Friday, July 3, 2020

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest judicial body in the country and leads the judicial branch of the federal government.  It is often referred to by the acronym SCOTUS.  The court's yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year.  The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June.  As of June 30, 2020, the court had issued decisions in 52 cases this term.  Link to cases from October 7, 2019 through June 30, 2020 at

The word "alchemy" comes from the Arabian al-kimia, referring to the preparation of elixir by the Egyptians.  The Arabic kimia, in turn, comes from the Coptic khem, which refers to the fertile black Nile delta soil as well as the dark mystery of the primordial First Matter (the Khem).  This is also the origin of the word "chemistry."  In alchemy, symbols were created to represent different elements.  For a time, the astronomical symbols of the planets were used.  However, as alchemists were persecuted—particularly in medieval times—secret symbols were invented.  This led to a great deal of confusion, as there are often many symbols for a single element as well as some overlap of symbols.  The symbols were in common use through the 17th century, and some are still in use today.  The Philosopher's Stone was represented by the squared circle.  The alchemy symbol for platinum combines the crescent symbol of the moon with the circular symbol of the sun.  This is because alchemists thought platinum was an amalgam of silver (moon) and gold (sun).  "Philosopher's wool" was zinc oxide, sometimes called nix alba (white snow).  Anne Marie Helmenstine  Find many symbols pictured at

In traditional Japanese culture, suiseki are small naturally occurring or shaped rocks which are appreciated for their aesthetic or decorative value.  They are similar to Chinese scholar's rocks.  Chinese scholar's rocks called gongshi influenced the development of suiseki in Japan.  The history of suiseki in Japan begins during the reign of Empress Suiko.  The small objects were brought to Japan as gifts from the Chinese Imperial court.  Suiseki are usually presented in two different ways:  The stone is provided with a wooden base (daiza).  The stone is placed in a waterproof tray or bowl of ceramic (suiban) or bronze (doban).  These stones are not just any stones which can be found in nature; they must be expressive stones and have a special shape, color and texture to be categorized as suiseki.  There is a distinction between landscape and object stones.  The former reflect landscapes such as mountains, lakes or rivers, while other stones have object shapes that resemble animals or sculptures.  The stones are of natural origin and are found in rivers, oceans and karst areas.  They are not allowed to be reshaped.  An exception is the cutting of stones to have a flat base, so they can be placed stably on a daizasuiban or doban, to be displayed properly.  However, this diminishes their value in the eyes of some enthusiasts.

March 9, 2015  Dick Tracy made his debut in 1931 in a comic strip that still runs today.  He’s a tough-talking crime fighter who often uses technology to nab the bad guys.  And in 1946, he started using a state-of-the-art two-way wrist radio while fighting crime.  Erin Blakemore  The noun "dick" in the "detective" sense started around 1864.

Sparkle Plenty Tracy first appeared as the baby of two homely-looking parents (B.O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie) who surprised the world with her beautiful appearance in a 1947 Dick Tracy comic strip.  Immediately the world fell in love with her.  Her picture made the cover of numerous magazines, including the new publication "Glance".

Sparkle Plenty was developed in 1903 by a major crystal manufacturer in Austria as an in-house cleaning product.  Still in use for that purpose, the product was brought to the U.S. in the 1960's and marketed as Sparkle Plenty Chandelier Cleaner.

AUTHENTIC GAZPACHO (a Spanish-style soup made from tomatoes and other vegetables and spices, served cold) takes 15 minutes  4-6 servings  posted by Ali

Gazpacho Sauce Spaghetti is like a melding of two Mediterranean food cultures--Italian and Spanish.  Simply cook the spaghetti to al dente.  As the pasta cooks, blend tomatoes, pepper, garlic and onion in a blender and add sherry vinegar and Tabasco sauce for a slight kick.  Taste as you go and add more Tabasco if you like it hot!  Once the spaghetti is drained, mix with the sauce and toss well.  Serve with loads of fresh basil.  Jelena Mardere

In psychology, “automatism” refers to involuntary actions and processes not under the control of the conscious mind—for example, dreaming, breathing, or a nervous tic.  Automatism plays a role in Surrealists techniques such as spontaneous or automatic writing, painting, and drawing; free association of images and words.

