Tuesday, February 28, 2023

“Slightly blurred”

Arthur Grumm, a slightly blurred little boy:

Steven Millhauser, Portrait of a Romantic (1977).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

“The End of the English Major”

In The New Yorker, Nathan Heller writes about “The End of the English Major.” Here’s Amanda Claybaugh, a Harvard professor, speaking:

“The last time I taught The Scarlet Letter, I discovered that my students were really struggling to understand the sentences as sentences — like, having trouble identifying the subject and the verb,” she said. “Their capacities are different, and the nineteenth century is a long time ago.”
Which reminds me of something I wrote after listening to the podcast series Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong :
I wonder about the extent to which the decline of interest in the humanities might be explained at least in part by the difficulty so many college students have with the mechanics of reading. Figuring out the words is, for many college students, just plain hard — because they were never properly taught how.
Just one factor among many, but a factor.

[One aside: An English department is at odds with itself if its students get tote bags that say (or brag?) “CURRENTLY READING” but its professors think the department “should do more with TV.”]

Monday, February 27, 2023


I drove to a conference in a city whose name began with A and found myself in a downtown square. Things were tidy and sunny, with a courthouse in the center and buildings two or three stories tall on all sides. Three larger stores had enormous display windows. The sidewalks were full of people of all colors, the women wearing hats, the men wearing jackets. One man wearing a pork pie hat was taking a picture of the courthouse. I thought he might be using a Rolleiflex but he wasn’t. I heard the film advance after he took a picture.

I noticed a soda fountain on a corner off the square. It had a large NEDICK’S sign above long streetside windows from which to serve pedestrians. I felt thirsty but shy, too shy to get a drink. To the right of the fountain, a row of brownstones stretched down the street, each with a massive reddish-brown sink attached to its front. I climbed up and walked from sink to sink before jumping down and walking back to the square.

I walked into a supermarket with three or four long, long aisles, with shelves no more than perhaps four feet high. I couldn’t find the coffee and tea, but I noticed one aisle devoted to books of upholstery samples, all opened on V-shaped platforms. They must do custom reupholstery here, I thought.

I ended up at a self-service outdoor Starbucks. The line for drinks formed next to the salad bar, and people kept cutting in to get salad and wait for coffee. I finally decided to keep my place, like a driver refusing to let other drivers merge. The cups were made of thin translucent plastic — for coffee? Two unmarked plastic containers with spigots held what looked like coffee. I took a cup and began filling it with what looked like coffee. Elaine came up behind me and said that it was tea. I dumped it into a trough below the spigots and began filling from the other spigot, but just an ounce or so of coffee came out. I dumped that too and went to a little machine, something like a remote control, to get a hundred dollars. And then we went back to the hotel.


“Only fools and children talk about their dreams”: Dr. Edward Jeffreys (Robert Douglas), in Thunder on the Hill (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1951).

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Possible sources: trying to recall the name of the town with a mill Elaine ordered rye flour from (A-something), a photograph of archival materials in cradles, a conversation about our first taste of Starbucks (1994?), a conversation about plasticware in restaurants, getting plastic cups for water in a restaurant, pouring leftover water into the trough of the restaurant’s soda dispenser, rebooting the Roku from the remote.]

Recently updated

Mystery corner Now with a 1937 advertisement for Kane’s Food Shop and links to a color postcard and an advertisement for Tom’s Restaurant (the Seinfeld coffee shop).

Sunday, February 26, 2023

“For good,” “forever”

[The New York Times, February 26, 2023, 7:00 a.m. CST.]

[Later that same day.]

I took a screenshot of the headline this morning. I thought it was wildly inappropriate, as the words “for good” invite, if only for a moment, misreading.

Is “forever” an improvement? I think I’d prefer “How the War in Ukraine Has Changed Europe.” No need for prophecy. But what I’d really prefer is an end to megalomania and wars of aggression.


I must carp: in today’s Los Angeles Times crossword, the answer for 13-A, four letters, “Old-Fashioned option” is NEAT.

Now — once upon a time, the Old-Fashioned was made without ice. And there might somewhere be a modern recipe for an Old-Fashioned made without ice. But an Old-Fashioned is made with ice. Look at a few recipes. It’s a cocktail made with ice.

But even if no-ice is an option, an Old-Fashioned is never NEAT. The Oxford English Dictionary:

Of alcoholic liquors: pure; unadulterated; spec. not mixed with water (or, in later use: soft drink, etc.); undiluted.
An Old-Fashioned is made with whiskey, bitters, sugar, and water (and, if you must, a garnish). It is not NEAT.

