A bittersweet weekend, considering the unmasking of our beloved Vikings as utterly unfit for post-season combat. It was spent in a mild fog with vestigial rhinitis, and I don’t say that easily. Watched a lot of TV, mostly old movies; sorted the old digital magazine collection, neatened up some archives. The sort of thing you do when you’ve no energy, your eyes feel wooly, and you periodically issue a sudden sharp sneeze so powerful that you’ve a stitch in your side at the end of the day.
But Sunday? Nothing. Five-day cold instead of the three-day coming, three-day enduring, three-day going. It’s the zinc.
The pace of Rock Star Deaths will not abate, and it’s going to be hard on my cohort and the older boomers. Neil Peart I did not expect to pass. As I wrote elsewhere:
Wasn’t a fan of the band, thanks to Lee’s vocals, which were like cleaning your ear canal with a dental drill. But. When I first heard “2112” I was knocked out by Peart. Rock druming at that time was low-key keep the beat, or disco high-hat, or Keith Moon flail-and-splash, or Bonhamesque blood and thunder. Great drummers, don’t get me wrong – but I heard those crisp and precise runs, well, this was a whole different thing.
I think this is unique, and previous generations didn’t have the same solar-plexus punch, for a few reasons. In the olden times the acts that fell from favor with the zeitgeist just faded away. There weren’t many outlets for them anymore. Maybe a few low-power classic stations, but if you wanted your Harry James, you got out the records. And the records weren’t the originals, but re-releases with art that didn’t quite match the vibe of the time in which he flourished. If you lived long enough there would be channels on your cable TV or satellite that played them all, but it was a concert in the golden hall of the Overlook, and you knew it.
They might be re-released on those newfangled CDs, but the new tech didn’t mean much. It was still the old stuff. You knew it. Hell, you were the old stuff.
Now? It never goes away. It’s played on the Classic Rock! Radio that freezes your culture at the time when you were 20 and ultra-hormonal; it’s all there for streaming on YouTube and Spotify, a click away from the modern stuff (which sucks!), and this gives you the illusion that it’s still part of the cultural conversation. It isn’t. The graybeards talk about it, because they share the same time framework - the rise of rock in the 50s, the descent from the heavens of Elvis, the paradigm-breaking Beatles, the important social music and psych music, the soft premature senescence of California rock, the perfidy of disco, the purifying fire of punk, the renaissance of New Wave, then MTV ruins everything, and then, I don’t know, it’s sludgy grunge and I guess it’s okay but they’re playing classic Zep and Kinks and Stones on this channel so maybe I’ll tune in there.
Those incredibly important mutations and evolutions are not important to the casual listener under 30 today. A lot of the the boomers forked off to country at some point, and that’s an entirely different landscape. Fact is, you got all these kids today who don’t realize that giants still walk among us, and they’re dropping dead and will continue to topple and there’s no one to take their place and what was that all about, anyway? Rock as a modus vivendi? Hope I die before I get old and all that?
It was a blip.
It was a collection of moments with an auditory aesthetic profile may not be accessible to subsequent generations in any profound or relatable ways. A few things will abide, but most will pass.
You literally had to be there.
This year we'll spend a Monday a month looking at the Programmers, the little movies you could skip if you just wanted to see the main show. Perhaps most people saw the last half.
The name of this just struck me funny when first I learned of it. So dramatic! So slightly absurd!
Based on a radio show.
Crime Doctor featured two premises that were unusual—if not unique—in radio crime drama. The first was that the central figure, Dr. Benjamin Ordway, had survived amnesia. Radio historian John Dunning described the situation as follows:
"Originally a criminal himself, he got zapped on the head and lost his memory. With the help of a kind doctor, he began to build a new life and identity, studying medicine and eventually going into psychiatry. ... He decided to specialize in criminal psychiatry because of his intense interest in, and understanding of, the criminal mind.
"A photographic story about the program in a 1946 issue of Radio Mirror magazine contained the following comment: 'Dr. Ordway ... has become such a favorite with the Police Department of his city that he is constantly being called upon for his shrewd and eager opinions in baffling murder cases. Invariably, his keen medical mind fastens upon the one clue in a case which might otherwise be lost.'
This is an origin story. Much of the audience already knows about the Crime Doctor, but might not have known his origins. We begin a crook thrown out of a car by some criminal confederates, and we see only the boss-crook's hand:
It's deformed! So he must be evil!
Some late Jazz-Age kids come along, and you can tell it’s the near past because they have whimsical words on their jalop, like those fo-do-de-do kids did in the 20s and early 30s:
HEY HOW DO WE TELL THE AUDIENCE THIS ISN'T SENT IN THE PRESENT
They revive the hurtled crook. Off to the hospital, where the ward is named after . . .
So that’s what the nurses call him. Ordway. The nurses are horny, too. All the men they meet are losers, or overseas. One of them is so fed up with her sexless life she blurts out the truth to the doctor, who simply cannot believe she said that.
Yes, it’s Tragg, so we know we’re in for some good stuff. So he comes back his senses, REFORMS, get some smarts and credientials, and voy-lah, ladies and gents: The CRIME DOCTOR.
And here is his soon-to-be-girlfriend, Winner of the Miss Forties Hair pageant:
There’s a scene in a dive bar, and I have to say: sometimes the 40s style of hats and long coats can be somewhat depressing:
But it’s supposed to be; she’s a lamb going into a den of iniquity, where men look at her in an appraising fashion on the way out the door.
Anyway. We’re just here to spend an hour with an amnesiac who manages to become a psychiatrist, set up a practice, reform the prison system, and bust the racket to which he once belonged. All in an hour. It’s efficient. Here’s a sequence that shows how his trial’s going.
They made nine more. Why will we examine them? There's a reason: like rock, they were part of the cultural landscape, and we'll all be a little bit more informed when we're done. Someone says "Crime Doctor," you'll get it!
Spoiler: no one will ever say Crime Doctor
That'll do; see you around. Matches await, because it's Monday.