Hope your weekend was whatever you wanted it to be. It was rainy around here, which was fine by me for a day; then it was sunny and hot, which is equally fine by me. The best thing about the end of the weekend is knowing that Monday follows. (I love Mondays.) No, come to think of it, there was a problem. Once upon a time we would have gyros from Aida, a Mediterranean restaurant noted for the quality of the food and the inability to get the order right. Every single time we ordered, they got something wrong - and we're not talking orders of particular complexity. This time my wife ordered two gyros with just meat, with tabouli, hummus, and sauce on the side. Otherwise it's just soggy by the time I get it home.

We got two gyros with meat, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, drenched with sauce, with sauce on the side.

I give up.

No, come to think of it, there was one other blot on the weekend: the vandals decided to enlighten us all with a red message on the new bridge:

If anything, I'm afraid of your spelling.

Down the street:

Oh, what a happy life awaits them.

Traders Joe:

"How are you?" said the clerk.

"Welllll," I began.


"No, I didn't say I was well." He looked up from the beeping. "I said 'well' with a pause, considering a response."


"See? Like that. If I wanted to way I was well I'd say 'I'm well.' If you just say 'well,' it's prelude to something, right?"

"Got it, got it."


"I'm fine."

"Good to hear it."

Traders Joe conversations are the best. They're all friendly and smart and they all play along. Went next door to Infinite Intoxicants, and put the items up on the belt.

"Hello," chirped the clerk.

"Greetings," I said.

She smiled. "I saw an old TV show from the 20s called 'The Outer Limits' and someone said that just like you did."

Sometimes one sentence reveals an endless expanse of - well, I don't want to say ignorance, because that sounds harsh. How about "scant acquaintance with history."

The Twenties.

"'The Outer Limits' was from the early 60s," I said, kindly, now the aged sage of such things. "There wasn't any TV in the 20s. Well, there was early TV, with inventors like Philo Farnsworth and Lee DeForest Kelly but no broadcast networks, really, until after the war. World War Two."

"Oh! I didn't know. I saw some of the remake of 'The Outer Limits' and then I saw some of the original ones and I didn't know when they were from."

Bless her heart - and I say that in the genuine Northerner sense, not the passive-aggressive barbed Southern sense - but how can you think A) there was broadcast TV in the TWENTIES, and that it looked like something from the SIXTIES?

Because it's black and white. I guess. But it betrayed such a yawning gap you didn't know where to start, you didn't know how much she didn't know. The entirely of radio's heyday as a storytelling medium: no idea. I knew about old radio when I was a kid, but that's because its death was still fairly recent, and old folks couldn't shut up about it. Speaking of which - LISTEN in 2017 will be devoted to another long-running show I'm doing from start to finish, a lovely piece of serial comedy from the 40s that still delights today, if you're in the mood. I came across a rare file that's utterly fascinating. The show aired live before an audience, but was recorded for rebroadcast or AFRS distribution to the troops. It begins with a network announcer saying there's news from Guam; we take you now to the Pentagon. Then silence. Then it cuts to the studio, where the star of the show is bantering with the small man who played the boy on the show. The file name is "Pre-show," but the banter discusses how long the news will go on, and how they'll have to do the show faster than usual, so it's not a pre-show warmup. It's the actors vamping into hot mikes as they wait out a pre-emption, wondering how they'll get everything in. Absolutely fascinating.

The writer of the shows, btw, was John Whedon, the grandfather of the director of the Avengers movie and Firefly and such, Joss Whedon. I would love to interview him about his forebear. He was in his twenties when the old man passed; he has to have some stories. Grandpa wrote for TV, too. Back in the thirties.



From a Western stories magazine c. 1935, some of those plaintive messages sent out into the great American void. Where did you go? Why won't you come back?

Before Facebook, there was the back of pulp magazines.

There will be some good ones and some dull ones, but it's all to set the stage for the last one.


Curzon P. Howe. There a few in Ancestry.com. As for P.B., you wonder if it was Peter or Polly.

As for the school: Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the nation’s oldest technological research university. Doesn't look as if they do dental work anymore.

If you google the name and Dentist, you get a 1906 Scottish Dental Association entry. To wit:

The reason for the procedure? She had chromic indigestion, caused by "the exceptionally bad state of her teeth."

She was having the lot out when she succumbed, and a post-mortem showed that her heart was "small" and "thin."

This has nothing to do with the entry, but it shows how far afield you can wander if you've the time.





It's the German "All Quiet on the Western Front," mentioned a few weeks ago in the discussion of "M." There was a poster on the wall for a movie, and I googled to see if it existed. It did, and it's on YouTube. It's an amazing movie.

I didn't watch it with subtitles, for reasons irrelevat to this. It doesn't really matter. You know what a German movie about the Western Front in 1918 will be about. War and defeat, sympathy and a stark finger pointed at the present. We start in a village bar, where the characters are introduced, and we get those wonderful faces of German silent movies:



Then it's off to the front - the trenches, at night, explosions, terror, death. The constant shelling, and whistling of the bombs, rattling of the guns. It has the feel of a documentary, and must have struck audiences at the time they way, say, "Platoon" did in the 80s. This wasn't ancient history.

Every frame is bleak poetry:



Of course, it's about the camaraderie; that's always what it comes down to in the start, before the inevitable horrors of the end.

There's a respite in the middle when a soldier goes home to a populace unaware of life at the front, and a wife who's caught with another man, and then it's back to the front to die. The battlefield is mostly stark, but there are scenes of destructive detail:

The final battle could be spiced up with quick editing, but Pabst just plants the camera and lets the French assault unspool for an eternity. At the end of the wave of soldiers, the tanks appear, monsters from the modern world:


It's brutal, unceasing, unrelenting, nightmarish -

And it drives men mad.

It ends in a hellish field hospital in a church, filled with the screams of the wounded and the mad ravings of the lieutenant, who completely lost it during the assault and cannot stop shouting "Hurrah" and saluting the dead and wounded. Wiki:

In a fever Karl sees his wife again and dies with the words "We are all to blame!". He is covered up, but his hand is hanging out the side. A wounded Frenchman lying beside him takes the hand in his and says "comrades, not enemies".

And the film darkens to turn Karl into a skull . . .

And then:

Hitler would answer that: nein. It would only take a few years before this realism would be incompatible with the glorification of combat. The Nazis banned the film. It showed the true face of war, and they shouldn't be allowed to do that.




I regret that there are but two matchbooks today, instead of the traditional 3. The reason is too anal-retentive to admit. I screwed up the numbering in the little books I keep on my desk, and since I already have this entire month written up in the books, I can't stand to cross out all the numbers in the subsequent weeks.

It would look . . . untidy.


Oh, er, ahem:

See you around!



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