Saturday, September 30, 2017

George Blood, L.P. 78s

At the Internet Archive: 78rpm recordings digitized by George Blood, L.P. The sound is excellent, made possible by a turntable that records with four different needles. The preferred version of each recording is the one with the simple (“more friendly”) filename.

Try Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines’s 1928 recording of King Oliver’s “Weather Bird,” and listen past the surface noise. The music is all there, with surprising clarity.

Thanks, Linda, for pointing me to this resource.

[I grew up on the surface noise of 78s, courtesy of LPs from Yazoo Records. LP: long-playing. L.P.: limited partnership, I think.]

Friday, September 29, 2017

Another Henry

[Henry, September 29, 2017.

The Henry world seems to know only one modern sculptor: Henry. Moore, that is. See also this panel.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

“Technocracy Debunked”

[Everyday Science and Mechanics, February 1933. Found here. Click for a larger view.]

I became curious about Everyday Science and Mechanics after looking into the Depression-era trick of sharpening a razor blade on a drinking glass. “Technocracy Debunked”: I’d like to see page 214 and find out what that article had to say.

“Henry Ford?”

Juliet is talking about belief with a minister. Millions of people believe in Buddha, Juliet says. The minister says that Christ is alive and Buddha isn’t. Juliet says that she sees no proof that either is alive.

Alice Munro, “Soon,” in Runaway (New York: Vintage, 2005).

Also from this book
One Munro sentence : “That is what happens”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Lettermate

The Lettermate is the perfect tool for those who have difficulty addressing an envelope in straight lines. Yes, you could just put a piece of lined paper in the envelope to use as a guide, but why would you, when you can use a nifty tool instead?

My daughter Rachel gave me the Original Lettermate several years ago. I now have the 2nd Edition Lettermate as well. Highly recommended accessories for analog communication.

Related reading
All OCA letter posts (Pinboard)

“The ‘nailing’ of crates”

Marcel Proust to Madame Williams, July or August 1915:

From Letters to His Neighbor, trans. Lydia Davis (New York: New Directions, 2017).

Letters to His Neighbor collects twenty-six letters that Proust wrote to his upstairs neighbors at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, Charles D. and Marie Williams. Charles (“the Doctor”) was a dentist, whose third-floor office was directly above Proust’s apartment. The Williamses lived above the office on the fourth floor. All but three of the letters are written to Marie Williams (always addressed as “Madame”), and they suggest a light friendship between shut-ins. Proust offers compliments (celebrating Madame’s “Youth, Beauty and Talent”), sends gifts (books, flowers, pheasants), laments the war, and, again and again, draws attention to noise. Cork-lined walls were evidently no real defense. This beautifully produced book gives us something fairly unusual: a portrait of the artist as a neighbor.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Helping Puerto Rico

The PBS NewsHour lists ways to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

And here is food for thought from Dana Milbank, writing in The Washington Post about the Trump administration’s responses to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria:

No question the logistics are harder in Puerto Rico. But the 3.4 million U.S. citizens there have long endured second-class status: no voting members of Congress, no presidential vote, unequal benefits and high poverty. The Trump administration’s failure to help Americans in Puerto Rico with the same urgency it gave those in Texas and Florida furthers a sad suspicion that the disparate treatment has less to do with logistics than language and skin color.
No number of individual contributions can offset a lethargic government response. But that’s just more reason to contribute.

 a l          l Gon    e

How much does Amazon Digital Services care about the music it sells in CD-R form?

I just bought a CD-R copy of one of my favorite LPs, Earl Hines and Paul Gonsalves’s It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing! (Black Lion BL-306). What’s missing:

~ The LP’s original title. The CD is titled Paul Gonsalves Meets Earl Hines.

~ The details of the recording sessions: December 15, 1970, at National Studios; November 29, 1972, at Hank O’Neal Studio, New York City. Stanley Dance and Michael James, producers.

~ The names of the composers of the six tunes therein: “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)” (Duke Ellington-Irving Mills), “Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg), “What Am I Here For?” (Ellington), “Moten Swing” (Benny Moten), “Blue Sands” (Hines), “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” (Ellington-Paul Francis Webster).

~ The names of the other musicians on hand: Al Hall, bass; Jo Jones, drums.

~ The wealth of detail in Alun Morgan’s liner notes. Morgan mentions, for instance, the sequence in which the five quartet performances were recorded. “Blue Sands,” a solo piano performance from almost two years later, was recorded on the same day as pieces on another Hines album.

Each of these omissions is unfortunate. I grant that reproducing liner notes may not be feasible for a CD-R, but the first four omissions are particularly glaring. The fourth is disgraceful: it’s impossible for me to imagine anyone with an interest in this recording who would not want to know the names of the bassist and drummer. Four musicians, and only two are named?

Most of the information missing from this CD-R is available, at least for now, at a website devoted to Paul Gonsalves. And I have it all on the back cover of my LP. But there is no good reason for this information not to be included with the recording. The transformation of music into files ought not to mean the erasure of that music’s history.

See also Donald Norman’s observation: “What a technology makes easy to do will get done; what it hides, or makes difficult, may very well not get done.”

[The post title reduces the names of Earl Hines and Paul Gonsalves to  a l          l Gon    e.]

