Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On John F. Kelly

Josh Marshall, writing about John F. Kelly’s spoken comments on the Civil War, Robert E. Lee, and Representative Frederica Wilson:

Kelly is not an adult in the room. He’s an example of what we might call Total Quality Trumpism, Trumpist ideology in a more disciplined, duty-focused, professional package. The core ideology and beliefs about reclamation and rectitude are the same. It’s not an accident that he ended up in the tightest circle of Trump’s orbit. . . .

Kelly’s eyes appear wide open. His tie to Trump seems to be based on a deep commonality of belief and a desire to sand away the rough edges of Trump to ensure the core goals of Trumpism succeed.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, in a series of tweets:
But, like, when the “adult in the room” believes a war for slavery was honorable. . .

Believes that the torturer of humans, vendor of people, who led that war was honorable. . .

When that dude portrays a sitting member of Congress as some shucking and jiving hustler. . .

When he sticks by that portrayal of a black women, in the face of clear video evidence, when he has so descended into the dream. . .

You really do see the effect of white supremacy.

Halloween advice

From a PSA for trick-or-treaters: “Make sure you’re well lit.”

Yes, kids, stay lit. Happy Halloween.

Separated at birth

[The actors Andrew Tombes and Don Lake.]

Andrew Tombes was in many, many movies. I know Don Lake best from Christopher Guest’s faux documentaries.

Also separated at birth
Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Bérénice Bejo and Paula Beer : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : David Bowie and Karl Held : Victor Buono and Dan Seymour : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Gough : Henry Daniell and Anthony Wiener : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Barbara Hale and Vivien Leigh : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

Monday, October 30, 2017

Proust’s letters online

“The first tranche of the letters, several hundred related to World War I, is expected to be published online by Nov. 11, 2018, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of the war”: M. Proust’s letters are going online.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

A pocket notebook sighting

[Ministry of Fear (dir. Fritz Lang, 1944).]

The men with hats, knife, and notebook are from Scotland Yard. Ray Milland wishes he could have a notebook like that.

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 : Le Million : The Lodger : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : The Palm Beach Story : Perry Mason : 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

[And yes, that is Ray Milland, not Paul Manafort.]

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Scabs and banjos

Chris Matthews, speaking of Donald Trump on Meet the Press today: “He knows he can find the issues that rip the scab off this cultural divide, and he plays it like a banjo.”

Matthews has turned to rip the scab off before. He’s invoked the banjo before as well. But to compare scab-ripping facility to banjo chops — four-string? five-string? clawhammer? Scruggs-style? — that’s something new. I’d liken that move to straining after rhetorical greatness and pulling a groin muscle. Or something.

As you may have guessed, I’m not a Chris Matthews fan. I still recall with pleasure his 2007 appearance on The Daily Show: “This is a book interview from hell!”

Related posts
Chris Matthews disappoints : Chris Matthews explains it all for you : Chris Matthews on sex

[I’ve added a comma to the Meet the Press transcript. Why not?]

Domestic comedy

“It’s gotten to the point where he’s finally lost all of his lack of respect for me.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

From the Saturday Stumper

A nice touch in today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Andy Kravis. The clue for 53-Across, seven letters: “They fill take-out orders.” No spoilers; the answer is in the comments.

Finishing the Saturday Stumper is always cause for minor self-congratulation.

Kafka, strange and stranger

From two manuscripts of a story, one strange, the other stranger:

Franz Kafka, “Wedding Preparations in the Country,” in The Complete Stories, ed. Nahum N. Glatzer, trans. Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins (New York: Schocken, 1971).

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Friday, October 27, 2017

World Book Things

[Mom holds the cat as Dustin tears out of the house. Click for a larger view.]

Five minutes into the first episode of the new season of Stranger Things, I was thrilled to see the World Book Encyclopedia, or at least a partial set, on a shelf in Dustin’s house. In this screenshot, the World Book volumes are at the top left. The white, green, and gold are recognizable anywhere, at least for a viewer of a certain age. Admirably fanatical care goes into set decoration for this show: the World Book is onscreen for mere seconds, just enough for someone to notice.

[I’m the proud child of a World Book family. See also this Atlantic piece.]

Little Luther

It appears that my representative in Congress, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), likes to play with paper dolls. Okay. But it’s not okay to affix a paper doll to a painting that doesn’t belong to you. This 1881 painting of Frederick Muhlenberg hangs in the United States House of Representatives. Representative Shimkus has also shared a photograph of the doll nestled in the arm of a statue of John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. The 1889 statue stands in National Statuary Hall.

Related reading
All OCA John Shimkus posts

[Look closely and you’ll see that there’s no photoshopping involved. The doll is attached to the frame. The doll’s shadow falls on the wall.]

Shine on, Hallmark Channel

Our fambly has found reliable entertainment in the local cable company’s plot summaries of Hallmark Channel movies, summaries at least as good as the movies themselves. Here’s one for Harvest Moon:

A rich girl loses her wealth when her family goes bankrupt, so she heads to a pumpkin farm they own and uses her ingenuity to create a line of pumpkin skin care.

~ It’s a good thing that even in bankruptcy, the family owns a pumpkin farm.

