Friday, April 17, 2015

Artisan, no

I saw the insert in today’s paper: “Seasoned. Seared. Served. New Artisan Grilled Chicken.” From McDonald’s!

The word artisan denotes “a worker in a skilled trade, a craftsperson; (in later use) esp. one utilizing traditional or non-mechanized methods”. The word artisanal first applied to workers and ways of working: “of, relating to, or characteristic of an artisan or skilled craftsperson; involving or utilizing traditional, small-scale, or non-mechanized methods or techniques.” The word later came to describe things: “of a product: handmade (esp. with care and skill) using traditional techniques; having qualities associated with small-scale, pre-industrial production.” From The New York Times (October 9, 1983): “Raymond Séguy’s earthy, artisanal, sourdough baguette, made according to old-fashioned rules and standards, takes seven hours to prepare.”

Nothing about the name McDonald’s suggests non-mechanized, small-scale, or pre-industrial food preparation. The only traditional methods in play here are those of fast food. Did McDonald’s choose artisan thinking that artisanal would be too risky, leaving the company open to accusations of false advertising? Because what does Artisan Grilled Chicken mean anyway? Perhaps the sandwich is designed to satisfy hungry artisans breaking for lunch.

One sure thing: indiscriminate and cynical use has made artisan and artisanal into worsened words.

[Definitions and citation from the Oxford English Dictionary.]

Subdivisions of the imagination

Geese Rock, Heron Breakers, The Dale at Smiling Dale: it’s the Real Estate Subdivision Name Generator.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Income disparity in the news

Dan Price’s decision to raise his employees’ salaries and reduce his own is a noble one. I hope it proves influential.

It would be a wonderful surprise to see, say, a college football coach take a salary cut and ask that adjunct instructors receive decent pay.

A related post
Income disparity in higher education

Henry Threadgill and Dewar’s


[New York, June 20, 1988. Click for a larger view.]

I happened to think of this Dewar’s advertisement yesterday. It’s from a series that began in 1969. I was delighted when I first saw it: Henry Threadgill! In 1988, I knew his music from his Sextet and Sextett and the trio Air. Seeing Threadgill, an AACM musician, in a Dewar’s ad was beyond my imagining. I’m not sure what might be comparable: Ted Berrigan in an advertisement for Pepsi?

But then Ted Berrigan really liked Pepsi. It doesn’t surprise me to learn that Threadgill was not particularly devoted to Scotch. As he told the Los Angeles Times in 1989, “People often come up to me in bars and want to buy me a shot of Dewar’s. Frankly, I’m partial to a cup of coffee or some seltzer or some beer.”

Looking at this advertisement in 2015, I have noticed, maybe for the first time, the pencil in the scene. It’s a Mongol, with the identifying words removed. By their ferrules ye shall know them: that’s the Mongol’s distinctive ferrule on display.



Here is one of my favorite Threadgill recordings, “When Was That?”, the title track from a 1982 About Time LP. It appears that this recording never made it to CD. I’m being very careful with my LP.

A related post
Jack DeJohnette in Chicago (With Henry Threadgill)

[The musicians: Henry Threadgill, alto; Craig Harris, trombone; Olu Dara, cornet; Fred Hopkins, bass; Brian Smith, piccolo bass; Pheeroan Aklaff, drums; John Betsch, drums.]

Somme notebook

“Wounded by shrapnel at Trones Wood July 30th 1916”: from a six-by-three notebook kept by William Chamberlain, who lost a leg fighting in the Battle of the Somme. Ninety-nine years later, his granddaughter has found the notebook in a drawer.

A related post
Somme diary (A 2007 auction)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Old chair


[Photograph by Michael Leddy, c. 1984.]

I reached for a stack of Campus Mail envelopes and found a long-lost photograph underneath. This chair sat in an office that I shared, in grad school days, with a senior professor. The chair was his, as were the boxes of papers on the left. The chair was the one that students sat in when they came in to talk to me, or to him. I remember most students thinking the chair pretty cool. I thought it was cool too. Nowadays, such a chair would likely be considered inappropriate. The chair would likely become even more tattered from all the aspersions cast at it.

Elaine gave me sweet little Olympus camera as a birthday present in 1984. For a while, we were on a black-and-white kick. If this chair had a color, it was some distant form of yellow.

A Robert Creeley story

I went looking for something else and found this short story:

Last night talking to the poet Claes Andersson, who is also a member of the Finnish parliament and a psychologist, he tells us he had encouraged a young woman, a patient, to look to books for a relieving sense that many feel as threatened as she in the world. The book she randomly finds is Kafka’s The Trial.

Robert Creeley, Autobiography (Madras and New York: Hanuman Books, 1990).
A Wikipedia article describes Andersson as “a Finland-Swedish psychiatrist, author, jazz musician, politician and former member of the Finnish Parliament.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Museo Faggiano

in The New York Times, an amazing story from Lecce, Italy: “Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet.” The result is a museum, Museo Faggiano.

I am relieved that our plumber did not unearth centuries of Italian history when he replaced a pipe in our bathroom last fall. It would have made things too confusing.

[If you take the museum’s 3-D tour, be sure to look through the glass floors wherever possible.]

The last Sinatra song

A YouTube treasure: Jonathan Schwartz plays a recording of the last song from Frank Sinatra’s last performance. It’s Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s “The Best Is Yet to Come.” The occasion was a party on the final night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament, February 25, 1995. Elsewhere, there’s a video clip.

I’ve been thinking about Sinatra after watching Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary Sinatra: All or Nothing at All. Every so often, the cable company gives us a free weekend of extra channels. For once, I found something to watch.

[The brief bit of “New York, New York” from November 19, 1995, can’t really count as a song. The words ”The best is yet to come” appear on Sinatra’s gravestone.]

Simpsons grammar and usage

Inflammable means flammable? What a country”: Dr. Nick Riveria, in The Simpsons episode “Trilogy of Error” (April 29, 2001). This episode is filled with language comedy, mostly by way of Lisa’s science project, a grammar-correcting robot named Linguo. She has to repair Linguo after Homer gives it beer:

Lisa: Almost done. Just lay still.

Linguo: Lie still.

Lisa: I knew that. Just testing.

Linguo: Sentence fragment.

Lisa: “Sentence fragment” is also a sentence fragment.

Linguo: Must conserve battery power.
Me too. I’ve been grading.

[It’s really a grammar-and-usage-correcting robot.]