Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Here’s the latest installment of WGBH’s The Rewind, “Edward Gorey’s Mysterious Animations,” hosted by our son Ben. You can find all episodes of The Rewind at YouTube.


Happy Halloween to all who celebrate it.

Impeachment: A Daily Podcast

From WNYC: Impeachment: A Daily Podcast, with Brian Lehrer. I started listening yesterday. It’s excellent.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Orange train cart

“Pencils these days”

“Pencils these days, not worth the paper they write on”: Dr. John H. Watson (Nigel Bruce) in The Spider Woman (dir. Roy William Neill). His point broke.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Mystery actor

Know him? Think you do? Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if one’s needed, though I doubt one will. Be needed, that is.


9:03 a.m.: No clue needed. The answer is now in the comments.

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



“... can impale a grand jury ...”

I’m sure there are any number of people in this administration who’d like to impale grand juries.

Related reading
All OCA misheard posts (Pinboard)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Pocket notebook sighting

Willie Stark’s notebook, a catalogue of grievances, punishments, and opposition research:

[From All the King’s Men (dir. Robert Rossen, 1949. Click for a larger view.]

My transcription:

Morris — Would
not contribute Party
Fund —
Walton — Road
Contracts denied —
Cancel any Bids

Bill W — Licen[se]
to operate denied —
check gambling

Bank loan
overdue —
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 : The Face Behind the Mask : 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 66The Scarlet Claw : 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

All the King’s Whom

From All the King’s Men (dir. Robert Rossen, 1949). Jack Burden (John Ireland) and Sadie Burke (Mercedes McCambridge) are getting acquainted. Jack wonders what Sadie is doing on Willie Stark’s (Broderick Crawford) political campaign:

“Hey, tell me, what are you on this merry-go-round for?”

“I take notes.”

“For whom?”

“For those whom pay me.”
Yes, she’s being sarcastic.

Whom was and is fading, but it’s taking an awfully long time on its way out the door.

Related posts
“I don’t know whom to believe” (Perry Mason) : “Just whom are you talking to?” (Nancy) : “Shouldn’t that be ‘whom’?” (Mutts) : “Whom are we kidding?” (Peanuts)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Humor, humanity, a lawsuit, and ...

[Zippy, October 27, 2019.]

In today’s Zippy:

René Margritte brought humor into surrealism. Pablo Picasso brought humanity into cubism. Margaret Keane brought a lawsuit into court.
And then there’s Ernie Bushmiller.

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

“She was Sanctified holy”

Mrs. Hunt is a believer:

James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk (1974).

Also from James Baldwin
“The burden is reality” : “Life is tragic”

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is credited to Zawistowski (Stella) and Agard (Erik). A tough puzzle, and I was delighted to find myself finishing it, from Z to A, so to speak.

Three clues that paired especially well with their answers: 9-D, four letters, “A lot of legal-size.” 36-A, four letters, “Where America’s day begins.” (IHOP? No.) 57-A, three letters, “Footwear from Oz.”

A clue whose answer made me startle, as I just read something about it somewhere (where?): 17-A, eight letters, “Spanish operatic genre.”

A clue whose answer seems to be a running Agard joke: 62-A, six letters, “They may be dueling.”

And a clue whose answer is a reminder that crosswords do indeed keep up with the culture: 67-A, eight letters, “Suited woman, perhaps.”

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Some “some rocks”

For a Nancy fan, this remarkable site might be something like Four Corners. It’s some rocks, some rocks, some rocks, all the way down the parking lot. Google Maps will confirm:

[Click for a larger view.]

“Some rocks” is an abiding preoccupation of these pages.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Haydn on the move

Elaine has been writing about Stephen Malinowski’s animated scores for Beethoven and Haydn. I am following Elaine’s lead and posting this example because it makes me so happy. Enjoy. (How could anyone not?)

Stephen Malinowski’s animations
Haydn : Mozart : Beethoven

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Here’s the latest installment of WGBH’s The Rewind, “The Voice of the Voiceless,” featuring Mercedes Sosa. You can find all episodes of The Rewind at YouTube.

I’m in. You?

Re: “scum”: White House “press secretary” Stephanie Grisham goes Donald Trump one better in declaring anyone who opposes the leader to be “just that.”

[“Press secretary”: in quotation marks, because she’s never held a press conference.]

VDP and “Southern Nights”

This story is new to me. Allen Toussaint on his song “Southern Nights”:

“That was the last song for the album, the very last song. I had written and recorded all of the other songs, and for some reason I couldn’t come to terms that I was finished with the album. I had trouble being satisfied. I always take forever to do an album, because when I do an album, I don’t plan to do another. The only reason I ever did another album after any album was because I got a request by some company. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t record me.

“While I was finishing the album Van Dyke Parks visited me in the studio. He was a wonderful guy, a genius of a guy. He said, ‘Well, consider that you were going to die in two weeks. If you knew that, what would you think you would like to have done?’ And after he said that, I wrote ‘Southern Nights’ as soon as he left. I stood right there and wrote it. It all came at once, because I lived that story.”
“The album” turned out to be Southern Nights (Reprise, 1975). Toussaint and Parks recorded “Southern Nights” as a piano duet for American Tunes (Nonesuch, 2016), Toussaint’s final album.

Related reading
All OCA Van Dyke Parks posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

The Colorado wall Now with the spin I imagined.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Colorado wall

How will the White House spin Donald Trump’s assertion that he’s building a wall in Colorado?

Easy: “In building a wall in New Mexico, President Trump is also protecting Coloradans from,” &c., &c.

It’s frightening to me that this sort of after-the-fact pseudo-logic is so easy to dream up.


October 24: Here’s what Trump tweeted later last night:

[He was speaking in Pittsburgh.]

