Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Mississippi John Hurt Museum, gone

NPR reports that the Mississippi John Hurt Museum in Avalon, Mississippi, was destroyed in a fire last week. There’s more from Smithsonian magazine. And there’s already a fundraiser to create a new memorial to Hurt.

Thanks to Chris at Dreamers Rise for passing on the news.

Related reading
All OCA Mississippi John Hurt posts (Pinboard)

Twelve movies

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

Temptation (dir. Irving Pichel, 1946). Haute melodrama and Orientalism. Merle Oberon plays Ruby, a disreputable woman married to egyptologist Nigel Armine (George Brent). An affair with the dashing Mahoud Baroudi (Charles Korvin) makes for great danger for Ruby and her husband. Paul Lukas does well as a doctor and friend to Nigel, and it’s fun to see Charles Korvin (Carlos Sanchez, the mambo dancer in The Honeymooners) in another pre-TV role. ★★★ (YT)


Account Rendered (dir. Peter Graham Scott, 1957). Philandering Lucille Ainsworth (Ursula Howells) is found dead, and everyone’s a suspect: her husband, his banker, a would-be suitor, a painter, and a female friend. The movie’s strong point is its plotting: the details pointing to each person’s guilt are carefully chosen and made to count. The acting is sometimes weak, and the scenes between Howells and her painter-lover (John Van Eyssen) are unconvincing.But Honor Blackman shines as Lucille’s friend, a friend with a secret of her own. ★★★ (YT)


Manhandled (dir. Lewis R. Foster, 1949). A lurid title for a fine whodunit. Alan Napier (6′6″) is a “British author” who dreams of killing his philandering wife; Harold Vermilyea is the author’s tiny psychiatrist; Dorothy Lamour is the psychiatrist’s secretary; Dan Duryea is an one-man detective and collections agency and the secretary’s boyfriend; Art Smith is the police detective investigating the murder of the philandering wife; Sterling Hayden is an insurance man in search of the wife’s missing jewels. Tightly plotted, with plausible suspects, some clever camera work, and several surprises along the way. A bonus: the squalor of the Duryea apartment/office, with a hamster running on a wheel at all hours. ★★★ (YT)


The Immortal Story (dir. Orson Welles, 1968). In Macao, a wealthy merchant, Mr. Clay (Welles), seeks to make real a story he once heard of a wealthy old man who pays a sailor to impregnate the old man’s wife. So the merchant’s bookkeeper (Roger Coggio) is dispatched to find a cast, so to speak: the daughter (Jeanne Moreau) of Clay’s former business partner, and a Danish sailor (Norman Eshley). A surprisingly tender interlude in bed follows. With Clay seated, immobile, in a great chair, I take this short film (from a story by Isak Dinesen) to be an allegory of filmmaking: a director makes words into a picture. ★★★ (CC)


Across the Bridge (dir. Ken Annakin, 1957). “I want to tell you something: what you think is the end for me is often only the beginning”: so says Carl Schaffner (Rod Steiger) a German-born British businessman who flees the United States for Mexico after embezzling company funds and switches identities (don’t ask how) with another passenger on a train. But when Schaffner discovers whose passport he now carries, his troubles really begin. From a story by Graham Greene, this movie is a tour de force for Steiger,for a dog aptly named Dolores, and for the city of Lora del Rio, Spain, where the movie’s Mexico scenes were filmed. Is this movie as little known as I think it is? ★★★★ (YT)


The Impossible Years (dir. Michael Gordon, 1968). A truly, madly, deeply unfunny sex comedy. David Niven is Jonathan KIngsley, a professor of psychology with a teenaged daughter, Linda (Cristina Ferrare), whose wild behavior threatens his promotion (that behavior amounts to carrying a sign at a campus protest with “Free Speech” on one side and something on the other that we can only guess at, since no one will say it aloud). The movie is both prudish and prurient, with Linda’s virginity or lack thereof a preoccupation of her parents: Prof. Kingsley even checks his daughter’s status with her doctor, who’s played by Ozzie Nelson. As a document of a vanished white middle-American idea of comedy, it’s a valuable document (it was a box-office hit); as a movie, it’s dreadful. ★ (TCM)


The Soft Skin (dir. François Truffaut, 1964). An affair and its aftermath: Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly) is a public intellectual (writing books, editing a journal, lecturing in sold-out auditoriums), a married man having an affair with Nicole, a flight attendant (the ill-fated Françoise Dorléac). Pierre’s obsession with Nicole (haunting her airport), his professional obligations (dinners, meetings), his insistence on secrecy (this hotel, not that one), Nicole’s landlord, her concierge, her father: all impinge on the affair. And then there’s Pierre’s wife Franca (Nelly Benedetti). The movie maintains a nervous pace with quick cuts as it moves to a satisfying conclusion straight out of the movies. ★★★★ (CC)

[Google’s capsule description: “Heartfelt, sweet, and sentimental.” So much for artificial intelligence.]


Undercurrent (dir. Vincente Minnelli, 1946). Dowdy Ann Hamilton (Katharine Hepburn), a scientist’s daughter, meets and marries dashing businessman and inventor Alan Garroway (Robert Taylor) and they live happily ever — no, only for a while. Because something’s not right: Alan’s sudden angers and odd lies spell trouble for this marriage. And that’s where Robert Mitchum comes in. A noirish gothic story with overtones of Jane Eyre and Rebecca, and great stuff even if you’re not a Katharine Hepburn fan. ★★★★ (CC)


The Sky’s the Limit (dir. Edward H. Griffith, 1943). I’d call it a less Art Deco, less glamorous, more “American” vehicle for Fred Astaire, who plays a Flying Tiger pilot who appears to have done some singing and dancing. He meets and woos a newspaper photographer who also sings and dances (Joan Leslie), but he keeps his identity a secret, until — well, until. The musical numbers here (with songs by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer) are few, but they’re great, especially Astaire’s drunken bar-top dance to “One for My Baby.” I have to point out that this movie, as watched by the poet Alice Notley on late-night TV, became the stuff of her husband Ted Berrigan’s last poem, “This Will Be Her Shining Hour,” which may be found online in the November 1983 Poetry Project Newsletter: it’s domestic comedy at 4:00 a.m. ★★★★ (TCM)

[The song “My Shining Hour” runs through the movie.]


