Monday, September 30, 2019


A history professor commented on a student's “un-American” punctuation. The student was upset:

“I mean, this is not an English class, and I’ve gone through English classes, so I know that I’m supposed to punctuate the correct way throughout essays and I know he’s supposed to correct me and take points off for it, which I put in my email to him, but those comments were just so unnecessary.”
The professor was joking.

[In an online class the options for humor may be sharply limited.]

Grilled-cheese revolution

I have always made grilled-cheese sandwiches by buttering the bread before placing it in the pan. Every set of directions for making a grilled-cheese sandwich that I’ve read advises thusly. My search though has not been exhaustive.

A better way: place some butter in the pan. Put the sandwich on the butter. Press. Move the sandwich around a bit to get as much butter as possible on the bread. When you’re ready to flip, add a little more butter to the pan.

Buttering the pan and not the bread makes for a much, much quicker sandwich. And the pan can stay at relatively high heat without burning the bread. I don’t know why that’s so.

Note: It is indeed a grilled-cheese revolution, not a grilled cheese revolution.

"An enlightened descendant"

Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading, trans. Dmitri Nabokov and Vladmir Nabokov (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1959).

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov and pencil posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Robert Johnson obituary

The New York Times has added an obituary for Robert Johnson to its Overlooked series, which recognizes people whose deaths went unremarked in the newspaper.

The problems with this obit begin at the beginning: “Johnson gained little notice in his life, but his songs — quoted by the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin — helped ignite rock ’n’ roll.” Well, no. Rock ’n’ roll, as a 1950s phenomenon, owes little or nothing to Robert Johnson. And the musicians mentioned didn’t “quote” Johnson; they performed his songs or created their own near-versions of his songs (as the obituary goes on to acknowledge). Another odd point: Johnson didn’t play walking basslines, as the obit claims; he played (sometimes) with a boogie or shuffle in the bass. His borrowings via the phonograph from other blues musicians in widely divergent styles go unremarked. And there’s no mention of the 1938 From Spirituals to Swing Carnegie Hall concert that might have brought Johnson broad recognition had he not died earlier that year. The concert was produced by John Hammond, who would later reissue Johnson’s recordings on LP (as the obituary notes).

I could probably go on.

[I suspect that the writer of this obit was not familiar enough with the subject to get things right. For instance: the Times article that he cites about Johnson’s purported walking bass makes no reference to walking basslines. Instead it refers (accurately) to boogie bass.]

Saturday, September 28, 2019

“A Message to You Rudy”

[The Specials, “A Message to You Rudy” (Dandy Livingstone). From the album The Specials (2 Tone, 1979).]

It’s too late for Rudy Giuliani to straighten right out. But maybe not too late for some other Rudy.


So strange: Elaine and I were talking about it last night during a blinding sunset. I didn’t know that there was a word for it: Manhattanhenge.

Zippy Psyche

[“Fairy Crossing.” Zippy, September 28, 2019.]

That’s Herman Sherman, “Dingburg’s ‘Skeptic-in-Chief,’” speaking with — who? A fairy, I guess, or a sprite — Herman warns her that it’s a “no-sprite zone.” Or should that be Sprite?

The fairy or sprite in today’s Zippy bears an unmistakable resemblance to Psyche, symbol of White Rock Beverages. Here’s an NPR story about Psyche and her soda company. (Soda: which is why I think there’s a pun in “no-sprite zone.”) And here’s a company page about Psyche.

I remember White Rock from my Brooklyn kidhood. I believe that Psyche was then known as “the White Rock maiden,” but I can’t find any evidence for my claim.

Here’s Psyche as herself:

[Life, December 29, 1947. Click for a larger view, and notice Psyche’s hands in the upper-right image.]

It’s worth taking the time to read the advertisement: “The drinks were tops last night — and I feel on top of the world this morning.” In other words, no hangover. Something to do with White Rock’s “alkaline effect.” Other advertisements of the period promise that White Rock keeps you “on the alkaline side.” Whatever.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, was a pleasure to solve. I started with 6-D, six letters, “Stop making excuses,” filling in an answer that just seemed right. It gave me 23-A, four letters, “Highly quarrelsome,” which in turn gave me 24-D, eleven letters, “Flips,” and so on. I filled in a few unconnected answers here and there, but solving the puzzle hinged, for me, on 6-D. It’s always a good idea to stop making excuses.

Clues I especially liked: 2-D, seven letters, “Warm-up circuit.” (Nothing to do with old radios or televisions.) 53-A, seven letters, “Iniciador de conversación.” 58-A, eleven letters, “Austere calling.” 60-D, “Booker, for short.” And the aforementioned 24-D. And the strange-sounding 32-D, six letters, “What a rear window may go up with.” ALFRED, as in Hitchcock?

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Some others

Other people are talking. In The Washington Post tonight:

President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter.
I’ve made this post to memorialize my amazement that things are much, much worse than I’ve imagined. Insert choice expression beginning with Holy here.

“The Whistleblower Complaint”

Elaine just wrote it, for solo flute: “The Whistleblower Complaint.” No hyphen in her whistleblower.

The piece is free to anyone to download and perform. The score is available from Dropbox and the IMSLP. Computer-generated audio is available from Dropbox.

Hyphens and mental health

1. Liddle is a word. (But does Donald Trump know that?) From the Oxford English Dictionary:
In regional pronunciation, or representing the speech of non-English-speakers or children; = LITTLE adj.
The first citation (1906) is from Rudyard Kipling: “Come along o’ me while I lock up my liddle hen-house.” A later citation, from Arthur Kober (1945):
You wanna be a crook, be awready a big fella! . . . But a liddle fella, where he got the chutzpah to be a crook?
Mistah Trump, he’s a big fella.

2. Liddle’ is not a word. Perhaps the president is thinking of lil’, as in Lil’ Kim or li’l, as in Li’l Trumpy.

3. An apostrophe or accent is not a hyphen. Liddle’ reminds me of what people used to do trying to create an accented letter on a typewriter: cafe′.

