Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Humanity in a president-elect

President-elect Joe Biden, speaking a little while ago in Wilmington, Delaware:

”My colleagues in the Senate used to always kid me for quoting Irish poets. They thought I did it because I’m Irish. I didn’t do it for that reason; I did it because they’re the best poets in the world.

“James Joyce was said to have told a friend that when it comes his time to pass, when he dies, he said, ‘Dublin [long pause], Dublin will be written on my heart.’ Well, excuse the emotion, but when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart, and the hearts of all of us, all the Bidens.”
[My transcription, from watching again at C-SPAN. One source for the Joyce quotation: Ulick O’Connor, Oliver St John Gogarty (1964).]

“Think only pleasant thoughts”

[Life, March 21, 1969. Click for larger muffins.]

In his book Class: A Guide through the American Class System (1983), Paul Fussell got it wrong:

If you merchandise tasteless little blobs of dough, you can sell billions of them by calling them “English” muffins.
Thomas’ English Muffins are not tasteless, nor are they blobs. They are a pleasant thought, though I really want to add a terminal s to Thomas’. To “keep right on going,” muffins no end, breakfast to midnight — that might be pleasant thought, though expensive.

English Muffin pizzas are, for me, a madeleine, though the ones I remember from childhood run along these lines. That’s right — ketchup and American cheese. The ketchup should go under the cheese. Madeleines come in many flavors.

I still like English Muffin pizzas, with pizza sauce, please. But hold the mozzarella. Only American cheese will do.

Knowing of

M. Bloch senior, dropper of names:

But the fact was that the only famous people whom M. Bloch knew were those he knew of, people whom, “without being acquainted with them,” he had seen in the distance at the theater or about town.

Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, trans. James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002).
Skip James, not so much:
He was the opposite of the blues name-dropper, when asked about the fabled Mississippi bluesmen Rube Lacy and Kid Bailey (both of whom he had met), he would say “I know of  Rube Lacy,” or “I know of  Kid Bailey,” and fail to elaborate.

Stephen Calt, I’d Rather Be the Devil: Skip James and the Blues (New York: Da Capo, 1994).
Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard) : Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James

Monday, January 18, 2021

Pen wipers

[Nancy, June 11, 1955. Click for a larger view.]

No seamstress, she.

Webster’s Second has it as penwiper : “any device to wipe a pen.” The word is gone from the Third. Here’s a brief history of penwipers, pen-wipers, and pen wipers.

Yesterday’s Nancy is today’s Nancy.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)


Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929.

[“Martin Luther King’s study, Dexter Parsonage Museum, Montgomery, Alabama.” Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith. 2010. From the George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Click for a larger view.]

A note from the Library of Congress:

The Dexter Parsonage Museum, historic home to twelve pastors of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church from 1920-1992, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Martin Luther King lived in the home from 1954 to 1960.
The full-size 6432 × 4643 photograph at the Library of Congress website offers many details.

I’ll quote again words that I quoted at this time last year:
Perhaps the most determining factor in the role of the federal government is the tone set by the Chief Executive in his words and actions.

Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait (1964).
[I think that my excitement in finding this photograph made it difficult for me to realize that the room must be a re-creation. A Montgomery website says that “The nine-room clapboard Parsonage, built in 1912, has been restored to its appearance when Dr. King and his family lived there. Much of the furniture presently in the the living room, dining room, bedroom and study was actually used by Dr. King.” But the books? The records?]

Sunday, January 17, 2021

“Surf’s Up”

In today’s Atlantic crossword, by Peter Gordon, a nice tip of the hat: 10-D, nine letters, “Surf’s Up singers, with the.” Nice not to have to think of them as the in-name-only group sharing a stage with Vanilla Ice at Mar-a-Logo. The horror.

Surf’s Up is a 1971 album. “Surf’s Up” is a song, music by Brian Wilson, words by Van Dyke Parks, written for the ill-fated SMiLE project. It’s one of my favorite songs. Listen to the Brian-only version (1967). Then try the finished version. If you think you know what a song titled “Surf’s Up” is going to sound like — well, listen.

Help wanted

Annie Karni, writing in The New York Times: “The statement released Monday by Mrs. Trump was also rife with grammatical errors and typos.” Have you read it? Jeez.

