Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The expression "bran-new" in Dickens and Twain

It didn't take me long to read Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol", but then it's much shorter than his usual tomes. In it, I came across the expression "bran-new", which I also noticed in earlier Dickens novels. I began to wonder if this was the original form, with "brand-new" once having been a variation. But the original expression was "brand-new", which probably derives from a "firebrand" and hence refers to something newly forged, with "bran-new" a now archaic variation. It also appears in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" as part of Huck's inventory of what he and Jim own, "a bran-new Barlow knife worth two bits in any store." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 30 June 2021)

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Vaccination beyond coronavirus: shingles, tick-borne encephalitis, and a booster

When I got the second dose of coronavirus vaccine on 8 June, I decided to talk to my doctor about other vaccines, especially the relatively new one for shingles. Today, I had an appointment to discuss all this, but it turns out that the best shingles vaccine, Shingrix, has not yet been approved in Switzerland, though it should be available soon. Instead, as ticks have been spreading in Switzerland since I got here in 1995, I got the first of three shots for tick-borne encephalitis, with appointments for the next two in one and six months, as well as a one-time booster vaccination with Boostrix-Polio for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and poliomyelitis. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 29 June 2021)

Monday, June 28, 2021

Metrical prose in Charles Dicken's "Martin Chuzzlewit"

At the beginning of the next-to-last chapter of Charles Dickens's "Martin Chuzzlewit", when John Westlock and Ruth Pinch begin the walk when he'll propose to her, the prose slips into an iambic metrical pattern, with alternating heptameter and pentameter phrases and a concluding tetrameter: "Brilliantly the Temple Fountain sparkled in the sun, and laughingly its liquid music played, and merrily the idle drops of water danced and danced, and peeping out in sport among the trees, plunged lightly down to hide themselves." The narrative left little doubt about the imminent marriage proposal, but the meter combines with the "brilliant" adverbs that begin the first three phrases to celebrate it in advance. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 28 June 2021)

"John Westlock and Ruth Pinch", Sol Eytinge, Jr., wood-engraving 1867

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Back to the cinema after 16 months and 5 days for "Wanda, mein Wunder"

The last time Andrea and I went to the cinema was on 22 February 2020 to see "Little Women" at the Kult Kino Atelier in Basel (which I know because I wrote 111 words about it the same evening). Before the film was the trailer of "Emma", which we planned to see as soon as possible. But then the cinemas closed because of the pandemic, and only this evening, two weeks and one day after Andrea's second dose of coronavirus vaccine, did we go to Atelier again for "Wanda, mein Wunder", featuring our friend Sophie's father André Jung as the father of – as Andrea just put it – a very dysfunctional family. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 27 June 2021)


«Wanda, mein Wunder» eröffnet das Zurich Film Festival ...
André Jung and Agnieszka Grochowska in "Wanda, mein Wunder"

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Working at a computer shop in Palo Alto in 1981

In spring 1981, at sixteen, I worked part-time at a computer store in Palo Alto. I can't remember what brands it sold, but the IBM PC was only released that August, and I just cleaned up and ran errands anyway. After several months, I was alone one day, and a man came in to consider a computer for his business. I started telling him about the computers on display, and when my boss returned, he listened in amazement as I shared the information I'd picked up from listening to him for so long. If the shop hadn't closed a few weeks later, perhaps they would have trained me as a salesman. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 26 June 2021)

Friday, June 25, 2021

Finishing "Martin Chuzzlewit"

On 19 April this year, I wrote about finishing Charles Dickens's "Barnaby Rudge"; today, I finished his next novel, "Martin Chuzzlewit". The novel's image of the "U-nited States" (as characters are frequently represented as pronouncing it) is memorable, especially when guns come up: "Martin learned [...] that to carry pistols into legislative assemblies, and swords in sticks, and other such peaceful toys [...] were glowing deeds." Like the Gordon Riots in "Barnaby Rudge", this recalls the January attack on the Capitol, but also how Republican Representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene want to carry guns onto the House floor. Now, exactly six months away from Christmas, it's on to "A Christmas Carol". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 25 June 2021)

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The con man tells the "gull" how the con works in Charles Dickens's "Martin Chuzzlewit"

In Charles Dickens's "Martin Chuzzlewit", when Tigg Montague, as he calls himself, tries to get Mr. Pecksniff interested in investing in the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company, he explains how the company works:  "There is nothing like building our fortune on the weaknesses of mankind. [...] I give you my honour that WE do it." The company will generate profits "as long as there [are] gulls upon the wing." Montague explicitly explains to Pecksniff that the company defrauds people. That is, the con man tells the mark how the con works, and counts on the "gull" identifying with him rather than with one of the "weak" people being defrauded. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 24 June 2021)
Forty-ninth illustration by Fred Barnard for Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit (Chapter XLIV).

