Thursday, July 28, 2016

Phildel* (for Philadel*)

Thomas Eakins was a fin-de-siècle artist from the "realist" school who also hailed from the American birthplace of "liberty": Philadelphia. Eakins enjoyed working with nudes. He would often employ his pupils at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as models, and paint their likenesses from photos. This agreeable practice was brought to an ignominious halt in 1886, however, when Eakins was summarily fired from his teaching post for permitting undraped males to pose in the studious presence of females. His furiously witty and utterly unrepentent response (which I could never do justice to in paraphrase, so I'll quote in its entirety) reads as follows: "My figures at least are not a bunch of clothes with a head and hands sticking out but more nearly resemble the strong living bodies that most pictures show. And in the latter end of a life so spent in study, you at least can imagine that painting is with me a very serious study. That I have but little patience with the false modesty which is the greatest enemy to all figure painting. I see no impropriety in looking at the most beautiful of Nature's works, the naked figure. If there is impropriety, then just where does such impropriety begin? Is it wrong to look at a picture of a naked figure or at a statue? English ladies of the last generation thought so and avoided the statue galleries, but do so no longer. Or is it a question of sex? Should men make only the statues of men to be looked at by men, while the statues of women should be made by women to be looked at by women only? Should the he-painters draw the horses and bulls, and the she-painters like Rosa Bonheur the mares and cows? Must the poor old male body in the dissecting room be mutilated before Miss Prudery can dabble in his guts? ... Such indignities anger me. Can not anyone see into what contemptible inconsistencies such follies all lead? And how dangerous they are? My conscience is clear, and my suffering is past..." Let us clear our own collective conscience and put this typo into the past as well. Phildel* (for Philadel*) was uncovered 24 times in OhioLINK, and 689 times in WorldCat.

(The Swimming Hole, by Thomas Eakins, ca. 1884, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Unbrel* (for Umbrel*)

Just caught wind of a fishy little typo in the following news story: "Panama City beach bams [sic] umbrellas." I figured they must have meant "bans," but at first I read that as bums. Either way, I guess, it's like one of those crazy fun/hard to say tongue twisters. (Although I bet Frankie and Annette could do it, while hanging ten at the same time.) At least the headline writer didn't get off on the wrong foot—or put on the wrong hat—with Pamana, but today's typo is yet another case of mistaking an N for an M, or vice versa. While it looks as though the beach umbrella ordinance has been overturned, I can't help thinking that if those bums down in Florida could take "umbrage" at a bit of shady sand and local color, I can only imagine what they would make of Christo's recent art installation, The Floating Piers, over in Italy. Echoing "The Gates" in NYC's Central Park, it's kind of like a giant "umbrella" that almost takes the place of the beach itself. Not only is it not "30 feet from the shore," it actually extends far out into the ocean, linking the town of Sulzano with Monte Isola and the island of San Paolo. Don't get burned by our typo of the day, which was found four times in OhioLINK, and 182 times in WorldCat.

(Beach umbrella, Toronto, Canada, 2 August 2011, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Jesse + Jessie (for Jessie or Jesse)

Jessie Matthews was a wildly popular singer, dancer, and cinema star in the U.K. during the 1920s and '30s. Wide-eyed, high-steppin', and determined to get ahead in the theatre, she was apparently more "predator" than ingénue. John Gielgud called her an "enchanting creature," but said that "no man was safe in her presence." Indeed, she managed to snare more than her fair share of bisexual males along the way, in addition to those who were perhaps a bit more easily led. She didn't discriminate against married men and once had her "pornographic" letters to one of them read aloud in divorce court, causing the judge to pronounce her "odious." Another smitten suitor actually committed suicide over her. On the plus side, she was an understudy to Gertrude Lawrence and the first singer to perform Cole Porter's "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love." She was cast in almost two dozen films and was often heard and seen on the radio and television, most notably as Wallis Simpson's "Aunt Bessie" Merriman in the 1978 series Edward & Mrs. Simpson. I was lucky enough to catch her on the big screen at my local theater the other night, in the 1936 British musical It's Love Again. Which, it would seem, was pretty much the irrepressible, irresponsible, stage-struck starlet's motto, as she kicked and winked her way through life, men, and the movies. I ran into a former coworker there who told me that Matthews had once put in an appearance at the movie house in England where his father had then worked. She must have made quite an impression. In any event, he seemed pleased to be encountering her again more than half a century later. I double-checked the spelling of this diva's name (she was also dubbed the "Dancing Divinity") as I'm quite sure she would want us to get it right. Today's combination typo (which will undoubtedly return some false hits, so watch your step) was found 141 times in OhioLINK, and 1,338 times in WorldCat.

