We ran out of weather on Saturday. Zero degrees. No degrees to be found. Maybe people are hoarding them. I looked in the closet to see if we had any spares, but no luck. O course, there was wind. “Feels like ten below out there,” the radio said.

If it feels like ten below, it is ten below.

Consequently I lost all feeling in my pedal extremities while shopping on Saturday. Toes did not report in for duty as usual. Even after walking around Target for a while: nothing. Hunks of insensate bone-in ham, that’s all. You become accustomed to this after a while; your feel are like grown children. You expect they’ll get back to your eventually. Perhaps around the holidays.

Since I don’t have a lot of experience walking around without toes, I cut my errands short, lest I fall over. Went to the mall and sat outside waiting for my wife to finish shopping, the heat blasting as high as possible in the ARROW POINTING TO FEET position. Usually I like the air blasting in my face as hot as possible, which wards off the chill but also has the effect of putting me to sleep, which is why I would make a poor fire fighter.

That was Saturday, mostly. Sunday the temps surged to 19, so we could go outside without being pecked to death by the beaky wind. Friday was also zero or so. All of which added up to a tremendous amount of work done inside, including the assembling of the tree. Three parts, stored on a shelf in the garage. Will it light up completely, reminding me that I was smart to get a pre-lit tree? Of course not.

“I think it was on sale, wasn’t that it?” I said to my wife. There had to be a good reason we bought it. Well, it’s paid off by now, and the missing lights were easily fixed with a spare string, and now it glows in the corner. Unadorned: that’s Monday night. But the lights are enough. I know all the ornaments by heart, anyway, and can tell their tales and origins. There are a few of Mickey from the classic period, purchased at the Eternally Christmasy store in Downtown Disney, and they shame me into realizing I’ve never gone out with an axe to get a tree, as Mickey does in this ornament. He’s heading home with Pluto, tree on sled, happy as ever.

It’s never ten below in these scenarios. It’s always, say, 31. No one’s eyes are ever frozen slits streaming with tears.

The thing about the world right now: it’s hard. It’s hard all over. The snow is just a ruse. Summer ground is soft, with fragrant grass. Winter ground is stone covered with the infinite corpses of a rainfall that died on the way to the ground.

It’s pretty, though.

I watched “Pacific Rim,” which was spectacular and ridiculous. Giant lizards are coming out of a crack in the world - we must build enormous robots to punch them to death!

Uh - chief, I’m just spitballing here, but if we used bunker-busting bombs we could probably take them out. I don’t even think a nuke would be necessary. A MOAB to stun them, then drill two or three of those babies into the monster, and you’ve got cooked terrapin stew, more or less.

Nice idea, Johnson, but we’re going for the enormous robots. Now, men, when you train the pilots for the big robots, let them know that the creatures can always be defeated with the plasma cannon, and the chest-mounted rockets. But don’t stand off at a distance! Get in there and fight! Then use the plasma cannons after you’ve been punched a few times. Make it a fair fight! Then - what is it, Johnson?

Well, sir, if the plasma cannons kill the creatures, why not mount them on aircraft? Say, helicopters.

Nonsense! We’re going to use the helicopters to fly in the 300-ton 10-story robots. But if by chance the robots don’t work - by which I mean, one of them loses a battle at some point - we’re going to scrap the whole program and build walls around the coastline of every nation, where a man with a past he’d like to forget can blend in with the cynical, beaten-down hardhat-types.

I should also note that there’s a scrappy hero who’s been through a lot, a spunky undervalued female pilot who weighs 38 pounds but has martial-arts skills that make Bruce Lee look like Charles Laughton with gout, and a grizzled old-time pilot who comes to respect the new guy. Yes, these are old classics of the genre, and of course you could say the same thing about Star Wars, but that was in 1977 and the tale has been told a few times since then. But the director clearly loved the material, the subject, the genre! Could say the same thing about “Deep Throat.” But - it has a scruffy non-traditional scientist type with a crazy idea that just might work; isn’t that confounding the genre by embracing its cliches?

Okay great. Never was a Mecha guy. They seem ridiculous. And here’s a strange, as Paul Harvey used to say: I don’t like seeing scenes of mass urban destruction. It just bothers me. That’s a horrible waste. No one will never be able to repair that building. The cost will be enormous. Insurance companies all over the world will go bankrupt.