“This Cather stuff”

“Even in Red Cloud, some locals still think there’s something off about Cather and the people she attracts. If you stop by the lunch counter at Olson’s gas station, you might hear a farmer grunting at his paper, ‘I don’t like this Cather stuff’”: Alex Ross visits Willa Cather’s Nebraska.

Related reading
All OCA Willa Cather posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

“That is what happens”

Juliet has been trying to recall a word that describes Briseis and Chryseis in the Iliadkallipareos, of the lovely cheeks. Juliet hasn’t been teaching Greek, and she realizes that it’s as if her knowledge of the language has been ”put in a closet for nearly six months now”:

Alice Munro, “Chance,” in Runaway (New York: Vintage, 2005).

Juliet goes on to consider that even if you make your living from your knowledge of a language, the language is not necessarily your treasure: “Few people, very few, have a treasure, and if you do you must hang on to it. You must not let yourself be waylaid, and have it taken from you.”

A related post
One Munro sentence

On the shelf

[Zippy, September 26, 2017.]

Griffy’s and Zippy’s brains are on the top shelf, taking a break. That’s some other brain below.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Current events

Commentary from The New Yorker on the latest from Donald Trump. Jelani Cobb:

It’s impossible not to be struck by Trump’s selective patriotism. It drives him to curse at black football players but leaves him struggling to create false equivalence between Nazis and anti-Fascists in Charlottesville. It inspires a barely containable contempt for Muslims and immigrants but leaves him mute in the face of Russian election intervention. He cannot tolerate the dissent against literal flag-waving but screams indignation at the thought of removing monuments to the Confederacy, which attempted to revoke the authority symbolized by that same flag.
And David Remnick:
Rather than embody any degree of dignity, knowledge, or unifying embrace, Trump is a man of ugliness, and the damage he does, speech after speech, tweet after tweet, deepens like a coastal shelf. Every day, his Presidency takes a toll on our national fabric. How is it possible to argue with the sentiment behind LeBron James’s concise tweet at Trump: “U Bum”? It isn’t.
[Bonus points for recognizing Remnick’s allusion to a Philip Larkin poem.]

A pencil sighting

[From Broken Embraces (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 2009). Click either image for a larger view.]

Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar) is using a Staedtler Noris 122.

A related post
Geoffrey Hill, Noris user

Notebook sightings

Notebooks are prominent in Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces (2009). Ray X’s notebook has a pattern of holes on the outside margin. Ray X? X-ray? An eye that penetrates to the heart of things? Could be.

[Click any image for a larger view.]

Mateo Blanco uses a Miquelrius notebook. The cover reads “Chicas y maletas” / Cuaderno de montaje [Girls and suitcases / Editing notebook]. Was the black-and-white marble cover embellished with red?

The notebook’s grid pages record Mateo’s choices of the best takes for his film.

One more: a lectora de labios (lip-reader) with a reporter’s notebook transcribes conversations filmed from afar and reads them aloud to a horrifed Ernesto Martel.

A wonderful exchange between Martel and the lip-reader:

“What do you do with your notebooks?”

“I fill them.”
More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dragnet : Extras : Foreign Correspondent : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The Last Laugh : The Lodger : Mr. Holmes : Le Million : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : The Palm Beach Story : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : Route 66 : The Sopranos : Spellbound : State Fair : T-Men : Union Station : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window

Sunday, September 24, 2017

“An image of the audience”

On television the politician does not so much offer the audience an image of himself, as offer himself as an image of the audience.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Viking Penguin, 1985).

Against consolidation

Consolidation is short for school consolidation, the process whereby smaller, usually rural schools, are replaced by a larger school:

It is my basic belief about elementary schools that consolidation is not the answer; the schools should be small, well equipped, and have superb teachers, highly paid. Expensive, certainly, but all good things are. Peace is expensive; freedom, the basis of peace, is even more expensive. Life itself is extremely expensive.

Rachel Peden, The Land, the People (Bloomington, IN: Quarry Books, 2010).
Rachel Peden (1901–1975) was a newspaper columnist, also known by the pen names “the Hoosier Farmwife” and “Mrs. R.F.D.” A terrific writer.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Clock and season

Matt Thomas suggests living less by the clock, more by the season:

We live in a world of seasons — and increasingly more variable and violent seasons at that — but productivity advice seems to always think in terms of the day, the week, the year, or five years, never the season, the sun, and the shadow.
Which means not that we get to throw away alarm clocks and ignore deadlines but that our habits of work might change with the seasons. People who teach are likely to have their work already organized by the seasons.

[One benefit of gardening: greater awareness of time’s passing. The cucumber vines in our garden are now old folks.]

Friday, September 22, 2017

“All this analog stuff next door”

Erik Spiekermann, designer and typographer:

I just got my IBM Selectric out of storage. It works, so I made a resolve yesterday that in my letterpress workshop I will not bring my computer anymore. I’ll keep my iPhone, but I will not be a slave to my screen all the time when we have all this analog stuff next door. We have a dozen presses, lots of paper, lots of type, and I spend all my time looking at a fucking screen? It’s ridiculous.
Other OCA Spiekermann posts
How to make quotation marks : “I’m obviously a typomaniac” : “Obsessive attention to detail” : “Start reading. Stop Googling.”

Nambian Covfefe

[“All-Natural Nambian Covfefe.” Artist unknown.]

A 400×422 image out of Spiritus Mundi, found here. If there’s a specific source to credit, I’d like to know.


