Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Curses and jokes in the classroom

At Louisiana State University, Teresa Buchanan, a tenured professor in early-childhood education, has been fired for creating “a ‘hostile learning environment’ that amounted to sexual harassment.” She is charged with having done so by cursing, using vulgar language, and telling an ill-considered joke. Did Buchanan show poor judgment? I’d say so. The article at the link notes that at the time of complaints, she was going through a divorce and “was a bit looser with her language.” But do her remarks call for dismissal? Hell no. LSU’s decision serves the deepen the element of self-censorship in academic life — the fear of saying something or teaching a text because someone, for some reason, might take offense.

My language in the classroom was usually, almost always, free of curse words and vulgarity, though when struggling with inadequate classroom technology, I would occasionally tell my students (for comedic effect) that various choice words were running through my head. My proudest moment of cursing in the classroom was in response to something left, unerased, on the blackboard. I would like to think that my curse helped create the exact opposite of a “hostile learning environment.”

Cabbing with Kafka

Ron Padgett, from a memoir of his friend and fellow poet Ted Berrigan:

New York, early sixties. We were leading a charmed life. One night five of us piled into a Checker cab and headed for the movies on Forty-second Street. Part way there, I noticed that the driver’s name was Kafka, something like Samuel Kafka. We literati started talking about Kafka’s work, and the driver called out, “You talkin’ about Kafka the author?”

“Yes. How do you know about him?”

“He was my cousin.” He explained the genealogy a bit. “Francis, he was an odd one. I guess you’d say he was the black sheep of the family. But he’s the only one people have ever heard of, so I guess he did something right.”

Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan (Great Barrington, MA: The Figures, 1993).
In a 1994 review, I called Ted “the essential Berrigan book.” I think that description still holds.

Related reading
OCA Ted Berrigan posts (Pinboard)
OCA Ron Padgett posts (Pinboard)

Welcome to Heritage Woods

[It’s at least six feet tall. Photograph and special effects by me.]

Heritage Woods is a subdivision. A three-mile walk takes Elaine and me through Heritage Woods almost daily. A median strip in one of its streets held, until recently, a decorative brick arch. One day the arch was gone, and soon this stone was in its place, “a stone with our name on it,” as a resident described it. What comes to mind when you think of a stone with your name on it? [Cue maniacal laughter and spooky organ.]

Heritage Woods is now the scariest subdivision in the world.

I couldn’t resist hamming things up by draining the photograph of blood color and adding a filter or two. [Cue maniacal laughter.]


H. L. Mencken:

In the American colleges and high-schools there is no faculty so weak as the English faculty. It is the common catch-all for aspirants to the birch who are too lazy or too feeble in intelligence to acquire any sort of exact knowledge, and the professional incompetence of its typical ornament is matched only by his hollow cocksureness.

H. L. Mencken, The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, 4th ed. (New York: Alred A. Knopf, 1936).
Also from The American Language
The American v. the Englishman
“There are words enough already”

Monday, June 29, 2015

Zinsser, the Pro’s Choice

[“Quality since 1849.”]

The writer William Zinsser was a great-grandson of a William Zinsser who began a shellac business in New York City in 1849. Zinsser the writer gives some of the family history in a 2011 piece, “Hold the Emotion!”

When we needed a can of primer last week, I noticed the Zinsser brand in our Ace Hardware. What else could I buy? Zinsser: the pro’s choice and the choice for prose.

Related reading
All OCA William Zinsser posts (Pinboard)

Tea cakes and lemonade

From a New York Times article about publicity for the new, not-new Harper Lee novel Go Set a Watchman:

“Everyone is curious as to whether it’s going to be anything like To Kill a Mockingbird, because that’s such a part of our culture,” said Liza Bernard, co-owner of Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vt., which will serve Mockingbird-inspired snacks, like tea cakes and lemonade, on July 14.
File under stuff white people do.

Here, from a defunct blog of that name, are macon d’s thoughts about Harper Lee’s other novel.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lucky Lulu

A label for Lucky Lulu Frozen Perfume, as seen at the Chicago Cultural Center exhibit Love for Sale: The Graphic Art of Valmor Products. I photographed a poster-sized enlargement of a Valmor label. The original labels (many of which are also on display) are postage-stamp-sized. Tiny labels for tiny bottles. I’m surprised by how little is online concerning Valmor Products. Consider this post an addition to what’s available.

[Frozen perfume? Because its manufacture involves freezing? Because it gives a cooling feeling? Because it immobilizes Lulu’s prey?]

A day at the museums

Elaine and I played Museum yesterday. Or Museums — three museums, four visits. First the DuSable Museum of African American History, for Freedom First, a large exhibit about Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, with photographs, posters, instruments, artifacts, and video. Then the Art Institute of Chicago, where we spent much time looking at European engravings and paintings. Then the Chicago Cultural Center (which we’ve again and again agreed we should visit), where we found paintings by Archibald Motley and the great surprise of the day, Love for Sale, an exhibit devoted to labels and advertising for Valmor Products, a Chicago company that sold perfume, cosmetics, and good-luck products to African-American communities. We had a quick and very early dinner at Cafecito and returned to the Art Institute for Whistler and Roussel: Linked Visions.

As Elaine observed, the Art Institute is turning us into curmudgeons: every time we’ve visited recently, the museum’s special exhibits of The New leave us cold. One tiny etching by James McNeill Whistler or Theodore Roussel outshines them all.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A paragraph about marriage

The next-to-last paragraph of the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges might prompt any number of already-married people to take their marriages a little more seriously. I can imagine the first two sentences being read by a wedding officiant:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
The final paragraph: “The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.” A PDF of the ruling and the dissenting opinions is available from the Supreme Court website.

[What most strikes me from quick browsing: Antonin Scalia’s conception of marriage as an institution that limits rather than expands human freedom, diminishing one’s possibilities for (ahem) intimacy and requiring constant vigilance about what one says. Sigh.]

