Thursday, July 20, 2017

Oil and reading habits

Last Thursday, I felt fairly confident that Elaine and I were the only people in the world reading Sir Thomas Browne’s The Garden of Cyrus while waiting for an oil change. This Thursday, I felt extremely confident that I was the only person in the world reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees while waiting for an oil-access cover to be fastened properly in place after a recent oil change. We saw the cover hanging down underneath the car this morning.

And I feel totally confident that I am the only person who read The Garden of Cyrus while waiting for an oil change who then read The Hidden Life of Trees while waiting for an oil-access cover to be fastened properly in place after that oil change.

To and too

Speaking of bad copyediting:

[From a landscaper’s flyer, found on the handle of our storm door.]

One of my earliest posts to Orange Crate Art was about a handyman’s flyer that my dad saved for me. It read “No job to small.” But this landscaper’s flyer, with its attention to capitalization and type size, and its subtle distinction between to and too, beats all. To much!

[In September 2004, Google had 5,950 results for “no job to small” and 34,900 for “no job too small.” Today, it’s 676,000 for to, and 593,000 for too. But it appears that results for too are included with those for to. Google’s Ngram Viewer has no results for no job to small in American English between 1800 and 2008. The Ngram shows “no job too small” spiking in popularity between 1915 and 1922. Why?]

”There’s no excuse
for bad copyediting”

[Dustin, July 19, 2017.]

Fitch’s L, for loser, is backward. Good call, Dustin.

See also this strip’s treatment of phrasal adjectives and “rocket surgery.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More Vivian Maier

From the Chicago Tribune: “Almost 500 never-before-shown Vivian Maier prints have found a new home at the University of Chicago Library, the university announced Wednesday.”

A slideshow of fourteen photographs accompanies the Tribune article.

A related post
Henry Darger and Vivian Maier

Against “Jane”

The novelist Howard Jacobson, on why readers should not refer to Jane Austen as “Jane”:

[I]t is more than an impertinence; it is singularly cloth-eared, considering the precise forms that address takes in Jane Austen’s work. It isn’t only manners that are at stake when one person trespasses on another’s privacy and distance, it’s morality.

In novel after novel, we see how disregard for the niceties of respect will lead to what is described in Mansfield Park as “too horrible a confusion of guilt, too gross a complication of evil.” Outside the barriers that ceremony erects, “barbarism” lies in wait.

And if that sounds altogether too prim and unforgiving a view of human society, then you haven’t read Jane Austen.
See also: museum docents who talk about “Emily.”

Watch-band calendar

A message from the dowdy world arrived in our mailbox: a Myles Kimball catalogue. I was immediately drawn to its watch-band calendar. Because how else will you plan ahead? From the catalogue description:

Always have a calendar handy. Oval brushed-metal watchband calendars wrap easily around your watchband. Reversible: gold-tone on one side, silver-tone on the other, so watchband calendar plates will match most watches. 12 plates in a handy storage pouch. 5/8" x 1 1/2". Fit bands 5/8" to 1" wide.
Not just twelve plates and two tones, but also a handy storage pouch. I daresay that this item out-dowdies anything sold by the Vermont Country Store.

Desk, Kafkaesque

In Karl Rossmann’s room is “an American writing desk of the very finest sort”:

Franz Kafka, Amerika (The Man Who Disappered), trans. from the German by Michael Hoffman (New York: New Directions, 2002).

Another Kafka post
Cabbing with Kafka

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

“It’s getting kind of crowded in here”

As the head count at Trump Tower rises, I am reminded of a great moment in film.

[A Night at the Opera (dir. Sam Wood, 1935).]

Another modest proposal

About that job listing: Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association, calls it “pure exploitation.” What she proposes: “Double the salary and limit the working hours to 25 per week or pay pro rata for the additional hours necessary to do the job.”

I have another proposal: ban departments that engage in such exploitation from listing jobs (any jobs) in the MLA Job Information List and from interviewing at the MLA convention. If the MLA can establish an Academic Workforce Data Center, and if The Chronicle of Higher Education can establish a salary database, it is certainly possible to make use of such data (and other data) in the interest of, as they say, best practices.

The person who now holds the position advertised in the now-infamous listing has significant accomplishments: a research fellowship, a teaching award, eight articles published or to appear, a book to appear. Perhaps he’s moving on to better things. But academia is not.

A related post
Modest proposals to improve academia

[The now-infamous listing does not appear in the JIL.]

A job listing

A job listing from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Further commentary and response here. It feels like the future, and not just for Illinois.

Thanks to Diane Schirf for passing on the news.

A farewell to arm

[Hi and Lois, July 18, 2017. Click for a larger view.]

Forget that Irma looks a lot like Hi. Other women in the strip have looked a lot like Hi. It’s Irma’s arm I see, or what’s missing of it.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Crusty diction

Donald Trump today described John McCain as “a crusty voice in Washington.” And just today Charles Blow was writing about Trump’s diction.

Photobucket fail


In the late aughts, I began to upload images to Photobucket for use on Orange Crate Art. I recall some sort of problem back then with images uploaded directly to Blogger. When Blogger began working properly again, I forgot all about Photobucket — until yesterday, when I noticed the above image taking the place of a photograph in an old post. And thus I learned about recent doings at Photobucket. Long story short: in late June, Photobucket changed its terms of service. This change came without warning to the service’s users. Third-party hosting (or “3rd Party Hosting,” as Photobucket calls it) now requires that a user sign up for a plan that costs $399.99 a year. In other words, if you’ve uploaded images to Photobucket, embedded them elsewhere, and want the images to keep showing up where they’ve always showed up, it’ll cost you — a lot.

Or it won’t. Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple of hours uploading missing images to Blogger, sixty-odd images in all. Some of the posts that lost their images are still (surprisingly) popular. No matter: things should be right, even if a post never gets read again. When I was done, I deleted my Photobucket account. Good riddance. But if I’d made greater use of Photobucket, I’d really be in the soup now. Just look at what Twitter has to say about #photobucket.

On top of the preposterous “$399.99,” the meter in that placeholder picture is an extra dab of stupid. Have my sixty-odd images really exceeded some measurable limit for “3rd Party Hosting Usage”? Only if the limit for usage is any.

