Tuesday, June 30, 2020


He won’t be happy until there’s a second civil war.

Pizza with sardines

[From our kitchen. We prepare all dishes with a vignette filter.]

The war is on. Germany has invaded France. The unnamed narrator of Anna Seghers’s novel Transit has fled Paris. Stuck in Marseille, he lives on cigarettes, coffee, pizza, and rosé. Pizza for him is new:

Back then I was surprised to find out that pizza wasn’t sweet but tasted of pepper, olives, or sardines.
A sardine pizza? Our household’s curiosity went into overdrive. I found a recipe that called for baking the crust once (fifteen minutes) and then again (eighteen to twenty minutes). Huh? Elaine decided to do her own thing.

The ingredients:
1 teaspoon dry yeast
¾ cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Bob’s Red Mill whole-wheat pastry flour
    and King Arthur white flour, equal parts

2 onions, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
some black pepper
1 can skinless and boneless sardines
    in olive oil, drained and chopped
8 oz. finely shredded Italian cheese
    (the usual supermarket offering)
The directions:
Dissolve yeast in water. Add olive oil and salt. Wait a few minutes; then begin stirring in flour. Knead, and let dough rise in a towel-covered bowl for 50 minutes. Elaine says you’ll need to knead to know how much flour you might have to add. It’ll vary with the weather. She adds flour half a cup at a time.

Melt butter in a pan. Add onions and salt. Caramelize the onions on medium heat.

Roll out the dough and assemble the pizza — sardines first, then onions, then cheese. Bake at 400° for about twenty minutes.
The result was spectacular: savory, fishy, absolutely satisfying. Very Mediterranean. We added some red pepper flakes at the table and drank some cheap rosé. Elaine had a few leaves of fresh basil with her slices. I found the basil took too much away from the taste of the sardines.

In 2013 New York Review Books published Transit (1944) in a translation by Margot Bettauer Dembo. In 2018 the novel was adapted for the screen by Christian Petzold. I recommend the novel, the film, and this pizza with great enthusiasm.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

[There’s nothing missing from the recipe. It’s a sauceless pizza.]

A pocket notebook sighting

[From The Devil and Miss Jones (dir. Sam Wood, 1941). Click any image for a larger view.]

John P. Merrick (Charles Coburn) keeps careful notes. He’s gone undercover in the department store he owns, working as a shoe clerk while seeking to identify union organizers. The shoe department is a hotbed of agitation.

Contexts for these notes: Merrick didn’t do well on the intelligence test given to prospective employees. Miss Jones (Jean Arthur) gave him money, thinking he didn’t have enough to buy himself lunch. Elizabeth (Spring Byington) maybe kinda sorta likes the snarky section manager (Edmund Gwenn). Thus the deleted question mark.

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 : Sleeping Car to Trieste : 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

Monday, June 29, 2020

Is it treason yet?

From the Associated Press:

Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence.
And from Carl Bernstein:
In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America's principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.

Milton Glaser (1929–2020)

The graphic designer who gave us I♥︎NY. The New York Times has an obituary.

I almost forgot: Milton Glaser’s “The Things I Have Learned,” a 2001, is useful reading. Et

Twelve movies

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

Black Legion (dir. Archie Mayo, 1937). Humphrey Bogart plays a machinist, embittered when a promotion he thinks should be his goes to a “foreigner.” And so he joins up with the hoods and robes of the Black Legion. Based on contemporary events and disturbingly of our own time, with warnings about “anarchists” and cries of “America for Americans.” The supporting cast includes Dick Foran (later a regular on Lassie), Charles Halton, Samuel Hinds, Ann Sheridan, each of whom, I have to say, is a better actor than Bogart. ★★★


Fright (dir. W. Lee Wilder, 1956). A chance YouTube find that we had to watch, because Nancy Malone. It’s her first movie role, and she does just fine in a bizarro story of past lives and hypnosis. Other viewers might want to watch to see Eric Fleming, who would soon star in Rawhide. A bonus: fans of The Honeymooners should watch for Frank Marth, branching out to play a serial killer. ★★


Night Must Fall (dir. Richard Thorpe, 1937). Look past the staginess (it’s from a play by Emlyn Williams) and you’ll find a deeply suspenseful story of a young psychopath (Robert Montgomery) who ingratiates himself with a wealthy invalid (Dame May Whitty) and her niece (Rosalind Russell). The principals are excellent, and if you know Whitty only as Hitchcock’s Mrs. Froy, you’ll be surprised by her performance here. And speaking of Hitchcock: this film would pair well with Shadow of a Doubt. There’s even a hint of the twinning that unites Uncle Charlie and his niece Charlie. ★★★★


[Source: IMDb.]

Devotion (dir. Curtis Bernhardt, 1947). Incredible: a movie about the Brontës that seems not to have mentioned the Brontës in its American advertising. Charlotte (Olivia de Havilland) and Emily (Ida Lupino) form an improbable love triangle with a fusty cleric (Paul Henreid, complete with his accent), as Anne (Nancy Coleman) is kept off to the side, her writing coming in for no attention. Branwell Brontë (Arthur Kennedy) is here in all his dissoluteness, and there’s an inchoate but unmistakable suggestion of incestuous desire at work in this reclusive family. Lupino to my mind is the star (her Emily is the ur emo-kid), but Sydney Greenstreet as William Makepeace Thackeray threatens to steal the show. ★★★


Riffraff (dir. J. Walter Ruben, 1936.) Love, labor trouble, and canned fish. Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow play Dutch and Hattie, fisherman and cannery worker. At key points the story requires the suspension of disbelief — painfully so. Joseph Calleia, Una Merkel, and Mickey Rooney provide some comic relief. The best performance by an actor I’d never heard of goes to J. Farrell MacDonald as a wise, compassionate fisherman known, rightly so, as Brains. ★★★


