Friday, May 31, 2019

The Tallest Clarence Infiniti

How strange to hear a commercial for the Infiniti QX50 with music that evokes Clarence “Tom” Ashley’s “Coo Coo Bird,” recorded in 1929. The music in the commercial? “It Will Follow the Rain,” by The Tallest Man on Earth.

Peewee in the house

[Nancy, August 25, 1949. Nancy, May 31, 2019. Click either image for a larger view.]

Peewee in the house today, in both Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy and Olivia Jaimes’s Nancy. The telltale beanie at least strongly suggests that Peewee has found work in the new Nancy.

In the Bushmiller strip, Peewee ends up dancing with an organ grinder’s monkey. In the Jaimes strip, Melissa Bangles, basketball coach manqué, was hoping that the next person to join the team might be somebody tall.


June 3: Yes, that’s Peewee, or Pee Wee. Jaimes has given him a two-part name.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Recently updated

From “Stalin as Linguist — II” The Barrett Watten story has made it to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Normal” in Gmail

A new development in e-mail: Gmail lets you know when you don’t sound “normal” in an e-mail:

As soon as you make a misstep like starting an email to your coworker with “Dear” like you’re a lunatic who’s writing them a love letter instead of just writing “Hello” like a normal person, a popup will appear, stating, “Are you sure about that? That sounds pretty weird.”
I like the premise that “Dear” is not an appropriate way to begin. In my post How to e-mail a professor, I caution against it:
“Hi/Hello Professor [Blank]” is always appropriate. Substitute “Dear” and you've ended up writing a letter; leave out “Hi” and your tone is too brusque.
Says the ClickHole report on this (okay, imaginary) new Gmail feature: “Awesome! This is definitely going to come in handy.”

America, if you’re listening

“I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” Russia helped him. He just said so.

And now I think of what Robert Durst said: “There it is. You’re caught.” But Durst had no handlers to step in: “The president’s meaning could not be clearer. He had nothing to do with any effort by anyone,” &c. I’m not quoting handlers, just imagining what they’ll say.


8:39 a.m.: CNN reports that Trump reversed himself while speaking to reporters: “You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn’t help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.”

Streetside supplies

In The Guardian: “Public furniture inspired by office equipment.” Found via Lexikaliker. Thanks, Gunther.

VLC track synchronization

Say that you’ve downloaded an old television clip from YouTube and found that the audio and video are out of sync. In VLC, go to Window and click on Track Synchronization. You can advance or delay the audio track so that things line up — not permanently, but while the clip plays. A difference of two-tenths of a second might be all that you need.

I found this nifty option by searching the VLC Help file for sync.

[To download from YouTube: >4K Video Downloader.]

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mueller speaks!

My translation: I'm done. Congress, it's up to you. Read the report, everyone. Oh, and also: we weren’t allowed to charge him with a crime.

Separated at birth

[Claude Akins and Simon Oakland.]

Slywy suggested a separated-at-birth pairing of the actors Claude Akins and Simon Oakland. There’s a strong resemblance, made stronger still by search engines that return pictures of the one in a search for the other. The above pairing is the best I could do. I turned the Akins photo to black and white and cropped an Oakland photo to match.

Also separated at birth
Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Bérénice Bejo and Paula Beer : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : David Bowie and Karl Held : Victor Buono and Dan Seymour : Ernie Bushmiller and Red Rodney : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Gough : Henry Daniell and Anthony Wiener : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Charles Grassley and Abraham Jebediah Simpson II : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Barbara Hale and Vivien Leigh : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Steven Isserlis and Pat Metheny : Colonel Wilhelm Klink and Rudy Giuliani : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : Don Lake and Andrew Tombes : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Jean Renoir and Steve Wozniak : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

NYT on Peter Max

Speaking of “the transformation of art into dollars,” The New York Times report on the artist Peter Max is appalling. Dementia and cruise-ship auctions.

Wallace Stevens and beer

Do you have a six-pack of Lagunitas CitruSinensis Pale Ale around the house? Look at the bottom of the carton: the Wallace Stevens poem “The Man with the Blue Guitar” makes an appearance there. Best to remove the bottles before turning the carton over. Or look at this page from the company website.

[CitruSinensis, made with blood-orange juice, tastes mighty good. But a little thin. Not as good as Lagunitas IPA or “The Man with the Blue Guitar.”]

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

New directions in
movie-rental signage

The local Family Video, which now sells CBD, is pushing harder. On the signboard today:

       + CBD?
That green cross makes a vaguely medical promise — and reminds me that I live in a place where too many people lack adequate access to affordable health care. It’s not a good thing for a movie-rental outlet to be encouraging self-medication with an unregulated and relatively untested substance.

And where did the local Family Video get a green plus-sign? Is this slogan in national use?

Things I learned
on my summer vacation

“I have two wolves in my heart. One is loving, and one is vicious, and they’re at war with each other. The grandchild is saying, Which is going to win? And the grandparent is saying, The one I feed.” [Source.]


Rihanna has a fashion line.


“Meat Detour Ahead.”


“Ponding Water Possible.”


They don’t make children’s wagons they way they used to. Today’s wagons have creature comforts.


Gravity Hill, Pennsylvania: “Cars roll uphill and water flows the wrong way.” Uh-huh.


“New England is only in New England.”


Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, is at some points the cross-country twin of the Westfield Topanga mall in Canoga Park, California. Compare the mall entrances alongside GSP’s Ruby Tuesday and WT’s Cheesecake Factory. What explains this magic? Westfield.


My mom and I always choose crab cakes. But I knew that already. (Legal Sea Foods FTW.)


Chock Full o’Nuts was—once again—on sale at Shop-Rite. Twelve cans to bring back to a world devoid o’Nuts.


In the Port Authority Bus Terminal, I did not learn what the man with his midsection pressed to the Dyson hand dryer was doing. Nor did I want to.


A glance at Joan Miró’s object assemblages — Object, for instance — is enough to see that Miró must have influenced Joseph Cornell.


So many of the paintings at MoMA appear to have dated in ways that far older works have not. I thought of what Emerson said of Plato: “This perpetual modernness is the measure of merit, in every work of art.” Some modern art is no longer so modern. Miró is.


The motion-activated Dyson Airblades in MoMA’s men’s bathrooms are a mess. Water comes from a middle spout. To the right and left, hand dryers. Position your wet hand the wrong way and the dryer sprays water droplets up toward your arm and face. Move your hand too far to the right while drying and a motion-activated soap dispenser kicks in. I was quick enough to dodge the soap that would have dropped onto my shirtsleeve. How can a museum with an exhibit of objects that embody good design have such lousy fixtures in its men’s bathrooms? Elaine reported no such fixtures in the women’s bathrooms.


One set of MoMA bathrooms adds “Self-Identified” to the placards MEN and WOMEN.


There’s a guard at the Museum of Modern Art who sharpens his pencil with a handheld sharpener while standing guard.


It’s possible in MoMA to have a long, wide-ranging, exceptionally pleasant conversation, about everything from rents to design to the influence of weather on museum attendance, with — was he a docent or a guard? I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, so that’s all I’ll say.


From 1943 to 1947, the Council on Books in Wartime produced Armed Forces Editions, inexpensive paperbacks for distribution to the troops. Among the titles: Great Poems from Chaucer to Whitman (ed. Louis Untermeyer) and A Wartime Whitman (ed. William A. Aiken). In other words, Whitman was a quintessential American poet.


The Marcal Paper factory in Elmwood Park, New Jersey, burned to the ground earlier this year. The factory’s rooftop sign was a beautiful sight from Route 80.


American Heroes Smokehouse is a barbecue restaurant with a great backstory. And great food. I wrote a review and said that we ate like happy maniacs. Elaine wrote a review, without reading mine, and said that we ate like raving lunatics. Thank you, Lu and Jim.


[Mark Trail, May 14, 2019.]

Not me.


Phebe’s Tavern and Grill has been in business on the Bowery since 1968, before the days of salmon burgers and quinoa salads. The building dates to 1920. Good food, modest prices, the plain wooden floor of an old establishment.


The Bowery is quite different from my mental image of it, formed from Weegee photographs and the great movie On the Bowery (dir. Lionel Rogosin, 1956). In front of the Bowery Mission, three doddering men looked woefully out of place.


I was happy to see Joe Brainard’s work at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, but found little difference between seeing the drawings, paintings, and collages themselves and seeing reproductions in books. Is that good, or bad? Beats me. But I love the wit, cheer, and modesty of Brainard’s work.

[Joe Brainard, 30 Squares. 1975. 13 1/2″ × 10 1/2″. Photograph by Michael Leddy. Click for a larger view.]


What I don’t love: hearing up close the transformation of art into dollars. “Thirty”? That means $30,000. Do those who have come to a gallery only to look typically feel invisible?


Route 9 is a Massachusetts version of New Jersey’s Route 46.


J&M Diner in Framingham, Massachusetts, is diner heaven. Breakfast food only, served for breakfast and lunch. I chose bacon and eggs. Elaine chose the sweet potato hash. We both chose well.


Ben is a wonderful host. But I knew that already.


Ben’s work is more interesting than I knew.


The Frank Pepe’s in Chestnut Hill is a superior Frank Pepe’s. (Quality varies greatly from location to location.) The oven at Frank Pepe’s is about the only use of coal I will defend. White clam, quattro formaggi, and spinach, mushroom, and gorgonzola: bliss.


Naco Taco is a food truck that sits all day, seven days a week, on Boston’s Newbury Street. A torta ahogada cut into four pieces makes a nice little prelude to dinner.


Glen Baxter has been translated into Spanish: Casi todo Baxter: Nuevas y escogidas ocurrencias.


A thoughtful library touch, posted in the bathrooms: a page of call numbers for “sensitive subjects.” “We’re always here to help,” says the page, “but sometimes it’s hard to ask. We hope this sign will help you find what you need.” Yes, we go to the library while on vacation.


Why did Elaine and I never think of going to Sol Azteca? Guacamole, nopalitos (cactus), mole poblano, puerco en adobo, and chicken tostadas.


Triumphalism aside, the monologue “Growing Up Italian” is startling in its accuracy. Fig tree: my mom recalls one. “Watching the house”: that was my grandparents’ thing. The holiday menu, ending with fruit and nuts: exactly. We heard this unidentified recording on Festa Italiana, from Gannon University’s WERG FM.


Somewhere in Ohio lives a Bentley owner with the license plate G POUPON.


Talia knows the cadences of the alphabet song. Bah bah, bah bah, bah bah bah.


2261.8 miles : 49.7 MPG (lots of wind) : 53 MPH.

More things I learned on my summer vacation
2018 : 2017 : 2016 : 2015 : 2014 : 2013 : 2012 : 2011 : 2010 : 2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

Monday, May 27, 2019

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, May 27, 2019.]

The Flagstons have now had two cookouts in two days. That’s odd.

Lois’s willingness to placate this “neighbor”? That’s odd. A better reply: “Sorry, but today it’s for our family only,” followed by a weak smile.

Not so odd, considering how things sometimes go in this strip: Hi and his grill have traded places in the interstice. In the second panel the grill should be to Hi’s left.

The Flagstons’ tree, frustrated by recent developments in this strip, has chosen not to appear in the second panel. The tree is hiding, for now, in the interstice.

I now imagine Ditto at the family table: “Mom, Dad, I found him in our tree fort the other day.”

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

[Three Hi and Lois posts in three days? Yes, but I thought it’d be irresponsible not to make this post.]

University libraries and their books

“University libraries around the world are seeing precipitous declines in the use of the books on their shelves”: Dan Cohen, Vice Provost for Information Collaboration at Northeastern University, writing in The Atlantic. Both faculty and students, Cohen writes, are making less use of printed books.

See also Bryan Garner on the trend of “deaccessioning” books from university libraries (ABA Journal).

A related post

Memorial Day

[“Water fountain on Memorial Day.” Photograph by Marjory Collins. Greenbelt, Maryland. May–June 1942. From the Library of Congress. Click for a larger view.]

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, May 26, 2019. Click for a larger, more disturbing view.]

