Friday, March 31, 2023

Recently updated

DFW on the shelf Now with a screenshot of an MSNBC guest with Infinite Jest and other interesting books behind him.

An EXchange name sighting

[This Woman Is Dangerous (dir. Felix E. Feist, 1952). Click for a larger view.]

Lewiston is an unincorporated community about eighty-five miles southeast if Chicago. It’s exceedingly unlikely that there was ever a federal building there. I can find no evidence that INdianapolis was ever in use as an exchange name. As for that FBI seal, well, it isn’t. The reality effect is shaky here.

Related reading
All OCA EXchange name posts (Pinboard)

Olives as cars

A hungry gangster asks a question. From This Woman Is Dangerous (dir. Felix E. Feist, 1952): “Ann, you got some olives? The green ones with the red tail lights?”


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

This is the first time in history a former United States president has been indicted, although it is worth remembering that it is not new for our justice system to hold elected officials accountable. Mayors have been indicted and convicted. So have governors: in fact, four of the past ten Illinois governors have gone to prison. Vice presidents, too, have been charged with crimes: Aaron Burr was indicted on two counts of murder in 1804 while still in office and was tried for treason afterward. And in 1973, Richard Nixon’s vice president Spiro Agnew resigned after pleading no contest to tax evasion to avoid prison time.
Illinois leads the nation in imprisoned governors: Otto Kerner, Daniel Walker, George Ryan, and Rod Blagojevich. As you may recall, Donald Trump commuted Blagojevich’s sentence in 2020. Blagojevich now calls him a “Trumpocrat.”

[Leaders of other democracies have been prosecuted as well.]

Thursday, March 30, 2023

DFW on the shelf

On MSNBC just now: on a bookshelf behind Nick Ackerman, former Watergate prosecutor, a copy of Infinite Jest. You’ll have to take my word for it.


Not anymore: the episode is now online.

[The Beat with Ari Melber, March 30, 2023. Click for a much larger view.]

Infinite Jest is above Mr. Ackerman’s head — literally, that is. To the left of the Jest: Consider the Lobster. Three more steps to the left: that might be The Grapes of Wrath. I also see The Poetry of Robert Frost, what must be a biography of Frida Kahlo, and Lynne Truss’s (awful) Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Is Hoot a children’s book? Is Revival the Stephen King novel? Are there books here that you can add?

All OCA David Foster Wallace posts (Pinboard)


I turn off NPR, put on Lassie, fold some laundry, and look what happens. From The New York Times:

A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Donald J. Trump on Thursday for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to five people with knowledge of the matter, a historic development that will shake up the 2024 presidential race and forever mark him as the nation’s first former president to face criminal charges.

An indictment will likely be announced in the coming days. By then, prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, will have asked Mr. Trump to surrender and to face arraignment on charges that remain unknown for now.
[“Gift” link, no subscription needed.]

“The Corridors of Insomnia”

Steven Millhauser, “Cathay,” in In the Penny Arcade (1986).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Word of the day: spiv

Ex-con Leo Martin (William Hartnell) questions the questioner, detective inspector Roberts (Robert Beatty). From Appointment with Crime (dir. John Harlow, 1946):

“So I suppose you think I did it.”

“Why should I?”

“Because you’re a copper, and I’m a spiv.”
Green's Dictionary of Slang has it covered: “a flashy, sharp individual who exists on the fringes of real criminality, living by their wits rather than a regular job.”

Jonathon Green offers four possible origins: (1) the Romany word spiv, sparrow, a derogatory term for “those who existed by picking up the leavings of their betters, criminal or legitimate”; (2) a reversal of V.I.P.s; (3) a police abbreviation for “suspected persons and itinerant vagrants”; (4) a derivation from spiff, a dandy.

The Oxford English Dictionary says the word is of unknown origin but points to spiff, spiffy, and Henry “Spiv” Bagster, a London newspaper seller and criminal:
Bagster’s court appearances for loitering, theft, assault, and selling counterfeit goods are reported in the national newspapers between 1903 and 1906. The nickname is recorded from 1904.
Not clear though why he was called “Spiv.”

And now it’s back to my law-abiding life.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Two Manhattan addresses

Two Manhattan addresses with considerable history:

64 East Seventh Street in the East Village, still standing, and now the subject of a song cycle, lyrics by David Hajdu, music by various composers.

And 14 Gay Street in Greenwich Village, now gone.

Thanks, Stefan.