Doing the right thing

Amid so much bad news, this decision is cause for much happiness. Here is the New York Times article whose headline I’ve borrowed.

Andrew Sullivan said it best in 2004:

When people talk about gay marriage, they miss the point. This isn’t about gay marriage. It’s about marriage. It’s about family. It’s about love.
And from Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority: “No union is more profound than marriage.”

On “true method”

There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851).
Also from Moby-Dick
“Nothing exists in itself”
Nantucket ≠ Illinois
“Round the world!”

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Inside Out

Inside Out (2015, dir. Pete Docter) is likely to turn any adult viewer into a tear-stained, nose-running mess. I write as a member of an audience this afternoon. Whether the film will have that effect on children and teenagers may be less certain. I write as an observer of the rest of the audience.

Inside Out earns its tears by legitimate means. The story is deeply, genuinely γλυκύπικρον, glukopikron, sweet-bitter. What I loved most was the film’s insistence on the rightful place of sadness, or Sadness, in human character. If I say more, I’ll begin to explain too much.

Best line: “Where’s Joy?”

[The word γλυκύπικρον is strongly associated with the poetry of Sappho, in which it describes ἔρος, eros. Inside Out isn’t about eros though. Riley, the protagonist, is eleven.]

Geoffrey Hill, pencil user

The British poet Geoffrey Hill, writing with a Staedtler Noris pencil, as seen in this 2011 interview. You can see the Noris at 1:40.

What prompted me to look for Hill on YouTube: just the remembrance of things past. I was once quite keen on his poetry. How remarkable that this poet, whom I knew from a single book-jacket photograph in my undergrad days, should now be, as we say, so accessible.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)
Geoffrey Hill on difficulty

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Separated at birth

[Fredric March and Tobey Maguire.]

A recent pre-Code spree gave Elaine and me the chance to see a young Fredric March in Merrily We Go to Hell (dir. Dorothy Arzner, 1932). We agreed: March and Tobey Maguire were separated at birth. It’s the corners of the mouth that make the resemblance so striking.

Merrily We Go to Hell is a frank depiction of alcoholism and adultery in the pre-Code world. The film is available in a 3-DVD set, Universal’s Pre-Code Hollywood Collection. Thank you, library.

Also separated at birth
Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : Michael A. Monahan and William H. Macy

Other pre-Code posts
Baby Face : Lady Killer : The Little Giant : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Other Men’s Women : Red-Headed Woman : Search for Beauty

[Photographs from the Internets. The photograph of March has no connection to Merrily We Go to Hell.]


For many years I used the handy Mac app TextExpander. I was loyal, very. When OS X Mavericks made life with TextExpander (temporarily) difficult, I bought aText, and sad to say, I never went back to TextExpander.

A simple explanation of aText: “aText accelerates your typing by replacing abbreviations with frequently used phrases you define.” It can get much more complicated and much more wonderful than that. A fairly simple example: I’ve created an abbreviation to make a hyperlink, ,paste. (The abbreviation could be anything; I find that the less cryptic, the better.) The content that goes with this abbreviation:

<a href="[clipboard]">[|]</>
After copying a URL to the clipboard, I type ,paste. The result:
<a href="http://somelink.com">|</a>
with the cursor (|) positioned for adding text. The app makes HTML so easy that I’ve never felt any great need for Markdown.

TextExpander now sells for $44.95. The price for aText: $4.95. Seeing the price for the latest update to TextExpander ($19.95) prompted me to write this post. I know which app I’d buy if I were starting out.

Both apps remind me of early adventures with MacroWorks, a Beagle Bros program that modified AppleWorks. MacroWorks gave me my first practice in getting a computer to do things my way.

A tenuously related post
Beagle Bros disk-care warnings

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

NYT quizzes

Test your knowledge of punctuation and verb tenses with The New York Times. Beware of the robotic dogs.

A colon followed by a dash

Is there a name for an older habit of punctation, the semicolon followed a dash? An entry in Webster’s Second made me wonder. I think the answer is no . But that’s a provisional think.

There is, however, a name, rarely used, for another older habit of punctuation, the colon followed by a dash. I associate that habit, always, with Willa Cather:

His daughter Kathleen, who had done several successful studies of him in water-colour, had once said:—“The thing that really makes Papa handsome is the modelling of his head between the top of his ear and his crown; it is quite the best thing about him.” The Professor’s House, 1925.

Of course she regretted Tennessee, though she would never admit it to Mrs. Rosen:—the old neighbours, the yard and garden she had worked in all her life, the apple trees she had planted, the lilac arbour, tall enough to walk in, which she had clipped and shaped so many years. “Old Mrs. Harris.” In Obscure Destinies, 1932.
When I searched for colon followed by a dash , Google returned this page, and I went straightaway to the Oxford English Dictionary.¹ The colon-and-dash is known as dog’s bollocks, or dog’s ballocks. The OED labels it Brit. coarse slang and rare :
Typogr. a colon followed by a dash, regarded as forming a shape resembling the male sexual organs.
The only citation is from the third (1949) edition of Eric Partridge’s A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English : “Dog’s ballocks , the typographical colon-dash (:—).”

The OED gives a later meaning, c. 1986 (with the ): ”the very best, the acme of excellence.” An OED citation: “Yeah, Jon Bon Jovi is the dog’s bollocks.” Someone had fun getting that in the Dictionary.

The OED is also the dog’s bollocks, especially now that I know that it’s possible to search for text in definitions. But Willa Cather is not the dog’s bollocks. She is just the very best, the acme of excellence, especially in The Professor’s House. James Schuyler: “Willa Cather alone is worth / The price of admission to the horrors of civilization.”

¹ The page at the link gets it wrong: dog’s bollocks, not the dog’s bollocks, is the typographical slang.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)
All OCA Willa Cather posts (Pinboard)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Domestic comedy

“Nothing says ‘summer’ like a big pot of stew.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Word of the day: gam

You might wear out your index-finger running up and down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word. Dr. Johnson never attained to that erudition; Noah Webster’s ark does not hold it. Nevertheless, this same expressive word has now for many years been in constant use among some fifteen thousand true born Yankees. Certainly, it needs a definition, and should be incorporated into the Lexicon. With that view, let me learnedly define it.

GAM. NOUN — A social meeting of two (or more) Whale-ships, generally on a cruising-ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats’ crews: the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851).
An incomplete survey:

Gam did make it into a dictionary in Melville’s lifetime: The Century Dictionary (1889–1891, online here) has entries for the word as a noun and verb. The word is missing from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913, online here), but it appears in Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition (1934). Or it at least appears in my 1954 copy. As a noun: “A herd, or school of whales. A visit between whalers at sea, hence, Local , U.S. , social intercourse between persons ashore.” As an intransitive verb: “Naut . To gather in a gam;— said of whales. To engage in a gam, or, Local , U.S. , in social intercourse anywhere.” As a transitive verb: “To have a gam with or visit with.” The OED has another noun, gamming , which is missing from Webster’s Second and Webster’s Third. It, too, describes a visit at sea.

In The Century and Webster’s Second , gam refers first to whales and later to human beings. In Webster’s Third and the OED, it’s the other way around. So Melville’s meaning came first. It would seem that sailors at some point must have begun to describe whale gatherings in terms of their own stop-and-chats.

But whence gam ? The Century suggests “Perhaps a var. of jam .” The OED suggests that the word may be a variant of game, “Amusement, sport, fun; pleasure, enjoyment.” Webster’s Second : “Origin uncert.” Webster’s Third: “perh. short for obs. gammon talk, chatter.”

Surprising to me: gam has meant “leg” since 1785. I think of that gam as originating in old-movie talk: “Nice gams, sister.”

Also from Moby-Dick
“Nothing exists in itself”
Nantucket ≠ Illinois
“Round the world!”

[That lovely bit of punctuation — “To gather in a gam;— said of whales” — says a lot about the spaciousness of Webster’s Second . Compare Webster’s Third ’s perh. and obs.]

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father’s Day

[Photograph by Louise Leddy. August 22, 1957.]

It was a Thursday, probably in Brooklyn. That’s my dad Jim and me. He or my mom cut the circle and pasted the photo into the “baby book.”

Happy Father’s Day to all.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Wa kei sei jaku

Elaine and I attended a Japanese tea ceremony today. It was a beautifully calming occasion and one that I would want to experience again. A scroll on a wall had the four characters above, the four principles of the tea ceremony as given by Sen Rikyu. A placard below gave their equivalents: wa kei sei jaku, or harmony, respect, purity, tranquility. Here is a page with further explanation. The relation to current events is pretty clear. What the world needs now: wa kei sei jaku.

Related posts
Excerpts and more excerpts from Kakuzo Okakura’s The Book of Tea

Cole’s Portuguese sardines

French sardines, they say, are the best. Portuguese sardines, they also say, are the best. They say so many things, don’t they?

When I spotted, in our international grocery, a single can of Cole’s smoked Portuguese sardines, I had to have it, or them. When I pulled the lid, after waiting for more than a week, I found five sardines. They were skin-and-bones sardines, but with the meatiness of their skinless and boneless kin. They tasted light and smoky, like an elegant, mysterious appetizer. There was nothing fishy about these sardines. They were great. They were sardinhas espectaculares.

The only problem: price. Our nearby international grocery charges $7.99 for a can. The Cole’s website, as I have discovered, sells the same can for $3.99. Even that price seems steep. But $3.99 for an occasional treat? That’s reasonable. Cole’s also has skinless and boneless Portuguese sardines, $4.99 a can. I’ll bite.

I have yet to see French sardines in person, or in a can. Et toi?

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Friday, June 19, 2015

NYT on Charleston

The horrific church shooting in Charleston, S.C., leaves the nation at an all too familiar juncture — whether to do something positive to repair society’s vulnerabilities or to once again absorb an intolerable wound by going through what has become a woeful ritual of deep grief followed by shallow resolve to move on toward  . . .  what? Toward the inevitable carnage next time.
So begins a New York Times an editorial about the killings in Charleston, South Carolina.

“Round the world!”

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851):

Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.

Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.
Also from Moby-Dick
“Nothing exists in itself”
Nantucket ≠ Illinois

[Whelm: “To cover over completely; now esp., to cover with water or other fluid; to cover by immersion; to overwhelm; engulf.” And “Figuratively, to cover or engulf completely and disastrously; to overwhelm; as to whelm one in sorrows.” Definitions from Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition.]

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How to improve writing (no. 60)

My son Ben thought I would like writing about this first sentence of a Reuters article:

A San Francisco-based driver for smartphone-based ride-hailing service Uber is an employee, not a contractor, according to a ruling by the California Labor Commission.
I see four problems:

1. The pile of phrasal adjectives. “San Francisco-based driver for smartphone-based ride-hailing service Uber” has the ungainliness of Hammacher Schlemmer headlines, though Reuters at least uses hyphens.

2. The repetition of -based with different meanings, which is at least slightly jarring. A driver may be based in a city, but the service isn’t based in a phone.

3. The lack of agency. Michael Harvey’s The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing suggests a crucial question to ask about a sentence: Who did what? Here the action — that a commission ruled — is buried in a phrase at the sentence’s end.

4. Too much material for a single sentence. The overloaded opening sentence is a symptom of journalese. (See also this post.)

