Monday, October 31, 2022

Halloween count

Early turnout: in one hour and three minutes of trick-or-treating, we’ve had six children call at our door, already matching our 2015 total (over three-and-a-half hours).

Twelve Reese’s Cups gone, twenty-eight to go. One hour and fifty-seven minutes to go.


Three more children. And that’s all. Anyone want a Reese’s Cup?

Mary Miller’s silence

From Politico: “Rep. Mary Miller (IL-15) is the only member of the state’s Republican congressional delegation not to condemn last week’s violent attack on the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

Mike Bost (IL-12), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), and Darin LaHood (IL-18) have all condemned the attack.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

A sharpener sharpener

[Zits, October 31, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

In today’s Zits, Jeremy Duncan has asked Connie, his mom, if there’s anyone famous in the family tree. She cites Jeremy’s great-great-grandfather. Hyphens are already in the air.

But I think I’d hyphenate this job title as pencil-sharpener sharpener.

Connie’s joy makes me suspect that it’s her great-grandfather she’s speaking of.

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


    [“Brinks Holdup.” Photographs by Ralph Morse and Yale Joel. January 1, 1950 (?). From the Life Photo Archive. Click any photograph for a larger mask.]

None of these photographs appear in the January 30, 1950 Life article about the Boston Brinks robbery. The robbery took place on January 17, so the date for the photographs must be a mistake. There is no indication that these are the masks the robbers wore. But they’re good masks. Here’s a post from 2021 with six more.

The last time Elaine and I committed to Halloween (2015!) we had six kids show up in three-and-a-half hours — pretty sad. On this Halloween there are more kids in our neighborhood than before, so we’re once again going to give out candy, or try to. We are hoping to dispose of the contents of two large bags of Reese's Cups tonight. Good stuff.

Turn up, kids! Or I’ll be the one who has to eat the leftovers.

Happy Halloween.

Related reading
All OCA Halloween posts (Pinboard)

Reaching out

This morning I have had a president, a vice president, and an undefeated former president reach out to me, one of them “personally reaching out.”

Just another Monday.

Gender and evaluations

From Inside Higher Ed: “Two new studies show how bias against women in student ratings operates over time, worsening with critical feedback and instructor age.”

I think that anyone who teaches knows there’s truth in these studies. If the instructor is a man: he’s tough, demanding. If the instructor is a woman: she’s a bitch. And I can only imagine how some students might regard a non-binary instructor.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Yet another letter to Mary Miller

[Click for a genuinely readable view.]

A note for the non-local: Mary Miller’s husband Chris Miller, our representative in the Illinois state legislature, runs a father-son Christian-themed camp with considerable emphasis on guns. But the camp doesn’t allow participants to bring their own weapons: “For safety reasons, please do not bring any firearms or archery equipment.”

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)


[3437-47 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Boro Park, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Granted, it’s only a tax photograph, but it’s beautifully composed, with the long lines of the pavement below and the long line of the wire above, all moving toward to the station; the pipes and telephone pole projecting upward; and the globes atop the pumps (SHELL) and the clock. And the hatted man, hand in pocket, moving toward the camera. I am imagining him as Max von Mayerling, lost in Brooklyn, walking back to the car to tell Madame (Norma Desmond) that it will be a long drive back to Los Angeles.

The tax records give 1930 as the approximate date of this station’s construction. In 1931, the station was briefly in the news, as one of twenty-five Brooklyn gas stations robbed by a trio of young men. In 1949 the station appeared in New York State court records, when a station owner petitioning for a variance to expand cited the history of this Shell station to support his petition:

[Click for a larger view.]

So by 1947 this smart little station was already larger.

In 2022 the corner of Fort Hamilton Parkway and Chester Avenue is still a Shell station. At some future point someone may look at this photograph and say “That was what gas stations looked like.”

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

Saturday, October 29, 2022

No[!] Hurry[!]

Teachers, tell your students: Michelle Reis, actress and former Miss Hong Kong, nearly died because of a doctor’s unpunctuated text.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Paolo Pasco, his first Stumper, I think, and truly Stumpery (twenty-six minutes for me). The northeast and southwest, relatively easy. The northwest and southeast, much more challenging. Here’s a profile of the constructor.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, ten letters, “Groups attending board meetings.” I thought of CARPENTERS. Finally getting 8-D right helped a lot here.

3-D, seven letters, “Selling points.” An answer meant to confound.

8-D, seven letters, “Figure skater attire.” My first (wrong) answer.

10-D, ten letters, “Heavy metal instruments.” My second (correct) answer. I took a chance, because I liked the possibility of seeing them in the puzzle.

23-A, nine letters, “They’re often taken out of stock.” Fees of some sort, right? Right?

26-A, nine letters, “Exercise with no running.” Nifty.

33-D, seven letters, “Dutch doctor known for his optotypes.” Who? For his what? Oh, that! Everything has a name.

34-A, three letters, “Guy going back for a plan.” Didn’t fool me.

41-D, five letters, “Trunk depression.” Weirdly defamiliarizing. But not always a depression.

49-A, ten letters, “‘Encore’ antonym.” Ha.

51-A, ten letters, “Shades worn on your feet.” New to me, though not to my feet.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Mary Miller, on it

Representative Mary Miller (R, IL-15) continues to use her official Twitter account to warn parents about the danger of fentanyl in Halloween candy. The warnings tie into the claim that we have an “open border.” “These pills are deadly, and parents should be vigilant and carefully check their child’s Halloween candy this year,” she warns in her latest tweet on this topic.

This year? Mary, a good parent checks the candy every year.

But the fear of fentanyl in Halloween candy is, according to a toxicologist and addiction specialist, “a moral panic.” And a scholar of urban legends calls Halloween fentanyl just that — an urban legend, like razor-blade-filled apples. See this The Washington Post article: “The media and the Halloween ‘rainbow fentanyl’ scare.”

Meanwhile, Mary Miller has said nothing about the attack on Paul Pelosi today and the conspiracy-driven mindset that prompted it.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

How to improve writing (no. 105)

Looking at the bare-bones website for the in-the-news Donda Academy, I could not help staring at this sentence:

Writing should be regarded as an activity that necessitates critical thinking, an aspect that is necessary to all good writing.
The sentence appears as Rule 58 on a page about “Who we are.” It’s meant, I think, to sound impressive, but it says in essence that writing requires critical thinking, which is required in writing. It takes about ten seconds of critical thinking to rewrite the sentence to remove redundancy and the awkward aspect.

How about:
Writing well means thinking critically.
Good writing requires critical thinking.
Or to avoid the clichéd “critical thinking”:
Good writing requires thought.
Think hard to write well.
From twenty to four or five. Omit needless words.

Related reading
All OCA How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 105 in a series dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Guernica wear

[“Anguish, Half Off.” Zippy, October 28, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

In today’s Zippy, Griffy notes that museums sell Picasso everything — mousepads, T-shirtscoffee mugs. “What’s next?” he wonders. “Guernica bedsheets and party dresses??”

I wouldn’t have believed it, but you can find a Guernica skirt, complete with Picasso signatures along the waistband, front and back, at Etsy.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Did you get to see Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art? It was removed to Spain in 1981.]

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Really bad handwriting

[Click for a larger view.]

Fresca read my bad handwriting adeptly. I mentioned that I had worse — far worse — but hesitated to post it because I didn’t know what it said. If it said something like drive to collect ransom, I’d be in big trouble if someone were to figure it out.

Here’s a sample that’s safer. I can make out The addres (no final s), and that’s all. These jottings, in pencil on an index card, might be months old. I have no idea what they’re about. But finding such stuff months later can be what happens when you use both sides of an index card.

The New York Times is still looking for bad handwriting from grown-ups who have gone astray.

Related reading
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)

Finding you well

The unhinged anti-Semite formerly known as Kanye West has closed his Donda Academy, effective immediately. The Donda Academy is or was an unaccredited private (Christian) K-12 school, charging $15,000 yearly tuition.

The principal’s announcement of the October surprise — school’s out! — rewards careful study. It’s a nice reminder never to begin a message with “I hope this e-mail finds you well.” Or “I hope this email finds you well.” Take your pick.

I hope this blog post finds you well.


And now, on the same day, the school is, supposedly, “back and returning with a vengeance.”

[The Donda announcement begins “We hope this email finds you well.” I still prefer e-mail.]


[Click for a larger serving.]

Elaine and I split a can of Progresso Spicy Jambalaya with Sausage & Ham last week. Not bad, but I thought I could do better. So we assembled the ingredients (i.e., went shopping), and I made a pot of jambalaya yesterday.

I followed this recipe, more or less, and had excellent results. I remembered that the recipe called for 16 oz. of crushed tomatoes only after dumping in all of a 28 oz. can, so I scooped almost half a can’s worth of tomatoes out of the pot as carefully as I could. The recommended 2½ cups of chicken broth (I used low-sodium stock) were not nearly enough to soften the rice, so I used the whole quart.

The recipe is supposed to be “easy to make in one pot.” And as Elaine reminds me, “one pot” means just one burner in use. The preparation for the cooking required four bowls (to hold chicken, Andouille sausage, celery, green pepper, onion, and garlic), two small cups (for dry seasoning, hot sauce, and Worcestershire), and one measuring cup (for rice and stock). And another small cup for scooping out tomatoes. So many bowls and cups. But still, “easy to make in one pot,” with little skill required. The only changes I’ll make for future cooking will be to add some oil when sauteeing the vegetables and avoid the unforced tomato error.

The jambalaya turned out well: intensely flavorful, and hot without being incendiary. And, if it doesn’t go without saying, far better and far more substantial than the canned stuff, whose main selling point seems to be its intense heat. “Hotter Than ’Ell,” to borrow from Fletcher Henderson.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Call for bad handwriting

[Pretty much actual size. Click for a larger view.]

The New York Times wants to see your bad handwriting, for possible use in an article about grown-ups whose handwriting has gone awry. Here’s my contribution, sent today.

As I told the Times, my handwriting declines when I’m writing notes to myself for future reference. I often find that what was readable in the moment is unreadable, or nearly so, later on. When I’m writing for other eyes, my handwriting — sometimes printing, sometimes cursive — is still pretty spiffy.

Can you decipher what’s written here?


October 27: Here’s more of mine, much worse.

Related reading
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)


Konstantin Levin has come to visit his brother Nikolai.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

“You did not expect to find me like this,” Nikolai says. But the brothers’ eye-to-eye contact immediately establishes “a living connection between living men.”

When I read this passage, I remembered visiting a dying friend. He was nearly unrecognizable. The only way I could see him as himself was to look at his eyes.

Also from this novel
“The turning point of summer” : Theory of dairy farming : Toothache : Anna meta : “Brainless beef!” : “He could not help observing this” : “Official activity” : “All of this together” : “What they had no conception of” : “The back of your head neck”

Two visions

From the latest installment of Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American:

The Republican Party’s diminished base has now shifted toward backing a strong government that will impose its will on the rest of us, while for all their disagreements — or perhaps because of them — Democrats have demonstrated that lawmakers across a wide spectrum of political beliefs really can work together to pass popular legislation.

Which vision will prevail in the U.S. will play out over the next two years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

C-Man Mongol

[Dean Jagger and Lotte Elwen. From C-Man (dir. Joseph Lerner, 1949). Click for a larger view.]

Notice the ferrule? I did. That’s a Mongol.

Related reading
All OCA Mongol pencil posts (Pinboard)

“Close the case”

From The Drive by Night (dir. Raoul Walsh, 1940). Lana Carlsen (Ida Lupino) walks out of the DA's office and toward the camera, sure that she’s off the hook.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Twelve movies

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

Casablanca (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1942). I remember watching years ago, for the -nth time, in an auditorium full of undergrads, many of whom gasped, literally, when Ilsa reveals that she had been married to Viktor all through her Paris romance with Rick. This time I gasped, figuratively, when I realized more clearly than ever that Viktor understands not only what happened in Paris but also what happened when he was at his underground meeting (that’s when Ilsa steals away to the Café Américain). A great accompaniment to the movie: the Radio Open Source podcast episode “We’ll Always Have Paris,” with Christopher Lydon, Lesiie Epstein (son and nephew of the screenwriters, Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein), and A.S. Hamrah. One observation therein: the movie has only four American-born actors with speaking parts: Humphrey Bogart, Joy Page, Dan Seymour, and Dooley Wilson. ★★★★ (TCM)


In a Lonely Place (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1950). Elaine and I are going to read the Dorothy B. Hughes novel, so we thought it wise to watch the movie again while it was available. I was struck this time by how much the movie, with a screenwriter, Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), at its center, is about the movies — about plots and motives and plausibility. And the plot here suggests that any solid citizen is capable of sudden, uncontrolled violence (witness the after-dinner scene with Dixon and friends). A great performance by Bogart (whose mutually violent relationship with Mayo Methot, his third wife, adds a disturbing edge to the proceedings) and a greater performance by Gloria Grahame as Laurel Gray, drawn to and terrified of her screenwriter neighbor. ★★★★ (TCM)

[Dark enough already, but the novel, as I now know, is much, much darker.]


Everything Is Copy: Nora Ephron — Scripted & Unscripted (dir. Jacob Bernstein and Nick Hooker, 2015). Elaine is a big Nora Ephron fan: the two even exchanged several e-mails. I, too, like Ephron’s writing and screenwriting. In this documentary, Jacob Bernstein interviews his mother’s sisters, friends, and colleagues, piecing together a life that became, in various ways, material for writing, as per a precept of Ephron’s screenwriter mother, “Everything is copy,” which I take to mean that whatever happens, a writer should make something of it. The one thing that didn’t become copy: Ephron’s final illness, which she kept secret from almost everyone close to her. ★★★★ (HBO)


N Is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdős (dir. George Paul Csicsery, 1993). I am glad that Tolstoy’s passing observation about cows and food and milk led to this documentary. Paul Erdős (1913–1996) was a mathematician of extraordinary eccentricity, with no fixed residence, traveling with a suitcase from one mathematician’s house to another’s, giving away money to worthy students and offering prizes for the solutions to mathematical problems. Watching this documentary left me with great admiration for endeavors that are and always will be beyond me. But — look out — I may be developing an interest in prime numbers. ★★★★ (YT)

[Thanks, Murray.]


Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (dir. H.C. Potter, 1948). Our household almost didn’t make it to the end of this one. Cary Grant and Myrna Loy are James and Muriel Blandings, and it’s really their dream house, as they both have many suggestions for the architect. Melvyn Douglas is a friend/interloper whose presence leads to a pointless subplot about jealousy. Not funny enough to be a screwball comedy, it’s merely dumb, with anything that can get knocked over getting knocked over, and anything that can fall out of a medicine cabinet, falling out. ★★ (CC)


They Drive by Night (dir. Raoul Walsh 1940). A Warner Brothers blend of working-class struggle and noir. The Fabrini brothers, Joe and Paul (George Raft and Humphrey Bogart) are truckdrivers, beset by crooked employers, repo men, and the dangers of the road. When the Fabrinis begin to buy and sell their own loads, they seem headed for success, but along comes Lana Carlsen (Ida Lupino): she’s the wife of a much older trucking magnate (Alan Hale) and has been lusting after Joe since she met him two years earlier. Lupino gets third billing but is the movie’s true star — venomous, desperate, and, finally, psychotic. Also with Ann Sheridan as Cassie Hartley, a smart, snappy waitress. ★★★★ (TCM)


Three Annas

Anna Karenina (dir. Clarence Brown, 1935). It begins on a spectacular note, with a lavish party, a drinking game, and a dazzling tracking shot of a long banquet table: spectacle! As Anna and Count Vronsky, Greta Garbo and Fredric March are, for me, unconvincing: she, aloof; he, well-mannered and wooden. Aleksey Karenin (Basil Rathbone) is the villain of the piece, and the Levin–Kitty story, so important to the novel, fades away. No second child for Anna (with all the complications that brings), and nothing to follow her death. ★★★ (DVD)

