Monday, August 31, 2020

AJ on ED

Alice James, in a diary entry dated January 6, 1892:

It is reassuring to hear the English pronouncement that Emily Dickinson is fifth-rate — they have such a capacity for missing quality; the robust evades them equally with the subtle. Her being sicklied o’er with T.W. Higginson makes one quake lest there be a latent flaw which escapes one’s vision.
Long before I kept a blog, I kept a commonplace book, writing out passages of all sorts by hand. I found these sentences quoted in a letter from Lorine Niedecker to fellow poet Louis Zukofsky, February 14, 1952. I just checked, and the quotation is accurate.

I mean no disrespect to “the English.” It’s the idea of disapproval as a mark of high quality that amuses me.

Related reading
All OCA Dickinson posts (Pinboard)

[For Thomas Wentworth Higginson, see here.]

Dr. Pepper × 20

A Dr. Pepper jingle, as interpreted by Eubie Blake, Doc Watson, Muddy Waters, Grandpa Jones, Maybelle Carter, the Swan Silvertones, Bill Monroe, the Four Freshmen, Bo Diddley, Melissa Manchester, Bobby Short, Ike and Tina Turner, the Mills Brothers, Teresa Brewer, B.B. King, Lynn Anderson, Chuck Berry, Hank Snow, Dana Valery, and Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

None of this is normal

From The New York Times:

In a concentrated predawn burst, the president posted or reposted 89 messages between 5:49 a.m. and 8:05 a.m. on top of 18 the night before, many of them inflammatory comments or assertions about violent clashes in Portland, Ore., where a man wearing the hat of a far-right, pro-Trump group was shot and killed Saturday after a large group of Mr. Trump’s supporters traveled through the streets.

In the weekend blast of Twitter messages, Mr. Trump also embraced a call to imprison Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, threatened to send federal forces against demonstrators outside the White House, attacked CNN and NPR, embraced a supporter charged with murder, mocked his challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and repeatedly assailed the mayor of Portland, even posting the mayor’s office telephone number so that supporters could call demanding his resignation.
There’s much more, including this bit:
Mr. Trump likewise reposted messages asserting that the real death toll from the coronavirus is only around 9,000 — not 182,000 — because the others who died also had other health issues and most were of an advanced age.
The latest tweet, forty-odd minutes ago: “The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!”

He’s armed, dangerous, at least semi-mobile, and running out of hyphens. Vote, early, as if your life and the life of our democracy depend on it.

[I’ve omitted the links in the Times article, which go to tweets by others, not Trump*’s retweets. I just don’t want that junk here.]

Cheese barn or cheesebarn

[Zits, August 30, 2020. Click for a larger cheese barn.]

“Nails R Us.” “Carpet Emporium.” In today’s Zits, Jeremy thinks of his father Walt as “the closed captioning of road trips.”

I think of “Grandpa’s Cheesebarn” as a sign that we see when we drive to the East Coast or back. Grandpa has three locations; the original, the one whose sign we pass, is in Ashland, Ohio, the (self-proclaimed) “world headquarters of nice people.” Elaine and I have stopped there just once, when we moved from Boston to Illinois. The water in the restaurant where we had a quick meal smelled powerfully of sulfur. We asked the server if there was a problem with the water. She didn’t understand what she meant. Even if she had, there was nothing she could have done to fix the water.

But there is something I can do to fix today’s Zits. Because Grandpa spells cheesebarn as one word:

[Click for a larger cheesebarn.]

At least it’s not camel-case. Not yet anyway.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Play Music on the Porch Day

[Better late than never.]

It’s (still) Play Music on the Porch Day.

Elaine and I played this morning, viola and guitar, for twenty or thirty people, using the available shade in our front yard. Everyone was masked and keeping proper distance. Our set list:

On a Little Street in Singapore : I Cover the Waterfront : Georgia on My Mind : Sweet Georgia Brown : Lullaby of the Leaves : Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man : It Had to Be You : Nice Work If You Can Get It : The Song Is You : Nuages : Alfalfa Medley: I’m in the Mood for Love /I’m Thru with Love : Love Is Here to Stay : Pennies from Heaven : In a Mizz : Boulevard of Broken Dreams : Walk Away Renee : Orange Crate Art : Speak Low : Molambo : When Day Is Done

And now, in the words of Ringo Starr, “I got blisters on my fingers!” Really. I’ve written most of this post with dictation.

We are already planning to do it again, and we’re not waiting until next August. On our list: Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Willard Robison, Fats Waller, and “Love’s Old Sweet Song.” And maybe no blisters.

[Last live music before today: as a listener, March 8; as a player, March 13.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell. A thirty-two-minute workout, targeting all major muscle groups.

Many clue-and-answer pairs to admire here:

1-A, ten letters, “Creators of story lines.” N-A-R-R-A-T-O-R-? Oops, no.

8-D, seven letters, “Green-haired Lincoln or Washington.” Somehow I flashed on our old Walgreens, which like every Walgreens, has no apostrophe in its name. I just checked.

11-D, six letters, “Many Oktoberfest deliveries.” Exceedingly misleading.

15-A, ten letters, “Approaches a runway too fast.” This post, which will reveal the answer, explains how I happen to know the answer.

23-D, eleven letters, “Welles’ War of the Worlds landing site.” I had it confused with a Thornton Wilder town, but ETs, to my knowledge, never stopped there. Or did they?

27-A, four letters, “Something often penciled in.” No, Michael, it can’t be APPT, because there’s nothing in the clue to signal an abbreviated answer.

30-D, six letters, “Embroidery sample.” What?

43-A, six letters, “Copy righting.” Clever.

59-D, three letters, “Vowelless Scrabble play.” The answer, fortunately, is not one of those ridiculous Scrabble words like CWM.

61-A, ten letters, “Ferocious problem-solvers.” I’m from academia, so the idea of people ferociously solving problems is pretty foreign to me. SUBCOMMITTEE? Hah.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk

“I didn't want to become a chalk dealer, but I did like the idea that I could be the ’first stick is free’ chalk dealer on the block in my department”: from CNN, the story of Hagoromo Fulltouch Chalk, a favorite of mathematicians.

I’d like to try it — just one stick. One of the things I don’t miss about teaching: the cracked fingertips made worse by chalk dust in the whorls. Perhaps Hagoromo would be an improvement.

[Found via Luke Leighfield’s newsletter Ten Things. I’ve repunctuated the sentence from CNN to make it more readable.]


November 23, 2020: The New York Times visited the factory.

Charlie Parker centennial

The alto saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker was born on August 29, 1920. Columbia University’s WKCR is playing his recordings around the clock, today through September 2.

