Saturday, July 31, 2021

Today’s Newsday  Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword, by Brad Wilber, seemed easy at first. I started in the northeast corner with 10-A, four letters, “Magician’s accessory.” The clue for 12-D, seven letters, “Admired oneself,” helped me decide which accessory. That corner went quickly. Then to the middle of the puzzle, and then to clues and answers here and there. And all along, 2-D, seven letters, “Simple life,” and 13-A, four letters, “Tahiti sweetie,” had me thinking I’d never get this puzzle right. When I finally saw what had to be (and was) the answer for 2-D, I was happy about solving and impressed (once more) by Brad Wilber’s smarts.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

10-D, six letters, “Shortcuts that take years to complete.” Paradox.

13-D, seven letters, “W-2 addressees.” A helpful reminder to read clues carefully: addressees, not addresses.

17-A, fifteen letters, “Keep-in-touch request.” It felt like a giveaway, and I took it.

22-A, six letters, “Order manager.” I was thinking of shipping and receiving.

46-D, six letters, “Candidates for 10 Down.” Really clever.

55-A, four letters, “It’s in garlic’s genus.” I like it, or them.

My favorite clue in this puzzle: 51-A, eight letters, “How stalactites form.” Dang: do they form on cave ceilings, or on cave floors? Is there a mnemonic for remembering which is which? Is there a mnemonic for remembering the mnemonic? It’s a witty clue, because the difference between stalactites and stalagmites makes no difference to the answer.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Chuck E. Weiss (1945–2021)

His first name and his middle initial are part of American music. The Los Angeles Times has an obituary and a remembrance by Rickie Lee Jones.

If you’re not old enough to remember, or even if you are, here’s the song.

Saying and believing

“Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen”: it’s the same tactic Donald Trump** used re: Ukraine. Just say there’s an investigation of Hunter Biden. Just say that the election was corrupt.

See also “You provide the prose-poems, I’ll provide the war.”

Gilgamesh to Iraq

A looted tablet with a crucial part of the Gilgamesh story, once displayed at Hobby Lobby’s Museum of the Bible, is returning to Iraq. Here is a Christie’s brochure about the tablet, with photographs and a translation — and a false provenance. More about the tablet’s history here.

Related reading
All OCA Gilgamesh posts (Pinboard)

Welty and Hurston and a pear tree

Another passage that made me think about Eudora Welty and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God :

Eudora Welty, “Moon Lake,” in Thirteen Stories (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1965).

There it is, thought I, Janie Crawford’s pear tree again. But in One Writer’s Beginnings, Welty recalls this rhyme as appearing in a book from her childhood. Here’s one possible source:

From Our Boys: Containing Over Two Hundred Pages of Entertaining Stories, Hymns, etc., Told in Simple Language by Popular Authors (Akron, Ohio: Saalfield Publishing, 1914).

And now, when Janie Crawford lies beneath a pear tree, wondering where the bee for her blossom might be, I wonder whether Hurston, too, might have known and repurposed this rhyme.

A related post
Trees: chinaberry, peach, pomegranate, pear

[Other likely sources for the pear-tree scene in Their Eyes Were Watching God: the birds and the bees, and blues metaphors. See Memphis Minnie and Bertha Lee.]

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Pinboard tags

After more than ten years using Pinboard to tag blog posts, I’ve finally discovered that links to Pinboard tags — for instance,

pinboard.in/search/u:M.Leddy/t:Nancy
— only work if a reader is signed into a Pinboard account. Without a Pinboard account, that link is useless. You’ll just get a 404 page. Why didn’t I know that before now? Because I’m always signed into my Pinboard account. I assumed that the results were available to anyone.

But there is a way to make Pinboard useful for non-users, by searching for a word or phrase or name instead of a tag:
pinboard.in/search/u:M.Leddy/?query=Nancy
So I’m now adding that kind of link to some posts. The disadvantage: searching finds text as well as tags, so a post that mentions, say, Nancy Reagan, will turn up. (Not that there is one.) The advantage: searching finds text as well as tags, so a word or name or phrase without a tag of its own is findable too. Like, say, Aunt Fritzi’s name.

The final four

Ephemeral New York takes a look at the last outdoor telephone booths in New York City. They were there in 2009. They were replaced by new booths in 2016.

I find it cheering that each booth has a mailbox or postal relay box at its side for companionship.

Related reading
All OCA telephone booth posts (Pinboard)

[The booth at 100th Street and West End Avenue, not pictured in the Ephemeral New York post, also has a mailbox.]

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Mary Miller, outcast

Chris Welch, the Illinois House Speaker, is in Washington to raise money and meet with members of Congress. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

There are five Republicans in the Illinois congressional delegation. Welch said he will try to meet with four of them — but not freshman Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., whose husband is state Rep. Chris Miller, R-Oakland. Both of them are strong Trump loyalists. “She’s not on my schedule,” Welch said when I asked if he would seek her out. “With regards to the Congresswoman, I just don’t know if there’s any issues that can bring us together because she’s been focused on such extreme, extreme items.”
Mary Miller has tweeted or retweeted eighteen times today. Her latest tweet boasts about being fined $500 for not wearing a mask in the Capitol.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

We heard what we heard

On CNN, earlier this evening: “And who will be getting the first penis from the January 6th committee?”

She said “subpoenas.” But we heard what we heard, the two of us.

Slow down, CNN. Diction is everything.

“The Invention of ‘Introvert’”

A new episode of the podcast Word Matters, with help from Science Diction : “The Invention of ‘Introvert.’”