Anna Karenina (dir. Julien Duvivier, 1948). The best of the three. Vivien Leigh is a much more convincing Anna; Kieron Moore is an appropriately glamorous and shallow Vronsky (an image of a man, say, rather than a man). And Ralph Richardson’s Aleksey Karenin is no mere villain. Here too the emphasis is on Karenin–Anna–Vronsky, and here too, nothing follows Anna’s death (save for a screen of text). ★★★★ (CC)

Anna Karenina (dir. Joe Wright, 2012). Finally an adaptation that has more, with Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty (Alicia Vikander) getting proper attention, and a coda following Anna’s (Keira Knightley) death: after all, the novel announces itself as about families, not one romantic triangle. But this adaptation is deeply, weirdly ill-conceived: nearly everything happens in a theater, on a stage (all the world’s a, &c.), with dialogue (Tom Stoppard) and movement highly stylized. If this adaptation is an attempt at Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt (“alienation effect” or “distancing effect”), it fails, and the result is more like a Wes Anderson effect, with characters made to look at least slightly ridiculous. The best moment: Levin and Kitty spelling out their future with alphabet blocks — but then someone off to the side blows his nose (haha?). ★★ (DVD)

[And it would help if Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Count Vronsky didn’t look so much like Gene Wilder’s Dr. Frankenstein.]


John og Irene (dir. Asbjørn Andersen and Anker Sørensen, 1949). Danish noir: John (Ebbe Rode) and Irene (Bodil Kjer) are partners in a nightclub act and in life. He’s full of schemes and dreams; she’s sleepy and skeptical. Strong overtones of Detour, in an ultra-stylish low-budget production, with unusual camera angles and shadows galore. And, for some reason, excellent subtitles, perhaps from YouTube itself, where you should watch this movie before it disappears. ★★★★ (YT)


C-Man (dir. Joseph Lerner, 1949). Dean Jagger plays a Customs agent tracking down the jewel thieves who killed a fellow agent. The plot is thin, and John Carradine, who gets second billing, has almost no part in the proceedings. The movie has three assets: a voiceover, location shots of New York City (I suspect the influence of The Naked City), and a wild score by Gail Kubik. Several overly long fight scenes stretch things out to seventy-seven minutes. ★★ (YT)


The Long Day Closes (dir. Terence Davies, 1992). An evocation of a mid-1950s Liverpool boyhood (the director’s of course). The forces that oppress young Bud (Leigh McCormack) — church, school, bullies — are offset by the comforts of family, movies, and music. The film dissolves from recollected moment to recollected moment: talking about the light from the stars, watching a neighbor with cancer walk down the street. When I first saw it six years ago, I thought it was one best movies I’d ever seen, and certainly the most Proustian movie I’d ever seen, and it still is. ★★★★ (CC)

Related reading
All OCA movie posts (Pinboard)

“The back of your head neck”

Levin has asked Kitty a question.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

Also from this novel
“The turning point of summer” : Theory of dairy farming : Toothache : Anna meta : “Brainless beef!” : “He could not help observing this” : “Official activity” : “All of this together” : “What they had no conception of”

[Kent and Berberova change Garnett’s head to the sexier neck.]

Sunday, October 23, 2022

What’d I do, NYT?

I am disappointed to see that a comment I left this morning on the New York Times article about dfp-supporting politicians and "devil terms" has still not made it online. Humph.

My comment more or less repeated a paragraph of the post I wrote this morning, pointing out that Mary Miller (IL-15), with whom the article begins and ends, refuses to answer not only questions from the Times but also questions from local media and letters from constituents. I then described the content of my most recent letter to Miller, which encouraged her to watch the Ken Burns documentary series The U.S. and the Holocaust and asked whether she still believes that “Hitler was right on one thing.”

My only guess is that my quoting Miller's words — “Hitler was right on one thing” — got my comment tossed. Perhaps comments are screened by filter for certain words and names? I wish I knew.


Kevin spotted it. Bravo!


Now corrected.

Related reading
All OCA NPR, sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Mary Miller in The New York Times

Congresswoman Mary Miller (R, IL-15) begins and ends this New York Times article: “For Trump’s Backers in Congress, ‘Devil Terms’ Help Rally Voters.”

Some excerpts:

As Representative Mary Miller embarked on her first congressional campaign, she described herself in salt-of-the-earth, all-American terms: a mother, grandmother and farmer who embodied the “Midwestern values of faith, family and freedom.”

“Hard work, using God-given talents, and loving each other well,” a voice declared over video clips of Ms. Miller, a 63-year-old Illinois Republican, embracing her family, praying and walking on her farm in an ad in early 2020.

“In the world today,” the ad continued, “we could use a lot more of this.”

But there is another side to Ms. Miller’s wholesome image. Since entering Congress, she has routinely vilified Democrats and liberals, calling them “evil” communists beholden to China who want to “destroy” America and its culture. And President Biden’s plan, she seethed on Twitter this spring, is to “flood our country with terrorists, fentanyl, child traffickers, and MS-13 gang members.”