A Man Called Adam (dir. Leo Penn, 1966). Sammy Davis Jr. as Adam Johnson, a Miles-like musician (cornet, not trumpet, solos by Nat Adderley) living with a massive burden of grief, guilt, and racism. There’s a fair amount of malarkey here: Louis Armstrong has a small role as a has-been purveyor of “true jazz” who’ll soon be going back to “the rice fields” (what?); Cicely Tyson is a civil rights activist but seems to have nothing to do except hang out with Adam; and Frank Sinatra Jr. is a young wannabe following in Adam’s footsteps. I found more to appreciate in the moments between Adam and his pianist (Johnny Brown). Look too for Ja ’Net DuBois, Lola Falana, and Kai Winding — and Mel Tormé, who gets the last word. ★★★


The Devil and Miss Jones (dir. Sam Wood, 1941). A Capraesque fairy tale of happy times for labor and management. Charles Coburn shines as a cranky department-store owner who goes undercover in the shoe department to root out union organizers. Jean Arthur shines as a clerk who takes for him a fellow without money enough to afford lunch. Spring Byington, Bob Cummings, Edmund Gwenn, and S.Z. Sakall shine — and these working folks, they’re not so bad after all, eh, Mr. Capitalist Big Shot? ★★★★


Illegal (dir. Lewis Allen, 1955). I’m impressed again and again by Edward G. Robinson’s range as an actor. Here he plays a DA who unknowingly sends an innocent man to the chair, falls apart, quits, and ends up working for the mob, with startling results. Nina Foch plays Robinson’s prosecutorial mentee, in what might be her best role. Television fans will like seeing DeForest Kelley and Edward Platt. ★★★★


Fear in the Night (dir. Maxwell Shane, 1947). And speaking of DeForest Kelley, this film is his feature-length debut, with a strong assist from Paul Kelly. The premise: a man dreams he’s committed a murder and wakes up with objects from the scene of the crime in his possession. Two crucial questions: did he really kill someone, and more importantly, had we seen this film before? Alas, the eeriness diminishes as the story develops and we figured out that yes, we’d seen it before. ★★


Politics (dir. Charles F. Reiser, 1931). Wives and mothers take action to combat gangsters and bootlegging. I saw a few minutes on TCM and mistook the movie for a variation on Lysistrata, but the women’s strike — an effort to withhold “everything,” meaning “Yes, everything, parlor, bedroom, and bath” — is but a small element in the story. What’s here, really, is a vehicle for two great comediennes I’d never seen before: Marie Dressler as a mayoral candidate, Polly Moran as her pal and supporter. Another welcome presence: Karen Morley, whom I think I know only from King Vidor’s Our Daily Bread. ★★★


Mystery House (dir. Noel M. Smith, 1938). Ann Sheridan and William Hopper (Perry Mason’s Paul Drake) brighten this movie, in which one person after another dies in or near a hunting lodge. If you discovered that someone in your company had embezzled a fortune, you’d invite all suspects to a remote gun-filled lodge and promise to reveal the culprit’s identity there, wouldn’t you? What, you think that’s improbable? My favorite element in the film: the eerie motto above the fireplace, which comes from the novel that is film’s source. ★★

[“The End of all Good Hunting is Nearer than you Dream.” Mignon G. Eberhart, The Mystery of Hunting’s End. 1930. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.) William Hopper played clean, well-soaped Lal Killian.]


The Haunting (dir. Robert Wise, 1963). Based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, in which a small team of psychic researchers seeks the truth about a haunted house. Julie Harris and Claire Bloom (the latter in a Mary Quant wardrobe) give great performances as young recruits; Russ Tamblyn as heir to the house provides comic relief and a dash of sanity; Richard Johnson as team leader is a bit of a bore with his clipboard and pipe and talk about “man” and his superstitions. Davis Boulton’s cinematography adds all sorts of fear and uncertainty to the proceedings. Here’s a real mystery house, in an ultra-scary film that looks back to Poe and ahead to Stranger Things. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Some trees

Charlotte Brontë, Shirley (1849).

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist : Bumps on the head : “In all quarters of the sky” : Small things

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


“Efforts to stem the pandemic have squeezed local economies across the nation, but the threat is starting to look existential in college towns”: The New York Times reports on college towns in the time of the coronavirus.

A related post
College, anyone?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Alexander, not great

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) is not exactly a profile in courage. Here’s what he suggests about mask-wearing:

“It would help if from time to time the President would wear one to help us get rid of this political debate that says if you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask, if you’re against Trump, you do.”
“From time to time”: so bold. No, all the time. Wearing a mask from time to time is analogous to wearing a seat belt from time to time to advocate for safety in vehicles. Or wearing a condom from time to time to — you get the idea.

But also: there is no “political debate” about masks. No one who wears a mask does so to oppose Donald Trump*. You wear a mask to reduce the chance of spreading the coronavirus. It’s Trump* and his followers who regard masks as a political statement. And it’s Lamar Alexander who just framed that lunacy as one side of a “debate.”

See also #WearAFuckingMask.


[Zippy, June 28, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy takes us to Japan, where manhole covers are things of beauty. See Griffy’s book? There are indeed books about Japanese manhole covers. For now, here’s a large collection of photographs. And a Flickr pool. Paying attention to manhole covers is (at least sometimes) called drainspotting.

マンホール蓋 [manhōru futa] is the Japanese for manhole cover.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Death wishes

An effort to end the Affordable Care Act. Apparent indifference to a Russian effort to pay bounties to the Taliban for killing American troops. And now a report of sticker removal in Tulsa.

