Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Improvm* (for Improvem*)

Does doing a lot of improv improve one's acting? I think that most people who got their start on shows like SCTV (an offshoot of Toronto's Second City troupe) would very likely answer "yes" to that question, or at least something else along the same lines. Though I'm a big believer in the importance of good writing when it comes to television and movie scripts, it's also pretty clear that mastering improv techniques can help an actor or comedian seem more "natural" or spontaneous. Some recent TV shows, like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Reno, 911!, were (amazingly) essentially improvised, and had just general plot outlines to follow, while others, such as The Office or Parks and Recreation, were tightly scripted, but allowed their cast members some leeway for deviation, and often some of the show's best lines. And then there's Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where the entire premise of the program is improv. You can make some important improvements to your own catalog today by searching out and correcting this "high probability" typo, which was found 46 times in OhioLINK, and 1194 times in WorldCat. And with such a high hit count, one could probably try improvising some other typos for this word as well.

(Rick Moranis at the 62nd Academy Awards, photo by Alan Light, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, November 9, 2015

Altantic (for Atlantic)

It seems like an awful lot of changes are happening here in Albany (as well as in my online life) over the past couple of weeks now, and unfortunately, none of them are really happy ones. Three local institutions (all dating from the 1970s and '80s) are, if not quite going kaput, being considerably altered. Our longtime health-food co-op's management has determined it can no longer support the "member worker" program, essentially turning Honest Weight into a regular old retail store. Our beloved independent movie theater, the Spectrum, has been sold to a national chain. And possibly worst of all, the wonderful and award-winning alternative newsweekly Metroland was seized by the state for non-payment of back taxes. Finally, in a disorienting coup de grâce, fans have just learned that Emily Yoffe (aka "Dear Prudence") will be leaving Slate this week to take a new job at the Atlantic. Times do change, it's true, especially the older you get, but it's all still a bitter pill to swallow. In any event, life goes on; what's the alternative? The Atlantic Monthly (an alternative to the NYC-based Harper's and the New Yorker) was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, on November 9, 1857 (according to Wikipedia's article for November 9, although that looks like it might be a typo itself since the page for the Atlantic says that the first issue was published on Nov. 1), and it's still around today. There were 16 examples of Altantic (for Atlantic) found in OhioLINK, and 423 in WorldCat.

(Photo of Atlantic magazine cover on newsstand, 30 November 2014, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Literatature* (for Literature, etc.)

Each autumn I look forward to the week-long announcements about the various Nobel Prizes. As you might know, this year’s award for literature went to Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich. The Swedish Academy honored the author of Voices from Chernobyl (Charnobyl╩╣skai︠a︡ malitva) and other works for “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” Ms. Alexievich was chosen from a field of 198 individual nominees.

Did you know the literature prize itself has an interesting story? According to the official Web site, since the bestowing of the first prize in 1901, a total of 108 Nobel prizes in literature have been awarded. (No prizes were awarded during the years 1914, 1918, 1935, or 1940-1943.) On four occasions, the prize was shared by two authors, bringing the total number of Nobel laureates in literature to 112. To date, only 14 women have achieved this high honor. The most common languages for award winners to write in are English, French, German, and Spanish.

Literatature* is just one of the many potential typing pitfalls for the word literature. It can be found 5 times in OhioLINK and 10 in WorldCat. You might not win any prizes for tidying up such errors, but at least you can take pride in knowing that your catalog is a better place.

(Svetlana Alexievich, by Elke Wetzig, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak

Friday, October 30, 2015

Aleins (for Aliens)

I braved the cold and driving rain without an umbrella the other night to catch the final entry in the silent film series at Albany Public Library, called When an Alien Robot Crash-Lands in Troy, NY. (It might bear mention here that Troy is home to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which is "the oldest continuously operating technological university in both the English-speaking world and the Americas.") This time it was the debut of a 50-minute film by a local artist named Bobby Kendall, with live accompaniment by the band Lastdayshining. Maybe it was the wet slog to get there, or maybe I've just seen too many locally produced, low-budget "indies" in my day, but I had somewhat dampened hopes that weren't entirely assuaged in its first few minutes. However, I soon grew quite enamored of this strange little sci-fi saga. Our eponymous robot was a small, crudely made thing, such as a child would construct (two white boxes for the body and head, cardboard arms, big red eyes, and a black line for the mouth) and it navigated on four wheels, like an all-terrain-type vehicle operated by remote control. It starts out roaming this rusty old industrial park on the outskirts of town, dotted with discarded computer equipment and other sad relics of our day. It approaches various objects, touches them gingerly, and then moves on. It rambles through the nearby woods, where it seems to take a shine to a wilted sunflower head, and then down to the banks of the Hudson River, where it's surprised by water. The plotline, such as it is, is rather slim and whimsical, which isn't a bad thing, and it provides fitting food for thought. For example, I loved the way that, unlike the robot and its startled response to all it sees, the people it passes on the sidewalks of Troy's historic downtown district, and milling about at the farmers market, hardly give it a first glance, much less a second one. They must have thought it was just a dumb toy or an advertising gizmo; or perhaps they really didn't notice it at all, the way folks will often "look right through" those who aren't part of their own circumscribed worldview. But the best thing about this movie, in my opinion, wasn't the alien robot, or even the local color; it was the truly deft and touching way that it was filmed. It was like a cinematic love letter to the city, artfully and affectionately rendered by Kendall, and beautifully scored by Lastdayshining in a blend of "post-rock" and chamber music styles. Kendall and his band are currently in the process of recording an original score to another silent film about an awesomely cinematic city, Fritz Lang's Metropolis. A relative of mine, who also loves Troy, NY, once built himself a radio-controlled "robot" as well. He dubbed it YLLIB in a backwards homage to its creator. It occurs to me that this one could have been likewise named YORT, pronounced as one syllable or else EE-ORT (sort of like the dysphoric donkey in A.A. Milne's "100 Aker Wood"). But whatever you call your robot, or however you say its name, remember it's "I before E " in the case of aliens from outer space, along with any you might find in your own database. There were three found in OhioLINK today, plus 14 in WorldCat.

