I haven’t done any Christmas shopping. Well, some. But there’s a certain agreement around here that we’re all fine, well-provisioned, well togged; I certainly can’t think of getting my wife anything, and she’s no doubt thinking “well, off to the mall for the annual restocking of monochrome sweaters.” I am always glad she does that, since the sweaters I have suffer from FCS, or Flabby Cuff Syndrome. I push up my sleeves, because I am a hard-working get-down-to-business type of fellow who, in the course of the day, says “let’s figure this out” and pushes up his sleeves.

Or rolls them up, if I’m wearing a shirt, but she doesn’t buy me shirts.

Daughter is not in the grips of some pop-culture phenom that lays out the gift options with astonishing abundance. My Little Pony, Pokemon, Harry Potter, One Direction - these waves crashed on the shore and retreated. Books? Better to give Amazon credit. Music? Better to give Amazon credit. A DVD? I can’t remember the last time she put a disk in the machinery. Clothes? She fills her closet with Etsy choices, lots of vintage graphics.

Wait until she discovers this website. Up to now I think she’s absorbed it by osmosis.

A fine weekend was had by all, and I’m going to hold off on the enormous thing I intended to post here today because it’s a mess. It’s about Coco, and you can please hold your comments until tomorrow. I will say this: most computer-generated movies in the pipeline look like fart-centric tripe, except for the ones involving small furry animals. The Peter Rabbit one looks adorable, and Paddington 2, likewise. Both seem to revere a sense of English small-scale decency and shared village values, as if we need sentient animals who do not rise above our knees to remind us what gave the civilization cohesion.

There was also a trailer for “Wrinkle in Time,” a book about which I remember two things: A) it had a profound impact at the time, being my first sci-fi / fantasy book, and B) it had an image that terrified me down to the pith. The children who emerge from the houses and bounce their balls in unison. At the time I imagined them doing so across from the stark, featureless apartments across from my grade school in Fargo.


I think that must have stuck in the minds of others.

We hadn’t been to the theater since they overhauled it: there’s a bar now, and the seats are reserved, big and fluffy, and they recline. It’s fantastic. But let me back up a bit.

The other night I wanted to hate-watch ST: Discovery, and called up the app on my Apple TV. It didn’t work. Oh, the app worked; it would display all the episodes I could watch, but when I called up an individual show, it would bounce back to the main menu.

Why? Bog only knows. Now consider my current situation - I wish to hate-watch Walking Dead, because my appetite for contrived Eugene dialogue is unslakable and I want to know if Rick makes a deal with the Drama Club That Forgot Complex Sentence Structure, and then Daryl does something gnarly and maybe stabs a guy in the head. I think this is the mid-mid-season finale, too! A secondary character about whom you know nothing might DIE! You know, Sunday night, feet-up, life-is-good entertainment.

The DVR won’t rewind to the beginning, because it’s not connected to the internet. Oh really. Well, go to the set-up page . . . oh, right: can’t do anything from this one, I have to go to the MAIN UNIT in the other room. It says it’s completely awesomely connected to the internet dude, party on. I try to load the show from the beginning; it stalls and says I’m not connected to the internet.

Oh. Oh really. But you just said SORRY DUDE I KNOW IT’S BOGUS

So I get into the settings to see if it had an aneurism and attached itself to the city public wifi that beams from the poles outside the house, and presents itself as ready for duty the moment your home wifi goes down. It’s like a nerd with a pathological need to belong to your family. See? See? Your wifi let you down. I’ll never let you down!

I reset everything and entered the passwords and waited, waited, waited for the dish to find the bird. Me in 1977: gosh the future will be incredible, we’ll have homes connected to satellites in outer space! Me in 2017: dammit it’s taking, like, three minutes to handshake and verify with the orbital platform.

All of this to watch a show I don’t even like. Screw it: I’m putting in a DVD. Which is like saying “The Victrola needle is broken. Thread a roll through the player piano.”

Yes, this is the future. Walking into a big room with an enormous screen, sitting back, watching the movie as it happens, immersed in the flow: hella busted old-style, bro.

UPDATE: apparently last week I set the DVR to record the Walking Dead, which it did; it downloaded 28 eps in a week and I have 2% space left on the drive.


There are more product changes for Halloween than Christmas, I think. But there's enough. This week we see some surprising renovations.

This is one of them, because EEEEEEWWHWWHWHW


It's like a flayed arm full of marrow. Delicious, creamy marrow.

In the same genre, but without a sidekick mascot:


Again, Limited Edition - as opposed to the infinite number made the rest of the year.

I suppose this might add a note of cheer to the month, but I never got this stuff for the house. It makes me think of being old and alone and sitting in front of the TV and eating one of these, thinking it's a seasonal treat. I'm having a seasonal treat. Even the wrappers are red and green.





A title that assures comedy, dancing, pageantry, light romance, and stars! Stars! Stars!


Ah, that explains it. There was a Beryl in the credits, which might have given you a clue.

Yes, my friends, it is mostly certainly 1935, in some imaginary London:

The opening music sequence concerns everyone going to work up the stairs while singing. Various elements of the NBG are introduced according to class.

English glamour babes on parade:

The British version of Busby Berkeley involves everyone walking up and down the stairs.

The network's name, NBG? It's a joke. No Bloody Good. Reviews say the movie’s a not-so-subtle dig at the boring, upright BBC. The head of the Beeb at the time was John Reith; the head of the NBG here is William Garland.

Get it?


The term "Reithianism" describes certain principles of broadcasting associated with Lord Reith. These include an equal consideration of all viewpoints, probity, universality and a commitment to public service. Audiences had little choice apart from the upscale programming of the BBC, a government agency which had a monopoly on broadcasting. Reith, an intensely moralistic executive, was in full charge. His goal was to broadcast, "All that is best in every department of human knowledge, endeavor and achievement.... The preservation of a high moral tone is obviously of paramount importance.”

Reith succeeded in building a high wall against an American-style free-for-all in radio in which the goal was to attract the largest audiences and thereby secure the greatest advertising revenue. There was no paid advertising on the BBC; all the revenue came from a tax on receiving sets. Highbrow audiences, however, greatly enjoyed it.

So this is the culture that would produce, by reaction, Monty Python.

Something else of interest, I think.

In 1975, excerpts from Reith's diary were published which showed he had, during the 1930s, harboured pro-fascist views.[ On 9 March 1933, he wrote: "I am pretty certain ... that the Nazis will clean things up and put Germany on the way to being a real power in Europe again. They are being ruthless and most determined."

After the July 1934 Night of the Long Knives, in which the Nazis ruthlessly exterminated their internal dissidents, Reith wrote: "I really admire the way Hitler has cleaned up what looked like an incipient revolt. I really admire the drastic actions taken, which were obviously badly needed."

After Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Nazis in 1939 he wrote: "Hitler continues his magnificent efficiency.”

Reith also expressed admiration for Benito Mussolini. Reith's daughter, Marista Leishman, wrote that her father in the 1930s did everything possible to keep Winston Churchill and other anti-appeasement Conservatives off the airwaves.

But all this would come later. For now, the Beeb was not only boring, but pretentiously modern. From what I've read, the sets were supposed to reflect their new HQ. The sets are Moderne to the lawfully allowed maximum, so consequently I love it:

The radio set in the boss' office. Like my speaker? It also dispenses Lucky Strikes

The oh-so-up-to-date studio, which would look pretty damned cool today:

Note: hardly anything looked like this, especially - I suspect - in England. But in movies, this was the new world.

The musical numbers swing like most British music of the era, which is to say they’re terribly decent and grand about it all, old man. Novelty acts galore, but fast, literate, arch, and quite amusing. The women don’t have it in the way the Yank dames had it, though. The men . . . well.

Watch the camera. That was the take they used; imagine the others.

So what's it about? Well, to boost ratings - something the BBC never had to worry about - they decide to shake up their programming. They put on a great radio parade in Picadilly . . . .

London's Times Square, except tiny. What's special about this radio parade?

TELEVISION. A huge TV screen. But it gets better.

It shifts to color. So it's broadcasting color TV in 1935, in order to save radio.

Got it!

The choreography and camera work suggests they're really quite new at this . . .

Here. You be the judge. HOLD THAT SMILE AND POSE!

A fascinating period piece. Needed more Al Bowlly. Why wasn't he in the movie? Possibly because he was off in the US, trying to get a career across the pond. Pity that didn't work - he might have stayed in the US and lived beyond the war, long enough to see himself lampooned by the clever kids in the 50s and 60s who didn't stand for that schmaltz, dad.

Just as well, perhaps.

That'll do; see you around.


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