Sunday, December 31, 2023

New Year’s Eve 1923

[“100 Dry Agents Fail to Stop Drinking As New Year Dawns. Several Raids Net Only Four Arrests, but Broadway Gets Sixty-Two Summonses. Small Crowds in Streets. Hotels, Restaurants and Cabarets, However, Are Filled With Gay Parties.” The New York Times, January 1, 1924.]

Happy New Year to all.

Not yet A Great Day

[17 East 126th Street, Harlem, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

The arrow points to a fine-looking brownstore. But it would look even better with fifty-seven musicians and a bunch of kids in front, no?

On August 12, 1958, 17 East 126th Street was the location for the celebrated Art Kane photograph known as A Great Day in Harlem.

The moment is well-documented. Here, from The Guardian, is the photograph, with full identifications and additional photographs. One omission: the photograph with Marian McPartland on the left doesn’t identify the musician in profile on the right. That’s the bassist Milt Hinton, who took photographs of his own that day. Here’s one. Home movies shot by Milt’s wife Mona Clayton Hinton may be seen in the documentary A Great Day in Harlem (dir. Jean Bach, 1994), unavailable for commercial streaming but easy to find at YouTube. The film’s website has photographs with Willie “The Lion” Smith (who tired of standing and went to sit down on another stoop) and Dizzy Gillespie’s photograph of latecomers.

I must mention that Elaine and I and our wee daughter Rachel met Milt and Mona Hinton in 1988 and again in 1989 at a then-yearly jazz festival in Decatur, Illinois. Mona later sent several postcards to Rachel and her newly arrived brother Ben all those years ago. Such kindness.


A reader reminded me of the 1995 reprise, photographed by Gordon Parks. The surviving musicians (unidentified at the site with the photograph): Hank Jones, Eddie Locke, Horace Silver (left); Benny Golson, Art Farmer, Chubby Jackson, Johnny Griffin (top); Marian McPartland, Milt Hinton, Gerry Mulligan (right). Sonny Rollins is missing. I don’t know who’s sitting on the curb: one of the kids from the 1958 photograph?

In 2023, two musicians from the 1958 photograph are still with us: Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins.

Related reading
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives (Pinboard)

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, left me in a quarrelsome mood — not just because I missed by one letter but because the fit between some clues and their answers is awfully strained.

Four clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

4-D, nine letters, “Part of the Doctor Zhivago score.” LARASTHEM?

18-A, nine letters, “Quadruped symbol of Idaho.” Weird and kinda wonderful.

34-A, fifteen letters, “Rivalry with rarefied ESPN ratings.” I have no idea what’s on ESPN beyond “sports,” and no idea what rarefied ratings are (uh, high ones?), but I liked seeing the answer.

42-D, five letters, “They’re often canvas-covered.” Nice misdirection.

Occasions for quarrels:

16-D, thirteen letters, “Starts of Rhapsody in Blue performances.” A giveaway, sure, and my starting point in this puzzle. But starts here makes no sense. Performances of Tristan und Isolde don’t begin with overtures; they begin with the overture. Performances of Hamlet don’t begin with Act Ones. Not a great clue, not a great answer. As the answer is already a giveaway, I’ll suggest what I think is a better clue: “Goodman productions.” Or trickier: “Shaw productions.”

26-A, four letters, “Workbook portmanteau.” What is a workbook portmanteau? A word in a workbook? A word for a workbook? Not a great clue: it’s comparable to calling brunch a silverware portmanteau.

48-A, eight letters, “Approach incautiously.” Approach implies movement toward a literal or figurative destination. The answer here involves no destination, only sustained movement at a relatively fixed distance. Not a great clue.

52-D, three letters, “Waffle.” No. Just no. This answer never or virtually never appears on its own to mean waffle. Elaine suggests a much better clue: “Part of a waffle.”

The final letter of the crossing answers for these clues messed me up:

41-D, five letters, “Hold nothing back, these days.”

56-A, four letters, “Meeting place.”

I had a strained answer for the latter, but no idea about the first. But now I know something I might do, “these days.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Joe and me and I

From yet another e-mail from the Biden-Harris campaign inviting me to make a contribution and win the chance to have a cup of coffee:

[“The chance to meet Joe and me.” Click for a larger view.]

Ah, thought I, they’re paying attention to pronouns. I thought they’d gotten it together when my daughter Rachel pointed me to a November 29 tweet: “Have a cup of joe with Joe and me.”

But the next paragraph of today’s e-mail repeats an error from a November e-mail: “One of Joe and my favorite parts about being on the campaign trail.”


And three paragraphs later:

[“With Joe and I.” Click for a larger view.]

Sheesh and sheesh again.

I e-mailed about the first e-mail in November. And yes, I’m going to contribute at some point. But I can’t be moved by this kind of appeal. Who writes this stuff? And who approves it?


December 30: The hits just keep on coming. In today’s e-mail: “I have one more important request: to ask that you consider contributing to support President Biden and I ahead of the last public fundraising deadline of the year.”

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

[This post is no. 117 in a series dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]


Helen Keller, The World I Live In (1908).

Also from this book
On lines

Forecast, *forecasted

[From Apple’s Weather widget. Click for a larger view.]

I noticed the verb yesterday. Garner’s Modern English Usage:

forecast > forecast > forecast. So inflected. *Forecasted is a solecism that spread during the 20th century and continues to appear.
Bryan Garner puts *forecasted at Stage 2 on the GMEU Language-Change Index: “Widely shunned.” He has the ratio of forecast that to *forecasted that in print as 6:1.

But seeing *forecasted as wrong is likely to become to increasingly difficult if one sees it again and again on a screen. “Light rain expected” might solve the problem, as “Light rain forecast” looks, at least to me, like an odd use of the noun forecast.

[Yesterday was rain. Today it’s snow.]

Thursday, December 28, 2023


“Still, millions choosing to brave America’s airports”: a reporter on NBC Nightly News tonight.

[Travel is sometimes a matter of bravery. But sometimes not.]

Another meaning of snail mail

Reading Sarah Ogilvie’s The Dictionary People made me recall my one submission to the Oxford English Dictionary: snail mail, meaning not mail sent via a postal service but mail addressed without a ZIP Code. I found this use of snail mail in 2011, in a 1968 Life advertisement, and right away, I notified the dictionary.


The OED defines snail mail thusly:

(a) colloquial mail or post which takes a long time to be delivered; (b) Computing slang (originally U.S.) the physical delivery of mail, as by the postal service, considered as slow in comparison to electronic mail; a letter, etc., sent by post.
The dictionary has a 1929 (pre-ZIP) citation from The Indianapolis Star:
Snail mail ... Edward Ranton has just received a statement of account which the Wild Automobile Agency here mailed nearly three years ago.
All other citations, beginning in 1982, are about mail mail, as opposed to e-mail. Nothing about ZIP Codes.

Of course snail mail as a name for ZIP-less mail never caught on. But it amuses me to know that there was snail mail before there was snail mail.

Related reading
All OCA mail posts (Pinboard)

The Dictionary People

Sarah Ogilvie. The Dictionary People: The Unsung Heroes Who Created the Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2023. x + 370 pp. $30.

I should prefer that my biographer should have to say, “Oxford never made him a Fellow or a D.C.L., and his country never recognized his work, but he worked on all the same, believing in his work and his duty.”

Sir James A.H. Murray (1837–1915), primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (1879–1915), in a 1908 letter
“He worked on all the same”: so too did those whom Sarah Ogilvie calls the Dictionary People, the worldwide volunteer assembly of readers who between 1858 and 1928 became Readers for the OED, sending in quotations from their reading on 4 × 6 slips of paper for all words that struck them, in Murray’s description, as “rare, obsolete, old-fashioned, new, peculiar, or used in a peculiar way.” The OED was a great work of crowdsourcing, “the Wikipedia of the nineteenth century,” as Sarah Ogilvie calls it, the product of a “radical and open process.” But not absolutely open: Murray himself thought that extracting quotations was the only work of value that what he called “the average amateur” could manage. Above Readers were Subeditors, who sorted bundles of slips, and Specialists, who advised on etymologies, meanings, and usage. And at the heart of things sat or stood Murray and his assistants, working in the Scriptorium, the iron shed behind Murray’s house where the Dictionary (Ogilvie always capitalizes it) achieved its form.

Sarah Ogilvie has a long and intimate knowledge of the OED, having worked as an editor and having written both a doctoral dissertation and a previous book about the Dictionary, Words of the World: A Global History of the OED (2012). And she has visited the site where Murray’s Scriptorium stood. It’s fitting that she had the extraordinary luck to happen upon the materials in the OED archive that made The Dictionary People possible: three of James Murray’s address books and another three that belonged to the earlier editor Frederick Furnivall, with names and addresses of Readers — three thousand of them — and detailed, sometimes cryptic notations about their work. The Readers were a various lot: autodidacts and members of learned societies, vicars and murderers, inventors and poets, men and women with all manner of expertise and interests. How to write about some of them? Alphabetically, course, in chapters from “Archaeologist” to “Zealots” — the zealots being Murray, Chris Collier (a prolific contributor of slips in our time), and, I think, Ogilvie herself.

We meet some extraordinary people in these chapters. Alexander John Ellis (D: “Dictionary Word Nerds”), a gentleman scholar, expert in music, mathematics, and pronunciation, carried in a twenty-eight-pocket coat named Dreadnought letters and papers, a knife sharpener, a corkscrew, and a scone — among many other items. He is said to have been one model for Henry Higgins. Eleanor Marx (H: “Hopeless Contributors”), a writer, translator, and socialist (and Karl’s daughter), sent in words, not quotations, and expected to be paid for her work. William Herbert-Jones (N: “New Zealanders”) awed unsuspecting British audiences with his fanciful magic-lantern presentation of “New Zealand, Wonderland of the World,” whose flora and fauna included non-existent plants and non-existent fifteen-foot-tall birds. Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper (Q: “Queers”), an aunt and niece in a decades-long lesbian relationship, wrote poetry and plays together using the penname Michael Field, whose work is quoted in the OED more than two hundred times thanks to other Readers reading “his” work.

The research that went into The Dictionary People — the work of Ogilvie, student assistants, librarians, and archivists — is of staggering proportions. And at times, the details and divagations become overwhelming. There are countless inventories of words whose presence in the Dictionary we owe to a particular Reader; brief asides about words absent from or present in the 1928 Dictionary (absent: appendicitis, condom; present: feminism, suffragette), and lengthier discussions of varied topics: the scientific observation of weather, spelling reform (“had a long tauk widh him about foanetiks”), and the “Dictionary War” between Noah Webster and Joseph Worcester. There are details that charm: for instance, the unattributed sample sentences with which Murray marked the birth of a daughter. “As fine a child as you will see” illustrates the article a following an adjective; “The new arrival is a little girl” illustrates arrival. Knowing a bit about rabbit holes, I know the importance of knowing when to stop. But I understand the impulse to keep going, for it’s unlikely that there will be another book about the Dictionary’s Readers.

Ogilvie describes James Murray — a Scottish Nonconformist who left school at fourteen — as a perennial outsider at Oxford. In the year before his death, the university at last awarded him an honorary doctorate. And now the Dictionary’s Readers, too, have had their work recognized.

Related reading
All OCA OED posts (Pinboard)

[D.C.L: Doctor of Civil Law, I think. There are no notes in The Dictionary People : I found the source for “I should prefer” in K.M. Elisabeth Murray’s Caught in the Web of Words: James A.H. Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001). Ms. Murray (1909–1998) was James Murray’s granddaughter.]


Analog Zits : “Doing it this way feels more ‘writer-y.’”

A related post
Writing by hand (advice for students)

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

“The loop”

[From Sweet November (dir. Robert Ellis Miller, 1968). Click for a larger view.]

In a hardware store with her latest project, Charlie Blake (Anthony Newley), Sarah Deever (Sandy Dennis) spots it:

“Oh — oh there you are.”

“What? What is it?”

“The loop. That’s an expert. When you have striped overhalls and a loop on the side like that, that’s it, that’s the whole show. That’s an expert, a master handyman. You know what you can hang in that loop? Anything — a hammer, a chisel, a ruler, a stick. It simply does not matter, as long as you have a loop. That’s it.”
You can find this lovely, kooky scene, from a lovely, kooky, poignant movie, at YouTube.

I’m a big fan of pants with a loop, namely B324, Carhartt’s Relaxed Fit Twill Utility Work Pant[s], the pant[s] formerly known as Washed Twill Dungarees. They have a loop, yes, and if I were a carpenter, and if I had a hammer, I’d keep that hammer in the loop. But the reason I like B324 is that the pocket on the right leg is the perfect place to carry an iPhone.

A related post
Carhartt B324

[I wonder if “overhalls” (a regionalism) was Sandy Dennis’s embellishment.]

Helen Keller on lines

Helen Keller writes that what she calls beauty is “largely derived from the flow of curved and straight lines which is over all things”:

Helen Keller, The World I Live In (1908).

The book is in the public domain, available in print form from Google Books, the Internet Archive, and Project Gutenberg, and in audio and Braille from the Library of Congress. Our household has it in its New York Review Books edition.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A free 2024 calendar

One last PSA: I’ve made a free calendar for the new year, three months per 8 1/2 × 11 page, highly readable across a crowded room or a smoke-filled film-noir soundstage. In black and dark red Gills Sans. With minimal holiday markings: New Year’s Day, MLK Day, Juneteenth, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

As the print-center worker who printed this year’s copies for me said, “It looks like an old-fashioned calendar.” Exactly. Made in the new old-fashioned way, on a Mac, with Pages and tables.

You can download the PDF from this Dropbox link.

[I’ve been making calendars since late 2009, when the cost of outfitting my house with Field Notes calendars began to feel unjustifiable.]

Ringo as broccoli

“I’m 99 percent broccoli,” Ringo Starr tells AARP.

There’s a sentence I never could have imagined writing.

Bookstores, reading, data

“Sadly, reading has declined sharply across the entire age spectrum in recent years. But there’s one notable, hopeful exception": from the Department of Data at The Washington Post, bad news and some good news about bookstores and reading (gift link).

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas 1923

[“Dr. Guthrie Finds Yule All Pagan. St. Mark’s Rector Says Gift Custom Was Roman, Mistletoe Celtic and Tree Teutonic. Roots of Christmas Gone. In New York an Exotic Plant, He Declares, and Celebrated with Heavy Drinking.” The New York Times, December 26, 1923. Click for a larger view.]

I think it must have been a confusing Christmas at St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie in 1923.

In 2023, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it.

[Wikipedia explains the Christmas pudding.]

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Yamandu Costa plays

Here’s one minute and eighteen seconds of guitar music. I think you’ll recognize the melody.


[1441 Broadway, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

The white arrow (barely visible) on the address sign points to the large building, the Bricken Textile Building. The New York Times noted its January 20, 1930 opening. The building still stands. What I like in this photograph though is the small stuff: those clashing planes of signage. I can decipher almost everything in front of LIQUOR:

[SUITS PRESSED / while you wait / FRENCH DRY CLEANING / SKILLFUL TAILORING / We guarantee to / (?) CLOTHES / (?) SPECIAL PROCESS / CURTAINS & DRAPES / for home office (?) / QUALITY DRY CLEANED / BERGER SERVICE / 151. Click for a larger view.]

Aha: Berger Service Cleaning & Dyeing Corp. has listings and advertisements for Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens locations in the 1940 telephone directories. And there’s 151, at 151 West 41st Street. “E. of Broadway,” says an advertisement that runs across the tops of three columns in the Manhattan directory.

[Click for a larger view.]

[Click for a larger view.]

Alas, there is no tax photograph for 151, at least not that I can find, and no tax photographs of adjacent addresses. So this glimpse of the sign is the only glimpse I’ve got.

Yelp lists one address for Berger Service Cleaning & Dye Corporation — 4 W. 63rd Street — with three reviews, the most recent from 2018. Google Maps has the same address, with the most recent review from last month. In other words, there’s still a Berger in Manhattan, apparently in an apartment building.

As for other details in the photograph:

The light-colored car says RADIO — it must be a cab, no doubt yellow. The van alongside it: METROPOLITAN NEWS CO., a distribution service for newspapers and magazines. Robert B. Cohen acquired the company in 1985. Cohen also ran the Hudson County News Company, precursor of the now-ubiquitous Hudson News outlets. Which brings us back to the present.


December 26: A reader suggests that the words below “CURTAINS & DRAPES” might be “for home office.” Thanks, reader. And then there’s a third word. What? Related reading
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives (Pinboard)

[Hudson County: a county in northern New Jersey. My dad grew up there, which brings us back to the past.]

Saturday, December 23, 2023

The Times investigates Hallmark and Lifetime movies

Stuff like this makes me want to just ditch my subscription and read for free through my university’s site license: “Just How Formulaic Are Hallmark and Lifetime Holiday Movies? We (Over)analyzed 424 of Them.”

One writer, seven people researching.

The short answer, per our household: pretty derivative.

[Our one Hallmark movie this year: Friends & Family Christmas. It’s a lesbian love story, with fake dating, painfully intrusive parents, a Brooklyn art lab, and “travel grants for innovative thinkers.” We watch one Hallmark movie a year.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by the puzzle’s editor, Stan Newman, constructing as himself. So the puzzle is not Lester Ruff, nor is it Ova Lee Ruff. Yes, Ova is a girl’s name. The puzzle looks daunting, with stacks top and bottom, fourteen–fourteen–fifteen, fifteen–fourteen–fourteen. But the daunt is less than I imagined. No, daunt is not really a noun.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, fourteen letters, “Late fourth-quarter flora.” My first thought was “something ending in PLANT.” What do I know?

7-D, seven letters, “Mental bloc.” Heh.

15-A, fourteen letters, “What ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ begins.” I love it.

16-A, fiften letters, “Common interview settings.” At least it’s not HOTELROOMS, the at least semi-creepy settings for MLA interviews of yore.

18-A, seven letters, “Cause to ride on the wrong carousel.” A quietly clever clue. Film noirs made me imagine someone saying “Sorry, pal, I’m getting off this merry-go-round.”

22-A, five letters, “What fills some dumplings.” See 44-D.

28-A, eight letters, “They raise sunken objects.” So that’s what they do?

30-A, three letters, “‘He who slings ___ loses ground’: Adlai Stevenson.” Would it were so.

32-D, eight letters, “Current event.” Maybe a familiar clue for the answer, but new to me.

35-D, six letters, “Oil source for thousands of years.” No drilling allowed.

44-D, five letters, “Source of tones shaped like 22 Across.” Another quietly clever clue.

46-A, four letters, “Andy Griffith played one on his sitcom.” The middle letters make this one tricky.

52-D, three letters, “Two-time connector.” Pretty Stumpery.

A quibble: 11-D, three letters, “Where an applause meter starts.” No, I say.

A quarrel: 12-D, six letters, “Topper back in style circa 2007.” Back? It’s never gone out of style. Ask Elaine.

An enigma: 29-D, three letters, “Private property.” I have no idea what the answer means.

My favorite in this puzzle: 51-A, fifteen letters, “What ‘My Girl’ is sung with.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, December 22, 2023

“Some novelty among the stars”

In the city of Andria “every street follows a planet’s orbit, and the buildings and places of community life repeat the order of the constellations and the position of the most luminous stars.” The city’s daily doings correspond to that day’s sky, “and thus the days on earth and the nights in the sky relect each other.” And yet — the city is always changing, older structures being removed, new ones being built.

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, trans. William Weaver (New York: HarperCollins, 1974).

Related reading
All OCA Italo Calvino posts (Pinboard)

Iggy Pop and Tom Waits play records

“Echoing their famous joint appearance in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, the show sees Iggy and Tom pump the Confidential jukebox full of nickels and dimes”: Tom Waits joins Iggy Pop on Iggy Confidential (BBC Radio 6, via Austin Kleon).

Raise your hand if you know Captain Beefheart’s “Bat Chain Puller.” (Raises hand.)

Related reading
All OCA Tom Waits posts (Pinboard)

[I just started listening: in the first couple of minutes they mention the bassist Larry Taylor and Canned Heat. Iggy Pop: “Canned Heat were killer.”]

Tea, saving lives?

From the BBC, “How Britain’s taste for tea may have been a life saver”:

Economist Francisca Antman of the University of Colorado, Boulder, makes a convincing case that the explosion of tea as an everyman's drink in late 1700s England saved many lives. This would not have been because of any antioxidants or other substances inherent to the lauded leaf.

Instead, the simple practice of boiling water for tea, in an era before people understood that illness could be caused by water-borne pathogens, may have been enough to keep many from an early grave.
Orange Crate Art is a tea-friendly zone.

Related reading
All OCA tea posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

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


10:06 a.m.: The mystery is solved. The answer is in the comments.

More mystery actors (Collect them all)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

An “over and over”

Bill Griifth explains the “over and over” (the page is gone):

Zippy spouts words like jazz musicians play riffs. One of his favorite wordplay activities is the “over and over.” Zippy fixates on a series of words that just beg to be repeated as pure sound. Readers are always suggesting new ones.
I have one: “pickleball infrastructure.”

I heard the phrase on All Things Considered last night and immediately thought “Pickleball infrastructure! Pickleball infrastructure! Pickleball infrastructure!”


Yes, I sent “pickeball infrastructure” to Bill Griffith, and it made an appearance in the February 8 Zippy, going up against “Tyvek, Tyvek, Tyvek!”.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard) : “Brick and mortar!” : “Eaton’s Corrasable Bond!” : “Golden creamery butter!”

[Where but on NPR would you hear about pickleball infrastructure?]

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Recently updated

Words of the year Now with a second hallucinate and a “vibe of the year.”

“Without fear or favor”

John Kasich, former governor of Ohio, on MSNBC just now:

“Think about the implications, think about the implications of what could happen across this country if in fact we start saying somebody can’t get on the ballot.”
And I immediately thought of a passage from the decision barring someone from the ballot in Colorado:
“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” a four-justice majority wrote, with three justices dissenting. “We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us. We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”
See — they did think about the implications, and they did not swerve. And: what about the implications of letting an insurrectionist remain on the ballot?

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

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


8:56 a.m.: That was fast. The answer is now in the comments.

More mystery actors (Collect them all)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

“A sole Trude”

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, trans. William Weaver (New York: HarperCollins, 1974).

