Monday, December 31, 2018

A Robinson New Year’s Eve

I love this description of the Robinson family’s New Year’s Eve. “She” is Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother:

On New Year’s Eve, as a matter of tradition, she’d buy a special hors d’oeuvre basket, the kind that came filled with blocks of cheese, smoked oysters in a tin, and different kinds of salami. She’d invite my dad’s sister Francesca over to play board games. We’d order a pizza for dinner and then snack our way elegantly through the rest of the evening, my mom passing around trays of pigs in a blanket, fried shrimp, and a special cheese spread baked on Ritz crackers. As midnight drew closer, we’d each have a tiny glass of champagne.

Michelle Obama, Becoming (New York: Crown, 2018).
I thought about this passage (from a book I’ve just started) after reading a Gothamist report on people spending the day and night standing and waiting in Times Square while wearing Depends — or while not wearing Depends. Good luck with that. I vote for spending the night in a warm house with those you love.

New Year’s Eve 1918

New Year’s Eve in 1916 and 1917: pretty quiet in New York City. I would have imagined that the first New Year’s Eve to follow the end of the Great War was noisy. No:


[“Just Enough Noise to Wake Baby Year: Outdoor Celebration Pales by Comparison with Times Sq. on Armistice Night.” The New York Times, January 1, 1919.]

How to clear your place

Alert facilitator that you are done with your meal: “Go.” Wait for assistance.

Once free and standing, take plate from facilitator. Grasp plate in both hands. Make sure that facilitator has taken wastebasket out from under-sink cabinet. Walk toward wastebasket.

Hold plate high. High, high, high. All the way up. That’s it. All the way up. Yay!

Tip plate to drop food into wastebasket, or onto floor. Uh-oh!

Wait for assistance. A piece of bagel on floor? Pick up! Enjoy! Facilitator will place any other floor food in basket before returning basket to cabinet.

Push cabinet door shut. Yay! Good job! Wait for applause.

Smile.

[That’s how our granddaughter Talia, fourteen months old, does it. YMMV. Thanks to Rachel for reminding me about the bagel.]

Sunday, December 30, 2018

MSNBC, sheesh

A chyron: “Mueller subpoena’s unknown corporation owned by unknown country.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[Subpoena’s may be a genuine possessive and not an ill-formed verb (“The corporation named in Mueller’s subpoena is owned by,” &c.). That aside, the corporation and country are not unknown. They are as yet unidentified.]

Out of copyright

From The New York Times:

This coming year marks the first time in two decades that a large body of copyrighted works will lose their protected status — a shift that will have profound consequences for publishers and literary estates, which stand to lose both money and creative control.

But it will also be a boon for readers, who will have more editions to choose from, and for writers and other artists who can create new works based on classic stories without getting hit with an intellectual property lawsuit.
Works by Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Marcel Proust, and Wallace Stevens are among those falling out of copyright. The challenge for many readers will be to find trustworthy non-sketchy editions. Amazon makes that task more difficult than it should be. A bookstore might be a better place to look.

A related post
Mount Proust (Shaped by copyright law)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Andrew Bell Lewis, is a true Saturday. Not especially tricky, but difficult, for sure. A fine value in puzzling.

Three clues that I especially liked for their novelty: 1-Across, nine letters, “Felonious pier group.” 5-Down, eleven letters, “Timberlake wore them as a teen.” And 13-Down, ten letters, “Start of many a mechanical invention.”

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, December 28, 2018

coffee


[A repurposed Ovaltine advertisement. Life, March 19, 1951. Click for larger cups and more coffee.]

Related reading
All OCA coffee posts (Pinboard)

“A whole new paradigm”


[Zippy, December 28, 2018.]

A Dingburg conceptual artist at work.

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

[You can read Zippy daily at Comics Kingdom.]

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Roger Bradfield

Roger Bradfield, the writer and illustrator of Hello, Rock, has a website for his work. And what work.

And even if you’ve never seen a Bradfield book or painting or comic strip, you may have seen his work in the cereal aisle.

The year of Nancy

Todd VanDerWerff: Nancy, a 1930s comic strip, was the funniest thing I read in 2018.” He means the new Olivia Jaimes version of the strip.

Thanks, Chris, for sending me the link.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[I love the comic strip, in both Ernie Bushmiller and Olivia Jaimes incarnations. But the funniest thing I’ve read in 2018 is Tristram Shandy, which may also be the funniest thing I’ll read in 2019.]

Waverly goodbye

We ate at Manhattan’s Waverly Diner for the first time this past September. A great experience. But after reading this report on the Waverly and wage theft, I don’t think we’ll want to eat there again.

[If you click through, skip the hijacked comments section.]

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Some rock

Fresca, l’astronave, sent me this book. Thank you, Fresca!


[Roger Bradfield, Hello, Rock. Racine, WI: Western Publishing, 1965.]

Dig the interlock. Dig the rock.

Inside, two more rocks: “Are all these other rocks your friends? Is this one your mother? Is this one your father?” 1 + 1 + 1 = some. You’ll have to take my word for it: I don’t want to destroy the binding for the sake of a photo.

[“Some rocks” is an abiding preoccupation of these pages.]

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas 1918


[“Police Are Hosts to the City’s Poor: Thousands of Children Receive Presents and Food in Most of the Stations.” The New York Times, December 25, 1918.]

You’d have to be a sentimentalist to like this kind of story. I am, and I do.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Stefan Zweig on happiness


Stefan Zweig, “The Debt Paid Late.” 1951. The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig. Trans. Anthea Bell (London: Pushkin Press, 2013).

Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

[Light, variable blogging this week. Lots of things to do.]

Eves

Two comics with but a single thought: Nancy (December 23) and today’s xkcd.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

$teel $lats

The Washington Post does the math on steel slats.

A related post
“Black Slacks” “Steel Slats”

Donate to the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is a hugely valuable resource. A generous donor is matching donations, two to one, turning, say, $25 (that’s me) into $75.