[From the Photobucket website: “Photobucket defines 3rd party hosting as the action of embedding an image or photo onto another website. For example, using the <img> tag to embed or display a JPEG image from your Photobucket account on another website such as a forum, auction listing, blog, etc. is definitively 3rd party hosting.” “Definitively”? Who writes this stuff?]

Disable autoplay videos in Safari

Here’s what works for me:

In Terminal (with Safari closed), type (as one line)

defaults write IncludeInternalDebugMenu 1
Open Safari, go to the Debug menu, and choose Video Needs User Action. That prevents the endlessly proliferating videos on news sites and elsewhere from playing on their own. The only downside: it’s now necessary to click twice to play a video.

If you would like to hide the Debug menu: quit Safari, and in Terminal, type (as one line)
defaults write IncludeInternalDebugMenu 0
I found this fix (along with what might be less satisfactory Safari fixes) in a post at Kirk McElhearn’s Kirkville. The post also has (much easier) fixes to disable autoplay in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

[Note: the Terminal commands include a space after High Sierra, the forthcoming version of macOS, is said to make it much easier to disable autoplay in Safari.]

Martin Landau (1928–2017)

The New York Times obituary describes him as

the tall, intense, sometimes mischievously sinister actor best known for his role in the television series Mission: Impossible and his Oscar-winning portrayal of Bela Lugosi in the film Ed Wood.
Also best known, I’d say, for his portrayal of Leonard in North by Northwest. Don’t leave out Leonard.

Bob Wolff (1920–2017)

The sportscaster Bob Wolff has died at the age of ninety-six. The New York Times has an obituary.

In the 1970s, I watched countless New York Knicks games with Bob Wolff’s play-by-play and Cal Ramsey’s color commentary. The two men were always betting a steak dinner on something or other.

A related post
Bob Wolff’s archive

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hal Fryar (1927–2017)

I just got the sad news that Hal Fryar, Harlow Hickenlooper of Indianapolis children’s television, has died at the age of ninety. In 2012 Elaine and I met him, talked with him, and sang “Mairzy Doats” with him at the Indiana Historical Society, where he was a volunteer guide. Those few minutes were the highlight of our day. It was only after the fact that we learned who it was we’d been singing with.

Here’s a post about our serendipitous meeting. And here’s
the official website for the one and only Harlow Hickenlooper.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


[Peanuts, July 15, 1970.]

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

iOS Dictation fail

It may be unwise to use Dictation when texting about folk music.

Related fails
Boogie-woogie : Curse and bless : Derrida

[“It may be unwise”: at least until you retype. Now Dictation corrects its error.]

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thank you, Judge Watson

Judge Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu, ruling that the Trump administration’s temporary travel ban ought not to bar grandparents and other close relatives of persons in the United States from entering the country:

In sum, the Government’s definition of “close familial relationship” is not only not compelled by the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision, but contradicts it. Equally problematic, the Government’s definition represents the antithesis of common sense. Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents. Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The Government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.

Relationship advice

My son Ben, my newly married son Ben, mentioned a bit of advice that I gave him some time ago: “The wooing phase is never over.”

I have no memory of saying it, but I think it’s good advice for anyone in a loving relationship, and so I pass it on here, with Ben’s permission:

The wooing phase is never over.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Some seventeenth-century prose

Sir Thomas Browne’s The Garden of Cyrus (1658) reads the natural world as a network of fives, quincuxes, and decussations, or crossings. I began to think of a companion work:

That Bushmiller hath declared the figure three as equall to somme is not without probability of conjecture.

Sir Thomas Browne, The Garden of Nancye, or Some Rocks, naturally, artificially, mystically considered (n.d.).
A related post
Some rocks

DQ Breeze

It was the subject of debate, not heated, in our household: was there ever a Dairy Queen product called the Breeze? Yes:

The Dairy Queen Breeze was conceived as a healthier version of the popular Blizzard ice cream treat, made with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. It plodded along for about a decade before DQ pulled the plug; the chain claimed that demand for the product was so low that the frozen yogurt often went bad before it could be sold.
The Breeze is no. 5 in a list of ten fast foods that have disappeared (The Christian Science Monitor).

For the syntax-minded

[Mutts, July 13, 2017.]

Mutts is almost always delightful. Bill Griffith calls it one of “a few lively, well-crafted dailies bobbing bravely in a sea of blandness.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trump[,] Jr.

Andrew Boynton of The New Yorker writes about “The Correct Punctuation of Donald Trump, Jr.,’s Name” — by which he means The New Yorker’s punctuation of that name.

But it’s too simple to say that Trump, Jr., with a comma, is “the“ correct punctuation. It’s correct for The New Yorker, whose use of a comma to set off Jr. as parenthetical leads to the period-comma-apostrophe pileup of Jr.,’s.

So: comma, or no comma? Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern English Usage (2016) says that both choices are correct. “Journalistic style-books,” he observes, prefer commaless Jr., “probably because newspapers generally disfavor optional commas.” But Garner adds that “the commaless Jr. has logic on its side.” He cites E.B. White’s explanation of the switch to commaless Jr. in the third edition of The Elements of Style:

Although Junior, with its abbreviation Jr., has commonly been regarded as parenthetic, logic suggests that it is, in fact, restrictive and therefore not in need of a comma.
Garner’s conclusion:
Besides logic, the commaless form probably has the future on its side; for one thing, it makes possessives possible (John Jones Jr.’s book). The with-comma form has recent (not ancient) tradition on its side. Posterity will be eager to discover, no doubt, how this earth-shattering dilemma is resolved in the decades ahead. One consideration that militates in favor of the commaless form is that, in a sentence, one comma begets another: “John Jones, Jr. was elected” seems to be telling Jones that Jr. was elected. With a comma before Jr., another is needed after: “John Jones, Jr., was elected.”
A writer can of course make a possessive form with a comma, as The New Yorker has: Jr.,’s. I think though that a style choice that eliminates any possibilty of .,’ is the better choice.

Related reading
All OCA punctuation posts (Pinboard)

[In earlier editions of The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. was William Strunk, Jr. What form does Garner’s Modern English Usage use? No comma.]

Wise words on W. 12th

[“If we all do one random act of kindness daily we just might set the world in the right direction.” Martin Kornfeld.]

This sign stands outside 254 W. 12th Street in Manhattan. Google Maps confirms that the sign, or a similar one, has been standing outside this townstone for many years. “If we all”: wishful thinking, surely. But who wouldn’t stand behind that wish? And the hope is guarded: “we just might.”

