The TV has lost the internet. I don’t really care; I know where it is, and if the TV suddenly blanked on where it put it last, that’s it’s problem. But it’ll be my problem once someone in the house wants to rent a movie, so it needs fixing. There’s nothing in the “Settings” pane that helps at all. It runs a test and fails the test. There’s an option for entering long strings of numbers and IP Addresses and Subnet Masks and the like but no, it’s 11:47 PM, no.

It used to be the AppleTV was a flaky thing, but now it’s rock-solid, and the DirecTV is balky. And just on the day Apple announced a new TV subscription service. How about that.

I bring this up only to note that I am between series, and need a new one. There are some I save for weekend viewing, because they are small in number and I don’t want to burn through them in a week; when they’re done, they’re over. I don’t want to revisit series I really liked, because that seems as if I’d deprive myself of a new opportunity to nod my head and say “yes” when someone brings up some other series. So it’s off to find a new one, and it’s like interviewing the show to see if it gets the job.

Last night’s candidate: The Borgias, Showtime version. I was impressed right away with the production values, the costumes, the exterior shots. Halfway through I hadn’t connected with anything. Oh, that’s the headstrong son! That must be the weak, easily-led evil son over there. Checked IMDB for reviews, and most said “slow start, but it gets going and ends up satisfying.” I love the period and am not unfamiliar with its particulars, but damn it, if they can’t front-load the first one with something that throws a grappling hock into my head, what guarantee do I have that it pays off?

Then there’s the BBC crime dramas like Midsommer Murders and Foyle’s War and George Gently and a dozen others which have about 4593 episodes, it seems. No: I want something that will occupy me for a couple of weeks, and that leaves the cable shows set in some particular locale, casting light on a culture or community heretofore not given its due. While they all may be good - here’s one on the Rez, here’s one at the Border Crossing, here’s one in a Lard Rendering Plant, here’s one in a Quaker town that makes puppets, and so on - there are some that come with a strong whiff of Instruction, and I suspect I will be dragged through Issues en route to the conclusion, which will reflect strongly the Correct Position to have on those Issues. It’s like finding out at the end that Twin Peaks was really about the problems of deforestation thanks to the logging industry.

The other night I took the advice of a website that said OMG WATCH THIS and called up “The Tower,” a South Korean disaster movie that remakes “The Towering Inferno,” more or less. Spec-tac-ular. Dumb as a donkey for the most part, with all the cliches of the genre, but A) better than the Towering Inferno, and B) a fascinating look at a country about which I know almost nothing, except that someone barking “Get Mr. Kim and Mr. Park here now” doesn’t exactly narrow it down. I’m sure I missed how Korean it was because I was constantly confronted with how Western it was. Nevermind the usual tropes of the disaster genre - it was the Koreans celebrating Christmas as a cultural event shorn of its origins (although there were actual Christians in the movie, played as God-bothering boobs), the Western dress, the architecture, the music, the food - if you could imagine an idealized American city with everyone replaced by Koreans, it would look and act exactly like this. It was like watching a Bollywood action-musical in which everyone is Swedish.

Over the course of three nights I watched “Peabody and Sherman,” which is one of those animated movies that makes you think “this was meant for 3D” about every 24 seconds, because there’s a spear or fist or wooden horse-head or dog-nose thrusting into the plane. I do not hold particular reverence for the source material. Watched it as a kid, which meant I started blank-faced at the TV as the crude animation kept me stuck in my chair for a few minutes. There was something about the Total TV productions I didn’t quite get, and seemed to know I wasn’t getting. I didn’t know why there was a man in white with a garbage can on wheels and a broom following the parade.

I didn’t know what those signs were that blinked on and off, or why the music in the credits seemed broken. I didn’t know why the animation looked so different than the Bugs Bunny cartoons or even the Hanna-Barbera stuff. In retrospect I love the fact that William Conrad was narrating the stories, his voice burrowing into my earliest memories - but it was probably a fallow time for him, radio having evaporated and the triumphant return to TV still years away.

But. I do recall the moans and lamentations of animation geeks when the project was announced; of course they hated everything about it. Childhood ruined, etc. A classic traduced, etc. Turns out it’s not only respectful of the source material, it performs that neat little trick of improving on it in every possible way. And it has the best Bill Clinton joke of 2014. Plus, Patrick Warbuton’s Voice of Awesomeness. It’s not even in my top ten computer-animated movies but I’ll defend it at length, because the original was poorly-drawn cheapo animation with a cross-eyed stupid kid, and the movie makes him a kid who galvanizes Presidents with a speech about the virtues of canines that leads naturally into a Kirk Douglas appearance. I mean, c’mon. Who could hate it? Who could look at all this talent and ingenuity and get all undie-bundled because the original was an example of the Total TV flat crude aesthetic? Animation geeks, that’s who.

Bonus: at the end. Tiny, but he's there.

Anyway, Netflix says I might like Marco Polo. I’ll let you know.

UPDATE: Oh, I did.


Still Life (With Pallette)

How that ancient piece of wood came to rest in the second floor lobby area, or where it was before all those years: who knows.




No town e'er prospered what called itself Minor Falls, as the saying goes. And no one who has photomanipulation programs ever stopped with one filter when there were seven more to apply:


Of course it's a WPA building,

This has a bit too much detail for Brutalism - really - but the effect is the same. Looks like they slapped Giordi's VISOR over the lower stories. Who thought this would be inviting? Scurry in, shoppers! Cower under the might of the overhanging protrusion!


Oh, it gets better.

For lease! I wonder why.

If you were to give downtown a building for interring the ashes of bygone merchants, I don't know how you'd do it differently:

At least the trim is painted, which tells you they care. Indeed, it seems to be a theme:


If you'd taken people from the early decades of the previous century and shown them this, they'd wonder what was wrong with us. At least the front hasn't been stripped, and it looks like that's some old metal facade addition from the era of Metal Facade Additions. They didn't do the black store front because . . . perhaps because he just did his own a few years ago and wasn't going to pay for it again. Besides, it set his store apart.

The streets are so wide it's hard to zoom in and see what it used to be; I'd bet there are holes in that black surface where the sign anchors were embedded.

Oh, no. I feel horrible for the town now. This is never good.

Recently sold; newspaper says: "According to a release from MFU, at one time Times Square was the home of 23 shops and two restaurants. Now, four businesses operate inside."

All across the country in the 70s and 80s downtowns tried this. The downtown mall! And the merchants signed up and there was a popcorn kiosk and a candle store and a stationery store and the teens went down on Saturdays and it was cool and then . . . then the stores started to trickle out, and it was sad and no one went. Eventually they sit like black holes sucking the life out of the entire block.


I don't think it's open any more.

We are, however, in an era where they keep signs like these after the stores are gone, to give the downtown a sense of history. Here's the cool old thing we used to be!


Buildings like these are always welcomed at the time: a sign of faith in downtown, a new day, a strong presence, and so on.

And now they just remind you that 1973 was one of the longest years ever. It ever goes away.



I don't have to google to know what this was. You know what it was, right?

Had to be the big department store; had to have hit everyone in the solar plexus when it closed.

The last gasp of classicism, coupled with the rise of kitschy modernism: now and then they got it right.


Finally, a classic - intact and alive.

The cornice made it almost one and a quarter century, but eventually you got to send a guy up to fix the brick.

Here's the town: have a stroll. (The building below is slated to be overhauled into a boutique hotel.)



As long as we're at it, a little Fargo as well. See you around!


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