Monday, July 31, 2017

Current events

I put the news on earlier today and heard an analyst talking about what “Jared and Ivanka” wanted. First names only. And for a moment the news felt utterly indistinguishable from a reality-TV show. Alliances, rivalries: it’s Big Brother in the White House.

Jeanne Moreau (1928–2017)

From the New York Times obituary: “Jeanne Moreau, the sensual, gravel-voiced actress who became the face of the New Wave, France’s iconoclastic mid-20th-century film movement, most notably in François Truffaut’s 1962 film Jules and Jim, died on Monday at home in Paris.”

The Times obituary mentions many Moreau films. One that’s missing and that I’d like to mention: Jacques Demy’s Bay of Angels (1963).

A good skate

My mom told me that Ben is “a good skate.” That’s a compliment, of course, but — what? I had to look it up. The explanation, once I found my way to it, is simple. Bear with me:

Revolutionary War soldiers liked to sing the Scottish song “Maggie Lauder,” the chorus of which chided a blatherskate, a gabby person full of nonsense or hot air. The song is a very old one dating back to the l7th century, and the word blatherskate is older still, formed from bladder, an obsolete English word for an inflated pretentious man, a windbag, and a contemptuous use of the word skate, referring to the common food fish. Why the skate was chosen for the humorous word isn’t clear, perhaps because it was believed to inflate itself like a blowfish, or possibly just because it was common. In any case, “Maggie Lauder” made blatherskate popular in America and later, in the 19th century, when Americans invented their native word cheapskate, for a tightwad, they borrowed the skate from it. This is a more roundabout explanation than the theory that the skate in cheapskate comes from a British slang word for chap, but it seems more logical, as skate in the sense of chap never had much currency in the U.S., except in the term good skate, meaning a good person.

Robert Hendrickson, The Facts of File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins (New York: Facts on File, 1997).
So there it is: a good skate is a good chap, a good person.

Good skate at one point was clearly a matter of common knowledge, well-known enough to show up in titles: A 1929 comedy short (dir. Francis Corby): Good Skates. A 1939 news short: Good Skates. A 1964 episode of The Lucy Show: ”Lucy and the Good Skate.“ A 1967 episode of That Girl (in which Ann learns to roller-skate): “The Good Skate.” A 1980 Peanuts special in which Peppermint Patty trains for a figure-skating competition: She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown. A 1989 episode of Perfect Strangers: “Good Skates.” And as recently as 1992, a Disney Minnie ’n Me book by Ruth Lerner Perle: You’re a Good Skate, Lilly.

And then there’s this Boy Scout comic strip, Good Turn Bobby:

[“He Proves to Be a Good Skate.” Boys’ Life, January 1937. Click for a larger view and clearer joke.]

I’m sharing these discoveries with the good skate, and with my mom, who’s also a good skate, and whose one-off use of this expression started it all. Thanks, Mom!

[The Oxford English Dictionary has bletherskate and blatherskite. Perhaps Robert Hendrickson split the difference. About skate with reference to a person: “Etymology uncertain.” “Maggie Lauder” resides at YouTube in a bewildering number of incarnations. Here’s one.]

“Government schools”

In The New York Times, Katherine Stewart traces the origins of the term “government schools.”

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The supply closet

In The Boston Globe, John Segal, creative director for Crane & Co., describes a primal scene:

“I recall visiting my father’s office as a child and raiding the supply closet — so much to choose from. Rows of pencils, stacks of legal pads and steno notebooks, reams of paper (cotton bond, the good stuff), ‘corrasable’ typing paper, onion skin, carbon paper, Whiteout, reinforcements, mucilage.”
O corrasable paper. I feel a Zippy “over and over” coming on: Eaton’s Corrasable Bond! Eaton’s Corrasable Bond!

Saturday, July 29, 2017


Karl Rossmann is working as a lift-boy at the Hotel Occidental, a hotel with thirty elevators and forty lift-boys. One of Karl’s erstwhile ne’er-do-well traveling companions finds him at work:

Franz Kafka, Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared), trans. from the German by Michael Hoffman (New York: New Directions, 2002).

Nearing the end of Amerika, I’m convinced that this novel is a Wes Anderson film just waiting to be made.

Also from Amerika
An American writing desk : A highway : A bridge

Friday, July 28, 2017

New York attitudes

The New York Times has an article about what it calls “New York attitude” among denizens of the White House. A sample:

“The Mooch is a New Yorker like me,” said Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor and an adviser to Mr. Trump who has yet to find his way to a White House job. “He’s a purebred New Yorker. He’s lit a firecracker in that place. What you’re seeing in Scaramucci is the president’s style.”
The Times reporter opines that even the New York transplants in Trump’s inner circle “sometimes behave as if they, and their boss, never left the five boroughs.”

What I notice every time I visit New York City is that most people go about the day with a thoughtful awareness of those around them. They hold doors. They say “Excuse me.” For every manspreader on the subway, there’s someone else offering a seat to someone who’s standing. I’ll quote from a 2010 post:
It is difficult to exaggerate the fellow-feeling of New Yorkers, evident in many small moments of care and tact. A woman on the subway lets go of her stroller for just a moment so that she can adjust her bag. Two people reach out to the stroller to steady it when the train begins to move. A man on the street asks a hot-dog vendor if it’s okay to put an empty soda can in his trash. Sure, go ahead.
I think that the Times should know better than to typecast residents of the five boroughs as crude vulgarians. Let’s not equate a New York City state of mind with the likes of Trump and Scaramucci.

Zippy Automat

[Zippy, July 28, 2017.]

Related posts
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)
Automat, a 1964 guidebook entry
Automat beverage section
Automat sign, 1943

One vote and two other votes

From The Washington Post, a play-by-play look at John McCain’s vote: “How John McCain’s ‘no’ vote on health care played out on the Senate floor.” And from Slate: “McCain Got the Credit, But Don’t Forget: Collins and Murkowski Killed This Bill.”

Thursday, July 27, 2017

June Foray (1917–2017)

June Foray was the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel. And Natasha Fatale. And Nell Fenwick. And other toons. The New York Times has an obituary and a sampler of her voice work. And here, from YouTube, are June Foray and Bill Scott (Bullwinkle J. Moose, Mr. Peabody, Dudley Do-Right) at work and play.

