Saturday, March 31, 2018

Who is Saul Chandler?

The New York Times has a strange and compelling story today, “Redemption of a Lost Prodigy,” by Alex Vadukul, about Saul Chandler, a seventy-year-old boat builder who, as Saul Robert Lipshutz, was once a violin prodigy. Both Elaine and I are skeptical about this story. There is indeed a Saul Robert Chandler with addresses in Manhattan and Miami Beach: that makes sense for someone devoted to boats and sailing. And the Times ran a wedding announcement in 1975 with a Saul Robert Chandler who changed his name from Lipshutz. Mr. Chandler née Lipshutz is real.

Elaine’s skepticism is founded on her knowledge of all things musical. She finds details in the account of SRL’s studies improbable. And she finds utterly implausible the dramatic scene in which SC opens his violin case and plays his instrument for the first time in fifty years. Fifty years! The violin’s strings would have unraveled, she says, and the sound post would likely have fallen.

My skepticism is founded on the absence of any record of SRL as prodigy. Vadukul writes that SRL performed in Town Hall and Carnegie Hall before turning eleven, yet the Times archive has no evidence of these performances or of any others. And back then, the Times reviewed everything: in 1956, for instance, performances by the twelve- and then thirteen-year-old violinist Paul Zukofsky at the Juilliard School and Carnegie Hall received lengthy reviews — with photographs, no less. But nothing for SRL.

The Times article includes a photograph of SRL credited to the Paterson Evening News Photo Collection, via the Passaic County Historical Society. The finding aid for that collection lists a candid April 15, 1960 photograph of Saul Lipschutz. But there’s nothing in the Times with that name either.

I did find one bit of evidence for a performing career, an announcement in the Madison News, a New Jersey paper, preserved at

[“Friends of Fairleigh Dickinson Chamber Ensemble will present Bach’s Brandenberg [sic] Concerto No. Five with Saul Lipschutz, New Providence high school student, as violin soloist.” March 28, 1963.]

So there’s every reason to think that SRL played the violin. But we’re a long way from Carnegie Hall. There’s nothing more at that would document the career of a prodigy: nothing for Saul or Saul Robert or Saul R., nothing for Lipshutz or Lipschutz. And though the Times article quotes musicians who remember SRL and speak highly of his playing, none of them describe him as a prodigy.

I don’t know what to make of the Times article. But I’ve begun to wonder about a March 29 tweet by the writer: “Story tease. For Sunday NYT, a story I spent some months on. At times, I felt like I found my Joe Gould.”

Alex Vadukul has to know that Joe Gould was a master fabulist, doesn’t he?


April 1: Elaine has shared her thoughts about this article: What to believe? And I’ve written to the Times.


February 28, 2022: For whatever it’s worth, the Times Archive now returns an article that mentions Saul Robert Lipschutz at Carnegie Hall. From May 10, 1959, ”League Winners Heard in Concert; Two Programs Presented by Music Education Group at Carnegie Recital Hall.” Lipschutz was one of forty-one young musicians divided across two group recitals presented by the Music Education League.

[The New York Times, May 10, 1959.]

Why update? This post, now four years old, still gets visits. And if participation in a group recital is what it means to play Carnegie Hall, the gist of the Times story is still in doubt.

Recently updated

Goodbye to all that The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point is rethinking its plan to destroy study in the humanities.

[“To destroy study in the humanities”: no, that’s not an exaggeration.]

From the Saturday Stumper

A clever clue from the Newsday Saturday Stumper: 3-Down, seven letters, “Training vehicle.” TRICYCL — no, that won’t work. And a clue that taught me something, 61-Across, ten letters, “Designer with feathers.” No spoilers. The answers are in the comments.

Today’s puzzle is by Andrew Bell Lewis. Difficult but doable.

Friday, March 30, 2018

NYT, sheesh

From The New York Times: “Unlike her boss, attention from the news media was never something she sought.”

Related posts
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

FKB pencil sharpener

[James Anderson (Robert Young) installs a necessary household tool. Click for a larger view.]

Face it: if father really knew best, there would have had a pencil sharpener up and running in season one, episode one. This sharpener didn’t make it onto the kitchen wall until the sixth and final season of Father Knows Best. In the episode “Bud, the Willing Worker” (December 7, 1959), Jim installs the sharpener without saying a word about it. Kathy sharpens a pencil in “Turn the Other Cheek” (December 14, 1959), after which the sharpener disappears from the wall where it so briefly had a home.

By the way, it’s National Pencil Day. Start your sharpeners.

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : Flowers knows best : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : Scene-stealing card-file : “Your dinner jacket just arrived” : “A Woman in the House”

Domestic comedy

“It’s like Sex and the City , but without the sex and without the city.”

Related posts
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[“It”: the television series Gidget, whose main character is also a narrator.]

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lost in the city

I was about to see a movie with my friend Luanne and two other people unknown to me. Right before going into the theater, I went out to buy a pack of cigarettes. I walked up to a counter: “A pack of cigarettes,” I said, like someone in a movie. No brand — I was out of practice. The clerk came back with Pall Malls in a white hull-and-slide package. The words “Made with Broham Strings” appeared below the brand name. “How much?” $6.53. I paid with a ten and got my change and two books of matches.

Then I was walking outside, on a campus, looking for a place to smoke and observing several unbranded fast-food joints with all-glass exteriors. A giant with a long white beard and a cape was walking the campus. Everyone stared at him and whispered. And then I was walking in a version of Manhattan, with empty narrow streets at once dark and brightly lit — something like the alley in On the Waterfront where Terry and Edie run from a truck. I knew I was on the Lower East Side, but the street layout was baffling — Avenue A was followed by Second Avenue A. Which way was uptown? Which way was west? I couldn’t tell.

Then I was in a carpeted hallway on the second or third floor of an empty building. A man was carrying furniture up the staircase. I asked if he knew which way was west, but he spoke only Italian. “¿Dónde oeste?” I tried. I got the man to walk with me to a streetcorner in the hope that he could orient me, but once there, he couldn’t.

And then I thought to text Luanne and tell her I’d be really late. “I went out to buy cigarettes and am now being baffled by the Lower East Side,” I wrote, or something like that. I began to walk and reached the intersection of Harvard Avenue, Harvard Street, and Mechanic Street. And there was Luanne, on the other side of one of these streets, about six lanes of traffic away. We needed to get the No. 83 bus, which was parked right there — but it took off and drove right past us. So we went into the theater, which was also a church, where the movie had already ended. It was a good one, Luanne said.

[Sources: Luanne and Jim’s recent trip to the opera. An article about 1950s and ’60s hangouts in my college town. The motto of one such place: “Drop in for Coke and smoke.” A 60 Minutes story about Giannis Antetokounmpo. A TCM showing of On the Waterfront. Thinking about the streets of my Allston, Massachusetts, grad student days. Above all, this passage from W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz. And possibly the crackers and Mahón cheese I had before going to sleep.]

Lost in a city

Austerlitz is lost:

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2001).

The image of a language as a city comes from Ludwig Wittgenstein (whose eyes appear in a photograph earlier in the novel):

Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses.

Philosophical Investigations , trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (New York: Macmillan, 1973).
Also from Austerlitz
Austerlitz on time : Marks on time

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Marks on time

When his family’s house was requisitioned for use as a convalescent home during World War II, James Mallord Ashman hid the doors to the billiard room and nursery behind false walls. When the walls come down, Ashman enters the nursery for the first time in ten years:

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2001).

Also from Austerlitz
Austerlitz on time

[So many things in Austerlitz blur, purposefully so. The novel refers to both a nursery and nurseries. The walls comes down in “the autumn of 1951 or 1952,” when Austerlitz enters “the nursery” for this first time in ten years. Or nine? Or eleven?]

From Beware of Pity

So much depends upon “the so-called ‘chancery double,’” “a folded sheet of prescribed dimensions and format,” “perhaps the most indispensable requisite of the Austrian civil and military administration”:

Stefan Zweig, Beware of Pity, trans. Phyllis and Trevor Blewitt (New York: New York Review Books, 2006).

I would like to know what those “so-called ‘guides’” looked like. They likely bear little resemblance to the present-day shitajiki.

Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

NPR, sheesh

“. . . before expelling the same amount of British diplomats. . . .”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

C. & E.I. pencil

[From the Museum of Supplies.]

Great pencil!

Thanks. Your voice sounds familiar. As do your italics. I mean, your italics look familiar. Are you the same guy who interviewed me about my Illinois Central Railroad pencil?

Look — let me ask the questions, okay?


So what can you tell me about this pencil?

Not much, really. It’s a gift from my friend and colleague John David Moore, who likes all things old. He’s an excellent pianist, and he and Elaine have been playing recitals together for years. He’s also an expert mycologist.

Shall we keep to the pencil?

Sure. John David —

The pencil?

— likes antiques stores and flea markets, so I suspect he found this pencil in one of them. C. & E.I. is the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, which ran from 1877 to 1976, from Chicago to St. Louis, southern Illinois, and Evansville, Indiana.

So you knew that all along and were holding out on me?

No, I had to look it up. But about the pencil. I like the sincerity of its motto: “Friendliness is a C. & E.I. tradition,” a motto that sharpens much better than, say, “Don’t use drugs.” And I like the numero sign before the numeral: № 1. And I like that it’s a № 1 pencil, a nice soft lead for the railroaders as they sit and drink coffee and write in their pocket notebooks.

What a cozy little scene. [Rolls eyes.] Sentimental fellow, aren’t you?

Yes and no. It’s really Elaine who’s the sentimentalist about train travel. You may wish to speak to her. Oh, and thanks, John David.

[This post is the eighteenth in a very occasional series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items. The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. A bit of the dialogue in this post comes from Citizen Kane.]

Other Museum of Supplies exhibits
Dennison’s Gummed Labels No. 27 : Dr. Scat : Eagle Turquoise display case : Eagle Verithin display case : Esterbrook erasers : Faber-Castell Type Cleaner : Fineline erasers : Illinois Central Railroad Pencil : A Mad Men sort of man, sort of : Mongol No. 2 3/8 : Moore Metalhed Tacks : National’s “Fuse-Tex” Skytint : Pedigree Pencil : Pentel Quicker Clicker : Real Thin Leads : Rite-Rite Long Leads : Stanley carpenter’s rule

”Pencil by default”

From I, Daniel Blake (dir. Ken Loach, 2016). Blake (Dave Johns) is a Newcastle carpenter recovering from a heart attack and navigating a bureaucratic maze to attain his Employment and Support Allowance. A clerk tells Blake to complete the necessary paperwork online: “We’re digital by default.”

Blake’s reply: “Well, I'm pencil by default.”

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Solitude and good company

I noticed this unattributed sentence in an advertisement for stationery: “Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.” It’s a Famous Quote.

But it’s not an accurate quotation. The sentence should read: “A letter is in fact the only device for combining solitude and good company.” Its writer: not Lord Byron but Jacques Barzun. Quote Investigator explains it all.

From my dad’s CDs

I’m still making my way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dick Hyman, Harry James, Hank Jones, 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, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Boyd Raeburn, Django Reinhardt, Marcus Roberts, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Rushing, Catherine Russell, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Artie Shaw, George Shearing, Horace Silver, Frank Sinatra, Paul Smith, Jeri Southern, Jo Stafford, and now, Art Tatum.

My favorite Tatum performances are the ones made outside a recording studio. Some appear on God Is in the House (HighNote Records), a collection of 1940–1941 recordings made mostly in Harlem after-hours clubs. (I gave my dad that CD years ago. A friend now has it.) Other informal recordings appear on the more upscale Piano Discoveries, two LPs’ worth of 1950 and 1955 performances from the Beverly Hills home of Ray Heindorf, musical director for Warner Brothers. It’s a joy to hear Tatum joking, deflecting requests, commenting on his host’s piano, and playing like he means it.

My dad had the Discoveries LPs (20th Century Fox) when I was a boy. The CD reissue 20th Century Piano Genius (Verve), now out of print, includes further unreleased material, and ample liner notes in which pianists Hank Jones, Adam Makowicz, and Lou Stein attempt to wrap their heads around Tatum’s genius.

Here, via YouTube, are two (unembeddable) recordings from the Discoveries: “Moon Song” (Arthur Johnston–Sam Coslow) and “Would You Like to Talk a Walk?”/“After You’ve Gone” (Harry Warren–Mort Dixon–Billy Rose/Turner Layton–Henry Creamer). They speak for themselves.

[The 1961 LPs, as seen on the Internets. I recognize the mid-century design from childhood.]

I’m nearing the end of the alphabet. But I’m far from the end of the music: T also stands for Mel Tormé.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie : Duke Ellington : Coleman Hawkins : Billie Holiday : Louis Jordan : Charlie Parker : Jimmy Rushing : Artie Shaw : Frank Sinatra

Sunday, March 25, 2018

YouTube apps for Mac

Two free apps for Mac: 4K YouTube to MP3, for “audio extraction from YouTube, VEVO, SoundCloud, and Facebook in MP3, M4A, OGG.” And 4K Video Downloader, for “downloading videos, playlists, channels and subtitles from YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and other video sites.”

I like the idea of paying for music that’s commercially available. But if it’s, say, Duke Ellington and Paul Gonsalves playing “Happy Reunion” at the University of Wisconsin’s 1972 Ellington festival, I will download. Websites that offer to convert or download YouTube material are often at least mildly sketchy. These apps are a better choice.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

A nice clue from the Newsday Saturday Stumper: 18-Across, nine letters, “Taken a great deal.” INWIDEUSE? No. And no spoilers. The answer is in the comments.

Today’s puzzle is by “Anna Stiga,” or Stan Again, Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor. The pseudonym is meant to signal an easier Saturday. But for me, this puzzle was difficult. Finishing the Saturday Stumper is still cause for minor self-congratulation.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Day jobs

From an essay by Katy Waldman, “Does Having a Day Job Mean Making Better Art?,” a glimpse of Philip Glass at work:

“While working,” Glass recounted to The Guardian in 2001, “I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him that I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish.”

Mailboxes of Seattle

Behold Mailboxes of Seattle, David Peterman’s photographs of Seattle’s 346 — no, make that 347 — mailboxes.

My little town has just ten mailboxes — no, make that eleven, if you count the one that appears on no map but which our carrier has assured us is genuine. We’ve yet to risk it.

Looking at these photographs makes me think of the most important mailbox in my life, one that stood at the bleak semi-industrial intersection of Ashford and Malvern Streets in the Allston neighborhood of Boston. In my first year in Boston, that mailbox was my primary connection to friends back in the Bronx. (Phone calls were expensive.) I’d walk out at night to mail a letter and think about messages in bottles. The loneliness of the long-distance mailbox.

[Via Atlas Obscura. The Allston mailbox still stands, though its surroundings are less bleak, less industrial.]

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Highway nostalgia

Remember the olden days, when the information superhighway allowed a kid working on a school project to interface with world-class scientists for advice? Me too, or neither.

“This was a breach”

From Mark Zuckerberg’s statement about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and user data:

This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.
Anyone else notice the lack of agency in these sentences? Agency is present elsewhere in the statement, sort of: we did x ; we will do y. But at the heart of what happened: “This was a breach of trust,” as if the writer were an outside observer. Moreover, the breach, as Zuckerberg casts it, lies in the transfer of data from Aleksandr Kogan to Cambridge Analytica and in CA’s possible failure to delete that data — not in Facebook’s treatment of its users. Imagine facing anyone you’ve wronged and announcing “This was a breach of trust.” Then imagine the response you might get.

Notice too the way Zuckerberg disavows agency by assigning responsibility to Facebook’s users and to the mysterious workings of Facebook itself:
In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends' data. Given the way our platform worked at the time this meant Kogan was able to access tens of millions of their friends’ data.
You installed the app; you shared data: as the song says, don’t blame me. It’s just the way things happened, “given the way our platform worked at the time.” Not “given the way we designed Facebook, to scrape and sell your data, because that’s how we make money.”

Now I almost wish I had a Facebook account, just so I could have the satisfaction of deleting it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Goodbye to all that

The Washington Post reports on a plan to drop thirteen majors at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. The majors in question: American studies, art, English (without teacher-certification), French, geography, geoscience, German, history, music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology, and Spanish:

Students and faculty members have reacted with surprise and concern to the news, which is being portrayed by the school’s administration as a path to regain enrollment and provide new opportunities to students. Critics see something else: a waning commitment to liberal arts education and a chance to lay off faculty under new rules that weakened tenure.

The plan to cut the liberal arts and humanities majors . . . is in line with a failed attempt by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 to secretly change the mission of the respected university system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”
To be added or expanded: majors with what the school calls “clear career pathways,” including captive wildlife and fire science.

Thanks to Slywy for passing on this news.


March 31: From The Washington Post: “Facing backlash from students, faculty and alumni over a plan to drop thirteen liberal arts majors, leaders of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point have directed a campus committee to draw up an alternative.” The article reprints a letter from a distinguished graduate who has decided not to leave a portion of his estate to the school:
I began attending UW-SP upon my return from service as an infantryman in Vietnam, back when it was still called WSU-Stevens Point. I was troubled and confused by the war and the politics of the time. The knowledge I gained majoring in philosophy, sociology and political science, departments all scheduled for destruction, allowed me to find perspective. The knowledge and critical thinking skills I learned in the liberal arts aided me in a long and rewarding career helping veterans throughout our state. I’m horrified that you’ve joined the anti-intellectual crowd that currently holds sway in our country.
Three related posts
“A fully realized adult person” : The gold standard, haircuts, and everyone else : Philosophers and welders

[Revised to make clear that while some majors are slated for removal, others are to be added.]