(Jessie Matthews, Alhambra Theatre, London, 1917, from the web.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rebub* (for Repub*)

With the Republican National Convention off to a rollicking start; with scores of creative protesters and parodies galore; with comedians like Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, and Seth Meyers—all mining this event for its comedy gold—and with heartfelt apologies to Rudyard Kipling...

If ?!?

If you can keep your hair when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when voters doubt you,
But bust their asses for their doubting too;
If you can bait and not get sick of baiting,
Or being spied upon, hire more spies,
Or being hated, just keep right on hating,
And don’t eat ethnic food, nor talk too nice:

If you can dream—of making money faster;
If you can think—but see it as a game;
If you can flirt with Triumph and Disaster
And always find somebody else to flame;
If you can bear to hear hard words you've spoken
Repeated all verbatim-like—the fools!
Or watch the towers you've erected, broken,
But be relieved you've still got massive tools:

If you can make one heap of all your "billions"
And risk it on one turn at being Boss,
And lose (of course), and start again with millions
And never shut your face about your loss;
If you can force your delegates and donors
To serve you after Hope is all but gone,
And have your back despite your many boners,
With wiliness that cries to them: "Hang on!"

If you can talk with louts and leave 'em laughing,
Or walk with Kings—not knowing who they are,
If neither Bros nor uggo girls can shaft you,
If other pols can never meet your bar;
If you can fill the mortifying minute
With sixty seconds at the podium,
You could be POTUS, and the way you'll spin it
Should make us all feel hugely—hugely—glum.

There were 23 cases of Rebub* (for Repub*) in OhioLINK today, and 795 in WorldCat.

(Donald Trump stencil with bubble, 14 July 2016, Vector by Vector Open Stock, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Documentr* (for Documentar*)

Documentary Now! is one of the best shows on television at the moment, and if you're a fan of Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, or Seth Meyers, you really should check it out. Airing on IFC (home to Armisen's hilarious hipster hit, with Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia) and also available on Netflix, it's a series of 20-minute mini-mockumentaries that parody actual documentaries. In addition to the brilliant "Sandy Passage" (based on the Maysles brothers' 1975 film Grey Gardens) and "The Eye Doesn't Lie" (Errol Morris's 1988 debut documentary The Thin Blue Line), you also have the mock-rock-doc "Gentle and Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee" (which isn't about a real band from the '70s, but more like a type) and "A Town, a Gangster, a Festival" (about a purported place in Iceland where the residents zealously celebrate Al Capone once a year). And speaking of going where it's cold, I also loved "Kunuk Uncovered," which the A.V. Club calls "a fake documentary about the making of a fake documentary that's spoofing Nanook of the North—a 1922 silent documentary that's, well, sort of fake." Don't get faked out by our typo of the day, which was documented 26 times in OhioLINK, and 808 times in WorldCat.

(Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in 2012, at the 71st Annual Peabody Awards Luncheon, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in New York, 21 May 2012, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Femenist*, Femenism* (for Feminist* and Feminism*)