Scaramucci speaks

Anthony Scaramucci called Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker to chat. “I’m here to serve the country,” Mr. Scaramucci said. Among other things. Must be read to be believed. And even then.

A related post
Batshit crazy

My 2¢, or $50

More nightmare. More money to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Holiday version

I’m still making my alphabetical way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, and now, Billie Holiday.

Here’s “A Sailboat in the Moonlight” (Carmen Lombardo–John Jacob Loeb), in two recordings. I first heard the Guy Lombardo recording in Woody Allen’s Zelig. I’ve had the Holiday on LP for ages.

[Guy Lombardo and Royal Canadians, with vocal by Carmen Lombardo. Recorded in New York, May 28, 1937. Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra: Buck Clayton, trumpet; Edmond Hall, clarinet; Lester Young, tenor sax; James Sherman, piano; Freddie Green, guitar; Walter Page, bass; Jo Jones, drums. Recorded in New York, June 15, 1937.]

The liner notes that accompany the Holiday recording suggest — with no evidence — that the faintly audible conversation during the first chorus may be “the first rumblings of a mutiny against the material.” I think it far more likely that someone was checking the sequence of solos, or asking whether the out-chorus was a full or partial one. Because “A Sailboat in the Moonlight” is to my ears a beautiful song, especially in the chord changes of the first three bars. But I think it takes Holiday and company to make the song’s beauty felt. Playing these two recordings back to back would be a good way to introduce a new listener to the pleasures of jazz and to the ability of gifted musicians to breathe unexpected life into a tune.

So many highlights: Clayton’s brief fanfare, Sherman’s Teddy Wilsonisms, Clayton’s and Young’s solos, Jones’s varied percussion, the way the tune lifts in the partial out-chorus, and above all, in the first chorus and out-chorus, the interplay of Holiday and Young. They make me think of dancers whose partnership feels effortless in its intimacy and tact.

One more detail: a 1937 recording of the song by Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra borrows the descending background figure from the second chorus of the Lombardo recording and runs it through every chorus. In other words, there’s good to be found everywhere, even in a Guy Lombardo arrangement. But lest there be any question: there’s no Guy Lombardo in my dad’s CD collection.

Today would have been my dad’s eighty-ninth birthday.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie : Duke Ellington : Coleman Hawkins

[One more thought: The plaintive statement of the melody in the Lombardo recording makes me think of the Bix Beiderbecke—Frankie Trumbauer recording of “I’m Coming Virginia.” Coincidence?]

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Being transgender
and serving with honor

“Being transgender did not affect my ability to serve my country with honor. I served this country to protect everyone’s rights and freedoms and one would think that would include my own”: Jessie Armentrout, a Naval engineer, quoted in a New York Times column by Jennifer Finney Boylan.

Flaunt for flout (PBS, sheesh)

From the voiceover narration for Summer of Love (2007), a PBS American Experience episode about Haight-Ashbury in 1967, recently reaired:

The hippies openly flaunted the law.
Make that flouted.

Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about flaunt for flout:
Although the “treat contemptuously” sense of flaunt undoubtedly arose from confusion with flout, the contexts in which it appears cannot be called substandard. . . . If you use it, however, you should be aware that many people will consider it a mistake.
This reasoning puzzles me. Even educated speakers and writers make mistakes, yes, but I can’t agree that “contexts” legitimate mistakes. And why would “many people” consider flaunt for flout a mistake? Perhaps because it is one? Apply M-W’s reasoning here to spelling: if you misspell this word, many people will consider it a mistake. Yes, those who know how to spell the word, because that’s not how it’s spelled.

Garner’s Modern English Usage takes a swipe at M-W:
One federal appellate judge who misused flaunt for flout in a published opinion — only to be sic’d and corrected by judges who later quoted him — appealed to W3 [Webster’s Third] and its editors, who, of course, accept as standard any usage that can be documented with any frequency at all. . . . Seeking refuge in a nonprescriptive dictionary, however, merely ignores the all-important distinction between formal contexts, in which strict standards of usage must apply, and informal contexts, in which venial faults of grammar or usage may, if we are lucky, go unnoticed (or unmentioned). Judges’ written opinions fall into the first category.
Which category does the voiceover narration for a PBS documentary fall into? That of formal contexts, I’d say, even if the documentary is about the Summer of Love.

And now I feel like Sergeant Joe Friday: “Distinctions in usage may not mean much to you youngsters, not when you’re flying high on goofballs and LSD and taking refuge in a nonprescriptive dictionary. But generations of grammarians and lexicographers and writers have thought hard about these questions, and some of them weren’t willing to say that we should all just do our own thing,” &c. I think that’s a pretty good Sergeant Friday.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[Among the definitions of flaunt in W3: “to treat contemptuously.” The usage note appears in M-W’s Collegiate, 11th ed., and online.]

Local man voices criticism

Our household gave up our subscription to the local newspaper in 2008, with no regrets. We’d had enough. But I still look at the paper online, where I’ve noticed what looks like a deliberate effort to increase click-throughs by means of headlines that refuse to say where: “City to rezone property,” “City to vote on annexation.” Which city? The paper covers a large area, and city could refer to any one of several locales. But the local paper often refuses to be local in its headlines.

A more cynical trick: the paper will present a lurid headline from the national news without a where, and with no indication that the news is not local: “Babysitter sentenced in death.” That’s low.

As I began by saying, our household gave up our subscription to the local newspaper in 2008, with no regrets.

Snoopy TV

[Peanuts, July 26, 1970. Also July 23, 2017.]

Snoopy recently cautioned Woodstock about sitting too close to the television, but now he’s doing so himself. He joins Henry, Henry’s dog Dusty, Linus van Pelt, and Nancy Ritz in risking permanent damage to his eyes. Or at least that’s what I was led to believe as a child.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An Eagle Scout’s response

In The New York Times, Jonathan Hillis, an Eagle Scout and a co-founder of Scouts for Equality, offers his thoughts about yesterday’s disgraceful performance by Donald Trump. An excerpt:

Even after prefacing his remarks by saying he “shouldn’t talk about politics,” he couldn’t stop himself from devoting the bulk of his speech to an unfortunately predictable combination of grandstanding, politicking and lewd inappropriateness. Seemingly egged on by a mass of adolescent boys, he became even more extreme than he is in his usual campaign speeches.

