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February 17, 2007

New UN Radiation Warning


Unveiled this past Thursday (February 15, 2007), it's pictured above.

It features a skull and crossbones, a running person and radiating ionizing waves, all on a deep red triangle.

A UN press release noted that "The new symbol will not be visible under normal use, but only if someone attempts to disassemble a device that is a source of dangerous radiation. It will not be located on building access doors, transportation packages or containers."

I can't speak for you but me, I'm outa here.

February 17, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Cole Haan Nike Air


They've taken it to the next level with a 4-1/4" heel in linen with snakeskin trim (above).

No one but you will know you're packing


air (above).


February 17, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

There Were Some Summers — by Thomas Lux

There were some summers
like this: The blue barn steaming,
some cowbirds dozing with their heads
on each other's shoulders, the electric fences
humming so low in the mid-August heat....
So calm the slow sweat existing
in half-fictive memory: a boy
wandering from house, to hayloft, to coop,
past a dump where a saddle rots
on a sawhorse, through the still forest
of a cornfield, to a pasture talking to himself
or the bored, baleful Holsteins nodding
beneath the round shade of catalpa, the boy
walking his trail toward the brook
in a deep but mediocre gully,
through skunk cabbage and popweed,
down sandbanks (a descending
quarter-acre Sahara), the boy wandering,
thinking nothing, thinking: Sweatbox,
sweatbox, the boy on his way
toward a minnow whose slight beard
tells the subtleties of the current, holding there,
in water cold enough to break your ankles.

February 17, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tasting Spoon — Because 'heavy lies the head...'


No self-respecting king or queen would be without a taster and no self-respecting taster should be without this elegant culinary accessory.

From the website:

    Tasting Spoon Set

    Every cook needs a taste to make sure his or her creations are seasoned to perfection before serving.

    Designed in Scandinavia, the set comes with a 10.5''-long tasting spoon and holder.

    The holder has measurements printed on the inside and is designed to easily pour liquid ingredients without splattering.


Though it's not specified, it looks to me like porcelain.


February 17, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Project Shaw


No, not yet another black op gone bad but, rather, an ongoing effort devoted to staging readings of every play George Bernard Shaw ever wrote.

Hilton Als reported on the current state of the venture, now in its second year, in an item (in the February 19/26 New Yorker) which follows.

    Everything Shaw

    As one of our more successful dramatists, critics, and vegetarians, George Bernard Shaw inhabited the role of playwright-as-celebrity with the entitlement of one who had worked hard to put his early difficulties and poverty behind him. In newsreel after newsreel, the aged albeit sprightly Shaw, with his habitual beard and plus fours, became a familiar personality to American audiences. But his position as Irish sage often obscured the enormous volume of his work (more than fifty plays and sketches), which tended toward moralizing at the expense of dramaturgical sensitivity. Nevertheless, the gallant Project Shaw — now in its second year — is devoted to staging readings of every play he ever wrote. This month, the Project presents “The King, the Constitution and the Lady,” a heretofore unstaged work based on the Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson controversy, featuring the indomitable Marian Seldes. If one cannot learn from Shaw, one can always learn something from Seldes: how to make caricatures based on the news of the day real.


Each play is presented once, on a Monday; each month brings a new work.

Performances take place at The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South, in New York City; Tickets: $15; 212-352-3101.

February 17, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Singelringen — Episode 2: Hollywood Nights


Episode 1 appeared on September 1, 2005, introducing the company and its signature product, the Singelring.

Then this past Monday (February 12, 2007) Linda Sherman, who runs the North American operation along with her husband, architect Ray Gordon, emailed me to thank me for mentioning them back in the day.


She reported out that the company has grown quietly but steadily over the past year and a half and added that "celebrities seen wearing the ring include Jonathan Sadowski [top], Juliette Lewis, Mario Lopez, Maria Menounos, Hunter Parrish, Terrence Howard [above], Ivana Baquero, Evan Ross, Scout Taylor-Compton, Vivica Fox, Wilmer Valderrama, Monique Coleman, Tasha Smith, Jamie Kennedy, Naomi Campbell, Marisa Lauren, Ashley Rose Orr, Marla Maples, Marco Siliotto, Jeremy Jackson and Andrea Remanda [below]."



