[“Different to.” “Different to.”]
For some time now, spokesdentists in Polident television commercials have been telling us that dentures “are very different to real teeth.” The spokesdentists above are doing just that.
Is that a problem? No and yes.
Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009) describes different to as “common and unobjectionable BrE [British English].” But there appear to have been many objections to different to in BrE. In Modern English Usage (1926), H. W. Fowler defends different to while conceding that different from is, in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary, “now usual” — but only because of what Fowler calls “the dead set made against d. to by mistaken critics.” “That d. can only be followed by from and not by to is a superstition,” says F. We might say that for F., d. to was beleaguered and unobjectionable. MEU as revised by Sir Ernest Gowers (1965) holds to the Fowler position. MEU as revised by R. W. Burchfield (1998) says that objections to different to are “not supportable in the face of past and present evidence or of logic.” But Burchfield acknowledges that twentieth-century BrE shows “a marked preference for different from.” Is different to part of BrE? Yes. But it doesn’t appear to be the norm.
The real question is not whether different to is right or wrong: it’s why Polident’s American dentists speak BrE. But change is in the air: last night I heard a Polident dentist warn that dentures “are very different than real teeth.” Different than : that’s a problem.
GMAU ‘s excellent discussion of different acknowledges a variety of circumstances in which different than is “sometimes idiomatic, and even useful.” But Garner adds, “When from nicely fills the slot of than, however, that is the idiom to be preferred.” Dentures are different from real teeth. My guess is that Polident finally had it with people wondering about different to and switched to the ubiquitous, inelegant than. Different than, Burchfield’s MEU says, “does not form part of the regular language in Britain” but “is widespread in AmE.”
You can find the two spokesdentists above at Polident’s website, still speaking BrE.
[A Google check: “different to,” 7.03 million hits; “different than,” 15.4 million; “different from,” 47.6 million.]
Thursday, July 31, 2014
By Michael Leddy at 8:37 PM
I don’t think the paint manufacturers of our nation will mind that much if a dedicated reader here and there decides to use a paint sample as a bookmark. So durable. And such a selection.
The sample to the left is pretty much not actual size.
Other posts with orange
Crate art, orange : Orange art, no crate : Orange car art : Orange crate art : Orange crate art (Encyclopedia Brown) : Orange flag art : Orange manual art : Orange mug art : Orange newspaper art : Orange notebook art : Orange notecard art : Orange peel art : Orange pencil art : Orange soda art : Orange soda-label art : Orange stem art : Orange telephone art : Orange timer art : Orange toothbrush art : Orange train art : Orange tree art : Orange tree art : Orange tree art : Orange Tweed art
By Michael Leddy at 8:39 AM
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
[Eraser cap. Pretty much actual size.]
In response to popular demand (a request from Fresca), here is a recreation of the missing-eraser-cap picture. I drew this one in ink, not pencil, to make a better scan. I’ve omitted the details that accompanied the original (an impassioned plea for the cap’s return, and my street address in Anytown, USA).
If anyone’s wondering what this post is all about, this post explains.
By Michael Leddy at 10:22 AM
[Icons for Activity Timer and Activity Timer Pomodoro Edition.]
I am a sucker for timers, mechanical or digital. They keep me from losing too much time to distractions — fifteen minutes online, pal, that’s all — and from working too long without a break — twenty-five minutes grading papers, pal, that’s all.
Activity Timer and Activity Timer Pomodoro Edition are apps for Mac. Each sits in the menu bar (no Dock icon), each counts down time and gives a notification when time is up. (Up ? What does that mean anyway?) The Pomodoro timer (with its stylized tomato) alternates between units of work (ten to forty minutes) and short breaks (three to five minutes), with a longer break (fifteen to thirty minutes) every few Pomodori. Every few? I don’t know many. I haven’t gotten that far.
Both timers are free from Happy Coding. The links above go to previews in the Mac App Store. Time’s up.
Minuteur (Another Mac timer)
The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated
By Michael Leddy at 9:05 AM
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
“Celebrate your love of crap with this year's largest variety. ’Cause it's crapfest” —
No, it’s Crabfest. At Red Lobster.
This post teaches why it’s important to watch television commercials and not listen with half an ear. Had I seen all that crab flying, I wouldn’t have heard crap. You can listen to the commercial in question for yourself, eyes closed, and decide whether crap is a reasonable mishearing.
I’m surprised to see that in 2006 I also misheard crab as crap. There is nothing new under the sun. It’s all crap.
