Commentaries - March 2011

Anne Frank's Fetching Tartan Plaid Fashion Cover

The Holocaust in Westport

The Westport CT Country Playhouse is putting on a production of The Diary of Anne Frank along with a series of events intended to remind theater-goers and neighbors of the details of that genocide. One of the events features Lawrence Langer, whom I admire very much. Here's a blurb from an emailed newsletter:

Concurrent with the production of The Diary of Anne Frank, Westport Country Playhouse presents an unprecedented series of lectures, film-screenings, talkbacks, art exhibits and panel discussions designed to provide a wider context in which to access the life of Anne Frank, the Holocaust, genocide and issues of social justice. Join an important conversation with influential scholars, artists, advocates for human rights, educators, documentarians and eyewitnesses as they shed light on a broad spectrum of fascinating subjects. These programs, the fruit of partnerships with sixteen community organizations, offer something for every interest, and will enhance your understanding and appreciation of one of the most urgent stories of the twentieth century. But then there's this among the associated events: Making Diaries: A Family Workshop Based on The Diary of Anne Frank Friday, October 8 Westport Arts Center Join Molly Ephraim, the actress who plays Anne Frank, as she recites Anne's powerful words, and then create your own story in a mixed-media diary using a range of innovative art materials.

I'm sure I deserve some flack for being impatient with this, but...come on. Maybe it's the pink tartan snap-closed diary that's setting me off. But really. If there are ways to engage children aged 6 through 12 on the topic of the Holocaust (and I have my doubts, as I've said here in this blog in various ways), making your own "mixed-media diary using a range of innovative materials" is certainly not it. I rather think it's appropriate even for a family-oriented theatrical center to say: In this one instance, we suggest that you leave the children at home. A friend, in pointing out this session, acidly observed: "They get points for trying to shake up the Westport cocktail ice cubes with some Holocaust Awareness this Fall, but check out session with the Anne actress who will help you do your own diary--presumably with the fetching pink tartan plaid fashion cover! Had Anne just had a nice diary cover like this no doubt it would have eased her suffering."

As a Way of Getting to Political Poetics

Terrence Des Pres

Terrence Des Pres

In Praises & Dispraises--a book about political poetry finished not long before his awful and untimely death--Terrence Des Pres began with a remarkable chapter on Antigone. I think I'm going to teach this chapter/essay in my course on the holocaust when I teach it next year. Here is a link to a PDF copy. I've written about Des Pres (my former teacher) here before; click also on the tag below for more.

Group Together App Icons

And Find Yourself Less Rather Than More Organized

iPhoneI love the iPhone and use almost all the applications I've added to the thing. Sure, there are a few I got (mostly for free, but some I've purchased) but don't use. But the apps I use fill up a number of screens. And until recently I really didn't know how to organize them. Grouping them didn't quite work. I put the most-often used on the first screen but after that it's been a hodge podge. Then a new operating system for the iPhone came out, with a feature that enables you to slide a number of related apps into one generic icon; you can name the icon (e.g. "news" or "audio/radio"). This is much better but notice that the single-app icons are, well, iconic - visually memorable and distinct. But these new grouped categories are not visually distinct and I have a difficult time seeing them. At right is my first screen of apps on my phone. The clock (for setting my morning alarm) is really easy to see: it's a clock! My RunKeeper app (which I use every time I run) just really shouts: I'm a runner! But then there's "sports," "finance," "notes," "weather." Nothing distinct about them. So as it turns out it takes me just as long to find the apps, although they are neatly arranged and taxonomized, as it did before when they were all scattered about. This is perhaps not worth the complaint. But maybe among my blog's readers are Apple designers (actually I know there are): We need an upgrade of the operating system that will enable users to create the icon for the app groups. (By the way, I notice that this feature is not yet available for the iPad. I suspect this is so because the ugliness that results would look really ugly on the bigger device. I'm guessing that they're working on it.)

Poets of New York via Folkways

Aaron Kramer Made This Recording in 1959

Screenshot from PennSound

In 1959 Aaron Kramer recorded a Folkways album called Serenade: Poets of New York. Thanks to Aaron's daughter, we have a copy of the LP and permission to make the recording available through PennSound. Among the "New York" poets he reads is the remarkable (and personally although not literarily bizarre) Maxwell Bodenheim, a bohemian who became a communist who eventually was murdered in the Bowery. Aaron concludes the recording by reciting a poem by Alexander Berkman. Here is a link to PennSound's Aaron Kramer page. This is the only public source of recordings of him.

He Caused a Poetry War in Poland

Piotr Sommer Is Added to PennSound

Piotr Sommer

Thanks to Phillip Barron, we now make available recordings of Piotr Sommer who read from Continued at the National Humanities Center in 2005--poems in Polish and his own translations in English. Sommer has been responsible for giving Polish readers access to Allen Ginsberg and Frank O'Hara. Sommer's O'Hara translations into Polish (1987) led to a small poetry culture war between the young experimental group of poets influenced by O’Hara, known as “The Barbarians,” and their antagonists “The Neo-Classicists," who defended traditional Polish poetry.