Saturday, May 28, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell, his second Stumper this month. I found it exceedingly difficult — opacity and misdirection afoot — which means I enjoyed it immensely. I began with 19-A, eight letters, “Pianist’s flourish.” And that gave me 8-D, four letters, Macbeth excerpt. (I’m wise to that trick.) And then I struggled. I worked out the northeast corner first; the southeast, last. Oh, that southeast corner.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, nine letters, “De-stress.” The hyphen may be meant to help, but I doubt it.

9-D, five letters, “They’re not square.” OWERS? No.

10-D, nine letters, “The Rock and Hulk Hogan.” They’re not persons!

13-A, ten letters, “Woolgathering.” A beautiful answer.

25-A, six letters, “Stateless?” A bit strained.

26-A, five letters, “Snaps.” The answer makes me think of the New York Daily News. Got a cigaret?

31-A, nine letters, “The Wizard of Oz, for one.” I can think of others.

36-A, three letters, “Pater Noster pronoun.” Did anyone else think the answer would be in Latin?

38-D, eight letters, “Loire Valley wine.” The big snag in the southeast. Is this name common knowledge?

40-A, ten letters, “Hot dipping sauce.” I think the clue is meant to misdirect, but I may be wrong.

50-D, five letters, “City in Germany.” Really sneaky.

59-D, three letters, “Funny.” So you think funny is an adjective?

63-A, nine letters, “Packing slip reviewers.” I overthought slip.

My favorites in this puzzle:

7-D, three letters, “Dose folks.” I missed its cleverness while solving, having gotten the answer on crosses.

54-A, letters, “Minimizer in music.” The clue suggests at least two other plausible answers and freshens a familiar crossword answer.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Mary Miller, lying

Congresswoman Mary Miller (R, IL-15) questioned (context unknown) Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education. I assume their conversation followed the massacre in Uvalde, Texas. Miller shared an excerpt from the conversation on Twitter, so she must think it went well. But all I see in it is a crazy quilt of lies and irrelevancies ending in a self-own: “Right.” I am willing to go into detail:


My transcription of the exchange:
Miller: The Democrats definitely supported defunding the police for two years. They painted it on the sidewalks of burning cities. They shouted it while burning down police stations in Minneapolis. Vice President Harris herself raised money to bail out the rioters. And your favorite leftist TV stations have covered it all. All Americans saw it. And so now, what I want to know: You represent the Biden administration. Has the Biden administration changed their stance? Do they still support defunding the police, or do they now say school resource officers belong in the schools? We would like to know.

Cardona: I’m not sure if you were present at the State of the Union [she wasn’t ], but the president said we need to fund the police more, not defund the police. I recall that, sitting there, and it felt pretty strongly that there was a clear message there.

Miller: Right. I call that hypocrisy. I taught my children that, uhm, you know, what you do is more important than what you say.
A few observations:

~ It is simply untrue for two years Democrats as a group “definitely” supported defunding police and that they “kicked police out of schools.” Miller doesn’t acknowledge a police presence at the elementary school in Uvalde.

~ It is simply untrue that “they” — Democrats — painted slogans and burned down police stations.

~ The slogan Defund the Police did appear on streets in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. — and in Hamilton, Ontario, and perhaps elsewhere. But the more memorable and visible slogan by far, painted on streets, not sidewalks: Black Lives Matter. The context for both slogans — the police murder of George Floyd — is interestingly absent from Miller’s narrative.

~ “Vice President Harris herself raised money to bail out the rioters”: Snopes rates the claim that Harris bailed out rioters as “mostly false.”

~ All cable news covered the protests, non-violent and otherwise, that followed George Floyd’s murder. If “leftist” TV stations alone (she must mean CNN and MSNBC) had covered protests, “all Americans” wouldn’t have seen them.

~ Miller’s response to Cardona — “Right” — is a self-own to remember. Faced with an assertion that she’s wrong about the facts, all she can do is say “Right” and keep going.

~ About actions and words: What you do and what you say are both important, and as any student of speech-act theory knows, to say often is to do. What Miller says here is dishonest nonsense, painting all members of a political party with a broad brush, attributing to them actions they had no part in. (I recall Bob Dole’s characterization of World War II as a “Democrat war.”) What Miller has done during her time in Washington: nothing of substance for her district or her country. She pushes The Big Lie, engages in stunts (refusing to wear a mask, signing on to ludicrous legislation that goes nowhere), foments against trans kids in the “wrong” bathrooms, and votes consistently on the wrong side of every issue: against aid to Ukraine, against money for infant formula, against a bill to stop price-gouging for fuel, against the Congressional Gold Medal for police who defended the Capitol on January. I could go on, but I already have in a May 2021 post.

~ What Miller refuses to say anything about is the need for legislation to limit access to guns. She touts her support for the Second Amendment, which she regards as permitting unimpeded access to firearms for all. When I called her office today, I asked the fellow who answered the phone (who, I suspected, was getting many calls) what Miller would say about portable nuclear weapons (a hypothetical I’ve borrowed from Bryan Garner). Would they be permitted under the Second Amendment? The fellow on the phone said that he couldn’t speak for the congresswoman. Nor was it professional for him to give an opinion, he said. “I hope you get a shitload of calls today,” I said. “Please don’t say that,” said he.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

[Derek Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson had that same odd habit of saying “Right” after a witness contradicted him.]

Aaron Rupar collecting

On Twitter, Aaron Rupar has collected today a number of Republican comments on the latest school massacre. The comments are either absurd (“When 9/11 happened, we didn’t ban planes”) or wholly evasive.

Elsewhere, there’s Ted Cruz’s non-response. And Mary Miller’s idiotic, mendacious self-own, not that anyone beyond IL-15 cares enough about Mary Miller to be appalled by anything she says.

“Better than the one that I’m in”

Donald Evans, talking to the Paris Review about his postage-stamp art (creating stamps from imaginary countries):

“It was vicarious travelling for me to a made-up world that I liked better than the one I was in. I’m doing that now too. No catastrophes occur. There are no generals or battles or warplanes on my stamps. The countries are innocent, peaceful, composed. Sometimes I get so concentrated in these worlds 1 get confused . . . it’s hard to get out.”
The blurred scans accompanying the text are a disappointment. You can browse the full-color pages of Willy Eisenhart’s The World of Donald Evans, which approximately quotes this passage, at the Internet Archive. Or visit (even if only online) the current Tibor de Nagy exhibit of Evans’s work.

