Come hear the Dessoff Chamber Choir on tour with Ray Davies
performing The Kinks Choral Collection

Dessoff blew the roof off New York’s Town Hall and the Late Show with David Letterman the last time rock legend Ray Davies was in town; this year, we’re taking it on the road!

The Dessoff Chamber Choir backing up Ray Davies at Town Hall in 2010. (Victoria)


Tickets for Montclair and Boston are on sale now. Those for the Beacon go on sale this Saturday, September 17th, at 10:00 am. Philly, a week after that.


FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18 8:00 pm     On sale now!
The Wellmont Theatre, Montclair, NJ
Tickets: $40, $60, $80

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19  8:00 pm  (Sales begin 10 am, Saturday, September 24)
Temple Performing Arts Center, Philadelphia, PA
Tickets: $55                    

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20  7:30 pm   Sales begin 10 am, Saturday, September 17)
The Beacon Theatre, New York, NY
Tickets: $49.59-$114.50  

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 23  8:00 pm   On sale now!
The Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA
Tickets: $66.15, $89.15…

In support of his latest album, See My Friends, Kinks front man Ray Davies plays a four-night East Coast tour, live with full chorus. Best known as the lead singer and songwriter for the classic British rock band, Davies’ 50-year career has yielded some of the most iconic rock songs in history. Performing solo, since the demise of The Kinks in 1996, he counts five albums of his own and receives numerous awards for his talent.

Bill Shanley on guitar, Dick Nolan on bass, Damon Wilson on drums, Ian Gibbons and Gunnar Frick on keyboards, and The Dessoff Chamber Choir join Ray for an unforgettable show.

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I’m a serial comma guy, and so is my good friend Andy. Unfortunately for Andy, serial commas are verboten at his workplace, and this requires him “to violate a fundamental law of that which is right and good.” (I might have said “right, good, and just.”)

Hoping to assuage his hardship, I whipped up a batch of cereal commas for him as a birthday gift. He’ll have to decide whether or not he can risk sneaking some into work.


Shown: eight cereal commas in various sizes. Four were made with Rice Krispies and Fruity Pebbles, and four were made with Rice Krispies, Cocoa Krispies, and Alpha Bits. Also shown are two pieces of the Ateco Plain Comma Cutter Set with which they were cut [full set below].

Please note that the Ateco cutters are backwards. Instead of cutting comma shapes, they cut reversed comma shapes. Although their rolled edges prevented me from using them upside-down without injury, it was not difficult to turn the treats over after cutting. The treat at center left in the photo is unturned.

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Earlier today, I virtually ran into the husband of one of my choir buddies. Virtually, like on Twitter.

Adding to the amusement, check out the similarity between his (2007) Twitter profile picture and my (2001) Drew web page (sadly in need of an update, I know) picture:

Screen shot 2011-03-26 at 22.51.42

Briefly, it went like this: I happen to follow Ivan Oransky (of Retraction Watch) on Twitter. Ivan, good scientist that he is, always cites his sources, and his source for this tweet today was David Berreby of, with whose wife I sing in The Dessoff Choirs.

Small world, or big Twitter.

Come hear the wonderful music (Bernstein, Dove, Ives, Walker, Brahms, Jameson, Górecki, Barber, and Conte) Dessoff is preparing for its next concert. Or come to our Gala fundraiser. Or both.

One Response to “Virtually, Like on Twitter”

  1. David Berreby Says:

    Best of all … that photo of me was taken by your alto friend, my lovely wife. Nice crossing paths with you.

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Someone points out a typo to me. I wonder why the typo was made. I learn a bunch of cool stuff. It’s one of my favorite story lines, and here’s today’s episode. [Related post on “Why not?”]

Readers will know that as The Dessoff Choirs’ self-appointed language guru, I routinely prepare IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) transliterations of upcoming concert music. [see Graphemes to Phonemes Made Easy]

Over the years, I’ve learned I can count on certain fellow singers, especially alto section leader Lisa Madsen, to scrutinize my work. Recently, Lisa noticed a small discrepancy between a word (and) in my transliteration and the corresponding word (an) in our printed score.

Georg Friedrich Daumer’s poem “Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel” 

da tat es ihm, dem Glücklichen, nicht an, which should have been nicht and.

Johannes Brahms’s Liebeslieder waltz, Opus 52, #6


S. verifies that and is correct according to several authoritative sources.

S. looks up and fails to find and in several German dictionaries.

S. hypothesizes that and is a poetic substitution for an for rhyme’s sake (cf., antun, to harm).

S. (AKA Area Man) poses this hypothesis at [see Appendix A]

While drafting his WordReference post, B. (S.’s brother) phones S. and asks “What are you doing?”

S. explains.

B. offers to ask G. (B.’s friend, an erudite scholar of German) S.’s question, which offer S. accepts.

S. shortly receives an informative answer [see Appendix B] from WordReference user and native German speaker Demiurg.

Subsequently, S. receives an even more informative answer [see Appendix C] from G.



