Wednesday, October 31, 2018

FilmStruck recommendations

New York Times editors and reporters have suggested twelve movies to watch before FilmStruck disppears. I’ve seen three (and heard of only two of the others). I have some viewing to do.

Santayana Zerbina

[Zippy, October 31, 2018.]

In today’s Zippy, Zippy and Zerbina have (again) been transformed into 1950s romance-comics characters. “It’s not so bad, Zippy!” says Zerbina. “Maybe we’ll be happier living our lives in th’ 1950s!” Zippy isn’t so sure.

Like Zerbina, I have the George Santayana aphorism in my head in the form of learn from and doomed. But what Santayana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

A 1950s pumpkin

[“Alger Hiss at Princeton.” Photograph by Ralph Morse. N.d. From the Life Photo Archive.]

I went looking for a pumpkin last night and found this photograph. The description “Alger Hiss at Princeton” baffled me.

The Life feature “A Look at the World’s Week” (May 7, 1956) reported Alger Hiss’s visit to Princeton University, where he spoke before the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. (Which still exists.) From Life: “There was opposition to his appearance and paper pumpkins were strewn around the campus.” And then I remembered a little history.

[The Life Photo Archive seems unsearchable this morning.]

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Complete sentences

From The Washington Post: “James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, whose bloody reign in the Boston underworld was aided by crooked FBI agents in the 1980s and who later went on the lam for 16 years, living incognito by the California seashore, was found dead this morning while completing the first of his two life sentences.”

Sounds to me like he just completed both sentences. I can’t decide if the Post is being witty or not. Whatcha think?

More Washington Post sentences
Antecedent trouble : Parallelism trouble

“Trump’s caravan hysteria”

In The Atlantic, Adam Serwer writes about “Trump’s caravan hysteria” and its consequences:

Ordinarily, a politician cannot be held responsible for the actions of a deranged follower. But ordinarily, politicians don’t praise supporters who have mercilessly beaten a Latino man as “very passionate.” Ordinarily, they don’t offer to pay supporters’ legal bills if they assault protesters on the other side. They don’t praise acts of violence against the media. They don’t defend neo-Nazi rioters as “fine people.” They don’t justify sending bombs to their critics by blaming the media for airing criticism. Ordinarily, there is no historic surge in anti-Semitism, much of it targeted at Jewish critics, coinciding with a politician’s rise. And ordinarily, presidents do not blatantly exploit their authority in an effort to terrify white Americans into voting for their party. For the past few decades, most American politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, have been careful not to urge their supporters to take matters into their own hands. Trump did everything he could to fan the flames, and nothing to restrain those who might take him at his word. . . .

The apparent spark for the worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history was a racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election. There is no political gesture, no public statement, and no alteration in rhetoric or behavior that will change this fact. The shooter might have found a different reason to act on a different day. But he chose to act on Saturday, and he apparently chose to act in response to a political fiction that the president himself chose to spread and that his followers chose to amplify.

As for those who aided the president in his propaganda campaign, who enabled him to prey on racist fears to fabricate a national emergency, who said to themselves, “This is the play”? Every single one of them bears some responsibility for what followed. Their condemnations of anti-Semitism are meaningless. Their thoughts and prayers are worthless. Their condolences are irrelevant. They can never undo what they have done, and what they have done will never be forgotten.
[Found via Dreamers Rise.]

“Sully” Sullenberger casts a vote

Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III, writing in The Washington Post:

For the first 85 percent of my adult life, I was a registered Republican. But I have always voted as an American. And this critical Election Day, I will do so by voting for leaders committed to rebuilding our common values and not pandering to our basest impulses. . . .

We cannot wait for someone to save us. We must do it ourselves. This Election Day is a crucial opportunity to again demonstrate the best in each of us by doing our duty and voting for leaders who are committed to the values that will unite and protect us. Years from now, when our grandchildren learn about this critical time in our nation’s history, they may ask if we got involved, if we made our voices heard. I know what my answer will be. I hope yours will be “yes.”

Rusty, recycled

[Mark Trail, October 26, 27, 29, 30, 2018. Click any image for a larger view.]

Rusty Trail is Mark and Cherry’s son. Like his parents and everyone else in the Mark Trail world, he can be cut and pasted. And like a witness facing jail time, he can be flipped. But four strips in a row?

The effort here reminds me of the crudest cartoon animation, the kind in which only eyebrows and mouths move. The lightning bolts in Rusty’s hair might change shape, his teeth might whiten, his eyes might get bluer, but he’s the same Rusty, recycled. The surest way to tell that these four images are the same image, lightly revised: look to the ear.

James Allen/Semaj Nella, like his predecessor Jack Elrod, is a dedicated recycler. Evidence: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

[My row excludes Sunday, which always drops the tedious storyline of the moment for a nature lesson.]

Monday, October 29, 2018

Henry’s end

[Zippy and Henry, October 28, 2018. Click for larger views.]

Now I understand why yesterday’s Zippy took the form of an ontological argument for the existence of Henry. As I learned this morning, Comics Kingdom has dropped Henry reruns from its offerings. Yesterday’s Henry is the last of Henry we’ll see.

In yesterday’s strip, Henry and his dog Dusty go rolling down a hill in their wagon. The wagon speeds out of control and boy and dog tumble out. As Sisyphean Henry prepares to ascend the hill, Dusty dashes away. I would like to think that the final panel (above) shows Henry having turned away from that hill, away from eternal repetition. Just whistle off, Henry, to fresh streets, and candy stores new. Dusty will follow.

Venn reading
Henry posts : Henry and Zippy posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

A clean, well-lighted place

On doing das Äusserste, the utmost, or the Utmost:

Franz Kafka, Letter to the Father, trans. Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins (New York: Schocken Books, 1966).

[Kafka’s definition of the utmost: “marrying, founding a family, accepting all the children that come, supporting them in this insecure world and perhaps even guiding them a little.” Kafka wrote this letter in 1919 and gave it to his mother Julie to give to his father Hermann. Hermann never received the letter. Max Brod gave the letter the title by which it’s known: Brief an den Vater. The father, not his, seinen.]

Sunday, October 28, 2018

“A clearer perspective of the world”

Franz Kafka, Letter to the Father, trans. Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins (New York: Schocken Books, 1966).

