Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Debate

It ain’t over till it’s over, but I’m pretty confident that Elizabeth Warren has already won tonight’s debate.

Epstein and Pinker

Whenever I think reality can’t get any worse, along comes a headline. Like, say, this one from The New York Times: “Jeffrey Epstein Hoped to Seed Human Race with His DNA.” Really. Read if you dare.

An exchange between Epstein and Steven Pinker recounted in this article caught my attention:

At one session at Harvard, Mr. Epstein criticized efforts to reduce starvation and provide health care to the poor because doing so increased the risk of overpopulation, said Mr. Pinker, who was there. Mr. Pinker said he had rebutted the argument, citing research showing that high rates of infant mortality simply caused people to have more children.
I just left a comment at the Times:
It’s striking that we don’t hear Pinker telling Epstein that withholding food and health care from poor people is cruel, immoral, depraved. Instead Pinker rebuts the argument with statistics. The lack of moral outrage here speaks volumes about how Epstein found audiences and allies in academia.
And I have to wonder: what if research showed the opposite, that high rates of infant mortality caused people to have fewer children? Would that make withholding food and health care appropriate? I can only repeat what I wrote in my comment: The lack of moral outrage here speaks volumes about how Epstein found audiences and allies in academia.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Pinker posts (Pinboard)

[Good grief: my comment, five minutes old, is now a “NYT Pick.”]

Mingus and Brubeck

“I see you got here first,” says an unidentified musician. And Charles Mingus replies: “Yeah, baby, and I’ll be the last one to leave.”


[Click for a larger view.]

Mingus and Dave Brubeck appear briefly in All Night Long (dir. Basil Dearden, 1962), a reimagining of Othello. The two musicians are among those gathered to celebrate the first wedding anniversary of pianist Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris) and singer Delia Lane (Marti Stevens). Mingus, who’s there from the get-go, has a few quick lines early on before disappearing from the film. Brubeck leads a small group in his “It’s a Raggy Waltz.” At another point, an offscreen band that might include Mingus is playing his “Peggy’s Blue Skylight.” Near the film’s end, Mingus and Brubeck have a few seconds duetting. I thought they might be improvising on Mingus’s “Boogie Stop Shuffle.” But no — it’s Mingus’s “Non-Sectarian Blues.” The few seconds in the film seem to be from this performance, right down to Mingus’s “Yeah, baby” at the 2:04 mark.


[File under Wait, what? And click for a larger view.]

Elaine has written about the film at greater length. All Night Long is available from the ever-rewarding, ever-surprising Criterion Channel.

Related reading
All OCA Charles Mingus posts (Pinboard)

Sebald exhibitions

In Norwich, England, two exhibitions mark what would have been W.G. Sebald’s seventy-fifth birthday. Lines of Sight: W.G. Sebald's East Anglia has “celebrated artworks, curious objects, archive material and the author’s own, unseen photographs.” And W.G. Sebald: Far away — but from where? has previously unseen photographs related to Austerlitz, source materials for the images in Vertigo, and visual art made in response to Sebald’s work.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

College these days

You can find nuance in this piece from The Chronicle of Higher Education if you like, but here’s the bottom line: a professor invited his students to read a book — a “physical book” — for extra credit. With the breathless line “Our students are multitasking masters.” And a takeaway: “Reading a print book, it turns out, is actually enjoyable.”

Books in college? What an intriguing idea! As the poet said, I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.

Not competent, not well


Our tax dollars at play.

I wondered this morning what might happen if network news broadcasts were to devote a chunk of each night’s broadcast to a word-for-word reading of the day’s presidential tweets: no funny voices, just straightforward reading. Would that sober up at least a few people? If you had a close relation who carried on in this way, you’d want to intervene.

Eat a peach?

J. Alfred Prufrock’s “Do I dare to eat a peach?” makes sense as a trivialized version of his “overwhelming question” and as a speculation about transgression and forbidden fruit. “No, thank you, I don’t think I should,” Prufrock might have said to the woman in the garden. And then there’s the messy juiciness of peach-eating, perhaps a painful thought for one who is painfully self-conscious.

But it may be worse than that. Imagine trying to eat a peach, or even an apple or an orange, in the manner described in Mrs. Humphry’s Etiquette for Every Day (London: Grant Richards, 1904):



However sharp or strong the dessert knife might be, this procedure seems (to me, anyway) to guarantee Prufrockian angst. Either that or Three Stooges hijinks.

In 1914, after protracted discussion, Grant Richards published James Joyce’s Dubliners. T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” appeared in Poetry in 1915.

Fast software, best software

Craig Mod: “Fast software is not always good software, but slow software is rarely able to rise to greatness.” Mod praises the Mac app nvALT, “the fastest piece of text cataloging software” he’s used. At the bottom of the heap: iTunes, “the absolute nadir of software clunkery.”

[Found via Michael Tsai.]

Monday, July 29, 2019

“Only one head, his own”

The “woman-killer” Christian Moosbrugger in his cell:


Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities. 1930–1943. Trans. Sophie Wilkins (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).

Reminds me of someone — I just can’t put my finger on it, or him.

Related reading
All OCA Musil posts (Pinboard)

The Honeymooners and Zippy


[“Meanwhile, at 328 Chauncey Street.” Zippy, July 29, 2019.]

The Flintstones, natch. But Seinfeld? If, as Ralph explains, he’s George, and Norton is Kramer, and Elaine is Alice, where’s Jerry? Down at the Gotham Bus Depot? In Trixie’s arms?

Related reading
All OCA Honeymoooners posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Also saying what must be said

From an opinion piece by Clarence J. Fluker, C. Kinder, Jesse Moore, and Khalilah M. Harris, co-signed by 145 more staff members of the Obama administration. This piece was published in The Washington Post this past Friday, before Donald Trump began telling Elijah Cummings (Democrat, Maryland-7) to go back to Baltimore:

As 149 African Americans who served in the last administration, we witnessed firsthand the relentless attacks on the legitimacy of President Barack Obama and his family from our front-row seats to America’s first black presidency. Witnessing racism surge in our country, both during and after Obama’s service and ours, has been a shattering reality, to say the least. But it has also provided jet-fuel for our activism, especially in moments such as these.