That’s just some news from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And, as always, there’s the denigrating of masks and tests.

Donald Trump* expresses more interest in preserving “beautiful monuments” than in preserving American lives. Truly, Trump* equals death.

[I should add that Trump*’s professed devotion to “monuments” and “statues” and “heritage” is itself, as Joe Biden would say, malarkey.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by the puzzle’s editor, Stan Newman, constructing under the pen name Lester Ruff. In other words, an easier puzzle. But also Lester Wrightabout. Just not very much oof, pow, and sizzle.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of interest:

11-D, seven letters, “Game Goldfinger cheats at.” A weird factoid. I guessed (correctly) from a couple of crosses. My awareness of the game is due to — spoiler alert — a 2018 Lester Ruff Stumper.

15-A, eight letters, “Toll road alternative.” I’ve seen the answer in crosswords, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard the word in non-crossword life.

22-A, six letters, “Nearly all bananas, to botanists.” Weird. I’ll never look at a banana in the same way again. But first I’ll have to figure out what that way has been. And then I’ll have to figure out something new.

25-D, six letters, “Opening announcement.” Clever.

26-D, five letters, “Product name not derived from 56 Down.” Someone seems preoccupied with this product: the answer also appeared in the June 13 Stumper. The clue for 56-D, three letters: “pH adjuster in cosmetics.”

31-A, fourteen letters, “Accidental.” The answer sounds so dowdy.

46-A, five letters, “‘The __ Administration’ (Hamilton tune).” It’s good to see names from American history clued to this musical.

55-A, six letters, “eBook ancestor.” Well, I guess so.

57-D, three letters, “Test in a tube.” A nice way to muddle what might be a commonplace answer.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 26, 2020


“Rome is burning, and he’s polishing the Washington Monument”: David Gregory on CNN just now.

[“He”: Donald Trump*, protecting statues.]

An EXchange name sighting

[From Red Light (dir. Roy Del Ruth, 1949). Click for a larger view.]

I wonder whether anyone has ever before noticed that the listing for the Abbott Hotel is cut and pasted.

EXbrook was indeed a San Francisco exchange name. I have nothing on the Abbott Hotel, if it ever existed.

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Blue Gardenia : 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 : Fallen Angel : 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 : The Slender Thread : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Small things

Charlotte Brontë, Shirley (1849).

I stepped away from Shirley, but I had to save this lovely sentence.

Small things today: walking, reading, take-out because it’s Friday. I take none of these small things for granted.


I just discovered the source, Zechariah 4:10: “For who has despised the day of small things?” (KJV).

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist : Bumps on the head : “In all quarters of the sky”

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Mail, real mail

The New York Times reports on snail mail in the time of the coronavirus. One takeaway:

A Postal Service survey whose results were published in May found that one in six consumers had sent more mail to family and friends during the pandemic.
The survey shows that those who are more likely to want to send letters and postcards are younger, have higher incomes, and have children at home. Which leaves me out, but that’s okay, as I’m sending anyway.

Something is rotten in Iowa

The headline of an editorial by Lyz Lenz, from The Gazette (Cedar Rapids): “The University of Iowa fires instructors and tells the rest to get back to the classroom.” A few choice details, my paraphrasing:

~ Bruce Harreld, the school’s president, promised in May to protect the well-being of students, staff, and faculty. But the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has fired fifteen instructors and is planning for in-person classes in the fall. And Steve Goddard, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has encouraged a woman of color with an autoimmune condition to seek counseling and return to the classroom, because she’s a “role model.”

~ Harreld’s yearly salary: $590,000. Goddard’s yearly salary: $372,000. The average yearly salary of the instructors who have been fired: $45,000.

~ Meanwhile, UI is hiring another dean. Lenz gives the starting salary as $350,000. But in the university’s job listings, the salary has jumped to $375,000.

This one small story captures much of what’s wrong with higher education: enormous administrative salaries, administrative bloat, and contempt for those who do the work of teaching, worsened here by a refusal to take a medical condition seriously when it affects a woman of color. As Lenz wrote on Twitter, “die for your job” seems to be the University of Iowa’s message to instructors. The university seems to be sending a similar message to its students.

Thanks to Daughter Number Three for pointing me to Lenz’s commentary.

A related post
College, anyone? (My 2¢ on reopening in the fall)

[I’ve added a link to a video chat with the dean’s advice. It’s worth watching.]

“In all quarters of the sky”

Charlotte Brontë, The Professor (1857).

This passage is for my friend Diane Schirf, who likes the night sky sans light pollution.

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist : Bumps on the head

[X—— is a mill town.]

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Orange Crate Art redux

The Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson album Orange Crate Art, recorded in 1995, has now been reissued in 2-CD and 2-LP editions by Omnivore Recordings. I got my copy of the 2-CD set yesterday and listened all the way through over two days. The original twelve tracks, remastered, are newly vivid, like paintings after restoration. The standout among the three bonus tracks is “What a Wonderful World” — you can hear Brian giving his all, and the result is deeply affecting. The instrumental versions of the original tracks reveal countless details; I’d point to “Summer in Monterey” and “My Jeanine” as particularly great examples of Van Dyke’s art as composer and arranger. Oh, and “Orange Crate Art.”

Van Dyke is a friend, and I’m hardly an objective pair of ears. But I think the Omnivore description — “sounds like nothing before or since” — is objectively accurate. Orange Crate Art is music of no time and for all time.