Reading through dozens of Facebook posts from my Scouting friends after the speech, I discovered an outpouring from across the political spectrum of disappointment and sadness: a nostalgic feeling of innocence lost. For myself, and I’d imagine for millions of other scouts who consider Scouting to be the greatest influence of their childhood, the president was breaking a sacred barrier we never thought he would cross.

A Kafka bridge

Franz Kafka, Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared), trans. from the German by Michael Hoffman (New York: New Directions, 2002).

Also from Amerika
An American writing desk
A Kafka highway

A Kafka highway

Karl Rossmann and two companions are walking along the edge of the highway to New York City. The cars moving past them are “usually enormous, and so striking in appearance and so fleetingly present there was no time to notice whether they had any occupants or not”:

Franz Kafka, Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared), trans. from the German by Michael Hoffman (New York: New Directions, 2002).

A five-lane highway with tower-like elevations: it makes me think of Bruce McCall’s retro-futurism.

Also from Amerika
An American writing desk

Monday, July 24, 2017

Another take on Jared Kushner

Jennifer Rubin, also writing in The Washington Post:

If not evidence of malicious deception, the story reveals a young man who is in over his head and out of his depth to such a degree that he does not know he is in over his head and out of his depth.
A Dunning-Kruger defense. The Dunning-Kruger effect is the subject of a number of OCA posts.

[Did you know that a .mil, .gov., or .edu e-mail address gets you a free subscription to The Washington Post ?]

Close reading

At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent offers a close reading of Jared Kushner’s statement to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

Some somes

[Nancy, July 24, 1950. Click for a larger view.]

A trifecta of somes: rocks, snowballs, pumpkins. We really are living in The Garden of Nancye.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[You can read Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy six days a week at GoComics. “Some rocks” is an abiding preoccupation of these pages.]

Some prepositions

From a Sunday interview with Jake Tapper on CNN. Anthony Scaramucci, White House communications director, is apologizing to Donald Trump for criticizing him during last year’s Republican primaries:

“Mr. Trump, Mr. President, I apologize for that. Can we move on off of that? I know you and I have moved on off of that. Jake hasn’t moved on off of that, obviously.”
Move on off of is a weirdly prolix way to put it — and to put it three times. My guess is that off of takes the place of from: Can we move on from that? But beyond or past could take the place of all three prepositions.

And now it is time to move on off of this post.

A shopping list

“I’ve got butter, fruit, green thread, and go to the library.”

“And whatever vegetable looks freshest.”

Do you recognize the source?


4:57 p.m.: This piece of the dowdy world, long stuck in my head, is from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt. Young Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright) is checking with her mother Emma (Patricia Collinge).

Twelve movies

[Five sentences each. No spoilers.]

Pauline at the Beach (dir. Éric Rohmer, 1983). I remember the newspaper ads for this film, which somehow made it appear to be important. I’m not convinced. It’s a sex comedy that philosophizes about love, with teenagers who are more mature and self-aware than the sometimes predatory grown-ups around them. This film seems to me a French version of a Woody Allen film. And like some Woody Allen films (think Manhattan), it has not aged well.


Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (dir. Maria Schrader, 2016). A beautifully filmed portrait of the writer as exile: Zweig (Josef Hader) moves through Argentina, New York, and Brazil, celebrated wherever he goes, a lost soul in a three-piece suit who does everything but write. Thinking about the horrors of fascism in Europe, he asks, “What is my work, what is anything compared to this reality?” And yet he refuses to condemn the Nazi regime, claiming that such a gesture would be nothing more than a play for attention. I’ve never seen a film that does as much to foreground matters of language in translation: Zweig speaks German, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese as translators whisper into the ears of interviewers and writers. With the great Barbara Sukowa as Friderike Zweig.


The Danish Girl (dir. Tom Hooper, 2015). Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe (1882–1931), a transgender woman who began life as Einar Wegener. Einar and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) are a married couple, both painters (and much older than these actors). When Einar fills in for Gerda’s absent model by putting on stockings and women’s shoes, a dam breaks, and another life begins. Gerda: “I need my husband — can you get him?” Lili: “I can’t.”


’Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris (dir. Raymond De Felitta, 2006). Esteemed by Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughan, Jackie Paris (1924–2004) was a singer (and guitarist and dancer) who a spent most of his life in obscurity (working, at one point, as an elevator operator). This documentary is the work of a filmmaker and fan who was fortunate enough to spend time with Paris in the last months of the singer’s life. The story told here is a compelling one: prodigious talent, character flaws, career failure, and, finally, intergenerational sorrows. I wish that the film had been more thoughtfully constructed: music competes with talking; talking competes with music; and many interview clips suffer from poor audio. Here, via YouTube, is Paris singing his signature song, Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s “Skylark.”


Shield for Murder (dir. Howard W. Koch and Edmond O'Brien, 1954). Poor Edmond O’Brien: whenever I see him in a film, his life is once again spiraling out of control. Here he plays a police detective who kills a bookie and takes his $25,000. Complications ensue. With Elizabeth Taylor look-alike Marla English, and a great turn by Carolyn Jones as a tipsy barfly. A YouTube find.


The Brainwashing of My Dad (dir. Jen Senko, 2015). Frank Senko was a genial, relatively apolitical fellow until he began listening to Rush Limbaugh while commuting to work. And now his daughter, filmmaker Jen Senko, tries to figure out how what happened to her father happened. The result is mostly a superficial look at the development of right-wing radio and television outlets, with special attention to techniques of brainwashing. Many experts make brief appearances, but for me the most engaging parts of the film are the brief clips of Kickstarter contributors describing the ways in which right-wing radio and television have changed their loved ones. Especially interesting is the Limbaugh fan who reprograms himself by listening to NPR, and whose story suggests that we are what we eat, whatever the food might be.


The Street with No Name (dir. William Keighley, 1945). Mark Stevens plays an FBI agent on an undercover assignment, living on Skid Row, posing as a thug, and ingratiating himself with hypochondriac big-time gangster Alec Stiles (Richard Widmark). Lloyd Nolan reprises his House on 92nd Street role as FBI higher-up Inspector Briggs. John McIntire, the film’s secret weapon, is the veteran agent who serves as Stevens’s sole contact, and does he ever look like Skid Row material. My favorite scene: Stevens and McIntire in their rooms, signaling one another across Skid Row by lighting matches. I loved this film when I first saw it in 2005 and had to watch it again in its TCM premiere.


