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A Documentary About A Chorus Line, A PBS Series, We Shall Remain, and a Book Collector's Home

Every Little Step is a new documentary that NPR has profiled on radio and its site about the casting of A Chorus Line during its 2006 theater revival. The film also follows the origins of that musical:

"Every Little Step uses tapes of Bennett's original conversations with dancers to delve into the show's history. The tapes were given to the directors by John Breglio, the producer of the 2006 revival and the executer of Bennett's estate. Bennett had told Breglio that a documentary should be made about A Chorus Line if a revival was ever staged."

"We shot between 400 and 500 hours of footage," [ director James D.] Stern says. "If you're not there all the time, then when something truly extraordinary happens at the spur of the moment, you're going to miss it."

Watch short excerpts from the documentary at the NPR site. The story, both fictionalized and real, of the Broadway gypsies (dancers) who auditioned are fascinating and touching. We look forward to seeing the documentary.

PBS is hosting a multi-media project that establishes Native history as an essential part of American history, We Shall Remain.

"At the heart of the project is a five-part television series that shows how Native peoples valiantly resisted expulsion from their lands and fought the extinction of their culture — from the Wampanoags of New England in the 1600s who used their alliance with the English to weaken rival tribes, to the bold new leaders of the 1970s who harnessed the momentum of the civil rights movement to forge a pan-Indian identity. We Shall Remain represents an unprecedented collaboration between Native and non-Native filmmakers and involves Native advisors and scholars at all levels of the project."

Local events are being held to highlight and add to the American Experience series. A map points out some of the organized events. For instance, Tahlequah, Oklahoma is featuring:

Screening: Trail of Tears, Tahlequah, Oklahoma
Northeastern State University, NET Auditorium
Tuesday, April 14 at 7 p.m.

A special advance screening of Trail of Tears. Special guests are actor Wes Studi, executive producer Sharon Grimberg, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith, the Cherokee National Youth Choir, and local cast members. Discussion will follow. Hosted by Indian University Scholars Society (IUSS). Sponsors: NSU Office of Academic Affairs, NSU Center for Tribal Studies, and Cherokee Nation.

Find out about We Shall Remain events organized by your local PBS station, community coalition, public library or tribal community college. Don't see an event in your area? Contact your public library. Libraries across the country have received We Shall Remain event kits.

C-Span2 hosts a long runningBook TV program that's a weekend 'must' in our house, focusing on non-fiction books and their authors for 48 hours from Saturday 8:00 AM to Monday 8:00 AM ET.

Recently we 'toured' journalist and bibliophile Nicholas Basbanes' house through one of those programs, Home Library Tour and Writing Habits. Mr. Basbanes also has a blog, Nick's Picks, at Fine Books & Collections,

It's possible to sign up for a Book TV Alert, notifying the subscriber of the schedule of upcoming books and authors.

Ann Telnaes

Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Ann Telnaes is the subject of a 2004 Library of Congress exhibit consisting of "eighty-one original drawings that represent the range of themes that engage this gifted artist who has recently emerged as a leader in American editorial cartooning. An artist who bravely criticizes the actions and words of powerful public figures, Telnaes takes stands on complex, divisive issues and affirms the editorial cartoon as a potent means of expressing opinions and illuminating issues of the day."

There are four sections to the exhibit: Put It On Your Tab | Pulitzer-prize Winning Cartoons | The World According to W | Happily Ever After

NPR has done two interviews with the cartoonist; her animated work can be found at the In addition, she contributes to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Women'sENews and others through the Tribune Media Services. She has published a book about Dick Cheney and there is a gallery of her cartoons at the Newseum.



Joan L. Cannon, Wasting Words? We have more words than most other modern languages. Of course we don’t need to know them all and couldn’t use them all (though I think Nabokov may have tried). Yet, that richness makes maximum precision almost always possible

Idyllic Communities

A Sampling from Yale University's America and the Utopian Dream at the Beinecke Library

The Roycrofters are a small band of workers who make beautiful books and things—making them as good as they can. — Roycroft motto

"The Roycroft community of East Aurora, New York, took William Morris and his Kelmscott press as its model in designing an Arts and Crafts workshop in 1894. Elbert Hubbard, the founder, had made money in the soap business but preferred to realize his dream as a writer and promoter of high quality goods beginning with a print shop and expanding to include leatherwork, copper wares, leaded glass lamps and a version of the popular Morris chair. His mission was to convince Americans that beauty belongs in the objects of everyday living, from books to table mats."

Pennsylvania German Colonies
"In the early 1700’s, a series of German Second Adventists (pilgrims who believed in the imminent second coming of the Christ) moved to Pennsylvania and founded two important Utopian communes, Ephrata Cloister and The Woman in the Wilderness. Both believed that America would be the land of the Second Coming. Woman in the Wilderness derived its name from the woman in Revelation 12:6 who fled to the wilderness to escape a fiery dragon and wait for the return of Christ. Through their piety, creativity, learning, and work ethic, both communes heavily influenced the formation of the Pennsylvania Colony."

"Inspired by Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward, 2000-1899, and the Nationalist movement, the Kaweah Cooperative Colony was organized in 1886. Located on the Kaweah River, Tulare County, California, it began as a tent settlement operated on the principle of equal work and equal compensation for men and women. The Beinecke holds most of the original papers from the formation and founding of Kaweah, allowing a rare, intimate look at the struggles and intrigue of forming a utopian commune."  