I can claim to have known one musician who played with (or behind) Parker: the composer and cellist Seymour Barab, who was a member of the orchestra for Bird with Strings at New York’s Birdland. Seymour said that from set to set, night after night, every Parker solo on a given tune was a new creation.

If I had to choose just one Parker recording to listen to again and again, it’d be this one: “Embraceable You” (George and Ira Gershwin), with Miles Davis, trumpet; Duke Jordan, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; and Max Roach, drums. Recorded October 28, 1947. I’ve always thought of this recording as signifying autumn and overcoats, so I’m disappointed to learn that the temperature in New York City that day was up in the 70s, a fact I hope to forget.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

“This country does not love us back”

“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back”: Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

Listen to his complete statement.


A pause in Lena Grove’s travels:

And the moment of decision:

William Faulkner, Light in August (1932).

When I taught Light in August for the last time, I brought sardines and crackers for the class. Everyone loved them. No, I cannot tell a lie.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

[For some reason, or no reason, sardine posts tend to appear on Thursdays.]

“Anthony! Anthony!”

Anthony Martingnetti, the “Anthony! Anthony!” of a Prince spaghetti commercial, has died at the age of sixty-three. The New York Times has an obituary, commercial included.

I remember “Anthony! Anthony!” not so much from the commercial as from Bob and Ray’s radio repurposing of it. The mother’s shout, racing feet, and a door slamming. After which Bob or Ray would say something like “There goes that kid again.” A sweet form of pop-culture fame.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

“It clarifies the palate”

It’s 3:45 a.m. The scene is a beach club. Lew Archer, private detective, had some business here with the club’s owner, who’s passed out drunk in his office. What to do? There’s a light in the lifeguard’s room. The lifeguard is Joseph Tobias, twenty-five, Black, a Korean War vet and, now, an English major working his way through school. He’s been studying, reading Elements of Sociology as a party winds down, and now he’s offered to make Archer a cup of coffee. Archer is dead tired. Tobias says that the only time he ever felt tired was in Korea. Archer narrates:

And later:

Ross Macdonald, The Barbarous Coast (1956).

“It clarifies the palate”: I can’t tell you a thing about the plot of The Barbarous Coast, but that line has stuck in my head since I read the novel in the late 1970s.

Purple prose

From TYWKIWDBI, a college exam, in beautiful ditto purple. Readers of a certain age will immediately flash back to classroom “handouts,” still warm and slightly damp in the early morning, an exotic aroma rising from the paper.

I have any number of purple syllabi and handouts in my notebooks from college, usually typed, sometimes handwritten, sometimes typed with handwritten corrections added. (It was a different time.) In my earliest teaching days, I got to run a spirit duplicator and make purple pages all by myself. Later, still as a grad student, I had a free pass to use a department Xerox machine to copy articles and chunks of books. (Why not?) As a professor, I found such stuff off limits: the department machines were for staff and student workers only.

I have spent too much time this morning trying to figure out how a page printed with a dot-matrix printer (an Apple ImageWriter II) turned into the purple handout in this post. Did I run a ditto master through the printer? How could it have made an impression? And if that’s not what I did, what did “they” — the people with access to the machines — do to create a purple page?

Thanks to Ian Bagger for pointing me to the exam and an excellent (new to me) blog.

A related post
A 1940 advertisement for the A.B. Dick Mimeograph duplicator

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


Elaine and I just made the mistake of turning on the television. And there she was. Within seconds, we said “North Korea.”



Screenshot, the next morning:

[Click for a larger, still more autocratic view.]

Something I guess I wrote

Ron Padgett has a small book titled Poems I Guess I Wrote (2001), with poems that he does not remember writing. I just found these lines, which I guess I wrote, in a text file of odds and ends:

When? Why? I have no idea. Just fun with words.

[The sources: Ludwig Wittgestein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 7: “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.” And William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”: “unless / Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing / For every tatter in its mortal dress.”]


I found these sentences scrawled on a page in an old pocket notebook:

I’m not afraid of death. It just don’t suit me to be lookin’ at it.
I’m sure I was writing down something I had read or heard. (The scrawl makes me think heard.) But what? The Internets tell me nothing. Can anyone identify the source?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, August 24, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

Hi and Lois appears to be manufactured with no awareness of current events. White privilege: Lois, you’re soaking in it.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

The Maltese mailbox

[Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and a mailbox. Union Bus Station, San Francisco. The Maltese Falcon (dir. John HUston, 1941. Click for a larger view.]

Spade has to borrow a pencil from the clerk to address the envelope. What kind of detective doesn’t carry a writing instrument? One as confident as Sam Spade. He knows that he can always borrow a pen or pencil from a friendly clerk. And he knows that when he needs to keep a claim check safe, he can trust the United States Postal Service.

Diane Schirf has written about lobby boxes and mail chutes. No chute here, but it’s an impressive mailbox.


Related reading
All OCA mail posts (Pinboard)

[I like the idea of a city in which you can address mail to “City.”]

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sociopathy unmasked

Research has shown:

People who are unconcerned with adhering to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 tend to display higher levels of traits associated with antisocial personality disorder, also known as sociopathy.
I believe it.

I asked the person giving out masks outside our local multinational retail corporation if people were generally cooperative. Yes, she said, but some people take a mask and throw it in the wastebasket at the store entrance. Or they ask if they can wear the mask as a hat.

The height of asshattery, though falling short perhaps of sociopathy: the mask around the chin. That’s the mark of a true lover of personal liberty, eh?

The height of delusion: the no-mask-at-all people with religious sloganeering on their vestments: Let Your Faith Be Bigger Than Your Fear. (As seen yesterday.) I know from reliable sources about local people who say “It’s in God’s hands.” Okay. But deities are busy. Why not help out yours by wearing a fucking mask?

The good news is that no-masks are more and more obvious outliers. I’m pretty sure that another customer and I managed to shame a no-mask into leaving a line last week. (No details here.) I stepped away, saying “I want to keep my distance,” and a second masked customer wouldn’t even step forward. No-mask ended up walking out.

My little corner of Illinois is a coronavirus hotspot, thanks to freedom-loving asshats of all shapes and sizes. They have a sociopath as their sage and leader — or at least many of them do. My anger, I believe, is just.

A related post
Chris Miller, ugh

[“Freedom-loving”: as used here, freedom means “freedom from responsibility.”]

Person, woman, man, books, TV

Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald Trump*’s older sister, was secretly recorded by her niece Mary Trump:

Maryanne said on another occasion that her brother kept asking about Fox News. One day, Barry said, the president called her and said, “Did you watch Fox News?”

“No,” Barry said she told the president.

“Why not?” he said.

“I don’t watch much television at all,” Barry said she responded.

“What do you do?” the president asked.

“I read,” Barry replied.

“What do you read?” the president said.

“Books,” Barry said.

