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Tuesday 3 February 2015

William Carlos Williams: The Thing


Student life in Radcliffe dormitory: photo by Lynn Miller, n.d., c. 1960s (Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America)

Each time it rings
I think it is for
me but it is
not for me nor for

anyone it merely
rings and we
serve it bitterly
together, they and I

William Carlos Williams: The Thing, from The Clouds (1948) in The Collected Poems: Volume II, 1939-1962 (1988)

p. 7

Bell Telephone System advertisement for telephone service: Coronet, 1 August 1954 (Gallery of Graphic Design)

p. 9

Bell Telephone System advertisement for telephone service
: Better Homes and Gardens, 1 October 1930 (Gallery of Graphic Design)

p. 14

Bell Telephone System advertisement for telephone systems: Life, 12 December 1936 (Gallery of Graphic Design)

p. 8

Bell Telephone System advertisement for telephone service
: Time, 15 June 1942 (Gallery of Graphic Design)

p. 49

Bell Telephone System advertisement for telephone service: Life, 29 October 1955 (Gallery of Graphic Design)

Bench, Austin, Texas: photo by Gary Gumanow, May 2012, posted 6 February 2013

Last Call, George's, Vernalis, California. Argus c3 with long expired (and damaged) technical pan
: photo by efo, 22 June 2014

Last Call, George's, Vernalis, California. Argus c3 with long expired (and damaged) technical pan
: photo by efo, 22 June 2014


Telephone booth near Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome: photo by Warburg, November 2007

 Bobby's Bus Shelter, near Baltasound, Unst, Shetland
: photo by Ella Mullins, 15 July 2010

Untitled: photo by Joshua Perez (StangeGoodness), 7 June 2013

Untitled: photo by Joshua Perez (StrangeGoodness), 15 November 2013

@jobsworth #London in the 1929s: #Telephone #Engineer /v @oldpicsarchive: image via Alexander Ainslie @AAinslie, 8 January 2015

Escucha a Lady Gaga y Britney Spears cantar a dúo #Telephone: image via Exuavisa@ecuavisa, 10 January 2015

Mobile users are rediscovering the pleasure of talking on the phone #communication #telephone: image via ChitrChatr @chitrchatr, 14 January 2015

136 years ago today Queen Victoria was given a demonstration of a brand new invention, the telephone #telephone: image via Excell Group @ExcellGroup, 14 January 2015

Angela #Merkel avec son premier #telephone cellulaire, vers 1992 (via @PhotosHistos): image via Mutant @Digitaliseur, 16 January 2015

Brooklyn Bridge  tourist.

Brooklyn Bridge tourist snapping a selfie as a man threatens to jump off the bridge behind her: photo by Paul Martinka via The Guardian, 11 December 2013

 Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham using iPhone with personalized cover design to snap a bedroom closet mirror selfie
: image via The Guardian, 11 December 2013

Kim Kardashian takes a selfie of her bum

Kim Kardashian snapping an iconic iPhone bum selfie in front of a mirror
: image via The Guardian, 11 December 2013

Geraldo Rivera

Geraldo Rivera snapping an iPhone bathroom mirror selfier: image via The Guardian, 11 December 2013

Sasha and Malia Obama.

Sasha and Malia Obama snapping a selfie
: photo by Joe Klamar/AFP via The Guardian, 11 December 2013

David Cameron, Helle Thorning Schmidt and Barack Obama pose for a selfie during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela: photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP via The Guardian, 12 December 2013

David Cameron, Helle Thorning Schmidt and Barack Obama pose for a selfie during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, with Michele Obama looking off to right: photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP via The Guardian, 12 December 2013

#LAX airport love old #telephone boots cause U don't see them anymore am CallingU Cookie: love life adventure #Telephone: image via Bai Ling @ReaBaiLing, 28 January 2015


Lally said...

another brilliant mashup of poetry and of my pleasures is catching bits of movies from the 1930s and '40s on TV, mostly because of the styles that were so prevalent when I was a kid, and particularly the telephones which appear often, especially in film noir flicks, where part of the measure of coolness of the anti-heroes, like Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, is how they handled the phone...

Stephen Ratcliffe said...

how many iphone 6s did apple sell last quarter? 34,000 per hour every day (24 hours a day -- business model doing quite well, thanks. . .

tpw said...

The Presentation of the Selfie in Everyday Life.

TC said...


Sometime around that vague period when everything that remained in America became weak, cruel, anxious, and especially anxious about being in a great hurry to be doing everything at once while also doing everything else, it seemed to be becoming standard film school scenario-writing gimmickry to skip actual oldfashioned internal plot points (too slow) and instead have all the action "telegraphed" (!) by way of the actors making cellphone calls, in which everything we hadn't known was conveniently explained. And since Hollywood always proceeds on the assumption (doubtless correct at the best of times) that nobody in the audience knows anything more than what an average drunken or even grownup teenager might know on any given Friday night, that meant the whole development of the story had to now be packed into the explanatory phone calls. The was to be taken as drama though of course it was anything but -- just bad American actors who never learned to enunciate, blurting clichéd lines into slabs of plastic. I think it was at that point American movies died forever. And yes, Sam Spade could bark into a telephone dramatically. But when Brad Pitt mumbles into a mobile -- aw, c'mon, I don't care how many vineyards Brangelina owns. These 21st century box office superstuds not only don't walk the walk, they can't even talk the talk.

TC said...


Yes, and I suspect it's on the power of the shining example of Apple's demonstration (see yesterday's post for details) that the whole world can be brought to its knees, held hostage, reduced to a blubbering mass of need, simply out of the overpowering desire of everybody to become just like everybody else by possessing (and of course being possessed by) an iPhone6 -- a power probably quite a bit greater than the power of all those massive munitions you and I pay the government to throw at everybody, or to supply to other governments to throw at everybody else, including perhaps, someday, us -- no not the vaunted military might, but that true iron-fist-in-velvet-glove one-size-fits-the-universe marketing model, that massive earning power -- that it can be safely concluded America truly does continue to rule the planet, and to keep everybody else begging and genuflecting however disingenuously before us.

Today there's the news note that Gorbachev has just said, doubtless apropos the Ukraine, that American "triumphalism" has again brought the world not only into a cold war, but to the brink of a very hot one. He didn't seem to be bullying or bluffing like a Bibi, but calmly and rather sadly stating the facts. And of course, for all the global imperial grandeur of the weapons systems, it's really the business model that has triumphed. Greed and venality on a global scale can do anything, even turn recycled toy swords into iPhones.

Anyway, who'd want a ploughshare, or for that matter a plough, when the cracked, fracked, flooded, genetically modified or otherwise polluted or degraded soil of the Earth will soon enough be one great poison field, much like the fields of Laos, into which hundreds of thousands of tons of ordnance were "secretly" deposited over a number of years in the late 60s and early 70s, and which now remain a permanent death factory, as the impoverished villagers, attempting to plant and harvest their rice, are daily killed and maimed by bombs blowing up in their faces. Small wonder the main remaining source of daily income in Laos is the collecting of scrap metal, i.e. the harvesting of all those unexploded weapons from the soil, so that for a great many of the collectors there is a high tax on the work, in lost faces, hands, other body parts and lives.

The US was responsible for all this, but as that particular war -- the one against the innocent civilian population of Laos -- was never publicly acknowledged by the US anyway, there has never seemed to be a real need to go back and clean up the stray munitions that were left behind.

Perhaps though when the iPhone7 is in development -- tomorrow morning? -- somebody at Apple, just for the cosmic humour of the thing, might suggest adding a UXO-cleanup app. That could make for a real cool croissants-n-coffee morning conference-call laugh-riot around Cupertino.


Meditating a bit on the history of this device, it's clear Bell had the same objective as Apple -- get the money.

And though of course advertising and propaganda are inseparable twins, even from those 30s and 40s Bell Telephone ads it's plain the device was then being marketed, and used, as a way for people to connect with other people.

Whereas the latest technological evolution of the device -- driven, as it always seems, by human "needs", which are most easily created and stimulated by advertising and marketing -- appears to have facilitated, above all, the satisfaction of a desire to connect with one's own unique and marvelous self.

Maybe it's more fun when you're Kim Kardashian's bum?

billoo said...


TC said...


That's got to have been before speed-dialing, obviously.

Fifty years ago, in a small hamlet on the north Pacific coast, we had a pair of congenial friends who made leather handbags and lived in a sort of hobbity house perched on a promontory out over the stormy ocean. I say stormy because you've put me in mind of a dark winter evening when we were invited to dine with them in the midst of a raging and indeed formidable storm. The evening began with busy cooking and billion-decibel Led Zeppelin, almost but not quite drowning out the roar of the wind in the bent-over cypress trees outside. And so on... but the denouement of this perhaps not really all that memorable but still actual evening on Earth came when our hosts mischievously switched off the lights, brought out a candle and a mysterious leatherbound box, which was slowly ceremoniously opened... to reveal what was undeniably a human hand.

Or shall I say hand-thing.

By the by, I note that at some point in the history of internet, students at Western Michigan University, USA, were challenged by their instructor to say what, exactly, the "it" in this poem was.

I don't know, I'm hopelessly out of touch. Do they still have things like "annotation" and "connotation" at colleges anymore, or has it become a world of nothing but rotating momentary vogue meta-category options?

Erinnerung, say. Is that one?

Many of our national treasure authors seem to be flaunting it.

