Wednesday, September 30, 2020

“There was this thing”

W.G. Sebald, from “Dark Night Sallies Forth,” in Against Nature, trans. Michael Hamburger (New York: Modern Library, 2003).

For a moment in this strange, beautiful autobiographical poem, Sebald seems to turn into John Ashbery.

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

Theater of War via Zoom

Antigone in Ferguson :

A groundbreaking project that fuses dramatic readings by acclaimed actors of Sophocles’ Antigone with live choral music performed by a diverse choir, from St. Louis, Missouri and New York City culminating in powerful, healing discussions about racialized violence, police brutality, systemic oppression, gender-based violence, health inequality, and social justice.

October 2, 4:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m. and October 17, 5:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m. CDT
*

Theater of War for Frontline Medical Providers :
An innovative project that presents dramatic readings by acclaimed actors of scenes from ancient Greek plays to help nurses, doctors, EMS, first responders, administrators, and other heath care providers engage in healing, constructive discussions about the unique challenges and stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

October 7, 12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. CDT
*

The King Lear Project :
Streamlined readings of scenes from Shakespeare’s King Lear to engage diverse audiences — including older adults, caregivers, and family members — in open, healing, constructive discussions about the challenges of aging, dementia, and caring for friends and loved ones.

October 14, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. CDT
*

Mothers of the Movement :
A conversation with Gwen Carr and Valerie Bell about their tireless work as Mothers of the Movement.

October 15, 12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m. CDT
Follow the links to register for these free events.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Debate advice

I will quote a piece of advice that I offered in 2008:

The best choice for watching a presidential or vice-presidential debate is C-SPAN. Why? C-SPAN’s continuous split-screen lets you see both participants at all times, allowing for all sorts of observations about body language and facial expression.
I trust the split-screen view will be available once again in 2020.

*

8:55 p.m.: And I trust that you have the beverages of your choice on hand.

*

9:29 p.m.: “If we get the votes, it’s gonna be all over”: the best thing I’ve heard all night, from Joe Biden.

*

9:39 p.m: Elaine: “This has been an or-fucking-deal.”

Is shitshow one word or two? One. Trump* tonight reminded me of the asshole who sits in the back of a classroom and makes snarky, vicious remarks, one after another after another. Throw him out.

See 8:55 p.m.: And perhaps a sandwich.

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Recgonize her? (I didn’t.) Leave your best guess in a comment. I’ll drop a hint if necessary.

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

[Garner’s Modern English Usage notes that “support for actress seems to be eroding.” I use actor.]

Meta, they wrote

From the Murder, She Wrote episode “Widow, Weep for Me” (September 29, 1985):

“Will you please come with me at once, ma’am? The Inspector wants to see you at the hotel.”

“Why? What’s happened?”

“There’s been another murder, ma’am.”
Where Jessica Fletcher goes, murder follows. It’s difficult to think that Mrs. Fletcher’s question and her look of surprise are not a writerly joke.

Here’s a YouTube clip with this dialogue.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Margie King in 1959

It’s smart to recheck names in the IMDb, as new info gets added now and then. Checking yesterday, I found that our late friend Margie King Barab (then Margie King) appeared in an episode of Naked City. How did that happen?

[“One to Get Lost” (February 10, 1959). Click any image for a larger view.]

The hatted man (Kent Smith) appears to have his eye on Margie, but his real purpose is to wait for the elevator to clear out so that he can confront the operator (Lawrence Tierney). Margie has one line in this scene: “Five, please.” Her name doesn’t appear in the closing credits. But someone, somewhere, has added to the IMDb the names of the uncredited actors from this episode.

Related reading
All OCA Naked City posts (Pinboard)

[In 1959, Margie was Margie King, married to Alexander King (d. 1965). In 1972 she married Seymour Barab.]

“Just one rock”

[“Rock of Ages.” Zippy, September 28, 2020.]

In today’s Zippy, a rock has been teetering to get Zippy’s attention: “When it comes to rocks, all you think about is three!” Yes.

I just looked up “upon this rock I will build my church” and found that I had typed “upon some rocks.” Honest. “Some rocks” are an abiding preoccupation of these pages. “This rock,” by the way, is Matthew 16:18.

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

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Revelations

“It’ll all be revealed, it’s going to come out”: for once, I can agree with Donald Trump*. Thank you, New York Times: “Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance.”

Just one sentence:

The picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules prepared by Mr. Trump’s accountants is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise.

Domestic comedy

[Elaine, after hearing next week’s challenge.]

“Think of a word. Double it. Think of another word. Subtract the first word from the second word. What color socks am I wearing?”

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, September 27, 2020. Click for a more dangerous view.]

It’s the end of summer, and all the toys must be put away. Even the lethal ones.

Yes, you can buy lawn darts with blunt plastic tips. But metal-tipped darts have been banned in the United States since 1988.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Today’s Saturday Stumper

I started Brad Wilber’s Newsday Saturday Stumper with a clue that seemed to me a giveaway: 1-D, seven letters, “Group with a washboard.” A giveaway, at least, to someone with my ears. The puzzle grew much more difficult as it moved to the bottom right corner, where 41-D, seven letters, “Chapter 13 of his 1984 memoir is Courted by Chrysler” gave me fits. I knew the name, but how to spell it? The final square, for me, was in the upper right: the first letter of 10-A, four letters, “Humor category” and 10-D, three letters, “#2 at Subaru.” There’s only one possible answer for 10-A. But I still have no idea what 10-D is about.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

17-A, ten letters, “Don’t move, unfortunately.” Nothing to do with Samuel Beckett plays.

27-A, nine letters, “Laser, circa 1960.” That makes sense.

35-D, four letters, “Turner of old movies.” Nice one.

38-A, nine letters, “Ovoid collectible knockoff.” That’s a thing? It’s a thing.

46-D, six letters, “Marginalize?” Clever.

57-A, ten letters, “Child's blanket.” I took inordinate glee in knowing where this clue was headed.