Related reading
All OCA introversion posts (Pinboard)

“So smooth and clear”

To his much younger wife Livvie, Solomon looks “a different and smaller man” when he’s lying in bed, even when he’s awake.

Eudora Welty, "Livvie," in Thirteen Stories (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1965).

For me “Livvie” is the most interesting story in this volume, a Welty variation on Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. No pear tree, but there is a chinaberry tree in a dream, and a peach tree and a pomegranate tree in the front yard.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Useful reading

A ten-point checklist from Samuel L. Perry, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma: How can we spot #ChristianNationalism in the wild?

My representative in Congress, Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15), hits on at least eight of ten. I don’t know enough to decide about nos. 4 and 8.

No. 7 seems especially appropriate to consider today. Miller is in the news now as a co-sponsor of legislation to deny federal funding to colleges and universities that provide mifepristone and misoprostol (“the abortion pill”) to students. But also:


Here’s Perry on no. 7, “Culture of death”:
This one’s tricky cuz CN will be strongly anti-abortion. But CN will also be pro-guns, pro-military, pro-death penalty, anti-mask, anti-precautions, and anti-healthcare for the poor. The abortion stance is authoritarianism, not concern for the vulnerable.

Truth

“You’re downplaying an event that happened to the country itself, to democracy, to the rule of law”: Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, a few minutes ago, commenting on those who would minimize the events of January 6, 2021.

Parisian hand-bills

Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. 1941. (New York: New Directions, 2008).

Strange to move from one novel to another and find a similar moment, also on a Paris street.

Emmanuel Bove. My Friends. 1924. Trans. from the French by Janet Louth. (New York: New York Review Books, 2019).

Griffy and Zippy and Hi and Lois

[“A Dirty Job.” Zippy, July 27, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy, first panel. Look closely.

Venn reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts : Hi and Lois and Zippy posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Monday, July 26, 2021

A leaking pen

[Nancy, November 15, 1955.]

“I’m ready for Irma’s party,” said Nancy. “Now don’t soil your nice white dress,” Aunt Fritzi warned. But things happen.

Yesterday’s Nancy is today’s Nancy.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[Decent fountain pens don’t leak.]

Walking with Pete

I was walking with Pete Seeger back from a protest. Pete was wearing his usual 1960s–70s uniform: jeans and a long-sleeved shirt with a dense floral design. He heard someone calling his name from a window. It was a third-story window in a three-story apartment building.

Pete stepped away and climbed up the side of the building. There appeared to be handholds and toeholds to make that possible. He made it to the third story and had a conversation with the person at the window, all the while hanging on to the gutter with one hand. It looked effortless. And then he climbed down.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[I know: what?!]

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Call “Dr. Fauci” by his full name

A note to the news, not that the news is listening:

When introducing or making a first reference to Dr. Anthony Fauci, please refer to him by his full name and position. He is not a cartoon or character, à la Drs. Evil, No, Oz, and Phil. So “Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,” please.

Peanuts selfhood

I followed as best I could the guidance in “How to draw yourself as a Peanuts character” (kottke.org).

Alas, the Peanuts childhood paunch is too much like adult reality.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

[It seems to me that if you’re going to post about this video, you should be willing to share a drawing.]

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Today’s Newsday  Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword, by Matthew Sewell, is a satisfying puzzle. Nothing like last week’s Saturday (which was a Stumper in everything but name), and too many three-letter answers (seventeen of seventy-two), but still a good puzzle, with tough spots here and there and two triple-stacks of ten-letter answers.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-A, ten letters, “Hard to read at the table.” Just because I saw it right away.

22-D, five letters, “Taco truck descriptor.” A tad misdirective.

34-D, nine letters, “Action or war.” Unexpected.

35-D, nine letters, “It’s carried out.” Regularly.

64-A, four letters, “Smartphone add-on.” Not that obvious at first.

One clue I take exception to: 40-A, five letters, “Word from the Greek for ‘skill-less person.’” The phrasing here is tricky: Is it a word for ‘skill-less person’ that comes from the Greek? Or is it a word that comes from the Greek word for ‘skill-less person’? It’s meant to be the latter, but it’s a bit of a reach to tie the Greek word to this meaning. I’ve written more about the Greek word in the comments.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 23, 2021

No no. 2s?

A CNN teaser for a story about shortages affecting back-to-school shopping just made reference to children “stuck with the dreaded no. 1 pencil.” In other words, there’s a shortage of no. 2s — at least supposedly.

Dreaded? I say no. Soft and dark, a no. 1 pencil makes for pleasant writing. And if you’re a kid in school, a no. 1 gives you additional opportunities to get up from your desk and sharpen. All good.

But what multinational retailer sells no. 1 pencils?

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

A Lifehacker headline

A clickbait headline from Lifehacker this morning: “How to Start Dating Again If You’re Unvaccinated.” (I won’t link.)

I think the last time I looked at Lifehacker they were pushing a mini-tool for cleaning semi-automatic weapons as a perfect everyday carry.

Stay classy, Lifehacker.

“Got that? Sardines.”

Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert), the village postmistress, calls in an grocery order for her friend Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire), a maid in service at a country estate. That’s Sophie standing off to the side. From La Cérémonie (dir. Claude Chabrol, 1995). Click any image for a larger view.


