Friday, February 21, 2020

John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, visits modern-day Venice, where he finds a rich cast of characters and tries to unravel the mystery behind a 1996 fire that wiped out the city's last opera house in the book "The City of Falling Angels."  Read an interview with Scott Simon and read an excerpt from the book at

Author John Berendt (born 1939) grew up in Syracuse, New York, where both of his parents were writers.  As an English major at Harvard University, he worked on the staff of the Harvard Lampoon.  He graduated in 1961 and moved to New York City to pursue a journalism career.   He was an associate editor of Esquire from 1961 to 1969, editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979 and a columnist for Esquire from 1982 to 1994.  Berendt published Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in 1994 and became an overnight success; the book spent a record-breaking 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list-—still, to this day, the longest standing best seller of the Times.  The story, unsettling and real, broke down the idea of the quintessential phenomenon of a true American city—only to reveal its quirks:  its man walking an invisible dog; its voice of the drag queen; a high-society man in its elite community—all that somehow, unravels a murder mystery.  Virtually seeming like a novel and reading like a tale, the non-fictional story is about the real-life events surrounding the murder trial of Jim Williams in Savannah, Georgia.  Berendt acknowledged that he fabricated some scenes and changed the sequence of some events.  Midnight was adapted into a 1997 film directed by Clint Eastwood.  John Cusack plays a character loosely based on Berendt.  Berendt's second book, The City of Falling Angels, was published in September 2005.  It chronicles interwoven lives in Venice in the aftermath of the fire that destroyed the La Fenice opera house.  According to Kirkus Reviews, "Berendt does great justice to an exalted city that has rightly fascinated the likes of Henry JamesRobert Browning, and many filmmakers throughout the world."  (August 1, 2005)

April 26, 2012  Garrison Keillor commented on a sign in an Op-Ed column in the New York Times a couple of years ago.  He wrote:  “My heart was gladdened by an official-looking sign in the Milwaukee airport, just beyond the security checkpoint, hanging over where you put your shoes and coat back on and stuff your laptop back in the case:  The sign said, ‘Recombobulation Area.’  The English language gains a new word.  Recombobulate, America.  Pull yourself together, tie your shoelaces, and if your pilot is wearing a button that says ‘To hell with the F.A.A.,’ wait for the next flight.”  The airport put up its sign in 2008, but “recombobulate” and “recombobulation” were in the air long before that.  Margaret Bennett used the verb in her book How To Ski Just a Little Bit (1970):  “If you find this happening, put your weight on your outside ski and ride that until you’re recombobulated and back on course.”  And Amanda Cross (aka Carolyn Heilbrun) used the noun in her mystery Poetic Justice (1970):  “ ‘To return,’ Reed said, ‘to the conversation of last night, why has misrule and horseplay brought you to such a state of discombobulation?  Or, since it has, may I offer my help in recombobulation?’ ”  In case anyone is wondering, “discombobulate” isn’t a negative version of “combobulate.”  In our earlier posting, we note that “discombobulate” is a joke word formed in 19th-century America.  Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman

Hello is a salutation or greeting in the English language.  Hello, with that spelling, was used in publications in the US as early as the 18 October 1826 edition of the Norwich Courier of Norwich, Connecticut.  Another early use was an 1833 American book called The Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett, of West Tennessee, which was reprinted that same year in The London Literary Gazette.  The word was extensively used in literature by the 1860s.  According to the Oxford English Dictionaryhello is an alteration of hallohollo, which came from Old High German "halâholâ, emphatic imperative of halônholôn to fetch, used especially in hailing a ferryman."  It also connects the development of hello to the influence of an earlier form, holla, whose origin is in the French holà (roughly, 'whoa there!', from French  'there').  As in addition to hellohalloohallohollohullo and (rarely) hillo also exist as variants or related words, the word can be spelt using any of all five vowels.  The use of hello as a telephone greeting has been credited to Thomas Edison; according to one source, he expressed his surprise with a misheard Hullo.  Alexander Graham Bell initially used Ahoy (as used on ships) as a telephone greeting.   However, in 1877, Edison wrote to T. B. A. David, president of the Central District and Printing Telegraph Company of Pittsburgh:  Friend David, I do not think we shall need a call bell as Hello! can be heard 10 to 20 feet away.  What you think?  Edison - P.S. first cost of sender & receiver to manufacture is only $7.00.  Fowler's has it that "hallo" is first recorded "as a shout to call attention" in 1864.  It is used by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner written in 1798.

