It’s a nice night, and I’m in the gazebo. Birch is sitting on the sofa, alert, hearing and smelling things beyond my ken. I just got an email ding! And was surprised to find that my inbox has 43 emails. Most of them are junk, and I’ve unsubscribed to many, but it seems it takes a while: some sites, I learned recently, do it manually. The job was outsourced and the crack team of email list managers double-check to ensure “high value” recipients aren’t automatically removed. Because, you know, we might regret our rash decision, and it’s so hard to resubscribe to these things.

I never signed up for 89% of them, and managing them has been one of those annoyances. Last night, I now remember, I did some ruthless culling and unsubscribing.

And now I have 43 emails.


Everything that saved for “answer later at some point lord knows when I despair it’s too much I write for a living and write for a hobby and when I have time to answer emails I don’t want to write any more but I must it’s rude I have to be thankful but what if they forgot is that okay now” moment is gone.

Not forever. I have another laptop, daughter’s old one, and it has the email on it - but I will have to keep it from updating, which means turning off the internet before I turn on the laptop, so it won’t perform the automated rituals we once regarded as happy magic.

I shouldn’t be relieved to be down to 43, but I am, and it feels guilty and wrong.

Email was so exciting when we first got it, wasn’t it?







Eventually this will be helpful, because I’ll pass along good recommendations, and we’ll all be smarter or better entertained.

However. Ahem. I wish I could tell you what this podcast is called, but I can’t find it. No combination of search terms brought it back. It’s one of those podcasts that explains things, and it had many of the irritating vocal mannerisms discussed in our last outing, and that dismaying element of millennial cluelessness about anything that happened before 1994. It started out interviewing a man who listens to network news themes when he runs, and the host played a selection without saying the obvious things you’d ask, and I was a bit surprised: does she not hear it? Does she not know who did this?



Isn't this composer instantly familiar?


A(nd don't you think "Hmm, there's some Holst in there.")

Eventually they get around to saying YES IT’S JOHN WILLIAMS YOU KNOW STAR WARS! as the big reveal, talking about how Nightly News themes started packaging war and strife with martial themes. It’s not a bad discussion, and the conversation with the people who actually compose news themes is great - how you start, what beat you use.

One of the conversants hits on the absolutely critical element of news themes: the sense of conflict, resolution, and control. William’s “The Mission” - the title really tells you the amount of self-regard involved in the enterprise - is one of the quintessential pieces of late 20th century music.

Not because it’s UNUTTERABLY GENIUS GREAT MY GOD MOZART WEEPS, because it isn’t, and I say that as someone who regards Williams as the soundtrack for the last quarter-century of American culture’s dream of itself. There’s some Mahler in there around :40, there’s pastiche and musical rubarb to suggest it’s intended to be used as a bed, but it calls back to all the other John Williams Moments, and suggests those things we wish to believe about ourselves: heroic, noble, decent, worthy of the task. As the people on the podcast note: it reassures, because if there are people who can assemble the news of the day into a 30-minute show, we are capable of apprehending the times. We got this. It’s messy, some notes spill from our grasp, it’s touch and go, but we got this.

Compare with the Meet the Press theme:

This bestows a gravitas on the events of the day they probably don’t deserve. It makes everything sound like Darth Vader is on the move.

Here’s the CBS theme, which starts out like a big comedy where Macauly Caulkin is running through a Christmas Downtown Street at Night to fix things and it’s going to be okay!

I was always partial to this one, because it didn’t seem to pass judgement, but simply demand my attention.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted. That’s not my point, any of this. It’s the sound of the 90s soundtrack. Winsome, romantic, hopeful, confident - were any of these words we would have ascribed to the culture at the time?

But from that era, came this - and it was so common, it passed without notice. A generation grew up familiar with these chords, this yearning, this benediction, and I wonder how it makes them feel today.

Perhaps it brings back memories of the early Oughts, when this style filled all the movies Daughter was watching. There's just something in there that hits me. It's not great, but it hits me.

Anyway, I can't remember the name of the podcast, and can't find it - which says something my lazy assumption that I'd find it again, and perhaps a bit about the difficulty of finding podcasts aside from the top numbers the apps promote.








The number of dry old "Last Picture Show" Texas towns exceeds my ability to populate this feature, should I live another 50 years.

Here's the history:


Jacksboro was first settled in the 1850s, with newcomers attracted by land offers from the Texas Emigration and Land Office. Originally called "Mesquiteville", the community grew up along the banks of Lost Creek and spread out over the pastureland between Lost Creek and the waters of the West Fork of Keechi Creek. It was renamed "Jacksboro" in 1858 when it became the county seat, in honor of brothers William and Patrick Jack, veterans of the Texas Revolution Regular postal service began in 1859.

4500 souls. Let’s have a look around.

A fine old building, and unusual - rusticated styles are usually lighter.


Odd windows, suggesting a graceless rehab that also ruined the ground floor.

How old?



On its third century. Which sounds more impressive than 120 years, but 120 years is pretty good.

It was quite the undertaking:


The history of its occupants and customers would contain legends, if we knew it.

For goodness sakes, put up an awning! People are dying of heatstroke before they file their taxes, and perishing in arrears!


No reason to have any windows upstairs, everyone agreed around 1957.

When the Depression hit, the government went with a modern style that suggested it would be an efficient machine for justice and prosperity. I like the style, but now and then it’s severe to the point of pitilessness.


This is one of those times.

Sign removal reveals a bygone name:


More rustication. The bright red hat is nice, but the building doesn’t seem too eager to announce what it’s for.


Fire station, I’d guess. The door, the pole.


As we say here from time to time, that building materials salesman really cleaned up when he came to this town. They were standing in line to place an order.



Oh dear



You can still see some for the famous Jacksonville stone hanging on the right side.


Edward . . . something burn.



This one competes with the first one we saw. The entire street is lined with this type of stone.


Whatever impression they were trying to make, they made it.

(Sorry about the google manipulation square.)



One more thing:



You can still see the old Purina sign. They didn’t pry it off. They just painted over it.

Maybe some day they’d sell Purina again. Never can tell.

That'll do, I hope.






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