All OCA misheard posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 4:54 PM
From Jim Elledge’s Henry Darger, Throwaway Boy (New York: Overlook Press, 2013), a biography of the outsider artist and writer Henry Darger:
My copyeditor, [redacted ], has sharp eyes and caught an embarrassing amount of mistakes — all mine — and my thanks go out to her.That should be number, not amount. Garner’s Modern American Usage explains the difference:
The first is used with mass nouns, the second with count nouns. Thus we say “an increase in the amount of litigation” but “an increase in the number of lawsuits.” But writers frequently bungle the distinction.I wondered briefly whether the sentence I’ve quoted is meant as a joke. I don’t think so, because the writing in Throwaway Boy is too often careless and ungainly:
[M]aking mistakes in the three R’s or breaking classroom rules weren’t his only, and not even his major, problem.Homes — or houses and apartments — must have been smaller then. A better way to say what this sentence wants to say, avoiding its silliness and reducing the number of prepositional phrases:
Many smaller, yet devastating, [fires] broke out every week in residential neighborhoods all over Chicago because of someone’s carelessness with the wood stoves on which everyone in those days cooked and heated their homes.
Smaller but still devastating residential fires were frequent in Chicago, often caused by carelessness around the wood stoves used for cooking and heating.Or
Carelessness around the wood stoves used for cooking and heating led to small but devastating fires in Chicago neighborhoods.Elledge’s picture of Henry Darger as a throwaway boy, abandoned to institutions and fending for himself in horrific circumstances, is well-researched and persuasive. Elledge’s claims about Darger’s sexuality are less persuasive, partly because Elledge too often treats speculation as fact. Throwaway Boy engages its reader despite its author’s insistence, and despite its too often careless writing.
All OCA How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)
Henry Darger and Vivian Maier
[Why omit the copyeditor’s name? I don’t think a copyeditor can be held responsible for mistakes in a writer’s prose. This post is no. 50 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:21 AM
Monday, July 28, 2014
[Click for a larger view.]
I realized some time earlier this year that I’ve been using this .05 mm Pentel Quicker Clicker, on and off, for something like thirty years. There are mechanical pencils with more pizzazz — Alvin’s Draf/Tec retractable for one, the Kuru Toga for another — but there can be few mechanical pencils as durable as the Quicker Clicker. Or as durable at least as this Quicker Clicker. The pencil’s claim to distinction is its “convenient side lead advance,” visible in the photograph. No need to press down on a cap to advance the lead. I like the way this Quicker Clicker has aged: the translucent barrel shows ring upon ring from extra leads knocking around inside.
Traveling to Rachel and Seth’s wedding in April, I dropped this pencil’s eraser cap on a plane. Notice: I did not say that the cap “slipped” from my hand. I dropped it while erasing. The guy sitting next to me understood how much was at stake: he and I took apart our seats to search. No luck. He got down on the floor and searched under his seat using his iPhone as a flashlight. No luck. The people one row back looked around too. No luck. I drew a picture and gave it to a flight attendant with my info. “It’s a thirty-year-old pencil!” No luck. Perhaps the cap is still on board, living out its days as a newfangled Flying Dutchman.
The cap now on the pencil comes from a Quicker Clicker of recent manufacture (made with a textured grip). What distinguishes the new cap from the old: darker plastic and small slits for safety. They lessen the danger of suffocation if the cap is inhaled or swallowed. There’s nothing though to keep me from dropping it.
[This post is the sixteenth in an occasional series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items. The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real.]
Other Museum of Supplies exhibits
Dennison’s Gummed Labels No. 27 : Dr. Scat : Eagle Turquoise display case : Eagle Verithin display case : Faber-Castell Type Cleaner : Fineline erasers : Illinois Central Railroad Pencil : A Mad Men sort of man, sort of : Mongol No. 2 3/8 : Moore Metalhed Tacks : National’s “Fuse-Tex” Skytint : Pedigree Pencil : Real Thin Leads : Rite-Rite Long Leads : Stanley carpenter’s rule
[Note to self: Use a ballpoint next time.]
By Michael Leddy at 7:48 AM
I’m not much for Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich’s Radiolab : the show’s penchant for quick editing and multi-voiced repetition —
JA: Repetition?— well, it leaves me cold.
RK: Yes, repetition, the act of repeating things.
Unidentified child: Repeating things!
But speaking of things: Elaine said that I had to listen to the Radiolab episode of that name. Our daughter Rachel, too, said that I had to listen. So I did. What hit me most was the first story, about a candy egg, a tree, and a box. Unforgettable. If you missed it in May, now might be the time.
Here’s a thing that sits on my desk as a token of friendship. I too take things seriously.
[The dialogue is from a Radiolab episode that aired only in my head.]
By Michael Leddy at 7:01 AM
Saturday, July 26, 2014
[From Up the Down Staircase (1965).]
From the New York Times obituary:
Over the years, Ms. Kaufman was often asked whether the memorandums in Up the Down Staircase were real. Though they were inane enough to look real, she explained, in fact, she had invented most of them. (Ms. Kaufman did include a few actual New York City Board of Education memos, but had to tone them down to make them credible.)I love Up the Down Staircase. The memorandum above comes from my copy of the 1965 hardcover (a library book-sale find). As Sylvia Barrett’s older colleague Bea Schachter explains, Administrative Assistant McHabe is “in charge of Discipline and Supplies.” How Foucauldian.
The best indication of Ms. Kaufman’s skill at dead-on bureaucratic mimicry came from one of her former schools. After Up the Down Staircase was published, she wrote, an assistant principal there began annotating his official directives with a stern red-penciled admonition.
It read: “DO NOT SHOW THIS TO BEL KAUFMAN.”
Up the Down Staircase captures like no other novel the inanities of educational institutions — “the gobbledygook, the pedagese, and the paper miles of words,” as Miss Barrett calls them in a letter — and the always present possibility, despite all the nonsense, of genuine teaching and learning. This novel offers strong reassurance to any exasperated teacher: you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone.
Here’s a 2011 Times article about Bel Kaufman.
By Michael Leddy at 10:36 AM
Friday, July 25, 2014
To people sitting in a blustering automobile I always present an austere face. Then they believe that I am a sharp-eyed, malevolent spy, a plainclothes policeman, delegated by high officials to spy on the traffic, to note down the numbers of vehicles, and later to report them to the proper authorities. I always then look darkly at the wheels, at the car as a whole, but never at its occupants, whom I despise, and this in no way personally, but purely on principle, for I never shall understand, how it can be called a pleasure to hurtle past all the images and objects which our beautiful earth displays, as if one had gone mad and had to accelerate for fear of despair.The Walk (Der Spaziergang) was published in 1917 and again, revised, in 1920. Susan Bernofsky has revised Christopher Middleton’s translation to incorporate Walser’s revisions.
Robert Walser, The Walk, trans. Christopher Middleton with Susan Bernofsky (New York: New Directions, 2012).
Other Robert Walser posts
Microscripts : “The most unimportant things” : On reading : On stationery stores : On staying small : On youth
[I suspect that Daughter Number Three and l’astronave will enjoy this post.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:40 AM
Thursday, July 24, 2014
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.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:48 PM
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)
By Michael Leddy at 10:30 AM
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.”They don’t write them like that anymore either.
“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.”
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).]
By Michael Leddy at 9:07 AM
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:39 PM
[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.
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.]
By Michael Leddy at 12:02 PM
[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.
All OCA Mongol posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 9:01 AM
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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.
August 6, 2014: Here’s my review of Three Early Stories.
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.]
By Michael Leddy at 3:22 PM
[Henry, July 22, 2014.]
See this post.
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.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:52 AM
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 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.
Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal, trans. Marjolijn de Jager (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008).
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. (Not really: 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 an 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.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:33 AM
Monday, July 21, 2014
One way to discourage spam comments on a Blogger blog is to enable “word verification.” For a long time, word verification required an aspiring commenter to verify personhood by typing a street address, presumably from a Google Maps snippet. It was number verification, really.
With no explanation and no notice, Blogger recently changed its word-verification practice. A commenter must now type the words PHOTO SPHERE. Photo Sphere is a camera mode for Android phones, or some Android phones. Android? Blogger? Google.
Orange Crate Art has always been an ad-free blog. The closest I’ve come to an ad is the brief self-promotion from a YouTube contributor that prefaced an Elaine Stritch clip in a recent post. I agonized a little about letting that get by, and I decided that the clip was worth it. I take the idea of ad-free seriously.
And because I do, I’ve removed word verification. If the spam becomes too much, I’ll have to reinstate it. But removing it, for now, is my way of showing Google that I’m not a robot.
[You might be surprised by how many spam comments come through with word verification off, even with comment moderation on. Blogger sends almost all such comments to a spam folder. But it’s sad and sometimes creepy to see them. They remind me of how much of the Internets is not the Internets as I know them.]
By Michael Leddy at 10:31 PM
On happiness and finitude:
Tragic wisdom is the wisdom of happiness and finitude, happiness and impermanence, happiness and despair. This is not as paradoxical as it might sound. You can hope only for what you do not have. Thus, to hope for happiness is to lack it. When you have it, on the other hand, what remains to be hoped for? For it to last? That would mean fearing its cessation, and as soon as you do that, you start feeling it dissolve into anxiety.This passage suggests to me experiences of which I am increasingly aware and for which I am increasingly grateful: small spots of happiness, moments when all’s well, amid and despite the everything-else of life, the everything-else that is happening and whatever -else is to come. I think any reader who has attained a certain age will understand what I mean. I hope so, because I have no better explanation, only examples: listening to Sinatra in a hospital room, watching a toddler go visiting from table to table in a restaurant.
André Comte-Sponville, The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, trans. Nancy Hutson (New York: Penguin, 2008).