Undercover Girl (dir. Joseph Pevney, 1950). “I’m not giving up my uniform for an apron”: Alexis Smith is a rookie cop who goes undercover as a drug dealer to find the men who murdered her father, himself a crooked cop. Smith is fine playing two personalities, the rookie Chris Miller and the louche, mink-wearing Sal Willis, and Gladys George has a memorable turn as Chris’s unsuspecting informant Liz Crow, a once-glamorous underworld gal now dying in a hospital bed. The bad guys add value: Gerald Mohr as the cheaply suave kingpin, Edmond Ryan as a doctor (treating “internal diseases of men and women”), Mel Archer as a big silent guy with a neck brace, Royal Dano as a needy, seedy hood with pin-up girls on his ties. Many tense moments as Chris’s cover is nearly blown and, finally, blown. ★★★★ (YT)


Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (dir. Gordon Douglas, 1950). It’s a variation on White Heat, with James Cagney as Ralph Cotter, alias Paul Murphy, a psychopathic gangster whose killing spree begins as he escapes from a prison farm. This movie is full of colorful characters: the sister of a railroaded convict (Barbara Payton), a radio repairman who’s in way over his head (Steve Brodie), a rich girl (Helena Carter) who’s the disciple of a quack metaphysician (Herbert Heyes), and, especially, a dissolute lawyer (Luther Adler) eager to join in any criminal scheme.It’s amusing to see Ward Bond and Barton MacLane, cops in The Maltese Falcon, as cops on the wrong side of the law here. Best moments: Ralph pretending to be normal. ★★★★ (YT)


Growing Up Female (dir. Jim Klein and Julia Reichert, 1971). A short documentary with one girl and five women talking about their lives. To watch it is to recognize how far our culture has come and how far back some forces at work in our culture want to take us. A twelve-year-old talks matter-of-factly about how she can run as fast as or faster than some boys; a guidance counselor explains that a wife is responsible for all childcare and housekeeping; a cosmetologist declares that a woman’s needs are to be fulfilled only by her husband. And a mother of young children: “You get so that you think you’re gonna scream if you can’t talk to an adult.” ★★★★ (CC)

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

Mooch, planning

[Mutts, February 29, 2024.]

In today’s Mutts, it’s “Hairball Thursday.” Mooch uses a planner and quotation marks.

Criterion in The New York Times

“Criterion’s success in marketing beautiful, strange, complex movies is the road not taken by most of Hollywood: a steadfast belief in the value of human creativity and curation over the output of any algorithm”: “Sure, It Won an Oscar. But Is It Criterion?”

Richard Lewis (1947–2024)

The comedian and actor Richard Lewis has died at the age of seventy-six. The New York Times has an obituary.

Last night I watched “Beep Panic” (March 15, 2020), an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in which Richard Lewis is prominent. Here’s an excerpt. The look on Lewis’s face at 3:10 made me laugh so hard I choked.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

“The little clouds spoke for them”

Italo Calvino, “The forest on the superhighway.” In Marcovaldo, trans. William Weaver (New York: HarperCollins, 1983).

Related reading
All OCA Italo Calvino posts (Pinboard)


[Nancy, December 23, 1955.]

Nancy is correct. Yesterday: 74°. This morning: 26°, feeling like 9°.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

[I like the extra r s and the frozen speech balloon.]

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Bic Accountant Fine Point

I recall using a Bic Accountant Fine Point when I was a kid, and I remember the way the barrel’s edges cut into my fingers. Not a pleasant pen. The BAFP hasn’t been manufactured for some time, and I haven’t written with one in many years. I rediscovered these two in a cup of neglected pens. They’re so old that their caps lack the vent hole that’s meant to reduce the hazard of choking. Bic added a hole to caps in 1991, so these are some seriously neglected pens. Why did I buy them? To use when grading papers? I have no idea.

The Bic Accountant Fine Pt. still commands a loyal following. “I wish BIC had NEVER discontinued them,” says one Amazon review. The lowest price I could find online: $52.95 for a dozen. Highest: $14.95 for a single pen. That’s moving into Blackwing territory.

Notice the little Bic man on the barrel and clip. You can click on the image for a larger him.

If you’re wondering: these pens no longer write. I managed to get a few dim scrawls from one after repeatedly immersing the point in rubbing alcohol. But the ink won’t budge, which is probably a good thing — because if it did, I’d feel obliged to write with these pens. Instead, I’ll install them in a vitrine in the Museum of Supplies.

This post is the twenty-fourth in a series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items. The museum and its vitrines are imaginary. The supplies are real.

Other Museum of Supplies exhibits
Ace Gummed Reinforcments : C. & E.I. pencil : Dennison’s Gummed Labels No. 27 : Dr. Scat : Eagle Turquoise display case : Eagle Verithin display case : Esterbrook erasers : Faber-Castell Type Cleaner : Fineline erasers : Harvest Refill Leads : Illinois Central Railroad Pencil : Ko-Rec-Type, Part No. 3 : A Mad Men sort of man, sort of : Mongol No. 2 3/8 : Moore Metalhed Tacks : A mystery supply : National’s “Fuse-Tex” Skytint : Pedigree Pencil : Pentel Quicker Clicker : Real Thin Leads : Rite-Rite Long Leads : Stanley carpenter’s rule : Tele-Rest No. 300

A philosophy of art

“Art is the tangled mess of everything we experience but cannot express in any other way”: in today’s Nancy, a philosophy of art.

See also unicorn trend.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Monday, February 26, 2024

How to improve writing (no. 118)

“What’s in Store for the Future of Higher Education?”: that’s the subject line in an e-mail from The Chronicle of Higher Education .

I ran this line past Elaine while we were walking. It took her less than a second to notice what’s wrong. Omit redundant redundancies!

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

[This post is no. 118 in a series dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

A dictionary of rice

“They have narrowed down the words in the four categories of appearance, taste, aroma and texture to about 100 and are now in the process of defining them”: in the works, a Japanese dictionary of rice.

[Not from a dream.]

Bumping into an ex-governor

I was walking into an office building, and out came Andrew Cuomo. I recognized him, but it took me a second to put a name to the face.

“Michael Leedy?” he asked.

“Leddy,” I said, “but how do you know my name? I’ve never been in trouble.”

“But I was,” he replied. “And when I was, there were a lot of show tunes about it.”

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Likely sources: 1. The 2019 movie Bad Education. Hairwise, Hugh Jackman’s Frank Tassone bears at least a vague resemblance to Cuomo. Tassone was known for remembering names. 2. A PBS broadcast of a Tom Lehrer concert.]

Sunday, February 25, 2024

James Van Der Zee’s studio

[2077 7th Avenue, now Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, Harlem, New York City, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Just a storefront among storefronts, but this storefront was one location for the studio of the celebrated photographer James Van Der Zee (1886–1983). There he is in the 1940 Manhattan telephone directory:

[Click for a larger view.]

In front of the store stands a display case full of photographs. The sign suggests an enterprise with several parts: PICTURE FRAMING / PHOTOS / HEMSTITCHING NOTARY. You can see the sign with greater clarity in a photograph by Van Der Zee himself, accompanying this New York Times article (gift link).

