are commonplace, and as ephemeral as everyday talk. For distinction, we need words not heard every minute, unusual words, large words, foreign words, metaphors; but used alone, these become gibberish. What we need is a diction that marries the popular with the dignified, the clear current with the sedgy margins of language and thought.
About sentences:
Your style will emerge once you can manage some length of sentence, some intricacy of subordination, some vigor of parallel, and some play of short against long, of amplitude against brevity. Try the very long sentence, and the very short. The best short sentences are meatiest. . . . Experiment, too, with the fragment. The fragment is close to conversation. It is the laconic reply, the pointed afterthought, the quiet exclamation, the telling question.Try to cut and place it clearly (usually at the beginnings and ends of paragraphs) so as not to lead your reader to expect a full sentence, or to suspect a poor writer.
And about paragraphs:
You build the bulk of your essay with standard paragraphs, with blocks of concrete ideas, and they must fit smoothly. But they must also remain as perceptible parts, to rest your reader’s eye and mind. Indeed, the paragraph originated, among the Greeks, as a resting place and place finder, being first a mere mark (graphos) in the margin alongside (para) an unbroken sheet of handwriting — the proofreader’s familiar ¶. You have heard that a paragraph is a single idea, and this is true. But so is a word, usually; and so is a sentence, sometimes. It seems best, after all, to think of a paragraph as something you use for your reader’s convenience, rather than as some granitic form laid down by molten logic.
Sedgy margins, the laconic reply, molten logic: it kills me, as Holden Caulfield would say, that, not so long ago, a textbook writer could write with such verve — and could trust that he would be understood by college freshmen. The voice that speaks in The Practical Stylist is not that of a textbook: it’s that of an older writer addressing a younger writer, without condescension, offering insight and advice from long experience. Looking at the chapters about words and sentences and paragraphs in a recent 926-page handbook, I find a brief history of English; guidance on dictionary use; lists of commonly confused words; explanations of slang, regionalisms, and jargon; examples of coördination and subordination and parallelism; instruction in the importance of unity, organization, and coherence; and much, much more. But I find nothing comparable to the writerly intelligence in these passages from Baker. Nor do I find the word diction , or the suggestion that the student writer will achieve an individual style, or an explanation of how the paragraph began.

The cover, the prose, the absence of cheesy graphics and stock photos: The Practical Stylist, third edition, seems to me an artifact of a less colorful but far more sophisticated time.

Richard Marius’s A Writer’s Companion (1985, out of print), Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Several Short Sentences About Writing (2012), and Michael Harvey’s The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing (2013) are three recent books that share The Practical Stylist ’s virtues of brevity and a writerly voice. I’ve written briefly about Marius and Klinkenborg (whose Several Short Sentences wouldn’t be considered a “handbook”) and have recommended Harvey’s book in its first and second editions many times in passing.The alternatives to the book-as-brick are fewer than they should be.

A related post
Guy Fleming frontispiece, The Practical Stylist (first edition)

[The first course I taught as a grad student: Practical Stylistics, an ungainly name for “comp.” We grad students were given not Baker’s book to use but Frederick Crews’s The Random House Handbook, a dreadful book whose illustrative sentences ran to thickheaded athletes and cheerleaders and faculty complaints about parking. Brilliant, eh? About black holes: I don’t know how they work, or if they even exist. I’m just making a metaphor.]

Domestic comedy

“It’s not so much that they’re egomaniacs; it’s more that they don’t seem to know that other people exist.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A new Fowler

Oxford University Press has published a new (fourth) edition of Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, edited by Jeremy Butterfield. Here is a sample, on the use of like as a space-filler in conversation:

Many people below the age of, say, twenty-five, or rather more if they are American, seem incapable of constructing a single affirmative sentence without at least one like in it. One devoutly hopes that the unfortunates hooked in early life will be able to kick this American verbal drug as they mature, but the signs are not good: weaning them off this addiction looks as unlikely as eliminating crack cocaine.

It is no doubt true, as highly technical academic papers have suggested, that it is not merely a “meaningless” filler, that it has its own complex rules, and that it fulfils subtle interpersonal functions. However, it is just as true that its overuse will cause listeners outside the speaker’s immediate circle, wider social group, or age cohort to ignore the content of the message completely, to assume that the speaker is little short of brain-dead, or, in extreme cases, to wish they had a discreet firearm to hand.
Such hyperbole, such melodrama. Shades of Lynne Truss. I’m like, Oy.

A David Schubert poem

April is National Poetry Month. In nearly eleven years of blogging, I have taken notice of this month just once. For anyone who loves poetry, the idea of month is silly. Poetry is every day. “For poetry is the blossom and the fragrance of all human knowledge, human thought, human passions, emotions, language”: Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Here is a poem with blossoms, a love poem, by David Schubert (1913–1946), whose exuberance and wit belie the circumstances of his short life. Schubert is, to my mind, one of the great American poets, though his work remains little known. I am lucky to have found my way to it.

A related post
David Schubert, TR5-3718

[“Hail and farewell”: Ave atque vale, from the Roman poet Catullus’s poem addressed to his dead brother. Les Sylphides, unitalicized in the poem, is a 1909 ballet, choreography by Michel Fokine, music by Frédéric Chopin. I found Coleridge’s sentence in the entry for poetry in Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition, a copy of which just came in the mail.]