One clue that misses out on the OCA seal of approval: 23-A, three letters, “Numbers essential to Nebraskans.” So forced. I saw what the clue was asking for, but the answer doesn’t pair plausibly with “numbers.” This answer appeared in last week’s Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, and Wilber and Sewell construct together as “Andrew Bell Lewis,” so perhaps there’s some friendly competition to come up with the zaniest clue for this answer.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments. And I’m still on hold, waiting for the meaning of “#2 at Subaru” to dawn on me.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Idiom of the day: seat-of-the-pants

From A.Word.A.Day, it’s seat-of-the-pants: “1. Using experience, instinct, or guesswork as opposed to methodical planning. 2. Done without instruments.”

The origin is surprising to me:

The term has its origin in aviation. Before modern instruments, a pilot flew a plane based on how it felt. For example, in fog or clouds, in the absence of instrumentation one could tell whether the plane was climbing or diving by how heavy one feels in the seat. Seat of the pants is the area where one sits, i.e. the buttocks. Earliest documented use: 1929.
The Oxford English Dictionary has a first citation from Popular Science Monthly (October 1935) that points to a different meaning:
Ten years ago, blind flying was known as “seat-of-the-pants” flying, for fog-bound pilots without instruments soon learned to tell whether they were flying right-side-up by the pressure against their parachute packs.
Right now I’d say that were both upside-down and diving. It’s all seat-of-the-pants. And get this: the plane has instruments, but the pilot doesn’t trust them. He thinks his instincts are better.

“Up in smoke”

Living in Paris, low on funds, the writer can afford only the cheapest cigarettes, Gauloises and Gitanes. A cigarette accompanies every scene of his daily life — “except sleeping.” He can’t open his mail without a cigarette, even if an envelope might hold a check that would enable him to buy cigarettes.

Julio Ramón Ribeyro, “For Smokers Only,” in The Word of the Speechless: Selected Stories, trans. Katherine Silver (New York: New York Review Books, 2019).

“For Smokers Only” is the best writing I’ve ever read about the joys and sorrows of cigarettes. Even after thirty years away, I identify. Oh boy, do I.

See also the story of Mikhail Bakhtin using the pages of a manuscript for cigarette papers.

Also from Julio Ramón Ribeyro
“None of this surprises me”

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Clear images in the new Blogger

Two versions of a passage from Julio Ramón Ribeyro’s story “The Substitute Teacher”:


I don’t know how to explain what’s going on, but here’s what I do to get a sharp image in the new Blogger:

~ To take into account my Mac’s Retina display, I upload an image at least twice as large as what I want to display. The images above are 772 × 612 pixels. For Size, I choose Original. For Alignment, None.

~ In Blogger’s Compose view, I resize the image to Large. I don’t really want Large; I just want numbers for width and height that I can modify.

~ I switch to HTML view and change the code for the image. Here’s where things get tedious. I remove all the <div></div> stuff that now accompanies an image. I change the value for padding: 1em to padding: 0em. I remove text-align: center;, while thinking it strange that Blogger centers even when I’ve chosen no alignment.

~ And here’s where things get really tedious. In the URL for the original image, I change s0 to s1600. In the URL for the resized image, I change the values for width and height to the ones I want (here, 386 × 306). And in the URL for the resized image, I change w400-h-317 (Blogger’s dimensions for a Large image) to s1600.

I’ve exaggerated the difficulty, really: after getting the hang of it, I find that this editing takes very little time. The best way to figure it out is to upload an image or two, follow these directions, and practice.

The first, blurry image above is how Blogger does it. The second is how I do it. The difference is, uhh, clear.

A related post
Images in the new Blogger

“None of this surprises me”

Matías Palomino has just been given a job as a substitute teacher of history:

Julio Ramón Ribeyro, “The Substitute Teacher,” in The Word of the Speechless: Selected Stories, trans. Katherine Silver (New York: New York Review Books, 2019).

Neither Elaine nor I knew anything about Ribeyro when we bought two copies of this book. What a wonderful writer. His stories remind me at times of Joyce’s Dubliners, with irony and sadnesses abounding. Highly recommended.

Domestic comedy

“Anyone can be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I could nominate you.”

“And then I could talk about it at my rallies!”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[I joked too soon: in truth, I cannot nominate Elaine. Contra Mental Floss, it’s not “university professors” who can nominate. As the Nobel website says, it’s “professors, professors emeriti and associate professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology, and religion.” Literature doesn’t count.]

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Whither the rumpus room?

“I guess I was asleep in the rumpus room”: someone on the witness stand, in the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Dead Ringer” (April 17, 1966).

You don’t hear much about rumpus rooms these days. The Oxford English Dictionary defines rumpus room like so: “originally and chiefly North American[,] a room used for recreation, which does not need to be kept tidy.” Merriam-Webster brings the meaning down to earth: “a room usually in the basement of a home that is used for games, parties, and recreation.” The etymology of rumpus is uncertain; the OED suggests a possible connection to romp. Which makes me realize for the first time ever that the name of the television show Romper Room must have been a play on rumpus room. Now that’s what I call life-long learning.

The OED has a first citation for rumpus room from 1930, from the Wisconsin State Journal:

Cellar space nowadays . . . rejoices in such up-to-date names as “game room,” “smoking room,” and one home owner even calls it his ”rumpus room”!
He must have been quite a card, that home owner. I especially like this citation::
Betty brought university friends home for many good sing-songs and games in the rumpus room which we fixed up in the basement.
That’s from John Hiram Blackburn’s Land of Promise (1970), which Google Books tells me is an account of pioneer farming in Alberta, Canada.

The Google Books Ngram Viewer suggests the waning fortune of the North American rumpus room:

[Rumpus room is really in the basement. Click for a larger room.]

From better days:

[“Fix up that rumpus room the family is longing for!” From an advertisement for Nairn Linoleum. Life, March 17, 1941. Click for a larger view.]

I like this one too. Lexicographers, take note:

[Life, February 19, 1945. Click for a boozier view.]

Clearly, a ping-pong table is de rigueur. I am slightly freaked out by the presence of weapons in each room, especially when the occupants of room no. 2 have given themselves over to drink. Perhaps the host thought to hide the bow that should go with those arrows. As a reader pointed out, they’re darts. But still weapons in the wrong hands!

