Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hi and Lois watch


[Hi and Lois , April 30, 2016.]

It’s not the first time that Hi and Lois has given us a facade that opens onto an interior room. I almost expect to see more of the kitchen out in the front yard. And those angles. Granted, the glimpse of the kitchen (salad, pepper mill, and — is it wine?) is a way to signal party . But some tastefully festooned decorations could have made the point as well, or better. Shoes always help, too.


[Hi and Lois , April 30, 2016.]

Does the ostensible host even live in this house? If she does, she should know that the kitchen is — or was? — in the other direction. Perhaps she’s taking a shortcut. Notice the motion lines. Or is that a stray piece of baseboard?

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

“You’re not just saying it to placate me, are you?”

“Yes, I’m just saying it to placate you.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Recently updated

Crosswords, copied A plagiarism scandal, now with (minimal) consequences.

CSS

Before CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), there was CSS: the Comprehensive Storage System Wall Unit, designed by George Nelson, manufactured by Herman Miller. It’s a Cooper Hewitt Object of the Day, and it makes me think of The Bob Newhart Show .

On Duke Ellington’s birthday


[Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra, 1930. Freddie Jenkins, Cootie Williams, Arthur Whetsol, trumpets. Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Juan Tizol, trombones. Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard, reeds. Fred Guy, banjo. Wellman Braud, bass. Sonny Greer, drums. Photograph from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. New York Public Library Digital Gallery. Click for a larger view.]

Duke Ellington was born on April 29, 1899.

Here is one of my favorite Ellington recordings from 1930: “Old Man Blues.” The soloists: Hodges (alto), Bigard, Williams, Bigard, Nanton, Carney, Nanton, Hodges (soprano), and Jenkins. So much music in three minutes.

And here is a clip of the same band playing “Old Man Blues” in the (otherwise execrable) Amos ’n’ Andy movie Check and Double Check (dir. Melville W. Brown, 1930). I think the band is playing in real time. (Watch the piano player.) The soloists are Nanton, Carney, Hodges, and Jenkins. Juan Tizol, you will notice, has been blacked up for the screen.

If you listen closely to the movie clip, you can hear someone — Ellington? — speak at 1:52 and 1:55: “C’mon, Harry” and “That’s it.” Yes, it is.

Related reading
All OCA Ellington posts (Pinboard)

[Do you recognize the source material for “Old Man Blues”? The title gives it away.]

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Les Waas (1921–2016)

Les Waas, creator of the Mister Softee jingle, has died at the age of ninety-four. From the New York Times obituary:

In nearly a thousand jingles, he celebrated the virtues of clients including Holiday Inn, the Philadelphia Phillies and at least one local food manufacturer. (“Give me a little Kissling’s Sauerkraut, / It’s fresh and clean, without a doubt. / In transparent Pliofilm bags it’s sold, / Kissling’s Sauerkraut, hot or cold.”)

But none captured the public — and held it captive — like the Mister Softee song.
In an earlier post, I called the Mister Softee jingle “a permanent sound of summer in my head.” I should have called it the sound of summer. I think that our nation’s mobile ice-cream vendors should observe a moment of din in Mr. Waas’s honor.

Mark Trail , recycling


[Mark Trail, revised. May 10, 2014; April 28, 2016.]

James Allen continues the practice of recycling handed down by his predecessor Jack Elrod. I remember Mark’s sweaty 2014 face only because of my revised version, which dramatized the words of a Twitter user who took issue with my sentence-style capitalization in post titles. (Really.) I couldn’t resist revising today’s panel.

But where else had I seen this desperate look? Oh, of course — in Mark Trail , in 2015.


[Mark Trail, revised, May 10, 2014. Mark Trail, May 14, 2015; April 28, 2016. Click any image for a larger view.]

Keep moving! Back to yesterday’s art!

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

Saag and vindaloo

Elaine and I had great chicken saag and lamb vindaloo last night. And it finally occurred me to wonder what the words saag and vindaloo are all about. The Oxford English Dictionary explains. Saag is easy to guess:

< Hindi sāg greens, vegetable, vernacular adaptation of Sanskrit śāka . Compare Bengali śāk , Marathi śāk .
But vindaloo is quite a surprise:
Probably < Portuguese vin d’alho wine and garlic sauce, < vinho + alho garlic.
Wikipedia has a brief account of the origins of vindaloo.

Thank you, Sitara Indian Restaurant and Lounge. We will be back.

[It’s especially great to find vindaloo without potatoes. Wikipedia: “Even though the word aloo (आलू) does mean ‘potato’ in Hindi, traditional vindaloo does not include potatoes.”]

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My son the graduate student

Ben Leddy, studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Education:

“You don’t have to choose between rigor and joy in the classroom,” he says. “By creating engaging curriculum we could help so many kids and make the classroom experience much more meaningful.”
Right on, Ben.

[So proud!]

Happy, harmonious nation-state

“The nation-state remains the true foundation of happiness and harmony.”

Who said it? Kim Jong-il? Kim Jong-un? Mao? No: Donald Trump.

Front as guest

A talking head on MSNBC earlier this afternoon:

“. . . have ushered in a new front in the battle between the front-runners . . .”

More thusly

More about thusly :

Webster’s Second labels the word “colloquial.” Webster’s Third drops the label and adds a citation from the Congressional Record : “he summoned his counselors and spoke ∼ to them.”

The first and second editions of Fowler’s Modern English Usage make no reference to the word.

Bergen Evans and Cornelia Evans’s A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage (1957) suggests that the word is “the product of illiteracy or exuberance.” The Evanses’ conclusion: “Thus is an adverb and nothing is gained by attaching the regular adverbial suffix -ly to it.”

Theodore Bernstein’s The Careful Writer (1965) calls the word a casualism, and a superfluous one: “it says nothing that thus does not say.”

Wilson Follett’s Modern American Usage: A Guide (1966) mentions the word in passing: “we add -ly for ridiculous or jocular effects to forms that are already adverbs: muchly , thusly .”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (1989) makes a point missing from other discussions:

One reason thusly has gradually been able to gain a secure foothold in the language is undoubtedly that it is used primarily in ways that are, to some degree, distinct from the principal uses of thus .
M-W points out that “thusly almost always follows the verb it modifies” and that “its most frequent use is as an introductory word preceeding a quotation or other passage set off by a colon.” Zounds! That’s just how I’ve used the word. For instance:
The American Heritage Dictionary . . . defines banausic thusly: &c.

The Magic Rub’s maker, Prismacolor, describes the eraser thusly: &c.
I knew I wasn’t being ridiculous or jocular.

