Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Molly Dodd again

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Nancy, peaking?

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

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

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Attachment F

[Click for a much larger view.]

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

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


The Washington Post has a close reading of Attachment F.


And Adam Schiff highlights passages from the filing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Cecil B. DeMille’s desk calendar

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

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


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

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

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

Monday, August 29, 2022

Sam Potts’s five-point plan

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

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

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

Six movies, six seasons

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

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


Two more seasons of Nathan for You

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

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


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


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


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


From the Criterion Channel’s Myrna Loy feature

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


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


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


Two seasons of How To with John Wilson

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

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

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


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

Related reading
All film posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, August 28, 2022

35 Perry Street

In February 1939, Thomas Merton rented an apartment. From The Seven Storey Mountain (1948):

I went to Greenwich Village and signed a lease for a one-room apartment and started work on my Ph.D. I suppose the apartment on Perry Street was part of the atmosphere appropriate to an intellectual such as I imagined myself to be and, as a matter of fact, I felt much more important in this large room with a bath and a fireplace and French windows leading out on to a rickety balcony than I had felt in the little place ten feet wide behind the Columbia Library. Besides, I now had a shiny new telephone all my own which rang with a deep, discreet, murmuring sort of a bell as if to invite me suavely to expensive and sophisticated pursuits.
Merton was on the balcony when his friend Robert Lax called with the news of a new pope:
I had been sitting on the balcony in a pair of blue dungarees, drinking Coca-Cola, and getting the sun. When I say sitting on the balcony, I mean sitting on the good boards and letting my feet dangle through the place where the boards had broken. This was what I did a great deal of the time, in the mornings, that spring: surveying Perry Street from the east, where it ran up short against a block of brick apartments, to the west, where it ended at the river, and you could see the black funnels of the Anchor liners.
By September 1940, Merton was living and teaching at St. Bonaventure University in southwestern New York State. In December 1941, he left for the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery in Kentucky.

I found Thomas Merton’s telephone number some years ago, when the New York Public Library put the 1940 directories online. Here’s 35 Perry Street, complete with balcony:

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

The building went up in 1852 as a one-family residence. In the 1890s it became a rooming house. If you look at the larger view carefully and, perhaps, enlarge it a little more, you can see the gaps in the balcony boards. Really.

Was Merton living in this apartment when the WPA fellows took this photograph? I’d like to think that he was inside typing.

Related reading
All OCA Thomas Merton posts (Pinboard) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

[You don’t have to be a theist to love Thomas Merton. Or at least I don’t.]

Saturday, August 27, 2022


An MSNBC host: “a massive cachet of classified documents.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Hatless in Bedminster

The photograph that accompanies Andrew Weissman’s New York Times commentary on the redacted affidavit says it all: the defeated former president, hatless, bronzerless, uncoiffed, at his New Jersey golf-club-cum-cemetery.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Steve Mossberg, a constructor whose crosswords have at times given me fits. In today’s puzzle, take, for instance, 1-A, five letters, “Above what is orally correct.” What? Or better — wut? But solve we must, and I was both happy and surprised when I finished this puzzle. And 1-A was one of the last answers I filled in.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

5-D, twelve letters, “Parlor game experts.” Twelve letters? CHESSMASTERS, of course. No? Oh. Moral: read the clue carefully.

8-D, nine letters, “Elemental.” Pairs well with 27-D.

10-D, eleven letters, “Unthinkingly.” Pretty novel.

11-D, ten letters, “F. Scott Fitzgerald, by birth.” My starting point. I have no idea how I know that. But I don’t know that. It just seemed right.

17-A, ten letters, “Pre-quitting comment.” Was someone watching me attempt to relight the water heater?

25-A, six letters, “They’re left in London.” I was thinking traffic.

27-D, ten letters, “8 Down entertainment.” Heh.

30-A, nine letters, “Olympiad game.” If you say so. I’d prefer a less lofty nine-letter answer.

30-D, nine letters, “Part of a small breakfast.” Like 10-D, a novel and amusing answer.

36-A, nine letters, “Turning points.” I don’t think so.

54-A, four letters, “Take on a page.” Nicely opaque.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 26, 2022

The redacted affidavit

I’m happy to share it via a gift link to The Washington Post : the redacted Mar-a-Lago search affidavit. And five takeaways.

And from The New York Times, via another gift link, a continuing stream of updates.

My takeaway: 67 + 92 + 25 = 184. It’s all unbelievably criminal, and unbelievably dangerous.

[And now I know, for sure, how to spell affidavit.]

E. Bryant Crutchfield (1937–2022)

He invented the Trapper Keeper. The New York Times has an obituary.

Trapper Keepers were prohibited at my children’s schools, and we never knew why. One fambly member’s suggestion is that the authorities wanted to keep out a status symbol. It turns out that there’s a world of discourse about this question. A 2001 Washington Post column for young readers quotes teachers who say that Trapper Keepers are too large and lead to disorganization.

Here’s much more about this venerable school supply: The History of the Trapper Keeper (Mental Floss).

Teachers, take warning: the Times reports that Trapper Keepers are once again on the market.

Siren eyes

New directions in makeup: siren eyes. (JSTOR Daily). Good grief.

It’s worth pointing out that in the Odyssey, the seduction of the Sirens has little to do with sexual allure. What the Sirens promise is the full truth of the Trojan War. They claim to know “everything / that the Greeks and Trojans / Suffered in wide Troy.”

Jonathan Shay, in Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming (2002):

In the language of metaphor, Homer shows us that returning veterans face a characteristic peril, a risk of dying from the obsession to know the complete and final truth of what they and the enemy did and suffered in their war and why. In part, this may be another expression of the visceral commandment to keep faith with the dead. Complete and final truth is an unachievable, toxic quest, which is different from the quest to create meaning for one's experience in a coherent narrative. Veterans can and do achieve the latter.
The "voice“ of the Sirens, scholars tell us, is the "voice“ of the Iliad, the voice of a wartime past experienced as more real and meaningful than the present.
And to be captured by that song is to lose one’s homecoming.

Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)

[The lines from Homer are in Stanley Lombardo’s translation.]

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Problems with Blogger comments

Not long ago I found that when using Safari on any Apple device, I couldn’t leave comments on Blogger blogs, even when already signed in to my account. I found a fix. In macOS:

~ Click on Safari in the menu bar.

~ Click on Preferences.

~ Click on Privacy.

~ Uncheck Prevent cross-site tracking.
In iOS:
~ Tap on Preferences.

~ Tap on Safari.

~ Turn off Prevent Cross-Site Tracking. (All capitalized here.)
After you’ve left a comment, it’s wise to prevent cross-site tracking again. Cross-site tracking is a good thing, but not when it prevents you from leaving a comment on someone’s blog.

Related reading
All OCA Blogger posts (Pinboard)

Maggie Haberman, apologist

At The New York Times, Maggie Haberman scratches her head and wonders: “Why Did He Resist Returning the Government’s Documents?” Guess what: “there’s no easy answer.” It’s “another mystery.” It surely is. Haberman runs through several possibilities:

~ The defeated former president is a collector of sorts:

Mr. Trump, a pack rat who for decades showed off knickknacks in his overstuffed Trump Tower office — including a giant shoe that once belonged to the basketball player Shaquille O’Neal — treated the nation’s secrets as similar trinkets to brandish.
~ The defeated former president thought of himself as a king:
“From my own experiences with him, which is bolstered by those around him who are speaking in his defense, his actions seem to fit the pattern that as ‘king,’ he and the state are one and the same,” said Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer who frequently handles cases related to national security and security clearances, including during the Trump presidency. “He seems to honestly believe that everything he touches belongs to him, and that includes government documents that might be classified.”
~ The defeated former president didn’t care about protocol:
Although Trump White House officials were warned about the proper handling of sensitive material, aides said Mr. Trump had little interest in the security of government documents or protocols to keep them protected.

Early on, Mr. Trump became known among his staff as a hoarder who threw all manner of paper — sensitive material, news clips and various other items — into cardboard boxes that a valet or other personal aide would cart around with him wherever he went.

Mr. Trump repeatedly had material sent up to the White House residence, and it was not always clear what happened to it. He sometimes asked to keep material after his intelligence briefings, but aides said he was so uninterested in the paperwork during the briefings themselves that they never understood what he wanted it for.
~ The defeated former president liked having mementos of leaders he’d met:
Mr. Trump, Mr. [John] Bolton said, never told him he planned to take a document and use it for something beyond its value as a memento.

It was “sort of whatever he wants to grab for whatever reason,” Mr. Bolton said. “He may not even fully appreciate” precisely why he did certain things.

But officials worried, particularly about the documents falling into the wrong hands.

Other advisers wondered if Mr. Trump kept some documents because they contained details about people he knew.
It’s only in that last sentence that Haberman comes close to considering an obvious explanation: that the defeated former president kept documents — and kept them and kept them — because he was seeking to monetize or otherwise exploit them. “Other advisers wondered”: well, why? What did they think the defeated former president might do with the materials he kept? Haberman doesn’t go there.

And thus her litany of explanations marks her as something of an apologist: he likes shiny objects; he doesn’t understand what is and isn’t his; he does things his own way; he wants to keep stuff. That’s just the way he is. Comparisons to human beings in the very early and very late stages of life come quickly to mind.

Stop giving him an out, Maggie Haberman.

Two TALs

Two exceptional recent episodes of This American Life: “The Possum Experiment” and “Name. Age. Detail.”

How Dr. Fauci caught COVID

From In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt. Dr. Anthony Fauci comments on the “remarkable transmissibility” of the virus:

“I have been compulsively careful about wearing masks and not being exposed in congregant settings. And I know exactly when I got infected. I had to go up to my sixtieth college reunion, where they were honoring me by naming a building, the Anthony Fauci Science Center, which was such a wonderful honor. And I went into the reception, and all of my classmates from the class of 1962 were unmasked. They saw me, they got very enthusiastic, they gave me big hugs. So I felt I looked so out of place with a mask on. I literally took my mask off for about forty-five minutes, mingling with them and their family, went back, put my mask on. Five days later — bingo, I was infected.”
Don’t let your guard down.


“Every pen is different.”

No, pet, in a PSA about animal adoption.

But it is true that every pen is different, at least if we’re speaking of fountain pens. Even instances of the same model may differ in their feel and flow.

One way to prevent these wishful mishearings would be to look at the screen during commercials. But that’s not me.

Related reading
All OCA misheard posts (Pinboard)

A joke in the traditional manner

What do dogs always insist on when they buy a car?

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Undone by an archivist

Debra Steidel Wall, Acting Archivist of the United States: that’s the signature on a May 10, 2022 letter to one of the defeated former president’s lawyers, letting him know that the National Archives and Records Administration would be turning materials over to the FBI.

There’s something sweet and fitting about the prospect of a man with no regard for history and no regard for the written word (save for its monetary value) being undone by an archivist. If the arc of the moral universe isn’t exactly bending toward justice, it might at least be bending toward poetic justice.


I cringe a little and laugh a little every time I hear a news outlet refer to Mar-a-Lago as the defeated former president’s “home.”

House of course won’t do. But how about property ? Or residence ? Granted, home fits better in headlines. But there’s something ludicrous about calling a resort that houses (no pun intended) a private club a home.

Leaving a Ph.D. program

Here’s an anonymous piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Why I’m Planning to Leave My Ph.D. Program.” The subtitle explains it all: “My family can’t live on $17,000 a year.” An excerpt:

Over four years in my English Ph.D. program, I’ve taught 132 students as the instructor of record, a total of 396 credit hours, and so, at my college’s stated tuition rates, helped it bring in something on the order of $575,000. While those funds aren’t entirely profit, the minimal overhead of my class means I’ve more than paid my way. In addition, I’ve served as a research assistant and worked in the writing center. In exchange, my institution paid me a stipend averaging $17,000 per year.
The writer quotes from Ulysses at the end of his essay, likening his contemplation of his young daughter’s future to Stephen Dedalus’s contemplation of his sister Dilly’s sad prospects. More bitterly, I think of repurposing Stephen’s famous observation about Ireland in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man : Academia is the old sow that eats her farrow.

For me the saddest thing about the Chronicle piece is that the writer never considers what might follow the completion of his degree. One cautionary tale along those lines: William Deresiewicz’s account of why he left academia.

Where’s Mary?

From Axios: “Mary Miller missing from IL GOP messaging.” She was missing from a Republican Day rally at the Illinois State Fair:

When reporters repeatedly asked IL GOP chair Don Tracy about her absence at the rally, he responded, “I don’t know where Mary Miller is.”
Given Miller’s Adolf Hitler moment and her celebration of “white life,” it may be that those in charge thought it would be safer not to have her present. Or perhaps she chose not to show up because she might have to answer a question from a news outlet. She doesn’t do that. (She refuses. Sometimes she hides.) Nor does she answer letters from at least some of her constituents. I’ve written four, the first of which had no response but put me on her newsletter list. (They must have had an e-mail address for me from her predecessor, John Shimkus.) I immediately unsubscribed. The other three letters had no response.

Regular readers of OCA will know that Mary Miller is “my” representative in Congress.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Only Murders

I called it. I didn’t have the details, only a now-validated hunch. How about you?

The final episode of the second season of Only Murders in the Building is extremely good. It helps make up for the meta jokes and time-killing schtick that run through the season. A third season is in the works.

[Please note: Comments with spoilers will not appear on this post.]

“Trumpery insanity”

A startling phrase in the “Oxen of the Sun” episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses: “Trumpery insanity.” It applies to a man in a mackintosh, a “seedy cuss,” “once a prosperous cit,” who “thought he had a deposit of lead in his penis.” The phrase, alas, is not political prophecy, and it’s not even of Joyce’s invention. Eric Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1970) to the rescue. Its definition:

a c.p [catch-phrase] directed at the frequency of this verdict in cases of suicide : ca. 1880–1900.
Partridge cites Heinrich Baumann’s Londonismen (1887).

Here’s a condensed presentation of the Oxford English Dictionary meanings for trumpery. As a noun:
1. Deceit, fraud, imposture, trickery. Obsolete.

2. “Something of less value than it seems”; hence, “something of no value; trifles” (Johnson); worthless stuff, trash, rubbish. (Usually collective singular; also, now rarely, plural.)
    a. Applied to material objects.
    b. Applied to abstract things, as beliefs, practices, discourse, writing, etc.: Nonsense, “rubbish.”
    c. Applied contemptuously to religious practices, ceremonies, ornaments, etc. regarded as idle or superstitious. (Cf. trinket.) Now rare or merged in general sense.
    d. Showy but unsubstantial apparel; worthless finery.
    e. Horticulture. Weeds or refuse, such as hinder the growth of valuable plants. Obsolete exc. dialect.
    f. Applied to a person, esp. a woman: cf. trash ? Obsolete exc. dialect.
As an adjective:
Of little or no value; trifling, paltry, insignificant; worthless, rubbishy, trashy.
There’s much more that could be said, and has been said, about the man in the mac. All I want to do here is call attention to a remarkable phrase.

[If you’re in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, ask for help. Google has a global list of resources.]

Dreaming of Paris

There we were, in a restaurant. Everyone was speaking French. How great!

I stepped outside to get our car. Someone was walking into a very large salon. Haircuts cost fifty dollars.

As we started to drive back home, I realized that we had not seen, and would not get to see, the Arc de Triomphe. It had been a very short visit.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Post title from a Van Dyke Parks song.]

Monday, August 22, 2022

Ulysses again

I first read Ulysses in 1979, finishing, not by plan, on June 16. I read the novel for a second time in 1980, and again in 1984. Coming back to the novel this summer, I find my aspirant-academic self in the marginal notes on the foxed pages, in penciled printing now so faint that I need (anyone would need) a magnifying glass to read it.

I often cringe at my earlier reading, which was informed — if that’s the word — by various commentaries and reader’s guides. Sun = son. Fetal position. Rebirth? Rebirth. Trinities everywhere. And of course the specific Homeric correspondences, some so improbable, so strained, that they now seem to me largely beside the point. Buck Mulligan = Antinous? Blazes Boylan = Eurymachus? Well, that’s what I was told.

What I missed so much of earlier on: the characters’ humanity. I missed Leopold Bloom’s utter loneliness: in his family life, in his relationships with other male Dubliners. He conducts a covert pseudonymous correspondence with “Martha Clifford” (whoever she, or he, is); he masturbates while looking at a seventeen-year-old girl (two years older than his daughter Milly, who’s now away for the summer); he’s haunted by the thought of Blazes Boylan’s afternoon visit to Molly Bloom, so much so, it seems, that he doesn’t return to his house at 7 Eccles Street until the early hours of June 17. Bloom is an outsider in the alcoholic, Catholic world of men: a (thrice-baptized!) Jew who drinks only in moderation, a figure whose kindnesses and advocacy of pacifism make him the subject of mockery. He’s haunted by losses: his father’s suicide, the death of his own infant son. With his daughter away, Bloom attempts to create a new familial triangle by proposing to bring Stephen Dedalus into his household: Molly will give Stephen singing lessons, and Stephen will instruct Molly in proper Italian pronunciation and provide intellectual companionship for Bloom.

Poor Stephen: a writer manqué who escaped to Paris only to return to Dublin, with no clear place of residence, haunted by the death of his mother (for whom he refused to pray), abandoned by his fellow carousers in his hour of extremity, the son of a hapless drunk who has ceded the role of parent to his oldest daughter. Stephen stands by silently while others plan literary gatherings; his own literary pull is no more than the means to get his boss’s letter about foot-and-mouth disease in a newspaper. On June 16, Stephen drinks heavily and eats nothing. He last bathed in October. When Stephen declines Bloom’s offer of a place to stay and leaves 7 Eccles Street in the early hours of June 17, he has, literally, no place to go. Like Mr. Duffy in “A Painful Case” (Dubliners), Stephen is alone.

And then there’s Molly Bloom. Her stream of consciousness is an amusing and often outlandish torrent of grudges, suspicions, cutting remarks, and sexual fantasies, the product of a male imagination with its own particular obsessions. But here too, I missed Molly’s humanity. I now see much more clearly that she, like her husband, like Stephen, is profoundly isolated. She is contemptuous of the crass, presumptuous Blazes Boylan, who is merely a respite from the sexual death that is her marriage. Imagining Stephen, she thinks “it’ll be a change the Lord knows to have an intelligent person to talk to about yourself.” Men, she thinks, “have friends they can talk to weve none.” But do men have such friends? Bloom doesn’t. But neither Molly nor Bloom recognizes the other’s isolation. I’ve swooned at Molly’s final “yes I said yes I will Yes,” and I still do. But that was in the past, as Molly and Leopold lay among the rhododendrons on Howth Head. Things are different at 7 Eccles Street.

So I now see more in Ulysses than I once did. And what I understand much better now is that the work’s value is not in its small cryptic details. Joyce famously said that he

put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.
I think that Joyce was working with the sources-and-analogues model of literary scholarship in mind: reading as a form of archaeology or genealogy, to figure out where a particular plot element comes from, what a topical reference means, what an allusion references, where a saying or proverb might first be found. All worthy efforts of course. I suspect that Dante looms large here, given the vast body of commentary on the Divine Comedy.

But are enigmas and puzzles the reason anyone reads Dante? I don’t think so. I respond to Dante’s brutal wit, his bizarre pageantry, his extraordinary similes, and the tension between what doctrine dictates and what feeling demands: “Ser Brunetto, are you here?” Nor are enigmas and puzzles the reason anyone reads Chaucer, or the Shake, or the Brontës, or Proust, or Morrison, or Frank O’Hara, or, or, or. I think of literature, always, as what Kenneth Burke called it: “equipment for living.” It deepens our understanding of our common humanity: “always meeting ourselves,” as Stephen says. It deepens our understanding of the possibilities of language and imagination, of what might be made in words. Those are good reasons to read Ulysses. I’m glad I had another chance.

Related reading
All OCA Joyce posts (Pinboard)

A pinned note

A note pinned to a wall in Alex Katz’s studio:

Last year in Spain a journalist asked me if I considered myself a over the hill minor talent I said I didn’t but a lot of people do. I dedicate this show to all the people who did not take me seriously. You provided the fuel for my rage.
Transcribed from a photograph in a New York Times profile of Katz: “Alex Katz Is Still Perfecting His Craft.”

A handful of Alex Katz posts
Alex Katz meets Lionel Hampton : Alex Katz’s piano : Focusing : Foods

Sunday, August 21, 2022


[New York Public Library, 476 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

The main branch opened on May 23, 1911. The building is now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

I like the contrast in this photograph between the dark foreground figures (at least six of whom appear to be looking right into the camera) and the library, strangely luminous in the near distance, an urban Emerald City. You can just make out Patience and Fortitude, left and right (south and north), standing guard behind the watermark.

Related posts
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Today’s Nancy

Olivia Jaimes, breaking that fourth wall.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Proust for all

From the journalist Cath Pound, some encouragement to read Proust: “Why the world’s most difficult novel is so rewarding” (BBC). Caution: if you’ve never read In Search of Lost Time, you’ll encounter many spoilers.

Here’s a (spoiler-free) OCA post with tips for reading Proust.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

[“It is a common reading experience to get through the first 50 or 60 pages of In Search of Lost Time and then just give up”: that statement puzzles me. You need to read only fifty pages or so to hit the novel’s first big reward.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Stella Zawistowski, is a true Stumper. I found an easy starting point in 14-D, five letters, “Erstwhile royalty, up and down,” and 16-A, five letters, “Good-luck pigment at Middle East weddings.” After that, I stumbled about, an answer here, an answer there. The clue that gave me the greatest trouble: 46-A, thirteen letters, “Mannered men and women.” Having that wrong made a mess of things for quite some time.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

5-A, nine letters, “Play along with.” I thought of humoring someone.

11-D, eight letters, and 31-D, nine letters, “Superior at many schools.” I like the repurposing of the clue.

13-D, four letters, “Calls for.” Pretty misdirective.