I find the dialogue a little puzzling. The family makes their own sardines, but those from the grocer are better? No matter: there are more important things in this movie to think about.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Gum nonsense

From “The Face to Forget,” an episode of the radio program The Adventures of Philip Marlowe (June 14, 1950). These three spots almost send me off to buy gum:

“To make every day more enjoyable, treat yourself often to refreshing, delicious Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum. Here’s a taste treat you can enjoy indoors, outdoors, at work or at play. The cool, long-lasting mint flavor refreshes you. The smooth, steady chewing helps keep you fresh and alert. Adds enjoyment to whatever you’re doing. Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum — healthful, refreshing, delicious.”

“To make every day more enjoyable, treat yourself often to refreshing, delicious Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum. The lively, full-bodied real mint flavor cools your mouth, moistens your throat, freshens your taste. And the chewing itself gives you a little lift, helps you keep going at your best. So for real chewing enjoyment that’s refreshing and long-lasting, always keep Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum handy. Healthful, delicious Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum will make every day more enjoyable.”

“Remember, friends, to make every day more enjoyable, treat yourself often to refreshing, delicious Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum. There’s lots of cooling real-mint flavor in every stick, and chewing Wrigley’s Spearmint helps keep you feeling fresh and alert. You feel better, work better, get more fun out of doing things. So indoors, outdoors, wherever you go, keep some healthful, refreshing Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum handy. To make every day more enjoyable, treat yourself often to delicious Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum.”
A related post
“Delicious Chewing Gum” (A 1941 advertisement)

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The perfect writing font(s)

From the iA Writer blog: “In search of the perfect writing font.” The argument therein for a monospaced font is just one example of the thoughtfulness behind iA Writer, whose creators understand that writing is not word-processing. The app now comes with three monospaced fonts.

Related posts
“Writing is not word-processing” : Rough drafts and finished products

[In my mind, word-processing takes a hyphen. Always has, always will.]

Twelve movies

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

Inner Sanctum (dir. Lew Landers, 1948). With no obvious relation to the radio drama: it’s a B-movie that starts weird — strangers on a train, one of whom seems to be a seer (Fritz Leiber) — and it gets weirder quickly. A man kills his fiancée, stashes her body on an outgoing train, and takes a room in a boarding house, where he’ll be stuck as long as a nearby river is flooded. Arch heterosexual dialogue, a vague gay subtext, and Billy House as a newspaper reporter, editor, and publisher. The poor prints available on YouTube make it easy to give up on this one, but the twist at the end is worth waiting for. ★★★

*

Slander (dir. Roy Rowland, 1957). Steve Cochran is H.R. Manley, the dapper publisher of the scandal rag Real Truth, “the only magazine that dares to publish all of it!” — which means that the movie should be titled Libel, but no matter. When Manley pressures TV-puppeteer Scott Martin (Van Johnson) to reveal some old dirt about a famed stage actress or face the publication of a scandal from his own past, events begin to move in dark and dangerous directions. Marjorie Rambeau steals the movie as Manley’s agonizing, hard-drinking mother. This modest effort would pair well with the much splashier Sweet Smell of Success. ★★★

*

Libel (dir. Anthony Asquith, 1959). A glimpse of a television in a London bar prompts a WWII veteran (Paul Massie) to investigate the identity of Sir Mark Loddon (Dirk Bogarde), a fellow POW. Is “Sir Mark” an impostor who’s taken a dead man’s place? Brilliant performances from Bogarde (you’ll have to watch to understand), and from Olivia de Havilland as Lady Margaret, Sir Mark’s uncertain wife. The ending is an utter surprise. ★★★★

*

The 13th Letter (dir. Otto Preminger, 1951). In a small Quebec town, a handsome new doctor (Michael Rennie) is receiving threatening letters accusing him of an affair with the young wife (Constance Smith) of an older doctor (Charles Boyer). Other townspeople are receiving threatening letters too. Is a bedridden woman (Linda Darnell) with eyes for the young doctor “the scarlet pen”? A moody, northern noir. ★★★

*

Dangerous Afternoon (dir. Charles Saunders, 1961). Louisa (Nora Nicholson) runs a boarding house for friends who have fallen on hard times: all older women, all criminals. A quirky, funny, not-funny story of blackmail, murder, and family secrets. Louisa’s niece Freda (Joanna Dunham), Freda’s fiancé, the couple’s friends, and a record player give us a glimpse of a non-criminal younger generation. And dig the shopping scenes that begin the movie. ★★★★

*

Scarface (dir. Howard Hawks, 1932). Almost ninety years later, this pre-Code story of bootlegging and unhinged gangland violence remains shocking: it’s not every movie that has thugs with machine guns going from hospital room to hospital room looking for their target. Paul Muni chews up considerable scenery as the Capone-like Tony Camonte, a feral lieutenant who strives and succeeds in becoming the boss of all things Chicago. More compelling performances come from Ann Dvorak as Tony’s young sister Cesca, Karen Morley as Poppy, the object of several criminals’ interest, George Raft as a coin-flipping henchman, and Vince Barnett as an illiterate secretary whose efforts to master the protocol of telephone messages add comedy and pathos to the proceedings. My favorite moment: Ann Dvorak dances, and George Raft — known as a gifted dancer — can’t dance back. ★★★★

*

Midnight (dir. Mitchell Leisen, 1939). A wonderful comedy, with a screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder and a generous application of the Lubitsch touch. Claudette Colbert stars as Eve Peabody, American showgirl, down and out in Paris. Through a series of fortunate events, she assumes the identity of “Baroness Czerny,” a Hungarian noble, and agrees to help John Barrymore break up his wife’s (Mary Astor) affair with a dashing young man (Francis Lederer). Meanwhile, a genuine Hungarian, taxi driver Tibor Czerny (Don Ameche), who fell instantly in love with Eve when he gave her a ride, is searching the city to find her. The funniest scene: breakfast and its complications. ★★★★

