Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thankful for that

Our president, speaking about Kim Jong Un’s knowledge of Otto Warmbier’s treatment:

“I don’t think the top leadership knew about it.”

“I don’t believe that he would have allowed that to happen.”

”Those prisons are rough, they’re rough places, and bad things happened.”

“I don’t believe he knew about it.”

“He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”
All I can say is, thank goodness our president never met Hitler.

About yesterday afternoon

About the clash of representatives at yesterday’s Michael Cohen hearing:

Mark Meadows presented the experiences of Lynne Patton, a friend of the Trump family and government employee, as proof that Donald Trump is not racist. But consider this analogy:

If X is said to rob banks, and a bank manager, Y, comes forward to say, no, X never robbed our bank, that denial says nothing about whether X robs banks. Not to have robbed one bank does not mean that X does not rob banks. Especially when X has the dye from exploding money bags all over his person.

To take one person’s experiences with Donald Trump as evidence that Trump is not racist is intellectually dishonest or, at best, painfully naïve. And to take one person’s experiences with Trump as evidence of Trump’s attitude toward a group that person is meant to represent — well, that’s racist.

Compare Louis Zukofsky, speaking of his fellow poet Ezra Pound: “I never felt the least trace of anti-Semitism in his presence.” Yes, but.

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Do you recognize the elevator operator? Leave your best or second-best guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if necessary.


10:10 a.m.: Now ID’d in the comments.

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

[Garner’s Modern English Usage notes that “support for actress seems to be eroding.” I’ll use actor.]

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

That sounds right

From the Michael Cohen hearing, a few minutes ago. Representative Stephen Lynch (D, Massachusetts-8): “Your side ran away from the truth. We’re trying to bring it to the American people.”

An EXchange name sighting

[Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (dir. Robert Aldrich, 1962). Click for a larger view.]

Miss Jane Hudson, HO 5-6259, is planning to revive her career. She’s placed her ad for an accompanist in the Personal column — nicer than using the want ads, she thinks.

A 1955 list of recommended exchange names gives these possibilities for HO: HObart, HOmestead, HOpkins, and HOward. But at some point HO also stood for HOllywood. The Hudson sisters’ HO must signify Hollywood, don’t you think?

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? also includes an uncredited appearance by a Mongol pencil.

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 : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : 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

[EM: EMerson? EMpire? EV: Evergreen?]

“The slightly confidential friend”

Kenneth Fearing, The Big Clock. 1946. (New York: New York Review Books, 2006).

Also from this novel
“The niece of a department store” : “Me? Dangerous?” : “Nearly everyone was”

Domestic comedy

[Media studies.]

“He looks sort of like a demented Robert Young.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[He: James Griffith, in the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Posthumous Painter” (November 11, 1961).]

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

“We did not plummet into space”

A clue in a Newsday crossword got me thinking about plummet. Which in turn made me think of Ernest Noyes Brookings (1898–1987). Brookings, a Navy veteran and a designer of machine parts, began writing poems while residing in a nursing home. A book of his poems was published in an edition of 400 copies: We Did Not Plummet Into Space: Variety Poems of Special Interest (Charlestown, MA: Innerer Klang, 1983). It’s a book I cherish.

Brookings’s poems are sweet and startling, with lines and stanzas often moving in whatever directions the poet’s rhyming dictionary suggests. Content as an extension of form: radical formalism, says I. Here are the final stanzas of “My Jobs”:

[A number of musicians have set Brookings’s poems to music. A collected poems, Golden Rule, was published in 2016 (London: Boatwhistle Books).]

May Drug Co.

[Zippy, February 26, 2019.]

In today’s Zippy, a dead drugstore comes back to life. The May Drug Co. stood at Seminary Avenue and Foothill Boulevard in Oakland, California. Here’s a photo gallery, assembled by the artist Gary Molitor, whose father and grandfather ran May Drug.

I like retail density, real or imaginary.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : A Berenice Abott photograph : Best drugstore in the movies?

“Nearly everyone was”

Steve Hagen is trying to figure something out:

Kenneth Fearing, The Big Clock. 1946. (New York: New York Review Books, 2006).

The movie (dir. John Farrow, 1948) is fun, but the novel is the real film noir.

Also from this novel
“The niece of a department store” : “Me? Dangerous?”

Monday, February 25, 2019

A joke in the traditional manner

This one’s from Elaine:

What’s the name of the Illinois town where dentists want to live?

No spoilers. The punchline is in the comments.

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

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

“Me? Dangerous?”

George Stroud again. The beautiful stranger, who is no stranger, really, is Pauline Delos.

Kenneth Fearing, The Big Clock. 1946. (New York: New York Review Books, 2006).

Also from this novel
“The niece of a department store”

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Library history

“Today, even in an America that increasingly shuns all things public, people still love and need a good public library”: Ariel Aberg-Riger offers a short illustrated history of the American public library.

[Found via Fresca, l’astronave.]

No, it’s not a butter churn

At Oscar’s Day, George Bodmer dramatizes a supply-centric generation gap.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Stanley Donen (1924–2019)

Director of Royal Wedding and Funny Face and so many other films, co-director of On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain, Stanley Donen has died at the age of ninety-four. The New York Times has an obituary.

Our fambly was fortunate to see Stanley Donen with John Williams and the Boston Pops at Tanglewood some years ago. Donen introduced clips from his films, which played silently on a huge screen as the orchestra played the appropriate part of the score. We must have been at this 2005 concert, which also featured Josh Groban. I remember that there were many younger (and noisy) people in the audience.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, has some fine pairs of clues and answers. Or at least fine by me:

31-Across, nine letters, “Dove.” You were thinking of birds, perhaps?

