The Sheik of Araby

30 November 2011



Ted Snyder composed this music in 1921. Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler wrote the words in response to the Rudolph Valentino film The Sheik. This song was a Tin Pan Alley hit and everyone played it. The Sheik of Araby is mentioned in The Great Gatsby. Fats Waller and Fats Domino both performed interesting versions of the tune. So did The Preservation Hall Jazz Band  and Louis Prima. Sidney Bechet recorded it the year I was born and Harry Connick, Jr. did it later. Oscar Peterson also.


Wilhelmina & Sam Andrew, Las Vegas, 1945)


A baby caribou is so swift it can easily outrun its mother when it is only three days old.


German, Dutch and English are sisters. Frisian is a fraternal (sororal?) twin to English. Entire sentences in both languages are identical.


In Bladworth, Saskatchewan, it is illegal to frown at cows.


Jim Wall et une Française in Saint Die, France. This is Alsace home of my mother’s people.


Sandy and Ken Scarborough kindly sent me these beautiful photographs of Packards. Earlier, they sent some great images of Wright Brothers planes.


Elise Piliwale.


“The Wizard Faithless Güero. Killing Güeros. Killing Güeros. Killing Güeros.”

“Güero” means “pale.” It is a slang word for “American,” “paleface.”


We know that Iran has weapons of mass destruction. We have the receipts. By the way, we the American people paid for those weapons. They are ours.

I don’t remember being consulted about selling them to Iran and I know the money didn’t come back here. It went to South America.


Mary Bridget Davies and Sam Andrew, Dornbirn, Austria, 2009.


One of the stupidest sentences I have ever read about language:

“Mothers were originally named Mama or Mommy because they have mammary glands.”

Mothers were called mama because mama is a sound that babies naturally make. Same for Papa or Dada. “Mammary” came from “mama,” not the other way round. The babies didn’t think,”Oh, she has a mammary gland, so I’ll call her “mama” for short. Academics can be so thick sometimes.


Sherida Andrew, my brother Bill’s wife. The Andrew boys love dark haired women, probably because our mother was a brunette.


René Descartes saw a fly walk across a tiled ceiling and, in a flash of insight, he formulated the theory of coordinate geometry.


Tree frogs can climb window panes. What if Descartes had seen that? What kind of geometry would that be? Window panes are transparent, so several dimensions beyond three may be involved. What if the pane were curved as in a bay window or an automobile’s windshield? A tree frog climbing on a curved car window  could involve some very interesting mathematics to say the least.


Descartes made a connection between algebra and geometry sometime in the 1600s. Not until the 1900s would these insights make their way into ordinary textbooks.


Three hundred years. That’s quite a bit of lag time.


What if René Descartes had heard a particularly good solo by, say, Django Reinhardt, and truly had understood its implications? What kind of geometry would he have evolved then, and where are the mathematicians today who will attempt to map such a set of variables? A kind of geometry of sound?


During World War II, because metal was scarce, the Academy Awards were made of wood.


A normal raindrop falls at about seven miles per hour.


Jen Sterling is back from a month in India. See her glow?


Ten percent of frequent flyers say they never check their luggage when flying. I am one of those. It’s hell in the overheads, though.


A violin is made of seventy separate pieces of wood.


Gramophones or phonographs or Victrolas amplified their sound through large horns. To cut down on the noise, people would often stuff a woolen sock in the horn, hence the phrase “put a sock in it.”


Arr, belay there, mates, avast, it be Mary Bridget Davies with the old grog.


Reindeer have scent glands between their hind toes. The glands help them leave scent trails for the herd. Researchers say the odor smells cheesy.


What the researchers ignore is that all body odors of all animals smell cheesy. All of mine do anyway, and to me the skunk odor definitely has cheesy overtones.


In fact, just a whisper of skunk odor is quite pleasurable, and many parfumiers (is this a word?) use the odor of a civet, close relative of the skunk, as a medium or binder for their fragrances.


Lanolin, an essential ingredient of many expensive cosmetics, is, in its native form, a foul cheese smelling, waxy tar-like substance extracted from the fleece of sheep.