8:52 p.m.: Sarah Palin has been named as ambassador to Nambia.

[As for whataboutism: yes, everyone makes mistakes. But as president of the United States, you don’t get very many free passes.]

“Grammar Nazi”

Reese Lansangan explains: “I’m not a Nazi. I just care about good grammar.” Funny and charming, even if what she cares about is, in most cases, spelling or usage.

Did you spot The Elements of Style?

Related reading
All OCA grammar posts (Pinboard)

[I remember telling a student who approvingly described his high-school English teacher as a “grammar Nazi,” “Please don’t call anyone who cares about language a Nazi.” Better: Don’t call anyone who isn’t a Nazi a Nazi.]

Pianos, Joel’s and Waits’s

Did Tom Waits’s “The Piano Has Been Drinking” begin life as a parody of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”?


And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And the carpet needs a haircut
Aand the spotlight looks like a prison break
And the telephone’s out of cigarettes
And the balcony is on the make
Just an idle thought. If you see Tom Waits, please ask.

Here, from Fernwood 2 Night, is a 1977 performance of “The Piano Has Been Drinking.”

There are three other Waits posts on Orange Crate Art.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

One Alice Munro sentence

Alice Munro, “Runaway,” in Runaway (New York: Vintage, 2005).

Such a great sentence. Nine of its fourteen words form prepositional phrases, but the sentence moves as quickly as the truck, or the air. And notice that it’s air, not wind. The final seams is a bonus.

Fujitsu Mini-Split FTW

Our utility company sends us a monthly page about our energy use. Granted, many variables are at work. Still, the advantage of a mini-split over an air conditioner is clear.

[But they’re houses, not homes.]

Speak, rock

[Zippy, September 21, 2017.]

Three (“some”) rocks, but only no. 2 is talking.

Venn diagram
Nancy posts : Nancy and Zippy posts : Zippy posts

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New glasses (once again)

A new picture with new glasses in the sidebar. The previous new one had begun to look too dour to me, too suggestive of disgruntled silence. I am neither silent nor disgruntled, or at least not often. Though I acknowledge that there isn’t an awful lot to smile about in the larger world these days.

[RSS-ers, you’ll have to click through.]

“Like a leaf sinking in the current”

Stefan Zweig, Fear. 1936. The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig. Trans. Anthea Bell (London: Pushkin Press, 2015).

Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

First-Class Mail Shape-Based
Pricing Template

Is that envelope too long or tall or thick to be mailed as a letter? The U.S. Postal Service’s First-Class Mail Shape-Based Pricing Template has the answer. It’s the cool postal tool with the unwieldy name. If you’re lucky, your post office might have one on hand for you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: Roscoe Mitchell,
Bells for the South Side

Roscoe Mitchell. Bells for the South Side. 2 CDs. ECM Records. 2017. Total playing time: 2:07.31.

Here are five pieces for trio performances, with the composer and multi-instrumentalist Roscoe Mitchell joined by James Fei and William Winant, Hugh Ragin and Tyshawn Sorey, Kikanju Baku and Craig Taborn, and Jaribu Shahid and Tani Tabbal. And another six pieces, with the musicians (all multi-instrumentalists) regrouped in “new configurations,” as the liner notes put it, leaving the listener to make educated guesses as to who’s playing what and when. The music that results, notated and improvised, is sometimes spare, sometimes dense, with a special emphasis on bells, drums, and gongs.

A few highlights: “Spatial Aspects of the Sound” begins with bells and pianos (keys dampened or struck sharply, strings plucked) and ends with the delicate interplay of glockenspiel, piano, and piccolo. “Prelude to a Rose” (whose title recalls Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss”) begins and ends with sinuous horn ensembles, with free-ranging communication among saxophones, trumpet, and trombone (Mitchell, Ragin, Sorey) in between. “Bells for the South Side” begins with sleighbells, a ringing telephone, and a siren; Ragin’s piercing piccolo trumpet enters against a ghostly thicket of percussion, suggesting a lament for those lost to violence on Chicago’s streets. “Red Moon in the Sky” evokes the Art Ensemble of Chicago in high gear, with horns and percussion blazing. And “Odwalla,” the Art Ensemble’s closing theme, is a final surprise: a slow groove, with Mitchell introducing each musician for a brief solo. These two hours of music travel by in what feels like much less time.

I have heard Roscoe Mitchell in performance with the Art Ensemble of Chicago (five times); with Thomas Buckner, Harrison Bankhead, and Jerome Cooper; with Muhal Richard Abrams and George Lewis; and with Jack DeJohnette’s Special Legends Edition Chicago. And on dozens of recordings. I’m grateful for the chance to open my ears once again.

These performances were recorded in September 2015 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in conjunction with The Freedom Principle, an exhibit marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. As it’s an ECM recording, the sound is impeccable. Full personnel details, samples, and a video clip at the ECM website.

The program:

Spatial Aspects of the Sound : Panoply : Prelude to a Rose : Dancing in the Canyon (Taborn-Baku-Mitchell) : EP 7849 : Bells for the South Side : Prelude to the Card Game, Cards for Drums, and The Final Hand : The Last Chord : Six Gongs and Two Woodblocks : R509A Twenty B : Red Moon in the Sky/Odwalla. All compositions by Roscoe Mitchell except as noted.