“The” four

I’m enough of a snoot to be dismayed when I see the following headline in The New York Times: “The Four ‘Attachment Styles,’ and How They Sabotage Your Work-Life Balance.” I’m less put off by the cliché at the end than by the magic number at the start. The four, the only four. “The” four might be more honest.

But I read on. And for a sentence or two, I thought I could see a sitting president in the description of “dismissive avoidant attachment”:

Individuals with dismissive avoidant attachment at work tend to think they are smart and everyone else is stupid. Well, maybe not exactly stupid, but definitely not as smart as they are. They most likely decide what they should do and then ignore what others want. This leads to conflict and mistrust. This mistrust can lead to others attempting to micromanage and monitor them, which just makes them more annoyed and more likely to dismiss input.
That sounds like President Dunning-Kruger himself. (The Times reports that he calls aides “Fucking idiots!”)

I read on, about “How to tell if this is you”:
From your perspective, the biggest time management issue tends to be working late. Long hours usually arise when you get fixated on doing a particular project really well. Or they can happen because you want to work on what you consider to be important first and then you also have to complete work for others.
Working long hours? Completing work for others? Only if you count watching television and being your own chief of staff.

I jumped back a few paragraphs, and now thought that our president might fit the description of “anxious preoccupied attachment”: “fear of upsetting others,” “a compulsion to check email [or in his case, Fox News] incessantly to make sure everything is ‘O.K.,’” “attention . . . hijacked whenever you experience a perceived ‘threat.’” And: “The idea of saying no may terrify you.” But the president seems to have no problem saying no to reading daily intelligence briefings, &c.

I jumped ahead and decided that one can also see in the president an element of “fearful avoidant attachment”:
You tend to spend most of your time in a state of being overwhelmed because you fear everything and feel very little power to do anything about your fears (much less the work that is also piling up).
Fear of an eleven-letter word beginning with i, for instance.

And one can find in the president at least a trace of the fourth and last style, “secure attachment style.” People with this style “know [think?] they are capable, and they are confident that others will respond well to them.” That certainly sounds like our president: “Nobody knows more about,” &c. “I alone can fix it.” “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?”

In other words, people can be slotted into “the” four or five or six anything, one slot per person, only if you’re looking to attract eyeballs on the Internets.

It doesn’t surprise me that Elizabeth Grace Saunders, the discoverer of “the” four, also has “the” three, in book form: The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment.

This is one of the two posts I’ve written today.

One related post
Beyond categories (On categories and art)

[Secrets to, not of? Well, I said that I’m a snoot. ]

“You can’t un-see it”

in The New York Times, Jen Gunter, OB/GYN, writes about the vagina:

As I began to think about how women often prioritize their sexual responses to please men, I looked at other aspects of gynecology with that in mind. And once you start viewing every discussion we have about the female body from the perspective of how it advances the patriarchy or how it pleases men you can’t un-see it.
Dr. Gunter’s essay is a follow-up to one from 2017: “My Vagina Is Terrific. Your Opinion About It Is Not.”

Dr. Gunter has a blog, which she describes as “wielding the lasso of truth.”

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Screen life

A New York Times article about life in the White House describes an isolated, suspicious president who expresses “frustration, anger, mania” and watches plenty of TV:

By all accounts, Mr. Trump’s consumption of cable television has actually increased in recent months as his first scheduled meetings of the day have slid back from the 9 or 9:30 a.m. set by Reince Priebus, his first chief of staff, to roughly 11 many mornings. During “executive time,” Mr. Trump watches television in the residence for hours, reacting to what he sees on Fox News. While in the West Wing, he leaves it on during most meetings in the dining room off the Oval Office, one ear attuned to what is being said.
I hope it’s safe to say that whoever the next American president turns out to be, he or she will not have been a reality-TV star.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Lester Ruff, hardly feels like Saturday. It’s easy as A-B-C, or pie. Or to switch from simile to metaphor, it’s a piece of cake. Or a walk in the park. Or a cakewalk. Or a breeze, felt while walking in the park, with or without cake.

Two fun clues: 20-Across, thirteen letters, “One extremely well-fixed.” And 51-Across, fourteen letters, “Interrogative endorsement.”

A slightly deceptive clue: 9-Down, six letters, “They typically sit near conductors at concerts.”

A clue that taught me something: 37-Across, five letters, “‘Me no __’ (punny pan of ‘I Am a Camera’).”

My least favorite clue: 45-Across, three letters, “National Caramel Mo.” Of course, right, National Caramel Mo.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

[National Nougat Day: March 26.]

Friday, December 21, 2018

A message for Shorty


[Actual fortune from today’s lunch.]

An important email will be arriving shortly.

Or:

An important email will be arriving, Shorty.

Wait — who’re you calling Shorty?

Other cookies
Lucky numbers : “Order a takeout” : Speed vs. accuracy

[I’d prefer e-mail. Google’s Ngram Viewer has e-mail dropping slightly but still twice as common as email.]

“Steel Slats”

Our leader’s idiocy has put Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones in my head. Yes, “Black Slacks.” The lyrics are so easily repurposed:

Black slacks Steel slats
Mostly in the head
Black slacks Steel slats
Well, that’s what I said
“Mostly in the head” is right.

No news


[Zippy, December 21, 2018.]

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[You can read Zippy daily at Comics Kingdom.]

Or, or, or

“It can be ‘breath’ or ‘life-breath.’ It can mean ‘throat’ or ‘neck’ or ‘gullet.’ Sometimes it can suggest ‘blood.’ It can mean ‘person’ or even a ‘dead person,’ ‘corpse.’ Or it can be ‘appetite’ or something more general: ‘life’ or even ‘the essential self.’ But it’s not quite ‘soul’ ”: Robert Alter on translating the Bible.

[I twice used Alter’s translation of the Book of Job in undergrad classes. Highly recommended.]

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Alliances

Two excerpts from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s letter of resignation:

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.

*

We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Mattis then says that that on these and other matters, he is not “aligned” with Donald Trump.

“America First”? No, alliances. Not to be abandoned, not to be belittled, with partners not to be mistaken for adversaries — who themselves should never be mistaken for friends. (He likes me, I like him, we fell in love, &c.)

