Friday, August 31, 2018

Oliver Sacks’s marginalia

Bill Hayes, Oliver Sacks’s partner in the last six years of Sacks’s life, is posting photographs of Sacks’s marginalia.

Related reading
All OCA Oliver Sacks posts (Pinboard)

A “fluid plane”


J.W. Dunne, An Experiment with Time, 3rd. ed. (London: Faber and Faber, 1958).

J.W. Dunne’s An Experiment with Time, first published in 1927 and widely read in its day, advances a theory of dreaming as a form of precognition. In a post about Insomniac Dreams, the recently published book that collects Vladimir Nabokov’s experiments with Dunne’s theory, I mentioned in passing that Dunne seems to be a figure straight from the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

I have now turned the pages of An Experiment with Time (thank you, interlibrary loan) and am excited to see a number of baffling diagrams. This one is my favorite. And now I strongly suspect that Dunne’s work helped to inspire the MJT’s Geoffrey Sonnabend and his theory of obliscence. Consider this diagram, which appears on an MJT T-shirt, or this one, which appears on the cover of a pamphlet summarizing Sonnabend’s work.

I’m a longtime fan of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and yes, I have both the T-shirt and the pamphlet. Lawrence Weschler’s Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (1995) is an excellent introduction to the museum and its work. I visited in 2012 and was lucky to meet David Wilson, who happened to walk by as we stood in the rooftop garden. Right place, right time.

Working with Avital Ronell

At The Chronicle of Higher Education, Andrea Long Chu writes about working as one of Avital Ronell’s teaching assistants. Chu believes the allegations against Ronell: “It is simply no secret to anyone within a mile of the German or comp-lit departments at NYU that Avital is abusive.” An excerpt:

A culture of critics in name only, where genuine criticism is undertaken at the risk of ostracism, marginalization, retribution — this is where abuses like Avital’s grow like moss, or mold. Graduate students know this intuitively; it is written on their bones.
Yes. I remember the joking self-characterization of my school days: “I am a lowly graduate student.” That should never have been a joke.

Related posts
The Avital Ronell story : Prestigious signatures : Derrida’s archives

Thursday, August 30, 2018

What Biden was paraphrasing

What Joe Biden was paraphrasing in his eulogy for John McCain:

’A was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
That’s from Hamlet, I.2, Hamlet speaking of his father to Horatio. Biden’s paraphrase: “We shall not see his like again.”

[I don’t think there’s yet a transcript of the eulogy. Biden’s words about grief and mourning, reprised from 2012, are online and well worth reading.]

Nancy pop corn


[Nancy, n.d.]

Today’s installment of yesterday’s Nancy prompts the question: Was popcorn once spelled as two words? Yes. The Oxford English Dictionary has citations for the variety of maize and the snack with pop corn, pop-corn, and popcorn. The earliest citations with the solid spelling: 1893 for the maize, 1922 for the snack. But pop corn soldiered and soldiers on. Look:


[Life, December 25, 1950.]

Today the Jolly Time website uses both pop corn and popcorn: “He grew popcorn.” “Popcorn is the perfect snack.” “Butter, sea salt, pop corn & oil.”

Oh — popcorn machines first appeared in movie theaters in 1938. My mom and I were wondering about that recently.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Oliver Sacks and words

In The New York Times, Bill Hayes writes about Oliver Sacks’s love of words:

Even if he had never written a single one, I am sure Oliver would still have been that funny fellow who took giant dictionaries to bed for light reading (aided by a magnifying glass). He delighted in etymology, synonyms and antonyms, slang, swear words, palindromes, anatomical terms, neologisms (but objected, in principle, to contractions). He could joyfully parse the difference between homonyms and homophones, not to mention homographs, in dinner table conversation. (He also relished saying those three words — that breathy “H” alliteration — in his distinctive British accent.)
If you, like me, are fumbling to articulate the difference between homonyms and homphones, not to mention homographs: look here. (Not hear.)

Related reading
All OCA Oliver Sacks posts (Pinboard)

“An idiosyncrasy peculiar
to the herring”


W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, trans. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998).

Donald S. Murray’s Herring Tales: How the Silver Darlings Shaped Human Taste and History (London: Bloomsbury, 2015) says that there is “no evidence” that the effort to illuminate cities with fishy phosphorescence was successful:

The failure of the “eccentric undertaking” described by Sebald was so great that it left little of lasting legacy. It is tempting to conclude that the author’s odd choice of names for his scientists — Herrington and Lightbown — is a quirky invention, one of his own “red herrings,” sending the reader off on every bit as much a wrong scent as the fox in that ancient practice, when that strong-smelling fish was employed to trick the hounds from following in their quarry’s tracks. For all that the practice of generating light from herring occurred in the late nineteenth century, there does not appear to be a record of the existence of any two English scientists with their names.
Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

Falltime

One way to know you’re now in your sixties: at a yearly physical, the first question from both nurse and doctor is “Have you fallen in the last year?”

Uh, no.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Deb Larson-Venable talks about
David Foster Wallace

I found it by chance: a 2014 recording of Deb Larson-Venable talking with Christopher Lydon about David Foster Wallace. Deb is the executive director of Granada House, the halfway house where Wallace got sober. Lydon asks,

“He wrote that he did this under a death sentence — that it was either get into recovery or you’re dead in two years. That concentrates the mind, and maybe that propels you willy-nilly toward community. Are there other ways to get there?”
And Deb’s answer: “You mean from — ? No.”

Deb, a Granada House resident who stayed on, appears in Infinite Jest as Pat Montesian. Deb’s story of recovery appears at the Granada House website. As does Wallace’s, identified only as an ex-resident’s story.

Why have I written Deb and not Larson-Venable? Because I met Deb Larson-Venable in 2010, on a trip to Boston, when Elaine and I went to Granada House to make a contribution.

A related post
DFW and Granada House

[Wallace’s history of cruelty and violence toward women was well known, at least in part, by 2014. It plays no part in the conversation.]

Pocket notebook sighting

This fellow shows up in one scene in La roue (The Wheel) (dir. Abel Gance, 1923). His newspaper is just a cover. His real work: recording the drinking habits of the trainmen.


[Click any image for a larger view.]

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Ministry of Fear : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : The Palm Beach Story : Perry Mason : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : Route 66 : The Sopranos : Spellbound : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Time Table : T-Men : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window

Monday, August 27, 2018

MSNBC, sheesh

A few minutes ago: “Mueller might lay low.”

Garner’s Modern English Usage on lie low and lay low: “The latter phrase is common but loose. The two phrasings both appear in print, but the correct lying low is three times as common as laying low.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[This post is the kind of thing that happens when I watch the news.]

A last word from John McCain

From a letter addressed to his “fellow Americans”:

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before.
The letter echoes McCain’s 2017 speech at National Constitution Center. I hear too what I think is an echo of what Barack Obama said in 2011: “The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.” I hope that Obama and McCain are right.

Twelve movies

[Now with stars, one to four. And four sentences each. No spoilers.]

Chavela (dir. Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi, 2017). A documentary portrait of Chavela Vargas (1919–2012), a Costa Rican-born Mexican singer who performed with an extraordinary musical and emotional intensity and turned ranchera songs into expressions of same-sex and universal desire. (As she says at one point, it doesn’t matter who it is one loves.) Comparisons to Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf abound, but the authority with which Chavela sings and speaks of life and love and suffering makes me think of what it must have been like to listen to Sappho. I’m not kidding. ★★★★

*

I Served the King of England (dir. Jiří Menzel, 2006). I had to do a “Wait, what?”: this film is by the director of Closely Watched Trains and Loves of a Blonde. The changing fortunes of Jan Dítě, a Czech everyman, as seen in a splendid past (in which he’s played by Ivan Barnev) and a dingy present (Oldrich Kaiser). Says Dítě, “It was always my luck to run into bad luck.” This hotel-centric film must have influenced Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, but Menzel’s imagination runs much deeper. ★★★★

*

Three Identical Strangers (dir. Tim Wardle, 2018). A documentary about triplets separated in infancy and reunited as young men. What begins as a feel-good human-interest story turns out to be a story of appallingly immorality — or is it amorality? — and its consequences. Don’t read a review in advance. And if you have read a review, see it anyway: there’ll still be more to learn. ★★★★

*

La roue (The Wheel) (dir. Abel Gance, 1923). A four-and-a-half-hour silent, made with a remarkably ample toolkit of storytelling devices, La roue might be the closest thing to a novel I’ve seen in film. The story focuses on Sisif, a train engineer who adopts a foundling, Norma, as a sibling to his son, Elie. Both father and son fall in love with their not-daughter, not-sister. With a great score by Robert Israel. ★★★★


[Norma (Ivy Close), Elie (Gabriel de Gravone), Sisif (Séverin-Mars). Click for a larger view.]

*

A little Fred Zinnemann festival
Eyes in the Night (1942). If you know Edward Arnold only as Jim Taylor, the political boss of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, this film affords a better sense of his range. Here he plays Duncan “Mac” Maclain, a blind detective who performs card tricks and works jigsaw puzzles. With the help of his trusty dog Friday, Mac breaks up a spy ring and saves a war secret. Donna Reed gives a surprising performance as a wayward teenager crazy about — yikes — her stepmother’s no-good ex-boyfriend. ★★★☆

Kid Glove Killer (1942). Van Heflin and Marsha Hunt as police forensic investigators, solving crimes in a city rife with corruption. Also included: a love triangle, a radio show and its host, a wrongly accused diner owner, fun with microscopes and spectroscopes, and many moments of bumming and lighting cigarettes. In other words, this movie is a little too scattered. But Heflin and Hunt are a delight as they turn cigarette ignition into foreplay.
★★★☆

Act of Violence (1949). Back from the war, bombardier Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan), never without coat and tie, pursues his friend and fellow vet Frank Enley (Van Heflin). You’ll have to watch to know why. Phyllis Thaxter, Janet Leigh, and Mary Astor do what they can to help bring about a peaceful resolution. With some great Los Angeles location shots. ★★★★

*

I’m So Excited! (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 2013). The least satisfying Almodóvar film I’ve seen. Set almost entirely in an airplane unable to land, the film offers not a comic spectacle of fear and frenzy but an assemblage of odd, discontinuous, not especially funny bits. It doesn’t help that everyone in economy class has been sedated. More like a very long Saturday Night Live skit than an Almodóvar film. ★★☆☆

*

These Three (dir. William Wyler, 1936). A straightened (that is, heterosexualized) adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour. Miriam Hopkins and Merle Oberon play Misses Martha Dobie and Karen Wright as cool-headed, independent, resilient women, markedly different from the more agonized Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn of Wyler’s remake The Children’s Hour (1961). But the real star here is Bonita Granville (who’d later play Nancy Drew) as the manipulative, destructive Mary Tilford. A budding psychopath, that Mary Tilford. ★★★★

*

Made in Dagenham (dir. Nigel Cole, 2010). Based on the true story of women, or “girls,” as they’re called here, striking for equal pay at a British Ford factory. This film seems to telegraph every setback and victory with stupefying obviousness — see, for instance, George’s fate. But the acting is strong: Bob Hoskins, Geraldine James, Daniel Mays, Miranda Richardson, and the great Sally Hawkins as Rita O’Grady, who’s pressed into service as the leader of the women’s effort. I found it deeply moving to see Hawkins playing a character who speaks truth to patriarchy: “Rights, it’s not privileges: it’s that easy.” ★★★☆

*

A Lion in the Streets (dir. Raoul Walsh, 1953). Hank Martin, rural peddler — a successful businessman, we might say — turns demagogue. At the time, the movie would have suggested Huey Long; today, similarities to another political figure are unmistakable. The dialogue is sometimes cringe-worthy, and James Cagney’s performance as Martin feels too hammy, too stagey, but then again, that’s the kind of character he’s meant to be playing. Barbara Hale and Anne Francis are excellent as Martin’s wife Verity and lover Flamingo. ★★★☆

*

Middle of the Night (dir. Delbert Mann, 1959). Love against the odds in Manhattan’s garment district, with Fredric March as a clothing manufacturer, fifty-six and widowed, and Kim Novak as a receptionist and secretary, twenty-four and recently divorced. As in Marty (Paddy Chayefsky wrote both screenplays), everyone has something to say about the relationship, and there’s even some amateur psychologizing about neurosis and father figures. One can only hope that love, in all its awkwardness and fumbling, will win out. Great black-and-white shots of mid-century Manhattan streets are a bonus. ★★★☆

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Gym, yikes

In The New York Times: “How You Felt About Gym Class May Impact Your Exercise Habits Today.”

I will now consider my habit of walking (about three-and-a-half miles a day, virtually every day) a vanquishing of the past.

“Case Closed!”


[Zippy, August 26, 2018.]

Is Mark “someone”? He doesn’t resemble Mark Newgarden (co-author of How to Read “Nancy”). Whoever Mark may be, he goes on to praise Ernie Bushmiller as “a Zen master! In a class by himself!” By the third panel of today’s strip, the talk turns to Garfield: “a funny animal strip — or the coming of the Antichrist?”

Bill Griffith’s dislike of Garfield is well established. See for instance this strip, or this one. Yes, Garfield appropriated the Zippy koan “Are we having fun yet?”

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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

John McCain (1936–2018)

John McCain, in a speech upon receiving the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal, October 16, 2017:

To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain “the last best hope of earth” for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.

Non-metaphorical sharpening

John Dickerson: “School is starting again and I am sharpening my pencils. That’s not a metaphor. I am actually sharpening pencils.” Read more to find out why.

Related reading
Back-to-school shopping : New year’s resolutions : All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

[John Dickerson digs analog.]

From the Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Lester Ruff, is pretty easy. Pretty, pretty easy. It starts with a giveaway, 1-Across, thirteen letters: “Musical set at the Sleep-Tite factory.” I know that one thanks to Elaine and Rachel. A later giveaway, 64-Across, 15 letters: “Bavarian cream desserts.” I know that one from its Brooklyn, not Bavarian, incarnation. I’ve never thought of its plural, which sounds kinda ridic. The plural, that is, not my never having thought of it.

One clue that I especially liked for its mild misdirection: 51-Down, six letters: “Apollo headgear.” HELMET? No. And no spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 24, 2018

“Closing In”


[Barry Blitt, “Closing In.” The New Yorker, September 3, 2018. Click for a larger view.]

This cover-to-come takes its inspiration from The Sopranos. The Washington Post explains.

Commercialese and its discontents

From the essay “Business English and Its Confederates”:

It is easy, far too easy, to write a letter in which occur all the well-worn terms, all the long-winded phrases, all the substitutes for thinking. Only rarely is it possible, for the circumstances usually need to be detailed, to achieve the brevity that a business acquaintance and I, fired by his example, once achieved. He sent a dated statement and the accompanying note:
“Dear Mr Partridge,
    Please!
                
By return of post I sent a cheque with a note:
“Dear Mr         ,
    Herewith.
        E         P        
By return, he wrote:
“Dear Mr Partridge,
    Thanks!
                
That exchange of notes was, I maintain, business-like; my note admittedly a shade less courteous than his. At the time, he was at the head, as he still is, of a very large business.

Translated into commercialese, the correspondence would have gone something like this:
“Dear Sir,
    The enclosed statement will show that this debt was incurred almost three years ago. If it is not paid immediately, we shall be forced to take action.
    Yours faithfully,
        Managing Director.”

“Dear Sir,
    I regret exceedingly that this oversight should have occurred. Herewith please find enclosed my cheque for the amount involved.
    Yours faithfully,
                
Some days later, the cheque having been cleared the bank:
“Dear Sir,
    Your favour of the —th received. Please find our receipt enclosed herewith.
    Now that the matter has been satisfactorily settled, we should be glad to do business with you again.
    We are, Sir,
        Yours faithfully,
                    
A fitting reply to that letter would be —. But no, perhaps not.

Eric Partridge, A Charm of Words (New York: Macmillan, 1960).

The guys problem

Joe Pinsker writes about the problem with — and without — the word guys:

The problem, for those who want to ditch guys, is that their language doesn’t present them with many versatile replacements; English lacks a standard gender-neutral second-person plural pronoun, like the Spanish ustedes or the German ihr. The alternatives to guys tend to have downsides of their own. Folks — inclusive and warm, but a little affected and forced. Friends — fine in social contexts, strange at work. People — too often pushy and impersonal. Team — its sense of camaraderie wears out with constant use. One might cobble together a mix of pronouns to deploy in different scenarios, but no one term can do it all.
When I was teaching, I defaulted to colleagues and students. In e-mail, for instance: “Hello EN3703 students.”

As for a standard gender-neutral second-person plural pronoun, there certainly was one when I was a kid in Brooklyn: youse.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

CNN, sheesh

A couple of minutes ago: “The rails are starting to come off.”

Strange days might require that ordinary idioms go out the window, so to speak. But I think it’s more reasonable (though not safer) to say that the wheels are starting to come off.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

Mystery actors I don’t think anyone’s going to solve this one. I put the answers in a comment.

Mystery actors


[Click for a larger view.]

Do you recognize one? The other? Both? Leave your best guesses in a comment.

*

12:25 p.m.: I think everyone has given up. The answers are now in the comments.

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

NameChanger

NameChanger is a free app for macOS and OS X that makes renaming files easier. Go from, say, IMG_3501.JPG, IMG_3502.JPG, and so on to a more meaningful sequence. NameChanger is powerful but not especially intuitive. The app’s Help page explains the many options for renaming.

 
[NameChanger’s icon and a substitute.]

I dislike pen or pencil icons, so I used the free app LiteIcon to turn a free n into an icon.

*

August 26: As shallnot points out in a comment, batch renaming is available in the Finder. Who knew? Not me. Here’s a brief tutorial. Thanks, shallnot.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

From today’s Zippy


[Zippy, August 22, 2018.]

Today’s Zippy takes the reader behind the scenes at Zippy Industries, where Lazlo Crannich, the actor who plays Zippy (and writes and draws the strip), ponders his lot in life. He regrets his cranial surgery, which has left him typecast. Behind Crannich, “today’s” strip (marked “8-22”) plays out on a monitor, panel by panel, with Zippy drinking coffee and thinking.

It appears that Zippy might be drinking Chock full o’Nuts. Because he wonders: “Is it true that Rockefeller’s money can’t buy a better cup?” Yes, that song.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)
Zippy, Hi, Lois : Zippy and the Flagstons
Chock full o’Nuts : Chock full o’Nuts lunch hour : New York, 1964: Chock full o’Nuts

Animal crackers in the news

Nabisco’s animal crackers are now cage-free.

Domestic comedy

[Last night, talking about Andrew, watching Chris. Elaine speaking.]

“They have the same Cuomosomes.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Elaine is so proud of this one that she asked me to credit her. These posts are usually without who-said-what explanations.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

“The best witches”

From a New York Times editorial: “For a witch hunt, Mr. Mueller’s investigation has already bagged a remarkable number of witches. Only the best witches, you might say.”

Reservations by notecard

Or, really, a lottery by notecard, or, really, by index card, 3 × 5: “A tiny, in-demand restaurant in Maine asked for reservations by notecard — and got 20,000 of them” (The Washington Post).

The restaurant, the Lost Kitchen, does look fairly magical.

Related reading
All OCA index card posts (Pinboard)

Word of the day: involve

Bruce Ross-Larson’s Edit Yourself: A Manual for Everyone Who Works with Words (1996) has sixty-odd pages of words and phrases to change, cut, or compare. Those pages have made me ever more conscious of what I write. I was surprised to see involve in those pages, with the terse recommendation “Try to cut”:

The word should seldom replace or be combined with a preposition. The government agencies involved in carrying out should be The government agencies carrying out. The policies involving several departments should be The policies of several departments. If a verb or participle must stand, try to find a more precise word, such as mean, affect, or include.
Ross-Larson offers no further explanation. I began to wonder what’s wrong with involve and whether a recommendation to avoid it could be found elsewhere.

As best I can determine, Sir Ernest Gowers led the charge against involve. The second edition of H.W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1965), which Gowers revised, warns against it: “This word is overworked as a general-purpose verb that saves the trouble of precise thought.” Gowers’s The Complete Plain Words (1954) gives the clearest reasoning about involve that I can find, tracing the evolution of the word’s meaning (almost certainly with the help of the Oxford English Dictionary):
The meaning of this popular word has been diluted to a point of extreme insipidity. Originally it meant wrap up in something, enfold. Then it acquired the figurative meaning entangle a person in difficulties or embarrassment, and especially implicate in crime. Then it began to lose colour, and to be used as though it meant nothing more than include, contain or imply. It has thus developed a vagueness that makes it the delight of those who dislike the effort of searching for the right word. It is consequently much used, generally where some more specific word would be better and sometimes where it is merely superfluous.
Among Gowers’s examples, all drawn from life:
The additional rent involved will be £l. (Omit involved.)

There are certain amounts of the material available without permit, but the quantities involved are getting less. (Omit involved.)

It has been agreed that the capital cost involved in the installation of the works shall be included (. . . that the capital cost of installing . . .)

lt has been inaccurately reported that anything from eight sheep to eight oxen were roasted at the affair. The facts are that six sheep only were involved. (Involved here seems to be an “elegant variation” for roasted.)

Much labour has been involved in advertising. (Much labour has been expended on advertising.)
Gowers’s closing advice is to save involve “for use where there is a suggestion of entanglement or complication, as we use involved when we say ‘this is a most involved subject.’” For Gowers, the problem with involve is not that its meaning has changed over time; the problem is that the word can too often be cut with no loss of meaning or replaced by a more precise word. As I’ve begun to see, looking at old files and posts. Here are three examples from Orange Crate Art posts, recently revised:
I have no idea what airing an old PBS show might involve in the way of permissions.
I have no idea what airing an old PBS show might require in the way of permissions.

My most vivid Dance Festival memories (P.S. 131, Boro Park, Brooklyn) involve crepe-paper sashes and armbands and a song called "Wind the Bobbin."
My most vivid Dance Festival memories (P.S. 131, Boro Park, Brooklyn): crepe-paper sashes and armbands and a song called "Wind the Bobbin."

Rachel was involved in a group project on Millay and has now read enough of her work to last a lifetime, thank you.
Rachel worked on a group project about Millay and has now read enough of her work to last a lifetime, thank you.
Is it worth taking the time to make these minor adjustments to old posts? Is anyone likely to notice the difference? Yes: me.

More Gowers
Buzz-phrase generator : If and whether : “Rocket surgery” : Thinking and writing

More Ross-Larson
Long and short : That and which

[To insist that a word’s present meaning must be tied to the word’s roots is to fall for the etymological fallacy. Gowers again: “there is a point where it becomes idle pedantry to try to put back into their etymological cages words and phrases that escaped from them many years ago and have settled down firmly elsewhere.” Bergen Evans and Cornelia Evans’s A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage (1956), Roy H. Copperud’s American Usage and Style: A Consensus (1970), and B.A. Phythian’s A Concise Dictionary of Correct English (1979) follow Gowers’s lead. The warning against involve, lightly revised, persists in the most recent edition of The Complete Plain Words , revised by Sidney Greenbaum and Janet Whitcut (1988). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (1989) says — no surpise — that involve serves well as “a less specific but no less meaningful” choice of words. Want something that saves the trouble of precise thought? Try involve! Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016) has no entry for involve, nor does the earlier Garner’s Modern American Usage.]

Monday, August 20, 2018

My two cents: a modest proposal

I’m not Catholic, not even a believer. But if were Catholic, here’s what I do: I’d put two cents in the collection plate. Doing so might be a way to send a message that things must change. Change: I didn’t even think of the pun until I typed it.

If enough people put their two cents in, the church would also have to figure out what to do with all those pennies. Bringing them to a bank would be unseemly. Coinstar?

Please pass this suggestion on to anyone who might want to consider it.

[Context: Pennsylvania, and much else.]

Pocket notebook sighting

A pocket notebook is handy when it’s not safe to speak.


[“I have a message from Gabriel — Trust me.” Click any image for a larger view.]


[“Someone is listening — where can we talk.”]

This notebook plays a small, vital role in Eyes in the Night (dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1942). Duncan “Mac” Maclain (Edward Arnold), a detective, writes these messages while someone listens on the other side of the door. How does Mac know someone’s there? His faithful dog Friday has given him a telling nudge. Mac is blind. And yes, he does jigsaw puzzles.

A pocket notebook is also handy when writing a message for Friday to deliver. And gosh, does Friday deliver. He out-Lassies Lassie. Sorry, girl.


[“Help Urgent Lawry House.”]

Eyes in the Night is a thoroughly satisfying movie, available at the Internet Archive.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dragnet : Extras : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Ministry of Fear : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : The Palm Beach Story : Perry Mason : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : Route 66 : The Sopranos : Spellbound : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Time Table : T-Men : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window

Sunday, August 19, 2018

MSNBC, sheesh

Concerning advice to Donald McGahn from his lawyers: “to tell everything that he knows fulsomely and honestly.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

As Orwellian as it gets

Rudolph William Louis Giuliani talking to Meet the Press: “Truth isn’t truth.”

Related reading
All OCA Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

“I have to re-remember where the notes are.”

Related reading
All domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Recently updated

The Avital Ronell story Now with a lawsuit, a press release, more reportage, and a comment on the term educator.

From the Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, is difficult. For me, forty-eight minutes of difficulty. Getting the answer, finally, to the ultra-vague 1-Down, “Development facilitator,” let everything else begin to fall into place.

Two clues that I especially liked: 49-Across, ten letters: “Flat-bottomed vessels.” And 58-Down, three letters: “The tennis US Open is played on it.” Talk about your misdirection! No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 17, 2018

“What are they doing to us?”

“What is happening to us? What are they doing to us? We’re being kicked around by crazy people”: Martha Dobie (Miriam Hopkins) in These Three (dir. William Wyler, 1936).

[When I heard this line last night, I thought: current events.]

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?


[Zippy, August 17, 2018.]

The conversation at the diner has turned to graphic novels. “You like graphic novels, Louise?” “I never read one, Mr. Nesbitt.” Above, Mr. Nesbitt’s reply.

Mr. Nesbitt needs to know that unlike the snows of yesteryear, Nancy and Sluggo will be with us always. On a daily basis, in original and more recent incarnations. And in great big books, though Nancy Loves Sluggo: Complete Dailies 1949-1951 appears to be out of stock at the publisher.

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

Words from Nineteen Eighty-Four

This week at A.Word.A.Day, words from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that have entered the English language. Today’s entry: oldspeak. (In the novel, it’s capitalized.)

I think I would have chosen memory hole. As the Oxford English Dictionary defines it: “a slot through which documents recording past events, etc., can be disposed of, as part of the manipulation of memories of the past; also fig.”

Previously: newspeak, doublethink, Big Brother, unperson.

Related reading
All OCA Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Aretha Franklin (1942–2018)

From the New York Times obituary:

In her indelible late-1960s hits, Ms. Franklin brought the righteous fervor of gospel music to secular songs that were about much more than romance. Hits like “Do Right Woman — Do Right Man,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools” defined a modern female archetype: sensual and strong, long-suffering but ultimately indomitable, loving but not to be taken for granted.
Did you see her Kennedy Center Honors performance?

Tomatin

When I retired from teaching in 2015, The Crow suggested pouring some single malt Scotch. I bought a bottle of Glenlivet. A few weeks ago, when Elaine went looking for a (third, I think) bottle, the store was out. A clerk recommended Tomatin. I don’t think it’s much like Glenlivet at all. But I like it. I like it. I like it. I’ll let the distillery speak: “A rich, fruity aroma is the prelude to sweet flavours of ripe apples, pears and a subtle hint of nut before the long, pleasantly oily finish.” Can an oily finish be pleasant? Here, have a sip.

Thanks, Martha, for the single-malt suggestion, which I took to heart.

A related post
“Middle school is like Scotch”

[And on a Nineteen Eighty-Four note: Tomatin sure beats Victory Gin.]

Words from Nineteen Eighty-Four

This week at A.Word.A.Day, words from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that have entered the English language. Today’s entry: unperson. In Orwell’s novel, the word is applied to a Comrade Withers, once honored, now disgraced and to be struck from the historical record: “He did not exist: he had never existed.”

Previously: newspeak, doublethink, Big Brother.

Related reading
All OCA Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A new old Kinks song

“Suddenly it’s too late”: a line from “Time Song,” a previously unreleased Kinks song, no doubt written by Ray Davies. Backstory here.



As a kid, I had time for just one great group. But as I wrote in a 2016 post, “I’m now convinced that there were three great pop groups in the 1960s: the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Kinks.” I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.

Ray, Dave, Mick, it’s not too late to get the band back together.

Then again, it is, really. A reunion would be a sad shadow of its original.

Thanks, Elaine.

The Avital Ronell story

Avital Ronell, professor of German and comp lit at New York University, has been found responsible for sexually harassing a student and has been suspended for the 2018–2019 academic year. Reading the newly available details of this story makes clear (at least to me) that Ronell’s behavior toward her student Nimrod Reitman was an abuse of power — utterly, wildly inappropriate. Says one of Ronell’s defenders, “Avital definitely is a type of her own.” Yep, that’s true.

Read more from The Advocate, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The New York Times.

*

August 18: Reitman is suing Ronell and NYU. There’s now a press release on behalf on Ronell. And there’s more reportage from the Chronicle (1, 2), Salon, and the Times.

A thought after reading Reitman’s complaint: Ronell’s conduct warrants more than a suspension. NYU should have fired Ronell for conduct unbecoming. Unbelievably, appallingly unbecoming.

A thought after reading the press release: it’s surprising to see Ronell identified as an “educator.” See Paul Fussell’s Class (1983):

The next time you meet a distinguished university professor, especially one who fancies himself well known nationally for his ideas and writings, tell him it’s an honor to meet such a famous educator, and watch: first he will look down for a while, then up, but not at you, then away. And very soon he will detach himself from your company. He will be smiling all the time, but inside he will be in torment.
*

August 31: Andrea Long Chu, a graduate student at NYU, writes about working with Avital Ronell. An excerpt:
A culture of critics in name only, where genuine criticism is undertaken at the risk of ostracism, marginalization, retribution — this is where abuses like Avital’s grow like moss, or mold. Graduate students know this intuitively; it is written on their bones.
*

September 9: Bernd Hüppauf, former chair of the NYU German department, has written an account of department life under Avital Ronell. It’s now available in English translation at Salon. Hüppauf returned from a semester abroad to find that Ronell had displaced him as department chair:
She pursued one goal: The work of Avital Ronell and Jacques Derrida must be at the center of all teaching and research. Instead of an academic program, we were left with boundless narcissism. Once she’d become the head of the German department, she had her secretary announce in a departmental meeting that in the German department no student’s written work would any longer be acceptable unless it cited Derrida and Ronell.
There are, of course, elements of the Avital Ronell story — cult of personality, abuse of power, anointed ones and exiles — everywhere in academia. But I think it’s rare that those elements come together as horribly as they have in the NYU German department.

One especially useful minor aspect of Hüppauf’s account: its response to characterizations of Ronell as a feminist and leftist. No, and no.

A related post
Prestigious signatures

On Academia

“Perry? Paul. I just spoke with Tragg. They found a body — in the canyon, a man, probably in his fifties, looks like he was strangled with a bow tie. That’s right. Yeah, a philologist of some kind. Tragg said the wife identified him from his clothes — said he was wearing his second-best tweed jacket. And get this: there was a pipe in the jacket pocket, but the wife says it wasn’t his briar. Can you meet me in about twenty minutes? At the last house on Academia Drive.”

Related reading
All OCA Perry Mason posts (Pinboard)

[We passed Academia Drive while taking an avoid-the-freeway route to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles last month. I immediately thought of Paul and Perry and invented this bit of dialogue. “The canyon”? I think it sounds like something from the Mason world. In real life Academia Drive is a dead-end street — I mean, a cul-de-sac.]

Words from Nineteen Eighty-Four

This week at A.Word.A.Day, words from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that have entered the English language. Today’s entry: Big Brother. Under His Eye.

Previously: newspeak, doublethink.

Related reading
All OCA Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Recently updated

Small town, car, screen More to this story of small-town life.

Some rock


[Nancy, November 7, 1954. Click for a larger rock.]

That’s some rock.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard) : All “some rocks” posts

Words from Nineteen Eighty-Four

This week at A.Word.A.Day, words from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that have entered the English language. Today’s word: doublethink. Yesterday’s: newspeak.

From Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949):



Related reading
All OCA Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Avenatti, sheesh

Michael Avenatti, on CNN just now: “The president and me have the ability to work with the media.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Not on a first-name basis

One sign of the reality-TV-ification of everything these days is the reduction of persons in political life to first names: Chuck and Nancy, Jared and Ivanka. I think all the way back to the first season of Big Brother: George, Eddie, Jordan. (Those names, I am surprised to discover, have stuck in my head.) “Omarosa,” too, is a character from the world of reality-TV. The woman who worked in the White House is Omarosa Manigault Newman. Newscasters should refer to her by her name: Manigault Newman, or Ms. Manigault Newman.

But the less time cable news spends on Manigault Newman, the better. She offers a form of reality-TV spectacle that distracts from urgent issues of the real: tariffs, Helsinki, North Korea, Russian hacking, emoluments, conspiracy and obstruction, Congressional inaction, the firing of Peter Strzok, refugee children separated from their parents, and the incurious, ill-informed, misogynist, racist president at the heart of it all. “Trump at war with Omarosa!” said someone on MSNBC this afternoon. No, that’s entertainment posing as news — which leaves less time for news.

See also this moment when reality and fiction merged: “Omarosa was fired three times on The Apprentice, and this is the fourth time we let her go.”

[My list of issues is incomplete: I had to stop somewhere.]

Words from Nineteen Eighty-Four

This week at A.Word.A.Day, words from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that have entered the English language. Today’s word: newspeak. (In the novel, it’s capitalized.)

Two quotations accompany today’s word. One from the U.S. president: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” And one from Orwell’s novel: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

Related reading
All OCA Orwell posts (Pinboard)

Who cans?

We were trying to find canning supplies at our friendly neighborhood multinational retailer. I said to Elaine, “Someday we’re going to ask a younger person where the canning supplies are and they’ll have no idea what we’re talking about.”

We gave up looking and asked a store clerk. He gave us a blank look. “You know,” I said, “for fruits and vegetables.”

A pause. “Groceries,” he said, and walked off. He must have thought we were asking where to find canned food. He must have thought we were idiots.

An older store clerk saw us looking puzzled and asked if he could help us. He directed us to the canning section, a couple of aisles away. I told him what I had told Elaine. “I grew up on a farm,” he explained. I told him that we were putting up peaches and pickles. “There’s nothing better,” I said. He agreed.

But there are no farms in our past. We have come to canning on our own. Or on Elaine’s own. I’m a designated helper.

A related post
A mystery of the deep

From the BBC: Word of Mouth

An excellent podcast: Word of Mouth (BBC Radio 4). It’s the best podcast on language I’ve heard — smart, witty, respectful of its listener’s intelligence and time. A new series starts in September.

[Has the BBC ever made a bad podcast? I’m also a fan of Soul Music.]

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Recently updated

“This hectic modern life” Abel Gance’s La roue is at YouTube.

From the Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, is difficult. A solver who knows something about earthworms, Kentucky history, and defunct television networks may have an advantage, though crosses can make up for the missing knowledge.

A clue I especially liked, in the most difficult (for me) section of the puzzle : 17-Across, five letters: “Big name in little cubes.” RUBIK? No. But so simple once you see it. No spoilers: the answer is in the comments.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Speaking for yourself

“While identity affects your experiences, there’s no guarantee that what you’ve learned from them is going to be the same as what other people of the same identity have learned.” As a person wary of reducing individual identities to group labels, I think that Kwame Anthony Appiah’s essay “Go Ahead, Speak for Yourself” is worth your time.

MSNBC, sheesh

“Stone is of tantamount interest to Mueller.”

Not tantamount : paramount.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

“This hectic modern life”

From Abel Gance’s 1923 film La roue (The Wheel ). Elie (Gabriel de Gravone) speaks, or rather, an intertitle card speaks for him:

“Rails, wheels, smoke — how gloomy it all is! This hectic modern life is so exasperating!”
The Wheel is about four and a half hours long. We have about two hours to go. It’s an amazing film. Neither Filmstruck nor Netflix can help, but a library might have it.

*

August 11: Elaine found the film on YouTube, truly silent, without a musical score: part 1, part 2.

Norsk Hermetikkmuseum

“The exhibitions focus on the production of Norwegian sardines from their first appearance in 1879 until the mid-1950s.” Say hello, or hallo, to the Norsk Hermetikkmuseum, the Norwegian Canning Museum. With a café, a gift shop, a recreated cannery, and 40,000 sardine labels.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

John Ashbery’s last poem

“John Ashbery’s last poem, handwritten at his home in Hudson, New York, on August 25, 2017. Ashbery died on September 3”: “Climate Correction” (Harper’s).

Related reading
All OCA Ashbery posts (Pinboard)

“What time was all that?”

From a memoir by Luisa Ferber (née Lanzberg), written between 1939 and 1941, as it became clear that obtaining a visa to leave Germany was impossible. Before being “deported” with her husband Fritz in November 1941, Luisa Ferber sent the memoir to her son Max in England:


W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants, trans. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1996).

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

[The line between fiction and historical reality is blurry here. Max Ferber is modeled on the painter Frank Auerbach. Sebald said in an interview that he used a manuscript by Auerbach’s aunt as the basis for Luisa Ferber’s memoir.]

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A friend of Nancy

Smithsonian digs the new Nancy.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

An agenda


W.G. Sebald, The Emigrants, trans. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1996).

Really, if I had never read a word of Sebald, seeing this full-page photograph (page 127) would make me decide to read his work.

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

Small town, car, screen

One way to know you’re living in a small town: you recognize your neighbor’s little sports car in a TV commercial for a local auto shop.

*

August 14: Our neighbor knows about the commercial. But the car isn’t his. Someone else in town has the same little sports car, and my neighbor knows who. Further proof that I’m living in a small town.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Found: a Roman library

“Built about 150 years after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, its walls recently reemerged after centuries of darkness during the construction of a new community center next to the city of Cologne’s famous cathedral”: “Long-lost Roman library reemerges in Germany after 2,000 years in darkness” (The Washington Post).

A perpetual calendar

I found it while looking for something else:


[Webster’s Second International Dictionary (1934).]

One major difference between Webster’s Second and Third is the disappearance of encyclopedic or nonlexical content: proper names (people, places, things, events, organizations), epithets, proverbs, titles of literary works, in short, the material that made W2 an all-purpose home reference. As Herbert C. Morton points out, Philip Gove, W3’s editor, was not charting a new direction in lexicography in removing the nonlexical: he was following in a tradition established by Johnson’s Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary.

I wonder what debate the W2 entry for perpetual calendar might have sparked in the W3 editorial conferences. Clearly, the calendar itself is a nonlexical item. But as the preface to W3 says about cutting nonlexical material, “Selection is guided by usefulness.” Without a perpetual calendar, how might the layperson answer a what-day-of-the-week question? I like to imagine a Merriam-Webster editor shuddering at the thought of a dictionary user having to head out to a newsstand or supermarket in search of an almanac.

For whatever reason, the calendar stayed for W3. But the differences between the W2 and W3 entries are revealing. W3 makes no mention of the Gregorian and Julian calendars and omits the fairly tedious presentation of calendar mathematics. Will a W3 reader wonder why the calendar begins with 1753? Apparently not: all 1961 wants to know is how to find out what-day-of-the-week.


[Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961).]

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate (2004) has no calendar, only a definition:

n (1895) : a table for finding the day of the week for any one of a wide array of dates
Of course. Calculate-the-date websites and calendar apps have made a printed perpetual calendar obsolete. The Calendar app on my Mac is reported to run well past the year 200,000.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)
Review: The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published

[Herbert C. Morton’s The Story of “Webster’s Third”: Philip Gove’s Controversial Dictionary and Its Critics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) gives a careful inventory of the materials removed from or reduced in W3.]

Monday, August 6, 2018

Hotdish

I’ve had it only once before, at a potluck, where I wondered, “Are those Tater Tots on top?” Yes, they were. Huh.

Elaine made hotdish tonight, chicken pot hotdish, following a recipe from Molly Yeh, daughter of Elaine’s Juilliard pal John Bruce Yeh, and host of the Food Network’s Girl Meets Farm.

OMG: hotdish is so good. Good enough to make me forget about al pastor and panang curry, at least for a while. A culinary world has opened to us.

Here, from 2013, is a short, highly informative film by Maria Bartholdi: Minnesota Hotdish: A Love Story.

Like father, like daughter

Over the weekend, my daughter Rachel read a piece of journalism that she deemed poorly written. She texted me a link. I read and concurred. I copied and pasted a terrible sentence to send back, but then thought, “It’s not bad enough.” Then another, but again I thought, “It’s not bad enough.” And then I hit the right sentence. I copied and pasted and wrote, “Especially this sentence.” And Rachel replied that it was when she hit that sentence that she decided to send the link.

Dad, i.m.

My dad, James Leddy, died three years ago today, a day that feels both recent and distant. Yesterday, while Elaine and I were watching Three Identical Strangers, I thought about how fortunate I am to have had the father I had. And have. He’s an example, always, of how to be a father.

Here’s what I wrote after he died.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Today in history

Adam Davidson writes about August 5 past and present:

August 5, 1974, was the day the Nixon Presidency ended. On that day, Nixon heeded a Supreme Court ruling and released the so-called smoking-gun tape, a recording of a meeting, held two years earlier, with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman. Many of Nixon’s most damaging statements came in the form of short, monosyllabic answers and near-grunts — “um huh,” the official transcript reads, at one point — as he responds to Haldeman’s idea of asking the C.I.A. to tell the F.B.I. to “stay the hell out of” the Watergate investigation. . . .

