Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Lettres de Degas à Suzanne Valadon

Drawing by Valadon

Edgar Degas, one of the greatest Impressionist painters was a huge fan of Suzanne Valadon's work as can be seen in his letters to her, which are actually pretty monotonous, as we shall see.

I was doing research for a play I am working on about the relationship between Valadon and Erik Satie (which I first wrote about on this blog nine years ago.) 

I had read that Degas wrote several letters to Valadon, but found only a few online, translated into English. That was not good enough, since I decided to put Degas in the play. I wanted to read them all.

Finally I found a copy of "Lettres de Degas," a collection by Marcel Guérin of Degas' personal and business correspondence, untranslated from the French.

Valadon was known to have had many lovers but there appears to have never been anything romantic between her and the decades-older Degas, and he never used the familiar "tu" with her, always the more formal "vous" so his interest in her appears to have been completely based on his love of her work, which is what he talks about, almost exclusively, in all his letters to her.

I personally believe Degas was gay or possibly asexual - he seems to have had even fewer romantic relationships than Satie, or at least none that were out in the open. I suspect that's where Degas' reputation as a misogynist comes from. He was generous in his praise of women artists and was a friend of Mary Cassatt - although if this collection is anything to go by, he never wrote a letter to her. 

I think his biographers traditionally used "misogynist" as a code word for "sexually uninterested in women."

Here are his letters, in the original French and then my translations.

Degas most often referred to Valadon as Maria, her birth name, rather than Suzanne, her nom de pinceau.

#1 Carte-lettre avec l'adresse: Mlle. Maria Valadon, 11, rue Girardon 

postmarked July 1894


Vous avez dû retirer vos dessins du Champ de Mars, illustre Valadon. Venez donc demain matin m'apporter le mien. Bartholomé vous aura écrit à propos d'un dessin qui lui a terriblement envie. Est-il servi?
Bien a vous.




You must have withdrawn your drawings from the Champ de Mars, illustrious Valadon. So come tomorrow morning and bring me mine. Bartholomé will have written to you about a drawing that he desires terribly. Is it served?



I had some trouble with "Est-il servi" - I knew the direct translation is "Is it served" but I suspect it's more like, "is it ready" - but I figured better be on the safe side and translate directly.

#2 Carte-lettre adressée a Mme Suzanne Valadon 2 ou 4 rue Cortot

postmarked November 1894

Terrible Maria, hier chez Lebarc de Bouteille, j'ai voulu acheter votre dessin excellent, mais il n'en savait pas le prix. Venez, si vous pouvez, demain matin vers 9 h. 1/2 avec votre carton pour voir si vous n'avez pas encore q. q. chose de mieux.



Terrible Maria, yesterday at Lobar de Bouteille's place, I wanted to buy your excellent drawing, but he did not know its price. Come if you can tomorrow morning around 9:30 with your box (of drawings) so I can see if you don't have something even better.


#3 Carte-lettre adressée a Mme Suzanne Valadon, 2 Rue Cortot

postmarked March 1895

 Voila qu'il faut que j'aille demain à Passy, terrible Maria. Ne manquez pas l'autre Dimanche de venir, si vous pouvez, avec de nouveaux dessins. A present que vous allez bien, travailler dur. 





You see, I must go to Passy tomorrow, terrible Maria. Don't miss coming the other Sunday, if you can, with new drawings. Now that you are well, work hard.



#4  postmarked March 30, 1895

Vous voyez, ma pauvre Maria, que je ne puis encore grimper a vous voir. Zandomenaghi et Portier m'ont donne de vos nouvelles. J'en voudrais avoir par moi. Courage et soins.


You see, my poor Maria, that I cannot climb up to see you yet. Zandomeneghi and Portier have given me news of you. I would like to have some with me. Courage and care.


In the next one, Degas uses her hyphenated married name, since she had married the banker Paul Moussis.

#5 Carte-lettre adressée a Mme Valadon-Moussis, 12 Rue Cortot

The postmark is not visible

Janv. 8

J'ai été au lit et vous répond tard, terrible Maria. Ça vous arrivera-t-il ce petit merci pour vous bon souhaits et votre constant souvenir? Êtes-vous toujours rue Cortot?
Venez me voir avec des dessins. J'aime à voir ces gros traits si souples.

Bonne Année.



January 8

I have been in bed and answer you late, terrible Maria. Will you receive this little thank you for your good wishes and your constant remembrance? Are you still at rue Cortot?
Come see me with some drawings. I love to see those big flexible outlines.

