Image above hoovered from Shorpy, right here. Usually I cull these from my own findings, but I was pressed for time, and nothing spoke to me like this one did.

The snow began just as I started errands on Sunday - first the tiny hail that sounds like gossiping ants, then the friendly fluffy flakes that pile up fast for that instant Winter Wonderland look. When I got on the highway I marveled: almost no one on the road, and people were keeping a safe distance! Then I noticed the Highway Patrol cruiser with its flashing lights, doing 50 or so, daring any idiot to pass him. It had the effect of calming about six miles of highway.

I hear a lot about the Driverless Car, how it’ll be better and safer and everyone will love it, because it’s got Google baked into it and no one will crash. Why, we’ll play dominos as we drive. Watch movies. Chat on the phone. I suppose. But A) I like to drive, and B) there’s absolutely no way on earth that the mass acceptance of the driverless car will not be followed with a State Patrol Override during difficult driving conditions. If the officer in that vehicle could hit a switch that override the desires of the unwise driver who changed lanes at 60 MPH and threw up some snow and did a dainty little fishtrail, he would.

Of course that will happen. Can you imagine a situation in which people would successfully defend the right to drive faster than the conditions permitted? What language do we have to insist we can drive the posted limits, conditions notwithstanding? It’s a matter of public safety and public health, ergo, PLEASE READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR THE INSTALLATION OF HANDZOF DRIVING v.3.12 CLICK ACCEPT TO ACCEPT and that’ll be that.

Whether or not this is, actually, a good thing: an interesting argument. Driving is a privilege, not a right; the state already sets limits. Using a slow-switch and broadcasting maximum speeds is, in a sense, enforcement; it’s just not post facto.

I wouldn’t engage the automatic pilot for surface streets, because GPS and sensible routes cannot take into account Strategy. For example: When I come out of Trader Joe’s and head north on France, there’s four lanes. Just about everyone is heading for Target. Just about everyone gets into the right lane six or seven blocks ahead of their destination. The most efficient way to get to Target is to get in the left lane, cruise ahead of everyone, and make a series of safe, signaled turns that take me into the right lane ahead of everyone who’s starting and stopping and poking along. I never have to make a cruel merge and wedge in - something that would require The Wave of Thanks - because there’s space. If there isn’t, I stick to the left lane, turn left - the opposite direction I wish to go - and swing around a parking lot so I come at the street from the other direction. Computers cannot make that sort of decision. It’s illogical.

But driving is illogical, because it’s intuitive. You get a feel for the streets. You read the traffic; you forecast behavior.

Did all the errands, enjoyed an old Suspense show with Agnes Moorhead as - get this! - a hysterical spinster-type who’s being plotted against in ways no one believes. No, it wasn’t “Sorry, Wrong Number” - it was “The Trap,” which contains a tour de force eruption at the end. Got home. Put everything away. That wonderful feeling: the fridge is stocked, the dry goods shelved, the week’s meals planned. Then my wife came home in a snit: couldn’t get into the garage. Her car could not get up the driveway in the snow. I could smell the tires up the Bat-tunnel; said I’d put it in.

Oh ho. Well. She was right; couldn’t get up. Backed out. Reverse down the hill, slow, watching the rear-view mirror. Found a flat spot at the bottom of the hill a block away from Jasperwood and remembered: her car has an optional clutch. (Long story.) Worked the gears up the hill, hammered the gas as I got to the driveway, did a fishtail drift to get up the last incline and straightened her out for the landing in the bay. Bingo.

A driverless car wouldn’t have known what to do. The wheel, the stick, the pedals - it’s not an art, it’s not a craft. It’s just a skill.

People need skills.


When nothing else seems interesting on TV, and you don’t want to commit to a movie because it’s late, you sample the infinite number of cable documentary mini-series, if only to admire how they can give a sense of motion and urgency to a show that recycles the same 4 still photographs over and over for 45 minutes. One of the shows I watched was about women who married mobsters. They had no idea what he did for a living! No idea at all. It was a fairy-tale princess life, y’know? And then it all came crashin’ down. The reason I mention this?


I laughed. Stopped. Went back. Got my phone and took the picture.

Can you tell me why? The answer comes tomorrow.




While arranging and laying out and doing the other merry things that make for a friction-free Friday (see, there’s nothing due the next day. That’s the key. Nothing has to be written at the end of the night) I watched a movie I’d been keen to see.

Eh. It’s a low-budget number, really. George Sanders, though. That’s enough. He plays a triple agent - an American who goes to work for the Nazzies, as some say in that Churchllian pronunciation, but is really working for the FBI. His German immigrant parents don’t know he’s really on the side of their adopted country, and of course their patriotic hearts are broken.

It begins with a strange disclaimer:

Now, don’t you folks go thinking this is based on reality or anything. But it’s meant to remind people of Operation Pastorius, a failed act of sabotage from 1942, the year before the film came out. There was a scene in which the bad guys come ashore in America and are discovered by a Coast Guardsman; Sanders gives him some money and tells him to forget about it. The Guardsman says sure, thanks, and leaves - only to run to his bosses and say “hey, there’s some suspicious guys down the beach.” At the time I thought this was a bit of wishful thinking - just as likely the guy would pocket the lucre and go on with his shift. Who’d know? Well:

When Dasch was discovered amidst the dunes by unarmed Coast Guardsman John C. Cullen, Dasch seized Cullen by the collar, threatened him, and stuffed $260 into Cullen's hand.[5] Cullen reported the encounter to his superiors after returning to his station. By the time an armed Coast Guard patrol returned to the site, the Germans, weary from their trans-Atlantic trip, had taken a train into New York City.

So that happened - and they probably included it because people knew the story.

But it’s not based on that or anything!

Oddest headline I saw this weekend:


On Saturday night I watched another movie I’d been looking forward to seeing. Get this: World War 2. Warner Brothers. Intrigue in a neutral country in the Mediterranean, as free men, partisans, and Axis agents search for some mysterious papers!

Sound familiar? Also, the world is on fire!


Who’s in it?



Yes! Sidney Greenstreet. Who else?



Yes! Peter Lorre! The gang’s all here! Who’s the hero?


Oh fer criminey's sake. Wonderful. George Raft. "Casablanca" it’s not, but here’s the thing: it’s what "Casablanca" might have been if Raft had taken the role of Rick, as he was offered. To be fair, it’s inferior in almost every possible way. Lorre is great as a Russian agent with a love for vodka and the usual world-weary demeanor punctuated by gleeful insanity; Greenstreet makes a poor Nazi, but he does the Caspar-Gutman routine to the hilt, all civility and chatter-banter as he glides around with a gun. But the music isn’t there. Not one minor character has the pop and shine of the “Casablanca” crew. There’s no romance, really. And the visuals are just off. As I always say, Nazis have the best offices. But this isn’t how you shoot them.



One interesting thing at the beginning. Some names on the map change, and some don't.



Aleppo is in the news again. Beyrouth you never see spelled like that anymore.

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