Friday, November 30, 2018

Hope vs. fear

Michelle Obama, on The Late Show tonight: “I think it is so easy, and lazy, to lead by fear. It is much harder to lead by hope.”

[Corrected this morning. The interview is now at YouTube.]

Little Everywhere and Stitcher, sheesh

In episode seven of the podcast The Dream: “There’s a man named Bruce Craig, who was a assistant attorney general for the state of Wisconsin.” I listened three times to make sure what I was hearing: a, pronounced ā. And it’s not an interviewee who’s speaking: it’s one of the podcast’s makers. You can listen for yourself, beginning at 6:58.

See also: him as subject.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with nomophobia.

Brix JarKey

[Nancy, July 2, 1958.]

Fret not, Nancy. The Brix JarKey makes it easy to break a vacuum seal and open a jar. In our household, the JarKey has more or less replaced the Oxo Jar Opener as tool of choice.

I found the Brix JarKey at the local hardware store, where I get to see housewares items I never see elsewhere.

Arrowlock Tag #108

When we got our mower back from the local farm-and-home store, I was impressed by the tag with our name and telephone number, an Arrowlock Tag #108, made by the Macray Company of Flanders, New Jersey. Or is it Arrow Lock? The company website spells it as both one word and two. Either way, it’s a clever design: “Hook to item — fold arrow head.”

[Cost of repair: $25 to replace the inferior hardware holding the handles to the mower, which required the removal of a plastic casing on the mower’s underside, and $8 to sharpen the blade. Pretty midwestern prices.]

Thursday, November 29, 2018

EXchange name sighting: MUrray Hill

[50¢ a yard!]

You never know what you might find in a supply closet. When my daughter Rachel saw this envelope full of fabric, she took a photograph and told me to check out the phone number. MUrray Hill!

New Yorkers of a certain age may remember the MUrray Hill exchange from commercials for Gimbel’s Custom Reupholstery. MUrray Hill 7-7500. MUrray Hill 7-7500. The commercials ran on WPIX-TV during morning cartoons and Little Rascals shorts. Yes, my school day, at least my elementary-school day, began with television. Better Living Through TV.

The Textile Building, at 295 Fifth Avenue, houses the showrooms of many textile manufacturers. The address is in Murray Hill, a section of Manhattan that gave its name to a telephone exchange. Liberty Fabrics at some point said goodbye to Murray Hill and MUrray Hill: the company’s New York showroom is now at 584 Broadway, in Lower Manhattan.

Thank you, Rachel.

“Who cares?”

Olivia Jaimes’s “Who cares?” made me remember another “Who cares?” story. From Ron Padgett’s Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan (1993):

New York, 1962 (?). On the spur of the moment we decided to go to the premiere of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures. The entrance to the hall was packed with people waiting to get in. We worked our way to the door. The ticket seller there said it was two dollars each. We looked in our pockets. We had something like $1.25 total. “It’s two dollars each,” the fellow repeated.

At which point Jonas Mekas, who had organized the evening, appeared behind him. “What’s the trouble?”

“These guys don't have the admission fee. They have only $1.25.”

“So what’s the problem? It doesn’t matter. Let them in!”

Ted loved Jonas Mekas’ attitude.
Related reading
All OCA Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett posts (Pinboard)

[Ted is the best memoir of a poet, by a poet, I have read.]

History and Lois

[Hi and Lois, November 29, 2018. Click for a larger view.]

It’s safe to assume that Ditto won’t be majoring in history. But he may become a spokestoon for the Mindset List, no longer the property of Beloit College. My impatience with the mindset behind the Mindset List is on display in five posts, list by list, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

One item from the final Beloit list, puporting to describe the historical awareness and life experience of first-year college students in 2018: “They never used a spit bowl in a dentist’s office.” I guess they never went to my dentist.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

“More cornbread for me”

Nancy cartoonist Olivia Jaimes, in an interview, commenting on the hashtag relatable and webcomics:

The self-hating part that often comes with #relatable comics is being like, “Ohhhh, I procrastinated, I’m the worst.” And Nancy adds one more panel to that, being like, “Who cares? I don’t care. More cornbread for me.”
As readers of the new Nancy will remember, Jaimes began her work on the strip with Nancy eating cornbread.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[I’ve changed the spelling in the interview to match the spelling in the strip: cornbread, no space.]

Search OCA with DuckDuckGo

The search box in the sidebar now uses DuckDuckGo, a search engine that does not track its user. Take that, Google.

It’s easy to make a DuckDuckGo search box for a website. Here’s a page with the necessary code. Just fill in the blanks. And here’s a page that offers a different approach. I’m not sure how I arrived at my version, but here it is:

<form method="get" action="" target="_blank">
<input type="text" placeholder="DuckDuckGo" name="q" maxlength="255" />
<input type="submit" value="Go" />
<input type="hidden" name="sites" value="" />
<input style="visibility:hidden" type="radio" name="sitesearch" value="" checked="checked" />
The search box in the “navbar,” the navigation bar found at the top of some Blogger blogs, seems beyond changing — it’s Google or nothing. So I turned off the navbar, which doesn’t allow for much navving anyway. Unlike the navbar’s Google search, the DuckDuckGo search in the sidebar searches all OCA content, posts and comments.

Words of the year

From the American Dialect Society, tender-age shelter: “The term, which has been used in a euphemistic fashion for the government-run detention centers that have housed the children of asylum seekers at the U.S./Mexico border, was selected as best representing the public discourse and preoccupations of the past year.”

From the Australian National Dictionary Centre, Canberra bubble: “the insular environment of federal politics.”

From the Cambridge Dictionary, nomophobia: “Your choice . . . tells us that people around the world probably experience this type of anxiety enough that you recognized it needed a name!”

From the Collins Dictionary, single-use: “Single-use encompasses a global movement to kick our addiction to disposable products.”

From, misinformation : “The rampant spread of misinformation poses new challenges for navigating life in 2018.”

From Macquarie Dictionary, Me Too: “That Me Too is now being used as a verb and as an adjective, combined with the undeniable significance of the movement, made the Committee’s choice for Word of the Year 2018 a fairly straightforward decision.”

From Merriam-Webster, justice: “The concept of justice was at the center of many of our national debates in the past year: racial justice, social justice, criminal justice, economic justice.”

From Oxford Dictionaries, toxic : “In 2018, toxic added many strings to its poisoned bow becoming an intoxicating descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics.”

I’ll add to this post as more words arrive.


From the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Deadly Toy” (May 16, 1959). Perry and Della are posing as the Streets, a married couple with a young son. Mrs. Barton, the babysitter, has an urgent question: “Do you have television?” And Mason replies, “Of course!”

I love when old television shows have the characters talk about television.

Related reading
All OCA Perry Mason posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Robert Reich, on CNN just now: “I don’t want the future of the planet to depend on Donald Trump’s gut.”

