Just fading away

Older tech never really dies. It fades and becomes an ever fainter background in our civilization’s palimpsest, never quite reaching invisibility.

For example, as earlier generations outsourced their memory to books, I have largely outsourced my memory to the net. But not entirely, of course. I still have plenty of books at home, and they also largely function as part of my memory. But the net is easier to carry around, even if more fragile due to signal strength and/or battery life.

Lost In Translation

“Such remarks don’t bear scrutiny. Did I actually say that? I do remember saying once that maybe the greatest female novelist in English was Constance Garnett. Sometimes I try to lighten the gloom of discussions but I notice that no one laughs. Instead you see a few people writing down the name.”

— Elizabeth Hardwick


Related, though different: “The Translation Wars,” by David Remnick, “Tolstoy translated,” by Rosamund Bartlett, and “A Singular Woman,” by Hilton Als.


“Bloomsbury is . . . like one of those ponds on a private estate from which all of the trout have been scooped out for the season. It is not a natural place for fish, but rather a water stocked for the fisherman so that he may not cast his line in vain. . . . To see the word “Ottoline” on a page, in a letter, gives me the sense of continual defeat, as if I had gone to a party and found an enemy attending the bar.”

— Hardwick in “Bloomsbury and Virginia Woolf”

“Attending the bar”… And thus we see the source for “bartender.” Makes sense immediately on seeing it, but I never thought about it before.


Hardwick enjoyed teaching; she finds it annoying that so many writers complain about their teaching responsibilities. “There’s nothing to it,” she told me. “You just go in and do your rap. The thing you get bored with is that you have so few ideas.”

— “A Singular Woman”

Trace, or poke?

Finger-gesture-pattern lock screens: A lot of people choose from a very small set of possible choices. Learn the six most common, or so, and you’ll be able to unlock most phones that use them.

This makes TouchID — one of the few features that I liked about my iPhone 5s — all the more secure, since it reads your fingerprint.

(h/t Mr. Gruber)

Bud Yorkin, 1926-2015

Bud Yorkin died. He’s most famous for his long partnership with Norman Lear, which brought us All In the Family, The Jeffersons, and other TV series. But he’ll always have a fond space in my heart for when I saw The Thief Who Came to Dinner, which he directed and produced.

I was 11 then, and we lived in Upland, California. The local theater tended to do double-features, and my hazy memory is that Thief was on a bill with The Poseidon Adventure. But the dashing computer nerd, stealing jewelry while sneaking in to use his old employer’s mainframe to tie the local chess columnist in knots (the lead character always left a chess piece and a move, you see), left a deep impression.

It was a heck of a little movie, really. Henry Mancini did the score, and the cast was remarkably deep: Ryan O’Neal, Jacqueline Bisset, Warren Oates, Ned Beatty, Gregory Sierra, Jill Clayburgh, Austin Pendleton, Michael Murphy, John Hillerman.

Being verklempt at any price

The New York Times asks, “Why Is It So Hard to Get a Great Bagel in California?”

Answer: It isn’t. But New Yorkers who happen to live in California aren’t looking for a great bagel. They’re looking for a great bagel in New York, and being in California, can’t find it, regardless of how good the bagel they’re eating at the moment may be. So said New Yorkers kvetch, and annoy everyone around them, even as they refuse to acknowledge the riches in their own mouths.

This is even acknowledged in the piece:

‘‘The actual food we serve is better,’’ (San Fransisco deli owner Leo Beckerman) said. ‘‘I’m very proud of our food. But it’s never going to match the memory of what your grandmother made you between the ages of 5 and 15.’’