08 January 2021

what city is that?

 John introduced us to the Pratt Institute Libraries Flickr album of bookplates. This image caught my eye:

[from Flickr metadata]
Artist: Ehringhausen, Willy
Description: States, 'Johanna Hoffschulte;' depicts a cityscape
with a cathedral and is surrounded by a border
made of roses. Signed at bottom center 'WE.'
[with tag "German"]

Well, of course, I'm curious to figure out what city. It looked like Cologne Cathedral and another medieval church tower with a distinctive shape. Yup. That's it. The church on the left is Great St Martin, with foundations dating to 960 CE and with a central tower dating to 1150-1250. The cathedral was just getting started in the mid 13th century.

06 January 2021

er, rather, punctuation as poetry

 A few days ago, it was person as poem (the previous posting in this blog), today it's ...


"How poets use punctuation as a superpower and a secret weapon" in the Sunday New York Times Book Review for January 3, 2021. Illustration for the essay by Shivani Parasnis.


31 December 2020

separated at birth: person as poem

The Sunday Times had an article on Grete Wiesenthal and the influence of the Viennese waltz on modern dance. Wiesenthal moved off the vertical axis of the ballet dancer and added curves and extensions. She toured with her sisters Elsa and Berta. (I have a sister Berta, short for Roberta.) After the sisters performed in London, the Dancing Times is quoted as saying the sisters "were not mere performers; they were poems."

Photographs by Rudolf Jobst, Östrreichisches Theatermuseum
(from the NY Times article)

When Alexis Rose meets Mutt's new girlfriend Tallahassee, er, Tennessee, Alexis says she is like a poem, like a pretty poem. Totally Alexis.

27 December 2020

the books I read in 2020

 You'd think a year of lockdown and isolation would vastly increase your reading. It didn't work that way for me. Here's the list of books I read this year, in chronological order.

  • Europe without Baedeker, by Edmund Wilson (1947) - impossible not to think of E.M. Forster's chapter in A room with a view about visiting Santa Croce without a Baedeker
  • Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan (2018)
  • So you want to talk about race, by Ijeoma Oluo (2018) - hard not to reflect on spell check having no problem with Wilson and Forster but not recognizing Esi, Edugyan, Ijeoma, and Oluo
  • Fascism: a warning, by Madeleine K. Albright (2018)
  • The great believers, by Rebecca Makkai (2018) - read this while at College Art in Chicago; parts of the book are set in Chicago; the book resonated in a number of ways: "Wi-fi seemed wrong. In her mind, Paris was always 1920. It was always Aunt Nora's Paris, all tragic love and tubercular artists."; the main protagonist Yale wasn't named after the school but after his Aunt Yael; "Being on an airplane, even in coach, was the closest an adult could come to the splendid helplessness of infancy."; standing up in an auditorium and screaming
  • Manhattan memoir by Mary Cantwell (2000) - a one-volume gathered edition of the author's Manhattan girl, Manhattan, when I was young, and Speaking with strangers
  • Michael Tolliver lives, by Armistead Maupin (2007) - a continuation of the Tales of the city
  • Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers (2009)
  • Amiable with big teeth, by Claude McKay (written in 1941, published in 2017)
  • Inside a pearl: my years in Paris, by Edmund White (2014)
  • Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan (2008) - movie tie-in edition
  • Midnight in Sicily, by Peter Robb (1996) - this book had been on my shelf for a long time, calling me but I was afraid it would be just too filled with mafiosi; it was filled with Sicily more than Mafia and really quite a page-turner
  • How to be an antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi (2019)
  • Necessary errors, by Caleb Crain (2013)
  • Mapping the territory: selected nonfiction by Christopher Bram (2009)
  • Romance in Marseille, by Claude McKay (written between 1929 and 1941, first published 2020)
  • The nature principle: human restoration and the end of nature-deficit disorder, by Richard Louv (2011) - what about urban-deficit desire?
  • The Mussolini canal, by Antonio Pennacchi (2013) - translation of Canale Mussolini (2010); my bookstore friend Fred from Sundance Books in Geneseo had to get this from England (buy from independent bookstores as much as you can)
  • Stories of God, by Rainer Maria Rilke - translated from the German, published 1899; the Alfred libraries didn't have an edition and I had to order it on interlibrary loan; Daniel had noted that the German title is Geschichten vom lieben Gott but most English editions leave out the "lieben"
  • The Blackwater lightship, by Colm Tóibín (1999)
  • Building and dwelling: ethics for the city, by Richard Sennett (2018)
  • The overstory, by Richard Powers (2018) - about a quarter of the way in; so far, a panoply or perhaps a cacophony of mostly unrelated stories but each involves a tree or a bunch of trees or a species of tree; the table of contents seems to indicate that the second, third, and fourth sections are different in structure (not chaptered)
Looks like eleven each of fiction and non-fiction. As I reviewed the list of books read last year, several of the titles were fonder in memory than in recall as I started this recounting. Some were quite forgettable but then I have also forgotten many of the films and TV episodes that I watched over the course of the year.