Related reading
All OCA Kafka posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Help Wanted

From The Washington Post:

President Trump on Saturday strongly condemned the deadly mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue as “pure evil” and anti-Semitic, and then, without skipping a beat, slipped into campaign mode with attacks on trade deals, a discourse on palm trees and a dig at a potential 2020 rival.

Just over a week before midterm elections, the president traveled to Indiana for a convention speech and later a political rally in Illinois, though he joked about canceling both events because of a “bad hair day.”
There is something wrong with this man. He needs help. Our country needs help.


Learning to read

Emily Hanford, education correspondent for American Public Media, asks why we are still teaching reading the wrong way: “To become readers, kids need to learn how the words they know how to say connect to print on the page. They need explicit, systematic phonics instruction.” Yes, they do.

I recall, many years ago, working as a volunteer tutor with a local literacy program. Big emphasis on “sight words” — men, women, push, pull, danger — and yes, being able to recognize such words is of urgent importance. But I remember asking at a training session: If it’s only sight words, what is a student supposed to do with unfamiliar words? There was, as you might guess, no good answer.

In my tutoring I was able to use phonics-based workbooks, which proved immensely helpful to my students. And I remember one wonderful moment helping a student work out the sh sound with a word that wasn’t in our workbook, or in any workbook. “Here’s another word, Howard, one you’ve already known most of your life.” That was a moment of great hilarity in the library basement.

No screens for these kids

The New York Times reports on tech types who keep their children away from screens:

A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a regionwide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate in Silicon Valley now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K.
Everything old is new again: in 2011 the Times ran an article about a screen-free Silicon Valley Waldorf school.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, is challenging. For me, thirty-three minutes worth of challenging. The clue that helped me find my way: 47-Down, six letters, “It’s served in Elvis’ ‘Blue Hawaii.’” I had one letter, a vowel, took a guess, and had the answer that broke the puzzle open.

Three clues in especially liked: 14-Across, four letters: “California Perfume Company, today.” (I learned something.) 15-Across, five letters, “Hammer home.” And 61-Down, three letters, “What one might hang in the street.” I think the pronoun in that last clue is well chosen. No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Gray Wilkerson Ra

Larry Gray, bass, cello, six-string electric bass
Edward Wilkerson Jr., clarinet, alto clarinet,
    tenor saxophone, didgeridoo, oud
Avreeayl Ra, percussion, Native American flute

Krannert Art Museum
University of Illinois, Champaign
October 25, 2018

Five years ago this trio appeared at the University of Illinois’s Krannert Center for the Performing Arts as Chicago Connection, performing a seven-part suite by Larry Gray. This time, as Gray Wilkerson Ra, they played one extended (perhaps hour-long) improvisation whose shifts in mood were born of listening and responding from moment to moment. Or, to borrow from Theodore Roethke, thinking by feeling.

The performance began with the musicians taking soundings, as it were: Gray plucking high notes on the bass, Wilkerson playing tenor with a scarf in its bell to soften the sound, Ra striking a metal bowl placed on a drumhead. The sound opened out and grew in intensity before giving way to a dialogue for cello, oud, and percussion, with Gray and Wilkerson plucking and snapping strings. Later: bowed cello and alto clarinet, then bowed bass and didgeridoo, their musical lines weaving about one another. Still later, a flute joined by cello and alto clarinet, then clarinet with electric bass at the top of its register, sounding like a classical guitar. And at every turn, Ra’s percussion supporting, commenting, or adding intensity. There were moments of delicate beauty, moments of wild energy, and a terrifically swinging interlude for tenor (by this time without the scarf), walking bass, and drums. At some point the scarf went back in the bell. And then silence. Was more to come? No, that was the end, an end that felt both spontaneously arrived at and inevitable.

You can get some idea of the trio at work from YouTube, but this kind of music is best heard in the moment.

My favorite moment: seeing Gray and Ra lock eyes and dig in, as Wilkerson, eyes closed (I think), wailed on tenor. If music is the healing force of the universe, these musicians provided some serious universal healthcare last night.

Thanks to Jason Finkelman, who continues to bring the news of the world to east-central Illinois.

More on the musicians
Larry Gray : Avreeayl Ra : Edward Wilkerson Jr.

[“We think by feeling”: from Theodore Roethke’s poem “The Waking.” Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe: a 1969 album by Albert Ayler.]


In the mail today:

The FilmStruck website offers no explanation, but Variety does:

The move appeared to be the latest by WarnerMedia, under AT&T’s ownership, to streamline operations by cutting niche-oriented business ventures. Two sources familiar with the decision said the plan to kill FilmStruck was made prior to AT&T’s closing the Time Warner deal; in any case, the strategy aligns with the new WarnerMedia blueprint to shift resources to mass-market entertainment services.
FilmStruck’s demise is a great loss for people who love film, or even just movies.

Remember when the advice to small businesses was to “find a niche”? Yeah, right. Our household’s response to WarnerMedia: Fie on you. Fie!

Secret, secretary

One more from Ammon Shea:

I’m constantly finding that the former meaning of a word differs significantly from how I know it today. When I learned that secretary meant “one privy to a secret” during the fourteenth century I was utterly delighted. And then almost immediately I began scolding myself for not having realized such an obvious precedent, and thought that I should feel no excitement at discovering something that in hindsight seems so obvious. But it is exciting to make these little discoveries about the language, and it shouldn’t matter at all if they are obvious to someone else.

Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages (New York: Penguin, 2008).
The earliest Oxford English Dictionary definition of secretary: “one who is entrusted with private or secret matters; a confidant; one privy to a secret.” Secretary comes into English from medieval Latin: “sēcrētārius a secretary, notary, scribe, etc., a title applied to various confidential officers (properly an adj.).”

Is the secret of secretary already obvious to you? It wasn’t to me. I told my mom, who worked as an executive secretary in the 1950s, about it: she didn’t know either.

[Peanuts, October 29, 1971. Peanuts past is Peanuts present.]

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)
Words of the day: apricity, apricot
A home entertainment system

[“One privy to a secret”: why the OED italicizes to must remain a secret.]

