Letters to the Editor

What’s old is new again

Thank you for the charming article about Manson Whitlock’s typewriter shop (“Many Happy Returns,” January/February). I probably visited his shop, because I would have needed repairs and ribbons for the manual Smith-Corona typewriter I used heavily at Yale in the early 1970s.

Whitlock notes a recent resurgence of interest in manual typewriters: “They’ve become cool all of a sudden.” One reason may be that one can buy a device that converts old typewriters into keyboards for a computer or iPad. The manufacturer’s website is usbtypewriter.com. I think Mr. Whitlock would appreciate their marketing slogan: “a groundbreaking advancement in the field of obsolescence.”

Jeff Johnson ’74
San Francisco, CA

Those mysterious “nine yards”

Doesn’t the phrase “the whole nine yards” (“You Can Quote Them,” January/February) refer to the nine yards on a square-rigged ship? The yards were the horizontal spars that held the nine-square sails. When all nine sails had been set, the ship was powered by “the whole nine yards.” See the Thomas Whitcombe painting A British Man of War before the Rock of Gibraltar for a beautiful example of such a square-rigged ship with all of the nine yards quite visible.

Richard McLaren ’67
Hinsdale, IL

My wife, Harriett Shea ’50MSN, and I live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where we have enjoyed attending horse pulls, contests in which teams of horses move a loaded sled a prescribed distance. We found it interesting that the standard “pull” is 27 feet—or 9 yards. If, indeed, this is a traditional distance, it seems quite possible that it predates other suggestions for the origin of the term “the whole nine yards.”

Ellicott McConnell
Easton, MD

There are many theories about the source of the phrase, and these are both attractive ones. But, as Fred Shapiro detailed in his column, the earliest known written examples of the phrase refer to “the whole six yards,” casting doubt on theories that depend on the number nine.—Eds.

Perceptions of mental illness

I enjoyed reading the interview with Juliann Garey ’88 and was particularly moved by the description of her resilience, family history, and work (“Drawn from Life,” November/December). However, I am concerned about the line you used on the cover to describe the interview: “A bipolar novelist makes art from her life.” Using person-first language (i.e., novelist with bipolar disorder) is very important to convey that individuals are more than a diagnosis or experience they may have. I think this is especially true for mental health conditions that are not yet well understood or are misrepresented by the media.

Sean Moundas ’03
Portsmouth, NH

Room for improvement

Yale seems to have combined the worst aspects of college football: dubious transfers, poor recruiting, loutish behavior, a sense of entitlement, and a pathetic record (“The Long Road Back,” January/February). Not bad for a level-two program! If you are going to play football—and there are good reasons not to—then you should do so reasonably well—or not do it at all. Does the administration care? The Yale Bowl would make a good soccer venue. The coach seems to be doing his best to reform the program, but he can’t do it alone. Why are single students allowed to live off campus in the first place? One of the glories of Yale—just as much as academics—is the residential college system. The university undermines it by allowing off-campus living.

Edward Rossman ’55
Aurora, NY

The blues

Your article on the renovated Yale University Art Gallery (“More is More,” January/February) was very well done, but left me with several questions about the caption referring to the early Italian art collection as being “shown off by dark blue walls.” Am I color blind? Is the writer color blind? Was the word “blue” an error? Was the color shown the result of faulty printing?

The color shown [reprinted below] seems to me to be best described as purple. Being somewhat hesitant to challenge the Yale art and editorial forces, I conducted a brief survey with a couple of neighbors who agreed with my interpretation.

The same illustration reappears on page 55 in an advertisement in which the wall color seems very slightly darker, but still purple. Any comment you can offer to provide closure would be appreciated, as blue is important at Yale and we must protect our culture from even minor and/or unintended heresies.

Bromwell Ault ’49
West Palm Beach, FL

The exact nature of that color was debated in our offices prior to publication. As printed, it does look rather purple. In real life, whether it is a purplish blue or a bluish purple seems to be in the eye of the beholder.—Eds.

A sticky subject

I was appalled to see on the back of the January/February edition a full-page ad from Statoil, touting their innovative approach to tar-sands extraction with the slogan “Progress is in our genes.” In an era when the environmental cost of tar-sands removal is only disputed by oil companies, and when enlightened universities are moving to divest from fossil fuel companies, allowing this ad to run is morally suspect at best. There is no adequate justification for engaging in energy practices that only provide “progress” by moving us closer (and much more quickly) to irreversible planetary damage. And there is no adequate justification—whatever the monies you gained—for running this kind of advertisement.

M. Lise Hildebrandt ’86MDiv
Weare, NH

I was appalled that you would accept advertising from a developer of oil sands, widely acknowledged to be one of the most environmentally regressive and carbon-intensive of all resource extraction schemes. The heavy oil lying beneath the Athabascan tar sands should never be burned on this warming planet. In your ad, these fastidious flacks for fossil fuel make their happy plans far from the shattered taiga and boomtown horrors of the actual tar sands, and their pretty model makes the jokey old Weyerhaeuser PR calendars look almost realistic by comparison.

