Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Calling Congress

In the March 6 New Yorker, Kathryn Schulz writes about what happens when people call or e-mail or write to Congress. In “normal times” (not these), she says, writing is better than calling. In some circumstances, calling is better. Mass e-mails and online petitions count for little. Does any of it make a difference?

When I asked past and present Congress members and high-level staffers if constituent input mattered, all of them emphasized that it absolutely does. But when I asked them to name a time that a legislator had changed his or her vote on the basis of such input, I got, in every instance, a laugh, and then a very long pause.
Schulz adds though that “For all that, constituents are not voiceless in a democracy, and every once in a while they do score major legislative wins.” And she has examples.

“The Letter,” revised

The text of “The Letter,” a poem by Charles William Eliot, revised by Woodrow Wilson, is inscribed on the façade of the Old City Post Office in Washington, D.C., now the National Postal Museum:

Messenger of Sympathy and Love
Servant of Parted Friends
Consoler of the Lonely
Bond of the Scattered Family
Enlarger of the Common Life
Carrier of News and Knowledge
Instrument of Trade and Industry
Promoter of Mutual Acquaintance
Of Peace and of Goodwill Among Men and

Text as reproduced in Winifred Gallagher, How the Post Office Created America: A History (New York: Penguin, 2016).
As someone who still writes and receives letters, I think that the text of this poem should be better known. The only reference to it on the NPM’s website appears on an FAQ page, right before a brief account of a now-abandoned Graceful Envelope Contest.

I found a thoughtful commentary on “The Letter” by Eliza D. Keith, a self-identified “San Francisco schoolteacher” who had the nerve to rethink Eliot’s and Wilson’s words. In doing so, she was taking on two presidents. (Eliot was the president of Harvard when he wrote this poem). I love the cheeky reminder that “The cat may look at the king.” Which text do you prefer: Eliot’s, Wilson’s, or Keith’s?

[Eliza D, Keith, “Wilson’s Revision of Dr. Eliot’s English.” The Western Journal of Education 19, no.2 (February 1914). There’s an obvious glitch in the “For the East Pavilion” text: the first “Promoter of mutual acquaintance” should be removed. The Butler quoted at the end: another president, Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia University.]

Eliza D. Keith did a fair amount of writing. Her newspaper contribution “7,000,000 Women Bread Winners Need the Ballot” (The San Francisco Call, August 7, 1911) may be read online. An excerpt:
It has never seemed to me that the question of equal suffrage — votes for women as well as men — calls for any argument. It is self-evident.

The struggle is for women to obtain what belongs to them as human beings, as individuals, as citizens taxed to support a government in which they have no representation.
The Call proclaimed Keith a “Real Leader Among Suffragists.” And she was. The byline for this piece identifies her as a Past Grand President of the Native Daughters of the Golden West and, yes, “Teacher in San Francisco School Department.”

Related viewing
Photographs of the inscription: 1, 2 (Flickr)

[I couldn’t have assembled and tidied up the columns of Keith’s piece without the great Mac app Acorn.]

My (male) female intuition

Elaine and I have finished watching Gilmore Girls, all of it, the seven seasons and the four new episodes. I am pleased with myself for having predicted, long before the end of Season 7, how things would go (not resolve) for Lorelai and Rory. I got everything right: Lorelai’s love life, Rory’s love life, and Rory’s post-Yale career. I wasn’t as successful with the new episodes. I again called Lorelai’s love life, Rory’s love life, and (more or less) Rory’s career, but I missed a plot twist that I doubt anyone could have anticipated — though when I think back, I see the hints. I hope there’s more Gilmore to come. But not yet. It’s nice to have more time not to watch TV.

I know that I’m not the only male-type person who likes — okay, loves — Gilmore Girls. There are two guys who are making something of a career of it, with podcasts, merch, and a tour. A story of male Gilmore fandom that I like much better: that of a Marine unit watching the show in Iraq, as told to This American Life by Luke Huisenga.

Related reading
All OCA Gilmore Girls posts (Pinboard)

Monday, February 27, 2017

“An enemy of the people”

The New York Times traces the history of the phrase “an enemy of the people.” Long story short: the French Revolution, an Ibsen play, Lenin, Stalin, and sometimes Mao. Roy Peter Clark recently wrote at greater length about Ibsen, Trump’s rhetoric, and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

And let us not forget Richard Nixon’s remark that “The press is the enemy.” “Write that on a blackboard one hundred times,” he told Henry Kissinger.

I’ll repeat what I wrote in a post about the slogan “America first”: Words have history. History has history.

The S.S. Lurk

Elaine’s idea that Gilmore Girls is Gilligan’s Island looks more and more plausible. From the episode “Will You Be My Lorelai Gilmore?” (February 27, 2007). Kirk is telling Lorelai that he has bought a boat:

“Yeah, the S.S. Lurk. It’s a combination of my name and Luke’s, since it used to be his boat.”

“Oh, you bought Luke’s boat.”

“Yeah, she needs a little more work before she’s seaworthy, but as soon as she is, I’ll take you out. You can be Ginger to Lulu’s Mary Ann. Let’s lock down dates now. When are you free?”
Related reading
All OCA Gilmore Girls posts (Pinboard)

[My transcription.]

Civility at work

A short interview from To the Best of Our Knowledge: Christine Porath talks about civility in the workplace. And there’s an online questionnaire.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Best Picture

Moonlight. Moonlight. Moonlight.

A related post
Movies, twelve of them (Including Moonlight)

Words of the day: post, posthaste

Whence the post in post office?

The term comes from positus, Latin for “position" or “station,” and a postal system carries information from one place to another, preferably with dispatch. (“Posthaste” first appeared as an instruction on the cover, or outside, of a letter but soon became a synonym for “hurry up!“)

Winifred Gallagher, How the Post Office Created America: A History (New York: Penguin, 2016).
A blog post is a post of a different kind. The first Oxford English Dictionary citation for this kind of posting (“a message displayed on a mailing list, newsgroup, or other online forum to which it has been sent”) dates from 1981. The shorter post dates from 1982. The OED sees the influence of old-fashioned posting (“the dispatching of letters, etc., by a messenger riding post“) in these newer uses. In my mind, a different sense of posting has always been behind the online term: “the action of putting up a notice on a post, wall, etc., or of making anything public by this or similar means.” See also the Facebook metaphor of writing on someone’s wall.