M-W is not my favorite usage guide: too often its advice seems to be to do what you like. But I like its advice about thusly :
[W]hatever its origins, thusly is not now merely an ignorant or comic substitute for thus : it is a distinct adverb that is used in a distinct way in standard speech and writing. Knowledge of the subtleties of its use may give you the courage to face down its critics, but if discretion, prudence, or faintheartedness compels you to shun it (or if you just dislike it), our advice is not to replace it automatically with thus but to consider instead a more natural-sounding phrase such as “in this way” or “as follows.”
I’m not faint of heart: I’ve restored the two thusly s I’ve quoted above. The third remains gone, replaced by a plain, more suitable as :
Gevalia describes its Traditional Roast thusly: as &c.
[Google’s Ngram Viewer shows thusly rising sharply since 1996.]

Thusly

Something I learned from an interview with Bryan Garner about Garner’s Modern English Usage : thusly is a word one might want to avoid. Garner calls it a nonword, and places it in the company of irregardless , muchly , and two dozen other dubious characters. He gives this explanation in GMEU :

Thus itself being an adverb, it needs no -ly . Although the nonword *thusly has appeared in otherwise respectable writing since it emerged in the late 19th century, it remains a lapse.
The American Heritage Dictionary gives a fuller explanation:
The adverb thusly was created in the 1800s as an alternative for thus in sentences such as Hold it thus or He put it thus . It appears to have been first used by humorists, who may have been imitating the speech of poorly educated people straining to sound stylish. The word has subsequently gained some currency in educated usage, but it has long been deplored by usage commentators as a “nonword.” A large majority of the Usage Panel found it unacceptable in 1966, and this sentiment was echoed nearly forty years later in our 2002 survey, in which 86 percent of the Panel disapproved of the sentence His letter to the editor ended thusly: “It is time to stop fooling ourselves.”
The Oxford English Dictionary has a first citation that indeed suggests mockery: “It happened, as J. Billings would say, ‘thusly.’” (Harper’s, December 1865).

You’ll search in vain for thusly in Orange Crate Art: I have already searched and have zapped its three appearances.

Related reading
All OCA Bryan Garner posts (Pinboard)

*

12:06 p.m.: But wait; there’s more. And it’s more complicated: More thusly.

[Garner’s Modern English Usage is the renamed fourth edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage . The new book makes use of Google ngrams to show the frequency of words and phrases. For thus and *thusly, the frequency is 1,016:1. The Garner asterisk marks an “invariably inferior form.” Orange Crate Art is a Garner-friendly zone.]

Overheard

“What was the name of those shoes you had on yesterday?”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Goodbye, Thompson’s General Store

For a little over a year now, Elaine and I have been stopping by Thompson’s General Store in Camargo, Illinois (population 449). The store was started in 1946 by Opal and Ralph Thompson, the parents of Jack Thompson, who now runs the store with his daughter. Jack has a terrific meat counter: he grinds hamburger, slices liverwurst, and writes prices on butcher paper. The store even lets locals run a tab: I know, because I asked about the cheese box full of worn cards behind the counter.

When we stopped by Thompson’s today, the store was closed. And then we saw the notice on the door: Thompson’s is closing for keeps this coming Saturday. Here is an article that explains. Long story short: too many Camargo residents are doing their shopping outside Camargo. Now they’ll be able to do all their shopping outside Camargo. “Don’t it always seem to go,” &c.

Goodbye, Thompson’s General Store. Thank you for the memories.

Another dozen movies

[And no spoilers.]

The Bigamist (dir. Ida Lupino, 1953). D.O.A. (dir. Rudolph Maté, 1950) fixed my sense of Edmond O’Brien on the screen: sweaty, hapless, despairing, doomed. In this film we find his character Harry Graham married to two women. (He’s a traveling salesman.) Trouble develops when Harry and first wife Eve (Joan Fontaine) decide to adopt a child. What will happen when adoption agent Mr. Jordan (Edmund Gwenn) finds out about Phyllis Martin (Ida Lupino)? Cue sweaty , hapless , despairing , and, maybe, doomed . The Bigamist is said to be the first film in which a woman directed herself.

*

The Big Short (dir. Adam McKay, 2015). The collapse of our economy as a tragicomedy. I’ll quote from an earlier post about the film: “an inventive approach to telling a Strangelovian story.” It was the end of the world as we knew it, and they — those bastards — felt fine.

*

Carol (dir. Todd Haynes, 2015). Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird, Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet, in a story of attraction at first sight. I thought of Brief Encounter (dir. David Lean, 1945), another story of two people in a relationship for which there are no guidelines. And I thought of the words Tony Asher wrote for Brian Wilson: Wouldn’t it be nice to live together, in the kind of the world where we belong? Carol and Therese, unlike the Brits, take to the road. Optional essay question: What might it mean that the film is named for only one of its two leads?

*

Ride the Pink Horse (dir. Robert Montgomery, 1947). Lucky Gagin (Montgomery), post-WWII, travels to New Mexico to avenge a comrade’s death. The real stars here are the supporting players: Fred Clark, Thomas Gomez, Wanda Hendrix, Art Smith. Anyone who’s seen Touch of Evil (dir. Orson Welles, 1958) will recognize the atmosphere. But Ride the Pink Horse moves very slowly.

*

The Lady Killers (dir. Alexander Mackendrick, 1955). Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness) — or should that be “Professor” Marcus? — and associates plot to rob an armored car. My mom spoke up strongly for Katie Johnson’s performance as Mrs. Louisa Alexandra Wilberforce, an archetypal little old lady. And yes, it’s a wonderful performance. And so are the musical “performances” (via phonograph) wonderful. But I still prefer The Lavender Hill Mob (dir. Charles Crichton, 1951). Sorry, Mom.

*

Don’t Look Now (dir. Nicolas Roeg, 1973). Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, in Venice, as a couple who have lost a child. The poet Kenneth Koch said somewhere that Venice is the most beautiful city in the world. Here it’s a damp, grey city of the dead, in which the plainest everyday moment feels ominous. Great atmosphere, many genuine shocks. There’s also a sex scene with Christie and Sutherland, controversial then, a little hilarious now.

*

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (dir. Alex Gibney, 2015). It begins reverently, with scenes of people lighting candles and weeping in front of Apple stores in the aftermath of Jobs’s death. And it then turns negative. Jobs treated Steve Wozniak badly. He treated the mother of his oldest child badly. He treated that child badly. He treated many other people badly, some of whom appear on screen (along with Apple veterans who speak of Jobs with tearful affection). And it’s all true. But so much is missing: Jobs’s carpentering father, calligraphy at Reed College, Xerox PARC, and, most of all, the Mac: what made it different from the PC, its reception and influence in the tech world. This documentary is more a tearing down of a public figure than an exploration of his work. (Note: Jobs for me is no hero. I read his life as a cautionary tale.)