Happy New Year


#6 Carte-lettre adressée a Mme Valadon-Moussis, 12 Rue Cortot

The postmark is not visible


Enfin je reponds, terrible Maria, a vos bons souhaits. C'est la grippe, c'est la bronchite etc. Etes-vous sur pied, de votre côté? Bonne annee et bons dessins que vous viendrez me montrer.
Dites-moi ce qu'on a fait du tableau. Si on y a touche, j'aimerais savoir ce qu'on lui aura fait.





Finally I respond, terrible Maria, to your good wishes. It's the flu, it's bronchitis etc. Are you on your feet? Happy New Year and good drawings that you will come and show me.
Tell me what you did with the painting. If you touched it, I'd like to know what you did to it.



(three more soon) 


Thursday, November 18, 2021

Two Terry Gross interviews with Paul McCartney, 20 years apart

The first interview is from 2001. McCartney mentions he had "people to talk to" in his "large supportive family." Compared to Lennon's "small range" and "strange upbringing" which "didn't help his emotional profile."

A few years ago I observed that "Eleanor Rigby" was a real feat of emotional imagination by McCartney. He sang about middle-aged loneliness as a pop star in his twenties who had an upbringing in a large supportive family. 

I learned something new about Lennon/McCartney in this interview - Lennon cleared the line "the Walrus was Paul" from "Glass Onion" with McCartney. 

McCartney loses his shit, just a little bit, talking about the fact that his wife and his mother both got  cancer, at minute 42:00 - "... echos... I tried not to notice." 

This second interview is very recent - November 3, 2021. Gross is now 70, McCartney is 79. Gross's voice is pretty much unchanged from the 2001 interview. McCartney's is noticeably different. 

McCartney says his best song is "Here, There and Everywhere" but I think "I've Just Seen a Face" is his supreme masterpiece. 

There's quite a bit of discussion about the new Peter Jackson film made from the "Let It Be" sessions outtakes. McCartney likes it because he felt that the original Let It Be made him look like the bad guy - and so much that he came to believe it. But, he says, the new footage "proves... that we loved each other."

The best part was when Terry asks him about being almost 80 and he says: "I'm twenty-five, actually..." which is the exact age I think I am, in my head. Also great - they share a laugh and I don't think I've ever heard McCartney just laugh out loud like that. At minute 33:45 ish. Good stuff.

Another Terry Gross Fresh Air goody - her tribute to the Colbert Report with excerpts from several interviews with Colbert.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Día de Muertos para un Gato

My Día de los Muertos altar for Mr. Fuzz, who died a week ago tomorrow.

One of the things you're supposed to have on the altar is food, and there's a plate of treats on the left. Mr. Fuzz loved cat treats, especially in the last months of his life. But the parlor palm is also there as food, since Mr. Fuzz loved to munch on palm leaves. He was a very nice man.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Good night, Mr. Fuzz

The doctor who recommended "humane euthanasia" said that is 106 in human years.

I got Mr. Fuzz & Miss Willow as kittens, around the same time. Miss Willow died two and a half years ago at age 15 and it was a little easier because she died in her sleep. I had to give the go-ahead to the vet to poison Mr. Fuzz. He had gone rapidly downhill after his birthday and the vet said he had probably had a stroke which is why his hind legs had become useless in the past few days. 

This morning he was listless, would not eat anything and broke my heart when he tried to get himself to his litter box by using his front legs, his hind ones dragging on the ground, the sound of his toenails scrapping the tile floor.

I knew it was coming. I had already had a couple of false alarms during the past week, when I thought he was dead. But it was still horrible when it happened, to see his furry little body, his lifeless head on that metal table, never to look at me, or pester me for treats or go for a walk or nibble on the plants or just be there when I came home, ever again. I cried for hours. I'm crying again as I write this.

If I wanted him to lie down on the pillow next to me while I was watching TV, I would pat the pillow and promise him I would say "he's a very nice man." He came to know that phrase, and it always got him to come and lie down. He would lie down on the pillow and I would pet him and say "he's a very nice maaaaaan... everybody loves him cause he's a very nice maaaaan..." until he got tired of it and decided to do something else.

In the killing room, right before the vet came in with the poison, I held him tight in his blanket and said to him over and over "he's a very nice man."

Good-night Mr. Fuzz, you were and always will be a very nice man.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Happy Birthday Mr. Fuzz!

Mr. Fuzz is 18 years young today!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Welcome to Autumn 2021: September 22 3:31 PM EDT


by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
        To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
        For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
    Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
        Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
    Steady thy laden head across a brook;
    Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
        Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
    Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
    And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
    Among the river sallows, borne aloft
       Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
    Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
    The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
        And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Advertisement by Erik Satie

This appeared in the November 24, 1888 edition of the weekly publication Le Chat Noir.