A home entertainment system

Ammon Shea:

I’ve never been prone to buying fancy clothes, or meals in nice restaurants. But I’ve always allowed myself to buy books, no matter how meager a budget I was living on at the time. Anytime I come across a book that holds the slightest potential that someday I may want to read part of it I pick it up and bring it home. It isn’t a mania for collecting — it’s a defense against boredom. The fact that my shelves are filled with things I haven’t yet read and want to, and things that I’ve read before and want to revisit, means I will never be at a loss for entertainment at home.

Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages (New York: Penguin, 2008).
I like the sentiment, though at this point in life I will often write down a title and get the book from the library. (Question to self: “Are you really ever going to read this?”)

Shea’s book has some good moments (see above), but I think it’s best borrowed from the library. The book is made of short chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet, each chapter with a few pages of narrative (finding a good place to read, drinking coffee, getting a prescription for glasses, dreaming of words) and a few pages of odd words with short commentaries. Shea leaves unexplained the circumstances that allowed him to spend ten hours a day reading the OED. He gives a single definition for each word (not an OED definition), with virtually no attention to etymology. Which prompts me to ask: you read the OED for a year and this is all you came back with? Sigh.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)
Words of the day: apricity, apricot

[A home entertainment system? A home-entertainment system? A home entertainment-system? A home entertainment system.]

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Literary dust

W.G. Sebald’s comments about dust and my own efforts to rid some books and shelves of dust just prompted me to think about dust in literature.

Can you think of a work of literature in English in which dust plays a significant part? I can think of three; there may be many more. Leave your answer(s) in a comment, and we’ll see how things add up.

Sebald: “dust everywhere”

W.G. Sebald recounts a visit to the house of a London publisher, and the comfort of being in “a house where the dust has been allowed to settle”:

He had still some business to attend to when I arrived, and his wife took me up to a sort of library room at the very top of this very tall, very large, terraced house. And the room was all full of books, and there was one chair. And there was dust everywhere; it had settled over many years on all those books, on the carpet, on the windowsill, and only from the door to the chair where you would sit down to read, there was a path, like a path through snow, as it were, you know, worn, where you could see that there wasn’t any dust because occasionally somebody would walk up to that chair and sit down and read a book. And I have never spent a more peaceful quarter of an hour than sitting in that particular chair. It was that experience that brought home to me that dust has something very, very peaceful about it.
From “Ghost Hunter,” a 1997 interview with Eleanor Wachtel. In The Emergence of Memory: Conversations with W.G. Sebald, ed. Lynne Sharon Schwartz (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007).

Related reading
All OCA W.G. Sebald posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Sebald: “out in the sticks”

W.G. Sebald, on living “in hiding”:

Well, where I am now is very much out in the sticks. It’s in a small village near Norwich in the east of England. And I do feel that I’m better there than I am elsewhere in the center of things. I do like to be on the margins if possible.

From “Ghost Hunter,” a 1997 interview with Eleanor Wachtel. In The Emergence of Memory: Conversations with W.G. Sebald, ed. Lynne Sharon Schwartz (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007).
Related reading
All OCA W.G. Sebald posts (Pinboard)

Unity Day

[Click for a larger view.]

Today is Unity Day, an anti-bullying initiative. Its color is orange. Its focus is on kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

[Insert dark memories of middle school and high school here.]

I read the papers (as people used to say) and watch the news. But I learned of Unity Day, only this morning, from Zippy and Zits.

[Zippy, October 24, 2018.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Recently updated

Earl Greyer, correcter The story has a good ending.

John Gruber reviews the iPhone XR

John Gruber, in a lengthy review: “The iPhone XR is everything Apple says it is, and it’s the new iPhone most people should buy.” And: “The sweet spot for most people in 2018, in my opinion, is one tier above 64 GB [that is, 128 GB].” And: “Dollar for dollar, the XR is almost certainly the best iPhone Apple has ever made.”

Holy cow — I chose well. (I hope.)

Hot-dog stands and poetry

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955).

Elaine and I just finished re-reading Lolita. As we discovered, we each marked this passage while reading. Elaine has already posted her transcription on her blog.

Humbert Humbert’s observations (and the first-person plural pronoun) remind me of what Proust’s narrator says about the “contrast between the way individuals change and the fixity of memory.” More than coincidence, I think.

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

Monday, October 22, 2018

MSNBC, sheesh

On MSNBC this afternoon, someone, I wish I knew who, suggested to Nicole Wallace that television talkers stop calling Mohammed bin Salman “MBS.” I have had the same thought. As the commentator pointed out, Prince Mohammed is not a Marvel Comics villain. Nor, I would add, is he a rapper or Supreme Court justice. Prince Mohammed is, as the commentator put it, “an autocratic thug.” The last thing our public discourse needs is another trivializing nickname.

And soon enough, Katy Tur was on the air, speaking of “MBS.”

Related reading All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

“Scroll. Like. Move on.”

“Scroll. Like. Move on. Scroll. Like. Move on. Comment. Move on. Feel disconnected. Try again. Try again later. Feel hopeful that someone will engage. Move on. Feel foolish. Feel disconnected. Rinse and repeat”: Elaine Fine writes about the illusion of social media. Her perspective: that of a veteran of the classical-music blogosphere.

Rolling back existence

From The New York Times:

The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.
If, as Wittgenstein suggests, the limits of one’s language mean the limits of one’s world, this initiative goes beyond rolling back recognition and legal protections. Recognition presumes the existence of that which is recognized. This initiative seeks to roll back existence, erasing identities and insisting that persons are who the government says they are. I think of Syme in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?”

[Ludwig Wittgenstein describes solipsism in the Tractatus Logico-Philisophicus 5.62: : “The world is my world: this is manifest in the fact that the limits of language (of that language which alone I understand) mean the limits of my world.”]

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sinatra’s “Lush Life”

From Variety: Frank Sinatra tried Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” for the 1958 album Only the Lonelyand gave up. The outtakes are powerful reminders of how difficult it must be to sing “Lush Life” to one’s satisfaction (if, that is, one is a singer).

The Variety article mentions many other singers of “Lush Life” but makes no mention of Johnny Hartman’s 1963 recording of the song with John Coltrane. For many listeners that’s the “Lush Life.”

