Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Hudson Clearwater, a restaurant in downtown-ish Manhattan, is now open for lunch, and the other day a bartender there shook his first (so he told us) Ramos Gin Fizz. This cocktail (sometimes characterized as "difficult") happens to be one of the best cocktails going.

The bartender's first official fizz was perhaps a bit too . . . heady? The foam had filled up most of the glass, although that's what it's supposed to do. He set it down for a co-worker and pronounced it too


I don't particularly like the sound of the word, but it brought on a quasi cross-sensory reaction and moved rapidly from meringue-y to merenge before landing at meringuey. Meringuey is not a word, except perhaps in this blog (I have not scoured the world to check). To me it looks better than the hyphenated version. It's pleasant because it looks like something other than what's it's supposed to be, i.e., hyphenated.

The best Ramos Gin Fizz I've had was concocted this summer by a restaurant in Chicago, Ill. Obviously Hudson Clearwater is much closer to home. I shall have to return to see how the bartender is coming along with his recipe, a variation on a New Orleans one, he said. Well: that makes sense.

Credit: Topical Press Agency
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 5, Slice 5

Sunday, November 25, 2012


From a February 2, 2004, Anime News Network review by Zac Bertschy of the "house musical" anime movie Interstella 5555 (The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem):

It's no deeper than a kiddy pool, but in terms of simple pleasures, it's best to just sit back and enjoy it.

Reviewer's license, I suppose, but it seems to me (recalling the bizarrerie issue of the summer of 2009) that kiddy is (in truth) an ie word.

( 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time) Free desktop streaming application by Ustream

Saturday, November 24, 2012


The syllabary, the Cherokee Nation's written language, was developed in the early 19th century by a man whose name is now known as the name of giant trees. The word syllabary reminds me of those tiny New Yorker funnies with Constabulary Notes from All Over.

As reported last October 7 by Christina Good Voice, in the online Cherokee Phoenix, in the article "Apple co-founder Steve Jobs leaves legacy in Cherokee language":

In 2003, Apple began supporting the Cherokee language by including a font and keyboard in the company’s computer operating system, wrote CN Language Technologist Joseph Erb in an emailed statement.

“In 2010, Apple’s mobile operating system, now known as iOS, began supporting the Cherokee syllabary by including a font and keyboard as well,” Erb wrote. “Now, all iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches in the world include our language on them – out of the box.

“Anything a person can do in English can be done in Cherokee in part because of his innovations and his support of our language.” 

Students in the Cherokee Language Immersion Program use the Cherokee language on Apple MacBooks in class.

Granted, Steve Jobs did contribute to the well-being of a language that in December 2010 had all of 8000 fluent speakers, most of them over the age of 50, according to an Engadget report. But the Cherokee Nation did its part, too: It joined the Unicode Consortium, the non-profit organization which develops, maintains and promotes software internationalization standards and data. (The Cherokee Nation is listed on Unicode's website as one of many Liaison Members; Apple, Google, Microsoft, and IBM are among the two handfuls of full members.)

In 2011 the National Science Foundation and the NEH announced 10 fellowships and 24 institutional grants totaling $3.9 million in the agencies' ongoing Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) program. One of the grants was awarded to the author of the definitive Cherokee-English dictionary and many Cherokee language books, a man named Durbin D. Feeling, "to study the prosody of Cherokee, a severely endangered Iroquoian language. This project will add information about lexical tone and vowel length for each entry in the Cherokee Electronic Dictionary, filling a gap in the available resources on Cherokee grammar."

This week, Cherokee (ᏣᎳᎩ) became Google's 57th language to become Gmailable. Email in Cherokee means the newly coined phrase "lightning paper," an echo (to me, anyway) of the 19th-century phrase "paper leaves."


*   *   * 

November 2017: Here's a tidbit about the history of the syllabary, from an online-published essay by Krissy Clark and Geoff McGhee, entitled "Did the West Make Newspapers, or Did Newspapers Make the West?" Find it at the website for The Bill Lane Center for the American West.
. . . In Oklahoma, for example, a young, Princeton-educated silversmith by the name of Sequoyah began developing an alphabet for the Cherokee language in 1809, with the hope of making written communication possible for his tribe. In 1828, the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Indian newspaper, came off of a press in Georgia that was typeset in his syllabary. It is instructive of the relationship between the natives and the coming settlers that one of the later papers to use the alphabet was not a newspaper at all, but a publication called the Cherokee Messenger, meant to proselytize Christianity in 1844.7 
7 Karolevitz, Robert F., Newspapering In the Old West: A Pictorial History of Journalism and Printing On the Frontier. [1st ed.] (Seattle: Superior Pub. Co, 1965), p. 122. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


What could be the reason for calling the turkey (short for turkey-cock) by its given name and presenting "as a recognizable bird in all its birdness" at the holiday table?

