A few days ago one of the spindles that holds the roll of bathroom tissue - you know, toilet paper - fell off. Someone put it back on. The next person who used the roll knocked it off. And left it for me to put back on. Which I did. And then it fell off again. I remembered the was the Tiniest Screw in the World at the bottom, requiring the Tiniest Hex Screwdriver in Existence, so I tightened it and it stayed.

That was it. Done. For the next three years it will loosen until it falls off, but for now it was a remarkable achievement around here: a repair job that took 3 minutes.

The bathroom, you see, has become . . . complicated. As I noted long ago, they have to put in a new pipe, because the all-holy code requires a wider drain than a bathtub, predicated upon one of us slipping, striking our head on the bench, passing out and covering the drain so the water overflows within five minutes, instead of 35 minutes, as would be the case if we passed out in the tub with the water running. Well, this requires a wider pipe, and there ain't none hereabout these here parts. They ripped up the floor, following where they thought the pipes were, based on a completely reasonable set of assumptions about the position of the sink, toilet, and the pipe stack that connects with the downstairs bathroom.

But that would be easy. Now to configure it they have to open two walls - one upstairs, one downstairs - and hope it all ties together. The plumber was by on Friday, conferring with my contractor, and they have a plan. That's great. If only the shelving units in the spare bedroom hadn't collapsed.

This has happened before, because my wife, God bless her loveliness, put about 9,000 pounds of clothes on the rods, and since everything was attached to the drywall with anchors but not drywall anchors, things got loose, and the weight contrived to snap the middle support at its weakest point - where two disconnected pieces fit into a plastic sleeve. Everything fell. This has happened before. I decided it will not happen again: all this crap has to go, and that means our reserve of 250 present bows and 56 bags and other things for wrapping gifts, they have to be winnowed. I mean, we have a box full of boxes. We have ten pounds of tissue paper.

I went to Home Depot to look at replacement systems. Nothing looked durable. I said: To hell with it. I will buy one 60 inch stout pole and put it in the closet, attached to the wooden beams, not the dry wall. This can be done in half an hour and it will last forever THE END.

But. An employee swung by to ask if I needed assistance. I described the situation; as she was a woman, she was sympathetic to the need to have materials to wrap three dozen presents at a moment's notice. She pointed out a variety of options which could be customized down to the nth detail, because of course they can; this is 2016.

"You can design them online," she said, and I must have sagged a little, because I was certain that I could, and I was equally certain this would push the project back two weeks, because designing it online is frequently mistaken for an actual accomplishment. Then came the gravest insult of them all:

"Are you comfortable with computers?"

Pause; process.

"I bought my first IBM in 1982," I said, "and I have run my own website for 20 years."

"Okay great! It's just some people, they really aren't."

"Tell me true. Do I look like one of those people? Demographically?"

"No no I just always ask, that's all."

YOU ASK OLD PEOPLE. Really, what else could it be? But she was late-40s early 50s herself. Gah. So we went to the scaaaaaary computers and she called up the website and showed where I could design the layout and order them online. "You can print out the SKUs to the store if you like and they'll bring out the pieces."

Still stinging. So: "Since I'm logged in, can I save the SKUs to the Home Depot app?" She almost went cross-eyed. "If I'm logged in to the website, does the information sync to the app?" WHO KNOWS ABOUT COMPUTERS NOW HUH WHO

"I don't know," she said. Okay, go for the kill. You think I can possibly belong to the group of people with blinking VCRs, eh?

"SKUs. Do you know what that stands for?"

"It's a number that tells you what the product is."

"No, the letters. SKU. Stock. Keeping. Unit. Weird, isn't it? Doesn't make sense even if you know what it means. Okay, I'll go home and design it - thanks!" And we parted merrily, and I refrained from turning around and saying I'LL DO IT AFTER I'VE GONE THROUGH SOME OLD VIDEO PAGES TO ENSURE THEY'RE HTML5 COMPLIANT.


So I went home and looked at the design-your-closet space, and discovered I couldn't do anything because the depth was two inches too small. Augh. Found some units that could work - a central column of shelves with hanger-poles on either side. Wife liked. We had a plan: I'd go to the store, pick it up, get Vietnamese take-out, be home in an hour. She could nap. 6:30. Go.

But. Looking at the specs I realized that the central unit would not work; it said the hanging poles were expandable from 30" to 48". I was already doubtful of these things, because I knew the poles would terminate in the central unit, which was particle board covered with laminate: too much weight, it would crap out. So, command decision: go to the Storage Store that had shelves and baskets and all sorts of things for anal-retentive women. Really, a quarter of the store is devoted to dealing with one's quantity of shoes.

I got there at 6:45. Looked at some stuff, and realized that the wire-rack solution I'd seen at Home Depot had been dismissed for the wrong reason. It required vertical perforated strips, and I thought there was no way I'd be able to line them up. I'm just not that good. But the helpful sales assistant explained that they hung from a horizontal part, so alignment was built in. Hey! Great. I also learned that Elfa does not call them wire. They're "ventilated."

"So much better than wire," he laughed.

"And this grey is platinum?" Right. "So could you curate me an artisanal platinum ventilated system?"


