Monday, July 31, 2023

“Adoration” again

The digital radio station Classic FM has a list: fifteen pieces for anyone beginning to listen to classical music. Coming in at a number ten, Florence Price’s “Adoration”: “Originally composed for church organ, it was arranged for violin and piano by Elaine Fine.”

Elaine has also arranged “Adoration” for viola, cello, flute, clarinet, and tuba (each with piano), six violas, violin soloist and orchestra, string orchestra, and orchestra. A German music publication called Elaine “wohl die Pionierin der weiten Welt der Adoration-Adaptionen” — “probably the pioneer of the wide world of ‘Adoration’ adaptations.” She’s made all her arrangements of this (public domain) composition available at no cost through the IMSLP.

Elaine is always reluctant to toot her own horn, so I am tooting it for her. Toot toot. And now I will return the horn to its case to await new news.

Related reading
A few more “Adoration” posts

Art into words

“The great blue wave curls in from the left, its toppling white crest a mass of foam tentacles that claw the air”: from a terrific Word of Mouth episode, “Audio description: putting art into words.” This episode might be a great resource for anyone thinking about ekphrasis, or just about how to describe.

[The work of art described here: The Great Wave off Kanagawa.]

Pencil sharpeners of the past

In action, from 1886 to 1920.

Thanks to Kevin at

“Office fritters”?

There comes a time when one throws up one’s hands in the face of one’s handwriting.

Can you guess what I wrote? The answer’s in the comments.

Related reading
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Nick’s Diner

[Nick’s Diner, 399–405 Third Avenue, Gowanus, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Is it kitty-corner? Catty-corner? Cater-corner? Whichever. Nick’s Diner was diagonally across the intersection from Ralph Bozzo’s restaurant. If you click for the larger view and squint, you can see the diner’s name, along with a claim of “Home Cooking.” No need to squint to see the all-important EAT.

Today the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Sixth Street is the site of the Praxis Third Ave Shelter, providing temporary housing for adult families.

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

[Garner’s Modern English Usage: “The original phrase, in Middle English, was catre-cornered (lit., “four-cornered”) — catre deriving from the Latin quattuor.” And: “Kitty-corner is predominant in the upper half of the continental U.S., catty-corner in the lower half. The form cater-corner, the preferred form in most dictionaries, is less common but not at all rare.”]

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, July 29, 2023. Click for a larger view.]

Golf. Golf. Golf. Rake. Rake. Rake. The punchline in today’s strip: “You can’t play golf with a rake!” I somehow begin to suspect that I am not the Hi and Lois target audience.

But that doesn’t explain why there isn’t a single leaf on the ground. Might today’s strip have kept until, say, October?

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell. For me, it was a Stumper that seemed impossible at first but gave up its secrets in nineteen minutes.¹ I started with 4-D, four letters, “Marcel’s mighty,” 5-D, three letters, “Evidence of unhappiness,” and 16-A, ten letters, “It holds drafts all year.” And then I drew blanks for clue after clue. What finally gave me a genuine start on solving: 48-D, four letters, “Bite on the trail.” Toss in 51-A, four letters, “Regard inappropriately,” and I was on my way.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

2-D, five letters, “Transcend.” A playful clash of diction registers.

7-D, fifteen letters, “Nursery rhyme singers’ evocations.” I love this.

11-D, nine letters, “Summarized, say.” I can’t believe I got it without crosses.

13-A, ten letters, “More than a little.” The answer feels dowdy to me. Do people say that?

15-D, five letters, “Middle name of Breyer’s successor.” I didn’t realize that it’s considered a middle name.

20-D, eight letters, “Stock market purchase.” Groan.

23-A, four letters, “Going quietly.” Going Stumpery.

24-A, twelve letters, “Deals with, after delaying.” Nicely colloquial.

24-D, three letters, “Bert alternative.” Given that the clue is in a Stumper, I thought we were playing Cheese Nicknames.

32-A, fifteen letters, “Excellent reception.” Football? Wi-Fi? I first though that the answer — which is not STANDINGOVATION — is just awkward, but no, it’s tricky.

43-A, five letters, “Legacy of a sort.” I saw what you did there.

55-A, ten letters, “Steepness warning.”I think that steep rules out anything appearing on a road sign.

Clue that most filled me with admiration for its fiendishness: 1-D, five letters, “Scale model.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

¹ For some reason, my Stumper time is often nineteen minutes and change.

Friday, July 28, 2023

🤫 🤐

My favorite detail from the updated classified-documents indictment appears in paragraph 79:

NAUTA provided inconsistent explanations to colleagues for his sudden travel to Florida. At 7:14 p.m. on June 24, he texted one person that he would not be traveling with TRUMP the next day because he had a family emergency and used “shushing” emojis; at 9:48 p.m. that night, he texted a Secret Service agent that he had to check on a family member in Florida; and after he arrived in Florida on June 25, he texted the same Secret Service agent that he was in Florida working.
Because nothing says nothing to see here folks like a shushing emoji.

A related post
🤔 ?


Steven Millhauser, “The Place,” in Voices in the Night (2015).

Reminiscent of the Bal des têtes [masked ball] in Proust’s Time Regained. Proust’s narrator, who has been away from society for many years because of long illnesses and hospital stays, thinks he’s attending a costume party and that everyone has been made up to look old. And then he realizes: no, they are old.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Kindness as intelligence

J.B. Pritzker, governor of Illinois, in a commencement address at Northwestern University, June 12, 2023:

The best way to spot an idiot? Look for the person who is cruel. Let me explain. When we see someone who doesn’t look like us or sound like us, or act like us or love like us or live like us, the first thought that crosses almost everyone’s brain is rooted in either fear or judgment or both. That’s evolution. We survived as a species by being suspicious of things that we aren’t familiar with.

In order to be kind, we have to shut down that animal instinct and force our brain to travel a different pathway. Empathy and compassion are evolved states of being. They require the mental capacity to step past our most primal urges. This may be a surprising assessment, because somewhere along the way in the last few years, our society has come to believe that weaponized cruelty is part of some well-thought-out master plan. Cruelty is seen by some as an adroit cudgel to to gain power. Empathy and kindness are considered weak. Many important people look at the vulnerable only as rungs on a ladder to the top.

I’m here to tell you that when someone’s path through this world is marked with acts of cruelty, they have failed the first test of an advanced society. They never forced their animal brain to evolve past its first instinct. They never forged new mental pathways to overcome their own instinctual fears. And so, their thinking and problem-solving will lack the imagination and creativity that the kindest people have in spades.

Over my many years in politics and business, I have found one thing to be universally true: the kindest person in the room is often the smartest.
I’m not sure why I’m finding out about this address more than a month after the fact, via Daring Fireball. But there it is (my transcription). You can find the clip at YouTube.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Las Meninas y Nancy y Sluggo

[Alpha tool by me. Click for a larger view.]

Fresca said she’d like to see Nancy and friends as painted by Velázquez. I can sort of oblige. I hope they didn’t get ice cream on the canvas.

I thought Joe Brainard took care of this premise in one of his many Nancy homage/spoofs, but no, that was his Goya Nancy. And Goya Nancy still looks like Nancy, just as Brainard’s de Kooning Nancy still looks like Nancy. Nancy is indelible.


I just remembered this one: Nancy and Gustave Doré.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[This post is the kind of thing I do while waiting for news of the next indictment. I borrowed Nancy and Sluggo from their postage stamp.]

Velázquez and Tootsie Rolls

Hogan’s Alley, “the magazine of the cartoon arts,” has an interview with Bill Griffith, whose Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, will be published on August 29. Two details: Bushmiller’s favorite artist was Diego Velázquez. And about money:

He invested in the stock market with his considerable wealth. But the only stock he really followed was the Tootsie Roll Company. I checked. It’s still a privately held company. Funny and a little weird — but fitting. Sluggo would approve.
Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts : Nancy and Zippy posts : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Nancy, writing by hand

From today’s yesterday’s Nancy:

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

Nancy, like Sluggo, has beautiful handwriting. And she’s using a dip pen.

But it’s a runaway gorilla, not Sluggo, at her window.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

An EXchange name sighting

[From One Way Street (dir. Hugo Fregonese, 1950). Click for a larger view.]

He: “Where are we?”

She: “Harbor Drive and Gordon.”

Harbor Drive and Gordon is an intersection existing only in movie dialogue. Harbor Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue are real, but miles and miles apart. TUcker was indeed a Los Angeles exchange.

If you look closely, you can notice the cutting and pasting that went into making this directory “page.”

Related reading
All OCA EXchange name posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A CMOS quiz

From The Chicago Manual of Style, a new quiz: Other Languages.

[I scored a 90. Someday I’m gonna get 100.]

The pencil business

[From Outside the Wall (dir. Crane Wilbur, 1950).]

“A bright future in the pencil” — in the pencil what ? Business, I suppose.

It’s possible that “the pencil business” is a jokey way of referring to accounting, but I can find no evidence for that. I think that here the pencil business is, indeed, the pencil business. Outside the Wall might have been a different (and duller) movie had ex-convict Larry Nelson (Richard Basehart) studied accounting.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Better living through TV

A criminal, in Hi-Jacked (dir. Sam Newfield, 1950):

“How’d we ever get along without television?”

[He just got the idea for his next crime from a television feature about a showroom full of furs. Post title from The Honeymooners.]

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The mind-body problem

[After turning on the car’s AC.]

“Is it blowing on us and our feet?”

👍 ?

The Unbearable Ambiguity of Emoji: Does 👍 mean “I accept the contract that you just texted me,” or “I’m acknowledging receipt of the contract”?


Knees, outer, inner

Steven Millhauser, “The Pleasures and Sufferings of Young Gautama,” in Voices in the Night (2015).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Monday, July 24, 2023

The New Grown-Ups at Bandcamp

Shameless fambly promotion:

The New Grown-Ups (our son Ben and friends) have a six-track digital release available from Bandcamp. It’s called Treehopper. As the group describes their music,

The New Grown-Ups blend traditional folk, country, blues, Celtic, old time, originals, and bluegrass into a snafu of contemporary acoustic music.
They sound great. Free to listen, $5 to buy, or more if you like.

Twelve movies

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

Hi-Jacked (dir. Sam Newfield, 1950). A truckdriver on parole finds himself under suspicion when his cargo of mink coats is hijacked. As trucker Joe Harper, Jim Davis (later of Dallas) looks like a cross between Burt Lancaster and Elvis Presley, but he unmemorable on the screen. Sid Melton provides odd comic moments in a movie that ends up with four or five people dead. What keeps this movie from a one-star rating: diner scenes with Iris Adrian as a waitress with an endless supply of snappy patter. ★★ (YT)


From the Criterion Channel’s Method Acting feature

The Pawnbroker (dir. Sidney Lumet, 1964). “Sol Nazerman, the walking dead,” shouts a fellow Holocaust survivor. Nazerman lost his wife, his children, his friends, and his ability to feel for anyone, as his management of his East Harlem pawnshop makes clear. His life in the present is mostly a matter of his dealings with a lone employee (Jaime Sánchez), who sees him as a mentor, and a crime king (Brock Peters), who uses the pawnshop for money laundering. Into this present comes the insistent intrusion of the past, in brief or not-so-brief flashes on the screen, all of which make me think that post-traumatic stress is never truly post. ★★★★ (CC)


Strongroom (dir. Vernon Sewell, 1962). Relatively short and totally gripping: three aspiring young criminals lock over a just-closed bank and lock the manager and secretary into a strongroom. One of the robbers is supposed to leave the keys in a phone booth and notify the police, but something goes wrong, leaving the victims to be found — somehow — or else die a slow death over a holiday weekend. There’s meaningful dialogue between manager and secretary (the locked-in-a-room trope), but the real story here is that of the keys, with strong elements of due diligence and devotion to duty. ★★★★ (YT)


Outside the Wall (dir. Crane Wilbur, 1950). Richard Basehart is an interesting player in the world of noir: he didn’t have the looks for it, and here, as in Tension (1949), he plays something of a sad sack who rises to the noirish occasion. As Larry Nelson, he’s a man of thirty, pardoned after fifteen years in prison, inexperienced in all ways of the world outside prison. He seeks tranquility in a low-paying job at a sanitarium but finds himself in complicated trouble with vicious gangsters (Harry Morgan, for one) and beautiful nurses (Dorothy Hart and Marilyn Maxwell). Some great on-location footage makes the movie, here and there, a Philadelphia version of The Naked City. ★★★★ (YT)


The Sin of Nora Moran (dir. Phil Goldstone, 1933). Pre-Code in its frankness, but postmodern in its structure. Nora (Zita Johann) is sentenced to be executed for a murder she did not commit. The interest here comes from the narrative, which presents the movie’s story via montages and flashbacks that make it difficult to know what has happened when. This obscure (I think) movie deserves to be better known. ★★★★ (YT)


Blind Date, aka Chance Meeting (dir. Joseph Losey, 1959). An affair between a young painter (Hardy Krüger) and an older married woman (Micheline Presle) goes wrong, and the painter finds himself the prime suspect in a murder. If it had been made a steamy quarter-century later, it might have been an erotic thriller. But it’s just fine as is, though a bit slow-moving. There’s a Hitchcock connection, a strong one, but I can’t name the movie without giving everything away. ★★★ (YT)


The Unseen (dir. Lewis Allen, 1945). What a difference a year makes: this movie is a sequel of sorts to Allen’s The Uninvited, but it’s not nearly as good. Here we have a young governess (Gail Russell of The Uninvited) caring for the young children of a grumpy windower (Joel McCrea) in a big old house right next to a big old closed-up house with mysterious goings-on. I appreciated the overtones of The Turn of the Screw, but there are zero chills, zero thrills, and the story is painfully implausible. ★★ (YT)


Circle of Danger (dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1951). This movie would seem to have every advantage: a great director, fine writing and cinematography (Philip MacDonald, Oswald Morris), a capable cast, led by Ray Milland, and a title that promises (à la Ministry of Fear) some satisfying noir. But where is the danger? The story is reminiscent of The Third Man: an American (Milland) comes to post-war England to find out the truth about what happened to his brother, a volunteer with British forces who was shot in the head, apparently by one of his fellow soldiers. On the way to the quick, anti-climactic ending, too much time is devoted to a baffling courtship that pairs Milland and a writer of children’s books (Patricia Roc) who’s always put out about his showing up late and who really needs to get over herself. ★★ (YT)


The Seventh Veil (dir. Compton Bennett, 1945). First there was The Seventh Victim (1943), then The Seventh Cross (1944). This film is far less compelling, the story of a concert pianist, Francesca (Ann Todd) controlled by her second cousin, Nicholas (James Mason). When Francesca attempts suicide, a psychiatrist (Herbert Lom) steps in to plumb her past with the aid of narcosis and remove the veils that hide the secrets of the mind. Some great concert scenes (I watched always afraid that something would go wrong), but the pace is slow and the movie doesn’t even try to justify its ending — an ending that made us yell at the TV. ★★ (YT)


Spy Hunt (dr. George Sherman, 1950). A crazy premise: a vital piece of microfilm is hidden in the collar of one of two black panthers on a train traveling from from Milan to Paris. When the train is sabotaged and the freight car derails in the Alps, the panthers escape, the hunt is on, and a small group gathers in an Alpine inn run by a kindly doctor (Walter Slezak): the animals’ handler (Howard Duff), a journalist who wants a story (Märta Torén), a big-game hunter, an artist who wants to sketch the panthers, and another journalist. But how many of these folks are enemy agents? Torén’s coolness under pressure, Irving Glassberg’s cinematography, two truly menacing beasts, and a suspenseful scene with gunpowder make for a superior film. ★★★★ (YT)


The Catered Affair (dir. Richard Brooks, 1956). It’s a Marty world, with a family living in a Bronx apartment: a cabdriver father (Tom Hurley), his wife Aggie (Bette Davis), children Jane and Eddie (Debbie Reynolds, Ray Stricklyn), and Aggie’s brother Uncle Jack (Barry Fitzgerald). The problem at hand: Jane is marrying a fellow (Rod Taylor) from a family a greater means, and the young people want a simple wedding, but Aggie is determined that it be a grand affair. I wanted to like this movie much more than I did: Borgnine, Davis, and Reynolds are fine (even if Reynolds makes an improbable daughter), but Gore Vidal’s screenplay (from Paddy Chayefsky’s play) is condescendin’, Barry Fitzgerald’s Irish shtick is insufferable, and the saccharine ending makes me squirm. ★★ (TCM)


One Way Street (dir. Hugo Fregonese, 1950). The film begins with lines from an unidentified “Song of a Fatalist”:

Waste no moment, nor a single breath
In fearful flight from Death;
For no matter the tears that may be wept,
The appointment will be kept.
The plot is simple and compelling: a doctor (James Mason) serving a crime boss (Dan Duryea) and his henchmen makes off with the boss’s girlfriend (Märta Torén) and loot. The couple flee to rural Mexico and make a new life, with the doctor as a venerated healer of humans and horses — but there’ll be trouble ahead, or behind. Overtones of “The Appointment in Samarra,” Out of the Past, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre run through the story. ★★★★ (YT)

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

Sunday, July 23, 2023

R. Bozzo

[406 Third Avenue, Gowanus, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Those were some mean streets in Gowanus. But the restaurant on the corner abided. From 1913 to 1951, Ralph Bozzo ran that restaurant/coffeehouse. I puzzled over the name on the awning until I searched Brooklyn Newsstand for this Third Avenue address.

In 1940, Ralph and Jennie Bozzo were living with three daughters at 153 86th Street, in the Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn — quite a contrast to the mean streets of Gowanus. Ralph is the only Bozzo in the 1940 Brooklyn telephone directory.

In the news: In September 1915, George Bozzo, eighteen, most likely Ralph’s son, was fined $10 for violating a liquor tax law at the Third Avenue address. In August 1918, Dominick Bozzo, also at that address, most likely another son, went off to fight in the Great War. I’ll guess that the family was living upstairs. Is this Dominick Bozzo the one Dominick Bozzo (1894–1985) listed in the Social Security Death Index? Perhaps. In 1940 a Dominick Bozzo lived in Manhattan and ran a fruit and vegetable store on Madison Avenue. But that Dominick, whose age as given in the 1940 census (forty-five) fits, was born in Italy. George isn’t listed in the SSDI, and no sons are mentioned in Ralph’s obituary. Some mysteries are meant to remain mysteries.

It appears that Ralph wasn’t easily gulled, or mulcted. From a 1920 news item, mostly about Leroy W. Ross, the Brooklyn DA, urging residents to visit saloons, order drinks, and report those who served them. This bit at the end is about phony Revenue agents scamming those selling liquor:

[“Urges Citizens to Buy Drinks: Ross Then Would Have Public Report Success to Dry Forces.” Brooklyn Citizen, November 19, 1920. Click for a larger view.]

And here’s an obituary:

[The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 28, 1951. Click for a larger view.]

Today, 406 is home to Halyards, which describes itself as “your neighborhood cocktail bar and oasis among the gritty Gowanus industrial streets.” I think they mean mean streets, or formerly mean.

