Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Recently updated

Camp COVID A mid-June Christian youth camp in Illinois — no mask, no vaccination required — is now the source of 180 “confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19.”

Scooter construction

[“Young boy nailing wheel parts fr. an old roller skate to a wooden plank in the first step toward making an orange crate scooter.” Photograph by Ralph Morse. New York, New York. June 1947.]

[“Young boy playing w. his orange crate scooter which he just made by nailing the wheel parts fr. an old roller skate to a wooden plank & adding an orange crate.” Photograph by Ralph Morse. New York, New York. June 1947.]


[“Young boy playing w. his fruit crate scooter which he made by nailing the wheel parts fr. an old roller skate to a wooden plank & adding the crate.” Photograph by Ralph Morse. New York, New York. June 1947. All photographs from the Life Photo Archive.]

That’s a different kid and different scooter in the third photograph. Did a parent insist that he put on that jacket to look presentable? “I’m not gonna have you in Life magazine lookin’ like a bum!”

Related posts
Roller-Scooter truck assemblies : A Henry scooter

iA Writer keyboard commands

“I didn't find a comprehensive list of keyboard commands for iA Writer. So, I made one”: iA Writer Keyboard Commands (Bicycle for Your Mind).

[From 2017, but every command I’ve tried still works.]

Monday, August 30, 2021

Roller-Scooter truck assemblies

[From the Johnson Smith & Co. 1938 catalog. Click for a larger view.]

The pitch begins:

What boy doesn’t want a snappy scooter – ’specially if the toughest work is all ready done for him and he knows that when he’s finished he’ll have the smoothest running, fastest shooting scooter any kid could help to build!
And only 65¢!

Well, sort of. What’s for sale here is not a scooter but “truck assemblies.” Truck? I had to look it up: “a small wheel.” What your 65¢ is buying: roller-skate wheels. That’s all, folks.

Lose the tie and sweater and knickers, add a t-shirt and dungarees, and the kid in the advertisement could have stepped from the pages of my youth. In the early 1960s the big kids on my block in Brooklyn rode scooters like this one. The front was a milk crate or produce crate, with a piece of wood nailed across the top for handlebars. The kids rode in the street, which was narrow and one-way, with cars parked on both sides. I remember that they were somehow engaging in games of combat — taking swings at one another, or crashing into one another, or something. I watched from the sidewalk.

Here’s a page with some history about these scooters. And here’s a post with a cartoon scooter, a real-world scooter, and previous reverie.

Also from this catalog
Comical motto rings

[Every post right now is a retreat from all forms of news.]

“Fanatical attention to detail”

[Dustin, August 30, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

Simone just told Dustin that he needs to edit his new résumé. He’s written “fanatical attention to detail” twice.

I didn’t know that “fanatical attention to detail” is work-speak. Here, take a look at DuckDuckGo’s search results.

As for detail, and fanatical attention to it: Dustin spells it resume. Garner’s Modern English Usage says résumé (“So spelled, preferably.”) Merriam-Webster has resume and resumé only as variants. Determining whether the Dustin font has the accented characters required for résumé would require a fanatical attention to detail I’m not prepared to offer.

A few more Dustin posts
Bad copyediting : Literally and figuratively : Phrasal-adjective punctuation : Was or were?

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Sardines and others

The New York Times gives a tip of the hat to Rainbow Tomatoes Garden’s offerings of tinned fish — sardines and others.

Thanks to Stephen at pencil talk for pointing me to this catch.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Johnson Smith and Zippy

[“Stay Back, Ye Varmints!” Zippy, August 28, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy goes down a rabbit hole filled with x-ray specs and rubber chewing-gum. And comical motto rings. They’re all part of the Johnson Smith story.

[Click for a larger view.]

The Internet Archive has several Johnson Smith catalogs for browsing and downloading. I found these comical motto rings on page 95 of the 1938 catalog. (Caution: this catalog contains racist imagery.) Good thing the rings were on page 95 — the catalog runs to 570 pages.

And now I’m imagining Johnson Smith receiving the Ken Burns treatment. First, the voice of Keith David:

“The catalog featured a daring new novelty — a Whoopee Cushion or ‘Poo-Poo Cushion.’ It would change the novelty business forever.”
And then an aged prankster speaks:
“You have to understand: this was something new. And we were all hungry for something new.”
&c. &c.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is a doozy, or at least a semi-doozy. It took me a while. Consider the first clue, 1-A, ten letters, “Soft-soap sources.” I was thinking PUMPBOTTLES, but that’s eleven letters. Or 16-A, ten letters, “Checkout counter suggestion.” BAGYOUROWN?

Today’s puzzle is the fourth Stumper in four weeks. Is the Stumper back to stay? Wait and watch.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked, in addition to 1-A and 16-A:

1-D, four letters, “eDarling.es user, for short.” A good way to Stumperize a common answer.

5-D, six letters, “Arm of the future.” I thought this clue might refer to a prosthetic device.

7-D, three letters, “Stock tip.” Even after getting it, I didn’t get it. And then I got it.

9-D, five letters, “Pitching pro.” Baseball? Sales?

40-A, six letters, “Essayist’s opener.” Nifty.

48-D, five letters, “Place that ONION might be a cryptogram for.” I’ve read Alvin’s Secret Code, dozens of times.

52-A, eight letters, “Transferred for sporting purposes.” Defamiliarization.

57-D, four letters, “Fee for all.” I can’t resist a pun.

My favorite clue in today’s puzzle: 10-D, eleven letters, “Standards bound to be followed.” See 57-D.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 27, 2021

More Jeopardy jeopardy

Now that the fairly despicable Mike Richards is out as a Jeopardy host, Mayim Bialik’s anti-science is coming in for more attention (The Washington Post ).

A related post
Jeopardy and Neuriva

[That video embedded in the second article: is it just me, or does Mayim Bialik seem like a demonic parody of Rachel Maddow?]

Grammar in the movies

From Some Came Running (dir. Vincente Minnelli, 1958). Newly married Ginny (Shirley MacLaine) wants to impress her husband Dave (Frank Sinatra):

“Haven’t you noticed I’ve been talking lately much better?”

“Hmm? Yes, much.”

“I got one of them, them grammar books from the library. I got it from that teacher who — whom. Whom is the objective.”

“Whom says so?”
More who and whom
Mooch : Shirley Temple : Lucy van Pelt

Terre Haute, no limit

From Some Came Running (dir. Vincente Minnelli, 1958). Accomplished gambler Bama Dillert (Dean Martin) proposes a road trip:

“You know, the boys in Terre Haute, they don't set no limit. We could do ourselves a little good.”
Terre Haute, the Queen City of the Wabash, was long known as a heartland center of vice. Life (September 1, 1958) ran a feature on gambling in the city: “The Big Bettors Hide, Hide and Hide.” Featuring Zeppo Marx!

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A chapter-saving device

From the first novel Jane Austen completed for publication, one of many meta moments.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818).

Related reading
All OCA Austen posts (Pinboard)

The Histories in LA

“A multimedia installation examining the relationships between culture, geography, and colonial histories in the Americas in the 19th century”: The Histories (Old Black Joe), a collaboration between David Hartt and Van Dyke Parks, is now at the Hammer Museum.

Here’s an interview with Van Dyke about the quadraphonic soundtrack he created for the installation.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Dying in the Name of Vaccine Freedom

A short film from The New York Times about American attitudes toward vaccination for COVID-19. It’s strong stuff. Proceed with caution.

[Dying in the Name of Freedom. August 2021.]

The vaccination rate in Baxter County, Arkansas, when this film was made: 36%. It’s now 38%.

The vaccination rate in my Illinois county: 35%. The attitudes present in this film are the attitudes present here.

A terrible translation of Musil

Robert Musil. Intimate Ties. Translated from the German by Peter Wortsman. Brooklyn: Archipelago Books, 2019. 207 pages. $16.

Peter Wortsman, in an afterword to his translation:

I took up the challenge, in part as a project to propose to the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Literatur to land a fellowship in Vienna.

I got the fellowship and fumbled through the translation.
“Fumbled”: I’ll say.

I thought I was in trouble on the first page of “The Culmination of Love,” the first of two novellas that form Vereinigungen (1911), or Intimate Ties. Tea is served. “They” are shutters:
Like a pair of dark, serenely lowered eyelids, they hid the glimmer of this room in which the tea now trickled from the matte silver pot into two cups, flung open with a quiet clang and then holding still in the shaft of light like a twisted, transparent column of soft brown topaz.
The cups are flung open? No, it must be the pot. But who flings a teapot open to pour? And what kind of teapot clangs — and clangs quietly? Is it the pot that’s holding still in “the shaft of light” like a topaz column? No, that must be the tea. And about “the” shaft of light: what shaft?

I struggled through this book — I was interested. The depiction of psychological extremity made me wonder whether Musil might have influenced Djuna Barnes, whose Nightwood ends with a woman and a dog in a scene reminiscent of what’s suggested in this volume’s “The Temptation of Saint Veronica.” So I struggled.

I was grateful to find, after reading, a review by the translator Michael Hoffman, “Musil’s Infinities” (New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020). Now I know why I was in trouble from the first page:
Everybody makes mistakes occasionally, and, no question, this is a difficult book — but these are elementary mistakes. They are the sort of misunderstandings that bespeak a translator not equably accompanying an author on their way together so much as looking around and wondering in a blind panic where he can have got to. They are mistakes that make of German — where many short, everyday words exist in more than one sense — a sort of German roulette. In the opening scene of the first story, Claudine pours tea. “Aufschlug,” given as the perplexing “flung open” (like a door?), is the sound made by the tea being poured; “Strahl ” is a column of liquid, not a “shaft of light.”
And so on. And so on. Hoffman tallies many mistakes in translation and faults Wortsman for Instinktlosigkeit — a lack of instinct. Hoffman also takes Wortsman to task for cheesy alliteration and awkward anachronisms: “Then Claudine got antsy.” I’d call it a lack of sprachgefühl, a lack of feeling for words. Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance, as David Foster Wallace wrote.

I’ll point to two other kinds of error in Wortsman’s prose. One is the consistent use of like for as. From Garner’s Modern English Usage:
In traditional usage, like is a preposition that governs nouns and noun phrases, not a conjunction that governs verbs or clauses. Its function is adjectival, not adverbial.
From Intimate Ties:
She looked up to find her fellow passengers joking around cheerfully and harmlessly, like when you see a light and decipher the shapes of small figures at the end of a dark tunnel.
And:
She felt it stirring something up in her, like when you walk by the seashore, unable to fully fathom the roar of every action and every thought torn in the fabric of the moment.
I could go on. Seeing these sentences in such an elegantly designed book (Archipelago books always look elegant) is a small adventure in cognitive dissonance, like when you see someone wearing a tuxedo and tennis shoes.

Seeing spelling errors is worse. Intimate Ties gives us at least two homophone mistakes: “the great painstakingly plated [plaited ] emotional braid of her being” and “an amiable mean [mien ].” There’s also swopping for swapping, as in “swopping empty niceties,” and, yes, swopping is a British spelling of swapping, but this translation is by an American writer, and the publisher is in Brooklyn. Sheesh. They’ll get no pass from me.

I go along with Michael Hoffman, whose translations of Alfred Döblin, Franz Kafka, and other writers have given me much pleasure:
Intimate Ties is one of those regrettable publications that hurts the reputations of everyone connected with it: Musil’s own, the translator’s, and even the luckless publisher, Archipelago.
And our household is out $32, having bought two copies for our very exclusive reading club. Elaine, who can read German, was beside herself when reading Wortsman’s Musil alongside the original. The sad thing: this translation is the lone translation of ‌Vereinigungen into English. I doubt there’ll be another anytime soon. But I’d like to read one by Michael Hoffman. His review already proposes an alternative title: Conjunctions or Associations.

Related reading
All OCA Robert Musil posts (Pinboard)

[The Oxford English Dictionary dates antsy to 1950. “Like when you see someone wearing a tuxedo and tennis shoes”: if there’s any doubt, the like here is for comic effect. We’re really out $64, as we also bought two copies of Wortsman’s translation of Posthumous Papers of a Living Author. Maybe it’s a better job.]

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Charlie Watts (1941–2021)

End of an era. The New York Times has an obituary.

An EXchange name sighting

Classified ad with “Phone Fl 4 1089” [From Escape in the Fog (dir. Oscar Boetticher Jr., 1945). Click for a larger view.]

FLanders? FLeetwood? Only the operator knows for sure.

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Blue Gardenia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : The Brothers Rico : The Case Against Brooklyn : Chinatown : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : Fallen Angel : Framed : The Little Giant : Loophole : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Naked City (8) : Naked City (9) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : Pitfall : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Red Light : Side Street : The Slender Thread : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success (1) : Sweet Smell of Success (2) : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Vice Squad : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

New Yorker humor — and I’m out

Short intro to the New Yorker item “It’s Ten O’Clock. Do You Know Where Your Parents Are?” The sample text: “I don’t want to scare you, but your unsupervised father could even be running for a Senate seat, with a thousand lawn signs that read “Commercials Are Too Loud!” [From an e-mail promoting the August 30 issue of The New Yorker.]

I’ve been wavering about whether to let our subscription to The New Yorker lapse. I think this comedy bit has decided it for me. No wavering from Elaine: she’s already said we should let it go.

Now that we’re supposed to listen compassionately to disaffected rural folk opposed to vaccination, older people might be the only group still safe to target for comic purposes. A sample from this New Yorker piece:

Right now, your mom could be holding up the grocery-store checkout line with a long, boring monologue about how much she loves “that Billy Eyelash — such a talented young man.”
I’m old enough — but also young enough — to find this kind of stuff painfully dumb.

[The average age of a New Yorker reader, according to Wikipedia: forty-three in 1980; forty-six in 1990, forty-seven in 2009. A more recent (?) estimate: fifty-four. I’d say the magazine is pitching not to the readers they have but to the readers they hope to acquire, which is one way to lose readers they have, or had.]

Monday, August 23, 2021

Twelve movies

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

Pope Michael (dir. Adam Fairholm, 2010). I went down a rabbit hole reading about “traditionalist Catholicism” and its extraordinary array of papal claimants. David Bawden, Pope Michael I, is one claimant, elected in 1990 by a conclave of six people, which included Bawden himself and his parents. We find this pope living with his mother in rural Kansas and mentoring a young man called to the priesthood in Michael’s One Holy Catholic Church. True believers, son, mother, and seminarian, brought to the screen on an excellent shoestring. ★★★★

Monthly calendar with “Elect Pope” written in one square. [From Pope Michael. Save the date.]

[Watch for free here. The IMDb gives a running time of 1:26, but the film clocks in at 1:05. References in the description of the film to seminarians (plural) and a visit to a winery suggest to me that scenes were cut, perhaps at the request of the disaffected.]

*

Career Girls (dir. Mike Leigh, 1997). Annie (Lynda Steadman) comes to London to visit Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge), her flatmate from university. The movie shifts between their shared past and their reunion — their first meeting in six years. A funny, compassionate, sometimes heartbreaking examination of friendship, loneliness, and the ways in which friendships abide or fall away over time. It’s shocking to learn that Katrin Cartlidge died at the age of forty, a handful of years after this movie. ★★★★

*

Storm Fear (dir. Cornel Wilde, 1955). Hiding out and attempting an escape, against a background of mountains and deep snow. Bank robber Charlie Blake (Wilde) and his cohorts Benjie and Edna (Steven Hill, Lee Grant) have taken over the farmhouse of Charlie’s brother Fred (Dan Duryea), a sickly failed writer, who lives with his wife Elizabeth (Jean Wallace, Wilde’s wife in real life) and son David (David Stollery). Much tension, much resentment, and much overacting, as Benjie presses his challenge to Charlie’s authority and the Charlie–Elizabeth–Fred backstory becomes clear. Things improve enormously when we leave the farm for the mountains. ★★★

*

Escape in the Fog (dir. Oscar Boetticher Jr., 1945). The premise made me think of Vladimir Nabokov’s explorations of precognitive dreaming: a military nurse recovering from war trauma (Nina Foch) has a terrifying dream — and it comes true! The story is all espionage and enemy agents in San Francisco, with some creepy scenes in a watch-repair shop and an improbably delightful escape from death by gas. It’s always a delight to see Nina Foch, a versatile actor, here in the company of so-so William Wright and the much more impressive Otto Kruger and Konstantin Shayne. ★★★

*

The Big Steal (dir. Don Siegel, 1949). Not as good as Out of the Past, but it’s still a movie with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. Mitchum plays Lieutenant Duke Halliday, United States Army, accused of stealing a company payroll. He’s both the chased and the chaser: chased by Captain Vincent Blake (William Bendix), and chasing Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles), the guy who has the money. Greer is Joan Graham, Fiske’s erstwhile girlfriend, who teams up with Halliday for chases and romantic banter down Mexico way. ★★★

*

House of Strangers (dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1949). Film noir, no, no matter what Wikipedia says. Family drama, yes, with Edward G. Robinson as Gino Monetti, proprietor of what might be called a DIY bank on the Lower East Side, lending to his fellow Italian-Americans at exorbitant rates. His four sons seethe, three with resentment, one with fanatical loyalty. Suffice to say that nothing good can come of that. Great performances from Luther Adler and Richard Conte. ★★★★

*

Buck Privates (dir. Arthur Lubin, 1941). I grew up on Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and I hadn’t seen one of their movies in many years, so I really wanted to like Buck Privates, but — meh. Routines arise out of no context; the Andrews Sisters sing and do their stiff-backed choreography; and a love triangle develops, with no resolution, among a snooty rich kid (Lee Bowman), a camp hostess (Jane Frazee), and the snooty rich kid’s chauffeur (Alan Curtis). Best bits: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and the drill routine. In 2021 it’s impossible to watch this movie without recognizing its utter whiteness: the only person of color in the movie is a railway porter who calls himself “Uncle Sammy’s fair-haired boy.” ★★

*

Nomadland (dir. Chloé Zhao, 2020). Widowed and stuck in a dying town, Fern (Frances McDormand) takes to the road to join the nomadic subculture of vandwellers, picking up work here and there, bartering, sharing, and making do. Extraordinary landscapes, extraordinary humanity. With David Straithairn and many real-life nomads whose presence gives the movie a documentary feel. My favorite scenes: Fern’s conversations with nomads Swankie and Bob Wells about death and life. ★★★★

*

Some Came Running (dir. Vincente Minnelli, 1958). Alcoholic writer manqué Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra) returns to his Indiana hometown, where he finds familial dysfunction and melodrama. Great performances from Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine (as a heartbreakingly besotted party girl), Martha Hyer (as a sexually fearful schoolteacher), and even Dean Martin (as a behatted gambler). The story turns jumps a school of sharks in its final minutes, but I gather that the ending of James Jones’s novel is just as contrived. Filmed on location in Madison, Indiana. ★★★★

*

The Bedroom Window (dir. Curtis Hanson, 1987). An unmarried man, Terry, and a married woman, Sylvia (Steve Guttenberg, Isabelle Huppert), have just embarked on an affair when Sylvia sees, from Terry’s bedroom window, a man attacking a woman (Elizabeth McGovern) on the street. Pretty awkward for Sylvia, but what could go wrong if Terry calls the police and pretends that he witnessed the attack? A shameless, pleasurable take on Hitchcock — Rear Window, obviously, but also Psycho, Vertigo, Saboteur, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. The last twenty minutes turn into an inane semi-comic chase movie — thus three stars. ★★★

*

The Madonna’s Secret (dir. William Thiele, 1946). Sadly unmemorable: it wasn’t until the brief shot of a boat entering a boathouse, twenty minutes into the picture, that we realized we had seen this movie before. Credit John Alton’s cinematography for that striking image. A middling B-movie, with a painter (Francis Lederer) and his models, who keep turning up dead. Surprise realization: Francis Lederer was in Pandora’s Box. ★★

White edges of a boathouse against deep black water and sky. [The tell-tale boathouse.]

*

Le beau Serge (dir. Claude Chabrol, 1958). A dour young man, François (Jean-Claude Brialy), recovering from what seems to be tuberculosis, returns to his hometown of Sardent (Chabrol’s birthplace) to find his best friend Serge (Gérard Blain) a hapless alcoholic. Having read that the story was inspired by Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, I was utterly mistaken about what I might find here. What I did find: a story of dismal villagers and a life’s purpose found in self-sacrifice. Filmed in striking black-and-white by Henri Decaë. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

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

Nancy’s case

Nancy is carrying in a case of grape soda. “Aunt Fritz --- I bought a case of grape soda,” Nancy says. [Nancy, December 8, 1955.]

Nehi? NuGrape? Grapette? I hope it‘s NuGrape.

More soda
“I Got Your Ice Cold NuGrape” : NuGrape and some other soda

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Hi and Lois watch

 
[Hi and Lois, August 20, August 22, 2021. Click either image for a larger guitar.]

Chip’s five-tuning-peg guitar appeared on Friday and again today. It must be a cartooning joke: four fingers on the characters, so five strings on the guitar.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday crossword, by the puzzle’s editor, Stan Newman, is another Saturday Stumper. A three-week streak! What doth it portend? More Saturday Stumpers, I trust.

Today’s Stumper begins with a clue that looks off in light of the week’s news: 1-A, six letters, “Afghans, for example.” Perhaps there wasn’t time enough to change it. The puzzle has two good fifteen-letter answers and a few unusual answers. I had immediate assists from 11-D, eight letters, “Ellington partner on a ’63 album” (a great album for all involved), and 37-D, eight letters, “Mad marginalia master.” So I worked in the northeast, then southwest, and then everywhere else.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

6-D, fifteen letters, “‘Believe it or not . . .’” I think I know how grammar would account for the answer.

17-A, six letters, “Stock market sales.” SHARES, right? Wrong.

21-A, five letters, “Elbows on the table.” GAFFE? I can’t believe I fell for this one.

28-A, six letters, “‘Go ahead, it’s an ___!’ (beer slogan).” Here’s an example of what I mean by unusual. I have never heard or seen this slogan. I like that it crosses with 23-D, five letters, “Spirit/spearmint concoction” — which is quite an alternative.

32-A, three letters, and 35-A, twelve letters, “Puh-leeze!” “Puh-leeze!” is more versatile than I thought.

35-D, five letters, “Blow.” I dig.

36-A, fifteen letters, “Redundant-sounding, rather new refreshment.” As my dad would have said, “Never heard of it.”

39-A, twelve letters, “Suite requiring a key.” I don’t think I’ve seen this answer before.

57-D, three letters, “Exclamation not heard (alas) in Hamilton.” The clue adds value to the answer.

59-D, three letters, “Post-retirement acronym.” Sneaky.

No spoilers; the answers (and a bit more about 11-D) are in the comments.

Flares

Psst: the dad in Family Circus appears to wear flares.

Friday, August 20, 2021

John Ashbery and Julia Child

Daniel Kane found an exchange of letters between John Ashbery and Julia Child. Fantastic.

Related reading
All OCA John Ashbery posts (Pinboard)

[“He’s a poet who enjoys cooking” sounds to me like an introduction from The Dating Game.]

Free PDF to speed up a Mac

From MacPaw, maker of CleanMyMac X, a free PDF: The great slowdown: How to make your Mac faster & more productive.

Yes, they want an e-mail address, and yes, the PDF is something of a commercial for CleanMyMac X, but it does explain how to do things without that app.

I’m already a happy user of CleanMyMac X. I’m also a sucker for a free PDF.

Idiom of the day: clever clogs

I heard it in an episode of Peppa Pig last night:

Peppa: “That’s the biggest shadow ever.”

Suzy Sheep: “It must be a giant.”

Doctor Elephant, laughing: “It’s not a giant. The shadow is being made by a cloud.”

All the children, together: “Wow!”

Peppa: “What sort of cloud is it?”

Doctor Elephant: “Um, it’s a . . . big cloud.”

Edmund Elephant: “It’s called a stratocumulus.”

Doctor Elephant: “Yes.”

Narrator: “Edmund Elephant is a clever clogs.”
The term showed up at A.Word.A.Day earlier this week: “noun: Someone perceived to be intelligent or knowledgeable in an annoying way.” The Oxford English Dictionary has it as a compliment and a slight: “a clever or smart person, a wiseacre.” Edmund, I fear, is a bit annoying.

You can see the British version of the scene, which I’ve typed from, at YouTube. It’s different from to the American version, in which Edmund says it first: “I’m a clever clogs.”

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Mistaken identification

[From Arts & Letters Daily.]

The link goes to an article about Robert Burton. Robert Burton starred in The Anatomy of Melancholy. Richard Burton starred in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and many other movies.

Orange mushroom art

[Click for a larger view.]

We saw them walking through a wooded area. That is, we were walking, not the mushrooms. Elaine thinks they’re jack-o’-lantern mushrooms. If so, they’re poisonous. And they’re reputed to glow in the dark.

*

8:55 p.m.: No glow.

Positive identification

“You know who he is, don’t you?”

“He’s in the Harry Potter movies.”

“He’s Harry Potter.”

“Okay.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Ron DeSantis, whoops

A revealing slip from Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida:

“It’s airborne, it’s aerosolized, and so we just have to understand that when that’s happening, these waves are something that you have deal with with preventive — with early treatment.”
Whoops! Heaven forbid the thought of preventive measures, which could make early treatment for COVID-19 unnecessary.

You can hear DeSantis slip at the 5:37 mark in yesterday’s installment of Consider This (NPR).

*

Now there’s this news: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who has been criticized for opposing mask mandates and vaccine passports — is now touting a COVID-19 antibody treatment in which a top donor’s company has invested millions of dollars” (Associated Press).

*

A reader shared the following:
“We know what works to prevent people from contracting this disease in the first place, masking and vaccination. We should be focusing on these preventive measures,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. “It’s totally backwards to say that we should be focused on treatment instead of emphasizing prevention, and the steps that we know work to stop Covid-19 in the first place.”
Thanks, Kirsten.

Alan Alda’s seven questions

Seven questions and a guest’s answers close out each episode of Alan Alda’s podcast Clear + Vivid. As with the questions in the New York Times feature “By the Book,” I’ve decided to answer them myself. How about you? (Again, why should only well-known people have all the fun?)

What do you wish you really understood?

Chemistry and physics. The idea that things are made of “elements” and composed of atoms, endlessly agitating, is at odds with my experience of everyday reality, in which water is made of, well, water, and a desk isn’t something you could drive a pencil through if the atoms were arranged in a certain formation.

How do you tell someone that they have their facts wrong?

“That isn’t really the case,” or “That’s not entirely true,” followed by an explanation supported by evidence. I had to do that kind of thing often when teaching, to counter mistaken notions about writing that students brought with them to college — for instance, the belief that it’s wrong to begin a sentence with and or but. How to counter that mistaken belief: explain why a teacher might have prohibited and and but, offer evidence from authorities on usage that the words are acceptable, and offer evidence of the words in use in the work of reputable writers.

What’s the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?

It might be this one, in a classroom, when students were doing some in-class writing: “Where should I write my name?” That gave me insight into the rigidity of some students’ classrooms before college. “Anywhere at the top of the page is fine,” I said.

How do you stop a compulsive talker?

“I need to get ready to teach.” Or, post-retirement, “I really need to get going.” Or “We should get going.”

How do you strike up a real, genuine conversation?

I have no particular way, which might mean that I’m bad at it, or that I’m good at it — in other words, that without a starting strategy, the conversation will be really genuine.

What gives you confidence?

Having written a good sentence.

What book changed your life?

Alvin’s Secret Code, by Clifford Hicks, the book that made me a reader and re-reader in childhood.

Here are Elaine’s answers to the seven questions.

[The questions appear to have changed over time. Here’s an earlier version. I prefer the ones I’ve answered.]

Speedy Delivery, the next generation

Alex Newell, son of David Newell, just made a cameo appearance in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). In Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood, David Newell played Mr. McFeely, an employee (the lone employee?) of the Speedy Delivery Service. In Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Alex Newell, a real-life mail carrier, played — what else? — a mail carrier.

Thank you, Rachel, for sending this news.

[Orange Crate Art is a Neighborhood-friendly zone. Many years ago, I took my kids to meet David Newell/Mr. McFeely at our nearby PBS station. “So you teach at the university?” he asked me. I, an academic? Was it that obvious?]

Patrick McDonnell’s paintings

Patrick McDonnell, creator of the comic strip Mutts, has a show of his paintings. Nancy and Sluggo looking at a mushroom cloud? It looks to me as if McDonnell has been paying attention to Joe Brainard. And perhaps John Ashbery. Story here.

Dr. Biden’s handwriting

Dr. Jill Biden has excellent handwriting.

Criminal handwriting

“Slattery entered three banks in Eastbourne and Hastings in the space of two weeks, and used written notes to ask the cashiers to hand over money, officers said”: “Man’s handwriting was so bad Eastbourne bank staff didn’t know he was trying to rob them.”

[A bit first (?) done in Take the Money and Run.]

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Heather Cox Richardson again

Today’s installment of Letters from an American. More helpful than hours of “analysis” on cable news.

Exclamations

It would be wonderful to live in the Peppa Pig world, even if only for one five-minute episode. There, virtually all developments can be met with “Ooh!” or “Wow!” or “Yes, please!” or “Hooray!”

Monday, August 16, 2021

About Afghanistan

Heather Cox Richardson’s August 15 installment of Letters from an American is well worth reading.

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Warning: This one’s tricky. Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if needed.

*

Nearly two hours have gone by without a guess. Here’s a hint: she’s in disguise.

*

The answer is 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.]

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Pat Hitchcock O’Connell (1928–2021)

Alfred and Alma’s daughter. Forever memorable in Strangers on a Train. The New York Times has an obituary.

New England Mobile Book Fair

A belated goodbye: I learned by chance yesterday that the New England Mobile Book Fair closed last August. The closing is likely permanent.

Here’s an article that explains what happened. And here’s a post from a 2010 visit.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Pedro Almodóvar in my local paper

I wonder what algorithm chose this headline as one of the three top stories in the online edition of my local paper: “Pedro Almodóvar warns against algorithms in Instagram row.”

Whatever. I will now be on the lookout for the forthcoming Almodóvar movie, Madres paralelas [Parallel mothers].

Here, from ABC News, is the story of Almodóvar’s battle against an algorithm. To read the story in my local paper would require a battle with a paywall.

Our household is an Almodóvar-friendly zone: Elaine and I have seen sixteen of his movies. But we gave up on the local paper in 2008. We had our reasons, good ones.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

I set up my iPad at the kitchen table to do the crossword. The 11th Hour ran at the far end of our mid-century all-in-one room. The minutes went by.

“Are you done yet?” Elaine asked. It was getting late. “Only halfway,” I answered. And at some point I realized that today’s Newsday  crossword, by Greg Johnson, was another Saturday Stumper. No wonder it took so long (twenty-three minutes).

That makes two consecutive Stumpers. And much greater difficulty with this week’s puzzle — that’s good.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

6-D, six letters, “What some projections and pitchers provide.” Very clever.

11-D, ten letters, “Common grade-school homework.” Yes indeed. And now I’m wondering when they became a thing.

16-A, three letters, “‘Sharp’ starter.” I learned something.

17-A, fifteen letters, “’70s kids’ educational animated-short series.” I know it only from later parodies and repurposings.

19-D, thirteen letters, “Taunt for a hand.” My first thought was of an insult comedian.