And here is an extended introduction to postage-stamp art: What Is Faux Postage? (Read, Seen Heard).

[Re: catastrophes: Donald Evans (1945–1977) died in an apartment-building fire.]

Thursday, May 26, 2022

College enrollment down

“While elite colleges and universities have continued to attract an overflow of applicants, the pandemic has been devastating for many public universities, particularly community colleges, which serve many low- and moderate-income students”: “College Enrollment Drops, Even as the Pandemic’s Effects Ebb” (The New York Times).

What would I do if I were a high-school kid thinking about college? I’d go, for sure. I think I’d want to study user-interface design. My son thinks I’d be good at that.

Inara G. and Van Dyke P.

I recommended the Inara George–Van Dyke Parks album An Invitation to a friend last night. And then I found this 2015 performance, which I hadn’t seen before.



[Left to right: Van Dyke Parks, Inara George, David Piltch.]

The songs: “Opportunity for Two” and “Come Along” (Parks), “Dirty White” and “Family Tree” (George).

And here are a handful of songs from a performance last week.

Music is my respite and refuge.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

“Ten hours to Chicago”

Nella Larsen, Quicksand (1928).

I discovered only this morning that the 1928 Knopf edition of Quicksand is available from Google Books as a free PDF or e-book. Marginal notes here and there — dynamics of authority, paradox — but they disappear not long into the novel.

HCR on “the right to bear arms”

“Today’s insistence that the Second Amendment gives individuals a broad right to own guns comes from two places”: Heather Cox Richardson gives a short lesson about the history of a peculiarly American idea.

Red flags

David French: “Pass red flag laws. Now. Give families and police a chance to remove guns from the people who tell us they’re dangerous.” Found via The New York Times.

Our household’s representative in Congress, Mary Miller (R, IL-15), has touted, loudly, repeatedly, her opposition to red-flag laws. Here she is, proclaiming her opposition and boasting about her A ratings from the NRA and Gun Owners of America (a organization that deems the NRA too willing to compromise).

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

“Why are you here?”

Senator Chris Murphy (D, CT) on the Senate floor not long ago:

“What are we doing? Why are you here, if not to solve a problem as existential as this? This isn’t inevitable. These kids weren’t unlucky. This only happens in this country, and nowhere else. Nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking they might be shot that day.”
[Fourteen Eighteen Nineteen children, a teacher, and another adult and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas today.]

Herschel Walker voting

MSNBC has a camera (why?) on Herschel Walker as he votes. He’s taking a very long time, just standing in front if the machine, and I think it’s reasonable to wonder: Does he know how to use a voting machine?

The last pay phones in NYC?

This story is getting considerable attention: “Last street payphone in New York City removed” (CBS News ). And yet:

While there are no more freestanding, public pay phones left in New York City, LinkNYC says they could still exist — on private property. There are also four “Superman booths,” or full-length phonebooths left in the city, but it is unclear if their phones are in service.
That’d be easy for someone for someone to check, no?

In 2009 Scouting New York tracked down those four booths, all on West End Avenue. Google Maps shows them still standing in August 2021, complete with pay phones. Working ones, I hope.

And now I’m kicking myself for not photographing the New York Public Library’s phone booths when I was last there.

A handful of pay phones
A Blue Dahlia pay phone : A Henry pay phone : The Lonely Phone Booth : A Naked City pay phone : A subway pay phone, 1932 : Chicago pay phones : “If your coin was not returned”

[Yes, the CBS headline has payphone; the article, pay phone.]

SFW on the shelf

Take a look at this tweeted photograph of Bryan Garner’s bookshelves. Can you spot the book by Sally Foster Wallace, David’s mother?

This 2013 post, a review of Quack This Way, a transcribed conversation between Bryan Garner and David Foster Wallace, has links about the Garner–Wallace connection. This 2020 post has some sample sentences from SFW’s book.

Related reading
All OCA Garner posts : DFW posts (Pinboard)

[The book is Practically Painless English (Prentice-Hall, 1980), above the three blue volumes, lower right.]

Monday, May 23, 2022

Domestic comedy

An ordinary evening. We were watching yet another Lou Grant episode, “Boomerang” (January 19, 1981). The opening scene: a busy hospital, doctors and nurses speaking Spanish. I called the theme of the episode (not derivable from its title) forty-four seconds in, when the camera zoomed in on a respirator, the manufacturer’s name in all caps: defective medical equipment. And then:

“Yes, Michael, you’re brilliant. You’re a genius at watching television. You can quote me.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[“Yet another”: these episodes aren’t going to watch themselves. And if you haven’t watched, it was a really good show.]

Mary’s and Rhoda’s apartments

Computer-modeled tours of Mary Richards’s and Rhoda Morgenstern’s apartments. The presence of elements never seen on The Mary Tyler Moore Show itself — bathrooms, a fourth wall — makes me want to call the Epistemology Help Line.

Thanks, Steven.

Related reading
All OCA MTM posts (Pinboard) : I envy Mary Richards

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Grain, oil, and pastries

News from way out west:

A professional outdoorsman in Utah is facing felony criminal charges for allegedly helping Donald Trump Jr. shoot a bear illegally during a guided hunting expedition. Wade Lemon of Wade Lemon Hunting hosted Trump for the outing in May 2018. According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Lemon illegally baited the bear for Trump with “a pile of grain, oil, and pastries.”
“A pile of grain, oil, and pastries”: is it certain that Mr. Lemon wasn’t trying to help Don Jr. make contact with his dad?

Phonics redux

In The New York Times, an article about phonics and reading instruction: “In the Fight Over How to Teach Reading, This Guru Makes a Major Retreat.”

A related post
A story from my literacy tutoring

[Ask the average college student to read aloud, and you’ll understand the importance of instruction in phonics.]

Mozart in Lviv

“We understood why musicians must not keep silent”: Natalia Dub, an audience member for a performance of the Mozart Requiem in Lviv, Ukraine.

Lambini & Sons

Lambini & Sons (The Far Side ). As the son of a tile man, I had a clipped-from-the-newspaper copy on my office door for years.

Related reading
All OCA tile posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stan Newman, composing as “S.N.,” as in “iSN’t easy.” Today’s puzzle is one of the most difficult Stumpers I’ve seen. I started last night with 11-A, four letters, “Does one’s part” and 14-D, nine letters, “‘Home on the Range,’ e.g.” Half an hour later, I gave up with the puzzle half complete. When I started again this morning, I suddenly saw the right answer for 24-D, eight letters, “On which numbers are written.” And that gave me four other answers, and fifteen minutes later, I was done.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-D, five letters, “The way of the world.” Even with the last three letters, it’s hard to see.

3-D, five letters, “Easy going.” You need to notice that it’s two words.

9-D, nine letters, “Advances in elevation.” A tough one.

12-D, nine letters, “Gorbachev predecessor.” Yes, that name is hard to pull up. (Unlike Gorbachev’s.)

13-D, “It’s in the bag.” Nifty.

20-A, six letters, “Repository of Lost Legends site.” I thought it had something to do with gamers.

30-A, eight letters, “Carry-ons regulated by the FAA.” Deceptive? Not deceptive? Deceptive.

32-D, nine letters, “One use for a horsehair.” I knew it, I knew it.

34-D, nine letters, “Of hiking, biking, etc.” I wanted OUTDOORSY.

42-A, seven letters, “It may suit you.” A fine clue for an out-of-the-way word.

47-D, six letters, “Denounce.” The answer came to me after I closed my MacBook last night.

53-A, five letters, “Something to rest on or reel in.” Funny to think of these two possibilities together.

56-D, five letters, “It’s slashed for all.” I understand the intent, but I don’t think the answer fits “all.”

58-A, six letters, “Top with a joke, say.” OUTWIT? No.

59-D, four letters, “Doctor’s order.” I can think of at least four plausible wrong answers.

67-A, ten letters, “Suitable for Champion magazine?” Perhaps in name only? But even if you don’t quibble about that, the answer doesn’t quite fit the clue. One of two clues about this magazine. It would have helped if I had heard of it.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Roger Angell (1920–2022)

What a wonderful writer, about baseball (which I know nothing about) and assorted other subjects. The New Yorker has a piece about him by David Remnick. The New York Times has an obituary.

One of the regrets of my teaching life is that I never found an occasion for asking students to read Angell’s 2014 essay about old age, “This Old Man.”

A handful of posts about Roger Angell
An excerpt from ”This Old Man“ : “The dream of a nine-year-old boy” : Notebook man : On Don Zimmer : On Trump’s tweetsOn voting

[P.S. to the Times: This Old Man, the book, is not “a collection of essays about aging.”]

New directions in chicken soup

Add smoked paprika to your bowl, a little or a lot. Yow!

You may need to follow up with a small dish of ice cream to cool your lips.

House hyphens

Consider the name of H.R. 7688: the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act.

Shouldn’t that be the Consumer Fuel Price-Gouging Prevention Act?

Shouldn’t that be the Consumer Fuel-Price Gouging-Prevention Act?

Shouldn’t that be the Consumer-Fuel-Price Gouging-Prevention Act?

Or — and why not? — the Consumer-Fuel-Price-Gouging-Prevention Act?

I can understand why the bill’s sponsor may have chosen to skip the hyphens.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard) : The Hammacher Schlemmer crazy making hyphen shortage problem. : Living on hyphens : Mr. Hyphen and Mr. Faulkner : One more from Mr. Hyphen

Some Miller votes

Representative Mary Miller (R, IL-15) has tweeted thoughts and prayers for Ukraine. Yet she voted last week against H.R. 7691, Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022. The bill passed, 368–57.

Miller has also tweeted about the scarcity of infant formula. (Never mind the reasons.) Yet she voted on Wednesday against H.R. 7790, the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022. The bill passed, 219–192.

Miller has also tweeted about the cost of fuel. (Never mind the reasons.) Yet she voted yesterday against H.R. 7688, the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act. The bill passed, 217–207.

Despite what I have read — in reliable sources — about Illinois redistricting, it’s now clear that my household will still be part of IL-15 in the upcoming election, and our representative come November will be Rodney Davis or Mary Miller. The horror.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

[GovTrack.us is far better than house.gov for following bills and votes.]

Griffy and Lippy and Sluggo

In today’s Zippy, Zippy is on vacation in downtown Duluth. (Fresca, take note.) Griffy is stuck with Zippy’s “diametrically opposite” twin Lippy. What to do? Griffy’s suggestion: “Wha’d’ya say we read a lot of old ‘Nancy’ comic strips & question th’ hidden subtext of Sluggo?”

[“Beating Around the Bushmiller.” Zippy, May 20, 2022.]

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts : Nancy and Zippy posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Elaine Fine, “Adoration” arranger

The online music-magazine Van (as in Beethoven) has an article by Felix Linsmeier about Florence Price’s “Adoration”: “Das Über-Orgel-Stück”. Or in (Google’s) translation, “The Over-Organ Piece.” The German title is a translation of Elaine’s characterization of “Adoration” as a “super-organ piece.”

The article credits Elaine as “wohl die Pionierin der weiten Welt der Adoration-Adaptionen” — “probably the pioneer of the wide world of ‘Adoration’ adaptations.” Elaine has arranged “Adoration” for violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, and tuba (each with piano), six violas, violin soloist and orchestra, string orchestra, and orchestra. She’s made all her arrangements of this (public domain) composition available at no cost through the IMSLP.

It’s good to see Florence Price’s music getting new attention in the twenty-first century. And it’s good to see an arranger — especially this one — get some recognition for her work. Give the composer some. And give the arranger some too.

Here, from 2020, is Elaine’s first arrangement of “Adoration,” for violin and piano, with the eminent violinist Augustin Hadelich at the piano and thirty-seven other musicians.


Free COVID-19 tests, round three

I’ve mentioned it to several people who didn’t already know, so I’ll mention it here too: third shipments of free at-home COVID-19 tests are now available to U.S. households.

Was it ever thus?

We are in a train compartment. Bing Crosby is on the radio. From the musical short I Surrender Dear (dir. Mack Sennett, 1931):

Mother: “Will you please shut off that noise?”

Daughter: “Noise? Mother, that’s Bing Crosby.”
Noise! Was it ever thus? Yes, it was.

For an approving take on the singer, here’s Roaring Lion’s “Bing Crosby.” And here’s Van Dyke Parks’s recording of that tune, released on the album Discover America fifty years ago this month.

Garfield, with, without

Here’s a strip that I think is better minus thought balloons but with Garfield.

[Garfield, May 18, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

But maybe not:

[Garfield, May 18, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

There’s also a Marie Kondo version, with Garfield and Odie in a box on a faraway shelf. Or maybe they’ve gone to the Goodwill:

[Garfield, May 18, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

No more Garfield for me after today. My tolerance is limited. Maybe yours too.

Previous examples
Thoughtless : “Look at me” : Odie with sunglasses : Sofa, Jon’s back

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

In search of lost LA

Art Donovan (Jack Bannon) asks questions. Charlie Hume (Mason Adams) answers. From the Lou Grant episode “Hollywood” (December 17, 1979):

“When did they get rid of the orange groves in the Valley? Whatever happened to the eucalyptus trees along Melrose? Why do I sound like a ninety–year–old man?”

“You know, what surprises me is that so much of the town is still here. Remember those donut places shaped like coffee mugs? I saw one the other day. Now it's dry cleaner shaped like a coffee mug. But you see, the old LA is still here just under the surface. But you gotta look for it.”
It’s a singular episode: a miniature film noir, with George Chandler, Laraine Day, Howard Duff, Nina Foch, Margaret Hamilton, John Larch, Paul Stewart, and Marie Windsor.

A pencil sculpture

A Minneapolis man is sculpting a giant no. 2 pencil from a dead tree. Sixteen feet tall, to be sharpened away, one foot a year.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A BFD, I hope

In The New York Times this afternoon:

The Justice Department has asked the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack for transcripts of interviews it is conducting, which have included discussions with associates of former President Donald J. Trump, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

The move, coming as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland appears to be ramping up the pace of his painstaking investigation into the Capitol riot, is the clearest sign yet of a wide-ranging inquiry at the Justice Department.

Garfield minus Garfield

I somehow got to thinking about Garfield minus Garfield, a self-explanatory strategy for greater reading enjoyment. Does it still work?

[Garfield, May 9, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

[Garfield, May 14, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

I think so.

Previous examples
Thoughtless : “Look at me” : Odie with sunglasses

Mystery actors

[Click for a larger view.]

The fellow on the far left is a real mystery. I have no idea who he is. But the other two should be familiar to anyone who’s spent a healthy (?) amount of time in front of a warm TV.

Thank goodness I can still screenshot movies on a Mac.

Leave your best guesses in the comments. I’ll add hints if they’re needed.

*

The name of the boy in the middle is now in the comments. A hint for the man on the right: he’s probably best known for a long-running role as a minister.

*

The name of the man on the right is now in the comments.

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

Monday, May 16, 2022

FSRC: annual report

The Four Seasons Reading Club, our household’s two-person adventure in reading, has finished its seventh year. The club began after I retired from teaching, so the year runs from May to May. In our seventh year we read novels, novellas, short-story collections, graphic novels, non-fiction, a Socratic dialogue, a children’s story, and a poem. In alphabetical order:

Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen, trans. unknown

W.H. Auden, “Musée des Beaux Arts”

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room, Go Tell It on the Mountain

Honoré de Balzac, The Memoirs of Two Young Wives, trans. Jordan Stump

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village

Emmanuel Bove, My Friends, trans. Janet Louth

Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Charlotte Brontë, Villette

Jerry Craft, Class Act, New Kid

Robertson Davies, The Salterton Trilogy: Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, A Mixture of Frailties

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories

Tove Jansson, The Summer Book, trans. Thomas Teal

Robert Musil, Intimate Ties: Two Novellas, trans. Peter Wortsman; Young Törless, trans. Mike Mitchell

Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

Gary Paulsen, Hatchet

Jed Perl, Authority and Freedom: A Defense of the Arts

Plato, Gorgias, trans. Walter Hamilton and Chris Emlyn-Jones

Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Anna Seghers, The Dead Girls’ Class Trip, trans. Margot Bettauer Dembo

Gilbert Sorrentino, Aberration of Starlight

Art Spiegelman, Maus

Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Treasure Island

Adalbert Stifter, The Bachelors, trans. David Bryer; Motley Stones, trans. Isabel Fargo Cole

Kathrine Kressmann Taylor, Address Unknown

Eudora Welty, Thirteen Stories

Now it’s on to Nella Larsen, Passing.

Here are the reports for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Streaming screenshots

If you use a Mac, you may have noticed that it’s no longer possible to take a screenshot with commercial streaming services. With Safari it's been impossible for some time. And now it’s the same with the Brave browser — there’s just a black rectangle where a screenshot should be.

I cannot find a Safari extension that will bring screenshots back. But there is a fix with Brave: add the Chrome extension Screenshot Tool.

I would guess that this extension works with Chrome itself, but I don’t (won’t) use Chrome. If anyone can verify that Screenshot Tool works there, please do. And if anyone has a fix for Safari, please share.

I’ve found little discussion of this problem — and no solutions — online, so I hope this post is helpful to some movie fanatic somewhere.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

“America is minorities”

A sopabox speaker addresses a small crowd, presenting himself an “American American,” or what Tucker Carlson would call a “legacy American.” The speaker rails against “Negroes,” Catholics, Masons, and “alien foreigners.” A Hungarian-born professor listens with dismay: “I’ve heard this kind of talk before, but I never expected to hear it in America.” When the speaker is done, the professor talks at length to another spectator who thought the speaker made “pretty good sense” — at least until he mentioned the Masons. From the 1945 Department of Defense film Don’t Be a Sucker :

“We must never let ourselves be divided by race, or color, or religion, because in this country we all belong to minority groups. I was born in Hungary; you are a Mason: these are minorities. And then you belong to other minority groups too. You are a farmer; you have blue eyes; you go to the Methodist church. Your right to belong to these minorities is a precious thing. You have a right to be what you are and say what you think, because here we have personal freedom. We have liberty.

“And these are not just fancy words. This is a practical and priceless way of living. But we must work at it. We must guard everyone's liberty, or we can lose our own. If we allow any minority to lose its freedom by persecution, or by prejudice, we are threatening our own freedom. And this is not simply an idea: this is good, hard common sense.

“You see, here in America it is not a question of whether we tolerate minorites. America is minorities. And that means you and me. So let’s not be suckers. We must not allow the freedom or dignity of any man to be threatened by any act or word. Let’s be selfish about it. Let’s forget about we and they. Let’s think about us.
[The orator: Richard Lane. The professor: Paul Lukas. Both uncredited. A 1945 audience would have immediately recognized both.]

Gnome Bakers

[316 E. 59th Street, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click either image for a much larger view.]

I’ll let this New York Times article (1990) tell the story of Gnome Bakers. The Times mentions a papier-mâché gnome that once sat atop the roof, leaning against the chimney (“Unusual Breads & Rolls”). The word “Energy” is spelled out vertically above the small window between the dancing gnomes. Now there’s a sentence I could never have imagined writing.

Here, from 2015, when 316 E. 59th was for rent ($14,000 a month), are photographs of the building’s exterior and interior, with a nice glimpse of the rooftop gnome as seen from the entrance ramp to the Queensboro Bridge. Slow down, you move too fast. You got to see the gnome at last.

Nowadays 316 houses a chiropractor’s office.

Thanks, Brian.

Related posts
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Today’s Mutts

Today’s Mutts.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Buffalo

From The New York Times:

His writings were also riddled with racist, anti-immigrant views arguing that white Americans are at risk of being replaced by people of color, a common trope on the far-right known as the “great replacement” theory.
I can already guess what Tucker Carlson might say about it, if he dares to say anything about it: What this young man did was wrong, &c. And I never encouraged anyone to, &c. I condemn in the strongest possible terms, &c. But what happened in Buffalo should not make us close our eyes to, &c.

I fear that’s how it will go.

[The Times reports that the killer learned about “replacement theory” from 4chan.]

Egghead paperbacks

“Wouldn’t it make more sense,” Epstein asked, “to sell twenty copies of The Sound and the Fury at a dollar than one hardcover copy at ten dollars?”

In The American Scholar, Mark LaFlaur writes about Jason Epstein and “The Birth of the Egghead Paperback.”

A related post
The Eighth Street Bookshop (A 1961 advertisement)

224 > 205

From Business Insider: Jen Psaki held more formal press briefings during her fifteen months as White House press secretary (224) than the defeated former president’s press secretaries held in four years (205).

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Stella Zawistowski, is about half as difficult as the last two Stumpers. Difficult, yes, but not sitting-at-the-kitchen-table-for-half-an-hour difficult. I began by filling in five letters of 14-D, seven letters, “Disgorge.” And the last letter made 33-A, six letters, “Nethermost” easy to see. 51-A, four letters, “French Toaster Sticks brand” was a gimme (though not a breakfast food I’d choose for myself), and that made 42-D, seven letters, “Largest Arab country by area” and the rest of the southeast corner relatively easy to work out. The toughest part of the puzzle: the northeast corner. 11-D, five letters, “Where to grab your spears”? My first thought was of asparagus.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, seven letters, “Acting appallingly.” Improves a familiar crossword word.

8-D, six letters, “Fancy footwork.” Not really. Footwork is in the origin, but the word’s meanings in English leave the feet behind.

19-A, five letters, “Take over.” A bit forced.

30-A, three letters, “How Timon of Athens originated.” If I understand this clue, the answer is exceeedingly forced.

36-A, four letters, “Use soap and water.” A word I learned from reading Nabokov.

36-D, eight letters, “Order to proceed.” A nice clash between the dignity of the clue and the abandon of the answer.

37-A, six letters, “Brit billiard player’s outerwear.” I don’t know why I know this word.

37-D, seven letters, “Hard to hobnob with.” Why bother?

45-A, seven letters, “‘Eighter from _____’ (casino dice roll).” Sounds like something from a Frank Sinatra–Dean Martin movie.

53-D, four letters, “Call it.” It wouldn’t hurt to have added a pronoun.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 13, 2022

“Indefensible”

Twenty-five paragraphs into a twenty-nine-paragraph Washington Post article about Samuel Alito’s (virtual) appearance at George Mason University: the news that Alito called the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which protects LGBTQ persons from workplace discrimination, “indefensible.” Or rather, he called the use of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a basis for the decision indefensible:

While he said he wasn’t defending past actions, Alito said it was clear Congress at that time allowed and practiced discrimination.

“It is inconceivable that either Congress or voters in 1964 understood discrimination because of sex to mean discrimination because of sexual orientation, much less gender identity,” Alito said. “If Title VII had been understood at that time to mean what Bostock held it to mean, the prohibition on discrimination because of sex would never have been enacted. In fact, it might not have gotten a single vote in Congress.”
In other words, past discrimination justifies continued discrimination.

That is what’s indefensible.

Sunshine of my mondegreen

I’ve been mishearing the words since the Atco 45 rpm days:

It’s gettin’ near dawn, when light grows a tiger’s eye
No: “when lights close their tired eyes.”

And:
I’ll stay with you till my seeds are dried up
No: “seas.” Though “seeds” makes a sort of sense.

I’m glad I finally thought to check the lyrics.

My own personal mondegreens
“And Jupiter collides with Mars” : “Blowin’ through the chasm in my mind” : “Sweet Loretta Modern”

“Music from Nancy”

[“Music from Nancy,” by Steve Sweet, Steve Cunningham and Jesse Poimboeuf.]

Thanks, John.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Separated at birth

  [Chico Marx and Robert Walden. Click either image for a larger view.]

We were watching Lou Grant, and Elaine saw the resemblance.

Also separated at birth
Claude Akins and Simon Oakland : Ernest Angley and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán : Nicholson Baker and Lawrence Ferlinghetti : William Barr and Edward Chapman : Bérénice Bejo and Paula Beer : Ted Berrigan and C. Everett Koop : David Bowie and Karl Held : Victor Buono and Dan Seymour : Ernie Bushmiller and Red Rodney : John Davis Chandler and Steve Buscemi : Ray Collins and Mississippi John Hurt : Broderick Crawford and Vladimir Nabokov : Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy : Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Gough : Henry Daniell and Anthony Wiener : Jacques Derrida, Peter Falk, and William Hopper : Adam Driver and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska : Bonita Granville and Cyndi Lauper : Charles Grassley and Abraham Jebediah Simpson II : Elaine Hansen (of Davey and Goliath) and Blanche Lincoln : Barbara Hale and Vivien Leigh : Pat Harrington Jr. and Marcel Herrand : Harriet Sansom Harris and Phoebe Nicholls : Steven Isserlis and Pat Metheny : Colonel Wilhelm Klink and Rudy Giuliani : Ton Koopman and Oliver Sacks : Steve Lacy and Myron McCormick : Don Lake and Andrew Tombes : Markku Luolajan-Mikkola and John Malkovich : William H. Macy and Michael A. Monahan : Fredric March and Tobey Maguire : Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Smith : Jean Renoir and Steve Wozniak : Molly Ringwald and Victoria Zinny

“Striking similarities” between commencement speeches

At Duke University, a commencement speech that bears “striking similarities” to one delivered at Harvard University eight years ago.