The Farm
"Founded in 1971 at Summertown, Tennessee, with a spiritual commitment to simple living and self-reliance, The Farm has pioneered a wide range of social and physical technologies appropriate to low-cost, high satisfaction community living. The community offers examples of solar building design, permaculture, micro-enterprise, mushroom cultivation, large scale composting and gardening, and regenerative hardwood forest management." From The Farms Web Site 

Utopian Literature page includes links to a number of works (although we see none listed by women). Some will be familiar, others not so. In these days of great stress, it may be that we understand more sympathetically the need in the past to create these communities


Jill Norgren reviews the Met Opera's Live in HD, providing a front row seat to live opera through H-D simulcast. Camera work is intelligent and artful, with stunning close-ups and sensible renderings of choral and dancing ensembles

The Drawing Center

My introduction to the Drawing Center began with my mouse tracing my movement across the screen as if I were drawing on the surface. Unsettling, yes, but unique and participatory, powered by an animation program. Here's more about this small museum:

"The Drawing Center's acclaimed exhibitions encompass a wide range of drawing traditions, such as Shaker Gift Drawings, Rajasthani Miniatures, Plains Indians Ledger Drawings, and Norval Morrisseau/Copper Thunderbird. Through a uniquely interdisciplinary approach, The Drawing Center's exhibitions have also related drawing to science (Ocean Flowers: Impressions from Nature), architecture (Constant, Inigo Jones, Louis Kahn), literature (Victor Hugo, Henri Michaux), theater (Picasso's Parade, Theater on Paper), film (Sergei Eisenstein), music (Musical Manuscripts), and choreography (Trisha Brown).

"Historical Exhibitions focus on both acknowledged and under-recognized masters (such as Michelangelo, J.M.W. Turner, James Ensor, Marcel Duchamp, and Hilma af Klint) while Contemporary Exhibitions illuminate unexplored aspects of works by major living artists (such as Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois, Ellsworth Kelly, Anna Maria Maiolino, Ellen Gallagher, and Richard Tuttle), and Selections Exhibitions present innovative work of emerging artists who are contributing to new interpretations of drawing. In the Drawing Room, which was opened across the street from the main gallery in 1997, emerging and under-recognized artists are encouraged to create experimental, cross-disciplinary work and site-specific installations.

"Examples of artists whose work was first introduced to a wide public at The Drawing Center are: Terry Winters, Glenn Ligon, Janine Antoni, William Kentridge, Kara Walker, Shahzia Sikander, Margaret Kilgallen, and Julie Mehretu. The Drawing Center's Viewing Program has encouraged the development of thousands of emerging artists through one-on-one portfolio reviews with a curator, and through its curated public Artist Registry of over 2,500 emerging artists."

The Big Read

The Big Read is a program conducted by the NEA (National Endowment of the Arts) to bring together partners across the country to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. Approximately 400 organizations from communities of varying sizes across the country will be selected.

"In 2007, the National Endowment for the Arts — in partnership with the Poetry Foundation — created a new component of The Big Read called American Literary Landmarks that celebrated three of the nation’s historic poetry sites: the Emily Dickinson Museum, Robinson Jeffers’s Tor House, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. The Big Read programming in 2009 — 2010 expands reading choices beyond books to include these three poets and their works."


Applicant organizations selecting a book must choose one of the following 27 titles for their programming prior to applying to The Big Read:


The Works of Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)

Programming may focus on one or multiple types of literary media such as Poe’s poems, short stories, essays or his novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.  Poems to consider are “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” “Lenore,” “The City in the Sea,” “Ulalume,” “To Helen,” and his sonnet, “To Science.”


Short stories to consider are “The Black Cat,” “Ms. Found in a Bottle,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Gold-Bug,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “Ligeia,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “William Wilson,” “The Purloined Letter,” or essays, “The Philosophy of Composition” and “The Rationale of Verse.”


Many of the suggested poems, short stories, and essays appear in Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Hardcover) (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1966).


The Poetry of Emily Dickinson (1830–1866)

Programming should celebrate Dickinson’s work and life. Poems to consider are (listed by first line): “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—, Wild Nights—Wild Nights!,” “There’s a certain Slant of light”, “I know that He exists”, “I tend my flowers for thee—”, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes—”, “I died for Beauty—but was scarce”, “Love—thou art high—”, “This World is not Conclusion”, “I dwell in Possibility—”, or  “Crumbling is not an instant’s Act.”


The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson (Boston: Back Bay Books, 1961), contains all of the suggested poems.


The Poetry of Robinson Jeffers (1887–1962)

Programming should primarily center around his lyric poems such as  “Carmel Point,” “Tor House,” “Rock and Hawk,” “Hands,” “Oh Lovely Rock,” “To Una,” “Granddaughter,” “Shine, Perishing Republic,” or “The Beauty of Things.”


The Wild God of the World: An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers, edited by Albert Gelpi (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), contains many of the suggested poems.


The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

Programming may concentrate on one of Longfellow’s long narrative poems—Evangeline (1847), The Song of Hiawatha (1855), The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858), or Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863-73)— or may center around his shorter poems such as “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls,” “The Children’s Hour,” “The Jewish Cemetery at Newport,” “Aftermath,” “My Lost Youth,”  or “The Bells of Sans Blas.”


Many of the suggested poems are found in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Selected Poems with an introduction by Lawrence Buell (New York: Penguin, 1988), or Evangeline and Selected Tales and Poems with an introduction by Horace Gregory (New York: Signet, 2005).

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury

My Ántonia
by Willa Cather

Love Medicine
by Louise Erdrich

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Lesson Before Dying
by Ernest J. Gaines

The Maltese Falcon
by Dashiell Hammett

A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway

Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories
edited by Jorge F. Hernández

Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston

Washington Square
by Henry James

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

A Wizard of Earthsea
by Ursula K. LeGuin

The Call of the Wild
by Jack London

The Thief and the Dogs
by Naguib Mahfouz

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
by Carson McCullers

The Things They Carried
by Tim O’Brien

The Shawl
by Cynthia Ozick

The Stories and Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe

by Marilynne Robinson

The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck

The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan

The Death of Ivan Ilyich
by Leo Tolstoy

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain

The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
and Our Town by Thornton Wilder*

Old School
by Tobias Wolff


Art in the Age of Steam: Europe, America and the Railway, 1830-1960

The Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City has been presenting an exhibit combining the history of US and European railroads with the artists' approach to this new means of transportation:

"This exhibition shows how artists responded to the railroad, especially in Europe and the United States. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, artists concentrated on feats of railroad engineering, the railroad as a focus for human drama, as a setting to explore light and atmosphere and as a symbol of reflective states of mind. Not until after the First World War did artists begin to celebrate the railroad as a mechanical marvel.  The exhibition is organized — and the story told — in six sections:

"The Formative Years in Europe in Europe presents the early development of the railroad, especially in Britain and France.The first railroad images to appear in Britain were prints, which enjoyed an extensive sale and helped make the new concept of railroad travel more familiar and acceptable to the public.