Three choice sources for Van Der Zee browsing:

~ A 2019 exhibition at the Howard Greenberg Gallery (click on Thumbnails)

~ A 2022 exhibition at the National Gallery of Art

~ The Metropolitan Museum of Art

No. 2077 today: Delhi Masala, an Indian restaurant.

I’ll add one more detail: a 1926 Van Der Zee photograph was the inspiration for Toni Morrison’s Jazz (1992). The photograph appears in The Harlem Book of the Dead (1978), a collection of Van Der Zee’s funeral portraits, for which Morrison wrote the foreword. Van Der Zee’s caption for the photograph:

She was the one I think was shot by her sweetheart at a party with a noiseless gun. She complained of being sick at the party and friends said, “Well, why don’t you lay down?” and they taken her in the room and laid her down. After they undressed her and loosened her clothes, they saw the blood on her dress. They asked her about it and she said, “I’ll tell you tomorrow, yes, I’ll tell you tomorrow.” She was just trying to give him a chance to get away. For the picture, I placed flowers on her chest.
You can see the photograph in this New York Times article (gift link).

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

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Today’s Saturday Stumper

The Newsday  Saturday Stumper seems to have settled into a permanent state of way-difficult. Today’s puzzle, by Steve Mossberg, is yet another killer. I give you 5-D, ten letters, “Bears fan.” And 7-D, four letters, “Bar food.” Wut, and wut. My last answer was 5-D, and I knew it had to be right, but it still looked strange enough to send me to the dictionary. Strange indeed.

Some more clue-and-answer pairs of note:

4-D, eight letters, “Fellini’s first Oscar film.” It happens to be in our queue.

15-A, eight letters, “Storage facility.” “Facility” is mean misdirection, or merely a stretch.

20-A, seven letters, “Spaced out.” I was once told that I taught with a 20-A expression on my face. I was not, however, spaced out.

22-A, three letters, “Baby sitter?” Wonderfully clever.

28-D, ten letters, “Repurposing.” Always consider the part of speech, Michael.

30-D, nine letters, “Sphinxian.” Had to be.

36-D, eight letters, “Literally, ‘great queen.’” A little knowledge let me figure out the answer.

41-A, five letters, “Group in discussion.” Wildly misdirective. See 28-D.

42-D, five letters, “‘16 on 16’ competition.” A joke on, say, 3 on 3 in basketball? I don’t think the expression “16 on 16” has any currency in this form of competition.

46-A, three letters, “‘Quit clipping me!’” Another great clue for a three-letter answer.

My favorite in this puzzle: 54-A, eight letters, “Musician on the move.” Delightful.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

O, negative!

Tested this morning: negative!

[I leaked the news that Elaine and I had COVID in a comment on this post. She’s negative too now.]

Friday, February 23, 2024

A strange Apple spelling glitch

[Click for a larger view.]

Very strange: type snd in an app in macOS (14.3.1) or iOS (17.3.1), and the non-word isn’t flagged as a misspelling. Look up snd in iOS and you’ll be given stock market info, a link to an English musical duo, a link for the App Store, and a couple of acronyms. But look up snd in macOS, and you’ll get a dictionary entry for and, the word you probably meant to type in the first place.

[Yes, I submitted product feedback.]


Italo Calvino, “The city lost in the snow.” In Marcovaldo, trans. William Weaver (New York: HarperCollins, 1983).

Marcovaldo is a book of twenty vignettes about an Italian warehouse worker (Marcovaldo) whose efforts always bring about unforeseen consequences. Strong resemblances to silent-film comedy at every turn.

Here, for instance, Marcovaldo dreams of getting lost in a different city as he walks, but his path leads straight to work, and he finds himself once again in the shipping department, “as if the change that had cancelled the outside world had spared only his firm.”

Steven Millhauser has named Marcovaldo as one of his favorite short-story collections: that’s how our household came to it.

For snow and silence, see also Pierre Reverdy’s prose poem “Souffle.”

Related reading
All OCA Italo Calvino posts (Pinboard)

[It is not snowing and it is not going to snow in east-central Illinois today.]

Domestic comedy

“Too bad we don’t have the Container Store.”

“Our town isn’t big enough to hold one.”

Related posts
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[But we know, too, that more things in which to store things is not a solution.]

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The non-breaking hyphen

Every so often, or just often, I look at an old post and notice something wrong, a tpoy, an the extraneous word — see what I mean? I noticed something off in this post yesterday: Anthony Catalano, friend of Boro Park. So I called on a lesser-known hero of punctuation, the non-breaking hyphen: ‑.

Notice the difference:

Is it worth taking the time to fix an HTML glitch in a ten-year-old post? I think it is. And I think it’s worth sharing the news of the non-breaking hyphen, which should be better known, inside and outside Boro (no ‑ugh) Park.

A related post
A previous non-breaking hyphen to the rescue

[As I’m seeing this morning, the non-breaking hyphen displays differently in different browsers: longer in Safari in macOS, shorter in Safari in iOS, shorter in Brave (and, presumably, in other Chromium-based browsers).]

Sardines × 7

A Reader’s Digest investigative report: “I Ate Sardines Every Day for a Week — Here’s What Happened.”

Spoiler alert: there is no ick factor.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

Sluggo, philosophe

[Nancy, February 22, 2024. Click for a larger view.]

In today’s Nancy, Sluggo channels, kinda, sorta, Montaigne (I think).

A related post
From Eliot to Woolf to Montaigne

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

“She wasn’t fit to be seen”

From one of the bleakest stories I’ve ever read. It has, or should have, a place alongside James Joyce’s “Counterparts” and Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend.

Jean Stafford, ”Children Are Bored on Sunday” (1948), in Collected Stories (1969).

Related reading
All OCA Jean Stafford posts (Pinboard)

Word of the day: cubeb

Recalling her lone experience of smoking, Emily Vanderpool thinks that she did a better job of it than the furtive, coughing grad students in the women’s smoking room of the college library. From Jean Stafford’s “A Reading Problem” (1956):

I could smoke better than that and I was only ten; I mean the one time I had smoked I did it better — a friend and I each smoked a cubeb she had pinched from her tubercular father.
Smoked a what? And why is someone with tuberculosis smoking anything? An explanation: “Wrapped in standard rice-paper, just like ordinary cigarettes, cubebs were stuffed with the dried, ground berries of a Southeast Asian relative of the pepper plant.” The cubeb was regarded as a treatment for catarrh. Wikipedia reports that cubeb cigarettes were also used to treat asthma, chronic pharyngitis, and hay fever.

[Requa’s Cubeb Cigarettes. Photograph by Joe Haupt (Flickr). Licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 License. Click for a larger view.]

