Thursday, March 31, 2022

You and Your Vocabulary

From the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode “Mary Richards: Producer” (January 4, 1975). Ted (Ted Knight) is increasing his vocabulary. Murray (Gavin MacLeod) is skeptical.

Ted: “Say, the newsroom is certainly redolent of coffee this morning.”

Murray: “It’s what?”

Ted Baxter: “And you call yourself a writer? Redolent, redolent of coffee. It means it smells.”

Mary: “Ted, what’s the book?”

Ted: “You and Your Vocabulary. I’m planning to work in a few words to every newscast to give it a little class. What do you think of the idea, Mur?”

Murray: “I think it’s redolent, Ted.”
Murray refuses to work any of Ted’s vocabulary words into his copy. But that night, on the news:
Ted: “Monsignor Walter O’Rourke is dead at eighty-seven. Until his retirement in 1958, Monsignor O’Rourke served the Twin Cities diocese, where he was much beloved. Let me just say this: I didn’t know the monsignor personally, but I’ll bet you he was never lethargic, redolent, bellicose, or lascivious.”
From the Garner’s Modern English Usage essay on sesquipedality : “Build your vocabulary to make yourself a better reader; choose simple words whenever possible to make yourself a better writer.”

Related reading
All OCA MTM posts (Pinboard)

Heather Cox Richardson’s latest

The March 30 installment of Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American is an especially helpful one, about CBS, Mick Mulvaney, facts, democracy, and authoritarianism. HCR puts events into context in ways that go far beyond what’s available on “the news.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Miller and Meadowses

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Representative Mary Miller (IL-15) “is benefiting from a $74,054.74 independent expenditure by the Right Women political action committee.” The group’s founder: Debra Meadows. Among its leaders: her husband Mark.

As the Sun-Times reminds us, the Meadowses are suspected of voter fraud, having voted from a North Carolina address where they never resided. As the Sun-Times also reminds us, Miller issued a press release before taking office calling the 2020 presidential election “the greatest heist of the 21st century.” She voted against certifying the result, of course.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts

Library of Congress pencil pics

My friend Fresca just informed me that today is National Pencil Day and that the Library of Congress Instagram account has an appropriate array of photographs.

Thanks, Fresca!

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

The world and the corner

From the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode “Not a Christmas Story” (November 9, 1974). Murray (Gavin MacLeod) has written a new opening for Ted (Ted Knight):

“Good evening. This is Ted Baxter, with news from around the world and around the corner.“
But Ted thinks it would be better the other way around:
“Good evening. This is Ted Baxter, with news from around the corner and around the world.“
And, of course, an argument follows. Perhaps the show’s writers themselves had disagreed about how the line should go.

Who do you think has it right — Murray, or Ted? Which opening sounds better to you, and why? Anyone teaching a writing class: you might bring this question in and ask your students which and why.

Related reading
All OCA MTM posts (Pinboard)

[The episode is at YouTube. The first scene has the argument, but the line is a subject of discussion as the episode continues.]

Advice about news

Advice in The Washington Post: “How to stay up-to-date on terrible news without burning out.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Yellow Ticonderogas

Eberhard Faber Mongols were on the job in the WJM newsroom during the first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. After that, it’s Dixon Ticonderogas and no-name pencils. A great loss for Mongol fans.

Perhaps one of the writers was using a Ticonderoga when working on the episode “Mary Richards and the Incredible Plant Lady” (March 3, 1973). The premise: Rhoda (Valerie Harper) has borrowed money from Mary to open a plant shop, and she’s taking her time about paying back. The reason: she’s secretly using her earnings to buy Mary a new car, a yellow Mustang convertible. Rhoda knows that Mary has had her eye on a Mustang. But it turns out — uh-oh — that Mary hates yellow. She and Rhoda and Georgette (Georgia Engel) sit in the newly purchased car in the dealer’s showroom:

Georgette: “Yellow’s a lovely color, Mary. It’s the color of the sun, and wheat fields.”

Mary: “Yeah.”

Rhoda: “Ticonderoga pencils.”

Georgette: “And daffodils, and lemons — whoops, I shouldn’t have said that.”
Related reading
All OCA MTM posts : Ticonderoga posts (Pinboard)

A question

Where has Merrick Garland gone? Long time passing.

Representative Elaine Luria (VA-2), last night: “Attorney General Garland, do your job, so that we can do ours.”

Representative Adam Schiff (CA-28), last night: “We are upholding our responsibility. The Department of Justice must do the same.”

Monday, March 28, 2022

Orange tool art

[Kyocera peeler, Harry’s razor.]

We bought the peeler several years ago in an Asian supermarket. I bought the razor a week or so ago, but I recognized the resemblance only last night.

[People without full beards are sometimes surprised to learn that people with full beards still need to shave. That’s how we keep the beard from overtaking the face and neck.]

Our tube

Paul Burke, Lloyd Nolan, Mackenzie Phillips, Lurene Tuttle, and Robert Walden, all in the Murder, She Wrote episode “Murder in the Afternoon” (October 13, 1985). Familiar faces in new (and semi-startling) arrangements: one of the pleasures of television.

See also this cast. And these.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

A working search box

For whatever reason, the DuckDuckGo search box that I’ve had in the sidebar for several years no longer works. As Elaine said, it DuckDuckWent. The DDG page for making a search box is gone, and I’ve been unable to make a new working search box with an independent generator. It all makes me think that the company has disabled embedding. So I’ve switched back to a Google search box.

Blogger being Blogger, the code for the search widget is crummy. And the code is invisible in the Layout window. But if you’re willing to edit the HTML for a Blogger template, you can make things nice. Go to Theme, choose Edit HTML, click on the pile of boxes to find and select the Search widget (labeled BlogSearch1), and change

cellpadding='1' cellspacing='1' to

cellpadding='3' cellspacing='3'.

That’ll give the search box a proper left side and make a little more space between the box and the button.



[If conspiracy theorists are indeed turning to DuckDuckGo, the company might have good reason to disable embedding.]

Helvetica for free

Gary Hustwit’s 2007 documentary Helvetica, now fifteen years old, is streaming free through March 30.

When I first saw this film, almost fifteen years ago, I wrote something about it. My favorite lines (still) are from Erik Spiekermann:

“Other people look at bottles of wine or whatever, or, you know, girls’ bottoms. I get kicks out of looking at type. It’s a little worrying, I must admit. It’s a very nerdish thing to do.”

Outtakes (7)

[Outtakes from the WPA’s New York City tax photographs, c. 1939–1941, available from 1940s NYC. Click any image for a much larger view.]

Related posts
Outtakes (1) : Outtakes (2) : Outtakes (3): Outakes (4) : Outtakes (5) : Outtakes (6) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is a tough one, half-hour territory for me. My spirit sagged at 1-A, five letters, “Norwegian flatbread.” (NJAAN?!) I found a better start at 14-A, five letters, “Ladderback chair elements.” 18-A, nine letters, “India, essentially” helped a lot, as did 39-A, eleven letters, “Overlong addresses.” That last answer is one of several unusual longish ones in this puzzle.

Some other clue-and-answer pairs of note:

3-D, nine letters, “Guitar-and-castanets performances.” It took me a long time to see that the answer was not another nine-letter word.

15-A, five letters, “Part of a Moscow mule, perhaps.” And with a complicated history. No thanks.

21-D, eight letters, "What some game app developers work with." Not every pun deserves respect.

23-A, thirteen letters, “Xenomorph.” You see what I mean about unusual longish answers?

25-D, eight letters, “Insects that coevolved with tropical trees.” Also unusual medium-length answers.

27-D, four letters, “The Bard's ‘being next to Devil,’ per Coleridge.” Misparsing the clue makes the easy answer much more difficulty to see.

30-D, nine letters, “Mustard or cocoa.” Someone understands me.

37-D, eight letters, “The ’40s Motorette, e.g.” What?

My favorite in this puzzle: 29-A, eleven letters, “It may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, March 25, 2022

First word, first syllable

We were reminsicing over breakfast this morning about WILL-TV, our local PBS outlet, which turns 100 this year. For many years, late on weeknights, the station aired Silver Screen, something of a miniature version of TCM (pre-TCM), with a top-notch movie and a host, Thomas Guback, well-versed in film, providing an intro and outro.

I asked Elaine if she remembered what movie blew our minds when we first saw it on Silver Screen. We had tuned in when the movie had already started and had no context: even more reason for it to blow our minds.

Elaine was at a loss. Inspired by our recent reading of Robertson Davies, I pressed on:

Three words, first word, three syllables, first syllable.

[I held an imaginary steering wheel.]

First word, second syllable.

[I gave an indifferent sideways shake of the head.]

That was all it took. Can you identify the movie?

A solemn vow: this will be the only time I use an OCA post to play charades.


No one’s guessed. The title is now in the comments.

Thomas to Meadows

From the Washington Post story about text messages between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows. Thomas to Meadows, November 5, 2020:

Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.
The criminality and craziness in these messages is staggering. I can’t even can’t even.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Walking every street

From The New York Times, “One Cure for Pandemic Doldrums: Walking Every Street in Your City.” With Peoria, among others.

I am reminded of a story about the poet Charles Reznikoff, an inveterate walker. The story goes that when was asked why he had never traveled to Europe, he replied that he still hadn’t walked every street in New York City.

Ted Cruz’s afterglow

From The Independent : “Ted Cruz photographed checking his Twitter mentions after ‘performative tantrum’ at Supreme Court hearing”:

Senator Ted Cruz was caught checking his phone for Twitter mentions by a photo journalist after a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday.

The Texas Republican was accused by social media users of a “performative tantrum” at the hearing after he ignored repeated requests from senator Dick Durbin, the chair of Senate Judiciary Committee, to stop speaking after his allotted time.
That first sentence though could use improvement: “Twitter mentions by a photojournalist”? No. Asking who did what makes it easy to see how the sentence might be made clearer:
A photojournalist caught Senator Ted Cruz checking his phone for Twitter mentions after a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday.
If “his phone” leaves any ambiguity about whose phone, the sentence could go this way:
A photojournalist caught Senator Ted Cruz checking for Twitter mentions after a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson on Wednesday.
The sentences that follow make clear that the junior senator was using his (own) phone.

The article’s headline is a reminder that performative has become what Fowler’s Modern English Usage would call a “worsened word,” once neutral or commendatory but now pejorative.

[The Independent has used three spellings: photo-journalist, photojournalist, and most recently, photo journalist. I’ve used photojournalist, which is overwhelmingly more frequent in both British and American English.]

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

A Homeric ring

Reading a review of Daniel Mendelsohn’s Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate made me think back to ring composition in Homer. Here’s an explanation, from Ralph Hexter’s A Guide to The Odyssey: A Commentary on the English Translation of Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage, 1993):

Ring composition is a characteristic archaic Greek device that poets frequently employed to organize their material and that we presume helped singers and listeners to keep both details and the whole clearly in mind. In other words, it functions in part as a mnemonic device. A ring may involve words or phrases within one sentence, thoughts in a paragraph, or [. . .] narrative blocks. The classic form involves the treatment of elements a, b, and c, after which the poet takes them or variants of them and presents them in reverse order, c′, b′, a′, so that he or she concludes where he or she began.
There are many rings in Homer’s epics (for instance). My favorite is the one that structures the wanderings of Odysseus. I would ask students to memorize it and, in the spirit of oral tradition, recite it (for some number of 100s for quizzes). So I’d have students coming in before or after class or during office hours to recite. Many students thought the memorizing would be daunting. But I never had a student who was unable to do it. Along the way I heard some wonderful stories from students being helped and cheered on by roommates while practicing.

The following schema is from assignment pages that would go out with books 9–12 (Odysseus’s account of his wanderings):

[Click for a larger view.]

I just remembered: I once spoke to a high-school English class about the Odyssey, and an account of my visit appeared on the school’s page in the local newspaper. I was said to have given the students “inside information” on Homer’s poem. In other words, I showed them this ring.

Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)

[I’ve spelled proper names as found in Stanley Lombardo’s translation. Contra the review that prompted this post: ring composition is not a matter of digression.]


Our household’s representative in Congress, Mary Miller (Illinois-15), has been endorsed by Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas. Miller will be facing Rodney Davis in the Republican primary for a redrawn 15th district, so she won’t remain our representative for long. Not that she ever was our representative. She has allied herself with the worst of the worst — Biggs, Boebert, Gaetz, Gohmert, Gosar, Greene, Jordan, and Perry, among others — and has done nothing but stunt and cast appalling votes. She already has the endorsement of the defeated former president. And now Cruz. Eww.

From a 2021 post: “Every time I see Ted Cruz, I am glad that I am someone with more scruples. And a better beard.”

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts

[I won’t link to the source of the Cruz–Miller story. You can guess why. And yes, “junior senator” is deliberate. And yes, his performance yesterday was a disgrace.]

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Ted and Suzy and Fluffy

In the 1950s, Ted Knight was a children’s television host, adept with puppets and ventriloquism. That work must have brought him to the attention of the producers of Lassie, where he appeared in a single episode as Mr. Ventrilo, a traveling entertainer and The World’s Greatest Ventriloquist. His dog-puppet is named Suzy. Lassie thinks she is real.

[Ted Knight as Mr. Ventrilo, with Suzy and Lassie. From the Lassie episode “The Puppet,” March 29, 1959. Click for a larger view.]

For a Lassie fan (like me, from childhood’s hour), the appearance of Mr. Ventrilo’s dog-puppet (now named Fluffy) on The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a wonderful moment of TV intertextuality.

[Ted Knight as Ted Baxter, with Fluffy and Mary Tyler Moore. From the Mary Tyler Moore Show episode “Murray Faces Life,” February 10, 1973.]

There’s no explanation of why Ted Baxter has a dog-puppet in his apartment. But why not? Ted says that it cheers up the stewardesses (sic ) in his apartment building when they’re feeling down.

You can find both episodes at YouTube: Lassie, TMTMS.

Related reading
All OCA Lassie posts : TMTMS posts (Pinboard)

[Almost every post now is a respite from current events.]

dic·tio·nary stuff

An especially good episode of the Merriam-Webster podcast Word Matters: “What Do the Dots Mean in a Definition?” Also starring the tilde, guide words, double hyphens, undefined run-ons, and nattering nabobs of negativism.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)

[The alliteration story recounted in this episode is fun, but judging from a 1973 edition of Barron’s Vocabulary Builder, I think that a page could never run from nabob to nattering, or from pusillanimous to pussyfooter. Not enough words in between.]

Monday, March 21, 2022


[From the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.]

A couple of minutes ago, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) described Odysseus as having himself tied to the mast of his ship so that he would not be tempted by the call of the Sirens. Uh, no. If Odysseus did not want to be tempted, he could have stopped his ears, as his crew did at his (per Circe’s) direction. Odysseus’s ears are unstopped: he chooses to be both tempted and restrained. (He’s Mr. Reckless Curiosity, living on the edge.)


The senator made me the same mistake in the next day’s questioning. In his metaphor, Odysseus was a judge; the mast, the Constitution.

Related posts
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[This post had originally had an additional sheesh: a senatorial error in subject-verb agreement. But that was my mishearing of has for have. I checked: the v of have was barely there.]

Can you read this handwriting?

I’ve been dipping into the NYC Historical Vital Records Project in search of old relations.

Can anyone tell me how my maternal great-grandfather was employed when my grandmother was born?

The handwriting is, let’s say, expressive. The first letter looks like an S. Three of the four lowercase ss on the certificate (all within words) preserve the loop at the top of the letter but lack the loop at the bottom. Which makes me wonder: could that be a capital L? Is that a quick, blurred version of Laborer? If not that, what?

The death certificate for this great-grandfather lists his occupation as porter in a printing shop. I’ve been unable to find other records with his name. (It’s hit and miss.) I’ll be grateful for any earnest guess about this handwritten word.

[The handwriting on this certificate is so, let’s say, expressive that White (for “Color”) looks like Witr.]

Two seasons, ten movies

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

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, seasons six and seven, 1975–1977).

Six: Phyllis has disappeared, gone to San Francisco, and she misses Lars (he’s dead, as you would only know from watching the spinoff Phyllis). Meta: in the season’s second episode, Mary comments on how predictable every element in her life is (including all the newsroom bits), and she packs up and moves to a larger (and weird, and ugly) apartment, where Penny Marshall shows up as a neighbor and John Ritter pops in as a newly ordained minister, performing a wedding in tennis wear. Chuckles the Clown dies at the hands, so to speak, of an elephant, and Robbie Rist (cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch ) appears as a cute kid. ★★★ (H)

Seven: I think the writers were beginning to run out of good ideas: Johnny Carson (really?) shows up (sort of) for a party; Ted and Georgette host a talk show; Mary dates Murray’s father (Lew Ayres!); Lou, Murray, and Ted imagine what it would be like to be married to Mary; Mary dates Lou. There’s even an episode full of entertainment, à la The Dick Van Dyke Show, with Georgette dancing, Ted ventriloquizing, and Mary singing a hilariously prim “One for My Baby.” Sexism in the office seems to worsen, with Lou as the worst offender. The final episode doesn’t make everything right, but it sure makes the tears fall. ★★★ (H)


Mary and Rhoda (dir. Barnet Kellman, 2000). Mary (now widowed) and Rhoda (twice divorced) meet in Manhattan after being out of touch for years. Each is an older woman struggling to find a spot in the working world (Mary as a television producer, Rhoda as a photographer); each has a daughter in college in the city (Mary, Rose; Rhoda, Meredith). But the chemistry that made TMTMS a joy is missing, and it’s painful to see Moore’s face so distorted by cosmetic surgery. Worst scene: when Mary’s compassionate report about a young killer and his family airs on a bar’s TV, Mary and Rhoda stand by as the patrons (who don’t know Mary or that she produced the episode) gather round, watch in silence, and applaud — and the bartender tears up. ★★ (YT)


The Pretender (dir. W. Lee Wilder, 1947). Albert Dekker plays Kenneth Holden, a not-so-suave financial manager borrowing from the trust of Claire Worthington (Catherine Craig), the woman he’s scheming to marry. When Claire announces her plans to marry another man, Holden arranges with a go-between for a hit man to kill the guy: the killer will know his target by seeing an engagement photo in the paper. When Claire drops her fiancé for Holden, and his picture appears in the paper, it’s trouble, because the go-between has been shot to death, and Holden, with no way to contact the unknown hit man, now fears for his life. Directed by Billy Wilder’s brother, this movie is truly, deeply weird in plotting and execution (no pun intended), partly redeemed by Paul Dessau’s music (which includes a nearly atonal pianist playing in a nightclub) and John Alton’s cinematography. ★★★ (YT)


The French Dispatch (dir. Wes Anderson, 2021). An homage to The New Yorker Past, in the form of several stories from The French Dispatch, published in Ennui-sur-Blasé as a magazine supplement to a newspaper, the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. It’s a highly inventive movie, with all kinds of clever visual effects and an outstanding cast. But it’s all surface, surface after surface, none of it adding up to very much. I expected to love this movie but was enormously disappointed. ★★ (HBO)


The Lost Weekend (dir. Billy Wilder, 1945). When I last saw it, in 2016, I wrote a three-sentence review. This time around I thought of looking for Lubitsch touches, and I think I found them: in the initial tracking shot, ending with a bottle hanging on a rope outside an apartment window; in the singer-pianist at Harry and Joe’s (played by Harry Barris, who wrote “I Surrender, Dear,” among other songs); and in the joke about Yom Kippur and St. Patrick’s Day. Ray Milland gives a great performance as Don Birnam, by turns suave and desperate, capable of any deception that will give him the chance to be alone and drink. The other standout is Doris Dowling as Gloria, barfly, escort, and slang specialist. ★★★★ (TCM)


When the Clock Strikes (dir. Edward L. Cahn, 1961). A man is about to be executed for a crime he may not have committed. A witness who testified against him (James Brown) and the convicted man’s wife (Merry Anders) are at a nearby lodge, awaiting the execution. But they’re doing more than watching and waiting: they’re trying to figure out how to get hold of $160,000 that the convicted man stashed away — but where? Often inert, but the pace quickens and the movie becomes more interesting toward the end. ★★ (YT)

[In 2022 money, $160,000 = $1,518.212.71.]


