Sunday, May 31, 2020

“People pushed to the edge”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, writing in the Los Angeles Times:

What you should see when you see black protesters in the age of Trump and coronavirus is people pushed to the edge, not because they want bars and nail salons open, but because they want to live. To breathe.

Not this time, lady

[She does look a bit like George Wallace.]

Elaine and I went to a march against police violence and racism today. I thought there might be twenty or thirty people attending. There were at least a couple of hundred. Several younger people spoke, expressing gratitude (see previous sentence), anger, and resolve. As the crowd moved down the avenue, Elaine and I brought up the rear in an appropriate, socially distanced manner.

Not so appropriate: the driver of this car. She yelled at me, or at no one: “I will run over you!” But I think she was yelling at me. That’s my arm. I had already stopped to give this driver the right of way (which wasn’t hers to begin with). Elaine was filming to get a sense of the crowd size, though you can’t see it from this shot. The crowd stretched out far in front of us.

This poor old woman must have been suffering from the delusion that she’s George Wallace. I remember a fellow middle-schooler who spoke in civics class about how much he respected George Wallace. If a protester lay down in front of George Wallace, why, George Wallace would run right over that protester. Yes, Wallace really said words to that effect. My fellow student later joined the military and committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

John Loengard (1934–2020)

A photographer, prominent in the pages of Life. The New York Times has an obituary.

I’ve posted a number of Loengard photographs from the Life Photo Archive, mostly of Louis Armstrong. Someone needs to tell the Times: in one of Loengard’s photographs, Armstrong is applying salve to his lips because they endured considerable damage from his trumpet playing. It was not a matter of “chapped lips.”

I guess that someone will be me.

Some Mutts

[Mutts, May 31, 2020.]

In today’s Mutts, “some rocks.” “Some rocks” are an abiding preoccupation of these pages.

André Watts on musical mistakes

I read a short version in a New York Times article. That made me want to go to the source, a clip of André Watts talking with Fred Rogers:

“Every time you make a mistake, naturally you think about it, because you think, Oh, that’s too bad, and you think about Why did I do that, and you try not to let it happen again. And while you figure out why you made that mistake, you actually learn more about that piece of music or that place in the piece of music. So it is always a learning experience, even when you’re unhappy about the fact that you made a mistake. It has a positive side.”
Useful for anyone learning anything.

See also one of Rachel’s tips for success in college: “Do not fear failing; instead, embrace each mistake as a learning experience.”

Minneapolis and Denmark

My friend Fresca is, as a correspondent of hers wrote, “RIGHT THERE,” living and working not far from where police killed George Floyd. (Active voice, not passive: They killed him.) Fresca’s most recent blog posts are devoted to events in Minneapolis.

This is a good morning to look once again at Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny. Snyder closes by quoting Shakespeare:

“The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!” Thus Hamlet. Yet he concludes: “Nay, come, let’s go together.”

Saturday, May 30, 2020

From a BuzzFeed “grammar” quiz

[Sigh. Click for larger mistakes.]

I’d say that neither you nor I can trust this BuzzFeed grammar quiz. Or “grammar” quiz, as most of the questions have to do with idiom, spelling, or punctuation.

“Good practice”

Tweeting about protests outside the White House, Donald Trump* warned that protesters who breached the White House fence

would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action. “We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and good practice.”
Behold, an American president who sees the Secret Service as a violence-hungry death squad and fantasizes about massacres on the White House lawn. This president is indeed the psychopath in chief.

[I removed sixteen periods in quoting these words.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, is eerily easy, nothing like a typical Stumper. I started with 1-A, eight letters, “Flaky food-truck fare” and 1-D, four letters, “Hand ball.” And then off to the races. It may be that this week is just not the week for a difficult puzzle.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

5-D, five letters, “Alternative to roasting bands.” I’ve never heard of roasting bands, but I could guess the dowdy answer.

6-D, three letters, “Word from a pro.” Concisely witty.

19-A, five letters, “Green breeze.” If you must have clues about this stuff, this clue is a clever one.

29-A, nine letters, “Out of alternatives.” Though I can’t remember where the apostrophe falls.

35-A, six letters, “Underworld boss.” He’s a legitimate businessman!

41-A, nine letters, “South American extremity.” The answer makes me think of James Joyce’s “Eveline.”

42-D, six letters, “Stone related to ‘pomegranate.’” I would like to say that the clue taught me something, though what it really taught me was that I could guess the name of a stone related to ‘pomegranate.’

One clue whose answer I don’t finally understand: 54-D, three letters, “Key carried by salesclerks.” A little help? I looked again and got it.

As for 1-A, I would like to recommend this establishment. Not a truck, but such great flaky fare. I would teleport myself there right now, but the time difference makes it much too early for lunch.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Donald Trump*’s rhyme

Donald Trump*’s rhyme — “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”has a history.

But presidents, like police, should seek to de-escalate.