You may remember this moment of Internets hilarity: How to make an Old-Fashioned. “Everything good and mashed.” Not neat at all!

[I like this odd phrasing: “ice became normalized in the 1860s.”]

Mystery corner

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

Today’s location is for your guessing pleasure. Do you recognize this mystery corner? Leave an answer in the comments, anything from a tentative guess to a confident assertion. I’ll drop a hint if appropriate.


Mystery solved: it’s the corner of Broadway and 112th Street, 2880 Broadway, Morningside Heights, Manhattan, long the home of Tom’s Restaurant, whose exterior served as Monk’s Café in Seinfeld. In this photograph, the street-level space was occupied by Kane’s Food Shop. The building was designed by Art Vandelay.


February 27: A reader shared an advertisement:

[Columbia Daily Spectator, September 27, 1937.]

Also now in the comments, links to a color postcard and an advertisment for Tom’s Restaurant.

Related reading
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, constructing as Lester Ruff. It’s an easier Stumper (less rough), but it’s not a walk in the park. It’s more like a walk in the woods, but woods with a discernible hiking trail. Not Dante territory.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

2-D, eight letters, “Objective arbiter?” A nice twist.

13-D, six letters, “Sister brand of Nehi.” In days of yore, the choice after two-on-two or three-on-three basketball. (Why?)

23-A, four letters, “Archer follower.” Clever.

30-A, four letters, “Cell descriptor.” What kind of cell?

33-A, five letters, “Ancient allegorist.” I like that the perhaps obvious answer is the wrong one.

37-A, seven letters, “What Kareem wore on the court.” I can’t recall ever being aware of them. Converse, Adidas, Pumas, that was me.

39-D, eight letters, “23 Across-related star surname.” Oof.

43-A, six letters, “Alternative to Bea.” We even know one.

52-D, five letters, “What some policewomen are called.” Another slight twist.

My favorite in this puzzle: 21-D, three letters, “Teen leader of yore.” I was thinking some prefix.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Alex Katz, scared silly

From Artforum, Alex Katz, interviewed by David Velasco:

Who were you looking to as you learned how to paint?

The guy who set the standards for me was Velázquez.

Do you still think of Velázquez when you paint now? Is that somebody who is in your head, or —

I just think about putting the paint on the canvas. I’m terrified.

Yeah, that’s enough.

Yeah, really. I mean, I load the brush and I hope it works. I mean, I’m scared silly.
If I were teaching a college writing class, I’d show this interview to my students.

A handful of Alex Katz posts
Alex Katz meets Lionel Hampton : Alex Katz’s piano : Focusing : Foods : A pinned note in Katz’s studio

[I wish I could’ve seen the big show at the Guggenheim.]

Et in Hi and Lois ego

[Hi and Lois, February 24, 2023. Click for a larger, more disgusting view.]

Hi and Lois failed the breakfast test today, at least if you don’t belong to one of the bird species that eat the dead.

Dot offers the punchline in the second panel: it’s called carrion “because birds fly away with it.” What a riot.

I have a soft spot for squirrels, as this post, this post, and others will confirm.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

[Post title with apologies to Latin.]

Thursday, February 23, 2023


Tomito is a free Pomodoro app for Mac by Gilbert Guttmann. It’s beautifully designed and highly flexible. I think it’s the best Pomodoro app I’ve seen. You can set intervals of your choosing for work and breaks, keep or hide dock and menu bar icons, keep or hide a countdown in the menu bar, keep a stylized timer (small, medium, or large, with color choices) in front of all windows (or hide it), and choose from a number of sounds to signal the beginning and end of Pomodori. That’s the stylized clock to the left: twelve-and-a-half minutes down, twelve-and-a-half to go.

My only problem with the Pomodoro technique: stopping when I’m supposed to. If I’m reading or writing and liking it, why take a break? But break I do, or try to.

Related reading
All OCA Pomodoro posts (Pinboard)

[One small detail: If you find that you can’t quit the app, look for a prompt hidden under some open window, asking if you’re sure you want to quit. You can check a box so that the prompt won’t appear again.]

Cures for hiccups

It looks like clickbait, but it’s from The Atlantic: “The Cure for Hiccups Exists.” I am now waiting to try out the second recommendation. I hope to be waiting for some time.

Mooch as Nancy

In today’s Mutts.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

I let a song get into my head

I caught myself singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” the other night. How did that happen?

We were having a tuna casserole. I thought casserolecream of mushroom soupmidwestMinnesotaThe Mary Tyler Moore Show.