I hope that this post makes someone curious enough to look up mail (as I just did).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Grey day with squirrel

[Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

No filter — the day was just grey. This squirrel sat watch for several minutes, not moving. I thought of lines from William Carlos Williams: “The descent beckons / as the ascent beckoned.” This squirrel was taking its time about heeding the beck. Which at last it did.

A related post
KNUT Winter Schedule

Friday, February 24, 2017

Waiting for Godot Shimkus

Senator Bernie Sanders, speaking to CNN yesterday: “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”

Our representative in Congress, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), doesn’t believe in facing his constituents in town-hall meetings:

Rep. John Shimkus told fellow lawmakers he‘d never held a town-hall meeting during his two decades in Congress, and offered advice on how to handle constituent relations, according to two sources in the room. A Shimkus spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the private conference, but did confirm that Shimkus has never held an in-person town hall, saying he prefers telephone town halls and one-on-one constituent meetings.The spokesperson added that Trump won the Illinois district with 70 percent of the vote, and his constituents were “pleased the president is delivering on his promises.”
Well, not every constituent. Eight of us went to one of Rep. Shimkus’s local offices today. All efforts to arrange a meeting with him had failed, so we just showed up. (It’s a forty-five-minute drive.) For a little more than an hour, we spoke to a district aide, who took notes and promised to pass on our concerns, which included “alternative facts,” Cabinet appointees, climate change, the executive order on travel, funding for the arts and PBS, health care, LGBTQ rights, mass deportations, Planned Parenthood, our president’s lack of plain decency, a promised wall, Russian influence in the 2016 election, and, above all, fear about the future of our democracy. It was a respectful meeting, with an aide who was admittedly out of his wheelhouse. That wheelhouse would be what’s usually called “constituent services” — helping people with IRS and Social Security problems and such.

We eight constituents thought our time was well spent. I don’t know if we’ll we ever get to meet with Rep. Shimkus. But as someone once said, “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”

[The Fifteenth District has a population of 710,000. As a member of our group pointed out, one-on-one meetings leave an overwhelming majority of voters without access to their representative. In 2016 Shimkus ran unopposed; he won reëlection with all of the vote.]

“Monkey, monkey, underpants”

From the Gilmore Girls episode “Santa’s Secret Stuff” (January 23, 2007). Lorelai explains her difficulty in writing a letter of reference for a friend. Her brain, she explains, is “a wild jungle full of scary gibberish.” This monologue might be my favorite moment from the series:

“I’m writing a letter, I can’t write a letter, why can’t I write a letter? I’m wearing a green dress, I wish I was wearing my blue dress, my blue dress is at the cleaners. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue, Casablanca. Casablanca is such a good movie. Casablanca, the White House, Bush. Why don’t I drive a hybrid car? I should really drive a hybrid car. I should really take my bicycle to work. Bicycle, unicycle, unitard. Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants.”
Related reading
All OCA Gilmore Girls posts (Pinboard)

[My transcription. The final three words sound like something from a children’s game, but I think they belong to Lorelai.]

No melodrama

From the Perry Mason  episode “The Case of the Lost Last Act” (March 21, 1959). A theater producer speaks:

“Thank you, Mr. Mason. You saved me from becoming a cheap and melodramatic anti-climax.”
Related reading
All OCA Perry Mason posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How to improve writing (no. 70)

The page-ninety test was a Ford Madox Ford habit: “turning to page ninety of any edition of an author . . . and then quoting the first paragraph of reasonable length” as a way to gauge a writer’s prose. Here is the first paragraph of reasonable length from page ninety of a recent book about the history of handwriting. “James” is the novelist Henry:

By the 1890s, James began dictating all his novels to a secretary, who typed the author’s words as he said them aloud. At first James found it hard to find such an amanuensis who would understand his words. As he put it, “The young typists are mainly barbarians, and the civilized here are not typists,” he declared, noting that hiring a woman was “an economy” over his previously male secretary.
I see a number of problems:

~ The use of by with began with is an odd way to mark the onset of action. For instance: “By the 1980s, I began to use an Apple computer.” “By the 1980s, I was using” or “In the 1980s, I began using” sounds more natural.

~ “All his novels”: all is unnecessary.

~ There is no difference between saying and saying aloud, and no other way to dictate than by speaking (or using sign language).

~ “James found it hard to find”: awkward repetition.

~ Amanuensis, though a word James favored, looks like an inelegant variation on the word secretary. And there is no difference between an amanuensis and “such an amanuensis.”

~ “As he put it” and “he declared”: putting the one before the quotation and the other after suggests a need for more careful copyediting.

~ “His previously male secretary”: yikes. I’m afraid to ask what happened to the guy.

Here again is the original paragraph and a revised version (which adds another phrase from the letter in which James refers to his new secretary as “an economy”):
Original: By the 1890s, James began dictating all his novels to a secretary, who typed the author’s words as he said them aloud. At first James found it hard to find such an amanuensis who would understand his words. As he put it, “The young typists are mainly barbarians, and the civilized here are not typists,” he declared, noting that hiring a woman was “an economy” over his previously male secretary.

My revision: By the 1890s, James was dictating his novels to a secretary, who typed as James spoke. At first James had difficulty finding someone who could understand his words. “The young typists are mainly barbarians, and the civilized here are not typists,” he complained. James found that hiring a woman to replace a male secretary was both “an improvement” and “an economy.”
The page-ninety test gives a fair representation of this book, which is not especially well written. For instance: “Graphologists had a steady business counseling people before answering marriage proposals as well.” Or: “A recent stylometric analysis of Double Falsehood, a disputed play by William Shakespeare, was proved to be partially the work of the Bard after it was run through computers.” Were graphologists answering marriage proposals as a sideline? Did the analysis turn out to be partly by Shakespeare? Was the play by Shakespeare partly by Shakespeare? Was it the analysis or the play that was run through computers? Whatever.