4. Discribing is not an accepted variant.

5. “I spelled the word liddle wrong”: well, he did. But words used as words take italics or quotation marks: liddle, or “liddle.” See nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 above.

6. Low ratings and never ending need hyphens. You — not CNN — left hyphens out, you dolt.

7. The president is not well.

[I suspect that the missing “hyphen” will be found with the missing strawberries.]

In a café

I was sitting in a far corner of a vast Old World café. A waiter came to my table to tell me that two men were waiting to see me. I walked to the front of the café and found them standing inside the entrance wearing overcoats and broad smiles. They told me that they wanted to participate in my oil business. I told them that I wasn’t taking in any new people. They persisted in asking, and I persisted in turning them down. Then I moved past them and walked down an interior stone staircase — to a basement?

I don’t think this dream took place in Ukraine, but I suspect it’s the product of current events.

The oldest working barber

Anthony Mancinelli, the world’s oldest working barber, has died at the age of 108. He retired just a few weeks ago. The New York Times has an obituary.

I liked this joke in a 2018 Times article about Mr. Mancinelli: “I eat thin spaghetti, so I don’t get fat.” The joke reappears in the obituary.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

“In the old days”

Donald Trump spoke this morning at an event to honor the staff of the United States Mission to the United Nations:

Mr. Trump repeatedly referred to the whistle-blower and condemned the news media reporting on the complaint as “crooked.” He then said the whistle-blower never heard the call in question.

“I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy,” Mr. Trump said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now. . . .”

Some in the crowd laughed, the person briefed on what took place said. The event was closed to reporters, and during his remarks, the president called the news media “scum” in addition to labeling them as crooked.
Projection, projection.


5:34 p.m.: Now there’s a partial transcript.


What most strikes me in reading the whistle-blower’s complaint is how many other people were aware of the actions that the whistle-blower has reported to Congress. One person spoke out. May others follow.

[The complaint, by the way, is exceedingly well-written.]

Plaids and rainbows

Robert Kirk, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies (New York: New York Review Books, 2007).

Robert Kirk (1641?–1692) was a Scottish minister and folklorist. The manuscript of The Secret Commonwealth was left unpublished at the time of his death. Kirk goes to remarkable lengths to place brownies and fairies and the gift of second sight within a Christian worldview. Highly ecumenical.

This extraordinary passage makes me think of lines from Wallace Stevens’s poem “Sunday Morning,” as the poet imagines paradise: “Alas, that they should wear our colors there, / The silken weavings of our afternoons.” In other words, when we imagine an alternative reality, we cast it in terms of the world we know. Thus plaids and suanochs. But then again, there are those “curious cobwebs” and “impalpable rainbows.” How do those creatures make their clothes anyway?

Related posts, sort of
Is plaid really warmer? : Orange Crate tArtan

[Kirk’s appendix to his work, “An Exposition of the Difficult Words in the Foregoing Treatises,” defines suanoch as “mantle or cloak.”]

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Donald Trump’s press conference (happening now) is turning into the courtroom scene from The Caine Mutiny. I hope there’ll be a transcript.

A related post

“Though” and “the other thing”

From a Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation:

Zelensky: We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

Trump: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike . . . I guess you have one of your wealthy people . . . The server, they say Ukraine has it.
And so on. So the favor, at least at first, is about a search for a server. If you’re puzzled, as I am, by “Crowdstrike,” here’s an explanation. Trump seems to be laboring under the delusion that a server belonging to the Democratic National Committee is hiding in Ukraine. From there the conversation shifts to William Barr’s participation in the search, a visit by Rudolph Giuliani to Ukraine (no question that Zelensky is to welcome that visit), and an investigation of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden:
The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it . . . It sounds horrible to me.
The talking heads on cable news are quoting “I would like you to do us a favor,” which looks bad enough as is. But we would do well not to overlook the word that follows: “though.” You need money for military equipment. But Trump needs something too.

And — if we read carefully — it becomes clear that the favor has several parts: a search for a mythical server, receptiveness to overtures from Barr and Giuliani, and an investigation (with Barr) into the Bidens. The words “the other thing” tie the parts together and point back to “I would like you to do us a favor though.”

If the Trump administration thought that putting this document out would help their case, I can only imagine what’s in the whistle-blower’s complaint that they’re not revealing.

[This document is not a transcript. It is identified as a reconstruction made from “notes and recollections” of those who “assigned to listen and memorialize.” The Associated Press cites “senior White House officials” as saying that the reconstruction “was prepared using voice recognition software, along with note takers and experts listening in.” All infelicities of punctuation and spelling are as in the original.]

Jack Elrod coloring books

Matthew Schmeer let me know of two items available as PDFs from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Fish, Wildlife and People: A Mark Trail Coloring Book (1987) and Wetlands Coloring Book (1999). Both are by Jack Elrod, who succeeded Ed Dodd as the artist and writer of Mark Trail. Elrod clearly brought his best stuff to the pages of these coloring books.

Thanks, Matthew.

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

[The USFWS doesn’t identify Elrod as the author of Wetlands Coloring Book, but the WorldCat does.]

Mondays and Saturdays

News from joecab: Stan Newman, puzzle editor for Newsday, is posting old Monday (easy) and Saturday (hard) puzzles daily at GameLab. Stop me before I solve again!

In truth though, I haven’t solved at all — yet. GameLab requires that ad-blockers be disabled, and I’m happy to oblige, but navigating a puzzle once ads kick in, at least with Safari, at least on my Mac, too often feels like the olden days of dial-up. (And the ads, always changing, are mighty distracting.) Printing — at 90% — is a better option, with the grid and clues fitting on a single page.

Solve we must. Thanks, joecab.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


In The New York Times, minutes ago:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to announce on Tuesday that the House will begin a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump, Democrats close to her said, taking decisive action in response to startling allegations that the president sought to enlist a foreign power for his own political gain.

National Punctuation Day

Wait — what?


There: done, almost.

It still needs a semicolon; that mark of punctuation, however, is one from which I feel ever more removed.

Related posts
How to punctuate a sentence
How to punctuate more sentences

[We all know that National Punctuation Day is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate, you know. Nevertheless, I will honour National Punctuation Day in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.]

An alternative to Google Translate

A recommendation from Tororo at a nice slice of tororo shiru: DeepL Translator.

I put Tororo’s post, written in French, into Google Translate and DeepL. Here’s the start of the opening sentence, with links omitted:

Il y a quelques années, en réponse à la remarque d’un lecteur bienveillant, j’avais testé trois logiciels de traduction (Reverso, Babelfish, Google Translate) disponibles en ligne.
Here’s Google Translate:
A few years ago, in response to a benevolent reader’s comment , I had tested three translation software packages (Reverso, Babelfish, Google Translate) available online.
The space before the comma is of Google Translate’s making.

And here’s DeepL:
A few years ago, in response to a kind reader’s remark, I tested three translation software programs (Reverso, Babelfish, Google Translate) available online.
“Kind” sounds more plausible that “benevolent”; “program,” more apt than “package”; but “comment” fits the blogging context better. But Google Translate cannot know that. As the translations continue, each shows a few glitches. But Tororo finds that DeepL produces, “au moins pour les traductions d’anglais en français et de français en anglais, des résultats nettement meilleurs que les trois susnommés réunis.”

Or as Google Translate puts it, “at least for the translations from English to French and from French to English, results much better than the three above mentioned.”

Or as DeepL puts it, “at least for translations from English to French and from French to English, much better results than the three above-mentioned combined.” Notice that DeepL is smart enough to omit the article before “translations.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

John Shimkus, profile in courage

A Washington Post article about House Republicans leaving Congress notes that John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), one of those leaving, “declined to say whether he had any problems with Trump”:

“The president is the de facto head of the party by definition, but the party for me is less government, individual responsibility, lower taxes, more personal freedoms and liberties,” he said.

“People come and go. Personalities are personalities,” he added.
Shimkus has served in the House since 1997. He became our representative (after redistricting) in 2012. We may get someone even worse next year.

Related reading
All OCA John Shimkus posts

Meet Dr. Camel

[Mark Trail, September 23, 2019.]

I am avoiding all jokes about doctors and Camels. This Dr. Camel is a cryptozoologist, searching for proof that Yetis exist. My interest is in his handshake, which suggests to me that Dr. Camel might be something of a crypto-creature himself. Do you see the problem?

[Mark Trail, revised by me, September 23, 2019.]

Note to colorist: Proofread. Avoid carless errors.

I improved Mark Trail’s sleeve with the free Mac app Seashore. I added a left margin to make this moment look like a panel unto itself.

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

[Carless is on purpose, a joke I used to add to pages describing essay assignments.]

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The end of the dining car

From The Washington Post: “Amtrak says it is reinventing its dining service on long-distance trains, killing the traditional dining car to create more ‘flexible’ and ‘contemporary’ dining options.”

I remember sitting in a dining car just once — white tablecloth, eggs. Other than that, I’ve known only café cars serving sandwiches — tuna salad on stiff white bread. The tuna salad had relish mixed in.

Now is a good time to visit the Railroad Dining Car Archives.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, looks rather difficult but might prove less so. (And what might that bode for next Saturday?) Only sixty-four words, with a fourteen- over a fifteen-letter answer in the north, and a fifteen- over a fourteen-letter answer in the south. My favorite long clue: 14-A, fifteen letters, “Noticeably neutral display.” I immediately thought of a song by The Specials.

Other clues I especially liked: 14-D, five letters, “Fare that was rare to air.” 20-D, six letters, “Gang leader on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.” 29-A, ten letters, “Frequent Broadway openings.” And for the news of the weird: 38-D, six letters, “Sir        Grenville Wodehouse.” No wonder he used initials.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 20, 2019


Donald Trump just stated that "our nuclear" is in "tippy-top shape."

Messing with the mail

From Time: “The Race to Prepare for a Potential U.S. Exit From the World’s Mail System.”

Merriam-Webster and they

Merriam-Webster explains the inclusion of nonbinary they in its dictionaries:

All new words and meanings that we enter in our dictionaries meet three criteria: meaningful use, sustained use, and widespread use. Nonbinary they has a clear meaning; it’s found in published text, in transcripts, and in general discourse; and its use has been steadily growing over the past decades. English speakers are encountering nonbinary they in social media profiles and in the pronoun stickers applied to conference badges. There’s no doubt that it is an established member of the English language, which means that it belongs in Merriam-Webster’s dictionaries.
The “grammatically conservative” might want to read this short commentary by Geoff Nunberg. The sentence that hit home for me: “It's not a lot to ask — just a small courtesy and sign of respect.”

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Here’s the latest episode of WGBH’s The Rewind, “Who Was the Father of Country Music?,” hosted by our son Ben.

[And if you’re wondering about the comma after the question mark, see The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.) 6.125.]

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Guess I’m dumb

I am reminded of the student who asked, “Do you think I’d be dumb enough to plagiarize from someone in the same class?” As it turned out, the student had done just that. X wrote a paper and gave it to Y, who used it as the basis for his paper. Then Y gave his paper to Z, who used it as the basis for his paper. I was able to put together the sequence by seeing how the writing worsened from X to Y to Z. You can change words here and there only so many times before things stop making sense.

But notice how Trump projects: not “Do you think I’d be dumb enough to” but “Is anybody dumb enough to.” I’m not dumb. You must be dumb. No puppet, no puppet. You’re the puppet.

Here is a thoughtful Twitter thread from Ned Shugerman, professor at Fordham Law School, on the sequence of events surrounding the whistleblower’s complaint.

