Friday, July 10, 2020

“What happens when they don’t?”

From Paul Murphy, a third-grade teacher, the big question about guidelines (any guidelines) for re-opening schools: “What happens when they don’t?”

Related posts
Choose your own nightmare : College, anyone? : Reluctant professors : Something is rotten in Iowa

Joyeux anniversaire, M. Proust

Marcel Proust was born on this day in 1871. Here he describes how he felt when he came to the end of a book in childhood, secretly reading late at night in bed:

One would have so much liked for the book to continue or, if that was impossible, to have other facts about all these characters, to learn something of their lives now, to employ our own on things not altogether unconnected with the love they have inspired in us, whose object was now all of a sudden gone from us, not to have loved in vain, for an hour, human beings who tomorrow will be no more than a name on a forgotten page, in a book unrelated to our lives and as to whose value we were certainly mistaken since its fate here below, as we could now see and as our parents had taught us when need arose by a dismissive phrase, was not at all, as we had thought, to contain the universe and our own destiny, but to occupy a very narrow space in the lawyer’s bookcase, between the unglamorous archives of the Journal de modes illustré and La Géographie d’Eure-et-Loir.

Marcel Proust, “Days of Reading.” 1906. In Days of Reading, translated by John Sturrock (London: Penguin, 2008). This essay was originally published as “Sur la lecture” [On reading], a preface to Proust’s translation of John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies.
Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

[This description of reading at night began with I. And now it’s shifted to one and we : Proust speaking for himself and for us. The shifts are, of course, in the French original.]

Misheard

I was playing serving man: “We have rosé, chilled, and red.”

Elaine thought that I was calling rosé “children’s red.” Which is not a bad description of rosé. But call us children: we like rosé (dry, please) in the summer. Also in spring and fall. It’s like the iced tea of wines.

Related reading
All OCA misheard posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Tammy Duckworth responds

In The New York Times, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) responds to attacks on her patriotism from the Trump* world. An excerpt:

It’s better for Mr. Trump to have you focused on whether an Asian-American woman is sufficiently American than to have you mourning the 130,000 Americans killed by a virus he claimed would disappear in February. It’s better for his campaign to distract Americans with whether a combat veteran is sufficiently patriotic than for people to recall that this failed commander in chief has still apparently done nothing about reports of Russia putting bounties on the heads of American troops in Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump and his team have made the political calculation that, no matter what, they can’t let Americans remember that so many of his decisions suggest that he cares more about lining his pockets and bolstering his political prospects than he does about protecting our troops or our nation.

They should know, though, that attacks from self-serving, insecure men who can’t tell the difference between true patriotism and hateful nationalism will never diminish my love for this country — or my willingness to sacrifice for it so they don’t have to. These titanium legs don’t buckle.
I think Joe Biden may have found himself a vice president.

[For anyone who doesn’t know: as an Army helicopter pilot in Iraq, Duckworth lost both legs.]

Manhattan SPA

Outside a Manhattan Trader Joe’s, every day is SPA day, as residents take amusing action against those who line up outside their building, hours early, talking on their cell phones (The New York Times). There’s an Instagram account.

[SPA: my acronym for “sparring passive-aggressively,” as when encountering shoppers who wear no masks and pay no attention to one-way aisles or social distancing. For me, shopping is now SPA day.]

An EXchange name sighting


[Pitfall (dir. Andre de Toth, 1948). Click for a larger telegram.]

Mona Stevens needs help. But has she given her real number? I can find no evidence that GRiffith was ever a Los Angeles County exchange.

I think that an exchange name in a telegram counts as a dowdy-world twofer.

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Blue Gardenia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : The Brothers Rico : Chinatown : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : Fallen Angel : Framed : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Red Light : Side Street : The Slender Thread : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Nancy meta


[Nancy, July 9, 2020.]

Today’s Nancy turns meta in this second panel, as Aunt Fritzi begins to tell her niece “the story this tree trunk tells.” It’s worth clicking through to see the snapper. If you’re like me, or me, you’ll have to look closely to see it.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[“Snapper”: Ernie Bushmiller’s name for the gag that comes in a Nancy strip’s final panel.]

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Florence Price’s “Adoration”


Augustin Hadelich at the piano, with thirty-seven other musicians, performing Florence Price’s “Adoration.” It’s a piece for organ, arranged for violin and piano by our household’s composer and arranger Elaine Fine. It’s a beautiful project. My response to these performances in this year of sorrows is beyond words.

“The usual thing”


Erich Kästner, Going to the Dogs: The Story of a Moralist. 1931. Trans. from the German by Cyrus Brooks (New York: New York Review Books, 2012).

Another NYRB rediscovery, highly recommended. The waning years of Weimar Germany: dance-halls, sex, political violence, unemployment, and a moment of crucial decision.

The Nazis were to burn Kästner’s books. A post-war work: Das doppelte Lottchen (1949), known in translation as Lottie and Lisa. It’s the basis for the 1961 movie The Parent Trap and later PT movies.

109 is the new 79

Elaine and I began our Great Pause on March 14. I’ve been keeping track of the days like so:

18 days (March) + 30 (April) + 31 (May) = 79.

And now 30 more (June) = 109. So I add the day’s date to 109. Today is day 117.

Reader, are you tracking time in this way?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Trump* sardines

Christmas presents from Donald and Ivana:

One year, Mary Trump writes[,] they gave her a three-pack of underwear from Bloomingdales. Another year, they gave her an obviously re-gifted basket with crackers, sardines and a salami — with an imprint in the cellophane wrap where a tin of caviar had been.
Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Creative Black Music at the Walker

From the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis): Creative Black Music, an online archive of audio, video, photographs, ephemera, and correspondence. With the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Amiri Baraka, Anthony Braxton, Betty Carter, Ornette Coleman, Julius Eastman, Wadada Leo Smith, Cecil Taylor, and Henry Threadgill.

Algorithms and rhymes

From The Wall Street Journal : Joel Eastwood and Erik Hinton devised an algorithm to color-code similar-sounding syllables and applied it to lyrics from Hamilton and some of its hip-hop influences. It’s a beautiful demonstration of the element of sound in poetry. There’s also a text box for analyzing a few lines of your own.

