Saturday, October 25, 2014

David Foster Wallace’s backhand

Did David Foster Wallace hit a backhand with one hand, or two? One.

Related reading
All OCA David Foster Wallace posts (Pinboard)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pocket notebook sightings: Dragnet

[“You have the right to remain silent”: Anthony Eisely as bad cop Chris Drucker, reading himself his rights. From the Dragnet episode “Administrative Vice: DR 29” (February 6, 1969).]

The Los Angeles Police Department notebook, as seen in the television series Dragnet, is a thing of beauty. Miranda rights are printed on the cover. I wish I could find a photograph online.

A missing notebook is the crucial element in a Dragnet episode devoted to an internal investigation. A dead man’s landlord claims to have turned over the man’s few valuables, including $1000. The cops, who wrote two receipts, say it was $200. The landlord says she threw her receipt away. The notebook with the cops’ copy is missing. The notebook slid under a car dashboard, where Joe Friday finds it and saves the day.

[Sgt. Friday finds a missing notebook. From the Dragnet episode “I.A.D.: The Receipt” (March 26, 1970).]

[Yep, $200. Such strange printing. But that is indeed Agnes Emerson’s signature. Click any image for a larger view.]

Given Jack Webb’s close connection to the LAPD, I wanted to assume that these notebooks are — or were — the real thing. The answer is were . I called the Los Angeles Police Revolver & Athletic Club’s store this morning. The two men I spoke with knew exactly what I was asking about and said that these notebooks are no longer used.

You can find these notebooks and their episodes — one, then the other — at Hulu.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Cat People : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Extras : Foreign Correspondent : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The House on 92nd Street : The Lodger : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Palm Beach Story : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Quai des Orfèvres : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : Route 66 : The Sopranos : Spellbound : State Fair : T-Men : Union Station : The Woman in the Window

Thursday, October 23, 2014

“Think middle school report”

A choice excerpt from the document titled Investigation of Irregular Classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill :

It was also well known that quality played little to no part in the paper class grading process. In fact, it was even the subject of jokes among the ASPSA football counselors and tutors. In one email chain, for example, Learning Specialist Amy Kleissler (“Kleissler”) and [Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes staff-member Jaimie] Lee joke about how tutor Whitney Read (“Read”) is worried that a particular football player may not have enough time to get his paper done for his paper class. Kleissler comments that “I still don’t think [Read] is absorbing what I am saying about the paper. I finally just said ‘think middle school report, not college seminar paper.’”
The report in full is available as a PDF. The Chronicle of Higher Education has extensive coverage of the report’s findings: Key Players in Academic Fraud at UNC, Three Key Findings in Chapel Hill’s Academic-Fraud Investigation, Widespread Nature of Chapel Hill’s Academic Fraud Is Laid Bare.

[The first brackets are mine.]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For Canada

Life in North America feels more dangerous today. Stay safe, Canada.

A postcard from my future self

Something interesting on my front step this morning — a postcard from my future self.

Oct. 24

Hello Michael,

Thanks for putting in the time grading all those essays last Thursday and Friday. You could have spaced them out over many more days, but you didn’t. And thanks to you, the past six days have been grading-free. Way to go.

See you soon,

Writing to one’s future self may seem to you (as it does to me) awfully corny. Getting a note from one’s future self is another story. I find that thinking about my future self can be helpful in getting work done, again and again. FS FTW.

A related post

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Helvetica, eww

I updated my Mac to Yosemite today and found myself disappointed with its system font, Helvetica Neue. Eww. The font may look good with a Retina display — I wouldn’t know. On my MacBook Pro, it looks plug ugly. The smaller it is, the worse it looks.

The good news is that it’s ridiculously easy to switch back to the familiar and highly readable Lucida Grande. GitHub has a page with the necessary download. Thank you, schreibenstein, whoever you are. Another GitHub page has files for Fira Sans. Thank you, Jens Kutilek.

Yosemite’s new Finder icon makes the old one look downright dignified. Not an improvement. And the greyish menus make OS X 10.10 feel more like 10.4 (Tiger). Yosemite’s bright blue folder icons make me think of Breaking Bad, but these days everything makes me think of Breaking Bad. Elaine and I are blasting our way through its six seasons.

What I like about Yosemite: things look (mostly) brighter, cleaner. Coming out of sleep, the computer seems to connect to wireless more quickly. And the redesigned Spotlight is very fast. Bravo for that.

Related reading
Apple Yosemite Finder Icon Sucks (Wallydavid)
Helvetica sucks (Erik Spiekermann)
How to not send Spotlight data to Apple (Cult of Mac)
Why Apple's New Font Won’t Work On Your Desktop (Tobias Frere-Jones)

Walser walking

Speaking to the superintendent or inspector of taxes, the story’s narrator defends his habit of walking:

“Without walking and the contemplation of nature which is connected with it, without this equally delicious and instructive, equally refreshing and constantly admonishing search, I deem myself lost, and indeed am lost. With the utmost attention and love the man who walks must study and observe every smallest living thing, be it a child, a dog, a fly, a butterfly, a sparrow, a worm, a flower, a man, a house, a tree, a hedge, a snail, a mouse, a cloud, a hill, a leaf, or no more than a paltry discarded scrap of paper on which, perhaps, a dear good child at school has written his first clumsy letters.

“The highest and lowest, most serious as well as most hilarious things are to him equally beloved, beautiful, and valuable.”

Robert Walser, The Walk, trans. Christopher Middleton with Susan Bernofsky (New York: New Directions, 2012).
Robert Walser loved to walk. He died while walking on December 25, 1956.

Other Walser posts
Microscripts : “The most unimportant things” : On automobiles : On reading : On stationery stores : On staying small : On youth

Monday, October 20, 2014

Glen Campbell’s last song

“I’m still here but yet I’m gone”: Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is a powerful song. To my mind it belongs in the company of the Beach Boys’ “’Til I Die” and Johnny Cash’s recording of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt”: existential statements, all.

Water towers of New York

The photographer Ronnie Farley on New York water towers: “They’re the only natural looking thing in the skyline.” There’s a story at WNYC’s Studio 360. And here’s a portfolio of Farley‘s water-tower photographs. Of the two water-tank manufacturers mentioned in the WNYC story, one has a website (with vertigo-inducing photographs); the other has a website coming soon.

[No hampers around these water towers.]

“The damned desire of having”

A striking phrase from Rolfe Humphries’s 1955 translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses: “the damned desire of having.” The phrase ends a catalogue of new arrivals from the Iron Age: “trickery and slyness, plotting, swindling, / Violence and the damned desire of having.” In Latin, book one, line 131, it goes like this: “amor sceleratus habendi ,” the polluted, profaned, defiled love of having.

I love the Humphries translation of the poem. His Lucretius is somewhere on my (imaginary) to-read list.

Other Ovid posts
In the palace of Rumor : Ovid’s Polyphemus : Raymond Carver and Ovid