(Poster for showing of When an Alien Robot Crash-Lands in Troy, NY, at the Albany Public Library, October 28, 2015.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Carey + Cary (for Cary or Carey)

Diana Serra Cary, who for a few brief years in the 1920s was known to the world as Baby Peggy, turns 97 years old tomorrow. (And she still looks as impish and beaming as a babe in arms.) Born Peggy-Jean Montgomery on October 29, 1918, in San Diego, California, she was introduced to acting at the tender age of 19 months. Her father had been a Hollywood stuntman, and while visiting with her mother one day on set, Peggy-Jean managed to impress a director with her overall behavior and demeanor. First paired with "Brownie the Wonder Dog" in 1921's Playmates, she made close to 150 comedy shorts over the next three years, along with dozens of feature films, most notably Captain January in 1924. Most of her films, however, were either lost in a studio fire in 1926, or simply to the ravages of time and human error. She had a tough upbringing, rapidly going from riches to rags, as a result of her father's dissolute mishandling of her earnings, and suffered a lifelong identity crisis stemming from her early role as the family breadwinner. The readjustment required once the parts stopped streaming in at the age of six (after her father had had a falling out with the producer) was intense: the family went from living large on a ranch to camping out in tents. She did a bit of vaudeville, and later made a few "talkies," but was always very wary about the Role that had somehow seemed to replace her life. Highly intelligent, though lacking any real formal education, she went on to have a career as a writer and silent film historian and has published several books. (Montgomery had long ago decided that names like "Peggy or Mitzi" were "showgirl" names and rechristened herself Diana Serra.) Check out TCM's 2012 documentary Baby Peggy: the Elephant in the Room, in which she endearingly acquaints her young granddaughter with her onetime stardom, proving that neither "Baby" nor Diana will be put in a corner—while also suggesting that whimsy, honesty, forgiveness, and a willingness to suffer for, and against, one's art may be the true key to a long and triumphant life. There were 125 occurrences of Cary + Carey (for Carey or Cary) in OhioLINK today, and 1295 in WorldCat.

(Photo of Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary), 1 July 2012, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jonn* + Johnn* (for Johnn* or Jonn*)

You may have gone apple picking this autumn, or had a bite of homemade apple pie or a sip of seasonal cider, or dunked for apples if you're a kid, or perhaps (or even mayhaps if you're a hipster) tasted your first, or last, appletini. If so, you might like knowing that today is the birthday of Jonathan Chapman, affectionately known as Johnny Appleseed. Unfortunately, though, it's not. His birthday was actually September 26, which I wrongly searched in Wikipedia, proving, I guess, how reluctant I am to see the sad waning of summer and the rapid approach of winter. In any case, apples are good all year round, and Chapman himself, who was born in Leominster, Mass., in 1774, seemed to have precious little regard for the weather, except for how it affected his beloved apple trees. Often pictured in tatters and without shoes, he had once heard an itinerant preacher exhorting his flock to eschew extravagances such as calico and imported tea. The preacher cried: "Where now is there a man who, like the primitive Christians, is traveling to heaven barefooted and clad in coarse raiment?" Chapman grew tired of the pious excoriation and finally walked up to him, stuck his foot up on the stump that was serving as a podium, and told him: "Here's your primitive Christian!" Nonplussed, the man hastily ended the sermon and dismissed the congregation. Our peripatetic wag could have probably afforded the "extravagance" of proper footwear, but surely just wanted to get as close to his roots, so to speak, as possible. He did have some unusual religious views of his own, however. He was a missionary for The New Church (Swedenborgian), and one theory as to why he never married was that he was holding out for two wives in heaven as reward for a lifetime of abstinence! Nevertheless, "Johnny Appleseed" soon became known and loved worldwide, and references to him in popular culture are far too numerous to mention. Michael Pollan, in Botany of Desire, points out that Chapman was opposed to grafting, and that his apple varieties were basically inedible and could only be used for cider. "Really," he tells us, "what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. He was our American Dionysus." So cheers and a happy belated birthday, Johnny! There were 66 cases of this combination typo in OhioLINK, and 923 in WorldCat.

(Drawing of Jonathan Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, from A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County, by H. S. Knapp, 1862, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Istabul (for Istanbul)

You may recall that several years ago, our blog featured another misspelling of this great city’s name. Carol Reid’s 2008 post discussed the pop song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” first recorded by The Four Lads in 1953 and later covered by They Might Be Giants.

But did you know that the city has actually undergone many other name changes over the centuries? It’s been called Lygos, Byzantion/Byzantium, Augusta Antonina, New Rome, Constantinople, Stamboul, and finally, Istanbul. The latter was officially adopted in 1923, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, even though the name had been in use for a long time. But according to the folks at National Geographic, “this did not stop foreign travelers, businesses, and even governments from calling the city ‘Constantinople.’ That changed in 1930, once mail addressed to Constantinople—including paychecks, shipping forms, and other legal documents—stopped being delivered to any home or business in Istanbul.”

Today’s typo has also been around for a while. There are 6 instances of Istabul in OhioLINK and 258 in WorldCat. Oh, and if you've never seen what may be the most infamous version of the song, check out this clip of Craig Ferguson and crew lip-syncing, in costume, on the Late Late Show in 2009.

(Oldest surviving map of Istanbul (1422), by Cristoforo Buondelmonti, from Wikimedia Commons) 

Deb Kulczak