Related reading
All OCA BW and VDP posts (Pinboard)

Music then and again

Jazz on a Summer’s Day (dir. Aram Avakian and Bert Stern, 1960) is an impressionistic documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. I caught some of it on TCM Monday night. This great and joyous performance by Anita O’Day, which I’ve seen dozens of times, moved me to tears when I thought about how we’ve lost the happiness of listening to music together. But not forever.

What will it feel like to attend a concert again? I want to know.

Related posts
Anita O’Day (1919–2006) : Musician v. singer

[When the YouTube link fails, as it eventually will, just look for anita o'day sweet georgia brown tea for two.]

A dark thought, but I’ll air it

I can almost imagine Donald Trump*, several months from now:

“And we must never forget our great warrior seniors — and that’s what they are, you know that. They are warriors, giving their lives in the fight to save our way of life from the terrible plague. We love you. We will never forget you. We will always treasure the memory of your great sacrifice, so very great. And we must never forget our great young people,” &c.
The Trump* cult — No mask? No test? No problem! — really is a death cult.


Like the Brontës, William Crimsworth’s new acquaintance Hunsden Yorke Hunsdsen appears to ascribe to physiognomy and phrenology:

Charlotte Brontë, The Professor (1857).

The Professor, published posthumously, is an odd duck. Of greatest interest: its principal characters (both teachers), its depiction of marriage, and, in the person of Mr. Hunsden, its barely coded presentation of a gay man.

Also from Charlotte Brontë
A word : Three words : Jane Eyre, descriptivist

[X—— is a mill town.]

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Lincoln Project

I’ve been impressed by their ads for a while now. But it’s this latest, snark-free one that made me decide to give some money to The Lincoln Project.

As Donald Trump* would say, these people are vicious. I wish that Democrats knew how to make ads this effective.

Jane Eyre, descriptivist

”There are people who seem to have no notion of sketching a character, or observing and describing salient points, either in persons or things,” sighs Jane Eyre. In contrast, Jane herself, as she sets off from Thornfield Hall to mail a letter:

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847).

And we can already figure out from the way novels work that something important is about to happen on this walk.

Descriptions of landscapes are what I like best in Jane Eyre.

Related posts
A word from Charlotte Brontë
Three words from Charlotte Brontë

Monday, June 22, 2020

Caramelized shallot pasta

[Click for a larger portion.]

Though I really want to call it caramelized-shallot pasta. Or better, pasta with caramelized shallots.

The recipe, made famous by Alison Roman, hides behind a New York Times Cooking paywall. I made this dish when Times subscribers without an additional subscription for NYT Cooking could read the steps, without a list of ingredients. Now everything’s behind the Cooking paywall. But go figure: the recipe is available to all via what appears to be an authentic Times Instagram account.

I used a small plastic container’s worth of shallots, a couple of cloves of garlic, some red-pepper flakes, salt and pepper, a can of anchovies, an almost full four-ounce tube of tomato paste, a pound of fettucine, and some Italian parsley. The result was glorious. I’d suggest less salt (Roman’s recipe calls for three applications). And you can save some money by remembering to buy a can of tomato paste, much cheaper than a tube.

There were no leftovers.

Fine’s Price

Fambly excitement: the violinist Augustin Hadelich has invited violinists everywhere to record themselves playing the violin part from Elaine’s arrangement of Florence Price’s “Adoration,” a piece for organ that Elaine arranged for violin and piano. Augustin will play the piano part, choose from various violin performances, and sync the results.

A related post
An Augustin Hadelich Tiny Desk Concert

The International Eraser Museum

An Instagram museum: the International Eraser Museum, focused on “non-novelty, vintage erasers.” For instance: a Pelikan eraser with what appear to be separate sections for pencil, colored pencil, ballpoint, and fountain pen.

Thanks to Ian Bagger for pointing me to this museum.

[I’m not embarrassed to acknowledge that OCA has a Pinboard tag for erasers.]

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Trump* is not alright

Look carefully: he’s supporting the glass with his pinky.

I’m glad (sort of) that I watched again. I think it’s almost impossible to spot this trick on a first viewing.

The kids are alright

O brave new world. Really. A New York Times headline: “TikTok Teens and K-Pop Stans Say They Sank Trump Rally.”

Not funny: a president who jokes (?) about slowing down testing in a pandemic.

[I am following the Who’s spelling in the post title.]

Father’s Day

I had a conversation with my dad in a dream a couple of weeks ago. He wanted me to order something for him from Amazon — no doubt a CD. But what? Maybe he’ll call back.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

A joke in the traditional manner

Why sharpen your pencil to write a Dad joke?

The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the shape-shifting car? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : How do ghosts hide their wrinkles? : How do worms get to the supermarket? : Of all the songs in the Great American Songbook, which is the favorite of pirates? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : What’s the name of the Illinois town where dentists want to live? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Where does Paul Drake keep his hot tips? : Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why is the Fonz so cool? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He gets credit for the Autobahn, the elementary school, the Golden Retriever, Bela Lugosi, Samuel Clemens, the doctor, the plumber, the senior citizen, Oliver Hardy, and the ophthalmologist. Elaine gets credit for the Illinois town. My dad was making such jokes long before anyone called them “dad jokes.” I continue in the traditional manner.]

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Real chyrons, imaginary crowd

From CNN:

Trump campaign cancels address to “overflow crowd,” as overflow crowd fails to materialize outside Tulsa rally.
Trump campaign tells supporters “There’s still space!” as crowd trickles in to Tulsa rally venue.
I was about to suggest that the Trump* campaign will say that the media scared people away, but I just heard that the campaign has already said just that. They’re also blaming protesters.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

[There’s a slight spoiler in what follows.]