I’m surprised that this sign has never made the pages of The New Yorker or The New York Times. You’d think that someone might have noticed. But here is an account from a passerby who had the good fortune to meet Martin Kornfeld on W. 12th.

See also the wise words that Barnaby Capel-Dunn discovered on Fulham Road.


[From the dowdy world: a voice speaks.]

“Quiet, fellas — it’s long distance.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Saving Western civ

Charles McNamara, a lexicographer for the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, writing in The Washington Post:

[M]y job may not exist much longer if the Trump administration succeeds in eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities, the agency that funds the single American position at the TLL. In an academic parallel to the United States’ retreat from climate agreements and military alliances, defunding the NEH threatens to pull the nation out of the world’s collective effort to define — literally — Western history.
Work on the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae began in 1894. Scheduled date of completion: circa 2050. Last year, NPR ran a delightful story about this dictionary.

Things I learned on
my summer vacation

Asphalt “paves the way.”


At the age of four, Marilyn Horne of Bradford, Pennsylvania, was paid one lime soda for singing.


“There’s a trend for headless beds right now.”


Looking at a display of handbags in a department store: ugly is the new beauty.


“HENRY LIVES HERE”: an enormous banner on a New York apartment building. But surely it’s not that Henry.


The New York City AIDS Memorial stands at the intersection of Twelfth Street, Greenwich Avenue, and Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village. A slatted canopy shades the space, and a fountain screens out noise. To step into the space is like stepping away from the city. Words by Walt Whitman, inscribed in a spiral and ending in a small corner.


Wireless transmission of electricity works well across short distances only, because the energy required to send electricity through the air must increase by the square of the distance. Or something like that.


The word canoodle is a good word to look up.


Cynthia Ann’s Cookies are delicious.


Under the eye of their teacher, schoolkids riding the subway on a field trip will give up their seats for grown-up types. A boy stood and offered me his seat. Me: “I’m not old enough!” But I sat and said, “Thank you, sir.”


Stevdan Pen & Stationers has a bathroom for customers. The nearby Starbucks (6th and Waverly), no. The Dunkin’ Donuts a little further up 6th: you don’t want to know.


The Cafe Cluny is a lovely Greenwich Village restaurant. Julianne Moore is a regular there, as Twitter will confirm. We pretended not to notice.


The Emily Dickinson exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum is a disappointment. Mostly manuscripts, which should be a thrill, but they’re often beyond deciphering, and the museum cards do not provide transcriptions. (Is copyright the issue?) A docent giving a tour: “Emily . . . , Emily. . . .” I wanted to yell: “Dickinson!”


A Toynbee tile sits close to the curb at the northwest corner of 32nd and Madison. This website lists it as authentic.

[The northwest corner. “Toynbee Idea / Movie 2001 / Resurrect Dead / Planet Jupiter.” And so on.]


It’s possible to be friends with people for so long that it seems there was never a time when you weren’t already friends.


“Happiness is the answer.”


A tire thumper is a bat-like tool used to check the air pressure in truck tires.


The Great Race begins in Jacksonville, Florida, and ends in Traverse City, Michigan. It’s a road race for pre-1973 vehicles, with detailed rules. Analog wristwatches only.


“Biscuits are spoons you can eat.”


The Pennsylvania Welcome Center (two miles in on I-90) is an excellent rest stop with a semi-surreal view of Lake Erie. There are very few excellent rest stops.


Julie’s Diner in North Syracuse is a great choice for breakfast or lunch. You know the kind of place where you’re treated well even if it’s obvious that you’re only passing through? This diner is that kind of place.


“Wahtter.” “Cahfee.”


The structure that sits above turnpike lanes tracking cars for tolls is called a gantry. Elaine thinks it should called an Elmer.


Rush Limbaugh seems to have shrunk: he now sounds like a peevish little old man. Has he metamorphosed into Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace? His sponsors, during the few minutes of airtime to which we exposed ourselves: discount tires, pest control, a video-transfer service.


A commencement address that we heard last year is now the stuff of a book: James Ryan’s Wait, What? But the book is not the commencement address, one sentence per page; it’s a book.


At least two well-known independent bookstores shelve Sir Thomas Browne under Literary Criticism. (Wait, what?)


The Harvard Art Museums are a wonderful experience, three small museums in one. The exhibition The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 was our first stop.


[Stephen Sewall, Copy of Inscription on Dighton Rock (detail), 1768. Black ink on paper. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University. On view in The Philosophy Chamber. From the Harvard Art Museums website.]


128, 129, 144, 168, 269, 276 (room numbers).


Ben and Mari really, really planned their wedding. There’s an online calculator for ice? Apparently, yes.


Lolly’s Bakery is an excellent bakery in East Boston. Chilean cake: a layer of pineapple inside.


Seth is a mensch. (But I knew that already.)


Rachel and Seth’s baby is full of kicks.


Andrew is a great wedding officiant. He is miles ahead of the “celebrated” justice of the peace that Elaine and I had.


Antonio Gutierres y El Super Poder Tipico are a rocking band.


Celso is an incredible dancer.


I am not an incredible dancer. (But I knew that already.) But I also know that nobody is judging.


Julie’s Diner is just as good when approaching from the other direction.


Do localites really pronounce the name of the Ohio city Mentor as “menner”? Yes. Learn by listening, not by asking.


Mile markers on the road to oblivion can be pretty sweet.

More things I learned on my summer vacation
2016 : 2015 : 2014 : 2013 : 2012 : 2011 : 2010 : 2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006

An “over and over”

[Henry, July 11, 2017.]

I feel a Zippy-like “over and over” coming on: Brick and mortar! Brick and mortar! Brick and mortar!

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Another shoe

[The New York Times, July 10, 2017.]

“Part of a Russian government effort”: got that, Junior? Part of. A Russian government effort.

[Another shoe, not the other. Who knows how many shoes need to drop?]

Joyeux anniversaire, M. Proust

Marcel Proust was born on July 10, 1871.