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Muthspiel, Colley, Rossy: My first concert in fifteen months

The last concert I attended was on 11 March 2020, when I saw Hildegard Lernt Fliegen at the Jazzhaus in Freiburg two days before the first Swiss lockdown was announced. Tonight, fifteen days after my second dose of coronavirus vaccine, I went to the garden of the Kunsthalle in Basel to hear Wolfgang Muthspiel, Scott Colley, and Jorge Rossy. Hearing the music was wonderful, of course, but seeing the musicians was, too: Muthspiel swaying back and forth to the rhythm as the music got louder and louder; Colley smiling again and again at Rossy's quick-witted playing; Rossy seamlessly switching from sticks to brushes to mallets to playing snare with his hands. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 23 June 2021)

Muthspiel, Colley, Rossy

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Paraprosdokian in movie reviews by Anthony Lane and A. O. Scott

In his recent review of "Godzilla v. Kong" in "The New Yorker", Anthony Lane made me laugh out loud: "One mark of the Godzilla franchise is the ingenuity with which each director manages to waste the talents of an excellent cast." This paraprosdokian builds toward a positive statement and then abruptly veers into the negative. It reminded me of an even more amusing line with which A. O. Scott began his review of "Horton Hears a Who!" in "The New York Times" in 2008: "What distinguishes 'Horton Hears a Who!' from the other recent Dr. Seuss film adaptations [...] is that it is not one of the worst movies ever made." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 22 June 2021)


godzilla vs. kong
Illustration by Hisashi Okawa for the Anthony Lane article


Monday, June 21, 2021

Manuel Neuer, Munich, UEFA, and rainbows

In Germany's first two matches at the Euro 2020 (as well as in their friendly against Lithuania before the tournament), Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer wore a rainbow-colored captain armband for Pride month. UEFA apparently considered forbidding him to wear that armband in further matches, but then decided not to do so. But when Munich announced they would light up the Allianz Arena in rainbow colors on Wednesday for Germany's third match against Hungary, UEFA forbade them to do so with the excuse that the stadium lights should only be the participating teams' colors or UEFA's own. The organization campaigns against racism but refuses to stand up against other kinds of discrimination. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 21 June 2021)


UEFA action over Manuel Neuer's rainbow armband would have ...

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Turning a writing tip into an experiment

In episode 74 of "The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps", Tony Long recalls how as a student he was given the exercise of writing a paper on "psyche" in Greek philosophy without the word "soul", which is a common but apparently potentially misleading translation of "psyche". This story made me think of framing some of my suggestions about academic writing as exercises or experiments. My students have several formulaic ways of using the names of authors, such as Jane Austen, in essays about their works, so I could assign the experiment of writing about an Austen novel without ever referring to the author by name, except in the essay's title. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 20 June 2021)

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Women sharing secrets in Adrienne Rich and Doris Lessing

The two women in Adrienne Rich's 1962 poem "To Judith, Taking Leave" have been "cramped sharers / of a bitter mutual secret". They may get beyond that experience "as two eyes in one brow / receiving at one moment / the rainbow of the world." But two women sharing "bitter" secrets also appear in Doris Lessing's 1962 novel "The Golden Notebook" when Anna Wulf and Molly Jacobs "exchange glances" while in conversation with Molly's ex-husband Richard: "Anna and Molly again raised their eyebrows at each other, conveying that the whole conversation had been wasted as usual." But unlike Rich's women, Anna and Molly don't yet get beyond their "bitter mutual secret." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 June 2021)

Friday, June 18, 2021

Singing McCartney on his birthday

Today, I read several times that it's Paul McCartney's 79th birthday. A few minutes ago, I was sitting outside reading, enjoying the somewhat cooler air after a brief rainfall at the end of the hot afternoon, with the rainy scent still rising from the patio, and I heard my daughter Sara playing "Yesterday" on the piano. I came inside to enjoy it better and to tell her it was McCartney's birthday, but when she finished the piece, she surprised me by asking me to sing along with her. It was easy, as she has the lyrics on her sheet music, and I enjoyed pretending to know how to sight-read the melody. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 18 June 2021)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Denise Levertov dancing to "Workingman's Dead"