P.S. You can see the illustrated version of this compilation at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2020/6837039

29 November 2020

separated at birth: Hans Scharoun and RBG

Julia apartment tower
(the Romeo tower is adjacent, here to the right)
Zuffenhausen-Rot, on the outskirts of Stuttgart
designed by Hans Scharoun, 1954-1959
(screen grab from Google Maps)

My Avery indexing included a review of Hans Scharoun and the development of small apartment floor plans: the residential high-rises, Romeo and Julia, 1954-1959 by Markus Peter and Ulrike Tillmann (Park Books and Akademie der Künste Berlin, 2020). I was not familiar with these buildings. There was a conflict on another record about the buildings so I borrowed the Peter/Tillmann book on interlibrary loan. The book has nearly twenty pages on "Polygonal apparatus." Either in that section or somewhere else as I read about the project, someone compared the building plan to a lace collar.

These days, when someone says lace collar, one almost certainly thinks of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
official Supreme Court portrait, 2016
(from Wikipedia)

18 November 2020

Palladian in front, modernism out back

Today's indexing included an article in Antiques about Chick Austin, art historian and longtime director of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. His house is sort of a folly based on Palladian houses he and his wife saw in Italy on their 1929 honeymoon, especially one by Vincenzo Scamozzi. The house is 86 feet long and 18 feet deep. It looks like a theater backdrop because it is indeed theatrical and the Austins entertained enthusiastically. I've had a book entitled Magic Façade: the Austin House for some time so I went down and looked at it when I was done indexing.

What I'd not paid attention to before is that another bedroom was added on the second floor, providing also a covering for part of the rear terrace. It is designed in a boxy Italian modern style, of which I am enamored, especially since visiting northern Italy in 2018. If you delight in geometric shapes and glorious fenestration, the rear side of the house is an exquisite Venturian decorated shed.


Thinking of the house and the Wadsworth Atheneum reminds me of a Thanksgiving visit in the early 1980s to Hartford. I was visiting a Cornell piano grad student and silent film accompanist who lived in West Hartford. We visited the Wadsworth and there was a Sol LeWitt exhibition on view. My friend was very spiritual and the LeWitt works freaked him out and we had to leave the museum. Somehow I've never been back to the museum or Hartford. Maybe I should move Hartford up the list for post-covid travels.

13 November 2020

oops, continuity issues in Schitt's Creek

 When you've watched a television series a gazillion times, you notice some funny things like ...

  • When Moira gets the proposed contract for the Crows movie and David is reading the terms, he mentions that her pay will be in Baltic money. Make that Balkan since they're filming in Bosnia. I do forgive them because I really have to think about Baltic/Balkan. Moira does later correctly say Balkan Peninsula or some such thing when she's referring to the filming.
  • When the family is at the Amish family's house, Alexis is sitting at a picnic table. The conversation continues and, all of a sudden, she's on the other side of the table.
  • Bob's got raw milk for his coffee. Johnny "borrows" some. When they're talking about it, the lid is on the bottle and then off the bottle and then back on the bottle.
  • In the "Bachelor Party" episode, Alexis's pen jumps around on her journal/calendar. She is pretty agitated and the jumpiness may be contagious.
  • Stevie sets her glass down twice on the table at the "Surprise Party" before she and David dance together.
  • Roland's name tag wiggles around on his jacket when he and Moira are at the RAMC conference.
  • Sebastien Raine says Room 5 would be just fine. Stevie gives him the key. When Moira comes to the door to challenge Sebastien, the door has the number 4.
  • Johnny and Moira are arguing in "The Motel Guest" about the little quirks that might drive each other crazy. There's a white bottle cap or something next to Moira's teacup after a while.
  • Ken borrows a pen and paper from David to write down Patrick's number. When he leaves and Patrick comes over to David and Alexis, Patrick has the paper but the pen has disappeared.
  • I think the only time anybody is in Room 8 at the motel is during the "Moira Rosé" episode when Patrick is watching the game with David before David runs off with his mother.
  • In the episode about Ted's coded booty call from Heather, Alexis says that Lisa called about stopping over after work. It's confusing whether the name is confused or both a Lisa and a Heather live at the farm.
None of this is a problem for me. It's more fun than disappointment that these things happen. It's a little like LC cataloging copy or the New York times. There used to be layers of proofreading of such things as cataloging copy or newspapers. Now, the cataloger or journalist writes and types the copy and mistakes are more likely to happen without an extra pair of eyes looking over the copy. No more layer of typesetter eyes.

Since I've been known to draw parallels between Schitt's Creek and Downton Abbey, I probably should mention that Thomas's collar escapes for part of the episode wherein he hides Lord Grantham's dog Isis. The flyaway collar happens when he meets Lord Grantham on the front walk after the dog has been found.

When I ordered my rosy peach t-shirt from Etsy, it came with a Rose Apothecary shopping bag.

without wax

Alex Wisniewski was a good and dear friend when I lived in Ithaca in the 1980s. He was an MFA student in painting at Cornell. His lover, Vic Cardell, was the assistant music librarian at Cornell. Alex did wonderful things in his art, graphically and literally, with words and statements. We would sit and talk for hours, drink gin (straight), and smoke cigarettes (unfiltered), listen to Philip Glass or David Byrne (loud).


The poster for his MFA show was graphically busy with letters and numbers along with the information about the time and space of the show. Alex was interested in etymology of the words too and somehow got it into his brain that "sincere" came from "without wax." The "sin" was without in Spanish; the "cere" was like the "cire" in French for wax. You know, as in "cire perdue" or lost-wax casting. "Without wax" started appearing in his work. He may have mentioned it to me but somehow it became a thing in our conversations. He gave me a copy of his show poster with the words "without wax" in pink acrylic across it, like graffiti.

There's a bar in Alfred called Alex's. It happens to be owned and managed by a fellow whose surname is Wisniewski. I have to work hard to come up with his first name since Wisniewski is so associated in my memory with Alex the artist. Alas, Alex is one of those gay men that were taken from us too soon by AIDS. So I cannot invite him to come visit and we'd go to Alex's and meet Stan Wisniewski.

Back to without wax. It came up again this week during a virtual artist talk with Roberto Lugo. He started his talk with a short video and I about fell off my chair when he said the docudrama was entitled "Without Wax." He credited the phrase to sculptors who sometimes would inscribe the two words on their work to indicate that they had fully sculpted it without going through the wax model phase. The video is very moving and personal but I was sure set up for an emotional ride when he announced the title. Lugo's catchphrase is "ghetto potter and activist" so that all resonated at this moment.

We've all had some disappointments because of Covid restrictions of various sorts. Rob Lugo was supposed to have spent this year as a Rome Fellow at the American Academy.

11 November 2020

Moira Rose is now working for Eli Lilly

Fake Eli Lilly advertisement at the end of Stephen Colbert's monologue
10 November 2020
(the last minute or so)



Moira Rose for Herb Ervelfingerlicking Fruit Wines
Schitt's Creek

09 November 2020

I Navigli di Milano, then and now

Two and a half years ago, we were in Milan, really enjoying the early evening cocktails and snacks, aka aperitivo. One of our most enjoyable evenings was along the Navigli (canals), on the south side of the centro. The remnants of the canals are there but it is now mostly social engagement territory rather than trade and warehouses. Last Sunday's Times had an article about the situation in Europe as coronavirus cases increase significantly. The article was accompanied by a photograph by Alessandro Grassani for the Times. He also has done significant series of photographs on immigrants and immigration. Now, the crowded streets of the Navigli are quite empty ...

A cyclist peddling down an empty street in Milan on the first day of a new lockdown on Friday.

(Alessandro Grassani for the New York Times)