One of Johannes Brahms’s Liebeslieder-Walzer (1865) contains this stanza from a poem by Georg Friedrich Daumer (1800-1875):

Der Vogel kam
in eine schöne Hand,
da tat es ihm,
dem Glücklichen, nicht and.

Is the final word and a poetic alteration of an (separated from antun) to make the rhyme with Hand? If not, what is it?

Also, how might this come across to a present-day native German speaker (in the context of a sung poem, where a rhyme is expected)?


It’s a dated form (=> and). "Es tat ihm nicht and" means "es tat ihm nicht leid".

However, it’s still used in the East Franconian dialect:

    and tun, es tut mir and

    Aussprache: des dud mer and
    Bedeutung: "es tut mir leid" oder "ich habe Sehnsucht danach"
    Satzbeispiel: Noach mein Vauweh is mer heind no and
    (aus Wassertrüdingen, Landkreis Ansbach)
    "Ich denke heute noch mit Wehmut an meinen VW-Käfer"
    Herkunft: mittelhochdeutsch ant "schmerzlich"
    aus althochdeutsch anan "atmen, seufzen" (vgl. deutsch ahnen)




"Da tat es ihm nicht and".

"and tun" in Eastern Frankish dialect (dialect geographically prevalent in Southern Germany- its eastern border was near Nuernberg, where Georg Friedrich Daumer was born and lived) is/was used to express "to be hurtful" "to cause pain". It is also used in Middle High German. Today you would use: "Da tat es ihm nichts an."

"Da tat es ihm nicht and" could therefore be translated as: it didn’t cause him any pain.
I.e: the fact that the bird flew on his lady’s hand did not bother him all that much – no competition for his affection.

Another reason Georg Friedrich Daumer used this archaic and/or dialect expression is that he studied and used Arabic and Persian rhyme schemes during certain periods in his creative life, which were much stricter about perfect rhyme endings than was customary in Germany poetry – other than during the German classical period.

I hope I could help you out.



Yes, G., you could and did help me out. Thanks.

One Response to “Typo Story [Pilot Episode]”

  1. Barbara Says:

    Wow! Great explanation, thanks a lot!
    I’m a native German speaker, not from Franconia, however. Coming across the poem while rehearsing Brahms songs in choir, I had a hard time finding out about the meaning of the word “and”. Luckily, you as a non-native speaker provided me with the solution!

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Today’s word of the day is emmadden.

em·mad·den /ɛm.’ma.dən/

To constructively make mad or crazy, or to feign to make mad or crazy, always without malice or injury, and usually with the complete opposites.

2011: intentional coinage by Steve Kass (, variant of madden with intentionally vague technoetymology. Perhaps a portmanteau of madden and imagine, perhaps an intensive of madden, or perhaps a variation of madden that communicates a quality of uncertainty or inconfidence, as if compounded with the interjection um.

One Response to “Word of the day: Emmadden”

  1. Glenn Bingham Says:

    “Emmadden” seems to be parallel to the circumfix that a few English words required to form causatives from an adjectival base form:

    enlighten = to bring to light / make light
    (lighten = make lighter)
    embolden = to make bold
    *bolden / *embold

    The circumfix is fundamentally en-ADJ-en with the first “n” assimilating the labial quality of the following phoneme: n > m.

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Last night, as a few of us not backing up Ray Davies in Philadelphia gathered for dinner in Hoboken, I spotted this holiday mispostrophe (ssp. dyspostrophe).


It probably wasn’t intentional on Trader Joe’s’s part, but the mispostrophe distracted me from the numbers on the box — especially 24 and 50. But only briefly; the pressing question quickly loomed.

If 24 Milk Chocolates weigh 50 grams altogether, aren’t they too small?

The appropriate comparison was obvious: M&M’s®. Little did I suspect it would be something of a challenge to find out the true weight of one regular M&M.

Disregarding outliers like “I think it is about 15g; 15 grams is perhaps the answer,” answers on the web (to the question of an M&M’s weight) generally fell into two camps. There was a handful of a-bit-less-than-a-gram answers, like “There are about 500 Plain M&M’s per pound,” and there was also a handful of around-2-grams answers, like “After an experiment, of weighing M&M’s, here were the results. 1) 2.208 g 2) 1.882 g 3) 1.904 g 4) 2.438 g.”

After considerable “research,” but no direct measurement, I’m swayed, not by any attestations of milligram precision, but by the preponderance of evidence [and 1] that one regular M&M weighs a bit less than a gram. Which conclusion is consistent with my personal experiences as a candy sorter (when I can find an uncluttered flat surface, which isn’t very often).

From the web’s many M&M Q&A (or should I say Q&“A”?) a few examples:

  • Q: What is the weight of one M-and-M candy? [link]
    A: I think it is about 15g; 15 grams is perhaps the answer
  • Q: How much does an M and M weigh? [link]
    A: When we counted the number of M&M’s in a 12.6oz bag, we got 404, which means there are 32.06 M&M’s/oz, which means that each M&M weighs 1.13 grams. [SK: If you divide backwardsly, perhaps. Otherwise, each M&M weighs (on average) about 0.88 grams.]
  • Q: How many m&m’s do you reckon are in 7oz? I’m ordering custom m&ms, and they come in 7oz bags. I need about 1000 m&ms, total. how many bags should I order? [link]
    A1: [Best Answer] 10 bags, maybe around 75 or 100 in each bag. [SK: Better safe than sorry.]
    A2: 2 or 3.
  • Q: How much does a single plain m&m weigh? [link]
    A: After an experiment, of weighing M&M’s, here were the results. 1) 2.208 g 2) 1.882 g 3) 1.904 g 4) 2.438 g.