[Context: an interview with The Washington Post.]

Arrangement in brown
and grey and white

[Click for a larger backyard.]

Snow snow snow. What better place to be than inside the house?

I didn’t realize just how brown and grey this scene is until I looked at the photograph on my Mac.

[If you’re wondering, the object in the lower left is a raised bed, covered in cardboard held in place with paving stones.]

Giving Tuesday

Did you know that today is Giving Tuesday?

Mark Trail’s side-eye

[Mark Trail, November 27, 2018. Click for a larger view.]

I would like to imagine that in the interstice, Mark has dashed in front of the other guy, the better to give him the old side-eye. But what’s “strange” here? That someone has an education? And went away from “the jungle,” to a school, to get it? Does Mark believe in (so-called) distance learning for place-bound students?

And speaking of education: if Mark were a little better educated, he might spell José with an acute accent. And the other guy might speak a little less clumsily: “Well, now that you mention it, he does seem highly educated for someone who claims to have grown up around the jungle. But I think he said he went away to school somewhere!”

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

[“The other guy”: aka What’s-his-face, aka “Professor Carter.” Wait, he’s a professor? I know that not everyone spells José with an accent. But in the work of an Anglo cartoonist, its absence looks like a mistake.]

Ancestry and me

I signed up for a free peek into and got to see my paternal grandfather’s draft card and Army discharge. Neat.

But I have no interest in signing up for AncestryDNA. Taking that test could reveal that I am not part beagle.

[Elaine said I should write this post.]

Monday, November 26, 2018


It’s a miserable day: 29°, feeling like 14°, and not a sun in the sky. So we made scones, following a Food Network recipe. So easy, especially when the legit baker in the house takes the lead.

I highly recommend scones, served with jam and Irish breakfast tea or with anything else. Three scones down, eight to go.


In his youth, Eduard Saxberger published one slim volume of poems. Now, as a much older man, he is baffled but flattered to learn that his work has a small group of young admirers. Among them: the actress Fräulein Gasteiner.

Arthur Schnitzler, Late Fame, trans. Alexander Starritt (New York: New York Review Books, 2017).

Arthur Schnitzler wrote Late Fame in 1894 and 1895. The novella, recently discovered in an archive of Schnitzler’s unpublished work, is a beautifully understated satire about the pretensions of literary movements and the attractions and perils of literary celebrity — even celebrity of the most modest kind.

Our household’s two-person reading club is now on a Schnitzler kick.

[I like the translator’s manyth.]

Domestic comedy

[Watching Hallmark.]

“Aw, he is Santa Claus. Fuck!”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

From a dream

“Of course I can honk and listen to you at the same time. I’m a capable multitasker.”

[Sounds to me like the caption for a New Yorker cartoon. No idea who was speaking: someone driving, a goose, &c.]

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Word of the day: preceptor

The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day is preceptor. For me, it’s a madeleine: as a grad student, I taught incoming first-year college students in a summer program whose administrator referred to instructors as preceptors. The OED definitions that could have fit: “probably: an expert in the art of writing or the composition of prose.” That one is marked obsolete. And: “a person who gives instruction; a teacher, a tutor.”

Preceptor comes to English from the classical Latin praeceptor, meaning “teacher, instructor.” Praeceptor comes from praecept, the past participle of praecipere, “to take beforehand, to anticipate, to presuppose, to give instruction, to advise, to order, command.”

As a preceptor, I was precepting all the time. But I never thought of my work in that way, and I don’t think that I ever thought about my title. I probably suspected that someone pulled the word from a thesaurus to avoid the plain teacher. But preceptor does have a history in American higher education.

Preceptor or not, you may subscribe to the OED Word of the Day.

[“I was precepting all the time”: precept really is both a noun and a verb.]

Little Everywhere and Stitcher, sheesh

From episode four of the podcast The Dream: “Robert and him struck up a friendship.” And twelve seconds later: “Him and Robert also had the idea.” And as a bonus, just thirty seconds away, a left dislocation: ”So William Penn Patrick, he ran for governor.”

When Elaine and I heard “Robert and him” this morning, on a walk, each of us on a device, her and me cried out in dismay.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Brad Wilber, is rated G, as in Goldilocks: not too easy, not too difficult, just right, with some beautifully clever clues. The four I liked best: 22-Across, three letters, “Beat back.” 40-Across, five letters, “Inferior cut, to many.” 3-Down, eight letters, “Boxing venue.” And 12-Down, six letters, “Fahrenheit or Celsius.” I especially like the likes of 22-Across, with so much trickiness going toward a three-letter answer.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Block that metaphor

From Harold Evans’s Do I Make Myself Clear? A Practical Guide to Writing Well in the Modern Age (2017):

The tsunami of new words has not so far relieved us of the encroaching corruptions of political vocabulary skewered by Orwell seventy years ago.
Seventy years skewered but still encroaching. And the tsunami can’t help. Help.

Countless books on writing offer less egomania, greater clarity, greater concision, better organization, and fewer mixed metaphors. In other words, better writing. I have only 233 pages of Sir Harold’s book to go.

Related reading
All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)
How to improve writing (no. 78)

[How did this book pass the page-ninety test? Good question. Page ninety offers a succinct statement — “The passive voice is preferable if not inescapable in four categories” — followed by examples. The page is atypical.]


“My customer, the little old lady, is being forgotten”: Dunham’s is a family-owned department store in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.

Related reading
All OCA “dowdy world” posts (Pinboard)

“Undercover whispers”

The last two pages of Toni Morrison’s Jazz (1992) are two of my favorite pages of fiction. From the next-to-last page:

Related posts
“Hi” vs. “hello” : “Why not ghosts”

Grammar Table

All over Manhattan, Ellen Jovin engages the public at her Grammar Table: “No choking your brother at the Grammar Table!” “Oh, and ‘choking’ is a gerund.”

[Notice Garner’s Modern English Usage on the Table.]

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 1918

[“Asks for Holiday Liberty: Prisoner Pleads with Magistrate for a Chance to Reform.” The New York Times, November 29, 1918.]

“Yesterday” in this story is Thanksgiving Day. I can find nothing more of the story in the Times, but I hope James McDonald got his chance and took it. His Marion Street address (where a school now stands) is a four-minute walk from 328 Chauncey Street (still standing), Jackie Gleason’s childhood home and the fictional address of Ralph and Alice Kramden.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

▲ ▲ ▲

A new-ish podcast series from Little Everywhere and Stitcher: The Dream, an examination of multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes. They seem quite similar to another kind of scheme (see post title).

A good friend says that everyone in the midwest should listen to this podcast. We know of area people who perpetrate MLM schemes through Facebook (“PM me”) and their “church families.” Our household, though wily, is scheme-free.