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Brad Wilber. It’s a good one, with many out of the way answers. Should out of the way be hyphenated? Do I need to look that up now? Let me revise: It’s a good one, with many unusual answers. And it uses every letter of the alphabet but V. (Which must mean something?)

I started with 1-A, eight letters, “Intricate weave.” Man, I just smashed that clue. Or rather, the answer. Smashed it to bits. That answer, even smashed, gave me 1-D, six letters, “Turnkey” and 2-D, six letters, “One end of the Erie Canal.” Folk music FTW.

Clue-and-answer pairs that I especially liked:

14-A, nine letters, “Precursor of leaving home.” Yes, that kind of home.

15-A, five letters, “‘Daytime’s Leading Lady.’” I watched her for years, crushing a bit.

19-A, six letters, “Compelling to go to court.” I learned something from this clue.

22-A, five letters, “Fund-raisers spoiled by showers.” No, that can’t be right. Oh, wait — it’s right.

37-A, seven letters, “CoverGirl makeup creator.” It feels so strange to write the name. I think this answer is an example of what crossword people mean by “crunchy.”

45-D, five letters, “Achilles, per Homer.” Huh. I’ve seen it as “fair,” “fiery,” “red-gold,” and “sandy.” In Homer’s Greek, it’s six letters: ξανθῆς. It must have been Achilles who said “If I’ve only one life . . . let me live it as a _____.”

50-A, three letters, “PR, for example.” Nice misdirection.

51-D, four letters, “It’s often found in salad bowls.” Especially mid-century modern ones, I think.

56-A, nine letters, “Fake cannon named for pacifists.” What?!

57-D, three letters, “Reader’s resource.” Not an APP.

58-A, five letters, “The Jetsons are on his autobio cover.” There’s an autobiography?!

One clue that rankled: 29-A, four letters, “He's not without egotism.” It’s one of those clues, and the answer is kinda forced.

No outright spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Jeff Tweedy giving back

My friend Stefan Hagemann pointed me to this news: Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) will be donating five percent of his songwriting royalties to organizations working toward racial justice. And he’s asking other musicians and songwriters to do the same. As he writes in a tweet, “The modern music industry is built almost entirely on Black art.” Well, yes.

Speaking of which: I saw by chance yesterday an NPR story about Bob Dylan’s new song “False Prophet” and its unacknowledged borrowing from a 1954 recording by Billy "The Kid" Emerson. NPR is more generous to Dylan than I’m willing to be: in 2020 I see not “a familiar, recurrent aspect of [Dylan’s] creative process” but unacknowledged borrowing, from a source unlikely to be recognized by most of Dylan’s listeners. And I have to remind myself: here’s a guy who borrows from CliffsNotes and SparkNotes for his Nobel Prize lecture. That’s not what used to be called “the folk process.” That’s ripping off.

Bob, how about kicking in some of your royalties?

[As I wrote to Stefan, every time I begin to warm to Bob Dylan, he does something to make me step back.]

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, June 19, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

The Bailey genes are strong. Lois is Beetle Bailey’s sister.

But look at that phone number. Yes, it’s that number, thirty-eight years later.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

“Is it still celebrated?” Yes.

From a conversation between the Reverend Alonzo Hickman and Adam Sunraider, a race-baiting United States senator. As a boy, Sunraider was known as Bliss. Hickman raised him. The two are speaking of old times:

Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth, ed. John F. Callahan (New York: Vintage, 2000).

The Washington Post reported on the discovery — just yesterday — of the original Juneteenth order, dated June 19, 1865.

Related reading
All OCA Ralph Ellison posts (Pinboard)

Tommy’s tickets

Tommy the cop ran a sleep store. Customers would come in to sleep. They brought Tommy free tickets for all manner of events — concerts, games, movies. The store teemed with tickets. Said one customer, “I see where you get your tickets, Tommy.”

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Police, corruption, and death all lurk in this tiny dream. Elaine made the Tulsa connection. Tommy = Donny?]

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Three words from Charlotte Brontë

From Jane Eyre (1847), ing, holm, and beck :

How different had this scene looked when I viewed it laid out beneath the iron sky of winter, stiffened in frost, shrouded with snow! — when mists as chill as death wandered to the impulse of east winds along those purple peaks, and rolled down “ing” and holm till they blended with the frozen fog of the beck!
Ing is the most recent of these words. The Oxford English Dictionary has a first citation from 1483 and gives this definition:
a common name in the north of England, and in some other parts, for a meadow; esp. one by the side of a river and more or less swampy or subject to inundation.
The word derives from the Old Norse eng, meaning “meadow, meadow-land.”

Holm goes back to Beowulf, where it means “the sea, the wave.” But the meaning in Brontë’s sentence comes much later:
a piece of flat low-lying ground by a river or stream, submerged or surrounded in time of flood.
This sense of the word derives from Old Norse holmr, “islet in a bay, creek, lake, or river, meadow on the shore.” The earliest citation is undated but predates 1440. The dictionary adds that holm is still
in living use in the south of Scotland (howm) and north of England, and extending far south in place-names; “a flat pasture in Romney Marsh (Kent) is yet called the Holmes” (Way).
“Living use” in that sentence means in 1899, but holm does appear to still be used in place names. And there’s still a Holmes Way.

And now for beck:
a brook or stream: the ordinary name in those parts of England from Lincolnshire to Cumbria which were occupied by the Danes and Norwegians; hence, often used spec. in literature to connote a brook with stony bed, or rugged course, such as are those of the north country.
Beck dates to before 1400 and comes from the Old Norse bekk-r, “brook, rivulet.”

“Such as are those of the north country”: that’s beautiful, no?