Years ago, teaching Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Spring and Fall,” I did this sort of color-coding by hand. We had the poem as a document up on a screen , and I changed colors of syllables and words as my students went through the text. The first lines:

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
What would the WSJ algorithm make of these lines? I simplified the text, as the algorithm couldn’t cope with “Goldengrove,” “unleaving,” and Hopkins’s stress marks. Here’s what it found:



Not bad. The algorithm missed the long o of “golden.” But it caught the near-rhymes of “gar” and “ver,” and “den” and “un.” I’m not sure what it’s doing with the word “you,” which, along with the “et” of “Margaret,” seems to be the only element in these lines not participating in the play of sound. An algorithm that accounted for alliteration would of course catch more. But again, not bad.

I hope that this WSJ feature remains accessible for teachers of poetry in the fall and spring.

Thanks, Ben.

about:blank

A helpful Safari extension: about:blank, which enables the user to block individual websites. Just 99¢.

I turned to about:blank after editing the Mac Hosts file to try to block access to the New York Times Sudoku pages. Five times I went through the necessary steps. Five times nothing changed. But about:blank did the trick.

In recent weeks, Sudoku has now and then turned into a terrible time-waster for me. I don’t like the game, which feels to me more like an exercise in especially tedious proofreading. Still, I can’t help myself: if the puzzle is there (and it is), I feel compelled to solve, and mess up, and try again, &c.

I’m not sure what explains the problems some App Store reviews of about:blank describe. All I know is that I can’t play Sudoku, which is fine with me.

[I know of course that the Times Sudoku puzzles are the only such puzzles online, so I fear no danger elsewhere. There are any number of free extensions to block individual websites in Chrome.]

Monday, July 6, 2020

No hoax

No, Donald Trump*, it wasn’t a hoax. Nor was this Fourth of July encounter southeast of Bloomington, Indiana, in which Vauhxx Booker, an African-American Bloomingtonian who had been camping with friends to watch a lunar eclipse, was pinned against a tree and beaten by white men who are alleged to have threatened to break his arms and hang him. “Get a noose,” one of the men is alleged to have yelled. Here’s Booker’s account. And there’s video from the encounter. No arrests.

This is America. No hoax.

Twelve movies

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

Clash by Night (dir. Fritz Lang, 1952). You know Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) is trouble: the first time we see her, one morning in a Monterey café, she’s drinking coffee and doing shots. You know Earl Pfeiffer is trouble: he’s an unashamed (and married) misogynist who’s always hanging around Mae. You know Jerry D’Amato (Paul Douglas) is in for trouble; he’s an uber-responsible type who’s smitten with Mae and best friends with Earl. The excellent actors in this often seamy story are undercut by an overwrought screenplay, adapted from Clifford Odets’s play. ★★★

*

Pitfall (dir. Andre de Toth, 1948). What a self-reinvention Dick Powell undertook, going from the wholesome “juvenile” of 42nd Street to a convincing Philip Marlowe. Here he plays a character who looks back to Walter Neff (Double Indemnity) and forward to Scottie Ferguson (Vertigo): John Forbes, an insurance agent who becomes involved with Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott), a model whose boyfriend is in prison. Raymond Burr, playing a detective obsessed with Stevens, does his best to channel Laird Cregar. The only problem with this film: you have to believe that John Forbes would prefer Mona Stevens to his own wife Sue, who’s played by none other than Jane Wyatt. ★★★★

*

To the Ends of the Earth (dir. Robert Stevenson, 1948). Dick Powell again, in the documentary-style story of a narcotics investigator whose hunt for opium smugglers takes him from California to China to Egypt to Lebanon to Cuba. Good points: a powerful scene early on (chained laborers sliding from a ship to their death), a nifty smuggling trick, and a spirited message of international cooperation against the drug trade. Bad points: a lack of clarity, a myriad of characters. Robert Stevenson must have been a director for all seasons: he also directed Jane Eyre and a slew of Disney films — Mary Poppins and The Love Bug, among others. ★★★

*

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (dir. Frank Capra, 1936). Our household had never sampled this bit of Capra-corn, which plays like a rehearsal for the superior Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Meet John Doe. In all three Jean Arthur is a savvy city gal who ends up falling for the naïf she’s supposed to be in charge of: here, Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper, who also played John Doe), tallow-factory proprietor, poet, and, all of a sudden, multi-millionaire. But Lordy: the crowd scenes are like Norman Rockwell paintings or Saturday Evening Post covers, which, come to think of it, amount to the same thing. Among all the downtrodden folk looking for some help from Mr. Deeds, not one face that isn’t white. ★★★

*

Mädchen in Uniform (dir. Leontine Sagan, 1931). Eros vs. authority at a boarding school for girls. Fräulein von Bernburg (Dorothea Wieck) is a beautiful, compassionate teacher, every girl’s crush. Manuela (Herta Thiele) is a new student whose declaration of love for her teacher precipitates a crisis at the school. This celebrated film was of particular interest to our household right now because of our plunge into novels from Weimar Germany, with authoritarianism rising then and now. ★★★★

*

From the MGM series Crime Does Not Pay

Wikipedia lists thirty-four short films in this series. There may be more. Between TCM and YouTube, I found three. And yes, they should get stars.

Think It Over (dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1938). “There’s either a pyromaniac or a professional torch in this town!” It’s professionals, two feral firesetters and a dapper front man who calls on struggling businesses. I like the breakfast scene, with a furniture-store owner eating grapefruit as his daughter hits him up for $100 to join a social club and attend its dances. Tourneur’s art comes through in the fire scene, all flashlights and shadows, as celluloid burns and an arsonist (Dwight Frye, perhaps best known as Renfield from Dracula) struggles at a high window. ★★★★

Know Your Money (dir. Joe Newman, 1940). Counterfeit tens are turning up all over town. Trace the paper and you’re on your way to solving the crime. Scenes in a tobacco shop provide satisfying glimpses of material culture and retail density. Watch also for William Edmunds (Mr. Martini from It’s a Wonderful Life) as an engraver. ★★★★


[Retail density. In the glass case, lower left: Bull Durham, Chesterfield, Philip Morris. Frank Orth is the tobacconist; Edward Hearn, the customer. Is that a cigar cutter on the counter? Click for a larger view.]