I had planned to post nothing more than a Hopperesque street scene this morning, but pulling on one thread — in this case, the street address — opened up a rabbit hole, as well as a mixed metaphor.

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

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Brooklyn in the news

From Gothamist:

Nearly every Sunday morning for four years, residents of a quiet block in Greenpoint, Brooklyn woke up to reams of paper dumped on their street. A serial litterer was precisely slicing pages from old Reader’s Digests, Bibles, junk mail and 1970s porn magazines before dumping them on tree-lined Noble Street between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street. Surveillance videos captured the driver tossing the pages from his car before sunrise.
Who? Why? You’ll have to click through for an answer to, at least, the first question.

[I’m reminded of the Toynbee tiles. I got to see one in 2017.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stella Zawistowski. I started with 1-D, four letters, “Small row” and 14-A, five letters, “Artistic lamentation.” The puzzle soon grew more difficult, and one clue gave me fits.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note, including the fit one:

5-D, fourteen letters, “Steamers, for instance.” Wow, or whoa. I was thinking clams.

16-D, fourteen letters, “Expression of lost love lamentation.” Wow again. I loved seeing the answer in a crossword.

19-A, seven letters, “Overemotional oratory.” The form of the answer makes the clue tricky.

22-A, five letters, “Name on the ACC member list.” Perversely trivial. And is the answer even a name? I don’t think so.

33-A, nine letters, “Haydn opera.” The clue that gave me fits. Even if the answer is correct — and Elaine says it’s not — the clue is just ridic. More in the comments.

35-A, fifteen letters, “Symbol of proletarian solidarity.” If you say so. But I don’t think many working people would recognize it as such.

41-D, three letters, “With 42 Down, Palme d’Or winner for 1993.” Random trivia, which I hugely dislike in crosswords. Ah, yes, the ’93 winner, not ’92 or ’94. Who knows this, and who’ll remember it a week from now? And I always dislike common words clued as trivia.

43-A, five letters, “Evidence of encryption.” I am happy to say I knew it.

49-A, seven letters, “Onetime big name in beverages.” Onetime? I have a bottle of their gin (cheap!) in the kitchen. But the clue might have more to do with corporate history than with a name present on store shelves.

My favorite in this puzzle: 45-D, five letters, “What a loud barker might be called.” Just plain clever.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments, along with more about 33-A.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Tony Bennett (1926–2023)

Tony Bennett has died at the age of ninety-six. The New York Times has an obituary (gift link).

From Whitney Balliett’s American Singers: Twenty-Seven Portraits in Song (1988):

Alec Wilder, who has known Bennett for many years, once wrote, “The list of ’believers’ isn’t very long. But those who are on it are very special people. Among them, certainly, is Tony Bennett. But first I should say what I mean by a believer. He is one whose sights stay high, who makes as few concessions as he can, whose ideals will not permit him to follow false trails or fashions for notoriety’s or security’s sake, who takes chances, who seeks to convey, by whatever means, his affections and convictions, and who has faith in the power of beauty to survive, no matter how much squalor and ugliness seek to suppress it. I am close enough to him to know that his insistence on maintaining his musical convictions has been far from easy. His effervescent delight in bringing to his audiences the best songs, the best musicians, the best of his singing and showmanship is apparent to anyone who has the good sense to listen to him in person or on records.”
Here are just two samples of Tony Bennett with Bill Evans, both from On the Town, words by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Leonard Bernstein: “Lucky to Be Me” and “Some Other Time.”

[Sorry, New York Times, Tony Bennett was not, as your headline has it, a “jazzy crooner.”]

Lisa Desjardins, Geoff Bennett, and Paul Offitt on RFK Jr.

On the PBS NewsHour last night, Lisa Desjardins examined Robert F. Kennedy’s claims about vaccinations and COVID-19, and Geoff Bennett interviewed Dr. Paul Offitt, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Just one excerpt, with a story that‘s new to me:

Bennett: You also point to one episode where he spoke out against the measles vaccine. What was the impact of that?

Offitt: In Samoa [in 2018], there were two children that died immediately following receipt of a measles vaccine. And the way it works into Samoa is, they have a MMR vaccine in powdered form. It needs to be diluted in water. Two nurses made a mistake. Instead of diluting it in water, they diluted it in a muscle relaxant. Those children stopped breathing and died immediately. Now, very quickly, within two weeks, it was realized what that mistake was. It was a nursing error.

But, nonetheless, RFK Jr. seized on that. He flooded Facebook with information that measles vaccine is killing children in Samoa. He went to Samoa. He met with anti-vaccine activists. He met with senior officials in Samoa and kept the drumbeat alive that measles vaccine was killing children in Samoa. As a consequence, vaccination rates fell from 70 percent to 30 percent. And between September and December of 2019, there was a massive measles epidemic.

In this island nation of 200,000 people, there were 57,000 cases of measles and 83 deaths. Most of those deaths were in children less than four years of age. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had everything to do with that. And that shows you how disinformation can kill.
Here’s a BBC report on what happened in Samoa.

This NewsHour segment should be shared widely. I’m sharing it with the tens of people who are likely to see this post.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Sardines, paste, pasta

Here’s a recipe for sardine paste. Paste? As Steven points out, pâté would sound far more appetizing. Thanks, Steven.

And here’s a description of Nigella Lawson’s sardines and spaghetti, heralded as “the dish of summer.”

I know that when it comes to cooking, there is very little that’s new under the sun. In 2015 The Crow wrote about a then-forty-year-old memory of sardines and cavatini. And shortly thereafter, Chris at Dreamers Rise left a comment on this blog about making sardines with linguine. Which in turn inspired me to try sardines with capellini. Mangia.

Related reading
All OCA sardines posts (Pinboard)

[The article about the Lawson recipe describes a “tomatoey” dish, but there are no tomatoes in the recipe.]

Elements of Style reviewed

“At its best when it limns the gap between the seemingly straightforward advice of Strunk and White (use active voice, avoid needless words) with [and?] the messiness of the ensemble’s lived experiences”: from a Chicago Reader review of the Neo-Futurist stage show Elements of Style.

I can’t claim to understand what this show is about, but I at least know it’s there.

Related posts
The Elements on the stage : All OCA Strunk and White posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Ikea phone index-card stand

[Click for a larger stand.]

When we were out in Los Angeles for a few days, our daughter Rachel gave us each an Ikea phone stand. A nifty gift for those who have traveled with just a backpack apiece.