21-A, thirteen letters, “What Beethoven called a piano.” One of several keyboard clues in the puzzle. There’s also 8-D, six letters, “Pianist’s pinky-thumb pair,” and 51-A, six letters, “Pianist’s pinky-thumb pairs.” 21-A is tricker than I suspected.

26-A, six letters, “Bit of year-end debris.” I was thinking of confetti.

38-A, five letters, “It might get you down.” Emily Dickinson gave me the answer here.

42-D, six letters, “Article length.” I have never seen or heard this word. Merriam-Webster’s examples of recent use are unrelated to this definition.

54-D, three letters, “Not following.” A clever way to improve a bit of crosswordese.

56-A, five letters, “What jelly beans are made with.” SUGAR, right? Wrong. Not especially obvious.

59-A, nine letters, “Typical Saturday matinee cartoon.” It pays to like old movies.

My favorite in this puzzle: 45-D, five letters, “Mainly?”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 19, 2022

A rotten sardine

“Last one there is a rotten sardine!”: that’s a line from My Little Pony: A New Generation (dir. Robert Cullen, Mark Fattibene, and José Luis Ucha, 2021).

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Hear it here.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

[I’m not sure who that line is for. “Youngish” parents? It’s certainly not for the kiddos.]

A woman in a window

[From Where the Sidewalk Ends (dir. Otto Preminger, 1950). Click for a much larger view.]

Here’s the reason I wanted to watch this movie again: the eerie image of a woman (Grayce Mills) in her basement apartment, drowsing in a chair as her radio plays classical music. As she will explain to police detectives, “I always sleep here since my husband died. It seems less lonely. Music helps me.”

Cinematography by Joseph LaShelle, who won an Academy Award for his work on Laura (1944), also directed by Preminger, also starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney.

Deresiewicz on leaving academia

William Deresiewicz explains why he left academia. He begins:

If I care so much about college — about students, about teaching, about the humanities, about the transformative potential of the undergraduate experience — then why did I leave? Why, in 2008, after 10 years on the faculty at Yale, did I say goodbye not only to that institution but to the profession as a whole? A lot of people have asked me that question; a lot more have assumed they know the answer. Did I quit in disgust at the corruption of the academic enterprise? Could I no longer bear to participate in the perpetuation of the class system? If I didn’t get tenure at Yale, did I regard it as beneath my dignity to work at a less prestigious institution? No, no, and no.

Here’s why I left: I didn’t have a choice. I not only failed to get tenure at Yale — which was completely expected — I failed to land another job anywhere else. Let me explain how it works.
A cautionary tale about the academic humanities, from graduate study to the tenure track. Pairs well with William Pannapacker’s “So You Want to Go to Grad School?,” “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go,” and “Just Don’t Go, Part 2.”


If I were to choose just one OCA post that captures my sense of what’s wrong with English studies, it’d be this one: Hoagies, pizzas, and English studies.

[Deresiewicz’s essay is free for a limited time from Quillette. I suspect that this will be the first and last time I link to anything from Quillette. Pannapacker’s essays are behind the Chronicle of Higher Education firewall, but available (I think) with a free, limited-number-of-articles subscription.]

Gravity and Dan Price

In 2015 Dan Price, the chief executive of Gravity Payments, established a $70,000 minimum salary for his employees. Me, in a comment on a 2015 post: “If the Gravity story ends badly, I’ll have one more reason to be disappointed.”

And here we are: “Social Media Was a C.E.O.’s Bullhorn, and How He Lured Women” (The New York Times ).

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Abdul Wadud (1947–2022)

The cellist was seventy-five and long retired from music. The New York Times has an obituary.

I first heard Abdul Wadud on the Julius Hemphill albums ’Coon Bid’ness and Dogon A.D. Talk about waking-up music. I have the 1975 and 1977 Arista LPs — both in a secure location. Here, from ’Coon Bid’ness is “The Hard Blues,” recorded February 1972. Julius Hemphill, alto; Hamiet Bluiett, baritone; Baikida E. J. Carroll, trumpet; Abdul Wadud, cello; Philip Wilson, drums.

[Strange: Tuesday afternoon I was noodling on the guitar and began playing the cello figure that opens “Dogon A.D.” I hadn’t heard it or thought of it in a long time.]

“I always liked poetry”

Molly Bloom thinks: Her husband, a poet? Nah. But what about Stephen Dedalus? From the “Penelope” episode:

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922.)

A few notes:

~ “I thought he was a poet”: Leopold Bloom has written at least two poems, one for a contest when he was a boy, another, an acrostic, for Molly, February 14, 1888:

Poets oft have sung in rhyme
Of music sweet their praise divine.
Let them hymn it nine times nine.
Dearer far than song or wine.
You are mine. The world is mine.
~ Milly: the Blooms’ daughter.

~ “what age was he then at Dillons”: Molly saw little Stephen at Mat Dillon’s years ago. Could it have been at the same party where she and Bloom first met?

~ “Im not too old for him”: Molly will be thirty-four in September 1904. Stephen is twenty-two.

~ “Eppss”: Epps’s Cocoa, “the creature cocoa.”

~ Goodwin: Professor Goodwin, a pianist, at one time Molly’s accompanist. “Dreadful old case,” as Bloom remembers him.

~ John Jameson: Irish whiskey.

~ “Europa point”: Europa Point, the southermost point of Gibraltar. Molly was born on Gibraltar.

