As it happened, I did not watch Narcos. There was something else. Perhaps a Scandihoovian detective show I hadn’t finished. I went to bed early and slept well, took a shower, somehow turned wrong while bending over, and broke my back.

Well, no, not completely, or exactly, or in any actual sense of the word, but I twanged something. Yes, it’s our old friend, Peter Pain!

He was always slamming people in the back or jabbing knives into their muscles. His sworn enemy was Postum. No - wait, that’s not right. Bengay. You know your discomfort is fairly standard when there’s an archetypical representation: the person grabbing their lower back, with lightning bolts shooting towards the place of agony.

This was really something, though. Couldn’t sit down. Couldn’t stand. There's not a lot in between. I went to work, but I couldn’t sit down, so I walked back to my car, sat down, and drove home. Laid on the bed and worked, which didn't task the back, except when I tried to get up. Grateful there's no video of that.

Took about ten hours to subside.

On the other hand, what better week? Friday comes on Wednesday. Actual Friday is practice Saturday. Saturday is real Saturday.

But there's just one smal problem.

We have no oven, and yet we must feast.

To paraphrase Harlan Ellison. I don’t know what we’re going to do. Daughter is not coming home this year. This . . . is, well, what it is. This won’t rival the miserable Christmas That Wasn’t of 2018, when she was in Brazil and Wife was in AZ and I was here for work and dog reasons, and had - honest to Bog - Lean Cuisine Swedish Meatballs, just to keep up the tradition.

We thought we would do our part by volunteering for some food shelf or soup kitchen, but everyone’s booked up. That Minnesota spirit! But the church is having a food drive, so I went to the store on a dreaded Saturday, thinking: should I also get a wad of emergency turkey?

You know, the cold beige thing that purports to be turkey, and provides a simulacrum of the actual Turkey Experience, and can be smothered with gravy to complete the illusion.

Must we have turkey? Think about it. Break the norms. Shatter the paradigms.

Maybe have Indian! Chinese!

No, no, no. It has to be turkey. It’s absurd to consider anything but.


This is the first year in which none of the usual elements assemble. It’s just us, me and my wife. Just us at the big table.

So what, did we alienate everyone? How the hell did this happen? No: it’s a rare alignment of family circumstances, happenstance, intentionality, and it-is-what-it-is facts. If I have my druthers, I will insist on the basics at home, but without the usual drama and worry. It will be a relief not to fret, not to wait for the red thermometer to pop up, not to worry about lumps in the potatoes, not to worry about whether the guest who does not like cinnamon takes the lefse that has lots of cinnamon, not to worry about whether I’m running out of chilled white and should hit the basement stock, not to worry about whether I can get everyone’s decaf out at the same time the pie is deployed.

It'll be . . . different this year. I’ll buy a pie, but it’ll be individual slices. No need for the whole pie. We’ll have less leftovers, but there’s only two of us anyway and heck, I haven’t been stockpiling takeaway containers so it’s probably okay we don’t have to send four people home with the extras. We’ll Zoom with Daughter. Birch will be keen to get scraps.

It’ll be fine.

Yes, it'll be fine.


UPDATE: We have a place to go!










Not a review, but a Sociological Insight, he said, pretentiously.

There’s a good movie inside of Finch. There’s a good movie on the outside, really. It’s a Tom Hanks movie. Ergo, it has Tom Hanks. That’s enough, these days. Here’s the premise, and no, no spoilers. Tom Hanks is a scientist who is one of the sole survivors of a natural disaster, and because he loves his dog, he builds a robot to take care of the pooch after he’s dead from radiation poisoning. It has a light humorous tone for much of the movie, as the robot learns what it means to be human.

You know, that whole unexplored idea.

At some point you realize you’ve learned something about the hierarchy of movies. We know the rule: the dog has to survive. You can’t kill the dog. But apparently you can kill Tom Hanks. This is not a surprise, when you think of it, but it testifies to the Power of Movie Dog: we would rather see Tom Hanks sacrifice himself to save Dog than see Dog sacrifice himself to save Tom.

After all, we can always get Tom in another movie.