“Some apples”

Elaine and I are fortunate to live about seventeen miles from an orchard. Store-bought apples and peaches cannot compare to apples and peaches from the orchard — especially because we buy apples and peaches only from the orchard and have no basis for comparison. Yesterday the orchard had an Applefest, with cider, apple crisp, and thirty-four varieties of apples to taste. George Washington’s favorite: the Newtown Pippin. The orchardist’s favorite: Etter’s Gold. I especially liked the Calville Blanc d’hiver, a French apple grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Uncooked, the apple already tasted like pie. My favorite was the crisp, fragrant Ambrosia, though I am disappointed to know that it has much less history behind it, as it dates from the 1990s.

When we traipsed through the orchard, I was on the lookout for “some apples.” And I found them, arranged by nature’s hand.

“Some,” as in “some rocks,” is an abiding preoccupation of these pages.


12:57 p.m.: Wait a minute — was Ambrosia my favorite? The ones we now have at home seem bland by comparison to whatever I liked best at the orchard.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Lester Ruff, was not especially difficult, not especially tricky. A great big giveaway straight down the middle breaks open the puzzle: 6-Down, fifteen letters, “Reference standby since 1852.” But I found some pleasant surprises here and there.

1-Down, eight letters, “Bad-weather wear,” yields an answer of surprising dowdiness. Another favorite: 26-Across, five letters, “They take long naps.” And 64-Across, six letters, “Story arcs.” (Huh?)

I was not happy to see 44-Down, six letters, “Silents’ scene-starting shot,” a dubious clue. “Silent-film effect” or “silent-film transition” would be better.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Anthea Bell (1936–2018)

The translator Anthea Bell has died at the age of eighty-two. The Guardian has an obituary. I know Stefan Zweig’s fiction in large part through Bell’s translations. W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz too.

Hand wash cold

From Smithsonian: “If Americans turned down the heat when washing their hands they could save 6 million metric tons of CO2 every year.”

Even if the numbers here are subject to questioning (hot water isn’t always available in public bathrooms to begin with), washing one’s hands with cold water would seem to make good sense. Done. Though I already do it anyway. Who wants to wait for hot water?

[Found via Matt Thomas’s Twitter.]

Early voting

A dream last night: CNN announced that Beto O’Rourke had won election to the United States Senate. “Already?” I asked. And on the TV screen, a photograph of the three pickups of a Fender Stratocaster. Meaning that the Democratic Party had picked up three Senate seats?

Precognitive, I hope.

Related posts
Beginning King Lear
Dreaming of autumn and fall
Nabokov, dreaming

Thursday, October 18, 2018

“The deepest motive for writing”

Richard Lanham:

Motive has always been the question of questions for Freshman Composition. Perhaps more success might flow from assuming, paradoxically, that the deepest motive for writing is not communication at all but the pleasures of writing for its own sake. Writing to others is a writing for ourselves. Clarity in communication may be less the cause of our pleasure in prose than the result.

Style: An Anti-Textbook, 2nd. ed. (Philadelphia, Paul Dry Books, 2007).
Also from this book
“Slow Reading”
Writing and speech

Writing and speech

Richard Lanham:

Much has been written about prose that gains authority through the speaking voice. It gains still more by manipulating time scale. We condense ten hours’ writing and thinking into one hour’s reading. The best ad-libbers always prepare their spontaneity. Writing’s advantage, as a presentation of self, is not that it allows us to adopt the mannerisms of speech but that it allows us to adopt the tempo of speech without its hesitant waste.

Style: An Anti-Textbook, 2nd. ed. (Philadelphia, Paul Dry Books, 2007).
Also from this book
“Slow Reading”
“The deepest motive for writing”

“Slow Reading”

Richard Lanham:

Before prose rhythm can be sensibly considered, one must redefine reading. It cannot be a jet flight coast-to coast. It must be a slow walk in the country, taken, as all such walks should be, partly for the walking itself. Every course in composition ought to be a course in Slow Reading.

Style: An Anti-Textbook, 2nd. ed. (Philadelphia, Paul Dry Books, 2007).
Also from this book
Writing and speech
“The deepest motive for writing”

[Lanham has also written a genuine textbook, Revising Prose (2007), immensely helpful and ridiculously expensive. (Thanks, Pearson). A sentence from that book has been running through my head for years. A presentation of the book’s core, the Paramedic Method of revision, may be found at Purdue OWL. Scroll down or you’ll think you’ve hit an empty page.]

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Language, evolving

[Nancy, October 17, 2018. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Nancy is a delight.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)


Elaine and I went to a political debate last night, in which two candidates for the Illinois House of Representatives answered questions chosen by moderators from audience submissions. One direct question: are you an LGBTQ ally? The question was prefaced by a brief, clear definition of ally. One candidate answered “Yes,” spoke about bullying and discrimination, expressed a commitment to supporting LGBTQ issues, and avowed that LGBTQ people would be represented on her staff. The other candidate dodged the question of allyship. Instead, he avowed his belief in the Fourteenth Amendment, which, he said, meant that the question didn’t concern him. But then: he added that his family had had “a practicing homosexual” at dinner the other night. Good grief. Elaine and I just looked at each other. Other people looked at one another. A friend in front of us put her head in her hands. I think she was attempting to stifle her disbelief. We had just been given a reminder of where we live.

What I want to know: What was this “practicing homosexual” practicing? And why at the dinner table? And why couldn’t the candidate and his family have found someone already accomplished enough not to need practice?

Related reading
Stylebook entries for practicing and homosexual (NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists)

[An exchange from The Honeymooners inspired this post. From “A Matter of Life and Death” (October 29, 1955): “Dr. Norton, just exactly where do you practice medicine?“ “Oh, I don’t have to practice it, I know it.”]

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Words of the day: apricity, apricot

Paging through Ammon Shea’s Reading the “OED”: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages (2008), I noticed Shea noticing the word apricity::

Apricity (n.) The warmth of the sun in winter.

A strange and lovely word. The OED does not give any citation for its use except for Henry Cockeram’s 1623 English Dictionarie. Not to be confused with apricate (to bask in the sun), although both come from the Latin apricus, meaning exposed to the sun.
That’s the end of Shea’s entry. Cockeram defines apricity as “the warmeness of the Sunne in Winter.” A strange and lovely definition.

Does the word apricity prompt you to wonder about another, more familiar word? Yes, that’s right, apricot. Does that word have anything to do with apricity? No and yes.

