The British first

Looking at my post yesterday about Robert Lowell’s book, Imitations, I commented that the first edition of that book was for sale for $35. Larry looked at the picture and said, “That must be the British first edition.” I checked the source, and it was. “How did you know that?” I wanted to know. Continue reading “The British first”

Bad science and xenophobia

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer: Photographed on Friday, July 8, 2011 for Eat & Run...No Chinese buffet would be complete with the standby, Vegetable Lo Mein, seen here at Asia Restaurant in South Portland.
Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer: Photographed on Friday, July 8, 2011 for Eat & Run…No Chinese buffet would be complete with the standby, Vegetable Lo Mein, seen here at Asia Restaurant in South Portland.

This morning over breakfast Larry told me he had been reading Five Thirty Eight, Nate Silver’s blog, and that the whole “MSG is bad for you” story is a myth, based on flawed science.  Apparently, the negative effects only occurred when subjects were told they were eating MSG, and weren’t reproducible in blind tests.

Meanwhile, I was reading the latest issue of Poetry, a mostly depressing start to the morning, and picked up the pepper shaker absently, meaning to put some on my egg, but distracted.

“Are you planning to use that as a chess piece?” Larry asked.

Startled out of my reverie, I handed it to him.

Larry likes this better

casinoApparently, Larry hated yesterday’s poem. So I thought I’d post this little anecdote he told me to balance the scales. It’s about Steve Wynn, a big investor in casinos in the US, Macao and Hong Kong–a casino magnate in fact. He was asked in an interview how he got into the casino business. His answer was something like this:

“The first time I went to Las Vegas, I saw this gigantic room. At one end was a door. People came through that door with their money, and hours later they went back out without it. I thought, ‘What a wonderful business!’.”

One antidote to terrorism: humor

My friend Tung and I ofter call ourselves “colander heads,” as in “my brain is a sieve.” Here’s a woman who has taken colander headism one step further. You can read the article here (of course Larry found it), or in case it’s gone, see below:

“Massachusetts woman wins fight to wear colander in drivers license by citing ‘pastafarian’ religion


Some states ban smiling in driver’s license photos, but wearing a colander on one’s head is apparently allowed.

A Massachusetts woman this week won the right to wear a colander on her head in her driver’s license photo after citing religious reasons. Lindsay Miller identifies as a “Pastafarian” and member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which some critics call a parody religion.

She tried to wear the kitchen utensil in her driver’s license photo this year but the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles denied her request. However, after intervention by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center the RMV recently reversed its stance.

Ms. Miller said she was delighted that the agency allowed her to don a colander for her driver’s license, which was issued Thursday.

“While I don’t think the government can involve itself in matters of religion, I do hope this decision encourages my fellow Pastafarian Atheists to come out and express themselves as I have,”Ms. Millar said.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster spawned out of a letter that Oregon State University graduate Bobby Henderson penned to the Kansas State Board of Education in 2005. He wrote to protest the board’s decision to permit the teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes, suggesting that students should “hear multiple viewpoints” of how the universe came to be, including the idea that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created it.”

You can’t make this stuff up! Anyone up for joining the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? First religion I’ve been interested in since I received my ministry with the Universal Life Church.


A little more on Creeley

creeleyLast night Larry said he had forgotten Creeley’s rain poem, and how much he loved it. I was surprised, because Larry has often said he thought Creeley was mostly a faker.

“Well,” he explained, “The early work was great. But then he just kept writing. And the cult of Creeley was obnoxious. One of his devotees once told me in all seriousness that ‘One day he will write the perfect poem, and it will be one word.’ A direct quote.”

I heard Creeley read in the late 60s at Harvard. He wore an eye patch and a beret and was a true showman–maybe a bit of a faker, but the poems were powerful. Perhaps he suffered from his fame, trying to imitate himself in his later work. I’m not well-read enough to say.

Dorothy Parker

parkerShe was famous for her wit, and her boss at the New Yorker, Harold Ross, was famous for his penury.  Larry read me a quip Parker made when Ross was berating her  because one of her assignments was late:

“I’m sorry,” Parker said, “But someone else was using the pencil.”

Phil Woods

Optimized.philwoodIt seems to me I first heard of Phil Woods while in college. Now he’s gone, and Larry read me portions of his obituary over breakfast yesterday. According to Larry, who has seen him in person, he was a great story teller.

A story Larry told me was that Phil was playing his first paid gig at a burlesque show and at the break he felt there was something wrong with his saxophone, he wasn’t getting the sound he wanted–the mouthpiece wasn’t right, or the reed was too hard, or the action of keys wasn’t quite right. Continue reading “Phil Woods”

Who designed that sign?

frutigerWhile I was gone, Larry saved a couple of obituaries for me. My favorite was for a man I’d never heard of, Adrian Frutiger. If you’ve ever followed an airport sign at JFK or Charles deGaulle Airports, used the Paris Metro or the London Underground, you’ve seen his exceptionally readable Univers or Frutiger fonts.

Born in Switzerland, he developed more than 40 unique typefaces, including the one at the bottom of checks that can be read by both people and machines. He focused on making the type itself inconspicuous, and his innovation was the square dot over the i in signage fonts, which made it more readable at a distance.fruit 1450

Here’s a quote: Continue reading “Who designed that sign?”

All Star Larry

hall.of.fameLast week was a big week for Larry in his softball career in the Creaker league.  He was inducted into the Creaker Hall of Fame (based on his contributions to the organization), and he was named to the 2015 All Star Team (based on ability).  In his acceptance speech for the former, he noted that he’d been practicing his speech since he was 10 or 12 years old, though he thought it would be given a lot earlier, at Cooperstown. Continue reading “All Star Larry”

Dual Mandate

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 10.35As a graduate of the Father Guido Sarducci’s 5-minute University, I was really happy that Larry introduced me to the issue of the Fed’s dual mandate in a way I could understand. Greg Mankiw, a Harvard Professor of Economics, has created a video to explain the thorny problem for our Federal Reserve, initially created to keep our currency stable and control inflation. Now, the additional mandate of keeping unemployment low has been added, and Greg explains this in a delightful country western song. Now I’m up to speed on current economics.


King Larry of Raffertitti

Optimized-Sonoma FogLarry’s over-60 softball league, the Creakers, posts write-ups for some of the games. Here is Larry’s from last week, with his well-deserved sobriquet:

“The Creaker Gold erupted in the top of six ….marching players to the mat and scoring runs with nearly every hit, including a second monstrous three-run homer by King Larry of Raffertitti that was nearly identical to one he had hit in his prior at bat. They both soared high and deep and parted the left center and right center fielders like Moses parted the Seas…..the two outfielders showed their numbers for a long time as they raced to the recess of center field and by use of about three relays got the ball back into the infield well after the Gold trio was doing high fives on their way back to the visitor’s dugout. ” Continue reading “King Larry of Raffertitti”

Theft and recovery

Larry battingOn Tuesday, Larry went to his softball game where his team discovered that someone had used a bolt cutter to break open the equipment shed and stolen the defibrillator and first aid kit. An odd theft.

The Creaker League has a defibrillator at each field, and will now have to store them in one spot, and gather them before each game. Continue reading “Theft and recovery”