Saturday, December 31, 2022

New Year’s Eve 1922

At the Hotel Astor:

[“Hotels Make Ready for Gala New Year: Prepare for Record Crowds — Demand for Private Rooms Is Unusually Large.” The New York Times, December 31, 1922.]

What caught my eye, in addition to the scale of the celebration: “Florence F. Jenkins.” Have you heard Florence Foster Jenkins sing? Here’s some Mozart.

And here’s to a new year, peaceful and on pitch for all.

Last call

As 2023 approaches, be prepared, with a calendar guaranteed to work all year long.

[Click for a larger month.]

It’s free, made by me: a 2023 calendar, in large legible Gill Sans, three months per page. Minimal holiday markings: MLK Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Paper, staples, thumbtack, magnet not included.

You can download the PDF from this Dropbox link. If you don’t have and don’t want a Dropbox account, just hit Download, top left.

[I’ve been making calendars since 2009 with the Mac app Pages. Steep learning curve, years of good calendars to show for it.]

Nancy New Year’s Eve

Olivia Jaimes continues the Ernie Bushmiller tradition of taking holidays off: “Your Nancy Year in Review.”

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)


From Gothamist: “Here‘s a list of NY Rep.-elect George Santos’ lies, deceptions and fabrications.” My favorite touch: “This is an ongoing story that will be updated.”

In other words, more lies to come!


A catalogue from The Washington Post.


And in The New York Times, a former partner tells of life with a fabulator.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is an updated rerun from 2012, one of the two Stumper reruns that are appearing while the puzzle’s editor Stan Newman is on vacation. I wasn’t doing the Stumper in 2012, so this puzzle is new for me. It’s by “Lester Ruff,” a pseudonym for easier Stumpers of the editor’s making. This one wasn’t all that easy. Take, for instance, 9-D, seven letters, “Called attention to” and 18-A, eight letters, “Take hold of,” whose answers might look wildly wrong with only two or three letters filled in. A solid Stumper.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

7-A, eight letters, “Source of some blasts.” I was thinking of weather from the north.

14-D, six letters, “Secure offshore.” Tricky.

38-D, eight letters, “Freelance writer of a sort.” Feels old-timey to me, thought it isn’t.

54-A, four letters, “Some base men.” CADS. OAFS. SHORTSTOPS?

58-D, four letters, “Much of it comes from Sanskrit.” I did not know that.

60-D, three letters, “You may see it before long.” Playful.

61-A, six letters, “One of the ‘Sacred Books of the East.’” My first answer, and it gave me the southeast corner.

63-A, eight letters, “Highbrows.” Does anyone use the answer unironically?

65-A, eight letters, “Person coming back.” Nicely oblique.

My favorite in this puzzle: 59-A, eight letters, “Expression of wishful thinking.” Negatory.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Word of the day: game-changer

The WGBH station manager is nearly hyperventilating. From the Julia episode “Petit Fours” (HBO):

“Selling The French Chef to other stations — the possibilities — I mean, this could be a game-changer for us.”
Did people say game-changer in 1963?

Merriam-Webster first has the word (no citation) in 1993. But the Oxford English Dictionary has a first citation from January 13, 1962, from the Brainerd Daily Dispatch, a Minnesota newspaper:
They reckoned without game-changer Bob Sheflo and his cohorts.
That same article is also is the source for the dictionary’s first citation for game-changing:
Davidson drew his fourth foul and that brought in Sheflo for his game-changing antics.
One would like to know more about those antics.

Robert Sheflo Jr. (1943–2016) played basketball for Brainerd Junior College. From a 1962 Dispatch article:
Bob Sheflo came off the bench to score 26 for Brainerd, but the Ely big men dominated the boards.
The Dispatch is still going, now online.

I wonder: did the Julia writers check the OED for game-changer? Or did they luck out?


December 31: As Pete points out in a comment, the show’s writers may not have lucked out, not really. The 1962 citations are sports-specific. It’s not clear when the extended meanings of game-changer (OED : “an event, idea, or procedure that produces a significant shift in the current way of thinking about or doing something”) and game-changing (“that produces,” &c.) came into play. I’ve had no luck trying to figure it out via and Google Books. But it’s still the case that the Brainerd Daily Dispatch has the first citations for the two words.

[About Julia: Our household is five episodes in. One half of the household likes this series much more than the other does. The other half is thinking about French onion soup. Both halves have great esteem for the real Julia Child.]

Hi and Lois watch

I noticed a Flagston thermostat, or “thermostat,” in 2009. And an improved thermostat in 2012. A “thermostat” returns in today’s Hi and Lois, as the strip mines the apparently inexhaustible comic premise that Dad will see his family freeze rather than turn up the heat. Thrifty Dad! Now the whole family can fight over Trixie’s sunbeam.

[Hi and Lois, December 30, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

Perhaps the colorist wanted to call attention to the thing on the wall. And Nest thermostats do make use of color. But not like that. I suspect that the Flagston wall is meant to hold what it appeared to hold in 2012: a Honeywell T87, a classic mid-century design. Allow me:

[Hi and Lois revised, December 30, 2022. Click for a larger view.]

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, December 29, 2022

“Older person”

In The Washington Post, Gary Abernathy writes about ageism and how it grates:

How should we respectfully refer to old people? I’ve seen people 60-plus still refer to themselves as “middle aged,” but let’s be a little more realistic and cut that off at least by 59. The word “old,” however, is such a pejorative that it should not be used alone. “Older person” is preferable. I hesitate to use “elderly” at all, which implies not just old age but a feeble condition. I’ve always despised “senior citizen” and references to the “golden years.” How ’bout “best people ever?” That’s good.
I sometimes notice younger people in social settings looking past me or through me, as though I’m almost invisible.


I just remembered and found something that I wrote in an e-mail to a friend earlier this year. Here it is, with one slip fixed:
Old — when I bought the graphic novels New Kid and Class Act at Barnes & Nobility, the clerk mentioned its their new popularity and that of Maus, and I mentioned that I was the first person in my English department to teach a graphic novel, namely Maus. Years ago, I said, shortly after the invention of printing. She didn’t laugh, didn’t bat an eye. This seems to happen as one becomes older — what you say goes right past people. Grr. And when I’ve acquired such wisdom!
[I changed the ‘bout in the Abernathy passage to ’bout. ’Cos that’s how I roll.]

