Sunday, April 30, 2023


[5712 New Utrecht Avenue, Boro Park, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Here’s a candy store, right next to Sam’s/Not Sam’s Italian American Grocery. Just some candy store, you say? Just some luncheonette? Not so. At one time this establishment had its own matchbooks: Winckler & Meyer / Homemade Ice Cream / & Ices / Luncheonette. There’s just such a matchbook for sale.

By the time of this photograph, the business was just Winckler’s, or E. Winckler. Ernest Winckler is listed in the 1940 telephone directory as residing at this address. A 1946 advertisement for a waitress identifies the business as Winckler & Lazareth. The storefront was most recently a Sleeptight Warehouse Outlet Center. As of 2022, 5712 was a vacant retail/office space, with two liens against its owner for construction work.

If you click for the much larger view, you may decide for yourself whether those are boxes of candy in the window to the right.

I owe the discovery of the matchbook and the presence of this post to a close reader. Thanks, Brian.

Related reading
More from the NYC Municipal Archives (Pinboard)

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by “Lester Ruff” (Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor), is not that much less rough. To my mind it’s a challenging puzzle. My ruffometer may be off.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-D, eight letters, “Spread around for sealing.” Tile background FTW.

5-D, four letters, “Sound made by toasters.”

14-D, six letters, “One of MLB’s oldest mascots.” I had no idea.

15-A, ten letters, “Conservative leader since October 2022.” Not exactly a giveaway, as it’s necessary to know the spelling.

23-D, three letters, “Lib. ___.” Surprising stuff.

25-D, six letters, “One of ‘The French Dickenses.’” I knew it, I knew it.

35-A, three letters, “Preschoolers?” Groan.

37-A, three letters, “Home deconstruction tool.” It’s really spelled like so.

42-D, seven letters, “One present at autograph sessions.” I want to quibble about the answer, but the answer is a thing.

48-D, six letters, “To whom ‘hello’ is ‘alofa.’” Uh, BAKERY?

50-A, five letters, “KFC freebie.” Gee, thanks, Colonel Sanders!

56-D, four letters, “Thumb-made preface.” Weird and wonderful.

65-A, ten letters, “Keats and Yeats.” I find it difficult to think of the answer as appropriate to either poet.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Are we in Bartlett’s yet?

[“Say What?” Zippy, April 29, 2023. Click for a larger view.]

In today’s Zippy, Griffy and Zippy discuss copyright. “Are we having fun yet?” is indeed, as today’s strip says, in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, credited to Bill Griffith, page 838 in the eighteenth edition (a page that also includes R. Crumb).

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[The location in this strip, as Bill Griffith explains: Pirate’s Cove Amusement Park, Ocean City, Maryland. In this video it appears that the sign has been covered.]

On Duke Ellington’s birthday

Duke Ellington was born 124 years ago today.

Here’s a section of The Perfume Suite that became an audience-participation bit, “Dancers in Love” (aka “Stomp for Beginners”), recorded at the Whitney Museum of American Art, April 10, 1972. With Joe Benjamin (bass) and Rufus Jones (drums). Feel free to join in.

Related reading
All OCA Duke Ellington posts (Pinboard)

Friday, April 28, 2023


Max Horn, the virtual head of an animation studio, has ramped up production to one cartoon a week. He’s something of an efficiency expert, and he’s introduced specialization.

Steven Millhauser, “The Little Kingdom of J. Franklin Payne,” in Little Kingdoms (1993).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Arbor Day

Should we sing a song about the trees on Arbor Day?
Should we sing a song about the trees that proudly sway?
Should we be so simple and as sweet a story tell?
No, we yell! What’s there to tell?

We’ve got rhythm, we’ve got music flair,
All over us, come and see the sideshow!
All you gather around for we have found
That our high notes make you quiver.

One, two, three, four [unintelligible].

Shake your shoulders and shake your —

At which point the principal shuts it down: “Shocking! Positively shocking!”

That’s a great moment from the 1936 Our Gang short Arbor Day, with George and Olive Brasno singing and, briefly, dancing. The link goes to the Brasnos’ performance. (The whole short has a racialized moment that you might prefer to skip.)

George and Olive Brasno, a brother-and-sister act, were quite a dynamic duo. IMDb identifies their song as “Doin’ the Crazy Walk,” but that title would seem to cover “Shake your shoulders” — certainly not the Arbor Day content. (Very strange: there’s an Ellington tune titled “Doin’ the Crazy Walk,” but it has nothing to do with the music in this short.

Here are the Brasnos dancing in Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936). And here, from The Colgate Comedy Hour (1952) is Olive dancing with Buster Shaver.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Illusions and inventions

Steven Millhauser, “Eisenheim the Illusionist,“ in The Barnum Museum (1990).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

[The Illusionist (dir. Neil Burger, 2006) is not bad, but the story is much more satisfying. Words beat special effects, every time.]

Have I heard that song before?

In The New York Times: songs from seven copyright cases.

Blatant borrowing that never went to court: Jimmy Forrest’s “Night Train” borrows from Johnny Hodges’s “That’s the Blues, Old Man” and Duke Ellington’s “Happy-Go-Lucky Local.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Mats and mattresses

Yesterday on MSNBC, Juanita Tolliver characterized Ted Cruz as “ready to go to the mattress” for a defeated, disgraced, twice-impeached, once-indicted president. I think she meant “mat.” But I’m not sure.

