Tuesday, January 31, 2023

“We clearly f-ed this one up”

“We clearly f-ed this one up and it’s being fixed”: in New York City, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Communications Director Tim Minton comments on a mispelling of Georgia O’Keeffe’s name in stone. Just a single f .

Related reading
All OCA misspelling posts (Pinboard)

From an interview with Bryan Garner

From Oxford University Press: Sarah Butcher interviews Bryan Garner, “the least stuffy grammarian around.” She asks how it happened that the teenaged Garner fell in love with books of English usage:

You’re asking me to psychoanalyze myself? Okay, it’s true. When I was four, in 1962, my grandfather used Webster’s Second New International Dictionary as my booster seat. I started wondering what was in that big book.

Then, in 1974, when I was 15, one of the most important events of my life took place. A pretty girl in my neighborhood, Eloise, said to me, with big eyes and a smile: “You know, you have a really big vocabulary.” I had used the word facetious, and that prompted her comment.

It was a life-changing moment. I would never be the same.
I will mention again something I’ve mentioned only twice in these pages: I was a member of the panel of critical readers for the recently published fifth edition of Garner’s Modern English Usage.

Related reading
All OCA Bryan Garner posts (Pinboard)

Crafted, baked

I noticed this morning: Pepperidge Farm now packages its bread as “Crafted Baked Goods.” The company is not alone.

Orange Crate Art is not friendly to craft — a vogue word, to be sure. School assignments are crafted. City ordinances are crafted. Movies are crafted — from scratch. The vitamin and mineral supplement Airborne is crafted, specially crafted. Poems of course are not just crafted but well-crafted. And some baked goods are handcrafted. No doubt from scratch.

Monday, January 30, 2023

“Most valuble”

I don’t follow sports, but I do follow misspelling.

Related reading
All OCA misspelling posts (Pinboard)

Screenshots from streaming services

It’s become increasingly difficult — or impossible — to get a screenshot from a film or TV show shown via a streaming service. In Safari the result is a black box. It’s reasonable for streaming services to want to defeat thieves, but fair use tilts strongly in favor of screenshots. How else is one to get stills with mystery actors, pocket notebooks, and telephone exchange names?

Two Chrome extensions that (still) work: FireShot and GoFullPage. Screenshot Tool no longer works. I’m using FireShot and GoFullPage with Brave (I don’t use Chrome), but I assume that they are working with Chrome as well.

Related posts
Screenshots and fair use : Streaming screenshots

Get back Blogger Quick Edit

If you use Blogger and miss the pencil icon that once let you edit posts on the fly, here’s a simple way to get it back. Save the code as a bookmarklet or call it up with a keyboard shortcut. I think bqe is a good choice, so long as you don’t do a lot of writing about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

[Found via Too Clever by Half.]

Use by

Useful stuff from The New York Times: “The Food Expiration Dates You Should Actually Follow.” And there’s always the exhaustive site Eat By Date.

One thing I don’t understand: the Times says that “Mustard lasts forever.” Eat By Date says one or more years (except for homemade mustard). But mustard often has a rapidly approaching “Best by” date on the container. Is that merely a ploy to sell more mustard?

Sauce from a jar?

The Washington Post tests twelve marinara sauces. The winner costs $10.49 for twenty-four ounces. Questo è pazzesco!

As the Post acknowledges, you can also make your own sauce. They offer a recipe.

I’ve been making sauce since 2010. It’s ridiculously easy, and I would bet that anyone’s homemade sauce would be better than any sauce from a jar. If I’m wrong about that, I’d prefer not to know.

Here’s a recipe I use. Here’s another, much simpler one for Coppola/“Godfather” sauce.

And here’s another more elaborate preparation, from Catherine Scorcese, filmed by her son Martin.

Sunday, January 29, 2023


In today’s Los Angeles Times crossword, by Brian Thomas and Brooke Husic, the clue for 34-A, “Ellington composition,” is wildly off. The answer: RAG. No, just no.

It’s true that the earliest Duke Ellington composition is “Soda Fountain Rag,” but to identify Ellington as a composer of rags is to be, no pun intended, clueless.

It’s curious to me how crosswords seem to go awry about jazz. E.g., identifying Jelly Roll Morton as a SCAT singer, identifying Mel TORME as a “cool jazz pioneer.” No, just no.

Related reading
All OCA Ellington posts (Pinboard)

[Typing with at least — at least — 200 Ellington LPs and CDs in the room.]

Today’s Nancy

Olivia Jaimes continues to reinvent the Sunday strip.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Bronx games

I found the first of these photographs traveling up Fordham Road in Street View of 1940s New York. I found the second by searching for the block and lot numbers in the archive of Bronx 1940s Tax Photos.

This recreational area (no address) stood near the intersection of West Fordham Road and University Avenue. It was part of the Old Croton Aqueduct Walk. In the first photograph, the building in the far distance is 2406 University Avenue.

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

When I typed the block and lot numbers into the archive, I was surprised to see that those are horseshoe players behind the shuffleboarders. Is that a bocce court in the middle? No, just wishful thinking, I think.

Notice too that there’s lots of laundry hanging to dry.

Here’s much more about the remaining traces of the Croton Aqueduct. No games, no laundry at West Fordham Road and University Avenue these days.

Related reading
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives : Bocce in Brooklyn

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Steve Mossberg, is a challenge, the northwest territory in particular. 1-D, four letters, “Sound like ‘Grrr!’”? Yes, exactly. But I got it.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, nine letters, “Skewered then served.” I have eaten many a kebab. But this term is new to me.

8-D, five letters, “Name on Perfectly Moist mixes.” Perfectly moist? Ideally damp? Eww.

11-D, ten letters, “Password, from the Bible.” My starting point, learned from a podcast.

17-A, ten letters, “Sizable print makers.” Pretty Stumpery.

24-A, five letters, “Doing what's dignified.” This clue's syntax is off, just off.

27-D, ten letters, “Part of the Boston Celtics logo.” I can’t believe I spelled it correctly on a first try.

29-D, ten letters, “How foxgloves flower.” Eh, not quite, Michael.

29-A, five letters, “Toon bearded brawny bully.” Everything old is new again.

39-A, four letters, “Swamp thing.” LOL.

