Friday, May 31, 2024

Marian Robinson (1937–2024)

Marian Robinson, mother of Michelle Obama and Craig Robinson, has died at the age of eighty-six. From the New York Times obituary:

Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Ms. Robinson was known as a loving, down-to-earth matriarch who became an emotional ballast for her daughter and granddaughters, Malia and Sasha, but also for Mr. Obama, who had rocketed to political superstardom and whose family, at times, had to scramble to keep up.

When Mr. Obama became the first Black man to win the presidency in November 2008, he sat and watched the returns alongside his mother-in-law. Their hands were clutched together as they watched their family’s future change alongside the course of American history.
Elaine and I met Michelle Obama when Barack Obama was running for the United States Senate. And our whole family met Barack Obama later in that campaign. I wish we could have met Marian Robinson too.

187 years

At his press conference In his Queeg-like ravings just now, Donald Trump suggested that he may be going to jail for 187 years.


[A Glencairn Whisky Glass was sitting on the counter — might it get knocked over? They are not cheap.]

“I’ll allay your fears and wash it.”

“No, it's fine.”

“I’m gonna allay! I’ll allay!”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Know the difference

[Reposted from December 8, 2018.]

I created this visual aid one day after making a post titled Felonious Trump, which began, “I’m no lawyer, but it seems clear that Individual-1 directed Michael Cohen to commit felonies.” And now Individual-1 is a felon.

Now more than ever: know the difference.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

The verdict

GUILTY! On thirty-four of thirty-four felony counts.

Thank you, New Yorkers.


From This American Life: “Lists!!!” It’s an especially good episode.

The one thing missing from this episode is the quotidian to-do list: buckle shoe, shut door, pick up sticks, &c. An Atlantic article by Amanda Mull has that covered: “Never underestimate the power of a to-do list.”

Here’s a list my daughter Rachel made (in cursive) at the age of six or seven, of supplies for an imaginary camping trip. And on a different note, a list, found in a used book, that’s puzzled me for years.

Some more OCA posts with lists
Amy Winehouse’s to-do list (“When I do recorddeal”) : John Lennon’s to-do list (“H.B.O. Guy coming between 3–5”) : Johnny Cash’s to-do list (“Kiss June”): Ralph Kramden’s list (“Basically honest when pinned down”) : Review: Liza Kirwin, Lists (A book of artists’ lists)

Cursive Peanuts

[Peanuts, June 2, 1977. Click for a larger view.]

Yesterday’s Peanuts is today’s Peanuts.

Venn reading
All OCA handwriting posts : handwriting and Peanuts posts : Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, May 29, 2024


I clipped a small square from a New York Times photograph of the courtroom where Donald Trump’s trial is taking place. That institutional-looking floor tile — it’s the same non-descript stuff found in the building where I taught for thirty years. But the color is different: these tiles appear to be a dull brownish gold — gold-ish, befitting the defendant.

In 2012 I took a photograph of a little man in a floor tile in my office. I trust he’s still there, still smoking.

“Inherently and irredeemably unreliable narrators”

From The Washington Post Tech Brief newsletter:

“All large language models, by the very nature of their architecture, are inherently and irredeemably unreliable narrators,” said Grady Booch, a renowned computer scientist. At a basic level, they’re designed to generate answers that sound coherent — not answers that are true. “As such, they simply cannot be ‘fixed,’” he said, because making things up is “an inescapable property of how they work.”
Grady Booch is in Wikipedia.

Have you had your rock today?

Related posts
ChatGPT e-mails a professor : AI hallucinations : ChatGPT writes a workflow : ChatGPT summarizes Edwin Mullhouse : ChatGPT’s twenty-line poems : Spot the bot : Rob Zseleczky on computer-generated poetry : ChatGPT writes about Lillian Mountweazel : ChatGPT on Ashbery, Bishop, Dickinson, Larkin, Yeats : ChatGPT summarizes a Ted Berrigan poem : Teachers and chatbots : A 100-word blog post generated by ChatGPT : I’m sorry too, ChatGPT

Chekhov and Joyce

“The closest parallels to Joyce’s stories are Chekhov’s, but Joyce said he had not read Chekhov when he wrote them”: so says Richard Ellmann in the biography James Joyce, citing Herbert Gorman’s notes and papers for a Joyce biography. But try reading this passage from Chekhov without thinking of Joyce’s “Eveline.”

Anton Chekhov, Three Years, in “Peasants” and Other Stories, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: New York Review Books, 1999).

[Most of Chekhov was in English by 1903. Had this story been translated by then? Garnett’s translation was first published in 1916.]

In it and of it?

I was sitting at the kitchen table with an open bottle of Aurora Black, about to fill three fountain pens. I called up to Elaine:

“Do you have any pens that need filled?”

I was not trying to be cute. I was using the [need + past participle] construction with an utter absence of self-consciousness. It just came out. I may now be not only in east-central Illinois but of it.

Then again, filling German fountain pens with Italian ink isn’t exactly a regionalism.

Related reading
More [need + past participle] posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Block that metaphor

Of Donald Trump and Michael Cohen, from the prosecution’s closing argument:

“He cut him loose like a hot potato.”

Related reading
All OCA metaphor posts (Pinboard)

[I’ve gone with metaphor rather than simile because of “cut him loose.” The line as I have it is as MSNBC and The Guardian reported it. I’ve now also seen “The defendant cut him loose, dropped him like a hot potato” (CNN). It may be that there‘s no there here. But still, I‘d like to see a Glen Baxter illustration of someone cutting a hot potato loose.]

How I write certain of my blog posts

I’m always interested in seeing the materials of writing, so I thought it’d be interesting to show the materials that went into a post about Anne Curzan’s Says Who? A Kinder, Funner Usage Guide for Everyone Who Cares about Words. Why not?

If I’m writing a blog post of any length, particularly a review of a book or a recording, I always start by making notes on paper, more notes than I’ll ever use, but I know that’s the only way to figure out what I will want to use. A pencil or gel pen works best for me; I don’t want the frequent distraction of uncapping and capping a fountain pen (unless I really do). Here I ended up with four pages of notes in a large Moleskine squared notebook, accumulated over four or five days of reading.

