Friday, February 23, 2024


Italo Calvino, “The city lost in the snow.” In Marcovaldo, trans. William Weaver (New York: HarperCollins, 1983).

Marcovaldo is a book of twenty vignettes about an Italian warehouse worker (Marcovaldo) whose efforts always bring about unforeseen consequences. Strong resemblances to silent-film comedy at every turn.

Here, for instance, Marcovaldo dreams of getting lost in a different city as he walks, but his path leads straight to work, and he finds himself once again in the shipping department, “as if the change that had cancelled the outside world had spared only his firm.”

Steven Millhauser has named Marcovaldo as one of his favorite short-story collections: that’s how our household came to it.

For snow and silence, see also Pierre Reverdy’s prose poem “Souffle.”

Related reading
All OCA Italo Calvino posts (Pinboard)

[It is not snowing and it is not going to snow in east-central Illinois today.]

Domestic comedy

“Too bad we don’t have the Container Store.”

“Our town isn’t big enough to hold one.”

Related posts
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[But we know, too, that more things in which to store things is not a solution.]

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The non-breaking hyphen

Every so often, or just often, I look at an old post and notice something wrong, a tpoy, an the extraneous word — see what I mean? I noticed something off in this post yesterday: Anthony Catalano, friend of Boro Park. So I called on a lesser-known hero of punctuation, the non-breaking hyphen: ‑.

Notice the difference:

Is it worth taking the time to fix an HTML glitch in a ten-year-old post? I think it is. And I think it’s worth sharing the news of the non-breaking hyphen, which should be better known, inside and outside Boro (no ‑ugh) Park.

A related post
A previous non-breaking hyphen to the rescue

[As I’m seeing this morning, the non-breaking hyphen displays differently in different browsers: longer in Safari in macOS, shorter in Safari in iOS, shorter in Brave (and, presumably, in other Chromium-based browsers).]

Sardines × 7

A Reader’s Digest investigative report: “I Ate Sardines Every Day for a Week — Here’s What Happened.”

Spoiler alert: there is no ick factor.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Sluggo, philosophe

[Nancy, February 22, 2024. Click for a larger view.]

In today’s Nancy, Sluggo channels, kinda, sorta, Montaigne (I think).

A related post
From Eliot to Woolf to Montaigne

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

“She wasn’t fit to be seen”

From one of the bleakest stories I’ve ever read. It has, or should have, a place alongside James Joyce’s “Counterparts” and Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend.

Jean Stafford, ”Children Are Bored on Sunday” (1948), in Collected Stories (1969).

Related reading
All OCA Jean Stafford posts (Pinboard)

Word of the day: cubeb

Recalling her lone experience of smoking, Emily Vanderpool thinks that she did a better job of it than the furtive, coughing grad students in the women’s smoking room of the college library. From Jean Stafford’s “A Reading Problem” (1956):

I could smoke better than that and I was only ten; I mean the one time I had smoked I did it better — a friend and I each smoked a cubeb she had pinched from her tubercular father.
Smoked a what? And why is someone with tuberculosis smoking anything? An explanation: “Wrapped in standard rice-paper, just like ordinary cigarettes, cubebs were stuffed with the dried, ground berries of a Southeast Asian relative of the pepper plant.” The cubeb was regarded as a treatment for catarrh. Wikipedia reports that cubeb cigarettes were also used to treat asthma, chronic pharyngitis, and hay fever.

[Requa’s Cubeb Cigarettes. Photograph by Joe Haupt (Flickr). Licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 License. Click for a larger view.]

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Beatles with Morecambe and Wise

Here’s the complete Morecambe and Wise Show with the Beatles (recorded December 2, 1963; aired April 18, 1964). The Beatles do “This Boy,” “All My Loving,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and, with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, “Moonlight Bay” — live, not lip-synced. And there are comedy bits, with and without the Beatles, all good-natured silliness. (Included: silly walks.)

From the liner notes for the Beatles’ Anthology 1 :

Asked in 1994 to name his favourite of the many television programmes the Beatles had appeared on, Paul McCartney scarcely hesitated in responding The Morecambe and Wise Show .
Wonderful stuff.

Domestic comedy

[The subject was breakfast.]

“It’s a good restaurant. It has these things called ‘eggs’?”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Please hear the second sentence with a purposeful bit of uptalk.]

Monday, February 19, 2024

Barry Sachs

One bit of instrument naming I can’t stand: “bari sax.” No one says “al sax” or “ten sax.” Why “bari sax”?

I can imagine an objection: “alto” and “tenor” are just two syllables each. “Baritone” is three. True, but “soprano” is also three syllables, and “sopranino” is four. And yet we don’t hear anyone talking about a “sop sax” or a “nino sax”. “Nino sax,” to my surprise, is a thing. (See the comments.)

The only thing worse than “bari” in instrument naming is “bone.” It sounds so falsely hip. Man, that bone was smokin’.

[And yes, people do say “bari sax.” It’s not just something written in liner notes.]