Thursday, November 30, 2006

Word of the day: Popinjay

A recent post on the blog Wonkette described Christopher Hitchens as a "drink-soaked popinjay." What on earth is a popinjay?

Merriam-Webster says it's a "a strutting supercilious person."

On the website World Wide Words, British writer Micheal Quinion says a popinjay is "A vain or conceited person, one given to pretentious displays."He continues:
This deeply insulting word is now rather dated or literary. A good example can be found in Joseph Conrad's short story "The End of the Tether" of 1902: "When he looked around in the club he saw only a lot of conceited popinjays too selfish to think of making a good woman happy".
The Best Western Popinjay Hotel in Scotland prefers a different meaning:
The Popinjay takes its name from an imaginary bird connected with 17th century May Day celebrations in the area and described by Sir Walter Scott in his book 'Old Morality.'
Most etymologies point to various words meaning parrot, like the Arabic babagha and the Middle English papejay.

As it turns out, the popinjay insult leveled at Hitchens didn't start with Wonkette -- it was "Gorgeous" George Galloway, the left-of-labour British MP from Scotland. Galloway, a stylish strutter himself, was appearing before a U.S. Senate sub-committee chaired by a cowering Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. But Gorgeous George had words for Hitchens before the main event. From the U.K. Guardian, a blow-by-blow:
Before the hearing began, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow even had some scorn left over to bestow generously upon the pro-war writer Christopher Hitchens. "You're a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay," Mr Galloway in formed him. "Your hands are shaking. You badly need another drink," he added later, ignoring Mr Hitchens's questions and staring intently ahead. "And you're a drink-soaked ..." Eventually Mr Hitchens gave up. "You're a real thug, aren't you?" he hissed, stalking away.
That was back in early 2005. For the record, Hitchens is from the U.K. too, and he was an outspoken lefty till a certain day in 2001, after which he has been rather neo-con-ish.

Shortly after hearing, Hitchens wrote about Galloway's remarks in the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, pointing out that on the one hand, Galloway is known for his expensive tastes, but on the other hand, "Galloway says that the worst day of his entire life was the day the Soviet Union fell. His existence since that dreadful event has involved the pathetic search for an alternative fatherland." A perfect pretentious display from our little popinjay.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cy Twombly's Moving Doodles

Here is the artist Cy Twombly in the Cy Twombly Gallery in Houston, standing next to his painting "Say Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor" (1994). According the this month's Vanity Fair, a "nubile" French woman visiting the gallery once was so moved by this painting that she took off all of her clothes.

From Vanity Fair:
"I suppose people start off by being irritated," Cy Twombly has noted about the public's response to his ouvre, "but in the end they can't resist the temptation to join in."
Does he mean the naked French lady?

Slate's art critic Lee Siegel did a slide show essay on Twombly last year called "The Man Who Made Art Out of Doodles." Trying to explain Twombly's inexplicable art, Siegel says "He does not make art. He makes pre-art."


Sunday, November 26, 2006

This is Why My Head Hurts

After some high-speed maneuvers in this 1974 Cooper Mini went horribly awry on a winding Pennsylvania road along the Delaware, the driver and I were both able to walk away. After we unbuckled our seat belts, fell on our heads and crawled out the windshield.

In this photo, the driver and I walk along the Mini's path, tring to figure out where we flipped over (and how many times). The car is at the bottom of the hill. Note the river on the left -- this could have been much worse.

The Mini is righted.

Here, Pennsylvania's finest supervises. Happy Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 24, 2006

McGovernment for the People

"McGovernment for the People" wasn't an ironic rallying cry made up by liberals to disparage a quick and greasy approach to running our nation. It was a campaign slogan for South Dakota senator George McGovern, the Democrat who lost to Richard Nixon in 1972. He lost bad; the only state to carry him was Massachusetts.

A 2005 Washington Post article looking back at the defeat recalled another big loser's reaction:
Barry Goldwater, who had been swamped by Lyndon Johnson in 1964, sent McGovern a newspaper political cartoon depicting the two of them together -- "like Grandpa and Granny [in the painting 'American Gothic'] -- linked by our defeats," McGovern remembers. Goldwater had jotted a note on the cartoon: "George -- If you must lose, lose big."

Back then, the prefix "Mc" wasn't applied to things to connote a low-quality mass appeal or disposability -- like McMansion or McJob ("McJob" made it into the Merriam-Webster dictionary in about 2003 -- McDonald's was not amused.).

In 2001, Naomi Klein used the term "McGovernment" to describe a "happy meal of cutting taxes, privatizing services, liberalizing regulations, busting unions." A near perfect irony, given what George McGovern stood for.

And still stands for. McGovern is out there, even now. He wrote a nice panegyric for Hunter Thompson in the L.A. Times last year. Thompson and McGovern had a strange relationship. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail covered the Nixon-McGovern race. Here's part of what McGovern had to say about Thompson:
As the candidate who lost 49 states to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, I have always been pleased that among the precious few who thought I would have made the better president was Hunter S. Thompson, who went to his untimely grave saying that I was "the best of a lousy lot."

Thompson's position was that I was "honest"--except for one "wicked moment" when I attended Nixon's funeral and said a few sympathetic words to his family and friends. "Yeah," Hunter told me, "you went into the tank with that evil bastard."

Hunter relished such frightful words. "Evil," "wicked," "fear and loathing." These were the words that described the world best for him.

Once, when he was pressed into the back seat of my car with three other people, he tried to escape to a nearby bar when I slowed for a red light in heavy traffic. Foiled by the baby lock that had been inadvertently clicked on, he raged at me: "Get me out of this evil contraption before I start killing."

On the jacket of his now-classic book about the 1972 election, "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail," he printed a photograph of the two of us with the following caption: "Pictured above is George McGovern urging Dr. Hunter S. Thompson to accept the vice presidential nomination."

I got my little "McGovernment for the People" matchbook at a flea market last weekend for $9 -- a small price to pay for such an odd piece of American history.

Thanksgiving in Three Boroughs

I spent my Thanksgiving with friends in the Bronx. The subway ride from Brooklyn takes me through the entire length of Manhattan to 238th Street near Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. It takes between seventy and ninety minutes. Here is my day in photos:
The F train in Brooklyn.

238th Street below the elevated train in the Bronx.

