This may seem like news from January, but I got the Christmas lights down this week. The reason I didn’t take them down before was because it was too cold to manipulate small plastic strings with pointed extrusions. I don’t know whether it was the way I put them on or the effect of wind and snow, but what I thought were nicely wound columnar firs had become tangled strands that would not come off with a simple motion. The easy thing to do would be to CUT THEM OFF WITH A SHEARS, which has the added attraction of being WHAT I WANT TO DO TO THESE GOT-DAMNED THINGS, but I didn’t know if some of them still worked.

Not many did. Somewhere between the time I turned them off and Saturday, the ghost was given up. Or the bulbs were unseated in the process. Every year I say “that’s it! LED next time!” and every year I go to the store months later and look at the price and think oh to hell with that. The absolute perfect definition of Penny Wise / Pound Dumb.

At one point in the process, muttering and cursing, I looked up . . . and all was well.

The snow is almost gone. The stubborn ice remains, but can be hacked away with sufficient bitterness; as I said in my column yesterday, it's like bayonetting the wounded.

A fine weekend. Ate well, slept well, didn't go out and fight the hordes at the grocery store. Pulled myself back from a ruinously stupid website idea that was, two weeks ago, the best idea ever. One of the enjoyable diversions was sorting through the vast archived music collection, making sure everything's in the proper folder, backing it up twice, then remembering that it's about 800B there's probably 150 songs in there I'd want to hear again.

It's taken a while, but I'm almost caught up with the big life / web / stuff archive project. I think it's taken four years. But it's almost done.

Until I decide that the family videos for each year actually belong in the Photos folder, because technically they're pictures.

ANYWAY the downside of the snow's retreat is the hideous sight of the grub-devastated lawn. That's a task that awaits me. Went to Home Depot with the Giant Swede to get grub poison. I also needed to replace a landscape lighting transformer, and he chuckled: every spring and summer he saw me go through the problem with the lights, and was grateful he'd never decided to do that.

Ah, but it's a great and simple joy the first night it's warm, and all the lights are working, and the backyard glows, and the rim of the cliff is lit. Calls to mind the first year I did it, and how proud it made me. Somehow if I had pathway lights, I'd arrived.

What next? I'd asked myself, and thought: oh I know. A water feature.

And now I'm depressed again.

It’s the little things that are telling. My wife was listening to the radio, and I think it was “As It Happens,” a CBC show that runs on MPR, which is NPR, except for M. The segment started with the Flintstones theme, and I figured oh, this is about that ugly house. It was. The announcer came in after Fred shouted Yyyyyyaabba-dabba-do, and gave an explanation for the cry: the man who voiced the character, Alan Reed, said he got it from his mother, who used to say “a little dab’ll do ya.”

I was in the other room, and I sat up, and went to the bedroom, and said “that’s ridiculous.”

“WHAT” my wife said from the shower.

“That’s impossible.”

I googled with fury! It's on wikipedia:

Fred's catchphrase is "Yabba-Dabba-Doo!"; Alan Reed, voice actor who provided Fred's voice from 1960–77, reportedly said that the inspiration for the phrase came from his mother, who used to say, "A little dab'll do ya," probably borrowed from a Brylcreem commercial. When the script called for a simple 'Yahoo!' Alan either asked if he could alter the phrase or he ad-libbed. 

It is not necessary for people to hold the entirety of 20th century culture in their heads, but sometimes you realize how it all starts for some people with, like, 1980, and before that it’s a mush. And it doesn’t mean much anyway. But it does, if you want to be . . . what’s the phrase? Not saying stupid things on the air.

The reason I knew the story was nonsense: Alan Reed was in late middle-age when the Flintstones aired. I knew this without googling because I am not unfamiliar with old radio, and you hear his voice in shows in the late 40s and early 50s. He wasn’t a newcomer then, either. So let’s say he was born in 1910. (It was 1907, as I later found.) He would have been a kid at home until 1928.

“A little dab’ll do ya” might have been something his mother said, but it was a famous tagline for . . . Vitalis? No, Brylcreme. There’s no way they used that phrase in the late 20s. It was an early 60s campaign, iirc, so the only way you could say on the radio that Alan Reed’s mom used the line was if you knew nothing about Alan Reed or the ad campaigns of the past.

To be fair, this is not mission critical information. But it’s like someone saying Tim Allen ad-libbed “To Infinity and Beyond” based on something his mother said in 1973 when they were driving to the car dealership where she worked.

So, you say, it's going to be a week of petty complaints and self-satisfied swipes at people who don't share my narrow interests? Why should this one be any different?



This is the Year of Sherlock.

That’s rather basic, but you know what you’re in for.

Gillette, eh? There’s a story.

Gillette's most significant contributions to the theater were in devising realistic stage settings and special sound and lighting effects, and as an actor in putting forth what he called the "Illusion of the First Time". His portrayal of Holmes helped create the modern image of the detective. His use of the deerstalker cap (which first appeared in some Strand illustrations by Sidney Paget) and the curved pipe became enduring symbols of the character. He assumed the role on stage more than 1,300 times over thirty years, starred in the silent motion picture based on his Holmes play, and voiced the character twice on radio.

You wonder how he would have felt knowing he'd be shouldered aside entirely.

So, which of the many fine Holmes stories are we to enjoy this time? Who might be the adversary?


Well, I suppose it’s inevitable; you have to have a big draw, a big enemy. Not enough to fight the Red-Headed Speckled League, is it.

Pardon me, but we ever shown how Morty was the greatest and most dangerous and devious and so on? Or was it just asserted that it was so?

He’s the first character we meet, standing in the dock - found not guilty of murder. Sherlock bursts in with New Evidence! But of course it’s too late. They meet outside for some of that respectful banter that masks their hatred and admiration. But mostly hatred. In fact they take a cab ride home together. Deucedly civil and all that.

After Morty lays out his plans to his henchman (and by “lay out” I mean he says “I have a plan, and it’s bigger than anything) we switch to Sherlock getting involved in various doings, none of which matter here for our purposes. What’s notable is the utter buffoonery visited upon this fellow.

If you came to Holmes book-first, this had to rankle. Or did they care?


Perhaps people went along with the abuse of Watson because . . .

The scenes were otherwise exactly as we imagined. London by gaslight, and all that.

Appropriate, since Holmes is always gaslighting Watson:

It's not a healthy relationship.

Eventually the Most Important Jewel, stored among the Crown Jewels is stolen. Who was responsible for the lax security? Watson. At the end we finally get back to Moriarty, and while it’s all very shadowy and evocative.


Holmes turns into an action hero, jumping on Prof. Jimmy in the fog:

I suppose it’s evocative of the final battle to come, but Holmes wrestling with Morty as they struggle for a gun is not exactly a contest of wits.

But it's lots of fun. And Watson bless him, gets the last word.

That'll do, I hope - see you around! And remember, aside from Matchbooks, it's Double updates week, because I screwed up.




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