When I turned on the fireplace, nothing happened. This is not entirely unusual; after 20 years the remote has shown a lack of interest in working as it once did, so I have to use the manual switch. It's on a box that eats batteries. You never use it, and the batteries are drained after a few months. That'll tach me for getting Rayovacs, I suppose. The package says they last as long as Duracell. You know it's not true. You buy them anyway.

When the fire did not whoomph on, I replaced the batteries and tried again. Then I noticed that the pilot light was off. Ah. Of course: they’d cut the gas to install the new oven. Surely that was it. Well, let’s google the precise steps to get it going again . . . ah, here’s a video.

First frames: a disclosure. This is for instructional purposes only. Do not do any of this or you will fill your house with gas and blow it up and die.



That gets your attention.

It was easy enough to find the constituent parts of this system, and manipulate them correctly. But nothing worked. So was gas streaming to the pilot light, and it would build up and go boom, or leak out and kill us? This seemed unlikely; you’d think there were rudimentary devices in place to prevent this. Not so in the old days, according to the radio shows; people were always taking the pipe, or dying because some devious neighbor wanted the miser’s money and turned on the gas. It’s a wonder that entire blocks weren’t going up in fireballs every night, or that the morning didn’t find every apartment complex laden with the asphyxiated victims of a guttered-out pilot light.

Sigh. I killed the gas to the fireplace and went to bed. Thought: and if I die before I wake. We said that every night. What a concept. I know, I know, the important part is  the pray the Lord my soul to take, but really. All right, honey, say the rote words about death in the still hours of the night. Then sleep tight.

The next day I called the installers, and he said he hadn’t turned off the gas to the fireplace, just the stove. Okay; maybe he did, maybe he thought he did. Maybe it’s broken. I just had a guy out here to check the fan, which was inordinately loud, and he said the fan needed to be replaced, but they didn’t make them any more. two decades. The new fans, they got a whole different configuration. New advances in blower technology and blade shape, you know. Best to get a new insert entirely. Someone from sales will call you.

No one from sales called me. I called back, left a message.

No one called. I called the front office, and he said yeah, they’re really backed up.

So there’s a guy in charge of fireplace sales who is working 7 AM to 6 PM dealing with the non-stop calls for new gas fireplace inserts. He’s got so much business I’m just a gnat to be brushed away - look, dude, you think I have time to sell you a fireplace? I barely have the time to sell these people fireplaces. Get in line.

I made me think again to the years I have spent standing here at this table, the fire going, the images on the TV in the corner flickering while I write - the TVs get bigger, the appliances change, but the fireplace is a constant. That’s the advantage to an Arts-and-Crafts decor. It’s outside of the march of styles. But I will get a modern fireplace insert this time. That means:

1. No faux logs; hate those2.


With luck I can get the oven to talk to the fireplace.








(Not a review but kinda sorta, mostly about WFH changing everything for the office class

)There has to be a word for loving a new TV show, eagerly awaiting each new ep, finding your enthusiasm actually waned a little but you didn’t notice at the time because you had so much good will built up by the first 3 eps, then coming belatedly to a conclusion that it’s a mess that will break your heart, because it's too high-concept.

The show is called “Severance.” The plot: people who work at the Lumen Corporation have voluntarily undergone a procedure that makes them forget everything they do at work when they leave at the end of the day, and they forget their life outside the company when they head into the elevator in the morning. That’s a nifty premise. But they dialed everything up to eleventy thousand, by A) setting it in a baffling series of mostly empty rooms connected by a warren of claustrophobic white hallways, and B) not explaining what, exactly, the company does.

The first three eps were a commentary on corporate office culture - or at least what was corporate office culture, when there was such a thing. Now it seems like a strange throwback. What if office culture is dead, for good? How will people in the future see this show? I hope they get the satire, the malevolence, the deadening newspeak of company language. (The company’s founder is revered like a 19th century founder of a successful religion.)

What people in the future will understand is that something happened.

This was the middle of the previous century:

The 2020s nightmare vision:

I’ve learned that the style is called “Cassette Futurism.” It’s Steampunk for 90s kids, maybe. It has a nostalgic appeal, and imagines a time that looked like the clean empty spaces of 70s sci-fi, but fills it with tech that has modern capabilities, even if it looks archaic. So the end of the office as a guaranteed paradigm for the information-management class comes along at the same time this show presents the office as a place of baffling soft-handed totalitarianism that literally severs you from the true life you lead.

All of which seems rather obvious, but it was in the works five years ago.

Anyway, I like the show, a lot. I am watching the finale tonight, with no expectations that it will wrap up the story. This means it will meander on, and possibly get choked with lore and backstory until the original purity is smothered and buried by “this person does this surprising thing to this person” episodes and an arc that confuses cohort formation and conflict with an actual story. See also Lost.

Ten and done, that’s what it really deserves, unless there’s a twist or reveal that changes everything you’ve seen.

UPDATE: Holy crow there was a twist AND a reveal that changes everything we've seen, please make another season



It’s 1950.  We’re looking at the back-page ads in Popular Science magazine.

Huh? I guess some people knew what this would do, but . . .

. . . drive without your battery? I also like the face that it’s good for one year or 100,000 miles.

I suspect the former condition applied first.

Why, yes, I AM an expert.

I would not want to be in a plane serviced by an EXPERT who got his training in this manner.

I remember hearing about these when I was a kid, and interested in Old Timey things. Why was it so renowned?

Why was the Bearcat special?

Common with racing and sports cars of the period, it featured minimal bodywork consisting of a "dog house" hood, open bucket seats, a tiny "monocle" windscreen in front of the driver, and a cylindrical fuel tank on a short rear deck.

Owning a Stutz Bearcat became a status symbol for the wealthy of the era. In 1914 it was priced at $2,000 (equivalent to $51,674 in 2020), almost four times that of the basic American made Model T.

The colorful history and rakish image of the Stutz Bearcat made it one of the better known antique cars to later generations of Americans. It was often associated with the "Roaring 20s" and college students of that period. It was frequently mentioned with stereotypical accoutrements of the period such as raccoon coats and illicit "bathtub gin".


“Why are you talking so oddly? You’ve sounded peculiar since I picked up the phone.”

“MAKE MONEY.” No. No, you won’t.

What this whole thing suggests: make girls do stuff

And if that doesn’t work:

They’ll sell you a jeweler’s loupe so you can really study the poses. You discriminating artist, you.

Durante thought about suing, but was dissuaded

It looks like a nonsense line from an old jaunty song. Dic a doo, dic a doo, my paint brush bath and you

Why did so many dads look so skeezy, like house detectives who’d been kicked off the force for a morals beef?

They’re still around, with the 80s futuristic sci-fi movie name of SYNCHROCORP.

"Safe for children.”

think Mom would like a bit more explanation about that one.

Founded in Oxford in 1938, but located in AY-rab Alabama now. BTW:

The current name of the town was an unintentional misspelling by the U.S. Postal Service in 1882 of the city's intended name, taken from Arad Thompson, the son of the town founder, who had applied for a post office that year. "Arad" was one of three names sent to the Postal Service for consideration, the others being "Ink" and "Bird."

And now you know.



That'll do. New section of Quasicomics today: hair-tonic-related mysteries with Sam Spade! See you around.




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