Vient de paraître 66, boulevard Magenta, la 3e gymnopédie, par Erik Satie. On ne saurait assez recommander au public musical cette œuvre essentiellement artistique, qui passe, à juste titre, pour l'une des plus belles du siècle qui a vu naître ce malheureux monsieur.


Just published 66, boulevard Magenta, la 3e gymnopédie, by Erik Satie. We cannot recommend enough to the musical public this essentially artistic work, which passes, rightly, for one of the most beautiful of the century which saw the birth of this unfortunate man.

The page it comes from - it's in the bottom-right corner.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

In memory of Earl Rich

I finally got around to donating to the Cousteau Society

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Photo shared on Facebook

Paul McCartney's Facebook account shared this photo, taken by Linda in 1969. 

Such a beautiful man. Oof.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

McCartney 3, 2, 1

Of course I had to watch the Hulu documentary McCartney 3,2,1. One of the great aspects of the show is that it reveals how much the Beatles were influence by Black American musicians.

I won't deny though that I was bitterly disappointed they didn't talk about McCartney's most perfect masterpiece, in my opinion, "I've Just Seen a Face."

This YouTuber covers it. But it's not the same. 

And such a beautiful man. Oof.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Haiku: Seen from an Island


Almost silent, the

Long boat passes by slowly,

Almost unnoticed.

It's been a long time since I wrote a real haiku.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Friday, June 04, 2021

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Just when I think I've heard it all from the Beatles

I was recently playing a bunch of 1960s music and while listening to "A World Without Love" I recalled that this was a Lennon/McCartney tune, although to be strictly accurate, it was written by McCartney alone, when he was 16. 

You can really tell it's a song by McCartney because of the emphasis on loneliness. I've mentioned before that McCartney has a definite phobia about loneliness, such that he was able to write "Eleanor Rigby" while living the life of the least voluntarily lonely human being possible: a 24-year-old beloved international pop music star.

I wondered if the Beatles had ever recorded the song and while searching for the answer (no) found a Rolling Stone article that mentioned that Peter Asher, a member of the duo Peter and Gordon, who did record it, had a recording of McCartney playing it for him. Asher was the brother of McCartney's then-girlfriend, Jane Asher.

It was then but a quick trip to YouTube land and voila, here is the recording. 

You have to love Lennon, again, and his smart-aleck response to the opening lyric "please lock me away":
'Yes, okay.' End of song.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Central Park in Spring

This is at Conservatory Water in Central Park - no model boat sailing yet though.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The NYTimes discovers hipsters

While doing some research in the NYTimes archives online I came across this New York Times Magazine article from August 1957: For Cool Cats and Far-Out Chicks - Here is a lexicon for do-it-yourself hipsters of the newest jazz slang. Don't be an oofus, man. Just dig it!

I knew the term hipster had been around long before the Brooklyn scene, but I was surprised to see the term "hippy" in this lexicon, ten years before the Summer of Love. Other terms still around that are mentioned in the article include "gig", "the scene", "far out", "something else" and "hanging out."

But alas, gone by the wayside are "out sack" for an attractive dress; "go-it-all" for a car; and "the snake" for the subway. Meanwhile "oofus" has apparently transformed into "doofus" and the terms "bear" and "blow" have different primary meanings in most hipster social scenes these days.

Jazz slang would be Black slang but I notice the cartoon illustrations all portray white people, which I guess is what you can expect from 1957.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Jeffrey Epstein and the Marquis de Sade

Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's alleged procurer, is in the news lately. I came across this article in the Guardian making the case that Maxwell is not an outlier, but rather typical of the world of wealthy elites who get away with crimes thanks to their privilege.

...there’s still a good chance Maxwell will evade punishment. Epstein himself originally got what was essentially a slap on the wrist after abusing scores of girls, because he was rich and influential and the quality of a person’s defense representation depends on how much money they have. (One way to make the punishment system more egalitarian would be to ban private counsel, so that everyone had to to use the public defender’s office.)

Maxwell has already been able to evade the law for much longer than anyone with less wealth and fewer social connections. But whether she ultimately walks or not, let us be careful not to focus excessively on Maxwell’s individual pathologies. We must also understand the social and economic milieu that made her alleged actions possible.

It reminded me of the Marquis de Sade who got away with multiple rapes, abductions and pedophilia before the law caught up with him. He got away with his crimes for so long because he was an aristocrat, and most of his victims were the working class - servants and prostitutes. Of course he wasn't alone among the aristocracy in abusing the non-elites, he was just more extreme than most, probably he was a certifiable psychopath. But luckily for his historical legacy he also wrote about rape, pedophilia. etc. which made him a hero to some, especially in France.