AgriCulture blogger Mark Scherzer, a co-owner of Turkana Farms in Germantown, NY, has some thoughts about this. In the most recent post on Rural Intelligence's AgriCulture blog, he writes: 

Starting from the descriptive terms we use, we try to mask the source of most of the meats we eat. We do not eat “cow” or “calf.”  Instead we dine on “beef” or “veal.” Nor do we eat “pigs.” It is “pork” that arrives on our tables. “Sheep”?  Never tasted them, it’s “mutton” instead.  Where mammals are concerned, our language suggests that we are eating something other than the actual animal when we fork into a serving of meat.

. . . 

Why such a ready acceptance of the turkey presented intact on the Thanksgiving table? One factor may certainly be the ritual nature of this harvest celebration meal, which dates back even beyond the American colonial period to sixteenth century Europe. The very nature of a ritual is that it is something repeated as it always has been. Our traditional presentation of the turkey may be, in part, a historical survival from a time when reminding us of the animal source of our food was considered highly desirable and in good taste. 

. . . 

In a famous letter to his daughter in 1784, Benjamin Franklin bemoaned the choice of the bald eagle as a national symbol, complaining that eagles were lazy and cowardly, and subject to being chased away by birds as small as sparrows. They scavenge as much as capture their own prey. He noted that the images of eagles depicted on coins looked a lot like turkeys, and opined that the turkey would have been a better choice as our symbol because it was also native to America but far braver than the eagle. The turkey, he noted, would even attack a British grenadier.

To the turkey’s quality of courage I would add a good natured inquisitiveness as well as a wily sort of intelligence. And then, perhaps the most American of all characteristics, the sort of open friendliness we have long valued as a society. 

Post-post tidbits: from the OED.

Etymology:  < Turkey n.1 + cock n.1 In the 16th cent. synonymous with Guinea-cock orGuinea-fowl, an African bird known to the ancients (the μελεαγρίς of Aristotle,meleagris of Varro and Pliny), the American bird being at first identified with or treated as a species of this. The African bird is believed to have been so called as originally imported through the Turkish dominions; it was called Guinea-fowl when brought by the Portuguese from Guinea in West Africa. After the two birds were distinguished and the names differentiated, turkey was erroneously retained for the American bird, instead of the African. From the same imperfect knowledge and confusion Meleagris, the ancient name of the African fowl, was unfortunately adopted by Linnæus as the generic name of the American bird.

1860   E. B. Tylor Anahuac (1861) ix. 228   The turkey, which was introduced into Europe from Mexico, was called ‘huexolotl’ from the gobbling noise it makes.

What Thanksgiving means for most of New York City
Macy's "first ever giant inflatable balloon," 1927
(according to U.S. News & World Report)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Charming typo alert:

From the Financial Times.

November 21, 2012 12:49 am

News Corp eyes Simon & Schuster

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The conveniently located Upper West Side Trader Joe's sells milk that is not Fairway's grassfed milk (Q: what, exactly, does the carton mean when it says the organic milk contained within is "produced with milk from local family farmers"?)

The store also offers its own brand of natural mountain spring water, from Benton, Tenn., possibly Peacock Spring.

Wouldn't it be super groovy cool if Trader Joe's

1) stopped selling bottled water in plastic bottles and set up a San Francisco-airport style water station (note: because NYC tap water tastes so good, people from out of town have been known to actually fill jugs to bring it "back with them")


2) looked west to the Okanogan Highlands Bottling Company, and figured out a way to make more of their own bottles ?


The word transboundary did not announce itself in the middle of a grocery outpost, however.  It appears in a November 19 piece, "A Global Treaty on Rivers: Key to True Water Security," by Fred Pearce, in Yale environment360. The catalyst for the piece: Two global river treaties are close to being approved – a UN agreement adopted in 1997 looks to be on the verge of being ratified, and European nations are close to ratifying their own river treaty. Mr. Pearce writes,

"More than 40 percent of the world’s people live in 263 river basins that straddle international borders. The Danube, Rhine, Congo, Nile, Niger, and Zambezi rivers all pass through nine or more countries. Transboundary rivers contain 60 percent of the world’s river flows — for two-thirds of them, there are no agreements on water sharing."

