The satellite TV installer showed up early, because his previous call fell through. He showed up on time, buzzed the unit in the apartment lobby. Nothing. Called their phone: no answer. Sat in the truck that had the DIRECTV logo outside the apartment, and waited for 45 minutes. Nothing.

I’ll bet they’ll call and complain.

He said not a word but got straight to his work, laid his finger along side his nose, and I knew in a minute it must be St. Drect! Sorry; don’t know where that came from. Heard a recital of the old poem on the radio today, and wondered anew why Santa Claus laid a finger alongside his nose. Usually in these parts amongst the old Swedes that a sign that a nasal bolus is about to be shot towards the sidewalk. Speaking of which, alas: a few weeks ago I wrote a column about a guy being fined for spitting. Usual split: A) it’s disgusting, good, and B) don’t the cops have anything better to do. Well, Friday I was heading into the office, and there was a guy waiting for the bus. He felt the need to spit. The urge to expel fluids had come over him, and could not be denied. Instead of spitting into the street, he turned around and spat, twice, on the threshold of the door, just as I approached. I looked at him with dismay, which was his cue to say “sorry, old chap, but I could tell from the sharp metallic tang that the oyster I just consumed was contaminated with botulism.”

Anyway. The installer carted off a big honking DVR, a smaller receiver, and another smaller receiver. I was not sad to see the DVR go; it had lots of unwatched shows I need never worry about again. Fie and begone, unseen series I hoped to get around to but obviously cared nothing for. He replaced everything with the Genie, which has one DVR and two tiny boxes. He explained: Now we can all be watching something on different TVs and record two other shows at the same time. I thought: God help us if it comes to that. The idea that five shows would collide simultaneously, each essential in its own way - can’t imagine the likelihood. Are you going to be done with that movie by eleven? Mom wants to watch a juicer infomercial and I reckon I’ll record that Weather Channel special on the top storms of 2007! We don’t watch much TV as it is, but now we can not watch more than ever.

Alas, his early arrival meant I got about 5.5 hours of sleep, so I was useless all day. Had intended to go to the Mall of America, but all of those plans were flung with extreme prejudice into a cocked hat when daughter’s outing with pals got scotched. So I polished up the new interface for the Institute of Official Cheer, uploaded 12,496 files, and waited for breakfast coffee to wear off. (Which reminds me: watched “Flight” last night, which is essentially a drunk movie with the usual arc, redeemed by good performances. I had no idea that you could pass out from drinking everything in the minibar, hit your head on the toilet, bleed everywhere, then snap to attention and conduct yourself with calm sureness if you got enough cocaine.) Napped while daughter and a friend made Christmas cookies; got up and walked the dog.

It’s been a while, because it’s been cold. He did better than he did the last time. Let me tell you something about my neighborhood: a car was approaching as we were heading across the street, and I waved them through the intersection, because it would take us a while. The driver insisted on us going first, so we did; halfway through she rolled down the window, introduced herself as a newcomer to the area, and said she’d met my wife when she was walking the dog, and she knew he was old and very sweet.

He seemed to enjoy being out. It was cold, though. Deucedly cold. When it came time to cross the street for home I picked him and took him up the stairs, which he accepts. Flight is a power he has come to take for granted.

Off to shop. You may say: madness! Agreed. But the deals are spectacular, and I got the perfect gift for my wife. At another store, though, I saw something that made me wince. It’s a high-end boutique giftshop called Patina, and I’ve seen this product in lip form. It was so popular they brought it back for hands:

At least it’s on the other side of the small store from the children’s toys. I always want to ask the owner of the store: would you walk up and say this word to my daughter? You’d think it a sign of crude, boorish manners if I brayed the word in front of the six-year-old kids playing over there by the window, no? Everything in this store is a testament to the exquisite sensibilities of your target demographic - arty and cultured folk who understand kitsch in its proper place and value the multiple level of meanings in a bamboo cooking utensil. But really, this. So the problem with the F word on a package is simply a matter of finding the right typeface and the proper graphic design.

At least there’s a dearth of political stuff. There used to be a shelf full of stuff devoted to mockery of the reigning political figures. Oddly absent.

Then the Mall, the mother mall, Southdale. Walked around humming along to the songs. 6:30 Sunday night: not exactly peak shopping, even at this late date. Saturday’s shopping was so much worse - lines to the parking lots, impassable store aisles dense with carts, the bottle shop choked with people who people looking for pre-packed cordials, to use a term rarely employed these days. Previously I’ve bought a bottle of those creamy booze-ichor glop-sauce drinks, the white-chocolate / egg nog things, but experience taught me that no one really wants them, and you find them in the shelf six months later. You think: “cream.” Out it goes. So, no.

Around the corner to the grocery store; the Salvation Army bell ringer by the door wore an apron that said “I AM A BELL RINGER,” which seemed rather obvious, given that he was ringing the bell.

“You are a bell ringer!” I said as I walked up.

