The article retraction I mentioned in June is now in the Retraction Watch Database under my name: William Denton. (There’s no ID number for or way to link directly to one particular retraction, as far as I can see.) My thanks to the Retraction Watch staff for adding it.
I wish the data was available under an open license. The user guide says, “In order to fund our continued operations now that our grants have ended, we will be licensing the data to commercial entities. Therefore, while we are happy to make the entire Retraction Watch Database (RWDB) available as a CSV file to scholars, journalists and others who plan to publish their findings, publishing the entire dataset is prohibited, as is scraping the site. Please contact us to secure access to the dataset by signing our data use agreement on behalf of an institution.” Maybe one day some reliable funding will be found so it can be released as open data, which such a database should be.
There was a game you could play, if you were into childish shit. Roddy wasn’t—a surefire way to tell a busy dude from a lightweight: no time for pissing about—but he’d heard the others at it, and what you did was, you saw a yellow car, and you mentioned it. End of. It beggared belief, what entertained the hard of thought.
One of the many things Herron is great at in this series is shifting from one character’s internal voice to another. The books are made up of sections done in free indirect speech, with one section from Shirley Dander’s point of view told in her style (probably angry), the next from Louisa Guy’s in her voice, and so on. The most funny are Roddy Ho’s sections, from one of which this quote is taken. He’s a great hacker but a complete loser otherwise, who in his internal monologue thinks of himself as a badass super-spy and refers to himself as the Rodmeister or HotRod or, one scene where he’s cosplaying Star Wars, HoBi-Wan Kenobi. Some of the funniest bits in the books are when we’ve been seeing things through the Rodster’s eyes and then suddenly switch to someone else’s point of view and see him through their eyes.
There’s one main character whose inner voice and mental states we never know: Jackson Lamb. He’s always putting on a show. A very times we see that it is a show, and we realize the strength of this revolting persona he’s built, and some of what it’s hiding, but we never get inside. We do know one thing, though: you don’t fuck with his joes.
Recently I discovered the BBC Radio 6 Music show Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone, hosted by Stuart Maconie. I’d heard him on Radio Four’s Round Britain Quiz for quite a while (fantastic quizzing there, with Val McDermid and the recently added Frankie Fanko, whom I saw on BBC TV’s Only Connect) but just this year poked around some more and found the show. I loved it from the first one I listened to. It’s described as “adventures in underground and experimental music,” which is what it is, a mix of old prog, new electronic, nonstandard jazz and much else; each week there’s a featured album, for which some history is given and from which several tracks are played.
I liked it so much I emailed in last month to say so. Tonight I was listening to the Experimental Explorations with Herbie Hancock show (29 May 2022) and was amazed and delighted to hear this in the listener emails section, a little over an hour in:
And William Denton, subject “New listener in Canada,” “I’ve heard you on RBQ” (that’s Round Britain Quiz, you don’t need to worry about that, that’s a very cerebral quiz on Radio Four which you should listen to, but hey, let’s not get detained by that right now), “I’ve been listening to you on that for quite a while but I’ve just started following Freak Zone. I like it enormously.” Ohh, this is the email we want! I hate those abusive emails we get. “I’ve enjoyed a few favourites, a few things I knew but hadn’t listened to in a while, and a whole lot of great stuff. I’ll be a regular from now on. Thank you. All best wishes from Toronto,” says Bill, but I was really taken by Bill’s little CV at the end of his email: “Librarian, artist and licensed private investigator.” Bill, you’ve got to tell us more about your working week, ‘cause that is a Sunday night ITV series waiting to happen, isn’t it? Anyway, thanks Bill.
He didn’t quote this, but I want to make sure it’s not overlooked: “Many thanks to you and BBC Radio for providing such great shows to the world.”
Hammett the 1982 film directed by Wim Wenders, the adaptation of the 1975 novel by Joe Gores, is not nearly as good as the book. Gores was a private investigator turned writer, like Dashiell Hammett, and he knew Hammett and his work—both types—very well. They both knew San Francisco. The novel is one writer writing about another and his stories. The film is aimed at people that know The Maltese Falcon, especially John Huston’s 1941 adaptation with Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade. Fair enough. It’s made by movie people. It’s certainly worth seeing by anyone with the slightest interest in any of this. But it’s not as good.
It does have several things going for it. One is Frederic Forrest as Hammett. He’s perfect. Another is the atmosphere: the costumes, sets and design are wonderful.