How to improve writing (no. 74)

From a New Yorker review of a memoir by Andrew Lloyd Webber:

Could we, terrible thought, have been unfair to Andrew Lloyd Webber? The answer turns out, on inspection, to be a complicated and qualified Yes. Certainly, no artist as hugely successful as he has been can have struck a chord without owning a piece of his time.
I’ve stared at these sentences to figure out why they bug me. The we is not as pompous as it might seem: the word refers to “American lovers of musical theatre who blame Andrew Lloyd Webber for pretty much everything that went wrong on its stages, starting in the early seventies.” But there’s the breathless “terrible thought,” the meaningless “on inspection,” the amplified “Yes,” and the final sentence, with its hype (“hugely successful”), awkward pun (“struck a chord”), and piled-up verbs (“has been can have struck”). I thought of a number of ways to revise that sentence:
An artist as successful as Lloyd Webber owns a piece of his time.

An artist as successful as Lloyd Webber is an integral part of his time.

An artist as successful as Lloyd Webber has made his mark on our time.
But I gave up, agreeing with Elaine that the sentence is nothing more than a truism: anyone who’s successful and famous is successful and famous. My revision:
Could we have been unfair to Andrew Lloyd Webber? The answer turns out to be a complicated and qualified yes.
Related reading
All OCA “How to improve writing” posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 74 in a series, dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Impromptu in D

Fresca suggested a Lassie story in which a little boy named Donny visits the Martins. I can’t go there. But I did suggest that if Donny were to visit the Martins, he might be gored by a boar, gored real bad. So bad that he’d turn into Jake Barnes. John Barron, John Miller, David Dennison: what’s one more name? Imagine this scene:

“Oh, Jake,” Peggy said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”

Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. Was that supposed to mean something? The car slowed suddenly pressing Peggy against me.

“Yes,” I said. “Sad!”
Lassie stories
“The ’Clipse” : “The Poet” : “Bon Appétit!” : “On the Road”

[Jakes Barnes: from The Sun Also Rises. John Barron, et al.: Trump pseudonyms. Peggy: Peterson.]

Recently updated

Mozy, sketchy The e-mail is real.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mozy, sketchy

[Update: It’s real.]

Here’s the text of an e-mail I received this morning, purporting to be from the (excellent) backup service Mozy:

This message looks sketchy to me: no greeting, no signature, no contact information. The tech jargon reads as if its purpose is to baffle. There’s significant inconsistency: upgrade, update. And the strange underlining in that ominous final sentence: “Please accept the update request when it occurs.” Even the period is underlined.

This stern, cryptic message makes quite a contrast to Mozy’s shiny, cheerful newsletter-like e-mails to users. Here’s an excerpt from one such e-mail, one I received this morning, twenty minutes before the upgrade e-mail:

I can think of two ways to explain the upgrade e-mail:

1. It’s bogus.

Yet the e-mail appears to come from a genuine Mozy address. So:

2. It’s genuine, written by a tech-minded employee who wasn’t thinking about how the message might look to a lay reader.

At Mozy’s user forum, the authenticity of the upgrade e-mail has been an open question for eleven hours. How about it, Mozy? Will you tell your users whether this e-mail is real? And if it is, will you do better?


March 21: I went to Mozy chat support and found the answer: it’s real. Still no answer on the forum, but I suspect that will change soon.

Later that same day: Still no answer on the forum. Something I hadn’t realized: some users assume that the underlined sentence is a link (it’s not), which deepens their suspicion that the e-mail is bogus.

Thoreau pencil

From an auction to benefit the Thoreau Society and Thoreau Farm Trust: a “genuine Thoreau pencil.” Current bid: $250.

Cambridge Analytica, continued

Channel 4 News continues its report on Cambridge Analytica. Today, the company’s work with a recent presidential campaign.

“On the Road”

Here is a fourth (and probably final) piece of Lassie fan-fiction. You can click on each image for a slightly larger page. Enjoy.

Related reading
All OCA Lassie and Route 66 posts (Pinboard)

Four more Lassie stories
“The ’Clipse” : “The Poet” (with Robert Frost) : “Bon Appétit!” (with Julia Child) : “The Case of the Purloined Prairie” (with Perry Mason and friends)

[The lines that Buz recites are from sonnet 18: “Kiss me, rekiss me, & kiss me again: / Give me one of your most delicious kisses, / A kiss in excess of my fondest wishes: / I’ll repay you four, more scalding than you spend.” From Louise Labé, Love Sonnets and Elegies, trans. Richard Sieburth (New York: New York Review Books, 2014). Paul Martin recites Exodus 22:21 (KJV). The Timmy and Buz backstories will be familiar to fans of Lassie and Route 66. This story has a few treats for anyone who’s read my other Lassie stories.]

Monday, March 19, 2018

Steroids and stilts

“Trump is Nixon on steroids and stilts”: John Dean (who should know) on CNN just now.

[Meaning: Trump has gone well beyond Nixon in obstructing justice. I realized only this morning why this remark caught my ear: alliteration and zeugma.]

Channel 4 News
and Cambridge Analytica

From Channel 4 News, a three-part series about Cambridge Analytica: first, about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook; second, about Cambridge Analytica’s claims to use bribes and sex workers to entrap political candidates. Part three, about the company’s doings in the United States, arrives tomorrow.


Part three, about the company’s work with a recent presidential campaign.

“Facebook’s Surveillance Machine”

In The New York Times, Zeynep Tufekci writes about “Facebook’s Surveillance Machine”:

Facebook doesn’t just record every click and “like” on the site. It also collects browsing histories. It also purchases “external” data like financial information about users (though European nations have some regulations that block some of this). Facebook recently announced its intent to merge “offline” data — things you do in the physical world, such as making purchases in a brick-and-mortar store — with its vast online databases.

Facebook even creates “shadow profiles” of nonusers. That is, even if you are not on Facebook, the company may well have compiled a profile of you, inferred from data provided by your friends or from other data. This is an involuntary dossier from which you cannot opt out in the United States. . . .

A business model based on vast data surveillance and charging clients to opaquely target users based on this kind of extensive profiling will inevitably be misused.
I’d like to say that I’ve never been happier not to be part of Facebook, but there’s probably a shadow profile of me somewhere, lengthening.

