Sunday, September 30, 2018

Domestic comedy

“I want to try the Glenlivet and the Glenmorangie together to decide which to buy more of.”

Glen or Glenda.”

Happy anniversary to my partner in domestic comedy, who thought of the movie title — snap, just like that. Happy anniversary, Elaine.

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is challenging. It begins on a baffling note: 1-Across, four letters, “Mississippi constituents.” It moves on to a couple of giveaways: 5-Across, three letters, “Roller coaster restraint”; 8-Across, six letters, “Leader of the Trojans.” And then it goes back to being difficult.

My favorite clue in today’s puzzle: 33-Across, fifteen letters, “Triple hedge.” When the answer fell into place, I smiled. In second place: 33-Down, eight letters, “Boom alternative.” When that answer fell into place, I smiled again. No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Kavanaugh loses the Jesuits

“For the good of the country and the future credibility of the Supreme Court in a world that is finally learning to take reports of harassment, assault and abuse seriously, it is time to find a nominee whose confirmation will not repudiate that lesson”: the Jesuit magazine America has rescinded its endorsement of Brett Kavanaugh.

“Do you think that Brett Kavanaugh
is telling the truth?”

Watch and listen as two survivors of sexual assault, Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila, confront Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). An excerpt:

Archila: Senator Flake, do you think that Brett Kavanaugh is telling the truth?

Aide: Thank you.

Archila: Do you think that he’s able to hold the pain of this country and repair it? That is the work of justice. The way that justice works is you recognize hurt, you take responsibility for it, and then you begin to repair it. You are allowing someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions, unwilling to hold the harm that he has done to one woman, actually three women, and repair it. You are allowing someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions —

Reporter: Do you want to respond?

Archila: — to sit in the highest court of the country and to have the role of repairing the harm that has been done in this country to many people.

Flake: Thank you.
I’m disgusted. I’ve admired Jeff Flake for some time, especially after listening to This American Life’s 2017 story and 2018 episode about him. Not anymore. As one of the women who confronted him says, “Saying ‘Thank you’ is not an answer.”


And now: “Senate Panel Approves Kavanaugh, but Flake Wants F.B.I. Investigation Before Final Vote” (The New York Times.

[I’ve made small corrections to the Times transcript. The protesters have been identified, and the Times has added their names to the story.]

Purees and spelling lessons

[Zippy, September 28, 2018.]

At first I smiled. Because Talia! (Purees.) And then I thought, “Shouldn’t that be liquify ?” No, it should not. Merriam-Webster calls liquify a variant. But Garner’s Modern English Usage says that “*liquify , which predominated till about 1750, is now considered a misspelling.” Garner gives the liquefyliquify ratio as 8:1.

Comics are not just purees and spelling lessons. I also noticed the wet tray, bottom right. Realism!

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[The asterisk marks an inferior form.]

At the Department of Agriculture

An excerpt from Michael Lewis’s forthcoming book The Fifth Risk. Life at the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

Among other things, the department essentially maintained rural America, and also ensured that the American poor and the elderly did not starve. Much of its work was complicated and technical — and yet for the months between the election and the inauguration, Trump people never turned up to learn about it. Only on inauguration day did they flood into the building, but the people who showed up had no idea why they were there or what they were meant to do. Trump sent, among others, a long-haul truck driver, a telephone company clerk, a gas company meter reader, a country club cabana attendant, a Republican National Committee intern and the owner of a scented candle company. One of the CVs listed the new appointee’s only skill as “a pleasant demeanor.”

All these people had two things in common. They were Trump loyalists. And they knew nothing whatsoever about the job they suddenly found themselves in.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

July 1

A compelling analysis by Philip Bump The Washington Post: “Kavanaugh is pressed on the key July 1 entry in his calendar. But only to a point.” Dammit, why couldn’t a senator have put these pieces together?

I suspect that even if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, the story will be far from over. Someone, somewhere, will figure out the location of the house. Someone, somewhere, will figure out who was living there in 1982. Someone, somewhere, will remember something about what happened on July 1, 1982, or perhaps on some other day.

Three points that
should have been made

1. Contra the assertions of some Republican senators: It’s not a victim’s responsibility to gather and present evidence of a crime. Think about it: If that were a victim’s responsibility, no one could ever be convicted of murder.

2. Contra Brett Kavanaugh’s breezy claims about three witnesses refuting Christine Blasey Ford’s story: For one thing, they weren’t witnesses. Those who would have been downstairs would not have witnessed what was happening. And if Mark Judge was in the room, he was a participant, not a witness.