And that’s how I found myself singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”

A somewhat related post
“Monkey, monkey, underpants”

A witness wardrobe

We were putting up a witness in an upcoming trial. It was just for a day or two. She was blind, and she needed a wardrobe for court. The prosecutor’s office called and told Elaine that she could have anything she wanted. “She”: presumably the witness.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Sources: Lady Justice (blind), Joan Crawford as a criminal mastermind losing her sight in This Woman Is Dangerous, my recent non-experience in jury dury (no trials), a local attorney charged with propositioning defendants.]

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

“I can feel the heat closing in”

From The New York Times : “Jury in Georgia Trump Inquiry Recommended Multiple Indictments, Forewoman Says.” Two excerpts:

“It is not a short list,” the forewoman, Emily Kohrs, said, adding that the jury had appended eight pages of legal code “that we cited at various points in the report.”
Asked whether the jurors had recommended indicting Mr. Trump, Ms. Kohrs gave a cryptic answer: “You’re not going to be shocked. It’s not rocket science,” adding “you won’t be too surprised.”

February 22: Having now seen footage of Emily Kohrs speaking with reporters, I see a gap between the content of those remarks (sharp and sober) and her affect, which is, well, off. Attention-mongering?

[Post title courtesy of William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch. The link is a gift link; it doesn’t count against non-subscribers’ free monthly NYT allotment.]

An EXchange name sighting

[Crime and Punishment U.S.A. (dir. Denis Sanders, 1959). Click for a much larger view.]

That’s George Hamilton — yes, really — turning in an excellent performance as our American Raskolnikov, Robert Cole, a Los Angeles college student. But what’s the exchange name on that telephone?

A 1955 AT&T/Bell publication gives the following “officially recommended” possibilities for HO: HObart, HOmestead, HOpkins, HOward.

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

The NetNewsWire perspective

I’ve been using Brent Simmons’s free RSS app NetNewsWire for about four months. It’s terrific.

The developer doesn’t accept donations from users. He has reasons. But he suggests fourteen things that users can do instead of giving him money, listed in no particular order. The first: “Write a blog instead of posting to Twitter or Facebook.”

Recently updated

TomatoBar Now with another sound, which was there all along.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Zweig and Davies, still in the works

Terence Davies’s adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novel The Post-Office Girl, announced in January 2021, will begin shooting this summer.

Orange Crate Art is a Zweig- and Davies-friendly zone.

Related reading
All OCA Zweig posts (Pinboard)


A nicely designed Pomodoro app for the Mac menu bar: TomatoBar (GitHub). It puts a little black and white icon in the menu bar and shows the time counting down to its right. An especially nice feature is that the time doesn’t shift around slightly as the digits change — thanks to a monospaced font.

The one thing missing: a sound when a break ends. It’d be nice to close one’s eyes or step away from the desk and hear that the five minutes are gone, without having to check the menu bar. Having to watch the time is kinda at odds with the idea of taking a break, no?

February 21: A comment cleared things up for me: turning on the wind-up noise in Preferences will signal the end of the break. I was thinking only about dings.

Related reading
All OCA Pomodoro posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

Nick DeMaio and the Eldorado Now with a 1974 advertisement.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Unique Diner

Just down the avenue from O.B. Rude Drug Co., a diner. Unique? I’ll say it is.

[Unique Diner, 4923 Fifth Avenue, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

I’ve never seen a diner located where the traces of a multi-story building linger. A search of Brooklyn Newsstand turns up a 1907 advertisement showing a shoestore at this address. An obituary and a list of members of a WWI regiment suggest that, yes, there an apartment building once stood there.

Dig the neon: I suspect that this diner was doing well. And it looks as if someone cared enough to splash the sidewalk clean. Notice too the Bell Telephone signs, in case you need to make a call.

At this address today, El Nuevo Pueblo, a grocery store, open twenty-four hours. On the second floor, Champion Tae Kwon Do: 718-436-KICK.

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

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Recently updated

Nick Demaio and the Eldorado Now with a color photograph of the Bronx bar and the Third Avenue El.

How to improve writing (no. 107)

From a New York Times obituary for William Greenberg Jr., baker:

Mr. Greenberg, an affable redhead at 6 feet 4 inches tall who was raised in the Five Towns area of Long Island, opened his first bakery in Manhattan in 1946, in a narrow storefront on East 95th Street, near Second Avenue, with $3,000 — poker winnings from games he played in the Army. It turned out that Mr. Greenberg was as skilled with cards as he was with a piping gun.
The logic of chronology is off here. To fix it:
It turned out that Mr. Greenberg was as skilled with a piping gun as he was with cards.
That’s the kind of thing that the Times once employed lots of copy editors to fix.