We drove back into Manhattan to see a movie after dinner. This is the George Washington Bridge in northern Manhattan, which may or may not bethe busiest bridge in the world (I heard it on the local news). It's certainly a busy bridge this weekend.

On the way back to Brooklyn we took the Brooklyn Bridge, pictured here. The whole day was really rainy and, for New Yorkers, cold -- between 45 and 55 degrees.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Fine Iowan Wine?

That's right, Iowa. It's got a burgeoning wine industry, says the New York Times:
They have been so successful that more corn, soybean and tobacco farmers are clearing fields and planting grapes. In Iowa alone, a new winery has been licensed every two weeks for the past year, officials say. Now, more than 700 acres are devoted to grapes (compared with 15 in 2000) and there are close to 70 commercial wineries. Iowa has also just hired its first state oenologist to help guide the novice winemakers.
Compare that to Minnesota's approximately 150 acres ( a fact I get from Kevin Zraly's American Wine Guide).

One of the interesting things about American wines outside California and a few other states is that they often come from American grapes. A variety used in Minnesota wines is the Frontenac, a hybrid created by the University of Minnesota in 1995 for cold resistance. According to the wine website Appellation America, even with hearty grapes sometimes growers bury the vines for the winter to keep them alive. The Frontenac hybrid is supposed to be able to survive without burial. Frontenac is now grown all over the Midwest and Canada.

Back to Iowa. In a separate article, the Times' wine critic Eric Asimov says that for now, we can expect some modest wines:
Europe took centuries to determine which grapes should grow where; California has made great progress over the last 60 years but is still working at it. If Midwestern states prove serious about winemaking, it will take decades at least to get pointed in the right direction.
But with all the hybrids and regionals, Asimov points out that states like New York only got respect once they tried making European classics.

But let's not forget that it was American vines that saved Europe from the dreaded Phylloxera, an insect that eat the roots of the vines. American vines live through the blight; European vines do not. Then again, the blight was brought over on American vines in the first place. European growers saved their vines by grafting them to the roots of certain American vines. All of this happened in the late nineteenth century.

Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal

"If you think like an architect, you're going to love it. If you think like a passenger, you're going to hate it," says William DeCota, aviation director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It's Eero Saarinen's 1962 TWA terminal at New York's Kennedy Airport. It closed in 2001 because it was too small to accomodate today's crowds, baggage, security systems, and other modern necessities. It's empty now. See a slideshow of the building on the New York Times website.

When I've rolled across the moving walkway on the skyway to the JetBlue terminal, I've gawked at the Saarinen design. It's breathtaking. There simply isn't anything like it in a New Yorker's daily life. The thing it reminds me of most is Santiago Calatrava's airport terminal-like addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Both have white ovoid spaces that awe us with their peculiar combination of organic shapes and sterile materials.

I haven't been inside the TWA terminal, so I've focused on what I can see outside. The first time I saw it I couldn't believe it was really there -- it looks so out of place among the warehouse/big box retail shapes of most of the airport terminals now, even the high glass curtains of the neighboring JetBlue terminal. I was also struck by how small it is. Its roof comes low in the front, almost seeming to touch down so one could climb up. People often describe the shape as "swooping." Everything about this building evokes flight, say others.

But it has aged past its utility. What do you do with a building like this?

William DeCota imagines a botanical garden outside the building with a museum inside. Or maybe a sculpture garden outside. "It isn't just important to save the old Saarinen terminal and its phenomenal architecture. It's important to find a thriving use. How can you continue to make this a centerpiece?" DeCota told the Times.

The Municipal Art Society wanted the terminal to continue functioning as such and thought the Port Authority's method of issuing a call for development ideas wouldn't work. JetBlue which is building a new terminal adjacent to the Saarinen building is planning on installing two ticket kiosks in the old TWA terminal for passengers who want to walk through it. And why not? Couldn't it finction as a welcome hall for JetBlue? With a bar and a couple restaurants? Maybe a mini museum like the Amsterdam airport's Rijksmuseum annex?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sound Mirrors

This is a World War I-era sound mirror for detecting incoming bombers on the coasts of England. The mirrors could amplify plane engine noise from as much as 15 miles away. Faster airplanes, and then radar, made these giant concrete acoustical reflectors useless.

From the very entertaining, mostly photo-based blog Everyone Forever. More about sound mirrors here.
I took this lousy accent quiz and they said I was from Illinois or Wisconsin. How insulting! Why didn't they ask me how I say "Minnesoada"? Here's my result:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
North Central
The West
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

What's the difference? Minnesotans say caught and cot the same, for one. When I took the test again and imagined the way some of my suburban and exurban brethren talk ... er 'taack,' I got the proper result:
"North Central" is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw "Fargo" you probably didn't think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot."
That's what I'm supposed to be. Can a person ever realistically judge how their own voice sounds?
94 West to Minneapolis.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New York Music Stores are Crap

How hard can it be to find a goddamn Duke Ellington CD in New York City? Pretty hard. The new Ornette Coleman? Impossible. Show me one music store, more or less centrally located, as good as Minneapolis' Electric Fetus and I'll be happy. But no.

Other Music, the Village CD shop legendary for its High Fidelity-like irritable employees has an extremely weak jazz section. Try searching for Duke Ellington on their website: they haven't even heard of him. It's a small store. There just isn't room for more.

If I hate the Virgin Megastore and get frustrated by the big chains that promise an expansive selection but only really offer wide aisles, what are my alternatives? In New York, everything is a niche market. You want New York downtown jazz? There's a store specifically for that. But it's small. Are you a club DJ? There are plenty of small (we prefer "intimate") storefronts for you. Academy Music on 18th also sells a wide variety of small plastic dinosaurs. No Duke Ellington though.

What if I want jazz and electronic and 70s glam rock all in the same outing? Three stops. Maybe more. All could be accomplished at the Electric Fetus.

Don't get me started about Brooklyn bookstores. There are none to speak of. Disagree with my rant? Find me a store. Of course the Twin Cities have lost all of their independent bookstores. At least in Manhattan we have St. Mark's. It's actually staying open till past midnight the day before Thomas Pynchon's new book comes out.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Bus Plunge Genre

The bus plunge genre? Slate's Jack Shafer laments its 25-30 year absence at the New York Times. The story is lovingly illustrated by bus plunge clippings from Times past, like this one from October 11, 1960:And this one from September 1, 1956:The bus plunge story was a tragic type of space filler from a time when the typesetting of a daily wasn't so simple. They all but disappeared when digital methods made typesetting more exacting and predictable.