~ But wait: should that be owned?

~ Between the time I photographed the description and wrote this post, Harvest Moon seems to have come and gone. The Hallmark Channel has already moved on to Christmas movies. And it’s not even Thanksgiving. Or even Halloween.

~ As Elaine reminds me, Illinois is The Great Pumpkin State. If this movie didn’t take place in Illinois, well, it should have.

~ Skin care for pumpkins probably takes a lot of ingenuity.

Related posts
I am a prisoner of Hallmark Movies and Mysteries : Hallmark ex machina : The Bridge, continued

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Two fine podcasts

Gastropod : Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley look at “food through the lens of science and history.” I’ve listened to the episodes about Fluff, seltzer, and tea.

Innovation Hub : Kara Miller and guests explore “new avenues in education, science, medicine, transportation, and more.” I’ve listened to the episodes about groupthink and obsession.

Both podcasts offer substantial content, no fluff (the lowercase variety).

Proust: “To love life today”

A question posed in the Paris newspaper L’Intransigeant, summer 1922:

An American scientist announces that the world will end, or at least that such a huge part of the continent will be destroyed, and in such a sudden way, that death will be the certain fate of hundreds of millions of people. If this prediction were confirmed, what do you think would be its effect on people between the time when they acquired the aforementioned certainty and the moment of cataclysm? Finally, as far as you’re concerned, what would you do in this last hour?
Marcel Proust responded in a letter:
I think that life would suddenly seem wonderful to us if we were threatened to die as you say. Just think of how many projects, travels, love affairs, studies, it — our life — hides from us, made invisible by our laziness which, certain of a future, delays them incessantly.

But let all this threaten to become impossible for ever, how beautiful it would become again! Ah! If only the cataclysm doesn’t happen this time, we won't miss visiting the new galleries of the Louvre, throwing ourselves at the feet of Miss X, making a trip to India.

The cataclysm doesn’t happen, we don’t do any of it, because we find ourselves back in the heart of normal life, where negligence deadens desire. And yet we shouldn’t have needed the cataclysm to love life today. It would have been enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening.
The question and Proust’s answer are quoted in Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life (New York: Vintage, 1997). I’ve had these passages typed and waiting to be posted for — ahem — years.

What I would do if the world were to end in an hour: call my children, my mom, my brother, a few friends, and sit with Elaine and listen to music, if she’s agreeable. Maybe Bach? But Elaine just told that she’d rather play than listen. So we could play together. I’m assuming we’d be together.

What would you do?

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

[By the time I read de Botton, Proust had already changed my life. In other words, I read In Search of Lost Time first. I’m taking “this last hour” literally, as did at least some of those who responded in 1922.]

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

More Salinger?

David Shields and Shane Salerno’s execrable biography Salinger (2013) made the claim that five new Salinger books would appear “between 2015 and 2020.” Now a New York Times reporter asks a reasonable question: “So Where Are the New J.D. Salinger Books We Were Promised?”

Related reading
All OCA Salinger posts (Pinboard)

K., duh

Leni, nurse and perhaps mistress to the lawyer Huld, chastises Josef K.:

Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell (New York: Schocken, 1998).

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Goodbye, Smart Trend by Sunglow

[2 7/8" × 1 15/16".]

Goodbye, Smart Trend by Sunglow dresser, a mid-century modern dresser that long outlived its time, traveling from Elaine’s parents’ bedroom to Elaine’s childhood bedroom, to her first and second apartments, to a house we rented, to an apartment we rented, to another house we rented, to the house we now live in and own, to the furniture store that brought us a new dresser yesterday. Packing tape could do only so much to keep the split boards in place.

I have determined that the name for this kind of label (woven cloth, glued to the inside of a drawer) is the disappointingly obvious “furniture label.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Not “normal”

In a speech announcing his decision to leave the Senate, Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), spoke today of “the new normal”:

We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal.
Amen. Jeff Flake and I would agree about very little in the way of policy. But on this point we would agree. Something I wrote in a February post: “Nothing about this presidency is normal. And nothing about this presidency is for getting used to.”

MSNBC, sheesh

Dear Craig Melvin and Andrea Mitchell,

Whatever it was you were talking about: it doesn’t beg the question; it raises the question.


A concerned viewer, one of no doubt many

From Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016):

the use of beg the question to mean raise another question is so ubiquitous that the new sense has been recognized by most dictionaries and sanctioned by descriptive observers of language. Still, though it is true that the new sense may be understood by most people, many will consider it sloppy.
Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

“Making Progress”

[“Making Progress,” xkcd, October 23, 2017.]

Don’t miss the mouseover text. See also this post about making slow progress.

[I just realized that xkcd almost certainly owes something to Rudolf Modley’s pictorial symbols.]

Dick Cavett’s Vietnam

Tonight, on many PBS stations: Dick Cavett’s Vietnam, with excerpts from episodes of The Dick Cavett Show, period footage, and new interviews.

“Really too small for an atelier”

K. has called on Titorelli, a court painter who turns out portraits of judges:

Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell (New York: Schocken, 1998).