Mattis’s sign-off is telling: “I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.” He was serving his country and its military, not Donald Trump.

Work as play

“Being hard at work is really being hard at play for me”: Elaine Fine writes about the economics of music.

A poem with John Ashbery and
Stanley Lombardo in it

In the latest New Yorker, a prose poem by Anne Carson: “Short Talk on Homer and John Ashbery.” And Stanley Lombardo is in there too.

I interviewed Lombardo in 2002. One of the happiest instances of my “research and creative activity.”

Related reading
All OCA Ashbery, Homer, and Lombardo posts (Pinboard)

[“Research and creative activity”: one of the three categories for evaluating tenure-track and tenured college faculty. The others: teaching and service.]

Yorick, soulful

Yorick visits Maria, a “disordered maid” whose story of lost love told in Tristam Shandy. When Yorick meets her, Maria has lost not only her lover but also her father and her goat. She has only a little dog for company. Maria weeps, and Yorick weeps with her. This sentence, a paragraph unto itself, is startling in its unambiguous sincerity.


Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768). Text from the 2001 Penguin edition, ed. Paul Goring.

Also from this novel
Letters for all occasions : Yorick, distracted : Yorick, translating

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

#MRRA

Listening to a president proclaim “We won,” I have to wonder if he’s been listening too long to John and Yoko: “War is over, if you want it.” Reality on demand.

I propose a hashtag to counter #MAGA: #MRRA. Make reality real again.

Yorick, translating

Visiting the Opéra-Comique in Paris, Mr. Yorick has paused to demonstrate his skill at translating gestures into speech. He now recalls an incident in Milan:


Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768). Text from the 2001 Penguin edition, ed. Paul Goring.

Also from this novel
Letters for all occasions : Yorick, distracted

[Chichesbee: “form of ‘ciciesbo,’ the name formerly given in Italy to the ‘cavalier servente’ or recognized gallant of a married woman.” St. Cecelia: “the patron saint of church music.” From the Penguin notes.]

For RSS

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube — did you notice which platforms Russian election-subverters ignored? Blogger, Typepad, WordPress, none of which can be used to put “content” (as it’s called) in front of a captive audience.

Reading the new news about election subversion, watching “The Facebook Dilemma” on Frontline last night, and reading more news this morning about Facebook giving data to Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, &c., I remembered an observation in a post at The Old Reader blog: “There are really only two parties that matter. The writer and the reader.” The Old Reader calls Facebook “the ultimate middle man.”

And from another Old Reader post, a comment from Seth Godin on the virtues of RSS: “It’s an endaround to get past the giant companies that want to dominate your media life. It is snoop free, ad resistant and fast. It can’t be filtered or otherwise squeezed.”

The Old Reader is an RSS reader. Find people whose work you want to follow, add their URLs to a reader, and read.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

As if

Brian Williams, interviewing a guest a few minutes ago on MSNBC: “Is there a secret whiteboard timeline in the Mueller office?”

As if anyone talking on television would have the answer to that question.

SHSL

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doing a press briefing.

Previous briefing: November 27.

And before that: October 29.

With a “press gaggle” on October 30.

Oops — it’s already over, with less than fourteen minutes for questions.

[SHSL: Sarah Huckabee Sanders Live, à la SNL.]

Embarrassment: mild, fleeting

We live about thirty miles from an Amish community, whose members often shop at our town’s Aldi. I see families buying, say, six dozen eggs, six gallons of milk at a time. It’s like industrial-grade shopping.

Last week Aldi had a special on Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. A recognizable brand! So I bought a twelve-pack. And as I left the store, twelve-pack in hand, I found myself walking past a little old Amish man, who was waiting, I believe, while his family shopped.

Yes, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is the one with the scantily clad lady on the label. She wears a bustier, short shorts, and boots. She’s on the twelve-pack box too, wearing larger sizes. I felt so English.

File under “Embarrassment: mild, fleeting.”

[Aldi’s store-brand beers are uniformly disappointing. But their Winking Owl Shiraz ($2.89!) is surprisingly good. Elaine calls it Vinking Owl, to honor Aldi’s German origins.]

Fish stockings

Bon Appétit recommends canned fish and seafood as stocking stuffers.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

“How to talk like a Samaritan”

I’m planning to listen to every last back episode of Word of Mouth, a podcast from BBC Radio 4. One exceptionally good episode that I heard this week: “How to talk like a Samaritan.”

This episode focuses on how talking and listening can help people in crisis. The discussion references the Samaritans’ campaign Small Talk Saves Lives, which encourages people to strike up a conversation with anyone who seems to be in need of help (or, if a conversation doesn’t seem possible, to alert someone else). Sample starters from the Samaritans website: It’s a warm evening, isn’t it? What train are you going to get? What’s your name? Do you need any help? Are you okay?

So many times, talking with a student after class or in my office, I found myself asking, “Are you okay?” It’s never the wrong question to ask.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with justice.

From Diary of a Lost Girl

The closing line of Diary of a Lost Girl (dir. G.W. Pabst, 1929), spoken by the elder Count Osdorff (Arnold Korff):

“Ein wenig mehr Liebe und niemand kann verloren sein auf dieser Welt!” [Just a little more love and no one would be lost in this world!]

Twelve movies

[One to four stars. Three sentences each. No spoilers.]