A related post
A word from Charlotte Brontë: beck

A word from Charlotte Brontë

It’s Barmecide, from Jane Eyre (1847):

That night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the Barmecide supper of hot roast potatoes, or white bread and new milk, with which I was wont to amuse my inward cravings.
It’s a noun. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this defintion: “One who offers imaginary food or illusory benefits. Often attributive.” The etymology is the good part:
the patronymic of a family of princes ruling at Bagdad just before Haroun-al-Raschid, concerning one of whom the story is told in the Arabian Nights, that he put a succession of empty dishes before a beggar, pretending that they contained a sumptuous repast — a fiction which the beggar humorously accepted.
Pass the potatoes.

A related post
Three words from Charlotte Brontë: ing, holm, beck

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sarah Cooper tonight

The great Sarah Cooper is streaming a Q&A tonight at 8:00 Eastern. Access costs $10, with part of the proceeds going to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Here’s the latest bit of channeling. There are three takes. I like this first one best:

Goodbye to Uncle Ben

Like Aunt Jemima, he is stepping away.

I wrote earlier today in a comment that I can imagine a short story (not for me to write) with Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus (yes, that’s the name attached to the Cream of Wheat chef) all finally retired and talking among themselves: “I tried to tell ’em — for years I tried.” The Land O’Lakes “butter maiden” should also have a part in the conversation.

Mystery actor

Do you recognize him? Leave your answer in the comments. I’ll be mowing the grass for a while but will check back later and drop a hint if needed.


11:39 a.m.: It’s a big lawn. The answer is now in the comments.

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

Goodbye to Aunt Jemima

From NBC News:

The Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix will get a new name and image, Quaker Oats announced Wednesday, saying the company recognizes that “Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”
How did they ever figure it out?

One of the oddest things I can say about myself: I’m distantly related to another (non-Quaker) Aunt Jemima: Tess Gardella, an Italian-American singer who performed in blackface as “Aunt Jemima.” She originated the role of Queenie in Show Boat.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

College, anyone?

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that two-thirds of American colleges and universities have announced plans to resume on-campus classes with the Fall 2020 semester. In my little university town, landlords are advertising off-campus student rentals. Schedule a tour today! Or not.

I’ve wondered, often, what college will look like in the fall. My town has suffered and will suffer mightily without a student population. I have friends and colleagues who will want to be teaching in classrooms, doing the work of what I like to call real-presence education. But I cannot imagine college-as-usual, or anything close to as-usual, in the fall.

As I’ve kicked around the idea of writing about the next academic year, I’ve found two people who have already done so to my satisfaction. Stan Yoshinobu, a professor of mathematics at California Polytechnic State University, has a piece behind the Chronicle paywall, “The Case Against Reopening,” and an earlier version on his blog, with twenty-three points against reopening. Yoshinobu does the awkward and necessary work of asking about practical contingencies: Do we ban parties? What do we do when a student coughs or sneezes in class? Will students be permitted to go home on weekends? For Thanksgiving? And I’ll add: Who’s supposed to keep track? And to what purpose?

As Yoshinobu says, he doesn’t like “virtual college.” But he sees it as the only reasonable and ethical choice for the next academic year.

As does Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University. In The New York Times he offers a perspective shaped by decades of teaching and researching young people: “Expecting Students to Play It Safe if Colleges Reopen Is a Fantasy.” Steinberg begins by highlighting suggestions in a recent Times symposium on plans for college in the fall: masks, sanitizer, social distancing, and students placed in family-sized groups within dorms. (One contributor to that symposium imagines each small group taking classes together.) Steinberg’s blunt conclusion:

These plans are so unrealistically optimistic that they border on delusional and could lead to outbreaks of Covid-19 among students, faculty and staff.
Steinberg too looks forward to returning to teaching in a classroom. But not yet.

If I were still teaching, I’d want to insist on a virtual fall, and perhaps a virtual spring. I’d think of my virtual teaching as a difficult, memorable experiment. If I were a first-year student, I’d want to wait for my real-presence education and take a gap year if at all possible. If I were a sophomore, junior, or senior, I’d hope that my school would have the good sense not to bring everyone back to campus. There too I would think of a virtual semester or two as a difficult, memorable experiment. When we’re on the other side of this pandemic, there’ll be thousands of faculty and students, sick of screens, looking forward to the possibilities that a real-presence community of learning can once again offer.

My fear is that those who already want to make college a virtual experience for all but a small elite will take the pandemic as an occasion to further their scheming. But right now there’s already enough to worry about. Besides, when we’re on the other side of this pandemic, there’ll be thousands of faculty and students, sick of screens, looking forward to the possibilities that a real-presence community of learning can once again offer.

[The repetition is deliberate.]

Bloomsday 2020

From “Ithaca,” my favorite episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922). Here is Leopold Bloom, “potential poet”:

Other Bloomsday posts
2007 (The first page)
2008 (“Love’s Old Sweet Song”)
2009 (Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses)
2010 (Leopold Bloom, “water lover”)
2011 (“[T]he creature cocoa”)
2012 (Plumtree’s Potted Meat)
2013, 2013 (Bloom and fatherhood)
2014 (Bloom, Stephen, their respective ages)
2015 (Stephen and company, very drunk)
2016 (“I dont like books with a Molly in them”)
2017 (Bloom and Stephen, “like and unlike reactions”)
2018 (“One sole unique advertisement”)
2019 (“To knock or not to knock”)

[Bloomsday : “the 16th of June 1904. Also: the 16th of June of any year, on which celebrations take place, esp. in Ireland, to mark the anniversary of the events in Joyce’s Ulysses” (Oxford English Dictionary).]