I Wake Up Screaming (dir. H. Bruce Humberstone, 1941). “What’s the good of living without hope?” Ask Inspector Cornell (Laird Cregar): “It can be done.” A wonderfully dark thriller, told in flashbacks. My favorite line: “She seemed really grateful, and friendly-like.” With Alfred Newman’s ubiquitous “Street Scene” as background music.


Gun Crazy (dir. John H. Lewis, 1949). From a story by MacKinlay Kantor, whose verse-novel Glory for Me was turned into William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives. Bart Tare, a gun-obsessed youngster, grows up to be Bart Tare, a gun-obsessed man (John Dall), smitten when he sees carnival sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) do her act. In the delirious crime spree that follows, little Laurie is fearless and ruthless; Bart, squeamish and afraid, is something like her moll. My favorite line: “We go together Laurie, I don’t know why: maybe like guns and ammunition go together.” But who’s who?


Woman on the Run (dir. Norman Foster, 1950). When a witness to a murder (Ross Elliott) flees from the police, his wife (Ann Sheridan) tries to track him down. Too many odd comic moments in this noir film, but also good shots of San Francisco, a nifty plot twist, and an appropriately comic (and sad) sequence in which Sheridan, as a wife long out of love with her partner, looks at his paintings and describes his work. This film’s ending must — must — have something to do with the ending of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, released the next year. My favorite line: “If this excitement hasn’t killed you, I’m sure I can’t.” Another YouTube find.

The Measure of a Man (dir. Stéphane Brizé, 2015). Vincent Lindon as Thierry Taugourdeau, a middle-aged man, unemployed after a factory layoff and trying to find a job. Thierry faces countless humiliations: vocational training that leads nowhere, a condescendingly cruel interview by Skype, withering evaluations of his “body language” from fellow jobseekers. And when he gets a job, there are the humiliations of work itself. Is the measure of a man his ability to do the job, or his ability to walk away? It’s easy to mistake this film for a documentary: understated acting and camerawork make The Measure of a Man feel remarkably true to life.


Julieta (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 2016). From stories by Alice Munro. The life, loves, and losses of a classics teacher, Julieta Arcos (Adriana Ugarte, then Emma Suárez), told by means of a long letter to her daughter and flashbacks. With elements of Odyssean exploration and estrangement and Greek tragedy, unmistakably signaled, and at least a suggestion of Hitchcock, less clearly signaled. I think of this film as a twenty-first-century version of the “woman’s picture,” with new problems and greater sexual frankness. Along with Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe, this is the best new (or nearly new) film I’ve seen this year.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)
Fourteen films : Thirteen more : Twelve more : Another thirteen more : Another dozen : Yet another dozen : Another twelve : And another twelve : Still another twelve : Oh wait, twelve more : Twelve or thirteen more : Nine, ten, eleven — and that makes twelve : Another twelve : And twelve more : Is there no end? No, there’s another twelve : Wait, there’s another twelve : And twelve more : At least eleven more

Sunday, July 23, 2017

“Heavy, black pencils”

The tools of a copy editor, as described by Lincoln Grahlfs, a New York Times copy editor for forty years:

a handful of heavy, black pencils; a sheaf of copy paper; a pot of paste; a pair of scissors; a spike; and in the back of his head, a nice big fund of pertinent (and possibly impertinent) information.
Like the pastepot, the Times copy desk itself will soon be a thing of the past.

[“His head”: there’s no date for this description. The Times first employed a woman at the copy desk in 1958. The generic he would have been in use well after that. Lincoln Grahlfs died in 1968.]

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Aeschylus and criminal justice

The New York Times reports on Theater of Law, which brings Aeschylus’s The Eumenides (or The Furies) to audiences concerned with fairness in the American criminal-justice system, “particularly,” the Times notes, “as mandatory minimum sentencing makes a comeback under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.” Theater of Law is a collaboration between New York University’s Forum on Law, Culture and Society and Theater of War.

It has to be said: as ancient Greek and Roman texts become increasingly peripheral to undergraduate English studies, the world beyond academia continues to find such texts remarkably relevant.

Related posts
Aeschylus and RFK
Aeschylus in three translations
Not dead yet (On teaching “the classics”)
Veterans read from Sophocles

[A question that I hope would arise in any consideration of justice and The Eumenides: what about Iphigenia?]

Jacket in the foreground

[Zippy, July 22, 2017.]

With folds. O, reason not the need.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Griffy has posed and attempted to answer the question of what is so fascinating about diners and laundromats. The strip’s title: “Take a Haiku.” Zippy’s reply is a syllable short of one. A recent Zippy strip about drawing fedoras made me remember a remark, somewhere, from R. Crumb: that clothing folds are the most difficult things to draw.]

Friday, July 21, 2017

From Sir Thomas Browne

A signpost on the road to oblivion:

To be namelesse in worthy deeds exceeds an infamous history.

Sir Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia, Urne-Buriall, or, a Brief Discourse of the Sepulchrall Urnes Lately Found in Norfolk. 1658. From the text in Selected Writings, ed. Sir Geoffrey Keynes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968).
Related posts
Thomas Browne in The New York Times
Word of the day: quincunx

Royal Motel

[Ozymandias slept here. North Syracuse, New York, early in the morning.]

The sign appears to be repurposed: the pinkish capital letters behind MOTEL spell DINER.

Daughter Number Three has posted a photograph from a different angle.

Related reading
All OCA signage posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Oil and reading habits

Last Thursday, I felt fairly confident that Elaine and I were the only people in the world reading Sir Thomas Browne’s The Garden of Cyrus while waiting for an oil change. This Thursday, I felt extremely confident that I was the only person in the world reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees while waiting for an oil-access cover to be fastened properly in place after a recent oil change. We saw the cover hanging down underneath the car this morning.

And I feel totally confident that I am the only person who read The Garden of Cyrus while waiting for an oil change who then read The Hidden Life of Trees while waiting for an oil-access cover to be fastened properly in place after that oil change.

To and too

Speaking of bad copyediting:

[From a landscaper’s flyer, found on the handle of our storm door.]

One of my earliest posts to Orange Crate Art was about a handyman’s flyer that my dad saved for me. It read “No job to small.” But this landscaper’s flyer, with its attention to capitalization and type size, and its subtle distinction between to and too, beats all. To much!

[In September 2004, Google had 5,950 results for “no job to small” and 34,900 for “no job too small.” Today, it’s 676,000 for to, and 593,000 for too. But it appears that results for too are included with those for to. Google’s Ngram Viewer has no results for no job to small in American English between 1800 and 2008. The Ngram shows “no job too small” spiking in popularity between 1915 and 1922. Why?]

”There’s no excuse
for bad copyediting”

[Dustin, July 19, 2017.]

Fitch’s L, for loser, is backward. Good call, Dustin.

See also this strip’s treatment of phrasal adjectives and “rocket surgery.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More Vivian Maier

From the Chicago Tribune: “Almost 500 never-before-shown Vivian Maier prints have found a new home at the University of Chicago Library, the university announced Wednesday.”

A slideshow of fourteen photographs accompanies the Tribune article.

A related post
Henry Darger and Vivian Maier

Against “Jane”

The novelist Howard Jacobson, on why readers should not refer to Jane Austen as “Jane”:

[I]t is more than an impertinence; it is singularly cloth-eared, considering the precise forms that address takes in Jane Austen’s work. It isn’t only manners that are at stake when one person trespasses on another’s privacy and distance, it’s morality.

In novel after novel, we see how disregard for the niceties of respect will lead to what is described in Mansfield Park as “too horrible a confusion of guilt, too gross a complication of evil.” Outside the barriers that ceremony erects, “barbarism” lies in wait.

And if that sounds altogether too prim and unforgiving a view of human society, then you haven’t read Jane Austen.
See also: museum docents who talk about “Emily.”

Watch-band calendar

A message from the dowdy world arrived in our mailbox: a Myles Kimball catalogue. I was immediately drawn to its watch-band calendar. Because how else will you plan ahead? From the catalogue description:

Always have a calendar handy. Oval brushed-metal watchband calendars wrap easily around your watchband. Reversible: gold-tone on one side, silver-tone on the other, so watchband calendar plates will match most watches. 12 plates in a handy storage pouch. 5/8" x 1 1/2". Fit bands 5/8" to 1" wide.
Not just twelve plates and two tones, but also a handy storage pouch. I daresay that this item out-dowdies anything sold by the Vermont Country Store.

Desk, Kafkaesque

In Karl Rossmann’s room is “an American writing desk of the very finest sort”:

Franz Kafka, Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared), trans. from the German by Michael Hoffman (New York: New Directions, 2002).

Another Kafka post
Cabbing with Kafka

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

“It’s getting kind of crowded in here”

As the head count at Trump Tower rises, I am reminded of a great moment in film.

[A Night at the Opera (dir. Sam Wood, 1935).]

Another modest proposal

About that job listing: Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, calls it “pure exploitation.” What she proposes: “Double the salary and limit the working hours to 25 per week or pay pro rata for the additional hours necessary to do the job.”

I have another proposal: ban departments that engage in such exploitation from listing jobs (any jobs) in the MLA Job Information List and from interviewing at the MLA convention. If the MLA can establish an Academic Workforce Data Center, and if The Chronicle of Higher Education can establish a salary database, it is certainly possible to make use of such data (and other data) in the interest of, as they say, best practices.

The person who now holds the position advertised in the now-infamous listing has significant accomplishments: a research fellowship, a teaching award, eight articles published or to appear, a book to appear. Perhaps he’s moving on to better things. But academia is not.

A related post
Modest proposals to improve academia

[The now-infamous listing does not appear in the JIL.]

A job listing

A job listing from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Further commentary and response here. It feels like the future, and not just for Illinois.

Thanks to Diane Schirf for passing on the news.

A farewell to arm

[Hi and Lois, July 18, 2017. Click for a larger view.]

Forget that Irma looks a lot like Hi. Other women in the strip have looked a lot like Hi. It’s Irma’s arm I see, or what’s missing of it.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Crusty diction

Donald Trump today described John McCain as “a crusty voice in Washington.” And just today Charles Blow was writing about Trump’s diction.

Photobucket fail


In the late aughts, I began to upload images to Photobucket for use on Orange Crate Art. I recall some sort of problem back then with images uploaded directly to Blogger. When Blogger began working properly again, I forgot all about Photobucket — until yesterday, when I noticed the above image taking the place of a photograph in an old post. And thus I learned about recent doings at Photobucket. Long story short: in late June, Photobucket changed its terms of service. This change came without warning to the service’s users. Third-party hosting (or “3rd Party Hosting,” as Photobucket calls it) now requires that a user sign up for a plan that costs $399.99 a year. In other words, if you’ve uploaded images to Photobucket, embedded them elsewhere, and want the images to keep showing up where they’ve always showed up, it’ll cost you — a lot.

Or it won’t. Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple of hours uploading missing images to Blogger, sixty-odd images in all. Some of the posts that lost their images are still (surprisingly) popular. No matter: things should be right, even if a post never gets read again. When I was done, I deleted my Photobucket account. Good riddance. But if I’d made greater use of Photobucket, I’d really be in the soup now. Just look at what Twitter has to say about #photobucket.

On top of the preposterous “$399.99,” the meter in that placeholder picture is an extra dab of stupid. Have my sixty-odd images really exceeded some measurable limit for “3rd Party Hosting Usage”? Only if the limit for usage is any.

[From the Photobucket website: “Photobucket defines 3rd party hosting as the action of embedding an image or photo onto another website. For example, using the <img> tag to embed or display a JPEG image from your Photobucket account on another website such as a forum, auction listing, blog, etc. is definitively 3rd party hosting.” “Definitively”? Who writes this stuff?]

Disable autoplay videos in Safari

Here’s what works for me:

In Terminal (with Safari closed), type (as one line)

defaults write IncludeInternalDebugMenu 1
Open Safari, go to the Debug menu, and choose Video Needs User Action. That prevents the endlessly proliferating videos on news sites and elsewhere from playing on their own. The only downside: it’s now necessary to click twice to play a video.

If you would like to hide the Debug menu: quit Safari, and in Terminal, type (as one line)
defaults write IncludeInternalDebugMenu 0
I found this fix (along with what might be less satisfactory Safari fixes) in a post at Kirk McElhearn’s Kirkville. The post also has (much easier) fixes to disable autoplay in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

[Note: the Terminal commands include a space after High Sierra, the forthcoming version of macOS, is said to make it much easier to disable autoplay in Safari.]

