Thursday, July 24, 2014

Richard Hendrickson, weather observer

The CBS Evening News had a lovely feature this evening about Richard Hendrickson, a 101-year-old weather observer. He has been observing since 1930. The highlights of this piece for me:

Mr. Hendrickson’s checked button-down shirt and solid tie. He looks pretty spiffy — and rightly so. He’s on the news.

Mr. Hendrickson’s desk, complete with rotary-dial telephone (Henry Dreyfuss’s model 500).

Mr. Hendrickson’s ’30s weather notebook. It looks like a five-year diary, a few lines for the same date year by year.

[I struggled to avoid titling this post Weather 101.]

An introvert call to action

If Elaine hadn’t shown it to me, she might have been the last person online to see this poster.

Related reading
Jonathan Rauch, Caring for Your Introvert (The Atlantic)

Pen, not dead yet

The New York Times has given Nick Bilton the space in its Fashion & Style section to announce that the pen is dead. Yes, linkbait.

This is the same Nick Bilton who doesn’t like e-mails that say thanks, who thinks you should use Google Maps to get to someone’s house rather than ask for directions, who communicates with his mother “mostly through Twitter,” and who taught his father not leave voice mails for his son.

I guess Nick Bilton doesn’t believe in thank-you notes either. Or love letters.

I found my way to the Times piece by way of MK’s Taking Note Now. I like what MK says about Bilton and paper and pens:

Obviously, he himself has no need for such things. But why should unfashionable people follow his shallow approach to writing and living?
Related reading
All OCA paper and pen posts (Pinboard)

Hollow Triumph, solid noir

Frederick Muller (Eduard Franz) recalls the youthful criminality of his brother John (Paul Henreid) and John’s now-dead crony Marcy:

“I remember Marcy, the way the two of you went running around. I remember his big cars, his fancy suits, his haberdashery.”
“His haberdashery”: they don’t write them like that anymore. How could they? I find it telling that the first-page results of a Google search for haberdashery returns only one establishment selling men’s clothes, Heimie’s Haberdashery in Minneapolis. The rest is definitions. What’s a haberdashery? And where have all the haberdasheries gone, and the haberdashers with them?

The dialogue above comes from the film Hollow Triumph, aka The Scar (dir. Steve Sekely, 1948). The film’s noir premise, which I won’t reveal here, requires that one suspend disbelief — and leave it there, dangling from a frayed cable above a pit of famished crocodiles. But the effort is worth making. As in many B-ish films, the rewards are the bits of local color: John Quale as a goofy dentist (a cross between Barney Fife and Wally of My Dinner with André), George Chandler and Sid Tomack as Tweedledum and Tweedledee in a camera shop (are they supposed to be life partners? brothers?). There’s also a brief scene on the Angels Flight Railway and a poignant moment with an aspiring dancer. Joan Bennett’s Evelyn Hahn, a slightly used secretary, gets the best lines, in an exchange with Henreid’s Dr. Bartok:
“I'll tell you something: in all my life I think I’ve only had one beau I was really willing to trust.”

“You should’ve held on to him, married him.”

“I wanted to, but I couldn’t. He was twelve years old, and I was nine.”
They don’t write them like that anymore either.

The real star of this film is John Alton’s cinematography, which makes for beauty and mystery and dramatic contrasts of light and dark in scene after scene. Film noir et blanc, really.

Hollow Triumph is unavailable from Netflix but is available at YouTube and as a cheap DVD transfer. I’ve already suggested the film to the Criterion Collection.

[If the name George Chandler rings a distant bell: he played Uncle Petrie on Lassie. The aspiring dancer, I suspect, owes something to Sam (Tom D’Andrea) in Dark Passage (dir. Delmar Daves, 1947), the cabbie who wants to buy a pair of goldfish for his room: “It adds class to the joint.” As for haberdasher: “Middle English: probably based on Anglo-Norman French hapertas, perhaps the name of a fabric, of unknown origin. In early use the term denoted a dealer in a variety of household goods, later also specifically a hatter. Current senses date from the early 17th cent” (New Oxford American Dictionary).]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Spam follies

With word verification turned off, the spam comments are rolling in. If you’re in the market for luggage, tramadol (yes, uncapitalized on the Internets), or tooth-whitening equipment, I’m your guy.

I’d rather delete these comments — about thirty so far — than have Orange Crate Art advertise Android apps. No thanks, Google.

[If you’re wondering, I’ve encoded the name of the drug so that search engines won’t find it. I used this handy service to do so. Highly recommended if you put an e-mail address online, as I do in the sidebar.]

Some Conrad Nervig rocks

[Zippy, July 23, 2014.]