Autodidacticism (also autodidactism) or self-education (also self-learning and self-teaching) is education without the guidance of masters (such as teachers and professors) or institutions (such as schools).  Generally, autodidacts are individuals who choose the subject they will study, their studying material, and the studying rhythm and time.  Autodidacts may or may not have formal education, and their study may be either a complement or an alternative to formal education.  Many notable contributions have been made by autodidacts.  The 1997 drama film Good Will Hunting follows the story of autodidact Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon.  Hunting demonstrates his breadth and depth of knowledge throughout the film but especially to his therapist and in a heated discussion in a Harvard bar.  One of the main characters in The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2006), by Muriel Barbery, is an autodidact.  The story is told from the viewpoint of Renee, a middle-aged autodidact concierge in a Paris upscale apartment house and Paloma, a 12-year-old daughter of one of the tenants who is unhappy with her life.  These two people find they have much in common when they both befriend a new tenant, Mr. Ozu, and their lives change forever.

EASTER BEANS  Slightly spicy and tangy but also buttery like a gigante bean, lupini are a refreshing alternative to the omnipresent garbanzo and cannellini.  Lupini are similar to fava beans in size and shape, but more closely resemble soy beans in savory taste and silky texture with a higher protein density per calorie than not only soy but most other crop plants in the world.  Lupini are a seriously high-maintenance bean.  Also known as the Easter bean, lupini are typically reserved for special occasions due to the extremely lengthy preparation process.  Beans, in general, require patience.  Overnight soaking, use of pressure cookers, and hours of slow simmering are to be expected.  What lupini require, however, far exceeds mere patience.  If not prepared correctly, lupini beans are extremely bitter, indicative of toxicity, known as lupin poisoning.  Lupin poisoning is relatively common with legumes high in alkaloids, like lupini beans, and can temporarily impair nervous system responsiveness and cause digestive discomfort.  Thorough soaking and dutiful rinsing is crucial to ensure alkaloids are removed and the beans are “debittered.”  KaitlinThornton

A THOUGHT FOR JULY 29  A book must be an axe for the frozen sea inside of us. - Franz Kafka, novelist (3 Jul 1883-1924)  Issue 2294  July 3, 2020

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Durham Museum (formerly known as the Durham Western Heritage Museum) is located at 801 South 10th Street in downtown Omaha, Nebraska.  The museum is dedicated to preserving and displaying the history of the United States' western region.  The museum is housed in Omaha's former Union Station.  In 1971 after the establishment of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (now Amtrak), Union Pacific Railroad closed Union Station.  The first suggestion in print that the building be used as a museum appeared in the Public Pulse of the World Herald on April 5, 1971 in a letter from John Edward Peterson.  He suggested that either the City of Omaha or Joslyn purchase the building and develop it into a museum.  He wrote, "Maybe the Union Pacific would be willing to sell the station rather cheaply or even donate it."  The station was donated to the City of Omaha in 1973 and two years later the Western Heritage Museum opened.  The museum closed from 1995 to 1996 for a $22 million renovation project largely funded by Charles and Margre Durham.  For their contributions on the project, the Western Heritage Museum was renamed the Durham Western Heritage Museum the following year.  On April 6, 2008 the Durham Western Heritage Museum became the Durham Museum.  The change was driven by recent partnerships Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress and the National Archives which have provided the museum with a larger range of exhibits and programming not limited to western heritage.  The museum is an affiliate within the Smithsonian Affiliations program. 

Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations.  The 1940s and 1950s are generally regarded as the "classic period" of American film noir.  Film noir of this era is associated with a low-keyblack-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography.  Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression.  The term film noir, French for 'black film' (literal) or 'dark film' (closer meaning), was first applied to Hollywood films by French critic Nino Frank in 1946, but was unrecognized by most American film industry professionals of that era.  Cinema historians and critics defined the category retrospectively.  Before the notion was widely adopted in the 1970s, many of the classic film noirwere referred to as "melodramas".  Whether film noir qualifies as a distinct genre is a matter of ongoing debate among scholars.  Read extensive article including information on neo noir and science fiction noir at

Horse of a Different Color (Wizard of Oz Horse)  0:47  See also

American Gothic is a painting by American artist Grant Wood in 1930.  Shown is a farmer and his spinster daughter in front of their house.  The models on the painting were Wood’s sister, Nan, wearing a colonial print apron mimicking 19th century Americana, and Wood’s dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby from Iowa.  Wood painted the house along with the people he imagined might live there.  The house actually exists in Eldon, Iowa.  It was built in the American Gothic style.  The models never sat in front of the house, and each element was painted separately.  The painting measures 29.25 inches by 24.5 inches, which is equivalent to 74.3 cm by 62.4 cm.  Wood saw the house while travelling through the Iowa landscape in the summer of 1930, he was inspired.  Some people thought that Grant Wood was making fun of small town folk.  The house had an unusual window.  The design is based on Gothic architecture which originates from Europe, as opposed to an American farmhouse.  The contrast caught the artist’s attention that led to the painting of American Gothic.  Wood entered American Gothic at a competition sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago.  Initially, the judges viewed it as a comic valentine.  However, a patron convinced them to award it a bronze medal and a cash prize of $300.  The Art Institute bought the painting where it remains to this day.  Soon after, the painting began to appear in newspapers.