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Beatles with Morecambe and Wise

Here’s the complete Morecambe and Wise Show with the Beatles (recorded December 2, 1963; aired April 18, 1964). The Beatles do “This Boy,” “All My Loving,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and, with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, “Moonlight Bay” — live, not lip-synced. And there are comedy bits, with and without the Beatles, all good-natured silliness. (Included: silly walks.)

From the liner notes for the Beatles’ Anthology 1 :

Asked in 1994 to name his favourite of the many television programmes the Beatles had appeared on, Paul McCartney scarcely hesitated in responding The Morecambe and Wise Show .
Wonderful stuff.

Domestic comedy

[The subject was breakfast.]

“It’s a good restaurant. It has these things called ‘eggs’?”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Please hear the second sentence with a purposeful bit of uptalk.]

Monday, February 19, 2024

Barry Sachs

One bit of instrument naming I can’t stand: “bari sax.” No one says “al sax” or “ten sax.” Why “bari sax”?

I can imagine an objection: “alto” and “tenor” are just two syllables each. “Baritone” is three. True, but “soprano” is also three syllables, and “sopranino” is four. And yet we don’t hear anyone talking about a “sop sax” or a “nino sax”. “Nino sax,” to my surprise, is a thing. (See the comments.)

The only thing worse than “bari” in instrument naming is “bone.” It sounds so falsely hip. Man, that bone was smokin’.

[And yes, people do say “bari sax.” It’s not just something written in liner notes.]

Dream data

This phrase showed up in a dream: “epistemic data.” I have invented two possible meanings.

One: that which we know. Example: The alphabet.

Two: that which may lead to knowledge. In other words, a clue. Examples: Ketchup splattered on the wall, a broken plate on the floor.

Though we can already guess who threw the plate.

More words from dreams
Alecry : Fequid : Misinflame : Skeptiphobia : Winching

[A Google search reveals that “epistemic data” has currency outside the dream world. I’m sticking with homemade definitions.]

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Langston Hughes House

[20 E. 127th Street, Harlem, New York City, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

It’s now the Langston Hughes House, not yet open to the public except for scheduled events. Here from New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, is some history about Hughes and this address, his home from 1948 until his death in 1967.

The NYC Municipal Archives recently posted this photograph with a 1957 recording of Hughes speaking about “The Writer’s Place in America.”

Another Hughes location in a tax photograph: the Harlem Branch Y.

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

[Some sources give 1947 as the year Hughes moved in. Arnold Rampersad’s The Life of Langston Hughes (2002) notes that Emerson Harper, whom Hughes regarded as his uncle, made the purchase on December 23, 1947, evidently keeping Hughes’s name out of the transaction to keep down the price. Harper and Hughes then became joint owners, as did Harper’s wife Toy, whom Hughes regarded as his aunt. Hughes moved to this address in July 1948.]

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Fare forward, Brian Wilson

Sad news, as reported in The New York Times: “Brian Wilson’s Family Seeks to Place Him Under a Conservatorship.” An excerpt:

The family of Brian Wilson, the musical architect whose genius helped power the Beach Boys, is seeking to place him under a conservatorship following the death of his wife, Melinda, last month.

According to documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court earlier this week by lawyers representing the potential conservators, Mr. Wilson, 81, has “a major neurocognitive disorder,” and “is unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health.” Melinda Wilson had previously provided care for her husband, but following her death on Jan. 30, the appointment of a conservator has become necessary, according to the petition filed on Wednesday.
Dementia: to paraphrase Sufjan Stevens, it takes and it takes and it takes.

I’m grateful to have seen Brian on the Pet Sounds and SMiLE tours (2000, 2004). That’s how I’d like to think of him on a stage — engaged with the music, his music. Anyone who’s watched recent clips of Brian in performance (I’m not linking) can see that he’s been declining for some time. I’m glad for him that he’ll now be home, in a familiar and living environment, and getting good care.

Related reading
All OCA Brian Wilson posts (Pinboard)

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Stan Newman constructing as Lester Ruff, and it’s another Les Ruff puzzle that’s kinda Ruff after all. I began with 50-A, three letters, “Hamlet’s piece of work” and 50-D, four letters, “From which starters are selected.” Those clues opened up the southeast section of the puzzle. And then small struggles here and there.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

1-A, ten letters, “Redundant ratification.” I like the colloquialism.

2-D, five letters, “Swahili speaker of the future.” Of course, had to be, or will have to be.

10-D, eight letters, “Shop-at-home advocates.” I can’t abide this answer.

12-D, nine letters, “Abrupt attitude adjustment.” Does anyone recall attitude adjustment hours?

15-A, ten letters, “Toleration termination.” Another alliterative clue.

22-D, four letters, “Do meal micro-managment?” A lot of clue for a familiar answer: Stumper-y..

25-A, seven letters, “Small print with prices.” This one had me stumped for some time.

35-D, eight letters, “Strutting swell.” The puzzle goes from the future (2-D) to the past.

39-D, three letters, “If it contracted.” Good grief.

48-D, five letters, “How Appealing or Constitution Daily.” I thought these might be the names of race horses. But no.

53-A, ten letters, “Boxer in stripes for 50+ years.” I must check to see if this boxer is still at it. Nope.

57-A, ten letters, “Whom ‘LINDBERGH WEDS’ in a ’29 headline.” Quite a reach backward? Someone once gave me a copy of a book of hers, so I had this name, even though 48-D had me convinced that I had made a mistake.

My favorite in this puzzle: 45-A, seven letters, “Traditional place for lesser courses.” TAPASBA? It took me so long to see, and I was happy with myself when I did. Not haughty. Just happy.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 16, 2024

“To err is human”

A passage from page 87 of Judge Arthur Engoron’s decision is getting considerable attetion. The passage begins a section of the ruling entitled “Refusal to Admit Error”:

The English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) first declared, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” Defendants apparently are of a different mind. After some four years of investigation and litigation, the only error (“inadvertent,” of course) that they acknowledge is the tripling of the size of the Trump Tower Penthouse, which cannot be gainsaid. Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological.
What Pope wrote, in An Essay on Criticism (1711), line 525:

[To Err is Humane; to Forgive, Divine.]

Or with our capitalization and spelling: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Or if one eschews the semicolon, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” The first half, as errare humanum est , has been attributed to Seneca the Younger.

Pope added the contrast between the human and the divine. He didn’t include a second is. But to err is human, and I don’t think Judge Engoron was erring in any matter of greater consequence.

[Text of Pope’s poem from a Harvard Library photostat of An Essay on Criticism (1711).]

$364M+ $355M $450M+


MSNBC said $364M, but everyone must have rechecked their addition.