As for the pressing question, I’ll cautiously answer it “No” and hope Toby and Theo agree. Two or three M&M’s-worth of chocolate every day for most of a month — for those endless days, those sacred days, believe me — is not so bad. Despite anyone’s opinion that one serving of M&Ms comprises 208 grams (and 1023 calories).

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There is still no good answer to the question “Why can’t we walk straight?”, observed Robert Krulwich’s recorded voice at a recent live taping for Radiolab at The Greene Space. Robert’s observation ressounded¹ today on the “NPR sciencey blog” Krulwich Wonders.

For 80 years, scientists have been trying to explain this tendency to turn when you think you are going straight. … Try as they might, and they’re still trying these experiments, nobody has figured out why we can’t go straight.

When I was a kid, Someone thought they’d figured it out. One’s dominant leg took longer strides, They taught me. I also learned, or maybe inferred, that I should find a leftie to walk with me should I ever need to cross a desert in the fog, at night, or while blindfolded.

But hearing Robert talk about this twice in as many weeks, I realized that They’d been wrong, and that crossing a desert in the fog was not a challenge I’d be ready to meet. (Also, I only then realized that a leftie might not be handy when the challenge arose, anyway.)

Ignoring my sudden and deepening nonplus, I focused on the question. Analogy time.² Robert’s headlineworthy version of the question is an oversimplification of the quandary, but I’ll notwithstand that fact for now.

Why can’t we fly? (Some animals can.) Because we don’t have small bodies, hollow bones, and wings (like some flying-capable animals do); nor do we have really tiny invertebrate bodies and wings (like some other flying-capable animals do).

Why can’t we hear high-pitched sounds? (Some animals can.) Because human ears (unlike the ears of the animals that can) aren’t physically able to convert high-pitched sounds into nerve impulses.

Great_Barrier_Island_Pigeon-Gram_stamp_1899 So why can’t we maintain our direction over long distances without a visual point of reference? (Some animals, especially flying-capable ones, can.) Because (unlike those animals) humans never underwent any evolutionary pressure to develop a mechanism to do so?

Robert mentioned one of the trying scientists by name: Jan Sousman. Jan’s article, Walking Straight into Circles, recently appeared in the journal Current Biology (a cornucopia of articles at the titles of which biologists surely titter: Olfaction: When Nostrils Compete; Metastasis: Alone or Together?; Addiction: Flies Hit the Skids; Flagella and Cilia: The Long and the Short of It; and Melanocyte Production: Dark Side of the Schwann Cell).

Jan and his coauthors wrote a wonderful paper. Among many beautiful sentences and figures, they report that their subjects’ “walking trajectories show exactly the kind of behavior that would be expected if the subjective sense of straight ahead were to follow a correlated random walk.” They also mention J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to point out that the belief “that people who get lost end up walking in circles is widespread.”

So “because we can’t” isn’t really such a good answer. Our proprioception (that sixth sense that allows us to touch our noses in the dark when we haven’t had too much to drink) does provide a subjective sense of straight ahead. However, it isn’t very reliable for very far or for very long.`

¹ I initially wrote reappeared, which on rereading, sounded (or more sensibly, looked) wrong, because Robert’s voice never appeared (as in became visible to the eye) in the first place. Unable to solve the Miller Analogy SEE : REAPPEAR :: HEAR: with an existing word, I had to invent the perfect answer: res̈ound (which should appear as the word resound with an umlaut/trema/diaeresis over the s). This answer is in fact all the more perfect (not to mention very unique) for having been invented by a “greater New Yorker.” Unfortunately, as much as I like the idea of using ¨ to estop a preceding prefix from losing its strict meaning, it fails in practical terms. Very few consonants appear in Unicode preëquipped with the dots, and Unicode’s zero-width combining diaeresis, the solution in theory, is unworkably fussy.

² Yay!

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aka Grocery Shopping in 2012

Background image by Ben McLeod, shared under a Creative Commons license.

Dear friend,

It’s disconcerting to see your face in the newspaper and think you were struck by lightning in Ohio and/or that your severed head was found at the airport.


As delighted as I continue to be with all the weird and wonderful things you share with me, I only want to see them on Facebook. Until there’s a way to opt out of Facebook’s Social Plugin (which is not Facebook Instant Personalization, out of which I have already opted), I’ll try to remember to log out of Facebook before I start reading the paper.

Sorry if I’m a little less in touch with what’s important to you, but please keep sharing.

In case you don’t happen to log out of Facebook when you read today’s paper, please be assured that I didn’t change my name to Maureen Forrester and die yesterday.

Your friend,


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