The movie is a technical achievement non pariel: you know that the robot does not exist. It was added later via technical marvels. So Hanks is talking to no one. The dog is less of a character than you’d think. The nadir of the second act, when Everything is Dire, is pretty damned dark. But at some point I realized why it seems less than it could be: the robot should not talk. If this was a one-man show, with the robot’s growing sophistication implied by wordless reactions, it would have been something quite remarkable.

But there’s something else, something wrong. The idea that Fitch is trying to get the dog to bond with the robot suggests that a machine could occupy the same place in a dog’s heart. All you have to do is program the sounds and motions and routines, and they’ll transfer the love they have for humans to a thing that has the same vague shape as a human, but smells like oil and hot circuits.

It’s not really a story about how the mechanical can learn the essential mysteries unquantifiable qualities of humanity. It’s about how they’re really reducible to a certain set of attributes, and can be assumed by machines if they have enough practice.

The dog comes to love the robot is not a happy ending.




It’s 1958.

You know what I don’t like, for no real reason I can find? The era of potato bodies and tiny legs.

It’s not a strong dislike. It’s tempered with nostalgia and occasional indulgent smiles. It is, after all, a signifier of the times. But sometimes it just annoys me. Everyone drew potato bodies and tiny legs.

There’s a big story here.

Pakor (Minneapolis, Minnesota) was founded by Glen M. Dye in 1910 with the purpose to make photographic processing equipment. Glen M Dye, a postcard photographer, invented the first motor-driven photo printing machine. The Photo Advertising Company was incorporated in 1912 under the name Pako Corporation. The firm concentrated on making mechanical printers, washers and dryers. Later the company extended into designing, engineering, marketing print machines, dopers, and film machines.

During World War II, the firm developed and manufactured x-ray film processing equipment for use in the military and medical fields. In 1960 the company moved its headquarters to Golden Valley, Minnesota. Dye helped to develop a color film processing machine for processing animated cartoon films, the only one of its kind in the world, built specially for Walt Disney Studios. By 1980 Pako was said to be the world's largest supplier of photographic, graphic arts, and x-ray processing equipment.

Still around!


That’s true. Peppery, even. I still find it remarkable that the two most popular syndicated advice columnists were sisters. TWIN sisters.

Pauline Esther Friedman, and her twin sister was born Esther Pauline Friedman.


Pauline Phillips started her Dear Abby column a few months after her twin sister, Eppie Lederer, took over the Ask Ann Landers column created by Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ruth Crowley in 1943. Lederer wrote the column until 2002. This produced a rivalry and lengthy estrangement between the two sisters.

“Did you - did you follow me home?”

It may be cheaper, but it just doesn’t feel cheaper.

I’m surprised Stendahl was still around.

  I don’t know if it was the last shoe store, but it was one of the more elaborate. Beautiful building. Until a few years ago - okay, maybe ten - you could still see the old logo over the windows.




It’s a Sirk movie.

In the 1930's, a First World War flying ace named Roger Schumann is reduced to making appearances on the crash-and-burn circuit of stunt aerobatics. His family are forced to live like dogs while Shumann pursues his only true love, the airplane. When Burke Devlin, a reporter, shows up on the scene to do a "whatever happened to" story on Shumann, he is repulsed by the war hero's diminished circumstances and, conversely, drawn to his stunning wife, LaVerne.

Actually, “they” said it could never be filmed because it reflected life with . . . well, you’ll see.


The precise time is a nice touch.

It goes without saying that everything in this picture is gone. Bigger, stronger, more durable things have taken their place, but the street has none of the messy vitality. And by “messy” we mean “covered in horse apples.”


Was this a comic page strip, or something that ran elsewhere in a Pilgrim ad? Sigh; must research . . .



Ah. The latter. All the gags had to be laundry related, too.


As for the sponsor . . .

I’ve been driving past that for years.

Alas, they've decided to be up to date.

Today I learned that marshmallows with a soft exterior were, at some point, a scientific innovation:

Billy put out an eye with his fork!

Also, aren’t you tired of single-duty kitchen candies?

  That'll do. Off now to the clean-up portion of this year's comic updates.





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