The president was incredulous. “You don’t watch Fox?”

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday’s Stumper today

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Stan Newman, the puzzle editor, was divine, simply divine, a “Saturn-day Stumper” with clues about the Roman deity and his fambly.

Some clue-and-answer combo plates I especially liked:

1-A, four letters, “Red ___.” Do they still exist?

31-D, four letters, “Skyscraper supplier.” I like the sound of the clue.

41-A, seven letters, “Inapt outdoor sculptures.” Yes, sometimes they do need removed. (Need + past participle: a regionalism I like.)

57-D, three letters, “Heady real estate investment.” This kinda clue, I swear. (Trails off into muttering.)

59-A, six letters, “Open to the public.” I like the misdirection.

63-A, three letters, “Beer barrel pokers of a century ago.” Groan.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Sunday’s Saturday Stumper

When moving one’s mom to one’s house, in advance of said mom’s move to an assisted-living apartment, one must postpone the Newsday Saturday Stumper and all other frolics. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Domestic comedy

My daughter Rachel:

“There’s no such thing as a free tote.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Used with permission.]

A corner in Marty

[Click for a larger view.]

I’ve long wanted to track down this corner hardware store. Why? Because it’s there, in the Bronx, in Marty (dir. Delbert Mann, 1955). Marty and Clara (Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair) stand in front of Babbin’s as Marty’s pal Ralph (Frank Sutton) calls out from a car: “Hey Marty!”

Babbin’s Hardware & Supply stood at 3530–3536 White Plains Road, at the intersection with E. 211th Street. The business closed in 2001. I was surprised to find a reference to it in a book about the Beach Boys:

We bounded down a flight of stairs and headed up White Plains Road, under the shadow of the Third Avenue El, an elevated subway, in search of this mysterious record. We walked past Babbin[’]s Hardware, Regina’s Pizzeria, Pappantonio’s Laundromat, and the A&P.

James B. Murphy, Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961–1963 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015).
The mysterious record? “Good Vibrations.”

In August 2018 (Google Maps’ most recent shot), 3530–3534 are occupied by Metro PCS, a tax-preparation service moonlighting as a clothing store (?), and Kennedy Fried Chicken. A Caribbean bakery and grill take up 3536-3538. What kills me (as Holden Caulfield might say) is that you can still see those same little squares to the sides of the second-floor windows.

And now to discover that this corner is just a couple of miles from Gaelic Park, where I went to my first concert — Pete Seeger and company.

[Click for a larger view.]

Related reading
All OCA Bronx posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Hope, strength of

“Hope is more powerful than fear”: Joe Biden, speaking tonight. May it be so.

Catastrophe, disinformation,
and true stories

These sentences seem applicable to our time:

While these were the unmistakable signs of catastrophe engulfing the whole country, it was not always easy to get a more detailed picture of the manner and extent of the destruction. The need to know was at odds with a desire to close down the senses. On the one hand, large quantities of disinformation were circulating; on the other, there were true stories that exceeded anyone’s capacity to grasp them.
W.G. Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction. Trans. from the German by Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library, 2004).

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

Chris Miller, ugh

Chris Miller is my — ahem — representative in the Illinois House (R-110). Some representative. This Facebook post (publicized by a young man we’ve known since elementary school days, and who was aghast — thanks, Nick) has not, as they say, aged well. Our little corner of Illinois is showing an alarming rise in coronavirus cases. And the pandemic has always been real.

I don’t know when Miller wrote that post. I don’t know if he’s removed it. But I know one thing (as Miller is fond of saying): the man who wrote that post is a fool.

Miller’s wife Mary is running to represent our gerrymandered corner of Illinois in Congress. Trust that Elaine and I and like-minded people are doing what we can to support her opponent, Erika Weaver.

A related post
Practicing (Another Miller story)

Philoctetes and Heracles,
yesterday and today

I watched a Theater of War event for Zoom yesterday: readings from Sophocles’s Philoctetes and Women of Trachis by Jesse Eisenberg, Frankie Faison, Frances McDormand, and David Zayas, and commentary from frontline medical providers at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx. Faison and McDormand were especially powerful readers as Philoctetes and Heracles, each of whom suffers unbearable, unallayed pain. Philoctetes’s physical agony, from a snake bite, is compounded by nine years of isolation after he is marooned by his fellow Greeks on their voyage to Troy. His cries of pain and the foul odor from his wound prompted Odysseus to suggest abandoning him. Heracles’s agony results from a centaur’s trick: what Heracles’s wife Deininara believes is a love potion is in truth a centaur’s fatal poison, which sucks the air from Heracles’s lungs and consumes his body. What Philoctetes and Heracles want in their suffering: not to be alone. “Stay with me,” Philoctetes pleads to Achilles’s son Neoptolemus. “You must stay by my side,” says Heracles to his son Hyllus. An event that lies beyond Sophocles’s Women of Trachis: it’s Philoctetes, earlier in his life, who lights the pyre that brings his friend’s suffering to an end.

The sound from Lincoln Medical Center as doctors and nurses spoke was often distorted. But one point that rang out clearly: the immensity of the suffering that the coronavirus may bring — suffering in isolation, suffering for which there’s no cure, suffering that might be difficult for someone on the outside of things to understand. I thought of the hospital photograph of Mark Anthony Urquiza shown on television on Monday night as Kristin Urquiza talked about her father’s life and death. And I heard the words “Stay with me” in a new way.

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard) : Ajax and EMTs : Antigone in Ferguson

[I’ve quoted from Bryan Doerries’s translations of the plays. Theater of War is his creation.]

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Finding a brother

“Twelve years ago, when I began my search for a vice president, I didn’t know I’d end up finding a brother”: Barack Obama, speaking tonight to the Democratic National Convention.


“This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes to win. So we have to get busy building it up — by pouring all our effort into these seventy-six days, and by voting like never before — for Joe and Kamala, and candidates up and down the ticket, so that we leave no doubt about what this country we love stands for — today and for all our days to come.”

Ernie, Nancy, and ExactPic

The graphic designer Khoi Vinh has created ExactPic, a free tool made of shortcuts for editing images in iOS and iPadOS. Resize, crop, frame, and save. Amazing: I can finally tinker with images on my iPhone as I do on my Mac. Why, just this morning I took a screenshot of a Zippy panel, cropped it (in Photos), and then used ExactPic to resize it and add a border. Here, look:

[“Three Rocks Around the Clock.” Zippy, August 19, 2020.]

Two tips: You need to first install at least one “trusted” (Apple-approved) shortcut to be able to download ExactPic. And remember to save whatever image you’ve worked on.

Thanks to Khoi Vinh, whose generosity will make digital life better for many iOS and iPadOS users.

