Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Low-Rent Cinema -- And The People Who Kept It Afloat

     I was looking for a movie last night, something to entertain me during a light dinner when a woke up after an afternoon nap.  Short staffing in my department meant I worked Monday on the early-early shift and will (probably) be on days the rest of the week, and that left me hungry and with a couple of hours to fill.

     PB&J and beef consumme was ideal for hunger; searching around Amazon Prime Video, I found Up In The Air, a 1940 mystery/comedy set in the studios of a fictional radio network, starring a couple of personable minor players, plucky Frankie Darro and the lovely and talented Marjorie Reynolds (best known from a little duet you might remember dreaming of in Holiday Inn) as an ambitious studio page and a rising young singer, and, third on the bill, Mantan Moreland.

     Who?  --The introduction only deepened the mystery, as an African-American film historian spoke of Moreland's career, a rising arc from vaudeville through film, and lauded Monogram Pictures* treatment of him.   Now I was wondering what I was about to see.

      The titles rolled and it started out as a typical B-movie of the day: workmanlike photography, basic but adequate sets, decent acting, snappy dialog.  Mantan Moreland shows up early, as a stereotyped-appearing porter, Jeff, playing second fiddle to Frankie, rolling eyes and all.

     But there's altogether more to Jeff than meets the eye; he's revealed as a skilled piano player and the voice of caution in Frankie's wild schemes, with plenty of rewind-worthy lines; auditioning for a radio comedy spot opposite Frankie in particularly embarrassing blackface (that scene probably didn't age well even when it was brand-new), he asks in annoyance, "You don't expect me to do dialect, too, do you?" and is visibly relieved to be told, "No, you're the straight man."  The entire bit they audition, a series of interrupted, unfinished sentences, was Moreland's own, and Darro struggles with the timing.  The murder-mystery plays out in 1940s-Hollywood fashion, with Jeff and Frankie tangling with police detectives as they attempt to unravel the mystery, clear Reynolds, and possibly launch their own radio careers.  Despite occasionally hokey dialog, Moreland sneaks in multiple zingers (his comedic timing is really remarkable) and even gets to foil the murderer in the end! 
* Monogram was one of the "Poverty Row" B-movie studios, of which Republic Pictures is probably the best-known.  Radio fans enjoy pointing out the prevalence of Hallicrafters radios in Republic films and this Monogram work is even more that way -- I think Bill Halligan may have pioneered advertising by means of "product placement." Mantan Moreland was a box-office draw for Monogram and they darned well knew it.

Monday, September 26, 2016


     Monday, back to work.  After being as sick as I was, I'm almost happy about it.  Still not 100% but I think I can fake it.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


     Just -- yikes.  I feel like I went trekking past the back of beyond or something.  Beat up.  Tired.  Triumphal.

     I have been sicker.  I have been ill longer.  But I don't think I was that sick for that long since the age of five.  I'm sore and weak but, as Tam pointed out, I am more chipper this morning than I have been in quite some time.

     Oh, yeah -- today is the last day of my vacation.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Say What You Will About "Nipper*"

     Once the Victor Talking Machine Co. hired the iconic image, he stayed with that company and all its successors until the bitter end  -- unlike some spokesbeings I could mention.

     What could have caused this?  Not "search for the woman" -- she's still working for T-Mobile, isn't she?  -- but "chercher l'argent."  Also, the schtick had pretty well run its course.
* Charmingly, the name "Nipper" came from the little dog's habit of biting visitors on the backs of their calves.  I knew there was something that worried me about Nipper -- but that's not it.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Yesterday I Learned

     I learned that Libertarians -- and libertarians -- are evil, right-wing, liberal, short-sighted, exploitative, pot-head schemers who will get the wrong lizard* elected.  No matter who the person saying so thinks is the wrong lizard.

     That's a pretty easy trick when neither of the Two Big Parties managed to run a non-wrong lizard.  Sure, there's plenty of reasons to argue one of them is wronger, but I'm not obliged to choose from just those two and if the one you like least wins, it won't be because of my vote.  Get over it.
* So what's with all this "lizard" business, anyway?  It comes from Douglas Adams.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

But Of Course

     There was stupidity last night.  Great.

     I'd like to tell you that at least 21st-Century rioting in the U. S. was over something more substantial than chariot racing, but it turns out the riots I was thinking of were, too.

     Go, lemmings, go.  Wotthehell, why leave the Red Chinese anything to build on when they show up to pick up the pieces, anyhow?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hey, Look--

     Be nice to one another today, please?  You shouldn't be a doormat, but give people a little room, all right?  Morons are gonna moor but you don't have to sink an anchor next to 'em and croon along.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Enough Princessing About!