One way to ensure that your commencement speech will not bear striking similarities to someone else’s commencement speech: don’t carefully “reword” (as they say) passages from that other speech.

The awkward question to ask: How likely is it that this commencement speech marks the first time the speechmaker has taken someone else’s words and ideas, made slight alterations, and presented the result as her own work?

*

May 13: Here’s a side-by-side video comparison.

Related reading
All OCA plagiarism posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

“Coming back as a cat”

William Russ, sixty-one, gravedigger:

Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (1969).

Also from Akenfield
Davie’s hand : Rubbish : “Just ‘music’” : “Caught in the old ways” : “The blue rode well in the corn” : “I began in a world without time”

A pencil truck

In Somerville, Massachusetts, a giant (non-working) pencil atop a truck.

Another vote from Mary Miller

My (nominal) representative in Congress, Mary Miller (R, IL-15), was one of fifty-seven House Republicans to vote yesterday against additional emergency appropriations for Ukraine. There’s something about Mary.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

Heather Cox Richardson’s latest

“Socialism — it starts with democracy”: so says a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan. Today’s installment of Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American is a must-read.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Lou’s who

The Tribune ran an article about an NCAA investigation into the “Los Angeles University” football program. Readers got angry. And now Lou (Ed Asner) has a security guard, Frank (Mike Henry), outside his house. From the Lou Grant episode “Sports” (January 10, 1978):

Frank: “I’m here to protect you.”

Lou: “Against who?”

Frank: “Cranks, weirdos. Say, isn’t that ‘against whom’? I mean, I know you’re an editor.”

Lou (resignedly): “Against whom.”

Frank: “I’ve been taking Business English at night.”

Lou: “You’re doing great, Frank. Come on, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”
Related whoms
Fritzi Ritz : Hallmark : Mutts : Peanuts : Shirley Temple : Some Came Running

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

I think it’s a tough one — tough as in I have no idea. How about you?

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

Thanks, Brian.

*

Here’s a hint: this actor is best known for a role in a television series. And known, really, only for that role, beginning in the 1950s and extending into the 1960s.

*

The answer is now (sort of) in the comments.

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

Monday, May 9, 2022

Word Matters on Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”

I like what George Orwell says about language. I think of him as an ally, not an enemy. Thus the recent discussion of the 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” on the Merriam-Webster podcast Word Matters (transcript here) disappoints me. All three M-W editors — Emily Brewster, Ammon Shea, Peter Sokolowski — weigh in against the essay, with Shea leading the way. It’s “a bad piece of writing,” he says, the work of a writer who doesn’t understand “how language works” and has “no business” writing about it. Sokolowski pitches in: “All [Orwell] really is doing is listing his peeves.” Brewster, who begins by saying that she can defend at least some elements in the essay, ends up going along with her fellow editors.

The spirit of Geoffrey Pullum hovers over the discussion, which is to say that the M-W editors, like Pullum, take a celebrated work about writing and avow that it’s worthless. It’s no coincidence that The Elements of Style, Pullum’s favorite target, should make its way into the discussion, with Shea calling it “a horrible dated document that should be burned in a trash heap,” and Sokolowski approvingly offering a near-quotation from Pullum: “a toxic little compendium of nonsense.”

But as with Pullum’s examination of The Elements of Style, this examination of “Politics and the English Language” distorts what Orwell says. Contra Shea, Orwell doesn’t say that one can never use long words. Contra Shea, Orwell doesn’t say that one can never use the passive voice, only that one shouldn’t use it when one can use the active voice.¹ It may be true that Orwell uses the passive voice in a fifth of the sentences in this essay, a point that Shea likely gleaned from page 720 of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage, but page 720 also points out that Orwell’s uses of the passive are wholly appropriate. And contra Shea, Orwell doesn’t contradict himself by using metaphors and similes, because Orwell doesn’t prohibit the use of metaphors and similes. (How could he?) He cautions only against using those that are already familiar from print.² Orwell’s own comparisons by contrast are original and vivid: “outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page”; “an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink”; “one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”

When the M-W editors are not distorting, they’re dismissing, asserting with confidence that Orwell’s “rules” (that’s Orwell’s word) won’t help anyone become a better writer. Here are the rules, which Orwell says will cover “most cases”:

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
That’s the kind of advice that teachers of writing have long given to students to counter cliché, clutter, and pomposity. The M-W editors’ insistence that there are no “steps” one can follow to become a better writer is unpersuasive: while there are no steps that one can follow to a finish line, there are things that a writer can do, again and again, to improve a piece of writing sentence by sentence.³ And there are overarching questions that Orwell suggests a scrupulous writer bear in mind:
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?⁴
The M-W editors’ distortions and dismissals dismay me, but I find greater fault with their failure to address Orwell’s consideration of political language. Orwell indeed sees an English in decline, but he’s not carping about, as Sokolowski puts it, “kids today”: Orwell is writing about the debasement of language in high places. And unlike a typical declinist, he thinks that each of us can do our bit to reverse decline by getting rid of bad language habits and thinking more clearly. It’s astonishing to me that the M-W editors make no space for a consideration of, say, the insidious euphemism of enhanced interrogation techniques or special military operation, or the genteel dishonesty of alternative facts. Nor do the editors discuss what seems (to me) the great weakness of Orwell’s argument: its failure to acknowledge that plain language, too, can serve toxic political ends. Lock her up is clearly barbarous.

Scrupulous or even cursory reading of “Politics and the English Language” reveals, again and again, that the Merriam-Webster editors’ criticisms of the essay have no basis in the essay. Orwell deserves better than he got in this podcast.

Related reading
All OCA Orwell posts (Pinboard) : Couric and Palin and Orwell (One of the most widely read posts on my blog)

¹ I take Orwell’s meaning to be that one should use the passive voice when the active voice is inappropriate: “I was born in Brooklyn,” not “My mother gave birth to me in Brooklyn.” Similarly, one should not use a long word when a short one will do. When a long one is appropriate, a short one won’t do. Orwell’s advice to cut words that can be cut should be read as a suggestion to write, say, now instead of at this particular moment in time, not as a suggestion to sacrifice detail.