See pictures of American Gothic House & American Gothic House Center, Hollenbeck Hall & Wapello County Fairgrounds, Lockkeeper’s House, and McHaffey Opera House at

Reus city centre in Spain is awash with gorgeous architecture.  Although the town’s main claim to fame is being the home town of Gaudi, it has heaps more to offer than this alone.  In parts of the centre, beautiful buildings are so frequent, that you just turn your head and another one is staring you in the faceIt has that wonderful feeling of being protected by the mountains, but with the sea only a short distance away.  See many pictures, and learn about Salvador Vilaseca of Reus Archaeological Museum, Gaudi Centre Reus, Escorxador (now the library) and buildings designed of the prolific architect Lluis Domenech i Montaner at  See also

Muffuletta  by Emeril Lagasse  active time:  20 min.  total time:  1 hour, 15 min.  serves 8  The muffuletta is the quintessential New Orleans sandwich of cured meats, cheese and tangy olive salad piled onto a sturdy Italian loaf.  Emeril Lagasse's delicious muffuletta is packed with briny olives and pickled vegetables.  The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated for up to 2 days.  The wrapped muffuletta can be kept at room temperature for 2 hours.

15 Must-Watch Movies That Will Make You Want to Cook by Kelsey Mulvey  Movie list includes Chocolat, Julie & Julia, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Chef, and Babette’s Feast.

June 29, 2018  The one-cent US coin, mostly made of zinc with a little bit of copper, is the most abundant coin in the country.  In 2017, the US Mint produced more than 8.4 billion pennies for circulation.  Between production costs and shipping, they cost $0.0182 each, which totaled to $69 million in losses compared to their total value—the biggest in nine years.  The five-cent US coin--75% copper and 25% nickel--cost about seven cents each to produce in 2017.  Katherine Ellen Foley  Do cents make sense?  Do nickels make sense? 

February 4, 2013  The Royal Canadian Mint will no longer distribute the penny to financial institutions around the country, but it will remain legal tender.  The government has advised shop owners to round out prices to the nearest nickel (5p) for cash transactions.  Other countries that no longer use the penny include New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden.  Despite the change, electronic transactions can still be billed to the nearest cent.

Like children, dogs want discipline and are most secure when they have rules to live by.  The happiest dogs are those with gentle masters who quietly but firmly demand respect.  The Darkest Evening of the Year, a novel by Dean Koontz

June 30, 2020  For over 50 years, the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses has been an amazing resource and megaphone for small presses and publications.  CLMP has announced the winners of their sixth annual Firecracker Awards, which celebrates the best independently published fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry of the past year.  They have also announced the fourth recipient of the Lord Nose Award, given in loving memory of Jonathan Williams (publisher of The Jargon Society) to honor a lifetime of outstanding small press publishing.  This year’s winner is W. Paul Coates, founder of Black Classic Press, which specializes in the revival of obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent.  Find list of 2020 Firecracker Awards at

Carl Reiner, the writer, producer, director and actor who was part of Sid Caesar’s legendary team and went on to create “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and direct several hit films, has died at the age of 98.  Reiner, the father of filmmaker and activist Rob Reiner, was the winner of nine Emmy awards, including five for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” His most popular films as a director included “Oh God,” starring George Burns, in 1977; “The Jerk,” with Steve Martin, in 1979; and “All of Me,” with Martin and Lily Tomlin, in 1984.   He maintained a lively presence on Twitter up until the last day of his life.  In 2017, Carl Reiner, his longtime friend and frequent comedy partner Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Kirk Douglas and other nonagenarian Hollywood legends were featured in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” examining the secrets of longevity in a fickle industry.  Carmel Dagan  Issue 2293  July 1, 2020

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

tog  from Old French togue, from Latin toga (cloakmantle).  It started being used by thieves and vagabonds with the noun togman, which was an old slang word for "cloak".  By the 1700s the noun "tog" was used as a short form for "togman", and it was being used for "coat", and before 1800 the word started to mean "clothing".  The verb "tog" came out after a short period of time and became a popular word which meant to dress up.  The unit of thermal resistance was coined in the 1940s after the clo, a unit of thermal insulation of clothing, which was itself derived from clothes.

