Warm. At least by recent standards. It’s a cruel thaw, and slackens the will to deal with the vile sleety perfidy of March, the Trickster Month. Why, even this morning, walking to the bus with Gnat, beholding the glory of the sun above and the thin trickle of water in the gutter at my feet, it seemed spring was nigh. But spring isn’t nigh. This is the time when you have to loin-gird for the last assault. March is the one month whose quiver holds every trick. As T.S. Eliot wrote: Screw March.
I’ve already blown through the stuff I set aside to pad out this week’s Bleats, and I have the entire evening set aside for book work. (No Diner this week, alas.) It’s the middle of the afternoon, and I’ve just filed two columns. I have 40 minutes until I have to get Gnat from school. There are a few items in the news that irritate me, but as usual nowadays I have nothing to say about them. Really: I would only reaffirm the opinions of those who agree with me and annoy those who don’t. We’re passing through a strange caesura, a time in which the same arguments are advanced over and over again until something happens and changes the terrain. It’ll come, but in the meantime I don’t know what to add. Last night I began my Newhouse column on the House / Senate resolutions on the war, but backed off at the last moment and wrote about the discovery of a comet that might possibly hit earth. Why? Well, some scientists held a press conference urging the UN to take action. That’s like sending the INS to deal with a War of the Worlds scenario. They’d wear the first wave down with paperwork, but then it would be death-ray a go-go. But I’ve also come to suspect that the defection of seven wet-finger Senators to the irresolute-resolution side doesn’t send a signal that hasn’t already been sent, over and over and over again. I don’t think Al Qaeda is newly energized because Norm-Qolman has struck a new pose.
Everything happening now is the logical conclusion of everything hatched on 9/11. That particular paradigm, as is commonly understood, is exhausted, but it’s still the template. Until there’s a new template, we will be chasing our tails down the drain.
If that’s not too useless and incoherent a metaphor.
But: I read something today that irritated the bejesis out of me, and that’ll be tomorrow’s smallish Bleat.
What else to say? Gads; nothing. Haven’t left the house, except to walk Gnat to the bus. I sit, I read, I write, I scan. Better to be tied to the book in February than a doxy-hottie month like May or June, but the cumulative effect is deadening: lawd, I’m bored.
Anyone else? Eh? Is this not the emptiest, deadest, flattest, bone-grinding-on-bone time of the year?
Last night after “24” I checked to see what the TiVo had recorded. Since I blanked its brain last week, it’s relearning my preferences, and tends to offer up big chunks of particular genres. How about this? No? This? No? This? No? It’s very touching, in a way. So eager to please. Well, it had recorded a “Miami Vice,” and I haven’t seen that show in years. Unintentionally comic, I’m afraid. Most of the sets are obviously sets, because they couldn’t find real interiors with enough 80s pizzazz; the walls are all 20 feet tall, so you don’t see the stage lights. Miami was apparently settled by giants. Or retired couples from Queens, with the wife standing on the husband’s shoulders. Tell me when you get tired, Morty.
This episode concerned Sonny’s old Army buddy (Crockett was a Vietnam vet, which seems surprising to recall – untl you realize that the show’s 20 years old now), and if there’s anything you do not want to be in a Miami Vice episode, it is an old friend or a new lover. He was played by James Remar, your go-to guy in the 80s for scary scum. Insufficient facial hair + dental lacuna + oily lank straight-part hair = psycho loser. But here he’s a good guy, because he was in NAM with Sonny, which gives him 10+ points. Unfortunately, this also means Sonny is obligated to do anything for him, even if he’s taken off the case because he’s gotten too close.
Just once I’d like to see someone in an 80s police drama removed from the case because they got too far away. “It’s like you don’t care at all, Crockett. I can tell you have absolutely no emotional connection to the matter whatsoever. You’re off the case.” And then Sonny goes off and drinks and broods, and thinks: I’ll show him. I’ll manifest a baseline of professional interest with a modicum of personal emotional attachment.
Needless guest cameo: Frankie Valli. Early appearance by someone who got famous later: Nathan Lane, looking like a lefty’s idea of a right-wing blogger. Amount of deep private misery exuded off by Lt. Castillo for reasons we cannot fathom: about six cubic yards. (He wasn’t in this episode very much.) There was a ditzy gal in 80s garb with asymmetrical hair, looking like she was auditioning for her own spin-off show about a wacky Miami street person who solves crimes with Cyndi Lauper. She was the person to whom Crockett and Tubbs turned to find out the word on the street, that strange freefloating authoritative source for truth. The Wikipedia of the pavement.
Percentage of screen time Tubbs spent stroking his chin: 17. Number of shots fired by Sonny: twelve, in two different gun battles, including one in which he executed his patented skid-on-his-back-while-firing maneuver; it’s a miracle he didn’t blow off his kneecap in every episode.
This was the high-gloss big production show of its time, and it looks dated and almost cheap in spots. Compared to everything else, though, it was still better. Not as good as Crime Story, though.
Oh! Say! That reminds me. When I was watching “Crime Story” a year or so ago, I took a few dozen screen captures of the various 60s-style locales. Why not pad this out with some of those? NOTE: this is not a review of a long-dead show you don’t care about. It’s a review of long-dead architectural styles you may not care about. They weren’t sets, but part of the Chicago early-60s landscape that lasted in to the mid 80s.
I’ll have to work fast: pick up in 12 minutes.
The opening credits told you exactly where you were: Heavy Car Land, where cars stared at you like fat silvery amphibians:
Naturally, you’d drive the car here . . .
Or here. Sigh. Crushed gravel, hard-tile walls, turquoise trim, beehives and stools.
Another cafe interior:
The actor, incidentally, was John Santucci, a Michael Mann favorite; he appeared in “Thief” as well, and was, in fact, a thief in a former life. Took a fall on a safe-crack beef, as they say on Dragnet. He started out the show as a vicious thug, but turned into comic relief. Wonderful character. Three notes – stupid, ingratiating, and violent. But I’m reviewing the show, aren’t I. Sorry. I recognize the table-top material – the same completely unconvincing marble veneer was used in the bathrooms at the Valli restaurant where I worked many years ago. It was a 70s infestation, and we’re mostly clear of it. Mostly. To quote that kid from “Aliens.”
Another fine sign of times long gone. Atomic Wimpy sounds like some junior-high bathroom bully-move, in which your dickey is pulled over your head:
This sign intrigued me:
Who’s Phyllis Branch? Who's Harold Barrage? Fifties R & B / soul / gospel singers, says the internet. Apparently the bar still exists, too.
According to the internet, Tasemkin was involved with a pension dispute with its truckers in the mid 90s. Not to rely on cliches and half-truths, but if there's one group I wouldn't want to annoy, it's unionized Chicago Truckers.
Then there were the Stars. Pretty Lady, the gawky awkward years:
Once I sang and it was a gas / tried to act, fell on my ass.
Seven years on Deep Space Nine, and he can walk down the streets without anyone knowing who he was:
Kevin Spacey, ageless Kennedy manqué:
Finally, one of the show’s true surprises, a mobster who would have been a fine addition to The Sopranos:
You can burn the comedy albums; they're horrible. Landfill all the copies of "Ford Fairlaine." Trust me: Andrew Dice Clay was good.
New Quirk! Eleven pages of book done tonight. Hoorah. Thanks for your patience, and I'll see you tomorrow.