“The man of action”

“The world belongs to those who don’t feel,” says Bernardo Soares:

Fernando Pessoa, from text 303, The Book of Disquiet, trans. from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith (New York: Penguin, 2003).

When I read this passage a few weeks ago, I thought of a certain politician who seems to regard other people as things. This morning I’m seeing it in a new way.

Simone Weil called the Iliad the poem of force, force being that which turns a human being into a thing. Pessoa’s man of action is the figure of force, one who treats people as things.

Related reading
All OCA Pessoa posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Same as it ever was

I remember talking on the telephone with my dad about the death of Amadou Diallo. My dad put it simply: “If he’d been white, he’d be alive.”

That was 1999. And now again, with the death of George Floyd, as with so many other deaths: If he’d been white, he’d be alive. I think it really is that simple.

“Vote as if your life depends on it”

Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump*’s ghostwriter, writes about “The Psychopath in Chief”:

Understanding what we’re truly up against — the reign of terror that Trump will almost surely wage the moment he believes he can completely prevail — makes the upcoming presidential election a true Armageddon.

Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.
It’s true: Trump* equals death. And there’s now a Trump Death Clock.

And here’s the psychopath in chief this morning, stirring the pot (or the pit) by calling attention to a claim that face masks are about “social control,” not public health:

Peer review


[Yoel Roth, who heads Site Integrity at Twitter, is the target of attacks from Donald Trump*’s supporters.]

Semi-anonymous Mongols

[Life, December 1, 1961. Click for a larger view.]

Three Mongols making a little extra money in this advertisement for an all-in-one sharpener. No imprint visible, but the ferrules give them away. Found while looking for something else in Google Books. An ad for coffee? Gum? I don’t remember.

Related reading
All OCA Mongol posts (Pinboard)

[Image straightened in the Mac Photos app. I filled in a missing corner using the Mac app Seashore.]

Eyes, inwardly turned

“All humanity’s social existence lies before my eyes,” declares Senhor Soares. For instance:

Fernando Pessoa, from text 298, The Book of Disquiet, trans. from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith (New York: Penguin, 2003).

I imagine this passage in the form of a very strange educational film.

Related reading
All OCA Pessoa posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Soylent 2020

I finally realized what Kevin Hassett’s remark reminded me of: “Human capital stock is people!”

Verbal comedy

The Chicago Manual of Style blog CMOS Shop Talk has a nifty quiz about verbs. I scored 9 of 10, as did a friend, and we both took issue with the CMOS answer for the first question: “A verb is the only part of speech that can express a full thought by itself.” True, or false?

I see the reasoning for the CMOS answer, but still I say, “Baloney!” I left a comment saying just that, with a smiley face to indicate my good humor about it all, but I fear that the word baloney may have gotten my comment zapped by a spam filter.

But Elaine assures me that baloney is not spam.

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Flo Garner?

[Click for much larger views.]

Does this shot of Flo, from a new Progressive Insurance commercial, owe something to the cover of Erroll Garner’s album Concert by the Sea (Columbia, 1955)? It’s not a reach to wonder. It’s a celebrated album.

In 2015 Concert by the Sea was reissued with previously unreleased material as The Complete Concert by the Sea. I wrote about it in this post.

[As Wikipedia notes, a similar photograph appears on the cover of the 1970 reissue of Concert by the Sea, with a model wearing modish clothing. For the 2015 reissue, the model is, for the first time, a woman of color.]

From Clark Terry’s address book

Two pages from Clark Terry’s address book. I like that the D s begin with Duke. Thanks, Ezra.

In 1989 I had the good fortune to do a one-hour interview with Clark Terry on my university’s FM station. He was here to play a concert. A great musician, a genuine Ellingtonian, and a generous human being. Still one of the bright moments of my life.

Related reading
A handful of Clark Terry posts

Mark, huh?

[Mark Trail, May 21 and January 11, 2020. Click for larger Trails.]

I saved “Huh?” thinking it might come in handy. And it has.

For weeks now the artwork in Mark Trail has been a bit odd. That really is new Mark on the left. It’s all very “Huh?”

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Mirado jingle?

A reader who found my post about the end of the Mirado pencil wondered if anyone remembers a jingle from radio or television: “Eagle Mirado, the pencil that stays sharp for pages.” I went to Google Books to try to find it:

[The Saturday Evening Post, September 7 and 28, 1956. Click either image for a larger view.]

Well, there’s the “stays sharp for pages”, but no jingle. And that is one handsome haircut, isn’t it?

The secretary, too, has an attractive cut.

I also found something in snippet view from Newsweek, Office Management, and U.S. News and World Report (all 1959): “EAGLE’S live TV tests proved a pencil can be strong and smooth and durable without sacrificing any single value!” Live TV tests! So it seems at least possible that a jingle accompanied an Eagle television promotion.

Jingle or no jingle, the idea of pencils being tested on live television makes clear that there was nothing like the dowdy world for home entertainment.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

[Let the record show that the September 7, 1957 issue of the Post also has a full-page for the Dixon Ticonderoga. Back-to-school time = pencil wars.]

Letters, now

“This beautiful paper was for a rainy day. That day was now”: in the time of the coronavirus, Lynell George suggests writing letters (Los Angeles Times).

Related reading
All OCA letter posts (Pinboard)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Jimmy Cobb (1929–2020)

The drummer and last surviving musician from Miles Davis’s 1959 recording Kind of Blue. NPR has an obituary.

[If you don’t own a copy of Kind of Blue: what are you waiting for?]

Memorial Day

[“Gloucester, Massachusetts. Memorial Day, 1943.” Photograph by Gordon Parks. From the Library of Congress. Click for a much larger view.]

John Pavlovitz on how to grieve

Just in case someone hasn’t yet read it. From John Pavlovitz, “How Do You Grieve 100,000 Lives?“:

You wear a mask at the damn grocery store and you wash your hands and you keep your distance and you show kindness to cashiers — and you follow the simple rules put in place to keep people healthy and alive because that’s what decent human beings do.
What the news has been showing this weekend — people shoulder to shoulder, no masks, on beaches and at parties — is what happens when freedom is reduced to freedom from responsibility. I’ll invoke Julius Lester’s words, which could have been written about those crowds:
They persist in believing that freedom from restraint and responsibility represents paradise. The eternal paradox is that this is a mockery of freedom, a void. We express the deepest caring for this world and ourselves only by taking responsibility for ourselves and whatever portion of this world we make ours.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell. It’s a delightfully challenging puzzle, full and balanced with smoldering peat throughout, as fruit fades into oak spice and back to fruit again for a long and — no, wait, that’s a Scotch. I started solving with 27-D, ten letters, “Three-movement work for three instruments.” Yay that I know something, or some things, thought I knew something about classical music. (See the comments for an explanation.)

Clue-and-answer pairs that I especially liked:

6-D, six letters, “It’s drawn to scale.” A little forced, but I like the riddling quality.

16-A, four letters, “Quick takeaway.” A food? A précis? No.

17-A, ten letters, “Frequent TV Guide advertiser of old.” The dowdy world. That publication was known as “the Guide” in my grandparents’ households.

19-A, three letters, “Bits in some pits.” I like this clue’s economy.

21-A, seven letters, “Made to order.” A little strained, but I forgive that.

36-D, four letters, “‘The highest form of literature,’ per Hitchcock.” Spoiler: he really said it, perhaps in jest.

39-A, five letters, “Heliophilic jazz alias.” I like the timing, as May 22, 1914 was this musician’s Earth Arrival Day. But I think said musician would have disputed alias.

41-D, six letters, “One taking gut courses?” Groan.

54-D, three letters, “Stop posting.” Here too I like the clue’s economy.

One clue whose answer baffles still puzzles me: 14-D, four letters, “Carded one?” I saw it right after typing. But I still don’t quite get the answer. Now I get it, I think.

And now I will stop posting. No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

[Binny’s Beverage Depot describes Ardbeg Wee Beastie Single Malt Scotch thusly: “On the nose smoked meat on baked apples, seaweed, caramel sauce, vanilla cream, iodine, and black peppercorn. Sweetness drifts in on the palate as butterscotch and apple meet with waves of earthy and smoky peat and freshly crushed black pepper. The finish is full and balanced with smoldering peat throughout, as fruit fades into oak spice and back to fruit again for a long and lingering experience. Refreshing and beastly at the same time.”]

Friday, May 22, 2020

Shakespeare as Dickinson

Or is it Dickinson as Shakespeare? I thought of this effort and found it — still there! — on the hard drive. It’s William Shakespeare’s sonnet 73 in the manner of Emily Dickinson, something I wrote in 2003 for a poetry class I was teaching.

And now I’m somehow thinking of this sonnet in the manner of early Tom Waits: “It’s a cold November, winter coming on, the trees are all bare, the birds are all gone,” or something like that.

Recently updated

Nick DeMaio and the Eldorado Now with photographs of a Bronx bar and its owner.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

A “lethal aversion to reading”

“It's not a stretch to say that if the president read, thousands of lives might have been saved”: in The Week, Windsor Mann writes about Donald Trump*’s “lethal aversion to reading.”

Again, Trump* equals death.

JEffrey or LEgal

From The Hidden Eye (dir. Richard Whorf, 1945). Duncan “Mac” Maclain (Edward Arnold), a blind detective, stands outside the door to the Neptone Hair Tonic Co., listens carefully as someone dials a telephone, and later works out the details with his sidekick Marty Corbett (William “Bill” Phillips):

“Now let’s see what we’ve got. Our first two numbers are five and three.”


“Well, five on the dial represents the letters J, K, and L. Number three represents the letters D, E, and F. That means there can only be nine combinations in that sequence. Now what is our first possibility? JD.”

