Monday, March 31, 2014

How to disable Chrome Notifications

The Chrome Notifications bell showed up in my menu bar this morning. And also this morning, OS X Daily explains how to disable Chrome Notifications. According to OS X Daily, this feature gets enabled at random. No thanks to Google for enabling without a user’s permission. But many thanks to OS X Daily for explaining how to get rid of Notifications — doing so is hardly intuitive.

[chrome://flags? Really?]

At the Library of Congress

[“Men and women looking up books through the card catalogue at the Congressional Library.” Photograph by Bernard Hoffman. Washington, D.C., 1941. From the Life Photo Archive.]

Sara, have you been time-traveling again?

A related post
Library of Congress (1946) (A short film)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Oxford Vampire comma revisited

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, talking to the Columbia University student publication Bwog:

“I’d seen there was this Facebook group at Columbia called Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma, and that was the first time I’d heard of an Oxford comma. And that appealed to me in a lot of ways, because it has Oxford in it, and I like anything Oxford: Oxford button-downs, Oxford University, all that stuff. But then the fact that it’s a comma, the combination of something like really regal and at the same time, absurd. I remember sitting at my parents’ piano, and that was the first thing that came to my mind: ‘Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?’”
The article’s writer lumps the Oxford or serial comma with “useless punctuation marks.” But as Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern American Usage points out, “virtually all writing authorities” outside of journalism recommend using the Oxford comma. Take that, journalism.

Here is Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma.” And here is a discussion of punctuation with VW and Stephen Colbert. The comma talk kicks in at 2:42.

Related posts
How to punctuate a sentence (Includes the Oxford comma)
How to punctuate more sentences

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Recently updated

Fonts and ink and $ Casting doubt on the Garamond v. Times New Roman story.

Baseball and handwriting

The New York Times reports on baseball players’ illegible autographs. With a beautiful account of Harmon Killebrew explaining the importance of good penmanship to Torii Hunter:

“Think about this: 150 years from now, you’re dead and gone, and kids are playing in a field,” Hunter recalled Killebrew saying. “A kid hits a home run, hits the ball in the weeds — far. They’re looking for the ball, they find it, and it says, ‘T, line, dot dot, H.’ They don’t know who it is. They’re like, ‘Oh, we found another ball to play with,’ because they can’t read it.

“But just rewind that. A kid hits a ball, hits it in the weeds, they’re looking for it, they pick it up and they can read it. It says, ‘T-o-r-i-i H-u-n-t-e-r.’ And they’re like, ‘Wow.’ So they go and look it up and they see this guy was a pretty good player, and they put it on the mantel and cherish it.”

Killebrew said, “You didn’t play this long for somebody to destroy your name,” Hunter recalled.
Related reading
Celebrity-handwriting crisis
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)

[Harmon Killibrew: I remember him from baseball cards.]

Fonts and ink and $

The buzz over a fourteen-year-old’s discovery that Garamond uses less ink than Times New Roman doesn’t surprise me. It’s a good story. But Suvir Mirchandani is hardly breaking new ground. In March 2009, designers Matt Robinson and Tom Wrigglesworth found Garamond to be an ink-thrifty font, thrifter than Courier, Brush Script, Times New Roman, Helvetica, Comic Sans, Cooper Black, and Impact. Also from 2009: Ecofont, which comes in a free version. There is nothing new under the sun, at least not in the recognition that some fonts use less ink than others.

[Granted, Robinson and Wrigglesworth’s novel methodology couldn’t produce numbers.]


7:38 p.m.: Daughter Number Three pointed me to Thomas Phinney’s analysis, which casts doubt on Mirchandani’s method and conclusions:

Garamond lowercase is about 14% smaller than Times lowercase (while its caps are only about 4% smaller). So it is no surprise that it uses less ink at the same point size. . . .

This is why most scientific studies comparing typefaces first compensate by resizing the fonts to eliminate differences in the lowercase height (called x-​​height by us font geeks). This study failed to do that. . . .

It should be obvious by now: you could just as easily save ink by setting the same font at a smaller point size.
Phinney (unlike CNN) includes a highly visible link to Mirchandani’s work. And, yes, the samples of Times New Roman and Garamond in the study are markedly different in size.

