The Element, as I noted last week, was struck by another car, and required repairs. I told the shop to check the oil and filters and belts as well, fully expecting to hear that each needed replacement. It had been a long time since I had changed the filters, since my first reaction at one of those Quik-E-Lube-R-Up joints is to reject every piece of advice they give. I want my oil changed. That is what I asked you to do. It’s like going in to get your teeth cleaned and being told you should lose some weight.

Which reminds me; have to have a tooth put in. Add that to the list of things for February. It’s a multi-step process that includes anesthetic by needle, so who cares? I won’t be there. Anyway: I trust this garage, because I’ve gone there for years and never been able to figure out how they’re screwing me over, and that’s a level of professionalism you have to respect.

The guy on the phone said I needed a new serpentine belt, and not knowing what it was I had no argument. Oil filter, yes. Cabin air filter, yes. I’ve had the car for eight years, but it only has 50,000 miles, so I was surprised to learn my brake pads were “at 10 percent.”

So soon?

“Oh, most start to get like this after 30,000 miles.” He said their longevity was a testament to my driving habits, and I had to stifle a laugh; I have horrible driving habits, at least when it comes to what I’ve been taught. Jackrabbit starts, for example. The light is green, I go. I don’t know why some people take a second or two to collect their nerve before heading out on the next journey. PUNCH IT, BISHOP. My wife frequently complains about my driving, because I am a man and she is my wife, and I do not regard driving as the equivalent of settling into a chair on a monorail. It is an adventure, a process, a battlefield whose constant evolution requires ever-modulating shifts in strategy. Of course, she can’t tell that I have excellent situational awareness, and am incorporating the various speeds of the vehicles ahead into my decisions; no one can get into someone else’s head when they’re driving. But I do one thing that apparently is rare these days.

When I see red lights way ahead on the freeway, I do not hit the brakes. I take my foot off the gas for a second or two to see how this plays out. Because if everyone touches the brakes then a clot emerges for no reason. Maybe that’s why the pads lasted so long.

When I picked up the car and talked to the crew chief I said I’d asked the mechanic to hold on to the pad so he could show me how degraded it was.

“So if you could bring out the bare brake pad you keep around to show the customers to pretend that’s what came from their car, and I could pretend I recognized it, that would be great.”

He stared at me for a second and then burst into laughter, as did the receptionist.

“Oh he’d fit in here,” she said.

Now, parse that. Does that speak to a style of frank japes about customers behind their backs? Or just good-natured fun they have to stifle when the normal folks show up?

Got in my car after three days apart. Washed, clean, up to snuff, tires rotated, filters fresh - and I swear it had a new car smell. Mostly oil and atomized shards of metal, but it’s perfume.

An uncharacteristically short Bleat this Monday, because it’s just so long. Or was, until I split it up into two entries. I do go on, I know. I have a column to write, and I’d like to get to some TV - there are six more episodes of “The Fall,” a British show with Gillian Anderson as an unemotional police detective tracking down a serial killer. I am reasonably sure she will get him. The only question these days is whether all the cliches of the genre are observed, and the Heroine finds herself in the clutches of the bad guy in the last episode, or whether he is captured in the penultimate episode and there’s one more episode of tense interrogation. Neither is particularly satisfying. If the guy is shot, then he pays without suffering, and the entire point of these shows is to provide the idea of retribution as much as justice. Right? I mean, he inflicts horrible pain and suffering and fear, and his evil actions ripple out through friends and family. Bang! You get the quick exit.

If he’s captured, then you know he will go to jail forever, which is punishment, of course, and hardly a lark. But if she sat there and tried to get answers out of him about his motivations, and was met only by sneers and sullen glares, and she shrugged and took out her service piece and shot him in the knee, well, that’s something. But it would be torture. Unless she shot him in the knee while apprehending him. Then it would be okay.

The bad guy’s motivations - his entire character, really - don’t make sense, inasmuch as he is a father who loves his little daughter, but now and then nips out for the odd bit of MURDERING GIRLS. Saying “he’s just a bit bent that way” doesn’t really explain it, and I probably wouldn’t watch it except that it’s well-made, and well, Gillian Anderson. Even if she is so chilly that men in a White Star Line crows nest would ring a bell when they saw her coming.

