Monday, October 8, 2018


George Frederic Watts, The Minotaur, 1885, 
digital image © Tate, released under CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

Writing about this painting in the Autumn 2013 issue of Tate Etc. magazine, 
artist Ed Atkins voiced the perspective of the minotaur: 
"I’ve always-already forgotten the bird I killed so absentmindedly."

The cutesy-ness of the terminal y applied to great advantage.

Explaining how showman Donald Trump* has succeeded in fomenting feelings of victimhood, especially during the period of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings, Trevor Noah tells his studio audience:
I don't know if you saw that rally that he [Trump] hosted, where he came out and he mocked Dr. Ford.  I don't know if you saw the little press-conference-y moment he gave outside the White House where he, where he talked about men, and he said, 'You know, it's a really scary time to be a man right now—really scary time for men, worst time ever to be a man.' . . . . And then they asked him later, they said, 'What about, what about women, what is it for them?', and he was like, 'It's a great—women are doing great.'
And, you know what I realized in, in that moment, just, just looking at the sentiment and the message that, that Trump was conveying:  it's a really powerful thing that I, I-I think people take for granted, and that is, for me, personally, I find Trump's most powerful tool is that he knows how to wield victimhood.  He knows how to offer victimhood to the people who have the least claim to it.
via Daily Kos

What is comical about Noah's use of the term press-conference-y is how it aligns with X's (see bottom of post) opinions about the gravitas that comes with the office of the president of the United States.  To match with the man who reduces almost any situation to gallstones, who mocks the very idea of public office, and who vilifies our nation's free press, Noah adroitly alights upon press conference-y, which is a most suitable inflection of the phrase press conference.

Noah goes on to ask:
How many men, percentage-wise, have been falsely accused of a sexual assault, and How many women have actually been sexually assaulted?

Into my mind floats that well-known quotation from Carl Jung:
Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.

* What if from now on we simply refer to Trump as X ?

Thursday, August 23, 2018


© the princess & the frog

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science contextualizes the role the scrolls played in their day.  

There is a short movie at the close of the exhibit.  Debatably it belongs at the beginning. 

Today's word is from that movie. A scholar, explaining how people came to study the scrolls preserved in caves, says:
All the broken pieces were brought to Jerusalem to a room they called "The Scrollery" in the Rockefeller State Museum.
We are shown a view of a large, brightly lit room (one cringes) with tables laid with seeming placemats of fragments.  It is a beyond-fantastic story.     

© Ryan R. "A mammatus formation over Denver, US"  
Copyright Cloud Appreciation Ltd.

The colloquial reference to the Rockefeller State Museum must indicate the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum located in East Jerusalem, apparently just beyond the walls of the Old City. It was formerly known as the Palestine Archaeological Museum.  (See if you can spot the charming typing error in the PDF of this 1961 Guidebook titled The Palestine Archaeological Museum and The Dead Sea Scrolls.)

Scrollery:  Doesn't this sound like scullery? It also conjures curls of ribbon candy, to me. 

The exhibition is well-worth at least three hours of one's time, and I have only three suggestions for the Museum. 

One is that people be admitted every twenty minutes, not every ten. (Every half hour is too much to ask, though that would be appropriate, given how slowly the tight circular reading line moves.)   There is a classic commercial for 

The other two concern the case titled "Preserving the Scrolls."  First, is there any Japanese tissue paper in there?  There was some kind of tissue paper, it seemed, but . . .   Second, might a request be sent over to the Israel Antiquities Authority for labels of everything in the showcase and explanations of how each element functions to preserve the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It isn't obvious.  

After seeing the exhibition, I was driven to find out more about documents from the period, so eyebrow-raising was the story told throughout the short closing movie.

© the princess & the frog

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Bakery, fakery, quackery, and Dacron:  These are the words that came to mind at The Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair last weekend when my eyes caught hold of the word Kodakery.

Publicity material at the Ephemera Catalog Booth,
The 34th Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair
Photo E III

The OED online lists KodakryKodaker, and Kodakist, as derivatives of the verb — the verb! — Kodak.  (It's difficult to refrain from comparing Kodaking and Googling, isn't it?) 

At this cultural moment in time, The Kodakery is the name of a podcast.

