It's not unlike the Pentagon's daily body-count, only it's not necessarily a list of the maimed, crippled and dead. Rather, it's a tally of the number of times people from all over the world are calling up this page or that drawing, this review or that article, this poem or that letter, which we have stuck up there at www.ralphmag.org.
The latest figures (technically referred to "Average Successful Requests Per Day") tell us that we get over 13,000 hits in any one twenty-four hour period. For a small magazine like ours this might be dazzling if not alarming, for it means that almost five million times a year we are being called up from Tulsa, New York, Redland, Rocky Mount, Alberta, Medicine Hat, Montreal, Mexico City ... if not Dogsmouth (England), Atacama (Chile), Fungshu (Japan), Ouangolodougou (Upper Volta), or the Archipelago of Nuyts.
Not to be put out. Some of these calls are wrong numbers (or possibly calls from outer space), some are hits, runs, and errors. Not a few are looking only for pictures, drawings, lithographs. (To our surprise, we turn up in Google Images at strange and wonderful places.)
Our most popular photo --- regularly, the most hits-per-day --- was reproduced from an obscure book out of Oxford University Press, reviewed by us in early fall 2004. It's a very early shot made by a 19th Century photographer named Edweard Muybridge (or Edward Muygridge, or Muggeridge, or Maybridge, or, when he went south of the border, which he did often --- he was a remittance man --- Eduardo Santiago).
He specialized in something called "The Instantaneous Photography Movement" which was funded by Leland Stanford, of all people. The photograph we mounted almost as an afterthought to the review is really too grotesque to be described here, in polite company, but if you are hell-bent on looking at it, you can find it here:
(It can be found at the very bottom of the final review. And it ain't time-lapse shots of horses or fencers.)
Be that as it may, we continue to enjoy some 150,000 - 180,000 page hits a month. The most popular articles and reviews from over the years are listed below. Some are from eons ago, at least eons for us. One, dealing with Fatty Arbuckle, came to us from the late-lamented Fessenden Review. Others we had forgotten about (who wrote that clunker we found ourselves thinking) but others have come to be pleasant reminders of our vigorous, early, and quite noisy origins.--- Lolita Lark
- Our Own Devices: The Past and Future of Body Technology, Edward Tenner (Alfred A. Knopf) Confidence in science and aggressive marketing by manufacturers were not the only reasons for the success of infant formula. Beginning in the 1920s, the breast was sexualized in a way that made public feeding potentially more sensitive than it had formerly been. Bottle-feeding was associated with scientific motherhood and at the same time with freedom from domesticity.Some bourgeois European circles also welcomed bottle-feeding as a step against prolonged oral gratification and for the development of good habits. The result was a steady increase, though with many national and regional variations, in the proportion of bottle-fed infants between World War I and the 1960s.In one American study of 1958, 63 percent of infants returning home from the hospital were already consuming only formula, and 21 percent were fed only breast milk. Few employers accommodated working mothers who had nursing infants, but even in the Sweden of the 1960s, where new mothers remaining at home with their infants received 90 percent of their professional salaries, bottle-feeding prevailed.
A revival of breast-
feeding among middle- and upper- class women in North America and Europe began in the 1970s and remains a strong force, but it has delayed bottle-feeding rather than replaced it as a routine of upbringing.--- Reading from
Our Own Devices
Moko Maori Tattoo, Hans Neleman, Photographer --- (Edition Stemmle).In The Piano, that delicious, dramatic movie that presented us with another startling view of 19th- century colonialism, the Maori of New Zealand are always in the background: carrying the piano, the luggage, working --- but it is a bizarre (and uncommented on) background. Their faces are graved with lines, designs, figures --- permanent line drawings on the skin that emphasize or contrast the shape of eyes or nose or mouth, and contrast sharply with the mostly pale-white ghostly faces of the colonialists.
Ta moko is the traditional facial decoration of those of Aotearoa, New Zealand. The authors of Moko --- Maori Tattoo tell us that it is not only tattoo, "It is also a name used for lizards throughout Polynesia, and it carries all the mythical associations attached to such creatures..."