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Close reading

“While Trump has disputed the story [of what happened in his phone call to Myeshia Johnson] — even claiming to have still-yet-to-be-produced “proof” to back it up — the White House has largely seemed to confirm that he said the things he has been accused of saying”: a good example of close reading, from Aaron Blake of The Washington Post.

I suspect that close reading will at some point extend to the “is” of “There is no collusion.” And notice that it’s always “no collusion with Russia” or “no collusion with the Russian government,” omitting reference to interested individuals.

Proust at auction

On October 30 Sotheby’s will auction an extremely rare copy of Du côté de chez Swann, one of five first-edition copies printed on Japanese paper. The book carries this inscription:

A Monsieur Louis Brun
Ce livre qui passé à la N[ouve]lle Revue française n’a pas oublié son amitié première pour Grasset
Affectueux souvenir
Marcel Proust
Estimated price: €400,000–600,000. Must start saving up!

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

[Sotheby’s translation: “To Mr. Louis Brun: this book, which is moving over to the Nouvelle Revue Française, has not forgotten its first friendship for Grasset. With affectionate memories, Marcel Proust.” Brun worked for Bernard Grasset, whose eponymous publishing house brought out Du côté de chez Swann in 1913. In 1916 Proust changed publishers, from Grasset to Gaston Gallimard and Éditions de la Nouvelle Revue Française.]

“Dig the gonest”

Still making progress 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, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dick Hyman, Harry James, Hank Jones (my dad did tile work in his house), Louis Jordan, Stan Kenton, Barney Kessel, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Peggy Lee, Mary Ann McCall, Susannah McCorkle, Dave McKenna, Ray McKinley, Marian McPartland, Johnny Mercer, Helen Merrill, Glenn Miller, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Gerry Mulligan, Red Norvo, Anita O’Day, and now, Charlie Parker.

By way of YouTube, here are two great ballad performances, from the Parker compilation Best of “The Complete Savoy & Dial Studio Recordings” (Savoy Jazz, 2002), with Parker, alto; Miles Davis, trumpet; Duke Jordan, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; and Max Roach, drums:

“Embraceable You” (George and Ira Gershwin). Recorded in New York City, October 28, 1947. This is the take in which Parker begins his solo by quoting Sam Coslow’s “A Table in the Corner.” Gary Giddins gets credit for identifying the source.

“Out of Nowhere” (Johnny Green–Edward Heyman). Recorded in New York City, November 4, 1947.

And here, from the Parker compilation Best of “The Complete Live Performances on Savoy” (Savoy Jazz, 2002), is my transcription of a bit of patter from a radio broadcast. The announcer is Symphony Sid, broadcasting from the Royal Roost, March 5, 1949. Please imagine Parker’s group playing Lester Young’s “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” as Sid speaks:

“Oh what a frantic place, the Royal Roost, ladies and gentlemen, the Metropolitan Bopera House here on Broadway between 47th and 48th Street, right opposite the Strand Theatre. Aww, the music is so crazy where the lights are low and the music is a real knocked-out groove, ninety-cents admission, and all you got to do is sit back and relax, from nine-thirty till four, and dig the gonest.”
The Royal Roost stood at 1580 Broadway, Manhattan. The Strand Theatre: 1579. The Metropolitan Opera House was eight blocks away, at 1411 Broadway.

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

[As much as I like Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, I wasn’t about to separate all those individual names with semicolons for the sake of one vocal trio. Why links to the recordings? It’s increasingly difficult to find YouTube uploads of commercial recordings that can be embedded.]

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Still smoking

[Hi and Lois, October 22, 2017.]

Oh, wait — they’re birds. I thought there were little flecks of ash around him.

Thirsty Thurston first appeared in Hi and Lois on June 9, 1961. He has been smoking for more than fifty-six years.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

[Even Andy Capp gave up cigarettes, in 1983.]

“An essay test!”

[Peanuts, October 22, 1970. Click for a larger view.]

Yesterday’s Peanuts is today’s Peanuts. Or more precisely, October 22, 1970’s Peanuts was this past Thursday’s Peanuts.

You can read the entire run of Peanuts at GoComics. Begin here.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Night at The Garden

Available for online viewing: A Night at The Garden, Marshall Curry’s seven-minute assemblage of archival footage of a 1939 German American Bund rally at Madison Square Garden. The 20,000-strong event was advertised as a “Pro-American Rally.” George Washington, swastikas, and a protester beaten. Draw your own parallels and conclusions.

Churchill on looking at nature

Once you begin to study it, all Nature is equally interesting and equally charged with beauty. I was shown a picture by Cézanne of a blank wall of a house, which he had made instinct with the most delicate lights and colours. Now I often amuse myself when I am looking at a wall or a flat surface of any kind by trying to distinguish all the different colours and tints which can be discerned upon it, and considering whether these arise from reflections or from natural hue. You would be astonished the first time you tried this to see how many and what beautiful colours there are even in the most commonplace objects, and the more carefully and frequently you look the more variations do you perceive.

Winston Churchill, Painting as a Pastime (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950).
No painter, I. But this passage makes me think of the way everything looks different after a day at a museum, where you might see Cézanne’s House in Provence or House and Trees or The House with the Cracked Walls. Churchill’s essay is about much more than hobbies and pastimes; it’s about attention.