Monday, June 15, 2020


Human rights should be a self-evident good in our world. But that’s not the case, so there is cause for celebration when rights are affirmed. As with the rights of LGBTQ people in today’s Supreme Court ruling.

[The New York Times says LGBT. CNN, NPR, and The Washington Post say LGBTQ. No acronyms appear in the the text of the decision and dissents. The acronyms LGB and LGBQT+ appear in Samuel Alito’s dissent in the titles of footnoted sources.]

“A bridge between two mysteries”

Fernando Pessoa, from “Self-Examination,” The Book of Disquiet, trans. from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith (New York: Penguin, 2003).

Bernardo Soares, the authorial identity to whom Pessoa attributes The Book of Disquiet, sometimes seems to speak for everyone, sometimes only for himself. Here, I’d say, he speaks for us all.

Senhor Soares has come to remind me of Henry Darger: like Darger, he is a secret maker, the creator of imaginary worlds known only to him. No one passing Soares on the street would have any idea, &c. Soares also reminds me of J. Alfred Prufrock: like Prufrock, he lives as an observer of life, removed, renunciatory, acutely aware of what he calls “the shy and ridiculous abnormality of my soul.”

I also think of Soares in the company of Joseph Joubert and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, writers whose work survives as pieces whose only order is the order of their composition. I think of Soares as especially close to Joubert: though Soares is far less given to aphorism, he too is a writer whose writing is always a preparation for writing, notes toward a project never to be realized. Here writing becomes a form of life: not the making of a great work but just what one does.

I once described Joubert as a writer who would be of interest to a reader who values “the fragmentary, the provisional, the unfinished.” So too Fernando Pessoa, in the person of Bernardo Soares.

This passage is the last I’m posting from The Book of Disquiet.

Related reading
All OCA Pessoa posts (Pinboard)

RZ, i.m.

I miss my friend Rob Zseleczky. We will toast to his memory tonight.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Say Their Names

[Kadir Nelson, Say Their Names. The New Yorker, June 22, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

What you really need to see: a The New Yorker online feature about this artwork, identifying the men, women, and children depicted therein.

In a parallel universe

“Sir, I’m guessing that you’ve had to much too drink, and if that’s the case, I’m glad that I found you asleep here and not on the road. Tell you what we can do, if you like: I can drive you home in my car. And if you’re willing to give me your keys, my partner can drive your car home for you, and we’ll make sure that you get there safely, because this is really no place to be sleeping, and I’m sure you’d agree with me about that. And in the future, please do not get behind the wheel if you’ve had too much to drink.” And so on.

If only.


When I wrote this post, I didn’t know that Rayshard Brooks had proposed to police that he lock up his car and walk to his sister’s house.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Using both hands

Donald Trump* is at West Point using both hands to drink water from a glass, one hand holding the glass, the other propping it up from the bottom. As a friend of mine would say, Not normal!

[I don’t mean to make light of disability. I do mean to call attention to yet another odd feature of Donald Trump*’s public presentation. We’ve also seen him use two hands when drinking from a water bottle. Something’s not right. Here’s a compilation of Trump* and water.]


I had the television on while I did the dishes. A commercial spoke of “Pushbuttonese.”

No, it didn’t. It spoke of “push-button ease.” But for a moment I thought of push-buttons and pictographs: ⏏︎. Listening to the television with only cursory attention has its rewards.

Related reading
All OCA misheard posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell, and it’s pretty easy by Sewell standards. But not too easy. Stacks of three eleven-letter answers give the puzzle a bracing start and finish. I started with an eleven-letter clue, 17-A, “Source for Vermeer's blues.” Blue paint — it’s gotta be, right?

Clue-and-answer pairs that I especially liked:

4-D. three letters, “Henry Louis Gates, circa 1971.” PHD? No, too young.

13-D, eight letters, “‘Outrageous!’” I imagine the answer as spoken by Nancy Ritz.

22-D, eight letters, “Built like the Eiffel Tower.” A lovely word that should see more use.

32-A, seven letters, “What Lysol lacks.” If you say so.

34-A, five letters, “Union capital.” Clever.

34-D, three letters, “Hip replacement?” I, like, dig.

36-D, eight letters, “Kerosene antecedent.” Makes me think of a certain work of literature.

39-A, four letters, “Half of New Delhi.” A smart way to clue a bit of familiar crosswordese. I saw it right away.

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

Friday, June 12, 2020

Trump* interviewed

Aaron Rupar has a Twitter thread collecting choice moments from Donald Trump*’s interview with Harris Faulkner (Fox News). Must be seen and heard to be believed.

Especially choice: Trump*’s comment about Abraham Lincoln. I didn’t realize at first that Trump* was joking about Lincoln’s assassination. At least I think he was joking about Lincoln’s assassination. I first thought he was joking about slavery.

Staying in one place

I know nothing about making models, but I’m struck by this (pre-pandemic) observation from Philip Reed, a professional model maker. It’s from a short film, Zen and the Art of Model Making, found at J.D. Lowe’s 30 Squares:

“I do not see that just having to stay in one place is a restriction on life. It’s more having to stay in one place in your head that’s a restriction on life.”
I’d say that when people you love are many miles away, having to stay in one place is a restriction. But the point I take from Reed’s observation: Feed Your Head.

A third Robert Johnson photograph

It appears on the cover of a book published this week, Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, by Annye C. Anderson with Preston Lauterbach (Hachette). Mrs. Anderson is Robert Johnson’s stepsister.

Vanity Fair has a brief feature on the book and the photograph. The magazine notes that Annye C. Anderson prefers to be called Mrs. Anderson.

