Sunday, April 22, 2018


Fans of Van Dyke Parks should know that Turner Classic Movies is airing The Swan (dir. Charles Vidor, 1956) today, 6:00 Eastern. VDP plays young George.

Related reading
All OCA Van Dyke Parks posts (Pinboard)

Bad mail days

The opening paragraph of a story in today’s The New York Times:

A mail carrier in Brooklyn stashed about 17,000 pieces of undelivered mail for more than a decade because he was “overwhelmed” by the amount he had to deliver, the authorities said.
“The authorities”?

And if you read the article, you’ll see that it’s never made clear who “the authorities” are.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

A neat clue from today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper: 17-Across, ten letters: “Battery side?” (Notice the question mark, which signals a tricky clue.) My first guess: CONGADRUMS. No spoilers; the answer is in the comments.

Today’s puzzle, by Greg Johnson, is challenging, extremely so. I was ready to say DNF (did not finish) and give up, but finish I did. A good strategy, always, with puzzles: when you reach an impasse, step away and start again later. Sure enough, it worked.

[CONGRADRUMS? I imagined conga players standing still as a drumline marches.]

The new Nancy

I think Olivia Jaimes’s new Nancy is just plain terrific, with a distinctively dry, snarky sense of humor. But I learned from The A.V. Club that the pseudonymous artist’s strip has become the subject of heated debate, with some readers fiercely loyal to Guy Gilchrist, the strip’s previous artist and writer: “It’s 2018, and people are suddenly screaming at each other about 85-year-old comic strip character Nancy.”

Four things I like about Jaimes’s Nancy:

~ The spareness of the art, which, however spare, could never be mistaken for Ernie Bushmiller’s art. Jaimes’s cartooning is more severe; her strip, lonelier.

~ The meta touch that was often evident in Bushmiller’s Nancy, with characters who comment on their cartoonist and comic-strip conventions, and a cartoonist who posts messages for the reader.

~ Traces of contemporary reality: bots, earbuds, Marie Kondo, Snapchat filters. In his day Ernie Bushmiller referenced hippies, television, and abstract art.

~ A plaintiveness that I think would please Bushmiller, as when Nancy opens her report card next to fly-ridden dumpsters because she doesn’t want to ruin a landscape of butterflies and flowers with a painful memory. Guy Gilchrist’s final Nancy strip is all flowers and cheer. I vote for Our Nancy of the Dumpsters.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Union Iron Works

[“Union Iron Works. Decatur, Ill.” As seen in downstate Illinois. Click for a larger front step.]

Union Iron, est. 1852, is still going. I’m glad the company signed its work.


On NPR’s Morning Edition this morning, David Greene cited Donald Trump’s remark to James Comey about putting reporters in jail for a few days to get them to reveal their sources — something Trump suggested after Comey spoke of the value of “putting a head on a pike as a message.” Jailing reporters would be bad enough. But Trump said more. From Comey’s memo describing a meeting on February 14, 2017:

He replied by saying it [finding leakers] may involve putting reporters in jail. “They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk.” I laughed as I walked to the door Reince Priebus had opened.
“Make a new friend”: it doesn’t take great powers of imagination or inference to conclude that Trump was joking about sexual assault. NPR did not mention that part of Trump’s remark.

See also remarks by Trump’s lawyer Jay Goldberg, speaking to CNN‘s Erin Burnett yesterday about Michael Cohen’s unfitness for “the rigors of prison life”:
“I think, in many ways — and it’s difficult to say this — prison has a racial overtone, and a person like Michael doesn’t see himself walking down Broadway while people are clamoring, ‘You’re going to be my wife.’”
Nothing about the pain of separation from loved ones and everyday life: just fear of becoming a black man’s “wife.” Burnett didn’t address Goldberg’s remark: instead, she followed up by asking whether Cohen has “the goods” on the president.

Media decorum about such brutal imaginings won’t help our democracy, or to what’s left of it.

[Broadway: “the ground floor of a prison.”]

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Recently updated

“Salacious material” The release of James Comey’s memos clears up a question I had about who said what.

Mark and Mark

“He just didn't tell the truth”: Mark Hurst, who has deleted his Facebook account, catalogues the deceptions in Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony, with links to many other commentators.

“Trump’s mystery mansion”

Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Journalism, has become one of my favorite podcasts. Here is one short Reveal story, about a Beverly Hills property changing hands in exceedingly strange ways: “Trump’s mystery mansion.” And a longer version for reading. There’s sketchy stuff in them there Hills.


1:45 p.m.: I listened to another episode while walking: “Checking into Trump’s Washington hotel.” All about doing the laundry, and much more.

Cohen, Cohen, Cohen

At Talking Points Memo, three pieces on Michael Cohen: 1, 2, 3.

[I wish though that Josh Marshall were a more careful writer. “Cohen has worshiped Trump since he was a high schooler”: see what I mean?]


MUrray Hill-Seven Seven-Five-Hundred. MUrray Hill-Seven Seven-Five-Hundred. MUrray Hill-Seven Seven-Five-Hundred.

[An “over and over,” resulting from my excitement at discovering this bit of the past online. I love the shot of the furtive, slightly stooped figure entering the house and the door closing behind him. But most of all, I love MUrray Hill-Seven Seven-Five-Hundred. MUrray Hill-Seven Seven-Five-Hundred. Typing “7500” would leave the pronunciation ambiguous.]

Zippy metamorphosis

[Zippy, April 19, 2018. The third panel adds: “Hint inside each balloon.”]

It’s Samsa-time again. (See also Zippy as Betty Boop and Woody Woodpecker.) The comments on today’s Zippy identify the six characters who appear in the strip.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

MSNBC, sheesh

Chuck Todd just referred to the nonprofit investigative organization ProPublica as “Pro Pube-lica” — twice.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[Elaine heard it too — twice. As she points out, Chuck Todd was caught with his pants down.]

Coffee shocker

A shocking headline: “This is what drinking just tea and coffee all day does to your body, according to a registered dietitian” (Business Insider).

I’ll save you the work of clicking through. As most people who read the article will already know, drinking just tea and coffee all day hydrates your body. The shocker: “You’ll probably be extremely over-caffeinated!” Yes! You will be!

Related reading
All OCA coffee and tea posts (Pinboard)

[My over-caffeination is feigned. I’ve had just one cup of tea, one cup of coffee today. I can’t speak for the dietitian.]

“A right or wrong hand”

Beverly Cleary, writing about first grade:

The teacher was a tall, gray-haired woman who wore a navy blue dress and black oxfords. “Good morning, children,” she said. “My name is Miss Falb. It is spelled F-a-l-b. The l is silent. Say, ‘Good morning, Miss Falb.’”

“Good morning, Miss Fob,” we chorused.

She then wrote Miss Falb in perfect cursive writing on the blackboard and instructed us to get out our tablets and copy what she had written.

The whole thing seemed unreasonable to me. If the l was silent, why was it there? I picked up my pencil with the hand closer to the pencil. Miss Falb descended on me, removed the pencil from my left hand, and placed it in my other hand. “You must always hold your pencil in your right hand,” she informed me.