We stand with congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, as well as all those currently under attack by President Trump, along with his supporters and his enablers, who feel deputized to decide who belongs here — and who does not. There is truly nothing more un-American than calling on fellow citizens to leave our country — by citing their immigrant roots, or ancestry, or their unwillingness to sit in quiet obedience while democracy is being undermined.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Victor Blackwell says
what must be said

Today’s Saturday Stumper

I’m tiring of the word difficult as a descriptor of the Saturday Stumper. So I’ll say that today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, was difficile — at least for me. How do you say “at least for me” in Italian?

I began in the midwest with 29-D, ten letters, “Here’s something to think about,” not sure about the answer, obviously, but pretty sure that it might be right. (It was, mostly.) That answer gave me 45-A, seven letters, “Major influence on Matisse.” Then I saw 38-A, seven letters, “Scholar who debated Luther.” Ah, a random obvious answer that took me back to college reading. But then things became more difficile.

Choice quality: 6-D, four letters, “Servers with squad goals.” 7-D, five letters, “Spirit of fulfillment.” 51-D, five letters, “Rolls at the ballpark.” 52-A, five letters, “Hash tag.” And my favorite: 30-A, seven letters, “Come to question?” How might those clues might be translated into Italian? I lift my hands and shoulders and shrug.

No spoilers: the answers, in English, are in the comments.

Robert Musil in the Times

“No culture can rest on a crooked relationship to truth”: Robert Musil, quoted by Roger Cohen in a New York Times column. Cohen quoted a longer version in a 2018 column:

That which we call culture presumably does not directly have the concept of truth as a criterion, but no culture can rest on a crooked relationship to truth.
The source for this passage (translator uncredited) is not easy to find. Cohen references printed matter accompanying a 2018 art exhibition, Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s. Searching for the longer or shorter passage or any assortment of key words yields Cohen’s columns and little more. I decided to search for musil and kultur and wahrheit in Google Books, and that’s where I found the source. The passage is part of a much longer sentence:
was wir Kultur nennen, wohl nicht unmittelbar den Begriff der Wahrheit zum Kriterium hat, doch aber keine Kultur auf einem schiefen Verhältnis zur Wahrheit ruhen kann.
This passage appears in notes for a talk Musil gave in Paris, in July 1935, to the First International Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture. The words bear repeating in translation:
That which we call culture presumably does not directly have the concept of truth as a criterion, but no culture can rest on a crooked relationship to truth.
*

I found another translation, by Burton Pike and David S. Luft, Precision and Soul: Essays and Addresses (1995), a gathering of Musil’s non-fiction. This volume makes clear that the passage comes from Musil’s notes, not from the talk itself:
what we call culture is not directly subservient to the criterion of truth; but no great culture can rest on a distorted relationship to truth.
Related reading
All OCA Robert Musil posts (Pinboard)

Hi-tems in a series


[Hi and Lois, July 27, 2019.]

Looks like Hi has been reading Bruce Ross-Larson’s Edit Yourself: A Manual for Everyone Who Works with Words (1982). See this post for an explanation.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Friday, July 26, 2019

About retronyms

“An unexpected delight of summer”: Caren Lissner writes about retronyms.

As an acoustic guitarist, I like retronyms. Thanks, Murray.

Related posts
Old-Fashioned : “Snail Mail,” 1968

“Buddha, Gautama”

General Stumm von Bordwehr has been attending meetings of the Parallel Campaign and is trying to instill order into the discussion of great ideas. He’s outlined the main ones:


Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities. 1930–1943. Trans. Sophie Wilkins (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).

Related reading
All OCA Musil posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind



Here’s “Relax and Enjoy Your Garden,” the latest installment of WGBH’s The Rewind, hosted by our son Ben. Bonus: puns.

Hi and Lois negation watch


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

Let’s overthink it a little, long enough to realize that Ditto’s “did” really means that he did not take the sunscreen:

“I told you not to drive without your license.”

“I did [drive without a license].”
So in the second panel, Ditto has to reply “I didn’t. I just forgot,” &c., which would turn today’s strip into a mess of negations: “I didn’t [not go out without sunscreen].” The problem can be avoided by assigning Lois a new line to read:


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

Am I really overthinking it? I don’t think so. I think of Ernie Bushmiller laboring over every word.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Winehouse and McTell

Two especially affecting episodes of the BBC podcast Soul Music : Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

“By our people, through our franchise, and not by some
hostile foreign power”

House Intelligence Committeee chair Adam Schiff (Democrat, California-18), in his opening statement this afternoon, addressing Robert Mueller:

Your report laid out multiple offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign, the campaign’s acceptance of that help, and overt acts in furtherance of Russian help. To most Americans, that is the very definition of collusion, whether it is a crime or not.

They say your report found no evidence of obstruction, though you outline numerous actions by the President intended to obstruct the investigation.

They say the President has been fully exonerated, though you specifically declare you could not exonerate him.

In fact, they say your whole investigation was nothing more than a witch hunt, that the Russians didn’t interfere in our election, that it’s all a terrible hoax. The real crime, they say, is not that the Russians intervened to help Donald Trump, but that the FBI had the temerity to investigate it when they did.

But worst of all, worse than all the lies and the greed, is the disloyalty to country, for that too, continues. When asked, if the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President? Why not, was the essence of his answer. Everyone does it.

No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still — that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

This is what is at stake. Our next election, and the one after that, for generations to come. Our democracy.

This is why your work matters, Mr. Mueller. This is why our investigation matters. To bring these dangers to light.

“I take your question”

Robert Mueller’s “I take your question” is the most gentlemanly “Go fuck yourself” I’ve ever heard.

A joke in the traditional manner

The New York Times reports that “People find corny jokes funnier when they are paired with laughter.” Research has shown!

Here’s one Elaine and I worked up while walking: Did you hear about the shape-shifting car?

No spoilers. The punchline is in the comments. Please pair it with laughter.