Gretel Ehrlich, a writer of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, born in Santa Barbara, California, January 21, 1946, writes about such diverse places as Wyoming, China, and Greenland.  Her unique point of view on humans and the environment has earned Ehrlich a place among the best nature writers of our time.  The collection contains correspondence between Ehrlich and some of these important authors, including Barry Lopez, Ted Hoagland, William Kittredge, and Terry Tempest Williams.  In addition to her writing, Ehrlich is also known for her work in film editing and producing, beginning with her studies in film at UCLA and culminating in several productions as well as a 1976 PBS grant, which led to a documentary about sheep herding in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming.  The National Endowment for the Humanities has twice recognized the importance of Ehrlich’s work in both a creative writing fellowship award and a humanities grant.  Besides her books and film work, Ehrlich has also published poems, screen plays, and numerous magazine articles.  Find a list of her publications and films at  Gretel Ehrlich:  An Inventory of Her Papers, 1923-2005 and undated, at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library  See also

Older things/older houses/books/memory/your mind/cameras/particle accelerators are the closest things we have to time machines.  Various sources 

The Time Machine is a 2002 film about an inventor from New York City (late 1800's) who travels far into the future to prove that time travel is possible.  He finds himself in a strange future where mankind has evolved into two very different races.  Directed by Simon Wells, great-grandson of H. G. Wells. Screenplay by David Duncan and John Logan; Based on the novel by H. G. Wells.

Larry Tesler, an icon of early computing, has died at the age of 74.  Mr Tesler started working in Silicon Valley in the early 1960s, at a time when computers were inaccessible to the vast majority of people.  It was thanks to his innovations--which included the "cut", "copy" and "paste" commands--that the personal computer became simple to learn and use.  Xerox, where Mr Tesler spent part of his career, paid tribute to him.  "The inventor of cut/copy & paste, find & replace, and more, was former Xerox researcher Larry Tesler," the company tweeted.  "Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas."  Mr Tesler was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1945, and studied at Stanford University in California.  After graduating, he specialised in user interface design--that is, making computer systems more user-friendly.  Possibly Mr Tesler's most famous innovation, the cut and paste command, was reportedly based on the old method of editing in which people would physically cut portions of printed text and glue them elsewhere.  The command was incorporated in Apple's software on the Lisa computer in 1983, and the original Macintosh that was released the following year.  One of Mr Tesler's firmest beliefs was that computer systems should stop using "modes", which were common in software design at the time.  Modes allow users to switch between functions on software and apps but make computers both time-consuming and complicated.  So strong was this belief that Mr Tesler's website was called "", his Twitter handle was "@nomodes", and even his car's registration plate was "No Modes".  Silicon Valley's Computer History Museum said Mr Tesler "combined computer science training with a counterculture vision that computers should be for everyone".  Larry Tesler died February 17, 2020. 

WORD OF THE DAY  matrilingual  adjective  Pertaining to one's mother tongue.  February 21 is International Mother Language Day, which is recognized by the United Nations to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.  Wiktionary  Issue 2228  February 21, 2020

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Thou, inch, foot, yard, chain, furlong, mile, league are units used when measuring length.
thou (th) (0.0254mm in the metric system)
inch (in) is equal to 1000 thou (25.4mm)
foot (ft) is equal to 12 inches (304.8mm)
yard (yd) is equal to 3 feet (914.4mm)
chain (ch) is equal to 22 yards (20.1168m)
furlong (fur) is equal to 10 chains (201.168m)
mile (mi) is equal to 8 furlongs (1 609.344m)
league (lea) is equal to 3 miles (1 828.032m) (no longer an official unit in any nation)

Stefano Secchi's Cacio e Pepe Salad  The chef of Rezdôra restaurant in New York City shares the recipe for one of his most popular appetizers, inspired by the classic Italian cheese-and-pepper pasta dish.  takes ten minutes to prepare--serves four

To gainsay is to declare false or to contradict.  It’s a transitive verb, meaning it has to act upon something.  So you can’t just say “I gainsay,” period; you have to gainsay something.  And what’s gainsaid is not the person you disagree with but the statement you wish to contradict.  For instance, if you disagree with our definition of gainsay, you don’t gainsay us; you gainsay our definition.  Though gainsay has a certain appeal, it can have an archaic ring outside legal contexts, and it often bears replacement with alternatives such as dispute and contradict.  There’s nothing incorrect about it, though, and it does appear occasionally even in mainstream writing from this century.  The word has origins in Old English.  The first syllable, gain, is etymologically related to against (and is unrelated to our modern sense of gain), so we can think of gainsay as a sort of contraction of say against.

