I wrote a purportedly humorous piece for the paper about the difficulty of finding COVID tests. Let us guess the dominant angry reaction:

It is inappropriate to find humor in this deadly, grim situation

Lol you idiots who have to test, you’re paranoid

So far, the first. Two weeks ago I wrote a piece about sitting in a movie theater with someone who spent the whole movie hacking up sodden boluses of something. The dominant angry reaction:

You’re right, it’s appalling how some people have no social conscience

Lol you idiots who worry about COVID, you’re paranoid

So far, the second. So I get both sides missing the point, which is: we have this strange dichotomy now, with some people believing that Health should guide every possible jot and tittle of our actions, otherwise DEATH AND THAT’S NOT FUNNY, and the other side believing that Freedom should be paramount, otherwise AUTHORITARIANISM, AND THAT’S NOT FUNNY. I am sympathetic to the latter, unless they’re just jerks, and bored with the endless neuroticism of the former, unless they’re willing to let others live their lives.

Good news: the Webb telescope seems to have worked as intended. This is a marvelous accomplishment. This is why humans are awesome. (Not those guys, no, but these guys.) There’s no practical reason to do this. We can get along without its observations. But it is not in our nature to look up and accept the lights at face value, and think no more about it. We wonder, we imagine, we write stories to explain what we see. The latest result is the Webb, hanging out there at L2, unfurled after a series of nail-biting maneuvers. I mean, it’s one thing to throw a Nomad out and tell it to phone home. Now we send vehicles with robot arms, and complex machinery that has to transform into its useful shape. We do this. We don't have to, but we do it.

Makes me wonder if the aliens - you know, the beings in the tac-tacs, the unexplained phenomenon - are impressed. I know, I know, anthropomorphism, and all that. Just as possible they are incapable of being “impressed” because we’ve made these strides, and regard it all with neutral minds. We’d like to think they have a Jean-Luc Pi ard up there, smiling with appreciation: we are in the Gamma Omni sector to witness the latest launch of a galactic observation instrument by the inhabitants of Drox III, an M-class planet that achieved space travel fifty years ago. They are still far from being warp-capable, so our mission is one of stealth and documentation. But it is possible that one day Drox III may join the Federation, and what we learn today may help pave the way for their admittance.

(Bridge interior. PICARD and RIKER are emerging from the turbolift.)

PICARD: I tell you, Number One, I get a certain delight out of seeing events like these. Watching a civilization make its steps out into the great beyond, not knowing what waits.

RIKER: Let’s hope they choose the right direction. They’re too close to the Neutral Zone for my liking.

PICARD: The Algeron accords have specifically stated this planet shall be left alone, with no intervention by any of the great powers, as you well know, since we discussed it earler, but not while the cameras were rolling. But I confess I am glad we are here, lest our Romulan friends decide to test our willingness to defend an obscure provision of the treaty.

RIKER: It’ll be moot if they discover subspace. They’ll pick up a quantity of traffic that will realign their perceptions of the universe.

PICARD: Yes, well, we don’t incorporate that into our plots. Mister Worf, report.

WORF: Phasers activated and locked on target, sir.

PICARD: I meant, do you detect any other vessels.

(Chastened, steaming) No sir.

PICARD: Mr. Data. Report.

DATA: I am picking up a slight rise in chronoton particles. It may be an error. Running a level three diagnostic.

GIORDI: It’s not the instruments, captain. I’m seeing the rise as well on the submodal collectors.

PICARD: Could it be agents from the Temporal War?

GIORDI: I don’t think so, Captain. That happened in “Enterprise” so it’s canon, but our scripts aren't configured to refer to it at all.

PICARD (scowls): Take us in. Quarter speed.

TROI: Captain, I’m sensing something. Anger. Ennui. Sarcasm. (Faints.)

PICARD: Dr. Crusher, to the bridge!

(On speaker) This is Dr. Pulaski. Dr. Crusher is off making a movie. I’ll be right up.

WORF (under his breath): Take the stairs.

DATA: Captain.

(Everyone looks at the view screen. Three Romulan warbirds decloak.)

WORF: I am picking up multiple ships. They have locked weapons.


(Music swells. Opening credit sequence.)

Fade up; Enterprise in deep space. Engine sounds. VO Picard:

Captain’s log, stardate 453445.1 While on routine observation in the Damma Gelta sector, we have encountered an anomaly that appears to reduce everything we do down to our most predictable cliches.

(Scene: Picard’s ready room. PICARD is behind his desk. There is a chirping sound.)

PICARD: Come. (Tugs uniform.)

(Riker enters, one shoulder lower than the other.)

And so on.

Anyway, how was your weekend? Mine was cold and sad and then better, somewhat. More on that tomorrow.


We're still telling people how this works. As you see, they're not selling papers this time; it's a cigarette campaign.


Nora Ayeateb, of course!

You will not find this contest easy, we're warned. Well, we'll see about that.



Of all the genres of programmers and radio-show mysteries, the “society sleuth” is my least favorite. Exception: the Thin Man series, which is top-notch all the way. The rest always have a lightweight feel that makes them good for programmers, but it’s rote stuff. Drawing-room murders, society heists, upper-class matrons and blustery cops.

Which brings us to . . .

Really, that’s his name:

Gee, who plays the sidekick?

We’ve seen him before in our account of programmers. Allen Jenkins. Officer Dibble on Top Cat, if you're of a certain age.

Gee, who plays the dumb cop?

Edward Brophy. Another programmer stalwart.

And now you know who plays the dashing amateur society sleuth:

The audience had seen him before in this very type of role, when he played “The Saint,” a character somewhat sanitized for radio and movies. He stepped right into the Falcon role.

Though Gay Falcon was the character's name in Arlen's original story, the character was renamed Gay Laurence for the film. (The surname was spelled "Lawrence" in subsequent films.) Thus "The Falcon" became an alias, or nickname (à la "The Saint"). In later outings, in various media, the character had a variety of "real names," while still being known as The Falcon. Neither in films nor on radio was the nickname ever explained.

Sanders appeared in the first three Falcon films, which followed the "Saint" pattern so closely that author Charteris sued RKO for plagiarism.

Here’s the plot:

Ladies' man and amateur crime solver Gay Laurence (George Sanders), the "Gay Falcon", reluctantly agrees to give up both habits to mollify his fiancée, Elinor Benford (Nina Vale). He and his uncouth sidekick, Jonathan "Goldie" Locke (Allen Jenkins), become unenthusiastic stockbrokers. When Elinor asks him to attend a party given by Maxine Wood (Gladys Cooper) to mingle with potential clients, he refuses to go to that much trouble.

However, when Wood asks for his help via pretty assistant Helen Reed (Wendy Barrie), he cannot resist. It seems that Wood's soirées have been plagued by jewel thefts, and she is particularly worried about the diamond of her guest, Vera Gardner.

Ah, look: it’s Turhan Bey! Wikipedia: "An Austrian-born actor of Turkish and Czech-Jewish origins." Jeez, another?

There is, of course, a newspaper:

“Playboy criminologist.” Says who? Why? When was he known for this? There’s no backstory; it’s just assumed we’ll accept another suave upper-class guy who wanders around making sardonic remarks and solving crimes.

It’s all standard stuff, and yes, we’re going to do all of them. At least the ones I have. Let’s end with the ending. They all end like this. He's swearing off women because he's going to get married, and then someone comes in and asks for his help because he is, after all, THE FALCON.

Okay, that's done, newsreel's done, cartoon's done, time for the movie.



That'll do! See you around.




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