Calamari on the beach

[Representative Joseph McNamara and chef John Bordieri, from, yes, Rhode Island. Click for a larger view.]

Said Representative McNamara,

“Our state appetizer calamari is available in all fifty states. The calamari comeback state of Rhode Island casts one vote for Bernie Sanders and thirty-four votes for the next president, Joe Biden.”
I grabbed my phone and took a picture to send to the kiddos. I waited until this morning to get a better shot from C-SPAN.

Many people found Rhode Island’s presentation delightful. But mileage varies. I found this bit deeply, unintentionally weird, in that low-budget-TV-commercial way.

[Do you remember the This American Life look into “artificial calamari”?]

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


From The Washington Post:

The U.S. Postal Service will halt its controversial cost-cutting initiatives until after the election — canceling service reductions, reinstating overtime hours and ceasing the removal of mail-sorting machines and public collection boxes, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced in a statement Tuesday.

Recently updated

A post about the post Now with the names and e-mail addresses of the members of the USPS Board of Governors.

“Be a hummingbird”

[Wangari Maathai, speaking to Botanic Gardens Conservation International, February 2007.]

I heard an excerpt from this storytelling in a an episode of the BBC podcast Great Lives devoted to Wangari Maathai, environmental activist, political activist, and winner of the Novel Peace Prize.

“Be a hummingbird”: that’s just what I needed to hear in these times. And: “I’m doing the best I can.” So must we all.

“It is what it is”

Michelle Obama, speaking last night, offering “the cold, hard truth”:

“Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.”
A nice repurposing of Trump*’s heartless remark about coronavirus deaths: “They are dying. That's true. And you — it is what it is.”

Colder and harder still, Kristin Urquiza’s comments on the death of her father, who contracted the coronavirus after going to a karaoke bar:
“My dad was a healthy sixty-five-year-old. His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.”
Trump* = death. We must vote as if our lives depend on it.

Theater of War, tomorrow

A Theater of War event for frontline medical providers:

This event will use Sophocles’s Philoctetes and Women of Trachis to create a vocabulary for discussing themes such as personal risk, death/dying, grief, deviation from standards of care, abandonment, helplessness, and complex ethical decisions, the project aims to foster connection, community, moral resilience, and positive action. The project aims to foster connection, community, moral resilience, and positive action.
It’s a Zoom event, free, open to the public, scheduled for this Wednesday, August 19, 12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. EDT. Reading from the plays: Jesse Eisenberg, Frankie Faison, Frances McDormand, and David Zayas. Register here.

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard)

Monday, August 17, 2020

A post about the post

I see from my stats that the 2017 post “The Letter,” revised, is getting a good number of visits. The post has the text of “The Letter,” a poem by Charles William Eliot, revised by Woodrow Wilson, and revised once again by Eliza D. Keith, teacher and suffragist. The poem celebrates letter writing, and the Wilson version is inscribed on the façade of the Old City Post Office, now the National Postal Museum, in Washington, D.C.

Have you called or written to the six members of the USPS’s Board of Governors? Their numbers and addresses are easy to find.



August 18: To make it easier, here are names and e-mail addresses:

Robert M. Duncan, chair:

John M. Barger:

Ron A. Bloom:

Roman Martinez IV:

Donald L. Moak:

William D. Zollars:

I put six letters in a still-extant mailbox yesterday, but I added six e-mails today.

Roger Angell, closing in

A celebration for the writer Roger Angell, who’s nearing his hundredth birthday.

Angell’s essay “This Old Man” is one of the best things I’ve ever read.

Related reading
A handful of OCA Roger Angell posts

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Michael Rosen, on the mend

The BBC Radio 4 podcast Word of Mouth comes and goes, with weeks of episodes followed by lulls. But when the show returned after its most recent lull with guest hosts filling in for Michael Rosen, I thought that something must be up. It turns out that Rosen had a dreadful encounter with COVID-19. He’s now on the mend, and he’s written another book for children. All best wishes to Michael Rosen for his continued recovery.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Today’s Saturday Stumper

I think I get at least partial credit for doing today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Andrew Bell Lewis. It started so well, with 4-D, five letters, “Name on the first side-by-side fridge.” Hail, appliance manufacturer familiar to all crossword solvers! And then 5-D, three letters, “Napa nickname” and 1-A, eight letters, “Twisty underground passageway.” Followed by 6-D, four letters, “Tiramisu treat just for 2020.” Hail, treat familiar to all crossword solvers! Though the idea of a treat made just for this hellish year seems pretty cruel right now. And 7-D, seven letters, “Spheroid sweet.” Hail, more quietly, to a more obscure treat, one I enjoyed greatly in my sugar-rich childhood.

Later in the puzzle: 35-D, eight letters, “Single-serving desserts” and 59-A, nine letters, “Yuletide fruitcake.” This puzzle will be receiving a visit from the ADA.

The clue that had me stumped: 43-D, six letters, “Misspend one's time.” I was so baffled that I never saw the obvious answer for 43-A, three letters, “Fostered.” At least not until I began typing through the alphabet to figure out what fit. A little like answering a multiple-choice question by circling and erasing each answer until a bell rings and you get some sort of treat. Of which there are many in this puzzle.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 14, 2020

A classroom?

[Click for a larger view.]

Here is one example of one university’s idea of a socially distanced classroom. No desks. Lousy sightlines. Notice that the chairs go all the way to the far corner.

I am no fan of online classes, as many OCA readers already know. But right now they’re the only choice to protect the well-being of faculty and students. It’s online teaching and learning that should be the experiment this fall, not an in-person semester that will almost certainly end badly.

Related posts
Choose your own nightmare : College, anyone? : Reluctant professors : Something is rotten in Iowa : Students, stay home : What if

“Nothing stops the mail.”

[Click for a larger view.]

When I saw our postal carrier across the street yesterday, I called out, “Thank you, USPS.” He understood what I meant.

Elaine found this image, uncredited. I want to believe what it says. See also this mailbox.

Eugene Levy, honored

In these terrible times, I liked seeing this video with fellow actors paying tribute to Eugene Levy, recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Newport Beach Film Festival.

And so I went down a Eugene Levy rabbithole. More specifically, an SCTV rabbithole. For instance. For instance. For instance. And for instance. Okay, I’ll stop.

Nancy puzzle

Today’s Nancy, which takes shape as a jigsaw puzzle, is especially clever. Olivia Jaimes continues to breathe new life into the Nancy world.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The new Blogger interface again

Google is now posting what it calls “weekly updates” on the development of the new Blogger interface. Thus far there has been one update, for “the week of August 1.” The weeks appear to begin on Saturday at Google, and they are very long weeks.