Ms. Miller’s inflammatory words underscore the extent to which polarizing rhetoric is now entrenched among Republicans in the House of Representatives, especially among those like Ms. Miller who voted against certifying the Biden victory, according to an examination by The New York Times of partisan language over the past 10 years.
On social media, Ms. Miller of Illinois regularly quotes the Bible and writes “Happy Sunday” messages to her followers. She posted one such tweet while taking respite from the campaign trail in June, sharing a photo of herself on the sofa with seven of her grandchildren. She wrote, “I am so blessed!”

Five days later, Ms. Miller’s Twitter took a different tone. “The Left tells our children a hopeless message that they do not come from God, they are not born for any purpose, and they cannot obtain salvation,” she wrote, before pledging to defend the right to bear arms.
Last December, Ms. Miller tweeted a picture of a cloven-hoofed sculpture that the Satanic Temple, a self-described nontheistic religious group, had installed near a Christmas tree and Nativity scene inside the Illinois State Capitol. A sign said the state, which is led by Democrats, could not “legally censor” such controversial installations under the First Amendment.

Ms. Miller turned it into a line of attack — tweeting that “the left cheers this” because they “are not only an anti-American party, they are an anti-Christian party.”

“We’re at war for the heart & soul of our country,” she added, concluding, “Christ is on our side and we will prevail!”
And — no surprise — Miller “did not respond to repeated requests for comment.” Nor does she answer questions from local media. Nor does she reply to letters from constiuents, at least not to my letters.

The article explains “devil terms,” quoting Jennifer Mercieca, a scholar of political rhetoric: “things that are so unquestionably bad that you can’t have a debate about them.” Which reminds me: not only does Miller refuse to answer media questions and constituent letters; she has also refused to debate her Democratic challenger, Paul Lange.

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

[The link to the Times article is a “gift” link — it won’t count against the paywall.]


[3705 Fort Hamilton, Boro Park, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Last Sunday I stood before 3717 Fort Hamilton Parkway. Today we’re moving a little bit up the block. The Green-Wood Cemetery is cater-corner across the street from 3705, whatever 3705 was.

Notice the punched-out hole (or in Treasure Island argot, the black spot): perhaps this tax photograph was deemed useless because there is no identifiable building in it. There is a billboard for Schaefer beer (a brand that occasioned a memorable incident in my youth). And there’s the Culver Shuttle up above, shut down in 1975. The El tracks were demolished in 1985.

The reason I chose this photograph: when I was a boy, we traveled by car under these El tracks many a time on the way to and from my grandparents’ house. To: on Fort Hamilton Parkway. From: on 12th Avenue. What made it interesting: the already defunct or nearly defunct rail tracks on the ground below the El had been repurposed as bocce courts. On a weekend afternoon, there would always be groups of men playing the game.

Here, from The New York Times, is a celebration of bocce in New York: “A City’s Simple Joy.” And here, from Anthony Catalano, are three photographs of bocce players beneath the El: 1, 2, 3. The ground-level tracks, like the El above, are long gone.

And yes, that is a punched-out hole, not a bocce ball.

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

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Steve Mossberg, whose puzzles have at times given me fits. I see that I’ve written that sentence in a previous post, and nearly written it in another, with sometimes for at times. So I’ll revise:

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Steve Mossberg, whose puzzles often give me fits.

This was a tough Stumper — thirty-nine minutes for me. I felt defeated from the start: 1-A, ten letters, “Sweater for the small,” what? I found a starting point dead center: 36-A, eight letters, “Henchwoman, e.g.” With 30-A, nine letters, “Fantastic shortcuts,” above, and 41-A, nine letters, “Genesis through Deuteronomy,” below, I began to work out more answers. But gosh, was this one tough. Which is a good thing.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-D, three letters, “Minimal bit.” So hard to see, especially when you have neither 1-A nor 15-A nor 17-A.

5-D, four letters, “Head home.” Groan.

9-D, three letters, “Booster beneficiary.” A nice way to clue a common answer. My first thought was VAX — an initial vaccination benefiting from a booster.

12-D, eleven letters, “‘The Great Picture Hunt!’ is the sixth in its series.” A giveaway, maybe.

15-A, ten letters, “A question of effort.” This one had me hung up for a long time.

19-A, five letters, “Spring gatherings.” Too clever for my own good, I thought POOLS.

22-D, five letters, “Took all the way to the top, maybe.” Just strange.

25-A, seven letters, “Two different groups working with wires.” A bit strained.

26-A, six letters, “Often-steamy stories.” I’m wise to you crossword guys.

34-D, five letters, “Went at it.” Clever.

29-D, five letters, “Back for more?” Really clever.

53-D, four letters, “Choice for chips.” I hope you’re joking.

My favorite in this puzzle: 55-A, ten letters, “Penguin ritual.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, October 21, 2022

DuckDuckGo for Mac beta

“With built-in protections that make the Internet less creepy and less cluttered”: the DuckDuckGo browser for Mac is now available to all. Read about it here. Download it here.


First impression: slow. And it broke the NYT front page. But it’s still in beta.



Iran, China, Mar-a-Largo

The more we know, the worse it gets. From The Washington Post:

Some of the classified documents recovered by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and private club included highly sensitive intelligence regarding Iran and China, according to people familiar with the matter. If shared with others, the people said, such information could expose intelligence-gathering methods that the United States wants to keep hidden from the world.

