Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Following a few simple rules

  But even as she continued to make a home in the house where she had spent most of her childhood, Welty was deeply connected to the wider world. She eagerly followed the news, maintained close friendships with other writers, was on a first-name basis with several national journalists, including Jim Lehrer and Roger Mudd, and was often recruited to lecture.
Welty gave inspired public readings of her stories—performances that reminded listeners how much her art was grounded in the grand oral tradition of the South.
“Colleges keep inviting me because I’m so well behaved,” Welty once remarked in explaining her popularity at the podium. “I’m always on time, and I don’t get drunk or hole up in a hotel with my lover.”

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Celebrating an original

It's the birthday of cartoonist, novelist, and playwright Jules Feiffer,  born in the Bronx (1929). He said of his childhood: "The only thing I wanted to be was grown up. Because I was a terrible flop as a child. You cannot be a successful boy in America if you cannot throw or catch a ball." He decided early on that he wanted to be a comic-strip artist, and when he was a teenager, he showed his work to the cartoonist Will Eisner, and Eisner gave him a job. Feiffer said, "[It was] ten dollars a week part-time — erasing pages, filling in blanks, and dreaming great dreams."
But he was drafted in 1951, and he did not take well to the Army. He said, "I was treated with open contempt by one form of authority or the other in the Army on a 24-hour basis." The experience inspired him to write a bitterly cynical cartoon strip about a four-year-old boy who is drafted by mistake. He tried to sell the strip to a variety of major newspapers, but nobody would buy it. So he finally turned to a new weekly newspaper in his neighborhood called the Village Voice. Over the next decade, the Village Voicebecame nationally prominent, and Feiffer's cartoons became nationally syndicated.
His strip in the Village Voice was one of the first cartoon strips to deal with adult themes such as sex, politics, and psychiatry. For most of his career, he has drawn and written all of his work in Central Park, which he considers his office. His cartoons are collected in books such as Feiffer's Marriage Manual (1967) and Feiffer on Nixon: The Cartoon Presidency (1974).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Department of What To Do Next

A reader kindly offered a comment expressing a wish to get back in touch. Waldo, being in the throes of elderism, didn't recognize the first name, and there was no profile or other link to puruse to find out who the kind reader is. Care to try again?

Well, of course they did.

Thought Leading

by JOHN HOLBO on DECEMBER 18, 2013
That’s not a good first sentence.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Want to be a genius? Start by being odd

Christopher Hart

Rise and Shine

Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work
By Mason Currey (Picador 278pp £12.99)

Matisse, 1944: the early bird gets the worm
Erik Satie may have worn chestnut-coloured velvet suits, eaten thirty-egg omelettes and founded the Church of Jesus Christ the Conductor, but this was just bohemian decoration. He also walked 12 miles into and out of Paris every day, composing all the way. In his introduction to this wonderfully entertaining little book, Mason Currey quotes V S Pritchett: 'Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.'

It should come as no surprise, perhaps, that most high-achieving creative people who have given something permanent to the world are not really in the slightest bit bohemian. They discover for themselves Flaubert's famous advice that one should live like a bourgeois and put one's bohemianism into one's work.

Food is often of little importance, mere brain fuel. Patricia Highsmith lived on vodka, cereal and bacon and eggs. For lunch Ingmar Bergman ate a revolting sort of baby food made up of yoghurt and strawberry jam which he mixed in with cornflakes. In the evening he enjoyed watching Dallas...

Monday, November 25, 2013

The peace part, he didn't do so well with

Today's the birthday of that canny wee billionaire, Andrew Carnegie, to get to whose hall you have to "practice, practice, practice."

Most know about his libraries, but- thanks to Writers' Almanac- there's a bit more:
Over the course of his life, Andrew Carnegie endowed 2,811 libraries and many charitable foundations as well as the internationally famous Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He also bought 7,689 organs for churches. The purpose of the latter gift was, in Carnegie's words, "To lessen the pain of the sermons."
Carnegie's generosity led to the construction of 16 libraries in North Carolina, and 18 in South Carolina between 1901 and 1917.

Monday, November 18, 2013

And Russell lived to, what- 97?

Corey Robin reveals an Unpalatable Truth:
I’ve spent the last month working on a paper on Burke, Babeuf, and Adam Smith. (Guess which of these two had a similar theory of value? Hint: It’s not Smith.) It’s been a miserable experience. 
Whenever I have trouble writing, I remember this passage from Philip Roth:I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I’m frantic with boredom and a sense of waste. 
And I feel better. 
But then I read this from Bertrand Russell: 
I…found that my first draft was almost always better than my second.  This discovery has saved me an immense amount of time. 

Doris Lessing, R.I. P.