Remember Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask?) by Woody Allen? Gene Wilder, a psychiatrist, fell in love with his patient, a sheep, and when she finally cut him off, he would buy bottles of Woolite (which contained lanolin) just so he could remember her? So sad.


One of the first lightbulbs was a thread of sheep’s wool coated with carbon.


There is a young trio of Manouche gypsies, the Gebo-swing, who do a good version of The Sheik of Araby. The bass player is left handed and he has strung the bass appropriately which is very unusual. These are the inheritors of the Django Reinhardt/Stochelo Rosenberg tradition.


My brother Lee on the left. France, 1965.


The giant squid is the largest creaure without a backbone. It weighs up to two and a half tons and grows up to fifty-five feet long. Each eye is a foot or more in diameter.


One of the first portraits I did of Elise Piliwale.


My friend Clark Walker’s image of Marilyn.


Whales, mice, elephants, humans and giraffes all have seven neck vertebrae.


Is that bump you feel on your back between your shoulders… is that bump called the seventh cervical vertebra? Medical people often calll it c7.


This vertebra is an important drawing landmark on the body, especially in profile.


Ben and I in Dubrovnik, Dalmatian coast, 2011.


The shrimp’s heart is in its head.


Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952. He declined. So, who said he wasn’t smart?


Elise Piliwale, charcoal. This is before I knew how to paint, so it has to be some time in the 1990s.


Rocky Racoon lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota.


Sam Houston Andrew, Jr. 1953.


The Wrights flew this plane lying down. This is the actual aircraft. Can you believe how new it looks? My father was born not too long after the brothers flew this plane, and, in his lifetime, was responsible for the radar and electronics in B52s. From the Wright plane to the Boeing 52 is an impressive rate of evolution by any measure, and it happened in one lifetime.


The Wright Brothers’ first plane was called The Bird of Prey.


“I then called at Drury Lane for Mr. Garrick. He was vastly good to me. ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘you will be a very great man. And when you are so, remember the year 1763. I want to contribute my part towards saving you. And pray, will you fix a day when I shall have the pleasure of treating you with tea?’ I fixed next day. ‘Then, Sir,’ said he, ‘the cups shall dance and the saucers skip.’ “

James Boswell 20 January 1763.


Women used to be allowed to live on navy ships. When they gave birth, the event often happened behind a canvas screen near the midship gun. If the paternity was uncertain, the child was entered in the log as “son of a gun,” the origin of this common phrase.


Alexander the Great lived in Macedonia, which not long ago was part of Yugoslavia. He was an epileptic and he was tutored by Aristotle. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander. That’s a kind of family tree of… wisdom?


My father loved these beautiful cars. This Packard might very well live in Edd Hart’s hometown in Ohio.


My brother Bill about 1981.


The best woman I have ever known. Elise Piliwale.


A hamlet is a village without a church, and a town is not a city until it has a cathedral.


Butterflies taste with their hind feet.


Warren, Ohio.


Oh, Puissant Potentate, Please hear my Prayer. Prohibit Pestilence.


It takes eight and a half minutes for light to get from the sun to earth. All totaled, the sunlight that strikes the earth at any given moment weighs as much as an ocean liner.


The billionth digit of pi is nine.


A blind chameleon still changes color to match its environment.


“Satellite” in German is “Trabant.”


From a painting that no longer exists.


I once had a friend who seriously argued this.


I’m surprised there have been that many.

It has been calculated that in the last 3,500 years, there have been only 230 years of peace throughout what we laughingly call the “civilized world.”


In the 1700s in London, you could purchase insurance against going to hell.

That‘s the Protestant, Episcopalian, Presbyterian version. In the Middle Ages, you could buy your way out of Purgatory by obtaining “indulgences,” papal or otherwise. They were for sale… anywhere.


Pilgrims ate popcorn at the first Thanksgiving dinner.


Elise Piliwale sings Gospel.


Dominique et le frimeur in Paris at La Boule Noire.


There has never been a president from the Air Force or Marine Corps, although Ronald Reagan was in the Army Air Corps, and so was my father.