44-A, three letters, “What’s left.” Ouch.

64-A, nine letters, “Omission of conjunctions in prose.” My first thought was PARATAXIS, a word I cherish from my first acquaintance with modernist poetry, but no — that'd be an answer in a dream.

My favorite in this puzzle: 56-D, four letters, “Brooklyn, briefly.” Represent.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, January 27, 2023

“No mother”

“No mother, no mother — no mother — should go through what I’m going through right now”: RowVaughn Wells, whose son Tyre Nichols died after being beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee. From a press conference earlier this afternoon.


In the novel it’s just Rapolski’s. But let’s call it what it is: a candy store.

Steven Millhauser, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard) : What’s a candy store?

Domestic comedy


“No, chasm rice.”

I wanted to give Elaine credit, but as she pointed out, I labeled the jar some time ago. Blame it on the “Summer Breeze.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, January 26, 2023

“Fascinating implements”

Visiting the seven-year-old artist Edward Penn, who lives in a room in the heated basement of his parents’ house and doesn’t go to school.

Steven Millhauser, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972).

Edwin will later remark that only three of his contemporaries exercised an influence on his life: Rose Dorn, Arnold Hasselstrom, and Edward Penn, the last of whom was the only one to leave a lasting mark. “Oh,” Edwin adds, “and you too, Jeffrey.”

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

[That last fascinating implement seems to join several French curves to a template for drawing shapes. Can such an implement be found outside Edward Penn’s basement?]

Forty years

From There’s Always Tomorrow (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1955. Norma Vale (Barbara Stanwyck) is speaking to Clifford Groves (Fred MacMurray):

“The only reality is twenty years of Clifford Groves as a husband and as a father, twenty years of my being a career woman with an eye to design and merchandising.”
A related post
A four-sentence review

Footnoting Zippy

There are many big coffee pots. The one in today’s Zippy looks like the one in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Easy? Not easy? I’m not sure. Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if one is needed.

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

“My Bathroom”

An ode to solitude: Sid Siegel’s “My Bathroom,” from the industrial musical The Bathrooms are Coming! (1969), sung by Patt Stanton Gjonola. Featured in the documentary Bathtubs Over Broadway (dir. Dava Whisenant, 2018).

For anyone who has to hear it, the cast recording of the musical is at archive.org.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Martins and Child

Seeing as our household has had Julia Child on the brain, I reread a piece of fan-fiction I wrote a few years ago: “Bon Appétit!” It’s about Julia Child visiting the Martins — as in Paul, Ruth, Timmy, and Lassie. Oh, and Uncle Petrie.

My one regret: when I wrote the story, I didn’t know that Julia Child’s husband was named Paul. That would have made a nice bit of conversation: “Mrs. Martin, I hope you agree that Pauls make extremely good husbands.”

Vegan options

“Julian, you need to add some vegan options to your business plan”: I think the writers were having fun. From The Great Holiday Bake War, a story of love and desserts. It’s on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), but it out-Hallmarks Hallmark.

Twelve movies

[Oops: make that eleven movies and one series. One to four stars. Four sentences each. No spoilers. Sources: Criterion Channel, HBO Max, Netflix, OWN, TCM, YouTube.]

Daisies (dir. Vera Chytilová, 1966). It’s no. 27 on the Sight & Sound list, between Shoah and Taxi Driver — and I think again about the absurdity of lists. Two attractive, stylish young women, both named Marie (Ivana Karbanová and Jitka Cerhová, neither of whom had ever acted) conclude that everything is bad, and thus they too will be bad. They smash cakes, and they smash the patriarchy, or bits and pieces of it, luring men and dropping them. A wildly transgressive movie, with strong elements of montage and silent-film comedy. ★★★★ (CC)


The Great Holiday Bake War (dir. Lisa France, 2022). We made this our one formulaic holiday movie this season, so bad/good that after catching the second hour by chance, we went back for the first: Brianna and Julian (LeToya Luckett and Finesse Mitchell), baking-school rivals who hooked up — just once — in their student days, now find themselves competing in a televised dessert bake-off (which has one judge and a three-week run). The principals do their best with a script so bad that I swear you can see Mitchell cringing as he speaks some of his lines. Sub-plots bring in Julian’s snoot-baker mom (Arlene Duncan), a guitar hero and absent dad (Colton Royce), and Brianna’s brainy twelve-year-old (Naomi Sogbein), who’s just been accepted to a posh school. But gosh, where will Brianna ever get the money to make her daughter’s attendance a reality? ★★ (OWN)


The Woman in White (dir. Peter Godfrey, 1948). From the novel by Wilkie Collins. A complex and confusing plot, with jewels, poison, and look-alike cousins: it was almost like trying to follow The Big Sleep, and like The Big Sleep, it might best be watched for the atmosphere and the acting: John Abbott as an invalid aesthete, Eleanor Parker in a dual role as the cousins, Agnes Moorehead as a nearly silent wife, Sydney Greenstreet as, well, Sydney Greenstreet, or Kasper Gutman. ★★★★ (TCM)


Titicut Follies (dir. Fred Wiseman, 1967). Life and death at Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. I hadn’t seen this documentary in decades, and I was surprised to find that so many images and bits of dialogue were stuck in my memory: a mad monologue, like something out of Lear or Godot; a former high-school teacher, naked, stomping the floor of his empty cell as he’s tormented by guards; the manically cheerful guard who presides over a talent show (one must wonder if he is secretly insane); the doctor who is never without a cigarette, even as he scrapes Vaseline from a nearly empty jar to lubricate a tube used for force-feeding. The nightmarish conditions take on new significance in light of the abuses of Abu Ghraib. And guess what — life at Bridgewater is still bad. ★★★★ (TCM)


Julia (created by Daniel Goldfard, 2022). This series maps the rise of Julia Child, from novice cook to accomplished cook to cookbook co-author to television novice to national star. The cast is terrific: Sarah Lancashire as Child, stopping well short of anything close to parody; David Hyde Pierce as occasionally resentful but always again supportive Paul Child; Bebe Neuwirth as best friend Avis DeVoto; Brittany Bradford as WGBH associate producer Alice Naman. And the ambience is right, with proper clothing, furnishings, office supplies. What I don’t like: the effort to make the story of Julia Child appear relevant not on its own terms but via invented story elements: a Black woman (Naman) fighting to be heard at WGBH; a Smith alum who realizes that she’s lesbian thanks to sharing a blanket with Julia; a confrontation with Betty Friedan at a public-television gala; a visit to a gay bar with James Beard, where Child joins a Child impersonator on stage for “It Had to Be You” (no, it didn’t). ★★★ (HBO)


Julia (dir. Julie Cohen and Betsy West, 2021). From the directors of RBG. Permit me to be a killjoy and suggest that this documentary, with great archival clips, is a much better way to learn about Julia Child (and Paul). It’s especially helpful in letting viewers understand the state of home cooking in mid-century America. With José Andrés, Ina Garten, Jacques Pepin, and many beautifully filmed pots and plates. ★★★★ (HBO)


Bathtubs Over Broadway (dir. Dava Whisenant, 2018). A wonderful story of chance and change and obsession. Steve Young, then a writer for David Letterman, was tasked with finding odd LPs for “Dave’s Record Collection” bits. And thus Young discovered the lost world of industrial musicals, which became for him not something to laugh at but something to love: “We’re assembling some version of a picture of America in the twentieth century that had never quite been seen before.” A great documentary about a form of entertainment never meant to be seen or heard by general audiences, with rare recordings and film clips and conversations and performances with composers and lyricists and performers, including Sheldon Harnick, Florence Henderson, Chita Rivera, and Martin Short, all of whom worked in industrial musicals. ★★★★ (N)


From the Criterion Channel’s Joan Bennett feature

Man Hunt (dir. Fritz Lang, 1941). It’s not yet WWII, and Captain Alan Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon), on a hunting vacation in Germany, comes close to assassinating Adolph Hitler with a long-range rifle. Fast-forward, and Thorndike is back in London, pursued by Nazi agents and finding refuge with a young Cockney of at least semi-dubious character, Jerry Stokes (Joan Bennett). Lots of suspense, strong overtones of The 39 Steps, and especially sinister performances by John Carradine and George Sanders. I want to make it five stars for an amazing scene that pays homage to the Odyssey. ★★★★

There’s Always Tomorrow (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1955). Fred MacMurray is Clifford Groves, a Los Angeles toy-company executive and invisible man: though he’s dedicated to his family, his wife Marion (Joan Bennett) and three children ignore him. When a former employee, Norma Vale (Barbara Stanwyck), now a prominent fashion designer, comes to LA on business and drops by to say hello, Cliff falls, hard, and his routine life begins to look intolerable. Previous MacMurray–Stanwyck efforts (Double Indemnity, Remember the Night) and MacMurray’s future role as a philandering husband in The Apartment make this movie especially interesting to watch. I’d love to show it to a class of undergrads and find out what they think Cliff should do. ★★★★


I Was a Shoplifter (dir. Charles Lamont, 1950). I expected an amusing educational film, a cautionary tale for teens. Instead, I got a story of a gang that seeks out newly apprehended shoplifters, training them for work in other cities. (And exactly why would you choose inept folks for your schemes?) Of some interest: Anthony Curtis (already sounding like Cary Grant) as bad guy Pepe, and Rock Hudson (briefly) as a store detective. ★ (YT)


Before Dawn (dir.Irving Pichel, 1933). The first three scenes look like parts of three different stories: a gangster dies in Vienna; back in the States, an old woman and her housekeeper talk in a big old house; and a young psychic and her father do business in a big city. A hidden fortune is what ties the three parts together. Warner Oland (of countless Charlie Chan movies) is probably the one recognizable actor here, playing an Austrian doctor suddenly transplanted to America. One of many glitches: the young psychic, whose ability we’re invited to take seriously, seems capable of discerning everything but the location of the loot. ★★ (YT)


The Great Sinner (dir. Robert Siodmak, 1949). An adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Gambler. In the 1860s, Fedja (Gregory Peck), a writer, disembarks from a train in Wiesbaden to pursue Pauline (Ava Gardner), the beautiful woman who shared his compartment. Surrounded by gamblers (among them, Pauline’s father, played by Walter Huston), Fedja immerses himself in casino culture, all in the cause of research for his writing, but he soon finds himself a compulsive gambler. Peck is a pretty stolid presence, and Gardner is not, to my mind, an especially expressive actress, but brief turns by Ethel Barrymore and Agnes Moorehead and grim scenes of cards and roulette (with an assortment of compulsive gamblers) add considerable value to the movie. ★★★ (TCM)

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

Monday, January 23, 2023


He’s four.

Steven Millhauser, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972).

“We wake from green dreamed islands to drown in the dark” sounds vaguely like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
Is Jeffrey Cartwright imitating T.S. Eliot?

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard) : Calendar pages in a movie

Shelves, books off the, books on the

Elaine and I scored big at a nearby used-book store this weekend: nine Steven Millhausers. (We need two copies of everything.) We left one In the Penny Arcade on the shelf. It was like going through baseball cards: got it, need it, need it, got it.

The bookseller mentioned that he puts most of the books he buys and reads in the store, knowing that he’s never going to read them again. But, he said, he has a shelf of Steven Millhauser at home — those books stay. And now he’s going to reread Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

[I recently borrowed Dennis Duncan’s Index, A History of the from the library.]

Lorem ipsum

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, &c.: from Jack Shepherd, a close look at the history of Lorem ipsum.

Orange Crate Art has three lorem ipsum posts, one of which shows the dummy text on a now-dead congressman’s house.gov page, where it spelled out his position on health care.

Thanks, Rachel.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Oteris and Marty

Previously on Orange Crate Art:

We visited no. 2376, once the home of Arthur Avenue Noodle & Macaroni Manufacturing. Today we’ll look at the two establishments that once flanked AAN&MM. To the south, the Baccalà Store.

[2374 Arthur Avenue, The Bronx, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Baccalà, salted cod, is a traditional Italian food. No, I’ve never had it.

And just north of AAN&MM, the Oteri Bros. Prime Meat Market.

[2378 Arthur Avenue, The Bronx, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

These photographs would be worth posting for their own sake — they’re beautiful streetscapes. But there’s a bonus.