One of the century's crankiest- and wide-ranging- writers has died at 94:

Doris Lessing’s greatest strength lay in her apparently inexhaustible facility for chronicling what one critic called the “inner experiences of unhappy women”. Martha Quest (1952) was an exceptionally fine description of the wilfulness and vanity of an adolescent; Summer Before The Dark (1973), sadly less well, examined the middle years of a family woman, subject to her children’s tyranny and in mourning for her lost good looks; and The Diary of a Good Neighbour (1983) looked at old age with a rather distressing emphasis on defecation. 
She continued to produce novels until her 90th year, and wrote two volumes of autobiography, Under My Skin (1994), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize the following year, and Walking in the Shade (1997). She was made a Companion of Honour in 2000 and a Companion of Literature the following year. 
Informed by a reporter in 2007 that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, she replied: “Oh, Christ”. She devoted her acceptance speech to a denunciation of the Internet, in what amounted to an elegy to the lost art of reading. 
Doris Lessing’s achievements and versatility as a novelist won her many loyal readers whose devotion was tested but unshaken by her eccentricity, perversity and fickleness. Sometimes she wrote in styles that did not suit her, about ideas that did no credit to her intelligence, she even on occasion wrote badly. Yet she remained a writer whose exuberant spill of ideas overcame these lapses and whose energy and perception kept her admirers enthralled until the last page.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The architecture of perfection

The Guardian has an only slightly snarky review of Apple's space-agey new corporate headquarters, which is, if nothing else, a monument to persnicketiness:

The latest images reveal quite how much of an Apple product the $5bn complex will be. While the climbing walls and mini-golf courses ofGoogle's offices might embody the company's anything-goes karma, their buildings are not literally made of primary-coloured blobs or cartoonish toolbar icons. The Apple mothership, on the other hand, looks like it could be built out of the stuff of computers itself. It's as if Jonathan Ive, in a moment of madness, had unscrewed all the polished parts of his iPhones, iMacs and Macbook Pros and refashioned them in a great big circle.
At the gaping triple-height entrance, through which the 13,000 employees will file, soaring columns will rise through the triumphal portal in the same brushed-aluminium finish as a Macbook. Others who arrive by bus will enter up a grand imperial staircase, whose whiter-than-white handrails are chamfered with the same radius as the curved corners of an iPad. The floors appear on the facade as sharply tapering fins, hovering around the building like the rings of Saturn, made of white back-painted glass – just like the back of the white iPhone.
“There was a very surreal moment during the development of those glass fins,” recalls a former Foster employee. “There was a $30m mock-up made of a whole section of the facade, with five versions of the fin in different shades of white. The Apple guys were looking at them for ages, saying one's a bit too blue, the other's a bit more cream – but they all looked identical to the naked eye.”

Just like your Macbook … Triple-height brushed metal columns rise through the entrance.
Just like your Macbook … triple-height brushed metal columns rise through the entrance. Photograph: City of Cupertino

With month-long agonies over the whiteness of white, the development of Apple Campus 2 has come under a level of scrutiny unknown to even the most finicky of Foster projects. Before he died, Jobs was adamant that the building's materials be closer to the kind you would find on an Apple product than a standard building, insisting on gaps between panels no greater than 1/32 inch (0.8mm), compared to the standard 1/8 inch (3mm). It promises to be a strangely seamless spatial experience, interiors conceived like the airtight cabins of aeroplanes or cars, with few joints in sight.
“We were printing out drawings at bigger-than-lifesize scale,” recalls one architect. “There was a debate over whether a particular gap should be 3mm or 5mm, a level of detail most clients would never even consider – or be able to see.”
But, with its x-ray vision for detail, Apple is clearly like no other client on earth.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Tennis, with a different kind of net

Care to play a set or two a thousand feet up? You can, on this one of a number of unusual sports facilities in the world.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Twice the price

Charleston Daily Photo reports that, in the Farmer's Market there, you can get a free hug, or you can get a deluxe free hug.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Who says romance is dead?

At Crooked Timber, Corey Robin spins a remarkable tale of opening lines:
When I met the woman I was due to have a drink with, I asked her how she was doing. “Oh fine,” she said, “if you like meeting strange men at bars.” (We had met online; this was our first date.) “Well,” I said, “I can make this really easy on you. Where do you stand on the transit strike?” She replied instantly:
Click here to read the reply (and learn the outcome).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"No, LAST year was your turn..."

From Tyler Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution, a reminder of the truth of Ecclesiastes 12:12:

Iceland book fact of the day

by  on October 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm in Books | Permalink
One in ten Icelanders will publish one [a book].
“Does it get rather competitive?” I ask the young novelist, Kristin Eirikskdottir.
“Yes. Especially as I live with my mother and partner, who are also full-time writers. But we try to publish in alternate years so we do not compete too much.”
The story is here, hat tip goes to Robert Cottrell.