No one had ever told me I had a right or wrong hand. I had always used the hand closer to the task. With her own pencil, Miss Falb wrote Beverly Bunn on my paper in the Wesco system of handwriting with its peculiar e’s, r’s, and x’s that were to become a nuisance all my life.

A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir (New York: William Morrow, 1988).
Cleary’s signature, stamped on the cover of this hardcover edition, shows the Wesco e and r.

[A library copy, with a ballpoint slash through the final y.]

For further reading: a biographical sketch of John Austin Wesco and a 1939 edition of Wesco System of Writing.

Related reading
Beverly Cleary on writing by hand : Ramona Quimby and cursive : All OCA Cleary posts (Pinboard)

[Miss Falb turns out to be a real piece of work. I suspect that those of us who’ve had miserable teachers are never reluctant to identify them by name.]

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hyphen needed

From a New York Times article about the ugly incident in a Philadelphia Starbucks:

The chief executive, Kevin R. Johnson, said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that what happened to the men was “wrong,” and that he wanted to meet with them personally to apologize.

“It’s my responsibility to understand what happened and what led to that, and ensure that we fix it,” Mr. Johnson said. He said that the company was reviewing its guidelines, which can differ among its 28,000 stores worldwide, and that it would invest in unconscious bias training.
Make that unconscious-bias training. Unconscious bias training, a lifetime’s worth, is what might prompt an employee to call the police when two men of color are waiting on a friend before ordering.

Great crosswords, free

At bewilderingly, Will Nediger posts a free crossword puzzle of his making every Monday. He describes his puzzles as erudite and witty, and vows never to make a puzzle with the answer EMAG. I found quite a range of reference in this week’s puzzle: Bach, Howard Hawks, Japanese beer, Nancy Drew’s boyfriend, Rihanna, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Six circled letters in three answers add up to an obvious-once-you-finally-see-it theme. But it was the clue for 60-Across, sixteen letters, that really won me over: “Classic Thelonious Monk album with the track "Pannonica.” Holy cow!

I must have found my way to Will Nediger’s puzzles via Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle, an always interesting and often contentious daily discussion.

[No spoilers for possible solvers. The Monk album title is in the comments.]


“Anyone weary of black-box algorithms controlling what you see online at least has a respite, one that’s been there all along but has often gone ignored.” At Wired, Brian Barrett votes for RSS.

I’ll add a suggestion: if you follow a blog in RSS, click through and say something every now and then. Hint, hint.

Opening Safari links in iOS

Lifehacker explains a nifty iOS Safari feature: tapping with two fingers will open a link in a new tab. If you have Safari set to open new tabs in the background, you can watch the link jump down to the tabs icon, at the bottom right of the screen.

What I can add: if the link is short, you’ll need to embiggen the page first.

Monday, April 16, 2018

At the center

I turned on the television and heard an MSNBC anchor describe Stormy Daniels as the person “at the center of Michael Cohen’s legal troubles.” No, that would be Michael Cohen.

Or better: Michael Cohen’s legal troubles are a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

From my dad’s CDs

I’m still making my way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dick Hyman, Harry James, Hank Jones, Louis Jordan, Stan Kenton, Barney Kessel, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Peggy Lee, Mary Ann McCall, Susannah McCorkle, Dave McKenna, Ray McKinley, Marian McPartland, Johnny Mercer, Helen Merrill, Glenn Miller, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Gerry Mulligan, Red Norvo, Anita O’Day, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Boyd Raeburn, Django Reinhardt, Marcus Roberts, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Rushing, Catherine Russell, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Artie Shaw, George Shearing, Horace Silver, Frank Sinatra, Paul Smith, Jeri Southern, Jo Stafford, Art Tatum, Claude Thornhill, and now, Mel Tormé.

My dad and I never agreed about Mel Tormé. I think of Tormé as an acquired taste that I’ve yet to acquire. The voice is a wonder; the technique, unlimited. But Tormé’s taste is, for me, too often questionable. Too much show business, too much showing off: scatting the name Jobim, interpolating “Superstar” — yes, that “Superstar” — in a tribute to Fred Astaire (“Fred Astaire, superstar, you know we admire who and what you are”), ending numbers with an extended “Yeah.” Help! I once told my dad about one of John Lennon’s recording aliases: Mel Torment. My dad was not amused.

But listen: here are two unembeddable and unremittingly terrific performances from the 1963 Atlantic album Mel Tormé Sings “Sunday in New York” and Other Songs about New York. Frank Sinatra introduced “The Brooklyn Bridge” (Sammy Cahn–Jules Styne) in the 1947 film It Happened in Brooklyn. Tormé introduced “Sunday in New York” (Peter Nero–Carroll Coates) in the 1963 film of that name. Johnny Williams did the first arrangement; Dick Hazard, the second. The second of these songs immediately puts me in touch with the 1960s Manhattan of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The World of Henry Orient.

Three mountain ranges remain: Sarah Vaughan (I hadn’t realized how many CDs), Fats Waller (see previous parenthesis), and Lee Wiley. And smaller hills along the way.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie : Duke Ellington : Coleman Hawkins : Billie Holiday : Louis Jordan : Charlie Parker : Jimmy Rushing : Artie Shaw : Frank Sinatra : Art Tatum

Zippy pens

[Zippy, April 16, 2018.]

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Typewriter ribbons

[Zippy, April 16, 2018.]

Henry, surrealist? Not really: he has just passed Notions, a store with hair ribbons in the window.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

“Varied and impenetrable”

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2001).

Also from Austerlitz
Austerlitz on time : Marks on time : Language as a city : Objects in windows

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Smells like childhood

In The New York Times, Sofija Stefanovic’s essay on the smells of her childhood prompts readers to recall smells from their own childhoods.

Me: bus exhaust, bubble gum, Camel cigarettes, caps for toy guns, my elementary school’s basement, laundry air-dried in my grandparents’ basement. I think it’s odd that three of these six smells are the result of combustion. Or maybe four: the school basement’s smell was due at least in part to cooking for school lunches. I always thought of the smell as years of spilled soup.

See also David Owens’s essay on the smells of his childhood. Also this post about fresh cookies and fresh ironing, and this one about revisiting my elementary school, whose basement still had the same smell.

[I am well aware that childhood can also smell like burning buildings and chemical weapons.]

From the Saturday Stumper

A distant memory in today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper: 14-Across, nine letters: “Early Internet radio format.” No spoilers; the answer is in the comments.

Today’s puzzle is by “Anna Stiga,” or “Stan again,” Newsday ’s crossword editor, Stan Newman. The pen name is meant to signal an easier Saturday puzzle. But I found today’s Stumper difficult. Why? The grid offers very few ways to move from one part of the puzzle to another.

Friday, April 13, 2018

“Demagogues and charlatans”

Rob Riemen:

The institutions that should protect us exist only by grace of the trust that people have in them. Put demagogues and charlatans in charge, use the mass media to cultivate the belief that this leader, the antipolitical politician, is the only person who can save the country — and the constitutional, democratic institutions will disappear just as quickly as the authorities become impotent because no one believes in them anymore.