Related reading
All OCA “How to improve writing” posts (Pinboard)
Ford Madox Ford’s page-ninety test
Handwriting, pro and con
My Salinger Year, a page-ninety test
Nature and music, a page-ninety test

[This post is no. 70 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

“An integral part of nature”

Carlo Rovelli:

Our moral values, our emotions, our loves are no less real for being part of nature, for being shared with the animal world, or for being determined by the evolution which our species has undergone over millions of years. Rather, they are more valuable as a result of this: they are real. They are the complex reality of which we are made. Our reality is tears and laughter, gratitude and altruism, loyalty and betrayal, the past which haunts us and serenity. Our reality is made up of our societies, of the emotion inspired by music, of the rich intertwined networks of the common knowledge which we have constructed together. All of this is part of the self-same “nature” which we are describing. We are an integral part of nature; we are nature, in one of its innumerable and infinitely variable expressions.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, trans. Simon Carnell and Erica Segre (London: Penguin, 2016).
This passage reminds me of something Jonathan Shay writes in Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1994): “Culture is as biologically real for humans as the body.”

Also from Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Elementary particles : General relativity v. quantum mechanics

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fake News, an icon

[Fake News, an icon by Louis Prado. From Noun Project.]


[Hi and Lois, February 22, 2017.]

“Ug!”? Your family has a dictionary, Hi. Use it. Ugh.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois and misspelling posts (Pinboard)

[Hi, by the way, is short for Hiram.]

Anglophilia amok

On an NPR station, a local announcer running through the PBS schedule described a series about British royalty in which the host “gets into bed with our past monarchs.”

First: ick. Second: our monarchs? That bit of copy should have been rewritten for this side of the Atlantic.

The series, as I now know, is Tales from the Royal Bedchamber. It’s about their monarchs. And again, about the gets-into-bed-with part: ick.

[About “the Atlantic”: I refuse to say “the pond.”]

“And you’re right too”

General relativity v. quantum mechanics:

A university student attending lectures on general relativity in the morning and others on quantum mechanics in the afternoon might be forgiven for concluding that his professors are fools, or have neglected to communicate with each other for at least a century. In the morning the world is curved space where everything is continuous; in the afternoon it is a flat space where quanta of energy leap.

The paradox is that both theories work remarkably well. Nature is behaving with us like that elderly rabbi to whom two men went in order to settle a dispute. Having listened to the first, the rabbi says: “You are in the right.” The second insists on being heard, the rabbi listens to him and says: “You’re also right.” Having overheard from the next room the rabbi’s wife then calls out, “But they can’t both be in the right!” The rabbi reflects and nods before concluding: “And you’re right too.”

Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, trans. Simon Carnell and Erica Segre (London: Penguin, 2016).
The work of reconciling general relativity and quantum mechanics has given rise to the study of quantum gravity, the subject of Rovelli’s more recent book, Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity (2017). I suspect that it’s a much scarier book than Seven Brief Lessions: 288 pages v. a mere 79.

I cannot claim to understand any of this stuff, not now, perhaps not ever. But I can try.

Also from Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Elementary particles

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

“If Trump were more rational
and more competent”

George Packer, writing in the February 27 New Yorker:

An authoritarian and erratic leader, a chaotic Presidency, a supine legislature, a resistant permanent bureaucracy, street demonstrations, fear abroad: this is what illiberal regimes look like. If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy.

Blossom Dearie sings

Here is a breathtakingly beautiful performance by Blossom Dearie: “They Say It’s Spring” (Bob Haymes–Marty Clark). Blossom Dearie, piano and vocal; Herb Ellis, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Jo Jones, drums. Recorded September 1957. From the album Give Him the Ooh-La-La (Verve, 1958).

I’m still making my way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Doris Day, and now, Blossom Dearie. One shelf down, seven to go — which might suggest that a fairly even distribution through the alphabet. But not so: Frank Sinatra, Art Tatum, and Mel Tormé take up two of the seven shelves.

I wish I could tell my dad how much I love this song. My guess is that he loved it too.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian

Elementary particles

Carlo Rovelli says that “for now, this is what we know of matter”:

A handful of types of elementary particles, which vibrate and fluctuate constantly between existence and non-existence and swarm in space even when it seems that there is nothing there, combine together to infinity like the letters of a cosmic alphabet to tell the immense history of galaxies, of the innumerable stars, of sunlight, of mountains, woods and fields of grain, of the smiling faces of the young at parties, and of the night sky studded with stars.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, trans. Simon Carnell and Erica Segre (London: Penguin, 2016).
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics is a wonderful book for elementary particles like me.

Monday, February 20, 2017

“Library hand”

Behold “library hand,” or a simulation thereof. It’s penmanship for librarians writing out catalogue cards. Sometimes (still) seen on the spines of older library books. Thanks to Gunther at Lexikaliker for passing on this link (by way of Boing Boing).

I made the sample above with Dewey Library Hand, a free font that emulates one variety of library hand.

Related reading
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)
A catalogue-card generator (Typed, not handwritten)

Gilmore Girls and phrasal verbs

From the Gilmore Girls episode “Lorelai’s First Cotillion” (October 10, 2006). The ever-driven Paris Geller steps in to correct an SAT tutor who has told a tutee that “It’s a good sentence, but you want to make sure never to end with a preposition”:

“If she ended the sentence with a preposition, how could it have been a good sentence? It sounds like a terrible sentence.”

“Well, I just . . .”

“You were just coddling her. You wanna prop her up on your knee and burp her? Maybe buy her a pony? I’m not paying you to make her feel better about her incompetence. If she can’t construct a proper sentence, how is she gonna pass the essay section of the SAT?”

“Well . . .”