56-Across, ten letters, “They have defensive ends.”

11-Down, ten letters, “Bridge beam.” Thank you, Vertigo, for that answer.

13-Down, five letters, “Minor key.”

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Domestic comedy

“Did the museum send you the app for the subtitles?”


“Look at the color palette.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[People who wake up while watching TV say the darndest things. First item, during The Late Show. Second, Perry Mason.]

“Water of life”

From The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories (1991):

Of the relatively few English words that have come from the Celtic languages, certainly one of the most common is whiskey. The Irish Gaelic uisce beathadh and Scots Gaelic uisge beatha, terms for certain distilled liquors made in those countries, can both be translated literally as “water of life.” Though whiskeybae and usquebaugh have both been used in English, the shorter whiskey (or whisky) is by far the most common form.

In sixteenth-century England aqua vitae, taken without change from the Medieval Latin phrase meaning “water of life,” first appears as a term for a distilled alcoholic drink, though as early as 1471 it had been used for medicinal alcohol. From the same Medieval Latin source comes Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian akvavit, which is used in English in the form aquavit as the name for a clear Scandinavian liquor flavored with caraway seeds. English has also borrowed the French translation of Latin aqua vitae in the font eau-de-vie as a term for brandy.

The name bourbon which designates some American whiskeys comes from the name of Bourbon County, Kentucky, where such whiskey was first made in the late eighteenth century.
Our household is three of four: we have aquavit (Aalborg, Linie), bourbon (Evan Williams, Traverse City), and Scotch (Ardbeg, Glenmorangie). And lots of wine. But no brandy. Scotch, by the way, is always whisky, no -e.

Our alcohol consumption has not increased since November 8, 2016, but our stockpiling has. Be Prepared.

A related post
Whisky, hold the -e

[The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories is wonderfully browsable.]

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Victor Davis Hanson
on Ajax, Achilles, and Trump

The New Yorker has an interview with Victor Davis Hanson, classicist, military historian, and Donald Trump supporter. The interview covers touches on many subjects in a short space: “anchor babies,” the travel ban, the statue-loving demonstrators in Charlottesville, Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and when it’s appropriate to mock a woman as unattractive: “There are certain women that may be homely,” Hanson declares. It’s like watching an interview from The Colbert Report.

And of course, Hanson talks about his forthcoming book, The Case for Trump, in which he likens Donald Trump, in passing, to the Greek heroes Achilles and Ajax. As he does in the interview:

“You have a neurotic hero [Ajax] who cannot get over the fact that he was by all standards the successor to Achilles and deserves Achilles’s armor, and yet he was outsmarted by this wily, lesser Odysseus, who rigged the contest and got the armor. All he does is say, ‘This wasn’t fair. I’m better. Doesn’t anybody know this?’ It’s true, but you want to say to Ajax, ‘Shut up and just take it.’ Achilles has elements of a tragic hero. He says, at the beginning of the Iliad, ‘I do all the work. I kill all the Trojans. But when it comes to assigning booty, you always give it to mediocrities — deep-state, administrative nothings.’ So he stalks off. And the gods tell him, ‘If you come back in, you will win fame, but you are going to end up dead.’ So he makes a tragic, heroic decision that he is going to do that.

“I think Trump really did think that there were certain problems and he had particular skills that he could solve. Maybe in a naïve fashion. But I think he understood, for all the emoluments-clause hysteria, that he wasn’t going to make a lot of money from it or be liked for it.”
These comparisons are bonkers. Let’s not forget: Trump, unlike Ajax, won the big prize, with, it seems, considerable help from outside actors who worked to rig the outcome — Russians, not Greeks. The Ajax of Sophocles’s tragedy Ajax (the work Hanson is referencing) does more than say “This wasn’t fair”: having planned to kill Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Odysseus, he is deluded by Athena into slaughtering cattle instead. And he then realizes what he has done: “Now I stand here / Disgraced.” What distinguishes Sophocles’s Ajax is his profound shame, an emotion Donald Trump seems incapable of feeling.

As for Achilles: he returns to battle out of a deep sense of loyalty to his beloved Patroclus, willing to sacrifice himself to avenge his comrade. Loyalty, self-sacrifice: further elements of human experience that seem foreign to Trump, except insofar as he demands them of others.

If Trump resembles anyone in the Iliad, it’s Agamemnon, the leader who is at a loss in a true crisis and claims Achilles’s prize of war (the enslaved Briseis) to assert his own greater authority. It’s the preening, self-aggrandizing Agamemnon who complains of fake news, dismissing the prophet Calchas’s explanation of a plague: “Not a single favorable omen ever!”

And it must be said: Ajax, Achilles, and even Agamemnon fight valiantly. None of them claimed to have bone spurs. The best comparison there would be to Odysseus, who feigned madness to avoid conscription. But once at Troy, he too fought valiantly.

In 2017 I wrote a post about Trump, Agamemnon, Oedipus, and Creon: We three kings. Or, really, one king and two tyrants.

Other related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)

[Amazon’s Look Inside feature lets me see that the references to Ajax and Achilles are as cursory in Hanson’s book as they are in this interview. I’ve quoted from Peter Meineck’s translation of Ajax, in Four Tragedies (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2007), and Stanley Lombardo’s translation of the Iliad (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997).]

“The niece of a department store”

George Stroud works in the magazine business. He and his wife Georgette are attending at a party at the residence of his boss Earl Janoth:

Kenneth Fearing, The Big Clock. 1946. (New York: New York Review Books, 2006).

Forty-two pages in, I’ll vouch for The Big Clock.