[This passage so captured me that I didn’t even stop to ask whether a wall should be considered part of nature.]

Friday, October 20, 2017

The language of a military coup

At The New Yorker, Masha Gessen writes about John Kelly and the language of a military coup:

When Kelly replaced the ineffectual Reince Priebus as the chief of staff, a sigh of relief emerged: at least the general would impose some discipline on the Administration. Now we have a sense of what military discipline in the White House sounds like.
Consider, in light of Gessen’s commentary, today’s comment from Sarah Huckabee Sanders about Kelly’s claim that Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson took credit for securing funding for an FBI building: “I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general — that’s highly inappropriate.”

I think of a line from a great Specials song: “Don’t argue.”

[Sanders’s sentence was split in two by a question from a reporter. I’ve reproduced it as an uninterrupted sentence.]

“A brief overview of his life”

Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell (New York: Schocken, 1998).

I think of the “portfolio” that accompanied my application for tenure, assembled in three three-inch looseleaf binders.

The thought of “a brief overview” of one’s life that nevertheless documents “each event of any particular importance”: there’s the madness of the Trial world. I suppose that among the events accounted for would be the decision to write the overview itself. And also, perhaps, the decisions about what to leave out, in which case events of no particular importance would also find their way into the brief overview.

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Benguiat beatniks

[Zippy, October 20, 2017.]

Dig the lettering of BeATnik, inspired by Ed Benguiat’s Interlock. Just right for beatniks.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)
Benguiat style

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Elaine and I like an expensive-ish oat-and-honey granola that we call FPC, or Fancy Pants Cereal. Yesterday we bought a box of the Aldi version, which, it turns out, is just as good and much less expensive-ish. So we have decided to call this cereal UPC: Underpants Cereal.

A related post

Wrong professor

Elaine and I were walking and found ourselves in front of City Lights Books. The windows had been smashed, and the shelves were nearly empty. We stepped in through an empty window and saw that a poet was preparing to give a reading. She asked us about ourselves. When I told her I was a retired English professor, she pushed a book of her poems at me. “Here,” she said, “this better end up in a book.”

Wrong professor. But it did end up in a blog post.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[A dream likely inspired by recent conversations Elaine and I have had about our shared distaste for self-promotion.]

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

More blizzardous

I went looking for John Ashbery’s word blizzardous in Google Books and found this passage:

The word “blizzard” seemed to strike many people here as a good novelty, and many looked upon it as a clever American invention of the moment. And yet “blizzard” has long been in Nuttall’s Standard Dictionary, with its proper definition, “a sudden, violent, cold snowstorm.” A modern humorist has invented a novel application of the word. Where anything is absolutely wretched, disastrous and disagreeable, he speaks of it as “blizzardous.” This makes a fearful and strong-sounding adjective that will probably achieve a very great popularity. As we receive some of our most popular and most expressive words from America, it seems only fair that we should occasionally attempt to send them something in return. I really think that “blizzardous” ought to suit some of your people down to the ground.

J. Ashby-Sterry, “English Notes,” The Book Buyer (May 1888).
So a word in a John Ashbery diary entry also shows up in a column by one J. Ashby-Sterry. Crazy! Ashby-Sterry further glosses blizzardous: “I think it a mistake to call some of these expressions ‘slang.’ Slang very often arises by the adoption of technical terms in general conversation, and what is the slang of one generation not infrequently becomes the refined language of the next.”

The Oxford English Dictionary on the origin of blizzard:
As applied to a “snow-squall,” the word became general in the American newspapers during the severe winter of 1880–81; but according to the Milwaukee Republican 4 Mar. 1881, it had been so applied in the Northern Vindicator (Estherville, Iowa) between 1860 and 1870. It was apparently in colloquial use in the West much earlier.
Which would suggest that blizzard was indeed “a clever American invention,” earlier than 1888. The OED’s first definition for the noun blizzard: “a sharp blow or knock; a shot,” with an 1829 citation from the journal Virginia Literary Museum. The verb, “of snow, sleet, etc.: to form a blizzard,” first appears in 1880 in the newspaper The Idaho Avalanche: “Oh, the snow, The bee-yew-tiful snow! It made last night so jolly, you know, Belating the trains and grounding the Wires, as blizzarding over the land it fires.”

[I can find nothing to suggest the identity of the “modern humorist.”]

Martha Penteel

[Ministry of Fear (dir. Fritz Lang, 1944).]

In a movie full of doors, this one is the oddest. The eye is the doorbell.

A blizzardous Wednesday

From a diary, February 19, 1941. The writer, John Ashbery, was thirteen years old:

Wednesday (written on Wednesday). February 19. Wea. Blizzardous Ther. 16° Today (Wednesday) the weather was extremely blizzardous. The day seemed so much like Wednesday. In English we are reading poems. At noon I walked uptown even though the weather was blizzardous (I think I mentioned that before). I made up the Social Studies which was given on the Friday I was absent. 92%. The marks in the Latin test yesterday were very poor, but I managed to get 100%. For dessert tonight we had a sealtest ice cream cherry pie, a rare treat. After supper I started to illustrate Poe’s “Hop-Frog” But I did not get on very well. I listened to Eddie Cantor and Mr. D.A. Wednesday. Wednesday. I am feeling silly today. Blizzardous. Written (oh definitely) on Wednesday.
This diary passage is reproduced in Karin Roffman’s The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017).