*

Larceny, Inc. (dir. Lloyd Bacon, 1942). Edward G. Robinson as “Pressure” Maxwell, a hoodlum who takes over a luggage shop so that he can tunnel into the bank next door. Broad slapstick (watch Robinson wrap a suitcase), snappy one-liners. Anthony Quinn has a turn as a George Raft wannabe (at least I think that’s how we’re supposed to see him). If you know Jane Wyman from Johnny Belinda (dir. Jean Negulesco, 1948), you will be surprised by her ultra-glamorous appearance here as Maxwell’s adopted daughter. Jackie Gleason steals a scene as a soda jerk. My mind boggles at distances and how quickly they shorten: S. J. Perelman, one this film’s writers, was a friend of our friend Margie King Barab.

*

A Master Builder (dir. Jonathan Demme, 2014). Wallace Shawn’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen. Foundation damage and sexual rivalries in the house of a great architect. With André Gregory, Julie Hagerty (Airplane ), and Lisa Joyce. I’m baffled that this adaptation was the stuff of fourteen years of rehearsals and private performances, some of that can be seen in the tedious documentary André Gregory: Before and After Dinner (dir. Cindy Kleine, 2013). I have come, alas, to realize that my affection for “André” and “Wally” may always be limited to My Dinner with André (dir. Louis Malle, 1981). I found nothing to care about here.

*

The Spirit of St. Louis (dir. Billy Wilder, 1957). Jimmy Stewart’s Charles Lindbergh is mostly Jimmy Stewart, which means that Lindbergh remains a cipher: all we really know of him is his impulse to fly. When he shouts to Irish farmers from his plane, I hear the voice of George Bailey: “Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan.” The best elements in this film: the design and construction of an airplane and the preparations for flight. I think of this film as a long, digressive instructional video: The Spirit of St. Louis; or, How to Cross the Atlantic Ocean by Plane .

*

The Apartment (dir. Billy Wilder, 1960). I wanted to see another Wilder after The Spirit of St. Louis, and I was struck more than ever by the cynical carnality of the executives who exploit the men (Jack Lemmon’s C. C. Baxter) and women (Shirley MacLaine’s Fran Kubelik) beneath them. (I’m aware of the pun in “beneath them.”) I love the odd intimacy that develops when Miss Kubelik ends up in Mr. Baxter’s apartment: she’s sleeping in his bed, and he doesn’t know her first name. The best moments: the office party and the broken mirror, Dr. Dreyfuss’s (Jack Kruschen) “Walk, Fran” and his advice to be a mensch, Mr. Baxter’s account of attempting suicide, Miss Kubelik’s closing line. The screenplay does the film one better, adding a line: “And that’s about it. Story-wise.”

*

The Wicker Man (dir. Robin Hardy, 1973). It’s been called the Citizen Kane of horror movies, praise that baffles me. An upright, uptight police sergeant (Edward Woodward) travels to an island in the Hebrides to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. A spectacular ending, but there’s little here to horrify and much that’s campy or silly. The procession of singing and swaying islanders made me think of the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour (1967). If The Wicker Man isn’t the Citizen Kane of horror, what might be? I’d vote for The Shining (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1980), though when it comes to horror, I am a low-information voter.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)
Twelve more movies : Thirteen more : Fourteen more : Another thirteen more

Russel Wright’s American Modern

Cooper Hewitt’s Object of the Day: a brochure for Steubenville Pottery’s American Modern dinnerware. Our household has not a single piece of American Modern, but our house itself almost certainly owes a debt to Russel Wright, American Modern’s designer. Mary and Russel Wright wrote the best-selling Guide to Easier Living (1950), the book that we think must have inspired the people who designed our house in 1959. Our downstairs is an all-in-one room.

Related posts
Easier living with Mary and Russel Wright
The all-in-one room

Monday, April 25, 2016

Café culture

With a dinner break:

By the end of the nineteenth century the café represented a ritual which could absorb the better part of the day. “In the old days,” wrote Jean Moréas, one of the great habitués and lion of the Vachette, “I arrived around one in the afternoon . . . stayed till seven, and then went to dine. About eight we came back, and didn’t finally leave untll one in the morning.” It was a life into itself.

Roger Shattuck, The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I , rev. ed. (New York: Vintage, 1968).
[Jean Moréas, poet (1856–1910). In 1913 the Café Vachette was nearing the end of its life.]

Pocket notebook sighting


[The sentence in progress: “She had a fortune in her basement.” Click either image for a larger view.]

This pocket notebook belongs to Bobby Gold (Joe Mantegna), a homicide detective in Homicide (dir. David Mamet, 1991). The notebook is a homemade affair, a spiral-bound pad in a (faux?) alligator holder. The pen is a Parker T-Ball Jotter.

I like the near-realism of the telephone number: 557 , not 555 .

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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

On queue

Geoffrey Pullum has written about Barack Obama’s use of the word queue  with reference to the United Kingdom and the European Union. (Obama has warned that if the UK were to leave, it would be “in the back of the queue” for a trade agreement with the United States. His use of queue has led to speculation that British opponents of leaving the EU have been giving him talking points.) Pullum points out, rightly, that the word queue is familiar enough in American English.

But he doesn’t mention a likely agent of increasing American familiarity with the word: Netflix. Here’s a 2014 piece by Alice Robb about Netflix and queue . Robb also mentions printer queues, which I’d forgotten about. (Waiting for something to print?)

Pullum also points out that “Americans talk about waiting in line, not waiting in a queue or queueing up.” Well, yes. But New Yorkers wait on line. Waiting on line is a New York value.

[Geoffrey Pullum appears in the comments on one of OCA’s most widely read posts, Pullum on Strunk and White.]

Friday, April 22, 2016

Illinois, summer and beyond

The Illinois General Assembly voted today to provide funding to keep the state’s public universities and community colleges going through the summer. Each school will receive roughly thirty percent of what would have been its FY 2016 appropriation, with the exception of Chicago State University, which will receive roughly sixty percent of its appropriation. Today’s legislation also funds MAP grants for the fall 2105 semester, leaving schools in the hole for the spring. The Chicago Tribune has the story.

Some money is better than no money, but today’s vote does nothing to provide a secure future for public higher education in Illinois, no more than having three months’ rent on hand would provide a secure future for a tenant. Things are precarious, and further damage to public higher education in our state is, I think, inevitable. It will come in the form of lower fall 2016 enrollments, more layoffs, and, eventually, the elimination of programs. My best guess as to where our governor wants to take us: to Wisconsin, land of “flexibility.”

Related reading
All OCA Illinois higher-ed crisis posts (Pinboard)

Fine Arts radiator


[Fine Arts Building, Chicago. Click for a larger view.]

A related post
Fine Arts tile

Fine Arts tile


[Fine Arts Building, Chicago. Click for a larger view.]

I am a tileman’s son. Wherever I go, I look at the tile. If the floor is as old as the building, it’s from 1886.

