Saturday, July 13, 2024

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, composing as “Anna Stiga.” Like “Lester Ruff,” that’s a pseudonym that signals an easier Stumper. Easy indeed: writing this post will probably take longer than solving.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

7-D, fifteen letters, “Appliance store offering.” Like most of the puzzle, pretty straightforward.

8-A, six letters, “Literally, ‘already seen.’” My starting point.

13-D, six letters, “Free of obstruction.” Trickier than it looks.

14-A, eight letters, “It’s Amsterdam north of 59th St.” My mental map isn’t good enough to know it cold.

23-A, seven letters, “Take a turn for the verse.” Groan.

28-A, nine letters, “Fancy word for ‘#.’” It pays to know your typographical symbols.

33-A, fifteen letters, “‘Thanks for telling me.’” In the American idiom.

42-A, nine letters, “Circular bakeware.” BUNDTPANS?

61-A, eight letters, “They’re baked on 42-Across.” Making 42-A a little tricky, or a bit debatable.

My favorite in this puzzle: 44-D, six letters, “Pole vaults have them.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

[The post took a minute longer than the puzzle.]

Friday, July 12, 2024

“Leftist broadcasters” (Project 2025)

Here’s another excerpt from the Project 2025 Policy Agenda, from Chapter Eight, concerning media agencies. The document calls for ending taxpayer fundng for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And what then?

Stripping public funding would, of course, mean that NPR, PBS, Pacifica Radio, and the other leftist broadcasters would be shorn of the presumption that they act in the public interest and receive the privileges that often accompany so acting. They should no longer, for example, be qualified as noncommercial education stations (NCE stations), which they clearly no longer are. NPR, Pacifica, and the other radio ventures have zero claim on an educational function (the original purpose for which they were created by President Johnson), and the percentage of on-air programming that PBS devotes to educational endeavors such as “Sesame Street” (programs that are themselves biased to the Left) is small.

Being an NCE comes with benefits. The Federal Communications Commission, for example, reserves the 20 stations at the lower end of the radio frequency (between 88 and 108 MHz on the FM band) for NCEs. The FCC says that “only noncommercial educational radio stations are licensed in the 88–92 MHz ‘reserved’ band,” while both commercial and noncommercial educational stations may operate in the “non-reserved” band. This confers advantages, as lower-frequency stations can be heard farther away and are easier to find as they lie on the left end of the radio dial (figuratively as well as ideologically).

The FCC also exempts NCE stations from licensing fees. It says that “Noncommercial educational (NCE) FM station licensees and full service NCE television broadcast station licensees are exempt from paying regulatory fees, provided that these stations operate solely on an NCE basis.” NPR and PBS stations are in reality no longer noncommercial, as they run ads in everything but name for their sponsors. They are also noneducational. The next President should instruct the FCC to exclude the stations affiliated with PBS and NPR from the NCE denomination and the privileges that come with it.
Ads, yes. (And why? To bring in revenue as federal support diminishes.) But noneducational? All Things Considered? American Masters? Finding Your Roots? Fresh Air? And even if you’ve already restricted “educational” to programming for the very young, it’s extraordinarily dishonest to assert that the percentage of programming is small: PBS runs several hours of kids’ shows every day, and there’s a separate channel, PBS Kids, all kids, all the time.

And what about this claim that Sesame Street (italics, please) is biased to “the Left”? Because it shows urbanites in all their human variety?

Fred Rogers, we need you. That link goes to his 1969 testimony before a Senate subcommittee considering a large cut to Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding. Mister Rogers, by the way, was a registered Republican.

Related posts
Relative frequency of words in Project 2025 : Project 2025 on marriage and parental roles : Names in school

Positive anymore on the screen

Tick Roby (Danielle Panabaker) is hoping that her father Miles Roby (Ed Harris) is up for a drive. From Empire Falls (dir. Fred Schepisi, 2005):

“Any chance we could go to Boston this weekend? The Picasso exhibit’s opening.”

“I’m gonna be pretty busy here. I’d like to get some of this worked out.”

“Well, anymore you’re always busy.”
This exchange marks the first time I’ve heard positive anymore outside of real life.

Related reading
All OCA positive anymore posts

Thursday, July 11, 2024

“Donald Trump Is Unfit to Lead”

A lengthy piece from the New York Times editorial board (gift link): “Donald Trump Is Unfit to Lead.” Read. Share. Vote.

Names in school (Project 2025)

Here’s another passage from the Project 2025 Policy Agenda, from Chapter Eleven, concerning the Department of Education — which, this chapter says, should be eliminated. So much is left unaddressed in this chapter. Just one example: despite graphs showing declines in reading and mathematics, there are no suggestions to improve those outcomes. Let the states figure it out, I guess.

But this document is clear on several points. For instance, in all K–12 schools under federal jurisdiction:

No public education employee or contractor shall use a name to address a student other than the name listed on a student’s birth certificate, without the written permission of a student’s parents or guardians.

No public education employee or contractor shall use a pronoun in addressing a student that is different from that student’s biological sex without the written permission of a student’s parents or guardians.

No public institution may require an education employee or contractor to use a pronoun that does not match a person’s biological sex if contrary to the employee’s or contractor’s religious or moral convictions.
As always, the cruelty is a feature, not a bug. Imagine what it would feel like to be a trans or non-binary kid called, again and again, a name or pronoun not of your choosing. Imagine what it would feel like to be a trans or non-binary teacher or staff member referred to, again and again, with the wrong pronouns. Imagine too the dilemma the first of these prohibitions would create for a sympathetic teacher who wants to honor a student’s choice of name. And notice too: even if a student has written permission regarding their name and pronouns, a teacher or other employee cannot be required to honor that request. Again, cruelty abounding, and I have to wonder what kind of “moral convictions” would prompt a person to be so unabashedly cruel. The deeply sinister message here is that individual identity is not one’s own to decide.

Practicalities: if such a policy were ever to be implemented, every Ash, Barb, Cal, Dee, &c., &c., had better bring a note from home.

Teachers, incidentally, are identified in this document as a special-interest group in the world of education.

Related posts
Relative frequency of words in Project 2025 : Project 2025 on marriage and parental roles : Mary Miller and biblical models of the family

You and *I, you and me

I was driving when I said it: “people like you and I.” And I couldn’t believe that I had said it.

Such is life when you hear it the wrong way again and again, and when you read writers telling you there’s nothing wrong with it.

I just kept driving — I didn’t slam on the brakes and pull over — but I immediately corrected myself. That’ll never happen no more, as the song says. I hope.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Project 2025 on marriage and parental roles

It is to laugh: Melania Trump just hosted a fundraiser for the Log Cabin Republicans, a group devoted to LGBTQ+ rights. “This Republican Party is one for ALL Americans,” the group proclaimed.

Perhaps the Log Cabin Republicans should have a look at the Project 2025 Policy Agenda. Chapter Fourteen, devoted to the Department of Health and Human Services, leaves no doubt that these aspiring makers of policy view marriage as a heterosexual union. Here’s a passage from the plan for the HHS Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education for Adults initiative:

Protect faith-based grant recipients from religious liberty violations and maintain a biblically based, social science–reinforced definition of marriage and family. Social science reports that assess the objective outcomes for children raised in homes aside from a heterosexual, intact marriage are clear: All other family forms involve higher levels of instability (the average length of same-sex marriages is half that of heterosexual marriages); financial stress or poverty; and poor behavioral, psychological, or educational outcomes.

