Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Invisible woman

Agnes Grey, governess, walks back from church with — but not with — her charges and the young gentlemen of the neighborhood.

Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847).

See also Charlotte Brontë’s Lucy Snowe, ex-governess and still a “nobody.”

Related reading
All OCA Brontë posts (Pinboard)

How to pronounce omicron

The Oxford English Dictionary gives six pronunciations.

Merriam-Webster is simpler:

\ ˈä-mə-ˌkrän \ or \ ˈō-mə-ˌkrän \ or (British) \ ō-ˈmī-(ˌ)krän \.

It might be simpler still to hear those three.

As the name for a COVID-19 variant, the word is capitalized.

[Yes, pronunciation is among the least of our problems.]

Monday, November 29, 2021

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with vaccine.

Vinegar

Vinegar, for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac: “Vinegar is a Safari extension that replaces the YouTube player with a minimal HTML video tag. It removes ads, prevents tracking, restores picture-in-picture, and keeps videos playing in the background.” Vinegar costs $1.99 and is a “universal purchase”: pay once and use it on all three devices.

Found via Daring Fireball.

At Barnes & Noble

Elaine and I went into a nearby Barnes & Noble and found a baffling arrangement of retractable-belt stanchions, making the entrance to the store look something like a small airport. A security guard nodded for us to enter.

I went off to look for other versions of Illinois, the great Sufjan Stevens album, and found an entire aisle devoted to his work, with everything packaged in enormous black boxes, looking more like elaborate board games than CDs, just three or four boxes to a shelf. I reached up to the highest shelf and took down a package labeled Dice. Inside, a deck of cards and a device that looked like a cross between a corkscrew and a flower press. The gist of the game: place cards under the corkscrew/press until it drops. Then add up the values of your cards.

Then we met Ben. We didn’t know he would be at Barnes & Noble. We made plans to go get ice cream.

And then I met Skip James. We seemed to already know each other. Skip wore a bright plaid shirt. I asked him if he was playing anywhere and where he was living. He said he was living in Newark, Music City, and I wondered if he had meant to say Nashville.

A one-time colleague and know-it-all approached and asked, “Michael, did you know that Led Zeppelin recorded Skip’s [some song title]?” “Okay,” I said. “But what about Cream and ‘I’m So Glad’?” Skip said he may have already had COVID and moved over to a wall to lie down. I then realized that none of us were wearing masks. “We should probably socially distance,” I said.

We never got to the ice cream.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[To the best of my knowledge, Led Zeppelin never recorded a Skip James song.]

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Beatles: Get Back thoughts

[If you haven’t watched Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back, please know that this post is full of spoilers.]

Fifty-two years after the fact, we now have seven hours and forty-eight minutes of the Beatles’ rehearsals, conversations, and famed rooftop concert (a concert about twice as long as what the original film Let It Be depicted). The Beatles are forever.

People

~ Paul is the dominant figure here, always dapper, often insufferable, occasionally smoking cigars. John is along for the ride. He and Paul engage in endless fun and games, sloppily spoofing ’50s R & B and rock ’n’ roll and their own earlier material. And when there’s a discussion about how to approach the impending live performance, it’s just John and Paul.

~ George is a disaffected figure early on. At Twickenham Studios, he sits on the edge of Ringo’s drum riser. Perhaps that’s just how George preferred to sit, but I find it telling that he doesn’t take a chair with Paul and John. When Paul’s criticism of George’s playing prompts George to announce that he’s leaving the band (in a scene kept out of Let It Be ), all John can say is “When?”, followed (after George has left the building) by a declaration that if he isn’t back by Tuesday, they’ll get Clapton. In part two, after a difficult (offscreen) reconciliation, George seems like a different guitarist, filling his spots with much greater clarity (and without the dumb wah-wah pedal). But he’s still diffident about introducing his own songs. He describes “For You Blue” as something short and simple, as if it won’t take much of anyone else’s time or effort. When he demos “Something,” we see no reaction from John or Paul. (But listen to Abbey Road : Paul’s bass line makes a great song even better).

~ Ringo is a patient and sometimes exhausted observer. At times his posture reminds me of what it feels like to sit through a committee meeting as other personalities act out.

~ I found Yoko Ono’s presence unnerving early on. I imagined what it might be like for a member of a string quartet to bring a silent partner to rehearsals, a silent partner who sits with the quartet and knits, reads letters, and sorts through papers. By part two I found myself ignoring Yoko’s presence, save for when the camera lingers on her in close (unheard) conversation with Linda Eastman.

~ Yes, it’s true: Billy Preston does enliven the proceedings. When he plays (for the first time?) on “I’ve Got a Feeling,” the room (now the Beatles’ own studio) comes alive.

~ I’ve always admired George Martin for his work in the cause of music. But when I hear him say of John and Paul that “They’re our songwriting team,” and that George Harrison is on his own team, I’m taken aback. And when someone points out that John and Paul no longer write much together, Martin insists that they’re still a team. Because, as someone points out, that’s what it says on the record label.

Moviemaking

~ Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the director of Let It Be (1970), had some strange ideas. How about a cruise — with British audience onboard — to Sabratha, Libya, where the Beatles would perform at an ancient Roman amphitheater? How about a television special, with the Beatles’ performance punctuated by news bulletins, the last of which announces the breakup of the band? Nearly as bad: Lindsay-Hogg hides a microphone in the lunchroom where John and Paul go to have a private conversation. The microphone catches their admission that they’ve treated George badly, and John’s admission that he wishes he had pushed back against Paul’s taking control of the group.

~ Technically, Peter Jackson’s film is miles above Let It Be, which feels dark and gloomy and, save for the rooftop concert, claustrophobic, even on the vast Twickenham sound stage. Here, even when things in the band are dark and gloomy, the image and sound are clear as can be. You can even read the lettering on the Swan Vesta matchboxes.

~ My one objection to Jackson’s editing of the material: it gives the movie a reality-TV quality. The many quick closeups of a silent George foreshadow his departure from the band. A shot of the Apple rooftop early on foreshadows the concert that ends the film. Putting in Paul’s comment “And then there were two” after George has walked out and John doesn’t show up for a rehearsal feels like a cheap, weird, knowing touch.

Musicmaking

~ I love the scene in which Paul calls out the chords for the middle eight of “I’ve Got a Feeling”: “E, G, D, A.” In a later scene, George is at the piano: “What’s this chord, Billy?” Billy: “I don’t know.” (It’s an E chord with a C at the top, a raised fifth, an augmented chord.) There’s no vocabulary here aside from a seven-letter chordal alphabet: A through G. Everything else is shown, not named.

~ There’s lot of mucking around, lots of parody, lots of playing at music (even a brief bit of Canned Heat’s “Going Up the Country”). I think of it all as a creative form of procrastination. There’s a deadline to be met: the band has to be ready for a live performance of new material (to take place on the Apple rooftop), after which Ringo will begin work on the film The Magic Christian, but things don’t come together (no pun intended) until very late in the schedule, when they have to.

~ There’s an extraordinary degree of invention here, not very much on view in Let It Be. You can see songs take shape in real time. As the band runs through Paul’s “I’ve Got a Feeling,” John adds lines from his “Everybody Had a Hard Year.” Later, after Billy Preston has signed on, someone asks him to add a riff to “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and he invents a bouncing figure on electric piano that now feels like an inevitable element in the song. Also feeling inevitable: the step-like countermelody that George Harrison worked out for the bridge of John’s “Don’t Let Me Down.”

~ And then there’s the magic of playing for people. When the Beatles and Billy Preston are up on the roof, playing for an audience, even if it’s an audience five stories down, even if it’s so cold that John says his fingers can’t make a chord, the feeling is joyous, the energy is abundant — at least until the police put a stop to things. Strange: when the Beatles were playing stadiums, they could be seen but not (really) heard. And in this last rooftop performance they could be heard but not seen, aside from the few dozen people on their own and other rooftops.

Other

~ I have the same guitar strap that’s on George’s Gibson acoustic. Who knew? My strap, which hangs on a tie rack in a closet, not far from my guitar, goes back to high-school days, not long after Let It Be came out. But now I play only while seated.

[That’s the one.]

Related reading
All OCA Beatles posts (Pinboard)

Let It Be at the Internet Archive

Listen: do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? Let It Be (dir. Michael Lindsay-Hogg, 1970) is available for streaming from the Internet Archive. You can’t really appreciate Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back without seeing the earlier film.

Related reading
All OCA Beatles posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Today’s xkcd

The title: “Siren.”


The mouseover text:

Directions from CITY OF TROY to ITHACA / Total time: 10y 54d 14h 25m / Warning: Route crosses an international border / route includes capture by the goddess Calypso / route includes a ferry
Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, is an easy one — another good Stumper for anyone who fears the Stumper. I skipped 1-A, seven letters, “Instances of indifference” and started with 8-A, seven letters, “Concerning,” which gave me one corner of the puzzle — and more. Hooray for 8-A.

Some clues of note (four of which I’m skeptical about):

10-D, ten letters, “Great Lakes region.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard or seen the answer. Life-long learning!

15-A, seven letters, “Williams title topper.” I thought it must have something to do with tennis and a Grand Slam.

17-A, fifteen letters, “‘Clean it up, roomie!’” Who says “roomie”? And who would say the answer to a roommate? More plausible clues: “Don’t expect me to do it,” “Spousal protest.”

23-A, six letters, “Bermudas-backwards beer brand.” This strange clue becomes much less strange when you remember that it’s in a Saturday Stumper.

29-D, six letters, “Kid-lit quadruped since 1940.” Hooray for 29-D.

34-D, nine letters, “Animalistic persona.” I may not know enough about 34-D, but I think “Animalistic state” would be more precise.

35-A, five letters, “Tutor’s lofty promise.” No. There’s nothing lofty about it. And how can it be 35-A if you’ve had to seek out a tutor?

43-A, three letters, “Once-over ender.” One of my favorite clues in the puzzle. So oblique.

61-A, five letters, “Swift, e.g.” My other favorite clue. My first thought was SATIRIST.

64-A, seven letters, “How some cave fish evolved.” The answer calls for an adverb. An alternative clue: “Like Samson in Gaza.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Stephen Sondheim (1930–2021)

[Bernadette Peters sings “No One Is Alone,” from Into the Woods, words and music by Stephen Sondheim. From “Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration,” May 2020.]

The New York Times has an obituary.

A handful of Sondheim posts
“The Ladies Who Lunch” : On education : Paper and pencil : Writing habits

Woolworth’s

[Margaret “Mick” Kelly (Sondra Locke), store clerk. From The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (dir. Robert Ellis Miller, 1968). Click either image for a much larger view.]

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was filmed on location in Selma, Alabama. That has to be a genuine Woolworth’s.

My one and only Woolworth’s stood at 4318 13th Avenue, Brooklyn. I remember the candy display and the tables with all sorts of inexpensive stuff. I remember buying Christmas presents for my grandparents: a comb, a hand mirror. (I was a little kid.) I remember buying Silly Putty for myself, packaged in what looked like a television set. (I was a little kid.) I remember retail density, the thing I still most admire in hardware and housewares stores. S. Feldman, I’m thinking of you.

That’s my shopping for today.

Modern mondegreen

Watching the first part of Peter Jackson’s Get Back, I realized that I’ve been mishearing a word in “Get Back” since 1969. The lyric references “sweet Loretta Martin,” not “sweet Loretta Modern.” I will consider “sweet Loretta Modern” my very own mondegreen.

I have more thoughts about this documentary, but that’s all for now.

Related reading
All OCA Beatles posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving 1921

[“Beggars’ Holiday Mars Thanksgiving: Throngs of Children in Garbs, Tattered or Classic, Invade City’s Crowded Centres.” The New York Times, November 25, 1921. Click for a larger view.]

No full-grown oaths at the dinner table, or while shooting craps!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

[“Latin” seems to be the Times word for “Mediterranean.” My people, or half of them.]

NYT “Best Book”

The New York Times has assembled, from readers’ recommendations, a list of twenty-five contenders for the title of “best book of the past 125 years.” It’s a silly, sorry list, starting with the word “best,” which seems to mean “what you like.” “Book” means “novel,” and “novel” means “novel in English” (with one exception). Just two “books” date from the 1920s, two from the 1930s, and two from the 1940s. And some of the choices: Charlotte’s Web? A Confederacy of Dunces? They are (or were) wonderful novels (John Kennedy Toole’s humor has dated badly), but sheesh. Gone with the Wind? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone? Sheesh again.

The work most conspicuously missing from this list: Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. It’s difficult to think that no reader thought to suggest it. Perhaps the Times didn’t want to privilege a particular translation by using the title In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past. One publisher or another might be cross.

But is Proust’s “book” the best book of the past 125 years? It’s a silly question. As T.S. Eliot said in “East Coker” about the work of the writer, “there is no competition.” Or as the poet William Bronk said, in response to a survey asking for the ten best books of American poetry published since 1945, “Don’t ask me. I believe the arts are not competitive.”

Who else is missing from this list? Well, T.S. Eliot and William Bronk. Also Jorge Luis Borges, Willa Cather, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, W.G. Sebald, and Virginia Woolf, for starters. If you’re going to make such a list, make it a good one.

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with NFT.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Guilty, guilty, guilty

In the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers: Travis McMichael, guilty on all nine counts; Gregory McMichael, guilty on eight of nine counts; William Bryan, guilty on six of nine counts.

Mimestream, a Mac app for Gmail

“Combines your favorite Gmail features with the power of a native macOS app so you can move through your email effortlessly”: Mimestream is free to download and use while it’s in beta. I downloaded the app yesterday and am impressed by its design and ease of use. It should prove especially handy for anyone who manages multiple Gmail accounts.

I wish I had known about Mimestream sooner — it’s been around for more than a year. I plan to pay for the app when it goes to market, even (so help me) if it’s available only by subscription.

5B or 6B

The animator and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, talking to Ligaya Mishan of The New York Times:

“I believe that the tool of an animator is the pencil,” he tells me. (We speak through an interpreter, Yuriko Banno.) Japanese pencils are particularly good, he notes: The graphite is delicate and responsive — in the 2013 documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, directed by Mami Sunada, he mocks himself for having to rely on a soft 5B or even softer 6B as he gets older — and encased in sugi (Japanese cedar), although, he muses, “I don’t see that many quality wood trees left in Japan anymore.”
Thanks to Chris at Dreamers Rise.

Related reading
All OCA pencils posts (Pinboard)

A Verilux sale

From Verilux, through December 29:

~ 20% off on orders up to $99 with the code BFCM20

~ 25% off on orders over $100 with the code BFCM25

My only connection to Verilux: I’m a happy customer. My Verilux doesn’t utterly rout grey skies, but it sure helps.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Block that metaphor

As heard on NBC Nightly News: “supply-chain bottleneck.”

Related reading
All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)

“The Problem of Political Despair”

In The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg writes about “The Problem of Political Despair”:

Given the bleak trajectory of American politics, I worry about progressives retreating into private life to preserve their sanity, a retreat that will only hasten democracy’s decay. In order to get people to throw themselves into the fight to save this broken country, we need leaders who can convince them that they haven’t already lost.

An EXchange name sighting

[From Black Widow (dir. Nunnally Johnson, 1954). Click for a larger view.]

A Manhattan MU: MUrray Hill.

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 : Craig’s Wife : 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 : Escape in the Fog : Fallen Angel : Framed : Hollywood Story: 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 : The Unfaithful : Vice Squad : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Monday, November 22, 2021

Twelve movies

[One to four stars. Four sentences each. No spoilers. Sources: Criterion Channel, HBO Max, Hulu, TCM, YouTube.]

Two by Pedro Almodóvar

‌Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón (1980). A cop spots pot plants on a windowsill, refuses an attempted bribe, and rapes Pepi (Carmen Maura), who then schemes to take away the cop’s wife Luci (Eva Siva). It turns out that prim, proper Luci is a masochist, a detail that Pepi and her lesbian punk-rocker friend Bom (Alaska) turn to their advantage. But can they compete with Luci’s husband? Funny and gonzo, with desire run amok: it’s as if John Waters moved to Madrid. ★★★★ (HBO Max)

The Human Voice (2020). A short film for pandemic times, based on Jean Cocteau’s La voix humaine. After a introductory moment of retail therapy in a store with an imposing display of axes, we wander a beautifully furnished, dazzlingly colorful apartment and the empty stage that surrounds it, watching a woman (Tilda Swinton) neaten her books, try out her axe, and speak a desperate telephone soliloquy to a now-gone lover. A charming dog, all black and white, also waits for his now-gone master. And then it’s time for this woman to forget the phone and send smoke signals. ★★★★ (HBO Max)

*

No Way Out (dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950). In his first credited role, Sidney Poitier plays Luther Brooks, a brand-new Black doctor in a busy hospital, given the ugly assignment of tending to Ray and Johnny Biddle, two racist brothers shot in a robbery. When Johnny dies, Ray (Richard Widmark) claims that Brooks killed him. This movie contrasts scenes of vicious hatred (Widmark was reportedly pained by lines he had to speak) with scenes of familial love and loyalty (Brooks with his family, complete with a portrait of a dead patriarch on the wall) and one remarkable conversation in which Johnny’s widow Edie (Linda Darnell) begins to recognize a Black woman’s humanity (Amanda Randolph). Randolph goes uncredited; and though it’s Poitier’s story, he, as a newcomer, gets fourth billing, after the three starring names: Widmark, Darnell, and Stephen McNally. ★★★★ (YT)

*

Frankenstein (dir. James Whale, 1931). Spectacular sets. A weird imaginary Europe. Boris Karloff’s mastery of gesture and noise. Happy Halloween. ★★★★ (TCM)

*

Two by Anatole Litvak

Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939). There are several spies, most notably those played by Francis Lederer, Paul Lukas, and George Sanders. Edward G. Robinson is the G-man tasked with finding them. A troubling film to watch in 2021, when those who would destroy democracy are ever at work, and the institutions meant to defend democracy seem adrift. Secret meetings, allegiance to a god-like leader, mob violence — well, here we are again. ★★★★ (TCM)

Sorry, Wrong Number (dir. Anatole Litvak, 1948). A great performance by Barbara Stanwyck as an invalid who, because of a glitch in the phone lines, hears two men plotting a murder. She soon realizes that she is the intended victim. I’d forgotten how much backstory the film (unlike the radio drama) involves, with flashback upon flashback. Genuine suspense, with every ring of the phone and every call to the operator adding to an increasingly desperate situation. ★★★★ (YT)

*

Black Widow (dir. Nunnally Johnson, 1954). CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color, with enough blue and tan clothing to fill the men’s and women’s sections of a fine department store. The story seems to me a dark variation on (the already dark) All About Eve: an aspiring writer (Peggy Ann Garner) gloms onto a Broadway producer (Van Heflin), and various forms of havoc ensue. Ginger Rogers is woefully miscast as a catty actress; George Raft is wonderfully miscast as a police detective. The movie’s appeal lies, I think, in its depiction of messy, expensive lives. ★★★ (CC)

*

Boomerang! (dir Elia Kazan, 1947). Drawn from an incident in the career of one-time prosecutor Homer Cummings, and filmed in Stamford, Connecticut, in semi-documentary style, with Reed Hadley’s narration. When a beloved minister is murdered, suspicion falls on a wandering vet who recently left town. Lee J. Cobb is the police chief who forces a confession; Dana Andrews in the prosecutor who has doubts: it’s a conflict that anticipates Cobb vs. Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men. Though some political scheming adds darkness, it’s a legal procedural, not film noir (despite what the Internet may say). ★★★★ (CC)

*

Old Enough (dir. Marisa Silver, 1984). An unlikely summer friendship on the Lower East Side between Lonnie, an eleven-year-old child of affluence (Sarah Boyd), and Karen (Rainbow Harvest), a building super’s fourteen-year-old. Karen introduces Lonnie to the joys of petty theft and the confessional; Lonnie brings Karen with her to a snooty school dance (yes, Karen’s world is much more interesting, and the movie spends much more time there). As the summer nears its end, the mysteries and dangers of sexuality (Karen’s father, her older brother, a sexy upstairs neighbor) begin to complicate the new friendship. One scene (the bike ride) threatens to push the movie into Afterschool Special territory, but the many echoes of The World of Henry Orient add value to this poignant picture of kids who will soon be leaving kidhood. ★★★★ (CC)

*

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (dir. Robert Ellis Miller, 1968). John Singer (Alan Arkin), a silver engraver, deaf and mute, is at the center of the story, as he tries to care for an institutionalized friend and former roommate (Chuck McCann), comes to the aid of a self-destructive drunk (Stacy Keach Jr.), translates to and from ASL for a Black doctor (Percy Rodriguez), reconciles the doctor and his daughter (Cicely Tyson), and develops an awkwardly intimate friendship with the teenage daughter (Sondra Locke) of the family he rooms with. Locke is terrific; Arkin is extraordinary. But I never knew quite what to make of this movie: for every moment of emotional profundity, there’s a bit of dumb comedy or Touched by an Angel sentiment. I don’t know Carson McCuller’s novel, so I’m not sure what this adaptation (set in the 1960s) adds or removes. ★★★ (CC)

*

Margaret Atwood: A Word after a Word after a Word Is Power (dir. Nancy Lang and Peter Raymont, 2019). Alan Alda’s Clear + Vivid conversation with Margaret Atwood prompted our household to watch this documentary. Now and then it’s revealing, as when we hear Atwood’s commentary on The Handmaid’s Tale and Harvard and get glimpses of her handwritten notes. But there’s more here about the writer as celebrity than I can use — I hit a limit at the sight of Atwood and a procession of handmaids at a literary event. Like many documentaries, this one is overly long: the IMDb says 0:52, but the version we watched clocks in at 1:33 (and feels even longer). ★★★ (H)

*

Diary of a Mad Housewife (dir. Frank Perry, 1970). Carrie Snodgress gives a brilliant performance as Tina Balser (Smith, Phi Beta Kappa), housewife, mother, and personal assistant to her hypercriticial, status-seeking, self-obsessed man-child husband (Richard Benjamin). She seeks — what? — something in an affair with another man, a writer (Frank Langella) who’s merely a louche, sexually charismatic version of her husband. It’s funny and painful to watch: Tina puts up with so much. I wonder if she read A Doll House at Smith. ★★★★ (CC)

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

“The very opposite”

“In today’s America, those who call themselves ‘conservative’ are the very opposite”: the November 21 installment of Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American is about autocracy (Putin, Orbán, Lukashenko, and company) and the future of democracy.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Another Brooklyn candy store

[4223 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, New York, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

As I said to a friend in an e-mail recently, I’m living part-time in a candy store of the imagination. No relation to a Coney Island of the mind.

The location: the corner of 43rd Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway. The bulding went up in 1930. There was still a candy store in the 1960s. My clearest memory: buying pumpkin seeds. They came in a bright-red box, packaged like candy. Our barber, Nello, was a couple of doors down on 43rd Street. My brother thinks that’s a barber pole to the left of the hydrant. Was Nello cutting hair at that address c. 1939–1941? He was a pretty old guy by the time we were getting haircuts.

If you click to enlarge, then squint a little, you can make out the Coca-Cola signs (known as “privilege signs”) and what looks like a barber pole, all long gone. Now occupying the street-level space at 4223: Fort Hamilton Glass & Mirror. Several years of Google Maps photographs show nothing more than a row of roll-up storefront doors for the little businesses on 43rd Street.

Thanks, Brian.

Three more candy stores
4417 New Utrecht Avenue : 4319 13th Avenue : 94 Nassau Street

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A former student in the news

News from the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Alexander disease is a progressive and rare neurological disorder with no cure or standard course of treatment. But a new study led by researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison involving a rat model of the disease offers a potential treatment for the typically fatal condition.

It’s a significant step in efforts to help people with the disease, says UW–Madison Waisman Center senior scientist Tracy Hagemann, who led the study alongside Albee Messing, professor emeritus of comparative biosciences and founder of the Alexander Disease Lab.
Tracy Hagemann was my student in undergraduate days (commas and poems, not DNA and mRNA). I am happy to see this news about her work. Go Tracy!

Here is the abstract of an article in Science Translational Medicine that reports the study.

Thanks, Stefan. (Also, go Stefan!)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by “Anna Stiga,” or Stan Again, the puzzle’s editor, Stan Newman. It’s a good one, not overly difficulty, but with stumbling blocks and misleading road signs here and there that make for a satisfying puzzle. It’s fairly easy going in the northwest: 1-A, ten letters, “What Astaire (at 78) fell off, breaking his wrist” is a giveaway if you’re an Astaire fan. Things get more difficult down south.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

2-D, five letters, “Penny on Big Bang Theory.” I will reveal a gap in my TV knowledge: the only reason I knew this answer is that 2-D appeared in last week’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Who was that optometrist? I watched the credits and found out. Oh, her!

36-D, four letters, “      Zirconia (pop legend impersonator).” Who? What?! I have filled another gap in my pop-culture knowledge.

44-D, six letters, “Triple-1 Down sequence.” The clue for 1-D, five letters: “Type of tone.” The sequence is gettable from crosses, but it’s fun to just know it.

45-A, seven letters, “Japanese pen name.” Yes!

51-A, three letters, “Blazin’ Blueberry beverage brand.” I haven’t thought of it since the childhood days of certain persons.

58-A, four letters, “Sermon conclusion.” This clue had me hung up for a while.

61-A, ten letters, “American pen name.” See 45-A.

My favorite clue in the puzzle: 29-D, nine letters, “‘The Raven’ conclusion.” It’s Stumpery.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Iel, iels

The Washington Post reports that the French dictionary Le Petit Robert has added the gender-neutral personal pronouns iel and iels. Says the French minister of education, “L’écriture inclusive n’est pas l’avenir de la langue française”: inclusive language is not the future of the French language. Sheesh.

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with perseverance.

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, November 19, 2021. Click for a larger view.]

I am puzzled by the painting to the far left. Is it meant to suggest a recognizable work of art?

I am puzzled by today’s gradient. It’s one thing for a wall to be rendered with a gradient (happens often in this strip); it’s another for a wall to blend into a floor.

I am not puzzled by the green wall and blue sofa. That’s easy: the Flagstons are using a set left over from an Almodóvar movie.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Extremism and “humor”

“They can talk about violence, they can advocate for violence, and then say, ‘Well, it was just a joke’”: from a Washington Post article on white supremacists, coded language, and “humor.“ Members of Congress should be thinking about these matters when thinking about threats from Paul (“It’s a cartoon”) Gosar — and from anyone else.

Coffee and “the shipping situation”

[As the world anticipates coffee shortages — due, this time, to supply-chain problems and climate.]

[Life, October 19, 1942. Click for a larger view.]

 The original scan (available in Google Books) has a bright green line running at a slant through the ad. I used the free service Cleanup.pictures to remove it. Not a perfect fix, but better than my attempt at copying and pasting little strips of photograph. The pictures to the left show the original and the Cleanup.pictures version.

I found this advertisement from the Pan-American Coffee Bureau while looking (as usual) for something else. The bureau has made two previous appearances in these pages, each time with a memorable slogan: “Give yourself a coffee-break” and “How about some good hot coffee?”

And speaking of good hot coffee — sheesh, just keep any extra coffee for later drinking. There’s no need for jelly.

Related reading
All OCA coffee posts (Pinboard)

[Extra-credit question: What is that guy looking at?!]

Dave Frishberg (1933–2021)

Pianist, singer, songwriter extraordinaire. The New York Times has an obituary.

A few Frishberg songs I like
“Do You Miss New York?” : “I’m Hip” (co-written with Bob Dorough) : “My Attorney Bernie” : “Sweet Kentucky Ham” : “Van Lingle Mungo”

[I bet Tom Waits has listened to “Sweet Kentucky Ham.”]

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Aaugh!

On CNN, a legal commentator twice just referred to someone “toeing the line” to suggest disobedience. She should’ve said “overstepping.”

And a minute or two later, the same commentator referred to someone “honing in.” No, “homing in.”

How to improve writing (no. 97)

From today’s Washington Post :

Jacob Chansley, whose brightly painted face, tattooed torso and horned cap became a visual icon of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced Wednesday to 41 months in prison by a federal judge in Washington. His lawyer had asked the judge to impose a sentence of time already served, basically the entire 10 months since the insurrection, during which Chansley attracted more attention for demanding an organic diet while in jail and giving an interview to “60 Minutes.”
~ “A visual icon”: It’s not the parts that are an icon; it’s the whole, and here, “visual” is clearly implied. The judge got it right: “He made himself  the image of the riot” (my emphasis).

~ “Wednesday to,” &c.: The sequence of elements here could be improved, with the most important element falling at the end of the sentence. That change will also break up the chain of four prepositional phrases.

~ “His lawyer”: Whose? Obviously, that’s Chansley’s lawyer, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring the name in.

~ “Basically the entire”: That phrasing is basically slack.

~ “For”: I’d say that he attracted attention by doing those things.

~ “While in jail”: the sentence has already established the location.

Better:
Jacob Chansley, whose brightly painted face, tattooed torso and horned cap made him an icon of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, was sentenced by a federal judge in Washington Wednesday to 41 months in prison. Chansley’s lawyer had asked the judge to impose a sentence of time already served — the 10 months since the insurrection — during which Chansley attracted more attention by demanding an organic diet and giving an interview to “60 Minutes.”
All I planned to write about when I started: “a visual icon.” As usual, looking closely at one detail led me to notice others.

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

[I’d add a serial comma (“torso, and horned cap”), italicize “60 Minutes,” and write out January, forty-one, and ten, but it’s not my newspaper. This post is no. 97 in a series dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Short-term memory

The House of Representatives just finished debating a resolution to censure Paul Gosar (R, AZ-4) for his recent animation effort. Republicans complained about taking time to debate this resolution. If they were unhappy about that, there could have been an easy way to speed things up. Republicans complained too about Democratic (or as they prefer to say, “Democrat”) inaction on all matters save this one.

But wait a sec — didn’t the president sign some kinda big bill a couple of days ago?

[I notice that Representative Jackie Walorski (R, IN-2) did not grant additional time to at least two of her more colorful (i.e., unhinged) colleagues. If I had seen the entire debate, I would have kept a scorecard.]

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with strollout.

At the bus terminal

Elaine and I were finding our way out of a bus terminal. I was carrying two suitcases, the old-fashioned kind, one under my right arm, one in my right hand, so as to leave my other hand free. We exited at ground level and found ourselves in a small parking lot, enclosed by a ten- or twelve-foot-high grassy slope. Elaine tried to scale it and slid down, her dress now covered in mud. I told her to hold on and said I would try to find an elevator. And there was one — right by the door through which he had exited. We had overlooked it.

I pressed a button and stepped into what looked like a large, well-lit room — very large, like a museum gallery. There were four or five younger people already there. The elevator began going up, and I noticed that there were no numbers for floors. “You should invite him to the wedding,” said one woman to another. “Sorry,” I said, “I’m already married, and my wife just slid down the slope outside.” They looked away from me. I turned to an enormous man to my left, both broad and tall. “She was supposed to ask, ‘How long have you been married?’” I said. “When you tell someone you’re married, they’re supposed to ask.” He just looked at me.

When I exited the elevator, at ground level again, Elaine was waiting. Her dress had been washed clean by the rain that was now falling.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Possible sources: a story from Alan Alda’s Clear + Vivid podcast about Arlene Alda traveling with two small suitcases, Elaine shortening a tunic, the room-in-an-elevator in the Karloff–Lugosi movie The Raven, arguments about social protocol in Curb Your Enthusiasm, the muddy puddles of Peppa Pig.]

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

No wind, no rain

A new episode of the BBC’s Soul Music , the first one in some time, is devoted to Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

I just listened while walking and wondered: was this the first time I was going to listen to Soul Music without tearing up? With three-and-a-half minutes to go, I found out.

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

She’s making her screen debut.

Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll add hints if needed.

*

8:37 a.m.: No hints needed. The answer is now in the comments.

More mystery actors
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

"Daylight Calendar”

“3-day days are the worst”: from the latest xkcd, “Daylight Calendar.”

[For me, it’s Verilux time.]

Monday, November 15, 2021

Grimm

I just realized what — or who — has been running through my head during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Percy Grimm, the young vigilante of William Faulkner’s Light in August.

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

The actor on the right: instantly recognizable, no? The actor on the left: maybe not so much? Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if one is needed.

*

8:36 a.m.: That was fast. The answer is now in the comments.

More mystery actors
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Nassau Street candy store

[94 Nassau Street, New York, New York. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Another candy store, this one serving Borden’s ice cream. The building still stands, with a CVS at street level.

If you click to enlarge, you’ll see the once-ubiquitous Bell Telephone sign and two dapper men with light-colored hats and shoes.

Two Brooklyn candy stores
4417 New Utrecht Avenue : 4319 13th Avenue

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is on the tough side. I missed by one letter, and the last time that happened was November 2020, with a puzzle by — yes, Matthew Sewell. I don’t keep track of these things, but my blog posts do.

I blame the constructor and myself: the cluing in today’s puzzle is a bit strained and sneaky, but I missed a bit of context that would have helped. Lookit: 4-D, six letters, “Stylistic bands.” That clue is rather strained, and two answers fit, with their fourth letters differing. The answer I chose seemed to me vaguely plausible. The answer the puzzle wants doesn’t, to my mind, seem nearly as plausible: indeed, it’s pretty farfetched. 4-D crosses 18-A, four letters, “Site of the craters Casanova and Valentine,” and here again, two answers fit, with their third letters (the fourth letter of 4-D) differing. I chose the four-letter answer I thought would fit. But I should have thought more about Casanova and Valentine. Sigh.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

8-D, eight letters, “Korean rice dish.” I had it this summer, streetside. I heartily recommend it, and I like its name.

15-D, four letters, “Silents superstar as Cleopatra, Salomé, etc.” I know I’ve never seen her on screen, but I also know that I know the name.

28-D, six letters, “More than a long-distance caller.” This clue-answer pairing feels extremely strained. I would borrow some rice from 8-D: rest, ice, compression, elevation. And I’d get a better clue.

47-A, seven letters, “Trailer classification.” I thought first of big rigs.

56-A, six letters, “Second Lady of the ’60s.” The name makes me think of a Tom Waits song. Careful with that spoiling link.

57-A, eight letters, “Prepares for prognostication, perhaps.” Or perhaps not!

58-A, five letters, “Folkloric banisher of the sea monster Caoránach.” I’m sorry, but that’s not the banisher’s name.

No spoilers if you don’t click on the Tom Waits link; the answers are in the comments.

[If the Newsday paywall makes it impossible for you to access the Stumper, you might try this link. Or try a different browser. Or try another source — GameLab, for instance. Newsday would do well to offer a crossword subscription. I’d happily pay for the puzzle, but I won’t pay $6.98 a week for a digital subscription to the paper.]

Friday, November 12, 2021

It’s on

Brand-new news:

Stephen K. Bannon, one of former President Donald J. Trump’s top aides early in his presidency, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday on two counts of contempt of Congress, the Justice Department said. . . .

“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement.

“Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles,” Mr. Garland said.
I wonder how many shirts they let you wear under an orange jumpsuit.

Anticipatory plagiarism

[Nancy, November 12, 2021.]

It’s “a famous quote” that circulates online and off, attributed to the sociologist Robert K. Merton:

Anticipatory plagiarism occurs when someone steals your original idea and publishes it a hundred years before you were born.
A source? There never is one. In Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader (1998), for instance, Anne Fadiman quotes this sentence, attributes it to Merton, and adds
I am unable to provide a citation because my source is a yellow Post-it handed to me by my brother in Captiva, Florida, in November 1996.
Merton comes close to the words “anticipatory plagiarism” in On the Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript (1965), which looks into the history of the aphorism “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Here’s Merton:
Newton then makes a profoundly sociological observation about the behavior of men in general and by implication, the behavior of men of science in particular, that, until this moment, I had thought I was the first to have made. That anticipatory plagiarist, Newton, follows the sentences I have just quoted from his letter with this penetrating observation
— and so on. Notice that there’s nothing here of a definition. Merton is making a quick joke: he had a thought, but Newton had it first, dammit.

And Winston Churchill had “anticipatory plagiarism” first, or at least before Merton. Here’s Churchill, May 19, 1927, with a remark collected in The Definitive Wit of Winston Churchill (2009) and elsewhere. Churchill was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, addressing the House of Commons:
Mr Lowe seems to have been walking over my footsteps before I had trodden them, because he said, trying to explain what had occurred to the satisfaction of a very strict House in those days: “And so each year will take money from its successor, and this process may go till the end of time, although how it will be settled when the world comes to an end I am at a loss to know.” It was unconscious anticipatory plagiarism.
The weird thing: I recently mentioned anticipatory plagiarism in an e-mail to a friend, tried to recall the source, looked it up, and found Robert K. Merton. But had I remembered a 2013 Orange Crate Art post about cupcakes and handwriting, I would have had it right. And if I had not read Nancy this morning, I would not have thought to write this post.

[Lowe: Robert Lowe.]

Domestic comedy

“I knew it had to be a fragrance commercial, because it was completely incoherent.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, November 11, 2021

An EXchange name sighting

[It fills the screen. From Hollywood Story (dir. William Castle, 1951). Click for a larger view.]

GRanite? GReen? Both were Los Angeles exchange names. And yes, there were two-letter four-digit telephone numbers.

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 : Craig’s Wife : 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 : Escape in the Fog : 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 : The Unfaithful : Vice Squad : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Veterans Day

[“Millions to Pray for Peace Today: Celebration of Third Anniversary of the Armistice Will Extend All Over the World.” The New York Times, November 11, 1921.]

The first World War ended on November 11, 1918. Armistice Day was observed the next year. In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Pannapacker on academic woe

William Pannapacker will soon be leaving academia. He writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education about being “Tenured, Trapped, and Miserable in the Humanities”:

How many of us understood what we were embarking upon when we decided to become professors? How could we even grasp the accelerating rate of change in higher education: neoliberal managerial approaches; part-time, no-benefit, transient adjunct teaching; the uncapping of mandatory retirement and the graying of the profession; the withdrawal of state funding; the endless political attacks from all directions; the unsustainable increases in student debt; and, with all that, declining enrollments in any field that does not lead directly and obviously to employment?

Even now, in my experience, if you point out these trends, you risk being accused by students of “crushing their dreams” and by colleagues, in effect, of “disrupting the Ponzi.”
I would never have called myself trapped or miserable. (Tenured, yes!) But life in academia ain’t what it used to be, if indeed it ever was. Something I wrote to a colleague not long ago:
I think every day about how fortunate I am to be retired, and how fortunate I was to be in on many good years of English studies. Any of us who were in there beat some long odds, getting longer all the time.
[Pannapacker’s celebrated Chronicle piece “Remedial Civility Training” should be required reading in college. It’s back behind the Chronicle paywall, but you can read a long excerpt in this blog post. The whole piece is also here.]

Pixels and iPads

The judge in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial (who’s also working as an attorney for the defense) appears to believe the defense’s bogus claim that pinching and zooming on an iPhone adds pixels to and thus alters an image. And the prosecutor, who couldn’t provide a clear explanation of high-resolution images, also couldn’t answer the defense’s (bogus?) question about what operating system an iPad uses. (It’s iPadOS.)

Arc, narrative, lacking in dictionary

From Decoy (dir. Jack Bernhard, 1946). Morgue attendants in conversation, as one of them reads a dictionary:

“D-i, die, c-h-o-t, chot, o-m-y: die-chot-o-mee.” ‌[Laughs.] “Ain’t that a lulu? And get this one: die-dack-tick.” [Laughs again.]

“Hey, why don’t you stop reading that junk?”

“What’s the matter with the dictionary?”

“There ain’t enough story to it.”
Film fans will recognize the dictionary reader, the anonymous “Thin Morgue Attendant” (Louis Mason) as the man who’s going back home to starve all at once in The Grapes of Wrath. His antagonist is “Fat Morgue Attendant,” aka Benny (Ferris Taylor). Perhaps inspired by the pair of clowns in Hamlet ?

See also W.H. Auden, “Prologue: Reading,” in The Dyer’s Hand (1962):
Though a work of literature can be read in a number of ways, this number is finite and can be arranged in a hierarchical order; some readings are obviously “truer” than others, some doubtful, some obviously false, and some, like reading a novel backwards, absurd. That is why, for a desert island, one would choose a good dictionary rather than the greatest literary masterpiece imaginable, for, in relation to its readers, a dictionary is absolutely passive and may legitimately be read in an infinite number of ways.
Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)

A sardine calendar

Here’s a startling headline: “Man builds handmade sardine advent calendar for Christmas” (The Irish News):

A festive creator has enjoyed the reaction “from all over” after he shared his handmade 2021 sardine advent calendar on social media.

Charles Vestal, from Berlin, Germany, told the PA news agency that what started as a “passion project/joke” has prompted interest from hundreds of strangers online.

“I present to you the 2021 sardine advent calendar, filled with 24 Portuguese tinned fish delights to enjoy all December long,” he tweeted — the post has since accrued more than 3,000 likes.

“I’ve always kind of liked advent calendars,” the 38-year-old said.
Here’s the Twitter thread detailing the calendar’s creation.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

[I don’t know why advent is uncapitalized in this article.]

Sluggo and charlotte russe

[Nancy, February 15, 1955. Click for a larger view.]

These panels remind me of the opening scene of the film version of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, in which Spiros Antanopoulos (Chuck McCann) breaks a bakery window to get at the cakes and cookies. Elaine and I watched the film a couple of nights ago.

These panels also remind me of the description of John Keats in William Butler Yeats’s poem “Ego Dominus Tuus”:

I see a schoolboy when I think of him,
With face and nose pressed to a sweet-shop
    window
Like Yeats’s Keats, Sluggo too is “Shut out from all the luxury of the world.” Which includes charlotte russe — even if Sluggo is eyeing the cakes. Notice, next to the cakes: that’s charlotte russe.

These two panels preface a final one (the one Ernie Bushmiller called “the snapper”), in which a cat stares at a fish frozen in a block of ice that sits on the sidewalk. “I guess I’m not the only one,” says Sluggo.

Did ice usually get delivered with a fish in it?

Related reading
All OCA charlotte russe posts : Nancy and charlotte russe : Nancy and more charlotte russe

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Horton’s

If you look back at the photograph of a Brooklyn candy store I posted a couple of days ago, you might notice the name Horton’s prominently displayed. An indefatigible reader did. The J.M. Horton Ice Cream Company, maker of “The Premier Ice Cream of America,” was a venerable name in cool treats. Ephemeral New York and Forgotten New York provide some history. And here’s an excerpt from King’s Handbook of New York City: An Outline History and Description of the American Metropolis, by Moses King (1892):

The J.M. Horton Ice Cream Co. is a name familiar to all New-Yorkers, Brooklynites, and neighboring residents; for its delicious creams have been enjoyed by all. To the epicureans of the table they are indispensable. Their cool and soft flavors lie upon the palate with a delicacy that only experience can appreciate. Upon transatlantic liners; upon the luxurious dining-cars that speed from city to city; at balls, at parties, at festivals, at all private or public gatherings in or about our great metropolis where delicacies vie with one another, Horton’s cream is welcomed as an old friend. Always at its best, it stands without an equal. And Mr. Horton’s name has been so closely associated with the purest ice cream for many years that the two have become synonymous. Indeed, a little girl on being asked how to spell ice cream, said, "H-o-r-t-o-n.“
You can see that name, still bright and clear, at 302 Columbus Avenue in Manhattan, a building that housed a Horton store (Horton called it an “ice cream depot”), with apartments above.

Here’s what an indefatigible reader discovered: Horton’s also made charlotte russe. I found large-scale proof:

[The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 27, 1923. Click for a larger view.]

At some point Horton’s got out of the charlotte russe business. The Horton name, though, still carried enough weight with eaters of the appealing dainty to inspire fakes:

[The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 22, 1928. Click for a larger view.]

And the name continued to carry weight after the company was absorbed by Borden (1928? The late ’20s? 1930? Accounts vary.) You can see the name on this item, a gallonage card for candy stores and soda fountains:

[Ron Case, Images of America: Ramsey (Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2001). Click for a larger view.]

Thanks, reader.

[The hyphen in New-Yorkers is a rabbit hole I’m choosing to walk around.]

Billy Strayhorn’s “Charlotte Russe”

One more bit of charlotte russe: an indefatigable reader (thanks, reader) reminds me that Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom” was at one time titled “Charlotte Russe.” My guess is that Strayhorn was thinking of the elegant dessert, not cake and whipped cream in a cardboard sleeve.

Here are two recordings of “Lotus Blossom.” The first was released on . . . And His Mother Called Him Bill (1967), the album of Strayhorn compositions that the Duke Ellington Orchestra recorded after Strayhorn’s death. It’s August 30, 1967, with Ellington alone at the piano, as everyone is packing up. The engineer left the tape running. Two days later, a trio, with Harry Carney (baritone sax) and Aaron Bell (bass), unreleased until the 1987 CD. Heartbreakers, both performances.

More charlotte russe
Another Brooklyn candy store : Nancy and charlotte russe : Nancy and charlotte russe again

Monday, November 8, 2021

Red and blue

David Leonhardt, writing in The New York Times Morning Newsletter:

There simply was not a strong partisan pattern to Covid during the first year that it was circulating in the U.S.

Then the vaccines arrived.

They proved so powerful, and the partisan attitudes toward them so different, that a gap in Covid’s death toll quickly emerged. . . .

The brief version: The gap in Covid’s death toll between red and blue America has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point.
One remarkable detail:
Charles Gaba, a Democratic health care analyst, has pointed out that the gap is also evident at finer gradations of political analysis: Counties where Trump received at least 70 percent of the vote have an even higher average Covid death toll than counties where Trump won at least 60 percent.
Looking at counties in Illinois, I can see that that’s so. It’s a death cult, really.

Domestic comedy

“I cannot open this magazine without coming to grief.”

See the previous post.

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

How to improve writing (no. 96)

I began turning the pages of the June 21, 2021 issue of The New Yorker. (It’s called catching up.) From an advertisement for Whitley Neill Gin:

The founder of Whitley Neill Gin, Johnny Neill, is the 8th generation in a family of gin masters going back to 1762. He has sourced 29 botanicals from around the world, creating an innovative and award winning range of gins.

Whitley Neill London Dry Gin, is distilled at the only distillery in the City of London itself. It is inspired by his travels to Africa and contains 9 botanicals including Cape Gooseberry and Boabab. Experience why Whitley Neill is the UK’s number one premium gin.

Best served in a highball with premium tonic, ice and garnished with a slice of orange.
It amazes me, though it shouldn’t, that a distiller who’s paid for a full-page ad in The New Yorker hasn’t paid adequate attention to this handful of sentences. Count the problems, just the glaring ones:

~ A missing hyphen.

~ An extraneous comma.

~ An unnecessary “itself.”

~ Two words without clear nearby referents.

~ A missing comma.

~ Unnecessary capital letters.

~ A misspelling.

Here, look:
The founder of Whitley Neill Gin, Johnny Neill, is the 8th generation in a family of gin masters going back to 1762. He has sourced 29 botanicals from around the world, creating an innovative and award[-] winning range of gins.

Whitley Neill London Dry Gin, is distilled at the only distillery in the City of London itself. It is inspired by his travels to Africa and contains 9 botanicals[,] including Cape Gooseberry and Boabab. Experience why Whitley Neill is the UK’s number one premium gin.

Best served in a highball with premium tonic, ice and garnished with a slice of orange.
I’d like to add a hyphen to “number one,” but Google’s Ngram Viewer shows me that “number one,” sans hyphen, as in “number one cause” and “number one hit,” is far more common. I’ll let that one go.

I see a number of problems beyond mechanics: “8th,” “9,” and “29” look to my eye a bit tacky in this fancy context. (What’s more impressive, “29 botanicals” or “twenty-nine botanicals”?) And Johnny Neill isn’t the eighth generation; he represents or is a member of an eighth generation. “He has sourced, . . . creating” doesn’t quite make sense: to source isn’t to create. “Ice and garnished” calls for revision. The more general invitation — “Experience why,” &c. — might make better sense at the end of the text. And the verb “taste” might make better sense than “experience.”

A larger problem: the disconnectedness of the sentences in the second paragraph. Try reading that paragraph aloud.

Better:
Johnny Neill is an eighth-generation gin master, carrying on a family tradition that began in 1762. As the founder of Whitley Neill Gin, he has sourced twenty-nine botanicals from around the world to create an innovative and award-winning range of gins.

Johnny’s travels to Africa inspired the creation of Whitley Neill London Dry Gin. Distilled at the only distillery in the City of London, it contains nine botanicals, including Cape gooseberry and baobab. Best served in a highball with premium tonic and ice, garnished with a slice of orange.

Taste why Whitley Neill is the UK’s number one premium gin.
Just in case a reader wonders whether I’ve misread some of the small print, here’s the misspelling of baobab. You can click for a better look:

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

[This post is no. 96 in a series dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]