Sunday, July 31, 2022

Reconditioned Can Co.

[62 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, c. 1939-1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a larger view.]

I chose this photograph for its Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer flavor. I would imagine that the cans sent for reconditioning to the Reconditioned Can Co. were drums to hold chemicals, paints, industrial goods. I don’t think the company was working on cans of Le Sueur peas. But I could be wrong. “Can reconditioner” is an occupational title, and the work is about improving cans that hold food: hitting with a mallet to test the vacuum seal, removing dirt and rust, relabeling. So the Reconditioned Can Co. might be a food-salvage operation.

This Greenpoint building now houses apartments, some of them no doubt with canned goods.

Nearby in the Greenpoint area: Eberhard Faber, whose tax photographs don’t do the building justice. Much more impressive: the photographs in a New York Times article and Forgotten New York’s two-part — 1, 2 — tour of Greenpoint.

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

Rocks and debris

[Beetle Bailey, July 31, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

Ernie Bushmiller would know how to tidy up this landscape. Just “some rocks,” please.

[Strange to see “debris” in the news and in today’s Beetle Bailey.]

Eight to two, four to one

From the news:

“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.
I know precision is necessary. But I’d still be tempted to replace “potential debris impact risk” with “danger.”

[Eight syllables to two, four words to one.]

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

The last Newsday  Saturday Stumper I was unable to finish (June 4) was by Steve Mossberg. Today’s killer Stumper is by Steve Mossberg. Uh-oh.

It took me an hour, and I flailed for a “Long stretch” (49-A, four letters) in the northeast corner. I’d estimate that my solving time was lengthened by the challenge of concentrating amid the ever-shifting colors and shapes of the ads that fill the GameLabs window. Ugh. Newsday, please, bring back free access to the Stumper or charge a reasonable price for a crossword-only subscription.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, eight letters, “H’s horizontal.” Well, that was easy.

11-D, nine letters, “‘American Oxonian,’ e.g.” I struggled to see this one. The sixth letter of the answer was partly responsible. The quotation marks didn’t help.

12-D, nine letters, “Newspaper puzzle challenge.” I’ll have to take your word for it.

13-A, nine letters, “Inculpatory adage ender.” That was not easy.

16-A, nine letters, “Concert-to-go.” LIVESTREA — no.

24-D, six letters, “Terms of service.” Nicely deceptive.

26-A, twelve letters, “Pre-grilling advice.” Hah.

30-D, eight letters, “Breakfast buffet offering.” Mean!

31-D, nine letters, “Flavor enhancers.” I don’t recall seeing the answer in a puzzle before.

38-A, six letters, “Not keeping well.” I’ve seen this clue before, and it’s still a little forced for my taste.

48-D, five letters, “1953 debut as Froffles.” Easy once you see it. I was thinking maybe an animal friend from the movies or TV.

60-A, nine letters, “Do business.” I was reaching for a verb.

62-A, nine letters, “Go Bananas and Mango Madness.” I’m supposed to know this?

My favorite in this puzzle: 32-D, nine letters, “Electronic stop.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Another Mary Miller vote

Mary Miller (R, IL-15), who smiles as she poses with veterans, voted against S. 3373, the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, described as “a bill to improve the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant and the Children of Fallen Heroes Grant.” She was one of eighty-eight House members, all Republicans, who voted against the bill. The bill was then killed in the Senate by Republican votes, twenty-five of them from senators who had previously voted for the bill.

Miller’s Democratic opponent in November, Paul Lange, finally has a website and Twitter account. You’d never know from his website who he’s running against. You’d never know from his Twitter account about Miller’s vote on S. 3373 or many of her other votes. Not that it matters, because IL-15 was designed as a deep-red, non-competitive district.


Is it just me, or is it genuinely difficult to find Congressional votes in a timely way? still doesn’t have the final Senate vote on S. 3373. has the latest Senate vote yet shows the bill as going to the president.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

“I Like my Sleep!

[Dig the spats. Life, October 14, 1940. Click for a much larger view.]

I found this advertisement while looking, as usual, for something else. I have a soft spot for Al Smith. As a college freshman in an American history course, I wrote a term paper on his 1928 presidential campaign.

Have you ever heard Smith speak? Listen to the governor’s comments upon being presented with the first post-Prohibition case of beer in New York State. Priceless.

This post, with a Pullman car in it, is for my friend Diane.

[I’m not sure how Al Smith was able to underscore an exclamation point when speaking, but so be it.]

“As said before”

Dinnertime for Leopold Bloom. The scene is the dining room of the Ormond Hotel. Pat is the waiter. Richie Goulding is Stephen Dedalus’s uncle and Bloom’s casual acquaintance and impromptu dinner companion. Goulding is a costdrawer (cost accountant) in the legal firm of Collis and Ward. From the “Sirens” episode:

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922).

Joyce is rather playful here. The “Calypso” episode introduces Bloom thusly:

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922).

All OCA Joyce posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 28, 2022

“It’s for an invalid”

From the “Wandering Rocks” episode. Blazes Boylan is supervising the preparation of a gift basket to be delivered to Molly Bloom, whom he will visit that afternoon.

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922).

A few notes:

~ Thornton’s: fruiterer and florist, “a very fashionable shop” (Don Gifford, Ulysses Annotated).

~ “Fat pears,” “ripe shamefaced peaches”: Boylan would have no trouble understanding the language of emoji. In the “Ithaca” espiode we find a description of the remains of this gift: “an oval wicker basket bedded with fibre and containing one Jersey pear, a halfempty bottle of William Gilbey and Co’s white invalid port, half disrobed of its swathe of coralpink tissue paper.”

~ What’s in the jar? Apparently it’s Plumtree’s Potted Meat, flakes of which are found in the Blooms’ bed.

~ The OCA reader will have seen H.E.L.Y’s in a passage from “Lestrygonians.”

~ The “darkbacked figure”: Leopold Bloom.

~ “Invalid port”: a fortified wine. “Es un excelente reconstituyente,” says a webpage I found somewhere. Molly is of course not an invalid.

We last see Boylan in his small section of this episode with a red carnation between his smiling teeth. He takes it from a stem glass and asks the shopgirl if it’s for him.

Related reading
All OCA Joyce posts (Pinboard)

“Before Air-Conditioning”

Arthur Miller, writing in The New Yorker in 1998 about life in 1927 or ’28:

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s. Babies cried in the darkness, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional high laugh beside the lake. I can recall only white people spread out on the grass; Harlem began above 116th Street then.

Tony Dow (1945–2022)

He played Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver. The New York Times has an obituary.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022


From Bryan Garner’s LawProse Lesson #382, “Law graduates who can write”:

No memo or brief or letter is better than what’s in it. No amount of style and form, attention to punctuation and phrasing, can make good writing out of unreliable information and bad judgments. A good piece of writing is much more than phrasing, commas, and semicolons.

On the other hand, no amount of solid research and brilliant analysis will be useful until it’s communicated effectively to others. If your work requires writing, then your work is no better than your writing.
That last sentence should be useful to anyone who teaches writing. I can imagine it instantly instilling greater seriousness in a student.

[If you want to subscribe to Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day and LawProse Lessons (both free): here. If you want to subscribe to LawProse Lessons only: here.]

Changes in ASL

From The New York Times: “How Sign Language Evolves As Our World Does.” Begins with the influence of small screens on ASL but moves to matters of culture.

Another Mary Miller vote

I don’t follow them all. But this one stands out: Miller (R, IL-15) was one of just twenty “no” votes, all Republican, against H.R. 6552, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022. As is often the case, Miller voted with the worst of the worst: Biggs, Boebert, Brooks, Gaetz (no surprise there), Gosar, Greene, &c.

Who runs against Miller in November? Paul Lange.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

A joke in the traditional manner

Who’s the lead administrator in a school of fish?

On what would have been my dad’s ninety-fourth birthday, I continue in the traditional manner.

The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the new insect hybrid? : Did you hear about the shape-shifting car? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : How do ghosts hide their wrinkles? : How do worms get to the supermarket? : Of all the songs in the Great American Songbook, which is the favorite of pirates? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : What’s the name of the Illinois town where dentists want to live? : What’s the worst thing about owning nine houses? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Where does Paul Drake keep his hot tips? : Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money? : Why are supervillains good at staying warm in the winter? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why is the Fonz so cool? : Why sharpen your pencil to write a Dad joke? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He gets credit for the Autobahn, the elementary school, the Golden Retriever, Bela Lugosi, Samuel Clemens, the doctor, the plumber, the senior citizen, Oliver Hardy, and the ophthalmologist. Elaine gets credit for the Illinois town. Ben gets credit for the supervillains in winter. My dad was making such jokes long before anyone called them dad jokes.]

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

At last

From The Washington Post :

The Justice Department is investigating President Donald Trump’s actions as part of its criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to four people familiar with the matter.

“‘Alternative’ votes”

From The New York Times: “Previously undisclosed communications among Trump campaign aides and outside advisers provide new insight into their efforts to overturn the election in the weeks leading to Jan. 6.”

The scheming in these e-mails is transparently dishonest. Of the fake-electors ploy, Jack D. Wilenchik, a lawyer, writes,

I guess there’s no harm in it, (legally at least) — i.e. we would just be sending in “fake” electoral votes to Pence so that “someone” in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the “fake” votes should be counted.”
In another e-mail, Wilenchik writes that “‘alternative’ votes is probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes.” He appends a smiley face to that suggestion.

Remember “alternative facts”?

An Automat ad

A ghost ad in the Garment District.

Related reading
All OCA Automat posts (Pinboard)

Literature clock


I would like to know if it has 5:15 a.m., but I wouldn’t want to have to get up that early to find out.


My friend Stefan Hagemann tells me that 5:15 a.m. is a passage from Hunter Thompson.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Joni Mitchell sings

And plays — there’s one guitar solo. At the Newport Folk Festival, yesterday:

An introduction : “Carey” : “Come In from the Cold” : “Help Me” : “A Case of You” : “Big Yellow Taxi” : “Just Like This Train” : “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” : “Amelia” : “Love Potion No. 9” : “Shine” : “Summertime” : “Both Sides Now” : “The Circle Game.”

And that’s all — there’s a set list.

Brandi Carlile: “Did the world just stop? Did everything that was wrong with it just go away?”

Trump edits

[As found here. Click for a much larger view.]

The Trump edits to this statement are almost entirely self-explanatory. But why take out “and sickened”? To be outraged is to be angry. I’m going to guess that for the defeated former president, to be sickened, or to say that you’re sickened, is to look weak.


And for the record: he did not deploy the National Guard or federal law enforcement.


I realized only early this morning: omitting “you do not represent me" and “you do not represent our movement,” while leaving in “you do not represent our country,” seems to suggest that “Antifa” was behind the January 6 riot. Which of course doesn’t jibe with “you’re very special” and “we love you.” But 2 + 2 sometimes equals 5, right?

The Van Gelder Studio

The Van Gelder Studio, coming back.

A related post
Rudy Van Gelder (1924–2016)

Self-rule and survival

Timothy Snyder, on “Self-Rule and Survival”:

Thanks to Ukrainian resistance, we have all been given a chance to think, with at least some hope, about the future of democracy. Thanks to the January 6 hearings, Americans have been given a chance to think about the choice they can make to preserve our republic. It would be a very good thing if, in our midterm elections of 2022, we voted only for candidates who denounce the big lie that Trump won the 2020 election. Beyond that, it is important for all of us, these next two years, to make clear what we stand for. A second coup is being planned in America. Like the first one it will fail if it is attempted — but it will fail in a different way, by breaking the country apart. America will not survive without self-rule, and I fear it is unlikely to survive a second attempt to take it away.
Other posts quoting Timothy Snyder
“Believe in truth” : “The individual who investigates” : Nationalism, patriotism, and possible futures : “9 Theses on Putin’s Fascism”

Sunday, July 24, 2022


I took a look at 52nd Street and found the Onyx Club and the Famous Door, fabled names in jazz.

[The Onyx Club, 62 West 52nd Street, c. 1939–1941.]

[The Famous Door, 66 West 52nd Street, c. 1939–1941.]

[Both clubs, c. 1939–1941. All photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives Collections.]

The name on the Onyx Club’s marquee: Kenny Watts. Patrick Burke‘s Come In and Hear the Truth: Jazz and Race on 52nd Street (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008) notes that the Onyx Club closed in December 1939 after being picketed as unfair to union musicians,

both because the club had failed to pay union members adequately and because it was currently featuring Kenny Watts and his Kilowatts, “a non-union combination.” In September 1940, the union picketed the Swing Club at 35 West 52nd, and in October the Famous Door appeared on the “Unfair List of Local 802.” Although their recourse to the union could be helpful, it is clear that performing on 52nd Street could be a difficult way for musicians to make a living.
At the Famous Door when these photographs were taken: Ella Fitzgerald. That banner (wow) reads “First Lady of Swing.” One side says, I think, “The Tisket A Tasket Girl.” Or is it “Gal”? Fitzgerald would have been in a new role at the Famous Door, fronting a band not long after the death of drummer and bandleader Chick Webb.

Among the musicians associated with the Onxy Club, the violinist and singer Stuff Smith and His Onyx Club Boys.

[Stuff Smith at the Onyx Club. Date unknown.]

Here are three samples of Stuff: “Onyx Club Spree” (1937), a 1965 quartet performance, and a 1957 (?) appearance with Fitzgerald, Roy Eldridge, and the Oscar Peterson Trio.

Look closely at the first photograph and you’ll see between the two nightspots a third, Lou Richman’s Dizzy Club. Richman was the brother of the entertainer Harry Richman. In 1936 Time mentioned the club’s seventeen-year-old female bouncer. The club would not have been named for Dizzy Gillespie — who was years away from being a personage on 52nd Street.

And Chez Lina, at 70 West 52nd (visible in the second photograph): that was a restaurant.

Related reading
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives : The Famous Door and The Onyx Club (Wikipedia)

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Domestic comedy

[Star Trek. Shatner front and center.]

“What acting.”

“What acting?”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stella Zawistowski. Though SZ is known as maker of difficult puzzles, her Stumpers tend to be relatively easy. Not today’s puzzle though, which took me half an hour to finish. A solid Stumper. So I can finally throw back my head like a baying hound and bellow “Stella! Stella!” And mean it.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, ten letters, “Diva designation.” This clue seemed to me a giveaway. A good start. Thank you.

6-D, six letters, “Region abutting Switzerland and Germany.” Of note to me because Elaine and I and our friend Margie King Barab once rendezvoused at a restaurant with this region’s cuisine. We were in Manhattan.

9-D, eight letters, “Went over.” Dig the vagueness.

12-D, ten letters, “Bit associated with Elvis.” I once saw an exhibit of Elvis artifacts at the local mall. The saddest exhibit I’ve ever seen. Sunglasses with the TCB insigina (Taking Care of Business.) Many 12-Ds.

17-A, ten letters. “Foldable food.” Yes, indeed.

18-A, four letters, “Badly in need of a wash.” Ick.

25-A, seven letters, “Much consumed juice.” A little deceptive, but I was not deceived.

25-D, ten letters, “Ready to go.” Oof.

27-D, ten letters, “Evincing one’s annoyance.” Oof. Oof.

31-A, five letters, “It’s in tanks a lot.” A wonderful clue. My first thought was SANKA.

46-D, five letters, “A little relief.” Very clever.

38-A, eight letters, “Drying out, perhaps.” ONTHEWAG — no, it doesn’t fit.

50-D, four letters, “County with radio station KVYN.” Now I get it.

56-A, ten letters, “Got nowhere.” I think the first four letters are meant to mislead.

61-A, ten letters, “Absents oneself.” Lovely.

My favorite: 36-D, eight letters, “Redundant reckoning.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

[“I can finally throw back,” &c.: paraphrasing the stage direction from the play.]

Friday, July 22, 2022

A fix for the check engine light light

A possible fix: remove the gas cap and put it back on, making sure that it’s firmly in place. Then see if the light goes away.

Or does everyone already know this trick?

Manufacturing fear

From The Fearmakers (dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1958). Alan Eaton (Dana Andrews), POW and victim of brainwashing, returns from Korea to Washington, D.C., only to find that his partner in a two-man public-relations and polling firm is dead and that the business has been taken over by one Jim McGinnis (Dick Foran). The new company is in the business not of measuring public opinion but of manufacturing it, with faux-roots organizations and mass-produced letters to politicians promoting Soviet-approved positions. “We turn the screws on the United States Congress,” McGinnis brags. “And from there it’s just a step to the White House.”

Eaton says that McGinnis is just manufacturing fear:

“Millions of people being lied to, taken for suckers. You know, it's a funny thing: they have pure food and drug laws to keep people from buying poison to put in their stomachs. And you're peddling poison to put in their minds.”
And Eaton to the company secretary, Lorraine Dennis (Matilee Earle), as the two stand before the Lincoln Memorial:
“You know, he was right. You can't fool all the people all the time. But nowadays you don't have to fool all the people — just enough to swing it for the Fletchers and the Jessups.”
It’s a prescient movie, streaming at TCM through July 31.

[“The Fletchers and the Jessups”: referencing other characters, lobbyists and Communist sympathizers.]

Mary Miller in The Boston Globe

Jaclyn Friedman, writing in The Boston Globe :

So many people in power have been plainly declaring their ugliest beliefs and plans lately that it ironically has become hard to hear them all. But our collective future depends on hearing the signal in all the noise.
Friedman begins the piece with House Republican Mary Miller (IL-15), and her infamous “historic victory for white life” gaffe/not-gaffe.

Miller continues on her wayward way. Recently, she voted against H.R. 8404, the Respect for Marriage Act (codifying equal marriage rights), and H.R. 8373, which would protect the right to contraception. She even voted against H.R. 7693, the National Park Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2022, one of twenty-two Republicans to do so.

There’s something about Mary.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Last words

“Mike Pence let me down”: Donald Trump’s last words before leaving the West Wing circa 6:00 p.m. on January 6, 2021. Perhaps media outlets will finally begin to address what many an unprofessional observer has long sensed: that the defeated former president is a psychopath. It’s never not about him.

What matters

Adam Kinzinger (R, IL-16): “Oaths matter. Character matters. Truth matters.”

Harmonizes nicely with what Representative Adam Schiff (D, CA-28) said in 2020.


Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) raising a clenched fist for the crowd (not yet mob) at the U.S. Capitol.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) running down a Capitol hallway, then down a flight of stairs, fleeing to safety.

[From tonight’s hearing. Here’s the video. Laughter ensued.]

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

I hadn’t planned on posting another mystery so soon. But there he was.

Leave your guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if one is needed.


9:47 a.m.: That was fast. The answer is now in the comments.

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

The last movie-rental clerk

“Here at Film Noir Cinema, we bring darkness to light, not light to darkness”: in The New York Times, a profile of the last movie-rental clerk in New York City.

The little theater attached to the rental store reminds me of the Snark Theater in Daniel Pinkwater’s The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death (1982). Walter Galt narrates:

It shows movies I never heard of, and it shows them in strange combinations.

For example, a typical double bill may consist of a Yugoslavian film (with subtitles), Vampires in a Deserted Seaside Hotel at the End of August, and along with it, Invasion of the Bageloids, in which rock-hard, intelligent bagels from outer space attack Earth. Everybody gets bopped on the head until scientists figure out a way to defeat the bageloids. I won’t spoil the ending by telling what it is, but it has something to do with cream cheese.

I wouldn’t say that every movie the Snark Theater shows is good, but they’re all interesting in their way.

“Eating plums way up there”

After first reading Ulysses. From a wonderful short essay by Fintan O’Toole, “The Book That Never Stops Changing” (The Atlantic ):

Now I knew what my father and Vincent were joking about and why we were eating plums way up there above the streets of Dublin. The book was in their heads, and they were inhabiting simultaneously Joyce’s comic parable and the present-day city.
Related reading
All OCA Joyce posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Mystery actor

[Click for a much larger view.]

His name was in the credits. But I still didn’t recognize him. Do you?

Please, guess and guess again. I’m going to be away from screens for a bit; I’ll drop a hint in the not too distant future if necessary.

Someone guessed Mark Hamill, and there is a strong resemblance. But this actor was born much earlier.


Here’s a hint: here the actor is playing a bad guy. But he’s best known for a role on the right side of the law.


One more hint: That role was in something whose title gave rise to a memorable bit of slang.


I’ll leave the name in the comments. Anyone who still wants to guess is welcome to do so.

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

Canned sardines (still, yes, still) having a moment

In The New York Times, a visit to Portugal’s Conservas Pinhais:

Canned sardines are having a moment in the food world. With exquisitely decorated tins, perceived if questionable sustainability and the decadence of being drenched in oil, they’ve earned a devoted following among youngish people who love them with their whole heart. At Conservas Pinhais e Cia in Matosinhos, a fish-canning factory just a few miles from the center of Porto, visitors are invited to see that their new favorite treat is, in fact, a very old operation.
“Youngish people who love them with their whole heart”: that’s me!

Insider paid Conservas Pinhais a visit in 2019 and brought back a short film. And yes, Nuri sardines are delicious.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Don’t call him MBS

NPR: Please, stop calling Mohammed bin Salman MBS. He is not a brand like BMW or IBM. He is not a hip-hop star like DMC or DMX. But the nickname serves to turn bin Salman into a brand, into a star. He is in fact a suave, murderous theocrat.

Ask the bonesaw, if it can be located.

[I listened to too much NPR yesterday.]

Proust on paper and film

~ Conservators at the National Library of France are restoring the first known draft material of À la recherche du temps perdu, the seventy-five pages known as “the seventy-five pages.”

~ El tiempo perdido, a documentary by María Alvarez, will be released in August. It’s about a group of readers in Buenos Aires who have been reading and rereading Proust for eighteen years.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Ellington at Uwis

Fifty years ago, July 17–21, 1972, it was Duke Ellington Week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here, from the Duke Ellington Society of Sweden, is an account of the proceedings, with links to the program and recorded excerpts.

And here, also from the DESS, is a Zoom discussion of Ellington Week, with Patricia Willard’s firsthand account of the proceedings, followed by a half-hour television broadcast of Ellington talking to and playing for a Uwis audience. I think having an audience mostly of young people must have pleased Ellington: I’ve never seen him speak with greater ease and openness. The highlight: Paul Gonsalves’s unexpected appearance on stage, an episode I wrote about in a 2016 post.

Why Uwis? Because Ellington marked the occasion with with The Uwis Suite. It’s in three parts as released on the The Ellington Suites (Pablo, 1976): “Uwis,” “Klop,” and “Loco Madi.” A recording of a fourth (first) section, “The Anticipation,” for solo piano, was released on Duke Ellington: An Intimate Piano Session (Storyville, 2017). Here they are, all four: “The Anticipation,” “Uwis,” “Klop,” and “Loco Madi.” “Uwis” is one of my favorite pieces of late Ellington: serene, urbane, with just a hint of the polka that appears in “Klop.”

Related reading
All OCA Ellington posts (Pinboard)

Another Miller vote

Mary Miller (R, IL-15) was one of just eighteen members of the House of Representatives (all Republicans) to vote against H.Res. 1130, a resolution expressing support for Finland’s and Sweden’s applications to join NATO. Here’s the vote.

There’s something about Mary.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

A new strain

In The New York Times, “How ‘Stop the Steal’ Captured the American Right”:

History, faith, crime, retribution: These are the rudiments of a new strain of Republican politics, shaped by the last year of Trump’s presidency — the second impeachment trial, the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign — but destined to extend far beyond it.

Monday, July 18, 2022

“Always meeting ourselves”

Stephen Dedalus speaks. From the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode:

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922).

Stephen’s words click with a Bloom thought earlier in the day: “Wander along all day. Might meet a robber or two. Well, meet him.” “Meet him”: a pun on metempsychosis (“met him pike hoses”), a word Bloom attempts to explain to Molly earlier in the day. There’s another click to come.

Related reading
All OCA Joyce posts (Pinboard)

Aloe, hallo

[As seen on a window sill.]

The sun was just right the other day. I drew on the picture, not on the curtain in front of the aloe.

“Always meeting ourselves,” as Stephen Dedalus would say. Faces everywhere.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sol. Lou. 25¢ a Lesson

Two weeks ago in these pages I was admiring the symmetrical presentation of Kubrick Self Service Stores at 1267 40th Street, Boro Park, Brooklyn. One week ago I was in a reverie about the Thirteenth Avenue Retail Market, one side of which ran down 40th Street, north of Kubrick. Today it’s time to see what once stood at the corner of 13th and 40th, just south of Kubrick.

[3920 13th Avenue, Boro Park, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. As seen from 13th Avenue. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

That’s quite a corner, with nearly every available surface used for text. Sol. Fruit & Vegetable Mkt. Lou. Sol・Fruit・Vegetables・Lou. Quality Fruits & Vegetables. But Sol. and Lou. had nothing on the Community Schools of Music, Courses for Beginners & Advanced, Courses for Children & Adults. And in case you missed it: the price of a lesson was 25¢.

I can find nothing online about these establishments. Not a single advertisement: maybe that’s how they kept prices low. (See below). Something produce-related was still happening on this corner in the not distant past, as this 1980s tax photograph shows. As of October 2021 (Google Maps), the corner of 13th and 40th housed a mobile-phone store and a referral service for home health-care.

When I was a kid in Brooklyn in the 1960s, we may have shopped at this market. Or it may have been another market, also exposed to the open air, Burdo Bros. Poor People[’]s Friends, at 13th Avenue and 39th Street. Here’s a photograph by Anthony Catalano from the early 1970s. A 1980s tax photo shows produce still being sold on that corner, under an awning with what appear to be the same words: Burdo Bros. Poor People[’]s Friends. Whichever market we went to, I remember the handwritten (handnumbered?) signs with prices: everything in red and black, mixing thin and super-thick lines. Something like this. As of September 2021 (Google Maps), the corner of 13th and 39th housed a deli and grill.

Further reverie: just down the avenue from Burdo Bros. in Anthony Catalano’s photograph is the storefront for Vinny and Roger, or Vinny and Roger’s, or Vinny & Rogers, the butcher shop where we bought meat and poultry. I remember also the jars of Aunt Millie’s Spaghetti Sauce lined up on a shelf, with the odd silhouette of a woman with her hair in a bun. I knew a kid named Millie in Brooklyn. I knew a kid named Vinny too. He had an teenaged uncle, Uncle Tony, whom he would call for assistance. Ah, Brooklyn.


July 18: I made the mistake of searching Brooklyn Newsstand for “community schools of music.” A search for “community school of music” shows the project getting underway between 1926 and 1927, with classified ads selling furniture and soliciting salespeople, followed by a 1927 advertisement offering lessons. Thanks, Brian.


July 20: By 1943, it was Sol’s Fruit & Vegetable Market. Still WIndsor 5-3868. Thanks, Brian. And thanks, telephone directory.


November 13: As I now know, it was Vinny & Rogers. See also this photograph.

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

Thel’s usage

[The Family Circus, July 17, 2022.]

Thel’s verb choice in today’s strip made me open Garner’s Modern English Usage:

Any may take either a singular or a plural verb. The singular use is fairly rare.
Let’s make Thel sound less rare:

[The Family Circus revised, July 17, 2022.]

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

The Newsday crossword is still unavailable (at least to me) at the Newsday website, so I found today’s Saturday Stumper here. Today’s puzzle is by “Lester Ruff” (Stan Newman), and 1-D, six letters, “World Chess champion, 1975-85” seemed to portend an easy puzzle indeed. (Why am I using a word like portend early on a Saturday morning?) The one sticky part of the puzzle for me: the northeast corner, where 7-A, eight letters, “Highly attuned to others” and 10-D, five letters, “Takes in" baffled me. But not forever.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, six letters, “Former members of the OfficeMax family.” Perhaps common knowledge, but news to me.

8-D, six letters, “Heretofore.” I had the wrong start.

14-D, eight letters, “Plant regulated by the EPA.” Not anymore?

37-A, fifteen letters, “Sales promotion phrase.” Oh, that kind of, &c.

37-D, eight letters, “Rallying cry of the 2000s.” I have to think it’s still the case.

47-D, six letters, “Escarole alias.” I had no idea. When I was a grad student, esacrole meant “cheaper than lettuce.” The alias has always seemed to me a fancy-pants word.

53-A, five letters, “The origin of civilzation.” Heh.

56-A, four letters, “Chow chow.” I cannot see these words without thinking of Ed Norton.

66-A, eight letters, “Owlet, for instance.” Aww.

My favorite: 24-D, six letters, “Charge you shouldn’t have to pay for.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 15, 2022


“We are turning into Gilead”: Jonathan Capehart on the PBS NewsHour just now.

Zippy in the Nancy world

[“One Bush, Two Millers, Three Pinheads.” Zippy, July 15, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s strip finds our hero in new but familiar surroundings.

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

Words from Ralph Ellison

Words from Ralph Ellison that I’ve long carried in my head started knocking around in there yesterday, so I added them to the Words to Live By in the sidebar.

If you’re reading via RSS, click through and you can see them, along with words from Heraclitus, Harvey Pekar, Marcel Proust, Eleanor Roosevelt, J.D. Salinger, and Simone Weil.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

How to do a left-branching sentence

It’s by Olivia Nuzzi, writing in New York:

Donald Trump was impeached twice, lost the 2020 election by 7,052,770 votes, is entangled in investigations by federal prosecutors (over the Capitol insurrection and over the mishandling of classified White House documents and over election interference) and the District of Columbia attorney general (over financial fraud at the Presidential Inaugural Committee) and the Manhattan district attorney (over financial fraud at the Trump Organization) and the New York State attorney general (over financial fraud at the Trump Organization) and the Westchester County district attorney (over financial fraud at the Trump Organization) and the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney (over criminal election interference in Georgia) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (over rules violations in plans to take his social-media company public through a SPAC) and the House Select Committee on January 6 (whose hearings are the runaway TV-ratings hit of the summer), yet on Monday, July 11, he was in a fantastic mood.
Virginia Tufte, in Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style (Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 2006):
In many successful left–branching sentences, there is a temporal or logical development of the expressed idea that invites the delayed disclosure of the left-branching arrangement. The material that comes first seems natural and appropriate, and the anticipated material that concludes the sentence makes an almost inevitable point.
It’s the opposite here: the point is not inevitable but surprising, aberrant, and the sentence is all the stronger for it. The repetition of “(over financial fraud at the Trump Organization)” is especially effective in piling up all the points that will be contradicted by “yet” when the sentence comes to its close.

[Garner’s Modern English Usage defines left-branching sentence: “A complicated sentence that has most of its complexity — the conditions, exceptions, etc. — before the principal verb; one that has a majority of its constituents on the left side of the tree diagram.” I’ve omitted the links in Nuzzi’s sentence. You can find them in the original.]

Menthol trickery

Here’s a deeply researched and deeply disturbing book: Pushing Cool: Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold Story of the Menthol Cigarette (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021), by Princeton historian Keith Wailoo. Wailoo begins with Dave Chappelle’s question: “Why do black people love menthols so much?” The joke answer, of course: “Nobody knows.” But tobacco companies and advertising consultants know.

An excerpt:

As I looked closely into the industry’s menthol project, I came to understand that menthol’s history is layered with trickery that takes one’s breath away — both figuratively and literally. I also came to see menthol’s ascent as exemplary of the broader story of racial capitalism in America. That is, it is a story of race and the economy of cities, of the racial profits to be made in the smoking business, and about the devices created for extracting wealth from Black communities even as they also extracted health from Black bodies. The business tactics that helped companies develop Black menthol markets were not specific to African Americans. Yet the industry’s commitment to understanding the African American social condition (in order to shape smoking preferences) is at once fascinating and frightening. If their studies of Black life had been done for any other purposes than for the selling of tobacco products, the depth of thought devoted to understanding race, the city, and society might be admirable. They studied the difficulties that Black people in cities confronted. They looked closely at the challenges of poverty, drug use, residential segregation, and urban decline — doing so to a remarkable degree. Big Tobacco’s interest in these issues was not focused on ameliorating social ills, however. Their brand of racial capitalism looked at urban distress and social vulnerability in search of opportunity. With greater social adversity came the capacity for greater profits.
Three details to illustrate the shamelessness of the effort to sell menthol to Black communities:

~ In 1971 advertising consultants suggested to Liggett a new menthol brand to appeal to Black people in the “drug culture.” It was to be called Halfway, which the consultants said was meant to suggest “a half-way house toward marijuana and heroin.”

~ In 1976 a Lorillard executive floated the name Cole for a new menthol brand, meant to suggest Nat King Cole: “I believe the name COLE (if not already registered) would be immediately accepted by the Blacks.” The executive seems not to have known that Cole smoked three packs a day and died of lung cancer.

~ And in 1990 R.J. Reynolds was forced to scrap plans for the menthol brand Uptown.

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times, Wailoo offered a short version of the book’s argument: “How the Tobacco Industry Hooked Black Smokers on Menthols.”

Our tube

Herb Edelman, Margot Kidder, Cynthia Nixon, and David Soul, all in the Murder, She Wrote episode “Threshold of Fear” (February 28, 1993). Familiar faces in new arrangements: one of the pleasures of television. See also these arrangments.

[Edelman: Stanley Zbornak in The Golden Girls. The other names should be recognizable. When I watch Murder, She Wrote, I watch just long enough to see the familiar cast members on the screen.]

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Humble crow

A guest on the PBS NewsHour just now: “That’s why I’m eating humble crow this afternoon.”

All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)

[A quick look around suggests to me that this mixing of idioms is not unusual. But it’s new to me.]

“Smart girls writing something”

It’s lunchtime in the “Lestrygonians” episode, whose narrative technique is peristalsis. Thus five men advertising a Dublin printer and stationer circulate through the streets. How can I not post a passage about stationery supplies and a Bloom scheme to sell them?

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922).

A few glosses:

~ Bloom was once employed as a traveling salesman for Charles Wisdom Hely, (1856–1929), Dublin printer and stationer.

~ The letters on the hats remind Bloom of something he noticed when he stopped into a church earlier in the day: IHS, the letters on the back of the priest’s vestments. Bloom thinks they mean “I have suffered.” Not so. In two other appearances, the final hat has an apostrophe: ’S.

~ Skilly: skilligalee, a thin broth or porridge.

~ Boyl: Blazes Boylan, businessman of many endeavors and the sometime manager of Molly Bloom’s singing career. In the Odyssey scheme of things, he is “the suitors” to Molly’s Penelope. Bloom’s dread of what will happen/has happened during Boylan’s afternoon visit to Molly runs through the hours of the day.

~ M’Glade: not mentioned elsewhere in the novel.

~ Bloom’s penchant for unusual ideas is well on display in this passage. His idea of a transparent showcart is far more inventive and amusing than the placing of an ad for Plumtree’s Potted Meat under the obituaries.

Related reading
All OCA Joyce posts (Pinboard)

A waitress speaks

The diner scene in Five Easy Pieces made me think of Dolores Dante, from Studs Terkel’s Working (New York: Pantheon, 1974):

I have to be a waitress. How else can I learn about people? How else does the world come to me? I can’t go to everyone. So they have to come to me. Everyone wants to eat, everyone has hunger. And I serve them. If they’ve had a bad day, I nurse them, cajole them. Maybe with coffee I give them a little philosophy. They have cocktails, I give them political science.

I’ll say things that bug me. If they manufacture soap, I say what I think about pollution. If it’s automobiles, I say what I think about them. If I pour water I’ll say, “Would you like your quota of mercury today?” If I serve cream, I say, “Here is your substitute. I think you’re drinking plastic.” I just can’t keep quiet. I have an opinion on every single subject there is. In the beginning it was theology, and my bosses didn’t like it. Now I am a political and my bosses don’t like it. I speak sotto voce. But if I get heated, then I don’t give a damn. I speak like an Italian speaks. I can’t be servile. I give service. There is a difference.


People imagine a waitress couldn’t possibly think or have any kind of aspiration other than to serve food. When somebody says to me, “You’re great, how come you’re just a waitress? Just a waitress. I’d say “Why, don’t you think you deserve to be served by me?”
So many memorable voices in that book. Sharon Atkins, receptionist: “I never answer the phone at home.” Brett Hauser, supermarket box boy: “In the general scheme of things, in the large questions of the universe, putting a can of dog food in the bag wrong is not of great consequence.” Lincoln James, maintenance man in a rendering and glue factory: “It’s not a stink, but it’s not sweet either.” Joe Zmuda, retired: “That daydreaming don’t do you any good.”

[The Social Security Death Index lists one Dolores Dante, 1929–1979. “Dolores Dante” was a pseudonym.]

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Turning the tables

Representative Jamie Raskin (D, MD-8) in his closing remarks at today’s January 6 hearing, taking up theme of Donald Trump’s inauguration:

“In his inaugural address, Trump introduced one commanding image: ‘American carnage.’ Although that turn of phrase explained little about our country before he took office, it turned out to be an excellent prophecy of what his rage would come to visit on our people.”
“American carnage: that’s Donald Trump’s true legacy. His desire to overthrow the people’s election and seize the presidency, interrupt the counting of Electoral College votes for the first time in American history, nearly toppled the constitutional order and brutalized hundreds and hundreds of people.”
“Constitutional democracy is the silver frame, as Lincoln put it, upon which the golden apple of freedom rests. We need to defend both our democracy and our fredom with everything we have and declare that this American carnage ends here and now. In a world of resurgent authoritarianism and racism and anti-Semitism, let’s all hang tough for American democracy.”
I think Rasking might have done well to omit “Although that turn of phrase explained little about our country before he took office.” Because in truth, there’s been plenty of American carnage at home and abroad. But I can see the point of turning the tables as Raskin did.

And in the spirit of Steve Jobs’s “one more thing” moments, the hearing ended with a bombshell from Liz Cheney (R, WY), who revealed that after the last hearing, Trump tried to call a witness not yet seen in the hearings. That person declined the call and alerted their lawyer, who alerted the committee. And the committee has reported the matter to the Department of Justice. Is it witness tampering yet? With Mark Meadows?

Merrick Garland, cleanup in aisle 45!

[My transcription.]


“The west wing is UNHINGED”: Cassidy Hutchinson, in a text message sent during the December 18 meeting between Trump, White House aides, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani, and Sidney Powell. Trump’s “will be wild” tweet followed.

A Blackwing sighting

[From Death in Small Doses (dir. Joseph M. Newman, 1957). Click for a much larger view.]

Peter Graves is an undercover agent posing as a truck driver; Merry Anders is a waitress. The Blackwing is a pencil. Click and look at the ferrule: that’s an Eberhard Faber Blackwing for sure.

Related reading
All OCA Blackwing posts (Pinboard)

Studs Terkel and DFW

Chris at Dreamers Rise mentioned that Studs Terkel had something to say about Five Easy Pieces (dir. Bob Rafelson, 1970). Did he ever. From “Do You Like Bruegel?,” in Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times (New York: Pantheon, 1977):

Though it is several years since I’ve seen the film Five Easy Pieces, my indignation is lasting. Remember that scene, oh God, in which the waitress is the virago? She refuses to serve Jack Nicholson and his companions toast or something. “It’s not on the menu,” the cold bitch says. Talk about a cheap shot. Nicholson, righteous, humiliates the waitress. The audience, our eighteen-to-thirty market, applauds and cheers. The young shits.

What were we told of this nasty woman? Was it afternoon? Was it near the end of a long day for her? And how were her varicose veins? And what happened behind those swinging doors? Did she and the chef have words? And why was she waiting on tables? Was her old man sick? Did he run off? Was her daughter in trouble? And how many Bufferins did she just take? Perhaps she was indeed a Nogood Girlo. We’ll never know. We knew more than we needed to know about Nicholson, nothing about her. Yet there she was, Medusa. Why didn’t I have the guts to stand up in that darkened house and holler, “You fucking young solipsists!”?
These observations remind me of David Foster Wallace’s imagining of the life of a shopper waiting on line in a supermarket. From his 2005 Kenyon College commencement address, now known as This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (New York: Little, Brown, 2009):
But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of her husband who’s dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider.
Wallace’s address has a milder version of standing up and hollering: when the audience begins to clap and cheer at the wrong spot, Wallace tells them, “this is an example of how not to think, though.”

Thanks, Chris.


I just remembered the great account of waiting on tables from Dolores Dante in Terkel’s Working. I’ll post an excerpt soon.

[I’ve followed the audio version of Wallace’s address.]

Monday, July 11, 2022

Bust = flood?

From Talking Points Memo, “GOPer Cites Successful Drug Bust at Border as Proof Biden Allows Drugs to Enter US”:

It’s not super clear how a drug bust in which more than 10,000 fentanyl pills were seized at the border (as reported by Michael Humphries, the [Customs and Border Protection]’s area port director of the Port of Nogales) proves that the President is unleashing a flood of drugs into the country.
The GOPer in question is our own Mary Miller (IL-15), still outdoing a box of rocks for dumbness.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

Twelve movies

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

Five Easy Pieces (dir. Bob Rafelson, 1970). Jack Nicholson plays Robert Dupea, an oil-rig worker who visits the family compound, a Chekhovian world of classical music and idleness. Robert once studied piano — thus the title — but now finds himself alienated from his family’s high-minded pursuits, alienated from his Tammy Wynette-singing girlfriend (Karen Black), alienated from everyone. I think watching movies mostly from the 1940s and ’50s makes me an unfit audience for this one. With Karen Black, Lois Smith, and Ralph Waite. ★★★ (TCM)


Without Warning! (dir. Arnold Laven, 1952). Adam Williams (Valerian in North by Northwest ) plays an unassuming gardener who kills blonde women with garden shears. Much better than that grim synopsis might suggest, with stylish cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc, a fresh-sounding score by Herschel Burke Gilbert, and great location shots of Chavez Ravine and the Los Angeles River. Though the outcome is never in doubt, there’s genuine suspense as the story nears its end. One great unnecessary bit: the lab analyst preparing coffee. ★★★ (YT)


Conflict (dir. Curtis Bernhardt, 1945). I was surprised to see this title — a Humphrey Bogart movie I’d never heard of. Deeply weird and disturbing, with Bogart as Richard Mason, an unhappily married man openly pining for his wife’s sister (Alexis Smith). Mason kills his wife (Rose Hobart) — or thinks he has — but signs that she’s still alive begin to appear — jewelry, a handkerchief, the scent of her perfume. With Sydney Greenstreet as a jovial bachelor psychologist. ★★★★ (TCM)


The Janes (dir. Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes, 2022). In the pre-Roe world, a small group of Chicago women established “Call Jane,” a service providing safe and affordable (or free) abortions. And the service flourished for years. I learned a lot — especially about how organized crime profited from illegal abortions. I wish that this film weren’t so timely. ★★★★ (HBO)


The Gospel of Eureka (dir. Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri, 2018). Eureka Springs, Arkansas is home to an enormous Christ of the Ozarks statue, a summertime Passion Play (both the work of the Christian nationalist and anti-Semite Gerald L.K. Smith, whose views are no longer reflected in the play), and a flourishing LGBTQ community. We see both the play’s cast and drag performers making up and getting in costume, and the filmmakers seem to be trying to convince the viewer that these endeavors are not so different, and that everyone in Eureka Springs just gets along. But basic questions — population size, whether the drag performers live locally and are known to their neighbors, whether they always lip-sync to religious tunes, what Passion Play audiences might say about the LGBQT community, how that community established itself in Eureka Springs, whether anyone ever gets harassed — never get answers. This CNN story does a better job than the documentary. ★★ (CC)


21 Days (dir. Basil Dean, 1940). The premise is established with Hitchcockian economy and speed: Larry Durrant (Laurence Olivier), the ne’er-do-well brother of a judge (Leslie Banks, the father in The Man Who Knew Too Much), returns to London and begins a romance with the beautiful Wanda Wallen (Vivien Leigh, who would soon marry Olivier). When a man who claims to be Wanda’s husband shows up, there’s a struggle, the man ends up dead, and Larry is faced with the choice of turning himself in or letting an indigent suspect hang for murder. Larry has twenty-one days in which to decide. “Murder is promises.” ★★★★ (CC)


Death in Small Doses (dir. Joseph M. Newman, 1957). The doses: amphetamine, known to truckers (at least in 1957) as bennies, co-pilots, and stay-awakes. Peter Graves plays a federal agent who goes undercover as a novice driver to find the source of distribution in Los Angeles. Romance is in the air at his boarding house (with landlady Mala Powers). Mostly predictable, but the ending took naive me by surprise. Merry Anders has a good turn as a waitress, and Chuck Connors steals the movie as a pill-popping truckdriver. ★★★ (YT)


Joy in the Morning (dir. Alex Segal, 1965). From the novel by Betty Smith. Richard Chamberlain and Yvette Mimieux play a young married couple, Carl and Annie, struggling with multiple challenges: jealousy, fear of intimacy, parental disapproval, and the burdens of study and side jobs (Carl is in law school). There’s little chemistry between the principals, and too many exclamations: “Oh, Carl! Carl!” The most compelling character in the movie is Anthony (Donald Davis), a gay florist who befriends Annie and gives her crucial advice about life and love: his story would make a good movie. ★★ (TCM)


Abandoned (dir. Joe Newman, 1949). A glib but ultimately earnest reporter, Mark (Dennis O’Keefe), teams up with Paula (Gale Storm), who’s come to Los Angeles to search for her missing sister. Risking great danger, Mark and Paula uncover a baby-selling racket. At times a procedural, with the chief of police (Jeff Chandler) assisting the searchers; at times a noir, with shadowy corners (courtesy of cinematographer William Daniels) and implications of sadistic brutality. Look for Raymond Burr as a sketchy detective. ★★★ (YT)


From the Criterion Channel’s Noir in Color collection

Desert Fury (dir. Lewis Allen, 1947). A love pentagon, I’d call it, with Mary Astor, Wendell Corey, John Hodiak, Burt Lancaster, and Lizabeth Scott all furious and desiring in the desert. Criterion notes the gay subtext that joins criminal partners Eddie (Hodiak) and Johnny (Corey), but it’s a text, really, written in all caps. Johnny’s account of how he and Eddie got together is an extraordinary thing to appear in 1947: they met in an Automat at two in the morning, and, Johnny says, “I went home with him that night.” The movie though is inert until its last twenty minutes or so, and then the pentagon begins to wobble and spin. ★★

Inferno (dir. Roy Ward Baker, 1953). There is no backstory: we begin with a dissolute millionaire, Donald Whitley Carson III (Robert Ryan), one leg broken, left by his wife Geraldine (Rhonda Fleming) and her lover Joseph Duncan (William Lundigan) to die in the desert. Determined to survive and exact revenge, Carson becomes self-reliant, splinting his leg, fashioning ropes with which to navigate rock formations, discovering a spring, fashioning a crutch, and avoiding discovery by the treacherous couple, who now need to make sure that he’s dead. Every minute of this movie is intensely watchable, and the outcome is never certain. My favorite moment: money in a cabin. ★★★★

[Inferno was a 3-D movie with stereo sound; thus the objects thrown at or falling toward the viewer and the slightly blurred dialogue.]

I Died a Thousand Times (dir. Stuart Heisler, 1955). It’s a scene-by-scene remake of High Sierra (dir. Raoul Walsh, 1941), with Jack Palance and Shelley Winters taking the roles of Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) and Marie Garson (Ida Lupino), and it doesn’t come close to the original. Palance and Winters are fine actors, but the Roy–Marie relationship here lacks the desperation and pathos of the original. (I for one can’t watch Lupino’s final minutes in the original without some added tears.) And there’s too much mambo music: mambo, mambo, mambo. ★★

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)