Don’t Talk (dir. Joe Newman, 1942). “One or two of you might have dropped an idle word that was picked up by some big-eared bartender or bellhop.” Or perhaps by a waitress in some cafe, say, the Elite Cafe, no accent, right across the street from the plant where sabotage destroyed a shipment of manganese, and where Beulah the waitress (Gloria Holden) is doing some funny stuff with the menu in the window. Dwight Frye is here again as a saboteur. Watch also for Arthur Space (Doc Weaver from television’s Lassie) as another saboteur. ★★★★

*

Stranger on the Third Floor (dir. Boris Ingster, 1940). Thank you, TCM: this is one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen. It may be the ultimate combination of light comedy, film noir, and German expressionism — also the only such combination, all in a B-movie barely more than an hour long. Peter Lorre is the nominal star as The Stranger, but the real stars are John McGuire (a John Garfield type, I’d say) and Margaret Tallichet, whose brief career in movies ended with her marriage to William Wyler. Nicholas Musuraca’s cinematography and Van Nest Polglase’s sets contribute mightily to this film’s deep weirdness — and greatness. ★★★★

*

The Lady from Shanghai (dir. Orson Welles, 1947). Rough and ready seaman Michael O’Hara (Orson Welles) signs on for a yachting trip with disabled lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane), his wife Elsa (Rita Hayworth, then married to Welles), and law partner George Grimsby (Glenn Anders), and a plot to fake a murder develops. I hadn’t seen this film in many years — all I could remember was the spectacular Fun House finale. This time around I was much more alert to human relations: Bannister’s sexual incapacity (intensifed by his creepy habit of addressing his wife as “Lover”), Elsa’s masculine authority (captain’s cap and jacket!), and the unmistakable suggestion that Grimsby, Bannister’s partner (partner?), is gay. Welles’s seaman, like Odysseus, lives to tell the tale (no spoiler: he’s the narrator). ★★★★

*

The Eyes of Orson Welles (dir. Mark Cousins, 2018). Did you know that Orson Welles was an accomplished artist, and that he drew and painted all his life? The filmmaker Mark Cousins has made a painstaking, brilliant documentary of Welles’s life and work, tying together places, films, and artworks. One of many details that took me by surprise: Welles used to tell friends visiting Chicago that they must visit the Thorne Miniature Rooms in the Art Institute. Cousins speculates, with photographs and stills as evidence, that those rooms influenced the design of interiors in Welles’s films. ★★★★

*

#UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump (dir. Dan Partland, 2020). We caught the July Fourth weekend online screening. The psychopathology of our president, with insights into the ape brain, autocratic strategies (e.g., say it three times and it’s true), and malignant narcissism. The film begins with Trump*’s first day in office and closes with the pandemic. The last word, spoken by George Conway: “demented,” pointing to matters that the filmmakers can, I suppose, only hint at — Trump*’s declining intellectual and physical abilities. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

“You had me at mise-en-scène.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[But no one had really said mise-en-scène. It appeared on the screen as we browsed the Criterion Channel.]

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Choose your own nightmare

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the work of Cait S. Kirby, a doctoral student in biology who has created simulations of a day in the life of a college student and a faculty member required to be on campus in Fall 2020. The simulations are a bit like Choose Your Own Adventure, or Nightmare.

What Kirby hopes someone working through the simulations will conclude: “Wow, being on campus in the fall is probably not going to be good for anyone.”

Simulations of the day in the life of a grad student and a contingent faculty member are to come.

*

An aside: Kirby’s simulation assumes a student in possession of a face mask. That’s good. But I learned just recently that my university’s plan for an on-campus fall semester includes the distribution of one cloth mask per student. One. How long before a student loses it? Or lends it to someone else? Or fails to wash it before reusing? Or has to run to the library for research materials while that mask is drying? Granted, a student might be bringing multiple masks to campus. But the distribution of single masks, meant to last a semester, seems ludicrous.

And I can’t help wondering if these masks will bear the school colors.

A related post
College, anyone?

Beard maintenance

The New York Times offers advice about beard maintenance. All good, especially re: the neckline and the use of a hand mirror. I speak from many years of experience.

Advice from 1879, and not from the Times: “It is best for men not to shave at all.”

Related posts
A beard-trimming recommendation

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Fourth


“America the Beautiful” (words by Katherine Lee Bates, music by Samuel A. Ward), reimagined by clarinetist Anthony McGill. The hashtags accompanying the video: #ALMBLM2, #HowAboutNow, #ICareAboutBlackLives, and #TakeTwoKnees.

[Found via The New Yorker, which has the backstory.]

Friday, July 3, 2020

Tomorrow’s Saturday Stumper

Tomorrow’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Greg Johnson. By Stumper standards, it’s an easy puzzle. I had to guess for the last letter, a cross of 49-A, six letters, “Laurel Weaver, in Men in Black ” and 50-D, five letters, “Start to go.” I guessed right, and saw the logic of 50-D as soon as I typed the missing letter. Aha.

Some clues I especially liked:

2-D, eight letters, “Treat shaped like toes.” I think I know the answer only from living in the midwest.

15-A, nine letters, “Rescuers in whodunits.” You were thinking people?

35-A, six letters, “Big name in Haitian rap.” Oh, that must be — yes, it is.

38-D, eight letters, “Diamond former.” Baseball? OLDTIMER? No.

40-A, seven letters, “It might go with a miniskirt.” The first few letters of the answer are a bit of misdirection — I think.

54-A, three letters, “You might have a ball with it.” Especially in the dowdy world.

My favorite clue: 28-D, six letters, “Screen icon since the ’80s.” Here the first few letters of the answer must be meant as misdirection.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

#UNFIT

Streaming now and through the weekend: #UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump, directed by Dan Partland. Excellent film, $6 to access.

Metaphor of the day

“He is fat Elvis”: Nicole Wallace's characterization of Donald Trump*, just now on MSNBC.

SPA day

Me, in the supermarket earlier today:

“This person’s COMING THE WRONG WAY. Let’s back out and go down two aisles.”