Oh — and guess which sitting United States president shilled for an MLM scheme.

How to improve writing (no. 78)

I’m reading Harold Evans’s Do I Make Myself Clear? A Practical Guide to Writing Well in the Modern Age (2017). It’s the work of a prominent journalist and editor whose prose is often graceful and witty. But there are odd lapses: missing referents, errors of fact, paragraphs and chapters that veer off in new directions. (I dare anyone to explain what happens toward the end of chapter four.) And there’s verbal clutter: “This is the laconic way he writes at the opening of an essay.” Better: “He begins laconically.” And what the hey is “the modern age”?

Perhaps most disappointing: Evans’s revisions of other people’s prose too often seem surprisingly clunky. Here is one example from the chapter “The Sentence Clinic.” The sentence in need of repair is from a 2014 Wall Street Journal article about Barack Obama:

The president, detached and defeatist when he isn’t in your face and triumphalist, let David Remnick, in the New Yorker interview people keep going back to as the second term’s Rosetta Stone, know that he himself does not expect any major legislation, with the possible exception of immigration, to get done.
Evans says that the sentence has “a hole in the middle” (unexplained), and he calls attention to the gap between David Remnick’s name and know. Here is Evans’s revision:
The president, detached and defeatist when he isn’t in your face and triumphalist, suggested, in a David Remnick interview in the New Yorker, that he does not expect any major legislation to pass, with the possible exception of immigration. People have viewed the interview as the Rosetta Stone of the second term.
Yet this revision preserves, unremarked, the gap between president and a verb (suggested) and adds a gap between suggested and that. There’s something awkward about having the participle detached and the verb suggested in close proximity. The rhyme of viewed and interview seems a distraction. And that long first sentence with parts rearranged — it’s still a clunker. Here’s my revision:
When he is not in your face and triumphalist, the president seems detached and defeated. In an interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker, Obama suggested that he does does not expect any major legislation to pass, with the possible exception of immigration. Many observers see in this interview the key to understanding his second term.
First, a statement. Second, evidence to support that statement. Third, a comment on the importance of the evidence. I omitted the Rosetta Stone metaphor, as it suggests the deciphering of a mystery, not at all what’s involved in reading an interview. But I’d like to take greater liberties with the WSJ ’s prose and revise like so:
When he is not in your face and triumphalist, the president seems detached and defeated. In a New Yorker interview that many observers see as the key to understanding his second term, Obama suggested that he does not expect any major legislation to pass, with the possible exception of immigration.
Or better still:
When he is not in your face and triumphalist, the president seems detached and defeated. In a New Yorker interview that many observers see as the key to understanding his second term, Obama suggested that with the possible exception of immigration, he does not expect any major legislation to pass.
In The Elements of Style, the derided but still sometimes useful William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White have advice that’s helpful in approaching the WSJ sentence:
When you become hopelessly mired in a sentence, it is best to start fresh; do not try to fight your way through against the terrible odds of syntax. Usually what is wrong is that the construction has become too involved at some point; the sentence needs to be broken apart and replaced by two or more shorter sentences.
In this case, three sentences. Or, with the reference to David Remnick removed, two.

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

[DuckDuckGo tells me that the original sentence is by Peggy Noonan. I’m on page 141 of Do I Make Myself Clear?, with 293 pages to go. The passage from The Elements of Style is by E.B. White. This post is no. 78 in a series, dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

“He did”

Stephen Colbert just now:

“Did Donald Trump just knowingly provide cover for a murderous autocrat? Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.”
And then, mouthing the words: “He did.”

A related post
“In any case”

“In any case”

Anyone who doubts that nationalism, so-called, is toxic to our moral values would do well to read the “Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia.” It reads as if dictated or written by Trump himself, beginning and ending with the exclamation “America First!” The statement plays the game of whatabout (re: Iran), smears Jamal Khashoggi, sides with indeterminacy in all things (“it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”) and endorses a grim realpolitik: “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Why? Investments (wildly exaggerated) and oil prices. So they killed a journalist (and United States resident) who criticized their regime? Hey, a lot of people get killed. I mean, look at Chicago, &c.

America First! seems to mean Values Last.

[If this is Trump as a seventy-two-year-old head of state, imagine what we must have been like as a college student. See this evaluation: “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddam student I ever had.” “Hey, a lot of people get killed. I mean, look at Chicago, &c.”: doing my best to channel the president.]

Louis Armstrong, digitized

Writings, recordings, artifacts, now available in digital form at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens. The New York Times offers a lengthy look.

Related reading
All OCA Armstrong posts (Pinboard)

[Found via Matt Thomas’s latest Sunday Times digest.]

Nancy & Sluggo, Nancy & Sluggo

[Zippy, November 20, 2018. Click for a larger view.]

The banner text reads, “In a contest between Nancy & Sluggo, back Nancy & Sluggo.” Notice the noses: Nancy, Sluggo, Sluggo, Nancy. Again and again, Bill Griffith honors comic-strip elders, even if they are eight-year-olds.

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

Two comments

A reader left a comment last night on a recent post, Patriotism vs. nationalism. The post quoted Emmanuel Macron’s distinction between the terms:

Le patriotisme est l’exact contraire du nationalisme : le nationalisme en est la trahison. En disant « nos intérêts d’abord et qu’importent les autres ! », on gomme ce qu’une Nation a de plus précieux, ce qui la fait vivre : ses valeurs morales.

[Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values.]
The comment read:
Boy I long for the days when the NYT brandished Reagan for calling the Soviet Union/Russia an Evil Empire.
I was curious to see what the Times had to say about “evil empire,” so I looked, and wrote a comment in reply. And got shut out of my own blog: “Your HTML cannot be accepted: Must be at most 4,096 characters.” That’s cold, Google, but understandable. Here’s my reply to the commenter:

Your comment made me curious enough to look in the Times Archive for context. Reagan used that phrase in a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals. Though he acknowledged an American “legacy of evil,” he presented the international situation as a Manichaean struggle between good and evil. And you know of course which side was which. A specific context for the speech: proposals for a nuclear-weapons freeze.

I can’t find a Times editorial about the phrase. But here’s an excerpt from a Tom Wicker column (March 15, 1983):
Most of what I know about the Soviet regime I find repellent. But if the President of the United States proclaims to the world the view that this country’s relationship with the Soviet Union is a death struggle with Evil, then his own words inevitably suggest that there can be no real compromise with that Evil — not on arms control or anything else. Knowing that, why should those proclaimed as “the focus of evil” believe in the possibility of real compromise with a U.S. dedicated to their destruction? The holy war mentality on either side tends to evoke it on the other; and holy wars are both the hardest to avoid and the least likely to be settled short of one side's annihilation.
The question for Wicker was not whether the Soviet Union was a rotten system but whether the language of “evil empire” was the best way to deal with that system. In another column (September 30, 1983), Wicker asked,
Has Ronald Reagan’s management of foreign affairs, compared with that of his predecessors, reduced or heightened Soviet-American animosities? If the latter, for what purpose? Are we more secure, for example, for his having personally labeled Moscow's an “evil empire”?
That was not long after the Soviet Union shot down a South Korean passenger plane that had strayed into Soviet territory.