My admittedly extreme guess as to “the promise”: “I will argue very strongly for the G8. And if not, they’ll be looking at the G6, that I can tell you.” Other perhaps more likely possibilities, suggested by journalists: a promise to turn over the recently extracted Russian spy, a promise to reopen Russian diplomatic compounds that were used for spying, a promise of better U.S.–Ukraine relations if only Ukraine would reopen its investigation of Hunter Biden.


2:30 p.m.: And now The New York Times reports that the complaint is about more than a single call:
A potentially explosive complaint by a whistle-blower in the intelligence community said to involve President Trump was related to a series of actions that goes beyond any single discussion with a foreign leader, according to interviews on Thursday.

7:21 p.m.: And now The Washington Post has more:
A whistleblower complaint about President Trump made by an intelligence official centers on Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter, which has set off a struggle between Congress and the executive branch.
[Post title with apologies to Glen Campbell and Brian Wilson.]

Weevils and hyphens

[3 1/2″ × 1 1/2″. Click for a larger view.]

I found this ticket in the supermarket, nestled among the sweet potatoes. The sickly green color caught my eye.

The area of Arkansas where these “Sweet Potatoes” were grown and stored appears to be not only “weevil free” but hyphen-free as well. Maybe the weevils ate the hyphens before moving on. Capital Letters were left undisturbed.

Yes, I still say “supermarket,” which here stands for Aldi.

Related posts
Bad hyphens, unhelpful abbreviations : “Every generation hyphenates the way it wants to” : “Fellow-billionaires” : Got hyphens? : The Hammacher Schlemmer crazy making hyphen shortage problem : Living on hyphens : Mr. Hyphen and e-mail : Mr. Hyphen and Mr. Faulkner : One more from Mr. Hyphen : The opposite of user-friendly : Phrasal-adjective punctuation

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Gerber Dime on sale

If your Ace Hardware is anything like mine, the Gerber Dime multi-tool is on clearance there, selling for $10.93 — less than half its list price of $24. The Dime is no longer listed on the Ace website, which makes me think that the clearance is more than local.

I’m a fool, or at least a semi-fool, for a multi-tool. Because you never know when you might be called on to cut a wire or tighten a screw. Be prepared!


Donald Trump has issued thirty-one tweets and retweets in less than three hours this morning, beginning at 4:08 PDT. A record?

Bandy X. Lee’s “translations” of Trump’s tweets are a helpful corrective. Nothing yet for this morning.

From Rock Crystal

Adalbert Stifter. Rock Crystal. 1845. Trans. from the German by Elizabeth Mayer and Marianne Moore (New York: New York Review Books, 2008).

After reading Stifter’s The Bachelors, I suggested Rock Crystal [Bergkristall ] as a candidate for our household’s two-person reading club. All I knew about this novella: the 1945 translation is by a distinguished translator and a great poet, with an introduction by another great poet, reissued by New York Review Books. Sold.

Rock Crystal is an extraordinary piece of storytelling: cozy, eerie, dream-like, fairy-tale-ish. Early on in our reading, Elaine and I came to the same conclusion: the setting is a lot like Schladming. That’s the name of the Austrian town where Elaine taught music in 1980 and 1981. I’ve never been, but Elaine, like Adalbert Stifter, is a good describer.

And lo: it turns out Stifter had a strong connection to Schladming and environs, and that those environs are indeed the setting for Rock Crystal. Schladming even has a street named for the writer: Adalbert-Stifter-Weg. Elaine explains it all in this post.

Early holiday shopping: Rock Crystal would make an excellent Christmas present.

Also from Stifter
An excerpt from The Bachelors

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Not to forget

As the shitshow begins, let’s not forget: Donald Trump told Corey Lewandowski — who was not a member of his administration — to direct Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of the Mueller investigation to interference in future elections and to prohibit inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Got obstruction?

“Coming in hot”

I was getting blood drawn (the yearly doctor’s visit) and the nurse used this expression with reference to an upcoming birthday: “It’s coming in hot!”

I had to ask: is that a midwesternism? A downstate Illinoism? I had never heard it before.

Obligatory sequel: You’ve never heard that before? No. And how long have you lived here? Thirty-four years. And you’ve never? No, never. And where are you from originally? The garden spot of the world, Brooklyn, USA. But really, I just said “Brooklyn, New York.”

The nurse understood “coming in hot” to mean “coming up quickly,” “coming up soon.” She didn’t know where the expression comes from. But she mentioned that she and her co-workers use the expression in a different way when there’s a urine sample waiting to be picked up. You know how there’s a little shelf when you? Yes, I do.

Unlike a birthday, that sample would literally be coming in hot.

[A Quora page suggests that “coming in hot” has a military origin. “The garden spot of the world, Brooklyn, USA”: as per Ed Norton, The Honeymooners. But that expression goes far back.]

Milton’s Shakespeare

From The Guardian : “Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton.”

Monday, September 16, 2019

Adventures in hyphenation

Stan Carey poses a question: What would serve as an apt compound modifier for the opposite of user-friendly ?


October 5: From a television commercial for Paycom: “My HR app is user-unfriendly.”

Related posts
Bad hyphens, unhelpful abbreviations : “Every generation hyphenates the way it wants to” : “Fellow-billionaires” : Got hyphens? : The Hammacher Schlemmer crazy making hyphen shortage problem : Living on hyphens : Mr. Hyphen and e-mail : Mr. Hyphen and Mr. Faulkner : One more from Mr. Hyphen : Phrasal-adjective punctuation

[As I wrote in a comment on Stan’s post, user-unfriendly sounds best to my ear. I hear in it a touch of wit, a quick negation of the more familiar term.]

Ticonderoga sighting

[Since You Went Away (dir. John Cromwell, 1944). Click for a larger view.]

