Monday, June 18, 2018

“A government handout video”

David Begnaud is a CBS News correspondent:

These images make my heart break. What kind of country are we living in?

My representative in Congress, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), is missing in action on this matter. When I called his Washington office on Saturday, an aide told me that he’s not aware of Shimkus having any position on the separation of parents and children at the U.S.–Mexico border. To remain silent is to be complicit.


9:00 a.m.: I called again. No, the aide hasn’t talked to him about this issue, no position that she knows of, he’s not in the office today.


3:57 p.m.: I called again. Not available. “Mailbox full.”

Related reading
All OCA John Shimkus posts

Fifty blog-description lines

I’ll quote from a 2014 post:

The first words of Van Dyke Parks’s song “Orange Crate Art” — “Orange crate art was a place to start” — long appeared on this blog as what Blogger calls a blog description line. In May 2010, I found myself unexpectedly caffeine-free and made a new line, keeping the quotation marks that had surrounded Van Dyke’s words. At some point I returned to being caffeinated, mildly so. And I kept changing the line (and saving to a text file), always choosing some word or words or element of punctuation from a post then on the front page. These lines now look like bits of found language, detached from contexts, amusing, banal, evocative, opaque. I like that.
Here are the latest fifty lines, still mildly caffeinated:
“My, that coffee smells good”
“Now is the time”
“I’ll take the Buick”
“We must be better than this”
“All by osmosis”
“It’s still Mueller Time”
“Proofread carfully”
“We’re excited you’re here!”
“Don’t argue”
“Dig the goners”
“Loaded high and to the brim”
“A stranger to all the passers-by”
“Standard equipment”
“Fluke life”
“Where’s the pen and ink and good paper”
“‘I flossed!’”
“Quilted steel”
“Earl Grey, or Irish Breakfast?”
“‘Buddy, the wind is blowing’”
“Candy and snacks”
“A cheerful companion”
“Enough to build a house”
“Mark the music”
“Many a tame sentence”
“‘Till spring?’”
“That was . . . that”
“Didn’t clap”
“Art, check. Sardines, check.”
“Does your person have facial hair OR glasses?”
“Hints, balloons, a line, the other shoe”
“Sound of thinking”
“Small rooms with doors”
“Start your sharpeners”
“Say, why not write this down”
“‘The inexorable sadness of pencils’? Phooey.”
“Unreasonable to me”
“Not employed in formal writing”
“I suspicioned you weren’t.”
“Notions and Sundries”
“Every letter of every page”
“Always wonder”
“Green type”
Collect them all!
Two hundred blog-description lines : Fifty more : And fifty more : And yet another fifty

[Yes, I think there should be a hyphen in blog description line.]

Sunday, June 17, 2018

NPR, sheesh

From a story about wildfires in the American southwest: “visitors tip well to hear old-timey Western tunes like ‘The Entertainer.’”

I suspect that the reporter confused Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973). Butch Cassidy was the western. Marvin Hamlisch adapted Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” for The Sting. But even if Joplin’s composition had been part of Butch Cassidy, that wouldn’t make it a “Western” tune. No more than Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” is a “Western” tune. Category mistake.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Music for Father’s Day

I’ve reached the end of the recorded alphabet. Another way of putting it: I’ve listened to my dad’s CDs, 400+ CDs. I started in October 2016, which means that I’ve averaged something like one CD every thirty-six hours or so: 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, Mel Tormé, McCoy Tyner, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Venuti, Fats Waller, Fran Warren, Dinah Washington, Ethel Waters, Ben Webster, Paul Weston, Margaret Whiting, Lee Wiley, Teddy Wilson, and, finally, Lester Young.

Here are two (unembeddable) Young recordings. I’ve had them for years on LP. For whatever reason, their CD release — Lester Young Trio, Verve (1994) — retains plenty of surface noise. Listen past the noise for a joyful modernism. Lester Young, tenor sax; Nat King Cole, piano; Buddy Rich, drums. Recorded March or April 1946 in Los Angeles:

“I Want to Be Happy” (Vincent Youmans–Irving Caesar)
“I’ve Found a New Baby” (Jack Palmer–Spencer Williams)

My dad’s LPs shaped so much of my interest in music. Or rather: not his LPs but his playing them for the very young me. No joke: I had baby-talk for “Miles Davis” and “Columbia.” Listening to my dad’s CDs has put me touch in musicians to whom I’ve given only cursory attention — especially Mildred Bailey, Blossom Dearie, and Artie Shaw. Thanks, Dad.

And Happy Father’s Day to fathers.

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 : Mel Tormé : Sarah Vaughan : Joe Venuti : Fats Waller : Lee Wiley

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Parents and children and money

Writing in The Washington Post, James A. Coan, a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist, considers the long-term effect on children of separation from their parents and concludes that “the Trump administration is committing violence against children”:

At minimum, forced separation will cause these children extreme emotional distress. Most of us know this intuitively. Less intuitive, as Nim Tottenham of Columbia University told me, is that “the sadness is not the thing that really matters here. What matters is this is a trauma to the developing nervous system.”
Charles Nelson, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School, provided the comprehensive long-term view: As those children grow and develop into adults, the combination of chronic inflammation and behavioral inflexibility will impair their health in at least two ways — through direct weathering of their bodies and less effective problem-solving, impulse control and decision-making.

Just to make sure I’d heard him right, I said: “So psychological trauma is mediating a pathway to brain trauma, and that is affecting behavior down the road, which can affect health and longevity?” He replied: “Yeah, you got it.”
A recent New York Times editorial about the Trump administration’s barbaric policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.–Mexico border listed five groups accepting contributions: Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, The Florence Project, Kids in Need of Defense, The Texas Civil Rights Project, and The Young Center. Hint, hint: tomorrow is Father’s Day. It’s a good time to give something.