“I am a bell ringer,” he grinned. His wife was standing next to him, and she smiled wide. I put the green in the slot and said the M-C thing and they M-C’d back with gusto. What I didn’t say was “I’m going in this door because it’s also the exit, and I can’t stand to walk past a kettle without hitting it, because it makes me feel cheap.”

It does. It should. I don’t carry much cash. I wish they took plastic, but that will change. In the future you’ll have thin electronic overlays on your fingertips, and you’ll be able to point at something and pay for it, tapping out the amount and your code on the back of your hand. I hope the Bell Ringers disable that, lest they check their bank account and note that shaking their hand back and forth in close proximity to the Kettle Sensor donated $4,395 in the course of one shift.

But that was Saturday. Ended the Sunday shopping at the big luxury grocery store that’s going to be demolished next year. Wife wanted Olives for the Christmas snack tray. There is an Olive Bar. I hate olives, so the olive bar is interesting: so many things to dislike and ignore. Just like the DirecTV options. The amount of choices you can passively reject is just astonishing; it’s a defining feature of modern life.

I was there for the Asian take-out. At the counter, the clerk asked: did you find everything you needed?

And more! I said, thinking back to the jewelry counter at Patina, where the clerk asked “How are you? Can I help you?” and I, for some stupid reason, said “Those are really two distinct lines of inquiry,” and then apologized because Smart-Aleck Literal Customer probably wasn’t high on her list of Things To Enjoy after a long day.

So to the Asian-food-checkout-lady, who’s always the same one - late 60s, snow-white hair, utter Minn-e-sotah lady, never less than bright and cheerful - I said “I have no complaints at all.”

“Well that’s nice to hear,” she said. “Some people aren’t so lucky.”

“What do they complain about?”

“Oh, they couldn’t find something. Oh, it was too expensive. And I think, you know, we live in a country where you can pretty much find anything you want if you poke around and look for it.”

“I came for supper and olives and I found them.”

“Well there you go.”

And then I went home. Shopping down. Meal secured. Dog walked. Christmas! In the pipe, five by five.


It's not the same old version. I rewrote it and added a new ending that spins the story around a little. Click HERE and off you go.



Oblgitory for this week, I suppose. From Twickenham, it's a Public Domain Tradition!

The book opens for the credits, using olde tyme Dickensian typefaces, but someone over at Visatone put his foot down on that idea:

I'd tell you more about Visatone, but if you google "Visatone Sound System" you'll see my problem. I hate when that happens.

Every era must revisit the character and cast him as they best see fit. In 1935, this was The Scrooge:

Sir Seymour Hicks. Born in 1871, on the stage since 1887. He also wrote, and one of his early movies gave an opportunit to a young fellow named Hitchcock. He did Scrooge on stage thousands of times, so this was a role honed over the course of three and a half decades. He also played Scrooge in a 1913 filmed version of "A Christmas Carol."

As for the film itself, well, ee go thorugh the basics, which can be rather tedious when the picture and sound are poor. Yes yes, get on with it. Blow off the charity-seekers, get home, underdone potato, and all that. The movie takes a lot of time showing scenes of Upper-Class revelry that have nothing to do with Scrooge whatsoever, ut are intented, I suppose, to show the divide between the rich and the poor. Spot the Scrooge in this picture!

He's not there. There's an extended "comic" scene in a large bakery where the men are toiling to make confections for the upperclass; they all seem well-fed and healthy, so perhaps the film is attempting to show the gulf between the upper-class and the middle, to prepare us for a sequence where the upwardly mobile shopkeeper class is compared to the lower-upper-class families who have lost political influence, and then OH JUST GET ON WITH THE GHOSTS ALREADY.

Marley shows up in the doorknocker, which Scrooge always manages to shake off. Then comes one of the best shots of the movie: the ghostly half-perceived image of Marley against the wall.

Alas, that's all you get. From then on, Marley is invisible.

Ghost of Christmas past? A rather blurry fellow.

The producers made the decision to put the 60+ actor who played Scrooge to also play his younger self in the flashback. Not a good idea.

At least they get the Ghost of Christmas Present right:

The Ghost of Christmas Present is just a shadow of a bony finger.

Now something completely different. Had to get the Scrooge out of the way - wouldn't do to have this B&W world taken up with a war picture. "36 Hourse" is a 1965 WW2 thriller, or action-thriller, or caper-thriller escape movie, or all of the above. The crafty Krauts kidnap James Garner to extract information about D-Day. It's a bit like "The Prisoner." Since it's 1965, it has good Nazis. I recommend it wholeheartedly, because it starts to twist and turn earlier than you expect, and after that all bets are off. I mentioned it only because it brings together so many TV characters of my youth. Why, it's Alfred the Butler . . .

And it's T'Pau from Star Trek, who was featuered in a painting in a B&W World installment earlier this week . . .

Her husband?

Sgt. Schutlz from Hogan's Heroes. (John Banner, BTW, was Jewish; I didn't know that until now).

Oh, and this guy, who walks into the movie for six seconds, hits his mark, says his line, and leaves for good. Wonder what ever happened to him.









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