Two other items. One, a brief editorial comment commending a decision to return to the Soviet Union a sixteen-year-old who had asked to stay in the United States:
The Reagan Administration is not famous for its sensitivity concerning the Russians. We have it on Highest Authority, for example, that the Soviet Union is an “evil empire.'”
But the Times also wrote:
The Soviet Union remains a country that people are eager to flee, America a country people struggle to enter.
You’ll have to read further to see why the Times approved of returning the young man to the Soviet Union.

And on the same day, Russell Baker wrote about Reagan’s choices of words to suit his audiences:
He knows precisely when to make a sound like “evil empire” rather than “Soviet Union.” It is a sound that delights churchly fundamentalists. Mr. Reagan did not hesitate to make it for them in Florida during the spring. It was not a sound calculated to please American farmers, though. And so, when the time came to worry about the farm vote a few weeks back, the sound emanating from Mr. Reagan was not “evil empire” but “market.” Having uttered the correct sound, he approved record grain shipments from American farmers to — no, not the “evil empire” but the Soviet “market.” Here was a remarkable piece of retuning your instrument to the acoustics of the auditorium. A less skillful musician would have made an insufferable sound about “being nice to the evil empire,” and American farmers would have howled. American farmers don’t want to be any nicer to the “evil empire” than churchly fundamentalists do. All they want is a profitable market.

The question raised by these incidents is whether anybody cares anymore what is being said, as long as the correct sounds are being made.
I care what’s being said, always, and I think Wicker’s question is important: are we safer for language like “evil empire,” “axis of evil,” “little rocket man,” and so on, or not? The larger question, what the post was about: whether nationalism is a strategy for a better world.

[I searched the Times from March to November 1983.]

Monday, November 19, 2018

Twelve movies

[All available from the soon-to-be defunct FilmStruck. One to four stars. Three sentences each. No spoilers.]

Jacques Tourneur

I Walked with a Zombie (1943). Much more stylish and thoughtful than its title might suggest. A tropical version of Jane Eyre, with a nurse-newcomer, a mysterious tower, a love triangle that becomes a rectangle, zombies, white and black, and beautiful cinematography (by J. Roy Hunt, otherwise unknown to me), . The history of colonialism and enslavement is frankly prominent in this unusual film. ★★★★

The Leopard Man (1943). Tourneur’s Cat People gave me high hopes for this film, which begins on a strong note. Why is that woman screaming, and what’s on the other side of that underpass? But the film doesn’t sustain the interest its opening scenes invite. ★★

Berlin Express (1948). Robert Ryan and Merle Oberon would be considered the stars here, but this film is full of fine performances. The premise: in post-WWII Berlin, an international amateur effort takes up the search for a missing diplomat. Suspense, surprises, and a heavy infusion of Hitchcock. ★★★★


Le Main du diable (dir. Maurice Tourneur, 1943). Jacques’s father directed this film, a playful (too playful?) cautionary tale of an unsuccessful painter and the talisman that brings him love and fame. He has to get rid of the talisman before dying — but how? And who is that little man wearing a derby? ★★★


Jean Vigo

À propos de Nice (1930). A short silent panorama of a city: streetsweepers, café-goers, boulevardiers, bocce and tennis players, poor kids at street games, a parade, a statue with water pooling in its crotch. I admit it: Vigo’s political motive (revolution!) is lost on me. The camera, wherever it is aimed, seems in love with humanity — and statuary. ★★★★

Taris (1931). A portrait of Jean Taris, master swimmer. A how-to film of sorts, with Taris demonstrating different strokes. But there’s also play: fast-motion, slow-motion, reverse-motion, and the swimmer lounging at the bottom of the pool. ★★★★

Zéro de conduite (1933). Recommended in a New York Times article about FilmStruck, this is the film that started our household on Vigo. The battle of order and anarchy at a school for boys. You can guess which side wins. ★★★

L’Atalante (1934). This one is Vigo’s masterpiece: a sweet, incongruous love story, with newlyweds beginning their life together on L’Atalante, the barge the husband helms. Along for the ride are the gruff, heavily tattooed first mate (with his own wunderkammer) and an accordion-playing cabin boy. Maurice Jaubert’s music is a beautiful addition to this luminous film. ★★★★


Deux hommes dans Manhattan (dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 1959). A journalist (Melville) and his dissolute photographer friend (Pierre Grasset) travel the city in search of a missing diplomat. Melville’s film seems as much about Manhattan as about storytelling: again and again, we get to see mid-century urban realities, in black and white, thank goodness. Neon, sidewalks, a diner, a subway: the camera lingers over them all. ★★★★


Tiger Bay (dir. J. Lee Thompson, 1959). In Cardiff, Wales, a Polish sailor (Horst Buchholz) commits a crime of passion and strikes up a friendship with the sole witness to the crime, a young girl (Hayley Mills) living in the same apartment building. A story of loyalty and betrayal, which leaves the viewer torn between siding with a killer and the law. Remarkable to see the pre-Disney Hayley Mills: she was a serious actor. ★★★★


Obsession (dir. Edward Dymytrk, 1949). The premise: a doctor (Robert Newton) who suspects his wife (Sally Gray) of serial infidelities takes slow-motion revenge on her latest partner (Phil Brown). The manner of revenge, though ghastly, is presented with a considerable element of comedy. The movie’s secret sauce: Naunton Wayne as a police superintendent who seems another precursor of Lieutenant Columbo, showing up in the most unexpected ways with another point to check, another question to ask. ★★★★


The Body Snatcher (dir. Robert Wise, 1945). From a Robert Louis Stevenson story, with Boris Karloff starring as a cab driver and “resurrection man,” furnishing bodies to a doctor (Henry Daniell) for dissection. Top-of-the-line horror, with a vaguely homoerotic subtext in the secret bond between driver and doctor: “You’ll never get rid of me, Toddy.” My favorite moment: the young street singer walking off into darkness, followed by a cab. ★★★★

FilmStruck shuts down on November 29. Goodbye, FilmStruck.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

[Our household’s FilmStruck subscription is ending on a Val Lewton note: Lewton produced I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man, and The Body Snatcher.]

EXchange names on screen: BArclay

[Deux hommes dans Manhattan (dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 1959). Click for a larger card.]