[Click either image for a much larger view.]

I go through these notes to find things that I want to use and to figure out how they should go together. That’s where a blue pencil comes in. I then write a very rough draft, always with a fountain pen, always on a legal pad. I never make an outline — I think outlines sometimes produce only the illusion of coherence, but this rough draft functions as a good outline would. It goes idea by idea, with page numbers for things to pull in from the book. My rough drafts tend to trail off as they near their end. You can see that happening on page two. An ending usually doesn’t announce itself until I’m writing.

[Click either image for a much larger view.]

When it’s time to write a real draft, I use a text editor. For this post, which had only minimal details of HTML to attend to, I wrote in BBEdit, dropped the not-finished writing into Blogger, and began to tinker. I asked Elaine to read the draft in Preview, and she had several smart suggestions. I took them all, tinkered some more, tinkered some more, tinkered some more, and posted the review.

Later in the day, at a friend’s suggestion, I removed a comma that I had added when second-guessing myself about a sentence’s readability. No, the sentence was fine without one, just as I had thought. Over the weekend I deleted and restored one word. Better without? No, with. And without realizing it, I had moved (once again) through the roles that Betty Sue Flowers describes in the work of writing: madman, architect, carpenter, judge.

When I taught an undergraduate prose-writing course, I always brought in images of writers’ drafts, many of them far messier than mine. Students always found it instructive to see how much work goes into the work of writing. It rarely, if ever, flows.

[Post title with apologies to Raymond Roussel. The careful reader will notice that the last two words of the rough draft were considerably softened in the finished post.]

The tells

[Click for a larger view.]

I got this message yesterday and for a moment was out of my skin (after jumping). Then I took the time to read. How many tells can you tell?

CEFCU, whatever it is, is real, and has a page about phishing scams.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Wild strawberries

I think I have finally figured out what interests the deer who visit the back of our backyard: Fragaria vesca, or wild strawberries. They’re why the deer appear so choosy as they browse the ground.

No strawberries, as far as we know, for the tiny fawn, who is still nursing.

Memorial Day

[“Decorating a soldier's grave in one of the Negro sections on Memorial day.” Photograph by Esther Bubley. Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. May 1943. From the New York Public Library Digital Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Esther Bubley (1921–1998) was a photojournalist and documentary photographer.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sunday in the park with geese

[After Seurat. Click for a larger view.]

I took the photo on Thursday, and that’s not a park. But those are geese.

I’ll post a tax photograph again next Sunday.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Today’s Saturday Stumper

I found today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper, by Stella Zawistowski, exceedingly difficult, especially in the northeast and southwest. Persevere I did, and got it.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

2-D, four letters, “Verb from the Latin for ‘hound.’ ” Uh, BARK? I never would have imagined the connection.

4-A, four letters, “To-day’s link.” From the northeast but obvious to me.

6-D, nine letters, “Impediment to a college education.” And to much else.

10-D, ten letters, “Whiskered UNICEF children’s ambassador.” In the northeast. I was desparate and looked up a list of UNICEF ambassadors but (fortunately) didn’t find an answer.

12-D, ten letters, “Where the stars come out.” OSCARNIGHT? No, that’s not a place.

16-A, four letters, “Darn it.” RATS? HOLE? From the northeast and far from obvious.

19-A, four letters, “Brand with a Lash Day sale in ’24.” Still in the northeast. I dislike brand-name trivia in crosswords.

20-A, eleven letters, “Got ready for rounds.” I thought must be about golf.

24-A, six letters, “Appeared in twice.” Back to the northeast. The idea of appearing here is foreign to me.

26-A, three letters, “‘Because I’m...’ ” A novel answer, clued smartly.

26-D, ten letters, “Evolutionary fitness enhancement.” From the southwest. I thought it had to be the name of a body part or function.

27-D, ten letters, “Kings’ residence.” Also in the southwest. Notice the apostrophe. I guessed the answer from its first and last letters.

29-A, three letters, “Post-retirement acronymn.” Clever.

51-A, eleven letters, “Converting leads into deals.” I had a hunch here.

My favorite in this puzzle: 45-A, three letters, “Grammy’s British equivalent.” The answer puzzled me, but I knew it had to be right. When I looked up british grammy equivalent after finishing the puzzle, I realized how thoroughly I’d been fooled.

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 24, 2024


“If you want to give people easy access to an AI-free Google search, send them to this page”: &udm=14. And here, from CNET, is a page of instructions for making an AI-free Google search a default in various browsers.

In Safari, it’s not possible to create a custom search. But it’s easy to do so with Alfred or Launch Bar. In Alfred (which is what I know), you can create a custom web search that looks like this:'{query}'&udm=14

I named mine goo.

A font for jokes

From the Hacks episode “The Deborah Vance Christmas Spectacular,” which aired last night on Max. Larry Arbuckle (Christopher Lloyd) has shown his screenplay about his grandfather Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle to Jimmy (Paul W. Downs):

“You like the font?”


“I put the jokes in Comic Sans so you know they’re supposed to be funny.”
And Jimmy, who has reason to like everything about this screenplay, says that sticking to one font is a missed opportunity. The Comic Sans, he says, makes things “voice-y.”

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Recently updated

“Happy Reunion,” four times Tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves again, in a 1971 performance. Great closeups of Duke Ellington and Gonsalves at work.

From Sonny Rollins’s notebooks

From The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins, ed. Sam V.H. Reese (New York Review Books, 2024). Four separate entries, widely separated in time:

Persevere I shall.

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”
— a wise man on living life.

One day in the future people will be saying, “Yes, I once saw Sonny Rollins.”

No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
Related reading
All OCA Sonny Rollins posts (Pinboard)

[This volume might be of limited interest to a non-saxophonist: many, many entries are devoted to practice routines, scales, breathing, fingerings, and embouchure. If nothing else, those entries give a non-saxophonist an idea of how much work goes into producing a sound. Yet another example of why “close enough for jazz” is uninformed nonsense.]