Pandora’s Box (dir. G.W. Pabst, 1929). Louise Brooks as Lulu, a woman of irresistible sexual allure and cheerfully amoral and destructive promiscuity. Did I mention Louise Brooks? Yes, of course I did, because she’s unforgettable. ★★★★

*

Diary of a Lost Girl (dir. G.W. Pabst, 1929). The flip side of Lulu: Louise Brooks as Thymian Henning, a woman exploited and misused by everyone around her, and who chooses, when she is finally able to make choices, generosity and mercy in return. A film of great pathos, and a much better example of Brooks’s range as an silent actor than Pandora’s Box. With great performances too from Andrews Engelmann and Edith Meinhard, and an appropriate and evocative piano accompaniment (Scriabin, Schumann, silent-film composers), performed by Javier Perez de Azpeitia. ★★★★

*

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (dir. Marielle Heller, 2018). Based on a true story: Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel, a biographer of celebrities who turns to fabricating letters from dead writers. Highly entertaining for a movie founded on misanthropy and deception, of self and others. All set in a highly stylized 1990s Manhattan, with cozy bookstores, booksellers crazy about Fanny Brice and Noël Coward and “Miss Parker” (first name Dorothy), and Blossom Dearie and other singers providing the sophisticated extra-diegetic music. ★★★★

*

I Saw What You Did (dir. William Castle 1965). Home alone, two teenagers make prank telephone calls and just happen to reach the wrong person. Moments of genuine suspense and moments of bizarre comedy make for a movie that seems to meld Psycho, Rear Window, and The World of Henry Orient. Special bonus: Joan Crawford as a bonkers paramour. ★★★

*

Border Incident (dir. Anthony Mann, 1949). Suspense and brutal violence, in the semi-documentary style, as American and Mexican lawmen (George Murphy and Ricardo Montalban) team up to protect Mexican braceros from exploitation and worse at the hands of unscrupulous (and murderous) American ranchers. That Anthony Mann directed was reason enough to put this film in our queue. But also: the cinematography is by John Alton, with the deepest blacks, the brightest whites, and the most mysterious shadows. ★★★★

*

Victim (dir. Basil Dearden, 1961). “Somebody called this law against homosexuals the blackmailer’s charter”: life in an England in which sexual acts between men were still criminalized. Dirk Bogarde stars as Melville Farr, a married man and rising barrister threatened with blackmail. Will he pay, or out himself and fight? ★★★★

*

Marwencol (dir. Jeff Malmberg, 2010). I had this documentary on my Netflix “saved” list for years, and finally it’s available, no doubt because a major motion picture with Steve Carell, Welcome to Marwen, premieres this week. The story of Mark Hogancamp, for whom dolls and storytelling become a way to cope with trauma. Hogancamp’s imaginary town of Marwencol has strong overtones (for me, anyway) of Henry Darger’s Realms of the Unreal: each is the site of a battle between good and evil, with each creator a protagonist in battle. ★★★★

*

Double Lover (dir. François Ozon, 2017). A young woman (Marine Vacth) who suffers from what seem to be psychosomatic stomach pains receives a referral to a therapist (Jérémie Renier). What follows looks like a sometimes preposterous erotic thriller, but is — I think — a hallucinatory story about desire and doubles, with echoes of The Shining and Vertigo. I need to watch again to get a better sense of what’s happening, or isn’t. ★★★

*

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (dir. Matt Tyrnauer, 2017). “It’s not a secret really — it may be a secret to some square that lives in Illinois.” A documentary about Scotty Bowers, who for many years supplied sexual partners (including himself) to closeted men and women in the Hollywood film industry. Astonishing because it seems at times as if everyone was in a closet, depressing because of Scotty’s capacity for self-deception: he was a friend, he insists, not a pimp! ★★★

*

The Monster and the Girl (dir. Stuart Heisler, 1941). A low-budget but exceptionally stylish film that’s insanely awful, or insanely great, or both. Begins as a story of gangsters, prostitution, and a man framed for murder; ends with a dog bereft after the loss of his ape companion. Add the middle and everything makes sense, sort of. ★★★★

*

Riot in Cell Block 11 (dir. Don Siegel, 1954). An often brutal but largely sympathetic depiction of a prison uprising, with both inmates and warden agreeing that conditions are intolerable. And a great chance to see a number of lesser-known actors shine: Whit Bissell, Neville Brand, Frank Faylen, Leo Gordon, and Emile Meyer, among others. Filmed in Folsom State Prison, with guards and prisoners as extras. ★★★★

*

The Blackboard Jungle (dir. Richard Brooks, 1955). For me it breaks apart into its small memorable bits: the grammar lesson, Morales and the tape recorder, the destruction of a record collection, the students gathered around the piano, New Year’s Eve in the hospital. As a rookie teacher at a vocational high school, Glenn Ford’s Mr. Dadier (or Daddy-O, as his students call him) makes every mistake imaginable — turning his back, picking out an antagonist, trying to curry another student’s favor — and yet he still figures out a way to reach his class (cartoons!). The real star of the film is Sidney Poitier as student Greg Miller, cynical, wary, and sane. ★★★★

 
[Louise Brooks as Lulu. Louise Brooks as Thymian. Click for larger views.]

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

[Whatever became of Edith Meinhard? An assidious blogger has tried to find out.]

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Sluggo pillow


[Zippy, December 16, 2018.]

It is “Average American” Day in Dingburg. You can read Zippy every day at Comics Kingdom.

Axolotl is a Mad word. Here’s an example. The axolotl itself is amazing and endangered.

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

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Like a good teacher, today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Brad Wilber, is tough but fair. I kvelled at 33-Across, six letters, “‘Nancy Loves __’ (book collection of comics).” Three other clues I especially liked: 42-Across, three letters, “Limits of negotiation.” 43-Across, six letters, “Stays home.” And 54-Down, four letters, “Crawled back and forth, perhaps.”

A clue that taught me something: 28-Across, five letters, “Brad's Drink (1893), today.” And one small complaint: the cross of 50-Across and 51-Down looks like it must be a typo. But it’s not.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

A Mister Softee mystery

Strange music — it’s coming from that kiosk — must investigate: a Mister Softee mystery solved (WNYC).

Related posts
The jingle : Les Waas, its creator

Friday, December 14, 2018

New directions in metaphor

New, at least, to me: “Can I double-click on that later?”

Meaning, “Can I go into detail about that later?” “Can I wait to explain that?”

StackExchange has someone asking about this metaphor in 2015. I doubt that it’s caught on. Has anyone else heard it?

I have a possible answer to “Can I double-click on that later?” “Yes! Keep scrolling!”

Related reading
All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)

Moving to Elgin Park

“Michael Paul Smith has moved to Elgin Park”: the creator of an imaginary town has died.

[I wish I’d known about Elgin Park years ago.]