“The Eternal Return of Fascism,” in To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism (New York: W.W. Norton, 2018).
The essay in which this passage appears was first published in Dutch in 2010.

You can watch and listen to a short conversation with Riemen at Salon. I’ll have something to say about this book soon.

Strunk and White and Comey

James Comey, in a New York Times interview about reading:

What books over the years have most influenced your thinking?

Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society and The Nature and Destiny of Man had a huge impact on me, as did Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, which was one of 12 books in my college course “Significant Books in Western Religion.”
But Comey explains: “The professor believed that all ideas are wasted that can’t be clearly expressed.” The Elements of Style must have been supplemental reading.

Related reading
All OCA Strunk and White posts (Pinboard)

The uni-ball Roller

I don’t know what made me want to buy and write with a uni-ball Roller. I hadn’t used one in many years, not since my grad school years. Back then I bought these pens one or two at a time from a stationery store. Now I could find them only by the dozen in an office-supply store. Back then these pens were state of the art. Now they’re relatively cheap, about a dollar apiece, and their packaging touts eco-friendliness: “Plastic components made from 80% post-consumer waste (majority from recycled electronics).” Back then I would have written Uni-Ball. Now I’m using the company’s lowercase, though uni-ball Roller looks more than slightly odd.

What’s strange and wonderful: uni-ball Rollers (0.7 and 0.5mm) look and feel virtually the same as they did when I was a grad student. The clips have lost their “EF” (for Eberhard Faber) and now sport a tiny “eco” on a leaf, and the 0.5 clip no longer says “Micro.” But everything else looks the same: the same slightly flexible black plastic, the same notches at the top of the cap (three for 0.7, five for 0.5). And the pens feel the same on paper: slippery, with far less control than a fountain pen affords. I used a 0.7 to make some notes yesterday, and my handwriting turned into the same fast scrawl I fell into more than thirty years ago, when I’d write on a legal pad before typing a first draft. I don’t like what the uni-ball Roller does to my handwriting, but I like seeing it happen.

You can see the Roller on this page of uni-ball products. Select roller and capped, and there it is.

A related post
Five pens (My life in pens)

Word of the day: aegis

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is the noun aegis:

1 : a shield or breastplate emblematic of majesty that was associated with Zeus and Athena

2 a : protection
2 b : controlling or conditioning influence

3 a : auspices, sponsorship
3 b : control or guidance especially by an individual, group, or system
The dictionary explains:
We borrowed aegis from Latin, but the word ultimately derives from the Greek noun aigis, which means "goatskin." In ancient Greek mythology, an aegis was something that offered physical protection, and it has been depicted in various ways, including as a magical protective cloak made from the skin of the goat that suckled Zeus as an infant and as a shield fashioned by Hephaestus that bore the severed head of the Gorgon Medusa. The word first entered English in the 15th century as a noun referring to the shield or protective garment associated with Zeus or Athena. It later took on a more general sense of "protection" and, by the late-19th century, it had acquired the extended senses of "auspices" and "sponsorship."
The modern meanings of aegis always throw me for a moment, because when I see the word I think of Athena, whose aegis scares the bejeezus out of people, as when she shows it to the suitors in Odyssey 22: “At this moment that unmanning storm cloud, / the aegis, Athena’s shield, / took form aloft in the great hall.”

And the suitors, “mad with fear,” stampede.

[From Robert Fitzgerald’s 1961 translation.]

Thursday, April 12, 2018

One, two, three, four, five, six

[Talia Ivy Raab. Baby by Rachel and Seth Raab. Photograph by Rachel. Bear by Aunt Mari.]

Talia is six months old today. As this photograph shows, she has become an excellent baby sitter.

Some SuihoEn rocks

[As seen in SuihoEn, Van Nuys, California.]

SuihoEn, “garden of water and fragrance,” also known as the Japanese Garden, is a beautiful landscape created next to a water reclamation plant. From the SuihoEn website: “The garden’s purpose was to demonstrate a positive use of reclaimed water in what is generally agreed to be a delicate environment.” The fish seem to like reclaimed water just fine.

Alas, I was unable to photograph the garden’s Tortoise Island in a way that clearly suggested “some rocks.” But I did spot this group of three elsewhere in the garden, and I didn’t need to stray from the walking path to get a photograph. “Some rocks” is a minor Orange Crate Art preoccupation.


[From a menu for Lums, a restaurant chain of the past. As seen at the Museum of the San Fernando Valley.]

My guess is that this menu dates from the 1970s, early enough for the idea of being anti-Establishment to seem timely, late enough for it to have become the stuff of a mild joke. How long has it been since I enjoyed an old-fashioned milkshake? Less than twenty-four hours. But it’s a rare thing. We are here to eat ice cream only occasionally.

The Museum of the San Fernando Valley, a small all-volunteer museum housed in an office suite, was a wonderful part of our trip to Los Angeles. Hats off to docent Jackie, who told us great stories of her life and of life in the Valley.

[The Oxford English Dictionary dates the Establishment to 1923, with the term taking on clear meaning in 1955: “By the ‘Establishment’ I do not mean only the centres of official power — though they are certainly part of it — but rather the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised.” Anti-Establishment dates to 1958.]

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

T-Ball Jotter sighting

[“Young voice.” From Shattered Glass (dir. Billy Ray, 2003). Click for larger handwriting.]

A journalist should be making notes during a telephone conversation, no? Document everything.

I’ve also noticed Parker T-Ball Jotters in Homicide and Populaire. I can’t help it.

Other T-Ball Jotter posts
A 1963 ad : A 1964 ad : A 1971 ad : My life in five pens : Thomas Merton, T-Ball Jotter user

“What are we here for?”

Sonny Rollins:

“We got a short life, and what are we here for? To eat ice cream and have fun with girls? No, I think we’re here to try and improve ourselves, become better people, nicer people, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Related posts
“I’m one of the last guys left, as I’m constantly being told” : Rollins on golf : Rollins on music : Rollins on paying the rent : Rollins, J.D. Salinger, Robert Taylor : Sonny Rollins in Illinois

[Ice cream and girls: I wonder if Rollins had a certain president in mind.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

“The ſhrill Trumpe”

[Othello, act 3, scene 3.]

As seen in the Bodleian First Folio. When Elaine and I watched Orson Welles’s Othello last night, these words jumped out.

Judging books by their covers

The New York Times reports on people who, well, fetishize New York Review Books Classics. Yes, the covers do look great, they really do.

Orange Crate Art is a NYRB-friendly zone. The first NYRB Classic I read: William Lindsay Gresham’s novel Nightmare Alley.

Domestic comedy

“And you asked him?”


“And he deigned to reply?”

“Yes, he deigned.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

At the office with Louis Malle

[Click any image for a larger view.]

The opening scenes of Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows (1958) are office-centric. Man, are they ever. Julien (Maurice Ronet) sits at his well-appointed desk: Gitanes, Parker 51 fountain pen (it at least looks like a Parker 51), miniature camera, and telephone. The odd object that looks like an small hourglass? It’s a clock.