Important for Blogger users: comments posted to the Blogger Help Community (sic) do not reach Google. The way to make a comment that someone at Google will read is to leave feedback, via the question mark that appears top right in the new Blogger interface. You type in the box that pops up — a box that’s already filled with text about leaving feedback. Delete that text and type away.

I just left some feedback about the prolix code that now surrounds every image in the new interface’s HTML window, which makes changing the height and width of images tedious. And I object to Google’s assumption that a user will want to add a caption to every image.

W.G. Sebald would not be happy with the new Blogger.

Related posts
The legacy Blogger interface : Is the new Blogger a New Coke? : The disappearing Blogger Preview

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Recognize him? Think you do? Leave your best guess in the comments.


This one must be tough. Two hints: The mystery actor is best known for a television role. He’s making his second mystery appearance in these pages.


I guess this was a tough one. I’ve revealed the answer in the comments.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

She’s all that

Radical socialist, or tool of Wall Street? For Donald Trump*’s supporters, Kamala Harris is both.

In truth though, Senator Harris is an excellent choice for vice president. She is much better known than her Senate colleague Tammy Duckworth. Her tough, persistent questioning of William Barr and Brett Kavanaugh is well within recent memory, offering a powerful demonstration of what it means to speak truth to power — even if the speaking is a matter of asking questions. And she will (almost certainly) make a great nominee for president in 2024. I especially like the note of reconciliation in her presence on the ticket: she criticized Biden sharply at the first Democratic debate; Biden asked her to run with him; she said yes. As the song says, Let’s work together.

Related reading
“Harris’s Approval Rating Soars After Trump Reminds Nation How ‘Nasty’ She Was to Kavanaugh” (The New Yorker)

Chicken and cheese

A recipe for sardine pizza prompted Fresca to wonder in a comment about dishes inspired by books and movies.

I have no dish, but I now remember a childhood habit born of reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. From Jonathan Harker’s Journal:

The Count himself came forward and took off the cover of a dish, and I fell to at once on an excellent roast chicken. This, with some cheese and salad and a bottle of old Tokay, of which I had two glasses, was my supper.
As a boy, with Dracula as my inspiration, I would add a slice of American cheese to my plate whenever we had chicken for dinner. Cheese, right?

Cousin Brucie returns

Cousin Brucie returns to WABC-AM, as in “Seventy-seven, WABC!”

This man was on the radio when I was barely sentient. As they say these days, Wut ?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

“In 1917 they say, right?”

Donald Trump*, yesterday:

“In 1917 they say, right? The great, the great pandemic certainly was a terrible thing, where they lost anywhere from fifty to a hundred million people. Probably ended the Second World War, all the soldiers were sick.”
What I’d like to hear a reporter say today:
“Mr. President, there have been questions raised about your grasp of history. The year associated with the influenza epidemic of the last century is not, despite what you have repeatedly said, 1917. It’s 1918. And there is no consensus among historians that the epidemic had anything to do with the end of the Second World War. Just to set the record straight on your command of history: could you tell us when the Second World War took place, who was involved, and what its consequences were for the twentieth century?”
Notice that my imaginary question is something of a trap, since it’s about the war Trump* spoke of. I can imagine a (non-)answer:
“Listen, everyone knows about the Second World War. It was bloody and vicious — almost as vicious as you people are, and nothing like it should ever be allowed to happen again. Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much.”
He lumbers off the podium. And scene.

“We do language”

Toni Morrison:

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.
From “The Nobel Lecture in Literature.” 1993. In The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

Related reading
All OCA Toni Morrison posts (Pinboard)


You can find Lora here. Follow the download link, chose Code, then download the ZIP file. The webpage must be outdated, as there are indeed six styles, not four.

[Found via]

The legacy Blogger interface

My hope that the new Blogger interface was proving to be a New Coke is evaporating. I found Orange Crate Art switched over this morning. On my phone in Mobile View (iOS, Safari), I saw no way to switch back. On my Mac, the option to revert to the (so-called) legacy interface is still available. But the promise that “the legacy interface will still be optionally available” is now gone.

Good grief: does one just toss away a legacy? No. A legacy should get preferential treatment and be admitted to a top school despite a mediocre or less than mediocre academic record. Google, please treat the legacy Blogger interface accordingly and give it every unmerited advantage available.


9:00 a.m.: The message just now on a Blogger page I created to try out the new interface: “In July, the new Blogger interface will become the default for all users. The legacy interface will still be optionally available.”

Monday, August 10, 2020

Twelve movies

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

The Fat Man (dir. William Castle, 1951). A one-off film with J. Scott Smart reprising his radio serial role as Brad Runyon, bon vivant, gourmet, and detective. The character is said to have been inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, but Runyon seems to me more the Nero Wolfe type. He dines, dances (very well), and investigates the murder of a dentist, all the while looking like John Candy with a fake moustache. A wonderful B-movie with a zillion flashbacks, along with Rock Hudson, Emmett Kelly, and Julie London. ★★★★


Trapped (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1949). A semi-documentary story of Treasury agents and counterfeiters? I’m sold. Lloyd Bridges is the nominal star, but the movie’s more compelling presences are John Hoyt as a louche nightclub denizen and the ill-fated Barbara Paxton as a cigarette girl. Three great touches: chewing gum, an apartment where Latin music plays non-stop, and a chase through a Los Angeles streetcar depot. ★★★★


Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (dir. Stuart Heisler, 1947). Susan Hayward stars as Angelica Conway, a nightclub singer who career disappears when her songwriting husband Ken (Lee Bowman) becomes a star himself. Angelica’s descent into alcoholism is fueled by loneliness and suspicions about Ken and his catty assistant Martha (Marsha Hunt). Some great scenes: Angelica and Martha sparring at a party, Angelica and Robert Shayne in a bar; Angelica preparing a meal for her daughter. Bowman is the weak link, but Hayward gives a great (Lupino-esque, I’d say) performance in a forward-looking film that treats alcoholism as a disease. ★★★★


Once You Kiss a Stranger. . . (dir. Robert Sparr, 1969). A reimagining of Strangers on a Train, with Paul Burke (beloved in our household from the television series Naked City) as a pro golfer and Carol Lynley as the Bruno Anthony of the piece. Burke is fine as a man in over his head, but the movie is a tour de force for Lynley, by turns seductive, vicious, witty, but always insane. Also featuring a portable TV, an eight-track tape player, an enormous VCR, flocked wallpaper, and a car chase in the Valley (the Valley, always recognizable). With Whit Bissell as a brave psychiatrist and Philip Carey (who played the gay football player on All in the Family) as an egomaniacal golfer. ★★★★