*

Strange Impersonation (dir. Anthony Mann, 1946). The director’s name was the lure here. The plot of this B-movie is sheer insanity: a “girl scientist,” as the newspapers call her, at work on a new anesthetic (Brenda Goodrich), a frenemy in the lab (Hillary Brooke), a schlub of a fellow scientist (William Gargan), a sketchy dame seeking payback for a minor traffic accident (Ruth Ford), and, around the edges of things, an ambulance chaser’s ambulance chaser (George Chandler, Uncle Petrie of Lassie). Elements of the story look forward to Dark Passage, but the ending here is a strange disappointment. My favorite scene: the clash of cultures in the apartment above Joe’s Bar and Grill. ★★★

*

Address Unknown (dir. William Cameron Menzies, 1944). Paul Lukas and Morris Carnovksy (eerily resembling Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth) are partners in Schulz–Eisenstein Galleries, San Francisco and Munich. When Martin Schulz (Lukas) moves back to cosmopolitan Munich, he has no idea of the futures that await him, his family, and his partner’s daughter, an aspiring actress (K.T. Stevens). A chilling picture of compromise and resistance as a totalitarian order takes shape, with appropriately stark cinematography by Rudolph Maté. From a short epistolary novel by Katherine Kressmann Taylor that’s now on my to-read list. ★★★★

*

La Cérémonie (dir. Claude Chabrol, 1995). Invite friends to pick a movie from the Criterion Channel, and you never know what you’re going to get. This movie is unsettling from its first minutes, when spooky music accompanies the arrival of a new maid at a remote country manor. At the center of the drama: the maid (Sandrine Bonnaire), the lady of the house (Jacqueline Bisset), and a free-spirited postmistress (Isabelle Huppert). It’s easy to guess one secret early on: others are unfathomable. There’s a final surprise as the credits roll. ★★★★

*

The Arnelo Affair (dir. Arch Oboler, 1947). Further proof that not every movie from this year is a absolute winner. Frances Gifford is a neglected wife with a workaholic-lawyer for a husband (George Murphy); John Hodiak is the vaguely Vincent Price-like nightclub owner who complicates their marriage. It’s a bit like Brief Encounter (retrospective voiceover) with a murder added and most of the passion subtracted. Eve Arden adds comic relief and pizzazz as an arch dress designer: “Just give me a plate of bacon and eggs, a full pocketbook, a chinchilla coat and a man, and I’m happy.” ★★

*

Another Man’s Poison (dir. Irving Rapper, 1951). From a play by Leslie Sands. Bette Davis, playing a mystery novelist living in a great English country house, has problems on her hands: a dead husband to dispose of, a criminal (Gary Merrill) now living with her and posing as her husband, and the impending marriage of her young lover to her secretary. Starts well, with good performances from (the married) Davis and Merrill, but the story becomes mired in contrivance and staginess. It’s the kind of story in which the horse’s name is Fury. ★★

[Sources: Criterion Channel, TCM, YouTube.]

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

“Too late”

This account of hospital life from Alabama doctor Brytney Cobia needs to be widely shared:

I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late. A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same. They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was “just the flu.” But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.
Here’s an article about Dr. Cobia and COVID in Alabama.

Mary Miller won’t wear a mask

News reports and photographs suggest that Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15) has rarely worn a mask. (Here’s an account of Miller in close quarters with no mask on January 6.) It’s still not known whether she has been vaccinated. If she has been, she’s keeping her (unmasked) mouth shut about it.

On June 7, Elaine and I sent a letter:
The Honorable Mary Miller
1529 Longworth House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congresswoman Miller:

As you may know, the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University have created a map showing COVID-19 vaccination rates by congressional district. The map and supporting data are available from Harvard’s Geographic Insights website:

https://geographicinsights.iq.harvard.edu/vaccineuscongress

The data for Illinois shows our district, Illinois-15, with the lowest rate of vaccination by population in the state: 40.7% of residents with vaccines initiated, and 29.74% of residents with vaccines completed. In other words, only three of every ten people in Illinois-15 are fully vaccinated.

This state of affairs does not bode well for the health and economic well-being of our district. What business will want to locate in an area with such a low rate of vaccination? What student who has other choices will want to go to college in an area with such a low rate of vaccination?

In light of our abysmal vaccination rate, we have two questions for you: What steps, if any, have you taken to encourage vaccination in IL-15? And what steps, if any, will you now take to encourage vaccination in IL-15? Given your dedication to the cause of life, it seems to us that you should have no hesitation about encouraging people to be vaccinated.

Sincerely, &c.
At this point I think it’s safe to say that we won’t be receiving a reply.

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 : The Millers in Esquire : Nuts in Illinois

A Pessoa biography

The New York Times has two reviews — 1, 2 — of Pessoa, a biography of Fernando Pessoa by Richard Zenith, one of his translators.

I read Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet in Zenith’s translation last spring. It turned out to be perfectly suited to the times. This post explains why. And this post explains how I found my way to the book.

Thanks again, George.

Related reading
All OCA Pessoa posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Rick Laird (1940–2021)

Rick Laird, bassist, most notably with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, later a photographer, has died at the age of eighty. The New York Times has an obituary.

In my high-school days, the first incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra — John McLaughlin (guitar), Jerry Goodman (violin), Jan Hammer (keyboards), Rick Laird (bass), and Billy Cobham (drums) — was a regular presence on my turntable.