Here are the final panels of today’s Hi and Lois. How long has Thirsty been crouched against his side of the hedge, secretly hoping for an invite to the Flagstons’ cookout? At least I hope that’s what he’s been doing. Mysteries abound in the interstices.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Finishing today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is “Quite an accomplishment” (1-Across, ten letters). I had to travel down to 55-Across, four letters, “Pisa/Mona Lisa rhymer (1934)” to find a way in. That answer gave me 27-Down, “Great examples,” and more answers began to fall into place.

A clue that tricked me up: 28-Down, five letters, “Tied up in the ring.” The clues I liked best: 1-Down, four letters, “Buff to an excessive extent.” 19-Across, three letters, “Cause of many hand movements: Abbr.” And 21-Across, six letters, “Last character seen in ‘Hamlet.’” All four answers look obvious once they’re in place, but getting them, for me, was 1-Across, ten letters.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

NYT, sheesh

A sentence from Dwight Garner’s review of Wendell Berry’s What I Stand On: The Collected Essays:

[The New York Times, May 20, 2019. Click for a larger mistake.]

I read this sentence last night. This morning the mistake’s still there.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, May 25, 2019. Click for a larger view.]

Anything can happen in a Hi and Lois interstice. Here, it appears, both the trapdoor and Thirsty Thurston have changed position. I’m not sure which of the two is less likely to have moved.

The tired misogyny of the “He-Man Woman Haters Club” dates to 1937. Give it up, boys.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Friday, May 24, 2019


An exceptionally good episode of the podcast 99% Invisible: “Weeding Is Fundamental,” on library deaccessioning gone wrong. The story of the San Francisco Library reminded me of a recent Illinois misadventure in weeding that began when a library director ordered the removal of all non-fiction books more than ten years old. The library board ended up removing that director.

“The genre of the sentence”

Verlyn Klinkenborg:

I’m interested in the genre of the sentence,
The genre that’s always overlooked.

Several Short Sentences About Writing (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)
That’s more and more my interest in reading and writing. Artful sentences, please. Keep them coming.

Last week I was happy to see Several Short Sentences About Writing prominent in bookstores in Boston and New York. I suspect that the book is becoming a DIY manual for those who would write well. But does it get much classroom use? The book still does not appear in the listings of The Open Syllabus Project.

Related reading
All OCA Verlyn Klinkenborg posts (Pinboard)

[“Artful sentences”: from Virginia Tufte’s Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style (Graphics Press, 2006).]

“Penciled rain”

Maeve Brennan, “The Shadow of Kindness,” in The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

Related reading
All OCA Maeve Brennan posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

New directions in spelling, okay?

“Achomlishments.” “Intentially.”

A related post
Donald Trump’s spelling

[“Okay”: As in “I’m an extremely stable genius, okay?”]


Sunny and 80°, so I put on a stingy-brim straw to go do some errands. As I enter one store, I notice a man wearing a straw fedora. As I enter a second store, I notice a man wearing a felt fedora. Hatters gonna hat.

“Like writing in the sky”

Maeve Brennan, “The Carpet with the Big Pink Roses on It,” in The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

Related reading
All OCA Maeve Brennan posts (Pinboard)

“London particular”

In the opening minutes of The Divorce of Lady X (dir. Tim Whelan, 1938), two bobbies talk about the fog: “It’s pea soup, I’m afraid. The old London particular.” Wait a minute, wait a minute, thought I, I know that expression. It’s in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (1853), courtesy of William Guppy, speaking to Esther Summerson:

He was very obliging, and as he handed me into a fly after superintending the removal of my boxes, I asked him whether there was a great fire anywhere? For the streets were so full of dense brown smoke that scarcely anything was to be seen.

“Oh, dear no, miss,” he said. “This is a London particular.”

I had never heard of such a thing.

“A fog, miss,” said the young gentleman.

“Oh, indeed!” said I.
The Oxford English Dictionary cites this passage as the first instance of London particular meaning “a dense fog affecting London.” What’s surprising to me is that London particular had an earlier, now obsolete, meaning: “a kind of Madeira imported through London.” As in “I uncorked a bottle of London particular” (1807). Dickens traded one particular for another, turning wine into fog.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Nancy Pelosi, earlier today: "I pray for the president of the United States."

Translation: “He's off his rocker.”


May 23: Kelly O’Donnell: “Are you concerned about the president’s well-being?” Nancy Pelosi: “I am.”

Q & non-A

If I were still living in Brighton, Ayanna Pressley (D, Massachusetts-7) would be my representative.

Melitta Bentz

Our household has used Melitta coffee filters for years, but I never knew how they got their name. I think the story of Melitta Bentz (1873–1950) is a recent addition to the back of the box:

It was 1908 when a German housewife, Melitta Bentz, made coffee history. Tired of the bitterness and troublesome grounds in her daily brew, Melitta poked holes in the bottom of a brass cup and lined it with a sheet of her son’s blotting paper. She then filled the cup with ground coffee and poured in hot water, thereby creating the pour-over filtration system. The result . . . rich flavorful coffee without bitterness or mess. This innovation changed the way people worldwide make their coffee, becoming the precursor to modern day drip coffee brewing. Over 100 years later, Melitta remains dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee.
The company website has an illustrated history of its products. A Wikipedia article about Melitta Bentz notes that her grandchildren control the Melitta Group KG.

Related reading
All OCA coffee posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Willie Perdomo on writing letters

“Letters are where we argue, say goodbye, dream, fail, forgive, and tell our secrets, and send regrets. We can't filter our lives or curate our feeds in letters. Letters are where we attempt to tell the truth and wait”: the poet Willie Perdomo talks about the value of writing letters (PBS NewsHour).

New directions in movie rentals

My little town’s Family Video has consigned half its space to an independent take-out restaurant. That’s a purely local development. The reduced-size Family Video still rents DVDs but now also sells CBD products. That’s a national development.

I’m not sure about a punchline. Any pot in a storm?

[I haven’t been to Family Video in years. I just read the signage.]

Sardines in the comics

“My phone is locked!”: in Rhymes with Orange.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Monday, May 20, 2019

The New Yorker’s Jr.