I like this sentence from the Times article: “It was not clear who helped Mrs. Trump draft the statement.” Help!

“Hmmm, hmmm”

Robert de Saint-Loup’s handshake is stiff and distant. His uncle’s handshake is more distant still. Introducing Palamède, Baron de Charlus:

Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, trans. James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

A Q believer

“She once spent several minutes explaining how a domino-shaped ornament on the White House Christmas tree proved that Mr. Trump was sending coded messages about QAnon, because the domino had 17 dots, and Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet”: from a New York Times portrait of a Harvard-educated QAnon “digital soldier.”

Springfield 1908

From NBC News:

Illinois‘s two senators have called on President-elect Joe Biden to make the site of a 1908 race riot in Springfield a national monument.

Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, both Democrats, wrote to Biden Thursday asking for the designation, citing the riot’s historic significance, especially its role in inspiring the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Wikipedia has an extensive article about the riot, which might be better described as racial terrorism.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Joanne Rogers (1928–2020)

“She was the inspiration for the puppet character Queen Sara, wife of King Friday XIII”: Joanna Rogers, Mrs. Rogers, pianist and Neighborhood advocate, has died at the age of ninety-two. The New York Times has an obituary.

Orange Crate Art is a Neighborhood-friendly zone.

Today’s Saturday somepin

Today’s Newsday crossword is not a Stumper. The Stumper is gone, replaced by somepin else, an easier themeless Saturday. Today’s puzzle is by Newsday puzzle editor Stan Newman, composing as Lester Ruff. Les Ruff, that is, easier, as every Newsday Saturday now promises to be. And this puzzle was easier, though it felt difficult. Is it a pseudo-Stumper? A semi-Stumper?

Some clue-and-answer pairs I enjoyed:

1-D, six letters, “California’s ‘Garlic Capital of the World.’” I love garlic, so I know the name. But probably anyone who’s bought garlic in an American supermarket has seen the name. The capital appears in Les Blank’s documentary Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers.

36-D, seven letters, “Papal, in Michelangelo’s day.” I learned something.

44-A, four letters, “Former Volvo alternative.” For me it signified (rightly or wrongly) Yuppie. Yuck.

67-A, six letters, “Feel like fighting.” But only because I misread the answer and felt mystified.

I didn’t find much 5-D, five letters, “Roy Lichtenstein ‘impactful’ pop-art painting” in today’s puzzle. Maybe next week’s Saturday will offer more.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Witness to the Siege

A conversation that aired last night on PBS, Witness to the Siege, with Judy Woodruff, Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, and Amna Nawaz.

Not a rhetorical question: Is there any one person who has done more to damage our country than Donald Trump**? Am I missing someone?

Friday, January 15, 2021


My favorite sentence (so far) from Trevor Day’s Sardine (London: Reaktion, 2018): “Sardines are opportunistic.” Which means that “they feed on phytoplankton or zooplankton, or both, depending on which is abundant at the time.” Phytoplankton are plant-like organisms. Day characterizes zooplankton as “drifting animals.”

Opportunists and drifters: it sounds like ocean noir. Sooner or later, someone will be caught in a net.

Sardine is a volume in Reaktion’s Animal series, beautifully printed, with many drawings and photographs.

Thanks, Heber, for pointing me to this book.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

His ’n’ her resignations are in order

I have learned that “my” representative in the Illinois House, Chris Miller (R-110), husband of Mary Miller, attended the Washington, D.C. rally that was the prelude to last Wednesday’s attempted coup. He was streaming from the scene:

“We’re engaged in a great cultural war to see which worldview will survive, whether we will remain a free people, under free-market capitalism, or whether they will put us into the tyranny of socialism and communism and the dangerous Democrat terrorists that are trying to destroy our country.”
Chris Miller was most recently on my radar in August, when he denied the reality of the pandemic. As a photograph in Business Insider attests, he keeps his mask under his nose. Christ, what an airhole.

There’s a petition.