Why are literary pilgrimages so compelling?  Virginia Woolf explains:  “It would seem to be a fact that writers stamp themselves upon their possessions more indelibly than other people.”  Certainly, each year, thousands of people visit Monk’s House, Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s sixteenth-century cottage, in Rodmell, East Sussex.  It’s set right on the village street, a modest clapboard building with a big garden beyond. Inside, the small, low-ceilinged rooms are peopled with pilgrims.  You move quietly among them; the atmosphere is hushed and meditative, like that in a church.  You are caught up in a silent current, adrift in Woolf’s life:  these are the chairs that were decorated by her sister; here is her narrow bed by the window; here are her books, tightly packed, floor to ceiling.  You are very close to her here.  You are speaking with her in your mind.  As a literary pilgrim, you could go to England and visit Woolf’s houses.  Or you could simply go to New York and visit the Berg Collection.  For decades, the collector William Beekman acquired things related to Woolf:  letters, manuscripts, photographs, postcards, rare editions.  The William Beekman Collection of Virginia Woolf and Her Circle, consisting of a hundred and fifty-three such objects, has been added to the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, at the New York Public Library.  Like any pilgrimage, a journey to the Berg imposes certain exigencies.  Access is restricted, and you must make an appointment.  You must leave your coat and bag downstairs.  The atmosphere is hushed and solemn:  this is the inner sanctum.  Here are words that have changed history, governments, laws, morals, mores, marriages, and minds.  The librarian brings things out to you, one by one.  The Beekman materials are encased in beautiful clothbound slipcases, with gold titles on the spines.  Opening these exquisite cases is like unwrapping treasure.  Roxana Robinson

The oldest of three siblings, Jacob Lawrence and his brother and sister were placed in foster care in Philadelphia from 1927 to 1930 while his mother worked in New York City.  By 1930, at the age of thirteen, Lawrence and his siblings were reunited with their mother, who relocated the family to the Harlem.  It was in Harlem that Lawrence first began to experiment with art, creating non-figurative designs and objects in an arts and crafts workshop operated by the local settlement house.  Lawrence turned to art less out of a sense of creative "calling" and more as a way to keep himself occupied in the tenement neighborhood of his younger days.  Though Lawrence's mother had hoped that Lawrence would become a postman, Lawrence dropped out of high school at age 17 to pursue an artistic career.  He was unable to join Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA), an integral source of income to artists during the Great Depression, until the age of 21, and so supported himself and his family through turns as a printer, newspaper deliverer, and construction laborer until 1938, when he secured a position in the WPA and Federal Art Project (FAP)'s easel division.  Lawrence was, in art historian Leslie King-Hammond's words, the "first major artist of the 20th-century who was technically trained and artistically educated within the art community in Harlem," and she described Lawrence as Harlem's "biographer."  Charles Henry Alston, Lawrence's first mentor and his teacher at the WPA's Harlem Art Workshop, who came to view Lawrence like his own son, was an artist who came of age embracing the teachings of Alain Locke, whose 1925 The New Negro articulated the Harlem Renaissance artistic philosophy whereby African-American artists should seek inspiration from an African, ancestral past.  Lawrence also trained with and was significantly influenced by Harlem Renaissance sculptor Augusta Savage, who instructed Lawrence both at her Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts and at the Harlem Art Workshop.  Lawrence's interest in depicting scenes from black American history and from the Harlem world around him, as well as the Egyptian-like angularity of his figures and his later visual references to African art, ultimately reflect the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance.  In his early years, Lawrence was so keen to learn about the history of art, that he would walk from his home in Harlem to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In 1935, Lawrence met Charles Seifert, lecturer and historian, who allowed Lawrence access to his personal library of African and African-American literature and encouraged Lawrence to seek out the textual resources on African history in the Arthur Schomburg collection at the 135th street branch of the New York Public Library (now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture).  Sources Lawrence studied in the Schomburg collection became the basis for his most well-known and best-regarded works:  his historical works in series.  In each series, such as his Toussaint L'Ouverture, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and The Migration of the Negro, Lawrence coupled panel paintings with descriptive captions which collectively narrated either the biography of a notable historical figure or a significant historical event.  Lawrence maintained that neither money nor a prominent museum acquisition drove his historical panels, but rather a desire to tell, display, and celebrate the depicted historical events.  See also

A small Pennsylvania museum has declared that a 17th-century portrait, long considered the work of someone in Rembrandt's studio, is in fact by the Dutch master himself.  After sending the painting away for routine restoration, the Allentown Art Museum said that advanced imaging and conservation techniques had unveiled "clear evidence" that the artwork is a genuine masterpiece.  Created in 1632, "Portrait of a Young Woman" depicts a young female subject who is pictured in a number of Rembrandt's other paintings.  "Portrait of a Young Woman" is expected to go back on display in Allentown June 7, 2020.  Oscar Holland  Read more and see pictures at

