Well, here we are.

I don’t mean to start the year on a grey note, but I am not looking forward to 2018. It’s the one I’ve had in the back of my mind for the last few years, flashing off and on, and now it’s here. Daughter goes away. Around the same time I turn 60. It’s like the moment when the waiter deposits the thick folder with your credit card and your copy of the receipt. Thank you. Have a nice day.

Well, it’s just a number. It’s not like Daughter is going away forever! Just ten solid months in another hemisphere. I think I’ll be fine; what are the alternatives? To decide not to be fine? You meet the new thing and you surpass it, endure it, or of course you suppress and ignore until the entire edifice collapses with a thunderous roar. Actually, I like that option. Worked so far. Usually does until, you know, thunderous roar.

There will be compensations, novelties, diversions - the usual daily parade, the standard allotments of obligations and achievements. All documented here in grinding detail. But with different fonts!

Also, many behind-the-scenes improvements. New Year’s Day was cold - ten below, with windchills of minus nine thousand - so I decided “let’s see which sites I’ve ignored could stand some tweaks” and OH MY GOD I can’t believe I haven’t fixed that crap site with the crap design. I reworked about 100 pages until Daughter asked if I could drive her to a coffee shop so she could work on her novel, and of course. Of course.

While she wrote I did restocking for the weeks ahead, a two-hour four-store trip conducted in literal and figurative numbness. The aisles of Target were full of jeering: hey there, look at me, it’s the Mac and Cheese you used to have to stock, because it was a staple. Not any more! Ha ha! Hey don’t forget me, tiny boxes of raisins you bought for grade school lunches! Screw you, old man! Hey hey, I’m the creamer she likes - got enough at home? You’ll stop buying this in half a year, but I’ll still be here on the shelf reminding you how you felt a sense of quiet satisfaction when you assembled all the stuff everyone in the house took for granted, as if someone anticipated their every need. Because someone did! You want to feel some pointless resentment, because you always bought the creamer but the kid left the nest nevertheless? Go on! You’ve earned it!

And so on. Jeebus, it’s tiresome. The amusing part? Daughter had asked me to buy shredded parmesan cheese, and I forgot. I think the last time she asked for something at the grocery store and I was lost in a funk, it was parmesan cheese.

All that said: it was a happy, happy weekend, full of excitement and drama - but I’ll save that for tomorrow. In fact my favorite moment of the entire weekend will probably pop up in two weeks in TV Tuesday, and revolves around a particular phrase: We saw him last fall at Grossingers

But we’ll get to that in a fortnight. When January’s still ruling everything, and seems as much as the natural state of the world as the humid verdant glories of July. It’s the dark, hard month. I wish it was twice as long.


By the way, this site - looks a bit different, eh?

Please say “yes, it does. Quite different! Nice job.”

Thank you. It’s always a challenge to refresh the site and keep it consistent - something absolutely no one asks for, or expects. But I have to keep myself interested somehow, and I get tired of the site’s appearance after a year.

The most notable change: the Ephemera feature, which came before the ad, is no longer daily, but will be grouped together on Thursday. Why? Because it was screwing up the look of the page, that’s why. Made it look too clunky and episodic. I know, I know - WHO CARES. Friday’s “Listen” site, now named Audio Melange, is much more diverse. There’s another Friday treat, too, as you’ll see.

And of course the return of the Diner. I don’t know why it happened, but it did, and I already have eight episodes in the can, so I know I’m back in the groove. Never felt good about giving it up, and always suspected it would come back.

The Diner’s site has been redesigned, and I came across a page that isn’t linked anywhere. You can find it if you type “Bufus Parsley” into Google, but I don’t expect anyone would. Bufus was my PDQ Bach, I guess, except I didn't have any parody music. I've no idea how the show came up with Bufus, except that it seems to be about someone who was doomed to be in the shadow of Elvis Presley because of his name. The fan site is pure early Internet - and possibly the oldest page on lileks.com.







Clicking around Netflix the other night, and hey ho what’s this? Oh, right - I forgot. They made a fourth season of Sherlock.