On August 5, 2018, precisely forty-four years after the collapse of the Nixon Presidency, another President, Donald Trump, made his own public admission.
Read it all: “The Day Trump Told Us There Was Attempted Collusion with Russia” (The New Yorker).

A movie recommendation

Three Identical Strangers (dir. Tim Wardle, 2018). Don’t read a word about it. Just go see it. You won’t regret it.

And if you’ve already read about it, go see it anyway. You won’t regret it.

Orwell on totalitarian history

George Orwell, in "The Prevention of Literature" (1946):

From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened.
As I just discovered, I posted this passage in 2008. But it’s worth reposting. I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be. Now more than ever, as the saying went.

I reencountered this passage in a new sampler, Orwell on Truth, ed. David Milner (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).

Related reading
All OCA Orwell posts (Pinboard)

[About would and wouldn’t: Trump rearranged past events in order to claim that he did make a mistake. That’s another way to lie.]

Saturday, August 4, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is tough, mostly because of clues that point in several directions, or in no direction. For instance, 5-Across, five letters: “Puts out.” EMITS? OUSTS? No.

Two clues I especially liked: 25-Down, four letters: “Element of film noir lighting.” And 34-Down, “Film studied in physics labs.” No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Today’s headlines


[Zippy, August 4, 2018.]

Or if you’re a suspect in a murder investigation, like Hitchcock’s Uncle Charlie, you could turn a single page into a house.

The headlines in The Dingburg Decoder, front to back: “Valvoline Tank Explodes,” “Thousands Flee Anne Bancroft,” “Polystyrene Is Edible,” “W.C. Fields Is Mean Anew.”

That’s Moe Strauss of the Pep Boys on the table. The Boys have appeared in several Zippy strips. You can search and find them all.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Uncle Charlie: in Shadow of a Doubt.]

On Louis Armstrong’s birthday

Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901.

Give this son of a gun eight stars! Lombardo! These people are keeping music alive — helping to fight them damn beboppers. You know, you got to have somebody to keep that music sounding good. Music doesn’t mean a thing unless it sounds good. You know, this is the band that inspired me to make “Among My Souvenirs.” They inspired me to make “Sweethearts on Parade.” They’re my inspirators!
That’s from a blindfold test published as “Lombardo Grooves Louis!” (Metronome, September 1949). Armstrong was listening to six recordings. He gave two, three, or four stars to Roy Eldridge, Bunk Johnson, Woody Herman, Art Hodes, and Benny Goodman. Guy Lombardo outranked them all. Genius confounds.

Here is the 1945 Lombardo recording Armstrong was evaluating: “Always” (Irving Berlin). And here is Armstrong’s 1942 recording of “Among My Souvenirs” (Edgar Leslie–Horatio Nicholls). And from 1930, a surreal ”Sweethearts on Parade” (Carmen Lombardo–Charles Newman). Genius confounds.

Louis Armstrong’s recordings are now playing at Columbia University’s WKCR-FM.

Related reading
All OCA Louis Armstrong posts (Pinboard)
“A Sailboat in the Moonlight” (Guy Lombardo, Billie Holiday)

[“Lombardo Grooves Louis!” appears in Louis Armstrong in His Own Words: Selected Writings, ed. Thomas Brothers (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.]

Friday, August 3, 2018

“I can’t ‘take it’”

In The New York Times, Christopher Gibbs, a corn, soybean, and cattle farmer and Trump voter, offers his thoughts about tariffs: “I Am a Soybean Farmer Hurt by Trump’s Trade War. I Can’t ‘Take It.’”

Farm-to-table

Farm-to-table in four, or three-plus-one:

FARM
FARE
TARE
TALE
TABLE
The addition of a letter makes this sequence a variation on what Vladimir Nabokov called “word golf.”

Fred Rogers documentary
coming to PBS

The Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (dir. Morgan Neville, 2018) is coming to PBS in 2019.

Now if only they’d run Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Related reading
All OCA Fred Rogers posts (Pinboard)

[Note: the article I’ve linked to characterizes Angela Santomero, creator of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, as Fred Rogers’s “protégé.” That seems to be the PBS line. Certainly Santomero learned from Rogers’s example. But protégé? Santomero says that she considers Rogers her “mentor from afar.”]

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Dunning-Kruger geography

Our president, freestyling:

“I have great respect for the U.K. United Kingdom. Great respect. People call it Britain. They call it Great Britain. They call it — they used to call it England, different parts.”
From Garner’s Modern English Usage:
Great Britain consists of England, Scotland, and Wales — all three on the island known to the Romans as Britannia. (Modern usage routinely shortens the name to Britain.) It differs from United Kingdom, which also includes Northern Ireland.

Some people wrongly think of Great Britain as a boastful name. But it’s not: it’s rooted in history. Great Britain was once contrasted with Little Britain (or simply Brittany), in France, where the Celtic Bretons lived. Although the OED’s last citation for Little Britain dates from 1622, the term Great Britain has persisted (though perhaps not without a sense of pride).
Don’t get me started on the Channel Islands, the Crown Dependencies, and the difference between the British Islands and the British Isles. So many parts!

Related reading
All OCA Dunning-Kruger posts

[The Dunning-Kruger effect: a lack of competence entails an inability to recognize one’s lack of competence.]

Salzberg’s Theory of Pizza

Jeffrey Salzberg is a lighting designer for theater and dance and an occasional college instructor. I learned about his Theory of Pizza from an episode of A Way with Words:

It is better to have pizza you don’t want than to want pizza you don’t have.
Salzberg says that he devised this theory as a college sophomore. He invokes it when explaining to students “the need to be prepared for any and all reasonable possibilities.”

Salzberg’s Theory of Pizza would give someone like Marie Kondo the fits, but I think it makes good sense. Better to have that book on the shelf than not. Better to pack that umbrella than not. You might need it! I think that Salzberg’s Theory of Pizza deserves to be better known.

[The hosts of A Way with Words turned this theory into “Any pizza is better than no pizza.” I’m not sure whether they were joking or really missing the point. See the comments.]

“Thanks to my evening reading”

Salvatore Altamura is reading, book close to his face, glasses on his forehead, when the narrator meets him outside a bar.


W.G. Sebald, Vertigo, trans. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 2000.)

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)