A dawn hater

From The Dark Corner (dir. Hentry Hathaway, 1946). Clifton Webb as Hardy Cathcart, gallery owner:

“I probably shan’t return much before dawn. How I detest the dawn. The grass always looks like it’s been left out all night.”
The Dark Corner is streaming at the Criterion Channel. “It was better on a first viewing in 2010,” says I. But still worth watching.

Also from this movie
EXchange names on screen

EXchange names on screen

[The Dark Corner (dir. Henry Hathaway, 1946.]

The reality effect again. Nearly all these names appear in the 1940 Manhattan telephone directory. This page must be from the listings in a commercial directory. If you’re a detective and it’s your directory, you’re free to mark up the pages in your search for a white suit stained with blood.

More telephone EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Black Angel : Black Widow : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Blue Gardenia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : The Brothers Rico : The Case Against Brooklyn : Chinatown : Craig’s Wife : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dial Red 0 : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : Escape in the Fog : Fallen Angel : Framed : Hollywood Story : Kiss of Death : The Little Giant : Loophole : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Naked City (8) : Naked City (9) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Nocturne : Old Acquaintance : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : Pitfall : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Red Light : She Played with Fire : Side Street : The Slender Thread : Slightly Scarlet : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success (1) : Sweet Smell of Success (2) : Tension : Till the End of Time : This Gun for Hire : The Unfaithful : Vice Squad : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

MSNBC, sheesh

“. . . whomever is going to be Speaker.”

The simple check: drop in a pronoun. Her is going to be Speaker? Him is? They are? No. Whomever is? No.

Related reading
All OCA MSNBC, sheesh posts (Pinboard)

A Jerry Craft interview

From this morning’s Morning Edition, an interview with Jerry Craft. He has a new book, School Trip, coming out in April. I wrote about his New Kid and Class Act in this post.

[I’m happy to know that Craft did get to the Texas school system that had disinvited him after some parents charged that his books promulgated critical race theory.]

Rudolph and reindeer, explained

“Quick etymology.”

Thanks, Elaine.

Word of the day: commuter

[Nancy, January 24, 1950. Click for a larger view.]

Nancy’s new train whistles, smokes, goes choo-choo — it does (in Bushmiller Bold) EVERYTHING.

I was surprised to see commuter in use in 1950 — I would have guessed that it was a later invention. I’m even more surprised to see that the word (“Originally U.S.”) dates from the mid-nineteenth century. The first Oxford English Dictionary citation is from 1865 (The Atlantic Monthly ):

Two or three may be styled commuters’ roads, running chiefly for the accommodation of city business-men with suburban residences.
Pre-“traffic and weather on the eights,” there were commuters.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[I would have placed commuter in the 1970s, perhaps because that’s when I became a commuter when attending college. There was much consternation about Fordham at Rose Hill becoming a commuter campus.]

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Nut sorter, dowel inspector, egg processor

Nut sorter, dowel inspector, egg processor: The Washington Post reports that the Social Security Administration evaluates disability claims by using a Dictionary of Occupational Titles, last updated in 1977, to determine what kinds of work a person with a disability might be able to do. But many kinds of work described in the dictionary would be difficult or impossible for anyone, with or without a disability — because the work itself is obsolete or nearly so. See the first six words of the post.

Here’s one occupational title that I noticed, pen and pencil repairer:

Repairs and replaces parts of fountain pens and mechanical pencils, using electric buffer, handtools, and magnifying lens: Repairs or replaces ink sacs, plungers, barrels, and other parts, using handtools. Places pen points on straightening block and rubs them with mandrel to straighten points. Twists and turns points with pliers under magnifying lens to align points. Washes pens and pencils in cleaning solution. Removes engraving and polishes pens and pencils, using electric buffer. May operate pantograph engraving machine or stamping machine to inscribe names on pens and pencils. May operate bench lathes to cut out parts for pens and pencils. May sell pens and pencils. May requisition replacement parts for pens and pencils.
Ink sacs — yes, for pen fanatics, but not in most people’s definitions of real life in 2022. The dictionary also describes work in telegraphy and television-tube rebuilding. I could go on. But I think another form of work cited in the Post article tops them all: manual scoreboard operator.

Related posts
Harvey Wang’s New York : “Old-world skillz” : “Trailing-edge technology”

[I was hoping for pinsetter, a job my dad had as a Depression kid. But the dictionary is too up-to-date for that. Alas, the links in the last two posts are gone.]

Recently updated

Terry Hall (1959–2022) Now with a link to a New York Times obituary.

EXchange names on the screen

[She Played with Fire (dir. Sidney Gilliat, 1957). Click for a larger view.]

I once characterized telephone-directory-fills-the-screen as a low-grade reality effect: even a fictional telephone directory is in some way a work of non-fiction. Here the reality effect is strong: at least some of the addresses are real, and Litaweave Products was still doing business from 90 Teesdale Street, London, as late as 1965. (Thanks, Google Books.)

And what is a “peelhead”? Something used in making pizza.

More telephone EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Black Angel : Black Widow : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Blue Gardenia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : The Brothers Rico : The Case Against Brooklyn : Chinatown : Craig’s Wife : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dial Red 0 : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : Escape in the Fog : Fallen Angel : Framed : Hollywood Story : Kiss of Death : The Little Giant : Loophole : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Naked City (8) : Naked City (9) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Nocturne : Old Acquaintance : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : Pitfall : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Red Light : Side Street : The Slender Thread : Slightly Scarlet : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success (1) : Sweet Smell of Success (2) : Tension : Till the End of Time : This Gun for Hire : The Unfaithful : Vice Squad : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Twelve movies