The New Yorker places commas before and after Jr.. The magazine styles Jr.-related possessives like so: Donald Trump, Jr.,’s. A house style that results in .,’ cannot stand, except, maybe, at The New Yorker.

Reading the May 6 New Yorker, I just noticed that the magazine also uses comma-Jr.-comma with first names: “Don, Jr., suggested to his father,” &c. And the possessive form: “Don, Jr.,’s role,” &c. What’s that they say about a foolish consistency?

A related post
Trump[,] Jr.

[Trivia: What film makes much of Emerson’s observation about a foolish consistency?]

A coach’s pencil and paper

A football playsheet is laminated. So why does Matt Patricia, coach of the Detroit Lions, carry a pencil?

“The one thing that I learned, especially in New England: Sharpies do not work in the rain or the snow. So even that laminate that you’re trying to write on — it doesn’t work. The only thing that works is a pencil. So you pull out a piece of paper, you pull out your note card, you’re writing down adjustments, you’re writing out calls, and the pencil still works. It’s weatherproof. So that's why I have it.”
The coach also notes that he carries “like a full Staples” in his pocket.

Decoding Manhattan addresses

“Cancel last figure. Divide remainder by 2 and add key number given below. The result is nearest street”: How to find a street nearest a number on any avenue (Ephemeral New York). It’s all on a little card, or was, and it works.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Domestic comedy

Three young women wearing high-school team jackets entered the elevator. Elaine and I followed. We were all headed to the third floor. The doors opened, and I thought of something to say as I stepped to the rear:

“I’m a gentleman. Everybody out!”

Laughter followed, all the way down the hall.

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Not every elevator joke is inappropriate.]

Saturday, May 18, 2019

NPR, sheesh

Melee does not rhyme with smelly. As per M-W, the word is pronounced \ˈmā-ˌlā\ or \mā-ˈlā\. NPR, please take note.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[Have I mispronounced common words? Yes. Was I on the radio? No.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, offers a good challenge. In other words, a challenge that can be met. There are moments of odd trivia, such as 34-Across, ten letters, “Iceland, originally.” Or 55-Down, four letters, “Salutation popularized by ‘A Farewell to Arms.’” And moments of odd opacity, such as 3-Down, four letters, “Organic digger.” Or 48-Down, four letters, “The ‘where.’” (What?)

My favorite clues from this puzzle: 29-Across, eight letters, “What strollers carry with them.” 40-Across, four letters, “She’s seen in middle names.” And 41-Across, ten letters, “Cooler in the summer.” Especially 41-Across.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Small fish, good

They are cheap, widely available, very healthy, low in contaminants, and sustainable. Modern Farmer explains: “Why We Should All Eat More Small Fish.”

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Voynich code cracked?

Has the Voynich code been cracked? Not everyone thinks so.

“She had shone at a distance”

Maeve Brennan, “The Drowned Man,” in The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

The stories of enduring failed marriages in this volume are some of the saddest stories I’ve ever read. But beautiful.

Related reading
All OCA Maeve Brennan posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 16, 2019


A child’s garden of numbers:

“If you have nine-nine-nine-nine, and then you add a one, you have a million dollars — and you’re rich!”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

Maeve Brennan again

Channeling James Joyce’s “Eveline”:

Maeve Brennan, “An Attack of Hunger,” in The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

Another instance of literary dust.

Related reading
All OCA Maeve Brennan posts (Pinboard)

[From “Eveline”: “She looked round the room, reviewing all its familiar objects which she had dusted once a week for so many years, wondering where on earth all the dust came from.” John is a son who has “vanished forever into the commonest crevasse in Irish family life — the priesthood.”]

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Recently updated

“Stalin as Linguist” One student has been cleared.

Deleting a podcast from iTunes

A chance discovery while tidying up: choosing Delete from Library will not remove a podcast from iTunes. What will: highlighting the name of the podcast and pressing Delete. The Delete-from-Library problem has been a problem since at least 2017. As someone wrote then, “Something’s wrong in Cupertino.”

“Impassive gray, impassive blue”

Maeve Brennan, “The Poor Men and Women,” in The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

Related reading
All OCA Maeve Brennan posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

“Like a music roll”

So if the nuns sleep in their coffins, what if a nun moves from one convent to another? Would she bring her coffin with her? Uncle Matt has the answer.

Maeve Brennan, “The Barrel of Rumors,” in The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

Related reading
All OCA Maeve Brennan posts (Pinboard)

Talking responsibilty

Taking its cue from the misspelled responsibility on Australian currency, The New York Times is inviting students thirteen and older to offer their thoughts on spelling and misspelling. Teachers, ask your students to comment. Hey, kids, you can be in the Times!

[The misspelling in the post title is deliberate.]

Nigel and Patrick

Nigel Ratburn just got married. His husband is Patrick, a chocolatier. Their marriage is news. All best wishes, Nigel and Patrick!

Monday, May 13, 2019

FSRC: annual report

The Four Seasons Reading Club, our household’s two-person adventure in reading, just finished its fourth year. The FSRC year runs from May to May. (The club began after I retired from teaching.) In our fourth year we read twenty-three books (same as last year). In non-chronological order:

Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Bette

Maeve Brennan, The Springs of Affection: Stories of Dublin

Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz

Kenneth Fearing, The Big Clock, Clark Gifford’s Body

Clifford Hicks, Alvin’s Secret Code

Yoel Hoffman. ed. The Sound of One Hand: 281 Zen Koans with Answers

Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs

Toni Morrison, Jazz, Song of Solomon

Alice Munro, The Progress of Love

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Arthur Schnitzler, Desire and Despair: Three Novellas, Late Fame, “Night Games” and Other Stories and Novellas

Leonardo Sciascia, To Each His Own

W.G. Sebald, Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn

Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and England, Tristram Shandy

Johannes Urzidil, The Last Bell

Credit to the translators whose work gave us access to the world beyond English: David Burnett, Adrienne Foulke, Michael Hoffman, Yoel Hoffman, Michael Hulse, Kathleen Raine, Margret Schaefer, and Alexander Starritt. Here are the reports for 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Recently updated

The Avital Ronell story, cont. Student-government members object to NYU’s decision to return Ronell to the classroom.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother’s Day

[“Migrant agricultural worker’s family. Seven children without food. Mother aged thirty-two. Father is a native Californian. Nipomo, California.” Photograph by Dorothea Lange. March 1936. From the Library of Congress.]