The tragic wisdom that Comte-Sponville describes is what I find in the words of the vintner Siduri in the Gilgamesh story. She tells Gilgamesh that what he is seeking in the wake of his friend Enkidu’s death — namely, an escape from mortality — is not to be found:
“When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.”Notice that Siduri’s advice is not to embrace a mindless hedonism, not to eat, drink, and be merry: her advice is to eat, drink, and be merry with full knowledge of one’s impermanence. Pleasure too, not mortality alone, defines the human condition. Happiness and finitude, right there, straight from Mesopotamia.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, an English version by N. K. Sandars (New York: Penguin, 1972).
[Comte-Sponville sees the hope for unending happiness as a problem for both theists and non-theists: “Such is the trap of hope, with or without God — the hope for tomorrow’s happiness prevents you from experiencing today’s.” About the Gilgamesh story: please, no complications about whether Siduri is a brewer or vintner or tavern-keeper, or why these words are not in all versions of the story.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:31 AM
Sunday, July 20, 2014
The chamber orchestra known as The Prairie Ensemble played its final concert last night. For eighteen years, this orchestra flourished in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. How wrong it feels now to write about The Prairie Ensemble in the past tense.
Kevin Kelly, the orchestra’s music director and conductor for all its eighteen years, always assembled programs with unusual, unexpected repertoire. Just three examples of such repertoire, from many years of concert-going: Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring in its original orchestration for thirteen instruments, excerpts from Duke Ellington’s The River, and Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Chôros no. 7. Last night’s program:
Benjamin Britten, Soirées musicalesAnd if you, like me, never even heard of George Butterworth, that was the point: the opportunity to hear something unexpected and surprising and beautiful. New music, from 1913.
George Butterworth, The Banks of Green Willow
Carl Nielsen, Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (Mary Leathers Chapman, soloist)
Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony no. 6 in F Major
Last night’s performance was a great one, which makes the orchestra’s end that much sadder. The descriptive notes for the first and last movements of the Beethoven no. 6 — “Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside,” “Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm” — made me think of this concert as an occasion for happiness and gratitude. For two hours or so, the world was at peace.
My wife Elaine Fine played viola in The Prairie Ensemble for many years. She has written two posts — one, two — about last night’s concert.
By Michael Leddy at 7:31 PM
From the Columbia, South Carolina newspaper The State: Inside James Brown’s mansion, with a short video clip and thirty-seven photographs. James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006. His Christmas tree is still standing.
All OCA James Brown posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 2:53 PM
Friday, July 18, 2014
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Elaine Stritch, Tart-Tongued Broadway Actress and Singer, Is Dead at 89 (The New York Times).
[If my memory serves, this performance aired on the WNET series The Great American Dream Machine.]
By Michael Leddy at 1:36 PM
Walter Benjamin, 1928:
Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable.Benjamin here anticipates my dad’s thinking about abundance and office supplies.
One-Way Street, in “One-Way Street” and Other Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott and Kingsley Shorter (London: NLB, 1979).
Like Benjamin and my dad, I too eschew the haphazard, though I also believe in “any available paper, any available Bic”: any port in a storm.
[The Chicago Manual of Style, 8.171: “A title of a work within a title, however, should remain in italics and be enclosed in quotation marks.”]
By Michael Leddy at 9:23 AM
“Johnny Winter, a Texas-bred guitarist and singer who was a mainstay of the blues-rock world since the 1960s, died on Wednesday in his hotel room in Zurich”: from the New York Times obituary. Johnny Winter was seventy.
Here, from 2011, is an NPR interview.
And here, from 1969, is Johnny Winter with nothing but a National guitar and a slide: “Dallas.”
By Michael Leddy at 9:14 AM
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I was talking with local missionaries, missionaries of a musical sort, each dressed in black and white. They had traveled to New York City to proselytize for old-timey music. Where did they go? The airports. (They must have modeled themselves on proselytizers of the recent past.)
No, no, I told them, they needed to go to the coffeehouses. That’s where they would find people to interest in the old-timey stuff. Some of the coffeehouses, I told them, are original. I was in earnest, and they recognized that.
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)
Greenwich Village and coffee house (From Hart’s Guide to New York City, 1964)
Positively Naked City (A walk down West Fourth Street)
[Some of the coffeehouses are “original.” For instance.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:49 AM
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
My Weird Al tolerance is pretty low. But I still think that “Word Crimes” is terrific. It’s a teaching and learning resource for the twenty-first century!
An earlier twenty-first-century resource
Stephen Colbert, Vampire Weekend, and the Oxford comma
By Michael Leddy at 8:36 PM
Sir John Menier (Herbert Marshall) speaking, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Murder! (1930):
“No, no, no, that’s me — or is it I ? You know, Markham, I never know.”I’ve been told that even British audiences have difficulty understanding the dialogue in early Hitchcock films, and I believe it. Some of Murder!, at least in the print we watched, was unintelligible. The Spanish subtitles (no English ones on our DVD) were sometimes helpful, though they left at least one important bit of dialogue untranslated. I think the translator must have given up.
