Oh, it snowed. A lot. Fluffy, which meant the accumulation wasn’t as substantial as it appeared. It made everything instantly Christmassy, to use a word that looks inane. The annual Church musical concert was this afternoon, which was apt. There have to be 300 people in the various choirs all told. Beautiful work, but one song made me sit up and look at the composer. There wasn’t one; it was an old song, with a modern arrangement. There was a three-note passage whose harmonies were identical to something in a John Williams score, and I sat there wondering if it was a coincidence, or a swipe. Who may have took from whom, I don’t know. The spell was broken when all the lights went off, the children filled the aisle, lit electrical candles one by one while one part sang one haunting song and the others sang “Silent Night.” Gets you right . . . here. It’s so lovely.
The true beginning of the season, that. And now the new week! Let’s have some fun. Oh, it’s the same old stuff, but I hope it’ll be fun.
We had an extra dog in the house the other day. I was driving home, about to turn into the garage, and I saw a brindle dog cross the street. Scout? Impossible. My brain did a quick check of all possibilities, and came up with Zed for my pupper. So. I coaxed him or she into the garage, but the dog didn’t want to go up the tunnel: uh oh no boss. Ran outside. But someone was walking their dog past the house, and the dogs stopped to chat and sniffed. So I got him by the collar and took him up the stairs.
Scout is at the back door, tail wagging fast, expression expectant: hey a dog a dog hey a dog what is this
Other people’s dogs are always peculiar creatures, no? If they’re friendly it’s fine. Some dogs want to be everyone’s dog. Some dogs are skittish, and you wish they knew you: but I love dogs! This dog was a plump greyhound, which meant its head had that unique combination of dog and insect. When I gave it some treats it decided I was awesome and leaned up against me, then put its head right between the groin area.
Like Ilsa. That was the Giant Swede’s dog for a while, many years ago. Ilsa was a pound dog, and Ilsa had issues. When she came over to play with Jasper and hang around, she would do the same thing - noggin in the crotch - and growl. There’s something about an uncertain, irritated German She with its head in your yarbles, growling, that says: just play it cool, man. Real cool.
But I want to bust! BUST COOL
That’s the West Side Story song I don’t like much. It’s a fascinating song, all angles and see-saws, but in the context it’s unhappy, and the guy who takes over from Riff is creepy because he’s so clean-cut, by modern standards. But he’d stab you in a rumble.
Anyway, Ilsa had to be put down, because she had problems with infants. Yet here I am, 18 years later, thinking of Ilsa when this strange dog does the same thing. There were probably humans I knew in that period for several months I’ve forgotten.
Lesson: you want to be remembered? Do an Ilsa.
The next night we decorated the tree, and Scout was alarmed by some ornaments. Also the sound of glass balls clacking together. He is confused by concentrated, purposeful activity for which he has no context, because his little dog brain detects the disruption in the Order of Things. The tree is in a different place this year, because the new Furniture Grouping ruled out its standard location, and I am happy about that. Something new. Or old: this is where the tree was the first year we had Christmas at this house. Natalie was 1 and a half, and she got Rolie Polie Olie plush toys. Spot was her favorite. She gave him a hug right away.
The boughs have ornaments that trace the progress of pop-culture pleasures - a few tiny Rudolph ornaments, one Hello Kitty to stand in for the dozen that used to populate the lower branches, a bizarre SpongeBob in the shape of a Christmas tree, because for a while he ruled the world.
“What do you think future generations will make of this?” I asked her.
“That he was a sponge and could assume many shapes,” she said.
Yeah, probably. There were also the Coke Mice, of course, and the ornament of Bugs Bunny sitting on Blossom’s head, holding out a package. When I went back to the tree later in the night it was gone. Moved around to the other side of the tree.
“You moved Bugs,” I said to my wife.
“Because it’s hideous.”
I looked at it again, and thought: yep, it is. But it’s classic Warner Brothers!
“But it’s classic Warner Brothers!”
I know where I bought it. The Hallmark at Southdale, next to the place where they had the coin-operated tot rides. The store is gone. The entire area was lost in a remodel. I hadn’t thought about the store and the part of Southdale that was reconfigured until I thought about where I’d bought Blossom. That was my life back then long ago: hanging around the coin-operated tot-ride area at Southdale on a winter afternoon with my small child. The area used to be a store, but the double-whammy of the 2000 tech-bubble pop and the post-911 dip had hit the mall hard, especially since the Mall of America a few miles away had established its primacy as THE MALL OF AMERICA. Southdale, the mother of malls, was a wan place.
But I’d found an ornament that reminded me of sitting in my apartment in Washington DC ten years earlier watching Warner Brothers cartoons before I went to work. That’s what I did. I had a Pillsbury Pastry Strudel with the icing packet and watched Bugs Bunny at 7:30 AM before walking a few miles to the bureau. That’s why I bought this ornament. Because the cartoon had summed up male sexuality with cruel amusing blunt truth: at the end, after Blossom has run away, Bugs encounters a female robot bunny who walks in an alluring fashion.
“Huh,” he says. “Mechanical.” Then he considers. “So it’s mechanical!” he says, and runs after it.
“This may be a hideous ornament,” I wanted to say to my Wife, “but its context anticipates the moral arguments people will have about sex robots in years to come.”
What I said was “it’s fine where it is” and looked for the remote to turn down the satellite music channel. They were playing Phil Spector Christmas stuff. Like 71% of all Christmas music, no one would miss it if it went away for good.
But that’s another Bleat to come.
From a 1920s movie-industry trade mag, an account of the American Motion Picture Association Christmas party. Caricatures everyone would recognize! If they were bigwigs. Otherwise, no.
So who are these guys?
National Screen? Ever heard of them? Possibly not.
NSS was formed in 1920 to produce and distribute movie trailers on behalf of movie studios. As time went on, NSS gradually took over production and distribution of other forms of movie advertising, until in the 1940s, it signed exclusive contracts with all the major movie studios to produce and distribute posters and other paper advertising materials.
They handed out NSS numbers, which identified films and posters. No more. The studios took back the business in the 80s.
It has that romantic upbeat title that makes you think there will be dancing. And decapitation:
Except no, this is 1946. The Black Dahlia was murdered in 1947.
We meet our heroes, having a drink in a bar. The one on the right, in soft focus, is the star. We're meant to ignore ol' Hugh Beaumont in the middle. On the end, though - it's Riley. It's William Bendix as Buzz, the hot-tempered one with a plate in his head, the one who can't stand that monkey music. It's amusing to hear someone in the 40s hate swing & jazz. Why, didn't they all like it?
Let's get our Star Trek reference out of the way first. Fizbin!
Hey, look, it's our old friend telling you have a nice cup of STFU:
It gets dark, fast: we see that Buzz has brain problems, and even though he's good natured he's wired wrong since he got the plate. Johnny goes home to his wife, the hero back from war - and finds her having a wild party, carrying on with Howard Da Silva, who's bad but civilized and oddly suave, the sort of fellow who did okay during the war and never left the comforts of LA. We learn that the unfaithful wife had killed their son in a drunken accident. Worst first day home ever.
It's Chandler all the way.
It's the third movie that paired Ladd and this rare flower:
"You've never seen me before tonight," she says.
"Every guy's seen you before," Ladd says. "Somewhere. The trick is to find you."
Chandler all the way.
So the bad old wife rides the last trolley, and of course our Johnny's the suspect. We know he can't be bad, because he was bad in "This Gun for Hire" up to the point where we realized he had good in him, and Veronica saw it too. The whole point of this film is to put him in peril so we can see Veronica believe in him again. We know he didn't do it, but who did? That's the other point of the film.
It's nicely shot. Here's our hero, under a table, held captive by a guy who took off his shoe because his foot hurts:
Just move that foot into the light, and . . . .
It would be funny if it weren't so damned grim. Or the other way around.
Of course everyone gets together for the Big Reveal - which, oddly enough, was never the name of a noir movie - and the ending is almost laughable. It has the worst gunplay finale you've ever seen. Cracks me up every time. Warning: spoiler.
Well, I guess he's dead.
That little glitch aside, it's a terrific noir - but not because of Lake. She's not a big part of the movie, and this was her last big movie.
No one knew it then. No one ever does.
That'll do - see you around!