At least one of the documents seized by the FBI describes Iran’s missile program, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation. Other documents described highly sensitive intelligence work aimed at China, they said. . . .

The secret documents about Iran and China are considered among the most sensitive the FBI has recovered to date in its investigation of Trump and his aides for possible mishandling of classified information, obstruction and destruction of government records, the people said.
[That’s a “gift” link — it won’t count against the paywall.]

A Pete Seeger stamp

[Click for a larger view.]

I need to get to the post office more often: in July, the USPS issued a Pete Seeger stamp. It’s a good image, from a black-and-white photograph by Pete’s son Dan.

The brief biography on the USPS website rewards close reading, as much for what it omits as what it includes. It makes no mention of the Almanac Singers’ anti-interventionist position in World War II (which ended when Germany attacked the Soviet Union), saying only that the group “tunefully promoted labor unions, then patriotic songs as war loomed.” Nor is there any reference to Seeger and the Weavers being blacklisted in the 1950s. And though the bio does mention Seeger’s contributions to the causes of civil rights and environmentalism, there’s no reference to his anti-Vietnam War efforts. Readers of a certain age will remember “Bring ’Em Home.” And will also remember that in 1967 Seeger was not permitted to sing “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In 1968 he did.

So it would appear that the USPS has constructed a less “controversial” image of Seeger. Oh well. Perhaps that was a way to sneak him past Louis DeJoy.

A good way to think about Pete Seeger’s appearance on a stamp: a man once viewed as “un-American” was of course a true American all along. I remember a 2006 New Yorker profile of Seeger that closed with a glimpse of him standing by himself along Route 9 in Beacon, New York, during the invasion of Iraq, holding a sign that read PEACE. Speaking your mind freely and without fear, even if alone: that’s American.

Related reading
All OCA Pete Seeger posts (Pinboard)

Sold a Story again

The first two episodes of Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong became available yesterday. They’re revealing and infuriating. Now I understand what my children’s teachers meant when they said that they used “a balanced approach” — they meant nothing in particular, with only a smattering of phonics. Fortunately, our children learned to read before starting school, as Elaine and I did.

Here’s an example (not from the podcast) of the wrongheadedness that can underlie opposition to instruction in phonics, from an educator who learned to read before starting school. He writes that he

can’t really ever think of “sound it out” as a strategy for me when I encountered words I didn’t know. Asking other people is my go-to strategy even today, as I wander into my 60s.
And how, you may wonder, did those other people figure out how to pronounce those words — if indeed they’re pronouncing those words correctly.

Only last night did it occur to me to wonder: when college instructors outline the textbook in class and give out “study sheets” (i.e., questions and answers) for exams, are they merely slacking off, or are they compensating, consciously or not, for their students’ reading deficiencies?

[And quick, someone get that educator a dictionary.]

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Do you recognize her? Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if one is needed.


Hint: She was good company, and her favorite meal was “lunch.”


Oh well. I put the answer in the comments. You’re still welcome to play on the honor system.

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

Separated at birth

  [Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky in Anna Karenina (dir. Joe Wright, 2012) and Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein (dir. Mel Brooks, 1974). Click either image for a larger view.]

I wish someone had said “We need to make him look less like young Frankenstein.”

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2022


From Trevor Traynor: Newstands, 100 photographs.

(Found via Present & Correct.)

Sardine dreams

In The Harvard Crimson, Una R. Roven, college student, writes about sardines:

There’s nothing like the smooth metallic pop of an opening tin. The fireworks of healthy fats in the very first bite. These oily fish fill my dreams.
Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Sold a Story

Coming tomorrow, from American Public Media, a podcast series by Emily Hanford: Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong.

In 2018 Hanford wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times: “Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way?”

Here’s a related article from the Times: “In the Fight Over How to Teach Reading, This Guru Makes a Major Retreat.”

If you have any doubt that reading instruction has gone wrong, listen to the average, everyday college student read aloud in class. But that’ll be difficult to do, because many instructors have learned not to ask students to read aloud. It’s likely to be painful.

Related posts
Reading, really fast : A story from my literacy tutoring : W(h)ither grammar

[“Read aloud”: I don’t mean cold-calling on students to read. I mean, say, asking a student to read a passage that they’ve referenced in a discussion.]

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Cheesy vignette

[As seen in the OCA test kitchens. Click for a larger view.]

What’s wrong with this picture?

Yesterday’s A.Word.A.Day explains.


Elaine and I like to invent imaginary radio shows. O reason not the need. Please.

This one is mine: Stemside. It’s all about tomatoes. E.g.:

“Coming up on Stemside: tomato sandwiches. Are they really as good as people say?”

[Spoiler: they are. And you should always let tomatoes sit stem down.]

La Fabrique de l’oeuvre

From stale bread to a madeleine: La Fabrique de l’oeuvre is a French National Library exhibition devoted to the evolution of À la recherche du temps perdu .

Here is a report from Le Figaro, in French and English. And here is a report from The Guardian, with the detail of the stale bread (pain rassis ).

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Monday, October 17, 2022

The reason is not because

In the latest episode of Michigan Radio’s That’s What They Say, Rebecca Kruth, host, and Anne Curzan, linguist, talk about “the reason is because.” Citing the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage as an authority, Curzan says that this construction is “fine.” The word because, she says, reminds the reader that an explanation is coming. I would think that the words the reason is are reminder enough, even if other words fall between reason and is.