In the 1990s, American playwright Doug Wright decided that it would be cool to portray de Sade as a hero of free speech, so he wrote QUILLS which was later made into a movie. 

It would be like someone deciding, 200 years from now, to write a play portraying Jeffrey Epstein as a hero. Somebody probably will, if it turns out that Epstein has written a fictionalized version of his crimes and thus qualifying him as an above-bourgeois-morality Great Man of the Arts.

Sunday, March 28, 2021


Here is Mr. Fuzz during our first spring on West 85th Street. Look at the green elm tree and the ivy, so beautiful. Both destroyed by my neighbors.

In other seasonal news, Sprinter finally arrived yesterday, even though we already had some 60 - 70 degree weather. Sprinter is very late this year thanks to it being unusually cold this winter especially in late February - early March. But as I was walking around Astoria yesterday there was suddenly the exact confluence of temperature and the scent of burning wood necessary for it to really be Sprinter.

Mr. Fuzz is 17 and a half now. He has some health issues but he's hanging in there!

Friday, March 19, 2021

The Randy Disher Podcast

One of the funniest recurring bits on the TV show Monk - which I have mentioned I adore - is when the young police officer Randy Disher talks about - and even performs with - his garage band "The Randy Disher Project."

The last episode of Monk aired in 2009 but the world of Monk has recently be revived, ever-so-briefly, in the first months of the Covid-19 quarantine in the video spot Monk in Quarantine. Jason Gray-Stanford who played Randy Disher appeared on Monk in Quarantine along with Tony Shaloub, Ted Levine and Traylor Howard. 

And now Gray-Stanford is hosting The Randy Disher Podcast which features the Randy Disher Project's theme song "Don't Need a Badge." The Project made a video which was partially shown on Monk episodes but the whole thing is available on YouTube.

I don't normally get so deep into fandom for a TV show. Almost every guy I've had a serious relationship with has been big into Star Trek and while I supported them I could never get into it myself. Now I get it.

The Monk writers had fun with extreme fandom when they created a character, Marci Maven, played by Sarah Silverman.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

I got no tears on my ice cream but you know me, I love pretending

This woman had a really strong positive reaction to what is probably my favorite pretenders song "Mystery Achievement." I really enjoyed watching her loving this song.


 I have never been much of a concert-goer but I'm proud to say I saw them before half the original line-up (Peter Farndon, James Honeyman Scott) died from drug overdoses.

Unfortunately there's only one video I could find of the original lineup doing "Mystery Achievement."

Whenever I smell a leather jacket I think of the Pretenders. They wore leather, the audience wore leather. Everybody in leather.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Good-bye West 85th Street

Five years ago I was so happy with my new apartment on West 85th Street. It was an improvement in many ways over my previous apartment in Astoria, but the biggest benefit was the large elm tree growing at the far end of the deck belonging to apartment 1B, one floor below me. My first view of the tree in daylight was during a light snow and I saw bluejays hopping among its branches. It was so unexpectedly beautiful and charming and I felt very lucky to have found that apartment.

Windows filled the back wall of my apartment and the elm tree filled the windows and even in the winter provided some privacy from the large 86th Street apartment building's back wall full of apartment windows. In the summer it was glorious and shady and green and provided almost total privacy.

It was quite a tall tree, about five stories, so it must have been there for decades, certainly before the deck, which had been built around the tree.

In addition to the elm tree there was the two-story tall pine tree in the yard of the ground-floor apartment, B; and the ivy climbing all over the apartment building wall, and which framed my bedroom window.

So the pine tree, elm tree and and ivy must have been growing for years before I moved there. But one by one they were taken away, in less than five years.

The first to go was the pine tree which can be seen in this photo, to the right of the elm tree.

A nice older couple had lived in apartment B for decades and the first year I was in my apartment they moved away. I know they were nice because they threw a party for everybody in the building in the summer, just before they moved out. Oddly, only people from the B line came to the party. There are two "lines" in the building, the A line, whose apartments all face 85th Street and the B line, with back-facing apartments.

A young couple moved into apartment B right after the older couple left and almost immediately they chopped down the pine tree. And they didn't even stay around long to enjoy their atrocity, they moved out a few years later. But they had done their duty to make my apartment worse.

Next to go was the ivy. The woman above me in 3B nagged the building handyman until he killed all the ivy. She had been in the building for years and years and the ivy had also been there for a long time, but somehow when I was living there it had to go.

