Friday, June 9, 2023

Unsealed

The indictment is here for the reading. Just one passage:

The classified documents TRUMP stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack. The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.
The document is worth reading in its entirety. It makes clear that Trump knew exactly what he was doing and went to great lengths to keep what he had in his possession in his possession. Notice, for instance, the discussion of a Redweld folder and a “plucking motion” in section 66. No words, no explicit instruction, just a motion.

*

Notice too, in a snarky spirit, 58.c., which reproduces a text from a female member of the Trump family to Walt Nauta:
I saw you put boxes to Potus room. Just FYI and I will tell him as well:

Not sure how many he wants to take on Friday on the plane. We will NOT have a room for them. Plane will be full with luggage.
“I saw you put boxes to Potus room”: that’s gotta be Melania Trump, sounding a bit like Natasha Fatale.

It’s so extraordinary to think that that a non-reader may be meeting his downfall over an insistence on keeping printed matter close. I keep thinking about serial killers who save mementos of their crimes. But here the mementos themselves are crimes.

[A Redweld folder? That’s what I think most stationery fanatics know as a red-rope folder.]

How to convict

If I were to read one item today about last night’s indictment, it’d be this one, by Norman Eisen, Andrew Weissmann, and Joyce Vance: “How to Convict Trump” (The New York Times gift link).

[I’m not sure why the Times has the writers’ names in that order, but I’ve kept that order here.]

Writing it and changing it

The composer John Kander, in an interview aired on the PBS NewsHour last night:

“The ideas can be terrible, and nobody is a bad person because they have it. So you write it, and then you change it.”
Great advice for any endeavor that allows for revision.

Snoopy, downstairs

Snoopy is planning to play at Wimbledon. Charlie Brown: “Where will you stay if you go to England? You don’t know anyone there.”

[Peanuts, June 11, 1976. Click for a larger view.]

I always like seeing a Peanuts strip that references some once-obvious, now-gone bit of popular culture. The reference in this strip, then and now, is to the television series Upstairs, Downstairs, the Downton Abbey of its time (1971–1975 in the UK, 1973–1977 in the U.S.). I remember Mrs. Bridges and Mr. Hudson (Angela Baddeley and Gordon Jackson) and Rose (Jean Marsh), all from downstairs. No other names have stuck.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Sláinte!

We have a bottle of Redbreast twelve-year-old Irish whiskey ($$!), bought in anticipation of a friend’s visit this summer. Our friend can’t visit, so we need another occasion for which to open it. I think that occasion is now: “Trump Indicted in Documents Case” (New York Times gift link).

*

Redbreast is so good.

“Books are weapons in the war of ideas”

[“Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons. Franklin Roosevelt.” Poster by S[teve] Broder. 1942. From the Library of Congress. Click for a larger view.]

I found this poster via a report on “Letters Rising in the Air,” an exhibit at the National Library of Israel marking the ninetieth anniversary of Nazi bookburning in Berlin (May 10, 1933). Follow the link to see a letter (May 9) from Stefan Zweig to Max Brod urging a response by German-Jewish writers to the imminent burning. Also at the link: two partially burned pages from the work of Magnus Hirschfeld, psychologist and sexologist.

Cather in the Capitol

There’s now a statue of Willa Cather in the United States Capitol’s Statuary Hall. I watched as much of the unveiling ceremony as I could bear, with a series of political figures characterizing Cather as a Nebraskan, a nostalgist, a regionalist, a writer of the (so-called) heartland. No mention of the young woman who cut her hair, wore men’s clothing, and signed her name William. (Here’s a photograph of the young Cather.) No acknowledgement that Cather left Nebraska in her early twenties and lived most of her life in New York City, making a home with Edith Lewis, her companion (as they used to say) of nearly forty years. A low point that wasn’t a silence: a string quartet fumbling through “Maple Leaf Rag.” More nostalgia, I guess. Something that Thea Kronborg sang might have been more fitting.

I think of Susan Howe’s repudiation of another writer’s characterization of Emily Dickinson: “Who is this Spider-Artist? Not my Emily Dickinson.” Who is this Nebraska nostalgist? Not my Willa Cather.

Perhaps a lower point than the mangled Joplin: PBS NewsHour anchor Geoff Bennett mangled the name of My Ántonia, Cather’s best-known novel, as “My An-TOW-nee-uh.”

*

After writing this post, I remembered something in a previous post, from a letter Cather wrote to the critic E.K. Brown (April 9, 1937):

I think you make a very usual mistake, however, in defining a writer geographically. Myself, I read a man (or a woman) for the climate of his mind, not for the climates in which he has happened to live.
Related reading
All OCA Willa Cather posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Out the window

It’s a busy day in news, so I made the mistake of looking at Talking Points Memo. From a piece by the proprietor, Josh Marshall:

As you’ve likely heard, CNN CEO Chris Licht was fired today, not so much because of that headline-grabbing Atlantic article but because of a string of failures and reverses which might have simmered and percolated for a few months longer if a minor-defenestratory masterpiece had not wrapped them together with a bow in a way that was impossible to ignore.
A string that might have simmered and percolated, save that a masterpiece wrapped them together with a unignorable bow and . . . also threw them out the window?

I’m not sure what “minor-defenestratory” might even mean: throwing someone out a first-floor window? I’m more deeply confused about how much credit Marshall is giving the Atlantic article: Licht was fired not because of the article but because the article made all his failures known?

But I refuse to take the time to try to improve Marshall’s sentence, which I think would make, as is, a fine sixth exhibit in George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.”

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I hope

From The Independent:

The Department of Justice is preparing to ask a Washington, DC grand jury to indict former president Donald Trump for violating the Espionage Act and for obstruction of justice as soon as Thursday, adding further weight to the legal baggage facing [burdening?] Mr. Trump as he campaigns for his party’s nomination in next year’s presidential election.

