God bless you, Tiny Tim!

No ukulele, unfortunately, but still a Christmas song.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy Audio and Still

Not with a whimper

Originally posted on snotr.com in October, this video (which I found on haha.nu) may offer some consolation to those who don’t enjoy the Christmas season.

The Irving Babbitt Project

As we near the end of 2008, I remember that this year marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of Irving Babbitt’s seminal polemic, Literature and the American College

A few years ago, the National Humanities Institute launched “The Irving Babbitt Project.”  Their website hasn’t been updated in a while, but it continues to host several interesting articles.

Church Going, by Philip Larkin

poem for Christmas.

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
“Here endeth” much more loudly than I’d meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these – for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

Philip Larkin

Quicker and Easier Figgy Pudding

tnjn.com photo by Samantha Thornton

tnjn.com photo by Samantha Thornton

My very own Quicker and Easier* Figgy Pudding recipe for when you’re expecting carolers AT ANY MINUTE:

1 cup butter, plus extra for cups

1 cup sugar

3 eggs, separated into yolks and stiffly beaten whites

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon rum extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ pound dried figs, approximately, chopped

1 ½ cups dry bread crumbs

water for oven


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Butter oven-proof cups with extra butter.

3. Cream together butter, sugar, yolks, milk, extract, spice, and baking powder.

4. Add figs and crumbs and stir.

5. Fold stiffly beaten whites into mixture.

6. Place large shallow baking pan on middle rack in oven and fill 1/2 full with water. Scoop batter into cups and place cups into water-filled pan.

7. Bake the whole setup 1 /2 hour.

8. Crack open oven door to let cool somewhat.

Optional: Top with milk or cream.

Note: Figgy Pudding has a Fruitcake consistency.

*This recipe is quicker and easier compared to traditional Figgy Pudding recipes.

White Christmas, theremin-style

Christmas Art from Plan59

As we head into the Christmas season, here are some brightly colored images from the 1950s and 1960s. 

Christmas 1960

Christmas 1960

That’s quite a deep horizon above.

Beer Ad

Beer Ad

Beer for Christmas?  It must have sounded like a good idea in 1948.


The Nation, 5 January 2009


A few things stand out in this issue.  Two pieces by A. C. Thompson, the cover story with a general focus and another about one particular case, detail acts of violence committed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina by groups of white homeowners who banded together to keep blacks out of their neighborhoods. 

On a happier note, Katha Pollitt offers her annual list of do-gooders who deserve our financial support.  Each of the ten she cites sounds terrific, I’d single out Iraq Veterans Against the War as the group with the most urgent agenda. 

A collection of poems by the late Jack Spicer includes some love letters Spicer wrote, an editorial decision which moves the reviewer to comment on Spicer’s views about the relationship between poetry and correspondence.  While Spicer often compared poems to personal correspondence, and “the idea or form of the letter underlies much of his published work,” in practice he always maintained a sharp distinction between the two genres.  “What Spicer recognized as poetry was always fierce and contentious and, despite the devices that feign otherwise, written to no one and for no one. ”  Indeed, Spicer’s discussion of Emily Dickinson centered on the difficulty of distinguishing between letters and poems, taking it for granted that this distinction was a needful one.


Ukuleles for Peace


Al Wood of the mighty ukulelehunt has been doing his bit to promote Ukuleles for Peace.  Ukuleles for Peace is one of many groups that aim to bring Israeli and Palestinian children together in a fun and peaceful environment.  Sometimes I suspect half the population of the West Bank is there to set up such groups, but this is the best one, since it’s with ukuleles.