Related reading
All OCA tile posts (Pinboard)
Fine Arts radiator

Hillary Rodham on the possible and the impossible

Hillary Clinton, then Rodham, graduating senior, in her Wellesley College commencement speech, May 31, 1969:

[W]e feel that for too long our leaders have viewed politics as the art of the possible. And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible.
That’s why I voted for Bernie Sanders.

This passage is widely quoted, appearing, for instance, in a whitehouse.gov biography. Clinton quoted from the passage in her 1992 Wellesley commencement address.

[The text of the speech on Wellesley’s website appears to have the passage wrong: “we feel that for too long our leaders have used politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible.” Perhaps a line was dropped in transcription? The sentence reads as nonsense, unless “making what appears to be impossible, possible” means something like “making possible what ought to be unthinkable.” Increasing economic disparity, the influence of corporate money in politics: those might be two examples of what ought to be unthinkable. That’s why I voted for Bernie Sanders.]

*

June 21: Audio excerpts made available by Wellesley College confirm the sentences as I’ve quoted them here. (I’ve made one correction: “viewed politics,” not “used politics.”) The mistaken transcription on Wellesley’s website has been corrected.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bill Murray looks at a painting



Asked to talk about a moment when art has mattered to him, Bill Murray describes an encounter with Jules Adolphe Breton’s The Song of the Lark after a disastrous first experience on stage in Chicago:

“I was so bad I just walked out on the street and headed — and started walking. And I walked for a couple of hours, and I realized I’d walked the wrong direction — not just the wrong direction in terms of where I lived but the wrong direction in terms of a desire to stay alive. And so I — this may be a little bit not completely true, but it’s pretty true — that I walked and then thought, ‘Well, if I’m gonna die where I am, I may as well just go over towards the lake, and maybe I’ll float for a while after I’m dead.’”
He ended up in the Art Institute, walking right through without paying because he was “ready to die and pretty much dead”:
“And there’s a painting there, and I don’t even know who painted it, but I think it’s called The Song of the Lark. And it’s a woman working in a field, and there’s a sunrise behind her. And I’ve always loved this painting, and I saw it that day, and I just thought, ‘Well, look, there’s a girl who doesn’t have a whole lot of prospects, but the sun’s coming up anyway, and she’s got another chance at it.’ So I think that gave me some sort of feeling that I too am a person and get another chance every day the sun comes up.“
See also words from Harvey Pekar (in the OCA sidebar): “Every day is a new deal.”

[Murray was speaking at a press conference marking the UK premiere of The Monuments Men. The Art Institute has a highly condensed version of Murray’s remarks on a placard next to the painting.]

From a Van Gogh letter

Vincent van Gogh to his mother Anna Cornelia, c. June 12, 1890:

I was struck by what you say in your letter about having been to Nuenen. You saw everything again, “with gratitude that once it was yours” — and are now able to leave it to others with an easy mind. As through a glass, darkly — so it has remained; life, the why or wherefore of parting, passing away, the permanence of turmoil — one grasps no more of it than that.

For me, life may well continue in solitude. I have never perceived those to whom I have been most attached other than as through a glass, darkly.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh , ed. Ronald de Leeuw, trans. Arnold Pomerans (New York: Penguin, 1997).
“I have never perceived those to whom I have been most attached other than as through a glass, darkly”: one can find similar statements in Willa Cather’s fiction. From The Song of the Lark (1915):
He looked down wonderingly at his old friend and patient. After all, one never knew people to the core.
And from The Professor’s House (1925):
The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one’s own.
These passages are a matter of what is sometimes called free indirect discourse: they represent a character’s thinking. But they’re very Cather.

Our household is full of Van Gogh and Cather. We went up to Art Institute of Chicago yesterday to see Van Gogh’s Bedrooms one more time. We stood communing with Jules Adolphe Breton’s The Song of the Lark , just like Thea Kronborg. And then we wandered the ten floors of the Fine Arts Building, which plays a part in Lucy Gayheart (1935).

Also from Van Gogh’s letters
Admire as much as you can”
“It was a bright autumn day and a beautiful walk”
“Lately, during the dark days before Christmas”
“So you must picture me sitting at my attic window”
“At the moment, I can see a splendid effect”
“The ride into the village was beautiful”
A colourist the like of which has never yet been seen

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Recently updated

The Band’s Visit With a link to an obituary for Ronit Elkabetz.

A Merriam-Webster advertisement


[Life, November 15, 1937. Click for a larger view.]

I like the idea of a hat-holding man asking a librarian, and a college president, and a newspaper editor, and a bookseller for dictionary advice, even if the illustration makes the hat-holder look like a representative of the local loan shark. “Time? We’ll give you time — in the hospital!”

I invested in a Webster’s Second (a 1954 copy) a year ago. No loan sharks were involved. I’ve cited this beautiful, dowdy dictionary in at least a dozen posts. I like having both the Second and the Third in the same room. Sparks sometimes fly.

Here are three more Merriam-Webster ads, from 1965, 1966, and 1967.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)

Irrelevancies and solid objects

Joseph Joubert:

Fleeting irrelevancies often serve to stamp solid objects in our memory; a sound, a song, an accent, a voice, a smell engrave forever in our mind the memory of certain places, because these small things were what made up our pleasure or boredom there.

The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert: A Selection  , trans. Paul Auster (New York: New York Review Books, 2005).
That sentence seems like a milder version of a passage from T. S. Eliot’s prose:
Why, for all of us, out of all we have heard, seen, felt, in a lifetime, do certain images recur, charged with emotion, rather than others? The song of one bird, the leap of one fish, at a particular place and time, the scent of one flower, an old woman on a German mountain path, six ruffians seen through an open window playing cards at night at a small French railway junction where there was a water-mill: such memories may have symbolic value, but of what we cannot tell, for they come to represent the depth of feeling into which we cannot peer.

“The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism” (1933).
Also from Joseph Joubert
Another world : Form and content : Lives and writings : Politeness : Resignation and courage : Self-love and truth : Thinking and writing

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Involuntary Brooklyn

I was cutting the grass this afternoon. Elaine was making meatballs. And suddenly I was eight or nine years old in Brooklyn. I even said it out loud: “Brooklyn.” Elaine must have been running the exhaust fan, wafting olive oil and meat and herbs and garlic into the previously grass-scented air.

I’ve smelled olive oil and meat and herbs and garlic countless times in our house. Smelling them outside is rare. That’s what brought me back to the late afternoons of my childhood, when kids played outside as mothers made dinner, up and down the block.

Lest you think our division of labor replicates that of a mid-century Brooklyn household: I made the sauce. And Elaine filled the gas can. Thank you, Elaine.