     Slept all night with the usual interruptions.  ("Stay hydrated!"  Getting degree-of-difficulty points on that one.)  Got up, fed cats, temperature spiked and I went back to bed, out like a light; woke up a couple hours later, fed myself, got the nasty sweats and became horizontal likewise for a few hours more.  Took the multi-symptom cough syrup instead of the suppressant that makes me dizzy.

     Noon-thirty, I woke again and didn't feel as lousy.  Unloaded/reloaded the dishwasher, felt short of breath and hot, and sat down for a bit.  Rustled a little lunch when I felt better -- microwave tomato soup, crackers and coffee -- and ate it slowly.  Overheated again but not as bad; relaxed 'til I felt chilly and did a major cat-litterbox change to everyone's relief, and yeah, my temperature spiked and I fell to panting, but I slowed down and kept moving and finished.

     I think I'm on the mend.  It's about time.  That frikkin' pea under the mattress is getting on my last nerve.  Don't know if I'll be out of the house any today, Tam may get delivery pizza as a welcome-home dinner and perhaps that would be best anyway, but things are looking up.

Yeah, Well

     Didn't go anywhere or, really, do anything Monday.  I'd feel guilty about that but it appears to have been the right thing to do.

     Meanwhile, the world spun on: nitwit bombs in NYC and NJ, another nitwit with a knife in Minnesota (and shot dead by an off-duty policeman...who happened to be a firearms trainer), another hinky-looking* police shooting in Oklahoma, and so on and so forth.

     It's a violent world.  It has always been a violent world.  There was a time when living in the right neighborhood, having enough money or having made a good choice of grandparents would insulate a person from most kinds of violence.  Then we invented TV and the Internet, and put it right on your desktop; and on the desktop of violent people, some of whom go to the mall with a knife or a gun and ill intent, or make and plant bombs, or set an innocent man's gas station on fire with him inside, or shoot cops, or become bad cops....  You're not insulated.  I'm not insulated. Lots of people never were.

     And there's nothing much to be done, one on one, except to be decent and friendly to everyone you meet and always have a plan to protect yourself if they or circumstances turn ugly.  Smile and memorize the exits.

     Your ancestors knew this, in their bones and their scars and the churchyard graves.  Now it's our turn.  You can't hide from it; the government can't wrap you in cotton batting and make you safe by main force.  It's on you and me.
* You have some different opinion?  Great, there's all kinds of differing opinions and that's precisely why I call it "hinky."  If eighty percent of the people who saw the recording said it was one way or another, it probably wouldn't have ended up on the news. It'd be fun to pretend there's no problem, and almost as much fun to claim to to know just what the root problem is, let alone how to fix it.  The truth is, "it's complicated" is as close as anyone's got for a general answer.  Erosion of mutual trust?  That's just a symptom and a damned thin reed to hang so many deaths -- black, blue or just-wandered-through -- and so much rioting on.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Already?

     And here I was, just having fun.

     The cold or whatever mostly leaves me weak and a little short of breath.  Coughing is sporadic, though unpleasant and sneezes are rare.  Sunday it seems to have at least stabilized, so I took my scooter over to the donut place for a midmorning snack.

     The scooter didn't want to start at first.  I have let it sit idle through this scorching summer and it shows.  But I got it going.

     There's a whole new pastry place across the street from the Dancing Donut.  I buzzed by it but did not stop in, my heart already set on good old-fashioned sinkers.  Sinkers I had -- their cinnamon-sugared "plain jane," which is just about the platonic ideal of a traditional American donut.

     Riding to the place, I had realized the scooter was about out of gas.  That called for a side trip to fill up (about a gallon and a half), so I did, and made it back home with a stop for groceries on the way.

     I'd planned to ride to the drugstore and the five and dime (oh, okay -- Meijer or Target).  Putting the groceries away, that seemed unwise, so I drove instead, there being critical shortages of a number of items like cat litter and sugar.  Finished all that, took my cough syrup, made a little late lunch and ate it in front of the TV.  Dozed off twice and when I stood up, the room spun.

     The cough syrup, of course.  Cleared away the dishes, fiddled around online for awhile, then went to bed.  Along about 0230, the cough syrup wore off and I was Wide. Awake.  And coughing.  Got over both eventually, slept until alarm time, and now here I am.  Perhaps I won't be going much of anywhere today.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dear People Inside My TV

     When the newest information you have is four hours old, you first shared it three hours ago, and/or no new information is forthcoming, it might not be "breaking news" any more even though it still merits inclusion in the first portion of each segment.  So what's with the flashy graphic I see over and over?

     You keep sending that kid out to the street with a stack of papers, yelling "Extra!  Extra! Read the very latest" and the ink's not even wet, pretty soon nobody will think you ever have any wet-ink news to offer, just the same old stuff, reheated and passed off as hot off the press.  That's not a good place to be.

     "It's new to you" won't pass muster here.  Breaking news means the dust is still settling and the scene is still being worked.  If all you've got is a dark field behind a reporter who doesn't know anything she didn't know when she arrived on the scene, it's not breaking, it's broken.  You want to break some news?  Dig up some newer news to break!

     Or keep lying loudly to the viewers about how new your news is.  It's not like they'll go plug the basics into a search engine to find a fresher angle, right?  ....Er, won't they?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

They'll Be Nailing Shut The Front Door

     Yep, the doors and windows will get boarded up and red-chalked crosses on 'em to warn off the inquisitive: I'm still sick.

     Felt good enough yesterday to take out the trash and then get to the foot doctor at 0930 -- I may have a metatarsal thing that happens with age, there are a couple of nerve bundles between the bones that get annoyed and go into a feedback loop of pressure causes swelling causes more pressure causes more swelling and so on.  It feels like there's a marble under the center of the ball of both of my feet.  It's been going on for years and any more, I wear only Keen closed-toe sandals, which have a very wide toe box.  Naturally, there's a possibility of expensive orthotic insoles, which I would rather avoid.  For now, steroid shots into each foot and my isn't that an interesting experience?  Um, no.

     So then I had little sticking-plasters on each foot (which I later found to be nifty curved bandaids that pretty well matched the shape of the balls of my feet).  Still feeling okay; went home, regrouped, rested and then on to the dentist for a regular exam and cleaning. I warned 'em about The Plague and they pointed out they've been doing the Universal Precautions drill for a couple of decades: gloves, masks, disposable lab coats, full-coverage goggles and all instruments are either disposable or get autoclaved after use.  All right, then.  Had the usual surprise: there's a tooth wants filled.

     Went home, still didn't feel too bad (both medical specialties involve the patient sitting back in a very comfy chair and relaxing, which I am good at; my dentist and I go back nearly thirty years and we're the same age.  I trust her.*), and decided I could pedal my bike over to Twenty Tap for a nice lunch: Pork Bahn Mi and a simple salad.  After all, I could shift down and use my arches to pedal; the rolling resistance of 80 psi "city" tires is very low.  This was unwise.

     It was a lovely sunny day.  Rain was coming but it was a long way off.  Rode over, had a lovely lunch, succumbed to the lure of chocolate gelato -- one way I can tell I am fighting this viral sinus/lung thing is I'm hungrier than usual -- and got my bill. 
I'd eat another one right now.
     They sat me behind a divider, with my back to the window.  I'd turned and glanced out a few times, checking on my bike, but the frozen treat had taken all my attention: it's really chocolaty and real gelato and I was 110% There Now.

     Which was too bad, because when I gathered my things and looked out, it was hammering down rain.  Not in sheets but in a thick cloud of raindrops, big ones. I had been careful enough to bring a trash bag and a rubber band, which I had used to cover my bike seat on arrival, but there was No Darn Way I was riding in that much rain.  I moved out to their covered sidewalk seating, where a waitress grabbing a quick smoke 8.0000 feet from the door asked, "Is that your bike?"

     "Going to be a wet ride."

     I just grinned.  Radar on my smartphone said a gap was headed our way (it helps to know the NWS radar lags behind real time by seven minutes: they do a lot of analysis and conversion before handing it out).  As the rain slowed, I unlocked my bike, moved it under the awning and transferred the plastic bag and rubber band from over my seat to over my purse.

     The rain slowed even more; I had my helmet and odd synthetic sweatshirt that lets water through very slowly, so as soon as the light turned, I was out from under the awning and across -- on foot.  There was still too much standing water, and too little time to mount.  Across to the grocery, under their overhang, and then I saddled up and rode home, carefully.

     It was too much walking.  I stowed the bike, limped in, dried off, discovered the interesting curved bandaids by removing them and changed to my nightgown.  Dozed off and on until cat-feeding time, then fell asleep until about 2315; woke up and could not get back to sleep.  Storms came through a couple of times, all flash and boom and waves of rain.  Finally managed around 0400 and slept until eight-thirty.  Temperature up and down.  Coughing.

     Coughing a bit more today.  Did nothing of note except try to keep off my feet.  Weather turned really pretty in the afternoon but did me no good.  Temperature spikes any time I eat.

     Need to get over this.
* I am very fortunate in that while my childhood dentist experiences were utterly average (not so great), once I was on my own, after six or seven years of not being able to afford dentistry and a lot of problems that culminated in wisdom teeth that came in crooked and/or shattered (yeah, seriously, one was just a cluster of shards that proceeded to come loose randomly), nearly all my adult dental experiences have been very positive.  My parents paid for initially resolving the worst of it in the guise of birthday and Christmas presents (possibly the very best presents I have ever been given) and I have done my best to keep up ever since.  My present job has offered dental insurance from the outset and I leapt at the opportunity.  I can fall asleep in a dentist's chair.