Revised cosmology

It’s cicadas all the way down.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Another Alito flag

From The New York Times (gift link), “Another Provocative Flag Was Flown at Another Alito Home”:

Last summer, two years after an upside-down American flag was flown outside the Virginia home of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., another provocative symbol was displayed at his vacation house in New Jersey, according to interviews and photographs.

This time, it was the “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which, like the inverted U.S. flag, was carried by rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Also known as the Pine Tree flag, it dates back to the Revolutionary War, but largely fell into obscurity until recent years and is now a symbol of support for former President Donald J. Trump, for a religious strand of the “Stop the Steal” campaign and for a push to remake American government in Christian terms.
It is time for him to go. Thomas too.

A review: Anne Curzan, Says Who?

Anne Curzan, Says Who? A Kinder, Funner Usage Guide for Everyone Who Cares about Words (New York: Crown, 2024). $29.

“Everyone who cares about words”: that would include me, and the first thing I had to think about when I sat down to type this review was how to punctuate that title: should a colon follow the question mark? I’ll look it up later.

In thirty-three short chapters, Anne Curzan, a linguist and University of Michigan professor, presents assorted matters of grammar, punctuation, usage, and style, with recommendations, what she calls a “bottom line,” for thinking about each. Again and again I found myself at odds with her perspective. Part of what put me off, wrongly or rightly, is the book's relentless cheeriness: the “kinder, funner ” of the title, the too-frequent use of exclamation points. An example chosen at random: “The apostrophe’s territory is said not to include marking plurals — except for the few cases where it does!”

A larger problem is Curzan’s division of the individual psyche into “grammando” and “wordie.” She borrows “grammando” (such a violent name) from a 2012 New York Times column: “One who constantly corrects others’ linguistic mistakes.” Notice that the grammando is cast only as a listener or reader, a cranky, “judgy” listener or reader who reacts to others’ misuses of language, wanting to shout “Wrong!” or pull out a red pen when a speaker or writer makes a mistake. She seems to forget that someone with a keen attention to language is first of all attentive to getting things right in their own speech and writing and to recognizing the standards appropriate to different forms of discourse.

In contrast to the “grammando,” a “wordie” is “someone who delights in language’s shifting landscape.” The “wordie” too is, at least primarily, a listener and reader, a generous and joyous one willing to accept what the “grammando” would regard as wrong. “Enjoy the humor of a well-placed figurative literal,” Curzan urges. But is the speaker or writer trying to be funny? “Be generous when you see a dangling or misplaced modifier in writing,” Curzan suggests. But if I see one in my own prose, dammit, I’m going to fix it. If someone says they “could care less,” Curzan reminds us that semantic change is “often interesting and fun to learn about.” And we might think of “the reason is because” not as redundancy but as “mirroring,” something “aesthetically pleasing.” As for bumbled apostrophes, “we all mess them up.” Yes, and some of us read our writing carefully and try to catch them, as of course Curzan herself does.

The “inner grammando” this book imagines in its reader must be, like Rick in Casablanca, misformed: advice in Says Who? often takes up questions and prohibitions that no one knowledgeable about language would recognize as genuine: whether ain’t is a word; whether and can begin a sentence; whether none must always be singular; whether a preposition can end a sentence. Advice about these matters at times proceeds from contradictory premises. With the Oxford comma, for instance, Curzan suggests that we might use it when it‘s useful and omit it when it isn’t. But to make singular nouns ending in -s possessive, she suggests always using -’s, because doing so means “fewer decisions to make.” Curzan here and there falls into the tricky “Jane Austen” fallacy, the idea that past usage legitimizes present usage. That Shakespeare wrote “between you and I” doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to do so today. As Curzan herself is always reminding the reader, language changes, so why invoke Shakespeare’s usage as legitimizing ours?

Curzan's attitude toward what she calls standardized English (in other words, the prestige dialect of English, what many would call Standard Written English) is also contradictory. She calls standardized English

the password to jobs and connections with lots of social and economic power. We as speakers, writers, readers, and listeners have the responsibility to decide if and how we want to change that password, which is a key goal of this book.
But one page later Curzan refers to those who understand “the formal, standardized written variety [of English] in the context of all the varieties of English out there” — which would seem to suggest that standardized English is here to stay.

I’d like to see that password made available to all American students, with excellent instruction in reading and writing from the earliest grades, instruction that honors a student’s home language(s) while never discounting the importance of the prestige dialect. As Bryan Garner says of “Standard English,” “without it, you won’t be taken seriously.”

A passage that sums up my quarrel with this book:
I think it is worth asking whether these feelings we harbor about the importance of getting our commas “right” and of getting them “right” in the same way each time are the best use of our time and energies.
Heck, at least one of the best uses.

I do like the footnote that Curzan appends to formal writing to explain her use of singular they :
I am choosing to use singular gender-neutral they in this text. It is the most widely used singular generic pronoun in the spoken language and provides a useful, inclusive, concise solution to the issue in the written language as well.
You may have noticed a singular they of mine in this post.

A related post
Anne Curzan and Bryan Garner on “the reason is because”

[About the book’s title: The copyright page shows a colon after the question mark. But The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed. at 14.96) says, “When a main title ends with a question mark or an exclamation point, no colon is added before any subtitle.” One observation about correcting other people’s language: notice that all OCA “How to improve writing” posts are about professional prose. And I don’t know anyone rude enough to correct speech in everyday life.]

“Mad Hot Cicada Spring”

Elaine wrote a short piece for piccolo and violin, “Mad Hot Cicada Spring.” Follow the link for the music and a MIDI file.

Inside info: This piece has a notated bit of birdsong from our backyard (played by the piccolo) that no birder of our acquaintance has been able to identify. I’m mentioning it just in case someone out there might recognize it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

I’m always slightly amazed at the way women in older movies appear to time-travel when their hair is wet. They lose their 1930s- or ’40s-ness and suddenly show up in the world of tomorrow. As is the case here, at least to my eyes.

Leave your guesses in the comments. I’m heading out to walk before it gets too hot and will drop a hint later if one is needed. Will one be needed? I really can’t tell.


Noon: I’ll drop a hint. This actor has something in common with a Spice Girl.


1:24 p.m.: Oh well. I put the answer in the comments.

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

[Garner’s Modern English Usage notes that “support for actress seems to be eroding.” So I use actor.]