Related posts
Johnson playing for an Italian wedding : A New York Times obituary for Johnson : On slowing down Johnson’s recordings

Soaking up lit

[“Chapter and Worse.” Zippy, June 12, 2020.]

Will Nicholson Baker read today’s Zippy ?

If the name Virgil Partch doesn’t click: he is better known as the cartoonist Vip, a quintessential mid-century modern cartoonist. No connection to Baker that I know of. I must have first seen Vip’s work in Professional Mixing Guide: The Accredited List Of Recognized And Accepted Standard Formulas For Mixed Drinks, a tiny pamphlet (4 11/16 × 2 3/4) published by Angostura-Wupperman, makers of Angostura bitters. My copy is a fifty-second printing, with a copyright date of 1961. I’ve had this pamphlet since childhood (really) — it came with a bottle of whiskey we bought for my paternal grandfather, but it stayed with me. I liked its tiny size. I would have had no idea what Professional Mixing Guide even meant. But Vip would have: many of his cartoons were alcohol-themed.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : From The Anthologist : Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Nicholson Baker on Maeve Brennan : Nicholson Baker reviews the Kindle : How to make an Old Fashioned (From the Guide)

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sonny Rollins on presidents

Sonny Rollins, talking with The New Yorker, on whether the tenor saxophonist Lester Young, known as Pres, would make a better president than the present occupant of the White House:

“Well, I don’t really know the present occupant personally, but I knew Lester Young personally, and I would go with Lester Young. His music speaks for itself, and he’s a human being whose personality, whose humanity, made his music what it was. A great musician, but also a great person.”
Related reading
All OCA Sonny Rollins posts (Pinboard) : Billie Holiday and Lester Young

Racism, the word, revised

From WGBH: Kennedy Mitchum, a recent college graduate, has prompted Merriam-Webster to begin revising its definition of racism.

Scott Robinson, “8 min. 46 sec.”

[Found via Music Clip of the Day. Thanks, Richard.]


Fernando Pessoa, from “Millimetres (the sensation of small things),” The Book of Disquiet, trans. from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith (New York: Penguin, 2003).

See also William Carlos Williams and Wallace Shawn on powders, pencils, mountains, and cigars.

Related reading
All OCA Pessoa posts (Pinboard)

[Five periods: the translator’s symbol for a “place where a sentence breaks off, space left for an unwritten sentence or paragraph, or blank space inside a sentence where the hiatus does not interrupt a phrasal unit.”]

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

A metaphor

From a Washington Post article about Republicans fearing doom in November:

There is no sign yet of a mass exodus from the runaway Trump train. If anything, most elected Republicans see themselves as prisoners onboard, calculating that jumping off would lead to almost certain defeat, according to interviews with more than a dozen party strategists, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.
Oh, those poor helpless passengers. How could they have known that that the driver was utterly unqualified to operate a train? And that there never were any brakes?

Related reading
All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)

The country and the city

Fernando Pessoa, text 459, The Book of Disquiet, trans. from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith (New York: Penguin, 2003).

Related reading
All OCA Pessoa posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


From a New York Times article about the life of George Floyd:

After graduating from high school, Mr. Floyd left Texas on a basketball scholarship to South Florida Community College (now South Florida State College).

“I was looking for a power forward and he fit the bill. He was athletic and I liked the way he handled the ball,” said George Walker, who recruited Mr. Floyd. “He was a starter and scored 12 to 14 points and seven to eight rebounds.”

Mr. Floyd transferred two years later, in 1995, to Texas A&M University’s Kingsville campus, but he did not stay long. He returned home to Houston — and to the Third Ward — without a degree.
I know nothing of George Floyd’s experiences in secondary and higher education. But I know something about the ways in which educational institutions can exploit student-athletes. And I know something about the ways in which educational institutions can leave students, athletes and non-athletes, woefully underprepared for future learning. So I think it’s reasonable to wonder: did high school, where George Floyd excelled in both basketball and football, prepare him well for college? Did community college prepare him well for a four-year school? Did that four-year school offer him — a first-generation student, raised in poverty — the support he might have needed to succeed?

This comment in the Times article, from Stephen Jackson, a retired NBA player and friend of Floyd’s, struck me:
“I tell people all the time, the only difference between me and George Floyd, the only difference between me and my twin, the only difference between me and Georgie, is the fact that I had more opportunities.”

October 8: A Washington Post article about how systemic racism shaped George Floyd’s life describes his time in college:
By the time Floyd left high school in 1993, he wasn’t academically prepared to go to college. But his athletic skills earned him a place at a two-year program in South Florida before he transferred closer to home — to Texas A&M University-Kingsville, a small, mostly Latino school known as a pipeline to the NFL.

“Big Floyd was always talking about going to the league,” said his close friend Demetrius Lott, who also was on the football team and lived in the same apartment complex. “It was what we all wanted.”

The Black students stuck together and supported one another. The red tile-roofed Spanish Mission architecture of the campus, with its rustling palm trees lining quiet streets, was a world away from Third Ward projects. Adjusting to college life wasn’t always easy for him, his friends said, but it was a happy, triumphant time because few from his neighborhood had made it that far. . . .

Floyd, a tight end, went to practice every day, but he wasn’t making the grades or completing the credits that would have allowed him to get on the field. Many of Floyd’s friends also fell short, unable to finish college or make it to the pros.

Other students, particularly White ones, had “a better foundation, a better support system,” said college roommate Marcus Williams. “Me and Floyd didn’t have that.”
There are more Washington Post articles to come. The next one is to be all about education.


The second article in the Post series clears up the question of whether Floyd was an athlete at Texas Kingsville: he was taking developmental (remedial) classes that did not count toward eligibility. Thus he could practice with the football team but not play.