More involuntary memories
Proust: involuntary memory, foolish things
In a memory kitchen
Involuntary bicycle

Filling seats in graduate programs

The New York Times reports on Western Kentucky University’s effort to fill seats in graduate programs with less-than-qualified students from abroad. The student-body president: “It is ethically wrong to bring students to the university and let them believe they can be successful when we have nothing in place to make sure they’re successful.” The school’s president: “There are growing pains.” Along with growing pains, there are delusions of grandeur, evident in WKU’s slogan, “A leading American university with international reach.” A reach indeed.

“He’s in the library”

From The Honeymooners episode “Opportunity Knocks But,” first broadcast May 5, 1956. The head of the Gotham Bus Company, J. J. Marshall, has received a pool table as a birthday present. He asks Messrs. Kramden and Norton (Ralph and Ed) to come to his house and teach him the game. “We’re playin’ pool on Park Avenue tonight!” says Norton. I love this exchange, which might be as old as vaudeville:

Butler: “Just make yourselves at home, gentlemen. Mr. Marshall will be here presently. He’s in the library.”

Ralph: “What?”

Butler: “He’s in the library.”

Ed: “He oughta be here soon. The library closes at nine.”
Did you notice the butler’s tony diction? Presently , not momentarily . I’m pretty sure that this exchange was one of the many bits that used to be cut in reruns to make more time for commercials.

Related reading
All OCA Honeymooners posts (Pinboard)

[Mr. Marshall’s address: 1149 Park Avenue. It’s a single-family residence, valued today at $9,472,029.]

Monday, April 18, 2016

Linus van Pelt, pencileer


[Peanuts , April 18, 2016. First ran April 21, 1969. Click for a larger view.]

Charlie Brown doesn’t realize that it’s more fun to know.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

[Pencileer is Sean’s coinage.]

WordService

[For Mac users.]

One more from Devon Technologies: the free WordService, which adds many options for working with text on the Mac. I’ll mention just two options, which I’ve used again and again: 1. ⌘-" changes straight quotation marks to smart ones (⌘-' does the opposite); 2. ⇧-⌘-C puts initial capitals on words.

Mac Services are found in Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts. There’s no need to memorize ⇧-⌘-C and the like: Services for a given app are available from the menu bar. Click on the name of the app, and you’ll see Services.

Also from Devon Technologies: XMenu.

[Really, can an iPad ever replace the Mac? Not for me, not yet anyway.]

XMenu

[For Mac users.]

XMenu, a free app from Devon Technologies, adds up to six menus to the Mac menu bar, allowing quick access to apps, folders, and files. I hit on XMenu as a way to get to files without cluttering my desktop with a dozen or more icons: now I have a user-defined menu that opens a folder named Current stuff .

One piece of advice: read the XMenu Help file. That’s the only way to figure out how to set up a user-defined menu: by placing something in ~/Library/Application Support/
XMenu/Custom.

One trick: When making a user-defined menu, create an alias (shortcut) to add to ~/Library/Application Support/XMenu/Custom. Using an alias instead of a folder lets you keep your stuff in its usual place. And using an alias makes it possible to use a Dropbox folder with XMenu.

Another trick: Make a tidier menu by renaming the alias. I retitled Current stuff as [ ]. In other words, a single space is the alias.


[See? No folder name.]

One more trick: If XMenu’s menu-bar icons aren’t to your taste, it’s easy to change them. Quit the app, and go to Applications/XMenu. Right-click and choose Show Package Contents. Go to Contents/Resources. The menu bar icons are 16 × 16 .png files. You can replace any menu-bar icon by renaming its .png file (rename Userdefined.png, for instance, as Old.Userdefined.png) and adding to the Resources folder a new .png file with the original file name. I found a nice document icon at Flaticon, a good source for simple (and free) 16 × 16 .png files.


[XMenu’s Documents icon and User-Defined icon, and my User-Defined replacement icon.]

Credit where it’s due: my replacement icon is by Vectors Market, available from www.flaticon.com and licensed by CC 3.0 BY.

Also from Devon Technologies: WordService.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Zippy noir


[Click either image for a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy  pays homage to The Big Combo (dir. Joseph H. Lewis, 1955). In a memorable scene, Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) uses a hearing aid to extract information from Police Lieutenant Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde), speaking, shouting, and playing the radio at high volume — it’s jazz, with “crazy drums.” Henchmen Mingo (Earl Holliman) and Fante (Lee Van Cleef) look on. That’s Lippy, Zippy’s “diametrically opposite & anhedonic twin brother,” failing at torture with Kiss.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Dick Cavett on Donald Trump

Dick Cavett writes about “‘Trumpo,’ the Unfunny Marx Brother”:

Lee Iacocca, a truly successful businessman by any standard, declined to run for the highest office, because he knew that there was a fundamental difference between big business and big government. In government, the successful leaders can’t just walk out, or sulk when someone disagrees. To be successful in government, a leader has to build a strong, inclusive coalition. Conversely, in big business, ultimately, the lead dog has to take responsibility and make a decision, and then everybody else has to follow. It’s not a democracy.
Bruce Rauner, former venture capitalist, now Illinois’s governor, is already an officeholder who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between business and government.

Goodbye to all that (candy)

Halloween is, mostly, done: the candy mountain we were left with on October 31 is gone. I ate down that mountain, one or two or three little pieces a day, or none, for five and a half months. It would have taken even longer, but I threw out a couple of weeks’ worth of Heath — too sweet.

Our leftover pencils remain left over and show no sign of disappearing anytime soon. (See mostly , above.)

A bonus


[Probably from the seventeenth century. As seen, and touched, in the University of Illinois Music Library. Click for a larger view.]

This bonus appears in a gradual, “a service book containing the musical portion of the Mass sung by the choir” (Webster’s Second ). This gradual is on display in the Music Library, the vellum pages right there for the turning. I wish I had thought to take the book’s measurements. Let’s just say massive.

More about this gradual here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

George Frazier’s liner notes

From the liner notes for the 10" LP Lee Wiley Sings Rodgers and Hart (Storyville, 1954):

[I]f I have any objection to this portfolio, it is that it will doubtless assail me with bittersweet memories — with the stabbing remembrance of the tall, breathtaking-lovely Wellesley girl with whom I was so desperately in love in the long-departed November when the band at the Copley Plaza in Boston used to play “My Heart Stood Still” as couples tea-danced after football games on crisp Saturday afternoons, with reawakened desire for the succession of exquisite girls with whom I spent many a crepuscular hour listening to cocktail pianists give muted voice to “Funny Valentine,” of the first time I saw Connecticut Yankee , of — Yes, of the first years of my marriage and listening to Lee Wiley records with my wife late at night.
It’s like something from the Salinger world, isn’t it?