They're real stories -- buses plummeting off cliffs are surprisingly common, even today. There's a website that gleefully follows the latest stories. It boasts a "plunge of the month" (16 singles club members dead in Israel), an interview with a plunge driver (via the Associated Press), and lots of bad puns.

A writer named Tom Miller asked Slate's Shafer to investigate the genre. Miller had written about bus plunges in a travel book about Panama in the 80s. Shafer recalls Miller's list of the elements all plunge stories should contain:
Plunge should appear in the hed; the piece should be only a couple of sentences long; and it should "include the number feared dead, the identity of any group on board" -- a soccer team, church choir, or students -- "as well as the distance of the plunge from the capital city." The words ravine or gorge should appear.
Shafer tracked down a retired Times editor, Allan M. Siegal, who had a fondness for bus plunge stories:
"The great challenge was to edit those things as short as they could be and still have them make sense," Siegal says. Great acclaim came to the editor who could artfully reduce wire stories to their absolute essence. One of Siegal's favorite K-heds [a headline plus one paragraph], which ran in the Times in the 1950s, read in its entirety:

Most snails are both male and female, according to the Associated Press.
Apparently no one remembers the headline.

Jack Shafer concludes:
Everybody claims to have a cure for what ails the modern newspaper: more color, better printing, better graphics, more attitude in reporting, less attitude in reporting, more local coverage, punchier articles, and on and on. Am I the only one who finds the layouts of today's newspapers to be too symmetrical, too sterile, and too predictable? I won't pretend it's a magic potion, but if I ran a daily, I'd fleck it with random news-wire shorts: freighter sinkings, strange statistics, diplomatic postings, "News of the Weird"-type reports, industrial accidents, animal facts, and, yes, bus plunges. Lots of bus plunges.
The stories make a sick sort of poetry. The need to edit them to their essential bits and the formulaic style of the bus plunge short makes them macabre in their brevity, banal in their repetition, and comedic in their tragedy. Siegal justifies his soft spot for the bus plunge k-hed:
"It was more self-parody than anything else," Siegal says. "It was a very low-key, harmless parody of the stilted language characteristic of tightly formatted headlines."
Am I totally off-base in calling this poetry? Yes and no. It's not in the information these stories convey, but in the way I'm reading them. Call it found poetry. I argue that they become poetry when I start reading them for the way they are written and constructed, and not for the news they offer. Here's one more, this time it's from the BBC -- and it's from late last October. The original story was 120 words in six short paragraphs. I've edited down to a managable k-hed, but I kept the original headline:
India bus plunge kills 21 people

A bus carrying 63 people in northeastern India plunged into the Teesta river on its way to the town of Gangtok in the mountain state of Sikkim. Villagers managed to rescue 42 of the passengers.
Poetry, sweet poetry.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Safire on Epicenter and Ground Zero

New York Times "On Language" columnist William Safire (who was also the Nixon speech writer who wrote Spiro Agnew's famous phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism") discussed the technical meanings of the casually used terms epicenter and ground zero in Sunday's paper. Even Safire's prone to bandy about these words, as he did last week with epicenter. A reader corrected him:
As the relentless Nitpicker’s League will note, I misused the word epicenter in the preceding sentence. About a month ago, in a column about the expression “skin in the game,” I got carried away with the “epicenter of this epidermic epic.” Sure enough, one Alan Zarky in e-mailville wrote: “I was surprised to see you use epicenter in the sense of ‘very center.’ The epi means ‘upon,’ and the word has a specific meaning in geology, ‘the point on the earth’s surface above the center of an earthquake.’ Shouldn’t we leave the word to its derivationally appropriate meaning?”

I knew I was stretching it (and sneakily began the next paragraph with “below that sense”) because I had been sternly corrected by a thick stratum of geologists years ago for confusing epicenter (“the breakout point on the surface above an earthquake’s underground hypocenter”) with ground zero (“the point on the surface directly below an aboveground nuclear explosion”).
I was surprised that the term ground zero was so specific to above ground nuclear explosions. An editor for the American Heritage dictionary gives Safire the go-ahead to use the terms as he would: "Even though the metaphor may be a misapplication of the scientific understanding of the word, the metaphor effectively evokes the visible focus of radiating power in an earthquake, and seems worth keeping in a writer’s bag of tricks."

[For more krazy Agnew/Safire komedy (Vietnam opponents = "an effete corps of impudent snobs," for example) see David Remnick's July "Talk of the Town" piece in the New Yorker.]

Soiled Jeans and Mucky Shoes

I'm inspired by the news to hold a story contest. The details are at the end of this entry, but first, the background:

Last July I wrote about designer jeans, the ones that are "factory distressed." I thought it was insane to charge people extra for jeans that looked like they were already worn by someone who worked for a living.

I suggested marketing jeans soiled by bikers who had put them through the sort of treatment that only bikers can, and then selling the biker abuse as a premium: "These jeans were worn by a Hell's Angel through a grueling ordeal of beatings, vomitings, defacations, and urinations. Though they've been professionally cleaned, they still bear the soul of true biker dungarees." You could charge thousands for that.

My point was that the story we tell about products (or art or people) may be more important than the products themselves. I read about an amazing example of this in the Times last week: Some London cobblers are selling shoes made from leather salvaged from a ship sunk in the eighteenth century:
The leather is pre-Revolutionary Russian reindeer hide and is said by its owners to have wonderful qualities of wear, luster and aroma. The shoes made from it are strikingly beautiful, notable for their rich mid-brown color and cross-hatching applied by the hands of Russian tanners in the 18th century. But however exceptional the leather is, it comes with what is for many a more appealing feature: an intriguing history.

The leather was recovered from a Danish brigantine that went down in a storm more than 200 years ago off the coast of Plymouth, England. The ship, the Catherina von Flensburg, was bound for Genoa from St. Petersburg, its cargo destined for Italian artisans, when it sank in December 1786.
What better story could you tell about a pair of shoes? The ship was full of hides which were preserved by the black mud of the Plymouth Sound off the English coast. A salvage team recovered some of the hides in 1973. Prince Charles got the first pair of bespoke shoes. There's still some leather left, both undersea and in the cobblers' shops.

