Sunday, March 18, 2018

Trappist survival

The New York Times reports on Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery struggling to survive. Aging monks, dwindling numbers, and a plan to attract month- and year-long affiliate members.

I remember watching a PBS documentary about Mepkin some years ago, when the abbey appeared to be flourishing.

The New York Review of Nancy

At The New York Review of Books website, Dash Shaw reviews Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden’s How to Read “Nancy.” I like the idea of Ernie Bushmiller’s comic strip, written for a readership he called “the gum chewers,” becoming the stuff of TNYRB. And I like this observation from the review:

Beautiful cartooning affects a comic the way a well-chosen word, arriving at the right time in a sentence, makes for good writing, or the way a room composed with the right combination of things in the exact right places is good interior design.
Thanks to Chris at Dreamers Rise for pointing me to this review.

From How to Read Nancy
Bushmiller, Strunk, and Wilde : Editing balloons : Nancy, spokestoon

Saturday, March 17, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

I was surprised to see Willa Cather in today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, 57-Down, three letters: “Religion and art, per Cather.” I’ll give away the answer: KIN. From Cather’s essay “Escapism,” published in Commonweal (1936):

Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers.
My first guess: ONE. I was thinking of what Godfrey St. Peter tells his students in The Professor’s House (1925):
“Art and religion (they are the same thing, in the end, of course) have given man the only happiness he has ever had.”
Of course that’s St. Peter speaking, not Cather.

Finishing the Saturday Stumper is still cause for minor self-congratulation. And by the way: if you haven’t read The Professor’s House, you’re missing one of the great American novels.

Euphemisms of the NYT

In The New York Times yesterday:

“I’m not necessarily encouraging people to swear more,” Byrne writes, “but I do hope you might give it the respect it [expletive] deserves.”
In The New York Times today:
“My stuff,” he said (though he didn’t say “stuff”), “doesn’t work in the playoffs.”
It’d be nice if the Times could get its stuff together and figure out how to handle naughty words. The use of [expletive] is straightforwardly prim. I can’t object. But putting a word in quotation marks when it’s not what was spoken or written seems to me wildly inappropriate.

In previous posts, I’ve written about the Times sanitizing quotations from Philip Larkin and David Foster Wallace.

A text for the day

Marianne Moore, from the poem “Spenser’s Ireland” (1941).

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

[This line appears in at least one version of the poem. Moore was an inveterate reviser.]

Friday, March 16, 2018

Illinois in the NYT

In The New York Times, Julie Bosman reports on candidates in the Illinois governor’s race. It’s a disappointing article, in several ways. The article makes no mention of the state budget crisis being a manufactured crisis, nor does it address the profound problems that have followed (such as the decline of public higher education). Though Daniel Biss appears to lead Chris Kennedy in the Democratic primary race, Biss gets a mere namecheck. And thus the Times casts the Democratic primary as a contest between just two viable candidates, Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker, a millionaire and a billionaire.

Those who don’t follow Illinois politics should be aware that the Times article omits reference to the ugliest elements in a wiretapped 2008 conversation between then-governor Rod Blagojevich and Pritzker. What the article includes is ugly enough, but it’s far from the whole story. You can listen to excerpts from the conversation and decide for yourself.

My take: the last thing we need in Illinois politics is another billionaire running for governor. But if Pritzker gets the Democratic nomination, I have a campaign slogan that I’m prepared to donate: “A Billionaire for the Rest of Us.” All I will ask in return (because it’s Illinois, so I should get something in return) is that the Pritzker campaign stop calling our house and sending campaign literature.

An inverted B

Resistance takes many forms: “The Rebel ‘B’” (Print). More here and here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Down and up

“I’m down to the bottom of my sound, but I’m up to the clearest understanding of my life”: the singer Sylvia Syms, at the age of seventy-four, a month before her death. Syms is quoted in the liner notes to a CD reissue of her 1959 LP Torch Song.

Here’s a performance of “Skylark” (Hoagy Carmichael–Johnny Mercer) from late in Syms’s life. And here, a whole step higher, is a “Skylark” from earlier years. Syms died on May 10, 1992, while receiving a standing ovation after a performance in the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room.

The horror of the news these days makes me especially susceptible to the beauty of music. I can’t hear these performances without tearing up. How about you?

Crispix Corridor

[Zippy, March 15, 2017.]

Today’s Zippy is a treat for anyone who loves the metropolitan dowdy world. Seen on Crispix Corridor, Dingburg’s Main Street, in this one panel, roughly clockwise: signage for Sluggo’s Gym, Town Rug (?), Topknots, 2-Ton Donuts, Z Man, Little Debbie Lodge, Laundro World, Invisible Ink, and Pizza (?) Diner. The other signs in this panel are too small for me to decipher. Elsewhere in today’s strip: signage for Vat of Valvoline, Super Hero Treatment Center, Baby Huey Supplies, Bulbous, Hostess, Pop Rox, Bleach, Toy Trumpets, Toads, Dan Duryea Film Festival, 24 Hour Bowling (All Faiths), X-Treme Ironing Center, House of God, Sen-Sen, Beatniks 4 Rent, Hotel Poindexter, House of Mirrors, Snobbery, Ambiguity, T-Square, Sartre, 2-Tone Shoes, Hard to Read Signs Inc., and several more hard-to-read signs.

I have an abiding daydream of stumbling onto some forgotten midwestern Main Street, with bookshop, music shop, luncheonette, stationery store, all flourishing. Perhaps even a policeman at a crosswalk — because there are so many pedestrians.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : The dowdy world goes shopping (Main Street, Hackensack, New Jersey)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I was watching a play with two friends — a big acclaimed Broadway drama. And a jaded urbanite one row in front of us semi-whispered to his companion: “I can’t believe anyone is taking this seriously.” And just like that, he gave us permission not to.

[Sounds like a dream, but it happened, years ago. I’m not sure what made me think of it now.]

An utterance from another world

From the Father Knows Best episode “Bud, the Campus Romeo” (February 2, 1959), father Jim Anderson speaking to high-schooler son Bud:

“Your dinner jacket just arrived from the cleaners.”

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : Flowers knows best : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : “A Woman in the House”

[Dinner jackets aside, Father Knows Best is far, far better than received opinion might suggest.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A film about Joe Brainard

I Remember is a short film by Matt Wolf about the artist and writer Joe Brainard. Photographs, home movies, and period footage, with Ron Padgett’s recollections of his friend and collaborator, and Brainard reading from his I Remember. Watch online for $1 (or more).

Related posts
Good advice on looking at art : “I remember” : I remember Pete Seeger : I remember Sgt. Pepper : I remember Thanksgiving

[The thing about “I remember”: everyone can play.]

Thomas Merton photographs

Photographs by Thomas Merton, on display in New York, through April 13: “I Am Myself As I Exist in the World.”

Related reading
All OCA Thomas Merton posts (Pinboard)

[You don’t have to be a theist to love Thomas Merton. Or at least I don’t.]

“Telephone Inside”

[Henry, March 13, 2018.]

Between these two panels, Henry has held open the door and raced ahead to the booth. Thus he is both little gentleman and young lout.

It’s not clear though where he and the lady are. A candy store? A luncheonette? It must be in the dowdy world, not the future, because the telephone booth still has a telephone. Or, less formally, a ’phone.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ethel Stein (1917–2018)

The weaver and sometime-puppetmaker Ethel Stein has died at the age of 100. From the New York Times obituary:

Working largely out of the artistic limelight at her home in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., Ms. Stein resurrected historical weaving techniques and merged them with 20th-century Bauhaus design sensibilities.
You’ll have to click through to learn about the puppets.

In 2014 I was fortunate to see Ethel Stein’s work at the Art Institute of Chicago. I liked it so much that I wrote her a letter:
Dear Ms. Stein,

I know next to nothing about weaving, although I greatly admire the metis, cunning, of Homer’s Penelope. But I was delighted and moved by the exhibit of your work in the Art Institute of Chicago. Your sense of color and form and your wit are just wonderful to see. The short film that plays in one room of the exhibit left me amazed at the many kinds of skill and attention that go into your art.

I don’t know how many visitors to the exhibit have noticed your address, which is visible on a letter in a photograph of your bulletin board. But I did. And I look forward to revisiting your work at the Art Institute.
Here is the short film was playing.

One, two, three, four, five

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

Talia is five months old today. She’s a bundle of pep and love and smarts. And her bear keeps getting smaller.

“Old timers”

Stationery items of the past included sealing wax, “discontinued in favor of the modern gumming which fastens envelopes much more effectively and rapidly.” And:

Other “old timers” most of which are now past history are Stoake’s automatic shading pens — Brigg’s glass linen marking pens — Rubber marking pens — Clark’s indelible pencil, retailing at 25¢ — Livingston’s and Clark’s indelible ink — Holman’s ink powders — Porcupine quill, oblique and jumbo penholders — Rubber penholders, Nos. 1 to 6, also telescopic pocket rubber penholders — The old No. 41 school “accommodation” steel tip, fluted handle penholders which jobbed for 30¢ per gross. Pastille crayons which were packed twelve assorted colors to a box. Hope bonnet board used principally to shape women’s bonnets — Whale bone in splints, measuring from thirty to ninety inches, used for making hoop-skirts and stays — Tracing wheels, a necessary article used in dressmaking — Perforated board in assorted colors, also in silver and gold with muslin backs. Perforated white, silver and gold board mottoes used for embroidering with colored yarns, “What Is Home Without A Mother,” “God Bless Our Home,” “The Lord Will Provide” being three of the standards. Marriage certificates in beautiful lithographed designs — Reward or merit cards for schools. Transparent slates — Round and square wooden pencil boxes in carved and colored patterns — Heckman’s hemp school bags — Miller’s, Watson’s and Holbrook’s were the names of three popular book clamps, used to carry school books. Traveling was slow during the winter months, requiring travelers to carry shawls for warmth, which created a big demand for the Automatic shawl strap, a popular item in its day — Lunch baskets were used generally — Wood splints used by schools in primary classes — Rattans, the teacher’s “discipline rod,” an effective character “builder” of early days.

Larger book and stationery stores sold globes, maps and revolving book cases, which were on the market before the sectional book cases made their appearance. Book shelves were also in demand; wire dictionary stands, old No. 19 being very popular.

Paul J. Wielandy, The Romance of an Industry: A Retrospective Review of the Book and Stationery Business, with Brief Biographical Sketches of Those More Prominently Identified with Its History. St. Louis: Press of Blackwell Wielandy, 1933.
Paul J. Wielandy (1864–1953) began working as a traveling stationery salesman in 1884. He later co-founded Blackwell Wielandy, a St. Louis stationery and book company. Thanks to Sean at Blackwing Pages and Contrapuntalism for sharing news of this book, still available from a small number of libraries. And thanks, Interlibrary Loan.

As you may have guessed, searching Google Books will turn up many of these stationery items.

[Old No. 19, as advertised in The Publishers’ Trade List Annual (1905).]

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The return of the phone booth, sort of

The New York Times reports on the return of the phone booth, sort of — phone-booth-like structures that afford privacy in open-floor workplaces.

Perhaps someone, someday, will come up with the novel idea to have employees work in ones or twos in small rooms with doors — and then it’ll really be the world of tomorrow.

Dowd, Waters, and Walker

Maureen Dowd, writing in The New York Times about a certain man and woman in the news:

As Muddy Waters famously sang the blues, “They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad; Wednesday’s worse, and Thursday’s also sad.”
Yes, Muddy Waters performed and recorded “Stormy Monday,” or formally, “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad).” Famously? I’m not so sure. But the song was written by T-Bone Walker. It was Walker’s signature song. Does Dowd know that? At any rate, T-Bone Walker should be credited here. Crediting Muddy Waters is a bit like crediting Peter, Paul and Mary — or anyone other than Bob Dylan — for “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

On a related note: I’ve always heard the lyric as “Thursday’s all so sad.” In an NPR segment about the song, with B.B. King, Duke Robillard, and Bernita Ruth Walker, the transcription reads “also.” But it sure sounds to me like Walker’s daughter is saying “all so.”

Saturday, March 10, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

A nice clue from today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, 1-Down, seven letters: “Cords and such.” And one more: 56-Across, four letters: “Cream alternative.” No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

When I made a first Saturday Stumper post, I wasn’t planning on many more. But I now have a streak of thirteen Saturdays. What makes today’s puzzle and most Saturday Stumpers so difficult: clues that lead in many directions at once. For 56-Across, for instance, I thought of another power trio: RUSH? No.

Friday, March 9, 2018


If David Brooks’s most recent New York Times column were a student paper to be graded, I’d be tempted to write, repeatedly, in the margins: WHAT ?

Brooks is trying to exercise empathy, to understand “student mobbists,” as he calls them, though his condescending choice of the word “mobbists” suggests that he’s bound to fail. He acknowledges that he grew up in a different time from today’s college students — in the 1980s, when, he says,

we all wanted basically the same things. For example, though America was plagued by economic divides we all wanted a society in which social mobility and equal opportunity were the rule. Though America is plagued by racism, we all wanted more integration and less bigotry, a place where talent and character mattered more than skin color and prejudice.
Yes, the 1980s, when everyone wanted (basically) the same things. Really? Brooks might read, as a start, a 2017 Washington Post article: “How the Reagan administration stoked fears of anti-white racism”:
More than any other modern U.S. president, it was Ronald Reagan who cultivated the concept of so-called reverse discrimination, which emerged in the 1970s as a backlash against affirmative action in public schooling as court-ordered busing grew throughout the country.
In the 1980s, Brooks says, “sophisticated people” saw themselves as “mistake theorists,” who “believe that the world is complicated and most of our troubles are caused by error and incompetence, not by malice or evil intent.” But discrimination against people of color, against women, against LGBQT people, in education, employment, housing, suffrage, then or now, cannot be explained as a matter of “error and incompetence,” as if it’s the result of hiring careless help. Brooks might consider, say, Martin Luther King Jr.’s call not for fewer errors and greater competence (a technocrat’s solution) but for “a true revolution of values.”

And consider Brooks’s account of how thinking about color has changed:
The idea for decades was that racial justice would come when we reduced individual bigotry — the goal was colorblind individualism. . . .

Now the crucial barriers to racial justice are seen not just as individual, but as structural economic structures, the incarceration crisis, the breakdown of family structure. . . .

Progress is less about understanding and liking each other and more about smashing structures that others defend.
But was there ever a time when the barriers to racial justice were not understood as structural ones? Was there ever a civil-rights movement that was not determined the dismantle the structures that enforced segregation and inequality? Brooks’s model of racial justice as a matter of “liking each other” reminds me of a familiar self-exoneration: “I’m not prejudiced. I treat everyone the same.” Yes, perhaps you do, but you do so having benefited mightily from systemic inequalities. “Liking each other” is not enough. King again: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

I share, to some extent, Brooks’s wariness about chants and groupthink and the equating of an individual mind with one or more cultural categories. But his picture of recent American history is ludicrously misleading and shamelessly self-serving. What is this guy doing in The New York Times? WHAT ?

A related post
David Brooks and SNOOTs

[“Structural economic structures”: I think the Times needs to add a colon after structural. The King passages are from “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”, April 4, 1967.]

Oui yogurt

It’s worth buying a four-pack of Yoplait Oui yogurt just for the little glass jars. Remove the label, scrape the glue from the rim, and you have a lovely five-ounce cup. Perfect for holding cream or milk. Perfect for holding hot water to pour over instant oatmeal. Perfect for holding a couple of ounces of whiskey while the news plays. Perfect for holding a couple of ounces of paper clips, because it is a little early for whiskey, or whisky.

A related post
A repurposed tea tin

[Now with a better photograph. When I took an earlier one, I thought, “That’s the best I can do.” And then I realized that I could do better.]

Separated at birth

[Ernie Bushmiller, cartoonist; Red Rodney, musician.]

The forehead, the hair: I can’t unsee the resemblance. And Bushmiller, too, was a redhead, at least in his early years.

Also separated at birth
Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Bérénice Bejo and Paula Beer : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : David Bowie and Karl Held : Victor Buono and Dan Seymour : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Gough : Henry Daniell and Anthony Wiener : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Barbara Hale and Vivien Leigh : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : Don Lake and Andrew Tombes : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Jean Renoir and Steve Wozniak : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

Thursday, March 8, 2018

All the news that’s print

Farhad Manjoo:

Getting news only from print newspapers may be extreme and probably not for everyone. But the experiment taught me several lessons about the pitfalls of digital news and how to avoid them.
Those lessons, summarized in the Michael Pollan manner: “Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social.”

Domestic comedy

[Reading the Nutrition Facts.]

“The Chessmen are twice as healthy as the Milanos.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The best and the brightest

How did Peter Navarro make it to the White House? As reported in Vanity Fair in April 2017, Jared Kushner was at work, sort of:

At one point during the campaign, when Trump wanted to speak more substantively about China, he gave Kushner a summary of his views and then asked him to do some research. Kushner simply went on Amazon, where he was struck by the title of one book, Death by China, co-authored by Peter Navarro. He cold-called Navarro, a well-known trade-deficit hawk, who agreed to join the team as an economic adviser. (When he joined, Navarro was in fact the campaign’s only economic adviser.)
The Washington Post revived this bit yesterday.

[“Simply went on Amazon”? I’d quibble with simply, but Jared Kushner does seem simple. The alarmist red is mine.]

“It’s Automatic”

[Zippy, March 7, 2018.]

Today’s Zippy, “It’s Automatic,” channels a postcard explanation of what to do in a Horn & Hardart Automat. In 2017 Zippy himself was patronizing an Automat.

I have a dim memory of sitting in an Automat with my friend Aldo Carrasco, sometime in the early 1980s, having cake and coffee. Or pie and coffee. Or something. The Automat felt as depressing as hell. I don’t think I knew enough then to appreciate the place.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : Automat beverage section : New York, 1964: Automat : One more Automat

Russia and Rex

The March 12 issue of The New Yorker arrived in our mailbox yesterday. About a fifth of this issue’s pages are devoted to Jane Mayer’s article “Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier.” One stunning excerpt:

One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy — and an incoming President.

As fantastical as the memo sounds, subsequent events could be said to support it. In a humiliating public spectacle, Trump dangled the post before Romney until early December, then rejected him. There are plenty of domestic political reasons that Trump may have turned against Romney. Trump loyalists, for instance, noted Romney’s public opposition to Trump during the campaign. Roger Stone, the longtime Trump aide, has suggested that Trump was vengefully tormenting Romney, and had never seriously considered him. (Romney declined to comment. The White House said that he was never a first choice for the role and declined to comment about any communications that the Trump team may have had with Russia on the subject.) In any case, on December 13, 2016, Trump gave Rex Tillerson, the C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, the job. The choice was a surprise to most, and a happy one in Moscow, because Tillerson’s business ties with the Kremlin were long-standing and warm. (In 2011, he brokered a historic partnership between ExxonMobil and Rosneft.) After the election, Congress imposed additional sanctions on Russia, in retaliation for its interference, but Trump and Tillerson have resisted enacting them.
In the news yesterday (I know it was in there somewhere): sanctions are supposed to be coming soon. “In the next several weeks,” according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Check’s in the mail.

[And now I wonder if Sam Nunberg’s media tour was timed to deflect attention from Mayer’s article. A search of the CNN website suggests that the network has left the article untouched. Mayer has appeared on two MSNBC shows, Morning Joe and The Rachel Maddow Show.]

“Black as a giant tortoise”

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

Stormy weather, yes, with no scandal-related pun intended. Zweig’s fiction is so often the stuff of a great black-and-white film.

Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Walking, not a sport

“Walking is not a sport. Putting one foot in front of the other is child’s play”: Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking, trans. John Howe (London: Verso, 2014).

I like the spirit of this book. But there’s considerable repetition, and too many abstractions and unsupported assertions. After all, walking, for some people, is a sport, and for others, it’s impossible or nearly so. The translation is often ungainly: “One can plunder the streets delicately like that for ages.” This book is best borrowed from a library. The library is best reached on foot.

Mystery actor

Do you recognize her? Leave your best guess as a comment, and enter as often as you like. I’ll drop a hint if necessary.


A hint, before I go for a walk: This actor is best known for a role in a television series.


Another hint: the role involved a struggle with the bottle, or with a bottle.


Solved! The answer is in the comments.

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

Sam Nunberg Day

It appears that March 5 has been designated Sam Nunberg Day.

All I know is that if you’re serious about ducking a subpoena, you slip out of the country, quiet-like. Today’s mediafest is a stunt, meant, I think, to let Nunberg’s “mentor” Roger Stone know that his mentee will not betray him.


A better guess, maybe: Nunberg is presenting himself as an inherently unreliable witness. I’m not crooked enough to understand how these people think.


The Washington Post offers four theories.


Another thought: a Stone prank to discredit CNN and MSNBC.

[Sam who? The Ballotpedia biography is much more helpful than Wikipedia.]

Sinatra’s last performance

Here, in audio only, is Frank Sinatra’s last performance, from the Palm Desert Marriott Ballroom, Palm Desert, California, February 25, 1995. The occasion: a short performance for the closing of the Frank Sinatra Golf Tournament. Six songs: “I've Got The World On A String” (Harold Arlen–Ted Koehler), “You Make Me Feel So Young” (Josef Myrow–Mack Gordon), “Fly Me To The Moon” (Bart Howard), “Where or When” (Richard Rodgers–Lorenz Hart), “My Kind Of Town” (Jimmy Van Heusen–Sammy Cahn), and “The Best Is Yet To Come” (Cy Coleman–Carolyn Leigh). Sinatra is no doubt reading lyrics from teleprompters throughout. The orchestra is led by his son, Frank Jr.

My favorite moments:

~ in “I've Got The World On A String,” the choice Sinatra word marvelous (with mid-Atlantic prounciation) substituting for beautiful

~ the second chorus of “You Make Me Feel So Young”

~ the mid-Atlantic pronunciation of worship in “Fly to the Moon”

~ all of “Where or When,” with a singer sounding decades younger

~ all of “The Best Is Yet to Come”

That last song here sounds to me like the best of the six. The start is not promising — Sinatra asks “Who wrote this?” and misses his entrance. His pianist, Bill Miller, covers perfectly. I love the “aah” at 21:08 and the way Sinatra softens his voice in the final bars, before shifting to a growl. As in “Where or When,” he sounds like a much younger singer.

According to Jonathan Schwartz’s eyewitness account, “And Now the End is Near” (Esquire, May 1995), Sinatra was supposed to sing just the first four songs, a short set put together by Frank Jr. Thank goodness that the impromptu additions did not include “My Way” or “New York, New York.”

Years later, on his radio show, Schwartz said that he had asked an Esquire editor if the magazine would be interested in an article about what would be Sinatra’s last performance. How did Schwartz know it would be the last? “Trust me on this,” Schwartz told the editor. The event drew no other notice from the press.

Frank Sinatra died in 1998. On his gravestone: “The Best Is Yet to Come.”

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, and now, Frank Sinatra, about two days’ worth of Sinatra.

Here, via YouTube, from Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958), are two of what Sinatra called “saloon songs.” My dad never smoked, never drank, and almost certainly never set foot in a saloon. These songs are just great music, saloon or no saloon:

“Angel Eyes” (Matt Dennis–Earl Brent)
“One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” (Harold Arlen–Johnny Mercer)
The arrangements are by Nelson Riddle. Bill Miller, Sinatra’s longtime pianist, is prominent on “One for My Baby.” Both songs resist embedding. Which reminds of the Irving Gordon song: “Unembeddable, that’s what you are.”

With Sinatra behind me, four smaller mountain ranges have come into view: Jo Stafford, Art Tatum, Mel Tormé, and Lee Wiley.

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

[Once in a great while, I played this recording of “One for My Baby” at the end of a semester. Perfect for a class that let out at 2:50.]

Sunday, March 4, 2018

“Tools of the Trade”

[“French Paper A–Z and Tools of the Trade Poster.” Charles S. Anderson Design Co., Minneapolis. Jovaney Hollingsworth, designer and illustrator. Made for French Paper Co. As found at Print. Click for much larger supplies.]

Saturday, March 3, 2018

CNN, sheesh

Seen a few minutes ago, not in the ticker but in the chyron:

From Garner’s Modern English Usage:
Until 1700 or so, the English word was confident (= a trusty friend or adherent), the correct French forms being confident and confidente. But early in the 18th century, English writers began substituting an -a- for the -e- in the final syllable, perhaps because of the French nasal pronunciation of -ent and -ente.

Today the forms confidant and confidante predominate in both AmE and BrE, though confidante is falling into disuse because of what is increasingly thought to be a needless distinction between males and females.
Dunning K. Trump may still have confidants, but very few people I know have ever been confident in him or in those around him.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

From the Saturday Stumper

A nice clue from today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Lester Ruff, 29-Across, four letters: “Sound of thinking.” No spoilers; the answer is in the comments.

The name “Lester Ruff” appears to be another pseudonym for Stan Newman, the Newsday crossword editor, though this name does not appear on a page explaining Newman’s pseudonyms. Lester Ruff = less rough. But this puzzle was difficult. And now done.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Molly Worthen on assessment

In The New York Times, Molly Worthen writes about assessment in higher education:

It’s true that old-fashioned course grades, skewed by grade inflation and inconsistency among schools and disciplines, can’t tell us everything about what students have learned. But the ballooning assessment industry — including the tech companies and consulting firms that profit from assessment — is a symptom of higher education’s crisis, not a solution to it. It preys especially on less prestigious schools and contributes to the system’s deepening divide into a narrow tier of elite institutions primarily serving the rich and a vast landscape of glorified trade schools for everyone else. . . .

It seems that the pressure to assess student learning outcomes has grown most quickly at poorly funded regional universities that have absorbed a large proportion of financially disadvantaged students, where profound deficits in preparation and resources hamper achievement.
Well, yes. At my poorly funded regional university, assessment fever rages. In my final year of teaching, faculty were directed to include a course-catalogue description and a list of thirty “University Learning Outcomes” in every syllabus — about 480 words of extra content. I managed that with a single-spaced page in 9-point type.

Worthen quotes a British academic, Frank Furedi, whose words apply to any number of American colleges:
“When kids come from backgrounds where they’re the first in their families to go to college, we have to take them seriously, and not flatter them and give them third-rate ideas. They need to be challenged and inspired by the idea of our disciplines. One of the horrible things is that many universities think that giving access to nontraditional students means turning a university into a high school. That’s not giving them access to higher education.”
See also this post on higher education as a two-tier system: “A fully realized adult person.”

[Thanks to Matt Thomas, without whom I would have missed this Times piece. I’ve put two separate comments from Furedi together for ease of reading.]

Yet another Henry gum machine

[Henry, March 2, 2017.]

Where would we be without streetside mirrors? Oh — in modern times.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

And still more gum machines
Henry : Henry : Henry : Perry Mason : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry : Henry

Aldi coffee

An Aldi find: German Roasted Ground Coffee, 17.6 ounces for $4.99. The package says “robust & creamy,” and it’s true: this coffee is especially rich, with a thickness that makes me think of cocoa. Disclaimer: I’m not a fancy-pants coffee drinker. I don’t roast beans or use a scale or thermometer. But I like a good cup of coffee. Pairs well with UPC.

10p coins, A to Z

From the Royal Mint, ten-pence coins, celebrating British culture from A to Z. The art is sometimes off: F, for fish and chips, is ghastly. But at least T is tea. “Us Brits love a cup of tea,” says the Mint. (Really.) More here: “Q Is for Queuing” (The New York Times).

Thursday, March 1, 2018

All Illinois is divided into three parts

I listened tonight to a radio debate among the Democratic candidates for Illinois governor. The most interesting of them, by far: Robert Marshall. Said he: “I have ideas that nobody has.” Though I’m not sure that’s what one might want in a governor.

Among this candidate’s ideas: dividing Illinois into three states. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, the issues page of the candidate’s website makes no mention of this proposal. And clicking on the link Governor Race yields only the announcement “Content Coming Soon.” But an explanation of the three-state solution can be found in an “introductory news release.”

[Post title with apologies to Julius Caesar.]

From China to Washington

“Advice to Washington from Ancient China,” assembled by Eliot Weinberger. For instance: “A country that can be said to be lost is not one without a ruler but one without laws.”

NYRB sale

New York Review Books is having a winter sale, fifty books at half price. Of those fifty, I can recommend Hans Herbert Grimm’s Schlump, James Schuyler’s Alfred and Guinevere, and Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories. But really, I’d recommend anything from the list. Our household has had worlds of reading open to us via NYRB. See, for instance, the previous post.

From Beware of Pity

Fourteen pages ago, Anton Hofmiller was realizing the importance of meaning something to others. Now things are different:

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

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All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)