“That was rhetorical! Carry on.”
Now that’s clever writing. Paris would do well to read Bryan Garner. From Garner’s Modern English Usage:
The spurious rule about not ending sentences with prepositions is a remnant of Latin grammar, in which a preposition was the one word that a writer could not end a sentence with. But Latin grammar should never straitjacket English grammar.
Notice that Garner goes out of his way to violate the spurious rule. (He could have written “the one word that could not end a sentence.”) Also from GMEU:
Perfectly natural-sounding sentences end with prepositions, particularly when a verb with a preposition-particle appears at the end (as in follow up or ask for).
And as in carry on.

You can also end a sentence with the word it. Don’t worry about it.

Related reading, via Pinboard
All OCA Bryan Garner posts
All OCA Gilmore Girls posts

[My transcription.]

Sunday, February 19, 2017


[In a movie theater.]

“It’s so dark in here.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Elitists and liberal arts

William Deresiewicz:

It is not the proponents of a liberal arts education who are the elitists; it is those who would reserve it for a lucky few. If you think the humanities have any value, whether as a doorway to enlightenment or just as cultural capital, then they are valuable for everyone and should belong to everyone.

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (New York: Free Press, 2014).
I’m reminded of something I wrote in a 2015 post: “The idea that the humanities are for ‘rich kids’ is one that any humanist must reject.”

Related reading
Other Deresiewicz posts

[As I write this post, the public university where I taught for thirty years is considering an ad hoc committee’s recommendation that the philosophy major be eliminated. Philosophy? Don’t even think about it.]

Friday, February 17, 2017

Dowdy-world brands

The Dry Look. Jean Naté. Sea and Ski. In The New York Times, Wendy MacLeod writes about “Name Brand Nostalgia.”

I’ll add three: Bromo-Seltzer. Hai Karate. Stridex.

David Owens’s “The Dime Store Floor,” about the smells of childhood, is worth mentioning here. Listerine. Mentholatum. Old Spice.

Related reading
All OCA dowdy-world posts (Pinboard)

Henry gets his shoes fixed

[Henry, February 17, 2017.]

Henry last stopped in for shoe repairs in August 2012 and October 2015. He must be harder on his shoes now. These two panels appear to be more or less recycled from August 2012. I don’t mind: there are shoe booths involved.

Does anyone else remember sitting in such a booth waiting for new heels or soles? My memory of the experience probably has something to do with the powerfully strange smell of the shoe-repair shop: chemicals, leather, and perhaps a dash of feet.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Lucy, seeress

[Peanuts, February 17, 1970.]

In truth, Lucy was speaking of Snoopy, who was just promoted to Head Beagle.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

“Past events”

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

See also yesterday’s press conference.

Related reading
All OCA George Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

M. Proust?

Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan, of the University of Laval, Quebec, has discovered film footage that appears to show Marcel Proust in 1904, leaving a church after a friend’s wedding. Says Sirois-Trahan, “Tout tend à faire penser qu'il s'agit de Proust”: Everything tends to suggests that it’s Proust — though of course there is no certainty. Watch for the man in light-colored clothing who begins descending the steps at the 0:35 mark.

The best reports of this news that I can find are those in France24 (in French and machine-made English) and Le Point (in French and machine-made English).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

[Can anyone identify the music? My guess: Reynaldo Hahn. The music is “L.A. I Love You” by John David Hanke. Thanks, Shazam.]

Neologism of the day

lanelocked \ˈlān-ˌläkt\ adjective
: stuck immediately behind a slow-moving vehicle and thus unable to pass into a lane of more rapidly moving traffic because vehicles to the rear are already passing into that lane

Sample sentence: Dammit, I’m lanelocked.

I thought I’d posted this word a long time ago, but I see now that I was thinking of lane duck. To be a lane duck or to be lanelocked: take your pick. In our car, lanelocked is more common. As in, “Dammit, I’m lanelocked.”

More made-up words
Alecry : Humormeter : Lane duck : Misinflame and misinflammation : Oveness : Power-sit : Plutonic : ’Sation : Skeptiphobia

Separated at birth

[Victor Buono and Dan Seymour.]

Diane Schirf suggested these actors for a separated-at-birth post. Yes. But finding a pair of photographs to suggest the resemblance was more difficult than I expected. Searching for “dan seymour” actor turns up relatively little (and that little includes a photo of Victor Buono). If this pair of photographs doesn’t convince you, please, take Diane’s word for it (and mine): these guys strongly resemble one other.

Also separated at birth
Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : David Bowie and Karl Held : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Gough : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Barbara Hale and Vivien Leigh : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gilmores and Gilligan

Elaine Fine, co-director of our household’s Center for Media Studies, had a thought: Gilmore Girls is Gilligan’s Island.

The Skipper: Taylor Doose. Gilligan: Kirk. The Howells: Emily and Richard Gilmore. Ginger: Lorelai. Mary Ann: Rory. The Professor: Luke.

Yes, the analogy is rough. Many Stars Hollow residents are unaccounted for. (Jess is pretty clearly some visitor to the island.) The Center will need at least one grant to work out the details.

Related reading
All OCA Gilmore Girls posts (Pinboard)

[Posted here with permission.]

Extending a metaphor

In The New York Times this morning: “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.”

The shit will continue to hit the fan with tiny fecal hands, knocking the fan off the tabletop (it’s a table fan) and making a mess everywhere. It’ll be years before the mess is cleaned up — if it can be cleaned up.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine’s Day

[A reddened version of an illustration from an 1890s anatomy text. Weirder than last year’s heart. Found at The Graphics Fairy.]

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Doing without teachers

William Deresiewicz:

If you want a good education, you need to have good teachers. It seems ridiculous to have to say as much, but such is the state that matters have reached, both in academia and in the public conversation that surrounds it, that apparently we do. Between the long-term trend toward the use of adjuncts and other part-time faculty and the recent rush to online instruction, we seem to be deciding that we can do without teachers in college altogether, at least in any meaningful sense. But the kind of learning the college is for is simply not possible without them.

