Sunday, April 14, 2024

A portal

[419 West 36th Street, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

I have to imagine that if anyone with children lived in this building, life must have been a constant battle: “Stay out of the tunnel!”

The archive photo has no date for this building, but its construction must have predated that of the Lincoln Tunnel. The building is now gone, and if you type its address into Google Maps, you get, yes, a chunk of the Lincoln Tunnel. And if you type lincoln tunnel into Google Maps and make a U-turn, you can ride one of its tubes all the way to Weehawken, New Jersey, against traffic. Even Tony Soprano couldn’t do that.

Related reading
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives (Pinboard)

[U-turn: in other words, turn the little person around before moving forward.]

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Today’s Saturday Stumper

I found today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, dang near impossible at times. I slogged through and got it all, but it sparked no joy. I was happy though to be done, because doing this puzzle felt to me like doing homework. Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

3-D, five letters, “One of many in night table drawers.” My first thought was NOVEL. But I was probably thinking of the New York Times “nightstand” holding books.

4-D, eight letters, “Not the parental disciplinarian.” Never heard of it. I need to bone up on my stereotypes.

5-D, three letters, “James P. Hoffa alma mater.” Is this answer likely to be known by anyone whose last name is something other than Hoffa?

8-D, nine letters, “Cockney, e.g.” I liked this one.

9-A, five letters, “Residential healthcare provider.” Like 4-D, this answer doesn’t sit well with me.

11-D, nine letters, “Green fish-and-chips side dish.” Is it really going to be — ? Yes, it’s going to be —.

13-D, four letters, “Like M. north of New York.” I didn’t understand until I typed the clue here.

23-D, five letters, “Italian word for ‘bowls.’” I can relate, not as a participant, but as an observer from a passing car.

32-A, eleven letters, “Fliers named for their blades.” I guess I learned something for future crossword use.

34-D, nine letters, “Alien monster.” See 32-A.

35-D, nine letters, “What's best on the block?” An easy one.

42-A, eleven letters, “Go together.” What an odd answer. A more apt clue might be “Go as one.”

43-D, seven letters, “The Buick stops here.” I was trying to recall an answer from some previous crossword, but no, that was ALERO, the last Oldsmobile produced. “Buick,” here for the sake of a pun, is weirdly specific in this clue.

53-D, five letters, “Many a pop.” My first thought was PEPSI. I find the logic of this clue a bit bizarre.

61-A, nine letters, “They have reduced carrying charges.” Nice one.

64-A, nine letters, “Base of some martial arts.” Also a nice one.

68-A, three letters, “Overfilled indicator.” SPILL won’t fit.

My favorite in this puzzle: 17-A, nine letters, “Many a United team supporter.” Just because I knew it.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Siduri and Marcus

Thinking about the joylessness of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations made me recall this passage from the Old Babylonian version of the Gilgamesh story. Siduri, goddess and tavern-keeper at the edge of the world, speaks to Gilgamesh, who seeks a way out of the world of living and dying:

“When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.”
Fear of death isn’t the problem for Marcus. But what he seems not to know is that life can be beautiful. And not mindlessly beautiful but beautiful even when or especially when one understands that it comes to an end.

Related reading
All OCA Gilgamesh posts (Pinboard)

[The Gilgamesh passage is from N.K. Sandars’s highly readable composite The Epic of Gilgamesh (New York: Penguin, 1972). For a scholarly translation, try The Epic of Gilgamesh, trans. Maureen Gallery Kovacs (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989). “Old Babylonian”: not what’s known as the Standard Version of the story.]

Bacon and Peanuts

[Peanuts, April 15, 2024. Click for a larger view.]

Remember oral reports? Sally is giving one on the importance of reading.

Yesterday’s Peanuts is today’s Peanuts.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

Hidden Bar

Alas the free app Dozer doesn’t work on a M3 Mac. A fine free replacement to hide menu bar items: Hidden Bar. Found via MacMenuBar, “a curated directory of 900+ Mac menu bar apps.”

This post gives an idea of the things I fuss about when setting up a new Mac. And yes, if you’re switching from an Intel machine, the M3 Mac is unbelievably fast. And fewer typos!

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Marcus Aurelius, not wise

Marcus Aurelius:

You will think little of the entertainment of song or dance or all-in wrestling if you deconstruct the melodic line of the song into its individual notes and ask yourself of each of them: “Is this something that overpowers me?” You will recoil from that admission. So too with a comparable analysis of dance by each movement and each pose, and the same again with wrestling. Generally, then, with the exception of virtue and its workings, remember to go straight to the component parts of anything, and through that analysis come to despise the thing itself. And the same method should be applied to the whole of life.

Meditations, 11.2, trans. Martin Hammond (New York: Penguin, 2006).
Of course Marcus lived long before Art Tatum, Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, and [insert the name of an all-in wrestler of your choice here]. And it seems not to have occurred to him that music and movement take place in and across time.

Also from Marcus Aurelius
On change : On distraction : On Maximus : On revenge

[The translator’s comment on 11.2: “An extreme (and utterly unconvincing) example of the reductive analysis which Marcus frequently recommends and employs.” I’m at a loss to name an all-in wrestler.]

Marcus Aurelius, wise

Marcus Aurelius:

The best revenge is to not be like your enemy.

Meditations, 6.6, trans. Martin Hammond (New York: Penguin, 2006).
Also from Marcus Aurelius
On change : On distraction : On Maximus : On music, dance, and wrestling

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

“Frost” and Frost

I was teaching a poetry class and getting ready for our first meeting after a break, when it’s always a challenge to get back to the realities of a semester. I realized that I had forgotten to bring the two poems we were going to talk about, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight” and Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” I printed out a copy of each poem in my office and went off to teach.

“Good morning,” I said to my students. “Is it okay to call it that?” In other words, was it okay to call the first morning back in class a good one? My students seemed receptive to my humor. One student announced with some excitement that a student organization was selling ten-cent hamburgers at the entrance to our building. I explained that I had left the little notebook with our next assignment at home, and that right after class I’d go home and send an e-mail with the details of the assignment. “You shouldn’t have to do that,” one student said. No, it was okay, I explained: “I live just five minutes from campus. I’ll send it at about 12:05.”

And then I realized that our class had started at noon, not 11:00.

Related reading
All OCA teaching dream posts (Pinboard)

[This dream arrived a few nights ago: no influence from the repeated name in a post yesterday. There’s a certain dream-logic to the combination of “Frost” and Frost, but in the waking world, “Frost at Midnight” would be plenty for a fifty-minute class. See also Robert Lowell’s poem “Robert Frost,” which begins “Robert Frost at midnight, the audience gone / to vapor.” This is the twenty-eighth teaching dream I’ve had since retiring in 2015. In all but one, something has goes wrong.]

Arizona 1864

“Written to police the behavior of men, the code tells a larger story about power and control”: the historian Heather Cox Richardson looks at the 1864 Arizona criminal code.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Harts, Keen’s, WIsconsin

Kevin Hart of shared a photograph of a letterhead from his father’s correspondence. It was 1973, and Keen’s English Chop House still had its WIsconsin exchange name.

[Click for a larger view.]

Kevin’s father was a newspaperman and a member of Keen’s Pipe Club. When Kevin sent me a link to a page with Keen’s history, I realized that I’d read about the restaurant somewhere. And I could think of only one possibility.

[Harold H. Hart, Hart’s Guide to New York City (New York: Hart Publishing, 1964). Click for a larger view.]

There seems to be no family relation, but the synchronicity of Hart and Hart is not lost on me.

Keens has lost its apostrophe, and though the restaurant still serves mutton chops, it now calls itself a steakhouse. And though the restaurant has dropped the WIsconsin, the telephone number remains the same: 212-947-3636.

Thanks, Kevin, for letting me share this piece of history here.