A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg
bokeh  (BOH-kay/kuh) noun  The blurred effect in a photograph, typically as a soft out-of-focus background, that results in a pleasing effect and helps to draw attention to the subject of the photograph.  From Japanese boke (blur, haze) or boke-aji (blur quality).  Earliest documented use:  1997.
Feedback to A.Word.A.Day  From:  Walter Levy  In the world of photography, the term bokeh has been in general use since around 1997.  A more recent neologism is bokehlicious, a portmanteau of bokeh and delicious, indicating a highly desirable quality of bokeh.  The term can be applied to a photograph with smooth, “creamy” out-of-focus areas, or to a lens that tends to produce such images.

If you're not already making labneh, now's the time to start!  This creamy, tangy yogurt cheese comes together with just 2 simple ingredients.  The hardest part of making labneh cheese is waiting.  Everything else is simple.  Mix together 2 ingredients--Greek yogurt and salt--wrap them in a cheesecloth, and hang it over a bowl to strain.  Then, things get tough:  you’ll have to wait 24 hours to open the cheesecloth and enjoy the thick, creamy yogurt cheese inside.  But if you try this labneh recipe, I think you’ll agree that the wait is totally worth it.  Thank you, Muse reader! 

DNA origami is the nanoscale folding of DNA to create non-arbitrary two- and three-dimensional shapes at the nanoscale.  The specificity of the interactions between complementary base pairs make DNA a useful construction material, through design of its base sequences.  DNA is a well-understood material that is suitable for creating scaffolds that hold other molecules in place or to create structures all on its own.  DNA origami was the cover story of Nature on March 16, 2006.  Since then, DNA origami has progressed past an art form and has found a number of applications from drug delivery systems to uses as circuitry in plasmonic devices; however, most applications remain in a concept or testing phase.  The idea of using DNA as a construction material was first introduced in the early 1980s by Nadrian Seeman.  The current method of DNA origami was developed by Paul Rothemund at the California Institute of Technology.  Examples include a smiley face and a coarse map of China and the Americas, along with many three-dimensional structures such as cubes.

“There is a land in the northern fringes of the state of Vermont known to locals simply as the Northeast Kingdom.  It takes in most of Essex County, with pieces of Orleans and Caledonia, a wild, mountainous place of lakes and rivers, hills and gorges, with here and there a bumpy track and a small village.”  Wits from the South say there are only two seasons in the Kingdom—August and winter.  Those who know the place say this is nonsense; it is August 15th and winter.”  The Negotiator, a novel by Fredercik Forsyth  *  In 1990 Australian broadcaster Alan Jones had been a regular writer for The Sun-Herald when the newspaper announced that Jones' column would no longer appear following a petition by staff calling for his removal as a contributor.  This followed Jones' publication of a column predicting an oil crisis, in which a large amount of the material had been taken directly from Forsyth's novel The Negotiator without any attribution or indication that the source was a work of fiction.

Six hundred miles from the North Pole, on an island the size of West Virginia, at the end of a tunnel bored into a mountain, lies a vault filled with more than 1 million samples of seeds harvested from 6,374 species of plants grown in 249 locations around the world.  The Wall Street Journal  May 30, 2020

February 24, 2020  The so-called “doomsday” vault in Norway is taking in its biggest deposit of seeds since vital upgrades in 2019.  The deposit will feature over 60,000 seed samples from 36 different groups—the most to send their seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault at one time.  That includes the Cherokee Nation, the first tribe based in the US to make a deposit.  Departments of agriculture from Thailand, the US, and Ireland and universities and research centers from Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Lebanon, and elsewhere will make contributions as well.  The international nonprofit organization Crop Trust manages the vault in partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre.  @justcalma

FROM THE YEAR 2000  “This Friday is the first National Work at Home Day, an occasion when there won't be any need to feel guilty about negotiating a multimillion-dollar deal in your boxers and bunny slippers, or interviewing a chief executive while wearing just a towel.”  The tradition continues (day after day after day) in 2020.