In the spirit of great marketing, I propose a story contest. He or she who can come up with the best line of bullshit to sell a product wins a prize. Here are the rules:

1. Come up with a product.

2. Make up a tremendous story about the product along the lines of jeans pre-distressed by bikers or shoes made from 18th century Russian leather preserved by muck. Be creative.

3. Use the comment box to tell me your story. Keep the stories under 200 words.

4. The deadline is December 1.

5. The prize is $20. The best stories will be posted online.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tv Tower Praha

Žižkovská televizní věž byla dostavena roku 1992 a od té doby poskytuje Pražanům, ale i turistům řadu služeb.

James Laughlin and New Directions Publishing

Someone pointed out (via the comments on my Alvin Lustig Book Covers post) that the slide show of book covers on the Men's Vogue website was a companion to a print article (also online here) about the founder of New Directions, James Laughlin.

More specifically, as the commenter pointed out, it was about a book New Directions is releasing this winter that Men's Vogue calls "A rich scrapbook of the twentieth century from an avid skier, bon vivant, and literary powerhouse." It's called The Way It Wasn't and it's illustrated with photos, memos, letters, and other such things documenting James Laughlin's life running an avant garde publishing house.

Pictured above is a bit, an excerpt, that Harper's published in its November issue -- a note about Laughlin's annoyance with writer Paul Bowles. Click on the picture to enlarge it to a readable size.

And here, carefully swiped from the New Directions website, is a sample page of the new book, which appears to be organized alphabetically.I discovered New Directions in my late teens, browsing the late Hungry Mind Bookstore in St. Paul. I don't remember which author led me to ND first, only that some famously off-beat bestsellers like Lawrence Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind and Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha were both New Directions titles. I started noticing the strange design on the spines of these books, a line drawing of a sculpture by the artist Heinz Henghes (1906-1975). I started looking for this odd colophon instead of looking at authors or titles. Through this method I discovered Uwe Timm, Antonio Tabucchi, Christopher Isherwood, an under-appreciated title by Nabokov, and some others.

Now that I think about it, it may have been Louis-Ferdinand Celine that led me to New Directions. I have a funny story about how I found Celine that I'll reserve for another time.

James Laughlin has a major part in the history of 20th century literature. He started New Directions in 1936 while he was still at Harvard. Laughlin descibed the beginning:
"I asked Ezra Pound for 'career advice.' ... He had been seeing my poems for months and had ruled them hopeless. He urged me to finish Harvard and then do 'something' useful."
New Directions became known for publishing progressive and challenging work that other publishers rejected, often experimental fiction and poetry. ND published nearly everything by Henry Miller. Likewise William Carlos Williams. But ND also specialized (and still does) in works in translation from writers like Celine, Yukio Mishima, W.G. Sebald, Rilke, and Lorca.

Laughlin died in 1997. The Way It Wasn't will contain bits of each of those writers' personal stories from the perspective a man who worked with them all. The book should be out in December.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election Coverage

Where were the neo-con Weekly Standard staff on election night? I looked for them online, hoping they'd be live-blogging the election like their conservative cohorts at the National Review, but the Standard's site was cold.

The Standard's editor William Kristol and Freddie "the Beetle" Barnes (as PBS's John McLaughlin liked to call him) were at Fox News helping anchor Brit Hume make sense of the carnage. Where else would they be?

The New York Observer sat in on the coverage:
At 6:45:25 p.m. on Nov. 7, a grandfatherly Brit Hume, the lead anchor of the Fox News Channel's "You Decide 2006" midterm-election coverage, raised his hand, Moses-like, to silence a rant from William Kristol.
Very nice scene setting. However, when you describe a scene in which a news anchor speaks with slience, you lose the chance to use the word "stentorian."

The Fox News team had a sad night. They'd had nothing but "good news" to report since they called the election for Bush ahead of everyone else in the 2000 elections. This was new, uncomfortable territory. I don't have cable, so I missed hearing Fred Barnes compare Republican Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum to Winston Churchill. Santorum lost to his Democratic challenger by a big percentage.

I also missed Dan Rather's goofy delivery of his pre-scripted take on Hillary Clinton's win during his cameo at the Daily Show: "She ran away with it like a hobo with a sweet-potato pie."

I don't know, maybe I was better off getting my punditry from a motley mix of the National Review Online, Fox 5 New York's Ernie, Rosanna, and Congressman Anthony Wiener, and the websites of CNN and the Twin Cities' KARE 11 News.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Masticator's Election Coverage

10:20 pm

I love elections. One of my favorite things to do is watch the returns on tv and check the web for conservative commentary. Everyone's favorite intellectual conservative and erstewhile New York Mayoral candidate William F. Buckley Jr. has his pundits at the National Review Online blogging the returns. One of the best caustic comments so far comes from John J. MIller:
Party labels aside, Chafee deserved to lose more than any other incumbent. What a lousy senator, a man who is utterly unpredictable because he has no real beliefs.
Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is the anti-Lieberman. Or his middling twin. As Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (who seems to have won the race as an independent after the Dems refused to endorse him) is a rather disappointing liberal, Chafee is a sorry excuse for a conservative. As I write this, Chafee is a little behind.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and talk to myself in a nasal tone, speaking from the back of my throat, Kermit the frog-like, pretending I'm Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman. Whither Joe Lieberman?

Fox 5 New York is reporting on problems with voting machines in Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey. I didn't have any problems voting this morning, but I was confused. In New York, we use very old school mechanical voting machines. I've actually used them before, but not since the late 70s, when my mom let me pull the levers in the machines for the elections that Jimmy Carter won and lost in. I needed a little refresher.

I noticed that in New York you have very few conservative options. My congressman, Anthony Wiener ran unopposed. And many of the Democrats were on the ballot under other parties, too. Parties like Working Families endorsed Democrats like Eliot Spitzer (for NY governor) and Hillary Clinton in order to try to gain some legitimacy and to try to get some leverage to influence Democrat policy.

10:35 pm

Hillary Clinton is on the telly right now telling us it's time for a change. Is that the right thing for an incumbent to say when she's won?

Back to the National Review guys. This just in from Kathryn Jean Lopez:
A Minnesota gov. update just forwarded to me: With 15 percent in, Hatch up 47-42 percent. However, most of the precincts reporting so far are from the metro area where Hatch is stronger. Pawlenty's campaign saying they are expecting to do stronger
in rural Minnesota, not doing as well in the suburbs as they had hoped.
Oh no!