“There’s no exchange startin’ with JD.”

“No, but there’s an LE — LEgal. And since there’s no LF, the prefix I heard dialed on that phone was JEffrey or LEgal.”

“The rest was, uh, uh, three, one, four, five, two.”

“Why, of course. Our man either called JEffrey 3-1452 or LEgal 3-1452. I don’t know what Jeffrey is, but LEgal 3-1452 is —”
And there’s the answer, which I won’t reveal here.

EXchange name sightings

Exchange names come into their own in Fallen Angel (dir. Otto Preminger, 1945). The scene is San Francisco.

[Dana Andrews just exited that cab.]

TUxedo 1234 was indeed the number of San Francisco’s Yellow Cab Company. That placard though looks like a prop pasted to the hood. Hugh Beaumont took a ride in a TUxedo cab in 1951, after the number gained a 5.

[Click either image for a larger view.]

DOuglas, too, was at one point a San Francisco exchange.

As for 689 Market Street, it was recently a café, La Boulangerie. Google Maps shows the storefront empty in May 2019. Next door, at 685, is the Monadnock Building. The second floor of 689 would in fact be part of the Monadnock Building.

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : The Brothers Rico : Chinatown : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : Framed : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Background of backgrounds

[The 11th Hour, May 20, 2020. Click for a much larger view.]

Obelisk? Check. Statuary? Check? Skulls? Rocket? Skeleton? Check, check, and check. Dr. William Haseltine has the background of backgrounds. Looking at other recent interviews makes me think that this background is an image, of a room to be found somewhere, to be sure, just not right behind Dr. Haseltine.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Schwan’s Dinners

[Click either image for a larger view.]

That logo for Mike Pompeo’s so-called Madison Dinners: where had I seen something like it? A walk brought the answer: on the side of a Schwan’s truck. Schwan’s: meals on wheels. Pompeo’s: meals for wheels, big ones.

I think Schwan’s wears it better. Stay classy, Mister Secretary.

Old and new bookmarks

Elaine has posted photographs of her old and new bookmarks. The old one, a DO-NOT-USE-AS-BOOKMARK bookmark, made it through five years of the Four Seasons Reading Club. The new one is a legit bookmark, from Three Lives & Company.

Other bookmarks
Gotham Book Mart : Paint samples : Paperback Booksmith : Strand Bookstore

[The Four Seasons Reading Club: the two of us, reading the same book.]

A notebook sighting

[Sleeping Car to Trieste (dir. John Paddy Carstairs, 1948). Click for a larger view.]

This notebook’s name? MacGuffin.

More notebook sightings
All the King’s Men : Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : The Big Clock : Bombshell : The Brasher Doubloon : Cat People : City Girl : Crossing Delancey : 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

Never too early, never too late

From Sleeping Car to Trieste (dir. John Paddy Carstairs, 1948). In the dining car, Tom Bishop (David Tomlinson) to Zurta (Albert Lieven):

“Won’t you join me in a Scotch?”

“No, thank you, it’s rather early in the day for me.”

“It’s never too early for a Scotch. Never too late either.”
No, it is too early. Ask me in another fourteen hours, before it’s too late.

It’s neither too early nor too late to board Sleeping Car to Trieste, which is waiting at the station right now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sunshine Hydrox

[Serving suggestion. Life, May 5, 1961. Click for larger desserts.]

I went in search of a lost cookie. Readers of a certain age will remember Hydrox (far superior, I always thought, to the Oreo). An added bonus: Hydrox was made by Sunshine Bakers, delivering “light inside the body” with every delicious bite.

Milk, bleach, and azithromycin sold separately.

[Here, from Atlas Obscura, is some Hydrox history.]

Internet rising

Yesterday Elaine wrote a post about making bread with a tiny amount of yeast. And a helpful person left a comment with a link to an Italian-imports store in Pittsburgh that sells instant yeast — “works twice as fast.” The same product is sold by King Arthur Flour — so it must be good, no? It’s temporarily unavailable from King Arthur, but it is available, right now, from the store in Pittsburgh. Elaine’s post has the info.

Drugs and their effects

From The New Yorker:

A new test of the drug hydroxychloroquine suggests that it may cause delusions, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned on Monday.

In a conference call with reporters, Fauci indicated that his findings were based on a preliminary test involving one white male subject in his seventies.

“It’s too early to be definitive about this, but the evidence suggests that, if you are already prone to delusions, paranoid fantasies, and a generalized detachment from reality, taking hydroxychloroquine may only make those symptoms worse,” he said.
See also the brilliant Sarah Cooper.

But also, for real, concerning chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin:
These drugs cause a wide spectrum of neuropsychiatric manifestations, including agitation, insomnia, confusion, mania, hallucinations, paranoia, depression, catatonia, psychosis, and suicidal ideation. Stopping the drug could lead to resolution, but symptoms may not quickly resolve.
No indication of whether the drugs exacerbate those conditions when they’re already present.

