Saturday, April 30, 2022

In Our Time : Antigone

The BBC’s In Our Time takes up Sophocles’s Antigone in an episode that makes an excellent introduction to the play. Edith Hall, classicist: “It will not be long before there is an Antigone set in Ukraine.”

Related reading
Antigone in Ferguson (1) : Antigone in Ferguson (2) : Antigone in Haiti : Antigone as required reading : All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor. I got off to a fast start: 13-A, six letters, “Director whose parents were a screenplay team”; 11-D, five letters, “Mighty Dump Truck maker”; and 19-A, three letters, “Sanctions.” But I soon realized that this puzzle would be a killer: my solving experience was a matter of blank stares and occasional exclamations. 8-D, eight letters, “Literary justification”? Ah! It took me thirty-one minutes to solve this puzzle, which I was pretty sure I wouldn’t solve.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, six letters, “#3 name on the most #1 albums list.” The name surprised me.

1-D, nine letters, “SOS, for instance.” I don’t think I’ve seen the answer in a puzzle before.

4-D, five letters, “‘Double Fudge’ creator.” Here’s an example of how the use of quotation marks for italics (which I’ve added elsewhere) can complicate things. I thought the answer had to concern OREOS.

15-D, seven letters, “Hummers in summer.” Ah!

20-A, six letters, “Kennedy Center singer/songwriter honoree with Seiji and Cicely.” Two days ago I watched a performance from that year’s Kennedy Center Honors. That gave me the answer.

21-A, eight letters, “They’re seen on many fall-issued stamps.” Strangely misdirective.

21-D, seven letters, “#1 in African tourist arrivals.” See 31-A.

27-D, nine letters, “Term first used for a legendary Italian.” Huh. Post-solving, I looked it up.

31-A, seven letters, “Sunday Morning correspondent.” See 21-D.

40-D, five letters, “McGarrett’s mom on Hawaii Five-0.” Wha?

46-A, three letters, “Downer of a noun/verb/
adverb/interjection.” I learned something.

49-A, seven letters, “Ring with silver, say.” Defamiliarizing.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Block that metaphor

My friend Stefan Hagemann alerted me to these sentences in The New York Times:

“I think the governor is more popular than Disney — I think the governor is more popular than the former president,” said Anthony Pedicini, a Republican strategist in Tampa. “If you’re running for office as a Republican in Florida and you aren’t toeing the DeSantis mantra, you will not win.”
Garner’s Modern English Usage gives this explanation of toe the line and toe the mark:
These phrases — meaning “to conform to the rules; to do one’s duty” — derive from track-and-field events in which the contestants were once told to put one foot on the starting line. (Now the shouted instruction is On your marks! )
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms gives the same explanation.

Both Stefan and I wondered if the strategist might have said towing — in other words, carrying — which might make more sense. But with Ron DeSantis, there should be no expectation that anything should make sense. At any rate, you can’t toe a mantra, although you can say one, repeatedly, until the cows, or some other metaphors, come home.

Thanks, Stefan.

Related reading
All OCA posts (Pinboard)

Who was Jack the Bear?

Re: Duke Ellington’s “Jack the Bear”: where did that title come from?

John S. Wright identifies Jack the Bear as a name in a ritualized Black American exchange of greetings of the 1930s and ’40s: “How are you?” “Like Jack-the-Bear: just ain’t nowhere.” “Call me Jack-the-Bear, for I am in a state of hibernation,” says the narrator of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Mark Tucker writes that “the real Jack the Bear was a Harlem bass player who, as reed-player Garvin Bushell recently [c. 1986] recalled, had a tailor shop at the corner of St. Nicholas and Edgecombe Avenues.” Jack the Bear has also been identified as a pianist. Perhaps he played both instruments.

The tax photographs in the NYC Municipal Archives Collections show no tailor shop at the corner of Saint Nicholas and Edgecombe, but one block over, at the corner of Edgecombe and 141st Street, a tailor was at work:

[131 Edgecombe Avenue, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

If you squint a bit, you can make out the TAILORS signage.

Steven C. Tracy identifies the musician, bassist or pianist, as one John Wilson. Tracy doesn’t identify him as a tailor. The 1940 Manhattan telephone directory lists a John W. Wilson residing at 281 Edgecombe. Ellington lived for many years at 381 Edgecombe.

Was John W. Wilson the tailor at 131 Edgecombe? Was that tailor Jack the Bear? Did Ellington ever make use of his services? I’ll never know.

Related reading
All OCA Ellington posts (Pinboard)

Stephen C. Tracy, “A Delicate Ear, a Retentive Memory, and the Power to Weld the Fragments,” in A Historical Guide to Ralph Ellison, ed. Tracy (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Mark Tucker, liner notes to Duke Ellington, The Blanton-Webster Band (RCA, 1986).

John S. Wright, “The Conscious Hero and the Rites of Man: Ellison’s War,” in Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”: A Casebook, ed. John F. Callahan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

On Duke Ellington’s birthday

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899.

I bought my first Ellington record in 1973 or ’74: This One’s for Blanton, piano-bass duets with Ray Brown. I bought my second Ellington record not long after: At His Very Best, an RCA compilation. The great 1940 recording “Jack the Bear” — side one, track one — was my introduction to the Ellington band.

Here is the best version of that recording that I can find on YouTube (it’s unembeddable). The players: Duke Ellington, piano, composition; Wallace Jones, Cootie Williams, trumpets; Rex Stewart, cornet; Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Lawrence Brown, trombones; Juan Tizol, valve trombone; Barney Bigard, Otto Hardwick, Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, reeds; Fred Guy, guitar; Jimmy Blanton, bass; Sonny Greer, drums. Recorded in Chicago, March 6, 1940. The arrangment is by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The soloists are Blanton, Ellington, Bigard, Williams, Bigard, Carney, Nanton, Blanton.

I’ll invoke Emerson: “perpetual modernness is the measure of merit in every work of art.” “Jack the Bear” will never be out of date.

Related reading
All OCA Ellington posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Slipshod logic

“This would not be the first time in the pandemic that unwarranted assumptions about human behavior have obstructed an effective response to Covid”: in The New York Times, Zeynep Tufekci writes about the slipshod logic behind delays in authorizing vaccines for children and other instances of slipshod logic in the management of COVID-19.

Dictation failure

[Dictating a text.]

“I just mowed the whole lawn”

I just move the whole lawn

“Mowed exclamation point mowed exclamation point”

Mode! Mode!

Other dictation failures
Boogie-woogie : A concluding truck for belated pubs : Derrida : Edifice and Courson Blatz : Wrath scholar

Not lonely, not a bird

Derek Warren, twenty-nine, ploughman:

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”

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

“I began in a world without time”

Horry Rose, sixty-one, saddler:

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”


Betty Horak (Beverly Michaels) is being sarcastic. From Pickup (dir. Hugo Haas, 1951):

“Oh boy, another one of those exciting days.”
I’d counter with words from the OCA sidebar, from Harvey Pekar’s story “Alice Quinn”:
Every day is a new deal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Salinger in Ohio

[Click either image for bigger news.]

I never thought I’d see more than one of these headlines. They’re real, and may be found here and here, at least until there’s a correction. But I don’t think a correction is coming.

QAnon fans take note: J.D. Salinger, too, is alive.

Related reading
All OCA Salinger posts (Pinboard)

Birx’s merch

Dr. Deborah Birx has a makeover and a book. As she makes the rounds of “the shows,” bear in mind what she said in March 2020. You already know who “he” is:

“He’s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data. And I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit during these discussions about medical issues. Because in the end, data is data, and he understands the importance of the granularity.”
I called it intellectual prostration back then. It renders irrelevant anything Dr. Birx now has to say.

[“Merch, merch, merch along the highway”: a Van Dyke Parksism.]

Is it Christian nationalism yet?

Representative Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15), or a staffer writing in her name, has responded to PolitiFact’s conclusion that Miller’s claims about gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary children and adolescents are false. I won’t link to what Miller (or a staffer) wrote, but I’ll quote:

I am unashamed of our Judeo-Christian heritage and the values that most Americans hold to. God created us male and female — this [i.e., gender-affirming care] is nothing but rebellion against God.
Why are we ashamed of our Judeo-Christian heritage and our values? We need to be loud and proud about them. They are the values that bring freedom and productivity to a country, to its communities, and that cause our families to thrive.
Samuel L. Perry, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma offers a helpful ten-point checklist: How can we spot #ChristianNationalism in the wild? I score Mary Miller as an eight, possibly nine, of ten.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

A pocket notebook sighting

[M (dir. Joseph Losey, 1951). Click for a larger view.]

I like seeing a notebook fill the screen. The pen looks like a Sheaffer to me. Maybe, maybe not. And yes, everything on the page appears to be in pencil.

More notebook sightings
All the King’s Men : Angels with Dirty Faces : The Bad and the Beautiful : Ball of Fire : The Big Clock : Bombshell : The Brasher Doubloon : The Case of the Howling Dog : Cat People : Caught : City Girl : Crossing Delancey : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dead End : Deep Valley : The Devil and Miss Jones : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : The Face Behind the Mask : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : I See a Dark Stranger : Journal d’un curé de campagne : Kid Glove Killer : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Ministry of Fear : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : Now, Voyager : The Palm Beach Story : Perry Mason : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : The Racket : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : La roue : Route 66The Scarlet Claw : Sleeping Car to Trieste : The Small Back Room : The Sopranos : Spellbound : Stage Fright : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Stranger Things : Sweet Smell of Success : Time Table : T-Men : To the Ends of the Earth : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Vice Squad : Walk East on Beacon! : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once : Young and Innocent

An EXchange name sighting

[M (dir. Joseph Losey, 1951). Click for a larger view.] Perhaps the artist took inspiration from the IBEW logo. ST: in Los Angeles, it might signify STanley or STate.

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

Monday, April 25, 2022

Twelve movies

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

Two on Bunker Hill

Chicago Calling (dir. John Reinhardt, 1951). One of the bleakest films I’ve ever seen, with Dan Duryea, in what must be his finest performance, as Bill Callahan, a hard-drinking failed photographer living in Los Angeles’s impoverished Bunker Hill neighborhood. Bill’s wife gives up on him (with good reason) and leaves with their young daughter — and then things really go wrong. The element of contingency, signaled in an opening voiceover, is strong: Bill’s chance encounters with strangers, notably a telephone repairman and a boy with a bicycle (Gordon Gebert from Holiday Affair), shape his future. The movie seems influenced by the neo-realism of Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1949), and our household wondered whether Chicago Calling might in turn have influenced De Sica’s Umberto D., released a year later. ★★★★ (IA)

Night Has a Thousand Eyes (dir. John Farrow, 1948). Not a horror movie (as it’s often described): I’d call it supernatural noir. Edward G. Robinson plays John Triton, the Great Triton, a stage mentalist (think Stanton Carlisle in Nightmare Alley) who discovers that his powers have suddenly become real. Thus Triton is able to foretell tragedies that are inevitable, however he might try to avert them. But try he must, even relocating to Bunker Hill to do so. Gail Russell is memorable as the young woman who may be doomed by the Great Triton’s prediction. ★★★★ (YT)


Two by Joseph Losey

M (1951). A remake, moving Fritz Lang’s movie to Los Angeles, where the police and the criminal underworld both seek the child killer who’s terrorizing the city. It’s a deep cast, with Luther Adler, Walter Burke, Raymond Burr, Howard Da Silva, Norman Lloyd, David Wayne (the agonized killer), and many other non-stars. The movie makes great use of the city, with a shot from inside Angels Flight as the story opens, and a long, long episode in the Bradbury Building, the movie’s Best Supporting Actor. Creepiest moment: the shoes. ★★★★ (YT)

The Intimate Stranger (dir. “Alec C. Snowden,” 1956). Losey, blacklisted in the States, makes a film about a blacklisted film editor, Reggie Wilson (Richard Basehart), who has moved to England from the States after an affair with his boss’s wife ends his Hollywood career. Reggie finds his new life undone by letters from one Evelyn Stewart (Mary Murphy), who hopes that Reggie can still make time for her even though he’s married. Who is this woman, and why, if Reggie doesn’t know her, does her have train tickets to Newcastle in his pocket? Basehart presents as a more capable William Shatner; Murphy and Constance Cummings (as a star abroad) are dazzling; and the meta ending, with a fight on a film set, is deeply satisfying. ★★★★ (YT)


Open Secret (dir. John Reinhardt, 1948). In town for a short stay with an old friend, newlywed couple Paul and Nancy (John Ireland and Jane Randolph) stumble onto the murderous doings of a gang of anti-Semites. A surprisingly good low-budget movie, taking place mostly in one small apartment where every knock on the door, every ring of the telephone, threatens danger. Reinhardt goes all in on film noir: we almost never see daylight, and even a little camera shop is open late into the night. The anti-Semites’ talking points about “foreigners” and a “movement” make this movie eerily contemporary. ★★★ (YT)


The Cocoanuts (dir. Robert Florey and Joseph Santley, 1929). We gave up on The Big Store a few nights before, so we tried the Marx Brothers’ first full-length movie, with much better results. The setting is Florida during a real-estate boom, with Groucho as a hotel manager, Chico and Harpo as casual thieves, and Zeppo as the manager’s assistant. Adapted from the stage musical (George S. Kaufman–Irving Berlin), with pre-Code innuendo, unnecessary song-and-dance interludes, Chico’s and Harpo’s instrumental interludes, the “why a duck” routine, a great bit with musical doors, and Margaret Dumont. ★★★★ (CC)


Scotch: A Golden Dream (dir. Andrew Peat, 2018). A documentary that is at heart a long commercial for single malts, especially Bruichladdich. Much pontificating and promoting and storytelling from brand ambassadors and “master distillers” (a term one on-camera expert calls into question), but scant history, and no attention to basic matters: coloring vs. no coloring, single malts vs. blends. The location is the island of Islay, but there’s not a word about Laphroaig — did that distillery opt out? I take much pleasure in a couple of ounces of Bruichladdich or Glenmorangie or Cutty Sark, and I take no pleasure in writing these disappointed sentences. ★★ (H)

[And the director is named Andrew Peat? For reals?]


Shakedown (dir. Joseph Peveny, 1950). Howard Duff as Jack Early, a glib, cocky, manipulative newspaper photographer on the rise. Why, he manipulates more people than a chiropractor, even cueing a desperate woman when to jump from the window of a burning building so that he can get a good shot. But when Jack uses incriminating photos to shake down hoods (Brian Donlevy and Lawrence Tierney), there will be blood. I liked the scenes at the San Francisco newspaper, where we see Peggy Dow as a modern working woman (very modern: she goes away for weekends to see her boyfriend in Portland). ★★★★ (YT)


When We Were Bullies (dir. Jay Rosenblatt, 2021). The premise might be good for a segment of a This American Life episode: filmmaker recalls a fifty-years-ago incident in which he and fellow Brooklyn fifth-graders bullied a classmate (an incident he already made brief use of in a previous documentary) and now tries to work out what happened. But the ethics of this venture are a shambles: in undertaking the work of the film, Rosenblatt chooses not to contact his bullied classmate, whose childhood self becomes the subject of withering commentary by the classmates Rosenblatt tracked down for interviews. I’d call that Bullying 2.0, and there’s nothing in the letter Rosenblatt finally writes to his classmate (the movie’s not about you; it’s about us) or in the self-serving conclusion that “everyone carries pain” that moves me to change my mind. This exercise in self-congratulatory narcissism deserves no stars. (HBO)


Two by Hugo Haas

Strange Fascination (dir. Hugo Haas, 1952). The director’s name was familiar, and it turns out that we’d seen at least one of his films (Lizzie). This one is a variation on The Blue Angel, with director Haas as Paul Marvan, a European concert pianist making a career in the United States. Diana Fowler (Mona Barrie), a dignified older woman with eyes for Paul, happily becomes his patron. But Paul has eyes only for Margo (Cleo Moore), a much younger woman, a dancer, a bleached-blonde (she admits it), and you already know that none of this will turn out well. ★★★ (YT)

Pickup (1951). Here the director plays Jan Horak, a railroad dispatcher who meets and marries one Betty, a much younger (again blond) woman in need of money (Beverly Michaels). There’s a boyfriend, Steve, hanging around (Allan Nixon), and we’re soon headed toward a low-budget The Postman Always Rings Twice. Jan’s sudden deafness and the equally sudden return of his hearing contribute mightily to the plot. Worth watching for Haas’s pathos, for Michaels’s viciousness, and for the chance to wonder what made Haas repeatedly take up this theme. ★★★ (YT)


Good News (dir. Charles Walters, 1947). It’s college as recreation for mostly rich white kids, singing, dancing, playing football, and partaking in hijinks. In 1947, when the G.I. Bill was reshaping the idea of college (at least for some veterans), this movie must have looked like a picture of a lost world. June Allyson is a good singer (I had no idea); Mel Tormé is a great singer (I knew that); Peter Lawford speaks excellent French. And Joan McCracken is lit. ★★★★ (TCM)

[Joan McCracken is lit.]

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

“My Dusty Mellow Self”

Jack Nicholson was making a music video for his song “My Dusty Mellow Self.” The storyline called for him to ring the bell of a church’s basement door. He rang and rang. No answer.

The ringing turned out to be the alarm clock going off this morning.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Mutts rocks

[Mutts, April 24, 2022.]

In today’s Mutts, words from the Dalai Lama. And “some rocks.”

Related reading
All OCA “some rocks” posts (Pinboard)

Outtakes (11)

[Yes, that’s a photographer. And that’s a streetcar in the background. Outtake from the WPA’s New York City tax photographs, c. 1939–1941, available from 1940s NYC. Click for a much larger view.]

Uptown — it was Alexander’s. When this photograph was taken, there were just two Alexander’s department stores, both in the Bronx, at 2952 Third Avenue (the original store) and 2501 Grand Concourse (the intersection of the Concourse and Fordham Road). The Third Avenue Alexander’s sat in the middle of a block, right across from the El. This outtake must be showing the Grand Concourse store. I used to see it on my commute to Fordham College, at least until I discovered sneakier and faster routes than Fordham Road.

Here are two non-outtake tax photographs of 2501 Grand Concourse. There appears to have been a major addition and major renovations to the building. Perhaps that called for a return shoot. After all, these were tax photographs.

[From Fordham Road (I think) and from the Concourse. Click either image for a larger view.]

The 2952 address now houses Burlington, Five Below (games and toys), and Marshalls. The 2501 address now houses all sorts of stuff: an 1199SEIU Health Care Training and Child Care Center, a 24 Hour Fitness, a Capital One Bank, The Children’s Place, Concrete (women’s clothing), a Marshalls, a P.F. Richard & Son, a Social Security office, and a Verizon store. The department stores have become small malls.

New Yorkers and New Jerseyans of a certain age will recall the massive mural attached to the front of Alexander’s Paramus store. That location is now an IKEA store.

Related posts
Outtakes (1) : Outtakes (2) : Outtakes (3): Outakes (4) : Outtakes (5) : Outtakes (6) : Outtakes (7) : Outtakes (8) : Outtakes (9) : Outtakes (10) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

[I gave up on trying to figure out what’s going on with the rooftop sign. All I know is that all three photos depict the same address.]

Saturday, April 23, 2022


A post earlier today mentioned that the maker of threats against Merriam-Webster and others is reported to have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. “Asperger’s syndrome” is a fraught term, as an episode of the podcast The Allusionist explains: “Asperger.”

Threatening the dictionary

A California man has been charged for making threats to commit violence against various companies and individuals, including the ACLU, Amnesty International, Disney, Hasbro (maker of Potato Head toys), Land O’Lakes, USA Today, academics, politicians, school-board members, and a college president. Most startling, to me: the threatmaker made threats against Merriam-Webster over the M-W definitions of female and girl. The top lookup at M-W right now: female.

The affidavit in support of a criminal complaint describes the threatmaker as having been diagnosed with “Asperger’s syndrome, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression” and as taking “several psychiatric medications.” It doesn’t say anything though about where he might have gotten ideas about how to pick his targets.


September 16: “Man who threatened Merriam-Webster with anti-LGBTQ violence pleads guilty” (The Washington Post).

Today’s Saturday Stumper

The byline says Lester Ruff, but I found today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper not especially easy. Where to start? 13-D, four letters, “Conversation starter.” And look: 16-A, three letters, “‘Special’ projects.” But then it was all the way down to 47-D, four letters, “Do laps, perhaps,” followed by hops, skips, and jumps from one region of the puzzle to another. But I got it.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

3-D, four letters, “On-screen collection.” I think I understand the answer correctly.

11-A, three letters, “One’s luck.” Thank you, Thomas Hardy.

12-D, ten letters, “It’s used for pie preparation piercing.” We just talked about buying one, couldn’t find one in the store, and decided to stay with the implements already on hand.

17-A, five letters, “Pocket Fisherman purveyor.” Remembrance of things past.

26-A, fifteen letters, “What’s made for Jeopardy! contestants.” And Batman? Such an unusual answer.

27-A, seven letters, “What Groucho called himself, re his timidity.” Groan.

28-D, ten letters, “Food storage device.” My guess is that the term is disappearing along with the device so named.

37-D, eight letters, “Travel guide eponym.” I think of modernism.

40-D, seven letters, “Devalued, these days.” Yeah, but it’s made a comeback.

42-A, fifteen letters, “What’s made for Wheel contestants.” As with 26-A, an unusual answer. If there’s a theme that joins more than 26-A and 42-A, I’ve misseed it.

48-D, four letters, “Billionaire Barbadian, to her fans.” Wait — she’s a billionaire?!

My favorite clue in this puzzle: 14-A, five letters, “It fell from a horse long ago.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

[“Lester Ruff”: pen name of Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, used with easier Stumpers of his making.]

Friday, April 22, 2022

Potlatch, anyone?

Ian Frazier, writing in The New Yorker about cabin fever, recalls a time, forty years ago, when he lived in the rural isolation of northwest Montana:

A big excursion for me was to drive to the town of Kalispell, some twenty miles away. I was writing on a brand of paper called Potlatch. Such an interesting name for copy paper — Potlatch. I ran out of my first ream of it, and when I was buying more at an office-supply store in Kalispell I told the salesperson about potlatch — how it was a Native American word that meant a kind of party in which a chief or even just an ordinary person gave away stuff to other members of the tribe. “Giveaway” is a rough translation of the word into English, I told the salesperson. The potlatch was a system for showing status and spreading the wealth downward, I said. As I looked at the reaction on the salesperson’s face, it sank in that I was not in a normal frame of mind.
Jeez, that sounds like me on an ordinary day. It’s just the sharing of useful information. But I can hear my kids in the background — “Dad! Stop!”

Mingus centennial

Charles Mingus, bassist, pianist, composer, bandleader, was born on April 22, 1922.

I cringed last night hearing an NPR tribute characterize Mingus — straight off — as “the angry man of jazz.” I find it difficult to imagine NPR referring to anyone as the angry man of chamber music, dance, film, painting, &c. Sigh.

Mingus could be angry indeed, particularly about the indignities of the music business. And his music can be angry, yes — also ecstatic, romantic, sardonic, tender, tumultuous, urbane, and witty. It is, always, music of extraordinary imagination and beauty.

WKCR is playing Mingus round the clock through Saturday. To see Mingus in performance, these 1964 performances are a good place to start.