10:40 pm

Anthony Wiener, my congressman here in Brooklyn is taking questions at Fox 5 New York. A viewer was asking what Dems are planning to do to prove they're not soft on terror. Easy question for a New York politician. New York got the shaft in federal anti-terror funding ealrier this year, and the Bush administration is the most logical target for blame. Any Democrat here can shout about that and look great. Remember, the city of New York has its own anti-terrorism unit (read all about it in the New Yorker) with agents all over the world. Whatever the feds are doing about terror, NYC has its own plan.

10:50 pm

I wanted to check in with my friends at the neo-con Weekly Standard, but they don't appear to following the returns. But Fred Barnes has an editorial explaining why Republicans may be in trouble this midterm:
But Republicans have made matters worse by abandoning the reform agenda that animated their capture of Congress in 1994 and helped George W. Bush win the White House in 2000 and keep it in 2004. With scarcely a fight, Republicans gave up on Social Security reform in 2005, immigration reform in 2006, and never really got started on tax reform. Bush also cast aside the overarching theme for his domestic policy--the Ownership Society--without an explanation.
Does it occur to Freddy that the Republicans gave up domestic issues because of certain pressing foreign ones? Or does he not notice we're in a war his guys declared? It's inexplicable, but Barnes is wondering why Bush didn't plow ahead with the tax cuts and such.

11:00 pm

Bob Menendez seems to have won the senate race in New Jersey, in spite of his being the subject of a federal investigation, something his opponent, Tom Kean Jr. made sure no one forgot. It also looks good for another Democrat accused of corruption, New York state comptroller Alan Hevesi, who allegedly had a state car drive his wife around on taxpayer money, something his Republican challenger, the bow-tied Chris Callaghan, capitalized on. Hevesi is beating Callaghan 1.6 million votes to 1 million votes with about 75% reporting.

11:10 pm

Kare 11 News in the Twin Cities is reporting that Amy Klobuchar beat that nasty weasel Mark Kennedy for the senate seat in Minnesota. Quite a relief. Maybe more interesting is that Keith Ellison of Minneapolis will be America's first Muslim member of congress. And Wisconsin voted to ban gay marriage.

The big Minnesota question is the governor's race. Will Pawlenty win re-election? Did the fact that Democrat Mike Hatch called a female reporter a "republican whore" have any negative impact?

11:15 pm

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is projecting the Republicans will hold on to the Senate and lose the House. CNN agrees about the House, but isn't giving the Senate to the Republicans yet.

11:23 pm

On the Daily Show's blog they're showing a creepy Missouri ad with Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) and Jim Caviezel (aka Mel Gibson's Jesus) telling Missouri voters not to pass the stem cell research amendment. Caviezel actually speaks in Aramaic on the ad. So far it looks like Missouri is falling for it.

And while the Daily Show has its own former congressional pages that you can send instant messages to, Mark Foley is just barely losing in Florida. Wow.

11:33 pm

Mike Hatch seems to be doing great in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth, and he's ahead generally, but Pawlenty's not even close to out yet. Hatch is leading by about 40,000 votes with about 1.2 million votes in so far. According to CNN's county maps, Pawlenty is strongest in the western suburbs: Wright, Macleod, and Carver.

11:40 pm

CNN reports Hatch's lead just got cut down to 20,000. By the way, am I the only one totally shocked that Britney is divorcing K-Fed?

The Masticator may be going to bed now.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Alvin Lustig Book Covers

From Men's Vogue (of all places), a slideshow of graphic designer Alvin Lustig's book cover designs for New Directions.

The cover of Federico García Lorca's collection of three plays was designed for the paperback version; it's one of Lustig's most famous covers and it's still used.

Alvin Lustig died in 1955 at the age of 40. More on Lustig later.

I Love Attack Ads

Minneapolis writer Charles Baxter has a great opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times about the Kennedy/Klobuchar senate race in Minnesota.

He says the debates were like proceedings in divorce court -- lots of emotional accusations and he said/she said but little coherent argument or topical debate. The attack ads from the Kennedy camp are no different. But then they're made by the same guy who got in trouble in Tennessee for the ads attacking Harold Ford -- the ads that were taken off the air and decried as race baiting.

Baxter's take on the attack ads is apt:
One trouble with more typical negative ads is that in their simplicities they have turned, formally, into tiresome clichés. With the black background, the outraged voice-over, the accusations, the snow-infested distorted image of the opponent, you always know what you will get: your intelligence is insulted. You are not really being informed; you are, like a child witnessing a divorce, being asked to take sides. Ms. Klobuchar has broadcast attack ads attacking Mr. Kennedy’s attack ads, in a postmodern emptying of content, so that the ads are often just about other ads, an endless reconstruction of a hypothetical history.
It's a beautiful thing. I was lucky enough to witness some of Minnesota's best attack ads in October. They're much more brutal, but also much sillier than anything I see coming from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.

Baxter concludes:
If politics is the art of compromise, then attack ads are not really political, but emotional, and, what is worse, infantilizing. They suggest the narcissistic rigidity of name-calling, going home and sulking. In Minnesota, the appeal to polarization this time may have lost its appeal, however, possibly because the press of calamitous current events seems so urgent.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Donald Trump Vodka? Make Mine a Willie Nelson Bourbon.

Why would a notorious teetotaler — a man who once publicly yearned for “the lawyers that went after the tobacco companies” to “go after the alcohol companies” — affix his name to a ... vodka? “If I don’t do it,” Mr. Trump said, “someone else will.”

Um, someone else will name a super-expensive vodka "Trump"? Maybe not. But when Ed McMahon already has one, you better get your own quick. No, I'm not joking. McMahon Perfect Russian Vodka is a real thing. A New York Times article about "vanity vodkas" may not be a sign of the apocalypse, but surely it's a sign that Rome is about to burn.

The dead are even rising to cash in. Jimi Hendrix has one too: Hendrix Electric Vodka.

Remember what I said about vodka a few weeks ago? Here's a reminder: Blind taste test. Panel of booze experts. Twenty "premium" vodkas. One ringer -- a $12 bottle of Smirnoff. Guess what won?

Vanity vodka's not for me. Give me a Willie Nelson Bourbon instead.
I miss winter.

Whither Poetry?

Is poetry irrelevant? A lot of smart, educated, employed people think so. Some are even liberals.

