Gurning Expressions and Good Craic

Saoirse-Monica Jackson

Saoirse-Monica Jackson: ‘There’s a real sense of generosity in Derry.’ Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer.

I’ve recently locked into “Derry Girls” on Netflix, of which I’ve just encountered this enthusiastic review in The Guardian. For me, a dialect wonk, the series is a bracing dip into Irish brogue, besides good entertainment.

The world is ready for this now [“funny young women”], and happy days — because we’re not going anywhere.

(Saoirse-Monica Jackson, quoted by Holly Williams, “Derry Girl Saoirse-Monica Jackson: ‘Yes, we have a harsh sense of humour’,” The Guardian, 3-17-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

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“Keeping Busy”

tree by sarah

I remember … what my teacher said [about a tree study]. “Your tree is beautiful, Sarah, but I don’t know what an art director is going to do with that tree.” No matter, no mind. I was on my own path… The great thing about a sketchbook is that it is for you. It’s where ideas, conscious and unconscious, form. Accidents happen, but they are happy accidents… I can’t say that I am completely happy when I draw. It’s not happiness. It’s feeling occupied, content. Something Andy Warhol said has always struck a chord in me: “I think that’s the best thing in life: keeping busy.” Once I started drawing I realized I could keep myself busy and never feel bored again.

(Sarah Williamson, “My Sketchbooks in a Stranger’s Hands,” NYTimes, 3-16-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

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“A Girl From Somewhere Else”

I take myself too seriously, probably because I’m a human being. With our big brains and our bigger egos, we can’t help building the case to ourselves and others that we are very important creatures, when really we’re ludicrous. To be funny is to remind ourselves again and again just how ridiculous we are.

(Maeve Higgins, “My Glamorous Life as a Movie Star in Control-Top Pantyhose,” NYTimes, 3-16-19)

Higgins is the author of “Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl From Somewhere Else.”

(c) 2019 JMN.

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High Cotton in Language Land

you auto be with me uploaded

[Confession: I hesitate to register enjoyment of language that happens to come from a debate whose seriousness I readily acknowledge. Brexit is beyond my purview, but I hope whatever solution is reached benefits the UK and its citizens. With that proviso I proceed on a lighter note.]

A homely old saying where I’m from is that someone “is in high cotton” when he or she experiences a stroke of good fortune or finds himself or herself in a pleasing situation that works to his or her advantage. As a blogger who keeps an eye on language and style in daily readings I am in high cotton when I encounter passages such as the following:

Mr. Cox, who speaks in the clavicle-juddering bass of an Old Testament prophet, has achieved a degree of celebrity as Mrs. May’s surrogate and protector.

(Ellen Barry, “Theresa May Finds Herself Without a Voice, or a Friend,” NYTimes, 3-12-19)

The choices facing Parliament were “unenviable,” as Mrs. May said… but coming days promised more “squeaky bum time,” a phrase several British reporters borrowed from a soccer coach who once used it to describe the way fans squirm in their seats when the action gets tense.

(Editorial, “Britain Squirms After Another ‘No’ on Brexit,” NYTimes, 3-12-19)

The phrase describing Mr. Cox’s bass voice judders my clavicles. As for squeaky bum time, now is it, assuredly, on several fronts.

(c) 2019 JMN.

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Sports

exclamation-mark

I’ve studied at every level of American education — elementary through graduate school and law school — and have taught without distinction at most levels as well — middle school, high school, community college, and university. None of this qualifies me to sound off about how the system should work because I’m clueless; however, my interest in the topic of education leads me to echo some points from an opinion piece in The Times stemming from the admissions bribery indictments that have surfaced. Points made in the article lend support to my sense that the outsize focus on sports that’s prevalent in our schools can siphon student energies, as well as key resources, away from the academic pursuits that might ought to be the bedrock of what schools are about.

[According to research into the college admissions process]: An athlete was about 30 percentage points more likely to be admitted than a nonathlete with the same academic record… Competitive sports occupy a ridiculously large place in the admissions process… “Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education…,” Philip Smith, a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. “Recruited athletes not only enter selective colleges with weaker academic records than their classmates as a whole but…, once in college, they ‘consistently underperform academically…,’” Edward Fiske wrote in a 2001 book review for The Times.

(David Leonhardt, “End Special Treatment for Sports,” NYTimes, 3-13-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

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“Resolving Uncertainty”

music notation

I’m trying to make the musical intervals stick in my head through associated songs, a technique I’ve only just discovered. I’m painting each interval on canvas, first the minor second,  exemplified by the theme of the movie “Jaws.”

The article excerpted below  recommends drawing pictures of things you want to remember. Uncertain about the upshot of my experiment, I’m reminded of a joke involving someone at pains to remember the means by which he meant to remember the thing, while the thing itself is perfectly remembered.

… In an arts integrated curriculum, students would sketch their vocabulary words, or learn some of the material as songs, or act out molecular motion with their bodies… The children who had learned the material in the curriculum that made use of the arts remembered more, and the effect was largest among the children who were less strong academically, the ‘lower performers.’

“Working through some creative endeavor, we’re really resolving uncertainty,” [Ronald Beghetto, a professor of educational psychology] said. “We approach the blank canvas.”

(Perri Klass, “Using Arts Education to Help Other Lessons Stick,” NYTimes, 3-4-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

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The Agony of Deaccessioning

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Paintings line the basement storage space at The Indianapolis Museum of Art, which has graded its entire collection to help determine what art it may want to sell or transfer to another institution. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields; Lyndon French for The New York Times.

This article has useful and graphic information about how and why so many art museums display so little of their collections. At first blush there is ample fodder for irony for persons possessed of the notion that art’s first purpose is to be looked at. There are,
however, extenuating circumstances and complicating factors in the dilemmas that museums face.

First, the problem: “Most museums display only a fraction of the works they own… There are thousands, if not millions, of works that are languishing in storage.” Museums are confronting “a history of voracious stockpiling and the pressure to acquire still more.”

Wealthy people bestow much swag other than pictures and sculpture on museums: doilies, clothing and costumes, accessories, home furnishings, textiles, etc. All these treasures compete for scarce exhibition space as well as ballooning resource requirements for proper preservation when not on display.

In museums’ defense, however, “… many [undisplayed works] are prints and drawings that can only sparingly be shown because of light sensitivity.” There is, too, the argument that “… preserving the best of the past [even in storage] — no matter how unpopular it may temporarily become — is the purpose of museums.” Also, — surprise! — a percentage of donated works are mediocre, “not even worth showing,” according to one museum veteran.

So, while philanthropists aren’t always experts in picking masterpieces, neither are they always modest or humble people. Many donors dictate the terms of their gifts, effectively bossing from beyond the grave in many cases. Donors of art works valued at $400 million to the Art Institute stipulated that the donation has to be on display for the next fifty years. “I got the deal of a lifetime,” one of them said.

(Robin Pogrebin, “Clean House to Survive? Museums Confront Their Crowded Basements,” NY Times, 3-10-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

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