Related reading
All OCA Ashbery posts (Pinboard)

[The Oxford English Dictionary has the adjective forms blizzardy, blizzardly, and blizzardous. But no citation for blizzardous.]

“The end of walking”

“There are vast blankets and folds of the country where the ability to walk — to open a door and step outside and go somewhere or nowhere without getting behind the wheel of a car — is a struggle, a fight”: Antonia Malchik writes about “The end of walking” (Aeon).

[Found via Daughter Number Three.]

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Trump as student

Watching today’s joint press conference with Donald Trump and Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, I thought of characterizations of Trump from associates past and present. These two Trump responses to reporters’ questions put me in mind of a student who comes into an exam with almost nothing to say. Transcriptions from the White House Press Office:

Q: Why would you encourage the U.S. companies to invest in Greece? And how can the U.S. support the Greek efforts to fully turn the page, attract investments, and manage its debt? Thank you.

A: I can say that we have a great confidence in Greece. I think it’s a land of tremendous potential. I know many people are looking to invest in Greece. A lot of the problems are behind it. They’ve had some very good leadership. They’ve really made done a lot of — they’ve made a lot of difficult decisions.

We are helping, as you know, with a massive renovation of their air force and also of airplanes, generally, going to Greece. They’re looking at buying additional planes from Boeing. And we are helping — we’re very much involved with Greece and with helping Greece get back on its feet. We have a tremendous Greek population in this country, people whose heritage is Greece. And we love that country, special country, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. So I think it’s got great potential, and we are helping it along.
There’s nothing in that response to answer the question. And really just one specific: Boeing airplanes, mentioned in Trump’s opening statement.

One more:
Q: Mr. President, you praised Greece’s role in NATO with the contribution and in Souda Bay amid the volatile region of the Eastern Mediterranean. What do you see as the potential of Greece being as a pillar of stability in the region? And what would the U.S. like to see happening in order for Greece to achieve its potential? Thank you.

A: Well, I’d just start by saying that I think it has a great role in stability in the area. We have a feeling that it will get stronger and stronger. Very stable people. It's got the potential to be — once it gets over this tremendous financial hurdle that it’s in the process of working out, we think that there will be great stability in Greece, and militarily and in every way we look at it as very important, and very important to the United States.

We have great confidence in Greece as a nation. We have great confidence in what they’re doing relative to their military, because I know they have plans to do some terrific things. And we know they will be an ally for many, many years to come. You know, they’ve always been a very reliable ally, and we’ve always been very reliable to them. So we look forward to that for many years. We’re going to be friends for many, many years, and stability is very important. And we look upon that, with respect to Greece, as being a key.

Thank you.
Here too there’s just one specific: a financial hurdle. Other than that, it’s all stability, great confidence, and some terrific things. And the emptiest phrasing: “And we look upon that, with respect to Greece, as being a key.” A Greek key!

Imagine these answers not as presidential responses to the press but as responses to exam questions in a college course on foreign policy. I think a D (as in Donald) would be generous.

Separated at birth

[The actresses Bérénice Bejo, as seen in The Artist, and Paula Beer, as seen in Frantz.]

Also separated at birth
Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : David Bowie and Karl Held : Victor Buono and Dan Seymour : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Gough : Henry Daniell and Anthony Wiener : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Barbara Hale and Vivien Leigh : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

Twelve more movies

[No spoilers.]

The Salesman (dir. Asghar Farhadi, 2016). From the director of A Separation (2011), the movie that made me want to see this one. When an apartment building is shaken to its foundations and rendered uninhabitable, two of its tenants, a husband and wife in “the arts” (theater), move to a new building, where their marriage is shaken to its foundations by an assault and its aftermath: the victim’s self-doubt and shame, her partner’s need for revenge. All against a backdrop of Death of a Salesman, whose relevance isn’t always especially clear. A DVD-extra interview with the director helps.


Columbus (dir. Kogonada, 2017). In Columbus, Indiana, a town filled with modernist architecture, Jin (John Cho), the son of an dying architectural historian, and Cassandra, or Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young local, meet and talk and walk and look at buildings, again and again. Their relationship (which begins as they stand on opposite sides of a fence) cuts across barriers of age, culture, and class. The leads are excellent: Cho as a son who professes no interest in architecture and resents the gestures of mourning that will be required of him; Richardson as a young woman obsessed with architecture who sees no way to escape her obligations to her mother and get away to college. The film was too perfect, too pretty for me, with virtually every shot displaying symmetry or pleasing asymmetry. And yes, Jin and Cassandra talk about symmetry and asymmetry. But unlike Elaine, I was able to refrain from checking the time while watching. Columbus has had rave reviews, so consider these sentences a minority report.


Más Pedro Almodóvar

What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984). Domestic comedy and tragedy, with three dysfunctional generations in a tiny apartment: a grandmother who keeps her mineral water under lock and key, her cabdriver/forger son Antonio, his amphetamine-addled cleaning-lady wife Gloria, a drug-dealing elder son, and a younger son who’s prostituting himself to men. And Gloria’s next-door best friend Cristal, also a prostitute. This movie felt to me like preparation for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988).