No, Brig Hilton (Shirley Temple) is not gasping at the conductor’s Dixon Ticonderogas, even if they are sporting nifty clips. The conductor is played by Harry Hayden, who also turns up as the counterman in the opening scene of The Killers (dir. Robert Siodmak, 1946). I know that I’m supposed to be thinking about pencils, not diners. But the setting here is a railroad dining car. Speaking of which, the Railroad Dining Car Archives are a wonder to browse. Though they’re short on pencils.

Other Ticonderoga sightings
The Dick Van Dyke Show : Force of Evil : The House on 92nd Street : Lassie : Lassie, again : Perry Mason

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Orange Crate Art at fifteen

Orange Crate Art turns fifteen today. It’s applying for a learner’s permit tomorrow. Wish us luck.

Writing every day, or nearly every day, is a great pleasure to me, whatever the fortunes of “the blogosphere,” whatever the number of hits per post. For me, keeping a blog is a way of fostering a habit of attention, which means fostering a habit of learning, permit or no permit.

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is the work of Lars G. Doubleday, who might be a Bob and Ray character if he were not, in truth, Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber. I thought at first that I was in for another Saturday debacle. See 1-D, five letters, “Confound.” But this puzzle proved to be doable and highly enjoyable.

My starting point was 6-D, seven letters, “Authorities on diamonds,” which gave me most of 6-A, eight letters, “In defiance of warnings, say,” and 18-A, eight letters, “Cooperate.” And between 6-A and 18-A, sat 16-A, eight letters, “Curser of Capulets and Montagues.” My reading of another poet, Geoffrey Hill, gave me 40-A, eight letters, “Holy Week candle-snuffing service.” I took a guess at 4-D, fifteen letters, “Pitch dismissal,” and it turned out to be right. And the parts of the puzzle fell into place, with the southwest corner bringing a final bit of difficulty. A happy solving experience.

Clues I especially liked: 24-A, four letters, “Tip of Italy,” a nice way to make a piece of crosswordese more interesting. 30-A, eight letters, “Frequent I Love Lucy sight.” 55-A, eight letters, “Light pop style.” And for sheer over-the-top idiosyncrasy, 10-D, fifteen letters, “Koi pond filler and filter.” If you say so.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 13, 2019


“Apple has announced that macOS 10.14 (Mojave) will be the last version capable of running 32-bit applications. Go64 identifies the apps on your Mac that are still 32-bit so you can plan to update or replace them in the near future.” Go64 is a free app for Mac.

Running Go64 on my Mac turns up a handful of 32-bit apps I’ve been using about as long as I’ve been using a Mac: Free Ruler, the timer Minuteur, and the white- and pink-noise generator Noisy. The last two appear to be abandoned. The same goes for a more recent 32-bit app, the bookmark alphabetizer SafariSort.

A turntable recommendation

“Make sure you have the record player on at night”: I’m still not sure whether Joe Biden was suggesting it’s a good thing or a bad thing to have the record player on at night. This morning I’m leaning toward bad. But if you want to have a record player on at night, or at any other time, I would like to recommend the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB turntable. Best turntable I’ve ever had.


In 2023, it’s there’s the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB turntable.

[I thought that Biden was criticizing parents who might blast music while their children are trying to do homework. But if he was saying that young children need to hear the spoken word, why not suggest that parents talk to their children? Why invoke a record player? I acknowledge that my recommendation moves forward from the record player into the world of “components”: turntable, receiver, speakers.]

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Here’s the latest episode of WGBH’s The Rewind, “Let’s Read Zoom Mail!,” hosted by our son Ben. And by a special guest-host. And featuring our son Ben. You’ll have to watch to understand.

Chicago decades

From The Chicago Manual of Style: the CMOS Shop Talk blog considers names for decades. I remember the semi-facetious “aughts” from a graduate course on the idea of the decade in literary history.

One small instance of the care that goes into revising The Chicago Manual of Style:

Sixteenth edition, 9.34: “Decades are either spelled out (as long as the century is clear) and lowercased or expressed in numerals.”

Seventeenth edition, 9.33: “Decades are either expressed in numerals or spelled out (as long as the century is clear) and lowercased.”

The sentence reads more easily with the shorter element, “expressed in numerals,” first. And switching the elements eliminates the slight glitch in reading that might come with “and lowercased or expressed in numerals.”

Yes, I love The Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago style is far superior to APA and MLA, IMO.

Word of the day: fuliginous

The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day is fuliginous. It’s a word I immediately associate with David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, where it appears in its 2.a. meaning in the story of Barry Loach trying to get a handshake outside Park Street Station.

Other words, other works of lit
Apoplexy, avatar, bandbox, heifer, sanguine, sempiternal : Artificer : Expiate : Ineluctable : Iridescent : Magnifico : Opusculum

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

WTC 2008

I‘ve pretty much kept September 11, 2001 at a distance today. But tonight I’ve been thinking about a visit to the World Trade Center and St. Paul’s Chapel that Elaine and I and made with friends in 2008. I wrote about it in a post that I just reread. It was thinking about the letters and drawings and the banner that got me. No more distance.

WTF’s chief meteorologist at work

The directive to rewrite the weather came from WTF’s chief meteorologist himself. From The Washington Post :

President Trump told his staff that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration needed to correct a tweet that seemed to contradict his statement that Hurricane Dorian posed a significant threat to Alabama as of Sept. 1, in contrast to what the agency’s forecasters were predicting at the time. This led chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to call Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to tell him to fix the issue, senior administration officials said.
A related post
Wilbur Ross at work

Word of the day: dandy roll

In today’s Zippy, Dandyroll Washbasin looks at a steel-belted radial: “Hmm . . . ‘tired’ can mean having steel-belted radials, or getting ready for bed!”

