Sitting outside in the dark. Five minutes ago I was hearing cicadas; now I’m hearing crickets. I wonder if there was a moment of overlap, or whether the cicadas fall silent when the crickets begin. Out of respect? Fear? Are the cicadas the opening act? I heard backyard frogs when I was growing up, and that was a rote summer NoDak sound as well: gassy amphibians issuing one raspy belch after the other. Occasionally you’d hear the bitter disputation of fornicating cats. If you were lucky you got a train. I realize that’s not a natural sound, but it’s the most human sound a machine can make. Not for what it sounds like, but for what it evokes. Melancholy, wanderlust, mystery, contentment – animals may experience one or the other in small strange amounts, but never wound together in a single chord. It's like the musical equivalent of dry ice.

Why that chord? Why not C Major? Too cheerful, maybe. You wouldn’t feel right riding behind a C Major whistle. If they’re that happy, they’re missing something. C major never thinks a bridge is out up ahead.

Ordinary day. Let’s see . . . wrote a column. Didn’t see that coming. Wrote the copy for my collectible water bottles. Yes, I’m going to have collectible water bottles, available at the StarTrib State Fair booth. They wanted me to write something that fit my column – a catch phrase, perhaps? I said I didn’t have a catch phrase. I don’t know a columnist who does, except perhaps Michael Ledeen, and if he worked for a paper with a promotional department they’d put out “Faster Please” egg timers. My bottle will say:

“300 columns a year. Odds are good you’ll like one”

“Only Blondie and the President are in the paper more often”

“Sure, it’s a short column. I’m a short man.”

I predict they’ll sell for at least a dollar on eBay. At least this promotion is better than previous years; once we were asked to come up with recipe cards. I declined. No one goes to the State Fair to see columnists. They go to see gigantic supine flyblown boars with testicles the size of zeppelins.

Other thrilling news: Got a bid on some small stucco repair. Eighteen inches by 28 inches: $2400. Uh huh. Right. No job too small, no bill too large. Forget it. I’ll do it myself. Mix some gravel with some Play-Doh. Bloody thieves.

Nothing to watch on TV last night; didn’t want to commit to a DVD Tv show, since I was tired. The TiVo had a Star Trek. “Wolf in the Fold,” or, as I knew it back then, the one that came after “The Doomsday Machine.” It has its merits, not least of which is Kirk’s obvious attempts to get Scotty’s nacelle into dock for some much-needed maintenance, if you know what I mean. It also has John Fiedler as the nerdy little bio-vessel for the ageless spirit of Jack the Ripper. He had other prominent roles – a poker player in the opening scenes of “The Odd Couple” movie, and the voice of a beloved children’s character.

Boradis, Keslack, Rejick, Piglet!

These shows are lodged in my brain like a Jart, and there’s no pulling them out; forty years could pass, and I’d still recognize all the characters. Squashnose McFlatface, the jilted lover:

His father, Ayem Oddli Turgish:

The City administrator and most invaluable asset of the community theater, Lord Highbrain:

(Can we repeat the dialogue for Mr. Hengis? Of course: “Fairy tales, ghosts and goblins.”) (Note: of course it’s Mr. Hengist, but the pronunciation of the T comes and goes throughout the episode.) (Additional note: Lord Highbrain belongs to a select group of actors we should call “Star Trek Twofers.”)

And of course there’s the merry ending, where McCoy dopes everyone up while the computer shouts DIE DIE EVERYBODY DIE. How very Sixties. It lacked only Frank Gorshin bursting in the room to proclaim himself a bifurcated symbol of racial intolerance. It passed the time. Then I went to bed.

The weekly noir was a grand disappointment:

Dull, dull, everybody dull. First of all, the choice between Bullets and Ballots is never specifically presented. Mostly you get bullets, which is fine by me, but even then they're few and far between. It's nice to see a shoot-out between Bogart and Eddie G, but it lacks pizazz; they're still in the grab-guts-and-grimace phase of cinematic gunplay. I have no screen shots of the movie, because nothing leaped out. Rote WB crime drama. The trailer was more interesting:

If it's not too late to file a class-action suit for false advertising, I'd like to be lead plaintiff. He’s good, but he’s always good; imagine if he were around today, what he could do.