At the Bird Library in Virginia, birds (and the occasional squirrel) come and go, leaving with seeds and fruits instead of books.  It’s not actually a library, but a bird feeder that anyone can watch on a 24/7 livestream.  According to librarian Rebecca Flowers, she and woodworker Kevin Cwalina built the bird feeder five years ago after seeing The Piip Show, a popular-but-now-defunct livestream in Norway with the same concept, but set in a cafe.  It was their love of nature (and literature) that made them decide to do a similar project.  Over the years, the library has received diverse visitors, including goldfinches, cardinals, nuthatches, and more recently, a rose-breasted grosbeak.  Flowers says that one can learn a lot about birds and their unique personalities by simply watching them.  You can watch the Bird Library’s livestream on YouTube, and you can also see their archive of photos on their website.  Inigo Del Castillo  Thank you, Muse reader! 

“I’m a librarian, I can handle anything.”  “It’s snack o’clock!”  “Why did the bird go to the library?  He was looking for bookworms.”  Quotes from
David A. Taylor on Art as Social Intervention  When the economy collapsed in 1929, American jobs disappeared at the rate of 20,000 a day.  In the Great Depression, the publishing and arts sectors shrank by about a third.  Creatives were desperate.  There was private desperation and there was public desperation.  Harry Hopkins, the New Deal’s jobs program coordinator, focused on the public aspect and short-term solutions.  When Congress questioned the idea of supporting artists and writers with jobs in the Works Progress Administration, Hopkins replied that artists had to eat like everyone else.  In response to protests in New York by unemployed publishing workers who felt abandoned, the WPA began a small Federal Writers’ Project and others for art, music, and theater. The notion behind “work relief” was that paying work could sustain morale better than direct unemployment payments.  In visual art, a first federal art program in 1933 cranked out 15,000 works in six months.  It reached one-third of the country’s estimated 10,000 unemployed artists and the Federal Art Project reached still further.  Jacob Lawrence, who studied at the Harlem Community Art Center with Romare Bearden, was a WPA artist. Lawrence first considered becoming a writer.  He knew he “wanted to tell a story,” he said later, but was daunted by the competitive genius in Harlem’s literary scene.  So he chose to tell it in paint.  He created most of his Migration Series as a 23-year-old living in a Harlem loft.  Some WPA guidebooks were censored and denounced by citizens’ committees in their time, and some of the writers’ later works were banned.  They reflect art’s power in shaping and triggering American identities and norms.  Even in 2020,  Invisible Man appeared on an Alaska school board’s list of banned books (along with work by Maya Angelou and others) for mentions of incest, racial slurs, and profanity.  Maybe the WPA let new passions into the public space.  “Writing is an act of salvation,” Ellison wrote in a letter to Wright after seeing the Great Migration unspool in Wright’s photo essay, 12 Million Black Voices.  “God! It makes you want to write and write and write, or murder.”

A THOUGHT FOR JUNE 30  Not that I want to be a god or a hero.  Just to change into a tree, grow for ages, not hurt anyone. - Czeslaw Milosz, poet and novelist (30 Jun 1911-2004)  Issue 2292  June 30, 2020

Monday, June 29, 2020


HOMEMADE NAAN BREAD posted by Beth                                                                   

The art of origami or paper folding has received a considerable amount of mathematical study.  Fields of interest include a given paper model's flat-foldability (whether the model can be flattened without damaging it) and the use of paper folds to solve mathematical equations.  In 1893, Indian civil servant T. Sundara Row published Geometric Exercises in Paper Folding which used paper folding to demonstrate proofs of geometrical constructions.  This work was inspired by the use of origami in the kindergarten system.  This book had an approximate trisection of angles and implied construction of a cube root was impossible.  In 1936 Margharita P. Beloch showed that use of the 'Beloch fold', later used in the sixth of the Huzita–Hatori axioms, allowed the general cubic equation to be solved using origami.  In 1949, R C Yeates' book "Geometric Methods" described three allowed constructions corresponding to the first, second, and fifth of the Huzita–Hatori axioms.  The axioms were discovered by Jacques Justin in 1989, but were overlooked until the first six were rediscovered by Humiaki Huzita in 1991.  The first International Meeting of Origami Science and Technology (now known as the International Conference on Origami in Science, Math, and Education) was held in 1989 in Ferrara, Italy.

