It only takes a week for the balance to shift - from a cityscape full of brown, red, and greens in the hues of strange lizard's bellies, to a place where the bare limbs outnumber the leafed trees. We have some late bloomers, so to speak, on the boulevard, and they go out with glory, but when the flame is fully involved you know there are just days from the arrival of the groundskeepers. They gather everything and pile it in heaps and feed it to the machine. The next day it's quiet and there's nothing left but the waiting. When the snow does come it's almost merciful, a decent thing to do, a sheet pulled over the face of the world.

Hello! How's your day? Mine's fine. Sorry for that, but it's raining and the sun was wan and I've spent the last three days on a piece about graveyards. The piece took an hour to write, and the video took longer. Odd how that works. But there was futzing and editing and tweaking, and while it's not work in any possible sense of the word, it keeps the thing alive in your head, so you can't fold it up and file it away. Now a Halloween column.

Some years I enjoy it with good-natured indulgence. Never disliked it. Most years I'm just a few degrees on the happy side of tolerance. Daughter is enjoying it, as kids always do: she's going as a loaf of Wonder Bread this year. Everyone knocks Wonder Bread as the epitome of Bad American Things, a ruination of the very idea of bread. Soft as a pillow, weightless, spongy, with the name ready-made for mockery. I don't think it's good, compared to the marvelous array of bread you can buy today, and it wasn't good compared to the fresh bread they made at the Super Valu up the street. We lived half a block from the Northport Shopping Center, and when the Super Valu baked bread the perfume filled the air. Providing the sugar-beet factory wasn't spewing its vomitous wind, that is. But even that bread was White; Whole Wheat didn't come along until later, and I don't think many North Dakotans got the point of it at first. So it's harder and brown. Okay. It was also made elsewhere, and shipped in. The local bread was supermarket-specific, or Holsum from the downtown bakery.

Took me years before I figured out the name.

Anyway, at the time, Wonder Bread was just that: it stayed soft longer, and soft meant fresh. It was pre-cut, yet did not dry out. How? SCIENCE. Here's a fact that tells you what we take for granted:

Unsliced bread returned for a while during World War II due to a steel shortage that led to an industry-wide slicing suspension in 1943. Bread slicers returned two years later.

Because of the war, bread will not be pre-sliced. On one hand that's not a small sacrifice. On the other, it reminds you how the war worked its way into the smallest domestic detail. On the gripping hand, it reminds you that we haven't face such trivial inconveniences for decades; it's just inconceivable. NO GREEK YOGURT WITH SPRINKLES ON TOP FOR THE DURATION. Mutters of disgust and possibly riots.

Amazing COPS the other night. Police see man & women shooting a gun, then run into port-a-potty. They surround the commode and demand that the people inside come out. But the Cops don't know that the port-a-potty is actually a dimensional gateway that hoovers up people from an alternate reality, and deposits them in another reality with a vague sense of what might be happening. So when the female is detained, she says she doesn't have any relevant information about a firearm. (I'm paraphrasing.) The male is confused as well. They were just hangin' and chillin' in a small box stinking of urine and feces; what can this possibly be about?

You can well imagine their consternation, and the disorienting sense of dread - pitched into this alternate reality, they can only plead what they know to be true, while fully aware that the police in this dimension are assuming a variety of facts that existed in the reality where the now find themselves.

I tell you, it's Kafkaesque. But they struggle on. Informed that there were shots fired in this dimension, and that persons who match their description exactly were illuminated by muzzle fire and subsequently observed entering the port-a-potty, they mount a full-force defense: they had heard something, which might be shots, and had taken shelter in the port-a-potty. But here's the cruel trick of fate: just before some alien intelligence interceded and teleported out the malefactor in our dimension, he threw the hot pistol into the depths of the port-a-potty. When our innocent 2 AM park perambulators found themselves rematerialized in the odiferous plastic confines of the public lav, they were assumed by the police to be the ones who had ditched the gun.

It's a nightmare! The cops don't believe you at all! There's no way to make them understand that your habitation of the port-a-potty or proximity to the gun or resemblance to the persons observed firing the weapon and running is a horrible, spectacular coincidence. The only way the male involved with this travesty of justice can establish some sort of fellow-feeling with the arresting officer is to appeal to his manly imperatives: if you were in a park at night hoping for some sex, wouldn't you go into the port-a-potty for privacy?

But oh, no, we're not in the dimension of human sympathy. The officer is quite possibly one of those strange fellows who married and has young children, and the idea of a romantic assignation in this TURDIS doesn't connect.

It should be noted that the suspects not only swore they were telling the truth, but promised they were telling the truth. But the officers seemed unconvinced. It's horrible how the job hardens the heart, and the very possibility of interdimensional body-swapping is just off the table. We are, at heart, a remarkably incurious species.


You can go the many-scurrying-scary-things idea, or go with the Big Owl:

It's June Lang, born in Minneapolis in 1917. Imdb:

This approachable blue-eyed blonde with a striking, open-faced beauty had a very encouraging career going for her in 30s Hollywood but extenuating circumstances hurt her chances in the long run.

Hmm. What would those circumstances be?

Fox sent June to England in 1938 to film So This Is London (1939) but the threat of war there so terrified her that she abandoned the set and returned home. Fox quickly ended her contract for making that choice. Worse yet, a disastrous and ill-conceived 1939 marriage to handsome Chicago mobster Johnny Roselli tarnished her Hollywood reputation completely.

Ahhh. As for Johnny:

On August 9, 1976, Roselli's decomposing body was found in a 55-gallon steel fuel drum floating in Dumfoundling Bay near Miami, Florida. Federal investigators suggested he may have been killed by Chicago mobsters for keeping an unfair share of the mob's gambling interests in Las Vegas.

Or was he offed by the CIA to cover up his role in a plot to kill Castro?

I'd say no. When you're taking about mobsters ending up dead, it's best assume their throats were slit with Occam's Razor.




It’s the exciting conclusion of The Black Widow! Thirteen episodes, a peculiar number - they’re usually 12 or 15. Let’s see what portentous title we have now . . .


. . . and the exciting recap, with sultry and imperious villainess:

Dressed as Joyce, we saw her empty a revolver into Steve Colt. Given how he treated Joyce throughout the episodes, it’s possible that actually was Joyce, seizing the opportunity to plug this insufferable jerk once and for all.

What happened was surprising, and shows that Steve is watched over by a very important variety of angel: the film editor.

So she hit Junior Hench by mistake, and then missed Steve SEVEN times. Crack shot, our would-be-Queen of the World. Well, doen’t matter; Ward got the auto-gyro.

One last appearance from the guy in the magically-appearing chair. Hey, this is new:

He can walk! He wants the rocket delivered HERE, to the fortune telling studio, so he can examine it. Steve, back at the newspaper office, realizes he can use the 2-way radio in Ward’s car to triangulate the position of the lair. Agents are standing by for triangulation:

That’s probably the director’s neighborhood. Steve gets the coordinates, and sends the police! Who might well ask “what? Why? When have you kept us in the loop about anything? You figure it out."

Soon the police cars converge on the backlot - er, the headquarters:

And still no one’s said “That’s where Sombra, the Fortune Teller we talked to twice has an office. What an astonishing coincidence. Anyway, let’s see what’s up.”

Then the scales fall, and it’s a moment of great ah-ha drama:


Since the title is “Life for a Life” you know they’re going to barter Joyce for safe passage. Colt says he’ll rush the place and fire a shot if there’s any trouble, and of course the Police Inspector says “Good idea.” Steve goes up and confronts Sombra, who stalls while she releases . . .


But he sees it reflected in a cigarette case, and upends the table. Fistfight - and DOUBLE JUSTICE.

And that’s it for the titular villainess. So to speak. Meanwhile, in the other room, Jaffa, the scientist, pulls a knife on the would-be ruler of the world, and tries to escape in his teleporting chair.


Nice entrance, Steve. But what about the costumed imp? He’s trying to escape!

JUSTICE. Joyce is freed, and gets on the blower to phone in the story. And what a story! Four dead, atomic-rocket thieves who wanted to rule the world defeated, strange inter dimensional evil revealed, many mysterious murders solved! It’ll burn up the front page for weeks!

Eh . . . never mind.

Verdict: All in all, a strong A minus. The hero was . . . a jerk, and the the Gal Sidekick better than her lines, but a teleporting imp and an imperious gorgeous bad gal gave it a lift. And it didn't try to pretend the California hills were the moon.

NEXT: We'll review a few also rans, and restart the feature in 2016.


A most unusual Industrial starts today; the really odd stuff comes next week, but this has its surreal moments. Yes, surreal moments. To sell Chevys!



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