Ramblings & ephemera

A woman’s wallet returned after 60 years

From AP’s “Woman gets wallet back after 60 years” (7 February 2007): CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Joan Martinek Barnes never imagined she would see her wallet again after she lost it at McKinley High School 60 years ago. But the red alligator grain wallet turned up Monday when a building engineer tracked down a broken […]

A wallet returned after 60+ years

From KOMU’s “Sarah’s Stories – Wallet Memories” (KOMU: 4 January 2007): MEXICO [Misouri] – A local resident enjoyed an early, unexpected Christmas present. Ray Heilwagen, an 83-year-old World War II veteran, has a story that stretches from France to his front lawn. … During war, a wallet can be a soldier’s most prized pocession, full […]

The technical details of executions by hanging

From Daniel Engber’s “How Do Hangings Work?” (Slate: 7 November 2006): The last major innovation in hanging occurred toward the end of the 19th century, when executioners first developed a systematic way to calculate the drop. Once these “drop tables” were published, a hangman knew that he’d need 7 feet for a slight, 120-pound criminal, […]

Steve Jobs, genius

From Stephen Fry’s “Steve Jobs” (The New Adventures of Stephen Fry: 6 October 2011): Henry Ford didn’t invent the motor car, Rockefeller didn’t discover how to crack crude oil into petrol, Disney didn’t invent animation, the Macdonald brothers didn’t invent the hamburger, Martin Luther King didn’t invent oratory, neither Jane Austen, Tolstoy nor Flaubert invented […]

Umberto Eco on books

From Umberto Eco’s “Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books” (Al-Ahram Weekly: 20—26 November 2003): Libraries, over the centuries, have been the most important way of keeping our collective wisdom. They were and still are a sort of universal brain where we can retrieve what we have forgotten and what we still do not […]

How changes in glass changed working conditions

From Nicholas Carr’s “(re)framed” (Rough Type: 3 June 2011): I’m reminded of an interesting passage in the book Glass: A World History: As we have seen, one of the rapid developments in glass technology was the making of panes of window glass, plain and coloured, which was particularly noticeable in the northern half of Europe […]

Saul Bass changed how audiences view movie credits

From Christian Annyas’s “Saul Bass Title Sequences“: “PROJECTIONISTS – PULL CURTAIN BEFORE TITLES”. This is the text of a note that was stuck on the cans when the reels of film for “The Man With the Golden Arm” arrived at US movie theatres in 1955. Until then the credits were referred to as ‘popcorn time.’ […]

Clay Shirky on the changes to publishing & media

From Parul Sehgal’s “Here Comes Clay Shirky” (Publisher’s Weekly: 21 June 2010): PW: In April of this year, Wired‘s Kevin Kelly turned a Shirky quote—“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”—into “the Shirky Principle,” in deference to the simple, yet powerful observation. … Kelly explained, “The Shirky Principle declares […]

David Pogue’s insights about tech over time

From David Pogue’s “The Lessons of 10 Years of Talking Tech” (The New York Times: 25 November 2010): As tech decades go, this one has been a jaw-dropper. Since my first column in 2000, the tech world has not so much blossomed as exploded. Think of all the commonplace tech that didn’t even exist 10 […]

Hanoi’s last blacksmith

From Seth Mydans’s “A Lone Blacksmith, Where Hammers Rang” (The New York Times: 25 November 2010): HANOI, Vietnam — He is the last blacksmith on Blacksmith Street, dark with soot, his arms dappled with burns, sweating and hammering at his little roadside forge as a new world courses past him. The son and grandson of […]

Unix: An Oral History

From ‘s “Unix: An Oral History” (: ): Multics Gordon M. Brown … [Multics] was designed to include fault-free continuous operation capabilities, convenient remote terminal access and selective information sharing. One of the most important features of Multics was to follow the trend towards integrated multi-tasking and permit multiple programming environments and different human interfaces […]

The widespread corruption at the heart of Greek culture

From Michael Lewis’s “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds” (Vanity Fair: 1 October 2010): In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms—and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. […]

Arguments against gay marriage make no sense

From Theodore B. Olson’s “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage” (Truthout: 12 January 2010): What, then, are the justifications for California’s decision in Proposition 8 to withdraw access to the institution of marriage for some of its citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? The reasons I have heard are not very persuasive. The […]

Matthew Arnold’s 4 words that describe Homer

From Edwin Frank & Andrew McCord’s interview of Robert Fagles in “The Art of Translation No. 2” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): I think it’s through that effort, trying to turn Homer into poetry, that we just may come a little closer to Matthew Arnold’s unforgettable touchstones—Homer is simple, direct, swift, and above […]

Robert Fagles on the dramatic sense of Homer

From Edwin Frank & Andrew McCord’s interview of Robert Fagles in “The Art of Translation No. 2” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): As I read Homer, he’s a remarkable combination of the timeless, immortal phrase, and of the timely, too, and he’s meant to be heard, not read. “Homer makes us Hearers”—in Pope’s […]

Shelby Foote on how the Civil War changed the gender of the teaching profession

From Carter Coleman, Donald Faulkner, & William Kennedy’s interview of Shelby Foote in “The Art of Fiction No. 158” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): About the time that war started I think roughly eighty-five or ninety percent of the teachers in this country were men. After the war was over something like eighty-five […]

Shelby Foote on the poor writing by academic historians

From Carter Coleman, Donald Faulkner, & William Kennedy’s interview of Shelby Foote in “The Art of Fiction No. 158” (The Paris Review: Summer 1999, No. 151): Now it sounds as if I’m making an all-out attack against academic historians. I am making some attack on them for their lack of concern about learning how to […]

Richard Ford on how to deal with mythical narratives

From Bonnie Lyons’s interview of Richard Ford in “The Art of Fiction No. 147” (The Paris Review: Fall 1996, No. 140): …when you start manipulating mythical narratives, whether you blunder into them or you do it by calculation, you’d better—to be in control of your book—reckon with their true potency and wide reference. They haven’t […]

Philip Larkin on modernism

From Robert Phillips’s interview of Philip Larkin in “The Art of Poetry No. 30” (The Paris Review: Summer 1982, No. 84): It seems to me undeniable that up to this century literature used language in the way we all use it, painting represented what anyone with normal vision sees, and music was an affair of […]

Ray Bradbury on an encounter that changed his life

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): Circuses and carnivals were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Dill Brothers Combined […]