Back up to Thursday, if you will. I was at the office gym, where the ratio of employees to customers was 1:1. Me and Mr. Wall-Presser. I know there’s a method and an intention to what he does, that it’s meant to build up something or adjust or relax, but watching a guy who’s Abe-Lincoln tall just press the wall, lightly, for prolonged periods of time is strange, because why do you have to go to the gym to do it. Then one of the guys from Smoker’s Corner came in, and I was not surprised to see him in a maintenance capacity. He’d always had a building badge. But I hadn’t seen him in the uniform. The striking thing about this fellow is that he is Colt Luger, except younger. The hair and the ‘stache are all 70s / 80s, and proudly, unrepentantly so. It’s like watching a Miller Lite commercial come to life. And I salute him! He walked in with complete self-possession, walked over to a panel on the wall, unscrewed it, did something, and whatever was wrong was right again.

Now it's Monday. I saw Colt Luger standing outside having a smoke, and went over to ask him what he was doing in the weight room the other day. He went blank and I explained I’d seen him and another guy go to a small panel, open it, and do something. What was behind the panel?

Then he lit up and remembered. It was the water shut-off valve for the loading dock area. Really? There? The loading dock is on the other side of the building. Anyway, how did he know it was there? Seems an odd place for a mission-critical valve. Did he check the schematics, or just know it was there?

“The old-fashioned way,” he said. “I just followed the pipes.”

So now we know. Maybe there’ll be some day when another building guy rushes in and yanks open the panel, and I can say “pipe break on the dock?”

Later I was sitting in a meeting room, meeting no one. Just a different place to be. The light revealed some dust on the laptop keyboard. Bits of stuff larger than dust, really, although I’m not sure what the cutoff point might be. No, that’s not dust, it’s too big. Could be a crumb. A jot of something. I could see the jots because of the slant of the sun, the way it hit the keys and spotlight the tiny pieces that had broken off from some larger unknown whole.

This called for compressed air. In any normal office, there would be a can or two around. I went to the mail room, where such supplies are kept. There were lots of envelopes and pens and reporters’ notebooks, the staple of any news organization. Usually, that is. In our worst period back in the Oughts, when we were owned by a distant indifferent investment group, we ran out of these things. Once we ran out of pencils.

Well, let’s see if there are any cans on abandoned desks. No. I did find a can on an occupied desk, but it’s hard to tell what that means these days. I hadn’t seen this guy in two and a half years. His desk had lots of stuff, but that doesn’t mean anything.

I borrowed the can, took it back to my office, stopping in the library to see if anything new had come in. Hah! The magazines stopped a long time ago. At least there were a few people in today, but not so many that I have to hurry to return the can of air.

It would be amusing if the guy finally showed up after two years and caught me returning the air. I wonder if he'd be mad. Whether there's a statute of limitations on office supplies. You can't plunder someone's desk flair, of course; that would be wrong. But surely I can't be faulted too harshly for helping myself to a few blasts of compressed air. Before the Great Emptying I used to find someone had plugged their phone in to my desk charger. Didn't mind.

Idea for a post-apocalyptic horror story: a year after the collapse, a man living in a New York apartment he has rigged for survival comes home from a run around the city and finds a strange phone plugged into the charger on his kitchen.

Oh don't be silly why would people carry their phones around after the collapse of everything

To document. I would. You never know when you find other survivors, and join the new nucleus that will repopulate the world and rebuild civilization. It would be nice to have some records of what things were like in the darkest times. Also, editing them would give you something to do. Unless you were in Washington DC, and had the whole Library of Congress to keep you amused. Where would you start? Would you have to spend weeks trying to get into valuable rooms with an axe?

I don't suppose my mind would go to things like this if there were more people around. Then again, we're told never to come back, you're looking at a guy who scored a can of air.










Sunday while watching some soul-draining chin-on-sternum football, there was an ad for a new Netflix fantasy movie. A spunky young female hero guided through Adventures! by a quippy buff mythical dude who has cred because he has like, horns? Also powers.  Anyway people say clever things and then there's someone else who reacts like uh-uh no you dih-int, and then (beat) movie logo and music cliche and maybe a second of black before we go to an ad for insurance.

I know, I know, the paradigm lies in pieces on the floor.

The movie was called Slumberland.

Wait a minute. Hold on. I stirred in my chair, and grabbed my phone to commence googling.

Back up a few steps: It's possible that the people who birth these scripts  are, at heart,  nerds of great devoutness. They start with a simple pure desire to resurrect an ancient property and present it to the modern world. Along the way the intention is corrupted by studio operatives who give lip-service to the source material (if it were up to me I'd do this movie full-strength, totally, but audiences today, they don't know, so we have to make an adjustment or two) but don't really care. The end result is something that ticks all the boxes, starting with the most important one: if the hero was previously a boy, then the hero must now be a girl. This has never been done before in the history of modern , and hence is Brave and transgressively upends systemic patriarchal models.

If this Slumberland IP was invented out of whole cloth, well, who cares. But it's not. It's based on Winsor McCay's remarkable Sunday cartoon, Little Nemo in Slumberland. The girl hero is named Nemo. (Early stories about the movie called her Nema.) The dreamworld guide is named Flip, just like the McCay comic. 

It's always more satisfying for some to fundamentally alter an old work than come up with a novel idea. There's great satisfaction in fixing history so it's safe to read.

Also started watching a Netflix series on the supposed Ancient Apocalypse, the title and presentation of which is like something you see on a lesser cable outlet. Ponderous portentous voice-over narration over pan-and-scan images of ancient bas reliefs, theories tossed out with no way for the layman viewer to judge their merits. I groaned a little when I saw it was narrated by, and indeed was devoted to the theories of, Graham Hancock. Why? Because he has a rep; because I knew it would probably be interesting, and it would all be dispelled in about four minutes by looking at Wikipedia sources.


What if? What if there was an ancient civilization, a big one, lots of them, that got scoured away by a geological event, leaving only inscrutable stone? Is it possible that received wisdom - you know, the science - might be pushing back against alternative theories of human development because it’s a threat to their own settled stories?

But. That’s exactly the argument behind every variety of crackpot notions. They don’t want you to know, man! About what? About Atlantis and the Lizard People from Alpha Centauri! I do fear that’s where this goes - humanity took it on the chin but picked itself up with the help of some helpful travelers who’ve never bothered to check in and see how we’re doing.

But. As a good Star Trek fan since infancy, practically, I believe there is life out there. It’s entirely reasonable to assume another civilization that has curiosity as one of its traits. The idea that space travel across long distances is impossible because we know why seems like arguing in 1900 that the patent office should be shut down because nothing more can possibly be invented. We don’t know what we don’t know.

But. That’s overlaying science-fiction stories on a mute pyramid. Ascribing human characteristics to aliens, which might be the stupidest lesson of Star Trek one could glean.

Anyway. The idea that we have amnesia about the past, and lost big chunks, is not preposterous. I had no idea that one of my favorite hot sauces is named after a city with the largest structure in the ancient world.

ANYWAY again, the idea that cultures around the world share superficial characteristics of god-like beings who appear after a time of crisis, or (no small difference) in the beginning of time, and teach everyone how to plant crops and build things, is not necessarily proof of anything except the way the human brain is wired. The way we search for explanations. The requirements of extraordinary claims, and all that.

I’ve watched two and I’m not compelled to lean in.

Oh by the way: “His son Sean Hancock is the head of ‘unscripted originals’ at Netflix.”



It’s 1939.

Thus spake THE DEBS:

Ah, the "dark beauty" of Mrs. Sherman Jenney.

As a debutante, the former Jane Ewing was widely feted. As a charming matron, Mrs. Jenney makes hobbies of menus and music.”

The NYT says they were engaged in 1935. This article said he had a different wife by 1949.


The term has gone through some evolution, it seems.


HI, LADY! I hold aloft the radium-infused bar and speak words beyond my comprehension!

I think I know her. I think I have that cover somewhere, and that’s why I snipped this. Is it . . . Elsie Knox? Is my memory that good? Checking the archives . . .

No, it’s not that good. I suck! It’s Elyse Knox.



Assure financial security and social status with these liquids!

Men like it when your red raw claws don't draw blood or produce instant contact dermititus!

I guess the Mad magazine cartoonist had a day job! Don’t try squinting at the top, we’ll take a closer look.

He drove all that way for . . . for how much?

“Could be the flu, you know. That kills lots of people. Here’s a booklet.”

They weren’t kidding - Metropolitan printed millions of those. They show up in antique stores and ephemera shows all the time.

Hmm. Industrial accident? Hit by a streetcar? Or did she do it herself? Not Donald’s department!

“Can you shoot the picture so he also seems to be an angel sent down to ease her suffering?”

“Yeah, easy. I'dd add more hanging wire on the mirror so it angles down."



That will do! Off to see who the Quaker kids are bothering this week.





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