Category Archives: Welt


I’m not stunned about the death of Johnny Cash, but I am deeply affected by it. I’m not sure why — I only recently converted to his music (perhaps 3 years ago when I met my wife) and I really only know his standards and his rock re-makes, which are terribly mournful. (His cover of NIN’s “Hurt” is as unforgettable as is he and cuts to the core of the man.)
In part I think my sadness about his death, which oddly coincides with that of the talented actor John Ritter, can be attributed to the fact that he deeply felt and made others feel all through his life. This is a rare feat, and one that I often wish I had truly pursued. It’s the life of an artist, of course, but it’s also the life of someone who rarely compromised, who took extensive risks with his work and personal ife, and who was faithful to his core even while trembling. Johnny Cash, unlike John Ritter, was perhaps one of the most important artists of the 20th century, up there with Picasso, Dylan, and Guston.
I actually miss him and, listening to his last album this afternoon, I hung my head.

Origin of Deckchairs on the Titanic.

Many people have written me about the origin or original meaning of the aphorism “Arranging the Deckchairs on the Titanic,” and I’ve spent a good deal of time researching it on the Web, with very little to show for it. The saying essentially means, of course, doing ridiculous activites in the face of crippling adversity. I believe that the title, recommended by friend V.S. for this blog a few years ago, is ironically apt and, in fact, perhaps applies to many weblogs. I mean this as a compliment.
More interestingly, I asked a Google Researcher to help with finding more information about the aphorism and I found, much to my great surprise, that it originates sometime in the early 1970s, when I was a tike, and not in the 1920s, when I was, well, nothing. It appears that the phrase was originally in reference to PR debacle. The researcher, who was paid for his services through the excellent Google Answers wrote:
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (5th Ed. 1999), page 533, lists a
quotation from the Washington Post, 16 May 1976, by Rogers Morton,
American public relations officer: “I’m not going to rearrange the
furniture on the deck of the Titanic.” The context, according to the
dictionary, was that Morton had lost five of the last six primaries as
President Ford’s campaign manager.

I’ll write more about this later, but here is the full Google report.