Wu Yi tea is a type of oolong tea grown in the Wuyi mountain. The region is famous for the exceptional oolong teas produced.  The tea has a highly individual flavor that is not reproduced anywhere else because of the high mineral content of the soil.  The humid climate and the narrow valley enable the tea to grow without risk of scorching or bitterness.  The oolongs from wuyishan are also often referred to as Wuyi rock tea (or in Chinese 'Yancha').  Da Hong Pao is the most popular Wuyi source tea, right after Rou Gui, Shui Xian, and Tieluohan.  There is a Chinese saying:  'every rock has tea, and without the rocks there is no tea.'  Read more and see pictures at

The artist who created some of the most memorable images of the 20th century was never fully embraced by the art world.  There is just one work by Maurits Cornelis Escher in all of Britain’s galleries and museums, and it was not until his 70th birthday that the first full retrospective exhibition took place in his native Netherlands.  Escher was admired mainly by mathematicians and scientists, and found global fame only when he came to be considered a pioneer of psychedelic art by the hippy counterculture of the 1960s.  His prints adorn albums by Mott the Hoople and the Scaffold, and he was courted unsuccessfully by Mick Jagger for an album cover and by Stanley Kubrick for help transforming what became 2001:  A Space Odyssey into a “fourth-dimensional film”.  In 1948, he made Drawing Hands, the image of two hands, each drawing the other with a pencil.  It is a neat depiction of one of Escher’s enduring fascinations: the contrast between the two-dimensional flatness of a sheet of paper and the illusion of three-dimensional volume that can be created with certain marks.  Most dazzling, perhaps, is the celebrated Ascending and Descending (1960), with its two ranks of human figures trudging forever upwards and eternally downwards respectively on an impossible four-sided eternal staircase.  It is the most recognisable of Escher’s “impossible objects” images, which were inspired by the British mathematician Roger Penrose and his father, the geneticist Lionel Penrose.  Fascinated by House of Stairs, the Penroses published a paper in 1956 in the British Journal of Psychology entitled “Impossible Objects:  A Special Type of Visual Illusion”.  Receiving an offprint a few years later, Escher wrote to Lionel expressing his admiration for the “continuous flights of steps” in the paper, and enclosing a print of Ascending and Descending.  (The paper also included the “tri-bar” or Penrose triangle, which is constructed impossibly from three 90-degree angles.  In 1961 Escher built his never-ending Waterfall using three of them.)  Steven Poole  See also and

Stuttgart City Library, situated in a concrete cube in the heart of southern Germany, isn't your average library.  The main attraction—a five-story reading room shaped like an upside-down pyramid—looks more like an M.C. Escher drawing than a library, until you notice the hundreds of thousands of neatly stacked books, that is.  Cozy?  Not really.  Beautiful?  You bet.  Caitlin Morton  See pictures and descriptions of 22 beautiful libraries around the world at

Cathy Lee Guisewite (born September 5, 1950) is an American cartoonist who created the comic strip Cathy, which had a 34-year run.  The strip focused on a career woman facing the issues and challenges of eating, work, relationships, and having a mother—or as the character put it in one strip, "the four basic guilt groups."  At the peak of the strip's popularity in the mid-1990s, it appeared in almost 1,400 papers.  However, on August 11, 2010, Guisewite announced the strip's retirement after 34 years.  Its run ended on October 3, 2010.   
“Cathy” ran in newspapers 365 days a year from 1976 to 2010.  It began as a way to cope with a changing world.  “I am woman.  Hear me snore.”  For that quote, see comic strip from the 1990s at

The ratification of the United States Constitution by Rhode Island was the 1790 decision by the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations ("Rhode Island") to accede to the United States Constitution.  It was a controversial process which occurred only after the United States threatened a trade embargo against Rhode Island for non-compliance.  Rhode Island acquired a reputation for opposing a closer union with the other former British colonies that had formed the United States of America.  It vetoed an act of the Congress of the Confederation which earned it a number of deprecatory nicknames, including "Rogue Island" and "the Perverse Sister".   Rhode Island took 101 years to call a vote on ratification of the 17th amendment which began the direct election of senators.  The measure came into force in 1913, but the Rhode Island General Assembly did not take up debate on it until 2013, finally passing it the following year.  Rhode Island earlier rejected the 16th amendment establishing a federal income tax, which came into force in 1913 despite its opposition.

fifth wheel  noun (chiefly U.S.)  (road transport) A type of trailer hitch, which consists of a horseshoe-shaped plate on a multidirectional pivot, with a locking pin to couple with the kingpin of a truck trailer.  In full, fifth-wheel trailer: a large caravan or travel trailer that is connected to a pickup truck for towing by a hitch similar to the one described in sense 1 located in the center of the truck's bed(road transport, historical) A horizontal wheel or segment of a wheel above the front axle and beneath the body of a carriageforming an extended support to prevent it from overturning.  (idiomatic, informal) Anything superfluous or unnecessary

Author Charles Webb, whose first novel The Graduate inspired the 1967 film, died June 16, 2020.  The Graduate was published in 1963, and was adapted into the Mike Nichols film starring Dustin Hoffman just four years later.  The book and the film follow Benjamin Braddock, a young man who embarks on an affair with Mrs. Robinson (played by Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father’s business partner.  Webb claimed the story is based on his own experiences growing up in Los Angeles after graduating from an East Coast college.  He said that the book is not autobiographical.  Bruce Haring  In 2007, Webb published a sequel to The Graduate, titled Home School. 