My attempt at improvement:
The California Labor Commission ruled today that Uber driver Barbara Ann Berwick is an employee, not a contractor. Uber, a San Francisco-based company, markets a mobile app that allows users to arrange for transportation with drivers.
Some news stories describe the ruling as applying to all drivers. But it applies only to Berwick. Adding her name adds clarity. I’m not happy about “San Francisco-based.” I’d prefer “a San Francisco company,” but that phrasing might suggest that Uber is a local business. “San Francisco-based” at least beats “headquartered in San Francisco.” I thought it more important to identify Uber (rather than Berwick) as based in San Francisco. The driver’s location could come in later in the story.

Related reading
All OCA How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 60 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Today’s Zippy

Reading Zippy is more fun that The Waste Land — all the hidden references! Today’s strip channels the 1948 film They Live by Night.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)


I read a partial sentence in a dream this morning and wrote it down when I woke up: “from whence the initials carved into the surface of the whale rendered the ship a perennial Sea Hag.”

The obvious inspiration: chapter 68 of Moby-Dick, which describes a sperm whale as covered with “numberless straight marks” that appear to be “engraved upon the body itself.” Ishmael compares these marks to hieroglyphics. The Sea Hag sailed in from another fictional world: Popeye’s.

I have also dreamed an oracular remark from a Paris Review interview and sentences from The Elements of Style. And once, long ago, a passage from an unpublished poem by David Jones. I wish I had written that one down.

Reader, do you read in dreams?

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Text from Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851). Image from the collective unconscious.

Also from Moby-Dick
“Nothing exists in itself”
Nantucket ≠ Illinois

[Quoggy : a spelling of quaggy , “Of flesh, a body, etc.: soft, yielding, flabby. Also fig .” (Oxford English Dictionary ). The Dictionary cites Melville’s sentence.]

From The American Language

Text from H. L. Mencken, The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, 4th ed. (New York: Alred A. Knopf, 1936). Image from the collective unconscious.

Also from The American Language
“There are words enough already”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Nantucket ≠ Illinois

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851):

Also from Moby-Dick
“Nothing exists in itself”

Bloomsday 2015

It is Bloomsday. James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) begins on June 16, 1904, and ends in the early hours of the following day. Here is a passage from “The Oxen of the Sun,” the novel’s fourteenth episode. The setting is a maternity hospital, where a Mrs. Purefoy is in labor, and where Stephen Dedalus and medical-student friends carouse. In Joyce’s schema for Ulysses, the technic of “The Oxen of the Sun” is “embryonic development”: the episode is written in shifting styles that chronicle the development of English prose, ending in parody, slang, slurred speech, and the language of an American revival preacher: “The Deity ain’t no nickel dime bumshow.” It is getting late (“Keep a watch on the clock”), and Stephen Dedalus and company are very drunk:

[From the Modern Library edition (1961).]

Other Bloomsday posts
2007 (The first page)
2008 (“Love’s Old Sweet Song”)
2009 (Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses)
2010 (Leopold Bloom, “water lover”)
2011 (“[T]he creature cocoa”)
2012 (Plumtree’s Potted Meat)
2013, 2013 (Bloom and fatherhood)
2014 (Bloom, Stephen, their respective ages)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Recently updated

Eberhard Faber IV, Purée Mongole The story behind the Mongol name turns out to be apocryphal.

RZ, i.m.

[Lines from the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem “With a guitar. To Jane.” The guitar that Shelley gave to Jane Williams is in the Bodleian Library. All details there.]

This post is in memory of my friend Rob Zseleczky, who died at this time two years ago. He was a guitarist, and a poet, and his favorite poet was Shelley. We toasted to Rob’s memory last year on this night, and we’ll toast to his memory again tonight.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

“In the Nostalgia District”

Mike Brady has been out looking for Marcia’s diary, which little Cindy donated to a book drive. Oops. But Mike is making progress: “It’s at one of the used-book stores downtown,” he says. ”I don’t know which one. I’ve checked a number of them.” And he still has “a handful,” as he puts it, to go. Such a handful that he and Carol divide them up to continue the search.

Where do these people live? Their townful of books reminds me of Roz Chast’s cartoon “In the Nostalgia District.”

A related post
Canned Heat and the Brady Bunch (No kidding)

[Dialogue from The Brady Bunch episode “The Possible Dream,” February 27, 1970.]

Friday, June 12, 2015

iPhoto lives

If you prefer Apple’s iPhoto to the new Photos app (as I do), you should know that it’s still possible to use iPhoto in OS X 10.10.3.

iPhoto 9.6 will not open in 10.10.3, nor can the app be updated in the App Store. (The circle-with-slashed-line on the iPhoto icon makes the app’s status clear.) As 9.6 is unusable, I felt no fear about deleting it. I then opened the App Store app, clicked on Purchases, found iPhoto in the list of purchased apps, and clicked to install. And now I have iPhoto 9.6.1, which works with 10.10.3.

Proceed at your own risk. All I am saying is that I found it possible to bring back iPhoto. Why I never saw an update notification for 9.6.1 is a question for which I have no answer. A check of the Internets suggests that many Mac users have that same question. A cynic might suspect that Apple is trying to move its users to Photos, no questions asked.

Recently updated

Purée Mongole Now with a photograph.

Pencil and paper

Khoi Vinh recently surveyed designers about the tools they use. He has now posted preliminary findings. The most common response to the question “What is your primary tool for brainstorming/ideation?”: pencil and paper.

Word of the day: gazype

[Speaking with Larry Williams (Robert Armstrong), Dan Healy (James Gleason) expresses skepticism in a colloquial manner.]

Elaine and I just went on a pre-Code tear, watching six films in Universal’s Pre-Code Hollywood Collection. The word gazype makes an appearance in the last film of the set, Search for Beauty (dir. Erle C. Kenton, 1934). Dan Healy is doubtful about Larry Williams’s scheme for a health-and-beauty magazine:

“Hey, look, you say this is on the up-and-up? Well, I don’t want to spit in no cop’s eye. If you’re hooked up with this, there's some kind of a gazype in it.”
Gazype appears to fly under all radar. But the Oxford English Dictionary has a word that could be its inspiration: the slang gazump, also spelled gasumph, gazoomph, gazumph, gezumph. As a transitive verb: “To swindle; spec. to act improperly in the sale of houses, etc.” And as a noun: “a swindle.” One citation suggests that it’s a Yiddish word, but “origin uncertain,” says the Dictionary.

