Saturday, March 17, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

I was surprised to see Willa Cather in today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, 57-Down, three letters: “Religion and art, per Cather.” I’ll give away the answer: KIN. From Cather’s essay “Escapism,” published in Commonweal (1936):

Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers.
My first guess: ONE. I was thinking of what Godfrey St. Peter tells his students in The Professor’s House (1925):
“Art and religion (they are the same thing, in the end, of course) have given man the only happiness he has ever had.”
Of course that’s St. Peter speaking, not Cather.

Finishing the Saturday Stumper is still cause for minor self-congratulation. And by the way: if you haven’t read The Professor’s House, you’re missing one of the great American novels.

Euphemisms of the NYT

In The New York Times yesterday:

“I’m not necessarily encouraging people to swear more,” Byrne writes, “but I do hope you might give it the respect it [expletive] deserves.”
In The New York Times today:
“My stuff,” he said (though he didn’t say “stuff”), “doesn’t work in the playoffs.”
It’d be nice if the Times could get its stuff together and figure out how to handle naughty words. The use of [expletive] is straightforwardly prim. I can’t object. But putting a word in quotation marks when it’s not what was spoken or written seems to me wildly inappropriate.

In previous posts, I’ve written about the Times sanitizing quotations from Philip Larkin and David Foster Wallace.

A text for the day

Marianne Moore, from the poem “Spenser’s Ireland” (1941).

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

[This line appears in at least one version of the poem. Moore was an inveterate reviser.]

Friday, March 16, 2018

Illinois in the NYT

In The New York Times, Julie Bosman reports on candidates in the Illinois governor’s race. It’s a disappointing article, in several ways. The article makes no mention of the state budget crisis being a manufactured crisis, nor does it address the profound problems that have followed (such as the decline of public higher education). Though Daniel Biss appears to lead Chris Kennedy in the Democratic primary race, Biss gets a mere namecheck. And thus the Times casts the Democratic primary as a contest between just two viable candidates, Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker, a millionaire and a billionaire.

Those who don’t follow Illinois politics should be aware that the Times article omits reference to the ugliest elements in a wiretapped 2008 conversation between then-governor Rod Blagojevich and Pritzker. What the article includes is ugly enough, but it’s far from the whole story. You can listen to excerpts from the conversation and decide for yourself.

My take: the last thing we need in Illinois politics is another billionaire running for governor. But if Pritzker gets the Democratic nomination, I have a campaign slogan that I’m prepared to donate: “A Billionaire for the Rest of Us.” All I will ask in return (because it’s Illinois, so I should get something in return) is that the Pritzker campaign stop calling our house and sending campaign literature.

An inverted B

Resistance takes many forms: “The Rebel ‘B’” (Print). More here and here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Down and up

“I’m down to the bottom of my sound, but I’m up to the clearest understanding of my life”: the singer Sylvia Syms, at the age of seventy-four, a month before her death. Syms is quoted in the liner notes to a CD reissue of her 1959 LP Torch Song.

Here’s a performance of “Skylark” (Hoagy Carmichael–Johnny Mercer) from late in Syms’s life. And here, a whole step higher, is a “Skylark” from earlier years. Syms died on May 10, 1992, while receiving a standing ovation after a performance in the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room.

The horror of the news these days makes me especially susceptible to the beauty of music. I can’t hear these performances without tearing up. How about you?

Crispix Corridor

[Zippy, March 15, 2017.]

Today’s Zippy is a treat for anyone who loves the metropolitan dowdy world. Seen on Crispix Corridor, Dingburg’s Main Street, in this one panel, roughly clockwise: signage for Sluggo’s Gym, Town Rug (?), Topknots, 2-Ton Donuts, Z Man, Little Debbie Lodge, Laundro World, Invisible Ink, and Pizza (?) Diner. The other signs in this panel are too small for me to decipher. Elsewhere in today’s strip: signage for Vat of Valvoline, Super Hero Treatment Center, Baby Huey Supplies, Bulbous, Hostess, Pop Rox, Bleach, Toy Trumpets, Toads, Dan Duryea Film Festival, 24 Hour Bowling (All Faiths), X-Treme Ironing Center, House of God, Sen-Sen, Beatniks 4 Rent, Hotel Poindexter, House of Mirrors, Snobbery, Ambiguity, T-Square, Sartre, 2-Tone Shoes, Hard to Read Signs Inc., and several more hard-to-read signs.

I have an abiding daydream of stumbling onto some forgotten midwestern Main Street, with bookshop, music shop, luncheonette, stationery store, all flourishing. Perhaps even a policeman at a crosswalk — because there are so many pedestrians.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : The dowdy world goes shopping (Main Street, Hackensack, New Jersey)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I was watching a play with two friends — a big acclaimed Broadway drama. And a jaded urbanite one row in front of us semi-whispered to his companion: “I can’t believe anyone is taking this seriously.” And just like that, he gave us permission not to.

[Sounds like a dream, but it happened, years ago. I’m not sure what made me think of it now.]

An utterance from another world

From the Father Knows Best episode “Bud, the Campus Romeo” (February 2, 1959), father Jim Anderson speaking to high-schooler son Bud:

“Your dinner jacket just arrived from the cleaners.”

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : Flowers knows best : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : “A Woman in the House”

[Dinner jackets aside, Father Knows Best is far, far better than received opinion might suggest.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A film about Joe Brainard

I Remember is a short film by Matt Wolf about the artist and writer Joe Brainard. Photographs, home movies, and period footage, with Ron Padgett’s recollections of his friend and collaborator, and Brainard reading from his I Remember. Watch online for $1 (or more).

Related posts
Good advice on looking at art : “I remember” : I remember Pete Seeger : I remember Sgt. Pepper : I remember Thanksgiving

[The thing about “I remember”: everyone can play.]