Danielle Oteri tells some of the Oteri history here and here: her great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Albino and Grazia Oteri, opened the baccalà store in 1918. The Oteris’ son John (Danielle’s uncle) converted the store to a butcher shop post-World War II. Danielle confirms in a Facebook message (thanks, Danielle; thanks, Elaine) that John previously ran a butcher shop for a short time at no. 2378.

The later shop at no. 2374 is the butcher shop in the opening scene of Marty (dir. Delbert Mann, 1955). You can watch here. Look closely and you’ll see the shadow of the street address on the wall.

[Ernest Borgnine as Marty Piletti. Click for a larger view.]

More from Danielle Oteri:

The scenes of Marty working were shot in Oteri’s Butcher Shop. Uncle John had to teach Ernest Borgnine, who also won Best Actor for his performance, how to cut meat, specifically sausage, so that his scenes would be realistic.

Although the screenplay indicates that Marty’s boss was to be named Mr. Gazzara, Uncle John was able to convince them that his name should be used instead, and in the final cut, Marty refers to his boss “Mr. Oteri” at least four times.

In 1980 my Uncle John sold the shop to Peter De Luca, who runs the shop today. Peter has a butcher pedigree as well. He grew up working in his father’s butcher shop on 143rd Street and Morris Avenue. (The current store is named Vincent’s Meat Market in honor of his father.)
Vincent’s Meat Market is still going strong at no. 2374. No. 2378 is now the second-floor residence above the now-defunct Club Fiasco at no. 2376, which took up the storefronts at nos. 2376 and 2378.

You can hear Marty refer to “Mr. Oteri” twice in the scene with Clara (Besty Blair) in the luncheonette and twice in the scene with his cousin Tommy (Jerry Paris) on the Piletti porch. The second (silent) butcher in the opening scene is played by Silvio Minicotti, husband of Esther Minicotti, who plays Marty’s mother Teresa Piletti.

Related posts
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives : A corner in Marty (White Plains Road and E. 211th Street) : Happy birthday, Mr. Piletti (Marty and Clara post-Marty)

And from NYC in Film, a detailed look at various Marty locations, with a photograph of Ernest Borgnine and John Oteri. As Marty would say, Holy cow!

Recently updated

F.H. Knapp Now with the Knapp backstory, a possible future, and crowds watching an automaton at work.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Knives for sale, 70% off

The defeated former president’s faux-Twitter feed is now showing advertisements for switchblade knives, along with advertisements for alternatives to Botox and blood-pressure medication.

Every pane in the Overton window is broken, and the window’s casing has been ripped from the wall and thrown in a dumpster. The dumpster is burning.

[Why do I look at the defeated former president’s faux-Twitter? As a lack-of-wellness check on a dangerous, deranged man. I hit some kind of limit when seeing this advertisement.]

Domestic comedy

“I wonder if anyone has vandalized his Wikipedia page.”

“Don’t you mean ‘vandelayzed’?”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Strange: George Santos’s Wikipedia page seems to be untouched by pranksters. Vandelay, for anyone who needs it: Seinfeld.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, is by the puzzle’s editor, Stan Newman, constructing as “Anna Stiga” (Stan Again), the pseudonym that signals an easier Stumper. The right half of the puzzle — yes, easier. I started with 29-A, five letters, “Chilling” and 12-D, eight letters, “Schubert sacred song” and soon had half of the puzzle done. The left was tougher.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, ten letters, “Brown-orbed breakfast.” This clue gets the puzzle off to a whimsical start. My first thought was WHEATCAKES, but they’re discs, not orbs.

9-D, five letters, “Green toon with a ‘Fairytale’ Baskin-Robbins flavor.” I think most solvers will choose wrongly.

11-A, four letters, “Son of Marge and Homer.” See 9-D.

15-A, then letters, “Newly coined (9/20/22) name in the news.” I’m not sure that the date is right, but I don’t care either.

19-A, three letters, “Key to leave with.” Clever.

22-A, five letters, “Long divisions.” Nicely punning.

23-D, four letters, “‘My dream world is complete Hieronymous Bosch and ___’: Lennon.” My first guess was ACID.

37-D, eight letters, “She first met 15-Across last September 9th.” Oh, her.

41-A, three letters, “Staple of Canadian music education.” I did not know that.

43-A, five letters, “Clamshell, for Neanderthals.” SCOOP? SPOON?

51-D, five letters, “Jazz singer with a damehood.” I had to reach a bit for the name.

62-D, three letters, “What may be found between two dogs.” Stumpery!

One problem: 1-D, six letters, “Introductions to oboe music.” I thought this clue was clever, but Elaine pointed out that it’s mistaken.

My favorite in this puzzle: 25-A, nine letters, “About a third of 1/2.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, January 20, 2023

“That bright August morning”

Jeffrey Cartwright recalls first meeting Edwin Mullhouse.

Steven Millhauser, Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943–1954, by Jeffrey Cartwright (1972).

The date: August 9, 1943. Edwin was nine days old. Jeffrey was six months and three days.

Elaine and I finished the novel a few days ago. We’re reading all of Steven Millhauser and are crazy happy to know that a new book of short stories, Disruptions (Knopf), is coming out in August.

Also from Steven Millhauser
From Martin Dressler : Also from Martin Dressler

Domestic comedy

[The television was on.]

“Unfortunately, this guy is a total bore.”


Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, January 19, 2023

David Crosby (1941–2023)

The New York Times has an obituary.

[I went looking for this 2019 performance of “Long Time Gone” but it seems to have disappeared.]

F.H. Knapp

[“Stafford Ink window display at F.H. Knapp.” 146 Hamilton Place, New York City, June 3, 1914. Photograph by William Dabis Hassler. From the New-York Historical Society. Click for a larger view.]

This photograph must be the largest image I’ve ever posted. So click, I say. Click for a much larger view. It’s an extraordinary window.

The automaton therein couldn’t be appearing at a better time: Elaine and I are reading through Steven Millhauser’s fiction, all of it, and just finished “August Eschenburg,” a long short story about a maker of increasingly fabulous automatons.

F.H. Knapp sold his business in 1920. As Reich & Schrift, the store, still a stationery store, was still in business c. 1939–1941. Here’s the tax photo to prove it. Hamilton Place is still there in Upper Manhattan. There is no no. 146 today.


January 22: On June 3, 1914, a crowd gathered (at the photographer’s invitation?) to watch the automaton at work:

[“Crowds admiring the Stafford Ink window display at F.H. Knapp.” 146 Hamilton Place, New York City, June 3, 1914. Photograph by William Dabis Hassler. From the New-York Historical Society. Click for a larger view.]

Here’s a little more about F.H. Knapp. From The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer, February 8, 1908:

The Century Co. was the publisher of the celebrated Century Dictionary.

In its September 1921 issue, Typewriter Trade Journal and the Office System reported that Mr. Knapp was thinking of reentering the stationery business. He was then living at 500 W. 144th Street, right next to his former store. The September 25, 1921 issue of The Modern Stationer and Book-Seller has an advertisement that he placed:

My few thousand dollars, experience and business reputation in book and stationery business would make a genuine asset in starting business. A grand chance for some one in a similar position to double up with me and establish a first-class, profitable business. I want to connect with party familiar with commercial stationery, printing, engraving, die stamping and kindred articles; kodaks, artists' supples, books, greeting cards, etc. if you have an equipment — good! Or capital and experience, that will do. A trade following and capital would be interesting. F. H. Knapp, 500 West 144th street, New York City.
Related reading
All OCA stationery posts (Pinboard)

[Photographs of F.H. Knapp’s and info on his 1921 plans shared by a generous reader. Thanks, reader.]

Footnoting Zippy

Today’s Zippy, “Hearing Things,” looks at and listens to roadside attractions.

The Big Duck — “Quack!” — is in Flanders, New York.

Our great nation houses many giant chickens and roosters. The bird in today’s Zippy — “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” — looks as if it might be this one, which once stood in Byron Center, Michigan. The page with the photo says chicken, but the photograph’s URL says rooster.

There’s only one Haines Shoe House. It’s in York, Pennsylvania. I’ve passed it dozens of times driving on I-70. Elaine has pointed out that the shoe house is nowhere near I-70. But I know I‘ve seen it. How? When? Dunno. If I see it again, will slow down, roll down the window, and listen carefully — “Florsheim!”

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Finding Your Roots

With Henry Louis Ga Gary Larson.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

More ChatGPT fails

Excerpts from text generated by the prompt “Write a 500-word analysis of.”

John Ashbery, “What Is Poetry”:

Ashbery writes that “poetry is a language that speaks to the soul,” suggesting that poetry is a way of expressing emotions and ideas that cannot be conveyed through more conventional forms of communication. He also writes that “poetry is the voice of the ages,” suggesting that poetry is a way of connecting with the past and with the collective human experience.
Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”:
The theme of loss is further developed in the third stanza, where the speaker describes different types of losses such as “a you, or a night, or a home” which are all things that can be lost, but not necessarily things that can’t be replaced. The fourth stanza describes the loss of a “shifting, floating city” which is a metaphor for something that is not tangible and can’t be replaced. These examples are intended to show that the speaker understands that there are different types of losses, and that some are more difficult to accept than others.
Emily Dickinson, 764 [My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun]:
In the fourth stanza, the speaker describes how their power is “the engine of my heart” and how they are “the tongue of my power.” The use of the metaphor of the engine and the tongue suggests that the speaker’s power is something that drives them and gives them voice. This stanza also implies that the speaker’s power is something that is a part of their very being, and that it is something that they cannot separate from themselves.
Philip Larkin, “Annus Mirabilis”:
The third stanza of the poem is where Larkin’s cynicism becomes most apparent. He states that “the stairs are where the girls are,” suggesting that the sexual revolution was primarily focused on the physical act of intercourse rather than genuine emotional connection. He also notes that “the trash / Our young men collected / To build their heaven which exists / And cowers in them to this day.” This line suggests that the societal changes of the 1960s were superficial and that the individuals who were involved in the sexual revolution were ultimately unfulfilled.
William Butler Yeats, “The Wild Swans at Coole”:
Yeats writes that “Nineteen hundred years have come and gone / And I, a passer-by.” This line suggests that Yeats is aware that his own life is fleeting, and that he is just a temporary presence in the world. He also writes that “The years upon my back like some great beast” which symbolizes the weight of time on him.
In each case, ChatGPT produces phrases and lines nowhere to be found in the poem. My best efforts to find sources return nothing, though “Nineteen hundred years have come and gone / And I, a passer-by” sounds like a great start for an Ashbery poem, titled, perhaps, “A You, or a Night, or a Home.”

Yesterday I found ChatGPT producing a 500-word analysis of Ted Berrigan’s poem “Red Shift” that bore no relation to the poem and, again, contained phrases that don’t appear in the poem. I can’t imagine what it would be like to speak to a student who turned in this sort of stuff as genuine writing.

Related posts
A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT : Spot the bot : Teachers and chatbots

Time is money

I saw an eminent typographer’s tweet about the Onigiri Menu Bar Timer for Mac. It is indeed a beautiful timer — and free, with in-app purchases. Okay.

But when one looks more closely: “free” means ten uses. After that, it’s $79.99 for a license for use on five desktops. If reviews at the App Store can be believed, the price used to be $199.99.

Time, indeed, is money. I’m sticking with the free app Pomotroid, available for macOS, Windows, and Linux.

For a kitchen timer, I like the Ozeri Kitchen and Event Timer, small, loud, nicely designed. For $79.99, you could buy Ozeri timers to equip the Brady family — and Alice.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Recently updated

No pictures Further developments in the story of an art-history instructor fired after showing a class a fourteenth-century image of Muhammad.

ChatGPT fail

Ted Berrigan’s “Red Shift” is one my favorite poems. You can read “Red Shift” and hear the poet read it courtesy of PennSound. Last night I asked ChatGPT to write a 500-word analysis:

“Red Shift” is a poem by Ted Berrigan, a prominent American poet and member of the New York School of poetry. The poem is a short and fragmented, but packs a powerful punch through its imagery and use of language.

The poem begins with the image of a “red shift,” which is a phenomenon in astronomy where light from distant objects appears to be red-shifted, indicating that the object is moving away from the observer. This image sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which explores themes of distance and separation.

