Hello. We’ve been waiting for you!

Really. I chose this image months ago as the first one for 2015’s redesigned Bleat. You will note some changes, I trust: the button for going down to the comments if you wish to stop back and see what people said (although it DOESN'T SEEM TO WORK all of a sudden); the name and date is now on the left; navigation at the bottom is different. The below-the-fold banners are new; the ad has been redesigned with fresh old retro art. The calendar for past entries has been moved to relieve me of the task of drawing that damned thing once a month. And there’s A DOTTED LINE on the left there.

Why? Because it’s a good idea. It balances things out and keeps the long flow below from being formless. When I hit upon that I sat back and said “done.”

RSS is back, if you're interested.

The cold has returned - cruel, aching, deep-space cold. Not as bad as last year’s 20 below / 37 below with wind chill, but after you’re below zero it’s just numbers. There’s the cold you shrug off, the cold you note with brief displeasure, and the cold that still chews your toes ten minutes after you’re inside the Target store. Scout the Dog came in from a session outside disinterring bones and put his nose in his pillow and rubbed it around to get it warm. The boiler in the basement labors like a steamship stoker. There are no birds. There is no sun. When you slam your car door you almost expect the vehicle to shatter.

Took all the Christmas decorations down, put them in boxes. The tree is still up and lit for one more night, but its time has gone; its brothers are already on the boulevard like unloved relatives who expired of the plague. On a walk Scout encountered one wrapped in a shroud, the fabric snapping the wind; he was unnerved by the apparition, and rightly so. The fourth ghost in the Dickens story, now that I think of it. The Ghost of Christmas Just Passed. It wants to know why we moved on so fast and cast it out; what was that bit about keeping it in our heart the whole year round? Yeah fine but sorry pal, you’re tinder. You drop a hundred needles when someone slams a cupboard door.

I have a few rituals for taking stuff down as well. Always a bittersweet pang when I take the little Santa-face that I hang on daughter’s door, because I remember the first time I did that, and how I intended that to be a sign Christmas had begun. Maybe she noticed. Maybe it meant something. Hate to ask. She’ll be off to college and I’ll still do it.

Wind up the Coca-Cola Santa Snowglobe Music Box - the train goes around the base! - and hear it play one more time. Smile at the picture of toddler in Santa’s lap in the frame that gets put out for a fortnight at year’s end, much to daughter’s dismay. THAT HAIRCUT. Regret that a few Christmas glasses and mugs didn’t get used this year. Or last. Or, frankly, since 2008. <tevye> Why do I hold on to these items? I don’t know. But it’s a Tradition! </tevye>

All in the bins, bins in the basement. Chin up: into the wind. Here we go.

A few days ago I remembered that I had signed up for automatic paperless notifications from my investment handler-guy. Hadn’t done so for two other minor accounts, which continued to generate the usual inscrutable mail - a notification that they had moved .07 of your holdings out of BRIC commodities and into EURO-denominated cheese futures, thin booklets on onion-skin paper full of agate type detailing the changes they had made to subcodicil A4-6 in the contract. Stuff no one reads. Nothing from the main account, though.

Because it had been hacked and drained. Or so I thought at about 1:27 AM, when such thoughts occur. So I tried to log in using the credentials on Post-It note in the investments folder - a real, physical folder in a drawer. It did not recognize my password. I entered my email for password retrieval.

It did not recognize my password.

It was 1:40 AM by now, and I figured eh, I’ll do it tomorrow. Some glitch. Old logons. The usual rot.

The next day I was finishing up the annual misery of arranging my photos, because the way Apple handles these things is just stupid. Everything is uploaded to iCloud: nice! But when you plug in your phone and upload the photos you get a duplicate group. You can cancel the duplicates, but then you only have one batch, and for people like me who worry that hackers drained his account, one batch is never enough. I end up taking everything out of iPhoto and putting it into special folders with useful names, and archiving each month of iCloud Photostream pictures in compressed folders with triplicate backup, but when it comes to eliminating the pictures from iPhoto I still get a pang, thinking that one picture of a 35-picture burst shot of daughter-with-dog might be lost.

It’s good for people who aren’t paying attention, but if you’re the type of person who pays constant attention, argh. Anyway: I finished sorting, and moved on to the 2014 video file, when I remembered that my bank account had been drained. So I called the office where my money is managed and got the head Money Dude, who is actually my cousin-in-law, and has no doubt over the years noted that I get somewhat . . . twitchy when it comes to investments, because I have the belief that it can, and probably will, evaporate overnight, and would prefer to have it all converted to coins and placed in a large vault with a dollar sign on the side.

But then you’d have to worry about the Beagle Brothers. I know, I know, but I’ll hire some vaguely anthropomorphic dogs who stand on the roof with tommy guns.

I asked for my account numbers, and he had them right there. Hey, while you’re at it, I got this weird pang that I’d been hacked because I don’t get so many emails anymore although I thought that they might leave some money in the account so I still got emails and wasn’t suspicious and anyway you’d notice if it seemed like I took all my money out? Right?

He said that would set off some bells, especially since we never moved any money out.

Hoh-kay great, what’s the balance?

It was more than I thought, so naturally I went on errands a day early and bought the big bag of dog food at Target. Granted, I always buy the big bag; I don’t know why you wouldn’t. It’s ten dollars for 7.5 pounds and $15 for fifteen pounds. The only reason you’d buy the smaller size is because you have doubts about how long the dog’s going to stick around. Since I was feeling flush I also stocked up on batteries and when I got home and saw an email from the New Yorker warning me that my cheap trial subscription was about to kick into a regular rate, I accepted the offer.

All because of the image of penury conjured up by the absolutely baseless suspicion that my investments had evaporated. It’s like that when the stock market drops 200 points. I buy house-brand peanut butter instead of Jif.

For the next few weeks, some of these. Always intriguing and sometimes poignant: the Missing People ads in the back of old mags from the 1930s.

This one seems significant.


That's from 1934. I found a reference to a 1922 lawsuit in which one Kate Pitrilla sued a slew of Prouts over possession of 822 K Street SE. If they didn't show up and contest it, well, tough; she got the property. I suspect something similar here.




Now it's time for our weekly excursion into non-colored entertainment. Not a review. Not high-falutin' cineast critiques. Rather, a look into the familiar tropes and forgotten faces of a bygone time in a bygone medium, with the occasional review. And often a cineaste critique. Okay, usually.

He’s a guy who doesn’t like dames.

He wanders the streets alone, looking at women with a fearful scowl. Everywhere, everywhere, DAMES: necking, chatting, arguing - and in one instance, slapping a child, something makes him touch his own cheek in recollection. So THAT’S explained. Ever interaction is fraught with anger and frustration and rejection.

But he knows he’s sick, and tries to call the prison Doc. But he’s not in, and this being 1952 there are no other opportunities for counseling, so I guess it’s a-snipin’ we will go.

One of those movies where I keep pausing, because the shots are interesting. Details. The loneliness of the American Male:

The loneliness of the American Male:

That was a real movie, Raiders of Tomahawk Creek.

The cops:

Adolph Menjou as “Lt. Frank Kafka,” for some reason. The man on the right, suave as ever, is radio and TV star Gerald Mohr, one of my favorite actors.

I wonder if this was the first movie to actually use the term “sex offender.” Usually they were “fiends,” which meant sex stuff. The word “rapist” is used as well. But this doesn’t feel like one of those Important Social Movies. There is, however, an expostulating psychologist, an you steel yourself for mumbo-jumbo and Freudian twaddle about Split Personalties and the like, but no. It does make a pitch for the most humane thing society can do to protect itself.

In those days, that was considered the humane thing to do for the criminal, and the best thing a society could do to protect itself.

Here's your classic mouthy JD.

The audience doesn't like kids like this. Even though the actor - Danny Mummert - was in the Blondie movies, and something called “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Shot himself in '74 outside an Oklahoma town.

The latter part takes place at a San Francisco amusement park:

After failing to get out his tensions at the shooting gallery, he goes to the dunk tank to throw balls at a target. He dunks the woman, and the crowd approves:

You think: men are fiends. All of them, watching and grinning. But he dunks her again. Then he dunks her again. Mood shifts.

Once is all in good fun. Twice is lucky. Three times, there’s something wrong with this man.

It’s realistic without seeming self-consciously so, which means they weren’t trying for Important Realism About An Important Issue. It’s an example of smart people making a good movie, period.

One last thing. Whenever you shoot in the wild the camera captures inadvertent documentary, and of course I had to snip this:

Computer, magnify: Ah, yes. Jack Fina, playing at the St. Regis. Jack was known for one tune in particular, and let’s do his memory a disservice by ending with someone else’s version. Because A) it’s pretty damned good, and B) you might be surprised. You will certainly be amused: what a ham. But just listen to him go to work.

And so ends the first true Bleat of 2015.

Hope you like the dots.



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