[George and Georgette’s daughter: Georgia. They all call each other George: “George said you’d tell me a story, George.” Just a tad surreal.]

A Mongol sighting

[Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (dir. Robert Aldrich, 1962). Click for a larger view.]

Anna Lee, as the next-door neighbor Mrs. Bates, holds a Mongol pencil. The ferrule is the tell-tale sign.

From childhood’s hour, the Mongol has been my favorite pencil.

Related reading
All OCA Mongol posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


”You’ll laugh, you’ll be moved, and you’ll come away with new ways to approach your work and put research into practice. You’ll meet people who can help your career thrive”: from a website for a conference about (so-called) distance learning. There are many such conferences.

Strange that those who extol distance learning should extol the benefits of meeting in real space to talk shop. For students: online classes. For us: travel money and conferences. Let them eat Internets!

A related post
Haircuts, the gold standard, and everyone else

Frozen heads

Lately our deck has been dry, sodden, or covered in snow. But this morning: frozen nailheads.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


[Mark Trail, February 19, 2019.]

On Harbour Island in the Bahamas, a man named Dirty is destroying a mannequin’s head with a flamethrower: “Man! This flamethrower is a blast!” The name, the weapon, the witless violence: might this man be a villain? If so, Mark will promptly be dispatching him, eight or nine months from now.

If you want to break the fourth wall, you must leave no wall behind. Olivia Jaimes can show you how it’s done. Also, don’t leave parts of clouds and infernos blank. “FFWWOOOOSSSHHH” must be comics-speak for “Dammit, I forgot to proofread.”

Related reading


[Click for a much larger view.]

Not quite FAT and SASSY, but still — what are the odds? Slim, I guess.

“The phrase fat and sassy has connoted robust good health for well over a century”: The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories (1991). M-W cites an 1859 example: “The fryin-pan stunk with fat eels, and we all got fat and sassy.”

Monday, February 18, 2019

No TV for a week!

But it’s not a punishment. And in truth, it’s only cable news, not TV. It’s been no CNN or MSNBC for a week, and I feel fine.

I’ve tried it before: from November 8 to December 13, I watched no television news, save for an episode of the PBS NewsHour dedicated to Gwen Ifill. At some point the news went back on. I confess: I was a backslider, reading with CNN on in the background, watching The 11th Hour (at 10 Central) and feeling dread. And then I decided (again) — enough.

My eyes and ears are open and my head is nowhere near the sand: I am keeping up with the news by reading The New York Times and The Washington Post and listening to NPR. I’ve made the mistake of tuning in to cable news just twice, hitting 1-3-5 or 1-3-8 on the remote out of habit. Once I got someone saying “But it will never pass in the Senate.” And once I got a commercial. I don’t think I’ve missed much.

[I had already pretty much given up on the PBS NewsHour: it makes everything feel too normal.]

In extremis

Arthur Schnitzler, Fräulein Else. 1924. In Desire and Delusion: Three Novellas, trans. Margret Schaefer (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003).

Schnitzler’s novella Lieutenant Gustl (1900) marks the first sustained use of interior monologue in European literature. Twenty-four years later, Fräulein Else takes the form of an interior monologue by a young woman who seeks to keep her debtor father from prison by approaching an old family friend for money. The friend has agreed, but has exacted a price.

Everything in this volume is desperation, suspicion, and madness. Highly recommended.

Also from Schnitzler
“Maestro!” : “A simple bourgeois home” : To Vienna by train

Sunday, February 17, 2019

“Loser teachers”

In The Washington Post, three teachers, from Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States, respond to Donald Trump Jr.’s remarks about “loser teachers.” An excerpt:

In a stadium filled with people chanting “USA, USA,” the son of the president of the United States called for hostility toward teachers because of their so-called political leanings. This is a message you would expect in an authoritarian regime, not at a rally for the U.S. president. . . .

By working daily with young people, teachers are the stewards of the future. Whether Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative, right, left, center, blue or red — seeing and reinforcing the value of a teacher should be a national pillar that rises high above partisan politics and cheap applause.

NYRB sale

New York Review Books has a half-off sale on selected books. I can vouch for Balzac, Gass, and Schnitzler.

Joe Friday and T.S.E.

From a New York Times review of Andrew McCabe’s The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump:

The first sentence demands to be read in the voice of Jack Webb from Dragnet: “Between the world of chaos and the world of order stands the rule of law.”
How about Joe Friday and T.S. Eliot? From “The Hollow Men”:
    Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
[Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. And Robert Mueller.]

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Verb tenses are tricky with crosswords:

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Brad Wilber, is difficult. There it is, sitting on the Newsday website.

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Brad Wilber, was difficult. There it is, now solved.
My portal: 13-Down, nine letters, “What the UN overlooks.” And then I stumbled and stumbled, and stumbled some more.

Some excellent clues:

28-Across, twelve letters, “The bright orange tangor, for one.” A bird? No.

39-Across, five letters, “Big name in African dramatics.” I knew I knew it.

49-Across, four letters, “Pan’s close relative.” The answer baffled me up to the moment I typed the clue here.

33-Down, nine letters, “Learned.” Yep.

But I’m still baffled by the answer for 46-Down, six letters, “Indoor transportation system.” A little help?

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

An unexpected introduction

At a concert last night by Sinfonia da Camera, conducted by Ian Hobson, a man walked onstage to speak a bit about the composer John de Lacy Wooldridge (1919–1958). The orchestra was about to give the American premiere of Wooldridge’s Concerto for Orchestra and Oboe, with John Dee, soloist. The last words of the introduction:

“What you’re hearing is a young piece by a young man who happened to be my father.”
That introduction gave the music that followed — pastoral, sometimes playful — even greater emotional content.

