The Almanac

Arts & Letters

Matisse Gallery

This month, after waiting for years, scholars can gain broad access to the voluminous archives of one of the most important modern-art galleries -- the Pierre Matisse Gallery, operated in New York for 60 years by the son of the Impressionist painter Henri Matisse. After Pierre Matisse died, in 1989, his widow and children created a foundation to organize the gallery's drawings, catalogues, photographs, and papers (Matisse wrote, and kept, some 2,000 letters about the shows he mounted and the works he sold); in the meantime, libraries and museums across the country vied for the collection, which was awarded last summer to New York's Pierpont Morgan Library. The archival items include a 1948 introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre to an exhibit of works by the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, and a gouache created by Joan Miró for a catalogue cover. Scholars can visit the archives by appointment; a number of exhibits are planned, to make some of the materials available to the public as well.



The annual Girl Scout cookie-selling season begins this month. New offerings include Reduced-Fat Apple Cinnamon cookies -- the seventh reduced-fat cookie introduced in the past four years. The reduced-fat cookies are, of course, a response to the growing demand for healthful snacks, but so far only one, Reduced-Fat Lemon Pastry Cremes, has become a top seller. The old favorites still predominate: Thin Mints account for a quarter of the cookies sold each year, and Samoas for 17 percent. Last year the Girl Scouts sold more than 190 million boxes nationwide, generating revenues of about $370 million. This money funds activities and is used to maintain property and train leaders, among other things; last year the Girl Scouts in the greater Washington, D.C., area had to sell some 85,000 boxes of cookies simply to pay the chapter's liability insurance.



This month the U.S. Navy begins updating its traditional work uniform, and will replace denim bell-bottomed trousers with straight-legged chino-like pants. The switch was mandated after most of the 1,500 male and female sailors who tested the new pants deemed them more comfortable, neater, and longer-lasting than the old ones. How the straight-legged pants will be generally received remains to be seen: the Navy made a similar change to its dress uniform in the 1970s, but reinstated bell-bottoms after an outcry. Also this month the first law in the country aimed at obviating divorce takes effect, on January 1. Florida's Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act encourages couples to take a premarital course within the year prior to applying for a marriage license (a draft of the bill would have required such a course). Courses can be taken from a variety of providers, and may include such topics as communication and financial and parenting responsibilities. Couples who complete a course save $32.50 of Florida's $88.50 marriage-license fee, and are exempted from the usual three-day wait for a license.


Kleenex month

January is a peak month for sales of facial tissue, because flu season usually reaches its height in late December or early January. Kleenex, the initial brand, has dominated the U.S. market since its introduction, in 1924. Kleenex's manufacturer, the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, has, of course, kept close track of trends in tissue use. Some recent findings: Americans go through about 200 billion tissues each year, with some availing themselves of more than 80 a week. Women use twice as many tissues as men do. Most users restrict themselves to one tissue at a time, and half fold the tissue before blowing their noses. Kleenex was first marketed as a disposable replacement for the towels used to remove makeup and cold cream; only after a survey showed that the majority of consumers regarded it instead as a hygienic substitute for pocket handkerchiefs was it promoted as such.

The Skies


January 1: Full Moon, also known this month as the Wolf or Yule Moon. 5: Observers with binoculars may be able to spot Neptune this evening, just to the right of Venus, low in the southwest after sunset. Early risers on the 9th and 10th will find the half Moon, Mars, and the bluish star Spica grouped high in the south an hour before sunrise. 31: Full Moon. Because it is the second one of the month, it qualifies as a Blue Moon.


January 1: Starting today, according to a state law passed in 1994, the Northern States Power Company, which owns the Prairie Island nuclear-power plant, in Red Wing, Minnesota, must set aside $500,000 a year for each 122-ton cask of high-level nuclear waste it henceforth stores at the plant (there are no off-site facilities able to accept the waste). The money will be used for investment in clean, safe, renewable sources of energy. This is one of the first such arrangements to be legislated by a state government. Also starting today all printing and writing paper bought by the U.S. government must contain at least 30 percent recycled fiber. The government buys more than 100,000 tons of copier paper alone each year.

50 Years Ago

Willful generations

George Santayana, writing in the January, 1949, issue of The Atlantic Monthly: "Every generation is born as ignorant and willful as the first man; and when tradition has lost its obvious fitness or numinous authority, eager minds will revert without knowing it to every false hope and blind alley that tempted their predecessors. . . . Often things as they are become intolerable; there must be insurrection at any cost, as when the established order is not only casually oppressive but ideally perverse and due to some previous epidemic of militant madness become constitutional. Against that domination, established in willful indifference to the true good of man and to his possibilities, any political nostrum, proposed with the same rashness, will be accepted with the same faith. Thus the blind in extirpating the mad may plant a new madness."

Illustrations by Jille Mandel

The Atlantic Monthly; January 1999; The January Almanac; Volume 283, No. 1; page 12.