I am prematurely festive, which is good. Right? Spoken like a man who doesn't have to cook, I know. Spoken like someone whose obligations consist of putting the table together and eating things on the table and then putting the table away. Last year we went to Fargo and ate in a restaurant, which was fun. It was miserably cold and in the evening the wind whipped up and the snow came; it was one of the most godforsaken yet completely normal Fargo moments ever, and I remember sitting in the warm car with the heater blasting, listening to some celestial ambient music, watching the snow gather in the parking lot lights.
Usually we have local family and strays; this year it's just my dad, coming down for the feast. No Belgians or Frenchpersons or Walloons or that one guy who came that one year. Pity; I like a full house, and it means that there's virtually no chance someone will want to start a conversation about politics. Apparently this is a big dreadful fear among many - a Crazy Uncle or a Daft Gramps will bring up politics OUT OF NOWHERE, and instead of treating it like a soft fart and agreeing that all will ignore and carry on, some people gird their loins with Facts and Truth to gently guide the doddering old fool towards the light. This has happened, a few times, but I've never been the instigator. The last time I got in trouble was when a relative was going on about the moral obligations of recycling, and I said it had practical limitations and did not constitute a virtue, which was apparently like saying "I'll bet they could find Jesus' bones in a cave if they looked hard enough" to the Pope. Not a virtue? Excuse me? Recycling wasn't virtuous? No, it was just rational reuse, in the best case scenarios. It doesn't make you a good person. And you're not a bad person if you don't. I mean, I recycle everything,but it's no reflection on my character one way or the other.
It was a fun discussion, but pointless. As was the time my brother-in-law's Mother launched into a tirade against Nicolas Sarkozy. Yes. The French politician. She lives in France, and does not speak English. I could tell she didn't like him, and asked my brother-in-law (who is French) to translate. Turns out she was ranting about his wardrobe. She hated his suits.
This year? Pour Dad a drink and ask him a bit more about the war. About Thanksgivings past. About that relish tray that always had celery, radishes, and carrots. Really? Celery? No dip, just nude celery? Was that for Grandpa? Probably not; those will tax the adhesive power of Fixodent, and you didn't want your Thanksgiving ruined because your chopper-glue lost its purchase.
It's out. I have the last essay in the book, which either means it's one of the best, or they figured people would have lost interest by then, or because I asked for it. Which I did.
I wish I hadn't said that. Anyway, there are many other fine writers in a dazzling variety of styles. Or a dizzying variety. This is why I don't write blurb copy.
If you're watching "Fargo" - and you should, it's fantastic - you may have seen this on the last episode.
That's actually Fargo. Sort of. The building second from the left is the ugly World Trade Center in Baltimore. The building on the far left is the Radisson hotel. The building in the middle is the Gate City Savings building, and the one on the right is the old First National Bank.
Not one of them is in the right place. For example:
They're inverted. Now, normally I wouldn't care, but -
Well, actually, I don't, really. But it does irritate me when there's an actual city named Fargo they could use for shooting scenes of "Fargo" that take place in Fargo. It's like Day for Night. Vancouver for Washington DC. But no.
"Should we shoot something in Fargo? We can send a second unit down and get some B roll. Heck, maybe just some stills. I hear there's a great big movie marquee that says FARGO, that would be great for really establishing a sense of place."
"Hmmm. Interesting. No, just cut and paste some pictures from their Wikipedia page.'
A short and early Listen today, but rich and potent with broadcast history!! Secret documents, never before seen!!
Until Astrid put them up on Facebook, that is.
She found a letter from a CBS radio exec who took "The Couple Next Door" apart for all sorts of trivial reasons. Keep in mind this guy is recounting something he heard once.
The thing is, he's right. More or less. And it suggests he was a close listener to the technical aspects of radio, which were important for creating illusion: if you saw someone on stage pick up an enormous styrofoam sledgehammer and not pretend it was heavy, it would throw off the illlusion. If a phone rings in the distance and someone on-mike says "I'll get it" and answers it off-mike half a second later, we may not consciously wonder how he got across the room so fast, but it'll jar.
Using the date of the letter, I've found the episode. Judge for yourself.
Now, something else. Sept. 30, 1962 is regarded as the end of radio drama. Thtat's when CBS pulled the plug on the Golden Age, ending "Suspense" and "Johnny Dollar." But retrenchment had been in the works for a while. Radio was to TV as newspapers are to the internet.
Peg's daughter, Astrid, passed this along.
This answered a question I'd had for a while: when did she know the show was doomed?
A month in advance. Well, assuming she had her scripts done a few weeks forward, that means she had time to plan the show's conclusion. I don't know if she knew before the letter came; I imagine she suspected it, and the letter was possibly a formality. But up to Oct. 25, she was laying out the next big plot arc, another trip to Europe. Aunt Effie had arrived for a stay. For a few weeks it was the usual series of stories - but then the bomb drops:
Didn't see that coming.
Now. This is three months' worth of material, right there. But there are only four episodes left. Mrs. Piper's reaction to the news? Good! Something new will happen. Something new will come along.
When you know the end is coming, it makes sense. At the time it might have struck the audiences as surprising; there's a lot of talk about what their new life will be. The wife's unconcern, and faith in the future, is charming.
But that's not where it ended. There were fourshows left to go. The last episode of the radio show has everyone flying back to Montana in Aunt Effie's small plane. The old spinster had changed quite a bit since her marriage to the cattle baron, and she'd taken up flying. I believe with all my strength that this had one purpose: a big winking joke. It put Margaret Hamilton back in the sky - not a broom, but you got the point, and you almost expected a My Little Pretty.
But that's not where it ended. Here's how the show concluded its 730+ episode run, and closed down the Ethel and Albert story's almost continuous run.
The date on the last ep. is November 25, 1960. Which was also Peg's birthday. When her show came to an end, she threw herself a party.
Have yourself a fine feast! Happy Thanksgiving, in advance.
Don't miss the Industrial - it's not only a fine piece of middlebrow cultural aspiration, it features . . . the co-star of the Couple Next Door.