The OED traces apricot to the Portuguese albricoque or Spanish albaricoque, later assimilated to the cognate French abricot (with a silent t). Similar words appear in Italian, Old Spanish, Spanish Arabic, Arabic, Latin, and Greek. The Latin praecoquum, “early-ripe, ripe in summer,” was an epithet and later a name for this fruit, originally called prūnum or mālum Armeniacum. The English word apricot is older than apricity.

Now here’s the fun part: the change from abr- to apr- may be the result of a mistaken etymology. In 1617 the English linguist and lexicographer John Minsheu explained the name of the fruit as deriving from Latin, “in aprīco coctus,” “ripened in a sunny place.” Oops. So apricot isn’t and is related to apricity. And what were apricots called before they were called apricots? Abrecockes, abrecox, abricocts, abricots, aphricokes, aprecox, apricocks.

Like the word apricity and Cockeram’s definition, the OED’s definition of apricot, too, is lovely and strange: “a stone-fruit allied to the plum, of an orange colour, roundish-oval shape, and delicious flavour.” Allied to the plum!

Cover stories

From The Washington Post:

As pressure mounted on Saudi Arabia to disclose what it knows about [Jamal] Khashoggi’s fate, U.S. officials began predicting over the weekend that the Saudis would inevitably admit complicity in the death of Khashoggi and claim a “botched operation,” said one person familiar with the discussions.
Was our president’s suggestion of “rogue killers” the advance effort to legitimize this cover story?

I’m reminded of what Captain Reynaud says about the courier Ugarte in Casablanca: “We haven’t quite decided whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape.”

Monday, October 15, 2018

Heroic handwriting

“I told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was a matter of humanity. I did not care if I lost my job. Anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in my place”: Chiune Sugihara saved lives with his handwriting.

Decorate, diagram

[Peanuts, October 18, 1971.]

Yesterday’s Peanuts is today’s Peanuts. But does anyone still diagram sentences Reed-Kellogg style? The book to read on these matters is Kitty Burns Florey’s Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History And Lost Art Of Diagramming Sentences (2006).

NPR, sheesh

Such deference this morning, NPR. Donald Trump wasn’t “making an argument” about climate change in his 60 Minutes interview. He was making an unfounded assertion: “Something’s changing and it’ll change back again.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[Argument: “a coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a point of view.” Assertion: “a declaration that something is the case.” Definitions from Merriam-Webster. The meanings of the two words make my statement about Trump an argument, not an assertion.]

Hallmark “trees”

The sappy, saccharine Hallmark movie Falling for Vermont has everything: a Famous Author, a cozy bookstore, a gazebo, even a “town meeting.” It’s a bit like Gilmore Girls with amnesia. That is, the protagonist has amnesia, not the movie itself.

An additional treat: the opportunity to watch for the same four or five gold- and orange-leafed artificial trees as they travel from scene to scene to scene to signify fall. Look, here come two of the trees now.

We saw most of Falling for Vermont last night. Me: “This has another hour to go.” Elaine: “That’s not a problem.” The movie airs again on October 20.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Main Streets

[Zippy, October 14, 2018.]

In the final panel of today’s Zippy, Griffy proclaims Main Streets “th’ antidote to strip mall America.” I love it. As Elaine will attest, I still fantasize about coming across a thriving downtown in some long-lost midwestern city. The closest we’ve ever come to it was in Jackson, Ohio, though that wasn’t close enough for me. Not downtown-y enough. Not Twilight Zone-y enough.

There’s a clue to location in today’s strip: the yellow sign reads “Waureg . . . otel.” That’s the Wauregan Hotel in Norwich, Connecticut. Here’s a view of Broadway from Griffy and Zippy’s perspective. Sigh.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)
Main Street, Hackensack, New Jersey

Old barber, old joke

“I eat thin spaghetti, so I don’t get fat”: Anthony Mancinelli, 107, is the world’s oldest barber.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Another headline

From the New York Daily News: “Cultured klepto who swiped painting worth over $1,000 in the Bronx wanted.”

A painting worth over $1,000 in the Bronx? And in the other boroughs?

A possible revision: “Wanted: cultured klepto who swiped $1,000 painting in the Bronx.” I think it’s safe to omit “worth over.”

This post marks the first and (I hope) last time I’ll have reason to type the phrase “cultured klepto.”

A related post
A garden-path Daily News headline

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, was tough. I stared and stared, and now and then a word suggested itself as right. I finished in forty-seven minutes — after practically going to sleep with quandariness, as Frank O’Hara might have, if he had tried this puzzle.

Three clues that I especially liked: 8-Across, six letters, “Racket clubs.” 22-Down, six letters, “Scorch with pans.” 47-Down, five letters, “David : Milhous :: Delano :     .” That last clue is not especially tricky, but it’s quietly disorienting. And it woke me up.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

[“After practically going to sleep with quandariness”: from the Frank O’Hara poem “The Day Lady Died.”]

Sardines in the comics

Today, in Rhymes with Orange.

Friday, October 12, 2018

“Like winter”

[Nancy, October 3, 1953.]

At least kinda like winter: 36° this morning. Elaine and I will reenact this scene when we go for a walk in the near near future.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)


Our granddaughter Talia turns one year old today. So big! She is talking the talk (da, ma, &c.) and walking the walk (sixteen steps in the direction of a blasé kitty). Talia is also teething the teeth. She is a lover of books, a sharer of toys, an investigator of everything, and an aspiring comedian. E.g.: when someone is feeding you, grasp spoon in mouth. Do not let go.

Big hugs to the birthday girl and her mom and dad.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A meeting of the minds

Another step toward what I call the reality-TV-ification of everything: today’s Donald Trump–Kanye West meeting. Here’s a transcript of some of what West said.

How glorious to have two proud non-readers of books in the Oval Office at the same time.

[Yes, Kanye West is on record as “a proud non-reader of books.” Donald Trump says that he reads “passages,” “areas,” “chapters.” Not books.]

The art of the deal

I noticed this Wall Street Journal story by chance: “Walmart Cuts Online Video Deals in Bid to Become Entertainment Hub.” And in the summary that follows: “First up is a remake of Mr. Mom.”

Our culture is in good hands.