Branching out

From the Father Knows Best episode “Bud Branches Out” (October 12, 1959), father Jim Anderson speaking to his son Bud, a college freshman:

“I still say you ought to branch out more in the courses than you’re planning to. I know you’re taking a pre-engineering course, but remember, the successful engineer today also needs to know languages, economics, philosophy, the humanities.”
These days Jim’s advice sounds almost counter-cultural.

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : Flowers knows best : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : “A Woman in the House” : “Your dinner jacket just arrived”

Mystery actor

Who can it be now? Do you recognize him? Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if necessary. But I don’t think it will be.

10:08 a.m.: That was fast. The answer is in the comments.

More mystery actors (Why not collect them all?)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Trappist survival

The New York Times reports on Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery struggling to survive. Aging monks, dwindling numbers, and a plan to attract month- and year-long affiliate members.

I remember watching a PBS documentary about Mepkin some years ago, when the abbey appeared to be flourishing.

The New York Review of Nancy

At The New York Review of Books website, Dash Shaw reviews Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden’s How to Read “Nancy.” I like the idea of Ernie Bushmiller’s comic strip, written for a readership he called “the gum chewers,” becoming the stuff of TNYRB. And I like this observation from the review:

Beautiful cartooning affects a comic the way a well-chosen word, arriving at the right time in a sentence, makes for good writing, or the way a room composed with the right combination of things in the exact right places is good interior design.
Thanks to Chris at Dreamers Rise for pointing me to this review.

From How to Read Nancy
Bushmiller, Strunk, and Wilde : Editing balloons : Nancy, spokestoon

Saturday, March 17, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

I was surprised to see Willa Cather in today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, 57-Down, three letters: “Religion and art, per Cather.” I’ll give away the answer: KIN. From Cather’s essay “Escapism,” published in Commonweal (1936):

Religion and art spring from the same root and are close kin. Economics and art are strangers.
My first guess: ONE. I was thinking of what Godfrey St. Peter tells his students in The Professor’s House (1925):
“Art and religion (they are the same thing, in the end, of course) have given man the only happiness he has ever had.”
Of course that’s St. Peter speaking, not Cather.

Finishing the Saturday Stumper is still cause for minor self-congratulation. And by the way: if you haven’t read The Professor’s House, you’re missing one of the great American novels.

Euphemisms of the NYT

In The New York Times yesterday:

“I’m not necessarily encouraging people to swear more,” Byrne writes, “but I do hope you might give it the respect it [expletive] deserves.”
In The New York Times today:
“My stuff,” he said (though he didn’t say “stuff”), “doesn’t work in the playoffs.”
It’d be nice if the Times could get its stuff together and figure out how to handle naughty words. The use of [expletive] is straightforwardly prim. I can’t object. But putting a word in quotation marks when it’s not what was spoken or written seems to me wildly inappropriate.

In previous posts, I’ve written about the Times sanitizing quotations from Philip Larkin and David Foster Wallace.

A text for the day

Marianne Moore, from the poem “Spenser’s Ireland” (1941).

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

[This line appears in at least one version of the poem. Moore was an inveterate reviser.]

Friday, March 16, 2018

Illinois in the NYT

In The New York Times, Julie Bosman reports on candidates in the Illinois governor’s race. It’s a disappointing article, in several ways. The article makes no mention of the state budget crisis being a manufactured crisis, nor does it address the profound problems that have followed (such as the decline of public higher education). Though Daniel Biss appears to lead Chris Kennedy in the Democratic primary race, Biss gets a mere namecheck. And thus the Times casts the Democratic primary as a contest between just two viable candidates, Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker, a millionaire and a billionaire.

Those who don’t follow Illinois politics should be aware that the Times article omits reference to the ugliest elements in a wiretapped 2008 conversation between then-governor Rod Blagojevich and Pritzker. What the article includes is ugly enough, but it’s far from the whole story. You can listen to excerpts from the conversation and decide for yourself.

My take: the last thing we need in Illinois politics is another billionaire running for governor. But if Pritzker gets the Democratic nomination, I have a campaign slogan that I’m prepared to donate: “A Billionaire for the Rest of Us.” All I will ask in return (because it’s Illinois, so I should get something in return) is that the Pritzker campaign stop calling our house and sending campaign literature.

An inverted B

Resistance takes many forms: “The Rebel ‘B’” (Print). More here and here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Down and up

“I’m down to the bottom of my sound, but I’m up to the clearest understanding of my life”: the singer Sylvia Syms, at the age of seventy-four, a month before her death. Syms is quoted in the liner notes to a CD reissue of her 1959 LP Torch Song.

Here’s a performance of “Skylark” (Hoagy Carmichael–Johnny Mercer) from late in Syms’s life. And here, a whole step higher, is a “Skylark” from earlier years. Syms died on May 10, 1992, while receiving a standing ovation after a performance in the Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room.

The horror of the news these days makes me especially susceptible to the beauty of music. I can’t hear these performances without tearing up. How about you?

Crispix Corridor

[Zippy, March 15, 2018.]

Today’s Zippy is a treat for anyone who loves the metropolitan dowdy world. Seen on Crispix Corridor, Dingburg’s Main Street, in this one panel, roughly clockwise: signage for Sluggo’s Gym, Town Rug (?), Topknots, 2-Ton Donuts, Z Man, Little Debbie Lodge, Laundro World, Invisible Ink, and Pizza (?) Diner. The other signs in this panel are too small for me to decipher. Elsewhere in today’s strip: signage for Vat of Valvoline, Super Hero Treatment Center, Baby Huey Supplies, Bulbous, Hostess, Pop Rox, Bleach, Toy Trumpets, Toads, Dan Duryea Film Festival, 24 Hour Bowling (All Faiths), X-Treme Ironing Center, House of God, Sen-Sen, Beatniks 4 Rent, Hotel Poindexter, House of Mirrors, Snobbery, Ambiguity, T-Square, Sartre, 2-Tone Shoes, Hard to Read Signs Inc., and several more hard-to-read signs.