Dream commercial

In last night’s sleep, a commercial for The Tonight Show: Johnny was welcoming Angie Dickinson, the United States Marine Band, and “a great deal of thinkers.” Make that a great many thinkers. Mass nouns v. count nouns.

I can fix usage problems, even in dreams. But there’s no ad-blocker to use while sleeping.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Organized squirrels

News from the cute-animal kingdom: “Like trick-or-treaters sorting their Halloween candy haul, fox squirrels apparently organize their stashes of nuts by variety, quality and possibly even preference.”

A related post
KNUT Winter Schedule

Sean Spicer at the Emmys

Spencer Kornhaber, writing about Sean Spicer’s appearance at the Emmy Awards:

The Hollywood establishment, in overwhelming part, likes to present itself as in opposition to the Trump administration. But turning the PR guy for that administration into just another character in the entertainment landscape, a lovable provider of quips and shticks, flattens the moral dimensions of the national debate. It says that, deep down, politics is just sport, just drama. Which then undercuts the anti-Trump stands made on the Emmys stage.
Seeing Colbert and Spicer last night, I had to recall the infamous (to my mind) remarks that CBS executive chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves made during last year’s primaries:
“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” he said of the presidential race. . . .

"Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? . . . The money’s rolling in and this is fun,” he said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going,” said Moonves.
The Emmy Awards aired, of course, on CBS.

Twelve more movies

[No sentence count. No spoilers.]

Hail, Caesar! (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016). Hollywood in the fifties, with movies within the movie: an aquatic extravaganza, a biblical epic, a drawing-room drama, a Gene Kelly-esque musical, and a western. And in the plot of this movie itself, a vaguely Hitchcockian story of a politically motivated kidnapping. Great fun. “Would that it ’twere so simple.”


Max Rose (dir. Daniel Noah, 2016). Jerry Lewis as an eighty-seven-year-old jazz pianist, widowed after sixty-five years of marriage, wondering whether his wife was unfaithful and setting out to learn the truth. An unflinching picture of what it can be like to be old — a pill regimen, endless television, and the past and present blurring. The film jumps the shark (during a phone call to Max’s devoted adult granddaughter) but manages to recover. I learned about Max Rose only with the news of Jerry Lewis’s death.


Un peu de festival du René Clair

Sous les toits de Paris (dir. René Clair, 1930). A love quadrilateral, with a beautiful woman (beauty seems to be her only defining feature) and three male rivals: a street singer, his best pal, and a crook. The street-singing scenes are wonderful; the story itself is thin. The camerawork might make you wonder, even now: how did they do that?

À nous la liberté (dir. René Clair, 1931). A comic masterpiece about work and freedom. “Le travail, c’est la liberté” is a slogan that comes up in the film. To which Clair replies, Non. Prison is one form of prison. Work, as prison escapees discover, is but another. Chaplin shamelessly borrows from this film in Modern Times. I’m convinced that O Brother, Where Art Thou? contains a respectful tip of the hat.


Un pequeño festival de Pedro Almodóvar

The Flower of My Secret (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1995). A romance writer and her discontents. Tired of formulaic plots, Leo Macías (played by Almodóvar regular Marisa Paredes) writes something much darker. What kind of plot will now develop in her life? Intertextuality alert: Leo’s dark fiction becomes the stuff of Almodóvar’s Volver (2006).

Talk to Her (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 2002). Two women in comas, one a bullfighter, the other a dancer. Two men, each devoted to one of the women. A friendship between the men. A compelling story of fidelity and its evil twin obsession. To watch the elements of this complex narrative begin to fall into place is pure delight.

All About My Mother (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1999). A bereft mother leaves Madrid in search of her past life in Barcelona, where she makes a new life in the company of a transgender prostitute, a young nun, and two actresses. All About Eve and A Streetcar Named Desire figure heavily in the narrative. A further intertextuality alert: a scene from The Flower of My Secret becomes a crucial element here. Of the eight Almodóvar films I’ve now seen, All About My Mother and Volver are my favorites.


Down Three Dark Streets (dir. Arnold Laven, 1954). An FBI procedural. When a fellow agent is killed in the line of duty, Broderick Crawford takes over his three cases, hoping that one of them will lead to the killer. Some genuine shocks and surprises, some good Los Angeles location shots, and a great turn by Marisa Pavan. And there are telephone EXchange names. At YouTube.


Borderline (dir. William A. Seiter, 1950). Fred MacMurray and Claire Trevor as drug smugglers, sort of, and Raymond Burr as a drug kingpin and something of a poor man’s Laird Cregar. (There is only one Laird Cregar.) With a weirdly comic overlay of sexual attraction between MacMurray and Trevor, à la It Happened One Night. “Noon in front of the monkey cages — have you got that?” At YouTube.


Manhattan Tower (dir. Frank Strayer, 1932). Pre-Code life in a tall office building, with adultery, financial speculation, leering clerks, spunky secretaries, one sugar daddy, many wisecracks, and Art Deco interiors. Ira Morgan and Harry Reynolds take us from floor to floor with inventive camera work and editing. At YouTube.


The Big Bluff (dir. W. Lee Wilder, 1955). Do you remember Martha Vickers, who plays young, damaged, sexy Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep? Here is Vickers with only two further efforts remaining in her film career, playing a wealthy, terminally ill woman who falls for and marries a con man (John Bromfield) who soon has her drinking, smoking, and staying up till all hours. You can guess why. An alarmingly low-budget production (the director is Billy Wilder’s brother), the kind of movie in which dialogue is unintentionally funny, shadows and patches of light move around on walls, and a corner filled with two or three tables signifies nightclub. But with an interesting twist at the end. At YouTube.


The B-Side (dir. Errol Morris, 2017). A portrait of the photographer Elsa Dorfman, best known for portraits made with a Polaroid 20×24 camera. Dorfman appears to be an entirely untortured artist: her comments on her life and work often end in a happy, unself-conscious giggle. But this film, even at seventy-six minutes, feels endless: it’s mostly Dorfman holding up a rejected (“B-side”) photograph and talking a bit (she makes two exposures per sitting; the customer chooses one); then another photograph; then another. We never get a really good look at the rare camera she uses, much less an explanation of what makes that camera or her photographs distinctive.

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 : And twelve more : Another twelve

Zippy mall

[Zippy, September 18, 2017.]

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Zip ties and grout

Kim Tingley recommends zip ties:

Certainly, the evolution of humankind hinged on innovations like the chisel, the bow and arrow, the wheel. But sea otters whack abalone shells with rocks; octopuses build fortresses by stacking coconut shells. What defines our species is not the hammer or the trowel but the nail and the grout. Tools respond to an immediate, even primal need; fasteners are our dreams for the future.
I share her enthusiasm. But as the son of a tileman, I must point out that grout is not typically understood to be a fastener. Grout fills gaps.

[My dad always quietly enjoyed hearing a householder mispronounce the word as /groot/.]

“The important thing is handwriting”

[Chus Lampreave, Ángel de Andrés López, and Juan Martínez. What Have I Done to Deserve This? (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1984. Click for a larger view.]

Three generations: grandmother, father, son. Dad is asking about how school is going. Dad is a cabdriver. Also a forger.

Related reading
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, September 16, 2017


OCR App (LEAD Technologies) is a Mac app for optical character recognition. The results are not perfect, but the app is free. The app icon: T as in text.

I tried OCR App with a recent piece of writing. A scan of an image file of the first page began:

It was a beautiful morning on the Martin farm. Sun streamed into the kitchen, where Paul and Ruth Martin and Uncle Petrie were enjoying a second cup of couee. Lassie was drinking from her water dish. The sunlight made her coat glisten. Timmy Martin was just finishing his milk when his mother noticed a small story in the Calverton Herald.
Almost perfect. Small glitches with apostrophes and quotation marks were the only other problems. A scan of a PDF of the whole story was better: OCR App missed a couple of dashes, misread goin’ as gain’, and turned a quotation mark into the numeral 11. Be prepared to proofread carfully.

Anyone who makes significant use of optical character recognition will probably require an app with greater accuracy. But for occasional use, this free app is perfect.

[If there’s any doubt: carfully is a joke.]

Friday, September 15, 2017

“Like all gamblers”

Stefan Zweig, Burning Secret. 1911. The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig. Trans. Anthea Bell (London: Pushkin Press, 2015).

Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

Someone is having a birthday

Orange Crate Art turns thirteen today. Thirteen! Orange Crate Art is embarrassed by my calling attention to its birthday. And by my using an exclamation point. Orange Crate Art is embarrassed by so many things that I say and do these days. It’s a difficult age.

Thank you, everyone who’s reading.

[Post title after Ted Berrigan’s “A Final Sonnet.”]

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Misused word of the day: refute

Pay attention to the news for a while, and you’ll notice the word refute misused. The word is not, as Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016) points out, “synonymous with rebut or deny”:

That is, it doesn’t mean merely “to counter an argument” but “to disprove beyond doubt; to prove a statement false.” Yet the word is commonly misused for rebut.
As it was tonight: “At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly refuted the Democrats’ version of events.” No. She contradicted their version, or denied it. But she didn’t prove it false.

For a different perspective on refute being used to mean “to deny the truth or accuracy of,” see The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (1989):
Most usage commentators now routinely take note of it, and all that do consider it a mistake (the British, in particular, seem to feel strongly on this subject). It is, however, extremely common, and the contexts in which it occurs are standard.
Yes, but it’s still a mistake, and a terribly misleading one if a listener or reader takes refute to mean that a statement has been disproved when it has merely been denied. “I am not a crook”: denial, not refutation.

Recently updated

Stornography Now appearing in a cartoon.

Timmy Martin, Ticonderoga user

[Timmy Martin (Jon Provost) writes an urgent message. From the Lassie episode “The Phone Hog,” April 3, 1960. Click for a larger view.]

The ferrule is the giveaway. A Dixon Ticonderoga appears in at least one other Lassie episode.

More Ticonderogas
Bells Are Ringing : The Dick Van Dyke Show : Force of Evil : Harry Truman : The House on 92nd Street : Perry Mason : Pnin

All OCA Lassie posts (Pinboard)

The 26 Old Characters

From the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company, a dowdy-world history of our alphabet and fountain pens: The 26 Old Characters (1947). Dig the young people eagerly opening letters at 17:38.

Thanks, Martha!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Snowy Day stamps

[Art by Ezra Jack Keats. Stamp design by Antonio Alcalá.]

On October 4 the United States Postal Service will issue four stamps to honor Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day (1962). The Los Angeles Times has the story.

See also “The Snowy Day” and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats (Skirball Cultural Center).

Thanks, Rachel!

