Friday, December 2, 2016

Merriam-Webster v. fascism

Merriam-Webster is encouraging readers to look up something other than fascism, which threatens to become its Word of the Year:

In another tweet, M-W seemed to suggest looking up flumadiddle instead: “something foolish or worthless.” And guess what? Flumadiddle is now in the top one percent of lookups. Click on the link for the word and then click on the magnifying glass, as many times as you like.

Fascism would indeed be a fitting word for this year, but for some that would be cause for celebration. I’ll vote with Merriam-Webster for flumadiddle. Other words come to mind too, but I want my votes to count.

[These tweets mark an unusual way for lexicographers to be prescriptive, not descriptive.]


5:00 p.m.: Merriam-Webster has added a page of explanation: “Our Word of the Year cannot be rigged. . . . We look for a word which got a high number of lookups and increased dramatically in popularity when compared to previous years.” So lookups alone — despite “# of lookups = how we choose our Word of the Year” — are not decisive. Flumadiddle is out. Ditto fascism, “a perennial top lookup.”

A Side Street police station

[Side Street (dir. Anthony Mann, 1949). Click any image for a larger view.]

Captain Walter Anderson (Paul Kelly) has it all: coat rack, bulletin board, schoolhouse light-fixture, desk lamp, fancy telelectric-radiophonic communications equipment, and oh! those cabinets and drawers.

Other films, other police stations
L.A. Confidential : Niagara : East Side, West Side

“Try the wireless”

“I don’t care if the lines to Los Angeles are busy — try the wireless or something!”

As heard in the Perry Mason episode “The Case of the Madcap Modiste,” first aired April 30, 1960.

Related reading
All OCA Perry Mason posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bernie Sanders on the United Technologies deal

Senator Bernie Sanders, writing in The Washington Post about the president-elect’s “deal” with United Technologies:

Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives. Even corporations that weren’t thinking of offshoring jobs will most probably be reevaluating their stance this morning. And who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America.
Bait, meet switch.

Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson

Jim Jarmusch’s film Paterson opens on December 28. I hope that it opens near me. Filmed in Paterson, New Jersey, it’s the story of a bus driver and poet named Paterson — just Paterson. Here’s the film’s IMDb page. And here’s the trailer.

For anyone who loves modern American poetry, Paterson is important territory. Just ask William Carlos Williams.

[In Williams’s poem, Paterson is both a city and a man — not a bus driver but a mythic man, “Dr. Paterson.”]

Sardines in translation

Spotted in Whole Foods, a jar of rather expensive sardines, with text in Spanish and English:

Las Sardinas Ortiz se elaboran en fresco. Se limpian a mano una a una y se fríen en eceite de oliva a la Antigua. Las Sardinas mejoran su sabor con los años, haciéndose más melosas y delicadas.

The Ortiz Sardines are elaborated with fresh fish. They are cleaned by hand one by one and fried in olive oil at old style. Sardines improve its taste over a period of years, making them taste unctuous and delicated.
“Unctuous and delicated”: Whatever they’re charging for these fish (it was $7.99 or $8.99 a jar), it’s apparently not enough to pay for a good translation. My try (improvements are welcome):
Ortiz Sardines begin as fresh fish. Each fish is cleaned by hand and fried in olive oil as in the old days. The sardines’ flavor improves over time, becoming more mellow and delicate.
I hesitated at “con los años,” not wanting to suggest that these sardines have been sitting around for years. But who knows? The expiration date on the jar: 2022.

I couldn’t bring myself to buy these sardines. I suspected that, as with ultra-expensive whiskey, the difference in flavor is probably not worth the difference in price. Maybe another time, if I’m giddy enough.

And while we are on the subject of sardines (or at least while I am), here is a short piece by Aaron Gilbreath: Ode to Canned Fish. Thanks to Mike at BrownStudies for passing on the link.

Related reading
All OCA sardines posts (Pinboard)

[Click on the little jar for a much bigger jar.]

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


We went to a tiny Mexican restaurant for lunch — six stools, one table, one man doing everything. Our food was spectacular. A television attached to the wall played news in Spanish. A segment about the United States’ president-elect focused on his threats/promises regarding immigrants and the various obstacles in his way. I was surprised at how much I could understand.

These words on the screen, in large sans-serif capitals, stuck with me: NO TODO ESTÁ PERDIDO. All is not lost. I like that idea.

Tea mind, empty mind

Father Thomas Roth (Dana Andrews), in Edge of Doom (dir. Mark Robson, 1950):

“I always like a cup of hot tea in the afternoon, drink it slowly. It helps empty the mind. It’s a minor blessing, but not one to be sneezed at. It’s good with lemon.”
Edge of Doom is good too, even if Andrews makes an improbable priest. The movie is at YouTube.

Related reading
All OCA tea posts (Pinboard)

DFW and Illinois

A brief tour: “David Foster Wallace’s Peaceful Prairie” (The New York Times).

But I have to say: Lynn Freehill-Maye’s celebration of the American midwest’s “meditative spaces,” “down-to-earth people,” and “sincerity” does not quite ring true. That pastoral picture omits all kinds of rural bleakness — miseducation, poverty, xenophobia, among others. As for midwestern sincerity, something that Wallace’s biographer D. T. Max makes much of, I’ll quote myself: “Life in the midwest — trust me — can be full of evasions, silences, and mask-like tact.” But I don’t want to talk about it. (See?)

Related reading
All OCA DFW posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

“This Week in Hate”

A new New York Times feature: “This Week in Hate,” tracking “hate crimes and harassment around the country since the election of Donald Trump.”