In January, I came across Jeffrey Harrison's poem "Elizabeth Bishop and The Grateful Dead": "I'd like to think it happened – / my favorite poet meeting my favorite band." Harrison's favorites are also mine, so his wish fulfillment would also be mine. This morning, in my daily reading of one Denise Levertov poem, I finished her long poem "Staying Alive", and read in a sub-section called "Happiness" of my teacher dancing to the Dead in 1970: "Two nights dancing (Workingman’s Dead) / with someone of such grace and goodness, happiness / made real in his true smile." I imagine Denise's "true smile" while dancing and singing along: "Come hear Uncle John's Band"! (Andrew Shields, #111words, 17 June 2021)


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Bull crit with Flaubert, Joyce, and Dostoevsky

In graduate school, I noticed I'd read enough works on the history of the novel to say many things about works I hadn't read. I called this "bull crit"; the two main works I did it with were "Madame Bovary" and "Ulysses" (both of which I've since read). In my Master's seminar on Toni Morrison this past term, I asked the students what they knew about Dostoevsky. None of them knew his works well, but many turned out to their own surprise to be able to say a lot about them – and I joined the bull crit with comments on "The Brothers Karamazov", which I know only from reading about it. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 16 June 2021)

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Coming out of "Ice Age 2" with a six-year-old after nightfall

Often when I leave the cinema after a movie, everything looks for a while like the movie's visual world. The effect is strongest when I go in while it's still light outside and the movie ends after nightfall. In spring 2006, when my six-year-old son Miles and I went to see "Ice Age 2", we came out after dark, and I noticed that effect in myself again – and Miles seemed disoriented. First he said he had to go back into the cinema to make sure it was empty, and later, when he was in bed, he described how the movie was still playing in his mind whenever he closed his eyes. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 15 June 2021)

Monday, June 14, 2021

Hearing Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" and remembering a Saturday in 1977

Recently, Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" must have played somewhere in a store or on a television soundtrack, or at least something that resembled it enough that the music in my head eventually turned into it, and I remembered that one Saturday afternoon when I was 12 and just beginning to listen to the radio in Ohio, I stumbled across "American Top 40" with Casey Kasem for the first time and heard him introduce Gaye's song, which was making its debut on the countdown that day. A bit of research revealed that this must have been 23 April 1977; two months later, the song reached #1 for one week. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 14 June 2021)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

My daughter ends her career in youth circus

Around twelve years ago, I went to see a youth circus with my then five-year-old daughter Luisa. She was captivated, but on the way out afterwards, I noticed she was sobbing. "I want to be seven!" she cried, as she knew that that circus didn't take anyone younger than that. So she started gymnastics instead and began circus at seven. Several eventful years later, she joined the Basel youth circus Rägeboge (Rainbow) in 2015 and had her first performances with them in 2016. Today, after six years with Rägeboge, she cried at the end of her last performance as a circus artiste, and I remembered how she sobbed back in 2009.  (Andrew Shields, #111words, 13 June 2021)

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The "sad nostalgic humming" of "Mack the Knife" in Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook"

In Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook", Anna Wulf recalls in the mid-1950s how during World War Two, the German refugee Willi Rodde, her wartime lover in Southern Rhodesia, "would tunelessly hum" Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife". When it became a hit in the mid-1950s, Anna felt a "sharp feeling of dislocation" on hearing it in London. For Willi in Africa, with his "sad nostalgic humming", it was a song from his childhood in Berlin; for Anna in London, it recalled her young adulthood during the war. I feel nostalgia now, too, re-reading "The Golden Notebook" three decades after I first read it in the early 1990s – in Berlin. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 June 2021)

Friday, June 11, 2021

Living in infamy with Dylan, Roosevelt, and Shakespeare

Bob Dylan's "Murder Most Foul" begins by connecting the Kennedy assassination to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941: "Twas a dark day in Dallas – November ‘63 / The day that will live on in infamy." Although it's now permanently associated with Roosevelt's "a date which will live in infamy", I wondered if the phrase "live in infamy" predated his speech – and discovered that it goes back to the seventeenth century. The most prominent example I've found is in William Shakespeare's "Henry the Fourth, Part II", when the Lord Chief Justice addresses Falstaff: "Well, the truth is, Sir John, you live in great infamy." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 June 2021)
Robert Smirke, Falstaff Rebuked, 1795. Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Don't change any orbits, Representative Gohmert. Instead, reduce the use of fossil fuels

On Tuesday, 8 June, 2021, Republican Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas asked  whether the National Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management could "change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate." Perhaps he was being ironic, as Philip Bump of the Washington Post suggests. But whether he meant the remark seriously or not, such proposal responds to the climate catastrophe with a grand technological solution that would be far more complicated than the simple technological solution of reducing use of fossil fuels. The grand solution that we need is not technological, but political and economic. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 June 2021)


Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Translations of a line from Wallace Stevens into Spanish: "It was evening all afternoon."