[The speaker, who never gave his name, was Hugh Wooldridge.]

Friday, February 15, 2019

You don’t have to be
a psychiatrist . . . .

Dunning-Kruger moment of the year, if you’re declaring a “national emergency”: “I didn’t need to do this.”

Word of the day: cloakroom

A friend mentioned a cloakroom the other day — a little room near the entrance of his elementary school, many years ago, with a sink and toilet. Huh?

I have a vivid memory of a cloakroom from second grade: Miss M. once attempted to quiet us down by throwing her shoes at us as we donned our coats in there. The cloakroom was a genuine room, a small one, with hooks lining three walls. No sink, no toilet. No cloaks either, just coats and hats and mittens and gloves and boots — and shoes flying. Did every classroom in my elementary school have a cloakroom? I have no idea.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives this definition:

A room for the temporary storage of coats, bags, etc., esp. in a large public building, as a theatre, school, railway station, etc., typically near the entrance; such a room containing or adjoining toilets, facilities for washing, etc.; (hence, euphem.) a toilet for public use.
The first citation is from 1823. I find it dispiriting to think that our ancestors at least sometimes stored “coats, bags, etc.” in the presence of a public toilet. Talk about a multi-purpose room.

A later meaning (first citation 1865):
Chiefly Brit. and Irish English. A small room in a private home, typically close to the front entrance, which may be used to store coats, hats, shoes, etc., and which may also contain a toilet and often a washbasin.

Now frequently used euphemistically in advertising to denote any small room containing a toilet, regardless of whether there is also storage space.
That makes me think that cloakroom and water closet might be roughly synonymous. The OED identifies water closet as “chiefly arch., hist., or euphem., except in the abbreviated form W.C.

A still later meaning of cloakroom (first citation 1878):
U.S. Politics. A private room adjacent to a legislative chamber of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. where members of Congress and other authorized individuals can meet, work, or relax.

Two cloakrooms lead off each chamber, one for each party. These rooms were originally for the storage of coats, etc.
No surprise that the cloak of cloakroom means just what you’d expect: “a loose outer garment worn by both sexes over their other clothes.” I was beginning to hope that cloak might be related to cloaca, “a privy,” “a sewer or drain, esp. the main one serving a particular town or district.”

Wardrobe, by the way, first meant “a privy, a latrine.”

Reader, did you go to a school antique enough to have anything called a cloakroom?

Still more kids ’n’ coffee

But no more after this post, because coffee really isn’t good for kids. From Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks (1868). Dick (later Richard Hunter), treats a fellow boot black to breakfast:

“What’ll you have, Johnny?”

“Same as you.”

“Cup o’ coffee and beefsteak,” ordered Dick.

These were promptly brought, and Johnny attacked them vigorously.
Coffee and beefsteak is standard breakfast fare in this novel, sometimes with rolls or bread.

Related posts
coffee (A repurposed Ovaltine ad) : Kids ’n’ coffee (Nancy and Sluggo) : “A whole cup of coffee for myself!”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

“Dearest Liz”

From Field Notes. Clever, and it’s true:

Field Notes is giving away a red Bic Clic with every order placed today. I’m full up on supplies, but someone else might not be.

A pencil box, not Lassie

[From Lassie Come Home (dir. Fred M. Wilcox, 1943). Click for a larger view.]

Father (Donald Crisp) and Mother (Elsa Lanchester) marvel at the birthday gift they’ve bought for young Joe (Roddy McDowall). “It’s wonderful, the things they have nowadays,” says Father. “There were no pencils when I were a lad. We had only slates.”

Joe is disappointed when he learns that the surprise in store for him is not Lassie. No, she’s not returned. But he puts on a brave face, thanking his parents for a gift he pronounces “champion.”

That looks like an Eberhard Faber Union eraser, doesn’t it? White side, pencil; grey side, ink.

Related reading
All OCA Lassie and stationery posts (Pinboard)

Valentine’s Day

[“Heart Amulet.” From Egypt, New Kingdom, Ramesside, c. 1295–1070 BCE. Red jasper. 1 1/8″ × 7/8″ × 9/16″. Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the online collection.]

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

[More about amulets and the heart, or ib, at this object’s museum page.]

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Domestic comedy

“Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day — I’ll have to be a gentleman all day.”

“You can start today.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Twelve movies

[One to four stars. Three sentences each. No spoilers.]

You Only Live Once (dir. Fritz Lang, 1937). Lang’s second American movie begins with wooden dialogue and clumsy comedy but soon turns into a couple-on-the-run story that later directors were to emulate. But like I said, no spoilers. With Henry Fonda, Sylvia Sidney, Barton MacLane, and a terrified Jerome Cowan. ★★★★


Written on the Wind (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1956). A bit of dialogue: “Are you looking for laughs, or are you soul searching?” If the answer is both, this movie is an excellent choice: an over-the-top story of alcoholism, bromance, infertility, marital discord, nymphomania (as it used to be called), and wealth. With Lauren Bacall, Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, and Robert Stack. ★★★★


The Bookshop (dir. Isabel Coixet, 2017). Fine actors, beautifully filmed. But the story is underdeveloped, sometimes coy, sometimes deadly serious, and always — and I do mean always — predictable. With Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, and Patricia Clarkson. ★★


River of No Return (dir. Otto Preminger, 1954). Fear death by water: a dangerous journey by raft, with majestic scenery, macho posturing, and the deaths of ten or twelve Native people. I am astonished to learn that this film was inspired by Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves: wait, what? With Robert Mitchum, Rory Calhoun, a highly mannered Marilyn Monroe, and a surprisingly good Tommy Rettig (soon to be Jeff Miller on TV’s Lassie). ★★