Domestic comedy

“Do you want tomatoes?”

“Yes, please.”

“How many?”

“Some?”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[“Some,” as in rocks. They were grape tomatoes.]

Paul McCartney and relativity

From “Like Professors in a Laboratory,” the fourth episode of the mini-series McCartney 3, 2, 1:

”George Martin was like our teacher, just because of the age. He was a little bit older. It wasn’t much. I mean, I think we always thought of him as an old man. I think he was like probably thirty when he started with us, which I certainly don’t think of as old now.”
George Martin was born in 1926 (d. 2016). Paul McCartney was born in 1942.

Paul is not my favorite Beatle, but four episodes in, McCartney 3, 2, 1 is a delight, a parade of surprises about what’s in Beatle songs and how those things got there. Rick Rubin, McCartney’s partner in conversation, is an enthusiast and a helpful maker of suggestions that McCartney picks up and expands upon. Too much head bobbing though.

Back to relativity: here’s Russell Procope, clarinetist, saxophonist, Ellingtonian, talking about King Oliver and Johnny St. Cyr and making a similar observation about age.

Monday, July 19, 2021

“Change in plans!”

I am here today to hate on an (unembeddable) Fidelity Investments commercial.

And it is a commercial, though it also runs on the PBS NewsHour as an underwriting spot. Long form (:30) or short (:03), there it is on the NewsHour, night after night.

In this commercial we see a chic older couple moving their money around — not once, not twice, but three times.

First they decide to put money aside for impending grandchildren. Which means that they don’t trust their daughter to use the money they’ve already set aside for her to benefit her children? Or that they’re leaving their daughter nothing? Or that they have so much money that they can dish out still more of it to future generations? Whatever: “Change in plans!” The wife gets to say it first. And it becomes a refrain.

After setting a chunk of money aside, the couple decides to move to a loft. The thought arises when they see a sign as they stroll through a city: “Lofts Available Next Summer.” “Change in plans!” says the husband. His exclamation is the worst moment in the commercial. It’s his casual smugness what does it. Notice that his hair is fuller, lusher, than his wife’s, which may help to explain his smugness.

[“Change in plans!” Click for a larger, smugger view.]

And then a third more mysterious change, marked by an artist’s return to the easel: “Mom, you’re painting again? You could sell these.” Mom smiles dimwittedly. When the couple walk into the Fidelity office yet again, the rep knows what to expect: “Let me guess: change in plans?” Are they looking to open a gallery? To buy additional Joy of Painting DVDs? Is the agent being sarcastic when she says “Change in plans”? Am I joking when I allude to Bob Ross? (The answers to these questions: Maybe. Probably not. Probably not. Yes.)

Notice that every “change in plans“ in this commercial is a cheerful one. No family crises. No medical crises. And everything in the commercial worsens when you know that the background music is Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Wealth management indeed.

I had intended to post something else today, but — “Change in plans!”

[“What does it”: a Popeyeism, not a typo.]

Peppa Pig, language influencer

From The Wall Street Journal : Peppa Pig, a Pandemic Favorite, Has American Children Acting British.”

I love hearing children say “Jawgh.” Everyone loves hearing children say “Jawgh.”

[I hope the link works.]

Sunday, July 18, 2021

“Favorite Books”

An anonymous reader asked me to “correct” the Favorite Books section of my Blogger profile by listing titles instead of writers. From my point of view, there’s nothing to fix.

As my wife Elaine suggests, you can take any name on the list as prefaced by the words “anything by.” They are all good bets. Elaine does something like that in her Blogger profile: “everything by Stefan Zweig, Willa Cather, and Balzac.”

If you want titles, you might look at the Pinboard tags for OCA fiction and poetry posts. (There’s a list of top tags in the sidebar.) Or you might look at the annual reports of the Four Seasons Reading Club, our household’s two-person adventure in books: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. The names in tagged posts and the FSRC reports go well beyond those on the profile list.

Finding D. W.

Jason Szwimer, the voice of D. W. Read for four seasons of Arthur, has a podcast, Finding D. W., devoted to finding and interviewing the other males who have voiced the character. NPR had the story this morning.

The podcast appears to be available in all the usual places.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Today’s Newsday Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword, by S. N., Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, is a real challenge, a great crossword, a Saturday Stumper in everything but name. I ended up stuck in the northeast corner last night and put the puzzle aside for another episode of Mare of Easttown. And while I was watching, an answer I needed to sort that corner out — for 19-A, five letters, “Some stocks or colleges” — popped into my head, and not because of anything happening in Easttown. Episode over, I went back to the puzzle and got the rest. Three episodes to go.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-A, seven letters, “1990 coinage in PC Magazine.” The puzzle begins on an educational note. I didn’t know the word went back so far.

5-D, four letters, “What onion rings lack.” SKIN? The answer was not obvious to me.

8-D, three letters, “It’s good for Nazarenes.” A tough one from the northeast. But then so simple.

10-D, four letters, “Arm elevator.” O northeast corner. I thought I knew it, then thought too hard. REST?

15-D, six letters, “Francis is the first pope to be one.” My education is showing.

22-D, three letters, “It often flew FDR during WWII.” Surprising.

29-A, four letters, “Sticking point.” A nice way to clue this answer.

31-A, six letters, “Pop star since the ’50s.” I am happy to know this performer is still with us.

38-A, three letters, “What tops certain faces.” Defamiliarization at work.

50-D, six letters, “Second-shot target, often.” More defamiliarization.

