What Was in the Paper?

English: Original description: Photo taken by ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh. The usual crap:

…why did my first horrible case of traveler’s diarrhea in India have to result from a mango? I love mangoes, and India’s vast array of deliciously different mango varieties has been one of the great delights of moving here. “You didn’t even wash it?” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, asked me later. No. “Even by your standards, that was really stupid,” Dr. Offit said.

via When the Mango Bites Back –

See also:

India arguably has only two seasons: monsoon season and mango season. Monsoon season replenishes India’s soil. Mango season, more than a few literary types have suggested, helps replenish India’s soul.

via Mango Season Has India in Thrall –

Kama shoots flower-tipped arrows at gods and humans alike, inspiring lust, love and the rainbow in between. One of his five arrows holds a mango blossom, said to be a particularly potent missile.

via In Myth and Literature, the Mango Remains King –


The Trouble With Canada

There is blood in the water in The Bronx and the sharks are beginning to circle.

via Yankees looking vulnerable | Home | Toronto Sun.

The ill tidings, from the veteran reporter Ken Fidlin, begin immediately in a preview of the Blue Jays’ three-game series (which began Monday).

Sharks in the Bronx! Think of it.

To be sure, given the natural state of the Harlem River, that seems like as much trouble for the sharks as the Yankees. But trouble it is.

Referring to the Yankees’ shrinking lead in the American League East, Fidlin carries on: “suddenly there is reason for concern.” The Rays, we are told, “just keep getting bigger and bigger in the Yankees’ rear-view mirror.” The Orioles “breathing down the necks of the Yankees.”

Compounding matters is the Yankees’ rotation, which we are assured is “a very fragile thing right now.”

Thus sermonized, there endeth the lesson. Fidlin’s “take” is that the Yankees look vulnerable — but only in one game out of three. “Given the sad state of affairs with the Jays right now,” he writes, “this is a good spot for the Yankees.”

A “good” spot. Concerned, and vulnerable, in the churning, gray-green waters just off the Polo Grounds Towers. Where if the sharks in the water don’t get you, those on the basketball courts in Rucker Park will. But better to be there than to be in Canada.

See, because there would be reason for concern if the Yankees were playing anyone but the Blue Jays.

Word of the Week: Vulpine

English: Red Fox (male) (Vulpes vulpes) Quesne...

Red fox, vulpes vulpes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, avuncular (unclelike), saturnine (sluggish), sybaritic (pleasure-loving), antediluvian (primitive), concomitant (accompanying), uxorious (fawning), lucubrate (laborious studying) and …how about vulpine?

Webster’s Fourth defines vulpine as “of or like a fox or foxes; clever, cunning, etc.”

I like this word, the way it sounds. You pronounce it to rhyme with full-pine, emphasis on the first syllable; it sounds better in a British accent. I like, too, the curt, dismissive tone of the Webster’s definition. Like the dictionary nerds were, just, like a fox, whatever. And I also like that it has some of the same sounds as vituperative, a word I know to be a favorite of yours. There are delicious possibilities, I think, in combining the two.

Not surprisingly, vulpine as a word is itself quite foxlike: The genus name for several species of fox is vulpes, and the scientific name for the common red fox, you know, like in the cartoons, is vulpes vulpes.

This is, however, another word that is not used much. I found only one real example on the Web, and that was in a reader comment. There was, to be fair, this sentence, but it is from an article about a musical group in Chicago named VulpineLupin: “Vulpine means ‘fox-like’ and Lupin means ‘wolf-like’ — both fearless images.”

I also found this: “Ever since Dahl released his classic tale, Fantastic Mr Fox in 1970, the three embittered baddies have been vainly attempting to outsmart its vulpine hero.” But that is far too derivative.

So, here is the only one that counts: “Setting aside his vulpine approach to business and his being a pie-in-the-sky eater, are we really supposed to be happy at the prospect of yet another gung-ho cowboy being elected to the White House?”

Evaluated With Polite Indifference

View of the near , USA.

You can see success from here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nebraska is behind three other B1G teams in the AP preseason poll: Michigan at No. 8 (with a first-place vote, amazingly enough), Wisconsin at No. 12 and Michigan State at No. 13. Looking at last year’s results, it’s hard to complain about those rankings.

via Breaking Down Nebraska’s Ranking in the AP’s College Football Preseason Poll | Bleacher Report.

Nebraska is 17th in the preseason Associated Press poll, which is to say Nebraska was politely, if belatedly, added to the list by lazy sportswriters. Resting on your laurels, is what that is.

Things do not bode well.

A casual observer can see that the enthusiasm is palpable at the top of the poll — 43 points separate the top three, Southern California, Alabama and Louisiana State. But by the time the finger slides past Georgia at No. 6 or Florida State at No. 7, life bleeds mockingly from the point totals like a flatulent, deflating balloon.