I think there are far too many facts crammed into the first sentence — an unfortunate tendency in obituary writing. (See How to improve writing (no. 45).) Is mentioning Mr. Greenberg’s red hair and his height meant to entice the reader to keep going? Puh-leeze.

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

[This post is no. 107 in a series dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Steve Mossberg, is a tough one. 16-A, four letters, “Done quickly?” No, not at all, in large part because of 16-A. (No spoilers: I explain in the comments.)

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

5-D, three letters, “Elvis played it between tour stops.”Suprising, not surprising.

13-D, nine letters, “Question before the cameras.” Fun.

17-A, ten letters, “Going over everything.” I kept thinking the answer must be a participle.

19-A, four letters, “Bug out.” I didn’t know it, so I hereby deem it arcane.

26-D, ten letters, “Comparatively slick.” C'mon man. This is pretty ridic.

33-A, fifteen letters, “Star Trek intro claim to fame.” My starting point. A giveaway, I think.

39-A, seven letters, “Party central of a sort.” Ugh.

52-D, three letters, “Some PJs.” Seems ridiculously arbitrary. “Some almost anything” would work as well.

55-A, ten letters, “Rolls in it.” I wanted LUXURIATES.

My favorite in this puzzle: 30-A, four letters, “Slimmed-down food department.” Now that’s one clever clue.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments. But if you know what Elvis played, you might agree that everyone should play.

Friday, February 17, 2023


“Holding onto anger would really just be trading one prison for another”: Lamar Johnson, wrongfully convicted of murder, just released from prison after twenty-eight years, speaking on the PBS NewsHour tonight.

“Who’s Afraid of Black History?”

In The New York Times, Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes about Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Ron DeSantis, and the teaching (or policing) of history:

Is it fair to see Governor DeSantis’s attempts to police the contents of the College Board’s AP curriculum in African American studies in classrooms in Florida solely as little more than a contemporary version of Mildred Rutherford’s Lost Cause textbook campaign? No. But the governor would do well to consider the company that he is keeping. And let’s just say that he, no expert in African American history, seems to be gleefully embarked on an effort to censor scholarship about the complexities of the Black past with a determination reminiscent of Rutherford’s. While most certainly not embracing her cause, Mr. DeSantis is complicitous in perpetuating her agenda.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so aptly put it, “No society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present.” Addressing these “ravages,” and finding solutions to them — a process that can and should begin in the classroom — can only proceed with open discussions and debate across the ideological spectrum, a process in which Black thinkers themselves have been engaged since the earliest years of our Republic.
[Gift link, no subscription needed.]

Games and books

No classes today, so the university’s digital-whatever division is inviting students to spend the three-day weekend playing esports, the activities formerly known as video games. Because really, what else would a college student have to do with their time?

But at least we’ve yet to dismantle our library.

“A Pantomime Pen Talk”

Two miniature figures, one indicating by his smile that an easily filled fountain pen is a source of pleasure while the other seems to have gone the limit as to patience in filling his pen with a rubber bulb filler, are part of a Chicago stationer's show window exhibit. Motion is imparted first to one of the figures and then to the other by a small electric motor and proper connections within the cabinet. The leaves of a small cardboard book on the front side of the cabinet are turned slowly enough for spectators to read the statements. [Popular Electricity Magazine, January 1912. Click for a larger view.]

See also this stationery-store-window automaton.

EXchange names on screen

Prizefighter Jimmy Dolan (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) consults a telephone directory. There’s always one around when you need one, big enough to fill the screen.

[The Life of Jimmy Dolan (dir. Archie Mayo, 1933). Click for a larger view.]

A spot check of a 1940 Manhattan directory suggests that the page on the screen has some basis in reality. Look, there’s Mr. Mamakos:

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

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Separated at birth

Donald Wolfit as General Auguste Mercier in Edge of Darkness (dir. Lewis Milestone, 1943) and Christopher Guest as Corky St. Clair in Waiting for Guffman (dir. Guest, 1996).

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

“Dan Duryea is my executive producer!!”

“If only real life were as well-lit as a good film noir!”: today’s Zippy goes to the movies.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

A “conversation” with a chatbot

“I like movies that are realistic. I like movies that are romantic. I like movies that are about us”: from The New York Times, the transcript of a reporter’s two-hour “conversation” with Microsoft Bing’s A.I. chatbot. That's the bot talking about movies. It’s more than slightly unnerving.

As I said to my son this morning, I’ve had it with thinking about chatbots as part of the world I want to live in. A line from Ted Berrigan’s poem “Mi Casa, Su Casa” sums it up: “‘I want human to begin with.’” And thereafter.

