My wife says I have too much time on my hands. You be the judge.

It was cold again today – ten above at best, which is better than five, I suppose, if your skin is so finely tuned to these things you can detect a hint of spring when the temp finally hits double digits. It was four when I woke up. I was glad to wake up, too; strange dream. I was in a plane that had been diverted to Moscow because Vladimir Putin wanted to arrest Kasparaov; he was on board, and Putin had trumped up a sex crime to put him behind bars. When we landed I asked when we would be able to leave; the clerk at the gate gave a great shrug. He knew nothing and cared less. So I caught a cab downtown to the American International Hotel – it had the same logo as the movie company of the same name – and found the American Express office. I presented my card and the fellow behind the teller window got on the phone and yelled at various officials until I had a plane out. I had a private compartment. Robert Shaw was sitting in the seat across from me.

If you've seen "From Russia With Love" you can see why I’d want to wake up from that one.

Tuesday is video day. I’ll be damned if I had an idea. One came, eventually, but it involved shooting outside. In the cold. It took about two minutes for the camera to freeze up, so I went to the backup cheap non-widescreen grainy blur-cam. It lacks a socket that would anchor it to my cheap tripod, so I used duct tape to tie it down. Went outside, put it in the snowbank – just as the neighbor came out to shovel his walk. I waved. Hi, just putting a tripod in the snowbank.

The video, such as it is, will be up in the morning on I’ve also started a quick daily two-minute afternoon podcast, which usually goes up around four.


I’ve been watching “The Singing Detective,” which I saw once, bought years later, and avoided lest it turn out to be less than I’d remembered. It’s better than I remembered. I think it’s the most remarkable TV show I’ve ever seen. Not a TV series like “The Wire” or “The Sopranos,” which belong to a different genre – this is a six-hour movie. (Later made into a two-hour movie with Robert Downey Jr., the existence of which I prefer to ignore.) I can’t recommend it enough – but if you’re expecting straight-forward linear plot and have an aversion to people lip-syncing old songs in fever-dream sequences, avoid. That latter shouldn’t put anyone off, because they’re funny and brilliantly done – much better than “Pennies From Heaven.”

It’s three stories intertwined, each one moving in and out of the other – the experiences of a bitter novelist stuck in a hospital with a crippling skin disease, a 1940s murder mystery based on the author’s novel (and starring the author as the Singing Detective), and the childhood experiences of the author. Characters from one world regularly appear in the other; actors play two, three roles. 

(A kind Bleat reader sent me a VCR dupe of another Potter show, which I’ll watch as soon as I’m done with this.)

Anyway: the show uses old songs, as noted, and also uses moody noirish music for the 40s detective sequences. When I googled around to learn more about the show I discovered that the noirish music was taken from stock recordings the BBC had on hand. Library music, in other words. Here's an example. This is used once an episode, and it's perfect:

Well. Last night, I heard this. The Singing Detective leaves the flat of his former client, and runs into a German woman who’s been tailing them both. She’s shot by two mysterious men in trenchcoats. Here’s what it sounds like. Pay attention to the last five seconds:

Well, well, well, well. Let’s go back to my old-time radio archives, shall we?

Side by side:

Am I right, or am I right. 

This is the point where my wife suggested I had an excess of time, and I granted her point. but it’s not as if I spent hours plowing through archives for that; I heard it, and knew where I’d heard it before. Took half an hour to clip it and upload, and that’s time I suppose I could have spent larding out on the sofa watching Everybody Hates Raymond Lopez or whatever. I do know someone somewhere someday will have the same moment – ping! I know that! – and hit the internets to see if anyone else caught that. If you’re that person, Person of the Future, here you are. SINGING DETECTIVE X-MINUS ONE MUSIC. Let that search string bind us across the ages, united in the love of pointless detail.

Of course, it’s not pointless. No reasonable connection is pointless. Drawing a line between one thing and another usually yields a third fact, and in this case I now know that the music for X-Minus One was library music. Yes, yes, big whoop. But that leads to additional speculation: someone wrote that music for a reason – either as a stinger to be used over and over again, or as a specific cue for a specific event. If it’s the latter, then figure this: it started with a script. It started with someone banging out a story on a typewriter half a century ago.  A man walks into a room with a gun. A musician wrote the cues for the movie; some hired hands sawed their way through the score three times during one of those long Tuesday sessions where it was one bloody cue after the other until five, then everyone loosened their bows and blew out the spit and put their instruments away and went home for supper. What they did that day got fixed in wax, and a combination of composition and performance was memorable enough to fire a few neurons in the head of someone in the middle of North America in the next century.

We’re a clever species. I mean, try explaining that previous paragraph to a dog, or a mainframe.

New ad archive addition, which travels along similar lines. Now I’m off to watch Episode Four of the Singing Detective. See you at