Well! Hello! How are you? I am fine. I sprinkled paver-lock sand amongst the pebbles I strew in the front steps. There were many stones betwixt the larger stones when the job was first done, but over the years erosion apparently ground down the rocks to fine powder, which blew away when the winter mistrals came, because there’s not a damned stone left. Really: where did they go? Did crows take them off? Did quartz collectors remove them in the dead of night? I expect the mulch to degrade; it is the way of all things, but stones you expect would stick around, if only to mock the frailties of flesh. (They’re big on that. It’s like the main theme in the joke section of their monthly magazine.) But I added pebble rocks, as they are called, and added the sandy dust that supposedly binds them together, and thought all the while “at least it’s not mulch strewage.” I also wondered how such a banal task could be blog fodder, and I think I’ve just shown that it’s not.

All of which is a way of saying that I just finished a Bleat entry whose length and unexpected turns leads me to think I should pour it in the saucer to cool, or curdle. No, no, not about that. The other thing. Truly an example of discovering what you think by writing about it. Most of the time I know where I’m going, inasmuch as there’s a subject, but sometimes bringing up a subject is like striking your staff on the surface of a frozen pond - you see unexpected cracks and fractal curlicues, and the pattern is revelatory. When this occurs you want to step back and regard it for a while, so, tomorrow.

Besides, I wrote one tub-thumping piece of satire tonight that vented my spleen, so I’m spent. No, it wasn’t about that. It was about the other thing.

Actually, the other other thing. But not one of the top three things. So the other other other thing.

I know, I know: can you believe it? These times. Madness.

I'll put it up tomorrow. For now you have to be content with a yard and a half of the following content, starting with a new feature for the week.

You wouldn't believe how much of this month's Bleats will be devoted to fargin' wading pools. It wasn't intentional. Wasn't looking for a theme. It just happened, and I was apparently powerless to intervene. We start this week with some entries from a SUMMER TOYLAND ad, proudly displaying all the USA-made goods that will keep the little creatures occupied and out of your hair while you try to get something done or maybe start dinner or for heaven's sake just read a magazine if that's all right with everyone else.

Ideal's Circular Lawn-Killer had one drawback. Can you guess? Yes: storage. The inflatable ones you could roll up and put in the garage and pull it out the next year, much more smelly than it had ever been, but at least it didn't have that headachy-poison smell of fresh plastic. This one Dad had to put up in the damned rafters, secure in the knowledge that a year hence when he sat down after mowing the lawn and had just opened a beer, that's when she'd ask him if he was ever going to bring down the pool.

It took a brave parent, or a deaf one, to buy the Patriotic Set. A real fife! Lacks only the bandage so you can recreate that famous tableau.

"Clean. Patriotic, Healthful & Educational." Well, healthful in the sense that they had to move their arms to drum and move their legs to march around, but I don't think there's anyone who attributes their robust constitution to childhood parades. Still: "Clean. Patriotic, Healthful & Educational." You could put that in an ad without worrying someone would tweet a picture and add LOL JINGOISTIC INDOCTRINATION KID AMIRITE

Noble & Cooley is still around. They started out making drums for the Union Army - something you'd think they'd put in an ad like this.

More all this week.




No beating around the bush: this is before the credits.

Isn’t that refreshing? No tease. No half-glimpsed sightings behind the clouds. Here they come, folks. They're real and no one's going to spend half the movie debating what they are and where they come from. The premise is simple:

Totally an anaology for the Red Scare! I'll prove that later.

“War of the Worlds” is the best planetary invasion movie of the time. Color, great ships, the destruction of LA, heroics, atom bombs, and implacable enemies who don’t give a fig and don’t come out wearing robes telling us we’re ruining the universe, and in the interests of all the wise, noble species in the heavens, we have to be wiped out like bugs. But this one had a strange imprimatur from The Authorities: the credits say it was suggested by a work written by MAJOR Donald Keyhoe, so it’s official! Well, no. Keyhoe was an early Ufologist, as they’re called. More on that later.

Anyway, our heroes are Mr. & Mrs. Scientist, who don’t get five minutes into the movie before this:

It’s the ultimate 50s UFO. After it passes they stop and smoke cigarettes, because it’s the 50s. Well, it seems the UFOs are shooting down our rockets to keep us down on the farm. It takes nineteen minutes - including credits - for them to show up on the base and destroy things with Death Rays:

That’s not the best effect.

After blasting the hell out of the military base, the aliens take a General (who is of course Mrs. Scientist’s father) and talk to him with the quavering voice of Paul Frees.

It's a great set: wide-screen flat TV, spare chamber without any signs of tech, because they're that advanced. They speak through a thing that comes down from the ceiling.

And here's the moment that made kids wish they hadn't seen this oh I am so sorry I begged mom and dad to let me stay up and watch it

This is some nice work; you certainly know you are dealing with . . . what? They’re not called aliens. They’re Super-intelligent Beings from Another Planet. SIBFAPs, if you will. Their planet was destroyed, as is wont to happen, and they want a new home. So what do they want? To enslave us and live here. The usual.

Odd how they think the former is necessary for the latter. Hell, they could have any number of mostly empty countries. Canada would be happy to have them.

They could land and take us over, but that would cause panic, and it would be messy. Especially if they take off their helmets.

Anyway, they attack DC, and it's just great. I wonder where this. If it's DC, it's probably gone, lost a dozen years ago to a new office complex.

The saucers may be chasing people down streets as part of the Global Enslavement Initiative, but we have something they never saw coming. A special new weapon that exploits their reliance on magnetism. Hah! Never thought of that, didja bud? Trouble is,they manage to disable ships just as they’re over famous monuments, so everything gets trashed. Someone's going to get chewed out later. Couldn't you shoot them before they got within a priceless, irreplacable architectural relic fer chrissakes

The Washington Monument is toppled, and of course someone gets squished.

You have to be rather dim to be unable to get out of the way of the Washington Monument. It’s like the end of Prometheus. PERPENDICULAR. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORD.

Jazz-hands panic at Union Station:

Let's take a look at that scene in handy GIF form.

I have every intention of using that as my Monday Tumblr GIF. Even though I never feel that way about Mondays.

Bonus fun, from the imdb comments re: Keyhoe.

I always wondered how they managed to pick the name of the main character in this movie (Dr. Russell A. Marvin). That is my name, and it is very uncommon. When I saw the credits in the IMDB, I realized the answer. The inspiration for this movie was a book by Donald E. Keyhoe, who was consulted on this film. In 1956, Keyhoe started an organization called NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena). In 1956, I was a real flying saucer enthusiast, and was one of the very first people to join NICAP. I believe that they picked my name off of Keyhoe's membership list. I was 14 years old at the time.

The movie was released in the middle of 1956, so I’m thinking . . . no.

Oh, right - proof it's all a stand-in for anti-Commie paranoia? Here's a shot accompanied by the SIBFAP's world-wide message to the People of Earth:

They're fearful too. Hold on, that doesn't buttress my theory at all.

How about this, then: insidious pro-Communist propaganda to make us think "they're just like us"? Yes! No - an ingenious way of saying this isn't about anti-Communist paranoia by including a sympathetic shot. Yes!

Or good filmmaking that used the image as shorthand for the universality of the threat, and nothing more. Doesn't help the thesis, but sometimes you have to forgive art for such crass disappointments.


That's it for today! See you tomorrow.


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