Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A tribute in dubious taste

In the aftermath of the Great Blackwing Fiasco of 2010, I’ve had little to say about the Palomino Blackwing pencil. This pencil doesn’t interest me. But I had to say something when the Palomino Blackwing’s manufacturer attempted to associate the pencil with the music of Duke Ellington and John Lennon. And now once again I have to say something:

California Republic recently began a line of limited-edition Blackwing “tribute” pencils. The latest one, “A Tribute to Dorothea Lange,” marks the eightieth anniversary of Lange’s photograph Migrant Mother. This pencil is a tribute in dubious taste — or a tribute to dubious taste. From the company website:

Blackwing 344 celebrates the 80th anniversary of this historic photo and the artistic legacy Dorothea Lange left behind. The deep red barrel, red foil imprint, bright red ferrule and black eraser reflect what a Blackwing 602 pencil would look like in a darkroom. The model number references Library of Congress LOT 344, which contains a number of her photographs, including the iconic “Migrant Mother.”
The arbitrariness (eightieth, 344) of this tribute aside, I have to wonder what it means to ”celebrate” a photograph that documents human suffering by turning that photograph into an opportunity to market high-end stationery supplies. And I wonder what Dorothea Lange would make of it.

Related reading
All Blackwing posts (Pinboard)

[I follow The Chicago Manual of Style in italicizing the title of the photograph.]

“One of the last joys in life”

From Mascots (dir. Christopher Guest, 2016). Greg Gammons Jr. (Fred Willard) is watching a pencil-and-sharpener mascot performance:

“That’s one of the last joys in life, sharpening a pencil. It’s hard to do that wrong.”
Mascots is streaming at Netflix. Not the best Guest, but still a pleasure, with all the usual suspects and a special Guest appearance.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

“Just teaches physics”

A biographical squib:

Alex Small is a tenured associate professor of physics at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. When people are watching, he facilitates learner-centered activities for the accomplishment of learning objectives and engages in production of scholarly knowledge in interdisciplinary paradigms. When people aren’t watching, he just teaches physics and does research on biological applications of optics.

Alex Small, “Tips for Managing Curmudgeons” (The Chronicle of Higher Education).
Administrative types could benefit from Small’s advice.


From Honoré de Balzac’s story “Sarrasine.” La Zambinella speaks:

“Orgies do harm to my voice.”

The Human Comedy: Selected Stories , trans. from the French by Linda Asher, Carol Cosman, and Jordan Stump (New York: New York Review Books, 2014). This story translated by Stump.
She means, of course, wild parties — nothing more.

“Sarrasine” became the stuff of Roland Barthes’s tour de force S/Z (1970). I’m glad to have read, at last, the story.

Also from Balzac
“Easily five foot eight or nine”

Erasmus ekphrasis

From a description of Hans Holbein the Younger’s 1523 portrait of Erasmus:

Stefan Zweig, Erasmus of Rotterdam  , trans. Eden and Cedar Paul (New York: Viking, 1934).

The painting hangs in the Louvre. Wikipedia has a large, clear reproduction, much larger than this one:

[Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam .]

Other Zweig posts
Destiny, out of one’s hands : Fanaticism and reason : Happy people, poor psychologists : Little world : School v. city : “A tremendous desire for order” : Urban pastoral, with stationery : Zweig’s last address book

Monday, October 24, 2016

Awkward metaphor of the day

A campaign spokesman, speaking of his candidate to an anchor on CNN:

“He’s not going to be a wallflower that’s going to get pushed around.”
I can’t imagine what metaphor this spokesman was reaching for. But it certainly wasn’t wallflower . Perhaps he was confusing school dances, where the meek stand off to the side, and school hallways, where the meek get pushed up against the lockers.

The comments from Daughter Number Three and Pete Lit on this recent post made me notice the spokesman’s use of “with all due respect” — twice, each time prefacing a reply that said, in essence, You’re completely, totally wrong, you jerk.

Related reading
All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)

[“Where the meek stand off to the side”: if they’re even there. I speak from experience.]

A Face in the Crowd

From A Face in the Crowd (dir. Elia Kazan, 1957). Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) asks Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith) a question:

“But how does it feel?”

“How does what feel?”

“Saying anything that comes into your head and being able to sway people like this?”

“Yeah, I guess I can.” [Pauses .] “Yeah, I guess I can.”
Lonesome Rhodes is a product, really, made for radio and television. He refuses to follow scripts. His people, as he describes them:
“Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers, everybody that’s got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. . . . Only they’re even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for ’em.”
And there’s more. A Face in the Crowd is disturbingly prophetic.

Dad in a dream

My dad was volunteering at a senior-citizens center, showing silent movies. He would “load the software,” then talk about and show a movie. And to my surprise, he was smoking: True cigarettes. I asked him if they were regular (in the blue pack), or menthol (green). He didn’t know, which surprised me, but I didn’t press it.

In August my dad dropped into a less puzzling dream. I hope I’ll see him again soon.

[In real life, my dad never touched cigarettes. His own father had begun smoking at the age of ten and went on to smoke for sixty-odd years (Camels), becoming apartment-bound with emphysema and dying of lung cancer, years after quitting. I remember the True pack as it looked in the 1970s.]

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Atomic fact

I tried my hand, or index finger, at composing a scientific paper with iOS’s autocomplete. I like the way this first sentence came out:

Atomic energy is the best thing ever to get the most Proustian and the most recent fact of the day.
I lost interest though, as autocomplete began to obsess about Proustian , recent , and Wikipedia . I wouldn’t want to use Wikipedia in a scientific paper.

A related post
iOS to the rescue

[Apple spells autocomplete without a hyphen.]

iOS to the rescue

When Christoph Bartneck, an associate professor at HIT Lab NZ, received an e-mail inviting him to submit a paper for the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics, he found himself with a problem. And a solution: “Since I have practically no knowledge of Nuclear Physics I resorted to iOS auto-complete function to help me writing the paper.”

And his abstract was accepted. Read all about it: iOS Just Got a Paper on Nuclear Physics Accepted at a Scientific Conference. A sample sentence from the abstract:

Molecular diagnostics will have been available for the rest by a single day and a good day to the rest have a wonderful time and aggravation for the rest day at home time for the two of us will have a great place for the rest to be great for you tomorrow and tomorrow after all and I am a very happy boy to the great day and I hope he is wonderful.
The invitation, of course, was an instance of academic spam. Sketchy conferences and journals and invitations abound. See also the classic collaborative paper written in response to another such invitation: “Get me off Your Fucking Mailing List.”

A related post
English professor spam