In the Zippy world of Dingburg, Conrad Nervig is the creator of the comic strip Tanya and Fletcher, whose text consists of dialogue from old advertisements. Tanya and Fletcher strips sometimes substitute for Zippy. Now Nervig has created a new substitute strip, No Zombies, whose text appears to be drawn from adventure and sci-fi sources.

Nervig, like Bill Griffith, respects Nancy: notice the “some rocks” formation to the right.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy and Zippy posts (Pinboard)
An explanation of “some rocks” (With sightings)
A 1556 woodcut of “some rocks” (Lexikaliker)

[Nervig shares his name with someone not of Dingburg. I read Zippy online via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.]

Cole Porter with Mongols

[By their ferrules ye shall know them. Photographer and date unknown.]

Watching the HBO documentary Six by Sondheim (2013), I noticed a photograph of Cole Porter with pencils. Porter was left-handed: the photograph must have been flipped. I found a cropped version the proper way round at the Indiana Historical Society.

Cole Porter joins other distinguished Mongol users, imaginary and real, who have appeared in Orange Crate Art: Molly Dodd, Jimmy Hoffa, Opie Taylor, and Harry Truman.

As far as I can tell, this post marks the first time cole porter and mongol pencil have appeared together on the Internets.

Related reading
All OCA Mongol posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Early Salinger in print, legit

A small Memphis publisher has brought out three early J. D. Salinger stories, in print and pixels. How it happened: Salinger Goes Digital (Legitimately) (The Memphis Flyer). The publisher, The Devault-Graves Agency (what a great name) describes the book here: Three Early Stories.

Related reading
All OCA Salinger posts (Pinboard)

[The three stories — “The Young Folks,” “Go See Eddie,” “Once A Week Won’t Kill You” — have of course circulated online for some time.]

Henry and happiness

[Henry, July 22, 2014.]

To: Henry

From: Michael

See this post.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

[Henry’s not in a melancholic mood: the puffs of pavement and/or shoe signify nothing more than walking. (I just checked several past strips.) I read Henry online via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.]

Rob Riemen’s Nobility of Spirit

The essayist and cultural critic Rob Riemen:

Today’s Western society has the same aspirations as the Fascists and Communists. Not without reason do its most important pillars, the mass media and social-capitalist economy, proclaim the virtues of what is new, fast, and progressive — all on the level of consumer goods — and then offer us the freedom to be happy with our gadgets. We must feel eternally young, always see that which is new as superior, accept that limitations do not exist — and we’d better forget about death.

Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal, trans. Marjolijn de Jager (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).
Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal is an unusual book, a set of loosely related essays that borrows its title from a 1945 collection of essays by Thomas Mann. Riemen’s touchstones (Mann, above all) are seldom mine; Riemen’s generalizations — “the European cultural traditions,” “the great humanistic ideas” — manage to overlook the long history of European colonial and imperial endeavor. To describe the book in terms of its materials is to suggest a random assortment: an unexpected conversation in a New York restaurant; scenes from the lives of Socrates, Spinoza, Nietzsche, and Mann; an examination of American intellectuals’ reactions to 9/11; a conversation among André Malraux, Albert Camus, and others; and the torture of the Italian anti-Fascist Leone Ginzburg.

What holds the book together is its impassioned advocacy of nobility, not of bloodlines but of spirit, a nobility that Riemen sees as available to anyone who is interested in acquiring it. (Perhaps: literacy and access to liberal education are the tacit prerequisites.) Riemen associates nobility of spirit with art, intellect, truth, virtue, and the rejection of fundamentalism and nihilism. (See? I have to write in generalizations.) What Riemen seeks is a culture that reverences and preserves all that is good in the human endeavor, that promulgates the dignity of the individual, that eschews the merely entertaining and expedient, that renounces any dream of human perfectibility.

This book’s great value, I think, is its ability to provoke its reader to more careful consideration of our life and times. Now when I see an assistant professor explain away a academic superstar’s plagiarism by arguing that we all use sources without citing them, when I see another celebrated academic dismiss a writer as irrelevant in part because that writer was born before the invention of the telephone, when I see Microsoft equate the purchase of its products with bravery (“I wanna see you be brave”), I think of Rob Riemen’s book.

[That I happened to encounter Nobility of Spirit is testimony to the usefulness of bookstores: I read somewhere that the Manhattan bookstore Crawford Doyle recommends the book to its customers. Strange: I can’t find anything about that online now — though I did buy a signed copy of Nobility of Spirit at the bookstore. What I did find online just now is the surprising news that Crawford Doyle’s owners, Judy Crawford and John Doyle, persuaded New York Review Books to reprint John Williams’s novel Stoner.]