The Spanish word "tarde" can be translated into English as either "afternoon" or "evening", depending on what time of day is being referred to. This just made wonder about a line from the last section of Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird": "It was evening all afternoon." With an internet search, I found two translations, one by Raúl Gustavo Aguirre: "Toda la tarde fue de noche." And one by Andrés Sánchez Robayna: "Toda la tarde era crepúsculo." The latter seems better to me because it avoids "noche", the Spanish word for "night". I also just like "crepúsculo" ("dusk"), though my preference for it is from French, not Spanish. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 9 June 2021)


Note: In my lipogram version, I render the line as "It was dusk for hours past noon."
A selection of Stevens translated by Andrés Sánchez Robayna.


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

On getting the same vaccine for the second dose of my coronavirus vaccination

I went to get the second dose for my coronavirus vaccination this afternoon, and I was surprised when the purple-haired young woman preparing to give me the shot mentioned that I'd be getting the same vaccine as before (BioNTech-Pfizer) – I'd unconsciously assumed that it went without saying that the vaccines couldn't be mixed. But when I asked her whether they could, she said that while there haven't been studies, the two mRNA vaccines available in Basel (BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna) are similar enough that it's reasonable to assume that they could be mixed, but the AstraZeneca vaccine, for example, is a viral-vector vaccine that may well not be compatible with the others. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 June 2021)

Monday, June 07, 2021

Senator Hoar sees how "hateful" Senator Miller's espousal of "Anglo-Saxon civilization" is – in 1882

In his discussion of Asian Americans on last night's episode of "Last Week Tonight", John Oliver quoted Senator John Franklin Miller, a Republican from California, from the debates in the in 1882 about the Chinese Exclusion Act: “We ask of you to secure to us American Anglo-Saxon civilization without contamination or adulteration with any other." I found the quotation in a recent article in "The New Yorker" that also cites Senator George Frisbie Hoar, a Republican from Massachusetts, who criticized "the old race prejudice which has so often played its hateful and bloody part in history." Even then, the "Anglo-Saxon" ideas behind the exclusion of the Chinese were identified as "hateful". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 7 June 2021)
Senator George Frisbie Hoar


Sunday, June 06, 2021

Senator Manchin, protecting the right to vote is only "partisan" because Republicans are engaging in partisan attacks on it

The For the People Act was reintroduced in 2021 by Democratic Representatives and Senators to expand "voter registration [...] and voting access" and limit "removing voters from voter rolls." As no Republican Senators support the Act, Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, announced yesterday in the Charleston Gazette-Mail that he will be voting against the bill. Manchin begins with the claim that "protecting [the right to vote] should never be done in a partisan manner." However, in states across the country, the Republican Party is undermining that right in the most partisan manner possible. Manchin's refusal to be "partisan" surrenders to Republican attacks on the right he claims to stand for. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 June 2021)


Saturday, June 05, 2021

Mentioning the "native" in a poem while still erasing them

Jeff Daniel Marion's poem "Playing to the River" takes place in the moment of waiting "for the traffic light to change", as the poem's first-personal plural speaker ("we") sees and hears a woman playing bagpipes beside a river. This brief moment of present time fills up with "past lives:  fishermen / and riverboat gamblers, tugboat captains // and log raftsmen, pioneer and native / slipping through the eddies of time." These images of the people who stood beside the river in the past repeat a version of American history which may be willing to mention Native Americans but does not address the violence done to them by all those other figures. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 June 2021)


Friday, June 04, 2021

Rowan Ricardo Phillips, T. S. Eliot, William Blake, and police violence

Rowan Ricardo Phillips's two-line poem "Tradition and the Individual Talent" takes its title from the title of an essay by T. S. Eliot and its first line from William Blake's poem "London": "I wandered through each chartered street / Till I was shot by the police." I wondered if the second line was also a quotation (perhaps of a song), but an internet search for the phrase led only to references to Phillips. While Blake's London is full of people with "marks of weakness, marks of woe" and Eliot writes that "poetry is not a turning loose of emotion", Phillips turns emotion loose as his speaker is "marked" by police violence. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 June 2021)

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Paul Celan, handshakes, smiles, and poems in the pandemic

