Monday, October 31, 2011


I thought after struggling through the Thursday crossword with a friend last week that I would find an entire entry for aut in the OED. What I found was an Obs. rare word for free will.

In Greek it's τὸ ἐϕ' ἡμῖν.

Odilon Redon
Red Boat with a Blue Sail

Arthur Hacker
Matinee afternoon,
Picadilly Circus (study)


Beijing 2010

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Not from the song "Homage to Marat," belted out last night at St. Ann's Warehouse by Justin Vivian Bond, who warmed up for The Tiger Lilies, an ensemble of impeccable performers:

Fighting all the gentry and fighting every priest,
Businessman, the bourgeois, the military beast

I heard minatory, not military--though the passing visual image was that of a labyrinth. How pretty, I thought. Minatory really is a very pretty word.

Friday, October 28, 2011


From The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to the Onion, edited by Andy Borowitz. By the way, a good number of the humorists in the book are dead. What does that say about American humor--or about this book?

And does The Onion qualify as a humorist? I wanted to know who wrote this article for the paper several years ago (and if they're now writing for the Onion News Network).

Clinton Deploys Vowels to Bosnia
Cities of Sjlbvdnzv, Grzny to Be First Recipients

Before an emergency joint session of Congress yesterday, President Clinton announced U.S. plans to deploy over 75,000 vowels to the war-torn region of Bosnia. The deployment, the largest of its kind in American history, will provide the region with the critically needed letters A, E, I, O and U, and is hoped to render countless Bosnian names more pronounceable.

"For six years, we have stood by while names like Ygrjvslhv and Tzlynhr and Glrm have been horribly butchered by millions around the world," Clinton said. "Today, the United States must finally stand up and say, 'Enough.' It is time the people of Bosnia finally had some vowels in their incomprehensible words. The U.S. is proud to lead the crusade in this noble endeavor."

The deployment, dubbed Operation Vowel Storm by the State Department, is set for early next week, with the Adriatic port cities of Sjlbvdnzv and Grzny slated to be the first recipients. Two C-130 transport planes, each carrying over 500 24-count boxes of "E's," will fly from Andrews Air Force base across the Atlantic and airdrop the letters over the cities.

Citizens of Grzny and Sjlbvdnzv eagerly await the arrival of the vowels.

"My God, I do not think we can last another day, Trszg Grzdnjlkn, 44, said. "I have six children and none of them has a name that is understandable to me or anyone else. Mr. Clinton, please send my poor, wretched family just one 'E.' Please."

Said Sjlbvdnzv resident Grg Hmphrs, 67: "With just a few key letters, I could be George Humphries. That is my dream."

If the initial airlift is successful, Clinton said the United States will go ahead with full-scale vowel deployment, with C-130s airdropping thousands more letters over every area of Bosnia. Other nations are expected to pitch in as well, including 10,000 British "A's" and 6,500 Canadian "U's." Japan, rich in A's and O's, was asked to participate in the relief effort, but declined.

"With these valuable letters, the people of war-ravaged Bosnia will be able to make some terrific new words," Clinton said. "It should be very exciting for them, and surely much easier for us to read their maps."

Linguists praise the U.S.'s decision to send the vowels. For decades they have struggled with the hard consonants and difficult pronunciation of most Slavic words.

"Vowels are crucial to the construction of all language," Baylor University linguist Noam Frankel said. "Without them, it would be difficult to utter a single word, much less organize a coherent sentence. Please, don't get me started on the moon-man language they use in those Eastern European countries."

According to Frankel, once the Bosnians have vowels, they will be able to construct such valuable sentences as: "The potatoes are ready"; "I believe it will rain"; and "All my children are dead from the war."

The American airdrop represents the largest deployment of any letter to a foreign country since 1984. During the summer of that year, the U.S. shipped 92,000 consonants to Ethiopia, providing cities like Ouaououa, Eaoiiuae and Aao with vital, life-giving supplies of L's S's and T's. The consonant-relief effort failed, however, when vast quantities of the letters were intercepted and horded by violent, gun-toting warlords.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


From the menu at Yama, where I'd never wanted to wait. Tonight I arrived during a 10-minute lull and actually entered--and then ate dinner. (Walking Irving Place and peeking into Gramercy Park--the "Gramercy Park Litmus Test" hovered a little--qualified as dessert).