The first citation for the verb is from 1928:
“Gazoomphing the sarker” is a method of parting a rich man from his money. An article is auctioned over and over again, and the money bid each time is added to it.
The first citation for the noun is from 1932:
Ere ’e is . . . parasitin’ on people all day  . . .  and then ’e objects to a little gasumph!
As Dan Healy uses the word, it seems to mean crookedness, fishiness. Was gazump well enough known that gazype would get a laugh, with Healy out of his depth in an attempt to use the lastest slang? Was gazype a fleeting variation on gazump? Or an Americanized version of British slang? Did a writer or actor pick up the word in England and misremember it? And is there no end to unanswerable questions?

Other pre-Code posts
Baby Face : Lady Killer : The Little Giant : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Other Men’s Women : Red-Headed Woman

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Purée Mongole

The now-defunct-in-the-States Mongol is my favorite pencil, so when Sean at Contrapuntalism broke the news that the Mongol pencil was named for is said to have been named for purée Mongole, I knew that I would have to try that soup. I didn’t know that I would be the one making it or that it would be so easy to make.

Purée Mongole seems to have taken many forms over time. The only thing that seems certain is that the soup was once, as we now say, “a thing,” served in posh restaurants. I followed Henri Charpentier’s recipe, as adapted by Deana Sidney. The soup that results is spectacular. It’s really two soups — one green, creamy, mellow; the other tangy with curry powder and tomato. I took Deana’s suggestion to spoon the red into a bowl of green. A delicious Rorschach test will result.

[This photograph is from the next day’s leftovers. I see Africa, sort of. That’s Madagascar on the lower right. The red in last night’s bowl looked remarkably like Howard Johnson’s Simple Simon logo. You have to trust me on “delicious.” I am no food stylist.]

A few details: I used frozen vegetables, canned navy beans, chicken stock, and Amontillado. Two tablespoons, not a cask. No cream: with whole milk, the soup is plenty rich. With good bread and apple pie, it was dinner.

Thanks to Elaine for moral support and guidance in the art of the puree.


June 15: As Faber made clear in a 1971 article for Fortune (“What Happened When I Gave Up the Good Life and Became President”), the story behind the Mongol name is apocryphal. I have revised accordingly. Thanks to Sean at Contrapuntalism for the reference.

Related reading
All OCA Mongol pencil posts (Pinboard)

A Bryan Garner tweet

Yep, I’m happy.

Ornette Coleman (1930–2015)

The New York Times has an obituary: “Ornette Coleman, Jazz Innovator, Dies at 85.”

For beginners, four recordings from 1959 and 1960: “Lonely Woman,” “Ramblin’,” “Una Muy Bonita,” “Beauty Is a Rare Thing.” These recordings put me in mind of what Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in “Plato; or the Philosopher”:

This perpetual modernness is the measure of merit in every work of art; since the author of it was not misled by any thing short-lived or local, but abode by real and abiding traits. How Plato came thus to be Europe, and philosophy, and almost literature, is the problem for us to solve.
The sound of the Ornette Coleman Quartet came to be the sound of jazz.

From Moby-Dick

Herman Melville knew snug . From Moby-Dick (1851):

Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.
[Impossible to dispatch this novel in one two-hour class meeting and maintain intellectual integrity.]

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Allusionist, a podcast

“Etymological adventures with Helen Zaltzman“: The Allusionist is a fortnightly podcast about language. I’ve listened to the first eight episodes and am rationing the four now remaining. Cryptic-crossword clues, fake names and fake words in reference works and dictionaries, museum labels (here called “text panels”): The Allusionist has all these. Highly recommended for anyone who loves language.

From The American Language

Captain Basil Hall, who was here in 1827 and 1828, and published his “Travels in North America” in 1829, was so upset by some of the novelties he encountered that he went to see Noah Webster, then seventy years old, to remonstrate. Webster upset him still further by arguing stoutly that “his countrymen had not only a right to adopt new words, but were obliged to modify the language to suit the novelty of the circumstances, geographical and political, in which they were placed.” The lexicographer went on to observe judicially that “it is quite impossible to stop the progress of language — it is like the course of the Mississippi, the motion of which, at times, is scarcely perceptible; yet even then it possesses a momentum quite irresistible. Words and expressions will be forced into use, in spite of all the exertions of all the writers in the world.”

“But surely,” persisted Hall, “such innovations are to be deprecated?”

“I don’t know that,” replied Webster. “If a word becomes universally current in America, where English is spoken, why should not take its station in the language?”

To this Hall made an honest British reply. “Because,” he said, “there are words enough already.”

Webster try to mollify him by saying that “there were not fifty words in all which were used in America and not in England” — an underestimate of large proportions —, but Hall went away muttering.

H. L. Mencken, The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, 4th ed. (New York: Alred A. Knopf, 1936).
I am taking on The American Language and Moby-Dick this summer, Behemoth and Leviathan. More excerpts appearing soon.

[Re: Captain Hall: see also this (apocryphal) observation.]

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Hammacher Schlemmer crazy making hyphen shortage problem.

Paying attention always costs. In this case, the cost is the hour or two it’s taken me to work on this post. It all began when Elaine ordered an item from Hammacher Schlemmer. But I’m not blaming Elaine. The item arrived with a catalogue. I started to read.

I don’t know how long Hammacher Schlemmer has had hyphen trouble. Judging from the company’s name, I would say a long time. The catalogue’s cover announces “America’s Longest Running Catalog.” Yet the catalogue is not devoted to running gear. Nor is it especially long — only eighty pages. Do you see trouble ahead?

