Humid night right now. Storm coming. It’s due in the early AM, so my wife has suggested I put Birch in his Thundershirt before I go to bed. It’s a garment that wraps around tightly, and it’s supposed to make him feel better - a piece of dog psychology I don’t completely understand. It’s a comforting hug! Okay, ever seen the expression on a dog who doesn’t understand the reason for this hug? Is this dominance? Am I bad? Don’t think so, so I’ll ensure. Desultory tail-thump on the floor

When we put on Birch’s winter jacket, he stays motionless. Statue-still. Doesn’t move. Comforting? Hmm. He just looks as if he’s going to ride this out, whatever it is; doesn’t feel bad, but it’s different, and the reasons are unknown.

Wife before going to bed: "They say you should give the dog a treat before you put it on, to make it have a good association."

Me, mentally: this doesn’t work when he correctly intuits the imminence of bath time

Me, verbally: "I will, sure, of course"

So I just took out the Thundershirt to see how it would go on. He’s worn it once. He took one look and said nope and left the room.

Why? Because the Thundershirt means thunder. For all he knows it brings it. One time, and he made the connection. They are too smart for being so dumb. Which is why we love them. Also because they are noble and silly and adorable and our best friends.

Anyway, he stood in the bathroom and rued his fate and waited for all the horrors to go away.


He got lost at the dog park a week ago. Wife found him eventually. He didn’t bolt off after deer like Scout, and does not have the follow-the-scent-at-all-costs imperative that made Scout burrow under the fence and run out any door after prey; he’s more likely to look for you, because he is always concerned about Wife and Daughter and whether they are near, or okay. But still. For half an hour I went down the worst tunnel, back to that time, back to August 4th 2017, back to the posters and signs and phone calls and all the mad manic miseries of that bizarre month. And of course I imagined posting here that Birch had bolted at the dog park.

Mind you, I am opposed to the dog park, but am assured he behaves differently, but I grit my teeth when they go.

Things I have learned about the demimonde scam artists who frequent variety stores that may be primarily red in their branding:

One of the grifts involves fishing receipts out of trash cans near the store, going inside, getting all the merch on the receipt, then trying to return it. When the person at customer returns has correctly assessed that the ravaged person with sallow skin reeking of cigarettes might not have actually bought a lot of Oil of Olay, there is no cash refund, but it can go back on the card. “The card was cancelled for suspicious activity.” Yeah, no doubt. Sorry. Whereupon the person just leaves the stuff on the counter and exits, thereby admitting they didn’t buy the stuff in the first place.

People steal Tide pods to resell them. Supposedly small corner grocery stores buy them.

People come into the store hot and sweaty and towel off using shirts on the rack.

People get angry when they cannot get the money from a spurious return on a prepaid Visa.

People who go through the whole self-check out procedure, but do not pay, and then walk out with the groceries, and are stopped at the door, shrug and take a lemon from the bag and walk out, unconcerned.

The amount of scam attempts is remarkable. The people involved are mostly drug users or just plain bums who don’t have a habit, for whatever reason. No one floats any queer or any bad paper. (Sorry for the archaic terms - “queer” is the old slang for counterfeit money.)

The sudden switch to cashlessness has crimped the old grifts, and required new skills the habitually addled are bad at mastering.



The curse of low-budget sci-fi can be summed up in one word: Auteur. In the common and debased sense of the word. A man has an idea! He’s going to get some money and tell a story and pack ‘em in with a good poster, and if it doesn’t deliver the goods, well, what does in this genre?

This one had two guys with an idea. FX men who thought they could tell a good hard-science story. To be honest, there’s more here than in most of the crap in the sub-B-genre, because they’re headed to the center of the earth and you can always shoot in caves, so you’re not walking around on crappy sets.

But you need a story, and you need actors, and this one . . .

Well, let’s just say it comes up short in every possible way. Why are we looking at it? Because it’s summer and we like to do the movies that showed on the Creature Feature and you were camping out in the backyard watching a TV that had a cord going to the house and it was cool.

The second curse: the interminable stock-footage opening. This one begins with a newsreel:

We meet our hero of sorts, who is convinced that atomic weapons will destroy humanity, and so we need some means of protecting our accomplishments. Good thing there's a preexisting group who shares his concerns:

His proposal: living underground. So he proposes a mission to go to the center of the earth, which seems like overkill - why not just go a mile or two down? You have to go to the center?

“It’s cooler there,” he explains, which isn’t true, and they knew it at the time, but never mind: we have a ship!

And here’s where it’s a weeeee bit better than most, because everything’s better when you have a ship or a machine or something that says “sci fi” to an audience starved for such things. Does it have some strange source of propulsion?

Why yes! We have that!

Does it have a chilly blonde scientistitrix who will warm up to our butch hero?

Mm hmm. Well, let's head off with our buff crew:

As with any submarine movie, we have to get to the point where the dials spell trouble.

I know the budget's not great, but c'mon.

I mean, the basics are there, but . . . well.


I assure you they do not keep up that breakneck pace forever.

That will have to do. See you hither, and possibly thither.




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