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

Junebug (dir. Phil Morrison, 2005). One cannot live by film noir alone. A lovely, understated movie, in which Madeleine and George (Embeth Davidtz and Alessandro Nivola), a recently (and hastily) married couple, drive from Chicago to visit George’s family in North Carolina. It’s a crowded, difficult house, with patriarch Eugene (Scott Wilson) nearly inarticulate, matriarch Peg (Celia Weston) burdened with responsibilities, George’s brother Johnny (Ben McKenzie) reluctant about impending fatherhood, and George’s wife Ashley (Amy Adams), a firecracker, as her mother calls her, all agog with plans for the baby. Madeleine’s presence is the final complication: is she here to meet her husband’s family, or to snag the work of a nearby Howard Finster-like artist for her gallery? ★★★★ (CC)


She Played with Fire (dir. Sidney Gilliat, 1957). Brit noir with Gothic overtones: a minor fire brings insurance adjuster Oliver Branwell (Jack Hawkins) to a great manor house, where he is surprised to meet up with a woman he loved years before, the now married Sarah Moreton (Arlene Dahl). And then things get complicated — not because of adultery but because of another fire, and forgery, and telltale herbal cigarettes, and a strong touch of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques. Why not four stars? There’s a large problem with the plot, because of an obvious question that’s never asked or answered. ★★★ (YT)


Crossroads (dir. Jack Conway, 1942). It’s 1935 (no war), and William Powell is David Talbot, a member of the French diplomatic corps, recently married to Lucienne (Hedy Lamarr) and the likely choice to serve as ambassador to Brazil. But something goes wrong: a threatening letter arrives in the mail, and David Talbot finds himself blackmailed for crimes committed when he was Jean Pelletier, before a case of amnesia wiped out his criminal past. Aside from an opening scene that is almost from pre-Code days, Lamarr has little to do. Also with Basil Rathbone, Claire Trevor, H.B. Warner (Jesus, Gower the druggist, and one of Sunset Boulevard’s waxworks), and Felix Bressart, who steals the movie as a wise, funny psychoanalyst. ★★★ (TCM)


A Woman’s Secret (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1949). Okay, but which woman? And when a shot rings out, whose account of what happened is to be believed? At the center of the story is a friendship — “an odd friendship,” one observer calls it — between a former singer turned manager (Maureen O’Hara) and her protege (Gloria Grahame). The implications are unmistakable, even if the movie takes everything back at the end. ★★★ (TCM)


The Dark Corner (dir. Henry Hathaway, 1946). It was better on a first viewing in 2010. This story of a private detective (Mark Stevens) being stalked (it’s complicated) by another private detective (William Bendix) is super-stylish, with lavish sets (that art gallery!) and slick cinematography by Joe MacDonald. Despite loads of snappy banter, there’s little chemistry between Stevens and his hopelessly devoted secretary (Lucille Ball, who reportedly hated the way the director treated her); the two standouts are Bendix and Clifton Webb as the effete owner of an art gallery. As Elaine said, it’s a good thing that Ball found her true home in comedy. ★★★ (CC)


Waiting for Guffman (dir. Christopher Guest, 1996). I wish I could remember who told us, years ago, to watch this faux-documentary about a midwestern town’s effort to celebrate its sesquicentennial. In Blaine, Missouri, the high-school drama teacher, NYC-refugee and gay caricature Corky St. Clair (Guest) is enlisted to stage a musical celebration of the town’s patchy history: founded by travelers who thought they had reached California, Blaine became the Stool Capital of the World and was later visited by ETs who probed several locals. Many types here: a resentful band director (Bob Balaban), a futureless Dairy Queen employee (Parker Posey), a dentist who feels the urge to entertain (Eugene Levy), and the inveterate amateurs whom Corky calls “the Lunts of Blaine" (Catherine O’Hara and Fred Willard). When news comes that a producer from the New York theater world, Mort Guffman, is coming to view Red, White, and Blaine, the need to do well becomes urgent, as Corky and his cast believe that Broadway might be in their future. A hilarious and poignant picture of people doing their best, and dammit, the songs are good, though the best number, “This Bulging River,” is only available as a DVD extra (or from YouKnowWhere). ★★★★ (DVD)

[If you live in a little town, you probably already know what sesquicentennial means.]


Gaslight (dir. George Cukor, 1944). A small cast — Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten are the principals — along with a townhouse that grows smaller and more claustrophobic as the story develops. The principals give brilliant performances — Bergman as an apologetic, self-doubting bride, Boyer as her suave, dictatorial husband, Cotten as a protector watching from afar. And then there’s Angela Lansbury, in her first screen performance, as a nasty servant. Joseph Ruttenberg, a remarkably versatile cinematographer, gives the story a strong infusion of noir. ★★★★ (TCM)


Mr. District Attorney (dir. Robert B. Sinclair, 1947). Based on a long-running radio serial, with Adolphe Menjou as a hard-driving DA (he’s to the law what Julian Marsh of 42nd Street is to the theater), Dennis O’Keefe as his ethically wavering assistant, George Couloris as a white-collar criminal, and Marguerite Chapman as an inscrutable love interest. Chapman makes the movie, with a role reminiscent of Jane Greer’s Kathie in Out of the Past. With genuinely surprising and suspenseful moments as the movie nears its end. The radio DNA is most noticeable, I think, in the wisecracking by investigator Harrington (Michael O’Shea). ★★★ (YT)


What Happened Was . . . (dir. Tom Noonan, 1994). From a two-person play by Noonan, with Noonan and Karen Sillas as Michael and Jackie, co-workers having dinner in Jackie’s apartment on a Friday night. I can’t agree with one reviewer that the movie shows “how people actually behave on a date,” for at least two reasons: it’s not clear to both parties that this meeting is a (first) date, and most people are not Michael and Jackie, and would likely not find themselves engaged in the painful truthtelling that happens in the course of this evening. My favorite moment: the story of the book, which is more than a little heartbreaking. ★★★★ (CC)


Midnight Limited (dir. Howard Bretherton, 1940). I’m not a fan of train travel, and least not in its Amtrak incarnation, but I’m a sucker for a train movie: Berlin Express, The Lady Vanishes, The Narrow Margin, Night Train to Munich, North by Northwest, Sleeping Car to Trieste, The Tall Target, Terror by Night. I did not expect much from the low-budget effort (Monogram Pictures), but I found even less: ultra-cheap sets (not a single shot showing the window of a train compartment), wooden acting, and a preposterous plot. Hint to the detective: when a man on a train is robbed of $75,000 in diamonds, start by finding out who knew he was on the train. The one redeeming element of weirdness: George Cleveland (Gramps from Lassie) as a seedy “professor” who bears an at least passing resemblance to Joe Gould (two years before Joseph Mitchell’s New Yorker profile “Professor Sea Gull”). ★ (YT)


