Saturday, April 4, 2020


[Chris Ware, “Bedtime.” The New Yorker, April 6, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

Chris Ware writes about his cover:

As a procrastination tactic, I sometimes ask my fifteen-year-old daughter what the comic strip or drawing I’m working on should be about — not only because it gets me away from my drawing table but because, like most kids of her generation, she pays attention to the world. So, while sketching the cover of this Health Issue, I asked her.

“Make sure it’s about how most doctors have children and families of their own,” she said.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, is by the puzzle’s editor, Stan Newman, composing as “Anna Stiga,” the alias he uses for easier Stumpers. And this one was easy, certainly the easiest Stumper I’ve done. 1-A, seven letters, “Frame + engine, transmission et al.”: a gimme. 1-D, six letters, “Yogi's power point.” Another gimme. And that “Kept happening” (60-A, eight letters). Again and again.

I liked the elements of dowdy in today’s puzzle:

15-D, seven letters, “‘Brush your breath’ sloganeer (c. 1980).” A forty-year-old advertising slogan. And we’re off!

16-A, eight letters, “Where a pat might be placed.” Feels like New York dowdy to me.

31-D, three letters, “Manufacturer of tiny bricks.” O childhood.

34-A, fifteen letters, “Think.” Yep. That’s what ya gotta do.

42-D, six letters, “Gershwin’s first hit song.” So first that I don’t even think of it as a Gershwin song.

And the cleverness:

6-D, six letters, “On fast food, perhaps.” In every sense.

7-D, fifteen letters, “[NO CLUE NEEDED].” Got it.

53-D, four letters, “Skin source.” I first thought of critters. Must be the Tiger King influence.

And the kind of clue that’s becoming a regular, one per Stumper:

52-D, four letters, “It’s far from Aristotelean.” Got it, even at a distance.

There’s one clue whose answer feels dubious: 50-A, four letters, “It’s seen on Irishman posters.” Given the answer, I wonder if the absence of The from the film’s title is meant to be meaningful.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Duo MemDi, live-streaming

Here’s a performance to tune in for, Sunday, April 12, 3:00 p.m. Central: violinist Igor Kalnin and pianist Rochelle Sennet, Duo MemDi, playing music by Bach, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and H. Leslie Adams.

Igor and Rochelle are brilliant musicians who play with absolute precision and deep feeling. Elaine and I heard this program on March 7, our last “outside” music before staying home, where we’ll be listening next Sunday.

You can learn more about Duo MemDi at the duo’s website.

Dilettantism and sociopathy

“This is dilettantism raised to the level of sociopathy”: Michelle Goldberg on Jared Kushner’s role in the White House’s coronavirus response.

“Nov shmoz ka pop?”

[“Funny Bones.” Zippy, April 3, 2020.]

Phil Fumble: Nancy Ritz’s boyfriend. “Nov schmoz ka-pop,” or “Nov shmoz ka pop?”: catchphrase spoken by The Little Hitchhiker, a character in Gene Ahern’s comic strip The Squirrel Cage.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

“Some nice rocks”

[Beetle Bailey, April 3, 2020.]

Oops — one short.

“Some rocks” is an abiding preoccupation of these pages.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

“Meaning everyone”

In The New York Times, Virginia Heffernan writes about attending virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the time of the coronavirus:

I took the deepest breath of the day as if to take in — something. The sense of oneness. It occurred to me that all of us alcoholics — really, all humans with shortcomings, meaning everyone — were breathing in and out, our fragile mortal lungs, puffing away near our hearts, now so vulnerable to this novel virus that could stop them any minute.
I’ve long admired Heffernan’s writing and her work on the podcast Trumpcast.

Keeping our distance

Our household has distanced itself from Donald Trump*’s late-afternoon variety show. We look later to Aaron Rupar’s Twitter for the high-and-low-lights. So it’s extraordinary this morning to see that Trump* yesterday dissed countries under siege, or /seezh/, as he pronounces it:

“They don’t know about social distancing. These are countries that aren’t highly sophisticated.”
Not like our country, where the president stands shoulder to shoulder with the day’s cast, all of them getting to touch the same microphone. Not like our country, where the governor of Georgia learned only yesterday that people with no symptoms can transmit the coronavirus. What the actual fuck.

[Garner’s Modern English Usage: “preferably pronounced /seej/ — not /seezh/.” I misspelled siege as seige when I wrote this post. My Mac seems to believe that seige is a real word.]

“The Handkerchief”

Magnus Eisengrim is describing the wonders of dining on the Canadian Pacific Railway: “‘fresh fish, tremendous meat, real fruit — don’t you remember what their baked apples were like? With thick cream!’” And there were sauces, “‘real sauces, made by the chef-exquisite!’”

Robertson Davies, World of Wonders (1975).

I suspect that Davies might have been happy to leave “the Handkerchief” a small unexplained mystery in a novel full of mystery. Perhaps an editor insisted that the novelist have someone laboriously point out the joke. If so, I am grateful, because I’m not sure I would have figured it out. See also Vladimir Nabokov’s motuweth frisas.

Garton’s is brown sauce — namely, HP Sauce. Some history:

The original recipe for HP Sauce was invented and developed by Frederick Gibson Garton, a grocer from Nottingham. He registered the name H.P. Sauce in 1895. Garton called the sauce HP because he had heard that a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament had begun serving it.
Here’s an advertising poster. And a song. Don’t miss the song.

And here’s a page with links to three undated CPR dining-car menus. Sure enough, baked apple with cream on each menu.

This passage is the last I’m posting from The Deptford Trilogy, a work I’d describe as a cross between Charles Dickens and Stephen Millhauser. I give it all the stars.

Related reading
All OCA Robertson Davies posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Word of the day: hunker

The Oxford English Dictionary says that the intransitive verb hunker is originally Scottish; its origin, obscure. The dictionary makes comparisons to words in a variety of languages: Middle Dutch, Middle Low German, Dutch, and Old Norse. And there’s the modern German hocken, “to sit on the hams or heels, to squat.”

And to hunker was, at first (1720), to squat: “to squat, with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels, and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet.” Later (1790) the word acquired a pejorative meaning: “to cower or squat in a lowly manner.”

The meaning I wanted, with down, is “originally and chiefly U.S.” and entered the dictionary as a draft addition in 1993:

to concentrate one’s resources, esp. in unfavourable circumstances; to dig in, buckle down; spec. (frequently in Military contexts) to shelter or take cover, lie low.
The dictionary’s first citation for this meaning is from 1903. I like this second citation, from Chemical Week (1975): “There comes a time . . . when you should hunker down and ride out the storm.”

I hope that you, reader, are hunkered down and riding out the storm.