3. Contra Brett Kavanaugh’s breezy claims that these (non-) witnesses have refuted Christine Blasey Ford’s story: No. Not remembering ≠ refuting. The three people named as present in the house in 1982 all say that they don’t remember the gathering. There is no reason to think that those who would have been downstairs would have any reason to remember it. And there is no reason to expect that Mark Judge would incriminate himself by acknowledging that he was upstairs in a room with Ford and Kavanaugh.

Too many beers

Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, questioning Brett Kavanaugh:

“What do you consider to be too many beers?”

“I don’t know. Uh, you know, we — whatever the chart says. Blood-alcohol chart.”
Exceedingly strange stuff. Kinda seems that Kavanaugh never quite left high school. Kinda seems that he’s an angry drunk, even when sober.

Wishful thinking

I wish that every member of the United States Senate understood civic duty — and courage — as well as Christine Blasey Ford does.

Word of the day: úhtcearu

I learned about this Anglo-Saxon word yesterday while listening to an episode of Word of Mouth. It’s from Mark Forsyth, connoisseur of forgotten and obscure words: úhtcearu. The word means “care that comes in the early morning.” Or as Forsyth says, “lying awake early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep because you’re worried about the day to come.” Or as Leroy Carr sang, “the blues before sunrise.” The word úhtcearu is especially appropriate today.

[The pronunciation seems to go something like this: “oot-kee-arr-oo.” Definition from the Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (1898). Uhtcearu is also the name of a band.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Notebook sighting: Stage Fright

[Stage Fright (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1950). Click either image for a larger view.]

Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich) and Sergeant Mellish (Ballard Berkeley) speak of self-incrimination and stationery supplies:

“So they’ve heard everything I said.”


“And it’s all in that book.”

“All in there, in shorthand.”

“How clever of you.”

The sergeant’s notebook appears to be what might be called a police notebook, top-bound, with an elastic band at the bottom. In the first image, the bottom end of the notebook is facing up. The elastic band is visible next to Mellish’s right thumb. In the second image, Mellish is holding the notebook sideways. The elastic band is on the left.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dead End : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : Kid Glove Killer : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Ministry of Fear : 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 : La roue : Route 66 : The Sopranos : Spellbound : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Time Table : T-Men : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window

EXchange names on screen: VICtoria

[Stage Fright (dir. Alfred Hitchchock, 1950). Click for a larger view.]

London used, at one point, a three-letter, four-number telephone system. Thus VICtoria.

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : 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) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Perry Mason : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Close-reading Brett Kavanaugh

I’m a close reader. In 1998, when Bill Clinton told PBS’s Jim Lehrer that “There is not a sexual relationship,” I immediately asked (out loud), “But was there?” I wish Lehrer had asked the question too.

Reading a transcript of Brett Kavanaugh’s Fox News interview, I’m struck by the careful repetition:

“I had [have?] never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not ever.”

“I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or otherwise.”

“I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone in high school or at any time in my life.”

“I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.”
If Kavanaugh wants to claim (in a way that defies all plausibility) that the acts of which he’s accused were without sexual intent, the denial “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone” becomes a crafty way to dodge the question of whether he did what he’s accused of doing. In other words, “I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.” Someone needs to ask Kavanaugh a different question on Thursday: “Have you ever assaulted anyone?” And another: “Have you ever engaged in horseplay that could have been construed as assault?” I’m calling Dick Durbin’s office tomorrow morning to suggest that Durbin ask exactly those questions.


September 27: An aide told me that he’d pass my questions along to Durbin. After the fact, it’s obvious that Kavanaugh’s answers would have been “No” and “No.” Durbin asked an excellent question of his own: “Judge Kavanaugh, will you support an FBI investigation right now?” Kavanaugh refused to answer the question one way or the other.


October 1: The New York Times reports a 1985 incident in which Kavanaugh is said to have thrown ice in a man’s face. How I wish my senator had asked Kavanaugh, “Have you ever assaulted anyone?”

A related post
Close-reading Herman Cain (“I never sexually harassed anyone”)

[Kavanaugh’s denial of what Deborah Ramirez accuses him of — “I never did any such thing” — is more difficult to parse. In this interview, Kavanaugh says “any such party” twice, and “any such thing” (with reference to Ramirez’s accusation) three times. Is there a subtle difference between “any such party” and “that party,” or between “I never did any such thing” and “I never did that”?]


“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”


Or as the kids type, hahaha. Watch here.