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 : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Brian Wilson 2018

Daniel Durchholz, writing in the St. Louis Post -Dispatch about a Brian Wilson performance this past Thursday in St. Charles, Missouri:

Throughout most of the show, Wilson sat at his piano, staring blankly and sometimes running a hand across his forehead. Occasionally he played and sang a lyric. But often he missed his cues, mumbled or sang off key. It was sometimes hard to watch.
I recall the use of Auto-Tune during the Beach Boys’ 2012 fiftieth-anniversary reunion tour. Now it seems there’s no need. It’s all unspeakably sad.

Here are four recent performances of “Good Vibrations,” from November 9, 13, 15, and 16. Future performances: November 21, 22, 23, 25, 28, 30; December 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 27, 20, 21, 22, and 23.

I’m grateful to have seen Brian on the Pet Sounds and SMiLE tours (2000, 2004). That’s how I’d like to think of him on a stage — engaged with the music.

Related reading
All OCA Brian Wilson posts (Pinboard)

P Is for Pterodactyl

Good clean fun for the nerdish young: P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever, by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter, with illustrations by Maria Tina Beddia.

Thanks, Rachel.

[Pterodactyl: “genus of reptiles, from Greek pteron wing + daktylos finger.” And why is the dactyl a metrical foot? Because it resembles the structure of a finger, whose three bones suggest the three syllables: long, short, short. The Greek daktylos is itself a dactyl: — ᴗ ᴗ. In poetic meter in English, the dactyl is a matter of stress, not length. The word poetry is a dactyl. POetry: / x x.]

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is a tough one, particularly in the center-west and south-west. 26-Down, ten letters, “Take your time” was the clue that finally (finally) let me work out six or seven other missing answers. And then there was 54-Across, three letters, “Application placeholder.” What? I got that one on a first guess and had to look it up to understand what I had typed.

My favorite clues in today’s puzzle: 5-Down, twelve letters, “I asked for so little!” and 25-Down, four letters, “Theatregoer, quite possibly.” Fiendish, that clue. No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

I’m not sure what’s happening to the Newsday crossword. A paywall now rules the site, with a digital subscription costing $3.49 a week, but an adblocker should make the puzzle playable for non-subscribers. The puzzle is also available at BrainsOnly. I hope that Newsday, like The New York Times, will offer a crossword-only subscription. That’d be appropriate for solvers with no particular ties to Long Island.

Friday, November 16, 2018

“Why not ghosts”

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977).

I like this element of meta-commentary as Milkman tries to think things through: one element of the fantastic in this novel makes another plausible.

A related post
“Hi” vs. “hello”

[Yes, Pilate Dead, Milkman’s aunt, was born without a navel. And yes, some people are born without one. But we’re not meant to think of a medical explanation when reading Song of Solomon.]

“Hi” vs. “hello”

Milkman Dead is paying a rare visit to Pilate Dead, his aunt. His friend Guitar Bains is with him. Pilate is peeling an orange.

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977).

Pilate then instructs the young men: “You say ‘Hi’ to pigs and sheep when you want ’em to move. When you tell a human being ‘Hi,’ he ought to get up and knock you down.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines hi as “an exclamation used to call attention.” Nothing about animals, but there is this citation from 1847: “‘Hi!’ cried the brigand, giving the mule a bang with the butt-end of his musket. ‘Hi!’”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Recently updated

Elevator trouble in academia New developments.

Faux daughter

[Life, October 15, 1951.]

My fambly agrees: the homemaker here looks like Rachel, if Rachel were a 1951 homemaker. The only problem: the original eyes are brown. “Can you get contacts?” I asked Rachel. “Just edit the image,” said Elaine. I did the best I could.

A related post
“The most useful of all foods”

[I used Mac’s Preview app: I lassoed the eyes, cut and pasted them into new files, tinkered with color settings, and returned the eyes to the face.]

“The most useful of all foods”

[Life, October 15, 1951. Click for a larger advertisement.]

Zippy (November 13, 2018): “Th’ soup can on this Andy Warhol refrigerator magnet speaks to me!” Me too, Zippy. When the weather turns cold, I think of the soups of my childhood, Campbell’s Tomato and Lipton Noodle. Granted, they’re little more than sodium delivery systems, but I like them. With Campbell’s I have half a can; with Lipton I drain most of the broth. My nostalgia is okay with less sodium.

I’ll leave most of the text of this advertisement to speak for itself. The one detail I’ll highlight: the tip to “take it [the soup] just as comes from the can, season to taste, and pour over hamburgers, fish and leftovers.” Makes me think of something David Sedaris might write. Be careful not to drop any ashes as you’re pouring.

I think Zippy would find this advertisement a trove of over and overs: “Golden creamery butter! Golden creamery butter!”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


“I’m not going to dwell on it”: who am I kidding? I kept tinkering and found a fix for my Blogger-and-MarsEdit paragraph-break trouble. I turned off MarsEdit’s option to Convert Line Breaks and tried one small change, adding a line to my Blogger template to reduce the space allotted to a post title:

.post h3 {
margin:.25em 0 0;
padding:0 0 4px;
margin-bottom: -3px;
The last line — margin-bottom: -3px; — is the fix. So now I can write posts in MarsEdit and have what for me is proper spacing between title and text. Ta-da. I’m not sure how this added line is related to the values for padding. Tinkering is suspended for now.

If you think that focusing on such minutiae might be a temporary escape from the madness of current events — yes, it is.

Related posts
MarsEdit : Ta


I almost found a fix for my Blogger-and-MarsEdit paragraph-break trouble. Richard Abbott’s comment on this post prompted me to look at my Blogger template — which I hardly understand but am willing to snoop around in. I tried various settings related to post format — margins, padding, line height — and almost got things to look right by changing values in the bits of code for .post and .post h3. But my tinkering always left something off: a smaller gap between post title and text meant smaller spaces between paragraphs. I could find no way to push a post title down, so to speak, closer to the first line of text, without side effects.

This post’s title has at least two meanings. I did not find a fix: there is no -da, only a ta. And I’ve decided to say “Ta” to my Blogger-and-MarsEdit paragraph-break trouble. I still mind the gap. But I’m not going to dwell on it. I’ll just delete <p> and </p> tags and be on my way.

Reader, if you decide to tinker with a Blogger template, save a copy first. Preview your changes. Keep track of what you’re changing. And proceed at your own risk. Then again, you may not be inordinately particular about paragraph breaks to begin with.


A fix! So now there’s a -da.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Domestic comedy

“Look — another person with a light on their head.”

[Then in unison, spontaneously.]

“It must be a thing.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)


I’ve been writing many of my recent posts in MarsEdit, a blog-editing app for Mac. MarsEdit works with a multitude of platforms: Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, WordPress, Movable Type, and, according to the app’s website, “any blog that supports a standard MetaWeblog or AtomPub interface.” MarsEdit is a wonderful app — “admirable, surprisingly interesting, amazing, lovely, etc.,” as Webster’s Second would say. It looks something like an e-mail app, and using it is like writing an e-mail (a thoughtfully written, carefully edited e-mail) to send to Orange Crate Art, as a draft or as a published post.