Beverly Pepper, a sculptor of elegantly crafted steel works that appear to gently rise upward, died February 5, 2020 in Todi, Italy.  She was 97.  At venues around the world, but primarily in Europe and the United States, Pepper exhibited her majestic, abstract steel works in outdoor settings.  They are typically monumental in scale, with some even extending hundreds of feet long, and they appear to swoop, arc, and spiral, often transforming viewers’ perception of the surrounding landscape in the process.  Her sculptures are now permanently installed in locations as diverse as Barcelona, Milwaukee, Dallas, Todi, and Vilnius, Lithuania, among other places.  Beverly Stoll was born in 1922 in Brooklyn, New York.  When she was a child, her mother created a space where she could make art.  But her ambitions of becoming an artist were dashed when she was six years old—her father beat her for bringing home crayons.  Instead, she went on to pursue a career in graphic design.  (In college, at New York’s Pratt Institute, she was dissuaded from working with welding—a process that has since become integral to her work.)  When she was in her 20s, she traveled to Paris, where she went on to study at the prestigious Académie de la Grande Chaumière.  Painter Fernand Léger, the famed modernist who envisioned humans constructed from forms that looked like industrial objects, was among her teachers.  After graduating, she moved to Rome, where she met Bill Pepper, who later became her husband.  Having effectively remade herself as an artist, she started painting socialist realist pictures in Italy.  Everything changed when she was 37 years old, however.  In 1960, on a trip across America and Asia with her daughter, Jorie Graham, she visited the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and she found herself moved by its architecture.  She knew she had to become a sculptor, and pursued that line of art-making as soon as she returned to Italy.  Alex Greenberger

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY  There's nothing that makes you so aware of the improvisation of human existence as a song unfinished.  Or an old address book. - Carson McCullers, writer (19 Feb 1917-1967)  Issue 2227  February 19, 2020 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Michael Esbin belongs to an outstanding, now mature generation of stone-carving artists, although it must be admitted that this kind of work is not supported as much as it used to be—especially in America.  Esbin moved to Italy some 35 years ago in order to embrace the stone carving there.  He lives in Carrara, a town famous for its white and blue-gray marbles, making deeply satisfying works in a medium whose depth and richness encourage a way of seeing that results in spiritual, emotional, and intellectual insight.  Esbin now travels back and forth between Italy and New York City.  He comes from a medical family on Long Island, where his father was an ophthalmologist and his mother, a medical illustrator.  Somehow his situation has translated into an attitude of extreme openness—to both art and life—as he transforms the difficulties of living into formally engaging sculptures.

Hate clouds the judgment.”  The Lion (2010), #5 in the John Corey series and direct sequel to #2 in the John Corey series, The Lion’s Game (2000) by Nelson DeMille

Nelson Richard DeMille (born 1943) is an American author of action adventure and suspense novels.  His novels include Plum IslandThe Charm School, and The Gold Coast.  DeMille has also written under the pen names Jack Cannon, Kurt Ladner, Ellen Kay and Brad Matthews.  Many of DeMille's books are written in the first person, and as such his books follow a linear plotline in which the reader moves along with the main character.  Although the tone of his writing varies from novel to novel, one consistent tool is DeMille's liberal use of sarcasm and dry humor.  Most DeMille novels, especially the more recent, avoid "Hollywood endings," and instead finish either inconclusively or with the hero successfully exposing the secret/solving the mystery while suffering in his career or personal life as a result.  There are generally loose ends left for the reader to puzzle over.  DeMille spends approximately 16 months creating each of his novels due to the extensive research involved, and because he writes them longhand on legal pads with a number one pencil.

February 13, 2020   “Obama-the-writer came before Obama-the-candidate.”  How the president’s reading shaped his writing. | Lit Hub  A Purple Heart, a Smith Corona, an old icebox:  take a look inside Indianapolis’ Kurt Vonnegut Museum. | Hyperallergic

The first major work in the history of philosophy to bear the title “Metaphysics” was the treatise by Aristotle that we have come to know by that name.  But Aristotle himself did not use that title or even describe his field of study as ‘metaphysics’; the name was evidently coined by the first century C.E. editor who assembled the treatise we know as Aristotle’s Metaphysics out of various smaller selections of Aristotle’s works.  The title ‘metaphysics’—literally, ‘after the Physics’—very likely indicated the place the topics discussed therein were intended to occupy in the philosophical curriculum.  They were to be studied after the treatises dealing with nature (ta phusika).   Find discussions of the ideas that are developed in Aristotle’s treatise at  Copyright © 2016 by S. Marc Cohen 