“Not gonna do it”

Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and a new academic satire, The Shakespeare Requirement, in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“At Minnesota we’re supposed to be using Moodle or Canvas or something with our students, and I announce on Day 1: ‘Not gonna do it. If you guys want to know what the assignment is, come to class. I’m going to write it on the chalkboard right here in front of you.’”
A related post
“Such is the future of education” (A passage from Dear Committee Members)

[Alas, the interview is behind a paywall.]


[Devil mask, Kuna, ca. 1910. Conquistador mask, Maya, Santo Tomas Chichicastenango, ca. 1917. Cristiano mask, by Pedro Reyes Juarez, Tiaxcala, Mexico, ca. 1990. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.]

The museum card reads: “In masked dances, twentieth-century descendants of native peoples keep alive the memory of the Spanish invasion and the resistance of their ancestors to conquest.”

Monday, September 24, 2018


Thinking about Brett Kavanaugh and the accusations against him makes me think of my encounters with two plagiarizing students. What can I say? My experiences as a teacher color everything I see.

In the cases I have in mind, plagiarism was blatant — word for word or nearly so — and extensive. In each case, the student denied having plagiarized. One asked for a hearing before a judicial board of faculty and students and then withdrew the request, claiming to no longer have the energy to fight “these baseless accusations.” The other went through with a hearing, bringing along pages of notes (never previously mentioned) that supposedly served as the basis for the plagiarized paper. The notes themselves were carefully plagiarized from the source the student used, with slight differences from the student’s submitted essay. (A lot of work went into constructing those notes.) “I did not do this,” the student said, again and again. The board thought otherwise. They could see otherwise. The episode was painful for everyone, and it almost — almost — made me wish that I could read my students’ work with the careless eye that never notices the small details that signal plagiarism.

Each of these plagiarists appeared to be a model collegian — well-liked, mannerly, a maker of good grades. Neither could acknowledge having plagiarized without calling into question that public self, or facade. So too, I think, with Brett Kavanaugh. If he did what he is accused of doing, he cannot acknowledge it without seeing a facade fall to pieces. I wonder if his 1982 diary is something of the equivalent of my student’s notes.

[About the calendar: I’m suggesting not that it was created after the fact but that it’s a dubious kind of evidence. What hard-partying high-school student would record the times and locations of parties on a calendar? And about those good grades: might plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct have played a part? As a colleague always pointed out, a student plagiarizing in a college class is unlikely to be plagiarizing for the first time.]

Things I learned
on my summer vacation

How is it that Elaine is able to accomplish all she does? “No traffic!”


Ohio’s Old Soul’s Farms has a beautiful logo.


“Uneventful till Thursday” may describe weather.


Brenda Gibson, a civilian Army employee, died on September 11, 2001. A sheet with her name hung from an overpass on Interstate 70.


Norman Corwin’s We Hold These Truths is a 1941 radio drama about the Bill of Rights. Stirring and timely.


Julie’s Diner, same as it ever was: excellent.


“Your Forecast First” is hardly the signature gimmick our local television-news organization would have us believe it is. It’s what one hears on stations owned by Nexstar Broadcast Group.


Brookline, Massachusetts, now has a little shop, Top Drawer, selling stationery, books, bags, and other nifty items. It’s something like CW Pencil Enterprise, minus CW and the preciousness. Top Drawer’s clip-on sunglasses fit my glasses perfectly. But $90? I couldn’t. I bought pencils and a notebook instead.


Sichuan Gourmet is an excellent restaurant, housed in the building that housed Chef Chang when Boston housed Elaine and me. Fresh bamboo shoots in wonder sauce: a wonder. Cheung Du Street BBQ: a fish dish that’s both downhome and otherworldly.


Ben is a great host.


Trouble — the game, that is — is the perfect addition to an already lively evening. The sing-songy cry of “Truhh-bull!” when a player zaps an opponent’s game-piece never grows old.


Kupel’s, the bagel place? It’s pronounced “couples.” There’s even a sign inside with the correct pronunciation.


Allston and Brookline are teeming with bakeries. Business must be rising.


At Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, an exhibition of weapons from around the world made me despair about human priorities. So much artistry in the service of killing.


The Guna, or Kuna, or Cuna, are an indigenous people of Panama and Colombia. Their stick dolls, suar nuchukana, wooden effigies, represent spirits invoked in healing. Neckties and walking sticks sometimes identify the human agents who speak to the spirits. In stick doll language, hat means “brain power.”


Across from Sanders Theatre, excellent food trucks. Captain Marden’s Seafoods sends out the Cod Squad, which makes a superior crab cake sandwich.