I prefer writing in MarsEdit to writing in Blogger for several reasons:

~ MarsEdit makes it possible to collect material and work on drafts offline, without opening a browser. And when I’m online, an extension lets me send links and text to MarsEdit from Safari. See something, save something.

~ The MarsEdit editing window lets me write with a readable line length — sixty characters or so, the length of an Orange Crate Art line, as opposed to the much longer line of Blogger’s editing window.

~ The MarsEdit Preview window lets me see what a post looks like as I’m writing. That’s especially useful to me, as I often catch typos and notice details to tinker with only when looking at a (seemingly) finished post. Granted, I can use Blogger’s Preview and bounce between tabs to see what a post will look like. But being able to follow along in MarsEdit, with a preview that updates itself as I’m writing, is a marked advantage. With MarsEdit I catch many more things to fix before posting.

Using MarsEdit with Blogger brings at least one complication and one limitation:

~ The complication: line breaks and paragraph breaks are a little troublesome. Typing and hitting Return, like so:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
will turn William Carlos Williams’s words into “I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox.” But MarsEdit has a keyboard shortcut (Command-Return) that makes entering line breaks (<br />) easy. A little more troublesome: paragraph tags (<p> and </p>), which go in automatically at the beginning and end of a post, add an unsightly gap between post title and text. And the space between paragraphs created by <p> and </p> looks a little too large to me. I am inordinately particular about paragraph breaks. So I use <br /><br /> for paragraph breaks and go into Blogger to remove the opening and closing <p> and </p> tags by hand.

[With and without <p> and </p>. As I said, I am inordinately particular about paragraph breaks.]

~ The limitation: it’s not possible to upload images to Blogger from MarsEdit without a Google+ account. So when I want to upload an image, I have to do so in Blogger. What will happen when Google+ is phased out? Beats me. But I doubt that allowing users to upload images to Blogger from MarsEdit will be high on Google’s to-do list.

You can download and try MarsEdit for free. It’s $49.95 to keep — not cheap. But worth it. And Daniel Jalkut, the app’s creator, provides speedy and helpful responses to questions by e-mail. How do you think I learned about Command-Return? Which, I should point out, is right there in the Format menu.

My hope for MarsEdit: an iOS version. Trying to write or edit in Blogger with iOS is ridiculously awkward: it’s often impossible to position the cursor accurately, and the iOS virtual trackpad just doesn’t work in the Blogger text window. And sometimes the cursor just disappears. (I get it back by tapping on the post’s title and then in the text window.) An iOS version of MarsEdit, with drafts and posts synced in iCloud, would be ideal.

The one thing I really don’t like about MarsEdit: I can’t abbreviate the app’s name as ME without thinking of Windows ME (Millennium Edition) and all the time I wasted using System Restore and restoring whatever problem made it necessary to use System Restore to begin with. All those years ago! I wish I’d discovered MarsEdit years ago.

Related posts
Ta : -da (A fix for paragraph breaks)

[My only connection to MarsEdit and Red Sweater Software is that of a happy user.]

Monday, November 12, 2018

Kubrick at auction

The Stanley Kubrick–Calder Willingham screenplay adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Burning Secret is going to auction. Estimated value: $20,000.

A related post

Idiomatic nickels

[Zits, November 12, 2018. Click for a larger view.]

In addition to the obvious comedy (of what our household would jokingly call “a lewd implication”), there’s a bonus misunderstanding: the absence or near absence of nickels turns into nickels.

Here’s a brief survey of the idiom.

Gods help us

In The Washington Post, Donna Zuckerberg writes about the alt-right’s interest in Greek and Roman antiquity. Gods help us. All I’ll say here is that given our American history of ethnicity and immigration, it’s remarkable that anyone would turn to the ancient Mediterranean in the cause of celebrating “whiteness.”

Some of my thinking about the ancient world and our world may be found in this post.

[Medieval studies has its own alt-right problem.]

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Patriotism vs. nationalism

Emmanuel Macron, president of France, speaking in Paris at the Armistice Day centenary:

Le patriotisme est l’exact contraire du nationalisme : le nationalisme en est la trahison. En disant « nos intérêts d’abord et qu’importent les autres ! », on gomme ce qu’une Nation a de plus précieux, ce qui la fait vivre : ses valeurs morales.

[Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values.]
I’ve taken the text and translation from a Macron tweet. The speech can be found at YouTube, with a Euronews translation.

Has Macron been reading George Orwell’s “Notes on Nationalism”? Orwell distinguishes patriotism (“devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life,” “defensive, both militarily and culturally”) from nationalism (“inseparable from the desire for power,” “more power and more prestige”). But Macron’s emphasis on nationalism as the erasure of moral values is markedly different.

Was the American president listening? He appeared to have an earphone in his right ear. But even in translation, Macron’s message wouldn’t have gotten through.

[At 17:42, Macron mentions the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who fought with the French infantry. Born to a Polish father and Italian mother, Apollinaire was naturalized as a French citizen in March 1916, days before he was wounded in the head by shell fragments. He died of influenza on November 9, 1918, two days before the Armistice.]

A grandfather in the Great War

[Click for a much larger view. The original photograph might be called wallet-sized.]

That I had a grandfather who served in the Great War seems to me more and more remarkable as time passes. In 1918 and 1919, James Aloysius Leddy served as a private with the 307th Infantry in France. This photograph (of a photograph) is the only material evidence I have of his service. Though it’s impossible to know, I think he must be the figure on the far right — unless he was taking the picture, which I doubt.

I took a fast photograph of the photograph as we were looking through a photo album and some loose photos after my dad died. If you knew the pains I took (alpha tool) to eliminate the green tablecloth underneath the photograph, you’d call me crazy. Or dedicated. Or my father’s son.

The two men on the left and the two in dark clothing in the rear: French civilians?

Veterans Day

[“Nation Rejoices at War’s End; City Is Jubilant: All America, With Pealing Bells and Parades, Celebrates Germany’s Defeat. Shut Courts And Schools. Exchanges and Offices Close and Workers by Thousands Acclaim Victory. City Is Ablaze at Night. Salvation Army Holds Solemn Service at Library Steps — Mayor Leads City Employes’ Demonstration.” The New York Times, November 12, 1918.]

Today is Veterans Day, first called Armistice Day. One hundred years ago today, “the war to end war,” as it was called, ended.

[Employes: that’s how the Times spelled it.]

Saturday, November 10, 2018

“Welcome to Congress”

[Barry Blitt, “Welcome to Congress.” The New Yorker, November 19, 2018. Click for a larger view.]

At The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly has a brief commentary on the cover illustration. Which reminds me of this image:

[Teacher’s Pet (dir. George Seaton, 1958). Click for a larger view.]