And you know how it is with arcane industry terms like that, the more you hear them, the less you want to try to remember whatever it is they may have meant, back in prehistory.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...


Among other things,
From the look on Angela’s face, it looks

Like upstart punk rock star finance guru
Yanis Varoufakis is on

The other end telling her
The Greeks have got her

Number and her
Game’s up.

billoo said...

"to reveal what was undeniably a human hand"

Well, yes, that's one way of breaking the ice.

TC said...

Angela doing "The Chop" -- "Nein, nicht die Schuld, aber die Köpfe!"

Mose23 said...

The selfie at Mandela's memorial - Christ, these people are without taste.

Every time the phone rings there's a wash of dread through the blood.

TC said...


Couldn't agree more. It's that For whom the bell tolls sort of dread round here, too, every time the blaring ring intrudes. And it's only a fossil land line, so that the venerable elders must shift the fossil limbs to attend to it, never an easy thing these later days. And of course almost every call is a spammer. But then now and again the partner has a personal call from family, so for this privilege she must endure ten spam attacks a day on her personal land line (if indeed "personal land line" isn't an oxymoron -- I wonder?)

Glad it wasn't me had to have the courage to comment on the interesting conduct of the celebrity pols at the Mandela funeral. I suppose one could say that it was a long, sprawling service, with great swatches of temps mort, somewhat like the Superbowl in that respect, thus encouraging the fidgety adult children to break out their little toys. Cameron squeezing into the O'B selfie op is SOP for him. There was that wonderful photo of the "world leaders" marching shoulder to shoulder in a determined phalanx at the Charlie Hebdorama in Paris, ostensibly another "state occasion". You saw the long shots of the phalanx, brave, grim, resolute, jaws set firm and square. Then the next day came out the shots of that same little isolated bloc of bigwigs, marching alone, separated from the maddening crowd of selfietakers by a formidable detachment of Vader-clad Hebdo Overreaction Police. We learned of Bibi's frantic dash to the front, just as the photos were to be taken. And of the rest of the leaders -- in the crush Tony Abbott had to leave his pet koala behind, damned unruly beast really -- jostling like so many Black Friday shoppers on a tear to get at the latest cutprice junk. Cameron was no slouch in getting himself to the front that time, either -- and on that occasion he didn't even have to risk a back injury by leaning-in, as in the Mandela funeral shot.

Helle Thorning Schmidt has to be seen as the star-struck ingenue in the midst, there at the Mandela do. It was reported that she had been glimpsed moving through the scene, stopping people to declare cheerily, Hello, I'm the wife of the Danish prime minister.

As to Michele Obama's body language -- apart and pouting, apart and disdainful, apart and bored, apart and thinking about online shopping? -- press corps apologists have assured us that No, it didn't mean any of those things, at all.

Desmond Morris, where are you, now that we need you so.

No such confusions of presentation with the Obama daughters. They have come of age in the Selfie Generation. (Can a self generate a self? Wasn't that what the skeptics were always asking, apropos the cynical yet nonetheless nagging question, if Joseph wasn't in the hay doing the engendering business with that Virgin -- you know Joe, always off pottering about with his tools in the shed behind the hayrick -- who was?)

There are, believe it or not, people ("experts", yet!) hired to "critique" selfies, and rate them at year's end, for imaginary awards, and so on (again, here it's a bit like people hired to "critique" Superbowl halftime shows).

This close analysis seemed about right, though.

"As Mandela Selfiegate has ably demonstrated, Obama hasn't quite got the hang of selfies yet. But his daughters Malia and Sasha? They're nothing short of world class. Look at them at Obama's inauguration this year. There's face-pulling, there's a sort of vaguely street peace sign, there's a complete and total lack of recently deceased figureheads for racial equality. It is textbook, and they deserve this award."

As for the rest -- at least nobody was jumping off a bridge behind Lena Dunham's closet door. And were they to be doing so, given what they'd have had to be doing to get there, who could blame them. But as to whether or not Ms. Dunham keeps a bridge in her closet for such occasions, how can a mere non-celebrity even begin to speculate.

erin said...

clearly, functionaries of the machine -

however, do we use it (for it is we that are using it, or at least initially) to serve the dark desire to stroke and elevate the ego? something like that, i think, telephones, lights (your electric post!), the camera, the crockpot, the car...

but with each strike of distance what happens? so easily (and willingly?) we become lost...

and then your next post...

TC said...

erin, I expect the distance increases with each added layering of electronica, but really I wouldn't know about that, as I've never used these devices since they shrank so small.

Going pretty much by touch these days. Hoping to feel.

Continuing to think upon the young woman in the bottom shot, who holds one kind of device while actually using another, outdated one.

Her little caption poem, quite wonderful really.

"love old #telephone boots cause U don't see them anymore"

She's right about that.