Happy Birthday Mr. Dog:

Nineteen today. (Picture from yesterday.) We assume this was his birthday because he was three months old when I got him. Could be tomorrow or yesterday

NOTE: The Gallery of Regrettable Food returns today with the first of a 6-part series on French cuisine. I wasn't kidding about this being a big year for the site. I'm rolling everything out this year. You'lll find the link below.


I mentioned yesterday I am trying to get through all my email. I cannot apologize enough for that. I read, I say “answer that,” flag it, move on, and then it piles up in great huge drifts. It’s partly because you write such nice things, often with detailed information about this or that, and include stuff for the site, and I can’t just say “thnkx! regards” and leave it at that, but even that would be better.

To say nothing of the stuff I’ve been sent and am still scanning. If it makes anyone feel any better, I email people with kind words now and then - people in the upper firmament, people who might actually have, you know, people - and I get bupkis. Sometimes I don’t understand what happened; emailed a certain Famous Actor whose work I’ve loved for years, and used his secret email given by a mutual friend. He’d just had dinner with someone I knew and the subject was of mutual interest. Bupkis.

On the other hand, I just emailed a CEO to tell him why I quit his online cloud-backup service. Great company, prompt support, but I think a fella ought to be able to back up 320GB over the course of, say, a year? No? I had one backup state to Elsie-nozzles-up after six months, and they refunded my money; when I had the HD crash a while ago and had to resume the backup, they couldn’t find the right backup state on their servers, and I got one that had about six bytes. Message: you’ll be backed up in 98 days! I noted that the program was backing up stuff I’d already sent into the cloud, and I just said Nope, nosirree, and cancelled.

The CEO has his email on the site’s page, and I sent a letter detailing what happened. It seems like the sort of company where they’d care why they lose a customer. Thing is, there’s nothing they can do to get me back, short of sending someone around to copy my data right there on a hard drive and fly it back to California.

That would make a great ad, though. Meeting: Hey, we just lost this guy. Sucks. What can we do?

Scruffy guy in black glasses and hoodie: some people aren’t satisfied unless we fly to their house and get the data and bring it back like it’s a transplant organ.

(looks exchanged around the table)

(jangly up-tempo indie pop music)

(montage of preparedness culminating at knock at the door; surprised ex-customer answers, team comes in, they have coffee and donuts too)

(shot of team on the airplane heading back, with a hard drive buckled in the middle seat)


Well, it’s cold. Again. Snow came in excess over night and the temps fell; January uber alles once more. Worked at home and felt cozy. Productivity: high. Back to the novel now; picked that up last night and I’m blasting through it with a reminder to myself that it’s just a $3.99 thing. The main problem is inserting a character I might as well call Rhett “Red” Hehring in order to plug a hole, but for all I know when I finish this revision he’ll be the hero of the story.

So back to work - but for you there’s Serials below the fold, and the beginning of a French Cuisine section at the Gallery. I knew the name right away.

Eww La La.

If you have Netflix streaming, well, you’d better stop it up before it leaks all over. Ha ha! Sorry. Here’s a suggestion that might be contentious; I suspect some people will find it unbearable, but I went into it with a skeptical eyebrow raised in Full Spock Position. It’s called “Derek,” and it features Ricky Gervais, the actor / writer everyone is sort-of tired-of without quite knowing why. I think I’ve enjoyed everything he’s done, going back to the old FM radio shows, but I got bored the more he rode the atheist hobbyhorse. I mean, I don’t believe in underground humanoid lizard conspiracy, but it’s not a central identifying fact of my life or my worldview, and I just don’t get the idea of making not believing in a metaphysical concept a central fact of one’s public persona. I don’t care if someone’s an atheist; doesn’t mean anything to me one way or the other. So you know for sure: congrats, then. Gleeful ridicule of the other side is déclassé.

I think I unfollower DAMMIT AUTOCORRECT I MEAN UNFOLLOWED him on Twitter because I wanted to see him as something other than the Pope of Nothing Up There No Way No How.

I’d intended to watch “Derek” simply because he did it, and I heard it went against one’s conception of how a Gervais project that centered around a mentally-handicapped man who works in an old-folks’ home would be. You’d think: oh, boundaries pushed, embarrassing situations, politically-uncorrect scenarios, et cetera. But it is strenuously sentimental. I mean, it has the same approach towards Heartstrings as a bell-ringer on Easter at Notre Dame. There are moments at the end of the slender episodes that just take your wind away.

It has three sharp characters: a percy DAMMIT AUTOCORRECT I MEAN PERVY aging rock-and-roll 80s holdover whose devotion to a bygone “counter-culture” is achingly pathetic; a handyman who’s still somewhat astonished his life turned out to be a dull procession of chores and duty, but has a sharp British dismissal of greater expectations (this character is played by Karl Pilkington, who’s so damned good you begin to suspect that his previous incarnations as the Idiot Foil of Gervais and Merchant was an elaborate act) and the woman who takes care of the old people, and regards Derek with affection and no small amount of awe.

So Derek isn’t one of the sharp characters? Maybe yes, maybe no; while he’s not portrayed as a saintly holy fool, there’s something too easy about the character’s conception. He’s pure and innocent when he has to be, a bit more engaged with the world when the script requires, and you never quite lose the sense that you’re seeing mannerisms more than a character. But that’s mostly in the close-up interviews. (Yes, it’s a mockumentary, Office-style.) When Derek is interacting with the other characters, the flow is natural and funny. But the title of the show reminds you who we’re supposed to regard as the hero. DEREK.

It's a pity, because he ought to be a character whose virtues we discover, instead of having him shoved in our face as the center of attention.

Seven 24-minute episodes, with no particular plot arc. I won’t tell you how it ends, except to note that Gervais is making a point at the end about an alternative moral basis for living that exists outside of theism. You can’t quite argue with his main point. You can’t help note that it’s not only consistent with theism, it is the central modus vivendi. You would feel churlish pointing out that it only seems to work when practiced by a mentally-disabled man with a limited grasp of moral actions and their consequences, but Gervais is challenging the audience: in the end, if all is dust, is this not the best course of action? Regardless of belief or non-belief, who can argue with kindness?

But that suggests it’s didactic, and it’s not. The humanism of the work is the sort that can be enjoyed by people on both ends of the debate, which is what makes it good. Not great. But it ended and I immediately missed everyone I’d got to know over the course of a week.



We return to the thrilling days of yore when FX were cheap and budgets ranged all the way up to $7.98 per episode. King! King of the Rocketmen!

Well, plunging eventually. Not at the moment, but any sec now.

Handy recap:

As he falls to the ground in the aftermath of an explosion, he twiddles the control knobs and immediate recovers.

RocketManKing has a confab with a scientist, and they decide that Dr. Vulcan, the shadowy criminal who’s been killing the scientists of Science Associates, must be a member of Science Associates himself, since he knows what they're doing. This seems to be something of a bombshell, since there’s only six of them left after last week’s festival of egghead-killing, but they seem remarkably sanguine about it all.

Back to the mysterious lair where the evil Dr. Vulcan sends his hidden secretive radio signals:

Not exactly hiding his light under a bushel, is he? That’s the (googling) (huh?) I don’t know what building that is. I thought I did, but it’s another LA building with two enormous radio masts on top.

I’m guessing that Dr. Vulcan likes this look, because that’s the only explanation for putting a 5,000 watt searchlight on the floor pointed up at the wall.

Here’s the henchmen lair:

It’s rather homey. Wonder what the cleaning lady thinks.

The henchmen head to the lady reporter's apartment building, and here’s something you don’t see much:

“Arms” as a name for apartment buildings probably comes from old English pub nomenclature, when you’d stop at the inn that had the coat of arms of a local noble. That’s the very loose explanation. It means nothing today, but I like it. Adds class.

Anyway, the henchmen are looking for the pictures of KingManRocket, as if they mean anything; they just probve that he exists, I guess, and that's bad for the plans of Dr. Vulcan. The bust in on our hero and the reporter who snapped the picture, and another smashing fistfight ensues; I have the suspicion there’s going to be one per ep. I don't there was a serial that didn't have a fisftight. Not even Shirley Temple Vs. the Marshmallow Kitties, a 15-ep serial from 36. In fact those were the some of the bloodiest.

Backlot, probably:

The henchies escape with the film, and since there’s four minutes left, that means only one thing:

MIGRAINE HEADACHE MAN, KING OF THE ROCKETGUYS! So he’ll succeed, but something bad will happen to set up the cliffhanger. Please don’t tell me he’s going to falling out of the sky again. Please don’t tell me the controls get stuck and he’s rocketing up into space. But we’re dealing with a guy whose salient feature is a rocket pack; there’s a limit to the scrapes into which he can get. Because if there’s real trouble, he can just blast off, right? Yes and no. He flies to the rescue of the journalist, whose car is out of control. Hi there! Whacha up to?

Sorry about this, miss, but we've come to the end of the 15 minute running time, and so . . .

Man, did he stick the landing. Tune in next week for . . .

Opinion so far? Rockin' good time.


Updates on the right - we start the year-long examination of the hidden messages of the Richie Rich comic book. Work Blog between noon and one, but it'll be a short one.





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