"Human Drama presents the railroad station and compartment as locations of potential narrative and drama.

Crossing Continents: America and Beyond: "Artists portrayed the railroad as sometimes in harmony with the landscape and sometimes at loggerheads with the virgin beauty of nature."

Impressionists and Post Impressionists: "In his view of the Europe Bridge (On the Pont de l’Europe) near this station, Gustave Caillebotte uses the iron trellis as a metaphor for the crushing effect of an industrial environment, while Edouard Manet in The Railway (The Gare Saint-Lazare) enlists the background tracks approaching the station to suggest the railroad as a symbol of liberation and escape.

States of Mind: "The melancholy and alienation induced by rail travel are depicted by the Surrealist Giorgio de Chirico and in the more realistic works of Edward Hopper. Thomas Hart Benton's subject dreams of a nightmarish railroad accident."

The Machine Age: "During the years between the First and the Second World Wars, artists gloried in the steam locomotive as a symbol of speed and power at the very moment when it was being challenged by road and air transport."



Joan L. Cannon, A Curmudgeon's Complaint: If only we had Mark Twain or Voltaire to make the campaign speeches, Aristotle or Kant to force us to entertain enough thought to allow some expansion of minds. Farewell Harold Ross. You're missed

Joan L. Cannon, Serendipity: Something I remember reading long ago by Joan Didion, I believe, is absolutely right: that to write is one of the best ways to discover what you think. In fact, it may also be a way to discover what you know.


Jane Shortall, A Personal Memory of Nuala O'Faolain: “I thought there would be me and the world, but the world turned its back on me,” she said. “The world said to me, ‘That’s enough of you now, and what’s more, we’re not going to give you any little treats at the end’ ”

Book Swapping, Book Finding

We heard about Book Crossing from a daughter who has been 'releasing' books into the wild, as it were. Here's an explanation from the site:

"Welcome to Book Crossing, where 669,699 people in over 130 countries come to share their passion for books with the world.

At BookCrossing, you can register any book you have on the site, and then set the book free to travel the world and find new readers.

Leave it on a park bench, at a coffee shop, at a hotel on vacation. Share it with a friend or tuck it onto a bookshelf at the gym — anywhere it might find a new reader! What happens next is up to fate, and we never know where our books might travel next. Track the book's journey around the world as it is passed on from person to person.

Join hundreds of thousands of active BookCrossers daily in our many forums to discuss your favorite authors, characters and books in every genre throughout history right up through current releases."

Another service is Book Mooch, founded by John Buckman.


The Complete Book of Aunts by Rupert Christiansen with Beth Brophy

"Why are there aunts?" asked a baffled four-year-old boy as I sat in his parents’ dining room talking about this book over lunch. It’s a question I cannot answer. Aunts are not ordained by nature; they do not exist in the animal world. (Elephant herds are matriarchal, and when the males are out of the way, the females band together to look after one another and nurture the calves, even to the point of adopting any orphans. But these ladies are not necessarily blood-related — they are simply public-spirited.)

Anthropologists studying kinship patterns have had little to say about aunts. Not all societies recognize them — or at least, not all languages have bothered to develop a single word to describe a mother’s or father’s sister: Romany has only sachi calli, “female relation.” A separate word for “aunt” is almost nonexistent in the languages of sub-Saharan Africa, while in the extinct tongues of Old High German and Anglo-Saxon, the words nevo and nift, from which our “nephew” and “niece” are derived, appear to have been used to describe uncle and aunt and grandson and granddaughter as well. Other peoples make careful distinctions between maternal and paternal aunts, in the interests of keeping lines, laws, and customs of inheritance clearly defined. In Hindustani, for example, a paternal aunt is phu-phi, a maternal aunt kala; Latin has matertera and amita; and Scandinavian languages double up tante or tant with faster and moster.

Read the complete excerpt at the Hachette Book Group USA site (Twelve Books)


Julia Sneden, Fall Folly: Fall in western North Carolina is usually long and beautiful, with vivid blue skies, colorful leaves, and crisp, cool nights. This year the trees are so stressed from the drought that they began dropping their leaves in late July ... The tulip poplars, usually a bright yellow, are shedding dun-colored leaves that resemble tanned leather

Style and Substance

Paul R. Martin of the Wall Street Journal has published a monthly internal newsletter (now termed a blog, of course), Style and Substance, for the last twenty years. He retired from his full-time post as an assistant managing editor in 2001 but retains the position as "as style arbiter and awards coordinator." The blog is accessible to the public.

In addition, at the end of each of the postings, there is a quiz (with answers, mercifully, given below the quiz but not included here):

Quintessential quiz

Find the flubs in these Journal passages:

  1. Mutual funds are being pressured to divest their holdings in Sudan because of the militia attacks in Darfur.

  2. “The Cowboys’ last playoff victory was a decade ago,” intones Randy Galloway in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

  3. Mr. Stoll would know that the last 36 teams who met that criteria had covered the point spread only eight times.

  4. A few of the tax-abuse scams are hearty perennials.

  5. Trainers are taught how to adjust poles to increase the level of difficulty and the amount of calories burned during workouts.

  6. Every time someone is found, Mr. Kvasha solemnly removes their picture.

  7. Speaking to reporters on a Latin American trip, Mr. Bush said the dismissals of the prosecutors appointees who serve at the pleasure of the president was appropriate.

  8. The macro picture is stable, but there’s shifting underneath, and that’s what’s causing the sluffing  in the employment outlook.

  9. MySpace says it hasn’t yet found a solution for the attorney generals’ request for age verification.

  10. Economists were generally happy with the latest employment data and said it shows that the labor market remains healthy.