Martin Landau (1928–2017)

The New York Times obituary describes him as

the tall, intense, sometimes mischievously sinister actor best known for his role in the television series Mission: Impossible and his Oscar-winning portrayal of Bela Lugosi in the film Ed Wood.
Also best known, I’d say, for his portrayal of Leonard in North by Northwest. Don’t leave out Leonard.

Bob Wolff (1920–2017)

The sportscaster Bob Wolff has died at the age of ninety-six. The New York Times has an obituary.

In the 1970s, I watched countless New York Knicks games with Bob Wolff’s play-by-play and Cal Ramsey’s color commentary. The two men were always betting a steak dinner on something or other.

A related post
Bob Wolff’s archive

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hal Fryar (1927–2017)

I just got the sad news that Hal Fryar, Harlow Hickenlooper of Indianapolis children’s television, has died at the age of ninety. In 2012 Elaine and I met him, talked with him, and sang “Mairzy Doats” with him at the Indiana Historical Society, where he was a volunteer guide. Those few minutes were the highlight of our day. It was only after the fact that we learned who it was we’d been singing with.

Here’s a post about our serendipitous meeting. And here’s
the official website for the one and only Harlow Hickenlooper.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


[Peanuts, July 15, 1970.]

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

iOS Dictation fail

It may be unwise to use Dictation when texting about folk music.

Related fails
Boogie-woogie : Curse and bless : Derrida

[“It may be unwise”: at least until you retype. Now Dictation corrects its error.]

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thank you, Judge Watson

Judge Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu, ruling that the Trump administration’s temporary travel ban ought not to bar grandparents and other close relatives of persons in the United States from entering the country:

In sum, the Government’s definition of “close familial relationship” is not only not compelled by the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision, but contradicts it. Equally problematic, the Government’s definition represents the antithesis of common sense. Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.

Relationship advice

My son Ben, my newly married son Ben, mentioned a bit of advice that I gave him some time ago: “The wooing phase is never over.”

I have no memory of saying it, but I think it’s good advice for anyone in a loving relationship, and so I pass it on here, with Ben’s permission:

The wooing phase is never over.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Some seventeenth-century prose

Sir Thomas Browne’s The Garden of Cyrus (1658) reads the natural world as a network of fives, quincuxes, and decussations, or crossings. I began to think of a companion work:

That Bushmiller hath declared the figure three as equall to somme is not without probability of conjecture.

Sir Thomas Browne, The Garden of Nancye, or Some Rocks, naturally, artificially, mystically considered (n.d.).
A related post
Some rocks

DQ Breeze

It was the subject of debate, not heated, in our household: was there ever a Dairy Queen product called the Breeze? Yes:

The Dairy Queen Breeze was conceived as a healthier version of the popular Blizzard ice cream treat, made with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. It plodded along for about a decade before DQ pulled the plug; the chain claimed that demand for the product was so low that the frozen yogurt often went bad before it could be sold.
The Breeze is no. 5 in a list of ten fast foods that have disappeared (The Christian Science Monitor).

For the syntax-minded

[Mutts, July 13, 2017.]

Mutts is almost always delightful. Bill Griffith calls it one of “a few lively, well-crafted dailies bobbing bravely in a sea of blandness.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trump[,] Jr.

Andrew Boynton of The New Yorker writes about “The Correct Punctuation of Donald Trump, Jr.,’s Name” — by which he means The New Yorker’s punctuation of that name.

But it’s too simple to say that Trump, Jr., with a comma, is “the“ correct punctuation. It’s correct for The New Yorker, whose use of a comma to set off Jr. as parenthetical leads to the period-comma-apostrophe pileup of Jr.,’s.

So: comma, or no comma? Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016) says that both choices are correct. “Journalistic style-books,” he observes, prefer commaless Jr., “probably because newspapers generally disfavor optional commas.” But Garner adds that “the commaless Jr. has logic on its side.” He cites E.B. White’s explanation of the switch to commaless Jr. in the third edition of The Elements of Style:

Although Junior, with its abbreviation Jr., has commonly been regarded as parenthetic, logic suggests that it is, in fact, restrictive and therefore not in need of a comma.
Garner’s conclusion:
Besides logic, the commaless form probably has the future on its side; for one thing, it makes possessives possible (John Jones Jr.’s book). The with-comma form has recent (not ancient) tradition on its side. Posterity will be eager to discover, no doubt, how this earth-shattering dilemma is resolved in the decades ahead. One consideration that militates in favor of the commaless form is that, in a sentence, one comma begets another: “John Jones, Jr. was elected” seems to be telling Jones that Jr. was elected. With a comma before Jr., another is needed after: “John Jones, Jr., was elected.”
A writer can of course make a possessive form with a comma, as The New Yorker has: Jr.,’s. I think though that a style choice that eliminates any possibilty of .,’ is the better choice.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

[In earlier editions of The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. was William Strunk, Jr. What form does Garner’s Modern English Usage use? No comma.]

Wise words on W. 12th

[“If we all do one random act of kindness daily we just might set the world in the right direction.” Martin Kornfeld.]

This sign stands outside 254 W. 12th Street in Manhattan. Google Maps confirms that the sign, or a similar one, has been standing outside this brownstone for many years. “If we all”: wishful thinking, surely. But who wouldn’t stand behind that wish? And the hope is guarded: “we just might.”

I’m surprised that this sign has never made the pages of The New Yorker or The New York Times. You’d think that someone might have noticed. But here is an account from a passerby who had the good fortune to meet Martin Kornfeld on W. 12th.

See also the wise words that Barnaby Capel-Dunn discovered on Fulham Road.


[From the dowdy world: a voice speaks.]

“Quiet, fellas — it’s long distance.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Saving Western civ

Charles McNamara, a lexicographer for the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, writing in The Washington Post:

[M]y job may not exist much longer if the Trump administration succeeds in eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities, the agency that funds the single American position at the TLL. In an academic parallel to the United States’ retreat from climate agreements and military alliances, defunding the NEH threatens to pull the nation out of the world’s collective effort to define — literally — Western history.
Work on the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae began in 1894. Scheduled date of completion: circa 2050. Last year, NPR ran a delightful story about this dictionary.

Things I learned on
my summer vacation

Asphalt “paves the way.”


At the age of four, Marilyn Horne of Bradford, Pennsylvania, was paid one lime soda for singing.


“There’s a trend for headless beds right now.”


Looking at a display of handbags in a department store: ugly is the new beauty.