The Bleacher Report’s Patrick Runge, however, was able to sustain enough energy to make a few not-moronic observations. Notably, that Nebraska ranks lower than the best teams in the Big Ten, Michigan (No. 8), Wisconsin (No. 12) and Michigan State (No. 13), and the corollary that none of those teams have a cat’s chance in hell with gasoline drawers on of winning the national championship.

Mr. Runge also notes that the A.P.’s poll jibes broadly with its peers — Nebraska is 14th in Athlon, and; 17th in Yahoo; and 21st in The National Football Post and ESPN’s so-called power rankings. He, I think, sees this as corroboration. It is, of course, but only that Nebraska is being widely ignored. No one believes a preseason poll voter is carefully slotting teams after the first few.

“Who cares about what the polls say?” Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini, himself a voter in the USA Today poll, recently told reporters.

Indeed, no one, sir, save a few hardy souls, like Mr. Runge, who gnaw at the marrow of meager news.

Heeled and Hided to a Barn Door

The “big talk” of a No. 17 ranking seems like “doodly squat,” as the Missouri grandmother in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” would say, for the Huskers, a middling team that did not even look that good last November in defeats to Northwestern and Michigan, and that struggled to beat a zombified Penn State team by 3 points.

Looking at the first four weeks of this year’s schedule, Nebraska opens at home Sept. 1 against Southern Mississippi (always pesky), travels to U.C.L.A. (no longer coached by Rick Neuheisel) and then hosts Arkansas State (finally trying hard) and Idaho State (won only twice last season). The depressing thing is, after all that thoroughly boring football, the Huskers will have a better-than-average chance to be 4-0 and much-discussed heading into homecoming, Sept. 29, against Wisconsin. That will be a virtual repeat of last season, when hubris-addled Nebraska went to microbrew-sopped Madison for its Big Ten debut — a 48-17 depantsing.

Then, Nebraska bounced back with consecutive victories, against humbled Ohio State and never-wasn’t-humble Minnesota, before notching the signature victory of its season, an inexplicable, if desultory, 24-3 dismantling of conference runner-up Michigan State. Thence to already-described November and relief that there also was basketball and hockey to watch.

This season, the gantlet comes earlier. October brings Ohio State, Michigan and (on Nov. 3) Michigan State. By Election Day, Nebraska could very well be 5-4 and fighting for its postseason life. The schedule’s comparatively soft landing of Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa will probably do nothing to ameliorate the resentment and bitterness yielded by a likely 7-5 record.

The only thing left is to forecast the number of games in which Pelini penalized for losing his temper in a purple-hued eruption of pointed fingers and spittle.


A peculiar rumination in Hail Varsity by Brandon Vogel does not improve matters. Mr. Vogel’s analysis of Nebraska’s 2011 season using the stubbornly simplistic Pythagorean Win Theorem confirms the reasonable conclusion that last season’s 9-4 record will not be improved upon in 2012. The idea is that teams that exceed the number of wins predicted by the theorem in one season will win fewer games in the next; and Nebraska topped its Pythagorean prediction last season by 0.84 games.

Never mind that Nebraska has not conformed to the stated pattern for more than a decade.


‘The Traveller’s Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands’

The Traveller's Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean IslandsThe Traveller’s Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands by Patrick Leigh Fermor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Part travelogue and part ethnographic study, which climaxes in a weekslong, torch-lighted trance of voodoo drums and dancing.

View all my reviews

I am not making up the part about voodoo drums.

“Traveller’s Tree” (1950) is in its DNA an erudite traveler’s diary, but it reaches an emotional peak — a feverish dream may be more apt — in the dusty fringes of Port-au-Prince. Fermor and his companions apparently spent most of their time in Haiti waiting for the nocturnal thumping that signaled a voodoo convocation. They would slip quietly into the background of these spectacles like the late arrivers at a movie theater, their white faces conspicuous in the firelight.

Not for nothing, Fermor devotes several pages to a disquisition on voodoo and related mystical practices. He is earnest in an attempt to assess these artifacts as part of Haiti’s culture, hearing out an exasperated priest before indulging in his nightly field trips. He conjures an interpretation, heavily tinged with (medieval European religious) history, of zombielike possessions. He observes a host of rituals, including not the first chickens in the islands he has seen dismembered. But he fails to satisfy himself; voodoo is “impatient of explanation,” he writes.

A small section of one of the author’s already-groaning bookshelves.

This is Fermor’s first book, and it makes the last of his eight real books that I have read. An odd reading plan, perhaps. But, interestingly, “Traveller’s Tree” contains the seedlings of his next few titles, notably the eruptive plot device that convulses his only novel, “The Violins of Saint-Jacques” (1953); the admiration for monks and monastic life that colors “A Time to Keep Silence” (1957); and the unquenchable curiosity that branches “Mani” (1958) and “Roumeli” (1966) into so many welcomed tangents.

I do not consider it his best. In my view, that is “A Time of Gifts” (1977), the first volume of his famous-but-never-finished memoir of a trip (mostly by foot) across Europe in 1933-34. Fermor is never better as a writer, if you ask me (which I know you didn’t), than in the first half of “Gifts.” It fairly bursts with a romantic longing for the Europe before World War II, as Fermor recalls tramping through the snow, teaching himself German with a paperback edition of “Hamlet,” and describing, chillingly in retrospect, an embrasure stacked with Nazi military caps.