From the Saturday Stumper

Aside from some tough stuff in the northeast corner, today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Brad Wilber, is easy. Or E-Z. Pretty. Or very.

I was happy to see the clue for 15-Across, eight letters (a giveaway, at least for me): “‘Mother of the Blues’ who sang with Satchmo.” It might be more accurate to say that Louis Armstrong played in her band. For instance.

Another giveaway, 43-Down, seven letters: “Find rain in Iran, e.g.”

And a trickier clue, 67-Across, eight letters: “Setting for many mass movements.” WORKSITE? No. And no spoilers. The answers are in the comments.

Bloomsday 2018

From James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), a passage from my favorite episode of the novel, “Ithaca,” which takes the form of a catechism. What Leopold Bloom thinks about when he goes to sleep:

Many years ago I wrote a note in the margin for “one sole unique advertisement”: “in a sense he’s a poet, an Imagist.” Well, maybe. And another for “not exceeding,” &c.: “not Ulysses!” True that.

The word of the day from the Oxford English Dictionary today is Bloomsday: “‘The 16th of June 1904. Also: the 16th of June of any year, on which celebrations take place, esp. in Ireland, to mark the anniversary of the events in Joyce’s Ulysses.”

Other Bloomsday posts
2007 (The first page)
2008 (“Love’s Old Sweet Song”)
2009 (Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses)
2010 (Leopold Bloom, “water lover”)
2011 (“[T]he creature cocoa”)
2012 (Plumtree’s Potted Meat)
2013, 2013 (Bloom and fatherhood)
2014 (Bloom, Stephen, their respective ages)
2015 (Stephen and company, very drunk)
2016 (“I dont like books with a Molly in them”)
2017 (Bloom and Stephen, “like and unlike reactions to experience”)

Friday, June 15, 2018

An editorial

A New York Times editorial: “Seizing Children From Parents at the Border Is Immoral. Here’s What We Can Do About It.” Have you called your representatives in Congress yet?

And now, just minutes ago: “Trump says he would oppose immigration bill cobbled together by House GOP, dealing a blow to leaders rallying support for it” (The Washington Post).

[There is such a thing as overriding a veto.]

Mac hardware :(

Mac developer Quentin Carnicelli writes about the sad state of Mac hardware:

It’s very difficult to recommend much from the current crop of Macs to customers, and that’s deeply worrisome to us, as a Mac-based software company. For our own internal needs, we’ve wound up purchasing used hardware for testing, rather than opting to compromise heavily on a new machine. That isn’t good for Apple, nor is it what we want. . . .

Apple needs to publicly show their commitment to the full Macintosh hardware line, and they need to do it now. As a long (long) time Mac OS developer, one hesitates to bite the hand that feeds. At a certain point, however, it seems there won’t even be anything left worth biting.
My late-2011 MacBook Pro won’t be able to use the upcoming macOS 10.14. I’d like to buy a new, faster machine, but one try at the MBP’s redesigned keyboard put me off. And that was before I knew about keyboard failures. So for now, I’ll be holding out with Roy Earle.

One quick way to make an older machine faster online: use Cloudflare’s DNS. Bam!

“Germania Round the Clock”

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz. 1929. Trans. Michael Hoffman (New York: New York Review Books, 2018).

Related reading
All OCA Döblin posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Prestigious signatures

An ugly episode in academia: a Title IX investigation of Avital Ronell, followed by a letter supporting her, signed by prominent academics, that reads like an effort to decide the case. The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the situation. The letter (a version has been posted online) acknowledges that those who have signed have “no access to the confidential dossier” of the complaint against Ronell. Still, the signers “seek to register in clear terms our objection to any judgment against her.” The letter trades, blatantly, on academic prestige:

There is arguably no more important figure in literary studies at New York University than Avital Ronell whose intellectual power and fierce commitment to students and colleagues has established her as an exemplary intellectual and mentor throughout the academy. As you know, she is the Jacques Derrida Chair of Philosophy at the European Graduate School and she was recently given the award of Chevalier of Arts and Letters by the French government.
I will quote something I wrote in 2007, when a story came to light about Jacques Derrida’s attempt quash a sexual harassment charge against a friend and colleague:
Injustice in this situation would seem to me to be the use of academic power and prestige to influence the resolution of a harassment charge.
That goes for this situation as well.

Ronell knows something about prestigious signatures. She was quoted in a Los Angeles Times article about the Derrida case:
“Toward the end of his life, he enjoyed the same status as Aristotle among the ancients, and every perception of injustice was routed to his desk,” said Avital Ronell, a Derrida protege who teaches at New York University. “Even as he was crawling with fatigue, he put himself in the service of those seeking his help and needing the strength of his prestigious signature.”
Very strange: by 2009, that passage, which lives on at several websites, had disappeared from the online article. And today, neither Derrida nor Ronell can be found in the Times archives. Stranger still: this afternoon, they can be. But this article is still missing.

[In a 2007 Chronicle article (behind the paywall), Ronell describes Derrida’s friend and colleague in less than noble terms: “‘This guy had nothing better to do than to ask Jacques for help.’”]

La Posta Fazzio

[Click for an even larger label.]

Elaine and I like South American wines. When we finished reading Jorge Luis Borges’s Collected Fictions, we bought several bottles from Argentina. It was the label that drew me to La Posta Fazzio Malbec. It so happens that the wine is good too. But that label!

Here is Domingo Fazzio, holding a bottle of his Malbec. ¡Salud!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Zippy Dean

[Zippy, June 13, 2018.]

In today’s Zippy, Zippy walks in the rain, just like James Dean in a famous Dennis Stock photograph. The last panel of today’s strip has its source in a less famous photograph. The other two panels? Nothing has turned up.