It was inevitable that the Christians who invaded the island three hundred years ago should attempt to ban the process, since it was an homage to the Maori divines.
"Ta moko was kept alive by older women who lived in remote areas beyond the pale of European condemnation. In the 70s, young urbanized Maori in search of powerful symbols of ethnic identity rediscovered the art, and moko found a new generation of skin."
One guide, who assisted with this volume, said that with his moko, "I will never pretend I am white again." Indeed, many of those who appear in this book do not see themselves as "exotics" or "natives." There are students, workers, soldiers, and businessmen and most, apparently, are deeply religious. Statements that accompany many of these photographs are Maori translations of passages from the Bible --- hinting that an ingrained ancient culture has merged, to an astonishing degree, with the Christian.
Freud: A Very Short Introduction, Anthony Storr, Neville Jason, Reader (Naxos AudioBooks).Freud was called "my golden Ziggy" by his mother. He took a dim view of humanity, called it "trash." He was generous. One of his long-term patients he christened The Wolf Man because of a dream he related to Freud --- a dream, perhaps, next to the dreams of Emanuel Swedenborg, one of the most famous in existence:
I dreamed that it was night and I was lying in my bed. Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terrified to see that some white wolves were sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window. There were six or seven of them. The wolves were quite white, and looked more like foxes or sheep-dogs, for they had big tails like foxes and they had their ears pricked like dogs when they pay attention to something. In great terror, evidently of being eaten up by the wolves, I screamed and woke up.
Wolf Man lived into the 1970s, was often interviewed on the master's technique. He tells us that Freud chatted with him about his own life, talking of his children, daily events; he even loaned him money, arranged for loans from others when he was broke. The only thing Freud did not do, Storr tells us, was to cure him. Even in later life Wolf Man suffered from depression, from the frightening thoughts that first brought him to treatment when he was a young man.
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, Ross King, John Lee, Reader (Books on Tape). Ross King not only writes knowingly about the painting of the Sistine Chapel and about classical and contemporary (14th - 16th Century) art and artists --- he offers exquisite details on the art of frescoing, information on how to cast bronze statues, and insights into the continual and often alarming (to Michelangelo) bickering between popes, papal states, independent Italian republics, French armies, Spanish soldiers-of- fortune, and Swiss freebooters.
King is no sourpuss, and the story is often quite merry. He lets us in on the rich eccentricities of the characters of the times --- not only Michelangelo Buonarroti, but Raphael Sanzio, Leonardo da Vinci, and most fun of all, Pope Julius, "Il Terrible." Indeed, Julius II reminds us of a lusty character out of Rabelais --- a fearsome hunter, a noisy warrior, an intemperate fighter, an opinionated crackpot. He was forever thumping people when he was angry (or ecstatically happy).
How strange it is in retrospect that this noisy, syphilic-ridden rowdy selected the young and inexperienced Michelangelo from all other possible artists to paint frescoes in the Sistine Chapel --- that holy of holies --- and continued to support him even when Michelangelo was being his most obstreperous.
The great figures --- over 300 in number --- that ended up on the 12,000-
square-foot vault represent a radical departure in 15th-16th Century artistic tradition. They've been characterized as "twisted, muscle-bound supermen," placed by the artist in some of the most agonized postures possible.
Sam Goody Then . . . And Now, Matthew Lasar. I remember the New York Sam Goody record store at which I worked 25 years ago because it remains for me a symbol of a world that is gone. I'm surprised that I am still nostalgic for that peculiar moment in my life. Full of ridiculous quarrels and long, inexplicable feuds, "world" seems a pretentious description for the milieu over which Sam Goody presided (and in which I functioned) for a while.
Sam Goody Records --- bought in the 1970s by the American Can Corporation and later merged with Musicland Incorporated --- was the first independently owned record chain in the eastern United States. Approximately 20 Sam Goody stores existed when I first took a job with them in 1974, reaching as far north as New England as far south as Raleigh.
I was 19. I worked at the first store, the one located at 49th Street, off Broadway, in Manhattan. It had a sacred reputation within the network, being Sam's first operation. In it you could find many of the salesmen (and they were all men) who had started with Goody shortly after the Second World War. By the mid-1970s, some of these individuals had worked in the same locale for a quarter of a century.
