I’m not the sort of person a young woman in her early 20s approaches in a grocery store to discuss cookies. I don’t know if anyone is. I doubt many such women exist. But as I was looking at the coffee, wondering why my favorite was never on sale anymore, I heard someone say “excuse me” for the second time. She was talking to me. She was casually dressed, but neat and well-groomed.

“Have you seen these before?” She held up a pack of Chips Ahoy! with a gooey center.

I said that I had not.

“Me neither but it doesn’t say new on the package.”

I looked; it did not. I looked at the rest of the shelf; there were four varieties of Chips Ahoy! with various add-on enticements.

“I had no idea they had so many brand extensions.”

“Many what?”

“Brand extensions. It’s when they take the basic thing and add something. But to tell the truth I don’t pay a lot of attention to Chips Ahoy! anyway.”

“Why’s that?”

What is going on here? I wondered, but continued. “They’re hard. They’re like eating plastic discs. Now, if they have gooey centers they might be better but it would still be a gooey center in a plastic disc.”

She nodded, taking that in, seeing my point.

“Oh look. This one says new.” She picked out one from the row.

“Then it’s older than the one you have there.”

“Why’s that?”

“When they first come out, they’d have ‘new’ on the package, but then the later ones would drop the ‘new’. So the one you have there is fresher.

“I don’t know if I should.”

“Well, if you try them, tell me how they turn out.”

“Oh I have a dentist appointment next week and I don’t think he’d like it. He’d think it was nasty.”

“There are more interesting Oreos, I think.”


“They have a banana split Oreo now. For a limited time,” I added.

“Maybe I’ll try that. Well, nice talking to you.” And she walked off.

I think I’d encountered what we used to call a free spirit.

Got me thinking: why are they called Chips Ahoy! anyway? Was there ever a commercial that featured some cartoon nautical figure looking through a collapsible spyglass shouting CHIPS AHOY when he sighted a confection that had more delicious chocolate chips than humanity had ever thought possible in a mass-produced cookie?



I just found that. Man, this stuff swings.



Benny Goodman, music by Louis Prima, Gene Krupa on the skins, playing what it feels like to be a man on Saturday night.

It has lyrics. Better without them. It’s like knowing there were lyrics to the classic Brit spy show, “The Avengers.” Better without them.


He’s the chap with the bowler and brolly
She’s the gal who can slay any man
He is the guy who can right things
She is the girl who wears tight things
They are the ones who will soon save the day


I made those up, but you see my point.


UPDATES: Mr. Fallow’s response is here. A friend called it the classiest flame war he’s ever seen, but credit goes to Fallows for a classy response to my initial piece.

As for the Daring Fireball piece mentioned yesterday, he has an update:

UPDATE: As a perusal of my (and @daringfireball’s) Twitter replies will show, this post was, I suppose unsurprisingly, controversial. One word I’ve seen from those whom I presume to be Pentecostals or other evangelical Christians is “hate” — examples here, here, here, here, here, here. A lack of respect is not hatred; I do not respect superstitious nonsense. But this framing — equating lack of respect with hatred — is what keeps many from criticizing nonsensical religious views.

It’s touching that he thinks anyone has trouble criticizing “nonsensical religious views” - as opposed to the ones he finds rationale; I’m sure there’s lots. Remember, he went off on a piece that tied the practice of speaking in tongues (which I find odd and unappealing and have no interest in, by the way) to meditative techniques, which are shared by other religions he might respect if they mostly just hum and are helpful about fighting climate change.

I hate to break it to him, but the rules are changed; there is no room for dissenting remarks if the person with whom you disagree is offended; then they are free to identify the source of your argument as hate, and that’s the end of the discussion.

It’s possible he’s just a -phobe, which is equally unprovable and ought to require the close reading of someone else’s heart, but we don’t do that any more, either.

Finally: “whom I presume to be Pentecostals or other evangelical Christians.” Why? I’m neither, and I found the remarks . . . off-putting. For a site that writes about tech. The more narrowly focused your blog, the less advisable it is to throw in polarizing political or religious viewpoints.



I came to this movie in the 70s, but it’s a product of the 60s. “It’s a must-own for any Gerry Anderson fan.” No better endorsement; no clearer warning.

Gerry Anderson! sYou’re going to get everything you need for crackerjack adolescent-satisfying sci-fi: spaceships, shuttlecrafts, computers, control rooms, crisp commanding officers, futuristic gadgets, and a big score. And none of it will work half as well as you hoped. The spaceships will look great, though. The computers will blink and there will be switches, but nothing makes Star Trek Sounds. The control rooms are clean but everyone is talking in a British accent for some reason, like they have their own NASA that’s just as big. The gadgets are okay. The score has a trademark echoey quality you found in soundtracks, particularly British ones, from the late 60s to the early 70s. It should be good! Why isn’t it great?