Here’s the New York Times article (gift link). It first had $350M+, now revised to $355M. MSNBC says $355M+. Now the Times says $450M+.

Biden on Navalny

President Joe Biden, speaking about the death of Aleksei Navalny:

“People in Russia and around the world are mourning Navlany today because he was so many things that Putin is not. He was brave, he was principled, he was dedicated to building a Russia where the rule of law existed and where it applied to everybody. Navlany believed in that Russia, that Russia. He knew it was a cause worth fighting for and, obviously, even dying for.”
No comment yet from the psychopathic presumptive Republican nominee, who is busy trashing Fani Willis on his social media account.

[Found via Aaron Rupar. My transcription.]

Mystery actor

[Click for a much larger view.]

I knew he was in the movie, but I did not recognize him. Do you? Leave your guess(es) in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if one’s needed.

To avert a likely wrong answer: that’s not Ed Asner.


Here’s a hint: he’s best known for a role that had him living in an apartment.


This was a tough one. The answer is now in the comments.

More mystery actors (Collect them all)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Wilheminia Wiggins Fernandez (1949–2024)

“A soprano who rose from South Philadelphia to the opera houses of Europe, she was memorably seen and heard in a 1981 film considered a paragon of cinematic style”: from the New York Times obituary for Wilheminia Wiggins Fernandez, who sang “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” from Alfredo Catalani’s opera La Wally in Jean-Jacques Beineix’s 1981 film Diva. The opening scene, in which Cynthia Hawkins (Fenandez) sings and Jules (Frédéric Andréi) covertly records, is still electrifying.

As a rookie called up to teach in a summer program for incoming college students, I scored a class’s worth of free tickets for Diva and Raiders of the Lost Ark — both about the hunt for a lost treasure — and took my students on field trips. We then thought and wrote and talked about similarities and differences between the two movies, one French, one American. What was I thinking in giving such an assignment? I was thinking originally.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Struggling to read

Adam Kotsko writes about the decline in college students’ reading ability:

Yes, there were always students who skipped the readings, but we are in new territory when even highly motivated honors students struggle to grasp the basic argument of a 20-page article. Yes, professors never feel satisfied that high school teachers have done enough, but not every generation of professors has had to deal with the fallout of No Child Left Behind and Common Core. Finally, yes, every generation thinks the younger generation is failing to make the grade — except for the current cohort of professors, who are by and large more invested in their students’ success and mental health and more responsive to student needs than any group of educators in human history. We are not complaining about our students. We are complaining about what has been taken from them.
Read it all: “The Loss of Things I Took for Granted” (Slate ).

The “we” means something: Kotsko says that he’s never met a college prof who didn’t share his sense of things. I‘ll quote from a post of mine that reproduced an e-mail that I sent in 2022 to three architects of the “balanced literacy” approach to teaching reading:
I wonder in retrospect about so many elements of college life. I wonder about the extent to which the dreary professorial practice of outlining the textbook on “the board” is not merely a matter of professorial laziness but a way to compensate, consciously or unconsciously, for students’ weaknesses as readers. I wonder about the extent to which the decline of interest in the humanities might be explained at least in part by the difficulty so many college students have with the mechanics of reading. Figuring out the words is, for many college students, just plain hard — because they were never properly taught how.
The decline is real, and it’s everywhere — even at Harvard, where in 2023 a professor reported that her students struggled to figure out subjects and verbs in the sentences of The Scarlet Letter.

Which reminds me to ask, whither grammar?

Thanks, Kirsten.


[From The Killers (dir. Robert Siodmak, 1946). Click for a larger view.]

As Lieutenant Lubinsky (Sam Levene) watches, “The Swede” (Burt Lancaster) walks into the light. On the big screen, the words above the doorway are easier to read: “WATCH YOUR STEP,” good advice for film noir generally, if only someone would heed it.

Cinematography by Elwood Bredell.

[I don’t get it: Criterion Channel on the television, the words are visible; Criterion Channel in the app or a browser, the words disappear.]

Twelve movies

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

Convicted Woman (dir. Nick Grinde, 1940). Poor Betty Andrews (Rochelle Hudson): though innocent of wrongdoing and aided by a lawyer with impeccable diction (Frieda Inescort), Betty is found guilty of stealing from a department store and is sentenced to a year in prison. A mean matron and even meaner inmates run the joint — at least until a boyish reporter (Glenn Ford) writes an exposé and Betty’s lawyer steps in to institute reforms. But the meanest inmates (June Lang and Lorna Gray) have it in for Betty. The reason to watch this movie is to see a young Glenn Ford channel his inner Jimmy Stewart. ★★ (TCM)


It’s a Big Country (dir. Clarence Brown, Don Hartman, John Sturges, Richard Thorpe, Charles Vidor, Don Weis, William A. Wellman, 1951). Eight vignettes, beginning with one that poses a question about the greatness of America: Which America? A big one, with a widow who wants only to be counted in the census, Black men and women in every field of accomplishment, ethnic hostilities and anti-Semitism, an Italian-American patriarch who doesn’t want his son to wear glasses — and more. It’s a Big Country is very much of its time, with Black Americans relegated to their own vignette of still photographs and archival footage (to be cut from distribution to southern audiences?), and yet the movie seeks to affirm the idea of America as a pluralist culture. With Ethel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Gene Kelly, Janet Leigh, Marjorie Main, Fredric March, S.Z. Sakall, and other MGM stars. ★★★ (TCM)


Crip Camp (dir. James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham, 2020). The life and afterlife of Camp Jened, a Catskills camp for teenagers with disabilities, with hippiesque counselors and an ethos of acceptance and freedom, celebrated in countless ways and, fortunately, preserved on film. When alums, Judith Heumann among them, found their way to Berkeley, a disability-rights movement was born, with protest marches, sit-ins, and an agonizing crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The most moving moment: a camper speaks, with great difficulty, her words more or less unintelligible, and no other camper responds, until one explains, also with great difficulty, what he thinks she’s saying — that she’s been deprived of a right to privacy — and asks, “Is that it?” “Yeah.” ★★★★ (N)

[Netflix has this movie streaming for free at YouTube].