Come to think of it, they’d probably cast him as the Penguin in a Batman sequel. Here’s the heavy:

Promising lad; wonder what happened to him. Mostly he smokes and stares and walks around leaking small amounts of menace. If nothing else, the film reminds you how Bogart repositioned himself, went from over-collared gunsel to good-guy. The Bogart we love is Bogie 2.0.

The trailer makes the usual claims:

The afterword has proved rather lengthy, alas.

Which made it hard when he phoned in his stories, because he used grunts and gestures, and the latter didn't translate well. So who’s this Mooney mook, you ask? He was a reporter who wouldn’t give up his sources to a Grand Jury, that’s who, and apparently traded the subsequent publicity into a career as a hard-boiled Hollywood writer. He even got a movie out of Not Talking. The Anti-Garbo in a Fedora.

The highlight of the disc had nothing to do with the movie:

Meaning, what? Simple:

It’s a blooper reel. At first you think it was shown in the theaters to amuse the groundlings, but somewhere around the third big-time king-hell cuss you realize this was for internal studio consumption only. The thrills are limited and repetitive, but it’s still amusing to watch Hollywood icons blow their lines and swear.

The "Tough Guy" collection hasn't been as noir-soaked as I'd like, but it's made me watch movies I wouldn't otherwise have chosen. I still recommend it. After all, you'd learn more about 1941 if you watched every movie made except "Casablanca."

Random Thursday link:

This program helps you write interactive fiction. That's what we called “Computer games” in the days when “computer graphics” referred to the nice picture on the box the thing came in. I played many Infocoms, and have written about it before so I won’t write about it again. Except to say that I never finished “Leather Goddesses of Phobos” – got stuck in a maze. You had to enter the words “Clap Hop ‘Say Kweepa’” in a certain order, and eventually I said to hell with it. The game lives on, however, when discussing a frustrating moment with the Giant Swede; he’s the only guy who understands the phrase “Kweepa point.” Of course, now you know, too. Anyway. I was intrigued enough to download the program. I thought I’d write a little interactive novel. Concept: you find yourself knocked back in time, back to 1927. You wake in a brownstone window well with a dim recollection of your previous life. The game consists of your first day in 1927. You have to find money to get a bed for the night. I wrote the opening scene, just to get started:

You’ve awakened in a dark hole. You cannot tell what smells worse - you or the pit you're in. The floor is hard, but you can see the sky; it's either twilight or dawn. You've no idea.

Not exactly interactive fiction style, I know, but it’s been a while. I asked the game to process what I’d written, and it came up with the following error messages. It’s like remarks on a freshman comp paper from a brilliant grad student who completely fried his brain with acid:

Problem. You wrote 'You've awakened in a dark hole'  : but I can't find a verb here that I know how to deal with, so I am ignoring this sentence altogether.

Problem. You wrote 'You can't tell what smells worse - you or the pit you're in'  : again, I can't find a verb here that I know how to deal with.

Problem. The sentence 'The floor is hard, but you can see the sky'   appears to say two things are the same - I am reading 'floor' and 'hard' as two different things, and therefore it makes no sense to say that one is the other: it would be like saying that 'the chalk is the cheese'. It would be all right if the second thing were the name of a kind, perhaps with properties: for instance 'Dairy Products School is a lighted room' says that something called Dairy Products School exists and that it is a 'room', which is a kind I know about, combined with a property called 'lighted' which I also know about.

Problem. You wrote 'it's either twilight or dawn'  : again, I can't find a verb here that I know how to deal with.

Problem. You wrote 'You've no idea'  : again, I can't find a verb here that I know how to deal with.

Problems occurring in translation prevented the game from being properly created. (Correct the source text to remove these problems and click on Go once again.)

Noted, pal. Delete from drive.

Tomorrow: the Diner returns and the epic concludes. See you then! (New Quirk, of course. Do I have to say that? Do you realize there's a Saturday edition too? It's like a weekend Bleat. Albeit tiny.)



c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.