~ “where softly sighs of love the light guitar”: from “In Old Madrid,” words by G. Clifton Bingham, music by Henry Trotère. It begins,
Long years ago, in old Madrid,
Where softly sighs of love the light guitar,
Two sparkling eyes a lattice hid,
Two eyes as darkly bright as love’s own star!
Here’s a 1908 recording. Imagine that Molly is singing. Bingham also wrote the words to “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” a song that runs through the novel.

~ Tarifa: “a Spanish municipality in the province of Cádiz, Andalusia” (Wikipedia) .

Related reading
All OCA Joyce posts (Pinboard)

Digging Troy

Ronnie (Kerwin Matthews) is bored with college life: bored with classes, bored with being in a place run by thinkers, not doers. He comes from a family that does things, he says, a family that does things first. He finds in the life of a nineteenth-century amateur archaeolgist the inspiration to rob a Reno casino. From 5 Against the House (dir. Phil Karlson, 1955):

“It’s what I need in my life — a big first. You guys ever hear of a man named Schliemann?”

“Sure, played first base for the Giants and later invented a plastic breakfast food.”

“He dug up the ancient city of Troy in Greece.”

“Hey, what a cat, to dig Troy.”

“It was a first, get my point?”
Got it.

I can think of one other heist film in which a criminal mastermind invokes Troy in his scheming. Anyone know it? My answer is in the comments.

[“Criminal mastermind”: yes, I know it’s a cliché. I’ve been watching Only Murders in the Building.]

Parody? Not parody?

“The result is a cornucopia, and a fuller look at the radiant candor that is her oeuvre”: I had to check to make sure that I was reading a real review of a real book.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

“All the documents”

From The New York Times:

Federal prosecutors investigating the role that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies played in the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol have issued a grand jury subpoena to the National Archives for all the documents the agency provided to a parallel House select committee inquiry, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The New York Times.

The subpoena, issued to the National Archives in May, made a sweeping demand for “all materials, in whatever form” that the archives had given to the Jan. 6 House committee. Those materials included records from the files of Mr. Trump’s top aides, his daily schedule and phone logs and a draft text of the president’s speech that preceded the riot.

Pocket notebook sighting

[From The Girl in Black Stockings (dir. Howard W. Koch, 1957).]

Above, a sheriff (John Dehner), a doctor (Richard H. Cutting), and a notebook. The real mystery here is what’s printed on the notebook’s cover. My guess after flipping the image: Scripto. Click on either image to pursue your own investigation.

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 : The Fearmakers : A Foreign Affair : 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 : M : 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

“Liberal elitist pizza”

[“Does Carl Bark?” Zippy, August 17, 2022. Click for a larger pie.]

Zippy is in Utah, and he’s carrying, openly — a pizza, that is, from Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Frank Pepe’s white clam pie is a joy: clams, grated cheese, olive oil, garlic, oregano. That’s all.]

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

“Folks on the ground”

MSNBC has commentators in Wisconsin today awaiting results in the state’s primary elections. They have been talking to “folks on the ground.”

As opposed to — ?

Better: “Wisconsin voters.”

Degree, not kind

In 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie. In 2022 the defeated former president (or his people) released an unredacted search warrant with the names of FBI agents.

I think that the difference between these actions is a difference of degree, not kind.

Shaving by night

Leopold Bloom prefers to shave at night. A bit of odd food for thought from the catechitical episode “Ithaca”:

James Joyce, Ulysses (1922.)

Related reading
All OCA Joyce posts (Pinboard)

Monday, August 15, 2022

More bad stuff

From The Washington Post , “Trump-allied lawyers pursued voting machine data in multiple states, records reveal”:

“The breach is way beyond what we thought,” said David D. Cross, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, who include voting-security activists and Georgia voters. “The scope of it is mind-blowing.”

12:34 p.m.: And still more. From The New York Times :
Lawyers for Rudolph W. Giuliani have been told that he is a target of a criminal investigation in Georgia into election interference by Donald J. Trump and his advisers, one of Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers said on Monday.
[I’ve run out of “gift” NYT links for the month.]

The Rehearsal

Our household was way late in getting to Nathan for You, but we are on time for Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal (HBO). I think that it’s the strangest thing I’ve seen on a television screen. The Rehearsal doesn’t blur the line between what’s fictional and what’s real: it removes the line with an industrial sander and then draws a new line (or lines?) elsewhere. But where?

The final (sixth) episode airs this coming Friday. Highly recommended.

Ten movies, two seasons

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

The Girl in Black Stockings (dir. Howard W. Koch, 1957). There are no black stockings, except in a misogynist and misandrist rant about “men who set up a howl like a backyard cat” at the sight of a woman wearing them. The scene is Parry’s Lodge in Utah, run by the ranter (Ron Randell), who suffers from hysterical paralysis, and his all-sacrificing sister (Marie Windsor). One, two, three grisly murders, and everyone still alive, even the ranter, is a suspect. The dialogue is redubbed; the plot has a large pothole; and the ending is too tidy; but there are strong performances from Windsor and Anne Bancroft (a switchboard operator at the lodge), in a movie that hints at but never explores questions of sexual desire — who’s permitted to feel it, and for whom. ★★★ (YT)


5 Against the House (dir. Phil Karlson, 1955). Four Korean War vets, now attending college, plan a perfect crime, timed to the second: a heist of the (real-world) Reno casino Harold‘s Club. Thus we have overtones of Leopold and Loeb, Rope, and The Asphalt Jungle. The screenplay is by Stirling Silliphant, with many of the elements that would re appear in the Naked City television series: an outlandish premise, a tense scene at great height (here, in a parking garage), and a motley crew of crimers (mastermind Kerwin Matthews, sane Guy Madison, dweebish Alvy Singer, and PTSD-suffering Brian Keith, with Kim Novak as a lounge singer and Madison’s girlfriend). But the ending — huh? ★★★ (TCM)


