This is my life:

Target. Saturday, with Daughter. Always happy if she comes along, and the memories of her sitting in the kiddie seat are long, long gone, so there’s no PANG when we do these things. As joyful as those days were, its more fun to have someone you can talk to and insult and banter with. Before she peels off for the clothes department we wander over to see what products are being demonstrated at the end-cap by Flowers. From a few yards away it looks like shrimp. Upon closer examination it’s tomato-basil-dusted cheese puffs. But organic!

Linda, the Sarcastic and Cheerful product demonstrator, is standing nearby, and says to come over: she has something really good. Where are you? By cosmetics. Well, say no more. So we go. She has: fruit squeezers. Daughter tries one and likes it; i take a box. I take two.

Well that’s unusual, says Linda. You never buy anything.


You just make sarcastic remarks and never buy anything.

After all the money I spend here, you have the gall to say -

Here’s your coupon. She points back to Meats, and says: “Jack Daniels chicken. Back by frozen, it’s hamburgers. Simply Balanced hotdogs over by the cheese puffs.”

Simply Balanced is Target’s new brand for the upscale stuff, and I note that I have tired of complex, unbalanced hot dogs. She looks at me with crossed eyes.

Daughter goes to shop for daughter things and I go over to the Jack Daniels Chicken. The guy who’s doing the demonstrating has done this for years, and we’ve had a few interesting conversations about logos and packaging design. He’s huge and bald and a kind man. He gives me chicken on a cracker. It’s a bit sweet. I know Daughter doesn’t like this stuff.

You never buy anything.

I thank him and pick up a package of the Jack Daniels Chicken and continue shopping. By the time I get back to Hamburgers Back By Frozen they’re out, and Linda is helping to strike the set. I hold up the Jack Daniels Chicken, and say huh? Huh? Never buys anything? Maybe I just don’t like it and I’m being nice when I make faces and say it’s good.

I head east to see what there is in packaged meats, and run into another Target Associate I know. He’s standing by the Hillshire small-portion stuff that’s packaged for upscale eyes.

“I see it’s reduced,” I note. “You know why?”

“The crackers are all broken,” he says.

“Exactly. It’s as if they never tested the product in the real world.” He tells me how much he enjoyed a column a few weeks back about the reasons one might open-carry at Target, and how he was reading it to his wife and they were laughing, and I felt a surge of joy. Better than the two bitchy letters in the Letters to the Editor section, that. Wipes it all away. We start talking about newspapers and why the Wall Street Journal features sections are the best, and so on, and then he has to work and I have to shop. Capital fellow.

I note that the Jack Daniels Chicken demonstrator is on break. I wheel my cart over and put the Jack Daniels Chicken back.

Daughter sends a text, asking for location; I send her to W12. We meet up and I tell her about my Chicken Difficulties, and she says he probably didn’t care if I didn’t buy it, but I explain that it has to make him feel better if someone does. As we’re talking a woman swings her cart past and . . .

. . . . I know, I know, this is so Me Me Me, but consider the lonely life of a writer, banging out words at the kitchen table at 11:30 PM. She leans over and quotes the last column. Total stranger. I’m just delighted.

“And so the famous writer James Lileks meets his adoring public,” Daughter says after the nice lady with excellent taste has passed. But I can tell she sorta thinks it’s cool. And this reminds her: a friend of hers, her mother, okay, she’s like a really big fan, and if I could record a Vine for her mom it would be, the best.

Thus emboldened on a wave of glory, we go back to where Linda the Sarcastic Product Demonstrator is handing out squashed fruit in pouches, and I put back the two boxes I had earlier picked up.

“I don’t want to break my string of not buying anything.”

She looks to my daughter, with pity, for what she has to put up with.

Of course I take the boxes and buy them. We check out. The details of the exchange with the cashier are unimportant, as is all of this, really, but it did include the phase “You’re telling me the picture of Grumpy Cat with LBJ is a fake, then.”

We went to Cub.

Nothing happened at Cub.

The rest of the weekend: storms and dog. Furious rain, gusts and booms. The dog is unconcerned. Even the occasional firecracker in the distance doesn’t worry him. Jasper was ever alert for firecrackers; when he heard one his entire being seemed to suggest he lived in a state of waiting for firecrackers, and now the worst had come true.

Scout is reeeeelaxed. Oh, spunky; playful. But he is not a worried dog. Jasper was attuned to things that it did not profit him to worry about, and his alertness gave him the bright intelligent character we loved. He was a complex dog, concerned about things, and no doubt frustrated that we did not always share his distress. BECAUSE THERE WERE THINGS. Scout has an almost saturnine temperament. The world is full of details, yes, but the world is free to believe they matter.

He also has some great pup-sleep moves.




This is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be, or has no idea and just tries everything. I don’t know, and I don’t care.

It’s British sci-fi / horror, but dates from the heyday of either. It begins with two chaps playing chess on a train, in the last car, chatting as old friends do. They’re journalists - a writer and a photographer. The coupling that holds the car to the train breaks, because the plot says it must; the train speeds on ahead, but the last car rambles along at a goodly pace. A few kids run out of the woods and change the junction so the last car shoots off on a spur, and it ends up crashing through the border of . .

Gudavia! Aka Syldavia, if you know your Tintin. Basic small mittle-European / quasi-Baltic whatever. The locals, informed by the border guard that a train is coming, are astonished; no trains ever come. Well, our protagonists get out . . .

. . . and meet the local official.

If you’re thinking it’s rather broad to be a sci-fi / horror story, you’re absolutely right. It’s almost a comedy. It’s played light, but not so light you don’t suspect a Horrible Secret lurks in the village. What follows is Kafkaesque: they are welcome to stay, but they cannot stay; they can leave a telegram at the office, of course, but no telegrams are ever sent. They can get a car if they wish to tour, but no car is available. (The country has one car.) They are of course invited to meet Herr Doktor Kreizepantz, or whatever his name might be. The elderly porter regales them with tourist destinations, even though he is clearly mad. The beautiful maiden who works at the hotel slips them a note about Terrible Danger.

The American acts bull-headed and alarmed and suspicious; the David-Niven-type guy behaves deucedly decent but wary. And then we get this.

The mad scientist is using GAMMA RAYS! to create super-intelligent children. Of course, they don’t end up nice and altruistic and ready to help humanity. No, it’s straight to this:

He is upbraiding his sister for playing sentimental music. He has no sentiment. He is pure logic. Also something of an artist:

Yeah. Well, the Brit goes walking around the deserted town at dusk to find a restaurant, and runs into a grown-up version of the Gamma Folk, a slack-jawed vacant-eyed moron. As he backs away, we note something on the wall:

Oh, just GREAT. If it’s not enough to be stuck in a creepy little town where nothing seems quite right, you showed up at Carnival time.

When the locals have their Carnival they wear hideous masks and play music that mocks the simple county gaiety of such events. Listen to this: it’s quite a nifty parody.

Nothing sinister here.

Hey, look who's come to the Carnival! It’s . . .


Worse, he has a posse:

I think it goes without saying that our heroes get into the castle as the last diabolical experiment is being conducted. Which one? The worst most diabolical kind:

Helpfully marked for the lab assistant:

Our heroes are caught, and we know the film is in the power of the evil guys, because the camera tilts.

But the little boy does a Darth and rebels against the murder-beam used against the people who were nice to him. Unfortunately, any interruption of a final evil plan must result in multiple explosions in the lab . . .

. . . but he’s okay at the end, and the town is freed from the evil spell, and the children are polite, and the big middle-aged American gets the gal, because they were probably hoping to make more money with the movie in the Yank market.

A total mess, but it’s great. For the times and the genre. It’s not incompetent in any way, which leads you believe they were trying for the combo of mild comedy, sudden real shock, creepy dread and all-out homage at the end, complete with flaming castle.

“A jigsaw made up of pieces from different puzzles,” says one imdb review, and that’s about right. Another B&W sci-fi with a whiff of cheese - and that’s what summer B&W World favorites are all about.


Work blog around 12:30, Tumblr around noonish or so - see you then!



blog comments powered by Disqus