July 2017

That was a good month of posts on Helytimes, if you’re one of those folks who likes poking around in the archives.

Bob Marley, John Adams, Bert Hölldobler, Deke Slayton, Amban, Ansel Adams.

Also feel I did fine work in July 2014.

Playing It Down

E. B. White in the Paris Review.  Thurber:


Does the fact that you’re dealing with humor slow down the production?


It’s possible. With humor you have to look out for traps. You’re likely to be very gleeful with what you’ve first put down, and you think it’s fine, very funny. One reason you go over and over it is to make the piece sound less as if you were having a lot of fun with it yourself. You try to play it down. In fact, if there’s such a thing as a New Yorker style, that would be it—playing it down.

Shake Shack fries

The fries at Shake Shack are what I hoped Micro Magic fries would taste like, in my boyhood:

Anybody ever eat things?  The packaging was attractive.  They fooled me quite a few times.

Perhaps they failed in attempting to live up to an idea of a “fry.”  A fry is firm, and Micro Magic just couldn’t get there.  But they were making a salty mushed potato product that might’ve been attractive on its own terms.

A taxonomy error, perhaps.

Google led me to that image of Micro Magic fries on the website of New Adult Contemporary Romance author Jennifer Friess (don’t know if it’s a coincidence that her name is fries)

There was really a period there where the expectations put on the microwave were insane.  Supermarkets were full of hallucinatory projections of what was gonna come out of the microwave.


Quite reasonable

Mark Bittman in Grub Street’s omnibus interview.


Merrick Garland

The optics were never exactly right with this guy.

(Found this picture screensaved, and can’t even find where it’s from.  Google thinks it’s the generic picture for “tuxedo.”)

The word amid

In attempts to make narratives out of the movements of a stock’s price on a given day, the word “amid” does a lot of work.

Other articles at different places cited the Trump administration’s confused policies towards Chinese investment in tech as “stoking investor fears.”

That’s another phrase you come across a lot.

“Making investors jittery.”  “Market jitters amid fears of…”

I’m struggling to decide whether, when we talk about why a stock or the stock market does something, we’re all that much different than those ancient diviners who pored over sheep entrails for clues to the future.

Jastrow on Wikipedia did the service of taking this photo of Akkadian liver models at the Louvre (of Jay Z and Beyonce fame)

In the popular business press, the explanations given for stock price movement are so often oversimplified or misleading. The gun stocks fallacy an insidious case.

‘Twas ever thus I guess.  “Amid” is a safe choice if the real answer is “who can say why it went up or down?”

I here perceive a bias towards narrative in a world that’s absurd and often ridiculous.

Reminded of E. M. Forster in Aspects Of The Novel.

Let us define a plot. We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. “The king died and then the queen died” is a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot.

Amid is a word that lets you muddy up the distinction between story and plot.

The valkyrie of the piano

was listening to KUSC the other day, and they said Venezuelan Teresa Carreño’s nickname was “the valkyrie of the piano.”  What a nickname.  Some of her compositions: