Wednesday, June 30, 2021


From CNN:

More than 80 teens and adult staffers from a Central Illinois summer camp tested positive for Covid-19 in an outbreak that has impacted people across three states, officials said.

The Crossing Camp in Schuyler County held in mid-June did not check vaccination status for campers or staffers, and masks were not required indoors at the camp, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said in a news release. . . .

All campers and staff were eligible for vaccination, although “IDPH is aware of only a handful of campers and staff receiving the vaccine,” the department said Monday.
The camp is a Christian enterprise, with a website promising “Best Summer of Your Life.” The link to a Medical Release Form from the site’s dropdown menu for Summer Camps goes nowhere. A page detailing What to Bring does not mention masks.

The camp session that suffered the outbreak: Student Camp 2021, for eight-graders through graduating seniors — all old enough to have been vaccinated.


August 31: Now the count is “180 confirmed and probable cases” (Chicago Tribune).

[The Wayback Machine’s archive of the site also shows a Medical Release Form link that goes nowhere.]

FeedBurner e-mail subscriptions

A word to all who read Orange Crate Art via e-mail: FeedBurner will end e-mail subscriptions in July. I’ve looked for an alternative service without success. Some services offer only notifications, so that a subscriber must click through to read a post. Other services send posts with intrusive ads or awful formatting. Most emphasize the building of one’s brand — that’s not me.

If you’ve been reading via e-mail, all I can suggest, at least for now, is that you visit Orange Crate Art in person or subscribe via RSS. I hope you’ll do one or the other or both.

[If I do find an appropriate service, e-mail subscribers will need to resubscribe. I would never give subscribers’ e-mail addresses to another service without permission.]

More interesting tuna salad

If anyone doesn’t already know: curry powder makes tuna salad instantly more interesting. I first tasted tuna salad with curry powder — as an unannounced ingredient — in Cambridge, Massachusetts, many years ago, after buying a sandwich to eat while waiting to buy tickets, or something.

If that last sentence fails to makes this post more interesting, please ignore it and focus on curry powder instead.

A Mongol sighting

Nicky’s face (John Cassavetes) is hidden, for now. But there’s his pencil, its ferrule shining, immediately recognizable — at least if you care about pencils.

[Mikey and Nicky (dir. Elaine May, 1976).]

[Click either image for a larger view.]

Related reading
All OCA Mongol pencil posts (Pinboard)

[The first (headless) shot fills the screen; the second shows part of the first.]

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Van Dyke Parks and Verónica Valerio

“A legendary 1960s music producer teams up with an up-and-coming musician from Mexico”: Marco Werman talks with Van Dyke Parks and Verónica Valerio about their new album, Van Dyke Parks Orchestrates Verónica Valerio: Only in America.

Related reading
All OCA VDP posts (Pinboard)

Clip art and rocks

[“Ee-Yew!” Zippy, June 29, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

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

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


From Limelight (dir. Charles Chaplin, 1952). Postant (Nigel Bruce) thinks he’s offering a compliment. Carvelo (Chaplin) sets him straight:

“Tonight you’re gonna make ’em all look like a bunch of amateurs.”

“That’s all any of us are — amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”

[Limelight is streaming at TCM through July 14.]

Monday, June 28, 2021

Twelve movies

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

Two with Carole Lombard

Virtue (dir. Eddie Buzzell, 1932). Carole Lombard stars as Mae — just Mae — a streetwalker who marries cabdriver Jimmy Doyle (Pat O’Brien) and tries but fails to keep her previous life a secret. Lombard is great, mixing indignation over her husband’s suspicions with shame about her past. O’Brien is little more than mechanical. The surprise of the movie is Mayo Methot, whom I’ve known only as a name (one half of the battling Bogarts with husband Humphrey), turning in a solid performance as Mae’s friend Lil. ★★★

No Man of Her Own (dir. Wesley Ruggles, 1932). Clark Gable is Babe Stewart, a card sharp who’s left New York while trouble blows over. In sleepy Glendale, wherever that is, he meets Connie Randall, a lonely librarian (Carole Lombard), and marries her on the flip of a coin. Babe’s charm is invisible to me (he’s a cad, a cheat, an egomaniac); Connie’s wit and spunk are considerable. But what’ll happen when Connie cottons to the way her new husband makes his living? ★★★★

[As should now be obvious, there’s no relation to the Mitchell Leisen movie of the same name.]


A Private War (dir. Matthew Heineman, 2018). Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin, war correspondent, putting her life on the line in Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. A harrowing depiction of the pain of war and a reporter’s compulsion to bear witness. But the dialogue is sometimes wooden (especially in the dreadful scenes with Stanley Tucci), and I was too often reminded of the movie trope of the injured player pleading to get back in the game. Most disturbing scene for me: Colvin looking at a newsroom map with Post-its marking hotspots, wondering what risk to take next. ★★★


Limelight (dir. Charles Chaplin, 1952). It’s 1914: Chaplin is a fading music-hall performer; Claire Bloom is a troubled dancer whom he cares for after she attempts suicide. A sad, beautiful, luminous depiction of theatrical fame, falling and rising, and a sharp commentary on the whims of audiences. Many scenes echo silents, but there’s also a lot of talking, with Chaplin’s Carvelo propounding a philosophy of life that seems to have been Chaplin’s own (a joyful stoicism, I’d call it). With Nigel Bruce, Buster Keaton, Norman Lloyd, and a host of Chaplins. ★★★★


Paris Blues (dir. Martin Ritt, 1961). Friends Connie and Lillian (Diahann Carroll, Joanne Woodward) come to Paris for a vacation and meet ex-pat jazz musicians Eddie and Ram (Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman). It’s Route 66 in Paris, with Poitier’s Eddie as the genial Tod Stiles, and Newman’s Ram as the edgier Buz Murdock. Great cinematography by Christian Matras, with moody scenes of Parisian streets (landmarks, appropriately, are peripheral); a good score by Duke Ellington; a wonderful appearance by Louis Armstrong as visiting musician Wild Man Moore; and much hokey dialogue. Look for Aaron Bridgers (Billy Strayhorn’s partner for many years) as a pianist. ★★★


Walk a Crooked Mile (dir. Gordon Douglas, 1948). An FBI/Scotland Yard procedural, served in the semi-documentary style (Reed Hadley as narrator), with generous helpings of noir. Indeed: as the story nears its (alas) contrived end, everything seems to take place in the dark. Dennis O’Keefe and Louis Hayward — the one rumpled, the other suave —team up to figure out who’s taking atomic secrets out of a research center and sending them to the Soviets. With invisible inks, undercover laundering, romance between scientists, and secret messages in paintings, there’s something for everyone. ★★★


Mikey and Nicky (dir. Elaine May, 1976). Nicky, small-time hoodlum (John Cassavetes), has been marked for a hit and is on the run; Mikey, fellow hoodlum and friend from childhood (Peter Falk), has answered Nicky’s call for help. What follows is one night in Philadelphia, as the two men, one frantic, the other a voice of calm reason, wander the streets and ride buses, sparring with words and fists (improvising, I think, at least sometimes), and visiting bars, exes, a candy store, and a graveyard. And all the while a hit man (the late Ned Beatty) is looking for Nicky. An extraordinary movie about debts to memory and the limits of loyalty. ★★★★


Gidget (dir. Paul Wendkos, 1959). Sandra Dee is Francie Lawrence, an almost-seventeen tomboy, down on dating (ick), newly fascinated by surfing, dubbed Gidget (“girl” + “midget”) by the bro surfers who adopt her as a laughable, perky mascot. With the Big Kahuna (Cliff Robertson) and Moondoggie (James Darren) as protectors and instructors, she learns to surf, and, more importantly, learns to live the vital lesson imparted by her grandmother’s sampler: “To be a real woman is to bring out the best in a man.” It’s Social Norms 101, as Gidget changes from flat-chested iconoclast to busty, pinned sweetheart. This movie would pair weirdly and well with The Edge of Seventeen (dir. Kelly Fremon Craig, 2016). ★★★


The Las Vegas Story (dir. Robert Stevenson, 1952). Watching Victor Mature and Vincent Price vie for Jane Russell in this movie, I feel like Gidget: ick! Russell plays Linda Rollins, who used to perform (with a seedy-looking Hoagy Carmichael) at a Vegas casino (the aptly named Last Chance). Linda’s old flame Dave (Mature) is on the Vegas police force; her husband Lloyd (Price) is in financial trouble. The plot hinges on an expensive necklace, and there’s a hotel named the Fabulous, though fabulous is not a noun. ★★


Blackmail (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1929). I’ve been told that even Brits find the quick dialogue in Hitchcock’s early movies difficult to follow, but this one must be an exception: it moves slowly (no surprise that it’s an adaptation of a play). Long story short: Alice (Anny Ondra) kills a man while defending herself against rape; her Scotland Yard boyfriend Frank (John Longden) is placed in charge of the investigation; and there’s a fellow (Donald Calthrop) who has circumstantial evidence of Alice’s guilt. Look for hints of The 39 Steps, Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, and North by Northwest. My favorite scenes: the tobacco shop, with its retail density. ★★★


Fourteen keys

Seven Keys to Baldpate (dir. Reginald Barker 1929). First it was a novel, by Earl Derr Biggers; then, a play by George M. Cohan; then the stuff of seven movies, two television dramas, and two radio plays. “Adventuress, crooked politicians, safe robbed, and love at first sight: I wanted to get away from melodrama,” says a hack writer. It’s a spoof melodrama, with the writer (Richard Dix) trying to win a bet by writing a 10,000-word story in twenty-four hours in an empty inn. But an adventuress, crooked politicians, &c., make his life difficult. ★★

Seven Keys to Baldpate (dir. Lew Landers, 1947). This version is a considerable improvement, cutting nearly all the exposition and adding a more dweebish mystery writer (Phillip Terry, Ray Milland’s brother in The Lost Weekend ) and a few quick scares. Eduardo Ciannelli (Krug in Foreign Correspondent ) provides genuine menace as a criminal mastermind; Jimmy Conlin (of a zillion movies) adds weirdness as a misogynistic hermit. That this play is still performed might have more to do with its range of parts (X would be perfect as Y ) than with any inherent dramatic goodness. ★★★

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

[Sources: Criterion Channel, Netflix, TCM, YouTube.]

Bad news, good news

Bad news: In my part of Illinois, with a 32.7% vaccination rate, people are playing bingo at the VFW, indoors, no masks, sitting side by side on both sides of long tables. Social distancing? “I think it's kind of refreshing to be able to gather together and not have to worry about that,” says the caller.

But good news, if it pans out: “A study finds that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could offer protection for years” (New York Times ).

I’ll take any good news I can get.

Now and Then, a podcast

A new podcast, from historians Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman: Now and Then. As the title suggests, their conversation puts past and present together. I just listened to the latest episode, “QAnon, Cults, and Cutlery,” in which Richardson and Freeman consider QAnon, Salem, the Oneida Community, and Jonestown. Highly recommended.

Also highly recommended: Richardson’s daily commentary on the news: Letters from an American.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Britney and Brian

An opinion piece by Helaine Olen in The Washington Post: “What Britney Spears has endured would not have happened to a male star.”

A glaring counter-example would be Brian Wilson, whose life was controlled in every particular by psychologist Eugene Landy. Wikipedia has a detailed account of Landy’s treatment of Wilson in 1975–1976 and 1982–1991. Among the details: at one point, Landy was in Wilson’s will for a 70% share of the estate.

Related reading
All OCA Brian Wilson posts (Pinboard)

Money and time

The Washington Post recently offered a series of e-mails devoted to making “A Better Week.” The advice offered therein is fairly obvious: for instance, batch your notifications; schedule recurring activities.

The suggestion that caught my interest: “Buy back your time.” And the example of buying back time that caught my interest is the most upscale of four:

If you can budget $50 a week: You could try a monthly home cleaning service and outsource the deeper cleaning. You could plan to have a few friends over that night, while your place is looking spiffy. If you’re a parent, you could pay for a babysitter and have a few hours to yourself or with your partner.
It so happens that I read this bit of advice not long before reading this item from Inside Higher Ed :
Columbia College in Chicago took down a job ad seeking a housekeeper for the institution’s president after Columbia employees applied for the position.

Members of the United Staff of Columbia College union applied for the housekeeping job at Kwang-Wu Kim’s home, which is owned by the college, amid contract negotiations with the college. The union’s current contract expired in 2018.

“While President Kim is looking for help cleaning his home, those of us who support Columbia students every day are out actively looking for a second or even third income so we can keep our families afloat and pay our bills,” Craig Sigele, president of USCC, said in a statement. “We don’t have the luxury of hiring housekeepers. We are struggling to survive.”
President Kim’s yearly compensation, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education: $635,391.

United Staff of Columbia College has a website.

A related post
Income disparity in higher ed

[I remember as a child of the working-class being astonished that some faculty colleagues paid people to clean their houses. Other Post suggestions: paying $5 to $10 for grocery delivery and $20 a week for a laundry service. The Post’s free way to buy back time: swapping lunch-making with a friend one day a week. Which saves time how exactly?]

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The rest is silence, I hope

No sound on C-SPAN for Donald Trump**’s rally in Wellington, Ohio. The sound began cutting out during a recording of Willie Nelson’s “You Were Always on My Mind,” and now, as a tyke would say, “All gone!”

No sound on another channel broadcasting the rally. That channel shall remain nameless here.


I jinxed it — the sound is back, in the form of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

Today’s Newsday Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword is by Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor. I found it about as difficult (sixteen minutes) as last week’s puzzle, which was by “Anna Stiga,” the pseudonym that signifies an easier Newman puzzle. YMMV: your minutes may vary.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-D, six letters, “Devices above doors.” I first thought of transom windows and pails of water.

8-D, five letters, “Scheming co-conspirator of ’50s TV.” Not all co-conspirators are criminals.

17-A, eight letters, “It may be a quick hit.” I thought of substances. For all I know, the answer could refer to substances.

36-A, seven letters, “Former Top Chef judge.” A little devious.

36-D, six letters, “Less than sharp.” Clever.

44-A, four letters, “#17 among TV Guide’s greatest cartoon characters.” Keep your eyes open and your mouth closed. And if that’s a spoiler, you already know too much.

44-D, five letters, “Pre-presidential partner of ’51.” Uh, MAMIE? No. Worse.

Best clue today: 35-A, eleven letters, “Rogues on the road.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Comics intertextuality

June 2021: Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes. I made links to eight individual strips, but Facebook turns each into the link I’ve now added.

I can’t claim to know either strip, but I dig intertextuality. Thanks, Kevin.


And on a related note, Comic Book Guy turns up in today’s Hi and Lois.

Friday, June 25, 2021


Two hundred and seventy months, or twenty-two and a half years. That’s Derek Chauvin’s sentence.

“An old picture postcard”

Our narrator, V., has seen a diary reporting the weather on December 31, 1899, the day of his half-brother Sebastian’s birth. The diary belongs to “an old Russian lady” with the Nabokovian name Olga Olegovna Orlova, and it describes the day as “a fine windless one,” temperature twelve below zero.

Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941).

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

[A droshky is a carriage.]

Recently updated

“America’s flavourite candy” Now with turkey joints.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

iA Writer

[A draft. Click for a much larger view.]

Here’s a word in favor of iA Writer, which has become my favorite app for writing in iOS and macOS. No toolbar (unless you want to see one), beautifully designed monospaced fonts, and the joys of Markdown, which I should have started using years ago. Markdown makes for a much more congenial writing environment than HTML, and with keyboard shortcuts, it’s a cinch to learn. Did I mention that I should have started using Markdown years ago?

To create a blog post from a Markdown file,. I select the text, choose Copy HTML, and paste into the Blogger Compose window. Then I remove the paragraph tags — <p></p> — at the beginning and end of the text. (Blogger likes line breaks — <br /><br /> — between paragraphs, made in Markdown with the backward slash.)

In macOS, I still also write in MarsEdit, which also uses Markdown. I tend to think of MarsEdit as the app for writing something to post immediately, iA Writer as the app for writing something I’ll post at some point. I wrote this post this morning in iA Writer.

iA Writer is available for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. All versions have many more features than I’ve mentioned here. (HTML Preview is one.) All but the iOS app allow a free trial. Support via e-mail is friendly and fast. iA Writer is one (or two) of the best apps I’ve ever bought.

Did I mention that I should have started using Markdown years ago?

[The strikethrough that begins the screenshot draft is brought to you by iA Writer’s optional Style Check, which flags possible clichés, fillers, redundancies, and words and phrases of the writer’s choosing, but doesn’t overrule the writer. My only relation to iA Writer is that of a happy customer and careful writer.]

“America’s flavourite candy”

[Life, January 17, 1949. Click for a larger view.]

Butterscotch and nutmeats? You had me at “bones.”

Here is older evidence of this now-gone candy. An unrelated candy, Ganong Chicken Bones (cinnamon and chocolate), is still manufactured. Another treat: Chick-o-Sticks (peanut butter and coconut), also once known as Chicken Bones.


There are also turkey joints. Thanks, librarian!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Nuts in Illinois

My representative in Congress is hosting another member of Congress, the xenophobic space-laser Q lady, at a July fund-raising event in a nearby city.

It’s curious: my rep makes no mention of this event on Facebook or Twitter. It’s almost — almost! — as if she’d rather have only diehard acolytes see just how far to the right she is. Fly below the radar, Mary, or try to. News organizations already know.

No Compromise, a podcast series

No Compromise is a podcast series from NPR, and winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for audio reporting:

Discover a social media empire with an unapologetic vision of gun rights—generating millions of likes, follows, and dollars. From WAMU’s Guns & America, reporters Lisa Hagen of WABE and Chris Haxel of KCUR expose how three brothers from the most uncompromising corner of the gun debate are turning hot-button issues into donations and controversy.
Listening to this podcast has given me much greater insight into the people who (supposedly) represent me in the House of Representatives and the Illinois House. For instance.

“The oats had vanished at last”

Lord, it is time. Summer was very great, as the poet says. The children and their parents must leave grandmother’s country manor for the city.

And then it’s time to return.

Adalbert Stifter, “Cat-Silver,” in Motley Stones, trans. Isabel Fargo Cole (New York: New York Review Books, 2021).

The rhythms of the natural world are very much part of Stifter’s fiction. But so is natural or supranatural catastrophe. That’s still to come in this story, along with an astonishing rescue performed by a wild child before she disappears into the forest.

I’ve borrowed the first line of Ted Berrigan’s translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Herbsttag”: “Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr gross.” “Very great” seems to me a perfect way to characterize a summer. How was your summer, man? It was very great.