Michael (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1924). A remarkable silent about love between men, with an aging painter (Benjamin Christensen), his beautiful young model (Walter Slezak), and complicating factors. If you know Slezak from Hitchcock ’s Lifeboat (1944), this movie is bound to be a surprise. It’s not a spoiler to quote: “Now I can die in peace for I have known a great love.” ★★★★


Two by Paweł Pawlikowski

Ida (2013). Poland, early 1960s, a novice in a convent is directed to make a visit to her sole relation before taking final vows. An utterly compelling road movie of sorts, with deeply felt performances by Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska (who had never before acted) and bleakly brilliant silver and gray cinematography by Łukasz Żal and Ryszard Lenczewski. “Why am I not here?” ★★★★

My Summer of Love (2004). A summer idyll between two young women, Mona (Natalie Press), who lives with her brother above the bar he’s turned into a religious center, and Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a child of wealth, who enters the film riding a white horse. At first I thought, Uh-oh, it’s Rochelle, Rochelle. But — again, no spoilers — I was happy to have been proven wrong. ★★★


The Kindergarten Teacher (dir. Sara Colangelo, 2018). A great performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal as a teacher who lives through one of her students, a boy with a gift, she believes, for poetry (prose poems, I guess, for there’s never a word about line breaks). Improbable and contrived at times, but deeply disturbing: imagine a version of Fatal Attraction set in a classroom. A remake of a 2015 film (same title) by Nadav Lapid, now in our queue. ★★★


Two by Alfonso Cuarón

Roma (2018). Roma is a neighborhood in Mexico City, where members of a three-generation family and two domestic workers live in a house that resembles a compound, with its own gate and an alley for cars. Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), one of the domestics, the focus of the film, is a stand-in for Liboria “Libo” Rodríguez, a domestic in Cuarón’s childhood home, a woman the director reveres and loves, the woman to whom the film is dedicated, but Cleo (like the members of the family she serves) remains (at least for me) largely unknown. What we do know of her is her selflessness and stoic courage: like Faulkner’s Dilsey, for whom a singular pronoun was inadequate, “They endured.” ★★★

Y tu mamá también (2001). An improvisational road movie, with two horny young men, one affluent, the other not, and an older (though not that much older) woman, testing the boundaries of friendship and sexuality as they travel through an often beautiful, sometimes terrifying, nearly always impoverished landscape. The most remarkable thing about the movie, I think, is that it allows the viewer at many points to forget everything except its present moment. “La vida es como la espuma, por eso hay que darse como el mar.” ★★★★


Lassie Come Home (dir. Fred M. Wilcox, 1943). A tear-smeary canine odyssey, as Lassie makes her way from Scotland to Yorkshire to be reunited with a schoolboy. With Nigel Bruce, Edmund Gwenn, Elsa Lanchester, Roddy McDowall, Elizabeth Taylor, and Dame Mae Whitty. But how did Lassie ever end up on a farm just outside Calverton? ★★★★


Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (dir. Michael Winterbottom, 2005). A movie about the attempt to make a movie of Laurence Sterne’s novel, with false starts, interruptions, interviews with cast members, conversations as to what scenes should be included, and negotiations with agents. The endless comic rivalry of Steve Coogan (Tristram/Walter) and Rob Brydon (Uncle Toby) will mean more to a British audience than it did to me. The film highlights both the comedy and pathos of Sterne’s world, which come together in the scene of Uncle Toby showing Mrs. Wadman where he received his wound — but again, no spoilers.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

[Oh, the trouble with Netflix: Pawel Pawlikowski has directed six theatrical releases. Cold War (2018) has yet to be released on DVD. Ida is the only one of the other five available from Netflix. I’m already suspecting that Ida might be the best movie I see this year. “La vida es como la espuma, por eso hay que darse como el mar”: “Life is like foam, so give yourself away like the sea.” That’s the English subtitle, with a comma added. Would “surrender yourself” be better?]

Meta Trail

[Mark Trail, February 13, 2019.]

Rusty has been telling the fam about his new friend Mara’s hobbies: ”She likes reading the comics in her newspaper back home!” Mark too! Everyone’s meta these days, or trying to be.

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

That word

Phillip Adamo, a professor who was leading an honors seminar at Augsburg University, is in deep trouble. The trouble involves a word that came up in class, a word that a student spoke when reading aloud a passage from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time in which the word appears. Adamo asked his students to consider whether they wanted to use that word in class or replace it with a euphemism. He spoke the word himself in posing the question. And that’s how his troubles began. He has since been suspended from teaching and removed as director of his university’s honors program.

My choice in teaching, say, Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, was to place that word under erasure, a notion from philosophy that I adapted for my use. I wanted the word left on the page and never spoken, with a silence taking its place. Perhaps not a courageous choice. But as I would explain, I didn’t want anyone to feel easy about the use of that word.

So unlike Adamo, I didn’t leave it up to my students. His choice was a more courageous one. That he is paying a penalty for his choice is chilling and absurd. I can only imagine what would have happened to him were he not a full professor.

Randall Kennedy, who wrote a book about the history of the word, has written a brief commentary on the Augsburg incident for The Chronicle. An excerpt, with one redaction:

This is not a case of a professor calling someone [      ]. This is a case of a professor exploring the thinking and expression of a writer who voiced the word to challenge racism. This is not a case of a professor negligently throwing about a term that’s long been deployed to terrorize, shame, and denigrate African-Americans. This is a case of a professor who, attentive to the sensibilities of his students, sought to encourage reflection about their anxieties and beliefs.