Maurice Wertheim, a Harvard alum whose art collection fills a gallery of the Harvard Art Museums, was one astute collector.


With admission tags for two museums on my shirt pocket, I turned into General Admission.


Lyonel Feininger, American artist, haunts me. I see a painting of his in a museum, write down his name, plan to look him up, don’t look him up, then see another painting, upon which the process repeats.


The Harvard Art Museums create small exhibitions to accompany select courses. Having heard, on the way to Boston, a podcast with Stephen Greenblatt talking about Adam and Eve, we lucked into an exhibition tied to a Greenblatt course about A and E and ethical reasoning: Dürer, Blake, Rembrandt, even Diane Arbus’s photograph of senior-citizen nudists in their living room. Disappointing: the podcast we heard hit the points that are likely to arise in just about any competent college-classroom discussion of the story. It was like listening to one of my own classes. Nothing new here, folks. Move along.


John McPhee’s Draft No. 4, new and used, is everywhere. (Stefan, I bought a copy.)


Besitos is a slightly upscale Mexican restaurant just outside Boston. Thank you, Burton.


Besitos features a tableside guacamole preparation. Our waiter cut avocados in two with a dinner knife and popped out the pits as if it were easy — which, for him, it must be.


Calabacitas: yellow squash, zucchini, and other vegetables.


Dinner at Besitos includes a worry doll for each diner. Especially helpful in 2018.


The difference between an Amazon Books store and an authentic bookstore: a real bookstore has many, many, many more books. I’ve been in airport bookstores that are better than the Amazon store we walked through, which resembled a showroom for a limited array of consumer goods. It made me think of the stores where people used to redeem supermarket trading stamps.


Alex Johnson’s book Book Towns: Forty-Five Paradises of the Printed Word — about towns known for bookstores — was for sale in the Amazon Books store. The Amazon Books store must be an irony-free zone.


Andipop: Andean pop music.


Mirella Cesa es La Dueña del Andipop.


Stevdan Stationers has moved from 474 to 473 Sixth Avenue.


Three Lives continues to be our favorite bookstore in New York. I didn’t mind paying list price for Ward Farnsworth’s The Practicing Stoic in a store with a small stack of copies.


“If I didn’t drink profusely, I’d be ripped out. All my boys’d be ripped”: one New York City cop to another.


Staying with my mom was a great adventure in family time. Hospitality galore. Thank you, Mom. And several chances for my mom to see great-granddaughter Talia on FaceTime.


Tibetan spaniels are beyond cute.


Canned rosé from Trader Joe’s: surprisingly not bad.


Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz is real wine: big, dry, spicy. Thank you, Jim and Luanne.


There is no ñ in habanero, which is named for Havana.


Manhattan makes me think of a medieval city — streets filled with beggars, vendors, and clowns — that is, costumed characters. “My lemonade is the best in the city!” The cries of New York.


The Waverly Diner is as great as its neon sign. One step inside — and someone asks how many we are (two). We’re seated immediately. No rush to turn our table. But when I walk up to the cashier to pay, she takes the check from me before the previous customer has begun to sign his receipt. These people mean business.


A Cheeseburger Deluxe remains what it has always been: cheeseburger, fries, coleslaw, pickle, lettuce and tomato. A sacred assembly. But also: two onion rings.


We heard the music from a distance — a marching band? No. As we moved closer, we heard what sounded like a cross between a New Orleans brass band and Indian pop music. A circle of men dancing. A circle of women dancing. Bystanders smiling and clapping and taking pictures. A groom on a white horse, dancing while seated, moving slowly toward a hotel entrance. The bride must have already been in the hotel. A cop told us that streets shut down for short periods all over Manhattan for Indian wedding festivities.

[Notice the dancer on the other side of the horse.]


Back in New Jersey, everyone seemed to already know about Indian weddings.


The Morgan Library exhibition The Magic of Handwriting: The Pedro Corrêa do Lago Collection, now gone, was full of wonders. Bach, Borges, Joyce, Proust. The seven-year-old Victoria (as in Queen) had extraordinary handwriting. So many people didn’t: Napoleon, Rasputin, illegible.


Borges’s printing, as seen on this manuscript page, looks so much like my notes from college, except that Borges had wider spacing, much longer ascenders, and wrote his ts as capitals. And he was Borges.