The article is about the possibility (in time for the 2013 U.N.'s International Year of Water Cooperation) for a global agreement on sharing international rivers. It sounds as though the outcome of a Rome meeting of the Helsinki convention set for November 28-30 will determine the way forward for an agreement.

"The Rome meeting of the Helsinki convention is also likely to extend its purview to drawing up rules for sharing underground water reserves," Mr. Pearce writes. "It could, for instance, help save the ancient water beneath Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which the two countries are currently racing to pump out before the other does. Likewise, it could manage the Nubian aquifer beneath Libya, Egypt, Sudan and Chad, which is currently being tapped by Libya; and the Guarani aquifer that straddles the borders between Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina."

Mr. Pearce describes China as "the water tower of Asia."

Canadian Geographic has a glossary which defines transboundary as "Crossing a provincial, territorial or national boundary or border." Note that the definition relies on a suface model, not a, let's say, hydrogeologic one.

Here in New York State we are facing some boundary issues, having to do with concrete casings, hazardous waste laws, sewage treatment plants, and money. New York City and every other county that will be affected by activities in the state's Southern Tier are having our own transboundary time of it, thanks to the advent of high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing and its imminent long-term visitation upon to the Empire State. 

Sometimes I think about China's Three Gorges Dam and "the wobble" and its supposed 15-day fill period; other times I think about what is going on here in New York State, and about the simple offer of an ordinary glass of tap water at a restaurant, and as a New York City resident I think--seriously--about the choices one will have if this technology really comes to stay. 

Water takes the shape of its container. 

What is its container? Some say it's Earth.

 [credit: Daily Mail, Oct 15 2008]


After the bee, in a long high-ceilinged room on the third floor of The Standard Hotel, we learned the correct way to pronounce antimony. It's pronounced like alimony, not like anemone. The OED's Jesse Sheidlower, a man of few and myriad words and one of the BMOCs in the room, walked us through the word.

Before the bee began in earnest, at the outset, emcee Ben Greenman told the participants, "Think about the alphabet."

And during the bee, a spelling bee to benefit the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, many words were broadcast for the enjoyment of all and sundry. Some words were quite nice (tierce, timbale), some quite rather easy (litigiousgluttonously, and succotash--a Narragansett word, according to Mr Sheidlower), and a few, such as sculpin, a little out-there.

As is the annual tradition, sacrilegious felled a couple of participants. Mr Sheidlower was nonplussed at this (in the traditional sense of the word).

Colophon proved a stumper, too.

One of the participants -- was it Patricia Marx? -- asked for the definition of uncomplimentary before she spelt it. A wise woman.

Until Mr Sheidlower read the word chordal aloud in a sentence, I imagined it as something difficult, out of the Aztecs. That Roseanne Cash received the word was a sweet coincidence.

from a letter c. 1517

Saturday, November 17, 2012


This word did not come along the night before last at Legal Momentum's Equal Opportunity Awards dinner. André Leon Talley, one of the recipients, did use the word malarky (and the dinner partner on my right did comment that Joe Biden has put that word back into new circulation), but malarky is not today's word.

Today's word was spotted a few days ago on Facebook in an announcement for an NYU Medieval Studies Society event: Ballads and Balladry: Medieval, Romantic, and Modern.

Ah, balladry. When Audrey runs smack into ballet.

A scrap I keep around, photocopied from a book (probably from the '50s) returned to the library (and whose author I cannot recall), reads:

The Ballad culture is not like a mass-culture, for that term seems to me an abstraction connoting a mass of humanity which is merely recipient and submits to purposive manipulation by various agencies. Like other abstractions, mass-culture is 'in the air', but the air has always been full of chimeras, some of which are inspiring and some preposterous. Mass-culture, unless its meaning changes radically, remains a preposterous statistical abstraction produced by the categorizing intellect. The kind of culture presented by the cinema or by television, the latter of which especially is closely related to clock-time and the focused eye of consciousness, is also unlike the Ballad culture. Whether mankind will again shape a popular culture that provides as much deep satisfaction as Ballads have done I cannot tell; I can only hope so.

          Hiraki Sawa, Sleeping Machine [II]2011

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The acronym for Numerical Python, advertised as "the fundamental package for scientific computing with Python." Also: "Besides its obvious scientific uses, NumPy can also be used as an efficient multi-dimensional container of generic data."

How did I come across this? While surfing around as I submit blog posts to the Boston Globe's Brainiac blog.