In yet another online "ado" (a very popular crossword puzzle word for what ought to be obvious reasons), it seems that certain people were recently put out by a clue in the New York Times that read: "A decidedly non-feminist women's group." The answer was HAREM. Critics called the whole thing "hateful" and "tone-deaf" and complained that it managed to be "demeaning to both sex workers and women in sex slavery." Which is kind of odd seeing as how most harem members were generally neither "sex workers" nor "sex slaves" in the usual sense. (I wonder what the reaction would have been had the answer involved certain Mormons or other religious adherents of polygyny.) In any case, I suppose it's possible that the word harem itself is some sort of "trigger" for those who have been unduly traumatized by the patriarchy, but other than that, I don't quite see how a harem is not a decidedly non-feminist women's group. But would that be because most concubines didn't actively chosen their roles, or because they did? Another star-crossed crossword couplet for which many readers were demanding their pound of flesh was the clue "Shylock" and its answer: JEW. While I tend to sympathize with this objection since it seems to me just like using any other racial or ethnic slur (which normally wouldn't serve as the sort of necessary "equivalence" a crossword puzzle is aiming for), I might also point out that the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy contains this reference to The Merchant of Venice in a usage note: "'I am a Jew,' says Shylock. 'Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?'" Other cruciverbalist concerns had to do with calling undocumented aliens ILLEGALS, along with why crossword puzzles often invoke racially coded street slang like HOMIE and HOOD. (Answer: because such words are short and have a lot of vowels, I think. Not because the puzzle makers are secret racists.) Right after chatting about this with a visiting uncle, I happened to pick up an old (July-August 2005) copy of Mental Floss and came across an item entitled "The Secret Lives of Concubines: 3 Reasons Why Harem Life Wasn't That Cool." They were: 1) "The girls didn't dress like strippers" (in fact, they wore "loose, baggy clothing ... more reminiscent of burka than bordello"); 2) "The girls were bored (and sexually frustrated)" since the only men they ever saw were the sultan himself and the eunuch guards; and 3) "It wasn't that exciting for the fellas, either" (it seems that "all the details of harem life—from choosing the girls to breaking up catfights—were overseen by [the sultan's] dear old mum"). Our two typos for today make up a decidedly non-feminist group, appearing seven (and nine) times in OhioLINK, and 113 (128) times in WorldCat.

(Two Ladies and a Child Reposing in the Harem, Antoin Sevruguin, Brooklyn Museum, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Molestor* (for Molester*)

The Mark, released in 1961, is a strangely shocking yet singularly sympathetic film about pedophilia. It was directed by Guy Green (A Patch of Blue), and tells the story of a would-be child molester who, by way of group therapy in prison and a warm relationship with his psychiatrist (Rod Steiger), overcomes his abnormal and potentially criminal urges and finds some measure of happiness with a very understanding coworker (Maria Schell). Although the story is set in England (and the book it was based on in the United States), the movie was actually shot in Ireland, due to its controversial subject matter. (I'm not sure why Ireland wasn't equally, or even more, put off by it, but apparently it wasn't.) Unlike Lolita (in Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film adaptation), the "child" here is not a teenager, but rather a ten-year-old little girl. The Mark pulls no punches, but Jim Fuller (played by Stuart Whitman) does manage to pull himself back from the brink after buying ice cream cones for a couple of trusting moppets and then somehow getting one of them into his car. He drives for several miles, suddenly pulls over, gets out and vomits, and then turns around and takes the kid back home. But by that time it's too late and he ends up serving a three-year jail sentence. The film depicts how this type of crime can haunt one in a multitude of ways and for many years. Some would argue that Whitman himself suffered professionally due to his association with The Mark, despite having received an Oscar nomination for his performance. We found two hits on today's typo in OhioLINK, and 32 in WorldCat.

(Poster for The Mark, 1961, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ameican* (for American*)

Hope you had a nice Independence Day, my fellow librarians who are also Americans. You know who you are. Or do you? I have a good friend with a pet peeve. He hates the way people from the United States are called "Americans." He regards it as a slight to Central and South America. As he rightly points out, we're not even the only country in North America, sharing the continent with Mexico, Canada, and Greenland. It strikes me as somewhat similar to terming everyone from the former USSR "Russians"; a much better word would be "Soviets." The problem with applying this analogy to Americans, however, is that there's no ready substitute to denote people who live in the United States. We could try saying "U.S. Americans" to mean the people, but then you've got all those adjectival forms: "the American way"; "the American flag"; "American as apple pie"; etc. And somehow, I just can't imagine something like "United Statesian" or "United Stateser" ever quite catching on. ("USer" might be a little too on the nose.) So once again, American "exceptionalism" (linguistically speaking, anyway) may rule the day. Today's typo was discovered 23 times in OhioLINK, and 504 times in WorldCat.

(Rosa "Miss All American Beauty," Maria Callas rose, 1965, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid