So I’m sitting in the backyard working, and hear a sound that can only be explained by a gremlin on the roof whacking the gutter with a wooden dowel. I walk up to the house, shout HEY. The sound stops. Okay, mission accomplished. Back to the chair, back to writing. The sound resumes. I walk back, grab a tree branch, and pull it up and down, so rustling ensues.

A squirrel pokes his head over the edge of the roof. He stares down at me. I stare up at him.

We go on like this for a while. You hate to lose a staredown with a squirrel.

The situation is clear: I am much, much bigger, but he is up there. The only way I can convince him to stop doing whatever the hell he is doing? Prove my ability to be up there. I grab a tennis ball the dog chewed five years ago and has been hanging around the backyard ever since, surviving snow, thaw, snow, thaw, rain, sleet, snow, and so on, and I throw it up. It hits a window and leaves a big round dirty mark. Sigh. Again: it nearly hits the squirrel, who runs off. Mission accomplished. Back to to the chair.

I mention this to my wife later, and she sits up: he was after the window boxes. She’d just replanted them the other day after the little bastiche ripped up the flowers. The sound I heard was the knocking of the planters against the rim of the window boxes. She checked, and sure enough: dirt strewn everywhere, plant-parts hurled on the roof over the porch. The look in her eyes told me that if I rigged up tripwires and claymore mines and she had to squeegee squirrel off the windows, that would be acceptable. That would be fine.

The best way to sum up the day: was part of a podcast interview with John Yoo, then went to the office and did a video interview with the paper’s music critic about Justin Beiber. The ability to speak about anything for four minutes is not a useless skill. It’s the five-minute point that gives you sweats – oh no, I’ve exhausted my ability to spin conventional wisdom and obvious talking points as softball questions or springboards for the guest to expound. Better fake a heart attack.

The day began early: Gnat had to get to the demarcation spot for camp, and we had been instructed to be there NO LATER THAN 7:30. The buses don’t rumble off until 8, but everyone has to sign in, choose a bus. We got up and out in 17 minutes, made the queue, then milled about: festival atmosphere, all the kids bouncy and happy and ready for camp, except the few weepers and the pale kids already prepared to bolt up the Cheerios due to car sickness. The doors hissed open; the kids clambered on, and we all engaged in pantomimes for five minutes, waving, making sad boo-hoo miss you faces (daughter drew lines down her cheeks with her fingers to indicate tears) then off they went for a week in the woods. I got in my car and sped to Uptown to see how long the line might be at the Apple store.

Looooooooooong. Or, in the tautological way the web puts things, Long Line is Long. Drove to Southdale. Looooonger. Decided to order online. Really, I can wait. But by now it was, oh, 8:35, and I was woozy with hunger and lack of sleep. The day stretched ahead: three interviews, one video piece, one column, five blog posts, and whatever else came up. (Something did: got a column request from the New York Post tonight, so it’s frant-o-type after this is done.) While driving home I listened to the XM old radio channel; a Phillip Marlowe, one of my favorites. It’s been long enough since I listened to the show, and I’ve forgotten most of them, so it’s time to listen again. They don’t have the carefree self-amusement of the Sam Spade shows, but Gerald Mohr is a great Marlowe, the best as far as I’m concerned. No one can ever capture the character of the books, the introspection and the reserve. Bogart came close, but he was Bogart, and that overshadows the character for modern eyes. (He also played Spade, of course – which is like the same actor playing Batman and Spiderman in the space of a few years.)

Did most of my writing outside, and took a break to look through a copy of American Home I picked up at an antique store the other day. 1965.

The last gusts of the confident post-war consumer culture are still blowing; horrible synthetics are starting to infect the decorator’s toolkit (Faux-brick vinyl flooring! The warmth of brick and the comfort of vinyl! Or vice versa) and the appliances really have nothing new to offer except different colors. It still seems grown-up, but it’s all waiting to be knocked away by Mod and Fab and Groovy and With-It. Some of the fonts gave me a brief pang of nostagia:

That somehow became a Christmas font, didn’t it? Anyway: the magazine had a big layout on a new planned community called “Reston,” which was going to change the way people lived. And it did, if people lived in Reston, I suppose. It looks grim today, what with all the raw naked poured concrete, but those were the styles that pointed to the sensible, technocratic future. I spent a year living in an enormous project designed in the brutal concrete style, and it was like a machine for grinding souls into wet paste. Planned communities work best when the visuals go backwards, not forwards.