Mystery actor

[Whoever he is, he’s making his screen debut.]

That’s Zohra Lampert in the background. She stars in this Orange Crate Art post. But who’s the guy? Leave your best guess in a comment. I’ll drop a hint if needed.


8:30 a.m.: No hint needed. This actor’s identity may be found in the comments.

More mystery actors (Collect the entire set!)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Balzac: Orlando in a flat

Baron Montès de Montejanos is enraged. Carabine, courtesan, attempts to calm him:

Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Bette, trans. Kathleen Raine (New York: Modern Library, 2002).

I like Balzac’s aphoristic wit and his cultural commentary. But the people and plot of Cousin Bette — courtesans, libertines, and the maneuvering of property and sexual favors from person to person — are not my cup of coffee. Or cups, seeing as it’s Balzac.

Related reading
All OCA Balzac posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Got goat?

“Goats are noble creatures of great utility, and it’s time someone put some work into their PR”: the case for goat meat.

This post is for my son Ben, who, like me, likes goat. And this post’s title is my contribution to the PR.

Cachou Lajaunie

[Diameter: 1 13/16″.]

I bought this tiny tin of tiny candies years ago at a World Market. For the design, of course. The flavor of Cachou Lajaunie, as I discovered, is a combination of licorice and mint. Kinda ghastly — and I say that as a fan of that now-defunct old favorite Sen-Sen. But these cachous, created by Léon Lajaunie, a pharmacist, have a following. And a famously short television commercial.

Related reading
Cachou Lajaunie (Wikipedia, in French)
Cachou Lajaunie (In English, via Google Translate)

Balzac: courtesans and grammar

Célestin Crevel pays tribute to the courtesan Valérie Marneffe:

Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Bette, trans. Kathleen Raine (New York: Modern Library, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Balzac posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

How to register to vote

The New York Times covers it, state by state.

In Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas, today is the last day to register to vote in November elections. In Nevada, today is the last day to register by mail. In Missouri, tomorrow is the last day to register, period.

As the ACLU says, vote like your rights depend on it.

[There are complications and exceptions with registration procedures that I’m skipping here.]

Last Seen

A podcast series from WBUR and The Boston Globe: Last Seen, an examination of the still-unsolved theft of thirteen works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

I visited the Gardner Museum many times when I lived in Boston and have visited at least once since the 1990 theft. Visiting post-theft felt immensely sad and unsettling — almost like stepping into a murder scene. The empty frames where paintings once hung are reminders that a terrible crime against culture took place in this museum.

Hard-boiled Balzac

For a moment, I could have been reading Raymond Chandler:

Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Bette, trans. Kathleen Raine (New York: Modern Library, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Balzac posts (Pinboard)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Balzac: books and flowers

Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Bette, trans. Kathleen Raine (New York: Modern Library, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Balzac posts (Pinboard)

Ellington on the air, 1932

From Newark’s WBGO-FM: an eight-minute fragment from a 1932 live radio broadcast of Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. It’s the earliest known recording of the Ellington band on the air, with surprisingly good sound and several musical surprises. (Via Mosaic Records.)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Hamiet Bluiett (1940–2018)

The baritone saxophonist and clarinetist and composer Hamiet Bluiett has died at the age of seventy-eight. The New York Times has an obituary. NPR has a sampler of his music.

I’ve listened to Bluiett on LPs and CDs for many years. And I was fortunate to hear him, just once, in person, in 2008, playing with Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio. I am glad that I had the chance to tell him how much his music meant to me. Still does.


8:01 p.m.: Still on YouTube: a 1989 performance by the World Saxophone Quartet (Julius Hemphill, David Murray, Oliver Lake, Bluiett) from Night Music, hosted by David Sanborn (who once studied with Hemphill). Also still there, a later WSQ lineup (James Carter, Greg Osby, Oliver Lake, Bluiett) blowing down a gymnasium full of schoolkids in Lovejoy, Illinois: 1, 2, 3, 4.

How to improve writing (no. 77)

A Washington Post headline, now online:

Kavanaugh arrives wounded, as is the Supreme Court’s image
The verb that should follow is is does, not is: Kavanaugh arrives, as does, &c. But the Supreme Court isn’t arriving. A sentence that might make the problem clearer: The guitarist Otis Rush played left-handed, as was Albert King.

If the Post isn’t revising, I am. Possible improvements:
Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court, both now wounded

A wounded justice joins a wounded Supreme Court

A wounded justice — and a wounded Court
I think it goes without saying that the wounds are metaphorical: there’s no need to make reference to the Supreme Court’s “image.” Another possible revision — oh, forget it, there’s no way to make this news better.

11:00 p.m.: The Post headline has changed: “Bitter partisan battle wounded Kavanaugh and the Supreme Court he’s joined.”

Related reading
All OCA “How to improve writing” posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 77 in a series, dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

“The repeated refrains of nature”

I came across this passage by chance. From Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder (1965):

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
“Never alone or weary of life”: someone with, say, severe depression might want to disagree. But nature as a source of renewal? I’m with Carson. Making a garden or taking the same walk every day are two ways to develop a greater awareness of “the repeated refrains of nature.”

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Brad Wilber, is a breeze — a welcome breeze, given that the temperature today is supposed to get to 86°.

Three clues I especially liked: 64-Across, three letters, “Verb with preposition and noun homophones.” 66-Across, seven letters, “System conveying blog updates.” And 11-Down, seven letters: “What was once called a ‘fountain paintbrush.’” Words. Blogs. Supplies. Represent.

No spoilers; the answers and some additional commentary are in the comments.

Friday, October 5, 2018

What Susan Collins didn’t talk about

The White House’s limits on the FBI investigation, the many potential witnesses never interviewed (there’s no possibility of corroboration without a genuine investigation), Deborah Ramirez’s allegation (for which there are contemporaneous witnesses), Brett Kavanaugh’s defensiveness and evasiveness in responding to senators’ questions, his blatant dishonesty under oath, the many doubts about his ability to be an impartial and even-tempered justice. See, for instance, American Bar Association misgivings, a letter signed by 2,400+ law professors, and former justice John Paul Stevens’s remarks.

I am trying to imagine a job candidate — for any job, anywhere — conducting herself or himself as Kavanaugh did in last Thursday’s hearing and then being hired. I can’t. Shame on Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, Joe Manchin, and the rest. Now it’s really the Twilight Zone.

