I have to give a speech in California in two months, and this means I had to make travel plans. Oh god this again, off to the Travel Site I use that gives me points for something. Pretty sure the points are meaningless but hey, POINTS.

Just for grins I go to google first, because they have an airline reservation system now for some reason. Time was, you had to know a guy or gal who had access to the Secret Codes of SAABRE, and they would clack away on those ten-ton keyboards, peer at green text on a black screen, and find some flights. Now you type a cague request into the same search field in which you typed “drier vent cleaners” or "what did the Dignity Health Sports Park used to be called" a few hours ago - you know, the Universal Answer Field we take for granted - and hey presto, options!

Cheap. Click, check it out, why not, go for it. The Google gives me the cheapest route on two airlines with links to the airlines, and the links don’t just go to the website for the airline, but the actual flight and date.

I can only imagine the amount of code behind all these simple-looking things.

Clickity click, easy - oh, right, I have to pay extra to choose a seat, because they know enough of us will pay $21 not to sit in the middle. I’m one of those fools who brings a carry-on bag, so that’s extra. They make you feel like someone who arrives at the dock an hour before the ship sails with 5 steamer trunks. What? You have . . . baggage, too? Well, sir, of course, that’ll be extra.

Fine fine. Done in a trice, and I think:

That . . . was easy. That was really easy. Google was unlike Expediocityak: it gave me three options instead of 237.

They were just the options I wanted.

Damn you Google! I want as little as possible to do with you! But now you know this about me! Was it worth it?


Hotel, that’s the next step, and it’s a bit more difficult. I know where I want to go, and while I don’t know the address, I know there was a Five Guys up the street and a car wash a block away. I find the hotel, which is where the event had me stay last time. Get the name, try to book; blank pages keep coming up. Ah - it’s one of those insidious sites that pretends to rep the hotel, but is part of some huge mysterious network of booking sites that slosh around the properties and available dates, lord knows how that works. When I google the property specifically, I get this:


I’m not surprised. It had the sad sense of failure about it. Tired, harried, insufficient breakfast, the sense that it had last been updated when “Horsin’ Around” was on the air. I hadn’t liked it much. So now I am floating above the area on Google like a spirit that has left its body, looking for the bed icon, so I can find a place to alight. Everything is ridiculous. I’m sorry but I’m not spending $400 for a hotel room. I’m not speaking on behalf of some group with infinitely deep pockets. On the other hand, I’m not going to some place that’s $87 a night, which means howling meth heads and clattering ice machines. I find a decent enough place, sigh at the room photos - it’s not been a good run for lodging this last year or so, let me tell you - and reserve.

All done. Quickly. At home, at the kitchen counter. And it will seem onerous in a few years when we can do it all by voice. You know, just talk to the computer or phone, and it will present your options and show you slideshows.

Imagine that wonderful day to come! Reserving a flight and a hotel, just with your voice!

Oh wait right, that's what we used to do. But it cost more and everyone smelled like cigarettes after the flight.





An absolute dog with one redeeming feature. It’s a Billy Dove vehicle:

Who? Sigh. How soon they forget. And by "they" I mean "we." And by "we" I mean "me."

This isn't her.

That's Kay Francis, playing  Countess Olga Balakireff. We get the idea right away that she's a woman who's not constrained by the roles of the day:

That's . . . something.

Oh sure, our modern era invented gender ambiguity:

Anyway, I wish the movie was more about her. She's a minor story that contrasts with our Decent Heroine. This is Billie.



Dove was born Bertha Bohny in 1903 to Charles and Bertha (née Kagl) Bohny, Swiss immigrants. As a teen, she worked as a model to help support her family and was hired as a teenager by Florenz Ziegfeld to appear in his Ziegfeld Follies Revue. She legally changed her name to Lillian Bohny in the early 1920s and moved to Hollywood, where she began appearing in silent films. She soon became one of the most popular actresses of the 1920s, and was dubbed The American Beauty (1927), the title of one of her films.

Dove had a huge legion of male fans, one of her most persistent being Howard Hughes.

Oh that's a recipe for fun.

Well, she goes off to London, and finds herself in . . .

Let's meet Paul:

Basil doesn't look terribly well, but that's because he's An Artist who drives himself too hard for His Art. Of course Billie Dove marries him, and has to renounce her life of ease. Sorry, Dad, I have go to him! I must - say, am I lamping you all with my luminous orbs enough? No? More?

It’s an early Rathbone, and it makes you wonder how the hell he survived this. He’s just awful. Well, his character is awful.


Paul leaves Billie the Decent Wife for the Big Eyed Vixen, finds that his new affair is not what he thought. She complains that he practices too much:

Yes, he's doing a Fronsh accent.

I'll give it this: the obligatory "rise of the artist to fame, which includes cigarette endorsements" has some interesting transitions to move the tale along. To modern sensibilities, though, man: this takes forever.


Like I said, it's horrible.

But fun, in an eye-rolling sort of way.




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