Crime and Punishment (dir. Josef von Sternberg, 1935). I’m not a fan of the novel, which seems to me the work of a writer trying to figure out something new to drop in, chapter by chapter. So in a perverse way, I like this highly condensed adaptation, with fine performances by Peter Lorre as Roderick (!) Raskolnikov, Edward Arnold as Porfiry, and Marian Marsh as Sonya. Condensation aside, we end up with the novel’s sentimentality all the same. Look for Johnny Arthur (father to Darla in Little Rascals shorts) and Michael Mark (the bereaved father in Frankenstein) in small roles. ★★★ (YT)


Fear (dir. Alfred Zeisler, 1946). A low-budget (Monogram Pictures) uncredited adaptation of Crime and Punishment, with Raskolnikov turned into Larry Crain (Peter Cookson), a contemporary American college student who loses his scholarship, pawns his father’s watch, and — well, you probably know what’s coming. Here, too, much of the Dostoevsky world is missing. Warren William (the first Perry Mason) is the investigator who dogs Larry; Anne Gywnne is a Sonya sans family, sans sex work. A surprisingly good movie on its own terms, and its full weirdness only becomes clear at the end. ★★★ (YT)

Related reading
All OCA “twelve movies” posts (Pinboard)

Monday, December 26, 2022

iCloud Drive (Archive): delete?

I went looking for an explanation of why my Mac showed iCloud Drive (Archive), iCloud Drive (Archive) - 1, and iCloud Drive (Archive) - 2. I found the answer and deleted all but the most recent archive (2), which I then renamed as iCloud Drive (Archive). Gigabytes saved! Lifelong learning!

Uffizi e-mail etiquette

Eike Schmidt, the director of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, has made rules for staff e-mail (Artnet). Among the rules: No bold, no multiple exclamation points, no ?! combinations, no sentences in all caps. Ellipses? Only sparingly.

When Uffizi staff need to e-mail an academic, they might want to consult How to e-mail a professor. Almost eighteen years old, and still going strong.

NPR, sheesh

“These cookies have taken on new meaning as an adult.”

Related reading
All OCA NPR, sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Nancy Christmas 2022

Olivia Jaimes follows in Ernie Bushmiller’s footsteps with today’s Christmas panels.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Christmas 1922

[“Santa Drops Twelve Feet.” Brooklyn Standard Union, December 26, 1922.]

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it.

[Mineola is a village on Long Island. Look for another NYC tax photograph next Sunday.]

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Steve Mossberg, is the most difficult Stumper in a long time. Thinking that my first thought about 1-A, four letters, “Exercise for young ones” had to be wrong, I skimmed my way down the puzzle and found a starting point at 53-A, five letters, “Nae sayers.” And crossing that answer, 26-D, nine letters, “Margin for error.” And crossing that answer, 44-A, six letters, “Certain tusker.” And after that I stumbled around, a word here, a word there, until I got them all.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

4-D, six letters, “Trim; a tree.” Seasonal; wonderfully clever.

5-A, four letters, “Bear at a baby shower.” It’s been a while.

5-D, twelve letters, “Placebo recipients.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen the answer in a puzzle.

19-D, twelve letters, “Woods works.” I was very pleased with myself when I finally got the answer.

21-A, six letters, “Good word across the sea.” Stumper-y.

22-A, three letters, “Hybrid auto mode.” Yay Prius.

23-A, seven letters, “Singers, to labels.” Ah, the language of the music business.

28-A, six letters, “Provide coverage for.” For the Prius? Are we speaking of insurance?

29-D, five letters, “‘Wonderfilled’ food.” This clue let me know that I miss out on a lot of advertising.

31-A, four letters, “It flattens over time.” Slightly maddening.

43-D, six letters, “His fable book (1923) was one of Elvis’ favorites.” I always like knowing that entertainers are readers.

50-A, eight letters, “Pasta topping.” My first thought was MARINARA. But everyone has their own idea of what counts as a topping.

My favorites in today’s puzzle: 9-D, seven letters, “Anyone can play this” and 10-D, nine letters, “One will play this.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Nancy at Christmas

“From the legendary Ernie Bushmiller to the cutting edge current work of Olivia Jaimes, Nancy has long been the home to some strange Christmases” (Comic Book Resources).

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Friday, December 23, 2022

The view from here

“Icicles filled the long window / With barbaric glass”: so wrote Wallace Stevens in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

I’m not Wallace Stevens, but I do have a window, and plenty of ice.

[Click for a more barbaric view.]

That’s the view through a storm-door window, covered in ice on the inside. The door opens onto a breezeway. To the right, the side of the gararge. To the left, driveways and a house across the street. The shadow of a blackbird is not crossing the window to and fro. It’s too cold.

Latest in Dancing

[Latest in Dancing. British Pathé, 1962.]

This brief clip plays in the middle of the 2 Tone documentary Dance Craze. You might remember the Madison from Hairspray.

Dance Craze

For anyone who needs to know: the 2 Tone documentary Dance Craze (dir. Joe Massot, 1981) is streaming at streaming at the Yousual place. With Bad Manners, the (English) Beat, The Bodysnatchers, Madness, The Selecter, and The Specials. Eighty-five minutes of youthful energy.

The January 6 report

The Final Report of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is available from the committee’s website. I’m going to read it — all of it — but I’m going to resist the temptation to post choice excerpts. Right now I am thinking about blog posts as respites from current events.

[And speaking of “6,” it’s -6℉, feeling like -33℉.]

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Thomas’ missing carriage

I know that Ye Olde Bakery disappeared from the Thomas’ English Muffins package in some distant past. I remember it from when I was a boy.

[Life, February 29, 1969. Click for a larger view.]

But when did the horses, the carriage, and the people disappear? They make for a striking image, especially with the spokeless wheels.

[Click for a larger view.]

