“This would be a good weekend to take down the gazebo,” my wife said. If you’re married you know the next phase sounds like this: “is there any reason you didn't take down the gazebo?” The proper reply to the first statement is “by golly it is” and there is no proper reply to the question, but you can try, pal, and I wish you well. You may have a perfectly legitimate reason for not taking it down; you were doing other stuff that took up your time and was more fun. Was fun. But you can play that card once. After that you’d damn well better take down the gazebo.

Since I had nothing to do and she knew it, I decided of my own free will to take down the gazebo. The screws had been welded to frame by time and rust, and it took some work with the socket wrench to remove the roof. At some point I realized that I had to approach this like a controlled demolition - certain things had to fall in a sequence a certain way, or I was going to end up a broken bone or get a beam in the teeth.

Wouldn’t you know it! The socket wrench was useless for the most crucial screws, and there were 16 of them. Used the pliers. As each part was removed, the frame sagged deformed, which meant the screws were now at an angle to the post from which they were being extracted - unless I forced everything into its original shape with one hand while manipulating the wrench with the other. Miserable work, but after two hours it was done.

Had to remove the lighting, and this provided a moment of grim amusement. One of the strands didn’t work, because of course it didn’t. The other suffered a blow from a falling strut that cleaned out six bulbs, dispersing small pieces of glass I will extract from my foot in three months. That strand worked, though. I plugged it in and the surviving bulbs glowed. Considered that the problem with the other strand was the fuse.

No worries:



Same with the other. They assume that no one will replace the fuses. The lights will go out and they’ll think “it’s broken” and buy a new one. I wonder how much money that saved them. I wonder if anyone in the company felt bad about the lie, because it was a lie, and everyone knew it was a lie, but they figured “who’ll know, and of those, who will really care.” I’m not sure the supplier told Target. Yes yes I know, that’s like the tortured Soviet citizen saying “if only Comrade Stalin knew what you were doing!” but it’s possible no one at Target knew because no one ever replaces the tiny fuses.

Well, I do, and I’m on to them.

Next step: a new gazebo.

Note: if you are new to the Bleat, this is a deathless subject. Coming up: gazebo #5.



I didn't look forward to it because it’s Campy; I hate camp. It was the period details, the look at Hollywood at a time when the culture was starting to rot. The rise of the Psycho-biddy genre was part of the cheap, schlock-shock movies that moved B movies from short programmers with a predictable plot and characters to exploitation films aimed at mouth-breathers. It’s a short hop from “Whatever Happened” to the swingin’ stewardess nudie-movies and buckets-of-blood gore fests. The B genre would bloom, but in the corpse-flower sense.

That’s my take, anyway. “Feud” sums up the early 60s well, at least as we think we know it - the furniture is right, with that gimcrack pseudo-French style supplanting Danish modern and Jet-age modernism. New York looks tired. The acting is fine - Stanley Tucci is wonderful as Jack Warner, mainly because he’s just doing molto Tucci. Warner’s an interesting character - the studio was named for him and his brother, of course, and he seems like he shouldn’t be around in 1963. They were big in the 30s and 40s - but 1963 was only 17 years away from 1946, and the year 2000 doesn’t seem impossibly remote to middle-aged people today. (Alas.)

What bothers me a bit about the series isn’t how it takes sides - it likes Bette Davis more than Joan Crawford because she simply seems more intelligent and articulate and honest. It’s how they direct Lange to play Crawford like a Mary Kay saleslady who had a stroke, whereas Sarandon’s Davis is all wit! and sass! and energy! with occasional moments of Sadness. It like Davis because she was considered the Ahctress Worthy of the Theatah Dahling, and Crawford was just that woman who did a lot of movies. Well:

Joan Crawford is doubtless the best example of the flapper, the girl you see in smart night clubs, gowned to the apex of sophistication, toying iced glasses with a remote, faintly bitter expression, dancing deliciously, laughing a great deal, with wide, hurt eyes. Young things with a talent for living.

So said F. Scott Fitzgerald. Anyway. In one ep, we see how Bette Davis has been forced to take TV roles, like Perry Mason.

As it happens, I have that episode. (I have most of them.) It’s awful. Perry Mason isn’t around; it’s that mysterious period when Bunny Burr went off to get some choppers yanked, or so the story goes, but it seems like a long time to be out for dental reasons. There were two months of guest hosts, and they had to plan that in advance. For whatever reason, Davis shows up as the widow of a lawyer who is also a lawyer herself, and takes up the case of the most tiresome character of the 50s and 60s, the Angry Juvie Who’s Mixed-Up and Doesn’t Fit in this Crazy World, Man. Because of hypocrisy or the Man or being unloved or something. They yelled a lot and were sarcastic, often at the same time, before shutting down and saying “leave me alone. WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE.”

Let’s see how the shots compare:

They completely screwed up the bricks! Tsk. Didn't they think anyone would notice? At least the writing on the wall is correct.

They didn't just rush through it; they matched it shot for shot. But the sign is different:


Not bad. Acting? Here you go:



Question for the comments: note the guard.

What was his preferred alcoholic beverage, and what were its ingredients?

Oh, one more thing. This is just mortifying. Someone spliced together Sarandon's performance and Bette Davis' version.

Everything about that song gives me hives.


Wonder why no one asked New Yorkers what they wanted out of France.


Send rice.

Things weren't too good in Paris in 1949, I suspect.






Even fans of mid-century modern have to admit it could go slightly off with the slightest mistep:

In this case it's the curtain pattern. And I have to wonder if that arrangement was copied by anyone, becaues it makes n sense. A table put up against the picture window with a BIG LAMP illuminating . . . nothing of importance.


No one seems to want Fiberglas curtains anymore. We're not worried about sun-rot.

Can't tell you the last time anyone said "well, time to iron the curtains."


Look at this example:


One of the most beautiful modernist buildings built anywhere. The pride of 1954. Today it's on the Watch List for endangered buildings, a meaningless distnction that will no more save the building than it saved Palmyra.

I was looking around The Google to see if the building was still embroiled in controversy; some retail stores went into the space and requested permission to alter the sacred space. A modernist sculpture was removed . . .

But then cleaned and returned. It was familiar to me. I'd seen that style before, and didn't know, or had forgotten, that the work in Southdale is by the same artist.


Here's the question. This is all beautiful and modern and abstract . .


But what does it mean? It means nothing. It has no heritage behind it, no lore, no stories, no cultural messages. Nothing.

That's the point.

Well, heck, we can do that today:

Except an email and a cellphone picture isn't the same. It's better! In some ways. But nothing quite matches getting a letter, opening it up, and finding a photograph. It was special, because it wasn't common.

Being able to do everything all the time just ruined things.

Men were expected to recognize this:

It's a waterpump, lovingly rendered. The texture of the metal, the lighting, the numbers: nice work. You wonder what the artist did when he wanted to express what he felt.

Air filters, maybe.

That'll do; see you here and there.


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