Related reading
All OCA Mingus posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Our tube

Seen while flipping channels: Tom Fitzsimmons and George Petrie, as doctors, young and old, in the One Day at a Time episode “Julie’s Operation” (February 8, 1977). Familiar faces in new arrangements: one of the pleasures of television. See also these arrangements.

If the names don’t ring bells: Tom Fitzsimmons played “Ford,” Franklin Ford III, through all four seasons of The Paper Chase. George Petrie had countless film and television roles, but I know him from The Honeymooners, where he played a bankrobber, a janitor, a magazine editor, a psychiatrist, a fellow Raccoon, and busdriver Freddie Muller.

Lassie and Ted

TV intertextuality: Ted Knight appeared as Mr. Ventrilo, a traveling entertainer, in a 1959 episode of Lassie. Mr. Ventrilo’s puppet dog reappeared on the hand of a ventriloquizing Ted Baxter in a 1973 episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

But wait, there’s more. From the MTM episode “The Ted and Georgette Show” (January 22, 1977). Georgette has some bad news to tell:

Ted: “Nothing you could say to me could affect my performance out there.”

Georgette: “That’s not true. Remember the time Murray told you, just before the news, that Lassie was three different dogs? And you had to have ice pressed against the back of your neck before you could go out?”
In Mr. Ventrilo’s time, Lassie was indeed three dogs. From The New York Times:
There was the main Lassie, of course. But there was also the stand-in used in rehearsals, and a stunt double and the fighter dog (the dog who rough-housed with the main Lassie when the script called for a fight scene).
One more LassieMTM connection: Cloris Leachman, who played Phyllis Lindstrom, was the original Ruth Martin. Jon Provost, who played Timmy Martin: “Cloris did not feel particularly challenged by the role.”

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

[An Oxford comma would make it clearer that the Times sentence is about four dogs, one of them not Lassie.]

From the Poetry Project

The Library of Congress has made available 420 recordings of poetry readings at the Poetry Project, St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. And that’s just what the Library calls “the first round.”

Learn how it happened: “Rare Book and Special Collections Division Digitizes 40 Years of Poetry Project Sound Recordings” (Poetry & Literature at the Library of Congress).

Wednesday, April 20, 2022


From The New York Times: “Does My Mask Protect Me if Nobody Else Is Wearing One?” The short answer: Yes, but make it a KF94, KN95, or N95.

The link uses the Times “gift” option. You can share the link with anyone, whether or not they have a Times subscription, whether or not they’ve hit the monthly limit for free reading. And yes, the Times lowercases if in headlines.

Banned books, free

For a limited time, the New York Public Library is making four often-banned books available to borrow in digital form anywhere in the United States: Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Kacen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies, Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

Details here.

Salinger in Ohio

[Click for a larger view.]

A genuine headline, not from a dream. You can find it here, as long as there’s no correction.

Related reading
All OCA Salinger posts (Pinboard)


An event was held at 6:00 a.m. to honor New York City EMTs, who attended on their own time. Mayor Eric Adams gave each EMT attending a cup of coffee and a donut, “as a measure of the city’s gratitude.”

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Girl with the Pilates Mat

We are being cheated out of spring in downstate Illinois — with rain, wind, and freezing temperatures on too many days. As Elaine observes, we’ve had about four days of spring, two of which were in February. So in lieu of walking, we’re sometimes doing Pilates.

Elaine discovered Rachel, The Girl with the Pilates Mat, a certified Pilates instructor who began posting workout videos to YouTube during the pandemic. Rachel’s great — her channel now has more than twelve million views.

I highly recommend Pilates for strength and balance. And doing these exercises makes me feel taller — almost 5′9″.

Mary Miller, lying

Congresswoman Mary Miller (R, Illinois-15) is a proponent of The Big Lie. But she has lies in all sizes. Analisa Trofimuk of PolitiFact fact-checked one of them: “Rep. Mary Miller says White House is encouraging kids to take ‘castration’ drugs, undergo surgeries.”

I’ll add another: When I called Miller’s office earlier this month to ask why she had voted against a bipartisan resolution affirming support for NATO, the aide who answered the phone said that the resolution supported “nation-building,” which Miller opposes. As I told the aide, the resolution says no such thing, and I reminded him that Miller supports a president — oops, make that a defeated former president — who has repeatedly disparaged NATO. There’s the real reason for Miller’s “no” vote.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

Jane Lynch for Illinois

Jane Lynch has directed a series of TV commercials promoting Illinois tourism. You can find many (all?) of them at YouTube.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Crackpottery, early or late

The New Yorker has a long review by Lauren Michele Jackson of a first volume of excerpts from Alice Walker’s journals. The literary agency representing Walker has tweeted its approval of the review: “thoughtful and lovely.” The review turns the titles of Walker’s books into Amazon links, but there’s no link to Walker’s blog, mentioned in the next-to-last paragraph:

