Sunday, October 25, 2020

the chess piece could no longer be moved—

Man Ray, Self-Portrait (Boston: Llttle Brown, 1963), p. 237—

After dinner, [Marcel] Duchamp would take the bus to Nice to play at a chess circle and return late with Lydie [his first wife] lying awake waiting for him. Even so, he did not go up to bed immediately, but set up the chess pieces to study the position of a game he had been playing. First thing in the morning when he arose, he went to the chessboard to make a move he had thought out during the night. But the piece could not be moved—during the night Lydie had arisen and glued down all the pieces...A few days later Duchamp and Lydie divorced, and he returned to the States.

Artwork by Marcel Duchamp with Man Ray (1921)


Monday, October 19, 2020

How will the good people of Germany vote?

 Agnes Elizabeth Benedict, Progress to Freedom: The Story of American Education, 1942—

Whenever someone speaks with prejudice against a group—Catholics, Jews, Italians, Negroes—someone else usually comes up with a classic line of defense: “Look at Einstein!” “Look at Carver!” “Look at Toscanini!” So of course, Catholics (or Jews, or Italians, or Negroes) must be all right.

They mean well, these defenders. But their approach is wrong. It is even bad. What a minority group wants is not the right to have geniuses among them but the right to have fools and scoundrels without being condemned as a group.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

rabbi: so here's the butter but where's the cat

Eric Morecambe

Would you like to hear how I asked for his daughter's hand in marriage?...I said, "I would like your daughter for my wife." He said, "But I've never even seen your wife. Bring her round and we'll talk about it."

Roy R. Behrens, altered book collage [detail]


Viktor Frankl, “Reduction and Nihilism” in Arthur Koestler and J . R. Smythies, eds., Beyond Reductionism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), p. 403—

There were two neighbors; one of them contended that the other's cat had stolen and eaten five pounds of his butter; there was a bitter argument and finally they agreed to seek the advice of the rabbi. They went to the rabbi and the owner of the cat said: “It cannot be, my cat doesn' t care for butter at all” but the other insisted that it was his cat and the rabbi said: “Bring me the scales.” And they brought the scales and he asked: “How many pounds of butter?” “Five pounds.” And believe it or not, the weight of the cat was exactly five pounds. So the rabbi said: “Now I have the butter, but where is the cat?”

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Bill Styron | ah'm goin' home to grow pee-nuts

Peter Matthiessen in Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr, ed., George, Being George: George Plimpton’s Life. New York: Random House, 2008, p. 89—

[In 1952 American novelist] Bill Styron showed up on the dingy fourth-floor landing of our apartment [in Paris] at 14, rue Perceval, with no French and a thick Tidewater accent…Patsy and I gave him a drink, and then took him to…a little Breton cafĂ©…[During dinner] We were all…sloshing up a good deal of rough vin de table, and at a certain point, overcome by dire homesickness, he fell face forward into his platter and lay lachrymose amongst the oysters, uttering the immortal Styronian words: "Ah ain' got no mo ree-sistance to change than a snow-flake." But by this time, we were were already fond of this well-read, humorous, and very intelligent man. We became fast friends on that first evening and from that time on.

Roy R. Behrens, rice bowl collage (detail), c1992

Like emptying a cormorant every few fish

John Train, in Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr, ed., George, Being George: George Plimpton’s Life. New York: Random House, 2008, p. 121—

[When The Paris Review was founded, the most effective distributors] were the hawkers we employed to peddle the magazine in the streets. In French, such people are called camelots. Our best camelot was named Abrami. He was a poet, and he would walk in front of the Deux Magots and the Flore handing out to the drinkers on the sidewalk copies open to some interesting illustration, preferably off-color; then he’d come back, retrieve them, or collect payment, if possible. He was particularly effective. You had to catch up with him at frequent intervals, because if he collected too much money from customers, you risked having him go into hiding and on to a spending spree. So you had to keep up with him. It was like emptying a cormorant every few fish… 

Roy R. Behrens, beetle montage (detail), 2004

Diversion by wagging the dog whistle

Eviatar Zerubavel, HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT: The Social Structure of Irrelevance. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 47-48—

…diversionary tactics are sometimes also used by politicians to keep certain things out of the public's awareness. They thus strategically time unpopular or embarrassing acts such as announcing controversial appointments or firing senior officials, for example, to coincide with other events that they hope will overshadow them. They likewise manufacture crises (and might even start wars) to divert the public's attention from economic problems or political scandals—a tactic also known since Barry Levinson's [1997] cinematic account of such an attempt at "wagging the dog." "'To wag the dog,'" in other words, means "to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance."

Friday, October 2, 2020

Diablo French Postcard | The devil in the details

A farmer once called his cow Zephyr,
She seemed such an amiable hephyr.
But when he drew near
She bit off his ear,
Which made him considerably dephyr.

A hefty whaler, after some discussion with [British missionary Samuel] Marsden, remarked: "Your religion teaches that if a man is hit on one cheek, he will turn the other." And he hit Marsden on the right cheek. Marsden obediently offered his left cheek and received a second blow. "Now," said Marsden, "I have obeyed my Master's commands. What I do next, he left to my own judgment. Take this." And he knocked the man down. 


Embedded Figures


Creativity and Humor

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Below Our friend Tony Drehfal says this book, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Milkweed Editions, 2020)—a special edition is coming out soon—is one of his favorite books, and not just because one of his exquisite wood engravings is featured on the dust jacket.