Virtually every item in the Hammacher Schlemmer “Father’s Day 2015” catalogue is identified in a headline that begins with The and ends with a product-name noun followed by a period.¹ All modifiers are attributive — that is, they precede the final noun: The Levitating Lamp. The Tabletop Fireplace. So far, so good. But again and again, Hammacher Schlemmer piles up modifiers that turn these headlines into exceedingly strange descriptions, almost always hyphen-free — or hyphen free.² At their strangest, these descriptions have the flavor of awkwardly literal translations of Homeric epithets — say, “great glittering-helmeted Hector” [μέγας κορυθαίολος Ἕκτωρ ]:

The Brightness Zooming Natural Light Lamp.

The Eye Fatigue Preventing Reading Glasses.

The Intruder Discouraging Television Mimic.

The Knee Pain Relieving Walking Shoes.

The Thinning Hair Boar Bristle Brush.

The Under Seat Rolling Carry On.

The Voice Clarifying Over Ear Amplifier.
My comparison would work better if Homer’s poetry had more consumer goods. But one Hammacher Schlemmer headline is very nearly Homeric:
The Walk On Air Strap Sandals.
Hermes might like a pair of those.³

It may be that there’s an arch, Martini-tinged sense of humor at work in these headlines, a status marker of the sort that Paul Fussell wrote about in his book Class . If so, I think that the comedy comes at the cost of clarity.

The Intruder Discouraging Television Mimic, by the way, is old wine is a new bottle. Or as Hammacher Schlemmer would say, The Containing Old Wine New Bottle.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)
Living on hyphens
Mr. Hyphen and Mr. Faulkner
One more from Mr. Hyphen

¹ I count one exception in eighty pages: The Hard Floor Scrubber with Spray Applicator. Or in true catalogue syntax: The Spray Applicator Included Hard Floor Scrubber.

² I count three hyphens in eighty pages: The Canadian Year-Round Rain Barrel, The One-Acre Natural Attractant Mosquito Trap, The Spring-Loaded Running Shoes.

³ Reading his translation of Odyssey 5 to an audience in 2001, the classicist Stanley Lombardo departed from the printed text and spoke of Hermes’s “golden air shoes.” I cannot resist inventing one Hammacher Schlemmer epithet: The God Made Reality Depicting Shield.

[Mary Norris’s Between You & Me (2015) and Edward N. Teall’s Meet Mr. Hyphen (1937) got me noticing hyphens, and their absence.]

Ambiguous balloon

[Mark Trail, June 8, 2015.]

Rusty’s ventriloquism lessons are paying off. But where is he throwing his voice? Into the dock? Or into Mark’s elbow? That’s some ventriloquism.

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Eberhard Faber IV

Sean at Contrapuntalism talks with Eberhard Faber IV. For me, the most exciting bit of news in their conversation is that the Mongol pencil was named for is said to have been named for John Eberhard’s favorite soup: purée Mongole.

Orange Crate Art is a Mongol-friendly zone.


June 15: As Faber made clear in a 1971 article for Fortune (“What Happened When I Gave Up the Good Life and Became President”), the story behind the Mongol name is apocryphal. I have revised accordingly. Thanks to Sean at Contrapuntalism for the reference.

Partie de campagne [A Day in the Country ]

[Inside: Rodolphe (Jacques Brunius) and Henri (Georges D’Arnoux). Outside: Henriette (Sylvia Bataille) and her mother Mme. Dufour (Jane Marken). Click for a larger view.]

Adapted from a short story by Guy de Maupassant, Jean Renoir’s 1936 film Partie de campagne [A Day in the Country ] is about the male gaze, certainly: as Henriette and Mme. Dufour swing, they are watched in turn by M. Dufour (André Gabriello), Dufour’s shop assistant and future son-in-law Anatole (Paul Temps), four grinning schoolboys, a pack of nervous seminarians and their priestly keepers, Rodolphe (a young boatman on the make), and his more somber friend Henri. But the film is about so much more. The Dufours, their daughter Henriette, Mme. Dufour’s mother (Gabrielle Fontan), and Anatole have left Paris for a day in the country, fishing and picnicking. They are urban rubes: “There’s so much dirt in the country!” says Mme. Dufour. Yet they are charmed by the magic of the natural world: sunlight, a cherry tree, a nightingale, a river. Rodolphe and Henri plot to get the two younger women to themselves. What follows cannot be predicted. Yet when one watches the film a second time, the course of the action seems inevitable.

“We cannot go to the country / for the country will bring us / no peace,” William Carlos Williams wrote in “Raleigh Was Right.” So too in Renoir’s film, but for a different reason: here, going to the country stirs feelings that can find expression nowhere else. It ruins a person for the rest of life.

Partie de campagne is available from The Criterion Collection, whose designers have created, as always, a beautiful and inventive package. The restaurant’s signboard inspires the disc menu:

So beautiful. Credit goes (I think) to art director Sarah Habibi and type designer F. Ron Miller.

[A bonus: a musical score by Joseph Kosma, who wrote the music for “Les feuilles mortes” [“Autumn Leaves”]. A special added bonus: Renoir plays the proprietor of the Restaurant Poulain. His longtime partner Marguerite Houlle Renoir plays the waitress.]

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Recently updated

A small press v. the Salinger estate The Salinger Trust has asked that the suit be dismissed.

Hermann Zapf (1918–2015)

The typographer and calligrapher Hermann Zapf has died. Here, from Quartz, is a look at his work (it includes a 1967 film of Zapf drawing letters). Hermann Zapf, as in Optima, Palatino, Zapf Dingbats, and Zapfino.

From Robert Walser

A park like this resembles a large, silent, isolated room. In fact it’s always Sunday in a park, by the way, for it’s always a bit melancholy, and the melancholy stirs up vivid memories of home, and Sunday is something that only ever existed at home, where you were a child. Sundays have something parental and childish about them.

