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 then 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:

[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)

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Today’s Newsday Saturday

When I saw the credit for today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword — Stella Zawistowki — I knew I was in for a difficult time. Stella! It was only when I got 1-A, ten letters, “It’ll let you in,” late in the game, that I felt confident that I’d finish this puzzle. It let me in.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

9-D, four letters, “Reason for a dryer discount.” Why a dryer? The alliteration is pleasant.

12-D, ten letters, “Move all around.” Lovely.

15-A, ten letters, “Practice delayed infuriation.” A great (risqué?) way to clue the answer.

22-D, eleven letters, “Destination of some Scandinavian ferries.” Five letters of this answer took me forever. What? What?

41-A, six letters, “Big name in the oil business.” Okay, but which kind?

45-A, five letters, “Helps with fencing.” A good clue for a common answer.

51-D, three letters, “Macaroni, as in ‘Yankee Doodle.’” The answer makes me think of a scene in a film.

53-A, four letters, “Zoom, perhaps.” Of our time.

56-A, ten letters, “Recycled paper from long ago.” A good example of a clue that defamiliarizes its answer. You’re thinking of something in a green bin maybe?

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 4, 2021

A John Wayne movie

I was showing a movie in class, something I never liked to do. I preferred to show movies outside of class, all at once, the way they’re almost always meant to be shown. This movie was a documentary about wages and employment. Of the two computers in my office for movie projection, I picked the older one, heavy white plastic, with two switches, like light switches, sticking up from the keyboard.

After starting the movie, I took a seat in a back corner of the classroom. And who came in and sat next to me? One of my worst students. He had appeared on a reality-TV show and had been mocked on social media for his Dunning–Kruger witlessness. In class he liked to lean forward and glare at me.

And then in came John Wayne, wearing an enormous corduroy cap. He took the first seat in my row of desks, blocking the view of the two or three of us behind him. The bad student began talking to Wayne about hunting. Then bad student stood up, walked up to Wayne’s desk, and continued to talk as the movie ran. I told bad student that if he didn’t stop talking and sit down, I’d have to ask him to leave. He kept talking, I asked him to leave, and he did.

Related reading
All OCA teaching dreams (Pinboard)

[My (pre-streaming) strategy with movies: get one or two time slots when nearly everyone was free, and reserve a classroom. I would cancel one class in exchange for students’ willingness to show up, and I would lend the videotape (!) or DVD to the one or two students who had to miss. There was always something strange and wonderful about watching a movie at night in a nearly empty building. The bad student in this dream is real. John Wayne, too, is real, but he was never in one of my classes. This is the twenty-second teaching-related dream I’ve had since I retired. In all but one, something has goes wrong.]

Domestic comedy

“Joe Flynn from McHale’s Navy is in this episode of That Girl.”

“Win win!”

“How do you punctuate ‘win win’?”

“I don’t know — I wasn’t talking with punctuation.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, June 3, 2021

“Delicious Chewing Gum”

[National 4-H Club News, April 1941. Click for a larger, stickier view.]

To every thing there is a reason, not to mention a time and a place. I was looking for an advertisement that touted gum as an aid to concentration. I found this one.

“Try it yourself around the house, when reading, studying, driving or doing any number of other things”: what a pleasantly lackluster pitch.

Our tube

Michael Ansara, Jane Greer, Clifton James, Martin Milner, Richard Roundtree, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., all in the Murder, She Wrote episode “The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel” (December 18, 1988). Familiar faces in new arrangements: one of the pleasures of television.

See also this cast.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Bye, pseudo-blogger

Like so many blogs, Donald Trump**’s blog is defunct. The Washington Post reports that mockery and a small readership are the reasons for the shutdown. Sheesh, if Trump** was bothered by the idea of a small readership, he shouldn’t have started a blog.

[Pseudo, because it’s unlikely that he wrote much of it himself.]

For those who fuss over spacing

I had hoped that the non-breaking thin space would change everything.

Here’s an italicized word in parentheses: (test).

Ugly, no?

Here’s the same text with the addition of a thin space —   — before the closing parenthesis: (test ).

Better, yes?

But the thin space functions like an ordinary space. With the insertion of a thin space, characters that should stay together can end up split across two lines, like so: (test

That’s a faked example. But it does happen. You can guess how I know that.

Enter the non-breaking thin space —   or  . It’s slightly wider than a thin space, and it’s supposed to be, as its name suggests, unbreakable. But it breaks. You can guess how I know that too. Here’s what I saw as a Preview while working on an earlier post:

[That’s what I get for making a silly plural.]

I think that   and   are interchangeable, but I could be wrong. What I know is that they both break in Safari. So I’m still looking for a non-breaking thin space that does not break. And I’d like to know why the allegedly non-breaking thin space displays differently in macOS and iOS. On iOS devices, it’s indistinguishable from no-space.

[For collectors only: the ordinary non-breaking space is  . And if anyone wants to asks, “Who cares?” — I do.]

Blue canard

From an Open Culture post about Robert Johnson and Keith Richards:

Figuring out what Johnson did still consumes his biggest fans. Since his recordings were intentionally sped up, interpreters of his music must make their best guesses about his tunings.
No, there’s no evidence that Robert Johnson’s recordings were intentionally speeded up. I left a comment on the Open Culture post saying just that, with links to relevant commentary by Elijah Wald and me. That was early yesterday morning. My comment hasn’t yet appeared, and I’m guessing that it won’t be appearing.

It’s crazy-making to me that what began as a “theory” about Johnson’s recordings seems to be acquiring the status of a fact. But it’s only a blue canard.

Related reading
All OCA Robert Johnson posts (Pinboard)

[I opt for speeded up. Garner’s Modern English Usage: “The best past tense and past-participial form is sped, not *speeded. It has been so since the 17th century. But there’s one exception: the phrasal verb speed up (= to accelerate) <she speeded up to 80 m.p.h.>”]

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Domestic comedy

“It’s a ‘known fact,’ as you would say.”

“Don’t turn my words against me!”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Nobody and Somebody

Ginevra Fanshawe, Miss Thing herself, wants to know, “Who are you, Miss Snowe?”

And a little later:

Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853).

A rising character indeed. Lucy Snowe is a protagonist in a novel.

I would like to imagine that these passages from Villette stand behind Emily Dickinson’s 260 (1862):

260, from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Ralph W. Franklin (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998).

Noting that Dickinson read “competitively,” seeking to outdo other poets, Richard B. Sewall points to a different inspiration for 260: “Little Nobody,” a trite poem by Charles Mackay that appeared in the Springfield Republican (1858). The closing lines of its two stanzas: “I’m but little Nobody — Nobody am I,” “Who would be a Somebody? — Nobody am I.” Okay. But I’d rather think of Dickinson finding inspiration in Brontë’s protagonist, whose life of aloneness, walking by herself in empty classrooms, stealing away to an attic to read a letter, must have made compelling reading for the poet.

There were two copies of Villette in the Dickinson family library: one from 1853, one from 1859. In neither are the passages I’ve quoted marked. Then again, in all of Jane Eyre there are just two passages that Dickinson marked.

”Who are you, Miss Dickinson?”

“I am a rising character — Vesuvius at home.”

Related reading
All OCA Brontë posts and Dickinson posts (Pinboard)

[Miss Fanshawe doesn’t speak the word “somebody”: the contrast between “nobody” and “somebody” is Lucy’s. Sewall writes about Mackay’s poem in The Life of Emily Dickinson (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1974). Sewall doesn’t mention Villette in relation to 260. “Vesuvius at home”: from Dickinson’s 1691, which ends, “A Crater I may contemplate / Vesuvius at home.” The phrase became the title of Adrienne Rich’s 1976 essay “Vesuvius at Home.”]