Related posts
January 5 and 6 in D.C., with Mary Miller : The objectors included Mary Miller : A letter to Mary Miller : Mary Miller, with no mask : Mary Miller, still in trouble

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Mary Miller, still in trouble

Representative Jan Schakowsky (D, Illinois-15) will introduce a measure to censure fellow representative Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15). On January 5 Miller told a Moms for America rally in Washington that “Hitler was right on one thing — that whoever has the youth has the future.” She’s “my” representative in Congress.

Previous Miller posts
January 5 and 6 in D.C., with Mary Miller : The objectors included Mary Miller : A letter to Mary Miller : Mary Miller, with no mask

Small pleasures

I rarely watch the TV screen during commercials. Thus the first seconds of music in this Disaronno commercial tricked me into thinking that I was stepping into an episode of Golden Girls. I count two pleasures here: 1. the trick, and 2. my relief that I wasn’t in fact watching Golden Girls.

[No. 2 in a series. Here’s no. 1.]

Monocle, fluttering

Here comes Robert de Saint-Loup.

Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, trans. James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Readers of Swann’s Way will remember the narrator’s interminable lengthy descriptions of individual monocles and their wearers, as seen by Charles Swann.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Keeping it local

From the Queens Daily Eagle, “Queens man impeached — again:

A Queens-born real estate developer made history Wednesday when he became the first U.S. president ever impeached twice by the House of Representatives.
The newspaper did a fine job with Trump**’s first impeachment:
He is the third president to be impeached in United States history — and the first from Queens.

Styling the name

On my blog he’s Trump*.

When he’s impeached a second time, he’ll be Trump**.

If he resigns, he’ll be          **. Self-erasure.

If removed, he’ll be Trump**.

If only the damage he’s done could be so easily erased or struck out.

Living, breathing

“Donald Trump is a living, breathing impeachable offense. It is what it is”: Hakeem Jeffries (D, New York-8), addressing the House minutes ago.

Outside and inside the Capitol

Here’s a photograph from Lauren Boebert’s Instagram account, said to have been posted on January 5. That’s Boebert (R, Colorado-3) front and center. Notice the four circled figures: I don’t need to explain their hand signal. See also this Washington Post article about what Mikie Sherrill (D, New Jersey-11) saw on January 5.


The Boebert photograph is not from January 5 and not from Washington. But it is a picture of Boebert with supporters, at least some of whom identify themselves as white supremacists. I trusted that Aaron Rupar’s (now-deleted) retweet of the photograph was evidence for its authenticity.


A little context: The Princess of Luxembourg has come to spend a few weeks in Balbec. She’s a friend of the Marquise de Villeparisis, who herself is an old friend of the narrator‘s grandmother. When Mme de Villeparisis introduces grandmother and narrator to the Princess, the Princess looks at them with “loving sweetness.” The narrator feels as if he and his grandmother are about to be patted, like “a brace of docile animals poking our heads through the railings at the Zoo in the Bois de Boulogne.” The Princess buys candy and a loaf of rye bread, “the sort you feed to the ducks,” from the hawkers on the esplanade to give to her new acquaintances. And then the Princess offers her hand, to show she still has the common touch, and her expression is aimed “at not quite so lowly a level in the hierarchy of creatures.”

Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, trans. James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Leave your best guess in a comment. I’ll drop a hint if needed.

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

Laurel and Proust

In the dining-room of the Grand-Hôtel at Balbec. The narrator’s grandmother wants to make sure that he has plenty of fresh air for his health. And for a moment, Proust’s novel turns into a Laurel and Hardy short.

Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, trans. James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

[Translator’s note for Saint Blandine: “one of the first Christian martyrs in Gaul, put to death in Lyon in 177, remembered for her serenity under torture.”]

Monday, January 11, 2021

Yes, a coup

Fiona Hill explains that “Yes, It Was a Coup” (Politico):

There’s a standard coup “checklist” analysts use to evaluate coups. We can evaluate Trump’s moves to prevent the peaceful transfer of executive power against it. To successfully usurp or hold power, you need to control the military and paramilitary units, communications, the judiciary, government institutions, and the legislature; and mobilize popular support.

Let’s see how well this applies to what Trump has done.

A letter to Mary Miller

I’m sharing the text of a letter I’ve sent to my district’s representative in Congress, the representative now known on Twitter as #hitlerlady. She’s also made Boing Boing. She’s a disgrace, and she needs to go. If you’d like to sign the petition calling for her resignation, it’s here.

