I was on the radio this morning and was asked about this nice weather, how surely it makes January seem more tolerable. I said it was like a scene in a boxing movie when the fighter is sitting on the stool, eyes swollen shut, spitting teeth into a bucket, and he probably feels this is okay because I’m not out there getting my face turned into hamburger by Apollo Creed. But the bell will ring again.

But, I told the host, it was nice, and I hadn’t seen him since red and green season, and now here we were in red, pink, and white time - why, soon it would be Kelly Green time, and just as sure as eggs is eggs it would be pastel time after that. So there’s hope!

There’s always hope! The sun will come out tomorrow.

“Bet your top dollar I’d do that,” Daughter said when I asked her if we should get a bite to eat instead of eating at home.

“Your bottom dollar. You bet your bottom dollar, if you’re Annie.”

“Right right. What does that mean?”

“Your last dollar. Annie was saying you could bet your last dollar that the sun will come out tomorrow. I don’t know who would take such a stupid bet. Maybe an astronomer whose studies of the sun indicated that it was about to shut down over night, but even if that was so and you went around betting people that the sun would not come out tomorrow, what are you going to do with the money?”

“Burn it to keep warm.”

“Yeah, but that’s not going to last long. You’d have to bet a lot of people. You’d spend your last night on earth running around trying to get people to make a bet. It would be easier to accumulate wood.”

“Yeah, well, it’s a song.”

That’s the problem. Songs just don’t think things through.


Life is too short to watch bad shows about short lives cut shorter. Netflix’s insatiable need to give you 47 new series every day has them buying lots of stuff, and sometimes I’ll give a show a whirl if the premise is good. Investigating old murders can be interesting, but I’ve never seen anything go sideways and south as quickly as “The Investigator,” the problems of which I present to you today. There’s a lesson here - well, a note about the thing that infects so many “documentary” shows and taints the whole genre.

So I’ve been watching this crappy English “documentary” series about an Investigator who’s looking at the case of a man - Russell - who was sent to prison for murdering his wife, even though the body was never found. We learn right away:

The guy was a pig-farking miserable sod

He knocked his wife around

He moved his mistress into the house

After his wife went missing he faked his own death for insurance money

But does this really mean he was a killer? His daughter has approached the Investigator to learn what really happened. And you think:



But the voice-over of the Investigator says “I have looked at the records, gone to Canada, talked to police, discussed the matter with the suspect’s lovers, and I am convinced there is more to this case.”

What? WHAT? That he whistled Polly Doodle Dandy while he disposed of the body? But then in the third episode there’s a twist: a confession turns up. This is significant because he had never confessed before, but in a letter to a grandson he confesses. Well, this certainly puts a new gloss on the case, eh? They might have to overturn his conviction and convict him right away again.

But then! Ominous music! Shaky camera! There’s a new letter to The Investigator from Russell, who is prison for the murder of his wife! He says he will not be cooperating with the Investigator until he has a Solicitor, but he will say this: yes, he killed his wife, because he was in love with the mistress he moved into the house, and here’s another confession with details about what I did with the body. Burned it up. Crackle crackle crackle, rather nasty, if they’re not dead.

There seems to be shock and amazement in the room as the letter’s read: bloody hell, there’s still 35 minutes to go in this episode, and the whole pointless thing’s just crashing around our ankles. The Investigator’s voiceover says - no kidding - that the new revelation of a motive is significant. NEW? It was obvious from the start.

BUT, says the investigator, the police do not believe he could have burned the body as he said. The Investigator says - no kidding - I believe he could have done it as he said, so he burns a pig. The police say well, even if he did, and dispersed the ashes in the countryside as his farging confession said, they probably couldn’t find ash from 1986. You know, rain.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t have a scene of The Investigator driving into the countryside, getting out of the car, and looking concerned. We have to go back to the house where she was murdered, he said. That’s where will find evidence.

To prove what the subject confessed to.

But what if they dig up the backyard where she was burned? They might find remnants of the body, which would let the family put her to rest. So what began as a Mystery with Questions is now down to finding a tooth fragment.

(They dug it up and found nothing.)

It’s an hour show expanded into four-hour overhyped manipulative tripe, and is a fine brief against the plague of our era: the Ominous Soundtrack that damns whoever the host is talking about. The most ordinary moments are given tremulous import by the growling, muttering, “haunting” soundtrack.

The show’s more accurate name would be “The Quick, Brisk, Utterly Convincing Confirmation of a Murderer.” Towards the end it veers towards the mistress, asking the shocking question: COULD SHE HAVE BEEN INVOLVED?

Well, they wouldn’t bring that up if there wasn’t a thunderous conclusion that ended with the mistress brought up on charges, eh? I mean, it was strange that she impersonated the wife in Canada, and that she says she had no idea why the wife flounced off. So we’re going to see her in the dock! A satisfying conclusion!

But a letter comes from the Mistress, who says “I had no idea the wife was murdered, even though she disappeared, and Russell had me forge her signature on documents transferring her property to him, and I used her work identity number and impersonated her in another country without fear that she would show up and bust me. I was misled by love.”

But! A lawyer-type guy says there’s sufficient evidence to charge her with something that carries a hefty penalty, so The Investigator goes to the Daughter who is seeking Closure and says, well, squat is what we have, but it’s looking like the mistress might have known something. As you suspected for 30 years.

“But it’s not over yet,” says the Investigator’s voiceover. “A solicitor advised to expect a significant letter . . . from Russell.”

Indeed. He says he’s been playing a “stupid game” and made up all the confessions, because he was upset, because his mistress doesn’t talk to him anymore. He wanted to strike back, which is why he confessed to the murder and didn’t blame the mistress in any way. Show ends: all the evidence has been handed over to the police.

Who I’m sure will say cheers, mate, ta, and then look out the window to see the Investigator get in his car, and then dump everything in the trash. Bloody hell, what was he on about?


From a 1920s movie magazine, a look back to the early days of flickers.

Because the 20s had Good Old Days, too.

Early film stock, it seems, was much more brittle. I wonder if the number of sprocket holes was accurate.


I wonder when that changed, and how quickly.





This month we look at four towns, the Quad Cities of the Iron Range. Virginia was named after the state - many of the lumbermen who settled in the area were from Virginia, it seems. Almost nine thousand residents, down from 15K in 1960. It's the birthplace of Chris Pratt. whose father worked the mines until that business dwindled.

In the "arts and culture" section of its Wikipedia entry, there's this:

Eveleth at one time was one of a handful of U.S. cities with side-by-side water towers labeled "HOT" and "COLD". Eveleth no longer has two such water towers.

Drat. Well, let's see what's left.

I'll bet it was handsome, once. It is honest and plain. The lower floor - well, who knows? The "stone" may well be fake - note the way the shadows are exactly the same, as if it's a texture in a 1990s computer game.

You know, of course, what this was:

Probably a gas station, because it's at an angle on a corner. It just doesn't look like it had a gas station configuration, does it?

Here's the answer:

In one end, out the other. Haven't seen that before.

By "Drive-In," Marge seemed to me "drive over, park, get out, walk in."

Although I may be wrong. I can't see anything that looks like a drive-thru window, but there's a driveway that wraps around the building.

Maybe they had car hops who roller-skated hooch out to the customers.

Looks like Margie is quite the player in the hospitality sector:

Not any Roosevelt Bar. Margie's Roosevelt Bar. Says one review:

As with any Range bar, the pours are epic and will knock amateurs on their ass. Most likely my 6th grade teacher will end up serving a drink or two to ya.

Oh, he's right about the pours.

Some say it weeps for what it once was:

You can barely make out something on the cornice: 19 E.T. 22

What does that mean? Established? Then why would it be E. T.? If you study the building, you can start to believe it was made in two different phases. Then you study it some more, and you think it might be three.


Like the gas station, you should know what this one was used for:

A little googling called up this page, from which I've taken a detail. Hope they don't mind.



But here's something else that's odd:

The light color brick building obviously wants to be part of the dark-colored building. But it cuts itself in half.

Odd mysteries in Eveleth.

Another bar. They have a lot of bars. The building on the right might have ben a bank; the original had a two-story window, which says "banking hall."

On the left, above the second floor:

Monitor Hall. Built in 1906. "The handsomest building in town."

I tried to remember why I took tis picture, and couldn't. Until . . .

Then I remembered what stood out: they covered up all the old buildings with strange dull wooden facades.

As I said: lots of bars. You started at one . . .

. . . and kept going down the block. Stop at Snickers for pizza, of course.

Finally: if you have something to FAX FAX, hit the blue barn:


Of course, I can't get everything. Well, I could, but it would make for a very long page. Take a tour, if you wish ~


That'll do! See you around.


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