Planet of the monkey house

In Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, a Kurt Vonnegut book is visible on a table in what appears to be the residence of a human serving the apes. We know it’s a Vonnegut book: the human (Bill Macy) says “Vonnegut.” The cover isn’t readable, but it’s easy to guess what that book must be: Welcome to the Monkey House (1968).

The cover looks something like this.

Related reading
A handful of Kurt Vonnegut posts (Pinboard)

[Four sentences about this movie will arrive in the near far future. There are many movies ahead of it in the queue. Here I’ll say that Kingdom is visually stunning, kinda incoherent, far too long, and screaming sequel as it ends. Visually stunning makes it worth seeing.]

Monday, May 20, 2024

Mary Miller, shilling

East-central Illinois’s Mary Miller (IL-15) was one of the faithful yelling outside the courthouse today.

And someone in the crowd yelled back: “You’re shilling for a rapist!”

Related reading
All OCA Mary Miller posts (Pinboard)

EXchange names fill the screen

[From Larceny (dir. George Sherman, 1948). Click for a much larger view.]

American primitive realism: the page fills the screen. Otherwise, you might not believe that someone is really looking at a telephone directory.

The page is a slapdash creation (“aYtes”), but CHina and UNderhill were authentic Los Angeles County exchange names.

Related reading
All OCA EXchange name posts (Pinboard)

Twelve movies

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

Larceny (dir. George Sherman, 1948). Before watching, I promised: no Dan Duryea imitations. Here he’s Silky (lol!), a criminal schemer who devises a con by means of which his better-looking compatriot Rick (John Payne) can scam demure war-widow Deb (Joan Caulfield) for all she’s got. Also on hand: Shelley Winters as Silky’s’s two-timing girlfriend Tory, and Percy Helton providing comic relief as the manager of a YMCA-style residence. A solid and, as far as I can tell, little-known noir. ★★★ (YT)

[I performed no imitations. But I can hear my inner Duryea now: “How ’bout it, baby? Did I keep my word?”]


The Zone of Interest (dir. Jonathan Glazer, 2023). The zone is the Interessengebeit, the area around Auschwitz reserved for SS use, where we meet camp commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), their children, friends, and servants. The film depicts the Hösses’ daily life in a shiny modern house where Hedwig would like to live forever, separated from the camp by nothing more than a wall topped with barbed wire: thus the incongruity of idyllic scenes of gardening and children’s games as gunshots and screams fill the air and smoke rises from crematoria chimneys in the background. Call it the banality of evil, with a table of well-dressed men going over plans for a new kind of crematorium, and Höss as a mid-level white-collar worker explaining to his wife why the higher-ups want to transfer him. In its oblique narrative strategies and startling soundtrack, The Zone of Interest is an impressive film, and its depiction of the banality of evil speaks to our time in countless ways. ★★★★ (M)


Violence (dir. Jack Bernhard, 1947). Eddie Muller apologized for this movie when introducing it, and it’s not a distinguished effort. But its post-WWII story is eerily of our time: a difficult economy, a shortage of affordable housing, people who feel they’ve been left behind, and a populist demagogue, True Dawson (Emory Parnell), leader of the United Defenders, channeling the anger of veterans into mob violence while accruing money and power for himself. The noir comes in via Ann Mason (Nancy Coleman), a journalist with a Life-like magazine who infiltrates the Defenders while fending off the advances of organization higher-up Fred Stalk (Sheldon Leonard). When Ann awakens after a car crash and finds a faux-fiancé (Michael O’Shea) pumping her for information, will she remember who she is, or whom she’s pretending to be? ★★ (TCM)


A Place among the Dead (dir. Juliet Landau, 2020). A horror movie of sorts, directed by and starring the actor who played Drusilla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Juliet Landau is the daughter of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, and the movie she’s made is an allegory in which her character hunts a serial killer/vampire who is a stand-in for the narcissistic mother and father (shown in family photographs) who have destroyed her spirit. Lots of Blair Witch Project atmosphere, with overwrought acting from Landau and brief comments on the nature of evil from Anne Rice, Joss Whedon, and others. Don’t believe the improbable string of ten-star write-ups at IMDb; this movie has an interesting premise but ends up a mess. ★ (T)


Anatomy of a Fall (dir. Justine Triet, 2023). A strange death — a writer/husband lying in the snow, with a wound on the side of his head — is the ostensible mystery in this drama: did he fall from the top floor or balcony of the family’s chalet, or was he pushed? The movie becomes an anatomy of a marriage and a family, with two writers (Sandra Hüller, Samuel Theis), their son (Milo Machado-Graner), and recriminations and secrets galore. My strong misgiving about the movie is that the explanation of the husband’s death, if we’re meant to accept it, seems to stand independent of what would typically count as evidence: fingerprints? footprints? traces of blood in the chalet? a weapon? Best scene: the long argument. ★★★ (YT)


Fallen Leaves (dir. Aki Kaurismäki, 2023). Ansa (Alma Pöysti) and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) move from job to job, begin an inarticulate courtship, lose touch, and — somehow — manage to cross paths again and again. Strong overtones of Brief Encounter (there’s a poster for it outside the theater where they see The Dead Don’t Die) and Next Stop Wonderland, with copious vodka (Holappa has a problem), all kinds of karaoke, and a sweet dog named Chaplin. And throughout the story: radio updates on Russia’s war against Ukraine. Most poignant scene: Ansa buys a (second) fork, knife, and plate in preparation for her dinner date. ★★★★ (V)


Deep Waters (dir. Henry King, 1948). Life in a Maine fishing village, with all outdoor scenes shot on location. Dana Andrews is lobsterman Hod Stillwell; Jean Peters is social worker Ann Freeman, Hod’s former fiancée, now looking out for the welfare of Donny Mitchell (Dean Stockwell), an orphan whose father and uncle died at sea. You can probably see where the story is headed, and it’s a good story, warmhearted, unpretentious, perhaps even New England neorealist. With Ed Begley, Ann Revere, and Cesar Romero. ★★★★ (YT)