The Honorable Mary Miller
1529 Longworth House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congresswoman Miller:

For the good of our district and our country, please resign. I see two reasons why you should.

1. Your invocation of Adolf Hitler suggests a glaring absence of moral awareness. Let’s look at your words, which you and your allies claim have been twisted:

“Each generation has the responsibility to teach the next generation. You know, if we win a few elections we’re still going to be losing unless we win the hearts of our children. It’s the battle. Hitler was right on one thing — that whoever has the youth has the future. Our children are being propagandized.”
First, you say that Hitler was right about something. There is no good reason to say that Hitler was right about something. There is no good reason to say that a murderous dictator was right about anything at all. My wife and I have managed to raise two children without ever turning to Hitler for parenting tips. Second, you invoke Hitler’s observation as the measure of what you believe you and your allies must do: engage in your own effort to make children think and act as you want. Your contorted and unconvincing apology for your words makes things worse still by likening to a Nazi anyone who holds views to the left of yours. And your assertion that you are pro-Israel makes things worse by suggesting that objections to your remarks are just a Jewish thing. Hitler’s cruelty and madness had many more targets than Jews. You don’t have to be Jewish to despise Hitler and think it’s disgraceful for a member of the United States Congress to say that Hitler was right about something. Comments on social media from your allies lead me to think that your apology is hardly genuine anyway.

As a practical matter, your assertion that “Hitler was right” damages our district, which is now known around the nation and around the world for your comments. As friends elsewhere ask, “Is she your representative?” Who would want to locate to a district whose representative in Congress says that “Hitler was right”? Oh, wait — I think I know.

2. Your willingness to go ahead with the effort to subvert the acceptance of the 2020 presidential election — even after the violence in Washington last Wednesday — suggests a disdain for the workings of our democratic republic. You may recall from philosophy what’s called the categorical imperative, the idea that one must act as one would have all others act. You have said that your purpose in objecting to the election results was to assure proper procedures in future elections. But what if all members of the House and Senate had acted as you did on Wednesday? The principle that elections are decided by voters would have been overturned, and democracy with it. To have objected for the sake of theater, to stir up “the base,” to please an unhinged president, while knowing that your minority position would make no difference to the outcome, is to have objected in bad faith, with the understanding that enough other people wouldn’t object. That’s a craven attitude to take in Congress or anywhere else.

I doubt that my words will have any influence on you, but I’m offering them anyway, in the spirit of the categorical imperative. I think that everyone should speak up.

And if you plan on serving out your term, please wear a mask around your fellow members of Congress.

Sincerely, &c.

Related posts, for context
January 6 in D.C., with Mary Miller : The objectors included Mary Miller : Mary Miller in The New York Times

Library humor

[Dustin, January 11, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

In today’s Dustin, the librarian has just told Dustin that she runs a tight ship.

I wonder how many other readers will seek out a list of Dewey Decimal classes to get the joke. (No link: it’s DIY humor.)

The librarian’s bun, pencil, and glasses chain have reminded me to recommend Bill Denton’s coverage of libraries in Archie comics. Thanks, Stephen.

[Did you know that Melvil Dewey was a racist, anti-Semite, and sexual harasser and was known and censured as such in his time? Consider, too, the assumptions that underwrite Dewey’s classifications for religion, homosexuality, and subjects related to women.]

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Items in a series

Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, trans. James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Mary Miller in the news

Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15), “my” representative in Congress, has made The New York Times, among other prominent sources for news, after telling the audience at a “Moms for America” rally in D.C. that “Hitler was right on one thing.” The Associated Press also has the story. Don Lemon called Miller out last night on CNN. You’ll have to take my word for that: I can’t find the footage online.

Miller is also in the news in another way: Representative Seth Moulton (D, Massachusetts-6) reports that when he took a photograph of Republican members of Congress “proudly refusing to wear masks” while sheltering in place in the Capitol Building,

a freshman Trump acolyte, Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, ran over and started screaming in my face. Apparently, she didn’t want her hypocrisy on public display, even though earlier today [no, Tuesday] she had no qualms rallying protesters by invoking Hitler: “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.‘”
A petition calling for Miller’s resignation is nearing 15,000 signatures. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D, Illinois) is among the many public figures who have called for Miller to resign. Miller needs to put on a mask, get on a plane, and go home. Or, better, find a new home outside Illinois-15. Miller is a disgrace to her office.