Kinja Deals ad fail

A Kinja Deals ad mixed in with editorial content at Lifehacker announces a low Amazon price on CRKT’s AR multi-tool. The Kinja ad shows the tool with blade open and mentions a bottle opener and three hex wrenches. I like seeing multitools in all their spidery glory, so I clicked through to the Amazon page. And I thought the tool looked a little odd, a little specialized, with small projections that had nothing to do with opening bottles or tightening hex nuts. I looked at Amazon’s list of features, which begins with “AR Cleaning Tools.” Oh. And I scrolled down to read this description:

Maintenance is the mark of a master. Designer Joe Wu knows that there’s a world of difference between the recreational shooter and the one that’s spent years honing his skill. One notable difference: proper maintenance. Joe has given the AR Tool both a compact, highly useful blade on a slip joint as well as a nine-in-one scraper tool. Built to quickly clean 12 critical surfaces of bolt components, it’s equipped to restore an AR to working order at the range or in the field. The precision-cut tool is ideal for cleaning the bolt, firing pin, carrier, and cam pin so your favorite range companion never slows down.
So the marketing arm of A.V. Club, Clickhole, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, Lifehacker, The Onion, The Root, and The Takeout is pushing a multi-tool made for cleaning semi-automatic weapons as “a perfect everyday carry.” Imagine being the sap who buys a CRKT AR, perhaps as a gift, without understanding its purpose: “Why, thank you, Uncle Ned. Thank you, Aunt Jean. You’ve gifted me with the perfect tool for — for — cleaning an AR-15??”

That the primary use of this multi-tool is missing from the Kinja ad might be a matter of carelessness. Or it might be a matter of coyness. Either way, Kinja Deals is doing Lifehacker readers a grotesque disservice.

[There’s a tweet as well, showing only the blade. All comments on the Kinja ad are marked “pending,” including mine.]

Analog strong

“Never underestimate the power of a State Department guy with a pad and pen”: Anne Gearan, Washington Post reporter, speaking on MSNBC last night.

As many news outlets have reported, William Taylor, the American diplomat who gave testimony yesterday to the House impeachment inquiry, was a careful taker of notes.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

“Tape Here”

Today’s Nancy is a wonderful comment on kid stuff (tape, scissors, dotted lines) and the ways of the Internet user. Don’t miss it.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Teaching Thomas Wolfe

I was teaching a work by Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel. Or maybe it was Of Time and the River. It was the second class of the semester. I wasn’t especially familiar with the novel under discussion and tried to get the students to talk their way through the class, one responding to another. When the class ended, a student came up to tell me that he could not find the books for the class. I suggested — helpfully, not snarkily — that he try the library. And then I wondered why I had assigned a novel I hadn’t read.

This is the sixteenth teaching-related dream I’ve had since retiring. It’s far less complicated than some of the others. The others: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.

Monday, October 21, 2019

How to improve writing (no. 84)

From a post I wrote yesterday morning:

MacUpdater checks on updates for non-App Store apps. The app is free to use for checking (after which you can update on your own). Buy the app and it will update for you whatever apps you choose. I use MacUpdater as a free app — it’s an ultra-convenient way to see all at once what needs updated.
When I looked more carefully at those sentences, I saw two problems: the awkward “non-App Store apps,” and too many instances of app and apps. What was I supposed to do about “non-App Store apps” anyway? I looked at Garner’s Modern English Usage:
When a name is used attributively as a phrasal adjective, it ordinarily remains unhyphenated. E.g.: “The Terry Maher strategy put immediate pressure on rival bookshop chains.” Raymond Snoddy, “Book Price War Looms in Britain,” Fin. Times, 28-29 Sept.1991, at 1. This becomes quite awkward, though, when the two words in a proper noun are part of a longer phrasal adjective <the King County-owned stadium> <a New York-doctor-owned building>. The only reasonable thing to do is rewrite <the stadium owned by King County> <a building owned by a New York doctor>.
So I rewrote. Here again is the original paragraph, which by now may have scrolled out of sight:
MacUpdater checks on updates for non-App Store apps. The app is free to use for checking (after which you can update on your own). Buy the app and it will update for you whatever apps you choose. I use MacUpdater as a free app — it’s an ultra-convenient way to see all at once what needs updated.
And the revised version:
MacUpdater checks on updates for apps not from the App Store. MacUpdater is free to use for checking (after which you can update apps on your own). Buy MacUpdater and it will update for you whatever apps you choose. I use MacUpdater just for checking — it’s an ultra-convenient way to see all at once what needs updated.
Before, four instances of app and two apps. After, one app and three apps. I’m not keen on the repetition of the name MacUpdater, but it beats the repetition of app. And please note: “needs updated” is a Illinoism for comic effect, not a typo.


Fresca wondered in a comment if it’s obvious that MacUpdater is itself an app. It’s not. (And if it were a web service examining what’s on your computer, that might seem sketchy.) I don’t want to clarify by writing “The MacUpdater app checks on updates for apps not from the App Store.” Instead:
A useful download: MacUpdater checks on updates for apps not from the App Store. MacUpdater is free to use for checking (after which you can update apps on your own). Buy MacUpdater and it will update for you whatever apps you choose. I use MacUpdater just for checking — it’s an ultra-convenient way to see what needs updated.
I took out “all at once” too.

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

[This post is no. 84 in a series, dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, October 21, 2019. Click for a larger view.]

Anything can happen in a Hi and Lois interstice. Take today’s strip: the window has moved behind Ditto after losing its glass and strangely placed muntin. (I think that’s a muntin.) Or Ditto has moved to the empty chair, which would seem to require that the table has added a fifth side to accommodate Chip. A pepper shaker has appeared on the table. The burgers have gone from “Tasty” to “Ug.” Properly spelled ugh. But Hi still isn’t home from work.