[Kinsey: there’s a brand name that must have run into complications. But the brand lives on.]

Misheard

“Don’t spend another sleepless night worrying about death.”

Related reading
misheard posts (Pinboard)

[It was a television commercial, about debt.]

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Dental jazz in translation

Elaine said no one would figure out my imaginary utterances from the dentist’s chair. She appears to have been right. The utterances, translated:

Ooh EH-ee-uh: Duke Ellington.

Uh-OH-ee-uh UH: Thelonious Monk.

Arh IHN-uh: Charles Mingus.

Notice that each utterance has two parts, each beginning with a capital letter. I thought that would be enough to signal names, after which it would be relatively easy to figure out likely suspects. But see the first paragraph.

No matter: I’m donating $50 anyway, to John Hickenlooper. Goodbye, Cory Gardner.

[Goodbye as well to Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and David Perdue. Our household has made a modest contribution to each of their opponents: Sarah Gideon, Jaime Harrison, Amy McGrath, and Jon Ossoff. Mark Kelly seems to be doing well against Martha McSally without our help.]

Stalling vs. declining to act

Curious phrasing in the Illinois news segment dropped into NPR’s Morning Edition this morning: Senate Democrats are seeking to stall any nomination to the Supreme Court. But: In 2016, Senate Republicans declined to act on Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. The verbs caught my ear.

Merriam-Webster gives the following definitions of stall. As an intranstive verb: “to play for time,” “delay.” As a transitive verb: “to hold off, divert, or delay by evasion or deception.”

To stall a nomination: that phrasing is far more unsavory than decline to act. But Mitch McConnell and company did not decline to act in 2016: their inaction was of course itself a form of action. And a form of stalling: they refused even to start the car.

Dental jazz

This scenario seems to me like something out of Curb Your Enthusiasm. But it really happened. To me.

At the dentist’s office, music plays, always, on satellite radio. Hall and Oates were on. “Do you like them?” the dentist asked. “Oh, sure.” I vaguely recalled the song “Maneater.” What the dentist said he really liked though was jazz. Oh, me too. And as he began working on my mouth, he described what he liked — Bob James, Grover Washington Jr. He liked smooth jazz. Really smooth. His emphasis.

I wanted to say something back about my taste in jazz. Call it vanity: I didn’t want to be mistaken for a fan of smooth jazz. Or call it an insistence on accuracy in aesthetics: I didn’t want smooth jazz to be synonymous with jazz. I wanted to say, “Ooh EH-ee-uh! Uh-OH-ee-uh UH! Arh IHN-uh!” But I couldn’t say a word.

When the work was done and I could speak, I asked my dentist if he had a copy of Kind of Blue. No. “Oh, you should get one. It’ll change your life. It’s by Miles Davis,” I said. Or words to that effect. I hope he followed through.

I’ll make a $50 donation to a Democratic candidate looking to flip a Senate seat if anyone can translate the mouth-open speaking I’ve tried to sound out above. (Why not?) Leave your translation in a comment.

*

No one figured it out. I donated anyway. Answers here.

Monday, September 21, 2020

$50, yes

One of the best uses for my money I can think of today: Jaime Harrison for U.S. Senate. Goodbye, Lindsey Graham.

“All hotels”

William Lindsay Greshman, Nightmare Alley (1946).

Add a blinking neon sign and it’s “the movies,” save that one of the two bedmates would have to have at least one foot on the floor.

Nightmare Alley is available as a New York Review Books Classic.

Also from this novel
“GEEK WANTED IMMEDIATELY” : A “publicity-inflamed dummy”

NYC in color (1937)

Behold, color footage of New York City in 1937. I’m surprised to instantly recognize locations I haven’t seen in many years — the West Side Highway, for instance, and the area along the docks where people sold Christmas trees.

My greatest delight: the benches (at the 12:15 mark), concrete and thick wooden slats, same when I was a kid. Speak, memory!

Thanks to Mike Brown for passing on the link.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

“Nov shmoz ka pop?” redux

Look — it’s a hitchhiker.

[Mutts, September 20, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Mutts has a guest star: The Little HItchhiker, a character in Gene Ahern’s comic strip The Squirrel Cage. Ahern was born on September 16, 1895.

The catchphrase “Nov shmoz ka pop?” turned up earlier this year in Zippy.

[Yes, it’s late in the day to be posting something from the comics, but they’re the Sunday comics, and it’s Sunday all day.]

RBG on writing

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, interviewed by Bryan Garner, parts one and two.

My favorite statements:

“When I was teaching law, as I did for seventeen years, I put a legend on my exams, something to the effect that good concise writing counts.”

“I go through innumerable drafts. I try hard, first of all, to write an opinion so that no one will have to read a sentence twice to get what it means.”

The Mailman


[The Mailman. Encyclopedia Britannica Films (1946).]

Even in 1946, not every “mailman” was male. From a USPS PDF, Women Mail Carriers: “Women have transported mail in the United States since at least the mid-1800s.” See also the National Postal Museum’s online exhibit Women in the U.S. Postal System.

A related film
Your Postal Service

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The fix we’re in

We’re in a terrible fix when so many possibilities of preserving or achieving freedoms and justice depended, at least largely, upon one eighty-seven-year-old Supreme Court justice’s not dying.

Democracy is fragile. Vote.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is a tough puzzle that took me forty-one minutes to solve. (Your minutes may vary.) I started briskly with 1-A, three letters, “Color close to silver”; 1-D, four letters, “Tender feeling”; 9-A, four letters, “Latter-day cheaters”; and 12-D, four letters, “Marvel debut of ’63.” And then my pace slowed considerably.

Matthew Sewell knows how to put the um in Stumper. 28-D, five letters, “Fortes”? 32-A, three letters, “Bar display”? Um . . . no idea. At least not right away.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

3-D, seven letters, “Thrown-together attention-getter.” I just discovered that the answer is in Merriam-Webster.

14-D, eleven letters, “They take the edge off.” I was thinking of files and sandpaper.