I got a flier in the mail from Poetry, the magazine that got a huge gift from a rich woman. Now Poetry can afford to send me things in the mail to try to convince me that poetry and Poetry is relevant.

Ruth Lilly, the heiress to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, wrote poetry for much of her life, submitting it to the magazine Poetry. They never liked her efforts enough to publish anything. Still, she helped create a $100,000 prize for the magazine, and then, in 2002, at the age of 87, she gave the magazine a gift of $100 million.

"Her goal has been to try and build up the amount of public support and public notice of poetry," Lilly’s lawyer told the San Francisco Chronicle. Now the magazine has the resources to buy mailing lists from a magazine I subscribe to, probably the New Yorker, and use it to send out a handsomely designed mailing.

The flier, pictured here, included a stanza from a poem from one of my favorite poets, William Carlos Williams.

It's from the first part of Williams' lengthy 1962 love poem "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower". Christian Wiman, the editor of Poetry, writes in his "Dear Reader" plea for subscriptions that what Williams probably meant "was that poetry can make our daily existence mean more to us."

I agree, but I find it terribly difficult to slow my metabolism enough to rend any nutrition out of most poetry.

Wiman continues: "It can cut through all the distractions and busyness and help us seize our lives, to be more completely in them."

Can it cut through the distractions? I don't think it can. Wiman is positioning poetry (and Poetry) as a luxury item. An indulgence. Something that you make time for, not something that pulls you so hard you drop everything. You know, like TV.

Can you imagine poetry relevant to the working man? It could be. And I don't mean hip hop. The answer isn't getting poets to write about common things. The answer is getting regular people to write poetry.

Poems are concentrated narratives that use words carefully and self-consciously. So why are poems thought of as boring, elite, and self-indulgent these days?

1. Playfulness in poems is all but gone. They're too serious and they take themselves too seriously
2. We think of poets as overly sensitive folk who should have kept their day jobs. Poets can be anyone.
3. Poems don't rhyme anymore.
4. Poetry is much too experimental. Or at least regular people think it is.
5. Poetry could be a way of talking about the world, but it's become an end in itself.
6. Poetry is usually too long.

I have a friend who says that there's no room in today's society for a person whose full time job is to write poems. I say let the market decide. And now that Poetry's got one hundred million dollars, they ought to hire an agency to convince my friend there's a future in poetry.

One of my favorite William Carlos Williams poems is one in the form of a note that the author might have left in the kitchen before bed:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

It's polite but taunting. It's so mundane, but the poem form makes it seem new. That's what poetry does, at its best -- it makes us look at words and arrangements of words in a way we don't normally do.

Poetry is working hard to make poetry relevant. The website is surprisingly comprehensive -- it even has a daily news section. They've got reporters covering the impending destruction of the Brooklyn house that Walt Whitman wrote "Leaves of Grass" in. They've got a columnist musing about reading poetry on the New York subway. Their headlines are punchy: "Our bestsellers columnist asks: 'Are you wearing pants right now?'" and "Stephen Crane would be 135 today, except he’s dead."

The perfect news story in Poetry's daily listings comes from the New York Times. It's about injured basketball player Amare Stoudemire. Apparently he's been writing poetry. Alas, the 24 year-old NBA star won't show anyone his work -- poems "about faith, truth and African-American women raising children on their own." Ah, if only someone other than Russell Simmons could tell our children poetry is cool again.

My mother and her brother both write poetry occasionally, and I like what both of them do. I like my uncle's poetry because it's witty and it makes me laugh. His rhymes are delightful and surprising. My mother's poems tell stories. I like them because they don't waste words and yet they give me vivid pictures.

I like haikus because they are short and because they force the poet to work within restrictions. Richard Wright, the author of Native Son, wrote hundreds of haikus when he was in exile in Paris in the 1950s. Most of his haikus are true to the Japanese form in that they are about nature. Here's one I like:

How melancholy
That these sweet magnolias
Cannot smell themselves.

Here are my ideas for making poetry more interesting:
1. Keep them short.
2. Write with restrictions like rhyme, haiku form, three line stanzas, etc. Make up your own restrictions.
3. Write about real things.
4. Tell stories.
5. Take something you already wrote, like an e-mail, a memo, a list, or a letter and turn it into a poem.

You might think that the list above is perfect poem fodder -- why wouldn’t I take my own advice and turn a list about how to make better poems into a poem? Because I’ve read too many poems like that already. Here's something better:

I could subscribe now

To Poetry and save 50%
Off the cover price for this
Low introductory rate
Of only $17.50.

That's half off the normal rate
Of $35, I understand.

But it would only
Make me feel guilty
Every month because
I would never read the damn thing any more reliably than I take my vitamins or water the goddamn plants.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A New York Quiz

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I took Time Out New York's quiz to determine whether or not I am a true New Yorker.

When I completed the quiz, my score was 89, which was low enough to warrant the website to jeer: "The suburbs called. They want you back."

It was hard. The part where you get a list of about 250 names and you're asked to identify which of the actors listed did not appear on Law & Order left me paralyzed.

Here are some of the questions that I actually knew. Do you?

1. MetLife is to PanAm as Sony is to ___________ ?
-Mutual of New York

9. Whose club stopped serving Cristal as a way of fighting against the Man in the wake of a champagne controversy?
-Heavy D’s Big Ups
-Lil’ Kim’s Jail Bait
-Jay-Z’s 40/40
-Diddy’s Big Ego

11. According to the Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights, which of the following are you not entitled to?
-“A courteous, English-speaking driver who knows the streets in all five boroughs”
-“A driver who knows and obeys all traffic laws”
-“A clean passenger seat area”
-“A driver who uses the horn only when necessary to warn of danger”

14. Sally likes Lincoln Center but she doesn’t like the 92nd Street Y. She likes Macy’s but she doesn’t like Bloomingdale’s. She likes the 1 train but she hates the 6 train. Which of these does she like?
-Metropolitan Museum of Art
-American Museum of Natural History

21. Whose death were the patrons of the Stonewall Inn mourning on the night of the “Stonewall revolution”?
-Judy Garland
-John Lennon
-Marilyn Monroe
-Edie Sedgwick

31. You walk south on Fifth Avenue until the road dead-ends. What do you see in front of you?
-The original Whitney Museum
-Jefferson Market Library
-Washington Square Arch
-Duane Reade

32. Where did the term getting 86-ed originate?
-From a restaurant that had 86 items on its menu.
-In 1887, barhoppers used it to refer to nightspots that were no longer cool.
-It’s cop code for removing a perpetrator from the scene of a crime.
-From getting thrown out of the speakeasy Chumley’s at 86 Bedford Street.

48. The nickname Gotham came from a work by which author?
-Washington Irving
-Lewis Carroll
-Samuel Clemens
-Nathanael West

62. The headline FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD referred to what story?
-Ford Motor Company refusing to sell its latest model in NYC
-President Ford accusing the city of deliberately greasing a staircase during his visit to City Hall
-President Ford refusing to back a New York State health-insurance plan
-President Ford refusing to aid the city’s fiscal crisis

72. Which kind of cockroach is the most common in NYC apartments?
-American cockroach
-German cockroach
-Brown-banded cockroach
-Oriental cockroach

73. Same question, only this time it’s a rat:
-Norwegian rat
-Black rat
-Garden rat
-Broker rat

81. What alternative theater group was formed in 1975 by Elizabeth LeCompte, Willem Dafoe, Spalding Gray and others?
-Les Freres Corbusier
-The Wooster Group
-La Mama Troupe
-The P.S. 122 Players

I was able to identify the location of all the half dozen or so statues in the city and all but two of the following New York buildings:
-Perry West
-The Dakota
-The Eldorado
-The Chelsea Hotel
-Van Cortlandt Mansion
-The Puck Building
-Saint Bartholomew’s Church
-Scandinavia House

Finally, I am proud to report that I was able to match half of the following rap stars to his home neighborhood:

-Run DMC
-50 Cent
-Wu-Tang Clan
-Grandmaster Flash

-Long Island City, Queens
-Hollis, Queens
-The “Boogie Down” Bronx
-South Jamaica, Queens
-Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

Take the whole quiz yourself: here, or see the questions with the answers here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Is New York Another Country?

“He’s not American, he’s from New York.”

So says a character in a new BBC TV movie based on the popular 90s crime series Cracker, starring Robbie Coltrane. The quote was noted by both New York Magazine and the New York Times.

What does this mean? Are New Yorkers really that different from everyone else in the country? Do Brits think so anyway?

In the New York Magazine Q&A Mr. Coltrane said "That’s a line me and Jimmy [show creator Jimmy McGovern] agreed on, and well, you know perfectly well what it means." When asked to explain it anyway, he said:
"I’ve driven all through America and I know there are a lot of clever people between the coasts. But they have a slightly old-fashioned view of the world. Whereas New York is one of the most multicultural, multiracial, tolerant places on Earth."
A little context. The show, Cracker (the title refers to the protagonist's ability to "crack" cases), ran from 1993 to 1996 in the U.K. American television tried (as it does with nearly every British hit) to remake Cracker in 1997 with Robert Pastorelli (best known as Murphy Brown's painter) in the Contrane role.

The BBC movie, aired recently on BBC America, is called "Cracker: A New Terror." It's about "terror" in an indirect way -- a comedian who compares the IRA terrorism to Islamic terrorism, saying that the latter is much worse, gets killed by a disgruntled British soldier who lost comrades to IRA violence.

Anita Gates, writing in the Times, sets up the "New York" quote this way:
"One review suggested that since everyone in London sits around at dinner parties expressing anti-Americanism all the time, there was no good reason to repeat all those sentiments in a murder mystery.

"That sort of thing plays a little differently here. First, there is a sense of relief that characters on television are talking about the events openly and irreverently. Then there is the punch of confirmation that much of the rest of the world may indeed despise the United States for what the Bush administration calls the war on terror. And for local viewers, there is a hint of vindication when the mother of the movie’s first victim tells a Manchester police officer: 'My son wasn’t American. Not in that way. He was a New Yorker.'"
To deal with a sentiment like this, we'll have to first define what it means to be a New Yorker. Do people in Staten Island count? How about people who live in Hoboken? Is Philadelphia so different? How about San Francisco?

When I moved here last year I read that just over 50% of New Yorkers weren't born here. People come and go fast enough that most newcomers are spared accusations of being outsiders after even a year of living here. The City welcomes people because it always has; in that melting pot sort of sense, New York is the most American of American cities. But as the character on Cracker articulated so simply, New Yorkers are the most un-American of Americans, too.

The cover of Time Out New York asks this week: Are you a real New Yorker? Prove it. Inside is a very difficult quiz. New York Public Radio's talk show host Brian Lehrer said this morning that he didn't do so well on the quiz. I didn't either.

Maybe one of the most un-American things about New York City is its density. The city deals with space in a more European way -- there's a premium on it, so people have to learn to get along. That mentality isn't as urgent in a sprawling city like Atlanta. I think it's this density and the constant churn of people that makes New York different. Robbie Coltrane is right -- the population here is more diverse and more tolerant. But where does New York begin and end? And what other places are different like this?

The Firefighter Mustache

“If you’re a fireman, you have a mustache,” said Ron Walker, 47, a fire captain in Dixon, Calif. “It’s an unspoken deal.”

The origin of the firefighter mustache, says the New York Times, is in the 1960s with new regulations about beards, which interfered with protective masks.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another Chinese scholar rock from the Met. This one is much larger than the others -- it's about three feet tall.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Read How I get From Eve Ensler to Battlestar Galactica in Just a Few Paragraphs

I almost didn't read Jeremy McCarter's review of Eve Ensler's (of Vagina Monologues fame) latest play The Treatment in New York Magazine. The Vagina Monologues always seemed more about Ms. Ensler than it did about women in general -- or so I figured from all the hubub -- so it never occured to me to pay it any more mind than I do any other production where the entertainer out-performs their message.

But I was on the subway and I had one magazine, so I read it: Ensler's play, which closed on October 22, starred Dylan McDermott and a woman who goes by the single name Portia. It's a two person play about a soldier who tortured prisoners and a psychologist who tries to put him back together.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that McCarter was writing about something bigger than Ensler's treatment of torture. The problem, he writes, is that the play has no angle. It, like many other "political" plays and much of today's political rhetoric, cannot be argued with. There's no moral dilemma, no push and pull. It's black and white. It's very clear what's right and what's wrong. What is there left for the audience to do?

Here's McCarter:
"With all due respect to the mild virtues of Ensler’s play, I have had enough of inarguability. I’m tired of affirmation—I want an argument. At this point, I would very keenly like someone to write a play defending the tragic necessity of torture. I’d like someone to convince me that Dick Cheney genuinely has our best interests at heart and that Jesus really wants me to be rich. At least I wish someone would try. But until Karl Rove puts some playwrights on the payroll, I bet I’ll go on wishing."
McCarter sees a difference between politcal plays and what he calls issue plays: "The issue play dramatizes (or merely presents) a problem that has been in or near the headlines. Sometimes it suggests a solution, but almost always it points us toward a villain, if we can’t spot him already."

A political play, he says, is one that forces us to argue with ourselves rather than merely affirming a belief. He holds up recent productions of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt as examples of good political plays.

I would point to the SciFi Network's amazing series Battlestar Galactica. It's not a play, but it's got everything McCarter asks for. The plot of the remake of the 1970s show is simple: there are 12 colonies of human beings. They created some robots that got too smart and rebelled. After a long war, there was a treaty and decades of peace. The show starts when the robots (called Cylons) come back with new, improved models that look human. The new Cylons obliterate every human on all 12 planets except for about 50,000 that happen to be aboard space ships fast enough to get away.

Battlestar Galactica has dealt with stolen elections, suicide bombing, torture, concentration camps, and secret trials. Behind all these issues are questions about what makes us human, questions made all the more urgent by the fact that there are only 50,000, then 45,000, then 40,000 human beings left in the known universe.

The show is so compelling, not because it gives us a one-to-one comparison of America in Iraq, as some ornery critics have complained, but because it dramatizes current events in ways that make us rethink our positions on the issues behind the events.

Virginia Heffernan put it well in the New York Times last week:
"Fortunately, it’s not crystal clear. And that’s what makes 'Battlestar,' week after week, riveting. The truth is, allegories don’t really exist. Characters who initially seem to “stand for” figures in myth or current events eventually take on their own dimensions and — with any luck — subvert the symbolic system that was supposed to confine them."
The point is, a show like this jump-starts the debates on issues like torture because unlike plays that present one inarguable side, they give you disturbing questions to wrestle with.

Can a whole generation turn itself into monsters in order to save their species to see another generation? At what point are we off the hook because Darwinism is kicking in? At what point are we absolved of guilt because we're killing machines and not people? That's good drama. That's the kind of stuff McCarter is talking about, the kind of stuff we need right now.

What I Did While Recovering From Pneumonia

1. I carved a pumpkin.

2. I made an origami penguin and an origami morning glory.

3. I read a book about American wine.

4. I made a pinhole camera from a kit.

Etymology: Hottentot is a Bad Word

In an earlier post I quoted President Truman describing his disgust with modern art: "If that's art, then I'm a Hottentot," he said. What is a Hottentot? Truman invoked the term to disparage American modern art, but he didn't seem to intend any ill will toward Hottentots themselves. It was a comparison: 'it's just as self-evident that that is not art as it is self-evident that I'm not a Hottentot.'

I was oblivious to the etymology of the word. My friend Sarah told me it's the South African equivalent of the "N-word," so I consulted some reference books.

Here's what my Oxford dictionary said:
1. member of a SW African Negroid people. 2. their language. (Afrikaans)
That doesn't sound so pleasant. Here's what Merriam-Webster's said:
Ok, so here's what M-W said about Khoikhoi:
1. a member of any group of Khoisan-speaking pastoral peoples of southern Africa. 2. the group of Khoisan languages spoken by the Khiokhoi.
That's not much help. I need a dictionary to tell me whether it's naughty or not.

Wikipedia tells me that the Oxford Dictionary of South African English classifies the word as offensive. I can't find a South African English dictionary online to verify this though.

Another search brought me this definition from a course resource page at West Chester University of Pennsylvania:
"The group commonly referred to as 'Hottentots' were a tribal group that resided in Southern Africa, near the Cape of Good Hope and Namibia. The name 'Hottentots' was given to them by Dutch Settlers who made contact with them in the 17th century. The name could be derived from the Dutch word for 'stammerer' or 'stutterer', a description they would apply to the unusual language of click sounds that the Hottentots spoke. It also could have been adapted from a word they often used in tribal songs 'hautitou', that sounds similar to 'hottentot'. The Hottentots did not call themselves by this name, but rather were named the 'Khoikhoi', meaning 'men of men', or 'a pure race'. The word 'hottentot' was extended to be a descriptive term, defined by the Shorter Oxford Dictionary as 'one of inferior culture and intellect.'"
As Sarah said. Many Internet searches for the term "Hottentot" lead to academic pages about a Khoisan woman named Sara Bartman or Saarjite Baartman, a woman who was exhibited in Europe in the nineteenth century like an animal. They called her the "Hottentot Venus." A page from Emory University in Atlanta says this:
"Saarjite Baartman, a young Khosian woman from Southern Africa whose body was the main attraction at public spectacles in both England and France for over five years, is perhaps the most infamous case of a Khosian body on display. Baartman, who became known as the Hottentot Venus, was brought to Europe from Cape Town in 1810 by an English ship's surgeon who wished to publicly exhibit the woman's steatopygia, her enlarged buttocks. Her physique, particularly her steatopygic appendage, became the object of popular fascination when Baartman was exhibited naked in a cage at Piccadilly, England. When abolitionists mobilized to put an end Baartman's public display, she informed them that she participated in the spectacles of her own volition. She even shared in profits with her exhibitor."
Note the different spelling of the word Khoisan. Seems to be a typo on the part of the illustrious Emory U. The BBC reported in 2002 that Ms. Baartman's remains were finally being returned to South Africa:
Baartman was born in 1789 into the Khoisan tribe of hunter-gatherers who lived in the southernmost tip of Africa and were also known as Hottentots, which is now considered a derogatory and offensive term.

In 1810 a British ship's doctor, William Dunlop, noticed what seemed to him, her unusual shape.

He took her to London, hoping there was money to be made by exhibiting her and showed her off to a paying audience as a freak of nature.

She was then sold to a French entrepreneur who took her to Paris where she seems to have fallen into alcoholism and prostitution and was dead by 1816.

Baartman was then dissected as a scientific specimen.

Parts of her were preserved and put on display along with her skeleton and could be seen in a Paris museum, right up until the mid 1970s.
Site Meter