Had lunch today with a rakish, international man of mystery, which wasn’t unusual. What was odd was this: he brought shampoo. But that will have to wait for tomorrow.

First, before all the other blather, the Noir Update. This week it was 1947’s “Brute Force,” a prison-break movie with Burt Lancaster in full tortured-glower-mode. He’s actually the least interesting thing in the movie; what counts are the supporting players. As for the plot, you can guess: a group of prisoners, ranging from the hardened cons to the New Kid to the shifty stoolie to the wise older inmate cross swords with a sadistic guard, with only an alcoholic-but-idealistic doc to stand between them! It’s shot in extreme claustro-phob-arama, staged in crisp scenes that waste not and want not, and even has flashbacks so they can show you some dames. I mention it for the supporting players, nearly all of whom trigger the hey-it’s-that-guy response.  Here’s a couple of jailbirds:

The fellow on the right is Howard Duff, who’d play Sam Spade on the radio to great effect. The picture in the middle is the idealized female the cellmates all use as a reference point for their previous dame-filled lives. The fellow on the left – well, hard number, eh? Cruel, too:


( In terms of shirtlessness, this movie makes a gladiator picture look like an overcoat catalogue.)

In his flashback, though, he’s all charm and style. You expect him to extol the virtues of rich Corinthian leather:

Recognize him? He’s that bastard who shot Sam Drucker and saved the human race:

If you don’t recognize the scene, you should. It’s from “When Worlds Collide.” Ideally you should see the movie when you’re 13 and it’s not yet 1974, because if you see it as an adult it may seem talky and made of cardboard, and you think that’s Danny Kaye as the Brave Space Pilot. But the last half holds up. Back to prison:

It’s Whit Bissel, everyone’s favorite bird-featured semi-intellectual! Moving right along: there’s a scene where the inmates exact revenge against a squealer, and Howard Duff gets to stand in front of some industrial equipment with a flame thrower, something every man should do once. Do you want to come this way, squealy?

Seriously, do you want to come this way? Because I don’t think you want to come this way.


The oddest part of the movie? The evil sadistic head guard, played by that seething mass of brutal instinct . . .


Hume Cronyn. The very name is so unassuming; it’s like lukewarm water dribbling out of numb lips. Hume Cronyn. But damn, he’s good: he’s quiet and mean and cruel. And I don’t think I’m reading into the movie to suspect that they wanted him to be one of those homersexuals:

He likes to strip down and wax a gun the size of the Washington Monument, I guess. It’s a short, compact, well-written film that contains every prison-break cliché, but it runs through the paces well.

It’s taking a while, but I’m starting to add the pieces that will make me a total flea on a hotplate. I’ve had a Yahoo! account for a while – man, why did I add that stupid exclamation point? Who even thinks of the brand having an exclamation point? – but I don’t remember my login, and all attempts to retrieve the password failed. I hate signing in for things in general, anyway – I know why it’s necessary, but I’ve so many consarned passwords and accounts and usernames that I feel like Sybil (if any of those password managing programs had any imagination they would have called the damned thing Sybil) except that all my other personas are just shades of myself, trailing bygone addresses and password hints like the chains of Marley.

So I started a new Flickr account. Why? Well, I always thought I’d keep the whole internet experience concentrated here, but this once-a-day oration is dated and old, and the new internet demands that use your right hand to upload pictures of your left hand with geotags and embedded weather, so people can skitter over to your site from something else equally insubstantial, then skitter off again.

I’m doing this so I can post to Flickr from all over the place with the iPhone – once or twice a day, perhaps. Add to that the Twittering, which I’ve started doing again, just to provide notices when buzz.mn is updated. (Ah, buzz – that’s another story, and part of all this, but you’ll have to wait.) Tomorrow I’ll try it out; links on Wednesday. 

See, in olden times, a fellow had a problem at a coffee shop, he wrote about it on his “home page” or “online journal” and that was that; now it’s blogged not only by him, but blogged by someone who was observing from a distance, and there are links to the flickr page of the coffee shop that dealt with the blogger’s complaints. Three atoms form their own orbit for a day, then spin off to form new elements tomorrow. Yes, you say, welcome to 2005. True. But this site has been stuck in 1997, conceptually, since – well, 1997. I’m not giving up the long form, just adding to it throughout the day.

As for the coffee shop story – a guy wanted his espresso with ice, the “barista” wouldn’t do it, so the guy asked for ice on the side – and was given a dressing-down by the barista for insulting the integrity of the craft and the virtue of the crema, or whatever. The comments are amusing; while some people hammer the blogger for his crude reaction, others side with the barista for sticking up for the espresso, for saving it from the indignity this barbarian wished to inflict upon it. Criminey. The man paid for his coffee. If he wanted to add ground-up goat-glands and drizzle donkey spittle on the top once money had changed hands, that’s his right. I love coffee; I love good coffee. I love coffee so hot and strong it would exfoliate a yak, but I don’t regard it as some holy ichor. This is the blood of Juan Valdez, shed for you. Here is the biscotti, consecrated by a snob with a artful piercing who carefully vets the notes on the community bulletin board to make sure everyone’s using recycled paper. Coffee was simpler once. Worse, but simpler.

I mean worse: my first trip to New York I went to Chock Full o’ Nuts in Herald Square, ready for the authentic New York cawfee experience, and I got lukewarm coffee with milk, half of which was in the saucer. I asked for a refill, and you’d think I’d asked for – well, a second refill. A refill? On coffee? I already gave you a cup. What do you think we’re running here, some sort of . . . coffee shop? I think that’s why I bought Chock Full when it came in cans in this part of the country – just for the pleasure of drinking cup after cup and sticking it to that foul old babushka who’d snarled when I held up by cup and said please ma'am, may I have some more. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for just dumping your bones on a stool and saying “Coffee,” and getting . . . coffee. Uniform throughout the land, hot and brown, served in the same thick ceramic cups – white, scratched, well-balanced in the hand. Joe. Cuppa joe. I can’t imagine walking into a diner in 1947 and hearing the waitress ask if she could start a joe beverage for me. Nor can I imagine the cook coming around from behind the grill – he has a faded anchor tattoo, stubble, a stained white apron – and telling me I can’t put ketchup on my hashbrowns because it might get on the bacon, and the bacon is uncured hormone-free bacon hand-rubbed with applewood shavings.

The downside of everything getting better is that people forget the virtues of just good enough.

More dental fun tomorrow, so buzz.mn will be light in the morn – but there will be a video up that explains the picture at the top of the page. The floating Barbie. There are Barbies on a string hanging from a wire over the intersection of 54th and Lyndale. I don’t know why. I shot some video on Saturday, and intended just to put up some pix, but then I thought they’d look interesting in slo-mo, much more graceful and angelic. Of course that meant adding music. Well, apologies to Harold Arlen and Angelo Badalamenti. Obviously I was thinking of this, which lead to the piece sounding the way it does. It’s a minute and a half long. 

New Comic – Number #100! Thanks to all the tireless scanners of the Usenet who’ve made this project possible. Here’s to the next 100.
See you at buzz.mn – the video awaits.