Like a washbasin, a dandy roll is a thing:

a light wire-covered roll that rides on the wet web of paper on a fourdrinier machine to compact the sheet and sometimes impress a watermark.
A fourdrinier is a thing:
a paper machine in which the web of paper is formed on an endless traveling wire screen that passes under a dandy roll, over suction boxes, through presses, and over dryers to the calenders and reels.
A calender is a thing:
a machine for calendering cloth, rubber, or paper by passing it between rollers or plates
To calender is
to press (as cloth, rubber, paper) between rollers or plates in order to make smooth and glossy or glazed or to thin into sheets.
No etymology for dandy roll in the OED or Webster’s Third. The fourdrinier was named for Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, nineteenth-century British papermakers and inventors. Calender comes from the Greek κύλινδρος, “cylinder.” The name Dandyroll Washbasin comes from Bill Griffith’s imagination and knowledge of papermaking.

The Johnston Dandy Company has a website full of dandy rolls and other mighty paper-making machines.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Definitions from Webster’s Third.]

A September 11 mural

The Braves of 9/11, a mural by Eduardo Kobra.

Found via Ephemeral New York.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Robert Frank (1924–2019)

The photographer Robert Frank has died at the age of ninety-four. The New York Times has an obituary.

I think of Frank’s The Americans (1959) as the photographic analogue of William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All (1923). “The pure products of America / go crazy — / mountain folk from Kentucky // or the ribbed north end of / Jersey.”

Bob and Ray’s House of Toast

[From A Night of Two Stars (1984).]

I remember the House of Toast from episodes of Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife. The Backstayges, Calvin Hoogavin, and Pop Beloved were operating a House of Toast. Toast, buttered on the far side or the near side, and shakes. What flavors? Just one. You’ll have to listen to find out.

Also from Bob and Ray
Mary Backstayge marigold seeds : “Puissance without hauteur”

A toast tip

From the manual accompanying our new toaster: “Do not place buttered breads in the toaster, as this could create a fire hazard.”

I daresay that’s not the only reason not to place buttered breads in the toaster.

Also from this manual
“Multiple shade options” : “Two equal halves”

A toast tip

The manual for our new toaster advises: “For your safety and continued enjoyment of this product, always read the instruction book carefully before using.” One tip from its pages: “Before toasting bagels, slice each bagel into two equal halves.”

Not three halves. So that’s how you get the bagel to fit.

Also from this manual
“Multiple shade options”

Monday, September 9, 2019

Wilbur Ross at work

This afternoon The New York Times reports that Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce,

threatened to fire top employees at NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] on Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama.

That threat led to an unusual, unsigned statement later that Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disavowing the office’s own position that Alabama was not at risk.
The Dorian–Alabama story captures so much of what’s wrong with this administration: contempt for truth, contempt for science, contempt for expertise, sycophancy at every level, the use of broad-point Sharpies as writing instruments, and a belief that the autocratic leader must always be proved right. The weather itself must bend to the will of Donald Trump.

Excuse me while I pause to clap fiercely for the leader. You clap too.

Hotel-room interviews

Inside Higher Ed reports that an academic tradition is fading.

I can imagine few other lines of work for which one interviews while sitting on the edge of a hotel-room bed.

Domestic comedy

“We should eat some lunch.”

“Yes, and.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[We had been talking about the rules of improv.]

No deal

One small sign of the degradation of political discourse these days: the media’s unquestioning adoption of the word “deal.” Granted, the word was in use before the current occupant of the White House moved in. I remember the Iran nuclear deal. And well before my time there was a New Deal.

But now all manner of things take on the identity of a “deal.” I am thinking of course of the prospect of a “deal” with the Taliban. Imagine — just try to imagine — talk of a “deal” with an Axis power all those years ago. Such language feels obscene.

Donald Trump’s fixation on making deals, great deals, betrays a mindset that has no room for the deep truth of what it means to be human. Because to be human is, finally, to lose. Every hand is a losing hand; every life, a losing proposition. I side with Ralph Ellison in these matters. In the words of the unnamed narrator of Invisible Man (1952):

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.
No deal to get around that.

A related post
“The fact of death, which is the only fact we have”

Sunday, September 8, 2019

“Multiple shade options”

Our new toaster (Cuisinart) has “multiple shade options.” Or as plain-speaking people might say, it toasts light and dark. Like every other working toaster.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Erik Agard, is the most difficult Saturday Stumper I’ve seen. 32-A, fifteen letters, “Unsettling?” Yes, indeed.

If I finish this puzzle, it’s going to be much later today. Because there’s a lawn to mow. And jerk chicken to eat. Things to do, and eat. Lots of things.


5:42 p.m.: Yes, there were lots of things to do. But finishing this puzzle was not one of them. I managed to figure out only a handful of clues. Looking at the solution makes me figuratively scratch my head. 1-D, four letters, “Gaynor, Garland, Streisand,       .” CHER? DION? I have no idea why the answer is what it is and not some other name. 18-A, seven letters, “One writing pointedly.” It’s a bit of a stretch to say that that seven-letter answer is a thing. Most baffling to me: 20-D, nine letters, “Dueling venues.” Maybe I need to spend more time in them to understand.

I was happy to get 14-D, four letters, “IDs often 56% hidden.” A novelty clue for a bit of crosswordese.

Next Saturday is another day.

Friday, September 6, 2019

An Alabama song

WTF’s chief meteorologist: “Alabama was going to be hit very hard, along with Georgia.”

So I thought of a song, Charley Patton’s (unembeddable) “Going to Move to Alabama.” Here is a transcription by Dick Spottswood, from Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues: The Worlds Of Charley Patton (Revenant Records, 2001).