From the Criterion Channel feature 1950: Peak Noir

Born to Kill (dir. Robert Wise, 1947). Lawrence Tierney is Sam Wild, a paranoid, murderous opportunist; Claire Trevor is Helen Brent, the heiress who finds him irresistible: “You’re strength, excitement, and depravity!” One of the loonier noirs, with Wild romancing both Brent and her foster sister Georgia (Audrey Long). all as Wild’s sidekick and domestic companion of five years, Marty Waterman (Elisha Cook Jr.), stands by his man. Esther Howard steals the movie as a fading alcoholic determined to do right by a dead friend. Marty gets the best line: “You can’t just go around killin’ people whenever the notion strikes you — it’s not feasible.” ★★★★

The House on Telegraph Hill (dir. Robert Wise, 1951). A Bergen-Belsen survivor (Valentina Cortese) takes a dead friend’s identity and steps into what promises to be a life of ease in San Francisco. Of course it’s anything but, because her marriage to her friend’s young son’s guardian (Richard Basehart) is complicated by the presence of a cold governess (Fay Baker) and a house full of danger and mystery. The movie is Gothic noir of a high order, with an air of dread hanging over even a game of catch. Best scene: the juice, with a nod to Hitchcock’s Suspicion. ★★★★


From MGM’s Crime Does Not Pay series

Patrolling the Ether (dir. Paul Branford, 1944). Social media and its dangers, WWII-style. A man from the Radio Intelligence Division of the Federal Communications Commission (“an FBI of the airwaves”) asks a teenaged ham-radio operator to keep “cruising the spectrum” for anything suspicious. Together they trace a radio signal to a graveyard. The most interest thing about this short might be the convincing transformation from teenager to grown man via a fedora and pinstripes. ★★ (TCM)


A Raisin in the Sun (dir. Daniel Petrie, 1961) / A Raisin in the Sun (dir. Kenny Leon, 2008). Familial harmony and conflict, with a three-generation Black family, long-awaited money from a life-insurance payout, and the dream of leaving a South Side Chicago tenement for a house of one’s own. We watched these two adaptations of Lorraine Hansberry’s play on consecutive nights, and there’s no contest. The earlier adaptation has the principals from the Broadway production, with Claudia McNeil as Lena Younger (the matriarch) and Ruby Dee as Ruth Younger (daughter-in-law) far more persuasive than Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald. John Fiedler makes a far better representative of the white property-owners’ group than the ludicrously miscast John Stamos. And as Walter Lee Younger, Lena’s son, Sidney Poitier is a tightly wound, frustrated grown man; Sean Combs seems a laughably truculent youth by comparison. Two more points in favor of 1961: black-and-white cinematography, and a score by Laurence Rosenthal that evokes (at least for me) Porgy and Bess. Color cinematography and treacly music give the 2008 version at times the feel of a Hallmark movie. But I’d like to time-travel 2008’s Sanaa Lathan back into 1961: she brings a lively, caustic wit to the role of Beneatha Younger than Diana Sands seems to lack. ★★★★ (DVD) / ★★★ (TCM)

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

Sunday, May 19, 2024


[1646 Madison Avenue, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Still on Madison Avenue in East Harlem. I like this photograph because it captures one way people used to do the marketing: with their own two arms carrying a bag of groceries. The Platonic ideal of that bag (paper not plastic) has a head of celery sticking out of one corner. And, of course, I like this photograph because the shopper has turned around to smile, and the photographer didn’t shoo her away.

The other way of doing the marketing: an old-fashioned two-wheeled cart, pushed or pulled. A car? Who needs a car? There’d be one or more small grocery stores just a block or two away.

The buildings on the 1646 (west) side of the block of the block are almost all still standing.

Related reading
More photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives (Pinboard) : Needed: a groceries emoji

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Someone wrote a letter

In the second episode of the Shrinking Trump podcast, someone suggests that this passage from a May 15 interview with Hugh Hewitt should be shared widely as evidence that Donald Trump cannot formulate ideas cognitively. You can find the passage here or here (beginning at 16:47). I made my own transcription.

Hewitt: When you became friends with Nixon in New York, did you ever talk presidential politics, how he ended up resigning, how he won so big in ’72? Did you ever discuss it with him?

Trump: His life to me was very sad. Uh, It was a very sad life. You know, uh, I got to know him, really, more when he was out. He watched me on the, his wife watched me on the, uh, on the Phil Donahue show, and she wrote a letter, which I have. She wrote a letter, which she gave to me, uh, saying that, uh, he wrote me a letter saying that my wife, Pat, who he really loved, by the way, really loved, but that, he sort of had very few friends, you know, she was his friend. But, uh, he wrote a letter, my wife Pat said that someday, if you wanted to be, you’ll be president of the United States. It’s become somewhat of a famous letter. It’s from him explaining she watched me on the Phil Donahue show. Remember that one?

Hewitt: Oh, I know the story well, and it’s absolutely true.

Trump: Yeah.

Hewitt: But let me ask you about this.

Trump: It was very cute.
And in case you lost sight of the question:
When you became friends with Nixon in New York, did you ever talk presidential politics, how he ended up resigning, how he won so big in ’72? Did you ever discuss it with him?
[My transcription.]

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Ben Zimmer, whose last Stumper proved exceedingly difficult for me. So too this one, but this one sparked more joy. Lots of clues I thought I would never be able to answer: for instance, 17-A, nine letters, “What NASA’s eHEALTH ONE device emulates.” But answer I did.

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

5-D, six letters, “Summit.” Oof.

6-D, five letters, “Up-and-down address.” Nice.

8-D, nine letters, “Cutting-edge technology.” Somehow I’ve been familiar with the idea from childhood, so the technology might not be that cutting-edge.

9-D, seven letters, “Prizes for Wimbledon women’s champs.” If you say so.

10-D, six letters, “Beef also a beef cut?” The kind of clue whose answer I don’t understand for some time after I’ve written it in.

13-D, three letters, “Bosox great.” We were talking about him just the other day. His name and face were once on packages of Arnold bread.

14-A, nine letters, “Offer for privacy.” Another clue that left me ATSEA, at first.

19-A, fourteen letters, “Deep pan.” At least the answer couldn’t be STEWPOT.

20-D, five letters, “Aged beef?” Clever though it’s meant to be, I think this clue strains the meaning of the answer, which is not in any obvious way a beef.

26-D, five letters, “Up-and-down flights.” Clever.

34-D, eight letters, “Combat with light artillery.” I was not fooled.

35-A, three letters, “House support.” I was fooled, briefly.

38-A, letters, “Upper levels of a sort.” A novel answer, at least for me.

41-A, five letters, “Where gumbo comes from.” I like gumbo and think I should have known this. Now I do.

43-A, fourteen letters, “Cease suddenly.” An instance of subtle misdirection, or else I just misread it. To my ear it suggests an activity outside oneself, like the noise of cicadas, which, alas, isn’t going to cease suddenly or any other -ly any time soon.

My favorite in this puzzle: 53-A, three letters, “Antique letter opener.” Somewhere John Kennedy Toole might be smiling.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 17, 2024

What is a “bottle episode”?

I asked those who would know if there’s a name for a television episode with two characters stuck in, say, an elevator or a basement, talking about whatever until they get free. There is, and Merriam-Webster has it: “bottle episode” : “an inexpensively produced episode of a television series that is typically confined to one setting.”

What prompted my question: the “One Day” episode of Hacks, which aired last night. It’s mostly Ava and Deborah alone, in one setting, but it’s a big one, a forest full of trails, and it must have been expensive to shoot. A recap of the episode describes it as “a Pine Barrens moment,” referencing the Sopranos episode in which Christopher and Paulie are lost in the New Jersey woods.

I made a guess as to the origin of “bottle episode”: “Two’s a Crowd,” the 1978 All in the Family episode in which Archie and Mike, locked in the bar’s storeroom, talk and drink. What a great origin story! But no. Though Star Trek is often cited as the source, Merriam-Webster credits Leslie Stevens, who produced the series The Outer Limits. M-W cites a history of the series that recounts how Stevens once put together an episode in four and a half days: “Stevens dubbed this last-minute lifesaving technique the ’bottle show’ — as in pulling an episode right out of a bottle like a genie.”

TV Tropes and Wikipedia list many bottle episodes.

Desert Island Discs : Keith Richards

From BBC Radio 4: the 2015 Keith Richards episode of Desert Island Discs, available for a limited time. I’m surprised that Keith didn’t choose something by Robert Johnson.

Related reading
Album covers from Keith Richards’ record collection

Thursday, May 16, 2024

John McWhorter’s apostrophes

John McWhorter has a new piece at The New York Times (gift link): “Lets Chill Out About Apostrophes.” Do you see what he did there?

McWhorter argues that most apostrophes do nothing to make meaning clearer. And that using them is tricky. And that Chaucer did fine without them. And: “I’m not suggesting we eliminate the apostrophe, but I would rather retain it for cases where there is a genuine possibility of ambiguity.” I can’t imagine having that question hang over every apostrophe. Writings difficult enough already.

Do you see what I did there?

I left a comment, beginning with McWhorter’s words:

“Their deployment is governed by some rather fine rules — is it ‘my uncle’s book’ or ‘my uncles’ book’? ‘It’s’ or ‘it’s’? — that take a bit of effort to master”: Are these rules really so fine? Are they really that difficult to master? Yes, language evolves, and we (unlike Chaucer) use apostrophes. When they’re needed and missing, their absence can be conspicuous. Getting them right can be one way of getting a reader to pay attention to what you’re saying, sans distraction.
I do agree with McWhorter on one point: no one should look down on someone who misuses or doesn’t use the apostrophe. But if McWhorter really wants to eliminate most apostrophes, he had better seek alternative publishers, no?

Related reading
All OCA apostrophe posts (Pinboard) : McWhorter on subject and object pronouns (Him and me disagree) : A page-ninety test

Weevil- and hyphen-free

[3 1/2″ × 1 1/2″. Click for a larger view.]

I found one of these slips in 2019, nestled amid (where else?) the sweet potatoes in Aldi. I found another earlier this week, sporting a new seal, the signature of a section manager instead of a director, and “Plant Industries Division,” plural. But the slip remains hyphen-free.

More about hyphens
Bad hyphens, unhelpful abbreviations : “Every generation hyphenates the way it wants to” : “Fellow-billionaires” : Got hyphens? : The Hammacher Schlemmer crazy making hyphen shortage problem : Living on hyphens : Mr. Hyphen and e-mail : Mr. Hyphen and Mr. Faulkner : One more from Mr. Hyphen : The opposite of user-friendly : Phrasal-adjective punctuation

[Lest you think I’m Mr. Hyphen: he’s the title character in Edward N. Teall’s Meet Mr. Hyphen (And Put Him in His Place) (1937).]

Perhaps the best words I’ll read today

“MOUSE CAUGHT”: on the side of a Tomcat Kill & Contain Mouse Trap. I had to weigh our two traps on a postal scale to make sure that one held a mouse.

A post with a mouse in it

[In the thirty-three years we’ve lived in our house we’ve had four mice, one at a time, two killed, two found and released.]

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Shrinking Trump

Cognitive decline + personality disorder = Shrinking Trump, a new podcast, available from the usual purveyors. Drs. John Gartner and Harry Segal plan to chart, week by week, the declining wellness of the presumptive Republican nominee. Highly recommended.

I have one criticism: too much laughter. It’s possible, sometimes, to see moments in a loved one’s decline with a stoic sense of humor. But with a country and a world in the balance, there’s nothing funny about Donald Trump’s decline. Turning his gaffes and rants into comedy (as on late-night television) helps to make it all seem acceptable.

What John said

“ ‘I Dig a Pygmy,’ by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids”: after all these years, I discovered by chance who Charles Hawtrey was. John says his name in the bit that precedes the Beatles song “Two of Us.”

Related reading
All OCA Beatles posts (Pinboard)

[“Deaf aid”: British for “hearing aid,” and supposedly the Beatle name for an amp.]