George Frazier was an American journalist. He wrote the words to “Harvard Blues,” recorded by Jimmy Rushing and the Count Basie Orchestra. It begins:
I wear Brooks clothes and white shoes all
    the time
I wear Brooks clothes and white shoes all
    the time
Get three Cs, a D, and think checks from
    home sublime.
The song’s mysterious Rinehart plays a part in Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man. Bliss P. Rinehart is a shapeshifter, a series of masks (rind and heart , as the novel’s narrator thinks), and The Man Who Wasn’t There. (He never appears in the novel). More background here.

And here’s Lee Wiley singing Rodgers and Hart’s “You Took Advantage of Me.”

[The LP has been reissued with the title Duologue (Black Lion, 1988), with four unrelated recordings by Ellis Larkins. With Wiley: Ruby Braff, cornet; Jimmy Jones, piano; Bill Pemberton, bass; Jo Jones, drums. Lee Wiley was one of my dad’s favorite singers. The CD I’m listening to was his. Ellison’s use of the name Rinehart is also a shout-out to fellow Oklahoman Rushing, who at one point worked for Ellison’s father. Ellison wrote about Rushing in the 1958 essay “Remembering Jimmy.”]

Zippy ink


[Zippy , April 15, 2016.]

I love the way this strip makes space for whatever is in its maker’s mind. I’m guessing that if Zerbina is worrying, Bill Griffith is worrying, too.

My ink of choice: Aurora black. It’s not a document ink (waterproof). But it’s deep and dark, and it always flows.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ringo Starr, Canned Heat, LGBT discrimination

Ringo Starr has canceled a concert in North Carolina to protest state-sponsored discrimination against LGBT people. I am a bit thrilled to see that he has cited Canned Heat in doing so: “As Canned Heat sang, ‘Let’s work together.’” Starr also cited a group who sang that “All you need is love.”

The footnoter in me wants to give credit to Wilbert Harrison, who wrote “Let’s Work Together” and recorded it twice, in 1962 and again in 1969. The story goes that Canned Heat waited to give Harrison’s 1969 recording its chance on the charts before recording the song themselves. The Heat’s version appears on the 1970 album Future Blues (1970). Harrison also had a hit with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “Kansas City.” LGBT people in Missouri, too, are up against state-sponsored discrimination.

Related reading
HRC Missouri : HRC North Carolina

The shadow of an angry Bert



It’s just the shadow of a lamp on paneling. But when I noticed it the other day, it looked like the shadow of an angry Bert. Perhaps he was after someone who was messing with his paper-clip collection. Watch out, Ernie.

[Watching Don’t Look Now (dir. Nicolas Roeg, 1973) makes everything scary.]

Spring and not spring

This sentence suits the weather these days:


Verlyn Klinkenborg, “April,” The Rural Life (Boston: Back Bay Books, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Verlyn Klinkenborg posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Favorite lines from The Apartment



[Click either image for a larger view.]

Dialogue from The Apartment (dir. Billy Wilder, 1960). The screenplay is by Wilder and his longtime collaborator I. A. L. Diamond. Aspiring junior executive C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) are talking. Miss Kubelik lends her compact so that Mr. Baxter can see how he looks in his new hat. She sees his jaunty smile fade:

“What’s the matter?”

“Uh, the mirror. It’s broken.”

“Yes, I know. I like it that way. Makes me look the way I feel.”
To understand why Mr. Baxter’s smile fades, you’ll have to watch.

Bruce Rauner: “an epic F”

The Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn gives Illinois’s governor Bruce Rauner “an epic F” at midterm:

Illinois still doesn’t have — and at this rate probably never will have — a budget for the fiscal year that began last July, which has put many human service providers and public colleges and universities into a financial crisis.

Now, yes, it’s quite true that Rauner didn’t create the underlying economic problems facing Illinois — those came about due to decades of irresponsible governance, some of it bipartisan, much of it Democratic.

But he’s made those problems worse.

He campaigned for office promising to “shake up Springfield.” Instead he has cold-cocked it.
Eric Zorn is just one columnist. The Tribune endorsed Rauner in 2014 and appears to stand by him: the paper’s editorial board recently characterized him not as “anti-union” but as “pro-taxpayer.” Except for the taypayers who are losing jobs, losing access to social services, and losing opportunities for public higher education.

Related reading
All OCA Illinois higher-ed crisis posts (Pinboard)

From a Van Gogh letter

Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, c. May 4, 1888:

As for me, I shall carry on working, and here and there something of my work will prove of lasting value — but who will there be to achieve for figure painting what Claude Monet has achieved for landscape? However, you must feel, as I do, that someone like that is on the way — Rodin? — he doesn’t use colour — it won’t be him. But the painter of the future will be a colourist the like of which has never yet been seen.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh , ed. Ronald de Leeuw, trans. Arnold Pomerans (New York: Penguin, 1997).
A colourist the like of which has never yet been seen”: that sounds to me like Henri Matisse, who in 1888 had not yet begun to paint.

Also from Van Gogh’s letters
Admire as much as you can”
“It was a bright autumn day and a beautiful walk”
“Lately, during the dark days before Christmas”
“So you must picture me sitting at my attic window”
“At the moment, I can see a splendid effect”
“The ride into the village was beautiful”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A poem by Jack Spicer

Henry Clay was born today, in 1777, as I just learned by chance. His birth was a matter of chance too, I suppose. Clay’s name sticks in my mind not because of “history” but because of this haunting poem by Jack Spicer:



I think that I first saw “For Kids” in the journal o•blék , many years back.

[“Kids”: the poet Joanne Kyger.]

Recently updated

TextExpander, aText TextExpander now has a lower subscription price and will remain available in stand-alone form.

Caption fail


[Cartoon by Michael Crawford. Caption by me.]

I have entered the New Yorker cartoon contest just three times, when a caption has immediately suggested itself to me. And three times, I have failed to make the cut. I prefer my caption for this cartoon to each of the three finalists: an ex-wife joke, a food joke, and a lawyer joke. (“Duck,” by the way, makes no sense if a cinderblock is falling toward someone’s head.)

Related posts
Captioning New Yorker cartoons : Phooey , a caption

Happy birthday, Beverly Cleary


[Jane Purdy, Stan Crandall, and the miracle of telephony. And a delivery truck. The cover of Fifteen (1956).]

Beverly Cleary celebrates her hundredth birthday today.

Our fambly grew up with Ramona and Beezus. I read Fifteen just recently, after Elaine borrowed it from the library, and I loved it. There are more Cleary books in my future.

Related posts
Dowdy-world miracle : Quimby economics

In search of found time

Let x = the time the alarm clock is set for. Let (x − 1 hour) = the time you wake up, check the alarm clock, and go back to sleep. You have just gained an hour of sleep.