57-A, four letters, “Early-year beef.” An inventive way to improve the answer.

My favorite: 14-A, fourteen letters, “Indy, more formally.” Aha! But even after you see most of it, the final letters are perhaps not obvious.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 16, 2021

“Nothing has ever happened”

Emmanuel Bove. My Friends. 1924. Trans. from the French by Janet Louth. (New York: New York Review Books, 2019).

Deadpan comedy of alienation and poverty. At times I imagine the narrator as a Chaplinesque tramp, at others as a Vladimir or Estragon. Samuel Beckett admired Bove’s prose.

Fritzi’s “No”

[Nancy, July 16, 2021. Click for greater negativity.]

Aunt Fritzi: “Nancy skims everything she reads, so you have to position your argument carefully.” Thus this card, which recalls (for me anyway) Guillaume Apollinaire’s calligrams and what has been called “the greatest Nancy panel ever drawn.”

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

“Do”

Only Donald Trump** would speak of a coup as something to “do.” Jeez.

But read that statement in its entirety. His increasingly convoluted and implausible explanations of his actions are signs of desperation and decline.

[** = twice impeached. Kurt Vonnegut gave the asterisk an additional meaning.]

“The most delicate of mirrors”

Anyone who wants to learn about description might benefit from reading Adalbert Stifter. Clarity, density, and a sparing use of metaphor and simile.

Adalbert Stifter, The Bachelors. 1850. Trans. from the German by David Bryer (London: Pushkin Press, 2019).

When I first read The Bachelors, this translation, first published in 2008, was out of print. I’m happy that it’s back and that I now have a copy of my own.

Related reading
All OCA Stifter posts (Pinboard)

The walking brain

From The New York Times :

Exercise can freshen and renovate the white matter in our brains, potentially improving our ability to think and remember as we age, according to a new study of walking, dancing and brain health. It shows that white matter, which connects and supports the cells in our brains, remodels itself when people become more physically active. In those who remain sedentary, on the other hand, white matter tends to fray and shrink.

The findings underscore the dynamism of our brains and how they constantly transform themselves — for better and worse — in response to how we live and move.
The researchers had expected that dancing would produce greater cognitive improvement. But walking beat dancing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

“Deeper matters”

V. quotes liberally from The Tragedy of Sebastian Knight, Mr. Goodman’s biography of V.’s half-brother:

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

Goodman represents of course the kind of critical writing that Nabokov despised. One of the no-nos from Nabokov’s quiz about requirements for a good reader: “The reader should concentrate on the social-economic angle.” Nabokov’s requirements: “imagination, memory, a dictionary, and some artistic sense.”

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

[Nabokov’s quiz appears in Lectures on Literature (1980).]

Sinatra’s spoken-word album

I found it browsing in a record store: Frank Sinatra’s The Outfit, a spoken-word album about wine. Elaine assured me that the album was real.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[In waking life, “The Outfit” is something else.]

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Dr. Jerome Adams makes a metaphor

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer just interviewed Dr. Jerome Adams, who served as Surgeon General under the previous President. Blitzer tried hard to put appropriate words in Adams’s mouth: You’d like for the former president to come out strongly in favor of vaccines, wouldn’t you? Yeah, sure. But Adams said that what he would really like is for Democrats to stop politicizing vaccines.

(What?)

But here’s the metaphor, roughly paraphrased: God gave us a miracle (the vaccine). But salvation is only available to those who accept it.

So he’s — what? — theologizing the vaccine? Holy — never mind.

How to delete an inaccessible note (Mac Stickies)

I found myself with a mysterious problem on my Mac: a note in the Stickies app was inaccessible. The note showed up when I right-clicked on the app icon in the Dock but was nowhere to be found on the Desktop. Thus it was impossible to delete. Quitting Stickies and restarting the Mac did nothing. Searching the Internets turned up nothing. Here is a solution:

In the Finder, go to ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Stickies/Data/
Library/Stickies

(The tilde signifies your user name. You can get to Library by pressing the Option key after opening the Go menu from the Finder. You can get to the needed folder by going to the Library and searching the Library for stickies.)

Open the Stickies folder, examine its contents, and find the .rtfd file with the text of the inaccessible note. Copy the text to make a new note if you want, and then delete the file.
My Mac problems tend to be odd, trivial, and deeply annoying. This has been one of them.

Larry Butler Yeats

Larry David, with “a big job to do,” asks a men’s room attendant (Adrian Martinez) to grant him some privacy and step out of the room. But it’s Harold’s job to stay in there. From the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode “The Ugly Section” (March 1, 2020):

“I’m a dying animal.”

“I dunno what to tell you.”

[If Yeats — “Consume my heart away; sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal / It knows not what it is” — is not behind this exchange, I’m giving someone way too much credit.]

First glimpses of the little gang

“I have to admit, the parasol didn’t seem to be producing exactly the effect that I had hoped for”: from “Young Girls,” Deborah Treisman’s translation of a passage from the long-lost Proust manuscript now in print as Les soixante-quinze feuillets. The passage gives us the narrator’s first glimpses of what will become “the little gang” of In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. The girls are already aloof and modern; the narrator, already hapless.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Monday, July 12, 2021

“Smear shots”

[A New York Times headline, July 12, 2021.]

For a moment I thought that Fox News was hosting smear shots — people taking potshots and smearing the idea of vaccination. Which of course is what they do.

The headline is a garden-path sentence, and as it’s a headline, it’s also known as a crash blossom.