28-D, ten letters, “Uranium ore, from the Latin for ‘violet.’” From the west-central region, the toughest part of the puzzle. Just try to figure out what the first letter might be.

45-D, six letters, “Drop-box legend.” Oh, now I get it. Fun to see this answer below 9-D, three letters, “Makes greater.”

50-A, five letters, “About 591 drops.” I’d like to say I learned something, but I will forget this factoid posthaste.

56-A, fifteen letters, “App you can’t download.” I am 48-A, six letters, “Finding something funny.”

One clue whose answer I don’t understand: 44-A, seven letters, “Score fourth.” Fourth? Huh?

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Snopes and plagiarism

David Mikkelson, co-founder of Snopes, turns out to be a serial plagiarist.

Mikkelson’s acknowledgement of “multiple serious copyright violations of content that Snopes didn’t have rights to use” is a tad disingenuous. Using text without permission might be a copyright violation. Putting your own name on that text is plagiarism. Putting your name on a slightly altered version of that text: that, too, is plagiarism.

If you’re “rewording,” as students say, you’re plagiarizing.

Related posts
“Rewording” : Rogeting

[I always mistype plagiarism as plagiairism. I am nothing if not consistent.]

Poverty and dignity

“I think if there’s one thing I’ve learned in thirty-five years, it’s the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth. The opposite of poverty is dignity”: Jacqueline Novogratz, from Alan Alda’s podcast Clear + Vivid.

Alda and Perlman

Alan Alda talking with his friend Itzhak Perlman, at the 92nd Street Y and in Perlman’s kitchen.

Thanks, Kevin.

[The post title first had “Alan.” I mix up his first and last names often when trying to solve crosswords fast.]

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Alan Alda as Young Poet

While I think of it: if you’ve never seen the Naked City episode “Hold for Gloria Christmas,” it’s at YouTube. Alan Alda appears as Young Poet, no name, in an episode devoted to Beat culture and Greenwich Village. His appearance begins at the 27:55 mark.

Two related posts
Positively Naked City (West 4th Street locations in the episode) : Of Harrises and Kings (Real-life models for two characters in the episode)

Alan Alda now and then

Alan Alda made an appearance on The Late Show last night. He was a delightful guest, talking about acting and his podcast series, Clear + Vivid.

Alan Alda is now eighty-five. How did that happen? He was the speaker at my college commencement, Fordham College, 1978, forty-three years ago. Forty-three years ago: how did that happen? I remember just one point Alda (FC ’56) made, which I think was the point of his address. He tasked graduates with asking themselves, every now and then, this question: “What are my values?” I remember it as a suggestion to check in with yourself, a way of asking “Is this who I am, who I want to be?”

I can find no account of the commencement to let me know if my memory is accurate. But here’s an Alda commencement address from 2015 that touches on a similar theme.

My dad once did tile work in the house of Alda’s next-door neighbor in Leonia, New Jersey. So being the kind of dad he was, he took a copy of the commencement program with him and knocked, hoping to get an autograph for me. I think he said a maid answered the door. Alan Alda wasn’t home. I think that if he had been home, he would have signed.

[In 1978 the fake Vonnegut commencement address Alda read in 2015 hadn’t yet been written. A 2017 article notes that Alda flew back to Leonia from Los Angeles every weekend while working on M*A*S*H. Perhaps he was out west when my dad knocked. Important: I had no idea what my dad was up to.]

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Block that chyron

A CNN chyron just now: “respitory therapist.”

Related reading
All OCA misspelling posts (Pinboard)

Jeopardy and Neuriva

It’s dispiriting to see a spokesperson for a dubious brain supplement chosen as one of the new hosts of Jeopardy. I speak of Mayim Bialik, actor, “actual neuroscientist,” and television spokesperson for the supplement Neuriva Plus. You can read about Neuriva and Neuriva Plus here, here, and here.

I think of Neuriva as the new Prevagen. But it’s difficult to think of Mayim Bialik as the new Alex Trebek.

[The other new host: Mike Richards, executive producer of Jeopardy. The identifying phrase “actual neuroscientist” comes from the Neuriva commercial. It’s not clear that Bialik has ever worked as a neuroscientist.]

Far Side cave formations

In today’s Daily Dose of The Far Side, cavemen in conversation: “Oo! Grog run into a . . . a . .  dang! Now which kind stick up and which kind hang down?”

I know three mnemonics, by way of a recent Newsday crossword:

Stalactites have to hold on tight! (So they don’t fall off.)

Stalactites hold tightly to the ceiling, stalagmites might get tall enough to reach it.

C for ceiling; g for ground.

[The first two are from my friend Stefan Hagemann and an anonymous reader.]

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Misheard

“The governor was working a grope line”: oh, rope line. But when Rita Glavin, Andrew Cuomo’s attorney, just said it, it sounded like grope line.

11:05: Cuomo is speaking now, and it sounds as if he’s about to resign.

11:06: He just did.

Related reading
All OCA misheard posts (Pinboard)

Blanket trick

Else (Wanda Hendrix) is a maid in a shabby London hotel. She’s about to get a visit from her boss, Mrs. Melandez (Katina Paxinou), and Melandez’s co-conspirator Contreras (Peter Lorre). Even if you anticipate the worst, this short sequence (about twelve seconds) still startles, as a blanket fills the screen and drops to reveal the visitors. From Confidential Agent (dir. Herbert Shumlin, 1945). Cinematography by James Wong Howe. Click any image for a larger view.

A hotel maid lifts a blanket into the air as she makes a bed. The blanket nearly fills the screen. The blanket fills the screen. As the blanket lowers, we see Else’s head. And Mrs. Melandez is now standing in the doorway behind her. Contreras now comes into view, just outside the door. Melandez and Contreras come closer as Else continues to make the bed. Else behinds forward to spread out the blanket. Else turns slightly, sensing that someone is now in the room with her.
Just for the record: no one has said a word yet. Else senses that someone is now in the room with her.

Confidential Agent is available from TCM through August 29.

Rename X

It is possible to rename a group of files — say, photos — in macOS. But doing so is tedious, and the options are limited. For 99¢, Rename X does a much better job. I changed the eight screenshots for this post from “Screen Shot 2021-06-07 at 7.57.02 AM” and so on to “Confidential-Agent-1” and so on in just seconds. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Three series, nine movies

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

Mare of Easttown (dir. Craig Zobel, 2021). A seven-episode mini-series starring Kate Winslet as Mare Sheehan, a detective in a small tight-knit (or horribly knotted) Pennsylvania town, trying to solve a string of murders while struggling with a recent familial trauma. Many story lines branching off and intersecting, great writing, and excellent performances from Winslet, Jean Smart (as Mare’s mother Helen), and everyone else. It’s fun to count the tropes: the smartypants new guy, the badge and gun turned in, and so on. The one false note is the visiting creative-writing professor, whose sole book appeared twenty years ago, but his presence might be a joke on the part of the show’s writers. ★★★★

*

McCartney 3, 2, 1 (dir. Zachary Heinzerling, 2021). Rick Rubin talks with Paul McCartney about Beatle songs and Beatle history. That is all ye need to know. Countless revelations about what’s in the tracks: for instance, that the guitar solo in “A Hard Day’s Night” was played at half speed an octave down and then speeded up. As it’s Paul speaking, there’s an occasional backhanded compliment, but the overriding spirit here is his and Rubin’s retrospective joy about what the lads created — and oh, those bass lines when you hear them by themselves. ★★★★

*

The Comeback (created by Lisa Kudrow and Michael Patrick King, 2005 and 2014). An astute consumer of media recommended The Comeback as her favorite television series of all time. It’s a good call. Lisa Kudrow is an incredibly gifted actor (I didn’t know that), here playing Valerie Cherish, a one-time sit-com star trying to get back in the game, even if the game requires reality-TV crews recording her every move as she takes on roles in two new sit-coms. A funny and painful mockumentary series that made me root for its kind, hopeful, clueless, self-obsessed heroine, always trying to do her best in a cruel, cruel business. ★★★★

*

Summer of Soul (dir. Questlove, 2021). You probably know the story: a free outdoor music event, the Harlem Cultural Festival, spanning six Sunday afternoons in the summer of 1969, preserved on film and set aside (for lack of commercial interest) for fifty years. This documentary has generous performance clips, with commentary from musicians and concert-goers. The standouts, for me: the Fifth Dimension (with Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo watching their performance and talking about the racial politics of music), Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone. It’s reported that Jimi Hendrix sought to be included but was deemed too far out: imagine how his presence or, say, Miles Davis’s presence, might have electrified (no pun intended) the proceedings. ★★★★

*

The Good Die Young (dir. Lewis Gilbert, 1954). Shades of The Asphalt Jungle: a London gentleman (Laurence Harvey) leads an American vet (Richard Basehart), an American Air Force sergeant (John Ireland), and a British ex-boxer (Stanley Baker) in an effort to commit a perfect crime. Things here are complicated by the men’s marriages: to Margaret Leighton, Joan Collins, Gloria Grahame, and Rene Ray. Each marriage gets a separate piece of the movie. And slowly the four stories are woven together through the fatal magic of contingency. ★★★★

*

Clockwatchers (dir. Jill Sprecher, 1997). The clocks are on the walls of the Global Credit Association, where four temps, Iris, Margaret, Paula, and Jane (Toni Collette, Parker Posey, Lisa Kudrow, Alanna Ubach), establish a wobbly solidarity against the permanently employed. When things begin to go missing from other people’s desks, it’s the temps who fall under suspicion. A great depiction of the torpor of office culture: IBM Selectrics, supply rooms, Happy Hours, and camaraderie among people who have little in common but the circumstances of their labor. Posey and Kudrow shine. ★★★★

*

The Donut King (dir. Alice Gu, 2020). This documentary starts out well, telling the story of Bun Tek Ngoy (later Ted Ngoy), a Cambodian refugee who became a dominant figure in California donut culture. At first we get a story of success against long odds: a penniless man learns the trade at a Winchell’s Donut House, saves money, goes into business for himself, and is soon sponsoring and then employing other Cambodian refugees in a donut-shop empire. But early and late, there are much darker elements in Ngoy’s story, only some of which the movie acknowledges (hint: read Ngoy’s Wikipedia article). At about fifty minutes in, the movie seemed to wrap up and start over, as if someone were whispering, “It needs to be longer.” ★★

*

Turn the Key Softly (dir. Jack Lee, 1953). One day in the lives of three women just released from prison and returning to London. The backstories: genteel Monica (Yvonne Mitchell) fell in with bad company and took the rap; Stella (Joan Collins), now engaged, was engaged in prostitution; Mrs. Quilliam (Kathleen Harrison) did more than her share of shoplifting. Their three lives now converge in odd and surprising ways. Fine performances, and for anyone afraid of heights, a terrifying scene at a theater. ★★★★

*

Confidential Agent (dir. Herbert Shumlin, 1945). It’s 1937, the Spanish Civil War is raging, and confidential agent Luis Denard (Charles Boyer) has come to London looking to buy coal for the Republican government. The helpers and hinderers he encounters include a wealthy Brit (Lauren Bacall, not even trying to fake a British accent), a teacher of an Esperanto-like language (Peter Lorre), a hotel proprietor (Katina Paxinou), and a maid of all work (Wanda Hendrix). The movie looks back to The 39 Steps and forward to Dark Passage. From a novel by Graham Greene, with great cinematography by James Wong Howe. ★★★★

*

The Conspirators (dir. Jean Negulesco, 1944). Paul Henreid is Viktor Laszlo, Vincent Van Der Lyn, Czech Dutch resistance fighter, newly arrived in Casablanca Lisbon, and preparing to travel to Lisbon London. Yes, this movie shamelessly borrows atmosphere, cast members, and plot elements from Casablanca, and that’s fine by me. My favorite moment: Vincent ordering dinner, beginning with bread and butter and ending with real coffee. With Sydney Greenstreet, Hedy Lamarr, and Peter Lorre. ★★★★

*

Across the Pacific (dir. John Huston, 1942). It’s November 1941, and Humphrey Bogart is Rick Blaine Rick Leland, court-martialed in the States, now on his way to fight with the Chinese military, traveling via the Panama Canal. Also on board his ship: Alberta Marlow (Mary Astor) and Dr. Lorenz (Sydney Greenstreet), who bring considerable Maltese Falcon atmosphere to the proceedings — Rick even calls Astor’s character “Angel.” And look: there’s even a Japanese gunsel. Mystery and suspense in a satisfying dose of “the movies,” with the bonus of Astor and Bogart in some light comic moments. ★★★★

*

Yellow Canary (dir. Herbert Wilcox, 1943). As confusing as all get out, whatever “all get out” means. Here we’re traveling from England to Nova Scotia, on a ship carrying a British Nazi collaborator (Anna Neagle), a Polish military man (Albert Lieven), and a British intelligence officer (Richard Greene). What are they up to, and what’s Nova Scotia got to do with it? It takes a long time for things to become clear, and then the movie gets markedly better. ★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

[Sources: Criterion Channel, HBO Max, Hulu, TCM, YouTube.]