How happy I should be if you would discover a title for me! But I should like something quite simple, quite grey. The general title, you know, is In Search of Vanished Time. For the first book, which will be published in two volumes (if Grasset allows a box for two volumes), would you have any objection to Charles Swann? If I do a single volume of 500 pages, I am not in favor of this title because the final portrait of Swann will not be included in it, so my book wouldn’t carry out the implications of the title. Would you like, Before the Day Has Started? (I shouldn't.) I had to give up The Heart’s intermissions (original title), The Wounded Doves, The Past Suspended, Perpetual Adoration, Seventh Heaven, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Bloom, titles which, however, will be chapter headings in the third volume. I have told you, haven’t I, that Swann’s Way comes from the two ways of going to Combray? In the country, you know, people say, “Are you going M. Rostand’s Way?” But I don’t want this book to appear with a title that is offensive to the only friend whom, in spite of my effort to emerge from my “phenomenal me,” I have been unable to put out of my mind while writing it. So I shall take another title. I should take Charles Swann if I could explain that these are only the early portraits of Charles Swann.

                                Yours with all my heart,
                                Marcel Proust

P.S. Would you like as a title for the first volume, Gardens in a Cup of Tea, or The Age of Names. For the second, The Age of Words. For the third, The Age of Things? The one I prefer is Charles Swann, if I could make clear that is not all of Swann; First Sketches of Charles Swann.

Marcel Proust, in a letter to Louis de Robert, Summer (?) 1913. From Letters of Marcel Proust, translated by Mina Curtiss (New York: Helen Marx Books / Books & Co., 2006).
Related reading
All Proust posts (via Pinboard)

OED Word of the Day: madeleine

The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day is the ultra-appropriate madeleine.

My most recent madeleine: the stick at the center of a Good Humor bar. Does anyone else remember what it’s like to taste that slightly nutty wood?

Related reading
All OCA Proust posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Post New York Post

A parody from 1984: the Post New York Post, a post-nuclear-war edition of the New York Post. It’s very much of a time and place. My favorite bit so far, from a photo caption:

Writhing nuke victims look on gratefully as newly appointed city fallout shelter chief Leona Helmsley makes her rounds. She had beds turned down and mints placed on each patient’s fluffed pillow.
Here, from The New York Times, is some background.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Times as Post

Lena Dunham says she had to give up her dog Lamby because of behavioral issues, but an employee at the shelter where the writer got him disputes her claim.
That’s the front-page sidebar summary of a Friday New York Times article. Kinda like a Times version of the New York Post.

How might the Post do it? My best shot: Dunham Dumps Doggy — Shelter Bites Back!


11:30 a.m.: The real Post headline, which I just discovered: “Shelter says Lena Dunham’s dog tale doesn’t add up.” The headline in the Post URL: “Lena Dunham’s adoption story goes to the dogs.”

Friday, July 7, 2017

“A Billionaire for the Rest of Us”

The 2018 gubernatorial race in Illinois is taking shape as a battle of the billionaires. Two leading Democratic contenders are billionaires. The Republican incumbent may be a billionaire. I’d say that only his hairdresser knows for sure, but the governor is just folks, droppin’ -gs and whatnot and goin’ to the barber every four weeks. No hairdresser for him.

I offer this parodic campaign slogan to any billionaire who’d like to use it. I was happy to discover that it appears nowhere on the Internets:

Does being a billionaire disqualify one from running for public office? I don’t think so. But I’d rather put my vote elsewhere.

[The barber data is made up. I have no idea how often Bruce Rauner gets a haircut.]

A social network

Tim Flannery says that for trees, life ”in the slow lane” is “clearly not always dull”:

But the most astonishing thing about trees is how social they are. The trees in a forest care for each other, sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive. Only some stumps are thus nourished. Perhaps they are the parents of the trees that make up the forest of today.

From the foreword to Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, trans. Jane Billinghurst (Vancouver: Greystone, 2016).
[Two pages in, and I’m gaping.]

Domestic comedy

“. . . farm-fresh, hand-crafted, local . . .”

“You had me at farm-.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, July 6, 2017


For the first time in more than two years, Illinois has a budget. Yes!

Related reading
All OCA Illinois budget crisis posts (Pinboard)

[How many times have I called state legislators in the last three years? I’d guess seventy-five times or so.]

Zippy fedora

[Zippy, July 5, 2017.]

Better late than never.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[I seem to recall R. Crumb in a documentary saying that clothing folds are the most difficult things to draw.]

Wise words on Fulham Road

Barnaby Capel-Dunn writes about wise words on Fulham Road. Read them. And try to find the florist’s signboard with Google Maps. It can be done.

Ballpark design

From the podcast 99% Invisible, an episode about the design of new stadiums ballparks: “In the Same Ballpark.” Mark Lamster, an architecture critic, quoted therein:

“They all have the same DNA, they all kind of look kind of the same, except the whole idea is that each one is idiosyncratic and individual. It’s a tall tale.”
Stefan Hagemann, this one’s for you.

A sardine cartoon

At George Bodmer’s Oscar’s Day: sardines on the road.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A voter-suppression effort, rerouted

From the Chicago Tribune:

A letter from the panel President Donald Trump formed to look into alleged voting irregularities finally has arrived at the Illinois State Board of Elections after first being sent to the wrong office.

Last week, Trump’s Election Integrity Commission sent a letter to election authorities across the nation seeking voter roll data that includes name, address, birth date, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history going back to 2006.

The letter arrived Wednesday at Secretary of State Jesse White’s office. Many states’ top election administrator is the secretary of state, but the State Board of Elections handles those duties in Illinois. White’s office sent the letter to the the state elections board.
Here is yet another example of the new administration’s failure to employ people who understand the workings of the institutions that the administration seeks to undermine. A Google search for who is in charge of elections in illinois points to the website of the State Board of Elections. From a page on that website:
Illinois law currently provides that Illinois’ centralized statewide voter registration list is not available to any person or entity other than to a state or local political committee for political purposes or to a governmental entity for a governmental purpose. Private information, such as driver’s license numbers or the last four digits of a [S]ocial [S]ecurity number are never provided to any entity.
The Tribune reports that at least forty-four states have refused to turn over at least some of the information requested. Among those states: Indiana, whose former governor, Mike Pence, heads the commission with the Orwellian claim to Election Integrity. If it doesn’t go without saying, there is no evidence of widespread “voting irregularities” in Illinois, or in any other state.

Brief Interviews with an apology

[Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

I took this photograph (and you can pretty much guess where) because I liked the combination of plain materials (trash bag, notebook paper, marker) and extraordinary rhetoric: an explanation of what’s wrong (“Out of order”), an apology (“Sorry”), a helpful hint about how to proceed (“Use another one” — and notice that delicate euphemism “one”), an expression of gratitude (“Thank you”), and a smile. How could I not agree to use another one, right?