Geoff Emerick (1945-2018)

The recording engineer Geoff Emerick, best known for his work with the Beatles, has died at the age of seventy-two. The New York Times has an obituary.

Here’s Emerick looking back on the 1963 Beatles Christmas Show:

When I got home that night I reflected on the fact that only a year and a half previously I had still been in school, desperate to get into the recording business. Now here I was, on a first-name basis with the four musicians who had appeared on that stage; I’d been a guest of their manager, sitting in a choice seat because I had actually played a small role in the making of their records. It was quite a sobering moment; so much had happened in that year and a half. As 1963 slipped into 1964, I pinched myself at my good fortune.

How much better can this possibly get? I asked myself.

Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey, Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles (New York: Penguin, 2006).

Scene from an Eye-talian restaurant

The waitstaff had been trained into robotic uniformity:

“What would you like, ma’am?”

“. . .”

“Yes, ma’am. And what would you like, sir?”

“. . .”

“Yes, sir. And what would you like, ma’am?”

And so on. The crack in the facade appeared when someone asked about salad dressing.

“We have Eye-talian, French,” &c.

The owners had thought of almost everything.

“Eye-talian” is a common midwestern pronunciation. Maybe that’s how the owners pronounce it too.

Balzac: money

Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Bette, trans. Kathleen Raine (New York: Modern Library, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Balzac posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, October 4, 2018


Fun: “Plaid,” an episode of Articles of Interest, a podcast series within in the podcast series 99% Invisible.

I like plaid. (It really is warmer.) And I was happy to learn from this podcast that tartan generators a-plenty may be found online. I used Tartan Designer to make an official Orange Crate Art tartan (Orange Crate tArtan?). If American Express and New Jersey can have their own tartans, so can my blog:

Related posts
Is plaid really warmer? : Phil Silvers in plaid : Proust and plaid : Winter weather wisdom (“Cover most of your body in plaid”)

John Ashbery’s collages

On view now in New York.

Related reading
All OCA Ashbery posts (Pinboard)

[The “man in a suit” in the collage Cushing’s Island — isn’t that Jerry Lewis?]

Photographs by Joanna Key

Photographs by my friend Joanna Key, appearing in Midwestern Gothic: an abandoned bus, doors, a goat, pumpkin heads, a shark, a water tower, the whole world in his hand.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Down a garden path

A garden-path sentence in the form of a New York Daily News headline: “Father of off-duty cop busted for hiring hooker who stole his car and gun explodes after hearing the details.”

[The cop was busted, not the father. The father exploded, not the gun.]


Four senators:

Susan Collins (R-ME)
Washington, D.C.: 202-224-2523
Augusta: 207-622-8414
Bangor: 207-945-0417
Biddeford: 207-283-1101
Caribou: 207-493-7873
Lewiston: 207-784-6969
Portland: 207-780-3575

Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Washington, D.C. 202-224-4521
Phoenix: 602-840-1891
Tucson: 520-575-8633

Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Washington, D.C.: 202-224-3954
Charleston: 304-342-5855
Eastern Panhandle: 304-264-4626
Fairmont: 304-368-0567

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Washington, D.C.: 202-224-6665
Anchorage: 907-271-3735
Fairbanks: 907-456-0233
Juneau: 907-586-7277
Kenai: 907-283-5808
Ketchikan: 907-225-6880
Mat-Su Valley: 907-376-7665

Every time I make these calls, I feel that it’s useless. But still, I call. And if hundreds of thousands — or millions? — of people call? That might be far from useless.

Pro tip: calling a local office is a good way to avoid the D.C. “mailbox full” response. When I called one of Senator Manchin’s local offices, I startled upon realizing that I had reached a person, not another answering machine. I identified myself as an Illinois voter, as I always do: I’d never try to pass for a constituent. And I even took an extra few seconds to praise the West Virginia Welcome Center on Interstate 64 West. Why not?

[Telephone numbers from Contacting Congress.]

Olivia Jaimes!

An eyewitness report from Rocko Jerome: I Have Seen Olivia Jaimes, the Cartoonist Behind the New Nancy.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

The Gmail redesign

Here are some good suggestions for modifying Gmail’s ugly new interface when the option to return to “Classic Gmail” is no longer available. The suggestion to turn off hovering is especially helpful.

Another suggestion, which I found in a comment on this (not especially helpful) piece: clicking on the stacked lines in the upper left corner collapses the main menu (the left column) and makes for a more attractive layout.

Some Gmail accounts still have the “Go back to Classic Gmail“ option available from the Settings menu. But the option is being phased out. There’ll be no going back.

Here’s a reason to look
at the Spam folder

From an e-mail purporting to offer English instruction from a native speaker: “A correct pronunciation in English is midway been to Increase Your Success !!!”

And then, more soberly: “I await your contact to turn in their English.”

See also Pedro Carolino’s English As She Is Spoke.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Twelve movies

[Now with stars, one to four. And four sentences each. No spoilers.]

Patience (After Sebald) (dir. Grant Gee, 2012). An homage to W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, moving through empty landscapes that look like grayish, grainy Sebaldian photographs come to life. Passages from The Rings of Saturn, interview excerpts, and conversations with friends and admirers help to add a human dimension. One mark of the filmmaker’s devotion to his subject: a page number accompanies each place name on screen. But what makes The Rings of Saturn so extraordinary — its writer’s ability to move from the particulars of place into history, imagination, literature, memory — eludes the film. ★★★☆


49th Parallel (dir. Michael Powell, 1941). Filmstruck has many films I’ve never even heard of, and the ones whose titles begin with numbers are listed first: thus I learned of 49th Parallel. Members of a U-boat crew come ashore in Canada to find supplies and find themselves stranded when their craft is sunk. Brutality and comic touches in the right proportions, as the fugitives abandon their goal of Vancouver (and a Japanese ship) and head for the still-neutral United States. Fine turns by Laurence Olivier (a fur trapper) and Leslie Howard (a Matisse- and Picasso-collecting writer in a tepee). ★★★★


Above Suspicion (dir. Richard Thorpe, 1943). A nice young couple (Fred MacMurray and Joan Crawford) travel from England to Germany, They’re honeymooners, yes, but they’re really on an intelligence mission. In the spirit of The 39 Steps, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Night Train to Munich, with comic touches and mild suspense. Also with secret musical codes. ★★★★