² I’m reminded of Pullum’s extraordinary claim that The Elements of Style prohibits the use of adjectives and adverbs.

³ Richard Lanham’s Paramedic Method (Revising Prose (2007), and outlined here) is one example. The mental or written notes that writers make about things to watch for in their work — e.g., “Avoid ‘this’ alone”; “Check on ‘if’ and ‘whether’ — are others.

⁴ Merriam-Webster’s definitions of scrupulous: “having moral integrity,” “acting in strict regard for what is considered right or proper,” “punctiliously exact,” “painstaking.” I think of care in writing as a moral imperative, even if I still make typos.

[This post is for my friend Stefan Hagemann.]

Timothy Snyder, from “9 Theses”

Timothy Snyder, from “9 Theses on Putin's Fascism for 9 May”:

Under Putin, the word “fascist” (or “Nazi”) just means “my chosen enemy, who is to be eliminated.” These terms in official Russian usage today are simply hate speech enabling war crimes. We know this from the speech acts of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, who legitimate the murder and rape of civilians by reference to “Nazis.” As the Kremlin has made clear, “denazification” means “deukrainization,” which is nothing other than the aspiration to genocide.
“9 Theses” is an installment of Snyder’s newsletter Thinking about . . . . I also recommend his On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017).

A handful of passages from On Tyranny
“Believe in truth” : Distinguishing truth from falsehood : Nationalism vs. patriotism : “Do not obey in advance” : “Nay, come, let’s go together”

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Pinboard is down

Twitter tells me that Pinboard is down. The widget for Pinboard tags in the OCA sidebar isn’t working, which means that the rest of the sidebar refuses to load. So I’ve removed the widget for now.

*

Later that same day . . .

Pinboard is back.

Seven channels

[Zippy, May 8, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

In today’s Zippy, Zippy and Zerbina are watching television, warming themselves with old reruns.

“Seven channels” will click for anyone who grew up in the New York metropolitan area: 2 (WCBS), 4 (WNBC), 5 (WNEW), 7 (WABC), 9 (WOR), 11 (WPIX), and 13 (WNET). Were there other regions with seven channels?

I guess that the Zs’ TV doesn’t get UHF channels — there was once a world of weirdness there: Uncle Floyd, Walter Mercado, professional wrestling.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Mother’s Day

[My mom, not yet a mom, in Florida, 1954. Photograph by my dad, not yet my dad. Click for a larger view.]

They were horsing around. I suspect my dad put her up to it. I’m going to show my mom this photograph later today. It’s in an album she’s entrusted to me for safekeeping.

The book is Cobean’s Naked Eye (1950), cartoons by Sam Cobean, a New Yorker cartoonist.

Here’s my mom in 1954, not hiding from the camera.

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is a Stumper indeed. I typed my final letter — the first letter of 51-A, three letters, “Document placeholder” and 51-D, four letters, “Word on a birth ‘anuncio’” — with great confidence that it would be wrong, and it turned out to be correct. But after looking at a number of birth announcements in Spanish, I’m not persuaded that 51-D is a good answer. I may be wrong. But I got the right answer.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

7-D, six letters, “Paper from the Latin for ‘woven.’” Huh.

12-D, ten letters, “Coldly impersonal.” The first four letters might lead you in the wrong direction.

15-A, ten letters, “Preposterous!” For some reason, I like stodgily exclamatory clues and answers. Balderdash!

18-A, four letters, “More, for less?” Cute.

19-A, four letters, “‘Miss’ metaphor.” A fine example of a smart clue complicating an ordinary answer.

26-A, thirteen letters, “Where to see columns on the house.” Not where you might think.

27-D, ten letters, “Many a railroad relic, today.” My first thought was of repurposed raiload ties.

32-A, three letters, “What Indy Jones got from the Sorbonne.” I’m not going into the weeds about it, but this answer doesn’t fit. Perhaps in the fictive world it fits.

39-D, four letters, “‘Life’ lesson.” Been there, done that.

41-A, thirteen letters, “Where you meet we?” Clever.

52-D, four letters, “Whaler-turned-retailer.” Information retrieval! I don’t know how I know this factoid.

55-A, ten letters, “Special order for Qatar Airways (!)” The clue is supposed to be edgy, I suppose, but it’s really provincial. Qatar Airways serves a wide variety of special meals.

61-A, ten letters, “Rise preventers.” What?!

My favorite in this puzzle: 40-D, seven letters, “Best alternative.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Visitors to the newsroom

Watching Lou Grant, I have sometimes imagined what it might be like if the old gang from WJM-TV were to show up.

Scene: a grim-looking Lou Grant in his Los Angeles Tribune office, with Charlie, Donovan, and an unidentified stranger. The old gang enters.

Mary: “Mr. Grant! It’s been such a long time !”

Lou (grimly): “Hello, Mary.”

Ted: “Why so blue, Lou?”

Lou: “Because we’re being held hostage, Ted!”

Murray: “Now you now how I felt every time Ted did the news.”

Charlie: “Lou, are these people your friends?”
Worlds colliding.

Related reading
All OCA MTM posts (Pinboard)

[The Tribune newsroom was held hostage, season one, episode two, “Hostages” (September 27, 1977).]

Squareword

It’s like Wordle times five, or ten: Squareword. You guess five across-words, which also form five down-words. One play per day.

Wordle is forever hit or miss, but I think it’s possible to get better at Squareword.

[Speaking of hit or miss: I missed yesterday’s Wordle after getting stuck with _O_ER. BOXER? COVER? FOYER? JOKER? LOWER? No, HOMER.]

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Mary Miller in the news

“The conservative firebrand quickly made a name for herself in Congress purporting to protect children from ideas she considers offensive”: Mary Miller has some explaining to do.

