web analytics

Archives for June 2014

A bevy of words

One does not often encounter sentences of 84-words in the leads of newspaper articles so I when I did today, I thought it worth consideration. If it were a perfect world — that is to say Faulknerian in its very essence, which would clearly demonstrate such literary mastery over such a great bevy of words — truly long-distance sentence casts would be magnificent examples of word smithery.

But they are not. And it is hardly a perfect world.

I have written elsewhere in this virtual patch that a plethora of prepositional phrases is not a good thing. It makes for lumpy prose.

Here is the 84-word lead, which appeared today:

“Drive east on Interstate 10 and then southeast on Highway 80, directly into the wild blue yonder, and you will find a rickety old ballpark with some lively baseball, played between guys down to their last at-bat in a game they love but does not always love them back, guys desperate to squeeze one more pitch out of their talent, guys willing to subsist on $50 a week and maybe a nice meal or two, just to get one last shot chasing the dream.”

There are a number of prepositional phrases in this runaway train, too many, to state the obvious. There is a simple remedy for this problem, also obvious.

Which brings to mind the well-worn quote from the legendary Turner Catledge, managing editor of The New York Times:

“The composing room has an unlimited supply of periods available to terminate short, simple sentences.”


June Caldwell Martin comments:

“But it tracks. And builds suspense.”


Travel broadens one so

FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey — I traveled all day yesterday to get here. A long way to be so cold. They say it is 82 degrees, but I don’t believe them.

This part of New Jersey is lovely. I detected evidence of two skunks on the way here. I did not have to ask whether they were Republicans or Democrats. They are evenly divided among executive and legislative branches in this state.

It has been a great while — exactly how long I do not remember — but air travel has changed in but one respect. A conversation with a fellow traveler is extremely rare. It is odd how social media breeds such asocial (not anti-social) behavior. The phones and pads and tablets — all on airplane mode — are in constant use. I was in a rare row yesterday in which three passengers each had actual paperbacks.

Those crazy kids

This is a comment from June Caldwell Martin. She has a writes a column about southwestern authors for the Star.


Whenever I think of condemning the younger generation for its taste or preferences, I am reminded of my friends Bunny Herzog and Joe Baum and their indignation over modern music, specifically the latest piece that Bunny’s son, Arthur, was playing constantly.

Both Bunny and her significant other, Joe, arrived in Tucson because they were victims of cripplng rhumatoid arthritis. Actually, we didn’t use the phrase “significant other.” We didn’t refer to them as anything. They were just Joe and Bunny.

Bunny had been a member of a musical family in New York. Joe had been a professional violinist. He played in the famous Paul Whiteman Orchestra. That job being taken from him by arthritis, when he moved to Tucson, he sold insurance.

I remember Joe once told me once if you had $10,000 in the bank, you didn’t need life insurance. Of course, my father also figured out that an income of $300 a month would carry you comfortably through life. (I was surrounded by some questionable financial gurus.)

But to get back to Bunny and Joe’s dismay at Arthur’s taste in music. They felt Arthur had gone to rack and ruin (musically speaking). As mentors, they didn’t know where they had gone so wrong.

The new song that Arthur was nuts about?

Lady of Spain.

More on being detached

Following is a response to Sam Negri’s observations on being detached from the contemporary world. It is from Bunny Fontana, a long time friend and anthropologist by trade who has appeared previously on this cyber corner.
Not only am I detached from the world of internet celebrity, but I seem to be detached from celebrity, period.  And also contemporary (last dozen years) fiction, clothing styles, and nearly the entire world of computerspeak (I can create neologisms, too).  It’s gotten so bad there are frequently allusions to persons, events, and objects in the daily comics — which I still read every morning out of a lifetime of addiction to what used to be called “funny papers” — that fail to have any meaning for me at all.  Likewise with TV’s standup comics.  Audiences roar with laughter and I wonder what they are roaring about.
    But I remain more bemused than bewildered by all of it.  And worried.  Worried chiefly about what’s going to happen with interpersonal relationships among people whose worlds have been principally “virtual” rather than real.
    On the other hand, I had a chance to talk with my 16-year-old granddaughter when we all got together on Father’s Day.  What she had to say gave me a glimmer of hope.
    The day before she had returned from a week long stint at something called a leadership retreat at Camp Tontozona in Payson.  As she and about 60 other kids her age piled out of buses at the camp’s headquarters, they were relieved of their cell phones and any other electronic devices they may have brought with them.  They spent the whole week without being able to watch TV or listen to radio; text, tweet, email, surface the web, etc. etc.
    Her dad said if I wanted to get in touch with her I would have to send her a letter, postage stamp and all, c/o Retreat at Tontozona.
    Here’s what I wrote:
Your dad tells me you have been committed for a short time to a lifestyle into which your grandfather was born and in which he spent the majority of his 83 years.  It was a time when people generally talked to one another face to face, using more-or-less complete sentences and whole words.  It was when we spent nearly as much time outside rather than indoors; when we connected to our surroundings in meaningful ways; and when we slowly grew into an awareness that we human beings are not the only living creatures on earth, but that we share a small planet with other life forms with whom we are all intricately connected.
Ours was a world without computers, cell phones, and television.  It was a world far less rushed and frantic, a world less inclined, as Thoreau said, toward “lives of quiet desperation.”  We used our imaginations and created our own entertainment, making toys as children, playing group games as youths, and reading, singing, and socializing as young adults.
We had time for reflection.
Your week is no more than a tiny blip on the screen of what will be your entire life.  I hope it will be a meaningful blip, one you will look back on with warm feelings in the decades ahead knowing you have shared experiences lived by your ancestors.
Much love,
Her short answer to the question, “How was your week in camp?” was, “It was a life-changing experience.”  And later she exclaimed, “I hate social media!”  And this from a teenager for whom the worst possible punishment was to be deprived of her smart phone.
So who knows?

An e-mail exchange

This an e-mail exchange I had with Sam Negri, a long-time friend and newspaper man.

Sam wrote today:

One of the copies of New York Magazine you gave me had a story on the weird world of Internet celebrity. I think that was the hed. By chance did you read it? It has something to do with youtube and celebrities. I didn’t recognize any of them except the name Kardashian, who was identified by a word that was new to me: famesque, which they defined as famous for being famous. Anyway, I mention the article — really a series of articles— because it was the first time I truly felt detached from what I suppose is the contemporary world. I couldn’t understand 99 percent of what I was reading. The world has moved well beyond me, but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.
I had a strange memory two days ago. I realized that when I was a kid in Brooklyn, the only tattoos I ever saw were numbers on the left arms of concentration camp survivors.
My response:
I wonder if the world is still not with you and something so plebeian, meaningless and transient as fashion has concocted yet another splash of nonsense to tout.


A Nixon watch?

  On page A3 of today’s Wall Street Journal, there’s an ad for a watch that carries the brand “Nixon.” I could not help but wonder if it came with a 20-minute gap.DSCF1252

Love your NRA

Let us today pause to give thanks for the National Rifle Association.

If it weren’t for the NRA, the Second Amendment might be in tatters. Governments in this country might just suck up the guns and prevent gun murders in Seattle.

In Virginia.

In Tucson.

At the Navy Yard.

In Texas.

In Columbine.

At the Holocaust Museum.

In an Aurora, Colorado theater.

In Kansas City.

In small town Connecticut (God bless the children).

Thank our LUCKY Stars. You betcher sweet Charlton Heston.

Happiness is a Warm NRA.