Ken Osmond (1943–2020)

AKA Eddie Haskell. The New York Times has an obituary.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Another “Molambo”

We have both kinds of music: fast and slow. Here’s another “Molambo” (Jaime Florence–Augusto Mesquita). Enjoy. The purple theme is accidental.

[Disclaimer: Though it looks as if I’m staring into the camera at the start, I wasn‘t, honest. I was staring into space.]

“There’s no dying in art”

Sonny Rollins, talking to The New York Times about life and death and art:

When I go to the museum and I look at a piece of art, I’m transported. I don’t know how, or where, but I know that it’s not a part of the material world. It’s beyond modern culture’s political, technological soul. We’re not here to live forever. Humans and materialism die. But there’s no dying in art.
Related reading
All OCA Sonny Rollins posts (Pinboard)

Augustin Hadelich at NPR

From NPR, a Tiny Desk Concert, with Augustin Hadelich, violin, and Kuang-Hao Huang, piano. Music by John Adams, Antonín Dvořák, and Josef Suk. Details here.

I’ve known about Augustin Hadelich for some time: Elaine was there to hear him play and interview him at the event that launched his career, the 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. She knew right away that she was hearing an extraordinary musician. His playing and teaching show up again and again on her blog.

Nonbelief and belief

Fernando Pessoa, text 288, The Book of Disquiet, trans. from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith (New York: Penguin, 2003).

Related reading
All OCA Pessoa posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Graduation 2020

With three pieces of advice: Don’t be afraid. Do what you think is right. Build a community.

An excerpt:

“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy: that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way. Which is why things are so screwed up. I hope that instead you decide to ground yourself in values that last, like honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others.”
The guy always makes me feel know that there’s hope.

[My transcription.]


From the Financial Times, out from behind the paywall, an utterly damning summary of the Trump* administration’s response to pandemic, by Edward Luce: “Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown.” An excerpt:

What has gone wrong? I interviewed dozens of people, including outsiders who Trump consults regularly, former senior advisers, World Health Organization officials, leading scientists and diplomats, and figures inside the White House. Some spoke off the record.

Again and again, the story that emerged is of a president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings from January, dismisses anyone who claims to know more than him and trusts no one outside a tiny coterie, led by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner — the property developer who Trump has empowered to sideline the best-funded disaster response bureaucracy in the world.

People often observed during Trump’s first three years that he had yet to be tested in a true crisis. Covid-19 is way bigger than that. “Trump’s handling of the pandemic at home and abroad has exposed more painfully than anything since he took office the meaning of America First,” says William Burns, who was the most senior US diplomat, and is now head of the Carnegie Endowment.

“America is first in the world in deaths, first in the world in infections and we stand out as an emblem of global incompetence. The damage to America’s influence and reputation will be very hard to undo.”
Something I learned from this article: the backstory on Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control.

Nancy distancing

[Nancy, September ?, 1977. Click for a larger view.]

Social distancing in the comics.

I like the idea of children in 1977 still watching television through outside a store window — like their parents before them.

Thanks, Chris.


As Pete Lit points out, the television, too, is outside the store. What’s up with that?

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

“Infinite rocks”

[Zippy, May 17, 2020.]

In today’s Zippy, way too many rocks. And they speak.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Fred Willard (1933–2020)

The actor Fred Willard has died at the age of eighty-six. The New York Times has an obituary.

So much to admire, from Fernwood 2 Night to Christopher Guest films to Modern Family. This clip, from Guest’s A Mighty Wind (2003), with Willard as Mike LaFontaine, is one of our fambly’s favorite things.

[The pop-up ad and closing promotion are annoying, I know. That’s the price of the clip.]

Astrid Kirchherr (1938–2020)

Photographer of the Beatles in the pre-Fab Hamburg days. The New York Times has an obituary.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by “Anna Stiga” (Stan Again), Stan Newman constructing under one of the aliases he uses with easier Saturday Stumpers of his making. I found this puzzle not especially easy but not especially tricky.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

7-D, eight letters, “Trans-Neptunian dwarf planets.” For sentimental reasons.

16-A, six letters, “Common typeface in upscale magazines.” Nice, and I can see it on the page, even if I can’t name a single magazine. In my experience, the only typeface that turns up in crosswords is Arial.

26-A, four letters, “Whaler who became a retailer (1850).” Uh, AHAB? No. This clue taught me something.

46-A, four letters, “Christie alternative.” So clear once you see it.

My favorite clue in today’s puzzle: 12-D, eight letters, “Holders of pointy diamonds.” Defamiliarization, as we used to call it in lit crit.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Bushes, rocks, puffs

[Nancy, August 11, 1950.]

“Some” of each. And everyone knows that you need more than “some trees” to make a forest.

I am calling those little clouds foot puffs. If you turn around quickly enough when you’re walking, you can see “some puffs” behind your own feet.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[“Some rocks” are an abiding preoccupation of these pages.]

Friday, May 15, 2020

Our own private “Molambo”

[“Molambo” (Jaime Florence–Augusto Mesquita).]

“Let’s keep that one,” Elaine said. I agreed.

Music = life.

A variation on a theme

Preserving the asterisk.

A related post


Yesterday’s madness — mockery of social distancing, skepticism about flu vaccines, the assertion that “If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases” — all makes me think that this equation is not too extreme:

See also a variation on this theme, preserving the Trump* asterisk.

[And death due not only to coronavirus. Inspired, of course, by the Silence=Death Project. This image is free for anyone’s non-commercial use with attribution, so I’ve omitted the asterisk that I now attach to Donald Trump*’s name (* = impeached, for always, with an added Kurt Vonnegut overtone).]

FSRC: annual report

The Four Seasons Reading Club, our household’s two-person adventure in reading, just finished its fifth year. The club began after I retired from teaching, so the year runs from May to May. In our fifth year we read twenty-one books and a book’s worth of uncollected short stories, and we climbed one mountain, Mount Musil. In non-chronological order:

James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk

Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, The Professor

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Robertson Davies, The Deptford Trilogy (Fifth Business, The Manticore, World of Wonders)

Eva Hoffman, How to Be Bored

Olivia Jaimes, Nancy’s Genius Plan

Robert Kirk, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies

Guy de Maupassant, Afloat

Duncan Minshull, ed., Beneath My Feet: Writers on Walking

Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories, Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters / Seymour: An Introduction, uncollected stories

Adalbert Stifter, Rock Crystal

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Stefan Zweig, Journeys

Credit to the translators whose work gave us access to the world beyond English: Elizabeth Mayer and Marianne Moore, Dmitri Nabokov and Vladmir Nabokov, Douglas Parmée, Will Stone, Sophie Wilkins.

Here are the reports for 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.


In my backyard last night, pallets of toilet paper, stacked two stories high.

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Thirty-seven pencils

From a Donald Trump* interview with state television:

“We can — we can do things in our country. We can — you know, we used to make our own product. Would you believe it? Right? We used to make our own product. We don’t need thirty-seven pencils, we can buy two pencils — and they can be better. But you know, we went astray, with the whole thing, we went astray.”
We did go astray. I, for one, have hundreds of pencils.

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[Two pencils? It’s remotely possible that Trump* is making an oblique reference to General Pencil and Musgrave Pencil, two venerable companies that still manufacture pencils in the United States. But I doubt it. He speaks in the past tense: “we used to.” And he seems to be speaking about volume, not some number of manufacturers. Pencils, by the way, are also made in Germany and Japan, among other countries.]

Thursday, May 14, 2020

“A vision of syntax”

Senhor Soares feels “an almost physical loathing for secret things,” particularly for secret societies and occult sciences and “the pretension certain men have that, through their understandings with Gods or Masters or Demiurges, they and they alone know the great secrets on which the world is founded.”

Fernando Pessoa, from text 256, The Book of Disquiet, trans. from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith (New York: Penguin, 2003).

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EXchange name sightings

Exchange names have nice cameos in Framed (dir. Richard Wallace, 1947).

This note is for mining engineer Mike Lambert (Glenn Ford), from the barmaid who brought him back, drunk, to his hotel.

Later in the film, Lambert tries to locate a “Miss Woodworth.” Fortunately, it’s a small town. Did people rip pages from telephone books in life, as well as in the movies?

[Click either image for a larger view.]

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : The Brothers Rico : Chinatown : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

An EXchange name sighting

[Back in the city, Richard Conte pays for his ride. The Brothers Rico (dir. Phil Karlson, 1957).]

ACademy was indeed a New York City exchange name.

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : Chinatown : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

HO 3-3338

[As seen in Los Angeles.]

Our fambly once saw a sign in the wilds of Pennsylvania: HO-MADE PIES. Our kids were old enough to find the naiveté amusing. As were Elaine and I.

The letters HO signified the exchange names HObart, HOmestead, HOpkins, and HOward. And HOllywood! From a contributor to the Telephone EXchange Name Project:

First heard the exchange in an old movie from the 40’s where the main character was placing a call to someone who lived in “Hollywood” and gave the exchange ‘HOllywood-4.....’ Years later, saw a sign for a liquor store that still had the number listed as such on their sign HO-4..... (HOllywood-4 .....) Still today, the numbers for Hollywood proper are “464-....” Pretty neat!
Thanks to Sean at Contrapuntalism for sharing his photograph.

[I found HObart, HOmestead, HOpkins, and HOward in AT&T/Bell’s 1955 list of recommended exchange names, available from the TENP.]

Domestic comedy

[We ordered take-out from our Thai restaurant on Monday. We are ordering again on Friday. Elaine doesn’t like it when I inquire too far in advance, like, say, mid-morning Friday, what she might want to get. Today is Wednesday.]

“Any ideas about what to get?”

“Something different from what we got Monday.”

“That was your cue to throw something at me.”

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Festival films

From May 29 to June 7, films from Cannes and other festivals Cannes, Sundance, and other film festivals will be streaming, free, at YouTube.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

And then there were five

Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) just referred to Drs. Fauci, Giroir, Hahn, and Redfield as “the Fab Four.” “Back in the day,” the senator added, “it was the Fab Five.”

Chutes and letters

Diane Schirf has added new (and stylin’) photographs and useful links to a post about the Cutler mailing system. Yes, “mailing system.” “Product pretentiousness,” Diane writes, ”isn’t a contemporary invention.”

You may not recognize the name Cutler. But you’ll likely recognize the “mailing system” — chutes and collection boxes — in an instant.

Help, help to

A sentence from a recent post:

[Dieter] Rams on camera is elegantly informal and always curmudgeonly — a critic of the consumer culture his designs [helped? helped to?] establish.
It’s a rare day that I don’t have a reason to open Garner’s Modern English Usage. Here’s an answer:
In most contexts, the better practice is to use a bare infinitive after help (if the choice is between a fully expressed infinitive [with to] and a bare one [without to]).
Examples follow. And finally:
The bare-infinitive form after help overtook the to-form in the late 1960s and remains more than twice as common with various verbs.
Helped to still sounds better to me. I’ll put that down to a dowdy ear. Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright.

How to improve writing (no. 87)

[Mark Trail, May 12, 2020. Original panel, left, and two revisions.]

In today’s Mark Trail, some dialogue in need of improvement. The gist of things: The Crowley family and Mark are on a camping trip for “troubled children.” Eric is the Crowleys’ son. The Crowleys seem to be leaning toward adopting Kevin, a young orphan on the trip. Eric is jealous, and Kevin knows it. Kevin runs off from camp with Mark Trail’s adopted son Rusty; everyone searches for them; a forest fire happens; and Kevin saves the day by warning Mrs. Crowley and Eric that a tree is going to fall on them. This story has taken months to develop.

One problem in the original panel above: Kevin didn’t save three (or more) people — only two. Mrs. Crowley has exaggerated. A second problem: “our and Eric’s lives” is some mighty awkward syntax. My first revision aims for accurate reporting and decent syntax. My second revision aims for more schmaltz: in saving Mrs. Crowley and Eric, Kevin has indeed saved “all of us” — in other words, the whole Crowley family, including Eric. Formerly rotten Eric, I hope.

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[This post is no. 87 in a series, dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Monday, May 11, 2020

Homemade music

[Music by Rachel, Ben, Elaine, and Michael. Production by Ben.]

It’s the Faces song “Ooh La La” (Ronnie Lane–Ronnie Wood). Enjoy.


[“Coronavirus Polling.” xkcd, May 11, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

The art of the small oily fish

Susan’s sardine drawing has prompted Fresca, l’astronave, to invite readers to draw or paint a sardine.

Here’s Fresca’s. Here’s mine. Here’s bink’s.

[The time of the coronavirus is also the time of canned fish.]

Twelve movies

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

Columbia noir, from the Criterion Channel

The Mob (dir. Robert Parrish, 1951). The two faces of Broderick Crawford: he plays a surprisingly suave police detective who goes undercover as a longshoreman to uncover corruption on a waterfront. Ernest Borgnine, Neville Brand, and Richard Kiley are among the supporting cast. Good atmospherics (a bar, a flophouse, a lunchroom, a condemned building) and some terrific moments of suspense. This kind of movie, just another movie in its day, is always immensely satisfying to me. ★★★★

The Brothers Rico (dir. Phil Karlson, 1957). Richard Conte is Eddie Rico, who left mob life for legitimate business but finds himself pulled back in to help his brothers. Some surprisingly playful and frankly sexual scenes between Eddie and Alice Rico (Dianne Foster), some chilling scenes with mob boss “Uncle Sid” (Larry Gates), and some ultra-modern mid-century interiors, but the film is marred by overemoting. The great acting surprise is Harry Bellaver, whom I’ve seen in 136 episodes of Naked City but who’s unrecognizable here — that’s how good he is. My favorite line: “He showed me a plush-lined rathole, and I crawled in and made it my home.” ★★★

Tight Spot (dir. Phil Karlson, 1955). Ginger Rogers, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Keith, and Lorne Greene in a strange story of an inmate (Rogers) taken from prison, kept in a guarded hotel room, and pressed to testify at the trial of a crime boss. Moments of sudden, intense violence punctuate a story that’s made mostly of things to do while killing time in a hotel room: telling stories, ordering in, watching television (the movie is brutal toward television), fighting with a sibling, falling in love. Robinson, in his Barton Keyes/Mr. Wilson mode, makes a fine DA. Rogers is for me almost unrecognizable, channeling Judy Holliday and giving a great performance. ★★★★


