Fellow namers and word nerds, have Christmas and Hanukkah come early? Merriam-Webster, America’s “leading provider of language information,” recently announced its top 10 words of 2022.
Every once in a while, Zinzin comes across a name that turns our heads. Usually, it’s because the name sounds, looks, or otherwise seems unusual or interesting — like marine algae Heterosigma Akashiwo, paint color Dead Salmon, or eyewear brand Warby Parker. This time it’s the slime mold Physarum Polycephalum, otherwise known as The Blob.
I had the privilege to know and work with the artist John McCracken (1934–2011) as an undergraduate art student. McCracken began making his famous leaning “plank” sculptures and freestanding “monoliths” in the mid-1960s, before Stanley Kubrick’s famous monolith appeared in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
The HAL 9000 computer is one of the stars of Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction film masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the novel it is based on by Arthur C. Clarke. Legend has it that the name HAL was derived because each letter comes one place before IBM in the alphabet. Arthur C. Clarke has always denied this, and the true origin of HAL’s name is recounted on the HAL 9000 Wikipedia page:
Lettrism (or Lettrisme or Letterism) is a French film and visual poetry movement that enjoyed a brief heyday as the avant-garde du jour in 1950s Paris, and is often associated with the French Revolutionary Student Movement of 1968. Founded by Elvis lookalike Isidore Isou (born Ioan-Isidor Goldstein, 1925-2007), Lettrism influenced other forms of art and poetry in Europe and Latin America up to the present and likely into the future, even as most Viners and Snapchatters remain unaware of this strange fold in the space-time continuum of art.
Saul Leiter, perhaps the most famous non-famous New York street photographer, has just passed away at age 89. A pioneer who worked mostly in color in an age when street photography was still a predominantly black and white medium, Leiter captured the ineffable details than can only be seen and appreciated if you slow down and pay attention. Notes the obituary in today’s New York Times:
The classic Bigfoot image is from a 1967 film by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, at Bluff Creek in Northern California (see video below). The Bigfoot might be fake, but the scarred and battered film stock is the real deal, real enough perhaps to inspire a few new Hipstamatic filters. The movie Elf is a Christmas classic from 2003, starring Will Ferrell as the feral elf, Buddy, seen here in Central Park in homage to Patterson’s Bigfoot. And the alleged and unverified photo of the late great J.D. Salinger was snapped by Paul Adao in 1988. Another Adao photo illustrates a wonderful New York Magazine story by publisher Roger Lathbury from 2010, Betraying Salinger. I scored the publishing coup of the decade: his final book. And then I blew it.
Chances are by now that you’ve heard of Christian Marclay’s brilliant work of art, The Clock (2010). Though less likely that you have actually seen it (I haven’t as yet). As described by Wikipedia, the piece “is in effect a clock, but it is made of a 24-hour montage of thousands of time-related scenes from movies and some TV shows, meticulously edited to be shown in ‘real time’: each scene contains an indication of time (for instance, a timepiece, or a piece of dialogue) that is synchronized to show the actual time.”
A composite of 1950s American, Italian and French movie end title screenshots from one of our favorite websites, The Movie Title Stills Collection, created by the most excellent designer Christian Annyas. Here are the film titles, from left-to-right, top-to-bottom:
The Furniture Guy
Just who is Vinnie “T” Testeroni, the would-be daredevil spokesperson for “The Furniture Guy”? And why doesn’t “The Furniture Guy” appear in his own commercial? Whoever Vinnie “T” is, director Paul Thomas Anderson went to great lengths to recreate his character in the 2002 film Punch-Drunk Love. In fact, the main antagonist in the film, Dean “The Mattress Man” Trumbell, played here by Philip Seymour Hoffman, was based on the above commercial blooper for “The Furniture Guy.”
Henri Michaux (1899–1984) was a beautifully strange and idiosyncratic Belgian poet, writer, painter, and maker of exactly one film. He was often called a surrealist, but did not really belong to that or any other group. Notes the Poetry Foundation:
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, which won the 2000 Academy Award for best documentary feature, is an amazing film. It tells the story of how roughly 10,000 Jewish children were able to leave Central Europe for safety in England in the months before World War II began, in what came to be known as the kindertransport.
The scene in the video below is especially beautiful and haunting. It depicts the moment when the first children are leaving by train for a strange land full of strangers who spoke a language they did not speak, with a song, Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär, sung by a child. Most of these child exiles, spared from the concentration camps, would never see their parents, family and friends again, who were not so lucky.
While recently watching the DVD, I was moved to replay this scene several times, and snapped photos of the paused screens showing the translated text of the song in subtitles over background footage of the train taking the children away. Composited together, they form a sad poem of this heartbreaking moment that defined the lives of these children.
Here is the text of the words of the song Wenn ich ein Vöglein wär from the translated subtitles, with repetitions derived from lines of the song that repeat across several different scenes, as depicted in the composite above:
If I am far from you
in my sleep
I am with you.
When I awake
When I awake
When I awake
When I awake
I am alone.
There’s not an hour in the night
when my heart is not awake
and thinking of you.
thousands of times
thousands of times
gave me your heart.