  11. Also charged was John Christopher Huck, of Princeton, Mass., whom the state said is an unregistered former broker-dealer.

  12. The article incorrectly said both carriers share a terminal.

From recent postings:

Down on the farm

We hoed the wrong row in two farming stories, opening us to charges of our being urban bumpkins.

In an article about the use of cellphones by members of the Hutterite sect, we said, “The Warden Colony in Washington bought its combine drivers Bluetooth wireless headsets to talk while tilling the colony’s 25,000 acres.”

Combines, as everyone west of the Hudson knows, don’t till in the spring, they reap in the fall. Originally called combine harvesters, the machines combine the tasks of cutting off the stalks of grain and then separating the grain from the chaff.

Another story, about the problems of corn storage that result from the bigger crops in the ethanol era, confused silos and bins. It said, “To keep up with the pace of growers, silos now require stirring machines to speed-dry the grain or sweep-away systems to quickly empty the bins.”

Silos traditionally are used only when the corn is to be fed to cattle as silage. The corn ferments in the silos, without the use of stirring machines.

Bins are used to dry and store corn that is to be resold rather than fed directly to cattle. Long, steel corkscrews in the bins stir the grain as fans blow hot air to speed the drying process. Bins were shown in the picture that ran with the story. The caption called them facilities, which they are, but the story used the word silos interchangeably with bins.

Wall Street Journalers Pet Peeves:

  • Tony Robinson asks why fights, disputes and battles are routinely characterized as bitter, “raising the prospect that some other battles are sweet or cordial.” Bitter battle ranks with wedded words like flat denial, unmitigated gall, stark contrast and oil-rich Kuwait.
  • Mike Miller cringes at: soft-spoken or plain-spoken to denote anyone we basically like, or think readers should like; partner as a verb, prior to instead of before; whopping before a large number (whose size invariably speaks for itself) and nestled in when the setting is somewhere cute and rural.
  • Marilyn Chase dislikes icon and iconic used as superlatives, and she suggests that edgy is dulled by overuse.
  • Michael Connelly and Jennifer Shaw note the overuse of key to mean important. Jennifer cites a story that used the word six times, including a reference to a key benchmark.
  • Barry Newman calls going forward terrible jargon, which it is, as in: “This raises questions about the strategies of the other three going forward.”
  • Andrew Yurkovsky, a Newswires copy editor, cringes at impacting, transitioning and ramping up as jargon verbs.
  • Outside contributor Coke Ellington derides in harm’s way, asking rhetorically how long has it been since anyone was simply in danger; gone missing when disappeared or vanished would tell the story; the “redundant” head butt and the pervasive opt for. (”I’m waiting for the four-cylinder Optima to come out with the slogan, ‘Opt for the Opt 4,’” he says.)


Botanical Wonders: The Story of the Harvard Glass Flowers

The Corning Museum of Glass hosted an exhibit displaying "the singular triumph of glassmakers Leopold Blaschka (1822 - 1895) and his son Rudolf (1857 - 1939); provides insight into the intellectual appetite of the late Victorians, through the lens of botany as an academic discipline; and offers close-ups of the people and the craft process behind the Glass Flowers."

Harvard Museum of National History lent 17 of its collection of delicate Ware Collection of Glass Flowers to Corning. Leopold is quoted describing the family history as jewelers and glassmakers and the passing on of that tradition to his son:

"Many people think that we have some secret apparatus by which we can squeeze glass suddenly into these forms, but it is not so. .. The only way to become a glass modeler of skill, I have often said to people, is to get a good great-grandfather who loved glass; then he is to have a son with like tastes; he is to be your grandfather. He in turn will have a son who must, as your father, be passionately fond of glass. You, as his son, can then try your hand, and it is your own fault if you do not succeed. But, if you do not have such ancestors, it is not your fault. My grandfather was the most widely known glassworker in Bohemia, and he lived to be eighty-three years of age. My father was about as old, and Rudolf hopes my hand will be steady for many years yet. I am now between sixty and seventy and very young; am I not Rudolf?"

Leopold Blaschka, 1889

The glass objects are viewed online as well as the botanical drawings that proceeded them, such as:

Yellow Fringed Orchid
Model 642 (1898)
R. Blaschka

On July 15, 1895, Rudolf Blaschka collected this spurred orchid in Virginia. It features a fringed lower petal, which is shown in various views. The drawings to the right of the leaves show the interior structure of the flower. A pair of pollinaria, each of which resembles a string of balloons, contain individual pollen grains in what Blaschka called a “juice like yellowish water glass.” The sticky end of the stipe becomes attached to an insect, which then distributes pollen to other flowers. 


Collect Britain

First, a few facts about the British Library:

  • We receive a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland

  • The collection includes 150 million items, in most known languages

  • 3 million new items are incorporated every year

  • We house manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, prints and drawings, music scores, and patents

  • The Sound Archive keeps sound recordings from 19th-century cylinders to the latest CD, DVD and minidisc recordings

  • We house 8 million stamps and other philatelic items

  • These require over 625 km of shelves, and grow 12km every year

  • If you see 5 items each day, it would take you 80,000 years to see the whole of the collection

But to get to the main site we're noting, Collect Britain is a collection of the collections, with curator's choices or your chance to pick from among the varied topics:

Everything Curious has topographical drawings, among many others, of a cricket match in Devonshire Street or a watercolor of Shooter's Hill, the highest point in south London:

"By the 18th century a hotel had been built on the summit to entertain wealthy travellers. It was however not safe to linger here too long because the remote spot was a notorious hideout for highwaymen, who arguably account for the origin of the hill's name. In fact, due to the additional proximity of the local gallows and gibbet, few aspects of Shooter's Hill (other than the view from the top) were pleasant — as Samuel Pepys noted in 1661: 'I rode under a man that hangs at Shooters Hill and a filthy sight it was to see how the flesh is shrunk from his bones.' "

Or from Military Alert, ordnance survey drawings, among them St. Michael's Mount: "defence works of Mount's Bay, from Mousehole to Marazion."