Related posts
A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT : Spot the bot : Teachers and chatbots : Imaginary lines from real poems : ChatGPT writes about Lillian Mountweazel : Rob Zseleczky on computer-generated poetry : ChatGPT’s twenty-line poems : Edwin Mullhouse fail

[In the poem, the line is in quotation marks: quoted speech?]

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Gentleman ?

Rehema Ellis, talking on MSNBC earlier this afternoon about proceedings in a Buffalo courtroom: “The gentleman did apologize.”

Perhaps Ellis didn’t want to say his name. Neither do I. But gentleman has got to go. The gunman did apologize. The killer did apologize. Or said that he apologized.

Garner’s Modern English Usage on gentleman :

Gentleman should not be used indiscriminately as a genteelism for man , the generic term. Gentleman should be reserved for reference to a cultured, refined man.
Never for reference to a mass murderer.

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Leave a guess — or something more certain — in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if one seems to be needed.


Here’s a hint before I head out on a walk: this actor is known for playing a character for whom the bell tolled. Ding. Ding. Ding.

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

Recently updated

O.B. Rude Drug Co. Now with a 1922 ad for mail-order pharmaceuticals. Rude had quite a reach.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Valentine’s Day

[Peanuts, February 14, 1976. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Peanuts is yesterday’s Peanuts.

[Today I am thinking about blog posts as respite from current events — another campus, another shooting. Another and another and another.]

Valentine’s Day

[Green glass heart amulet. From Egypt, 21st–25th Dynasty, ca. 1070–664 B.C. 2.2 × W. 1.6 cm (7/8 × 5/8 in.). Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910. Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the online collection. Click for a larger view.]

More about amulets and the heart, or ib, at this museum page.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Changing jobs

Zippy, as Griffy deconstructs the concept of narrative continuity in today’s Zippy  : “Is it too late to work for Hi & Lois?”

Venn reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts : Hi and Lois and Zippy posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Jury doody

I have been summoned for jury duty, petit not grand, beginning today. So I called in last night to see if I was needed today. “Over 100 people are calling this number, so you may experience busy signals,” the summons said. “Please be patient and try again.”

I tried for five-and-a-half hours last night, calling close to 300 times before getting through, after getting busy signals, silence, or “Verizon cannot complete . . . busy.” Yes, more than 100 people were calling.

It’s 2023. Is there a good reason for courts not to post the necessary information online, protected, perhaps, by a password?


Later this same morning: I learned that today is a court holiday. No trials. So why were potential jurors required to call in last night?

Sunday, February 12, 2023

NBC, sheesh

In quotation marks, large letters filling the screen on NBC Nightly News:

“radar anomoly”

February 13: I went to get a screenshot and found that it’s been corrected, in a different font.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

The Harlem Branch Y

From Langston Hughes’s “Theme for English B,” from the book-length sequence Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951). The writer (not “speaker”) has been given an assignment: write a page, “And let that page come out of you — / Then, it will be true.” He wonders if it’s that simple:

Here’s the poem. Imagine being an instructor and getting that page in response to an assignment.

The college is the City College of New York at 160 Convent Avenue. The park is St. Nicholas Park. Eighth Avenue is now Frederick Douglass Boulevard; Seventh, now Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. And here is the Y:

[Harlem Branch YMCA, 180 West 135th Street, New York, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

The Y still stands. When I taught this poem, I liked to use Google Maps to follow the poem’s path (though one can’t get across the park by map). And I liked to play samples to give a sense of the writer’s eclectic musical interests: “Bessie, bop, or Bach,” his own three Bs. I didn’t know about the tax photos in the NYC Municipal Archives then.

Here’s some Harlem Branch Y history, with Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Jackie Robinson, Cicely Tyson, and Wesley A. Williams.


It occurred to me only today that Hughes‘s poem fits perfectly on one typed page.

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

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, is a tough one. That is, a good one. I got my start in the southwest, where 42-D, five letters, “Part of many racetrack names” and 48-D, four letters, “Merger partner of Mayer” cracked things open. The northeast was a struggle, for reasons that will become apparent.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

2-D, five letters, “One announcing an interjection.” AHEMER doesn’t fit.

4-D, nine letters, “About two dozen nanometers.” I’ll believe it when I see it.

8-D, three letters, “Certain course, for short.” An arbitrary way to clue a bit of crosswordese. My first thought was APP.

10-D, five letters, “Railway pricing adjective.” From the northeast. It’s a word? It’s a word.

15-A, nine letters, “Short podcasts.” From the northeast. I listen to many podcasts, long and short, but I have never heard or read this word.