Murder! is well worth seeing, if only to see how much of “Hitchcock” is there early on: the layman pressed into the work of a detective (as in The 39 Steps and many other films), the use of theatrical settings (as in that film and Stage Fright ), the wonderful bits of throwaway dialogue. (See above.) And there’s an eerie moment on a trapeze that made me think of the staircase scene in Psycho.
The cheap videotape-transfer Laserlight DVD that we watched (borrowed from the library) runs about 92 minutes. YouTube has a print that runs about five minutes longer, with a scene that’s missing from the Laserlight disc. (In this scene, a young girl exclaims, “He’s got my pussy!” — meaning cat. Was the scene censored?) The IMDb listing for the film has running times of 92, 100, and 104 minutes. Your guess is as good as mine, or maybe better.
[On the flying trapeze. Esme Percy as Handel Fane.]
By Michael Leddy at 10:54 AM
Monday, July 14, 2014
From a 2012 NBC News interview with Jacob Tomsky, author of Heads in Beds, a book about the hotel business:
“Housekeepers are only provided with cleaners, so they’ll often put some hot water in the sink and put the mini-bar glasses in there with shampoo. Also, they want them streak-free, so they’ll often use some kind of furniture polish just to really get the shine there.”[Found in a free publication distributed by a local HMO. The HMO’s recommendation: use the disposable cups instead. See also Snopes. Cheers.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:13 AM
Saturday, July 12, 2014
[Henry, July 12, 2014.]
This is what a sink looks like, or once did. My grandparents had sinks strongly resembling Henry’s sink, paternal sink in the kitchen, maternal in the basement. I can see and almost smell the bar of Octagon Laundry Soap now.
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)
[I read Henry online via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:20 AM
Friday, July 11, 2014
Charlie Haden was a giant of music. My recommendation right now: Steal Away: Spirituals, Hymns and Folk Songs (Verve, 1995), an album of duets with Hank Jones. Here is a sample: “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” The best way I can describe Haden’s sound: deep.
More: Remembering Jazz Legend Charlie Haden (NPR).
July 12: The New York Times has an obituary.
By Michael Leddy at 8:31 PM
This Google search brought a seeker to these pages: homeric simile about assholes.
Sorry. Homer don’t play that.
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[When a user is signed in to a Google account, the content of a Google search is hidden from all eyes but Google’s. Whoever was searching for similes was not signed in: that’s how I was able to see the search in my blog stats. If there were a Homeric simile about assholes, it would have to be about Agamemnon. But to call Agamemnon an asshole is to engage in metonymy or synecdoche, or both.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:57 AM
Bryan Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day today addresses the suffix -wise. That suffix was an occasion of cultural angst in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The suffix even showed up in comic form in Leave It To Beaver. In real life, I heard it used not long ago in a startling way.
Garner recommends avoiding -wise generally, though he points to taxwise as a recent, plausible word of choice. And he adds that “some writers use the suffix playfully” — as did Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond (The Apartment), as did the writers of Leave It to Beaver. And as did I, when I asked a friend, now our houseguest, what we should have on hand foodwise and drinkwise.
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[Orange Crate Art is a Garner-friendly zone. You can subscribe to Usage Tip of the Day at Bryan Garner’s LawProse. Scroll down and look to the right.]
By Michael Leddy at 9:47 AM
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871. From a 1912 letter:
Du côté de chez Swann is the fragment of a novel, which will have as a general title A la recherche du temps perdu. I should have liked to have published it as a single whole, but it would have been too long. They no longer publish works in several volumes. There are novelists, on the other hand, who envisage a brief plot with few characters. That is not my conception of the novel. There is a plane geometry and a geometry of space. And so for me the novel is not only plane psychology but psychology in space and time. That invisible substance, time, I try to isolate. But in order to do this it was essential that the experience be continuous. I hope that by the end of my book what I have tried to do will be understandable; some unimportant little event will show that time has passed and it will take on that beauty certain pictures have, enhanced by the passage of the years.Related reading
Marcel Proust, in a letter to Antoine Bibesco, November ?, 1912. From Letters of Marcel Proust, translated by Mina Curtiss (New York: Helen Marx Books / Books & Co,, 2006).
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 8:35 AM
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
At dublab (“a non-profit web radio collective devoted to the growth of positive music, art and culture”), Carlos Niño interviews Van Dyke Parks. I would say that Van Dyke is in fine fettle, but doing so would require that I first look up fettle. So I will say instead that he is in rare form — expansive, generous, funny, wise. A sample: “I worked very hard to be anonymous. And I finally achieved that goal.” Maybe. But Van Dyke has many irons in the fire and still more waiting on deck.
I just mixed metaphors.