It’s 7:04. No, now it’s 7:05. Or 7:5? 75? “HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME”: time, that is, to put away the card file and get going.

Meanwhile, Anna (Jacqueline Staup) runs the switchboard and sharpens pencils. “The inexorable sadness of pencils”? Phooey. Life is good. Anna’s sharpener resembles a telephone. Nothing terrible has happened — yet. And nothing terrible will happen to Anna, or to her sharpener.

[With lines borrowed from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Theodore Roethke’s “Dolor.”]

Monday, April 9, 2018

Got warrants?

From The New York Times:

The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

“Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” said Stephen Ryan, his lawyer. “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
One warrant? More than one? Whichever. Seize! Seize!

I trust that the president’s lawyer’s lawyer has a lawyer.

[“Pornographic-film actress”: an elegant use of the hyphen.]

Chuck McCann (1934–2018)

The actor, comedian, and television host Chuck McCann has died at the age of eighty-three. The Daily News has an obituary.

I haven’t thought of Chuck McCann in many years. But for city kids like me, he was one of the faces of TV. I think of them now: Sandy Becker, Officer Joe Bolton, Sonny Fox, Miss Louise, Chuck McCann, Cap’n Jack McCarthy, and Soupy Sales. O local television!

Here’s a seven-part McCann sampler from YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Don’t miss the typewriter sketch (at 3:48 in part one).


April 10: The New York Times now has an obituary.

Twelve movies

[No spoilers.]

La Bête Humaine (dir. Jean Renoir, 1938). Jean Gabin (of Grand Illusion) as Jacques Lantier, a railroad engineer whose genetic inheritance causes him to suffer moments of murderous rage. He is one figure in a tangle of relationships, murderous and otherwise, that play out against an exhilarating backdrop of trains and more trains.


I'll Be Seeing You (dir. William Dieterle, 1944). As my mom would say, "I never heard of it." It was in our Netflix queue because Joseph Cotten stars. A surprisingly frank movie about a guarded romance between people with secrets. Cotten is a veteran suffering from what we can recognize as PTSD; Ginger Rogers is a woman who — well, you'll have to watch. Shirley Temple provides comic relief and creates complications as Rogers’s teenaged cousin. I especially liked the scenes of the dowdy world: a soda fountain, a train-station newsstand, a kitchen with white enamel cookware. Please pass the mashed potatoes.


Undertow (dir. William Castle, 1949). An ex-mobster (Scott Brady) travels home to Chicago, where he’s promptly framed for murder. A detective friend (Bruce Bennett) and a plucky schoolteacher (Peggy Dow) help him to see his way clear. Surprisingly good, with some scenes shot in Chicago. At YouTube.


Please Murder Me (dir. Peter Godfrey, 1956). Angela Lansbury as an unhappily married woman, Raymond Burr as her lawyer, in a story that owes everything but a couple of plot twists to Double Indemnity. Crazy good to see Burr’s character with the same courtroom manner as Perry Mason. And fun to see Dick Foran (Ed Washburne of the Lassie world) in film noir. Indeed, this film puts the noir in film noir: just one scene, in a painter’s studio, has any daylight, and that light becomes a subject of conversation. Got meta? At YouTube.


Harry and Tonto (dir.Paul Mazursky, 1974). Art Carney’s shining hour, as Harry Coombes, a retired teacher displaced when his Manhattan apartment building is torn down to make way for a parking lot. Where to go? On a journey, with his cat Tonto. Two things strike me about the United States depicted in this film: the variety of its inhabitants, and the strange way in a three-TV-network world provided some semblance of a shared culture. Say, did you watch Ironside last night? Harry and Tonto would pair well with De Sica’s Umberto D.


I, Daniel Blake (dir. Ken Loach, 2016). A widowed Newcastle carpenter (Dave Johns), still recovering from a heart attack, navigates a bureaucratic maze to attain his Employment and Support Allowance. Along the way, he befriends a young single mother (Hayley Squires) and her two children. Often funny, often infuriating, and always deeply moving. Most heartbreaking scene: the food bank. This film too would pair well with Umberto D. or Stéphane Brizé’s The Measure of a Man.


Wonder (dir. Stephen Chbosky, 2017). R.J. Palacio’s 2012 novel (recommended to me by my daughter) is a beautiful and moving narrative for young readers — with multiple narrators, no less. The film version simplifies and sweetens and upscales the novel, which tells the story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters the fifth grade after a childhood of home schooling. I’ll quote another fifth-grader, Sol Ah, who appears in the documentary The Hobart Shakespeareans: “Even if the movies they make are good, they won’t be as good as the book.” The elementary and high-school kids in this film are impossibly, annoyingly photogenic. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson seem utterly miscast as Auggie’s parents. Read the novel instead.


California Typewriter (dir. Doug Nichol, 2017). A then-struggling typewriter shop in Berkeley gives this documentary its name. But the scope is wider, bringing in an artist, a streetside poet, a singer-songwriter, well-known writers, a collector of nineteenth-century machines, and a Hollywood mega-star who owns hundreds of typewriters. That would be Tom Hanks. The claims we hear some of these people make — that the typewriter is magical, that it allows the perfect emotional distance from words, that the text it produces has a permanence that other written text lacks — are, plainly, the claims of lovers who have lost all objectivity about the objects of their desire. And it’s wonderful, even if trying out your old machine leaves you wondering what all the fuss is about.


Batman & Bill (dir. Don Argott and Sheena N. Joyce, 2017). The life, death, and posthumous story of Bill Finger, the comics writer who devised many crucial elements of the Batman story, a story long credited to Bob Kane alone. Among Finger’s contributions: Batman’s costume, the names Bruce Wayne and Gotham City, the characters of the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and more. “Bill was Batman’s secret identity,” children’s author Marc Tyler Nobleman says, and this documentary follows his efforts to get Finger’s contributions known and credited. A heroic story of creativity, business ethics, familial struggles, and the sleuthing that the Internet makes possible. Nobleman is aptly named.


Elevator to the Gallows (dir. Louis Malle, 1958). Malle’s first film follows the unexpected consequences of a murder plot gone awry. Julien (Maurice Ronet) spends most of the film attempting to escape from a stuck elevator. Florence (Jeanne Moreau) is a spoof existentialist, interior monologuing as she wanders through the Paris night. Louis (Georges Poujoly, from Forbidden Games) and Véronique (Yori Bertin) seem to have watched Gun Crazy one too many times. The plot is both wobbly and clever, the characters’ plights both amusing and suspenseful. A Hitchcock-like delight. Music by Miles Davis.


Freaks (dir. Tod Browning, 1932). Moviegoers of a certain age may recall seeing Freaks in the form of a “midnight show.” Now the movie plays on TCM. What makes the film bizarre is not the cast of sideshow performers but the scarcity of plot, which surfaces here and there between vignettes of circus life and has its violent conclusion off-screen. The most compelling scenes are those in which the so-called freaks, those at whom others stare, turn their gaze on those others — in particular the scenes in which Angeleno (Angelo Rossitto) peers through a window and Johnny Eck and company watch and wait beneath a circus wagon’s steps. “One of us! One of us!”