Monday, April 11, 2016

From a Van Gogh letter

Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, November 16, 1883:

The ride into the village was beautiful. Enormous mossy roofs of houses, stables, covered sheepfolds, barns. The very broad-fronted houses here are set among oaktrees of a superb bronze. Tones in the moss of gold-green, in the ground of reddish or bluish or yellowish dark lilac-greys, tones of inexpressible purity in the green of the little cornfields, tones of black in the wet tree trunks, standing out against the golden rain of swirling, teeming autumn leaves, which hang in loose clumps — as if they had been blown there, loose and with the light filtering through them — from the poplars, the birches, the limes and the apple trees.

The sky smooth and bright, shining, not white but a barely detectable lilac, white vibrant with red, blue and yellow, reflecting everything and felt everywhere above one, hazy and merging with the thin mist below, fusing everything in a gamut of delicate greys.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh , ed. Ronald de Leeuw, trans. Arnold Pomerans (New York: Penguin, 1997).
Also from Van Gogh’s letters
Admire as much as you can”
“It was a bright autumn day and a beautiful walk”
“Lately, during the dark days before Christmas”
“So you must picture me sitting at my attic window”
“At the moment, I can see a splendid effect”

Is a phone a “mythical device”?

In the documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (dir. Alex GIbney, 2015), the New York Times writer Joe Nocera attempts to demystify Apple and its iPhone:

“The real magic of it is that these myths are surrounding a company that makes phones. A phone is not a mythical device. And it sort of makes you wonder less about Apple than about us.”
Once when we move beyond shields and swords, I’m not sure that anything can rightly be called a “mythical device.” But what about “magical”? Marcel Proust thought there was something extraordinary about the telephone (as did modernists more generally). The unnamed narrator of In Search of Lost Time calls the telephone a “miracle” and a “supernatural instrument.” Beverly Cleary’s character Jane Purdy backs him up: in Fifteen , she thinks of the telephone as “a miracle, a real miracle.” Jane, now Jane Crandall, seventy-five, does FaceTime with her grandchildren these days. And Stan Crandall, seventy-six, is finally using an iPhone. Another miracle, says Jane.

[Joe Nocera has some history with Apple and Steve Jobs. Beverly Cleary celebrates her hundredth birthday tomorrow.]

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Illinois higher-ed crisis makes it into The New York Times

The article begins:

The lack of a state budget in Illinois has been dismissed by many here as politics as usual, another protracted ego contest between the Republican governor and the Democrats who rule the Legislature.
It is good to see the Times paying attention. But the opening sentence is, as far as I can see, wrong: I don’t know of anyone in Illinois who sees the current budget crisis as a matter of “politics as usual.” The state has been without a budget for more than nine months. Such a situation is, to my knowledge, without precedent.

The Times article focuses on Chicago State University, noting that while other state schools are in difficulty, none are in “the dire predicament of Chicago State.” That’s true. But several downstate schools are not far behind. And in small downstate cities, public universities serve as major employers, crucial players in local economies. As a school goes, so goes a city. In my city, For Sale signs are everywhere.

I’m not writing this post as a downstate resident who feels slighted: I’m only pointing out that Illinois’s higher-ed crisis is even more dire than the Times article suggests.

Related reading
All OCA Illinois higher-ed crisis posts (Pinboard)

[I’ve already e-mailed the Times reporter to say more or less what I’ve said here.]

MSNBC, sheesh

An anchor on MSNBC earlier this afternoon:

“Between he and former president Bill Clinton . . .”

A related post
NPR, sheesh

[Attention, W. W. Norton: send that newsroom a copy of Mary Norris’s Between You & Me .]

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mystery actor



Elaine called it, immediately. I followed her lead: “Oh, yeah.” Do you recognize the actor?

More mystery actors
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Three B s

A great name appeared in my spam folder this afternoon: Mr. Berenguer Bolivar Basilio. Sounds like a cosmopolitan phantom from the early poetry of T. S. Eliot.

Various websites associate Berenguer Bolivar Basilio with Nigerian scammers. Wrong. Mr. B. explains in his e-mail that he is “a Spanish national base in United Kingdom” — a transplant, like T. S. Eliot himself, who, too, ended up “base in United Kingdom.”

More spam names
The folks who live in the mail : Great names in spam : Introducing Rickey Antipasto : “Order updated” : The poetry of spam : Spam names : Spam names again

From a Van Gogh letter

Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, October 22, 1882:

At the moment, I can see a splendid effect out of my studio window. The city, with its towers and roofs and smoking chimneys, is outlined as a dark, sombre silhouette against a horizon of light. This light is, however, no more than a broad streak over which hangs a heavy raincloud, more concentrated below, torn above by the autumn wind into large shreds & lumps that are being chased away. But that streak of light is making the wet roofs glisten here & there in the dark mass of the city (on a drawing one would achieve this with a stroke of body colour), so that although the mass has a single tone one can still distinguish between red tiles & slates. The Schenkweg runs through the foreground like a glistening streak through the wetness, the poplars have yellow leaves, the banks of the ditches & the meadows are a deep green, the little figures are black. I would have drawn it, or rather tried to draw it, had I not been working hard all afternoon on figures of peat-carriers, which are still too much on my mind to allow room for anything new, and should be allowed to linger.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh , ed. Ronald de Leeuw, trans. Arnold Pomerans (New York: Penguin, 1997).
As I discovered just yesterday (via Open Culture), Van Gogh’s letters are available online from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam: original texts, facsimiles, and English translations. Odd to discover that the Penguin text combines three paragraphs into the one paragraph above.

If I were teaching the art of description, I would ask my students to read some of Van Gogh’s letters.

Also from Van Gogh’s letters
Admire as much as you can”
“It was a bright autumn day and a beautiful walk”
“Lately, during the dark days before Christmas”
“So you must picture me sitting at my attic window”

[The Schenkweg? Wikipedia explains.]

Lives and writings

Joseph Joubert:

We must treat our lives as we treat our writings, put them in accord, give harmony to the middle, the end, and the beginning. In order to do this we must make many erasures.

The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert: A Selection  , trans. Paul Auster (New York: New York Review Books, 2005).
I’m reminded of what William Faulkner said about peace.

Also from Joseph Joubert
Another world : Form and content : Politeness : Resignation and courage : Self-love and truth : Thinking and writing

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Henry’s New Math


[Henry , April 8, 2016.]

Today’s Henry is strong evidence that the strip’s twenty-first-century reruns date from no earlier than the 1960s. Yes, the world of the New Math. Tom Lehrer provides a wonderful introduction to the subject in a song. I just listened for the first time in many years, and it’s still hilariously good. (As an irreverent teenager, I borrowed Lehrer’s That Was the Year That Was from the library, repeatedly, repeatedly.)

Wikipedia notes that in 1965 the New Math was the subject of several Peanuts strips: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Backward e-mail

David Sparks of MacSparky explains backward e-mail. I can’t imagine starting without an addressee and a subject line, but whatever works, works. Sparks’s logic is undeniably logical.

