The Boxcar Library



The Boxcar Library: A Bookmobile for a Logging Camp.

It was 1917. Miss Ruth Worden, a librarian at the Missoula Public Library in Missoula, Montana, wanted to bring a world of knowledge and literature to lumberjacks at logging camps in her area. So she carted a few books into a camp operated by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company…

What a beautiful idea – read a full description over at Neatorama.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

A Random Selection of Well-Loved Movies

On my Facebook wall appeared a question thrown out serendipitously:

“What movie could you watch over and over again?”


Had this been reddit, the post probably would have hit the front page. People chimed in from everywhere, and I decided to compile a list. What I discovered was that many of the ones mentioned were also on my best-beloved list (marked with a star) and that now I have an entire raft of ones I need to see, so I can judge for myself.

  • 16 Candles
  • A Christmas Story
  • A Walk to Remember
  • Anne of Green Gables Star
  • Back to the Future Star
  • Breakfast Club
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I prefer the original with Gene Wilder) Star
  • Christine
  • Christmas Vacation
  • Clueless
  • Connie and Carla
  • Dances with Wolves StarStar
  • Dirty Dancing Star
  • Dr. Zhivago
  • Driving Miss Daisy Star
  • Elf
  • Emma
  • Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Facing the Giants
  • Finding Nemo
  • Flash Gordon
  • Footloose
  • Freaky Friday (remake)
  • GardenState
  • Godfather I and II Star
  • Grease Star
  • Groundhog Day StarStar
  • Harry Potter (any) StarStar
  • It’s a Wonderful Life Star
  • Ladyhawke
  • Last Holiday Star (You and I, we know the secret to life. It’s butter.)
  • Little Women Star
  • Lonesome Dove
  • Love Actually
  • Madagascar 2
  • Miracle on 34th Street (remake)
  • Moonstruck
  • Mrs. Doubtfire Star
  • Poison Ivy
  • Practical Magic Star
  • Pretty Woman
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Princess Bride StarStarStar (One does not tamper with perfection.)
  • Return To Me Star
  • Sabrina Star (both versions)
  • Secretariat Star
  • Sense and Sensibility StarStar
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Sound of Music Star
  • Star Wars Star (Yes, I even like the prequels. Sosumi.)
  • Stardust Star (That’s alright, Cap’n, we always knew you was a whoopsie.)
  • Steel Magnolias
  • Sweet HomeAlabama
  • Terror from the year 5000 (SciFi B-flick with a good message. Cheesy but a favorite.)
  • The Help Star
  • The Man from SnowyRiver
  • The Notebook Star
  • The Royal Tenenbaums
  • The Wedding Planner
  • To Sir with Love Star
  • Tombstone
  • Trains, Planes and Automobiles
  • What Happens in Vegas
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • While You Were Sleeping Star
  • White Christmas Star
  • Wizard of Oz Star

And a collection of others from my own favorites (certainly not complete, but for no good reason):

  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Avatar
  • Bicentennial Man
  • Brave
  • Braveheart
  • Brewster’s Millions
  • Capricorn One
  • Children of Men
  • Dark Knight series
  • Enemy Mine
  • Equilibrium
  • Face Off
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Fantasia
  • Fantasia 2000
  • First Wives Club
  • For Richer or Poorer (Now, let’s go scrub the kitchen floor! Ooh, can we??)
  • Frequency (Wife reminded me about this one!)
  • Galaxy Quest (Oh, that’s not right!)
  • Gattaca
  • Ghost Dad (It’s Edith, and it’s a boy’s name!)
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Guarding Tess (Nic Cage’s greatest film, if you ask me)
  • Heart and Souls (Make a difference before the bus comes for you.)
  • Heaven can Wait (either version)
  • Hidalgo (Omar Sharif was awesome)
  • High Road to China (I love Tom Selleck)
  • Indiana Jones (even “nuking the fridge”)
  • Kramer vs. Kramer
  • La Dame Folle de Chaillot / The Madwoman of Chaillot
  • La Strada (a Fellini masterpiece) StarStarStar
  • Lawrence of Arabia (breathtaking!)
  • Les 400 Coups (Truffaut: Dark and poignant) StarStarStar
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Lilies of the Field
  • Lord of the Rings StarStarStar
  • Michael Collins
  • Miss Congeniality 1
  • Mr. Baseball
  • Murder by Death (Alec Guinness vs. Nancy Walker – priceless!)
  • Newsies
  • Out of Africa
  • Patch Adams
  • Pay it Forward
  • Pete’s Dragon (because Maine)
  • Pinocchio (Disney’s 2D masterpiece)
  • Quigley Down Under
  • Ratatouille
  • Robin Hood (Costner)
  • Saving Grace (Tom Conti, 1986) StarStarStar
  • Schindler’s List
  • Secret of Roan Inish
  • Silver Streak
  • Sneakers
  • Soylent Green
  • Star Trek (Any and all, even No. 5.)
  • Stargate
  • Tangled
  • The 5th Element
  • The 6th Sense (even if I know the ending)
  • The Associate
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (Original version, of course)
  • The Frisco Kid
  • The Good Earth (Paul Muni)
  • The Green Mile Star
  • The Irishman (Scorsese’s latest triumph. On a par with “The Godfather”
  • The Kid
  • The Last Samurai
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance
  • The Man in the Iron Mask
  • The Mask of Zorro
  • The Patriot
  • The Peaceful Warrior
  • The Pianist
  • The Ultimate Gift
  • Tootsie
  • Toy Story (all)
  • War Games
  • Young Frankenstein
  • You’ve Got Mail