A point that Curzan doesn’t mention: MWDEU argues against the charge that “the reason is because” is redundant by pointing out that because here need not mean “for the reason that.” No, MWDEU says, because here can mean “the fact that.” Which would make “the reason is because” the equivalent of “the reason is the fact that.” But if that’s the case, it’s simpler and more graceful to say “the reason is that.”

In Garner’s Modern English Usage, Bryan Garner offers a markedly different take on “the reason is because.” While MWDEU cites many well-known writers who have used this construction (Francis Bacon, Jonathan Swift, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, P.G. Wodehouse, Groucho Marx, and others), GMEU uses the Google Ngram Viewer get a sense of contemporary usage, with “reason is that” significantly outnumbering “reason is because” in print. In the GMEU Language-Change Index, “the reason is because” falls into Stage Four: “Ubiquitous but  . . . .” And Garner quotes a withering assessment:

This construction is loose because reason implies because and vice versa. Robert W. Burchfield, the distinguished OED lexicographer, put it well: “Though often defended by modern grammarians, the type ‘the reason . . . is because’ (instead of ‘the reason . . . is that’) aches with redundancy, and is still as inadmissible in Standard English as it was when H.W. Fowler objected to it in 1926.” Points of View 116 (1992).
Garner, as you can already guess, recommends replacing because with that.

Recommending that a writer stick with “the reason is because” if it feels “natural” and “sounds good,” as Curzan does, is decidely unhelpful. If “the reason is because” is far less common in writing, if it’s likely to stand out to many a reader as a known redundancy, it’s in a writer’s interest to change because to that. It doesn’t matter what Robert Frost did. Or Jane Austen.

That’s What They Say is fun when Kruth and Curzan investigate idioms and word meanings. But I’d check the feature’s advice about usage before going along.


Yes, there’s a problem with FeedBurner. But one also needs an an app or service that picks up RSS feeds in a snappy manner. NetNewsWire for macOS and iOS is my new choice. It’s fast, easy to figure out, and free. It has a long history, with a developer, Brent Simmons, who has a sense of cultural purpose and doesn’t even invite donations. Here is the app’s website.

“The old Internet”

Marie LeConte misses “the old Internet.”

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Why a duck?

Roaming Boro Park, Brooklyn, I came upon this lively blend of residential and commercial life.

[3717 Fort Hamilton Parkway, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

As with these Fort Hamilton addresses, it appears that a storefront and residential entrance were added to an existing house. Imagine being able to step from your residence for candy, soda, stationery, and cigars. (Don’t worry, Elaine — I’m not getting any ideas, about smoking or about remodeling.)

Next to 3717, on the southeast corner of Fort Hamilton and 38th Street, stood a gas station with battery and lubrication services. Today Google Maps shows 3717 with a pull-down steel door over what was (and still is?) a storefront. Lion Transmission and Parkway Collision sit next door — no gas.

What knocks me out about this photograph: Donald Duck. He’s advertising Nu-Blue Sunoco gasoline. Why a duck? Why not a mouse? Well, Mickey Mouse was also hired, though every link to an image of Mickey’s signage turns out to be defunct. Donald’s wall today sports a stylized flag of Mexico and a lion in profile. A larger lion looks down from a second-story wall.

In a fine testament to American capitalism, many of the brand names appearing in this photograph are with us in 2022. How many names can you spot? I see eight in addition to Sunoco, seven of which are legible. I’ve put my answers in the comments. Click for the larger view for a better look at everything, including the gumball machines.

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

[The building to the left, as seen in another photograph, houses Willam Rabus Plumbing & Heating.]

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stella Zawistowski, known for tough puzzles. This one took me thirty-one minutes, and at many points I thought I’d have to give up. And then something would fall into place, and onward.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

4-D, eleven letters, “High-upkeep?” Read the clue carefully.

5-A, ten letters, “Removes one’s words, in a way.” My first answer. I had a hunch and played it.

7-D, fifteen letters, “It may keep you up at night.” Uh, SATURDAYSTUMPER?

13-D, seven letters, “General rearrangement.” Now I get it.

17-A, ten letters, “Originally, a river crystal.” Huh.

23-A, five letters, “Whom DiMaggio called ‘the best I ever faced.’” I liked seeing this name.

25-D, eleven letters, “Fourth-century Christian milestone.” Yep, still know it, sort of.

26-A, nine letters, “Sports pages.” I felt pleased with myself for sussing this one out right away. (I am not a sports-minded person.)

28-D, three letters, “Half a Furniture Galleries brand.” An insanely great answer.

34-D, four letters, “Tragic retiree-to-be.” Another hunch played.

57-A, four letters, “Dieter’s unit.” I had all the letters from Down answers and didn’t see how fiendishly clever this clue is.

40-D, seven letters, “Ford debut of 1930.” Must be a car, no?

42-D, seven letters, “Sempiternal.” “Midwinter spring is its own season, / Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown.” I still love Four Quartets.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Peg and Pinkie (and Floyd)

Looking into the fortunes of the Ace-Hy Sign Co., I found my way to old issues of Billboard. And somewhere on or near a page with an Ace-Hy advertisement, I noticed this item, in Bill Baker’s column “Pipes for Pitchmen”:

[Billboard, November 6, 1948. Click for a larger view.]