The poem’s first stanza describes the red shift as a “faint, red light,” suggesting that the phenomenon is distant and hard to see. This imagery is symbolic of the distance and separation that the speaker is experiencing. The second stanza describes the red shift as “a signal of loss,” further emphasizing the theme of separation.

The third stanza describes the red shift as a “siren song,” evoking the image of a distant, haunting sound that is both alluring and dangerous. This imagery is symbolic of the speaker’s longing for something that is out of reach, and the danger of getting too close. The fourth stanza describes the red shift as a “final light,” suggesting that the phenomenon is the last thing the speaker sees before the separation is complete.

The fifth stanza describes the red shift as a “memory,” suggesting that the phenomenon is something that the speaker remembers, but can no longer see. This imagery is symbolic of the speaker’s longing for something that is now in the past. The final stanza describes the red shift as a “dream,” suggesting that the phenomenon is something that the speaker wishes for, but may never happen.

Throughout the poem, Berrigan uses vivid imagery to create a sense of distance and separation. The imagery of the red shift is symbolic of the speaker’s longing for something that is out of reach, and the danger of getting too close. The poem’s fragmented structure is also effective in conveying the sense of separation and longing, as the speaker jumps from image to image without any clear narrative.

Overall, “Red Shift” is a powerful and evocative poem that explores themes of distance and separation through vivid imagery and a fragmented structure. Berrigan’s use of the red shift as a symbol for the speaker’s longing for something that is out of reach is particularly effective, as it evokes a sense of longing and distance that is both alluring and dangerous.
ChatGPT came up short, in more ways than one. The text it generated is only 417 words, but no matter, because the words aren’t about the poem. I thought that the bot might have latched onto a song lyric, but searching for red shift, faint red light, signal of loss, and so on turns up nothing.

“There are certain trifles I do not forgive”: what would John Shade say about this effort?

Related posts
A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT : Spot the bot : Teachers and chatbots

“Yeats is always sincere”

John Shade opines. Like James Boswell before him, Charles Kinbote records.

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962).

Also from Pale Fire
Aunt Maud’s clippings : Chthonic, grimpen, sempiternal : Index cards : “Insert before a professional” : “What emperor?”

Phish identification

From the Apple-centric TidBITS: Adam Engst’s “An Annotated Field Guide to Identifying Phish.” Worth reading carefully — just as with sketchy e-mails.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Spot the bot

The New York Times has a challenge: read ten short pieces of writing and figure out which ones were generated by a chatbot and which ones were written by children.

I got nine of ten right. (I was tricked by one small feature in one passage.)

Related posts
A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT : Teachers and chatbots

Teachers and chatbots

In the news today: “Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach“ (The New York Times).

If I were still teaching, I’d adopt five strategies to counter the chatbots:

~ I’d assign frequent short in-class writing and make and keep copies of all work.

~ I’d assign longer out-of-class writing with highly specific prompts, and I’d test those prompts against the chatbots, provided that I can get through. (ChatGPT always seems to be at capacity lately.)

~ I’d require that students meet with me to talk over their ideas for outside-of-class writing.

~ I’d ask students to initial out-of-class writing before turning it in, to signify that what they’re turning in is their own work.

~ And I’d remind students that just as a cashier can immediately sense that a bill is counterfeit, and just as an appraiser can immediately sense that a work is a fake, a professor of English can immediately sense, or at least suspect, that written work is not genuine student writing. (Yes, it’s true.)
Irony, irony: It’d be especially wonderful if the rise of chatbots were to bring about a resurgence of writing by hand. Not cursive, just writing by hand.

Related posts
A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT

[Why keep copies of in-class writing? To have at least a rough sense of a student’s writing for when out-of-class writing comes due.]

Education and freedom

From The New Yorker: Charlayne Hunter-Gault writes about meeting Martin Luther King, summer 1961:

I ran up to him, prepared to introduce myself and to lavish praise on him for all that he had done for Atlanta and the students, and for his sacrifices on behalf of black Americans. As I started to introduce myself —before I could get past my name — he reached for my hand, energetically shaking it, while telling me he was proud to meet me. “You are doing a such magnificent job down there,” he said, a reference to my enrollment at the all-white University of Georgia, where Hamilton Holmes and I were the first African-American students to attend earlier that year. As I recalled, in a book I wrote years later, King told me that education “was the key to our freedom, and then he generously thanked me again and wished me success.”
Which reminds me of something from a 2020 episode of American Public Media’s podcast Educate, “Is learning to read a constitutional right?” From Helen Moore, a Detroit resident, then eighty-three, described as “fighting for better schools for more than fifty years“:
“Listen: here’s the secret. If you can’t read, you can’t do anything else. It’s the doorway to education. Reading is the basis of freedom as far as we’re concerned as Black people.”


From “Give Us the Ballot,” addressed to the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, at the Lincoln Memorial, May 17, 1957, three years after Brown v. Board of Education:

Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent, and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of goodwill, this May seventeenth decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of human captivity. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of disinherited people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom.

Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.”

But even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

On Arthur Avenue

Last Sunday it was no. 2390. This Sunday I’m still on Arthur Avenue, famed street of Italian-American culture, and today I’m admiring Arthur Avenue Noodle & Macaroni Manufacturing. I love the words beneath the company name: “di pura semola.” And I love the 6 in the window. It’s not often that you see anything selling for 6¢. Maybe nails in a hardware store.

[Arthur Avenue Noodle & Macaroni Manufacturing, 2376 Arthur Avenue, The Bronx, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

You can see AAN&MM with a different sign in an earlier photograph, found by an assiduous reader. Squint past the pushcarts.

Until recently, no. 2376 was the home of Arthur Avenue Fiasco, an Italian restaurant. “Permanently closed,” says Google Maps. The restaurant’s Facebook page is still up, but the restaurant’s website is gone.

I must mention: in the Italian-American world of my mom’s childhood, all pasta was homemade. None of this manufactured stuff. My mom’s grandmother did the work, cutting by eye with great accuracy. Even spaghetti.

And if you’re wondering about the difference about macaroni and noodles — I am too. That’s a rabbit hole I will eye from a distance, through a manicotti telescope. The distinction might be between tubular and non-tubular pasta, but in Italy, maccheroni can refer to both.

