In Hartford …
Hiding in Plain Sight
While Dorothy Parker’s life and work have been thoroughly examined, there lingered a missing piece of the puzzle, “a period, like a gap year, between the end of her childhood and the beginnings of her career as a poet, wisecracker and author of joyfully spiky social commentary,” said The Times of London. No longer. Parker, née Rothschild, grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan but moved in some surprising circles in Connecticut a century ago, a literary researcher has discovered. “It’s just astonishing that [she] would be in the society pages of the Hartford Courant, again and again,” said Stuart Y. Silverstein. “Jews were non-persons. There were a lot of Jews in Hartford but they weren’t part of [high] society.”
The revelation that Parker was “swanning about” with her friend Frances Billings—“the 1910s equivalent of an ‘It girl,’” as The Times put it—has even caught the experts by surprise. “Most writers, you know everything about their life,” the president of the Dorothy Parker Society, Kevin Fitzpatrick, told the newspaper. “With Dorothy Parker there are these big gaps. She never graduated high school, much less college. Next thing you know, she’s working for [the publisher] Condé Nast.”
During those missing years, Parker was clearly taking notes. In 1914, she summered in Connecticut and wrote a poem called “Any Porch,” which “Christopher Hitchens later described … as a satire of the ‘hotel-porch babble of spoiled upper-crust ladies in Connecticut,’” according to The Times. Parker sent it to Vanity Fair, it was published, she was hired as a writer, and in 1918 her career shifted into high gear when, still in her mid-20s, she filled in as Vanity Fair’s theater critic for a vacationing P. G. Wodehouse. Excuse her dust, indeed.
In Tokyo …
Sleep is tight
Japanese office workers stand to benefit, as it were, from an upright nap box that will allow them to refresh themselves during their notoriously long days in harness. “The nap box user will sleep in the pod like a flamingo, standing upright. The initial design has been made to ensure that the head, knees and rear are all comfortably supported so that the person will not fall over,” according to Bloomberg.
Price and availability have not yet been determined for the nap boxes, which are the joint effort of a furniture maker and a plywood supplier. “Overlong office hours are famously an issue among employees in Japan,” Bloomberg noted, “and the country even has a term for people sleeping during the day to make it through a full shift or a long commute: inemuri.”
In Cheltenham …
A theatrical treat
The insanely (but understandably) popular Great British Baking Show, as it’s called in the United States, has now been turned into something you can hum along to: Great British Bake Off: The Musical just opened a two-week run here, at the Everyman Theatre. There are contestants, judges, rolling pins, and tea towels, as well as showstoppers such as “Somewhere in the Dough” and “The Perfect Petit Four.” (Book and lyrics by Jake Brunger, music by Pippa Cleary.)
“Music, dance and choreography allow us to go to more extreme places, but we keep hold of that spirit of truthfulness and friendship,” Rachel Kavanaugh, who directed the show, told The Guardian, whose Ermine Saner attended rehearsals and found it “a natural fit for musical theatre—a cast of brilliant characters, jokes, high drama, emotion, joy and jeopardy (a flaccid soufflé, perhaps, or a dropped tray of biscuits).” Ready, set … sing.
In communications …
The perils of cross-generational emoji use were chillingly brought to light in a recent survey, which made it clear that whereas the ubiquitous smiling-face emoji meant “happiness or pleasure” to one (older) person, to another (younger) person it often signified “deep exasperation.” Awkward!
The worldwide survey, conducted by the messaging service Slack, “found the biggest emoji faux pas at work were pictures of lips, tongue, a smiling excrement or an aubergine,” reported The Times of London. “Older people tended to use a winking face to signify a jokey mood, but for youngsters it carried more flirty, sexual connotations. Most older workers also did not realize the dual meaning of the peach emoji, which for younger users signifies buttocks.” And “Slack added that with thousands of emojis at users’ disposal, ‘there’s a lot of potential’ to miscommunicate.” To which we can only say: ☹️
Which we hope means “sad,” and not, you know, “Looks like you got a flat there, buddy” or whatever.
In Bahrain …
Home, home on the Persian Gulf range: This island kingdom might well boast the largest collection of cowboys east (way east) of the Cowtown Rodeo, in Pilesgrove, New Jersey. Bahrain’s total population is only about 1.5 million, but apparently 300 of them are cowboys, an unlikely passion for Wild West skills, costumes, and lifestyle having taken hold in the 1970s. “The Bahrain enthusiasts get their cowboy costumes from a variety of sources,” according to Euronews. “In the past, they ordered them online directly from American stores. Now, they can purchase merchandise from a local Bahrain retailer specializing in cowboy memorabilia.”
The Bahrain cowboys belong to stables of 20 to 30 members and take part in competitions they hope will someday be recognized as an official sport by the Bahrain Royal Equestrian and Endurance Federation. “Whenever we put on this outfit, we feel distinguished among people,” the cowboy Mahmoud Al Kaffas told Euronews. “The feeling is indescribable.”
In Haifa …
What lies beneath
Curators at the Hecht Museum conducting a forensic study of Amedeo Modigliani’s Nude with a Hat have discovered three sketches by the artist under the painting. The 1908 work “was already an unusual painting,” noted The Guardian. “Both sides of the canvas have portraits that are painted in opposite directions. Visitors entering the Hecht Museum’s galleries are met by an upside down nude portrait. A likeness of Maud Abrantès, a female friend of the artist, on the reverse side is right-side-up. In 2010, the museum’s curator noticed the eyes of a third figure peeking from beneath Abrantès’ collar. But only this year was the hidden image brought into focus.”
Modiglianis are coveted. His Reclining Nude is one of the most expensive paintings ever sold, going for more than $170 million at auction in 2015, and in 2018 Nu Couché (Sur le Côté Gauche), another reclining nude, brought $157 million. The artist died penniless in 1920 at 35.
In case of hunger …
Square meal on a round wheel
Being “hangry” is real, one study has concluded, though explanations as to why that happens differ. One hypothesis suggests that “low blood sugar increases impulsivity, anger and aggression.... Another proposes that when people are hungry, they are more likely to see the world through irritable eyes,” reported The Guardian. “Writing in the journal Plos One, the psychologists describe how hunger was associated with stronger feelings of anger and irritability and lower levels of pleasure.... The study does not propose any radical solutions.” Maybe a snack?
Even worse than feeling hangry is driving while hangry, but here, at least, a happy solution has presented itself, at least for certain long-haul drivers in Japan. “Twitter user Kotake (@kotake5211) recently brought delight to many online when they discovered that some steering wheels of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation bus and trucks are a perfect match for popular Japanese chain Sukiya,” Japan Today reported. “Kotake ordered a full set meal from Sukiya that fit perfectly into the spaces in their bus’s steering wheel. Slotting nicely into the wide center space at the bottom [of] the steering wheel is a cheesy beef bowl, while salad and miso soup plop right into the side spaces.” Still, eyes on the road, please. —George Kalogerakis
George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL