I'm not saying Grant Wood influenced some advertising artists, but I might be convinced to insinuate it.

Odd: the vacation was not the writing hiatus. Obviously. I wrote all of last week’s entries while on the ship, and last week was the week of not writing. Aside from work, that is, but that felt not like pulling teeth but like putting teeth back in.

But write we must. So:

Target parking lot, Saturday afternoon. As usual there are people plodding along in the middle of the road, because if there’s one constant in human nature, it is utter inconstancy: people who will fume when they’re in their car, trolling behind someone plodding along in the middle of the road, will promptly turn into that person when they leave the vehicle. Should anyone tootle a horn, they might get glares from the person’s Inner Ratso: Hey I’m walkin’ here.

Which reminds me - because I suspect I wondered about this before - whether Ratso Rizzo, of Midnight Cowboy fame, actually had a point. It’s unlikely the car, having stopped, would move into the intersection while he was there, right? Or did Ratso just walk into traffic assuming that they would stop, and was incensed when they didn’t? When you go to YouTube and type “Ratso Rizzo” it autocompletes as “Im walking here,” which shows you the significance of this moment in culture. I guess it’s supposed to show what a spunky kind of outsider he was. Brash, like a real New Yorker! How we love ‘em. Granted, he’d be a smelly little creep in real life, but hey, it’s a classic role in a movie with a melancholy theme song, and that makes him Iconic, I guess.


Well, he does have the light, even though the DON’T WALK sign is blinking. What’s clear is that he wanders into the intersection without looking, and what could have been - what would have been, in a nicer place - a nod, a wave, a shrug and grin indicating mutual culpability, becomes an explosion of hostility. And genuine hostility at that: as one Youtube comment notes, they were shooting the movie “Gorilla style,” and didn’t have permits. Real cab, real reaction, real New York. Or so Hoffman said.

Anyway: in Minnesota at the Target you just wait for people to get out of the way. What you don’t do is blast through the parking lot at high speed, because, well, they’re walkin’ there, and there are kids. One of those things that happens after you have kids: you want to upbraid drivers who are DRIVING TOO DAMN FAST AND THERE ARE KIDS AROUND. So when I saw the car zooming down the lane as I unloaded the groceries, I put up a hand in the “whoa there, pardoner, rein it in” gesture. The driver looked at me as he passed.

Daughter nearly shrieked. The man had an expression of absolute feral madness. Teeth bared like a monkey, eyes shining. It was demonic.

It’s also possible he was laughing, and hadn’t seen my gesture at all, and just turned as he delighted by something; when all you have is a glimpse of someone’s day, it can be hard to tell.

And that was the weekend. Oh, I got mulch, again; I got the wrong kind, again. Wife wanted the shredded kind, but not the chocolate shredded kind, and I got the darker-but-not-cocoa-shredding kind, and it was lighter once it was outside of the bag, and now we have clashing mulch. Makes a man weep. But as long as I am buying mulch it is summer.

Nothing happened last week that deserves note, although I’m sure I would have found something to exaggerate. Was guest-sitting a yippy dog M-F, and you don’t know fun until you’ve tried to write when a dog is either A) barking its fool head off because a squirrel burped half a block away, B) you have just got done quieting the dog, which is accomplished by going outside and validating the dog’s barking by reacting to it, or C) anticipating that the barking will begin any second now. The dog is one of those always-on creatures who never idles; even if it’s down on the ground, motionless, it springs into action the minute you shift in your seat. The contrast with Scout, who is truly a sit-on-the-porch-and-wait-to-go-huntin’ hound, is remarkable.

Over the the weekend I finished up sorting all the trip photos, discarding the duds and tweaking the good ones, putting everything into folders and compressing the whole batch into archives, and so on. Incredibly tiresome. In the old days you got back 36 or 48 pictures and they went in a shoe box. Not saying that’s better, but no one ever reached the point where they had four copies of all the pictures, and had to decide to set one batch on fire, and put the other in the safe deposit box.

The end result: don’t miss the vacation. Don’t miss Venice. Sick to DEATH of looking at it. Next weekend I’ll finish up the family movie, which will go in the archives, seen by no one until one day they find 14 copies and think “I wish those formats were still playable.” Odd that the only thing that may remain is the Shutterfly book I make of each trip. Has to be done.

Otherwise . . . the pictures don’t exist, somehow. They’re just theoretical arrangements of numbers.


Usually I do sci-fi in the summer. Drive-in movies, monster features.

I think this qualifies.

If there’s one problem Gerry Anderson’s work never had, it was the Uncanny Valley.

Apparently there was a time when this wasn’t the creepiest thing kids ever saw in or out of a nightmare; apparently this meant fun and adventure instead of soul-reaping by undead manikins. This is one of the earlier efforts, a 1959 show called . . . .

He’s a toy who was made by a toymaker to rescue some other toys. TheWwikipedia entry appears to be a cleaned-up version of a kid’s description, transcribed:

Each show's titles started at night with a rocket outside a cottage and Torchy sitting inside it. It would take off with lots of sparks and then would begin the theme tune which would tell you about Torchy and his magic light as the rocket went through space. In the first episode we are introduced to Mr Bumbledrop who had lots of toys and loved children and his dog, Pom Pom, a white French poodle with straight hair which needs curlers in every night. Also to Bossy Boots, a nasty little girl who likes pulling her toys to pieces but a trip to Topsy Turvy land reforms her.

Oh, there’s more:

Torchy presses the switch on his jacket and uses his magic beam which can shine anywhere to find Bumbledrop's missing glasses then he bursts into song. Out in the garden, Torchy uses his magic beam to locate the lost toys on the twinkling star. Next morning Bumbledrop builds a rocket of cardboard and such and by nightfall it is finished and Torchy flies off to the twinkling star (these are the scenes which are used at the start)

The rocket is damaged by the time we get to episode 5. Additional cardboard is required to make it whole, although why a vehicle made for interstellar transport would be made such material is never explained.

Torchy walks around looking for cardboard, and meets a funny clown.

He has one tooth ha ha and he has a biiiig brush he uses to keep it clean! Ha ha you're a funny fellow. I guess I am, says the clown, and his shark-like eyes betray no emotion as he digs his solitary fang into Torchy's soft neck.

Well, no. Torchy is eventually joined by a friend who will help him find the cardboard. It's Squishy, the sunburned stoner-toy:

Actual dialogue: "I found a cave the other day, and I’m sure there’s some cardboard in it."

They go to the cave but find a dog and a girl, who looks like something they made in the Depression to anticipate the eventual arrival of Carol Kane:

And they meet a Ding-a-Ling bird, but do not find cardboard.

Torchy says that they should spend the rest of the day playing in the Lollipop Fields, and they can find some cardboard tomorrow.

There were over 40 more episodes to come after this.

Music? From the man who gave us the great UFO theme.

Of course, it’s an Andersen Classic! to all his fans; to many, he could do no wrong. Not even this, the opening to a short-lived series that came a scant 9 years after Torchy. Wikipedia describes it as a “children’s espionage television series.” Brace yourself. (This is also by Barry Gray.) This may have made sense at the time; it makes no sense now.

If you’re wondering: the show is called “The Secret Service.” Description:

“Parish priest Father Unwin is an undercover agent for B.I.S.H.O.P. who carries out dangerous assignments using a miniaturisation device to shrink his assistant, Matthew Harding, to puppet size. “

Hold on. BISHOP?


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


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