Tom, Dick, and Harry

There was a fun question in my daily Spanish Quora:

¿Existe en inglés el equivalente a “fulano, mengano y zutano”?

The consensus in the answer thread was that “Tom, Dick and Harry” was the closest equivalent.

I’m reminded of my college French teacher’s phrase “machin, truc et chose.” I’ve forgotten the context, but I intuited that it meant something like “fulano,mengano y zutano”“so-and-so, what’s-his-name, and who’s-it.”

My summer school classmate in Mexico City, an American lady, complimented the instructor of French effusively on his fluency. The dapper Mexican man flicked ash from his cigarette and shrugged: “Que voulez-vous, madame? C’est mon métier” “What did you expect, madame? It’s my profession.”

With some exceptions Americans distrust polyglots, especially in their politicians. Former presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John Kerry have to hide their French or be tarred as quislings.

Tut tut. Sancho Panza said it: “No se hizo la miel para la boca del asno”— “Honey is not for the mouths of asses.”

(c) 2020 JMN

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The Squat

I learned the term “typosquatting” today.

Shortly after 2:30 a.m. on October 30, 2020, Twump tweeted the hashtag “#BidenCrimeFamiily” with no other context or link.

That extra “i” circumvented Twitter’s efforts to hide the hashtag in search results. Called #typosquatting, this tactic is often used by trolls and media manipulators to get around the rules of social media platforms.

(Emily Dreyfuss, “Trump’s Tweeting Isn’t Crazy. It’s Strategic, Typos and All,” NYTimes, 11-6-20)

The term “typo” is short for “typographical error”; however, if a typo is intentional, it’s no longer an “error,” is it? Food for thought.

I wonder if typosquatting is the best way forward in a healthy infosystem? Has “hashtagging” joined up with “swiftboating” in our mephitic lexicon?

(c) 2020 JMN

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I buy an unconscionable raft of goods from Amazon, but I’d rather get my books from a bookstore. This article brings good news. allows any independent shop to customise its own online store front, select books to recommend and, any time a bookshop directs a customer to the site through one of its links, it gets 30% of the sale.

… Every time a reader buys a book from an author, publisher, magazine or influencer page, 10% of that purchase will go to the page owner and another 10% into a profit pool for independent bookshops.

… This new platform offers practical solutions to keep our indie bookshops thriving…

(Sharmaine Lovegrove, “ is what the publishing world has been waiting for,”, 11-5-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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Hello, World

I’m going into my 9th month of shielding in the Untied States looking forward to a beautiful South Texas winter. I take comfort from the life of the mind — reading, painting, music. I’m grateful for my roof, patio, pets, and groceries, and for nights of peaceful sleep.

Would that every creature of every God had at least as much.

To friends, and to persons I haven’t met, whether you take SARS-CoV-2 seriously, like me, or consider it in some other perspective, I love you and wish us all health and long life.

PS: Yes, I wrote “Untied.”

(c) 2020 JMN

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Joy Hiding in Plain Sight

Retired doctor Jeff Kaufman often visits an American elm that escaped the devastation of Dutch elm disease because of its isolation. The 150-year-old tree stands near the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, 95 miles from Egremont, the nearest urban area.

… Kaufman is thankful that the elm has survived to be appreciated. “Anyone can see it, anyone can walk up to it. American elms aren’t the most colourful, but this one doesn’t need to be bright to be special. Its joy lies in the fact that it’s hiding in plain sight.”

(Alex Mistlin, “Tree of the week: An American elm that survives all the more safely in its isolation,”, 11-2-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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How does a country get to see the back
of a leader who has only affront?

Iambo-Pentametricization of Codified Peroration
“So we have many exciting things that
we will be announcing over the next
eight weeks, I would say things that nobody
has even contemplated, thought possi
ble, and things that we’re gonna get done and
we have gotten done and we’ve started in
most cases. We’re taking on so many
aspects of things that, uh, but you’ll see lev
els of detail and you’ll see levels of
thought that a lot of people believed ve
ry strongly we didn’t have in this coun
try. We’re going to get things done that they’ve
wanted to see done for a long, long time.”

— Trump, on second term plans
[Quoted at Doonesbury, versified here]

The Party of Trunk
I’m no friend of conspiracy theory, but I like to believe that the mar-a-lagian operatives’ first step in decoding the secret message for the elephanatic cabal is to reduce the peroration to iambic pentameter.

A closely guarded algorithm processes the emergent stress pattern, extracting the day’s truthiness to be bawled by the Vulpine network. The huge tone and tenor of the vacuity-decoy tossed to the lamestream media is strongly kim-jong-unian, if not putinesque.

(c) 2020 JMN

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Michelangelo Pistoletto

This article introduces me to Arte Povera (poor or plain art), a movement whose heyday ended in the 70s, known for it use of humble materials such as rags and newspaper. A major exponent, Michelangelo Pistoletto, has said, “Art is an engine of connection.”

I connect with his map figures cropped across a gamut of blues. The sequence feels like it opens a window of possibility.

In his natty scarf and rakish borsalino, I find the durable Mr. Pistoletto to be something of an art work himself.

(Ted Loos, “Michelangelo Pistoletto Endures. Even Covid Couldn’t Stop Him,” NYTimes, 10-28-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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Amen Thyself

Amen Thyself

Kids are we of One High God or other.
There are no atheists around a campfire.
Praise the spook that hankers for a crown.

An unborn baby drowned with its mother,
Tipped from a rescue boat into the flood.
Scream a prayer to the God-stinking mud.

Cosmic altar ego, slaughtered meat-hiss,
With such a fairy’s tail who needs a clown?
Toys are thee. As for my house and me,
We need a better God than this.

(c) 2020 JMN

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‘Uninvited Guests’

Carlos G. Navarro, curator of “Uninvited Guests,” the Prado’s first post-lockdown exhibition, says it’s “partly an act of self-criticism” for the museum’s complicity in neglect of 19th-century female artists.

Of 130 works displayed, 60 are by women. One wonders why not more.

The Guardian illustrates its article with two whole paintings by men and detail of one woman’s painting.

One wonders why not a whole woman’s painting. Or even two?

“I’d like there to be a debate about… how we represent the profile of 19th-century female artists in the museum,” he said…. What do we do with the pictures of the girls, or the ones of the slaves? Our stores are full of these kinds of images so what should we do with them?”

One wonders if an answer to the question is to take more of them out of storage and display them.

Navarro says that the 19th-century state “reduced [female artists] to decorative elements like still-life painters and flower painters.”

Yikes. One wonders at the reductive view of certain genres peeping out.

Ultimately, one wonders if the greater respect to be paid to woman-art by contrite museums is to free it from factitious gender silos and treat it simply as art.

(Sam Jones, “Prado’s first post-lockdown show reignites debate over misogyny,”, 10-18-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

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Backages & Shortlogs

The Guardian reports a crisis fermenting in South Korea: cabbage for making kimchi has run short. Its link to the intrepid cowpoke fleshing street-level USA will not be obvious, but an old snatch from Finnegans Wake helps connect the dots:

“Tee the tootal of the fluid hang the twoddle of the fuddled, O!”

(c) 2020 JMN

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