Saturday, December 10, 2016

For Nancy Ritz

[Nancy, June 13, 1949. Notice the deep-focus camerawork.]

A post with some perhaps unobvious bits of advice: How to do well on a final exam. A comment on the post: “This teacher is amazing :) I listened to him and got a 90 on my final exam!”

[To the commenter: Thanks. Your check is (still) in the mail.]

Christian music

“Wholly Cats” (Benny Goodman) and “Royal Garden Blues” (Clarence Williams–Spencer Williams). Benny Goodman and His Sextet: Goodman, clarinet; Georgie Auld, tenor sax; Cootie Williams, trumpet; Count Basie, piano; Charlie Christian, electric guitar; Artie Bernstein, bass; Harry Jaeger, drums. November 7, 1940.

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, and now, Charlie Christian.

Also from these CDs
Mildred Bailey sings “Georgia on My Mind” and “Honeysuckle Rose” : Tony Bennett sings “Sweet Lorraine”

[Damn those YouTube ads: there’s no way to avoid them when embedding.]

From the Saturday Stumper

A beautifully clever clue from today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo. It’s 28-Across, seven letters: “Inflationary spiral?” No spoilers: the answer is in the comments.

I find that I increasingly prefer the plain difficulty and flashes of wit in Newsday puzzles to the strained humor of The New York Times.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Netflix DVD problem

It can be summed up thusly:

Queue: twenty-nine movies, some of which we don’t really even want to see.

Saved: fifty-eight movies, twice as many, all of which one or the other or both of us would really like to see, all with availability “Unknown.”

What’s not available from Netflix on DVD is often more interesting to us than what is available.

John Glenn (1921–2016)

[“Fish eye view of Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn training in a mock up of the planned space capsule.” Photograph by Ralph Morse. 1959. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

The New York Times obituary: “John Glenn, American Hero of the Space Age, Dies at 95.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Windrip’s universities

In the new United States of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, scores of small private colleges are shut down, and state schools are “absorbed” into “central” universities. No Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, or Hebrew allowed. Philosophy and other subjects are taught only with new textbooks written under government supervision. As for modern languages and literature:

Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1931).

At the university where I taught for thirty years, there is now talk of doing away with foreign-language study and philosophy (and much else). And “so-called ‘literature’” has become an increasingly peripheral element in English studies, with reading and writing about literary works no longer a part of the first-year composition sequence. One branding-minded faculty member has suggested that each of the university’s colleges pick some specialty and “market the hell out of it.” A claim to be a university, however, requires very different kinds of commitments.


The New York Times reports that even one cigarette a day is bad for your health:

A person who habitually smokes just one cigarette a day is nine times as likely to die from lung cancer as a nonsmoker, and even if he or she quits at age 50, still has a 44 percent increased risk of premature death.
It would be especially awful to smoke just one cigarette a day and die from a smoking-related illness, no? Quit.

Related reading
All OCA cigarette posts (Pinboard)

[Four or five cigarettes a day was my habit, many years ago.]

Ann Patchett’s favorite bookstores

The novelist and bookstore co-owner Ann Patchett writes in The New York Times about her favorite bookstores. I am happy to see the Corner Bookstore and Three Lives & Company among her recommendations. Great inventory and friendly booksellers.

Related reading
All OCA bookstore posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lambuth serendipity

Bryan Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day today includes a passage from The Golden Book on Writing:

Writing too largely in abstract terms is one of the worst and most wide-spread of literary faults. It sounds learned; it saves the writer from having to use his eyes and ears; and it makes slovenly thinking possible because it does not require definiteness.
A related post
The other little book

A David Lambuth sampler

David Lambuth appears not to have been an especially prolific scholar. But he was an excellent writer. Here are two samples of his prose:

Every good novel is autobiography. Spiritual autobiography, not factual. That the characters are not to be identified nor the events of the story duplicated in the writer’s life is no matter. Beyond such externals we have to penetrate. When we have done that, we discover that what gives a book life is the veracity with which expresses some inner drama through which the writer has passed, the intimacy with which it renders that never-ending process by which the individual adjusts himself to the world around him. The story itself may be realism; it maybe romance; it may be high fantasy: it is again no matter. A man’s vision of life may have many phases and it may express itself in many forms, but without the individual vision, all forms fall short of that communicable vitality which we call art.

Now “The Ordeal of Richard Feverel” is quite peculiarly the record of such a vision and the record of the process by which the vision was achieved.

The first paragraphs of the introduction to George Meredith’s The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (New York: Macmillan, 1926).


In speaking of the strange work of words and metaphors in poetry, Frost himself has used the word “displacement.” At first it seems an awkward term. Then its rightness begins to grow. As we read his own poetry at its high moments, suddenly there envelops us, as it were, an awareness of having stepped into another world of an other and somehow older reality. A moment ago and we were ‘here’; now ‘there’ and ‘here’ have fallen together into a different order of space. We have been transported into the mystery which is the heart of man. It is the magic of the fourth dimension. Revolve a simple cube upon its axis and suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, a new world is born, time and space fuse.

Other poets have spoken — wisely, courageously, poignantly — about living. At its greatest, the speech of Robert Frost is not about living — it is living. This is a strange power, and in it resides the majesty of the man. Not to have felt this is not to have known his stature.

The final paragraphs of the foreword to W. B. Shubrick Clymer and Charles R. Green’s Robert Frost: A Bibliography (Amherst,MA: Jones Library, 1958).
A related post
The other little book

[Just two details that I like: the smartness of ending the the single-sentence paragraph with achieved, not vision, and the inventive image of a cube becoming a sphere.]