Letters for all occasions

Elaine and I are having a grand time reading Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through England and France. Here is an excerpt. The scene: Yorick, our narrator, must reply to a letter from Madame de L***, a young woman he has met in Calais. Now the two are in Amiens, where Madame de L***’s brother, the Count de L***, is on the scene. Madame has written Yorick a letter, delivered by her servant, who (tipsy) brings Yorick’s servant La Fleur back with him to the Count’s apartment. And look, here’s Madame. When she asks for Yorick’s reply, La Fleur says that — oops — he has forgotten to bring it. And now Yorick is stuck figuring out what to say:


Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768). Text from the 2001 Penguin edition, ed. Paul Goring.

I have already confessed in a letter to a friend that Yorick and La Fleur remind me of Larry (Larry David) and Leon (J.B. Smoove) in Curb Your Enthusiasm. “What should I say to her, Leon?” “I got this, Larry.” Except Leon wouldn’t apologize or tremble.

Also from this novel
Yorick, distracted

[Translation, from Penguin edition: “I am filled with the deepest sadness and at the same time reduced to despair by this unforeseen return of the Corporal, which renders our meeting tonight the most impossible thing in the world. But let there be joy! And all of my joy will be in thinking of you. Love is nothing without sentiment. And sentiment is even less without love. It is said that one should never despair. It is also said that Monsieur le Corporal will be mounting guard on Wednesday: then it will be my turn. Everyone has his turn. While we wait — Long live love! And long live sweet nothings! I am, Madame, with all the most respectful and tender sentiments, all yours.” Goring points out that the letter echoes one of Sterne’s: “‘l’amour’ (say they) ‘n’est rien sans sentiment.’”]

Thursday, December 13, 2018

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in the news

In The New York Times: “How ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ Went From Parlor Act to Problematic.” It’s a wonderful song, especially when performed by Ray Charles and Betty Carter, but yes, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is problematic indeed.

Years ago, or ages ago, I used to have students read the lyrics of Frank Loesser’s song alongside Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and Sir Walter Ralegh’s “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd.” The implications of Loesser’s lyrics were clear to late-twentieth-century students, for sure (and with no coaching from me): “Say, what's in this drink?” “What’s the sense of hurting my pride?” “Baby, don’t hold out.” “How can you do this thing to me?” The song is about pursuit and persuasion and power, as the party pursued finally agrees with the party pursuing: “Ahh, but it’s cold outside.” Capitulation, it sounds like, whoever is capitulating to whom.

But if I had to choose between Ray Charles and Betty Carter’s performance of Loesser’s song and Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski’s updated version (it accompanies the Times article), I’d vote for Charles and Carter, though with an eyes-open understanding of the song’s import.

Two other songs immediately come to mind as ones whose import many people miss: Jacques Morali and Victor Willis’s “Y.M.C.A.” (which I've heard sung by an elementary-school chorus) and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” (not a patriotic anthem). Another song of pursuit that might be paired with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”: “Come Up to My Place” from On the Town ( Leonard Bernstein–Betty Comden–Adolph Green). There a female cabbie is the pursuer. Or “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” (Jerry Ross–Kenny Gamble) as recorded by Diana Ross and The Supremes, and The Temptations, with all singers as both pursuers and the pursued.

[“Say, what’s in this drink?” No implication of a date-rape drug. But it’s a stiff drink, mixed stronger than someone might expect. In the updated version, it’s Pomegranate LaCroix.]

Pareidolia


[About half an inch from top to bottom. Unretouched.]

A bit of an egg-roll wrapper, looking like a distant relative of the man who lived on my office floor. I wonder if he’s still there.

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with Canberra bubble.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The job market in English

“There is no doubt we are at historic lows”: at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jonathan Kramnick looks at the job market in English.

Briefly: far fewer jobs than in the past, and far fewer of them tenure-track. Composition has fewer positions but a larger percentage of all positions. The only area in which hiring has increased: creative writing.

Related posts
Academic futures
English studies and adjunct labor
Fluke life, or, how I got a job
Undergrads and creative writing

Domestic comedy

[Who’s our fixer?]

“You’re the fixer. You fixed the pencil sharpener . . . no, you tried to fix the pencil sharpener.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Shakespeare, revised

William Cohen, a little while ago on CNN: “My country for a hotel.”

Fingers or numbers

Elaine and I wondered while walking: which meaning of digit came first, finger, or number?

Answer: number.

The Oxford English Dictionary dates that meaning (“a whole number less than ten,“ &c.) to about 1400. Fingers (and thumbs and toes) don’t come along until 1644.

The word digit derives from the classical Latin digitus, which means “finger, finger’s breadth.” In post-classical Latin digitus also means “each of the numerals below ten.” And whence digitus? The OED doesn’t know (“of uncertain origin”) but suggests that the word probably comes from a variant of the same Indo-European base as the obsolete English verb tee, “to accuse.” And so I think of the children’s song: Where is pointer? Where is pointer? Here I am.

And why digitalis? Because of its finger-like flowers.

On an unrelated note, I am happy to see that the OED has a place for Clueless: “Look, he’s getting her digits!”

A tenuously related post
P Is for Pterodactyl

A calendar for Sluggo


[Nancy, January 4, 1955.]

Sluggo, those 1955 calendars will no longer do. You can get the latest model right here, before the new year begins. Act today!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A 2019 calendar

I’ve been making and sharing yearly calendars since 2010, when I realized that I could get something like the look of a Field Notes calendar for the cost of my own labor — and I work cheap.

Here, via Dropbox, is a calendar for 2019, three months per page. It’s made with Gill Sans and has minimal markings: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a special mystery day. Highly readable, even across a crowded room.

About the mystery day: it’s not a personal day, not a family day. But it is a birthday. The date color is meant to suggest wheat. Say, why not download the calendar and try to suss out the mystery?

“Reserve your strength”

Brooke Gladstone, on presidential utterances:

If his reality is not your reality, resist the temptation to repost his missives. Reposting only reinforces them. Instead, note them, mark them, and you will be better equipped to hang onto your own [reality].