NumPy: a little NIMBY, a little num (the synonym for yum), and perhaps summoning the yampi (or yampee, or cush-cush). If it were an animal, would likely be a panda.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


At the IFPDA Print Fair, part of the unfortunately timed Print Week, there was plenty of discussion about galleries hard-struck by the hurricane. But there were also plenty of people and plenty of art works to see. Red dots were spotted here and there.

I took out my "dumb" (perhaps somebody will coin another term for "smart phone") phone and snapped many pictures, and then took a number of mental snapshots. Among my snaps: photographs of Don Brown's photos of sculptures of his wife (his gallery is Paul Stolper); two-dimensional works-turned-three, by Liliana Porter, and embroidered works by Soledad Salamé (at Goya Contemporary); prints by Jessie Arms Botke and Frances Gearhart (at the Prints & The Pauper); Tess Jaray screenprints (at Advanced Graphics London); and prints by Richard Gorman.

The Gorman prints, brought to the fair by Stoney Road Press, were one stop along a fairly dazzling tour conducted by Phillip Sanders, the director of the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. Mr. Sanders introduced many aspects of the printmaker's world, including reverse proofs (a set of Theodore Roussel prints at Pia Gallo), chine-collé (a James Siena at Harlan & Weaver), and the autographic fact of lithography (Nina Lopez's work at the Tamarind Institute).

When we arrived at the Stoney Road Press to view the Gorman prints, Mr Gorman's work muted anything Mr Sanders was saying, and partly because I had been thinking about two of them the night before. The artist had set pieces of wood aside one another and then printed off them onto square pieces of (as the director put it) "marine ply from a building suppliers' yard" (which disappeared, he said later, in the maw of the Celtic Tiger). Intended for crates, the thin wooden pieces were selected for their "interesting surfaces." Artists want pieces that are marked and roughened, not smooth.

Bending over something like Dark Wave (although not Dark Wave, and I was still too absorbed to be concerned about titles), the director, David O'Donoghue, said,

"We want stuff that's got lots of activity."

Natural "hoof marks", depressions in the wood -- "whatever breaks a flat surface" -- make for activity.

Earlier Mr Sanders had referred to images in the Roussel prints as "information."

Information, activity. A new way to think about both words. So goes the special language of printmakers.

I suppose if I wanted to be cutesy I would say that the next place to look for signs of activity is the London Original Print Fair or the (as they say in French) Salon International de l'Estampe et du Dessin.

Friday, November 2, 2012


This wound up in a sentence coming out of my own mouth tonight at the Playwrights Horizons Theater on West 42nd Street. While taking in the empty set and waiting for the play to begin, a woman running life commentary behind my front-row seat told her companion she'd just seen a mouse run across the (stage) hall into the (stage) kitchen. (Also that the Caucasion Chalk circle was "a train wreck.") I turned and asked her if she thought the set designer had done this, set loose a mouse. To the man on my right, I commented, "Rodentry", while wondering if it's a word.

Sam Hunter's play "The Whale" was what I was there to see, and although I was prepared to not like it -- as much as I really wanted to like it -- I was not prepared to like every character so much. And the set was gorgeous. So were the costumes.

At the beginning, it was difficult to be seated so closely to a woman whose adolescent character is profoundly angry and enfortressed. De Courcy (lowercase d) is the actress's last name. Three strong, angry female characters in this play.

Initially when I heard the play featured a morbidly obese man, I wasn't interested in seeing it.

Later, at a salon, I met the playwright and saw a scene played by two of the actors. One of them was playing the angry, closed-down intense young woman, and she was mean, and it was off-putting, and I remained uninterested in seeing the play. Though I was curious.

Then a friend who had seen the play mentioned that long-distance teaching and expository writing were involved.

Time to attend. (And there was a Hurricane special on Facebook.)

If you hear that the play has to do with Moby-Dick, it really doesn't. The play is about how people create distance -- do-not-touch-me distance -- in the throes or in the wake of grief, anger, and bewilderment. It's also a showcase for the relationship between body and mind. (I shrunk and grimaced, watching the way food was wielded.) Is "The Whale" about writing? Hardly, but the essay-writing conceit works beautifully.

Everybody in this play is out of balance. I laughed genuinely (torso laughs, not throat ones) and at the end I almost lost it, its final moment is so plain sad to behold.

"That was well worth the mouse," I told the man with the glasses when the house lights came up.

Gas lamps along the eastern side of Gramercy Park [taken with a phone],
10:45 p.m. tonight