Related reading
All OCA e-mail posts (Pinboard)

NPR, sheesh

“Both her and Bernie Sanders broke essentially evenly . . .”

“The remains . . . is reuniting a family . . .”

Related reading
All OCA NPR posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Recently updated

Is change possible? Now with words from Myles Horton.

A spelling of the future


[As seen in print.]

A spelling of the future, as I’ve defined it: “a misspelling so strange that it must be traveling backward in time to give us a foretaste of our language’s evolution.” Feels eerie, even.

Eary is indeed a word, now obsolete: “producing or bearing ears (of wheat or other cereal)” (Oxford English Dictionary ). So perhaps eary for eerie has been traveling forward in time, a spelling of the future past.

This post is beginning to make my head hurt.

Other spellings of the future
Aww : Bard-wired fence : Bud : Now : Off : Our : Poke-a-dots : Self-confidance : Where

[At some point spelling it the way it sounds (absolutely appropriate for young writers) should give way to looking it up and spelling it as it’s spelled.]

TextExpander, aText

I learned from Taking Note Now that the latest version of the Mac app TextExpander will be available by subscription only, $4.95 a month (less with a year-long subscription).

I used TextExpander for many years before switching to aText in 2013, when OS X Mavericks made life with TextExpander difficult. I thought I’d use aText as a temporary replacement, but when TextExpander updates became increasingly expensive, I chose to stay with aText. The price, then and now: $4.99. Not $4.99 a month, just $4.99. Fewer features, true: aText won’t, for instance, remind me when I could have typed an abbreviation. But for my purposes, the app is fine. I recommend it with enthusiasm.

*

April 12: SmileOnMyMac has lowered the subscription price for TextExpander and will continue to sell and support the app in its stand-alone form. Details here.

A related post
aText (With a nifty example of what the app can do)

[If you want to try aText, download the trial version from the developer’s website. The App Store version will not work with OS X El Capitan. I would have learned about TextExpander’s subscription pricing from an e-mail, but as I just realized, I deleted the announcement unread.]

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is change possible?

Mindy Fullilove is a psychiatrist and the author of Root Shock: How Urban Renewal Destroys Entire Communities (One World/Ballantine Books, 2005) and Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities (New Village Press, 2013). Here, in a To the Best of Our Knowledge episode about eviction, “Kicked Out in America,” Fullilove tells an interviewer why she refuses to give in to the belief that “real change” is impossible:

“I know that real change is possible. Much of the real change I’m seeing is negative, but it’s real change, and it’s driven by people. So for example, I’m seeing global warming. That’s a real change. And I’m seeing growing inequality, and that’s a real change. So I know change can happen. The trick is how do I get it to happen in a way that I think will be better for the health of most people.”
Fullilove goes on to cite Myles Horton, cofounder of the Highlander Folk School, who advised setting a goal for your life that you will not accomplish in your lifetime. Rosa Parks, as Fullilove points out, attended a workshop at the Highlander School in 1955, not long before she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

*

April 6: What did Myles Horton say or write about goals? The Internets have several versions, none of which have a clear source:
If you believe that you have a goal you can reach in your lifetime, then it’s the wrong goal.

If you believe that you have a goal that you can reach in your lifetime, then it’s the wrong goal.

If you have chosen a goal that is achievable in your lifetime, then it is the wrong goal.

If you have chosen a goal that is achievable in your lifetime, then it is the wrong goal. Choose the highest vision, and then just hack away at it.
“If . . . goal . . . , then . . . wrong goal” is memorable phrasing. But I can find no evidence that it comes from Myles Horton. The closest approximation that I have found:
Your vision will grow, but you will never be able to achieve your goals as you envision them. My vision cannot be achieved by me. You may save the whales, but the dream must push beyond that. It’s a dream which I can’t even dream. Other people will pick it up and go beyond. To put it in a simpler way, I once said that I was going to start on a life’s work. It had to be big enough to last all my life. And since I didn’t want to have to rethink and start over again, I needed to have a goal that would at least take my lifetime. After making that decision, I never thought of doing anything else, because I knew that I could just hack away on it, and what little I could do would take my lifetime.

Myles Horton, The Long Haul: An Autobiography , with Judith Kohl and Herbert Kohl (Teachers College Press, 1998).
This passage appears on page 228 of The Long Haul . An academic paper references this very page as a source for its version of the “wrong goal” aphorism. But the words aren’t there.

Trumpet futures

PBS’s revival of Ken Burns’s Jazz made me recall this quip attributed to the trumpeter Lester Bowie:

“If Clifford Brown were alive today, I’d be working in the post office . . . and Miles would be my supervisor.”
My question now: where might Wynton Marsalis fit in this picture? Would he be the president of the post office? Or would he be working alongside Bowie (and filing grievances against him and their supervisor)? I’m not sure what fits.

If you’ve never heard Clifford Brown, try “Daahoud,” or “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

[I can find no authoritative source for the quip. A 1983 interview with the magazine Musician may be the source. As you can guess, I’m not a fan of Ken Burns’s Jazz or the Stanley Crouch-Wynton Marsalis idea of jazz.]

Gum and ties


[Henry , April 5, 2016.]

O ye gods: give us back our mirrored gum machines. And while you’re at it, give us back our dashed lines of — wait, is that a line of vision, or a line of smell?


[Same.]

A gentleman does always wear a necktie. (The new waterproof models are great for showering and swimming.) I like the declaration in the window, but I especially like slight discontinuity of these two panels. It’s like a comic-strip Duchamp: Boy Entering a Tie Store . I’ll leave the punchline of today’s strip where I found it.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)
And more gum machines Henry : Henry : Henry : Perry Mason : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : What else? Henry

Word of the day: homework

Before there was homework, there was homework . The Oxford English Dictionary dates homework as school stuff to 1852: “schoolwork assigned to a pupil to be done outside lesson time (typically at home).” But homework (or home-work, or home work ) has been work of another kind since 1653: “work done at home, esp. as distinguished from work done in a factory.”

My mom came across a reference to the older kind of homework while reading, and it made her remember the homework of her childhood: carding bobby pins with her mother and grandmother during the Depression. I found a brief reference to such work via Google Books:


[Eileen Boris, Home to Work: Motherhood and the Politics of Industrial Homework in the United States (Cambridge University Press, 1994).]

The fashion trend: shorter hair.

And the work turns up in an alphabetical list of “most common types of industrial home work”:


[Robert Jenkins, Procedural History of the 1940 Census of Population and Housing (The Center for Demography and Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1983).]

Google Patents has a patent for a bobby-pin carding machine, filed in 1948 and published in 1953, by which time my relations were out of the business. And many other people soon would be.

A related post
Homework , not a good word for college