I believe one of tonight's specials is

Crispy Shrimpy


There must be a word for when words have matching endings. Certainly the vowel corridor helps with the affinity between these two here.

Closing the menu, I remembered the time a woman on the subway platform asked me if the train went to Yankee Station. Also David Henry Hwang's new play Chinglish came to mind. (According to The Economic Times, M. Butterfly is "essentially banned" in China.)

What if it shrimpy were spelled schrimpy?

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Pleasantly connected to Orphic and Orpheus and seal sounds that actually don't exist, this is from the first page of the comic supplement of The Chicago Tribune of September 16, 1906, exhibited at the Whitney Museum as part of its Lyonel Feininger exhibit. The text of the first panel reads:

This is the way Willie Winkie told it to me: You see, Unkie Fein- / inger, de ole sun was hot and tired, an orfly fretty, and wanted so bad to / have his face washed with a cool sponge and be put to bed, ‘cause he’d got / up early and been shining so hard all day long.

The sun is a bald, baby-old man face of an orb hung in a yellow sky.

As described in Feininger's online biography published by Ohio State University's Cartoon Library & Museum, Wee Willie Winkie’s World was the second strip Feininger wrote for the Tribune. Named after the nursery rhyme character,* "Wee Willie Winkie’s World first appeared . . . in August 19, 1906. The concept of Wee Willie Winkie’s World was similar to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland. The comic centered on a wandering boy who brings elements in nature to life through his imagination. This strip was also short-lived, with its last appearance on January 20, 1907."

This is Carnival in Gelmeroda II, a 1909 work.

I liked paintings like this the most, something about Feininger's colors.

This is Edge of the Wood, Lobbe 1907.

Wasn't at the Whitney.

Neither was this,
The Proposal

Or this.

Steam Train 1908.

Feininger spent time in Paris from 1906 to 1908.

Is this a self-portrait?

I was interested to see that Feininger had composed music. Amazingly, three of his organ fugues are going to be played at Carnegie Hall this coming Friday by Leon Botstein's American Symphony Orchestra. It's too bad the Whitney provided so little space for Feininger's musical work. Part of what makes the artist so interesting was his capacity for working in so many mediums.

On a completely different note, I just want to say that although the name Lyonel is winning, the name Léonell (which was his at birth) is as good. I wonder when he began to live as Lyonel.

[Feininger images via the Splog of Michael Sporn Animation, Inc.]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I'm so accustomed to seeing Bolshoi that it was a nice change to see it this way.

From a wonderful book about choral repertoire, the section on Rachmaninoff:

In the meantime, he continued to conduct, leading the Bol'shoy Theater between 1904 and 1906 and touring the United States in 1909.

Interestingly the author didn't go with Bol'shoy Teatr.

Sometime I'd like to hear the children's poems Rachmaninoff set to music, Six Choruses for Women's of Children's Voices with piano accompaniment, Op. 15. According to the book, they include poems about "a lonely pine tree that dreams of a far-off kingdom" and "a caged nightingale that does not sing until released." I wonder how often they're performed in Russia.

Monday, October 3, 2011


From Chapter XVIII of Huck Finn:

Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't.

I just noticed the mother in the center of the word. Wonder if Mark Twain saw it.

I was in my 20s when I read this book with a boy I was tutoring at the Prep for Prep program. Tonight I found a paper he wrote for me, in the book. I was not a Mickey Mouse tutor. Inside the book's back flap is a list of vocabulary words I looked up in the OED, and on the last page is the phone number for a man named Luke.

I had an enormous, speechless crush on Luke, and could never bring myself to admit it to anybody, not even to the mutual friends who introduced us.

We didn't have much to talk about. He knew about horses and I didn't. I knew about books and he didn't. When, for a chaste five minutes, we entered some horrible, grotty apartment on the Upper East Side--I recall it as dark, narrow, bachelor-bare, and non-furnished--the space between us widened. I could not begin to imagine how he could live in such blah circumstances. He was full of life. His apartment was about as interesting as a pocket protector. At the time, such things mattered to me.

We wouldn't make it through many more non-conversations together.

I couldn't have much of a conversation with my student, either. One day he asked me what reading Huck Finn had to do with his getting a job when he grew up, and I didn't really have an answer for him. I myself had never asked the question.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


When seeking a rhyme for ministry.

1855 C. Kingsley Westward Ho! xv, That these strange attachments were due to a synastria, or sympathy of the stars, which ruled the destinies of each person.