I’ve pondered that mystery for a long time. Sometimes you have a revelation - hey, the founding concept of “Space: 1999 was really stupid” - or you carp about the details, wondering why the UFO interceptors went hunting with one (1) missile that required a direct hit to be effective, instead of just blowing the hell out of the area. Then you realize it’s not great because it’s all the work of someone who made horribly grinning square-headed puppets, that’s why, and never stopping thinking he was making entertainment for 8 years olds.

That said:

This is a SERIOUS sci-fi movie, big-screen, aimed at adults, hitting the cultural sweet spot at exactly the right time. Released right after 2001, lots of hard sci-fi details about flight preparation, and sets that did their best to make you feel like you were in the far-flung future of 1977 - sorry, 2069. It’s only in retrospect you realize that nearly the entire movie takes place in a few offices and bedrooms, with some nifty FX work in between. Is it great? No. But I’ll tell you this, as someone who always regarded Anderson as the Charlton Comics to Stan Lee’s Marvel: it’s pretty good.

For a movie with a ridiculous premise, anyway. It’s the sets. It’s a big, wide, set-designer-gone-wild feast. You can tell it’s the future because of the numbers and X-ray scanners!

That’s Herbert Lom. Also in the movie is a guy who’s like a tougher, meaner, bulldog version:

Patrick Wymark, who appeared in “Where Eagles Dare,” of course, - he’s the head of Eurosec, the space agency for the continent. Bites off cigars and has people killed. That kind of guy. Died shortly after the movie was made, alas.

It's the sets, not the acting or dialogue, that make the first half interesting.

The set designer was not Ken Adam, but he learned a few things:

They were done by Bob Bell, who did a lot of work for Anderson.

In the future, monitors will be small, but people’s eyesight will have developed so they can watch them from across the room!

Good so far, but needs a cynical Yank done up JFK style:

Yes, it’s Ed Bishop, the actor who starred in UFO. (His car makes an appearance in the movie as well.)

Offices are huge in the future, and the furniture is so uncomfortable no one even tries to sit in it:


Yes! Picturephones! Oh how we wanted picturephones back then.


Then we got them, and our reaction was a mix of “nice” and “this isn’t what I thought, but it’ll do.” Then our phones became picturephones, and our reaction was “I look like crap from this angle.”

Behold, the IBM Selectric X-389 of 2069!

Oh, the plot? Eurosec discovers another planet on the other side of the sun, and they can’t get their own their own; they need American money. Which means NASA sends over a craft . . .

. . . cool model; the passenger portion detaches and drives up to the airport gate, which is completely, ridiculously inefficient, like having your car disgorge a golf cart so you can drive from the garage to the door to the house.

Meet the astronaut, Mr. Jerk, and his wife, Rhed Knotrakelwelsch:


That’s Lynn Loring, who was married to Roy Thinnes. And that’s Roy Thinnes.
The press is on hand to meet him, and you can really tell it’s 1969 in a shot like this.

Give it to me, baby! Photographers are hip.

2069, currently undergoing a vintage crazy for 1970:

The astronaut’s wife is a cold, mean witch who torments him because he became sterile from going into space; she taunts him constantly about how he’s really not a man.

Uh huh. Guy’s about to take a rocketship to another planet. Not a man. Got it. Also, she’s on birth control pills, which means she’s catting around, and he had another doctor test him out and he’s not shooting blanks, and then he slaps her. So we hate the hero and have no idea why this subplot exists, but well, on it goes.

The control room. Those Future Chairs from the Future that were also in apartments at the time, but apartments that looked like they could be from The Future:

Great model work, although the rocket’s a bit squatty. But great model work. The only problem is the immobile trees; when something explodes and fireballs go everywhere, the trees stand still.

The interrogation room. Great use of space. You sit in the pit, and you're swiveled around depending on who's talking to you. Why a space agency needs an interrogation room isn't quite explained.

A guy at a terminal. Some things will never change. He makes me think he's waiting for Vigo the Carpathian.

What’s on the other side of the sun? Read no more if you want to find out. Basically, it’s this:

A mirror earth. Where everything one does is duplicated. In reverse. Makes no sense. Fun fact: Anderson shot the Mirror Earth like any other scene, then flipped the film. Once on Turner TV someone thought it was screwy, and flipped it around again, so the mirror earth wasn’t, unless the scenes with the astronaut on Mirror Earth had the Mirror Earth version of the guy on Regular Earth. They play it out as long as they can, then finish up with something that’s spectacular and utterly depressing.


The title theme is here, complete with oddly romantic piano interlude. It's every Barry Grey piece that ever left me cold, right there. In general I just don’t feel Barry Grey’s music - except for the opening of the “Space 1999” theme before it goes full whacka-chicka, and of course that other theme. Here’s a guy who wrote miles and miles of scores for things like “Supercar,” for heaven’s sake, and he turns around and knocks off the tightest, sharpest theme of the 70s.



Still, Laurie Johnson was better.



He’s the chap with the bowler and brolly
She’s the gal who can slay any man
He is the guy who can right things
She is the girl who wears tight things
They are the ones who will save the day






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