Having decoded his tweets and speeches, it would be wiser not to dwell on them too much. In times of stress, there's no point spiking your cortisol levels by fulminating on petty lies, tantrums, or hypocrisies. . . . Preserve your outrage for issues that reflect your values. Reserve your strength. [Ellipsis added.]

The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time (New York: Workman, 2017).
Yesterday’s misspelling: just a bright shiny weapon of mass distraction.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Self-discovery

From a New York Times explanation of how to turn off location services, a complement to a report on the lucrative business of location tracking:

If you want to disable location tracking entirely, toggle the “Location Services” setting to off. With location services switched off entirely, you may not be able to use certain services, such as finding yourself on a map.
There are other ways to find yourself.

[My choice is to disable location services entirely. I’ll use tracking with Google Maps if I have to. But not all map use requires tracking.]

Charles Mingus, Jazz In Detroit

Charles Mingus. Jazz In Detroit / Strata Concert Gallery / 46 Selden. BBE. 2018.

Pithecanthropus Erectus : The Man Who Never Sleeps : Peggy’s Blue Skylight : Celia : C Jam Blues : Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk : Dizzy Profile : Noddin’ Ya Head Blues : Celia (alternate take) : Dizzy Profile (alternate take)

Charles Mingus, bass : Joe Gardner, trumpet : John Stubblefield, tenor : Don Pullen, piano : Roy Brooks, drums, saw. All compositions except “C Jam Blues” (Duke Ellington) by Charles Mingus. Recorded February 13, 1973.

This five-CD set presents music from the opening performance of a five-day residency at Detroit’s Strata Concert Gallery, 46 Selden Street. The performance was broadcast live on a local public-radio station, whose tapes ended up with Roy Brooks. And now, forty-five years later, everyone can tune in to three-and-a-half hours of music and another forty-five minutes of conversation with Brooks and radio announcer Bud Spangler.

The music herein is excellent, a mix of favorites (“Pithecanthropus Erectus,” “Peggy’s Blue Skylight,” “Celia,” “Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk”), some Ellingtonia (“C Jam Blues”), and three rarities (“The Man Who Never Sleeps,” “Noddin’ Ya Head Blues,” and the otherwise unrecorded “Dizzy Profile,” a delicate waltz written for Dizzy Gillespie). The band is tight, shifting effortlessly from collective tumult to stately ensemble passages. Though Joe Gardner and John Stubblefield are more than capable players, Don Pullen is the standout, creating solos that move from crystalline single-note streams to gospel-tinged harmonies to wild flurries up and down the keyboard. Roy Brooks, the hometown favorite, is a busier drummer than Mingus stalwart Dannie Richmond: think Elvin Jones. Brooks also plays a mean saw on “Noddin’ Ya Head Blues.” The one musician who seems to be missing: Mingus, who contributes just two short solos and is sometimes hard to hear in the mix. “Is he soloing much these days?” Spangler asks Brooks in an interview. “Uh, no,” is the reply.

It’s both exciting and sobering to hear this band playing for an audience. The applause suggests a small, intensely appreciative crowd: when Mingus says “Thank you,” someone replies, “You’re welcome.” Spangler exhorts radio listeners to show up: $4 in advance, $5 at the door. A call goes out over the air for an amplifier, presumably for Mingus’s bass. The economics of music can be precarious.

Thank goodness that Hermione Brooks, Roy Brooks’s wife and, later, widow, held on to these tapes. Jazz in Detroit, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles (ECM), and The Savory Collection (Mosaic) are my records of the year.

Related reading
All OCA Charles Mingus posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

[Re: white vermouth as an ingredient in cooking.]

“It adds a certain je ne sais quoi.”

“Oh I don’t know about that.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

“Water Images of The New Yorker

I’m delighted to see that Harper’s has Charles Bernstein’s “Water Images of The New Yorker online. It’s a funny take on what Bernstein terms “official verse culture.”

[I’m resisting the urge to go through our household’s three or four months’ worth of The New Yorker to see if anything has changed since 1989.]

A few lines of bad poetry

From The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse, edited by D.B. Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee (1930), lines from William Wordsworth’s poem “Liberty”:

The beetle loves his unpretending track,
The snail the house he carries on his back;
The far-fetched worm with pleasure would disown
The bed we give him, though of softest down.
That’s as close as I can come (after a few glances) to the cloying personifications in lines of contemporary poetry I heard on NPR.

The Stuffed Owl is still in print from New York Review Books, minus eight Max Beerbohm illustrations. An added pleasure of this anthology: Lewis and Lee title each excerpt. (The lines from “Liberty” are titled “Insensibility.”) Another added pleasure: the book’s subject index. For instance: “Beetle, flight of, described, 15; not addicted to vagabondage, 150.” And “Owl, stuffed, emotions evoked by contemplation of, 151.” “The Stuffed Owl,” too, is by Wordsworth.

Remembering The Stuffed Owl prompts me to revise what I wrote about bad poetry: it’s bad poetry presented as legitimate art that makes me groan and wince. Bad poetry presented as such makes me smile and laugh.

See also a woodpecker looking for a gift and Marjorie Perloff’s commentary on the “‘well-crafted’ poem.”

[Who decides what’s bad? We all do.]

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with single-use.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Monk vs. Trump


[Click for a greater difference.]

Having titled a post Felonious Trump, I felt that I had to do it. Meme, anyone?

Some molecular biology


[Zippy, December 8, 2018.]

Zerbina and Zippy must share a magnifying glass.

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

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, is not too tricky. A giveaway gave me a good start: 18-Across, ten letters, “Much-lauded four-Emmy football film of ’71.” Other clues point to answers veiled by thick fog. For instance, 61-Across, ten letters, “Advocate-in-chief.” LEADLAWYER? No.

Three clues that I greatly like: 5-Across, “Common daycare container.” 4-Down, nine letters, “Setting ending in The Artist.” (“Setting ending”? What?) And 20-Down, six letters, “‘A poem begins in delight and ends in __’: Frost.” Poetry FTW!