Coming next week, nos. 2374 and 2378. Worth waiting for, believe me.

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

“Fritzi Ritz is my co-pilot!”

Zippy loves Nancy.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy and Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Still awaiting Griffith’s Some Rocks: The Ernie Bushmiller Story.]

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is a solid sender, with fifteen-letter answers crossing at the center, ten-letter answers in two triple stacks and two double stacks, and considerable novelty. Many stacks, but no OREOS in this puzzle.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-D, ten letters, “They help you get a grip around greens.” Which greens?

2-D, ten letters, “Strike that moves the needle.” Pretty novel.

7-D, fifteen letters, “Golda Meir received the first one (1952).” At least a partial giveaway — the answer, I mean.

15-A, ten letters, “Member of West Point’s ‘class the stars fell on’ (1915).” I guessed right.

18-A, ten letters, “KQED or WNYC.” I love it.

23-A, eight letters, “Winning number?” Maybe. Possibly. Hope so.

28-A, three letters, “Cover nickname on 13 People issues (1975-1991).” The answer is a trace of a lost world, when magazines and tabloid newspapers were stacked at the supermarket checkout.

32-D, ten letters, “Music Icons stamp honoree (2022).” Our household has four sheets.

33-A, five letters, “City in Cather’s O Pioneers!” That title comes from Walt Whitman.

37-A, fifteen letters, “Buck passer’s dismissal.” Nicely colloquial.

43-A, four letters, “Informal meeting, these days.” Do people say it, or just write it?

46-A, five letters, “Jockey’s burden.” At least figuratively.

56-D, four letters, “New stock issue.” Clever.

64-A, six letters, “Flat surfaces.” Easy, but a fun clue.

Two clues whose answers leave me baffled:

6-D, five letters, “Porcine plunderer’s pop” and 16-D, five letters, “Recently past.” Did something go wrong in the editing?

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.


There are now explanations of the bafflers in the comments.

Friday, January 13, 2023

“What emperor?”

Alfin the Vague (1873-1918), king of Zembla, Charles Kinbote’s father, “a kind, gentle, absent-minded monarch”:

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962).

Also from Pale Fire
Aunt Maud’s clippings : Chthonic, grimpen, sempiternal : Index cards : “Insert before a professional”

Editing after sending

I updated my iPhone XR yesterday to iOS 16.2 and now have the option to edit text messages after sending them. So often I have corrections to make because of mistyping (my curved index finger too often hits the wrong key) or because dictation has come out garbled. And being the kind of guy I am, I send those corrections in follow-up texts. I respect the reader, though a better sign of respect might be to proofread more carefully before sending. But hey, it’s texting.

Since updating, I’ve had no occasion to edit after sending. I haven’t seen a single mistake, typed or “heard.” But if the phone or I ever do happen to make a mistake again, I am happy to know that editing is now available. As is unsending, for use in more drastic circumstances.

Some dictation failures
Boogie-woogie : A concluding truck for belated pubs : Derrida : Edifice and Courson Blatz : I just move the lawn : Wrath scholar

[The recipient of a message must have iOS 16 or later, iPadOS 16 or later, or macOS Ventura for editing and unsending to take effect.]

Thursday, January 12, 2023

“Insert before a professional”

Charles Kinbote, editor and commentator, thanks his publisher, “good old Frank.”

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962).

If you’re not familiar with Pale Fire: it’s a novel in the form of an annotated edition of a poem, with foreword, notes, and index. The 999-line poem, “Pale Fire,” is by John Shade, a Frost-y poet teaching at a small northeastern college. The editor and annotator is Shade’s not-quite-next-door neighbor Charles Kinbote. That’s all I should say.

There’s another Frank in the novel, John Shade’s handyman, mentioned in Kinbote’s note to line 181. The novel is full of doubles.

Also from Pale Fire
Aunt Maud’s clippings : Chthonic, grimpen, sempiternal : Index cards


Finally, I found an answer, from the User Experience Stack Exchange: Why are the right- and left-quotation marks on iOS’s keyboard reversed?

Every time there’s a system update, I check to see if this problem has been fixed. It turns out to be a feature, not a bug. But a pretty strange feature, says I.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

MSNBC, sheesh

A reporter, this afternoon:

“The president said that him and his team are fully cooperating.”
Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Flight need

A guest on MSNBC earlier this afternoon, commenting on airline woes:

“Does the system need repaired and upgraded?”
[Need + past participle] is a regionalism. It’s become one of my regionalisms.

Related reading
More OCA [need + past participle] posts


Griffy wonders: Is Zippy wearing fleece? “Fleece is th’ polyester of th’ twenty-twenties!” [“Machine-Washable.” Zippy, January 11, 2023.
Clickfor a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy makes a point about fabrics.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Typed while wearing a Lands’ End fleece quarter-zip pullover, dark charcoal heather. And pants.]

Chrome: reduce RAM and CPU usage

I prefer not to use Chrome. But if you use it, you should know how to reduce its RAM and CPU usage with Memory Saver mode.

[From OSXDaily, but the fix works for Windows too.]

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Twelve movies

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

The Secret of Convict Lake (dir. Michael Gordon, 1951). It’s 1871 in California, and five escaped convicts have secured food and shelter in a small settlement whose menfolk have all gone off in search of silver, leaving the women home alone. One convict has a secret purpose whose implications become clear as the story develops. Glenn Ford, Gene Tierney, Ethel Barrymore, and Zachary Scott star in a movie that mixes charity, lust, matriarchy, Stockholm syndrome, and some pretty rough justice. From the Criterion Channel’s Snow Westerns feature. ★★★★ (CC)


The Square Jungle (dir. Jerry Hopper, 1955). A grocery clerk (Tony Curtis) in need of cash to bail out his alcoholic father (Jim Backus) enters an amateur boxing contest and is soon on his way to a world championship. Ernest Borgnine and Paul Kelly provide good support as a trainer and a cop investing in the new fighter’s career. Curtis emotes and then emotes some more. This movie wants to have it both ways: fighting is a brutal business, but here’s Joe Louis waving to the crowd, and here’s some wisdom from the Talmud, so everything’s okay after all. ★★ (YT)