Neither do I consider this a good place to start. The novice should check out the anthology “Words of Mercury” (2003).

But it is heartily recommended.

English: scenes from a Voodoo seen in Port au ...

Voodoo, in Port au Prince (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What interested me most of all about “Traveller’s Tree” was its ethnic studies, if only because these seem so fusty — perhaps understandably so — with the passage of time. Travelling in places populated mostly by black people (and by scant few tourists), Fermor takes great pains to describe what was unusual to him. Naturally, this was most things, and in many cases — as in his description of the distinctive, old Harlem dress of Trinidad’s Saga Boys — passages remain vital and engrossing. But in others, the tone of his opinions and his continual description of skin color can be jarring.

I don’t mean to suggest Fermor is a racist. But I am not the first reader to make such observations.

The book’s introduction, for one, casts some of Fermor’s racial views as “hopelessly naiive.” Last year, in The Boston Globe, Katherine A. Powers wrote that Fermor’s obsession with “the various kinds and degrees of black and white mixtures is unseemly.” (To be fair, he applies the same queer interest in racial and ethnic provenance to the peasants of the Balkans and the shopkeepers of England.) In 2004, James Ferguson, in a magazine called Caribbean Beat, noted in Fermor’s words a “tone of slight snobbishness.”

Moss and Leigh Fermor pictured in German unifo...

Patrick Fermor, right, on Crete in German uniform. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For his part, at frequent points in his book, Fermor acknowledges the difficulty of being who he was (white, Anglo-Irish) and trying to write about race in a place like the Caribbean. Still, he forges ahead. His vagabond sojourn in the years before World War II, as recounted in “Gifts” and “From the Woods to the Water,” and his experiences during the war, as a leader of the resistance on Crete, probably impregnated him with a sense of being a citizen of the world. Fermor, as he lolled about in a sequence of island paradises, wistfully yearning to have been witness to the past — whether it be Carib raiding parties or aristocratic French soirees — was certainly not blind to some of the racial injustices of the time. But he was perhaps not fully equipped to write about them.

To be sure, his well-attested curiosity and experience — sharing “wisdom weed” with angry Rastafarians, to name but one from the book — are persuasive of an enlightened, catholic outlook, even if it is slightly raffish and wrapped in worn English wool. As Powers wrote, Fermor found in “the varieties of race and racial mixtures” an “exhilarating vividness and dash.”

Nevertheless, a modern reader will first have to tune the ear to monotonous discussions of skin color and a liberal use of words like negress.

Consider this a mild warning.

Word of the Week: Lucubrate

Sukanya Roy, Champion of the 2011 Scripps Nati...

Sukanya Roy, who won the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, avuncular, saturnine, sybaritic, antediluvian, concomitant, uxorious and… how about lucubrate?

Lucubrate (pronounced LUKE-uh-brate), an intransitive verb, is defined by Webster’s Fourth as “to work, study or write laboriously, especially late at night; to write in a scholarly manner.” It comes, apparently, from the Latin lucubratus, “to work by candlelight.”

This word is interesting for two reasons. One, I noticed it in a blog post on winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee, though contest officials accepted a different spelling at the time: elucubrate. Webster’s recognizes no such word, so I will write that the correct spelling of “lucubrate” gave the victory in 1980 to Jacques Bailly, a Denver boy who went on to become a Fulbright scholar. And something of a fusspot, apparently. He has been the bee’s official pronouncer since 2003.

Two, I can find no use of lucubrate in the popular, Web-friendly media. Really no sign of it at all on the Web, if you trust Google, and discount lazy “word of the day”-type posts like this and not-so-cleverly labeled publications. So it behooves you, I think, to start.

This Is What Going to Movies Is Like Now

Movie Theater

Movie Theater (Photo credit: roeyahram)

A defense attorney says an Ohio man who brought a gun, ammunition and several knives to a showing of the latest Batman movie did so for protection and out of fear following a deadly Colorado shooting.

via Lawyer: Ohio moviegoer armed himself because of Colorado shooting | The Detroit News |

A 56-year-old man accidentally shot himself in the buttocks inside the Century 14 movie theaters in downtown Sparks on Tuesday night when a gun he had brought into the cinema discharged, police dispatch said.

via Sparks moviegoer shoots himself in buttocks, apologizes, leaves theater | Reno Gazette-Journal |

“I was a threat to no one. I didnt threaten anybody,” said James G. Mapes, who was taken into custody after carrying a handgun into the Cinebarre movie theater…

via Man arrested after bringing gun into Thornton movie theater – The Denver Post.

Despite a sign prohibiting weapons, police said three people had brought guns into a movie theater Friday night where the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” was showing.

via 3 people carry guns into movie theater in Putnam County – WSMV Channel 4.