In photographs of Robinson and Wrigglesworth’s experiment, the Garamond and Times New Roman samples appear (to my untrained eye) to be the same or nearly the same in size. So perhaps Garamond does save ink?

Even if Suvir Mirchandani’s work is flawed, I salute its spirit of inquiry. Why should the world run on Times New Roman anyway?

Thanks, DN3.

Proust et Zippy

[“Long Island Longing,” Zippy, May 4, 2013.]

Today’s strip is not the first Proustian Zippy. The Zippy archive has six more Proustian strips: “Proust Reduced,” “Forgetfulness of Things Past,” “Taste Is Everything,” “Proust Schmoust,” “Within a Budding Groove,” and “Dead White Cornflakes.”

Related reading, via Pinboard
All OCA Proust posts
All OCA Zippy posts

[For the reader who needs a frame of reference for today’s strip: Levittown, on New York’s Long Island, was the archetypal American suburb.]

Friday, March 28, 2014

NPR speaking

“Here’s some really cool music from Chile that I can’t stop listening to at the crib”: that’s NPR speaking, a few minutes ago. Maybe ironically, not that ironically would be helpful.

This kind of talk reminds me of a wonderful line from Ghost World (dir. Terry Zwigoff, 2001): “You guys up for some reggae tonight?”

Another cranky NPR post
A yucky Wednesday on NPR

Work from a “paper class”

The scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been in the news for a while. But this ESPN report has a sample of work submitted for a so-called “paper class”: a paragraph-long Final Paper (at 3:06). Read it, and weep.

Word of the day: illeism

Found while browsing Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009):

illeism /il-ee-iz-em/. Reference to oneself in the third person, either by the third-person pronoun (he, she) or by name or label. Two examples. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1598), the eponymous character consistently uses illeism, saying at one point: “Caesar should be a beast without a heart / If he should stay at home today for fear” (2.2.42-43). In the 1996 presidential election, the Republican candidate, Bob Dole, was widely lampooned for his illeism (“Let me tell you what Bob Dole thinks.”).
I just met up again with the fictional illeist Uncle Doc Hines, a misogynist racist religious fanatic in William Faulkner’s Light in August (1932):
“It was the Lord. He was there. Old Doc Hines give God His chance too. The Lord told Uncle Doc what to do and Old Doc Hines done it.”
And so on.

Related reading
All OCA Garner-related posts (Pinboard)

[Orange Crate Art is a Garner-friendly site.]

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Domestic comedy

“You’re not bringing mad money?”

“I have my phone.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Mad money: “Money carried by a girl or woman with which to pay her own way home if she leaves her escort, usu. because of his sexual advances.” Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner, A Dictionary of American Slang, 1975.]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Manhattan is losing bookstores

The New York Times reports on the dwindling number of bookstores in Manhattan:

State data reveals that from 2000 to 2012, the number of bookstores in Manhattan fell almost 30 percent, to 106 stores from 150. Jobs, naturally, have suffered as well: Annual employment in bookstores has decreased 46 percent during that period, according to the state’s Department of Labor.
My favorite bookstores in Manhattan are The Corner Bookstore and St. Mark’s Bookshop.

Naked City milk prowler

[The hands of the milk prowler. “And by the Sweat of Thy Brow,” Naked City, October 10, 1962.]

Someone is stealing money from 65th-Precinct milk bottles. Says Lieutenant Mike Parker, “I want that milk prowler, and I want him now.”

Try as I might, I can find no evidence that “milk prowler” was an expression ever in use. But this Naked City episode, about a horribly scarred young man who lives in the shadows, draws its inspiration from life. On April 12, 1962, The New York Times ran a short item with the headline “Judge Frees Boy Who Shuns Light”:

A 17-year-old youth accused of stealing money left in milk bottles was discharged in Bronx County Court yesterday because he had “suffered nothing but tragedy and sorrow.”

Roy Shelton appeared before the bench homeless and penniless, and he wept. Judge Joseph A. Martinis learned that Roy had been so badly scarred in the face by a fire that killed his mother, sister and aunt twelve years ago that he took odd jobs with milkmen so that few persons would see him.

His father, also scarred in the fire, vanished later, and Roy was shunted between relatives. Finally, he slept in halls and on park benches, trying always to avoid daylight and people’s stares.

“Society owes it to this defendant to give him a chance to become a useful citizen,” the judge said. Roy was turned over to an uncle who agreed to take him into his home in East Orange, N. J.
I can find no other reference to Roy Shelton in in Times archive. I hope that he found a measure of happiness and peace in his life.

Related reading
All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Gabriele Cirulli’s 2048 has a simple premise: join matching pairs of tiles to make larger and larger numbers: 2, 4, 8, 16, and so on. I hit the magic number this afternoon.

Did I mention that 2048 is fiendishly addictive? Try at your own risk.

Gabriele Cirulli, the game’s creator, is a web designer and developer. Grazie!

Levenger misspelling


It seems like just yesterday that I wrote this sentence: “The problem with paying attention to words: you’re always paying attention.” That’s because it was yesterday, in this post.

A Levenger catalogue came in today’s mail. I always scan the handwriting in Levenger photographs and was surprised by a word, or non-word, in the sample above. That’s not how to spell palette .

Part of being a good speller is knowing when you should look up a word. If a word is even slightly unfamiliar, it can be smart to check. Then again, if you can plunk down $129 for Levenger’s Tyler Folio, you can probably spell words any damn way you please. Then again again, if you’re preparing a page for a nationally distributed catalogue, you should check the dictionary.

Other items from the Levenger catalogue
Bookography™ : Chess set : Lizard chunks : Pocket Briefcase : Replica pencils

Word of the day: opusculum

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is opusculum, “a minor work (as of literature)”:

“Opusculum” — which is often used in its plural form “opuscula” — comes from Latin, where it serves as the diminutive form of the noun “opus,” meaning “work.” In English, “opus” can refer to any literary or artistic work, though it often specifically refers to a musical piece. Logically, then, “opusculum” refers to a short or minor work. (“Opusculum” isn't restricted to music, though. In fact, it is most often used for literary works.) The Latin plural of “opus” is “opera,” which gave us (via Italian) the word we know for a musical production consisting primarily of vocal pieces performed with orchestral accompaniment.
For readers of modern poetry, opusculum will recall Wallace Stevens’s poem “Study of Two Pears.” The poem begins with a Latin proclamation: “Opusculum paedagogum.” The poem’s pedagogue offers a little lesson about seeing things (namely, pears) as they really are: “The pears are not viols, / Nudes or bottles. / They resemble nothing else.” But the lesson falls apart, line by line by line. Why, for instance, mention viols, nudes, and bottles if pears resemble nothing but themselves? The pedagogue (who is not to be confused with Wallace Stevens) has lost control of the classroom.

What words stick in you head because of their literary associations?

Other words from works of literature
Apoplexy , avatar , bandbox , heifer , sanguine , sempiternal : Iridescent

Monday, March 24, 2014

Liveright Bookshop, Hotel Dressler

[The New Yorker, February 21, 1925.]

I found this advertisement while browsing the digital version of the first issue of The New Yorker. I like the ad’s contradictory promises of sanctuary and speed, relaxed browsing and instant gratification. Those promises remind me of the advertising ace Harwinton’s logic in Steven Millhauser’s novel Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (1996). Here is Harwinton on the Hotel Dressler:

The Dressler, he argued, was a rural retreat, a peaceful outpost far from the clamor of downtown Manhattan, but at the same time the Dressler was located in a new and thriving part of the city, only a short distance from a convenient Elevated station, and even closer to the projected subway station on the Boulevard — was located, in short, in the very path of progress. For it was Harwinton’s belief that every city dweller harbored a double desire: the desire to be in the thick of things, and the equal and opposite desire to escape from the horrible thick of things to some peaceful rural place with shady paths, murmuring streams, and the hum of bumblebees over vaguely imagined flowers.
Martin Dressler is a wonderful novel, literally: a nineteenth-century fable about the attractions and limitations of virtual worlds.

The Liveright Bookshop’s address was recently occupied by the restaurant Alfredo’s of Rome, now closed. Alfredo’s online gallery of famous eaters is worth a look. I cannot tell who, if anyone, now occupies 4 West 49th.

Prompting disaster?

On NPR’s Morning Edition this morning, a voice reading headlines noted the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The voice said that the spill “prompted an economic and environmental disaster.” Disaster, yes. Prompt? No.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate offers these definitions of prompt: “to move to action,” “incite”; “to assist (one acting or reciting) by suggesting or saying the next words of something forgotten or imperfectly learned,” “cue”; “to serve as the inciting cause of.”

The oil spill didn’t prompt a disaster, no more than a burning cigarette prompts a forest fire. The oil spill was and is a disaster, a disaster still in the making.

[The problem with paying attention to words: you’re always paying attention.]

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Common misspellings

Truk, turck : 15 Most Common Misspellings.

Back to the dowdy world

[Zippy, March 22, 2014.]

Today’s Zippy is all about paper and fountain pens. Thus the final panel.

Related reading
All OCA “dowdy world” posts (Pinboard)

[My definition of the dowdy world: “modern American culture as it was before certain forms of technology redefined everyday life.” There are of course many reasons why no one should want to go back to 1953.]

Friday, March 21, 2014

Word of the day: novelty

[Henry, March 13, 2014.]

You don’t see novelty shops so much anymore. When I was a boy, “toys and novelties” were staples of my consumer life, found in what was called a variety store. You don’t see variety stores so much either.

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the word novelty to c. 1384: “Something new, not previously experienced, unusual, or unfamiliar; a novel thing.” The meaning of the word as I knew it (or sort of knew it) dates from 1840: “An often useless or trivial but decorative or amusing object, esp. one relying for its appeal on the newness of its design. Also (in later use): spec. a small inexpensive toy or trinket. Freq. in pl. ”

The novelties that first come to my mind: the sliding box that turned one coin into another, the folding gadget that made a dollar bill disappear, and Wriggley’s Gum. These days, the word novelties often refers to very different merchandise, for grown-ups only.

Here, from 2010, is a photograph of what was said to be New York City’s last novelty shop. Joke items, anyone?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Many Lifetymes

Lifetyme Mixed Grass Seed

[Click for a larger view.]

I know that the first day of spring isn’t necessarily the best day to sow grass seed, but it is a good day to post something about grass seed. I’ve had this empty bag sitting around for months. I like the proliferating fonts, the unnecessary “quotation marks,” and the reassuring words at the bottom. It’s better to live life without crabgrass, isn’t it? Who wants to be crabby? Oh, her.

“Lifeless in appearance,” as the poet says, “sluggish / dazed spring approaches.”

[Lifetyme, or what I shall call The Real Sod-Builder Shady, is a product of Behm & Hagemann, Inc., East Peoria, Illinois. No connection to my friend Stefan.]

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thelonious Monk

Years ago, years and years and years ago, my children would occasionally spend a morning on campus with me on days off from school. On one such occasion, my son Ben labeled a poster of Thelonious Monk in my office. And now I remember having labeled my dad’s LPs with little slips of paper bearing the names of musicians: Miles Davis, Erroll Garner, Stuff Smith.

I especially like the homemade o s on this faded Post-it Note. I would guess that Ben was five or six when he wrote them — and the rest of the letters.

Other Monk posts
T. MONK’S ADVICE (1960) : Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane : Thelonious Monk in Weehawken : Thelonious Monk, off-balance : Thelonious Monk plays Duke Ellington

[How did Ben know the proper spelling? The poster says, in large letters, “Thelonious Monk.”]

Its/it’s Lynne Truss

From a Yorkshire Post article about Lynne Truss, who wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves (2003):

A 244-page tour through the rules of punctuation, there was no diverting illustrations and not even a whiff of celebrity. And yet when it was released in 2003, it became one of that year’s biggest hits with many bookshops unable to feed the demand. For it’s author Lynne Truss, it also meant being dragged kicking and screaming into the limelight.
I thought at first that this article was a spoof, a count-the-errors exercise. But no. How many errors do you see?

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by the way, is a highly unreliable guide to punctuation. From Bryan Garner’s withering review of the book:
Why do the experts uniformly disparage a punctuation book that appeals so much to the popular mind? The thing is that many people think they’re sticklers when they’re not. And Lynne Truss happens to be one of them. She’s taken a leaf from Karl Marx in proclaiming that her rallying cry is “Sticklers of the world, unite!” That’s exactly what they’re doing, but not quite in the way she intended. The true sticklers of the world are uniting against Lynne Truss.
A related post
Garner, Menand, and Truss

In flight from excellence

The word of the day is excellence :

1. the state of being superior and without equal 2. something many people and companies say they expect/offer/won’t accept anything but, that is revealed as being really cheap currency when you live on planet earth and observe the people who actually work at companies — like Brad, who still doesn’t know how to transfer a call even though he’s been an administrative assistant for two years; or Linda, who assaults her coworkers with visible grandma panty lines every day of the week; or Nick, the charming department head who manages up like a champ while things rot from the inside out 3. a laughable hyperbole encouraged by consultants, gurus, and guest speakers 4. in reality, the thing people should stop shooting for, because making things just kind of okay would be really good start. Enough with the excellence and perfection, all right?
These definitions are from Lois Beckwith’s The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit (New York: Broadway Books, 2006). I’ve omitted the boldface for several cross-referenced terms. I had to look up one: manage up , placing the needs of one’s superior above all else.

It no longer surprises me that the vocabulary sets of academia and corporate life should be so difficult to distinguish.

[Lois Beckwith is a pen name of Mimi O’Connor.]

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Naked City Dickinson

[Salome Jens as Ellen Annis. “Goodbye Mama, Hello Auntie Maud,” Naked City, June 20, 1962.]

The pulled-back hair, the little tie: this recluse’s appearance owes something to the famous daguerreotype, don’t you think?

This episode has a great over-the-top bit of dialogue. Ellen’s Auntie Maud (Irene Dailey) speaks to chauffeur Harry Brind (James Coburn):

“How dare you . . . make advances to my niece? A chauffeur, with the smell of garage about you, with grease under your nails. How dare you? How dare you?”
Auntie Maud then lunges at him with a clawlike hand.

Related reading
Naked poetry City (Adam Flint recites ED)
All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Princess telephone

“Soft, curvy, and biomorphic,” and designed by Henry Dreyfuss: the Princess telephone, Cooper-Hewitt’s Object of the Day a few days back.

Other Dreyfuss objects at Cooper-Hewitt
The Honeywell Round
The model 500
The Polaroid Swinger

Other OCA posts with Henry Dreyfuss
Henry Dreyfuss on survival forms
Why are barns painted red?

A text for the day

James Joyce:

the more carrots you chop, the more turnips you slit, the more murphies you peel, the more onions you cry over, the more bullbeef you butch, the more mutton you crackerhack, the more potherbs you pound, the fiercer the fire and the longer your spoon and the harder you gruel with more grease to your elbow the merrier fumes your new Irish stew.

Finnegans Wake (1939)
A merry Saint Patrick’s Day to all.

[Leddy is an Irish name.]

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Feedly, ugh

Last year I documented my dissatisfaction with the RSS reader Feedly: Feedly pushes images to the right and flips left-to-right sequences of images, resulting in ugly, incoherent, and potentially misleading posts. (Think of what flipping might do to a set of how-to illustrations.) Feedly is what prompted me to add a sentence to the footer for the OCA feed: “Your reader may not display this post as its writer intended.”

On July 2, 2013, I followed the service’s online instructions to delete my account. I received no reply but thought I was done. But this past week, I received an e-mail:

You are receiving this email because you sent us a request via email (to to permanently delete your feedly account.

It is now possible to delete your account yourself via a button in feedly.

This new option was implemented yesterday as part of our “Fix it March” initiative. You will find all the details on how to delete your account at:
I was surprised to see that my account was still active — with images in posts still pushed to the right. You can guess how long I hesitated before deleting.

For a long time now, I’ve been a happy user of The Old [and steadily improving] Reader. It doesn’t do everything (I would like to be able to mark individual posts as read without opening them), but it doesn’t do things up with which I cannot put.

Eight months without deleting an account! Ugh.

[I added proper quotation marks to the text of Feedly’s e-mail. Couldn’t help myself.]

Saturday, March 15, 2014

“Types of Editors”

[“Types of Editors,” xkcd, no. 1341. Click for a larger view.]

I think enough about text editors to like this xkcd a lot.

OS X’s Dictation service adds another element to a text editor: WYSITUTWYS: What you see is totally unrelated to what you said.

Totally related posts

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day Weekend

[As seen in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts.]

Poor Saint Patrick. Poor his Day. In Illinois college towns of my acquaintance, Saint Patrick's Day has become Unofficial Saint Patrick’s Day, or Unofficial (the word is now a noun). It’s a pre-seventeenth Saturday, a barowner’s creation to make the money lost when the seventeenth falls, as it often does, during spring break. For too many students, Unofficial is a day set aside for drinking, all-day drinking. The day is preceded by tweets apologizing to one's liver, and tweets resolving not to remember a thing. And it’s followed by tweets announcing that Unofficial was epic, and tweets asking why there has to be “school” on Monday. It saddens me that such an obvious ploy finds so many willing participants, and that those participants think there’s something brave and rebellious and subversive about getting drunk.

And now there's the oxymoronic Saint Patrick’s Day Weekend, to make the money lost when the seventeenth falls, as it does this year, on a Monday.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day Weekend.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Two-tone Papermates

[Life, December 12, 1955. Click for a larger view.]

For Pete’s sake: they’re ballpoint pens. Calm down, people, and reattach your heads to the appropriate bodies.

I think of “two-tone” as a phrasal adjective followed by a car. Two-tone cars looked spiffy, at least in my faint childhood remembering. These “tu-tone” pens, not so much. They remind me of the cheap ballpoints dispensed by auto-repair shops and insurance agents. Contrast Parker Jotters of the same era: they still look like great.

The young man on my right — calm down, young man. Young man, I don’t want to have to repeat myself.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Domestic comedy

“It’s a spout-type thing. What am I saying? It’s a spout.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Handwritten Bresson

[“As I am too sad to return to this house since my daughter’s death and have failed to sell the farms, why not farm the land yourself using modern techniques, as you once said you’d like to.”]

[Arnold who? The film gives him no last name, and I cannot make it out here.]

Au hasard Balthazar (1966) is another Robert Bresson film with handwriting. Balthazar is a donkey who suffers indignities and outright cruelty with immense dignity.

Other Bresson posts
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
Diary of a Country Priest
A Man Escaped

[My Harrap’s gives “at random” and “haphazardly” for au hasard. here. Click on either image for a larger view.]

Recently updated

A better Life photo search Now Google has a way to search.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jack Elrod passes the ball

[Mark Trail, March 8, 2014.]

”James Allen said he felt like the heavens opened up before his eyes when he first met cartoonist Jack Elrod a decade ago”: and now Mark Trail gets a new artist.

Related reading
All Mark Trail posts

[Readers of Mark Trail — and there are allegedly 23 million of them — know that Jack Elrod’s name appears in a little ball in each strip.]

Monday, March 10, 2014

Naked Fordham City

[“Memory of a Red Trolley Car,” Naked City, June 13, 1962. Click for a larger view.]

That’s the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University, the Bronx, New York. The beautiful building in the background, past the lawn known as Edwards Parade, is Keating Hall. I kissed a girl standing under that arch. Sigh.

It feels odd to me that the distance between this Naked City episode and my college years is far smaller than the distance between my college years and the present. Sigh.

This is the second and last Naked City episode featuring the Rose Hill campus. The first, “Murder Is a Face I Know,” has glimpses of the campus and the Fordham Road-Webster Avenue intersection. Again: Sigh. But also: Represent.

Related reading
All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sheila MacRae (1921–2014)

“From 1966 to 1970, Ms. MacRae portrayed Alice, the long-suffering but tough-talking wife of Ralph Kramden, the blustery Brooklyn bus driver played by Jackie Gleason”: from the New York Times obituary. Jane Kean, who played Trixie Norton to Sheila MacRae’s Alice, died last year.

Joyce Randolph, the subject of a 2007 Times article, is now the Last Honeymooner.

Related reading
All OCA Honeymooners posts (Pinboard)

[How fortunate I was to grow up with those thirty-nine episodes endlessly available. Thank you, WPIX.]

The procrastinator’s NDU

The National Day of Unplugging began at sundown yesterday. The NDU website is filled with photographs of people who have filled in the blank to explain why they are unplugging: to bike, to knit, to read, to talk. But here, courtesy of me, is the National Day of Unplugging for procrastinators:

I cast no aspersions on the NDU. But I think that Evgeny Morozov offers a useful general caution:

The embrace of the mindfulness agenda by the technology crowd is especially peculiar. . . . Never before has connectivity offered us so many ways to disconnect.

In essence, we are being urged to unplug — for an hour, a day, a week — so that we can resume our usual activities with even more vigor upon returning to the land of distraction.
That’s not the point of the NDU. But skipping candy one day a week is useful only if it leads to changes on the other six days.

To my mind, the great irony of the NDU is that it asks participants to post photographs to the NDU website: Hey, friends and family, look at me! Which means that your friends and family have to go online. Which helps drive traffic to the website, right?


Ghostwriter was our fambly’s obsession during our children’s kidhood years. Every Sunday night: Word! Do you remember Ghostwriter, reader? No? Okay, forget it.

I just found this item about the show, which confirms what I always suspected. Ghostwriter was an escaped slave:

“Ghostwriter was a runaway slave during the Civil War,” [the show’s producer and writer Kermit Frazier] said. “He was killed by slave catchers and their dogs as he was teaching other runaway slaves how to read in the woods.”
Thanks, RL.

[What led me to think escaped slave: on one occasion, Ghostwriter writes to the team about protecting the children; on another, about hearing the dogs. The link went to the New York Times feature “The Local,” now gone.]

Friday, March 7, 2014

Roz Chast on her parents

Not behind The New Yorker paywall: Roz Chast’s “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” These pages are an excerpt from a graphic memoir of the same name, to be published in May. Good reading for children of all ages.

Related posts
The many hates of Roz Chast
Me? (The guy in Chast’s cartoons who looks like me, sort of)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Coffee in the classroom

The student was sitting at the back of the classroom. On the floor, a water boiler, plugged into the wall outlet. On a desk, a Chemex coffee maker. He was making coffee, and I realized that I would have to revise my syllabus.

And then I woke up. Yes, it was only a dream.

In the waking world, my syllabi have a statement about decorum that reads like so:

The atmosphere in our class should be serious — not somber or pretentious, but collegiate and genuinely intellectual. No eating, sleeping, talking, texting, or doing work for other classes. No headphones, iPods, or phones. Electronic devices should be off and out of sight before class begins. Please show respect for our community of learning.
At one point my syllabi prohibited knitting: it had become a thing. Times change, and syllabi change with them.

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All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Naked City Rolodex

[“The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish,” Naked City, May 23, 1962.]

There are eight million addresses in the Naked City. Use this device to manage them.

Is it really a Rolodex? I don’t know. I’ve never seen a sideways Rolodex. This device might have to be called a rotational address-retrieval management system.

Related reading
All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)

Naked poetry City

If I had to choose one Naked City episode as my favorite, I would choose “The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish” (May 23, 1962). It’s strange and funny and crime-free. To offer more explanation would take away the fun.

Like other Naked City episodes — say, this one, and this one, and this one too — “The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish” has significant poetry content. Early on, Detective Adam Flint responds to a loft resident’s skepticism about his ability to fathom poetry:

“Mrs. Lindall, I think you’re being a little prejudiced. Just because I’m a police officer doesn’t mean I don’t read poetry. [Laughs.] I guess I’m a little old-fashioned. Actually, I lean toward Emily Dickinson. However, I made an exception for early T. S. Eliot.”
Adam is indeed, as Lieutenant Mike Parker says (in another episode), a “college cop.”

Later in this episode, walking with his girlfriend Libby Kingston in Washington Square Park, Adam mentions that he wrote his thesis on Dickinson and that he once aspired to be a professor of English literature at Harvard. When Libby shows him the script of an avant-garde theater piece she’s working on, Adam reads aloud in bewilderment: “transvestite tearsheets from flannel funnels.” What? Why can’t she be in something by Inge or Miller? Libby explains that the line refers to Madison Avenue. Adam points to a boy in the park and begins to recite:
“I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — too?”

[Nancy Malone as Libby Kingston, Paul Burke as Adam Flint. “The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish,” Naked City, May 23, 1962. Teleplay by Herbert Kinoy.]

And Libby’s embarrassed, at least a little.

[Click either image for a larger view.]

The chemistry between Burke and Malone is a wonderful thing. At some point in the series, Libby changes from girlfriend to fiancée. She and Adam no doubt married after the series ended in 1963.

Related reading
All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)

Naked City mystery guest

[“The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish,” Naked City, May 23, 1962.]

Do you know her? Please leave your best guess, or more than guess, in the comments.

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All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

National Grammar Day

It’s National Grammar Day. Who knew? Not me, not until about five minutes ago, although it appears that I took note of the day last year.

With history and poetry, all months are “the” month for those who care. So too with grammar and days. It’s National Grammar Day: just what should I do? Oh: make this post.

Kory Stamper’s remarks on NGD 2013 are worth reading.

Related reading
All OCA grammar posts (Pinboard)


In a nearby city: “Evenings and weekends, I’m mostly with other species.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

[A veterinarian speaking, or a vet in the making.]

Monday, March 3, 2014

Word of the day: gallivant

From A.Word.A.Day, a word my mom likes, the intransitive verb gallivant, “to roam about in search of pleasure.”

A.Word.A.Day’s example of usage: “Lady Gaga, Kyle Richards, and Carlton Gebbia gallivant around the streets of Amsterdam in thigh-high boots and trench coats just past midnight” (Bradley Stern, “Jewels n’ Wives,” Time, February 12, 2014).

I am startled to discover that this post marks Lady Gaga’s fourth appearance in these pages. Kyle Richards and Carlton Gebbia? I have no idea who they are, and I’m keeping it that way.

Canned Heat and the Brady Bunch

There I was, in post-lunch early-Sunday-afternoon lotusland, when I saw it:

[“Goodbye, Alice, Hello,” The Brady Bunch, November 24, 1972. Click for a larger view. Watch the episode here.]

That’s the Canned Heat album Future Blues (released August 3, 1970). Canned Heat on The Brady Bunch !

What’s going on here: Marcia has left the record player running all night. Carol is tidying up when she hears the noise of the needle in the run-out groove. The prop people must have had a copy of Future Blues and decided to have some fun. See what they’ve done to the cover? The Best of Marching Bands. The only other explanation I can devise is that Marcia Brady was a secret Canned Heat fan, forced to hide her taste for boogie music from her hopelessly square family. You decide what’s more plausible.

Future Blues is a great Canned Heat album, rivaled only by Hooker ’n Heat, the band’s 1970 collaboration with John Lee Hooker. The inverted flag is a distress signal. Here it signals ecological catastrophe, a source of deep woe for Alan Wilson, the Heat’s resident genius.

I’ve been a Canned Heat fan forever. I got my Future Blues signed in 2010.


June 15, 2015: I’ve corrected the spelling of Marcia’s name.

A related post
Canned Heat in Illinois

[That’s Bob “The Bear” Hite in the orange suit. I wonder if The Bear knew that Carol Brady’s hand was all over his yas-yas-yas. That album on the chair? The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street. ]

Helping Harvey Mandel

On a more serious Canned Heat-related note: the guitarist Harvey Mandel is fighting cancer. His sister Rose Mandel is raising money to cover the cost of multiple surgeries: Help Harvey Mandel.

[Harvey Mandel played and recorded with Canned Heat in 1969 and 1970 and rejoined in 2009. Here’s a sample, from the Woodstock festival.]

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Recently updated

Dropbox and the plain style The plain style may inspire too much trust. It’s smart to opt out of Dropbox’s arbitration procedures.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Big Lots tip

Coming soon, perhaps, to a Big Lots near you: Staedtler Extruded Eraser Sticks, black or white, six for $3. The best part, as described on the back of the package: “Extruded Mars head runs through eraser core.” The god of war himself, at your fingertips.

Too many erasers? No. I will quote my dad on stationery matters: “It is better to be oversupplied than undersupplied.”

My dad on supplies

I told my dad about our visit this morning to Staples, where we bought more (still more) index cards — enough, I said, to last into the next century. Quoth my dad: “It is better to be oversupplied than undersupplied.”

That’s the best thinking about supplies I’ve ever heard.

Related reading
From the Museum of Supplies

[As a regular reader of Orange Crate Art probably knows, supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items.]