Handwriting vs. typing

Old news by now, I’d say, but still news: “Why writing by hand beats typing for thinking and learning” (NPR):

Both handwriting and typing involve moving our hands and fingers to create words on a page. But handwriting, it turns out, requires a lot more fine-tuned coordination between the motor and visual systems. This seems to more deeply engage the brain in ways that support learning.
Related reading
All OCA handwriting posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, May 14, 2024


NBC Nightly News: it’s galling to hear Laura Jarrett call Michael Cohen “Cohen” and call Donald Trump “Mister Trump,” every damn time. Too much deference.

Alice Munro (1931-2024)

The writer Alice Munro has died at the age of ninety-two. From the New York Times obituary, about Munro’s response to an interviewer about being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature:

Still groggy when interviewed by the CBC, Ms. Munro admitted that she’d forgotten that the prize was to be awarded that day, calling it “a splendid thing to happen,” adding, “more than I can say.”

Struggling to control her emotions, she reflected on her success and what it might mean for literature. “My stories have gotten around quite remarkably for short stories,” she told the interviewer. “I would really hope that this would make people see the short story as an important art, not something you play around with until you got a novel written.”
Related reading
All OCA Alice Munro posts (Pinboard)

Redbud and sky

[Click for larger leaves.]

The solar storm gave us a sky dark as night. Because it was night, and night is dark, even when seen via cameras, which are said to pick up more light. Our cameras picked up more dark. O dark dark dark, as the poet said.

Much more attractive is the sky seen through the leaves of our redbud tree.

Paul Berman on slogans

Paul Berman was a key figure in anti-war protests at Columbia University in 1968. He recalls chanting, “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, the NLF is going to win!” Here he comments on slogans in use in contemporary protests. From an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Those slogans are horrifying. People will say that the chants are calls for the human rights of Palestinians. And people will say that in chanting those slogans that’s what they mean. But this is an example of bad faith.

Bad faith is when you don’t like the truth so you lie about it. Then you lie about having lied about it. You might even convince yourself that in lying about lying you’re not lying. That’s bad faith. It’s a twisted consciousness. We’re seeing a mass movement for a twisted consciousness.

The real meaning of the “river to the sea” is that the state of Israel should not exist, that 50 percent of the world’s population of Jews should be rendered stateless. And the real meaning of “globalize the intifada” is that there should be a globalization of the events that introduced the word “intifada” to the world, namely the intifada of circa 2001, which was a mass movement to commit random acts of murderous terror. But people don’t want to acknowledge that. They get red in the face denying that’s the case. But they can’t explain why the students want to chant these things. The students want to chant these things, of course, because these slogans are transgressive. But no one wants to say what the transgression is because it’s too horrible. So we’re having a mass euphemism event: Horrible things are being advocated by people who deny that they’re advocating it.
Berman blames professors, not students. An opinion piece published in The Washington Post explains why.

Here, also from the Chronicle, is an article about a course at Johns Hopkins that moves beyond sloganeering: “Yes, Students Can Have a Reasoned Debate about Israel–Hamas.”

Related posts
Current events : A “Day of Resistance” toolkit : Nihilism in disguise

Bud’s Eraser Shop

A Far Side production.

Related reading
All OCA eraser posts (Pinboard)

Monday, May 13, 2024

Witness for the prosecution

[As seen on MSNBC earlier today.]

I did not expect to see Fred Rogers testify as a witness for the prosecution in Donald Trump’s hush money campaign-finance violation trial today.

[That courtroom sketch is of course meant to depict Michael Cohen. Other eyes in the fambly see Neil Gorsuch and a fambly friend.]

FSRC: annual report

The Four Seasons Reading Club, our household’s two-person adventure in reading, has finished its ninth year. The club began after I retired from teaching, so the year runs from May to May. Here’s what Elaine and I have read, in alphabetical order by writer, and chronological order by work:

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood

Italo Calvino, Marcovaldo, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Invisible Cities, If on a winter’s night a traveler, Mr. Palomar

Anton Chekhov, The Prank: The Best of Young Chekhov

E.T.A. Hoffman, The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

Helen Keller, The World I Live In

Katherine Mansfield, Stories

Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories, We Others: New and Selected Stories, Voices in the Night, Disruptions

Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

Jean Stafford, Boston Adventure, The Mountain Lion, Collected Short Stories

Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Children

United States of America v. Donald Trump (the Jack Smith indictment)

Thanks to the translators who brought several of these works to us: Anthea Bell, Maria Bloshteyn, Dmitri Nabokov, Vladimir Nabokov, Maya Slater, Nicolas Pasternak Slater, and William Weaver.

The FSRC is forging ahead with Chekhov’s Peasants and Other Stories (trans. Constance Garnett).

Here are the reports for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Reading or not in college

The Chronicle of Higher Education asks, “Is This the End of Reading?” Reading in college, that is. An excerpt:

Academics across the country are talking about the reading problems they are seeing among traditional-age students. Many, they say, don’t see the point in doing much work outside of class. Some struggle with reading endurance and weak vocabulary. A lack of faith in their own academic abilities leads some students to freeze and avoid doing the work altogether.

And a significant number of those who do the work seem unable to analyze complex or lengthy texts. Their limited experience with reading also means they don’t have the context to understand certain arguments or points of view.
The limited ability of many students to read and write about complex or lengthy texts is a sad and still largely unacknowledged fact of college life. I’ll quote myself, looking backwards as a retired professor of English:
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. And 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 most revealing bit in the Chronicle article: the story of an academic who wrote in 2019 about her decision to require less reading, because less is (somehow) more. How did that work out? As time went on, she found her students still struggling, or not doing the reading at all:
She has long followed the mantra “meet your students where they are.” But she says if she meets them any further down, she’ll feel like a cruise director organizing games of shuffleboard.
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All OCA reading in college posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Car trouble, continued

[1694 Madison Avenue, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

Last Sunday we had car trouble on Madison Avenue. I found a second photograph with the same trouble, seen from the other side of the avenue. The numbers that go with the photographs show this one, ending in 0017, coming first. (The other ends in 0022.) Thus we can imagine an adult or two looking on before walking away, leaving a man to struggle as two boys (his boys?) watch.

The buildings in this photograph, like the ones on the other side of the avenue, are now gone.

[Click either image for a larger view.]