And the handyman didn't take the dead plants out after he killed them, he just left them there to rot, so that instead of living green ivy leaves around my bedroom window, it was dead rotting black leaves which caused me to have allergy symptoms. This same woman also nagged the handyman to prevent him from turning the heat on in the beginning of the autumn heating season every year because it made her apartment hot. She didn't care how that affected anybody else. My apartment was freezing. 

But worst of all was when the creeps, Michael and Joe, who lived in apartment 1B, killed the elm tree. I heard second-hand they claimed they had to kill the tree because it was sick or some such bullshit - but it looked fine to me, and after I had my own separate run-in with those assholes I believe it was a lie invented because they wanted a sunny deck instead of a shady one. So instead of a big old elm tree, during the last summer I got to look at two chubby middle-aged men doing yoga.

But the assholes in 1B were not done making my life miserable. They killed the tree in December 2019. In February 2020, I arrived home one night after work. It was around 6PM. I did the usual home-from-work things: I changed, I fed my cat, I started dinner. Then I heard a banging sound coming from the floor of my living room like someone was hitting it. I ignored it because I hadn't been making unusually loud noises and it was 6 o'clock in the very early evening. It wasn't possible somebody would bang to complain about the noise. So I thought.

I had already been living in my apartment for four years when this incident occurred, and 1B had never complained about my noise in all the time, except for the one incident when I broke a glass in the late evening and ran the vacuum cleaner so my cat wouldn't step in glass shards. It literally took me 30 seconds to vacuum and I was finished before Joe ran up the stairs to bang on the door and tell me to stop.

But in spite of 1B having almost no complaint about my noise for four years, they had been banging at me in February 2020 because the next day after work I found a nasty note from them telling me I made too much noise. My habits had not changed in 4 years, but they suddenly decided I was too noisy.

And since I couldn't stop walking in my apartment, there was nothing I could do about their sudden tetchiness and so I ignored them. I didn't have much of a connection to them anyway and an incident at the B line party that first summer, the one thrown by the nice older couple, had already revealed how vicious Michael was: I was making conversation during the party, as one does, and I asked him about his business making women's dresses. He responded: "you couldn't afford them." I was stunned by this completely unwarranted, aggressive nastiness. I thought about retorting "I wouldn't want to buy them" because I had seen his web site and thought his work was tacky and that you couldn't pay me to wear his Sunset Boulevard garbage, but there was no point in making the party even more unpleasant, so I let it pass. But I certainly never forgot how weirdly, emotionally inappropriate Michael the ladies dress-maker was.

Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up

In spite of that I was still shocked by what happened in April 2020. Since February, the creeps had only occasionally banged at me while I went about the normal business of living, when suddenly, on April 10, Michael had a complete melt-down. At around 4PM in the afternoon I was assembling some furniture in my living room. I gently placed a piece of wood on the floor. This caused Michael to start screaming and banging. I couldn't believe his over-reaction and I screamed back that he was over-sensitive to noise. So he came storming up the stairs and proceeded to stand outside my door screaming threats at me. Then he ran down the stairs and slammed the door to his own apartment.

My neighbor across the hall heard the whole thing and texted me to ask what happened. I still have that exchange:

It really was crazy. A little bit later I had an email exchange with Michael in which he admitted that my behavior had not changed but rather he had become more sensitive to it. 

The creeps in 1B continued to bang at me for the next months, although they were much quieter during the summer. I thought maybe the new large rugs I had bought for my living room and bedroom helped. So in spite of the loss of the elm tree, and the nastiness from 1B I thought I might stay in my apartment.

Then came the autumn and Michael came up with a new tactic - in addition to banging on his ceiling when I had the temerity to vacuum my living room rug at 4PM on a Sunday afternoon, he started to randomly bang loudly on his ceiling under my bed in the middle of the night,  or early in the morning,  which caused me to wake up and then I couldn't get back to sleep. I started to have insomnia and that started to impact my job.

So that tells you how petty and vindictive and emotionally unstable this man is - he would be mad at me for making noise in my apartment and then wait to retaliate in the middle of the night or in the early morning.

Finally I decided to catch him at it. I bought an app for my iPad that detects snoring, but it also detects other noises and I managed to record him doing this late-night/early morning banging twice. I sent Michael the recordings via Facebook Messenger. Here is one of our exchanges:

It took him a minute to remember to claim he had no idea what I was talking about. 

I then had an email exchange with Joe, who threatened me with his lawyer. I mentioned I had plenty of documentation of Michael's activities and asked Joe to send me his lawyer's contact information.