“Here’s ANOTHER PERSON NOT WEARING A MASK.”

“Let’s go the other way. THIS PERSON DOESN’T HAVE A MASK ON.”

“Could you keep your distance? ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WEAR A MASK.”

I would estimate that half the customers in the supermarket this morning wore no masks and paid no attention to one-way aisles or social distancing.

SPA is my newly invented acronym: Sparring Passive-Aggressively. My other new acronym: SITEEMO. Shop In The Early, Early Morning Only. Today we were too late.

Our tube

John Amos, Ernest Borgnine, LeVar Burton, Jerry Orbach, Adam West, all in the Murder, She Wrote episode “Death Takes a Dive” (February 22, 1987). Familiar faces in new arrangements: one of the pleasures of television.

Domestic comedy

“It looks absurd — it’s like a Love Boat toupee!”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Reluctant professors

“Thousands of instructors at American colleges and universities have told administrators in recent days that they are unwilling to resume in-person classes because of the pandemic”: The New York Times reports on reluctant professors.

The University of Illinois faculty and staff petition for an open forum on re-opening, mentioned in the article, is worth reading.

A related post
College, anyone?

Thursday, July 2, 2020

“The time just before”

Every so often I’ve tried to track down a passage I read years ago — something to the effect that the time we’re most curious about or enamored of or nostalgic for is the time just before our own. I thought I might have finally found the passage:

The time just before our own entrance into the world is bound to be peculiarly fascinating to us: if we could understand it, we might be able to explain our parents, and hence come closer to persuading ourselves that we know why we are here.
The only problem: this passage appears in “The World in a Very Small Space,” a review by Robert B. Shaw of The Stories of John Cheever, published in the December 23, 1978 issue of The Nation. Was I reading The Nation in 1978? No. Would I somehow have found my way to a 1978 issue years later? That’s doubtful, though I did subscribe to The Nation in the late 1980s. Did I have an interest in John Cheever’s work that would have brought me to this review? Nope. So the search must go on.

This review has a wonderful passage from Cheever’s preface to the collection:
These stories seem at times to be stories of a long-lost world when the city of New York was still filled with a river light, when you heard the Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationery store, and when almost everybody wore a hat. Here is the last of that generation of chain smokers who woke the world in the morning with their coughing, who used to get stoned at cocktail parties and perform obsolete dance steps like “the Cleveland Chicken,” sail for Europe on ships, who were truly nostalgic for love and happiness, and whose gods were as ancient as yours and mine, whoever you are.
There are ample reasons not to miss that long-lost world. But it’s hard to beat the Benny Goodman quartet — or trio. Maybe I should read some John Cheever.

The sentences that made me
give up on Shirley


Charlotte Brontë, Shirley (1849).

“Ah!” said I, shaking my head, and heaving a deep sigh. Life’s too short. And Shirley hadn’t even shown up yet.

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist : Bumps on the head : “In all quarters of the sky” : Small things : Some trees

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Simile of the day

[Watching the news, thinking about those who chose to support him.]

"It’s like they hitched their wagon to a time bomb.”

Idiom of the day: go to pot

Elaine and I wondered about the pot in go to pot . We had three guesses between us: a chamber pot, a cooking pot, and a pot for a plant.

The kitchen wins. The idiom “dates from the late 1500s and alludes to inferior pieces of meat being cut up for the stewpot.” Source: Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

I suppose that if something wasn’t good enough for the stewpot, it might have become hogwash.

Word of the day: hogwash

As found in Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley (1849). Hortense, indignant, reports what Sara said about the choucroute. Go ahead, Hortense:

“That barrel we have in the cellar — delightfully prepared by my own hands — she termed a tub of hog-wash, which means food for pigs.”
Yes, it does, or did.

The Oxford English Dictionary: “kitchen refuse and scraps (esp. in liquid form) used as food for pigs; pigswill. Now chiefly historical.“ The dictionary’s first citation is from circa 1450. Its most helpful citation is the most recent one, from Judith Flanders’s The Victorian House (2004):
Cooks who were not thrifty put all the kitchen leavings into a bucket. The content was called “wash,” and the washman visited regularly to buy it: he then sold it as “hog-wash,” or pigswill.
By 1610 the word acquired a “depreciative” meaning: “any liquid for drinking that is of very poor quality, as cheap beer, wine, etc.” I like this citation, From Thomas Boyd’s Through the Wheat (1923):
“Wine? You call that red hog-wash wine?”
And later, a third colloquial meaning originated in the United States: “nonsense; esp. worthless, ridiculous, or nonsensical ideas, discourse, or writing.” The dictionary’s first citation is from Mark Twain, writing in The Galaxy (1870):
I will remark, in the way of general information, that in California, that land of felicitous nomenclature, the literary name of this sort of stuff is “hogwash.”
In OED citations, it’s sometimes hogwash, sometimes hog-wash. In our time, the hyphenless form is vastly more frequent. As perhaps is hogwash itself.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

“Heritage”

He won’t be happy until there’s a second civil war.

Pizza with sardines


[From our kitchen. We prepare all dishes with a vignette filter.]

The war is on. Germany has invaded France. The unnamed narrator of Anna Seghers’s novel Transit has fled Paris. Stuck in Marseille, he lives on cigarettes, coffee, pizza, and rosé. Pizza for him is new:

Back then I was surprised to find out that pizza wasn’t sweet but tasted of pepper, olives, or sardines.
A sardine pizza? Our household’s curiosity went into overdrive. I found a recipe that called for baking the crust once (fifteen minutes) and then again (eighteen to twenty minutes). Huh? Elaine decided to do her own thing.

The ingredients:
1 teaspoon dry yeast
¾ cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Bob’s Red Mill whole-wheat pastry flour
    and King Arthur white flour, equal parts

2 onions, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
some black pepper
1 can skinless and boneless sardines
    in olive oil, drained and chopped
8 oz. finely shredded Italian cheese
    (the usual supermarket offering)
The directions:
Dissolve yeast in water. Add olive oil and salt. Wait a few minutes; then begin stirring in flour. Knead, and let dough rise in a towel-covered bowl for 50 minutes. Elaine says you’ll need to knead to know how much flour you might have to add. It’ll vary with the weather. She adds flour half a cup at a time.