Here's the thing: if Elfa has the horizontal part, maybe the Home Depot stuff did too. Here's the problem: wife wanted to be awoken at 7:30 to eat and then walk the dog before it got too dark. It was 6:55 when I left the parking ramp. Home Depot was a few miles away by freeway. The Vietnamese place was notoriously slow.

I can do this. In Home Depot by 7:05; swing to the shelving; ah hah, they use the same system of vertical braces hanging from a horizontal strip. Half the price. Out the door, in the car, call the Vietnamese takeout at 7:10.

(unintelligible salutation)

"I'd like to make an order for take-out."


"Chicken curry, spicy -"


Pause. "I'm sorry?"

(unintelligible string of moaned phonemes. I must be talking to the owner, who is old-country; usually his daughter handles the phone.)

"I don't - I'm not sure what you mean."

"Wok being clean. Only soup."

Ah. Okay, thanks. They were cleaning the wok at 7 PM on a Saturday night. Got it. Now what? Could hit Big Bowl, which was right by the Fancy Elfa store, but noooo, I had to drive to Home Depot. On the highway; ask Siri to call Xin Wong, a take-out joint on Nicollet.

"I don't see Chin Long in your contacts."

Oh fer - Okay, find Chinese on Nicollet.

"Searching iTunes for 'Chinese on Nicollet.'"

"NO STOP IT." Jeebus. Get off the highway, pull over, call up the map, find the restaurant, touch the name, get the Yelp, touch the number. Modern life is so hard. All these computers.

Placed the order, drove there, waited; ready in a trice. Back home at precisely 7:30.

I didn't have the shelving unit I had gone to get, and the food was bland ucky mush, but other than that the day was a complete success.

This week, for no particular reason . . .

The editorial from old Red Norman reminds us that living in unsettled times is not unusual. It's actually the norm.

There's the sentiment that never failed to make miserable the masses. The world needs saving and thus must be remade. But you can keep your family heirlooms. Well, a maximum of three. Unless the frames are gilded. Those must be surrendered.

Ah, Krassin.

His activities during the 1905 Revolution were primarily in sourcing finance for the revolutionaries, including organizing bank robberies to fund the Bolsheviks' revolutionary activities. Krasin helped organize the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery, a bloody robbery that took place in the middle of Yerevan Square, killing forty and injuring 50.

However, he also enjoyed the excitement of terrorism. His home was the main laboratory from which were manufactured the bombs used to attack Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin.

Semyonov was bad in his own particular way.




Not really black and white, but I wouldn't say it's in color. It has different hues for different moods. I'm including it because it's just so remarkable. Perhaps I wouldn't think so if I'd known more about the star; I've always thought of him as a Swashbuckling Adventure actor.

I'd no idea he started out . . . as a comedian.

Interesting credits. They show everyone involved, laughing and hamming it up. It's the first movie by this fellow:

Twenty years away from "Gone with the Wind."

Here's your scenario writer, the guy who wrote the description of what happened:


That's all you needed to say, apparently - T.J.G. That would be Thomas J. Geraghty, a newspaperman who got into the film racket and banged out stories for decades.

Here's our shooters, cranking away by hand:



McGann's first movie. He did 52 movies in the period between 1930 and 1940 alone. B-movie and second-unit director, mostly. Harry was a St. Paul buy who did fewer films, got out of the business in 1928, and did Lord-knows-what until he died in 1972.

Okay, what's it about? Imdb synopsis: "Psychiatrist Dr. Ulrich Metz attempts to drive Daniel Brown to suicide." Pretty much, yes. But it takes a while to get there. The movie begins with Fairbanks having nightmares from indigestion, and he meets this fellow:


That's the original aspect ratio. The actor is Bull Montana, a pro wrestler managed by Fairbanks. He's a terrifying apparition, and look at how surreal this gets:



He runs through the wall - vanishing, mind you; a nice optical effect - and lands in a room full of women while wearing only his pajamas. Trampolines across the room, goes through a wall, ends up in a swimming pool, then sees he's being pursued by the things he ate for supper. He runs over hurdles, catapults on to a horse, gallops off, ends up at a house and walks on the walls. This is the sequence that reminds you how fast the art form grew up: he's doing the same thing Astaire did, but a mere ten years after movies began. After he's walked on the walls he does it again, and there's an inelegant cut where they splice in the angry food. Given that, just look at this:



That's just the first part, the set-up. I kept grabbing frames to pick out items that summed up 1919, and looked instantly familiar to modern eyes. okay, maybe today our scales are smaller:


And the switchboard isn't this clunky.


The receptionist was Babe London. This was her first movie. She'd make 50 more.

Of course, there's a girl:

Nothing changes, does it? Except she probably couldn't afford Greenwich Village now; not so boho.

Let's meet the evil scientist who's trying to get our hero to kill himself:

The drawing is his conception of the human mind, and when passions start to rise up in the hero's head -

- we literally see the emotions struggle. It's incredibly bizarre.

Througout the movie Fairbanks is a delight to watch - he goes it all with no effort whatsoever, just springing and leaping and climbing.

And then it turns into a disaster movie. Again: this is 1919.

But it's still a comedy. She's hungry; he goes to see if there's anything in the icebox.

None of this really captures how much fun it is, but you get the idea. And it's full of inadvertant documentary. 1919 seems so . . . weighty.

That will do - I guarantee the rest of the week will taper off. See you around ~



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