Two names stood out: Peg Jackson would be Arthur Jackson (1911–1977), known as Peg Leg Sam, singer and harmonica player, with a long history of performing in medicine shows. Here’s a short documentary about him: Born for Hard Luck (dir. Tom Davenport, 1976). Pinkie Anderson would be Pinkney Anderson (1900–1974), known as Pink Anderson, singer and guitarist, also with a long history of performing in medicine shows, often with Peg Leg Sam. Here’s a 1970 home recording of the two men doing medicine-show material. Here’s a sample of Anderson alone. And here’s Pink’s son, Little Pink Anderson.

Even if you think you’ve never heard of Pink Anderson, you probably have. Here he is with Floyd Council. Those two musicians were the inspiration for the name Pink Floyd.


And here’s a Peg Leg Sam T-shirt.

[For anyone curious, there’s much more of Jackson, Anderson, and Council at YouTube.]

In search of lost commercials

Did you know that “so many of the melodies of well-known popular songs were actually written by the great masters”?

I did, but I had no idea who was speaking those words.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

One big revelation

From today’s January 6 meeting: the defeated former president’s election-night declaration of victory — “Frankly we did win this election” — was planned well before Election Day.


Another: The Secret Service and other agencies knew of threats of violence against the Capitol well before January 6.


One more: The committee plans to vote on whether to subpoena the defeated former president.


In related news:

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request from former President Donald J. Trump to intervene in the litigation over documents seized from his Florida estate.

The vote to subpoena is unanimous.


The dfp is having a very bad day.

“What they had no conception of”

Anna, Vronsky, and Vronsky’s old associate Golenishchev are talking about the work of a painter, in particular a painting of two boys fishing.

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, translated by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

Also from this novel
“The turning point of summer” : Theory of dairy farming : Toothache : Anna meta : “Brainless beef!” : “He could not help observing this” : “Official activity” : “All of this together”


Elaine thought it up, but she left it for me to do the work of defining:

bor∙o∙me∙ter \ˈbȯr-ō-ˌmē-tər n [fr. Elaine Fine, composer and musician] (2022) : the little-understood brain mechanism that measures the boringness of a film or a television show <My husband’s ⁓ is functioning well, as evidenced by his falling asleep during this film>
See also humormeter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Gabbard, Palin, Hitchens

I think this formulation works:

Tulsi Gabbard is the Sarah Palin of Christopher Hitchenses.


Tulsi Gabbard is the Christopher Hitchens of Sarah Palins.

I can see it both ways. Context here.

[I’ve already reminded myself, many times, that I once thought of Gabbard as a likely member of a Bernie Sanders administration. Good grief.]

Recently updated

As [+ adj.] a [+ n.] as Someone fixed it.

A critical reader

I just cited Bryan Garner once again, so I’ll toot my horn — just once — in this post:

I’m a member of the panel of critical readers for the forthcoming fifth edition of Garner’s Modern English Usage. What that means: I was given a chunk of the revised text to read and edit and comment on in whatever ways seemed appropriate. My chunk: from boyish to cigaret, which seems like a chapter from my life. I also read, edited, and commented on other entries that drew my interest. The work was an exhilarating, mind-stretching joy.

The fifth edition of GMEU is available for pre-order from Amazon.

Related reading
All OCA Garner posts (Pinboard)

[Cigaret ? A “needless variant.” That chapter closed on October 8, 1989. And yes, “from boyish to cigaret ” makes me think of “from crayons to perfume.”]

As [+ adj.] a [+ n.] as

I was surprised to see this headline in The New York Times, not because of the question but because of the phrasing:

[The New York Times, October 12, 2022.]

From Garner’s Modern English Usage:

As [+ adj.] a [+ n.] as. In AmE, writers sometimes err by inserting of after the adjective. But good usage rejects this — e.g.: “From the sidelines, Nunez became nearly as good of a cheerleader [read as good a cheerleader ] as he was a running back.” Jaime Aron, “Westlake’s Nunez Leads AP Honor Roll,”Austin Am.-Statesman, 26 Oct, 1994, at C3.
The answer to the question the Times poses seems to be “Who knows?” Because “anything could happen.”


What has happened: someone fixed it.

[The New York Times, October 12, 2022.]

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Angela Lansbury (1925-2022)

Nancy. Edwina Brown. Sybil Vane. Mabel Sabre. Doris Hillman. Myra Leeds. Eleanor Shaw Iselin. Isabel Boyd. Nellie Lovett. Jessica Fletcher. Mrs. Potts. Balloon Lady. Those are the roles I know her from.

The New York Times has an obituary.

Coronation with Zeppelin

I had a crown placed on a molar this morning. It’s a much simpler matter than a root canal: the dentist drills away the temporary crown, does some 3-D imaging, [mysterious gap], makes some small adjustments, [mysterious gap], and cements the permanent crown in place. In the mysterious gaps: the making of the crown and its placement in a kiln. Those things happened offstage, or at least off my part of the stage.

The strangest thing about my adventure in dentistry: the local radio station that plays in the dentist’s office played Led Zeppelin for at least half an hour or so while I sat in the chair. “Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg”: I never thought I’d hear that in a dentist’s office.

See also How to have a root canal.

[The lyric is from “Traveling Riverside Blues,” Led Zeppelin’s refashioning of a Robert Johnson song. And no, I’m not a Led Zeppelin fan, but I can recognize their music.]