There’s just one problem with these stands: they don’t accommodate a phone in a case, at least not our phones. But the stands make great index-card holders. I’m very happy to have repurposed another household item for stationery purposes.

Thank you, Rachel.

More repurposing
Cooling rack : Dish drainer : Doorstop : Shaving-cream caps : Tea tin : More tea tins : Yogurt jar

Unchained medley

We were driving past an Applebee’s, so I gave out with a faux-spirited rendition of the Cheers theme, a song not long ago in use in the chain’s television commercials, ending with “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”

And Elaine sang in reply, “I wanna be where the people are.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coming soon

From The New York Times:

Former President Donald J. Trump said on Tuesday that he recently received a so-called target letter from the special counsel Jack Smith in connection with the criminal investigation into his efforts to hold onto power after he lost the 2020 election, a sign that he is likely to be indicted in the case.

It would be the second time Mr. Smith has notified Mr. Trump that he is a target in a federal investigation. The first, in June, was in connection to the investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of national defense material after he left office and his alleged obstruction of efforts to retrieve it.

“The lower fishbody”

A dead mermaid washes up on the shore of a public beach, and a town responds.

Steven Millhauser, “Mermaid Fever,” in Voices in the Night (2015).

And suddently I’m seeing mermaids (and mermen): in the stylish low-budget movie Night Tide, with Dennis Hopper, in the Route 66 episode “The Cruelest Sea of All,” in the Netflix series Merpeople. And my young granddaughters are all in the grip of mermaid fever. The kids these days.

You can read “Mermaid Fever” at Harper’s.

Thanks, Chris, for recommending Night Tide.

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Heather Cox Richardson today

In the latest installment of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson writes about what would likely happen in a second Trump term. Short answer: a dictatorship.

Monday, July 17, 2023


I for one hope that hodwy acquires some currency.

Example: “Hodwy do?” “Oh, we did pretty good.”

Related reading
All OCA misspelling posts (Pinboard)

Robert, Jack and Jill, and others

Annye C. Anderson, “Mrs. Anderson” to all, is Robert Johnson’s stepsister. She was a toddler when Brother Robert, as she calls him, was a young man. She is now in her later nineties, Here are details that I culled from Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, by Mrs. Anderson with Preston Lauterbach (New York: Hachette, 2020):

Robert Johnson played harmonica and piano in addition to guitar. He yodeled too. The pinstripe suit in the famous photograph was made by Eggleston the Tailor or Hooks Brothers, both on Beale Street. (At different points the memoir identifies each clothier as the maker.) While it’s been said that Johnson kept ideas for songs in a notebook, Mrs. Anderson says that she never saw one.

Robert Johnson liked fried pumpkin, spaghetti (“black folks’ spaghetti,” Mrs. Anderson calls it), Bull Durham “roll ’ems,” and Dixie Peach pomade. He paid close attention to westerns, Joe Louis, and Negro League baseball. He would ask a listener, “What’s your pleasure?”

“He didn’t get his abilities from God or the Devil,” Mrs. Anderson writes. “He made himself.”

Titles of songs (in addition to those on record) and rhymes that Johnson played, sang, recited, as Mrs. Anderson recalls them:

44 Blues : 1937 Waters (to the tune of Didn’t It Rain) : Annie Laurie : Auld Lang Syne : Beale Street Blues : Careless Love : Casey Jones : Coon Shine Baby : Did You Ever See a Dream Walking? : Dry Bones : Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush : Humpty Dumpty : Jack and Jill : John Brown’s Body : John Henry : Joshua Fit the Battle : Let Yourself Go (accompanying his stepsister, after seeing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Follow the Fleet ) : Little Boy Blue : Little Sally Walker : Loch Lomond : Mary Don’t You Weep : Mary Had a Little Lamb : Memphis Blues : Mr. Froggie Went to Courting : My Bonnie : Pennies from Heaven : Poor Boy a Long Way from Home : Precious Lord (Take My Hand) : Salty Dog Blues : She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain : Sittin’ on Top of the World : St. James Infirmary : St. Louis Blues : Swing Low Sweet Chariot : Take a Little Walk with Me : TB Blues : Tell Me Mama : That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine : Trouble in Mind : Waiting for a Train (“Jimmie Rodgers was his favorite”) : We Go Lokey, Lokey, Lokey : When They Ring Them Golden Bells

Brother Robert is a powerful rebuttal to the mythologizing that made Robert Johnson into a rootless, doomed existentialist. And it’s a lacerating depiction of the machinations of two white men — Mack McCormick and Steve LaVere — in their dealings with Mrs. Anderson’s half-sisters, Bessie Hines and Carrie Spencer Thompson.

The one thing this book is missing: a family tree, though I wouldn’t want to be the person making it.

Related reading
All OCA Robert Johnson posts (Pinboard)

Pocket notebook sighting

[From Four in a Jeep (dir. Leopold Lindtberg and Elizabeth Montagu, 1951). Click for a larger view.]

Bad sound made the movie unwatchable. But at least I got a notebook out of it.

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 Flight That Disappeared : The Fearmakers : A Foreign Affair : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : The Girl in Black Stockings : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : I See a Dark Stranger : If I Had a Million : L’Innocent : 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

Sunday, July 16, 2023

More 14th Street

Robert Caro’s mantra is “Turn every page.” I think that for browsing the 1939–1941 tax photographs of New York City buildings, the mantra ought to be “Walk every block” — at least figuratively. Because who knows what you might find?

I posted this photograph last week for its retail density. Please notice, among other details, the sign for the Gypsy Den:

[106 East 14th Street, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. All photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click any image for a much larger view.]

A sharp-eyed reader went further down the block. What do you notice here?

[108 East 14th Street.]

You are correct: at some point between these photographs, a sign either came down or went up for the N.Y. Freiheit Mandolin Orchestra. The orchestra was founded in 1924 and continues today as the New York Mandolin Orchestra. Here’s an article with some history. Thanks, Brian.

Other small differences make it fairly certain that these photographs were not taken on the same day: the FOR RENT sign between the top-story windows of 106 disappears; the open window below is now closed; the vertical pivot windows are open at different angles; the BASEBALL sign has been replaced by JANTZEN, and the clamp that holds the upper part of the tripod shaft in place is at a different height.

I went farther down the block and found a further surprise:

[112 East 14th Street.]

It’s Lüchow’s, a New York landmark for many years. I’ll let Harold H. Hart’s Hart’s Guide to New York City (1964) do the talking for me.

Nostalgia, noise, and food are all served up here in equally huge helpings. Lüchow’s, established in 1882, was once the favorite dining spot of such celebrities as Lillian Russell and Diamond Jim Brady. Since the turn of the century this vast landmark has accumulated a hefty reputation.

The several enormous rooms are separated by lofty, carved archways. Festooning the dark, oak-paneled walls are beer seidels, stuffed moose heads, ship models, and huge, ornately framed oil paintings of formidable sentimentality. Add the black iron chandeliers, the many mirrors, and the blue-and-white checked tablecloths, and you’ve got something reminiscent of a gemütliche Munich beer-hall.

Lüchow’s always seems to be mobbed, and there’s a general air of frantic festivity. Evenings, from 7 to 10 o’clock, a small string orchestra valiantly pits its schmaltz against the din, and is rewarded after every selection with lusty, beaming applause.

If you seek subtlety in your victuals, don’t come here. The food, like the atmosphere, is robust and heavily Teutonic. Sauerbraten with potato dumplings, Boiled Beef, various kinds of Schnitzels are all on the menu, along with something called Drei Mignons à la Berliner, which consists of filets of beef, pork, and veal. There are goulashes, ragouts, and chickens-in-the-pot galore.

For lovers of tartar steak, Lüchow’s Schlemmerschnitte combines raw tenderloin with a side helping of Russian caviar. Sausage lovers have a good assortment of wursts to choose from, mit sauerkraut if desired. Hunters, real or vicarious, can gorge on venison or pheasant when these are in season.

And for dessert, there are Flaming Pancakes. This tour de force is a huge pancake flavored with lemon, cinnamon and sugar, then filled with lingonberries, and finally rolled up and doused with Kirschwasser, which is then set aflame.

A tall steinkrug of dark, imported beer is $1.10; and a glass of German Moselle or Rhine wine is 80¢ (with seltzer, 15¢ extra).

An average dinner will come to $5; lunch will run about $2 less.
Here is a 1951 menu.

Did the WPA photographers break for lunch at Lüchow’s? Were members of the N.Y. Freiheit Mandolin Orchestra eating there? Were Flaming Pancakes being brought to someone’s table? Some mysteries are meant to remain so.

Notice that there are different cars parked in front of Lüchow’s in the second and third photographs. Perhaps the three photographs were taken on three different days.

Winter Carnival (dir. Charles Reisner, 1939), a comedy-romance, starred Ann Sheridan (Ann “Oomph” Sheridan, the marquee calls her) and Richard Carlson. The cast of She Married a Cop (dir. Sidney Salkow, Cal Dalton, and Ben Hardaway) a comedy with music, has just two names I recognize: Jerome Cowan and Horace McMahon. Both films were released in July 1939.

Today 106, 108, and 110 house tall buildings, one of them an NYU dorm, University Hall, aka UHall.

I realized only yesterday that I have a 2022 post celebrating the retail density of East 14th Street.

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

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Recently updated

Emporia, firing Eleven fired faculty members have brought a lawsuit.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Steve Mossberg, has the arch (29-A, ten letters “Psychomotor learning experts”), the indirect (52-A, five letters, “Drops off”), the surprising (8-D, nine letters, Moby-Dick’s ‘lively sketches of whales’”), and the tricky (54-A, five letters, “Be stingy”). Something for everyone, and a really delightful puzzle.

I started with tamer clues — 33-D, four letters, “Musical note’s vertical line” and 41-A, three letters, “Sub-Saharan staple” — and then meandered with a mazy motion, a word here, a word there, doubting I’d get everything. The clue whose answer made me think I would: 13-A, four letters, “Type of batter bread,” which made many things fall into place.

Some more clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-D, four letters, “Galaxy clusters.” Tricky, but it didn’t fool me.

10-D, five letters, “Poet pal of Tolkein.” Good to see the name in a puzzle.

13-D, ten letters, “Peruvian brandy cocktail.” Wha? I don’t know how I know this.

26-D, ten letters, “Similar color to Flame Orange.” Yow! But the clue should really read “Color similar to Flame Orange.”

34-A, fifteen letters, “One averse to innovation.” Worth an outright guess, Could it be? Yes.

36-A, ten letters, “Rustic jam.” But the spelling might be a challenge.

42-D, five letters, “Thoroughfare bordering Yale U.” A thoroughfare, really? Okay, I suppose it is.

45-A, five letters, “Deconstruct.” Sort of.

46-D, five letters, “Slip away, in a way.” Of course, ERODE. Uh, no.

My favorite in this puzzle: 14-D, seven letters, “Starting point.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 14, 2023

“So thick with phantoms”

Steven Millhauser, “Phantoms,” in Voices in the Night (2015).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Zippy under the El

Today’s Zippy: “Street Smart,” with Dana Andrews, Victor Mature, Ida Lupino, and the Third Avenue El. So much art in these panels.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Jigs and gigs

Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC this afternoon: “The gig is up.”

Complicating matters: there’s a documentary film titled The Gig Is Up (2021). But that title, about the so-called gig economy, is a pun on jig. In 2021 Grammarphobia looked at the jig is up and the gig is up.

Google’s Ngram Viewer shows jig as overwhelming leading gig in print in all its varieties of English. I think it’s safe to say that Wallace meant jig. Oh, by the way, she was commenting on new news about Jack Smith’s investigation and a disgraced former president’s ever-increasing peril.


Coincidence: Yesterday Fran Drescher said “The jig is up” in her powerful SAG-AFTRA speech (1:56 in the shorter video, 5:47 in the longer one). Every union should have a leader like Fran Drescher.

“The deserts of the night”

Steven Millhauser, “We Others,” in We Others: New and Selected Stories (2008).

Related reading
All OCA Steven Millhauser posts (Pinboard)

Lester Young speaks

The tenor saxophonist Lester Young was an inventive user of words. From Playback with Lewis Porter!, two television clips of Young speaking, featuring “Ivey-Divey” and “Little Tinky Boom? One stick, you dig?” Listen for the difference the sticks make.

From Whitney Balliett’s New York Notes: A Journal of Jazz in the Seventies (1976), a few more examples of Lester Young’s language, as recalled by the pianist Jimmy Rowles:

“Lester was the coolest man I ever met. He had his own language. He wasn’t Pres to us, but Bubba, after some nephews who called him Uncle Bubba. He’d turn to me on the bandstand and say, ‘Startled doe. Two o’clock,’ which meant if you looked into the audience at where two o’clock was you’d see this pretty chick with big eyes. ‘Bob Crosby’s in the house’ meant a cop had just come in, and ‘Bing and Bob’ meant the fuzz were all over the place. When I first knew him, he said, ‘There’s a gray boy at the bar who is looking for you.’ ‘What’s a gray boy?’ I said. ‘Man, you’re a gray boy,’ he said, smiling with those green teeth he had then, ‘and I’m an Oxford gray.’

“And everything that was good was ‘bulging.’ It was a telescoping of a phrase that had started out ‘I’ve got eyes for that,’ which meant ‘I like that,’ and became ‘I’ve got great big eyes for that,’ and then ‘I’ve got bulging eyes for that.’ But if he didn’t like something or somebody, all he did was puff out his cheeks — no words at all, just balloon cheeks.“
Another sampling, from Balliett’s American Musicians: Fifty-Six Portraits in Jazz (1986):
Much of Young’s language has vanished, but here is a sampling: “Bing and Bob” were the police. A “hat” was a woman, and a “homburg” and a “Mexican hat” were types of women. An attractive young girl was a “poundcake.” A “gray boy” was a white man, and Young himself, who was light-skinned, was an “oxford gray.” “I’ve got bulging eyes” for this or that meant he approved of something, and “Catalina eyes” and “Watts eyes” expressed high admiration. “Left people” were the fingers of a pianist’s left hand. “I feel a draft” meant he sensed a bigot nearby. “Have another helping,” said to a colleague on the bandstand, meant “Take another chorus,” and “one long” or “two long” meant one chorus or two choruses. People “whispering on” or “buzzing on” him were talking behind his back. Getting his “little claps” meant being applauded. A “zoomer” was a sponger, and a “needle dancer” was a heroin addict. “To be bruised” was to fail. A “tribe” was a band, and a “molly trolley” was a rehearsal. “Can Madam burn?” meant “Can your wife cook?” “Those people will be here in December” meant that his second child was due in December.
[Young had two children, Lester Young Jr. and Yvette Young. Lester Young Jr. is the Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents.]

Stephen Sondheim’s dictionary

Stephen Sondheim’s townhouse is on the market. If you look at the thirteenth photograph, you’ll see that Sondheim had a Merriam-Webster’s Second on his dictionary stand. The three thumb-notches at the front of the volume — clear signs of a W2.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts and Sondheim posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Pocket notebook sighting

[From L’Innocent (dir. Louis Garrel, 2022). Click for a larger view.]

Look: if there’s a criminal plan afoot, there’s gotta be a notebook.

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 Flight That Disappeared : The Fearmakers : A Foreign Affair : Foreign Correspondent : Fury : The Girl in Black Stockings : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : I See a Dark Stranger : If I Had a Million : Journal d’un curé de campagne : Kid Glove Killer : The Last Laugh : Le Million : The Lodger : Lost Horizon : M : Ministry of Fear : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : Now, Voyager : The Palm Beach Story : Perry Mason : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : The Racket : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : La roue : Route 66The Scarlet Claw : Sleeping Car to Trieste : The Small Back Room : The Sopranos : Spellbound : Stage Fright : State Fair : A Stranger in Town : Stranger Things : Sweet Smell of Success : Time Table : T-Men : To the Ends of the Earth : 20th Century Women : Union Station : Vice Squad : Walk East on Beacon! : What Happened Was . . . : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window : You Only Live Once : Young and Innocent

"Their own interpretation of happiness”

Lou Sullivan (1951–1991), transman and activist, writing as a teenager:

I wanna look like what I am but don’t know what someone like me looks like. I mean, when people look at me I want them to think — there’s one of those people that reasons, that is a philosopher, that has their own interpretation of happiness. That’s what I am.
“Their own intepretation of happiness”: a way to think about making a life, trans- or cis-. These words are quoted, incompletely, imperfectly, in No Ordinary Man (dir. Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt, 2020), a documentary about the jazz musician and transman Billy Tipton. You can find the words quoted accurately in this New Yorker article.

Homer in four translations

In The New York Times, Emily Wilson, who has now translated both the Iliad and the Odyssey, writes about four translations of a speech by Hector from Iliad 6.

When I taught Homer and other ancient writers in translation, I was very fond of bringing in multiple versions of a passage. Reading across translations and exploring the source text via the Perseus Digital Library is a great way to get closer to the poetry. When I was preparing to interview the classicist Stanley Lombardo in 2003, I sat in the library with the Lattimore, Fitzgerald, Fagles, and Lombardo translations of the Iliad and Odyssey and the Loeb texts of the poems, scanning every line in each translation for items of possible interest. As the poet said, you can observe a lot by just watching.


One point in Wilson’s commentary that complicates things greatly:

Wilson writes that Hector “is a deeply loving father and husband who makes the choice to leave his family to almost-certain enslavement and death” by fighting on the Trojan plain. “His death,” she writes, “will entail his wife’s rape and enslavement, their baby’s violent death and the sack of their city.”

I have to disagree. These events won’t come about because of Hector’s death in battle. They’ll come about because Troy is doomed. As Hector says earlier in his meeting with his wife Andromache in this episode:

Deep in my heart, I know too well
There will come a day when holy Ilion [Troy] will
And Priam and the people under Priam’s ash spear.
Hector imagines the pain he will feel — he’ll be alive — as his wife is taken by the Greeks, and as he goes on to say, he hopes to be dead, “the earth heaped up above me,” before it happens.

Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard) : Aeschylus in three translations : Homer in four translations : More Homer : Sappho in two translations : Virgil in three tranlations : More Virgil

[Lines from the Iliad are in Stanley Lombardo’s translation (1997).]

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Ten movies, two seasons

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

The Devil Doll (dir. Tod Browning, 1936). An extraordinarily well-made movie from the director of Dracula and Freaks. The premise is simple and bizarre: Paul Lavond (Lionel Barrymore), a banker wrongfully convicted of murder and robbery, escapes from prison along with a scientist who created a process to shrink human beings (and thus reduce the dangers of overpopulation). When the scientist dies, his widow (Rafaela Ottiano) and Lavond join forces, creating miniature humans to kill the men who framed Lavond. The special effects are spectacularly good, as is Barrymore’s work in his disguise as Madame Mandilip. ★★★★ (TCM)


The Corpse Vanishes (dir. Wallace Fox, 1942). A plucky society columnist (Luana Walters) gets to the bottom of the evil machinations of Dr. Lorenz (Bela Lugosi), who knocks out brides and uses their precious bodily fluids to keep his wife from aging. What makes the movie worth watching: Dr. Lorenz’s male assistants, Frank Moran of the Preston Sturges world and Angelo Rossitto of Freaks. Also adding value: an unintentionally hilarious scene of theft. So bad, so good, and fit for SCTV’s Monster Chiller Horror Theatre. ★★ (TCM)


Underground (dir. Vincent Sherman, 1941). Even if they say so themselves, Warner Bros. did lead the American movie industry’s opposition to Nazism and fascism. Underground is a Warner Bros. B-movie (no big stars) about German anti-Nazi radio broadcasts, sibling conflict, and the state’s brutalization of its citizens. It’s suspenseful and unflinching, always. This movie makes me wonder how many genuinely great movies from the 1940s are still unknown to me. ★★★★ (YT)


Being Mary Tyler Moore (dir. James Adolphus, 2023). A documentary that draws upon interviews, home videos, television and film clips, and recollections of friends and collaborators. If you know Mary Tyler Moore mainly as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, you’ll be surprised (as I was) by how much work preceded and followed each of those roles. The home videos are especially revealing: in one, Moore, at home with friends and inebriated, topples onto a floor; in others, she seems determined to show how happy she was in her final marriage. In 2023, the debate about whether Moore was an enemy of feminism (represented here by Gloria Steinem) seems mistakenly sad: that she calls her boss “Mr. Grant” seems to me a marker of Minnesota nice, not subservience. ★★★★ (M)


In Which We Serve (dir. Noël Coward and David Lean, 1942). I’ve had this film on a to-watch list for years, and there it was, on Memorial Day: the story of the HMS Torrin, a WWII British Navy destroyer, its captain (Coward, and he’s convincing), and a handful of crew members, whose stories are told in flashbacks (sans voiceover narration) as the men drift in a life raft after the Torrin is hit by German bombers. The juxtapositions of past and present, peace and war, land and sea, are poignant and harrowing: there’s no looking away from the agony of battle here. And throughout we see men and women meeting the most difficult circumstances with an understated stoic courage. With Joyce Carey, Celia Johnson, Bernard Miles, John Mills, Kay Walsh, and many more. ★★★★ (TCM)


Succession, fourth season (created by Jesse Armstrong, 2023). Lukas Mattson on the Roys: “”It’s basically just, like, money and gossip.” And Roman Roy: “We’re bullshit.” I agree, and I’m happy to be done with the arch looks, flip zingers, sibling rivalries, and the New York Times articles about the clothing in each episode. But I’ll grant that the election-night episode “America Decides” was enough to elicit something approaching post-traumatic stress. ★★ (M)


Somebody Somewhere, second season (created by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, 2023). The season focuses on the joys and sorrows of friendship: as Fred (Murray Hill) plans his marriage and Joel (Jeff HIller) finds himself in a new relationship, Sam (Bridget Everett) begins to feel awkwardly alone. Happiest moment: “Gloria”; saddest: “Take your windbreaker and go”; most ineffable: the mention of love during the singing lesson. This show, so full of humanity, and so deserving of a much larger audience, has been renewed for a third season. Now there just needs to be fair compensation for those who will write it. ★★★★ (M)


L’Innocent (dir. Louis Garrel, 2022). A thriller with comic overtones and some wonderful blurring of the real and the fictive. Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg), an acting teacher working with prison inmates, marries one of her students, Michel (Roschdy Zem), and upon his release, they set up a flower shop together. Sylvie’s son Abel (Garrel) doesn’t trust Michel and begins to shadow him with the help of his friend Clémence (Noémie Merlant). Complications ensue, and Abel and Clémence are drawn into a criminal scheme that requires them to do a bit of acting themselves. The spirit of Pedro Almodóvar seems to preside over the action, with strong touches of Diva, Next Stop Wonderland, and Vertigo. ★★★★ (CC)


From the Criterion Channel’s Masc feature

No Ordinary Man (dir. Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt, 2020). The life of Billy Tipton (1914–1989), jazz musician, transman, husband, father. I remember when Billy Tipton’s story first made the news, as a matter of a musician who went undercover, so to speak, in order to make a living in music. The truth was another matter, as this documentary makes clear. In it transmen and -women speak, eloquently, about identity and categorization, but I wish there more about Billy Tipton’s life and music, and less of interviewees playing him in scripted scenes. ★★★ (CC)


Three from the Criterion Channel’s Method Acting feature

The Naked Spur (dir. Anthony Mann, 1953). It’s 1868, and Jimmy Stewart is Howard Kemp, a bounty hunter in the Rocky Mountains. With the help of a prospector (Millard Mitchell) and an ex-cavalryman and rapist (Ralph Meeker, who looks and talks as if he stepped out of, say, Easy Rider ), Kemp finds Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan), who killed a marshal back in Kansas, and Ben’s traveling companion (Janet Leigh), the daughter of Ben’s dead bank-robber friend. Strong overtones of the Odyssey, Moby-Dick, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Vandergroat: “The longer we ride, the more things that can happen.” ★★★★ (CC)

The Goddess (dir. John Cromwell, 1958). Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay is loosely based on — or is it cruelly appropriative of? — the life of Marilyn Monroe. Kim Stanley, who did most of her work on the stage, is the goddess, beginning her life as Emily Ann Faulkner, the child of a mother who gives her away to relatives; two dysfunctional marriages later, Emily becomes the Hollywood star Rita Shawn, drinking, taking pills, and hopelessly dependent on a Nurse Ratched-like assistant who calls Rita “Baby.” The acting is fine (John Power and Lloyd Bridges as Emily’s wildly different husbands are especially good), but the script is overwrought. I’m surprised to see that I know Kim Stanley’s work in film in two ways: she starred in Séance on a Wet Afternoon and was the voice of the adult Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. ★★★

Rachel, Rachel (dir. Paul Newman, 1968). Joanne Woodward is Rachel Cameron, a thirty-something second-grade teacher, painfully self-conscious and socially averse, living with her mother (is that her voice calling in the title?) above the funeral home that the late Mr. Cameron once owned. Into Rachel’s life comes Nick Kazlik (James Olson), a high-school classmate, now a high-school teacher in New York City, visiting his folks for the summer and looking for “some action.” What follows is a complicated meeting of innocence and experience, with all the awkwardness and misunderstanding and exhilaration that such a meeting might yield. And to think that Joanne Woodward didn’t receive the Academy Award for this performance. ★★★★ (CC)

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