The Independent has learned that prosecutors are ready to ask grand jurors to approve an indictment against Mr. Trump for violating a portion of the US criminal code known as Section 793, which prohibits “gathering, transmitting or losing” any “information respecting the national defence.”

The use of Section 793, which does not make reference to classified information, is understood to be a strategic decision by prosecutors that has been made to short-circuit Mr Trump’s ability to claim that he used his authority as president to declassify documents he removed from the White House and kept at his Palm Beach, Florida property long after his term expired on 20 January 2021.

Mike Pence beareth false witness

Mike Pence just said that he and his wife Karen have “the three most beautiful granddaughters ever born in the history of the world.”

Grandparents everywhere know that’s not true.

Amusements

Steven Millhauser, “Paradise Park,” in The Knife Thrower and Other Stories (1998).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

A lost sauce

[New York, February 15, 1971. Click for a larger view.]

I remember seeing Aunt Millie’s sauce in Brooklyn kidhood, on the shelf in Vinny & Rogers, the butcher shop where we bought our meat and poultry. When I went out on my own, I bought Aunt Millie’s out of deep nostalgia. Besides, it was a good sauce.

I was ready to scoff at this advertisement’s claim that Aunt Millie came in to check on the sauce, but there was indeed an Aunt Millie. Here’s a 1966 New York Times article about Carmella (Millie) and Salvatore Di Mauro, which makes clear that this 1983 commercial was reality-based. Salvatore died in 2006; Carmella in 2007. Heinz bought the Aunt Millie’s brand from Borden in 2001; by 2013 the brand was discontinued.

These days I make my own sauce, a long one (two-and-a-half to three hours) or a short one known as Coppola/“Godfather” sauce.

[Is that Zohra Lampert in the commercial? As for ortolan: I’m sorry I wondered.]

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Astrud Gilberto (1940–2023)

Astrud Gilberto, who sang “The Girl from Ipanema” so memorably, has died at the age of eighty-three. The New York Times has an obituary. Here, from 1963, are the album version and the single, with João Gilberto, guitar, vocal; Stan Getz, tenor; Antonio Carlos Jobim, piano; Tommy Williams, bass; and Milton Banana, drums. Also, a TV version, with Gary Burton on vibes. And a movie version, also with Burton. Music by Jobim, Portuguese lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel.

When I was teaching, I always loved having the opportunity to expose students to necessary (imho) cultural stuff. Works of lit, obviously, but also movies and music. You’ve never seen Citizen Kane? You’ve never heard Bessie Smith? You’ve come to the right place. I sometimes took the opportunity to play “The Girl from Ipanema” when teaching Odyssey 13, the episode in which Odysseus sees the princess Nausicaa frolicking on the beach with her maids. I played the album version, with no introduction, for greater mystery and, when the English lyrics kicked in, greater amusement.

[Bessie Smith: as in “Bessie, bop, or Bach,” in Langston Hughes’s “Theme for English B.” It’d be a terrible thing to read the poem without hearing all three.]

A new Nancy book

[Click for a larger view.]

A new book from Olivia Jaimes: Nancy Wins at Friendship (Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel, 2023). Mostly 2020 Nancy strips.

Olivia Jaimes is a brilliant successor to Ernie Bushmiller. The Family Ritz and friends are in good hands.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Two kinds of people

“There are two kinds of people in the world”: Bruce Springsteen explains why he cannot agree to an interview about the Fender Stratocaster (Letters of Note). Wonderful stuff.

Related reading
All OCA guitar posts (Pinboard)

[Me, acoustic guitars only, thank you.]

Monday, June 5, 2023

ATTN: Tim Cook

My surroundings already are “an infinite canvas.” I suspect that yours are too.

[I don’t discount the possible usefulness of a headset for people with vision troubles. But reality itself is already an infinite canvas.]

“White ladders”

A walk in the dark yields “a night of revelations.”

Steven Millhauser, “Clair de Lune,” in The Knife Thrower and Other Stories (1998).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

“NEVER CLOSED” Now with a link to an application to the National Register of Historic Places that teems with diner history.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

“NEVER CLOSED”

[Munson Diner, 200 11th Avenue, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

From Michael Engle and Marlo Monti’s Diners of New York (Stackpole Books: Mechanicsburg, PA, 2008):

In 1921, Harry Zelin (born Samuel Zelinsky in Poland, in 1893) and his partner, Irving Greenman, rented space at 106 East 14th Street in Manhattan under the name Munson Lunch Company and started a quick lunch restaurant. After twenty-one years, Zelin opened his first restaurant at Greenwich and West Houston Streets, in the old Union Freight Terminal. In 1944, Zelin, under the name Delano Realty, acquired an existing old-style diner built in 1930 on the southwest corner of 49th Street and 11th Avenue. The following year he opened the Munson Diner, a new Kullman model with streamlined stainless steel and blue porcelain enamel flutes. He gradually added other diners and, by 1959, had at least five, including four on 11th Avenue: at 24th, 37th, 42nd Streets, and the aforementioned Munson Diner at 49th Street. Under the Delano Realty moniker, he brought a 1958 Silk City diner to 375 West Street, which was recently the Rib Restaurant, a now-closed barbecue joint.
The first restaurant: 588 Greenwich Street.

The older diner at the southwest corner of 49th and 11th: 681 11th Avenue.

The diner at the corner of 37th and 11th: 456-458 11th Avenue.

There’s no tax photograph for a 42nd and 11th location.

Diners ran in the Zelin and Greenman families: other family members owned three Market Diners and the Empire Diner. Here’s an elegy for the Market Diner at 43rd and 11th. Still going at 210 10th Avenue (under different ownership) is the Empire Diner. A tad upscale, no?

The Kullman diner at 681 11th (which replaced the diner in the photograph) is now in the Catskills, in Liberty, New York, living on as the New Munson Diner. Google Maps has it in its new location.

*

A reader passed on a link to an application to place the relocated Munson Diner in the National Register of Historic Places. The application’s thirty-seven pages are teeming with the history of that diner and of diners generally. Thanks, reader.

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

“Bagels against th’ current”

In today’s Zippy, Dingburg seniors remember “th’ seventies,” when there was only one kind of bagel:

[Zippy, June 3, 2023. Click for a larger view.]

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[In truth, there have always been onion bagels. Black-and-white too, I think. Martinizing is a Zippy preoccupation. For instance.]

Today’s Olivia Jaimes?

Today’s Nancy is meta in more ways than one. The drool-soaked comic within the comic: check. But also: is that picture on the wall a picture of Olivia Jaimes?

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Ben Zimmer, is to my mind ideally Stumper-y. Not exceedingly difficult, but difficult enough. It has novelty: 1-A, six letters, ”NINE ____ (anagram of PUNISHMENT).” It has the defamiliarization effect: 32-A, five letters, “What clickers often augment.” It has odd rhymes: 52-D, four letters, “Ore door.” It has saucy misdirection: 61-A, seven letters, “They’re seen in shower scenes.” It has a terrific fifteen-word answer: 36-A, “One you’d expect to hustle.” It does not have a virtual-reality headset, and I could not care less.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

6-D, nine letters, “Sabermetricians, for instance.” The answer is new to me.

27-D, six letters, “Slew.” LOTSOF? TONSOF? From the toughest (west-central) part of the puzzle.

28-D, six letters, “Glorify gleamily.” Not easy to see what with all the bright light.

35-D, nine letters, “Court crime.” Feels timely.

40-A, four letters, “Muggers.” Clever.

48-D, five letters, “Aurous appellation.” I had to type out the clue to understand the answer.

54-D, four letters, “Cheaters, casually.” Or “still more casually”?

58-A, seven letters, “Ready to show some muscle.” Eww.

My favorite in this puzzle, 49-A, twelve letters, “Competitors in the IPA market?” I don’t mind a pun.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 2, 2023

“Way up in the dangerous air”

Steven Millhauser, “Flying Carpets,” in The Knife Thrower and Other Stories (1998).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Whatever became of the Lisa?

Do you remember the Apple Lisa? Do you know what beacame of it? A short film from The Verge: Apple’s Secret Burial.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Somebody Somewhere renewed

[From Bridget Everett’s Instagram.]

I’m happy to see that Somebody Somewhere has been renewed for a third season. It’s a show that deserves a much larger audience.

P.S.: It’s the anti-Succession.

A minority report on Succession

Bill Wyman (not of the Stones), writing about Succession:

From the start, this was a bad show, and a misconceived one. In a world of peak TV and oceans of post-Sopranos high-end work from around the world, this was an endeavor made by people not quite clear on the concept. There were no adults in the room. Succession was very much like what you would get if the Roy children themselves tried to do a grown-up HBO series.
I’m not enamored of this series. Wyman is far more critical than I am.

Longhand and a Smith-Corona

From Robert Caro’s Working: Research, Interviewing, Writing (New York: Knopf, 2019). Caro recalls what Princeton professor R.P. Blackmur said to him, after first saying something complimentary: “But you’re never going to achieve what you want to, Mr. Caro, if you don’t stop thinking with your fingers.”

“Thinking with your fingers.” Every so often, do you get the feeling that someone has seen right through you? In that moment, I knew Professor Blackmur had seen right through me. No real thought, just writing — because writing was so easy. Certainly never thinking anything all the way through. And writing for a daily newspaper had been so easy, too. When I decided to write a book, and, beginning to realize the complexity of the subject, realized that a lot of thinking would be required — thinking things all the way through, in fact, or as much through as I was capable of — I determined to do something to slow myself down, to not write until I had thought things through. That was why I resolved to write my first drafts in longhand, slowest of the various means of committing thoughts to paper, before I started doing later drafts on the typewriter; that is why I still do my first few drafts in longhand today; that is why, even now that typewriters have been replaced by computers, I still stick to my Smith-Corona Electra 210. And yet, even thus slowed down, I will, when I’m writing, set myself the goal of a minimum of a thousand words a day, and, as the chart I keep on my closet door attests, most days meet it.
If I were teaching a writing course, I’d show my students Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (dir. Lizzie Gottlieb, 2022).

Related reading
“Robert Caro’s Favorite Things” (The Wall Street Journal ) : “Turn Every Page: Inside the Robert A. Caro Archive” (New-York Historical Society) : “Why Robert Caro Now Has Only Ten Typewriters” (The New Yorker )

Editing

From Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (dir. Lizzie Gottlieb, 2022). Robert Gottlieb speaking:

“Editing is intelligent and sympathetic reaction to the text and to what the author is trying to accomplish.”
And:
“Making things better, saving things, is the editorial impulse.”
And I like what Bryan Garner says:
“Editing is an act of friendship. A good editor is making you look smarter than you actually are — smarter and better.”
Also from this movie
Taped to the lamp

Taped to the lamp

From Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (dir. Lizzie Gottlieb, 2022). Robert Caro speaking:

“How do you make the reader feel how desperate a man is, not just read it, but feel it, but see it, and feel it himself, feel this desperation of Lyndon Johnson himself? And right on an index card and Scotch-taped to the lamp in front of me: ‘Is there desperation on this page?’ And I can't tell ya how many days that card stays up there.”
In the documentary, there’s a different card taped to the lamp.

[“The only thing that matters is what is on this page.” Click for a larger view.]

Also from this movie
Robert Gottlieb on editing

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

F.S. Royster Guano Co. notebook

[An antiques-mall find ($2.00). 5¼″ × 3″. Click for a larger view.]

According to a 2019 newspaper article, the F.S. Royster Guano Company began in 1885 in Tarboro, North Carolina. This notebook gives Norfolk, Virgina, as the main office, with sixteen other plants and offices in the south and midwest.

Inside this book, useful information — brief explanations of what different plant foods do, guidelines for measuring grain and lumber, a recipe for house paint (lead and zinc), 1943 and 1944 calendars on the inside covers. And thirty-two pages for writing, each with seventeen lines below a heading, a different heading on each page. For instance,

        With ROYSTER’S Under Your Crop
                a Load is Off Your Mind.
I’m not sure if that’s meant to be funny. If it is meant so, it’s the only such heading that is.

As you may know, agricultural notebooks are a primary inspiration for the contemporary Field Notes Brand.

Pocket notebook sighting

[Dayton Lummis as Dr. Carl Morris. From The Flight That Disappeared (dir. Reginald Le Borg, 1961). Click for a larger view.]

If you knew what was on that notebook page, you too would tear it out and tear it up — I hope.

More notebook sightings
All the King’s Men : Angels with Dirty Faces : The Bad and the Beautiful : Ball of Fire : The Big Clock : Bombshell : The Brasher Doubloon : The Case of the Howling Dog : Cat People : Caught : City Girl : Crossing Delancey : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dead End : Deep Valley : The Devil and Miss Jones : Dragnet : Extras : Eyes in the Night : The Face Behind the Mask : The Fearmakers : A Foreign Affair : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : The Girl in Black Stockings : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : I See a Dark Stranger : If I Had a Million : Journal d’un curé de campagne : Kid Glove Killer : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Lost Horizon : M : Ministry of Fear : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : Now, Voyager : The Palm Beach Story : Perry Mason : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : The Racket : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : La roue : Route 66The Scarlet Claw : Sleeping Car to Trieste : The Small Back Room : The Sopranos : Spellbound : Stage Fright : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Stranger Things : Sweet Smell of Success : Time Table : T-Men : To the Ends of the Earth : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Vice Squad : Walk East on Beacon! : What Happened Was . . . : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once : Young and Innocent

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

From 1945 and 1943

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

Beginning in 1943, the War Department published a series of pamphlets for U.S. Army personnel in the European theater of World War II. Titled Army Talks, the series was designed “to help [the personnel] become better-informed men and women and therefore better soldiers.”

On March 24, 1945, the topic for the week was “FASCISM!”
The fascist playbook, as described in this pamphlet, repeats as the playbook of today’s hard right: cast one’s cause as “super-Americanism,” foment domestic disunity and hatred of minorities, reject the need for international cooperation, and label one’s opponents communists.

You can read the pamphlet at the Internet Archive.

And from 1943, there’s the anti-fascist short film Don’t Be a Sucker.

Where did the hats go?

[The Flight That Disappeared (dir. Reginald Le Borg, 1961). Click for a larger view.]

I’ve sometimes thought it’d be fun to take along a nice straw when flying, but what to do with it? Certainly not keep it on my lap for the length of the flight. No way! Which made me wonder: what did men on planes do back in the day, when everyone wore a hat? This movie let me know.

The above flight is a fiction, but any number of photographs will confirm that hats went above the seats. For instance. Baggage, at least most of it, would have been checked. Women would most likely have kept their hats on.

*

A reader passed on a link to an advertisement for the Mallory “Air Cruiser,” a hat “styled for the skyways,” “for gentlemen who travel.” N.B.: “Exclusive Mallory Cravenette process withstands varied types of weather throughout the world.” I think that means that the hat was meant to serve as a beater.

Thanks, reader.

Twelve movies

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

Big Eyes (dir. Tim Burton, 2014). Amy Adams as the mid-century American artist Margaret Keane, whose husband Walter Keane took credit for her paintings of children with big, sad eyes. The lie, with Margaret complicit, ran for years. Adams gives a great performance as a woman with and without agency, sitting (like Rapunzel) in a locked room, cranking out paintings for which she can take no credit — until she does. As Walter Keane, Christoph Waltz is all charm, deception, desperation, and, finally, rage. ★★★★ (N)

[If you’d like to see the Life magazine article seen in the movie, it’s here.]

*

The Depraved (dir. Paul Dickson, 1957). To say that it’s more than slightly reminiscent of Double Indemnity is no spoiler: you can see where the story is headed from its first minutes. As a U.S. Army captain stationed in England, Robert Arden has the advantage of even looking as bit like Fred MacMurray; as the calm, cool Laura Wilton, Anne Heywood makes a marked contrast to the weird glamour of Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson. The most interesting performances are those of Basil Dignam (nasty, domineering Tom Wilton) and Denis Shaw (an implacable inspector). Only seventy-one minutes, so the thought of murder comes up as soon as the principals meet — there’s no time to lose. ★★★ (YT)

*

Hunted (dir. Charles Crichton, 1952). A man, Chris (Dirk Bogarde), and boy, Robbie (Jon Whiteley), no relation, fleeing London and the authorities, civil and parental. Overtones of Huck and Jim; much stronger overtones of Alfred (Hitchcock), with bumbling policemen, rural innkeepers, and danger in every circumstance. As almost-seven Robbie, Jon Whiteley has little to say, but his silent sorrow and his devotion to Chris are the moral center of the movie. We know what’ll happen to Chris, but what will become of this poor boy? ★★★★ (YT)