This post has been brought to you by the S&A Detective Agency, tracking down sources and analogues since earlier this week.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[“Sources and analogues”: a form of literary scholarship. For instance, Sources and Analogues of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.”]

Talia, on the move

[Photograph by Rachel Rabb. Baby by Rachel and Seth Raab.]

I’m adding this photograph for the same reason Rachel took it: to show that it’s difficult to keep Talia in one place for long. The kid is on the move!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Talia, eight months old

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

Talia Ivy Raab is eight months old today. She gets feistier and feistier. And her bear gets smaller and smaller.

Whatever became of John Kidd?

“I started by contacting all the homeless shelters in Brookline”: in The New York Times, Jack Hiatt recounts his search for the James Joyce scholar John Kidd. Readers of a certain age may remember Kidd’s 1988 article “The Scandal of Ulysses and the controversy surrounding Hans Walter Gabler’s 1984 edition of Joyce’s novel. And here is David Abel’s 2002 Boston Globe article about John Kidd, “A Plummet from Grace.”

I sold my copy of Gabler’s three-volume “critical and synoptic edition” some years ago. It had begun to feel like an artifact from someone else’s life.

[Two quarrels with Hiatt’s article: Kidd was not regarded as “the greatest James Joyce scholar.” And Leopold Bloom is not a “schlub.”]

“Sliding imperceptibly forward”

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz. 1929. Trans. Michael Hoffman (New York: New York Review Books, 2018).

Related reading
All OCA Döblin posts (Pinboard)

Channeling Chandler

[Zippy, June 12, 2018.]

Zippy is channeling Raymond Chandler again. From the story “Red Wind” (1938):

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch.
Today’s strip borrows also from The Big Sleep (1939). Just doing my job here at S&A.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)
Talking like a Raymond Chandler novel

[S&A: the Sources and Analogues Detective Agency.]


Nicholas Kristof: “It’s breathtaking to see an American president emerge as a spokesman for the dictator of North Korea.”

And then there was this comment:

“They have great beaches. You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said ‘Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo behind?’ And I explained, I said, you know, instead of doing that you could have the best hotels in the world right there. Think of it from a real-estate perspective.”
As Elaine can attest, I thought that hotels were going to come into the discussion.

[DK: Dunning K. Trump. With apologies to DKNY. I have transcribed Trump’s remarks about beaches to add the behind and you know that the Times omitted.]

Monday, June 11, 2018

“Act an ASS”

“Use your voice. Take a risk. Act an ASS”: four screenshots worth reading and thinking about.

See also Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century: “Do not obey in advance.”

A mystery supply

[Actual size: 1¾″ tall.]

Our household likes to repurpose household objects: bakeware as a laptop stand, a cardboard box as a blog post (really), a cork and a doorstop as iPad stands, a dish drainer as a file tray, tea tins as index-card holders, a thermostat as a paperweight, tiles as paperweights.

The mystery item in this photograph is a household object of sorts that I turned into a “supply” — something at home in the world of stationery and office supplies. What is the object? And what might be its supply-side use? Leave your best guesses in a comment. I will add a hint if needed.


Chris identified the object: a stopper from a bottle of sparkling wine. Here’s a hint: this object’s supply life also involves liquid.


The mystery revealed: this stopper is the perfect accessory for filling a fountain pen when a bottle of ink is nearly empty. Pour some ink into the tube, insert the pen, and fill. It’s like filling the pen from a full bottle.

[This post is the nineteenth in a very occasional series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items.]

Other Museum of Supplies exhibits
C. & E.I. pencil : 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

Sunday, June 10, 2018


Politico reports on Dunning K. Trump’s “unofficial ‘filing system’”:

Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records.

But White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice.
Impulse control? Self-restraint? Not much. This is a president with no respect for norms, even the most trivial ones. Thus federal employees have been assigned to tape back together the documents the president rips up.

Thanks, Elaine.

No science

From The New York Times:

Mr. Trump is the first president since 1941 not to name a science adviser, a position created during World War II to guide the Oval Office on technical matters ranging from nuclear warfare to global pandemics.
Keep reading; it gets worse.

Spelling in the news

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge: missing a z.

Related reading
All OCA spelling and misspelling posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Bill Griffith’s Metamorphoses

[Zippy, June 9, 2018.]

Franz Kafka has awakened to discover that he has Zippy’s body: Kafka as Zippy as Gregor Samsa.

Venn reading
All OCA Kafka posts : Kafka and Zippy posts : Zippy posts

[You can read Zippy daily at Comics Kingdom.]

From the Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, is a difficulty-fest, especially in the midwest and southwest. The puzzle’s midwest and southwest, that is. For instance:

38-Across, nine letters: “Tortilla, at times.” TACOSHELL? Nope.

59-Across, five letters: “It’s not a lock.”

47-Down, four letters: “Coup follower, perhaps.”

49-Down, four letters: “Green type.” NEON? Nope.

My favorite clue in today’s puzzle, 55-Across, nine letters: “Things with numbers that spin.”

No spoilers in crossword posts; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 8, 2018

“The ‘Desert Island’ Explained”

[Illustration by Ben Leddy. 18 × 12 inches. Click for a much larger island.]

I found a sketchpad at the bottom of a closet and began to turn the pages. Think of this illustration as a young (ten?) artist’s explanation of a standard cartooning premise.

[Posted with the artist’s permission.]

Rhymes with Moscow

[Zippy, June 8, 2018.]

Today’s Zippy calls for knowledge of a jingle.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Be prepared (?)

““I think I’m very well prepared. I don’t think I have to prepare very much”: Dunning K. Trump, commenting on his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un. Yeah, you got this.

Related reading
All OCA Dunning-Kruger posts


“Welcome to Jersey, where the sandwiches are fat, GSP can refer to a mall or a major highway and ripper isn’t part of the moniker for a serial killer”: the Oxford English Dictionary is looking for words from New Jersey.

This post is for our friends Luanne and Jim, who introduced us to Rutt’s Hut, home of the ripper. It was great to restaurant-hop with Luanne and Jim here in Illinois this week.

[Fat sandwiches: yikes. GSP: Garden State Plaza, Garden State Parkway.]

Clarence Fountain (1929–2018)

Clarence Fountain, gospel singer and leader of the Blind Boys of Alabama, has died at the age of eighty-eight. The New York Times has an obituary.

Here is one small sample of Clarence Fountain’s voice that’s dear to me: “Stop Do Not Go On,” from The Gospel at Colonus (1985), with the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, J.J. Farley and the Original Soul Stirrers, and Sam Butler. Lyrics by Lee Breuer, music by Bob Telson. Based on Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone, as translated by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. YouTube also has The Gospel at Colonus in its entirety. It’s one of the most remarkable and emotionally powerful reimaginings of ancient myth I know.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Recently updated

Oui yogurt Now with Vietnamese coffee.

Rogers artifacts

A puppet, a letter, a memo, a photograph, a video clip: “Fred Rogers’s Life in Five Artifacts.” The documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (dir. Morgan Neville) opens on June 8.

Mister Rogers really did answer his mail. We have two letters from him in our files, one for the grown-ups, one for the non-.

Related posts
Blaming Mister Rogers : Fred Rogers and Pittsburgh : Lady Elaine’s can : Off, or back, to school

Got gum?

[Henry, June 6, 2018.]

In the dowdy world, all stamps must be licked. But not at the window.

Related reading
All OCA dowdy world and Henry posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Putting the wagon before the horse

Driving through Amish country, I saw a wagon with one horse, one driver, and a second horse tethered to the wagon and following behind. I wondered: an Amish tow truck? No, more likely a horse in training, or a horse that needed to be dropped off somewhere. Which would make the wagon something of a tow truck, wouldn’t it? Your guess may be better than mine.

“Exquisite Mexico melange”

Coffee, coffee, coffee:

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz. 1929. Trans. Michael Hoffman (New York: New York Review Books, 2018).

Related reading
All OCA Döblin posts (Pinboard)

Monday, June 4, 2018

From my dad’s CDs

I’m closing in on the end of the recorded alphabet: 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, Mel Tormé, McCoy Tyner, Sarah Vaughan, Joe Venuti, Fats Waller, Fran Warren, Dinah Washington, Ethel Waters, Ben Webster, Paul Weston, Margaret Whiting, and now, Lee Wiley.

Lee Wiley (1908–1975) — I know, hardly a household name, and I’ve known her from just a single LP — was a terrific singer. I’d liken her to Billie Holiday: not a virtuoso but a distinctive and instantly recognizable voice. Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of Jazz (1960) calls attention to the “husky, erotic warmth” in Wiley’s voice. I’d note also the beautifully fragile, reedy quality of her high register. Here are two tunes from Night in Manhattan (Columbia, 1951), with Joe Bushkin and His Swinging Strings. Bushkin is at the piano; Bobby Hackett plays cornet:

“I’ve Got a Crush on You” (George Gershwin–Ira Gershwin)
“Manhattan” (Richard Rodgers–Lorenz Hart)

[“Vocalist Lee Wiley singing accompanied by her husband pianist Jess Stacy, Eddie Condon on guitar, Sid Weiss on bass & Cozy Cole on drums during jam session in studio of LIFE photographer Gjon Mili.” Photograph by Gjon Mili. 1943. From the Life Photo Archive. Photographs from this session appeared in the Life feature “Jam Session,” October 11, 1943. Click for a larger view.]

Thanks to Fresca for Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of Jazz, which includes home addresses for musicians willing to list them. It’s mid-century again in Manhattan, and Lee Wiley resides at 60 Sutton Place South.

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 : Mel Tormé : Sarah Vaughan : Joe Venuti : Fats Waller

It’s ringing

“The expectation of pickup was what made phones a synchronous medium:” Alexis Madrigal, “Why No One Answers Their Phone Anymore” (The Atlantic).

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Group work

[Nancy, June 3, 2018.]

“Group work is good preparation for what it will be like to work in teams when you have real jobs,” Nancy’s teacher just announced. In the earlier-that-same-day final panel of today’s strip, another teacher tells Nancy’s teacher that she’s forgotten to plan for class: “Let’s just fill the time with group work.”

I don’t think I’ve ever known a student who favored group projects to be completed outside the classroom. I’ve heard too many accounts from trusted sources of projects in which one or two students ended up doing the work of the group. I have nothing against students splitting into small groups in class, say, to read and talk about a piece of student writing. But I know that even the reading-and-discussing-in-class can be an easy way for an instructor to take some time off from teaching (and sit grading papers).

I always liked asking students to realize that they’d been doing “group work” all their lives. Being a member of a family, of a circle of friends, of an organization, being a resident of a dorm: that’s all group work. And I still agree with what Richard Mitchell wrote in The Graves of Academe (1981): “It is only in a mind that the work of the mind can be done.” As anyone stuck with doing the work of the whole group can attest.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)
Models for education (“Sage on the stage,” “guide on the side”)
Review: Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Academically Adrift

[The last sentence of this post: a joke. I do believe in the possibilities of collaboration.]

Saturday, June 2, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

My favorite clue from today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, 44-Down, seven letters: “‘Canvas’ for digital art.” IPADMINI? No, too big. No spoilers in crossword posts; the answer is in the comments.

Today’s puzzle by Matthew Sewell, is difficult, but not excessively so. I solved it, which means that it’s perfect. (Solipsism at play.)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Allyn Ann McLerie (1926–2018)

“Her most acclaimed later role was as Florence Bickford, the mother of the title character (played by Blair Brown) on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd”: from the New York Times obituary for Allyn Ann McLerie.

[Orange Crate Art is a Molly Dodd-friendly zone.]

Domestic comedy

“That beer at dinner wiped me for a loop.”


“Knocked me for a loop. It’s a good thing I have my insoles in so I can walk straight.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[The beer: Modelo Negra.]

“Too smoky for the smoke”

At the Neue Welt, a Berlin concert hall:

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz. 1929. Trans. Michael Hoffman (New York: New York Review Books, 2018).

Related reading
All OCA Döblin posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 31, 2018


“Where are you gonna be when school starts?”

“Thirteenth grade.”

Thirteenth grade is (as they say) a thing. But I suspect the speaker was offering a sardonic substitute for “community college.” I prefer James Hayes-Bohanan’s point of view: college should never be mistaken for high school.

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

“Helena, em-dash, em-dash, Helena”

It is night. In Kerkauen Castle, someone cannot sleep:

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz. 1929. Trans. Michael Hoffman (New York: New York Review Books, 2018).

What a novel. Elaine and I are about 180 pages in. Like Walter Ruttmann’s film Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927), Berlin Alexanderplatz is something of an imagist documentary of a metropolis. I’m reminded too of the urban inventory of Walter Benjamin’s One-Way Street (1928). And yes, there’s a resemblance to Ulysses. But Döblin’s novel moves at a quicker pace and ranges more widely than Ulysses, stepping away from the sorrows of the protagonist Franz Biberkopf to explore any matter that commands the narrator’s attention. Which can lead to astonishing moments, as in this passage.

[The last words of this passage in German: “Gänsefüßchen, Lore, Gedankenstrich, Gedankenstrich, Lore, Gedankenstrich, Gänsefüßchen, Gänsebeinchen, Gänseleber mit Zwiebel.” That is, little goose feet (quotation marks: «), Lore (diminutive of Eleonore), em-dash, em-dash, Lore, em-dash, little goose feet (»), little goose legs, goose liver with onion. In Eugene Jolas’s 1931 translation: “quotation marks, Eleanore, dash, Eleanore, dash, quotation marks, quotation francs, quotation dollars — going, going, gone!” Each translator sacrifices the literal sense to suggest the wordplay of the original.]

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hollywood and Argyle

[Click for a larger view.]

It’s the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue, as seen in the opening moments of Nightfall (dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1957). The Pantages Theatre stands on the south side of the Boulevard at 6233. The film is telling its audience, “This is happening in Los Angeles.”

[Click for a larger view.]

Here’s the same intersection, as seen in Google Maps (September 2017). There’s been considerable change to the northeast corner, but the Taft Building, sign and all, still stands on the north side of the Boulevard at 6280. (From this angle, the sign is obscured by palm trees.) On the south side, the Guaranty Building, minus its sign, still stands at 6331. (The Church of Scientology now owns the building.) The Hollywood Equitable Building, at 6253, is now condos. The Pantages is still a theater, though no longer one showing Serenade (dir. Anthony Mann, 1956).

The Pantages, the Pantages: and now I have a song running through my head.

A mystery actor
and a telephone EXchange name

[“DUnkirk 7–3899, that’s all we need.” Click for a larger view.]

Do you recognize the actor in that photograph? Leave your best guess in a comment. I will drop a hint if necessary.


11:56 a.m.: A hint: the actor is best known for playing a character whose name is also a song title.


1:25 p.m.: Oh well. That’s Anne Bancroft, as Marie Gardner, in Nightfall (dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1957).

More mystery actors (Collect them all!)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

More EXchange names on screen
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : Chinatown : The Dark Corner : Deception : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightmare Alley : Perry Mason : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Decorum and PBS

The PBS NewsHour has too often been exceedingly decorous in its coverage of misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic remarks. No “grab them by the pussy,” no “shithole countries” on the NewsHour. I tuned in tonight expecting to hear Roseanne Barr’s vile tweet about Valerie Jarrett characterized as “controversial.” But no, there it was in Judy Woodruff’s summary of the news:

ABC Television abruptly canceled its top-rated revival of the show Roseanne today over a racist tweet by its star, Roseanne Barr.
True, Woodruff described Barr’s tweet (“muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj”) only in vague terms:
She went after former adviser to President Obama Valerie Jarrett over her politics and her looks.
But in a longer segment, the NewsHour’s William Brangham offered a frank explication of the tweet and made a passing reference to Barr’s history of “racist tweets.” And guest Eric Deggans (from NPR) spoke of ABC refusing to tolerate “open racism.” Which is something we need to speak about openly, without evasion, without regard for decorum.

Recently updated

Best drugstore in the movies? Now with an instance of what I love about the Internets.

The sense of wonder

Always wonder:

The unique and original relation to being that Plato calls “theoria” can only be realized in its pure state through the sense of wonder, in that purely receptive attitude to reality, undisturbed and unsullied by the interjection of the will. “Theoria” is only possible in so far as man is not blind to the wonderful fact that things are. For our sense of wonder, in the philosophical meaning of the word, is not aroused by enormous, sensational things — though that is what a dulled sensibility requires to provoke it to a sort of ersatz experience of wonder. A man who needs the unusual to make him “wonder” shows that he has lost the capacity to find the true answer to the wonder of being. The itch for sensation, even though disguised in the mask of Bohème, is a sure indication of a bourgeois mind and a deadened sense of wonder.

To perceive all that is unusual and exceptional, all that is wonderful, in the midst of the ordinary things of everyday life, is the beginning of philosophy.

Joseph Pieper, “The Philospophical Act,” in Leisure: The Basis of Culture, trans. Alexander Dru (New York: Pantheon, 1952).
As an undergrad, I heard Pieper’s book recommended many times. Now that I’ve gotten around to reading it, I feel far removed from any world in which its assumptions were common currency. But I did come away with this passage.

A related post
Powders, pencils, mountains, cigars (William Carlos Williams and Wallace Shawn)

[Theoria, θεωρία: “a looking at, viewing, beholding, observing”; “of the mind, contemplation, reflection” (A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott's “Greek-English Lexicon”).]

Monday, May 28, 2018

History, rewritten

“The on-going protests in the U.S. lead to the end of the war and Richard Nixon securing the presidency”: from my cable provider’s description of “Fall,” the final episode of the CNN documentary series 1968.

Memorial Day 1918

[“Deck Graves Early Lest Foe Interfere: Our Troops in France Hold Services at Dawn to Avoid German Shells. Mass at the Madeleine. Cardinal Archbishop of Paris Praises Wilson in Address to Knights of Columbus. Cardinal Conducts Paris Services. Decorate Sailors’ Graves in Britain. Honors for Lusitania Dead.” The New York Times, May 31, 1918.]

Sunday, May 27, 2018

“Baby TripAdvisor”

“In the morning, we visited the table room. There were many, many tables in the table room. A button lady gave me my table and my throne too”: Rosemary Counter, “Baby TripAdvisor” (The New York Times).

NPR, sheesh

[An NPR correspondent speaking.]

“When him and Kim Jong-un . . . .”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Bushmiller Mutts

[Mutts, May 26, 2018.]

Looks like everyone is reading How to Read “Nancy.”

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Henry booths

[Henry, May 26, 2018.]

Readers of a certain age won’t need the final panels of today’s Henry to understand what’s going on: Henrietta and Henry are — of course — talking to each other. I remember the good clean fun of taking over a bank of Garden State Plaza phone booths with friends and making calls back and forth. Hilarity on the cheap.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

From the Saturday Stumper

My favorite clue from today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper: 60-Down, four letters: “Sunset intersector.” A HAND shielding the eyes? The horizon LINE? No. And no spoilers; the answer is in the comments.

Today’s puzzle is by “Anna Stiga,” or “Stan again.” Newsday ’s crossword editor Stan Newman uses that pen name for easier Saturday puzzles of his making.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Recently updated

Spare change Challenge coins, on sale!

W2’s mommy

Definitions: “The old squaw duck,”
[Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition (1934).]

This guide word caught my eye. “Aww,” said I. Followed by “Sheesh.”

Mom appears in W2 only in the extra bits that run along the bottom of the page, where the word is identified as “corrupt. of mamma.” In W3 (1961), mom becomes “short for momma,” and mommy becomes “alter. of mammy.” And both mom and mommy are now defined as “mother,” and nothing but “mother.” The old squaw duck (now known as the long-tailed duck) is gone.

How strange and wonderful that while writing this post, I got a FaceTime call from my daughter Rachel and her daughter Talia. Hi Mom.

“Beat Bop”

A blast from the past in The New Yorker: Hua Hsu’s “The Spectacular Mythology of Rammellzee.” It made me remember a 12-inch single from back in the day: Rammelzee vs. K-Rob, “Beat Bop.” It’s an extraordinary record, ten minutes and ten seconds of K-Rob’s storytelling and cultural commentary and Rammelzee’s spectacular wordplay. My favorite line, I think: “Patty Duke played out the hitting the top.” Say what?!

No, I don’t have the original Tartown release with cover art by Jean-Michel Basquiat. I have the plain old Profile single. On the record the name is spelled Rammelzee. The “day” was 1983.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Spare change

All those challenge coins.


May 25: They’re on sale. Deal of the Day price: $19.95.


5:50 p.m.: If you looked at this post earlier today and wondered what you were seeing, the cause was a missing quotation mark in the second link. (Shouldn’t Blogger flag such a thing before a post is published?)

Mac, asleep

If you are sitting in front of a device at night, the free app f.lux (pronounced “flux”) can be very helpful. The app changes the color of the screen display, “warm at night and like sunlight during the day.” Correlation is not causation, but after using this app for a month or so, I’m realizing that I find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the orange glow, but I don’t mind it anymore. f.lux is available for macOS, iOS, Windows, Linux, and some Android devices.

Thank you, Rachel, for recommending this app.

Mac, awake

Marcel Dierkes’s KeepingYouAwake is a free Mac app, a successor to the worthy Caffeine (which hasn’t been updated for quite some time). KeepingYouAwake keeps the Mac from going to sleep. Useful when downloading a large update or when you’re using the computer intermittently and don’t want to be typing in a password again and again.

A more elaborate free no-sleep app: Amphetamine. As a resident of downstate Illinois, I wish that one had a different name.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Garfield minus Garfield

[Garfield, May 23, 2018.]

A carrier left a free copy of the local newspaper in our driveway today, and I ended up noticing Garfield on the comics page. And having noticed, I had to play Garfield Minus Garfield.

[Garfield revised, May 23, 2018.]

That dog must have magical powers. Clearly an improvement.

Related posts
Blondie minus Blondie : Garfield minus thought balloons : Garfield minus Garfield


Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel, trans. Ruth L.C. Simms (New York: New York Review Books, 2003).

The Invention of Morel is a wonderful novella, literally so. The cover of the NYRB edition — a photograph of Louise Brooks and books — is a bit of a lure: Brooks inspired the novella but plays no part in it. The setting is a mysterious island; the narrator, a man who realizes that he is not alone. No wonder the book appears in Lost, in the hands of James Sawyer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

They’re back

“Repurposed in imaginative ways, many have reappeared on city streets and village greens housing tiny cafes, cellphone repair shops or even defibrillator machines”: “The Red Phone Box, a British Icon, Stages a Comeback” (The New York Times).

Cake revision

“Congrats Jacob! Summa --- Laude.”

I’m not sure how to phrase it:

A South Carolina grocery store created a graduation cake with the —


A South Carolina grocery store removed the —


A South Carolina grocery store made a cake without —


A South Carolina grocery store created a graduation cake with three hyphens in place of the “cum.”

That’s the best I can do.

Twelve movies

[Just two sentences each. No spoilers.]

Othello (dir. Orson Welles, 1951). A stark, swift version of the story, with Welles — who else? — as the brooding protagonist and Micheál MacLiammóir as the cipher Iago. Othello here seems like a version of Charles Foster Kane in Xanadu, growing estranged from his partner and roaming massive rooms.


The Skin I Live In (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 2011). A bereaved surgeon decides to settle a score. Insane and insanely great, with echoes of Ovid, Beauty and the Beast, Vertigo, and Eyes Without a Face.


Mystery Street (dir. John Sturges, 1950). A low-budget whodunit, filmed in Boston, Cambridge, and Cape Cod, with a strong story and John Alton’s brilliant cinematography. Ricardo Montalban plays a state-police detective; Elsa Lanchester, a sly landlady; Betsy Blair, a savvy tenant.


The Shape of Water (dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2017). Though I greatly admire Sally Hawkins, I was reluctant to see any film with an inter-species romance. But I found the story compelling enough that my disbelief walked off and hung itself up on a coat rack, no act of my will needed.


Crossfire (dir. Edward Dmytryk, 1947). Post-war America, and as one character says, “The snakes are loose.” A dark story of a murder investigation, with three Roberts (Mitchum, Ryan, and Young), Gloria Grahame, and Paul Kelly.


Up the Down Staircase (dir. Robert Mulligan, 1967). Sandy Dennis as the earnest Sylvia Barrett, graduate of an elite college, teacher at a tough New York City school. I love the music (by Fred Karlin), the hallways and staircases (like those of my elementary school), and Dennis’s voice (like Mary Tyler Moore’s, as I’ve only now realized), and I must agree that “There is no frigate like a book.”


Elmer Gantry (dir. Richard Brooks, 1960). A true believer (Jean Simmons), a vengeful prostitute (Shirley Jones), and Burt Lancaster as “Elmer the great, Elmer the grifter.” Religion and entrepreneurship in the so-called heartland.


Man on the Train (dir. Patrice Leconte, 2002). A retired professor of literature (Jean Rochefort) shares his house with a small-time criminal (Johnny Hallyday). Shades of “The Secret Sharer,” of Borges, of shades.


Summer Hours (dir. Olivier Assayas, 2008). A mother (Édith Scob) and her three adult children (Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche, Jérémie Renier ) in a story about what becomes of our stuff (here, an art collection) after we’re gone. “Memories, secrets, stories that interest no one anymore.”


Maps to the Stars (dir. David Cronenberg, 2014). A tangle of relationships in movieland: a fading actress, a personal assistant, a teenage star, the star’s parents, and several ghosts. Funny, frightening, and truly, deeply, wonderfully strange, with overtones of All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, Mulholland Drive, and, at least in my head, Nabokov’s Ada.


The World of Henry Orient (dir. George Roy Hill, 1964). A sweet, sad story of the imaginative life of two fourteen-year-old girls in the playground of mid-century Manhattan. This movie has long deserved to be part of the Criterion Collection.


The Enchanted Cottage (dir. John Cromwell, 1945). Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire as a disfigured veteran and a “homely” maid, and you can guess where they fall in love. My mom is right: “I didn’t think she was homely!”

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Imitation and parody

From the May 20, 1974 episode of Cavett, available from Hulu. Eudora Welty, responding to Dick Cavett’s question about writing in the manner of another writer:

“There are many writers that I admire. But it doesn’t occur to you to attempt to do anything someone else has done, because you can’t do anything except what you know how to do.”
Cavett goes on to tell a story of Graham Greene entering a Graham Greene parody contest and coming in second. It’s a true story.

Related posts
Against “deep reading” : A Welty self-portrait

In room 19

In a hotel, a younger Jorge Luis Borges meets an older Jorge Luis Borges, already registered in room 19. The older Borges explains that in 1979, the younger Borges will give in to the temptation to write a “great book.” It will be “a masterpiece, in the most overwhelming sense of the word.” The older Borges explains:

Jorge Luis Borges, “August 25, 1983,” in Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Penguin, 1998).

The older Borges adds that when he published this work, under a pseudonym, he was taken “for a clumsy imitator of Borges.”

“I’m not surprised,” says the younger Borges. “Every writer sooner or later becomes his own least intelligent disciple.”

Other Borges posts
Borges manuscript found : Borges on reading : A sentence from “The Aleph” : “Hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typefaces”

[Borges was born on August 24, 1899.]

Sunday, May 20, 2018

“Entirely made-up”

From The New York Times:

The special counsel hopes to finish by Sept. 1 the investigation into whether President Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry, according to the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said on Sunday that waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in November’s midterm elections.

Mr. Giuliani said that the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, shared its timeline about two weeks ago amid negotiations over whether Mr. Trump will be questioned by investigators, adding that Mr. Mueller’s office said that the date was contingent on Mr. Trump’s sitting for an interview. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.
But from Reuters:
Giuliani was quoted by the New York Times later on Sunday as saying that Mueller had said the investigation would wrap up by Sept. 1.

A source familiar with the probe called the Sept. 1 deadline “entirely made-up” and “another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work.”

“He’ll wrap it up when he thinks he’s turned over every rock, and when that is will depend on how cooperative witnesses, persons of interest and maybe even some targets are, if any of those emerge, and on what new evidence he finds, not on some arbitrary, first-of-the-month deadline one of the president’s attorneys cooks up,” said the source, a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sunday in The Trivium

This sentence came as a surprise:

When is position in relation to the course of extrinsic events which measure the duration of a substance, for example, Sunday afternoon.

Sister Miriam Joseph, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books 2002).
[When, or time, is one of Aristotle’s ten categories of being.]

Saturday, May 19, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper crossword, by Andrew Bell Lewis, left me defeated. Defeated by a Natick, or at least what I regard as a Natick, a crossing that calls for knowledge of Florida place names, thoroughbred horses, and surfing, producing one answer that looks plausible and one that looks just plain wrong, and which I didn’t even think to try.

But a clue that I especially liked, 67-Across, ten letters: “Half a Wimbledon match-up.”

No spoilers; the answer is in the comments.

[Natick Principle, a term coined by crossword blogger “Rex Parker” (Michael Sharp): “If you include a proper noun in your grid that you cannot reasonably expect more than 1/4 of the solving public to have heard of, you must cross that noun with reasonably common words and phrases or very common names.” Natick is a town in Massachusetts.]

Friday, May 18, 2018

Words for the day

Mike Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas:

I renew my call for Congress and the president to take substantive action on the mass shooting epidemic in our country. History will not look kindly upon those elected officials who failed to act in the face of repeated mass murders of our children. Spare us your thoughts and prayers and do your job.

”Yow! It’s 1956!”

[Zippy, May 18, 2018.]

If. If only.

These are the first and second panels of today’s Zippy. The model for the third and fourth panels: a 1957 photograph from Huntington Beach, California. Notice Lester’s Variety Store on the right, with hammer.

O dowdy world, that had such stores in it.

Related reading
All OCA dowdy world posts and Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Annals of pedagogy

Henrietta Pastorfield is an English teacher at Calvin Coolidge High School in New York City. Her colleague Sylvia Barrett, writing to a friend from college, describes Miss Pastorfield as a teacher who “woos the kids by entertaining them, convinced that lessons must be fun, knowledge sugar-coated, and that teacher should be pal.”

There’s this testimony from a former student:

In Miss Pastorfeilds class I really enjoyed it we had these modren methods like Amature Hour and Gussing Games in rows with a scorekepper and to draw stick figures to show the different charactors in the different books and Speling Hospital and Puntuation Trafic and Sentence Baseball with prizes for all thats the way to really learn English.
And from the school newspaper, the Calvin Coolidge Clarion: “The teacher who makes lessons most like games: MISS HENRIETTA (‘PAL’) PASTORFIELD.” Yes, Punctuation Traffic and the like are team games.

I’ve been quoting from Bel Kaufman’s 1964 novel Up the Down Staircase. In the 1967 film adaptation, Miss Pastorfield explains her pedagogy in a faculty meeting:
“Kid them along, make it a game. l have a new one this year: Hospital Spelling. Misspelled words are the patients, and the kids are the doctors and the nurses.”
Which prompts rakish Paul Barringer to suggest Punctuation Sex: “l shudder to think what an exclamation point might mean.”

I remember standing in a hallway years ago, listening to a game of Punctuation Football underway in a college classroom. Yes, that too was a team game. I have sometimes wondered if the instructor had read or seen Up the Down Staircase.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The past plead

I was puzzled by a graphic on MSNBC this afternoon: headshots of miscreants, each labeled Indicted or Plead Guilty. Not Pleaded?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage:

Plead belongs to the same class of verbs as bleed, lead, speed, read, and feed, and like them it has a past and past participle with a short vowel spelled pled or sometimes plead. Competing with the short-vowel form from the beginning was a regular form pleaded. Eventually pleaded came to predominate in mainstream British English, while pled retreated into Scottish and other dialectal use. Through Scottish immigration or some other means, pled reached America and became established here.
M-W goes on to say that after coming under attack in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, pled is now “fully respectable,” and that “both pled (or plead) and pleaded are in good use in the U.S.” In other words, people say and write these words (including, in M-W’s examples, Sinclair Lewis and a New Yorker contributor), so the words are okay.

In contrast, Garner’s Modern English Usage:
Pleaded has always been the predominant past-tense and past-participial form. From the early 1600s, pleaded has appeared much more frequently in print sources than its rivals. Commentators on usage have long preferred it, pouring drops of vitriol onto *has pled and *has plead. . . .

The problem with these strong pronouncements, of course, is that *pled and *plead have gained some standing in AmE. . . .

Still, pleaded, the vastly predominant form in both AmE and BrE, is always the best choice.
In a sentence, the past tense plead may pose no problem for a reader: “Appearing before a judge this morning, he plead guilty.” Even there, though, my first inclination is to read plead as a present tense. On its own, plead guilty may look like an instance of the present tense, or like a mistake for pled or pleaded. And pled itself may look like a mistake for the “vastly predominant” pleaded. To my mind, Bryan Garner is right: pleaded is the best choice.

[Garner on The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage: “I really cannot read a page of that book without having a significant rise in my blood pressure.” In GMEU an asterisk marks “invariably poor usage.”]

Net neutrality in Illinois

For Illinois readers only: Please consider calling your representative in the Illinois General Assembly in support of House Bill 4819, which would protect net neutrality in Illinois. Here is a page with the names of all current House members.

“Hourglasses, maps,
eighteenth-century typefaces”

An excerpt:

Jorge Luis Borges, “Borges and I,” in Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Penguin, 1998).

Related posts
Borges manuscript found : Borges on reading : A sentence from “The Aleph”

Wednesday, May 16, 2018