February 17, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is a quotation alive?


In a wonderful essay/book review in the February 19/26, 2007 New Yorker, Louis Menand writes, "Quotations are in a perpetual struggle for survival. They want people to keep saying them. They don't want to die any more than the rest of us do. And so, when they can, they attach themselves to colorful or famous people."

Here's the piece.

    Notable Quotables

    Is there anything that is not a quotation?

    Sherlock Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Neither Ingrid Bergman nor anyone else in “Casablanca” says “Play it again, Sam”; Leo Durocher did not say “Nice guys finish last”; Vince Lombardi did say “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” quite often, but he got the line from someone else. Patrick Henry almost certainly did not say “Give me liberty, or give me death!”; William Tecumseh Sherman never wrote the words “War is hell”; and there is no evidence that Horace Greeley said “Go west, young man.” Marie Antoinette did not say “Let them eat cake”; Hermann Göring did not say “When I hear the word ‘culture,’ I reach for my gun” and Muhammad Ali did not say “No Vietcong ever called me nigger.” Gordon Gekko, the character played by Michael Douglas in “Wall Street,” does not say “Greed is good”; James Cagney never says “You dirty rat” in any of his films; and no movie actor, including Charles Boyer, ever said “Come with me to the Casbah.” Many of the phrases for which Winston Churchill is famous he adapted from the phrases of other people, and when Yog Berra said “I didn’t really say everything I said” he was correct.

    So what? Should we care? Quotable quotes are coins rubbed smooth by circulation. What Michael Douglas did say in “Wall Street” was “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” That was not a quotable quote; it needed some editorial attention, the consequence of which is that everyone distinctly remembers Michael Douglas uttering the words “Greed is good” in “Wall Street,” just as everyone distinctly remembers Ingrid Bergman uttering the words “Play it again, Sam” in “Casablanca,” even though what she really utters is “Play it, Sam.” When you watch the movie and get to that line, you don’t think your memory is wrong. You think the movie is wrong.

    “For lack of a better word” spoils a nice quotation—the speech is about calling a spade a spade, so there is no better word—and “Play it again, Sam” is somehow more affecting than “Play it, Sam.” But not all emendations are improvements. What Leo Durocher actually said (referring to the New York Giants baseball team) was “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.” The sportswriters who heard him telescoped (the technical term is “piped”) the quote because it made a neater headline. They could have done a better job of piping. “Nice guys finish seventh” is a lot cleverer (and also marginally more plausible) than the non-utterance that gave immortality to Leo Durocher. But Leo Durocher doesn’t own that quotation; the quotation owns Leo Durocher, the way a parasite sometimes takes over the host organism. Quotations are in a perpetual struggle for survival. They want people to keep saying them. They don’t want to die any more than the rest of us do. And so, whenever they can, they attach themselves to colorful or famous people. “Nice guys finish last” profits by its association with a man whose nickname was the Lip, even if the Lip never said it, just as “Winning isn’t everything” has a higher market valuation because of the mental image people have of Vince Lombardi. No one has a mental image of Henry (Red) Sanders, the coach who used the phrase first.

    The adaptive mechanism benefits both parties. The survival of the quotation helps insure the survival of the person to whom it is misattributed. The Patrick Henry who lives in our heads and hearts is the man who said “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Apparently, the line was cooked up by his biographer William Wirt, a notorious embellisher, who also invented Henry’s other familiar quotation, “If this be treason, make the most of it!” But a Patrick Henry who never said “Give me liberty, or give me death!” or “If this be treason, make the most of it!,” a Patrick Henry without a death wish, is just not someone we know or care about. His having been said to have said what he never said is a condition of his being “Patrick Henry.” Certain sayings, like “It’s déjà vu all over again,” are Berra-isms, whether Yogi Berra ever said them or not. “Je ne suis pas marxiste,” Karl Marx once complained. Too late for that. Like Yogi, he was the author of a discourse, and he lives as long as it does.