He never responded.

Now this unreasonable hatefulness from the two creeps in 1B would have been plenty to convince me it was time to get the hell out of Dodge, but the icing on the shit cake was that an outdoor workshop was set up in early autumn in the back of the apartment on 86th street across from my back-facing window. This plein-air atelier sometimes produced god-awful grinding noises in the middle of the day, while I was working from home in my apartment. So not only did I no longer have the tree, I had an industrial workshop to look at and hear.

You can see the apparently permanent shed they set up, in the photo below. Also please note the black dead ivy vines on the left. And the snow-covered stump of the murdered elm tree.

In early 2021 some people moved into the building next door and they like to have noisy parties until 4AM in the middle of the working week. And this was during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the creeps in 1B started to have indoor/outdoor parties, also during the pandemic. Once the pandemic is over, I shudder to think of the noise coming at my old apartment from three sides. I'm so glad I won't be there to hear it.

This is the view from my new apartment. That's the East River on the left. And those are lots of trees.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Adam Neely

I recently discovered Adam Neely, the humorous music theory guru. Two recent videos of his I've really enjoyed:

Sea Shanties

Lady Gaga's performance of The Star-Spangled Banner at the Biden inauguration.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Brava The Financial Diet - well done

This woman may well be the heir to Paul Krugman. Really good work here.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Think for yourself recording chatter

How did I not know about this until today?


And if you're wondering if anybody has every produced a transcript... why yes, yes they have.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Still learning new factoids about the Beatles

A Salon article from this year: afternoon, when Lennon heard a familiar voice crackling over the car radio. "F*ck a pig! It's Paul!" he exclaimed. And sure enough, it was "Coming Up," McCartney's latest single. To Lennon's ears, it was simply infectious. Indeed, while he had tended to dismiss much of Paul's recent work as empty-headed instances of bubblegum pop, this new tune had truly caught his imagination.


For Lennon, hearing "Coming Up" that afternoon in the station wagon had a revelatory effect on him. "I thought that 'Coming Up' was great," he remarked later that year. "And I like the freak version that he made in his barn better than that live Glasgow one," adding that "if I'd have been with him, I'd have said, 'That's the one to do.'"

This is apparently the "freak version."


Wednesday, December 09, 2020

RIP John Lennon

He died at age 40.
He would have been 80 today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Beatles music theory

They asked George to join because he knew the most chords.

This blog is rapidly changing from one that addresses a variety of subjects I'm interested in, plus personal anecdotes, into a Beatles blog.

Oh well, there are worse things to turn into,

Anyhoo, I found this discussion fascinating.


Saturday, November 07, 2020

Thursday, October 29, 2020

B-52s & Yoko Ono

I didn't realize that 

2. Yoko Ono performed with the B-52s in 2002. 

But here it is! Only the audio, unfortunately - Ono enters at about minute 2:30.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Lennon & McCartney - utterly charming

"wow, this is an interesting-looking guy"
I admit I avoided listening to this interview of Paul McCartney by Sean Ono Lennon that I saw floating around YouTube land because I've been extremely disappointed by Ono Lennon's ongoing support for the race-baiting creeps of the Intellectual Dark Web.

This is a truncated version below. The full version is available at the BBC


But I finally couldn't resist. I have written about McCartney's unusually considerate behavior for a 1960s rock and roll star - which is most noticeable in his kindness to children and especially his relationship with Julian Lennon. How weird to be Julian Lennon, knowing that two of the greatest Beatles songs of all time - Lennon's Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and McCartney's Hey Jude were inspired by him.   

So I was too curious about McCartney's relationship with Lennon's other son to resist listening to this interview for long.

And it is utterly charming. The interview kicks off with a new piece of info about the Lennon/McCartney partnership - McCartney mentions that he saw Lennon around the neighborhood a couple of times prior to meeting him at the Woolton Fete and said to himself: "wow, this is an interesting-looking guy" 

And if that isn't enough, towards the end McCartney sings and plays guitar to demonstrate for Sean one of his early bad songs "Just Fun" and I imagine that's a world premier.

It's utterly charming. 



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Autumn begins: today at 9:31 AM

Happy Autumn!

Welcome to the shortest season of the year. Not technically but it always feels like it. Part of why autumn is so great is of course because it comes directly after the worst season, especially in NYC, summer.

Psychology Today: Three Ways Autumn Promotes a Happier Frame of Mind

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Karen's quirky narcissism, or good riddance Bloomberg Karen

I've worked with several people who live to sabotage their coworkers, over the course of my career, but in the past year I've worked with a woman who was the worst of all and on top of that she was the living embodiment of the Karen meme.