25-D, ten letters, “Medieval military governments.” Just a surprising word to see.

35-D, eight letters, “Two shovels for ‘work available,’ for example.” I should have known this one immediately.

43-A, five letters, “Rome’s ___-Shelley Memorial House.” Every crossword reference to ___ or Shelley reminds me of my friend Rob Zseleczky.

43-D, six letters, “Submits for approval, perhaps.” Clever.

57-A, four letters, “Snow the heat, maybe.” Also clever.

61-A, three letters, “Common rack range.” The clue redeems the answer.

My favorite from this puzzle; 8-D, eight letters, “Kingston trios, often.” I wrote in an answer, no crosses, no nothing. It had to be, thought I. And it was. Is the answer plausible, really? Trios? I’m not sure. But for a moment I felt that Matthew Sewell and I were having a mind meld.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933–2020)

[Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1977. Photograph by Lynn Gilbert. From Wikimedia Commons. Notice the poster for Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.]

This year of nightmares just got much worse: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87” (The New York Times).

*

There’s now an obituary from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Love thy neighbor?

[Click for a larger view.]

What might it take to persuade some people to take COVID-19 seriously and act accordingly? I’ve wondered if this message might work. I know that I’m not the first person to think of it. (Thanks, Internets.) But I did think of it, and I offer it here, made with Friedrich Althausen’s beautiful Vollkorn font.

A pocket notebook sighting

Language trouble. The driver is flummoxed. “Jerry, haven’t you got a piece of paper? Draw it out for him.” A piece of paper? Jerry can do better than that. He carries a pocket notebook.


[Frank Puglia, Paul Henreid, and Bette Davis. Now, Voyager (dir. Irving Rapper, 1942).]


[Click either image for a larger view.]

I’ll leave it to you to figure out what Jerry is saying.

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 : The Devil and Miss Jones : 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 : To the Ends of the Earth : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Walk East on Beacon! : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once

[“It is time to draw a boat.”]

Thursday, September 17, 2020

“Made to Be Broken”

From August 7, one of the best episodes of This American Life I’ve heard: “Made to Be Broken.” (I’m catching up.)

Listening to this episode reminded me of a time when I tried to get someone in authority to break a rule. I had a student who was not going to pass the course. It was not mathematically possible. I had tried to persuade her to drop and make a fresh start next semester. No, she was determined to continue.

One day past the deadline for dropping a course, she told me that she realized I was right. I got on the phone and asked that an exception be made to allow her to drop. Every rule and requirement on campus had some room for exceptions, I said. The student had made a difficult and smart choice, I said, and there was no reason for her GPA to be burdened with an F (zero) from her first semester in college. No, no exception would be made. She would fail the course. Thanks, authorities.

[These events took place before drops were done online, and before retaking a course removed an earlier grade. It would have been a simple matter to process a drop one day after the fact.]

Stanley Crouch (1945–2020)

A New York Times obituary characterizes Stanley Crouch as a “fiercely iconoclastic social critic who elevated the invention of jazz into a metaphor for the indelible contributions that Black people have made to American democracy.”

The Crouch model of criticism as combat is one I have little use for. Nor am I a fan of the Crouch–Wynton Marsalis neo-conservative aesthetic that shaped Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Ken Burns PBS series Jazz. But there was no doubting Crouch’s love of and devotion to the music.

Today’s pollen and mold

[One website, three free mobile apps.]

Pollen.com: Pollen low. No mold info.

Klarify: Weeds high. Grass moderate. Trees low. With a warning: “Watch out!” No mold info.

PollenWise: Trees moderate. Grass, weeds, mold, all low.

WebMDAllergy: Mold high. Ragweed moderate. Dust, grass, trees, all low.

I feel like the BBC’s Shipping Forecast. Except that the Shipping Forecast doesn’t give several different forecasts for the same location.

Fliqlo

Yuji Adachi’s Fliqlo screensaver turns a Mac or Windows computer into a flip clock. I used this screensaver years ago. When it stopped working in 2013 after an OSX update, I forgot about it. But it’s been keeping time all this time.

For those who teach and have conferences with students, Fliqlo can be a handy way to keep track of time without awkward glances at a phone or watch.

Let me rephrase that: For those who teach and at some point will once again have conferences with students, this screensaver can be a handy way to keep track of time without awkward glances at a phone or watch.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

How to improve writing (no. 88)

When you take care with writing, it’s difficult to stop. And so I found myself paying attention to these paragraphs on a box of Tetley British Blend tea bags:

Celebrating the True British Cuppa

Tetley Tea proudly celebrates 185 years of tea expertise in crafting the perfect brew. Known for its authentic British heritage, Tetley master blenders have lovingly created our best selling British Blend from the finest tea leaves around the world including Africa and Assam to give you a rich, bold and flavorful cup of authentic British style black tea. This robust, full bodied tea is perfect for your everyday pick me up.

Try it with a dash of milk for that royal experience!
It’s good strong tea, and it leaves a powerful tannin stain in the cup. But that’s pretty poor writing. “Proudly celebrates”: as opposed to “ashamedly celebrates”? “Known for its authentic British heritage”: a glaring dangling modifier. The clash of its and our presents a tricky problem of agreement. “Lovingly created”: oh please. “Around the world including Africa and Assam” sounds awkward. The march of adjectives — rich, bold, flavorful, robust, full bodied — is a bit much. That second sentence from beginning to end is unwieldy — try reading it aloud. And the first paragraph is short on hyphens, needing five to make things right. I can’t believe someone was paid to write this stuff.

Here’s my suggested revision, which fixes these problems and drops some of the hype:
Celebrating the British Cuppa

Tetley Tea celebrates its 185-year British heritage with the best-selling Tetley British Blend. Tetley master blenders bring together the finest tea leaves from Africa, Assam, and around the world to give you a rich, flavorful cup of authentic British-style black tea. Perfect for your everyday pick-me-up. Try it with a dash of milk for a royal experience.
I’ve let some of the nonsense (“cuppa” and “royal experience”) stand. But I’d suggest that my understated paragraph is far more British than Tetley’s original.