Shattered Glass (dir. Billy Ray, 2003). The short unhappy career of the journalist Stephen Glass, who created fake article after fake article for The New Republic from what seem to have been considerable imaginative resources. As Glass, Hayden Christensen is a brilliant chameleon, cocky, concerned, defensive, contrite, either playing to his editors and fellow writers or playing the one group against the other. And he is quick-thinking, always, inventing fresh explanations each time one of his falsehoods is exposed. I think what explains Glass is what explains those who engage in academic misconduct: they count on getting away with it.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

New Nancy

[Zippy, April 9, 2018.]

A panel from Olivia Jaimes’s first Nancy strip. Nancy is a sweet girl. Also a salt girl. And butter: that is a stick of butter in her hand, yes? It’s all a welcome change from the work of Nancy‘s most recent caregiver.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

A new Nancy

From The Washington Post, exciting news in comics:

For more than eight decades, Nancy, the bushy-haired, red-bowed comic character, has been rendered by a man. This week, Nancy’s syndicate will change that.

On Monday, Andrews McMeel Syndication will announce that the cartoonist Olivia Jaimes has inherited the iconic strip and will provide a “21st-century female perspective,” says John Glynn, Andrews McMeel’s president and editorial director.

The first strip by Jaimes — the female cartoonist’s “nom de toon” — runs Monday.

“Nancy has been my favorite sassy grouch for a long time,” Jaimes says in a syndicate statement. “I’m excited to be sassy and grouchy through her voice instead of just mine, and I can complain to the whole world about things that bother me instead of just my friends and family.”
I’ve never been a fan of Guy Gilchrist’s Nancy — too much color, too much cuteness, too much religiosity, too many positive messages. I’m hoping for much better things from Olivia James. You can read new Nancy and Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy at GoComics.

Nancy is having a moment.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Not exactly a profile in courage

Our representative in Congress, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), commenting on the possibility of Chinese tariffs on soybeans and other crops: “I’m just a legislator.”

And: “I think what I can do is publicly talk about, which I do, that there is a dilemma here that we’re facing.”

And: “I don’t think anyone wins a trade war. Maybe Trump thinks he can. But we have to try to get him to be more targeted on these things.”

Shimkus is in a sticky situation: his gerrymandered district (whose shape suggests a dancing dinosaur or feeble rooster) is the reddest Congressional district in Illinois. (In the 2016 presidential election: 71% R, 24% D.) That stunning disavowal of agency — “I’m just a legislator” (not a member of a co-equal branch of government?) — makes it clear that Shimkus is unwilling to cross the boss. I wonder though how many voters in the 15th District have begun to regret their choice for president.

Related reading
All OCA John Shimkus posts

Saturday, April 7, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

A cleverer than clever clue from the Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, 53-Down, four letters: “Compliment that some complain about.” The answer: KUDO. I thought, Wait, that can’t be right. And then I read the clue again.

We get kudos from the Greek κῦδος, a singular noun meaning “glory, renown.” As Garner’s Modern English Usage explains, kudos “is sometimes erroneously thought to be a plural.” Thus kudo, a false singular, and a compliment that some people complain about.

I think the Saturday Stumper is getting easier. I’m not sure that makes me happy. No kudos for finishing. But I’m not complaining.

A related post
Word of the day: kudos

Friday, April 6, 2018

Beginning with say

“Say, did you ever see a bellhop that didn’t want to be a fighter?” Spoken in Kid Galahad (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1937), back when people prefaced all kinds of utterances with say.

Say, why not write this down and turn it into a short post?

The real fake news in Illinois

The Chicago Tribune reports on Liberty Principles and Think Freely Media: “Conservative Illinois publications blur lines between journalism, politics.” Issues of one of these pseudo-newspapers, the East Central Reporter, went from our mailbox to our garbage can in 2016.

Barnum and Dennison

[Catching up on podcasts.]

At Innovation Hub, Kara Miller talks about P.T. Barnum with Stephen Mihm, editor of a new edition of Barnum’s autobiography. The conversation touches briefly on similarities and differences between Barnum and Dunning K. Dennison. Thr IH website pointed me to Mihm’s 2017 New York Times opinion piece “No, Trump Is Not P.T. Barnum.” A sample:

Barnum would have recoiled from Mr. Trump, especially from his cynicism about principles and truth. In a widely read exposé of swindles, quack medicines and other “humbugs,” Barnum declared that the “greatest humbug of all” was the individual “who believes — or pretends to believe — that everything and everybody are humbugs.” This person, Barnum observed, “professes that there is no virtue; that every man has his price, and every woman hers; that any statement from anybody is just as likely to be false as true; and that the only way to decide which is to consider whether truth or a lie was likely to have paid best in that particular case.”

Barnum was a consummate American: a fast talker, a self-promoter and a relentless striver. He also exemplified many of the qualities that have long made America great in the eyes of the world: generosity, humor, optimism and a willingness, in the end, to do the right thing.

Mr. Trump represents something different. Indeed, if Barnum were alive today, he might be interested in exhibiting Mr. Trump: not as a paragon of business acumen, political prowess or any of the other main attractions in the circus of contemporary life, but as an extreme embodiment of humbug — worthy of a sideshow, perhaps, but nothing more.

Cecil Taylor (1929–2018)

The pianist and composer Cecil Taylor has died at the age of eighty-nine. In the absence of an obituary, here is an appreciation from his fellow pianist and composer Ethan Iverson.

When I think of Taylor’s music, I think of words from David Bowie’s “Modern Love”: I try. I try. I recognize that a genius is at work and want to engage what’s happening. Sometimes I can. Two performances I’ve listened to again and again: the two versions of “After All” on the 1974 concert recording Silent Tongues (Arista). (It’s a Taylor composition, not Billy Strayhorn’s composition of the same name.) Start with the short encore. Then try the longer version. See what you hear.


The New York Times has an obituary.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cloudflare’s DNS

Numbers to know: and, the numbers for Cloudflare’s new DNS service. I’m trying it, and it seems exceedingly fast. Here, look: Boing Boing and Lifehacker offer context and instructions.

With Cloudflare’s DNS at work and Safari’s prefetching disabled, my Mac feels as if it’s made for 2018 and beyond. Knock on aluminum.

A conversation from another world

From the Father Knows Best episode “Love and Learn” (April 11, 1960). Margaret Anderson (Jane Wyatt) is speaking to her college-freshman son Bud (Billy Gray):

“I had a conversation with the Dean of Men at the college today.”

“You did? Why?”

“Because he sent me a note.”

“Yeah? What about?”

“Your English grades.”
As the Anderson children grow up, the sexual politics of Father Knows Best become intolerable. But after watching all six seasons, I can say that in other respects Father Knows Best holds up surprisingly well. A 1950s domestic comedy with characters quoting Shakespeare and Whitman and talking about the Wordsworths, Dorothy and William? I’ll take it.