Post-interview, Van Dyke plays and sings “The Silver Swan” (Orlando Gibbons), “Home in Pasadena” (Harry Warren, Grant Clark, Edgar Leslie), and his own “The All Golden” and “Orange Crate Art.” You might recognize the final little phrase from the theme music for PBS’s This Old House : it’s a bit of “Louisiana Fairy Tale” (Mitchell Parish, Haven Gillespie, and Fred Coots). Eclectic? It’s all music, and it’s all good.
All OCA Van Dyke Parks posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 4:50 PM
“[P]eople die childless or separated from their families, children have their own lives to lead and can't be bothered, any number of things can sever the thread. Things drift off and go their own ways.” At Dreamers Rise, Chris Kearin looks at what he calls “orphaned photographs.”
By Michael Leddy at 3:42 PM
“He said the fight began over a disagreement over grammar as well as their views on sports teams”: Grammar dispute becomes brawl (Beaver Dam Daily Citizen).
One of the BDDC ’s commenters might benefit from reading this post. If the brawl concerned the use of the subjunctive, the brawlers might benefit from reading it too.
October 4: The alleged brawler has pleaded not guilty.
February 5, 2015: The brawler has been — no pun intended — sentenced.
[Garner’s Modern American Usage: “pleaded is the predominant form in both AmE and BrE and always the best choice.”]
By Michael Leddy at 3:14 PM
[From the Naked City episode “Howard Running Bear Is a Turtle,” April 3, 1963. Click for a larger view.]
She’s making her third appearance in television. Do you recognize her? Your best guesses are welcome in the comments.
3:31 p.m.: The answer’s now in the comments.
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Another Naked City mystery guest : Yet another, sort of : And still another : And another (Scroll down to see him) : And two more
By Michael Leddy at 10:15 AM
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
“Did you know, Mother, that the sun shines practically every day in Los Angeles?”
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)
Things to do in Los Angeles (2012 edition)
Things to do in Los Angeles (2014 edition)
[It was months and months ago. The television was on for “warmth.” I wrote down this bit of dialogue on scrap paper. Just found it.]
By Michael Leddy at 4:57 PM
Without paper, we are nothing. We are born, and issued with a birth certificate. We collect more of these certificates at school, and yet another when we marry, and another when we divorce, and buy a house, and when we die. We are born human, but are forever becoming paper, as paper becomes us, our artificial skin. Everything we are is paper: it is the ground of activity, the partner to all our enterprises, the key to our understanding of the past. How do we know the past? Only through paper and all it records — and through architecture, of course, though architecture, as we shall see, rather depends on paper. So. Paper wraps stone.Lively writing, yes; I especially admire the wit at the end of this passage. But here and elsewhere, Sansom makes absolute claims and large generalizations that defy plausibility. Is it really the case that we know the past “only through paper and all it records”? Archaeologists and anthropologists and cosmologists and geologists and paleontologists would be surprised to hear that. Assyriologists too would be surprised.
Ian Samsom, Paper: An Elegy (New York: William Morrow, 2012).
Reading Paper: An Elegy reminded me of an experience I had many years ago: a tour with a guide who did not stop talking. It was an eight-hour tour. Paper: An Elegy is often entertaining, but the book ranges so broadly and digresses so freely that it feels, finally, haphazard and a little exhausting. Best borrowed from a library.
[A book about paper that says almost nothing about diaries and notebooks and letters: kinda haphazard.]
By Michael Leddy at 10:05 AM
Monday, July 7, 2014
At l’astronave, Fresca has a wonderful post on ancient writing technology in an episode of Star Trek. Fresca’s invented dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny, even if (like me) you know next to nothing about Star Trek. And there are Dixon Ticonderogas to be seen. Go, enjoy.
By Michael Leddy at 1:01 PM
[“Opie’s Ill-Gotten Gain,” The Andy Griffith Show, November 18, 1963. Click for a larger view.]
Opie Taylor (Ronny Howard, not yet a Ron) is doing his math homework with a Mongol pencil. This episode’s title might lead you to suspect that the ill-gotten gain is the Mongol itself — it’s a fine pencil for a young ’un, mighty fine. Did Opie steal that Mongol from Walker’s Drug Store? Or from a classmate? No. The Mongol is not the ill-gotten gain. The ill-gotten gain is the new bicycle that Pa will give Opie as a reward for straight As. Why ill-gotten? Because Miss Crump wrote the wrong grades on Opie’s report card. WTF, Crump! Opie in fact has an F in math. And a new bicycle. And a Mongol, which did nothing to help him with his math.
The Mongol was the pencil of my childhood too. It’s still my favorite all-around pencil. It’s a fine pencil. Mighty fine.
All OCA Mongol posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 9:33 AM
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Friday, July 4, 2014
noun: A person of high rank or position.Magnifico is another word that I associate with a particular work of literature: the Wallace Stevens poem “Metaphors of a You-Know-What.”