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (New York: Free Press, 2014).
Related reading
Other Deresiewicz posts

[Deresiewicz is not arguing that an adjunct cannot be a good teacher. He’s arguing that an institutional reliance on adjuncts is at odds with a genuine commitment to teaching.]

English studies and adjunct labor

In “The Great Shame of Our Profession,” Kevin Birmingham, writes about English studies and adjunct labor:

Why do our nation’s English departments consistently accept several times as many graduate students as their bespoke job market can sustain? English departments are the only employers demanding the credentials that English doctoral programs produce. So why do we invite young scholars to spend an average of nearly 10 years grading papers, teaching classes, writing dissertations, and training for jobs that don’t actually exist? English departments do this because graduate students are the most important element of the academy’s polarized labor market. They confer departmental prestige. They justify the continuation of tenure lines, and they guarantee a labor surplus that provides the cheap, flexible labor that universities want.

The abysmal conditions of adjuncts are not the inevitable byproducts of an economy with limited space for literature. They are intentional. Universities rely upon a revolving door of new PhDs who work temporarily for unsustainable wages before giving up and being replaced by next year’s surplus doctorates. Adjuncts now do most university teaching and grading at a fraction of the price, so that the ladder faculty have the time and resources to write. We take the love that young people have for literature and use it to support the research of a tiny elite.

All of this is to say that the profession of literary criticism depends upon exploitation.
I’ll repeat what I first wrote in 2013: The exploitation of adjunct labor is the shame and scandal of American higher education.

Monday, February 13, 2017

“No challenge is to great”

[Except for spelling.]

I agree: it’s a “glaring typo,” or a glaring example of a common confusion of words. Everyone makes mistakes. I typed 2917 instead of 2017 earlier today. But. Still. Even so.

The Trump inauguration print has been pulled from the Library of Congress Library Shop. The cached page that sold it lives on, at least for a while, here. (And at the Internet Archive.) Quoth the Store: “Printed in the USA, this print captures the essence of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency of the United States.” Yep.

A related post
“No job to small”

[Thanks to Fresca, who caught my typo.]

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

[Kahil El’Zabar, Corey Wilkes, Alex Harding. Photograph by Michael Leddy. Click for a larger view.]

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Urbana, Illinois
February 9, 2017

Kahil El’Zabar: cajón, drumkit, footbells, mbira, voice
Alex Harding: baritone saxophone
Corey Wilkes: trumpet

Kahil El’Zabar last visited the Krannert Center in 2008, with the Ritual Trio and guest musician Hamiet Bluiett. Last week El’Zabar returned with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, founded in 1973. The Ensemble’s continuing premise: two horns and percussion (originally, saxophonists Edward Wilkerson and Ernest Khabeer Dawkins and El’Zabar). In a pre-performance talk, El’Zabar told the story of bringing his father on an Ensemble tour in 1986. Would people really turn out to hear nothing more than two horns and percussion? Indeed, they did, and still do.

“Nothing more than”: in other words, what a listener won’t find is the familiar rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums, or just bass and drums. But there’s nothing missing in the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble’s sound, which is full of color and texture. Much of that is due to El’Zabar, who provides a constant commentary as he plays: singing, scatting, humming, grunting, stomping, and shouting encouragement. (“Go to Texas!” he told Alex Harding at one point.) Harding’s baritone adds another layer of commentary, one that looks back to the earliest jazz traditions, in which the tuba (or sometimes bass saxophone) assumed the role later taken over by the string bass.

Here is one example of the ensemble in action: in “All Blues,” El’Zabar set a groove for the deepest sort of slow blues with nothing more than footbells, stomps, and mbira. Harding’s baritone added an element of R&B to the tune’s familiar vamp, and the vamp resurfaced behind Wilkes’s solo and in Harding’s own solo. Like El’Zabar, Harding and Wilkes are master musicians: Harding’s huge tone and rhythmic drive suggest both Harry Carney and Hamiet Bluiett; Wilkes’s playing ranges from boppish complexities to Miles-isms to shakes, wails, and, at one point, a 180-degree blast of plain air.

Some especially bright moments: El’Zabar soloing on mbira, sounding something like, say, John Lee Hooker worrying a handful of notes; El’Zabar stepping down from the bandstand to scat and dance; Harding interpolating “Lester Leaps In” when soloing in “The Eternal Triangle,” an invitation taken up by the other musicians; Wilkes’s baby daughter responding to the sound of her father’s Harmon mute. And one more: El’Zabar preaching during “Pharoah Sanders”: “We can never win with pessimism. Even in dark times, we need optimism.”

The tunes: “All Blues” (Miles Davis), “The Eternal Triangle” (Sonny Stitt), “Little Sunflower” (Freddie Hubbard), “Pharoah Sanders” (El’Zabar), “Freedom Jazz Dance” (Eddie Harris).

Related reading
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble : Kahil El’Zabar : Alex Harding : Corey Wilkes

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dante, Beatrice, and Nancy

[Gustave Doré and Ernie Bushmiller, with help from the alpha tool and me. Click for a larger view.]

Not exactly a beatific vision, but as close as I can get.

Related reading
All OCA Dante posts : All OCA Dante and Nancy posts : All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Publius Sluggo

[Nancy, November 20, 1946. From Random Acts of Nancy.]

Leave it to Sluggo to try to keep Nancy from attaining the beatific vision. Troublemaker. But who would be taking over as guide here? Fritzi Ritz? Aw, that ain’t no fun.

Related reading
All OCA Dante and Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[The Nancy dash is often but not always made of “some hyphens.”]

Domestic comedy

“She’s some kind of a star.”

“That must be why we’ve never heard of her.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Dictionaries rising

Jesse Sheidlower, lexicographer: “Right now there are a lot of questions about what is true. We want clear statements about what things are, and dictionaries provide that.” And: “In times of stress, people will go to things that will provide answers. The Bible, the dictionary, or alcohol.”

