I haven't been motivated to write this week, and that's okay. It doesn't mean I don't write; I always write. But some weeks the fingers are itchy to get to the keys, and I'm full of incidents or perorations. This week? Eh. And that's okay! he said, utterly unconvinced. I had a long essay queued up for the Screed, about another blogger who has become tiresome and mad, but in the greater scheme of things that's like two ants slapping mandibles when a Panzer division rolls over. We give these tirades and tribulations more weight than they deserve, because really, few are paying attention, no one cares, and not a single mind has been changed. This particular blogger wrote that he had been fighting for Trump, which is the sort of thing he would have ripped apart a year ago, because calling people names on Twitter is not fighting. To paraphrase Capote, that's not fighting. It's typing.

Lovely day in all aspects. Am enjoying the return of traditions, including dropping off Daughter at Wednesday choir. It's dark when I pick her up now. That was odd two weeks ago and it's normal now.

That's why there's the picture above. Driving ahead. Looking back.

You do know the pictures are all chosen for a reason, right? If nothing else, there's the palette. Run through a sampler from Jan to December and they go from monochrome to greenish to pastel to bright colors to muted greens to browns to red / green. There's an explosion of red the first few weeks of February, if I can find the right pictures. I know there will be next year because I have the banners chosen through March.

Really. If you're not writing, you have to do something.



I thought of putting this in Black & White World, but it's too slight. It's a short short with little that's intrinsically interesting, but describes a particular moment in popular culture that was ubiquitous to the point of madness. Try to imagine the context here.

Stabbed in the back while performing his morning shave, part of a coordinated mob rubout! Except no.

Some grim noir drama, perhaps?

Maddened by infidelity, having just called his wife's lover, he staggers through the door to strangle her! Except no.

Does this help?

The tell-tale sign of insanity: the belief that one is Napoleon. It's amusing how that fell out of favor by the late 70s, since it was a cliche and people no longer thought "Napoleon" when you put your hand in your shirt."

No, there's no way to tell what this is about. So let's consult a crude scene-setter:


No, it's not about poorly-made fake newspapers, although that is a problem. Man, that's crude. But look at the secondary stories: Stalin linked to U.S. Reds, eh? You don't say. The political cartoon says "it's all pretty hazy" and you can see the Elephant and the Donkey, but beyond that - no idea.

The NATIONAL DISEASE is The Hut Sut Song, an insanely catchy tune that was played again and again and covered again and again - something we don't experience these days. If a song comes back, it's sampled, and just a few strands of its DNA show up. In the 30s and 40s the same song would pop up many times, covered by different groups, each with their own spin. This tune was one of the novelty songs, like Mairzy Dotes. I still remember having an epiphany as a very young child when I realized that the first verse was actually something else, and it was only a matter of perspective - what was nonsense the first time made perfect sense when it was parsed correctly. It's actually a lesson on language and context.

Hut Sut has no such revelation. The words are doggeral, and then the singers translate them from the Swedish. Except that they're not Swedish.

The lyrics:

In a town in Sweden by a stream so clear and cool
A boy would sit and fish and dream when he should have been in school.
Now, he couldn't read or write a word but happiness he found
In a little song he heard and here's how it would sound;

Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit,
Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla sooit.
Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla, brawla sooit,
Hut-Sut Rawlson on the rillerah and a brawla sooit.

Now the Rawlson is a Swedish town, the rillerah is a stream.
The brawla is the boy and girl,
The Hut-Sut is their dream.

This is the music video of its time. I apologize in advance if you're still singing this tomorrow.


The singers: The King's Men. They worked with everyone.

The song was also covered by the Merry Macs, a Minneapolis group now forgotten because fame is fickle and life is unfair. They gave it a vibraphone accompaniment, something used in a number of songs that suggest they were from the same session. Listen to the harmony and modulation. Somehow they take the maddening element out and turn it into something new.


They're not completely forgotten. The 40s channel on SiriusXM plays them now and then, mostly their cover of "Deep In the Heart of Texas." I discovered them from an old CD - but I repeat myself - we got at Pottery Barn Kids. They used to sell funtime song collections, all old songs from the 40s - 60s, and they were bought by parents who couldn't stand regular children's music. With good reason; it's awful.

But there's no reason to believe a child should love "Cement Mixer (putti putti)" or "Salt Peanuts."

Man, I hated "Salt Peanuts."


A Window on Main Street. Note how the smile fades from his face the minute he turns away from the town:

It's like we're supposed to know who Cameron Garrett Brooks is. He has his own typeface and everything!


Cam Brooks, a writer, returns to Millsberg, his hometown, and renews his friendship with the editor of the local newspaper, Lloyd Ramsey. The inhabitants of the town were subjects of Cam's stories.

Wonder if he looked down at them from his lofty perch, writing about what idiotic, parochial, uncultured boors these Millsbergians were.

The pilot, available in its entirety on line, had a different opening. In both cases, it looks like a women's drama, not a comedy. It's the music. No one liked it and it was cancelled, although on YouTube you will find comments from people who thought it was great and wish it would come out on DVD.

People say that about absolutely every show that ever aired. I'd be happy if someone just found the entire second episode of Turn-On.






Part two. Last week's segment is here.

It's a grim stretch. But it wasn't always so. You can tell by this apartment building there once something close to optimism in the neighborhood, and you get the sense that it had more neighbors. Fire and gravity, the usual foes.

It seems empty and forbidding.

But it has satellite dishes. Who lives here has machines that communicate with machines above in space.

We met Benedict last week. The end of the block has an old sign, but that's not what caught my eye. It was the facade. Truck it in and slap it on:

How long since it's been a good street? Twenty years? Forty?

This is a commercial street in a major American city:

No one planted that tree. It's there because there wasn't anyone to take it down.

I hope he was covered. He was probably covered.

The wood is gray with age, and useless; you can push your way in. You can bet someone has, recently. A good dark space for bad things.

A solid commercial building from, oh, the 20s. Gutted and bereft.

They did the usual modernization, but didn't spend much. Nice to see they carved some space for the cartouche over the door. Naw, that's nice! That's classy. Leave it.


Down the block a bit: looks like windblown fabric in a Baroque painting.

Something fell on the sidewalk and there it stays.

Unrecognizable, but if you look at the right you can make out the usual contours of a Teens / Twenties commercal structure. Bad Mansard and cheap faux rock-facade wasn't enough, they had to paint the fake rock.


They were all of a piece, a long low building with shops and offices and apartments. Modest, appealing, bourgeoise, useful.

For sale.

Any takers?


Well, on that happy note: let's look at some motels that aren't around anymore. Or maybe they are? Always the tormenting suspense, I know. See you around!





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