Other things I notice: Ditto’s chair curves at the top, which means that the chairs are not a matching set. Unless Lois “clears” by first removing cutlery, the meal has been eaten without forks and knives, and perhaps without napkins. Which makes me wonder what might have been served from that bowl.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, October 20, 2019


His name, of course, is Esper.


The tweet has been deleted. But its ghost walks, at least for now. And if the ghost disappears, I have a screenshot saved.

[Resettlement is a word with a dark history. “We have secured the Oil”: meaning?]


A useful download: MacUpdater checks on updates for apps not from the App Store. MacUpdater is free to use for checking (after which you can update apps on your own). Buy MacUpdater and it will update for you whatever apps you choose. I use MacUpdater just for checking — it’s an ultra-convenient way to see all at once what needs updated.

It’s another [need + past participle] day.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Today’s Saturday Stumper

“Paul, do you have anything yet on today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper?”

“Just one lead so far, Perry: OUZO.”


“No, O-U-Z-O. It’s some kind of liquor, and for some reason it shows up in crosswords, all caps. But here’s the thing: it’s shown up in the Stumper three times now this year. First in mid-July, in a puzzle by a Greg Johnson. And then — the very next week — in a puzzle by one Brad Wilber. I suspect there’s a connection. And now again, in today’s puzzle. Right here: 34-Down, four letters, ‘Sambuca cousin.’ OUZO. My guess: find Johnson or Wilber and you find the guy who made today’s puzzle.”

“Paul, you just gave away an answer. But there’s another more important answer that’s already been given away. Look, right here on the page, next to the puzzle: ‘By Greg Johnson.’”

“Hey, whaddaya know? Next time I’ll remember my reading glasses.”

Yes, today’s puzzle is by Greg Johnson. And I have no other answers to give away. But some wonderful clue-and-answer pairs: 3-D, fifteen letters, “Assembly manual phrase.” 16-A, eight letters, “One related to others.” 26-D, seven letters, “Ingredient in an authentic burrito.” 42-D, seven letters, “Large revolvers.” And the weird and wacky 12-D, fifteen letters, “They’re at Royal Caribbean’s Bionic Bars.” OUZOSOUZOSOUZOS? Nah.

I started today’s puzzle with a giveaway: 17-A, six letters, “Inaugural singer for Jimmy, Bill and Barack.” Some better days there. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Johnson.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

[“Hey, whaddaya know?”: borrorwed from the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Dodging Domino.”]

Friday, October 18, 2019

Domestic comedy

[At the kitchen table, reading a wine label.]

“Does it say anything about lamb?”

“No, it just says to express your soul.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[The wine in question: 2017 Caracter Malbec, from Argentina. It’s inexpensive and delicious. We have several bottles. And yes, it goes well with lamb.]

New Yorker commas

Turning the pages of a January New Yorker, I noticed this tag at the end of a story: “Translated, from the Japanese, by Philip Gabriel.” Only The New Yorker, said I, would use commas there.

Garner’s Modern English Usage explains two ways of using commas:

The “close” style of punctuation results in fairly heavy uses of commas; the “open” style results in fairly light uses of commas. In the 20th century, the movement was very much toward the open style. The byword was, “When in doubt, leave it out.” Indeed, some writers and editors went too far in omitting commas that would aid clarity.
And indeed, some writers and editors go too far in including commas that do not aid clarity.

Here’s Mary Norris’s in-house defense of New Yorker commas: “In Defense of ‘Nutty’ Commas.” It predates the New Yorker possessive “Donald Trump, Jr.,’s.”

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Here’s the latest installment of WGBH’s The Rewind, “The Time WGBH Burnt Down,” hosted by our son Ben. You can find all episodes of The Rewind at YouTube.

Oh, Nancy

[Nancy, October 17, 2019.]

As she announced earlier this week, Nancy is now “an inspirational lifestyle blogger.” And I’m thinking of the painfulness of that movie Eighth Grade (dir. Bo Burnham, 2018).

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

The Great Chicago Fire and type

Daughter Number Three asked in a comment if I knew about the role of the Great Chicago Fire in standardizing type sizes. Not me. She then provided a brief history in another comment. Thank you, DN3.

Between comments, I found this page about type at Sizes: The Online Quantinary. The page covers the development of type sizes, with a nod to the Great Chicago Fire and what looks like an exhaustive list of British and American sizes, from the wee Minikin, or Excelsior, on up.

Excelsior: a type size, the wood shavings used as packing material, the New York State motto, and Jean Shepherd’s rallying cry to his radio audience all those years ago.

Elijah Cummings (1951–2019)

Elijah Cummings, member of Congress (D, Maryland-7), has died at the age of sixty-eight. The Washington Post has an obituary.

From Cummings’s closing words to Michael Cohen at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, February 27, 2019:

“When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?”
Elijah Cummings didn’t stand on the sidelines.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Current events

The surprise sprung on the Dunn family . . . “plenty of sand” . . . “no angels” . . . “We can fight our own battles on our own territories” . . . “There are Communists involved, and you guys might like that.” All I can say, with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, is

Clickety clack, clickety clack,
Somebody’s mind done got off the goddam track.
That’s from Kirk’s recitation “Clickety Clack,” recorded live at the Keystone Korner, San Francisco, June 1973. From the album Bright Moments (Atlantic, 1973).

Off the goddam track, and for a very long time now.


And now there’s this letter. (It’s real.)

Speeding up the Mac dictionary

Also because it’s National Dictionary Day: How to make your Mac’s dictionary popup way, way faster (Cult of Mac).

Me, I don’t notice a difference, but any tip that gets rid of Siri suggestions is all right by me. Oh, wait: I already have Siri turned off on my Mac.

Egg-cream dispute

Also because it’s National Dictionary Day: “The Disputed Origins of the ‘Egg Cream’” (Merriam-Webster).

Word of the day: brevier

It’s National Dictionary Day (Noah Webster was born on October 16, 1758). So here’s a word I recently looked up:

[From Webster’s Second.]

I puzzled over this word in Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading, in which a drop of water falls on a page of a book, and

Through the drop several letters turned from brevier into pica, having swollen as if a reading glass were lying over them.
I like the Webster’s Second entry, with its manicule. But Webster’s Third offers a definition of greater precision: “a size of type between minion and bourgeois, approximately 8 point.” And a different etymology:
prob. fr. D[utch], lit., breviary, fr. M[edieval]L[atin] breviarium; fr. the use of this size of type in the printing of breviaries in 16th cent. Holland & Belgium.
Webster’s Third defines minion as “an old size of type of approximately 7-point and between nonpareil and brevier.” Why minion? The word comes from “F[rench] mignonne, fem. of mignon,” meaning “darling.” I can imagine a scene at a printer’s shop: “What a darling little typeface!” “I know — let us call it minion.”

Bourgeois is “an old size of type (approximately 9 point) between brevier and long primer.” The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word may be “a transferred use of bourgeois middle class,” suggesting either a type size between smaller and larger ones, or type used in “small books suitable for the use of the middle classes.”

Back to Nabokov, and letters turning from brevier into pica. Anyone of a certain age will remember pica, at least vaguely, from typewriter days. Webster’s Third: “a size of typewriter type with 10 characters to the linear inch and six lines to the vertical inch.” But earlier than that: “an old size of type between small pica and english” and “a size of type equivalent to 12 point.” And a surprising suspected origin:
prob. fr. M[edieval]L[atin], collection of church rules, prob. fr. L, magpie; perh. fr. its use in printing the service book and its resemblance to the colors of the bird.
So from small to large: nonpareil, minion, brevier, bourgeois, long primer, small pica, pica, english. This dictionary search has widened in two directions. I’ll leave nonpareil, long primer, and english for a fellow celebrant of National Dictionary Day.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)

Dancing with Robert Walser

News of a performance already here (or there) and gone:

Choreographer John Heginbotham and artist/writer Maira Kalman co-conceive a new dance-play, HERZ SCHMERZ. Early 20th century Swiss author Robert Walser’s witty writings inspire an eccentric and hyper-detailed landscape of movement, text, visual design, and live chamber music, creating an impressionistic observatory of life's beautiful minutiae and most important themes.
Short reviews in The New York Times and The New Yorker. My favorite detail, from the latter, is about one person on the stage: “Susan Bernofsky, Walser’s biographer and the translator of seven of his books, folds and unfolds a white cloth napkin, serenely, for the duration of the show, which lasts a little under an hour.”

Related reading
All OCA Robert Walser posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Another free 64-bit app to replace a 32-bit app that won’t run with macOS Catalina: Quiet. Quiet is a white-noise generator that lives in the menu bar. Click on the icon to play. Double-click to quit. If you don’t want the app to load at startup (that’s the default), just remove it from your login items.

I downloaded Quiet to replace Noisy, a pink- and white-noise generator that hasn’t been updated in a long time. In my final years of teaching, I relied on white noise during office hours to mask movies or music playing in a classroom at the end of the hallway. Now I have little need for white noise. But ya never know.

Searching for a replacement for the 32-bit app Free Ruler taught me something: when looking for a small utility app, search GitHub. It’s amazing what you can find there.

[Given early reports, I won’t be updating to Catalina any time soon.]

Harold Bloom (1930–2019)

The literary critic and teacher Harold Bloom has died at the age of eighty-nine. The New York Times has an obituary.

This post feels to me obligatory. I was never very much on the Bloom wavelength — partly because of my distrust of such schema as his six “revisionary ratios” of poetic influence, partly because of my distrust of his pronouncements of canonical value. I’m always suspicious of such authority.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Aaron Rupar’s Twitter

And speaking of you-know-who and his crowds: the journalist Aaron Rupar’s Twitter account is a great resource for choice bits of the Donald Trump Improv Tour. Contrast, say, this bland Associated Press sentence — “[Pastor Andrew] Brunson led Saturday’s audience in a prayer for the president” — with what was said. Don’t hide the madness.

[“Don’t hide the madness”: from Allen Ginsberg’s poem “On Burroughs’ Work.”]

Maupassant on crowds

Guy de Maupassant, Afloat, trans. Douglas Parmée (New York: New York Review Books, 2008).

I think of an explanation of riot logic I once heard: that one person will be willing to act alone, that another will need one other person to act first, that a third will need two other people, and so on. I think also of you-know-who’s crowds, reveling in crudity and cruelty that in other circumstances would leave at least some members of the crowd ashamed.

Also from Maupassant
“La belle nature” : “What was it around him” : “All that has been, is now, and ever will be done by painters until the day of doom” ; “Swept strangely clean” : “Like pasta in a soup”

Sunday, October 13, 2019

No bottom

In The New York Times tonight:

A video depicting a macabre scene of a fake President Trump shooting, stabbing and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters at his Miami resort last week, according to footage obtained by The New York Times.

Several of Mr. Trump’s top surrogates — including his son Donald Trump Jr., his former spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis — were scheduled to speak at the three-day conference, which was held by a pro-Trump group, American Priority, at Trump National Doral Miami. Ms. Sanders and a person close Mr. Trump’s son said on Sunday that they did not see the video at the conference.

The video, which includes the logo for Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, comprises a series of internet memes. The most violent clip shows Mr. Trump’s head superimposed on the body of a man opening fire inside the “Church of Fake News” on parishioners who have the faces of his critics or the logos of media organizations superimposed on their bodies.
Among the “parishioners” in this video: Bill and Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Bernie Sanders. One the Times doesn’t mention: Barack Obama. Also: a figure with the Obama campaign logo for a face.

To adapt a possibly apocryphal Gertrude Stein: There ain’t no bottom. There ain’t gonna be any bottom.

Free Ruler 2.0

For years I’ve made occasional use of the Mac app Free Ruler. It’s a 32-bit app, which means that it will no longer work with the new Catalina operating system. But as of a few days ago, there’s a new version: Free Ruler 2.0, 64-bit, and spiffier in appearance. It’s available at GitHub, and, yes, it’s free. Thank you, Pascal.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

No quid pro quo?

“It was a quid pro quo, but not a corrupt one”: spoken by someone familiar with the upcoming testimony of Gordon Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, as reported in The Washington Post. No pressure! Just a perfect quid pro quo!

Today’s Saturday Stumper

When I saw the credit for today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, I thought I’m in for it. Or uh-oh. Or other short words to that effect. Because today’s puzzle is by “Garrett Estrada,” Brad Wilber and Erik Agard. But I did solve it.

I began with a hilariously elaborate clue for an obvious answer: 19-A, three letters, “‘I pity the fool who don’t eat my cereal’ guy (c. 1985).” And then my pace slowed. Two clues that opened up the puzzle’s left: 23-D, four letters, “Siberian railway hub,” and 34-D, five letters, “Gershwin’s Blue Monday.” If I ever find myself in Siberia, I will ask how to get to 23-D, not only because it’s a railway hub but because it’s the only Siberian place name I know. To the right, far from Siberia, 18-A, six letters, “Sea monster of Norse sagas,” and 66-A, eight letters, “Brat’s cousin,” gave me places to start.

So many clever and tricky clues in this puzzle: 9-A, six letters, “Dinner-and-a-show platform.” 29-A, eight letters, “Synagogue props.” 33-D, five letters, “Motion capturer with cameras.” 55-A, eight letters, “Red (or brown or black) snapper.” And especially 45-A, six letters, “Mini bar fixture.” Notice that there’s no hyphen.

Do co-constructors split the payment? I think Messrs. Peterson and Agard should be paid double for this puzzle.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, October 11, 2019

A World Book cameo

[“As seen on TV.” Specifically, on MSNBC.]

I’m pretty certain the background is a picture. (Elaine says it is.) I’m absolutely certain that the green and white spines belong to volumes of that childhood standby, the World Book Encyclopedia.

Reader, I’d now like to refer you to Nicholson Baker’s essay “Books as Furniture,” but it’s behind the New Yorker paywall.

Other books in the background
T.S. Eliot’s Complete Poems and Plays: 1909–1950 on MSNBC : The World Book in Stranger Things

“Like pasta in a soup”

“Princes here, princes there, princes, princes, everywhere!” Maupassant calls Cannes “the city of titles”:

Guy de Maupassant, Afloat, trans. Douglas Parmée (New York: New York Review Books, 2008).

Afloat (first published in 1888 as Sur l’eau) is something of a daybook, eight long entries purportedly written in the course of a sailing trip along the French Mediterranean, one writer-passenger and a crew of two. Maupassant’s attention ranges everywhere: to social satire (as here), scenic description, writerly double consciousness (which turns the writer’s emotions into something to observe), crowds and mob mentality, a memory of a visit to a household wracked by diphtheria, a story about Paganini’s corpse. The reader’s work: to follow the writer’s attention as it moves from one possibility to another to another.

Also from Maupassant
“La belle nature” : “What was it around him” : “All that has been, is now, and ever will be done by painters until the day of doom” ; “Swept strangely clean”

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Here’s the latest installment of WGBH’s The Rewind, “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” hosted by our son Ben. You can find all episodes of The Rewind at YouTube.

Whoa again, at least a local whoa

Commenting on Donald Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria, our representative in Congress, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), told an interviewer, “Pull my name off the ‘I support Donald Trump’ list.” Shimkus called Trump’s decision “despicable.” He later released (where?) a statement:

While my votes will continue to support the president’s domestic policy agenda, because of this terrible foreign policy decision I asked that my name be removed from his campaign’s official list of supporters.
Related reading
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Whoa again

Last night I looked at my phone and said “Whoa.” This morning I checked the news again and said “Whoa.” From The Washington Post:

Two business associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani have been charged with a scheme to route foreign money into U.S. elections, according to a newly unsealed indictment.

The two men [Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman], who helped Giuliani investigate former vice president Joe Biden, were arrested Wednesday night in Virginia, according to a person familiar with the charges. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. . . .

According to the indictment, Parnas, Fruman and other defendants “conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.”
These are the days of whoa.


And more whoa : William Barr has long known about the investigation into Parnas’s and Fruman’s doings. The two men were arrested as they were about to leave the country. Gosh, it’s almost as if someone tipped them off.


And more: It would appear that Rudolph Giuliani was also planning a trip, though not with a one-way ticket, to meet these business associates in Vienna.

Nancy, and more Nancy

Highly recommended, two new books from Olivia Jaimes: Nancy: A Comic Collection, which collects the first nine months’ worth of Jaimes’s version of the comic strip, and Nancy’s Genius Plan, a board book that enlists its reader in Nancy’s scheme to sneak a piece of cornbread. Funny, clever, wonderful stuff. Nancy includes an interview with the pseudonymous Jaimes, an appreciation by cartoonist Hilary B. Price (of Rhymes with Orange), and “Fan Art of Nancy,” by Jaimes. Here’s a sample, Ecce Sluggo:

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[If the Sluggo baffles you, this news item will help. Olivia Jaimes is no doubt aware of Joe Brainard’s Nancy hijinks, which you can see here and here.]

The Idiod

This bit from Stephen Colbert’s monologue last night delighted me:

“In the end Trump may be defeated by his greatest weakness — his Achilles mouth. It's all detailed in the epic poem The Idiod. It’s The Idiod and The Oddity.”
And this black-figure-pottery cover appeared on the screen:

Related reading
Victor Davis Hanson on Ajax, Achilles, and Trump : Agamemnon, Oedipus, Creon, and Trump : Trump, the Iliad, and PTSD : #TrumpBookReport

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


From Bloomberg:

President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office.

Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request.
It’s really beginning to feel as if floodgates are opening, walls are closing in, and clichés are taking over this sentence.

Among the oranges

[Click for larger fruit.]

“Ah, South California”: I love that line from Paul Simon’s song “Punky’s Dilemma.” Elaine and I just spent a few days there — in the state, not the song, hanging out outdoors and in- with our daughter Rachel, her husband Seth, their daughters Talia and newborn Josie, and our son Ben. Parks, pizza, Play-Doh, and pumpkins. And helping out. And early nights. And much happiness.

Marshall Efron (1938–2019)

Marshall Efron, a mainstay of The Great American Dream Machine, has died at the age of eighty-one. The New York Times has an obituary. I was a GADM fan and a Marshall Efron fan. I think I even wrote him a fan letter. His comedy was heady, subversive stuff for a bookish, skeptical high-school student. I still remember “Olives.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Who can it be now?

[From a Mucinex DM commercial. The blur of the banner is there in the original. Click for a larger view.]

I’m sorry, but having seen it, I can’t unsee it: the gob of mucus with the glasses really does look like our president’s Mr. Fix-It, Attorney General William Barr. Please don’t let that get around.

“An important Rubicon”

On CNN today, a talking head referred to “an important Rubicon.” Merriam-Webster:

a bounding or limiting line

especially : one that when crossed commits a person irrevocably
A Rubicon is by definition important. Ask Julius Caesar. Or Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd.

Not prolific

The word prolific is all over the news today, in the phrase “most prolific serial killer in U.S. history” and the like. Merriam-Webster’s definitions:

1 : producing young or fruit especially freely : FRUITFUL

2 archaic : causing abundant growth, generation, or reproduction

3 : marked by abundant inventiveness or productivity // a prolific composer
Prolific comes from the French prolifique, which itself goes back to the Latin prōlēs, offspring. The word’s associations with new life and creativity make it a particularly grotesque choice for characterizing a killer. Worst or deadliest is more appropriate. No one should honor a killer as prolific.

Nancy vs. Lucy

Olivia Jaimes on Nancy Ritz and Lucy van Pelt:

Lucy is a more nihilist Nancy. Nancy, for all her complaining, is an optimist with an overpowered sense of self-efficacy. I feel like Lucy wakes up some mornings and thinks “What’s the point?” Nancy thinks that too, but then she remembers that bread exists. I think they would be friends, though maybe they’d prefer just to admire each other’s hustles from a distance.
Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Still not smoking

I smoked my last cigarette on October 8, 1989, thirty years ago today. I smoked for fourteen years, trying a wide variety of brands but always going back to unfiltered cigarettes, in packs or handrolled. “Only a modest quantity of unfiltered cigarettes,” to borrow Stanley Dance’s characterization of Duke Ellington’s smoking. Ellington of course died of lung cancer. I wonder where I might now be had I continued smoking.

Cigarettes haunt me, at least mildly. “Mild”: now there’s a cigarette word. “Outstanding — and they are mild” was a slogan for Pall Mall. That was Ellington’s brand. I stopped to stare at a Pall Mall pack in a store display last week, because I still admire the venerable design. Like Camel and Lucky Strike, Pall Mall is increasingly difficult to spot in the wild.

Here’s a bit of my great and unmatched wisdom: if you smoke, quit. You’ll want to quit eventually, and the longer you smoke, the more difficult quitting will be. And for Pete’s sake, don’t vape. There’s no future in being a nicotine addict, or in not being around at all.

And two more cents: we’ve hit a great moment in the annals of American doublethink now that states are banning vaping products until they’re proven safe while cigarettes, which we know cause disease, are sold everywhere.

Related reading
All OCA cigarette posts (Pinboard)

[Stanley Dance: in his The World of Duke Ellington (1969).]

Monday, October 7, 2019

Unfit, unwell

If he’s doing a Vincent Gigante, that, too, makes him unfit and unwell.

“It’s always the same”

From No Greater Glory (dir. Frank Borzage, 1934). A watchman (Christian Rub) and his janitor friend (Tom Ricketts) watch two gangs of boys fighting. “So much fighting,” the janitor says. “And all over an empty lot.” The watchman, missing one arm, sets his friend straight:

“It ain’t an empty lot. It’s Belgium, Alsace-Lorraine, Manchuria. It’s any war, every war. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow — it’s always the same.”

Pocket notebook sighting

[From The Scarlet Claw (dir. Roy William Neill, 1944). Click for a larger Watson.]

Nigel Bruce as Dr. John H. Watson, writing it down. He can follow directions and work on tasks to completion, or at least until he has had too much to drink.

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 : The Face Behind the Mask : 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, October 6, 2019

Ginger Baker (1939–2019)

The drummer Ginger Baker, best known for his work with Cream and Blind Faith, has died at the age of eighty. From a New York Times obituary:

Mr. Baker, who got his start in jazz combos and cited the likes of Max Roach and Elvin Jones as influences, bristled when the word “rock” was applied to his playing. “I’m a jazz drummer,” he told the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2013. “You have to swing. There are hardly any rock drummers I know who can do that.”
Look, here’s Cream.