More Stifter
A passage from The Bachelors : A passage from Rock Crystal : A passage from “Tourmaline”

[Ted Berrigan’s translation of Rilke appears as “Autumn’s Day” in Nothing for You (1977). The first line, quoted here, appears as the first line of Sonnet IV in The Sonnets (1964). The absence of commas from “potatoes cabbage and turnips” is deliberate: as the translator explains, Stifter sometimes omits commas “to create subtle rhythmic affects, convey shifts of tone in spoken dialogue, or allow the items in a list to merge in one unbroken flow.” Cat-silver is a name for mica.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Subway map debate

From Gothamist: “The Secret History Of The Great Subway Map Debate Of 1978 Revealed.” The debate is the subject of a new book, The New York Subway Map Debate, edited by Gary Hustwit, director of the (great) documentary Helvetica.

“Completely papered over”

Vienna, “some years ago.” We enter the apartment of a man known to his neighbors as the pension man. Here he lives with his wife and daughter. We enter his room.

Adalbert Stifter, “Tourmaline,” in Motley Stones, trans. Isabel Fargo Cole (New York: New York Review Books, 2021).

Stifter (1805–1868) is a master of extended and sometimes exceedingly strange description. This room makes me think of the allegory of the cave. It also makes me think of interior decoration as it might be practiced in a story by Kafka or Borges.

Motley Stones is a collection of six stories, each named for a mineral or rock.

More Stifter
A passage from The Bachelors : A passage from Rock Crystal

[According to Max Brod, Stifter was one of Kafka’s favorite writers. According to the cover copy of Motley Stones, Kafka referred to Stifter as “my fat brother.” Tourmaline is a mineral.]

Monday, June 21, 2021

How to improve writing (no. 93)

As I wrote in no. 75, “Every time I look at Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo, I end up rewriting one or more sentences.” And so it is today. Here’s a paragraph:

But it’s not the business model of newsletters that brings me to write about them today. It’s the more intangible or elusive qualities that makes them attractive to readers. The apparently viable business model makes them attractive to independent journalists and publications. But none of it would work if there wasn’t demonstrable demand. And that demand very clearly exists.
I noticed the error in agreement first: it’s the more intangible or elusive qualities that make them attractive to readers. But then I kept looking. Here’s an improved version:
It’s not the business model of newsletters that interests me: it’s the qualities that make newsletters attractive to readers. The business model attracts independent journalists and publications. But that model would fail if there weren’t demand among readers — and there is.
From fifty-nine words in five sentences to forty-one words in three, with no loss of meaning. What’s lost is the junk: “brings me to write about them today,” “apparently viable,” “demonstrable demand,” “very clearly exists.” I almost missed “demonstrable demand,” which of course is no different from “demand.”


June 27: Here’s further improvement:
It’s not the business model of newsletters that interests me: it’s the qualities that make newsletters attractive to readers. The business model that attracts independent journalists and publications would fail if there weren’t demand among readers — and there is.
Thirty-nine words across two sentences, with no loss of meaning.

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

[This post is no. 93 in a series dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Chart fail

From an Axios post about “the swoon in college enrollment.” On an iPhone, the different blues are difficult to distinguish:

On the Mac desktop, the chart is easier to read, though here you’ll have to click for a larger view.

But the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has the data in a much more readable form. Here again you’ll have to click for a larger view.

Use the whole paintbox, Axios, please.

More Robert Walser

Robert Walser. Little Snow Landscape. Translated from the German by Tom Whalen. New York: New York Review Books, 2021. 188 pages. $21.95.

Yet again fresh proof of my sedulity in the practice of literature seems to have come off as quite strange.

Robert Walser
Little Snow Landscape collects sixty-nine short prose pieces written between 1905 and 1933. That’s all anyone who already knows Robert Walser’s writing in translation needs to know about this book: more Walser. He appears here, again and again, as a solitary walker, observer, and thinker, sometimes traveling extraordinary distances on foot (Bern to Geneva, Munich to Würzburg). Streets, forests, and snow-covered fields beckon. Skies and landscapes are a stylized array of lovely colors: blue, white, yellow, green. Houses have faces (windows are eyes), and snow-covered roofs are hats. They’re all better seen on foot, because
the walker can take in everything so calmly, sumptuously, and freely, while nowhere can a train traveler stand still and pause, except in the station, where mostly elegant tail-coated waiters inquire whether one would like a glass of beer. (“Walking”)
I love that sniffy “mostly elegant.”

Perhaps even better than traveling on foot is traveling by map, as Walser does in “Illusion,” in which a trip to Moscow includes a visit to a house of pleasure where a woman commands him to pour her a glass of wine. He does, she calls him a nice man, but then — everything vanishes.

Loss is ever-present in Walser’s depiction of human relations. The only love is courtly: self-abased lovers, imperious beloveds, hopeless efforts, rank disdain. Walser’s account of his pursuit of one Louise goes off in different directions, sentence by sentence, before recounting Louise’s exploitation at the hands of a powerful businessman. Or things might go the other way round: “I love you and invite you to dominate me,” a movie man anticipates saying to “a female bit player.”

The most enduring relationships in Walser’s prose are with the things of the world, the more insignificant the better:
Things near seemed to him more significant than significant and important distant things. Thus to him insignificance was significance. (“Walking”)
In “Chamber Piece” a writer at a loss for a subject looks under his bed, and finds nothing. But then he notices an umbrella hanging on the wall: “The thing was quite near.” And so it becomes his subject.

Related reading
All OCA Robert Walser posts (Pinboard)

[Cover: Karl Walser, View from the Window, 1899.]

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Father’s Day

[My dad, not yet a dad, in Florida, 1954. Photo by my mom, not yet a mom. See also this photograph.]

Happy Father’s Day to all.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Today’s Newsday Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword is once again by “Anna Stiga,” Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor. The pseudonym signifies an easier puzzle. It’s a good one, though a few clues feel dated:

39-A, fourteen letters, “Christener of the ‘USS Missouri.’”

52-A, nine letters, “Big name in the TV business.”

63-A, seven letters, “Groucho hawked them on You Bet Your Life.”

Me, I’ve only seen You Bet Your Life with the original commercials removed.

A more contemporary motif appears in 3-D, four letters, and 47-D, five letters, both clued “Shania Twain, e.g.” My guess is that having the same clue twice is a play on twain. I hope so.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-A, seven letters, “Folks.” I did not see the answer until I did. The vowels make it tricky.

