It was stupid clickbait, but at least it had some pretensions of historical importance: SIX GENETIC DISEASES PRESIDENTS PASSED DOWN TO THEIR CHILDREN. I saw it linked in a tweet, which said "Isn't this ableism?"

Then I woke up. Honest to God, I'm dreaming clickbait links.

Curious day - it got warm, then the wind came up and made for a perfect windy March day. In the evening it got warm. Early Spring-type warm. Kill-the-snow warm. It won't last, but that picture above? Not entirely accurate.

That poor car looks like it's seen something it cannot forget.


I mentioned before that I was watching the first season of "American Crime," and HOLD ON STOP DON'T WORRY, this isn't a recap or a review. It goes to something deeper. When it comes to TV shows, I always need to be convinced. I start with an open mind, but - and this might be my own pesky ever-swiveling antennae, looking for bias - I am keen to pick up clues about what the writers want me to think. Every writer wants you to think something. A misdirection, a sense of faith in one character, or suspicion towards another. These are tools, useful for twists later on. But what pings my sonar is getting a sense of what the writer thinks I should think. A message, grounded in the correct assumptions held by proper people.

The first two episodes seemed to have characters who weren't archetypes, but people, and capable of good and bad regardless of what box they ticked off. There was a Black drug addict, who had a good side - he loved his girlfriend, and protected her. He also pistol-whipped a drug dealer to get more stuff. There was a Scary Neck-Tattooed Mexican Illegal Immigrant, who was shifty and obviously criminal. Some TV shows might present him thus in order to set up sympathies later on, to teach us a lesson, but it seemed unlikely this was this type of show. There are guys like this who are not high on the list of people deserving sympathy. But, as Ben Stein once wrote, if a TV show gives you a story where the cops find an illegal immigrant with a gun in his hand over the body of a dead person, you can be assured the real villain is a wealthy developer who lives in Beverly Hills. We'll see.

There's a horrible character who's the mother of a murder victim, and the show manages to make a person in this dreadful situation utterly unsympathetic; in terms of self-repression, she makes Angela from "The Office" look like Ciley Myrus. But she makes a point about treating her son's murder as a hate crime, and even though you know there's a seething lake of racial animus under her thin cracked crust, she's right, at least as the laws are applied today. There's a Strong but Beleaguered Latino Dad, who is trying to do the best for his children, and has no sympathy for illegals who break the law, since he came to America legally and worked hard and observes the rules. The show is on his side, which makes he think he's going to be let down by either America or the show's writers.

That's what I intuited after two episodes. Watched two more. Enter: the firebrand brother-in-law to the Strong Dad, who berates him for his lack of racial solidarity. Either this sets up the bro-in-law to be renounced, or the Strong Dad to snap and realize the bro-in-law is right. I can't say where it'll go. The Nasty Mom snaps after a court hearing and berates the defendents' relatives for what they said in the gallery, and she's right, but she prefaces it with a remark about how they're wearing veils. Because they're all Muslims. Again, canny: no one's all wrong, no one's all right.

The women are supporting the drug addict, whose sister belongs to their . . . mosque? Not really. It looks like it's Nation of Islam, which can be filed under Fish, Kettle of, Different. The drug addict's sister is shown addressing the congregation, and the camera goes soft-focus as it pans the room; you don't notice it right away, unless you're looking, but it's women on one side, men on the other. Here's how the AV Club described the scene:

But perhaps the most interesting inversion of judging a book by its cover comes in the show’s use of Aliyah. A woman of tremendous faith, we see Aliyah in worship services, both delivering a message and receiving it, and the words we hear accompanying these scenes are powerful missives about doing good in the world and being grateful for what we are given, shunning materialism and embracing the truth. The tenor of the services, the way they are filmed, the messages, all sync with traditional depictions of Christianity.

The author approves because they sync, but are not the thing they resemble. Again, that might be me gleaning the wrong thing from remarks, but it seems . . . open to discussion whether a Mormon character would get the same sort of admiration. W Just as anti-anti-Communism was a means of establishing your political bonafides, a certain flavor of banal Islamophilia is a means of signifying the broadness of your mind and the borderless quality of your heart. For once, it seems, dogma and doctrine are irrelevant; faith is impressive, powerful missives are impressive.

We continue:

But Aliyah is not a Christian. She is a Muslim. While Tom and Eve have been shown worshiping, American Crime chooses to spend the bulk of its time within a religion deeply misunderstood in America, shining a light on the fact that most organized religions are largely interchangeable and that interactions with people of faith, be the interactions good or bad, depend on the people, not the faith.