Technology not offered at The 34th Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair
 Hector Sanchez 1984  SSM San Diego, CA

Photo E III

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Showing how radiant heat and radiant light differ.  From "Who cares about the history of science?," by Hasok Chang, Notes and Records, March 2017, 71 (1), pp. 91-107. Chang's twentieth footnote reads: "William Herschel, ‘Experiments on the solar, and on the terrestrial rays that occasion heat; with a comparative view of the laws to which light and heat, or rather the rays which occasion them, are subject, in order to determine whether they are the same, or different. Part 2’, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. Abridged 18, 748–787 (1809); the figure reproduced here is Fig. 12 on Plate XIII. The original unabridged version of the paper is in Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 90, 437–538 (1800); the figure there appears without the ‘Heat making Rays’ label."

Once upon a time, the word feedback referred to audio distortion, not consumer survey responses.

Those were the days.

Thus did I practically vibrate with joy on April 7th, 2018, at the Ruth Humphreys Brown Theatre, in Creede, Colorado.

It was the night of the annual variety show. As somebody who's lived in Creede Town for the past year, I wanted to see what the locals had to offer.  Many songs, it turned out. (No unicycles.)

For me the most memorable act, and a very Creede act indeed, featured a junk jam band of grown men playing guitars made with cigar boxes or hub caps. Among them was the man who owns the local guitar shop, and leading the band was a man named Jeff Johnson.

Before Mr. Johnson led the group, he took to the stage by himself to play a song for his sweetheart. First, he set on a high stool a busker's briefcase which he opened to reveal a nine-volt amplifier. Then, because the amplifier was within fairly close range of the stage microphone, Mr. Johnson took some care setting things just so before beginning to sing. As he made adjustments, he explained to the audience that he didn't want things to get too feedback-y.

Thank you, Mr. Johnson, citizen of Creede.  Every once in a blue moon, I suppose, these are the days.

Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) in Creede, 2014
From the blog Thick and Thin (air), photograph by Janey & Co.

N.B. Alternate words for feedback include reaction, thoughts, and

Thursday, March 8, 2018


Detail of The Fish Bus, created in 1993 by Kate Seeley, in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Initially I came across this word this week, while reading Conversations with Glenn Gould, by Jonathan Cott (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).* Slurpy appears within pianist Gould’s response to Mr. Cott’s multi-part question about Gould’s attitude towards Mozart’s “nonpolyphonic style” and “Brechtian approach” to playing Mozart’s piano sonatas.
In any case, I really think that the notion that one must start a Mozart sonata with a firm, upright kind of tempo and steady beat and then relax into something that is slurpy and Viennese, and then return to a hint of the original pulse just before the double bar and follow that with a bridge passage and so on, is pretty silly.
What's so interesting to me is Gould's coupling of slurpy with Viennese. What ever does it mean?  Does it have to do with tonality?. . .  Or . . .

So, I consulted the Oxford English Dictionary online, which, to my surprise, responded thusly:

Quick search results

No dictionary entries found for ‘slurpy’.

Did you mean: 
  • slump
  • slurp
  • slurry
  • blu-ray
  • clumpy
(Clumpy !)

I do not possess any of the 29 volumes of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: 2nd Edition on hand. Perhaps slurpy makes an appearance somewhere in there.

Attempting to do a quick online searcheroo, I came across two other examples of slurpy in the musical sense. 

The November 26, 1990, issue of New York Magazine, with the cover story “How To Save New York,"** includes the word in Peter G. Davis’s music column:
Reveling in the prodigious vocal endowment that has made him the hot new voice of the day, Dmitri Hvorostovsky recently gave a puzzling recital in Carnegie Hall. The young Siberian baritone devoted half his program to arie antiche, slurpy arrangements of eighteenth-century Italian songs that invariably began recitals a generation ago. 

And, the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of The Note, published twice a year by the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection (ACMJC), East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, includes slurpy in a long interview with Med Flory, a now-deceased alto saxophonist and founder of the Grammy-winning jazz group Supersax. Speaking of the jazz musicians who influenced him, Flory tells interviewer Bob Bush:
Diz, and going long way back, Louis Jordan. I liked Louis Jordan before I heard Diz and I never could stand Johnny Hodges. I just couldn’t stand that slurpy way he played.

From Viennese (but which school?...) to Italian, and then to Johnny Hodges.


But, then, I realized, maybe this moment calls more for Not-Alas.

