Monday, May 2, 2016

Spirits and bad grammar

In New York: A Serendipiter’s Journey (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961), Gay Talese writes about New York City policewoman Clare Faulhaber (1923–2008), undercover catcher of fortunetellers. Here she describes a visit to a séance, dressed in a maternity outfit:

“Anyway, soon the medium came in. She was a small, elderly woman with white hair, dressed in a dinner gown. The people got into a circle around her, and soon she was saying, ‘I’m getting vibrations — vibrations for a woman who is holding a new life within herself. Is there anyone present who is holding a new life within herself?’

“And there I was,” says Miss Faulhaber, “wearing the maternity dress for all to see and the only thing I had bulging out under it was the belt and holder containing my 32-caliber pistol. Later the medium had a plate passed around, and people put $1 and $5 bills on it, and the lights dimmed. This is when she started to go into a deep trance and began talking. First she was somebody’s ‘Uncle Bill’ and then later she was somebody’s mother, but what really bothered me was that no matter who the spirits happened to be, they all made the same grammatical errors.”
These passages earlier appeared in an article Talese wrote for The New York Times , “The Occult Cult Flourishes” (October 12, 1958). Faulhaber was the subject of a later Times article, “Policewoman Yclept Faulhaber Gave Up Chaucer for the Force” (April 10, 1964), in which R. W. Apple Jr. notes Faulhaber’s earlier career teaching Middle English at Marymount College, her 1963 award as New York City’s outstanding policewoman, and a 1961 incident in which Faulhaber was attacked by two panhandlers posing as Roman Catholic nuns. And then:
FAULHABER — Clare W., of Manhattan, 84, died January 19, 2008. Clare was a Police Detective for the City of New York for 20 years before retiring. She was a member of the New York City Veterans Police Association.
Also from this book
Chestnuts, pigeons, statues : “Fo-wer, fi-yiv, sev-ven, ni-yen” : Klenosky! : Leeches, catnip oil, strange potions : A real-life Bookman : Tie cleaning in New York

[The photograph is from the 1964 article. Click for a larger view. New York Review Books, please reissue this wonderful book.]

Zippy and the subjunctive

[Zippy , May 2, 2016.]

The past subjunctive has been good to Orange Crate Art.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

New books, old books

Joseph Joubert:

The great inconvenience of new books is that they prevent us from reading old books.

The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert: A Selection  , trans. Paul Auster (New York: New York Review Books, 2005).
Also from Joseph Joubert
Another world : Form and content : Irrelevancies and solid objects : Lives and writings : Politeness : Resignation and courage : Self-love and truth : Thinking and writing

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois , May 1, 2016.]

Hi and Lois has occasionally switched to thick lines: look at the difference between these two 2012 panels. But I can’t recall seeing the switch in the same day’s strip. Difficult not to suspect that Hi and Lois is at least sometimes put together as piecework, and without proofreading. Sheesh.

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois , April 30, 2016.]

It’s not the first time that Hi and Lois has given us a facade that opens onto an interior room. I almost expect to see more of the kitchen out in the front yard. And those angles. Granted, the glimpse of the kitchen (salad, pepper mill, and — is it wine?) is a way to signal party . But some tastefully festooned decorations could have made the point as well, or better. Shoes always help, too.

[Hi and Lois , April 30, 2016.]

Does the ostensible host even live in this house? If she does, she should know that the kitchen is — or was? — in the other direction. Perhaps she’s taking a shortcut. Notice the motion lines. Or is that a stray piece of baseboard?

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

“You’re not just saying it to placate me, are you?”

“Yes, I’m just saying it to placate you.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Recently updated

Crosswords, copied A plagiarism scandal, now with (minimal) consequences.


Before CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), there was CSS: the Comprehensive Storage System Wall Unit, designed by George Nelson, manufactured by Herman Miller. It’s a Cooper Hewitt Object of the Day, and it makes me think of The Bob Newhart Show .

On Duke Ellington’s birthday

[Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra, 1930. Freddie Jenkins, Cootie Williams, Arthur Whetsol, trumpets. Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Juan Tizol, trombones. Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard, reeds. Fred Guy, banjo. Wellman Braud, bass. Sonny Greer, drums. Photograph from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. New York Public Library Digital Gallery. Click for a larger view.]

Duke Ellington was born on April 29, 1899.

Here is one of my favorite Ellington recordings from 1930: “Old Man Blues.” The soloists: Hodges (alto), Bigard, Williams, Bigard, Nanton, Carney, Nanton, Hodges (soprano), and Jenkins. So much music in three minutes.

And here is a clip of the same band playing “Old Man Blues” in the (otherwise execrable) Amos ’n’ Andy movie Check and Double Check (dir. Melville W. Brown, 1930). I think the band is playing in real time. (Watch the piano player.) The soloists are Nanton, Carney, Hodges, and Jenkins. Juan Tizol, you will notice, has been blacked up for the screen.

If you listen closely to the movie clip, you can hear someone — Ellington? — speak at 1:52 and 1:55: “C’mon, Harry” and “That’s it.” Yes, it is.

Related reading
All OCA Ellington posts (Pinboard)

[Do you recognize the source material for “Old Man Blues”? The title gives it away.]

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Les Waas (1921–2016)

Les Waas, creator of the Mister Softee jingle, has died at the age of ninety-four. From the New York Times obituary:

In nearly a thousand jingles, he celebrated the virtues of clients including Holiday Inn, the Philadelphia Phillies and at least one local food manufacturer. (“Give me a little Kissling’s Sauerkraut, / It’s fresh and clean, without a doubt. / In transparent Pliofilm bags it’s sold, / Kissling’s Sauerkraut, hot or cold.”)

But none captured the public — and held it captive — like the Mister Softee song.
In an earlier post, I called the Mister Softee jingle “a permanent sound of summer in my head.” I should have called it the sound of summer. I think that our nation’s mobile ice-cream vendors should observe a moment of din in Mr. Waas’s honor.