I got the lights up. Phase one. This was preceded by taking them out of the shed and plugging them in to see if they worked. They all worked. I had winnowed them out last summer, so this wasn’t too much of a surprise, although you fully expect these things - the pride of Chinese industry - to degrade 7% and render all the lights useless.

No greater lie than “One goes out, the rest stay lit.”

After I had set them out in long strings, ready to be draped on the limbs with the pole, my wife said she needed help washing the windows. She could get all the parts out, but couldn’t get them back in. There’s a sequence you have to remember, and no one does. Screen then top part then over-part, whatever it’s called? Yes. Actually no. Take them out, do it again. You’d think we’d remember. We do not remember. The brain spits out the information like a hippo expelling a seed from its hindquarters.

The third window could not be taken apart. The piece that was supposed to slide down so the notches could come out of the slot would not go down, no matter how much we pulled. So I got out the ladder and went outside so I could brace a pane that might fall out if things went awry.

It cracked. That changed the situation. Well, if it’s cracked, then it has to be replaced, and if it has to be replaced, it can be utterly destroyed. I got out gorilla tape and secured the glass, then took a hammer and smacked the glass. It’s an odd thing to calibrate: I want to break this glass, but not the glass on the frame behind it. Eventually it shattered, and the pieces that would have fallen to the ground were held by the tape.

Which meant that when I moved my hand in their general direction I sliced my finger, because I couldn’t see the shard angled up in a peculiar way. Well, to hell with it. I ain’t got time to bleed.

DO YOU NEED GLOVES she said from inside. I held up my bloody hand, shrugged: nope. Already bleeding. Got that out of the way.

But maybe she was right. Probably need a bandage.

To recap: the afternoon began with “I’ll get some lights on the trees while you clean the windows,” and now there’s one strand hanging off the tree, and I’m thinking “I should stanch the wound lest the blood keep me from getting a good grip on the hammer.”

Once I had smashed out the window I started pounding on the stuck part, well aware that this might deform the frame even more. Gentle pounding. Careful thwacking. Calibrated hammering. I should note that it had cracked as well in the process, so I didn’t have to worry about that. Eventually we got it out, and I put them in the car and drove to the hardware store.



“We’re two weeks out,” he said, “on the glass.”

I had told my wife it would probably be a couple of days.

“Maybe earlier,” he said.

Okay, so, I could say “A week from Tuesday, possibly Wednesday.”

Then I went back and finished putting the lights on the tree. Phase one. Three more to go. It wasn't cold, either - not one of those years where I'm crunching around in the snow and cursing in the cold. It was almost 60 the other day and the laws are still green. Dormant, but green. Coma lawns. The radiators have been garosh-garosh-garoshing nonstop because the house was cold, on account of the windows being open for an hour, but hey: toasty!

Earlier in the day we went to a brunch before the Gopher game. We were not going to the Gopher game, but that doesn’t matter. It was held in the community room of a condo that looks over the Stone Arch bridge and the mighty Miss. There were two types of art: representational, impressionistic, and non-abstract yet abstract representational. To wit:


When I first saw this I was unimpressed, but the more I thought about it the more I understood it. Although I was still unimpressed. There’s no message in the selection of the images. A paint smear; a piece of a 17th century still life (St. Jerome, to be exact); a Roman bust; patterns from the internet c. 1997; a strange pixillated object.

I’m not giving the artist credit for meaning anything with this selection, but I recognized this.







It’s a Doom barrel.



But. At first I thought the thing was computer-generated and silk-screened, but it turned out upon close examination that it was hand-painted. Every scrap, every item from some random Google image search, and been rendered with a brush, so ah hah, there’s the conceit: digital flotsam, rendered by analogue means. There were a few other works that rearranged the same objects and added new ones; a big work just repeated a Roman bust like windows spawned by a crashed program. From a distance they were all alike, but close up you could see the differences in the brush stroke and the details.


It’s a thing of interest, but not a thing of beauty. Which is most modern art, I suppose.

Ah, I get it!

Great! So you like it?

No, I don’t. But I get it. Tell me, though - which would you prefer?


I think this is their way of saying "we know these are lame, but there are certain standards in mass-circ magazines that require creaky, inoffensive jokes that you can tell to your mother, prompting at best a slight smile."

Then again, the jokes in the spicy magazines and college-humor rags were no better. It's not a question of changing tastes: humor got better in the 20th century.

Anyway: the first one is funny because marriage is miserable ha ha


That's phobic of something, I'm sure. About that first one: "Stead's Magazine" must surely refer to W.T. Stead, an Englishman who edited several journals and was a prominent social reformer. He became interested in spiritualism, like a lot of credulous intellectuals of the day. I loved this: "In 1905, Stead travelled to Russia to try to discourage violence, but his tour and talks were unsuccessful." Big surprise, that.

Drowned on the Titanic.

As for the second one, it's from the Mink, the student publication of Washington and Lee U.

See all the things we learn? It's remarkable.




Oh my sides are aching. The Transcript was a newspaper that published for 111 years, closing in 1941.

You'd have thought that was prime newspaper time.





Remember, it's not really a review. It's a look at the look of the genre.

Every other movie in the 40s was the Big Something or Johnny Someone:

Googling for "The Big Johnmy" . . . well, nothing with safe-search filters on.



  What do you get from the theme? Besides the desire to take a nap?


Yes, seems a bit nautical. Wikipedia:

Leigh Adrian Harline (March 26, 1907 – December 10, 1969) was a film composer and songwriter. He was known for his "musical sophistication that was uniquely 'Harline-esque' by weaving rich tapestries of mood-setting underscores and penning memorable melodies for animated shorts and features."

Let's see who draws Johnny Duty this time . . . oh, man.



George Raft, the tough guy whose appeal today seems rather mysterious. He just seems inert. Like he's carved out a cold potato.

Plot: he's captain of a ship that finds a deserted ship.


He finds a photograph shot by PlotPointe Studios:


It's his dad, who's dead now. His cargo was hijacked. This sends Johnny Angel to Noir Pier:

. . . and back to the office to meet the Hard-Boiled Blonde and his hated weak brother.


Then it's off to get a cab from a guy who's no slouch when it comes to penning a tune or two:

Always odd to see Hoagie Carmichael in a movie, probably because he's just odd - but in a delightful way.

I mean, c'mon:

American composer and author, Alec Wilder, described Carmichael as the "most talented, inventive, sophisticated and jazz-oriented of all the great craftsmen" of pop songs in the first half of the twentieth century.

Carmichael is one of the most successful of the Tin Pan Alley songwriters of the 1930s, and was among the first singer-songwriters in the age of mass media to utilize new communication technologies, such as television and the use of electronic microphones and sound recordings.

And he's great in movies. Anyway, we get a bit of inadvertant documentary. Where is this?


Roosevelt Hotel? Not the one in New York. It's this, more or less.

You can figure it out by the theater name - the Saenger, in New Orleans. So that's where we are. And I probably would have known that if I'd written it down at the time.

The Forties were really, really overblown:


It's a dry slog, but they laid out some coin for the sets and effects:



Of course the reviews on imdb say it's an underrated noir classic, thanks to the director and his sense of lighting and mood.



Underlooked classic? No. It looks nice. It has, at its heart, a dull rock for a hero. Worth a watch if you like 40s films. Worth a watch even if you don't - you can't understand the period as a whole if you only watch the classics.

That'll do; see you around.


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