Stupidity has consequences


The beautiful, 160-year-old Lebeau plantation in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.


The same plantation after a group of brain-dead “ghost hunters” invaded the place to investigate reports of the place’s being haunted. Finding no ghosts, they decided to get wasted on cheap weed and cheaper beer, and ended up setting the place on fire.


No punishment meted out to these ragskulls will bring back the historic building which pre-dated the Civil War, but felony charges may deter the next group of morons. You can get a few more details at Fox8.

The Old Wolf is sad.

To dream the impossible dream

Growing up – or even being grown up – and dealing with body image issues is difficult enough in the absence of an impossible standard. Unfortunately for everyone, the advertising industry is responsible for holding up a zenith of beauty which is impossible for anyone to attain – even the beautiful models themselves.

The two shots below were captured from a video that shows model Sally Gifford Piper being photographed and then photoshopped.


This is the photo of Sally before the photoshop work was done. Yes, she’s had hair work and makeup and lighting for this shot, but she’s a beautiful woman just the same.


This is the “after” version – she’s been given body work and cosmetic surgery to give her Barbie proportions, something no human could ever hope to approximate.

Watch the process in the video below:

And as a followup, an interview with Piper herself, courtesy of CNN.

This reminds me of the Dove makeover video, that is worth watching at any time.

The advertisers should be ashamed of themselves for promoting such unattainable standards, but of course they won’t be, because the result is far too lucrative, at the expense of the self esteem of people everywhere – largely women and girls. The more exposure this kind of douchebaggery can get, the better off humanity will be.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Because usage.

Grammar is like the pirate’s code. As Captain Barbossa said, “The Code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.”

Living grammarians and prescriptivists and editors just had an apoplectic fit; the dead ones are now spinning in their graves with such vigor that if you could hook up an armature to each one, you could power New York City for free.

As a career linguist, I have the right to say that, but note that saying so doesn’t make me right. It’s just my opinion. Spend enough time studying various models of language and you come away with the feeling that some things *”just not allowed are” unless *”Yoda you happen to be.” No, there’s a place for everything and everything must be in its place. On the other hand, spend enough time studying historical linguistics and the mechanism of language change, or watch the transformation of Vulgar Latin into the family of Romance Languages, and you learn something else: usage trumps Strunk and White every time.

Now, having had a traditional preparatory education, I struggled through multiple years of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition,  learned to execrate Reed-Kellogg diagrams, and spent most of my time drawing things like this in my notebook:


And, I learned how to use English properly. A couple of language and linguistics degrees later, I still support the need for correct grammar as a means of facilitating communication and avoiding chaos, and while I cringe just as forcefully as the next person when seeing a grocer’s apostrophe or a confusing of “lose” and “loose,” I am much less committed to the concept that everything has to be just so, best beloved.

Linguistic patterns are pretty well established by the time we become adults, and it takes a powerful force to make us change our way of speaking or writing, or at the very least, a conscious effort – but the former is difficult to come by, and the latter implies awareness of that which is correct and that which is incorrect, and the prices and benefits of making certain linguistic choices.

I don’t, like, you know, change how I talk or write with, you know, like, every new fad. *gag* That said, there’s one little bit of popular speech that I have latched on to as a very useful and concise way of expressing a much more complicated concept, and that’s the use of a noun as the object of the subordinating conjunction because, where typically one expects an entire clause.


Because Japan.

The picture and sentence (it is a sentence, despite the lack of anything remotely resembling a subject, verb, or predicate) suffice to convey a significant amount of information in a very compact manner. To translate this into traditional grammar, one would have to say something like:

“This picture of people bathing in a giant pool of wine is very unusual, but since the picture is taken in Japan, where many things are so different that foreigners have no hope of understanding the rhyme or reason behind certain cultural phenomena, everything is just as it should be, and you should not expect anything else.”

In a previous post about escalators, you will find this picture:


I could have just as easily captioned it “Because America,” the meaning being “You will only find escalators being used to reach a fitness center in America because people are so fat and lazy that they miss the entire concept and holy hqiz isn’t that ironic.”

Just how long this particular linguistic quirk will last remains to be seen. I have no illusions that it will be mainstreamed (that verb didn’t exist 20 years ago, by the way), but the whole point is that you never know what’s going to become popular or accepted down the road. In the meantime it’s swell, and I’ll probably use it until people start looking at me as though I had grown a third eye.

Because usage.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

PS: Atlantic has a similar article which is worth reading as well. Because corroboration.

The Czar of the Tenderloin

When I was little, my mother used to sing bits and snatches of songs to me  that she remembered from her own childhood. One that always stuck in my mind was “The Czar of the Tenderloin,” which she told me she often heard sung by her uncle, Leo Marshall.

Frances, Lucille, Bill & Vic Rogers with Leo Marshall

Leo Marshall, center in rear, with his wife Lucile Rogers Marshall (right front) and her siblings Frances, William, and Victor, December 1970

Years later, at the 80th birthday party of my grandmother Frances, (Leo’s sister-in-law), he sang it for the assembled family one last time. It was two years before his death, and the rendition was hesitant and shaky, but all the more lovely for his still being able to remember as much as he did.

As I grew older, I often wondered about the origins of the song, and if there were any more of it than the little bits Mother sang.

And then came the Internet, the modern-day Areopagus (Acts 17:21). As the body of the world’s knowledge is slowly but surely gathered and preserved online, not everything happens at once. For years I searched and scraped the web, but always came up poor… until today.


Notice the nightstick on the cover.

Czar2 Czar3 Czar4 Czar5

The Lyrics

America has a President and England has a Queen,
While Germany’s great Emperor sits ruling all serene,
The Indians have their medicine man, Bavaria a king,
But none of these high diplomats are quite the proper thing.

For in gay New York where the gay Bohemians dwell,
There’s a Colony called the Tenderloin, though why I cannot tell,
A certain man controls the place with no regard for coin,
The Czar, the Czar, the Czar of the Tenderloin.


The Czar of the Tenderloin,
With great propriety, seeks notoriety,
But the girls all shun the society
Of the Czar of the Tenderloin.

Each evening through the Tenderloin the Czar will gayly prance,
With whiskers well divided just to give the wind a chance,
His bodyguard behind him scouting for a finish fight,
Arresting everything that’s left because it isn’t right.

Piano legs must now be clothed with care,
And he’s ordered all the trees cut down because their limbs were bare,
He’s going to build a little church which everyone must join,
The Czar, the Czar, the Czar of the Tenderloin.


His hobby is arresting shoes whenever they are tight,
He also nabs electric lights when when they go out at night,
The sun came out one morning and he ordered its arrest,
The moon was full, he pulled it in and claimed it was a pest.

One day on the Tenderloin, a maiden changed her mind,
Now the Czar thought that was naughty so the girl was quickly “fined.”
He arrested a cook for beating an egg, now don’t that take the coin,
The Czar, the Czar, the Czar of the Tenderloin.


This 1897 song by Bob Cole and Billy Johnson is based on the life and times of Alexander S. “Clubber” Williams, a notoriously corrupt but effective police inspector who ruled over New York’s Tenderloin district with an iron fist and a wooden club. At the end of his career he was reputed to have said that he never clubbed anyone who didn’t deserve it. The name of that part of town, the northwest corner of which is now Times Square, came from William’s statement that “I’ve been having chuck steak ever since I’ve been on the force, and now I’m going to have a bit of tenderloin,” said because of the lucrative business of protection payments from legitimate and illegitimate businesses alike. Prior to Williams’ reign, the district was known as “Satan’s Circus.” San Francisco also has a Tenderloin district, and the term has come to be synonymous with a seedy, ill-reputed or red-light district of town.


Manhattan’s historical districts, the Tenderloin indicated by a star.


Emile Berliner’s Gramophone 78 rpm record. “The Czar of the Tenderloin,” sung by Will F. Denny. Recorded July 14, 1897

With thanks to Tim Gracyk, you can hear Will F. Denny singing an abridged version of the song at YouTube, but I can still hear Uncle Leo singing it as clearly as though it were yesterday.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Killing us softly, Part 4

  • Women, watch this.
  • Men, watch this.
  • Share it with your children whom you think are ready to handle it.
  • And start teaching the principles in appropriate ways to the young ones from the cradle.

This is not radical feminism, it is the cold, hard, harsh truth – and as long as nothing changes, rape culture, image problems and relationship dysfunction will continue to have a fertile breeding ground. Sexualization and objectification in advertising affects us all, regardless of our gender, age, or body type. Spend 22 minutes listening to this powerful lady speak truth to the advertising world.

Thanks to Paul Taylor of Wapsi Square for pointing this out.

The Old Wolf has spoken.