In yet another tax photograph, the Wonder Bread truck makes a return appearance. (Thanks, Brian.)

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

Mother’s Day

[“Mother’s Day is the second busiest day of the year for Long Distance calling.” Life, May 12, 1967. Click for a larger view.]

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Trump punctuation

“ ‘It is my understanding that he liked to use the Oxford comma,’ she added.”

Which just made using that comma feel a little stupid.

Related reading
All OCA comma posts (Pinboard) : How to punctuate a sentence

David Shapiro (1947–2024)

The poet David Shapiro has died at the age of seventy-seven. The New York Times (gift link) has an obituary.

I met David by telephone in 1995. I had written a review of his After a Lost Original, and he (somehow) looked me up and called me at home one night to thank me. That was maybe an hour-long, wildly exhilarating call, with me listening to a rapid-fire discourse of endless quotation and reference and putting in an occasional comment. Lucy Sante’s description of David’s talking (in the Times obituary) is exactly right.

I met David in person in 2002 at the Museum of American Folk Art, where he was introducing a reading by John Ashbery and A.N. Homes (an event tied to an enormous Henry Darger exhibit). David introduced me to his wife Lindsay like so: “He’s a poet, journalist, professor, and bon vivant. He has a wife and two kids.” How did he know that I have two kids? I have no idea.

Here are a handful of lines from “The Foot Speaks,” in New and Selected Poems (1965–2006):

Quoth the raven: I am language.
I am language,
And nothing in language is strange, to me.

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday  Saturday Stumper is by Matthew Sewell. I started with 6-D, six letters, “Microcomputer Woz admired” and 23-A, seven letters, “James Stewart’s whistleblower,” and for a moment I thought that this puzzle and I were on the same wavelength. Not quite. I worked on it (the puzzle, not the wavelength) some more, quit, went out to dinner with Elaine (pad ped and pad Thai, spicy no. 3), came back, took another swing, and everything fell into place. Spicy no. 3 FTW!

Some clue-and-answer pairs of note:

4-D, eleven letters, “Underscore?” Nicely colloquial.

8-D, three letters, “Cell progenitor.” Is this biology?

24-D, eleven letters, “Beyond beautiful.” A hilarious answer.

30-D, six letters, “Works.” I did not see this answer coming, not even after having its first letter.

32A, fifteen letters, “Fully exploit.” This clue fully exploits the fifteen columns of the puzzle.

35-D, eight letters, “Finish line.” Ha.

40-A, three letters, “Follow a stat.” Good grief.

41-A, eight letters, “Capsule contents.” My first smarty-pants guess was EPHEMERA. I was thinking of a time capsule.

43-D, five letters, “Above and below.” Sneaky, Stumper-y, and I’m happy that I caught on.

49-A, eight letters, “Where low-fat meat comes from.” A strange, surprising anwer.

54-A, nine letters, “Weblog with an Eyre Apparent exhibit post.” Excuse me: “weblog”? And said weblog hasn’t been updated since 2009. There are better ways to clue this answer.

My favorite in this puzzle: 8-D, eight letters, “Advice column.”

No spoilers; the answers are in the comments.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Another try at a Pinboard bookmarklet

I asked ChatGPT to write a bookmarklet that would add a URL to Pinboard and paste in text copied from the clipboard as a description. Here’s what I got:

javascript:(function(){ var url = encodeURIComponent(window.location.href); var title = document.title.replace(/^.*?-/, '').trim(); var description = prompt('Enter description (Ctrl+V to paste from clipboard):'); if (!description) { return; } description = encodeURIComponent(description.trim()); var pinboardURL = '' + url + '&title=' + title + '&description=' + description;, '_blank'); })();
I know — huh? But it works. It doesn’t do exactly what I’d like it to do: I cannot add a blog post’s URL to Pinboard without having my blog’s name show up as part of the post title, so I just delete the prefatory Orange Crate Art. (I’m not sure it‘s even possible to remove the blog name automatically.) Two advantages of this bookmarklet: it allows text from the clipboard to be pasted in as a description, and it shows existing tags when I begin typing a tag name. For those reasons, this bookmarklet beats other bookmarklets and a Safari extension that I’ve tried.

[It works!]

With Alfred workflows and, now, a bookmarklet, ChatGPT does what I’d never be able to do on my own.

A related post
Adding links to Pinboard

“Decline by 9”

In “Not Lost in a Book” (Slate ), Dan Kois writes about a decline in children’s reading:

It’s called the “Decline by 9,” and it’s reaching a crisis point for publishers and educators. According to research by the children’s publishers Scholastic, at age 8, 57 percent of kids say they read books for fun most days; at age 9, only 35 percent do. This trend started before the pandemic, experts say, but the pandemic accelerated things. “I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how disruptive the pandemic was on middle grade readers,” one industry analyst told Publishers Weekly. And everyone I talked to agreed that the sudden drop-off in reading for fun is happening at a crucial age — the very age when, according to publishing lore, lifetime readers are made.
Kois describes the causes as numerous: screen time, lack of screens (no marketing via BookTok), a decline in word-of-mouth reading recommendations during the pandemic, test-focused teaching with an emphasis on excerpts not books, and the defunding of libraries.

Related reading
All OCA reading posts (Pinboard)

NYRB Nancy

You know the end times are upon us when New York Review Books puts out a Nancy collection: Nancy and Sluggo’s Guide to Life: Comics about Money, Food, and Other Essentials. It’s on sale now at NYRB, 25% off.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, May 9, 2024


[Click for a larger view.]

The first one we’ve seen, on a walk this morning. I hope it got across the street.

A related post
Cicadas, prime numbers, and the Great Confluence of 1998

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

That’s Johnny Roventini (“Call for Philip Morris”) in the background, above a display of upside-down Chesterfield packs. But who’s in the foreground?

I’ll drop a hint if one is needed, and brother, one is gonna be needed. (I’m typing like the 1940s.)


A hint might help: In this movie, she’s a long way from Salzburg.


Noon: I think this one’s ungettable. You’re still welcome to play, but I’ve put the answer in the comments.

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

[Garner’s Modern English Usage notes that “support for actress seems to be eroding.” So I use actor.]