The Vow (dir. Karim Amer, Omar Mullick, Jehane Noujaim, 2020–2022). The Vow is the darkest cult documentary I’ve watched, and as it moves to the trial, conviction, and imprisonment of self-styled philosopher/scientist (and multi-level-marketing veteran) Keith Raniere, this sixteen-part exploration of NXIVM gets darker with each episode. One especially valuable element is the documentary’s depiction of Raniere’s victims becoming victimizers, eager to participate in utterly irrational and horrific acts; another is its depiction of the difficulty of breaking away — not to freedom but to loss, grief, and, finally, a resolve to speak out and strike back. Raniere, who looks like a stocky, schlubby version of David Foster Wallace, is a mindfucker of extraordinary ability, selling acronyms and gibberish (e.g., ESP, EM, intensives, modules, technologies), flattering and demeaning his marks, and getting them to do the unthinkable. As we see the members of Raniere’s inner circle take guilty pleas and leave him to face justice alone, I cannot help thinking of a disgraced former president and his woes. ★★★★ (M)


The Killers (dir. Robert Siodmak, 1946). It’s streaming in the Criterion Channel’s Ava Gardner feature, though Gardner’s Kitty Collins is less a character than a plot device. The movie treats Hemingway’s short story “The Killers” as an overture of sorts (diner scene, rooming house scene) before getting to the main matter, an invented backstory in flashbacks that explains the Swede’s (Burt Lancaster) cryptic comment “Once I did something wrong” (or in the story, “I got in wrong”). As in film noir generally, contingency is key, with a chance encounter at a gas station presaging the Swede’s demise. With Edmond O’Brien (for once not jittery and sweaty) as an insurance investigator, Sam Levine (looking like an Abstract Expressionist) as a police detective, and beautiful cinematography by Elwood Bredell. ★★★★ (CC)


Barbie (dir. Greta Herwig, 2023). I have never before seen a movie that begins with the logo of a toy company (Mattel), and though I expect I’ll never see another such movie, I’m glad I saw this one. Barbie is pop cultural commentary at its best, cheerfully knowing and subversive. Strong mythic vibes (Edenic innocence and ignorance), and strong movie vibes (The Purple Rose of Cairo and Pleasantville) when the membrane (yes, that’s the movie’s word) between Barbieland and reality is torn. Margot Robbie and all the other Barbies of this movie prove that you can smash the patriarchy and still have fun and look great while doing so. ★★★★ (M)


Two shorts from the Crime Does Not Pay series

Dark Shadows (dir. Paul Bunford and Walter Hart, 1944). Some entries in this series — for instance Joseph Losey’s A Gun in His Hand and Jacques Tourneur’s Think It Over — are solidly good, but not this one. It focuses on a police psychiatrist (Henry O’Neill) who gives a room of murder suspects a word-association test and comes to a snappy conclusion about who’s guilty. The only good reason to watch this short is the chance to see Arthur Space — good old Doc Weaver of the Lassie television world — as a serial killer. And if you really consider that a spoiler, please step to the customer service desk and our cashier will cheerfully refund your money. ★★ (TCM)

Jack Pot (dir. Roy Rowland, 1940). Nickel slot machines are everywhere in the city, and all that change is amounting to big money for organized crime. When creepy-looking but clean-living Frank Watson (Tom Neal of Detour) refuses to allow a machine in his dry-cleaning establishment, trouble follows in a particularly gruesome form. Look for Lloyd Corrigan as a concerned-looking fellow and Reed Hadley as a lawyer working for the mob — in the mayor’s office. And in his first screen appearance, Hugh Beamont (the Beaver’s dad) as a mechanic. (TCM) ★★★


A Stolen Life (dir. Curtis Bernhardt, 1946). Bette Davis as New England twins Kate and Pat Bosworth, the one a lonely painter, the other a devil-may-care party girl (with excellent special effects in their scenes together). And between them, Bill Emerson (Glenn Ford), a lonely, soft-spoken lighthouse keeper. To understand what the title means and how this triangle loses one of its sides, you’ll just have to watch. An unexpected highlight: Dane Clark as Karnock, “a Rasputin of the paint pots,” a proto-Beat painter. ★★★★ (TCM)


Two from the Criterion Channel’s Cat Movies

The Cat Creeps (dir. Eric C. Kenton, 1946). It’s 1947-adjacent, but it’s a waste if time. In this search for a hidden treasure on a mysterious island, someone enters a house through a cellar door, while someone else sneaks in with a secret key, while someone else pokes around with a flashlight, while someone else is mysteriously killed, while a black cat creeps around, and so on, and so on. Noah Beery Jr. provides some comic relief — or is it pain? — as a wisecracking newspaper photographer; Paul Kelly is his usual suave, terse self as a detective. One niche reason to see this movie: it has Rose Hobart, who became the “star” of Joseph Cornell’s short film Rose Hobart. ★

The Long Goodbye (dir. Robert Altman, 1973). What a delight: a tongue-in-cheek noir, with Elliott Gould as Phliip Marlowe, a private detective in 1970s Los Angeles, driving a 1940s car, chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes lit with strike-anywhere matches (which indeed he strikes everywhere), and trying to dupe his cat into eating the inferior food he was able to find in the supermarket by putting it into an empty can of the cat’s preferred brand. The plot — a murder, a missing novelist, a bag of money — is beside the point; what makes the movie compelling are its comic touches and surprising cast, which includes former New York Yankee Jim Bouton, Laugh-In’s Henry Gibson, Sterling Hayden (in a role written for Dan Blocker), Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Nina van Pallandt. The screenplay is by Leigh Brackett, who co-wrote the screenplay of The Big Sleep. A bonus: scenes at Los Angeles’s High Tower Court, where Marlowe tries to dupe his cat. ★★★★


The Other Love (dir. André De Toth, 1947). Haute melodrama, with Barbara Stanwyck as Karen Duncan, a concert pianist convalescing at a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, with what a 1947 audience would immediately recognize as tuberculosis. The doctor in charge of Karen’s care, Tony Stanton (David Niven) seems unnecessarily controlling: “You haven’t got a free will anymore,” he tells her, and he forbids piano playing, smoking, trips to the village, even, when a gong sounds, talking. A chance meeting with a dashing auto racer, Paul Clermont (Richard Conte), offers the escape that Karen seeks: “I’m trying to smash the face of the clock,” she declares. Will she live the time remaining to her with Paul, or with Tony? ★★★★ (YT)

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

“The hash of that Paul Pry”

Emily Vanderpool, ten, needs a quiet place to read.

Jean Stafford, “A Reading Problem” (1956), in Collected Stories (1969).

This story is so reminiscent of Eudora Welty’s 1941 story “Why I Live at the P.O.” In each, an institution of sorts — a post office, a jail — becomes a home away from home for a young family-beset narrator. (Welty’s narrator, known only as Sister, has a sister named Stella-Rondo.) It turns out that Stafford and Welty corresponded, met occasionally in New York, and admired each other’s writing. Stafford, writing in 1975: “Just about every word Eudora Welty puts to paper delights me.”

Related reading
All OCA Jean Stafford posts (Pinboard)

[Paul Pry: “an excessively inquisitive person,” after the hero of Paul Pry (1825), a play by John Poole.” Stafford on Welty: from Charlotte Margolis Goodman’s Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart (1990).]

Valentine’s Day

[Green stone heart amulet. From Egypt, 26th–29th Dynasty, ca. 664–30 BCE. 3 cm × 2.1 cm. (1 3/16″ × 13/16″.) Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910. Metropolitan Museum of Art. From the online collection. Click for a larger view.]

A note from the Met:

Egyptian physicians usually did not practice internal surgery, and detailed knowledge of the human body’s interior was generally limited to embalmers. Although intended to represent a human heart, this small sculpture is bovine rather than human in form.
More about amulets and the heart, or ib, at this museum page.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Nancy en español

Aquí está Nancy — o Periquita — en español. Y una imitadora: Mafalda. Y una estatua de Mafalda. Nancy se pondría furiosa. ¡Furiosa!

Gracias de Stephen de pencil talk por los enlaces.

[Periquita : parakeet.]

Yamandu Costa, coming to New Jersey

On June 8, 2024, Yamandu Costa will perform at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Will this performance turn out to be one of a number of North American appearances? Time will tell.

I was hugely fortunate to hear Yamandu this past September in Illinois. He’s the greatest guitarist I’ve ever heard.

Related reading
Four Yamandu Costa posts

Recently updated

Billie Holiday’s residence Now with an apartment number and the 1940 census.

Monday, February 12, 2024

“The five-and-dime !”

Jean Stafford, “Bad Characters” (1954), in Collected Stories (1969).

The names for such stores have been a matter for scholarly inquiry.

Related reading
All OCA Jean Stafford posts (Pinboard)

Our tube

Max Baer Jr., Betty Garrett, Earl Holliman, Margaret O’Brien, Lyman Ward, Marie Windsor, and Jane Withers, all in the Murder, She Wrote episode “Who Killed J.B. Fletcher?” (February 10, 1991). Familiar faces in new arrangements: one of the pleasures of television.

Related reading
All OCA pleasures of television posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Billie Holiday’s residence

[286 West 142nd Street, Harlem, New York City, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

“At the height of her career she lived at 286 West 142nd Street”: The Encyclopedia of New York City (2010). And there she is in the 1940 Manhattan telephone directory:

Those buildings are gone now.


February 13: An assidious reader found the apartment number: 2E. And found Billie and her mother Sadie in the 1940 census. Also in 2E: a lodger, Irene Wilson, née Kitchings, co-composer of “Some Other Spring” and other songs. Thanks, reader.

Related reading
All OCA Billie Holiday posts (Pinboard) : More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives (Pinboard)

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell, and it’s a doozy, perhaps the most difficult Stumper I’ve ever done, though there’s nothing outré, nothing strained.

I started with four-letter words, 1-A, “Rock Hall honorees inducted by the Bee Gees”; 1-D, “What Michael Jackson wore in The Wiz ”; and 2-D, letters, “Tik-Tok coiner (for a 1907 kids’ book).” And then I wandered and stumbled. I didn’t think I’d get it all until I filled in my last answer, another four-letter word: 57-A, four letters, “Big 12 invite accepter for 2024.”

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

12-D, ten letters, “Spills a lot.” Hah.

15-D, six letters, “Franchise element.” I was thinking of, say, Dairy Queens and owner-operators.

17-A, ten letters, “Grand Canyon run gear.” How's one supposed to run in the Grand Canyon?

23-A, twelve letters, “Mexican wrestling accouterment.” All those hours of UHF television paying off at last.

27-D, ten letters, “Blocked by booming.” Lordy.

28-D, ten letters, “Illuminating accent.” The novelty of this answer made me laugh.

29-A, seven letters, “Tokyo monorail maker (1964).” I had one letter from a cross, figured that there are companies that make everything, and guessed, correctly.

40-A, seven letters, “Comes back.” Tricky.

42-D, six letters, “First noun in Richard III.” Of course.

48-D, four letters, “Shelley’s ‘love disguised.’” I take every Shelley clue in a crossword as something like a hello from my late friend Rob Zseleczky.

52-A, ten letters, “Analphabetic.” I thought it had something to do with being out of alphabetical order.

56-A, ten letters, “Written up earlier.” Whew.

My favorite in this puzzle: 10-D, six letters, “Word from Greek for ‘tattoo.’”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Zembla casts a spell

I forgot about this screenshot, from Monday’s New York Times Spelling Bee. Somehow I think there must have been more than just this one reader of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1962 novel Pale Fire who had to — had to — spell out Zembla. Zembla, in the words of Nabokov’s narrator Charles Kinbote, is “a distant northern land.” The Bee has also rejected alembic, aporia, and propitiatory. Unlike Zembla , they’re all legit words.

The pangram from Monday’s puzzle: BAMBOOZLE.

Related reading
All OCA Nabokov posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

Brew , broth , bread  Now with beer .

Grand old plays and sewing machines

President Harvey of the Alma Hettrick College for Girls (“a chubby, happy man who liked to have the students call him Butch”) is addressing the faculty as the fall term begins:

Jean Stafford, “Caveat Emptor” (1956), in Collected Stories (1969).

The student as customer: President Harvey was ahead of his time.

Related reading
All OCA Jean Stafford posts (Pinboard)

Brew , broth , bread

Oh the things we talk about at the breakfast table (which later turns into the lunch table and then the dinner table):

Could brew and broth be related? Ask Merriam-Webster:

Brew :

Middle English, from Old English brēowan; akin to Latin fervēre to boil — more at BARM
And broth :
Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German brod broth, Old English brēowan to brew — more at BREW
And what about bread ?
Middle English breed , from Old English brēad ; akin to Old High German brōt bread, Old English brēowan to brew
So yes, and yes again.


And there’s beer:
Middle English ber, going back to Old English bēor, akin to Old High German bior “beer,” Old Norse bjórr; perhaps all going back to a dissimilated form of Germanic *breura-, a nominal derivative of *brewwan- “to BREW entry 1
Thanks, Elaine.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Taylor Swift and the apostrophe

The New York Times addresses a burning question of the day: Should there be an apostrophe in the title of Taylor Swift’s forthcoming album Tortured Poets Department ?

I say the title is fine without. I’d liken the phrase to “current events podcast” or “retired teachers association.” Or, say, “Elks convention.” No apostrophe needed.

Related reading
All OCA apostrophe posts (Pinboard)

[Something to distract myself as the Supreme Court considers the real burning question of the day.]

Luis Buñuel, MoMA hiree

Did Luis Buñuel really work at the Museum of Modern Art? Yes, he did.

This exchange, as recounted by Buñuel, makes me think of what Zippy might say if he were to interview for a job. The interviewer was Nelson Rockefeller:

When he asked if I was a Communist, I told him I was a Republican, and at the end of the conversation, I found myself working for The Museum of Modern Art.

