Archive for the ‘Yute’ Category

Weekend Update (Friday Edition):

Friday, July 3rd, 2009


How about this: the world is divided into two groups. Photographers who like to include people in their compositions and photographers like me who wish that everyone would stay at home. Just staying out of the frame isn’t good enough; I see best when no one is around. When I’m trying to think, the presence of other people is cripplingly distracting.

Which certainly makes New York City an exciting place for taking pictures!


This picture would have been pretty good (allowing for its many technical imperfections, notably a slight blur due to palsy), if only the fourth finger of my left hand hadn’t been doing its thing, hovering over the lens (not shown). Here’s “what I saw”:


So, knowing how I could crop the shot, the obtrusion didn’t really matter. But if I’d wanted to use the whole image, I’d have been in for a long wait, because the emptiness proved to be totally momentary. Head bobbed up from below; worse, bodies coming in from the left blocked the view. It isn’t that I wanted to take a picture of a “deserted” subway station entrance. It’s just that the entrance interested me because, deserted, it was visible.

After Public Enemies, which Kathleen, LXIV, and I saw at the Union Square Thetre, and a nice long lunch at the Knickerbocker, I headed up to Union Square by myself, to take some snaps for next week’s Daily Offices. It was an assignment that I was prepared not to enjoy. There were a lot of people in the park, and they all looked alike: young. Given the location, what did I expect? People my age still regard Union Square as the ideal place in which to catch a disease, possibly death. It seems quite safe now, but the presence too many young people is as off-putting as that of too many old people. En masse, demographic groups always look their worst. All one can think of (vis-à-vis crowds of young people) is the flood of rude health and easy beauty, thrown away on minds that are either callow or naive. Young people of both types think that they know a thing or two about the world, and they’re right, but they don’t know very much about themselves. Such as, for example, the remorseless dispatch with which time is going to steal the unearned benefits of being twenty-one.

The upshot is that a park full of young people is almost as depressing as a mausoleum.


Almost but not quite. When my quiver of images was tolerably full, I contentely blocked that view with my very own self and was soon speeding homeward.

Daily Office:

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


Matins: At the risk of sounding impetuous: my response to the Times‘s account of Archbishop Dolan’s first news conference is a happy smile. His way of reminding reporters that the Church’s position on same-sex marriage is “clear” suggests that he doesn’t care what it is.

Lauds: Go ahead, it’s Thursday: kill the morning by feasting your eyes on jacket art at the Book Cover Archive. (via Arts Journal)

Prime: A touch of White Mischief for the weekend: Lady Idina Sackville, subject of a forthcoming biography by one of her great-granddaughters: The Bolter.

Tierce: The nation’s second-largest mall operator, General Growth Properties, has filed for bankruptcy. As usual, the culprit was good-times leverage that opened up an abyss.

Sext: Pesky rodents driving you crazy? Do what the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department plans to do: blow the varmints to kingdom come by igniting a “calibrated mixture of oxygen and propane” in their burrows. It’s “humane,” they say. Watch for yourself!

Nones: It’s very difficult not to have problems with the religion called “Islam” after the remarks of a Shiite madrasa leader in Kabul, commenting on protests by Afghan women against a repressive new “home life” law.

Vespers: Patrick Kurp reflects on the difference between a public library and a university library.

Compline: How George Snyder, one of the most inquisitively literate men I know, manages to get from day to day on Planet Arrakis in Los Angeles is quite beyond me. But he does; and, as Irene Dunne put it, “he’s pretty cute about it, too.”

Bon weekend à tous!


Chinese Bells

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

“Today, I want to do it on the table!”

Miss Frances. Frances Rappaport Horwich, star — if that’s the word — of Ding Dong School. A show that I watched with recollected docility in the early Fifties. Perhaps the best way to think of Miss Frances is as Mr Rogers’s fairy godmother,  by way of Joe Jervis — qua Ruth Draper’s Mrs Grimmer, of Doctors and Diets, a routine that Joe can recite by rote. (Cue it, Joe!)

A show from this popular series is included in the DVD set, Hiya, Kids!!, which takes its name from another old favorite, Andy’s Gang (“Plunk your magic twanger, Froggie.”). On the one hand, these shows are amazingly innocent of all TV allure. Production values are sub-nil. On the other hand, it is impossible to watch them without imagining their hosts being led away in chains, by federal marshals.

You think I’m joking? Consider this wholesome activity.


The ew factor of this image sent Kathleen into paroxyms of revulsion. I knew that she’d react unfavorably to Ding Dong School, but the extent to which she did so surprised even me.

The commercialization can only be called Nudist. It is that frank. There are two ads for Kix. Both of them feature serving suggestions of which this is the most naive:


There is, strangely, no mention whatsoever of milk, or cream, or water, or any liquid. I suppose that liquid would dampen the crunchiness, which is billed as lasting until “the last spoonful.” The last spoonful in the box, that is. (In those days, nobody worried about how that was managed.) Every time Miss Frances mentions the “crunchy corn” deliciousness of “Kix,” all I can think of is Mrs Grimmer’s trying to squeeze out “the juice of eleven lemons.”

In addition to blowing bubbles, Miss Frances recites poems (by Vachel Lindsay and Robert Louis Stevenson), folds handkerchiefs, and bounces a ball.


I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a child requiring instruction in bouncing a ball.

After all of this edification, Miss Frances summons the parents and/or guardians, bustles the kids out of the room, talks up the handkerchief trick, plugs Kix all over again, and then — this is why you have to buy the DVD — urges her listeners to teach their little ones to “evaluate plans.” Stalinist or anti-Communist? It’s hard to tell.

The good news is that Kathleen has all sorts of new nightmare material, what with Miss Frances and watching Toy Story right afterward.

As for the title of this entry: it refers to a prepubescent joke that I was telling within five or six years of watching Ding Dong School. In those days, five or six years made a completely different man of me; now it only means that I have lived to benefit from more effective medication. Sadly, I still think that this is one of the funniest jokes that I have ever heard. The fun is in the setup, not the punchline. (Actually, the fun is in the souvenir of boyishly imagining that a grown man might conceivably mistake X (Chinese bells) for Y (read on.) That darn keyhole: curse or blessing? If you’re up for some childishness, click on through.