Mystery actor

Black and white movie still of cabdriver and passengers [Click for a larger view.]

That cabdriver — you know her? Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll add a hint if needed.

*

None needed — the answer is now in the comments. Thanks to Elaine, who spotted this driver as we were watching.

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

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

Sunday, August 8, 2021

“Back to square one”


This explanation seems to me, alas, entirely plausible.

The Trump** cult really is, as I wrote in June 2020, a death cult. In its ranks, millions who believe that endangering their own lives and the lives of others equals “freedom.”

My representative in Congress, Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15), rejects masks, casts doubt on vaccines, and tells her constituents to “Do what’s best for you & your situation!” Meaning?

[Some background on Pam Keith here.]

Schoolboyish

Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Antibes, 1931:

After the café, work and note-taking resumed, broken up every so often by excited, schoolboyish visits to the stationery shop, where Zweig and Roth indulged without restraint their passion for pens, notebooks, pencils, and special ink.

George Prochnik, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World (New York: Other Press, 2014).
Zweig’s ink of choice: violet.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

“Florsheim cap toes!”

In today’s Zippy, Griffy speaks:

“I was born in th’ decade I now consider ‘correct’ when it comes to fashion, architecture, automobiles & signage.”
And when Zippy notes that Griffy’s vest was popular in 1947:
“Yes! 1947! Florsheim cap toes! Dress slacks! Black socks! William Powell! Edward Everett Horton!”
What is a cap toe? Here’s an explanation:
A cap toe is any kind of shoe that has horizontal stitching across the toe box that extends to the welt on either side, thus forming a ‘cap’ on the toe.
“Florsheim cap toes!” sounds like a Zippy “over and over.” Florsheim cap toes! Florsheim cap toes!

Here, direct from 1947, is a pair of Florsheim cap toes:

[Life, November 3, 1947. Click for a larger size.]

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday crossword is a Stumper. The Stumper is back, or at least will be back, on occasion, as editor Stan Newman said in January. Today’s puzzle is by Steve Mossberg, a name I’ve never seen on a Newsday Saturday. It’s a good puzzle, one that had me scanning the grid for something, anything, to fill in. The clue that finally helped: 26-D, five letters, “Language of Sri Lanka.” Every other answer in the puzzle came by way of 26-D.

Is there a word for doing a puzzle in that way, with every answer coming by way of a cross with a previous answer? Chain-solving? Cross-stitching?

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-A, seven letters, “Put together, as two shots.” I imagined the construction of a lethal cocktail.

3-D, five letters, “Not spread around.” See 56-D.

10-D, four letters, “One of eleven in Macbeth.” Sneaky.

13-D, four letters, “Where the River Po rises.” I was trying to think of a Italian city.

17-A, six letters, “Out of service.” My first thought was DEMOBBED. Too much T. S. Eliot in my past.

27-A, eleven letters, “’70s fad on wheels.” Good grief, that was a thing.

37-A, fifteen letters, “Pygmalion genre.” The first answer I got by way of 26-D. Is it the giveaway I think it is?

41-A, four letters, and 58-D, three letters, “Take care of by needling.” I like seeing a clue repurposed in this way.

56-D, four letters, “Spread around.” See 3-D.

60-A, eight letters, “Fruity, bubbly brand.” For me, forever associated with Frasier.

65-A, seven letters, “Frost or ice, for example.” I thought the answer must be some bit of slang.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Domestic comedy

[Fun while driving.]

Name your Price:

Hi Price

Lo Price

Wright Price
And always standing off to the side at the family reunion:
Bergen Price
Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[My dad would have liked this stuff.]

Dad, i.m.

My dad, James Leddy, died six years ago today. He’d have been ninety-three this year.

Elaine and I just watched the (terrific) movie Career Girls (dir. Mike Leigh, 1997), in which two college flatmates, both now thirty, reunite after six years apart. Six years might feel like an eternity for someone who’s thirty. These days it feels like no time at all.

Here’s what I wrote after my dad died.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Chris Miller again

The man who purportedly represents me in the Illinois House of Representatives, Chris Miller (R-110), is in the news again for lying. From Politico :

State Rep. Chris Miller is continuing to promote the false claim that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election. “Make no mistake, Donald J. Trump was overwhelmingly elected in this last election cycle,” Miller said at a [July 28] political event to promote state Sen. Darren Bailey’s bid for governor.
Miller’s previous moment in the news: his presence in Washington on January 6, with a truck bearing a Three Percenter sticker.

Miller’s wife Mary (“Hitler was right on one thing”) Miller purportedly represents me in the House of Representatives.

Related reading
All OCA Chris Miller and Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

Absorbine Juniors

[“Nailing It.” Zippy, August 4, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

I thought about going down the rabbit hole yesterday. I went today. In search of an entertaining advertisement for Absorbine Jr., I discovered that there were two Jrs. Here they are, or were, sharing the year 1959 in the pages of Life.

[Life, June 1, 1959 and October 5, 1959. Click either image for a larger view.]

The Absorbine Jr. website makes no mention of a preparation for athlete’s foot. But it does explain “Jr.”:

Absorbine was originally created in 1892 by Wilbur F. Young and his wife, Mary Ida, to relieve the muscle pain of their hardworking horses that pulled heavy cargo. The popularity of the formula grew among farmers, who soon realized it quickly relieved their own aches and pains too.

Absorbine Jr., named after W.F. Young’s son, Junior, was developed specifically for humans — for fast, long lasting and effective relief of pain, stiffness and muscle aches.
The strange thing is that both products were sold under the same name. “Oh, and pick up some Absorbine Jr., willya?” “You bet.” Imagine the hilarity that might have ensued when an unwitting athlete applied mentholated liquid to a foot. As Zippy would say, “Yow!”

But a stranger thing, for me: a couple of days ago I wrote in an e-mail to my friend Fresca, “It’s great to know people are getting after books.” (Books I had sent her for a free library had already been taken.) Where did that quaint “getting after” come from? From an ad in the pages of Life, which I hadn’t seen before this morning? I suppose that’s what Vladmir Nabokov might have called precognitive e-mail.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : Nabokov, dreams, precognition