Thursday, May 5, 2016


[A list of my own.]

Donald (Don) Adams, actor, comedian.

Donald Allen, editor and anthologist, The New American Poetry 1945–1960 .

Donald Ayler, trumpeter.

Donald (Don) Bachardy, painter.

Donald Barthelme, writer.

Donald Byrd, trumpeter.

Donald Byrne, chess player, defeated by Bobby Fischer in the “Game of the Century,” 1956.

Donald (Don) Byron, clarinetist, composer.

Donald (Don) Cherry, trumpeter.

Donald (Don) DeLillo, writer.

Donald (Don) Draper, Mad Man.

Donald (Don) Drysdale, baseball player.

Donald Duck, toon.

Donald “Duck” Dunn, bassist.

Donald Fagen, musician, songwriter.

Donald Hall, poet.

Donald Hollinger, boyfriend, That Girl .

Donald Judd, sculptor.

Donald Knuth, computer scientist, e-mail non-user.

Donald (Don) McLean, singer, songwriter.

Donald Meek, actor.

Donald (Don) Most, actor.

Donald (Don) Newcombe, baseball player.

Donald O’Connor, actor, dancer, singer.

Donald (Donny) Osmond, singer.

Donald Pleasance, actor.

Donald (Don) Quixote, knight errant.

Donald (Don) Rickles, actor, comedian.

Donald (Don) Shirley, pianist.

Donald Sobol, writer, the Encyclopedia Brown series.

Donald Sutherland, actor.

Donald Westlake, writer.

[May 5: More Donalds added. Barthelme and DeLillo from a reader’s comments. Thanks.]

John Ashbery on “it”

From an interview in The Brooklyn Rail :

I’m sort of notorious for my use of the pronoun “it” without explaining what it means, which somehow never seemed a problem to me. We all sort of feel the presence of “it” without necessarily knowing what we’re thinking about. It is an important force just for that reason, it’s there and we don’t know what it is, and that is natural. So I don’t apologize for that, though I’ve been expected to on many occasions.
I think right away of the it s in Ashbery’s “What Is Poetry”: “Now they / Will have to believe it // As we believed it.” And “It might give us — what? — some flowers soon?”

Related reading
All OCA John Asbery posts (Pinboard)

A teaching story

Anyone who teaches becomes inured to lies, or at least most lies. Some are small and best left unexamined, unquestioned. Cars do break down. Some lies are larger and seem designed to appear true because of their very implausibility. Those lies too are best left unexamined, unquestioned. You can’t come to class because the snow hasn’t been cleared from the steps of your apartment building? Your uncle is having toe surgery this Friday afternoon, and the family wants to be together? Thanks for telling me. Your inventiveness sticks in my mind long after I’ve forgotten your name.

The worst lie a student ever told me involved steroids, needles, and a boyfriend who was HIV-positive. And my student said that she was likely infected. That was the explanation for her poor work in the class. I remember tears running down my face as she told me this story. I had lost a great friend to AIDS-related illnesses not long before. There was, of course, no way my student could have known that. And there was no way I could have known that I would discover, a semester or two later, that her story was a lie.

Nearly thirty years after the fact (or lack thereof), this story sticks with me.

Related reading
All OCA teaching posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dunning on Dunning-Kruger

The April 22 This American Life episode “In Defense of Ignorance” has a segment in which David Dunning talks about the Dunning-Kruger effect (beginning at 28:58). The classroom stories will ring a bell for any teacher.

Related reading
All OCA Dunning-Kruger posts (Pinboard)

[And now only two TAL episodes in my podcast backlog.]

Sluggo Lives!

[Nancy , May 4, 1949. Reprinted today in Nancy Classics .]

Aww, Nancy, don’t be a square. How about some “Ko-Ko”?