From the Fashion and Style pages of The New York Times, a report on increased interest in dictionaries.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ties, misspellings, typos

Richard Thompson Ford wonders:

Mr. Trump’s tie symbolizes one of the central questions of his candidacy, and now his presidency. Is his seeming ineptness genuine? Or is it part of a contrived performance, designed to deploy the symbols of power while rejecting the conventions of civility that have traditionally defined and constrained them?
I’ve wondered in the same way about the seeming ineptness in all those misspellings and typos. Are they genuine mistakes, or are they calculated distractions meant to incite mockery and thus make Trump’s supporters feel that they too are being mocked? I can imagine what someone might say: “You know what? I don’t spell so great either.” Snooty elites!

But I’m probably overthinking. When I read about aides who cannot figure out how to turn on the lights, I tend to think that the evidence of ineptness is genuine — and sad. Dunning K. Trump: sad!

Related posts
“I’m not running on a platform of correct grammar”
Jon Stewart’s “super-long tie”

“Not even the President”

Bob Ferguson, Washington Attorney General, commenting on the decision of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals not to reinstate the president’s travel ban: “No one is above the law, not even the President.”

Just three weeks, and it already feels like Nixon days.

[I heard these words on All Things Considered last night, as a comment on yesterday’s decision. They also appear in a tweet from February 3. I embedded the tweet before realizing that the date was too early.]

Do Androids dream of Perry Mason?

A new use for an old phone. Thanks to Ian Bagger for the link.

Related reading
All OCA Perry Mason posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Gaslighting, moonlighting

It looks like our president is moonlighting. A genuine Lifehacker headline:

“When It’s Too Late to Stop Fascism”

George Prochnik, writing in The New Yorker about Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday and “When It’s Too Late to Stop Fascism”:

The excruciating power of Zweig’s memoir lies in the pain of looking back and seeing that there was a small window in which it was possible to act, and then discovering how suddenly and irrevocably that window can be slammed shut.
Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)


George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Related reading
All OCA George Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Svend Asmussen (1916–2017)

The violinist Svend Asmussen has died at the age of 100. The Washington Post has an obituary.

Svend Asmussen swung.

A YouTube sampler
“Hallelujah! I’m a Bum” : “Scandinavian Shuffle” : “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” (viola) : “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” : “June Night”

“They simply swallowed everything”

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Related reading
All OCA George Orwell posts (Pinboard)

R. Sikoryak’s Terms and Conditions

[Legalese and Bushmiller. Click for a larger view.]

The artist R. Sikoryak has made a graphic novel of the legalese that accompanies iTunes, each page in the style of a different artist, each with a bearded, glasses-wearing, Steve Jobsian character. Terms and Conditions: The Graphic Novel will be published in March. The pages are all on view here.

Sikoryak’s Roz Chast version of Steve Jobs is more or less Chast’s bearded-guy-with-glasses, who always looks (I think) a little like me.

[A pause in the legalese.]

Dream pants

They appeared earlier this morning: three-dimensional pants, designed by a descendant of Linus van Pelt, marketed under the Trump label. Not pants from a 3D printer: just pants, touted as three-dimensional.

Possible sources: a Gilmore Girls reference to someone as an empty suit, a Gilmore Girls discussion of slacks. (“Please stop saying slacks. That word is creepy.”) And other more obvious sources.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

USPS postage calculator

The USPS’s Postage Price Calculator makes the everyday mailer a capable calculator of postage prices. Useful too for party games. Guess the cost of a large flat-rate box to the Cook Islands! See who comes closest!

[Answer: $95.95.]

“The Revolutionary Post”

From the podcast 99% Invisible, “The Revolutionary Post,” an episode about the development of the United States Postal Service. Did you know that until the mid-1800s, the recipient of a letter paid its postage? And that the prepaid postage stamp led to a boom in letters? And that post offices added “ladies’ windows” where women could pick up their mail?

I’m now waiting on a library copy of Winifred Gallagher’s How the Post Office Created America: A History (2016). In the meantime, here is a brief (unrelated) account of the ladies’ window.

Postcards of the future

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

A little like predictive text: there are a limited number of things you are expected to say. I wonder if Orwell knew about this kind of postcard.

Related reading
All OCA George Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Daniel Schorr on journalism, politics, and truth

From To the Best of Our Knowledge, a 2008 conversation with Daniel Schorr about journalism, politics, and truth. A useful reminder that before Dunning K. Trump there was Bush the Second, of whose administration Schorr says, “These are people who in a sense have mounted a coup inside the government against the government.” And before Bush the Second there was Richard Nixon, who, as Schorr reminds us, was famously caught on tape observing that “The press is the enemy.”

Monday, February 6, 2017


Here’s a new website for the discriminating shopper: #grabyourwallet.org. With URLs for contact forms and telephone numbers for corporate headquarters.

See also: Pagan Kennedy’s “How to Destroy the Business Model of Breitbart and Fake News” (The New York Times).

Calling Amazon’s corporate number (206-266-1000) got me nothing but a maze of recorded messages. It might be better to call customer service (888-280-4331).

Did you know that Amazon advertises on Breitbart? (I can’t call it ”Breitbart News.”)

Two Henrys

[Henry, February 6, 2017.]

Henry just exited an Exhibition of Modern Sculpture. (Really.)

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Twelve more movies

[No spoilers.]

Soylent Green (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1973). It is 2022. The “greenhouse effect” leads to oppressive heat. Cities are overpopulated and covered in a yellow-brown haze. Citizens wear facemasks and generate electricity from car batteries and exercise bicycles. The homeless sleep on any available staircase. Scoops dispose of the unruly. And food has been replaced by “soylent” — little red, yellow, and green planks of nutrition. With great performances from Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson (in his last film). “There once was a world, you punk.” Best scene: Robinson watching movies.

And there are Blackwings.


Un peu de festival du Jacques Demy

Les horizons morts (1951). Demy’s short first film, in which the director stars as a young man with a broken heart. Here is the kernel of the full-length films that were to follow.

Le sabotier du Val de Loire (1956). A short documentary through a week in the life of a sabot maker: love, death, craftsmanship, modernity. As the camera watches this man splitting or carving wood or eating soup, every action feels like the most important thing in the world.