I want to say Happy Mother’s Day, but I also want to think about what mothers endure, with and without their children. This photograph is not “the past.”

The name of the mother in this photograph: Florence Owens Thompson.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Morning Edition as madeleine

Robinson Meyer:

Five months ago, I happened to find the Morning Edition theme on YouTube, and as the hi-hat glimmered and the jazz guitar began, I was surprised to find myself transported. Suddenly, I was sitting in the back of my dad’s Mazda sedan, being driven to elementary school, listening to the NPR sports commentator Frank Deford, the car smelling of seat leather and something acrid that I couldn’t place.

The acrid smell, I realize now, as an adult, was coffee. I knew that the Morning Edition theme smelled like coffee before I knew what coffee smelled like. The next day, I bought a clock radio, and I’ve been waking up to Morning Edition ever since.
The context for this reverie: the new Morning Edition theme music. Meyer hates it. Our household hates it too. Elaine hears The Sims (as does someone quoted in Meyer’s essay). I hear the background music for The Weather Channel’s local broadcast Weatherscan.

Thanks, Ben.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Frank Longo has made another terrific Newsday Saturday Stumper. I started with nothing. Boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretched far away, until I spied 45-Across, five letters, “‘Quack Shot’ antagonist,” and 58-Across, ten letters, “Persepolis Football Club’s home.” Then I looked back and saw 2-Down, five letters, “Playwright from Paris,” and 7-Down, three letters, “     shot.” The first letters of those answers gave me 1-Across, ten letters, “’85 film about a novice nun.” The rest of the puzzle left me feeling that I’d never get it. But words here and there, and everything fell into place.

Clues I especially admire: 40-Across, three letters, “What mice often hold.” 62-Across, ten letters, “Musical band.” 3-Down, five letters, “Potential spoilers.” 26-Down, seven letters, “Saying ‘I dunno,’ say.”

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

[With apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley.]

Friday, May 10, 2019

Duke Ellington Live, a review

Duke Ellington Live (DVD)
November 16, 1973
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
EuroArts Music International, 2019
53 minutes

It’s bittersweet to watch things nearing an end. In March 1974 Ellington would leave the road and check into Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he would die in May. Other musicians from this performance who would be gone in 1974: Joe Benjamin (January), Paul Gonsalves (May), and Harry Carney (October). It was the preternaturally young-looking Carney (nickname “Youth”) who after Ellington’s death famously said, “Without Duke, I have nothing to live for.”

Almost everything here feels perfunctory, with the band playing a short set in a European concert-hall version of a Newport festival. Instrumental solos are minimal; the musician most heard from is Anita Moore, singing “New York, New York” and “Somebody Cares” and scatting in “Blem.” She arrives on stage on the arm of a tardy Paul Gonsalves, whose contributes no solos beyond an off-mic obbligato. Some awkward stagecraft has Ellington introducing the “three bearded ’bones” and asking Harold Minerve to take repeated bows, after which Minerve venerates Ellington with embarrassing jungle-speak. What was that about?

But there are at least four bright moments: the somber piano solo “Metcuria” (unlisted on the DVD package, and marred by audience chatter and shushing through the first few bars, all of it loud enough to distract the pianist), Harold Ashby’s tenor solo on “Chinoiserie” (Ashby was the last great solo voice to join the band), and brief solos by guests Raymond Fol and Claude Bolling on “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Fol makes use of lush Strayhorn ballad harmonies; Bolling begins with a witty collage of Ellington pianisms. My favorite moment in this performance: Ellington and company digging the guests, and Gonsalves laughing so hard at Bolling’s virtuosity that he fails to come in with the rest of the band.

Audio and video quality are exceptional — with many closeups. You can even see the package of reeds behind Russell Procope’s chair.

The program:

C Jam Blues : Take the “A” Train : Creole Love Call : Caravan : In Duplicate : New York, New York : Blem : Chinoiserie : Metcuria : Medley: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore / Mood Indigo / I’m Beginning to See the Light / Sophisticated Lady : Somebody Cares : Take the “A” Train

The musicians:
Johnny Coles, Barry Lee Hall, Money Johnson, Mercer Ellington, trumpets
Art Baron, Chuck Connors, Vince Prudente, trombones
Harold Ashby, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Percy Marion, Harold Minerve, Russell Procope, reeds
Duke Ellington piano; Joe Benjamin, bass; Rocky White, drums
Anita Moore, Tony Watkins, vocals
Claude Bolling, Raymond Fol, piano

Related reading
All OCA Duke Ellington posts (Pinboard)

Zippy’s Tad’s

[“Red Meat.” Zippy, May 10, 2019.]

There is but one Tad’s Steaks left in Manhattan. The address is 761 7th Avenue, though the restaurant is on 50th Street, flanked by a Tim Horton’s and Bobby Van's Grill. If Zippy is at the Times Square Tad’s, it really must be 1962 all over again.

Here’s an article on the history of Tad’s Steaks, once a coast-to-coast chain. (Remember “coast-to-coast”?) The Yelp reviews for the remaining Tad’s are interesting. “This is the absolute best steak in the city”: well, okay.

Years ago I would have said to Elaine, We have to go there. Today I would say, No, we don’t.

[From Harold H. Hart’s Hart’s Guide to New York City (New York: Hart Publishing, 1964). Click for a larger view.]

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)
More from Hart’s Guide

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Chris Albertson (1931–2019)

The writer, producer, and Bessie Smith biographer Chris Albertson has died at the age of eighty-seven. The New York Times has an obituary.

Chris was a generous person in the world of music. His blog Stomp Off! (still online) offered remarkable stuff from his archives: interviews with Bessie Smith’s niece Ruby Walker, recordings of the Duke Ellington band at a benefit concert hosted by Jackie Robinson, a Charles Mingus television appearance. (Alas, some of the audio and video files appear long gone.) I read everything, linked to a number of posts, commented on occasion, and am now surprised to see that Orange Crate Art appears in a Stomp Off! list of “cyber stops.” I wish I’d known so that I could have said thanks.

