I take it all back; Tuesday is not Dread Tuesday anymore. Monday is now a two-column day, so Tuesday is now an “editing and polishing day,” which is as time-consuming as waxing a Hot Wheels model, so I’m good. It snowed, which freshened up the world, even thought the wind’s come up and the temps have dropped. Almost like it’s still, you know, WINTER.
Cold enough to kill the coronavirus, right? I believe the latest iteration of the story is that it originated in a CHINESE BIOWEAPONS RESEARCH FACILITY, not the local “wet” market. (And there’s a term I could have gone forever without knowing.) That’s the news rocketing around the careful, peer-reviewed thing we call Twitter, anyway. From the original stories I read, it was a disease research lab, who knows, maybe bioweapons research, but it got out because of lax protocols. Someone was careless.
You’d like to think a BIOWEAPONS LAB would have a series of decontamination chambers through which you’d have to pass, the first one burning off your epidermis and the last one hosing you down with bleach, but apparently you can walk out of the lab, sniffling, sign out, sneeze on the guard, and head out for lunch. All I ask of Chinese deadly bioweapons researchers is that they sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
No, it can’t possibly be an accident - the virus causes male sterility, so it was designed as a population control weapon, and deliberately released, so as to . . . crash the economy, I guess, and put unexpected stresses on the government. None of this makes any sense.
See, in my book, the bioweapons have one distinctive characteristic:
100% immediate lethality. People grab their throat and gasp and keel over.
Why do I know this is the hallmark of a good plague weapon? Because I grew up in the Seventies. The scary movies about our horrible future centered around some massive world-ending engineered plague, from “The Omega Man” (Killed everyone on the spot, except for a few unfortunates who ended up following around a pasty TV news anchor who’d gone mad) to “The Satan Bug” (not 70s, but it showed up on TV), to the worst of them all, “The Andromeda Strain.” It was so plausible; seemed like a documentary. There was nothing on the screen as horrifying as the electron microscope shots of the pathogen pulsating. Stuff of nightmares. The soundtrack didn’t help - in fact it was one of the things that made it so damned terrifying.
Then there was “12 Monkeys” in the 90s, which I’m sure is the happy-ending movie for the people who want humans to go extinct so the earth will be saved. In all cases, the germ was massively lethal. Oh! Right, “The Stand,” another example. Everybody got it.
So that’s my gold standard, right there. When a cruise ship docks in Cambodia and plows into the terminal because the bridge crew is all dead with green foam coming out of their noses, we can talk.
Anyway, it was a nice day. Cold, so no germs floating around. I still open doors with my sleeves.
When nothing on the endless panes of new entertainment appeals because it’s late and you don’t want to start something, you reach for an old chestnut, something you know is . . . pleasurably bad.
What strikes me again, as it did years ago when I rewatched the movie, is how everyone seemed surprised that a building stuffed with synthetic shag would go up like a tiki torch. It was the only movie that had Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, both of whom were so much better than this, but hey: I’ll bet the payday was fantastic, and who could blame them?
Faye Dunaway! FRED ASTAIRE! Also OJ Simpson, which means you can do a six-degrees-of-separation routine to nearly everyone in old Hollywood. As a kid I loved it, because I loved skyscrapers. I do not remember if I was underwhelmed by the shape of things to come.
It has a John Williams score, and the theme is grand and broad and not his best. That's fair to say. It's still unmistakably his and has a tone the movie belies.
You want the building to have a heroic theme, and it certainly sets an optimistic and cosmopolitan tone. But you’d also want the opening theme to introduce a note of foreboding. Alas, no. The entire movie is by-the-numbers all the way. And that's fine! No CGi, all pratical effects.
It’s also an example of what I call the Balloo Effect, after Louis Prima’s voice work on “The Jungle Book": when you’re young, you see these old stars without context, without knowing who’d they’d been. So William Holden is just the guy with big black glasses, not, you know, William Holden.
It’s almost impossible to think that some people who watched the movie didn’t know who Fred Astaire was. But there were. They were young, but I suppose it was possible to be 20 and not know Fred. Of course it was possible. It was actually entirely likely.
I’ve always thought the machinery of the late 50s and early 60s got it just right.
That’s hard to improve upon, and they didn’t.
The 50: t’was nothing. I started out on the 65; that was a real motorcycle.
Fun! Go out with your best gal and see the world. And if you fall off while going fast, you might die. Don’t think her parents don’t know it and they don’t like it and they don’t like you.
Got to get a good lunch in if you’re going to be working on Interocitor manuals all afternoon:
ON OUR PLANET WE DRINK HUMAN BLOOD IN THE RED TIMES
These were a boon. They just worked. They were simple. Sturdy as hell. In fact . . .
Sixteen dollars in 1961 would $136 today. You can get a digital camera that takes hundreds of shots in much better resolution for a hundred bucks, or less.
It's one of my favorite possessions.
Oh my gosh: the golliwog, again. avorite possessions.
It’s the only time I’ve ever seen something from an ad actually used.
Ah, but where? Where in Lileks.com can you find this item?
When you have read the copy to make sense of the picture, you’ve not done the best possible job.