I remember a far simpler Tetley pitch: “I like those tiny little tea leaves in Tetley tea.” Yes, it was a simpler time.

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

[This post is no. 88 in a series, dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

“Herd mentality”

If you missed the event in real time, Aaron Rupar has choice moments from last night’s ABC News Q & A with Donald Trump*.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Scientific American endorsement

Scientific American has endorsed Joe Biden for president. An excerpt from the editors’ statement (which, of course, is worth reading in full):

Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.
And I’ll add: As Scientific American recognizes, the choice of a candidate in this election goes far beyond any idea of “party.” As I see it, it’s really a choice between between democracy and autocracy, between sanity and psychosis, between truth and lies, between life and death.

End the Poll Tax

My friend Stefan Hagemann has created a GoFundMe project, End the Poll Tax. His goal — and why not? — is to raise $50,000 to pay fines and fees owed by Florida ex-felons. From Stefan’s description:

According to CNN, “Florida can bar ex-felons from voting if they owe court fines or fees associated with their convictions, even if they are unable to pay, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

“The 6-4 ruling by the full 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling blocking the law.”

This decision affects more than 700,000 former felons, many of whom can not afford to pay fees and penalties averaging between $400.00 and $1000.00. Contrary to the Appeals court decision, this is evidently an updated version of the poll tax. The District Court judge who originally ruled in favor of former felons called the effort to force payment an “unconstitutional pay-to-vote system.”
Please consider making a contribution to Stefan’s counter-effort.

On a related note, the website Restore Your Vote should be helpful for anyone with a felony conviction, anywhere, who wants to vote. Let People Vote and Vote.org are helpful sites for anyone, anywhere, who wants to vote.

“What’s the Post Office Good For?”

From The New York Times, “What’s the Post Office Good For? Everything,” an illustrated report by Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg.

[Found via Matt Thomas’s Sunday New York Times Digest.]

Happy birthday, Orange Crate Art

My blog turns sixteen years old today. Surly teen, or studious young adult? Both? You decide.

Happy birthday, Orange Crate Art.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Idiot, traveler, chicken

Alexander Vindman, from an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic:

I ask Vindman the key question: Does he believe that Trump is an asset of Russian intelligence?

“President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin,” he says. Useful idiot is a term commonly used to describe dupes of authoritarian regimes; fellow traveler, in Vindman’s description, is a person who shares Putin’s loathing for democratic norms.

But do you think Russia is blackmailing Trump? “They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it,” he says. “They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin.”

Vindman continues, “In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for — it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.”
And:
“Authoritarianism is able to take hold not because you have a strong set of leaders who are forcing their way,” he says. “It’s more about the fact that we can give away our democracy. In Hungary and Turkey today, in Nazi Germany, those folks gave away their democracy, by being complacent.”

He goes on, “Truth is a victim in this administration, I think it’s Orwellian — the ultimate goal of this president is to get you to disbelieve what you’ve seen and what you’ve heard. My goal now is to remind people of this.”

Anne Fadiman on singular they

In Harper’s, Anne Fadiman writes about coming to terms with singular they :

For more than six decades, I’ve accepted without thinking that when we say that someone went to the store, we don’t have to specify whether that someone was old or young, rich or poor, fat or thin, tall or short, but we do have to specify whether the someone was a “he” or a “she.” Now I’m starting to think that’s a little weird.
My thinking about singular they has changed twice: first about the use of the word with an indefinite pronoun and again about the use of the word to refer to a non-binary person. A sentence of my own made me rethink things the first time. It was a radio commentary by Geoffrey Nunberg that made me rethink things a second time.

Thanks, Stefan, for pointing me to this essay.

Virginia Tufte (1918–2020)

The teacher and scholar Virginia Tufte has died at the age of 101. Her 2006 book Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style (recommended many times in these pages, often in contrast to far less impressive books) is a glorious exposition of the possibilities of the sentence.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Your Postal Service

[Your Postal Service, from The March of Time (1949).]

Please notice the Mongol pencil at 1:30. And do your best to ignore the ads.

Related reading
All OCA mail posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Shut up and carry on

From The Chronicle of Higher Education :

A tenured faculty member at Juniata College, in Pennsylvania, is facing censure after writing a comment on Facebook critical of his institution’s reopening plans in light of the pandemic.

Administrators at the college placed a letter of reprimand in Douglas A. Stiffler’s personnel file after he wrote that “as the result of Juniata’s decision to hold classes in person, it is quite possible that people who come on to Juniata’s campus will die, as will people in town. That is what is at stake.”
Stiffler was cited for “not exercising the restraint and respect expected of faculty.”

See also, from McSweeney’s , “Our Successful Return to Campus: An Update from Your University President.”

[Even free articles from the Chronicle now require a reader to register and disable adblocking. Sigh.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

A crossword solver intimidated by the Newsday Saturday Stumper would do well to give today’s puzzle a try. It’s by Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, and it’s easy, as Stumpers go, probably the easiest Stumper I’ve seen, with just a couple of tricky spots in lower left corner. At least that’s where I found them.

Shout-outs to these clue-and-answer pairs:

3-D, nine letters, “Italian erupter.” Sorry, MOUNTETNA.

13-D, five letters, “Place for a pilot.” Back in the day. And today, but elsewhere.

18-A, seven letters, “Animal float or wind-up boat.” The rhyme is nice.

21-A, six letters, “Calzone's conic kin.” At this point 21-A is much more familiar to me than the calzone. When did I last see a neon CALZONES?

23-A, four letters, “Novel designation.” The clue redeems the answer.

33-D, nine letters, “Tobacco plant genus (unsurprisingly).” Dammit, I knew this one right away. (I’ll always be an ex-smoker, never a non-smoker.)

39-D, seven letters, “LG introduction of 2011.” Part of the brief lower-left snarl. LG means phones, right?

52-D, four letters, “Notes with a Manitoban museum.” Just so weird.

56-A, seven letters, “Cupid colleague.” Also part of the trouble in the lower left. Misdirection!