Journey into Fear (dir. Norman Foster, 1943). After almost being murdered in an Istanbul nightclub, an American armaments engineer (Joseph Cotten) is given what’s supposed to be safe passage on a ship to a Soviet port city. The passage is anything but safe. Plot, meh. The real reward here is the procession of Mercury Theatre people: Cotten, of course, Agnes Moorehead, Everett Sloane, Ruth Warrick, Orson Welles. ★★★☆


Land of Mine (dir. Martin Zandvliet, 2015). In post-WWII Denmark, German prisoners of war — boys, really — are pressed into the deadly work of locating, defusing, and removing landmines from a beach, day after day, under the eye of a brutal Danish sergeant. By night the boys are locked into a barracks of sorts. Do concentration camps come to mind yet? As death follows death, this harrowing film charts the changing relationship between the sergeant and his charges. ★★★★


The Big Sleep (dir. Howard Hawks, 1946). Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, enmeshed in a bewildering social network of dirty pictures, blackmail, and murder. I took notes while watching and still don’t understand how Philip Marlowe figures everything out. Best enjoyed as amusing vignettes and snappy patter. Dig the bookstore! ★★★☆


Dead End (dir. William Wyler, 1937). Poverty, gentrification, and adolescent criminality on East 53rd Street. I hadn’t seen this movie in decades, and I was dismayed by how badly it’s aged. Humphrey Bogart and Joel McCrea now seem wooden, and the Dead End Kids seem insufferable caricatures. But there’s Sylvia Sidney as a fetching shopgirl on strike, and Gregg Toland’s cinematography is dazzling in a chase sequence across rooftops and through shadows. ★★☆☆


Stage Fright (dir. Afred Hitchcock, 1950). Understated, slyly playful metafiction, with Jane Wyman as an aspiring actress (“You don’t look like an actress,” she’s told) who takes on a real-life role to solve a whodunit. Many comic touches, and a sinister turn from Marlene Dietrich as a louche entertainer. (Did she or didn’t she?) The ending, with strong overtones of The 39 Steps, is spectacular, literally. ★★★★


Rembrandt (dir. Alexander Korda, 1936). I’ve never been much for what I call period movies (anything set before the twentieth century). But I can make an exception for this one, which stars Charles Laughton as a painter utterly devoted to his work, spending his few coins on brushes and paints as an alcoholic might spend them on whiskey. Anecdotal and episodic, with only one canvas on display (which saves the movie from and-then-I-painted montony). With Gertrude Lawrence and Elsa Lanchester, and with extraordinary sets by Vincent Korda. ★★★★


Miracle in the Rain (dir. Rudolph Maté, 1956). A strange amalgam: New York as a lovers’ playground, life in wartime, existential despair, and supernatural forces. I said to Elaine that the story could have come from a Paul Harvey broadcast. So I’m not surprised to learn that the source is a novella (by Ben Hecht) first published in The Saturday Evening Post. The film has been widely panned, but the chameleonic Jane Wyman, the doughty Eileen Heckart, the New York location shots, and the story’s fablelike strangeness are powerfully redeeming virtues. ★★★★


Italianamerican (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1974). The director’s parents, Catherine and Charles, talking in the living room, dining room, and kitchen of their apartment on Elizabeth Street, Little Italy. Life itself, complete with plastic covers for the furniture and a recipe for sauce. “I have a brother whose name is Salvatore. They called him Charlie.” ★★★★


The Last Waltz (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1978). Yes, it was Scorsese night on Turner Classics. The Band in a farewell performance, tight and loose, an incredible group of instrumentalists. The guest performers — who included Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Joni Mitchell, the Staples, and Muddy Waters — recall an era of eclectic taste (and audiences willing to listen, no pyrotechnics needed). The saddest thing about this film: the unmistakable signs, in so many scenes, that substances are everywhere. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Great books

[Zippy, October 2, 2018.]

What’s on those shelves? Yes, I wondered enough to flip and embiggen the image. Heh, heh.

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

Monday, October 1, 2018

Throwing ice

Reading the New York Times story about Brett Kavanaugh’s behavior in 1985 in a New Haven bar, how I wish that my senator had asked Kavanaugh the question I suggested: “Have you ever assaulted anyone?” I don’t think there’s much question that throwing ice in someone’s face constitutes assault, however minor. A “No” would have been perjury, no?

[Notice what the police report says: “Mr. Kavanaugh didn’t wanted [sic] to say if he threw the ice or not.”]

“I got into Yale”

Joe Pinsker, on the “I got into Yale” defense:

It should go without saying, but there are all sorts of bad actors who have attended prestigious universities. The convicted insider trader Raj Rajaratnam, the former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, and the convicted killer Lyle Menendez were all admitted to Ivy League institutions. The Unabomber, who killed three and injured 23 with letter bombs in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, went to Harvard. That doesn’t mean that Kavanaugh is among them, but it is a reminder that attending a prestigious school isn’t in and of itself revealing of anyone’s moral character in any direction. It is telling, however, that Kavanaugh pointed to his credentials when trying to prove his own.
[Newsweek reports that at Yale, Kavanaugh was a legacy.]

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

He’s making his big-screen debut. Do you recognize him? Do you think you recognize him? Leave your best guess in a comment. I’ll drop a hint if needed.


9:02 a.m.: That was fast. The mystery has been solved in the comments.

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

Booth (box) blight

“The newest phone boxes are sleek looking, Wi-Fi connected stands with touch screen maps and electronic signs that flash at passersby while also, privacy advocates say, harvesting data from their phones”: The New York Times reports on a telephone booth (box) blight in London.

A related post
Repurposing the British phone booth

Otis Rush (1935–2018)

“A richly emotive singer and a guitarist of great skill and imagination, Mr. Rush was in the vanguard of a small circle of late-1950s innovators, including Buddy Guy and Magic Sam, whose music, steeped in R&B, heralded a new era for Chicago blues”: from a New York Times obituary. NPR has an excellent extended feature on Rush’s music.

I think (too often) of what Skip James is reported to have said: “Most of the old heads are dying off. All the old musicianers and music philosophers are going: their time has come.”