Usually on weekends I watch a Movie, something recent, but not this one. Last weekend I got in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (10/10) and “The Tom Cruise Movie Where He Keeps Dying” (9/10) but for some reason this last week I watched two Bond films over the course of the weeknights, in Netflix HD - “Goldfinger,” in which Bond crashes his car and then gets dragged around by the bad guy until he tries to save the international economy by maneuvering a smiling butler into a situation where he can be electrocuted, and “You Only Live Twice,” my favorite Bond movie of them all. The first one I saw - as I’ve mentioned, my Dad took me to see it, perhaps to teach me the Ways of the World, and it actually scared me. When Tiger Tanaka notes that a tourist who took a picture of a ship was “liquidated,” I took it literally, and imagined some horrible process by which people were turned into fluids. The rest of it was amazing, though, and the volcano base is more impressive now when I consider it was a set. Plus the music. The mid-century design of the Lair. Those two brief POV shots from Bond’s perspective on the monorail as it traveled around the base - a brilliant touch. Donald Pleasance as the best Blofeld, remote and cruel.

“Fantasia” also hit Netflix, and I’ve been working through it one piece at a time.

But that’s another Bleat.




Now it's time for our weekly excursion into non-colored entertainment, to see what odd alleys we might discover. This week we go back to 1935, when movies took place in the distant future:

It starts out with songs familiar to anyone who’s seen “Singin’ in the Rain” - “Broadway Melody” and “Lucky Star,” sung in a radio studio that reminds you what people thought radio was like.

That’s Harry Stockwell. He sang the role of the Prince in “Snow White,” and was the father of a guy who ended up in, oh, Battlestar Galactica, Quantum Leap, and so on. Dean Stockwell.

The orchestra’s on stage; behind the glass, a newsman prepares to tell Mr. and Mrs. America the latest dope.

Hey, wait a minute:

It’s Don Wilson, the announcer for the Jack Benny show. Nice to see he was on screen early. Let’s go to the news, shall we? Hey, wait a minute:


It’s Jack Benny.

The first big song and dance number has some inventive sets.

That was easy to time. But consider the pressure on this bartender fellow; if he screws up the toss they have to reset and start again.

There’s a tap-dance number on the rooftop, because that’s what young people do when they’re in New York and poor and full of high spirits. The hoofer is wearing something I’ve never seen in a movie of the era: a recognition of the reality outside the film.

Mickey. The fellow’s a pretty good dancer, too. Whee-doggies Unca Jed. Never occurred to me before, but “whee-doggies” was probably borrowed from Lum & Abner, where “ii-doggies” - an inexplicable oath - was a catch-phrase. Anyway, the hoofer has a sister:

Literally. You wonder how she dealt with people saying “You’re Buddy Ebsen’s sister? Of course! Now I see the resemblance.”

As for the story, you might be surprised to find that someone’s trying to put on a show, but has difficulty raising money and finding the right star.

Later, some interesting dummy copy.

The Laconia is sailing, eh? In 1936? Hmm:

On 25 February 1917 she was torpedoed by SM U-50 6 nautical miles (11 km) northwest by west of Fastnet while returning from the USA to England with 75 passengers (34 first class and 41 second class) and a crew of 217 commanded by Captain Irvine. The first torpedo struck the liner on the starboard side just abaft the engine room, but did not sink her. 20 minutes later a second torpedo exploded in the engine room, again on the starboard side, and the vessel sank at 10:20 pm. 12 people were killed, six crew and six passengers, including two American citizens, Mrs. Mary Hoy and her daughter, Miss Elizabeth Hoy, who were originally from Chicago.

Can’t be that. Was there another?

The successor of the Laconia of 1911, Cunard's second Laconia was launched on 9 April 1921 at the Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson yard in England.
The ship took her maiden voyage in May 1922 from Southampton to New York, and a year later became well known for undertaking the first Cunard World Cruise.

In September 1934, Laconia collided with a US freighter, Pan Royal, off the coast of the USA. Both ships were extensively damaged, however Laconia returned to New York and after repairs resumed cruising in 1935.

She was torpedoed in ’42.

They made a movie about it:



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