Well, yes and no. Orthodox Jews segregate by gender. Christians don't. The idea that most organized religions are largely interchangeable requires one to believe that Mecca is as open to Jews and Lutherans as St. Peters is as open to Muslims. Yes, interactions with people of faith depend on the people, not the faith, but this does not alter what the faiths profess. Aliyah's remarks throughout the show are steeped in race, which is obvious to the viewer but not the reviewer, because she wishes to make a larger point the show itself may not be trying to make. There was something Aliyah said when she was talking to a lawyer handling her brother's case. He gave her his card. She looked at it.

"Soderberg," she said. "And what kind of a name is that."

The reviewer said nothing about that. No one in the comments mentioned it. Seemed to me an obvious tell from the writers: this is her flaw. But the AV Club reviewer, well, it just didn't register. Because Aliyah was fierce and proud and Islam is misunderstood.

If everyone is flawed, then all flaws are equal. That's forgiveness. Believing flaws have a hierarchy, that's judgmental. But believing certain flaws must be called out, that's raising consciousness. Unless the flaws belong to designated victims, in which case it's shaming.


(Note: I wrote that Sunday. Have since watched the whole show. Quibbles here and there, but the acting and the editing and writing is just superb. I started watching the second season without reservation.)


The first sign of spring.


He's being a . . . bunny pony, I guess. I am confused about the lack of shamrockery, though; usually there was a St. Patrick's Day version with the obligatory iconography, but perhaps I dreamed that. FOUR INCARATIONS OF THE ANIMATE DOUGHCREATURE THAT NEVER EXISTED.

The old ones were on sale. In the incarnation of the Valentine's day edition, the usual happy Doughboy was given a dopey look I believe is a first for him. Who does he remind you of?




Punchy! Or perhaps Richard Kind.

I did a story a few years ago about a guy who claimed he was the real creator of Punchy, and he had a pretty good case. Three days ago he popped up with a LinkedIn request.





The Sexton Addition, aka the Portland Tower. No more floors, but the exterior is starting to mae its appearance. Will it be all black? I'd like that.


I fear it'll be all brick.

Yes, there will be railings, although it would be amusing if there weren't. If the market's hot enough, people who still buy them, and put potted plants on the edges.



We continue with music cues for "The Little Things in Life," Peg Lynch's last continuously running sitcom. The cues run from substandard 60s cues to cringingly 70s.

This will be deeply satisfying for some people, for reasons I can't explain.


Another version of something played last week.


That's the beginning of the cue, which I never knew existed. When I first heard it I sat up, and smiled. It wasn't just that I recognized it - I knew exactly where and when I'd heard it, which was almost coincident with the airing of this show in '75. It was just a matter of finding it. Of course the records are long gone, long sold - but I have copies.


Wasp club.


Novel Writing, with Michael Palin. There's not a week that goes by when I'm in a novel-writing phase that I don't quote that old sketch.

Let's just say that Peg Lynch Story and the Pythons were not discrete entities that had no intersection. The story just gets better:


Oh, then there's this.


Again, I sat up: I KNOW THAT.


Hello children!


Let's just say that Peg Lynch Story and the Pythons were not discrete entities that had no intersection.

Peg's daughter sent me that.

It doesn't mean anything cosmic; it was just a jolt to hear the music in a different context. I've memorized those Python albums.


From the same show, a ghastly 70s ad. Mr. Muscle.


Like Mr. Clean?



The way she sells that single entendre grates on the ears after you've heard it five times.

Hell, twice.

This week's Bob & Ray sketch:


Saints presarve us!



It's an obvious swipe at Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons. The show was just awful. Mr. Keen had no legal authority whatsoever, but just barged into people's lives and interrogated them. He had no trouble wandering into unoccupied houses and rifling through drawers. He was accompanied by Moike Clancy, a fellow who provided Irish Muscle and Ethnic Wit. He could be counted out to say - well, here you go.



Saints presarve us!



The education you get from learning what they ridiculed is not insubstantial, and a reminder: 90% of old radio, as you might expect, was bad.


My dad had a record by this guy, and as a small kid I didn't know if the name was supposed to be funny. Wasn't sure. Nichols was spelled wrong.



"Japanese Sandman." Composed in 1920. Wiki: "The song is about a sandman from Japan, who exchanges yesterdays for tomorrows. . . . it is similar to many other songs from the interbellum who sing about a dreamy, exotic setting." Used often to summon up or reinforce an "Oriental atmosphere."




Whew: that was a lot of Bleatage. Hope you enjoyed the week - see you around!




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