What I hate the most about this month - this week, this exact day of the year, this moment in the noon hour - is the hardness of the world, the crunchyness of it, the way you step out of your car into a snowbank and it feels like rotten concrete. If your foot goes through the top the snow finds your shin, your raw unprotected shin above the sockline, and scrapes it out like an angry animal that just wants to make something bleed. There's weather that's uncomfortable, and then there's weather that hurts, weather that makes you lose blood.

Because I was in a salty mood and figured the best way to top it off would be shopping in 3 below weather, I went to Traders Joe. The ugly Fearless Flier, with all its cheap 19th century graphics and amateurish highlighting and endearingly self-conscious copy, had arrived, and informed me of a new item that could bring mystery and wonder to the table. I'm trying to shake up the family dinners; they're in a rut. Everything this week will be different.

So, Monday: Target Pesto Chicken Breasts. Main ingredient: salt. It's injected with salt, dry-rubbed with salt crystals, brushed with salty pesto and fresh-seaked in a saline fluid. Because when people say "let's have pesto" they really mean "green salt." Tuesday we had stuffing-stuffed pork chops from the grocery store - fresh and delicious looking, but the stuffing was mostly salt. So I guess that's the week's theme.

Tomorrow: the Thai sweet Chili veggie burgers. That's the Traders Joe thing. I'll let you know.

Drove right past Target. That was a new wrinkle. It's always been part of the trip, but I find myself snarling when I go there now, and it's not just because they fired Dale, the Guy in the Wheelchair who knew where everything was and greeted all the customers and was a bright light. (He had crappy personal handlers who let his hygiene slip, from what I heard, and some truly awful, awful person complained that his shirt had ridden up and people could see his stomach. Icky icky person, eww cripple and everything gross. Two citations in one month, so out you go, heart-and-soul of the store.) That's part of it, but as I may have said before, the shelves sometimes have that "Welcome to Venezuela" look, with empty expanses where the bathroom tissue should be. Also - and this is particularly petty, but these things matter - they stopped carrying Basic paper towels in patterns. They must have looked at the stats, and said "we can get rid of this, carrying plain and it won't affect sales." But it's as if every shelf in the grocery department is less of what I want and more of what the large food conglomerates think I want, or want me to want.


So I went to Cub to grapple with the self-checkout machine. It detected a bag and asked if it was mine. I said it was. I put in something. It asked if I was using my own bag. I tapped the screen to indicate it was. I put in a bladder of milk. Was I using my own bag? YES. YES I WAS. I put in another item, and the screen inquired: are you using your own bag? Then it stopped and thought about it and said MANAGER REQUIRED.

The manager, over at the terminal controlling the checkout machines, overrode the complaint and bade me to continue. This happened again and again, and he had to walk over and swipe the HOLY CARD and enter a code.

"It doesn't seem to remember my input," I said,

"Well, if you use your own bag, it detects it."

Oh for God's sake. And then I actually said:

"I know what I'm doing. Trust me. I know it's a big scale, and the little plastic bags on hooks detect the weight. I'm saying it asked me every time I put in an item if I was using my own bag, which doesn't make sense; usually if there's an error it asks if you don't want to bag something."

"Sometimes if it gets unbalanced because it didn't think you bagged something it'll keep asking," he said.


"But it didn't ask if I didn't want to bag. It read all the items as bagged, but it didn't remember that I was using my own bag."

And then he said:

"Yeah, it's been going that all night. It's the only one of the four that's had that problem."


Well, never mind. I bagged everything, and he hung around to see if there were any other problems. Hah! I hit FINISH AND PAY, let my finger hover to hit OK when it asked if I had checked the bottom of the cart, moved up and right to hit ELECTRONIC PAYMENT, whipped out my phone and thumbed it. Like a pro. I know what I'm gong. Thanked him for his help and pushed out the cart and loaded up the car.

Realized I'd forgot the ice cream.

Went back. Passed the manager, said "I forgot the ice cream."

"Oh no! Can't do that."

Got the ice cream, went back to the same machine, even though all the others were open. Beep, bag, tap tap tap, swipe, scribble, rip, and out. Like a pro.

I know what I'm doing.

Went next door to Edina Liquors, the Sad Municipal Hooch Vendor - sad not for its character or decor, because it's quite nice. It's an upscale wine store with fine spirits. Everyone was content to shop there until Total Wine and Spirits, aka Infinite Central Nervous System Fluid Dispensary, opened up a mile away, and revealed that the prices at Edina Liquors could be undercut by five dollars, and the Republic would not fall. The municipal store countered that its revenue helped keep property taxes down, and paid for parks. That's great but I don't live in Edina. If you have to sell liquor to keep your taxes low then maybe you should cut spending or increase taxes.

This time I noticed new signage, with phrases touting how the money went back into the community. If that's your main selling point, rethink your plan. I was there because I had a coupon for 10% off anything - as long as it didn't end in "5." They'd discounted some things, and these prices ended in 5, and they were all the same price as Infinite. I walked out, and the clerk at the counter didn't even take his eyes away from the TV on the wall.

Then I got back in the car and all the way home the 80s channel appeared to have given its programming over to all my old girlfriends from 1979 to 1985, but at least they seemed to remember me fondly. All the good songs. But still.

And then Trump won. Shovel the dirt on the lid of this Tuesday, lads; tamp it down and move along.


Back to the tiny pictures found on record sleeve.

America had so many organ hits. These are the favorites. I can't find much on him, but a websearch led to this name: Paula Powers. She designed albums in the 50s and 60s, and really worked that collage style. Was she a pioneer or a follower? It's a hallmark of the era.

And I can't stand it.




From the Disc of Flying Mars, the Man. Chapter Eleven:


Good mugs on the hench:



I have to say, I didn't see this one coming.


They build closets tall in California. Well, the cops show up, so the bad guys leave without looking in the closet to see if he's dead. That would be redundant, and there's still one more ep to go. So Kent - it is Kent, right? I lose track - goes back to his office, where everyone's sitting around in ease and safety, because there's no reason to suspect the bad guys, who include a man from another planet, would toss a grenade into their window, or shoot them from the parking lot.

There's just not a drop of suspense in the non-cliffhanger portions of this serial. I don't know quite why this one is so drab; might be the lack of a heroic lead, although the previous one with Mr. Jerkface Mystery Writer was so much better, and he wasn't exactly a superhero. It could be the lackluster villain, who just shows up sporadically to bark Russian-inflected commands into a microphone. Yes, that's what most of them do, but at least he could walk around a little in a fancy lair. He has no fancy lair. He has a flying semi-disk, and if the serial cared at all about keeping our attention, he would have fit it out with the death-beam we saw in the first episode and blow up things. Like dams and buildings.

Anyway, Kent says they have to wait for the bad guys to make the next move, and that means the movie goes back to Bryant Labs, where Bryant is standing in the same place as the previous episodes, talking to the Mars Guy. Who has changed into civvies. Otherwise, same Mars Guy.


Byrant says, look, you can't take over the world with one plane. Okay? Mars Guy responds that his plane has "a higher ceiling" than any earth ship (I thought he said "seating" at first), and his bombs, "while powerful, are small enough" so the plane can carry many. Maybe he did say "Seating." So he has bombs? He's always had bombs? They are Mars bombs? What was all that other crap about?

Off they go out of the volcano, with a load of cute little Mars bombs. See, once they release the Mars bombs, everyone will surrender their planes and armies so he can take over the rest of the world.

It's like he found a letter in his back pocket from Mars HQ, marked "Open upon Arrival," and he'd forgotten all about the plan.

Anyway, I swear I wrote that paragraph above before I saw this one. I write these as I'm watching. So imagine my surprise:


Mind you, these are atomic bombs. Small ones, but atomic nevertheless. So this makes sense:



The nation's supply of scale models is in peril! Let's enlist that guy who runs the private security company and wrecked most of his planes and has one employee.

Good thing the dark forces of Mars are equally understaffed. At the plant there's an enthusiastic hats-on fistfight, followed by a gun battle using wooden packing crates as shields. The bad guys get away, so we have a car chase. That's quite the combo; it only lacks a running gun battle on the road, which is promptly provided. Then there are GRENADES thrown on the road, as if the producers are trying to make up for the previous 9 episodes. What Kent doesn't know is that there's a hench on his back bumper, making a molotov cocktail. And so:


Best episode yet!

Off you go to the 30s, if you like - more Beauty ads this week.



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