February 5, 2020  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon is using your Kindle to collect a lot of data about your reading habits. | The Guardian  The University of Saskatchewan has created an interactive app of The Canterbury Tales manuscript (with a little help from the late Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame). | Global News

NO COOKING REQUIRED TO ENTERTAIN WITH FLAIR   The perfect charcuterie plate/board will contain at least 3 to 5 types of charcuterie representing different styles and textures, plus something acidic, like pickles, and something sweet like fruit chutney to complement the flavors.  Start with a large plate, platter, wooden cutting board, or a piece of slate as the base.  Allow two ounces per person, and slice your charcuterie into easily manageable, bite-sized pieces.  Nuts, fresh and dried fruits, bread, and crackers make wonderful accompaniments.  Cheese is a welcome addition to a charcuterie plate; choose 2-3 types of different textures to complement the spread.

Forest therapy, also called forest bathing, is just spending time in the woods as an antidote to the sometimes-jarring sounds, sights, and smells of city life.  Of course, you can get that kind of respite on your own, but a more organized version of forest therapy has now been introduced in the U.S.  The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs, founded in 2012, is currently training forest therapy guides.  It appears that forest therapy does have measurable health benefits; for example, it can lower levels of salivary cortisol, the hormone that rises when we’re under stress.  One Japanese study showed that gazing at forest scenery for as little as 20 minutes reduced salivary cortisol levels by 13.4 percent.  Forest therapy can also lower blood pressure and heart rate and trigger a dramatic increase in the activity of natural killer (NK) cells (produced by the immune system to ward off infection and fight cancer).  Andrew Weil

The doughnut proper (if that's the right word) supposedly came to Manhattan (then still New Amsterdam) under the unappetizing Dutch name of olykoeks--"oily cakes."  Fast-forward to the mid-19th century and Elizabeth Gregory, a New England ship captain's mother who made a deep-fried dough that cleverly used her son's spice cargo of nutmeg and cinnamon, along with lemon rind.  Some say she made it so son Hanson and his crew could store a pastry on long voyages, one that might help ward off scurvy and colds.  In any case, Mrs. Gregory put hazelnuts or walnuts in the center, where the dough might not cook through, and in a literal-minded way called them doughnuts.  Doughnuts didn't come into their own until World War I, when millions of homesick American doughboys met millions of doughnuts in the trenches of France.  They were served up by women volunteers who even brought them to the front lines to give soldiers a tasty touch of home.   When the doughboys came back from the war they had a natural yen for more doughnuts.  The name "doughboy," though, didn't derive from doughnuts.  It goes back to the relatively doughnutless Civil War, when the cavalry derided foot soldiers as doughboys, perhaps because their globular brass buttons resembled flour dumplings or because soldiers used flour to polish their white belts.  The first doughnut machine did not come along until 1920, in New York City, when Adolph Levitt, an enterprising refugee from czarist Russia, began selling fried doughnuts from his bakery.  Hungry theater crowds pushed him to make a gadget that churned out the tasty rings faster, and he did.  Levitt's doughnut machine was the first sign that the doughnut, till then merely a taste sensation, could, in production, become a public spectacle.  There before them a circle of dough, shaped like a perfect smoke ring, and about the diameter of a baseball, dropped off into a vat of boiling oil, circulated, got turned over to brown on the other side, and emerged from the oil on a moving ramp, one by one like ducks in a row.  In the 1934 film It Happened One Night, rugged newspaperman Clark Gable actually has to teach runaway heiress Claudette Colbert how to dunk.  Often, doughnuts were sold with their own can-do philosophy.  In 1936, a popular song was proclaiming that you can live on doughnuts and coffee if "you're in love."  David A. Taylor

Reader feedback on long shots in film:  The article on long shots was about the length in time.  How about the length in distance?  In 1966’s This Property is Condemned, an amazing camera shot is just outside the window of a moving passenger train showing Natalie Wood staring into space, with her window filling about half the frame.  The camera then pulls slowly back and moves up in one continuous shot to show that the steam locomotive and train are on a trestle across Lake Pontchartrain, and keeps climbing up and slowly spiraling until it is directly over the train, with the length of the train being perhaps one-eighth of the field of view.  An absolutely amazing continuous shot for its time—must have been a steady-cam on a helicopter.  The most amazing long shot was from 1939’s Gone With the Wind when Scarlett is in the train yard walking past a few wounded soldiers, and you hear the cries around her, and the camera slowly pulls back and up (on a construction crane) to show a sea of wounded soldiers and a cacophony of anguished pleas.  I understand they used 1500 extras and 1000 dummies.

