Sunday, February 27, 2005

Dine? Eclairs!

In honor of Oscar night, Ought is asking its readers to submit anagrams derived from the name of French director Claire Denis. To get you started, take a gander at this offering from Ennis Mild, our esteemed Cape Cod correspondent:


And Sica Squalls, our U.K. stringer, has come up with the equally evocative EDENIC LAIRS.

* * *

In other news, our friends over at The Dizzies have been raving about "The Gates," Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Central Park extravaganza. We were able to view some charming footage of the artwork yesterday, and noted with satisfaction how crossing each threshold, curtain billowing above, had a happy-making theatrical effect.

Question, Oughties: Can you scramble the project's name to arrive at a suitably histrionic alternative moniker? We think you can!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bold "oy!"

Yesterday we caught JLG's Masculine Feminine (we are the children of Dom DeLuise and Pocari Sweat) and dug especially the final title card, in which letters were shot out of FEMININE to arrive at FIN.

Have any Oughties watched the Cannes runner-up Old Boy, from our friends in Korea? Park Chan-wook's ultraviolent memory caper also has a self-descriptive anagram in its title. Can you discover what it is?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Few—okay, no—Oughties responded to the "Cyrano" challenge of last week, so we feel a little silly giving the answer—but here it is:


Here's another challenge:

Winter's still here, and we can't hit the links for a few more months yet. What to do? How about a round or two of "word golf"? That was Nabokov's term for this game of linguistic transformation (or rather, Kinbote's, in Pale Fire); Lewis Carroll is credited with inventing the pastime, dubbing the resultant garlands "word chains."

Take two words with the same number of letters—say, PALE and FIRE. Changing only one letter at a time, transform PALE to FIRE, with each "move" creating a word. Thus: PALE—PANE—PINE—FINE—FIRE (four moves).

The other day, we saw a lovely grocery-store cashier wearing a baseball cap affixed with a little piece of cardboard that said CASH ONLY. Your challenge, Oughties: Change CASH to ONLY, in as few moves as possible.

Good luck! Or rather, GOOD—HOOD—HOOK—LOOK—LOCK—LUCK!

Monday, February 21, 2005

A pal on palindromes

Our old friend "Related H." relates this logophilic memory:

"During freshman year, I became obsessed with creating palindrome sentences. I did it all the time. I can only remember one [now]: BLAKE DOTES ON NOTE: 'GET ON NOSE TO DEKALB.'

"There was also one involving T. Eliot and a toilet."

* * *

(Editor's note: We seem to recall Nabokov dismissing the "Waste Land" poet as "Toile, T.S.," in a letter to Edmund Wilson.)

Motto repair

The third mangled meaning (see previous post):

At brunch, we spotted a woman wearing a white zippered sweatshirt that bore a curious motto across the front, in blue cursive: Unscribblable.

This seemed terrific—a motto both self-referential and deeply ambiguous. We gave ourselves a mental high-five.

Then our eyes untangled the script into the more mundane "Abercrombie."

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Communication breakdown

Last week we were telling Moss Jervins that we had to pick up some dry cleaning. She seemed stunned. She asked us to repeat what we'd just said.

"Oh," she responded with relief. "I thought you said you had to pick up some drag queens."

Then today in the grocery store we were asked if we had seen Oprah. We don't usually watch the queen of daytime talk, but . . . oh wait, okrah.

There was a third incident, but it eludes us at the moment.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Car talk

Today we saw a hapless cabbie try to drive into an apartment-complex parking lot—he misjudged the relative curb-ramp positions, and wound up grinding the front underpart (that's the technical term) of his vehicle on the sidewalkish bit. He backed up, making a scraping sound, accelerated again—and further agitated the car. It looked like he might rattle the fender off, but it seemed to stay put, mostly.

Two other people observed the unfortunate affair. They were of an earlier generation. One of them scolded the uncomprehending cabbie: "You've gotta watch where you're driving, you knucklehead!" And, walking away, he muttered again: "Knucklehead."

Later, down in the garment district, we heard one fellow bark playfully to two of his lackeys, who were lugging blue plastic bags full of goods: "Hurry up, ladies!"

Somehow these "insults of yore" put us in a good mood.

* * *

Hey Oughties: Those of you itching for another lexical challenge have your work cut out for you.
In 10 seconds or less, try to think of a single-word anagram for this week's name:


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Life of pie

We know this is Ought magazine, and not The New York Times, but we'd feel bad if we didn't spotlight two recent delights from the pages of the Grey Lady.

In a February 6 article entitled "He Must Be a Dream to Cook For," we learn:

"Breatharianism, a marginal New Age movement that some have traced to the practices of Tibetan monks and Indian holy men, has also been labeled a hoax and a cult. For example, Wiley Brooks, the founder of the Breatharian Institute of America, claimed not to have eaten for 19 years when news reports emerged in the 1980's that he had been spotted surreptitiously eating a chicken pie."

And on Friday, A.O. Scott's review of Godard's Masculine Feminine concludes by turning JLG's formulation "The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola" into "the children of Ronald Reagan and Red Bull."

Of course, we are the children of Selchow & Righter.

Psychic friends

Every now and then we think of something, and the thought finds a counterpart in reality. About a decade ago, walking in Manhattan on a freezing day, the phrase "piles of shattered glass" came to mind, and a few steps later, the whole side of a bus-stop shelter crumbled into a vitreous heap.

In our last post, we mentioned that rare breed of sportsman who prefers eating bicycles to riding them. The next day, playwright Arthur Miller died at 89. This is from Marilyn Berger's obit in The New York Times, dated February 11:

"But Mr. Miller called playwriting the hardest work of all. 'You know,' he said, 'a playwright lives in an occupied country. He's the enemy. And if you can't live like that, you don't stay. It's tough. He's got to be able to take a whack, and he's got to swallow bicycles and digest them.'"

Thought: Isn't it strange that your obituary writer should share the name of your most famous spouse?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Are you 'Tough' enough?

Mandragora Media, which owns Bicep Monthly, Abs Gazette, and other fine titles, has been in talks with your friends here at Ought regarding the possible acquisition of your favorite clearinghouse for wordsmithery, vague gossip, and semi-jokes. At the 11th hour we've left the table, after learning that the folks at Mandragora only want the letters O-U-G-H-T, which they seek to rearrange as TOUGH: The Magazine for Mountaineers, Decathletes, and People Who Eat Bicycles in Order to Get Into the Guinness Book of World Records.

In other news, we recently watched the Super Bowl (and played a little Scrabble) with old friend Brit Grits, who was passing through town en route to Clinton, New Jersey. He was scheduled to perform songs from his contemplative new solo album, Sexual Carbonation III-IV, for a room full of nurses. Hope the show went well, Brit!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

More on Morgenbesser

"In the 1970s, a student of Maoist inclination asked him ifhe disagreed with Mao's saying that a proposition can be true or false at the same time. Dr. Morgenbesser replied, 'I do and I don't.'" —The Globe and Mail, 9/04

[Soundtrack: J. Geils Band, "I Do."]