Earlier magnifico was an honorary title applied to Venetian noblemen. From Italian magnifico (magnificent), from Latin magnus (great). Ultimately from the Indo-European root meg- (great), which is also the source of magnificent, maharajah, master, mayor, maestro, magnate, magistrate, maximum, magnify, mickle, mahatma, and magnanimous. Earliest documented use: 1573.
Other words, other works of lit
Apoplexy, avatar, bandbox, heifer, sanguine, sempiternal : Artificer : Ineluctable : Iridescent : Opusculum
[“Metaphors of a You-Know-What” also sounds like a Wallace Stevens title. Or better, John Ashbery.]
By Michael Leddy at 8:44 PM
[“‘Ice Cold Pop’ sign and American flag advertised on Route 66, Seligman, Arizona.” Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith. Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.]
The flag is a painting hung on the wall. But the cup just seems to float in front of the wall. It must be a Coke float. Happy Fourth of July.
By Michael Leddy at 8:49 AM
“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”: followed by a comma, or a period? The New York Times reports on a question of punctuation in the Declaration of Independence.
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 8:43 AM
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Our dear friend Seymour Barab has died at the age of ninety-three. Seymour was a composer and cellist. A page at his website describes his life and work in detail.
For many years now Elaine and I have visited Seymour and Margie King Barab in New York every summer. We have spent hours with them, in their apartment and at Seymour’s favorite restaurant, listening and learning and realizing just how fortunate we are to know these wonderful people as our friends. Last summer we watched a performance of Seymour’s No Laughing Matter, a one-act opera for performance by children. How lucky these children were to perform with the composer in the audience. How generous he was in appreciating their effort. Seymour was a man of surpassing intelligence and — much more importantly — surpassing kindness. I miss him with all my heart.
[Seymour Barab and Margie King Barab, waiting at a red light. New York, May 2012.]
9:50 p.m.: Elaine shares some memories in this aptly titled post: The Kindest Man in the World.
July 10: The New York Times has an obituary for Seymour.
By Michael Leddy at 5:00 PM
An Art Institute of Chicago exhibit I had to sample, if only for about half a minute: Bruce Nauman’s Clown Torture. I’ll quote from the museum’s page for the installation:
Installed in an enclosed, darkened space, Clown Torture consists of two rectangular pedestals, each supporting two pairs of stacked color monitors (one turned upside down, one turned on its side); two large, color-video projections on facing walls; and sound from all six video displays. . . . In “No, No, No, No (Walter),” the clown incessantly screams “No!” while jumping, kicking, or lying down; in “Clown with Goldfish,” he struggles to balance a fish bowl on the ceiling with the handle of a broom; in “Clown with Water Bucket,” he repeatedly opens a door that is booby-trapped with a bucket of water, which falls on his head; and finally, in “Pete and Repeat,” he succumbs to the terror of a seemingly inescapable nursery rhyme: “Pete and Repeat are sitting on a fence. Pete falls off. Who’s left? Repeat.” Of his work, Nauman has said, “From the beginning I was trying to see if I could make art that . . . was just there all at once. Like getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. Or better, like getting hit in the back of the head. You never see it coming; it just knocks you down. . . . The kind of intensity that doesn’t give you any trace of whether you’re going to like it or not.” Clown Torture functions in very much this way: as an assault on viewers’ aural and visual perception.As I said: about half a minute. Such art doesn’t interest me — or interest me enough to want to get interested. What interests me more is that the Art Institute has no qualms about requiring one of its guards to stand watch over Clown Torture, listening to tape loops of screams, crashes, and nursery rhymes. That seems to me like torture itself. I don't think any museum employee should be subjected to the noise of this installation, for any length of time. And yes, I’ve told the Art Institute that.
[The first ellipsis in the quoted material is mine.]
By Michael Leddy at 1:29 PM
At Lexikaliker, an amazing discovery: a 1556 woodcut of “some rocks.” “Some rocks” is one of the delightful details of Ernie Bushmiller’s comic strip Nancy. And “some rocks” is for me something of a a harmless obsession. Harmless so far.
Thanks, Gunther, for sharing your discovery.
By Michael Leddy at 11:51 AM
The most exciting things at the Art Institute of Chicago right now: not the big Magritte exhibit but the photographs of Josef Koudelka and the weavings of Ethel Stein. The first exhibit is in black and white; the second, in color, many colors.
Reality, in my experience, trumps surrealism every time. Witness this Koudelka photograph.
And here’s a short film about Stein: Ethel Stein, weaver.
[Wallace Stevens: “The essential fault of surrealism is that it invents without discovering. To make a clam play an accordion is to invent not to discover.” (Materia Poetica, 1940). I don’t mean to pit artist against artist. I’m only pointing out that I found work of much greater interest in the quieter areas of the museum.]