Thank you, Chris Albertson, for all your contributions to music.

“The Sudden Departure”

“When a small town loses 100 people in just a few hours, kids come home to find their parents missing”: “The Sudden Departure,” reported by Lilly Sullivan, is a story from the April 19 episode of This American Life.

The situation

From “Viktor Orbán’s War on Intellect,” by Franklin Foer, in the June Atlantic. David Cornstein, a longtime friend of Donald Trump, is the United States ambassador to Hungary:

When I asked Cornstein about Orbán’s description of his own government as an “illiberal democracy,” the ambassador shifted forward and rested his elbows on a table. “It’s a question of a personal view, or what the American people, or the president of the United States, think of illiberal democracy, and what its definition is.” As he danced around the question, never quite arriving at an opinion, he added,
“I can tell you, knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years, that he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orbán has, but he doesn’t.”

A lost work by Raymond Roussel

Raymond Roussel had confidence. From David Wallace’s review of Roussel’s The Alley of Fireflies, a long-lost unfinished novel, now available in English, translated by Mark Ford:

Suddenly, he was overcome by a realization that he was a great genius. “I was the equal of Dante and Shakespeare,” he told his psychologist. “I felt glory.”
I’ve begun reading The Alley of Fireflies and just hit the little statue filled with frozen wine. What the review doesn’t mention is that the mold for the statue is three centimeters tall and takes the form of Voltaire’s Pangloss dressed as Ceres.

Perfect Sluggo

[“Don’t Mess with Ernie.” Zippy, May 9, 2019.]

Yes, Sluggo is saying that he’s perfect. And that Zippy’s lines and circles are “irregular and messy.” And: “In a fight between messy & perfect, Sluggo always kills Zippy!” See also this 2012 panel: “Nancy plus Sluggo equals perfection.”

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

[Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy rune six days a week; Bill Griffith’s Zippy, seven.]

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The “Wow!” child

A sweet story of musical appreciation: “Do You Know the ‘Wow!’ Child?” (WCRB).

From “Stalin as Linguist — II”

In 1985, the poet Tom Clark wrote an essay titled “Stalin as Linguist” for the publication Poetry Flash. The essay, about (so-called) language poetry, was thoroughly negative. And it paid particular attention to the work of Barrett Watten. In a follow-up essay, Clark wrote about Watten’s response:

Watten reacted by composing a two-page, single-spaced, indignant, “not-for-publication” communiqué to Poetry Flash. The letter demanded redress of grievances and threatened a boycott by advertisers. Attached was a list of people to receive copies. The list was almost as long as the letter itself. It contained the names of language school sympathizers with influential positions — institutional poetry administrators, reading coordinators, publishers, book distributors, bookstore owners and employees, university teachers, gallery representatives, etc. From these people and from others in the language school’s local rank and file, Poetry Flash received a flood of letters. A selection appeared in subsequent issues of the paper. Several correspondents, such as Robert Gluck of the San Francisco State Poetry Center, charged me with “red-baiting.” Joe McCarthy was evoked more than once, as were the “mau-maus” (by [Ron] Silliman, though that letter never made it to print).

All of this suggests that despite its dedication to the ideal of criticism as equal in importance to creative work, the language school has a very thin skin when it comes to taking criticism.

Tom Clark, “Stalin as Linguist — II.” First published in Partisan Review (1987). In The Poetry Beat: Reviewing the Eighties. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990).
I doubt that 1980s Poetry Wars will be of immediate interest to many OCA readers. I’m sharing this passage as one more bit of the Barrett Watten story, a bit perhaps unknown to present-day faculty and students at Wayne State University, where Watten has filed complaints against two students who have filed complaints against him. The Poetry Flash incident suggests a pattern of retaliation against perceived enemies that goes far back.


May 15: One of the students has been cleared. And, she says, students have been told to keep mum about Barrett Watten.


May 30: The story has made it to The Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s behind the paywall, but this link appears to work, at least for now: “‘I Was Sick to My Stomach’: A Scholar’s Bullying Reputation Goes Under the Microscope.” An excerpt:
For decades, faculty members in the English department at Wayne State University knew Barrett Watten had a temper. A tenured professor who specializes in the language school of poetry, Watten is an intense figure with a brooding passion for his work. Standing at over six feet tall, he also possesses an air of natural authority — in classrooms, committee meetings, and personal interactions. When that authority is seemingly questioned, according to current and former colleagues, Watten snaps.
The Chronicle reports that eighteen of Watten’s colleagues in the English department have asked that his graduate faculty status be revoked and that his office be relocated outside the department.


June 5: Wayne State’s Graduate Employees Organizing Committee has issued a statement about the university’s investigation.


November 26: Barrett Watten has been removed from teaching and advising at Wayne State.


December 11: The Chronicle of Higher Education has more. My favorite bit:
Colleagues previously told The Chronicle that [Watten] was known to launch into profanity-laced tirades that were made all the more ominous by his imposing physical stature. Watten sees such critiques as rooted in a misunderstanding of his approach to his discipline. “I teach the avant-garde, and am challenging in class. All supposedly good things,” he wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
Related reading
Barrett Watten Records (Accounts from students, colleagues, poets, scholars)

[The title “Stalin as Linguist” is a phrase borrowed from Watten’s book-length poem Progress.]

Writing at the British Library

An exhibition from the British Library: Writing: Making Your Mark. Scroll all the way down and you’ll see links to four online features, which in turn have links to seven more features.

And: the BBC draws on the exhibit to tell the story of handwriting in twelve objects.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Barrett Watten story

“This is a collective effort to gather stories of official and unofficial complaints against and accounts of interactions with Barrett Watten”: Barrett Watten Records. Barrett
Watten, poet and academic at Wayne State University, is having a moment.


November 26: Barrett Watten has been removed from teaching and advising at Wayne State.