Ars (1959). The life of Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney, parish priest, self-flagellant, saint. A strong Bresson influence here. The year 1959 marked the hundredth anniversary of Vianney’s death.

Lola (1961). Watch what happens, as Michel Legrand’s song says, as sailors, dancers, a young woman, a long-lost son, and an alienated young man (Marc Michel) criss-cross Nantes. Obscure objects of desire on the move, with every character another’s double or stand-in. At the center of it all, the dancer Cécile, now known as Lola (Anouk Aimée). Beautifully filmed in soft, milky black and white.

[“C’est moi, c’est Lola.“]

La luxure (1962). Demy’s contribution to The Seven Deadly Sins, a collection of short films by different directors. Wordplay, crassly charming pickup lines, a fantasia on Hieronymus Bosch, and music by Michel Legrand. The solemn world of the earliest Demy films is giving way to playful urbanity, and, of course, la luxure — lechery.

Bay of Angels (1963). A variation of sorts on Stefan Zweig’s story “Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman.” A newbie gambler (Claude Mann) vacations in Nice and meets up with an older (and compulsive) hand at roulette (Jeanne Moreau). Both gamblers smoke Lucky Strikes. Let the chips, or plaques, fall where they may.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964). A sweetbitter fairytale of love and loss and love. A jazz opera of sorts (with some brief metadialogue about preferring movies to opera — all that singing!). An influence on Mister Rogers’s operas? I wonder. Offscreen, the sorrows of war. With Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, and Lola’s Marc Michel.

The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). A fair comes to town, and relationships rearrange themselves. Look, it’s Catherine Deneuve. And her ill-starred sister Françoise Dorléac. And Bernardo from West Side Story (George Chakiris). And Gene Kelly. And sailors. And they’re all singing and dancing. Or someone is singing for them. But they’re the ones dancing. This film made us happy beyond happy for all 126 of its minutes. And yes, it’s an inspiration for La La Land, but this film is the one to watch. Please, watch The Young Girls of Rochefort, before Netflix says “Very long wait.”

[Dorléac and Deneuve as twin sisters Solange and Delphine Garnier.]

We’re watching Demy via Criterion’s The Essential Jacques Demy. Two more to go.


Vicki (dir. Harry Horner, 1953). Social media and death. A publicity man (Elliott Reid) and a gossip columnist (Max Showalter) turn a waitress (Jean Peters) into a model and aspiring actress. And then she’s murdered. A remake of I Wake Up Screaming, with strong overtones of Laura, even in the music that plays behind the opening credits. With a strong performance by Richard Boone, who steps into Laird Cregar’s shoes as terrifying, obsessed cop Ed Cornell. Best line: “If men want to look at me, let them pay for it.”


Indignation (dir. James Schamus, 2016). A Jewish boy from Newark goes off to a Christian college in Ohio. (Why, exactly?) We stopped after twenty minutes or so, having watched long enough to see that this film is yet another version of mid-century America in which color filters turn everything into The Past. Or everything except the luminous blonde-haired student who will obviously be the protagonist’s undoing. From a Philip Roth novel.


City of Gold (dir. Laura Gabbert, 2016). A portrait of Los Angeles food writer Jonathan Gold, and a celebration of the delights to be found in strip malls, storefront restaurants, and food trucks. “In this completely ordinary place,” says, Gold, driving down yet another boulevard, “there happens to be extraordinary food.” He is utterly unpretentious in his appreciation of the world’s cuisines: Chinese, Ethiopian, Iranian, Korean, Mexican — and hot dogs and Squirt soda. Gold may be best known as the man who ate his way down Pico Boulevard. Best watched with food nearby.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)
Fourteen more films : Thirteen more : Twelve more : Another thirteen more : Another dozen : Yet another dozen : Another twelve : And another twelve : Still another twelve : Oh wait, twelve more : Twelve or thirteen more : Nine, ten, eleven — and that makes twelve : Another twelve

Sunday, February 5, 2017


From the Gilmore Girls episode “The Nanny and the Professor” (January 20, 2004). The episode begins with Rory and Lorelai discussing a plural form. Rory: “It’s culs-de-sac.” Lorelai: “No way!” Lorelai adds that culs-de-sac “doesn’t even sound like English.” Rory: “That’s because it’s French.”

The Oxford English Dictionary and Webster’s Second give culs-de-sac as the plural. Webster’s Third adds “also cul-de-sacs.” But Garner’s Modern American Usage (2003) gives cul-de-sacs as the proper plural. Bryan Garner says that with some exceptions (for instance, faits accomplis), “the trend is to anglicize French plurals.” That observation holds in Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016), which adds that culs-de-sac was “a common variant until about 1940,” now outnumbered by cul-de-sacs, 4:1. (The ratio comes from Google’s Ngram Viewer).

I’m amused that the French for “sack-bottom” or “bag-bottom” has become a favored term of American realtors. But as Rory might say, “That’s because it’s French.” I’m not sure it occurred to me until this morning that I am living on a cul-de-sac. I always thought I was living on a dead-end street. But not the one in the Kinks song.

Related reading
“William Safire Orders Two Whoppers Junior” (The Onion)

[In imaginary towns like Stars Hollow and Pleasantville, all streets are either cul-de-sacs or endless loops. My Super Bowl prediction: Gilmore Girls 3, Super Bowl 0.]

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Inept, or radical, or both?

Jonathan Stevenson, former staff member at the National Security Council, asks and answers a question: “Is Trump’s Foreign Policy Inept, or Radical? It’s Both” (The New York Times).

A two-part thought I’ve been thinking for the past two weeks: They have no idea what they’re doing. And they know exactly what they’re doing.

Be prepared

From the Gilmore Girls episode “Those Are Strings, Pinocchio” (May 20, 2003). Richard Gilmore advises his daughter Lorelai: “Never be without a pen.”