By Michael Leddy at 10:18 AM
It occurred to me when Elaine and I were in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago: the nouns archive and ark both have to do with containing and protecting. They must have a common origin. Right?
No, not right.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives this etymology for archive :
French archif, archive, < late Latin archīum, archīvum, < Greek ἀρχεῖον magisterial residence, public office, < ἀρχή governmentAnd for ark:
Common Germanic: with Old English arc (earc, ærc, erc, erk), accusative arce, compare Old Frisian erke, Old High German archa, modern German arche, Old Norse örk (genitive arkar), Swedish, Danish ark, Gothic and Germanic arka, probably < Latin arca chest, box, cofferWhat about arche- of, say, archetype? From the Greek ἀρχι-, first.
< Old French arche < Latin arca chest, coffer; also, through some confusion, used in Old French for arc < Latin arcum bowSo it’s arch and and ark that share an ancestor. And stranger still: the OED gives “archive” as one of the meanings of arch: “The civile law . . . was laid up . . . in their Arches.”
I want to go back to Los Angeles, before I had time to look up this stuff.
By Michael Leddy at 9:25 AM
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Lieutenant Mike Parker (Horace McMahon) is on the telephone with Chief of Detectives Hank Mulvaney (Paul Larsen). It’s serious business:
“Before we get to that, Mike, I’ve got a TL for you.”A what?
“A what?”My thoughts exactly.
“That’s what my kids call them, a TL. I don’t know what the letters stand for, but it means that I’ve got a compliment for you if you can dig up something nice to say about me.”But they turn to the more serious matter. This bit of dialogue, from the Naked City episode “Man without a Skin” (February 6, 1963), sent me off running. TL stands for trade-last. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word in this way:
n. U.S. a compliment offered in exchange for one that is directed towards the speaker; also, in weakened sense, a compliment, whether reciprocal or notOn these terms, a TL is might be something like “Oh, I like your hat too.” Webster’s Third gives a more limited and more interesting meaning:
n -s : a complimentary remark by a third person that a hearer offers to repeat to the person complimented if the latter will first report a compliment made about the hearerI like this definition, which suggests fabrication, hearsay, and the extortionist element in youthful apologizing: I’ll apologize to you if you’ll apologize to me first. Two of the six OED citations for trade-last suggest reciprocity, but none suggest the you-first element of the Webster’s definition. Does “offered in exchange” in the OED definition mean “given in exchange,” or “promised in exchange”? Did trade-last come to have a much more limited meaning in mid-century U.S. culture? Beats me. But kids — somebody’s kids — have been giving TLs for a long time. The OED dates the word to 1891.
There are forty-seven Naked City posts in Orange Crate Art. This has been one of them.
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By Michael Leddy at 7:26 AM
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
[From Foreign Correspondent (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1940. Click for larger views.]
Stebbins (Robert Benchley) is a do-nothing foreign correspondent. By the end of the film, he’s reduced to taking dictation. But at least he has a good pencil to work with. Yes, that’s a Mongol.
And if you’re skeptical, I’ll quote my wife Elaine Fine: “The important thing is that we know it’s a Mongol.” The ferrule gives it away.
Foreign Correspondent is available from the Criterion Collection, beautifully restored. The second of these screenshots though comes from YouTube: my library’s DVD is already damaged, and VLC won’t play the entire film.
All OCA Mongol posts (Pinboard)
By Michael Leddy at 9:11 AM
My affection for Foreign Correspondent (1940) is at least partly a matter of its being my first Alfred Hitchcock film, or one of the first. (Thanks, television.) Foreign Correspondent might not be a great Hitchcock film, but it’s a good one. It has strong overtones of The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938): war clouds, episodic boy-meets-girl plot (Joel McCrea, Laraine Day), an unnamed foreign power, double agents, an endangered oldster. Herbert Marshall and George Sanders are the most distinguished of the players, the later as Scott ffolliott (the capital F was removed to honor of a beheaded ancestor). ffolliott gets the film’s best line: “Cancel my rumba lesson.” Foreign Correspondent also has something relatively unusual for a Hitchcock film: compelling special effects. This notebook though is not one of them.
[Click for a larger view. But you’ll have to watch to figure it out.]
Two things I thought about while watching the film the other night:
Once war breaks out, the film leaves the oldster Van Meer (Albert Basserman) behind. There’s no happy reunion, as there is with Mrs. Froy (Dame May Whitty) in The Lady Vanishes). Van Meer’s day — when war might have been averted — is past.
The tactics that the enemy uses, and which the film depicts as barbarous — bright light, loud music, sleep deprivation — were to become the stuff of American military interrogation.
Foreign Correspondent is available from the Criterion Collection, beautifully restored, with lots of extras.
More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Cat People : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Extras : 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
By Michael Leddy at 9:00 AM