Robert Walser, “The Park,” in Berlin Stories, trans. Susan Bernofsky (New York: New York Review Books, 2012).
I know: there are many kinds of Sundays, including those with “late / Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair.” But when I read Walser, I believe him.

Related reading
All OCA Robert Walser posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ronnie Gilbert (1926–2015)

Ronnie Gilbert, singer, songwriter, and social and political activist, was one of the original Weavers. The New York Times has an obituary.

There’s more to Ronnie Gilbert’s work than the Weavers. But here is Weavers’ last song (and a little bit more).

Happy together

My turtles, like my people, have left my office for a new home. They’re living on the shelf of a Levenger study carrel. They think they’re in a library. Shh.

[This post is for Fresca, seeing as how she asked. The turtles were a gift from Elaine.]

Friday, June 5, 2015

New directions in assessment

The Chronicle of Higher Education describes one school’s plan to scan students’ brains to determine the effects of college and, more specifically, of study abroad.

A skeptical neurologist, asked to comment: “I was trying to think of something more ridiculous, but I couldn’t.”

[File under the quantification of everything.]

Scott Walker v. tenure

The New York Times reports on Scott Walker’s efforts to eliminate tenure at Wisconsin’s state universities:

A committee of lawmakers last week approved along party lines a proposal that would remove the notion of tenure in the university system from state statute, leaving the sensitive matter to the state’s Board of Regents, which oversees the system’s 13 four-year universities and some 180,000 students.

Under the proposal, the board’s 18 members — 16 of whom are appointed by the governor subject to the confirmation of the State Senate — would be permitted to set a standard by which they could fire a tenured faculty member “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection,” not only in the case of just cause or a financial emergency, as permitted previously. Critics deemed it tenure with no actual promise of tenure.
Following those paragraphs, a comment from State Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R): “The reality is that we are not eliminating tenure.”

No, the reality is that they are eliminating tenure, or attempting to. “Program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection” could mean anything from cutting single courses to cutting whole disciplines and departments.

Here in Illinois, I anticipate a similar effort to eliminate tenure, packaged, of course, as “tenure reform.” Bruce Rauner, Illinois’s version of Scott Walker, has pronounced tenure “a flawed concept.”

My people

These people shared an office with me for years. Now they live with me at home, alongside an Eagle Verithin display case. The little guy is not pleased. He never has been.

Related posts
A face on my floor : Kubrick remake : Officemates

[I’m pretty sure that these people came to me, one by one, as gifts from my children. But it’s been a long time.]

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dead Writers Perfume®

A new (old) scent: “The Dead Writers Perfume® blend evokes the feeling of sitting in an old library chair paging through yellowed copies of Hemingway, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Poe, and more.” The product is for real, unlike Smell of Books™, which remains but a concept.

Thanks, Zayne.

[Hemingway, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Poe: is it Dead White Male Writers Perfume®?]

MMusic Clip of the Day

MM: Richard McLeese’s Music Clip of the Day just hit its two-thousandth post.

Richard’s blog has introduced me to the music of Hamid Drake, Molly Drake, and any number of non-Drakes. Long may it wave.

Word of the day: emeritus

When I was a college student, I would occasionally notice the word emeritus next to a faculty name in the course catalogue. I thought it meant “really old but somehow, God knows how, still teaching,” or something like that. I didn’t know what it meant. Here is a definition, from what might be called a dictionary emeritus, Webster’s New International Dictionary, second edition:

adj . [L., past past. of emerere , emereri , to obtain by service, serve out one’s term, fr. e out + merere , mermeri , to merit, earn, serve. See MERIT.] Retired from office or active duty on account of age, infirmity, or long and faithful service, and honored with a nonofficial position and title corresponding to those held in active service; — esp. of a clergyman or college professor.
Yes, merit, and all that. But I like the awkward overtone of penal life in “serve out one’s term.” A professor emeritus has done the time.

A phone call yesterday prompted me to write this post: a friend called, and Elaine asked if she would like to speak to the professor emeritus. Who? Me! I mean I .

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Side Street in a Naked City

When I first saw Anthony Mann’s film Side Street (1949), I hadn’t yet seen the television series Naked City. Seeing Side Street again, I’m excited to realize that its last shot must be the inspiration for the last shot of the last Naked City episode, “Barefoot on a Bed of Coals” (1963). The view in each shot is from inside an ambulance, with a woman standing and watching as her wounded man is taken to a hospital. Here, from Side Street, is Ellen Norson (Cathy O’Donnell), watching as the ambulance drives off with her husband Joe (Farley Granger). Click on any image for a larger view:

And here is the much longer closing shot from “Barefoot on a Bed of Coals.” It’s very difficult to see the resemblance as a coincidence.

The resemblance may be a matter of Naked City ’s director of photography Andrew Laszlo paying tribute to Side Street ’s cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg. Or the resemblance may be meant as a larger tribute to a film shot on location in Manhattan, a film whose style influenced the series.¹ Or perhaps Harry Bellaver (Naked City ’s Detective Frank Arcaro), who played a cabdriver in Side Street, remembered the closing shot and made a suggestion. Who knows? Not I.

[Harry Bellaver as cabdriver Larry Giff.]

Side Street and the first Granger-O’Donnell film, They Live by Night, are available as a two-fer DVD.

¹ Though Naked City takes its name from Jules Dassin’s film The Naked City (1948), the series plays more like Side Street: the emphasis is not on the cops but on guest-star protagonists. And speaking of cops, Naked City ’s Lieutenant Mike Parker (Horace McMahon) bears a greater resemblance to Side Street ’s terse Captain Walter Anderson (Paul Kelly) than to The Naked City ’s elfin Detective Lieutenant Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald).