In the Illuminated Manuscripts section, The Meeting Of Sir Lancelot And Queen Guinevere, In The Romance Of Lancelot Du Lac: Originally written and illuminated in France, c. 1300, this manuscript had reached England by the second half of the century, when two miniatures and two initials containing the heraldic arms were painted in a style characteristic of books made for the Bohun family, who earls of Hereford and Essex for most of the 13th and 14th centuries. It is possible that it would have been kept at the family castle at Pleshey, near Chelmsford. This added miniature depicts the fateful moment when Sir Lancelot, one of the knights of the Round table first meets King Arthur's wife, Queen Guinevere: they fall in love, and have an affair that will ultimately lead to the downfall of Camelot. The initial contains the arms of England and Bohun.

The curator's introduction to the philatelic rarities collection includes this observation:

At Harrow, [Thomas Keay Tapling MP (1855-1891)] received a birthday present of £100 on condition it was spent and not saved. His philately was the beneficiary. With funds provided by his family and its business interests, he purchased many leading collections in their entirety as they became available. In 1887, Tapling doubled the size of his collection with the purchase of a large part of the extensive holdings of the Parisian collectors, Gustave and Martial Caillebotte — a purchase that included, no doubt, a number of great rarities. Since it embraces the first fifty years of postage stamp history, 1840 to 1890, Tapling's collection contains many classic issues. It is the only major collection formed during the nineteenth century that survives intact.

The English Accents and Dialects Collection includes audio resources held in the British Library Sound Archive such as those dialects from Cheadle, Weare Giffard, Mulbarton and Welwick.

The 'Pick of the Week' is that of an illustrated music cover for the Victorian song, Dreams of Home:

This song was dedicated to the memory of Dr Livingstone the explorer. It was apparently written in response to Dr Livingstone's last reported comment that he missed Scotland (although he could never actually be persuaded to leave Africa and died there). Livingstone was born in Blantyre in 1813 and travelled through Africa not only as an explorer but also as a missionary, highlighting the horrors of the slave trade.  He was presumed lost on his last trip to find the source of the Nile and it was a reporter from the New York Herald, Mr H M Stanley, who eventually found him and uttered the immortal words 'Dr Livingstone I presume'. Livingstone became a national hero.

Americans in Paris, 1860-1900

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is most generous in this special online exhibit, displaying many paintings that illustrate the transformation of American art.

"As Henry James remarked in 1887: 'It sounds like a paradox, but it is a very simple truth, that when to-day we look for 'American art' we find it mainly in Paris. When we find it out of Paris, we at least find a great deal of Paris in it.' This exhibition examines why Paris was a magnet for Americans, what they found there and how they responded to it, and which lessons they ultimately brought back to the United States."

"Americans were entranced by two stereotypes about the artist's life in Paris — the impecunious bohemian and the self-confident flâneur. Painters often adopted one of these distinctively Parisian personas in their self-portraits or in their depictions of one another, thus claiming for themselves a certain cosmopolitan sophistication."

"Mary Cassatt was completely at ease in Paris. French-speaking, independent, fiercely devoted to her work, and committed to making a living as an artist despite her wealth, she was the only American member of the French Impressionist group, showing with them four times between 1879 and 1886. She made the home her most frequent subject, applying her modern painting technique to traditional domestic themes."

Enjoy the entire online exhibit.

Artist's Sketchbooks

A website created to accompany an exhibit, Under Cover: Artists' Sketchbooks focuses on ten sketchbooks by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, George Grosz, and John Singer Sargent. The exhibit was housed at Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.

Here's a description of the sketchbooks and how they were used:

"Artists have used sketchbooks for centuries, entrusting travel sketches, figure studies, compositional ideas, and notes of every kind to their pages. Designed to be easily portable, sketchbooks are often kept in a pocket, and offer an unusually personal glimpse of the artist at work. Leafing through sketchbooks can result in a disconcerting sense of having invaded the artist's privacy, as if one were reading a diary or looking over a shoulder. In addition to drawings, notes and addresses, doodles and train schedules, sketchbooks can bear the familiar curve of the artist's body, the mark of his or her hand. While sketchbooks are often small, some are capacious, allowing broad, expansive sketching."

"The Fogg Art Museum owns an unusually large collection of about 150 sketchbooks, ranging in date from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Several artists are especially well represented: there are thirty-four examples by John Singer Sargent, twelve by the Hudson River school artist Sanford Gifford, and forty by the sculptor Christopher Wilmarth. Some of the sketchbooks contain finished, self-conscious studies that are signed by the artist, while others include rapidly scribbled notes and near illegible sketches. Some were executed over the course of several days or years; others were revisited years later."

Every page is reproduced — front and back (recto and verso) — and can be seen all together or sequentially.


Terry Teachout's Video Links

Terry Teachout, a well-known writer and columnist, has compiled links to videos of musicians' performances as well as to other cultural figures. The videos have been uploaded to YouTube, a video sharing website. For the jazz component of his site, he's received links from contributors, mined from films of the '30s and '40s as well as TV shows of the '50s and '60s.

The greats of the jazz world are seen including Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Evans, Coltrane, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday as well as videos of Glenn Gould, Heifetz, Segovia, Pat Methany, the Mills Brothers, Glenn Miller and Jobim.

Teachout doesn't confine himself to videos of musical personalities; he includes authors, dancers, actors and politicians, among others. He does refer in a recent column to two other sources of videos if you're a cable subscriber: Classic Arts Showcase and Ovation.


Ask Oxford

AskOxford - One of the features of this website is A Word a Year: 1905-2005. Here are the words chosen for the last five years:

2000  speed dating
2001  war on terror
2002  SARS
2003  freedom fries: an alternative term for 'French fries', chosen by some Americans as a critique of the French protest against the invasion of Iraq.
2004  podcasting

Another feature we found at the famed dictionary and reference company site is Ask the Experts, "a database of some of the questions sent in to the Oxford Word and Language Service team, so it is likely that if your question is a fairly broad one on grammar, usage, or words then it will be answered here."