For the sake of child well-being, programs should affirm that children require and deserve both the love and nurturing of a mother and the play and protection of a father. Despite recent congressional bills like the Respect for Marriage Act that redefine marriage to be the union between any two individuals, HMRE program grants should be available to faith-based recipients who affirm that marriage is between not just any two adults, but one man and one unrelated woman.
Look at the details:

~ The federal government is to maintain a “biblically based” definition of marriage and family. But while marriage can be a religious institution, it is, in the United States, also and always a civil institution. And “biblically based” has an uncertain meaning. I trust that the Project 2025 idea of a biblical model does not allow for polygamy, concubinage, and death by stoning for disobedient children.

~ There’s no acknowledgement of the woeful life consequences that may befall children raised in dysfunctional heterosexual households.

~ If the average length of same-sex marriages is indeed half that of heterosexual marriages, that might have something to do the fact that same-sex marriage became legal in every state only in 2015. Many same-sex marriages can now be, at most, just under nine years old.

~ This document leaves little doubt that the only form of marriage it deems legitimate is marriage between a man and a woman (unrelated!). Marriage, the document says, is between “not just any two adults,” as if the partners in a same-sex relationship are just randomly paired people.

~ The roles assigned mothers and fathers are curiously retrograde: a mother provides “love and nurturing”; a father provides “play and protection.” Cannot any parent, male, female, or otherwise, provide all those possibilities?

The broad outlines of Project 2025 are frightening enough. Reading the details makes it all look much worse. Log Cabin Republicans, you’re kidding yourselves.

The document is available here.

Related posts
Relative frequency of words in Project 2025 : Mary Miller and biblical models of the family

Windows Notepad advances

Daring Fireball notes that Windows Notepad is getting spellcheck and autocorrect: “Better late than never, but it’s kind of wild that Notepad is 41 years old and only getting these features now.”

Which reminds me of my pre-Mac adventures in “Amish computing” — writing in the Windows app Notepad2 and using a spellchecking script.

On Proust’s birthday

Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871.

You know, perhaps, that ever since I have been ill, I have been working on a long book, which I call a novel because it isn’t as fortuitous as memoirs (it is fortuitous only to the degree that life itself is), and the composition is very severe although difficult to appraise because of its complexity; I don’t know how to describe the genre. Certain parts take place in the country, some in one kind of society, others in another kind; some have to do with family life and much of it is terribly indecent.

Marcel Proust, in a letter to Louis de Robert, between October 7 and 15, 1912. From Letters of Marcel Proust, translated by Mina Curtiss (New York: Helen Marx Books / Books & Co., 2006).
Louis de Robert (1871–1937), novelist and Dreyfussard. Proust listened to his nightly accounts of the trial.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Eleven suggestions from Robert Reich

Robert Reich offers eleven suggestions “to prevent America and the world from falling into fascism.”

Relative frequency (Project 2025)

In Chapter Fourteen of the Project 2025 Policy Agenda, covering the Department of Health and Human Services, the words addiction, birth control, and hunger do not appear; the word fentanyl appears once; the acronyms HIV and AIDS appear once each; and the word nutrition appears four times.

But the word gender appears twenty-two times, and the word abortion appears 143 times.

Among the anti-abortion strategies this project seeks to implement: the use of “every available tool, including the cutting of funds” to require each state to report “how many abortions take place within its borders, at what gestational age of the child, for what reason, the mother’s state of residence, and by what method.” The idea here is to counter what the document calls “abortion tourism.” And abortion is explicitly equated with “taking a human life.”

As for birth control family planning, this document addresses only “modern fertility awareness–based methods,” said to have “unsurpassed effectiveness.” (Planned Parenthood says they are “about 77–98% effective.”)

Monday, July 8, 2024

Project 2025

Did you know that there’s a Project 2025 website? And a thirty-chapter agenda?

My Project 2025 is to do what I can (with modest means, admittedly not much) to prevent their Project 2025 from being realized.

Fran Lebowitz at the Morgan Library

“When you look at manuscripts or letters and they’re written in the hand of the writer, you are closer to that writer, you’re closer to the person”: Fran Lebowitz looks at manuscripts and letters at the Morgan Library.

Related posts
A visit to the Kolb-Proust Archive : Gregory Corso’s poem “I Held a Shelley Manuscript”

”Huh?“

At least I know I’m not alone in thinking it a problem: Why are the right- and left-quotation marks on iOS’s keyboard reversed?

[The post title is deliberate. RSS might not display the reversed quotation marks — ” “ — as I intended.]

Sunday, July 7, 2024

“Swims clings or crawls”

[Eddie’s Fish Market, 5410 New Utrecht Avenue, Boro Park, Brooklyn, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click either image for a much larger view.]

I went roaming around the primal neighborhood and decided to take a look at the spot where 13th Avenue and New Utrecht Avenue intersect — at 54th Street. The car-and-train chase in The French Connection never made it that far.

I like the Eddie’s Fish Store slogan, and fortunately the second of these photographs has it complete:

If it swims clings or crawls we have it.
Commas be damned.

Bonuses: The neon fish. The kid’s hat. The face at the window. (Click for large and look closely.)

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

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by “Lester Ruff,” or Stan Newman, the puzzle’s editor, offering an easier puzzle. Yes, this one’s easier. For instance: 47-A, seven letters, “Liked by a lot.” That’s as straightforward as it gets. The dazzling parts of the puzzle: horizontal and vertical stacks of twelve-, fifteen-, and twelve-letter answers.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, six letters, “Image enhancers.” A far less straightforward answer than 47-A.

5-D, twelve letters, “What might hold the mayo.” A stack begins. REFRIGERATOR would be far too straightforward.

6-D, fifteen letters, “They’re behind the wheel.” A stack continues. Not CASINOEMPLOYEES.

19-D, twelve letters, “‘How are you?’ ‘_____’.” A stack concludes. Nicely colloquial.

24-D, seven letters, “Author named for Emerson.” Yep.

29-A, twelve letters, “Spearmint or citronella.” A stack begins.

31-D, three letters, “One of DC's 35-Across (first spelled with its third letter moved to first).” The one awkward spot in the puzzle. The answer is out of the way but unavoidable, given the stack of Across answers. The parenthetical bit seems unnecessary. 35-A should be allowed to fend for itself.

32-A, fifteen letters, “Funds needed for ongoing costs.” A stack continues.

32-D, eight letters, “Film first called The Concert Feature.” Such a strange title.

35-A, twelve letters, “JFK and relatives.” A stack concludes. A really inventive clue.

39-D, six letters, “Its origin story is told in The Man Who Made Lists.” I’m tempted to look at it and the book about it.

48-D, four letters, “Colleague of Queen Bey.” I'm not sure how I know it, but I do.

49-A, three letters, “Caviar on a canapé.” A little tricky.

My favorite in this puzzle: 21-A, four letters, “Nonclassified letters.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Notebook and pencil sighting

[The FBI Story (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1959). Click for a much larger view.]

That’s an FBI agent questioning a clothes presser about a hollow coin found in a pants pocket. I thought that the pencil might be a Blackwing, but no — it’s a mechanical pencil. Perhaps a Scripto, perhaps a Skilcraft.

See also: FBI agents and Dixon Ticonderogas.

Related reading
All OCA pocket notebook sightings (Pinboard)

Ship, plane, or call center

A recorded voice, as heard on the phone:

“Please wait while I connect you with a crew member.”

Thursday, July 4, 2024

It’s raining

[Nancy, July 21, 1955.]

We went for almost a month without having to mow our lawn, so a little rain is a welcome thing. And a dark and rainy morning seems appropriate on this Fourth of July.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Jim’s question

Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884/1885).

The question is timely.

[UK publication: 1884. US publication: 1885.]

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Eleven movies, one series

[One to four stars. Four sentences each. No spoilers. Sources: Criterion Channel, Disney, Max, Netflix, a movie theater, YouTube.]

Live Fast, Die Young (dir. Paul Henreid, 1958). No one dies, and the movie is far better than the lurid title suggests. Kim (Mary Murphy) and Jill Winters (Norma Eberhardt), a hashslinger and a high-school senior, are sisters living with their unemployed drunk of a father (Gordon Jones, Mike the cop of the Abbott and Costello world). When Kim leaves home for a career of petty and more serious crime (lived to a jazz and rock ‘n’ roll score and featuring Mike Connors), Mary follows to search for her sister and bring her back. Eberhardt, who affects a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice, has the best line: “Nothing’s against anything until you’re caught!” ★★★★ (YT)

*

So Young, So Bad (dir. Bernard Vorhaus, 1950). Life at a “corrective school” for girls, with a know-nothing administrator, a sadistic matron, and Dr. John Jason (Paul Henreid), a newly hired psychiatrist intent on making a better life for the school’s inmates, who spend their days doing laundry and tending potato fields. A second administrator (Catherine McLeod) doubts he can make any changes. Sparks fly. Three actors make their first major appearance in movies here: Anne Francis as an unmarried mother, Anne Jackson as a butch gal, and Rosita (Rita) Moreno as a social isolate who finds refuge in dreams of escape. ★★★ (YT)

*

Lonelyhearts (dir. Vincent J. Donehue, 1958). A loose adaptation of Nathanael West’s novella Miss Lonelyhearts. Montgomery Clift is Adam White, Miss Lonelyhearts, writing an advice column for a big-city newspaper; Robert Ryan is Shrike, the paper’s editor-in-chief, a man given to tormenting and tempting Adam; Myrna Loy is Mrs. Shrike, an alienated wife who likes the company of younger men (including Adam). Maureen Stapleton seems terribly miscast as a newspaper reader intent on seducing Adam. Adam’s backstory and the movie’s happy ending would have been enough to make West say “Look what they’ve done to my novella, ma.” ★★★ (YT)

*

Gun Crazy (dir. Joseph H. Lewis, 1950). I’ll watch this movie whenever it shows up. A delirious crime spree, with Bart Tare (John Dall), an army vet fascinated by guns but horrified by killing, and Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins) a sideshow sharpshooter who’s even crazier than Bart. Dominance, submission, and weirdness abounding. Look at Bart and Laurie lying next to each other after making an escape: they’re panting like partners who have just made love. ★★★★ (YT)

*

The Beach Boys (dir. Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny, 2024). This documentary is most valuable as a visual history, with photographs, news footage, and what look like home movies. It’s telling that the first member of the group seen and heard in a non-archival interview is Mike Love, who’s given considerable screen time to talk (about how he was not given enough credit and how Murry Wilson sold the rights to his songs) and to choke up about what he would like to say to Brian Wilson (“I’ll see you in court”?). The documentary omits the deaths of Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson, Brian’s late-career renaissance, the completed SMiLE, and much more, and things end on a strange note: an intertitle reports Pet Sounds going gold and platinum in 2000 as “Kokomo” (gah!) begins to play over the credits. Endless Harmony (dir. Alan Boyd, 1998) is a much better introduction to the group’s history. ★★ (D)

*

Touch (dir. Paul Schrader, 1997). An American story of commerce and religion, from a novel by Elmore Leonard. Juvenal (Skeet Ulrich) is an ex-monk and stigmatic whose touch heals people. Bill Hill (Christopher Walken) is an ex-evangelist who sees Juvenal as a potential star and gets Lynn Faulkner (Bridget Fonda) to push him in that direction, even as a religious fanatic (Tom Arnold) is enraged by Juvenal and Lynn’s relationship. “Juvenal”: yes, it’s satire, but it’s meandering and sleepy. ★★ (CC)

*

The FBI Story (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1959). It starts out well, as a police procedural, with file cabinets, magnifying glasses, and switchboards, but it slowly goes downhill. James Stewart is FBI agent Chip Hardesty, whose peripatetic career finds him investigating Klan violence, murders of Native Americans, famous gangsters, a mass murder, Nazi conspirators, and Communist agents. It’s all set against a Capraesque story of marriage and family, with Stewart and Vera Miles as George and Mary Bailey 2.0, trading lines of creaky, corny dialogue. Best segment: the story of the hollow coin. ★★ (TCM)

*

Hilda Crane (dir. Philip Dunne, 1956). “In case you didn’t know, courtesan is a fancy word for tramp !”: so says Hilda Crane (Jean Simmons), back home with her mother (Judith Evelyn, Miss Lonelyhearts in Rear Window) after being let go from a job in New York. Hilda, whose years away include a spell of cohabitation and two divorces, finds herself pursued by two men: the louche professor (Jean-Pierre Aumont) who has pronounced her a courtesan, and a noble architect (Guy Madison) whose mother (Evelyn Varden, Icey Spoon in The Night of the Hunter) has definite ideas about her son’s future. But what does Hilda want as her future? Stagey in the extreme (from a play by Samuel Raphaelson), loopy in its lurch to a conclusion, and highly revealing of at least some people’s ideas about gender and sexuality at mid-century. ★★★ (YT)

*

The Human Comedy (dir. Clarence Brown, 1943). It began as a screenplay by William Saroyan that proved far too long for a movie. Life in wartime in the fictional Ithaca, California, with a high-school student, Homer (!) Macauley (Mickey Rooney), who works nights as a postal-telegram delivery boy to help his widowed mother get by. The movie moves from vignette to vignette, taking in the Macauley family (Ray Collins is the spirit of the dead father; Fay Bainter is the mother; Donna Reed is their daughter), the telegraph office (Frank Morgan is a hard-drinking but indefatigable operator), townspeople young and old, and visiting servicemen, with shifts now and then to Homer’s elder brother Marcus (Van Johnson), already away from home in military service and preparing to go overseas. For all its unabashed sentimentality, this human comedy makes considerable room for tragedy, and I can only imagine what it must have felt like to watch in 1943. ★★★★ (TCM)

[A well-known leading man made his uncredited debut in this movie.]

*

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, second season (dir. Andrew Jarecki, 2024). The second (final?) season of the The Jinx covers Robert Durst’s trial, conviction, and sentencing in the murder of his friend Susan Berman and his death four months later. The people on camera are an array of heroes and villains: a dedicated cold-case prosecutor, long-suffering members of Durst’s first wife’s family, Durst family members who did nothing when Durst’s first wife disappeared, friends who display a bewildering allegiance to a killer, and a second wife of convenience determined to keep Durst’s assets from going to his first wife’s family. And above all, Durst himself, quick and conniving on telephone calls, whiny and defiant in the courtroom, avoiding justice again and again (remind you of anyone?). As the credits for the final episode roll, the Jeff Beck/Joss Stone cover of “I Put a Spell on You” plays — aptly, aptly. ★★★★ (M)

*

Wicked Little Letters (dir. Thea Sharrock, 2023). Post-Great War in Sussex, with pious unmarried Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) receiving bizarrely obscene anonymous letters. Suspicion falls on her free-spirit neighbor Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley), and an arrest and trial follow. An assiduous constable, Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan), has doubts about Rose’s guilt and enlists the help of other neighborhood women to set things straight. Wonderfully comic, at times suspenseful, with handwriting at the center of things, and based on a true story that seems like something out of Dickens. ★★★★ (N)

*

Inside Out 2 (dir. Kelsey Mann, 2024). Late in the film, we heard a young audience member ask a grown-up, “Why is Riley sad?” In this (not really for kids) sequel, Riley Andersen, now thirteen, is beset by Puberty, which arrives in the form of a wrecking ball that destroys her Sense of Self (capitals are fitting for this allegorical tale), after which a new array of emotions take control: Anxiety, Embarrassment, Ennui, and Envy. That old Sense of Self was a beautiful, symmetrical, silver structure, the work of a mind that could say “Mom and Dad are proud of me” and “I’m a good person”; the new one is a jagged, asymmetrical, fiery mess, whose main theme is “I’m not good enough.” But — and because it’s a Disney movie, it’s no spoiler — the kid is going to be all right, and more complicated. ★★★★ (T)

Related reading
All OCA “12 movies” posts (Pinboard)

Ruth Martin, stickler

From the Lassie episode “The Ring” (January 19, 1958). Ruth Martin (Cloris Leachman) has invited Uncle Petrie (George Chandler) to come work on the farm. Timmy (Jon Provost) takes an instant dislike to the newcomer. Ruth and Paul Martin (John Sheppod) are arguing:

“Who called Uncle Petrie in the first place? Not me.”

“Fine grammar for a college graduate – ‘not me.’”

“Don't change the subject.”
The original Ruth Martin is not an especially likable character. She’s snippy, fretful, and prone to drama. And she’s always correcting pronouns. Ruth Two (June Lockhart) was a much steadier sort. Impossible to imagine Ruth One keeping her wits about her when threatened by a mountain lion. Ruth Two, too, corrects pronouns, but only those spoken by her son Timmy.

Related reading
All OCA Lassie posts (Pinboard)

[I watch Lassie when I fold laundry. Come at me.]

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

HCR on Donald J. Trump v. United States

Heather Cox Richardson, in the July 1 installment of Letters from an American :

At his confirmation hearing in 2005, now–Chief Justice John Roberts said: “I believe that no one is above the law under our system and that includes the president. The president is fully bound by the law, the Constitution, and statutes.”

In his 2006 confirmation hearings, Samuel Alito said: “There is nothing that is more important for our republic than the rule of law. No person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law.”

And in 2018, Brett Kavanaugh told the Senate: “No one’s above the law in the United States, that’s a foundational principle…. We’re all equal before the law…. The foundation of our Constitution was that … the presidency would not be a monarchy…. [T]he president is not above the law, no one is above the law.”

Now they have changed that foundational principle for a man who, according to White House officials during his term, called for the execution of people who upset him and who has vowed to exact vengeance on those he now thinks have wronged him.

Geoffrey Pullum explains it all

Geoffrey Pullum has a new book, The Truth About English Grammar. From a Guardian review:

Pullum constantly insists that all modern lexicographers, as well as all grammarians not called Pullum, are wrong about everything, which lends his book a slightly crazed tone of “Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying dictionaries?”
Related posts
Pullum on Strunk and White : Pullum on Strunk and White and adjectives and adverbs : Pullum and the passive voice : More on Pullum, Strunk, and White : Pullum on On Writing Well

[Tooting my horn: Pullum on Strunk and White is one of the most widely read posts in these pages.]

Music, worsening

Too easy to make and too easy to consume: Rick Beato explains “The Real Reason Why Music Is Getting Worse.”

Thanks, Elaine and Kirsten.

Drawing cloth and clothing

[“Figuring It Out.” Zippy, July 2, 2024. Click for a larger view.]

Today’s Zippy is all about cloth and clothing and the work of the “fine artist.” Bill Griffith is of course an artist and cartoonist both.

As you may know, there are entire books about how to draw folds in fabric. For instance. And if I remember correctly, Terry Zwigoff’s documentary Crumb has a scene with Robert Crumb talking about drawing folds.

Synchronicity: there’s folding to be done in today’s Zits.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Monday, July 1, 2024

Of presidents and kings

From Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent:

Looking beyond the fate of this particular prosecution, the long-term consequences of today’s decision are stark. The Court effectively creates a law-free zone around the President, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the Founding. This new official-acts immunity now “lies about like a loaded weapon” for any President that wishes to place his own interests, his own political survival, or his own financial gain, above the interests of the Nation. Korematsu v. United States , 323 U. S. 214, 246 (1944) (Jackson, J., dissenting). The President of the United States is the most powerful person in the country, and possibly the world. When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority’s message today.

Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done. The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.
From Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s dissent:
For my part, I simply cannot abide the majority’s senseless discarding of a model of accountability for criminal acts that treats every citizen of this country as being equally subject to the law — as the Rule of Law requires. That core principle has long prevented our Nation from devolving into despotism. Yet the Court now opts to let down the guardrails of the law for one extremely powerful category of citizen: any future President who has the will to flout Congress’s established boundaries.

In short, America has traditionally relied on the law to keep its Presidents in line. Starting today, however, Americans must rely on the courts to determine when (if at all) the criminal laws that their representatives have enacted to promote individual and collective security will operate asspeedbumps to Presidential action or reaction. Once self-regulating, the Rule of Law now becomes the rule of judges, with courts pronouncing which crimes committed by a President have to be let go and which can be redressed as impermissible. So, ultimately, this Court itself will decide whether the law will be any barrier to whatever course of criminality emanates from the Oval Office in the future. The potential for great harm to American institutions and Americans themselves is obvious.
Context: “Supreme Court Says Trump Is Partly Shielded From Prosecution” (The New York Times, gift link). The opinion and the dissents are here.

Crazy weather

We watched some local news last night, and I ended up transcribing some of the weatherman’s patter:

“Grab them shades on the way out the door. Precip cast? Fuggedaboudit! I mean, we still need a tall drink of water. I just ain’t happening tonight nor tomorrow.”
[The suspect is a white male, late fifties or early sixties, tall, wearing a toupee, glasses, tight-fitting sport jacket, and sneakers.]

Generative AI, trust, and distrust

At Inside Higher Ed, Jacob Riyeff writes about generative AI and its effect on teacher-student relationships. What breaks his heart, he says, are the ways in which AI makes it difficult for him to trust his students:

I assume students don’t think about their unattributed use of chat bots as affecting a personal relationship. But those of us who actually still believe in the edifying power of higher education can’t see the relationship between instructors and students as one of instrumental exchange — products (assignments filled out) for payments (grades). Or as one of mechanical input and output. In the classroom, in office hours, and in conferences, there is (can be) a genuine mutual sharing between persons if we strive for it, if we foster dialogue and sharing of perspectives in our common scrutinizing of reality and pursuit of truth. And the making and assessing of assignments is (can be) an extension of that relationship’s mutual sharing. But to engage in that scrutiny and that pursuit in common, the relationship between instructor and student requires integrity — that is, both parties need to be honest in their communications with one another.
Exactly. Passing off someone else’s (or, now, something else’s) work as one’s own violates the trust between teacher and student.

Riyeff says that for now, he expects to continue having versions of the following exchange with his students:
Student: Why can’t I just use a chat bot to write this essay?

Me: Because I don’t care about what OpenAI’s products can do. I care about what you’re thinking.
Related reading
All OCA AI posts (Pinboard)

[Off the bot!]

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Apples?

[70 East 102nd Street, Manhatttan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click the second image for a much larger view and some choice details.]

The vagaries of the archives: that first photograph, an outtake, misidentifies the lot number. I’m not sure how I found my way to the second photograph. I just traipsed the streets.

What’s that stand of apples doing there? Or are they tomatoes? Or plums? Did the photographer put the stand there for fun? Perhaps at the grocer’s request? I would like to know if the stand appears in a photograph from the opposite side of the street, but photographs from this street are few.

Golden Bantam is a variety of corn. I can find no evidence that it was ever a name for an apple (or tomato, or plum). The mystery deepens.

I chose these photographs for the fruit, but when I checked Google Maps, I realized that I know this location, at Park Avenue and 102nd Street, from a movie and from life.

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

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Matthew Sewell, turned out to be far easier than I thought it would be. Lots of fine clues and unexpected answers, and two fairly ridiculous answers. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-D, four letters, “Intriguing development.” The wording carries a lot of weight.

5-D, six letters, “Swing shifts?” Nicely done.

18-A, ten letters, “What Hemingway got for his WWll reporting.” Something to know that I did not know.

14-A, fourteen letters, “It has its ups and downs.” ROLLERCOASTER comes up, or down, short.

24-A, six letters, “Quick glances.” Easier to see than I expected.

28-D, four letters, “May day nickname.” It’s not a nickname for a day in May. The intersection of 28-D and 40-A is for me the low point of the puzzle.

36-A, fifteen letters, “Synthesizer’s hard rock.” See? Unexpected.

37-D, eight letters, “‘Smells Like a Man, Man’ sloganeer.” Or at least a man of a certain age?

38-D, eight letters, “Somewhat sticky.” I don’t think there’s any redeeming this word.

40-A, five letters, “Sort of gray.” Okay, it’s a word, but still. A change of one letter would make 28-D and 40-A better players in this puzzle.

45-A, six letters, “Where Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress.” Yes, I read lots of seventeenth-century prose in grad school.

50-D, four letters, “Makeup, e.g.” Clever.

My favorite in this puzzle, because it’s just so strange: 55-A, ten letters, “Trouble spots on radar.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Martin Mull (1943–2024)

“The comedic actor, musician and artist who gained widespread attention in the 1970s in shows such as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Fernwood 2-Night ”: The New York Times has an obituary. The Fernwood episode with Tom Waits is not to be missed.

[The correct styling: Fernwood 2 Night.]

Friday, June 28, 2024

Ooh

I just discovered that Orange Crate Art was added to ooh.directory earlier this month. OCA is one of 2,299 blogs listed on the site, and one of 358 blogs categorized as personal. Here’s the listing.

Orange Crate Art: it’s personal!

One ooh.directory blog I’ve added to my RSS: The Public Domain Review. Another: Separated by a Common Language, about British and American English.

Did you know that “naming sauces by colo(u)r seems to be a monocultural thing”?

On last night’s debate

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

This was not a debate. It was Trump using a technique that actually has a formal name, the Gish gallop, although I suspect he comes by it naturally. It’s a rhetorical technique in which someone throws out a fast string of lies, non-sequiturs, and specious arguments, so many that it is impossible to fact-check or rebut them in the amount of time it took to say them. Trying to figure out how to respond makes the opponent look confused, because they don’t know where to start grappling with the flood that has just hit them.

It is a form of gaslighting, and it is especially effective on someone with a stutter, as Biden has. It is similar to what Trump did to Biden during a debate in 2020. In that case, though, the lack of muting on the mics left Biden simply saying: “Will you shut up, man?” a comment that resonated with the audience. Giving Biden the enforced space to answer by killing the mic of the person not speaking tonight actually made the technique more effective.
And:
About the effect of tonight’s events, former Republican operative Stuart Stevens warned: “Don’t day trade politics. It’s a sucker’s game. A guy from Queens out on bail bragged about overturning Roe v. Wade, said in public he didn’t have sex with a porn star, defended tax cuts for billionaires, defended Jan. 6th. and called America the worst country in the world. That guy isn’t going to win this race.”
I hope he’s right.

[The contrast between Joe Biden on the stage and Joe Biden speaking to a crowd afterward was noteworthy.]

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Game changer

I am given to understand that many people watching the presidential debate tonight will be looking for a game changer. If I trust the commercials that appear on my television, nearly everything these days is a game changer. “Game changer!” I think it’s time to constrain the use of this term:

game changer /ˈgām-ˌchān-jər/ noun
: one who abandons one board game for another in an arbitrary, capricious manner

Example sentence: Kyle invited us over for a game of Clue, but then he wanted to play Uno, and now he wants Trouble. What a game changer!
[Pronunciation borrowed from Merriam-Webster.]

Diagramming sentences

At the Public Domain Review, Hunter Dukes writes about “American Grammar: Diagraming Sentences in the 19th Century”:

More than a century before Noam Chomsky popularized the idea of a universal grammar, linguists in the United States began diagramming sentences in an attempt to visualize the complex structure — of seemingly divine origins — at their mother tongue’s core.
Dukes provides many examples of these efforts (with links to the books they’re drawn from). Here is a fairly tame diagram of a syntax tree, from Charles Gauss and B. T. Hodge’s A Comprehensive English Grammar (1890):

[Click for a larger tree, which you must imagine as standing upright.]

Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellog’s streamlined (and soil-less, and bark-less) approach to diagramming sentences — still taught in some schools — is an earlier invention, introduced in Higher Lessons in English (1877). I wonder why anyone would have opted for the ornateness of Gauss–Hodge instead.

Thanks, Steven, for letting me know about this PDR post.

A related post
“We’re supposed to decorate a sentence”

Off the bot

In response to a comment from Matthew Schmeer that describes inventive assignments to keep students from turning in AI-generated writing, I came up with a phrase that I’d like to share: “off the bot,” after “off the grid.”

I am thinking and writing off the bot. Off the bot!

Related reading
All OCA AI posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

“Human interaction might be preferred”

I asked ChatGPT: “What would be some good reasons not to use ChatGPT?” It came through with ten — concerns about accuracy, concerns about accuracy, privacy, bias, and so on — and offered to provide more details. The phrasing in this passage is what most struck me:

Lack of Human Touch: For tasks requiring empathy, emotional intelligence, or nuanced understanding, human interaction might be preferred.
Might be preferred!

Related reading
All OCA AI posts (Pinboard)

[The ways in which I’ve found AI useful to me: creating Alfred workflows and a Pinboard bookmarklet. That’s all.]

Domestic comedy

“What does this guy have his high beam on?”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Only one headlight. “What does”: not a typo. More like Brooklynese.]

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The joys of repetition

Reading a book to a child on a train:

Alice Munro, “To Reach Japan,” in Dear Life: Stories (New York: Vintage, 2012).