Other garden paths
“Cultured klepto” : “Father of off-duty cop” : “Virtually everything”

Innovation-speak, &c.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Lee Vinsel writes about “innovation-speak and business bullshit” in higher education:

An administrator friend sent me a quotation about a faculty member’s work he’d provided to his university’s PR person. It was full of platitudes and nonsense about innovation, discovery, and a much-improved future that the work would create “impactfully.” My friend said he came up with the words in under 10 seconds while in a Zoom meeting on another topic with soccer playing on a television in the background and several social-media and messaging apps open on his phone and laptop.

It is worth striving to bring university communications within the realm of truth-seeking, but doing so would require universities that are quite different than the ones we have today. You have to imagine universities where the felt need to produce words does not outpace the time to think. The root of our word “school” is the Greek word skholē, meaning leisure or free time. To create a school is to create space for thought.
Lee Vinsel teaches at Virginia Tech. He has a website about his work.

[You can dodge the Chronicle’s sign-up request by choosing your browser’s Reader View or by using the Kill Sticky Headers bookmarklet.]

Letterlocking

Letterlocking: a way to keep your correspondence confidential.

Found via Mike Brown’s Oddments of High Unimportance.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Goodbye, Hackensack Record King

After fifty-six years, Hackensack Record King is closing. But not for lack of customers.

Thanks to the New Jersey reader who sent the news.

A related post
Shopping on Main Street, Hackensack

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Joyeux anniversaire, M. Proust

Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871. From a 1920 letter:

It is possible that a book of mine (Le Côté de Guermantes), which should have appeared much sooner or much later, will come out very soon. In any case, I shall send it to you at once. This volume will still be “proper.” After that the book will be less so without its being my fault. My characters do not turn out well; I am obliged to follow them wherever their flaws or their aggravated vices lead me. . . .

Please accept, cher monsieur et ami, my grateful regards.

Marcel Proust, in a letter to Paul Souday, October 8, 1920. From Letters of Marcel Proust, translated by Mina Curtiss (New York: Helen Marx Books / Books & Co,, 2006).
Paul Souday (1869–1929), journalist, literary critic for Le Temps, had written a largely negative review of Swann’s Way. “Souday had sarcastically reproached the author for the banality of his ‘childhood memoirs.’ Instead of compelling events, ‘the matter of the story’ comprised vacations and games in the park”: William C. Carter, Marcel Proust: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000). Proust’s apology — don’t blame me, it’s the characters — is a wonderful demonstration of how a writer might reckon with a critic.

What followed The Guermantes Way ? Sodom and Gomorrah.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Friday, July 9, 2021

Mr. Goodman

Our narrator, V., has a strong antipathy to a Mr. Goodman, his half-brother’s secretary, who has already written a biography, The Tragedy of Sebastian Knight, a “slapdash and very misleading book” that makes no mention of V. Watch what happens with Mr. Goodman’s name in these paragraphs.

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

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

Effing-

Effing-crazy in Effingham. And some more crazy.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Avant-garde

Gotta love it that someone with the name Avant-garde just won the Scripps National Spelling Bee: Zaila Avant-garde. Her winning word: murraya.

Los Beach Boys

Los Lobos cover “Sail On, Sailor” — and other songs from Los Angeles.

“Everything”

Sebastian Knight at Cambridge:

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

This novel, Nabokov’s first in English, raises, again and again, the question that runs through Pnin: how does the narrator (here V., Sebastian’s half-brother) know these things? Whose nostalgia is at work here?

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Following a leader

Wow. But not surprising. And where do you think he, with his dim grasp of history, might have heard this kind of thing?

(The ghost of Fred Trump walks.)

Nor is it suprising when a hard-right congressional non-entity declares that “Hitler was right on one thing.”

Mr. H

V. has been going through the drawers of his late brother Sebastian’s desk. V. expects to find photographs of “lots of girls,” “smiling in the sun, summer snapshots.” But no:

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

Sebastian Knight never wrote such a work. But his intention to use photographs in the service of fiction anticipates W. G. Sebald.

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Domestic comedy

“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can I know my trousers from my pants?”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[With apologies to William Butler Yeats.]

Mystery actor

[Click for a much larger view.]

The actor with folded arms: do you recognize her? Leave your best guess in the comments. If you’ve seen the movie, you may leave more than a guess. I’ll add a hint if needed.

*

The answer’s now in the comments.

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

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

Monday, July 5, 2021

Cartoon chef mansplains mayo

[Life, June 28, 1937. Click for a much larger view.]

“Now I’ll explain, ladies!” But Clara was doing just fine on her own. I like that Jane addresses her and not Mr. Chef: “You’re right, Clara!”

Daughter Number Three’s post of an ad about “sissy-sweet salads” made me think of a Hellmann’s ad about a “he-man ‘chef’s salad,’” which led in turn to this ad. And speaking of salad, or “salad,” look at that delightful plate: lettuce, cheese, cherries, grapes, and a big glob of mayo.

Related posts
Hellmann’s or Best Foods? : Mayonnaise vs. salad dressing

Vintage sardines

Zingerman’s Portuguese sardines are available in the 2015 and 2016 vintages. The small oily fish are meaty and delicious.

Thank you, Kevin!

[Since 2017, “small oily fish” has been my deliberately dumb inelegant variation on “sardine” — like “slender yellow fruit” for “banana.”]

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Ugh, ugh, ugh

As CNN would have it, Mike Love and John Stamos are the Beach Boys. Dana Bash called them that just now. Ugh.

The ill-named Love did not correct Bash when she said that he wrote “Surfin’,” the first Beach Boys hit. Ugh.

*

7:24: This CNN-televised performance is a godawful embarrassment. You’ve gotta work really hard to ruin “God Only Knows.” And that was before Mike Love had sung a note. Ugh again.

*

July 5: Someone has shared the evidence on YouTube.

[Brian Wilson wrote the music for “Surfin’,” and Love may have had help with the words. The song is credited to Wilson and Love.]

The Fourth


[Jasper Johns, Flag on Orange. 1998. Etching with aquatint in colors on Hahnmühle Copperplate paper. 27 × 19 9/10 inches. Click for a slightly larger view.]

Orange flag art.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Two Americas

Writing in The Atlantic, Sarah Zhang says that America’s vaccine future is fragmenting:

Earlier this year, the Biden administration set a goal of partially vaccinating at least 70 percent of adults by Independence Day. The U.S. will narrowly miss the mark; the number is currently hovering around 67 percent. When you zoom in closer, though, we’re doing both better and worse than that, depending on where you look. Our pandemic fates have diverged. The plateauing national case numbers obscure two simultaneous trends: an uptick in several sparsely vaccinated states and continued declines in well-vaccinated ones.
And some states vary widely from region to region. That’s a subject of conversation in our household almost every day. Our congressional district, Illinois-15, represented by Mary Miller, continues to have the lowest vaccination rate in the state.

We sent Miller a letter nearly a month ago asking what steps she has taken and will take to encourage vaccination in her district. No reply. No surprise. She’s busy! Witness her recent trip to the U .S.–Mexico border.

Today’s Newsday Saturday

Today’s Newsday  Saturday crossword is by Lars G. Doubleday, aka Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber. Easier than last week’s puzzle, I thought, but it felt a bit more challenging, with many satisfying and unusual clue-and-answer pairs. Some I especially liked:

1-A, eight letters, “Toast for tots.” I know about it because of a photograph from my infancy, and I know that it’s still made, but I think it’s pretty difficult to find in the States now, at least under this name.

1-D, four letters, “Numbers on letters.” Just because.

9-D, five letters, “Jerk.” Noun? Verb?

10-D, nine letters, “Retro golf pants.” I have no idea what they look like, but I know the word from the title of — spoiler alert — a Steve Lacy tune. (The soprano saxophonist, that is.)

16-A, six letters, “Get into gear.” Nice misdirection, even in the words “get into.”

40-D, six letters, “Prepares eggs for custard.” Strange word, and I have no idea how I know it. I think of sitting the eggs in little chairs and handing them little spoons. I think I’ve been watching too much Peppa Pig. Elaine says that 40-D is misclued, and Merriam-Webster appears to support her. The answer refers to a way to prepare eggs as eggs. Anyone who just 40-D eggs won’t come out with custard.

52-D, four letters, “Tireless runner.” I thought it had to be an animal.

54-D, three letters, “Was more than superficial.” Almost too weird.

57-A, six letters, “Turn down.” Meaning what?

My favorite clue, whose answer, even if obvious, still somehow came as a surprise to me: 12-D, six letters, “Unfinished stories, often.” I’ve been thinking too much about narrative.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

“Disobvious”

[Peanuts, July 6, 1974. Click for a larger view.]

Yesterday’s Peanuts is today’s Peanuts.

Lucy’s dilemma reminds me of the great discussions of prefixes in two recent episodes of A Word in Your Ear1, 2. A Word in Your Ear is a podcast from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, hosted by Katherine Feeney and Roly Sussex.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Richard Signorelli’s Twitter

Richard Signorelli is an attorney in private practice, formerly an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. His Twitter account looks to me like required reading for anyone interested in the sea of troubles the Trump Organization finds itself in.

Martin Radtke and the NYPL

When I visited the New York Public Library’s J. D. Salinger exhibit in November 2019, I took a quick photograph of a plaque in the floor — and then forgot about it. Here, from that photo, are the words on the plaque.

Inscribed here are the words of an immigrant whose life was transformed by the Library and whose estate now enriches it.

IN MEMORY

MARTIN RADTKE

1883–1973

I had little opportunity for formal education as a young man in Lithuania, and I am deeply indebted to The New York Public Library for the opportunity to educate myself. In appreciation, I have given the Library my estate with the wish that it be used so that others can have the same opportunity made available to me.
In 1974 The New York Times published a story about Martin Radtke, his donation, and the plaque.

Related reading
All OCA library posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 1, 2021

“Nine eight eleven alarm clocks”

V. gives us a glimpse of his brother’s writing habits:

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

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

Donald Rumsfeld (1932–2021)

George Packer, writing in The Atlantic:

Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in American history. Being newly dead shouldn’t spare him this distinction. He was worse than the closest contender, Robert McNamara, and that is not a competition to judge lightly. McNamara’s folly was that of a whole generation of Cold Warriors who believed that Indochina was a vital front in the struggle against communism. His growing realization that the Vietnam War was an unwinnable waste made him more insightful than some of his peers; his decision to keep this realization from the American public made him an unforgivable coward. But Rumsfeld was the chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11. Wherever the United States government contemplated a wrong turn, Rumsfeld was there first with his hard smile — squinting, mocking the cautious, shoving his country deeper into a hole. His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind.
And speaking of McNamara and Rumsfeld, Errol Morris’s documentaries The Fog of War (2003) and The Unknown Known (2013) are worth seeking out.

A related post
Homer’s Rumsfeld (It’s Agamemnon)