19-A, seven letters, “Her first film (1981) was director George Cukor’s last.” A slightly startling factoid. Cukor began directing in 1930.

27-A, four letters, “Starter home?” Clever clueing.

33-A, nine letters, “Think too much of.” I was trying to come up with a synonym for hero worship.

35-A, fifteen letters, “Protégé’s request.” I don’t think so. The answer is a venerable bit of speech, but protégé doesn’t fit.

49-A, seven letters, “Unsurprising conclusions of whodunits.” A surprising clue.

My least favorite in this puzzle is from the northeast: 11-D, four letters, “Seattle school, familiarly.” Familiarly for whom? Pretty ridic, I say.

My favorite: 16-D, fourteen letters, “Getaways that go without saying.” I took “without saying” the wrong way, which deepens my admiration for the clueing.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 10, 2023

A Caedmon drawing and anecdote

The New York Times has an obituary for Marianne Mantell, co-founder of Caedmon Records. It prompted me to pull down my copy of The Caedmon Treasury of Modern Poets Reading Their Own Poetry, a 1956 2-LP set that I long ago acquired as a library discard. A carboard insert with the track listing features this whimsical drawing, artist unidentified:

Line drawing of a little hooded figure lying beside the sound horn of a windup phonograph, a takeoff on RCA Victor’s “His Master’s Voice” [Click for a larger view.]

I trust that the inspiration is obvious, but if not.


From Ron Padgett’s Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan (1993):

We listened to records such as The Caedmon Treasury of Modern Poets. When Stevens read the first line of “The Idea of Order at Key West,” in that slow, stately, grave voice — “She sang beyond the genius of the sea” — Ted’s mouth would form a little O and his eyebrows would rise as he turned to shoot me a look, as if to say, “Get that!” And every time Richard Eberhart, reading “The Groundhog,” came to the dead groundhog and said, in that delicate little voice of his, “I poked him with an angry stick,” we exploded with laughter. “An angry stick! Yikes!”

Cubist pencil

[The American Stationer, May 9, 1914. Click for a larger view.]

“Round, having a novel finish of small squares in assorted colors,” says the advertisement. “Most effective in appearance.” You can see the pencil in color at Brand Name Pencils. It’s a wow.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Bacharach interpreters

An impromptu list, tilting toward jazz:

Erroll Garner, “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” with Bob Cranshaw, bass; Grady Tate, drums; José Mangual, congas.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, “I Say a Little Prayer,” with Ron Burton, piano; Vernon Martin, bass; Jimmy Hopps, drums; Joe Texidor, tambourine.

Kirk again, “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart),” with Ron Burton; piano; Henry Mattathias Pearson: bass; Robert Shy: drums; Joe Texidor, tambourine.

And if you want songs as songs, with words by Hal David, here’s a medley by Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick.

And another, from the Carpenters.

And there’s this song, by Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager.

“Burt Bacharach, Whose Buoyant Pop Confections Lifted the ’60s, Dies at 94” (The New York Times)

[I wish that the obituary had more to say about the music as music, and perhaps a bit less to say about “a sleek era of airy romance” and the evocation of “an upscale world of jet travel, sports cars and sleek bachelor pads.”]

The midwestern sublime

I’m not thinking of beauty. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

The sublime is an important concept in 18th- and 19th-cent. aesthetics, closely linked to the Romantic movement. It is often (following Burke’s theory of aesthetic categories) contrasted with the beautiful and the picturesque, in the fact that the emotion it evokes in the beholder encompasses an element of terror.
I first thought of the midwestern sublime when driving in the late afternoon, in late fall or early winter. It must have been more thirty years ago. We were driving home on a rural route after a day of shopping in a nearby city. Elaine was reading the liner notes of Yazoo Records’ Skip James LP (a purchase of the day) to entertain me as we drove. And it occurred to me that the sound of James’s voice matched the landscape around us, even if we were in Illinois and not Mississippi.

The midwestern sublime is composed of equal parts vast muddy fields and vast grey skies, as seen from a car on a two-lane rural route. There are telephone poles along one side of the road and houses on the other. The houses are infrequent and unlit, their mailboxes and newspaper boxes waiting — for what? There are no other vehicles on the road. The sky is beginning to darken.

Have I made myself bleak?

[Skip James sang about our state in “Illinois Blues”: “If you go to Banglin’, tell my boys / What a time I‘m having, up in Illinois.” A good time, he says. Banglin’: a Mississippi lumber camp.]

Errand, errant

I wondered: could errand and errant be related? Isn’t a knight errant, roving about, kinda like on an errand sort of, maybe?