I’m gon’ move to Alabama, I’m gon’ move to Alabama
I’m gon’ move t’ Alabama, to make Georgia be your home

Ah, she long and tall
[The way you like to treat me] makes a pan(t)her squall
I have to move to Alabama, have to move to Alabama
I have to move to Alabama, to make Georgia be your home

I’m gon show you common women, how I feel
Gon’ get me ’nother woman ’fore I leave
You’ll ever move to Alabama, then I will move to Alabama
Then I will move to Alabama, make Georgia be your home

Says, mama got the washboard, my sis got the tub
My brother got the whiskey, an’ mama got the jug
Gon’ move to Alabama, I’m gon’ move to Alabama
I’m gon’ move t’ Alabama, n’ make Georgia be your home

Well, these evil women sho’ make me tired
Got a handful of gimme, mouthful much obliged
You musta been to Alabama, you musta been to Alabama
You musta been to Alabama, to make Georgia be your

Aw, I got a woman, she long and tall
But when she wiggles, she makes this man bawl
She gon’ move to Alabama, have you been to Alabama?
Have you been to Alabama, to make Georgia be your

Say, mama an’ papa both went to walk
Lef’ my sister standing at the waterin’ trough
You haven’ been (to) Lou’siana, have you been to
Have you been to Alabama, to make Georgia be your

My mama told me
Never love a woman like she can’t love you
You, have you been to Alabama, have you been to
Have you been to Alabama, to make Georgia be your

I got up this mornin’, my hat in my han’
Didn’ have (nowhere to roam, had nowhere, man)
I (done been to) to Alabama, have you been to Alabama?
Have you been to Alabama, to make Georgia be your

Charley Patton, guitar and vocal. Henry Sims, violin.
Paramount 13014-B, recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin, October 1929.

The inspiration for this and other tunes: Jim Jackson’s 1927 “Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues.” Hurricane Dorian moved to neither Alabama nor Kansas City.

Elaine has posted four versions of another Alabama song.

[Brackets: almost certainly wrong. Parentheses: parts of words, implied words, educated guesses. The brackets and parentheses appear in Spottswood’s transcription.]

Word of the day: loiter

Elaine and I ran into a friend in the library. What brought us there? I kept a straight face and said that we were loitering. Meaning what, exactly?

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that loiter first meant “to idle, waste one's time in idleness.” The word later came to have a more specific meaning: “to linger indolently on the way when sent on an errand or when making a journey; to linger idly about a place; to waste time when engaged in some particular task, to dawdle.” The dictionary notes that the word frequently appears in the legal phrase to loiter with intent, the intent, that is, to commit a felony.

Our only intent was to browse for books and movies. And there was no dawdling or indolent lingering involved. Okay, we weren’t really loitering.

But whence the verb loiter? The OED traces the word to the Middle Dutch loteren, “to wag about (like a loose tooth)” or “to shiver” (like a sail) or “to dawdle, loiter over one’s work.”

And now I wondered: could loiter be related to litter? Those who loiter may be likely to litter, tossing about candy wrappers and cigarette butts, but there’s no connection between the words. The verb litter derives from the noun litter, which the OED traces from the Anglo-Norman litere all the way back to the Latin lectus, meaning “bed.” And the noun’s meanings go from “bed” (the earliest) to the stuff of bedding (“straw, rushes, or the like”) to bedding for animals (with “the straw and dung together”) to straw and other materials used in plaster or thatch to “odds and ends, fragments and leavings lying about, rubbish; a state of confusion or untidiness; a disorderly accumulation of things lying about.” The verb’s earliest meaning: “To furnish (a horse, etc.) with litter or straw for his bed.” The definition of the verb that comes closest to our usual use: “to cover as with litter, to strew with objects scattered in disorder.”

The OED lacks a definition for what we usually talk about when we talk about the verb litter: the discarding of small scraps of packaging or other matter in public places. I thought that might be because the dictionary’s entries for the noun and verb (“first published 1903”) have not been fully updated. (The most recent citation for the verb: 1896.) But Merriam-Webster, too, has no definition for litter that speaks of small scraps discarded in public places. The OED does have a relevant definition for littering: “the action of throwing or dropping litter,” with the earliest citation from 1960.

What are the limits of litter? To leave, say, a television or a piece of furniture on the sidewalk is not to litter. To flick ashes on the sidewalk is not to litter. But to drop something that belongs in a wastebasket — say, a losing lottery ticket — is.

I will now disappear before someone suspects me of loitering.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Here’s the latest episode of WGBH’s The Rewind, “Ted Kennedy and the Busing Crisis,” hosted by our son Ben.

“The jokes of the Tartars
and the salads of the Inca”

Introducing James Wilde, naturalist and explorer. Long sentence, short sentence, to great effect.

Esi Edugyan, Washington Black (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018).

Also from this novel
Beginning to draw

[I know that this description doesn’t fit Sir Ian McKellen. But I still think he’d make a good James Wilde.]

Helping the Bahamas

The New York Times has a list of organizations accepting donations.

More maps

In his ongoing effort to insist that Hurricane Dorian was forecast to hit Alabama, Donald Trump tweeted a grainy image of another hurricane map. This map appears to be what’s called a spaghetti plot, perhaps with additional lines made with ballpoint pens. It’s impossible to tell.

The important point is that one has to know how to read such a map for the map to be meaningful. The Weather Channel has this to say about spaghetti plots: “spaghetti plots do not show where impacts will occur.” And:

Although most models show possible impacts, to present many models succinctly on a single chart, meteorologists generally produce spaghetti plots that usually only show the “where” and a loose representation of “when” for tropical systems.
These plots do not speak to whether a storm will bring rainfall, hurricane-force winds, surge, or other data; they just contain information about the center of a storm’s future track.
I don’t know how to read spaghetti plots, but I know that I don’t know how, and I know that there are people who do.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Alabama loop

As reported by Axios and Gizmodo: Donald Trump displayed a doctored map to support his false claim that Alabama is in the path of Hurricane Dorian. A black (Sharpie-made?) loop reaching into Alabama has been added to the legitimate map. In the spirit of Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Hurricane Dorian has always been at war with Alabama.”


September 5: Here’s the pre-Sharpie map.

Beginning to draw

Esi Edugyan, Washington Black (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018).