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Felonious Trump

I’m no lawyer, but it seems clear that Individual-1 directed Michael Cohen to commit felonies. From the federal prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Cohen:

During the campaign, Cohen played a central role in two similar schemes to purchase the rights to stories — each from women who claimed to have had an affair with Individual-1 — so as to suppress the stories and thereby prevent them from influencing the election. With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. (PSR ¶ 51). In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1. (PSR ¶¶ 41, 45).
The recommendation notes that in June 2015 Individual-1 “began an ultimately successful campaign for President of the United States.” You can read the recommendation at The Washington Post.

No mail

It was the start of the semester, the second or third class of the first week. I walked into the classroom with a backpack full of books and CDs, which I thought would increase my cred with students. I hadn’t brought anything related to the class, as I realized when I looked through the backpack. Several students gathered at my desk to look at the CDs. And I thought to myself: what was I going to assign? A student whom I knew from a previous class asked me to explain something in “the book” — not a book for our class, just some book. I looked at the page and explained it, and she thanked me.

Then I went to check my mail. The mailboxes had been reorganized into three rows from six, and the first row now began with the end of the alphabet. Where was my name? “You don’t work here anymore,” a colleague told me. That’s right, I thought. I’m retired, but I’m still teaching, so there could at least be a mailbox for me. I recognized another colleague in the hallway. He had lost an enormous amount of weight and was nearly bald, but still, I recognized him, or thought I did. I felt that I was taking a chance when I addressed him by name. He too was retired but still teaching, so I asked him if he knew where I could find my mail. He showed me a drawer under the mailboxes. But it was filled with Band-Aids: no mail.

It was now 5:30, and I walked through the hallways looking for someone else to ask. I saw no one, though many of the offices had the door open and lights on. I thought about how strange it might feel to all at once see someone in what appeared to be an empty well-lit building.

[This is the thirteenth teaching-related dream I’ve had since retiring. Not one has gone well. The others: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.]

Poetry on NPR

I respond deeply to bad blues, bad jazz, and bad poetry. I groan, wince, make guttural sounds. I can’t take it, I tell ya. Lemme out!

Driving through the night last night, Elaine and I heard an NPR segment with a poet recommending books of poetry to give as gifts. “Poetry is short,” the poet said, “so you can actually reroute your day productively in like five minutes with something that really captures your imagination.” Well, no. I groaned.

Then came the recommended books, with sample passages. Here’s nature: “Perhaps the butterflies are mute because / no one would believe their terrible stories.” Well, no. The poet would, for one. The recommender would, for two. And from another book, more nature, this time bees: “tipsy, sun drunk / and heavy with thick knitted leg warmers / of pollen.” After those lines I made guttural sounds.

And no, NPR, the witches’ song from Macbeth is not a sonnet. I’d better use up my wince here.

A related post
A Palm memo (With some bad poetry)

[I have reproduced the lines accurately, after checking the texts.]

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Unabated

The hypocrisy never ends: in Bedminster, New Jersey, an undocumented immigrant cleans house at Trump National Golf Club. And: “She said she was not the only worker at the club who was in the country illegally.”

“The Immigrants”

Gaby Moreno and Van Dyke Parks’s recording of David Rudder’s “The Immigrants” has made Jon Pareles’s list of the best songs of 2018. All proceeds from downloads and streaming go to the Central American Resource Center of California.

Not just a white Christmas

The times are changing: Hallmark premieres four movies this holiday season with African-American male and female leads, the first such movies in Hallmark history. The movies themselves appear to be the same old same old: Christmas galas and festivals, a gingerbread contest, a historic-preservation battle, a return to a childhood home. But now with leads of color.

Two of these movies, Christmas Everlasting and A Majestic Christmas, air tonight. Memories of Christmas airs on Saturday the 8th; A Gingerbread Romance, on Sunday the 17th. Check, as they say, your local listings.

Italic frenemy

Nancy’s friend Esther has a frenemy: “Esther, it’s so nice to see you.”


[Nancy, December 6, 2018.]

I am cheered to know that at least one cartoon character is alert enough to notice and comment snarkily on typography. But hold up: what about Nancy’s own words in boldface? Well, boldface has always been available in Nancy, old and new, available for everyone to use. I assume that for Nancy, boldface is just the way things have always worked. Nothing to see there.

Olivia Jaimes’s tricky meta-comedy is a delight. Jaimes and Bill Griffith rule my small comic-strip world.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Clara


Arthur Schnitzler, “Baron von Leisenberg’s Destiny.” 1904. In “Night Games” and Other Stories and Novellas, trans. Margret Schaefer (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002).

Other Schnitzler posts
“Maestro!” : A morning after

Whither the Usage Panel?

David Skinner traces the evolution of the American Heritage Dictionary: “The Dictionary and Us” (The Weekly Standard). The impetus for the article: the quiet, very quiet disbanding of the famed AHD Usage Panel (yes, capitalized) this past February. According to Skinner, the panel never had more than “a very modest role” in the making of the AHD.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)
A review of The Story of Ain’t, Skinner’s history of Webster’s Third

[“Quiet, very quiet”: so quiet that I can’t find anything about it online, not even at the Dictionary Society of North America. The AHD website still lists Usage Panel members. But Skinner himself was a member, so he would know if the panel has been disbanded.]

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Lines



Just a few of the redacted lines in the addendum to Robert Mueller’s sentencing recommendation re: Michael Flynn. Flynn is described as assisting in “several ongoing investigations.” As little Talia would say, “Uh-oh!”

You can read the memo and the addendum at Axios.

New directions

A Hallmark movie has quoted “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: the line about measuring out life with coffee spoons. Yes, someone runs a café. And the reply: “You’re an Eliot fan too?” OMG they’re made for each other.

[The movie is Love Always, Santa (dir. Brian Herzlinger, 2016). I’ve been misremembering the Eliot line as “in coffee spoons” for, like, forever. OMG.]

My mom is a smart person

I told my mom about the podcast series Elaine and I were listening to, UnErased: The History of Conversion Therapy in America. “What’s conversion therapy?” my mom asked. She’d never heard of it. I gave her a brief explanation. “That’s crazy!” she said.

g-20.in

Rudolph Giuliani tweeted and forgot to proofread. So now there’s a website: g-20.in.