Etymonline on errand :

Old English ærende “message, mission; answer, news, tidings,” from Proto-Germanic *airundija- “message, errand” (source also of Old Saxon arundi, Old Norse erendi, Danish ærinde, Swedish ärende, Old Frisian erende, Old High German arunti “message”), which is of uncertain origin. Compare Old English ar “messenger, servant, herald.” Originally of important missions; meaning “short, simple journey and task” is attested by 1640s. Related: Errands. In Old English, ærendgast was “angel,” ærendraca was “ambassador.”
And on errant :
mid-14c., “traveling, roving,” from Anglo-French erraunt, from two Old French words that were confused even before they reached English: 1. Old French errant, present participle of errer “to travel or wander,” from Late Latin iterare, from Latin iter “journey, way,” from root of ire “to go” (from PIE root *ei- “to go”); 2. Old French errant, past participle of errer (see err ). The senses fused in English 14c., but much of the sense of the latter since has gone with arrant.
So, no.

I sometimes guess correctly about etymologies. See doff and don. But not often.

Related reading
All OCA etymology posts (Pinboard)

Rebecca Black’s Thursday

This morning I learned from NPR that Rebecca Black has an album coming out today. Thanks, NPR.

In 2011, as a moderator for the East-Central Illinois Cultural Studies Association Conference’s Music-as-Culture Division’s Pop Music section, I issued an call for papers on Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” I enjoyed rereading the titles of the submissions this Thursday. My favorite: “Notes Toward a Supreme Weekend: The Suburban Sublime in ‘Friday.’”

[The E-CICSAC was, of course, imaginary.]

Ronald Blythe (1922–2022)

Author of Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village. The New York Times has an obituary.

Related posts
Eight excerpts from Akenfield

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

EXchange names on screen

Philip Raven (Alan Ladd) consults a telephone directory.

[This Gun for Hire (dir. Frank Tuttle, 1942). Click for a larger view.]

In the remake, Kyle Niles (Robert Ivers) gets to consult one too.

[Shortcut to Hell (dir. James Cagney, 1957). Click for a larger view.]

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

Twelve movies

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

Shortcut to Hell (dir. James Cagney, 1957). James Cagney’s lone effort as a director stars Robert Ivers as hitman Kyle Niles and Georgann Johnson as Glory Hamilton, an upbeat, jokey nightclub singer. As I watched, I kept thinking that Jacques Aubuchon was channeling Laird Cregar, and it’s no wonder: the movie is a remake of This Gun for Hire, itself adapted from Graham Greene’s A Gun for Sale. Many scenes come straight from the original movie; Cagney’s hand might be most evident in Niles’s White Heat-like agony. Best line: “I’m not a person; I’m a gun.” ★★ (YT)


This Gun for Hire (dir. Frank Tuttle, 1942). Far superior to the remake. Alan Ladd as the hitman Philip Raven and Veronica Lake as singer-magician Ellen Graham pair well: unlike Glory, Ellen is a cool customer, devoid of Martha Raye-like comedy. As nightclub owner Willard Gates, Laird Cregar adds an oily, minty, villainous charm to the proceedings. Lake gets first billing; Robert Preston, as Ellen’s police-lieutenant boyfriend, second; but the real star, always, is Ladd, as a short vicious ailurophile. ★★★★ (CC)


From the Criterion Channel’s Mike Leigh at the BBC

Nuts in May (1976). A BBC Play for Today, and a remake (who knew?) of a 1953 television movie with the same title, a title shared with an unrelated 1917 Stan Laurel short — which is strange, because I thought of this movie as Laurel-and-Hardy-go-camping, if Laurel and Hardy were straight, insufferable, banjo-and-guitar-playing, lacto-vegetarian prigs. Roger Sloman and Alison Steadman are the prigs, Keith and Candice Marie, whose ten-day camping trip to the countryside is made miserable by nearby campers who have no respect for The Country Code. Quietly and sometimes loudly hilarious. Just wait for the songs. ★★★★

The Kiss of Death (1977). Another Play for the Day, it’s the story of a young mortuary assistant, Trevor (David Threlfall), his friend Ronnie, his friend’s girlfriend Sandra, and Sandra’s friend Linda (Kay Adshead), a shoestore employee who may prove a suitable girlfriend for Trevor. Ronnie and Sandra seem to be emotional blanks, figures from The Waste Land. Trevor is an enigma: when the more talkative Linda asks him about the possibility of a kiss, he giggles uncontrollably — yet he’s astonishingly capable when taking on matters of life and death. We’re meant, I think, to understand that Trevor’s daily intimacy with the dead has deeply affected him, but I’m not sure that the movie helps us to understand why giggles are the result. ★★★