The journal entries selected for Gathering Blossoms Under Fire conclude eight days into the year 2000, but Walker has maintained a blog since 2008. Her posts are more hortatory than her journal entries, but not necessarily more disciplined. In 2012, she wrote her first post on David Icke, whose “freedom of mind,” she writes, “reminds me very much of Malcolm X.” She recommended a video for those who “haven’t been exposed to his thinking.” Icke’s thinking includes the theory that mankind has unwittingly been ruled by an intergalactic race of reptilians since antiquity. In an interview four years ago for the Times Book Review, Walker praised Icke’s 1995 book, And the Truth Shall Set You Free, which promotes anti-Semitic crackpottery about who runs the world. Walker, a proper boomer, seems also to have been diving deep into the brackish waters of YouTube.

Is this a late-life aberration, or can the tropism be traced to a deeper angst that was missed in its time?
One might ask: does it matter? Anti-Semitism, early or late, is anti-Semitism. Crackpottery, early or late, is crackpottery.

Jackson almost dodges her own question, noting that the journal excerpts reveal “no sinister taproot” but that Walker, “having grown up in a place where conspiracies, racial and sexual, were daily realities to be reckoned with,” “may have developed a belated hunger for more.” “Belated hunger” sounds to me like a polite rephrasing of “late-life aberration.”

How aberrant? Well, a Walker post from 2015 embeds an episode of InfoWars in which Alex Jones interviewed David Icke. Walker’s caption:
I like these two because they’re real, and sometimes Alex Jones is a bit crazy; many Aquarians are. Icke only appears crazy to people who don’t appreciate the stubbornness required when one is called to a duty it is impossible to evade.
Those crazy Aquarians! Sometimes they even file for bankruptcy.

[In a 2018 New York Times “By the Book” feature, Walker praised David Icke: “In Icke’s books there is the whole of existence, on this planet and several others, to think about. A curious person’s dream come true.” Much comment followed. I suspect that the notoriety of the “By the Book” feature, which brought Walker’s conspiracy-thought to widespread attention, made Icke an unavoidable topic in the New Yorker review. Here is a 2013 commentary on Walker’s conspiracy-thought from J. J. Phillips, who is far franker than the New Yorker reviewer: “Go Ask Alice Walker” (The Berkeley Daily Planet ). This link will take you to “By the Book” and follow-up reporting from the Times. Here is some background from Vox. And here is a recent brief retrospective from The Atlantic.]

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

I think this screeenshot makes it easy — I could be showing this actor in a dimly lit restaurant instead. So this post is less about mystery and more about the surprising moment of recognition. Isn’t that _______? Yes, it’s _______.

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


Here’s a hint: This actor is probably best known for several appearances on a long-running television comedy.


The answer is now in the comments.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Outtakes (11)

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

Related posts
Outtakes (1) : Outtakes (2) : Outtakes (3): Outakes (4) : Outtakes (5) : Outtakes (6) : Outtakes (7) : Outtakes (8) : Outtakes (9) : Outtakes (10) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Steve Mossberg, is not too easy, not too tough. And there’s nothing predictable about the fill: no ERA, no ERE, no ETA. It’s a fine puzzle.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, four letters, “Hangouts where TVs hang.” So many places with TVs hanging. A first guess is likely to go wrong.

7-D, fifteen letters, “Nearing the end.” A wonderful fifteen-letter answer, funny in its pompous specificity.

10-D, eight letters, “Usually reserved.” I thought of tables — say, J.J. Hunsucker’s table in Sweet Smell of Success. But I suspect that J.J.’s table was always reserved.

14-A, ten letters, "Thumbs-down pair." No doubt meant to prompt recollection of At the Movies.

19-A, five letters, "Part of a Valentine’s Day delivery." Hah.

23-A, eight letters, “Bogus brown.” The alliteration adds value.

23-D, five letters, “Parlor implement.” What kind of parlor? Here too a first guess is likely to go wrong.

26-A, fifteen letters, “Brief musical excerpt.” A wonderful side-to-side answer.

26-D, six letters, “Racket on the radio.” Turn down that noise!

34-D, five letters, “Lacking seasoning.” Nice misdirection.

40-A, five letters, “Kilt feature.” I’m not sure how I know about this feature, but I do. (I have never worn a kilt.)

48-A, four letters, “Q preceders.” A nice way to take the letter away from lunatic ideation.

50-D, five letters, “Top with a flop.” Special resonance for my fambly.

56-A, ten letters, “Insincere antic accolade.” I’m back in high school, or a Seinfeld episode.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, April 15, 2022

“The blue rode well in the corn”

Jubal Merton, sixty, wheelwright and blacksmith:

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

Also from Akenfield
Davie’s hand : Rubbish : “Just ‘music’” : “Caught in the old ways”

Barry’s tea

[Barry Fitzgerald for Lipton Tea. Life, October 7, 1946. Click for a larger view.]