Well! I like Sherlock. Don’t I? Don’t seem to remember any great let-downs or disappointments, and we all agreed a few years ago that Bundersnatch Cumberwick was a great choice to update the classic detective, and Frodo made a fantastic Watson. The reboot conceit tied it back to the original story - Watson, in both stories, was an Afghan war vet, and in the new version he blogged Sherlock’s stories. Because of course he would!

Nowadays it’s old-style to blog, I guess. You don’t get the sense that John Watson tweets.

When I started the show it had reminders of the previous series’ conclusion. Sherlock was off on a deadly assignment, but was called home because Moriarity was back. Somehow. Even though he was dead. Right? This was a problem with the movies in the 40s: there was the constant threat of additional Moriarity, even though he’d been caught in the last one. and sent to prison.

There’s only one man capable of such ingeniousness, Watson.

Good heavens Holmes you don’t mean -

Yes, Watson, I do. Professor Moriarity. Come! Fetch your medical bag, and do bring the gangrene medicine The foot’s a-gamey.

Sorry. Anyway, here’s what I want to see Sherlock Holmes do: solve crimes. Does the new show give us that? Not in the first episode. The first ep of the fourth season is all about Watson’s wife, Mary the Super Agent Spy Assassin. It’s BS of the highest sort. She was part of some elite paramilitary agent-extraction / black ops group, and not as a coordinator or strategic planner - no, she’s in the field, rappeling, shooting, punching, etc. It’s an invention to satisfy the tropes of the present, which require violent, ultra-strong women to ensure a Jezebel reviewer will use the word “badass” when they discuss the show. She’s also wise and deep and Troubled. I could not wait for the episode to end.

You can imagine the fun in the writer's room.

Show runner: Okay, everyone, let’s put our heads together. What, in essence, is the core of the Holmes stories?

Writer’s room voices: mystery. Deduction. Friendship.

Show runner: yes, friendship. The relationship between Holmes and Watson. In the books it was solid, a constant - Watson was the reader’s confidant, the means by which the reader entered the story and walked alongside its distant, diffident hero. But we’ve given that relationship a depth and range no other version has quite supplied, haven’t we? Thanks to Martin Freeman’s fine performance as Martin Freeman. But what if we shifted the focus? What if . . . what if Watson’s wife was a secret agent? At the very least it would let us do more with Mycroft, and erode his mystery through overexposure. At best it would shift the focus of the story to something the viewer has little interest in seeing. Who’s with me?


Show runner: Well that’s what it’s going to be so you’d best get cracking. Oh, and more quips. Make Sherlock crazier. Have him do a lot of drugs but still have all his mental faculties. Like that. Figure it out. Yes, you in the back - you have your hand up for a reason? Do you need to use the loo?

Writer: No - well actually yes, but I had an idea. What if Sherlock and Mycroft had a sister with super powers?


Show runner: That's the most brilliant thing I've ever heard.

So it's crap, is what I'm telling you.

There's a CNN page about 18 things to look forward to in 2018, and it's notable for not containing a single thing I look forward to seeing or hearing about. Royal weddings especially. Number 7 is "Must-see TV."

It'll be a good year to vegetate in front of your television or chosen device if and when reality gets unbearable. Steel yourself for more "Black Mirror" and "A Handmaid's Tale," as well as the last season of "Veep," the return of "Westworld" and [checks giant Mayan calendar] Season 16 of "American Idol.”

Some noteworthy new shows to look out for: "Black Lightning," a "Dynasty" reboot and "The Alienist."

I'll watch the last, but am prepared for anachronisms that make the sympathetic characters seem like people from the present day sent back to shame people of the past. A certain amount of preening is inevitable, but it helps if the writers and producers have respect and curiousity about the period they're demeaning.

When they don't, because they're bored or don't care, you get season 4 of Sherlock.



Let's reset the sequence and start back at the beginning, when ads were . . . oh man they were boring.

Here's some drink powder, and guess what? It's good, sure but it's soluble!

What's more, it has infinite superiority. It was certainly good enough to be around in 1987, when the company sued the US about its import classification.

C.J. Van Houten & Zoon appeals from the judgment of the United States Court of International Trade in C.J. Van Houten & Zoon v. United States, sustaining the determination by the United States Customs Service that its imported chocolate is not classifiable under item 156.25 of the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS).

Appellant's imports consisted of tank truck shipments of molten, sweetened chocolate.

Item 156.25 covers bars or blocks weighing 10 pounds or more.

The Court of International Trade properly held that appellant's imported chocolate was classifiable as chocolate in any other form under item 156.30 of the TSUS and we affirm on the basis of its opinion.



Every man commits a hygienic crime.

Why? Why? Is it because second-rate suspenders don't keep the pants up, and allow the male parts to be overly ventilated?


My dear, I've good news: we're moving to a FACTORY SUBURB!

It was actually . . . in Indiana. Encyclopedia of Chicago:

 Farmers came to the area of Griffith in the early 1850s after Congress passed the Swamp Land Act, and the State of Indiana offered swamplands for $1.25 an acre. Area residents, many of German descent, traveled to Schererville for social affairs and Sunday services until 1891, when Jay Dwiggins and his brother Elmer of Chicago laid out the town. Construction of factories, houses, and a school soon followed. 

It's part of the Chicago metropolitan area. Eighteen thousand souls. More:

History indicates the town of Griffith may have been named after a surveyor for the Grand Trunk Railroad, E.P. Griffith.

In the 1870s he mapped the terrain, set the grade for the tracks and the area became known as Griffith's Section.

The Dwiggins brothers, Jay and Elmer, were businessmen from Chicago who founded the town in 1891. They planned to call it Dwiggins Junction, said Karen Kulinski, of the Griffith Historical Society.

"In the end, they chose to keep the name of Griffith," she said, adding they did name several streets after themselves: Jay, Elmer and Dwiggins.

Indeed they did. Inbetween Wood and Arborgast streets.


Writing Fluid I get. But Copying Fluid?

A close-up of the bottle reveals the words under "Writing Fluid" - "which will not mould."

We don't worry about moldy ink these days.




Mmmm, Granum.

Who wouldn't want a delicious bowl of sick-person food?

This page says "Both Robert Benchley and Mark Twain mentioned in their writing as if it were common in households."

Pablum, more or less, I think. The company's HQ still stands.


The modern era is upon us. Computers are right around the corner, in the grand scheme of time.

Herein hangs a tale, and it's not about typewriter formats.

Surely Hammond's "annus horribilis" was 1907. That year, ridiculed as a crazed, drunken junkie, Hammond spent almost eight months locked away because of a younger brother's determined but ultimately vain attempt to control the Hammond Type Writer Company's fortune. 

And it was big. When he got out of the bin, the New York Times ran a story: Employes Welcome J.B. Hammond Back / Hands of His Typewriter Factory Delighted Because He's Declared Sane. / BURNS HIS ENEMIES IN EFFIGY.

A detailed acocount - including Alienists! - is here.




Should get your attention


Once again, a reminder that the days we think were tranquil and well-paced thought themselves enfeebled by the hellish pace of modern life.

So drink Sarsaparilla! It will cure:

Scrofulous Complaints, Eruptions and Eruptive Diseases, Ulcers, Pimples, Blotches, Tumors, Salt Rheum, Scald Head, Syphilis and Syphilitic Affections, Mercurial Disease, Dropsy, Neuralgia or Tic Douloureux, Debility, Dyspepsia and Indigestion, Erysipelas, Rose or St. Anthony's Fire, and indeed the whole class of complaints arising from Impurity of the Blood.

That's good to know; my St. Anthony's Fire has been killing me lately.

Not really. It's a skin infection. DO NOT GOOGLE IT.

"Well, Simon, it's Prepared Milk, but I think it needs a more scientific name."

The Medical Bulletin of the day said Mrs. E. T. Page was 36, 115 pounds, and she had . . .ten other children as well. Her entry, written by her doctor, is called "Remarkable Fecundity.

The doctor also notes that the children could not find a wet-nurse, living out in the country as they did, so he "fed the babes on 'Reed & Carnick's Infant food,''" and "they thrived well." That contradicts Mr. Page's letter.

Makes you wonder if the piece in the medical journal was a plant.

And that's not all! Time to meet your new friend for 2018: Scoop, the Cub Reporter.



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