Related reading
All OCA Italo Calvino posts (Pinboard)

The Unmarked Graveyard

From Radio Diaries, an eight-episode podcast series: The Unmarked Graveyard: Stories from Hart Island.

New York City’s Hart Island is what’s typically called a potter’s field. Seven of the eight podcast episodes tell the stories of people buried there. One episode tells the story of an artist dedicated to documenting the island’s dead. Having listened to six episodes so far, I recommend this podcast with enthusiasm.


A mother, in the eighth episode: “People don’t just disappear.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2023


From The New York Times (gift link):

Former President Donald J. Trump is ineligible to hold office again, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, accepting the argument that the 14th Amendment disqualifies him in an explosive decision that could upend the 2024 election.
Far from final, but still welcome, news.

CleanMyMac X on sale

The Mac app CleanMyMac X is on sale. Here’s an intro to the app. And there’s a seven-day free trial.

CleanMyMac X is a great app for managing/maintaining a Mac. So say experts. My only connection to CleanMyMac X is that of a happy user (since 2019).

“Scratches, indentations, scrolls”

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, trans. William Weaver (New York: HarperCollins, 1974).

Related reading
All OCA Calvino posts (Pinboard)

The British Library was hacked

“How ironic that the most quaintly analog form of research possible, using physical books in a physical library, has been devastated by the hijacking of a digital system”: Carolyn Dever tells the story of the Halloween ransomware attack of the British Library. More at the British Library’s website.

[Small world: I just read about “Michael Field” in Sarah Ogilvie’s The Dictionary People: The Unsung Heroes Who Created the Oxford English Dictionary.]

Monday, December 18, 2023

Jeffrey Foskett (1956–2023)

“A singer-guitarist that spent decades in the Beach Boys and played a pivotal role in Brian Wilson’s late Nineties comeback thanks to his soaring falsetto and effortless ability to harmonize”: from a Rolling Stone obituary.

Jeffrey Foskett was a man for all seasons, and a key figure among the musicians who brought Brian Wilson back from, well, the wasteland. I was fortunate to see him performing with Brian on the first Pet Sounds and SMiLE tours. Jeffrey Foskett’s death is a great loss to music.

Tár pencils: Blackwings

[Tár (dir. Todd Field, 2022). Click for a much larger view.]

Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) has quite a stash of Blackwing pencils — no doubt to suggest a tie to her teacher Leonard Bernstein, another Blackwing user. Yes, Tár was his student: the Bernstein estate has confirmed it.

If you click to see the screenshot at full size, you’ll see Eberhard Faber Blackwings on the left, followed by Palomino Blackwings, followed by more boxes of Eberhard Faber pencils. I like seing that Tár chooses an Eberhard Faber Blackwing to sharpen. She’s using the real thing first.

I have nothing against resurrecting a brand name, but I have an admitted animus against the company that makes the Palomino Blackwing, whose business practices I find ethically dubious. See, for instance, these two posts: Duke Ellington, Blackwing pencils, and aspirational branding and The Palomino Blackwing pencil and truth in advertising. And from Sean Malone, the Blackwing’s own historian, Facts, fiction, and the Blackwing experience.

Related reading
All OCA Blackwing posts (Pinboard)

A Tár pencil: Caran d’Ache

[From Tár (dir. Todd Field, 2022). Click for a much larger view.]

That’s a Pablo colored pencil from Caran d’Ache. The 120-pencil set is a mere $530 (VAT).

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Some Automats

[155 W. 33rd Street, 250 W. 42nd Street, 611 W. 181st Street, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click any image for a much, much, much larger view.]

There are thirty-eight Horn and Hardart Automats in the 1940 Manhattan telephone directory. This has been some of them.

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

[“There are thirty-eight”: I’m channeling The Naked City and Naked City. There were also eighteen Horn and Hardart retail outlets in Manhattan, one Automat and two retail outlets in Brooklyn, eight retail outlets in the Bronx, and “some” (three) retail outlets in Queens.]

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Lester Ruff (puzzle editor Stan Newman), and, yes, it is Less Rough. I started with 8-A, seven letters, “Shakespearean general” and 14-D, seven letters, “Why some risks are taken,” and then word after word fell into place. The one tricky spot: the southwest corner, where an unfamiliar answer, a tricky clue, and a piece of sports trivia had me stumped for a bit.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

2-D, seven letters, “Surname shared by different Best Actor Oscar winners.” I immediately thought HEPBURN. But no, the clue asks for Best Actor.

15-A, seven letters, “Step-by-step guide.” I was thinking too literally — of, say, IKEA instructions. (Shudder.)

28-D, five letters, “Word before clerk or company.” Been there, done that, at least the clerk part. And the non-clerk in me says there should be two pairs of italics or quotation marks in that clue.

38-A, eight letters, “Pulley with teeth.” Difficult for me to visualize, perhaps because I’ve never noticed one.

38-D, seven letters, “It’s handled in the kitchen.” The answer is unfamiliar to me, though I concede that the thing is handled in the kitchen.

39-D, seven letters, “Plain.” Tricky.

40-D, seven letters, “Big Ten team as of 2014.” There’s the sports trivia. (Could this puzzle be a rerun?)

53-A, four letters, “Feet, so to speak.” This answer needs to be brought back into everyday speech.

62-A, seven letters, “It puts the ‘high’ in highway.” All I could think of at first was an overpass.

64-A, seven letters, “Fit nicely.” A cozy answer.

My favorite in this puzzle: 59-D, three letters, “It’s about as old as the club.” (AXE?!)

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Current events

Orange Crate Art began as a way for me to collect items of interest for my teaching, as such items began to turn up online more often than in print. But early on, OCA became about whatever I wanted it to be about. Which often makes it difficult to know what to do with current events.

I am thinking of every post right now as a flight from current events. Those events are always on my mind. I am appalled by the killing of innocent people in Israel and Gaza. I am appalled by barbarism and terrorism, whatever the cause. I am appalled by religious hatred and xenophobia and the mindless chanting of slogans. I am appalled by the indiscriminate use of force, as Simone Weil defined it: “it is that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing.”

But I have no special insight into current events. Other people do, and it’s for them to speak and write about them.

Waiting for Bob Dylan

I was walking down the block of my childhood, 44th Street between New Utrecht and 12th, in Boro Park, Brooklyn. Such traffic: cars were backed up in the wrong direction all down the one-way street. They must have changed the traffic pattern since my childhood.

I saw the guy to whom Elaine and I had given a can of Fix-a-Flat the other day. He and his nephew had been in a university paking lot, trying to roll a car with a dead battery and flat tire onto a trailer. We helped push — no use — and invited the uncle to walk back to our house with us (a five-minute walk) so we could give him the can. Now he was waiting in this line of idling cars to meet and get an autograph from Bob Dylan.

I saw the uncle again, but now his car was further back, at the end of the block, as if the line in front of him had lengthened. I was in my car, parked alongside him. “When you move forward, I’ll pull in,” I said. And some time later, I was at the head of the line outside Bob Dylan’s hotel room.

The room was small and windowless, lit by a table lamp. Dylan was lying on a bed, head on a pillow, playing an acoustic guitar. Alongside him, at a 45-degree angle, in a long red robe, was a woman scatting an old standard, maybe “Indiana,” maybe “Pennies from Heaven,” maybe “Whispering.” Dylan was playing an astonishingly good accompaniment, with all sorts of complex substitute chords. I was, as I said to myself, “agape and aghast” and began recording on my phone. Then I decided I didn’t want any of this on my phone, so I stopped.

When the song was done, Dylan rose from the bed and walked out of the room and past the line of people. He was taking a break. “Hi Bob,” someone said. He didn’t acknowledge them. I realized that I had had a question to ask, but now I couldn’t remember it. And I had left in the car the album I was going to ask him to sign. I didn’t think there was time to walk back and get it.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[The Fix-a-Flat is from waking life. No idea where Dylan came from. “Only fools and children talk about their dreams”: Dr. Edward Jeffreys (Robert Douglas), in Thunder on the Hill (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1951). Here is “Bob Dylan’s Dream.”]

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Exceedingly strange

The Strangest Toy on Wish Lists This Year“” (The New York Times, gift link).

11 More Shopping Days

[From I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes (dir. William Nigh, 1948). Click for a larger view.]

I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes is a perfect B-noir. It’s streaming at the Criterion Channel.

[The shadows on the sign are made by the lettering on the window: “Norris Dept. Store.”]

Orange crate racer

[From C.J. Maginley, Make It and Ride It (1949). Click for a larger, more luxurious ride.]

You can find the book at Instructions begin on page 52.

Thanks, Fresca, for sending these wheels my way.

Related posts
A Henry scooter : Roller-Scooter truck assemblies : Scooter construction

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

iA Writer is not AI

From an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “ChatGPT Has Changed Teaching. Our Readers Tell Us How,” quoting an instructor’s revised syllabus:

“Since writing, analytical, and critical-thinking skills are part of the learning outcomes of this course, all writing assignments should be prepared by the student,” it reads, in part. “Developing strong competencies in this area will prepare you for the competitive work force. Therefore, AI-generated submissions (using ChatGPT, IA Writer, Midjourney, DALL-E, etc.) are not permitted and will be treated as plagiarism.”
Yikes: iA Writer is not an app for AI-generated prose. It is a writing app for humans who use macOS, iOS, iPadOS, Windows, and Android. The app should not be confused with AI-Writer, an online app for AI-generated prose.

The latest versions of IA Writer for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS offer an option to to mark copy-and-pasted AI-generated text so as to distinguish it from the writer’s own words. But that’s an option meant to keep a writer from passing off AI-generated text as their own.

I’m a happy user of iA Writer, and I’d hate to think of any professor mistakenly warning a student off it.

Related posts
iA Writer : iA Writer keyboard commands

[I don’t know anything about AI-Writer.]

“Triptych! Trilogy! Troika!”

[Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy, “Inside Baseball,” is all about some rocks.

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

Recently updated

block=1 AND lot=1 Now with Arbuckle Coffee.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023


[Unidentified dancer in Three on a Match (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1932). Click for a larger view.]

Now playing at the Criterion Channel. Prohibition ended in 1933. In 1934 the Motion Picture Production Code kicked in.


[Frankie Darro, Virginia Davis, and Junior Johnston, in Three on a Match (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1932). Click for a larger view.]

Now playing in the Criterion Channel’s Pre-Code Divas feature. In 1934 the Motion Picture Production Code kicked in.


From xkcd : “Snow.”

Thinking about age and snow reminds me of what happened when I read a Pierre Reverdy prose-poem to a grade-school class.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Twelve movies

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

From the Criterion Channel’s Pre-Code Divas feature

The Divorcee (dir. Robert Z. Leonard, 1930). A tour de force for Norma Shearer as Jerry, a rich young married who gets even with her one-night-stand adulterous husband Ted (Chester Morris) by having a one-night stand of her own. Her husband objects — and the movie makes clear his hypocrisy. Complications follow, in this marriage and that of Paul (Conrad Nagel) and Dorothy (Judith Wood), who married after she was disfigured in a car wreck caused by his reckless driving. Look for Robert Montgomery as Ted’s friend Don, and Charles R. Moore, a member of later Preston Sturges’s stock company as First Porter Opening Window. ★★★★

Night Nurse (dir. William A. Wellman, 1931). Here we have a new nurse, Lora (Barbara Stanwyck), her colleague and roommate Maloney (Joan Blondell), a bootlegger (name unknown until the last scene), an alcoholic mother of two young girls, and the mother’s murderous chauffeur Nick (Clark Gable), intent upon keeping the mother drunk as her daughters starve to death. (There’s a trust fund he’s after.) Toss in a drug-addicted doctor, some grim hospital jokes, and gratuitous scenes of Stanwyck and Blondell undressing, and glory in the shock of the pre-Code world. Stanwyck’s Lora has courage and smarts as the fierce protector of the helpless girls, and as — I can’t help seeing it — Mary Richards to Blondell’s Rhoda Morgenstern. ★★★★

Daughter of the Dragon (dir. Lloyd Corrigan, 1931). “I have taken the oath of a son”: so says Princess Ling Moy (Anna May Wong), vowing to exact the vengeance her father Fu Manchu (Warner Oland) demands of her as he dies. The Hamlet-like scenario is complicated by two love stories, with the princess (a professional dancer) drawing the attention of an English aristocrat (Bramwell Fletcher) and a dashing Chinese detective (Sessue Hayakawa) working with Scotland Yard. Wong is an extraordinary screen presence: her character made me think of Louise Brooks, if Louise Brooks were murderous and not just insouciant. With mind control, poisoned tobacco, a secret passageway, and moments of wild violence. ★★★★

Back Street (dir. John M. Stahl, 1932). From a novel by Fannie Hurst. True romance — or is it self-abasement? — run rampant: Ray Schmidt (Irene Dunne) gives up a position as the highest-ranking woman in her firm to live in a paid-for apartment as the mistress of banker-philanthropist Walter Saxel (John Boles). Best scene: Walter’s son confronts the adulterous pair. “There isn’t one woman in a million who’s ever found happiness in the back streets of any man’s life.” ★★★★

Three on a Match (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1932). Three girls from P.S. 62 take different paths in life: Mary (Joan Blondell) is a thief turned showgirl; Ruth, a stenographer (Bette Davis); Vivian (Ann Dvorak), the unhappy wife of a wealthy lawyer (Warren Williams). An overheard conversation in a beauty parlor reunites the three women, with dramatic changes in fortune to follow. Dvorak is the standout here, and her desperation and courage bring the story to a shocking end. With copious alcohol, implicit cocaine, and Humphrey Bogart. ★★★★

[The other movies in this feature: Hell’s Angels, Dishonored, No Man of Her Own, Scarface, This Is the Night, Baby Face, Design for Living, I’m No Angel, and She Done Him Wrong. Also these two.]

Tár (dir. Todd Field, 2022). I’ve never been impressed by Adam Gopnik — see his inane comments on Armstrong, Ellington, and Proust — so any movie that begins with the real Gopnik interviewing the fictional conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) is already in danger of losing me. This movie did lose me: it’s one of the most pretentious I’ve seen, dropping knowing shorthand references to musical personalities and institutions with alarming frequency. Lydia Tár is driven, humorless, manipulative, sexually exploitative, and vengeful: we’re meant, I think, to ooh and aah at the posh furnishings and tsk deeply at her personal history — and tsk again, perhaps, at the punishment exacted for that history (all while not laughing at her conducting). What bugs me most is the movie’s spooky, faintly stalker-y, supernatural dimension, never made enough of: what’s it doing there? ★★ (DVD)

[For a markedly different take on the movie, see an essay by Dan Kois. It’s spoiler-rich.]

Brief Encounter (dir. David Lean, 1945), We watched it again (for the third or fourth time?) so as to share it with friends who’d never seen it, and now I’m wondering why it’s never shown up in one of these movie compilations. It’s a profoundly bittersweet movie, the story of two married people, Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) and Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), who meet by chance in a train station’s refreshment room, and whose further chance meetings develop into love. And always time is running out: whistles blowing, an unseen station master announcing incoming and departing trains (the voice of Noël Coward, who adapted his play Still Life for the screenplay). Think of Dido and Aeneas in England — with a difference, because it’s England. ★★★★ (TCM)


Manic pixie dream girls

Sweet November (dir. Robert Ellis Miller, 1968). I adore Sandy Dennis, who here plays Sara Deever, a Brooklyn Heights resident who every month chooses a new man to move in with her — just for one month — so that she can improve him. Her project for November is Charlie Blake (Anthony Newley), a British manufacturer of boxes, and a man who is, in the language of the time, uptight. For most of its length, the movie feels like a ditzy comedy, with Sara as a manic pixie dream girl and Charlie composing dopey poems and submitting to a mod makeover. That these two people will fall in love is to be expected, but things take a semi-unpredictable turn that casts a new light on all that precedes the end. ★★★★ (TCM)

After Hours (dir. Martin Scorcese, 1985). A chance encounter in a Manhattan coffeeshop pulls hapless word processor Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) into a night of funny, sad, crazy episodes in Soho. Joseph Minion’s screenplay is deadpan funny in countless ways; I began to think of this movie as a Buster Keaton comedy — if Keaton were making the downtown scene in the 1980s. The movie is also a set of dark variations on the manic pixie dream girl, with the women Paul encounters (played by Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara, and Verna Bloom) becoming ever more hazardous to his well-being. My favorite line: “It’s not even 2:00 yet.” ★★★★ (TCM)

[I thought I’d seen this movie before, but I had it confused with Something Wild (dir. Jonathan Demme, 1986.]


Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God (dir. Hannah Olson, 2023). Amy Carlson, a McDonald’s manager, figured out that she was Mother God, God incarnate, and thus attracted a small group of followers to form Love Has Won, a community in Crestone, Colorado, a town that draws spiritual seekers. This documentary series explores Carlson’s life and death and eclectic theology, which draws upon ancient myth (the Anunnaki), New Age beliefs (portals), pop culture (Carlson was in constant communication with the dead Robin Williams, leader of “the Galactics”), and conspiracy theories (Carlson was queen of the universe, and thus the Q of QAnon), all informed by a vague Manichaeism, all fueled by generous intake of alcohol, tranquilizers, and colloidal silver. And there’s a series of Father Gods (Carlson’s lovers), the last of whom we see wearing an ankle monitor. What would make this three-part documentary more compelling: a Frontline-style narrator, a voice of sanity to counter the unrelieved blather of Carlson’s followers. ★★★ (M)


Man’s Castle (dir. Frank Borzage, 1933). In Depression Manhattan, Bill (Spencer Tracy) and Trina (Loretta Young) shack up together — literally, living without benefit of marriage in a makeshift encampment off Park Avenue. Bill, who’s more than a bit of a jerk, has itchy feet — he’s always alert to train whistles and birds taking flight, even with his caring, self-sacrificing, incredibly beautiful partner by his side. A showgirl with money (Glenda Farrell) and a camp hothead (Arthur Hohl) cause trouble; an old alkie (Marjorie Rambeau) is there to step in as a deus ex machina. Remarkably pre-Code, with Bill and Trina lying in a bed together — withnot one foot on the floor. ★★★ (TCM)


Now, Voyager (dir. Irving Rapper, 1942). Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale, a young woman deeply damaged by a tyrannical mother (Gladys Cooper). A sister-in-law’s intervention brings Charlotte to a forward-thinking psychiatrist (Claude Rains), who helps her to develop the means to a life of greater freedom. Enter Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid), an architect, unhappily married. After seeing this movie a second time, I think it’d make a great double-bill with Brief Encounter: happiness is happiness, however fleeting, however partial. ★★★★ (TCM)

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

Mrs. Dash

Mrs. Dash is now just Dash, as I noticed when shopping this past weekend. The Mrs. disappeared sometime in 2020. That gives you an idea of how often I buy Mrs. Dash. The Dash website still has the Mrs.

Here is survey of foods and drinks with Mr. or Mrs. in their names.


They forgot Mister Mustard.

[Why not Mr. Peanut? He’s a mascot, not a food name.]

Sunday, December 10, 2023

block=1 AND lot=1

[1 John Street, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

No time for rabbit holes this week; I decided just to use the numbering system for the WPA tax photographs to find a property: block=1 AND lot=1. The building looks like a warehouse of some sort, with the Manhattan Bridge looming overhead.

The area around 1 John Street is now known as Dumbo, or DUMBO: Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Today no. 1 is a whole ’nother building that went up in 2016. Condos are now availble from $4,950,000 to $9,500,000.

Typing those prices leaves me almost nauseated — literally so.


An assiduous reader sussed out this building’s identity, “a six-story factory at the foot of Adams Street”: it was part of the Arbuckle Brothers Company, purveyors of coffee and sugar, founded by John Arbuckle (1839–1912). From Wikipedia:

In 1921, the New York City location of Arbuckle Brothers in Dumbo, Brooklyn, was more than 12 city blocks with its own railroad and port facilities. The company stayed in family’s hands until 1929. Arbuckle’s company closed in 1935. It was sold and combined with Maxwell House, which would later join General Foods.
And a surprising detail:
The Yuban brand (sometimes Yule brand) was Arbuckle’s name for his personal mix of fresh coffees for Christmas gifts. According to General Mills advertisements in the 1960s, Yuban was an abbreviation of Yuletide Banquet.
More surprising still: coffee bearing the Arbuckle name is once again on the market.

Related reading
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives (Pinboard)

Today’s Mutts

Today’s Mutts : I like the squirrel. But how many readers will recognize the nod to Jules Feiffer’s dancer?

See also: shpring.

Related reading
All OCA Mutts posts (Pinboard)

[I like intertextuality in comic strips.]

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Penn’s president is out

From The New York Times (gift link):

The president of the University of Pennsylvania, M. Elizabeth Magill, resigned on Saturday, four days after her testimony at a congressional hearing in which she seemed to evade the question of whether students who called for the genocide of Jews should be disciplined.
“Seemed to evade”? No, evaded.

In a comment on a related post, I suggested an appropriate answer. I’ll share it where it can be more visible:
“Congresswoman, of course calling for genocide is against the standards of what’s acceptable on our campus. And if our code of conduct doesn’t take into account that kind of hateful speech, we will revise it immediately so that it does.”

Rockin’ past, present, and future

NPR’s Scott Detrow spoke with Brenda Lee about “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” now the number-one song at the Billboard Hot 100: “65 Years After Release, a Rockin’ Christmas Classic Hits Number One.”

I like the way Brenda Lee gives props to the song’s composer Johnny Marks, the instrumentalists, and the Anita Kerr Singers. As Elaine likes to point out, the name on a record is not the only person responsible for that record. Astonishing fact: Lee was only thirteen when she recorded the song in 1958. Semi-astonishing fact: there’s a new video for the song.

In 2009, our fambly did an impromptu version of the song while playing holiday music for people in a memory-care residence: soprano ukulele, viola, slap-cello, and two voices. We rocked. But alas, no recording.

Elaine calls “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” the most persistent holiday earworm of all. In 2023, we have a granddaughter who calls the song “Walkin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” But soon enough, our granddaughter, too, will rock.

Center for Reproductive Rights

The Center for Reproductive Rights is in the news.

Here is the organization’s website.

Charity Navigator’s rating: 97%. Not a difficult decision to donate.

[“In the news”: a New York Times gift link.]