Went to the small Vietnamese take-out place to pick up the order. My wife placed the order, and made the mistake of using the numbers on the menu. All Asian take-out restaurants have numbers for the items. They never let you order by number. Say "Number 63" and they will ask you what that is, every time. Why do they have numbers? What's the bloody point?

I had her place the order so it might be ready when I got there. It would have been, if I'd replaced my tires with square blocks of cement and hoped the hill would give me enough momentum so I could gun it and achieve some sort of consistent momentum. They always take forever.

So I sit there with the Vietnamese TV channel playing. I have no idea where it comes from. There's no Vietnamese channel in my cable package. The cast of characters in the tiny restaurant: the old man who came over with the Boat People; his son, who is walking around supervising; his grand-daughter, who seems to do most of the cooking. When I walked in the son pointed to a huge box on the table and said:


Possibly, but not mine; there’s no way I ordered a box’s worth of food. He showed me the order - $56 worth of stuff, the dominant theme presumably being poultry. I said no, curry mock duck -

“Ah.” He found a ticket and yelled something to the back; the daughter yelled something in reply. I was not brought into the loop. I paid and took a seat.

Four other Vietnamese people were eating something, and if you think “well, that must mean it’s good, if they eat there!” that’s like going to White Castle in Venice and saying “they must have excellent hamburgers, if Americas are there.” For some reason we never extend to other cultures the ability to have plebeian, banal culinary tastes.

One of the diners was having a high-pitched FaceTime conversation with someone who spoke in a helium register, and I wondered if she was taking to someone in Actual Vietnam. Entirely possible. And quite cool, no? We complain about not getting flying cars - although we know it would be a nightmare - and think we were somehow robbed of that marvelous future we were promised, but if you go back to 1967 I think the idea of people in Minnesota having video chats with a relative in Vietnam using a hand-held glass slab would be remarkable on a variety of levels.

Another guy came in and looked at his phone for a while until his food was ready. Fifty-six-buck Chicken Person he was not. Someone else came in and waited and looked at his phone. I read the newspaper. I spread it out on the table. Widescreen information, suckas.

Then the old man looked at me and yelled something back to the kitchen. The daughter yelled a reply. It’s odd to know you’re the subject of the conversation but you’ve no idea what they’re saying - although you can guess. It took another ten minutes, because they are slow, but it’s always worth it. Everything is made fresh. No ladles of prefab glop with a dozen mini-corn-cobs populating the broth. When I left the Fifty-six-buck Chicken Box was still sitting on the table, stone cold.

I hope they arrived eventually; otherwise, the place would be out three, four bucks.

I know they were serious and impassioned and concerned and involved, but this headline is just . . . different, if you read it in the voice of a group of aggravated Englishmen who have found themselves engulfed by combustion, gone to the local fire station, and been ignored for ten minutes.


Sick and tired of the usual usual - actually, healthy and full of energy, but sick and tired of routine - I spent Friday night not working on the site, but hacking through the thick underbrush of the FAMILY folder, which contains all the pictures of our kith and/or kin. I’d made a stab at it already, which was apparent from the subfolders and groupings, but I’d added new scans and walked away whistling, thinking “some day I’ll convert the pages with four pictures into individual files with names.” You know how that goes. You possibly have folders on your computer with names like IMG9349_039323.jpg, which is such a help.

Once I got going I realized I could do some restoring work, and . . . there might be a site in some of this. SIGH. Then I remembered: I already had two sites about this stuff, Grandma’s Camera and the site of my mother’s youthful pictures. Well, now they’ll be better -

But really, does the world need the pictures of her high school classmates? Yes and no. I scanned her high-school scrapbook to make sure these things didn’t end up sundered from their black-gummed corners, dumped in a thrift store, nameless faces buried in a box of anonymous strangers. I will try to find the relatives and send them along, if possible. Send them home. Here, however, we can marvel at the following:

Twins. It was a small class, and there were these guys.

Ronald and Donald.

But a few pages later in her scrapbook: another set of twins.

Richard and Robert. The punchline: can you imagine the worst possible last name for Richard and Robert? Not Richard, perhaps, but Robert? Go ahead. Think about it.

The last name was Roberts. They named one of the twins Robert Roberts. IHe was Bob Bobs.

It's funny because he's about to be beaten:






Clare A. Briggs (August 5, 1875 – January 3, 1930) was an early American comic strip artist who rose to fame in 1904 with his strip A. Piker Clerk. Briggs was best known for his later comic strips "When a Feller Needs a Friend," "Ain't It a Grand and Glorious Feeling?" and "The Days of Real Sport."


It was an immensely popular strip, and we'll be visiting some highlights for a few weeks.



It's a rare Part Two Black & White World. We return to . . . THE

Basic hard noir. You may recall that we were looking at some then-and-nows: The villain sets off to pull a job, here's where he goes.

In the movie it's Chicago.

Turn to your right . . .

. . . and you'll see that we're not in Chicago. Go down the block and take a look: it's the most iconic building of LA Noir.

Except we are in Chicago - through the magic of movies!

Here's the interior of the Bradbury, according to the film . . .

Hmm. No, that's not the Bradbury.

He ducks into the elevator, which has a great old cage:

And we see where he's going:

As I keep saying: the 40s and 50s still looked a lot like the 20s. All these details help us nail down the exact location of the interior. (That, and imdb's "filming location" information.) It's the Marquette Building . . . in Chicago. (Link goes to the color photo of the lobby.)

Anyway. Back to our story. It has the best villain - a sallow, sardonic, cadaverous villain. The Tallman.

He needs to disappear a dame who saw something she shouldn't have seen. But there's a witness:

It's a guy who pretends to be a mechanical man.

But he has feelings, of course.

Now. About that club where the Mechanical Man works:

The Silver Frolics. That was in Chicago. The space today:

Not a fair trade.

Well, it's an earnest movie, in some ways, and a unconvincingly cynical one in others. If you've an appetite for well-staged grit and Forties urban decay, it's up your alley, and it's running, and backlit:

It also ends with one of the worst matte paintings ever to appear in any movie in any country:

Jeez. For all that, though: worth it.


That'll do for today! Don't miss my Sunday newspaper column! Just click on the Star. You know: The big green Startribune Star.



blog comments powered by Disqus