Melt butter in a pan. Add onions and salt. Caramelize the onions on medium heat.

Roll out the dough and assemble the pizza — sardines first, then onions, then cheese. Bake at 400° for about twenty minutes.
The result was spectacular: savory, fishy, absolutely satisfying. Very Mediterranean. We added some red pepper flakes at the table and drank some cheap rosé. Elaine had a few leaves of fresh basil with her slices. I found the basil took too much away from the taste of the sardines.

In 2013 New York Review Books published Transit (1944) in a translation by Margot Bettauer Dembo. In 2018 the novel was adapted for the screen by Christian Petzold. I recommend the novel, the film, and this pizza with great enthusiasm.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

[There’s nothing missing from the recipe. It’s a sauceless pizza.]

A pocket notebook sighting


[From The Devil and Miss Jones (dir. Sam Wood, 1941). Click any image for a larger view.]

John P. Merrick (Charles Coburn) keeps careful notes. He’s gone undercover in the department store he owns, working as a shoe clerk while seeking to identify union organizers. The shoe department is a hotbed of agitation.

Contexts for these notes: Merrick didn’t do well on the intelligence test given to prospective employees. Miss Jones (Jean Arthur) gave him money, thinking he didn’t have enough to buy himself lunch. Elizabeth (Spring Byington) maybe kinda sorta likes the snarky section manager (Edmund Gwenn). Thus the deleted question mark.

More notebook sightings
All the King’s Men : Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : The Big Clock : Bombshell : The Brasher Doubloon : Cat People : City Girl : Crossing Delancey : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dead End : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : The Face Behind the Mask : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : Kid Glove Killer : 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 : The Racket : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : La roue : Route 66The Scarlet Claw : Sleeping Car to Trieste : The Small Back Room : The Sopranos : Spellbound : Stage Fright : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Stranger Things : Time Table : T-Men : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Walk East on Beacon! : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once

Monday, June 29, 2020

Is it treason yet?

From the Associated Press:

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.
And from Carl Bernstein:
In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America's principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.

Milton Glaser (1929–2020)

The graphic designer who gave us I♥︎NY. The New York Times has an obituary.

I almost forgot: Milton Glaser’s “The Things I Have Learned,” a 2001, is useful reading.

Twelve movies

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

Black Legion (dir. Archie Mayo, 1937). Humphrey Bogart plays a machinist, embittered when a promotion he thinks should be his goes to a “foreigner.” And so he joins up with the hoods and robes of the Black Legion. Based on contemporary events and disturbingly of our own time, with warnings about “anarchists” and cries of “America for Americans.” The supporting cast includes Dick Foran (later a regular on Lassie), Charles Halton, Samuel Hinds, Ann Sheridan, each of whom, I have to say, is a better actor than Bogart. ★★★

*

Fright (dir. W. Lee Wilder, 1956). A chance YouTube find that we had to watch, because Nancy Malone. It’s her first movie role, and she does just fine in a bizarro story of past lives and hypnosis. Other viewers might want to watch to see Eric Fleming, who would soon star in Rawhide. A bonus: fans of The Honeymooners should watch for Frank Marth, branching out to play a serial killer. ★★

*

Night Must Fall (dir. Richard Thorpe, 1937). Look past the staginess (it’s from a play by Emlyn Williams) and you’ll find a deeply suspenseful story of a young psychopath (Robert Montgomery) who ingratiates himself with a wealthy invalid (Dame May Whitty) and her niece (Rosalind Russell). The principals are excellent, and if you know Whitty only as Hitchcock’s Mrs. Froy, you’ll be surprised by her performance here. And speaking of Hitchcock: this film would pair well with Shadow of a Doubt. There’s even a hint of the twinning that unites Uncle Charlie and his niece Charlie. ★★★★

*


[Source: IMDb.]

Devotion (dir. Curtis Bernhardt, 1947). Incredible: a movie about the Brontës that seems not to have mentioned the Brontës in its American advertising. Charlotte (Olivia de Havilland) and Emily (Ida Lupino) form an improbable love triangle with a fusty cleric (Paul Henreid, complete with his accent), as Anne (Nancy Coleman) is kept off to the side, her writing coming in for no attention. Branwell Brontë (Arthur Kennedy) is here in all his dissoluteness, and there’s an inchoate but unmistakable suggestion of incestuous desire at work in this reclusive family. Lupino to my mind is the star (her Emily is the ur emo-kid), but Sydney Greenstreet as William Makepeace Thackeray threatens to steal the show. ★★★

*

Riffraff (dir. J. Walter Ruben, 1936.) Love, labor trouble, and canned fish. Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow play Dutch and Hattie, fisherman and cannery worker. At key points the story requires the suspension of disbelief — painfully so. Joseph Calleia, Una Merkel, and Mickey Rooney provide some comic relief. The best performance by an actor I’d never heard of goes to J. Farrell MacDonald as a wise, compassionate fisherman known, rightly so, as Brains. ★★★

*

A Man Called Adam (dir. Leo Penn, 1966). Sammy Davis Jr. as Adam Johnson, a Miles-like musician (cornet, not trumpet, solos by Nat Adderley) living with a massive burden of grief, guilt, and racism. There’s a fair amount of malarkey here: Louis Armstrong has a small role as a has-been purveyor of “true jazz” who’ll soon be going back to “the rice fields” (what?); Cicely Tyson is a civil rights activist but seems to have nothing to do except hang out with Adam; and Frank Sinatra Jr. is a young wannabe following in Adam’s footsteps. I found more to appreciate in the moments between Adam and his pianist (Johnny Brown). Look too for Ja ’Net DuBois, Lola Falana, and Kai Winding — and Mel Tormé, who gets the last word. ★★★

*

The Devil and Miss Jones (dir. Sam Wood, 1941). A Capraesque fairy tale of happy times for labor and management. Charles Coburn shines as a cranky department-store owner who goes undercover in the shoe department to root out union organizers. Jean Arthur shines as a clerk who takes for him a fellow without money enough to afford lunch. Spring Byington, Bob Cummings, Edmund Gwenn, and S.Z. Sakall shine — and these working folks, they’re not so bad after all, eh, Mr. Capitalist Big Shot? ★★★★