91% of California farm workers are immigrants.  What’s Eating America with Andrew Zimmern MSNBC February 16, 2020 

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY  It's not a business with me. . . .  I'm not a professional of poetry; I'm a farmer of poetry. - Jack Gilbert, poet (18 Feb 1925-2012)  Issue 2226  February 18, 2020 

Monday, February 17, 2020

No-Cook One-Minute Soup  Mix pesto and whole milk.  Add buttered toast and let soften.  Serve cold or hot.  Add finely diced vegetables, if desired.

Ice Breakers and Team Builder:  includes games (Name Game, Solemn and Silent), tips (use rituals like raising hands to indicate game is over), resources (books and websites).

A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice a year.  During the solstice, the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the Sun, causing it to reach its highest point visually in the sky. This means it takes the most amount of time to cross the sky.  The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

Equinox  noun  1: either of the two points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator intersects the ecliptic  2either of the two times each year (as about March 21 and September 23) when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are everywhere on earth of approximately equal length.  Equinox descends from aequus, the Latin word for "equal," and nox, the Latin word for "night"—a fitting history for a word that describes days of the year when the daytime and nighttime are equal in length.  In the northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox marks the first day of spring and occurs when the sun moves north across the equator.  (Vernal comes from the Latin word ver, meaning "spring.")  The autumnal equinox marks the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere and occurs when the sun crosses the equator going south.  In contrast, a solstice is either of the two moments in the year when the sun's apparent path is farthest north or south from the equator.

January 28, 2020  Nicci French on the greatest long shot in film history, and what novelists can learn from building tension in a single take. | CrimeReads   Jerry Craft’s New Kid won this year’s Newbery Medal—the highest honor for children’s literature in the US—becoming the first graphic novel to win the prize. | The New York Times

Yoshitomo Nara (born 5 December 1959 in HirosakiAomori Prefecture, Japan) is a Japanese artist.  He lives and works in Tokyo, though his artwork has been exhibited worldwide.  Nara has had nearly 40 solo exhibitions since 1984.  His art work has been housed at the MoMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA).  His most well-known and repeated subject is a young girl with piercing eyes.  "Nara first came to the fore of the art world during Japan's Pop art movement in the 1990s.  The subject matter of his sculptures and paintings is deceptively simple:  most works depict one seemingly innocuous subject (often pastel-hued children and animals drawn with confident, cartoonish lines) with little or no background.  But these children, who appear at first to be cute and even vulnerable, sometimes brandish weapons like knives and saws.  Their wide eyes often hold accusatory looks that could be sleepy-eyed irritation at being awoken from a nap—or that could be undiluted expressions of hate."  Nara, however, does not see his weapon-wielding subjects as aggressors.  "Look at them, they [the weapons] are so small, like toys.  Do you think they could fight with those?" he says.  "I don't think so.  Rather, I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives . . . "  Lauded by art critics, Nara's bizarrely intriguing works have gained him a cult following around the world.  Large original paintings regularly sell for millions of dollars.  

Libbey, Inc., (formerly Libbey Glass Company and New England Glass Company) is a glass production company headquartered in Toledo, Ohio.  It was originally founded 201 years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts as the New England Glass Company in 1818, before relocating to Ohio in 1888 and renaming to Libbey Glass Co.  After it was purchased in 1935, it operated as part of the Libbey-Owens-Ford company and as a division of the Owens-Illinois glass company until 1993, when it was separated back into an independent company.  The company manufactures a number of glassware products, primarily tablewaredrinkware and stemware.  Historically, it was also involved in producing other types of glass products, such as automotive glass, glass drinking bottles, and light bulbs.  Read more and see pictures at  See also Holy Toledo!  Ohio’s ‘Glass City’ is worth a trip by Alan Solomon at and The New England Glass Companies by Bill Lockhart, Beau Schriever, Bill Lindsey and Carol Serr at

January 27, 2020  Best procrastination ever:  Did Tolkien write The Lord of the Rings because he was avoiding his academic work? | Lit Hub  The bad news is that the machines are coming; the good news is that they still haven’t mastered metaphor, as evidenced by these poems. | Lit Hub Tech  Most peculiar! The Nancy Drew series celebrates the heroine’s 90th anniversary by killing her off—and putting the Hardy Boys on the case. | Polygon

