And now the mirror image of last week, with none of the gifts or songs or scents or traditions or cards or Visions of Sugarplums. Just a week bifiurcated with the end of the old and the start of the new, something that seems so momentous at the time but turns out to be little more than a spike on the rail and the tie. Every day the crew hammers down two of those. Every day the line advances. All aboard.

The weekend. Hmm. What? Well, shock at the checkout at Total Wine, or as I now call it, All-Encompassing Intoxicants. (“Facilitating inebriation at a rate of your choosing for over two months in our current location.”) I was low on the Auchentoshan, a very fine and delicate whisky, and their price was right: $24.00. At the local hooch-barn up the street it’s $32 a throw. The clerk rang everything up. “Seventy-two forty-nine.” Hoh - hoh - hold on. I looked behind me and saw people waiting; I was now That Guy.

You know how it works: when you’re in line and someone holds it up for whatever reason, you sigh, because they probably screwed up. An expired gift card. A bum bank card. Haggling over a price difference of a dollar or two. There are days when I have no patience for That Person, because I have ice cream, and it’s melting! Melting! And even though I’m going to put it into the silver insulated bag, it might melt and develop ice splinters, ruining everything. But now I’m That Guy.

Void me out and take them, I said, noble to the core, and they were grateful. (Earlier at Target a fellow had cut in line, apologizing, and said “I just need to leap in here and get a card . . . “ and he leaned over.

“You didn’t leap,” I said. I was now That Guy for a different reason. I had to be That Guy Who Has to Say Something.

I would rather be the latter than the former.

Anyway. I discovered that the Auchentoshan I had was the 1, 148-year-old or something, and not the Classic. It had been incorrectly shelved. Grabbed something else and returned to the line, which now had other patrons behind the ones I had so magnanimously allowed to proceed. Now I am not a kind fellow, considerate of those behind; I am a Line Interloper, because the people who joined the line were unaware of the narrative that preceded them. Even though the clerk has admitted me ahead of them and continued with something obviously set in motion before they got there, they had not been informed that this line had issues.

But how could they know? No clerk would say “just so you know, there’s someone coming back who will be ahead of you for a brief transaction.” In the clerk’s world, none of this matters. It’s all bottles and cards and bags and receipts until the shift is over.

“Sorry,” I said to the other people in line, apologizing for whomever misfiled the bottle, but giving myself a little blame for not noticing that the bottle was, in fact, the 1,148-year-old, and not the classic.

On the way out of the store I realized it was entirely my fault. All of it. Which is usually how it happens. Most people who are That Guy are That Guy for a reason.

Speaking of bifurcated: for the last two weeks I’ve been working my way through the Batman movies. I have no idea why, except I saw the first one pop up on Netflix, and it was late; didn’t want to commit to something I hadn’t seen, and thought “let’s see what I think about it this time.” Because I watch it every other year and have differing opinions. The last time I watched it I thought it didn’t hold up at all. This time, for some reason, I saw it as I remember seeing it back then, when it seemed amazing. It certainly wasn’t what we expected. Michael Keaton? Jeez. That scene in the trailer - Alfred, let’s go shopping - what, it’s the campy crap again? Let’s Batshop ’til we Batdrop! But I loved it. At this point I don’t even care that the Batplane had a special device designed to cut the cables for poisonous balloons.

The second one was instructive, because I wanted to like it and told myself I did and lied to myself about all the things that seemed stupid or indulgent. But the beginning of wisdom commences when you stop saying “Circus imagery are a regular motif in Burton’s work” and start thinking “Oh enough with the striped tents and clowns, for God’s sake.” There were things that bothered me at the time, such as the Penguin having a boat shaped like a kid’s bathtub duck. Where would he get one? Where would he get one that could rise up from a sewer grate? The Batcar having a pneumatic drum that dropped down so it could turn 180 degrees - how does the axle work around that?

Questions, questions - such as “why am I sort-of-smiling in enjoyment when even the director doesn’t seem to like the movie at all?” Then comes that scene at the end, with everyone confessing their Secret Identity. You’re just like me! Split, right down the middle!

How the hell is Bruce Wayne split? I remember all this awed talk about the movie’s meditation on identity, how there’s the public self and the Deep Dark Private self. Yes, Bruce Wayne doesn’t walk around Gotham wearing a cape and two pointy ears on his hat, but it’s not like there’s some big irreconcilable difference between Bruce Wayne and Batman in the first two movies. Serious uptight moral dude in both cases. In the later movies, he has a trivial public persona, but it doesn’t mean he’s split somehow. It would make sense of Bruce Wayne ran around shooting people during the day and fighting crime at night; that’s split. But otherwise: a cheap bid for some sort of profundity via cheap psychology.

It’s a theme which continues into the third, which is just horrible in all respects, including a performance by Jim Carrey that must have had him picking drywall out of his stool for months afterwards, and a dismally miscast Tommy Lee Jones, who probably saw the movie again a few years ago, loaded up a sock with BBs, drove to his agent’s house and beat him senseless.

Bad guys should be scary. I saw a movie today that made a small child whimper. As it was supposed to do. There was something so very, very wrong about the way the bad guy moved. Hard to describe; had the gait and manner of a nightmare. It was wrong. You had no reference for it. I heard the kid make fearful sounds, and I thought: she won’t forget this, anymore than I forgot the shears in the neck of the painting in “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”

Which leads us to . . .

Sunday: went to see “Big Hero 6” with Daughter. If you took every single cliche in kid’s movie - Tragic Loss of a Relative, outsider status, redemptive arc, power of friends, faith in yourself. Quirky Clueless Adult, empathetic machinery that’s More Human than Humans Are, and dumped all of these parts on the floor, then assembled smart writers and smart designers and smart animators and said “there. More than the sum of the parts, if you will. Oh and work Stan Lee in there somehow,” you would get this movie. In retrospect there wasn’t much that seemed original - and every minute felt original at the time. Because it wasn’t stupid. No wisecracking urban squirrels. No flatulence jokes. A keen sense of timing.

One of the trailers was for this:

That would be located on the opposite end of the spectrum from “Big Hero 6.” And also on the other end of the universe from this short; here’s 50 seconds.

Both produced using the same new Hyperion rendering engine. Looks like a hell of a tool. But is it art? What a stupid question.


A slight entry here, using up odds and ends. The following pictures were all taken at 30,000 feet, because whenever I take a flight I watch a Perry Mason episode. They chew up 50 minutes, there's a story, and there's a resolution, and sometimes there are moments that take fine advantage of the B& W form.

"I - I can't say, Mr. Mason. I just - well, it was dark, and - and - can't you sit across from me? It feels creepy like this."

A few of the episodes appear to have been pilots for shows that never took off. Instead of Perry Mason solving a crime, it was left to other lawyer-types. One episode had a college professor played by Klaatu from "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Perry's absence was explained thus:

They never said what was wrong with him. Just that he was indisposed. Gout, perhaps? Well, no: dental surgery, actually. Burr missed four eps because of tooth trouble.

One of the stories involved a fiesty, brassy old dame who inherited the law practice from her husband. (She was a lawyer too, but a lady lawyer! Why I never.) Guess who:

She had Bette Davis eyes, but as the screengrab shows she closed them from time to time. It's not her greatest role, although you suspect that everyone was thrilled to be working with her and thought she did magnificent.

The guard has been on Perry Mason before; he was a prospector, I think. He sounds like a prospector no matter what role he plays; the man was born grizzled.

Probably all that Squeeze.

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