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

For those who can pay the most

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York quotes a prescient observation from Jane Jacobs about how cities are destroyed by their success. In part:

so many people want to live in the locality that it becomes profitable to build, in excessive and devastating quantity, for those who can pay the most. . . . not simply people who can pay the most in general, but people who can or will pay the most for the smallest space.
I thought of the recent New York Times article about New Yorkers living in tiny, expensive spaces: 250 square feet for $425,000, 675 square feet for $660,000, 350 square feet for $825,000. Granted, these are pre-existing small spaces, and they are hardly numerous. But there’s also the new trend of micro-apartments: say, 355 square feet for $2910 a month.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Garner's Usage Tip of the Day: gyro

Bryan Garner looks at gyro , gyro , and gyros . Gyroses ? No such thing.

Speaking of gyro the food, how do people pronounce gyro where you are? In east-central Illinois, the food is often confused with the spinning object: /JY-roh/. I opt for /YEE-roh/, and the context (i.e., a restaurant serving gyros) makes it pretty certain that I’ll be understood, even if I’m the one who seems not to know how to pronounce the word.

Related reading
All OCA Bryan Garner posts (Pinboard)

Sardines and peppercorns

I quote: “New from King Oscar! Finest quality brisling sardines in extra virgin olive oil with a spicy, aromatic blend of black, white, green, and red whole and cracked peppercorns. A delight to the senses as soon as you open the can.”

They’re not kidding. These sardines are extraordinarily peppery. Their fragrance does indeed precede them, and the burn lingers in the mouth. Highly recommended.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

A joke in the traditional manner

Did you hear about the mustard-fetching dogs?

No spoilers. The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He gets credit for all but the cow coloratura, the produce clerk, the amoebas, the toy, the squirrel-doctor, Marie Kondo, Santa Claus, and this one. He was making such jokes long before anyone called them “dad jokes.”]

Monday, May 2, 2016

Spirits and bad grammar

In New York: A Serendipiter’s Journey (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961), Gay Talese writes about New York City policewoman Clare Faulhaber (1923–2008), undercover catcher of fortunetellers. (She could make an arrest only when someone predicted the future or stole money.) Here Faulhaber describes a visit to a séance. She wore a maternity dress as a disguise:

“Anyway, soon the medium came in. She was a small, elderly woman with white hair, dressed in a dinner gown. The people got into a circle around her, and soon she was saying, ‘I’m getting vibrations — vibrations for a woman who is holding a new life within herself. Is there anyone present who is holding a new life within herself?’

“And there I was,” says Miss Faulhaber, “wearing the maternity dress for all to see and the only thing I had bulging out under it was the belt and holder containing my 32-caliber pistol. Later the medium had a plate passed around, and people put $1 and $5 bills on it, and the lights dimmed. This is when she started to go into a deep trance and began talking. First she was somebody’s ‘Uncle Bill’ and then later she was somebody’s mother, but what really bothered me was that no matter who the spirits happened to be, they all made the same grammatical errors.”
These passages earlier appeared in an article Talese wrote for The New York Times , “The Occult Cult Flourishes” (October 12, 1958). Faulhaber was the subject of a later Times article, “Policewoman Yclept Faulhaber Gave Up Chaucer for the Force” (April 10, 1964), in which R. W. Apple Jr. notes Faulhaber’s earlier career teaching Middle English at Marymount College, her 1963 award as New York City’s outstanding policewoman, and a 1961 incident in which Faulhaber was attacked by two panhandlers posing as Roman Catholic nuns. And then:
FAULHABER — Clare W., of Manhattan, 84, died January 19, 2008. Clare was a Police Detective for the City of New York for 20 years before retiring. She was a member of the New York City Veterans Police Association.
Also from this book
Chestnuts, pigeons, statues : “Fo-wer, fi-yiv, sev-ven, ni-yen” : Klenosky! : Leeches, catnip oil, strange potions : A real-life Bookman : Tie cleaning in New York

[The photograph is from the 1964 article. Click for a larger view. New York Review Books, please reissue this wonderful book.]