Checked my Twitter feed Sunday morning and discovered someone had sent a message at 3 AM that said @Lileks you f**king suck

The ability to irritate people while you sleep is a rare and powerful skill; I must use it only for good.

Most of the day I was wondering why the backyard stank. When I woke the world was sodden, as is the usual state these days; I figured the chair cushions in the gazebo had finally hit the point where they just tip over and give themselves entirely to odiferous mold. I put the cushions on the lawn to dry, sunlight being the best disinfectant. (Note: this does not work for gangrenous limbs; consult your physician, and ask if amputation is right for you.) I wrote a column sitting on the hard slats of the chair, then strolled up the street to see Daughter’s theater performance.

It was a musical workshop, because the kids are too old for a Camp. It was held in a high school that’s seen some difficult years, but has deep community support because so many parents around here attended the school themselves. This seems rare in the cities these days, but it’s good.

As I walked down the hall to the auditorium I passed the other event in the school, an Islamic convention for East African Muslims. In one auditorium: happy bare-egged bare-headed kids singing show tunes; in the other, sex-segregated conference where the girls in the back wore the hijab and niqab. America!

Also, Newsies! Yes, they did a song from Newsies. The show was fine, although my child should have been given more prominent parts. I say this not as a deluded parent who thinks his child possesses extraordinary talent, but a person who heard the performances of several children who could not sing at all.

There was a reception after the event, where I went up to my child and whispered “You would prefer that I leave immediately.” She said “yes.” So I did. Later she informed me that she was kidding, but not really, since there weren’t ANY OTHER PARENTS there, and that made her stand out and hence be ridiculed by some imaginary group of peers completely separate from the ones who were there, and not judging her at all because there was a physical manifestation of her family in the room, with a cookie. Once other parents began streaming in, it was okay. Over dinner we discussed why the opinions of the other kids should matter at all, a thorny matter for someone on the verge of teenhood. Because they don’t except they do except they don’t except it’s complicated and anyway you’re criticizing me.

Well, yes, of course I am.

Later I figured out the stench: it was a stinky tree. The smell connected with a powerful, off-putting aroma I encountered on a post-rain walk in Arizona last year. They say it’s the ginkos. We don’t have ginkos. Maybe the neighbors do. You usually don’t factor your neighbor’s trees into your own personal life unless they fall over on your property, and how likely is that?

Well: a few weeks ago I discussed the limb that fell from the great tree next door, taking out three sections of fence. I got a bid today from the company that installed the fence for the previous owners. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Each post: $225. I have priced this wood at Home Depot, and you can buy it for under ten dollars. Unless this wood has been cured by nuns handrubbing it with ambergris, no. I mean, there’s labor, and there’s profit, but $ 2000+ for 16 feet of plain wood fence is absurd.

Then again: walking back from the performance, I saw some guys from a stucco company taking a break on the steps by the sidewalk. I asked the guy who looked like the crew chief if he might wander down the block to look at my garage, which needs some stucco work.

He said he wouldn’t get to it this season. He didn’t have time to breathe. “Three years ago I couldn’t catch a job,” he said, “and now it’s non stop.”

“That’s good,” I said. “For you I mean.”

“Well yeah but I just can’t.”

The thing is this: he seemed to have an equal amount of unhappiness over the amount of work he had to do now and the lack of work he had then. Business is crazy. It’s a nightmare. There’s no business. It’s a nightmare.

Went home, finished the column. Tried to ignore the stinky tree. Filed. Napped. Woke. Went to the Apple store, which is a story for another day. Got pizza on the way back; the manager comped me the kid's cup so Daughter could have a little spritz from the machine that had every soda known to mankind but Peach Nehi. When he brought out the pizza he had apologies: it had stuck to the oven when they took it out, and half a slice was missing. Could he make us whole with something else? A brownie, perhaps?

I pointed out that he'd already given us a free cup of soda, so nah, forget about it, no problem.

On the way home, it's Dad's Moral Instruction Time! So why didn't I take a free brownie? Because we already got a free drink. Yes. But there's more. There's backstory. A few months ago I'd sent a letter to the company's feedback line, explaining that I'd been using the new online ordering system, specified a time ahead, and the pizza was usually cold when I arrived, indicating some kinks. I said I'd still be a customer, I'd just call ahead instead, but hey, FYI. The company responded with profuse apologies and a card for two free pizzas. The manager on subsequent visits was intent on providing a hot pizza, which was great, and I wrote the feedback line to tell them everything was just splendid. But that's the second free kid's-cup we've got out of this, and that's the last one.

Lesson: never take advantage of someone's generosity.

At which point someone might say c'mon - the cup's $1.29, and you know what they make on soda? That's irrelevant. I don't want my kid to think I had 'em over a barrel and squeezed out every penny I could get. It's dog-eat-dog! Every man for himself! I don't want to be that guy.

After supper the wind rose and the rain fell and a violent storm crashed through the neighborhood. The power flickered; the machinery went out; things crashed outside; sirens howled. When it was done another limb of the doomed tree next door had fallen, and it almost took out the shed.



There was a family of birds in that one, too.



The damage is everywhere. The moodiest, angriest June I can remember.



Remember: not a review. Just a look at the graphics, styles, cliches, and actors. This week:

Great logo, although if you weren't paying attention you might ask: Desberate?



A cliche of the times, something that died out when movies stopped featuring people who lived in tenements in big cities: the irritating wiseacre kid who thinks he knows more than he does and talks tough. No one else to play with.



Teddy Infuhr, who specialized in tough-kid roles. His last job was "Blackboard Jungle," after which he walked away and entered the world of chiropracty.

The movie's about a guy who's on the level until he gets mixed up in a heist against his will, and then he has to take it on the lam with his wife. Is it noir? Well:



Yes. In appearance, anyway. It has the style, but it's a little too soft-hearted, That's fine. You root for the young couple and you hiss the bad guys. Speaking of which, here's some tidy composition: put some guys in the foreground, a guy in the back, shape it like pyramid and toss a spot on the man in the middle. The big bad guy.



He's no good. He's a bad, bad man.



There's a scene in which he watches his boys beat the protagonist, and the overhead lights swings back and forth, throwing him into shadows and light over and over. Soft focus, hide the eyes, show the underling watching the boss for a cue: it's nice work.



If you haven't recognized the bad guys, this will do it - as well as remind you, rather clumsily, where his kind should be.



The Decent Hero Guy: Steve Brodie. Did 165 pictures & TV eps. Even did three Perry Masons. A year before he died in 1992 he said he wouldn't have changed a thing about his life, and that he "had a ball."

That's the spirit. We tip our hat to Steve. He prefered to be the heavy but he made a fine good guy, too.



As for the bad guy who ended up one of the Goodest Guys of TV: There's the inevitable shoot-out in a starkly-lit stairwell.



t's good enough. It's not great but it's all good enough.



Matchbooks right now. After noon, Strib Blog has a brief Al Yankovitch thing, and some other items I've prepared in advance and already forgotten. Tumblr today? Of course! See you around.



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