Mister Soft Touch (dir. Gordon Douglas and Henry Levin, 1949). Nightclub owner Joe Miracle (Glenn Ford) steals a pile of loot from what was his nightclub (it’s been taken over by the mob) and takes refuge in a settlement house, where he promptly falls in love with social worker Jenny Jones (Evelyn Keyes). But she thinks he’s married (it’s complicated). The movie begins with a chase and ends with a chase, and in the middle — well, the title gives it away. Here too, the ending makes me ask “Huh?” ★★★ (YT)


Hollywood Without Make-Up (dir. Rudy Behlmer and Loring d’Usseau, 1963). I’d never heard of Ken Murray, who shot home movies of stars at play. The scenes are often patently staged, and Murray is a pretty shameless cheerleader for an industry: “They’re still making great pictures in Hollywood,” his voiceover says, and the proof is Son of Flubber. Highlights: Groucho, Harpo, and Jackie Cooper in a go-cart race, with Charles Laughton waving the checkered flag; San Simeon in full swing, with William Randolph Hearst, wild animals galore, and Charlie Chaplin playing a tennis-racket guitar. I find it sad that so many of the unidentified faces and even some of the identified faces on the screen are mysteries to me: “No memory of having starred / Atones for later disregard,” as Robert Frost said in “Provide, Provide.” ★★★★ (TCM)


Talk About a Stranger (dir. David Bradley, 1952). It has the feel of an Afterschool Special, but it’s an MGM release, a B movie (just sixty-five minutes) with superior production values, thanks to John Alton’s cinematography and David Buttolph’s music. Billy Gray (Bud Anderson of Father Knows Best) is front and center as Bud Fontaine Jr., a San Fernando Valley boy whose suspicions about an odd, surly neighbor (Kurt Kasznar) lead to rumor-mongering and near-disaster. An unmistakable allegory of the Red Scare, and it looks forward (I think) to Scout and Jem and Boo Radley. With George Brent, Nancy Davis, Lewis Stone, and the Morey Mansion. ★★★★ (TCM)


Where the Sidewalk Ends (dir. Otto Preminger, 1950). Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in a film from the director of Laura. Andrews is Mark Dixon, a vicious police detective with a family history that accounts for his animus against criminals; Tierney is Morgan Taylor, a model. Things get complicated when Dixon’s penchant for violence leaves Taylor’s cabdriver father charged with murder. I wanted to watch this movie again for one reason: to see the eerie images of a woman (Grayce Mills) in her basement apartment, drowsing in a chair as her radio plays classical music. A bonus: the scenes in Martha’s Café with a wisecracking proprietor (Ruth Donnelly) who calls Mark Dixon “Mr. Detective.” ★★★★ (TCM)


My Little Pony: A New Generation (dir. Robert Cullen, Mark Fattibene, and José Luis Ucha, 2021). No, it’s not film noir, and as you may have guessed, younger viewers were responsible for this choice. The story is surprisingly timely: the magic has gone out of the world, and pegasi, ponies, and unicorns live in perpetual conflict and fear. There’s considerable othering, an “angry mob” (that’s language from the movie), but — no surprise — a happy ending. Good songs, great “sets” (computer animation), and highly compressed voices. ★★★★ (N)


From the Criterion Channel’s Myrna Loy feature

Love Me Tonight (dir. Rouben Mamoulian, 1932). Myrna Loy has little to do in a pre-Code musical comedy that’s dominated by Maurice Chevalier as a tailor/faux–nobleman and Jeanette McDonald as a princess. The songs are by Rodgers and Hart, and I was surprised to discover that this movie introduced “Isn’t It Romantic” and “Lover.” The first is given royal treatment, with the melody passing from the tailor’s shop to a cab to a military unit to a gypsy camp to a castle; the second is a throwaway that reveals McDonald’s gift for comedy. For me the story is tiresome, but the ending is gloriously zany. ★★★★

Penthouse (dir. W.S. Van Dyke, 1933). Warner Baxter (Julian Marsh in 42nd Street) is Jackson “Jack” Durant, a lawyer who’s found himself unwillingly tethered to acquitted gangster client Tony Gazotti (Nat Pendleton). Myrna Loy is Gertie Waxted, a witty, self-deprecating call girl who becomes Jack’s (chaste!) partner in working to find the real killer of Gertie’s co-worker Mimi (Mae Clarke) and free Jack’s ex-girlfriend’s fiancé. With low-cut gowns, fancy elevators, and pre-Code innuendo galore. What did Depression-era moviegoers think when they saw these swank types on the screen — that these people were better than them? ★★★★

Manhattan Melodrama (dir. W.S. Van Dyke, 1934). Two boys (Mickey Rooney and Jimmy Butler), orphaned in the General Slocum disaster, grow up to be gangster Blackie Gallagher (Clark Gable) and DA Jim Wade, on different sides of the law but still friends, even after Eleanor (Myrna Loy) leaves Blackie for Jim. But when Blackie goes too far to help Jim become governor — that precipitates a moral crisis. Though the principals are terrific, I think of this as James Wong Howe’s movie: his cinematography is on display in a remarkable variety of scenes, moods, and camera angles: watch and you’ll see. Bonus: “The Bad in Every Man,” the Rodgers and Hart song that became “Blue Moon.” ★★★★