    Karl Marx has thirteen quotations (plus eight for which he shares credit with Friedrich Engels, who, interestingly, never felt it necessary to say “Je ne suis pas engeliste”) in the compendious, enjoyable, and expensive “Yale Book of Quotations” (Yale; $50), edited by Fred Shapiro. Groucho Marx (no relation) has fifty-one quotations. The big winner is William Shakespeare, with four hundred and fifty-five, topping even the Yahwist and his co-authors, the wordsmiths who churned out the Bible but managed to come up with only four hundred quotable passages. Mark Twain has a hundred and fifty-three quotations, Oscar Wilde a hundred and twenty-three. Ambrose Bierce edges out Samuel Johnson in double overtime by a final score of a hundred and forty-four to a hundred and ten. And Woody Allen has forty, beating out William Wordsworth, Rudyard Kipling, and both Roosevelts.

    Shapiro, a librarian at the Yale Law School, is an attribution hound, as is Ralph Keyes, a quotation specialist and the author of “The Quote Verifier” (St. Martin’s; $15.95). “Misquotation is an occupational hazard of quotation,” Keyes advises, and both he and Shapiro have gone to considerable trouble to track down the original utterances that became famous quotations and their original utterers. Keyes finds that quotations tend to mutate in the direction of greater pith. He offers the original words of Rodney King as an instance: “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? . . . Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.” This is the rambling outburst that became the astringent and immortal “Can’t we all get along?” Keyes calls the process “bumper-stickering.” It worked well for Rodney King.

    Shapiro gives us results of similar detective work, and he offers additional scholarly fruit in the form of citations for the first appearance of many well-known terms, slogans, and catchphrases. “This book takes a broad view of what constitutes a quotation,” he explains. The Internet has helped him out, and a lot of the stuff he has come up with is pretty irresistible. It is extremely interesting to know, for instance, that the phrase “Shit happens” was introduced to print by one Connie Eble, in a publication identified as “UNC–CH Slang” (presumably the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), in 1983. “Life’s a bitch, and then you die,” a closely related reflection, dates from 1982, the year it appeared in the Washington Post. “Been there, done that” entered the public discourse in 1983, via the Union Recorder, a publication out of the University of Sydney. “Get a life”: the Washington Post, 1983. (What is it about the nineteen-eighties, anyway?) “Size doesn’t matter,” a phrase, or at least a hope, that would seem to have been around since the Pleistocene, did not see print until 1989, rather late in the history of the species, when it appeared in the Boston Globe.

    There are some neat finds and a few surprises (to me, anyway) in the Yale book. I did not know that Billy Wilder was the person who said that hindsight is always 20/20. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” is attributable to a journalist named Walter Morrow, writing in the San Francisco News in 1949. We owe the useful phrase “Sue the bastards!” to Victor J. Yannacone, Jr., identified as a U.S. lawyer and environmentalist. It was Jack Weinberg, of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, who first said “You can’t trust anybody over thirty.” Joey Adams gets the credit for “With friends like that, who needs enemies?” The phrase “You can’t go home again” was given to Thomas Wolfe by the writer Ella Winter. It was the wonderful story writer John McNulty, and not Yogi Berra, who was responsible for “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” “I’m not really a Jew. Just Jew-ish”: Jonathan Miller, in “Beyond the Fringe.” And the first person to call a spade a spade? That’s right, it was Erasmus.

    Shapiro has a good ear for the quote bites of contemporary celebrity culture, and the courage to set out on this endless sea. Donald Trump appears twice, for “Deals are my art form” and (in a section headed “Television Catchphrases”) “You’re fired!” Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPierre, known to most of us as Cher, is included for the lines “Mother told me a couple of years ago, ‘Sweetheart, settle down and marry a rich man.’ I said, ‘Mom, I am a rich man.’ ” (The great Sonny Bono, on the other hand, is sadly missing and deeply missed. What about “The beat goes on”? “I got you, babe”? Jingles that got us through some unhappy hours.) Zsa Zsa Gabor, asked how many husbands she has had, said, “You mean apart from my own?” Tug McGraw, asked what he would do with the salary he was making as a pitcher, said “Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women, and Irish whiskey. The other ten percent I’ll probably waste.” “I ate a whole chocolate bar” was Claudia Schiffer’s comment after her retirement from the catwalk. There are separate sections in the Yale book for “Star Trek” (ten items, including “Live long and prosper” and “He’s dead, Jim”; Gene Roddenberry has a section of his own), for “Advertising Slogans” (immediately following the section for Theodor Adorno, who would have grimly appreciated the irony and probably composed an incomprehensible aphorism about it), for “Sayings” (“No more Mr. Nice Guy”: New York Times, 1967), for “Political Slogans,” and for “Film Lines.” I’m not sure that the sentence spoken by L. Paul Bremer III upon the capture of Saddam Hussein, “Ladies and gentleman, we got him,” is all that deathless, but I’m quite pleased with the single quotation attributed to Richard B. Cheney, identified as a U.S. government official, and dated May 30, 2005: “The insurgency is in its last throes.”

    It is tiresome to encounter, for the millionth time (J. Joyce), George Santayana’s tiresome mot “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (manifestly untrue any way you look at it). And it is annoying to reread Alfred North Whitehead’s pompous bouleversements: “There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths”; “Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it.” But if sententious paradoxes get endlessly circulated, that is not the editor’s fault. Wilde was an epigrammatic genius, it’s true, but too large a dose may cause stomach upset. Shapiro is interested in the sociology of knowledge (which is precisely where the study of quotation belongs), so there are quotations from Robert K. Merton, George Sarton, and Talcott Parsons, but relatively less attention is given to other academic figures. (Stanley Fish does not appear, though it can’t be for lack of material. Edward Said does.) There is inevitably a problem in the case of people who are the quotation equivalent of vending machines. Charles Dickens, for example, or Bob Dylan, who is represented by a list of twenty-seven quotations that will seem, to anyone who is a Dylan listener, hopelessly arbitrary. It should all be here, every line!

    In fact, though it is ungracious to say, a lot of the fun of this fun book is in second-guessing the editor. Virginia Woolf’s quotations include the first sentence of “Mrs. Dalloway” (“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”) but not the equally famous last sentence of “To the Lighthouse” (“She had had her vision”). Franz Kafka, a deep mine of quotability, has just eleven entries, and it is disappointing that one of them is not “It is enough that the arrows fit exactly in the wounds that they have made.” There are two quotations from William James on the subject of truth, but not the most elegant of his formulations: “The true is the name for whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief.” Guy Debord, a brilliant aphorist who coined the phrase “society of the spectacle,” is represented only by a late and dubious quotation about quotations. (“Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.”) The section for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.—like his father an inexhaustible fount of one-liners—lacks the always apt reminder that “certitude is not the test of certainty.” The philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser, whose offhand remarks were celebrated enough to have been collected, is here only for his famous retort to a speaker who had said that although there are many cases in which two negatives make a positive, he knew of no case in which two positives made a negative (“Yeah yeah”). Samuel Beckett has only nine quotations, most of them from “Waiting for Godot.” We miss his remark about what it will be like in the afterlife: “We’ll sit around talking about the good old days, when we wished that we were dead.” Goethe has twenty-six entries, including one that was new to me (the attribution, not the sentiment): “He can lick my ass” (1773). But a line from “Wilhelm Meister” that has given me resolve is not here: “Action is easy; thought is hard.” We miss Henri Bergson’s gnomic observation “The universe is a machine for the making of gods.” There is a large woodpile of Robert Frost lines, but the couplet that ends “The Tuft of Flowers”—“Men work together, I told him from the heart, / Whether they work together or apart”—is not in it.

    Poetry is, admittedly, an insuperable problem for quotation compilers. The feeling that the top of your head has been taken off, a definition of what makes a quote quotable that Shapiro takes from Emily Dickinson (who took it, basically, from Kant and Burke, who took it from Longinus—a nice example of the sociology of quotation), is a feeling that readers of poetry expect from every poem they read. They are in the game to look for the strong line. But—and now we are getting to the theoretical heart of the Problem of Quotation—the experience of sublimity is subjective and associational. For some reason, a string is plucked and it never stops vibrating. Who knows why, exactly? Everyone has a list. “My glass is full, and now my glass is run.” “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you.” “In the gloom, the gold gathers the light against it.” “Led by a blind and teachit by a bairn.” “And softly said, Dear heart, how like you this?” “The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.” “I bleed by the black stream/ For my torn bough.” “There’s a stake in your fat black heart.” “This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.” “Drive, he said.” “You must change your life.” None of these are in the Yale book, but why would I expect them to be? They’re from my book.

    “You can get a happy quotation anywhere if you have the eye,” the younger Holmes once wrote. He thought that you could find wisdom and felicity even in advertisements if you knew how to tweak them properly. And when you start taking phrases out of context and recasting them as quotations, you begin to feel (Shapiro must have undergone this sensation) a little vertiginous. What is not, potentially, a quotation? The dullest instructional prose, with the right light thrown on it, can acquire the gleam of suggestiveness or insight. “Objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are”: that one has been appropriated many times. Whenever I take a plane, I am struck by “Secure your own mask before assisting others” as advice with wide application. And I have often found myself imagining ways of fitting tab A into slot B.

    Public circulation is what renders something a quotation. It’s quotable because it’s been quoted, and its having been quoted gives it authority. Quotations are prostheses. “As Emerson/Churchill/Donald Trump once observed” borrows another person’s brain waves and puts them to your own use. (If you fail to credit Emerson et al., it’s called plagiarism. But isn’t plagiarism just the purest form of quotation?) Then, there is a subset of quotations that are personal. We pick them up off the public street, but we put them to private uses. We hoard quotations like amulets. They are charms against chaos, secret mantras for dark times, strings that vibrate forever in defiance of the laws of time and space. That they may be opaque or banal to everyone else is what makes them precious: they aren’t supposed to work for everybody. They’re there to work for us. Some are little generational badges of identity. Some just seem to pop up on a million occasions. Some are razors. “I see a red door and I want it painted black.” “Devenir immortelle, et puis, mourir.” “Much smaller piece.” “You’re two tents.” The quotation I have found most potent in warding off evil spirits is the motto of the Flemish philosopher Arnold Geulincx (1624-69): “Ubi nihil vales, ibi nihil velis.” “Where you are worth nothing, you should want nothing.” That’s mine. You can’t use it.

"Language is a virus from outer space." — William S. Burroughs

February 17, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Things to do while you're alive


That's the headline for Visa Signature's new ad campaign.

In a full-page ad in the February 12, 2007 Wall Street Journal were listed 50 such things, each with a box next to it for you to check off once it's been completed.

I suppose that's one way of living.

On the website there's an endlessly scrolling list of such items, such that you'll never, ever get to them all.

I bet they've got some crack research team types sitting in a windowless room in a secure, undisclosed location cranking out new ones faster than you can check them off.

I guess the idea behind the D.O.A. ad campaign is that if you have a Visa Signature card, you're more likely to be able to check boxes than if you don't.

Anyhow, looking at the 50 in the newspaper, I found I've done 6 to date.

They are:

1) Get published (no — blogs don't count)

2) Hike across the Continental Divide (in fact, I ran across it in the course of completing the Leadville Marathon)

3) Fly in a helicopter (once — never again)

4) Ride in a gondola on the canals of Venice

5) Renovate my kitchen

6) See Michelangelo's "David"

I'm being strict: thus, "Get a PhD" isn't being checked even though there are some who would say my M.D. is the equivalent.

I'll do the remaining 44 after I crump — no worries.

February 17, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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