It was only when I saw a thumbnail of the photograph on my desktop that I recognized an uncanny resemblance. As my friend Marjorie would say, “It’s weird”:


The smaller you go, the more pronounced the resemblance. It’s weird:

Related reading
All OCA DFW and signage posts (Pinboard)

Bryan Garner on rules and writing

“When it comes to supposed rules of writing, it’s good to know what’s at their foundation”: Bryan Garner on writing and rules, those to follow and those to ignore (ABA Journal).

Two related posts
Bad advice and misinformation : Ending a sentence with it

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A thought for these days

Clickety clack, clickety clack,
Somebody’s mind has gone off the goddam track.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, from the recitation “Clickety Clack,” recorded live at the Keystone Korner, San Francisco, June 1973. From the album Bright Moments (Atlantic, 1973).

The Fourth

[“Hartford, Wisconsin, Fourth of July.” Photograph by John Vachon. July 1941.From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Click for a larger flag, cone, and sign.]

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Chris Christie “Footprints”

Our daughter Rachel’s husband Seth Raab is a very funny guy. This tweet is his. If you like it, please share it.

[Puzzled? Context here.]


“Oração” [Prayer], music and lyrics by Leo Fressato, performed by the composer and A Banda Mais Bonita da Cidade [The Most Beautiful Band in Town].

A thing of beauty is a joy since 2011. I’m late to the show: in the last six years, “Oração” has had nearly twenty-seven million views on YouTube. Ace musicians Claire and Sam provided a beautiful instrumental version of the song for Ben and Mari’s wedding.

Here’s some background on the song and the band. And here are the lyrics, in Portuguese and in English translation.

Mari and Ben

[May 2017.]

We love this photograph, taken shortly before their wedding. Onward, young married persons!

A related post
A very big day

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A very big day

[Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

It’s a very big day for Benjamin Leddy and Maricelle Ramirez and our two families. I am saying it with tile.

Friday, June 30, 2017

“Dedicado à Você”

I heard this recording for the first time yesterday and was floored by its beauty: “Dedicado à Você,” sung by Zizi Possi. Music by Dominguinhos, lyrics by Nando Cordel. Dominguinhos is playing the accordion. I have the song on a compilation, Dominguinhos é de Todos (Universal Music). First released on the 1989 Possi LP Estrebucha Baby (Philips).

A related post
“Lamento Sertanejo”

Illinois, Illinois, Illinois

The New York Times reports what us locals know too well: Illinois is about to enter its third year without a budget.

A point that bears repeating: it’s a manufactured crisis. From the article:

“This impasse has been very cleverly designed to minimize the immediate obvious impact on middle-class families that don’t have a need for state-funded social services,” said Andrea Durbin, the chief executive of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, an association for providers of youth and family services.

“The people who get impacted are the people who are sick, who need the support from the state to be safe and healthy and get back on their feet and become self-sufficient, or to live their final days in dignity,” Ms. Durbin said.
Add to that the people who work in or rely upon public higher education.

Related reading
All OCA Illinois budget crisis posts (Pinboard)

Recently updated

Roscoe Mitchell at Mills Not fired. His colleagues aren’t as fortunate.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pocket notebook sightings

[Laird Cregar as Inspector Ed Cornell, Victor Mature as Frankie Christoper, in I Wake Up Screaming (dir. H. Bruce Humberstone, 1941). Click either image for a larger view.]

Inspector Cornell’s pocket notebook is a multi-tool in disguise, used for note-taking and for storing a hair sample from an amused suspect.

More notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Ball of Fire : Cat People : City Girl : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Dragnet : Extras : Foreign Correspondent : Homicide : The Honeymooners : The House on 92nd Street : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The Last Laugh : The Lodger : Mr. Holmes : Murder at the Vanities : Murder by Contract : Murder, Inc. : The Mystery of the Wax Museum : Naked City : The Naked Edge : The Palm Beach Story : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Pushover : Quai des Orfèvres : Railroaded! : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : Route 66 : The Sopranos : Spellbound : State Fair : T-Men : Union Station : Where the Sidewalk Ends : The Woman in the Window

[In the remake Vicki (dir. Harry Horner, 1953) Richard Boone’s Cornell is far more violent, but Cregar’s Cornell is far more frightening.]


[The television was on for warmth.]

“I believe we have three hundred tins of ltalian sardines.”

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” and sardine posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A p@ge-ninety test

A page-ninety test, conducted while browsing in a bookstore:

From this starting point as a unit of measure in southern Europe, by the eighteenth century the @ symbol had entered English as mercantile shorthand for “at the rate of,” and by the later nineteenth century the symbol was known by the flatly descriptive appellation “commercial a.” Prospering in commercial circles, noted but not dwelled on by printers and typographers, and rarely warranting much interest from the general reader, the stolid @ symbol nevertheless came close to extinction in the face of two of the nineteenth century’s greatest innovations.

Keith Houston, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical Marks (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013).
I liked the purposeful repetition: “by the eighteenth century,” “by the later nineteenth century.” I liked the phrase “flatly descriptive appellation.” I liked the parallelism — “prospering,” “noted but not dwelled on,” “rarely warranting” — and the amusing personification of the @ symbol as a “stolid” citizen, doing its work, minding its own business, and suddenly facing extinction. I liked the playful use of color, which runs through the book. And of course I wanted to keep reading: just what were the innovations that threatened this symbol’s life?

Reader, I bought it.

Related posts
Ford Madox Ford’s page-ninety test
My Salinger Year, a page-ninety test
Nature and music, a page-ninety test
A history of handwriting, a page-ninety test
A book about happiness, a page-ninety test
The Slow Professor, a page-forty-five test

[The innovations: the first commercially successful typewriter and Herman Hollerith’s Tabulator for punch cards. Each machine lacked the @ symbol.]

Used-book-store score

Elaine and I just finished what Stefan Zweig called “the large Balzac,” his full-length biography of Honoré de Balzac. Elaine has a 1946 hardcover copy that she treasures. I was reading the book as a PDF from With one day to go in our reading, we stopped for frozen yogurt, checked out the new stuff at the used-book store next door, and found a copy of the 1946 edition, just $3.25. Score.

Related reading
All OCA Balzac and Zweig posts (Pinboard)

[Caution: the PDF is missing two pages.]

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

In search of fake Time

The Washington Post reports that at least four of Donald Trump’s golf courses have displayed a fake Time magazine cover featuring Donald Trump.

[Post title with apologies to M. Proust.]

Balzac, speculating

In 1847 Honoré de Balzac traveled to the Ukraine in pursuit of the wealthy, elusive Madame de Hanska:

As a composer transmutes an emotion or a mood into music, so Balzac made everything he saw into the basis of a financial calculation. He remained the incorrigible speculator. Before he had even arrived at Wierzchownia, while still travelling through the forests on the estate, he gazed at the magnificent trees with an eye to the profit that their owner might reap. His previous failures to make a large fortune at one stroke were forgotten and he immediately submitted to Count Mniszech a plan for exploiting the inexhaustible stocks of timber and turning them into cash. A railway was being built on the frontiers, and in a short time this would link Russia with France. With impatient pencil Balzac drew on a piece of paper a line connecting the forests of Wierzchownia with the sawmills of France:
There is a demand in France at the present moment for enormous quantities of oak to make railway sleepers, but we haven’t got the oak. I know that oak has almost doubled in price, both for building purposes and for cabinet-making.
Then he began to work out the profit and loss. The freight from Brody to Cracow would have to be considered. From Cracow the railway already ran as far as Paris, though with a number of interruptions, since the River Elbe had not yet been adequately bridged at Magdeburg or the Rhine at Cologne. The Ukrainian sleepers would therefore have to be ferried across these two rivers. “The transport of sixty thousand balks will be no trifling matter,” and it would add very considerably to the cost, but they would endeavour to interest bankers in the project and the directors of the French railway company might be persuaded to reduce their charges if it were proved to them that this would be to their own advantage. If they only made five francs profit on each balk, they would be hundreds of thousands of francs to the good even after deduction of all expenses. “It is worth while thinking the matter over.”

There is, perhaps, no need to record that this final offspring of Balzac’s speculative genius never got further than the stage of preliminary discussion.

Stefan Zweig, Balzac, trans. William and Dorothy Rose (London: Casell, 1947).
Related reading
All OCA Balzac and Zweig posts (Pinboard)

[Balk: “beam, rafter” (Merriam-Webster).]

Earl Greyer, correcter

The Republic of Tea makes an excellent Earl Grey tea, Earl Greyer. Its container includes this bit of text:

Goslan gives the account of sipping in the early nineteenth century with the master of Human Comedy: “As fine as tobacco from Ladakh, as yellow as Venetian gold, the tea responded, without doubt, to the praise with which Balzac perfumed it before letting you taste; but you had to submit a kind of initiation to enjoy the droit de degustation . . ."
Nearly two months ago I wrote a letter to the maker:
Dear Republic,

I am a great fan of your teas, particularly your Earl Greyer. But there are three changes you should make, not to your Earl Greyer but to its packaging:

1. The account of drinking tea with Balzac is by Léon Gozlan, not Goslan. If you’re using one of Jason Goodwin’s books on tea, both have the name wrong. The name can be easily verified online.

2. The excerpt from Gozlan’s account is missing a word: “you had to submit to.”

3. The French word dégustation should have its accent, as in Goodwin’s A Time for Tea. It’s part of a French phrase preserved in the English translation, droit de dégustation. The French can be checked in Google Books by searching for gozlan droit de dégustation.

With best wishes for accuracy and good tea,
I thought I’d receive a reply. Maybe even some tea. No reply. No tea. Just this post.

Related reading
All OCA tea posts (Pinboard)

[Correcter, I know, is not a word. I realize now that Goodwin’s The Gunpowder Gardens: Travels through India and China in Search of Tea (1990) and A Time for Tea (2009) are one and the same. For me, reading the package is a habit that began with the breakfast cereals of childhood.]

Monday, June 26, 2017

Henry TV

[Henry, June 26, 2017.]

Do you remember the television-as-furniture? French Provincial and Mediterranean TVs? The set-on-a-cart was a more affordable alternative. That must be why older people always had one (or so it seemed). I hope there’s a copy of “the Guide” on the lower rack.

Henry’s dog Dusty joins Henry, Linus van Pelt, Nancy Ritz, and Woodstock in sitting too close to the television.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Roscoe Mitchell in TNYT

Roscoe Mitchell, talking to The New York Times. A sample:

“I was once in the car, listening to this radio show, and then all of a sudden this saxophone player came on and I was thinking, like: Wait, every note is different. Every articulation is different. And then at the end they said: ‘That was Benny Carter.’ I was so relieved, I didn’t know what to do.”
Related reading
Other OCA Roscoe Mitchell posts (Pinboard)

[Mitchell’s position as the Darius Milhaud Professor of Music at Mills College is still slated for elimination, along with ten other faculty positions.]

“The old-school landline telephone”

Diane Schirf writes about a relic, “the old-school landline telephone”: And another relic: “The sound of the telephone bell clanging loudly and all the household teenage zombies coming to life with a shout of ‘I’ll get it!’”

[For years I had a thrift-store Model 500 in my office, a present from my children. Its ring startled and delighted visitors. I’ll get it!]

Mystery actor


Do you recognize her? Do you think you recognize her? Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll provide a hint or two if needed.


Three hours, and not one guess. Here’s a hint: this actor is best known for a role that required a wig.

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

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Handwritten letters, 25¢ each

In the Boise Public Library, the Two Quarters Collective’s “Letter Box Project” uses a repurposed vending machine to dispense handwritten letters in English, Basque, Farsi, and Spanish. Since June 1, the machine has dispensed about 400 letters. They sell for 25¢ each.

Related reading
All OCA letter posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Alain de Botton on academia

From the podcast Design Matters. Alain de Botton explains why he left a doctoral program in philosophy:

“Like many young people with a kind of cultural and aesthetic interest, I imagined that academia was going to be nirvana, because, you know, these guys were going to pay you to do the stuff that was lovely to do anyway — reading books, writing, et cetera. And then I quickly realized that really there was a mass deception going on, and that academia had collectively got together to try and make this supposedly lovely thing as unpleasant as possible, simply because they had a massive problem of oversubscription. So the only way to deal with oversubscription is to make you jump through so many hoops and make those hoops so unpleasant that only the most determined survive.”
I remember as an undergraduate hearing my professor Jim Doyle observe that it wasn’t the smart students who went on to graduate school; it was the persistent ones. At the time I wasn’t smart enough to understand what he meant, nor was I persistent enough to ask him to explain.