The Oxford English Dictionary on “go to the mat”:

colloquial (originally U.S.). to go to the mat: to take part in a wrestling bout; (figurative) to engage in a vigorous dispute or argument
A 1990 citation: “He likes to have a lawyer who will go to the mat for him!”

From Merriam-Webster:
to make an all-out combative effort (as in support of a position)
From The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms:
Fight until one side or another is victorious, as in The governor said he’d go to the mat for this bill. This term comes from wrestling and evokes the holding of an opponent when both contestants are down on the mat, the padded floor–covering used in matches. It has been used figuratively since about 1900.
But it’s also possible to “go to the mattress” or “the mattresses.” Here’s a colorful but most likely historically dubious explanation of a possible meaning, “to prepare for a battle or adopt a warlike stance”:
In 1530 the combined troops of Charles V and Medici Pope Clement VII lay siege to Florence. The bell tower of San Miniato al Monte was part of the defences. Michelangelo Buonarroti, as he was good at most things, was put in charge of defending the city. He used the ploy of hanging mattresses on the outside of the tower to minimize damage from cannon fire.

Ordinarily we would want to verify such stories before publishing them here as part of a phrase derivation. In this case though it isn’t really important. The meaning of the phrase turns on the association in Italian folk-memory of mattresses with safety in wartime.
Folk-memory indeed. From Artistic Guide to Florence and Its Environs (1914):
The Tower which was built by Baccio d’Agnolo was during the siege a target of the artillery fire of Charles V but was saved by Michelangelo who surrounded it, some say, with earthworks while others assert that he had the exposed parts covered with woollen mattrasses.
“Some say”: uh-oh. I can find no reliable retailer of these mattresses. But their folkloric reality likely accounts for the use of “go to the mattress(es)” in the world of organized crime. From The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English:
go to the mattresses; hit the mattresses:

during gang warfare, to retreat in an armed group to a fortified room, apartment or house US

[Joseph] Valachi quoted his boss as saying on one occasion: “We have to go to the mattress again,” and explained that mattress derived from the practice of warring gangs of moving rapidly from place to place, holing up for temporary stays wherever necessary and sleeping on only a simple mattress.
Green’s Dictionary of Slang confirms the underworld meaning: “(orig. US Und.) to hide, to take refuge, esp. when under siege from another gang.” Green’s gives this origin:
the practice of sleeping on mattresses in one’s hideout, rather than in one’s bed at home. Orig. a US Mafia usage, the phr. was widely popularized by the success of Mario Puzo’s book The Godfather (1969) and the films that followed.
You can hear Sonny Corleone (James Caan) talk about going to the mattress(es) in this clip from The Godfather. It sounds to me like “mattress,” but the screenplay has four instances of the plural, and only the plural.

Last year the eldest son of the defeated, disgraced, twice-impeached, once-indicted president was mocked for speaking of “going to the mattresses” with no idea of what the expression means. I wonder if Juanita Tolliver was purposefully echoing Junior’s inept use of the expression to invoke the language of a newer and more dangerous crime family and its associates.

1940s NYC

Julien Boilen’s 1940s NYC, which links points on a map to their WPA tax photographs in the New York City Municipal Archives, now accepts stories about NYC addresses from readers. I’ve been adding bits from my Sunday tax-photograph posts. I think it’s a great way to make the past present.

My favorite thing that someone else has found: 384 Chauncey Street, Brooklyn, home of Freitag the Delicatessen’s. That’s the way they said it on The Honeymooners.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Supreme count

6 + 3 = 9

(6 - 2) + (3 + 2) = 9

4 + 5 = 9

[I’m not even thinking about leaky Alito — just Thomas and, now, Gorsuch. Thanks to Elaine for the post title.]


Steven Millhauser, “The Invention of Robert Herendeen,“ in The Barnum Museum (1990).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Eleven at ninety

“I feel like I’m eleven!” says Carol Burnett, who turns ninety tomorrow. A birthday special airs tomorrow on ABC.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Acorn Truckles out

I don’t want to type his name. But he’s out at Fox “News” (NYT gift link). Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker reports that Truckles has been replaced by “a state-of-the-art lying Chatbot.”


And now Don Lemon is out (NYT ). But his name looks like it’s already been anagrammed.

[The Lemon link is a regular one. I’m out of gift links.]

Backstayges and Roys

I finally realized what the group trips of Succession remind me of: the group trips of Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife, the Bob and Ray radio-serial spoof. In last night’s episode of Succession the whole gang traveled to Norway: Kendall, Roman, Shiv, Tom, Frank, Greg, &c. In Mary Backstayge, it’s Mary and Harry Backstayge, Calvin Hoogavin, Pop Beloved, and Greg Marlowe, traveling from one adventure to another.

Related reading
Mary Backstayge marigold seeds : “PUISSANCE WITHOUT HAUTEUR”

[Calvin Hoogavin would make a good cousin Greg.]

Harold and Mel

I was writing a review of a book by Harold Bloom. In my review I called Bloom “a comical curmudgeon.” But there was nothing comical about the book I was reviewing. In it, Bloom accused Mel Tormé, his former graduate student, of killing five people in an abandoned house on the north side of town.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

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

Sunday, April 23, 2023

TV nostalgia

“Free streaming services Pluto TV, Tubi, Xumo Play and others show classic TV shows with ads, easing decisions for those overwhelmed with options”: “Americans Get Nostalgic for the Cable TV Experience” (The Wall Street Journal ).