 Sculptor Peter Barstow Rockwell, the youngest son of iconic artist Norman Rockwell, died February 13, 2020 in Danvers, a suburb of Boston, spending his last weeks visited by children and grandchildren.  He was 83.  News of his death was shared by the Norman Rockwell Museum, which reported that, at his death, he was wearing his favorite shirt, painted by his son, John, with his whimsical clay monsters and sketchbook by his side.  The family plans a memorial gathering in May at St. Paul's Within the Walls Church in Rome, where his work is displayed.  Sites housing his sculptures include the Rockwell Museum, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., his alma mater, Haverford (Pa.) College, a convent in Chioggia, Italy, and the Women's Memorial Bell Tower at the Cathedral of the Pines, an open-air installation in Rindge, N.H., built as a memorial to American war dead.  Peter Rockwell is known for his playful monsters, soaring acrobats, climbing sculptures, humorous terra cottas, bronze work and his deeply spiritual religious iconography, according to the statement released by the museum.  The largest assemblages of Peter's sculpture is in the permanent collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, including his climbing acrobats, a massive stone carving named Grendel, and a cherished collection of sculptures he had given to his father.  His works are found on the museum grounds, in front of his father's studio and along the walking paths.  Many videos and interviews with Peter are available on the museum's YouTube channel.  In 2009, curated by Stephanie Plunkett, a comprehensive exhibition of the artist's work and career, "The Fantastical Faces of Peter Rockwell:  A Sculptor's Retrospective," was organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum.  After its initial installation in Stockbridge, it traveled to the Butler Museum in Youngstown, Ohio.  In 2014, the Norman Rockwell Museum brought its major Norman Rockwell exhibition, "American Chronicles," to the Fondazione Roma-Arte-Musei at the Palazzo Cipolla in Rome.  There, Peter greeted museum trustees, patrons, staff and officials, providing tours with local insight for many of the travelers.  Last summer, he offered visitors to the Norman Rockwell Museum a tour of his sculptures on the grounds.  As an expert on sculpting techniques, Peter is the author of several rare books on stone carving in Italy and India, including "The Art of Stoneworking," "The Unfinished: Stone Carvers at Work on the Indian Subcontinent" and "The Compleat Marble Sleuth."  Clarence Fanto,596992

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY  Time is the fairest and toughest judge. - Edgar Quinet, historian (17 Feb 1803-1875)  Issue 2225  February 17, 2020

Friday, February 14, 2020

Pony Soldier is a 1952 American Technicolor Northern Western set in Canada but filmed in Sedona, Arizona.  It is based on a 1951 Saturday Evening Post story "Mounted Patrol" by Garnett Weston.  It was retitled MacDonald of the Canadian Mounties in Britain and The Last Arrow in France and Spain.

Dogface refers to a U.S. Army foot soldier serving in the infantry, especially in World War II.  The origin of the term is difficult to ascertain.  According to the recollections of veteran Phillip Leveque:  Perhaps I should explain the derivation of the term "dogface".  He lived in "pup tents" and foxholes.  We were treated like dogs in training.  We had dog tags for identification.  The basic story is that wounded soldiers in the Civil War had tags tied to them with string indicating the nature of their wounds.  The tags were like those put on a pet dog or horse, but I can't imagine anybody living in a horse tent or being called a horseface.  Correctly speaking, only Infantrymen are called dogfaces.  Much of the time we were filthy, cold and wet as a duck-hunting dog and we were ordered around sternly and loudly like a half-trained dog.  The term was used in media such as "Up Front" by combat cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who may have heard the term while serving with the 45th Infantry Division in Italy.  The term gained a high profile in the USA when it was used in the 1955 Hollywood film To Hell and Back, based on the best-selling autobiography of Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier of World War II, and starring Murphy in the lead role.  The film included a song, The Dogface Soldier, originally written in 1942 by two U.S. Army infantry soldiers; it was adopted as the song of the 3rd Infantry Division, and was widely played and sung during the war.  The song eventually sold 300,000 copies.

"You ever been to a caucus?"  Biden asked a Mercer University student, who nervously responded "yes" during a question and answer session on February 9, 2020.  "No you haven't," Biden said.  "You're a lying dog-faced pony soldier," he told her, as the audience responded with laughter.  Biden has used this strange euphemism in the past, and has claimed that it comes from an old John Wayne movie.  However, several outlets, including Vanity Fair, could not pinpoint exactly which John Wayne film Biden was referencing.  Rosie Perper

Over the last 16 years, The Public’s UNDER THE RADAR FESTIVAL has presented over 229 companies from 42 countries.  It has grown into a landmark of the New York City theater season and is a vital part of The Public's mission, providing a high-visibility platform to support artists from diverse backgrounds who are redefining the act of making theater.  Widely recognized as a premier launching pad for new and cutting-edge performance from the U.S. and abroad, Under the Radar Festival has presented works by such respected artists as Elevator Repair Service, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Gob Squad, Belarus Free Theatre, Guillermo Calderón, and Young Jean Lee.

Psst, Check out New York City’s Under-the-Radar Libraries  by Anne Kadet   New York City has three of the greatest public library systems in the world, with hundreds of branches and a combined collection topping 60 million items.  You must be a subscriber to read the article.  See picture of the reading room at General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York in Midtown Manhattan at

Kent State University announced February 12, 2020 that the first group of students in the LeBron James Family Foundation’s I Promise Network are eligible for four years of free tuition, and one year of free room and board.  The 193 Akron students, who are currently juniors, will be college freshman in the 2021-22 academic year, Kent State said in a news release.  To be eligible for the package, they must be successfully admitted to Kent State, fill out required financial aid forms and complete a required number of community service hours each semester.  The LeBron James Family Foundation started the I Promise Network in 2011, when the first class was starting third grade.  It has grown to include more than 1,400 Akron students in grades six through 11 who receive mentoring, college and career preparation and family support from the foundation.  Under the new program, Kent State will cover the tuition costs that remain after the I Promise students receive funds from traditional financial-aid sources, and will provide the first year’s room and meal plan. The free tuition guarantee includes no loans that would have to be repaid.  Students may also apply for work-study jobs, which Tankersley said would give them a “sweat equity” stake in their education.  “We are so excited that our students that have worked incredibly hard have earned even more life-changing opportunities to grow and excel," said Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation.  “We are so thankful to the entire Kent State family for believing in our students and providing exactly the type of programming and support they need to be successful not only in school, but in life.”  The university also is beginning a fundraising effort to help cover other expenses for these students, including the remaining three years of room and board, books and other college-related costs.  Robin Goist

I Want To Marry You Brownies aka Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies by Courtney Hamilton  Will you Marry Me Brownies from King Arthur Flour

Il bacio (The Kiss) is an 1859 painting by the Italian artist Francesco Hayez.  It is possibly his best known work.  This painting conveys the main features of Italian Romanticism and has come to represent the spirit of the Risorgimento.  It was commissioned by Alfonso Maria Visconti di Saliceto, who donated it to the Pinacoteca di Brera after his death.  The first version of The Kiss was commissioned by Count Alfonso Maria Visconti of Saliceto.  Hayez, who was very well known amongst Milanese patriots, was asked from the Count to depict the hopes associated with the alliance between France and the Kingdom of Sardinia.  The artwork was created in 1859 and presented at the Pinacoteca di Brera on 9 September, and was later on hung up as a decoration in the luxurious residence of the Visconti family for more than twenty-five years.  It is only in 1886, a year before his death, that the Count presented the canvas back to the Pinacoteca di Brera, where it is still exhibited today in room XXXVII.  Although this oil version is undoubtedly the most famous, Hayez produced three other versions (two oil and one watercolor) of the painting.  The second redaction was painted in 1861 for the Mylius family and it was sent to Paris to be exhibited in the Exposition Universelle in 1867.  In 2008 this version was sold at Sotheby's auction for the sum of 780,450 pounds.  The difference between this painting and the previous one is the woman’s dress, this time colored in white.  The third version is the only one to have been transposed onto watercolor on paper, it has an oval shape and was painted in 1859.  It was donated by Hayez to Carolina Zucchi and is now exhibited at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan.  The last painting differs from the original because of the addition of a white cloth laying on the steps beside the couple and the bright green paint used for the man's mantle.  The painting represents a couple from the Middle Ages, embracing while they kiss each other.  It is among the most passionate and intense representations of a kiss in the history of Western art.  The girl leans backwards, while the man bends his left leg so as to support her, simultaneously placing a foot on the step next to him as though poised to go at any moment.  The couple, though at the center of the painting, are not recognizable, as Hayez wanted the action of the kissing to be at the center of the composition.  In the left part of the canvas shadowy forms lurk in the corner to give an impression of conspiracy and danger.  See picture at

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY  Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles. - George Jean Nathan, author and editor (14 Feb 1882-1958)

Did you know that the heart can be found in the graph of a mathematical equation?  Start out by graphing an ellipse with a center at the origin.  Amanda Newton  See instructions and graphics at  The heart beats in three/quarter time. 

WORD OF THE DAY  hypocorism  noun  (countable) A term of endearment; a hypocoristic, a pet name.  (uncountable) The formation of terms of endearment or pet names.  (uncountable, rare) Baby talk, such as bow-wow for dog and choo-choo for train.  Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at the English Wiktionary!  Issue 2224  February 14, 2020