None of those distinctions require deep insight. They should be obvious. Students unable to appreciate them are students unprepared for university life.
Kennedy mentions Adamo’s invoking of the distinction between use and mention, another distinction that should be obvious.

To Vienna by train

Felix and Martha are returning to Vienna by train:

Arthur Schnitzler, Dying. 1895. In Desire and Delusion: Three Novellas, trans. Margret Schaefer (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003).

Schnitzler does so much with a handful of details. I like the phrase “into the grey day,” with its suggestion of an observer looking into nearly impenetrable fog. I like the contrast between what‘s seen at close range — the rain, which must be trickling down the window — and things seen at a distance. I like the contrast of speed and stasis — wires dancing by, then the train stopping. I like the way we see — or don’t see — life on the platform from Felix’s perspective. I like the reminder of the noise over which one might try to speak on a train. And I like the way Schnitzler captures the quiet exhaustion that comes with the end of a long trip, even if one isn’t on the verge of death.

Reading this paragraph, I thought how little difference there is between train and plane: water on the window, fog, a landscape now and then emerging, the sense that something is happening up front, or in back, that one cannot see. And, on the way home, quiet exhaustion.

Also from Schnitzler
“Maestro!” : “A simple bourgeois home”

[I cannot read German, but I know how to figure things out. The details of this translation that I like appear to be in the German text. Search for “Er starrte durch die geschlossenen Fensterscheiben” to find this passage.]

Monday, February 11, 2019

A joke in the traditional manner

Of all the songs in the Great American Songbook, which is the favorite of pirates?

No spoilers. The punchline, such as it is, is in the comments.

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

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

The age of Nancy

[Zippy, February 11, 2019.]

In previous panels: Griffy notes that he and Zippy never look older. Zippy notes that Nancy and Sluggo have never aged. Griffy notes that the characters in Gasoline Alley aged. Why don’t all comics characters age? Zippy says that the answer lies in his attic.

Ivan Albright’s painting Picture of Dorian Gray, created for the 1945 film The Picture of Dorian Gray, hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

You can read Zippy every day at Comics Kingdom.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Jackie Wilson and milk

It’s nice to hear a few seconds of Jackie Wilson on TV, even if it’s in a milk commercial. He’s singing “To Be Loved.” But I wonder, in 2019, how many viewers know whose voice they’re hearing.

Jackie Wilson is one of my favorite singers. “Reet Petite,” “Lonely Teardrops,” “Higher and Higher,” “Am I the Man”? Of course. (And yes, you’re the man.) But my favorite Wilson recording is “Comin’ On Back to You.” If you click on even one of these links, you’ll know why Jackie Wilson was called Mr. Excitement.

[Our complicated culture: Al Jolson — yes, that Al Jolson, the blackface performer — was one of Wilson’s great inspirations. In the liner notes for a 1961 tribute album, Wilson called him “the greatest entertainer of this or any other era.” Here’s Wilson singing “My Yiddishe Momme.”]

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Frank Longo, made me think I WNF (would not finish). But the puzzle began to open up when I guessed at 25-Down, six letters, “Top-selling aircraft brand of the 1970s.” Then I got 28-Down, six letters, “Grasping,” and 34-Down, five letters, “Some Southwestern ceramics,” and I was (slowly) on my way. Thank you, top-selling aircraft brand of the 1970s. And thank you, Frank Longo, for a challenging puzzle.

The clues that yielded my favorite answers: 1-Across, ten letters, “‘Busted!’” 17-Across, ten letters, “Girls’ new goal, as of 2019.” 51-Across, three letters, “High grade for a vineyard” — whose answer I know from a certain Van Dyke Parks song. 8-Down, fifteen letters, “Haunts.”

And 23-Down, six letters, “Legendary ‘Grail Maiden.’”

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 8, 2019

From John Dingell’s last words

From John Dingell’s last words for his country, dictated yesterday, the day of his death, to Debbie Dingell, his wife, who holds the seat her husband held in the House of Representatives:

My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.

Think about it:

Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.

Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.

We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.

And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.

Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.
In my life and career I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power — as in, “the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee.”

It’s an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).
The quicker the better.

Ace Gummed Reinforcements

[“No 2. Size.” 2¼″ × 1½″. Click for a larger view.]

We took some items to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. And there I found these reinforcements — mysterious, shadowy. What were they doing there? And what did they want from me? They wanted me to ask how much they cost: 75¢, but I paid a dollar.

I have vague memories of retro packaging from my youth, so my guess was that the box dates from the 1970s, with a design to make a dowdy school supply seem cool. (I thought too of a Tot Stapler ad featuring Stevie Staple-Freak.) The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies has a similar box, dated to the 1930s. Turn the box over and it does look like we’re further back in time.

Several eBay sellers offer Ace reinforcements made by Dennison. Did Dennison buy Ace? Was Ace always a Dennison name? The mystery deepens.

This post is the twenty-first in a very occasional series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items. The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. The vignette effect in the photographs is by the Mac app Acorn.

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


Letterheads dig letterheads. Letterhead Steven Heller offers his confessions — with samples.

Related posts
Eberhard Faber letterhead : Kurt Vonnegut letterhead

[Thanks to Ian Bagger for the link.]

Books about notebooks

The start of a sentence in a Washington Post piece by Josephine Wolff about notebooks: “The half-dozen books I’ve read about how to keep a notebook.”

The promises that books about notebooks make are appealing: follow this system to greater autonomy, creativity, and peace of mind. But I balk at the idea of reading a book to learn how to keep a notebook. One book that Wolff cites, by the creator of the Bullet Journal method, runs 320 pages.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Sanford Sylvan (1953–2019)

The singer Sanford Sylvan died last week in Manhattan at the age of sixty-five. The New York Times has an obituary.