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’s the name of the Illinois town where dentists want to live? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Where does Paul Drake keep his hot tips? : 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 the Autobahn, the elementary school, the Golden Retriever, Bela Lugosi, Samuel Clemens, the doctor, the plumber, the senior citizen, Oliver Hardy, and the ophthalmologist. Elaine gets credit for the Illinois town. My dad was making such jokes long before anyone called them “dad jokes.”]

Masonic Toad


[“The Case of the Avaricious Amphibian.” Zippy, July 24, 2019.]

Mr. the Toad (or just “Mr. Toad” in today’s strip) has good taste in television.

Related reading
All OCA Perry Mason and Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[You can read Zippy daily at Comics Kingdom.]

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The last toll collectors

“She has seen children in car seats grow up and take the wheel themselves. She has called 911 when drivers turned up at her window with chest pains. Her regulars will wait at her tollbooth even when there is no line in the E-ZPass lanes”: Theresa Braun is one of the last toll collectors.

A related post
Mysteries of the tollbooth

Twelve movies

[Four sentences each. No spoilers.]

The Lost Moment (dir. Martin Gabel, 1947). Gothic noir, from Henry James’s The Aspern Papers. A scheming publisher (too-bland Robert Cummings) in search of a dead Shelley-like poet’s love letters wangles his way into a house of the poet’s 105-year-old beloved (Agnes Moorehead). A niece (Susan Hayward) provides romantic interest in the present. Eeriest moment: the hand on the arm of the chair. ★★★

*

Shadow on the Wall (dir. Pat Jackson, 1950). A satisfying thriller, in which a young girl (Gigi Perreau) is the key to solving a murder. Can a kind psychiatrist (Nancy Davis) unlock the child’s memory? Perreau and Davis are both excellent, as is Ann Sothern, cast in an unusual role. This noirish film is unusual in a more important respect: a girl and two women are front and center, with male characters entirely secondary. ★★★★

*

The Last Wave (dir. Peter Weir, 1977). A clash — or merger — of cultures, as a Sydney lawyer (Richard Chamberlain) defends a group of Aboriginal men accused of murder and begins to experience troubling visions. Everything here is suffused with dread: the most ordinary domestic interior seems to portend doom. And it’s doom on a grand scale: the vision of tidal apocalypse seems more timely now than ever. This film would pair well with Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. ★★★★

*

The Face Behind the Mask (dir. Robert Florey, 1941). Chameleonic Peter Lorre: think of how much his appearance changes just in his earlier years, from the killer in M to Dr. Gogol in Mad Love to Mr. Moto to Joel Cairo to Ugarte. Here he plays Janos Szabo, an immigrant who turns to a life of crime after being horribly disfigured in a fire (thus the mask). Don Beddoe and Evelyn Keyes are strong in supporting roles. The plot is sometimes wobbly, but the bizarro ending almost makes up for it. ★★★

*

A Man Called Ove (dir. Hannes Holm, 2015). Ove is an elderly curmudgeon and recent widower whose attempts to end his life go wrong as the world around him intrudes. Everything in his story, told in a series of flashbacks, is predictable, as is the revelation that the curmudgeon has a softer side. But it’s all pleasant enough, in a better-than-Hallmark way. My favorite line: “Antingen dör vi — eller så lever vi” [Either we die — or we live]. ★★★

[I will add a sentence that has closed many New York Times articles: If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.]

*

Ida Lupino, Ida Lupino, Ida Lupino

Not Wanted (dir. Elmer Clifton and Ida Lupino, 1949). Between 1949 and 1953, Ida Lupino wrote and/or directed several socially conscious films. This one follows the plight of Sally Kelton. a young unmarried woman (Sally Forrest), pregnant after a brief encounter with sketchy pianist Steve Ryan (Leo Penn). Drew Baxter is the good guy (Keefe Brasselle) who’s crazy about Sally and finds her in a home for unwed mothers. The film reaches a resolution that had our household in tears. ★★★★

Never Fear (dir. Ida Lupino, 1950). Forrest and Brasselle as a dance team whose female member contracts polio. The film then moves from nightclubs to the Kabat-Kaiser Institute and intensive physical therapy. Making this film must have been deeply important to Lupino, who contracted polio in 1934. Two extraordinary dance sequences (one with Forrest and Brasselle, one with a group in wheelchairs), but the chemistry between the leads isn’t nearly as strong here as in Not Wanted. ★★★

[Remarkable: in neither film is there a question of how someone will pay for care. It’s just there, as health care should be.]

The Trouble with Angels (dir. Ida Lupino, 1966). Well, this film too is Ida Lupino. Rosalind Russell is the no-nonsense Mother Superior at a boarding school for girls; Hayley Mills and June Harding are the new arrivals who break the rules again and again. Good performances all around, though the pranks and punishments get a bit tiresome, and there’s very little of “school” to be seen. Is it a spoiler to say that I called the ending well in advance? ★★★

*

They Shall Not Grow Old (dir. Peter Jackson, 2018). The Great War from a British perspective: archival footage, restored and colored, with the recorded voices of veterans describing their experiences from enlistment to war’s end. The film gives the viewer not the story of a particular battle but the story of battle, in all particulars — what men wore, what they ate, how they trained, how they fought, how they died. If I were still teaching, I’d show this film alongside the Iliad. An extraordinary labor of love and respect. ★★★★

*

This Ain’t No Mouse Music! (dir. Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon, 2014). The story of Chris Strachwitz, the German immigrant who fell in love with indigenous American musics and founded Arhoolie Records. The documentary tracks five of Strachwitz’s varied musical interests: blues, bluegrass, norteño, Cajun music, and New Orleans jazz. Strachwitz: “I was not conscious that this was any kind of cultural preservation; I just dove into this like a guy diving into a swimming pool, having a great adventure underwater or whatever, or going to paradise without having to suffer death.” My favorite moment: Ry Cooder talking about hearing, as a fourteen year-old, BIg Joe Williams’s “Sloppy Drunk Blues” (an Arhoolie recording) and realizing there was a lot in the world that he, Cooder, didn’t understand. ★★★★