How to (finally) Read “Nancy”

Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden’s long-awaited How to Read “Nancy” is due to appear from Fantagraphics next month, with a three-sentence foreword by Jerry Lewis.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New glasses

New glasses, so a new photograph in the sidebar. Thank you, Elaine. (For the photograph, I mean.) I think the glasses look rather spiffy. As does the Ethnic Music Festival poster in the background. I found that poster in 1979, in the vicinity of Columbia University. The festival date had passed, so the poster became mine. Only years later, as a full-fledged grown-up, did I get it framed.

I followed, more or less, the convoluted procedure in this post to create a new Profile. (Google does not make things easy.) One difference: it’s no longer necessary to get a screenshot of a photograph with a border added; a border for some reason now shows up automatically.

Is my beard really that white? Only in photographs.

[A question for Google: when you look at a Blogger Profile page and click on View Full Size, why is the resulting photograph smaller than the one on the Profile page?]

Opportunity knocks

From The Big Bluff (dir. W. Lee Wilder, 1955). A schemer speaks:

“An opportunity like this knocks only once — and I know when to open the door.”
Like, uhh, when there’s a knock?

[W. Lee Wilder: Billy’s brother, but you’d never know it from this movie.]

Making by hand

Rosemary Hill, art historian:

To make objects by hand in an industrial society, to work slowly and uneconomically against the grain, is to offer, however inadvertently, a critique of that society.

From “Explorations of a Third Space,” Times Literary Supplement, April 23, 1999. Quoted in Morris Berman, The Twilight of American Culture (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000).
I’d like to think of objects very broadly, so as to include, say, a garden, or a handwritten letter.

Monday, September 11, 2017


The New York Times reports on the television-news practice of standing in a storm to report on it. I think we need a word to describe this commodification of horrific weather into televised spectacle. My suggestion: stornography. Or storn, for short.

I still remember (1990s?) an unfortunately hilarious CBS Evening News broadcast with Dan Rather standing in a storm somewhere, hanging on to a lamppost or street sign and trying to talk as the wind blew rain into his face. I didn’t know though that, as the Times reports, Rather originated this kind of reporting in 1961.


September 14: The word may be catching on.

A de Kooning, stolen and recovered

“It’s hard to believe that they were that — I don’t know what the word for it is”: a retired schoolteacher and his son may have stolen a Willem de Kooning painting from an Arizona museum. The details make the story sound like something for the Coen brothers.


[From a depiction of the Manhattan skyline on a Chock full o’Nuts coffee can, c. 2003. The World Trade Center was removed from the Chock full o’Nuts label in 2004. We have an empty can with the old label sitting atop a file cabinet in our house.]

Sunday, September 10, 2017

“Very, very insensitive”

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, thinks that it’s inappropriate to talk about climate change right now. It’s “very, very insensitive,” he says.

The same kind of response follows a mass shooting: it’s not the time to talk about gun-ownership rights. And another shooting follows.

Related posts
Too early again : December 14, 2012

[“Right now”: Irma.]

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Bill McKibben in Alaska

At The New Yorker, Bill McKibben explains: “I Went All the Way to the Alaskan Wilderness to Escape Donald Trump, But You Don’t Have To.” McKibben acknowledges that while in Alaska’s Brooks Range he still thought about Trump, but without reacting, because “he wasn’t there to break into my thoughts, or my Twitter timeline, at every turn.” McKibben’s astonishing conclusion: “It’s probably not necessary to get quite so far back into the woods; any place without Internet will do.” And also without newspapers? Radio? Television?

I offered Bill McKibben free advice about technology and distraction in 2008. I’ll offer some more advice now: Stay off Twitter. Or check it just a couple of times a day. Or block certain users. Managing one’s attention can begin at home. Self-reliance and all that.

[The title of McKibben’s piece bespeaks such condescension, such privilege. Titles aren’t always the work of the writer: was someone at The New Yorker having a little fun at the McKibben’s expense? My alternative title: “I Went All the Way to the Alaskan Wilderness to Escape Donald Trump, But You Can’t Afford To.”]

WSJ Puzzle

The Wall Street Journal claims to offer “America’s most elegant, adventurous and addictive crosswords and other word games.” I’m not sure that’s so, but the crosswords at WSJ Puzzle are excellent: challenging and clever, not corny, not contrived. And free. I especially like the wit that turns up in non-theme clues for ordinary words. In today’s puzzle by Roger and Kathy Wienberg, for instance, 71-Across, five letters: “Tell tale item.” No spoilers: the answer is in the comments.

[“Not corny, not contrived”: I find The New York Times crossword too often corny or contrived or both.]

Friday, September 8, 2017

A 1957 Mongol advertisement

[Life, April 1, 1957. Click for a larger view.]

One year earlier, an Eberhard Faber advertisement touted the Mongol as writing 2,162 words for one cent. In that ad Mongols were priced at fifteen cents for two. So one Mongol equalled 2,162 × 7.5, or 16,215 words. Now it’s 1957, and a Mongol writes fifteen more words, but the price per word is higher: only 1,623 words for one cent.

The number that really commands my attention in this ad: 88. As in: “88 per cent of America’s writing is done with a woodcased pencil.” The importance of being analog.

Related reading
All OCA Mongol posts (Pinboard)

Mark Blank

Fresca invites readers to add new words to the speech balloons in a Mark Trail panel. Fun.