And yes, they were characters.
Louis Weber, for example, had long since gained a city-wide reputation as classical music's occupational equivalent of the insulting Jewish waiter. A short, stocky man in his early 60s, Lou didn't suffer fools easily. Actually, I think he enjoyed fools.
Lou would camp out on the northeast corner of the store, and hum to himself cheerfully, waiting either for his first coffee break of the day (9:15 am) or for some naïf to torture. An elderly lady might walk up to him with two recordings of Beethoven's "Pathetique" in hand, one performed by Vladimir Horowitz, the other by Arthur Rubinstein. "Which one would you recommend, Mr. Weber?" she would ask respectfully. "Frankly madam," Lou would reply, "I don't think you could tell the difference." He would then politely hand her one or the other album.
During the four years I worked at Sam Goody's, I saw scores of people patiently endure this kind of treatment, and come back for more. One afternoon a customer came into the store and asked me to show him the "male vocals" section. I took him to the classical male singers bin, divided into names like Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau and Tito Schipa. He looked unhappy. "No," he explained to me, "I mean, you know, like Frank Sinatra."
Lou observed this confusion and waved a chiding finger in my face. "Matthew, Matthew, Matthew!" he said, affectionately. "Can't you tell by the level of mental perspicuity on this man's face what kind of singers he wants?" The man laughed and thanked us as Lou led him to the popular male vocals section, from which he took three Mario Lanza records to the cash register.
Fatty, Wanda Felix. Mack Sennett recalled meeting him: "A tremendous man skipped up the steps as lightly as Fred Astaire. He was tremendous, obese --- just plain fat. 'Name's Arbuckle,' he said, 'Roscoe Arbuckle. Call me Fatty! I'm with a stock company. I'm a funnyman and an acrobat. But I could do good in pictures. Watcha think?' With no warning he went into a featherlight step, clapped his hands, and did a backward somersault as graceful as a girl tumbler."
Adela Rogers St. Johns remembered the early days in Hollywood like this: "Everybody loved everybody. There were love affairs going on, and everybody had an excitement about the whole thing that I've never seen since. None of us knew even vaguely what we were doing. None of us knew what this picture business had come to; the greatest form of art and entertainment the world has ever known was put together there for awhile. It didn't last long but it was great, and here we were, right in the middle of the goldfish bowl, with everybody beginning to look at us."
By 1921 Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was one of the highest paid actor/directors in the motion picture business. But on September 5 of that year, during a weekend party he was throwing at the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco, the water in the goldfish bowl turned murky. Virginia Rappe (Rap-pay), a girl attending the party, ran screaming from a bedroom, took sick and died four days later.
On September 17 Roscoe Arbuckle was arraigned in San Francisco charged with the rape and murder of Virginia Rappe. The legendary producer, Adolph Zukor (who footed the legal bill) tried to bring in the great trial lawyer, Earl Rogers, father of Adela, but Rogers was in ill health and couldn't take the case.
Adela remembered her father speaking to her about Fatty's plight, "They will make it very tough on him, because of his weight. A man of that enormous fatness being charged with the rape of a young girl will prejudice them, even just the thought of it."
My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latino King, by Reymundo Sanchez (Chicago Review Press). "My Bloody Life" tells us perhaps more than we might want to know about gang life. It's not just colors and dress and tattoos and what you say, how you say it, how you identify yourselves to others. There are the rules: defend your brothers with your life; avenge any wrong to any of them in the most brutal way possible; get a reputation as a killer --- it's the quickest method of getting one of the Queens in your bed; never rat on anyone, no matter how viciously you are questioned; when the police catch you and demand you identify the gang-member who did the most recent drive-by shooting, point at any member of any of the other gangs at random --- that's enough to get them sent to jail."
Tornado Alley, Monster Storms of the Great Plains, Howard B. Bluestein, (Oxford). If you live in the middle of Oklahoma, say in a town like Enid, Yukon, or, God knows, Chickasha --- you'd better get the hell out. You can expect around nine tornadoes a year, the most in the world. Dimmit, Texas, Medicine Lodge, Kansas, and Anadark (Anadark!) OK are scarcely any better: seven a year, on average. Plant City, Florida, along with Tylertown, Mississippi and Saraland, Alabama can only manage to squeeze out five a year, but for some of us who keep our affection for tornadoes under tight control, this is enough.The worst months are May and June, and the worst time is just before sunset. The worst place to be is where you look up at it and there it is looking down at you, whistling at you. (Some say that when you are right under it, it may also rattle, whine, or sing "You're the top.")
The clouds associated with tornadoes, Bluestein tells us, have certain characteristics. Our favorite is one called "Mamma." No --- it's not Mumsie (see above) but, rather, a weird, delicious set of underhangings of a cloud formation that look --- bless me --- just like a mass of mammaries, a giant army of breasts just hanging there, waiting to drop something on us. Usually it's not milk, but one of those evil looking spirals that, according to the author, in their center may reach in excess of 700 miles an hour.
If you have to have the misfortune to be in, say, Oklahoma City on May 31, 2000, at 5:33 in the afternoon, watch out for shelf clouds, wet microbursts, penetrating tops, and anvils. These all, it is said, are predictive of up-coming tornadoes --- although the author admits that he is sometimes hard pressed to identify any of these formations.
Tornadoes have been studied to a fare-thee-well by the U. S. Government through the aegis of the National Severe Storms Laboratory --- which has a reputation for being quite severe when tornadoes show up without an official government storm permit. Through the aegis of the NSSL, it was found that thunderstorms of a special type (supercells) will produce hail and "are prolific breeders of tornadoes." Pre-tornado characteristics can also be spotted with Radar, and with this, NSSL and its predecessor organizations were able to begin a program of prediction and warnings, giving heart-failure and little comfort to the denizens of what has now come to be called "Tornado Alley."
The author gives us extensive charts and graphs and lovely photographs of tornadoes and their Florida beach-side cousins, waterspouts. In fact, there is a dandy photograph of a spout on page fifty-five which Bluestein casually notes he took from his hotel room balcony in Key Biscayne, Florida, "while attending his first professional conference." Obviously he loves his subject, and his subject loves him.
Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, Margaret MacMillan (Random House). "Go out and get this one if you are interested in --- for a change --- a historian who, unlike most of them, knows how to put sentences together, who can write with wit, leisure, and coherence, and who obviously loves her subject.
You'll find here much of what you would want to know about: (a) World War I; (b) The origins of World War II; (c) Why the Russians (in general) detested England, France, and the United States between 1919 and 1990; (d) 20th Century American politics; (e) 20th Century American foreign policy; (f) The psychology of Woodrow Wilson; (g) The psychology of Mrs. Woodrow Wilson; (h) The immense wit (and caginess) of Georges Clemenceau; (i) The caginess (and stolidness) of Lloyd George; (j) The absurd decisions made at Versailles, 1919; (k) The not-so-
absurd decisions made at Versailles, 1919; (l) What Ho Chi Minh was doing in Paris, 1919; (m) What Syngman Rhee was doing in Paris, 1919; (n) "The House of 1,000 Teats;" (o) What Clemenceau said after a would-be assassin shot at him six times; (p) The unstoppable sexiness of Queen Marie of Rumania (except when she tried to cozy up to Woodrow Wilson); (q) Why a peace treaty constructed six months after a war's end is less successful than one done at once; (r) What Clemenceau said about the ladies' buttocks in Renoir's paintings; (s) What the Chinese said after a ten-hour dinner given for the delegates at the Paris Peace Conference.
Three Poems from Teachers & Writers CollaborativeThe City of New YorkIn the city I see
many people getting hurt in many ways
seeing people mugging others' valuables
Homeless people on the streets
looking around for little scraps of food
Singing the song "Akuna Matata"
Words which mean no worries
I hear many different sounds in NY
such as many gunshots everywhere
Going from drugs to heads
sniffing up the drugs to their noses
No, not afraid to die--- Jason Petrone
§ § §What Is Reality?What is Reality?
Life formed on Earth
Does it exist with the energy of space?
Yes, no, maybe so
No one will ever know
Why are flowers used as a person's name?
Is it because they're beautiful and
Do you think it's because they feel like it?
What is up in space?
Gases and features only?
They work in a special way
The sun as a light bulb, the stars as
fireflies, and the sky as blueberry juice
Does it exist at all?--- Rose Garcia
§ § §Reality --- Something
We Don't Really WantReality
is a sun shining day ruined
is three errors
to mean nothing
milk with orange juice
Reality is a cupcake
with no icing
I hate oranges
do I hate
with no fingers
offering me oranges--- Daniel Cohen
The Lost King of France: Revolution, Revenge, and the Search for Louis XVII, Deborah Cadbury (Fourth Estate) The French Revolution started when Louis XVI called up the Parlement because of a minor cash-flow problem, a shortfall of 72 billion gold francs. The Parlement responded by changing its name to the Real Estate Agents (The Estates-General). They met in the Salle des Menus Plaisirs (the Room of Pleasant Meals) and told Louis that if he would do something about Marie-Antoinette he could save a few ducats and possibly his head.Austria and France had just concluded a very long war, called the Seven Year's War even though it went on for nine years due to inflation. Wars lasted much longer in those days --- no nukes and missiles and smart-bombs, just muskets and pikestaffs --- and this one went on so long it caused the people to get cranky especially in August when it was time for everyone to leave Paris for les vacances in St. Tropez.Marie-Antoinette was from Austria, so she spoke French with a guttural accent, couldn't keep the king's books balanced (she was known as Madame Déficit) and took her good time in providing an heir. "Peuple" the People magazine of the day suggested that perhaps it was Louis XVI's fault. "His matchstiçk is always lîmp and curlèd up," they reported.
It was also claimed that Marie-Antoinette said "Let them eat cake." This is a canard (or, as present-day menus term it, a canard a l'orange). What she actually said the first time was "Let them eat crêpes." Later, as nostalgia for Vienna overtook her, she was heard to cry "Let them eat sachertorte," referring to the most beloved of Viennese pastries. The Paris mob thus referred to Marie as "l'Autrichienne" (the Austrian Dog, later made into a famous movie by Luis Buñuel and Salvadore Dali).
M. le Matchstick
The Real Estate Agents then changed their name to the Third Estate which was immediately dissolved by the National Assembly which in turn formed the National Guard open to all young men who wanted to avoid the draft in the upcoming Napoleonic Wars. They marched on the Bastille and embarked on an urban renewal program --- that is, they tore it down and built a parking lot.
They then marched on the Hôtel de Ville for lunch and took along Bernard de Launay ("Looney Bernard") who had been head chef of the Bastille Snack Bar. With a cook-off to see who could make the best coq au vin, the chef of the Hôtel, M. Désnot, won with his le coq d'or --- a dazzling confection in which the fowl was stuffed with gold ducats before being reduced and deglazed. Le Coq d'Or was later made into a popular song by Rimsky and his demented half-brother Korsakov.
Making the Hillsides Blossom With Light. Somewhere in the shadows of the early history of radio looms the mysterious figure of Nathan B. Stubblefield. Nathan B. Stubblefield? Nora Blatch? Reginald A. Fessenden? Professor Amos Dolbear? Where do they get those names?
Nathan B. Stubblefield was born in, grew up in, lived in, and died in Murray, Kentucky. The citizens of that minuscule town were affectionate towards their mad radio genius, and erected a monument to Stubblefield in 1930. They called him The Father of Radio.
Stubblefield was poor, and a mystic. He was a mendicant and a martyr to his invention. Everyone wanted to steal his invention from him. Jim Lucas said that his home was so wired "that if a stranger approached within a half-mile, it set off a battery of bells." And Stubblefield, stubby mystic that he was, said
I have solved the problem of telephoning without wires through the earth as Signor Marconi has of sending signals through space. But, I can also telephone without wires through space as well as through the earth, because my medium is everywhere.
"My medium is everywhere." Nathan B. Stubblefield, the self-taught inventor of Murray Kentucky, who would later tell people that he would turn whole hillsides light with mysterious beams. Stubblefield, the mystic of the mystic transmission of waves everywhere, through air and land and water, to the nether reaches of the stars.
Everybody knew about Stubblefield's Black Box. The Black Box made the light, and the voice, out of the air. In 1892 (14 years before Fessenden's experiment from Brant Rock) he handed his friend Rainey T. Wells a box, and told him to walk away from the shack. Stubblefield always lived in a shack. Wells said later,
I had hardly reached my post when I heard Hello Rainey come booming out of the receiver. I jumped a foot and said to myself "This fellow is fooling me. He has wires someplace." [Wells moved a few feet further on]. All the while he kept talking to me but there were no wires I tell you.
"This fellow is fooling me...there were no wires, I tell you."
The Making of McPaper, The Inside Story of USA Today, Peter Prichard (Andrews, McMeel and Parker). USA Today, the in-house journal for the semiliterate, is the product of an organization known as the Gannett Company, which has made its mark on the American Fourth Estate by a simple ruse. It buys up small or medium-sized newspapers --- those that enjoy monopoly status in their communities --- then by rigorously cutting expenses (e.g., firing most of the news staff), beefing up advertising and promotion departments, and instituting a militant policy against any and all controversy and in-depth reporting, it turns these newspapers into what is so vulgarly described in one of the new barnyard expressions of our time: Cash Cows. Moo. It is the ultimate whoring of freedom of the press, and this particular corporation excels at it.
The top doges in the Gannett organization decided that this barnyard approach to newspapering could be extended to the whole of America through the coming of USA Today. That's what The Making of McPaper is all about.
One of the prime theses of The Making Of McPaper is that Gannett created the second national newspaper after the Wall Street Journal. We aren't too sure. USA Today is rich in graphics, lewd in color, wretched in content, but its closest competitors are not the WSJ but weeklies like The National Enquirer and The Star whose market shares have been dropping since the introduction of USA Today. There are others, too, English-language newspapers as meretricious as Gannett's, though not yet of these shores: the London dailies like the Daily Express or the Daily Mail, covering England like the dew with a combination of sex, scandal, and jingoism.
The Making of McPaper is ostensibly the story of the conception, execution, and success of USA Today. But the reader must be forewarned: the author, one Peter Prichard, is scarcely a mole within the Gannett organization. Much has been made of the fact that this is Gannett, warts and all (vide the semiserious title) --- but the biggest of them all, one Al Neuharth, ends up being practically canonized for being so insightful, wise, interesting, foresighted, driven, astute, etc., as to conceive of and gamble his career on USA Today.
Canonization of business leaders is all the rage now, starting with the elevation of Lee Iacocca somewhere out there just to the right of and perhaps a tad above the divine. Neuharth, too, is one of those hard-driven, hardball, hard-ass players, but when all is said and done, according to Prichard, he is warm, kind, loyal, truthful, brave, with a heart as big as all outdoors. Exempli gratia: when it comes to announcing his retirement,
Neuharth made an announcement that startled many in the room. His voice began to break as he said: "My instincts as an investigative reporter and editorial analyst tell me that the time has come to take another step in the planned and orderly transition of Gannett's leadership to the next generation.
"I am not going away, " Neuharth said, his voice full of emotion. He seemed to be holding back tears. "I love this company and the business and profession we are in."
Whenever they trundle out the lachrymal discharges of the leading heavy, it's probably time to man the bilges, especially when we know that he is not necessarily riding away into the sunset after a job well done, but more likely tucking his $100,000,000 in options in the trunk of his Lamborghini and driving off into the Poconos.
Chump Change, Dan Fante (Sun Dog). The blurbs compare Fante Junior to Bukowski. This is automatic. If someone writes about drinking and puking it all back up we naturally think Bukowski. But hidden in Bukowski's novels was always a hint of very rough compassion ... a high and rollicking sense of humor, even a tad of shame. Not much of that here. The only compassion to be found in Chump Change is the author's affection for a revolting, aged, and thoroughly ugly dying bull-dog --- one who belongs to his dying father.