Back up and ready to roll. Meaty bleaty big and bouncy. My Law of Internet Service Providers still stands: when youve changed nothing, and your hosting company hasnt changed anything, then your ISP changed something - and they will never, ever admit it. Standard operating procedure: if you have to call tech support, they assume youre a dolt who thinks he can connect to the internet by taking the phone off the hook and putting the receiver on top of the monitor.
My local ISP, I discovered, had been folded into a Borg Cube called Prixus (and really, guys, did you sound that one out?) and the tech assured me that my inability to connect with my host was my hosts problem. Well. I trust the guy who runs my host, and when he tells me its not his problem, its not his problem. So I changed ISPs. Voila. It was their problem after all. Imagine that.
I know how bad that looked: thanks for the money, suckas! Im history! But well get to that issue down the page. I imagine you came here for a bleat, not a bleat about the bleat, so lets begin.
I have been watching old sci-fi. And I mean old - black-and-white stuff with saucers on strings, rocketships whose passage through space is measured on a dial that says AIR SPEED. Rocketship X-M is one such movie, and it has all the basics: the brilliant scientist with the pencil-thin mustache; the icy bitch-goddess scientist who will eventually scream and run like a girl into the heros arms; ethnic comic relief (in this case, a Texan) and two, count em two competing male leads: the cocky ever-grinning Lloyd Bridges, and the gee-whiz chess-club president Hugh OBrien. They all go to Mars, which bears a striking resemblance to the California desert. Also saw the regrettably named Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers - a better movie with better FX, but the same conventions of the time: the entire US government appears to consist of five skeptical generals in a conference room.
Our hero, Hugh Marlowe (he plays a scientist!) and his lovely wife (Joan Taylor, playing a "scientist"!) have been abducted by the aliens, who tell them that they wish to address all the leaders of earth in Washington, DC. I love this exchange:
Skeptical general #1: If they want to parlay with the entire world, why did they choose Washington DC?
Scientist: They appear to be realists.
Heh. Sure, we could all meet in Brussels, but everyone would be looking over at the US delegation with those please-tell-us-you-have-secret-bombs-that-can-kill-these-guys expressions.
Of course, the scene promptly goes downhill. Skeptical general #2: What about hydrogen bombs? Can we use them against the saucers? At this point a lower-ranking officer steps forward and says I believe I can answer that, general. Atomic weapons may indeed be effect against the saucers, but to use them while they are on the ground would devastate our cities.
And youre expecting Skeptical Generals 1 - 6 to all stare at the guy, until someone says well, no shit. But everyone just nods. Good point. Set off a nuke in Washington, and you run the risk of, you know, nuking Washington.
For all their flash, however, neither compared to that Cold War Classic of Paranoia, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. At least thats how the movie has always been sold - directed by Joe McCarthy from a script by Roy Cohn. Costumes by Edith Hoover. Script by Elia Forgive Me Kazan. Or so the legend had it. Never saw it before, so I just accepted that the movie was a metaphor for hegemonistic Bolshevism. See, these pods show up, and disgorge slimy copies of townsfolk; when you sleep they steal your brain, and they take over. Since the pods are organic, I assume theyre green - and what better metaphor for the Red Menace than a green one?
Let me be blunt: the idea that Invasion is a Cold War allegory is bunkum. Perhaps some thing Invasion is allegorical because its so damned straightforward, so clear, so lean. You can read anything into it. The inevitable featurette has an interview with the star, Kevin McCarthy, and he admits he thought it was about Madison Av, the conformity imposed by corporate capitalism. The interviewer remarks that hed asked the movies author if the film was a Cold War allegory. Short answer: nope. Long answer: what? Are you kidding? Nope.
I read a review of The Monolith Monsters that insisted this film was also a Cold War allegory. Why? Because strange things from outer space landed on earth and sprouted gigantic obsidian plinths that marched across the desert. I remember that movie - the monoliths looked like the Washington Monument. Hell, you could read the film as an allegory of Ike-inspired fascism. Likewise, War of the Worlds - according to the New Yorker this week - was also a Cold War allegory, a sign of our deep uneasy fears that one day the Soviets will fly shiny parabolas into our cities and aim screechy death-rays at City Hall.
Some people are obsessed with thinking that we are obsessed. They think we spent our nights drenching our ids with the marinade of anti-communist paranoia, because we never confronted these things in the light of day. Never mind the headlines, the stories on the news, the covers of the magazines - no one talked about Communism, so the fears spurted out through twisted fissures in the popular cultures. Hence things in the culture that had nothing to do with communism were actually explicit parables about Leninist aggression.
Im not saying that these things dont affect the shape and flavor of a cultures products; obviously they do. But a free society tends to hit these things head on. If everyone was so quietly terrified of the Red Peril, why didnt more movies deal directly with the idea? Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers is not a metaphor for us vs. the Rooskies. Its a story about Us versus flying saucers, for heavens sake. Perhaps thats because we wanted an escape from the perils of the planet, or perhaps because its just cool to see flying saucers smack into the Capitol dome. Smash. Bang. Whoo-hoo!
One more thing: I love these 50s heroines. Miss Taylor, from Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers:
And this is Dagmar Wynter from Invasion. Tell me again about those repressed 50s with their horrid fear of female sexuality? Dags naked, for heavens sake:
Shes actually wearing a strapless dress for her afternoon shopping trip - and why not. Its America. Chadors are optional. Even in the 50s. According to the plot, shes the old girlfriend of the hero, whos a doctor; shes just come back to town after a divorce. Hes divorced too. From the start its apparent that much bone-jumping will take place at the earliest possible opportunity. The doc even asks if shed like to see his bedside manner.
That comes later, she says. Then they go out to a restaurant and order strong martinis. It goes without saying that all the doctors smoke.
I was born too soon.
Went to the Mall of America on Saturday to see Hello Kitty. The Sanrio store promised appearances from HK herself, as well as prizes and geegaws and balloons. Gnat thought it would be fun. Mommy thought it would be a nice family outing. Daddy thought it would make for good footage for the monthly family movie, which so far was composed mostly of backyard romps and sunset shots. Off to the Sanrio store.
Its rather small, but it contains more merchandise than your average Wal-Mart. Sixty-five percent of the stuff is small enough to be lost before you get home; it rolls under the seat and gets sucked up by the vac at the car wash. Goodbye Hello Kitty eraser. ($1. 99) Goodbye Hello Kitty scented stamp. ($2. 19) Goodbye Hello Kitty sticker. ($1.39) The landfills will have a thick Hello Kitty layer by the time this idea burns out; future archeologists will speculate that a gigantic meteor stuffed with HK merchandise struck the planet, shooting HK merchandise high into the atmosphere, where it drifted over the nations of the world and fell back to earth in the form of shrink-wrapped pre-priced collectibles.
Anyway. Hello Kitty made hourly appearances. I was expecting something that looked like HK, but we got was a lanky human with an oversized HK head. She looked about six feet tall. This is not how children see Hello Kitty. They see her as a peer. But this Hello Kitty was taller than all of the moms and most of the dads. She practically cracked her head going through the door. Good Lord, why not bring out a 178-foot Elmo next? Hey, look, its Jesse Ventura as Harold of Purple Crayon fame!
Okay, heres the latest on The Situation. The Prof over at Instapundit did the damnedest thing: he suggested folks wander over and drop a buck or two in the tipjar. The results were astonishing. It was like the end of Its a Wonderful Life - why, folks heard Jimmy Lileks was in trouble, and they just said how much? I almost expected a telegram from Sam Wainwright promising a blank check for whatever I needed, hee haw. But of course there was no such telegram. As the morning wore on I grew more and more resentful of Sam, who always seemed to have everything so easy. Nice cars. Pretty girls. Life is always smooth and sweet for Sam. Here I am counting pennies, and that son of a bi-
Sorry. Off topic. Point is, I cannot thank everyone enough. You have paid the mortgage on Jasperwood for the rest of the summer. I have no idea what I did to deserve this, and I am absolutely stunned at your generosity. And this goes for those who tried to contribute but couldnt - and therein hangs another tale.
Amazon.com is staffed entirely by robots. Around eleven AM Thursday the tip jar crashed - spectacular timing, old chap! Nicely played! - and I had no recourse. None. The entire Amazon help section is designed to drive you away from the very concept of phone support. They dont even acknowledge the existence of telephones. Go the the Help section, type a question like tech support phone number help bleeding from eyes and youre referred to a page about how you can get on an email list to be notified when the 93rd Harry Potter book is published. Amazon is apparently run by one of those Star Trek computers that replies Your Question is Imperfect when you pose a true philosophical stumper, and Im hesitant to press the issue lest I crash the entire thing. I can imagine the news story: AMAZON COMPUTERS CATCH FIRE, EXPLODE. It was horrible, said one employee. All the lights on the front of the mainframe started blinking real fast, then the computers voice got high-pitched and it sped up and smoke and sparks were everywhere, and then it blew up. So Im out of a job. On the other hand, my thoughts and voluntary muscle functions are no longer dictated by a whirring bank of machinery my people have regarded as a god, so I got that going for me.
Friday I found a phone number, and reached one of the humans who serve the machines. She said that my account had been frozen because Id hit the contribution limit. I was regarded as a seller, and all sellers who sell a certain amount of merch in a 28 day period are automatically cut off. Im paraphrasing the conversation:
To protect against fraud.
And your evidence of fraud consists of . . . ?
Its an automatic protection.
But I dont need it. Youre costing me money.
You can take that up with the Council of Elders. Their email address is -
Can you just transfer me, as long as Im on the phone?
Im sorry, I cant.
Why? Dont they have phones?
They dont. (Actual quote.)
So I sent an email requesting an increase in my 28 day allotment. No reply so far.
In one respect, Im glad. As much as I am humbled & grateful for all the help, there are those who need it more than we do. Youve done enough. If you were one of those folks who wanted to help but couldnt, here are some options:
1. Hit the book link below, and buy the book - or just take whatever amount you planned to contribute, and buy something for yourself. Ill get a small cut; I use those credits to buy movies and CDs and books. Gravy-pay, in other words.
2. The official charity of the Bleat is the Heifer Project.
3. The second official charity of the Bleat is a charity that provides milk to 3rd world children. Sixty bucks buys a years milk for 100 children. The number: 1-888 505-7400.
So thats why theres no PayPal button. You provided an exceptional boon, something that makes us breathe easier. The wolf isnt at the door. Hes not even down the block. You helped to kick him across town - huzzah! So what can I do in return?
More updates, new sites, extra projects. First on the block is a contribution from Sandy in Maryland; she sent a packet of hilarious detritus, part of which spawned this weeks update to the Institute of Official Cheer. Its the Story of Bread! Enjoy.
And: thanks. Believe me. Thanks.