*

Room 222, first season (created by James L. Brooks, 1969–1970). I think I owe some explanation of how this viewing effort (twenty-six episodes!) came about: program notes for an orchestral work by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson mentioned that he wrote the Room 222 theme. No, that was Jerry Goldsmith (Perkinson wrote some incidental music for the series), but the mistake was enough to get our household watching. This series was well ahead of its time, depicting life in a multicultural Los Angeles high school and touching on a wide array of topics (though not, at least in this first season, the war in Vietnam): overcrowded classrooms, outdated pedagogy, economic disparity, global warming, the exploitation of college athletes. History teacher Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes), guidance counselor Liz McIntyre (Denise Nicholas), principal Seymour Kaufman (Michael Constantine), student teacher Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine), and student regulars (Heshimu as Jason Allen, Howard Rice as Richie Lane, Judy Strangis as Helen Loomis) make up an earnest, endearing, sometimes contentious, mostly groovy bunch. ★★★★ (YT)

*

A Damsel in Distress (dir. George Stevens, 1937). Story by P.G. Wodehouse, music by George and Ira Gershwin, with Fred Astaire as an American entertainer (what else?) in London. There’s a love interest (Joan Fontaine), who has just one, barely one, dance with Fred. The fireworks kick in when Astaire dances with his press agent and his secretary, George Burns and Gracie Allen, first in a manor house (“Put Me to the Test”), then in a fun house (“Stiff Upper Lip”). The grand finale: “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” with Astaire dancing and playing a drum kit (with both hands and feet). ★★★★ (TCM)

*

The Flight That Disappeared (dir.Reginald Le Borg, 1961). “This whole business has a strange, abnormal ring,” says an airline exec. Indeed, it has the feel of a Twlight Zone effort, with a Rod Serling-like nobility of purpose: to warn against the peril of nuclear weapons. The acting is passable; the sets are low-budget; but the story is imaginative, even daring. And now I know that men’s hats went on the shelf above the seats, where the pillows were kept: “May I take your hat?” asks a flight attendant. ★★★ (YT)

*

I’ve Lived Before (dir. Richard Bartlett, 1956). First it’s 1918; then it’s 1931; then it’s modern times: and it’s all about a commercial pilot who’s convinced he’s the reincarnation of a WWI pilot. Jock Mahoney is the pilot; John McIntire is the psychiatrist presiding over his care; their exchanges are soporific. The big flaw: there’s no sense of eerieness here, just too many dull conversations. Ann Harding’s dignified, understated performance as the WWI pilot’s sweetheart walks away with the movie. ★★ (YT)

*

It Happens Every Thursday (dir. Joseph Pevney, 1953). Capraesque comedy: a New York couple, Jane and Bob MacAvoy (Loretta Young and John Forsythe) buy a dinky newspaper in Eden, California, and wouldn’t you know it, lots of things go wrong — one of which is that the press breaks down every Thursday. Jane is plucky and quick-thinking; Bob is hardworking and cheerful. A great number of familiar faces make for an appealing cast: Edgar Buchanan, Jimmy Conlin, Jane Darwell, Gladys George, Frank McHugh, Regis Toomey, Willard Waterman, Eddy Waller (yes, we watch a lot of older movies). I reached a Capracorn breaking point seeing Jane and Bob’s new baby, “Sister,” nestled in an open file cabinet, and I watched in fear that the movie would end with Jane and Bob realizing — gosh! — that they had forgotten to give her a name. ★★★ (YT)

*

Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (dir. Lizzie Gottlieb, 2022). A writer and editor, talking about and working out their almost-fifty-year collaboration. Wonderful stuff: a search for a pencil, a search in a margin for the best word, arguments about semicolons, a tower of manuscript pages, a brief discourse about the catalogue of ships in the Iliad (which inspired a passage in The Power Broker ), a visit to the daunting archives of the LBJ Presidential Library, a massive multipage outline thumbtacked to a corkboard that fills a wall. The best moment: writer and editor at work, with mics off — because the work is private. A bonus: music by Olivier and Clare Machon (both formerly of Clare and the Reasons). ★★★★ (YT)

*

Modern Romance (dir. Albert Brooks, 1981). Albert Brooks is Robert Cole, a film editor whose major professional accomplishment in the movie’s 133 minutes is dubbing louder footsteps as George Kennedy runs through the corridor of a spaceship. The movie charts the course of Robert’s relationship with Mary Harvard (Kathryn Harrold), a bank executive who seems to be miles ahead of him in maturity. A funny, sad picture of male insecurity and mistrust. As Elaine wondered, is this what men are really like? ★★★★ (CC)

*

Conspirator (dir. Victor Saville, 1949). It’s like a cross between Jane Austen and Alfred Hitchcock: Melinda Greyton (Elizabeth Taylor), a young American abroad, sits at a London gathering, waiting to be asked to dance; a dashing somewhat older man, Michael Curran (Robert Taylor), a major in the British army, steps into the room; and marriage follows. In the Austen world, that would be the end of the story, but here it’s the beginning, with Melinda’s playful spirit coming up against her husband’s odd absences and unpredictable moments of anger. As the movie’s title suggests, this major harbors a dark secret. Strong overtones of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, with discovery, danger, and a lie to preserve a status quo. ★★★★ (TCM)

*

Crime Unlimited (dir. Ralph Ince, 1935). A new recruit to Scotland Yard (Esmond Knight) goes undercover to infiltrate the Maddick gang, jewel thieves flourishing in London. Nothing especially original in the story, but there’s atmosphere abounding, with dark rooms, glaring lights, odd camera angles, a glamorous Russian (Lili Palmer) who may or may not be trustworthy, and a criminal mastermind seen only as a hand over a chessboard. When the mastermind reveals himself, it’s like seeing Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse. But it’s the Hitchcock influence that carries the day and makes the movie watching. ★★★ (TCM)

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

Monday, May 29, 2023

Recently updated

Succession and poetry Now with a thought about the John Berryman titles.

Books UnBanned

An initiative from the Brooklyn Public Library: Books UnBanned, “to help teens combat the negative impact of increased censorship and book bans in libraries across the country.” Books UnBanned offers readers between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one, anywhere in the United States, a year’s free access to the BPL’s e-books and audiobooks.

Nick Higgins, Chief Librarian:

Brooklyn Public Library stands firmly against censorship and for the principles of intellectual freedom — the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. Limiting access or providing one-sided information is a threat to democracy itself.
Young readers should know about this offer. Please spread the word.

Don’t like a library book?

From Take action for libraries, a handy step-by-step guide: “What do I do if I don't like a book at the library?”

Memorial Day

[“Evacuees of Japanese ancestry attending Memorial Day services at Manzanar, California, a War Relocation authority center — Boy Scouts and American Legion members participating in the services appear in the foreground.” 1942. From the Library of Congress. Click for a larger view.]

It’s an extraordinary image: people participating in the forms of the culture that has consigned them to a concentration camp. It’s the perennial question of what it means to love a country that doesn’t love you back, and that blurs your imprisonment with the delicate word evacuees.

Nine Japanese immigrants went down with the US Maine in 1898. More than 800 Japanese immigrants and nisei served during World War I. An estimated 33,000 Japanese Americans served in World War II; approximately 800 died. More about their service here and here.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

A despedida, Marie Elisabeth

[137 Franklin Street, Finn Square, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Are Marie Elisabeth sardines the best? They’re still around, but I’ve never seen them, much less tasted them. The Portuguese Canning Industry Digital Museum has fifty-six package designs for the company’s sardines and anchovies, which suggests, if not “best,” then certainly “ubiquitous.”

The single-story building on the corner was torn down sometime before April 2009. A Google Maps photograph shows slight traces of letters still visible. Since 2011, a “boutique building” (six stories, three apartments) has stood on the corner. A 2012 New York Times article has more about the history of Finn Square.

A despedida, Marie Elisabeth.

Thanks, Brian.

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

Succession and poetry

From Andrew Epstein’s blog Locus Solus: Succession, Jeremy Strong, and Frank O’Hara.

Also with John Berryman: did you know that the the final episode of each season of Succession takes its title from Berryman’s “Dream Song 29”?

*

Having watched the show’s final episode, I tend to think that the primary purpose of the Berryman quotations is to add yet another layer of literariness to the proceedings — to deepen the veneer, so to speak. As when Mad Men invoked Frank O’Hara’s poem “Mayakovsky,” I think that the Berryman invocations here amount to much of nothing.

[“Much of nothing”: a favorite fambly phrase from the early years.]

George Maharis (1928–2023)

George Maharis, Buz Murdock of Route 66, has died at the age of ninety-four. The Hollywood Reporter has an obituary.

After watching all of Route 66 in 2013, Elaine and I wrote fan letters to George Maharis and Martin Milner. Here’s one of them:

Dear Mr. Maharis,

We spent a good part of April, May, and June watching the complete run of Route 66 on DVD. We’re writing to thank you — fifty years late — for the terrific work you did as Buz Murdock. We greatly enjoyed the series’s writing, camerawork, and, especially, the acting. Among our favorite Buz-centric episodes are “The Mud Nest” and “Even Stones Have Eyes.” We especially like Buz’s insistent optimism and willingness to believe in people, as when he tells the dancer Rosemarie Brown (Elizabeth Seal), “I see a champion.”

It is amazing to see a series that can range from tragedy to comedy, even slapstick, while always making room for fisticuffs, poetry, and progressive jazz. We’re both in our fifties — too young to have paid attention to Route 66 the first time around, but old enough now to realize how great the series was.

All best wishes,
And George Maharis wrote back.

*

The New York Times now has an obituary.

Related reading
All OCA Route 66 posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Steve Mossberg, and it’s ultra-difficult. I made a good start with 33-D, six letters, “Tighten up, perhaps,” whose last letter gave me a good guess for 32-A, thirteen letters, “Sidewalk café patron, perhaps.” The stickiest parts of this puzzle: the northeast and southwest corners. I had to plug in four or five letters to get the southwest corner. Marone!

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, five letters, “Nothing to worry about.” Just pleasingly clever.

4-D, nine letters, “Small sums.” Not a plural you see very often.

6-D, ten letters, “French fashion.” I had the answer, though I’d long forgotten what it means.

28-A, thirteen letters, “High-tech plants.” The first in a stepped stack of thirteen-letter answers. 32-A is the second.

24-A, thirteen letters, “Rigid reminder.” The third in that stack.

24-D, ten letters, “24th century teakettle.” I’m sure that this clue is meant as a giveaway, but I thought it must have to do with ancient China.

30-D, nine letters, “Racing vehicles.” Only mildly misdirective.

43-D, four letters, “Sphere sliced for snacking.” Not an OREO, though that’s one way to eat them.

47-A, seven letters, “Touch technology.” I just like the word.

55-A, five letters, “Literary heavens.” Why do crossword clues so often make the literary or poetic synonymous with archaisms and stilted contractions? EEN, OER, ORB, &c.

Ugliest row of answers in the puzzle: 36-A, three letters, “The Chesapeake, to geologists”; 37-A, four letters, “Botanical branches”; 38-A, three letters, “Union returnee, Jun. 1868.” (That silly “Jun.” — because there has to be an abbreviation.)

My favorite in this puzzle: 18-D, eight letters, “Encouraging words.” In the American grain.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 26, 2023

A teaching moment

I sometimes taught Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues” (take two) in intro poetry classes. Its imagery, economy of means, and emotional intensity make the song an extraordinary piece of poetry. (Here are the lyrics.)

The singer begins by going to a crossroads and falling to his knees, pleading for God to save him. He then stands and tries to flag a ride. Vehicles go by; he doesn’t move. He notices the sun sinking down and asks someone else to carry a message to his friend-boy Willie Brown: “Lord, that I’m standin’ at the crossroads babe, I believe I’m sinkin’ down.” He’s still standing, but he feels that he’s sinking. Standing at a crossroads, which seems to promise horizontal movement, he, like the sun, is moving downward.

One time after I played Johnson’s recording, a student in the front row said “You should’ve played Cream.” I smiled and asked, “Where do you think they got it?”

Related reading
All OCA Robert Johnson posts (Pinboard)

[A friend-boy is a male friend. The lyrics of Cream’s “Crossroads,” with their Rosedale choruses, seem incoherent by comparison. And yes, in teaching “Cross Road Blues” I took the opportunity to talk about sundown towns. And no, Robert Johnson did not go to a crossroads to sell his soul to the devil.]

Icicles, shrimp, and tamales

From Mack McCormick’s Biography of a Phantom: A Robert Johnson Blues Odyssey, ed. John Troutman (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2023):

From a pile of old road maps I’d found in a used bookstore, I dug out a Standard Oil map published in 1942. This one conveniently put Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi — plus a corner of Tennessee — on the same sheet. It covered everything from Memphis down to New Orleans, and it showed the roads substantially as they were in Johnson’s lifetime. I devised a code for marking the map: a red triangle for a place mentioned in the songs, a black circle for a town that he was said to have frequented, an abbreviated note that would lead me back to the source, and some cryptic symbols indicating my own hunch as to how trustworthy each entry might be.

I started with the primary clues: the places Johnson had sung about. He’d mentioned eleven towns: Chicago, East Monroe, Friars Point, Gulfport, Hot Springs, Memphis, Norfolk, Rosedale, Vicksburg, West Helena, and West Memphis. Three states: Arkansas, California, and Tennessee. Three nations: China, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. And two transportation lines: Greyhound and the “Gulfport Island Road.” In addition, there were three words from which some geographic inferences could be drawn: icicles, shrimp, and tamales.

It wasn’t a long list, only twenty-two items in all.
This passage gives some sense of the book, which is, in truth, not a biography but an account of the writer’s detective-like pursuit of the facts of Robert Johnson’s life. As the editor points out, McCormick was given to considerable fabulation, so it’s difficult to think that everything presented here as fact is fact (especially the astonishing elements of chance that lead to some of McCormick’s discoveries). And there’s much that could be here that’s missing: material gathered from two of Johnson’s sisters is omitted, a decision the Smithsonian made in light of McCormick’s shamelessly dishonest dealings with the women. And here’s a spoiler: an editor’s endnote says there is no evidence that McCormick identified and interviewed Johnson’s killer. For years, McCormick claimed that he couldn’t publish his work until the guilty party was dead.

The best moment, which I hope has a basis in reality, though there are no photographs here to document it: a listening party of sorts, with McCormick playing the 1961 compilation LP King of the Delta Blues Singers for men and women who had last heard Johnson sing and play thirty-odd years before.

My next reading: Annye C. Anderson’s Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson (with Preston Lauterbach), by the sister McCormick didn’t interview. But first I’m going to listen to the recordings.

Related reading
All OCA Robert Johnson posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Sill bitar after all these years

[Click for a larger view.]

Fresca sent this photograph. Thanks, Fresca. The jar is holding buttons.

Sill bitar is Swedish for “herring pieces.” And yes, sill bitar after all these years: Noon Hour Food Products has been at it since 1876.

[Herring today, sardines Sunday, in the form of an NYC tax photograph.]

A dictionary in progress

Aunt Hagar’s children, bussin, cakewalk, chitterlings, grill, kitchen, old school, pat, Promised Land, ring shout : ten entries from the Oxford Dictionary of African American English, in progress.

A New York Times article has the words, their definitions, and background about the project.

A related post
The ODAAE

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Gray’s Papaya’s Nicholas Gray

The New York Times has an obituary for Nicholas Gray, the Gray of Gray’s Papaya.

Gray’s Papaya is a wonderful place to stop if you’re in Manhattan. And yes, “you chew standing.”

About reading

Catherine Rampell, writing in The Washington Post :

Amid debates about how children will process texts invoking racism or sexual identity, a much more basic question plagues our educational system: whether children can process texts, period.
And:
It is disheartening that the culture wars have come for not just lesson plans but librarians, too. Librarians are instrumental in promoting literacy. They guide students toward texts that will absorb and engage them. They nudge kids toward books, films, periodicals and online resources that will answer burning, sometimes embarrassing questions.

Perhaps most important, they teach children how to critically evaluate the credibility of their sources — not only the tomes on library shelves but also whatever they might find in the Wild West of TikTok and Reddit, where protective parents are less able to gate-keep.

Call me old-school, but maybe we should devote less energy to limiting what kids are reading and more to whether they can read at all.
Related reading
A few OCA Sold a Story posts

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

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

*

The answer is now in the comments.

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

I’ve just seen a face


Related reading
All OCA pareidolia posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

When writers go on strike

What? From The New York Times:

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is planning to announce the start of his 2024 presidential campaign on Wednesday in a live audio conversation on Twitter with Elon Musk, the platform’s polarizing owner, according to people with knowledge of his plans.
That’s the kind of laughably crappy storyline you’re left with when writers go on strike.

Mimestream out of beta

Mimestream, the great Gmail client for Mac, is out of beta and thus no longer available for free. I’ve been using Mimestream since November 2021. As I wrote back then, “I plan to pay for the app when it goes to market, even (so help me) if it’s available only by subscription.” It is now available by subscription only, and I have kept my word.

“The three-ring kind”

Steven Millhauser, “The Sledding Party,” in In the Penny Arcade (1986).

Pretzels turn up here and there in Steven Millhauser’s fiction: rods, sticks, and (elsewhere) three-ringers. I think of them as a marker of mid-century American life, like plaid thermoses and transistor radios. One of the books on Edwin Mullhouse’s bookshelf when he’s two and three: The Little Pretzel Who Had No Salt.

Here is the pretzel form that young Catherine is missing:

[Life, March 8, 1968. Click for a larger, saltier view.]

Raise your hand if you remember when pretzels came in waxed-paper bags enclosed in carboard boxes. Raise your hand if you remember when “salty” was a selling point.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Alembic, humph

[New York Times Spelling Bee, May 23, 2023.]

I thought that alembic would be one of today’s pangrams. “Not in word list,” says the Bee. Humph.

Merriam-Webster has it covered: “an apparatus used in distillation,” “something that refines or transmutes as if by distillation.” There’s even an illustration.

Sample sentence: “I thought that alembic would be one of today’s pangrams.”

Monday, May 22, 2023

“Reachable by rowboat”

The New Dressler is no ordinary hotel.

Steven Millhauser, Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (1996).

If this description piques your interest, read the novel and discover the wonders of Martin Dressler’s next hotel, the Grand Cosmo.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

A word of a day: gamut

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day yesterday was gamut. Dig its origin:

The first note on the scale of Guido d’Arezzo, an 11th century musician and monk who had his own way of applying syllables to musical tones, was ut. D’Arezzo also called the first line of his bass staff gamma, which meant that gamma ut was the term for a note written on the first staff line. In time, gamma ut underwent a shortening to gamut, and later its meaning expanded first to cover all the notes of d’Arezzo’s scale, then to cover all the notes in the range of an instrument, and, eventually, to cover an entire range of any sort.
The American Heritage Dictionary entry for gamut provides a helpful gloss on ut :
first word in a Latin hymn to Saint John the Baptist, the initial syllables of successive lines of which were sung to the notes of an ascending scale CDEFGA: Ut queant laxis re sonare fibris Mi ra gestorum fa muli tuorum, Sol ve polluti la bii reatum, Sancte Iohannes.
A Wikipedia article about the hymn “Ut queant laxis” has much more, including the addition of the note si, later ti, a drink with jam and bread.

On a related note: here are Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder, and Van Dyke Parks, performing Woody Guthrie’s Do Re Mi.

[Too late: after writing this post, I discovered that gamut was the subject of a less detailed 2005 OCA post. I’ve capitalized the name d’Arezzo in the second sentence of the passage from Merriam-Webster. From The Chicago Manual of Style, 8.5, “Names with particles”: “When the surname is used alone, the particle is usually (but not always) retained, capitalized or lowercased and spaced as in the full name (though always capitalized when beginning a sentence or a note).”]

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Horse fail

In the aftermath of the Preakness Stakes, many references in the news to a horse failing a drug test. To my ear, that’s like saying that a car failed a sobriety test. It would make better sense to say that a horse was given or injected with a banned substance. It’s the owners or trainers who failed the horse.

Grim, grey, unaffordable

[829–849 39th Street, Sunset Park, Brooklyn. c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click any image for a much larger view.]

The archives say 38th Street, but in fact it’s 39th, between 8th and 9th Avenues, not far from New Utrecht Avenue. I like this grim, grey assortment of buildings and think all four of these photographs belong in one post.

Can you spot the mysterious figure in one of the photographs? Gotta click through.

By 1943, Allied Builders Supply Corp. had run into difficulty with creditors. In the 1980s, its address, 829–833, was still home to a building supply business, whose tax photo is far too blurry to yield a name. Today, 829–833 houses a Holiday Inn Express and a condo development. No more auto wrecking at 839: Model Garage has been at that address since at least the 1980s.

And 849? It still stands as a funky residence, now valued at more than $1.5 million. You begin to understand why we gave up on the idea of retiring to Brooklyn. These photographs are much more affordable.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by “Lester Ruff,” Stan Newman, the puzzle’e editor. It was an easier (less rough) Stumper, but that didn’t stop me from missing by one square, at the intersection of 34-D, four letters, “It means ‘little’” and 42-A, twelve letters, “Emma Watson’s Little Women sister.”

The problem (for me): there are two equally plausible possibilities for 34-D, and if you don’t know how to spell the name of Emma Watson’s Little Women sister — that is, the name of the actor who plays that sister — you might have already dropped in the wrong four-letter answer, as I saw I had when I checked the grid. I’m not sure if that intersection is a deliberately tricky spot or an oversight, but I’m going to offer (in the comments) what I think is a better (fairer) 34-D clue.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, eight letters, “Earned C’s.” Clever, especially as the first six letters might leave you wondering what else to add. My favorite in this puzzle.

1-D, four letters, “Android ancestors.” I remember mine somewhat fondly.

5-D, three letters and 57-A, eight letters, “Spiritual leader’s resource.” I don’t get either answer.

6-D, seven letters, “Second shots.” Takes me back.

7-D, six letters, “Word from the Greek for ‘milk.’” I learned it from a friend not long ago.

15-A, eight letters, “Cleaner named for its ‘round-the-clock’ value.” Cleaner? Eww.

29-D, six letters, “Biblical commissioner.” Heh.

52-D, four letters, “Galileo’s ‘sunlight, held together by water.’” I took a (good) guess.

61-A, six letters, “Head rest in the Beatles’ ‘Octopus’s Garden.’” Whaddaya know? The word is indeed in the lyrics.

62-A, eight letters, “Request for inspirational assistance.” I thought this clue must be a pun about breathing.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.