Ugh. Not ugh: re current events; I’m approaching the new administration with a blank slate. I have no desire to walk around frowning in perpetual grumptitude, and it would be intellectually dishonest to prejudge everything that happens before it happens, or see the smallest act in terms of some broad preconceived idea. I thought that was an impressive victory speech, and if someone offers to earn your support, well, take him up on it.

I wasn’t fond of Bill Clinton personally – never quite charmed me the way he charmed others, and he seemed to a man of substantial appetites, the most obvious of one was an appetite for attention and approval. in the 80s I HATED Reagan, of course, because he was an IDIOT who wanted to KILL US in a nuclear war for JESUS or whatever we believed so deeply back then.  In both cases a personal aversion shaped my reaction to the message. You can make fun of the adulation that has been showered on Obama, and most of it seems silly if you don’t have the leg-tingle, but he doesn’t give me the Slick Willies. So this will be interesting. 

No, ugh for completely different reasons, and never mind. Minor, temporary ughs. Ughs of a lesser god. AISOT (this is the last time I’ll explain! As I Said On Twitter) I’m tired of being collegial to people who give you the shiv and the elbow in other venues, and while this latest example wasn’t entirely dishonest, the next time I see him I’m going to hand him a rope and a diuretic.

But such matters evaporate the moment you pick up your kid from school, and hear how things went. They went poorly. At least at one point; Natalie had to write an apology letter for laughing in class. She was driven to the edge of a hilarity by a classmate’s decision to embellish his art project – a turkey – with the head of Obama. He got in trouble, too. I explained to her that this was disrespectful to the teacher and the President-Elect, and she understood. I have this ridiculous hope that if we always speak of her teacher and the President with respect in the house, that’ll build some sort of innate respect for the institutions that survive and transcend the transitory occupants. It was always President Bush in our house, and it will always be President Obama.

So we went home and wrote the apology – I’m glad she was busted for laughing and not head-rearrangement, to be honest, because there would have been something a bit creepy about apologizing to the teacher for inappropriate politician-cranium placement – and I took a nap. It was short. At one point I saw Frankenstein in a dream. In the next moment Frankenstein was throwing up. In the next moment I was awake, hearing the dog hurk up something on the good rug downstairs.  The way the brain processes and handles input is really quite remarkable; I think it came up with Frankenstein the quarter-second it first heard the half-hurk. It heard the sound, incoherent and gutteral, rummaged around in the RECENT ITEMS folder, and produced the only appropriate character who could make that sound and continue to make the sound should it turn into hurling.

Woke, daubed, patted the dog – what? What did I do? What? – and
started dinner. Opened up some hamburger I bought at Target on Saturday. Ripe Death flowed out from the package. Natalie, sitting 12 feet away, demanded to know if someone had tooted.

All this was consistent with the general tenor of the day. I wondered if it could get more annoying, and sure enough: the internet was out, and that reminded me that I’d gotten a call from Earthlink telling me to call back if my internet was still out. Whichof course it was, now and then. So I called. I will spare you the details, but I was on the phone for 45 minutes, during which I explained the problem to Angel, Maria and Tony in India (seriously, that’s what they called themselves) all over again, and FINALLY they’re sending out a human being to look at the lines. I expect a pale blonde guy named Sanjay.

There’s a new restaurant update today – ten more “classic,” meaning “old,” postcards from the era of official cheer. By which I mean the era in which optimism and freedom and consumption and cars and the moon, baby, were the memes that flowed from the top down.

Despite the setbacks, that is. We think of the post-war period as a time of unalloyed go-go prosperity, but look at this ad from 1948: Its brash positive tone suggests a rather dour, brackish national mood.

And of course there’s this week’s 100 Mysteries! To repeat the premise for anyone just joining us – my wife got me a collection of 100 “mystery” movies on DVD, and I’m revealing one per week. Why? I don’t know. Something to do.  A little project to help fill up the internet.   


We begin a new series:

Guessing it wasn’t a small schlom:

The beginning is familiar – a woman is murdered while walking down a backlot suburban street at night, and it’s up to Tracy, Dick, to solve it. Let’s meet the gang, who I presume will be with us for the next six movies. Sidekick and comic relief, Pat Patton:


Pat Patton was played by Lyle Latell, which may have had the same amusing effect Asian audiences as “Kam Fong as Chin Ho” had on Westerners.  For the obligatory dame, we have  Phyllis Claveringing as Tess Trueheart, Jiffy Pop hairstyle model:

She wants to marry Tracy but is always given short shrift by Dick’s devotion to crime-solving. Especially if that fiend Short Shrift is up to his usual tricks. (Actually, that’s the lovely Anne Jeffreys, who’s almost 86 as of this writing.) Sound familiar? Same dame-avoidance scheme as Bulldog Drummond.

Here’s Tracy. Doesn’t look a thing like Warren Beatty. Or Dick Tracy:

If you're going to have a character based on someone with famously sharp features, don't choose a guy who looks like a slightly melted fun-sized Burt Lancaster cross-bred with Hume Cronyn.

Dogged policework (i.e., opening up the victim’s purse and pawing through its contents to find an extortion note) reveals the killer as a chap named “Splitface.” This being a Dick Tracy film, that means the character will be instantly recognizable, since the villains in Tracy comics were always named after distinctive physical traits that made it easy for associates and victims to describe them to the police. “Who killed the stool pigeon, pal? You’re going to the chair unless you tell us!”

“Okay, okay! It was Big Ears! He done it!

“Describe him!”

“He’s got enormous ears!”

(Tracy, to fellow investigator) “Yes, that’s Big ears, all right. I recognize the description.  I thought this sounded like his work.”

It makes you anxious to meet Splitface, especially since every thing else in the film moves at a glacial pace. It’s hard to imagine people paid much attention ton this movie when it appeared in the theater – it wasn’t the top-billed show, and it probably wasn’t the second feature. It ran in the middle of the bill on a Saturday afternoon, as one imdb comment suggested, and as such was something to keep the screen warm while people wandered in and drifted out.


The pulse-pounding action is almost too much to bear, and sums it all up. The director must have said “just play it suspicious, guys.” What you do mean? “You’re suspicious, and you have something to hide. Or vice versa, I don’t care. Speak slow and use every syllable, because we really have to pad this movie out to make an hour.”

"Fine, but what’s this scene about?"

"You’re walking from the front door to the back door. Six shots, and you know what that means: six takes total. I’m hungry and the cafeteria has stew today. Okay, places. Speed. Sound. Annnnnd . . . sort of moving around in a fashion that might be construed as action." This may be my favorite moment in the movie, simply for the way Tracy reads his lines with such rich enthusiastic gusto, and the way the other fellow pronounces his ill-fitting name. As well as the thrilling sequence in which Tracy says he's going out the back way, and does go out the back way, and we get to see the door closed behind him as he goes out the back way.

NOTE: to save bandwidth and keep the page from taking forever to load, the video has been placed offshore, here, on the official 100 Mysteries page. One click takes you there. It's worth it! Thrill a minute! If you prefer, you can finish the entry there; it will provide a handy link to the end of this Bleat.

Here’s Splitface, incidentally.

More like “Diagonal Wound Face.”

There’s a minxy dame who makes Tess Truehart jealous; she appears to be about 14. Question: hair, or hat?

Finally, the action ends near a theater, and take a look at those movies:

They’re real movies. Even "Ding Dong Williams." So, do they get Splitface in the end? No, they shoot him in the chest!

Sorry. Sixty-one minutes of this dreck has a depressing effect on the imagination.


As noted, there are new restaurant updates. See you at for a Lance Lawson Thursday!