Two seasons of Nathan for You

First season (created by Nathan Fielder and Michael Koman, 2013). My daughter recommended this series, and I laughed so hard that I coughed and choked and choked some more. Nathan Fielder presents himself as a consultant with innovative ways to invigorate sluggish businesses; thought his affect does not inspire confidence, his clients seem to be willing to go along with whatever scheme he suggests (e.g., promoting poop-flavored yogurt, permitting attractive women to shoplift). I was reminded — often — of the schemes in Letters from a Nut by “Ted L. Nancy” (comedy writer Barry Marder), a book I have somewhere and will have to find. For now, I am imagining some future civilization watching this series hundreds of years from now with no idea that it’s comedy. ★★★★ (HBO)

Second season (created by Nathan Fielder and Michael Koman, 2014). More lunacy: e.g., a realtor encouraged to hype her properties as ghost-free (which requires the services of a psychic and an exorcist); a pet shop advertising on a massive gravestone in a pet cemetery. Some of the businesses featured are playing along: Pink’s, for one, needs no help from a consultant who recommends that customers with legitimate reasons be allowed to cut the line. The highlight of the season is Dumb Starbucks, a clone of a Starbucks with Dumb-branded drinks and Dumb CDs (Norah Jones duets). You’ve probably read about it, even if you’ve never seen the show. ★★★★ (HBO)

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Blatt’s 4 - 8 & 19¢ Store

[Blatt’s 4 - 8 & 19¢ Store, 5005 13th Avenue, Boro Park, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Clicking my way down 13th Avenue in, I stopped in front of Blatt’s. The name drew my eye. A five-and-dime? No way! Four cents! Eight cents! Bargains indeed. I also like the traces of snow and what looks to me like wintry light. And oh — there’s a baby carriage parked in front.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle has a story from 1925 about an attempted safecracking at a Blatt’s Department Store in Williamsburg. The same Blatt? I have no idea. I found a handful of advertisements for the Boro Park Blatt’s that clearly establish mid-century prices rising well above the 19¢ mark.

[Brooklyn Daily, September 25, 1956; September 19, 1962; September 21, 1962. Click any advertisement for a larger view and bigger savings.]

On October 16, 1962, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported a four-alarm fire at the store. Nineteen firefighters suffered smoke inhalation. After that, I can find no sign of Blatt’s in business. Today 5005 13th Avenue, severely reduced in size, houses a jewelry showroom.

I was about to give up on finding out more about Blatt’s when I thought I’d check The New York Times. Perhaps there was a story about the fire? No soap. But I did find something of interest, a December 29, 1974 article, “Blatt Brothers Hold the Price Line — Almost.” Holy smokes: Dean, Jerry, and Sandy Blatt, sons of William and Frances Blatt of the 4 - 8 & 19¢ Store, opened a 69¢ Shop on Lexington Avenue in 1959. Four more 69¢ Shops followed, along with a $1.69 Shop. I’d think of those stores as the forerunners of today’s dollar stores.

[“Blatt Brothers Hold the Price Line — Almost.” The New York Times, December 29, 1974.]

Deep nostalgia: On the drive from New Jersey to visit maternal grandparents in Brooklyn, when nearing the Brooklyn Bridge, we passed the 69¢ Shop at 89 Chambers Street countless times. On Saturdays and Sundays, the store was closed; the area, a ghost town. The store always seemed like a place of great wonders. It probably wasn’t.

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

[Advertisements via Brooklyn Newsstand.]

An IRS pipeline

In The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell visits an IRS outpost:

I recently took a (chaperoned) tour of the Pipeline, which is usually off-limits to journalists. Imagine Willy Wonka’s secretive chocolate factory, but instead of gumdrops and lollipops it’s . . . paper. Everywhere, paper.
Also Tingle tables and Windows XP.

Readers of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, take note. Taxpayers, take note.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell, and it’s full of Stump. A half-hour’s worth for me. Phew.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

2-D, five letters, “You might get one at City Hall.” Could that be right? I’ll try it. Yes, it’s right.

4-D, eight letters, “John Muir’s ‘magic wand in Nature's hand.’” Beautiful.

17-A, ten letters, “Mold-made French dessert with milk and almonds.” Thank you, James Joyce’s Dubliners.

28-A, five letters, “Hair Buster Gel brand.” Perhaps a giveaway, but it fooled me.

25-D, six letters, “Grafted plant with red and white edibles.” O brave new world, / That has such plant life in’t.

35-D, eight letters, “Turned the page?” Clever.

38-D, eight letters, “Father of fairy tales.” Heh.

49-A, seven letters, “Math’s ‘unifying thread.’” I’ll take your word for it.

56-D, three letters, “View preamble.” PRE? PUR? Help.

57-D, three letters, “Exciting or excellent, these days.” And sometimes repurposed for comic effect.

62-A, ten letters, “Professor’s preservative.” Made me laugh.

But my favorite in this puzzle: 31-A, eight letters, “Peacock’s display.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

In search of lost art supplies

[“Trash Talk.” Zippy, August 13, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

The panels that follow in today’s Zippy reference Speedball nibs, kneaded erasers, Cartoon Colour Cel-Vinyl White-Out, and a cleaning solution for pen points.

I hope Bill Griffith knows about the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies.

Orange Crate Art has its own modest Museum of Supplies. The most recent exhibit is here: Executive Ko-Rec-Type Typewriter Correction Film.

Related reading
All OCA Museum of Supplies posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

The ten-second balance test

“This simple, often neglected skill can pay huge dividends later in life”: the ten-second balance test (The New York Times ).

Friday, August 12, 2022

Attachment B

[Click for a larger view.]

In the immortal (tweeted, unpunctuated) words of Donald Trump Jr., “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Here’s the warrant and inventory. Section d. of Attachment B suggests that they’re looking for evidence of obstruction of justice.