Rain and no complaints about it. I’m sure we’re still in a drought, technically. But it’s incredibly lush. Verdant, to use a word no one speaks but hacks write. The spotty yard is filling out. The lights glow under the bushes in the evening. The sky mutters and sparks. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as you say about Christmas because it’s been half a year since spring and you’re lying to yourself.



Faithful patrons are wondering when the Oak Island Water Feature will enter into the seasonal narrative; soon. I’m getting the mulch down first. Don’t tell me I should hire someone. They charge $70 for two cubic yards. I would pay about $10 for more. Yes, there’s labor, but I am not halt nor infirm, and can grapple with a bag as well as I did ten years ago. The problem is grappling with ten bags. Jimmy Ten Bags is my Organized Crime nickname, bestowed by the Giant Swede; today, while texting him that I was unable to run errands because I was on a mulch run, I decided that Running Mulch will be my Cliched Indigenous name this year.

I have done half the work. Ten bags last week on the back; looks bright and new and does a nice job smothering the weeds, or at least letting them know who’s boss. We used to have these underground creepers that wove threads all through the dirt; pulling them up was quite satisfying, like the red string on an old Band-Aid package. (When did those disappear?) Fewer of those weeds now. Mostly just junk vegetation, pointless stuff that evolved just to sprawl and choke and do its thing, as they said in the Sixties when the shackles of society where thrown off and Things could be done, regardless of the grief they caused the Man.

This week? FIFTEEN FARGING BAGS of EcoSmart Sustainably Minced Choco-Brown Tree-Shard (TM) with Color-Gard and all the other attributes that lift it high, high above mere unsustainable mulch. (Which I assume is made from shredded virgin redwoods.) I got ten bags yesterday, as well as two rolls of filthy sod. Carrying a roll of sod is as close as a law-abiding man will get to disposing of a dwarf’s corpse. Brought them up the stairs to the neat empty square where the playhouse once stood. Dug and unrolled them. After I’d shooed the dog, who of course in the whole big yard found the city the happiest spot.

Not enough. Of course it wasn’t enough. So I went back on Sunday, and thought I should get five more bags of mulch, just in case. But they had no sod. So I went to another place and they had no sod so I went to another place and Lo, Sod. Bought and drove home, filthy before anything had begun.

Well. It was supposed to rain, and rain a lot. No storms ever arrived. The chance to put off yard work because of a downpour simply did not appear, so I had no choice but to dump the 15 bags on a hill, which is fun, because you have 35 pounds in your hands and you’re on a hill, two things that make gravity think “oh this should be fun.” We did nine bags on the main side of the south hill, leaving six for the planting area at the bottom of the hill where the streets converge.

Which is when it began to rain.

But just a bit. Not enough so we ran for the house saying “it’s a dambuster, all right!” or some such colloquial observation. Just enough to soak you. But it was done and I showered and slept and woke and all was fine.

Now I have to write a piece on Mad Men, and I suppose that means I should watch it first.



This week's needless feature gleans the detritus and cast-off treasures found at my favorite antique store . . .

There's no way this isn't more than a little creepy. BURN THE PIECES






As I like to say: these aren't reviews. They're examinations of an era, with an eye towards the styles of the time and the bygone faces. That matters here, because you really don't need to know what this is about. It's a military picture; they turned out miles of these things. But don't you love the simple radiance of the films of the 40s?

The tight clean lines of an art form that had quickly matured, and was meeting the needs of a media-literate wartime population with strong forceful imagery?

Here's the thing: it's not a WW2 movie. As this should prove:

It's a 1931 movie, an early talkie that's as assured as movies that came around five years later. Like "Wings," it's a revelation - the camera moves instead of being bolted in place; the FX are satisfying for modern audiences because this stuff actually happened in real life. It wasn't conjured up inside a silent box.

Obviously this is pre-Hindenburg, but it begins where that Zeppelin perished:

We meet the fleet. That's the reason I'm using this for B&W World. These were the ships of the future, and brother, Uncle Sam had 'em.

Who knew we had so many?

That's the USS Los Angeles, I think. Wikipedia says "It was delivered to the United States Navy in October 1924 and after being used mainly for experimental work, particularly in the development of the American parasite fighter program, was decommissioned in 1932."

The what? Not what you might think. A "parasite" is a small plane lofted up by a larger one. There were others in this class; the Shenandoah, which crashed in a squall, the Macon, whihc crashed in bad weather, and the Akron, which crashed in a storm in 1931 with 73 deaths. (Highest toll of any dirigible accident.)

As you might suspect, it's about two guys fighting over a girl but being friends and comrades-in-arms until the script kills the one we're not rooting for as much as the other. More or less, that's the template. And who's the girl?

People would see her in a big monkey's hand two years later. Anyway, the movie was directed by Frank Capra, cost a huge amount of money - $650,000 - and must have seemed something like sci-fi, or at least the technothrillers we have today.

Impressive. Too bad they had a tendency to screw up and go down.

At the end, a parade for the heroes, and a straw-boater radio man at the mike.

Those stations are still around. The past? Just around the corner we turned a block or so back.

That's it for today! See you tomorrow.



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