Devil Dog 2005

Warm today; 62 degrees. That’s twice as many degrees as we usually get. The water-feature guys came back to re-re-repair the leak, and I am assured it will now hold its water like a man with bashful kidney syndrome at a Zeppelin concert. I hope so. Of course I have to wait another day to let the caulk set, so it’ll be Wednesday before I can enjoy the nice little waterfall. And then the snow comes.

I am at the office, one of my periodic “I still exist” trips. I walk past all the relevant editor’s desks, so they know I not only come ‘round these parts but dress up for the occasion. Today it’s a nice tie I got in DC about 13 years ago from a street vendor. It’s a “Flo Reno” brand – street ties have more brands than California produce; never seen the same one twice – and it has a nice cubist pattern that would look at home in the bathrooms of Radio City Music Hall. Polished my shoes, too. I’d wear a sports jacket, but that would be pushing it. A hat would be ridiculous.

Used to wear a fedora, but I looked like something out of a Munchkin production of “The Maltese Falcon.”

As much as I romanticize the Age of Hats and the rest of the sturdy no-BS fantasy construct of the 40s I like to pretend actually happened, I’m glad I’m here now. (iTunes just put on Gershwin’s Piano Concerto to taunt me.) It’s a pleasure to sit here by the window and listen to Gershwin when I please. I doubt the radio played in offices. The radio may have played in some bars, some drug stores – but no Muzak. No warm enveloping stereo when you got home; maybe you flipped on the Philco, but what you got was glorious mono. Maybe you put on a record to relax, some long-hair stuff from a thick sheaf of brittle platters, but I don’t think adult men went home, kissed the wife, poured a drink, and put a swing 45 on the record player. Maybe you put a stack of 45s on when company came over for cards. The role of music in middle-aged middle-class urban men’s life was probably rather small.

We’ve had constantly accessible portable music for almost a quarter century; ever since I got the first Walkman I’ve been able to assemble my own soundtrack for life. (The first time we went outside listening to stereo on our headphones was like the first time you see HiDef TV. Wow! Of course! Hello future!) Since the 50s we’ve had lifelike sound at home. Before then, I suspect, music mattered less, and mattered more. Whatever the hell that means.


Saw “Judgment at Nuremburg,” which holds up well. It’s an account of a war-crimes trial in 1947, three hours long, with some fine acting. If you define acting as “shouting.” And sometimes I do, if it’s good shouting. Maximillian Schell plays the Churman defense attorney, and he shouts with the best; his character isn’t evil or even bad, but the lawyer channels Adolph and other hectoring Nazi brutes with unconscious ease. (Almost as if it’s built in to the German character! Well, it was 1961.) Spencer Tracy is on hand for quiet moral dignity; Richard Widmark gives a proto-Powerpoint demonstration on Nazi war atrocities, and he seems excitable to jaundiced modern eyes – throttle back, pal, we know this stuff. But not everyone knew then; the movie contains footage of the death camps that hadn’t been shown before.

This caught my eye: the only time you will ever see Spencer Tracy, Captain Kirk, and Mrs. Olson from Folger’s Coffee gathered together. Yep, that's her.

Recognize her?

It was a long road back from Oz.

The movie begins in the streets of Nuremburg in 1947 – bombed out, no utilities, no reconstruction. They had cleaned the streets of rubble, and that’s about it. The populace is outwardly amiable but seethes with resentment over the occupiers’ treatment of the functionaries of the Nazi regime. The prosecutors, in fact, are warned that a harsh verdict
will anger the population, and only serve to increase their shame – and the Allies need the German people to confront the future. Underlying it all is the realization that the nightmare scenario predicted by some has come to pass: the eastern portion of the country has been de facto annexed by a hostile power. And of course you say, were the Americans not once allies with the Russians? True. Well, this shows how short-sighted such decisions are; perhaps if that fool Roosevelt had a better plan, all of Eastern Europe would not have been swallowed by the nation’s most implacable foe.

In short, I had no idea World War Two was such a disaster.

And now to the evening columns. OH CRAP – I promised a Screedblog, didn’t I. Ah. Well. Let me see if I have one in me.

Later. Yep. See you tomorrow.