“Pickleball infrastructure?”

[“Wrap Battle.” Zippy, February 8, 2024. Click for a larger view.]

I heard the phrase “pickleball infrastructure” while listening to NPR in December and immediately thought of it as an “over and over,” the kind of thing Zippy might like to repeat. I sent the phrase to Bill Griffith. He liked it, and here it is in today’s Zippy. I’m thrilled. Please click through to the strip and notice what’s in the third panel.

Bill put a name to such repetition in a recent strip: palilogia, also known as epizeuxis. Think of King Lear’s agonized “Never, never, never, never, never.” Or Steve Ballmer’s mildly insane “Developers, developers, developers, developers.” Or Zippy’s carefree “Pickleball infrastructure! Pickleball infrastructure! Pickleball infrastructure!”

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

An NYT Vision Pro review

“After using the headset for about five days, I’m unconvinced that people will get much value from it”: Brian X. Chen reviews Apple’s Vision Pro (gift link).

The final comment:

It’s a computer for people to use alone, arriving at a time when we are seeking to reconnect after years of masked solitude. That may be the Vision Pro’s biggest blind spot.
Oh well. There’s always Kranmar’s Vision Pro. Inexpensive, and good at costume parties.

A related post
“It’s an iPad for your face”

Recently updated

Moleskine, sono pazzi Now resolved.

A Jerry Craft Zoom

Our household watched an Illinois Libraries Present event last night, a Zoom interview with Jerry Craft. I’m a fan of his graphic-novel trilogy, New Kid , Class Act , and School Trip . Some things I learned:

~ Craft’s first work was self-published after countless rejections: Mama’s Boyz , a book of comic strips.

~ He thought he’d never get beyond self-publication, as he was resolved to avoid three topics: slavery, civil rights, and police brutality.

~ New Kid, he said, made him “an overnight success” after thirty years of work.

~ Craft wanted to draw Jordan Banks, Drew Ellis, and Liam Landers as “three of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet.”

~ A live-action movie of New Kid is in development from the SpringHill Company (LeBron James and Maverick Carter) and Universal Pictures.

~ A Christian website faulted New Kid for including an “OMG.” Craft said he’d gladly change it to “Oh my goodness” if that made it possible for one more kid to read the book. (Me: But what kid says “Oh my goodness?” And they’d find something else to complain about anyway.)

~ He had to Google critical race theory after his books were charged with promoting it.

~ He draws in Adobe Photoshop with a digital pen and a Wacom tablet.

~ While answering questions, he drew, in real time, for the son of a librarian, a birthday card with Jordan on it. He has a trick to draw Jordan’s hair consistently: little hills, with two groups for the top of the head, two more for the hairline.

~ There may or may not be a fourth Jordan–Drew–Liam book.

~ Craft is now at work on an unrelated three-book project.

Sonny Rollins’s notebooks

Coming in April from New York Review Books, The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins. The February Harper’s has excerpts. Two of them:

Another good day to think and be thankful for.


One day in the future people will be saying “Yes I once saw Sonny Rollins.”
I once saw Sonny Rollins, in 1993, and that still might the most exciting live music I’ve ever heard. And I saw him once again in 2006. The second time I had these pages.

Related reading
All OCA Sonny Rollins posts (Pinboard)

Read Zippy tomorrow

All I’m gonna say is that anyone who reads Orange Crate Art should read Zippy tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Recently updated

Moleskine, sono pazzi Now with another e-mail exchange. At least I’m getting a post out of this comedy of errors.

Trump, not immune

From The New York Times (gift link):

A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that he was immune to charges of plotting to subvert the results of the 2020 election, ruling that he must go to trial on a criminal indictment accusing him of seeking to overturn his loss to President Biden.
From the ruling:
We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a President has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results. Nor can we sanction his apparent contention that the Executive has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and to have their votes count.

At bottom, former President Trump’s stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three Branches. Presidential immunity against federal indictment would mean that, as to the President, the Congress could not legislate, the Executive could not prosecute and the Judiciary could not review. We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter. Careful evaluation of these concerns leads us to conclude that there is no functional justification for immunizing former Presidents from federal prosecution in general or for immunizing former President Trump from the specific charges in the Indictment. In so holding, we act, “not in derogation of the separation of powers, but to maintain their proper balance.” See Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. at 754.
[From a Wikipedia article about Nixon v. Fitzgerald: “The Court ruled that the President is entitled to absolute immunity from legal liability for civil damages based on his official acts. The Court, however, emphasized that the President is not immune from criminal charges stemming from his official or unofficial acts while he is in office.”]

Moleskine, sono pazzi

In the continuing story (parts 1 and 2) of my attempt to receive a refund for a defective Moleskine planner:

Having had no response to a January 9 letter, I e-mailed the customer-care address yesterday and attached that letter. And I got an e-mail back with the offer of a replacement planner.

I replied, explaining, as I aleady explained in an e-mail (January 8) and in my letter, that I have requested a refund because, after being promised a refund, I bought a replacement Moleskine planner from Amazon. I don’t need another 2024 Moleskine planner. I don’t need another 2024 Moleskine planner. I don’t need another 2024 Moleskine planner.

See? I’ve now told them three times.

Somehow I get the impression that Moleskine doesn’t give sufficient attention to quality control (sixteen missing pages) or customer service. I would like to be proven wrong. But I’m pretty sure that I’ll be buying a Letts or Leuchtturm pocket planner for 2025. It’ll be my first non-Moleskine since 2005.

And I forgot to mention: fountain-pen ink bleeds through the pages. Badly.


Later the same day: I e-mailed Moleskine to say that if they will not refund my money, I will settle for a pocket notebook, black, squared. I received a reply offering me a planner (“the exact item”) or a voucher to be used on their website. I explained, for the fourth time, that I don’t need another planner. I pointed out, too, that the notebook has a lower price. And I asked: wouldn’t it be simpler to send a notebook rather than a voucher that I can use to order a notebook? No reply yet.

Fourteen e-mails so far. Two more and it’ll be one for each page missing from my defective Moleskine.


February 7: I found a customer-service number: 833-809-9087. (How come it’s not in their notebooks? How come it’s not on the company website?) They’re going to send a pocket notebook, black, squared. I still plan to switch to Letts or Leuchtturm next year.

Related reading
All OCA Moleskine posts (Pinboard)

[“Moleskine, sono pazzi”: Moleskine, they’re crazy.]

Ed Kudlick, dishdoer

I like seeing a comic strip in which someone is doing the dishes by hand. And I like the way Ed Kudlick does the dishes.

[Any resemblance to me is totally coincidental.]