Here’s a brief campaign video in which Miller speaks of her dedication to “the important issues.” First up: “our God-given right to own a gun.”

Today’s  Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday crossword, by “Andrew Bell Lewis” (Matthew Sewell and Brad Wilber), is titled “Themeless Saturday.” In my solving experience, the title for the Newsday Saturday puzzle has always been “Saturday Stumper.” Mother of mercy, as Rico Bandello might have asked, is this the end of the Stumper? For me, this puzzle was surprisingly easy, a Saturday that solves like a Friday, or even a Thursday. I started with a giveaway, 11-A, four letters, “Beatnik’s show of empathy,” and the answers began to fall into place. Crazy, man.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially admire:

9-D, five letters, “Household openers.” I was thinking of prefixes.

17-A, ten letters, “Determined to get it done.” My context for the answer reminds me: “I hate Illinois Nazis.”

22-A, seven letters, “Straw beds.” I had no idea.

25-D, five letters, “Inspirational assistance.” That’s Stumper-y.

28-D, five letters, “Alpine towers on the way out.” An example of how the most mundane answer can be made novel. I first suspected that this strange clue was a cryptic.

40-A, ten letters, “Group game with Yoshi and Luigi.” I’ve never played, but it sounds cute.

43-D, six letters, “Metaphor for fading.” I’ve always like the word that is the answer.

52-A, eight letters, “Existentialist’s void.” Remember existentialism? When I was in college, it was everywhere No void.

56-A, ten letters, “Bug out.” The answer taught me an additional meaning of bug out.

61-A, ten letters, “Mandate for maturity.” No, never.

One bit of murk: 36-A, three letters, “NYY rival.” But for many solvers, the clue and answer will be obvious. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.


I checked Crossword Fiend and, yes, that’s the end of the Saturday Stumper. Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, explains. Crazy, man.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Verilux HappyLight Luxe

I’ve long suspected that whenever all the leaves are gone and the sky is grey, I might benefit from what’s called a SAD lamp, a light source to combat seasonal affective disorder. In mid-December I decided to get some light. And now I can recommend the Verilux HappyLight Luxe. It’s a small tablet-like device, 11.7 × 7.5 × 0.5. (And nothing like — ugh — a tanning lamp.) I keep the HappyLight on my desk, angled and off to one side, and let it run for twenty minutes every morning. Getting the right intensity, light shade, and time takes a little experimenting. I think the benefits of this device are real: more energy, better sleep, fewer typos, less despair, even when the sky is really, really grey. Highly recommended.

This device is sold out at Verilux, but the smaller HappyLight Touch Plus is available.

[If I were speaking, I’d have to decide between \ˈlu̇ks\ and \ˈlüks\. I’d go with \ˈlüks\, which seems to me the more downhome pronunciation. Grey, as I think most writers would agree, is greyer than gray. Fewer typos: in other words, better concentration, though my iPhone is still a typo forest.]

Mr. Grip

I speak of household repair, not my hold on sanity. Woodmate’s Mr. Grip is a handy item to have around the house. That screw in the knob that attaches to the rod that holds a roll of paper towels in place in the paper towel holder, the screw that turns and turns but never engages, no matter how many prepositional phrases you add to the sentence? Mr. Grip can solve that problem. Some trial and error might be required. I’ve found that cutting a piece smaller than what I think I need works better. Any empty space can then be filled with prepositional phrases.

Thursday, January 7, 2021


Is the United States “better than this”? If it were, it wouldn’t be “this.”

Can the United States be “better than this”? It has to be.

Elizabeth Warren speaks

“A democracy in which the elected leaders do not bend to the will of the voters is no democracy. It is a totalitarian state. And those who pursue this effort are supporting a coup.”

The objectors included Mary Miller

The New York Times this morning lists the members of Congress who objected to certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Only two members of the Illinois House delegation signed on to the effort. “My” representative, Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15) was one of them.