Broken Embraces (2009). A brilliant, richly plotted story of fathers and sons; love, loss, and revenge; and movie-making, informed by the spirits of Audrey Hepburn, Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo), and Michael Powell (Peeping Tom). With Penélope Cruz and other Almodóvar regulars. Prerequisite: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. I now have three favorite Alomdóvar films: All About My Mother, Volver, and this one.


Good Morning, Miss Dove (dir. Henry Koster, 1955). Something like a schoolroom version of It’s a Wonderful Life, with Jennifer Jones as an elementary-school geography teacher, strict, severe, devoted to duty, and somehow loved by her students and townspeople. In the one extended scene of Miss Dove (no first name) at work in her panopticon, she interrupts the “lesson” again and again, stopping to address every transgressor of the rules. What’s really being taught here? Not just the products of the Argentine pampas. I was made to read Frances Gray Patton’s story “The Terrible Miss Dove” in middle school. What was that about?


L’Argent (dir. Robert Bresson, 1983). “O money, god incarnate, what wouldn’t we do for you?” Bresson’s last movie, all tans and blues, with money as a means not of exchange but of betrayal. A young man passes a counterfeit bill, and that one act proves to have disastrous consequences in other lives, far removed. Bresson works with extraordinary economy, letting the viewer fill in the implications. From a Tolstoy novella, The Forged Coupon.


Deux films avec Isabelle Huppert

Things to Come (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016). Huppert as a philosophy teacher who finds her life — no spoilers — upended. And then — no spoilers — life goes on. I loved this film, which makes intellectual work feel as everyday as any other kind of work. How could I not love a film that begins with a protagonist grading papers while on a family outing? For advanced grown-ups only.

Elle (dir. Paul Verhoeven, 2016). Huppert as the owner of a video-game company, a woman whose life is saturated in violence, sex, and sexual violence. This film is by turns intensely disturbing and strangely funny. It’s like a comedy of musical beds interrupted by scenes of stylized terror, or a whodunit interrupted by scenes of domestic farce. Excellent, but Things to Come is the film I’d choose to see again.


Ministry of Fear (dir. Fritz Lang, 1944). Had we seen it before? Yes? No? Maybe? Yes, I think, years ago. Ray Milland plays a man who stops by a village fête and walks away with a cake that was meant for someone else. Trouble follows. An excellent noirish thriller, with a séance, spies, a great scene on a train, and strong overtones of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. This film makes conspicuous use of doors — one after another, each opening onto new trouble. My favorite moments: the man crumbling cake, Martha Penteel’s doorbell, light shining through a bullet hole.


The Outrageous Sophie Tucker (dir. William Gazecki, 2014). Sometimes a movie appears to rise of its own accord to the top of the Netflix queue. I became idly curious about Sophie Tucker after seeing her in
an Ed Sullivan clip that evoked a lost world of stage performance. But Tucker, singer, entertainer, the Last of the Red Hot Mamas, was made, really, for these times. She was frankly sexual and frankly fat, a pioneer of commercial endorsements (in English and Yiddish), and an early social networker, collecting names and addresses in her travels and sending out cards when she was about to play a city. This documentary has too little Tucker, too many talking heads, and several awkward moments of digital trickery to put old photographs into motion. (Why?) Fortunately, YouTube is full of Tucker herself.


Ninotchka (dir. Ernst Lubitsch, 1939). “Garbo laughs,” as the movie poster promises. Ninotchka, Nina Ivanovna Yakushova (Greta Garbo), grim, prim Soviet envoy, comes to Paris to check on the doings of three comrades who have been sent to reclaim jewels from a Russian duchess. Ninotchka proceeds to fall in love with a Parisian count (Melvyn Douglas). The famous Lubitsch touch might now seem like the stuff of a hundred rom-coms since. But those pictures don’t have screenplays by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (and Walter Reisch). “You’re the most improbable creature I’ve ever met in my life, Ninotchka . . . Ninotchka.” “You repeat yourself.” And when Ninotchka asks for raw beets and carrots: “Madame, this is a restaurant, not a meadow.”


Frantz (dir. François Ozon 2016). The vaguely Zweig-like premise made me curious about this film: a young woman who has lost her fiancé in the Great War sees an unknown young man leaving flowers at her fiancé’s grave. There's nothing more I can say about the story without giving something away. I can say that Frantz is a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby (1932), an atypical Lubitsch film (which I first learned of from a DVD-extra interview with Ozon). Frantz is a delight to the eye, filmed in rich black and white with occasional elements of color. Paula Beer and Pierre Niney offer understated, deeply moving performances. If I were running the Academy Awards I'd have chosen Frantz (not The Salesman) as the best foreign-language film of 2016.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Media studies: file drawers, notebook, EXchange name

[District Attorney Brander Harris (Hugh Marlowe), man with a notebook. From the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Fraudulent Foto,” February 7, 1959. Click for a larger view.]