Other Gilmore Girls posts
Escape to Stars Hollow : Shopping for supplies : “That bastard Donald Trump”

[How many times will Lorelai ask Luke for a pen, assuming that he’s carrying the one that he uses to take orders at the diner? Two times so far.]

Friday, February 3, 2017

Yet another Henry gum machine

[Henry, February 3, 2017.]

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

And still more gum machines
Henry : Henry : Henry : Perry Mason : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry

[Who fills these things? Or does the gum just stay in there forever?]


George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

This passage made me think immediately of Creon’s rebuke of Antigone: “Aren’t you ashamed to have a mind apart from theirs?”

Related posts
All OCA George Orwell posts : Antigone in Ferguson : Literature and reverence : Modest proposals : Susan Cain on “the New Groupthink”

[The line from Antigone is in Paul Woodruff’s translation, from Sophocles’s Theban Plays, trans. Peter Meineck and Woodruff (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003). For an excellent discussion of Creon’s question and Antigone’s apartness, see Diana Senechal’s Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2012).]

Hamiet Bluiett needs some help

After a series of strokes and seizures, the baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett needs help with his recovery. To that end, his granddaughter Anaya Bluiett has established a GoFundMe project.

In 2014, a New York Times article recounted Bluiett’s earlier health struggles and his determination to continue working. The GoFundMe page says that he’ll no longer be able to work.

I’ve listened to Bluiett for years on recordings. In 2008, I was fortunate to be able to hear him play with Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio. What’s the chance that someone reading this post is a Hamiet Bluiett fan? Small. But that’s a chance I’ll take.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Three rocks, no-release

[Zippy, February 2, 2017.]

For physical health, Zerbina rides her bike “hither and yon.” For mental health, it’s “three rocks no-release bowler poses,” daily. “Three rocks,” better known as “some rocks,” is a perennial element of the Ernie Bushmiller universe.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts, Nancy and Zippy posts, Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Du Bois and Niedecker

W. E. B. Du Bois, addressing the National Colored League of Boston, March 10, 1891:

Grandfather says, “Get a Practical Education, learn a trade, learn stenography, go into a store, but don’t fool away time in college.”
Lorine Niedecker, in a 1962 poem:
It’s almost certainly nothing more than coincidence, but it’s a telling coincidence, with Du Bois and Niedecker both dissenting from ancestral authority.

Condensery is a wonderful name for a poet’s workplace. It owes something to Ezra Pound’s discovery in a German–Italian dictionary of condensare (to condense) as an equivalent of dichten (to write a poem). So making poems means condensing: a maximum of imagery, meaning, and music in the words, with nothing extraneous or redundant. Having always assumed that condensery is a nonce word (formed along the lines of, say, cannery), I was floored when a student discovered that it’s a word outside this poem: “an establishment where condensed milk is prepared” (Century Dictionary). Holy cow! That makes the word even better, with one kind of workplace turning into another.

Another Niedecker post
Keillor and Niedecker

[The source for Du Bois: “Does Education Pay?” in Writings by W. E. B. Du Bois in Periodicals Edited by Others, ed. Herbert Aptheker, vol 1., 1891–1909 (Millwood, NY: Kraus-Thomson, 1982). I came across the passage I’ve quoted in Russell Jacoby, Dogmatic Wisdom: How the Culture Wars Divert Education and Distract America (New York: Doubleday, 1994). Du Bois goes on: “Learn a trade, by all means, and learn it well, but Get a Liberal Education.”]

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Frederick who?

[Video accompanying the New York Times article “Trump’s Black History Talk: From Douglass to Media Bias and Crime.”]

Our president honors Black History Month: “They’re incredible people.” And: “You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago, when somebody said I took the statue out of my office.” And: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

Does Dunning K. Trump think Frederick Douglass is a living human being? Does he have any idea what Frederick Douglass is known for? And how would Trump have noticed that Douglass “is being recognized more and more”? What’s he even talking about? Like a student who hasn’t prepared for the test, our president is faking it — with no idea how obvious his fakery is. (That’s the Dunning K. part.)

Nothing about this presidency is normal. And nothing about this presidency is for getting used to.


February 2: Sean Spicer also appears not to know who Frederick Douglass was. Or if Spicer does know, he’s playing along with the boss. “Frederick Douglass” now has a Twitter account.

Resignation and courage (again)

Seeing visits today to a post from March 2016 makes me want to link to it again: useful words from Joseph Joubert about resignation and courage, words made for these times.

Related reading
All OCA Joseph Joubert posts (Pinboard)

Jon Stewart plays president

“Super-long tie, dead animal on head”: Jon Stewart visits The Late Show.

[As every tie-tier should know, “the tip of the tie should end in the middle of the belt buckle or waistband.”]


Jane Jacobs on credentialing, not educating, as “the primary business of North American universities”:

Teachers could not help despairing of classes whose members seemed less interested in learning than in doing the minimum work required to get by and get out. Enthusiastic students could not help despairing of institutions that seemed to think of them as raw material to process as efficiently as possible rather than as human beings with burning questions and confusions about the world and doubts about why they were sinking time and money into this prelude to their working lives.

Students who are passionate about learning, or could become so, do exist. Faculty members who love their subjects passionately and are eager to teach what they know and to plumb its depths further also exist. But institutions devoted to respecting and fulfilling these needs as their first purposes have become rare, under pressure of different necessities. . . . My impression is that university-educated parents and grandparents of students presently in university do not realize how much the experience has changed since their own student days, nor do the students themselves, since they have not experienced anything else. Only faculty who have lived through the loss realize what has been lost.

Jane Jacobs, Dark Age Ahead (New York: Random House, 2004).
I realize what has been lost. I’d call it intellectual space: a less hurried atmosphere in which greater numbers of faculty and students availed themselves of ample opportunity for conversational exchange about ideas and questions — burning questions, idle questions, odd tangents.

You can read “Credentialing vs. Education,” Jane Jacobs’s chapter on education from Dark Age Ahead (or something very like it, perhaps with minor differences) at the Virginia Quarterly Review.

Two related posts
Michael Oakeshott on education : Review of Academically Adrift