With her objection, Rep. Miller continues to distinguish herself as a new member of the House. Yesterday she made the news for saying, to a pro-Trump* gathering, that “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’”

I hope that Mary Miller’s career in Congress is a short one. There’s already a petition calling for her resignation.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A valediction?

Sounds like a valediction from a bunker.

[More: Twitter has required the removal of this Trump* tweet and two others, and has locked Trump*’s account for twelve hours.]

Impeach and remove

Bill Kristol and Ilhan Omar agree: impeach and remove him. Good.

But I haven’t forgotten Kristol’s role in the rise of a Trump* precursor.

January 6 in D.C., with Mary Miller

“This is Trump’s legacy”: Jake Tapper on the madness finding expression in Washington, D.C. today.

“My” new representative in Congress, Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15) pledged in December to object to what she called “tainted election results” and to fight against what she called “the greatest heist of the 21st century.” Like so many older hands, she too is complicit.

Miller made the news for saying yesterday that “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’” Here, watch.

Mary Miller, you’re off to a great start.

Lee Breuer (1937–2021)

The theater director Lee Breuer has died at the age of eighty-three. Among his accomplishments: The Gospel at Colonus, an adaptation of Sophocles’s Oedipus at Colonus. The New York Times has an obituary.

“Georgia Blue”

I’ve had this Julius Hemphill composition in mind for some time now.

[“Georgia Blue” (Julius Hemphill). The Julius Hemphill Sextet: Marty Ehrlich, alto solo; Sam Furnace, Andy Laster, alto; Aaron Stewart, Andrew White, tenor; Alex Harding, baritone. From The Hard Blues: Live in Lisbon (Clean Feed, 2004.]

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Decluttering, continued

In 2007 I bought a copy of Peter Walsh’s book It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. As I wrote in a blog post then, the book had, for me, significant psychotropic power.

But it’s been sitting on a bookshelf ever since. An easy plan for living a richer life with less stuff, or at least the same life with less stuff: put this book in the box for donations.

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Do you recognize him? Leave your answer in the comments. I’ll add a hint if needed.

Here’s a hint: he’s best known as a summer visitor.

One more: he's best known as a summer visitor spending two weeks next door with his aunt.

Oh well. I’ve added the answer in the comments.

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

Monday, January 4, 2021

Trump* tonight

“David Perdue — where’s David?”

Uhh, he’s in quarantine.

Twelve movies

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

The Unknown (dir. Tod Browning, 1927). Lon Chaney is an armless knife thrower in a gypsy circus. Joan Crawford is his assistant. Norman Kerry is the circus strongman. Yes, it’s a love triangle, with a startling surprise, a grotesque plot twist, and a suspenseful ending. ★★★★


Miss Annie Rooney (dir. Edwin L. Marin, 1942). How sad to be fourteen and making a comeback in the movies. But here’s Shirley Temple as Little Annie Rooney, a teenager in modest circumstances, hep to the jive and up on the latest records, suddenly finding herself in the swank world of wealthy nerdish Marty White (Dickie Moore), his snooty friends, and his family. Will jitterbug lessons and a process to produce artificial rubber triumph over rigid class distinctions? You get just one guess. ★★


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (dir. George C. Wolfe, 2020). Though I was put off by the trailer, whose bits of music have little to do with Ma Rainey, I wanted to like this movie, and I really tried. But what I see is an ensemble of fine actors lost to an overwrought stage-bound script, a computer-generated Chicago, and pointless distractions (the mysterious door, sex on an upright piano). Chadwick Boseman gives a powerful performance as a cornetist who speaks of new directions in music and last things; Viola Davis as Rainey is sometimes imposing, sometimes comical, but often absent from the story that takes its title from one of her songs. My favorite scene is a quiet one in which Rainey and trombonist Cutler (Colman Domingo) talk about the value of music: “The more music you have in the world, the fuller it is.” ★★★