Not-Alas because in the year 2018, I'm now presented with a genuine opportunity to investigate the meaning of a word without resorting to online research.  I'm actually in a position to, say, wander into one of America's last remaining record shops and make inquiries.  By-standers could overhear, and join in the conversation.  For several minutes, a small group of musicians or music appreciators could actually debate and discuss, and even perform examples of slurpiness using various instruments.  They could do all this before the OED creates an entry for slurpy

Mr. Cott published a subsequent book of conversation, Dinner With Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein.

** How to do this: For example, a Hasidic scholar named Simon Jacobson suggests that “a Lenny Bruce” redesign the City’s government.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


When I moved from New York City to the Western United States, what became clear very quickly, at least from one standpoint, is that weather is the main news, the main story, here.  It makes me miss New York sometimes, where weather can light the city's stage but isn't the backdrop for every scene. In New York, you dress for dinner; here you dress for the weather. Here is strong, strong sun. Also fires and droughts.

Due to climactic changes, countless trees have been invaded by beetles. I have a day dream of sorts about the great beetle devastation and What To Do.

It goes something like this:

First, various scientists gather in a large room with a giant black board (because chalk is a cousin of wood; white board marker is not) and scribble all kinds of truly basic information about trees, the kind of observations that perceptive sixth-graders might come up with.

The scientists would be joined by others—entomologists, dendrologists, foresters, paper millers, musicologists, soil conservation technicians, bird watchers, wildlife experts, environmental historians, philosophers, Proustians, bark beetle–nightmares sufferers, physicists, geologists, physicians, herbalists, meteorologists, chefs, novelists, non-specialized sixth graders, poets, painters—the list goes on.  All of these people would have spent a good deal of time walking in forests or among trees.

A large list of basics would be drawn up.

Someone would say, Remember Seth Brundle in the The Fly? What if Seth Brundle had been, say, a round-headed pine beetle?  

From Moviefone, Retrieved Saturday, February 3, 2018, 6:38 p.m.
Note: The Fly had a cinematic life before Geoff Goldblum came along. 

Another would ask about ways to connect the dots from today's infestations to the shimmering clouds of late–19th century grasshoppers that blotted out the sun over the Great Plains. As Caroline Fraser discusses in her Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the removal of top soil by scores of homesteaders brought disaster upon themselves.

Another participant at this gathering would wonder aloud if weather modification and geoengineering, all kinds of tampering with Mother Nature, has been enabling these beetles to flourish. [Photos, below, by me.]  Legions of people will attest to the harmlessness of weather modification, usually set off with the words "just" or "all it does is . . . ." Also, weather modificationists point out that the systems of the Rockies differ from systems elsewhere on the North American Continent.


Questions would continue.  Does the soundscape surrounding a tree come into play, as it were? What sounds support or inhibit the beetles' motions?

Someone would bring up David Dunn, an acoustic ecologist and faculty member in the Digital Arts and New Media Graduate Program at UC Santa Cruz. Dunn is quoted on the Santa Cruz Newscenter Web page, saying, "It is the balance between the rational and imaginative that will ultimately solve the most serious problems that threaten us."  Along with his collaborating researchers, Dunn has received a patent for a device that turns beetles' (which kinds of beetles? good question) own sounds against them, as he puts it. It's been many years coming; here is Dunn on NPR ten years ago). 

From the video "David Dunn’s Bark Beetle Patent,"
by writer, producer, and multimedia artist Dennis DeVries

A lover of epistolaries would cite a 1957 letter from Patrick Leigh Fermor to Deborah Devonshire, about hunting dogs in ancient Sicily losing the scent of their quarry because "the smell of the flowers was so strong." What about surrounding pine forests with wild flowers, this person would say, so that the flowers' fragrance would eclipse or somehow scramble the pheromones that attract the beetles? Like the confused hunting dogs who Fermor describes as "wander[ing] about for hours at a loss," the beetles might be confounded and then rerouted to a place where their munching services might prove useful, such as a Superfund site in the West.

More:  Which creatures are beetles' natural predators or competitors?

What about the color of tree bark; how does that matter? If it's camouflaged, shaded just so, or Christo-ed, what happens? 