Before the pandemic, we shook hands as greetings or congratulations. Often, handshakes were accompanied by smiles. Now we've learned to do without hands and smiles, except when we wave to and smile at each other on Zoom. In retrospect, there was an element of trust in the handshake and in the open smile, which can only be safe in the absence of an infectious disease. In a 1960 letter to Hans Bender, Paul Celan wrote that he could not "see any basic difference between a handshake and a poem". In a world without handshakes and with smiles hidden by masks, the poem remains as a sign of trust in the other. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 3 June 2021)

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

"I am very angry with you": Anne Elliot and her disobedient nephew in Jane Austen's "Persuasion"

In Jane Austen's "Persuasion", when Anne Elliot tends her injured nephew Charles with only Captain Wentworth and Charles Hayter in the room, Charles's little brother Walter enters and "fastens himself upon" Anne. Her orders and entreaties with him are unsuccessful, and he climbs on her back: "'Walter,' said she, 'get down this moment. [...] I am very angry with you.'" While this is directed at the boy, both men respond: Charles Hayter speaks to Walter, and Captain Wentworth silently removes Walter from Anne's back. She speaks as an aunt to her nephew, not as a woman to the two men, but they react as if she had spoken to them directly.  (Andrew Shields, #111words, 2 June 2021)

Vor dem Gesetz steht ein Torhüter

Vor dem Gesetz steht ein Torhüter. Zu diesem Torhüter kommt ein Stürmer vom Lande und bittet um Eintritt in das Gesetz. Aber der Torhüter sagt, daß er ihm den Eintritt nicht gewähren könne, bis er ein Elfmeter schiesst. Der Stürmer schreitet selbstbewusst zum Elfmeterpunkt und bereitet den Ball vor, während der Torhüter auf der Linie in aller Ruhe wartet. Der Stürmer läuft an und schiesst; der Torhüter macht einen leichten Sprung und pariert den Schuss. Der Stürmer versucht ihn durch Finten zu verfuhren; der Torhüter rührt sich nicht. Mit einer augenblicklichen Gewandtheit tritt der Stürmer den Ball in die hohe Ecke, für keinen anderen Torhüter wäre so ein Ball haltbar, aber dieser Torhüter macht einen leichten Sprung und pariert den Schuss. Der Ernst des Torhüters kommt hinzu, dem Stürmer die Fassung zu rauben, Schüsse und Finten wechseln sich, ihm trieft der Schweiss: umsonst! Nicht bloss, dass der Torhüter alle Schüsse pariert; auf Finten (was ihm kein Torhüter der Welt nachmacht) geht er gar nicht einmal ein: Aug in Auge, als ob er die Seele des Stürmers darin lesen kann, steht er, die Handschuhe erhoben, und wenn die Bewegungen nicht ernsthaft gemeint sind, so rührt er sich nicht. So geht es Tage und Jahre. Der Stürmer wird kindisch und da er in dem jahrelangen Studium des Torhüters auch die Flöhe in seinem Trikot erkannt hat, bittet er auch die Flöhe ihm zu helfen, um den Torhüter zu überlisten. Schließlich wird sein Augenlicht schwach und er weiß nicht, ob es um ihn wirklich dunkler wird oder ob ihn nur seine Augen täuschen. Wohl aber erkennt er jetzt im Dunkel einen Glanz, der unverlöschlich aus dem Tores bricht. Nun lebt er nicht mehr lange. Vor seinem Tode sammeln sich in seinem Kopfe alle Elfmeter der ganzen Zeit zu einer Frage: „Alle streben doch nach dem Gesetz,“ sagt der Stürmer, „wieso kommt es, daß in den vielen Jahren niemand außer mir ein Elfmeter versucht hat?“ Der Torhüter erkennt, daß der Stürmer schon an seinem Ende ist: Das ist das letzte Kapitel von der Geschichte der Welt.


Tuesday, June 01, 2021

17-year-old Mohammad Recep juggles for children in Beit Hanoun, Gaza

An article in The Intercept ("With Thousands Left Homeless, Gaza Reconstruction Faces Familiar Obstacle: Israeli Siege") includes a photograph taken by Abed Zagout in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, on May 25, 2021, of a 17-year-old Palestinian, Mohammad Recep, juggling three colorful clubs to entertain children against a backdrop of bombed-out buildings. On Twitter*, there are more of Zagout's photographs of Recep in his orange T-shirt, juggling clubs, balls, and rings for the captivated children. One photograph captures a moment when, with two red clubs in his hands, Recep is balancing a green club by its handle on his chin while the setting sun illuminates the remaining walls of the ruins behind him. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 1 June 2021)


*Tweets with the photographs are here, here, and here.

Detail of photograph by Abed Zagout