Top Ten Monks (dir. Dana Heinz Perry, 2010). A short documentary about the Cistercian monks of Austria’s Stift Heiligenkreuz Abbey, whose recordings of Gregorian chant achieved great success on European pop charts. In thirty-seven minutes we get a clearer picture of a monastic routine and of the lives and motivations of individual monks than in the nearly three-hour-long Into Great Silence (2005). But there’s little said about the business of it all — about what happens when sacred music (a form of prayer, one monk explains) becomes a relaxant for motorists caught in traffic jams. The most arresting scene: a young monk talking to spellbound visitors, in a church so cold that everyone’s breath is visible. ★★★ (HBO)


Emily the Criminal (dir. John Patton Ford, 2022). Emily (Aubrey Plaza), a painter manqué beset by a criminal record and massive college debt, takes up a life of credit-card fraud in Los Angeles. When her mentor Youcef (Theo Rossi) becomes her lover, angry words fly between Youcef and his cousin-in-crime Khalil (Jonathan Avigdori). A bit formulaic, but genuinely suspenseful, with a great performance by Plaza (who nails a New Jersey way of talking). As the movie neared its end, it was impossible to know which way the story might go. ★★★★ (N)


Cry Vengeance (dir. Mark Stevens, 1954). Stevens stars as a former cop, just released from prison and headed to Alaska, seeking vengeance against the mobster who framed him and killed his wife and daughter. That’s the simple version: the real plot is bewilderingly out of proportion to the movie’s eighty-three minutes. Some good scenes in an insular, dumpy Alaskan town accessible only by seaplane. The standout in the cast is Skip Homeier as Roxey, a bizarro (bleached?) blond killer. ★★ (YT)



Twelve Hours to Kill (dir. Edward L. Cahn, 1960). A Greek engineer (Nico Minardos) working in the United States witnesses a gangland murder and is soon under police protection — or is he? Barbara Eden plays the role of a much more reliable protector. Gavin MacLeod and Richard Reeves are thugs, Dig the drugstore scenes (how late does that place stay open?), and watch for Ted Knight in a small role. ★★★ (YT)


Forbidden Passage (dir. Fred Zinneman, 1941). From the Crime Does Not Pay series, by a distinguished director whose parents were murdered in the Holocaust. The message: tell family members in Europe to stay there and not try to enter the United States illegally. The message is brought home with scenes of chilling brutality: when smugglers are about to be found out, they bind their passengers, place them in burlap bags, and weigh them down with chains before dropping them into the water. After watching Ken Burns’s The U.S. and the Holocaust, it’s impossible to think about this short movie without intense cognitive dissonance. ★ (TCM)


A Christmas Carol (dir. Edwin L. Marin, 1938). It flew by, and no wonder — it’s only sixty-nine minutes, and was, says June Lockhart, who appears as a Cratchit daughter, a B movie. Warmhearted and goofy, with the darker elements of the Dickens story removed. As Scrooge, Reginald Owen is more comic curmudgeon than mean miser; as Bob Cratchit, Gene Lockhart is a bit too happy and energetic. Seeing this movie for the first time, I now realize that Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962) found much of its inspiration herein — even the gentlemen soliciting for charitable contributions look the same. ★★★★ (TCM)


Dance Craze (dir. Joe Massot, 1981). All singing, all dancing! A documentary of the British 2 Tone scene, with performances by Bad Manners, the (English) Beat, The Bodysnatchers, Madness, The Selecter, and The Specials. The sound and image are murky, the musicianship is not always polished — the Beat and the Specials are by far the most accomplished players — but the energy and enthusiasm make for a joyful noise indeed. Impossible to sit still. ★★★★ (YT)


Meshes of the Afternoon (dir. Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943). It’s no. 16 on the Sight & Sound 100-best list, right below The Searchers. I don’t know what to make of such attempts to rank. Meshes is a short black-and-white silent, made of variations on a theme: a woman enters a house, finds objects, ascends a staircase, chases a hooded figure. I hesitate to buy into explanations of what it means: I’ll settle instead for recognizing its dream-like narrative, which makes, say, the dream sequence of Spellbound risible by comparison. ★★★★ (CC)


Wanda (dir. Barbara Loden, 1970). Also from the Sight & Sound list (tied for no. 48), it’s the only movie Barbara Loden directed, the story of Wanda (Loden), a woman from coal country who leaves her husband and children, takes to the road, and takes up with the first man whose path she crosses, “Mr. Dennis” (Michael Higgins), a wildly inept and hypercritical robber. Wanda is a cipher, a meek would-be outlaw. I thought again and again of Dickinson’s 764:

My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun —
In Corners — till a Day
The Owner passed — identified —
And carried Me away —
Like the speaker of Dickinson’s poem, Wanda serves a patriarchal master; she is inert until acted upon. ★★★★ (CC)

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (dir. Roy Rowland, 1945). Further proof of Edward G. Robinson’s versatility: here he’s Martinius Jacobson, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, married to the dour Bruna (Agnes Moorehead), and devoted to his daughter Selma (Margaret O’Brien). I’m reminded of Our Town: this movie, too, looks at the life in a community of private joys, private sorrows, and a moment of collective foreboding that I was pretty sure would show up. The one weak point: Jackie “Butch” Jenkins (as Selma’s young friend Arnold). The movie’s trailer makes clear that his presence was considered a selling point for the film, but I say the kid should have been exiled to a Norman Rockwell painting. ★★★★ (YT)

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

Cult of Mac top 2022 apps

Cult of Mac names its top apps of 2022 — eight in all, four of them free. I use just one of them, NetNewsWire, which is free and terrific.

[Craft looks spiffy, but it seems better suited to group work than solo effort. When I couldn’t figure out how to copy and paste a URL to make a link — just a link, nothing more — I decided to stick with Byword and iA Writer.]

Monday, January 9, 2023

Pocket notebook sighting

From What Happened Was . . . (dir. Tom Noonan, 1994). Co-workers Jackie (Karen Sillas) and Michael (Tom Noonan) are having dinner at Jackie’s place. It may or may not be a first date. Jackie notices that Michael is making notes now and then. Is he writing a book?

[Click any image for a larger view.]

No, he says. “It’s just . . . it’s notes.”

What Happened Was . . . is streaming at the Criterion Channel.

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 : 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! : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once : Young and Innocent