Remember: last Wednesday, I think, it snowed. A lot. Today:

Acu-rite! And wrong. It hit 72 or so. But it was time to go outside and do . . . chores, of course; swept and gathered the miserable detritus of winter, and started the annual task of replacing the lights in the yard. For amusement I wandered over and turned on the Oak Island Water Feature.

A jet of water shot out of the rock and splashed into the pool. The pool of fetid water full of organic muck, but still.

Off to church on Eastern morn. I read the various Gospel accounts instead of paying much attention to the sermon, I’m afraid to say. The accounts have variations, and of course this isn’t news to anyone who knows this stuff backwards and forwards, but if you haven’t studied them in depth the variations stick out. One meeting with the apostles is fairly straight-forward - carry on, lads, more or less - but in John, I think, Jesus says “do you have anything to eat?”

Which would be a perfectly normal thing to say, when you think about it. They give him broiled fish. The detail was probably intended to show he was alive, not a shade, but it’s such an unexpected and human detail.

Also read the accounts of Pontius Pilate, who was just putting in a day at the office.

Afterwards we went to wife’s sister’s house for Eastern brunch; a fellow from their inexhaustible supply of European friends (I swear I have met 50 over the years) and some other friends, which meant lots of kids, which meant an Easter Egg hunt in the grounds of the church down the street. At one point I was handed a Mimosa and told to deliver it to the church - just cut through the yard across the street, go up the driveway. And so it came to pass that I was walking across someone else’s yard in my Easter finery on the first hot day of the year with a Mimosa in a fluted glass in my hand.

It seemed a normal thing to do, really.

Saturday: I had a $50 Target gift card, a kind bestowment from sis-in-law for taking care of their dog. But first, Traders Joe. I call it that because French brother-in-law called it that once, and it stuck. The night before - Friday night - I wrote up my grocery list for the Saturday assault, and did so knowing A) what I had in stock for the week to come, and B) what my path through the store would look like. So I wrote up the items in the order I would move through the store.

Breeze into the store. There’s sis-in-law. She has her shopping list in her left hand. I sweep past and pluck it from her hand, which, as you might imagine, occasions an immediate Why-I-Never. You can be an absolute jerk with people you know, because all is forgiven once they know it’s You. A month or so ago I saw a co-worker at Target and drove her into an end-cap with my cart, and it was funny! once she knew it was me. Pity the world when I’m in a good news.

Anyway: on the way into Target an employee said “Mr. Lileks,” and I turned around, gave him a cheery hallo. “I’ve got a fifty-dollar card and I’m itching to burn it,” I said. He said I should be sure to get the $10 off coupon, good only today, and if the clerk didn’t scan it I should make a point about asking for it.

I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, but when I started shopping, I saw: signs everywhere. Spent $50 and you get $10 off, text this code to this number. Okay: I had $50 to burn and I would get $10 off, which meant this trip would be FREE. I texted the code and got the message with the jaggedy square to be scanned at check out. All is well.


It was also a week of massive sales on everything. I mean: everything. I got what I needed, and realized that the low low prices meant I was nowhere near $50, and hence could not get the discount. This is the very definition of a 1st world problem. In the end I threw ribs in the cart, and that put me over.

“Does everyone go over $50?” I asked the check-out clerk, and she shook her head. Some people had to run back to the aisles to get more, or just grabbed candy and jerky off the racks by the check-out counter. It had to be food. Magazines or shampoo didn’t count.

In the end I went $20 over, and felt cheated.

The rest of the weekend was the usual work; I'm redoing the Fargo site, which meant rescanning & fixing over 100 postcards, and rewriting the whole damned thing. I watched "Phantom of the Paradise," and hoped that I' hated it when I saw it as a young man.

There’s a shock-rock concert sequence where the singer is assembled Frankenstein-style from “body parts” hacked off audience members - they’re obviously plants, and there’s not much gore, and I suppose it’s a satire on all Alice Cooper theatrics of the era, but the audience is shown as shrieking devotees of this awful spectacle, and the movie seems to hold them in amused contempt. But it’s having its cake while urinating on it, too; there’s hardly any mockery of the sad theatrics, just lazy enjoyment of its crude dark tropes.

Lest we forget:




Not a review, but a look at the faces and locales and cultural references of the era.

1934's big adventure hit:

The story doesn’t need to be rehashed here, but it is something of a curiosity, when you think of it: the French Revolution is generally regarded as an imperfect mirror of the American one, with Oppression thrown off and the people united in egalitarian utopia. With some unfortunate loss of royal noggins, yes, but they meant well. A more realistic view understands how the Terror was embedded in the project from the start, and how the Revolution was actually the birth of murderous oligarchical collectivism. The first totalitarian state. The story is on the side of the nobles, fed one by one to Madame Guillotine as the rabble cheered. The opening of the movie is, decades later, rather harrowing.

Over and over it falls, heads swung out to the riotous approval of the cawing masses.

Paris itself seems crooked and nightmarish.

The film's virtues include the incomparable Merle Oberon, married to the hopelessly silly man who saves French royals in his spare time. The original hero with a secret identity? Certainly one of the first.

The Pimpermeister, of course, can be played by no one else, ever. The perfect fop delivers his deathless doggeral:

Sink me. Note: it's 1934, and he says "damn" and "hell." Because it's a British film.

Oh, the villain?

It's like Barnabas Collins comes back to ruin Paris.Was there a sequel? Yes . . . and no.

It's a damned odd movie. It went by the name "Mister V" when it played in the state - V, of course, being shorthand for Victory. Agaistn who? Well, the fellows who always have the best offices.

Nazis, of course. Just as Sherlock was updated for WW2, so was the Scarlet Pimpernel. Most the Nazis have British accents; the fellow behind the book is a rather comic Nazi in the fat-and-popous mode. Since it takes place before the war, the idea of an English archeologist tromping around with a band of students liberating various prisoners isn't entirely ridiculous.

It's the small details that haunt, really. This young lady:


Violette Cunningham. Olivia deHavilland, in a NYT interview:


Q. I've never heard much about your relationship with Leslie Howard.

A. I didn't see him socially except once. On the film, he seemed very troubled. But you

see, later on he was in British intelligence and, I don't know, he may already have been. When we were filming, Leslie had an affair. Her name was Violette Cunningham, and they were desperately in love. I heard later that Violette, fairly soon, fell ill with pneumonia and was put in hospital, as the British say, and she died. And he was disconsolate.

In this movie, smiling at Pimpernel Smith, she's smiling at Leslie.

Two small clips. First, the worst German PR agent ever addresses the press:

You might want to fine-tune that a little when you're talking to the international media.

Finally, a reminder that it's really Leslie who should own the line, not Arnie.

We never see him leave the scene; he's there, and then he's not.

That was 1941. Wikipedia:

Howard died in 1943 when flying to Bristol, UK, from Lisbon, Portugal, on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines/BOAC Flight 777. The aircraft, "G-AGBB" a Douglas DC-3, was shot down by Luftwaffe fighter aircraft over the Bay of Biscay. Howard was among the 17 fatalities.

Theories about that event? The internet has a million of 'em.






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