I saved the screenshot of an all-white, nearly all-male newsroom years ago, thinking it might prove useful in teaching. (Two women, also white, appear in the background, one wearing a hat that may signify society page.) It should come as no surprise that the men at the table are staring at yet another white man, a journalist played by Clark Gable.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

How do you solve a puzzle by Frank Longo? How do you find the words that really fit? How you solve a puzzle by Frank Longo? You have to stick with it and give it your best — don’t quit!

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper — well, difficulty, thy name is Longo. Solving this puzzle last night took me an hour and thirty-six seconds. (Thanks, Newsday puzzle timer.) A stage version of The Sound of Music was on PBS, but I was on the puzzle, which comes online at 10:00 Eastern.

Clues that I especially liked: 3-Down, “Poetic rapper of renown.” 11-Across, four letters: “Nickname for some spoilers.” And 22-Across, four letters: “No hitter of film.” I got the first answer straight off. The second answer made me smile. The third is the kind of answer I especially like, the kind that makes me look back at the clue and ask What? before I figure it out.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Matt who?

“I don’t know Matt Whitaker”: SOP, right? Deny everything. I never even heard of him!

That denial and the recent weird bit about “the embrace” are further reminders that Donald Trump is, at heart, what they call a legitimate businessman. Strictly legitimate.

Signage in the dark

Thirty-six people joined up last night to form a Mueller Protection Rapid Response along one side of one block of our town’s main artery. At our end of the block, we had signs made with bright reflective tubing (courtesy of the organizers) that read, à la Burma Shave,

NO    ONE    IS    ABOVE    THE    LAW
Or if you were approaching on the other side of the avenue:
LAW    THE    ABOVE    IS    ONE    NO
We received many honks of support — not from migrating geese but from vehicles. Several angry pickup trucks gunned their engines as they passed. (I do not stereotype: it was always a pickup truck.) One driver in a compact car opened his window and asked about Hillary Clinton. Isn’t she above the law? Another driver in a larger car put on blinkers and stopped — in traffic — to take a picture. Oh, she’s a friend. Hi, Sue! Several youthful passengers in cars and mini-vans read the signs and seemed to wonder what they were about. Mom, what’s obstruction mean?

The odd thing about this effort: the longer we stood, the more quickly the time passed, and the easier it became to hold up a sign. We stood for an hour, walked home, and had soup.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mueller Protection Rapid Response

Protests today, in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere: it’s the Mueller Protection Rapid Response. You can use the website to find an event near you.

I’m always of two minds about these events. On the one mind, I think that participating accomplishes little, if anything. In my small town, the usual small crowd will show up and feel better for doing so. On the other mind, I think that opting out is a form of complicity. To not participate is to go on with daily life as if all is well when it’s not.

When I think about the importance or insignificance of individual choice, I think about this account of how a world was lost. And I think about the categorical imperative, something I believe in. (I really do.) So I’ll be part of the usual small crowd, as I almost always am.

[Giving money, writing persuasively, casting a vote: I think that these all count for much more.]


Another mass shooting, in the only country in the developed world in which such events are common currency.

“General Kelly” (as the president calls him) and his friends will have to get busy, teaching, sitting in on religious services, and tending bar, ready to take on, and out, all comers. And where else will they need to be? Meanwhile, our president offers his formulaic condolences: “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims.” How many more victims must there be before there can be an honest examination of gun violence in American culture? That’s not a rhetorical question.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Automat, archived

[Horn & Hardart Automat Cafeteria. From the NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery. Click for a larger view.]

There it is, or was, at 1557 Broadway. Convicted Woman, playing next door, was released on January 31, 1940. The Diamond Horseshoe, Billy Rose’s nightclub, advertised on the barely readable sign, could be found in the basement of the Paramount Hotel, around the corner on West 46th.

The Automat appears in a handful of OCA posts. This one has a great photograph of a the Automat sign.

1940s NYC online

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York reports that 1940s tax photographs are now part of the NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery. Type in an address and see a building as it was — and perhaps still is. Jeremiah’s post has a number of well-known locations, including 154 West 10th Street, Manhattan, once a grocery store and delicatessen, now home to the bookstore Three Lives & Company.

In local news

It depends on what you mean by local. Our household’s favored candidates for the County Board, the Illinois House, and the House of Representatives all lost. Our friend running for the County Board in another district lost. A candidate in a neighboring congressional district lost a close election. To widen the idea of what’s local: Bruce Rauner, the worst governor our state has known, lost decisively to J.B. Pritzker, a candidate I’d call a billionaire for the rest of us. And the governor who provided the model for Rauner, Scott Walker, lost in Wisconsin. And less locally still, a friend in New Jersey worked mightily to flip a congressional district — and succeeded.

More and less locally, my dream of a Beto O’Rourke win turned out to be decidedly unprecognitive. But it’s our House.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

I’ve seen him on television at least a hundred times. But on film — that was a surprise. Do you recognize him? Leave your best guess in the comment. I’ll drop a clue if needed.


Here’s a hint: this actor is probably best known today for playing a dancer.


Oh well. The answer is now in the comments.

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


Carl Reiner:

In my ninety-six-and-a-half years, I’ve seen a lot of things. But the one thing I cannot bear to see is America being destroyed by racism, fear-mongering, and lies. Fortunately, there is something we can do about that. On November sixth, we can vote for elected officials who will hold this president accountable. And after we’ve done that, my personal goal will be to stick around until 2020 and vote to make sure we have have a decent, moral, law-abiding citizen in Washington who will make us all proud again to live in America.
And Roger Angell, who’s ninety-eight:
What we can all do at this moment is vote — get up, brush our teeth, go to the polling place, and get in line. I was never in combat as a soldier, but now I am. Those of you who haven’t quite been getting to your polling place lately, who want better candidates or a clearer system of making yourself heard, or who just aren’t in the habit, need to get it done this time around. If you stay home, count yourself among the hundreds of thousands now being disenfranchised by the relentless parade of restrictions that Republicans everywhere are imposing and enforcing. If you don’t vote, they have won, and you are a captive, one of their prizes.

When you do go to vote on Tuesday, take a friend, a nephew, a neighbor, or a partner, and be patient when in line. Just up ahead of you, the old guy in a sailing cap, leaning on his cane and accompanied by his wife, is me, again not minding the wait, and again enthralled by the moment and its meaning.
Related posts
Roger Angell on Donald Trump
David Foster Wallace on voting

Monday, November 5, 2018

Twelve movies

[As “Slip” Mahoney might say, “Routine Twelve!” Four sentences each. One to four stars. No spoilers.]