*

Monrovia, Indiana (dir. Frederick Wiseman, 2018). This meandering portrait of a tiny rural town is certainly the most beautiful Wiseman documentary I’ve seen, full of bluer-than-blue skies and green corn, and minus what I call the Midwestern Sublime of dead fields and sheer emptiness. And because it’s a Wiseman film, without voiceover, without intertitles, much more is missing: any sense of the town’s economic well-being, its employment opportunities (I’d love to hear a young adult’s take), the meaning of what residents call “Homestead” (a subdivision? a subsidized-housing development?), the effect of the town’s proximity to Bloomington and Indianapolis, the town’s overwhelming support for Donald Trump in 2016, which can be inferred from the decals for sale in a street vendor’s display. The film’s purpose, as a blurb on the distributor’s website suggests, is to show big-city types just how good these people in the heartland are. Some scenes of life without irony — the basketball lecture, the Masonic ritual, the bench and hydrant debates — seem straight from a Christopher Guest film. ★★

*

Girlfriends (dir. Claudia Weill, 1978). A freelance photographer (Melanie Mayron) is trying to make it, as they said, and still say, in New York City. But it’s the 1970s, and it’s possible for a freelance photographer and her aspiring writer friend (Anita Skinner) to afford a two-bedroom apartment as they navigate young adulthood. The dialogue is sometimes stilted; the acting, sometimes wooden; but the movie is — somehow — an affecting picture of life in that time and place. Watch for Christopher Guest as a creepy boyfriend. ★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

The Glenlivet logo

If you’ve ever tried to figure out the logo of The Glenlivet (bridge and river, on the cap as a faux woodcut, on the bottle in the form of a sticker), this page will help. But the chance to see this logo may be vanishing: there’s no logo on the newly redesigned bottle. I don’t know if the logo remains on the cap.

Those who read cereal boxes at the breakfast table grow up to read all forms of packaging.

Thanks, Elaine, for your decoding.

[The old bottle is much more attractive, says I.]

Monday, July 22, 2019

Recently updated

Credit where it’s due Now with a conversation between Sarah Milov and the historians who borrowed her work without attribution for a radio broadcast.

Mystery actor


[Click for a larger view.]

No, it’s not Steven Pinker, though there is, I think, a resemblance. Do you recognize this mystery actor? Leave your best guess in a comment.

*

Here’s a hint: the mystery actor is known for his work with a sesquicentennial musical. Among other things.

*

The answer is now in the comments.

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

Pocket notebook sighting



[The Face Behind the Mask (dir. Robert Florey, 1941). Click for larger views.]

“Please call me when OK”: Lieutenant James “Jim” O’Hara (Don Beddoe) is writing on the back of a business card. His pocket notebook is only a surface on which to lean. But it’s still a pocket notebook.

You may recognize Don Beddoe as the next-door neighbor Mr. Cameron, Wilma’s father, in The Best Years of Our Lives. Or as Walt Spoon, Willa Harper’s father, in The Night of the Hunter. The Face Behind the Mask is a chance YouTube find, and a chance to see Peter Lorre in one of his many incarnations.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : The Big Clock : The Brasher Doubloon : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dead End : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : Kid Glove Killer : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Ministry of Fear : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : The Palm Beach Story : Perry Mason : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : The Racket : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : La roue : Route 66 : The Small Back Room : The Sopranos : Spellbound : Stage Fright : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Stranger Things : Time Table : T-Men : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Walk East on Beacon! : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Planet Slaw



It looks like the planet Slaw, surrounded by its mysterious metallic ring. But it’s really a bowl of “Asian slaw,” as delicious as it is inauthentic. We followed this recipe, which needs (we think) an extra splash of rice vinegar and two or three more scallions.

Related posts
Coleslaw, the word : Red-cabbage psychedelica

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Brad Wilber, felt like an easy puzzle — about as easy last Saturday’s. What gives?

I began with 17-A, six letters, “Accelerando eraser,” which gave me 4-D, four letters, “Take the easy way out, with ‘out,’” and 5-D, three letters, “___ desk.” Those last two answers gave me 1-A, five letters, “Common jack-o’-lantern feature,” and before I knew it, the northwest corner was done. The rest followed.

My favorite clues: 34-D, nine letters, “Something printed without punch.” 60-A, eight letters, “George Harrison, from 1965.” (Harrison though might have disagreed.) Best of all: 2-D, nine letters, “America's Cup participant.” Why? Because I encountered the word in 1998 in a short essay by Carlo Rotella about Muhammad Ali and Homeric translation. And I took the time to look it up. And I never expected to see it again.

One curious clue: 28-A, five letters, “Shots often taken in Crete,” which harks back to last week’s 29-D, four letters, “Spirit in Cyprus.” Was there a recent crossword cruise of the Mediterranean?

No spoilers: the answers — to the clues, not to that question — are in the comments.

Cather vs. Trump

Writing in The New York Times, Bret Stephens suggests Willa Cather’s My Ántonia as “the perfect antidote” to Donald Trump. Stephens calls the novel “an education in what it means to be American”:

to have come from elsewhere, with very little; to be mindful, amid every trapping of prosperity, of how little we once had, and were; to protect and nurture those newly arrived, wherever from, as if they were our own immigrant ancestors — equally scared, equally humble, and equally determined.

That’s the “real America” that today’s immigrant-bashers, starting with the president, pretend to venerate and constantly traduce.
Stephens doesn’t take into account those who were brought to this country against their will. Nor does Cather, really. But there’s still an antidote of some effectiveness to be found in her work.

Related reading
All OCA Willa Cather posts (Pinboard)

[“Really”: Cather’s final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, makes things more complicated. But it’s still fair to say that Cather’s “America” is made of little more than Native peoples and people of European descent.]

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Our son Ben is hosting WGBH’s online series The Rewind, an exploration of the WGBH archives. The third episode is here: “The Size of the Universe,” with educational television footage from 1957.

First two episodes: “Tchaikovsky Waits for No Man” and “Tailgating with Table Linens.” Go Ben!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Not competent

From The Washington Post:

When President Trump met human rights activist Nadia Murad, an Iraqi who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for speaking out about her agonizing torture and rape while in Islamic State captivity, he seemed unaware of her story and the plight of her Yazidi ethnic minority. . . .

In the same meeting, the president also seemed not to know that Rohingya refugees had fled violence in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
The Post has a clip of the first exchange. Here’s the second.

Anti-money laundering specialists


[The New York Times, May 19, 2019.]


[The New York Times, July 19, 2019.]

The first hyphenation error, from a Times article, has been corrected. The second, from a Reuters article appearing in the Times, is fresh.

I like the idea of anti-money laundering specialists. They remove stubborn stains and leave your clothes smelling fresh and clean, but they never take a dime for their work.

43.5


[“Expiration Date High Score.” xkcd, July 19, 2019.]

If I had played this game last year, before we went through a kitchen cabinet and tossed the old spices, I think that 43.5 would have been my high score, courtesy of some long-forgotten curry powder that I bought in the early 1980s. Tuna salad with curry powder was a “thing” then.

Drapes, Pop-Tarts, impeachment


[“Breakfast Summit.” Zippy, July 19, 2019.]

Yes, kitchen-table issues.

I like the Dutch door, just like Father Knows Best.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Shade



Oh, look, it’s shade, the only shade in the parking lot. I’ll take it, after taking a picture of it.

[Temperature: 90°. Heat index: 103°. Yes, the shade does look like an angry dinosaur.]

Word of the day: coleslaw

Is it one word, or two? Is cole a kind of slaw? Merriam-Webster has the word solid. The OED uses a hyphen. M-W’s recipe definition is a bit vague: “a salad made of raw sliced or chopped cabbage.” Lots of room for invention there. The OED is more definite: “sliced cabbage dressed with salt, pepper, vinegar, etc., eaten either raw or slightly cooked.” The word first appears in 1794, in the United States: “a piece of sliced cabbage, by Dutchmen ycleped cold slaw.” Yes, coleslaw comes to us from the Dutch koolsla, a reduced form of kool-salade. Kool is cabbage; salade is, well, obvious. The OED notes that “cold-slaw is a result of popular etymology.”

My definition of coleslaw: shredded cabbage, thin strips of carrot (cut with a peeler), red wine vinegar, mayonnaise, salt, cane sugar, and celery seed. There must be celery seed.

[Citation and etymology from the OED.]

Walter is a dilettante


Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities. 1930–1943. Trans. Sophie Wilkins (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).

Related reading
All OCA Robert Musil posts (Pinboard)

[“Dilettante”: that’s the novel’s narrator opining.]

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

At the table

Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D, New York-8), on CNN this afternoon, deflecting a question about Representative Al Green’s (D, Texas-8) introduction of articles of impeachment: “We should continue to focus on kitchen-table pocketbook issues.” That’s boilerplate language, for Jeffries and other politicians, as a search engine will confirm.

And what’s with pocketbook anyway? The main use for a pocketbook is hitting men over the head. In modern times, purse is a far more common word than handbag or pocketbook. Kitchen-table purse issues, anyone? Or purse and murse?

I know the issues we most talk about at our kitchen table: the dangerous man in the White House and his enablers. They’re kitchen-table issues nos. 1, 2, 3 &c. Elaine, where’s your pocketbook?

WWAHPS?

“So when someone says they are ‘a stable genius,’ that is a real cause for concern, because a healthy person would not say that.” Bandy Lee, psychiatrist and professor, talks with Virginia Heffernan about the mental health of our president and our culture: “Is Trump a Disease? A Medical Perspective” (Trumpcast).

Aaugh!

Self-knowledge:


Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities. 1930–1943. Trans. Sophie Wilkins (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).

Related reading
All OCA Robert Musil posts (Pinboard)

Mongol?


[Nancy, October 11, 1949. Click for the ferrule.]

Okay, she is after his answers, not his pencil. But that sure looks like a Mongol.

Related reading
All OCA Mongol posts : Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[Yesteryear’s Nancy is this year’s Nancy. I wish the syndicate would reproduce the strips with their dates and proper borders. Cranky me.]

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Michael Seidenberg (1954–2019)

Michael Seidenberg was the proprietor of Brazenhead Books, a bookstore with several incarnations, the most famous of which was a Manhattan apartment. I read of Michael’s death in Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. The New York Times finally has an obituary. An excerpt:

The speakeasy bookstore (as news articles often called it) on East 84th Street was a place that, it was commonly said, you could go to for the first time only in the company of a regular. But the writer David Burr Gerrard, in a tribute to Mr. Seidenberg posted on lithub.com last week, said that wasn’t really true.

“Michael was, as he liked to say with his trademark this-should-be-obvious-but-nobody-thinks-of-it grin, ‘in the phone book,’” he wrote, “and would happily give his address to any stranger who called him.”
It’s true. Elaine and I visited in 2012, after I looked up the number online and called. We found, among other things, three books by Alexander King, the first husband of our friend Margie King Barab. Talk about serendipity.

Related viewing
Brazenhead C’est Moi (A six-minute film)
There’s No Place Like Here: Brazenhead Books (A three-minute film)

NuGrape and some other soda

   
[Life, May 2, June 6, July 11, August 1, 1955. Click any image for a larger view.]

These four advertisements appear to be the only advertisements for NuGrape that appeared in Life.

I don’t know why I was thinking of NuGrape soda this morning. But I know why I think of NuGrape whenever I happen to think of NuGrape: “I Got Your Ice Cold NuGrape”, that haunting recording by the NuGrape Twins. Listen and enjoy.

A related post
The song’s lyrics, transcribed

Monday, July 15, 2019

Represent

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, New York–14), this afternoon:

“He can’t look a child in the face and justify why this country is throwing them in cages, so instead he tells us I should go back to the great borough of the Bronx and make it better, and that’s what I’m here to do.”
[I, too, love the Bronx.]

Credit where it’s due

Two historians — male, tenured — talked on WBUR’s Here and Now about the politics of tobacco. In doing so, they relied, exclusively, it seems, on a forthcoming book by another historian — female, untenured. She and her book were never acknowledged. Her name: Sarah Milov. Her book, which will arrive in October from Harvard University Press: The Cigarette: A Political History. Says Milov, “I mean, my book is about tobacco and I live in Virginia. I would have been a reasonable person to talk to about this topic.” Milov had given the okay to a story based on her book — as long as she received credit.

A WBUR producer blames “researchers” who provided the historians with “talking points” for the broadcast. (It’s always the researchers, am I right?) The station’s belated attempt to give credit where it’s due reads as if Milov were a willing behind-the-scenes helper:

Sarah Milov, assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia and author of the forthcoming book, The Cigarette: A Political History [,] provided extensive research material for historians Ed Ayers and Nathan Connolly.
But that’s not what happened. Milov didn’t provide material for Ayers and Connolly to use. Rather, Ayers and Connolly made extensive use of Milov’s book without acknowledging it as their source, or they relied on the work of WBUR researchers without bothering to note where the researchers got their material. Ayers and Connolly then presented themselves as experts on the politics of tobacco, all sorts of choice-quality details at their fingertips. Not a good way to do history.

[If I were Sarah Milov listening to this radio segment, my head would be exploding. It’s exploding anyway.]

*

July 22: WBUR now has a conversation between the two historians and Sarah Milov: “Historians in the Press: Why Citation by the Media Is Important, Even If It Rarely Happens.” No link to this conversation though on the page for the original radio show.

No evens to can’t

“We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel, they hate our own country”: Lindsey Graham, encouraging Donald Trump to refrain from personal attacks and to “aim higher.”

*

Trump has misunderstood Graham’s suggestion to “aim higher”: “These are congressmen. What am I supposed to do, just wait for senators? No.”

OUZO in the morning

A clue in this past Saturday’s Newsday crossword, “Spirit in Cyprus,” made me remember a moment from my grad-student days. I went to Jimmy the barber for a haircut one spring morning. During my haircut Jimmy took out a bottle of ouzo and poured cups for all assembled. I had never tasted ouzo. Sure, why not? When in Rome, &c. I remember calling Elaine afterwards (she was at work in downtown Boston) and laughing my way through the story of my haircut. I was at least slightly smashed.

It was only after seeing Saturday’s clue that I looked into ouzo more closely. Wikipedia: “The final ABV is usually between 37.5 and 50 percent; the minimum allowed is 37.5 percent.” In other words, ouzo runs between 75 and 100 proof. No wonder I was laughing.

[Why the all-caps OUZO? Because it was a crossword answer. “When in Rome”: or Greece. Jimmy was from Greece. And by the way, it was a good haircut.]

The small museum

Its modesty permits an intimacy of acquaintance that a big-shot museum makes far more difficult. And whatever the works on display might be, they cannot be seen anywhere else. That J. Francis Murphy painting? Those T.C. Steele paintings? They’re here, and here only. The big-shot cannot help.

That paragraph is prompted by a visit Elaine and I made to Terre Haute’s Swope Art Museum. The highlight for us: Gil Wilson: The Art of Letters, an exhibition devoted to the correspondence of Gilbert Brown Wilson, Terre Haute-born artist and writer. One small room, with minimal explanation on museum cards. But reading the letters, to and from, made it possible to put together a story of a life.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Rounder

“Sharing cultures, sharing musics, makes the world rounder”: Flaco Jiménez, musician, in This Ain’t No Mouse Music! (dir. Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon, 2014), a documentary about Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, might be the easiest Stumper I’ve seen. I can imagine Stan Newman taking stock of the world and thinking, “Aww, heck, I’ll go easy on ’em.” Consider, for instance, 3-D, ten letters, “Hardbody’s pride.” Or 15-A, ten letters, “Highway advisory.”

Three four-letter-answer clues I especially liked: 29-D, “Spirit in Cyprus.” 32-D, “Plant with legs.” 57-A, “Daily household announcement.” My favorite clue: 11-D, eight letters, “Show of hands.”

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

*

Today’s puzzle made me recall a youthful encounter with 29-D.

The Bob Rosses

The New York Times asks: “Where Are All the Bob Ross Paintings?” And there’s an answer.

Friday, July 12, 2019

NYRB sale

New York Review Books is having a twentieth-anniversary sale: two books, 20% off; three books, 30% off; four books, 40% off. Not quite “magnificent Nature Guides” for $1, but still a great buy.

NYRB has opened up worlds of reading to me. You too?

[Use semicolons to separate items in a series when one or more commas appear within those items.]

“Magnificent Nature Guides”


[Life, September 29, 1952. Click for a much larger view.]

“How can these magnificent Nature Guides be sold at only $1 each?” The advertisement provides the answer:

With a normal first edition of 10,000 copies, these books would retail at from $3 to $5 a copy. But the 75,000–100,000 printing of each book lowered the unit cost to a point at which the publishers were able to employ the highest standards and yet produce these books for as little as $1.
A shorter supplemental answer: Because it’s 1952.

I love Golden Nature Guides, or the idea of Golden Nature Guides. I have the Rocks and Minerals: A Guide to Minerals, Gems, and Rocks (1957) and Trees: A Guide to Familiar American Trees (1987). And from the Golden Science series, Weather: A Guide to Phenomena and Forecasts (1965). From the back covers of the older books:
These 160 page books overflow with accurate full color illustrations and concise, double-checked information which makes identification and understanding the subject easy and enjoyable.
The back cover of Weather might have also mentioned Harry McNaught’s beautifully melancholy illustrations of “phenomena”: rain, more rain, and snow.

Telegraph operators and weather

From Hannah Fry’s review of Andrew Blum’s The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast :

By 1848, more than two thousand miles of telegraph lines had been laid across the United States. They were a technological marvel, but they were prone to problems when it rained. Every morning, telegraph operators checked with their colleagues in the surrounding cities to see what the weather was like. “If I learned from Cincinnati that the wires to St. Louis were interrupted by rain,” one operator was recorded as saying, “I was tolerably sure a ‘northeast’ storm was approaching.”