[My transcription.]

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fred Stein photography

In The New York Times: “A Bygone Era of Big City Life,” photographs by Fred Stein (1909–1967). See also the photographer’s website.

Pogie the porcupine

[“Animal Lending Library in Sacramento.” Photograph by Carl Mydans. Sacramento, California, April 1952. From the Life Photo Archive.]

A 1952 Life article about the Animal Lending Library identifies Pogie as a “he.” Or as a child would say, a boy porcupine.

A related post
Animal Lending Library

Animal Lending Library

[“Animal Lending Library in Sacramento.” Photograph by Carl Mydans. Sacramento, California, April 1952. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

At first I thought — hoping against hope — that the library was for animals who liked to read. But no. The Animal Lending Library was a service of the California Junior Museum, which allowed children seven and older to borrow hamsters, porcupines, rabbits, rats, skunks, and squirrels. Parental permission required. Overdue fine: 10¢. The library was the subject of a feature in the July 14, 1952 issue of Life.

Founded in 1952, the California Junior Museum was housed on the grounds of the California State Fair. Today there’s a Junior Museum and Zoo in Palo Alto.

A related post
Pogie the porcupine

[Me, I like to think of all museums as junior museums.]

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Republicans present and past

Astonishing, in light of current events, to realize that it was a Republican president who proposed a national health-care plan “that would have required employers to offer insurance with standard benefits — including dental care, mental health care and a free choice of hospitals and doctors,” with employers paying 76% of premiums after three years.

[Try to guess the president before clicking on the link.]

Watching Lost in five sentences

“I’m supposed to believe this?”

“Have you lost your mind?”

“You don’t have to do this.”

“Fair enough.”

“Now what?”

A related post
Lost thoughts

[From three or four episodes, five bits of discontinuous dialogue, written down in the order in which they were spoken.]

Lost thoughts

[Contains spoilers.]

Elaine and I just finished watching Lost (dir. Jack Bender et al., 2004–2010). For the most part the series was immensely enjoyable. What I liked best: character development by way of back stories (or back and forward and sideways stories): Bernard and Rose, Charlie, Claire, Mr. Eko, Hurley, Jin and Sun, Locke, Sayid, and Benjamin Linus. For me, those characters and the actors who played them were the show’s greatest assets. I join the rest of my fambly in finding the alpha-male displays and love triangles tedious. And the repeated use of a particular science-fictional plot device left me cold. But to fault the series for such stuff would be like faulting opera for all the singing.

A more reasonable objection: Lost piles up mythic tropes and media tropes indiscriminately, from Gilgamesh and Enkidu to the Mahabharata to Pandora’s box to Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now (Mistah Locke) to Casablanca (“You’re getting on that plane”) to Star Wars to Jonestown to Raiders of the Lost Ark to MacGyver to Touched by an Angel to The Apprentice. And more, always more. There’s even a touch of The Blues Brothers and its mission of getting the band back together. The treacly ending in The Church of All Religions (as I choose to call it) fails to make good on the series’s loftier thematic material. Which means that Lost tends to sink under its own weight.

Not the greatest television series of (as they say) “all time,” but certainly worth watching. It’s streaming at Netflix. Estimated viewing time: ninety hours.

A related post
Watching Lost in five sentences

[What is the greatest television series of all time? I think I’d choose Breaking Bad.]

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

“Once Per Day”

[xkcd, June 21, 2017.]

Lawn mower troubleshooting

If mower fails to start:

1. Attempt to start mower, six, eight, or ten times.

2. Repeat step 1; then proceed to step 3.

3. Disconnect spark plug and look under mower.

4. Reconnect spark plug and attempt to start, just one more time. You never know.

5. Wonder about spark plug. When was it last replaced anyway? Never? Disconnect and grab spare from garage.

6. Attempt to turn and remove spark plug with pliers.

7. Attempt to turn and remove spark plug with wrench.

8. Consult mower manual on how to remove spark plug.

9. Receive additional help from partner, who looks online for how to remove spark plug.

10. Determine that print and online sources both point to the need for a spark plug removal tool.

11. Head to the farm-and-home store for that very tool.

12. Realize en route that you bought that very tool years ago. Huh. Where is it now?

13. Purchase tool; return to mower and replace spark plug.

14. Vroom, vroom!

15. Go back to step 12. The old removal tool will be where it has always been: in the kitchen drawer that holds small tools.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

How do you say “crazy,
harebrained scheme” in French?

In 1837 Honoré de Balzac bought a piece of land in the Ville d'Avray at Sèvres upon which to build a house. But his plans grew larger:

Balzac never regarded expenditure as money actually laid out so long as it was still in the form of a debt. He revelled in the early delights of ownership, and before his new house was built he refused to worry about how he was to pay for it. What was his pen for, anyway, that magic instrument which could so swiftly turn blank paper into thousand-franc notes? Moreover, the fruit-trees which he intended to plant on the still virgin soil would alone bring in a fortune. Suppose he were to lay down a pineapple plantation? Nobody in France had yet hit upon the idea of growing pineapples in glasshouses instead of shipping them from distant parts. If it was set about in the right way, so he confided to his friend Théophile Gautier, he could make a profit of a hundred thousand francs, or three times as much as his new house would cost him. As a matter of fact, it would cost him nothing at all, since he had persuaded the Viscontis to join him in this brilliant venture. While he was building his new house they were going to fit up the old cottage for their own use, and would pay him a suitable rent. So what was there to worry about?

Stefan Zweig, Balzac, trans. William and Dorothy Rose (London: Casell, 1947).
Related reading
All OCA Balzac and Zweig posts (Pinboard)

White House misspellings and typos

Seth Masket, a former writer for the White House Office of Correspondence, considers the abundance of misspellings and typos in official correspondence from today’s White House. His conclusion: “It’s actually difficult to produce errors like this under normal conditions.”

One that was new to me: “the possibility of lasting peach.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Domestic comedy

“Is she even wearing a bra?”

“The Dharma Initiative push-up bra.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

A joke in the traditional manner

What is the favorite snack of demolition crews?

No spoilers. The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : How do worms get to the supermarket? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He gets credit for all but the cow coloratura, the produce clerk, the amoebas, the worms, the toy, the shepherd, the squirrel-doctor, Marie Kondo, Santa Claus, and this one. He was making such jokes long before anyone called them “dad jokes.”]

