Happy Black Friday, that cheerfully named post-Thanksgiving event that either takes its name from retailer's desire to avoid the red, or the after-effects of Pepto-Bismol. Possibly both. In case you're coming here for this -


it's still around. version that opens with a short flash music video is here.


Or, go straight to the index page, and ignore my hard work on the video, by going here.

Thanksgiving was one of the finest examples ever staged at Jasperwood, merry and convivial. Have Americans ever eaten this well in our entire history? I’m not talking about bounty or quantity, I mean the quality of the holiday offerings. In my youth it was Butterball and buns and a relish platter, mashed potatoes and humble gravy. The basics, lovingly done. Now every item has been tweaked and upgraded and infused and reinterpreted – I’m surprised we don’t read articles about how the stuffing franchise had a much-needed reboot in the early 2000s – and everything is just incredibly better. And also the same. It’s still turkey, bread, stuffing, relish platter, corn, pertaters, and gravy, but it’s the difference between AM and FM.

Brother-in-law brought wine from China. He goes there on business now and then. We were all curious to see what lead-corked melamine-tainted wine was like. It was awful. It had a few bubbles, but you could say the same thing about a shallow pond with a decomposing body on the bottom.  There were other bottles, of course. There are always other bottles.

After the meal the kids went to the basement to practice their play – they always do a play at Thanksgiving, which sounds cute, but they always devolve into plotless mayhem and dancing. The adults played Charades, of all the damned things. Sis-in-law bought a Charades-enabling kit at Restoration Hardware – a can of sticks on which charadeable subjects were written. But it was made in China, and run through the same translation matrix you find applied to chopstick instructions. One of the songs, for example, was “Jeremiah was a Bull Frog.” The “words of wisdom” genre was mangled as well – “Do not count your bridges until you have come to them, to be the burning” or something like that. Hilarity all around.

Jasper Dog got his usual plate at the end of the meal – no bones, don’t worry. Then he parked himself in the kitchen and put his head between his paws and stared up at the leftovers for an hour. Now he’s up on the bed, stretched out as if leaping across a great chasm. I just realized that Thanksgiving is the only meal he ever begs from me. He knows I never give him scraps – not because I am a cruel master, but because I know my wife slips him stuff, and because I don’t want the annoyance. He gave up on me a long time ago. But on Thanksgiving he comes to me and sits by my chair and looks up and softly whines, like this is special. And it is – we only eat in the dining room a few times a year, and it’s a feast, and he seems to think I’m the boss of this, too. Took me 13 years to realize that. 

I just went into the bedroom to see how he was – eyes twitching, mouth moving, paws vibrating in some ancient dream. He woke up – stretched – gave my hand a lick – and silently issued a hind-gust that would make Satan himself drop to one knee – although whether in horror or admiration, I can’t say.

Sorry the usual updates aren’t updating – the Gobbler took all my attention. But hey, I had some time earlier while doing this and/or that, and decided I can’t go back on the 100 Mysteries promise. One per week. Can’t wait to finish this project. Ten down. Ninety to go. 


Hey, this has potential. It begins with THE BIGGEST CLOCK IN THE WORLD. At the sound of the chimes, the time will be Grand National:


Instead of another Dick Tracy, as I expected, we get another protagonist from another media platform – pulps and radio, in this case.

The Shadow Strikes? That’s going to leave a – well, nothing, except perhaps a fleeting sensation of a minor temperature variance. “Rod La Rocque” sounds like a cheesy nom de pron from the “Boogie Nights” era, and you’re thinking that can’t possibly be his name. He was actually born Roderick La Roque De la Rou, and had many names, including “Bob La Rock.” He made 104 films, and but his career sputtered after “Meet John Doe” in 1941, and that was it for the flicks.

The Shadow never really grabbed me. His powers make no sense. He had the ability to “cloud men’s minds,” as if he exuded some sort of psychic BO. No one could see him, but they could hear him. But he wasn’t invisible. He just made people think he was invisible, somehow. In a way he was an early Bruce Wayne – wealthy man-about-town by day, always accompanied by the Lovely Margo Lane, always running into some nefarious plot. Orson Welles was a decent shadow; he made The Shadow a pensive, intelligent character. After him, it’s pulp. Well, let’s see how this works.

According to the credits, there’s no Margo Lane; a little research indicates that she first appeared on the radio show in 1937, the year this film was made. She wasn’t an established character yet. (Fun fact: on the radio she was played by Endora from Bewitched.)

Two minutes into the movie, it’s apparent that it’s awful. The Shadow of the radio show was known for his mocking laugh; it was how he always announced his presence to the Underworld, because it just freaked them out. Gunsels, hoods, molls and kingpins: everyone knew that when you heard a strange tinny mirthless laugh from somewhere in the room, the Shadow was there. In this movie, the Shadow walks in on a couple of safecrackers and says “Sorry, boys.” One of them turns around and says: “The Shadow!” Because that would be the obvious conclusion when you saw someone in a dark room. Who looked like this:


That’s like Batman showing up in a chicken suit. The Shadow calls the cops – keep in mind we have no idea how he knew the criminals were breaking into the safe – then, when the police arrive, he  impersonates the lawyer whose office the crooks were burgling. He does that throughout the film to get to the bottom of the mystery. I can’t tell what the mystery is. I don’t care. Let’s scan ahead for the obligatory dame:

Agnes Anderson. Her eleventh film, and her last. Don’t feel bad for her; she went into cosmetics and real estate,  lived an additional 71 years, and died last February. She went into cosmetics and real estate. 

I did other things while this played in the background, but I kept an ear open for salient Shadow-based lines or plot-points. Having reached the end, here’s your Shadow checklist:

Number of times he laughs in the dark to chill the blood of superstitious criminals: 0

Number of times he says “the weed of crime bears bitter fruit”: 0

Number of times he says “who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? Me! Me! I do! I do!” or some variant close to the original character’s utterances: 0

Number of times he bothers to cloud men’s minds: 0

Number of times he enters a dark room in a hat with his face obscured: 1/2

Number of helpful expository newspapers that tell you the story’s pretty much done, and use a word never seen in newspaper headlines ever: 1


In short, it’s not a Shadow movie. There’s just the name “Shadow” tacked on here and there. It’s not like Batman in a chicken suit – it’s like a “Batman” movie in which a guy does nothing like Batman and doesn’t dress like Batman and doesn’t speak in a husky voice or ride around with a grim look being conspicuously annoyed by the death of his parents and other problems in the world, but still says “I’m Batman” twice.

The part that will haunt me the rest of the night: the picture on Lamont Cranston’s office wall. It’s like a pre-Peter Max image of a Turkey Woman born aloft on baseball bats through the corn dog forest.

Ugh. One more of these.