I remember what Orin Incandenza says about broadcast television: “I miss seeing the same things over and over again.” And: “The choice, see. It ruins it somehow. With television you were subjected to repetition. The familiarity was inflicted.”

Sam’s, not Sam’s

[5714 New Utrecht Avenue, Boro Park, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

This morning I’ve moved from Bensonhurst into Boro Park. But I’m still the prisoner of New Utrecht Avenue.

I like the look of this modest grocery store. In the windows: signage for the then-ubiquitous White Rose Tea (no relation to present-day fancy tea). And: QUALITY FOODS / ITALIAN GROCERIES / IT’S GOOD / DELICATESSEN. I like the use of the sidewalk as additional floor space. And I like puzzling over the mystery items displayed to the left. Is that baccalà I’m looking at?

Pre-grocery, this address housed a funeral parlor, then a paint store. The paint-store owner declared bankruptcy in 1933. At one point the grocery store was owned by a Sam Sturn. By the time this photograph was taken, the Sam on the store’s sign was covered, though the name is still present on the awning. This newspaper item might explain Mr. Sturn’s departure from the grocery business.

[“Fire of Sunpicious Origin in Grocery.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 10, 1933. Click for a larger view.]

There are many reasons why someone might toss bricks wrapped in gasoline-soaked rags through a store window. The one that immediately comes to my mind is that the store owner had refused to pay protection money.

As of July 2022, Google Maps shows no. 5714 unoccupied. Siding has covered the second-story windows for at least eleven years.

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

Details of the building’s history found via the ever-helpful Brooklyn Newsstand. White Rose was a black tea, no relation to white tea and rosebuds.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Stella Zawistowksi, surprised me with its doability. 1-D, four letters, “Persian equivalents of 34 Across” led me to you-know-where, three letters, “Title in Tamil.” and from there I began to fill in the right half of the puzzle. Thank you, title. The toughest part of this puzzle: the lower right corner. 53-D, four letters, “What often comes with a new addr.”? Wait, what?

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

6-D, ten letters, “Gooey sammies.” Thank goodness this clue has nothing to do with Oreos.

10-D, six letters, “Its capital has a pointy top.” Lordy.

14-D, four letters, “Battleship call.” Wonderful once you get it, which I didn’t until rereading the clue right now.

17-A, ten letters, “Source of a little juice.” Clever.

20-A, six letters, “What to do before going.” UNZIP won’t fit.

26-D, ten letters, “City with an Eiffel Tower topped with a cowboy hat.” A giveaway, I guess.

29-A, nine letters, “Refreshments that aren't hard to enjoy.” I was thinking JELLOCUPS, but the puzzle has a better answer. Really clever.

41-A, nine letters, “They get steamed every day.” Groan.

46-D, four letters, “’50s TV nickname heard on the Roku Channel.” Television past is contained in television present, as T.S. Eliot might have written. If all television is eternally present, all time is unredeemable.

47-A, four letters, “What’s common to a nail and a whale.” Whale seems pretty arbitrary, only here for the sake of the rhyme.

48-A, letters, “Was heated from within.” That’s one good clue.

55-A, ten letters, “Solitaire variety.” Never heard of it.

59-A, three letters, “Spear phisher’s initial target.” Adding value to a familiar answer.

My favorite clue in this puzzle: 27-D, ten letters, “Is out and about.” I was thinking of flaneurs.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

“Early American”?

In the Atlantic ’s Thursday crossword: 1-D, ten letters, “Early American comedian Ish, whose name comes from a Yiddish expression.” That would be, of course, KABIBBLE. But “early American”? Ish Kabibble (Merwyn Bogue) was born in 1908, flourished in the 1940s, and died in 1994.

AppleScript, defying intelligence

David Sparks, in an episode of the Mac Power Users podcast:

“My test for these AI engines that say they can program is asking them to make an AppleScript, because I’m convinced that AppleScript is the hardest language for a computer to learn how to program. And they routinely fail at it.”
What I wrote after asking ChatGPT to create an AppleScript: “AppleScript seems to defy both artificial and human intelligence.” ChatGPT did much a better job (in six tries) creating Alfred workflows.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

It’s her movie debut. If you recognize her, or think you do, leave the name in the comments.


I’ll drop a hint: she’s known for film, theater, and television.


Oh, well. I’m going to leave the name in the comments before going out to walk for several miles.

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

A recycling quiz

From The Washington Post (gift link). Something I learned: it’s best to leave plastic caps on bottles.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

NYT, sheesh

From David Leonhardt’s New York Times newsletter “The Morning.” “She” is Dianne Feinstein:

She has also been suffering from a deterioration in her short-term memory and her ability to hold conversations for more than a year.
Senator Feinstein should, of course, do the right thing by resigning. But sheesh, I think anyone would have difficulty holding conversations for more than a year.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

“One fluke visible”

Steven Millhauser, “Klassik Komix #1,“ in The Barnum Museum (1990).

Can you guess what klassik is getting a komix-treatment?

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

The stuff bots are made of

The Washington Post analyzed Google’s C4 data set, “a massive snapshot of the contents of 15 million websites that have been used to instruct some high-profile English-language AIs.” The data set includes half a million blogs. It’s not known whether the AIs include ChatGPT.

The Post article includes a search box. So I had to look:

Good grief.

Related reading
All OCA ChatGPT posts

[As the Post notes, “OpenAI does not disclose what datasets it uses to train the models backing its popular chatbot, ChatGPT.” That’s a gift link: free for all to read.]