Cephalophore: a head-carrying saint. St. Firmin, a missionary from Spain, was one. Someone at the Morgan had a good time writing the placard that went with his statue:

St. Firmin persevered in his pious duties despite the inconvenience of decapitation. According to John Chrysostom, an influential late-antique theologian, this particularly dramatic type of miracle was thought to terrify the devil. Artistic renderings of the macabre sanctity of cephalophoric saints, exemplified by this sublimely self-possessed Gothic statue of St. Firmin, were likely intended to scare the hell out of medieval viewers as well.

[St. Firmin Holding His Head. Limestone and paint. Amiens, France, ca. 1225–75.]


E. 41st Street between Fifth and Park is Library Way, with passages from several dozen writers on plaques embedded in the sidewalk. I especially liked seeing Willa Cather, rendered like so:
. . .there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before. . .
. . .there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before. . .
. . .there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before. . .
and so on.


Driving back: midwestern emptiness can be beautiful. I don’t know how to explain the little blue patch.


2277.3 miles : 54.1 MPG : 57 MPH

More things I learned on my summer vacation
2017 : 2016 : 2015 : 2014 : 2013 : 2012 : 2011 : 2010 : 2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

uBlock Origin for Safari

If you’ve updated to Safari 12 for the Mac and are wondering where uBlock Origin has gone: it’s here. This all-purpose blocking extension is free, customizable, and highly effective.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Nancy’s “Olivia Jaimes”

The Washington Post reports that Olivia Jaimes, or “Olivia Jaimes,” the pseudonymous artist who draws the new Nancy, will appear this week at a comics festival in Ohio. She’ll talk and answer questions for a group of about forty people. No cell phones, no recording devices. Says Jaimes, “As always, the right balance between connecting with fans and maintaining personal boundaries is my lodestar.”

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[She said lodestar !]

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dreaming of autumn and fall

[Mutts, September 22, 2018.]

I dreamed last night that I had discovered, in some large reference work, the difference between autumn and fall. It turned out that the words are not synonymous, that they name separate seasons, one of which precedes the other. But which comes first? The answer is now lost to me.

And then I saw today’s Mutts. And then, in Richard Lanham’s Style: An Anti-Textbook (2007): “No synonymity is ever exactly synonymous.”

Precognitive dreaming? Coincidence, I’d say. And a strange kind of fun. I had an earlier experience of such fun after dreaming about teaching King Lear.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Saturday Stumper, by Lester Ruff, was a challenge. It helped to know stuff — “Bart’s first words” (2-Down, nine letters). A known known. Other stuff — “Calvin Coolidge, by birth” (3-Down, nine letters) — known unknowns. O epistemology. For me, the puzzle was solvable only with a good deal of help from crossings.

Four clues that I especially liked: 1-Across, eight letters: “Probationer’s problem, perhaps.” 37-Across, ten letters: “18+ points, to librarians.” 42-Across, eight letters: “Paper that requires reporting.” And 1-Down, nine letters, a blast from TV past: “’90s diet with menu cards.” No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 21, 2018

As our president would write, WOW

Just WOW. From The New York Times:

The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.

Word of the day: panoply

Like myriad and plethora , panoply , Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, is a word I can live without. But gosh, is its origin surprising:

1 a : a full suit of armor
   b : ceremonial attire

2 : something forming a protective covering

3 a : a magnificent or impressive array
   b : a display of all appropriate appurtenances

Panoply comes from the Greek word panoplia, which referred to the full suit of armor worn by hoplites, heavily armed infantry soldiers of ancient Greece. Panoplia is a blend of the prefix pan-, meaning “all,” and hopla, meaning “arms” or “armor.” (As you may have guessed already, hopla is also an ancestor of hoplite.) Panoply entered the English language in the 17th century, and since then it has developed other senses which extend both the “armor” and the “full set” aspects of its original use.
In case you’re wondering: no relation to hoopla.

“Everything was upside-down”

W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, trans. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998).

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

Typography cheatsheet

A typography cheatsheet, from Typewolf.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

MSNBC, sheesh

Heard a few minutes ago: “As the walls close in on multiple fronts . . .”

All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Strunk and White mattering

“Strunk & White was the first text for millions that persuaded reluctant writers that the writing craft was not an act of magic, but the applied use of both rules and tools”: Roy Peter Clark writes about “Why Strunk & White still matters (or matter) (or both).”

In 2009 Geoffrey Pullum’s Chronicle attack renewed my interest in “Strunk & White” — or The Elements of Style, a book I hadn’t thought about for many years. (My response to Pullum is one of the most widely read posts on this blog.) I remain ambivalent about The Elements: I couldn’t imagine using the book (so painfully dated) in a writing class, but I think it has greater value than its detractors allow.