In a Lonely Place (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1950). Ostensibly a murder mystery, at least sort of. But it’s really a character study, because the question of whodunit is supremely unimportant. Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steele, a screenwriter given to sudden violence, and Gloria Grahame as Laurel Gray, the woman next door, drawn to and then terrified of her neighbor. This film is Grahame’s finest hour: a cool, understated performance in which a single glance or hesitation speaks volumes. ★★★★


Odds Against Tomorrow (dir. Robert Wise, 1959). An ex-cop (Ed Begley), an ex-con (Robert Ryan), and a compulsive gambler (Harry Belafonte) team up for a bank robbery that will leave each man set for life, but their perfect plan runs into unforeseen complications. With great location shots from New York City and upstate New York. What makes the story especially unusual is the element of racism complicating the work of the criminal trio — though it’s treated with some heavy-handed symbolism. Also with Gloria Grahame and Shelley Winters. ★★★★


Winter Soldier (prod. Winterfilm Collection, 1972). A documentary presenting testimony, interviews, and informal conversations from the Winter Soldier Investigation, a 1971 gathering in Detroit, Michigan, at which Vietnam veterans described war crimes that they had committed or witnessed. For the purpose of this post I’ll leave it at that: war crimes. It's a journey into a true heart of darkness. There’s no healing (that I can see) in the sharing of these stories, only an effort to awaken a sleeping public, an effort by men who seem belatedly awakened to the reality of their own experience. ★★★★


Patterns (dir. Fielder Cook, 1956). Life among executives, and great performances all around: Everett Sloane as a merciless second-generation boss, Ed Begley as a kindly old hand, Van Heflin as the new man who learns to his dismay that he is to replace the old hand. Will Heflin’s character play along? Screenplay by Rod Serling, adapted from his 1955 teleplay. This film would pair well with Executive Suite (dir. Robert Wise, 1954), right down to the tolling bells. ★★★★


The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (dir. Fritz Lang, 1933). A vast criminal enterprise led by — by whom, or what? I’m not sure what to call Dr. Mabuse. The baffling beginning, quick cuts, and startling images make for an ultra-modern film. Mabuse’s criminal schemes, focused on sheer destruction and terror, also make for an ultra-modern film. ★★★★


The Postman Always Rings Twice (dir. Tay Garnett, 1946). John Garfield and Lana Turner star as doomed lovers, smoldering and scheming in a roadside café. My favorite scene is the one I’d call the most disturbing: the jukebox, the dancers, the happy man with the guitar. There should be a name for this kind of film, the kind that turns off in a new direction midway. See, for instance, Vertigo. ★★★★


Portrait of Jennie (dir. William Dieterle, 1948). Finally available at Netflix. Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones in a mystical romance of artist and subject, one living, one dead. I think the third star of this film is its cinematographer, Joseph H. August, who gives us beautiful dark interiors and a luminous Central Park. Portrait of Jennie would pair well with Miracle in the Rain (dir. Rudolph Maté, 1956). ★★★★


Follow Me Quietly (dir. Richard O. Fleischer, 1949). William Lundigan as a police detective searching for a serial killer who calls himself the Judge, Dorothy Patrick as a true-crime writer pursuing the story and its detective. The title must mean that she’s supposed to follow behind, neither heard nor seen. Or is it that they both must follow the Judge quietly? Some good atmosphere (bookstores, diner) and some deeply creepy creepiness (missives from the Judge, and, especially, that faceless dummy). ★★★


Loyalty cards

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (dir. Charles Lamont, 1955). “How stupid can you get?” “How stupid do you want me to be?” It’s Halloween season, and this movie was on TCM: that’s my explanation — that, and loyalty born of hours watching reruns of The Abbott and Costello Show in early youth (thank you, WPIX). Richard Deacon, Dan Seymour, and Marie Windsor are here, everyone making a living. ★★

Ghost Chasers (dir. William Beaudine, 1951). The Bowery Boys expose a séance racket. My friend Chris Sippel and I were Bowery Boys fanatics in middle school (or was it called junior high?), so I watched Ghost Chasers out of loyalty to the past. Doing so let me better appreciate the considerable comedic gifts of Huntz Hall (as Horace Debussy “Sach” Jones) and wonder what people ever saw in Leo Gorcey, whose Terence Aloysius “Slip” Mahoney is an insufferable mess of unfunny Dunning-Kruger self-confidence. With Lloyd Corrigan as a friendly ghost. ★★


Island of Lost Souls (dir. Eric C. Kenton, 1932). Charles Laughton has a ball as the evil Dr. Moreau, a whip-cracking, vivisecting experimenter who rules over an island full of his animal-human creations. It’s Heart of Darkness meets Freaks. With Richard Arlen (Wings) and a startling turn by Bela Lugosi. Watch and you too will be able to say, “Oh, so that’s where ‘Are we not men?’ comes from.” ★★★★


I,Tonya (dir. Craig Gillespie, 2017). Margot Robbie gives a great performance as Tonya Harding. The politics of class, the politics of gender, and the presentation of the self in figure-skating life, all in a highly inventive bio-pic. “America, you know? They want someone to love, but they want someone to hate.” ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

For Massachusetts voters only

[As seen on Twitter. Click for a much larger view.]

My son Ben made a handy guide to voting rights in Massachusetts. You can shrink this poster-size image and print it as an 8 1/2 × 11 page.

The Washington Post has a guide to voting rights in every state, but it’s not nearly as Ben-like.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Barbed wire

It got a single sentence in the Associated Press coverage of the latest rallies. But it deserves greater attention. In Bozeman, Montana, November 3, an American president spoke of the beauty of barbed wire at the U.S.–Mexico border:

“And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today. Barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight.”
Sadism as entertainment. Go to The Washington Post and watch and listen for yourself. I’d say God help us, but God doesn’t vote. So vote.

So early-twenty-first century

“How are we going to get the word out?”

“Well, this is the twenty-first century . . . I think I’ll be blogging!”

[From a 2008 Hallmark movie, a lucky catch while flipping channels. Blogging is so early-twenty-first-century.]

Saturday, November 3, 2018

iOS Safari search suggestions


Try as I might, I cannot figure out how to remove search suggestions from Safari on an iPhone XR. Suggestions appear above the keyboard when I tap the address bar after reading a webpage. They appear regardless of my choice of search engine (DuckDuckGo or Google). They appear with some webpages, not all. The suggestions in the screenshot result from an article about a clock master. Side by side, the words pendulum and escapement make me think of the vocabulary work that might have accompanied a middle-school reading assigment.

In iOS Settings, I have disabled every search option for Safari and Siri that I can find, and still, these suggestions appear. They appear even with predictive text disabled. My iPhone 6, also running iOS 12.01, doesn’t show these suggestions, or any suggestions.

Does anyone know how to make these Safari suggestions go away?

[The Internets suggest that a handful of people have asked the same question. A discussion thread at Apple shows the problem, unresolved, since iOS 11. The solution, for now, would seem to be a different browser.]