Here’s what the Thomas’ logo looked like recently:

[With spokes. Click for a larger view.]

And here’s what the Thomas’ logo looks like today:

[Click for a larger view.]

I noticed the absence of the horses, carriage, and people only this morning. A company representative tells me that they disappeared a few months ago but that they’re still present at the top of the package. And indeed they are:

[Click for a larger view.]

You can see them on the plastic wrap that’s bunched up above the bread clip. (Or muffin clip?) The little orange figures make me think of a pattern on kids’ pajamas.

I must note that the Thomas’ website, where I first looked for an answer to my question, shows a nice awareness of punctutation conventions:

Why is there an apostrophe after the “S” in Thomas’?

When a name such as Thomas ends with an “s” and is used as possessive of something such as English muffins, an apostrophe can be added after the “s” or an apostrophe “s” can be used. It has been the desire of our Company to use the apostrophe after the “s.” Thomas’ is a registered trademark of Bimbo Bakeries USA.
Carriage or no, apostrophe-s or no, I’ll keep buying Thomas’ English Muffins.

A related post
“Think only pleasant thoughts” (A defense of English Muffins)

Domestic comedy

“Pasta aglio e olio is my signature dish. Pasta with tuna and lemon is my initials dish.”

Both recipes appear in this post. And ten years later, I rediscovered the Village Voice clipping with aglio e olio.

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

TCM world

“I live in TCM world”: Charlie Watts, on his taste in clothes. From a Desert Island Discs episode first broadcast on February 25, 2001.

I’ve known about Desert Island Discs for years. Only recently did it occur to me that it’s probably now a podcast. And It is.

These episodes — I’ve listened to five so far — are full of surprises. Did you know that Fiona Hill digs The Specials?

Bloomberg, sheesh

From an article about a defeated former president’s tax returns. Neal is Richard Neal, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee:

Throughout the process, Neal’s more cautious approach to his investigation has grated some of his more progressive colleagues.
Grate, “to cause irritation,” is an intransitive verb. Grating one’s colleagues would be both transitive and uncollegial.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Three passages from Michelle Obama

From The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times (New York: Crown, 2022).

On navigating the world as someone “different”:

You learn, as my family did, to be watchful. You figure out how to guard your energy, to count every step. And at the heart of this lies a head-spinning paradox: Being different conditions you toward cautiousness, even as it demands that you be bold.
On putting something small, like knitting, alongside big things:
Any time your circumstances start to feel all-consuming, I suggest you try going in the other direction — toward the small. Look for something that'll help you rearrange your thoughts, a pocket of contentedness where you can live for a while. And by this I don't mean sitting passively in front of your television or scrolling through your phone. Find something that’s active, something that asks for your mind but uses your body as well. Immerse yourself in the process. And forgive yourself for temporarily ducking out of the storm.
On seing children growing up. When the Obamas visit Malia and Sasha, who are sharing an apartment in Los Angeles, Malia produces a charcuterie board. And then:
Sasha attempted to fix us a couple of weak martinis — Wait, you know how to make martinis? — and served them in water glasses, first laying down a couple of newly purchased coasters so that we wouldn’t mark up their brand-new coffee table with our drinks.

I watched all this with some astonishment. It’s not that I’m surprised that our kids have grown up, exactly, but somehow the whole scene — the coasters, in particular — signaled a different sort of landmark, the type of thing every parent spends years scanning for, which is evidence of common sense.

As Sasha set down our drinks that night, I thought about all the coasters she and her sister hadn’t bothered to use when they were under our care, all the times over the years I’d tried to get watermarks out of various tables, including at the White House.

But the dynamics had changed. We were at their table now. They owned it, and they were protecting it. Clearly they had learned.
I still find it difficult to believe that Elaine and I had the good fortune to meet both Michelle and Barack Obama in 2004, during Barack Obama’s Senate campaign. And I still find it difficult to believe that our country went from eight years of an Obama presidency to — what? Michelle Obama, too, finds that difficult to believe.

Also by Michelle Obama
From Becoming

NYT Letter Boxed fail

[The New York Times Letter Boxed, December 20, 2022.]

I am indignant. I had no idea where I might have gone after grimpen, but I wanted grimpen, a word known to many a reader from T.S. Eliot’s “East Coker”:

On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure
The Oxford English Dictionary can only guess: “? A marshy area.”

Eliot seems to have picked up grimpen from Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, where it appears as part of a place name:
Life has become like that great Grimpen Mire, with little green patches everywhere into which one may sink and with no guide to point the track.
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes explains:
As is well known, Watson’s “Great Grimpen Mire” is Grimspound Bog, three miles to the north and west of Widecombe-in-the-Moor.
All three citations — 1902, 1940, 1968 — appear in the OED, and are the only citations for the word.

Vladimir Nabokov has some fun with Eliot’s vocabulary in Pale Fire (1962). In John Shade’s poem of that name, his daughter Hazel reads in her bedroom:
Sometimes I’d help her with a Latin text,
Or she'd be reading in her bedroom, next
To my fluorescent lair, and you would be
In your own study, twice removed from me,
And I would hear both voices now and then:
“Mother, what’s grimpen ?” “What is what?”
Pause, and your guarded scholium. Then again:
“Mother, what’s chthonic ?” That, too, you’d explain,
Appending: “Would you like a tangerine?”
“No. Yes. And what does sempiternal mean?”
You’d hesitate. And lustily I’d roar
The answer from my desk through the closed door.
A reader of Four Quartets should be able to answer all three of Hazel’s questions.

Related reading
From the Doyle edition (a page of “East Coker,” all marked up) : NYT Spelling Bee fail

Monday, December 19, 2022

Terry Hall (1959–2022)

Terry Hall, best known as the lead singer of The Specials, has died at the age of sixty-three. The Guardian has an obituary and a life in photographs.

Here’s one memorable Specials moment: the video for “Ghost Town.” The song was released as one side of a 12-inch 45. I still have my copy, bought in 1981 at a record store in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

[The Specials, “Ghost Town” (Jerry Dammers). 2 Tone (1981).]

Here’s the extended version of the song that appeared on the 45.


December 27: The New York Times has an obituary.