Anyway – have to finish two pieces and maybe try to finish “Pennies from Heaven,” a spectacular misfire of a movie I saw in the theater. The audience – such as it was; word got out fast – hated it from the very moment Steve Martin opened his mouth and lipsynced a song, because this was not Wild and Crazy. I’ve seen the original BBC Dennis Potter version, and it’s remarkable, if depressing; not as good as “Singing Detective,” but good. The American version is just wrong, wrong, wrong – Steve Martin’s character is, well, a jerk, and while he’s good enough, the whole thing is dank. The soundtrack, however, is exceptional, and constituted my introduction to 1930s pop music. I can still sing the title song from start to finish, and the sad longing version is still the best.

But then . . . there’s this.

No one knew he could do that. Then there’s this:

Enough people may have recognized that shot; “Nighthawks” was a popular painting in 1981. But then there’s this:

New York Theater, Edward Hopper – painter of “Nighthawks,” of course.

The lead “visual consultant” – and the movie’s associate producer – was the great Ken Adam, who designed all the great lairs in the James Bond movies, as well as the War Room in “Strangelove.” And he was a Hopper fan? Nothing inconsistent in that. Variety, life’s spice, etc.

By the way: was the Nighthawks diner a real place? One man’s search to find it.

New today: 100 Mysteries, of course, and four cigarette ads in 30s Magazine ads. Enjoy! Have a grand weekend, and I’ll see you Monday with a small portion, and Tuesday with an enormous chunk o’stuff.


97 Responses to Every time it rains (which it didn’t)

  1. Baby M says:

    RE: Angela Lansbury — Cabot Cove, Maine, highest per capita murder rate on the North American continent.

  2. when is James going to send Gnat to Typeface Re-education Camp, hee, hee, hee.

    These here fonts are approved for your use. Any camper uses an unapproved font spends a night in the box.

    Any camper using comic sans or hobo spends a night in the box.

    Any camper mixes more than two fonts spends a night in the box.

  3. fizzbin says:

    Man, oh man!! Crossdotcrud must have swallowed the whole bottle of blue pills. No soldier or Marine I’ve ever talked to fought to “…uphold the noblest American ideals”. That sort of thinking gives rear echelon MFs comfort and warm fuzzies, I suppose, but, believe me, it never enters our minds when the sh*t his the fan. The noblest of American ideals applies only to our fellow Americans, even to Crossdotturd types (oh, my bad, tee hee), but does not apply to our enemies.

    Pardon me while I take a chill pill.

    Ahhh, much better. In battle, American Warriors fight for three things: 1) for their comrades, 2) for their own survival, and 3) the survival of the American people. In order to accomplish those three things we must locate the enemy, close with the enemy, and KILL the enemy. Wars are never won by telling the enemy our ideals are more noble than their ideals.

    Re: water boarding. In a different blog, a heated discussion took place on the subject. I made the mistake of replying that I did not understand why a few people got their skivvies in a twist over it because at least we were now using purified water, heh. In Da Big Nam, dirty water mixed with crushed red peppers was used. Everybody talked, real quick!!

    Anyway, I can tell you from personal experience that when it’s your a#s that’s potentially going to get greased, any thoughts about sacrifices for noble ideals evaporate.

    I suppose I’d best stop ranting. I will make myself available for pummeling the eighth Friday of every month.

  4. @fizzbin, heh-heh you almost said REMF.

  5. GardenStater says:

    @fizzbin: Amen, brother. Thanks for your service.

  6. Another Guy says:

    Steve Martin is a renowned collecter of modern art, and Hopper is one of his favorites. I wonder if he influenced the set design, or that set design influenced him. I believe I remember reading an interview with him that stated something to the effect of “In the late 1980s I gave up cocaine and took up art. The coke was a considerably less expensive pastime.”
    If you read an article that Mr. Martin has signed to do something on the order of “Mr. Magoo, the Musical”, expect that somewhere in the world, a Chagal, Mondrian, or Hopper has just gone up for sale.

  7. fizzbin, you do me proud with your thanks, but I should make full disclosure, I never served in the military, just in the blue para-military domestically here. Most of the guys I worked with were Viet Nam era vets liek yourself from whom I picked up all manner of phrases like di di mau, you numbah 10, and some others you and I have exchanged some traffic over. Just wanted to clarify, and thanks again for calling me brother. I never had any brothers, but I do have two great sisters.

  8. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – re: the comic posted on lint… i didn’t know a surfaced u-boat could or would bother to fire a pink torpedo from just below the conning tower on a perpendicular course to its intended target. usually when they surface, it’s to give the deck gun crew some target practice…

    i’d love to be some leftard on tv go into his bushy mc-chimpler rant just as a report comes about how gw died whilst pulling some kids from a burning car wreck – bonus point lulz if the kids were of some minority…

  9. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – correction…

    i’d love to see some leftard on tv go into his bushy mc-chimpler rant…

  10. @shesnailie: if the Rethuglians had not deregulated the auto industry we would the necessary safety equipment to keep the car from catching on fire!

    if the GWB and his oil buddies had not blocked clean energy development, the car would not be running on flammable hydrocarbons!

  11. Pencilpal says:

    @Another guy – Scene 1, Act 1: Mr. Magoo squints at a Mondrian: “Why, what a lovely quilt! What’s it doing hanging on the wall?”

  12. Re the Lint comic… dang if the baddies aren’t decked out in purple again! Whazzup, they makin’ some kind of statement? See a dude in solid purple, you cross the street and go the other way.

  13. browniejr says:

    @bgbear- Indeed, if not for the EVIL right wing, then the car would be powered by modern high powered batteries… “MY EYES! The acid from the burst batteries has burned my flesh!”

    @Pencilpal- Snort.

  14. fizzbin says:

    @GardenStater…thank you very much. It was an honor and a privilege to be of service.

    @Mark E Hurling…IIRC, your father was a Marine. Being brought up by a Marine, you qualify! And, being part of The Thin Blue Line (as I was), double qualifies you.

    BTW, rumor has it that the civilian version of REMF means Real Enormous Middle Finger. Could that be true? :)

  15. Well is my face red! This is what happens when you don’t pay sufficient attention to who’s posting what about whom. All I saw in GardenStater’s post was your name, fizzbin. My apologies for fatuous remarks about myself here. Thank you none the less.

    fizzbin, you’re right about the father thing though. 17 years of active duty in basic training until I left home.

    As for the civilian version, I think we’ll have to consult with the EPA in the Gulf and sadly it appears, the Puddle Pirates (USCG) who do not appear to be covering themselves with glory there. I always thought of them as kind of like the fire department guys, everyone liked to see them, entirely unlike the boys in blue. They seem to attract the same personality type as the fire guys too. By which I mean nothing negative, just a different kind of service ethic.

  16. Borderman says:

    when it’s your a#s that’s potentially going to get greased, any thoughts about sacrifices for noble ideals evaporate.

    Nice one, fizzbin. Am still agog and amazed by lefties who expound on a subject of which they haven’t a single dram of information. I’ll have to get over that someday. In the meantime I truly enjoy your posts. Saw a t-shirt yesterday, “Id rather be waterboarding.” Yow-zuh.

    Raymond Chandler, the creator of Philip Marlowe, once said only Bogart could do the role justice. I’m only passing that along.

    Lived in Alexandria and commuted to my high school job in Reston on Saturdays, Jan.-Sept. 1968, for a start up electronics firm that I see still has a phone listing at the same address. Was so trendy to mention you worked in Reston back then. As if you were pals with Ayn Rand or something.

  17. DougInWA says:

    BTW, absolutely loved your Ricochet podcast interview. What did you use for the interview, tech-wise? Skype? Which microphone? etc. It sounded wonderful.

  18. madCanada says:

    @ Lileks, re Hopper.

    I was cruising innocently through L.A. the other day via Google StreetView, and something caught my eye. THIS place looks pretty exactly (maybe?) like the exterior of Hopper’s 1929 painting “Chop Suey.” I have no evidence that Hopper ever was in L.A., but this sure looks like the place.,-118.239742&spn=0,0.015578&z=16&layer=c&cbll=34.049643,-118.239841&panoid=va0wmsyKILsq4wT4M5b_Sw&cbp=12,91.61,,1,-8.18

  19. madCanada says:

    The two flappers, of course, would be inside, 2nd storey, in the room just to the left of “SUEY”

  20. Bob Lipton says:

    My favorite Walken story is that he’s waiting around while the director is conferring with the DP and finally asks why. “We’re figuring out the lighting to make you look creepy.” “I can do that without lighting.”

    As for a great Angela Lansbury role: Mrs. Lovit in SWEENEY TODD.


  21. GardenStater says:

    @Bob Lipton: Check out Walken in “Scotland, PA.” Brilliant. Also “Who Am I This Time?”

    As to Lansbury as Mrs Lovett: again, brilliant, especially opposite Len Cariou as Sweeney.

  22. fizzbin says:

    @Borderman…”I’d rather be waterboarding” LOL!!!! I don’t put stickers on my truck, but I may make an exception for that one :) Thank you for your post.

  23. Crabtree says:

    That Ricochet podcast was a little weird for me. Athens, GA is home and it was nice to hear them talking about it when I’m half-way across the country. The hotel that Yoo mentioned is about three blocks from my house!

    Kevin Pollak does a GREAT Chistopher Walken. Actually, he does a great everyone and is recognized as the best Shatner. is one of my favorite Walken stories.

  24. Mag says:

    The Chop Suey resemblance is fascinating. An hour’s googling found no mention of Hopper in LA.

  25. hpoulter says:

    No updates! Musta been a good weeekend. It was lousy here – 100 degrees (and, I discovered, 116 in the attic – no wonder my electric bill is through the roof).

  26. Karen in PA says:

    Squirrel advice for your wife –
    the only way I’ve been able to stop squirrels from digging in all newly planted pots. Cover every bit of potting soil with cocoa bean mulch. I think the smell blocks the “fresh soil here” message.

  27. hpoulter says:
    June 28, 2010 at 5:16 am

    No updates! Musta been a good weeekend. It was lousy here – 100 degrees (and, I discovered, 116 in the attic – no wonder my electric bill is through the roof).

    Which is why I’ve been avoiding pulling a few hundred feet of CAT6 in my attic. Waiting for winter….

  28. Russ Shackelford says:

    …and then there was Fess Parker playing Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett. That one confused me for years as a kid.

  29. Brisko says:


    Are you related to Rusty Shackelford?

    Also, new new Bleat on a Monday? I am freaking out, man. I am freaking. out. man.

  30. Al Federber says:

    In 1964-65, the nation endured the lamentable pairing of peacock blue and lime green. Not just in interior decorating, but also in clothing and sundry other products. It was hellish.

  31. Suppose to be a hot one today and I get to the office and the air conditioning is out and feels like it has been all weekend. Also the too smelliest ladies in the office are here. eek.

  32. Oh, and I blame skwerls for lack of update.

  33. Baby M says:

    @Al Federber — And yet, awful as it was, it was nothing compared to the horrors to come a decade later, when Avocado Green and Harvest Gold formed their unholy partnership.

  34. Wramblin' Wreck says:

    No update? – Blame Global Warming!

  35. Wramblin' Wreck says:

    Still no update? – Time to blame “W”

  36. I blame the wingbats and the moonnuts!

  37. browniejr says:

    I blame society- society made me what I am!

  38. browniejr says:

    Perhaps Mr. Lileks got his car repossessed, and has to deal with the guy at the repo lot:

  39. I blame the accidental raw octopus ingestion.

    Bleatage is my methadone. I think I got the shakes…..

  40. xrayguy says:

    Yep, I believe Mr. Walken can do that, didja see him in Hairspray?? By the way, that little “man-sandwich grind” they do showed up in Cabaret on Broadway later.

  41. swschrad says:

    yeah, well, pulling wrenches Sunday on the Taurus, I don’t feel much like posting, either. got the right side front end rebuilt, and then sheared off one of the strut tower stud bolts at the end.

    I have an e-scream in at Monroe to see if this is really, truly, actually an evil thing. and to see if they actually do visit their e-support box. many companies don’t.

  42. RPD says:

    I just got rid of my Harvest Gold washer dryer set. I liked them better than the bland white all such machines seem to be now. Still 37 years of service from my HG machines is nothing to cry about, and only the dryer really seemed to be giving up.

  43. hollypr says:

    What is up with no Bleatage today?

  44. swschrad says:

    @hollypr: Friday our gracious host posited that there would be a little addition Monday.

    this appears to be as little as possible ;)

    I don’t recall that he specified a year, however.

  45. Nancy says:

    You know he warned us there’d be days like this–and then kept posting. So we are utterly unprepared. Silly me, but I worry–especially after the raw seafood.:-D

  46. GardenStater says:

    @RPD: 37 years is a good long time for a washer/dryer. It’s what I expect from my appliances. Which is why I get so ticked off that my oven (less than five years old) is on the fritz, and requires $200 in repairs.

    These things should last forever! (Or at least 20 years.)

  47. Paul in NJ says:

    Broken page alert:

    There’s no ‘there’ there.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!