And her name is actually Karen.

I was forced to work with this woman as part of a three-person team, but unfortunately she didn't understand what it meant to be a member of a team. She would demand that the other two of us obey her arbitrary commands and if we did not, she would run to our manager to complain.

Within the first weeks of being forced to work with her (remotely thanks to Covid 19) she was asking to speak to the manager. The first time it wasn't about me, it was about someone else who had declined to do her bidding on command, but I rightly anticipated she would eventually find an excuse to snitch on me.

She seemed completely incapable of understanding how human social behavior works. She would reprimand coworkers one minute and then suggest we have a virtual cocktail party the next. The other team member and I did not want to associate with her in our free time, but suspected if we didn't she would find an excuse to retaliate. 

She revealed her true character at one of these virtual cocktail parties, complaining about a homeless man, and telling us she wanted the police to turn a hose on him.

And on top of everything else she was the most narcissistic person I have ever met. She touted herself as a model and used to give the rest of us regular reports on her latest outfit for her latest photoshoot, which nobody wanted to see. Her personal web site is full of images of herself. 

Although unlike the quintessential Karen "can I speak to a manager" haircut, this Karen's hairstyle is a mullet. A florescent red mullet. She seems to think this is quite attractive.

I was watching old reruns of M*A*S*H recently and I was struck by how much her character is like that of Frank Burns, who was constantly barking orders at coworkers and snitching on them when he didn't get his way. Although at least Burns had a higher rank than those he wanted to boss around. Karen was a co-worker who only thought she outranked us.

And the worst part was that she really believed herself to be superior to the two of us. She once barked at me "I'm not your mother!" and it took me awhile to realize what that bizarre statement meant: she actually thought I was asking her for help rather than questioning her approach, on a death-march project.

She made my life absolutely miserable and so I found a new job. 

My life is much better now.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


I know two people who know Tony Shalhoub ("Monk.") When am I going to meet him?

OK to be fair, I don't exactly know Itamar Moses, we are just Facebook friends. Here is a photo he posted recently, that's Shalhoub second row from the top on the left.

I don't only love Shalhoub for his portrayal of Adrian Monk, although every time I watch another episode of Monk (I am rewatching the entire series one episode per day right now) I admire his acting work even more. 

But I also caught him on Tig Notaro's show and I thought he was completely charming.

Monday, September 14, 2020

You should give the thing back, Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall, pioneering
the use of conjoined twins in children's
book illustrations
If the election of Donald Trump isn't enough to convince you we do NOT live in a meritocracy, consider that one of the worst professional illustrators of all time, Sophie Blackall, apparently won the Caldecott Medal for a second time.

From seven thousand miles away I heard the crackling committee and the word medal, and the first thing out of my mouth was…
Oh no. No. No.
Followed by, Are you sure about this?
I hate to tell you, but I tried to give the thing back.

As the news of this second Caldecott sank in, I kept thinking, No one deserves this much good fortune. And then I remembered how I felt when my second child, Eggy, was born. I didn’t, for a minute, offer to give my son back. His arrival was every bit as miraculous and joyful and distinct as it had been with my first child, Olive.
I was surprised to learn she had children. I guess I had unconsciously formed the impression that she hated children. But the ultimate consumers of her work don't have much artistic discernment and are unlikely to complain about her bad work, and most adults don't read or care about children's picture books. This is why she's gotten away with her career of artistic abominations. That and a Caldecott Award committee full of cretins.

Here is a list of the tasteless, asthetically-challenged oafs:

Members of the 2019 Caldecott Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Mary Fellows, Upper Hudson Library System, Albany, N.Y. ; Farouqua Abuzeit, Boston (Mass.) Public Library; Heather Acerro, Rochester (Minn.) Public Library; Tom Bober, School District of Clayton, Mo.; Megan Alleyn Egbert, Meridian (Idaho) Library District; Lucia Martinez Gonzalez, North Miami (Fla.) Public Library; Dr. Darwin L. Henderson, Cincinnati, Ohio; Shannon Horrocks, Sno-Isle Libraries, Snohomish, Wash.;  Dr. Jonda C. McNair, Clemson (S.C.) University; Dr. Ruth E. Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, Ill.; Chinasa Izeogu Seyse, Schenectady (N.Y.) County Public Library; Amanda Struckmeyer, Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (Wisc.); Marilyn J. Taniguchi, Beverly Hills (Calif.) Public Library; Gwen Vanderhage, Brodart Co., Williamsport, Pa.; and Caroline Ward, Cos Cob, Conn.

