Happy news for everyone who hates it when I . . . go off on things. The off-going has been segregated to its own blog. A real honest Wordpress blog. I had to customize a template, and it doesn't look like I want it to look yet, but there's time enow to tweak, as the Shakespearean meth-head said. Behold the Screedblog, home to all the future intemperate bilious remarks on annoyances great and small. In the future there will be three blogs: the Strib blog for local stuff, the Screedblog for politics, and the Bleat for personal and pop-culture stuff. Why the segregation? Frankly, I want to avoid boring and annoying the people who simply do - not - want - to - read that stuff, and find that it impinges on their pleasure of the Bleat. There are sites I visit that frequently lurch into current events, and while that's fine and well and good it's the assumption that A) I must automatically agree with the unspoken precept that All Smart People Think This Way, Don't You Know, and B) I give a tin fig. So, a blog for tin-fig givers.

It'll be off to a slow start, until something happens, anyway.

The neighborhood block party on Halloween was better, if shorter, than usual. It was warm this year, the carpetbagger kids who took handfuls of candy and juice boxes and ran away to the cars that trucked them in were fewer, more adults wore costumes, and the chili was punitive. I had four bowls. Went as a vampire – a cliché, but it was my first attempt at a costume in years; even did makeup. It ended early for us, though, and the entire event seemed anticlimactic. Which is normal for a holiday that began six weeks ago, I guess. The inevitable progress of time – the bounty of dense, multicolored high-fructose corn-syrup products isn’t as novel for an eight-year old as it was for a four-year old, and the lingering spookiness a kid believes may truly lurk behind the day has been dispelled by the frank, know-it-all assessment of the world you have when you’re a third of the way to the wise old age of nine.

I still like the hours when the parties are done and the kids are long in bed, though. I kept the glowing skulls plugged in all night. When I went to bed at 2 AM they were staring into the dark, watching the squirrels eat the faces off the pumpkins.

Oh: before Natalie went to bed, we watched the Rolie Polie Olie Halloween special, which is her version of the Charlie Brown special. Tradition. Brings back different things for each of us, of course; to me, I hear the closing theme and think “It’s 9:30, and time for the TV to go off.” For her it’s a link to days whose memories are already being disassembled by the passage of time – and I can tell she thinks it’s a bit disconcerting not to remember certain things about something she knew so well. And then it’s a pleasure to remember them again. This isn’t so bad. It’s the chunk of your life when you remember everything that gives you the most grief, I suppose.

Warm weekend, and I don’t mean “forties” or some other pathetic excuse made on behalf of the brittle, dull, dead-breath month of November. I mean sixties. Glorious sun. I put up half the Christmas lights on Sunday, something I never do, but it made sense; every year I freeze and swear and stamp around in the snow stringing extension cords, hands unresponsive after ten minutes, cursing at the ability of the rose-bush branches to stick a prickly digit into the cuff of my coat and draw blood. Having done half, though, I know I will assume the job is mostly done and end up doing the rest – the hardest part – in a blizzard. For supper? Grilled ground cow on an open flame outside. In the dark, of course – the sun now falls like a gut-shot duck. For November, though, it was perfection, and it was difficult not to be in a merry mood.

I was in a bad mood most of the morning, since I had to put up the *$(%*#$% lights, but it passed.


This is not the weekly movie review – actually, none of the weekly movie reviews are movie reviews, since they’re usually remarks concerning useless questions that would occur only if you watched the film on a computer screen with Google and imdb handy.  I also mention them to see if there’s a Star Trek connection; there usually us.

Nothing made me fire up the screen-capture tool until I saw this:

And the only reason I noted the pool at first was because I’d sworn I’d seen it somewhere else. But where? Some movie with Harvey Keitel as Mickey Mouse. No – Harvey Korman as Mickey Cohen. No – Harvey Keitel as Mickey Cohen . . . which would be “Bugsy.” Okay, well, that was settled. If that was the place, anyway. Could have been any shvitz, I suppose, but it had a distinctly early 20th-century New York feel, right down to the tiny narrow pool and the white and blue tiles. Ancient and humid, practically Roman.

The movie was “The Anderson Tapes,” which I saw on TV as kid, and only then because it starred James Bond as Anderson. It’s a caper flick – directed by Sydney Lumet, with Christopher Walken in his first role. It also has Dyan Cannon and Garrett Morris, just to remind you that this was the 70s. The high-tech seventies. The “tapes” of the title refer to the electronic surveillance performed by the police, the FBI and private citizens; each has their own target, and Anderson appears in all of them, even though he’s not the subject of the investigation. This has nothing to do with the actual crime; it’s just the author’s way of pointing out the death of privacy and the ubiquity of surveillance. In 1973.

For example: by punching a few buttons, police could get your mugshot from the RANDOMATIC:


That wasn’t a made-up name – it was a product of Randomatic Data Systems, Inc.

Ah, but it’s the inadvertent documentary moments I love. A truck goes through Times Square, and gives us this detail of pre-rebirth:


A Hojo where you could get a drink. If you threw up later you didn’t know if it was the clams or the cut-rate scotch. The truck heads down another side street:

It’s 46th street. Let’s take a look at the details:


Portnoy, Remington, BATHS. But what kind of baths? Squint at the picture and you can make out LUXOR HOTEL. Well. To the postcard box, Robin:

And there it is.

(Note: it's demolished, and I don't think it was in "Bugsy" at all.)

One of the guys in the movie did not look familiar:


He had a distinctive voice, though, and I googled around to discover he was the original narrator for “Dimension X,” a sci-fi radio – and he was the voice . . . of this. I heard his voice every night growing up. Norman Rose.

The décor throughout the movie is stomach-churning, incidentally. Every rich person in the swanky apartment building had the expensive, modern taste that can only be achieved when you have no taste at all.

Except for the apartment occupied by two old ladies. One of those was an irritating type who popped up in late 60s movies and has yet to be expunged: sassy, nasty old ladies who swear and talk about sex. Her sister looked familiar, although I’m sure she didn’t ring bells when I saw the movie the first time.

That was her last movie. We thought she was old when we were kids. Yes, it’s William Windom’s grade-school teacher, which gives us the Star Trek connection, since he played Commodore Matt Decker in the fearsome “Doomsday Machine” episode. She had a role of note of her own, of course.


The songs you hear when you’re young seem to stick around longer than any others, and I know that sounds about as obvious as it is profound. Perhaps I mean to say they’re indelibly stamped in a way songs you hear later in life are not. They bond with the newly surging hormones, perhaps; they get their own space in the brain. Whatever the reason: I was outside on a ladder Sunday afternoon, straining to change a floodlight on the second floor of the house, when a car on the street honked its horn: beep-beep BEEP. I started whistling a song from 1974, to paraphrase Bob Seger; it was triggered by the rhythm of the horn, and lo, it was Supertramp. Here’s what I mean.

They get a lot of guff and snorts for being, well, Supertramp, and you can blame it all on “Breakfast in America,” the stupidest song of the year. Can we have kippers for breakfast MOMMY DEAR MOMMY DEAR. They also rhyme “Dear” with “Millionaire.” But before they hit it big at the exact moment that the creative powers began to seize up, they turned out some fairly good prog, if you like that stuff. As I’ve said before whenever the tiresome subject makes its annual appearance, they had two utterly different songwriter-singers - a cynical hippie guitarist and a really cynical piano-pounder. And they had a sax player! All progressive rock in the mid-seventies had to have a saxophone. Think Pink Floyd, Al Stewart (yes, he qualfied, because his songs were long) and, er, that other band. For those of us who had followed the band from the start, the chipper bouncy dross everyone else knew made you grind your teeth. "Crime of the Century" was an ice-hard, bleak piece of work, masterfully produced - back when that meant it didn't sound like mud, and stuff went from one speaker to the other, man.

New Matchbook - and of course the tentative, shaky return of the Screedblog, in actual blog form. See you on twitter and at buzz.mn - now about three weeks away from the Great Change, I believe.