58-A, seven letters, “Downton Abbey role.” I was trying to run through character names. Uh, CARRSON? SYBILLL? CALZONE?

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 11, 2020

An EXchange name sighting hearing

[The Case Against Brooklyn (dir. Paul Wendkos, 1958). Click for a larger booth.]

Police Captain T.W. Wills (Emile Meyer) drops a dime: “Hello. Call me back at GEdney 5-1099.”

GEdney was a genuine Brooklyn exchange name, the exchange of my family’s first telephone number.

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 : Loophole : 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 : Pitfall : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Red Light : Side Street : The Slender Thread : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Briefcase madeleine

[The Case Against Brooklyn (dir. Paul Wendkos, 1958). Click for a larger briefcase.]

Ahh, I get it — the case against Brooklyn. And the movie opens with a briefcase! I am belaboring the obvious.

This image was an instant madeleine for me: as a elementary-school kid in Brooklyn, I carried my books to school in an inexpensive knock-off that looked much like this briefcase. That’s what boys carried. High-school guys too. It was a pre-backpack world. I remember girls as carrying their books in bookstraps or in plaid bookbags, something like a fabric-and-vinyl version of a briefcase. Briefcases were made of genuine something — bonded leather? I remember the smell.

And I remember a briefcase for the start of school purchased from Century 21 on Brooklyn’s 86th Street. That’s the chain that just went out of business.

By sixth grade, I had switched to a metal attaché case. And when my family left Brooklyn for a New Jersey suburb, I found that carrying an attaché case was the cue for instant mockery. Mine promptly disappeared. The attaché case, that is. Not the mockery. Damn suburbs. Yes, abolish them.

Reader, did you carry your books to school in a briefcase?

A related post
NYC schooldays

Another time and place


[Massimo Vignelli, a detail from the New York City Subway Diagram. 2008. From The Vignelli Canon (2010).]

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Up the road a ways

The New York Times reports on life at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: “What the scientists had not taken into account was that some students would continue partying after they received a positive test result.”

Expel ’em.

“What?”

Walking on campus, Elaine and I, masked, see a student, unmasked, headed straight toward us, slowly, head down, reading his phone. We left the pavement and stepped far away to walk around him.

“Giving you a wide berth, son!” I shouted.

He turned. “What?” He looked a bit like Joe Kennedy III. No, more than a bit. Maybe he was reading about his doppelgänger’s primary loss.

“I’m giving you a wide berth!”

This time he didn’t say anything. He just kept walking and reading, unmasked.

It didn’t occur to me until much later that he may not have known what it means to give someone a wide berth. Someone will have to explain it to him. (Joe Kennedy III?)

“What’s he doing?!”

[“Three Strikes.” Zippy, September 10, 2020. Click for larger rocks.]

The rocks have assumed their positions. But what’s up with Zippy? Click to read today’s strip and find out.

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

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

Human?

From a robo-call voice mail: “Sorry, you did not reveal yourself to be human. Goodbye.”

In Indiana

“When you need wigs and novelties, and you’re in Indiana, you can hang it up, buddy!” Tom Waits on stage, in Big Time (dir. Chris Blum, 1988).

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

“The scale of betrayal”

"The scale of betrayal is almost beyond political analysis": Mara Gay of The New York Times, just now on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour. Gay is still recovering from the effects of COVID-19.

#TrumpKnew

A reminder

I was out doing errands this morning. I came home to the news. The news. The news. And now I want to repost this image, which I first posted on May 15:



And to preserve the asterisk, which signifies impeached and carries a bonus Kurt Vonnegut overtone:


[Click either image for a larger view.]

Donald Trump*’s revelations to Bob Woodward are further evidence of the Dunning-Kruger effect at work, made worse by dementia. What did Trump* think Woodward was going to make of these revelations? And how did Trump* think people would respond?

Richard Nixon at least had cunning enough to keep his tapes under wraps, at least until he couldn’t.

*

Yep, Dunning-Kruger. From Kaitlin Collins (CNN):

One reason Trump was so irritated aides didn't tell him about Woodward’s attempts to interview him for his last book [Fear ] was because he thought he could have made himself look better in it.
And from Maggie Haberman (The New York Times):
Mr. Trump gave Mr. Woodward extensive access to his White House and to top officials in the hopes the eventual book would be “positive,” in his eyes. Mr. Trump did not speak to Mr. Woodward for his first book on the Trump presidency, Fear, and the president has maintained publicly and to advisers that it would have turned out better had he personally participated.

An essay topic

If I were teaching a writing course, any level, I’d ask my students to write this essay:

What blame should be assigned to administrators and students for the rising number of COVID-19 cases on campus, and why? Do administrators and students share equally in the blame? Or does one group deserve a greater share?

This essay is meant as an exercise in moral reasoning, not legal judgment. These questions ask you to consider broad questions of responsibility, not particular cases. You may present and explain your reasoning by comparing the situation at hand with hypothetical situations, by making distinctions between different kinds of error or wrongdoing, by considering implications (if . . . , then . . .), by developing a relevant analogy — whatever seems appropriate. You should consider objections to your argument too. Think of yourself as writing an essay that explains your reasoning.
[Today’s Trump* news makes this essay feel a bit pointless. Things happen.]

Zweig’s world

“A friend of mine opened her closet the other day and felt she was gazing at the clothes of a dead person. They belonged to the world of yesterday”: in the age of the coronavirus, the title of Stefan Zweig’s memoir acquires new significance.

See also Anna Seghers’s “Earlier Time.”

Related reading
All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Images in the new Blogger

[Notes to self and any fellow Blogger users.]

To remove the extra space that Blogger now adds below a centered image, switch from Compose to HTML and change padding: 1em 0px; to padding: 0em 0px.

To remove the extra space that Blogger now adds below a left- or right-justified image, switch from Compose to HTML and change margin-bottom: 1em; to margin-bottom: 0em;.

To resize an image, click on it in Compose and choose an image size by selecting the dotted-window icon or gear icon. To make further changes, switch to HTML and enter new values for height and width. Original height and width should stay the same. Changing the display values by hand is how I get 800-pixel-wide screenshots to display at 400 pixels. I figure out the values I need for a given image with the Mac Preview app.