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : Flowers knows best : “Languages, economics, philosophy, the humanities” : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : Scene-stealing card-file : “A Woman in the House” : “Your dinner jacket just arrived”

How to read Nancy and Zippy

[Zippy, April 5, 2018.]

Today’s Zippy has a Bushmillerized Zippy and Griffy discussing Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden’s How to Read “Nancy”: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels. Bill Griffith has already written a guide to his comic strip: today’s strip includes a URL that goes to a six-strip primer on how to read Zippy.

Notice the lower right corner of this panel, where the sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 fuses the material and temporal dimensions of the narrative space. Some rocks! Some date!

Venn reading
All OCA Nancy posts : Nancy and Zippy posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Objects in windows

Objects in the windows of the Antikos Bazar, in Terezín, the Czech Republic:

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2001).

Also from Austerlitz
Austerlitz on time : Marks on time : Language as a city

Eating at Corky’s

[Zippy, April 4, 2018.]

I know the feeling: the Dunning K. Dennison presidency is eating my soul too. My way to deal, at least for now: no television news. Just reading the news, mostly the online New York Times and Washington Post.

Corky’s is in “the Valley.”

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


After reading Diane Schirf’s thoughts about a Royal Sabre manual typewriter, I heard a voice: “Fool, look in thy heart and type.” No, not really: that was Sir Philip Sidney. But I did get out my manual, an Olympia SM, and typed an overdue letter, my second letter in two days. (I wrote the first with a fountain pen and brown ink.)

I was surprised by how quickly the mechanics of typing came back to me — even the delicate work of inserting a piece of correction tape to fix a typo. By the time I started the second page of my letter, I remembered to mark a bottom margin in pencil. What most surprised me was that without even thinking or looking I was hitting the margin-release key to fit extra characters at the end of a line. Typing on a typewriter must be the new riding a bicycle. Ding!

That bell belongs to a typewriter not a bicycle.

Red Vines and vodka

As host of a cooking show, Valerie Bertinelli wondered what to prepare for Betty White:

“She likes tuna fish, she likes hot dogs, she likes Red Vines and vodka. So what am I going to make for Betty?”
My suggestion: hot dogs and tuna fish, with Red Vines and vodka on the side.

[Found while waiting at the register and browsing the National Examiner, a tabloid with no Internet presence. According to the Examiner, White found Bertinelli’s remark hurtful and doesn’t want Bertinelli at her funeral.]

Monday, April 2, 2018

Feminist Baby

[As seen in Los Angeles.]

Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby (New York: Disney-Hyperion, 2017) is a board book: few pages (or boards), few words, and big silly pictures. A sample passage: “Feminist baby likes pink and blue / Sometimes she’ll throw up on you.”

Complaints on Amazon — for instance, that the book doesn’t help the title character “grow to be a strong, open-minded individual who recognizes all the paths available to her” — seem to forget that this book is about the very young, who do indeed throw up and throw their toys. And there’s nothing bratty about throwing toys: it’s what babies do.

Rachel and Elaine and I loved this book on sight. A sequel arrives in May: Feminist Baby Finds Her Voice!

[This post is the first non-Zippy post to feature a topknot and bow.]

Naked Zippy

[Zippy, April 2, 2018.]

Today’s strip (no pun intended) is set in Dingburg’s “nudist enclave.” I like seeing Bill Griffith adapt the closing words of The Naked City (the film) and every episode of Naked City (the television series): “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

Griffith is no doubt a fan of the film or the television series or both. Reading his Invisible Ink, I was thrilled beyond reason to recognize that one panel had a street scene from an episode of the series as its source. Yow.

Related reading
All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Things to do in Los Angeles

[Talia and her novice grandfather.]

Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5: Smile.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Who is Saul Chandler?

The New York Times has a strange and compelling story today, “Redemption of a Lost Prodigy,” by Alex Vadukul, about Saul Chandler, a seventy-year-old boat builder who, as Saul Robert Lipshutz, was once a violin prodigy. Both Elaine and I are skeptical about this story. There is indeed a Saul Robert Chandler with addresses in Manhattan and Miami Beach: that makes sense for someone devoted to boats and sailing. And the Times ran a wedding announcement in 1975 with a Saul Robert Chandler who changed his name from Lipshutz. Mr. Chandler née Lipshutz is real.

Elaine’s skepticism is founded on her knowledge of all things musical. She finds details in the account of SRL’s studies improbable. And she finds utterly implausible the dramatic scene in which SC opens his violin case and plays his instrument for the first time in fifty years. Fifty years! The violin’s strings would have unraveled, she says, and the sound post would likely have fallen.

My skepticism is founded on the absence of any record of SRL as prodigy. Vadukul writes that SRL performed in Town Hall and Carnegie Hall before turning eleven, yet there is no trace of these performances or of any other performances in the Times archive. And back then, the Times reviewed everything: in 1956, for instance, performances by the twelve- and then thirteen-year-old violinist Paul Zukofsky at the Juilliard School and Carnegie Hall received lengthy reviews — with photographs, no less. But nothing for SRL.

The Times article includes a photograph of SRL credited to the Paterson Evening News Photo Collection, via the Passaic County Historical Society. The finding aid for that collection lists a candid April 15, 1960 photograph of Saul Lipschutz. But there’s nothing in the Times with that name either.

I did find one bit of evidence for a performing career, an announcement in the Madison News, a New Jersey paper, preserved at

[“Friends of Fairleigh Dickinson Chamber Ensemble will present Bach’s Brandenberg [sic] Concerto No. Five with Saul Lipschutz, New Providence high school student, as violin soloist.” March 28, 1963.]

So there’s every reason to think that SRL played the violin. But we’re a long way from Carnegie Hall. There’s nothing more at that would document the career of a prodigy: nothing for Saul or Saul Robert or Saul R., nothing for Lipshutz or Lipschutz. And though the Times article quotes musicians who remember SRL and speak highly of his playing, none of them describe him as a prodigy.

I don’t know what to make of the Times article. But I’ve begun to wonder about a March 29 tweet by the writer: “Story tease. For Sunday NYT, a story I spent some months on. At times, I felt like I found my Joe Gould.”

Alex Vadukul has to know that Joe Gould was a master fabulist, doesn’t he?


April 1: Elaine has shared her thoughts about this article: What to believe? And I’ve written to the Times.

Recently updated

Goodbye to all that The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point is rethinking its plan to destroy study in the humanities.

[“To destroy study in the humanities”: no, that’s not an exaggeration.]

From the Saturday Stumper

A clever clue from the Newsday Saturday Stumper: 3-Down, seven letters, “Training vehicle.” TRICYCL — no, that won’t work. And a clue that taught me something, 61-Across, ten letters, “Designer with feathers.” No spoilers. The answers are in the comments.

Today’s puzzle is by Andrew Bell Lewis. Difficult but doable.

Things to do in Los Angeles


No. 1: Smile.

We spent several days in Los Angeles this week visiting Rachel, Seth, and Talia. What a kiddo! I took this photograph after — or was it before? — we went to lunch, or on a walk, or something. Being on babytime was a happy blur.

Friday, March 30, 2018

NYT, sheesh

From The New York Times: “Unlike her boss, attention from the news media was never something she sought.”

Related posts
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

FKB pencil sharpener

[James Anderson (Robert Young) installs a necessary household tool. Click for a larger view.]

Face it: if father really knew best, there would have had a pencil sharpener up and running in season one, episode one. This sharpener didn’t make it onto the kitchen wall until the sixth and final season of Father Knows Best. In the episode “Bud, the Willing Worker” (December 7, 1959), Jim installs the sharpener without saying a word about it. Kathy sharpens a pencil in “Turn the Other Cheek” (December 14, 1959), after which the sharpener disappears from the wall where it so briefly had a home.

By the way, it’s National Pencil Day. Start your sharpeners.

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : Flowers knows best : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : Scene-stealing card-file : “Your dinner jacket just arrived” : “A Woman in the House”

Domestic comedy

“It’s like Sex and the City , but without the sex and without the city.”

Related posts
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[“It”: the television series Gidget, whose main character is also a narrator.]

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lost in the city

I was about to see a movie with my friend Luanne and two other people unknown to me. Right before going into the theater, I went out to buy a pack of cigarettes. I walked up to a counter: “A pack of cigarettes,” I said, like someone in a movie. No brand — I was out of practice. The clerk came back with Pall Malls in a white hull-and-slide package. The words “Made with Broham Strings” appeared below the brand name. “How much?” $6.53. I paid with a ten and got my change and two books of matches.

Then I was walking outside, on a campus, looking for a place to smoke and observing several unbranded fast-food joints with all-glass exteriors. A giant with a long white beard and a cape was walking the campus. Everyone stared at him and whispered. And then I was walking in a version of Manhattan, with empty narrow streets at once dark and brightly lit — something like the alley in On the Waterfront where Terry and Edie run from a truck. I knew I was on the Lower East Side, but the street layout was baffling — Avenue A was followed by Second Avenue A. Which way was uptown? Which way was west? I couldn’t tell.

Then I was in a carpeted hallway on the second or third floor of an empty building. A man was carrying furniture up the staircase. I asked if he knew which way was west, but he spoke only Italian. “¿Dónde oeste?” I tried. I got the man to walk with me to a streetcorner in the hope that he could orient me, but once there, he couldn’t.

And then I thought to text Luanne and tell her I’d be really late. “I went out to buy cigarettes and am now being baffled by the Lower East Side,” I wrote, or something like that. I began to walk and reached the intersection of Harvard Avenue, Harvard Street, and Mechanic Street. And there was Luanne, on the other side of one of these streets, about six lanes of traffic away. We needed to get the No. 83 bus, which was parked right there — but it took off and drove right past us. So we went into the theater, which was also a church, where the movie had already ended. It was a good one, Luanne said.

[Sources: Luanne and Jim’s recent trip to the opera. An article about 1950s and ’60s hangouts in my college town. The motto of one such place: “Drop in for Coke and smoke.” A 60 Minutes story about Giannis Antetokounmpo. A TCM showing of On the Waterfront. Thinking about the streets of my Allston, Massachusetts, grad student days. Above all, this passage from W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. And possibly the crackers and Mahón cheese I had before going to sleep.]

Lost in a city

Austerlitz is lost:

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2001).

The image of a language as a city comes from Ludwig Wittgenstein (whose eyes appear in a photograph earlier in the novel):

Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses.

Philosophical Investigations , trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (New York: Macmillan, 1973).
Also from Austerlitz
Austerlitz on time : Marks on time

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Marks on time

When his family’s house was requisitioned for use as a convalescent home during World War II, James Mallord Ashman hid the doors to the billiard room and nursery behind false walls. When the walls come down, Ashman enters the nursery for the first time in ten years:

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2001).

Also from Austerlitz
Austerlitz on time

[So many things in Austerlitz blur, purposefully so. The novel refers to both a nursery and nurseries. The walls comes down in “the autumn of 1951 or 1952,” when Austerlitz enters “the nursery” for this first time in ten years. Or nine? Or eleven?]

From Beware of Pity

So much depends upon “the so-called ‘chancery double,’” “a folded sheet of prescribed dimensions and format,” “perhaps the most indispensable requisite of the Austrian civil and military administration”:

Stefan Zweig, Beware of Pity, trans. Phyllis and Trevor Blewitt (New York: New York Review Books, 2006).

I would like to know what those “so-called ‘guides’” looked like. They likely bear little resemblance to the present-day shitajiki.

Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

NPR, sheesh

“. . . before expelling the same amount of British diplomats. . . .”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

C. & E.I. pencil

[From the Museum of Supplies.]

Great pencil!

Thanks. Your voice sounds familiar. As do your italics. I mean, your italics look familiar. Are you the same guy who interviewed me about my Illinois Central Railroad pencil?

Look — let me ask the questions, okay?


So what can you tell me about this pencil?

Not much, really. It’s a gift from my friend and colleague John David Moore, who likes all things old. He’s an excellent pianist, and he and Elaine have been playing recitals together for years. He’s also an expert mycologist.

Shall we keep to the pencil?

Sure. John David —

The pencil?

— likes antiques stores and flea markets, so I suspect he found this pencil in one of them. C.E. & I. is the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, which ran from 1877 to 1976, from Chicago to St. Louis, southern Illinois, and Evansville, Indiana.

So you knew that all along and were holding out on me?

No, I had to look it up. But about the pencil. I like the sincerity of its motto: “Friendliness is a C. & E.I. tradition,” a motto that sharpens much better than, say, “Don’t use drugs.” And I like the numero sign before the numeral: № 1. And I like that it’s a № 1 pencil, a nice soft lead for the railroaders as they sit and drink coffee and write in their pocket notebooks.

What a cozy little scene. [Rolls eyes.] Sentimental fellow, aren’t you?

Yes and no. It’s really Elaine who’s the sentimentalist about train travel. You may wish to speak to her. Oh, and thanks, John David.

[This post is the eighteenth in a very 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. A bit of the dialogue in this post comes from Citizen Kane.]

Other Museum of Supplies exhibits
Dennison’s Gummed Labels No. 27 : Dr. Scat : Eagle Turquoise display case : Eagle Verithin display case : Esterbrook erasers : 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 : Pentel Quicker Clicker : Real Thin Leads : Rite-Rite Long Leads : Stanley carpenter’s rule

”Pencil by default”

From I, Daniel Blake (dir. Ken Loach, 2016). Blake (Dave Johns) is a Newcastle carpenter recovering from a heart attack and navigating a bureaucratic maze to attain his Employment and Support Allowance. A clerk tells Blake to complete the necessary paperwork online: “We’re digital by default.”

Blake’s reply: “Well, I'm pencil by default.”

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Solitude and good company

I noticed this unattributed sentence in an advertisement for stationery: “Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.” It’s a Famous Quote.

But it’s not an accurate quotation. The sentence should read: “A letter is in fact the only device for combining solitude and good company.” Its writer: not Lord Byron but Jacques Barzun. Quote Investigator explains it all.

From my dad’s CDs

I’m still making my way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dick Hyman, Harry James, Hank Jones, Louis Jordan, Stan Kenton, Barney Kessel, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Peggy Lee, Mary Ann McCall, Susannah McCorkle, Dave McKenna, Ray McKinley, Marian McPartland, Johnny Mercer, Helen Merrill, Glenn Miller, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Gerry Mulligan, Red Norvo, Anita O’Day, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Boyd Raeburn, Django Reinhardt, Marcus Roberts, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Rushing, Catherine Russell, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Artie Shaw, George Shearing, Horace Silver, Frank Sinatra, Paul Smith, Jeri Southern, Jo Stafford, and now, Art Tatum.

My favorite Tatum performances are the ones made outside a recording studio. Some appear on God Is in the House (HighNote Records), a collection of 1940–1941 recordings made mostly in Harlem after-hours clubs. (I gave my dad that CD years ago. A friend now has it.) Other informal recordings appear on the more upscale Piano Discoveries, two LPs’ worth of 1950 and 1955 performances from the Beverly Hills home of Ray Heindorf, musical director for Warner Brothers. It’s a joy to hear Tatum joking, deflecting requests, commenting on his host’s piano, and playing like he means it.

My dad had the Discoveries LPs (20th Century Fox) when I was a boy. The CD reissue 20th Century Piano Genius (Verve), now out of print, includes further unreleased material, and ample liner notes in which pianists Hank Jones, Adam Makowicz, and Lou Stein attempt to wrap their heads around Tatum’s genius.

Here, via YouTube, are two (unembeddable) recordings from the Discoveries: “Moon Song” (Arthur Johnston–Sam Coslow) and “Would You Like to Talk a Walk?”/“After You’ve Gone” (Harry Warren–Mort Dixon–Billy Rose/Turner Layton–Henry Creamer). They speak for themselves.

[The 1961 LPs, as seen on the Internets. I recognize the mid-century design from childhood.]

I’m nearing the end of the alphabet. But I’m far from the end of the music: T also stands for Mel Tormé.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie : Duke Ellington : Coleman Hawkins : Billie Holiday : Louis Jordan : Charlie Parker : Jimmy Rushing : Artie Shaw : Frank Sinatra

Sunday, March 25, 2018

YouTube apps for Mac

Two free apps for Mac: 4K YouTube to MP3, for “audio extraction from YouTube, VEVO, SoundCloud, and Facebook in MP3, M4A, OGG.” And 4K Video Downloader, for “downloading videos, playlists, channels and subtitles from YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and other video sites.”

I like the idea of paying for music that’s commercially available. But if it’s, say, Duke Ellington and Paul Gonsalves playing “Happy Reunion” at the University of Wisconsin’s 1972 Ellington festival, I will download. Websites that offer to convert or download YouTube material are often at least mildly sketchy. These apps are a better choice.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

A nice clue from the Newsday Saturday Stumper: 18-Across, nine letters, “Taken a great deal.” INWIDEUSE? No. And no spoilers. The answer is in the comments.

Today’s puzzle is by “Anna Stiga,” or Stan Again, Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor. The pseudonym is meant to signal an easier Saturday. But for me, this puzzle was difficult. Finishing the Saturday Stumper is still cause for minor self-congratulation.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Day jobs

From an essay by Katy Waldman, “Does Having a Day Job Mean Making Better Art?,” a glimpse of Philip Glass at work:

“While working,” Glass recounted to The Guardian in 2001, “I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him that I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish.”

Mailboxes of Seattle

Behold Mailboxes of Seattle, David Peterman’s photographs of Seattle’s 346 — no, make that 347 — mailboxes.

My little town has just ten mailboxes — no, make that eleven, if you count the one that appears on no map but which our carrier has assured us is genuine. We’ve yet to risk it.

Looking at these photographs makes me think of the most important mailbox in my life, one that stood at the bleak semi-industrial intersection of Ashford and Malvern Streets in the Allston neighborhood of Boston. In my first year in Boston, that mailbox was my primary connection to friends back in the Bronx. (Phone calls were expensive.) I’d walk out at night to mail a letter and think about messages in bottles. The loneliness of the long-distance mailbox.

[Via Atlas Obscura. The Allston mailbox still stands, though its surroundings are less bleak, less industrial.]

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Highway nostalgia

Remember the olden days, when the information superhighway allowed a kid working on a school project to interface with world-class scientists for advice? Me too, or neither.

“This was a breach”

From Mark Zuckerberg’s statement about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and user data:

This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.
Anyone else notice the lack of agency in these sentences? Agency is present elsewhere in the statement, sort of: we did x ; we will do y. But at the heart of what happened: “This was a breach of trust,” as if the writer were an outside observer. Moreover, the breach, as Zuckerberg casts it, lies in the transfer of data from Aleksandr Kogan to Cambridge Analytica and in CA’s possible failure to delete that data — not in Facebook’s treatment of its users. Imagine facing anyone you’ve wronged and announcing “This was a breach of trust.” Then imagine the response you might get.

Notice too the way Zuckerberg disavows agency by assigning responsibility to Facebook’s users and to the mysterious workings of Facebook itself:
In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends' data. Given the way our platform worked at the time this meant Kogan was able to access tens of millions of their friends’ data.
You installed the app; you shared data: as the song says, don’t blame me. It’s just the way things happened, “given the way our platform worked at the time.” Not “given the way we designed Facebook, to scrape and sell your data, because that’s how we make money.”

Now I almost wish I had a Facebook account, just so I could have the satisfaction of deleting it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Goodbye to all that

The Washington Post reports on a plan to drop thirteen majors at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. The majors in question: American studies, art, English (without teacher-certification), French, geography, geoscience, German, history, music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology, and Spanish:

Students and faculty members have reacted with surprise and concern to the news, which is being portrayed by the school’s administration as a path to regain enrollment and provide new opportunities to students. Critics see something else: a waning commitment to liberal arts education and a chance to lay off faculty under new rules that weakened tenure.

The plan to cut the liberal arts and humanities majors . . . is in line with a failed attempt by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 to secretly change the mission of the respected university system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”
To be added or expanded: majors with what the school calls “clear career pathways,” including captive wildlife and fire science.

Thanks to Slywy for passing on this news.


March 31: From The Washington Post: “Facing backlash from students, faculty and alumni over a plan to drop thirteen liberal arts majors, leaders of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point have directed a campus committee to draw up an alternative.” The article reprints a letter from a distinguished graduate who has decided not to leave a portion of his estate to the school:
I began attending UW-SP upon my return from service as an infantryman in Vietnam, back when it was still called WSU-Stevens Point. I was troubled and confused by the war and the politics of the time. The knowledge I gained majoring in philosophy, sociology and political science, departments all scheduled for destruction, allowed me to find perspective. The knowledge and critical thinking skills I learned in the liberal arts aided me in a long and rewarding career helping veterans throughout our state. I’m horrified that you’ve joined the anti-intellectual crowd that currently holds sway in our country.
Three related posts
“A fully realized adult person” : The gold standard, haircuts, and everyone else : Philosophers and welders

[Revised to make clear that while some majors are slated for removal, others are to be added.]