Related reading
All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)
Side Street, locations
They Live by Night

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


I noticed yesterday that my Safari bookmarks had grown into a long, increasingly unalphabetical list. And then I discovered that Safari still lacks the option to sort bookmarks in alphabetical order. (Apple, WTF?) SafariSort, a successor to James Howard’s apparently defunct Sortosaurus, is a tiny free app that does the job. I know the developer’s name as Sully. Thank you, Sully.

Being persnickety about icons, I replaced SafariSort’s icon with a Scrabble tile. A + 1 seems to me a good enough suggestion of alphabetical order. I used the free app LiteIcon to make the change. And now I’m all CamelCased out.


Rowhouses and monstrosities

From The New York Times, “On a Block of Single-Story Homes, a ‘Monstrosity’ in Queens Draws Ire”:

The preservationists argue that single-family rowhouses imbue some neighborhoods — particularly in Queens — with their essential character. But under existing zoning laws, there is no specific designation for single-family rowhouses that provides protection against increasing the number of units, or against out-of-scale and out-of-character expansions.

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” said Richard Hellenbrecht, the vice president of the Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella association of more than 100 community groups. “Lovely, affordable homes being squeezed out by monstrosities.”
I’ve seen it happen on my old block in Brooklyn and in my parents’ town in New Jersey: modest, beautiful older houses destroyed, with outsized structures taking their place. In Brooklyn, as in Queens, some residents now live in permanent shadow. The Times photographs show what’s happened.

A related post
Some have gone and some remain

They Live by Night

[Sandwiches and sodas. Click any image for a larger view.]

[On the road, again.]

They Live by Night (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1948) seems ahead of its time. The film’s brief prologue tells us that the young couple at the center of the story, Bowie Bowers (Farley Granger) and Keechie Mobley (Cathy O’Donnell), “were never properly introduced to the world we live in.” They are in flight: he, as an escaped convict; she, as a daughter, niece, gas-station attendant, and maid of all work who runs from her family of thieves. The premise might suggest High Sierra (dir. Raoul Walsh, 1949), but Bowie is no criminal: he was wrongly convicted after falling in with bad company. As Keechie tells it, “He’s just a kid.” It seems that neither she nor he has ever danced or kissed. They are absolute beginners. All they know is their mutual devotion.

They Live by Night has been repackaged for DVD as film noir, but I’m not sure the description fits: there are too many moments of comedy (Ian Wolfe as the proprietor of an all-night marriage chapel, Byron Foulger as a manager of rental cabins), too many scenes of domestic happiness. But happiness for Bowie and Keechie is always fleeting: just as a cop in the film predicts, every knock on the door sets their hearts pounding. Thus they are again and again on the move, by day, by night, one or the other driving. And then there are Howard Da Silva and Jay C. Flippen as Chickamaw and T-Dub Mobley, Keechie’s brutal uncles, determined to make Bowie the third man in their criminal schemes. (It takes, T-Dub explains, three men to knock over a bank, “the three mosquitoes.”) Perhaps it’s noir after all. But I prefer to think of the film as the prelude to Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955): the real story here is one of young lovers attempting to flee the world. Leigh Harline’s score — made largely of variations on “I Know Where I’m Going” — underscores the pathos of their journey.

For me the great revelation of this film is Cathy O’Donnell. She has always seemed to me the one false note in The Best Years of Our Lives (dir. William Wyler, 1946): as girl-next-door Wilma Cameron, she speaks with a stagey voice that seems wildly out of place — courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn, who arranged for diction lessons to remove O’Donnell’s southern accent. Here O’Donnell is a far more natural actor, and the difference is extraordinary. No wonder Granger recommended her for the film. The two have a genuine, sweetly erotic chemistry on screen. Granger and O’Donnell co-starred again in Side Street (dir. Anthony Mann, 1949), but there O’Donnell has relatively little to do. My guess is that They Live by Night is her shining moment in film.

They Live by Night is adapted from Edward Anderson’s novel Thieves Like Us (1937). A copy sits somewhere in our house, in the stacks of books waiting for shelves not yet built.

[In a bus depot. Keechie skips the nickel candy bars and chooses the cheapest option, “Delicious Fresh Nuts,” 1¢. I like vending machines with mirrors, artifacts of the dowdy world. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.]

A related post
Will Lee (Mr. Hooper) in They Live by Night

Monday, June 1, 2015

Cartoon plagiarism

The cartoonist Jeff Parker, a recent victim of plagiarism by one “William Charles”: “How bad are you at editing that you couldn’t notice your ‘cartoonist’ has been wildly swinging from one style to another, like Tarzan on Red Bull?” “Cartoon plagiarism and the case of the unknown Maryland cartoonist” (The Washington Post ).

The strangely mild attitude of Montgomery Sentinel editor Brian Karem toward his pseudonymous serial plagiarist (“that’s two strikes against him”) is appalling. I’d say that the plagiarist has already struck out — and that he should be thrown off the team.

Recently updated

Name that actor Mystery solved.

A joke in the traditional manner

Did you hear about the cow coloratura?

No spoilers. The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : 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 was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He must take credit for all but the squirrel-doctor, Santa Claus, and this one, which won his approval this past Saturday.]

Name the actor

He’s playing a bit part here. He went on to play a character known to millions. Can you name him?

First prize: an all-expenses-paid round-trip ticket to 1947, the year this scene was filmed.

Take your best shot in the comments. I‘ll drop hints if needed.


11:46 a.m.: This post has had a fair number of visits but only one guess. Here’s a hint: notice that the character is working in a store.

1:12 p.m.: Another hint: he went on to play a character known to millions, both young and old, but especially young.


The Crow called it: it’s Will Lee (1908–1982), Sesame Street ’s Mr. Hooper. For comparison purposes:


The 1947 Lee is from They Live by Night (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1949). No date for the other photograph.

And for the record, I would never have figured it out without clues.

A related post
Review: They Live by Night