December 11: The Chronicle of Higher Education has more. My favorite bit:

Colleagues previously told The Chronicle that [Watten] was known to launch into profanity-laced tirades that were made all the more ominous by his imposing physical stature. Watten sees such critiques as rooted in a misunderstanding of his approach to his discipline. “I teach the avant-garde, and am challenging in class. All supposedly good things,” he wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
A related post
From “Stalin as Linguist — II” (Watten’s response to a critic of language poetry, 1985)

VDP’s “Tabu”

The Silver Lake Chorus has recorded an unreleased Van Dyke Parks song, “Tabu.”

Related reading
All OCA Van Dyke Parks posts (Pinboard)

Monday, May 6, 2019

“This particular kind of human”

In an Innovation Hub interview, Will Storr, author of Selfie: How the West Became Self-Obsessed (2017), talks about not being the funny, sunny, social person his culture prizes:

I would beat myself up. I’d be like, There’s something wrong with me — I’m broken in some way, that I’m not this person from Friends, you know. And then you discover what psychologists have known for a long time: that this idea of infinite capacity to transform is just not true. And actually what I discovered was that I’m not broken, there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just low in extroversion, which means I’m an introvert, and I’m also high in neuroticism, which means that this low self-esteem thing is pretty much embedded in my head and there’s not much I’m ever going to be able to do about it.

It’s kind of depressing when you first find that out, but it ends up being very liberating, because it’s like for the first time in my life I feel like I’m not actually broken. It’s just that there are different kinds of humans, and I happen to be this particular kind of human, and now I can finally, after decades of doing so, stop beating myself up for not being the person who I feel my culture wants me to be.
I’m reminded of W.H. Auden’s distinction between “accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.” And I’m reminded of what Peter Drucker says in Managing Oneself (2008): “Do not try to change yourself — you are unlikely to succeed.” Break a bad habit? Develop new skills? Be a better person? Of course. But you have to be the person you are.

I remember telling a friend once, “I used to be a really introverted person.” And she laughed a little, in a sweet way, and said, “Oh, Michael,” because she understood that I still was a really introverted person. Her understanding of me was clearer than my understanding of myself. But now I get it, and I can laugh too.

[Transcription and paragraphing are mine. I’ve removed a few false starts and repeated words.]


“We want to be the Silicone Valley of the Midwest.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Foxtrot, Marie Kondo, and
the eternal return

Yesterday I found a 2002 Foxtrot strip in a stack of clippings. The strip is a beautiful joke on the conventions that underlie visual representation. I should post a picture, I thought, and scrap the clipping. I mean, the clipping brings joy, but it would continue to do so as a blog post, right? And lo, I discovered that the strip is still available online. I wouldn’t even need to take a photo. So I started writing a post titled “Foxtrot and representation”, bringing in E.H. Gombrich’s Art and Illusion and the New Yorker cartoon by Alain that starts off the book, a 1955 joke on the conventions that underlie visual representation. And then I wondered, Have I posted anything else from Foxtrot ?

Yes. In 2013 I made a post about this same Foxtrot strip, with the same title, “Foxtrot and representation.” The only difference: this time around I cited Art and Illusion. In the 2013 post, the Gombrich connection is clear from the link to a reproduction of the cartoon.

The eternal return — an idea I somehow picked up on as a freshman in college — is real. But the life-changing magic of tidying up poses a challenge. Because I don’t think I’ll be rediscovering this clipped strip again, at least not in my house.

Related posts
Joad’s corollary : Stubbs’s corollary

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

I will turn, as I did this past December, to cake. Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Lester Ruff, is a piece of cake. Moist? No. Luscious? Not exactly. Light as a feather? Lighter, really, given the weight of pixels. But still a piece of cake, though virtually weightless. And virtually tasty.

Clues that I especially liked: 40-Across, three letters, “Short-range missile.” 60-Across, eight letters, “What many freshmen must enroll in.” (ENGLISHI? No.) 9-Down, four letters, “Floor (as a noun or verb).” 61-Down, three letters, “Strong-connection interjection.” And best of all, 1-Down, six letters, “Carrier bought by Evenflo.”

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Reading or not

Behind the Chronicle of Higher Education paywall, Steven Johnson’s report on “The Fall, and Rise, of Reading” in college courses. A few highlights (quotations from Johnson, not from his sources):

~ The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores have risen since the 1990s, while twelfth-grade scores have fallen. Only thirty-seven percent of high-school seniors “graduate with ‘‘proficiency’ in reading, meaning they can read a text for both its literal and its inferential meanings.”

~ The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that the average seventeen-year-old reads less for school than the average nine-year-old.

~ The ACT reports that in 2005, only half of high-school graduates were prepared for college-level reading. Yet sixty-two percent of students were on track to be prepared when they were in eighth and tenth grade.

~ The National Survey of Student Engagement reports than “the average college student in the United States spends six to seven hours a week on assigned reading.” In the mid-twentieth century, it was twenty-four hours a week.

~ A study from 2000 of 910 college students found that twenty percent of students made a habit of doing the reading for their classes. Sixteen years earlier it was eighty percent.

There’s the fall. As for the rise: Johnson examines several strategies to encourage reading, one proprietary, six not. The proprietary: Perusall, an online platform for what might be called collective reading, allowing students to make notes and respond to other students’ notes while reading e-books and online course materials. (E-books must be ordered through Perusall.) The six non-proprietary strategies: Make reading count toward a grade by means of quizzes and journals. Don’t summarize for students. Ask students to do more than recall brute facts. Devote time to “reading” audio and visual media. Go over confusing material in class. And teach students to be better readers.

Any capable teacher of literature has likely already put into practice the last five of these six strategies. The first is probably the point of greatest resistance: everyone hates quizzes. I think I must have been way ahead of some curve, as I began giving brief quizzes at the start of class at least twenty-five years ago. Quizzes usually counted for twenty or twenty-five percent of a semester grade. And because I dropped the two or three lowest quiz grades and offered occasional extra-credit questions, a quiz average could easily rise above 100. (I think 113 was the record high.) And because a quiz average could sink well below the lowest letter grade, students who didn’t do the reading tended to drift away mid-semester. So my classes were filled with students who did the reading.