I skipped posting about Miller’s recent events with the defeated former president and Lauren Boebert. But this story I couldn’t let go by. Here’s another account, with additional background.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

Eleven movies, one season

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

Arson, Inc. (dir. William Berke, 1949). A firefighter goes undercover to investigate an arson-for-hire business. A surprisingly good B-movie, with mild suspense, modest human interest (a teacher who trades off babysitting jobs with her cigarette-smoking grandmother), and a pyromaniac who provides comic relief until he doesn’t. I liked seeing the familiar face of Byron Foulger, a member of Preston Sturges’s stock company. This movie might prompt viewers here and there to recall a local fire or two, never properly investigated, set by a real-estate mogul looking to collect on the insurance and build something new. ★★★ (YT)

*

Insurance Investigator (dir. George Blair, 1951). An insurance investigator goes undercover to investigate the death of an executive. See, there’s a double indemnity claim at stake. Dumb from start to finish. The only redeeming element: a mustached Reed Hadley as a criminal. ★ (YT)

*

While the City Sleeps (dir. Leslie Roush, c. 1940). It’s a film-noir title (dir. Fritz Lang, 1956), but this a short promotional film from the Ford Motor Company is noir of another sort: about people who work at night. “Thousands of men, thousands of trucks,” the narrator says. Yes, they drive by night (as another movie says), working while everyone else sleeps, delivering bread, milk, produce, and what-not to towns and cities. If you enjoy glimpses of people loading and unloading trucks in the wee small hours of the morning (as the song says), you’ll like seeing these glimpses of the dowdy world. ★★★★ (YT)

*

The Window (dir. Ted Tetzlaff, 1949). Tommy Woodry (the ill-fated child-star Bobby Driscoll) likes to tell tall tales, so when he claims to have witnessed a murder, no one believes him — except the killers. A great movie, filmed on location, with clueless parents (Arthur Kennedy and Barbara Hale), dangerous neighbors (Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman), and great views inside a New York tenement. Talk about childhood fears: what could be more terrifying than to be locked in an apartment, alone, when someone is out to get you? My favorite moment: the hanger and the key. ★★★★ (TCM)

*

Key Witness (dir. D. Ross Lederman, 1947). Milton Higby (John Beal) is a diffident drafter who invents gadgets and fends off his wife’s (Barbara Read) complaints about his earning power. Milton’s life changes when he flees the scene of a murder (which he did not commit), takes to hoboing, and is mistaken for the long-lost son of a wealthy capitalist. Wildly implausible yet somehow compelling. I recognized just one face in this effort: that of Harry Hayden, the character actor who plays the diner proprietor in the (great) opening scene of The Killers. ★★★ (YT)

*

Shack Out on 101 (dir. Edward Dein, 1955). Deliriously odd: the setting is a California diner, whose waitress, Kotty (Terry Moore), interests everyone — proprietor George (Keenan Wynn), feral cook Slob (Lee Marvin), and nuclear scientist/shell collector Sam (Frank Lovejoy). The plot concerns sensitive secrets being passed to the Communists. But what’s really important here is the improvisatory shape of things: whole scenes appear to have been filmed as ad lib sketches. Best moment: weightlifting (Wynn and Marvin) and a beautiful legs contest (Wynn, Marvin, Moore). ★★★ (YT)

*

Valley of the Dolls (dir. Mark Robson, 1967). Just ridiculous, with lousy acting, and dialogue that sounds like the work of AI, minus the I. And it’s as if no one was aware that the 1960s were well underway: Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, and Sharon Tate, whose characters are the focus of this tawdry story of show biz and pills (“dolls” are downers), seem like throwbacks to another era with their bouffant hairdos and elegant outfits. The best/worst moments: Neely O’Hara’s (Duke) All About Eve metamorphosis into a next-generation Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward). It’s vaguely troubling to see Paul Burke (Naked City) and Martin Milner (Route 66, Adam-12) in these surroundings. ★★ (TCM)

*

Mona Lisa (dir. Neil Jordan, 1986). Out of prison (we never know what he was in for), George (Bob Hoskins) takes on work as driver and bodyguard for Simone (Cathy Tyson), a high-priced call girl. George and Simone’s time together is at the heart of the movie, as a working non-relationship develops into an ambiguous alliance complicated by other allegiances, by the assumptions governing the world of sex work, and by George’s profound sense of decency. Michael Caine and Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon of The Wire) provide moments of great menace. My favorite moment: the skipping away. ★★★★ (CC)

*

Lou Grant (created by James L. Brooks, Allan Burns, and Gene Reynolds, 1977–1978). I have an excuse for missing this series the first time around: it was a school night, and I was studying (I think). The first season is great stuff, with strong, still-contemporary storylines (domestic abuse, hospice care, mental illness and health care, neo-Nazis, sexual abuse) and sharply drawn characters full of idiosyncracies (Mrs. Pynchon and her ever-present dog; Rossi and his orange soda). With Ed Asner, Mason Adams, Daryl Anderson, Jack Bannon, Linda Kelsey, Nancy Marchand, and Robert Walden. ★★★★ (YT)

*

Three from the Criterion Channel’s Ida Lupino feature

Peter Ibbetson (dir. Henry Hathaway, 1935). A mystical love story of children (Dickie Moore, Virginia Weidler) reunited in adulthood (Gary Cooper and Ann Harding) — reunited, at least, in shared dreams. The story of young Gogo and Mimsey looks forward to the pathos of Forbidden Games; the story of the adult Peter and Mary suggests — no joke — Dante and Beatrice and the beatific vision. The luminous cinematography is by Charles Lang. Ida Lupino makes only a brief appearance. ★★★★ (CC)

Out of the Fog (dir. Anatole Litvak, 1941). A Criterion blurb describes it as an allegory of fascism set in “a small fishing village,” and I suspect that the writer was going on a 1939 New York Times review of Irwin Shaw’s play The Gentle People (the source for this movie). The film though is a working-class drama of the Brooklyn waterfront (no village!), where a cocky small-time gangster (John Garfield) is able to shake down a tailor and a cook (Thomas Mitchell, John Qualen) for weekly payments by threatening to destroy their humble motorboat. The sordidness heightens when the gangster begins wooing Stella, the tailor’s daughter (Ida Lupino), and schemes to take her for a vacation to Cuba on an additional $190 extorted from her father. Dreadfully stagey dialogue, a great performance from Lupino, and dark, misty cinematography from James Wong Howe. ★★★ (CC)

The Sea Wolf (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1941). Edward G. Robinson stars as Wolf Larsen, the sadistic captain of a scavenger. When he’s not stealing other ships’ seal hides, he reads Darwin and Nietzsche and brutalizes and humiliates his crew members (Barry Fitzgerald, John Garfield, and Gene Lockhart are among them). Also on board: two travelers rescued from a downed ship, an escaped convict (Ida Lupino) and a genteel writer (Alexander Knox). All the ship’s a stage on which Larsen gets to play out the creed underlined in his copy of Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.” ★★★★ (CC)

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)