7-D, seven letters, “Willow-tree derivative.” I don’t know how I know the answer, but I do.

18-A, seven letters, “Where Falstaff premiered.” I don’t know opera, but I know Duke Ellington, and his work gave me the answer.

42-D, seven letters, “Literally, ‘harbor wave.’” I learned something.

60-A, seven letters, “Not analytical.” Philosophy!

My favorite clue in this puzzle: 13-D, ten letters, “Post stuff.” Are we speaking of the mail? Social media? Clever.

Free bonus: a clip of Lord Buckley on You Bet Your Life. Dig.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

On Juneteenth

Eugene Robinson, writing in The Washington Post:

Making Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day news of emancipation finally reached enslaved people in Galveston, Tex., a national holiday is a victory. But it is a hollow one at a moment when the political party that won the Civil War and made that freedom a permanent reality is now moving heaven and earth to keep African Americans from voting. . . .

If Republicans want to convince us they are sincere in their stirring words about the importance of Juneteenth, let’s see them sign on to the voting-rights legislation that passed the House and now is being considered in the Senate. If they don’t like that bill, let’s see them come up with one of their own to protect the right of every American to vote.
A related post
A passage from Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth

Friday, June 18, 2021

No mask

I switched back to my older (and younger) sidebar picture this afternoon. I still wear a mask when I’m in indoors with many people, some of whom will certainly be unvaccinated. But no mask outdoors. And I write my blog posts at home, unmasked. So that autumnal photograph of me standing on the sidewalk, wearing a mask, is gone, and for better or worse, my face is back. Hello.

Mac keyboard shortcuts

From David Sparks: twenty-five Mac keyboard shortcuts for greater productivity.

One strange thing about using a Mac: you can go for years before stumbling onto basic stuff. Like, say, Option-Command-L, which opens the Downloads folder from the Desktop or Finder.

Area man patents punctuation mark

It’s the Rhetoricon™, for use “at the end of a sentence, phrase, statement or comment that is both rhetorical and sarcastic.” I’m sure it’ll be very popular.

I’d add a Rhetoricon™ to the end of that last sentence if I knew how.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Pocket notebook sighting

In I See a Dark Stranger (dir. Frank Launder, 1946), Bridie Quilty (Deborah Kerr) pages through a mysterious notebook. You’ll have to watch to understand what it’s about. The movie is streaming at the Criterion Channel.

[Click either image for a larger view.]

More notebook sightings
All the King’s Men : Angels with Dirty Faces : The Bad and the Beautiful : Ball of Fire : The Big Clock : Bombshell : The Brasher Doubloon : Cat People : Caught : 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 : Sweet Smell of Success : Time Table : T-Men : To the Ends of the Earth : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Vice Squad : Walk East on Beacon! : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once

[Byrrh is an apéritif.]

“Sardine Song”

“Oh for the life of a sardine, that is the life for me.” From Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight (1952), it’s “Sardine Song,” words and music by Chaplin.

Limelight is now available on-demand from TCM. If you’ve never seen it, don’t miss it.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

The Millers in Esquire

Congresswoman Mary Miller has now made it into Esquire as a member of the Sedition Caucus. Also appearing in a supporting role: her husband (and Illinois state representative) Chris. The Millers’ ignominious appearance in Esquire joins previous appearances in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair.

I have to wonder whether Mary Miller’s infamous “Hitler was right on one thing” was a moment of sheer idiocy, or a moment of sheer idiocy calculated to make a big splash and bring in bucks.

All the Miller posts
Chris Miller, pandemic denier : 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 : His ’n’ resignations are in order : Mary Miller in The New Yorker : Mary Miller vs. AOC : #Sedition3PTruck : Mary Miller’s response to mass murder : Mary Miller and trans rights : Mary Miller on a billboard : Some of Mary Miller’s votes : Illinois-15, COVID-Central : Another Miller vote

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

News from New Hampshire

Colleen O’Neill, widow of J.D. Salinger, has offered to donate her defunct general store to the town of Cornish, New Hampshire, for use as a town library.

You can still see the store in its OPEN state at Google Maps.

Related reading
All OCA Salinger posts (Pinboard)

Another Mary Miller vote

Mary Miller (Illinois-15) was one of twenty-one Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted yesterday against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to all police officers who defended the Capitol on January 6. The measure passed with 406 votes.

Among the no votes: Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Paul A. Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Louie Gohmert. In a tweet yesterday, Gaetz called Miller “Based Congresswoman.” “Thank you!!” she replied. There’s something about Mary.

Elaine and I are waiting on a reply to a letter we sent Miller asking what steps she’s taken and will take to encourage vaccination in her district. Illinois-15 has the lowest rate of vaccination — 31.75% — in the state. The number correlates remarkably well with the 2020 presidential election results in Illinois-15, where the losing candidate received 72.2% of the vote.

All the Mary 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 : Mary Miller, still in trouble : His ’n’ resignations are in order : Mary Miller in The New Yorker : Mary Miller vs. AOC : Mary Miller’s response to mass murder : Mary Miller and trans rights : Mary Miller on a billboard : Some of Mary Miller’s votes : Illinois-15, COVID-Central

Bloomsday 2021

From the National Jukebox at the Library of Congress, “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” music by J.L. Molloy, words by G. Clifton Bingham, sung by Corinne Morgan, recorded October 3, 1904. Listen.

Here is a 2008 Bloomsday post with more about the song and its place in Ulysses.

Related reading
All OCA Bloomsday posts

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Separated at birth

  [Edward Chapman as Mr. Peachy in The October Man (dir. Roy Ward Baker, 1947). William Barr as himself. Click either image for a larger view.]

Two criminals. There may be a better match, but finding one would have meant more time looking at William Barr. See also this Mucinex DM commercial.

Also separated at birth
Claude Akins and Simon Oakland : Ernest Angley and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán : Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : Bérénice Bejo and Paula Beer : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : David Bowie and Karl Held : Victor Buono and Dan Seymour : Ernie Bushmiller and Red Rodney : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Gough : Henry Daniell and Anthony Wiener : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Adam Driver and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska : Charles Grassley and Abraham Jebediah Simpson II : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Barbara Hale and Vivien Leigh : Pat Harrington Jr. and Marcel Herrand : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Steven Isserlis and Pat Metheny : Colonel Wilhelm Klink and Rudy Giuliani : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : Don Lake and Andrew Tombes : Markku Luolajan-Mikkola and John Malkovich : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Jean Renoir and Steve Wozniak : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

They and others

“Gender-neutral pronouns are more widespread today than ever before. The backlash to them, however, is nothing new”: in The Atlantic, Michael Waters offers a short history of gender-neutral pronouns.