*

Illegal (dir. Lewis Allen, 1955). I’m impressed again and again by Edward G. Robinson’s range as an actor. Here he plays a DA who unknowingly sends an innocent man to the chair, falls apart, quits, and ends up working for the mob, with startling results. Nina Foch plays Robinson’s prosecutorial mentee, in what might be her best role. Television fans will like seeing DeForest Kelley and Edward Platt. ★★★★

*

Fear in the Night (dir. Maxwell Shane, 1947). And speaking of DeForest Kelley, this film is his feature-length debut, with a strong assist from Paul Kelly. The premise: a man dreams he’s committed a murder and wakes up with objects from the scene of the crime in his possession. Two crucial questions: did he really kill someone, and more importantly, had we seen this film before? Alas, the eeriness diminishes as the story develops and we figured out that yes, we’d seen it before. ★★

*

Politics (dir. Charles F. Reiser, 1931). Wives and mothers take action to combat gangsters and bootlegging. I saw a few minutes on TCM and mistook the movie for a variation on Lysistrata, but the women’s strike — an effort to withhold “everything,” meaning “Yes, everything, parlor, bedroom, and bath” — is but a small element in the story. What’s here, really, is a vehicle for two great comediennes I’d never seen before: Marie Dressler as a mayoral candidate, Polly Moran as her pal and supporter. Another welcome presence: Karen Morley, whom I think I know only from King Vidor’s Our Daily Bread. ★★★

*

Mystery House (dir. Noel M. Smith, 1938). Ann Sheridan and William Hopper (Perry Mason’s Paul Drake) brighten this movie, in which one person after another dies in or near a hunting lodge. If you discovered that someone in your company had embezzled a fortune, you’d invite all suspects to a remote gun-filled lodge and promise to reveal the culprit’s identity there, wouldn’t you? What, you think that’s improbable? My favorite element in the film: the eerie motto above the fireplace, which comes from the novel that is film’s source. ★★


[“The End of all Good Hunting is Nearer than you Dream.” Mignon G. Eberhart, The Mystery of Hunting’s End. 1930. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.) William Hopper played clean, well-soaped Lal Killian.]

*

The Haunting (dir. Robert Wise, 1963). Based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, in which a small team of psychic researchers seeks the truth about a haunted house. Julie Harris and Claire Bloom (the latter in a Mary Quant wardrobe) give great performances as young recruits; Russ Tamblyn as heir to the house provides comic relief and a dash of sanity; Richard Johnson as team leader is a bit of a bore with his clipboard and pipe and talk about “man” and his superstitions. Davis Boulton’s cinematography adds all sorts of fear and uncertainty to the proceedings. Here’s a real mystery house, in an ultra-scary film that looks back to Poe and ahead to Stranger Things. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Some trees


Charlotte Brontë, Shirley (1849).

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist : Bumps on the head : “In all quarters of the sky” : Small things

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

“Existential”

“Efforts to stem the pandemic have squeezed local economies across the nation, but the threat is starting to look existential in college towns”: The New York Times reports on college towns in the time of the coronavirus.

A related post
College, anyone?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Alexander, not great

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) is not exactly a profile in courage. Here’s what he suggests about mask-wearing:

“It would help if from time to time the President would wear one to help us get rid of this political debate that says if you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask, if you’re against Trump, you do.”
“From time to time”: so bold. No, all the time. Wearing a mask from time to time is analogous to wearing a seat belt from time to time to advocate for safety in vehicles. Or wearing a condom from time to time to — you get the idea.

But also: there is no “political debate” about masks. No one who wears a mask does so to oppose Donald Trump*. You wear a mask to reduce the chance of spreading the coronavirus. It’s Trump* and his followers who regard masks as a political statement. And it’s Lamar Alexander who just framed that lunacy as one side of a “debate.”

See also #WearAFuckingMask.

マンホール蓋


[Zippy, June 28, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy takes us to Japan, where manhole covers are things of beauty. See Griffy’s book? There are indeed books about Japanese manhole covers. For now, here’s a large collection of photographs. And a Flickr pool. Paying attention to manhole covers is (at least sometimes) called drainspotting.

マンホール蓋 [manhōru futa] is the Japanese for manhole cover.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Death wishes

An effort to end the Affordable Care Act. Apparent indifference to a Russian effort to pay bounties to the Taliban for killing American troops. And now a report of sticker removal in Tulsa.

That’s just some news from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And, as always, there’s the denigrating of masks and tests.

Donald Trump* expresses more interest in preserving “beautiful monuments” than in preserving American lives. Truly, Trump* equals death.

[I should add that Trump*’s professed devotion to “monuments” and “statues” and “heritage” is itself, as Joe Biden would say, malarkey.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by the puzzle’s editor, Stan Newman, constructing under the pen name Lester Ruff. In other words, an easier puzzle. But also Lester Wrightabout. Just not very much oof, pow, and sizzle.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of interest:

11-D, seven letters, “Game Goldfinger cheats at.” A weird factoid. I guessed (correctly) from a couple of crosses. My awareness of the game is due to — spoiler alert — a 2018 Lester Ruff Stumper.

15-A, eight letters, “Toll road alternative.” I’ve seen the answer in crosswords, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard the word in non-crossword life.

22-A, six letters, “Nearly all bananas, to botanists.” Weird. I’ll never look at a banana in the same way again. But first I’ll have to figure out what that way has been. And then I’ll have to figure out something new.

25-D, six letters, “Opening announcement.” Clever.

26-D, five letters, “Product name not derived from 56 Down.” Someone seems preoccupied with this product: the answer also appeared in the June 13 Stumper. The clue for 56-D, three letters: “pH adjuster in cosmetics.”

31-A, fourteen letters, “Accidental.” The answer sounds so dowdy.

46-A, five letters, “‘The __ Administration’ (Hamilton tune).” It’s good to see names from American history clued to this musical.

55-A, six letters, “eBook ancestor.” Well, I guess so.