The Old Dark House (dir. James Whale, 1932). Less than a minute in, and it’s clear we’re watching a precursor of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We shift between genuine scares and laughs, as two cars’ worth of sophisticated travelers spend a stormy night with the (ahem) Femm family. Horace F. (Ernest Thesiger), Rebecca F. (Eva Moore), Sir Roderick F. (Elspeth Dudgeon, a female actor), and Sir William Porterhouse (Charles Laughton) add an unmistakable queer subtext to the proceedings. Morgan (Boris Karloff) and Saul F. (Brember Wills) made me think of the great documentary Brother’s Keeper (dir. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 1992). ★★★★


The Black Cat (dir. Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934). Massively bizarre: another stormy night with travelers taking refuge in an isolated house, this one designed and furnished in an ultramodern manner. Boris Karloff, its owner, is an architect and Satanist; Bela Lugosi is a psychiatrist and his antagonist. The bizarreness — a flaying, an attempted human sacrifice, bodies in suspended animation — makes up for the incoherence of the plot. Edgar Allan Poe, whose name appears in the credits (“suggested by”), had nothing to do with this effort. ★★★★


Detour (dir. Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945). In the trenches of academia, faculty and staff are forever exhorted to do more with less. Few directors did more with less with Edgar G. Ulmer. Dig the silence as Al (Tom Neal) does virtuoso work at the piano; dig the nonexistent cityscape as he walks in the fog; and dig the light on his face in the diner. My favorite creepy image: Vera’s (Ann Savage) frozen profile as she rides with the man whose life she’ll destroy. ★★★★


The Apartment (dir. Billy Wilder, 1960). I’m proud of TCM for recognizing that The Apartment is indeed a Christmas movie. Overtones of Huck and Jim: Mr. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is going to save Miss Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), and returning the washroom key is his “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” The raft of the Baxter apartment will be a refuge, at least for a while. Hard to fathom that Fred MacMurray stepped into the dreck of My Three Sons mere months after his great performance here as a glib, heartless fraud. ★★★★


The World of Henry Orient (dir. George Roy Hill, 1964). I’ve long thought of this movie in the company of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and A Thousand Clowns: Manhattan as a playground for free spirits, with dark clouds here and there. Peter Sellers stars as Henry Orient, a pianist and ladies’ man whose foreign accent slips again and again back to Brooklyn. But the movie belongs to his young stalkers, Val and Gil (Elizabeth Walker and Merrie Spaeth), whose imaginative flights turn Orient into a figure of innocent, comically cult-like devotion — until innocence gives way to painful realizations. With Tom Bosley, Angela Lansbury, Bibi Osterwald, Paula Prentiss, Phyllis Thaxter, and Central Park in winter. ★★★★


The Shop at Sly Corner (dir. George King, 1947). Oskar Homolka stars as an antiques dealer, doing business on a sinisterly dark and narrow London street. He appears at first to be an old-world widower, all cigars and pince-nez, doting on his daughter (Muriel Pavlow), a rising violinist. But there’s more to his shop than we might at first suspect — if that sinister darkness didn’t tip us off. Understated but gripping suspense. ★★★★


Three by Robert Siodmak

Christmas Holiday (1944). The title points in one direction, but the director’s name points in another. A noirish story of lost souls in New Orleans, as a singer (Deanna Durbin) tells her life story to a serviceman (Dean Harens) stuck in town because of bad weather. The villain of the piece: Gene Kelly (really). The most remarkable scenes: the concert hall, the church on Christmas Eve. ★★★★

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945). At the center of the film: the remnants of an old New Hampshire textile family, unassuming brother Harry (George Sanders) and his sisters Lettie and Hester (Geraldine Fitzgerald, Moyna MacGill). Into this celibate world steps a glamorous visitor from the New York office (Ella Raines), and her relationship with Harry threatens to upend the siblings’ house. Suggestions of incestuous desire are unmistakable here. The conclusion, even if dictated by a censor, is still compelling in its suggestion of what could — and why not? — have happened. ★★★★

The Dark Mirror (1946). A tour de force for Olivia de Havilland. Did she or didn’t she kill a doctor found dead in his apartment? It’s complicated. With Lew Ayres as a dapper psychiatrist and James Mitchell as a rumbled police lieutenant. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

A pocket notebook sighting
(with EXchange names)

[William Woodson as “Dave.” From Vice Squad (dir. Arnold Laven, 1953). Click either image for a larger view.]