Elaine has written a post about Sanford Sylvan, or Sandy, with links to other memorial posts about him. Elaine knew him when she was a teenager, and heard him sing many times. The two of us heard him in a Boston Shakespeare Company production of Mother Courage, directed by Peter Sellars. It was our third date, January 24, 1984. Linda Hunt played Mother Courage. I’ll never forget it.

The music for that production was by Van Dyke Parks. How could we have known that years later that Van Dyke would be our friend?

More kids ’n’ coffee

The term “kid’s coffee” in today’s xkcd made me remember this bit of dialogue. From River of No Return (dir. Otto Preminger, 1954), an exchange between father Matt Calder (Robert Mitchum) and son Mark (Tommy Rettig):

“Well, there it is: that’s Council City. What do you want when we get there?”

“A cup of coffee. A whole cup of coffee for myself!”

“You’ve got it!”
Related posts
coffee (A repurposed Ovaltine ad) : Kids ’n’ coffee (Nancy and Sluggo)

“Regional Terms for
Carbonated Beverages”

[xkcd, February 7, 2019. Click for a larger view. Original here.]

The mouseover text reads “There’s one person in Missouri who says ‘carbo bev’ who the entire rest of the country HATES.”

Today’s xkcd makes me think of my son Ben’s childhood soda-language: “co-Coke” (cold Coke), “kid-Coke” (caffeine-free Coke), and “man-Coke” (the Real Thing itself). See also Things my children no longer say.


How to speed up podcasts
in iTunes on a Mac

It’s not possible to speed up podcasts in iTunes on a Mac. But you can speed up podcasts by going outside iTunes, and without relying on a dedicated app. Here’s how:

In iTunes, right-click on the podcast episode you want to hear.

Choose “Show in Finder.” If you have several episodes of a podcast in your iTunes Library, the Finder will show them all. The file with the episode you’ve chosen will be highlighted.

In the Finder, right-click on the file. Open it with QuickTime (it’s on every Mac), and click on the arrows to the right of QuickTime’s Play icon to speed up playback, 2x or, much more improbably, 5x or 10x as fast.

Better: use the great free app VLC instead and adjust the playback speed from the menu bar. VLC offers much more control over playback speed (going up to 4x as fast). I find that 1.6x or so is a comfortable speed for most podcasts.


[Happy to have finally figured this out.]

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Izzy Young (1928–2019)

The folk-music advocate and entrepreneur Izzy Young has died at the age of ninety. The New York Times has an obituary. Here are two paragraphs from an installment of Young’s Sing Out! magazine column “Frets and Frails” (February/March 1967):

Write to Steve Ditlea, WKCR-FM (89.9), Columbia University, NYC, 10025, for full listings of folkmusic shows that include tapings from the Bitter End, the Gaslight, the Feenjon, the Folklore Center and the Washington Square. The most popular show is on Sat. from 7:30 to 9:00 pm. . . . Send your name to Broadside, 215 W. 98th St., NYC, 10025, to aid their petition to bring back Pete Seeger’s “The Rainbow Quest” to TV. . . . Arlo Guthrie’s rendition of his “Alice’s Restaurant” was the high point of the Philadelphia Folk Festival. It sensibly combined elements of his father’s style of talking blues, contemporary notions of the absurdity of human life and protest of the draft in rolling comedy that never lost its sharpness or magical weave.

Belafonte has updated his calypso songs with brass on his latest LP. . . . Capitol has formed a new label, Folk World, to capture part of the “definite folk market, fat and solid”. . . . Now that the Spike Drivers of Detroit are beginning to make it their lead singers have lost weight to improve their image and their girl singer has taken to wearing bras. . . . Why are the Beatles the only group that smiles on publicity shots? Everyone else in Datebook and Teenset feels they have to look dour and hard to be hip. . . . The Loving Spoonful are one of the few groups that are growing up as they become more popular. In fact it’s easier to talk to them now than ever before and their music is not afraid to be happy.
I wasn’t subscribing to Sing Out! in 1967 — I was a kid, with several years to go before becoming a subversive teenager. I bought this issue several years after its publication for a cover story on Mississippi John Hurt. “Frets and Frails” disappeared not long after I began my subscription.

[The Spike Drivers? You can find them in Wikipedia. YouTube has a compilation album and two lip-synced songs — one, two — from a TV appearance. The group took its name from Hurt’s “Spike Driver Blues.”]

“Not like the trumpet stop
of some ill-made organ”

Tristram has been promising to tell the story of Uncle Toby’s amours with widow Wadman for some time now. The story is finally underway. Here Mrs. Wadman is trying to get Uncle Toby to look her in the eye. She claims to have a mote, or something, there. Danger, Uncle Toby, danger:

Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman 8 (1765).

Also from Sterne
Letters for all occasions : Yorick, distracted : Yorick, translating : Yorick, soulful : Digressions : Uncle Toby and the fly : Heat and knowledge : “A North-west passage to the intellectual world” : Paris and Manhattan : Tourism : Plain management

[“Madam”: Tristram’s direct address to an imagined female reader.]

Missing from the SOTU

Climate change, alternative energy, children in cages, the government shutdown, gun violence, violence against ethnic and religious minorities, violence against LGBTQ people, LGBTQ rights, the minimum wage, poverty, the cost of health care, student debt, affordable housing, educational inequality, income disparity, voting rights, opioids, xenophobia, white nationalism.

It took me about a minute to create this list, which is probably longer than the president and his people thought about giving any attention to these matters.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. Sniff.