The Glenlivet Capsule Collection

From a press release for The Glenlivet Capsule Collection:

The Glenlivet, the original Speyside single malt Scotch, has unveiled a ‘Capsule Collection’ of glassless cocktails that redefine the way whisky is traditionally enjoyed. Launched during London Cocktail Week in partnership with cocktail legend Alex Kratena, the limited-edition The Glenlivet ‘Capsule Collection’ is a range of delicious whisky cocktails served in a seaweed-extract casing, one of nature’s most renewable resources.

A first of its kind for a spirit brand, the edible capsules are 23ml in size, fully biodegradable and provide the perfect flavour-explosion experience. Enjoying them is simple, the capsules are popped in the mouth for an instant burst of flavour, and the capsule is simply swallowed. There is no need for a glass, ice or cocktail stirrer.

I cannot figure out if the capsule is to be eaten. The press release says that “if discarded,” the capsules biodegrade. I’m not sure which would be worse: eating the casing of a tiny cocktail or removing it from one’s mouth. The promotional video is coy. At any rate, Scotch is to be sipped, not “simply swallowed.”

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Recently updated

Adventures in hyphenation “My HR app is user-unfriendly.”

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Lester Ruff, whose name seems to be an unofficial pseudonym for Newsday puzzle editor Stan Newman. The pseudonym portends an easier puzzle, though not exactly 62-A, six letters, “ABC preceder.” This puzzle was indeed Les Ruff, with out-of-the-way answers but relatively little trickery. The one snag for me: 7-A, six letters, “Start pitching?” and 20-A, seven letters, “Pounded with a pestle.” That 20-A answer seems strained. And the clue for 15-A, eight letters, “Hooked, la Holmes,” almost certainly has a typo.

Clues I especially liked: 8-D, fifteen letters, “Possible message under a red F.” 18-A, six letters, “Royal role for James Earl Jones.” (KINGLEAR it ain’t.) 35-A, fifteen letters, “Anchor’s transition.” And for trickery that might go unnoticed if the answer comes via crosses: 32-D, three letters, “Disbeliever at heart.”

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Domestic comedy

“I live in Shibboleth, Illinois.”

See also Missouri.

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

M’sieur Pierre’s cell

Welcome to M’sieur Pierre’s cell. He keeps it tidy and decorates as best he can. And now the narrator decorates with a passage of description:

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

As the reader will later discover, M’sieur Pierre is no common prisoner.

Fresca recently mentioned Martha Stewart’s adventures in cell decor. M’sieur Pierre would be a worthy competitor.

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All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Ben Leddy hosts The Rewind

Here’s the latest installment of WGBH’s The Rewind, “Gwen Ifill, Ferguson, and Race in America,” hosted by our son Ben. You can find all episodes of The Rewind at YouTube.

A related post
Gwen Ifill (1955-2016)

More war

What European goods will be affected by Trump’s new tariffs?

Some of the most beloved — and delicious — European imports are on the list, which reads like the menu for a fancy dinner party. French wine. Olives, virgin olive oil, cherries, oranges and lemons from Spain. Pork sausages and roasted coffee from Germany. Italian cheeses like pecorino, Parmesan and provolone. Stilton cheese, sweet biscuits and Scotch whiskies from Britain.
This means Aldi’s (excellent and inexpensive) German-roasted coffee. This means Glenmorangie (excellent and not at all inexpensive) single malt Scotch. This means all the Parmigiano-Reggiano in the world. This means war.

War on books

In The New York Times Duncan White writes about a global war on books:

Around the world, many authoritarian regimes — having largely corralled the internet — now have declared war on the written world, their oldest enemy. The received wisdom after the close of the Cold War was that physical books were outdated, soon to be swept aside in the digital age; and that the internet was instead the real threat to governments seeking to repress provocative thinking. A generation later, the opposite may be true.
Notice that while our own authoritarian-in-chief rails against “the media,” book publishers, like books themselves, or at least books not about him, are pretty much off his radar — at least so far.


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)

Pencil Town

Variety reports on a movie in the works: Pencil Town, directed by Jay Silverman:

The feature film is based on a true story about a ruthless corporate raider on the verge of making partner at his private equity firm, when he is forced to return to his small town roots after he suddenly inherits his father’s nearly bankrupt pencil factory — the heart and soul of the depressed community. He must decide to either join the fight to save the factory, or let it close and relocate to China.
Gosh, I wonder how it’ll turn out. Hallmark values!

Related reading
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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Twelve movies

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

Nineteen Eighty-Four (dir. Michael Radford, 1984). Hacking coughs, cheap gin, state propaganda, televised executions, and surveillance by screen and helicopter. John Hurt and Suzanna Hamilton are perfectly mismatched as transgressive lovers; Richard Burton is an especially terrifying O’Brien. Watching this film in 2019 is especially unnverving. 2 + 2 = ? ★★★★


So Big! (dir. William A. Wellman, 1932). “Edna Ferber’s Epic of American Womanhood,” said the poster. It’s the story of a lifetime, starring Barbara Stanwyck as Selina Peake, later De Jong, a young woman who takes up the life of a teacher, marries a farmer, and devotes herself to the farm and her son Dirk, known as So Big. The film is pre-Code, but that means little here: So Big! is a story of quiet comedy, deep humanity, and asparagus. With Bette Davis as a dazzling free-spirited artist. ★★★★


Out of the Past (dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1947). I’ve come to love this film, for many reasons: Marney’s Café, the swank Reno house, the murky streets and cab rides, the slightly spooky Kid (Dickie Moore), the cabin in the woods, the meeting in some other woods, the Heart of Darkness lie, and the dangerous Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer). As gas-station owner Jeff Bailey, Robert Mitchum trades in his work clothes for a trenchcoat and fedora, and he’s right back at home in the detective business, working for Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). I’m still not sure I understand what unfolds in the film’s present, but what happens overall is something like a cross between The Maltese Falcon and The Killers. “All I can see is the frame.” ★★★★


Bull Durham (dir. Ron Shelton, 1988). I have good excuses for not being especially strong on movies from the 1980s: I was a grad student living within walking distance of a revival house, and then I was a new professor, and then I was a new father. So seeing Bull Durham for the first time was something of a crash course in movies with awkward serio-comic sex scenes and non-diegetic rock ’n’ roll. The triangle — Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins — felt too much like an R-rated version of Cheers, but the line between two points — Robbins’s erratic hotshot pitcher and Costner’s veteran minor-league catcher — held a lot more interest. My favorite moment: a discussion of wedding gifts on the pitcher’s mound. ★★★


Dawson City: Frozen Time (dir. Bill Morrison, 2016). Save for the musical score, it’s a nearly silent documentary about movies, history, and permafrost, focusing on the Dawson City Film Find — the discovery, in 1978, of hundreds of reels of silent film in a Yukon town that flourished in the Gold Rush and stood at the end of the line for film distribution. A surprising array of familiar names appear: Sid Grauman, Alex Pantages, Frederick Trump (proprietor of brothels and restaurants), and the 1919 Chicago White — or Black — Sox. Brief excerpts from silent films, printed on highly volatile nitrocellulose, virtually all suffering from water damage, put me in mind of Sappho’s fragments: the wonder is that they survived at all. The most remarkable feature of the documentary: fragments from the Find are paired with whatever historical or contemporary events the screen titles describe, in an extraordinary effort of imagination and editing. ★★★★

[Pathé Weekly (1914). From Dawson City: Frozen Time. Click for a larger view.]


The Gold Rush (dir. Charlie Chaplin, 1925). A reconstruction of the 1925 film from various sources, with a new recording of Chaplin’s 1942 musical score added. Brilliant pathos, brilliant fun, and a Lone Prospector who never loses his dignity. The dance of the rolls is worth the price of admission, or the price of a subscription to the Criterion Channel. But then you also get a room full of feathers and a teetering cabin at no extra cost. ★★★★


The House on 92nd Street (dir. Henry Hathaway, 1945). I’ve written about this movie’s supplies — Dixon Ticonderoga pencils and a pocket notebook — but not about stuff like plot and character, the stuff people usually think about with movies. This semi-documentary tells the story of the FBI’s infiltration of a Nazi spy ring. As double agent Bill Dietrich, William Eythe is a fairly bland lead, though then again, “bland” might be just what you want in a double agent. Watching once again, I was especially struck by the great Manhattan location shots, the calm, reassuring presence of Lloyd Nolan (as FBI Inspector George A. Briggs), and the unsavoriness of the spy ring’s minions — Harry Bellaver, Alfred Linder, and Lydia St. Clair. ★★★


Jane Eyre (dir. Robert Stevenson, 1943). Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles as Miss Eyre and Mr. Rochester. I kept finding other films in this one: the stark close-ups and moody scenic shots look so much like Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, and Bernard Herrmann’s music suggests Vertigo. Welles as a man with a dark secret suggests Charles Rankin in The Stranger; Fontaine as the newcomer to a strange house of secrets suggests Rebecca; and Agnes Moorehead as a severe relation takes us back, again, to Kane. Jane Eyre turned out, for me at least, to be “the movies,” in wonderful ways. ★★★★

[From Jane Eyre. Click for a larger view.]


All Night Long (dir. Basil Dearden, 1962). We saw this reimagining of Othello only last month but watched again with friends. I looked past the music this time and watched more for character: the seemingly composed but insecure Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris), the cheerful, good Delia Lane (Marti Stevens), the younger, hotheaded Cass Michael (Keith Michell), and, of course, the impossibly suave and quickwitted Johnny Cousin (Patrick McGoohan). I wonder now if this film served to influence Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000), which also uses a recording device in its reimagining of Shakespeare. My only complaint: we should get to see the complete Dave Brubeck/Charles Mingus performance. ★★★★


Since You Went Away (dir. John Cromwell, 1944). Jonathan Shay, who works with and on behalf of veterans living with post-traumatic stress, speaks of the importance of the communalization of grief — the urgent need to mourn the sorrows of war with others. I can only imagine how this movie, a look at life on the home front in World War II, made that possible for audiences in 1944. The story veers again and again from bittersweet nostalgia to quiet happiness to joyful abandon to heartbreak: it’s life in wartime, utterly unpredictable, with the possibility of a sudden shock around every corner. With an all-star cast — Claudette Colbert, Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Robert Walker, a deep bench, and many moments of brief conversation in nightspots and train stations. ★★★★


The Scarlet Claw (dir. Roy William Neill, 1944). You know how every so often a movie that you cannot account for rises to the top of your Netflix queue? So it was here. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Basil Rathbone and NIgel Bruce, who else?), in Quebec for a conference on occult phenomena, end up solving a series of murders committed with a repurposed garden tool. The plot is tired, and Holmes seems ready to break up with his slow-witted partner, but some eerie phosphorescence and Ian Wolfe’s presence as a shady butler enliven the proceedings. ★★★


No Greater Glory (dir. Frank Borzage, 1934). An adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s novel The Paul Street Boys, offering a powerful allegory of war, as two bands of boys fight for control of a vacant lot. This Criterion Channel find borrows from All Quiet on the Western Front and Frankenstein and must have influenced West Side Story. But this film’s ending undercuts any easy sentimentality about lessons learned: as in the Iliad or Mother Courage, war will go on. You might recognize Frankie Darro from Wild Boys of the Road; George Breakston, who stars as the doomed Nemeecsek, is the boy who cries on the bus in It Happened One Night. ★★★★

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