Our son Ben recommended this novel to us. (Thank you, Ben!) Washington Black draws upon slave narratives, the Bildungsroman, magical realism, Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Ralph Ellison, and Toni Morrison to create a story of self-discovery, of scientific discovery, of friendship and the limits of friendship. George Washington Black, Wash, the novel’s narrator, begins life as an enslaved child on a plantation in Barbados. Christopher Wilde, Titch, inventor and naturalist, is the plantation owner’s brother.

For me, the novel’s one weakness is its reliance upon figures of speech that seem out of place in a nineteenth-century narrative: “like a thread of music,” “like thread on the landscape,” “like a thread of poison poured into a well,” And so on. Those figures will just disappear when Washington Black is adapted for television.

It is, by the way, great fun to read a novel, say it should become a movie, and then learn that it will. Get me Sir Ian McKellen’s agent on the phone. I see McKellen as Titch’s father James.


11:05 a.m.: Elaine mentioned “orange.” How did I forget “orange”? “The weak orange light,” “the orange light of the lantern,” “a low orange glow,” “a smoky orange warmth.” And so on. Here’s where an editor could point out that such repetitions might weaken the prose by distracting the reader.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Long-distance access codes

My mom was puzzled: she usually uses a cellphone, and when she tried to call us on her landline she heard a recorded message telling her that she needed a long-distance access code. Strange, especially because she can use her landline to call other numbers that require an area code, but not our number.

Explanation: the other numbers are neither local nor long-distance. They’re “regional.”

But what’s a long-distance access code? The Internets, too, have asked this question. I searched the phone company’s website — no answer.

So I volunteered to call the phone company in search of an access code. The person I spoke with had no idea what I was asking about. But while on hold I found a useful page: Long-distance carrier identification code search. It turns out that long-distance access codes are seven digits long and begin with “101.” You can search by company for an appropriate code.

An unlimited long-distance calling plan for a landline makes no economic sense, so it’s good to know that it’s still possible, when necessary, to make a one-off landline call with an access code. And it’s telling, I think, that this much-sought-after information is missing from the phone company’s website. Just sign up for the unlimited plan, right?

[“The phone company”: yes, straight out of the dowdy world.]

From A.H. Sidgwick

Elaine and I were both struck by this passage, describing the look and feel of clothes and gear during and after a several-days walk:

Boots have grown limp: clothes have settled into natural skin-like rumples: the stick is warm and smooth to our touch: the map slips easily in and out of the pocket, lucubrated by dog’s-ears: every article in the knapsack has found its natural place, and the whole has settled on to our shoulders as its home. The equipment is no longer an external armour of which we are conscious: it is part of ourselves that has come through the combat with us, and is indissolubly linked with its memories. At the start this coat was a glorious thing to face the world in: now it is merely an outer skin. At the start this stick was mine: now it is myself.

When it is all over the coat will go back to the cupboard and the curved suspensor, and the shirts and stockings will go to the wash, to resume conventional form and texture, and take their place in the humdrum world. But the stick will stand in the corner unchanged, with mellowed memories of the miles we went together, with every dent upon it recalling the austerities of the high hills, and every tear in its bark reminding me of the rocks of the Gable and Bowfell. And in the darkest hours of urban depression I will sometimes take out that dog’s-eared map and dream awhile of more spacious days; and perhaps a dried blade of grass will fall out of it to remind me that once I was a free man on the hills, and sang the Seventh Symphony to the sheep on Wetherlam.

A.H. Sidgwick, “Walking Equipment,” in Walking Essays (London: Edward Arnold, 1912).
We found a shorter, carelessly transcribed version of this passage in Beneath My Feet: Writers on Walking, ed. Duncan Minshull (Cumbria: Notting Hill Editions, 2018). That led us to the original, available from the Internet Archive.

Here is a brief biography of Arthur Hugh Sidgwick (1882–1917). And here is what Elaine has written about this passage.

Related reading
All OCA walking posts (Pinboard)

[“Curved suspensor”: my guess is a hanger. The Gable, Bowfell, Wetherlam: hills in England’s Lake District.]

Monday, September 2, 2019

“Fountain pen nostalgia”

[“Ink Piece.” Zippy, September 2, 2019.]

In today’s Zippy, Zippy and Griffy have been clicking their Bics. “What did people click before th’ Bic?” Zippy wants to know. And Griffy begins to explain fountain pens.

The Clic and Clic Stic are indeed Bic pens. I think though that flick, not click, is, or was, the more common (and vaguely lewd) rhyming verb — with Bic lighters, not pens.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Nancy Valiant

[Nancy, September 2, 2019.]

In today’s Nancy, Olivia Jaimes explains that because it’s Labor Day, her editors have let her “take it easy” and create a strip in her “natural style.” I love it. Today’s strip tips the hat to both Prince Valiant and Ernie Bushmiller: Bushmiller had a number of strips in which he professed to be coasting — on New Year’s Day, 1949, for instance, he drew Nancy in a heavy snowstorm (white panel), Sluggo in a dark room (black panel), and Nancy and Sluggo in a dense fog (gray panel).

That’s an ice-cream cone, end bitten off, in Nancy’s hands. Her ice cream fell to the ground before today’s strip began.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Labor Day

[“Locomotive lubrication chart in the laboratory of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. The laboratory assistant in foreground is working at a precision balance.” Photograph by Jack Delano. Chicago, Illinois, December 1942. From the Library of Congress Flickr pages. Click for a larger view.]

Sunday, September 1, 2019

“What next?”

A young man prepares for a journey:

Adalbert Stifter, The Bachelors. 1850. Trans. from the German by David Bryer (London: Pushkin Press, 2008).

That dog is just one of the elements in this strange short novel that remind me of a silent movie. Moving from village life to a monastery on a remote island, The Bachelors is a Bildungsroman, a celebration of sublime nature, a story full of sentimentality and eerie melodrama. I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything like it. Out of print and highly recommended.