If you want ideas for great word games to play, check out the Oxford Word Challenge. There are easy games like Anagrams or Awful Authors, slightly harder games like Plurals, or fiendishly difficult games like Russian Dolls and Kangaroo Words.


MaptoMovies - Angela Pressburger's site to inform and review movies for those interested in purchasing, renting or borrowing (from a library) DVDs of movies. Here's the genesis of that site:

The MAP was started in answer to requests from my friends and acquaintances to keep them informed of good films coming out on DVD and sources for acquiring them. Many of them live in rural areas where the only option is renting or purchasing on-line — but they had no idea how to go about doing this. Others felt intimidated by the numbers — the thousands of titles retailers, critics and other information sites have on their shelves or in their databases. What my friends wanted was someone to sift through all those new releases each week and make some recommendations they could respect. The MAP is the result.

Here is part of the site's features:

If your taste runs to films that are genuine and expand your experience of the world we live in from deep issues to good entertainment then The MAP is for you.

We sift through the hundreds of new titles released each week and recommend just a few you can enjoy and respect.

You can have a copy of MaptoMovies' newsletter recommendations
sent directly to your in-box, each week.


Looking at Art

An excerpt from an essay, Unnatural Beauty by historian and essayist Simon Schama in the Guardian Unlimited

But the paintings that most haunt us are most often those that hint at their own instability; the unbridgeable distance between technical bravura and the world it ostensibly doubles, even when the illusion is more compelling than the material reality. It is precisely the unattainable serenity of Vermeer's Delft, fictitiously repaired as a civic paradise from the blackened ruins of its gunpowder explosion, that makes it lodge in our imagination. That Delft is forever barred to us, not just by a breadth of water and an array of towers, gates and walls, but by the distance between a shimmering vision projected on a back wall by a camera obscura, and the mundane reality of a small provincial Dutch town past its prime. The image cast by the lens on the wall is sharp but trapped in the unforgiving brilliance of a dream. It is also upside down.

Caravaggio's Basket of Fruit (in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan) bathes in a light strong enough to register with uncanny precision the misty bloom on the skin of its black and green grapes. And there is an apt apple - for this is, among other things, a vision of the fall - the most arresting detail of the fruit, the blackened wormhole, marring its rosiness. A pear shows the early freckles of its own decay. But the tip-off that this is a vision, not of substantial, but precarious naturalism is the artist's refusal to let us see, comfortably, how the basket is set in space. Its bottom edge rests on a slight support that is scarcely thicker than the picture edge itself (and could easily be altogether hidden by a frame). That support might be readable as a ledge or a shelf, but the dead flat, shadowless paint behind it refuses to let us know whether this ledge is connected to anything, or give us any clue as to the breadth of the support. The effect is to turn a still life into a visual thriller, precariously perched on the tip of collapse, a fatalism signalled, in case we'd missed it, by a vine (or possibly a fig) leaf, folded and faded about the stem.

Other extracts from fiction and non-fiction are available at the Guardian site.

Susan Sontag & Virginia Woolf

Excerpt from Regarding the Pain of Others

Who believes today that war can be abolished? No one, not even pacifists. We hope only (so far in vain) to stop genocide and to bring to justice those who commit gross violations of the laws of war (for there are laws of war, to which combatants should be held), and to be able to stop specific wars by imposing negotiated alternatives to armed conflict. It may be hard to credit the desperate resolve produced by the aftershock of the First World War, when the realization of the ruin Europe had brought on itself took hold. Condemning war as such did not seem so futile or irrelevant in the wake of the paper fantasies of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, in which fifteen leading nations, including the United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Japan, solemnly renounced war as an instrument of national policy; even Freud and Einstein were drawn into the debate with a public exchange of letters in 1932 titled "Why War?" Woolf's Three Guineas, appearing toward the close of nearly two decades of plangent denunciations of war, offered the originality (which made this the least well received of all her books) of focusing on what was regarded as too obvious or inapposite to be mentioned, much less brooded over: that war is a man's game — that the killing machine has a gender, and it is male. Nevertheless, the temerity of Woolf's version of "Why War?" does not make her revulsion against war any less conventional in its rhetoric, in its summations, rich in repeated phrases. And photographs of the victims of war are themselves a species of rhetoric. They reiterate. They simplify. They agitate. They create the illusion of consensus.

Invoking this hypothetical shared experience ("we are seeing with you the same dead bodies, the same ruined houses"), Woolf professes to believe that the shock of such pictures cannot fail to unite people of good will. Does it? To be sure, Woolf and the unnamed addressee of this book-length letter are not any two people. Although they are separated by the age-old affinities of feeling and practice of their respective sexes, as Woolf has reminded him, the lawyer is hardly a standard-issue bellicose male. His antiwar opinions are no more in doubt than are hers. After all, his question was not, What are your thoughts about preventing war? It was, How in your opinion are we to prevent war?

From Regarding the Pain of Others. Susan Sontag died on December 28, 2004.

Excerpt from Three Guineas

"Here, fortunately, the year, the sacred year 1919, comes to our help. Since that year put it into the power of educated men’s daughters to earn their livings they have at last some real influence upon education. They have money. They have money to subscribe to causes. Honorary treasurers invoke their help. To prove it, here, opportunely, cheek by jowl with your letter, is a letter from one such treasurer asking for money with which to rebuild a women’s college. And when honorary treasurers invoke help, it stands to reason that they can be bargained with. We have the right to say to her, ‘You shall only have our guinea with which to help you rebuild your college if you will help this gentleman whose letter also lies before us to prevent war.’ We can say to her, ‘You must educate the young to hate war. You must teach them to feel the inhumanity, the beastliness, the insupportability of war.’ But what kind of education shall we bargain for? What sort of education will teach the young to hate war?"

Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf may be read in its entirety at The University of Adelaide Library Electronic Texts Collection.


Two quite different PBS programs explore sides of those firmly on the political stage and those who observe and comment on the political scene.

The First Lady; Public Expectations, Private Lives examines the how the wives of presidents sought to define their roles.

