Magazine February 24, 2020, Issue

Letters

Louis Armstrong in 1958 (Ullstein Bild/Getty Images)

Hardy’s Poignancy

Credit is due to Richard Brookhiser for his excellent essay “Some Blessed Hope” (December 31). Brookhiser touches on the brilliant Thomas Hardy’s remarkable talent as both a poet and a novelist. In verse and prose, Hardy set a poignant tone that sees our humanity bent to other forces. In “The Darkling Thrush” that force is the title character — frail, yet wiser. My own favorite from Hardy, “Drummer Hodge,” strikes a more somber note. But even in so doing, the poem emphasizes what we must always remember: Life is inherently valuable.

Jon Bolling
Craig, Alaska

 

Armstrong’s Embouchure

Nicholas Frankovich must not be a wind player. While assessing the “rictus” of “Satchmo’s smile” (January 27), he fails to factor in the tremendous embouchure muscles of the professional wind player — particularly on trumpet, French horn, and double reeds. As an oboist, I can testify that if one makes that frozen face for the horn, all one has to do is part the lips and there it is: rictus smile. Furthermore, Armstrong’s all-encompassing embouchure also included his forehead and eyelids. Whatever the reason, he used it as part of his act.

Sylvia Swain Rummel
Fulton, Mo.

 

Nicholas Frankovich responds: Many thanks to Ms. Rummel for this addition to the story of Armstrong’s extraordinarily expressive face. Let me add yet another brushstroke or two: In 1935 he tore a muscle in his upper lip, from playing the trumpet too hard. The condition, to which players of wind instruments (but especially the trumpet) are susceptible, is now known as “Satchmo’s syndrome.”

His lips were susceptible to scar tissue and calluses. He began using a lip balm invented by Franz Schüritz, a German trombonist. Schüritz kept him well supplied, gratis, in exchange for rights to use Armstrong’s name on the product. It was rebranded as “Louis Armstrong Lip-Salve.” Armstrong dutifully endorsed it. “The greatest salve in the world,” he told an interviewer in 1952. “I’d be dead without it.” After a game, trainers would go to work on Sandy Koufax’s left elbow, on Mickey Mantle’s knees. Armstrong’s after-performance routine involved special attention to his lips.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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Mark Zuckerberg’s On the Right Track

In comments earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued that social-media companies should strive to avoid regulating the views of users. “I don’t think Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNBC. “I think that’s kind ... Read More
Media

Mark Zuckerberg’s On the Right Track

In comments earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued that social-media companies should strive to avoid regulating the views of users. “I don’t think Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNBC. “I think that’s kind ... Read More

The Need to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime

Thomas Abt’s book Bleeding Out (2019) has garnered a fair amount of attention for its proposals to deal with gun violence in mainly black urban neighborhoods. The entire focus of the book is on interventions in high-crime locations to stem the violence, including: hot-spots policing, working with young males at ... Read More

The Need to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime

Thomas Abt’s book Bleeding Out (2019) has garnered a fair amount of attention for its proposals to deal with gun violence in mainly black urban neighborhoods. The entire focus of the book is on interventions in high-crime locations to stem the violence, including: hot-spots policing, working with young males at ... Read More
U.S.

Toward Justice — and Order — in Minneapolis

George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died shortly after being physically restrained by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday. His arrest on suspicion of a non-violent crime (passing a counterfeit $20 bill) was caught on a cellphone video and at least two store surveillance videos. From the videos that are ... Read More
U.S.

Toward Justice — and Order — in Minneapolis

George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died shortly after being physically restrained by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday. His arrest on suspicion of a non-violent crime (passing a counterfeit $20 bill) was caught on a cellphone video and at least two store surveillance videos. From the videos that are ... Read More