[And his tie is crooked. And he reads so badly.]

More Salinger

J.D. Salinger’s son Matt Salinger tells The Guardian that new work from his father is forthcoming — someday.

When? “When he began work in 2011, Matt never expected it would take eight years.” And: “When I ask how much longer it will take, Matt replies: ‘We’re definitely talking years,’ though, he hopes, fewer than ten.”

Does that mean two more years? Or ten more?

As for the specific claims about new work that David Shields and Shane Salerno make in their dreadful 2013 biography Salinger), Matt Salinger dismisses them:

“They’re total trash,” he says. “The specific bullet-point dramatic quote-unquote reveals that have been made are utter bullshit. They have little to no bearing on reality.”
Included in the Guardian report: a Salinger “squib” (a brief note written on an eighth of a sheet of paper) and several excerpts from letters. The squib: excruciatingly joyful. The letters: a bit ranty.

Related reading
All OCA Salinger posts (Pinboard)

[The Guardian article doesn’t mention Shields and Salerno by name, but their claims about new work are the only ones that have been made.]

Passive tense? Gross!

Terry Gross interviewed Benjamin Dreyer on Fresh Air today. And she referred, consistently, to “the passive tense.”

There is, of course, no such thing. Dreyer consistently said “voice.” But he was too tactful to make a correction. Should be have said something? Elaine and I debated this point while driving.

And Gross’s choice example of “the passive tense” — the “x, y, and z may occur” of pharmaceutical ads — has nothing passive about it. Occur is an intransitive verb. Can’t be passive.

A related post
Dreyer’s English

[My suggestion: Dreyer could have said something during the break, allowing Gross to self-correct when the interview restarted.]


Kellyanne Conway, as heard on CNN a little while ago, talking about Donald Trump’s preparation for his State of the Union address: “He Sharpied up a lot of the passages.”

If Sharpie is now a verb, I suppose it must be capitalized, à la Shepardize. And yes, Conway said Sharpied, not sharpened. Trump’s affinity for the Sharpie is well established. Speak loudly and carry a big pen.


February 7: Just discovered that Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage has shepardize: “today, the word is increasingly written without the initial, as the trademark threatens to lose its uniqueness and become generic.”

[Odder than Sharpied : hearing Conway speak of comity, which has been announced as a theme of the address. Is Trump going to attack SNL?]

Plain management

Tristram has become a travel-writer. Watch out, Patrick Leigh Fermor:

Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman 7 (1765).

Also from Sterne
Letters for all occasions : Yorick, distracted : Yorick, translating : Yorick, soulful : Digressions : Uncle Toby and the fly : Heat and knowledge : “A North-west passage to the intellectual world” : Paris and Manhattan : Tourism

Dreyer’s English

From a New York Times article about Benjamin Dreyer, author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style:

Dreyer takes The New Yorker, which he refers to as “a certain magazine,” to task for its infamous insistence on using a dieresis — two dots above a letter — in words with double vowels, like re-elect (“reëlect”) or pre-existing (“preëxisting”). “That certain magazine also refers to adolescents as ‘teen-agers,’” i.e. with the clunky inclusion of a hyphen in there, he writes. “If you’re going to have a house style, try not to have a house style visible from space.”
An Utterly Correct Guide: it’s as if matters of writing are turning into matters of etiquette: which fork word to use. But what’s more interesting to me is that this book appears to be aimed not at “teen-agers” or college students but at an older audience seeking to improve.

[Utterly Correct: yes, tongue in cheek. “The clunky inclusion of a hyphen in there”: delete “in there,” no? Or just “a clunky hyphen”?]

Information ≠ knowledge

Oliver Sacks:

A few years ago, I was invited to join a panel discussion about information and communication in the twenty-first century. One of the panelists, an Internet pioneer, said proudly that his young daughter surfed the Web twelve hours a day and had access to a breadth and range of information that no one from a previous generation could have imagined. I asked whether she had read any of Jane Austen’s novels, or any classic novel. When he said that she hadn’t, I wondered aloud whether she would then have a solid understanding of human nature or of society, and suggested that while she might be stocked with wide-ranging information, that was different from knowledge. Half the audience cheered; the other half booed.
Related reading
All OCA Oliver Sacks posts (Pinboard)

[Sacks died in 2015. I wonder how that father and audience would respond in 2019.]

Nancy and Sluggo in Mexico

[Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2018). Click for a larger view.]

Nancy and Sluggo, as seen at a restaurant in Tuxpan, Veracruz.

[Thanks to Chris at Dreamers Rise, who also spotted this comic book.]

Monday, February 4, 2019


Tristram in Paris, with his father Walter, his uncle Toby, and Corporal Trim:

Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman 7 (1765).

“I’ll go see any body,” “Then one need not shave”: Uncle Toby sounds like an eighteenth-century Stan Laurel, or maybe Chico Marx. Though Chico would’ve said, “Then we don’t gotta shave.”

And now I’m thinking of Laurence Sterne as a Marx brother: Sterno Marx? But he would have had a difficult time with the Production Code.

Also from Sterne
Letters for all occasions : Yorick, distracted : Yorick, translating : Yorick, soulful : Digressions : Uncle Toby and the fly : Heat and knowledge : “A North-west passage to the intellectual world” : Paris and Manhattan

Paris and Manhattan

Tristram in Paris:

Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman 7 (1765).

The Manhattan equivalent of the cook’s shop and barber: Duane Reade and Starbucks.

Also from Sterne
Letters for all occasions : Yorick, distracted : Yorick, translating : Yorick, soulful : Digressions : Uncle Toby and the fly : Heat and knowledge : “A North-west passage to the intellectual world”