57-D, three letters, “Test in a tube.” A nice way to muddle what might be a commonplace answer.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Polishing

“Rome is burning, and he’s polishing the Washington Monument”: David Gregory on CNN just now.

[“He”: Donald Trump*, protecting statues.]

An EXchange name sighting


[From Red Light (dir. Roy Del Ruth, 1949). Click for a larger view.]

I wonder whether anyone has ever before noticed that the listing for the Abbott Hotel is cut and pasted.

EXbrook was indeed a San Francisco exchange name. I have nothing on the Abbott Hotel, if it ever existed.

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Blue Gardenia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : The Brothers Rico : Chinatown : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : Fallen Angel : Framed : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : The Slender Thread : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Small things


Charlotte Brontë, Shirley (1849).

I stepped away from Shirley, but I had to save this lovely sentence.

Small things today: walking, reading, take-out because it’s Friday. I take none of these small things for granted.

*

I just discovered the source, Zechariah 4:10: “For who has despised the day of small things?” (KJV).

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist : Bumps on the head : “In all quarters of the sky”

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Mail, real mail

The New York Times reports on snail mail in the time of the coronavirus. One takeaway:

A Postal Service survey whose results were published in May found that one in six consumers had sent more mail to family and friends during the pandemic.
The survey shows that those who are more likely to want to send letters and postcards are younger, have higher incomes, and have children at home. Which leaves me out, but that’s okay, as I’m sending anyway.

Something is rotten in Iowa

The headline of an editorial by Lyz Lenz, from The Gazette (Cedar Rapids): “The University of Iowa fires instructors and tells the rest to get back to the classroom.” A few choice details, my paraphrasing:

~ Bruce Harreld, the school’s president, promised in May to protect the well-being of students, staff, and faculty. But the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has fired fifteen instructors and is planning for in-person classes in the fall. And Steve Goddard, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has encouraged a woman of color with an autoimmune condition to seek counseling and return to the classroom, because she’s a “role model.”

~ Harreld’s yearly salary: $590,000. Goddard’s yearly salary: $372,000. The average yearly salary of the instructors who have been fired: $45,000.

~ Meanwhile, UI is hiring another dean. Lenz gives the starting salary as $350,000. But in the university’s job listings, the salary has jumped to $375,000.

This one small story captures much of what’s wrong with higher education: enormous administrative salaries, administrative bloat, and contempt for those who do the work of teaching, worsened here by a refusal to take a medical condition seriously when it affects a woman of color. As Lenz wrote on Twitter, “die for your job” seems to be the University of Iowa’s message to instructors. The university seems to be sending a similar message to its students.

Thanks to Daughter Number Three for pointing me to Lenz’s commentary.

A related post
College, anyone? (My 2¢ on reopening in the fall)

[I’ve added a link to a video chat with the dean’s advice. It’s worth watching.]

“In all quarters of the sky”


Charlotte Brontë, The Professor (1857).

This passage is for my friend Diane Schirf, who likes the night sky sans light pollution.

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist : Bumps on the head

[X—— is a mill town.]

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Orange Crate Art redux

The Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson album Orange Crate Art, recorded in 1995, has now been reissued in 2-CD and 2-LP editions by Omnivore Recordings. I got my copy of the 2-CD set yesterday and listened all the way through over two days. The original twelve tracks, remastered, are newly vivid, like paintings after restoration. The standout among the three bonus tracks is “What a Wonderful World” — you can hear Brian giving his all, and the result is deeply affecting. The instrumental versions of the original tracks reveal countless details; I’d point to “Summer in Monterey” and “My Jeanine” as particularly great examples of Van Dyke’s art as composer and arranger. Oh, and “Orange Crate Art.”

Van Dyke is a friend, and I’m hardly an objective pair of ears. But I think the Omnivore description — “sounds like nothing before or since” — is objectively accurate. Orange Crate Art is music of no time and for all time.

Related reading
All OCA BW and VDP posts (Pinboard)

Music then and again

Jazz on a Summer’s Day (dir. Aram Avakian and Bert Stern, 1960) is an impressionistic documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. I caught some of it on TCM Monday night. This great and joyous performance by Anita O’Day, which I’ve seen dozens of times, moved me to tears when I thought about how we’ve lost the happiness of listening to music together. But not forever.

What will it feel like to attend a concert again? I want to know.

Related posts
Anita O’Day (1919–2006) : Musician v. singer

[When the YouTube link fails, as it eventually will, just look for anita o'day sweet georgia brown tea for two.]

A dark thought, but I’ll air it

I can almost imagine Donald Trump*, several months from now:

“And we must never forget our great warrior seniors — and that’s what they are, you know that. They are warriors, giving their lives in the fight to save our way of life from the terrible plague. We love you. We will never forget you. We will always treasure the memory of your great sacrifice, so very great. And we must never forget our great young people,” &c.
The Trump* cult — No mask? No test? No problem! — really is a death cult.

Bumps

Like the Brontës, William Crimsworth’s new acquaintance Hunsden Yorke Hunsdsen appears to ascribe to physiognomy and phrenology:


Charlotte Brontë, The Professor (1857).

The Professor, published posthumously, is an odd duck. Of greatest interest: its principal characters (both teachers), its depiction of marriage, and, in the person of Mr. Hunsden, its barely coded presentation of a gay man.

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist

[X—— is a mill town.]

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Lincoln Project

I’ve been impressed by their ads for a while now. But it’s this latest, snark-free one that made me decide to give some money to The Lincoln Project.

As Donald Trump* would say, these people are vicious. I wish that Democrats knew how to make ads this effective.

Jane Eyre, descriptivist

”There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching a character, or observing and describing salient points, either in persons or things,” sighs Jane Eyre. In contrast, Jane herself, as she sets off from Thornfield Hall to mail a letter:


Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847).

And we can already figure out from the way novels work that something important is about to happen on this walk.

Descriptions of landscapes are what I like best in Jane Eyre.

Related posts
A word from Charlotte Brontë
Three words from Charlotte Brontë

Monday, June 22, 2020

Caramelized shallot pasta


[Click for a larger portion.]

Though I really want to call it caramelized-shallot pasta. Or better, pasta with caramelized shallots.