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

An EXchange name sighting

[From Strangers When We Meet (dir. Richard Quine, 1960). Click for a larger view.]

Larry Coe (Kirk Douglas), architect, says he’s off to see a client. But Larry is in fact off to see the neighbor with whom he’s having an affair. So he leaves his wife a wrong number in case she needs to reach him. Creep.

BRadshaw appears in this list of Los Angeles Country exchange names.

Related reading
All OCA EXchange name posts (Pinboard)


“Do you want to come over to my house? It is gorgeous.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Notebook sighting

[Joyce Compton, Lucien Littlefield, Gary Cooper, Jack Oakie, and Roscoe Karns in “The Three Marines” (dir. William A. Seiter). From the anthology movie If I Had a Million (1932). Click for a larger notebook.]

Zeb checks to see how much these three fellows owe: $4.50. But can he read? “Maybe not, but I can make marks that nobody else but me can read.”

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

Figs and wasps

I have long been squeamish about Fig Newtons. I mean, what’s in them? Oh, wait: figs.

The other day, at a gathering to which people brought cookies, I tried a Fig Newton, the first Fig Newton I’ve ever eaten. It tasted good, as Ernest Hemingway might have written. It was a good Newton.

And then I came across this bit, via The New Yorker : “When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.”

But then Elaine found this bit, from Louise Ferguson, extension specialist at the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, speaking to Bon Appétit :

“There’s no fig wasp in there by the time people are eating the fruit,” says Ferguson. The female fig produces an enzyme that completely digests the exoskeleton before hungry humans can take a bite. To be clear: “The crunchy bits are seeds, not wasp parts,” she adds.
Bon Appétit credits a 2022 viral tweet for the claim about wasp parts in figs. And the tweeter credited the 2016 New Yorker item.

[I’m not sure what I’d rather believe: that I didn’t eat a cookie with wasp parts, or that I did.]

Monday, April 17, 2023

Eleven movies, one partial series

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

Tall Story (dir. Joshua Logan, 1960). Jane Fonda’s movie debut: she plays June Ryder, a home ec major who’s transferred to a four-year school from a community college, set on landing Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins), a star basketball player whom she’s never met, as a husband (finding a husband, she tells us, is the reason young women go to college). It’s amusing to see the depiction of academic life (no reading, no writing, for faculty or students), less amusing to soak in coy sexual politics for an hour and a half. From a novel by Howard Nemerov, with a screenplay by Julius J. Epstein (as in Casablanca). Bonus factors: Marc Connelly and Ray Walston as professors, and Fonda and Perkins crammed (fully clothed) into a tiny shower stall, not long before Psycho. ★★ (TCM)


Twentieth Century (dir. Howard Hawks, 1934). John Barrymore is great as a manic Broadway director; Carole Lombard (I’m sorry to say) shows less of a gift for comedy. The rehearsal scenes are hilarious, with chalk lines criss-crossing the stage. The train scenes are less wonderful, with interminable comic antics from supporting players. It may be that our household is just not a fan of screwball comedies — too broad, too forced, and too much shouting. ★★★ (TCM)


Track the Man Down (dir. R.G. Springsteen, 1955). Mediocre imitation Hitchcock, a variation on The Lady Vanishes, with an American newspaper man in London (Kent Taylor) and the sister (Petula Clark) of a criminal’s girlfriend thrown together with an assortment of characters — a merry drunk, a mother and infant, a Bette Davis-like star, her meek husband. First they’re all on a bus; then they’re all in a boathouse, held as prisoners by the criminal, who’ll stop at nothing — nothing. I’m adding a star for Basil Emmett’s cinematography. ★★★ (YT)


Succession (created by Jesse Armstrong, 2018–2021). We binged the first three seasons and have watched what’s available of season four, with (ahem) diminishing returns. The Lear-like and Murdoch-like premise, for anyone who hasn’t watched: a media-empire patriarch, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), is contemplating the future of his company when he finally steps down. His four children battle him, one another, outside attempts at takeovers, and the gummint, on and on and on. It’s well-made television, with staggeringly beautiful locations, and endless helicopters, endless profanity, endless improbably spontaneous insults, and characters who are both loathsome and inane, and whose pasts (which the opening credits hint at, and which might make them appear more than merely loathsome and inane) are, as of last night’s episode, still largely unexplored. ★★★ (HBO)

[I’m thinking especially of two enigmatic images in the opening credits: one, of a woman, shot from behind, looking across a lawn at Logan; the other, of young Siobhan looking across a lawn at Logan and a woman. Who?]


Your Witness (dir. Robert Montgomery, 1950). A New York lawyer, Adam Hayward (Montgomery, in his final film), travels to an English village to help the war buddy who saved his life, and who’s now accused of murdering the village Casanova. The movie looks back to Hitchcock, with an everyman sleuth, eccentric minor characters, and wonderful moments of comedy (Hayward explaining American idioms to the locals). And it looks ahead to every Murder, She Wrote episode ever made. Most unusual moment: Montgomery reads a D.H. Lawrence poem aloud and saves his friend’s life. ★★★ (YT)


Grissly’s Millions (dir. John English, 1945). It’s hard to go wrong with a B-movie from Republic Pictures, especially one that stars Paul Kelly and Virginia Grey. Here Kelly plays a detective, stern but kind, on the trail of a gangster; Grey is a granddaughter whose grandfather’s money keeps her stuck in a hick town. A pair of corpses leads to great complications. Clem Bevans, Byron Foulger, Eily Malyon, Louis Mason, Addison Richards, and Will Wright are among the likely unfamiliar names but likely familiar faces who provide support. ★★★ (YT)


If I Had a Million (dir. James Cruze, H. Bruce Humberstone, Ernst Lubitsch, Norman Z. McLeod, Lothar Mendes, Stephen Roberts, William A. Seiter, Norman Taurog, 1932). An anthology, with eight stories of an eccentric dying industrialist (Lionel Barrymore) giving million-dollar checks to people chosen at random from a city directory. The weakest story is the one with the most recognizable faces, Seiter’s “The Three Marines,” with Gary Cooper, Roscoe Karns, and Jack Oakie. The most succinct: Lubitsch’s “The Clerk,” with Charles Laughton walking through door after door to give the boss the raspberry. The strongest: McLeod’s “Road Hogs,” with W.C. Fields and Alison Skipworth as a happy couple bent on automotive destruction, and “Grandma,” in which the residents of a “rest home” establish a new order of things. ★★★★ (CC)

[In 2023, one million equals twenty-two.]


EO (dir. Jerzy Skolimowski, 2022). I knew only that it’s about a donkey and that the Criterion Channel has it in its selection of Isabelle Huppert movies (though her role, like all the human roles, is exceedingly minor). The movie shows (not tells) the story of a donkey, EO, who is removed from a circus (where a young woman gives him loving care) and who then travels through a series of encounters other animals, some of them human. Unnecessary special effects — red filters, thrashing metal music — are distractions, but they don’t in the end distract from the movie’s presentation of the beauty, strength, and selfhood of EO and other creatures. Inspired by Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar (1966), which is still, to my mind, the better movie. ★★★★ (CC)


Man Bait (dir. Terence Fisher, 1952). Blackmail and murder in a London rare-book store? I’m in. As store manager, George Brent gets himself into hard-to-explain circumstances and finds himself in great difficulty. But the real star is Diana Dors as one of his employees, chronically late, a bad girl among the bookish. With Marguerite Chapman as a loyal secretary and Peter Reynolds as a criminal and ladies’ man. ★★★★ (YT)


Strangers When We Meet (dir. Richard Quine, 1960). Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak are partners in suburban SoCal adultery: he’s Larry, an architect, full of himself, always pressing his standoffish neighbor Maggie (Margaret, but he insists on calling her Maggie) to drive with him to a construction site — and soon they’re driving elsewhere too. Larry’s wife (Barbara Rush) is critical, controlling, and unattuned to her husband’s dreams of great things; Maggie’s husband (John Bryant) is a sex-averse workaholic: thus the movie presents the affair as an understandable interlude, a more-than-brief encounter. A question our household is split on: would contemporary audiences have seen Larry as toxic, or as just plain manly? With Ernie Kovac as a full-of-himself writer and Walter Matthau as a sleazy but truthful neighbor. ★★★ (YT)


The Man with My Face (dir. Edward Montagne, 1951). The only film noir filmed in Puerto Rico. It’s the story of Chick Graham, a mild-mannered accountant (Barry Nelson) who finds himself accused of impersonating a man (also Barry Nelson) who is his double. An elaborate, preposterous scheme, four years in the making, accounts for what’s going on. The redeeming qualities here: a killer Doberman and an exciting chase sequence at Fort Morro Castle. ★★ (YT)


Ruthless: Monopoly’s Secret History (dir. Stephen Ives, 2023). I hate Monopoly — the dumb tokens, the convoluted procedures and tedious pace (bidding on every property a player doesn’t buy? really?) — and I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a game that was played through to a genuine conclusion. This well-paced documentary explores the game’s origins, which have nothing to do with the claims of its purported inventor. Irony of ironies: the real origin story became clear when Parker Brothers sued a professor of economics who created a game called Anti-Monopoly. Stephen Ives has made a noble effort to tell a factual story of Davids and a Goliath. ★★★★ (PBS)

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

Reading as a civil-rights issue

From The New York Times: “Fed up parents, civil rights activists, newly awakened educators and lawmakers are crusading for ‘the science of reading.‘ Can they get results?” With news about a new documentary, The Right to Read. From the trailer: “This is a civil-rights issue.” LeVar Burton is the executive producer. We’ve asked a newly elected member of our school board to request a screening.

The shot already heard round the world: Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong, a podcast series by Emily Hanford (American Public Media).

Related posts
Education and freedom : Learning to read : To: Calkins, Fountas, and Pinnell

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Daylight and shadows

[6119 New Utrecht Avenue, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

I can’t tell you anything about the Daylight Cafeteria, except that the proprietor chose an appropriate name for an establishment that must have spent at least some of each day free of the El’s shadow. I can’t even tell you the cafeteria’s address: 6119 New Utrecht is the address of the large building on the other side of 62nd Street, which now houses a pre-K. And there are no tax photos for whatever followed the cafeteria up the avenue.

This photograph is here because I like the cafeteria’s name, and because the arrangement of lines and surfaces makes me think of the paintings of Charles Sheeler. For instance.

Here’s a 1919 view of the intersection. In 2023 the El still runs above New Utrecht. And one more thing, which I didn’t realize until after I’d chosen this photograph: the 62nd Street station is where Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) catches up with and kills Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bozzuffi) at the end of the spectacular chase scene in The French Connection (dir. William Friedkin, 1971).

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

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Edward Koren (1935–2023)

Cartoonist extraordinaire. The New York Times has an obituary. At The New Yorker, Emma Allen, cartoon and humor editor, has an appreciation.

Some rocks in our heads

From The New York Times (gift link): “Virginia Fifth Grader Is Celebrated for Spotting Textbook’s Error.” Liam Squires noticed that igneous rock and sedimentary rock were out of place in a diagram of the rock cycle. The publisher acknowledged the mistake. The Times quotes Serena Porter, Liam’s teacher:

“We’re all human, and whether it’s an adult or a child, we all make mistakes,” Ms. Porter said. “You don’t want to roll around pointing out everyone’s little mistakes, but you should be proud that you caught something like this.”
Liam received buttons, sticker, and a handwritten letter from the publisher.

Here, from the the University of California Museum of Paleontology, is an explanation of the rock cycle. This post is for my children, who knew, and, I trust, still know their igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Steve Mossberg, is not that difficult by Stumper standards, but it’s full of surprising stuff. I like it.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, nine letters, “Green sauce for osso buco.” Osso oscuro, at least for me.

2-D, four letters, “St. Paul and St. Denis, north of New York.” When I see “New York,” I think “City.” At first I thought they must be somewhere upstate.

5-D, seven letters and 40-A, five letters, “Request to keep playing.”

6-D, twelve letters, “When miniskirts were in again.” I think the answer is at least debatable.

16-A, five letters, “Show with projectors.” I thought not of MOVIE but of planetariums and Pink Floyd — though not from personal experience.

21-D, twelve letters, “Frequent player in the 6 Down.” Yes, this puzzle is full of surprising stuff.

29-D, ten letters, “Aviation adjective.” See the comment on the previous clue.

32-A, four letters, “Memorable count.” I don’t get it. Why memorable?

34-D, five letters, “Spring thing.” Not necessarily seasonal.

36-A, four letters, “Occasional sportscast coverage.” A nifty clue.

43-A, ten letters, “Tangible trifles.” Fun to say. Fun to try to spell.

48-A, three letters, “Send up.” A dictionary will okay the answer.

62-A, nine letters, “Potential power under the hood.” Under, indeed.

67-A, five letters, “Plumbers often work on them.” Tile contractors too.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, April 14, 2023

In beta

A typo in a post? I have always blamed carelessness and haste. But now I have an all-purpose excuse explanation, which hit me yesterday afternoon: the post is in beta.

Mack McCormick’s Robert Johnsons

Biography of a Phantom, an edited version of Mack McCormick’s never-finished biography of Robert Johnson, is now in print. Here’s an account of McCormick’s work by Michael Hall: “Hellhounds on His Trail: Mack McCormick’s Long, Tortured Quest to Find the Real Robert Johnson” (Texas Monthly ).

The strangest result of McCormick’s efforts: his contention that everyone has been looking at the wrong man, that the musician who recorded in 1936 and 1937 was a different Robert Johnson.

I will soon have the book in hand, and I’m sure I won’t know what to make of it then either.

Related reading
All OCA Robert Johnson posts (Pinboard)

A dictionary and a prison

The guy who made violent threats against Merriam-Webster last year over its definitions of female and girl has been sentenced to a year in prison.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, April 13, 2023


A look at the conditions of teaching and striking at a regional university in Illinois: “All-In.” It’s a point of view, of course, but it’s one that grounded in fact.

Our household is supporting the strike by picketing and by contributing to a fund to help strikers in need. And I’m now able to add the noise of my Metropolitan Police Whistle to the picket-line din. (It took me three days to find it.)

5:48 p.m.: The strike has been suspended.

[When I began keeping a blog in 2004, I made a decision never to mention my university by name. I wanted to keep this work separate. And now I’m retired, and I still do.]

MSNBC, sheesh

Chris Jansing, earlier this afternoon: “The Washington Post reports that Jack Smith is honing in on Trump’s post-election fundraising,” &c.

Garner’s Modern English Usage (2022) notes that home in is “the traditional and still preferred phrase”:

In modern print sources — both AmE and BrE — the collocation homing in on the ~ predominates over *honing in on the ~ by a 2-to-1 margin.
Garner puts hone in at stage 4 of GMEU’s language-change index:
The form becomes virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts (the traditionalists that David Foster Wallace dubbed “snoots”: syntax nudniks of our time).
So how can I not say “Sheesh”? But I’m still willing to acknowledge that usage seems to be honeward bound.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)


One more passage, from a visit to Atlantis.

Steven Millhauser, From the Realm of Morpheus (1986).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

Vekkia book light Now with a link to an apropos poem.

E.g. , i.e. , etc.

The Chicago Manual of Style explains their use.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023


Carl Hausman recounts a visit with Morpheus to a land of giants.

Steven Millhauser, From the Realm of Morpheus (1986).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Vekkia book light

Curtains open in the morning? The sun is glaring. Curtains closed? Too dark. Enter the Vekkia book light. Small, sturdy, just right.


April 13: I should have added a link to this post: “Some Enchanted Evening.” More light!

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

A triple double

In today’s Mutts, Mooch announces that he is tired of being a cat. So, Earl asks, what does he want to be?

[Mutts, April 11, 2023.]

I think Mooch must have gone to my elementary school, where I once overheard an extraordinary triple double-negative: “I ain’t got none. I don’t want none. I don’t need none.” Which, obviously, I have never forgotten.

See also Stan Carey, who cautions, “Don’t never tell nobody not to use no double negatives.”

Make Something Wonderful

From Apple, Make Something Wonderful : Steve Jobs in his own words, in speeches, interviews, and correspondence. To read online or download (free).

The passionate surfer

Watching A Grammy Salute to the Beach Boys this past weekend (of which the less said the better), I put one and one together.

From Christopher Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”:

And we will sit upon the Rocks,
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow Rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
From Brian Wilson’s “Surfer Girl”:
We could ride the surf together
While our love would grow.
In my woodie I would take you
Everywhere I go.
Granted, one present a life of immobile spectation, the other a life of constant movement. But in each case, it’s a pastoral dream of a life of leisure by water.

Related reading
All OCA Beach Boys posts (Pinboard)

[Woodie: a kind of car.]

A bitters thought

In Succession, Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) has ordered bitters and soda on at least two occasions. He’s supposed to be (once again) in recovery. But bitters contain alcohol. Angostura, for instance, is 44.7% alcohol (89.4 proof). Granted, the amount of alcohol in a few dashes of bitters is miminal. But still.

Does this detail signify? In other words, do the show’s writers understand bitters? Do they expect the viewer to understand bitters? Is the viewer meant to recognize that Kendall Roy is still partaking, even if it’s in a minimal way? Or is this detail a non-detail, not even meant to be noticed?


Elaine posed these questions on reddit, where someone pointed out that there are non-alcoholic bitters. True. But asking for bitters and soda will return a glass with bitters that contain alcohol. My question is not whether it’s okay for someone in recovery to drink bitters and soda; it’s what, if anything, the viewer is supposed to make of Kendall’s choice, and that depends on what the show’s writers know about bitters.

[A glance around the Internets will confirm that not everyone knows that bitters contain alcohol.]

Monday, April 10, 2023

Some books are to be tasted, &c.

Scene: the library of Morpheus, in an aisle “where men and women stood leaning against the shelves, talking lightly to one another, and occasionally taking small bites out of the books they held in their hands”:

Steven Millhauser, From the Realm of Morpheus (1986).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

[Francis Bacon: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”]

Little moments of Succession

[Caution: If you haven’t seen last night’s episode of Succession (season four, episode three), do not click through to the interview. If you do, you’ll be met with a major spoiler.]

From a New York Times interview with Brian Cox. The interviewer has asked Cox if he thinks there’s any goodness in his character Logan Roy:

Oh, yeah. I think there’s a lot of goodness to him. I think he’s very misunderstood. I think it’s just all gone horribly wrong. We have these little moments of — and they’re not dwelt on — the scars on the back, the story of the mother, the sister, the relationship with the brother.
Little moments, not dwelt on: to me, that’s the problem with Succession. The past that would make the present more interesting is never very much explored. (There was a bit more last night.) I’ll quote myself: “I think my general problem with Succession is that I keep expecting it to be more than it is.” But I’ll keep watching.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

NYT, sheesh

From a New York Times article by Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan about Donald Trump**’s lawyers:

His lawyers’ own foibles are seldom disqualifying, so long as they defend him in the manner he desires.
Foibles, do your job! But I doubt that these foibles have passed the bar. So just switch the parts:
So long as his lawyers defend him in the manner he desires, their foibles are seldom disqualifying.
Or more bluntly:
So long as his lawyers do what he wants, their foibles are seldom disqualifying.
Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

63rd Street Super Market

[6302 New Utrecht Avenue, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much, much larger view.]

Just a super-sharp photograph of a corner market — a super market, not a supermarket. I like the barrels, the pushcarts, the handmade signage, and the prices on those signs: 2 for 15¢? Sold. The rear door looks as if it might be the entrance to another business. Maybe an laundry? Boom Town (dir. Jack Conway), once playing, or playing, or to be playing at the Endicott Theatre (7010 13th Avenue), was nationally released on August 30, 1940. You should really click through to see what I’m talking about.

In the 1920s this building housed a real-estate agency. In 1950 the super market was called the Weisberg & Schiffman Self-Service Market. It made the news that year in a robbery. There was a second robbery in 1951, a more unusual one:

Newspaper account of two men entering the store and forcing the owner and a clerk to remove their pants. The crooks took the pants and $492. [The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 21, 1951.]

Today 6302 houses the D & S Bakery to the front. To the rear, the El Shadai Hispano America grocery store, offering “Grocery Productos Hispanos.”

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

[With details drawn from Brooklyn Newsstand and Google Maps.]

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Benjamin Ferencz (1920–2023)

“In addition to convicting prominent Nazi war criminals, he crusaded for an international criminal court and for laws to end wars of aggression”: from the New York Times obituary. Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, died on Friday at the age of 103.

Elaine and I watched a documentary about him tonight, Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz (dir. Barry Avrich, 2019). There’s an (extraordinary) episode of the podcast Criminal about Ferencz, “Palace of Justice,” first aired in 2018 and updated in 2021. And there’s a website,, with days’ worth of reading.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell. It’s a tough one, and after missing the last two Stumpers by a square, I am inordinately self-satisfied to have gotten all the squares of this puzzle. I began with 6-D, three letters, “Choice word”; 8-D, three letters, “Title from Turkish for ‘lord’; and 14-A, ten letters, “Storming.” The northwest fell quickly; other parts of the puzzle fell more slowly; and the southwest for a long time seemed impossible to crack. 32-D, nine letters, “Querulous quote from Christie.” Agatha? Anna? Chris? Brinkley? I got it, but I had to look it up to understand.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

12-D, nine letters, “Origamist’s purchase.” I learned somepin.