Framed (dir. Richard Wallace, 1947). Glenn Ford as a luckless mining engineer who’s chosen as the fall guy in an embezzlement scheme. It’s complicated. Janis Carter (I know — who?) and Edgar Buchanan add strong support. A fine low-budget film noir. ★★★★


Rams (dir. Gary Hustwit, 2018). A portrait of the industrial designer Dieter Rams, famed for the spare, functional design of Braun household products, and a major influence on Apple. Rams on camera is elegantly informal and always curmudgeonly — a critic of the consumer culture his designs helped to establish. But moving about his house (where it looks as if nothing has changed for years), dusting a wall-mounted reel-to-reel tape player, typing on a red Olivetti, he seems like a prisoner of his aesthetic. Cookie crumbs, junk mail, muddy shoes — none of that stuff here. ★★★


The Forest for the Trees (dir. Maren Ade, 2003). Twenty-seven-year-old Melanie (Eva Löbau) leaves her boyfriend (of seven years) and family to take a position as a mid-year replacement teacher. Melanie’s students are cruel, even feral; her life outside school is almost non-existent. The Criterion Channel made me think, Oh, the travails of a teacher — I’ll like it, and I did, at least sometimes, but it’s one of the most painful movies I’ve ever watched, as Melanie veers from Annie Hall awkwardness to interest in a neighbor that borders on stalking. The film loses a star for its ending, which seems to me to give up on the story. ★★


The Postman Always Rings Twice (dir. Tay Garnett, 1946). I’ll mention three things I noticed while watching the film yet again. The story begins with a MAN WANTED sign (heh). Despite working in a diner together, Cora (Lana Turner) and Frank (John Garfield) never once eat together — a clear marker that their relationship surpasses ordinary human concerns. Audrey Totter has a great bit as a good-time gal, ready to take off for a week in Mexico with a total stranger. ★★★★


Sleeping Car to Trieste (dir. John Paddy Carstairs, 1948). A train story whose title somehow suggested to me something darker than what I found. It’s a delightful trip, with dry comedy, low-heat suspense, and a large assortment of passengers: fashionistas, a wolfish GI, a prim birdlover, a pompous humanitarian, a witty French detective, a pair of awkward philanderers, and spies, spies, spies, two of whom are hunting the third for a mysterious notebook in his possession. How long can this train roll on before the hunters find their prey? Watch for a young David Tomlinson, later to play Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins. ★★★★


Sleep, My Love (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1948). Claudette Colbert, what are you doing on that train? A crazy, suspenseful story of gaslighting and sanity, with screenplay by St. Clair McKelway and Leo Rosten. Also on hand: Don Ameche, Robert Cummings, George Coulouris, Keye Luke, and the kinda astonishing Hazel Brooks. My favorite line: “I gave you the hurry call because I wanted to see you in a hurry.” ★★★★

Fallen Angel (dir. Otto Preminger, 1945). Stella (Linda Darnell), a waitress in a crummy diner, is the center of gravity in this Laura-like story, with all manner of men orbiting her: her boss (Percy Kilbride), a veteran cop (Charles Bickford), a jukebox operator (Bruce Cabot), and a promoter/con artist (Dana Andrews). Further complications: a mentalist (John Carradine) comes to town, promising to reveal a message from the town’s dead patriarch, father of two spinsters (Alice Faye and Anne Revere), one of whom becomes the mark in the promoter’s schemes. Marks of Stella’s oddly exalted status: she’s the only woman ever seen in the diner, and the only person ever seen eating there (it’s nothing but coffee for everyone else). Strongly noirish and wildly improbable, with music by David Raskin. ★★★


The Hidden Eye (dir. Richard Whorf, 1945). A sequel to Eyes in the Night (dir. Fred Zinnemann, 1942), with Edward Arnold reprising his role as Duncan “Mac” Maclain, a blind detective. The most interesting scenes have Mac explaining or making use of the heightened forms of awareness that come with his loss of vision. Leigh Whipper has a modest role, and Ray Collins — already looking like Lieutenant Tragg — is a major player. The story’s a bit of a mess, and the comedy’s more than a bit tired, but I’m still happy to have seen this second Edward Arnold effort, thanks to a generous YouTube uploader. ★★

Leave Her to Heaven (dir. John M. Stahl, 1945). It begins with strangers on a train, writer Richard (Cornel Wilde) and reader Ellen (Gene Tierney), headed for the same station, and headed for trouble. Tierney is chilling: just a little spooky at first, then dangerous, almost unimaginably so. With a title from Hamlet and support from Jeanne Crain, Darryl Hickman, and Vincent Price. If you can imagine film noir in Technicolor, this movie is it. ★★★★

[Gene Tierney as Ellen. You’d never guess what she’s seeing through those sunglasses.]

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