Bagels and ducks

From Gothamist: a duck and her brood walk into a bagel store. No joke.

Monday, June 14, 2021

“I’m not Merv!”

The Late Show, back tonight, is lit.

Where the money goes

From Popular Information: “These twenty-five rainbow flag-waving corporations donated more than $10 million to anti-gay politicians in the last two years.”

Beautiful shoplifters

In the movies, that is. I know of two or three:

Barbara Stanwyck as Lee Leander in Remember the Night (dir. Mitchell Leisen, 1940).

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (dir. Blake Edwards, 1961).

If we include real-life crime, there’s Doris Payne, the subject of the documentary The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne (dir. Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina, 2013).

Who else?

Twelve movies

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

The October Man (dir. Roy Ward Baker, 1947). A young woman is murdered, and her neighbor in a residential hotel (John MIlls) is suspected. He’s recovering from a brain injury suffered in an accident, and it’s not certain that he’s “all right.” The greatest pleasures in this movie come from the depiction of life in the cozy, claustrophobic Brockhurst Common Hotel, whose residents snoop, play cards, and complain about the cold and the absence of marmalade. The question of whodunit is answered early on, and the pacing is erratic: after interminable trips to and from the police station, the chase near the movie’s end feels comic. ★★★


Sleepers West (Eugene Forde, 1941). The sleepers are train cars, going to San Francisco, and they carry, among other folk, private detective Michael Shayne (Lloyd Nolan), shepherding a surprise trial witness (Mary Beth Hughes) who’ll reveal a web of political corruption. Along for the ride are Mike’s ex (what a coincidence), her fiancé, a businessman on the lam, an inquisitive porter, an engineer determined to make good time on his final run, and a would-be hit man. Lots of variety, with shifting story lines as we move from compartment to compartment. Look for George Chandler (Uncle Petrie from Lassie), whom the IMDb identifies as “Yokel.” ★★★


Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (dir. Nathan Hertz, 1958). Her name is Nancy (Allison Hayes), and her husband Harry (William Hudson) is interested only in her money and his Honey, his girlfriend (Yvette Vickers). A chance encounter with an extraterrestrial orb turns Nancy into a giant, with an Achilles-sized rage. Guess where she’s going with it. A great pop-culture document of female anger, its suppression (chains, tranquilizers), and its flowering. ★★★★


Cause for Alarm! (dir. Tay Garnett, 1951). Search YouTube for recently added film noir and you’ll find all sorts of worthwhile movies — that have nothing to do with film noir. This one is melodrama, a tour de force for Loretta Young as Ellen Jones, a desperate housewife trying to retrieve a letter that her just-died husband sent to the district attorney, accusing his doctor and Ellen of plotting to kill him. A drama of postal procedure? The premise may sound ludicrous, but the result is genuinely compelling. ★★★★


Outrage (dir. Ida Lupino, 1950). Between 1949 and 1953, Ida Lupino wrote and/or directed several socially conscious films, treating such subjects as bigamy, polio, and unwed motherhood. Here the subject is rape, with Mala Powers giving a great performance as Ann Walton, a bookkeeper, engaged to be married, who is raped after she leaves work. Ann flees her family and fiancé and as “Ann Blake” finds herself among compassionate (though clueless) people at an orange ranch, where she meets a vaguely mystical minister (Tom Andrews) who gives her good counsel. Frank and unnerving, and when the rapist stalks Ann through a deserted industrial area, terrifying. ★★★★


History Is Made at Night (dir. Frank Borzage, 1937). The movie starts out as romantic melodrama, with vengeful husband Bruce Vail (Colin Clive), his desperate wife Irene (Jean Arthur), and “the world’s greatest headwaiter,” Paul Dumond (Charles Boyer), who happens to be nearby when Irene is in danger. Things then take a turn toward comedy (the restaurant scenes are priceless), then back to melodrama, before ending up as a proto-disaster story. Clive looks ghastly (he died in 1937); Arthur and Boyer are a wonderful comic duo (there’s much more to Charles Boyer than I might have thought). Honorable mention to Leo Carrillo for his comic contributions as Cesare, Paul’s pal and “the world’s greatest chef.” ★★★★


Two more by Mitchell Leisen

Hands Across the Table (1935). Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray star: she, as Regi Allen, a manicurist looking to marry rich; he, as Theodore Drew III, a broke heir looking to do the same. Gee, will they ever be able to get together? Snappy patter and glorious sets: even a zillionaire’s wheelchair is Art Deco. My favorite scenes: the phone prank, the roof. ★★★★

Remember the Night (dir. Mitchell Leisen, 1940). Fred MacMurray again, as Jack Sargent, a Manhattan prosecutor who takes shoplifting suspect Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) back to his Indiana home when her trial is postponed for the Christmas holiday. The screenplay is by Preston Sturges, so there’s plenty of arch comedy, but also great pathos when Lee attempts to reconnect with her mother, and considerable tenderness when Lee shares the holidays with the Sargent family. With Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Sargent, Elizabeth Patterson as Aunt Emma, Sterling Holloway as Cousin Willie, and Thomas W. Ross with a great turn as a looney-tunes defense attorney. Watching this movie, I found it impossible to imagine the leads as Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson (Double Indemnity ). ★★★★

[Barbara Stanwyck as Lee Leander, Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Sargent.]