I also watched a peculiar movie called “The Naked Jungle,” which is distinct from all the movies in which the Jungle swanned around in a seersucker suit, I guess. They were big on The Naked Thing titles back then; it mean something raw! and honest! but in this case it meant “sexually naive plantation owner has problems with his mail-order bride, until the ants show up.” As soon as I saw the description I knew I had to watch it, since the plantation-owner-vs-ants theme is the basis for an extraordinary old radio show, “Leiningen vs. the Ants.” Probably has its own wikipedia entry . . .

Yes indeed. The harrowing radio show starred William Conrad. Of course he couldn’t play the role in the movie, since the first half was a Romance of sorts, so Charlton Heston got the job - and Conrad played the fat local government official. That must have been great. Well, here’s another role that goes to the big blond pretty ones. The original, however, had no romance - and it’s the addition of this plot in the first hour that makes it a truly uneasy film, because Leiningen’s problems aren’t ant-related, at all. In fact you suspect he welcomes the ants as a diversion from dealing with the raw humid red-headed sexpot he discovered is his bride.

You can hear it here. There are several other versions, but I seem to recall ths was the best.





The Supersized Generic Noir Title:

Your hero: Mr. Dialtone Constipation.

Glenn Ford lacks something, and that’s what makes him good for Noir roles. He projects strength and desperation in equal portions. He's a cop, with a sweet wife. We see the warm domestic life of the Good Cop and the Lovely Wie; she gives him the rare treat of steak, but takes his cigarette and steals a puff. Nowadays this would be appalling - she’s ashing all over everything! - but it’s a sign of familiarity and intimacy.


She never had a big career. This was one of her highlights. Her younger brother did better in movies, but she outlived him. Jocelyn Brando died in 2005; brother Marlon in 2004.

Anyway. Cop on the trail of murder uncovers corruption, and so on. He enlists the help of a Bad Girl: Gloria Grahame, of course.

From her imdb page:

Her unusual 1960 marriage to former stepson Anthony Ray made a great Hollywood scandal and led to a bitter child custody battle with former husbands.

Yes, that’ll raise eyebrows. He married his dad’s wife. Not even a noir movie would touch a theme like that. He did some second-unit / assistant director work, but no credits after 1974. Since then? Who knows.

Adam Williams, who played clean-cut bad guys. Most notable role: North By Northwest. I include this for the background: primitive art, which was intended to mean the occupant of the room was sophisticated.

As you may have surmised, the heavy was Lee Marvin. He likes to play rough with women. I note this bar scene not for its composition, but the cast: in a modern movie the idea of two military men in uniform would look odd. In 1953? That’s the way it was:

The blondeon the right gets a hard deal from Marvin, who’s cruel to her for no reason other than he’s just that kind of guy. She’d do okay, though. A note on her career: “Columbia Pictures saw her and wanted to test her for the part of prostitute Alma Burke in From Here to Eternity (1953), but she got extremely sick with pneumonia and the part went to Donna Reed instead.” Odd to think of Donna Reed as a prostitute.

Oh, the actress? Imagine her hair’s long and black, and she’s walking around a musty mansion snipping the heads off roses. Yes: that’s Carolyn Jones, Morticia Adams. Fun fact: she was married to 70s big-time producer Aaron Spelling for 12 years.

There aren't a lot of Noirish shots - you know, fog, shadows, smoke, Venetian blinds - but if you pause it almost anywhere the images are stark and sometimes mysterious. Imagine a caption, and you're right.

The Flunky Disarmed:

The Powerful Man on Top of the World:

The Pain of Lee Marvin:

Grahame, Williams, Jones, and Whtney all died in their 50s. Too soon, but they left these moments behind and bought a piece of immortality. Less noted is the permanence afforded an artist who did a Yellow Pages ad, unaware it would be lodged in a film that would be seen in the second decade of the next century:

He or she would probably be pleased to know that.

Still, no “Star Trek” connection! Such a disappointment. There’s always one.

Hold on . . . .


Hey, it's T'pau, from "Amok Time"!

No, really. It is.


That's it for today; Matchbooks, of course, it being Monday, and the usual stuff elsewhere. See you around.









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