Loan Shark (dir. Seymour Friedman, 1952). Impossibly ludicrous: just-released ex-con Joe Gargen (George Raft) joins up with the loansharking crew that just killed his brother-in-law; and thus Joe’s sister and his girlfriend, who don’t know that he’s really working undercover, turn their backs on him. Paul Stewart is menacing and has a good scene in a commercial laundry taken over by the sharks. But Raft, is as usual, wooden. Give him any line — “April is the cruellest month,” “My pants are on fire,” “Yabba dabba doo” — and it will come out in the same affectless tone. ★★ (YT)


I Accuse! (dir. José Ferrer, 1958). The Dreyfus affair, with Ferrer giving a great performance as the protagonist. Impossible to watch without thinking about McCarthyism — accusations without merit, lives ruined. The really chilling part: nothing Albert Dreyfus can say or do is enough to establish his innocence; everything depends some other person choosing (finally) to do the right thing. A superior effort, with a screenplay by Gore Vidal. ★★★★ (TCM)


Edge of Darkness (dir. Lewis Milestone, 1943). Warner Brothers at its finest, in a story told in one long flashback, as a Norwegian fishing village under Nazi occupation awaits a shipment of British arms and a chance to fight back. Impossible to watch without thinking about Ukraine. With Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, and Walter Huston. Great cinematography by Sid Hickox, with scenes of combat that recall the director’s All Quiet on the Western Front. ★★★★ (TCM)


The Life of Jimmy Dolan (dir. Archie Mayo, 1933). Prizefighter Jimmy Dolan (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) kills a nasty newspaper man with one punch and flees the city, ending up way out west at a ranch for children with polio, where he assumes the name Jack Dougherty and meets caregiver Peggy (Loretta Young). When the ranch needs money to remain open, Jack decides to enter a boxing contest, even at the risk of being recognized. With Guy Kibbee, Allen Hoskins, Aline MacMahon, Mickey Rooney, and John Wayne. Try to figure out what marks the movie as pre-Code. ★★★ (TCM)


They Made Me a Criminal (dir. Busby Berkeley, 1939). A remake, with John Garfield as the fighter (now Johnnie Bradfield), Gloria Dickson as Peggy, and Claude Rains as Guy Kibbee. But much screentime goes to the Dead End Kids (reform-school alums): Gabriel Dell, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Bernard Punsly. The love story is weaker than in the original; the scene in the water-storage tank is harrowing. Try to figure out what marks the movie as post-Code. ★★★ (YT)


The Little Foxes (dir. William Wyler, 1941). From Lillian Hellman’s play, with a screenplay mostly by Hellman. Greed and schemes in a southern family, circa 1900, with Regina Hubbard Giddens (Bette Davis), an ailing husband (Herbert Marshall), two wealthier brothers (Ben Hubbard and Carl Benton Reid), a daughter who serves as witness to the family’s dysfunction (Teresa Wright), a drunken sister-in-law (Patricia Collinge), a callow nephew (Dan Duryea), and a host of loyal Black servants. Not my kind of movie, but it’s full of great performances: the scene with Mr. and Mrs. Giddens in the sitting room is chilling. Gregg Toland’s cinematography is, as always, brilliant: consider the shaving scene. ★★★★ (TCM)


The Hoodlum (dir. Max Nosseck, 1951). You can see it coming: if the movie stars Lawrence Tierney (as felon Vincent Lubeck) and begins with his character’s mother (Lisa Golm) successfully pleading for his parole, things are not going to end well. Vincent is a psychopath: no sooner is he released than he betrays family members and begins scheming an armored-car robbery. Not especially surprising or even suspenseful, but Lisa Golm shines briefly when she recounts her son’s destruction of his family. Best line: “You took your Papa’s name and burned a number on his heart: one nine nine four three six.” ★★★ (YT)


Crime and Punishment U.S.A. (dir. Denis Sanders, 1959). The third adaptation of Dostoevsky our household has seen (after Crime and Punishment (1935) and Fear (1946)), and by far the best. George Hamilton — yes, really — is our Raskolnikov, Robert Cole, a Los Angeles college student; Frank Silvera (Killer’s Kiss) is the Porfiry-like Lieutenant Porter, Cole’s nemesis; Mary Murphy (The Wild One) is the Sonya-like Sally. Walter Newman’s screenplay is a brilliant paring down of the novel: Cole’s mother, sister, and best friend are nearly absent; his sister’s employer and suitor are collapsed into one person; emphasis thus falls on the three principals. I have to admit: I preferred this adaptation to the novel itself. ★★★★ (TCM)

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