My Cousin Vinny (dir. Jonathan Lynn, 1992). Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci), a personal-injury lawyer, travels from Brooklyn to Wazoo City, Alabama, with his girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) to defend two college kids, his cousin (Ralph Macchio) and his cousin’s friend (Mitchell Whitefield), both charged with murder in a case of mistaken identity. Fred Gwynne appears in his last role as a judge who may or may not figure out that Vinny has been telling lies about his legal background. Everything about this movie is funny and wonderful, from the diner menu to Vinny’s courtroom apparel to the search for a quiet place to sleep to Mona Lisa’s turn on the witness stand. My favorite line: “Yeah yeah yeah,” because that’s exactly how we said it in Brooklyn. ★★★★ (HBO)

[Bonus: spot the copy of The Elements of Style (third edition) in the judge’s chambers.]


People Will Talk (dir. Joseph l. Mankiewicz, 1951). It’s a strange movie, a cross between serious commentary on current events (McCarthyism) and light romantic comedy, and it’s all about secrets. Dr. Noah Praetorius (Cary Grant) has one: how was he earning a living before teaching at a medical school? Shunderson, just Shunderson (Finlay Currie) has one: why is he — a servant? a friend? — always following Dr. Praetorious around? Deborah, just Deborah (Jeanne Crain) has one: why has she fainted while sitting in on an anatomy class? Secrets left unexplained: how they got the word gynecologist past the censors, and whether Hume Cronyn, the little investigator of the story, is meant to resemble Roy Cohn. ‌★★★ (CC)


Three from Republic Pictures

Strangers in the Night (dir. Anthony Mann, 1944). It’s from Republic Pictures, so it’s low-budget effort, but it’s by Anthony Mann, so let’s give it a try. It’s an ultra-bizarre story, with an old woman, Hilda Blake (Helen Thimig); her paid companion Ivy Miller (Edith Barrett); a modern woman of medicine, Dr. Leslie Ross (Virginia Grey); and a Marine back from war, Johnny Meadows (William Terry). And watching over them all, a portrait of Mrs. Blake’s daughter Rosemary, who inscribed a copy of A Shropshire Lad that found its way to Johnny overseas. I can’t say more without giving away the whole thing, but it’s sure worth fifty-six minutes of your time. ★★★★ (YT)

[A discovery after watching: Philip MacDonald, who wrote the story, was a screenwriter for Rebecca.]

Hoodlum Empire (dir. Joseph Kane, 1952). War veteran Joe Gray (John Russell) and a couple of army pals run a happy little gas station and café, with just one problem: Joe has an unsavory backstory, with a mobster uncle (Luther Adler) and his associates, and they’re now trying to pin their racketeering on Joe. Brian Donlevy, Claire Trevor, Forrest Tucker, and Grant Withers are among the supporting players in this modest but absorbing Republic Pictures effort. Adding interest: the story is told largely in flashbacks from different characters’ perspectives. Yet another movie in which mobster talk and tactics make me think of a defeated former president. ★★★ (YT)

Storm Over Lisbon (dir. George Sherman, 1944). It’s a Republic foray into Casablanca territory, with a white-jacketed nightclub owner, Deresco (Erich von Stroheim), an intelligence-carrying American agent, John (Richard Arlen), and a beautiful dancer, Maritza (Vera Hruba Ralston, who can neither dance nor act well). Republic must have gone all out with this one: the sets are impressively elaborate. But the plot seems like the imaginings of kids: the dancer held prisoner in a nightclub, the agent hiding out in a wine cellar, the dancer and agent escaping by running off the nightclub floor. My favorite moment: everyone suddenly — and I do mean suddenly —materializes in the cellar with Maritza and John: Deresco and associates, police, and the streetsingers who have strolled through scene after scene. ★★ (YT)

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Recently updated

UCLA is (not really) hiring Now with “additional context.”

The Entenmann’s life

In The New York Times, Dan Barry writes about the Entenmann‘s life:

For some self-conscious fans, buying an Entenmann’s pastry may call for a little wink-and-nod: The organic bakery was out of its locally sourced herb scones, so we thought it’d be fun to have an Entenmann’s, like the ones our grandmother used to eat out of the box in Massapequa . . .

But Long Island working-class families like mine believed that a box of Entenmann’s conveyed class. It would be on proud display in the kitchen, prominent on the refrigerator or displacing plastic flowers as the table centerpiece.
A related post
Charles Entenmann (1929–2022)


From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click any image for a much larger view.

[Club Diner, 6103 Flushing Avenue, Queens.]

[Eagle Diner, 1855 1st Avenue, Manhattan.]

[Michael's Diner, 3216-20 Steinway Street, Queens.]

[Pall Mall Diner, 14121 Rockaway Boulevard, Queens. The lettering on the car suggests the Pall Mall cigarette pack. And there’s a candy store right next door.]

I think of a line from Ron Padgett’s memoir of the poet Ted Berrigan, after a recounting of cafes and diners in Tulsa and Manhattan: “Every last one of these cafes is now gone.”

Thanks, Brian.

Related posts
Tiny Diner : Two diners from the outtakes : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

[I quoted from Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan (Great Barrington, MA: The Figures, 1993).]

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Lester Ruff — that is, Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, offering an easier puzzle. The puzzle would have been Les Ruff for me save for the west-central region, where I was, for some time, 34-A, fifteen letters, “Busted,” before realizing that I had the answer to 36-D, eight letters, “Knockout of an escort” wrong. When I hit the right word, four other answers fell into place and I was done.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

14-D, six letters, “Texas oil center.” This clue feels off now.

17-A, seven letters, “March march VIP.” Cleverly put. But as for the answer, thumbs down.

18-A, seven letters, “Copyright law concept.” And it’s a good thing.

21-D, three letters, “Holder of markers.” The clue makes the answer new, at least for me.

26-A, four letters, “Sticks on your feet.” Pleasantly defamiliarizing.

28-D, five letters, “What bulls wallow in.” Ahh, it’s good to get away from the hogs.

35-D, eight letters, “It’s more than a Strong Breeze.” I like knowing that there’s a Beaufort Scale, even if I don’t know the scale itself.

47-A, three letters, “Vowelless Scrabble play.” Huh.

62-A, seven letters, “How some prefer their shells.” Nice.

63-A, seven letters, “Publisher’s semi-strong selections.” But they’re not what they used to be.

My favorite clue in this puzzle: 24-D, four letters, “User of scanning devices.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

[Well, one spoiler: here is the Beaufort Scale.]

UCLA is (not really) hiring

My friend Diane Schirf sent me a job listing:

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA seeks applications for an Assistant Adjunct Professor on a without salary basis. Applicants must understand there will be no compensation for this position.
Yes, it’s real. I’ve seen speculation that an insider — perhaps a UCLA researcher — may want to do some teaching and that fair-hiring practices require a job listing. Who knows. But I don’t doubt that UCLA will receive applications from outsiders — wishful thinkers who imagine that this position will afford a chance for future UCLA prospects.

As I thought about this job announcement, I was reminded that academia is indeed something of a cult. Cults, too, expect members to work with little or no compensation.


March 20: The job announcement has disappeared. (It’s still easy to find on Twitter.) The Facebook page for the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry now has a fogged-up, poorly written apology of sorts:

[Click for a larger apology.]

I can only conclude that someone already affiliated with UCLA is the intended candidate. I am imagining a dimly lit lab:

“You got a nice set-up here. A nice little grant. It’d be a shame to see anything happen to it. Now get in that classroom!”

Two more job listings
An extraordinary amount of work for $28,000 a year : “Our students tend to be poorly prepared”

At the MLA

“It was as if we had arrived after the fact — not in the midst of an event, but long after some catastrophe, the story of which we could tell only through fragmentary evidence”: in The Washington Post, Jacob Brogan writes about a visit to the Modern Language Association convention.

An excerpt that brought back memories:

Even in the good years, the convention was a bad place for graduate students searching for work. In a custom now officially discouraged by the association itself, interviews were traditionally conducted in hotel rooms, often with the interviewee sitting awkwardly on the bed as the tenured interviewers perched around them, a flock of judgmental ravens peering down from the eaves.
Even worse, perhaps: a hotel-room interview with just one interviewer.

I wrote out the story of my MLA job-seeking in this post: Fluke life.

Friday, March 18, 2022


On the news tonight: “assured and unassured Americans.”

No, “insured and uninsured Americans.”

I’m insured. But it's difficult to feel assured about anything right now.

Related reading
All OCA misheard posts (Pinboard)

Cellar music

Vera Lytovchenko, violinist, plays for the dozen or so people in a bomb shelter in Kharkiv, Ukraine: “Ukraine’s ‘Cellar Violinist’ Plays On Amid Heaving Bombing” (Billboard ).

More videos at TikTok.

“Puffing defiance”

Monica Gall is back in Canada a a long sojourn abroad.

Robertson Davies, A Mixture of Frailties (1958).

A Mixture of Frailties is the third novel of Davies’s Salterton Trilogy.

This post is for my blogging friend Jim Lowe.

Related reading
All OCA Robertson Davies posts (Pinboard)

Schwarzenegger speaks to Russians

You may have already seen the video. I didn’t know until I read a New York Times article this morning that when the video was posted, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Twitter account was one of twenty-two accounts that Vladimir Putin followed.

Schwarzenegger’s talk is a model of ethos, logos, and pathos.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Recently updated

Run DST Experts come out in favor of year-round Standard Time.

Gall and grammar

Mrs. Alfred Gall, Ma Gall, has ideas about grammar:

Robertson Davies, A Mixture of Frailties (1958).

A Mixture of Frailties is the third novel of Davies’s Salterton Trilogy.

Related reading
All OCA Robertson Davies posts (Pinboard)

On Saint Patrick’s Day

[Hi and Lois, March 17, 2022.]

Attaway, Hi-Lo Amalgamated: have Thirsty Thurston, the strip’s resident alcoholic, dress as a leprechaun and offer greetings.

This panel also loses points for Hi’s announcement. Yes, Hi, we see your tie.

Today’s strip worsens in its second panel: “You’re not even Irish,” says Thirsty. (As if Thurston is a recognizably Irish surname?) And Hi replies, “I can still be lucky, can’t I?” What a wag. But don’t you mean “get lucky,” Hi? Uh, no — it’s a family strip. There’s room for alcoholism, but there’ll be no fooling around.

If I may take a place on the Hi-Lo assembly line for a minute, I’d like to offer an idea. First panel: Trixie stares with a puzzled but happy expression. Second panel: we see that she’s staring at a green sunbeam. (Pantone 347 U.) And she thinks, “On Saint Patrick’s Day even sunbeam’s wearing green!” Aww.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

[The name Leddy is Irish.]

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Braingame

Norm and Dutchy (Yolande) Yarrow are at Waverly University; he in the chaplain’s department, she is an assistant director of recreation. They are giving a party. There has already been one party game, with people tied back to back having to get free. That was Dutchy’s idea. Now another game, suggested by the secretary to the registrar.

Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice (1954).

Good grief. It reminds me of a game of charades from my grad student days. Book title, two words, first word, first syllable, the gesture of pouring. I got it right away: Philosophical Hermeneutics, by Hans-Georg Gadamer. We’d all read it in a seminar. Good grief.

Leaven of Malice is the second novel of Davies’s Salterton Trilogy.

Related reading
All OCA Robertson Davies posts (Pinboard)

Here, there

George Bodmer drew a cartoon: “There is no here, there is no there.”


I was standing next to an abandoned apartment building, moving the contents of one dumpster to another. At the bottom of the first dumpster was a dinosaur, a brontosaurus, I think, with greenish-pinkish neon skin. It must be dead, I thought. But it bounded out of the dumpster and ran down the avenue. I tried to follow, but it had already disappeared. I figured I should tell someone.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Likely sources: watching the news, being stuck behind a garbage truck, seeing a bug on a picture frame and trying to figure out if it was alive. It was.]

Tuesday, March 15, 2022


From NBC News, news that the Senate today approved legislation to make daylight-savings time permanent:

The bill, called The Sunshine Protection Act, was passed by unanimous consent, meaning no senators opposed it. If enacted, the measure would mean Americans no longer need to change their clocks twice a year.
My first thought: moving on this legislation in mid-March gives everyone plenty of time to get ready not to change their clocks in November.

And then I learned that the bill would not take effect until 2023. So there’s at least one more falling back to come.


March 17: “Sleep experts say Senate has it wrong: Standard time, not daylight saving, should be permanent” (The Washington Post ). An excerpt, quoting David Neubauer, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University:
The current enthusiasm for permanent daylight saving time is “grossly misguided,” said Neubauer, who predicted a return to “the extremely unpopular 1970s dark winter mornings with commuters going to work and children going to school long before sunrise, inevitably leading to injuries and fatalities.”
In a comment on this post, Joe DiBiase recalls going to school carrying a flashlight.


Edith Little keeps house for Gloster Ridley, editor of the Salterton newspaper, the Evening Bellman. Mr. Ridley thinks of Mrs. Little as Constant Reader, devouring the newspaper by night and giving unsolicited observations on its contents by day. As Mrs. Little explains to Bevill Higgin, teacher of elocution, she reads for errors:

Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice (1954).

Leaven of Malice is the second novel of Davies’s Salterton Trilogy. A prank makes the plot go: a newspaper announcement of a wedding to take place on November 31. November 31, as on this 2009 calendar.

Related reading
All OCA Robertson Davies posts (Pinboard)


I was clearing out my office again. Again? Well, whatever. I had boxes of books to go through, books I didn’t recognize. One was a thin Penguin paperback, minus covers, with first-person accounts from all sorts of people who had known Shakespeare. How had I missed that book? There were also boxes of videotapes. What was I supposed to do with all this stuff?

I had an idea — just put things on the floor outside my office. Then I remembered there was a rule against doing so, something about blocking the hallways.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[No doubt influenced by the news — refugees and humanitarian corridors.]

Monday, March 14, 2022

Jam session

[Nancy, May 27, 1949.]

In today’s yesterday’s Nancy, it is night, and Nancy and Sluggo stroll by the light of a crescent moon to what must be 52nd Street, or an equivalent. I love the shocked expressions with which the kids meet this sign. We then see them running back home before returning, striding purposefully, with spoons in their hands and napkins around their necks.

But Sluggo should know the real meaning of “jam session”: on May 4, 1949 he called (in bold) for Nancy to “put on a bebop record.”

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[I just realized that Ernie Bushmiller’s characters have five fingers per hand, and not the usual cartoon four. Realism!]

Foggy days

From Greater Good (UC Berkeley): five ways to clear a foggy brain.

No. 1 is especially helpful now: “Become more intentional about consuming news.”

(Found via Recomendo.)


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”: on NPR this morning, I heard this statement attributed to Rachel Carson. Wait a minute, said I. Isn’t that from Margaret Mead?

Possibly. The statement does not appear in the most recent editions (2002, 2012) of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Quote Investigator finds “no substantive support for competing ascriptions” and tentatively ascribes it to Mead.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Outtakes (6)

Diners, American and Queen.

[Outtakes from the WPA’s New York City tax photographs, c. 1939–1941, available from 1940s NYC. Click either image for a much larger view.]

Trade publications from the ’40s show Union Rebuilt Machinery at 318-322 Lafayette Street, Manhattan. The lot number for the first photo is likely 25. Searching for block=522 AND lot=25 in the Municipal Archives returns the address 155 Crosby Street and photographs with the brick wall and the URM advertisement. I can find no non-outtake with a clear view of the American Diner.

Google Maps shows an enormous Calvin Klein advertisement covering the wall. And no diner, of course.

See also the Tiny Diner.

More diners, not from the outtakes, to come.

Related posts
Outtakes (1) : Outtakes (2) : Outtakes (3): Outakes (4) : Outtakes (5) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Saturday, March 12, 2022

AFT for Ukraine

From an American Federation of Teachers e-mail:

We’ve been coordinating with the teachers’ unions in countries that border Ukraine, including Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Through our Disaster Relief Fund, we’re going to send money to these unions’ relief efforts. They’re setting up welcome programs in public schools for the children who have fled the Russian invasion. In Poland they’re even caring for refugees in their offices, but so far, they haven’t received any funds from the government to support the refugees. Eventually we hope to be able to send support to the teachers in Ukraine to reopen their schools after Russia is forced out.

Every dollar we raise will go straight to relief efforts, without us taking away any overhead fees. Any money you can give today will directly help efforts to support the refugees.
Here’s the link.

Block that metaphor

Bryan Garner noticed this New York Times headline about Nikki Haley: “Haley Threads a Needle Between Trump’s Coattails and His Wrath.”

Block that metaphor!

But on second thought, it might be better to let that metaphor stand. Let Nikki Haley thread that needle, or try to, down between the coattails and wrath. It must be awful there. As the poet said,

Between the coattails
And the wrath
Falls the Needle.

(Hey, watch it!)
Related reading
All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)

[That headline appears in print. Online, the headline is more sober: “With Trump in Her State, Haley Finds Some Political Distance (Gently).”]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, made me think of Magic Eye. Remember? You were supposed to stare at a rectangle of swirling colors and see an image therein. The image always remained hidden for me, and that how I felt looking at this puzzle: staring and staring and never seeing what I was supposed to see. But finally I did.

Many clue-and-answer pairs of note:

2-D, five letters, “Stock market purchase.” Elaine will like this one.

4-D, eight letters, “It’s for those who don’t give a darn.” NEWSOCKS?

7-D, three letters, “Keys to quality care.” A nice tip of the hat.

20-A, seven letters, “They hold world records.” Clever.

22-A, seven letters, “Crucians live there.” I think playing Worldle helped me see the answer.

30-D, four letters, “Locale in ‘Homer’s Odyssey’ (1990).” LOL. A nice treat to bring into class.

31-A, eight letters, “Start of a scale model.” The west-central section of the puzzle gave me fits, and this clue was one reason why. I thought it must have something to do with ratios. And then I realized that I needed to spell something differently.

32-D, four letters, “Diagnostician’s denouement.” Say what? It’s the west-central section again, with alliteration coming at the expense of meaning.

42-A, twelve letters, “One in a grade school organization.” PTAPRESIDENT?

43-D, six letters, “Chiller of the ’30s.” DRACUL?

45-D, six letters, “Word from the Greek for ‘ship.’” Yes, of course.

57-A, five letters, “Smashing, in show biz.” I’m glad I know some Variety lingo.

My favorite clues in this puzzle:

26-A, twelve letters, “Purple Crayola color.” Yes, I have the Big Box (ninety-six crayons), and I got this answer right away.

And 37-D, eight letters, “Parenthetical trio.” For dowdy reasons.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Shining star, or dim bulb?

“She’s one of the shining stars representing Illinois because of her leadership, intelligence and courage”: thus an Illinois congressional candidate touts his endorsement from Mary Miller. The title of the article offers a helpful reminder: “GOP congressional candidate touts endorsement from Hitler-quoting lawmaker” (Daily Herald ).

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts

Friday, March 11, 2022

Emilio Delgado (1940–2022)

Better known as “Luis.” The New York Times has an obituary.

TPM, sheesh

Talking Points Memo this morning: “sharing sources of what I believe are reliable information.”


It was corrected after an hour or so. I wouldn’t have made this post if I hadn’t already noticed so many other problems in the writing at TPM.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Mississippi John Hurt Memorial

The ruins of the Valley Store, County Road 41, Carrollton, Mississippi, are preserved in Google Maps, with a marker for Mississippi John Hurt close by. Here’s a clearer view. If you have the 2011 Discovery CD, you can see a photograph with Hurt standing outside the Valley Store.

See also the Mississippi John Hurt Museum, Hurt’s house in Avalon, Mississippi. The title of Hurt’s 1928 recording “Avalon Blues” was the clue that led to his renewed musical career in the 1960s.

Related reading
All OCA Mississippi John Hurt posts (Pinboard)

[“Renewed musical career”: I don’t like the usual term “rediscovery.”]

“Music as resistance”

From The Washington Post, “Music as resistance: Kyiv’s orchestra plays on”:

The very site of the outdoor concert by the Kyiv-Classic Symphony Orchestra symbolized the defiance: Kyiv’s central square, Maidan, the focal point of revolutions including one in 2014 that ousted a pro-Moscow president and helped define Ukraine’s Western political path.

And the musicians, bundled up in thick coats and jackets, played outdoors despite the constant threat of missiles or bombs falling.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Two presidents

In The New York Times, Mikhail Zygar describes Vladimir Putin’s world. As I read, I kept thinking of another president.

Let’s see: hedonism, seclusion, an obsession with the past, an obsession with restoring “greatness,” an attachment to conspiracy theories, a belief that only he can save his country, a retinue of ideologues and sycophants. It all sounds too familiar.

Matthew Snelgrove

Of the firm Snelgrove, Martin and Fitzalan.

Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice (1954).

Leaven of Malice is the second novel of Davies’s Salterton Trilogy.

Related reading
All OCA Robertson Davies posts (Pinboard)

[Is this passage Dickensian, or what?]

Charles E. Entenmann (1929–2022)

“The two-millionth piece of cake must not only be good — it must be as good as the first”: Charles E. Entenmann, quoted in a New York Times obituary.

Cross my heart: I almost typed Entenmann’s when I typed his name.

Cough drops

I stepped into Walgreens to buy some cough drops. I was surprised to see the store looking old-timey, with wall displays of candy and perfume behind sliding glass doors. I realized — too late — that I had forgotten to put on a mask. And then I saw — yikes — that no one else in the store was wearing a mask. Well, I thought, I’ll just have to hurry up and get the cough drops.

But I couldn’t find them. I went up and down the aisles, which were crowded, as in a supermarket. No luck. Finally, I saw some cough drops — Luden’s Wild Cherry, in the old familiar box, on a shelf behind a sliding glass door. I asked the cashier if I could have a box. She said yes, but the store was being sold in three minutes, so I’d have to hurry.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Possible sources: the pandemic, supply-chain problems, and thoughts of candy stores past.]

Wednesday, March 9, 2022


[“Qua,” xkcd, March 9, 2022.]

I can’t decide if it’s a joke on Waiting for Godot. It might just be someone being witty about qua.

Related reading
Two more posts about qua

[But shouldn’t the punchline read “Nice use of ‘ “qua” qua “qua” ’ qua ‘ “qua” qua “qua” ’ ”?]

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Do you recognize her? I didn’t. Leave your best guess in a comment. I’ll add hints if necessary.


9:15 a.m.: That didn’t take long. The answer is now in the comments. More mystery actors
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

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

Stricken mountaineers

Hector Mackilwraith is in difficulty:

Robertson Davies, Tempest-Tost (1951).

Elaine and I both wonder if John Kennedy Toole might have been familiar with this bit of gastric comedy.

Tempest-Tost is the first novel of Davies’s Salterton Trilogy.

Related reading
All OCA Robertson Davies posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

“More clear”

A local NPR affiliate tonight reported a call for “more clear guidance” on COVID-19 vaccinations for children. The context made clear that the call is for clearer guidance. A call for guidance to supplement already available clear guidance could be described as a call for “additional guidance.” Guidance by definition should be clear, no?

Sometimes I want NPR to be more better.

Related reading
All OCA NPR, sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[Garner’s Modern English Usage on comparative adjectives: “if a word ordinarily takes either the -er or the -est suffix — and that formation sounds more natural — it’s poor style to use the two-word form with more or most.”]

T.S. Eliot = J.D. Salinger?

Last month, at Swann Galleries, New York, a first edition of Prufrock and Other Observations (1917) and a first edition of The Catcher in the Rye (1951) each sold for $16,250.

Related reading
All OCA Eliot and Salinger posts (Pinboard)

The Left Banke’s third album

The Left Banke, Strangers on a Train. Omnivore Recordings, 2022.

Strangers on a Train : Heartbreaker : Lorraine : Yesterday’s Love : Hold On Tight : And One Day : You Say : I Can Fly : Only My Opinion : Queen of Paradise

Bonus tracks: Airborne : I Don’t Know : Until the End : My Buddy Steve (Long Lost Friend) : Meet Me in the Moonlight : High Flyer

The Left Banke are best known for two 1966 hits, one major (“Walk Away Renée”), one minor (“Pretty Ballerina”). The group’s brief time in the spotlight was a tragic mess: brilliant songwriting (Michael Brown), unusual instrumentation (“baroque pop”), great lead vocals (from the Lennon-influenced Steve Martin Caro), Beatlesque harmonies (from Caro, George Cameron, and Tom Finn), competing singles by two groups claiming the Left Banke name, legal complications about airplay, and over it all, a toxic cloud of parental interference in the form of Michael Brown’s father, violinist Harry Lookofsky, aka Hash Brown. A musician who played with members of the Left Banke after the group broke up once told me matter-of-factly that Lookofsky had ruined his son’s life. Any resemblance to the relationship between Murry Wilson and Brian Wilson is coincidental and telling.

The Left Banke’s two LPs, Walk Away Renée / Pretty Ballerina (1967) and The Left Banke Too (1968) were followed — if that’s the word — by Strangers on a Train (or Voices Calling in the UK), recorded in 1978 and not released as an LP until 1986. In recent years, there were sporadic reunion efforts (Caro not participating, Brown making occasional brief appearances) and talk of a fourth album. It never happened, and none of the principals are here to see this CD release, which supplements the ten tracks of Strangers on a Train with recordings from 2001 and 2002.

The ten LP tracks are a decidedly mixed bag, the work of a group trying on a variety of styles. Nine of the ten songs are by Cameron, Caro, and Finn, with one ill-conceived contribution from Shade Smith. Brown, who contributed no songs, may be playing keyboards on some. There are Beatlesque harmonies (“Heartbreaker,” “Yesterday’s Love”), lovely ballads (“Lorraine,” marred by synthesized strings, and “And One Day”), and a song that eerily anticipates “Free as a Bird” (“I Can Fly”). Those last two songs are the most Left-ish on the album. An effort at guitar-driven rock (“Hold On Tight”) is hardly distinctive. The spirit of Billy Joel seems to hover over the ballads; “Only My Opinion” and “Strangers on a Train” suggest to me Paul McCartney and Wings. “Queen of Paradise,” a disco effort (Shade Smith), is best forgotten. It’s unfortunate that this song should end the LP, which follows the UK track sequence. The US release ended much more fittingly with “Yesterday’s Love,” mixing memory and desire.

The bonus tracks (also available as a digital EP) are no mixed bag. They’re worth the price of admission. Brown is the writer or co-writer of all six, all demos, more or less duets, Caro singing and Brown playing keyboards (with minimal contributions from additional musicians here and there). It’s clear that even when Brown was far from public view, he was writing brilliant songs. And Caro, long after he gave up performing, was still in great voice. “Airborne,” for voice, piano, and a string quartet, shows an “Eleanor Rigby” influence. “I Don’t Know,” “Meet Me in the Moonlight,” and “Until the End” sound like postmodern parlor pieces. The strangest song here, “Buddy Steve (Long Lost Friend),” is the story of an ocean voyage to look up a friend. It’s a surreal variation on “September of My Years” (Jimmy Van Heusen–Sammy Cahn):

When I was twenty-five
I wondered if he still was alive
So I went off to Milan to find my long-lost friend
Most poignant is “High Flyer,” a song of melancholy longing, a grown-up “Walk Away Renée”:
High flyer, the bells are ringing
High flyer, the sky is singing
High flyer, the clouds are moving low
The clouds are moving; nothing stays. Now that’s a fitting end to a Left Banke album.

Related reading
A handful of Left Banke posts

[Details: Yvonne Vitale, Michael Brown’s wife, co-wrote “Until the End.” Ian Loyd, who with Brown founded the group Stories, co-wrote “Meet Me in the Moonlight.” A factoid: Brown traveled to Florida to record with Caro. I have read (somewhere) that Caro’s non-participation in Left Banke reunions was at least in part a matter of his refusal to fly.]

Monday, March 7, 2022


Virgil, Aeneid, trans. Robert Fitzgerald (1983).

“Casimir Pulaski Day”

In Illinois, it is Casimir Pulaski Day.

[Sufjan Stevens, “Casimir Pulaski Day.” Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty, 2005).]

This song breaks my heart. I brought it into poetry classes several times when teaching elegies.

Editing in Zits

[Zits, March 7, 2022.]

In today’s Zits, Jeremy has asked Connie (Mom) to read his work. “I made a few edits,” she says, looking apologetic. He’s not happy about it: “When I said I was open to feedback, I meant compliments!”

It’s always a good idea to point out what a writer has done well. But a writer does not live by compliments alone. I like what Bryan Garner says about good editing:

It’s an act of friendship, not an act of hostility. Professional-level edits — the kind that would occur on the copy desks of major newsmagazines — make the writer look smarter. So if a skillful editor revises your work, be grateful, never resentful.
Say “Thanks, Mom.”

Sunday, March 6, 2022

An Auden poem

A timely “interactive” feature from The New York Times : Elisa Gabbert takes the reader through W.H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts.”

Related reading
All OCA Auden posts (Pinboard)

Outtakes (5)

[Outtakes from the WPA’s New York City tax photographs, c. 1939–1941, available from 1940s NYC. Click either image for a larger view.]

These pair well. I have no good guess as to what the kid is carrying.

More outtakes to come.

Related posts
Outtakes (1) : Outtakes (2) : Outtakes (3): Outakes (4) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Saturday, March 5, 2022

I am also fond of the composer

Elaine wrote a piece for viola, “I am also fond of lonely islands,” after reading Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book last December. And now there’s a recording, at YouTube (and elsewhere). The violist is Paul Cortese.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Steve Mossberg, whose name I’ve seen just once before on a Newsday Saturday. Today’s puzzle is a true Stumper. I started with a gimme — 10-A, five letters, “Start of three California county names” — but I sometimes thought I’d have to sound a 1-A, nine letters, “Lament of defeat.” But that would have called attention to me in the café of the performing-arts building where I was solving. So I had to finish this puzzle.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

11-D, eight letters, “Understood!”

19-A, eight letters, “They’re grounded.” My first thoughts were of appliances and punishments.

24-A, four letters, “Really smart.” A nice way to redeem a familiar answer.

24-D, five letters, “Word from Gothic for ‘patience.’” No, not really. (The OED will confirm.)

25-D, five letters, “Music that sounds loud.” Respect the pun.

33-A, nine letters, “Rhythm associated with autumn.” A bit improbable, but the answer’s improbability makes it at least slightly delightful.

39-A, nine letters, “They may mean ‘Welcome home!’” Ick.

49-D, five letters, “Whom Woz once worked for.” Not the giveaway you might think.

52-A, eight letters, “Convenient for eating while walking.” Be careful.

45-A, four letters, “”Understood.” Now you can see the difference that the exclamation point makes in the clue for 11-D.

One clue that makes me want to say no, just no: 53-D, four letters, “Number often seen right after AK.” No, not now, and not ever. There are so many better ways to clue this answer. One Stumpery way: “It’s Felliniesque.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.


Steve Mossberg responded to a comment I left at Crossword Fiend about “Number often seen right after AK”: “53-Down was indeed an awful cluing angle that wasn’t meant to go to print. My sincerest apologies for its inclusion.”