I have an abiding daydream of stumbling onto some forgotten midwestern Main Street, with bookshop, music shop, luncheonette, stationery store, all flourishing. Perhaps even a policeman at a crosswalk — because there are so many pedestrians.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : The dowdy world goes shopping (Main Street, Hackensack, New Jersey)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I was watching a play with two friends — a big acclaimed Broadway drama. And a jaded urbanite one row in front of us semi-whispered to his companion: “I can’t believe anyone is taking this seriously.” And just like that, he gave us permission not to.

[Sounds like a dream, but it happened, years ago. I’m not sure what made me think of it now.]

An utterance from another world

From the Father Knows Best episode “Bud, the Campus Romeo” (February 2, 1959), father Jim Anderson speaking to high-schooler son Bud:

“Your dinner jacket just arrived from the cleaners.”

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : Flowers knows best : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : “A Woman in the House”

[Dinner jackets aside, Father Knows Best is far, far better than received opinion might suggest.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A film about Joe Brainard

I Remember is a short film by Matt Wolf about the artist and writer Joe Brainard. Photographs, home movies, and period footage, with Ron Padgett’s recollections of his friend and collaborator, and Brainard reading from his I Remember. Watch online for $1 (or more).

Related posts
Good advice on looking at art : “I remember” : I remember Pete Seeger : I remember Sgt. Pepper : I remember Thanksgiving

[The thing about “I remember”: everyone can play.]

Thomas Merton photographs

Photographs by Thomas Merton, on display in New York, through April 13: “I Am Myself As I Exist in the World.”

Related reading
All OCA Thomas Merton posts (Pinboard)

[You don’t have to be a theist to love Thomas Merton. Or at least I don’t.]

“Telephone Inside”

[Henry, March 13, 2018.]

Between these two panels, Henry has held open the door and raced ahead to the booth. Thus he is both little gentleman and young lout.

It’s not clear though where he and the lady are. A candy store? A luncheonette? It must be in the dowdy world, not the future, because the telephone booth still has a telephone. Or, less formally, a ’phone.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ethel Stein (1917–2018)

The weaver and sometime-puppetmaker Ethel Stein has died at the age of 100. From the New York Times obituary:

Working largely out of the artistic limelight at her home in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., Ms. Stein resurrected historical weaving techniques and merged them with 20th-century Bauhaus design sensibilities.
You’ll have to click through to learn about the puppets.

In 2014 I was fortunate to see Ethel Stein’s work at the Art Institute of Chicago. I liked it so much that I wrote her a letter:
Dear Ms. Stein,

I know next to nothing about weaving, although I greatly admire the metis, cunning, of Homer’s Penelope. But I was delighted and moved by the exhibit of your work in the Art Institute of Chicago. Your sense of color and form and your wit are just wonderful to see. The short film that plays in one room of the exhibit left me amazed at the many kinds of skill and attention that go into your art.

I don’t know how many visitors to the exhibit have noticed your address, which is visible on a letter in a photograph of your bulletin board. But I did. And I look forward to revisiting your work at the Art Institute.
Here is the short film that was playing.

“Old timers”

Stationery items of the past included sealing wax, “discontinued in favor of the modern gumming which fastens envelopes much more effectively and rapidly.” And:

Other “old timers” most of which are now past history are Stoake’s automatic shading pens — Brigg’s glass linen marking pens — Rubber marking pens — Clark’s indelible pencil, retailing at 25¢ — Livingston’s and Clark’s indelible ink — Holman’s ink powders — Porcupine quill, oblique and jumbo penholders — Rubber penholders, Nos. 1 to 6, also telescopic pocket rubber penholders — The old No. 41 school “accommodation” steel tip, fluted handle penholders which jobbed for 30¢ per gross. Pastille crayons which were packed twelve assorted colors to a box. Hope bonnet board used principally to shape women’s bonnets — Whale bone in splints, measuring from thirty to ninety inches, used for making hoop-skirts and stays — Tracing wheels, a necessary article used in dressmaking — Perforated board in assorted colors, also in silver and gold with muslin backs. Perforated white, silver and gold board mottoes used for embroidering with colored yarns, “What Is Home Without A Mother,” “God Bless Our Home,” “The Lord Will Provide” being three of the standards. Marriage certificates in beautiful lithographed designs — Reward or merit cards for schools. Transparent slates — Round and square wooden pencil boxes in carved and colored patterns — Heckman’s hemp school bags — Miller’s, Watson’s and Holbrook’s were the names of three popular book clamps, used to carry school books. Traveling was slow during the winter months, requiring travelers to carry shawls for warmth, which created a big demand for the Automatic shawl strap, a popular item in its day — Lunch baskets were used generally — Wood splints used by schools in primary classes — Rattans, the teacher’s “discipline rod,” an effective character “builder” of early days.

Larger book and stationery stores sold globes, maps and revolving book cases, which were on the market before the sectional book cases made their appearance. Book shelves were also in demand; wire dictionary stands, old No. 19 being very popular.

Paul J. Wielandy, The Romance of an Industry: A Retrospective Review of the Book and Stationery Business, with Brief Biographical Sketches of Those More Prominently Identified with Its History. St. Louis: Press of Blackwell Wielandy, 1933.
Paul J. Wielandy (1864–1953) began working as a traveling stationery salesman in 1884. He later co-founded Blackwell Wielandy, a St. Louis stationery and book company. Thanks to Sean at Blackwing Pages and Contrapuntalism for sharing news of this book, still available from a small number of libraries. And thanks, Interlibrary Loan.

As you may have guessed, searching Google Books will turn up many of these stationery items.

[Old No. 19, as advertised in The Publishers’ Trade List Annual (1905).]

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The return of the phone booth, sort of

The New York Times reports on the return of the phone booth, sort of — phone-booth-like structures that afford privacy in open-floor workplaces.

Perhaps someone, someday, will come up with the novel idea to have employees work in ones or twos in small rooms with doors — and then it’ll really be the world of tomorrow.

Dowd, Waters, and Walker

Maureen Dowd, writing in The New York Times about a certain man and woman in the news:

As Muddy Waters famously sang the blues, “They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad; Wednesday’s worse, and Thursday’s also sad.”
Yes, Muddy Waters performed and recorded “Stormy Monday,” or formally, “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad).” Famously? I’m not so sure. But the song was written by T-Bone Walker. It was Walker’s signature song. Does Dowd know that? At any rate, T-Bone Walker should be credited here. Crediting Muddy Waters is a bit like crediting Peter, Paul and Mary — or anyone other than Bob Dylan — for “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

On a related note: I’ve always heard the lyric as “Thursday’s all so sad.” In an NPR segment about the song, with B.B. King, Duke Robillard, and Bernita Ruth Walker, the transcription reads “also.” But it sure sounds to me like Walker’s daughter is saying “all so.”

Saturday, March 10, 2018

From the Saturday Stumper

A nice clue from today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, 1-Down, seven letters: “Cords and such.” And one more: 56-Across, four letters: “Cream alternative.” No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

When I made a first Saturday Stumper post, I wasn’t planning on many more. But I now have a streak of seventeen Saturdays. What makes today’s puzzle and most Saturday Stumpers so difficult: clues that lead in many directions at once. For 56-Across, for instance, I thought of another power trio: RUSH? No.

Friday, March 9, 2018


If David Brooks’s most recent New York Times column were a student paper to be graded, I’d be tempted to write, repeatedly, in the margins: WHAT ?

Brooks is trying to exercise empathy, to understand “student mobbists,” as he calls them, though his condescending choice of the word “mobbists” suggests that he’s bound to fail. He acknowledges that he grew up in a different time from today’s college students — in the 1980s, when, he says,

we all wanted basically the same things. For example, though America was plagued by economic divides we all wanted a society in which social mobility and equal opportunity were the rule. Though America is plagued by racism, we all wanted more integration and less bigotry, a place where talent and character mattered more than skin color and prejudice.
Yes, the 1980s, when everyone wanted (basically) the same things. Really? Brooks might read, as a start, a 2017 Washington Post article: “How the Reagan administration stoked fears of anti-white racism”:
More than any other modern U.S. president, it was Ronald Reagan who cultivated the concept of so-called reverse discrimination, which emerged in the 1970s as a backlash against affirmative action in public schooling as court-ordered busing grew throughout the country.
In the 1980s, Brooks says, “sophisticated people” saw themselves as “mistake theorists,” who “believe that the world is complicated and most of our troubles are caused by error and incompetence, not by malice or evil intent.” But discrimination against people of color, against women, against LGBQT people, in education, employment, housing, suffrage, then or now, cannot be explained as a matter of “error and incompetence,” as if it’s the result of hiring careless help. Brooks might consider, say, Martin Luther King Jr.’s call not for fewer errors and greater competence (a technocrat’s solution) but for “a true revolution of values.”

And consider Brooks’s account of how thinking about color has changed:
The idea for decades was that racial justice would come when we reduced individual bigotry — the goal was colorblind individualism. . . .

Now the crucial barriers to racial justice are seen not just as individual, but as structural economic structures, the incarceration crisis, the breakdown of family structure. . . .

Progress is less about understanding and liking each other and more about smashing structures that others defend.
But was there ever a time when the barriers to racial justice were not understood as structural ones? Was there ever a civil-rights movement that was not determined the dismantle the structures that enforced segregation and inequality? Brooks’s model of racial justice as a matter of “liking each other” reminds me of a familiar self-exoneration: “I’m not prejudiced. I treat everyone the same.” Yes, perhaps you do, but you do so having benefited mightily from systemic inequalities. “Liking each other” is not enough. King again: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

I share, to some extent, Brooks’s wariness about chants and groupthink and the equating of an individual mind with one or more cultural categories. But his picture of recent American history is ludicrously misleading and shamelessly self-serving. What is this guy doing in The New York Times? WHAT ?

A related post
David Brooks and SNOOTs

[“Structural economic structures”: I think the Times needs to add a colon after structural. The King passages are from “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”, April 4, 1967.]

Oui yogurt

It’s worth buying a four-pack of Yoplait Oui yogurt just for the little glass jars. Remove the label, scrape the glue from the rim, and you have a lovely five-ounce cup. Perfect for holding cream or milk. Perfect for holding hot water to pour over instant oatmeal. Perfect for holding a couple of ounces of whiskey while the news plays. Perfect for holding a couple of ounces of paper clips, because it is a little early for whiskey, or whisky.


June 6, 2018: And perfect for making Vietnamese coffee.

A related post
A repurposed tea tin

[Now with a better photograph. When I took an earlier one, I thought, “That’s the best I can do.” And then I realized that I could do better.]

Separated at birth

[Ernie Bushmiller, cartoonist; Red Rodney, musician.]

The forehead, the hair: I can’t unsee the resemblance. And Bushmiller, too, was a redhead, at least in his early years.

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 : Don Lake and Andrew Tombes : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Jean Renoir and Steve Wozniak : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

Thursday, March 8, 2018

All the news that’s print

Farhad Manjoo:

Getting news only from print newspapers may be extreme and probably not for everyone. But the experiment taught me several lessons about the pitfalls of digital news and how to avoid them.
Those lessons, summarized in the Michael Pollan manner: “Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social.”

Domestic comedy

[Reading the Nutrition Facts.]

“The Chessmen are twice as healthy as the Milanos.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The best and the brightest

How did Peter Navarro make it to the White House? As reported in Vanity Fair in April 2017, Jared Kushner was at work, sort of:

At one point during the campaign, when Trump wanted to speak more substantively about China, he gave Kushner a summary of his views and then asked him to do some research. Kushner simply went on Amazon, where he was struck by the title of one book, Death by China, co-authored by Peter Navarro. He cold-called Navarro, a well-known trade-deficit hawk, who agreed to join the team as an economic adviser. (When he joined, Navarro was in fact the campaign’s only economic adviser.)
The Washington Post revived this bit yesterday.

[“Simply went on Amazon”? I’d quibble with simply, but Jared Kushner does seem simple. The alarmist red is mine.]

“It’s Automatic”

[Zippy, March 7, 2018.]