The recipe, made famous by Alison Roman, hides behind a New York Times Cooking paywall. I made this dish when Times subscribers without an additional subscription for NYT Cooking could read the steps, without a list of ingredients. Now everything’s behind the Cooking paywall. But go figure: the recipe is available to all via what appears to be an authentic Times Instagram account.

I used a small plastic container’s worth of shallots, a couple of cloves of garlic, some red-pepper flakes, salt and pepper, a can of anchovies, an almost full four-ounce tube of tomato paste, a pound of fettucine, and some Italian parsley. The result was glorious. I’d suggest less salt (Roman’s recipe calls for three applications). And you can save some money by remembering to buy a can of tomato paste, much cheaper than a tube.

There were no leftovers.

Fine’s Price

Fambly excitement: the violinist Augustin Hadelich has invited violinists everywhere to record themselves playing the violin part from Elaine’s arrangement of Florence Price’s “Adoration,” a piece for organ that Elaine arranged for violin and piano. Augustin will play the piano part, choose from various violin performances, and sync the results.

A related post
An Augustin Hadelich Tiny Desk Concert

The International Eraser Museum

An Instagram museum: the International Eraser Museum, focused on “non-novelty, vintage erasers.” For instance: a Pelikan eraser with what appear to be separate sections for pencil, colored pencil, ballpoint, and fountain pen.

Thanks to Ian Bagger for pointing me to this museum.

[I’m not embarrassed to acknowledge that OCA has a Pinboard tag for erasers.]

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Trump* is not alright

Look carefully: he’s supporting the glass with his pinky.

I’m glad (sort of) that I watched again. I think it’s almost impossible to spot this trick on a first viewing.

The kids are alright

O brave new world. Really. A New York Times headline: “TikTok Teens and K-Pop Stans Say They Sank Trump Rally.”

Not funny: a president who jokes (?) about slowing down testing in a pandemic.

[I am following the Who’s spelling in the post title.]

Father’s Day

I had a conversation with my dad in a dream a couple of weeks ago. He wanted me to order something for him from Amazon — no doubt a CD. But what? Maybe he’ll call back.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

A joke in the traditional manner

Why sharpen your pencil to write a Dad joke?

The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the shape-shifting car? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : How do ghosts hide their wrinkles? : How do worms get to the supermarket? : Of all the songs in the Great American Songbook, which is the favorite of pirates? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : What’s the name of the Illinois town where dentists want to live? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Where does Paul Drake keep his hot tips? : Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why is the Fonz so cool? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He gets credit for the Autobahn, the elementary school, the Golden Retriever, Bela Lugosi, Samuel Clemens, the doctor, the plumber, the senior citizen, Oliver Hardy, and the ophthalmologist. Elaine gets credit for the Illinois town. My dad was making such jokes long before anyone called them “dad jokes.” I continue in the traditional manner.]

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Real chyrons, imaginary crowd

From CNN:

Trump campaign cancels address to “overflow crowd,” as overflow crowd fails to materialize outside Tulsa rally.
And:
Trump campaign tells supporters “There’s still space!” as crowd trickles in to Tulsa rally venue.
I was about to suggest that the Trump* campaign will say that the media scared people away, but I just heard that the campaign has already said just that. They’re also blaming protesters.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

[There’s a slight spoiler in what follows.]

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Brad Wilber. It’s a good one, with many out of the way answers. Should out of the way be hyphenated? Do I need to look that up now? Let me revise: It’s a good one, with many unusual answers. And it uses every letter of the alphabet but V. (Which must mean something?)

I started with 1-A, eight letters, “Intricate weave.” Man, I just smashed that clue. Or rather, the answer. Smashed it to bits. That answer, even smashed, gave me 1-D, six letters, “Turnkey” and 2-D, six letters, “One end of the Erie Canal.” Folk music FTW.

Clue-and-answer pairs that I especially liked:

14-A, nine letters, “Precursor of leaving home.” Yes, that kind of home.

15-A, five letters, “‘Daytime’s Leading Lady.’” I watched her for years, crushing a bit.

19-A, six letters, “Compelling to go to court.” I learned something from this clue.

22-A, five letters, “Fund-raisers spoiled by showers.” No, that can’t be right. Oh, wait — it’s right.

37-A, seven letters, “CoverGirl makeup creator.” It feels so strange to write the name. I think this answer is an example of what crossword people mean by “crunchy.”

45-D, five letters, “Achilles, per Homer.” Huh. I’ve seen it as “fair,” “fiery,” “red-gold,” and “sandy.” In Homer’s Greek, it’s six letters: ξανθῆς. It must have been Achilles who said “If I’ve only one life . . . let me live it as a _____.”

50-A, three letters, “PR, for example.” Nice misdirection.

51-D, four letters, “It’s often found in salad bowls.” Especially mid-century modern ones, I think.

56-A, nine letters, “Fake cannon named for pacifists.” What?!

57-D, three letters, “Reader’s resource.” Not an APP.

58-A, five letters, “The Jetsons are on his autobio cover.” There’s an autobiography?!

One clue that rankled: 29-A, four letters, “He's not without egotism.” It’s one of those clues, and the answer is kinda forced.

No outright spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Jeff Tweedy giving back

My friend Stefan Hagemann pointed me to this news: Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) will be donating five percent of his songwriting royalties to organizations working toward racial justice. And he’s asking other musicians and songwriters to do the same. As he writes in a tweet, “The modern music industry is built almost entirely on Black art.” Well, yes.

Speaking of which: I saw by chance yesterday an NPR story about Bob Dylan’s new song “False Prophet” and its unacknowledged borrowing from a 1954 recording by Billy "The Kid" Emerson. NPR is more generous to Dylan than I’m willing to be: in 2020 I see not “a familiar, recurrent aspect of [Dylan’s] creative process” but unacknowledged borrowing, from a source unlikely to be recognized by most of Dylan’s listeners. And I have to remind myself: here’s a guy who borrows from CliffsNotes and SparkNotes for his Nobel Prize lecture. That’s not what used to be called “the folk process.” That’s ripping off.

Bob, how about kicking in some of your royalties?

[As I wrote to Stefan, every time I begin to warm to Bob Dylan, he does something to make me step back.]