I found this advertisement while finding something else. Too bad Barry Fitzgerald didn’t endorse Barry’s Tea. (In 1946, it wasn’t available in the States.)

Related reading
All OCA tea posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, April 14, 2022

“Caught in the old ways”

Christopher Falconer, thirty-nine, gardener:

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

Also from Akenfield
Davie’s hand : Rubbish : “Just ‘music’”

[Mr. Falconer seems like a candidate for the Village Green Preservation Society.]


Buy large amount of stock. Refuse board seat. Express lack of confidence about management. (If management is so lousy, whydja buy so much stock?) Offer to buy company. Threaten to sell stock if offer is not accepted, thus tanking stock.

Man, that Elon Musk must be a genius. Who could ever have seen through these tactics?

[Context: Elon Musk offers to buy Twitter.]


Min for macOS: “a fast, minimal browser that protects your privacy.” So minimal that even its name is minimal. Too minimal to serve as a default browser, I think, but excellent for getting a few things done quickly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Recently updated

Outtakes (9) A reader sussed out the identity of a mysterious store appearing in two NYC tax photographs.

“Just ‘music’”

David Collyer, twenty-nine, forester and Labour Party organizer:

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

Also from Akenfield
Davie’s hand : Rubbish

More Stranger Things

I dunno — this trailer appears to promise a season devoid of all the charm that has made the series worth watching. But as Elaine said, we need to be good Americans and watch anyway.

I have enjoyed seeing a Chock full o’Nuts can, the World Book Encyclopedia, and a pocket notebook in previous seasons of Stranger Things.

[As the trailer makes clear, you-know-who is still alive.]

Lost bookstores

From The New York Times, a tour in photographs: “Remembrance of Bookstores Past.” In 1950, there were an estimated 386 bookstores in New York City. In 2022, fewer than 100.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


Leonard Thompson, seventy-one, farm-worker:

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

Also from Akenfield
Davie’s hand

Motive in prisons

“Big prisons in small towns”: that’s the focus of the third season of the WBEZ podcast Motive. The stories are Illinois-centric, but Illinois here is a stand-in for a nation.

Monday, April 11, 2022

From Akenfield

He is identified only as Davie, born in 1887, “who cannot read or write a word and who insists that he has nothing to say”:

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

Some unusual “some rocks”

[Nancy, June 20, 1949. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s yesterday’s Nancy has some unusual “some rocks.”

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts : “Some rocks” posts (Pinboard)

Sleep study

It was Rembrandt’s biography of Liszt that inspired the three then–surviving members of The Left Banke to conduct a sleep study. They sought volunteers in the tri–state area: New York, New Jersey, and Florida. They found four volunteers in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Elaine and I were walking toward a Wal-Mart when we saw an older woman from the music society leaving the store — well-dressed, perfect hair. It was obvious that she had not worn a mask while shopping. We swerved to the left to avoid her.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Talk about pre-cognitive dreaming: the bonkers governor of Alabama is more or less the woman I saw in my dream. I saw a photograph of the governor shortly after waking up this morning. And I must have listened to The Left Banke’s final album at least a dozen times in the last few weeks.]

Sunday, April 10, 2022

NBC, sheesh

“Price of eggs soar ahead of Easter:” a chyron, as seen on NBC Nightly News tonight. I have proof:

[Click for a larger mistake.]

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Automat redux?

The Washington Post wonders if COVID might revive Automat-style dining.

Related reading
All OCA Automat posts (Pinboard)

“It will be sunny one day”

From Letters of Note, a letter from Stephen Fry to a stranger.

It may not be true that it will be sunny one day, but it might help to believe that it will be.

Outtakes (10)

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

The outtakes sometimes remind me of Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966). But with the outtakes, sometimes they’re the same building.

Related posts
Outtakes (1) : Outtakes (2) : Outtakes (3): Outakes (4) : Outtakes (5) : Outtakes (6) : Outtakes (7) : Outtakes (8) : Outtakes (9) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Outtakes (9)

[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.]

These two are back to back, or side by side, photographs taken inside a store selling — what?

The little card, center left, says rab retsulccluster bar. Candy? Grounding equipment?


April 13: An intrepid reader sussed out the location:

[85 Warren Street, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

The repeated -ket turns out to be part of STEAMER BASKETS. Steamer baskets were baskets of fruit given as gifts to those going on an ocean voyage. Down at the tip of Manhattan, close to the water’s edge, Peters Market was well-placed to sell steamer baskets.

Many thanks to the intrepid reader who made shared this find.

Related posts
Outtakes (1) : Outtakes (2) : Outtakes (3): Outakes (4) : Outtakes (5) : Outtakes (6) : Outtakes (7) : Outtakes (8) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives