Saturday, September 24, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Stella Zawistowski, is a doozy. I missed by two letters, so sure of 13-D, six letters, “Something stretched for workouts” that I flubbed the fairly obvious 32-A, six letters, “What M may stand for.” And also flubbed the more obscure 24-A, three letters, “Sponsor of Md.’s Cryptologic Museum.” But as Scarlett O’Hara said, next Saturday is another day.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

4-A, five letters, “Holes in your head.” A dud clue. The word as applied to human beings is marked obsolete in the OED (most recent citation: 1620). The word is now used (if it is ever used) with reference to hawks. Thus not holes in your head or mine.


Well, maybe. The word does appear in medical contexts: for instance, “the anterior nares of humans” (2006, in the Corpus of Contemporary American English). But it’s a bit of a reach. Perhaps then it’s the word that’s a dud, not the clue.

12-A, thirteen letters, “Dance without fancy costumes.” MORP? No, too short. Since I dance only in fancy costumes, I’m unfamiliar with the term.

14-A, fifteen letters, “One in hostile pursuit.” 14-D gave me this one, all of it.

14-D, five letters, “Last words of the Best Song Oscar winner for 1939.” Easy with a little thought.

17-A, four letters, “Sin that sounds like a shortened state.” Clever.

30-A, four letters, “Twister game name.” Yes, but which kind of twist?

35-D, five letters, “_____ pad.” Sounds almost quaint now.

36-D, six letters, “Word from Old English for ‘mission.’” There’s a rabbit hole to go down here, but not today.

37-D, seven letters, “Mag space measures.” That ridiculous word again, which SZ used in a Stumper just last month.

42-A, nine letters, “Competitor carrying a compass.” I was pleased with myself for somehow knowing this one.

45-D, six letters, “I as in ores.” The answer made me think that I must have had something else wrong.

52-A, four letters, “Census Bureau drink category.” Exactly why is the Census Bureau thinking about drink categories?

59-A, thirteen letters, “Throws out a window.” Weirdly timely, given all the Putin associates coming to improbably dead ends.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 23, 2022

How to have a root canal

1. Sit down. Lie back.

2. Wince slightly. Wince again. (Injections.) Await further developments.

3. Listen for recognizable sounds on satellite radio. “Smokestack Lightnin’”! (But not by Howlin’ Wolf.) “Ticket to Ride.”

4. Listen to the drill. Wince slightly and raise your left hand, as instructed, when the drilling becomes painful. It’s gonna have to be a root canal.

5. Enjoy anesthetic applied directly to tooth.

6. Listen to different drills, with different pitches.

7. Feel your mouth crowd with a clamp, a latex shield, a dental dam, and a bite block.

8. Listen to different drills, with different pitches.

9. Realize that the strange-sounding electronica is a mix of satellite radio and the cleaning or drilling one room over.

10. Feel your mouth crowd with X-ray film. Is the bite block also still in there? Who knows. (The dentist knows.) Hold tongs holding film when requested. Surrender tongs when requested.

11. Different drills, different pitches.

12. Wonder about the tiny objects that resemble festive toothpicks. (They’re made of paper, to absorb blood.)

13. Notice the tiny strands of glue headed for your mouth.

14. Continue to lie back.

15. Coronation. (Temporary.)

16. Thank the dentist and dental assistant for their work.

17. Chew on the other side for three weeks while awaiting permanent coronation.

[I was out in under an hour. As the dentist said, he’s been doing this for twenty-two years. And Elaine walked over to drive me home — what a partner.]

NPR pronunciation

It’s easy to tell when NPR has switched from the feed to the local affiliate. From Garner’s Modern English Usage :

In educated speech, the country’s name is pronounced either /i-rahn/ (preferred) or /i-ran/ (more anglicized). Avoid the xenophobic yokel’s pronunciation /I-ran/ or /I-ran/.
Not everyone who says /I-ran/ or /I-ran/ counts as a xenophobic yokel. But who wants to be mistaken for one?

[May the women of Iran succeed in their fight against the official order of things.]

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Roosevelt, Painter, Snyder

Three excerpts from “The Homeless, Tempest-Tossed,” the final episode of The U.S. and the Holocaust. From a 1946 speech by Eleanor Roosevelt:

I have the feeling that we let our consciences realize too late the need of standing up against something that we knew was wrong. We have therefore had to avenge it — but we did nothing to prevent it. I hope that in the future, we are going to remember that there can be no compromise at any point with the things that we know are wrong.
From the historian Nell Irvin Painter:
Americans are now coming to terms with our past. What we have over and over and over again in American history is, on the one hand, this stream of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. It’s a big stream, and it’s always there. And sometimes it bubbles up, and it shocks us, and it gets slapped down. But the stream is always there, and we should not be shocked. We should not think, “This is not America.” It is.
From the historian Timothy Snyder:
This thing that people call white supremacy, that's not some marginal thing. You have to look back and say “How can we change, so that we really can be a republic, or really can be a democracy?” If we're going to be a country in the future, then we have to have a view of our own history which allows us to see what we were. Then we can become something different. And then we have to become something different, if we’re going to make it.

Eva and Miriam

[Click for a larger view.]

It came as a jolt, even if it shouldn’t have, to see our friend Eva Mozes Kor for a split-second in the final episode of Ken Burns’s The U.S. and the Holocaust. Eva and her sister Miriam appear in this footage shot after the liberation of Auschwitz. In the screenshot above, from the brief excerpt that appears in the Burns documentary, Eva and Miriam Mozes (later Miriam Mozes Zeiger) are at the far left, with Eva to the right of her sister. The two survived because they were twins.

Related posts
Eva Kor (1934–2019) : Found in an old pocket notebook

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

PBS, wut?

Tonight’s PBS NewsHour is a repeat, at least at our PBS station, and it began with QEII’s funeral procession. No Biden at the United Nations, no Letitia James at the microphone. Anglophilia gone bonkers?

No, a problem at master control, so they’re airing last week’s programming.


From The New York Times : “Trump Sued for Fraud by New York Attorney General.” Go Letitia James! An excerpt:

Donald J. Trump, his family business and three of his adult children lied to lenders and insurers for more than a decade, fraudulently overvaluing his assets by billions of dollars in a sprawling scheme, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who is seeking to bar the Trumps from ever running a business in the state again.

Ms. James concluded that Mr. Trump and his family business violated several state criminal laws and “plausibly” broke federal criminal laws as well. Her office, which in this case lacks authority to file criminal charges, referred the findings to federal prosecutors in Manhattan; it was not immediately clear whether the U.S. attorney would investigate.

The 220-page lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, lays out in new and startling detail how, according to Ms. James, Mr. Trump’s annual financial statements were a compendium of lies. The statements, yearly records that include the company’s estimated value of his holdings and debts, wildly inflated the worth of nearly every one of his marquee properties — from Mar-a-Lago in Florida to Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street in Manhattan, according to the lawsuit.
Remember this exchange? (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Michael Cohen, 2019).

“Brainless beef!”

Count Aleksey Kirillovich Vronsky is entertaining “a foreign prince.” The count is not having a good time of it.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

Also from this novel
“The turning point of summer” : Theory of dairy farming : Toothache : Anna meta

[I’m happy reading Garnett–Kent–Berberova, but this passage illustrates what I find an occasional problem in the translation: ambiguous pronoun reference. A character’s name would sometimes make the meaning immediately clear.]

In the great green room

In The New York Times, Elisabeth Egan pays tribute to Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon.

One of the great moments of grandparenthood (so far): reading Goodnight Moon to a granddaughter who pulled it from the shelf at bedtime and said she didn’t understand it. (Kinda like Elisabeth Egan at first!) Elaine and I did an explication de texte, noticing all the details and small changes in the great green room. We felt so honored to be entrusted with the hermeneutics of it all.

A related post
Goodnight commas

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

A letter to “my” representative

[Click for a much larger view.]

I don’t expect an answer. But I take pleasure in writing to “my” representative. She won’t read it, but someone in her office might. And might then have something to think about.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)


Up late, boosted and vaxxed and achy, watching the beginning of A Face in the Crowd (dir. Elia Kazan, 1957), it hit me: the music that runs behind the opening credits (credited to Tom Glazer) is more or less a version of the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Sitting on Top of the World.” An apt choice for the story the movie tells. Here’s the original 1930 recording, with Walter Vinson (guitar, vocal) and Lonnie Chatmon (violin). From the liner notes for the CD Stop and Listen (Yazoo, 1992):

When the Sheiks’ Walter Vinson unveiled the melody for his partner, Lonnie Chatmon, the latter’s first reaction was to ask, "What kind of song is that?“
Answer: a hit song, recorded by many. It owes something to Tampa Red (Yazoo doesn’t say what, and I don’t know offhand). And it’s the source for Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.” It’s a formative song, and I’m glad I was up late, boosted, vaxxed, and achy, to notice its presence in the movie.

[Tampa Red’s “It Hurts Me Too” is a dead ringer for “Sitting on Top of the World,” but it’s a later recording.]

Advice from one who’s been

You do not want to get the bivalent COVID booster and this year’s flu vaccine at the same time. You just don’t. That’s advice from one who’s been.

Recently updated

Jack Delaney’s Now with a 1960 advertisement and a Tack Room.

Monday, September 19, 2022


Infuriating to find PBS bumping the second episode of The U.S. and the Holocaust for a ninety-minute recap of QEII’s funeral service.

And at 8:30, instead of showing tonight’s (second) episode of The U.S. and the Holocaust, PBS is showing last night’s episode again. No explanation needed, apparently.

All three episodes are streaming, so we’re watching the second episode via the link above.

Recently updated

Jack Delaney’s Now with a menu.

Anna meta

Princess Betsy Tverskaya recounts what Liza Merkalova said:

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

Also from this novel
“The turning point of summer” : Theory of dairy farming : Toothache

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The U.S. and the Holocaust

I’m not a Ken Burns fan, but I recommend watching The U.S. and the Holocaust. The first episode aired tonight; the second and third air tomorrow and Tuesday. All three are streaming at PBS.

I wonder if anyone ever imagined that this documentary series would begin airing four days after a governor lured refugees onto buses with promises of employment and housing, and one day after a crowd raised their right arms to the defeated former president in an index-finger salute. We dismiss such cruelty and madness at our peril.

Recently updated

MSNBC royal hierarchy Guess who’s in London?

Jack Delaney’s

[Jack Delaney’s Restaurant, 72 Grove Street, New York, New York, c. 1939–1941. Telephone: WAtkins 9-9215. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

According to this 1942 review of Jack Delaney’s Restaurant (now online with three picture-postcards), “the chief picture you’ll take away is one of horses, horses, everywhere horses.” Jack Delaney (d. 1966) was a horse breeder who opened his restaurant in 1927. Jack Teitelbaum, or “Jack Lane,” mentioned in the 1942 review, was the house pianist for thirty years, still the house pianist at the time of his death in 1964. One more Jack: in 1939, Jack Kerouac and his father celebrated a Horace Mann football win at Jack Delaney’s.

In 2008, The New York Times printed an excerpt from a novel that mentions Jack Delaney’s. The copyright restriction accompanying the excerpt is pretty scary, so I will paraphrase salient bits: Jack Delaney’s began as a speakeasy. A sulky cart hung from the ceiling. I can’t agree with the novel’s narrator that the cart was the oddest thing about this establishment: for me, the rooftop wins out. And yet another Jack: the actor Jack Warden once lived above the restaurant. But not when this photograph was taken: he would have been in the Navy or the Merchant Marine then.

This Grove Street address is now a Starbucks. The bank next door is now a Chase Bank. Here’s much, much more about 72 Grove Street, with cameo appearances by Kerouac, Edwin Denby, and Frank O’Hara.


September 19: A reader shared a 1940s menu from Jack Delaney’s. Among the offerings: “Imported Large Sardine Sandwich.”

September 20: A reader shared this ad:

[The Villager (November 10, 1960). Click for a much larger view.]

Tack : “stable gear,” “especially articles of harness (such as saddle and bridle) for use on a saddle horse.” The description of the Tack Room, as best as I can make out:

Settle down and relax before our log burning firestone. Watch the glowing embers dance before you, the sounds of crackling pine logs. Amble over to our open hearth and watch the steaks sizzle before your eyes. Listen to show tunes played for you nightly by your Host and Hostess Lee(?) and(?) Ben Rozet at the piano.

It’s new, it’s different.
It’s tops in leisure dining.
The advertisement may be found at NYS Historic Newspapers, a great free resource. A 1961 squib in Down Beat let me figure out at least one of the names:
Ben Rozet, pianist with Artie Shaw’s band in the 1930s, is featured at the piano bar in the Tack room upstairs at Jack Delaney’s in Greenwich Village.
Thanks, Brian.

Related reading
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

[For completists only: you can see the cart hanging from the ceiling in the third picture-postcard: “Where to Put On the Feed Bag.”]

“Hyphen killer”

“As a legacy, ‘hyphen killer’ is not bad,” said Henry Furhmann (1957–2022), a Los Angeles Times editor who pushed to end -American constructions.

Here is an obituary from the Times. And here is the essay that persuaded the editors of the AP Stylebook to drop the hyphen in 2019: “Drop the Hyphen in Asian American.” An excerpt:

To many of us in the trade and, more to the point, many of the people we write about, those hyphens serve to divide even as they are meant to connect. Their use in racial and ethnic identifiers can connote an otherness, a sense that people of color are somehow not full citizens or fully American: part American, sure, but also something not American.
A related post
Hyphens in the news

Saturday, September 17, 2022

“Reverse Freedom Rides”

Did you know about this? “Sixty years before migrants were sent to Martha’s Vineyard, there were the ‘Reverse Freedom Rides’” (NPR).

[Ron DeSantis is engaged in human trafficking, isn’t he?]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Steve Mossberg, whose Stumpers have sometimes given me fits. Today’s puzzle felt difficult, particularly in the southwest. But I did it.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, ten letters, “Film with the most AFI top 100 quotes (6).” I’d call it a gimme, for me maybe the only gimme in the puzzle. It didn’t hurt to have listened to a podcast episode about this film yesterday.

1-D, four letters, “Brown Derby owner who gave his name to a green course.” Are we golfing? A nice bit of dowdy trivia.

11-D, eleven letters, “Emeril makes them with yogurt and coconut.” No thanks.

12-D, ten letters, “Taste of philosophy.” A bit forced.

15-A, ten letters, “Set aside.” I’m surprised to see that that is what the word can mean.

19-A, three letters, “Frost line.” Hah.

20-A, five letters, “Frost lines.” Hah.

22-D, eleven letters, “One concerned with approach, take-off and landing.” Get the first and third letters and you’ll struggle to see the rest.

27-D, ten letters, “Brown sugar.” Tricky, but not tricky enough!

32-D, four letters, “Off-the-wall call.” A nice way to clue a familiar word.

34-A, five letters, “Pumps (up).” At least three plausible answers, all of which begin with the same letter. So sussing out 25-D, four letters, “Lift to greet” helped not a bit.

38-A, ten letters, “Words that add depth to a video game character.” Certainly a gimme for some. New to me. My video-game play has been limited to three arcade games — Cruis’n World, Ms. Pac-Man, Night Driver — and one computer game, Mario Kart. Do the words “I’m-a Luigi, number one” add depth?

55-A, ten letters, “Big Apple’s Pastrami Queen, e.g.” Also new to me. And speaking of “new,” can’t we just write “NYC’s”? I remember advising a great student who told me that she was moving to “the Big Apple”: “Never call it ‘the Big Apple.’ It’ll mark you as an outsider.” Good advice, no?

My favorite clue in this puzzle: 45-A, seven letters, “Case workers.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Coffey, comma, ay caramba

Who gives a darn about an Oxford comma, as The New York Times might ask? That would be Thérèse Coffey — Liz Truss ally, head of the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, and punctuation peever. Coffey hates the Oxford comma, is unashamed to say so, and wants it removed from her department’s written communications.

I of course stand by the Oxford comma. I’ll quote myself:

Items in a series should be separated with commas. What do I mean by “items in a series”? Wine, women, and song. Life, love, and laughter. John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

There’s no consensus about using a comma before that final item — the so-called “Oxford comma” or “serial comma.” Keeping that comma seems to me the better choice, simplifying, in one small way, the problems of punctuation. If you always put the comma in, you avoid problems with ambiguous or tricky sentences in which the comma’s absence might blur the meaning of your words.
The real question, as asked by Vampire Weekend: “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” It made for a hilarious moment (with bleeps) on The Colbert Report in 2010. Great for classroom use, at least for my classroom.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

Threatening the dictionary Now with a guilty plea.


I had a pleasantly disorienting moment while doing yesterday’s Newsday crossword. The puzzle was by Stan Newman; the theme, “Famous Last Words.” 28-A, nine letters, “Last word (1920s).” The answer: ABYSSINIA.

Green’s Dictionary of Slang cites a 1934 dictionary of slang: “[College slang] Abyssinia, I’ll be seeing you.” The Oxford English Dictionary has a 1932 citation from the Chicago Tribune: “ [High school and college slang] Abyssinia, I'll be seeing you.” Maybe the class of ’32 took the expression with them to college. Both sources cite Jessica Mitford (1960): “You’ll find people generally say, ‘I’ll be seeing you’ instead of ‘goodbye’ . . . You may be able to raise a laugh by saying, ‘Abyssinia.’”

Uh, probably not. The only place names I can think of that now lend themselves to puns: Alaska, Delaware, Europe. The Boy Scouts have many more.

[Wikipedia: “Afroasiatic-speaking communities make up the majority of the population. Among these, Semitic speakers often collectively refer to themselves as the Habesha people. The Arabic form of this term (al-Ḥabasha) is the etymological basis of ‘Abyssinia,’ the former name of Ethiopia in English and other European languages.”]

Turning what into what

A mathematician is a machine for turning what into what? A series of cartoons (Math with Bad Drawings).

Thanks, Murray.

A related post
Cows : food : milk :: mathematicians : coffee : theorems

[I wanted to wait until I had a least a slight understanding of the Taylor series before posting the link, but that might take forever.]

Dave Mustaine, stickler

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, in an interview:

“The songs really never are done until they’re done. The lyric is a whole different subject because I am a stickler for grammar. And a lot of times I’ll go back and look at my lyrics and think, ’God, what are you? A fourth grader?’ Because some of the grammar and the punctuation and stuff will be off.”
Teachers, share with your students.

Related reading
All OCA grammar posts (Pinboard)

[I don’t have any previous Megadeth posts.]

Cursive at Harvard

In The Atlantic, Drew Gilpin Faust says that her students can’t read or write cursive writing:

It was a good book, the student told the 14 others in the undergraduate seminar I was teaching, and it included a number of excellent illustrations, such as photographs of relevant Civil War manuscripts. But, he continued, those weren’t very helpful to him, because of course he couldn’t read cursive.

Had I heard him correctly? Who else can’t read cursive? I asked the class. The answer: about two-thirds. And who can’t write it? Even more.
If the name rings a bell, Faust was the president of Harvard. The scene of instruction in these paragraphs: a Harvard classroom.

Related reading
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)

Emporia, firing

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Emporia State University got permission on Wednesday to fire employees, including tenured professors, for any of a host of reasons, including “current or future market considerations.” Many faculty members there object that the plan essentially suspends tenure. The cuts have already begun.

The move was made possible by the Kansas Board of Regents. In January of last year, regents approved a policy that allowed the six state universities to suspend or terminate employees, including tenured professors, even if the institution had not declared financial exigency or initiated that process. The board wanted to give its institutions the flexibility they needed to deal with financial strain brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, regents said at the time.
The school’s student newspaper, The Bulletin, counts twenty firings thus far, including five in English, Modern Languages, and Journalism, and another five in Social Sciences, Sociology, and Criminology.

It’s true that other forms of work don’t offer tenure. But something people outside academia often don’t understand: a professor who loses a tenured position will find it exceedingly difficult to find another such position. There’s very little chance of lateral movement. As William Pannapacker explains in a recent Chronicle piece,
When you leave a tenured position in the humanities, the chance of finding another one — unless you are a freshly minted Ph.D. or a star in a hot field — is close to zero. You must rebrand yourself for a new career path in ways that will cut your identity to the core.
Emporia's marketing mantra, “Changing lives since 1863,” is taking on new meaning.


2:30 p.m.: Now it’s twenty-five firings.


10:50 p.m.: Now it’s thirty-three.

[Looking at Emporia’s English, Modern Languages, and Journalism webpage, I count seven professors, four associate professors, six instructors, three lecturers, four graduate assistants, one assistant online coordinator, and one administrative specialist.]

Thursday, September 15, 2022

MSNBC royal hierarchy

Katy Tur was over in London last week. Chris Jansing is there now. I’d be willing to bet a nickel — no, make that a whole quarter — that it’ll be Andrea Mitchell who’s there for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth.


September 18: Guess who’s in London? Andrea Mitchell.


Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

Yes, but it still hurts. As anyone who has had a tooth extracted knows.

Also from this novel
“The turning point of summer” : Theory of dairy farming

Rep removal

I did a change of address for my mom’s healthcare and discovered that my dad is still listed as someone who could speak for her, a so-called policyholder representative. But he died in 2015, I told the rep, a point verifiable from the company’s records. It would be nice if you could speak to my dad, I said, though it may be tough to reach him.

But guess what: a policyholder representative cannot be removed merely because they are dead. It’s necessary to fax a letter to the company asking that the rep be removed. I’m on it.

[No, that last sentence is nor sarcastic. I’m on it. And this was not a dream.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


[The Washington Post, September 14, 2022.]

A genuine headline, at least in mobile view. “A familiar end”? Maybe an expected end? A predicted end? That comes as a blow? I can figure out what the writer meant to say: the primaries (New Hampshire, Republican) ended with yet another blow to Kevin McCarthy’s hopes and dreams. But that’s not what the writer said.


Night. We were watching TV downstairs. All the lights were off upstairs. 11:30: the doorbell rang. What? We walked upstairs together, turned on the porch light, and opened the inside door. A boy stood on the other side of the storm door, three feet tall, roundish, wearing a mask. Elaine said that his parents had locked him out of the house because he hadn’t done his math homework. “Do you want us to call the police for you?” I asked. “No,” he said. “Okay,” I said, and we closed the door.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Likely sources: While on a walk last week, we found a boy, maybe two years old, alone in a driveway, wearing only a diaper, standing next to a pickup truck. His hands were filthy from the tires. We rang the bell and the boy’s mother came to the door: “His dad was in the truck.” Also: watching Dead of Night (1945), in which the arrival of an unexpected guest is a plot element. This dream doesn’t show me in a kindly light. In waking life I would open the door.]

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Theory of dairy farming

Darya Aleksandrov Oblonsky and Konstantin Dimitrievich Levin are talking about cows. Levin would like the keep the conversation from straying to the subject of Darya’s sister Katerina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

Casual speculation: I wonder if this passage is the inspiration for the famous quip “A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems,” often attributed to Paul Erdős. Erdős, however, credited Alfred Rényi.

Also from this novel
“The turning point of summer”

Positive anymore at the pump

I heard someone on the other side of the gas pump:

“Lot of rigmarole just to get fuel anymore.”
I don’t know if he was complaining (about the ATM-like keypad) to himself or to someone on a phone. What I do know is that I was hearing an instance of positive anymore.

[I was slightly surprised to hear the standard form rigmarole and not rigamarole, which is the way I’ve known the word since childhood.]

Monday, September 12, 2022

A Ted Berrigan event

A Ted Berrigan Celebration: a Zoom event, September 15, 7:00 p.m. Central, at Magic City Books, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here’s one of Ted’s sons, Edmund Berrigan, also a poet, talking about his father with KTUL.

The occasion for this event: the publication of Get the Money!: Collected Prose (1961-1983) (City Lights Books).

Related reading
All OCA Ted Berrigan posts (Pinboard)

Defeated former president in D.C.

The defeated former president flew into Washington, D.C., wearing a brown jacket, white polo shirt, and what appear to be golf shoes. Oh — and pants. This news was all over Twitter last night, but it’s still largely unreported by the press. What’s it mean? A medical emergency? An impending indictment?


The dfp says on his faux-Twitter that he is “working" at his D.C. golf club.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Urban density

[C. 58 East 14th Street, New York, New York, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

I went browsing in the Village and found this lovely moment of urban density. I tried counting the words: close to ninety, I think. This stretch of East 14th Street is now — what else? — a Duane Reade. Three words. Duane. Reade. Pharmacy.

Related reading
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives


Twenty-one years after the fact, and I can’t see a cloudless sky without thinking of September 11, 2001. I remember that day and those that followed as having intensely blue and cloudless skies.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Marsha Hunt (1917–2022)

She had a fine comic turn as Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1940). But our household knows her better as a familiar face in film noir. The New York Times has an obituary.

The documentary Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity (dir. Roger C. Memos, 2015) is worth seeking out. I suspect TCM will air it again soon.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell. I’d say it’s half as tough as his last Stumper — for me, that meant fifteen minutes instead of thirty.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, six letters, “One making service calls.” I thought of plumbers and tennis umpires.

1-D, four letters, “Key missing ON & O.” Kinda obvious, but deeply defamiliarizing, at least for me. When I see key, my first thought is music.

26-D, ten letters, “Alchemist’s ‘little person’ statue.” I can’t recall when I last saw this answer. Long, long ago.

36-D, nine letters, “Highly hoppy refreshment.” I have enjoyed hoppy refreshment, but I had no idea there is such a thing. It seems to me to be a marketing gimmick.

40-A, eight letters, “Ultra-extreme.” Nicely colloquial, though it makes me think of political nutjobs.

41-A, six letters, “What you must provide for a kid’s cable car kit.” I got the answer and thought What?  It turns out that you can make a cable car from a kit. But I think you’d be providing something else, even if 41-A is in the name of said kit.

52-D, “Body language?” A bit of a stretch. More than a bit. A great big stretch in the interest of Stumpery.

58-D, three letters, “Audible crack.” Ha.

My favorite clues in this puzzle, both exceptionally clever:

12-D, ten letters, “One in a recital trio.”

28-A, four letters, “What may precede a Q & A.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Food for thought


“Old friends send them for funerals. Politicians deliver them to constituents. And businesses use them to commemorate the retirement of valued employees”: telegrams in Japan (The New York Times).

Other telegram posts

[日本の電報: Nihon no denpō, Japanese telegrams, or telegrams in Japan. Via Google Translate, but it appears to be correct.]

In search of Anna K.

I wrote this morning that I would someday write a post about the difficulty of searching Amazon for the Modern Library paperback edition of Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova, or for any particular legitmate edition of a work in the public domain. Today is the day. And these results, which may change at any time, are as of today:

Search in the Books category for anna karenina modern library and the first result is the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation, from Penguin. That’s followed by a used copy of the Modern Library unrevised Garnett translation, a used copy of the Kent–Berberova revision (listed as being from 1950, fifteen years before their revised translation was published, a Kindle version of the Garnett translation (“the international bestseller”) selling for 19¢, the Rosemary Edmonds translation, another used copy of Garnett, Harold Bloom’s The Bright Book of Life, the Joel Carmichael translation, and so on. If you change your mind about what to read, there’s also a listing for War and Peace, translated by Louise Maude.

If you search for anna karenina kent berberova, in a sly attempt to exclude the unrevised Garnett translation, you get a used Modern Library hardcover of the Kent–Berberova revision (no price), followed by Pevear and Volokhonsky, Carmichael, a used copy of the Kent–Berberova revision (“1950”), the 19¢ special, and a series of eight CDs, $19 each, translator and reader unidentified.

Try anna karenina kent berberova modern library or anna karenina garnett kent berberova modern library, and the results are much the same.

I began to wonder this morning: how did I ever find the book at Amazon? Via ISBN? No — that number returns, weirdly enough, Pevear and Volokhonsky, the 19¢ special, and so on. Could it be that searches for one edition of Anna Karenina are redirecting me to what Amazon would like me to buy instead? I think it could.

The way I found what I wanted today: anna karenina modern library paperback, and there it was, at the top of the list. So it appears that, at least with this search, paperback is the key word. Though searching for anna karenina modern library paperback also returned listings for Fahrenheit 451 and a Kingsley Amis murder mystery.

Searching Amazon for a work in the public domain is a tricky proposition. It’s much safer searching at a bookstore, though I’m not sure where I’d find a bookstore with two copies of anna karenina garnett kent berberova modern library on hand.

“The turning point of summer”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

The Four Seasons Reading Club (Elaine, me) is taking on another long book.

[Someday I will have to write a post about the difficulty of searching Amazon for this edition, or for any particular legitmate edition of a work in the public domain.]

Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Queen’s Suite

Duke Ellington, in Music Is My Mistress (1973):

In 1958, I was invited to perform at the first festival of the arts in Leeds, England, where I had the great honor of being presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Representatives of all the arts were drawn from all over the world, and at the festival’s conclusion a magnificent banquet was preceded by a red-carpet reception. Her Majesty asked me when I first visited England. “Nineteen thirty-three, Your Majesty, years before you were born.”

Inspired by this meeting, I composed and recorded The Queen’s Suite.
Ellington and Billy Strayhorn set to work on the suite shortly after this meeting. The story goes that one copy of the 1959 recording was pressed and sent to Her Majesty. We now know that other copies circulated among select listeners. The common listener was finally able to hear the suite on the Pablo LP The Ellington Suites (1976).

The Queen’s Suite is in six parts, four of them by Ellington and Strayhorn. The second and fourth parts are by Strayhorn alone:

Sunset and the Mocking Bird : Lightning Bugs and Frogs : Le Sucrier Velours : Northern Lights : The Single Petal of a Rose : Apes and Peacocks

The musicians: Duke Ellington, piano; Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, reeds; Cat Anderson, Harold “Shorty” Baker, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, trumpets; Quentin Jackson, John Sanders, Britt Woodman, trombones; Jimmy Woode, bass; Jimmy Johnson, drums.

The Queen’s Suite is Ellington–Strayhorn music of an especially high order. If you’ve never heard it, give it a try.

[Queen Elizabeth apparently had some feeling for jazz.]

Reality-distortion fields

I like this sentence so much that I’m borrowing it from this movie-compilation post to highlight here:

The difference between Steve Jobs’s reality-distortion field and Elizabeth Holmes’s: Jobs made people believe they could do hard things; Holmes made people believe she was doing hard things.
Every good teacher has, I believe, a working reality-distortion field — of the Jobs variety. In other words: you, student, may think you “can’t write.” But guess what: you can get better.

A related post
Reality-distortion fields

[Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) is awaiting sentencing for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. And guess what: she just asked for a new trial.]

At the Eagle Cafe

Lane Bellamy is about to draw her last cup of coffee at the Eagle Cafe. She doesn’t know it yet, but someone in town has it in for her. The steam and gleams and shadows make for a few beautiful seconds in the kitchen.

[Joan Crawford as Lane Bellamy. From Flamingo Road (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1949). Cinematography by Ted McCord. Click any image for a larger view.]

Eleven movies, one season

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

A Place in the Sun (dir. George Stevens, 1951). From Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. With different leads, the story might be insufferable, but Montgomery Clift’s shiftiness, Elizabeth Taylor’s breathiness, and Shelley Winters’s neediness make for compelling drama — or, well, melodrama. Charlie Chaplin called it “the greatest movie ever made about America,” and by America, I think he meant class. Would pair well with Room at the Top or Strangers on a Train. ★★★★ (TCM)


Crime against Joe (dir. Lee Sholem, 1956). It feels like dollar-store Hitchcock: a wrong man scenario, in which Joe Manning (John Bromfield), Korean War vet, frequent drunk, painter manqué, is suspected of killing a barroom singer. Julie London is “Slacks” Bennett, a carhop and “nice girl” who’s helping Joe find the real killer. (Joe’s mother has encouraged him to find “a nice girl.”) A class pin is the only thing that can establish Joe’s innocence — but where is it? ★★★ (YT)


Three Bad Sisters (dir. Gilbert Kay, 1956). One bad movie, from Bel-Air Productions, who gave us Crime Against Joe. Here John Bromfield plays Jim Norton, a pilot caught in the schemes of three sisters whose millionaire father died in a plane piloted by Norton himself. Two sisters are bad — murderous Valerie (Kathleen Hughes) and man-eating Vicki (Marla English), who says she graduated “magna cum laude from Embraceable U.” Good sister Lorna (Sara Shane) is merely desparate, as is the movie itself. ★★ (YT)


Flamingo Road (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1949). Joan Crawford is Lane Bellamy, a carnival dancer who ends up stranded in a southern town. Three men take an interest in her presence: an evil sheriff (Sydney Greenstreet, sweating, guzzling milk, dressed all in white), a badgered deputy sheriff (Zachary Scott), and a rich businessman (David Brian). I think of this movie as a variation on Nightmare Alley, with a carny rising in the world, only to — I’ll stop there. Great atmospherics (Ted McCord’s cinematography is a wow), but the story slides into mediocre melodrama. ★★★ (TCM)


From the Criterion Channel’s Myrna Loy feature

Whipsaw (dir. Sam Wood, 1935). Myrna Loy is Vivian Palmer, a jewel thief, one among many (it’s complicated). Spencer Tracy (in a role marked for William Powell) is Ross McBride, an undercover lawman who hopes that Vivian will lead him to the other thieves. The best part of this movie: a Hitchcockian interlude with Vivian and Ross posing as a married couple seeking shelter from a storm at a farmhouse, where John Qualen is a nervous father-to-be and Vivian is pressed into service as a doctor’s assistant. The banter is the closing scene is a delight, moreso because there’s no Thin Man baggage to clutter the stage. ★★★★


The Dropout (created by Elizabeth Meriwether, 2022). Except for William H. Macy’s fake forehead, everything about this mini-series is brilliant. As Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani, Amdanda Seyfried are a toxic power-couple, running a company built on lies, and then more lies to cover earlier lies. The human cost is staggering. The difference between Steve Jobs’s reality-distortion field and Holmes’s: Jobs made people believe they could do hard things; Holmes made people believe she was doing hard things. ★★★★ (Hulu)


The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (dir. Alex GIbney, 2019). Every minute is compelling, and watching this documentary about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos deepens my admiration for The Dropout, which gets everything right. An extraordinary story about credulity, delusion, greed, and lies. “You want it to be true, so badly”: Tyler Shultz, Theranos employee, whistleblower, and grandson of board member George Shultz. “This was lunacy”: Roger Parloff, journalist. ★★★★ (HBO)


The Secret Ways (dir. Phil Karlson and Richard Widmark (uncredited), 1965). Confusing from the get-go: in Vienna, an American mercenary of sorts, Mike Reynolds (Richard Widmark) is hired to get a Hungarian professor/revolutionary out of Hungary, but by whom? And the screen titles say “1961,” but it’s supposed to be 1956. Widmark does a fine job save for a dubious attempt at Rat Pack comedy. The atmospherics — dark streets, cavernous interiors, subterranean meeting places — add greatly, and the camerawork (Mutz Greenbaum) shows the influence of The Third Man. ★★★ (YT)


Smooth as Silk (dir. Charles Barton, 1946). Virginia Grey plays a rising Broadway star, engaged to a criminal-defense lawyer (Kent Taylor) and aiming for a starring role in a new play. Her attentions turn to her fiancé’s just-acquitted client, a hapless young drunk whose uncle is producing the play in which she wants to star. The bewildering thing: Grey’s character is at the center of things, but she disappears from the movie well before its end. My favorite bits: Harry Cheshire (the minister in The Best Years of Our Lives) as a loyal butler and astute drama critic. ★★ (YT)


The Strip (dir. László Kardos, 1951). The reason to watch this movie: great music from Louis Armstrong and and three of the All-Stars: Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, and Earl Hines (sorry, IMDb, Arvell Shaw and Cozy Cole are never on the bandstand). Mickey Rooney, playing a drummer accused of murder, tells his story in a long flashback, which fortunately includes several complete musical numbers from Armstrong, the All-Stars, and Rooney. Rooney’s approach to the drums — playing over the other musicians, not with them or under them — marks him as something of a poor man’s Buddy Rich. With William Demarest as a nightclub owner and Sally Forrest as a cigarette girl/dancer. ★★★ (TCM)


Fire Music: The Story of Free Jazz (dir. Tom Surgal, 2021). A compilation of archival and contemporary interviews, performance footage, photographs, and hokey visual effects. The interview segments are invaluable: Bobby Bradford’s comments on difficulty in music, for instance, or Anthony Braxton’s account of leaving for Paris with fifty dollars in his pocket and the resolve to “Play, or die.” But this documentary wanders and wanders, from one topic to another, and so many musicians are heard speaking but not playing. No Julius Hemphill, no Henry Threadgill, and the musicians of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians are given relatively little attention. ★★★ (CC)


Come Back, Little Sheba (dir. Daniel Mann, 1952). If all you (like me) know of Shirley Booth is television’s Hazel Burke (a character Booth called her insurance policy), this movie will be a revelation. Booth and Burt Lancaster play the Delaneys: Lola, frumpy and desperately cheerful, and Doc, a chiropractor and recovering alcoholic, partners in a dead marriage burdened with a painful history, burdened further by the arrival of a boarder, Marie (Terry Moore), college student and wild child. A poignant picture of lives in decline and the effort to make something of them still. As for the title: you’ll have to watch. ★★★★ (CC)

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

An earlier catch-22

Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, The Passenger, trans. Philip Boehm (New York: Henry Holt, 2021).

The Passenger is a short novel, written in four weeks after Kristallnacht. The novel’s history is complicated: it was published in London 1939 as The Man Who Took Trains, in New York in 1940 as The Fugitive. In 2015 Boschwitz’s niece Ruella Shachaf made the sole manuscript copy of the novel available to the publisher Peter Graf, who edited the text. The novel was first published in its original German in 2018 as Der Reisende [The traveler]. The new English translation, by Philip Boehm, appeared in 2021. Pushkin Press has sold more than 100,000 copies.

The Passenger might be described as a Kafkaesque thriller. It follows the efforts of Otto Silbermann, a Jewish businessman, to flee Germany, in the course of which his relationship to space and time is utterly changed.

Highly recommended.

Yesterday’s HCR

Heather Cox Richardson’s September 6 installament of Letters from an American is especially helpful if you weren’t following the news yesterday. In my case, it was because I had two wisdom teeth removed. Late in the game, yes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

College advice

From The Atlantic : Imani Perry offers “The College Advice People Don’t Offer Enough.”

See also my daughter Rachel’s tips for success in college, which end on a similar note. Perry: “Remember that mistakes are inevitable.” Rachel: “Do not fear failing; instead, embrace each mistake as a learning experience.”

Magna cum laude

Vicki Craig (Marla English), of the three sisters in Three Bad Sisters (dir. Gilbert Kay, 1956):

“I graduated magna cum laude from Embraceable U.”
Three Bad Sisters is one bad movie, but bad enough to be good.

Monday, September 5, 2022

A series of legal troubles?

Listening to NPR this long weekend, I heard, three or four times, that the defeated former president is facing “a series of legal troubles.” I began to wonder if series is the right word.

Merriam-Webster: “a number of things or events of the same class coming one after another in spatial or temporal succession.” M-W’s samples of usage: “the hall opened into a series of small rooms” (spatial succession), “a concert series” (temporal succession).

But the defeated former president’s legal troubles are all happening now. Imagine a concert series with all performances given simultaneously: that’s a contradiction in terms — though it might make for a great Ivesian effect if the doors to all concert rooms were to remain open.

I’d like to say a sea of legal troubles, but that would hardly be acceptable to NPR, and besides, I shudder at the thought of a metaphor that would point to taking up arms. A big fat mess of legal troubles? A diaperload of legal troubles? Perhaps just a number of legal troubles.

Labor Day Nancy

“An unbroken chain of nieces and aunts in the Ritz family whose antics have been preserved over millennia”: Olivia Jaimes takes the day off.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Labor Day

[“Masses Of Women Workers.” Photograph by Edward Clark. Washington, D.C. 1956. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a much larger view.]

I have seen desks in such a massive array only in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Notice the fans and the Shelter signage (the Atomic Age). This photograph was taken in preparation for the Life feature “Women Hold Third of Jobs” (December 24, 1956). The setting is the FBI “identification building,” where the typists (450 working in two shifts) were at work on fingerprint information.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Church Ave. Poultry Co.

My mom once told me in passing that as a girl she would walk with her grandmother to Thirteenth Avenue (“the Avenue,” the shopping street) to buy a chicken. In other words, to pick out a chicken while it was still in possession of its life. I think I’ve found the spot.

[Church Ave. Poultry Co., 3823 13th Avenue, Boro Park, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Aside from this photograph, the most substantial evidence I can find of the Church Ave. Poultry Co. is the record of a case heard by the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The members of the family connected to this property seem to have been, at least sometimes, at one another’s throats.

I think of the Live Poultry sign as a low-key relation of the stark, oxymoronic Live Poultry Fresh Killed sign known to residents of Boston and Cambridge and to readers of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest everywhere. The sign was sold when the Mayflower Poultry Company decamped from East Cambridge to Boston last year.

Back to Boro Park: The 3823 address is today Mike’s Dinettes. (“Since 1963.”) The wide sidewalk next to 3823 was, I’m pretty sure, the spot for Whitey, the banana man, who sold bananas from a pushcart, even in the early years of Mike’s Dinettes.

Related reading
All OCA Boro Park posts (Pinboard) : More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Barbara Ehrenreich (1941–2022)

The writer Barbara Ehrenreich has died at the age of eighty-one. The New York Times has an obituary.

I can recommend Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001) and Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream (2005).

Related reading
Two posts about Bait and Switch

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by “Anna Stiga,” Stan Again, Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor. The pseudonym is meant to signal an easier Stumper, but I found this one difficult. I missed by two squares, stumbling on 3-D, four letters, “Record-breaking 30th tropical storm of 2005”; 15-A, ten letters, “Florida’s ‘Inland Sea’”; and 19-A, five letters, “Dumbledore’s double agent.” Three proper names, all unknown to me. (I read exactly two pages of the first Harry Potter book before giving up on the prose.) If I had thought about 3-D for a few seconds, I would have figured out the answer, and that would have given me the other two. But no. I was adrift in an inland sea, beset by a double agent and a storm.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, ten letters, “Flamboyant stuff.” A wonderful way to begin the puzzle.

4-D and 37-D, five letters each, “One of the brothers in a garbage can on a Time cover (1932).” The possibilities are many but not infinite.

30-A, four letters, “Bitter ender.” Nice.

33-D, four letters, “Spot checkers.” Also nice.

45-A, six letters, “Nine-decade actor, ‘the best there has ever been’ per Olivier.” I was going with LIONEL until I realized that I needed, as per the clue, a last name. The answer took me by surprise.

54-D, five letters, “Many a seal.” Clever.

67-A, ten letters, “Poetic inspiration for Lolita.” I haven’t seen this association in a crossword clue before.

I have a quarrel with 27-D, ten letters, “Biannual celebrant with Taylor Swift as its ambassador for 2022.” That’s not what it’s called. I misread the clue. But there’s still a problem with the clue, which is why I misread it. There’s an explanation in the comments.

My favorite clue in this puzzle is 69-A, ten letters, “What mixers get a lot of.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Forty-three folders

[From the detailed inventory of things found at Mar-a-Lago.]

I am late to the game, having been bopping around all day, but I’d still like to note the sheer weirdness of seeing “43 Empty Folders” in the inventory of things found at Mar-a-Lago. As anyone who has read David Allen’s Getting Things Done knows, “forty-three folders” is a thing, an element in Allen’s practice of productivity: twelve folders for the months of the year, thirty-one folders for the days of the current month. Allen doesn’t say anything though about what to do with classified materials.

Merlin Mann’s long-dormant website 43 Folders was a key resource for fans of GTD, “inbox zero,” and the Hipster PDA (index cards held together with a binder clip).

Related reading
All OCA Getting Things Done posts (Pinboard)

[The inventory lists a total of forty-eight empty folders with “CLASSIFIED” banners. Full disclosure: I have never attempted to use forty-three folders to organize things. I need many more.]

Gosh darn urbane

After donating a bookcart’s worth of books at the library yesterday, we made a quick trip to Aldi. An impulse trip, which meant that we had no cold bags. So we made do with three tote bags that had just held books: a Futura typeface tote (from AIGA), a Love Is Love tote (a freebie from a real-estate agent with a booth at a Pride-themed farmers market), and a New York Review Books tote.

We are so gosh darn urbane.

Noah Webster

[Frontispiece and accompanying text from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961). Click either image for a larger view.]

I don’t know when these items disappeared from the Third. They’re not in my 1986 Third. The stray lines across the text are what’s left after my best effort to remove the traces of dictionary pleats. That’s my way of describing the almost inevitably damaged first pages of large dictionaries.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)

[I wonder how much trial and error went into making those two columns of text match.]

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Joe Biden tonight

President Joe Biden, speaking tonight:

“History tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy. For a long time we told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it’s not. We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it, each and every one of us. That’s why tonight I’m asking our nation to come together: unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology.”
The speech is now at C-SPAN.

[My transcription.]

A second Third

I have a Webster’s Second. I have a Webster’s Third. And I have a second Third, bought a library book-sale (for fifty cents, I think). The second Third is a first edition, with a color portrait of Noah Webster in the front and the name of a long-time member of the university community stamped on the inside cover.

I don’t need a second Third. My first Third is enough. But when it came time to haul books to the library today, the second Third made it back to the house from the car. I’m not parting with it yet.

A place for everything . . .

[“62563-B-Drama-Music-Opera-Writing & Misc. Iowa State Univ. Creative Arts Program - ’61.” Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. 1961. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a much larger view.]

. . .  and everything in its place.

This photograph makes me feel less cluttered already. But it’s not going to stop me from taking a pile of books to the library today for the next book sale.

Here are a couple of photographs of my desk, without and with a desk organizer. You can see right away the difference an organizer makes.

This post is for Matt Thomas, who occasionally posts photographs of desks at Submitted for Your Perusal.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Molly Dodd again

For anyone who needs to know: the complete run of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd is once again at YouTube. The costs of music-licensing pretty much assure that this show will never be available on DVD. So watch while you can, before the uploads are yanked once again.

I have the persistent thought that someday Elaine and I will be browsing in Three Lives & Company and we’ll see Blair Brown browsing and be able to tell her how much we love this show. We’ve already written a fan letter to Jay Tarses.

Orange Crate Art, as you have guessed, is a Dodd-friendly zone.

[Note: I have no idea if Blair Brown has ever browsed at Three Lives & Company.]


You know that you have the well-being of an older family member on your mind when you see a money-asking e-mail from LTC (Ret.) Alex Vindman in your inbox and the first thing you think is long-term care.

Long-term care insurance is a tricky proposition. Here’s one take.

[No questions: that’s all I’m gonna say about long-term care insurance.]

Nancy, peaking?

[Nancy, August 31, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

In today’s strip, Nancy begins to wonder if she’s peaked.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Attachment F

[Click for a much larger view.]

The Justice Department knows how to make an argument. And how. Attachment F is this photograph, the last item in the response to the defeated former president’s request for a special master to examine materials taken from Mar-a-Lago. Attachment F follows Attachment E, a certification from a representative of the defeated former president swearing or affirming that “a diligent search” of boxes of materials removed from the White House took place and that “any and all responsive documents” accompany the certification. And then, as Steve Jobs liked to say, one more thing — a photograph of just some of what the FBI found.

This photograph makes me queasy. I can only imagine how someone with any idea of what’s under the cover sheets and what’s on the whited-out pages might feel. But I can guess what’s in those gold frames.


The Washington Post has a close reading of Attachment F.


And Adam Schiff highlights passages from the filing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Cecil B. DeMille’s desk calendar

[“Movie director Cecil B. DeMille’s desk calendar outlining appointments.” Photograph by John Florea. Hollywood, California. March 1948. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

Notice that there’s nothing on this day about Norma Desmond’s Salome screenplay.


I finally thought to look up a word that’s long puzzled me: the verb vet. I had anticipated some weirdness in its past — perhaps a Latin phrase about trustworthiness for which it’s a one-syllable stand-in? Alas, the origin is disappointingly obvious, though not so obvious that I would have guessed it. Merriam-Webster explains:

When we vet a statement for accuracy or vet a candidate for a position, what are we doing, literally? Does the verb have something to do with veteran “a person with long experience,” perhaps indicating that the thing or person vetted is proved to be tried and true?

Interestingly, the word is not related to veteran at all, but rather to veterinarian “an animal doctor.” That noun was shortened to vet by the mid-19th century and, within decades, gave rise to a verb vet meaning “to subject (an animal) to medical examination.” The verb was soon applied to human beings as well, broadening in sense to “to perform a medical checkup on.” By the early 20th century, this word took on the figurative meaning that is now most familiar: “to subject a person or thing to scrutiny; to examine for flaws.”
This post has been fully vetted. Now I’m thinking about why dictionaries omit a comma between a word and its definition: “veteran ‘a person with long experience.’” A space-saving measure over hundreds and thousands of pages of text, I would guess.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Sam Potts’s five-point plan

From Sam Potts, graphic designer, “My Five-Point Plan for Doing Projects.” I especially like no. 3: “Heed the wisdom of Mickey Rivers,” who said this:

“Ain’t no sense worrying about things you got no control over because if you got no control, ain’t no sense worrying. And there ain’t no sense worrying about things you got control over, because if you got control, ain’t no sense worrying.”
Mickey Rivers played center field for for the California Angels, the New York Yankees, and the Texas Rangers.

Some years ago, Sam Potts created Infinite Jest : A Diagram, mapping the relations of the novel’s characters. I still have my copy, 2′× 3′.

Six movies, six seasons

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

Network (dir. Sidney Lumet, 1976). Startlingly prescient, as the fading anchorman of a fourth-network’s nightly news moves from the reporting of events to tirades. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” shouts Howard Beale (Peter Finch), in an unscripted rage that is soon beyond anyone’s control. I’m not as taken with this movie as I think I’m supposed to be: I find the dialogue, particularly in scenes with William Holden and Faye Dunaway (news vs. entertainment) and Holden and Beatrice Straight (husband vs. wife) labored and artificial. But as prophecy, Network deserves all the stars. ★★★★ (TCM)


Two more seasons of Nathan for You

Third season (created by Nathan Fielder and Michael Koman, 2015). Unsettling schemes: a soundproof playbox to hold a child (so that parents can have sex in a hotel room while on vacation), a clothing company promoting Holocaust awareness (with ghastly in-store displays), a highwire act with Nathan posing as a man who’ll be honored for raising money for breast-cancer research. With the highwire act and other schemes, Fielder appears to take ample advantage of media willingness to air stories without scrutiny. My favorite bit from this season now looks like a rehearsal for The Rehearsal, with actors studying the gestures and movements of bar patrons and replicating them as a play (all in a dizzying effort to get around a no-smoking-in-bars rule). The increasingly convoluted promotional schemes take on a greater and greater element of Zeno’s paradox: before I can do z , I have to do y ; before I y , I have to do x ; but somehow it all gets done. ★★★★ (HBO)

Fourth season (created by Nathan Fielder and Michael Koman, 2017). The highlight of the season and the series: “Finding Frances,” in which Nathan travels from Los Angeles to Little Rock, Arkansas with William Heath, a “professional Bill Gates impersonator” (no, he isn’t one) to find the woman Heath didn’t marry fifty years earlier. Heath is an enigma: he has the manner of a con artist, a bit of a Robert Durst vibe, and it’s never clear who he is or what he was doing all those years after coming to Hollywood and failing to make it as an actor or singer. As Nathan asks him, “Can you figure out you?” When Heath and an actor playing Frances run through what might happen in a real meeting, the story moves into the strange territory that we now know as The Rehearsal. ★★★★ (HBO)


Room at the Top (dir. Jack Clayton, 1958). Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey), young accountant, leaves a provincial English town to take a job in a less provincial English town and finds diversion in amateur theatricals and musical beds. His intention is to rise, but at what cost? Heather Sears and Simone Signoret play his conquests, Susan and Alice, the one the mill owner’s daughter, the other a wealthy philanderer’s neglected wife. Joe is all about what he wants to do , but I watched wondering what was going to happen to him. ★★★★ (TCM)


Life at the Top (dir. Ted Kotcheff, 1965). Joe Lampton again (still Laurence Harvey), with a life not really his own, stuck in a loveless marriage to Susan (a markedly different Susan, played by Jean Simmons), under his father-in-law’s thumb at work and in politics. Adulterous liaisons for both partners; Susan with a friend of Joe’s, Joe with a television personality (Honor Blackman). Joe’s intention is to escape, but at what cost? Susan’s mother (Ambrosine Phillpotts) has it right: “You say you want a better life, and then when you step up a peg or two, you hate yourself for it.” ★★★★ (TCM)


A Place in the Sun (dir. George Stevens, 1951). From Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. With different leads, the story might be insufferable, but Montgomery Clift’s shiftiness, Elizabeth Taylor’s breathiness, and Shelley Winters’s neediness make for compelling drama — or, well, melodrama. Charlie Chaplin called it “the greatest movie ever made about America,” and by America, I think he meant class. Would pair well with Joe Lampton’s story or Strangers on a Train. ★★★★ (TCM)


From the Criterion Channel’s Myrna Loy feature

‌Stamboul Quest (dir. Sam Wood, 1934). It is 1915, and Myrna Loy is a glamorous German spy known as Annemarie, aka Fräulein Doktor, aka Helena Bohlen (based on the real-life Fräulein Doktor, Elsbeth Schragmüller). Annemarie’s mission in Turkey is complicated by a sudden romance with a cheerful American medical student (George Brent). The fun in this movie comes from seeing Loy’s character banter with Brent, banter with her spymaster (Lionel Atwill), and match wits with her Turkish prey (C. Henry Gordon). The luminous opening and closing scenes are good examples of James Wong Howe’s art. ★★★★


The Rehearsal (created by Nathan Fielder, 2022). I’ve already written about this series, so I’ll quote myself: “The Rehearsal doesn’t blur the line between what’s fictional and what’s real: it removes the line with an industrial sander and then draws a new line (or lines?) elsewhere. But where?” This series, a pilot with its own story and five episodes with one overarching story, is best watched with no preparation. Headspinning and heartbreaking — or is it just headspinning? ★★★★ (HBO)


The American Friend (dir. Wim Wenders, 1977). A loose adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel Ripley’s Game. Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) is an eccentric American, living in Germany, affiliated with an international art-forgery enterprise, moved by a single unfortunate event to conscript an unassuming picture framer, Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz), as a hit man for the enterprise. There’s considerable suspense in the long, silent scene of Zimmerman stalking one victim (homage to Jules Dassin’s Rififi?), and considerable comedy in the long, nearly silent scene of Zimmerman and Ripley dispatching a second victim on a train. Another movie that would pair well with Strangers on a Train, with Zimmerman, like Guy Haines, pulled into a deadly scheme by way of a chance encounter. ★★★★ (CC)


Two seasons of How To with John Wilson

First season (created by John Wilson, 2020). The title made me curious, and after one sample I was hooked. The ostensible premise of each documentary-style episode is that Wilson is figuring out how to make or do something, but each episode goes off on tangent after tangent before making its way back, somehow, to its start. The tangents are the point, along with visual puns, Wilson’s nebbishy narrration (he’s almost never seen), the willingness of strangers to speak unguardedly to a camera, and one of the most dystopian depictions of New York City I’ve ever seen (rats, rats, and more rats). The first season’s final episode, “How to Cook the Perfect Risotto,” filmed as COVID-19 began to descend on the city, is an extraordinary thing. ★★★★ (HBO)

Second season (created by John Wilson, 2021). More of the same, but the same is a matter of endless variety, and along the way, one might lose track of what Wilson is trying to learn. (I’m still not sure why “How to Remember Your Dreams” required a trip to New York’s all-news radio station WINS 1010.) I especially enjoyed “How to Throw Out Your Batteries,” which opens into a consideration of the many things people are unable to part with. As with Nathan for You and The Rehearsal, plain weirdness turns into an exploration of deep emotion. ★★★★ (HBO)

[No surprise to see that Nathan Fielder is an executive producer.]


Only Murders in the Building, second season (created by John Hoffman and Steve Martin, 2022). It’s been many years since I last associated a particular day with a television show, but Only Murders now signifies Tuesday. This second season was not as terrific as the first: too many meta jokes about second seasons, too much schtick to run down the clock, too many loose ends. But I was happy to have guessed the identity of the killer (several episodes back) and to have anticipated the Andrea Martin storyline. The hokey name Glitter Guy and the introduction of a much younger cast member, Charles’s daughter Lucy (Zoe Margaret Colletti), made me remember (fondly) the PBS series Ghostwriter. ★★★ (Hulu)

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