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The first Paul Martin

I just learned that the actor Jon Shepodd has died at the age of eighty-nine. He played Paul Martin in the 1957–58 season of Lassie, with Cloris Leachman as his wife Ruth. When Leachman decided to leave the show, Hugh Reilly and June Lockhart were brought in to play Timmy’s parents.

A page from Jon Provost’s website has several photographs of Provost (Timmy Martin) and Shepodd in Lassie days and in recent years.

Related reading
All OCA Lassie posts (Pinboard)

[Cloris Leachman on a farm? No.]

A Larry Rivers Camel pack

At the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Larry Rivers: (Re)Appropriations. The exhibition page includes a slideshow. To the left, a greatly reduced Cream Camel (1980). Any larger and I’d start thinking about smoking.

[See also the sidebar: “Don’t look for premiums or coupons,” &c.]

Mark Trail recycles

[Mark Trail, August 8, September 7, 2017.]

Yet another instance of this comic strip recycling materials. Yet another instance of this comic strip recycling materials.

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

[The story of this shiny man and his crooked cohorts has been going since April, at least. That’s the same storm in each panel. Keeps rainin’ all the time. Keeps rainin’ all the time.]

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

One more Rick Veach story

One more story about Rick, which I just thought of:

Several years ago we ordered a new under-the-cabinet range hood to replace the one that came with our house. Rick was working in one of our bathrooms when two young men delivered the new hood. After removing the old hood, they discovered that the new hood was ⅛" longer than the space cut beneath our cabinet. The standard measurement for range hoods had apparently changed in fifty-something years. These guys did not, as they told Rick, do carpentry. Rick told them that he would install the hood for us.

Which he did. He also did the duct work to hook the hood up properly, something that had never been done. End of story.

Not famous

Thinking about Rick made me think of this opinion piece in The New York Times, by Emily Esfahani Smith, “You’ll Never Be Famous — And That’s O.K.”: “We all have a circle of people whose lives we can touch and improve — and we can find our meaning in that.”

[But a distinction between “extraordinary” and “ordinary” lives? I don’t buy in. There are no ordinary lives.]

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rick Veach (1959–2017)

Rick Veach was our plumber and our heating and cooling specialist through almost all the twenty-seven years we’ve lived in our house. And he was our friend. I’m not sure how or why we first called him — probably on someone’s recommendation. He never needed to advertise.

A visit from Rick was a visit, for real. Whatever work there was to do, there was also time for conversation, conversation that went in any and every direction: our children, his children, the school system, building codes, guitars, vacation destinations. Rick told us once that he knew he could make more money by just doing the work and going to the next job, but that visiting with people was part of what he liked about his work. He told us that he thought of us as friends. And that’s how we thought of him.

Rick solved problems that many a person would have walked away from. I often quoted him to my students: “A problem is just a challenge that hasn’t been overcome.” I loved that, and I still quote it to myself. And Rick solved problems with absolute integrity. When the mini-split system that he installed in our house failed to work properly, Rick tried fix after fix. He called the manufacturer, repeatedly, and finally figured out the problem: the manufacturer’s specs failed to mention a maximum distance between units. Our two units were just over the limit. So what did Rick do? He replaced the system with one from another manufacturer — at his own cost. We couldn’t even pay him for his labor. But we did get him to accept a large gift certificate to a favorite restaurant.

Here is a song that Rick told us was one of his favorites: “Once Upon a Time.” He had the Jay McShann recording on his phone and played it for us once, and the three of us stood listening in our hallway.

A related post
Rick solves a minor mystery : One more Rick Veach story

Another resignation

Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has resigned from Donald Trump’s National Diversity Coalition:

Over the past month, many corporate leaders have fled the councils and coalitions President Trump assembled at the beginning of his administration. I am proud to join them. While I will never cease advocating for policies that benefit America’s Hispanic-owned businesses, the moral costs of associating with this White House are simply too high. There is no place for a National Diversity Coalition in an administration that by its word and deed does not value diversity at all.
Palomarez notes that the National Diversity Coalition “never formally met — a stark sign of the president’s lack of interest in our work.”

This passage from a Times article that appeared earlier today speaks volumes:
As late as one hour before the decision [to end DACA] was to be announced, administration officials privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind.
Which would seem to mean that Trump lacks even the competence to make a bad decision. The anguish and uncertainty that his decision visits upon hundreds of thousands of young adults and their families and friends is beyond reckoning.

A related post
More resignations

A Painted Rock Owl

[Click for a larger owl.]

A Painted Rock Owl, spotted yesterday at the entrance to a park. The owl’s habitat: some rock.

“The ’Clipse”

This post contains the text of a short piece of fan fiction, by me: “The ’Clipse,” a Timmy and Lassie story. The story is both inspired by current events and meant to serve as a brief respite from them. It’s inspired too by Fresca’s continuing attention to fan fiction. Lassie, in its Timmy Martin form, was a major factor in my imaginative life in childhood.

“The ’Clipse” assumes a working acquaintance with the Lassie world, “just outside Calverton.” The veterinary science in the story is, of course, hooey. You can click on each image for a larger view. Whistling the opening and closing Lassie themes is optional.

Related reading
All OCA Lassie posts (Pinboard)

Four more Lassie stories
“The Poet” (with Robert Frost) : “Bon Appétit!” (with Julia Child) : “On the Road” (with Tod and Buz from Route 66) : “The Case of the Purloined Prairie” (with Perry Mason and friends)

[Why image files? Because I prefer that fiction and poetry maintain a print-like integrity in blog posts, even if that makes changing Mrs. Martin’s inelegant “I guess” to “I suppose” a bit of a production.]

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day

[“Loading oranges into refrigerator car at a co-op orange packing plant.” Photograph by Jack Delano. Redlands, California, March 1943. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Click for a larger view.]

Orange crate work.

The Library of Congress had made this photograph available via Flickr.

Related reading
All OCA Jack Delano posts

Sunday, September 3, 2017

John Ashbery (1927–2017)

John Ashbery, from “Daffy Duck in Hollywood,” in Houseboat Days (New York: Viking, 1977).

The poet John Ashbery has died at the age of ninety. The New York Times has an obituary. I chose the lines above for several reasons: the Wallace Stevens-like meditative voice, the intimations of mortality, the genial resolve to move along, like, say, Adam and Eve or Lycidas (“to be ambling on’s / The tradition”), the comic diction (“Therefore bivouac we,” “the big, / Vaguer stuff”). All in a poem that’s inspired by one Merrie Melodies cartoon (Duck Amuck) and shares a title with another.

And I chose these lines because “Daffy Duck in Hollywood” has special importance for me. The poem (available here) begins with a catalogue of items from the dowdy world that includes “the latest from Helen Topping Miller’s fertile / Escritoire.” Who? A once-popular writer whose name I know only because of this poem. Years ago, I noticed one of Miller’s books at a library book-sale and sent it to John Ashbery in care of his agent. (Why not?) A year later, I received a letter of thanks, which I found in my mailbox right before walking into the poetry class in which I’d just taught an Ashbery poem.

In 2002, I visited New York City’s Museum of American Folk Art to see a Henry Darger exhibit and attend a reading by Ashbery, whose Girls on the Run (1999) was inspired by Darger’s work. (I was writing something about Ashbery and Darger.) I was second in line for the reading and sat in the front row (after vacillating). And who came in and sat down next to me? Yes, John Ashbery. I said hello (why not?) and he nodded back. “John,” I said, “you don’t know me, but I sent you a book several years ago by Helen Topping Miller.” “I still have that book,” he said. I said that I was glad. A little more conversation followed, before and after the reading. John Ashbery was not only one of the great poets of our time: he was a sweet, kind, generous man.

Related reading
All OCA John Ashbery posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

“American cheese?”

“No, cheese cheese.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

“Popular with” athletes

One more comment on the New York Times article about academics and athletics at Florida State: to describe certain courses as “popular with” athletes is to be exceedingly decorous. The truth is that athletes who lack the ability to do genuine college work are steered, routinely, toward Mickey Mouse coursework that will pose no danger to their academic eligibility.

I recall, many years ago, meeting up with a student-athlete I had taught in a summer program for incoming freshmen. He was now a junior, with more than two years of junk coursework and without the prerequisites to begin work on a major — any major. How do you think that happened?

Football and grades at FSU

“Brazilian coffee is one of few places that has a carnival and the coffee place a major role just as much as the dancing and the food”: a college student’s writing, quoted in a New York Times article about football, grades, and a brave, ethical teaching assistant at Florida State University.

A related post
Modest proposals (Goodbye to Big Sports)
“Think middle school report” (A scandal at UNC)

A criminal exposed

Honoré de Balzac, Père Goriot, trans. E.K. Brown, Dorothea Walter, and John Watkins (New York: The Modern Library, 1950).

Friday, September 1, 2017

EXchange names on screen

[Down Three Dark Streets (dir. Arnold Laven, 1954). Click either image for a larger view.]

An extortionist just called that DUnkirk number. Better get the police. No, better: the FBI. They’re in the telephone book too. DUnkirk and MAdison were both, at some point, authentic Los Angeles exchanges.

Watching this film, a documentary-style FBI procedural, I couldn’t help thinking of a former FBI director now in the news. From the narrator’s voiceover:

Often more important than science is the intelligence, the imagination, of the individual agent, the FBI man. The FBI man, with his special knowledge of human weakness and his ability to probe that weakness and thus trap the criminal into his own betrayal.
It’s still Mueller Time.

You can learn more about EXchange names (and pick one to go with your number) at The Telephone EXchange Name Project. Down Three Dark Streets is at YouTube, and is well worth watching.

More exchange names on screen
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : Chinatown : The Dark Corner : Deception : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Dream House : East Side, West Side : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightmare Alley : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire

Lash tab

Elaine and I were getting coffee in the library when I wondered about the patch on her backpack. We thought that a much younger person, say, one of the baristas, might know. No idea. So I looked it up.

That patch is called a lash tab or pig snout. The first name suggests one of the patch’s primary purposes. The other primary purposes: to look cool and to provoke questions.

See also the mysterious extra eyelets on sneakers.

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, September 1, 2017.]

In the comics, school still begins after Labor Day. Which doesn’t explain that small two-or-three-dimensional thing next to the young woman’s arm. Motion lines? Street sculpture? A piece of paper, which would mean that the young woman levitates objects or litters? A piece of paper without a complete outline, which would defy the laws of comics? It’s not difficult to eliminate the problem:

[Hi and Lois, my revision, September 1, 2017.]

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)