Mornings after

It’s early morning. Lieutenant Wilhelm Kasda is traveling back to his barracks after a disastrous night of gambling:


Arthur Schnitzler, “Night Games.” 1926. In “Night Games” and Other Stories and Novellas, trans. Margret Schaefer (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2002).

When I read these sentences, I immediately thought of this autobiographical passage from Thomas Merton, recounting the typical aftermath of a night on Manhattan’s 52nd Street:


Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain (New York: Harcourt, Brace: 1948).

Related reading
A passage from Schnitzler’s Late Fame
All OCA Thomas Merton posts (Pinboard)

[There’s relatively little of Schnitzler available in print in translation. I wonder if he’s due for a Stefan Zweig-like revival. But Eyes Wide Shut will not have helped.]

Monday, December 3, 2018

UnErased

“Over 700,000 people in America have been subjected to conversion therapy, the dangerous and controversial ex-gay treatment. UnErased tells their stories”: it’s a four-part podcast series, UnErased: The History of Conversion Therapy in America.

I’m halfway through the third episode, and the subject matter has ranged from the Book of Job to Playboy. UnErased is one of the best podcast series I’ve listened to: deeply researched and urgently human.

Domestic comedy

[Two sleepy people, waking up at the end of Havana Widows on TCM.]

“I didn’t understand that at all.”

“There was something about Cuba in it.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

“Author”

An item in the December 3 New Yorker (an archival issue) got me curious about one small bit of the Donald Trump Story. The item that prompted my curiosity is a reprinted 2006 piece by Mark Singer about Trump’s displeasure with two writers: Timothy O’Brien, whose estimate of Trump’s net worth in TrumpNation (2005) prompted Trump to sue, and Singer himself, whose profile of Trump for The New Yorker (1997) resulted in an angry letter from Trump to The New York Times when the paper reviewed Singer’s collection Character Studies (2005), which included the New Yorker profile. From Trump’s letter to the Times (September 11, 2005):

I’ve been a best-selling author for close to 20 years. Whether you like it or not, facts are facts. The highly respected Joe Queenan mentioned in his article “Ghosts in the Machine” (March 20) that I had produced “a steady stream of classics” with “stylistic seamlessness” and that the “voice” of my books remained noticeably constant to the point of being an “astonishing achievement.” This was high praise coming from an accomplished writer.
But look at what Joe Queenan wrote about Trump — in, yes, a piece about ghostwriters:
One of the few “authors” who have succeeded in avoiding the pitfalls that increasingly ensnare ghostwritees is Donald Trump. In the past 18 years, Trump has put his name on a steady stream of classics, while using various collaborators. Yet throughout this long literary interlude he has managed to maintain tight quality control. For example, in the seminal Trump: The Art of the Deal, which appeared in 1987, the ghostwriter Tony Schwartz delivered the Trumpian goods in a clipped, staccato, tough-guy style, opening the book with the words:
I don't do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it.
Seventeen years later, Trump's new book, Trump: Think Like a Billionaire, written with Meredith McIver, kicks off:
In a world of more than six billion people, there are only 587 billionaires. It’s an exclusive club. Would you like to join us?
It has been said that Thomas Mann began writing The Confessions of Felix Krull as a young man, put it aside for decades, then picked up the narrative exactly where he left off. Similar stylistic seamlessness typifies Trump’s work. The intermediaries may come and go, but the Donaldian voice never wavers. This is a truly astonishing achievement.
Yes, facts are facts, and the fact is that for Joe Queenan, Donald Trump was a quote-unquote author, someone who puts his name on books written by others. Whoever wrote the letter to the Times was either too dim to recognize Queenan’s mockery or too dishonest not to twist it into praise.

Whoever: because I suspect that the letter itself is at least in part the work of a ghost. (In the letter Trump, or “Trump,” claims to have read Orhan Pamuk, Philip Roth, and John Updike.) It’s reasonable to think that Trump read the Queenan piece and the review of Character Studies, since he seems to be interested, always, in himself. It’s reasonable to think that he read, or at least skimmed, Singer’s New Yorker piece. Though it’s not certain that Trump is willing to read books about himself.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Just walk away


[“Trump walks off leaving Mauricio Macri standing alone at G20.”]

At the fifteen-second mark, you can hear an exchange: “Yes, sir?” “Will you get me out of here?” Yes, many of us would like for him to be out of here.

This moment is also available (not from The Guardian) with musical accompaniment in the form of Luciano Michelini’s “Frolic.” You’ll know it when you hear it.

“Lane Greene on Editing”

Here’s an especially good episode of the BBC podcast Word of Mouth: “Lane Greene on Editing.” The episode could have been called “Lane Greene Editing,” as it features Greene revising a passage written by the show’s co-host Laura Wright.

I like what Bryan Garner says about editing: “Few things are better for writers than competent line-editing, which (as we know) is an act of friendship.” For a lively exchange of ideas between Garner and Greene, see the New York Times feature “Which Grammar Rules to Flout?”

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Lester Ruff, is eminently do-able. 31-Across, nine letters, “Toon first called Stinky,” gave me a first chance to begin putting the puzzle together. Four clues that I especially liked: 1-Across, four letters, “Drop off.” (WANE? No.) 10-Down and 11-Down, each six letters, “Slotted for service.” And 24-A, three letters, “Cell trio.” One clue that taught me something: 35-Across, thirteen letters, “They make money from misspelled URLs.” I knew about the practice but didn’t know the name.

Never no spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

There and here

In The Washington Post, Mary Tedrow, an American teacher, writes about what she saw in Finland. For example:

On one of our nights in Helsinki, the streets were filled with students celebrating the end of one of their matriculation tests. We asked them: “What do you think is different between your schools and ours?”

They were able to tell us in English — one of up to four languages most students have — that American students know they are all competing against each other for limited seats at university and that they will have to find the money to go there. “We are not worried about that, so we can just focus on learning,” they said.

Bush to Clinton

Elegance? I suppose one could say that. But I’d say dignity and humility and magnanimity. The note that George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton seems like an artifact from a lost America.