It Should Happen to You (dir. George Cukor, 1954). Gladys George (judy Holliday) is a nobody, a model who wants to be famous; Pete Sheppard (Jack Lemmon), another nobody, is an aspiring documentarian filmmaker. Gladys’s desire to be a somebody moves her to buy a billboard to fill with her name, and her efforts draw the attention of playboy and soap magnate Evan Adams III (Peter Lawford). With a sharp, witty screenplay by Garson Kanin, and beautiful on-location scenes of Manhattan as a mid-century playground for lovers. My favorite scenes: Holliday and Lemmon singing and humming Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Let’s Fall in Love”. ★★★★


Party Girl (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1958). I first saw Party Girl in 2016, and my judgment hasn’t changed: the movie looks at first like a bit of CinemaScope song-and-dance fluff, but it turns out to be much more, with moments of deliriously theatrical violence. In 2021 I find new and surprising overtones in the relationship between crime boss Rico Angelo (Lee J. Cobb) and his lawyer-fixer Tommy Farrell (Robert Taylor), which strongly resembles the relationship between a recent president and his lawyer-fixer. Which makes dancer Vicki Gaye (Cyd Charisse) the future Mrs. Michael Cohen? A further complication: Corey Allen’s Cookie La Motte bears an eerie resemblance to Anthony Scaramucci. ★★★★


I See a Dark Stranger (dir. Frank Launder, 1946). The premise is not as daft as it might seem: Bridie Quilty (Deborah Kerr), a young Irish woman with a fierce hatred of all things British, joins up with an effort to free a Nazi spy from a British prison. Trevor Howard is a British officer who becomes smitten with Bridie. This movie goes off in all directions — genuine suspense, light comedy, bizarre slapstick — and it’s difficult to know whether Bridie is here to be hated, pitied, laughed at, or adored (Howard has no problem making up his mind). I think the movie aspires to be a Hitchcock, but it never hits the mix of suspense and comedy needed to succeed. ★★★


Hunt the Man Down (dir. George Archainbaud, 1951). A Detour-like premise: a fellow (James Anderson, Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird) walks into a bar, spills a drink, takes up with seven new-found acquaintances, entertains them with his piano skills, and soon finds himself charged with killing one of them. He improbably escapes police custody, but years later an act of heroism puts his picture on the front page — and back to jail he goes. Gig Young stars as a public defender tracking down the six long-lost acquaintances to establish that the accused is not guilty. A highly watchable B-picture. ★★★

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Zippy Two Guys

[Zippy, June 13, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

I would like to think that today’s strip signifies that Bill Griffith remembers Two Guys discount department stores.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : Co-workers, and a Two Guys price sticker : Going on break at Two Guys

Some Family Circus rocks

As Billy runs with a mazy motion to bring Jeffy and PJ the news that lunch is ready, he touches upon “some rocks.”

[The Family Circus, June 13, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

Coincidence, or homage? I vote for homage.

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

A Family Circus note: did you know that Bil Keane and Bill Griffith collaborated on a number of strips in which Zippy enters the world of The Family Circus ?

Speech balloons FTW

In today’s Nancy, speech balloons effect a reverse jinx. Also, Olivia Jaimes FTW.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, June 12, 2021

After a storm

[No filter. Click for a larger view.]

Our backyard is looking rather painterly tonight. One storm down, one to go.

Today’s Newsday  Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword is by “Anna Stiga,” Stan Again, Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, constructing under the name he used for easier Saturday Stumpers of his making. Today’s puzzle is a Themeless Saturday, not a Stumper, but it solves like a medium-ish Stumper, with triple stacks of ten-letter answers and triple columns of nine. I was struck by the abudance of proper names as answers — people, places, things — twenty in all. But I can’t complain: one of them, 34-D, five letters, “Boxing great from Panama,” broke the puzzle open for me. No idea how I managed to pull up that name.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

4-D, six letters, “Slot feature.” Not LEMONS.

5-D, twelve letters, “Get on with it.” Yes!

29-A, six letters, “She’s up.” A good reminder that he cannot be considered a default setting. Which reminds me: notice how clues for ADMAN and ADMEN have changed.

30-A, three letters, “Play date.” Clever.

32-D, nine letters, “Doubly misnamed edible.” A main staple, but I still didn’t see it at first.

49-D, five letters, “Part of the Elvis persona.” Here the proper name is in the clue.

54-A, four letters, “Dismiss, with ‘out.’” I wanted RULE.

56-A, ten letters, “Like the French motto.” Just a crazy clue.

59-A, ten letters, “‘The King of Latin Music.’” A giveaway, but I’ll take it.

61-A, ten letters, “Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient of ’93.” Not a giveaway.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 11, 2021


From Greek Reporter:

Many Greeks were angered by the apparent misspelling of the name of the Greek goddess Nike on the newly launched sneakers by the American multinational of the same name.

Nike, meaning “victory” in Greek, celebrated the goddess by releasing a new pair of footwear called “The Winged Goddess Of Victory” with the Air Force 1 Low.

Greek-speakers were quick to spot, however, that at the heel of the left sneaker, an inscription in Greek which was apparently supposed to read ΝΙΚΗ Air, i.e. “NΙΚΕ Air”, was misspelled. The way it looks now, it would be more like “PIKS Air.”

Many were left wondering what exactly “ΠΙΚΣ” means. Is it a colossal mistake, some unknown initials, or a made-up word that just looks Greek for marketing purposes?
Colossal mistake, surely, even if it was a deliberate effort to make something more recognizable. Nike’s name in Greek: Νίκη. Or, in all caps, NIKH, as the article has it.


A pastrami Reuben. An L. L. Bean Timberline shirt, at least thirty-five years old, every edge frayed, good as an overshirt around the house in cold weather. Shark! Apples. Elly Ameling, John Ashbery, Fito de la Parra, Richard Goode, Milt Hinton, Stanley Lombardo, Trevor Pinnock, Larry Taylor, Clark Terry. Many things I’ll miss out on. Coffee brewing. Garbanzos cooking. Yes. Flat. Safari. “Lush Life.” 47. Reading, writing, walking, loving, caring.


I forgot one: My Dinner with André.

[Watching A Late Show last night prompted me to devise my own answers to the Colbert Questionert. Why not? I was startled when Seth Rogen answered “47,” because that’s our fambly number, for reasons that will remain in the fambly.]

For avocado fans only

[Amuseable Avocado, by Jellycat. In three sizes, each larger than an edible avocado. Amuseable is the company’s spelling.]

Thursday, June 10, 2021

National Archives

Our vibrant American culture:

A museum in Rochester, N.Y., announced on Wednesday that it would serve as the home of a first-of-its-kind National Archives of Game Show History to preserve artifacts and footage from programs like Jeopardy! [,] The Price Is Right [,] and The $25,000 Pyramid.

The archives will be housed at the Strong National Museum of Play, which is undergoing an expansion that will add 90,000 square feet to its space and that it expects to be completed by 2023.

Curators at the museum already have some ideas about what types of artifacts would make an ideal centerpiece and are asking for items from collectors.