The effect was to change people’s perception of time and space. Being able to communicate through the telegraph might have made the world seem smaller, but those weather reports also made the world bigger, creating distance between places on a map.
I told my mom — who watches the weather with intense interest — about the role of the telegraph in forecasting. Who knew? Neither of us.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Our son Ben is hosting WGBH’s online series The Rewind, an exploration of the WGBH archives. First two episodes: “Tchaikovsky Waits for No Man” and “Tailgating with Table Linens.” Go Ben!

Genius at work

I quote:

Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or @AlfredENeuman99,..

...or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1000/24th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius! Sorry to say that even Social Media would be driven out of business along with, and finally, the Fake News Media!
The “true Stable Genius” tagged a retired teacher and coach whose tweets are decidedly not in favor of the president.

But the Genius has replaced the above tweets with new ones, with the tag omitted and with “Neuman” now misspelled as “Newman.”

Committee life


Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities. 1930–1943. Trans. Sophie Wilkins (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).

Related reading
All OCA Robert Musil posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Fake rocks


[“Bushmiller in the Side Pocket.” July 10, 2019.]

Zippy tests these wannabes by asking them if his shoes are styrofoam or penny loafers. One responds by asking Zippy if he wants to play pool. And another admits, “You got us, Zippy! We’re just fake news!”

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

[You can read Bill Griffith’s Zippy every day at Comics Kingdom or Seattlepi.com. Or read both and compare!]

E.B. Proust

E.B. White’s observations on style in writing are remarkably close to Marcel Proust’s. White, in The Elements of Style (1959):

Young writers often suppose that style is a garnish for the meat of prose, a sauce by which a dull dish is made palatable. Style has no such separate entity; it is nondetachable, unfilterable.
Not an embellishment, says Proust. Not a garnish, says White.

On Proust’s birthday

Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871.

“Style is not at all an embellishment as certain people think, it is not even a matter of technique, it is — like colour with painters — a quality of vision, the revelation of the private universe that each one of us can see and which others cannot see. The pleasure an artist affords us is to introduce us to one universe the more.”

Swann Explained by Proust.” 1913. In Days of Reading, trans. John Sturrock (New York: Penguin, 2008).
Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

“Patently deficient”

From The Washington Post: “A federal judge in New York on Tuesday denied a bid from the Justice Department to replace the team of lawyers on the case about the census citizenship question, writing that its request to do so was ‘patently deficient.’”

Patently Deficient : a book title of the future?

Not “home”

It’s startling to see a The New York Times article refer to Jeffrey Epstein’s 71st Street mansion as a “home.” Just one sample:

The townhouse where the financier Jeffrey Epstein is accused of engaging in sex acts with underage girls is one of the largest private homes in Manhattan, a short walk from Central Park.
No, it’s one of the largest private residences in Manhattan. The article I’ve quoted from calls this building a “home” ten times. The article also calls Epstein’s residence in Palm Beach a “home.”

As Garner’s Modern English Usage notes, “In the best usage, the structure is always called a house.” And: “The word home connotes familial ties.” To apply the word to a structure is a tacky realtor move. To apply the word to structures given over to sexual exploitation and trafficking is beyond grotesque.

Epstein is now living in a new “home,” larger but also much smaller than 9 E. 71st Street. If he’s denied bail and found guilty, he’ll be in that new “home” (aka “the big house”) for quite some time. Here’s hoping.

Related posts
Houses, homes, legs, limbs : “Nine homes”

Word of the day: obbligato

The word of the day, or of my day, because I just learned all about the word’s origins, is obbligato.

As an adjective, used as a direction in music: “not to be omitted : obligatory.” As a noun: “an elaborate especially melodic part accompanying a solo or principal melody and usually played by a single instrument.” The adjective came first, in 1740: “borrowed from Italian, ‘obligatory, essential to a musical composition,’ from past participle of obbligare “to require (someone to do something), oblige,” going back to the Latin obligāre. The noun came along in 1825.

An obbligato is not ad libitum, “omissible according to a performer's wishes.” A performer has an obligation to the obbligato. And who knew that ad lib is a short form of ad libitum, an adverb (1606) and adjective (1786) meaning (as it did in medieval Latin) “in accordance with one’s wishes.” The idea of spontaneous performance came later, in the adjective ad-lib (1819) and the verb ad lib (1910).

Not all obbligatos are a matter of obedience to notation. In improvised music, an obbligato — say, a Lester Young obbligato behind Bille Holiday — might very well be ad libbed. And beautiful.

[Definitions and etymologies from Merriam-Webster. “A Sailboat in the Moonlight” (Carmen Lombardo–John Jacob Loeb): Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra: Buck Clayton, trumpet; Edmond Hall, clarinet; Lester Young, tenor sax; James Sherman, piano; Freddie Green, guitar; Walter Page, bass; Jo Jones, drums. Recorded in New York, June 15, 1937.]

Monday, July 8, 2019

Pocket notebook sighting


[Click for a much larger view.]

From “Chapter Four: The Sauna Test,” the fourth episode of the new third season of Stranger Things. Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) consults her pocket notebook as she and Jim Hopper (David Harbour) check out several properties. No spoiler in that sentence, honest.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : The Big Clock : The Brasher Doubloon : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dead End : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : Kid Glove Killer : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Ministry of Fear : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : The Palm Beach Story : Perry Mason : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : The Racket : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : La roue : Route 66 : The Small Back Room : The Sopranos : Spellbound : Stage Fright : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Time Table : T-Men : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Walk East on Beacon! : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once

Chock full o’Things


[Click for a much larger view.]

Maxwell House, sure. But a can of Chock full o’Nuts in small-town Indiana? In 1985? Well, maybe. This can appears in “Chapter One: Suzie, Do You Copy,” the opening episode of the new (third) season of Stranger Things. The can sits on a shelf in Joyce Byers’s house.

Stranger Things is Chock full o’Things. It is utterly satisfying television — that is, if a streaming series counts as “television.”

Previously on Stranger Things: the World Book Encyclopedia.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Puzzled about nepenthe

An answer in this morning’s Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle, “Power of the Pen,” started me thinking. Will Shortz’s puzzle asked for words containing the accented syllable pen. Terrific? StuPENdous. Got it.

The word that started me thinking: nepenthe, which Shortz clued as “drug of forgetfulness in the Odyssey.” The word in the Odyssey is νηπενθής [nēpenthes] which means “banishing pain and sorrow.” The word joins νη- [nē-], meaning “not,” and πένθος [penthos], meaning “grief, sorrow.” The word νηπενθής appears in Odyssey 4, line 221, where it describes a substance that Helen places in the wine as her husband Menelaus, Odysseus’s son Telemachus, and Nestor’s son Peisistratus weep for the lives lost in the Trojan War. What Helen places in the wine though is a drug: a φάρμακον [pharmakon].

Today’s contestant, who said he’d read the Odyssey, did not know nepenthe. Nor did it come to my mind as the name of a substance. The drugs named in the Odyssey are magical plants: lotus and moly. None of the Big Four translations of the Odyssey include nepenthe as a name:

Robert Fitzgerald (1961): Helen drops into the wine “an anodyne, mild magic of forgetfulness.”

Richmond Lattimore (1967): Helen casts into the wine “a medicine / of heartsease, free of gall, to make one forget all sorrows.” (Hearts ease, or heart’s ease, is a traditional medicinal flower.)

Robert Fagles (1996): Helen slips in “a drug, heart’s-ease, dissolving anger, / magic to make us forget all out pains.”

Stanley Lombardo (2000): Helen throws into the wine “a drug / That stilled all pain, quieted all anger, / And brought forgetfulness of every ill.”

How did nepenthe make its way into today’s Sunday Puzzle? My guess is that Will Shortz has many lists of words, searchable in many ways, and thus found this word. I suspect that what’s at work here is the kind of out-of-one’s-element moment that turned Mel Tormé into a “cool jazz pioneer.” I doubt that someone better acquainted with the Odyssey would have chosen nepenthe for today’s puzzle. But I could be wrong.

Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)

[The Big Four: my term for recent American translators of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. I’ll add that nepenthe does not appear in Peter Green’s and Emily Wilson’s 2018 translations of the Odyssey. In writing this post I relied upon the Perseus Digital Library’s text of Lidell and Scott’s A Greek–English Lexicon.]

João Gilberto (1931–2019)

João Gilberto, composer, singer, guitarist, architect of bossa nova, has died at the age of eighty-eight. The Washington Post has an obituary. From 2008, here is a São Paolo concert, just voice and guitar.

*

The New York Times now has an obituary.

Eva Kor (1934–2019)

Eva Kor died this past Thursday at the age of eighty-five. Eva and her twin sister Miriam (d. 1993) were survivors of Auschwitz, where they were subjected to Josef Mengele’s “experiments” on twins. Eva founded a small museum In Terre Haute, Indiana, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and devoted her later years to teaching forgiveness as a way to help heal from trauma. Eva died in Poland, one day after speaking to a CANDLES group at Auschwitz.

I remember vividly something Eva said to a group of east-central Illinoisans visiting her museum: “Never give up.” That was the vow she made to herself as a child in Auschwitz. Such a vow might not save you, she said, but without it, you’re certainly lost.

Elaine met Eva in 1994 at our university’s radio station and was close to her for many years. In 1995 Elaine’s string quartet played for the opening of CANDLES. When the museum reopened in 2005 after being firebombed two years earlier, Elaine and I played traditional Jewish songs on violin and National guitar. Elaine has written about Eva in this blog post.

More: stories from the BBC and NPR, and an obituary from Terre Haute’s Tribune Star.

*

The New York Times now has an obituary.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Erik Agard and Wyna Liu, felt more difficult at first than it turned out to be. I got 6-D, four letters, “It can be a lot,” which gave me 15-A, six letters, “Rather sour.” Then I dropped down to 43-A, three letters, “Non-PC,” and 45-A, eight letters, “Bar babble.” The babble yielded a few more answers, the most helpful of which was for 41-D, seven letters, “Italian who mentored Beethoven.” And then I was happy to see 58-A, six letters, “Their work might drive them up the wall.” Yes, been there, done that, at least for a summer with my dad. After getting those answers, I wandered around for quite a while looking for doors marked ENTER. Here and there, I found them.

So many clues in this puzzle had a wonderful dash of indirection or vagueness. Some that I especially liked: 5-D, seven letters, “Draw on the floor.” 16-A, eight letters, “Getting captured.” 18-A, eight letters, “Poster selection.” No, BLACKLIGHT doesn’t fit. And 30-D, nine letters, “Match box of pro sports.” (What?)

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Randing the ramparts



The hashtags #RevolutionaryWarAirports and #RevolutionaryWarAirportStories will provide a short-lived diversion. What interests me more is a possible explanation of Trump’s mistake.

My best guess as to what he said: “Our army [manned?] the [?], it rand the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do.”

What I think he was supposed to say: “Our army manned the ramparts, it took over the port, it did everything it had to do.” The port would be that of Baltimore. And, yes, he’s conflating the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Details!

This morning Trump blamed his airport incoherence on a teleprompter going out right in the middle of that sentence: “I knew the speech very well, so I was able to do it without a teleprompter but, ahh, the teleprompter did go out, and it was actually hard to look at anyway, because there was rain all over it.”

A more plausible explanation: Trump was reading words written for him, words that he didn’t really understand and hadn’t bothered to work on. See also “Douglass, you know, Frederick Douglass, the great Frederick Douglass” and all the syntactically awkward pauses in his delivery. (Watch at C-SPAN.)

Frederick Douglass, too, had something to say about the Fourth of July.

I wanted to check my transcription against the official text, but whitehouse.gov so far has nothing.

*

4:26 p.m.: Now there’s an official text, but it’s a transcript, complete with indications of applause. Here’s what the White House has Trump saying: “Our Army manned the air [inaudible], it rammed the ramparts. It took over the airports. It did everything it had to do.”