Daughter called from school: sick. Dog had a spell tonight, and couldn’t walk. Wife got four hours of sleep and is currently on the treadmill in the basement practicing a speech she has to give in the morning.

I’m fine and the hamster’s doing okay.

For now. Oh, and my wife’s laptop died. It had gotten unbearably slow, which I failed to associate with a failing drive. Experience has taught me that they work until they don’t; there’s no in-between. You get the Click of Death, and it’s taps. I remember the CoD from Iomega Zip drives, which were the true marvel of the modern era when they first came out - what was the capacity, something absurd like 100 MB? When those things started to click you knew it was death, but only because A) you’d read about it from outraged people on the internet (hard to believe, but there were outraged people on the internet in 1999. Really! It’s not like it took them a few years to spin up) or B) it had happened before. We also knew the hideous grinding sound you’d get when a floppy had gone south. Oh, but who used floppies in 2000? you ask. Well, there was the SuperDrive, which looked cool, and had high-capacity floppies; I bought it because it matched my computer. No more compelling argument was necessary.

To this day I still hold my breath when I attach a storage device. I trust nothing.

As for the dog, he’s been having problems with his back legs for quite a while, and after he’s been sleeping his back legs decline to function for a while. When it first happened I thought he was a goner. That was six months ago. It happened again tonight, and my wife went right to this is it. She has been expecting it for a year, at least. I made my peace with it a long time ago, and consider every day just cake and gravy. (Both of which I’d give him if I had any.) He walked around in the backyard for an hour tonight, and we took a walk in the dusk; he seems to like it better when it’s dark, even though he can’t see much. He kept up with me as I walked, trotting alongside. Well, no; trotting isn’t the right word. But some days he has more oomph in his stride, and this was one.

The cold invigorates him. Two months away from 18 years old.

Daughter has a cold. It’s my fault for not getting her to bed earlier. It’s that burst of energy they have prior to bedtime. Chloroform, that’s the ticket. I picked her up from school, where she was slumped in the nurse’s office with a cold compress on her head. She apologized for calling. Not at all. Makes me feel useful. We were out of the proper medicine - had something for cough, something for fever, but not nasal congestion; they make clear distinctions so you end up with four sticky bottles in the shelf, each expired last month - and went I found the right thing at Walgreen’s I had to laugh at its name:


Really? Elixir? What, it’s compounded with antimony and a tincture of Spanish peat? It’s heartening, in a way; “elixir” is a marvelous word that deserves to live; you feel like you’ve been handed a potion by Gandalf himself.

Speaking of which. I really don’t relish the idea of nine hours of Hobbits, but A) I loved Lord of the Rings - except for the 32-hour sequence in the volcano at the end - and B) the trailers give me cheevers. They’re played for laughs and are nerdy as hell; just seeing all the characters and hearing their names I can imagine a 14-year-old boy smiling to himself as he read the book, thinking there are few of us who know why this book is special, and that makes us special too. The love of the text is in every frame. Looks like silly fun.

Then they start singing, and it changes the mood entirely, and the sight of nothing more than a map pitches you back ten years to the first movie. It mattered then in ways someone who sees it now for the first time can't possibly get. It connected with the times, and that was all the more powerful for not being intended as any sort of parable for the troubled inauguration of the new century.

Or might it have the same effect? It's the 70th anniversary of "Casablanca" this week, and it still resonates - for the reasons it worked at the time. That was the first Bogart movie I saw, and it was on the big screen, too. Such things change a man, and for the better.

I think I've spent my life ever since looking for a movie that repeated what I felt during that one, and the elation afterwards.

I'll keep you posted if I find one.



Another batch of Perry Mason Stills from the last plane trip. The worst eps tend to focus on some hip new thing, and “The Case of the Missing Melody” is among the worst of those. It begins with a jazz combo playing at a wedding, which tells you that the bride and groom are real gone, baby. Later, after the bride runs out on her musician fiancee, we see the band at their club, where they have a “gig.” There are large notes to remind the audience that music is playing.



The blonde lip-syncs horribly, and whoever is singing the song has as much feel for blues and torch songs like she's channeling the soul of a pneumatic nail gun.

Take Five, everyone. Look hip and tragic and beat, man.



What amuses me when I watch the show is the number of reaction shots. Just about half of all Perry Mason episodes outside of the courtroom consist of these:



The only reason I bring this up? The guy on the left. It’s Liam Neeson! No. It’s the guy who wrote this.



He doesn’t play the piano in the Perry Mason ep; he plays the bongos. The fargin’ bongos. Just in case the audience missed the fact that he’s a hip cat, his character is named Bongo White. This was the equivalent of Justin Beiber showing up on a courtroom drama - except that in this era, popular music had not been completely debased, and had room for guys like this.

Now, cats and kittens, dig this:



The woman who is smoking - and also enjoying a cigarette - was his wife of course. Julie London. They appeared together on a TV show . . .



. . . which was produced by Jack Webb, who was Julie London’s former husband. So everything was jake with everyone, I guess.

And then there’s this guy:



Walter Burke, born to play Leprechauns. As far as I can tell, he never did.

Had to smile when I saw this . . .



Ah, the vanishing lines of ersatz-Dali surrealism, complete with abstract clouds. From audiotape to fridges!



BTW, the color scheme for the box can be seen here. "Audiotape" appears to have been a trademark, but it lapsed. Just as well; it would be in Kleenex-Xerox territory by now.

Anything else we can glean from one unremarkable piece of TV? No. But that's not bad.



See you around in the usual places! Now to write more novel. Have a grand day.










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