Related reading
All OCA Alice Munro posts (Pinboard)

Rainbow Quest, all of it

I just discovered that the complete run of Pete Seeger’s 1965–1966 television series Rainbow Quest is at YouTube.

I watched at least some episodes as a young folkie, when the show must have been in repeats on New York’s Channel 13, and I recall being well-prepared enough to record Reverend Gary Davis’s appearance, holding a cassette recorder’s microphone up to the television. (The other guests for that episode: Donovan and Shawn Phillips). Though I still haven’t seen all episodes, I think that one must be a high point. As is an episode with Paul Cadwell, Mississippi John Hurt, and Hedy West. And for sheer (and painful) human interest, there’s the final episode, with June Carter and Johnny Cash.

The IMDb page for the series has details, episode by episode.

Related reading
All OCA Pete Seeger posts (Pinboard)

Monday, June 24, 2024

Obsolete jobs now obsolete

An article from The Washington Post (gift link): “Social Security to drop obsolete jobs used to deny disability benefits.” An excerpt:

For decades, the Social Security Administration has denied thousands of people disability benefits by claiming they could find jobs that have all but vanished from the U.S. economy — such occupations as nut sorter, pneumatic tube operator and microfilm processor.

On Monday, the agency will eliminate all but a handful of those unskilled jobs from a long-outdated database used to decide who gets benefits and who is denied, ending a practice that advocates have long decried as unfair and inaccurate.
In 2022 I wrote a post about a Washington Post article on this same theme: Nut sorter, dowel inspector, egg processor. I was especially drawn to listing for pen and pencil repairer. See also the work of can reconditioning.

How to use a dictionary as a weapon

George Macready isn’t really a reverend holding a dictionary. He’s Matthew Stoker, a bad guy with a dictionary who’s pretending to be a reverend. Lee Bowman is Gilbert Archer, a newspaper columnist moonlighting as an amateur detective. Both men are looking for the Bibles that hold the answer to the whereabouts of a lost Leonardo painting of Joshua and the city of Jericho. From The Walls Came Tumbling Down (dir. Lothar Mendes, 1946). Click any image for a larger view.

[He’s a rather menacing “reverend,” isn’t he?]

Says Archer, “Joshua led his troops seven times around the city of Jericho. Remember, Reverend? Did you look on page seven of this dictionary?” Get the dictionary, riffle through the pages, point to something, and push the dictionary into your opponent’s face. Ow.


That's a Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. Two giveaways: the cover design (visible in the first screenshot) and the frontispiece of Noah Webster (visible in the third). Archer is holding the dictionary upside-down, with its thumb notches slanting the wrong way. No matter: for his purposes, upside-down is fine.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)

Edith Boebert, Lauren Prickley

[Andrea Martin as SCTV station manager Edith Prickley. Click for a larger view.]

Every time I see Lauren Boebert’s face in the news, I try to figure out who it is she looks like. And now I have figured it out. It’s Edith Prickley. And I see that the Internets figured it out first.

Related reading
All OCA “separated at birth” posts (Pinboard)

[No Boebert picture here: I don’t want her face in these pages. For the reader who suggested that an apostrophe is missing from Internets: that's the humorous plural of Internet, which I sometimes prefer to the singular.]

Sunday, June 23, 2024

O Pioneer!

[263 Bowery, Manhattan, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for an enormous view.]

The Pioneer Restaurant makes a brief appearance in A.J. Liebling's “Bowery Boom,” in Back Where I Come From (1938):

Five cents pays for a shave at the barber college. For 20 cents the Boweryite may have “shave, massage, shampoo, singe and hair tonic,” just like a 46th Street bookmaker. Ten cents will buy “pig snouts, vegetables, potatoes and coffee, bread or rolls,” at the Pioneer Restaurant, 263, and 15 cents will buy an even more elaborate spread at Minder’s Restaurant.
If you click on the photograph, you’ll be able to read at least most of the Pioneer menu. And you’ll be able to better see three ghosts.

This tax photograph reminds me of Berenice Abbott’s 1935 photograph of the Blossom Restaurant at 103 Bowery. There’s also a 1937 Abbott photograph of a Pioneer Restaurant on West Third Street (64, not 60 as the page with the photograph says). The tax photograph of that corner shows the Pure Food Restaurant. Perhaps the Pioneer had moved to the Bowery by the time the Liebling wrote that piece. Or perhaps the Pioneer on West Third was a Bowery sibling, or an unrelated establishment.

In 2007, the building at 263 Bowery was still recognizable as itself. By 2011, everything had changed.

Here, before we leave the Bowery, is a barber school, 15¢ for a shave and a haircut.

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

[Post title with apologies to Walt Whitman and Willa Cather.]

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Enrobed Pretzel Rods?

Spotted at Aldi, from Palmer Candy, Patiotic Enrobed Pretzel Rods: “Crunchy salted pretzel coated with white fudge and patriotic sprinkles.” I texted the kiddos.

Rachel: Enrobed is worse that dipped!

Ben: Sounds like someone asked to ChatGPT for help.

The apples lie close to the trees.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stella Zawistowski. Boy, it is ever. I made quick work of the northeast corner, beginning with 10-A, four letters, “Four-year-old program” and 13-D, four letters, “They have all the answers.” I made much longer work of the rest of the puzzle. Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

10-D, eleven letters, “Closely held.” Getting this answer early on helped a lot.

14-A, ten letters, “Filler of notebooks now stored in lead-lined boxes.” A giveaway? I’m not sure.

15-D, five letters, “Sat (for).” The parentheses make it a bit tricky.

21-A, five letters, “Pretty good.” I’d say more than “pretty good.”

21-D, twelve letters, “Where dogs are often led around.” I think I understand this clue.

22-A, eleven letters, “Profitless pursuit.” I am glad that this puzzle wasn’t one.

27-A, five letters, “Postal Service metallic concern.” True, to my surprise.

33-A, nine letters, “What bows show.” Such an unusual word to see in a puzzle.

37-A, nine letters, “Early retirement vehicles.” An out-of-the-way answer, I’d say.

42-A, three letters, “Tadpole-shaped small things.” A wildly inventive clue.

54-A, ten letters, “Effortlessly.” An unusual answer.

57-A, ten letters, “Furniture store adjective.” An unusual way to clue the word.

My favorite in this puzzle: 40-A, eight letters, “Breakup music?”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, June 21, 2024

$47.47

Three of our household’s last four water bills ran to $47.47. I called the water department out of curiosity to see if we were receiving estimated bills. Nope. “You must be doing the same things every month,” I was told. Well, sort of. But still.

The number is remarkable for two reasons. The year 1947 is our household’s avowed favorite year in movies. And 47 is our family’s Burger King number — the order number we were given on our first visit to downstate Illinois’s one-of-a-kind Burger King. This Burger King — The Burger King — has no relation to the chain. The conflict of names became the stuff of a celebrated court case.

The numbers for Burger King orders were and are given at random. A 47 might be followed by, say, a 3. My guess is that the randomness serves to keep people from gathering at the counter to await their food. (Hey, we’re next.) Our 47 was sung out in a one-note nasal whine that went something like this: “Forrrr-dee-sehhhh-vinn,” give or take a letter or two.

Chekhov noir

For one sentence, the story turns into film noir.

Anton Chekhov, “My Life: The Story of a Provincial,” in “Peasants” and Other Stories, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: New York Review Books, 1999).