Illustrator, graphic designer, art director, visual philosopher and paterfamilias Milton Glaser died June 26, 2020, on his 91st birthday.  If Glaser had a breakout moment, it was his poster of Bob Dylan, from 1966.  It was commissioned by CBS Records, and a folded copy was slipped into the jacket of every LP of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, from which it was then removed and posted on seemingly every dorm-room wall in America.  It looked fresh and modern, but it was also art-history-literate:  Glaser had borrowed the black silhouette profile from a portrait of Marcel Duchamp (a lift that he readily admitted).  Even the typeface was his own, a font called Baby Teeth.  MoMA has a copy of the poster in its permanent collection—it makes regular appearances in the design collection—and Glaser’s studio still sells reprints of it.  After the city’s fiscal crisis of 1975, New York State was pushing tourism with a big ad buy and a new jingle, and asked Glaser to propose a logo.  The story goes that he came up with the backseat of a yellow cab.  Four characters, scribbled in red crayon on a torn envelope:  I ♥ N Y.  A billion coffee mugs and T-shirts followed.  Because it was designed for the city he loved and a campaign that seemed temporary, Glaser did it pro bono, and he seems to have enjoyed the endless number of permutations, parodies, and ripoffs it has spawned.  The torn envelope from the taxi ride is also in the permanent collection of MoMA.  A sequel, designed after the 9/11 attacks, became yet another icon.  Christopher Bonanos  Issue 2291  June 29, 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020

Joyce Carol Oates’s Top Ten List
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).
Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929).
The Red and the Black by Stendhal (1830).
The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence (1915).
Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence (1920).
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884).

New List by Ann Patchett
1.Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2.One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
3.Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955).
4.The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (1924).
5.The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925).
6.So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell (1979).
7.The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915).
8.Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West (1933).
9.Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
10.The Human Stain by Philip Roth (2000).
Link to lists including All-Time Top Ten Lists at

Nestled in a wooded bower, in the middle of spreading cornfields, just over the Michigan line, is the quiet, unassuming home of a couple who have spent their lives simply pursuing their love of the arts.  A humble, delightful pair, who by all modern standards would be labeled quirky children of the ‘60s, Bruce and Ann Tubbs exemplify the beauty that comes from a lifetime of pursuing their artistic dreams.  Ann Tubbs is known throughout the region as one of the foremost potters, specializing in colorfully ebullient majolica ware and tiles with her own distinctive flair.  Bruce, however, not as known locally, has made his impact around the world with his rather unique musical craft.  The retired lower school teacher from Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo, Ohio is an expert when it comes to all things French horn.  Not in performance--though he is no slouch in that department--but in the restoration and repair of instruments which have suffered the ravages of time.  His lifelong passion is evident from the moment one enters their wooded drive.  French Horn bells dangle festively from the surrounding trees in a free-form riot of artistic joie de vivre.  “It’s funny, there really are no true horn ‘manufacturers’ these days building from scratch.  Most companies actually just purchase already shaped parts and pieces from individuals who specialize in one part of the instrument:  bells, valves, bent tubing.  The companies assemble them, for a very high price, I might add.  “I found myself as the middleman in all of this.  There needed to be someone who did this for those who could not afford top dollar.  I rebuilt horns for those people; the aficionados who love the instrument but aren’t necessarily the top-tier, world-class players.  My clients are the people who play for the love of playing.”  He continued, “I’ve sent instruments all over the world.  Shipping can be a problem as some countries have very strict rules on the size of parcels which can be mailed.  Several times I’ve solved this dilemma by working with the American Consulates in the countries located near the purchasers.  I ship to the embassy, and the receiver picks it up from them.”  Wayne F. Anthony