13-D, eight letters, “Pilot products.” A pretty arcane way to clue this answer. But I can think of more arcane.

15-D, eight letters, “Offering from GM’s Cruise.” Never heard of it.

17-A, ten letters, “Crimefighter who's really put together.” LTCOLUMBO comes up short.

26-D, seven letters, “Small fry.” Cute. And nothing to do with the Hoagy Carmichael–Frank Loesser song.

36-A, fifteen letters, “Study of capitalistic crises.” Whoa.

49-D, five letters, “It’s meant to be mixed up.” Only mildly confounding.

52-A, six letters, “Nautically named warehouse carts.” I still remember gondola from my housewares-department days.

54-A, six letters, “App store.” Stumper-y distortion — not a store to my mind.

62-A, ten letters, “Prudent antivirus setting.” Also prudent for security updates. But not prudent for system updates.

My favorite in this puzzle: 63-A, four letters, “Work (out).” I’ve loved the word ever since Betty Aberlin used it in a comment on an OCA post about a Mister Rogers opera. Lady Aberlin!

The answers are in the comments.

Friday, April 7, 2023

“Thank you for all,” &c.

I wrote an e-mail to my university’s president and board of trustees urging a fair offer to end the faculty strike. Contract negotiations ran for more than a year before the strike began. Negotiations resume today. I am sure my e-mail will be the tipping point.

In my message I made mention of a familiar bit of administrative language:

As a retired faculty member, I am long familiar with “Thank you for all you do.” Those words mean little or nothing to faculty who are underpaid.
This morning Google returns 2,360,000 results for thank you for all you do and thanks for all you do. The formulation is trite. It often functions as a hollow panacea: show ’em a little gratitude. In the real world, people express gratitude to particular persons, in specific circumstances. When I hear “Thank you for all you do,” I want to say “Oh yeah? Name one thing!”

A genuine way to express gratitude woukd be to pay people salaries commensurate with their ability and experience — or, at least, commensurate with the rate of inflation.

Another country

In the latest installment of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson asks a pointed question:

The Supreme Court, Congress, and the Tennessee statehouse. What would you say if you saw today’s news coming from another country?

The dogcow

At 512 Pixels, Stephen Hackett presents the life and times of Clarus the dogcow.

[There is always more to the Mac than you know.]

Friends blogging, blogging friends

Fresca improved a paragraph by Adam Gopnik. Boy did she ever.

Slywy found an abandoned general store, and its history.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

I’m not sure if this one is easy or hard. If you recognize him, or think you do, leave the name in the comments.


The name is now in the comments.

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

“Dreamers all”

Morpheus, master of the underworld, entertains his guest Carl Hausman by identifying for him various figures of the Earthly Paradise, “a sweet place to lie down i’ the shade awhile”:

Steven Millhauser, From the Realm of Morpheus (1986).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

The Scream?

[Illustration by Edel Rodriguez. Time, April 24/May 1, 2023. Click for a larger view.]

As seen here. The artist has done previous orange-themed covers as well.

Related reading
Edel Rodriguez’s website

[If this illustration has a title, it’s not on the artist’s website. The Scream would be a good one.]

Making HTML links with Alfred workflows

I finally found a good use for ChatGPT: I had it write two workflows for the Mac app Alfred. It took the bot about a half dozen tries over several days to produce workflows that work. Thanks, AI.

URL+text creates an HTML link with selected text from the current tab in Safari. It’s simple: highlight text, press Command-C to copy, and press the hotkey. The link will be on the Clipboard. You can make the hotkey whatever you like. I like Control-Option-Command-T, a combination not likely to be confused with anything else.

URL+title creates an HTML link with the title of the current tab in Safari. It’s even simpler: press the hotkey and the link will be on the Clipboard. Here too you can change the hotkey to whatever you like. I like Control-Option-Command-L.

It’s baffling to me that the App Store offers no decent extension to accomplish such elementary tasks. (URL Linker for Safari does not work properly in Ventura, at least not on my Mac.) It’s also baffling to me that the Alfred forums appear to lack Workflows for these tasks. Granted, it’s ultra-easy to create links in Markdown, but not everyone uses Markdown.

I’ve placed both workflows in my Dropbox for downloading: URL+text, URL+title. Use at your own risk. But I don’t think there’s any real risk involved. Note: Alfred is a free app, but workflows require the not-free Alfred Powerpack.

If anyone knows how to have a workflow recognize highlighted text without the need for Command-C, I’d love to know.

[What about asking ChatGPT to write a working Quick Action in AppleScript? Unpossible! AppleScript seems to defy both artificial and human intelligence.]

Happy returns

Two progressive candidates won seats on our town’s school board yesterday, and a regressive current member was defeated. That makes me happy. One of the winning candidates won by just fourteen votes. That makes me remember why I vote in every election.

Farther from home, Janet Protasiewicz won decisively and will have a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. That makes me happy too.

And faculty at my university go on strike tomorrow. I’m not happy about the strike, but I’m happy that the faculty are willing to stand up to an intransigent administration and insist on adequate salaries.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The indictment

Featuring “Woman 1,” “Woman 2,” and the “Doorman.”

Read it here.

[That’s a New York Times “gift” link.]