The file drawers caught my attention well before DA Harris took out his notebook. Or pocket calendar. Or whatever it is. When he finds the crucial page (whatever it is), he reads a telephone number aloud: “DAkota 6-7054.” There are many ways to enjoy television. Or whatever it is.

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 : Down Three Dark Streets : 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

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 : Le Million : The Lodger : Mr. Holmes : 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

A joke in the traditional manner

Where does Paul Drake keep his hot tips?

No spoilers. The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : How do worms get to the supermarket? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite snack of demolition crews? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He gets credit for all but the cow coloratura, the produce clerk, the amoebas, the worms, the snack, the toy, the shepherd, the squirrel-doctor, Marie Kondo, Santa Claus, and this one. He was making such jokes long before anyone called them “dad jokes.”]

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Here’s Talia

Our daughter Rachel and her husband Seth have announced the birth of their daughter Talia, born not yesterday but the day before yesterday, Thursday, October 12. Talia weighed in at seven pounds, thirteen ounces. Everybody is doing just fine.

[“We’re excited you’re here!”: now the blog-description line makes another kind of sense. Yes, Talia, we are!]

Adjunct lives

A recent article in The Guardian: “Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars.”

The situations described in the Guardian article may be extreme, but if the median salary for adjuncts is $22,041 a year, the general message is clear: there is, for most who would teach, no real future in adjuncthood. And there is something unspeakably mad about teaching critical thinking while having to live in a car.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the exploitation of adjunct labor is the shame and scandal of American higher education.

Thanks, Fresca.

Eyes everywhere

Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell (New York: Schocken, 1998).

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Friday, October 13, 2017

The art of the con

“The most Trumpian aspect of the executive order is that it makes life easier for con men”: Amy Davidson Sorkin writes about “Donald Trump’s Terrible Executive Order on Health Care” (The New Yorker).

The Odyssey and mentorship

At The Atlantic, Gregory Nagy, classicist, talks about Telemachus and mentorship and Homer’s Odyssey:

In general, the model of stories about mentors is a model of initiation that appeals to the inherent nobility of the person who is being initiated. That’s something that the Odyssey is putting front and center.
When I taught the Odyssey, I always found that student readers are remarkably alert to Telemachus’s alienation. The first time we see Telemachus, he is sitting apart in his household, dreaming of his father, a father from whom he feels utterly disconnected. Telemachus has no older man to guide him, and no friends with whom to commiserate. And then Athena shows up, taking the form of Mentor. You must be Odysseus’s son, she says. Well, that’s what my mother says, he replies. Who knows?

When Telemachus awakens at the beginning of Odyssey 2 (having been put to bed by his nurse!), he is ’Ὀδυσσῆος φίλος υἱὸς, Odysseus’s beloved son — and a new man.

I wish this brief interview had touched on Penelope’s suitors, the elite young men of Ithaca and surrounding kingdoms. What I imagine in the way of their upbringing: “Here, take the keys.”

Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)
Just one look (Odysseus and Telemachus)

[You’d think that the older male relatives of Ithacan suitors must have died at Troy or on the voyage home. But male relatives, including an angry father, are present in Odyssey 24.]

“We’re drowning in filth”

Walking down a corridor in his bank, K. hears groans from a junk room. Curious, he looks in and finds the work of the court going on in his own workplace: the guards who appeared at his arrest are now being flogged. K. talks with the flogger and the floggees, steps out, closes the door, walks away, and walks back:

Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell (New York: Schocken, 1998).

The next day, unable to stop thinking about what he saw, K. opens the door again. The flogging is still going on. “Clear out that junk room once and for all,” K. tells his assistants. “We’re drowning in filth.”

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, October 12, 2017


The word is trending at Merriam-Webster.

A precipitation question

Out walking this morning, we saw some unusual precipitation: tiny specks of moisture, like miniature snowflakes, very sparse, and so slight that they bounced around on air currents instead of just falling to the ground. Temperature in the 60s.

Wikipedia’s descriptions of precipitation leave me with drizzle as the only name that fits. But that name seems misleading at best. Does anyone know a more specific name?

“Bushy black and large”

Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell (New York: Schocken, 1998).

Dreamlike, no? And highly cinematic. The eyebrows make me think of Eric Campbell.

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Dunning-Kruger moment

From today’s Vanity Fair piece about Donald Trump’s presidency:

Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment — the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, “What’s that?”
Related posts
The Dunning-Kruger effect
Dunning K. Trump
Frederick who?
Ties, misspellings, typos

Zippy on campus?

[Zippy, October 10, 2017.]

I think Zippy must be touring a college campus.

Expectations vary, natch, but for me, “We’re excited you’re here!” rings of corporate insincerity. Unless the excitement is about seeing dollar signs.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Nora Johnson (1933–2017)

The writer Nora Johnson has died at the age of eighty-four. Johnson is best known for the novel The World of Henry Orient (1958). She and her father Nunnally Johnson co-wrote the screenplay for the 1964 film adaptation.

I read The World of Henry Orient for the first time in 2011 and wrote to Nora Johnson to tell her how much I liked it. In her reply she said that she thought the novel “would go stale very fast — but seems I was wrong.” The novel now feels like a sweet, sad evocation of a lost New York.