Related reading
All OCA Strunk and White posts (Pinboard)

The Write Stuff

From BBC Radio 4, The Write Stuff, “the radio panel game of literary correctness.” Alas, the show is not a podcast; it plays only on radios and in browsers. If it were a podcast, you would want to listen at a higher speed. Very fast and alarmingly smart.

Thanks to OCA reader Steven for telling me about this show.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Yesterday and Today

To the journalist who found my post about Christine Blasey Ford and asked that I ”help [him] out” with a column he’s writing by providing specific examples of the epithet “that woman”:

As we used to say in elementary school, Do your own homework. Or, Keep your eyes on your own paper. Jeez.

[I imagine that someone who writes for USA Today and other newspapers might think of me as ”some blogger.”]

Weavers and writers

W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, trans. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998).

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

[See also Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House (1925), in which a historian’s manuscripts and a dressmaker’s patterns become “papers.” And in which the historian’s notes are “woven into their proper place in his history.” I made much of these matters in an essay on the novel.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The, that woman

If I hear one more talking head on television speak of Christine Blasey Ford as “the woman” or “that woman,” I will have to say something about it. And now I will. “The woman” or “that woman”— no longer anonymous — has a name, just as Brett Kavanaugh does. Her name is Christine Blasey Ford. Her university webpage identifies her as Christine Blasey. Thus, Dr. Blasey, or Ms. Blasey.

There is more than a touch of misogynist condescension in “the woman” and “that woman.” Remember Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”?

Pocket notebook sighting

[Dead End (dir. William Wyler, 1937. Click for a larger view.]

The neighborhood cop and an ambulance attendant write down the gruesome details of Baby Face Martin’s demise. Good thing they have notebooks.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : Kid Glove Killer : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Ministry of Fear : 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 : A Stranger in Town : Time Table : T-Men : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window

“Clouds of paper”

W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, trans. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998).

The Ashbury family lives a secluded life in a three-story country house at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Ireland. I won’t even try to explain beyond that.

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Megan Garber on “boys will be boys”

At The Atlantic, Megan Garber writes about Brett Kavanaugh and the claim that “boys will be boys.” Two excerpts:

Here is the deeper venality of the boys-being-boys defense: It normalizes. It erases the specific details of Christine Blasey Ford’s stated recollections with the soggy mop of generalized male entitlement. What red-blooded guy, after all, its logic assumes, hasn’t done, in some way, the kinds of things Ford has described? Who, as a younger version of himself, hasn’t gotten stumble-drunk, pinned down a woman, groped her, tried to undress her, and then, when she resisted, held his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams? (“It was drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven,” the Fox News columnist Stephen Miller tweeted, derisively.)


Americans talk a lot, these days, about norms. What will be preserved, in the tumult and chaos of today’s politics; what is worth preserving; what will fall away. Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was already, in the profoundest of ways, a matter of norms: It will determine, almost inevitably, whether the women of America maintain autonomy over their bodies. Here, though, in Christine Blasey Ford’s claim that a young Brett Kavanaugh compromised her autonomy in another way, another norm is being litigated: the way we talk about sexual violence. Whether such violence will be considered an outrage, or simply a sad inevitability. Whether it will be treated as morally intolerable . . . or as something that, boys being boys and men being men, just happens.
I vote for morally intolerable. And I suspected from the start of the hearings that something dark and violent in Kavanaugh’s history might come to light. If Ford is telling the truth (and I believe her account is credible), Kavanaugh is unfit for the Supreme Court — not only because of his actions as a high-school student but because of his denial today.

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger, even more mysterious view.]

Recognize him? Think you do? Leave your best guesses the comments. I’ll drop a hint or two if necessary.

More mystery actors (Collect them all!)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Postage due

[Zippy, September 15, 2018.]

Late, like the mail sometimes.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

How to help

How to help people affected by Hurricane Florence: The New York Times has suggestions. We just donated to the Diaper Bank of North Carolina.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Andrew Bell Lewis, may appear “Knotty, at first” (67-Across, seven letters). But the puzzle turns out to be doable, very. Knotty but nice.

Two clues that I especially like: 19-Across, fourteen letters: “Master of the familiar.” Seeing the answer (is it a giveaway?) got me started. And 40-Across, seven letters, “Dorm room refreshments.” No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Orange Crate Art at fourteen

My blog is fourteen years old today. It’s an awkward age. But nothing is wrong. Everything’s fine. Just leave me alone, okay? Can’t a person have any privacy around here? Jeez!

