what ursula said

ursula leguin

ursula k. le guin accepted the medal for distinguished contribution to american letters at the national book awards / i wonder what jeff bezos thinks of her remarks \  i find the seeming conflict between literature|publishing & capitalism ironic / i think that the new & wonderfully disruptive technologies has unsettled the publishing industry & an equilibrium has not yet been reached /  if traditional booksellers & the publishers up their game & digital titans like microsoft <& maybe even google> engage in the currently amazon-dominated book world, the sooner that a business model that makes everyone happy could happen \ why must profit motives & the aims of art be in conflict? / why can’t the reward for writers be both profit & freedom?

   “I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”

the full speech:




erg season begins

ernest erging began last night with inspiring wintery temperatures <4×10 @24-26 | 16 degrees at 7am in pittsburgh> \ our on-the-water season had ended on a swampy note / literally \ three shells were swamped on a windy evening just two tuesdays previously / bad enough that the rowers had to abandon two boats & the other pushed by the rowers to shore \ fortuitously, that evening was also when i volunteered to sit out practice & erg in dry land instead / which was just as well \ don’t know how i would have reacted to sitting waist high in water / bad rowing weather was not peculiar during the latter part of the rowing season \ we rowed in very choppy waters before HOTO was cancelled for the rest of the day / we will now be indoors for awhile

jerry’s records



one of the coolest record stores* in the u.s. is right here in pittsburgh \ when you’ve recently acquired a phonograph, you need records to play / jerry’s records is located on murray ave. in squirrel hill across one of my favorite chinese places \ the selection is overwhelming / yet they did not have billie holiday \ you & everyone else want her… you’re local, right? just come back again some time, said the clerk

i quickly expanded my vinyl collection of one \ the most expensive at $7 was the “exceptionally clean” ella fitzgerald sings the gershwin song book <it has the song that goes “you say toe-may-toe, i say toe-mah-toe”>/ $4 for mariachi del mundo <great party music> \ the unopened beach boys christmas album was $5 / and $4 for spain  <the song i was after in al jarreau’s this time album>

it is fun having the phono & vinyls to play \ it’s a very manual & in-the-moment curation of music / which kind of forces you to listen to each track because you’re too lazy to skip or turn the album over for the music on the other side <surprising & amusing to mfym who also wondered, how does this work? :-) >


back to phono with amy gurrrlll

phonograph bwnostalgia typically hits me during the holiday season \  <a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations> / ordinary objects that were part of my everyday life growing up & that have radically changed over the years bring back a well of memories / a few years ago i obtained a manual typewriter \ i also started using & collecting fountain pens / more recently i amassed a trove of wooden pencils

the latest souvenir from my sentimental mental trip is the record player <turntable, phonograph> / amy winehouse’s “back to black” is its inaugural play \ my favorite young musician who was born into & inhabits the digital world was thrilled & appreciated, perhaps its quaintness  <a similar reaction to the manual typewriter> / when i first played it, i just stared at the lp going around & around, at the dark grooves that separated each track and thought, i haven’t seen or done this in at least 30 years \ billie holiday & glenn miller will sound great here

illustration friday | theatre

oedipus rex mixed media (2)oedipus rex | watercolor & colored pencil

modern western theatre is rooted in greek drama / which uses both chorus & masks \and one of the most famous greek tragedies is “oedipus rex” by sophocles, first performed in c. 429 bc


le petit salon | major works concert

imagethe major works concert this year of the fox chapel area school district was set to the theme of a “salon” / the salon in 17th century europe was the place where people met to discuss art, philosophy, literature & music \  the salon setting lends itself nicely for a collaborative interdisciplinary presentation of what the high school students learn in the classroom in music, art, social studies, english, foreign language, technology & communication / and the concert showcased both the visual & performing arts with the orchestras accompanying the 5th grade, middle school & high school choirs \ there were also solos by a soprano, tenor and baritone

the middle school sinfonia provided the pre-concert music with the “suite for strings” by john rutter \ the main program consisted of “mass #2 in g major” by franz schubert <sang completely in latin> & “mass of the children” by john rutter / tonight’s impressive undertaking & performance showcased what good education, involved parents & dedicated teachers can effect to bring out the best in our children \ and i heard from my favorite young musicians what i have been hoping they felt about being in the orchestra: it was fun, they said

a book about white bread

image“white bread:  a social history of the store-bought loaf” (2012) by aaron bobrow-strain is about white bread as it represents peoples’ dreams & aspirations from the late 1800s to the present 

i have never read a more tiresome & tiring book on what could have been a neat subject \ after reading informative & entertaining treatises about food & beverages <documented under “books” in this blog> this is utterly disappointing & a book one can put down / my main problem is the author’s treatment of the subject matter \ and this is to project white bread as a metaphor for people’s “dreams” – of purity, of abundance, of health & discipline, of strength & defense etc. \ really? people dream of purity?  of health & discipline? / i don’t think that was the most interesting angle to take \ i find it hard to connect dreams & aspirations to bread because to me bread particularly white bread represents commonness & status quo

bobrow-strain could have dug deeper into the collusion of government & industry in crafting food & public health policies \ the impact of marketing as well as innovations in complementary & substitute bread products would have been interesting too / the demand & market for artisan bread in recent times would have been informative & a great counterpoint to the rise & fall of industrial white bread \ more detail on what ingredients goes into industrial white bread & its enrichment would also have given more color to the story

about the most interesting revelation in the book was that softness became the gauge of desirability by consumers / they could not smell it <the way one can with homemade bread> so touching & pinching the bread through the packaging became a way to assess the product \ and so white bread was manufactured to be oh so soffftttt….oooh how did they make it so soffftttt? / btw – you can also round it up like a ball & make it bounce!

an interesting yinzer fact from the book pertains to the ward baking company which for some 50 or so years was headquartered in pittsburgh before returning to manhattan where it originated / ward baking company went on to produce wonder bread \ in the news earlier this week was the defacement by graffiti of an old advertising for ward’s bread on the wall of a house in polish hill, pictured above \ note: advertising says “100% pure” – remember “dream of purity” / according to bobrow-strain this also pertained to racial purity

a fun fact for me was mention of “cornell bread” which was created in the 1940s by cornell nutrition professor clive mccay as a low-cost nutritious & good tasting staple during the war-rationing days

i found out about this book from my favorite curmudgeon / are you finished with it yet?


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