Related posts
An excerpt from the novel
Elizabeth T. Walker speaks (The film’s Val)
Nora Johnson on falling in love at seventy-one

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

David Brooks and SNOOTs

Writing in The New York Times today about a forthcoming book by Alan Jacobs, David Brooks mentions David Foster Wallace:

Jacobs notices that when somebody uses “in other words” to summarize another’s argument, what follows is almost invariably a ridiculous caricature of that argument, in order to win favor with the team. David Foster Wallace once called such people Snoots. Their motto is, “We Are the Few, the Proud, the More or Less Constantly Appalled at Everyone Else.”
No, Mr. Brooks, no.

In the essay “Authority and American Usage,” Wallace glosses SNOOT (all caps) as his “nuclear family’s nickname for a really extreme usage fanatic.” The acronym stands for “Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance” or “Syntax Nudniks Of Our Time.” SNOOT has nothing to do with caricaturing other people’s arguments and winning favor with a team. The acronym applies to those who obsess over matters of grammar and usage, those who know how to hyphenate phrasal adjectives and who sneer at “10 ITEMS OR LESS.” As Wallace points out in the essay, “the word may be slightly self-mocking.” Wallace identified as a SNOOT, and his spoof of the USMC slogan (“the Few, the Proud, the More or Less Constantly Appalled at Everyone Else”) is further evidence of self-mockery. He wasn’t calling other people SNOOTs. He was writing about himself.

And as Wallace said in a radio interview, “to be a SNOOT is a lonely, stressful way to be.”

Related reading
All OCA David Foster Wallace posts (Pinboard)

[“Authority and American Usage” appears in Consider the Lobster and Other Essays (New York: Little, Brown, 2005). The essay appeared in a shorter form in Harper’s as “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage.” The examples concerning phrasal adjectives and supermarket signage are from the essay. Using Amazon’s Look Inside tool to search How to Think returns no results for david foster wallace or snoot, so I’m ascribing the error to Brooks. And yes, I’m sending a correction to the Times.]


When one reads online, it’s so easy to miss something that’s plainly there. Replying to a comment this morning, I made up an acronym for this phenomenon: OOPS, Online Oversight in Processing Syndrome. And then I improved it: OOP, Oversight in Online Processing.

OOP, not OOPS, because the S is missing.

[Inspired by a discussion of TLAs (three-letter acronyms) in the “Technobabble” episode of Helen Zaltzman’s podcast The Allusionist.]

Thelonious Monk centennial

[A helpful label. My son Ben made it when he was five or six or so. Explanation here.]

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, one hundred years ago today. Forty-odd years ago, as a commuting college student, I heard a radio newscaster mention Double Ten Day, and I thought, “Oh, yeah, Thelonious Monk’s birthday.”

Here are my favorite Monk compositions, as performed by the composer and his colleagues:

“Crepescule with Nellie” : “Monk’s Mood” : “Pannonica” : “Reflections” : “Ruby, My Dear” : “Ugly Beauty”

I can play four of these tunes passably well on the piano. The other two, someday.

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

[“Ruby, My Dear” has Coleman Hawkins, not John Coltrane, on tenor.]

Hi and Lois SWODNIW

[Hi and Lois, October 10, 2017.]

There must be a new trainee on the Hi-Lo Amalgamated assembly line. Yesterday, a a color fail. Today, wrong-way window-writing is back. These strips will be receiving recall notices.

Sometimes Hi-Lo gets windows right. Here, for instance, and here, and here. But again and again, passersby in this comic-strip world see signs for ECNARUSNI, ETATSE LAER, and KCIUQ TRAM. And in Beetle Bailey, NUB N’ NUR. Sheesh, guys, DAERFOORP!

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

[ETATSE LAER runs across one line of lettering; KCIUQ TRAM and NUB N’ NUR are split up. You read LAER before ETATSE but KCIUQ before TRAM and NUB before N’ and NUR. I am beginning to like these “words.”]

Monday, October 9, 2017

Josef K. in motion

Franz Kafka, The Trial, trans. Breon Mitchell (New York: Schocken, 1998).

So cinematic. It’s so easy to imagine such a scene as the stuff of silent film.

When I was in high school, Borges and Kafka were my passports to real literature. How I found my way to their work, I’ll never know. What I didn’t understand back then: Kafka is funny. I’m glad to have figured that out.

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Hi and Lois watch

Dot Flagston has just wished that it were possible to celebrate “the holidays” earlier. Because right now the world is a carousel of color, sort of:

[Hi and Lois, October 9, 2017.]

Today’s Hi and Lois makes me think of the first sentence of a poem I made from remarks of my then-very-young daughter Rachel: “The colors are / broken.” They are, indeed. And I’m certainly not going to take the time to fix them. Tinkering with what’s in the balloon makes things dumber and funnier:

[Hi and Lois, altered, October 9, 2017.]

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Good cop, bad cop

This metaphor for a Tillerson–Trump North Korea strategy is, let’s say, faulty. And not merely because there is no evidence of a coordinated strategy. The metaphor is faulty because it doesn’t fit the circumstances. Good cop–bad cop works, when it works, because the options available to a person being held for interrogation are few. Those options, typically, do not include the use of nuclear weapons.