[Door slams.]

On behalf of my fourteen-year-old, thank you, everyone who’s reading.

Friday, September 14, 2018

On the run in Los Angeles

Frank Enley (Van Heflin) runs down Clay Street as the funicular railway Angels Flight passes overhead. Clay Street no longer exists.

[Act of Violence (dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1949). Click either image for a larger view.]

Then to the 2nd Street Tunnel. Or is it the 3rd Street Tunnel? Only one way to find out. Run, Frank, run.

EXchange names on screen

[Act of Violence (dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1949. Click for a larger view.]

I like the r for residence, even for a fictional residence in fictional Santa Lisa, California.

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) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Perry Mason : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire

Thursday, September 13, 2018

This is your arm on drugs

[Alan Garner, It’s O.K. to Say No to Drugs!, ill. Rick Detorie (New York: TOR Books, 1987.]

That arm! This image is a standing joke in our fambly. I recently rediscovered its source.

Rick Detorie went on to better things: in 1988, he created the comic strip One Big Happy — as in “one big happy family,” not “one big happy arm.”

Ads ’n’ rockets

In the post-millennial Subsidized Time of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, years are named for corporate sponsors: Year of the Whopper, Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad, Year of Glad, &c. Somewhere Wallace is shaking his head: both yes and no.

Related reading
All OCA DFW posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Our favorite granddaughter is eleven months old today. She enjoys pulling tissues from the box (magic!) and polishing things with wipes (floors, toys). She digs music and wants to see that everyone else digs it too. She likes French toast. And she’s one-handed walking. She is on her way to toddlerdom. Yay, Talia!

[Sorry, no photo. We all began to feel skittish about posting photos for all the Internets to see.]

Pluto in the news

Pluto is back: “Pluto is most definitely a planet — and should never have been downgraded, say some scientists” (CNN). Or as Clare and the Reasons sang, “Chin up, Pluto.”

Related reading
All OCA Pluto posts (Pinboard)

[When it comes to Pluto, I am a total third-grader.]

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Theatre of dreams

W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, trans. Michael Hulse (New York: New Directions, 1998).

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

“The Real Lesson of September 11”

Seventeen years ago, staring at that picture of Mohammad Atta, I wanted revenge against the people who killed my brother. But what I finally realized was that the people who killed my brother died the same day he did.
Joe Quinn, a United States Army veteran, writes about “The Real Lesson of September 11” (The New York Times).

Monday, September 10, 2018


The Washington Post explains The Caine Mutiny’s influence on the drafting of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Who knew?

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

Coming in November: Jazz In Detroit / Strat Concert Gallery / 46 Selden, a 5-CD/5-LP set of Charles Mingus performances, recorded in 1973. The announcement may have come too late for the recent New York Times article on unreleased jazz recordings.

And speaking of unreleased recordings, the seven-minute Lionel Hampton-led “Dinah” alone justifies buying The Savory Collection.

[Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus is the title of a 1963 LP.]

Bill Daily (1927–2018)

Astronaut, pilot, neighbor: the actor Bill Daily has died at the age of ninety-one. The New York Times has an obituary.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Recently updated

The Avital Ronell story Now there’s an account from the former chair of the NYU German department.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Is it in fact Saturday? Because today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, is not stumpy. Or would that be stumping? I don’t know. But it’s a highly solvable crossword today, Saturday.

Two clues that I especially like. 22-Across, five letters: “Straight to the left.” And 10-Down, seven letters, “Heavy wind.” No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.


[Zippy, September 8, 2018.]

Little Zippy and Little Wernick are trying to decide whether to admit Little Zerbina, “a lapsed Unitarian,” to their clubhouse.

Do you recognize potrzebie? Explanation here.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Obama in Illinois

Barack Obama, speaking at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this morning, describing the present moment: “It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause.”


And: “It’s not conservative. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical.”

And: “What happened to the Republican Party?”

And: “Better is always worth fighting for.”

And: “Vote.”

Sad to say, I’m not sure there’s anyone in view for 2020 who can make the case against the Republican Party as succinctly and powerfully as Obama is making it this morning.


Here’s a “rush transcript” of Obama’s speech.

[I’m thrilled to see that Obama us speaking in Foellinger Hall, where Rachel and Ben had their graduation ceremonies.]