Related reading
Chekhov and Larry David : Chekhov and Joyce : No master builder

Thursday, June 20, 2024

NYRB sale

New York Review Books is having a summer sale: buy two books, save 20%; buy three books, save 30%; buy four books, save 40%. I would like to see “buy ten books, save 100%,” but I know they have to draw the line somewhere. The sale ends on Monday the 24th at midnight Eastern — that is, right before Monday becomes Tuesday. Again, they have to draw the line somewhere.

My first NYRB book: Céleste Albaret’s Monsieur Proust. There have been at least a couple of more than three dozen since. (I counted.) The press has greatly expanded my possibilities of reading. Long may it wave.

Recently updated

Sondheim Blackwings at auction Now with a link to the auction catalogue.

“How's Your Mom?”

I am always behind on This American Life. From an episode that aired in February: Janelle Taylor addresses the question “How’s Your Mom?” Likely to be helpful to anyone close to a person with dementia.

Turn on your hazard lights (again)

[Now that summer is upon us, I’m repeating advice that I shared in 2011 and again in 2023. Pass it on.]

If you’re driving on a highway and the traffic suddenly slows or stops, and the vehicles behind you are at some distance:

1. Turn on your hazard lights.

2. Leave significant space between you and the vehicle in front of you.

3. Keep checking your rear-view mirror.

4. After someone has come up behind you, turn your hazard lights off.

If someone is coming up behind you and not paying full attention, your hazard lights might catch their eye and prompt them to slow down or stop in time. If not, the free space in front of your vehicle might lessen the severity of a collision.

I called the Illinois State Police to ask what they thought about using hazard lights in this way. A desk sergeant said it was the right thing to do and added the second and third points. I do those things without thinking and wouldn’t have thought to add them. I've added the fourth point for clarity.

Drivers of big rigs appear to make a habit of using their hazard lights in this way. Laypeople, not so much. Thus I’m repeating myself.

[Thanks to the reader who noticed some words missing.]

Gibbous

[Click for a larger view.]

I took this photograph on Tuesday night. It’s no great shakes — I was just struck by the black-and-whiteness of the sky and the waxing gibbous, not quite full, moon.

From Merriam-Webster:

The adjective gibbous has its origins in the Latin noun gibbus, meaning “hump.” It was adopted into Middle English to describe rounded, convex things. While it has been used to describe the rounded body parts of humans and animals (such as the back of a camel) and to describe the shape of certain flowers (such as snapdragons), the term is most often used to describe the moon: a gibbous moon is one that is between half full and full.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

One more for Juneteenth

From my friend Stefan Hagemann. Let it be a surprise.

Sondheim Blackwings at auction

Gunther at Lexikaliker sent the news that three boxes of Stephen Sondheim’s Blackwing pencils have sold at auction for $6,400.

Like Stephen at pencil talk, I noticed the difference between the words on the pencil — “Half the pressure, twice the speed” — and the words on the box — “Write with half the pressure, twice the speed.” To my ear, what’s on the pencil sounds so much more modern.

Right before seeing the news of the Blackwings, I saw a short video sent by my friend Joe: “Most of the lead in your pencil ends up in the bin.” Sharpening one of those Blackwings would be some pretty expensive sharpening.

*

June 20: There’s a catalogue (free) with all lots. This page shows some of the winning bids — e.g., $25,600 for four thesauruses. Amazing, astonishing, marvelous, incredible.

The Merriam-Webster’s Second that I mentioned in this post doesn’t appear in the catalogue.

Related posts
Sondheim with a Blackwing : Sondheim’s writing habits (Blackwings and legal pads) : All OCA Blackwing posts (Pinboard)

Chatbots and Russian propaganda

A wiretap at Mar-a-Lago? A Ukrainian troll factory working to influence American elections? Axios reports that “the leading AI chatbots are regurgitating Russian misinformation.”

Willie Mays (1931–2024)

“An exuberant style of play and an effervescent personality made Mays one of the game’s, and America’s, most charismatic figures, a name that even people far afield from the baseball world recognized instantly as a national treasure”: from the New York Times obituary (gift link).

Juneteenth

There’s still — still — no stamp. But there is a flag, designed by Ben Haith. And an explanation.

[Click for a larger image.]

The nineteenth is Juneteenth.

Related reading
All OCA Juneteenth posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Margie in 1952

I had occasion to look at a 2021 OCA post about the Remington Rand Photocharger, a long-gone piece of library technology that I remember from my Brooklyn childhood. When I followed that post back to a short film from the Brooklyn Public Library with a glimpse of the RRP in action, I was startled to see our friend Margie King Barab, then Margie Lou Swett, in a scene with high-school students, or “high-school students,” sketching costume plates in the library. In 1952, Margie was a twenty-year-old actress and singer in New York City. Her high-school days were back in Nebraska.

[From The Library: A Family Affair (1952). Margie appears at the 10:25 mark. Click for a larger view.]

A 2020 OCA post has much more about Margie’s television appearances and about a Naked City episode with characters who appear to be modeled on Margie and her first husband, the writer and raconteur Alexander King.

You can see if I’m seeing things by looking at screenshots from an episode of Naked City in which Margie appears uncredited. Or compare the screenshot above with a Carl Van Vechten portrait of Alex and Margie King. That’s Margie, for sure, in the Brooklyn Public Library and in the Naked City elevator.

Related posts
Seymour Barab (1921–2014) : Margie King Barab (1932–2018)

“We did not lose it”

Manya Lodge (Mady Christians) is happy that the house of women she’s moved into is to be run as a democracy. Helen Stacey (Patricia Collinge) tries to help her finish a sentence. From Tender Comrade ( dir. Edward Dmytryk, 1943):

“Once in Germany we had a democracy, but we —”

“You lost it.”

“Nein. We did not lose it. We let it be murdered — like a little child.”
Another of those moments from 1940s movies that feel so relevant to our time.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Recently unpdated

Trump’s “bing” It turns out that Goodfellas is among Donald Trump’s favorite movies.

Eleven movies, one series

[One to four stars. Four sentences each. No spoilers. Sources: Classic Film Time, Criterion Channel, DVD, Max, a theater (imagine!), YouTube.]

The House of Fear (dir. Roy William Neill, 1945). Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Doctor Watson (Nigel Bruce) are off to Scotland to investigate the strange doings at Drearcliffe House, the castle home of seven unmarried men who call themselves the Good Comrades. One by one they’re being killed, each receiving an envelope containing orange seeds — seven, then six, and so on. I always find the logic at work in a Holmes story hilariously improbable. And I must wonder how useful Holmes is anyway: his presence at Drearcliffe does nothing to prevent the Comrades from being knocked off one by one though no one seems to have a problem with that. ★★ (YT)

*

He Who Dances on Wood (dir. Jessica Beshir, 2016). A short portrait of Fred Nelson, a man who tap dances on a wooden slab under a Central Park bridge. (He likes the sound.) A lovely portrait of a man for all seasons (literally, dancing in all weathers), doing what he does for the happiness of it, no money invited. Here is the Manhattan I’d like to visit again. ★★★★ (CC)

*

Hair Wolf (dir. Mariama Diallo, 2018). A satiric commentary on cultural appropriation, with white women coming to a Black salon in search of dreads. The twist: the women are quasi-zombies, sucking the life out of Black culture. What’s a stylist to do? Another of the many short, easy-to-overlook movies at the Criterion Channel, and one that won a host of awards. ★★★★ (CC)

*

Daughter of Darkness (dir. Lance Comfort, 1948). Emily (Siobhan McKenna) is a meek, virginal Irish servant-girl working on an English family’s farm. But she has a past — and when that past shows up in England, murder is in the air. A spectacularly creepy Gothic story, with a burning barn, a church organ playing in the middle of the night, and a vicious dog wandering in the rain. Look for Honor Blackman (Goldfinger ) as a farm daughter. (CFT) ★★★★

*

The Man in Grey (dir. Leslie Arliss, 1943). It’s a Gainsborough melodrama, beginning in a London auction house in 1943 and moving back to the nineteenth century to tell the story of two girlhood friends, Hesther and Clarissa (Margaret Lockwood and Phyllis Calvert), the first of whom runs away from school for love, the second of whom enters into a loveless marriage with “the man in grey” (as a portrait will depict him), the Marquess of Rohan (James Mason), who was seeking a partner to serve as his “brood sow.” A fortune teller warned Clarissa in girlhood not to trust in the friendship of women, but when she and Hesther cross paths in adulthood at a performance of Othello (Hesther playing Desdemona to Stewart Granger’s Othello), the friendship is rekindled, with complications to follow. A lavish production that moves awfully slowly. Hint: look closely at the actors in the opening auction-house scene. ★★★ (CC)

*

The Violent Years (dir. William Morgan, 1956). A quartet of high-school girls start by robbing gas stations, and things get much worse from there. The screenplay is by Ed Wood, which helps explain the heavyhanded screenplay (a judge lecturing parents) and general weirdness (the scene with the couple in the car). As a movie, it’s hilariously bad, so bad that as trash cinema, it deserves four stars, one for each villainess. My favorite line: “These aren’t kids; these are morons.” ★★★★ (YT)

*

Tender Comrade (dir. Edward Dmytryk, 1943). Four defense-plant workers with husbands and a son in military service pool their resources to rent a house and pay a live-in housekeeper (a German immigrant whose husband, too, is also fighting the Nazis). Ginger Rogers and Robert Ryan star, with Madys Christians, Patricia Collinge, Kim Hunter, and Ruth Hussey as the house’s other occupants. Highly uneven, with hokey dialogue, stretches of dismal propaganda, and moments of utter pathos — and I shudder to think how the moments of pathos must have struck audiences in 1943. Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, with a title not from Communism but from Robert Louis Stevenson. ★★★ (TCM)

*

Song of Love (dir. Clarence Brown, 1947). A love triangle with music: Robert Schumann (Paul Henreid), Clara Schumann (Katharine Hepburn), and Johannes Brahms (Robert Walker). Great music (with Arthur Rubinstein filling in at the piano), great costumes and sets. It’s difficult for me to imagine the emotions on display here making the right impression on at least some 2024 moviegoers (I recall some of my students laughing during the Homer-Wilma bedroom scene in The Best Years of Our Lives.) A great thing about this movie: it manages to suggest — on film — the magic that sometimes happens with live performance, as when Clara plays a final “Träumerei.” ★★★★ (TCM)

*

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Wes Ball, 2024). An extended struggle between rival ape clans, with the occasional human being to complicate matters. So many overtones: from the Iliad, with the cry “For Caesar” echoing “For Patroclus,” to On the Waterfront, with a hero battered as his comrades look on. Visually stunning, incoherent at times, far too long, and screaming sequel as it ends. The best scene, for me: not one of the many spectacular chases or fights but the discovery of the reading primer. ★★★ (T)

*

The Walls Came Tumbling Down (dir. Lothar Mendes, 1946). It’s The Maltese Falcon on the cheap. A priest dies, and a newspaper columnist (Lee Bowman), a semi-mysterious woman (Marguerite Chapman), and several bad guys (George Macready) search for the Bibles that hold the answer to the whereabouts of a missing Leonardo painting of Joshua at the battle of Jericho. Yet another movie billed as film noir in which everything is bright as day. One surprising plus: the use of a dictionary to disarm a gunman. ★★★ (YT)

*

Mind Over Murder (dir. Nanfu Wang, 2022). A six-part documentary series about the Beatrice (Nebraska) Six, three men and three women wrongly convicted in 1989 of the rape and murder of an elderly widow, Helen Wilson. Five of the six charged believed that they had participated. The story that unfolds features a self-styled local hero, a sheriff’s department psychologist, a craven district attorney, a shoddy laboratory analyst, the six men and women convicted, and family members of the victim. What most struck me: a dramatization of the case, staged by a community theater group with a script drawn from official transcripts, seems at first an unnecessary distraction, but it proves to be the emotional high point of the movie, a living lesson in the power of tragic drama to produce catharsis. ★★★★ (M)

*

Crashout (dir. Lewis R. Foster, 1955). An ensemble movie, with a motley group of escaped convicts, the six of thirty-eight who have survived a prison break: an autocratic leader (William Bendix), a wise guy (Arthur Kennedy), a religious fanatic (William Talman), a self-styled ladies’ man (Luther Adler), a basic brute (Gene Evans), and a younger man convicted of murder for what he says was an accident (Marshall Thompson). Their travels — away from prison, but never to true freedom — bring them into contact with a country doctor (Percy Helton), roadhouse denizens, cops, a railroad conductor, and two women who complicate their lives, a failed music student (Gloria Talbott), and a farm woman (Barbara Michaels) with a child out of wedlock. It’s a brutal movie, even by modern standards, and never less than compelling. My favorite scene: the train, with sandwiches. ★★★★ (YT)

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

The Proust aisle, revisited

I saw Wal-Mart’s madeleines again and had to try some. (This time they had a future expiration date.) These madeleines are not bad. In fact, they’re surprisingly good.

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard) : Madeleine (With the beginning of the key Proust passage)

[I prefer the traditional hyphenated spelling: Wal-Mart.]

Sunday, June 16, 2024

A joke in the traditional manner

For this day, a joke in the traditional manner: i.e., a dad joke. My dad, James Leddy, was making them before anyone called them dad jokes. (Merriam-Webster’s first known use: 1987).

Why was the car going so slowly?

The punchline is in the comments. Happy Father’s Day to all.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the new insect hybrid? : Did you hear about the shape-shifting car? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : How do birds communicate with distant family and friends? : How do ghosts hide their wrinkles? : How do worms get to the supermarket? : Of all the songs in the Great American Songbook, which is the favorite of pirates? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the one snowman say to the other? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What do cows like to watch on TV? : What do dogs always insist on when they buy a car? : What do ducks like to eat? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : What kind of pasta do swimmers like? : What’s the name of the Illinois town where dentists want to live? : What’s the worst thing about owning nine houses? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Where does Paul Drake keep his hot tips? : Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money? : Who’s the lead administrator in a school of fish? : Why are supervillains good at staying warm in the winter? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why is the Fonz so cool? : Why sharpen your pencil to write a Dad joke? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

And from very young joke tellers: a joke in a neo-traditional manner and a joke in a non-traditional manner.

[My dad gets credit for the Autobahn, the elementary school, the Golden Retriever, Bela Lugosi, Samuel Clemens, the doctor, the plumber, the senior citizen, Oliver Hardy, and the ophthalmologist. Elaine gets credit for the birds and the Illinois town. Ben gets credit for the supervillains in winter. The snowman joke is by an unknown hand.]