Even if their demo project manages to extract the bitumen with less trauma to the lands and waters (complete, as it now happens), Statoil will strike one more major blow to any possible climate recovery, along with Exxon, X-L, and exported Montana coal bound for Chinese power plants. This ad shows for good and all that Yale (at least its alumni magazine) will take the cash, no matter how filthy, for there is none filthier than oil tar cash.

As a member of the wider Yale community, I have been often proud and sometimes aghast at the university’s connections, as I suppose is true of most of us. But with this advertisement, I am simply, and deeply, embarrassed.

Robert Michael Pyle ’76PhD
Gray’s River, WA

The responsibility for accepting the ad is ours, not the university’s.—Eds.

Accidental plagiarism?

The two apologists for Fareed Zakaria (Letters, January/February) stated that his action was not “intentional” and argued that his post hoc acknowledgement of the plagiarized paragraph somehow lets him off the hook. It is impossible to know the “intentions” of a plagiarist, so the Yale definition of plagiarism is sensibly restricted to the misdeed itself, of which Zakaria is clearly guilty. Famous journalists and other role models must be held to standards at least as high as those for students if we expect those students to become honorable citizens. “Light and truth,” right?

Andy Brower ’85, ’87MES
Christiana, TN

Thank you, Cole Porter

Your item about Cole Porter (“A Cole Porter Centennial,” January/February) reminded me of a story. When I won a very important prize in New York to study in Europe as a budding young opera singer, my wife Beatrice and I rented out our apartment in the Village. To follow me, she left her job as one of New York’s top photographer’s agents, and off to Europe we went, where the $15,000 prize was to be divided into a year of study in Italy and one in France.

After several weeks in Milan, we got a telegram saying that due to disastrous stock market investment errors, the foundation backing me was obliged to cancel the prize! We were dumbfounded. We contacted people in the United States whom we thought might be able to bail us out and permit me to pursue my studies.

Without my knowing it, one friend went to see Cole Porter, explaining to him that a former Whiffenpoof and soloist of the Yale Glee Club, studying opera in Europe, had been let down by a supporting organization and was stranded in Italy. When he heard of my dilemma, he said, “Any Whiff who wants to become an opera singer deserves all my help!” and promptly sent a check for a thousand dollars to us in Milan.

Schuyler Hamilton ’53
Paris, France

Stiles, new and old

Thanks for helping non-Stilesians to share in the success of the Stiles semicentennial (“Stiles Celebrates 50th With a Reunion,” January/February). I didn’t live in Stiles, but I took advantage of its brand-new library as a place to study for my oral exams in the summer of 1963. I can therefore attest that “tasteful new modern furniture,” as your article described it, is not a recent innovation there, for the college library was furnished from the outset with lounge chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames. These supremely comfortable chairs, then only a few years from the drawing board, are now considered to be masterpieces of modern American design. I celebrated the Stiles 50th—and my own recent retirement—by purchasing an Eames lounge chair for myself and reenacting a few of the naps I took that summer. This time I dozed without guilt, and not always with a book in my lap.

John Alexander Williams ’66PhD
Washington, DC

Here’s a picture of Morse College’s library from the fall of 1963. There’s an Eames lounge chair in the background.—Eds.

One of Yale’s bright stars

I was interested in your article about early women PhDs from Yale (“The Pioneers,” September/October). My first wife’s great- aunt was Dr. Ida Barney (1886–1982), who received her doctorate in mathematics from Yale in 1911. Dr. Barney was appointed to the Yale observatory in 1922. She became a noted astronomer and traveled all over the world photographing eclipses and doing astronomy research. She is particularly noted for assisting astronomer Frank Schlesinger in his work on the 17-volume Yale Photographic Zone catalogues.

After his retirement in 1941, she was named head of the project, which was completed in 1950. The Zone catalogues measured the magnitude of the brightest stars in the galaxy. She told me it took 23 years of work to complete the project, resulting in a three-volume set published as a government document by the United States. She also told me that it would have taken much less time to do the job using a computer!

Her work resulted in her being awarded in 1952 the fourth Annie J. Cannon Prize of the American Astronomical Society for her “distinguished contribution to astronomy,” which included completing “one of the most intensive photographic mapping jobs ever undertaken by a single observatory.”

Stanley A. Ransom ’51
Plattsburgh, NY

Early adopters

Your “From the Editor” column (“What Happens When You Do the Math,” January/February) states that “the Class of 1960 was a precursor to the more famous Class of 1954” in its strategy of investing its money in stocks rather than the earlier Yale practice of classes using insurance annuities. However, the originator of that investment strategy was the Class of 1951, of which I was secretary at graduation. My roommate Carl Knobloch pushed me to get the Yale official at the time, H. Everton Hosley, to allow our class to put part of our 25th reunion money into mutual funds and part in the annuities to test the benefits results. At our 25th reunion the investment funds significantly outdid the insurance portion. So I think 1951 is really the historic originator of the investment strategy.

Raymond J. Albright ’51
Chevy Chase, MD

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