Here a police officer poses as a telephone repairman so as to snoop. And he finds a six-ring pocket notebook with a whole bunch of “clients.” And their telephone numbers. And a misspelled state name: Arizonia.

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 : The Case Against Brooklyn : 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) : Naked City (8) : Naked City (9) : 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?

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 : Now, Voyager : 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

Bottle-nose, black goatee

At a luncheon given by Mme Swann, the narrator sees, for the first time, M. Bergotte, his favorite writer. But Bergotte is not the “soft-voiced bard with the white hair” of the narrator’s imagination. No, he is “a stocky, coarse, thick-set, short-sighted man, quite young, with a red bottle-nose and a black goatee.”

Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, trans. James Grieve (New York: Penguin, 2002).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, January 3, 2021

“Give me a break”

“So what are we gonna do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break”: Donald Trump* to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state. Listen to the call. Or at least read the transcript (The Washington Post ). It’s our president playing Mafia boss as the country burns. He needs you to find him some votes though. Or what? “You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s, you know, that’s a criminal, that’s a criminal offense. And you know, you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. That’s a big risk.”

[I changed “going to” in the Post transcript to “gonna” and made minor changes for accuracy. Also for accuracy: as Trump* says at other points, he needs 11,780 votes, which would give him the state by one vote. Which of course would look legit to anyone, right?]

Dizzy fingers

[Bettle Bailey, January 3, 2020. Click for a larger view.]

Yes, I read Beetle Bailey. And now I have to read it more closely. Because the number of fingers on its characters’ hands varies, from person to person, from panel to panel. This panel from today’s strip is just one example.

A cartoonist’s joke? Mere sloppiness? Hard to say.

Those symbols, by the way, are called grawlixes, a Mort Walker coinage.

[Post title with apologies to Zez Confrey.]

“Yet another baseless investigation”

“The attempt of these Trump Republicans to launch yet another baseless investigation is in keeping with their use of investigations to discredit Democrats since at least the 2012 attack on two U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans”: Heather Cox Richardson’s most recent “Letter from an American” is exceptionally good. Richardson was the subject of a recent New York Times piece.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Small pleasures

Buying toothpaste because the gauge is pointing to E, and then getting at least another two weeks' worth of paste from the old tube. Squeeze!

[No. 1 in what I think will be a series.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is another 2010 repeat. It’s by “Anna Stiga,” Stan Again, a pseudonym Stan Newman uses for easier Stumpers. I found it an easy puzzle, even by Stiga standards. One sign that Newman has, as Newsday points out, updated the puzzles running during his vacation: 38-A, nine letters, “Odin’s wife in 2011's Thor.”

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

11-A, three letters, “US stamp series subject of 1945–46.” The rules about this stuff have changed, as I realized from the answer.

24-A, nine letters, “Plenty of nothing.” I was thinking of hot air and windbags. I suspect the answer comes from the world of sport. (It does.)

29-A, six letters, “Havana? No.” A blast from the past.

29-D, three letters, “HHH successor as VP.” Who’d have thought the name would be back in the air now?

32-D, eight letters, “Shakespearean title character.” Gotta reach a bit here, or at least I did.

43-D, six letters, “Tot’s coat attachment.” Aww.

51-A, six letters, “Marimba mallet material.” Huh. This clue made me think about how many musical instruments I’ve never tried.

An odd word, for me: the answer to 48-A, nine letters, “Hall of Famer, by definition.” But I see that in a certain discourse, yes, that’s the word.

My favorite answer in today’s puzzle, 32-A, fifteen letters, “Second-string players?” Though I’d hardly call them second-stringers.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, January 1, 2021

A Berger’s Deli menu

I looked through my modest folder of menus, and there it was, circa 2002, a menu from Berger’s Deli:

   [Click any image for a larger view.]

I look forward to the time when it’s possible to walk into a restaurant, sit down, and order anything on the menu. And this is quite a menu. Enjoy, vicariously. And don’t miss the H&H bagels.

[The colors are not consistent from page to page. Blame the lighting crew, all on vacation.]

Sort of quixotic

Donald Trump*’s effort to overturn the result of the presidential election is not quixotic. But Donald has one thing in common with the Don: they both tilt at windmills.