This is Hammett introducing his librarian neighbour Kit Conger (played by Marilu Henner) to Eli the taxi driver, played by Cook.
Hammett: Kid, this is Eli, the last of the IWW organizers.
Conger: Are you really a Wobbly?
Eli: No, that’s just Hammett talking. What I am now is sort of an anarchist, with syndicalist tendencies.
Ross Thomas was one of the writers, and I bet he wrote that. Thomas has a non-speaking cameo as one of the rich men Hammett confronts at the end, in a scene with excellent cinematography.
It was nice to see David Fechheimer, another San Francisco PI, in the credits. He became a PI because of Hammett, but he stayed in the job and didn’t become a crime writer.
I have retracted “On Two Proposed Metrics of Electronic Resource Use” (Code4Lib Journal 52, September 2021). I asked of the editors:
I request that the article be retracted. My use of personally identifiable information led to comments at the journal and a complaint to my employer (York University). To assist with the resolution of the matter I am voluntarily withdrawing the article.
I thank the editorial committee of C4LJ for its prompt attention to this.
I was surprised to find Harry Stephen Keeler mentioned in the Joe Gores novel Hammett (1975), in chapter 27, where Dashiell Hammett (private detective turned writer, but now back on a case) is questioning a young woman:
When she had fled Capone’s Harlem Inn in Stickney, she had hidden in Chicago’s Chinatown for several weeks, until her cash had run out. Then she had gotten a job as a domestic in a rooming house on North State Street. She held it for over two years.
“Mrs. Rotariu was very nice. She called me Crystal and let me call her Anna even though I merely worked for her. The house was owned by a famous author named Keller or something—”
“Harry Stephen Keeler?”
“You know of him?” she exclaimed.
“I’ve read some of his stuff.” Hammett’s voice was flat, and a tense, wary look had entered his eyes.
(The look is not because of the mention of Keeler, but because Hammett has a sense where her story is leading.)
Hammett is set in 1928. Hammett’s second published short story, “Immortality,” was in the November 1922 issue of 10 Story Book, which Keeler edited from 1919 to 1940—so Keeler sent Hammett his second paycheque as a writer! Did Gores know this? Why did he mention Keeler? It’s an obscure reference to make.
Here is the full text of “Immortality.”
I know little of science or art or finance or adventure. I have never written anything except brief and infrequent letters to my sister in Sacramento. My name, were it not painted on the windows of my shop, would be unknown to even the Polish family that lives and has many children across the street. Yet I shall live in the memories of men when those names are on every one’s lips now are forgotten, and when the events of today are dim. I do not know whether I shall be remembered as a great wit, a dreamer of strange dreams, a great thinker, or a philosopher; but I do know that I, Oscar Blichy, the grocer, shall be an immortal. I have saved nearly seventeen thousand dollars from the profits of my shop during the last twenty years. I shall add to this amount as much as I can until the day of my death, and then it is to go to the writer of the best biography of me!
I found the Hammett-Keeler connection in volume 40 (December 2002) of Keeler News, the publication of the Harry Stephen Keeler Society (of which I am a proud member). I don’t know if the Hammett mention has been noted, so I’ll tell Richard Polt, who runs the Society. Perhaps a Keeler devotee knows enough about his life to say whether he really did own a boarding house. (There is no full biography of Keeler; I suggest this as potential dissertation topic.)
Hammett went on to be one of the greatest of all crime writers, and Keeler one of the strangest. I like them both.
And I like Joe Gores, another great crime writer (in fact a PI turned writer) and this is a crackerjack book. I’m rereading all his stuff and enjoying it enormously. Next I’ll rewatch the Wenders-Coppola 1982 film adaptation, co-written by Ross Thomas.
I was looking through some 1943 issues of the Canadian Review of Music and Art and came across this page of ads in the April issue, volume one number three:
Have you ever strolled “down in the village”—Toronto’s own Greenwich Village—intentionally or—just casually?
There you shall find a group of some thirty little shops offering anything from originally designed jewellery, new conceptions in wearing apparel, photographic art, paintings, and a distinctive variety of objets d’art and bric-a-brac—from ceramics to wood and wrought-iron novelties. Just through curiosity, go “down in the village” some day for lunch, tea or dinner, and eat at “Mary John’s Coffee Shop,” founded by the pioneer of the village—the late Mrs. Abbie Gray Jensen—or at “Martha’s”—the only Viennese Restaurant in Toronto. The change in menu and atmosphere will delight you.
And then, browse around into the typically and quaint [sic] little shops—so different to anything you have ever seen.