Remembrance of spam past

Spam used to come from the most improbable and wonderful names, names I collected as the spirit moved me. I just found an old file of spam names and curated — yes, curated — the best ones. Enjoy:

Thaddeus G. Blankenship : Larue Caridad : Son Dawkins (a bluesman-spammer?) : Pearlie G. Dukes : Fortunato (“For the love of God, Montresor!”) : Jesus Goldberg : Rosemarie Ham : Vonda Lamb : Agamemnon Sandra : Benito Shoemaker

With the exception of Fortunato, these names seem to have been made from lists, one from column A, one from column B. Thus Jesus Goldberg. Middle initials may have been meant as a touch of realism, but “Thaddeus G. Blankenship” sounds like someone from a W.C. Fields film.

Related posts
Mr. Berenguer Bolivar Basilio : Smog Q. Carafe and others : Horace Fish, Madge Herring, and others : Coley Georgette and others : Lothario Vanvliet and others

[Ipswich Nordisk might join these names from the past.]

Remembrance of comics past

[Zippy, September 7, 2018.]

Ipswich Nordisk, race-car driver, comes to a realization. I can think of three explanations: 1. Ipswich doesn’t like the Olivia Jaimes version of Nancy. 2. He doesn’t realize that Ernie Bushmiller died in 1982. 3. He longs for what no longer is. No. 3 makes the best sense, in the Zippy world or in ours.

Venn reading
All OCA Nancy posts : Nancy and Zippy posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Bandy Lee, the psychiatrist who edited The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, has revealed that White House officials have been in touch with her about Donald Trump’s mental health:

“Two White House officials actually contacted me in late October, stating that Trump was ‘scaring’ them, that he was ‘unraveling.’ Not wishing to confuse the role I chose, as an educator of the public, and a potential treatment role, I referred them to the local emergency room without inquiring much further.”

Pocket notebook sighting

[Kid Glove Killer (dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1942). Click for a larger view.]

Forensic investigator Gordon McKay (Van Heflin) explains: “It’s my gunpowder bible — it’s got everything from firecrackers to 2,000-pound aerial bombs for the B-17s and who makes them.” The six rings are a mark of true dowdiness.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Ministry of Fear : 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 : La roue : Route 66 : The Sopranos : Spellbound : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Time Table : T-Men : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window

A timely notepad

[Kid Glove Killer (dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1942). Click either image for a larger view.]

That’s Samuel S. Hinds as Mayor Daniels, using his notepad. A police forensics investigator later applies iodine spray to reveal a crucial to-do: “Investigate source of Jerry’s income. Illegal?

I’ve never seen a notepad of this sort in real life. But there’s one just like it at Etsy. It’s called a Time Secretary, with pages divided into the hours of the day.

[If you’re wondering, as I was, why Samuel S. Hinds looks familiar: he played Peter Bailey, Pa Bailey, in It’s a Wonderful Life.]

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Timely lines from a Lowell

[Kid Glove Killer (dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1942).]

Lines from James Russell Lowell’s “The Present Crisis”: “Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, / In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side.” Or as Florence Reece asked, “Which side are you on?”

The writer of the anonymous op-ed in The New York Times needs to choose. To stay is not to “resist” but to enable.

Ego sum, ergo sunt

Our president, speaking a few minutes ago in response to an anonymous New York Times opinion piece by a senior official in his administration. My transcription:

“If I weren’t here, I believe The New York Times probably wouldn’t even exist. And someday, and someday, when I’m not president, which hopefully will be in about six-and-a-half years from now, The New York Times and CNN and all of these phony media outlets will be out of business, folks, they’ll be out of business, because there’ll be nothing to write and there’ll be nothing of interest.”
There’ll be nothing of interest, except: what happened to the missing strawberries?

Donald Trump is not a well man. In late July I thought that we were seeing the beginning of the beginning of the beginning of the end. I think we’re now seeing the beginning of the beginning of the end.

[“I am; therefore, they are.” I hope the Latin’s fine.]

Killing craft

Brett Kavanaugh said this morning that he was not involved in “crafting” a program of enhanced interrogation techniques or its legal justifications. “Crafting” a program of torture: how polished, how urbane. If Kavanaugh’s use of craft doesn’t make someone, somewhere, reconsider using this vogue verb, I don’t know what will.

Related posts
Craft vogue : Words I can live without

[Maybe this post will.]

Antecedent trouble

[The Washington Post, September 5, 2018.]

Arial? Or Helvetica?

A quiz: So you think you can tell Arial from Helvetica? (via Michael Tsai).

[I scored 17 of 20. When I had to guess (all caps), I chose what looked better to my eye. And that turned out to be Helvetica.]