Two of dad’s men working with typical Signal Corps equipment of the time.


Peter Albin, serious.


Teressa in her limousine.


Ben Nieves, always willing to lend a hand.


Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum do their genius versions of this tune. I love how everyone treats the introduction. That is the place for exotic scales and harmonies, since the tune itself is so foursquare and traditional.


People don’t always say “hello” when they answer the phone. When the first regular phone service was established in 1878, people said

”ahoy.”  In Italy they say “pronto,” ready. I say “This is Sam.” In Japan they say “moshi, moshi,” and in China they say “wei, wei.”


One of the reasons that marijuana is illegal today is because cotton growers in the 1930s lobbied against hemp farmers. They saw hemp as competition. Everyone probably knows that both Washington and Jefferson grew hemp on their property, yes? I mean, just for the rope, you understand.


One hundred sixty cars can drive side by side on the Monumental Axis in Brazil, the world’s widest road.


The abbreviation ORD for Chicago’s O’Hare Airport comes from the old name Orchard Field.


James Gurley, the Pontiff.


Someone should tell Rick Perry this:

The slogan on New Hampshire license plates is “Live Free or Die.” These license plates are made by inmates at the state prison in Concord.


Not sure if Rick Perry has been here:

There is an airport in Kolkata (Calcutta) named Dum Dum Airport.


“Vatos.” Mexican slang. “Guys.”




Mrs. Grundy and Lipstick at The New Yorker offices.


My brother Bill’s 1949 Simca 8 in France, the land of Jeanne d’Arc.


There are more statues of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) than anyone else in the world. In France alone there are 40,000 of them.


The Babylonian bride’s parents were required to keep the groom supplied with mead, a honey flavored wine, for a month following the wedding. This is the origin of the word “honeymoon.”


Methane gas can often be seen bubbling up from the bottom of ponds. It is produced by the decomposition of dead plants and animals in the mud.


The tip of a bullwhip moves so fast that it breaks the sound barrier. The crack of the whip is actually a tiny sonic boom.


Ben and I on the bridge. Mostar, Bosnia, 2011.


The Netherlands and the United States both have anthems that do not mention their countries’ names.


After the Popeye comic strip started in 1931, spinach consumption went up by 33 % in the United States.


Romans only numbered the daylight hours. They began at six in the morning which was the first hour. So, three in the afternoon was the ninth hour (in Latin “nona”).


There was a monastic order so devout that they declared that they would not eat their first meal until “nona,”” three in the afternoon. They rang a bell to announce that hour.


Monks are humans too, though, and as they became hungrier “nona” came earlier. That bell was heard sooner and sooner until it rang around midday.


The villagers mocked the hungry monks and declared that midday was “nona,” noon. This is the origin of the word.


Peter proposed to Cheyenne on his knees at The Spanish Steps in Rome a month ago. Talk about romantic. Mary Bridget Davies, Ben Nieves and I visted the Spanish Steps last August and the scene was so chaotic that you could do just about anything there, including asking your very beautiful girlfriend to marry you. Congratulations, Peter. Love to you, Cheyenne.


The words “racecar” and “kayak” are palindromes. So is “eve.”

So is “tattarrattat,” a word invented by James Joyce in Ulysses (1921) for a knock on the door. If you roll the R in tattarrattat and say the T the way the Irish do, you will get a sound very close to the sound of a knocking on a door.

Tattarrattat may be the longest palindrome in English.


Harvard uses Yale brand locks on her university buildings. Yale uses Best brand on hers.


I’ve been obsessing about this tune and Up A Lazy River. Hoagy Carmichael’s tune, like him, is rangy and craggy. This one The Sheik of Araby is the opposite, stepwise, much narrower in scope. Everyone played this song. Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and let’s not forget Spike Jones. THE BEATLES. The Beatles did this tune. John sang it. I’ve often thought the Beatles were such great songwriters because they really knew everyone else’s work so well. They knew popular music because they performed more songs from more eras than anyone. Just a theory, but it seems reasonable.


I’m going to Cleveland to make a CD. See you next week.

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company