Monday, October 14, 2013

For once, a story involving the dead, but with no zombies


In 1994, an Ohio court declared Donald E. Miller Jr. dead. He had been missing for several years and his wife needed to formalize his death to qualify her daughters for social security benefits. On Monday, Donald E. Miller appeared in court to testify on behalf of his own existence. He lost.
Almost twenty years after he was declared legally dead, Miller reappeared on the front lawn of his former wife's home, having fled from Ohio in 1986 while dealing with alcoholism and unemployment.
"My paycheck was being taken away from me and I had nothing left," Miller told the court. "It kind of went further than I ever expected it to. I just kind of took off, ended up in different places."
Miller, now 61, wants his social security number reactivated and would like to apply for a driver's license. Unfortunately, Ohio state law does not allow for a declaration of death to be reversed after three years have passed since the declaration. On Monday, Judge Allan H. Davis of Hancock County Probate Court, who had declared Miller dead in 1994, declared him legally dead again with Miller in attendance.
“I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned,” Judge Davis told Miller on Monday.
The former Ms. Miller (who, coincidentally, remarried a man also with the surname Miller, so I guess the once-and-always Ms. Miller is more accurate), is also fighting against her former husband's resurrection. If he comes back to life, Ms. Miller would have to pay back years of benefit payments for her daughters.
Stranger still, it seems like the reconciliation between Ms. Miller and her former (legally dead) husband was pretty amiable.
The New York Times writes:
She first learned that Mr. Miller was alive when he showed up in front of her home more than a year ago, sitting at a picnic table with his girlfriend. “I said, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ ” recalled Ms. Miller, who has married again to a man whose surname is also Miller. “It was civil the whole time. We were both very nice.”
For now however, Donald E. Miller Jr. remains a very living dead man.
“Every time you think you’ve seen everything,” the judge said in court, “something like this comes along.”

A comic strip story line we're glad not to have been following

From a Sunday episode of Rex Morgan, M.D.:

Secretary: So how long had it been since you saw Mr. Wise?

Rex: A long time! I don't think I would have recognized him on the street!

Secretary: That's why I don't go to my high school reunions anymore...they scare me!

Rex: Buck met his most recent wife at the last reunion!

Secretary: The wife who shot him with the nail gun?

Rex: The very same! Ask Summer to fax this contract over to Hal Willis' office!

Secretary: Will do! Any message?

Rex: Yes, ask him to just read it...I'll call in the morning!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Just in time

Shortly after, at 82, Alice Munro announced she was retiring from writing and would publish no more, the Nobel Foundation made a terse announcement this week:

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013
Alice Munro

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013

Alice Munro

Alice Munro

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 was awarded to Alice Munro "master of the contemporary short story".
Here's how they went on to describe the Canadian writer:

Alice Munro was born on the 10th of July, 1931 in Wingham, which is in the Canadian province of Ontario. Her mother was a teacher, and her father was a fox farmer. After finishing high school, she began studying journalism and English at the University of Western Ontario, but broke off her studies when she got married in 1951. Together with her husband, she settled in Victoria, British Columbia, where the couple opened a bookstore. Munro started writing stories in her teens, but published her first book-length work in 1968, the story collection Dance of the Happy Shades, which received considerable attention in Canada. She had begun publishing in various magazines from the beginning of the 1950's. In 1971 she published a collection of stories entitled Lives of Girls and Women, which critics have described as a Bildungsroman.
Munro is primarily known for her short stories and has published many collections over the years. Her works include Who Do You Think You Are? (1978), The Moons of Jupiter (1982), Runaway (2004), The View from Castle Rock(2006) and Too Much Happiness (2009). The collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001) became the basis of the film Away from Her from 2006, directed by Sarah Polley. Her most recent collection is Dear Life(2012).
Munro is acclaimed for her finely tuned storytelling, which is characterized by clarity and psychological realism. Some critics consider her a Canadian Chekhov. Her stories are often set in small town environments, where the struggle for a socially acceptable existence often results in strained relationships and moral conflicts – problems that stem from generational differences and colliding life ambitions. Her texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lightning.
Alice Munro currently resides in Clinton, near her childhood home in southwestern Ontario.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Waiter, more chives, please..."

Harry Rosen spends about $100 a night on a  good meal in a fine new York City restaurant. The retired office supply company owner has been widowed for five years, and nothing, he finds, lifts his spirits like a good night out. He made his biggest business deals over good meals. As a New York Times profile noted, "You don't win over the likes of Jack Lipsky, founder of Swingline staplers, by dining at a dump."

But something's missing. Harry wants a regular dinner companion. "I'm still open to meeting someone," he says, although a recent six-month fling with a woman he met in synagogue didn't pan out for the long term. "I've still got the desire. That's what counts."

The woman he met? She was 90 years old. Harry Rosen is 103. He says if it wasn't for New York City restaurants, he'd have moved to Florida long ago.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It was just one of those things-

I took a test on Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100.

-Woody Allen

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Pohl position goes vacant

You can’t really predict the future. All you can do is invent it. You can do things that may have an effect on what the future will be, but you can’t say which is going to happen unless you know who’s inventing things and who’s making things happen. We would not have landed a man on the moon in 1969 if John Kennedy hadn’t decided to do it. It’s because he invented that event that it took place. It probably would’ve happened sooner or later under some other circumstances, but that’s why it happened. Same with atomic energy. So you can see how future events take place but what you can’t do is know who’s going to do something that will change it. You can’t really say what’s going to happen, but you can show a spectrum of possibilities.
- Scifi writer Frederik Pohl, who died recently at 93.