“The wheel from Wheel of Fortune would be iconic,” Chris Bensch, the museum’s vice president for collections, said in an interview on Wednesday. The museum, he said, would gladly accept the letter board, along with a dress from the show’s famous letter-turner, Vanna White.
That’s from The New York Times, but it reads like a short section of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The only thing missing is the moon-like mark that prefaces each section of the novel.

A museum in Rochester, N.Y., announced on Wednesday that it would serve as the home of a first-of-its-kind National Archives of Game Show History to preserve artifacts and footage from programs like Jeopardy!, The Price Is Right, and The $25,000 Pyramid.
And so on. Even the name Strong National Museum of Play has an Infinite Jest sound to it.

[Those missing commas: yikes. My guess is that someone wasn’t sure what to do about a comma after “Jeopardy!” — the Times styles titles with quotation marks — and left it for later. The Chicago Manual of Style says to put the comma inside the quotation mark. The Associated Press? I have no idea. Thanks to the reader who pointed out a missing word.]

“Life apart”

One last post from Villette. Lucy Snowe insists on her selfhood.

Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853).

Related reading
All OCA Charlotte Brontë posts (Pinboard)


I was in a hotel suite, having just bought a rare 78, and I was disguising my find, switching its sleeve, which bore a sticker with a high price, with a sleeve from a 78 whose sticker showed a much lower price. And a voice said, “Michael, stop.”

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Sources, I think: travel thoughts, an online presentation of rare Duke Ellington recordings, and Party Girl (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1958), in which Robert Taylor and Sam McDaniel look at 78s to determine the proper music for Taylor’s impending assignation with Cyd Charisse. In waking life I own no 78s, rare or common.]

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Robert Hollander (1933-2021)

Dante scholar, and translator, with Jean Hollander, of The Divine Comedy. From an introductory note on translation in Inferno (New York: Anchor Books, 2002):

We could go on improving this effort as long as we live. We hope that as much as we have accomplished will find an understanding ear and heart among those who know the real thing. Every translation begins and ends in failure. To the degree that we have been able to preserve some of the beauty and power of the original, we have failed the less.
The New York Times has an obituary.

[I tried four Dantes in my teaching. The Hollanders’ was my favorite.]


Beer. Donuts. Guns. Any teacher of teachers who needs to illustrate the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards now has unbeatable examples courtesy of the efforts to persuade United States residents to get vaccinated.

[Whatever it takes, says I. But the shadow of Homer Simpson looms large, at least over the beer and the donuts.]

Kittens ’n’ fish

The BBC brings us news from the English market town of Waltham Abbey:

The enticing smell of tinned sardines proved key to luring two tiny four-week-old kittens from a labyrinth of drains where they had been trapped for two days.
Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

What’s an inflection point?

Because they seem to be everywhere.

Inflect, a transitive verb, is from the Latin inflectere, to bend. The Oxford English Dictionary gives its earliest meaning (early 1400s): “to bend inwards; to bend into a curve or angle; hence, simply, to bend, to curve.” By the late 1500s, the word had taken on figurative senses: “to bend, incline, dispose.” By the late 1600s, the word had acquired a meaning in grammar: “to vary the termination (of a word) in order to express different grammatical relations.” By the early 1700s, the word had found a place in optics: “to bend in or deflect (rays of light) in passing the edge of an opaque body or through a narrow aperture; to diffract.” By the early 1800s, the word was used with reference to the voice and to music: “to modulate (the voice); spec. in Music, to flatten or sharpen (a note) by a chromatic semitone.”

All of which (thanks, OED ) is getting us closer to inflection point. For that we need the noun inflection, which, like inflect, takes on figurative, grammatical, optical, and musical meanings. But since the early 1700s, inflection has also meant something in geometry:

Change of curvature from convex to concave at a particular point on a curve; the point at which this takes place is called a point of inflection (or shortly an inflection).
That’s as much of the OED definition as is relevant here. A more readable definition, from Merriam-Webster: “a point on a curve that separates an arc concave upward from one concave downward and vice versa.”

The OED entry for inflection — apparently in need of updating — doesn’t account for the non-mathematical meaning of inflection point. For that we need M-W: “a moment when significant change occurs or may occur : turning point.”

So that’s an inflection point. I like the way a turning in space has turned into a turning in time. A curious difference between mathematical and non-mathematical inflection points: the one marks a fact; the other marks a fact or a possibility.

Google’s Ngram Viewer shows a marked rise in the use of inflection point beginning in 1948. A symptom of Cold War tension? In American English, the Ngram Viewer shows 1963 as the term’s peak year. In British English, it’s 1989. Perhaps Vietnam and Margaret Thatcher had something to do with that.

Is inflection point overused? I think that in many instances, crossroads or moment of decision might better apply. When I read this sort of nonsense — “There has been a strategic inflection point that we’ve all gone through as society” — I begin to think that the term has lost a clear meaning. We may be approaching an inflection point in the use of inflection point. We may even be at a crossroads. But I doubt it.

Hand and seal

Handwriting and a wax seal as indices of character:

Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853).

Remember when girls really flipped for guys with great handwriting? And great seals? Me neither.

Related reading
All OCA Charlotte Brontë posts (Pinboard)

Monday, June 7, 2021

Illinois-15, COVID-Central

Here, from Geographic Insights, is a map of Illinois showing vaccination rates by congressional district as of June 6:

[COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Across U.S. Congressional Districts. From the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and the Center for Geographic Analysis.]

The ungainly pale-green area to the east is Illinois-15, the congressional district represented by Mary Miller. Geographic Insights shows us having the lowest rate of vaccination in the state: 40.62% initiated, 29.65% completed.

When I step into my friendly neighborhood multinational retailer, where more and more people now do without a mask, and where many people have never worn a mask, I remind myself that I live in a place where I can pretty much assume that seven of every ten people I see are unvaccinated. Which, yes, is pathetic.

Who would want to move to Illinois-15? I know: COVID. We’re great hosts!

[Thanks to Elaine for finding the site.]

“A stilly pause”

Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853).

Related reading
All OCA Charlotte Brontë posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, June 6, 2021

From the dowdy world

A pangram from the dowdy world, in today’s New York Times Spelling Bee.

A handful of pay phone posts
A Blue Dahlia pay phone : A Henry pay phone : A Naked City pay phone : A subway pay phone, 1932 : Chicago pay phones : “If your coin was not returned”

[Pay phone is dowdier than payphone.]