Extended interviews are given by Laura Bush, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barbara Bush.

Challenges that First Ladies Face includes these quotes from the commentators:

They're expected to incarnate some impossible feminine ideal, that is rather outmoded; and because it's outmoded, it's almost impossible, in the modern world, to fulfill.

That gap between who Americans want to be and what they actually are is one that's very problematic for the first lady. Her life is rooted in the complicated realities of modern America and yet for those four years or eight years there's a kind of demand that the first lady be perfect and the first family be this kind of ideal Father Knows Best family, rather than a more Simpsons- type family.

About Laura Bush, Ann Gerhart notes:

Laura Bush is one of the most serene women I have ever met. She has a degree of self-composure and control which is remarkable; and she can glide through the messiest, most turbulent times without ever appearing to be upset, or nervous, or frazzled. She has an inner core of steadiness that keeps her going.

And Gerhart's assessment of Teresa Heinz-Kerry:

Teresa Heinz Kerry is a woman for whom mothering is everything, both of her own children and, by extension, the world. She believes that she has a responsibility to change things, and she's very passionate about doing so. Born in Africa, she's the most exotic of creatures, a white African, who speaks five languages.

Independent Lens looks at Theodor Seuss Geisel with a documentary entitled The Political Dr. Seuss. There are interviews given by biographers Judith and Neil Morgan (Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel) and Richard H. Minear (Dr. Seuss Goes to War). Also heard from is his Random House publisher Robert Bernstein and editor Michael Frith as well as historian Michael Kazin. Geisel's own words through voice-overs are part of the program and clips can be viewed on site.

What fascinates, though, " is a side of Dr. Seuss’s work that is rarely discussed. Most Americans don’t know, for example, that during World War II he drew editorial cartoons for the left-wing New York newspaper PM, or that he made army propaganda films with Frank Capra. Many readers didn’t know that The Sneetches was inspired by Seuss’s opposition to anti-Semitism, that Horton Hears a Who! was a political statement about democracy and isolationism, or that The Lorax and The Butter Battle Book were parables about the environment and the arms race. Dr. Seuss’s true genius may lie in the fact that all of this was done with such humor and finesse, that few realized he was being political at all. "

At the site is also a very brief history of American political cartooning from before Benjamin Franklin's time to the present day.

Building America

The online exhibition, Building America, is presented by a marvelous Washington, DC museum, the National Building Museum.

Building America explores the broad scope of US achievement in architecture, engineering, design, construction, planning, and landscape architecture. Hundreds of images showcase highpoints in American building, from the US Capitol to the Empire State Building, as well as places like shopping centers, offices, and suburban homes where many live their daily lives.

A special selections section of the website includes an audio from women settlers diaries recording their experiences on the Oregon Trail, braving daily trials and hardships: The Oregon Trail was a principal route used by Western settlers during the early 19th century. For about thirty years, until the 1870s, wagon trains traveled the grueling 2,300-mile trek from either Westport or Independence, Missouri, to Wyoming, and then across the Rocky Mountains to Oregon.

Another audio diary covers tenement life in New York City: By 1900, nearly three-quarters of New York City residents lived in tenements within neighborhoods that were the most densely populated places on earth. The majority were immigrants, not unlike Josephine Baldizzi, who moved to 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side in 1928 with her Sicilian-born parents and brother. She moved out of the building in 1935, but returned to visit 97 Orchard Street after it had been transformed into the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

Enjoy the exhibit and the quotations of two characters used in the House and Home section, one fictional and one real: Frank Baum's Dorothy and William Levitt, creator of Levittown, LI, NY:

"There's no place like home."

"No man who owns his house and lot can be a Communist. He has too much to do."

Leonora Carrington

An excerpt from The Hearing Trumpet

"Every week brings a certain amount of mild enjoyment; every night, in fine weather, the sky, the stars, and of course the moon in her season. On Mondays, in clement weather, I walk two blocks down the road and visit my friend Carmella. She lives in a very small house with her niece who bakes cakes for a Swedish teashop although she is Spanish. Carmella has a very pleasant life and is really very intellectual. She reads books through an elegant lorgnette and hardly ever mumbles to herself as I do. She also knits very clever jumpers but her real pleasure in life is writing letters. Carmella writes letters all over the world to people she has never met and signs them with all sorts of romantic names, never her own. Carmella despises anonymous letters, and of course they would be impractical as who could answer a letter with no name at all signed at the end? These wonderful letters fly off, in a celestial way, by airmail, in Carmella's delicate handwriting. No one ever replies. This is the really incomprehensible side of humanity, people never have time for anything.

When she unwrapped the hearing trumpet I was at a loss to know whether it could be used for eating or drinking or merely for ornament. After many complicated gestures she finally put it to my ear and what I had always heard as a thin shriek went through my head like the bellow of an angry bull. "Can you hear me Marian?"

Indeed I could, it was terrifying."

Read the remainder of the excerpt of The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington at La Vitrina Literature

Here's a brief review by librarian Keith at the Invisible Librarian site:

"A coven of little old ladies, with the help of a pack of wolves, a nest of bees and a freelance mailman named Taliesin, steel the Holy Grail from the descendants of the Crusaders and return it to the Goddess from whence the Christians stole it in the first place. While illuminating the pagan roots of the Christian Mythology, Leonora Carrington also admonishes the church for its historically cruel treatment of women, especially the elderly variety, as second class citizens. But more then that, Carrington, a surrealist painter and writer, manages to evoke a brilliant sense of dreaminess and real emotion, something conspicuously absent from most surrealist writings. Personally, this is one of my all time favorite books. I’ve read it three times, and will probably read it for a fourth very soon."

Dawn Powell

At the Dawn Powell website presented by the Library of America, Gore Vidal's essay includes a quote:

" ... it is considered jolly and good-humored to point out the oddities of the poor or of the rich. The frailties of millionaires or garbage collectors can be made to seem amusing to persons who are not millionaires or garbage collectors. Their ways of speech, their personal habits, the peculiarities of their thinking are considered fair game. I go outside the rules with my stuff because I can't help believing that the middle class is funny, too."