Sex and the Single Girl (dir. Richard Quine, 1964). This movie and the previous one remind me how rarely I watch anything from this decade. (Elaine says our best year for movies is 1949 — or is it 1947?) Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis are delightful in this comedy of assumed and mistaken identities; Lauren Bacall and Henry Fonda, less so; Fran Jeffries and Mel Ferrer, much less so; the car chase, much, much less so. The sexual politics (get her drunk) are intolerable; the coyness — a man who has lost his, uhh, “confidence”; a woman who was “active” before marriage, that is, employed — insufferable. ★★


Rancho Notorious (dir. Fritz Lang, 1952). Another Criterion Channel noir western. “Legend of Chuck-A-Luck,” a song that runs through the movie, spells out the theme with an awkward redundancy: “hate, murder, and revenge.” No matter: after a brutal beginning, the story follows a ranch-hand (Arthur Kennedy) as he searches for the unknown bad man who raped and murdered his fiancée, ending up at last at Chuck-A-Luck, a ranch and haven for criminals presided over by a vaguely Circe-like Marlene Dietrich. The best line: “I wish you’d go away and come back ten years ago.” ★★★★


The Thin Man (dir. W.S. Van Dyke, 1934). The verbal and non-verbal communication between Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) is a delight, ditto the extended party scene, ditto the dinner scene, in which Nick improvises his way to figuring out who done it. The mystery and its cast of characters are not especially interesting, making this relatively short film feel much longer than its eighty minutes. Nora: “Want a drink?” Nick: “What do you think?” ★★★


The Two Mrs. Carrolls (dir. Peter Godfrey, 1947). Humphrey Bogart is a painter, of wives, not houses. The second Mrs. Carroll (Barbara Stanwyck) has two challenges to contend with: her husband and a wanna-be philanderer (Alexis Smith). Bogart is all unhinged emoting, but Stanwyck and Smith are well-matched as frenemies, the one anxious, the other cold and unflappable. A better leading man for this picture: James Mason. ★★★


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, aka The Hideaways (dir. Fielder Cook, 1973). The Afterschool Special to end all Afterschool Specials: siblings Claudia and Jamie (Sally Prager and Johnny Doran) run away to Manhattan to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I read E.L. Konigsburg’s novel for the first time as an adult and loved it. This adaptation, filmed on location, takes us inside Macy’s, the General Post Office Building, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art: O time capsule of Manahatta! Alas, the movie inexplicably veers away from the novel and disappoints when Mrs. Frankweiler (Ingrid Bergman) appears. ★★★


Two documentaries by Ron Mann

Imagine the Sound (1981). Music and conversation from four musicians identified with the avant-garde in jazz: Paul Bley, Bill Dixon, Archie Shepp, and Cecil Taylor. To see these musicians on film is a rare thing. But there’s little here to orient a newcomer, and nothing in the way of structure: the film meanders between brief or extended samples of performance and brief or extended samples of conversation. Worst moments: Taylor reading his poetry; best moments: Taylor at the piano. ★★★

Poetry in Motion (1982). I first saw this film of poets talking and reading from the work in 1984, on a date with Elaine. Jim Carroll did an introduction (I recall that he spoke about people who died, among them, no doubt, his friend Ted Berrigan); the projector kept failing; and the audience was, let’s say, irreverent. All these years later, the moments I remember as best — Helen Adam, Amiri Baraka (with David Murray and Steve McCall), Ted Berrigan, Tom Waits — hold up well. But so much of what’s here points toward “spoken word” and the substitution of gestures, gimmickry, and poet voice for the magic of language. ★★★


Of Time and the City (dir. Terence Davies, 2008). A deeply personal Liverpool story, made of archival footage and Davies’s narration, which touches on everything from movies to growing up gay to the Beatles to royalty (“The Betty Windsor Show”) to the poverty of crumbling nineteenth-century buildings and new tower blocks. With copious citation and allusion, ranging from Sir Walter Raleigh to Ulysses and Four Quartets. If W.S. Sebald had set out to make a film, it might look something like this one. It’s brilliant film, soon leaving the Criterion Channel. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Antigone in Ferguson

I watched a Theater of War event for Zoom last night: Antigone in Ferguson, an adaptation of Sophocles’s Antigone with music by Philip Woodmore. Cori Bush, just elected to Congress, introduced the event. The actors included Tracie Thoms (Antigone) and Oscar Isaac (Creon). De-Rance Blaylock and Duane Martin Foster, choir soloists, were teachers of Michael Brown, who was killed by a police offer six years ago yesterday in Ferguson, Missouri. Relatives of other men killed by police spoke after the performance: Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell; Marion Gray-Hopkins, mother of Gary Hopkins Jr.; and Uncle Bobby X, uncle of Oscar Grant. They spoke of the devastation of losing a loved one to police violence, of pain that never goes away, something Sophocles would understand.

I found many overtones of Lee Breuer’s The Gospel at Colonus, with a message of healing and redemption added to Sophoclean tragedy, most notably in a final song, “I’m Covered.” In Sophocles’s play, Antigone covers her brother Polynices’s body with dust, giving him a symbolic burial and thereby defying Creon’s order against burial rites for an enemy of the state. In the final song, there’s a different kind of covering, as the members of the choir proclaim that they are covered in the blood of Jesus. The most striking visual element in the performance: Willie Woodmore (the composer’s father), with enormous headphones and sunglasses, as the blind seer Tiresias.

I was one of forty (or more) people who raised a hand but had no chance to speak in the discussion that followed the performance. I wanted to say something about Creon. He is accusatory, paranoid, misogynist, intent upon demeaning and destroying anyone who challenges his authority, resistant to any plea that he should take a different course of action. He also identifies the state with himself: “So I should rule this country for someone other than myself?” he asks his son. Sound like anyone you know?

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard) : Ajax and EMTs

[I’ve quoted from Paul Woodruff’s translation, in Theban Plays (Hackett, 2003).]

Sunday, August 9, 2020

She and her

The caption for a photograph in The New York Times:

Ms. Hill’s closet in Washington. Like many people’s, it is filled with officewear she may not need for a while. At top right, a framed photo of she and her Congressional colleagues.
“A framed photo of she”: yeesh. A simple fix: “A framed photo of Hill,” &c.

The other problem: the unintended suggestion that Hill’s unneeded officewear is hanging in closets hither and yon.

“Art is fierce”

Toni Morrison:

I want to describe to you an event a young gifted writer reported:

During the years of dictatorship in Haiti, the government gangs, known as the Tonton Macoutes, roamed about the island killing dissenters, and ordinary and innocent people, at their leisure. Not content with the slaughter of one person for whatever reason, they instituted an especially cruel follow-through: no one was allowed to retrieve the dead lying in the streets or parks or in doorways. If a brother or parent or child, even a neighbor ventured out to do so, to bury the dead, honor him or her, they were themselves shot and killed. The bodies lay where they fell until a government garbage truck arrived to dispose of the corpses — emphasizing that relationship between a disposed-of human and trash. You can imagine the horror, the devastation, the trauma this practice had on the citizens. Then, one day, a local teacher gathered some people in a neighborhood to join him in a garage and put on a play. Each night they repeated the same performance. When they were observed by a gang member, the killer only saw some harmless people engaged in some harmless theatrics. But the play they were performing was Antigone, that ancient Greek tragedy about the moral and fatal consequences of dishonoring the unburied dead.

Make no mistake, this young writer said: art is fierce.
From “The Habit of Art.” 2010. In The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

All of which is a preface to this reminder that Theater of War presents a streaming performance of Antigone in Ferguson, tonight, 7:30 CDT. Zoom required. Register here.

A great sadness of my teaching life is that the teaching of “backgrounds” in my English department appears to have disappeared with my retirement. “Backgrounds” as I understood the word meant beginnings, of epic, lyric, tragedy, and comedy. Say, Homer, Virgil, and Ovid; Sappho and Catullus; Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Aristophanes.

Anyone who thinks that “the classics” no longer have anything to teach us isn’t paying attention.

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard): Modest proposals

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, made for a challenging half hour of solving. The puzzle looks daunting, with eleven-, thirteen-, and fifteen-letter answers across the top and bottom. I started with 16-A, four letters, “They’re easy to take,” and my incorrect answer was still good enough to get me started. When I put in my final answer, for 21-D, four letters, “Guy from Charlottesville,” I had no idea why the answer made sense and thought it couldn’t be right. Maybe it didn’t make sense. But it was correct. Done and baffled, that was me.

Oh, wait — I typed those sentences, and now the answer makes sense. My love/hate relationship with that kind of clue continues. These fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warrin’ and a-tuggin’, one agin t’other.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

7-D, four letters, “ER’s critical supply.” Clever, especially as the answer could be clued in a more straightforward way.

9-D, seven letters, “Window box favorite.” I don’t know why I was confident about the answer, but I was. Dowdy intuition, maybe.

12-A, thirteen letters, “Qualifier for a silly statement.” Fresh, lively, and surprisingly easy to see with a couple of crosses.

20-A, three letters, “Qtr.’s baker's dozen.” A good way to make a mundane answer Stumpery.

28-A, six letters, “Cultural center?” Well done.

30-A, four letters, “Fictional Autobiography subject (1847).” Yes, 1847!

32-A, four letters, “To-go pieces.” As above: a good way to, &c.

33-D, eight letters, “Important decade in analysis.” I don’t know whether to admire or lament the effort probably required to make this clue tricky.

41-D, six letters, “‘The ___ of the moth for the star’: Shelley.” Seeing Shelley in a puzzle always makes me think of my friend Rob Zseleczky, the consummate Shelley reader.

One quarrel: 5-D, five letters, “Numbers on angels.” This clue feels awfully forced in the interest of Stumping. On? No, about.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

“Defend Our Post Office”

[A video from People for the American Way. Music: Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, “Present Joys.”]

Friday, August 7, 2020

Whose toes?

[“Tourist Posing With 200-Year-Old Sculpture Breaks Her Toes.” The New York Times, August 7, 2020.]

Granted, the referent must be sculpture. And granted, the text that follows clears things up. But I’d rewrite this headline: “Tourist Accidentally Breaks Toes of 200-Year-Old Sculpture.” “Sculpture’s toes” sounds too awkward to me, or a little too much like (so-called) language-poetry.

Here’s the article. Step carefully.

A secret message, of course

Elaine and I chose a film out of the blue last night, Terence Davies’s Of Time and the City (2008), a meditation (for lack of a better word) on the Liverpool of the director’s early life, made of archival footage with commentary. In 2016 we watched and loved Davies’s The Long Day Closes (1992). Of Time and the City is the only other movie of his available from the Criterion Channel, and it vanishes on August 31. So — we watched.

How strange, late in the film, to hear Peggy Lee’s 1957 recording of Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern’s “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.” That was one of my dad’s favorite songs, and we played Mel Tormé’s 1956 recording five years ago at his memorial. My dad died five years ago yesterday.

I couldn’t place Peggy Lee’s voice last night, even though I have the recording (on one of my dad’s CDs). I thought I was hearing Lee Wiley. As Elaine pointed out, I got it half right.

[Joking aside, Lee Wiley was indeed a major influence on Peggy Lee.]

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Eric Bentley’s desk

Look at the late Eric Bentley’s desk. Five photos down — you can’t miss it. See the inbox? Order!

A related post
Desk organizers

A joke in the traditional manner

What’s the worst thing about owning nine houses?

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 sharpen your pencil to write a Dad joke? : 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.]

Dad, i.m.

My dad, James Leddy, died five years ago today. He’d have been ninety-two this year.

He’s shown up in two dreams recently, sounding and looking like himself, only younger, first asking me to order a CD for him from Amazon and then walking down a brick-paved street to a hotel. That second dream cast me as both a father to my son and a son to my father. Which I am.

Here’s what I wrote after my dad died.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


A small persistent Mac problem, at least for me, over many years: right-click on a file and the Open With menu never populates. Instead it just says “Fetching. . . .” The only fix is to close out and try again.

Here’s a fix, which requires a command in the Terminal app to reset Launch Services. The fix from 2015, so proceed at your own risk. I can confirm that it still works in Mojave.

I ran into one small problem: after applying this fix, I found the MarsEdit extension in my Safari menu bar grayed out. I quit Safari, reopened, and all was well.

[I sometimes concentrate on the trivial to cope with the non-trivial.]

“The sentence of the year”

A sentence by Ed Yong, writing in The Atlantic about “How to Pandemic Defeated America”:

No one should be shocked that a liar who has made almost 20,000 false or misleading claims during his presidency would lie about whether the U.S. had the pandemic under control; that a racist who gave birth to birtherism would do little to stop a virus that was disproportionately killing Black people; that a xenophobe who presided over the creation of new immigrant-detention centers would order meatpacking plants with a substantial immigrant workforce to remain open; that a cruel man devoid of empathy would fail to calm fearful citizens; that a narcissist who cannot stand to be upstaged would refuse to tap the deep well of experts at his disposal; that a scion of nepotism would hand control of a shadow coronavirus task force to his unqualified son-in-law; that an armchair polymath would claim to have a “natural ability” at medicine and display it by wondering out loud about the curative potential of injecting disinfectant; that an egotist incapable of admitting failure would try to distract from his greatest one by blaming China, defunding the WHO, and promoting miracle drugs; or that a president who has been shielded by his party from any shred of accountability would say, when asked about the lack of testing, “I don’t take any responsibility at all.”
Roy Peter Clark: “If Yong has written the sentence of the year, and I believe he has, he can thank the semicolon.”

It is a great sentence. But reading it reminds me how rarely I now use the semicolon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

On Louis Armstrong’s birthday

[Louis Armstrong. Photograph by Carl Mydans. 1938. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

It almost got past me this year. Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901.

Related reading
All OCA Armstrong posts (Pinboard)


I recall Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate) making a similar mistake, minus the possessive, in an episode of Married . . . with Children. I believe she said /ˈyō-zə-ˌmīt/. And yes, it was a laugh line.

Bonus: sequoias , also mispronounced.

Trump* Axios interview

Jonathan Swan’s interview with Donald Trump* for Axios on HBO is now available on YouTube.

Our well-being is in the hands of a psychopath. Read the manuals!

“Something, perhaps, like this”

Toni Morrison:

Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another. Something, perhaps, like this:

1. Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion.

2. Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy.

3. Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power, and because it works.

4. Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that challenge or destabilize processes of demonization and deification.

5. Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathizers with this constructed enemy.

6. Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process.

7. Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recycle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology.

8. Criminalize the enemy. Then prepare, budget for, and rationalize the building of holding arenas for the enemy — especially its males and absolutely its children.

9. Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized entertainments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions: a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press; a little pseudo-success; the illusion of power and influence; a little fun, a little style, a little consequence.

10. Maintain, at all costs, silence.
From “Racism and Fascism.” 1995. In The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

Earlier Time

Aldinger was once a mayor. Now he is an escapee from a concentration camp, nearing his hometown.

Anna Seghers, The Seventh Cross. 1942. Trans. from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo (New York: New York Review Books, 2018).

Tremendously suspenseful and tremendously moral, The Seventh Cross insists on a human spirit of resistance that cannot be broken. The 1944 film adaptation focuses almost exclusively on one of seven escapees. The novel, far more expansive than the film, follows the fortunes of dozens of characters, shifting from one to another through seven days in seven long chapters. Another NYRB rediscovery, one I recommend with enthusiasm.

From Anna Segher’s Transit
“Have been and will always be” : “A substitute for home and hearth”

Monday, August 3, 2020

Stuffin’, of bear, knocked out

[The Long Night (dir. Anatole Litvak, 1947). Click for a larger view.]

“Sure knocked the stuffin’ out of you, pal,” Joe Adams (Henry Fonda) says.

This post is for my friend Fresca, who’d know how to help this bear.

Going to Graduate School

There’s going to graduate school, as in “Um, I think maybe I’d like to be a professor someday.” And then there’s Going to Graduate School, which takes place on some other planet:

To keep options open, I applied to five graduate schools in five different fields. Having loved the work of art historian Meyer Schapiro, I applied to New York University, where he taught; second, I applied to the interdisciplinary program in social thought at the University of Chicago, which sounded fascinating; then to Columbia University’s program in English literature, and to Brandeis University, to study with philosopher Herbert Marcuse. What intrigued me most, though, was Harvard's doctoral program in the study of religion, which offered opportunities to study Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism, so I chose Harvard.

Elaine Pagels, Why Religion?: A Personal Story (New York: Ecco, 2018).
I’ve learned a lot from Pagels — from The Gnostic Gospels (1979), Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (1988), and The Origin of Satan (1995) — but I gave up on this book (a memoir of ideas, I’d call it) early in the third chapter. The writing is just not good enough: awkward sentences, glitches in chronology, missing details. For instance: Pagels’s choice to apply to graduate schools follows a post-college stint at the Martha Graham School. And yet Pagels mentions nothing about a background in dance before or during college. Also missing: the college major (and minors?) that made this range of grad-school choices possible.

But it seems to go without saying that Pagels (a Stanford grad) was accepted to all five programs.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Guthrie mailbox

[Art by Mike Shine. House paint on wood panel, 10″ × 12″. Original here. Click for a larger view.]

Elaine saw this image shared on Facebook. Its meaning is clear. But it was not especially easy to figure out the source.

“This Machine Kills Fascists” was the message on Woody Guthrie’s guitar, first painted on, later lettered on a gummed label and pasted on.

Peach muffins

Elaine has shared her recipe for peach muffins. If you’re two people and you buy an enormous box of peaches from an orchard, there must be muffins.

Rutgers and grammar

I’ve been reading about this story for a week and saying to myself, No, that is not what Rutgers said. Not at all. Now Snopes has it covered: “Did Rutgers University Declare Grammar ‘Racist’?”

Long story short: writing instruction at Rutgers will place greater emphasis on grammar and other sentence-level matters so as not to disadvantage students from multilingual or “non-standard” academic backgrounds. I’m reminded of what Bryan Garner says: “Standard English: without it, you won't be taken seriously.” To let students believe otherwise is to put them at a disadvantage.


August 4: Reuters too confirms that the claim that Rutgers called grammar racist is false.

Related posts
Grammar in the writing center : W(h)ither grammar

Saturday, August 1, 2020


On Jeopardy a few minutes ago, someone answered a question about “Donald Trump’s second wife” with “Who is Ivanka Trump?”

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by “Anna Stiga,” or Stan Again, the puzzle’s editor Stanley Newman. Pretty, pretty, pretty easy, with the only difficulties coming from the grid itself, which breaks the puzzle into five nearly discrete sections. Must . . . navigate . . . narrow . . . straits. Phew, made it.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-D, eight letters, “KO, in the DJIA.” Something to do with some rarefied form of boxing? No. I got the answer but had no idea what this clue meant until I looked it up.

17-A, eight letters, “Calliope and kin.” Not circus folk.

19-A, three letters, “Transit terminal.” Not a HUB.

28-D, ten letters, “Element #117, named for a state.” Ahh, good old lifelong learning.

35-D, eight letters, “Personal digital device.” That’s amusing.

38-A, three letters, “She’s from Nevada.” Such clues are less surprising when you expect them, but I still like getting the point.

53-A, eight letters, “Newspaper in La Paz and Nueva York.” Takes me back to newsstands.

Two clue-and-answer pairs I’d quarrel with:

31-A, seven letters, “Easy to start using, as paper rolls.” Huh? My alternative clue: “Live and lost.”

37-A, seven letters, “Home of Heartland of America Pk.” Just ugly.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Students, stay home

Faculty members at Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have written open letters to their schools’ students asking them to stay home this fall.

An excerpt from the ASU letter:

We all look forward to a full return to campus, but the current environment does not allow this. We are aware of an economic impact of remaining online. We are aware of the much greater impact an outbreak in Boone [North Carolina] would have. Some risks are worth taking. A full return of the student body in August is not one of those.
Related posts
Choose your own nightmare : College, anyone? : Reluctant professors : Something is rotten in Iowa : What if

[Via The Chronicle of Higher Education.]