I remove all the
<div></div> stuff that now begins and ends the HTML for an image. If any problems result from doing so, I trust I’ll begin to notice them.

Biddle = Weegee

[Reporter Steve McCleary (John Derek), photographer Biddle (Harry Morgan), and “Terrified Neighbor at Murder Scene” (Helen Brown). Scandal Sheet (dir. Phil Karlson, 1952). Click either image for a larger view.]

Harry Morgan’s Biddle is no doubt meant to suggest the famous Weegee, photographer of all manner of urban nightmare. The Bowery denizens we see later in this movie seem to have stepped straight out of, or into, a Weegee photograph.

Twelve movies

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

Scandal Sheet (dir. Phil Karlson, 1952). I’m always thankful to film fans who upload movies (no doubt only those in the public domain) to YouTube. Here’s an example: a not especially celebrated story of tabloid journalism and murder, with Broderick Crawford as the ethically challenged editor of the lurid New York Express, John Derek as an ethically challenged reporter, and Donna Reed as a plucky sidekick. It’s something of a cross between Double Indemnity and The Big Clock. Watch for Harry Morgan as an unmistakably Weegee-like photographer. ★★★★

*

The Case Against Brooklyn (dir. Paul Wendkos, 1958). Another YouTube find: a police procedural that follows an undercover investigation of Brooklyn “horse rooms.” Darren McGavin is the Glenn Ford-like rookie cop who risks everything to bring down the syndicate. Maggie Hayes (the lonely teacher in The Blackboard Jungle) complicates his investigation, with unforeseen consequences. With noir-like cinematography by Fred Jackman Jr. and a great final sequence in an industrial laundry. ★★★★

*

Mysterious Intruder (dir. William Castle, 1946). And here the streak ended, with something from a movie series inspired by the radio serial The Whistler. Things start out well, with a courtly old-world music-store owner hiring a sketchy private detective to find a young woman who disappeared from the neighborhood seven years earlier. And then fiendish Mike Mazurki shows up in the music store, a low-budget affair made from a few guitars, some sheet music, and brilliant composition and lighting. But when the interesting characters are killed and the plot abandons plausibility, this movie turns into a dud. ★★

*

Violent Saturday (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1955). Many stories: that of a trio of bank robbers, and those of the disparate residents of a mining town and its environs whose lives are changed one Saturday morning. The movie takes a long time to get going, but the wait is worth it. Standouts: Margaret (Maggie) Hayes as a wife and self-styled “tramp,” Virginia Leith as an object of the male gaze, Lee Marvin as a feral criminal, J. Carrol Naish as a bespectacled criminal (reminiscent of Sam Jaffe in The Asphalt Jungle), Tommy Noonan as a Prufrockian bank manager, and Sylvia Sidney as a librarian in money trouble. Watch also for Ernest Borgnine as an Amish farmer. ★★★★

*

Little Fugitive (dir. Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, 1953). I didn’t think when we watched this movie three months ago that we’d be we watching it again with my mom, who saw it back in 1953 and remembered it as both happy and sad. Says my mom, “Nothing bad happened to the boy, and he ended up back with his family, so that was good. But to me it was very sad.” Thank you, Criterion Channel, for making it possible to discover or rediscover this film. ★★★★

*

The Fallen Sparrow (dir. Richard Wallace, 1943). My dad used to amuse us by dragging his foot around like a character in this movie, so I thought I should finally watch and find out what it’s all about. It’s about Kit McKittrick (John Garfield), a Spanish Civil War vet whose investigation of the death of a friend brings him into contact with society swells and eminent refugees, some of whom might spell trouble. Garfield is excellent in scenes in which he describes and relives his experiences being tortured. But it’s never clear just who McKittrick is (a swell himself? someone who just happens to own evening clothes?), and the plot is wildly improbable. ★★

*

It Happened One Night (dir. Frank Capra, 1934). It has to be my favorite Capra film, cutting the Americana with plenty of eros, courtesy of Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. It didn’t occur to me until this viewing that it’s really two movies: one of daylight scenes on roads and in offices, and one of nights on snug buses, in cozy cabins, or outside in luminous, misty darkness. Oh, to eat a hamburger and ride the night bus to New York, even without Colbert and Gable aboard. My favorite moments: hitchhiking, “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” ★★★★

*

Now, Voyager (dir. Irving Rapper, 1942). How could I have missed this film? Well, as I used to tell my students, we come to things when we come to them. Better late than never — no shame. Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, many cigarettes, and an ending that suggests an imperfect happiness as enough happiness. ★★★★

*

Only Angels Have Wings (dir. Howard Hawks, 1939). Cary Grant is Geoff Carter, aka Papa or Pop, manager of an air freight company flying mail through the dangerous Andes. The outside air is thick with fog; the air inside the hotel/bar/restaurant where most of the movie takes place is thick with bromance, particularly between Papa and the Kid (Thomas Mitchell, born twelve years earlier than Grant). Enter singer Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur), pilot Bat McPherson (Richard Barthlemess), and McPherson’s wife Judy (Rita Hayworth), each of whom complicates the bromance. Spectacular flying scenes, and a farewell scene with Papa and the Kid that recalls William Wellman’s Wings. ★★★★

*

Phantom Lady (dir. Robert Siodmak, 1944). From a novel by Cornell Woolrich. Ella Raines is a loyal secretary trying to clear her boss of a murder charge by tracking down a mysterious woman in a strange hat. Elisha Cook Jr. steals a scene as a manic drummer. Franchot Tone steals the movie as a twitchy killer. ★★★

*

Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (dir. Les Blank, 1980). Do you remember the cookbooks of times past that suggested rubbing a clove of garlic around a wooden salad bowl, presumably because no one would want any more garlic flavor than that? Hahahahaha, and sheesh. I love garlic. This documentary has lots of garlic, lots of cooking and eating, lots of music — in other words, lots of life. ★★★★

*

The Lonedale Operator (dir. Michael Almereyda, 2018). John Ashbery, three-and-a-half months before his death, talking about his childhood, his love of movies, and his poetry. In an interview for the Criterion Collection, Almereyda (the director of the great, strange 2000 film adaptation of Hamlet ) explains how he came to make this short film. You can read Ashbery’s poem “The Lonedale Operator” here. Thank you, Criterion Channel. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Monday, September 7, 2020

23C and 23D

Safe to say that the intended audience for today’s George Bodmer cartoon includes me.

Context: this past Saturday’s Newsday Saturday Stumper.

Thank you, George, for brightening the corner where I am.

Free Jazz Against Paludan

“We’re fighting noise with noise”: in Denmark, musicians play to drown out a far-right politician.

Nancy old and new

Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy is back at GoComics. And today Olivia Jaimes continues the Bushmiller tradition of taking off on holidays. See also Jaimes’s 2019 Labor Day strip.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Labor Day


[“Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn.” Photograph by Alfred T. Palmer. June 1942. From the Library of Congress Flickr account. Click for a larger view.]

The Rabin Glove Company (“Jersey City Pride”) is now Rabin Glove & Safety Company, in Newark, New Jersey, offering “a full line of high quality work gloves, work clothing and personal protection equipment.”

Sunday, September 6, 2020

An M-W Word of the Day: heyday

I’ve been meaning to write about the word heyday for months now. Too late: Merriam-Webster has done the work for me. Heyday, “the period of one’s greatest popularity, vigor, or prosperity,” was yesterday’s M-W Word of the Day:

In its earliest appearances in English, in the 16th century, heyday was used as an interjection that expressed elation or wonder (similar to our word hey, from which it derives). Within a few decades, heyday was seeing use as a noun meaning “high spirits.” This sense can be seen in Act III, scene 4 of Hamlet, when the Prince of Denmark tells his mother, “You cannot call it love; for at your age / The heyday in the blood is tame. . . .” The word’s second syllable is not thought to be borne of the modern word day (or any of its ancestors), but in the 18th century the syllable’s resemblance to that word likely influenced the development of the now-familiar use referring to the period when one’s achievement or popularity has reached its zenith.
My hopeful guess was that heyday had something to do with reaping: “Yay, it’s hay day, what a big deal, everybody’s out there going full force!” Nope.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

“Suckers”


From The Best Years of Our Lives (dir. William Wyler, 1946).]

Dana Andrews is Fred Derry, counterman. Harold Russell is Homer Parrish, fellow veteran. I’m unable to identify the man in the hat.

The language in this clip is of its time and ours. Racial slurs: “Japs” then; “China virus” now. “Plain old-fashioned Americanism” then; “America first” now (and then). But I never could have imagined that an American president would join the man in the hat in characterizing service members killed in war as “suckers.”

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by Anna Stiga, or Stan Again, the puzzle’s editor Stan Newman. Not an especially difficult puzzle, but a satisfying one, with some surprising content. I believe the technical term for such a puzzle is “crunchy.”

Clues and answers I found to like:

4-D, eight letters, “Venerable wind instruments.” A novel answer, at least in my experience. Crunch. I have one of these instruments but never thought it venerable until now.

12-D, seven letters, “Oscar winner portraying Romeo.” I dunno — Olivier? Crunch.

16-A, six letters, “Slip stream?” The answer seems to be showing up often in crosswords these days. But this clue makes it new.

29-A, four letters, “Assumed name's assumed name.” I find this kind of clue a bit painful, but I have to admit that the phrasing is clever.

33-A, four letters, “Farewell interrupter.” I take inordinate glee in having seen this answer straight off.

37-A, nine letters, “It can roll down while rolling.” A little awkward, as it isn’t rolling, but clever.

38-D, seven letters, “Orajel alternative.” I haven’t thought of this stuff in years. Crunch.

44-D, six letters, “They’ve come a long way in anime.” Okay, that’s cute.

51-D, five letters, “It's often between 23C and 23D.” There must be more to the number 23 than I know. No, wait — 23 is just misdirection.

60-A, six letters, “Whom Rocky named his restaurant for.” Bullwinkle? Gideon? Magill? Oops, wrong Rockies. Easy to guess, but still crunchy, I’d say, and a surprise, at least for me, to learn that Rocky had (or has?) a restaurant. I’ve seen about five minutes of anything Balboa.

Yo, no spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Beware of user error

Last night I wrote a cranky post about trying to obtain two (of three) 13mm × 10mm cam lock fasteners from Wayfair in a timely fashion. Twenty-four larger fasteners were all there.

This morning Elaine asked if I might have used two small fasteners in place of larger ones. I looked carefully. Yes, I had. The larger fasteners are 15mm × 12mm (I think). Whatever their size, they’re virtually indistinguishable from the smaller ones. I called Wayfair today to explain what happened, to apologize for wasting so much of their time, and to cancel the complete hardware set they were planning to send from a warehouse.

My cranky post (now removed) was titled “Beware of Wayfair.” I still think that the Wayfair business model, one of selling stuff from “the warehouse,” with no ready access to a supply of extra hardware for the furniture sold, is a lousy business model. No one can pick out a fastener or screw or knob or bolt and send it out. “The warehouse” does not send parts, much less send them in a timely way. Thus the complete hardware set that was due to arrive a week from today.

As I mentioned in my now-removed post, I ended up ordering 13mm × 10mm cam lock fasteners from Amazon. Not sold in any store! At least not in our town’s incredible Ace, an unabridged dictionary of hardware, nor in a nearby Home Depot. The fasteners have already shipped, and they’re scheduled to arrive tomorrow. Anyone need some cam lock fasteners?

“Losers,” “suckers,” and Trump*

In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg reports on Donald Trump*’s contempt for service members killed in battle:

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.
Also, no amputees in military parades: “Nobody wants to see that.”

Trump* says in an angry tweet that he “never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES.” Of course that’s the same Donald Trump* who said publicly that he likes people who don’t get captured.

To paraphrase (once again) something Gertrude Stein may have said, There ain’t any bottom, there ain’t going to be any bottom, there never has been any bottom, that’s the bottom.