Today’s Zippy, “It’s Automatic,” channels a postcard explanation of what to do in a Horn & Hardart Automat. In 2017 Zippy himself was patronizing an Automat.

I have a dim memory of sitting in an Automat with my friend Aldo Carrasco, sometime in the early 1980s, having cake and coffee. Or pie and coffee. Or something. The Automat felt as depressing as hell. I don’t think I knew enough then to appreciate the place.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : Automat beverage section : New York, 1964: Automat : One more Automat

Russia and Rex

The March 12 issue of The New Yorker arrived in our mailbox yesterday. About a fifth of this issue’s pages are devoted to Jane Mayer’s article “Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier.” One stunning excerpt:

One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy — and an incoming President.

As fantastical as the memo sounds, subsequent events could be said to support it. In a humiliating public spectacle, Trump dangled the post before Romney until early December, then rejected him. There are plenty of domestic political reasons that Trump may have turned against Romney. Trump loyalists, for instance, noted Romney’s public opposition to Trump during the campaign. Roger Stone, the longtime Trump aide, has suggested that Trump was vengefully tormenting Romney, and had never seriously considered him. (Romney declined to comment. The White House said that he was never a first choice for the role and declined to comment about any communications that the Trump team may have had with Russia on the subject.) In any case, on December 13, 2016, Trump gave Rex Tillerson, the C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, the job. The choice was a surprise to most, and a happy one in Moscow, because Tillerson’s business ties with the Kremlin were long-standing and warm. (In 2011, he brokered a historic partnership between ExxonMobil and Rosneft.) After the election, Congress imposed additional sanctions on Russia, in retaliation for its interference, but Trump and Tillerson have resisted enacting them.
In the news yesterday (I know it was in there somewhere): sanctions are supposed to be coming soon. “In the next several weeks,” according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Check’s in the mail.

[And now I wonder if Sam Nunberg’s media tour was timed to deflect attention from Mayer’s article. A search of the CNN website suggests that the network has left the article untouched. Mayer has appeared on two MSNBC shows, Morning Joe and The Rachel Maddow Show.]

“Black as a giant tortoise”

Stefan Zweig, Beware of Pity, trans. Phyllis and Trevor Blewitt (New York: New York Review Books, 2006).

Stormy weather, yes, with no scandal-related pun intended. Zweig’s fiction is so often the stuff of a great black-and-white film.

Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Walking, not a sport

“Walking is not a sport. Putting one foot in front of the other is child’s play”: Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking, trans. John Howe (London: Verso, 2014).

I like the spirit of this book. But there’s considerable repetition, and too many abstractions and unsupported assertions. After all, walking, for some people, is a sport, and for others, it’s impossible or nearly so. The translation is often ungainly: “One can plunder the streets delicately like that for ages.” This book is best borrowed from a library. The library is best reached on foot.

Mystery actor

Do you recognize her? Leave your best guess as a comment, and enter as often as you like. I’ll drop a hint if necessary.


A hint, before I go for a walk: This actor is best known for a role in a television series.


Another hint: the role involved a struggle with the bottle, or with a bottle.


Solved! The answer is in the comments.

More mystery actors
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Sam Nunberg Day

It appears that March 5 has been designated Sam Nunberg Day.

All I know is that if you’re serious about ducking a subpoena, you slip out of the country, quiet-like. Today’s mediafest is a stunt, meant, I think, to let Nunberg’s “mentor” Roger Stone know that his mentee will not betray him.


A better guess, maybe: Nunberg is presenting himself as an inherently unreliable witness. I’m not crooked enough to understand how these people think.


The Washington Post offers four theories.


Another thought: a Stone prank to discredit CNN and MSNBC.

[Sam who? The Ballotpedia biography is much more helpful than Wikipedia.]

Sinatra’s last performance

Here, in audio only, is Frank Sinatra’s last performance, from the Palm Desert Marriott Ballroom, Palm Desert, California, February 25, 1995. The occasion: a short performance for the closing of the Frank Sinatra Golf Tournament. Six songs: “I've Got The World On A String” (Harold Arlen–Ted Koehler), “You Make Me Feel So Young” (Josef Myrow–Mack Gordon), “Fly Me To The Moon” (Bart Howard), “Where or When” (Richard Rodgers–Lorenz Hart), “My Kind Of Town” (Jimmy Van Heusen–Sammy Cahn), and “The Best Is Yet To Come” (Cy Coleman–Carolyn Leigh). Sinatra is no doubt reading lyrics from teleprompters throughout. The orchestra is led by his son, Frank Jr.

My favorite moments:

~ in “I've Got The World On A String,” the choice Sinatra word marvelous (with mid-Atlantic prounciation) substituting for beautiful
~ the second chorus of “You Make Me Feel So Young”
~ the mid-Atlantic pronunciation of worship in “Fly to the Moon”
~ all of “Where or When,” with a singer sounding decades younger
~ all of “The Best Is Yet to Come”

That last song here sounds to me like the best of the six. The start is not promising — Sinatra asks “Who wrote this?” and misses his entrance. His pianist, Bill Miller, covers perfectly. I love the “aah” at 21:08 and the way Sinatra softens his voice in the final bars, before shifting to a growl. As in “Where or When,” he sounds like a much younger singer.

According to Jonathan Schwartz’s eyewitness account, “And Now the End is Near” (Esquire, May 1995), Sinatra was supposed to sing just the first four songs, a short set put together by Frank Jr. Thank goodness that the impromptu additions did not include “My Way” or “New York, New York.”

Years later, on his radio show, Schwartz said that he had asked an Esquire editor if the magazine would be interested in an article about what would be Sinatra’s last performance. How did Schwartz know it would be the last? “Trust me on this,” Schwartz told the editor. The event drew no other notice from the press.

Frank Sinatra died in 1998. On his gravestone: “The Best Is Yet to Come.”


At some point both recordings disappeared from YouTube. The link to Jonathan Schwartz’s radio show had Schwartz‘s account of the performance and just one song, “The Best Is Yet to Come.”


July 31, 2020: The performance is back on YouTube, this time with video. Get it before it’s gone. That one’s gone. But here it is again.