Words & Music

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." Edgar Degas

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Lost Art of Letter Writing: The Poison Pen Letter

Alexander Woollcott

Alexander Woollcott was a raconteur and member of good standing at the Algonquin Round Table. He was known for his dry humor and way with words. His aphorisms include observations on Los Angeles (“seven suburbs in search of a city”) and pianist Oscar Levant (“there is absolutely nothing wrong with Oscar Levant that a miracle can’t fix”). He liked to greet friends, “Hello, Repulsive.” 

Genius lyricist Ira Gershwin must have been a dear friend to receive this poison pen letter…


Nov. 10, 1934

Ira Gershwin:

        Listen, you contumscious rat, don’t throw your dreary tomes at me. I’ll give you an elegant dinner at a restaurant of your own choosing and sing to you between the courses if you can produce one writer or speaker, with an ear for the English language which you genuinely respect, who uses “disinterested” in the sense you are now trying to bolster up. I did look it up in my own vast Oxford dictionary a few years ago only to be told that it had been obsolete since the 17th Century. I haven’t looked up the indices in your letter because, after all, my own word in such matters is final. Indeed, current use of the word in the 17th Century sense is a ghetto barbarism I had previously thought confined to the vocabularies of Ben Hecht and Jed Harris. Surely, my child, you must see that if “disinterested” is, in our time, intended to convey a special shade of the word “unselfish” it is a clumsy business to try to make it also serve another meaning. That would be like the nit-wit practice of the woman who uses her husband’s razor to sharpen her pencil. The point of the pencil may emerge, but the razor is never good again for its peculiar purpose.

        Hoping you fry in hell, I remain

                                             Yours affectionately,
                                             ANSWERED BY A.W.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


"I do believe that most men live lives of quiet desperation. For despair, optimism is the only practical solution. Hope is practical. Because eliminate that and it's pretty scary. Hope at least gives you the option of living." 
Harry Nilsson

If there’s anyone who understood Thursday better than Harry Nilsson, I can't imagine who it might be. If Thursday was a boat, I bet it’d sink. And it’s surreptitiously unique. And sometimes it makes you want to run away.

Here's why I did not go to work today
Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day
Thursday has its own peculiar way of saying "hey"
Sometimes Thursday almost makes you want to run away
Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day

Yeah, Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day
Let's go have a picnic,
Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day
Hope it doesn't rain
When I'm feeling Thursday I go and have a drink
If Thursday was a boat I bet it'd sink

I did on Monday
I tried on Tuesday
Wednesday's simply not my cup of tea
Thank Heaven it's Friday
Thank the Lord for the weekend
Thursday now, that's such a crazy, lazy day

They say Monday's child is full of faith
Tuesday's child is fair of face
Thursday's child has far to go
And it's no wonder
When the week becomes a rat race
You can bet, win, show or place
But never bet on Thursday ‘cause God's not on its case

Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day
Don't get me wrong
It's just that Thursday's twice as long as it should be
It's twice as long
Mondays, Tuesdays, weekends, Fridays
Don't get in my way
But Thursday's just a crazy, lazy day

Monday is a blues day
That goes for Tuesday
Wednesday's just the middle of the week
Friday is just another payday
The weekend's just another heyday
But Thursday's surreptitiously unique

That's why I didn't go to work today
Thursday's got its own peculiar way of saying "hey"
Sometimes Thursday makes you want to run away
Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day
Thursday's such a crazy, lazy day

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Feast and Famine

"Germany's Children Are Starving!" by Kathe Kollwitz, 1924

Feast and famine
Binge and purge
Celebrate and sacrifice
What goes up
Is going to come back down
And coming down’s not very nice

Turning the world upside-down

Let them have some freedom
And when you turn your back
They’ll turn the whole world upside down
They’ll say you're the bad guy
You’ll be the enemy
If you try to stand your ground

There’s a new world coming
It can’t be stopped
It’s getting closer every day
The only decision
You have left
Is how much you’re going to make us pay

There's a new world coming and it can't be stopped