One thing about quizzes: because there are so many ways not to do the reading in a literature class, quizzes had to be Spark- and Shmoop-proof. I would come in with a handful of questions that could be answered only from having done the reading (or so I hoped). Quizzes were fast: often just one answer to get 100. Notes were permitted. Students could cover their bets too, if they wanted. And if questions didn’t click, I’d happily supply others. Was it tedious to collect all that paper? You bet. I saved further tedium by holding on to quizzes and returning them in stapled bunches.

It occurs to me only now that doing-the-reading is a matter of Rule 7:

The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.
The long and short of it is that I was willing to pay my students, so to speak, to do the reading. It was in everyone’s interest to do so.

Sally couldn’t care less

[Peanuts, May 3, 1972.]

Sally Brown knows her usage. Alas, she’s replying to the question “Who was the father of Henry IV?”

Garner’s Modern English Usage:

Although some apologists argue that *could care less is meant to be sarcastic and not to be taken literally, a more plausible explanation is that the
-n’t of couldn’t has been garbled in sloppy speech and sloppy writing.
Garner cites an explanation from linguist Atcheson L. Hench: “Couldn’t care has two dental stops practically together, dnt. This is heard only as d and slurring results. The outcome is I c’d care less.”

About “some apologists”: Garner is thinking of Steven Pinker, for one, who insists that “I could care less” is not illogical but sarcastic. I hear not sarcasm but dismissiveness: “I couldn’t care less” and “I could care less” are both dismissive, but one makes sense, while the other is, yes, illogical.

But the answer to the teacher’s question is “John of Gaunt.” Or, “John of Gaunt, though I could not possibly care less.”

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)
Linus, nauseated not nauseous : Lucy’s whom : Woodstock’s wormwise

[Yesteryear’s Peanuts is this year’s Peanuts.]

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Kamala Harris asking questions

In The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin writes about yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “Most members on the committee spoke too much, argued too frequently and failed to pin down Barr on key facts. There was one exception to the political demolition derby.” That was Senator Kamala Harris (D-California). Here she is:

Close reader, careful listener, persistent questioner. Also presidential candidate.

“The allure of ‘us’ and ‘them’”

A stream runs through a woodcutter’s settlement, a few houses on each side of the stream.

Johannes Urzidil, “Where the Valley Ends.” In The Last Bell. Translated from the German by David Burnett. (London: Pushkin Press, 2017.)

Also from this book
Apartments : “Well, that’s the Renaissance” : “Realistic underwear” : “This is now it normally works”

Another tribute in dubious taste

The latest Palomino Blackwing pencil, or “Blackwing” pencil, glows in the dark. From the box:

In a speech delivered at the New York Public Library in 2010, the late Dr. Maya Angelou poetically described the humble library as a “rainbow in the clouds” so that “in the worst of times, in the meanest of times, in the dreariest of times . . . at all times the viewer can see a possibility of hope.”

Libraries are more than just archives, they’re representations of our collective human experience. They’re reminders of where we’ve been, inspiration for where we want to go, and collections of all the beauty, pain, and wisdom that fills the gaps.

The Blackwing 811 is a tribute to libraries and the hope they represent. It features an emerald gradient finish and gold ferrule inspired by the iconic green lamps that light the halls of libraries around the world. Each pencil is coated with a special phosphorescent topcoat, so it can be a literal light in the dark. The model number 811 is a reference to the section of the Dewey Decimal System that contains some of Dr. Angelou’s most famous works, along with the works of countless other inspirational writers.
The same text appears in a company blog post. And the same text accompanies a company video for the pencil.

The curious thing: there’s no mention of Maya Angelou on the company’s page for this pencil. Instead:
The Blackwing 811 is a tribute to libraries and the hope they represent. It features an emerald gradient finish and gold ferrule inspired by the iconic green lamps that light the halls of libraries around the world. Each pencil is coated with a special phosphorescent topcoat, so it can be a literal light in the dark. The model number 811 is a reference to the American poetry section of the Dewey Decimal System that contains the works of countless inspirational writers.
I wonder if the Angelou estate got in touch.

While this pencil is indeed a tribute in dubious taste, it cannot rival the Palomino “Blackwing” tribute to Dorothea Lange’s photograph Migrant Mother.

Related reading
All OCA Blackwing pencil posts (Pinboard)

[I’ve corrected Palomino’s nonstandard ellipsis, but I’ve let their comma splice stand. Google’s cached version of the company’s page for the pencil is from April 9. If Angelou’s name was ever on the page, it must have been removed by then.]

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Word of the day: snitty

William Barr on Robert Mueller‘s letter: “The letter’s a bit snitty, and I think it was written by one of his staff people.“

Merriam-Webster has a nice entry for snitty, a word now trending.


Yes, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) pronounced malware as “mallware.”

“Mister General”

Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) has now addressed William Barr as “General” and “Mister General.”

“There is now public confusion”

Listening to William Barr dissemble this morning, I looked at Robert Mueller’s now-public March 27 letter to Barr:

As we stated in our meeting on March 5 and reiterated to the Department early in the afternoon of March 24, the introductions and executive summaries of our two-volume report accurately summarize this Office’s work and conclusions. The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions. We communicated that concern to the Department on the morning of March 25. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed a Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.
“There is now public confusion”: mission accomplished, Mister Attorney General.

[The letter bears the handwritten notation “Recieved OAG March 28, 2019.” So someone in the Office of the Attorney General doesn’t know how to spell receive. Though that’s the least of our troubles.]

“The warm sun favors the earth”

[Peanuts, May 1, 1972.]

Sounds like Linus is quoting something. But the only something I can find is a 1986 song from a-ha, “Soft Rains of April.” It begins: “The soft rains of April are over.”

The soft rains of April are far from over in east-central Illinois. Keeps rainin’ all the time.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

[Yesteryear’s Peanuts is this year’s Peanuts.]

“This is how it normally works”

Johannes Urzidil, “Borderland.” In The Last Bell. Translated from the German by David Burnett. (London: Pushkin Press, 2017.)

Also from this book
Apartments : “Well, that’s the Renaissance” : “Realistic underwear”