According to the Billiard Congress of America, billiards was developed out of a lawn game similar to croquet in the 15th century.  When play moved indoors, green tables were used to simulate grass.  Originally, the balls in billiards were driven by a mace with a large tip instead of a stick and through something similar to a croquet wick.  The game evolved and expanded over time to include pocketed tables and shot-calling for points, enjoying wide popularity in America in the 1920s.  The term billiards comes from the French words billart ("wooden stick") and bille ("ball").  As the popularity of billiards grew, billiards tables became common sights in gambling parlors where horse racing wagers or other bets were being placed.  Because a collection of wagers is known as a pool, pocket billiards began to be associated with the term.  Some professional pool players still use the term billiards to describe what's more commonly known as pool.  Typically, billiards can refer to any kind of tabletop game played with a cue stick and cue ball, while pool largely means a game with pockets.  In the UK, however, billiards can refer to English Billiards, a variation in which only three balls are used, with the player striking his cue ball and a red striker ball to move his opponent's cue ball.  There are no pockets used in the game.  You may wonder where this leaves snooker, an even more obscure game.  Since it's played with a cue and a cue ball, it's technically billiards, but snooker has a specific rule set involving 22 balls that need to be sunk with consideration given to each color's point value.  At 10 to 12 feet in length, a snooker table is also larger than a conventional pool surface (from 7 to 9 feet) and its pockets are an inch smaller in diameter.  The bottom line?  If you're in a social setting and get challenged to a game of billiards, it's probably going to be pool.  If you're in the UK, it could mean the pocket-less version.  Jake Rossen

June 2, 2020  The literary estates of 12 late authors have been acquired by the newly formed London- and New York-based company International Literary Properties, with the hope that the properties can be adapted for film and TV.  The eight-figure deal was made with one of the longest-established literary and talent agencies in the U.K. Peters, Fraser + Dunlo—and sees ILP acquire the rights formerly held by the agency for the literary estates of Georges Simenon, Eric Ambler, Margery Allingham, Edmund Crispin, Dennis Wheatley, Robert Bolt, Richard Hull, George Bellairs, Nicolas Freeling, John Creasey, Michael Innes and Evelyn Waugh.  This deal is the first major slate of acquisitions announced by ILP, which will pro­actively manage the estates it buys or buys into, working with agents to support their exploitation across all media platforms.  Alex Ritman

We owe much to the fruitful meditation of our sages, but a sane view of life is, after all, elaborated mainly in the kitchen.  Joseph Conrad

Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.  William Shakespeare

VIRUS VIEWS  “This is the time for awareness.  Time to quietly share love  Time to savor the gift of now  Time to forget to rush”  extract from Locked Down, a poem by Dosia Carlson  Thank you, Muse reader!

Twelve German postal workers received medical treatment and dozens more were evacuated due to a pungent suspect package--which turned out to be a shipment of the notoriously smelly durian fruit.  Police, firefighters and emergency services were called to a post office in the Bavarian town of Schweinfurt on June 20, 2020 after staff noticed the smell coming from a package.  Six ambulances, five first-responder cars and two emergency vehicles attended the incident.  Three different fire departments were also involved.  It turned out to contain four Thai durian fruits, which a 50-year-old resident of the town had sent home from a friend in Nuremberg.  The fruit was eventually delivered to its intended recipient.  It's not the first time durian has caused a panic.  Last year, staff at the University of Canberra library were forced to evacuate the building due to a suspected gas leak, but a search revealed the stench was in fact caused by the fruit.  And in November 2018, a cargo of durian caused an Indonesian plane to be temporarily grounded after passengers complained about the fruit's room-clearing stench in the cabin.  Rob Picheta and Frederik Pleitgen  Thank you, Muse reader!

Archaelogists on June 22, 2020 announced the discovery of a ring of shafts about 2 miles away from ancient stones at Stonehenge in Salisbury, England.  The latest revelation is the discovery of a ring of at least 20 prehistoric shafts about 2 miles from the famous Neolithic site of immense upright stones, according to an announcement from the University of Bradford.  Archaeologists say the "astonishing" shafts in Durrington Walls date back to 2,500 B.C.E., and form a circle more than 2 km (1.2 miles) in diameter.  Each one measures up to 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter and 5 meters (16 feet) deep.
Researchers say there may have been more than 30 of the shafts at one time.  Vanessa Romo

The White House is now considering raising levies on wine from the European Union to 100% from 25% citing a lack of progress in negotiations over an Airbus-Boeing dispute.  The Wall Street Journal  June 26, 2020

The first book in the Harry Potter series by J. K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published on June 26 in the United Kingdom in 1997.  See also  Issue 2290  June 26, 2020