The Internet Archive in the courts

From The Washington Post:

A federal judge has sided with four publishers who sued an online archive over its unauthorized scanning of millions of copyrighted works and offering them for free to the public. Judge John G. Koeltl of U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled [March 24] that the Internet Archive was producing “derivative” works that required permission of the copyright holder.
The Archive strikes back:
“Libraries are more than the customer service departments for corporate database products,” Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle wrote in a blog post Friday. “For democracy to thrive at global scale, libraries must be able to sustain their historic role in society — owning, preserving, and lending books. This ruling is a blow for libraries, readers, and authors and we plan to appeal it.”
A blog post at the Internet Archive has more. And if you want to support the Archive, here’s the link for donations.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Handwriting, again

The New York Times looks at handwriting, good and bad. This article appears to be the one for which the Times solicited samples of bad handwriting last October. The paper has been worrying about the future of handwriting for some time now. In 1967, the enemies were electric typewriters, tape recorders, and Xerox machines.

Here’s the handwritng sample I sent — pretty legible, alas. Here’s a worse one that might have had a better chance.

Related reading
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)

[This is a day when I’m in flight from real news.]

Crocs rising

“While other brands that thrived with customers in quarantine have dropped off, sales of the easily slipped-on clogs are up nearly 200 percent since 2019”: The New York Times reports on Crocs.

I have a pair for around the house and another for garbage duty, desultory strolls, &c. Crocs are great.

One caution: a neighbor, hale, hearty, non-fragile, broke an ankle when he slipped on a grassy slope while wearing Crocs. That gives new meaning to the words “easily slipped-on clogs.” Crocs are not the best choice for a slippery surface, though there are slip-resistant ones for work wear.

[This is a day when I’m in flight from real news.]

Break-room signage

[The Human Jungle (dir. Joseph M. Newman, 1954). Click for a larger view.]

Captain John Danforth (Gary Merrill) confronts slacker detective Lannigan (Lamont Johnson). There’s more than coffee in his cup.

On the wall, to the left: “Put all money for coffee & donuts in box.” But it’s the sign to the right that’s the interesting one: “Don’t be a [sponge]. Pay for your coffee or Join the Club.” That is, a coffee club. I like the hand pointing to the sponge — just in case you missed it.

Related reading
All OCA signage posts (Pinboard) : MAdison 5-1234

An EXchange name sighting

[The Human Jungle (dir. Joseph M. Newman, 1954). Click for a larger cab.]

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 : Crime and Punishment U.S.A. : The Crooked Way : 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?

Monday, March 27, 2023

Ten movies, two seasons

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

The Human Jungle (dir. Joseph M. Newman, 1954). As newly assigned police captain John Danforth, Gary Merrill is Captain Hardass, cracking down on card-playing, whiskey-sneaking cops. He also seeks to solve the murder of a stripper, who, as he points out, was a human being. A chase through a Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery adds zest. With Chuck Connors, Emile Meyer (Mr. Halloran in Blackboard Jungle), and Jan Sterling. ★★ (YT)


The Young Savages (dir. John Frankenheimer, 1961). It opens with an act of blunt, brutal violence and goes on to add layer upon layer of complication. Burt Lancaster plays a district attorney prosecuting three white teenagers for the murder of a Latino teenager. One of those charged is the son of an old flame (Shelley Winters). With John Davis Chandler, Telly Savalas (as a brutal cop), Pilar Seurat, and Stanley Kristien, an actor with just three other screen credits, one for Route 66 and one for Naked City, so you know he’s good. ★★★★ (YT)


Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (dir. Norman Foster, 1948). Another movie that opens with an act of blunt, brutal violence, but here it’s unpremeditated, the act of a veteran and former POW, Bill Saunders (Burt Lancaster), suffering from what we can now recognize as PTSD. “The wounds of war, whether of the mind or the of the body, heal slowly,” words on the screen tell us. Bill finds refuge in the London apartment of Jane Wharton (Joan Fontaine), a lonely woman whose sweetheart was killed in battle; the tentative, uneasy relationship that develops between them is threatened, again and again, by a small-time criminal (Robert Newton) who saw what Bill did. An excellent, artfully made noir with an improbable and misleading title. ★★★★ (TCM)


Go Tell It on The Mountain (dir. Stan Lathan, 1985). An American Playhouse adaptation of James Baldwin’s first novel. Like the novel, the film moves back and forth in time and place, between the rural Jim Crow south and Harlem, mapping the intergenerational consequences of misogyny and patriarchy in a family whose existence encompasses only two realities: home and church (the great Satan is “the streets”). Baldwin, who told The New York Times he was “very, very happy” with the adaptation, gets the last word: “It did not betray the book.” With James Bond III, Rosalind Cash, Olivia Cole, Ruby Dee, and Paul Winfield. ★★★★ (CC)


Appointment with Crime (dir. John Harlow, 1946). A shocker, this one is, Yoda might say. A small-time criminal is abandoned by his cronies in a failed heist; now out of prison, he’s looking for revenge. As small-timer Leo Martin, William Hartnell looks both vulnerable and creepy, like a cross between Alan Ladd and Norman Lloyd, a dangerous combination for dancehall hostess Carol Dane (Joyce Howard). A surprising element: Herbert Lom as an antiques dealer and Alan Wheatley as his live-in amanuensis: how did those guys get past the censors? ★★★ (YT)


Appointment with a Shadow (dir. Richard Carlson, 1957). It’s a B-movie variation on The Lost Weekend, with George Nader as an alcoholic reporter who’s promised a big story if he can go one day without drinking. George Nader gives a strong performance as reporter Paul Baxter — sweaty, jittery, bedeviled by car horns and reminders of alcohol: billboards, a liquor-store delivery man, radio commercials. Joanna Moore (Tatum O’Neal’s mother) is his loyal girlfriend; Brian Keith, his girlfriend’s skeptical brother. The big story, with a twist and a chase through the night, adds to the movie’s interest. ★★★ (YT)


This Woman Is Dangerous (dir. Felix E. Feist, 1952). Joan Crawford is Beth Austin, a criminal boss, heading a heist outfit and struggling to manage her ultra-needy, ultra-jealous boyfriend of nine years, Matt Jackson (David Brian). When she calls off a heist to schedule eye surgery, because otherwise she’ll be blind in a week, she ends up falling in love with her surgeon, Dr. Ben Halleck (Dennis Morgan). Some nifty police tricks (tapping into telephone lines), and a good final scene as the two rivals come face to face, sort of, in an operating theater where all the doctors in attendance are masked. Insanely improbable melodrama. ★★★ (TCM)


The White Lotus (created by Mike White, seasons one and two 2021–2022). I asked my daughter — our TV influencer — if she could recommend something to watch, and this series was her answer, and what a good answer. For anyone who’s not seen it, it’s something of a darkly funny whodunit and whogotit, following the fortunes of moneyed, troubled vacationers at a White Lotus resort. As the season begins, someone has been murdered, and then we go back one week to find out what happened. First season: Hawaii, with a sobriety-challenged resort manager (Murray Bartlett), a “magical Negro” spa manager (Natasha Rothwell), an addled solitary traveler (Jennifer Coolidge), and too many more characters to name. ★★★★ (HBO)

[The magical Negro trope is, trust me, meant to be recognized as such.]

Second season: Now we’re at a White Lotus in Sicily, with three generations of horny men looking for their roots (F. Murray Abraham, Michael Imperioli, Adam DeMarco), a prostitute looking for customers (Simona Tabasco), two couples in intra- and inter-relationship conflicts (Meghann Fahy and Theo James, Aubrey Plaza and Will Sharpe), and, once again, too many more characters to name. The star of the season: Jennifer Coolidge, still addled, now traveling with a personal assistant (Haley Lu Richardson). I was happy to find my hunches about whodunit and whogotit and how on the mark, in nearly every respect. My favorite scene: the Sicilian-Americans meeting their cousins. ★★★★ (HBO)


Carnal Knowledge (dir. Mike Nichols, 1971). Two men, Jonathan and Sandy (Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel) and five women, Susan (Candice Bergen), Bobbie (Ann-Margret), Cindy (Cynthia O’Neal), Jennifer (Carol Kane), and Louise (Rita Moreno). Jonathan and Sandy begin as Amherst College roommates and blunder their way through relationships: Sandy pressures Susan, his Smith girlfriend, to have sex while Jonathan starts up his own relationship with her; a marriage dissolves (off camera!); another marriage dissolves; Jonathan evaluates prospective partners as one would evaluate animals at a county fair. Jules Feiffer’s screenplay is grimly funny, filled with cliché and misogyny. I can imagine what straight men were asking their partners in 1971: “Babe, you know I’m not like that, right?” ★★★ (TCM)


Dear Heart (dir. Delbert Mann, 1964). This movie would pair well, though weirdly, with Carnal Knowledge : it’s a coy look at sexual mores in a world before mustaches and pot. Geraldine Page is Evie Jackson, a lonely postmaster visiting Manhattan for a postal convention; Glenn Ford is Harry Mork, a greeting-card salesman on, well, the make: breaking it off with one woman, already engaged to another, availing himself of a one-night stand with a third — and then along comes Evie. Page is great; Ford, an enigma; and Angela Lansbury has a memorable brief appearance, A large cast with familiar faces in small roles makes the scenes of enforced fun and hilarity worth watching. ★★★ (TCM)


Hotel Berlin (dir. Peter Godfrey, 1945). Based on Vicki Baum’s novel, a sequel to her Grand Hotel. Here the setting is a hotel in the waning days of WWII. I was strongly reminded of Casablanca, because everybody comes to the Hotel Berlin: an escaped resistance fighter (Helmut Dantine), Nazi officers (Henry Daniell, Raymond Massey), a famed actress (Andrea King), a Dietrich-like “hostess” (Faye Emerson), a Nobel laureate (Peter Lorre), almost all with a capacity for sharp, grim humor. Their stories intersect in unexpected ways. With a great score by Franz Waxman. ★★★★ (TCM)

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

The Milky Way

My friend Luanne shared a surprise. The phrase “the Milky Way” first appears in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The House of Fame (c. 1380):

“Now,” quod he thoo, “cast up thyn yë.
Se yonder, loo, the Galaxie,
Which men clepeth the Milky Way,
For hit ys whit (and somme, parfey,
Kallen hyt Watlynge Strete)”
Why Galaxie? The OED explains: “post-classical Latin galaxias Milky Way.”

Why Milky Way? The OED explains: “after classical Latin lactea via.”

And why Watlynge Strete? My ancient edition of Chaucer (ed. F.N. Robinson, 1957) explains:
Watlynge Strete, a famous old road, which probably ran from Kent to the Firth of Forth. The Milky Way was called “Watling street” or “Walsingham way” in England, just as it was known in southern Europe as “la via di San Jacopo” (the way to Santiago) and “la strada di Roma” (the way to Rome).
Richard Abbott offers a correction about Watling Street in the comments: “Modern thinking, based on Roman route itineraries, is that it actually goes from Kent roughly north-west through London to Wroxeter.” He adds much more about Watling Street. Here’s a modern-day journey on the street. And from the BBC, “The road that led to 1,000 stories.” Among them: The Canterbury Tales.

[“Now,” quoth he, “cast up your eye. See yonder, lo, the Galaxy, which men call the Milky Way, for it is white (and some, by my faith, call it Watling Street).”]

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Succession, sheesh

“I thought it might be time for you and I to move on.”

All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[The Times calls this first episode “lively and highly entertaining.” I found it a snorefest. Watch people make calls to negotiate a deal — fun!]

NYT vs. Guardian

A cult leader held a gathering with followers yesterday in Waco, Texas. Here’s an account from The New York Times. And here’s an account from The Guardian. Which one gives a better sense of what happened?

I’ll offer just one detail. From the Times:

From the stage, Mr. Trump notably did not attack the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, in the kind of caustic terms that he had used on social media in recent days. This past week, he had called Mr. Bragg, who is Black, an “animal” and accused him of racism for pursuing a case based on hush-money payments to the porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. . . .

He did attack one of Mr. Bragg’s senior counsels by name, noting that he came to the office from the Justice Department and describing the move, without evidence, as part of a national conspiracy. “They couldn’t get it done in Washington, so they said, ‘Let’s use local offices,’” Mr. Trump said.
What the Times doesn’t report, and what The Guardian does report, is that Trump** called New York prosecutors “absolute human scum.” Here’s the video. “Human scum” is what he called Bragg last week on his faux-Twitter. Kinda caustic if you ask me.

I left a comment on the Times article, noting that it’s a remarkably demure account of yesterday’s cult gathering. Letting the details go unreported increases the danger that Trump** and his followers pose to our democracy.


4:00 p.m.: I have to add one more contrast. The Times:
The rally featured one new twist: the playing of “Justice for All,” a song featuring the J6 Prison Choir, which is made up of men who were imprisoned for their part in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

The song, which topped some iTunes download charts, is part of a broader attempt by Mr. Trump and his allies to reframe the riot and the effort to overturn the election as patriotic. The track features the men singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” while Mr. Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance.
And The Guardian:
He opened the rally by playing a song, “Justice for All”, that features a choir of men imprisoned for their role in the January 6 insurrection singing the national anthem intercut with Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Trump stood solemnly on a podium with hand on heart and footage from the Capitol riot was shown on big screens and US flags billowed in the wind. “That song tells you a lot because it’s number one in every single category,” he told a crowd of thousands. “Number two was Taylor Swift, number three was Miley Cyrus.”
Footage from January 6, shown as something to celebrate, another detail the Times omits.

The Times hasn’t published my comment, perhaps because the paper prohibits “namecalling” and I referred to Trump** and his followers as fascists.


7:30 p.m.: I tried another comment, minus “fascists” and “absolute human scum,” and it got through.

[Two impeachments, two asterisks. And an untold number of crimes.]

The shadows

[2516 Hughes Avenue, The Bronx, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Residential blocks are seldom the most compelling viewing in the WPA tax photographs. But then a building shows up with people looking out from windows and doorways, watching the photographers, and a block has interest. Or there’s a kid stuck minding the baby carriage, and lots of long shadows in the foreground. And one mysteriously long, long shadow. How? Why? The shadows know.

Today the corner where this residence and others stood is home to the Avicenna Surgery Center.

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

Saturday, March 25, 2023

What I’d like to see in Succession

The fourth and final season of Succession begins tomorrow. What I’d like to see: a far greater exploration of the family past. The opening credits are entirely about the childhood world of the Roy offspring, but we’ve learned about that world only in dribs and drabs. Or maybe just dribs. What, for instance, became of Connor’s mother? We have no idea. And further back: what happened to Logan Roy’s sister Rose? I’d like to learn something that might make the Roys appear more than merely hateful, scheming, and inane. Or if they are to remain merely hateful, scheming, and inane, I’d like at least to learn something that would do more to account for the family dynamic.

I’m thinking especially about an enigmatic moment in the opening credits: a glimpse of a woman reclining on a chaise longue, looking across a lawn. Then again, it may not be meant as enigmatic: it may be just one more surface detail of privilege.

And I’d like to learn what Tom Wambsgans is really all about.

[I think my general problem with Succession is that I keep expecting it to be more than it is.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Steve Mossberg. It’s tough, knotty, difficult, formidable. (And I just accounted for all its answers — of one, two, three, and four syllables.) I missed by one square: having come up with a wholly plausible answer for 1-A, four letters, “Dough additive,” an answer that I never thought to second-guess, I assumed that the resulting answer for 1-D, four letters, “Plotter's preparations” was strained and Stumpery. But it was just wrong.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

8-D, thirteen letters, “Stay out all night.” Nice.

9-A, three letters, “Entryway adorned with a butterfly.” Pretty strained.

10-D, five letters, “Cliffside debris.” I like this word.

16-A, ten letters, “Publishing bottleneck.” A novel answer, no pun intended.

23-A, eight letters, “Dander-free pets.” Elaine approved of this clue when I ran it by her, but as she also points out, apples are a gluten-free food. And I am writing at a dander-free desk, on a fragrance-free MacBook Air. There’s something odd about calling these critters dander-free.

26-D, ten letters, “Multi-milk Mexican dessert.” A giveaway, I think, but I’ll take it.

38-A, eleven letters, “Small corner gatherings.” Clever.

43-A, eight letters, “Person paid to wave.” I think the Saturday Stumper is a bit obsessed with this line of work, or clueing.

45-A, eight letters, “Third quarters.” Stumpery.

My favorite in this puzzle, because it broke things open and because I got the answer from nothing more than its last three letters: 17-D, thirteen letters, “Contemporary office trend.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, March 24, 2023

“You’re sitting in a tree, Cath”

Catherine is troubled. She and Peter Schiller went down the hill together, on one sled, he on top of her. He said “Love you” or “I love you” in her ear.

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

A Salingeresque moment, I’d say.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)


[“Sole Music.” Zippy, March 25, 2023. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy made me wonder: are they still called duck boots?

A DuckDuckGo search (heh) for l l bean duck boots turns up L.L. Bean pages with duck in the title: e.g., “The Original Duck Boot”. But go the page, and there’s no duck. Look at the page source (which I don’t really know how to make sense of), and duck is in there. Search the Bean site for duck boots, and boots show up, minus duck. Search the Bean site for duck alone, and nothing shows up. But: “We did find results for ‘duskiness.’”

My guess is that associations with guns and hunting make it simpler for L.L. Bean to keep the duck part quiet.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[The label on my newish Bean Boot Gumshoes says “Bean Boots.” My old ones wore out after thirty years or so.]

Thursday, March 23, 2023

“God, you’re prejudiced”

Eleanor Schumann, a chronic absentee, a high-school Annabel Lee (though she hates Poe), keeper of her own Childhood Museum (accessed via a door in the back wall of a closet), has changed. Arthur Grumm, who visits Eleanor in her bedroom after school, doesn’t like it.

Steven Millhauser, Portrait of a Romantic (1977).

That’s the last passage I’m posting from Portrait of a Romantic, It’s a terrific novel, exploring several varieties of adolescent experience, as recounted by a former adolescent — twenty-nine-year-old Grumm, one who made it out, at least sort of.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Perimeter oscillations


The Pepsi DNA finds its origin in the dynamic of perimeter oscillations. This new identity manifests itself in an authentic geometry that is to become proprietary to the Pepsi culture.
I’m not sure how I came to notice this document, a 2008 working proposal for a redesign of the Pepsi logo by “brand guru” Peter Arnell. Newsweek deemed it real. If it’s not real, it’s at least real gone.

[Speaking of branding: Pepsi-Cola became Pepsi in 1961. Who knew?]

Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Menuwhere is a tiny app from Many Tricks that opens a Mac app’s menu wherever you are on the screen. This page offers a complete explanation. I like the developers’ sense of humor: “Menuwhere isn’t available on the Mac App Store due to the store’s restrictions on newly-released utilities that actually do useful things.” Only $3. Fun to play with while waiting for news of an indictment.

Willis Reed (1942–2023)

The New York Knicks center has died at the age of eighty. The New York Times has an obituary, with a video feature about game seven of the 1970 NBA championship series.

[I don’t pay attention to sports now, but I was a big Knicks fan back in the day.]

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Aldi and Garfunkel

[Click for a much larger view and look closely.]

I know from a friend that this arrangement is not found in every Aldi. I hope someone at our Aldi meant for it to be noticed.

Douglas Ewart in New York (and in The New York Times)

“Some artists earn the ‘multi-hyphenate’ label by doing two or three things. But Douglas R. Ewart works on a whole other level”: The New York Times reports on a night of art and performance. With eight photographs and a link to a recording of a 1981 performance.

Related reading
Five more Douglas Ewart posts

Monday, March 20, 2023

Brian Cox pronounces Scotch whisky names

As the post title says. There are many, all single malts.

Our household has now watched the first three seasons of Succession. ★★★, I’d say. Too much repetition, too many improbably spontaneous zingers. Here’s Brian Cox as Logan Roy, pronouncing the same two words, again and again. Second word off. Probably NSFW if you’re not in the inner circle at Waystar Royco.

It really can

I’m surprised to see that I’ve never made mentioned of this recording (which won’t embed): it’s a Betty Carter interpretation of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” (Fran Landesman-Tommy Wolf). Recorded in 1964, with Harold Mabern Jr., piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Roy McCurdy, drums.

I played this recording once for a class. I’m not sure what the context was — spring? Sappho’s sense of eros as glukupikron (sweetbitter)? What I am sure about: that class was struck silent. Serious stuff. Music of the Grownups.

Th’ foist

[Nancy, March 20, 1950. Click for a larger view.]

Sluggo has raced to tell the good news: “HEY NANCY,” he shouts. He slips on ice and falls. He falls with such force that enormous quantities of snow are shaken loose from a strategically positioned roof. And thus spring begins.

No snow here. But it’s 27°, feeling like 17°.

This spring strip ran earlier this month.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, March 19, 2023

NPR, sheesh

This morning on Weekend Edition Sunday: “In Greek and Roman mythology, Venus is the goddess of love.”

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

Southern Boulevard spect-op

  [2421, 2423, 2425, and 2427 Southern Boulevard, The Bronx, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click either image for a much larger view.]

The post title is inspired by David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which makes reference to “public spectation opportunities” or “spect-ops,” opportunities for “standing live witness” to events happening in real life, not on a screen.

The only question I have about these photographs is which came first. Click for much larger views and you’ll understand what I mean. It’s a sweet little surprise.

I can imagine a dialogue:

“Excuse me mister, whaddaya doin’?”

“Takin’ pictures for the tax records.”

“Whaddaya, gonna make me pay more taxes?”

“No ma’am, it’s just for the records. It’s a WPA project.”
Google Maps shows these residences and the garage still standing in 2022, all now sided or partly sided. The buildings in the distance are standing too. The two men standing in the doorways must be long gone.

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

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stella Zawistowski, and it’s tough. It look me a bit less time to finish (thirty-seven minutes) than some recent Stumpers, but it felt far more difficult. I started in the southeast with 36-A, three letters, “Fell”; 38-D, five letters, “Freegan’s bane”; and 41-A, four letters, “Brit’s bean.” After that, I was more or less stuck, trying an answer here, an answer there.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

8-D, eleven letters, “Where a tiny cart is kept.” To my mind, carts are still kept only in supermarkets, or in their parking lots, or on the porch of a thief.

16-A, four letters, “Save for posterity, perhaps.” Stumpery.

22-D, eleven letters, “Middle management successes.” Very clever.

25-D, four letters, “What Patton called his colleague.” I guessed right.

29-A, six letters, “Famed farce’s title troubles.” I thought first of The Perils of Pauline, though that’s not a farce.

31-A, ten letters, “Scorekeeper?” Nice one.

33-A, nine letters, “Gotcha.” The answer sounds a tad passive-aggressive to me.

34-D, seven letters, “Mermaid in the pool.” I am mermaid-, pony-, and unicorn-conscious.

39-D, six letters, “Times up.” I like the pun.

52-A, ten letters, “Fully firm.” Pretty oblique. I guessed (and spelled) coreectly.

58-A, eight letters, “The buck stops here.” HARRYTRUMANSDESK doesn’t fit.

One oddity in today’s puzzle: 9-A, four letters, “Cubo pequeo.” Something must have gone wrong with the typesetting.

One clue I don’t understand: 30-A, three letters, “Quad wheels, for short.” I looked up “quad wheels” and the answer, but I still don’t get it. [Later: a comment at Crossword Fiend might be the explanation.]

My favorite in today’s puzzle: 28-D, five letters, “What I will always be?”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, March 17, 2023

“In her wavering, collapsing script”

Arthur Grumm is playing Monopoly with his friend William Mainwaring. But Arthur’s mind is on “her.” That is, Eleanor Schumann. One of my favorite passages in this novel:

Steven Millhauser, Portrait of a Romantic (1977).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Unhelpful reporting

The New York Times reports that the COVID-19 pandemic may have originated with raccoon dogs for sale at a market in Wuhan, China. Which raises all kinds of questions: What are raccoon dogs, and why were they being sold at a Chinese market? Are they specific to China? Are they caught in the wild? Are they bred and sold for food? Or as exotic pets? The Times article offers just a single brief appositive to clarify: “fluffy animals that are related to foxes and are known to be able to transmit the coronavirus.”

A Wikipedia article can tell you much more about raccoon dogs, which are found in Asia and Europe (in Europe, they are considered an invasive species):

An investigation by three animal protection groups into the Chinese fur trade in 2004 and part of 2005 asserts approximately 1.5 million raccoon dogs are raised for fur in China.
And it seems that they’re sold for food. Wikipedia makes no mention of that. A 2022 Times article seems to imply it:
In stall after stall of the poorly ventilated space, he saw live wild animals — snakes, badgers, muskrats, birds — being sold for food [in October 2014]. But it was the raccoon dogs that made him pull out his iPhone.
Fur? Food? Either way, today’s article is some remarkably unhelpful reporting, New York Times.

Saint Patrick’s Day 1913

[St. Patrick’s Day Parade, c. 1910—1915. From the George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). Click for a much larger view.]

That’s You-know-who’s Cathedral. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all.

[Leddy is an Irish name. And yes, the parade moves up Fifth Avenue. And the date written across the top has to be 1913.]

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Printer-buying advice

At The Verge, Nilay Patel offers printer-buying advice:

Here’s the best printer in 2023: the Brother laser printer that everyone has. Stop thinking about it and just buy one. It will be fine!
Our household recently acquired a Brother HL-L2395DW, which replaces the HL-2270DW that we used for twelve or thirteen years. We chose to buy a new printer when the old one began to leave a grainy track on the right margins of pages and we realized that for the price of a toner cartridge and a new drum we could buy a new printer.

Searching my blog, I see that I don’t have a single post mentioning our Brother printers. There’s not much to say about them: they work, and they’re far cheaper to operate than ink-jet printers. And while settting up a printer in 2023 is still a bit of a pain, it makes the set-up of years past seem comically convoluted.

And speaking of comically: Patel includes (for a laugh) a ChatGPT-generated guide to buying a printer. Enjoy.

Parts going their own way

The elusive Eleanor Schumann:

Steven Millhauser, Portrait of a Romantic (1977).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Chomsky et al. on ChatGPT

In The New York Times, Noam Chomsky, Ian Roberts, and Jeffrey Watumull consider (with examples) “the false promise of ChatGPT”:

ChatGPT and its brethren are constitutionally unable to balance creativity with constraint. They either overgenerate (producing both truths and falsehoods, endorsing ethical and unethical decisions alike) or undergenerate (exhibiting noncommitment to any decisions and indifference to consequences). Given the amorality, faux science and linguistic incompetence of these systems, we can only laugh or cry at their popularity.
All OCA ChatGPT 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 : ChatGPT on Edwin Mullhouse : A reporter’s “conversation” with ChatGPT

“Home Run”

“Bottom of the ninth, two out, game tied, runners at the corners, the count full on McCluskey, the fans on their feet, this place is going wild”: so begins “Home Run,” a sentence-long story by Steven Millhauser. You won’t be disappointed.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

“And behold!”

Steven Millhauser, Portrait of a Romantic (1977).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard) : A library slip: 1941, 1992

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

“And a bottle of blueblack ink”

Summer ending, as the future reaches into the present:

Steven Millhauser, Portrait of a Romantic (1977).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Black inks

From Jet Pens: a guide to black inks for fountain pens.

For me, Aurora Black rules.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Even knowing she was in the movie, I had to consult the IMDb to figure out which character she played. But if you recognize her, or think you do, leave her name in the comments.


A hint: She knows the downtown scene.


Anyone who’d like to guess is still welome to, but I’ve put the name in the comments.

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

“Like a sky”

Meet William Mainwaring:

Steven Millhauser, Portrait of a Romantic (1977).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Giving up the whole game

In the latest installment of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson addresses the assertion of CPAC speaker Michael Knowles that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” Richardson points out that Knowles’s statement is not just an attack on transgender people. She makes a connection to Hungarian autocrat’s Victor Orbán’s efforts to end liberal democracy:

Tapping into the anti-LGBTQ sentiment that Orbán and those like him have used to win voters, the statement was a crucial salvo in the attempt to destroy American democracy and replace it with Christian nationalism.

But there is a very simple answer to the radical right’s attack on LGBTQ people that also answers their rejection of democracy. It is an answer that history has proved again and again. Once you give up the principle of equality, you have given up the whole game. You have admitted the principle that people are unequal, and that some people are better than others. Once you have replaced the principle of equality with the idea that humans are unequal, you have stamped your approval on the idea of rulers and subjects. At that point, all you can do is to hope that no one in power decides that you belong in the lesser group.
A useful supplement, from Samuel Perry, professor of sociology: How can we spot #ChristianNationalism in the wild? And a related post: Mary Miller and trans rights.

Tip-Top Diner

[Tip-Top Diner, The Bronx, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

The archives have the address as 2448 Prospect Avenue, which can’t be right: no. 2448 is at one end of a row of rowhouses. Looking at Street View of 1940s New York makes me think that this diner resided on Crotona Avenue, next to what is now the Grace H. Dodge Career and Technical High School. There’s a fenced lot where (I think) the diner once stood.

Tip-Top is a lovely name for a diner: it suggests, at least to my ear, a modest spiffiness. The plates and coffee cups shine. The water glasses gleam. The counterman is wearing a bowtie. No cigarette dangles from his lips.

I would have guessed tip-top to be a nineteenth- or twentieth-century invention. But no. The Oxford English Dictionary dates it to 1702. From its beginnings, it had both literal and figurative meanings: “the very top; the highest point or part; the extreme summit”; “highest pitch or degree; extreme height; acme.” The earliest citation, from a translation of Cicero: “When a Wise Man is at the Tip-top of all Felicity, can he wish Things were better with him?”

Related reading
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

[Beer and ale? That’s a Ballantine billboard.]

Saturday, March 11, 2023

System of laundry

Downstairs: folding, with two episodes of Lassie.

Upstairs: storing, with one side of the English Beat’s first LP.

[Whatever works.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell, whose name is roughly synonymous with “rough Stumper” (forty-one minutes for me). This Stumper has plentiful helpings (hinderings?) of the oblique (60-A, five letters, “Unavailing ID”), the obscure (15-A, nine letters, “TV debut of ’75”) and the “Huh?” (22-A, letters, “Penetrating”). I was surprised that I got the whole thing.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

9-D, six letters, “High point of the National Park Service.” I’m pleased with myself that I know how it’s spelled.

10-A, five letters, “Home worker’s activity.” KInda forced. I’d think of the answer as a state, not an activity.

12-D, letters, “Most-played artist on Canadian radio in the 2010s.” It’s trivia night?

13-D, four letters, “Not in a long time.” Sneaky.

14-D, four letters, “Event to be found on” An arcane way to clue a familiar bit of crosswordese.

17-A, nine letters, “When the going rate’s reduced.” Almost a giveaway; the start might mislead.

27-D, ten letters, “What may end up on the cutting room floor.” More than slightly preposterous.

31-D, four letters, “City ___.” Where's my fedora?

35-A, fifteen letters, “Rap-battle venues.” Just a fun answer.

41-A, nine letters, “Captains’ commands.” Tricky.

51-D, four letters, “Fit to finish.” Stumpery.

56-A, nine letters, “Second restraining order.” Very clever.

59-A, nine letters, “Hong Kong medium of exchange.” Also very clever.

My favorite in this puzzle, just because the answer is so unusual: 11-D, eleven letters, “Global perspective.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, March 10, 2023

John Alton’s Painting with Light

From John Alton’s Painting with Light (1949):

Where there is no light, one cannot see; and when one cannot see, his imagination starts to run wild. He begins to suspect that something is about to happen. In the dark there is mystery.
The book is available from

Related posts
A delirium of shadows : One more from John Alton

One more from John Alton

[From The Crooked Way (dir. Robert Florey, 1949). Click for a larger view.]

John Alton’s cinematography: even the page gets its shadow, though it’s a bit bright to have a place in a delirium of shadows.

It’s not a page in a real directory: if you look closely, you’ll see that the names, addresses, and numbers repeat in the left and center columns.

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 : Crime and Punishment U.S.A. : 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?

A delirium of shadows

I like delirium as a collective name for film-noir shadows. Here is a small delirium from The Crooked Way (dir. Robert Florey, 1949). The cinematographer is John Alton, a master of film noir. Click any image for a larger view.

[Sonny Tufts and goons.]

[Even the cops work in the dark.]

[And even radio dispatchers work in the dark.]

[John Payne as Eddie Riccardi/Eddie Rice.]

[Payne with Ellen Drew as Nina Martin.]

Here’s a post with a delirium of shadows from Suspense (dir. Frank Tuttle, 1946), cinematography by Karl Struss.