“HENRY LIVES HERE”: an enormous banner on a New York apartment building. But surely it’s not that Henry.


The New York City AIDS Memorial stands at the intersection of Twelfth Street, Greenwich Avenue, and Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village. A slatted canopy shades the space, and a fountain screens out noise. To step into the space is like stepping away from the city. Words by Walt Whitman, inscribed in a spiral and ending in a small corner.


Wireless transmission of electricity works well across short distances only, because the energy required to send electricity through the air must increase by the square of the distance. Or something like that.


The word canoodle is a good word to look up.


Cynthia Ann’s Cookies are delicious.


Under the eye of their teacher, schoolkids riding the subway on a field trip will give up their seats for grown-up types. A boy stood and offered me his seat. Me: “I’m not old enough!” But I sat and said, “Thank you, sir.”


Stevdan Pen & Stationers has a bathroom for customers. The nearby Starbucks (6th and Waverly), no. The Dunkin’ Donuts a little further up 6th: you don’t want to know.


The Cafe Cluny is a lovely Greenwich Village restaurant. Julianne Moore is a regular there, as Twitter will confirm. We pretended not to notice.


The Emily Dickinson exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum is a disappointment. Mostly manuscripts, which should be a thrill, but they’re often beyond deciphering, and the museum cards do not provide transcriptions. (Is copyright the issue?) A docent giving a tour: “Emily . . . , Emily. . . .” I wanted to yell: “Dickinson!”


A Toynbee tile sits close to the curb at the northwest corner of 32nd and Madison. This website lists it as authentic.

[The northwest corner. “Toynbee Idea / Movie 2001 / Resurrect Dead / Planet Jupiter.” And so on.]


It’s possible to be friends with people for so long that it seems there was never a time when you weren’t already friends.


“Happiness is the answer.”


A tire thumper is a bat-like tool used to check the air pressure in truck tires.


The Great Race begins in Jacksonville, Florida, and ends in Traverse City, Michigan. It’s a road race for pre-1973 vehicles, with detailed rules. Analog wristwatches only.


“Biscuits are spoons you can eat.”


The Pennsylvania Welcome Center (two miles in on I-90) is an excellent rest stop with a semi-surreal view of Lake Erie. There are very few excellent rest stops.


Julie’s Diner in North Syracuse is a great choice for breakfast or lunch. You know the kind of place where you’re treated well even if it’s obvious that you’re only passing through? This diner is that kind of place.


“Wahtter.” “Cahfee.”


The structure that sits above turnpike lanes tracking cars for tolls is called a gantry. Elaine thinks it should called an Elmer.


Rush Limbaugh seems to have shrunk: he now sounds like a peevish little old man. Has he metamorphosed into Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace? His sponsors, during the few minutes of airtime to which we exposed ourselves: discount tires, pest control, a video-transfer service.


A commencement address that we heard last year is now the stuff of a book: James Ryan’s Wait, What? But the book is not the commencement address, one sentence per page; it’s a book.


At least two well-known independent bookstores shelve Sir Thomas Browne under Literary Criticism. (Wait, what?)


The Harvard Art Museums are a wonderful experience, three small museums in one. The exhibition The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 was our first stop.


[Stephen Sewall, Copy of Inscription on Dighton Rock (detail), 1768. Black ink on paper. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University. On view in The Philosophy Chamber. From the Harvard Art Museums website.]


128, 129, 144, 168, 269, 276.


Lolly’s Bakery is an excellent bakery in East Boston. Chilean cake: a layer of pineapple inside.


Seth is a mensch. (But I knew that already.)


Rachel and Seth’s baby is full of kicks.


I am not an incredible dancer. (But I knew that already.) But I also know that nobody is judging.


Julie’s Diner is just as good when approaching from the other direction.


Do localites really pronounce the name of the Ohio city Mentor as “menner”? Yes. Learn by listening, not by asking.


Mile markers on the road to oblivion can be pretty sweet.

More things I learned on my summer vacation
2016 : 2015 : 2014 : 2013 : 2012 : 2011 : 2010 : 2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

An “over and over”

[Henry, July 11, 2017.]

I feel a Zippy-like “over and over” coming on: Brick and mortar! Brick and mortar! Brick and mortar!

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Another shoe

[The New York Times, July 10, 2017.]

“Part of a Russian government effort”: got that, Junior? Part of. A Russian government effort.

[Another shoe, not the other. Who knows how many shoes need to drop?]

Joyeux anniversaire, M. Proust

Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871.

How happy I should be if you would discover a title for me! But I should like something quite simple, quite grey. The general title, you know, is In Search of Vanished Time. For the first book, which will be published in two volumes (if Grasset allows a box for two volumes), would you have any objection to Charles Swann? If I do a single volume of 500 pages, I am not in favor of this title because the final portrait of Swann will not be included in it, so my book wouldn’t carry out the implications of the title. Would you like, Before the Day Has Started? (I shouldn't.) I had to give up The Heart’s intermissions (original title), The Wounded Doves, The Past Suspended, Perpetual Adoration, Seventh Heaven, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Bloom, titles which, however, will be chapter headings in the third volume. I have told you, haven’t I, that Swann’s Way comes from the two ways of going to Combray? In the country, you know, people say, “Are you going M. Rostand’s Way?” But I don’t want this book to appear with a title that is offensive to the only friend whom, in spite of my effort to emerge from my “phenomenal me,” I have been unable to put out of my mind while writing it. So I shall take another title. I should take Charles Swann if I could explain that these are only the early portraits of Charles Swann.

                                Yours with all my heart,
                                Marcel Proust

P.S. Would you like as a title for the first volume, Gardens in a Cup of Tea, or The Age of Names. For the second, The Age of Words. For the third, The Age of Things? The one I prefer is Charles Swann, if I could make clear that is not all of Swann; First Sketches of Charles Swann.

Marcel Proust, in a letter to Louis de Robert, Summer (?) 1913. From Letters of Marcel Proust, translated by Mina Curtiss (New York: Helen Marx Books / Books & Co., 2006).
Related reading
All Proust posts (via Pinboard)

OED Word of the Day: madeleine

The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day is the ultra-appropriate madeleine.

My most recent madeleine: the stick at the center of a Good Humor bar. Does anyone else remember what it’s like to taste that slightly nutty wood?

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Post New York Post

A parody from 1984: the Post New York Post, a post-nuclear-war edition of the New York Post. It’s very much of a time and place. My favorite bit so far, from a photo caption:

Writhing nuke victims look on gratefully as newly appointed city fallout shelter chief Leona Helmsley makes her rounds. She had beds turned down and mints placed on each patient’s fluffed pillow.
Here, from The New York Times, is some background.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Times as Post

Lena Dunham says she had to give up her dog Lamby because of behavioral issues, but an employee at the shelter where the writer got him disputes her claim.
That’s the front-page sidebar summary of a Friday New York Times article. Kinda like a Times version of the New York Post.

How might the Post do it? My best shot: Dunham Dumps Doggy — Shelter Bites Back!


11:30 a.m.: The real Post headline, which I just discovered: “Shelter says Lena Dunham’s dog tale doesn’t add up.” The headline in the Post URL: “Lena Dunham’s adoption story goes to the dogs.”

Friday, July 7, 2017

“A Billionaire for the Rest of Us”

The 2018 gubernatorial race in Illinois is taking shape as a battle of the billionaires. A leading Democratic contender is a billionaire. The Republican incumbent may be a billionaire. I’d say that only his hairdresser knows for sure, but the governor is just folks, droppin’ -gs and whatnot and goin’ to the barber every four weeks. No hairdresser for him.

I offer this parodic campaign slogan to any billionaire who’d like to use it. I was happy to discover that it appears nowhere on the Internets:

Does being a billionaire disqualify one from running for public office? I don’t think so. But I’d rather put my vote elsewhere.

[The barber data is made up. I have no idea how often Bruce Rauner gets a haircut.]

A social network

Tim Flannery says that for trees, life ”in the slow lane” is “clearly not always dull”:

But the most astonishing thing about trees is how social they are. The trees in a forest care for each other, sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive. Only some stumps are thus nourished. Perhaps they are the parents of the trees that make up the forest of today.

From the foreword to Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, trans. Jane Billinghurst (Vancouver: Greystone, 2016).
[Two pages in, and I’m gaping.]

Domestic comedy

“. . . farm-fresh, hand-crafted, local . . .”

“You had me at farm-.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 6, 2017


For the first time in more than two years, Illinois has a budget. Yes!

Related reading
All OCA Illinois budget crisis posts (Pinboard)

[How many times have I called state legislators in the last three years? I’d guess seventy-five times or so.]

Zippy fedora

[Zippy, July 5, 2017.]

Better late than never.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[I seem to recall R. Crumb in a documentary saying that clothing folds are the most difficult things to draw.]

Wise words on Fulham Road

Barnaby Capel-Dunn writes about wise words on Fulham Road. Read them. And try to find the florist’s signboard with Google Maps. It can be done.

Ballpark design

From the podcast 99% Invisible, an episode about the design of new stadiums ballparks: “In the Same Ballpark.” Mark Lamster, an architecture critic, quoted therein:

“They all have the same DNA, they all kind of look kind of the same, except the whole idea is that each one is idiosyncratic and individual. It’s a tall tale.”
Stefan Hagemann, this one’s for you.

A sardine cartoon

At George Bodmer’s Oscar’s Day: sardines on the road.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A voter-suppression effort, rerouted

From the Chicago Tribune:

A letter from the panel President Donald Trump formed to look into alleged voting irregularities finally has arrived at the Illinois State Board of Elections after first being sent to the wrong office.

Last week, Trump’s Election Integrity Commission sent a letter to election authorities across the nation seeking voter roll data that includes name, address, birth date, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history going back to 2006.

The letter arrived Wednesday at Secretary of State Jesse White’s office. Many states’ top election administrator is the secretary of state, but the State Board of Elections handles those duties in Illinois. White’s office sent the letter to the the state elections board.
Here is yet another example of the new administration’s failure to employ people who understand the workings of the institutions that the administration seeks to undermine. A Google search for who is in charge of elections in illinois points to the website of the State Board of Elections. From a page on that website:
Illinois law currently provides that Illinois’ centralized statewide voter registration list is not available to any person or entity other than to a state or local political committee for political purposes or to a governmental entity for a governmental purpose. Private information, such as driver’s license numbers or the last four digits of a [S]ocial [S]ecurity number are never provided to any entity.
The Tribune reports that at least forty-four states have refused to turn over at least some of the information requested. Among those states: Indiana, whose former governor, Mike Pence, heads the commission with the Orwellian claim to Election Integrity. If it doesn’t go without saying, there is no evidence of widespread “voting irregularities” in Illinois, or in any other state.

Brief Interviews with an apology

[Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

I took this photograph (and you can pretty much guess where) because I liked the combination of plain materials (trash bag, notebook paper, marker) and extraordinary rhetoric: an explanation of what’s wrong (“Out of order”), an apology (“Sorry”), a helpful hint about how to proceed (“Use another one” — and notice that delicate euphemism “one”), an expression of gratitude (“Thank you”), and a smile. How could I not agree to use another one, right?

It was only when I saw a thumbnail of the photograph on my desktop that I recognized an uncanny resemblance. As my friend Marjorie would say, “It’s weird”:


The smaller you go, the more pronounced the resemblance. It’s weird:

Related reading
All OCA DFW and signage posts (Pinboard)

Bryan Garner on rules and writing

“When it comes to supposed rules of writing, it’s good to know what’s at their foundation”: Bryan Garner on writing and rules, those to follow and those to ignore (ABA Journal).

Two related posts
Bad advice and misinformation : Ending a sentence with it

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A thought for these days

Clickety clack, clickety clack,
Somebody’s mind done gone off the goddam track.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, from the recitation “Clickety Clack,” recorded live at the Keystone Korner, San Francisco, June 1973. From the album Bright Moments (Atlantic, 1973).

The Fourth

[“Hartford, Wisconsin, Fourth of July.” Photograph by John Vachon. July 1941.From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Click for a larger flag, cone, and sign.]

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Chris Christie “Footprints”

Our daughter Rachel’s husband Seth is a very funny guy. This tweet is his. If you like it, please share it.

[Puzzled? Context here.]


“Oração” [Prayer], music and lyrics by Leo Fressato, performed by the composer and A Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade [The Most Beautiful Band in Town].

A thing of beauty is a joy since 2011. I’m late to the show: in the last six years, “Oração” has had nearly twenty-seven million views on YouTube.

Here’s some background on the song and the band. And here are the lyrics, in Portuguese and in English translation.