Here come the criminal referrals, as announced by Representative Jamie Raskin (D, Maryland-8):

Obstruction of an official proceeding: Donald Trump, John Eastman, and others.

Conspiracy to defraud the United States: Donald Trump, John Eastman, and others.

Conspiracy to make a false statement: Donald Trump and others.

“Incite,“ ”assist,” or “aid or comfort” an insurrection: Donald Trump.

And: “These are not the only statutes that are potentially relevant“ to Trump’s behavior.

And: the committee is referring four members of Congress for sanction to the House Ethics Committee for failure to comply with lawful subpoenas.

And the committee stands adjourned.

[I’d like to see the fourth referral rephrased to parallel the first three: Inciting, assisting, or giving aid or comfort to an insurrection. I originally wrote that I’d like to see Merrick Garland do his job, but the referrals are to Special Counsel Jack Smith. The four members are Andy Biggs, Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy, and Scott Perry.]

Sally’s collectibles

[Peanuts, December 26, 1975. Click for a larger view.]

Yesterday’s Peanuts is today’s Peanuts. And Sally was far ahead of her time.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

[For context at some future point: I’m thinking about a defeated former president’s so-called “digital trading cards.”]

Chess Story adapted

Stefan Zweig’s novella Chess Story has been adapted for the screen by Phillip Stolzl. Here’s the story and a trailer. The movie arrives in New York on January 13.

Related reading
All OCA Zweig posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Density and amenities

[2456 Jerome Avenue, The Bronx, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

I like urban density. The southwest corner of the intersection of East Fordham Road and Jerome Avenue was full of it. And look at all the amenities: a mailbox, telephone booths, and public transportation. You can see just a bit of the IRT Jerome Avenue Line to the right. Notice too all the paper bags, held by people shopping on foot, buying what they can carry.

As a commuting college student, I drove through this intersection many times, long after the heyday of United Cigars. An Optimo Cigars sign was on the corner store when I was a student. Today that corner is a drugstore. No phone booths, no doubt. And no mailbox outside. The IRT still runs above.

Related reading
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives : Urban density on 14th Street

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by “Anna Stiga,” or Stan Again, Stan Newman, the puzzle editor, using the pseudonym that signifies an easier Stumper. What else might signify easier Stumper ? Teresa Umpires? I think Stan’s pseudonym is better.

This Stumper was easier, though not too easy. Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, twelve letters, “One paid to talk since the 1920s.” The decade should have helped, but for me this clue seems to have a deliberate obliqueness.

6-D, seven letters, “Show stoppers.” BIGHITS? No. So simple once you see it, if you see it.

12-D, six letters, “Melt down or hand down.” Really clever.

18-A, seven letters, “Not as sensible.” I typed this word yesterday, probably for the first time, and checked to make sure it’s a real word.

29-A, four letters, “Painter’s canvas.” Nice.

48-A, five letters, “Sweet sandwich.” Five letters — no OREO here.

56-D, four letters, “Very soon after.” The most modest words can slightly baffle.

62-A, twelve letters, “Hardly in a sorry state.” I would’ve liked FITASAFIDDLE.

My favorite clue in this puzzle: 59-A, fifteen letters, “Supermarket checkout staple.” Definitely not an IMPULSEPURCHASE for me.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Dots and forms

[Click for a dottier view.]

It’s oddly reassuring to see that our trash pickup still bills with a dot-matrix printer and tractor-feed forms. But this year: no side perforations on the forms. Times, changing.

Luddite Club

“We’re not expecting everyone to have a flip phone. We just see a problem with mental health and screen use”: in Brooklyn, teenagers have formed a Luddite Club. They meet to draw, paint, read, talk. Their mascot: Arthur from PBS.

[A great premise for a Wes Anderson film?]

NYT Spelling Bee fail

From today’s New York Times Spelling Bee:


Note to the Times: there is always an aporia.

[After Yeats, on the work of the poet: “He never speaks directly as to someone at the breakfast table, there is always a phantasmagoria.”]

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Me, reading

Bryan Garner asked panel members to send photographs of themselves reading entries they commented on for the now-published fifth edition of Garner’s Modern English Usage. So here, or there, I am. The photograph is by Elaine Fine.

Related reading
All OCA Bryan Garner posts (Pinboard) : A critical reader

Word of the day: niche

In Crime and Punishment (trans. Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky), Svidrigailov asks, “Où va-t-elle la vertu se nicher?” In other words, “Where is virtue going to build her nest?” A note for this sentence reads, “The playwright Molière (1622–73) is said to have asked this of a beggar who thought he had made a mistake in giving him a gold piece.”

I wondered: is the English word niche related to nicher ? Maybe, possibly, maybe, perhaps.

I recall the mantra that the local Chamber of Commerce repeated in weekly newspaper columns aimed at area merchants: Find your niche. Find your niche. I think that many a merchant must have closed up and skipped town to look for theirs.

Free COVID tests (again)

Once again, every United States household can order four free COVID-19 tests: here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Words and money and adjunctdom

In The Washington Post Helaine Owen asks, “How progressive can a college be when instructors make poverty wages?” Before a recent strike and settlement, adjunct faculty at New York City’s The New School (87% of all New School faculty) were paid as little as $4000 a course, “while the university hired pricey management consultants and offered its president the opportunity to live in a multimillion-dollar New York City townhouse”:

This apparent unfairness sat uneasily with the principles of equality that have become so important on college campuses, particularly left-leaning ones like the New School. Like most colleges, the school regularly announces DEI — that’s diversity, equity and inclusion — initiatives. And the school’s president, Dwight McBride, tweets such things as “liberation is intersectional.” It’s not surprising that many less-than-well-compensated staffers eventually asked, “What about me?”

“Words like ‘equity,’ ‘inclusion’ or ‘care’ should be used with consideration for what they really mean,” says Matthew Spiegelman, who teaches photography at the New School’s Parsons School of Design. “The more they get used in conversation and not acted on, the less they mean anything.”

Jean who?

“The phenomenon of A Christmas Story leaves those of us familiar with Shepherd as a writer wondering just how many of the multitude of viewers ever read, or even know of, the original short stories, which both inform and interestingly differ from the film”: Samuel G. Freedman writes about Jean Shepherd (The Washington Post).

I listened to Jean Shepherd through much of high school — transistor radio and earphone. One man talking, on WOR, night after night. Excelsior!


Night. We were standing in front of a Woolworth’s. We hadn’t been inside one for years. A month’s page from a calendar hung from a string in front of the store. It looked just like a month from my homemade calendars. A tiny piece of newsprint was stapled to one corner of the calendar. I moved closer and saw that it was a short obituary notice. And I remembered that this was the Woolworth’s where an employee had been shot to death.

To the side of the calendar was a kiosk with copies of The New York Times Magazine, a special issue devoted to the employee who had been killed. These were free for the taking. There was also a tiny book of poetry by the employee, resembling the tiny books that used to be for sale at supermarket checkouts — 100 Uses for Vinegar, stuff like that. On the back of the poetry book was the price: 25¢. But these little books, too, were free for the taking. I took one magazine and one book.

When we entered Woolworth’s we saw an aisle that had been blocked off with pieces of china on the floor. Someone was cleaning or reorganizing the aisle’s shelving. I realized that though the magazine and book were free, we had to pay for the items in our shopping cart, which included a set of Venetian blinds.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with woman.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

New to me: decadal

I heard it tonight on the PBS NewsHour: decadal. Merriam-Webster gives this pronunciation: /ˈde-kə-dᵊl/. On the NewsHour it came out as /de-ˈkā-dᵊl/. I would just say decade-long.

A check of Google Books suggests that the word is widely used in the study of climate.

Free months from Backblaze

Now through January 31, 2023: follow this link to sign up for Backblaze, and we both get not one, not two, but an additional three months for free. Backblaze is an ultra-reliable backup service, charging $7 a month or $70 a year with no limit on data. I am a happy user (for almost four years) and recommend the service highly.

Coot collective

The coot is a water bird. I’ve seen dozens at a nearby lake. So I thought it appropriate to devise a collective name: codger. “A codger of coots” sounds right to me.

Wikipedia has a long list of collective names for animals.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Image correction

I found by chance that Blogger is messing up images in old posts, displaying images at full size even though they were scaled down to fit properly when posted. The problems seem to be random. So I’m scrolling through the months (I’m up to March 2009), putting images at the proper size again by clicking Small, Medium, or Large or by setting height and width by hand. Tedious, yes.

What I like about doing this work is the opportunity to realize how many minor moments are immediately familiar to me because I wrote them down. I remember — just one example — exactly where I was when I began to think about Frank Sinatra and popcorn — with Elaine in our Corolla, approaching I-57 on our way home from a concert or rehearsal. None of those circumstances are in the post, which dates from December 2007. But the popcorn brings them back.

I think that keeping a blog is a way of converting time into space. The space is always expanding, even as time runs out.

Mondegreen of the day

I always thought the lyric went like this: “Strumming my face with his fingers.”

And then I listened to an episode of Soul Music, and I realized that I’d always had it wrong. It’s fate : “Strumming my fate with his fingers.”

And then I listened further and realized that I had just replaced one mondegreen with another. The word is pain : “Strumming my pain with his fingers.” A quick search will confirm that many a listener has mistaken face and fate for pain.

The Soul Music episode about “Killing Me Softly with His Song” is excellent. Like every Soul Music episode, it hits matters of life and love and loss. Proceed with caution. The episode touches — just touches — on the ugly history of composer credit. You can read about more about that at Wikipedia. Notice that I haven’t named any names here.

[I have to admit it: I still prefer face.]

Sunday, December 11, 2022

A 100-word blog post

Are you struggling to find the time to write a lengthy blog post? Don’t worry, sometimes shorter is better! A 100-word blog post can be just as effective as a longer one, and it’s a great way to quickly share your thoughts and ideas with your audience. Plus, writing a shorter post can be a fun challenge and a great way to hone your writing skills. So the next time you’re feeling stuck, try writing a 100-word blog post and see how it goes!

[Generated by ChatGPT in response to the prompt “write a 100-word blog post.” It’s fourteen words short.]

I’m sorry too, ChatGPT

Elaine and I have been toying with ChatGPT. And it appears that the rules of engagement are tightening. A couple of days ago Elaine was a celebrated pianist who had performed with orchestras around the world. Hot damn! And I was a writer who had won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. $100,000! But this morning,

I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information about [our names here]. As a large language model trained by OpenAI, my knowledge is limited to what I was trained on, and I don’t have the ability to browse the internet or access any additional information. I apologize if I cannot be of more help.
I don’t believe that ChatGPT means the end of high-school English. But it will certainly make life more difficult for uncrafty teachers. Something crafty students should understand is that teachers can enter the same prompts their students have entered. Plagiarism by way of ChatGPT will likely be hilariously detectable (I hope).


The Flatiron Building has always been ready for its close-up.

[The Flatiron Building, 175 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

From The WPA Guide to New York City (1939):

It was christened the Fuller Building, but because of its shape became known as the “Flatiron.” Pictured on postcards, stamped on souvenirs, its image was familiar to American minds, young and old. Standing on what was traditionally the windiest corner of the city, it was facetiously considered a good vantage point for the glimpse of a trim ankle, in the long-skirted, prewar era; policemen used to shoo loungers away from the Twenty-third Street corner, and the expression “twenty-three skidoo” is supposed to have originated from this association.
Related reading
Flatiron history : The Flatiron website : Many more explanations of “twenty-three skidoo” : More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

[Among those who worked on the WPA Guide: Richard Wright.]

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Red Pen

“Serving up object lessons on syntax and style with style, and in a way that won’t put you to sleep”: Red Pen is a new podcast about grammar from Columbia Journalism Review.

The first episode (forty-four minutes) is ostensibly about who and whom, but it’s really two friends talking, and their talking goes all over the place: Christopher Columbus, bad reviews of the Sistine Chapel, commercialism at Egypt’s pyramids, a Geocities fan page for Rage Against the Machine, Jay McInerney’s tweets, and looting at Duane Reade stores, with none of those topics touching upon who or whom.

For me, the noise to signal ratio makes this podcast a slog (even at 1.5 speed). You could learn much more in a fraction of the time by reading the entry about who and whom in Garner’s Modern English Usage. Then spend the time left over talking with a friend of your own.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is a tough one. Consider the southeast corner: 54-D, four letters, “Only Oscar role for a French performance”; 60-A, four letters, “‘Pan-’ antonym”; 62-A, four letters, “School-____”; 64-A, four letters, “It means ‘focused gathering.’” Yeow, and yeow again.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-D, six letters, “Generous gifts from the Czars.” Did they really give them away? My guess turned out to be correct.

3-D, eleven letters, “How ghosts do their thing.” I kept thinking of trick-or-treating.

5-A, ten letters, “Provided bonus footage.” Good misdirection.

8-D, five letters, “Flyer’s announcement.” Also misdirectional.

18-A, ten letters, “They don’t care for customs.” Clever.

27-D, eleven letters, “Miss one’s conviction.” Inaptly phrased, I’d say. Neither miss nor conviction fits the answer well.

28-D, eleven letters, “Indie pubs.” Nicely phrased, but the answer feels a bit dated. See 63-A: are these pubs, too, old-timey?

47-A, five letters, “Part of the bottling process.” I was ready to quibble with the clue until I rethought part.

53-A, five letters, “‘Thrice happy he whose name has been well ____’: Byron.” From Don Juan.

55-A, ten letters, “Within reach for searchers.” The answer feels preposterous, but it’s in use.

63-A, ten letters, “Old-timey exhibitions with carousels.” I thought of STATEFAIRS. Old-timey, really?

My favorite in this puzzle, because it’s just so weird: 56-D, three letters, “Silence, perhaps.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Sold a Story : responses

Here are two responses to the podcast Sold a Story : How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong.

From a letter signed by fifty-eight teachers, writers, and administrators. “A call for rejecting the newest reading wars”:

We’re dismayed that at this moment in our history, when all of us should be banding together to support literacy education, the podcast Sold a Story fans divisiveness, creating a false sense that there is a war going on between those who believe in phonics and those who do not.
From a reply to that letter signed by more than 650 current and former teachers, “For the students we wish we’d taught better”:
A central point of the Sold a Story podcast is that the research “wars” around foundational reading skills were already won and lost decades ago — and that few educators have ever heard of this research, because an entire industry of education publishers, coaches and curriculum writers have either ignored or actively resisted it, needlessly encumbering the efforts of thousands of teachers like us, our students, and their families along the way.
If you’re a regular reader of Orange Crate Art, you already know what I think about Sold a Story and reading instruction.

A quiz, revised

A quiz, found via Mueller, She Wrote: Which Head of State Should You Date? I had to do some revising, even if I lack Adobe’s Proxima Nova font.



Related reading
All OCA misspelling posts (Pinboard)

[But I’m much too fun-loving to think of hyphenation as a favorite quality in a partner.]


Life in Texas:

When Wolfforth School District was unified with three other rural districts (Carlisle, Hurlwood and Foster) in 1935, they applied for the name “Friendship Independent School District.” The application was rejected as the name was already taken by a Houston-area school district; thus, officials opted for the name Frenship.
The Frenship Independent School District hosted a district-wide spelling bee earlier this year.

Thanks, Seth.

Thursday, December 8, 2022


I took a photograph of a tree two years ago, thinking I’d post it. I never did. So I took a picture of the tree again a couple of days ago. Click either for a larger view.

[November 26, 2020.]

[December 6, 2022.]

Two nests look as if they might be the same, but since November 2020 I’ve sometimes seen this tree with no nests. The current tenants are all hoping that the building doesn’t go condo.

[They must be squirrel nests, right?]

Domestic comedy

“We should watch — we haven’t seen it in years, and gaslight is a word of the year.”

“Michael, we watched Gaslight just a few months ago.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Let the record show that Elaine’s response was instantaneous.]

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

On Willa Cather’s birthday

Willa Cather was born on this day in 1873.

From a letter to the writer Zoë Akins, April 19, 1937, in The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, ed. Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout (New York: Knopf, 2013). The subject is Daniel Totheroh’s dramatic adaptation of Cather’s 1923 novel A Lost Lady. In an earlier letter to Akins, Cather had already made clear that she would not permit a dramatic adaptation of her work. The diaeresis in Akins’s first name sometimes appears in the letter, sometimes not.

My dear Zoë:

You will forgive me if I say [a] word in typewriter about Mr. [Daniel] Totheroh’s play, which I am sending back to you.

Take Mrs. Forrester’s first entrance in Act I. What does she say when she comes into the Judge’s office? My, your stairs are steep! That is what the scrub woman says when she arrives. Did you ever, Zoe, know a woman with any spunk or sparkle who used “my” as an exclamation? 1 remember a fat old Methodist neighbour who used to drag out “My, but the days are warm, Mr. Cather!” In her first sentence, Zoe, he shows her up for a common, dreary thing. In her next sentence, she refers to her (1) age and to her (2) travelled state! Two things she would never have done. (1. Her particular weakness, 2. Bad taste.)

A little later she trills to this lumping Swede that his little boy’s eyes are “blue as a mountain lake”. Ho-Ho! When she doesn’t talk like a corsetless old Methodist woman, she talks like a darling club woman, and says she “would die” to have such eyes etc. That expression stamps her socially. So does “you can help me out”. Everything she says stamps her socially, except when she brazenly quotes me. She says Niel will be “a great asset” to Sweet Water society. Lord, they needed assets—some future, with Marian as the social leader!

Everything that Niel says is the speech of a cotton-mouthed booby. As to Mrs. Forrester’s smirking about “drinking here alone, with two men” —— the dining-room girls in our little town-hotel might have said that; the commonest King’s Daughter or Eastern Star sister would have refused the sherry, or drunk it and said nothing. On page 13, the playwright becomes unbearable because he makes the Judge bring out discreditable insinuations about Captain Forrester. The integrity of the book really rests on Captain Forrester.

My dear Zoë, I read no further than the first act. Nothing could induce me.
And later in the letter: “We’ll forget this episode forever.”

Related reading
All OCA Cather posts (Pinboard)