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Music for Father’s Day

I’m still making my alphabetical way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, and now, Coleman Hawkins. My dad had good taste, no? I owe my foundations in music to him.

Here are four beautiful recordings with which I’m marking this Father’s Day, all by Coleman Hawkins and His All-Star “Jam” Band: “Crazy Rhythm” (Irving Caesar-Joseph Meyer-Roger Wolfe Kahn), “Out of Nowhere” (Johnny Green-Edward Heyman), “Honeysuckle Rose” (Thomas “Fats” Waller-Andy Razaf) “Sweet Georgia Brown” (Ben Bernie-Maceo Pinkard-Kenneth Casey). The last side in particular is hotter than hot.

Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax; Benny Carter, alto sax and trumpet; André Ekyan, alto sax; Alix Combelle, tenor sax and clarinet; Stéphane Grappelli, piano; Django Reinhardt, guitar; Eugène d’Hellemmes, bass; Tommy Benford, drums. Recorded in Paris, April 28, 1937.

Solos on “Crazy Rhythm”: Ekyan, Combelle, Carter, Hawkins. “Out of Nowhere”: Carter, Hawkins. “Honeysuckle Rose”: Hawkins, Reinhardt, Carter. “Sweet Georgia Brown”: Hawkins, Carter, Hawkins.

My dad had these recordings on the now-out-of-print CD The Hawk in Europe: 1934–1937 (Living Era, 1988). They can still be found elsewhere on CD by searching for hawkins and 1937.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Henry insult

[Henry, June 17, 2017.]

“Stingy tightwad”: now there’s a childhood insult that stings. “Blimp” though is just the guy’s name.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Woodstock TV

[Peanuts, June 20, 1970, and repeated today.]

Woodstock has just exited the doghouse. He joins Henry, Linus van Pelt, and Nancy Ritz in having sat too close to the television.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Word of the night: owl-hoot

The Oxford English Dictionary word of the day is owl-hoot. The word means “the hooting sound made by an owl; a sound imitating or resembling this.”

A later meaning, “esp. in the language of Wild West fiction, etc.”: ”a fugitive, an outlaw. Hence: a worthless or contemptible person.” That’s an owlhoot, without the hyphen. Cowboys got no time for hyphens.

But the earliest meaning of owl-hoot, now archaic and rare: “dusk, nightfall.”

It is 8:55 p.m.: owl-hoot.

Lost Ulysses

[From the Lost episode “316,” February 18, 2009.]

Benjamin Linus reads Ulysses. “How can you read?” Jack asks. “My mother taught me,” Ben replies.

[No spoilers, please.]

Bloomsday 2017

It is Bloomsday. James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) begins on June 16, 1904, and ends in the early hours of the following day. Here is a passage from “Ithaca,” the novel’s penultimate episode, and my favorite. (Episodes, not chapters: like the Odyssey .) Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus are walking.

Other Bloomsday posts
2007 (The first page)
2008 (“Love’s Old Sweet Song”)
2009 (Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses)
2010 (Leopold Bloom, “water lover”)
2011 (“[T]he creature cocoa”)
2012 (Plumtree’s Potted Meat)
2013, 2013 (Bloom and fatherhood)
2014 (Bloom, Stephen, their respective ages)
2015 (Stephen and company, very drunk)
2016 (“I dont like books with a Molly in them”)


Last night I tried to imagine what my friend Rob Zseleczky might have said about about the traces of CliffsNotes and SparkNotes in Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize lecture. “He’s an outlaw, Michael,” I imagined Rob saying. “He doesn’t care what you think of him.” And then I imagined Rob laughing helplessly: “CliffsNotes!”

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dylan, Homer, and Cliff

Andrea Pitzer wonders: does Bob Dylan’s Nobel lecture borrow from the SparkNotes for Moby-Dick? The phrasings themselves — for instance, “encounters other whaling vessels” — are not always especially distinctive. It’s their number and their sequence (in twenty of the seventy-eight sentences that Dylan devotes to Melville’s novel) that are reason for suspicion. To my eye, it’s plagiarism, of an especially pathetic sort. Dylan is plagiarizing a plot summary.

I began to wonder about Dylan’s Nobel commentary on the Odyssey. His summary of the poem’s action is loose and inaccurate, and I see nothing there to suggest a source. But look at this passage from the CliffsNotes for Book 11:

More controversial is Achilles’ appearance because it contradicts the heroic ideal of death with honor, resulting in some form of glorious immortality. Here, Achilles' attitude is that death is death; he would rather be a living slave to a tenant farmer than king of the dead. His only solace is to hear that his son fares well in life.
And look again at Dylan’s one extended comment on the poem, which cheered me when I read it earlier this month:
When Odysseus in The Odyssey visits the famed warrior Achilles in the underworld — Achilles, who traded a long life full of peace and contentment for a short one full of honor and glory — tells Odysseus it was all a mistake. “I just died, that’s all.” There was no honor. No immortality. And that if he could, he would choose to go back and be a lowly slave to a tenant farmer on Earth rather than be what he is — a king in the land of the dead — that whatever his struggles of life were, they were preferable to being here in this dead place.
Cliff: “he would rather be a living slave to a tenant farmer than king of the dead.”

Dylan: “he would choose to go back and be a lowly slave to a tenant farmer on Earth rather than be what he is — a king in the land of the dead.”

I thought that “tenant farmer” must have come from Robert Fagles’s translation. But no, CliffsNotes are the unmistakable source for that phrase, “king,” and “of the dead.” Dammit, it’s plagiarism.

You read it here first.

La Quiberonnaise sardines

[La Quiberonnaise sardines in extra-virgin olive oil and lemon.]

My friend Jim Koper gave me a can of La Quiberonnaise sardines to try. The can describes them as millésimées, “vintage.” They are the product of a company that has been canning since 1921. And they’re expensive: $9-something a can here in the States, which means that they cost three or four times as much as everyday sardines. They’re excellent. But are they three or four times better than everyday sardines? Not to my taste. Nor to Jim’s. La Quiberonnaise seems to be a case (or can) of diminished returns. But a beautiful can.

Thanks, Jim.

Related reading
La Quiberonnaise website
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

[Why “three or four times as much” and not “three or four times more”? Because usage.]