I needed a universal garage door opener remote, for opening the garage doors of the Universe. Off to Menards. the enormo-mart on the freeway. First I had to exchange some low-voltage cord, which turned out to be so low-voltage the current couldn’t make it six inches without petering out. And that made me wonder whether things Peter Out, but Paul Up. Or Paul In. Peter and Paul being linked together, of course, as apostles and a candy bar. It’s safe to say you know which came first, but why did they chose an apostolic name for a confection? They certainly didn’t choose the name to indicate probity and steady-mindedness; as everyone who was around a TV in the 60s knows, sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t. Peter Paul has nuts; Mounds doesn’t. Or don’t.

That must have caused some arguments in the Mad Av suites: Mounds sounds plural, but it’s not, ergo don’t. Someone must have advocated for another line: sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t; Peter Paul gives nuts, Mounds won’t.

Did you say gives nuts, Benson? You’re fired.

But -

Collect your things.

I was just running it up the flag pole.


Oh, I'm kidding. Peter Paul was the overarching brand identity into which the Manichean concept of nut / not-nut was contained.

I had time to think about these things because the line to return things was ten people long and not moving. Someone was apparently trying to return a bag of screws of individual sizes and the SKUs had be looked up one at a time.

When I was done I walked into the vast store to look for universal garage door openers. I had no idea where to start. Went to the second floor. Found a clerk back in fencing, and asked him; he pointed to the other end of the store, and might as well have sold me a pouch of pemmican and a flask of water for the trek. En route I realized I had asked for “garage door openers,” and had not said “universal remote,” even though I made the clicking gesture as I specified my goal. Well, no matter.

Well, matter. The universal garage door opener aisle did not have universal garage door opener remotes. Because why would such things be grouped together. I left the store peeved, wishing once again there was a kiosk by the front door where you could inquire about the location of things. The store is huge. They have everything. And you see everything except what you want.

Off to Home Depot, which is half the size. A clerk pointed me to aisle 37, turn right. Ah: universal garage door opener remote. It was $34. There were also remotes for $19, but I noted that the packaging of each one had been opened and taped shut, which suggested they’d been returned. By Jove Holmes, brilliant deduction.

Traders Joe. Ridiculous parking lot, no spots, lines to get in - almost as if there’s some food-related event happening later this week, as I tweeted. Parked elsewhere, hiked, was surprised to find the store rather normal . . . ah. Everyone was there for the new hooch shop. TOTAL WINE. They’d built the store almost a year ago, but local liquor interests had fought them because they had serious concerns about the store selling to minors, or something. Or using their buying power to undercut competitors, or something. Once I was in the store I saw why the preexisting liquor stores tried to block their entry into the market: TOTAL WINE gives the game away. That markup you’re paying? Yeah, about that. A rye I buy at the municipal intoxicant vendor was five dollars cheaper here. Same with my favorite bourbon. The atmosphere in the store was almost giddy. People could not believe it. No anger towards the other stores was detectable, but that’ll come in the form of collapsing business figures.

The competitors are city-owned, so they’ll stay open. Never see another dime from me, though.

Target. Again, the lot was full. Throngs around the turkey-and-stuffing section. Got what I needed, and chose a line that had the fewest carts, only to discover that the cashier was moving at the speed of someone attempting to perform a mournful interpretative dance while encased in viscous cement up to his neck. The people in line ahead of me changed from Patient to Huffy. When I finally got space on the belt I put my reusable bags at the head of the line, placed an insulated bag I was purchasing on top, and a gift card I got last week when I bought more than $50. (Ten dollars on the card.)

“The red bags are mine,” I said. “The reusable bag is for purchase. The card has ten dollars on it.”

He beeped an item and put it in plastic.

“You can put it in the red bags,” I said.

He picked up the silver insulated bag and put a can of tomatoes in it. I said that had not been purchased yet, and I would like to put those two frozen pizzas in it.

He picked up the gift card. “What’s this,” he said.

It went downhill from there. I stood there holding open the insulated bag for the pizzas, which were the first thing on the belt. He took every item behind it and filled a bag while I stood there holding open a bag as if I was performing some peculiar ritual. O PIZZAS THAT THY WILL BE DONE AND FROZENNESS EXHALTED and finally I asked if I could have the pizzas.

Last stop: Cub foods. Got what I needed, but found myself trapped in one aisle behind two people of substantial width who had stopped in the middle of the aisle to read their grocery list, and two people behind me who had backed up and could not advance. I said “Excuse me” but they did not move; I said “excuse me” and they looked back and sighed because they were in the middle of figuring out how many walnuts they needed and now they had to stop and move over.

Self-checkout went smoothly, except I was over the limit for automatic approval, and a manager had to come over and approve my signature. He did this by typing in his code and swiping his card and walking away without any other inquiry, because I’m a white middle-aged guy. By the time I left I was just . . . annoyed, because what usually takes 90 minutes had taken three - bleeding - hours. And I pushed out of the store past the bellringer.

The bellringer! I’d heard them on the way in; the fellow by the exit was singing, but the lady by the entrance was dancing. I had given her a dollar and said “I was going to give to him because he’s singing but you’re better looking,” and she cackled an endorsement. Now I’m passing the exit bellringer and he’s still singing, and all of a sudden every petty annoyance I’d had in the last three hours seemed like blessings, really. I got out my wallet and fed the kettle and it cost a double-sawbuck to feel like less of an ass.

Patience is a virtue. It’s just not one of my virtues. But when you admit to it, it’s possibly a way of buying yourself absolution for the other deficiencies you recognize but hope aren’t apparent.

By the way, the universal remote did not work with my garage door opener. It must exist in an alternate universe. The multiverse intersects at Jasperwood! Imagine that.



As I wrote when I first did this movie: everyone knew what this meant.

The Ripper. Hitchcock has done a Lodger movie, based on a popular novel. It's a retelling of the Saucy Jack story, with embellishments that would come to define the actual crime itself. It's possible we'd think about the Jack the Ripper crime differently if the subsequent fictionalizations had a different character.

As I also wrote, it was nice to see John Cleese get work:

The Ripper, we know now - because of movies - worked in the foggy, gaslit streets of Whitechapel, and this movie is the foggiest, most crepuscular Ripper story ever done up t the date. And possibly afterwards. The cinematography is marvelous:

Shall we meet our Lodger?

The great Laird Cregar, a brooding, tortured hulk of a man who walks with a strange dreamlike gait, disconnected from the sorrowful world, somehow aware he is the cause of its sorrows. He appears one foggy night as the paperboys are hawking the latest murder (they got the paper out in an hour or so after a crime in those days, it seems.) He takes lodging at a house whose owners are a bit on their uppers, and he is dismayed to find that not only are there pictures of . . . of . . . actresses on the walls, but the landlords have a cousin who is an actress herself.

Too bad for him:

It’s Merle Oberon. I love watching her, because she’s always on the verge of not saying something. There’s a tremulous hesitance to her performance sometimes, and you can project whatever you like into it. Intelligence. affection, whatever. She always seemed slightly concerned, except when she turned into Radiant Mode and then everything was wonderful.

Here's where things get even more interesting:

Chief Inspector George Sanders. He always seemed the most honest when he was playing characters you couldn’t trust, and hence I am always suspicious of him. But is this retrospective protection based on seeing many movies out of the order in which he made them? Did the audience have the same suspicion? After all, we haven’t actually seen the Lodger slice anyone up. He wanders off into the fog, and then someone turns up dead.

Could this be a twist? Perhaps it’s actually the smooth, capable, charming George Sanders who is decimating the ranks of London actresses?

Soon enough they're all together in the same room, because this is a movie, and those things have to happen.

Note how Cregar's shots are always framed and angled, and imagine him looming up from the great screen in the theater:

A word about Cregar, just to repeat what always attends a discussion of his performance. He was very, very good. And versatile:

After a few minor film roles, Cregar was signed to a 20th Century-Fox contract; among his first major roles was the middle-aged Francis Chesney (at the age of only 24) in Charley's Aunt (1941), the first of several showcases for the actor's delightful comic flair. With his sinister portrayal of the psychopathic detective in I Wake Up Screaming (1941), he followed that up with the successful screwball comedy Rings on Her Fingers (1942) playing a con artist opposite Gene Tierney. Cregar became one of filmdom's top "heavies" — both figuratively and literally. Seldom weighing less than 300 pounds throughout his adult life, Cregar became obsessed with his weight.

To play the role of a tortured pianist in "Hangover Square," he went on a crash diet - read, amphetamines. He ended up having stomach surgery for the problems the drugs caused, and a few days after going under the knife he had a heart attack. Dead at 31.

Anyway, any doubts about whether he's the killer are put to rest when he shows the self-portrait his brother made before he died. His brother, you see, was a genius . . . but then he fell in with actreses.

Meaning, he got the clap. He's rather indiscriminate in his choice of victims; anyone who had walked past a theater seems to qualify. Young, old, doesn't matter. There's no gore in the movie, little violence, but it's quite effective. Here's how they scared you in 1944.

It all comes to the inevitable climax at a theater, and the police are mobilized. More of that beautiful camerawork:

A shot they didn't have to do, but why not? Three levels - the cop in the foreground, the cops coming up the ladder, the people milling around below.

Meanwhile, in the dressing room, one of the simplest and most frightening moments in the film. Merle turns - and . . .

By now we're pretty sure he's the Ripper. He's cornered upstairs by the cops and vigilantes, and whatever strange sympathy we had for the tortured soul evaporates as he backs away, a mad hunted animal.

He is the Ripper.

See you around; I'm off at work this week, so no Blog. But there will be columns. I'm not that off.



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