A Leopoldian would wave a copy of A Sand County ALMANAC, and Sketches Here and There, stating, Of pines and birches, Aldo Leopold writes in "If I Were the Wind":
If the birch stands south of the pine, and is taller, it will shade the pine's leader in the spring, and thus discourage the pine weevil from laying her eggs there. Birch competition is a minor affliction compared with this weevil, whose progeny kill the pine's leader and thus deform the tree.  It is interesting to meditate that this insect's preference for squatting in the sun determines not only her own continuity as a species, but also the future of my pine, and my own success as a wielder of axe and shovel.
Again, if a drouthy summer follows my removal of the birch's shade, the hotter soil may offset the lesser competition for water, and my pine be none the better for my bias.  
Lastly, if the birch's limbs rub the pine's terminal buds during a wind, the pine will surely be deformed, and the birch must either be removed regardless of other considerations, or else it must be pruned of limbs each winter to a height greater than the pine's prospective summer growth.
Then, writing about pine weevils boring into white pines, in "Pines above the snow," Leopold comments:
It is a curious circumstance that only pines in full sunlight are bitten by weevils; shaded pines are ignored. Such are the hidden uses of adversity.
Back and around they would go, discussing what gives rise to this phenomenon and what might redirect it (even though any treatments would likely cause some other kind of phenomenon).

Then everybody would take a break by singing show tunes and giving foot rubs. Okay, no.  But they would take a break.

If it's too depressing to dip into the never-ending end of evergreens, there's always the pronunciation buttons on the OED online to lift the spirit. The Scottish rendition of drouthy, as shown in Leopold's prose, above, is sure to delight, once heard aloud.  

And, if that doesn't work, I suggest the 1972 edition of James and the Giant Peach.

James and the insects, within the pit of Roald Dahl's giant peach.
Illustration copyright Nancy Eckholm Burkert (Alfred A. Knopf, 1972).

** One of the OED citations for the first definition of droughty is this: 1848   J. C. Hare & A. W. Hare Guesses at Truth ii. (1874) 561   Men of drowthy hearts and torpid imaginations.

[All photographs of trees taken by Yours Truly, along Wolf Creek Pass, in Colorado, February 2018.]

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Potencie, a proto–Y Word

Both consolatory and cheffy came close to being today's posted word.

Consolatory appears in an essay by Hannah Arendt, in a 2017 collection titled Tough Enough: Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag, Weil, edited by Deborah Nelson. This is one of those words that belongs to the days when recipes contained casual measurements (think of Elizabeth David's), and American schools taught students how to form the subjunctive tense.

Cheffy appears in a New York Times "best restaurants of 2017" articlette by Pete Wells about the Flushing, Queens, restaurant Guan Fu Sichuan—"[it's] probably the most cheffy Sichuan place in town . . . ." (See page D6, Wednesday, December 13.)  Like puppy, cheffy is an adorable word.  Cheffy has floppy ears. I'm ready to give it a loving home life.


Readers: A word more suitable, I believe, for your consideration, lives in an argument formulated by John Milton, in his Areopagitica.  In the year 1644, books, according to Milton,
contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.
Although this quotation appears in the Oxford English Dictionary (under the fourth definition for potency), I found it in The Reader in the Book: A Study of Spaces and Traces, by Stephen Orgel (Oxford University Press, 2015). Apparently there is now quite a lot of work in the field concerning everyday readers of books in early modern culture.

(Flashback: Twenty-five years ago, a professor of English teaching a graduate level course on Shelley and his circle at New York University brought to class a triple-decker novel so students could see for themselves how readers "spoke" to one another in the margins of the book.  It was fascinating.)

Orgel's book quotes from a 2005 Cambridge University Press title by Heidi Brayman Hackel, who makes the obvious and yet profound point that the book in early modern England filled a role "as available paper."

Think on this, even on the fact of paper's availability in those years.

Marginalia represent such an appealing aspect of print culture. I like to imagine fleets of individuals making margin notes, exercising their status as free-thinking agents.

A bound book can be such a beautifully private, giving space.

Potencie, instead of potency, strikes me as open-ended. The -ie is as a dance step, or a liquid trickle; it suggests movement that may continue along its path, as long as nothing intervenes; whereas the terminal y in today's version of the word says That's that.

To me there is more hope in potencie than in potency.

Your snow, ice, and seedling wishes, here.
[Obverse of "Electra Lake, near Silverton," in Volume I: Early Durango, Nina Heald Webber postcard

collection, at the Center of Southwest Studies, Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado.
The physical postcards are housed in the Center's archives.