As with the 2016 award, the  2019 runners-up to Blackall's work - the hideous Hello Lighthouse displaying again Blackall's complete unfamiliarity with the concept of perspective but she keeps trying it anyway - are so far superior to Blackall it is heartbreaking. How frustrating it must be for talented artists to be runners-up to such a sub-mediocrity.

Blackall writes: "no one deserves this much good fortune." Certainly nobody with as little drawing talent as Blackall deserves to win one of the highest honors in illustration. Twice.

I am so thankful I decided not to become an illustrator as I had planned back in art school. I would be losing my freaking mind at this miscarriage of justice.

I just hope she sticks with illustrating books for children so that I may avoid seeing her work. It's bad enough I have to be reminded of it every couple of years. 

If, god forbid, she is commissioned to do another piece of public art where blameless adults are forced to stare at her awfulness, as I was back in 2012 when I first became aware of Blackall, I will file a formal complaint on behalf of the citizens of New York City.

She is apparently so proud of her subway art monstrosity it's the first thing you see when you go to her web site.

According to the web site for the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, we can blame the New York Times for inflicting Sophie Blackall on New Yorkers.
In 2000, Blackall was inveigled by New York. She convinced her husband, and two small children (who couldn’t talk and had no say in the matter), to pack suitcases and sense of adventure and join the diaspora. After two months of pounding the streets, portfolio in hand, and despite the tireless efforts of her agent, the return plane ticket was cashed in to pay the rent. Just when the highlight in the day had become half a can of Budweiser at six o’clock, the fax machine coughed and spluttered and delivered a commission of nine illustrations for The New York Times.
But at least someone else has noticed how awful Blackall is at perspective.
Sophie Blackall grew up in Australia where she learned to draw on the beach with sticks, which has not altogether helped her sense of perspective. She completed a Bachelor of Design in Sydney, which furnished her with useful Letraset, bromide and enlarger machine skills. The following few years were spent painting robotic characters for theme parks, providing the hands for a DIY television show, and writing a household hints column. 
She's also bad at composition and anatomy.

I can see how painting robotic characters for theme parks also influenced her style because she can barely express human emotions and her people's faces look the same.

The standard Blackall face. Almost no differentiation between character or gender.

And one more thing.

The waves in this image - from her award winning (gah!) picture book - the waves are very stylized - so stylized you'd barely know they were waves except for the context. That's not a bad thing in itself. Except that the clouds are rendered in a realistic way.

It's choices like that which make Sophie Blackall's work look so amateurish.

But I guess trying to explain to the Caldecott committee why she is incompetent would have about as much impact as arguing with a Trump supporter over his incompetence.

They just don't care.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Memories of drug busts past

I always wondered if the big Palmyra drug bust of 1978 ended up in the newspaper, and thanks to my subscription to I discovered that yes, it did.

This is from the August 19, 1978 edition of the Camden County Courier Post. I had no idea my ex-husband (who they misnamed "Howard") and our friend Matt ("Edward") were charged with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" of the 17-year-old Pennsauken female (me.)

The "controlled dangerous substance" was various experiments Matt, a budding botanist, was performing with seeds from morning glory plants. If he had any intent to distribute he never told me about it. 

I was impressed to see that the arrests were the result of a "month-long investigation."

The best part of the story is the photo that came with it, of the results of the arrest.

A few beakers and some sickly-looking marijuana plants. Not exactly breaking bad.

One more error in the article - I wasn't released to my parents, I was released to my in-laws, since my parents were vacationing in the mountains - they almost never went anywhere - and I had no way to contact them. 

I also never heard about "action by the county juvenile court." My entire personal experience with the law was being taken to the Palmyra jail, almost directly across the street from our apartment, cavity searched (I do not recommend it) and then allowed to call my in-laws who picked me up.

Matt and "Howard" were in county jail for a few days and then their lawyers pled down the charges in court and they didn't have to serve any prison time. According to my mother, who happened to meet her one day, Matt's mother blamed my ex-husband for everything. Not that my ex-husband wasn't a dummy, but he wasn't the one responsible for all the "controlled and dangerous substance."

Matt's attempt to extract some kind of psychedelic substance from morning glory seeds (I think he got the idea from "The Anarchist's Cookbook") was a bust for the bust - his laboratory, such as it was, had been up in the hot un-air conditioned attic of the apartment and any success he may have had with his pharmacological experiments was destroyed in the heat, which  left the Palmyra police with little but a few marijuana plants to show for their trouble. 

Apparently it was a big week for the South Jersey police - ours was one of four raids according to the Jersey P.M. Report.