(Whoever proofread the ads should have added a hyphen between “charcoal” and “broiled” in the Mary John’s ad.)
I’d never heard of this village, or Mary John’s, but John Lorinc’s article Looking back at Mary Johns, an artists’ haven in mid-century Toronto (Toronto Star, 19 July 2015) explains all about it in one of his typically excellent pieces on Toronto and its history.
The inn opened in the 1920s across from Hester How Public School and the Elizabeth St. playground, which sat on the site of the new wing of the Hospital for Sick Children.
A great source for detailed maps of older Toronto are the Goad’s fire atlases. Here I’ve picked out details from 1924, Plate 15 and 1924, Plate 12 to show the north and south sides of Gerrard St. West and Elizabeth St. Unfortunately Gerrard is the dividing line between two maps so you can’t see both sides of the street at once (at least, not without some digital editing, which I didn’t attempt).
We see 79 Gerrard St. West at the south-east corner of Gerrard and Elizabeth, across from the playground. That’s Mary John’s.
OpenStreetMap centred on Elizabeth and Gerrard shows what the area looks like now. Almost every house is gone. The northeast corner of the intersection is a large parking lot, but east of it, across the small street, is Jimmy’s Coffee in an original building. The southeast has a big office tower.
The restaurant, which had adjoining dining rooms and tables packed closely together, catered to hospital and office workers, as well as local residents. [Daughter of the owners Lynda] Franklin, now a 71-year-old retired high school teacher, recalls typing out the menus on carbon paper. Her parents served hearty dishes like Salisbury steak, shepherd’s pie and charcoal blackened chicken, as well as salad, mashed potatoes and that staple of Anglo-Saxon cuisine, peas and carrots. Desserts included pie, ice cream and homemade butter tarts that, Franklin says with a chuckle, “were known throughout the land.”
Charcoal-broiled chicken indeed!
When she was growing up, Franklin’s friends included the children of some of the Village artists (and Mary Johns regulars), such as Judy Pocock, whose mother, Nancy Meek Pocock, was a well-known metal artist and peace activist.
For more details I looked in the 1943 City Directory to see who was listed. (See the Toronto Public Library’s Digital Toronto City Directories list for more.) On the north side of the street, across from Mary John’s, there’s Nancy Meek at 92 (she’s also in the ad above), in the same building as Mrs. Helarion E. Adams, “aura reader.”
And on the south side at 73–75 is Perry Hardy (“Percy” in the directory, but “Perry” in the ad above), who does “Particular Portraits for Particular People.” And Mary John’s Coffee Shop is at 79, along with Mrs. Helen Pope, “tea cup reader.”
There’s more about the village in Nicole Baute’s Our lost Greenwich Village (Toronto Star, 26 December 2008), Rick McGinnis’s Vanished Bohemia: Remembering Gerrard Village and the Golden Age of the Coffee House (14 October 2009) and in John Lorinc’s chapter “Before Yorkville” in The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood (edited by John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg and Tatum Taylor; published by Coach House Books, 2015) (which I own but have neglected reading; I will remedy that soon).
Mary John’s ran ads regularly in the Canadian Review of Music and Art. Here’s another one from issue number six, October 1942.
Traffic shunted forwards, and came to a halt again. The lane heading back to London was moving freely, if with wariness; the snow was drawing black lines on the road where tyres had cut through it. It occurred to River that the lanes up ahead, the far side of the spilled load, might be inches thick by now. But we’ll plough that furrow when we come to it.
“Yellow car,” said Shirley.
But she didn’t explain.
And the snow kept falling.
A very funny story—the reason I found Stettheimer—is, my professors all wanted me to work on Homer or Eakins for my PhD, and I was reading a letter from O’Keeffe because I was determined to work on a woman. The letter was about how her husband, Stieglitz, hurt his finger pulling on his underwear after taking a bath in the bathroom. She wanted him to just put a popsicle stick and a tape on it and go to Lake George with her, but he insisted on going to the emergency room, and after several hours of just sitting there, they finally found a doctor, who put a popsicle stick and a tape on it. She wrote to this woman, Florine Stettheimer, “Aren’t men ridiculous?” So I went to find who Florine Stettheimer was.
Stettheimer’s works are the subject of two issues of Listening to Art: volume four number nine, Picnic at Bedford Hills and volume four number ten, Portrait of Marcel Duchamp. Georgia O’Keeffe is featured in volume two number seven, Black Door with Red.