Diary entries (edited by Tim Page) include the following:

March 1, 1939: Wits are never happy people. The anguish that has scraped their nerves and left them raw to every flicker of life is the base of wit — for the raw nerve reacts at once without any agent, the reaction is direct, with no integumentary obstacles. Wit is the cry of pain, the true word that pierces the heart. If it does not pierce, then it is not true wit. True wit should break a good man's heart.

Excerpts from her books exist on the site as do sections on her life, her work and lengthy commentary by Vidal, Edmund Wilson, Richard Lingeman and James Gibbons.

In the biography section, Powell is again quoted about her writing: When asked about the characters in her novels and plays, Dawn Powell said, "I give them their heads. They furnish their own nooses."

Becky, the Original

We would recommend buying the BBC Vanity Fair series, shown on A&E in 1999. The television series on DVD is delectable.

By the way, the actress playing Becky in this version is Natasha Little who assumes the role of Lady Jane Sheepshanks in director Mira Nair's current version.

Or, why not read the original as, thankfully, it's online:

" For it may be remarked in the course of this little conversation (which took place as the coach rolled along lazily by the river side) that though Miss Rebecca Sharp has twice had occasion to thank Heaven, it has been, in the first place, for ridding her of some person whom she hated, and secondly, for enabling her to bring her enemies to some sort of perplexity or confusion; neither of which are very amiable motives for religious gratitude, or such as would be put forward by persons of kind and placable disposition. Miss Rebecca was not, then, in the least kind or placable. All the world used her ill, said this young misanthropist, and we may be pretty certain that persons whom all the world treats ill deserve entirely the treatment they get. The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice. This is certain, that if the world neglected Miss Sharp, she never was known to have done a good action in behalf of anybody; nor can it be expected that twenty-four young ladies should all be as amiable as the heroine of this work, Miss Sedley (whom we have selected for the very reason that she was the best-natured of all, otherwise what on earth was to have prevented us from putting up Miss Swartz, or Miss Crump, or Miss Hopkins, as heroine in her place?) — it could not be expected that every one should be of the humble and gentle temper of Miss Amelia Sedley; should take every opportunity to vanquish Rebecca’s hard-heartedness and ill-humor; and, by a thousand kind words and offices, overcome, for once at least, her hostility to her kind."

From the second chapter, In Which Miss Sharp and Miss Sedley Prepare to Open the Campaign in Part One of Vanity Fair at Bartleby's Great Books Online


Read Julia Sneden, Rose Mula, David Westheimer, Margi Cullison, Liz Flaherty, Martha Powers, Jane Shorthall, Roberta McReynolds and others.


Art Sighting: Virtue & Beauty and '50 truisms, half-truths, blatant lies and childish wishes about art'

Virtue and Beauty, an aptly named exhibit, is the first exhibition on the subject ever organized, surveyint the phenomenal rise of female portraiture in Florence from c. 1440 to c. 1540. Since images from the exhibit are not present online, stroll through the portraiture section. There's also an in-depth study of Rembrandt's works and techniques to be seen a the National Gallery site.

A controversial writer, dramatist, aesthete, wit, and self-proclaimed "lord of language" is the subject of the Morgan Library's display of photos depicting Oscar Wilde.

The effort to describe art without seeming clichéd or trite seems to be a universal one; the Washington Post outlined a list of "50 truisms, half-truths, blatant lies and childish wishes, fundamental to the way we think about art, and none of them very useful:"

1. Art is a universal language.
2. It captures the eternal human spirit.
3. It brings us closer to our fellow man.
4. It makes us better people.
5. It is timeless.
6. It expresses the inexpressible.
7. It is our secular religion.
8. It makes us human.
9. It heals.
10. We can't live without it.
11. Art is the greatest creation of society.
12. Genius requires suffering.
13. Only people who make a living from art are artists; unless they are geniuses, in which case they suffer (see No. 12).
14. Geniuses get "paid" after they die, when they are discovered and loved posthumously.
15. Art makes artists immortal.
16. Happy artists make uplifting art; unhappy artists make depressing art.
17. Except for comic artists, who are unhappy but mask their true feelings.
18. Artists are prophets.
19. Art falls into distinct periods, generally corresponding to the centuries.
20. If an artist's work doesn't represent his period, he's either a rebel (genius) or a conformist (hack).
21. Young artists struggle until they find their voice.
22. An artist's voice first appears in his/her "masterwork."
23. Art is constructed in layers; the "deeper" layers matter the most.
24. Art isn't about ordinary things; art transforms the ordinary.
25. To make great art, artists must separate themselves from the world.
26. But artists also hang out together in glamorous social circles.
27. Artists make art to get sex; or they sublimate sexual thoughts into art.
28. Artists have particularly large libidos.
29. Artists are too busy with their art to care about politics.
30. Artists who care about politics are either (a) rebels (geniuses) or (b) propagandists (hacks).
31. Art transports us.
32. But art also centers us in the world.
33. Nature can make "art" too.
34. Art and craft are the same thing (both express the eternal human spirit; see No. 2).
35. The important thing in art is self-expression (compare No. 1).
36. Young artists make turbulent art; old artists make serene art.
37. European artists are generally "young" (they make turbulent art).
38. Asian artists are generally "old" (they make serene art).
39. African artists make "primitive" art.
40. Primitive art helps rejuvenate decadent (European) art.
41. Collecting primitive art is a kind of apology for colonialism.
42. Violence in art offers us a cathartic release; but violent art makes us violent. 43. Misuse of metaphor helps "explain" art (luminous music, harmonic colors, etc.).
44. Ambiguity in art is profound.
45. Anyone can make art (because we all have a little "genius" in us).
46. My kid could do that (because art is a fraud).
47. Art transcends class barriers.
48. Critics don't "get" art; but "critically acclaimed" art is a good investment.
49. Art exposes the collective unconscious.
50. By studying "top 50" lists you can learn the general drift of culture.


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